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Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2015

Editor’s note: The following post by Jeremy Sprinkle, communications director at the NC State AFL-CIO, is the latest installment in “Raising the Bar” — a new series of essays and blog posts authored by North Carolina leaders highlighting ways in which North Carolina public investments are falling short and where and how they can be improved. 

No one wants North Carolina to have a strong economy more than its workers, who want to be able to work and to earn enough to support their families. Our state budget includes vital investments in supporting our current and future workforce, for example through workforce development, re-employment support and early childhood education, and our K-12 public school system. We know that making investments in these areas ultimately benefits all workers, families and our economy.

Unfortunately, legislative leadership in North Carolina has not pursued a path of investing in our workers and future workforce, but instead implemented a costly tax plan passed in 2013 that bleeds the state of much needed revenue for workforce development and training and innovative, proven initiatives that would create good-paying jobs in our state. The plan they passed gave big tax cuts mostly to profitable corporations and individuals at the very top of the income scale. Legislators based the pursuit of this strategy on a theory that tax cuts lead to higher job creation. However prior experience and research tells us that tax cuts don’t create jobs and they don’t grow the economy.

The 2013 tax cuts haven’t fixed the labor market despite disproportionately going to so-called “job creators” – the wealthiest North Carolinians and profitable major corporations.

As billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer has said, if it was true that tax cuts for the rich created jobs, we would be drowning in jobs — but we’re not.

There are more people looking for work today than before the recession, and many of the jobs out there are low-wage jobs that don’t pay enough to support families or to reverse the decline of our middle class.

In fact, adjusting for inflation, an hour’s work today actually buys less than it did in 2007. Another tax cut isn’t going to fix that.

The way to raise wages and fix the labor market is by investing in our workforce and by empowering more workers to engage in collective bargaining to turn low-wage jobs into good jobs.

Policymakers have for too long asked working families to pay more and settle for less.

The 2013 tax cuts for the wealthy forced the state to slash programs that would have helped workers recover from the recession and rebuild their lives.

Workforce development, reemployment services, child care subsidies, and the Earned Income Tax Credit have all been cut or eliminated. Meanwhile, the cost of job training at community colleges or of pursuing a higher education is more expensive than ever.

Workers are consumers, and that makes us the real job creators in our economy. There aren’t enough wealthy people to make up for the declining buying power of North Carolina’s workers, and another tax cut for the rich won’t change that.

If lawmakers want to create jobs, they need to invest in workers, and investment takes revenue, revenue that is lost by cutting taxes.

And if they want to do something meaningful to put more money into workers’ pockets, they’d be better off encouraging workers to form unions and bargain collectively than by doubling down on the failed ideology that tax cuts are some sort of cure-all that past experience and common sense tell us just isn’t true.

 

Commentary

Asian Americans and Latinos are the fastest growing minority groups in the country. Particularly in North Carolina, Asian American population has grown more than 80% from 2000 to 2010 (see Advancing Justice’s recent report on the Asian American demographic in the South here), while Hispanic/Latino populations has grown more than 110%, according to the US Census. This growing demographic could have particularly important implications for politicians in the days to come.

Often headlines choose to highlight differences between Asian Americans and Latinos, focusing on language like “Asians overtake Hispanics as largest US immigration group” and reinforcing the “model minority” myth that effectively renders Asian Americans as a political tool against affirmative action.

Lost in translation is common history and solidarity that these communities have shared and common challenges they continue to face.

To bring to the forefront “real clear moments of collaboration between Asian-Americans and Latinos,” NPR’s Latino USA has put together a special report in the form of an hour-long podcast called “Hyphen-Americans.”

Particularly poignant in the podcast, editor-in-chief of Hyphen magazine (a publication focusing on Asian American issues) Abigail Licad summarizes some political collaborations among the Asian and Latino communities in the past including working together on labor movements in the early 20th century (among one of the most iconic collaborations being between Cesar Chavez and Larry Itliong) to collaboration in the undocumented youth movement in recent years.

Listen to the Latino USA podcast here:

Commentary

Farmworkers 2If you missed it this morning, be sure to take a few minutes to read this morning’s lead story over on the main Policy Watch site: “Twenty-first Century children, Nineteenth Century laws.” The article features a powerful interview with a young woman who describes the pain and hardship she endured for years as a child laborer in 21st Century America — something that, as remarkable as it may seem, remains perfectly legal more than a century after our country supposedly addressed it. Here is an excerpt:

Q. When and why did you start working? Was it your choice?

A. At the age of 8 years old I started working in cotton fields in Arkansas. When I was12-years old I started working in blueberry fields in Michigan, as well as working in the processing plant and various nurseries. I come from a family of migrant farmworkers; we were all expected to work at some point. I am not entirely sure why I started at a much younger age. But growing up I learned that we worked to help pay for bills, school clothes and supplies and also to learn a lesson. Both my parents met in the fields, they both knew how hard the life of a migrant farmworker was and didn’t want for that life to be their children’s. They made us work to show us exactly what was out there without a proper education and to motivate us to stay in school.

Q. What was your typical job and what would be a typical workday? Read More

Uncategorized

Moral MondaysWith today’s Moral Monday focusing on, among other things, the rights of workers in North Carolina, be sure to check out this essay from Saturday’s Raleigh News & Observer by NC AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan. As McMillan notes:

“At what cost to the residents of this state do our lawmakers and our governor do the bidding of organized greed? A devastating coal ash spill fouls our waterways, and fracking threatens our water supply. Children as young as 12 work our tobacco fields. Jobless North Carolinians struggle to make ends meet on reduced and inadequate unemployment benefits. Teachers work without pay raises, textbooks and teaching assistants. Children, the aged and the disabled are being kicked off Medicaid while hundreds of thousands are left to get sick and die, caught up in a Medicaid blockade of lawmakers’ own making. Citizens are made to overcome obstacles in exercising their right to vote. Even our right to vote is under attack. If we stand by and do nothing, we are signing off on this moral bankruptcy. Read More

Uncategorized

As we approach Labor Day weekend, new data from the state Division of Employment Security  shows unemployment rates fell in 97 of North Carolina’s 100 counties last month. However, most of the job growth this past year has occurred in Leisure & Hospitality, the lowest-wage sector.

This industry pays roughly $12 below the statewide average, according to analysis by the NC Budget & Tax Center.

MaryBe McMillan with the NC State AFL-CIO says it’s troubling that the employment opportunities that have replaced the manufacturing jobs lost during the recession fail to provide families a living wage:

“Folks cannot get by on $7.25 an hour, and it’s long overdue we raise the minimum wage, make it a living wage, index it to inflation so we are not going another decade or so without a wage increase,” explained McMillan in an interview with NC Policy Watch.

Minimum wage workers and their supporters will gather today (Thursday) in cities across the nation, including Raleigh, asking to be paid $15 an hour.

For a preview of McMillan’s radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below:

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