Commentary

Don’t miss this Thursday’s Crucial Conversation luncheon on Hurricane Matthew

NC Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Hurricane Matthew one year later: What happened, what hasn’t and how can we do better in the future?

Click here to register

On October 8, 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall on North Carolina. The resulting flooding impacted 50 counties in the eastern part of the state, damaging more than 800,000 homes and over 300,000 businesses, while displacing 3,744 residents, and causing closures in 34 school systems. In all, the storm caused $2.8 billion in damages and another $2 billion in lost economic activity.

A year later, the recovery has been, at best, uneven. The Trump administration has provided only a tiny fragment of the federal funding that state leaders requested and, while the state has managed to appropriate meaningful amounts of relief dollars, the unmet need remains huge and important questions persist about what it will take to build a truly equitable and resilient eastern North Carolina. These include:

  • What has been the real world impact of the storm and the inadequate public response on eastern North Carolina?
  • Where are the greatest needs?
  • How can we better manage recovery and prepare for inevitable future natural disasters?

Join us as we discuss these and other important questions with a national expert on disaster recovery and a trio knowledgeable North Carolinians working for progressive change:

Allison Plyler is the Chief Demographer for The Data Center, a New Orleans–based nonprofit research organization with expertise in disaster recovery, regional economic analysis, workforce development, racial disparity indicators, blight reduction, affordable housing, and coastal population movements. Allison is recognized as an international expert in post–Katrina demographics and disaster recovery trends.

Adrienne Kennedy is Vice Chair of the Robeson County Disaster Recovery Committee. She was directly affected by the devastation to her community and has been a key organizer of local responses and services.

Mac Legerton is co-founder and executive director of the Center for Community Action – a nonprofit working for sustainability, poverty reduction, and social justice in southeastern North Carolina.

Brian Kennedy II is a policy fellow at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center who has been tracking Hurricane Matthew needs and public investments.

Click here to register

When: Thursday October 19, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (at the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $15, admission includes a box lunch. Scholarships available.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Best op-ed of the weekend

It comes, from of all people, the usually reactionary George Will — a man, who like a growing number of other conservatives, is willing to brand the current inhabitant of the White House for what he is: an ignorant and destructive figure who surrounds himself with dangerous people.

Here’s Will in “Sinister figures lurk around our careless president”:

The axiom that “Hell is truth seen too late” is mistaken; damnation deservedly comes to those who tardily speak truth that has long been patent. Perhaps there shall be a bedraggled parade of repentant Republicans resembling those supine American communists who, after Stalin imposed totalitarianism, spawned the gulag, engineered the Ukraine famine, launched the Great Terror and orchestrated the show trials, were theatrically disillusioned by his collaboration with Hitler: You, sir, have gone too far.

Trump’s energy, unleavened by intellect and untethered to principle, serves only his sovereign instinct to pander to those who adore him as much as he does. Unshakably smitten, they are impervious to the Everest of evidence that he disdains them as a basket of gullibles. He understands that his unremitting coarseness satisfies their unpolitical agenda of smashing crockery, even though his self-indulgent floundering precludes fulfillment of the promises he flippantly made to assuage their sense of being disdained. He gives his gullibles not governance by tantrum, but tantrum as governance.

With Trump turning and turning in a widening gyre, his crusade to make America great again is increasingly dominated by people who explicitly repudiate America’s premises. The faux nationalists of the “alt-right” and their fellow travelers such as Stephen K. Bannon, although fixated on protecting the United States from imported goods, have imported the blood-and-soil ethno-tribalism that stains the continental European right. In “Answering the Alt-Right” in National Affairs quarterly, Ramon Lopez, a University of Chicago PhD candidate in political philosophy, demonstrates how Trump’s election has brought back to the public stage ideas that a post-Lincoln America had slowly but determinedly expunged. They were rejected because they are incompatible with an open society that takes its bearing from the Declaration of Independence’s doctrine of natural rights….

The alt-right must regard Lincoln as not merely mistaken but absurd in describing America as a creedal nation dedicated to a “proposition.” The alt-right insists that real nationhood requires cultural homogeneity rooted in durable ethnic identities. This is the alt-right’s alternative foundation for the nation Lincoln said was founded on the principle that all people are, by nature, equal.

Trump is, of course, innocent of this (or any other) systemic thinking. However, within the ambit of his vast, brutish carelessness are some people with sinister agendas and anti-constitutional impulses. Stephen Miller, Bannon’s White House residue and Trump’s enfant terrible, recently said that “in sending our [tax reform] proposal to the tax-writing committees, we will include instructions to ensure all low- and middle-income households are protected.” So, Congress will be instructed by Trump’s 32-year-old acolyte who also says the president’s national security powers “will not be questioned.” We await the response of congressional Republicans, who did so little to stop Trump’s ascent and then so much to normalize him.”

 

Commentary

Explained: Trump’s latest mad health policy diktat

From the health policy experts at the NC Justice Center…

Health Care Sabotage Effort Puts a “Trump Tax” on North Carolinians’ Premiums Next Year
Latest move will increase North Carolinians’ premiums by 14 percent, destabilize insurance market, and increase the federal deficit

RALEIGH (October 13, 2017) — Last night, the Trump administration announced it will stop compensating insurance companies for Cost-Sharing Reductions, a benefit that reduces out-of-pocket health care costs for consumers with low incomes. This move will force insurance companies to face financial losses and raise their premiums to make up the difference. While Trump claims to be attacking the Affordable Care Act, his politically-motivated decision will hurt low- and moderate-income North Carolinians, as they’ll pay higher monthly premiums for their health insurance coverage.

Earlier this year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina announced it would seek a premium increase of 14.1 percent next year in order to offset financial losses if Trump eliminated CSR funding. In other words, Blue Cross Blue Shield premiums will increase for North Carolinians because of the Trump administration’s deliberate health care sabotage.

This year in North Carolina, 356,560 people—65 percent of those who enrolled in a plan—qualified for these reduced costs. Insurance companies are required to provide these subsidies, called Cost-Sharing Reductions (CSRs), to consumers so eligible consumers can still use their CSR plans for the rest of the year, and they will still be able to qualify for these benefits in 2018.

Earlier this summer, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the effects of terminating payments for CSRs. Trump’s payment for cost sharing reductions would have the following harmful impacts nationwide:

  • Increase premiums next year by 20 percent, as insurers charge consumers higher premiums to make up for the lost federal funding. Premiums would rise by 25 percent in 2020 compared to CBO’s baseline.
  • Drive insurance companies out of some markets, leaving 5 percent of the population without access to any nongroup insurance plans.
  • Increase the number of uninsured by 1 million in 2018 due to lacking any insurance carriers in their markets.
  • Increase the federal deficit by $194 billion through inefficient spending, as cutting off CSR payments will require the federal government to spend more on premium tax credits to offset the premium increases for those who qualify for subsidies.

“Cost-sharing reductions help lower out-of-pocket costs, co-payments, and deductibles for two-thirds of marketplace enrollees in North Carolina,” said Brendan Riley, policy analyst for the Health Advocacy Project of the North Carolina Justice Center. “Trump’s latest ACA sabotage effort will not only drive up premiums and destabilize the market, it will also cost taxpayers. Congress must act immediately to appropriate funding for cost-sharing reductions.”

Meanwhile, even some congressional Republicans are questioning this dangerous action.

Commentary

The far right of the far right: NC GOP members of Congress hit new low

Wow. Just wow. Every time you think North Carolina’s conservative members of Congress have hit a new low, they plumb new depths. As Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record explains in “North Carolina against hurricane relief,” nine of North Carolina’s 10 GOP members of Congress voted “no” on a hurricane relief bill yesterday that the Republican-dominated House passed overwhelmingly. Yes, you read that right. Nine of ten members from one of the nation’s most hurricane-prone states couldn’t even say “yes” to some hurricane relief for their devastated fellow Americans. Here’s Clark:

The vote in the House was 353-69.

All 69 no votes were cast by Republicans.

And nine of those 69 represent a single state: North Carolina.

Only one North Carolina Republican, Patrick McHenry, voted for this disaster-relief bill.

Democrats Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield and David Price also voted yes.

Let’s put this in perspective. There are 240 Republicans in the House. Only a small minority of them — less than 30 percent — voted against this measure. And the Republican caucus as a whole isn’t a bunch of wild-eyed liberals.

So if less than 30 percent of House Republicans opposed this bill, what explains why 90 percent of North Carolina Republicans voted no?…

Don’t we have our hands out when we’re slammed by hurricanes?

Or is there something in the way we elect our representatives that leads to this kind of vote in Washington? Maybe our districts are so rigged to favor Republicans that the GOP primaries push candidates ever-farther to the right so that those who end up in Congress represent the extremes, not the mainstream.

I’m embarrassed that our congressional delegation stands out, even in a very conservative House, for saying no so emphatically to hurricane relief. Surely, this does not reflect the real North Carolina. Aren’t we better than this?

Yes, $36.5 billion is a lot of money. But do our nay-saying representatives think the damages come to any less?

Will they vote against tax cuts for the wealthy because that, too, will deepen the budget deficit? You know the answer to that question.

Commentary

Richard Burr’s hometown newspaper: Control rapid fire weapons now

The lead editorial in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal is on the money: it’s long past time for congress — including North Carolina’s two NRA-owned and operated senators, Thom Tills and Ricard Burr (pictured at left) — to put the good of the country first and act now to ban a host of dangerous mass killing machines.

After noting signs of some tiny amounts of progress on the issue of regulating so-called “bump stocks,” the Journal concludes this way in “Reasonable gun control crucial for our brokenhearted country”:

“Congress is a long way from what’s really needed: measures such as banning rapid-fire, military-style assault rifles, their large-capacity magazines, and access to endless supplies of ammo for those magazines and body armor. These options should be limited to the military and law-enforcement. There is no logical reason for civilians to have them, potentially threatening the safety of both law-enforcement officers and civilians.

And for those who say these measures would do no good, we contend that action against bump stocks, large magazines and endless ammo supplies would have at least slowed down the Las Vegas killer, saving at least a few lives. That alone would make those measures well worth it.

We need other measures, such as cracking down on the illegal arms trade and more exhaustive background checks that would make it harder for those with mental problems to buy guns. We believe in the Second Amendment, but it must be balanced with reasonable gun control.

North Carolina’s two U.S. senators, Richard Burr of Winston-Salem and Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg County, have received criticism for the millions of dollars in campaign support they’ve received from the NRA. They should knock back any perception that they’re beholden to the NRA by helping to lead the charge on gun-control reform.”