NC Budget and Tax Center

The Washington Post began a series that will look at why America’s middle class is shrinking this week.  With it they have put together an important data tool for the public and policymakers to begin to delve into the dynamics affecting the country’s middle class.  The interactive map provides county level data over time of median household income, a measure what the household in the very middle of the distribution earns and a key indicator in assessing the well-being of household’s in a community that is often overlooked.

Analysis of median household income over time and places is not just important for individual household well-being but can also provide important insights into the health of the broader economy.  Equity in economic indicators is increasingly found to be associated with stronger and longer periods of growth.  These are positive outcomes to pursue in a recovery that has been modest and slow.

Nationally, the big take-away is that median household income peaked 15 years ago for more than 80 percent of counties. The data for North Carolina show a few interesting things:

  • Four counties, Hertford, Washington, Richmond and Scotland counties, saw their median household income peak in 1979
  • Rockingham, Rutherford and Cleveland counties saw their median household income peak in 1989
  • The majority of counties saw their median household income peak in 1999

 

News

The Associated Press is reporting that the FBI is looking into the death of a Bladenboro teenager found hung to death near his home.

From the AP:

A prosecutor says the FBI is looking into the hanging death of a black North Carolina teen after his family questioned the official ruling that he killed himself.

Seventeen-year-old Lennon Lacy was found hanging by a dog leash and a belt from a swing set in a trailer park in August. The state medical examiner ruled it a suicide, based on reports from law enforcement and a county coroner. That coroner says he now questions if it was a suicide because of so many unanswered questions.

Bladen County District Attorney Jon David confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that an FBI agent has been assigned the case.

Lennon Lacy

Lennon Lacy

Lacy, 17, was found dead in late August, hanging from a swing set near his home. While local police and the state medical examiner have classified his death a suicide, his family members have questioned that, pointing out that the outgoing teenager was excited about an upcoming football game and was found wearing shoes that didn’t belong to him.

Lacy, who was black, also had a romantic relationship with an older white woman and his body was found near a predominantly white trailer park in the rural Southeastern North Carolina town.

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP is holding a march at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Bladenboro to call for a more thorough investigation into Lacy’s death. Check the NC NAACP’s Facebook page for more information about the march.

The state NAACP also released a report last month  from a pathologist who questioned the state medical examiner Deborah Radisch’s ruling in Lacy’s death, noting that the state official wasn’t provided photographs of the swing set, according to Raleigh television station WRAL.

From WRAL:

Lacy was 5 feet 9 inches tall, while the cross beam on the set was 7.5 feet from the ground. There were no swings attached to the structure, nothing at the scene that he could have stood on, and a grommet that the noose was tied to was nearly 2 feet away from the swing’s climbing platform, the report states.

The noose also did not appear long enough for him to have been able to tie it from the platform and still have a loop big enough for him to place it over his head, according to the report.

Bladen County District Attorney Ben David has said he believes the investigation was thorough and welcomes a federal review.

You can read the entire article here and the NAACP report here.

 

Commentary

There were vigils all across the country last night (and there will be more this weekend) for the victims of the Newtown tragedy on its second anniversary, including the one pictured at leftNCGV vigil that took place at the Judea Reform Congregation in Durham.

And while it was a somber affair, there was some good news to share. For instance:

Since Newtown, 99 laws strengthening gun regulations have been passed in 37 states. This includes new laws protecting domestic violence victims in eight states, California’s new “Gun Violence Restraining Order” law, Washington state’s new universal background checks ballot initiative and new comprehensive regulations in Massachusetts.

Evidence also continues to mount that gun safety laws work since states with stronger laws continue to have lower gun death rates than states with weaker laws.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, public opinion continues to grow in favor of stronger laws. Nine out of 10 Americans now support expanding background checks to cover private sales — this includes 80% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members.

The bottom line: Slowly but surely, the truth is sinking in to Americans that it’s possible (and indeed essential) to craft stronger, smarter laws that protect innocent people without infringing on gun ownership.  NRA bullies may dominate the political playing field in many places (like North Carolina) for the time being, but their days of dominance are numbered.

News

The U.S. House approved on Thursday a $1.1 trillion funding bill keeping most of the government operating through September of 2015.

Congressman David Price (NC-04) was among nine members of the state delegation to support the bill that had become known as “CROmnibus” – though Price said this was not an easy decision:

PriceThe bill has serious flaws, however, and I worked hard all week to include the 12th bill — Homeland Security, from the Subcommittee I lead — in the omnibus bill rather than in a 3-month continuing resolution.

I also sought leverage to get two particularly objectionable amendments, which removed some Dodd-Frank financial protections and greatly increased limits for contributions to political parties, dropped from the bill.

It eventually became clear that Republican leaders, dealing with numerous far-right members and interest-group pressures, could or would not remove these objectionable provisions and might instead give up on the omnibus bill and bring us to the brink of another government shutdown.

At that point I supported the most responsible alternative available, the omnibus appropriations bill, as recommended by President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. It was not an easy choice for me and many other members, and the effort leaves me determined to push for a fresh start in the 114th Congress: to avoid right-wing efforts to promote shutdowns and crises and to find ways to cooperate for the good of the country.

Democratic Representatives G.K. Butterfield, Mike McIntyre, Alma Adams and Republican Rep. Walter Jones voted against the measure.

The U.S. Senate will vote on the spending bill this weekend.

Here’s how the rest of North Carolina’s U.S. House delegation voted:

Yea
Rep. Renee Ellmers – 2nd District
Rep. David Price – 4th District
Rep. Virginia Foxx – 5th District
Rep. Howard Coble – 6th District
Rep. Richard Hudson – 8th District
Rep. Robert Pittenger – 9th District
Rep. Patrick McHenry – 10th District
Rep. Mark Meadows – 11th District
Rep. George Holding – 13th District

Nay
Rep. G.K. Butterfield – 1st District
Rep. Walter Jones – 3rd District
Rep. Mike McIntyre – 7th District
Rep. Alma Adams – 12th district

Commentary

UNCThere were lots of compelling responses delivered by the defenders of various UNC Centers at yesterday’s inquisition in Chapel Hill, but one of the best came from Dean Jack Boger of the UNC Law School.

This is from the account in Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Boger pointed out that the law school’s Banking Institute was created to support the banking industry in North Carolina. ‘We don’t ask that center to consider socialism as an alternative or to talk about the dissolution of large banks,’ he said. Boger also pointed out that public health professors advocate against sugary drinks in the fight against obesity.”

Boger’s observation neatly highlighted the central absurdity of the ideological attack on the various UNC Centers launched by surrogates for right-wing financier/politico and wannabe UNC prez, Art Pope: Pope has already won. It is already the mission of a vast swath of the UNC system to support, defend, apologize for and train the future leaders of  North Carolina’s corporate business establishment. Read More