We keep wondering where the bailout is for hard-working Americans struggling to keep their heads above water. Well, there is some money available, and it's not a bailout -- it's money workers have already earned. It's called the Earned Income Tax Credit, and this year workers in North Carolina are eligible to receive even more of it than before.
Yet North Carolinians leave about $135 million in federal EITC dollars unclaimed every year, according to EITC Carolinas.
If you're a single person with no dependents and you earn less than $12,880 a year, you're eligible to get more than $400 back from the feds. A married couple, with two or more kids, earning less than $41,646 can receive nearly $5,000. (To find out if you qualify, use this calculator.)
Last year the North Carolina legislature approved a state EITC of 3.5 percent of the federal amount. That goes into effect this year -- not a moment too soon for those struggling to make ends meet.
The catch is, you have to file an income tax return to get the credit. About 80 percent of eligible North Carolinians do so, but that still leaves a lot of money on the table. There's a lot of free tax preparation help out there. Here's a list of sites in N.C. by county.
People who are eligible for the EITC are already paying more than their fair share of taxes. According to the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center, the bottom 20 percent of earners in the state pay more than 10 percent of their incomes on local and state taxes, while the top 1 percent of earners pay slightly more than 7 percent of their incomes. (These interactive graphs make sense of where the state's taxes come from, and who pays them.)
President Gerald Ford created the EITC in 1975 to help people stay off welfare and get out of poverty by making sure they weren't financially penalized for working. It's been expanded with bipartisan support many times since.
Well, that was fast. Within one hour of the 2009-10 N.C. General Assembly's opening session--and shortly after being defeated, along party lines, by Joe Hackney, D-Chatham, for the position of House Speaker--Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, invoked the Defense of Marriage Act. He did so while arguing, fruitlessly, against temporarily approving the legislature's house rules, a formality of the inaugural session.
Apparently, Stam's disapproval has also been an opening-day formality, at least for the past two decades.
"It's been since 1989 that I've voted to approve the temporary rules," he said.
At issue was the technical definition of "committee chair" that, according to the rules, also includes co-chairs. In the case of the all-powerful appropriations committee, Stam noted, that means a total of eight positions doled out by Speaker Hackney and his Democratic majority--in addition to the party-apportioned committee membership.
"In 2009, we are going to have a tough budget year. Major decisions will be decided by the co-chairs solely," Stam claimed. "If I were in the majority party, I'd want to share some of that pain."
Stam turned to the Defense of Marriage Act, which would constitutionally prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, as an example of why he's upset the majority party is hogging all that pain.
"We're the only state in the Southeast without a marriage amendment," he said, owing to the bill not being heard "because of these rules."
Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who nominated Stam for the speaker position with an odd speech that invoked "The Dark Night" ("It's always darkest before the dawn") and something about how "the beautiful red cardinal returns after the pall of winter is lifted," also backed up Stam on his motion to deny the rules.
That prompted Bill Owens, D-Camden--who made the original motion to accept the rules-- to reply: "If you've got the votes, Rep. Lewis, you can change (the rules)."
Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, urges progressives to rally around the $825 billion Obama-House stimulus plan. At the same time, he says: "If anything, the plan should be larger and contain more public investment. That's the gist of a story in the Washington Post as well: Some House Democrats, and the estimable Alice Rivlin, are feeling like this bill is too much short-term patching (and tax cuts) and not enough transformative infrastructure upgrades.
Borosage's statement is below:
On the eve of the state Legislature’s opening session of 2009, House Speaker Joe Hackney (D-Chatham, Orange) pointed to a “confluence of factors” promoting smarter energy policy and green-collar job creation—the kind of ideas that could kickstart the economy and perhaps even improve it.
Last night, the Durham County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a 3-percent cut in funding--equal to $3.1 million--to Durham Public Schools, in order to help make up an estimated $14.25 million shortfall. Not present for the vote: Joe Bowser, who the Herald-Sun reports (reg. required) left the room due to a "bad cough," and Chairman Michael Page, who was traveling. Earlier this month, Page voted against a 3-percent cut for all non-profit agencies the county funds, saying that to vote in favor of the cuts would prevent him from sleeping at night. That decision passed 4-1.
Advocacy is fine, former President Bill Clinton says, but what the world needs now is a “how generation” in America willing to translate high hopes into practical solutions to the planet’s health, environmental and economic problems—before those problems destroy us all.
Clinton spoke to an audience of about 6,000 at N.C. State University’s Reynolds Coliseum this morning as part of the university’s Millenium Seminars series.
His theme was the world’s increasing interdependence, which is bringing people ever closer together and pulling them into dangerous conflicts at the same time.
The impacts of interdependence are more good than bad, Clinton said, adding, “more good, or you wouldn’t be here.” But in the same breath, he warned that the globalization of finance is causing the world to be more unequal, not less, and the growing inequality—on top of other threats—is making the world highly unstable and “more combustible.”
The issues are beyond governments’ powers to surmount by themselves, Clinton argued. But if a how-to generation of Americans will pitch in and help, they can be surmounted.
“In a world where the how has become the most important question, we need a lot of doers,” he said. “We have a crisis of doing in the world.”
If you're searching for a local example of what Barack Obama deemed the false choice "between our safety and our ideals," look no further than Dan E. Way's Sunday column in this week's Chapel Hill Herald. In "Commissioners risk public safety with a PC policy," the Herald editor favors hyperbole and fear over context and analysis as he weighs in on Orange County's participation in the Secure Communities program.
Way criticizes Orange County Commissioners for even questioning the program--"the political correctness versus responsible police work showdown" is how Way describes this month's amicable public meeting, in which Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass answered questions from the board. "Secure Communities," which Pendergrass implemented this month without prior board review, grants the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies access to Orange County's fingerprinting data to coordinate the detention and deportation of illegal immigrants who have also committed crimes, including traffic violations. Make no mistake: This program has no practical effect on improving local authorities' ability to arrest and try defendants for crimes other than immigration violations, which are beyond the jurisdiction of non-federal agencies.
The basic premise of Way's argument--that questioning Secure Communities is "politically correct," and a "double standard" for critics of North Carolina's broken probation system--makes a false comparison between committing violent crimes, and breaking immigration law. This type of rhetoric is typical among anti-immigration groups like Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), but the editor of a newspaper in Chapel Hill ought to know better than to dish out the same second-grade fresh meat. ("They are horrified by the notion of Orange County being viewed as a rude host by giving the boot to those who criminally abused the generosity and benefits extended to them by their host country," Way writes of the Orange County Commissioners.)
Regrettably, Way invokes the name of one of Chapel Hill's most beloved, though short-lived, residents, Eve Carson (full disclosure: a friend of mine). His decision to do so is petty, and irrelevant to the discussion. ("How will they explain that to the family of the next Eve Carson when a very preventable death occurs because of their political correctness?" Way asks.) Indeed, the suspects in Carson's death had been in and out of the state's probation system not for federal immigration violations, but for violent crimes such as the possession of a firearm. While one can reasonably construct causality between owning and shooting a gun, it's inconceivable to do the same between crossing a border (or failing to get one's papers in order), and killing someone. Yet this is the logic Way, and anti-immigration loudmouths, rely on.
Registration is required to view the article, but I've copied and pasted it below the fold, where it belongs.
We asked Mayor Charles Meeker, after his "State of the City" address today, whether he plans to seek a fifth term in the October elections. We've been hearing from people close to him that he doesn't want to run again but hasn't closed the door on it, at least with them.
Meeker's answer to us: "It's getting close to the time for me to leave." To which he added that he hasn't made a final decision yet -- and shrugged. Right now, that's his answer, he said.
The list of potential candidates should Meeker not run includes most of the current City Council members, though the likeliest ones all demur and/or express serious reservations about taking on a second full-time job -- which pays all of $15,000 a year, by the way. From within the putative "Meeker Majority," however, first-term Councilor Nancy McFarlane is the name most bruited about.
Yow, the NCSU women's basketball coach and much more, died this morning.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners began their Thursday night meeting by asking Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass to explain the county's participation, beginning this month, in the "Secure Communities Program," a pilot federal program that grants the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation automatic access to the personal information of people arrested in Orange County. The program is intended to help federal authorities locate illegal immigrants who have also been charged with crimes unrelated to immigration, including traffic violations, Pendergrass said.
"The system is simply that, when you fingerprint someone, it goes through the system, and we get a correct identification of the individual" Pendergrass said, referring to the DHS and FBI databases. "The system does go through the right side of Homeland Security, but we do not --and they do not tell us--if someone we have fingerprinted is someone who is an alien."
Pendergrass insisted the program did not violate Orange County's 2007 resolution opposing participation in the federal 287(g) program, which marshals local law enforcement agencies to arrest, and detain, undocumented immigrants.
"I never know if somebody is wanted by immigration, because they don't tell me, and we have no way of knowing," he said. "We're not like Alamance County, and other counties, where they enter into an agreement--and they hold, in the jail, illegal aliens."
Instead, Pendergrass said, "If they call us and tell us, 'You have Joe Blow, and he's an alien,' that's their business, and we don't get involved. If he's there on charges, he has to have all his charges resolved in Orange before immigration can touch him. It's just a simple thing people have misunderstood."