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A few facts to consider

Chris Fitzsimon

Now that the barrage of misleading political ads is popping up on your television screen and fliers with absurd claims from candidates are filling up your mailbox, here are a few facts to keep in mind when you hear all the hyperbole about issues like health care, taxes, the state budget and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the federal stimulus plan.

Much of the information comes from the wise folks at the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center in Raleigh. A BTC report released this week by Edwin McLenaghan shows that state spending could easily reach its lowest level in 40 years during the next two years.

That would be the same state spending that the candidates on the right and the think tanks that provide their talking points keep telling us is wildly out of control. It is simply not true. State spending per capita in North Carolina is down, way down.

The aftereffects of the recession continue to batter the North Carolina economy and families continue to suffer, with unemployment still close to double digits and thousands more people underemployed. Foreclosures are on pace to set another record in 2010 and one in four children in the state lives in poverty.

Things are tough for families in North Carolina and across the country. But despite the claims otherwise by many on the right, the federal recovery act has prevented an even worse economic disaster and maybe another Great Depression.

A BTC report by Alexander Sirota released Monday shows that 206,000 more people in North Carolina would live in poverty now without the help provided by the federal stimulus.

Sirota also cites a recent model by the Congressional Budget Office that shows the Gross Domestic Product is 1.5 percent to 4 percent higher than it would have been without the stimulus the act provided. The CBO says unemployment will be as much as 1.8 percent lower this year because of the recovery act and as many as 3.3 million jobs have been created or saved.

The recovery act has helped thousands of families in North Carolina. That’s what the evidence shows, whether the anti-government propagandists want to admit it or not.

Some of the worst distortions are about the national health reform act passed earlier this year. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you hear them.

A report released this week from the N.C. Health Access Coalition and the consumer group Families USA says that more than a million people in the state will be eligible for a tax credit under provisions of the reform act.

Several important pieces of reform take effect this week. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with a pre-existing condition. Many preventive-care procedures will no longer require a co-payment. Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime caps on benefits and children can stay on their parents’ coverage until they are 26.

Every one of the provisions expands access to care and none of them would happen if the right had its way and the reform was repealed.

Maybe they prefer a world where children with diabetes are denied health insurance. Somebody ought to ask them.

We need an honest debate about the issues facing North Carolina and the nation. The only way to have one in an election year is to look past the commercials and campaign fliers to the facts, especially the ones the political consultants don’t want us to think about.

Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.

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