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The fiscal policy wonks at the Budget and Tax Center are out with a new and detailed analysis of the impact of last year’s harshest-in-the-nation cuts to unemployment insurance that were imposed by Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly. The findings? They ain’t pretty:

“Cuts to unemployment insurance in North Carolina have made it harder for jobless families to make ends meet and get back on their feet in an economy that is still providing too few jobs to go around. Contrary to what proponents of the cuts claim, a recent decline in unemployment in North Carolina is largely driven by people leaving the workforce because they cannot find jobs, not due to employment growth. And far from helping the state’s economy, the cuts have left thousands of North Carolinians with less money to spend on food, clothing and other necessities, which also harms local businesses.

Specifically:

• The average weekly benefit for unemployed North Carolinians plunged Read More

North Carolina has the 10th highest poverty rate in the nation—down from 13th last year—with more than 1 in 4 of its children living below the federal poverty line. Our state also faces widespread income inequality and less economic mobility than the nation and the southeastern region. Rather than pursue a mix of tax and budget policies that boosts economic security for middle-class and low-income families, state lawmakers instead enacted a tax plan that shifts taxes away from the wealthy and towards the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers, on average.

The tax plan drains $525 million in available revenue for public investments over the next two years—a figure that balloons to at least $650 million within five years.

Consider what could have been done to help improve a child’s shot at the American Dream if state lawmakers didn’t choose to cut taxes for the wealthy and profitable corporations. Over the next two years, these dollars could have been used to provide a package of poverty-busting and mobility-lifting investments such as:

  • Eliminating the waiting list for the North Caroline pre-Kindergarten program;
  • Keeping and strengthening the state Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps boost the income of families who work in low-wage jobs;
  • Maintaining the income tax deduction for contributions to North Carolina’s 529 college savings plans (which was eliminated in the tax plan); and
  • Maintaining funding for the 10 nonprofits that promote economic development in economically lagging and distressed communities across the state – these entities include the Institute of Minority Economic Development and its Women’s Business Center

Despite lawmakers’ assertions, academic research simply lacks consensus on whether cutting taxes is an effective strategy for boosting the state’s economy and creating more jobs.  However, an established and growing body of research exists that show the value of public investments, which serve as the building blocks of a strong economy and family economic security. Read More

Today is EITC Awareness Day – also referred to as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a federal tax credit that encourages work by boosting the income of low- and moderate- income working people and offsets federal payroll and income taxes. The EITC has proven to be a powerful tool in helping lift families out of poverty and improving the well-being of young children.

In 2007, a state EITC was established to help further boost the wages of low- and moderate-income workers in North Carolina and offset the higher share of state and local taxes they pay as a percent of their income compared to high-income workers. More than 900,000 North Carolinians claimed this tax credit in 2011, according to the most current tax information provided by the NC Department of Revenue. The impact of the EITC spans across the state, with taxpayers in each of the state’s 100 counties claiming the tax credit (see this interactive map).

Unfortunately, this tax filing season will mark the last year that low- and moderate-income North Carolina workers will benefit from the state EITC. State leaders allowed the state EITC to expire at the end of last year and chose not to extend the tax credit as part of the tax plan passed last year. As a result, the expiration of the state EITC represents a tax increase for more than 900,000 hardworking low- and moderate-income North Carolina taxpayers, for which every dollar counts in their efforts to make ends meet.

Minimum wage 2(Cross-posted from Off the Charts - the blog of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)

Raising the minimum wage would help the economy, CBPP Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein writes in the latest edition of the CQ Researcher.

Two well-established facts help back up this argument, Bernstein says:

The first fact is that the American economy is made up of 70 percent consumer spending.

Economists widely agree that an extra dollar earned by a wealthy person is less likely to be spent than an extra dollar earned by a low-income person….

The second fact Read More

 “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. … It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson, January 8, 1964

Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration to an unconditional War on Poverty, an effort that was announced during his 1964 State of the Union address. Far too many North Carolinians and Americans still live on the “outskirts of hope” and face the stark realities of poverty. With that said, poverty has fallen significantly over the last half-century (when using a comprehensive measure), illustrating the key role that public policies play in combating poverty and boosting economic security.

Johnson’s War on Poverty laid the foundation for the modern-day safety net, including Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, SNAP (formerly  known as food stamps), and a boost to Social Security benefits. Policymakers also provided funding towards elementary and secondary education, established the college work-study program, and provided loans for low- and moderate-income students.

The modern-day safety net cuts poverty nearly in half (see chart below) and reduces the depth of poverty among many families living moderately above the poverty line. Read More