Them and you

tax.jpgIt’s tax day. If this is coming as a surprise to you, I am sorry. If you think the tax code isn’t rigged against you, and for them, I am also sorry.

Both are very true.

The average American taxpayer (that’s you) pays an extra $1,000 in taxes to cover the lost revenue from corporations and the very wealthy exploiting offshore tax havens.

Billionaires (that’s them) still pay lower taxes than their secretaries, and the biggest corporations like GE and Verizon are getting away with paying nothing at all while working families and small business owners pay their taxes so we can invest in America and make everyone better off, not so we can give hedge fund managers another tax break.  In 2009, 22,000 households that made more than $1 million paid less than 15% in income taxes and nearly 1,500 paid no federal income taxes.

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vouchers.jpgAnother day, another giant backward step for the future of North Carolina. This morning we got the conformation of what we've been expecting to see for months now – North Carolina will be the latest state to consider school vouchers.

In an “exclusive interview” with the John Locke Foundation, Paul Stam laid out his $90 million plan to bleed our public schools of money while enriching corporations, all at the expense of our children.  And his reasoning for this program? Why, to save money, of course.

It now costs state and local governments $6,745 to educate a typical child in public school, and $8,414 when including federal allocations, according to Stam. The average opportunity scholarship is expected to be $3,990, according to a fiscal analysis memorandum by the legislative Fiscal Research Division.

Keep in mind that North Carolina is already near the bottom (two from the bottom, actually) of what we spend on a per-pupil basis. Stam’s proposal would further reduce our spending by more than $17 million for the 2013-2014 school year, and more than $25 million in the next school year, according to the fiscal analysis. 

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Medicaid for sale

Medicaid.jpgAfter much faux anticipation, Governor McCrory unveiled his long-awaited plan to overhaul North Carolina’s Medicaid system.


I say kinda, because there were remarkably few details included either in the press conference or in the accompanying documentation. It’s a bit tricky to understand what exactly is going on if you read the info on its face, because McCrory has veiled his plan with industry terminology, so I’ll try to translate for you.

The new program, dubbed the “Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina” is, indeed, a partnership. It takes our traditional Medicaid system and privatizes it, splitting Medicaid recipients among “three-ish” (Secretary Wos’ word, not mine) “managed care entities” (private insurance companies). These insurance companies would be paid on a flat per-person basis, and a new enrollee would be given the choice between one of the three-ish (doesn't that word inspire confidence?) plans offered.

The idea is that the magical force of competition will encourage these three-ish insurance carriers to compete amongst themselves for the majority of Medicaid dollars, hence building in an incentive to keep costs as close to the reimbursement at possible. This then insulates the state from cost over-runs and allows a more predictable budgeting process, while giving Medicaid recipients more choice, says the Governor.

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It's only Wednesday

head-scratcher.pngSomewhere between scurrying from press conference to legislative committee meetings today, I thought that I should throw up a quick post about how absolutely crazy the North Carolina General Assembly has been this month. But to be quite honest, I didn't know where to begin. Then I decided to limit myself to the crazy that has been unleashed just this week. Keep in mind folks, it’s only Wednesday.

We have had a bill introduced declaring a state religion, more bills to curtailing early voting, the always popular voter ID, a bill to require prayer in public meetings, a head-scratching ban on co-ed dorms on university campuses, a requirement to get criminal background checks to qualify for public assistance, and even cuts (as opposed to the sane expansion) to our Medicaid system.

Wow. And those are just the ones off the top of my head - I know I'm missing a few doozies.

At least the weather is nice, so you can go to your neighborhood park and blow off some steam. Unless, of course, you want to go to one of these state parks or landmarks, slated to be closed to save some money. 

It’s been that kind of week, folks. Stay tuned.

Poor to Congress: Hello?

poverty.jpgThe focus of America has been on marriage equality, gun control, and immigration reform over the last few weeks. One issue that continues to trouble this country and has connection to each issue currently captivating our attention is poverty. The anti-poverty movement has failed to gain the right traction in the public discourse, but could an anti-poverty contract change that? An anti-poverty contract has the potential to help the millions of Americans in poverty, but due to the political climate in this country it more than likely will not help anyone.

What is an anti-poverty contract? As explained by Greg Kaufmann of The Nation, it is a simple, clear, and concise anti-poverty agenda. Like many progressive movements in recent years, the anti-poverty movement has many groups and many different policy agendas. What a contract of this nature would do is simplify the agenda to a few points that relate most directly to people, making it easier for the many groups to unite around some common themes.

Kaufmann gives some examples of what could be in a contract: raising the minimum wage, paid sick and family leave, affordable childcare, and ending childhood hunger. These choices certainly would rally the base, but from a political standpoint, the inclusion of raising the minimum wage and forcing companies to provide more paid leave would prevent it from gaining quality traction in Washington.

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