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Unemployment insurance[This post has been updated to include the link to Conway’s research paper at the bottom.]

This morning’s “must read” is Professor Patrick Conway’s op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer: “Not exactly a Carolina Comeback.” As Conway, who is Chairman of the Department of Economics At UNC Chapel Hill, explains, the the supposed economic revival for the state’s unemployed workers touted by Gov. McCrory, legislative leaders and their cheerleaders in the Pope/Koch empire simply hasn’t happened:

“Evidence from the Current Population Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the average working-age unemployed individual in North Carolina is actually less likely than an unemployed worker in the rest of the U.S. to be re-employed in the following month.

At the beginning of 2011, North Carolina unemployed workers were equally likely to find a job in the next month when compared with other states’ unemployed workers. From 2011 through mid-2015, unemployed workers in North Carolina were less likely to find a job.

It was February 2013 when state lawmakers approved unemployment insurance reform, which reduced the average payment and reduced the maximum number of weeks that the involuntarily unemployed could collect those payments. When Gov. Pat McCrory signed the legislation, he said this reform ‘will help provide an economic climate that allows job creators to start hiring again.’ About 170,000 North Carolina workers receiving insurance payments when the law took effect in July 2013 lost $780 million because of the reform.”

But that’s not all. Again, here’s Prof. Conway:

“There is one area in which North Carolina’s experience is significantly different from that of the rest of the country. Beginning in 2013, North Carolina’s unemployed workers were significantly more likely on average to leave the labor force rather than continue searching for jobs. By the middle of 2015, an individual unemployed worker in North Carolina was 30 percent more likely not to search for jobs in the next month than the average unemployed worker in the rest of the U.S. Those leaving the labor force are the “discouraged workers,” and the reform seems to have given them a strong push toward leaving.

To ensure that those results are not caused by North Carolina’s abundance of college students and individuals past retirement age, I redid the calculations using only individuals between the ages of 25 and 60. The specific percentages differ a bit, but the general findings are the same. The likelihood that an unemployed individual will find a job in the next month in North Carolina has been below that of the average for the rest of the U.S. throughout the insurance reform period.”

Conway’s bottom line:

“The reform has not had the effect on job creators that McCrory forecast. If there is to be a Carolina Comeback, it will begin by bringing our residents back into the labor force and providing our youth with the skills necessary to compete for and win available jobs. A policy that discourages workers should be reformulated or scrapped. Left in place, it creates an economy in which only some gain and many others are left behind.”

You can read the background paper on which Conway’s op-ed is based by clicking here.

Commentary

There he goes again. Just weeks after having dished out a heaping helping of red meat to Islamophobes and other nativists during a dreary three-and-a-half minute appearance with the Fox News prince of darkness, Bill O’Reilly, Gov. Pat McCrory is once more swimming in the murky Fox waters and misleading people about refugees.

This week it was a little lower down the  food chain with Fox Business talking head Neil Cavuto (indeed, the Guv was back to skipping the necktie he felt compelled to don for O’Reilly) but the basic shtick was the same:  Syrian refugees – dangerous and scary; Obama negligent and uncaring as whether he deposits terrorists into North Carolina; Pat McCrory – tough and vigilant (despite having absolutely no authority to do anything or any real knowledge as to any genuine risk on the ground).

The Guv, in an apparent effort to boost his approval rating on the fearful fringe, also declined an opportunity to criticize presidential candidate Donald Trump. Here’s the exchange:

Cavuto: “You know Governor, tomorrow I’ll be talking to Donald Trump on this issue. He’s taken it to the next level by saying we should go slow on allowing more Muslims into the country until we sort all of this out. How do you feel about that?”

McCrory: “I think you determine it by the country and the origin of the area that they’re coming from and my biggest concern is coming from those countries in which there’s basic a civil war going on at this point in time and where ISIS is very, very strong and where it’s impossible to do a background check.”

Translation: “I’m not courageous enough to criticize Trump directly as I don’t want to alienate his supporters or look overly two-faced (after all, he was a featured speaker at the last two state GOP conventions that I helped headline), but I also know I can’t get away with attacking all Muslims, so I’ll just mumble some gibberish about ISIS and civil wars and hope people don’t see the complete illogic given that escaping civil war is one of the signature characteristics of being a ‘refugee.'”

The bottom line: Expect to see more of this. McCrory seems to be intent on appearing “tough on immigration” and the issue is perfect for a politician given his utter lack of authority and responsibility on the matter and the vast number of right-wing media platforms looking to fill airtime.

Click below to watch McCrory and here to see the kind of caring and thinking action that a real leader ought to take.
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Commentary

Be sure to check out this morning’s editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer on the latest controversy swirling around Gov. Pat McCrory and his former long-time employer, Duke Energy. The headline and subtitles do a good job of summarizing the content:

“Gov. McCrory numb to the appearance of hosting Duke Energy
-Is Gov. Pat McCrory just oblivious?
-Meeting with Duke officials
-Appearances do matter”

As WRAL reported earlier this week, McCrory held a private, closed door meeting with his former employer at the very moment that his administration was engaged in important law enforcement activities targeting the the energy giant. The N&O editorial rightfully blasts McCrory for not recognizing the obvious conflicts inherent in such a meeting:

“The meeting demonstrates an amazing lack of awareness, as at the time Duke was in the middle of dealing with some of the fallout from a coal ash spill in the Dan River. The company’s saga with the spill included an agreement to pay a federal fine of $102 million to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and then a state environmental official wanted to impose a $50 million fine, according to records. The state ended up levying a $25 million fine for groundwater contamination, reduced in September to $7 million.

At dinner in the mansion were Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good, other top Duke officials and the governor’s legal counsel, among others. McCrory worked for Duke for 29 years.

The governor should understand that meetings such as this one just look bad, coming as a company with which the governor had a long-term connection (providing him a handsome livelihood) is in the midst of controversy with different levels of government. If the governor isn’t astute about such appearances, those around him should be.”

The problem (as McCrory has made clear repeatedly over the last three years) is that he does not appear to “get” basic concepts like the difference between being Governor of a state and Mayor of a city. As the editorial puts it: “Sometimes, Gov. Pat McCrory seems to think he’s still the mayor of Charlotte….”

For better or worse, however, McCrory is the Governor and desperately needs to learn how to behave like one — ideally before his term is up.

Commentary, News

A statewide citizens group formed last year to demand stronger state environmental protection efforts to combat coal ash pollution is decrying the new state rankings attached to the state’s coal ash ponds and the closed door meeting between Gov. McCrory and Duke energy officials that came to light this week. Here are some excerpts from a press release that the group distributed yesterday:

“The Alliance of Carolinians Together (ACT) Against Coal Ash formed in July as a way for residents from across the state to connect in solidarity in their demands for an end to the coal ash crisis. Members were appalled and confused last week when DEQ downgraded coal ash sites that as recently as December the agency’s staff had ranked as high priority. The proposed low or low-intermediate status means the sites could potentially be capped in place and left indefinitely to leak toxins into neighboring groundwater supplies.

‘It’s an established fact that all sites are leaking, so of course they should be listed as high priority,’ says Deborah Graham, who lives near the Buck plant in Salisbury. ‘We know more than we ever wanted to know about the damage this toxic waste causes to our environment and health each and every day it continues to sit there.’

‘DEQ changing our priority from high to low-intermediate is just wrong,’ says Debra Baker, who lives within 100 feet of the G.G. Allen plant in Belmont. ‘DEQ says they did not have enough information from Duke Energy, but they have had several months. Now, we are still living on bottled water, waiting for this mess to be cleaned up.’

To urgently address the realities of coal ash pollution, ACT Against Coal Ash released its Unifying Principles so that state decision makers, Duke Energy, and the public can better understand the needs and demands of residents most harmed — now or in the future — by Duke’s coal ash pollution.

The alliance also launched a website and a video.

And here are some statements made by ACT Against Coal Ash members in response to yesterday’s WRAL.com story that Gov. McCrory met with Duke Energy officials in a private, closed door meeting last June:

From Debra Baker, whose husband died from environmentally related lung disease several years after moving into their home next to G.G. Allen, which has been illegally polluting the air for decades:”I’ve tried calling and emailing Governor McCrory. I’ve sent him photographs of my house full of bottled water. And all I’ve gotten is his automatic email response. He’s never called, sent a letter, nothing. I’m mad that he’s having backroom meetings with Duke Energy but won’t talk to us. It seems like he thinks my husband’s life doesn’t matter. My husband was only 43 years old when he passed. Now, I’m a widow with a 19 year old son. They think this problem is just going to go away, but it’s not. It’s our lives. They need to talk to us.”

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Commentary

dukelogoMcCrory_budget305-aIn case you missed it, reporter Mark Binker at WRAL.com has an important new story in the ongoing saga of Duke Energy, its troubling environmental record and the relationship it maintains with its former employee, Gov. Pat McCrory.

“Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration has made much of its efforts over the past year to “hold Duke Energy accountable” for the company’s handling of coal ash pollution.

But on June 1, while in the midst of pressing legal action against and issuing news releases critical of the nation’s largest utility, top state officials met for a private dinner at the Executive Mansion with Duke executives, according to calendar entries and other records reviewed by WRAL News.

McCrory, his top environmental regulator, his chief of staff and his general counsel attended, as did Duke Chief Executive Lynn Good, the company’s general counsel and the president of the company’s North Carolina operations.

Beyond general statements that environmental policy and job creation were topics of the meeting, neither state officials nor a spokeswoman for Duke have been willing to provide details of the discussion. The conversation came close on the heels of the state fining the company for pollution violations, during legal wrangling over coal ash pollution and while pending legislation on renewable energy and the state’s response to federal clean power rules was debated at the General Assembly.”

The detailed story goes on to explain why this meeting was extremely unusual, how it took place at a critical juncture in the aftermath of the giant 2014 coal ash spill and while state enforcement actions were pending, that no environmental groups ever are granted such access and how neither Duke nor the McCrory administration is willing to disclose what was discussed.

All in all, it’s a very disturbing development and the kind of story that appears to confirm a lot of our worst fears about the current administration. Stay tuned, it’s certain not be the end of the matter. Click here to read the entire story.