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.

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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


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.

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Dean BakerEarlier this week, we cross-posted a brief essay by one of the nation’s best economists, Dr. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in which he thoughtfully and professionally dissected and demolished the claims made by a Raleigh conservative think tanker in a Wall Street Journal piece. The think tanker’s central claim was that the state’s harshest-in-the-nation cuts to unemployment insurance had spurred all kinds of wonderful economic results in North Carolina.

Apparently not content to be put in his place just once, the think tanker posted a fairly snarky attempt at a response yesterday and today, with an almost audible virtual sigh, Baker took to his keypad (and the CEPR blog) to provide a few more lessons in basic economics. We’ve cross-posted his addendum below:


I see John Hood has replied to my post. Apparently he thinks that if we play games with the start and end dates we can say cutting benefits worked.

Okay, I don’t know what games they play in North Carolina, but let’s just remember what is at issue. The argument for cutting benefits was that if the state pushed people off unemployment insurance (UI) they would be motivated to get a job. We know that North Carolina pushed lots of people off UI. The question is whether there is any evidence this led more people to get jobs.

That gives us two numbers to focus on, Read More


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