This Pi Day, why the pie is shrinking and what it means for North Carolinians

As people celebrate Pi Day (3/14) today around the world, the Budget & Tax Center is revisiting some of our most telling pie charts for North Carolina from the past year.

These graphs show us that, like pi, there are some things in North Carolina that are constant: that we need a collective commitment to well-being for everyone in the state, and that it hurts us all when we prioritize tax cuts for the wealthy few and don’t invest enough in our public institutions.

Income, as evidenced by the latest data, is increasingly concentrated at the top.  More than 51 percent of all income in the state in 2018 went to the top 20 percent, and 23 percent went to the top 5 percent.

 

North Carolina’s collection of revenue — that provides things that everyone needs like health care and education — relies less on income tax from personal and corporate sources. This contributes to both our upside-down tax code and, over time, our tax code’s inability to keep up with the needs in our communities.  This is in part because, as noted above, income is growing at the top.

 

Tax cuts since 2013 have given away the most to the richest.  Seventy-one percent of the net tax cuts go to the top 20 percent of taxpayers in the state. These tax cuts mean that North Carolina has fewer dollars to make investments in our collective well-being.

 

Our state budget provides critical support to the health, well-being, and education of North Carolinians.  It funds an infrastructure of opportunity across the state, and when that infrastructure is not invested in, the pie shrinks and it is more difficult to deliver effective and equitable programs and services.

 

Here are just a few of the ways in which we are short-changing our potential as a state through under-investment.

  • Almost 9 in 10 young children who are eligible for child-care subsidies by federal standards aren’t being served by North Carolina.
  • North Carolina isn’t providing affordable health care coverage to people 19 to 64 living on low incomes. Thirty percent of North Carolinians in this age group with low incomes are not insured, compared to 23 percent in the United States.
  • North Carolina’s high-poverty schools educate a quarter of traditional public school students in the state. The recently released WestEd report found these schools were receiving inadequate funding and support to deliver on the constitutional promise of a sound, basic education.

 

Importantly, these under-investments are not making a difference in the pockets of North Carolinians.  Nearly half of people who lived in poverty (those with an income below the of $24,00 a year for a family of four in 2015) were working. Nearly half of working people live below a living income standard, or the threshold that is needed to make ends meet.

Alexandra Sirota, Director, and Suzy Khachaturyan, Policy Analyst, work with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.

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