Then I came across a group holding familiar signs and flags with "99%" written on it, next to other signs that read "RAISE MINIMUM WAGE NOW" and "STOP THE WAR ON THE WORKING PEOPLE". When I asked about the issue, a couple enthusiastic protesters described a worrisome trend in economic disparities inside our very own North Carolina.
Census data show that a wide income gap exists in North Carolina, with the top and bottom quintiles of the income distribution separated, on average, by an annual income of $144,246. Growing income inequality limits economic mobility, which is the ability to climb up the income ladder, and limits and erodes the equality of opportunity.
Currently, North Carolina's tax system already asks more from low- and middle-income families than it does from those earning the most. Losing the state EITC makes this disparity that much worst. The resulting tax shift would be detrimental to North Carolina's economy.
As a human being, one's health is of utmost importance, and strongly affected by the affordability of healthcare. However, in 2013, North Carolina lawmakers put an end to the state EITC, which helps low-wage workers keep more of their income so they can afford basic necessities, like child care, while pursuing deep tax cuts that primarily benefit wealthy individuals and profitable corporations. North Carolina is the only state in the nation with a state EITC to eliminate this proven tax credit in nearly 30 years. Unless lawmakers reverse course, nearly one million North Carolina families will claim the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for the last time this tax season.
A protestor, Gene Nichol, brought light to another part of the issue. "In one of the most vibrant and accomplished states, in the richest nation on earth, over 18 percent of us, some 1.7 million, are officially poor." And that comes with a daunting statistic: over 17% of residents in NC are considered to be in a household with food insecurity. "Greensboro is the country’s second-hungriest city; Asheville is ninth. Nelson Mandela put it best when he said 'Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice … the protection of a human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.' Amen."