Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. The radical Trumpcare scam hidden in the Senate tax reform bill

Republicans in Congress are rushing to advance a tax reform bill that balloons the federal deficit so that they can give corporations permanent tax breaks. And now Senate Republicans have decided to turn their already awful tax bill into a secret Trumpcare bill by including a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

While repeal of the individual mandate may seem like a small change to the casual observer, the impact would be radical, especially in conjunction with other administrative and regulatory changes coming down the pike from the Trump administration. The tax reform bill puts everyone’s health care coverage at risk, all to make tax cuts for corporations permanent.

The individual mandate protects people with pre-existing conditions

First, a quick review is in order: Few Americans want to go back to when kids with asthma and breast cancer survivors could be charged more or denied coverage due to their pre-existing conditions. [Read more…]

2. This is what government looks like when you run it on the cheap
Latest court system mess is directly linked to the Right’s ideological war on public structures

Sometimes you have to hand it to the ideologues on the far right. They’re so persistent and creative and have gotten so effective at attacking, bad-mouthing, defunding and just plain undermining government, that often their destructive “victories” slide in right under the radar.

The traditional, tried and true formula in this realm goes something like this: a) complain incessantly about the performance of some important system of government like, say, the public schools or environmental protection; b) use said supposed poor performance as grounds for reducing funding in order to promote greater “efficiency” and combat “waste”; c) when funding cuts fail to improve outcomes, repeat the cycle and propagandize about the need to privatize services by giving public funds to favored corporate interests.[Read more…]

3. The sound of silence: Judges all but muzzled in complaints against lawmakers

Judges are considered to be in command of their courtrooms. But when state legislators pass laws attacking them— shortening their terms, shrinking the appellate court — judges are no longer in charge and have few ways to defend themselves.

“The legislature is saying to judges, we can redraw your districts, we can redraw your division, we can cut your judicial staff, we can terminate your job at the end of the term if you don’t come around to our way of thinking,” retired Judge Don Stephens. “We can be the bully on the political playground, and there’s nothing that you can do about it.”

Over the past year, state lawmakers have passed several measures that erode the independence of the judiciary. This includes re-designating judicial elections as partisan. They also introduced a plan to redraw all judicial and prosecutorial districts and to require all judges to run for reelection next year. [Read more…]

4. Robeson County officials vacillating on planned charter school takeover

Weeks after the top school board member in Robeson County predicted the southeastern North Carolina district would close the state’s only choice for a controversial charter takeover program, local leaders may be gearing up to accept the Innovative School District after all.

Multiple Robeson officials tell Policy Watch that state law—which allows school districts to close or join the state district if chosen—leaves them little choice.

“Right now, we’re at a standstill,” said Peggy Wilkins-Chavis, chairwoman of the Robeson County Board of Education. “I am more confused now than I was before. I wish somebody would just sit down and tell us about it, the pros and cons.”  [Read more…]

5. More than just a giveaway to the rich: GOP tax plan also endangers church-state separation, access to health care for millions

With Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the White House desperate to post a big legislative win, their push for so-called tax reform – the label being used to sugar-coat costly tax changes mostly benefiting profitable corporations and the wealthiest among us – has reached red-line intensity.

On the merits, the tax plans now being bulldozed through Congress have little to recommend them in terms of helping the economy or making the tax system more fair. Which unfortunately is beside the point. This is all about giving GOP chiefs and President Trump – beset by one failure and distraction after another – an outcome capping 2017 with an accomplishment catering to their biggest supporters and restoring some momentum heading toward a mid-term election year.

Even if the promise of lower taxes becomes an illusion for many in the middle class, as it no doubt would, a tax-reform victory would help Trump and his allies counter the understandable impression that they’re nowhere close to having their act together. The investigations swirling around Trump and his campaign’s contacts with Russia have provoked him into behavior that becomes even more disturbing, as when he cozies up to the thuggish president of the Philippines and, yes, to Vladimir Putin. [Read more…]

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