Commentary

Wow…just wow. Lt. Governor Dan Forest explains “transgenderism”

Dan ForestNorth Carolina’s Lt. Governor Dan Forest (pictured at left) has never made much of a secret about his extreme positions on the issues of the day. You can click here for a partial summary. Forest’s latest statements in defense of North Carolina’s all-purpose LGBT discrimination law, House Bill 2, however, take things to a new low. This is from a story by reporter Amy Fuhrman of the Statesville Free News on Forest’s appearance yesterday at an event sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Businesses:

“Providing exceptions for transgender people creates a situation that could be dangerous for women and children, Forest claimed.

‘Transgenderism is a feeling … it could be a feeling just for the day,’ Forest said in explaining the fear of HB2 supporters that any man could claim to be transgender, thus ‘creating the potential for someone with nefarious purposes walking into a girls’ locker room.’

Throughout his talk, Forest invited attendees several times to fact check his statements.

Doing so did not support his claim that identifying as transgender is a ‘feeling.’ Instead, the American Psychological Association defines transgender as ‘an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.’

The APA goes on to discuss the complicated factors involved in a person who identifies as transgender. ‘The diversity of transgender expression and experiences argues against any simple or unitary explanation,’ according to the APA. ‘Many experts believe that biological factors such as genetic influences and prenatal hormone levels, early experiences, and experiences later in adolescence or adulthood may all contribute to the development of transgender identities.'”

Forest went on to make some other absurd comments about the Charlotte ordinance that gave rise to HB2, that Fuhrman also fact-checked: Read more

Commentary

Thom Tillis tells a tall tale about telecom

TillisIf you get a minute this morning, be sure to check out the outstanding letter to the editor that appears in Raleigh’s News & Observer from former North Carolina state lawmaker, Bill Faison. In it, Faison, shreds the lame, lobbyist-inspired excuses proffered by U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (pictured at left) for his kowtowing to powerful cable companies while serving as Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.

At issue is the question of municipal broadband of the kind the city of Wilson developed and that telecom companies (with Tillis’ help) put the kibosh on. Here’s Faison:

“In a recent letter, Sen. Thom Tillis takes credit for protecting taxpayers when he should take the blame for their high internet and cable bills. In 2011 with Tillis’ help, New York companies shut down North Carolina cities’ efforts to provide high-speed internet to residents. Everyone knows that the information highway is the future….

When Wilson sought better high-speed internet for its residents, the “telecommunications company” with a territorial franchise to serve Wilson said “no….”

It introduced legislation to block residents from using their municipal governments to provide high-speed internet services. It even tried to hide its power grab by misnaming its bill. It was called the ‘Level Playing Field’ bill. The bill was carefully crafted to keep towns and cities out of the high-speed internet business. It created a completely unleveled playing field in favor of the near monopolistic telecommunication companies.

Many of us in the legislature joined forces with then-Speaker Joe Hackney to protect residents of cities and towns across this state and allow them the freedom to use their local municipal governments to provide much needed high-speed internet service. We were able to block the wealthy New York companies from taking away North Carolina residents’ rights through 2010.

When the Republicans gained control of the House and chose Tillis as speaker in 2011, the floodgates were opened to big, out-of-state businesses to take away our residents’ rights under the false flag of protecting taxpayer rights.

One of the first pieces of anti-resident, pro-big business legislation to run through the House was the bill that Tillis now touts as being a taxpayer bill. It was not. It was a power and money grab by wealthy out-of-state companies to disadvantage North Carolina residents – nothing more. The residents lost.

The FCC recognized the power grab and the unfair disadvantage to regular folks. The FCC blocked the big companies for a while. Big business took the FCC to court and won. The people lost.

Tillis’ Aug. 19 letter should have been captioned, ‘Another major loss for taxpayers.'”

Commentary

They cut taxes on the top 1% by how much?!!

Great Tax ShiftSometimes, the brazenness of conservative politicians in crafting public policy to benefit themselves and their rich patrons is just too much to be believed. Take, for instance, Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly. A new brief from the fiscal policy wonks at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center paints a truly remarkable portrait of what can only be described as “government of, by and for the top 1%.”

According to the latest BTC calculations, the tax cuts enacted between 2013 and 2016 in North Carolina will produce, among many other travesties, this remarkable result:

Say you had seven North Carolinians in one room representing the following income groups –

  • The bottom 20% (average income $12,000 per year),
  • The second 20% (average income $27,000 per year),
  • The middle 20% (average income $44,000 per year),
  • The fourth 20% (average income $73,000 per year),
  • The next 15% (average income $123,000 per year),
  • The next 4% (average income $259.000 per year) and
  • The top 1% (average income $1,072,000 per year).

The average member of the top 1% (someone who already brings in more than $1 million per year) will realize an annual tax cut that is larger than all of the others combined…multiplied by 5!

That was not a misprint. Under the tax cuts enacted by conservative state leaders in recent years, the richest people in North Carolina will receive an annual tax cut of $15,439. If you add up the tax cuts bestowed upon an average representative of all the other six income groups, the total combined figure is $3,044. And most of that ($2,220) would go to the second wealthiest individual. Folks in the middle get $83 per year. People in the poorest group will actually pay $10 per year more! Click here and scroll to page 5 to see the remarkable numbers.

Not surprisingly, these cuts are having (and will continue to have) a devastating impact on essential public structures and services. By Fiscal Year 2019-’20, the net annual revenue loss to the state will be more than $2 billion per year.

No wonder the supposed “Carolina Comeback” touted by state leaders is looking more and more like a “Carolina Con Job” to so many average working families.

Commentary

Punishing immigrants for being immigrants: Another component of U.S. welfare “reform” hits age 20

TANF-4002This is the third blog post in a series that will detail how lawmakers have weakened Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF) over the last 20 years, explain why TANF is a cautionary tale rather than a model for other work and income support programs, and map out a better way forward.

Emma Lazarus’s 1883 poem, engraved on the Statue of Liberty welcoming the “poor, [the] huddled masses…the homeless” to America has never been reflective of a truly open stance toward the poor immigrants arriving at our shores. In fact, a year before Lazarus wrote her poem, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1882, banning immigrants who were likely to become “public charges” or drains on the system. We have historically welcomed the poor if they are here to work, but not if they need temporary government assistance to raise their families and become economically secure in a new country.

Undocumented immigrants and those coming over on most temporary visas have always been excluded from our safety net assistance programs such as cash welfare, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), and public housing. But the 1996 welfare reform law brought a new level of restrictions that excluded millions of legal permanent residents from accessing welfare and other benefits. The 1996 law instituted a new “five year bar,” which states that even if a person has entered the country lawfully as a legal permanent resident, he or she is barred from receiving federal public benefits (including cash assistance, SNAP, and Medicaid) for the first five years of lawful status.

The 1996 law also bars millions of other lawfully present immigrants from receiving the vast majority of public benefits, because they do not fall into the very narrow definition of a “qualified” immigrant.  To give one example, immigrants from certain countries are granted Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) if their country suffers a major war, natural disaster, or other event that makes it impossible to return.  Some immigrants may live and work under this status lawfully for decades in the U.S., but they will never be eligible for federally-funded cash welfare, food assistance or Medicaid if they fall on hard times.

Many immigrants who need work and income supports are working immigrants—their language barriers and education levels often force them into jobs that don’t pay a living wage: domestic work, restaurant work, food processing, and seasonal work in agriculture or construction. Additionally, even immigrants who come here intending to work face unexpected life emergencies, like all of us. They may be laid off or be unable to find work, they may suffer health problems or become disabled, have children and need to stay home, or otherwise be unable to fully support themselves without temporary help that will allow them to make ends meet and regain their footing on the economic ladder. Immigrants in those circumstances who are not eligible for medical benefits may delay care until illnesses have progressed to a critical stage that is costlier to treat. Read more

Commentary

Scathing new report: Racism, bias and prosecutor misconduct plague “dying” U.S. death penalty

Death-penalty3The Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School is out with a damning new report this morning that seems certain to put another nail in the coffin of the death penalty in the United States. This is from the release that accompanied “Too Broken to Fix: Part I — An In-depth Look at America’s Outlier Death Penalty Counties”:

“Today, Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project released a new report offering an in-depth look at how the death penalty is operating in the handful of counties across the country that are still using it. Of the 3,143 county or county equivalents in the United States, only 16—or one half of one percent—imposed five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015. Part I of the report, titled Too Broken to Fix: An In-depth Look at America’s Outlier Death Penalty Counties, examined 10 years of court opinions and records from eight of these 16 “outlier counties,” including Caddo Parish (LA), Clark (NV), Duval (FL), Harris (TX), Maricopa (AZ), Mobile (AL), Kern (CA) and Riverside (CA). The report also analyzed all of the new death sentences handed down in these counties since 2010.

The report notes that these “outlier counties” are plagued by persistent problems of overzealous prosecutors, ineffective defense lawyers, and racial bias. Researchers found that the impact of these systemic problems included the conviction of innocent people, and the excessively harsh punishment of people with significant impairments. Many of the defendants appear to have one or more impairments that are on par with, or worse than, those that the U.S. Supreme Court has said should categorically exempt individuals from execution due to lessened culpability….

In conducting its analysis, the Project reviewed more than 200 direct appeals opinions handed down between 2006 and 2015 in these eight counties. The Project found: Read more