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This morning, Raleigh’s News & Observer was kind enough to publish an essay I wrote that details some of the history of unemployment insurance in the United States, its importance in making our economy work more effectively and the recurring, counter-productive efforts by various misguided groups to undermine it. Unfortunately, space limitations forced the elimination of  a couple of passages from my original draft.

Happily, the folks at NC Policy Watch (for whom I hope to be contributing on an occasional basis in the days to come) have been kind enough to allow me to publish the entire piece below. I hope you will enjoy it.

Unemployment compensation: A win-win for business and families Read More

From this morning’s Charlotte Observer:

“WEDDINGTON — The Union County School Board reluctantly decided Tuesday night to slash more than 400 classroom positions in July, to deal with a $10 million budget shortfall.

In a meeting at Antioch Elementary School, the board voted unanimously to eliminate about 55 teaching positions and more than 350 teacher assistant jobs. The cuts will go into effect at the start of the 2012-13 fiscal year, July 1, and will be felt in classrooms when school starts in August.

Superintendent Ed Davis said the budget shortfall is caused, in part, by the end of federal stimulus money.”

The story might have noted further that House Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger et al. knew that the federal stimulus money was ending (heck their allies in DC made it happen!) and still pursued their reckless and counter-productive tax and budget cuts.

For some people any government spending is full of “waste, fraud, and abuse”. For these people no matter how the government operates, no matter how we spend our tax money, there is “waste, fraud and abuse”.

One of the things I have learned is that there is always ‘waste and abuse”, and probably a little “fraud” in the way any organization from the largest corporation to the smallest not for profit, from small town governments to big states. If we spent the time to get rid of all of the “waste”, we would be “wasting” time making certain we weren’t “wasting” money, which means we would be “wasting” money.

We need to be sure that the money is spent the way we want it to be- creating jobs- not enriching the same contractors and companies who have done business with the governments forever. We need to be less concerned about traditional “waste, fraud, and abuse” and more about making certain that the money does what it is intended to do – take care of the average American, give people good jobs with liveable wages.

So as federal, state, and local governments spend our economic stimulus money, we need to hold the governments accountable. The stimulus spending must live up to the accountability that President Obama and Governor Perdue have promised. We need to ask how the money is being allocated, who is getting contracts and subcontracts.

Take the time to ask the questions. Go to the websites– www.recovery.gov, www.ncrecovery.gov and see if what shows up on the web matches what you see in your community.

Growing up my parents were always saying “We are watching our pennies “. It seemed like a strange phrase to me then but now as I watch our state and federal governments spending the economic stimulus money, it makes sense. I want someone watching our pennies.

Not only do I want someone watching oour pennies, I want someone telling me what they are doing with my pennies. There are some very important facts that we, as North Carolinians, should know about how the stimulus money is being spent–

** What is the money going for ?

** Will the projects being funded benefit the community ?

** Is the money going first to the families and communities hit the worst by our economic downturn ?

** Will there be transparency and openness in the process of awarding money and contracts ?

** Who is receiving the money ? ( If there is more than one contractor or subcontractor, we should know all of them.)

** Is there a timeline for this project? Are there incentives to finish it on time or penalties if it isn’t ?

** Is it creating jobs or preventing people from being laid off?

** How many jobs is it saving or creating ?

** Are these jobs a temporary fix or long term employment ?

** What do the jobs pay?

** Do these jobs have benefits like health insurance ? disability ?

** Are people receiving contracts becuase of their past campaign contributions or another connection to an important official ?

** Who is going to be accountable for the success or failure of these projects and grants ?

**And perhaps most importantly of all, how are we going to know any of this?

The state and federal governments each have recovery websites but there is no easy way to figure out exactly who is the recipient of a grant or contract, who any subcontractors may be, whether the money is really creating a job, and if the people most in need are being served.
They are our pennies and we should be able to watch how they are being spent. We need regular, frequent reports from the President, Governor, Congress and the General Assembly that are public, easy to understand and easily accessible. We need to be able to hold our elected officials and other public servants accountable for how they are spending our money. We also need to pay attention and hold them accountable.

Remember to watch your pennies

You can do it at

www.recovery.gov
www.ncrecovery.gov
www.ncstimuluswatch.org
www.stimuluswatch.org
www.goodjobsfirst.org
www.accountablerecovery.org

and many more

Try it