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TaxesCatherine Rampell of the Washington Post has an excellent essay in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer about how the American aversion to taxes has become an irrational and destructive affliction. Not only are we leaving core public structures and services chronically underfunded, we’re skewing our entire political system by turning our public servants into scavengers who must concoct ever-more-elaborate schemes to pay for the services we demand.

“Voters hate taxes and will punish any politician who threatens to raise them (or, in many cases, does not accede to cutting them). But schools, roads, police forces, garbage collection, firefighters, jails and pensions still cost money, even when you cut them back as much as voters will tolerate. So instead of raising taxes, state and municipal governments have resorted to nickel-and-diming constituents through other kinds of piecemeal, non-tax revenue raisers, an outcome that is less transparent, and likely to worsen the economy, inequality and social injustice.

Think of recent, infuriating stories on civil asset forfeiture, in which law enforcement seizes cash and other property from people who are never charged with crimes. Often the departments that do the seizing get to keep the proceeds, which leads to terrible incentives. Officers around the country now attend workshops that offer tips on the best goodies to nab (go for flat-screen TVs, not jewelry).

Forcing cops to remit forfeiture proceeds to the state or local treasury, rather than allowing an eat-what-you-kill policy, might discourage bad behavior to some degree. But at heart, the reason such actions are so commonplace is that government revenue has to come from somewhere, if it ain’t coming from taxes.”

As Rampell goes on to point out, this ridiculous state of affairs is transforming how we fund government from a broadly-shared, democratic enterprise  into a regressive, market-distorting mess. She might’ve also mentioned that it’s helping to transform how we think about government as well. Where once all citizens were stakeholders/owners, we’re now becoming cheapskate bargain hunters looking only to get the best deals for ourselves (e.g. private school vouchers).

Her solution: “It’s time to take off the fiscal blinkers and start rewarding politicians who have the courage to advocate raising revenues the old-fashioned way: through taxes.”

Amen to that.

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A new report from the experts at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center paints a sobering picture of what the new “recovered” North Carolina economy really means for average people:

“North Carolina’s recovery from the Great Recession has been marked by slow job growth and persistent challenges for working families to make ends meet. The minimal job growth has been concentrated in low-wage industries, a new report finds, which will only make North Carolina’s economic recovery that much more difficult. Read More

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You know things have gotten pretty bad when even the head of the corporate oligarchs at Goldman Sachs starts speaking out against inequality. This is from a story posted by the good people at Think Progress:

“CEO of one of the world’s largest banks: Income inequality is ‘destabilizing’

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of investment bank Goldman Sachs, called income inequality “very destabilizing” during an appearance on CBS “This Morning” on Thursday.

Arguing that the growing division between the top and bottom of income earners drives political divisions that makes it difficult to legislate and “deal with problems” and therefore “drive growth,” he said, “It’s a very big issue and something that has to be dealt with.”

Blankfein himself can be counted among the 1 percent who have been grabbing most of the country’s income growth, as he is the world’s best paid banker with a $2 million annual salary and tens of millions more in bonuses, adding up to a net worth of $450 million….

Read the rest of the article and watch Blankfein make his comments on CBS by clicking here.

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Some of the most damning facts about the state of North Carolina’s tax system and what the most recent changes enacted by state leaders really portend for average families — especially the state’s one-of-a-kind repeal of the Earned Income Tax Credit — were explained at a Budget and Tax Center press briefing this morning. This is from a statement the group released after the event:

“The tax plan passed by the General Assembly during the 2013 legislative session resulted in a tax shift onto working families. Advocates from around the state joined together on Tax Day to bring awareness to the plan, which is bad for working families, children, business, and the economy. Under the new plan, which will took effect in January 2014 and will impact income tax filing in 2015, low- and middle-income families will see their taxes go up on average, while wealthy taxpayers and corporations saw large tax cuts.   Read More

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ff-8292013It’s depressing as hell, but everyone who cares about North Carolina public policy should make this new report by the N.C. Budget and Tax Center’s Cedric Johnson: “Who Pays in 2014″ a part of their Tax Day reading list.

As Johnson reports:

“Changes are coming to who pays taxes in North Carolina, and the news is not good for middle- and low-income taxpayers. This tax season marks the final year taxpayers will file their income taxes under the state’s old tax code and by next year it will be apparent to many taxpayers that the tax plan has not just reduced available dollars for investing in core public services, but also has increased the tax load for many. Read More