Second chancesLast week, President Obama announced several executive actions aimed at promoting the reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into communities across the nation. The announcement came in response to consistent pressure from advocates, including the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance, and follows a growing trend among states of reducing barriers to reentry and otherwise restoring opportunities for productive citizenship for individuals with criminal records.

Standing before a crowd of formerly incarcerated individuals, reentry service providers, business and community leaders in Newark, New Jersey, President Obama cited some of our criminal justice system’s more startling statistics:

  • 2.2 million Americans—disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos— are currently behind bars
  • The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its inmates
  • More than 600,000 inmates are released each year
  • one in three adults of working age—or 70 million Americans—have a criminal record

As the President explained in his description of what life with a criminal record can mean:

“A lot of times that record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society even if you’ve already paid your debt to society. It means millions of Americans have difficulty getting their foot in the door to try to get a job, much less actually hanging onto that job. That’s bad for not only those individual— it’s bad for our economy. It’s bad for our communities who need more role models who are gainfully employed. So we’ve got to make sure that Americans that have paid their debt to society can earn their second chance.”

Towards this goal of restoring opportunities for productive citizenship for deserving community members, President Obama announced the following measures: Read More


EconomyProgressives have lots of good reasons to wish that President Obama and the 2009-10 Congress has taken an even more aggressive approach in responding to the Great Recession. More stimulus spending and a more aggressive push to reform giant financial institutions would have undoubtedly have helped things get better faster — especially in places like North Carolina.

That said, for all the imperfections of their approach, it’s absolutely clear that the economy is much better off today than it would have been without it (and exponentially better off than it would have been had the U.S. followed the do-nothing, “cuts first” approach promoted by conservatives). For confirmation of this reality check out this new report from two of the nation’s top economists. Their central finding: the federal government’s responses were a resounding success.

Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities summarized their findings in this recent post:

In a major new paper for CBPP’s Policy Futures initiative, Alan Blinder, former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman, and Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, explain that “the massive and multifaceted policy responses to the financial crisis and Great Recession — ranging from traditional fiscal stimulus to tools that policymakers invented on the fly — dramatically reduced the severity and length of the meltdown that began in 2008; its effects on jobs, unemployment, and budget deficits; and its lasting impact on today’s economy.”

Without the policy responses of late 2008 and early 2009, Blinder and Zandi estimate that:

  • The peak-to-trough decline in real gross domestic product (GDP), which was barely over 4 percent, would have been close to a stunning 14 percent.
  • The economy would have contracted for more than three years, more than twice as long as it did.
  • More than 17 million jobs would have been lost, about twice the actual number.
  • Unemployment would have peaked at just under 16 percent, rather than the actual 10 percent.
  • The budget deficit would have grown to more than 20 percent of GDP, about double its actual peak of 10 percent, topping off at $2.8 trillion in fiscal 2011.
  • Today’s economy would be far weaker than it is — with real GDP in the second quarter of 2015 about $800 billion lower than its actual level, 3.6 million fewer jobs, and unemployment at a still-dizzying 7.6 percent.

This landmark paper is especially important because Read More


Average working people will be raising their voices today to demand their fair share of the nation’s economic pie. As the good people at the AFL-CIO remind us:

Today is the day for the White House Summit on Worker Voice. Starting at 10:30 a.m. ET, you can watch the summit live right here. The summit is designed to bring together working people, labor leaders, advocates, employers, members of Congress, state and local officials and others to explore ways to make sure that working people are sharing in the benefits of economic growth and have access to a voice on the job.

To learn more about the summit, visit the official White House website.

Meanwhile, workers in North Carolina will gather at the state Legislative Building in Raleigh for the first “People’s Wage Board.” Here are the details:

The Fight for $15 and a union will convene a forum at the state legislature on October 7th to take testimony from workers and supporters and to call for the creation of a “People’s Wage Board” to advocate for raising wages in North Carolina.

What: Underpaid workers testify
When: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at noon
Where: NC General Assembly Building – 3rd Floor Auditorium, 16 W Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27601

From the Facebook event page:

Inspired by fast food workers in New York who for years organized, and took bold action that encouraged Governor Cuomo and his appointed Wage Board to recommend $15 an hour by 2020, underpaid workers in North Carolina are coming together to call on elected officials to give us a much needed raise to what we deserve: $15 an hour!

Home healthcare workers, fast food workers, child care workers, community members, and NC State Representative Yvonne Holley are putting together ‘A People’s Wage Board’ to record testimony from underpaid workers at the North Carolina Legislature.

The fastest growing jobs are also the lowest paid. With industries like fast food making $200 billion a year, we know the companies we work for can afford to pay us a living wage of $15 an hour so that we have enough to care for our families.

Stand with us as we call on elected officials to do the right thing, give struggling workers a raise so that we can lift up North Carolina!


Michael SpecialeA remarkable story from the General Assembly lost in the ongoing budget blitz was the shocking slur against President Obama posted on Facebook by State Rep. Michael Speciale of Craven County. For a refresher on the kind of policy positions to which Speciale frequently gives voice, check out this post from a couple of years back.

As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported yesterday:

Outspoken Republican state Rep. Michael Speciale of New Bern took to Facebook this month to share an obscenity-filled comment about President Barack Obama.

“Look you Islamic son of a bitch” begins the quote Speciale shared on his public Facebook page Sept. 5. “Unless you give all your land back to the native Indians, don’t pretend to lecture Israeli’s (sic) about our borders when you can’t control your own.”

The quote isn’t from Speciale himself. He posted an image of Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Facebook that featured the comment. The image appeared on a page called “1 MILLION People to DEFEAT Barack Obama.” It’s unclear where the quote originated.

“Are you going to do something about (Islamic State terrorists),” the comment concludes, “or should Israel show you how it’s done because you are too much of a coward and the most piss poor excuse for an American president in your Great Nation’s history.”

Not surprisingly, this is likely not the end of the story. Though WNCN reported this morning that Speciale will not be apologizing or even commenting on the matter, the issue is now percolating into the national news. This morning, the national journal Foreign Policy highlighted the matter and posted the image on its website. It seems certain that other national news outlets will follow up.

Let’s fervently hope that Rep Speciale comes to his senses and issues a sincere apology ASAP and/or that Speaker Moore and Gov. McCrory demand it.


Anisha Singh at the Center for American Progress has produced a remarkable new infographic on the absurd obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees. As the accompanying post notes:

“Since 2015, the U.S. Senate has confirmed just six federal judges to the bench, and the number of judicial emergencies has nearly tripled. As the graphic below shows, this is the worst obstruction of judicial nominations in more than half a century. As a result, millions of Americans are being denied access to justice.”