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Photo: WRAL.com

Photo: WRAL.com

As we noted in this space yesterday morning, there were some things to like in Gov. Pat McCrory’s State of the State speech Wednesday evening. For the most part, the Governor sounded more like good ol’ Moderate Mayor Pat rather than the champion of reactionary change who signed some of the nation’s most extreme legislation during his first two years in office.

Still, there were moments when Ebenezer Scrooge McCrory was on display — perhaps most notably when he talked about unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation. In both segments, the Governor’s message was as clear as it was callous and offensive: the Governor believes (and his policies are premised on the notion) that large numbers of North Carolina workers are lazy and don’t want to work.

How else to explain his crowing about having enacted the harshest unemployment insurance cuts in U.S. history and then repeatedly professing a desire to create jobs for all who “want to work”? And if one had any idea that these repeated references were simply an awkward if unnecessary nod to retired folks and, perhaps, the disabled, these were pretty thoroughly trashed when the Governor went off on a lengthy diatribe about how his “examination of workers compensation estimates that 40 percent of workers costs are related to abuse or outright fraud.”

Say what, Governor? Do you really believe that large numbers of people don’t want to work and that that’s why some were surviving on unemployment insurance during the Great Recession? Do you really believe that two out of five worker’s comp claims are bogus?

If so, perhaps you should have checked ahead of time with Rep. Jason Saine. Saine, of course, is the GOP state lawmaker who only managed to get off unemployment insurance by getting elected to the House of Representatives.

Or, perhaps he could have talked with one of the state’s most respected and experienced worker’s comp lawyers — Raleigh’s Leonard Jernigan. As WRAL.com reported this morning: Read More

Commentary
McCrory SOS

Photo: WRAL.com

Be sure to check out today’s Fitzsimon File for a more thorough reaction to last night’s State of the State speech. For now, however, here are few preliminary observations:

The good: Pat McCrory can display a winning personality and there’s a reason he’s won a lot of elections. Even with all the mispronunciations and malapropisms, he can be very likeable and sincere. This was on display last night as he related stories about dirty water fountains, his first job as a student teacher and driving on North Carolina highways. He’s not a fat cat or a right-wing ideologue at heart — which partially explains why he’s often so bad at playing those roles on TV. The Governor likes tangible things to fix — which is one of the reasons he’s much better at talking about rehabilitating run down state buildings than discussing large, overarching issues like taxes and health care.

The bad: Unfortunately, the Governor just doesn’t seem to (or doesn’t want to) grasp the enormous gap that exists between his rhetoric (and his espoused ideal of Eisenhower Republicanism) and the policies that he has implemented over the past 25 months. Simply put, a genuine Eisenhower Republican would not have helped impose the most draconian unemployment insurance cuts in American history, enacted huge tax giveaways to the top 1%, denied affordable health insurance to hundreds of thousands of working North Carolinians or presided over the decimation of the state agency charged with protecting our rapidly declining natural environment.

The ugly: The most disappointing moment in the speech came Read More

Commentary

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

NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina’s unemployment insurance debt is being paid down, but a little recognized fact is that it is workers who have contributed the most towards its repayment not employers.

The debt itself was a result of the historic job loss of the Great Recession and the tax cuts that were provided to employers during good times that left the unemployment insurance trust fund underfunded when it was needed the most. Borrowing from the federal government was the only way in which the state could meet its commitment to provide workers who had lost their jobs through no fault of their own with a temporary and partial replacement of their wages until the economy recovered.

Unemployment insurance payments not only mitigated even worse fallout from the Great Recession for workers and their families, it likely stopped a further decline in consumer spending and the resulting spiral of job loss that would have hit businesses harder and made the economic recovery even longer for everyone.

North Carolina policymakers took these economic conditions and the debt as a reason to enact some of the harshest cuts to unemployment insurance, many of which are unlike what any other state does in designing their unemployment insurance systems. Among the results: jobless workers receive just 14 weeks of unemployment insurance, half of the 26 weeks most states offer, and $300 less each month on average in benefits, far less than what is needed to maintain their spending and meet a family’s most basic needs. These changes and others delivered “savings” that translated into nearly two-thirds of the debt being repaid by workers.

The waiver that North Carolina recBTC - Changes to UI Benefitseived this week will mean that employers won’t receive a federal penalty for holding debt given that the state is likely to pay down the debt by May 2015. That penalty was the primary way in which employers were contributing to the debt repayment as can be seen in the chart above. State tax changes under the 2013 changes represented just 0.7 percent of total contributions by employers. Read More

Uncategorized

North Carolina had 20,000 fewer people working in July than the previous month, as the state’s unemployment ticked up slightly to 6.5 percent.

The July jobs report that came out Monday morning (click here to read) puts the state’s unemployment rate at 6.5 percent, much lower than the 8.1 percent unemployment the state experienced a year ago, in July 2013.

The national unemployment rate is 6.2 percent.

July’s unemployment rate in North Carolina was an uptick from recent months, when the unemployment rate dipped as low as 6.2 percent in April.

North Carolina has seen its labor pool shrink steadily as it has emerged from the recession, and there were 19,848 fewer people receiving paychecks in July than there were in June.

Read More