Commentary

The best op-ed of the weekend: NC’s disastrous lab experiment gone awry

unemploymentIn case you missed it, there was a great op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer over the weekend by Kevin Rogers of the group Action NC. In it Rogers explores the disastrous folly of North Carolina’s three-year-old experiment with a decimated unemployment insurance system.

After documenting some of the destruction the changes have inflicted on the state’s workers and its workforce, Rogers put it this way:

“This is all to say that the drastic and draconian unemployment insurance cuts North Carolina made in 2013 were a complete failure. The share of people with jobs in North Carolina did not grow nearly as quickly as it did in states that did not make these cuts, and there was no discernible increase in the share of the population with a job. Instead, tens of thousands of job seekers were forced into part-time jobs, forced into underemployment or fell out of the job market completely. In all cases, these people would not show up in the official unemployment numbers but are certainly still unemployed by any sensible measure.

Moreover, the most vulnerable of our population fared even worse than the average. While the official unemployment rate for whites in the state was 4.1 percent in the second quarter of 2015, the unemployment rate for blacks and Hispanics was 9.3 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively. That means the cuts to unemployment benefits hit minority households more than twice as hard as white households.

But the story doesn’t end there. Women, who already face across-the-board wage disparity, also face an unemployment disparity. While it is true that women have regained a large number of the jobs they lost during the Great Recession, their gains are highly concentrated in low-wage occupations. Sixty percent of the increase in employment for women between 2009 and 2012 was in the 10 largest occupations that typically pay less than $10.10 per hour. In contrast, these 10 low-wage occupations accounted for only 20 percent of men’s employment growth over the same period.

If the states are truly laboratories of democracy, then North Carolina is surely the domain of mad scientists. When the goal of a policy is to get more people employed quickly, and the result is more people without jobs, it matters little with what catchy term the results are branded. For those still unemployed and without assistance, it’s easy to see where the experiment has failed.

The mad scientists in the General Assembly still have time to fix their creation before it becomes full-fledged Frankenpolicy. They should.”

You can read Rogers’ entire essay by clicking here.

Commentary

Memo to Lt. Gov. Forest: Poor people are suffering even when the weather isn’t frigid

poverty916-1Today’s nominee for most maddening, hypocritical and self-serving tradition in the world of politics is the spectacle of politicians who dedicate the their professional lives to de-funding public services — especially those that serve people  in need — solemnly preaching to us on holidays and/or when the weather is bad about the importance of helping the poor.

Here’s North Carolina’s ultra-right, anti-public safety net Lieutenant Governor this morning on Facebook:

“With these incredibly low temperatures sweeping across our state, let us not forget all of those less fortunate than us. Last month First Lady McCrory and Alice Forest teamed up with the Durham Rescue Mission for a canned food drive. We have been informed that over 2,500 cans of food were collected, and nearly $2,000 donated!

With the cold weather we are experiencing this week, the Durham Rescue Mission is expecting an influx of people. Thank you to to everyone who donates their time and resources to causes like this across our state. Your generosity will ensure that nutritious meals will be available for all who come.”

Isn’t that special? The same fellow who crusades on an almost daily basis against Medicaid expansion, unemployment insurance and any number of other essential safety net programs that would actually make a difference for low income people is all about tossing a few cans of food (and maybe a night in a shelter) to the poor when the weather is bad.

Chris Fitzsimon rightfully described this noxious phenomenon this past Thanksgiving as “cynically suspending the blame.”

“But there’s a disconnect somehow in the holiday message and the rhetoric we hear from many political leaders and right-wing pundits the rest of the time.

Read more

Uncategorized

Economist: Conservatives dreaming if they think unemployment insurance cuts helped NC

Dean BakerIn case you missed it, be sure to check out the latest from one of the nation’s sharpest economists, Dr. Dean Baker on the one-year anniversary of North Carolina’s harshest-in-the-nation cuts to unemployment insurance. In a post that originally appeared on the website of Baker’s Center for Economic and Policy Research, Baker specifically takes one of North Carolina’s right-wing think tank denizens to task for his recent column in the Wall Street Journal celebrating the cuts.

As Baker notes, the local pundit is simply and plainly wrong in his contention that the cuts are responsible for a job boom in the state — or that such a boom is even occurring: Read more

Uncategorized

Legislator: Last year’s tax cuts impacting ‘essential services’ (video)

State budget negotiations will spill over into next week as lawmakers remain at odds over Medicaid and the best approach for funding raises for teachers and state workers.

Rep. Verla Insko believes legislative leaders may have a difficult time reaching a consensus after last year’s budget cut taxes “too much, too fast.”:

“One of the proposals this year was to reduce funding for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” explained the Orange County legislator. “Why would you take a population that deserves help and needs help and remove [services]?”

“The economics is what we talk about a lot…but the real sad thing is we don’t think about the impact on human beings.  These are our children and our community, and we are undermining their ability to have a productive life.”

Rep. Insko appears this weekend on N.C. Policy Watch’s News & Views to discuss the budget, school vouchers, and support for the university system.

For a preview of her radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below:

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Click here for more on how the Senate and House budget proposals would impact programs for young children and working parents.

NC Budget and Tax Center

50th Anniversary of War on Poverty, a time for reflecting on success and challenges that remain

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the War on Poverty and Wednesday, January 8th in particular marks the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s speech in which America’s War on Poverty was declared. National media and political figures have been weighing in on whether the War on Poverty has worked, is a “Mixed Bag”, or has missed the mark. The Budget and Tax Center will be launching a blog series this month which will look in depth into the lasting effects of the War on Poverty, its successes, and the challenges that still lie ahead. We’ll also be doing some must-read myth busting as it relates to income and poverty.

What we do know is that the poverty rate has declined since the War on Poverty was declared, and it has declined even more significantly when supplements such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are factored in. What we also know is that even as productivity of workers has increased, wages have stagnated for middle and low income families and inequality has continued to rise.

The War on Poverty and associated safety net programs, which have been a lifeline for millions of families, have done their job to the extent that we have let them. Going forward it is imperative to make adequate and real investments in the programs that we know work in lifting families out of poverty such as the EITC and SNAP, but also to tackle the broader issue of wage stagnation and inequality by ensuring, among other strategies, that we have a minimum wage that reflects the cost of living in the 21st century, and by taking a long hard look at the racial and class inequity that still plagues our nation and our state.