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Dean BakerWhat’s the real deal with the American economy? Where do things stand? What’s holding us back? What about the situation in North Carolina? Please join us Wednesday, March 26, as we tackle these topics and more with one of America’s leading economists, Dean Baker.

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is frequently cited in economics reporting in major media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, CNBC and NPR. He writes a weekly column for theguardian.com, The Huffington Post, Truthout and his blog, Beat the Press,, which features commentary on economic reporting. His analyses have appeared in many major publications, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, the Financial Times, and the Daily News (New York). He received his doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan.

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As reported here and elsewhere, conservatives in the U.S. Congress have been pushing the illusory medicine of austerity a lot in recent weeks. A draconian proposal to slash the federal SNAP program (i.e. food stamps) is just one example of this shortsighted approach in action.

The latest conservative proposals are, of course, predicated on the concept the “we just can’t afford” such programs. As retired Wake Forest economics professor Don Frey argued presusuaively in the following recent takedown of the Paul Ryan budet, however, the scarcity theory undelying the conservative budget proposals is simply and demonstrably wrong.  

Donald FreyA basic economics lesson for Paul Ryan and his allies
By Dr. Donald Frey

WINSTON-SALEM – Recently, the Republican leadership of the U.S. House cancelled a vote on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill (the ironic acronym is “THUD”) offered by their House committee. They knew the bill would fail because of the drastic spending cuts tailored to meet the unrealistic guidelines of the Paul Ryan budget adopted earlier this year.

This Ryan budget was unrealistic, not merely in a political sense, but in a far deeper sense. It was premised on the flawed idea of Malthusian scarcity. Read More

There’s new confirmation today that it’s time, once and for all, for North Carolina politicians to ditch their absurd obsession with being “competitive” with neighboring southeastern states.

According to a new report described here, the Southeast is the nation’s backwater for economic mobility.

“The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas.

Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.”

NC Policy Watch follower Betsy Caudle Lowman of Boone recently sent us the following essay — we hope you will enjoy it.

U.S. declines into “de-MOCK-racy”
By Betsy Caudle Lowman

Each year The Economist, a conservative British news magazine, rates the nations of the world on the degree to which they operate according to democratic principles. This year, Norway replaced Sweden at the top of the heap. The United States is not included in the highest category, which includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, and Britain. Should this surprise anyone?  Americans love to believe they have government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but this has never been less true than at present.  Read More

For those out there who don’t follow the excellent Glenn Greenwald, be sure to check out his column from earlier this week on the nation’s rapid progress on marriage equality. As Greenwald writes, it’s clearly grounds for a more general optimism regarding the prospects of societal progress in any number of areas:

“It really is a bit shocking how quickly gay marriage transformed from being a fringe, politically toxic position just a few years ago to a virtual piety that must be affirmed in decent company. Whenever I write or speak about any of the issues on which I focus, I always emphasize that a posture of defeatism – which is a form of learned impotence: a belief that meaningful change is impossible – is misguided. This demonstrates why that is true: even the most ossified biases and entrenched institutional injustices can be subverted – if the necessary passion and will are summoned and the right strategies found.”

But, as Greenwald also notes, one needs to be careful in assuming that progress for LGBT Americans automatically heralds progress for other oppressed groups: Read More