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June’s jobs numbers are out for North Carolina, showing that the state has held on to its unemployment rate of 6.4 percent for the second straight month.

Jobs-buttonThe national unemployment rate was 6.1 percent for June.

The North Carolina numbers for June released by N.C. Commerce Department show a much lower unemployment rate than a year ago, when unemployment was at 8.3 percent and one of the highest rates in the nation.

This month’s job report (click here to read) also shows the state’s labor pool is still shrinking, with 8,577 less people working in June than May.

Over the last year, the state’s labor force has shrunk by nearly 12,000, while the ranks of unemployed dropped by about 90,000 people, according to North Carolina job numbers.

That difference (a shrinking labor pool corresponding with a much larger drop in the numbers of the unemployed) has lead some economists to attribute North Carolina’s drop in its official unemployment rate not to a healthy economy, but to large numbers of long-term unemployed people dropping out of the workforce completely after last year’s cuts to unemployment benefits.

“There is zero evidence that cutting unemployment benefits in North Carolina did anything to spur job growth,” wrote Washington-based economist Dean Baker in an editorial in the News & Observer earlier this month. “There is much evidence that it led those who saw their benefits end to give up looking for work and to drop out of the labor force.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/11/4000035/zero-evidence-that-benefit-cuts.html#storylink=cp
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/02/13/3619704/benefit-cuts-pushed-people-out.html#storylink=cpy

Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislative leaders disagree, and say those changes to the unemployment system and North Carolina’s subsequent rejection of federally-funded long-term unemployment help has put North Carolina in a better economic position.

“Yes, there are some people who probably took jobs they didn’t want instead of staying on unemployment,” McCrory said earlier this week in an interview with Charlotte’s WFAE radio program (discussion begins at 35:00).

“By the way, in my career, I’ve taken jobs that I don’t want,” McCrory said.  He added, “but it gets you in the door, it gets you working and it gets you off the government payroll.”

Click here to read the entire release on North Carolina’s jobs report for June.

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Pat McCrory 4This morning’s editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it just about right with its assessment of Pat McCrory’s bizarre foul-up of — of all things — the appointment of North Carolina’s poet laureate by ignoring the established processes and then compounding the error by appointing a person whom some have charitably described as “a beginner” in the field:

The state has on its college campuses a number of professional poets and teachers who would easily fit the bill as the position is described to demonstrate literary excellence and inspire it in others.

Whether McCrory intended it or not, his attitude toward this appointment raises suspicions that he’s just sort of thumbing his nose at the state’s literary community (liberals, maybe?). And he certainly was not well-served by staff members who should have known more and taken this appointment more seriously.

A good friend of NC Policy Watch, veteran North Carolina poet, author, political observer and longtime Peace College faculty member Sally Buckner of Cary, had this to say yesterday in a Facebook message:

As one who has studied our literary scene since the 1960s, I know why North Carolina is what Doris Betts called it: “the writingest state.” It’s because the literary community here is cooperative rather than competitive. Our poets laureate beginning with Sam Ragan have been major figures in making it so. And they’ve done so with little recompense. $15,000 a year doesn’t begin to pay for their travels, workshops, etc….  McCrory’s spokesperson lauds Ms. Macon’s interest in the homeless. I praise it, too–but it’s not a reasonable substitute for professional quality in poetry.

N.C. Poet Laureate Valerie Macon (Provided by N.C. Arts Council)

N.C. Poet Laureate Valerie Macon (Provided by N.C. Arts Council)

Both Sally and the N&O are right, of course — though the N&O may be giving the Guv too much credit. If he really wanted to stick it to the liberal intelligentsia he’d have had his staff find some kind of far right professor at a conservative Christian college or institute to put up for the job.

But that’s not how McCrory operates. In many ways, the appointment is actually reminiscent of the Guv’s equally bizarre decision last summer to deliver cookies to reproductive rights protesters outside the mansion. As in that episode, the Governor’s actions are like those of a distracted, partially-engaged college boy rather than a committed politician with any kind of coherent ideology or agenda.

Seen in this light, the fact that McCrory opted to select an anonymous state employee who has self-published some poetry as a kind of hobby as North Carolina’s poet laureate makes more sense. By selecting such a person the Guv has opted for someone like himself — a person who doesn’t fully comprehend his job or the fact that he doesn’t comprehend it.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/15/4008193/a-laureate-for-nc-without-laurels.html?sp=/99/108/#storylink=cpy
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MedicaidThere’s new and compelling evidence that North Carolina’s model for delivering Medicaid (Community Care North Carolina -CCNC) is a winner — notwithstanding the often-bumbling oversight provided by embattled state DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos and the attempt by Senate leaders to sell the program off to a private managed care company. (It’s worth noting that the flawed sell-off idea was once also touted by Gov. McCrory and Sec. Wos as well until the two gradually came to their senses over the past year).

Today, in a letter to state Medicaid directors throughout the country, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the national DHHS announced today that they are launching a new national collaborative initiative called the “Medicaid Innovation Accleerator Program.” The goal of initiative is “to improve care and improve health for Medicaid beneficiaries and reduce costs by supporting states in accelerating new payment and service delivery reforms.”

The letter announcing the initiative holds up three examples of state innovation success in Ohio, Washington and North Carolina. Here’s what it has to say about North Carolina: Read More

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NC GearA friend of NC Policy Watch points out that a new and controversial $4 million McCrory administration program to fight inefficiency in state government may itself be an example of inefficiency and redundancy.

As WRAL reported earlier this week, the head of the NC Government Efficiency And Reform initiative (NC GEAR) — a former John Locke Foundation staffer — got a fairly skeptical reception at a joint legislative committee on Monday.  Senators and representatives both voiced concern that $4 million was a lot to spend on an ill-defined initiative that has thus far produced very little of substance.

Even, however, if one sets aside the output from NC GEAR thus far (i.e. not much), it’s also worth noting that North Carolina already has a similar program in place called NC Thinks.

Thus far, the main evident function on the NC GEAR website is a virtual suggestion box for improving government efficiency. But, as a our friend points out, NC Thinks already does that!

Here is the website description for that initiative: Read More

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A new report from the experts at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center paints a sobering picture of what the new “recovered” North Carolina economy really means for average people:

“North Carolina’s recovery from the Great Recession has been marked by slow job growth and persistent challenges for working families to make ends meet. The minimal job growth has been concentrated in low-wage industries, a new report finds, which will only make North Carolina’s economic recovery that much more difficult. Read More