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McC709It was just a few years ago that opponents of then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama were howling at the notion that he had voted “present” on multiple occasions while a state legislator in Illinois (something that’s permitted for lawmakers in the Land of Lincoln but not  in most states — North Carolina included).

The gist of the not-unfounded criticism at the time was that a “present” vote was and is a pretty gutless way out of taking a stance on sticky issues. If one goes to all the trouble of running for office and serving as an elected representative of the people, went/goes the reasoning, the least a lawmaker can do is to have the courage to make a decision when presented with a choice of whether something will be made law or not.

Such logic would seem to apply with even more force to a governor when it comes to approving or not approving a bill sent to him or her by a legislature. After all, it’s not like he or she is just one of a couple of hundred legislators whose vote may or may not even really matter. The constitution specifies that the decision to sign or veto a bill is his or hers alone. (It should probably also be noted that when a U.S. president fails to sign a bill while Congress is out of session, the effect is to veto the bill — the process is known as a “pocket veto.”)

This brings us, of course, to yesterday’s decision by Governor Pat McCrory to let the controversial — many would say “thoroughly inadequate” — coal ash “clean up” bill become law by simply not acting on it. Read More

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Climate change - droughtTo call the global discussion over climate change a “debate” is actually quite generous. It’s kind of  like describing the interactions that one has with one’s first grader over the value of an early bedtime or a cupcakes-only diet as a “debate.” Yeah, it’s true that there are two different “sides” with strongly held views, but the notion that “the debate” should continue (and that the first grader should be taken seriously) long after the facts have been thoroughly and repeatedly explained to him or her by someone who knows a hell of a lot more about the subject is obviously ridiculous.

With this as background, consider the following competing “sides” that have taken the stage this week in the global “debate” over C02 pollution and climate change:

On one side: 97 actual, peer-reviewed climate scientists from around the world who are each posting a paragraph over the course four days this week under the banner “97 hours of consensus.”

And on the other: this week’s featured speaker at the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftsbury Society luncheon who claimed yesterday (we’re not making this up) that the climate scientists are all a part of a “carbon cult” that is wrongfully maligning carbon dioxide — a substance that he claims is actually helping to beneficially “green the planet.”

Lord help us.

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Cover me

Image: NC AIDS Action Network – www.ncaan.org

A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts makes clearer than ever just how mean-spirited and morally bankrupt the decision of state lawmakers and Governor McCrory to turn down federally-funded Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of  low-income North Carolinians is turning out to be. The report, “Southern States Are Now Epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.” tells the story of a woman from New York named Deadra Malloy who had successfully managed her HIV infection for decades while living in New York where public subsidies made medication affordable. When she moved to North Carolina and then South Carolina, however, all that changed. Soon she was skimping on necessary drugs and quickly wound up in the hospital with pneumonia.

As the story notes, the woman’s case is sadly typical:  Read More

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fuzzy-math-300x225In case you missed it, one of this morning’s “must reads” is a story posted late yesterday by WRAL reporter Mark Binker about the ongoing controversy over North Carolina’s muddled and troubled new teacher pay plan.  As Binker reports:

When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a “substantial” pay raise that amounted to “an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers.”

That might have been exciting news, except that legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise for more than a month now. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figures as “simple math” in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.

For educators like Michelle Pettey, a first-grade teacher at Wake County’s Brier Creek Elementary School, that “simple math” doesn’t add up; 5.5 percent doesn’t equal 7 percent and neither number matches the smaller-than-expected pay bump that showed up in her first paycheck of the year.

“No teacher can figure out what happened,” said Pettey, a teacher with 16 years in the classroom who said her actual raise worked out to be something like 1.39 percent over last year’s salary. The single mom whose own kinds are in the school system says she has friends outside the profession who ask her why teachers are complaining about a 7 percent raise.

According to Binker’s story, the confusing new plan has even left one of the state’s most powerful politicians — Senate Rules Committee chairman Tom Apodaca — confused.

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Commentary

Tax the rich 2The good people at Too Much, the online newsletter of Inequality.org have another sobering but powerful article this week. The rather amazing and disturbing finding: the wealth of the average American family is up over the last 25 years, but the wealth of the median family has actually dropped. If this finding leaves you scratching your head, it boils down to the fact that the rich have become so rich that they’re dragging up the overall average even though typical families are faring worse. This is from the article:

The growing wealth of these affluent, the new Fed data show, is driving up America’s average family net worth. But straight averages can mislead — and even deceive. If nine people each have zero net worth and a tenth person holds a fortune worth $10 million, the average person in that 10-person group will be a millionaire.Medians, by contrast, tell us more about how everyday people are truly faring. At the median point, half the people in any distribution have more, half less. In 1989, the new Fed Survey of Consumer Finances details, the median — most typical — U.S. family held $84,800 in net worth, after adjusting for inflation.

In 2013, America’s most typical families held only $81,200, 4 percent less.

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