Archives

Uncategorized

Over the last decade, poverty in our state has been on the rise. UNC Economics Professor Patrick Conway, in his new paper Poverty in North Carolina since 2000, explains that “poverty in North Carolina until 2000 had been a chronic but declining disease,” a trend that has been cruelly reversed.

In the face of this disturbing trend, Conway examines the links between unemployment and poverty, with an important emphasis on the role of unemployment insurance.

The general link between unemployment and poverty is straightforward: conditioning on other factors, those without jobs are more likely to have income falling below the poverty threshold than those with jobs. Those without jobs, however, can be divided into two groups – those who qualify for unemployment compensation and those who do not. Unemployment compensation provides a support that will lift a portion of those receiving it once again above the poverty line.

Conway concludes that unemployment explains only part of the increase in poverty, but that “the unemployment insurance program has played an important role in keeping North Carolinians above the poverty line.”

It’s a timely message, given the lack of action to renew  federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), ensuring that long-term unemployed workers in 49 states will lose benefits just in time for the holidays.

Of course, long-term unemployed workers in North Carolina have first-hand experience simply by living in the one state that has been ineligible for EUC for the last four months. Thanks to HB4, which reduced the number of weeks and the amount of state benefits for jobless workers, North Carolina’s long-term unemployed residents also lost access to the federally-funded EUC program.

Where have these cuts taken us? North Carolina is still lagging the nation in job creation and unemployment and even the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute is questioning the cuts made to NC’s UI program.

Uncategorized

Traditionally, official press releases issued from the offices of high public officials carry some imprimatur of solemnity and seriousness. While one realizes at some level that they’re ultimately just a way of the official in question to communicate with the media and the public, the releases still typically come with (and convey) an air of officialdom — i.e. that they are public documents issued by the public official in his or her official government capacity.

With this as background, check out a couple of recent “press releases” from Gov. Pat McCrory that sound and look more like dashed-off blog posts.

On Tuesday of this week, the Governor of North Carolina issued an official press release that was simply a reprinted Wall Street Journal editorial about the evils of extended unemployment benefits. It even included the social media abbreviation “ICYMI” in the headline – as in “ICYMI: Wall Street Journal: How to Keep Workers Unemployed.”

Then, just yesterday, the Governor issued another “official” press release. It said the following: Read More

Uncategorized

Art Pope 3Among the many topics on which Gov. McCrory has made repeated misleading statements and told downright whoppers in recent months, none has been more frequently front and center than unemployment insurance. Time and again, the Guv has claimed that the state did not take away benefits and/or that the reason for the cut off in federal emergency benefits was that it was President Obama’s fault for not granting North Carolina an exemption or allowing the GOP legislature’s changes to be “grandfathered.”

As has been reported repeatedly, however, these claims are simply false. That’s why the Guv has had to issue clarifications and retractions on more than one occasion. The simple truth is that when Congress put extended emergency benefits in place as part of the economic recovery/stimulus law back in 2009, it told states that they could only continue to access those federally-funded benefits if they didn’t cut benefits and eligibility at the state level. This is a standard congressional practice used by leaders of both parties to help make sure that federal initiatives aren’t undercut by free-riding states with no skin in the game. Federal officials repeatedly told North Carolina this and warned them not to cut benefits lest they jeopardize the state’s participation in the federal emergency program.

The state’s response: A big raspberry. Despite the plain warning (and pleas from advocates to merely delay new cuts until 2014 so as not to run afoul of federal law), legislative leaders and Gov. McCrory plunged ahead with unprecedented cuts to benefits and eligibility that were quite possibly the largest in American history. As a result, the federal government was left with no choice but to abide by the congressional mandate and cut North Carolina off July 1.

So why does McCrory keep making the bizarre claim that it was the feds who are responsible for the cuts? We got a hint as to the answer to that question yesterday when State Budget Director Art Pope made his strange appearance at a protest outside his office organized by the NAACP and others.  Read More

Uncategorized

Art Pope 3The North Carolina NAACP and other activist groups will commence a series of informational pickets today to shine more light on the rather amazing breadth and depth of the influence of state budget director, Art Pope. The pickets will take place today at 4:00 p.m. outside two of the chain stores owned by Pope’s Variety Wholesalers, Maxway and Rose’s.

The Maxway event will take place at 1905 Poole Rd. in Raleigh. The Rose’s event will take place  at University Mall, 201-C36 Estes Dr. Chapel Hill.

According to an announcement:

“The informational picket campaign is a statewide effort to raise awareness and demand that Budget Director Pope call for a reversal of extremist laws and policies passed in the 2013 Legislative Session and support the request for a Special Redemption Session of the North Carolina General Assembly to reverse course on two extremist policies, the denial of Medicaid and emergency unemployment benefits that will harm the most vulnerable members of our state.”

Learn more at the event’s Facebook page by clicking here.

Uncategorized

Pat McCrory 2Art Pope 3In a rather amazing response to the bad P.R. they’ve been receiving for their toughest-in-the-nation policies toward the poor and unemployed over the last several months, Gov. McCrory and his budget director, chain store magnate Art Pope, issued a pair of press releases today in an attempt to show what caring souls they are.

Unfortunately for both men, both statements come off as almost comically pathetic in their failure to appreciate the magnitude of the problem confronting people in need.

The Governor’s statement was probably the funniest: he announced that:

“approximately 6,700 pounds of fresh turnip greens harvested at the state prison farm at Caledonia Correctional Institution are being delivered to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.”

Gee thanks, Guv! That ought to take care of that pesky hunger problem!

Pope, meanwhile, Read More