Veteran economist explains the deal on debt, deficits and economic recovery in simple, two-minute video

If you’re among the people who find themselves worrying about public debt and deficit spending in the wake of recent decisions to spend big federal dollars on economic recovery, be sure to check out and share this video from veteran economist Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute. His basic message: borrowing isn’t always a great idea (like when Trump and the GOP did it to give giant tax breaks to the well-off), but right now, it’s essential and the American Rescue Plan is doing it in the right way.

National nonprofit: NC among states at “extreme risk” of gerrymandering

Image: https://represent.us

It comes as little surprise, but a new report from the nonpartisan nonprofit, Represent Us, finds that North Carolina is one of several states at “extreme risk” for political gerrymandering.

The detailed 160 page report provides an analysis of the situation in all 50 states and shines a special spotlight on seven — Florida, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

And while the report lifts up those states that have already addressed the gerrymandering problem through the enactment of state-level legislation, it also points out that the best and most obvious solution (at least when it come to the problem of rigged U.S. House elections) lies with the passage of comprehensive federal reform:

The US Senate is currently considering — and the US House has passed — legislation that would end the gerrymandering of congressional districts. Passing the For the People Act (H.R.1 / S.1), or a similar reform bill, would all but eliminate the threat of rigged congressional maps nationwide. With 25% of congressional districts already at a low threat of gerrymandering, this bill would wipe out the threat in the remaining 325 districts, or 75% of the U.S. House.

Click here to explore the report. The North Carolina section starts on page 97.

Editorial: State lottery suffers the very fate that critics forecast

“We told you so.”

That’s the obvious assessment that critics of North Carolina’s “Education” Lottery can utter these days a decade and a half after its founding.

As today’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com explains, everyone knew the notion that lottery dollars would somehow boost education funding above where it would have been and not be used to fund tax cuts was always a fiction. And now there’s proof that this is exactly what has happened.

In the most recent budget, NO lottery funds were used for additional teaching position, but $385.9 million from the lottery was spent on “non-instructional support personnel.”

…So, at a time when there’s a huge need for additional classroom space and smaller classroom sizes – to help adhere to current pandemic health needs along with providing students with more attention from teachers to make up for in-person classroom time lost – the money is going to basic operations. That is not what lottery advocates intended. That is just what lottery critics – Berger and Moore among them – predicted would happen.

A decade ago, partisan critics called the lottery “Bev’s piggybank” because of proposals during Gov. Bev Perdue’s administration to use lottery funds to shore up battered state revenues during the Great Recession.

Now, of course, everyone involved in the state budget process is participating in this same shell game.

As the editorial goes on to note in conclusion, this situation is especially outrageous when the state is under a court order to comply with the state constitution’s mandate to provide every public school student with a sound basic education.

For nearly 25 years North Carolina has been operating public schools, the highest court in the state has ruled, in an unconstitutional matter failing to meet the promise of providing a quality education to every child.

It is past time to end the lottery shift-shaft. Put the lottery money, as promised, back into enhancing education by cutting class size, providing funding to build more school facilities, expand pre-k education to all children. Stop the corporate tax giveaways and fully fund basic education needs including the Leandro action plan – a common sense roadmap to a quality education for every child.

Click here to read “Ignoring their own warnings about the N.C. lottery.”

New poll shows broad support for automatic voter registration, an end to gerrymandering

Image: NC State Board of Elections

New polling from the Democratic-affiliated research and advocacy group Carolina Forward finds strong support for a pair of progressive democracy reforms already implemented in a number of other states, but long resisted by the GOP leadership at the North Carolina General Assembly: automatic voter registration and an end to partisan gerrymandering.

This is from the news release that accompanied publication of the poll results:

The latest Carolina Forward poll shows that automatic voter registration is very popular in North Carolina. 56% of North Carolina registered voters support automatic voter registration, compared to only 40% opposed. Majorities of both Democrats (85%) and Independents (52%) support the proposal, as well as 1 in 4 Republicans (28%).

…The new poll also revealed that gerrymandering remains a top voting issue, with large majorities of every political affiliation supportive of ending the practice.

The poll found that 65% of registered voters agreed with the statement that “ending gerrymandering is an important voting issue to me” while only 11% disagreed. Just under 25% were unsure.

The polling also found continued solid support for Gov. Roy Cooper’s job performance (52%-approve, 40% disapprove) and handing of the COVID-19 pandemic (54%-positive, 44%-negative).

Click here to explore all of the polling details.

The survey was conducted March 31 to April 1 by Public Policy Polling.

The best editorial of the weekend: What wind power could do for NC (and the planet)

Photo: Getty Images

If you missed it, be sure to check out the lead weekend editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer“Strong winds off the coast could power a clean energy economy in North Carolina.” As the authors explain, it’s long past time for us to move aggressively to make use of North Carolina’s plentiful offshore winds to create sustainable energy and good jobs.

This from the editorial:

Building offshore wind turbines would help slow climate change and would also decrease environmental damage by reducing the dirty process of extracting and transporting fossil fuels. Just last August, a pipeline breach spilled about 1.2 million gallons of gasoline near Huntersville. Duke Energy customers will be paying for years to help clean out the utility’s coal ash pits.

…Beyond its environmental benefits, wind power could also bring strong economic gains not only in construction and maintenance, but in manufacturing of turbines. The Department of Commerce report said North Carolina’s manufacturing sector could develop coastal factories to make wind turbine towers and blades that are so large they can only be transported by water.

“Wind energy means new jobs for North Carolinians,” said Machelle Sanders, North Carolina’s commerce secretary. “Just like biotechnology was for us many years ago, today clean energy represents an industry of the future and North Carolina always embraces the future.”

And happily, the Biden administrations is fully on board with such a plan. Last week, it unveiled an ambitious plan to dramatically ramp up the nation’s development of offshore wind energy.
Of course, no solution is perfect and wind energy development won’t come without foul-ups and negative impacts, it’s a vastly superior to the Trump administration’s horrific idea of filling the east coast with offshore oil platforms. Again, here’s the N&O:
There are also legitimate concerns about how building and operating the massive offshore turbines could affect the fishing industry, wildlife, military flights and tourism. These concerns should be addressed in consultation with stakeholders.
Though not yet a sure thing for North Carolina, wind power is much closer to becoming one. There’s no doubt about where the pursuit of more clean energy should go next. Go where the wind blows.
Click here to read the entire editorial.