The Campaign Trail


Justice Center Says Bill That Would Increase Penalties For Rioters Would Curb First Amendment Rights PDF Print E-mail
The Campaign Trail
By Donna Martinez   
Wednesday, 01 September 2021 08:39

HB805, the anti-Black Lives Matter, anti-protest legislation intended to curb the First Amendment rights of North Carolinians — which passed the House in May and the Senate last week — returned to the House today for a concurrence vote in which the House voted to accept proposed changes made in the Senate. This harmful bill, a direct assault on our democracy, is now one step closer to becoming law. 

While HB805 was originally purported to be a bill combatting “riots,” lawmakers have become increasingly explicit in saying the bill is a direct response to last summer’s protests and calls for racial justice and police accountability. The bill is a clear attempt to suppress free speech and the right to assemble. It also leaves the definition of a “riot” intentionally vague, thus granting police and prosecutors immense power to target Black, brown, and indigenous communities. By standing up for racial justice, those communities will be most hurt by the subjective legislation.  

Many of our partner organizations throughout the state have been working tirelessly these past few months to stop HB805 from advancing. The Justice Center was honored to sign on the letter developed by our partners at Emancipate NC, ACLU of NC, Democracy NC, and others. Thanks to everyone's advocacy, every Senate Democrat and all but two House Democrats voted against the bill, but there is still more work to be done to ensure HB805 does not become law.  

“There is no question HB805 is an attack on the struggle for Black liberation and other social justice movements that challenge the oppressive status quo,” said Laura Holland, Director of the Fair Chance Criminal Justice Project at the North Carolina Justice Center. “This bill is not an anti-riot bill, but an attack on our right to assembly and protest. It proposes to again use the criminal code as a tool to maintain dominance and control over Black and brown bodies, by punishing dissent with the risk of a felony conviction.”

The result of such convictions can have disastrous consequences. “In North Carolina (and nationwide), a felony conviction can debilitate an individual by locking them out of meaningful employment, affordable housing, higher education, and other opportunities to meet their essential needs,” said Holland. “We call on Governor Cooper to veto HB805.”

This legislation is exactly what it appears to be: part of a divisive and transparent attempt to criminalize standing up for racial justice. We must work to ensure it is not signed into law.  

 

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Budget & Tax Center Releases County-By County Economic Profile PDF Print E-mail
The Campaign Trail
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 01 September 2021 08:34

The latest economic data for counties throughout North Carolina is clearer today with the release of county-by-county data from the  n an easy-to-use format. Data is available for all 100 counties in North Carolina. These snapshots include data from prior to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as more recent indicators that show how the pandemic has affected local economies.

The Economic Snapshot is an annual publication that lists key economic and social indicators at the county level in North Carolina, providing an overall picture of how well-being varies through the state. This data profile includes indicators on employment, poverty and income, affordable housing, health, education, and supports for working families — all of which come from a variety of credible sources.

Key statewide findings include:

*             The richest 5 percent of North Carolina households have an average income that is 28 times greater than the poorest 20 percent of households.

*             Rent is unaffordable for many in NC. Some 47 percent of North Carolina renters are putting put more than 30 percent of income toward their rent, and 23 percent of North Carolinians are spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent.

*             Over 30 percent of North Carolinians had low annual incomes in 2019, meaning incomes under two times the federal poverty level ($50,200 for a family of four). In nearly every county, people of color and children are more likely to be living in poverty.

*             Poverty rates are generally higher in counties where the population is declining. In counties where the population is growing, educational attainment and earnings are significantly greater.

“An inequitable economy meant that many communities across the state were facing hardship for years before the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Logan Rockefeller Harris, Senior Policy Analyst with the NC Budget & Tax Center. “This data can help us assess how disparities between counties are shifting and growing, and guide the state’s public investments so that every county and North Carolina resident can thrive.”

 The nonpartisan Budget & Tax Center is a project of the NC Justice Center, which works to eliminate poverty in North Carolina by ensuring every household in the state has access to the resources, services and fair treatment it needs to achieve economic security. 

 
Sen Jarvis: Six-figure Jobs That Don’t Require A Degree PDF Print E-mail
The Campaign Trail
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 25 August 2021 08:39
By North Carolina Senator Steve Jarvis
 
If you have children, you’ve probably played the board game “Life.” 
  
Players reach a key crossroad early in the game: Choose to go to college, which sets you back a few spaces but ups your odds of winning the game, or choose not to, which puts you ahead briefly but may hurt you in the long run. 
  
For much of the past century that board game concept has manifested itself in real life. That’s not the case anymore for an increasing number of youths.  
  
Decades ago, a smaller proportion of students attended college, and they usually earned themselves a good-paying professional job in which they used their minds, not their muscles, to earn a living. 
  
They may have taken on a small amount of student debt, but white-collar salaries paid off that debt in short order, and that was that. 
  
Over time, a key variable in that equation – college tuition – started skyrocketing. As the supply of college-educated professionals keeps increasing, their salaries will plateau or even shrink relative to some non-college-educated positions. 
  
This means the notion that a four-year degree is a ticket to success in life has never been on shakier footing than right now. Soaring tuition and living costs burden students with decades of debt payments, and median salaries in some fields make it mathematically impossible for some borrowers to ever pay off their loans. 
  
Meanwhile, trade and technical school students can graduate with much smaller debt burdens and can earn salaries higher than some positions that require four-year degrees. 
  
For example, electricians, plumbers, elevator repair workers, and radiation therapists all earn an average salary above $70,000 per year. None of them require a four-year university degree. 
  
As parents and as a society, we’ve placed too much prestige in a four-year university degree. It’s earned a sort of aura over the decades – a signal to others of a parenting job well done, and of a child destined for a life of upper-middle-class comforts. 
  
That may have been true in the 1950s, but it’s not true anymore. Students can break into good-paying industries with a two-year stint at a community college or just a vocational certificate. 
  
Working with your hands might have been some sort of class marker a century ago, but it’s not so anymore. The trades are lucrative, and they command respect. 
  
Some teachers and parents have begun to embrace , or at least pay attention to, alternatives to the four-year-degree career pathway. That trend should continue. At its core, a quality education will prepare a student for a self-sufficient, productive life. Two-year and vocational schools do this, and sometimes they do it better than universities. 
  
In recognition of the shift that may soon be underway, the North Carolina legislature has invested growing sums in short-term workforce training and apprenticeship programs. I support this trend and will work to expand it. 
  
Real life isn’t a board game. There is no right path that leads you to win the game. It’s time to acknowledge and appreciate the plethora of options that our children must be successful. 
  
Instead of forcing them into preconceived notions of success, let’s encourage them to find the path fulfills their potential – whether that be a four-year degree, two-year degree, or a vocational certificate.  
 
 
Walden: Is Another Recession On The Way? PDF Print E-mail
The Campaign Trail
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 25 August 2021 08:31

Just when we thought things were getting better, could they go the other way and get worse?   For most of the year we were optimistic about the economy.  Growth was surging, jobs were being added, and optimism was lifting.  A big reason was the retreat of Covid-19.

 But in recent weeks Covid-19 has made a comeback.  The delta variant of Covid-19 is raging across the country with record infection rates.  One solace we have is the delta variant appears to be less deadly than the original version.  Still, we are worried.

To give some perspective to the concerns, here’s a summary of where we’ve been with Covid-19 and the economy.  Once Covid-19 spread rapidly in early 2020, business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders became common around the country.  With normal economic interactions interrupted, the economy tanked in the spring and a deep recession took hold.  The national unemployment rate soared to almost 15%.

 But success in “flattening the curves” of both cases and deaths allowed restrictions to be eased.  As a result, the economy grew in the third quarter of 2020 by almost as much as it dropped in the second quarter.  Indeed, using the definition that recessions end once the economy resumes expanding, the Covid-19 recession no longer existed in the third quarter.

 Growth continued, but at a much slower pace, in the winter as the virus re-surged.  But with vaccinations beginning in early 2021, the virus was significantly curtailed.  In fact, by the summer of 2021, aggregate economic production was back to pre-pandemic levels, and aggregate employment had recovered all but 4% of its losses.

 Then the Covid-19 delta variant began spreading in July, and it continues today.  The variant is more contagious than the original version, but fortunately it is less deadly.  Yet cases have been rising all over North Carolina, and in some areas hospital beds have become scarce.

This situation sounds eerily similar to where we were in early 2020.  Will we need to react in the same way and have business lockdowns and stay-at-home orders?  And if so, will another serious pandemic recession be the result?

 

In addressing these questions, we do have the benefit of seeing what’s transpired in other countries that contracted the delta variant before we did.  Both the United Kingdom and India had the delta variant weeks before it came to us.  Just as we have experienced, both countries had a rapid run-up in new cases.   But – encouragingly – both countries also have had a rapid reduction in new cases after a peak was reached.  In India, the new case peak came in early May, and now new cases are back to pre-peak levels.  In the U.K., the top in new cases came in July, and although new cases have been declining, they have still not returned to pre-delta variant levels. 

Medical experts are still trying to determine what has caused the rise and fall of the delta variant.  But the fact the variant did subside in India and the U.K. is encouraging for us.

The immediate future of the economy will depend on two factors – how the delta variant progresses, and how we react to it.  If the delta variant new cases peak and then subside – for whatever reasons – within the next four to six weeks, then the economy should continue to expand and improve. Growth may be slightly slower than it has been, but no “negative growth” – meaning a recession – will occur.

Conversely, if new cases climb with no obvious end in sight, then a more uncertain outlook is ahead.  More communities would institute restrictions, like mask mandates.   In-person gatherings would be postponed, and outdoor events could be cancelled or controlled. 

Furthermore, even without the imposition of public regulations, individuals on their own would curtail activities, like shopping, eating-out, and vacationing.  Studies of individual behavior during the pandemic have confirmed these reactions. 

The result would be a more significant slowdown in the economy.  Still, I don’t believe these reactions would be enough to put us back into a recession.  Households, businesses, and institutions such as education and healthcare learned to cope with the pandemic last year.  Households worked remotely, businesses stayed afloat using cyber-buying and delivery, and education and healthcare accessed students and patients via the internet.

The coping mechanisms weren’t perfect and not without costs, but they did soften the economic blow of the pandemic.  If the delta variant puts us into a similar situation, I think the lessons we learned last year will improve our coping techniques and reduce the costs.

Many hoped and maybe expected Covid-19 to be banished this year.   Others pointed to the pandemic of a century ago – the Spanish flu of 1918-1919 - which killed more Americans than Covid-19, as reason to be more cautious.   That pandemic had several waves, something we’ve now unfortunately experienced with Covid-19.

We’re going through another challenging time with the pandemic.  Like everyone, I want Covid-19 to be gone.  The virus and the economy are still intertwined.  While economic conditions have adapted to the virus, we won’t be able to freely engage in economic interactions until we are free of the virus.  Like you, I hope we can someday absolutely decide when that is.

 
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