The Live Local method of economics hopes to trap money in our system—city, county, state, region, etc.—for as long as possible. More so, it keeps as much of it re-circulating in our local economy as long as possible. In order for this to work, money has to come into the system. That happens through a variety of methods: people receive pay checks from employers; the federal government pays military personnel; the state or county pays its employees; and for business owners, we get our boost from people spending money with our business.
Encorians, we are in grave danger of losing that influx of new money to the system. We have to talk about this. In spite of the NC General Assembly’s claims that the purpose behind the laws passed in the past year was to foster a more business-friendly environment, we, the state of North Carolina, are doing everything possible to scare investment and economic growth as far from our doors as possible. More over, we are creating an oppressive climate that will force people, teachers especially, to leave like the Joads fleeing devastation. They’ll start looking for opportunities west or north of here.
Though I hear general grumbling on the subject from many quarters, it seems the North Carolina NAACP are the loudest voice calling out that the “Emperor Wears No Clothes.” Through the highly successful campaign known as Moral Mondays, they have succeeded in drawing bright attention to our plight and countering the narrative that this legislation is the will of the people.
By mid-July over 900 people had been arrested in direct acts of “civil disobedience” at the North Carolina Legislative Building. That cannot be an anomaly, and it cannot be dismissed. For a person to make the informed decision to willfully protest what they believe to be an unjust law, and to place themselves in a position to be arrested, is not a decision made lightly.
Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the New Hanover County NAACP, was among many arrested over the summer. “I was not able to participate in 1963,” Maxwell observes, as she was still a very young child. “But, as the regression of the laws came about, I was very saddened that my parents, and others’ parents, would see everything they had achieved for their children taken back through oppressive voter suppression.”
Though anxiety may set in for many people choosing to take chances with the law, Maxwell talks with eyes and hands of confidence and logic. She rhetorically asks, “When you know you’re right, what is there to be nervous about?”
It had me thinking about how our representatives and senator voted regarding voter restrictions. It breaks down like this: Rick Catlin and Ted Davis voted in favor, while Susi Hamilton voted against. Thom Goolsby voted in favor.
Two of the most far-reaching weapons the Assembly has managed comes from attacks on public school teachers and the phasing out of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Unfortunately, trying to talk about tax structure in the media is very boring, and it doesn’t tend to grab the public’s attention. However 907,000 North Carolinians will soon no longer be able to qualify for it on their state taxes. In a state with a population of 9.75 million people, that’s almost 1 out of every 10 people. It is one of the few tax advantages to help working people in lower and low-middle income tax brackets—a group, I might add, who are more likely to spend money on necessities rather than luxuries.
Maxwell, a public health social worker for over 20 years, shakes her head at the notion. “We cut the Earned Income Credit? I see my clients who need that refund to get a low-cost car to get to work. They depend on it.”
Our representatives and senator votes are: Rick Catlin and Ted Davis voted in favor, and Susi Hamilton voted against it, while Thom Goolsby voted in favor.
What I find so baffling is how this legislature has turned on teachers. Teaching has never been a high-paid glamorous position. It’s frankly tough work, and though no one is going to get wealthy from it, he or she should at least earn a decent living. North Carolina is now 46th in the country in teacher pay.
According to WRAL out of Raleigh, a teacher now receives about $10,000 less than the national average, which rings in around $45,967. A teacher starts making around $30,000 a year, and it takes 15 years to get to $40,000. Add to that 4,000 fewer teacher assistants across the state, ending teacher tenure, allotting $10 million to private schools through scholarships and vouchers, a weakening of the oversight for charter schools, and one can understand why public-school teachers are starting to look at other states to call home.
Class sizes are bigger; when adding a shortage of teachers, shouldn’t our representatives worry as much as we do about the quality of education we are presenting all of our children? How can we possibly hope to attract businesses here when anyone with children in their family would look at this situation and run quickly the other way?
Rick Catlin and Ted Davis voted in favor of these changes; Susi Hamilton voted against. Thom Goolsby voted in favor.
So, what does all of this mean and how can it possibly affect the Live Local method? Simply put: We are headed for a long-term economic crisis, with a crippled education system, bifurcated tax code and a voting populace that is far from representative of the tax payers. How is it the message is not being made clear?
“White middle-class America needs to realize they are being impacted as well,” Maxwell says. “The tax rate changes [in the overall tax code] and will impact 80 percent of North Carolinians. The face of poverty is not black; that’s just an easy one for traditional American media to take a picture of.”
Maxwell is very proud to point out that the New Hanover Chapter of NAACP was founded in 1919—only 10 years after the National Association was founded. “And we are a mixture of whites, blacks, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics,” she says, referencing Dr. King’s famed speech.
The next two NAACP events are slated for the Candidate Forum for Municipal Candidates (mayor, city council, etc.) on September 24th at 6 p.m. at the St. Stephen A.M.E. Church, 501 Red Cross Street. September 24 is also National Voter Registration Day.
NAACP monthly meetings are held the fourth Thursday of the month. The next meeting will be September 26th, 7 p.m., at the St. Stephen’s A.M.E. Church, 501 Red Cross Street.
Gwenyfar Rohler is the author or ‘Promise of Peanuts,’ which can be bought at Old Books on Front Street, with all monies donated to local nonprofit Full Belly Project.