Writing on chronic poverty in North Carolina, where it was recently revealed that four of the ten cities in all of American with the worst poverty increases are in (SURPRISE!) North Carolina.
Standard & Poor’s piled on last week, concluding that the gap between rich and poor in the U.S. has become so extreme it’s damaging the entire economy. S&P declared such intense disparity markedly hampers economic growth and has slowed our anemic recovery. And that’s Standard & Poor’s, not The Nation magazine. North Carolina has among the worst economic inequality rates in the country. Over the last three decades, the top 1 percent of Tar Heels saw their incomes grow by 98.4 percent, while the bottom 99 percent inched up only 9 percent.
And what has been the response of our leaders to this unfolding parade of horrors? Nary a word, of course. Either they don’t know we’re sliding over the precipice or they don’t consider it worthy of comment. One wonders if the governor has a fiddle.
After reminding us of Pat and the Tilllisberger's immoral laws:
On the policy front, we continue our path-breaking experiment to redistribute resources from the distressed to the well-heeled. It is hard to believe a government could respond to the landscape described above by denying Medicaid to hundreds of thousands, enacting the largest unemployment compensation cut in history and ending the earned income tax credit – to pay for bold tax cuts for those at the top. Either the bottom third doesn’t count, or our legislators actually believe in an occult economic strategy that defies logic, data, history and common sense. I’m guessing it’s the former.
Gene infuriates the right-wing nut job talking heads who presumably expect him to advocate for what they would call "government handouts". Instead, Gene makes the eminently sensible argument that good jobs are they key to fixing this disaster.
I’ve been surprised, though, in recent conversations with folks across the state living in or near poverty, how consistent the perception of problem is. In Charlotte, Durham, Raleigh, Salisbury, Hickory, Rocky Mount, Lumberton, Winston-Salem and Goldsboro, residents have explained that assistance is important but what they really crave are jobs that pay wages they can live on. You can’t do that at $7.25 an hour. They want the chance to advance when they work hard. If they could make a decent, humane wage, they explain, they wouldn’t have to worry about food stamps or rent subsidies or bus passes or being able to buy the basics for their kids. They’d “do it on their own.”
"Do it on their own". That's one of the primary conservative talking points. And now Gene Nichol has exposed how the tea party loons are intentionally denying people the opportunity to do precisely what the wing nuts claim they want.
We could fix this.
Charlotte and Raleigh are strong enough to move forward on their own [with local minimum wage increases] if (when) the legislature balks.
The politics are tough, I concede. But when you talk to Tar Heels living at the edge, the refrain recurs: “It’s the wages, stupid.”