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Art Pope 3This time, it’s from the editors of the online site Too Much – a  project of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies,

Not surprisingly, the subject is State Budget Director, Art Pope. Today, Pope is featured in the “Greed at a glance section” of the Too Much newsletter.

“Sometimes you just have to do the job yourself. Art Pope, a billionaire who owes his fortune to a discount store network his daddy built, certainly thinks so. Pope has spent over $40 million in recent years gerrymandering North Carolina, and the state this winter sports for the first time in over a century a GOP governor, a conservative state Supreme Court majority, and a GOP-dominated state legislature all at the same time. But Pope isn’t resting. He had himself appointed state budget director. Last week his budget priorities made national headlines. In North Carolina, a state with America’s fifth-highest jobless rate, lawmakers have now slashed maximum weekly unemployment benefits from $535 to $350, cut the number of benefit weeks allowed, and denied 39 percent of the state’s 438,000 jobless special federal aid . . .

change in povertyA new Working Poor Families Project report finds for a fifth consecutive year the number of low-income working families has risen in the U.S., with nearly a third of all working families unable to earn enough to meet their basic needs.

New data show that 10.4 million U.S. working families were low-income in 2011, up from 10.2 million in 2010.

In North Carolina, 36% of the state’s working families were living below 200% of the federal poverty level in 2011 – struggling to cover housing costs, utilities, and child care.

The report notes that children growing up in low-income families have worse health and educational outcomes, and fewer opportunities for upward mobility.working poor

Nationwide, the total number of people that make-up low-income working families stands at 47.5 million. That is roughly equivalent to the total number of residents in California, Oregon, and Washington combined.

The report calls on federal and state policymakers to take actions that strengthen both job growth and job quality, and increase access to educational opportunities.

To read the full report, click here.

As you have probably read in many news outlets at this point, Gov McCrory has taken the somewhat surprising step of bestowing significant pay raises on his cabinet secretaries – as large as $13,200.  While some are complaining about the fiscal impact of the decision in such tough economic times, it seems that the more apt criticism involves the message it sends to the large mass of North Carolina workers (both public and private) who, if they’ve even been able to keep a job at all, have been eking by on flat salaries for years that average far, far less than what the cabinet secretaries make.

Moreover, McCrory’s statement in defense of his action — “I’m trying to make it at least where they can afford to live while running multibillion-dollar departments,” simply doesn’t wash. Any North Carolinian who can’t “live” in Raleigh on $121,807 per year — the salaries of the outgoing secretaries in the Perdue administration — has some serious issues that bespeak a significant  disconnect from the lives lived by their fellow citizens. This seems especially true for the people in question — all of whom appear to come from comfortable upper middle class and upper class existences already.

The bottom line: This is another surprisingly tin-eared step for a new Guv who has spent so much time talking about the tough economic times that grip our state.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, Americans have traditionally celebrated the abundance long believed to be hallmark of our national experience. As the latest issue of Prosperity Watch makes clear, however, that abundance is increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands in North Carolina. Income inequality has exploded in the state, leaving North Carolina with one of the greatest gaps in the nation between those at the bottom in terms of income and those at the top.  For more details on the drivers behind our state’s exploding income inequality, see the most recent Prosperity Watch.

There’s new and sobering info from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute courtesy of the NC Justice Center that further highlights the folly of enacting new tax laws that shift the state’s tax burden more and more away from people at the top and toward the middle and the bottom:

MEDIA RELEASE: North Carolina Among States with Fastest-Growing Income Inequality
Poor and Middle-Income North Carolinians Fall Further Behind Top Earners
 
RALEIGH (November 15, 2012) — Income gaps widened in North Carolina between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s, as they did for the country as a whole, according to a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute Read More