Fiscal Cliff Notes: all you need to know

  1. Everyone believes we should fix the debt. That’s a no-brainer.
  2. The key question Congress faces is who should pay to reduce the debt. Should the wealthiest 2% of Americans — many of whom helped get us into this mess — help pay or should the middle and lower class bear all the burden?
  3. Generating savings and revenue from any source other than the top 2% shifts the burden to the middle and lower class. Either by broadening the tax code, domestic spending cuts or by cutting entitlement benefits, the middle and lower classes will feel the most pain.
  4. We just had a Presidential election where the question “Who Should Pay?” was the central issue and Barack Obama won.
  5. In fact, a large majority of Americans agree that the top 2% should pay their fair share. According to the Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans support raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 per year.
  6. The best solution to fixing the debt is to get the economy moving again. Allowing the economy to go over the fiscal cliff won’t help the economy either.
  7. Ending the Bush Tax Cuts for the top 2% means a return to the Clinton-era tax rates when the economy was booming.
  8. Unlike tax cuts for the wealthy, middle-class tax cuts can help the economy by getting more cash in the pockets of people looking to buy things. Tax cuts for the top 2% are just another attempt at the failed approach of trickle-down economics.
  9. Some Members of Congress are holding the middle-class hostage to tax cuts for the rich. The Senate has already approved extending Bush Tax Cuts for the lower 98% and the President is ready to sign the bill if the House will act.  House Republicans claim they have a mandate for gridlock because they maintain a House majority.  But Democrats in the House got more votes on election day than Republicans did.
  10. Despite the bombast and rhetoric, small businesses are protected. 97% of all small businesses are under the $250,000 threshold. Even if they are not, the tax rates are marginal – meaning only income about the threshold is taxed at a higher rate.  That means if a small business makes $250,100, only $100 is taxed at the higher rate, while $250,000 is taxed at the lower rate.

Time to take a look in the mirror

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Update: After Governor Perdue vetoed the legislation described below, both the NC Senate and the NC House voted to override her veto — making North Carolina once again a state where the color of your skin determines whether you live or die.

We’ve seen some low points in North Carolina General Assembly moral leadership since it fell under the control of the far right faction of the GOP, but we truly hit a new low last week when 67 Republican and five Democratic members of the NC House went on record as saying it is okay for the color of a person’s skin to determine whether they live or die.

Hiding Behind Closed Doors

This successful effort to institutionalize racism in our judicial system began, as many cowardly moves do, behind closed doors, when a bill about school buses was hijacked by House GOP members and loaded with amendments that crippled NC’s groundbreaking 2009 Racial Justice Act. Unable to repeal the Act in daylight, House leadership resorted, as is their habit, to closed meetings and obscure procedures to get their way. However much the wording of SB416 changed, though, its essential intent remained the same: by making it impossible for death row inmates to 1) prove racism led to their death sentences and 2) if successful, have their sentences converted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, lawmakers voting for SB416 put our state on record as saying it’s okay in North Carolina for the color of a person’s skin to determine whether they live or die.

Every single Republican member of the NC House and five conservative Democrats endorsed this belief. Take a look at most of the Republicans supporting the bill here.  These are the faces of people willing to live with the fact that, thanks to them, North Carolina may once again allow the color of a person’s skin to determine whether they live or die. They were joined by these five Democrats: Jim Crawford of Oxford, Bill Owens of Elizabeth City, William Brisson of Bladen County, Dewey Hill of Columbus County and Timothy Spear of Washington County. Not surprisingly, you won’t find a person of color among these ranks.

Moral Tap Dancing to an Immoral Tune

The lawmakers who voted for SB416 won’t tell you that they support one system of justice for white people and another for people with darker skin. In fact, they will deny it even as their actions make it inevitable. They cannot face such appalling moral weakness in themselves. So instead of owning up to it, far right lawmakers did what they always do when they don’t want to face their own insupportable moral arguments: they rejected the science at work (in this case, statistics), and they evaded responsibility for outright repealing the law (in this case, by drowning it in rules that render it useless and calling it “reform”).

Most of all, though, they climbed up on their moral high horses and sought to deflect attention from what they were about to do. They talked, with righteous indignation, of guilt and innocence (even though the Racial Justice Act does not change guilty verdicts) and of protecting the public (even though the Racial Justice Act does not free anyone, ever). The longer and louder they talked, the more it became apparent that even these lawmakers knew, on some level, that what they were doing was wrong, that it is morally repugnant to institutionalize the belief that it is okay for the color of a person’s skin to determine whether they live or die.

Some had more trouble than others convincing themselves that they were not bad people. Nelson Dollar had to wax long, and then even longer, to justify his support for SB416. “This is about monsters,” Dollar said. “Monsters. Evil people doing unspeakable, inhuman acts. That’s what this is about.” All that, even though the bill at hand… wasn’t about that. Not at all. Not unless you think it is monstrous for a society to condone letting the color of a person’s skin determine whether they live or die.

Many lawmakers also talked of justice, but they were not talking of justice for people of color. Not one of them stood up to advocate that, instead of disabling the Racial Justice Act, steps should be taken to ensure a single justice system for all people, regardless of their skin color. Certainly, none of them suggested that white “monsters” be put to death at higher rates in order to rectify the appalling double standard in sentencing. Instead, they voted to reinstate a system that lets the color of a person’s skin determine whether they live or die. They were perfectly willing to accept that trade-off in return for their chance to grandstand.

Make Them Own It

The 67 Republicans and five Democrats who voted to gut the Racial Justice Act don’t want you to notice that they support letting the color of a person’s skin determine whether they live or die. They want you to believe that they are champions of law and order, that they are speaking up for the victims, that they are simply saving the state a few bucks. Don’t believe them. If they are going to pass laws that say it is okay, here in North Carolina, for the color of a person’s skin to determine whether they live or die — than make them own that belief. Hold them to it on the campaign trail and make sure that every single person you know who has ever been affected by racial prejudice understands that these lawmakers believe it is okay for racism to play a role in life and death decisions.

What You Can About It

SB416 is now headed for the North Carolina Senate. If you do not believe it is okay for the color of a person’s skin to determine whether they live or die, then sign this petition calling to protect the Racial Justice Act. It emails your state senator and NC House rep automatically as well. Or visit here and tell your state reps that a civilized society does not impose different sets of rules for citizens based on their skin color. Tell them to reject SB416 and all it stands for. Let them know that, while their own moral underpinnings may be shaky, you are standing on firm ground, thank you very much, and quite sure that it’s wrong to let the color of a person’s skin determine whether they live or die.

Dragging Our State Backwards

Once again, North Carolina’s state legislators are passing a budget that takes our state backwards. They’re making deep cuts to vital public investments like public schools, community colleges, health care and infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be this way. Lawmakers can make better choices about revenues and choose to align their priorities with the priorities of the people of North Carolina. Join our friends at Together NC for an upcoming action in Raleigh to demonstrate that the legislature’s state budget takes our state back in time by registering here:

Together NC will provide T-shirts and refreshments. We hope to see you there!

Tell NC lawmakers it’s time to face the facts:

Lawmakers will be back in session on Wednesday and they are staring at a $750 MILLION HOLE in North Carolina’s K-12 public school budget. The Chairman of the State Board of Education knows we’re in troubleSchool superintendents know we’re in trouble. Parents and students know their schools are in trouble. Even the media knows our schools are in trouble. All of these are reasons why Gov. Perdue devoted much of her budget this year to trying to save our schoolsDespite this consensus that our school system is in peril, GOP leaders continue to insist that they added classroom staff last year, rather than cutting the thousands of teachers and teaching assistants who were laid off. They continue to deny that our schools and our children are suffering, despite the relentless and overwhelming evidence to the contrary. 

Tell NC’s lawmakers to listen to school superintendents and make badly-needed changes in our public school budget policies.

Please sign our petition to lawmakers today.


Your health (and budget) are on the line in Raleigh this year:

Keep an eye on Raleigh. Ever since the far right took control of North Carolina’s General Assembly, their close ties to corporate interests have been all too evident in the bills they have chosen to file. They have tried to dismantle environmental protections and billboard regulations and attacked consumer rights. When the short session begins in May, expect more of the same, including three very real threats to your health and to your pocketbook. Summaries of these issues appear here.

We urge you to keep an eye out for these issues and to demand state-level candidates address them during this year’s Primary and General Election seaons.

Here we go again….

Black-Tillis-Together.jpgSpeaker of the NC House… inaccuate campaign finance reports… close industry ties… conflicts of interest and murky donor information… No, it’s not 2006, and we’re not talking about Democratic House leader Jim Black. We’re talking about Republican House leader Thom Tillis. A new report from Democray North Carolina shows that Tillis received substantial donations from 28 donors and two political action committees with ties to the consumer finance industry, whose fees and interest rates are regulated by the General Assembly. Despite being called out on it, Tillis failed to disclose these industry ties when it came to a number of donors in his most recently amended campaign finance report. Last year, Tillis pushed priority legislation through the House to raise increase rates and fees on consumer loans, despite opposition from consumer advocates and U.S. military leaders (who felt raising rates would hurt NC’s military families). Tillis even met privately with wavering GOP legislators before a crucial vote was taken that ended in a bill being passed that approved the increases he wanted. Read the full report here.

Have you become a second class citizen in NC?

second class citizen.jpgOn Feb. 16th, a coalition of North Carolinians from all walks of life converged on the General Assembly Building on the first day of yet another costly “special session.” They were there to attend a peaceful rally that called attention to the regressive policies of current legislative leaders as well as their out-of-control behavior. Following the rally, attendees quietly lined a public hallway on the second floor of the main legislative building. It was their way of respectfully letting lawmakers know that the people of North Carolina were watching. Within minutes, after being alerted by NC House Speaker Thom Tillis’s staff, the General Assembly Police arrived to order the peaceful citizens to leave. This action was taken despite the fact that 1) North Carolinians have long been able to gather on the second floor, 2) lobbyists were allowed to stay in the hallway that day, and 3) the rally attendees were asked to vacate the very area where Tillis cordially welcomed Tea Party protesters last year. Watch the video here, showing the distinctly different treatments these two groups received. We hope you will also sign our petition demanding that all citizens be respected at the General Assembly, not just those who agree with the extreme policies of our state’s far right lawmakers.

Join us in giving her our thanks:


For the past year, North Carolinians have been under siege from an angry mob — and the only thing standing between us and them has been a 110-pound blonde gatekeeper who has held them off all by herself, not with a sword, but with a pen.

Yesterday, that gatekeeper, Governor Bev Perdue, announced that she would not seek re-election. She was, in effect laying down her sword. Read more about why we owe her our thanks and then please sign our petition to thank Governor Perdue for standing up to the far right in North Carolina.