In case you missed it, the good folks at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center have prepared a nice contribution for your Thanksgiving potluck — a series of talking points to help you converse with your less-well-informed dinner companions. Enjoy!

Here are some key facts to throw out there as you pass the gravy boat and say “yes, please” to a second – or third – piece of pecan pie.

WHEN THEY SAY: “We need to attract more businesses to relocate here if we want North Carolina to grow. Cutting taxes, regulations, and unemployment insurance and not expanding Medicaid is the best way to do that.”

YOU SAY: First of all, it’s really people like you and me, consumers, who create jobs. Businesses hire when they see a demand for their products, so job creation really starts with making sure we earn a good living and feel secure enough to spend.

Even if we’re talking about where large companies choose to invest, state taxes just aren’t that big of a deal. You have to turn a profit before you pay taxes, so that’s what companies are thinking about first and foremost. Most companies look for educated workers, a good transportation system, and a place that their employees want to live before they think about taxes.

If North Carolina is going to do better, we need to focus on policies that will make everyone feel more economically secure.

WANT TO READ MORE? BTC Policy Basic: The Reality of Tax Cuts

WHEN THEY SAY: “The Carolina Comeback is real! Clearly these policies are working.”

YOU SAY: (Stage directions optional): The Carolina Comeback sounds nice but it’s not the reality for most North Carolinians and communities in our state.

First off, it’s a U.S. comeback, nothing special to North Carolina. We went into the recession as a country, and the recovery has happened nationwide. Read More


The Charlotte Observer editorial page does a good job today of explaining how our broken immigration system sets up good people for suffering and exploitation. As an editorial entitled “When undocumented workers are prey” explains, a woman is in jail today in North Carolina because she reported, accurately, that her employer was cheating her out of wages earned.

The woman in question, of course, was the subject of a weekend story in Raleigh’s News & Observer. As that story explained, the woman, Miriam Solais, is a one of many thousands of immigrants who entered the U.S. without authorization and then, in keeping with the country’s “nod and wink” employment system, obtained a false Social Security card. Here’s the Observer:

“It’s the type of scenario that immigration advocates have warned about for years. But it’s more than just small businesses paying poor wages under the table. Larger employers like poultry plants are notorious for an abusive culture that exploits a primarily Latino workforce. Criminals prey on Latinos who they know are reluctant to report crimes.

All of which endangers not just undocumented immigrants, but their families. The state’s answer to this? Laws that further push these families to the margins, including the newly minted ‘Protect North Carolina Workers Act,’ which bans sanctuary cities and jeopardizes children’s access to critical services by restricting their parents’ use of a common ID that foreign consulates issue.

That provision, signed into law last month by Gov. Pat McCrory, could block tens of thousands of U.S.-born children – who are U.S. citizens – from getting birth certificates or being enrolled in schools, the advocacy group NC Child said Monday.

The solution, as always, lies in Washington, but conservative Republicans continue to block reasonable immigration reform that would offer undocumented immigrants a chance to obtain legal status while continuing to lead productive lives here. Instead, conservatives insist on the fantasy of deporting more than 10 million immigrants.

While that stalemate endures, immigrants remain in limbo and in danger. Yes, Miriam Martinez Solais broke the law, along with millions of others who crossed the U.S. border. But she shouldn’t be left vulnerable to other lawbreakers – and to the broken immigration system that enables them.”

The editorial is right that the solution lies in Washington, but until that happens, there are steps we can and should take at the state and local levels that would make things much better. A new report today from the Center for American Progress (“Providing Identification to Unauthorized Immigrants”)  lists some of those steps. Unfortunately, as the editorial notes, for now, North Carolina is headed in precisely the wrong direction. And with the current hysteria being stirred up by politicians of both parties, things figure to get worse before they get better.


The Greensboro News & Record has a worth-your-while, front page article this morning about a special kind of Thanksgiving event that took place last night. Here’s the lead:

“What happens when there are more people than chairs at the Thanksgiving table?

In most large families, people just eat standing up. Or they sit in chairs along the wall.

That’s what happened Monday night, as a large and nontraditional ‘family’ held a combination multicultural Thanksgiving dinner and news conference to support Syrian refugees.

About 350 people — elected officials, immigrants and aid workers — showed up for the celebration, where organizers had set places for 250.

No one cared. The evening was more about the message that came before the meal: All refugees, including Syrian refugees, should feel welcome here.

Speakers said America has a moral imperative not to turn them away — as the nation did to about 900 Jewish refugees trying to enter the country on the S.S. St. Louis in 1939.”

Let’s hope that, in addition to bolstering those in attendance, the event went at least a little way toward melting the icy heart of Congressman Mark Walker. This is also from the article:

“Before dinner, representatives from the group held a press conference in which they urged elected officials not to curtail Syrian refugees coming into the community.

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (R-6th) briefly attended the event. Earlier Monday, Walker held his own press conference in which he defended his recent vote to add extra screening requirements for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Several speakers briefly noted his presence at the celebration. The crowd gave unenthusiastic applause to Walker, who appeared uncomfortable at times. He left before the press conference ended.

Speaker Zane Kuseybi, a Syrian-American who is hosting a family of refugees, told Walker from the podium that he is ‘disappointed by your vote.’”

Cong. Mark WalkerWalker (pictured at left) deserves at least some credit for showing up last night, but his public stance on the issue has been as abysmal as most other prominent politicians in the state — a fact made all the more notable by the fact that Walker was only recently elected to office following a career as a Christian minister.

Let’s hope last night’s event forced Walker to think a little harder than he has been about the issue. As one of the speakers told him last night with respect to proposals to deny entrance to Syrian refugees:

“We want you to be the one official out of everyone who says, ‘No, that’s not the right thing to do.’”

Sometimes leadership on issue comes from unusual places. Maybe Congressman Walker will seize the opportunity to provide it here. Click here to read the entire article.

Syrian refugee

Image: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The common sense responses to the irrational fear-mongering taking place over Syrian refugees in recent days are so numerous and compelling as to leave any caring and thinking person shaking his or her head in embarrassment at the performance of public officials of both parties.

As one friend of NC Policy Watch wrote to us this week:

About one million people arrive in the US every day, by land, sea and air. (Yes, many are Americans; but many are foreigners who just show a passport and get waved through.)

Last year, for instance, there were 95,000 international arrivals among the 4.8 million people ‘deplaning’ at RDU.”

Meanwhile, our friend noted:

“The Governor is trying to create a national panic over a few thousand Syrian refugees, mostly women and children, who undergo several levels of vetting to be admitted to the US while also adamantly insisting that many thousands of persons be allowed to buy guns at gun shows with NO background checks. A terrorist’s dream!

In keeping with our friend’s take, here are some more actual details of the process that refugees must endure. As reporter Alicia Caldwell explains at Talking Points Memo, it is lengthy and thorough. This is from her article:

“Refugees who spent years waiting for approval to come to the United States said authorities asked detailed questions repeatedly in multiple interviews, including pressing them about their backgrounds and reasons for fleeing Syria. Nedal Al-Hayk, who was resettled in suburban Detroit with his family after a three-year wait, said officials interviewed him and his wife in separate rooms, asking repeatedly and in different ways where they were born, where their parents were born, what they did before and during the war or whether they were armed, part of a rebel group, supportive of the government or even politically outspoken.

Syrians initially file refugee claims with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which then refers them to the U.S. government. The process has no guarantee of approval and takes so long — Syrians wait nearly three years for approval to come to the U.S. — that experts said it would be a longshot for an extremist group to rely on the refugee program as a way to sneak someone into the United States. The Islamic State group has had far more success appealing to people already living inside the United States to commit or conspire to commit violence. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told lawmakers this week that roughly 70 people have been charged with crimes related to foreign-fighter activity and homegrown violent extremism since 2013.”

The bottom line: Of all the threats to domestic peace and tranquility in modern America, refugees are way, way down near the bottom of the list. Would that our quick-to-demagogue politicians were as concerned about the real threats (gun violence for example) as they are about the illusory ones. Read more on the vetting process that refugees must endure and who they are by clicking here.

Roy Cooper 3

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper

Since Gov. McCrory was too busy winging his way to Las Vegas for a GOP governors’ confab on Tuesday to make a White House phone briefing on the Syrian refugee crisis, it’s too bad that he didn’t arrange for Attorney General Roy Cooper to sit in on the call for him. If Cooper had been able to join, he would have learned why his apparent echoing of McCrory’s call for a “pause” in the settlement of the refugees was just as ill-conceived and disappointing as the Governor’s.

As WRAL reported last night, Cooper said the following yesterday on the subject:

“As chief law enforcement officer of North Carolina, I support asking the federal government to pause refugee entries to make sure we have the most effective screening process possible so our humanitarian efforts are not hijacked. At the same time, we must not let political fear-mongering on this issue divert our attention and resources from stopping terrorists who may already be here or who are trying to get into our country in other ways.”

While Cooper deserves some credit for calling out the fear-mongering that’s been rampant in so many quarters in recent days, his statement ultimately smacks of a politician trying to have things both ways. As multiple experts have explained, there are no good reasons to stop admitting Syrian refugees into North Carolina. Attorney Kate Woomer-Deters of the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center (the parent organization of NC Policy Watch) put it this way in a fine op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Refugees, by definition, are people who enter the United States already having been vetted and allowed to arrive legally within our borders. Under current law, refugees must prove to the U.S. government that they have faced persecution themselves and that they have not persecuted others. In other words, these are the very people fleeing the oppressive conditions and violence in their home countries that terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaida have created.”

In other words, if politicians want to call for a “pause” in accepting refugees so that they can appear virile and appease ill-informed public opinion, we may have to live with it, but no one should harbor the illusion that such a pause will have any real impact on the ground other than to enhance human suffering.