Commentary, News, Trump Administration

This week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. Trump and his allies: Channeling the true spirit of the original American Thanksgiving?

Americans, like the inhabitants of just about every country – especially the ones that find themselves having come out on top in a number of historical conflicts – have a penchant for rewriting history in a light that’s flattering to themselves.

Wars tend to get sanitized of their brutality, disasters and horrific mistakes.

Crass greed, materialism and acquisitiveness get recast as drive, ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit.

Social progress for women, racial and ethnic minorities and others long forced to endure discrimination is presented as more a matter of natural human progress and the beneficent acts of enlightened leaders than something that had to be wrenched from the hands of a selfish and narrow-minded ruling class.

Meanwhile, successful politicians – however real their human foibles and imperfect their works – are regularly lionized along with many of their creations.

Take, for instance, America’s much-beloved Thanksgiving holiday. [Read more…]

2. Five revelations in the controversy surrounding UNC board member Tom Fetzer

Text messages and emails point to questionable actions, claims and motives in rogue investigation of former ECU interim chancellor

If you’ve been following Policy Watch’s ongoing coverage of the recent East Carolina University controversy, you may be having some trouble keeping it all straight.

When videos of former interim chancellor Dan Gerlach drinking with students at bars near campus surfaced in October, they were quickly followed by rumors he had driven home drunk. Gerlach was placed on administrative leave while the UNC system hired the law firm Womble Bond Dickinson to investigate the matter.

But UNC Board of Governors member Tom Fetzer began his own investigation, utilizing Greenville-based attorney Peter Romary – a fact Fetzer kept from other board members and UNC system officials. [Read more…]

3. Trump administration: Poor immigrants need not apply

Carlos came to the U.S. looking to provide a safer and more financially stable environment for his family. Like thousands of others, Carlos crossed the border out of necessity. His wife, and one of his young daughters, joined him shortly thereafter.

In 2011, while living in Cary, Carlos was held up at gunpoint near his home by a man who demanded money. Fortunately, when the man realized Carlos did not have any money on him, he left. But the experience understandably left Carlos and his family traumatized. Happily, as part of an effort to encourage vulnerable immigrant communities to report crimes, the U.S. government provides a special visa to victims of crime known as the “U visa.”

While there is technically no cost to apply for the U visa, applicants often need to pay for a separate application, an “I-192,” if the government identifies any reasons why they should not be admitted into the country. Submitting the I-192 to the government costs $930 per person, but immigration regulations provide for a waiver of the fee for low income families. Carlos, who was making about $1,600 per month working as a short order cook while his wife stayed home to avoid child care costs, got a waiver of this fee based on his limited income. [Read more…]

4. The extreme danger in not holding Trump accountable for his actions

Donald J. Trump used the power of his office to blackmail a foreign ally into undermining a political foe here at home. Nothing in U.S history approaches that abuse of presidential power, yet the gravity of the charges apparently does not matter.

The overwhelming evidence proving those charges – the sworn testimony, the emails and direct messages, the de facto public confessions by President Trump, his personal attorney and his acting chief of staff, explaining that yes, they did pressure Ukraine to produce political dirt – that too does not matter.

It does not matter because over the course of the past month, GOP officials have made clear their grim determination to protect Trump from all consequences for his actions, and that doesn’t seem likely to change. So the question arises: Then what? [Read more…]

**BONUS READ: Back in their districts, here’s how Democrats are talking about impeachment

5. Dems battle Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over student loan forgiveness

WASHINGTON — A long-simmering feud between U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and congressional Democrats over student loan forgiveness is heating up as hundreds of thousands of borrowers continue to wait for help on loans they claim were fraudulent.

DeVos narrowly avoided a congressional subpoena earlier this month after a lengthy fight with the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor. Her critics in Congress say they still intend to haul her in for questioning over the Trump administration’s controversial loan forgiveness rule, and some lawmakers are pushing an effort to upend her policy entirely.

In late September, Democrats in the House and Senate introduced resolutions to overturn DeVos’ decision to reverse of an Obama-era student loan forgiveness policy. In a statement issued at the time, Senate sponsor Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that “This rule is another Trump-DeVos giveaway to the notorious for-profit colleges at the expense of defrauded student borrowers.  Senators will now have a chance to go on the record: Are you with the students or the predatory industry that defrauded them with worthless degrees and a lifetime of debt?”

North Carolina Democratic Rep. Alma Adams has been a frequent and longtime critic of numerous Trump administration higher education policies. She co-sponsored the House version of the resolution that would overturn the DeVos rule. [Read more…]

6. Weekly Radio Interviews and Micro-podcasts:

Click here to listen to this week’s newsmaker interviews and commentaries with Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield.

7. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

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