This week in Washington, D.C., there will be a bipartisan discussion on poverty in America. This discussion is the latest effort of broadcaster Tavis Smiley's quest to bring attention to those living in poverty. Panelists will include former Speaker of the House and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Princeton Professor Cornel West and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. The focus will be on Smiley's call to end poverty in 25 years and there can be no discussion on poverty without also mentioning income inequality. I believe it is no coincidence this discussion is happening the same week as the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which leads to some important questions. What were Dr. King's thoughts on income inequality, and how would he tackle them in today's environment.
A Reuters article out this morning highlights the plans by the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly to decimate the income tax base of our state’s revenue system.
We have no choice but to make change," said Bob Rucho, a Republican state senator in solidly Republican North Carolina, who is leading a push in that state for major tax changes.
Rucho and other like-minded lawmakers have a plan to do away with all state individual and corporate income taxes. The plan would replace lost revenue with a new business license fee and a higher sales tax on goods and services not now taxed by the state, such as legal, accounting and spa services, and food.
In his inaugural address on Saturday, Republican North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory promised to work with business "as partners" to eliminate taxes and regulation that stifle growth.
Rucho's plan would remake the North Carolina budget, which now derives 65 percent of its $18.5 billion in total tax revenues from individual income and corporate taxes.
To make up for that much lost revenue, the state sales tax rate would have to rise to 6.53 percent from 4.75 percent, according to a supportive study done by a consulting firm run by Arthur Laffer, a former adviser to Republican President Ronald Reagan and one of the fathers of "trickle-down" economics.
It has recently come to our attention that a local organization in Charlotte has been telling people that Deferred Action for undocumented youth is fast coming to an end. According to this organization, the deadline for deferred action is February 28. This caused many people in the community to feel concern. Since this issue has been brought to light, thankfully this organization has taken this message off of their FB page. They have even gone so far as to publicly state that it was an error and apologized.
For the record, there is NO DEADLINE for deferred action for undocumented youth.
Whether the message was intentional or not, the fact remains that there are many organizations and businesses in our community that take advantage of immigrants. The most vile offender is the notario.
Unlike a notary in the United States, a notario in Latin America is someone who can give legal advice and in many cases is a high ranking official who has legal skills and training. A notary in the U.S, on the other hand can only witness parties signing documents, make copies of documents, and administer oaths in some places.
Many small businesses claiming to be notarios have sprung up all over the U.S. where there are large immigrant populations from Latin America. They claim to be certified notaries that offer more services in much the same tradition as their counterparts in Latin America.
I am writing this blog post not to call out any specific organization, but to warn people about this type of behavior in general. According to the American Bar Association:
With fewer than 6 weeks until Valentine's Day, leave it to federal regulators to bend the rules for their beloved bankers and give them their gift early. In the greatest "forget-me-not" in history, the bankers, who most agree caused the global financial meltdown and pocketed trillions of dollars in the process have been told, by regulators, to pay back $8.5 billion of it.
The 112th Congress, otherwise known as the least popular Congress in history, gaveled out for the final time last night. Before finishing up, they narrowly managed to solve a problem they themselves created by passing the tax package without any spending cuts, yet were apparently too exhausted from actually working to pass a measure aimed at getting more federal money to the super storm Sandy victims.
Perhaps this is as it should be. Not because I don’t think Sandy victims don’t need the help (they really do), but because it perfectly illustrates how utterly dysfunctional this Congress has become. I’m really hoping for a change in the 113th, and with a relatively healthy turnover, it’s at least nice to think we will see some movement on otherwise intractable issues.
Unfortunately, the major issues facing the incoming Congress next year will be almost an exact replay of the issues facing Congress in 2011, specifically spending cuts and raising the debt ceiling, which lead to months of gridlock, which caused the fiscal cliff scenario we just experienced. As Yogi Berra is fond of saying, it’s déjà vu, all over again.