McCrory calls for food benefits for hurricane victims, denies them to victims of economic storms

SNAPGov. Pat McCrory’s office has become a press release machine in recent days as it has sought to narrate every micro-development in the Hurricane Matthew story and, not coincidentally, keep the guv in the public eye. Few of the releases are truly newsworthy, but a couple ought to cause a raised eyebrow or two.

Take, for instance this morning’s lengthy and frequently muddled release. Buried near the bottom was the following sentence, which probably seemed to the authors to be a harmless throwaway line:

“Governor McCrory is calling for additional support for families regarding food stamps and the deadline to file taxes.”

Setting aside the utter lack of clarity (How? Who? When ? Where?), the statement also begs the following obvious question: Why now?

Just a few months ago, the governor was only too happy to slash food benefits (they’ve actually been called SNAP benefits rather than “Food Stamps” for years now) to people living in counties still plagued by high unemployment rates. As Chris Fitzsimon explained in an August radio commentary, one of the biggest drops in SNAP participation caused by the recent cuts approved by McCrory has been in Alexander County — a county in which there are 2.5 unemployed people for every available job. If the guv is so supportive of public food assistance for people harmed by storms, what the heck is the difference between a weather-related storm and an economic storm? The impact is the same; people go hungry and suffer through no fault of their own. As I noted last October in this column:

“These benefits provide an average of something on the order of $30 per week in food assistance – all of which is paid by the federal government….

Obviously, the central problem with this approach [cutting people off to encourage them to find work] is that it ignores common sense and the reality on the ground. Simply put, 100,000 North Carolinians aren’t sitting around not looking for work because they can get a few bucks per week to buy a little bit of food. If there were jobs available – even lousy, part-time jobs – these people would obviously be much better off working than merely receiving SNAP benefits. (And if a few hundred people were somehow milking the system for such a pathetic benefit, all one can say is ‘God forbid!’)”

The bottom line: It’s all well and good that the McCrory administration has decided to help some of the people suffering as the result of Hurricane Matthew, but the standard for offering such assistance (that they were victims of events beyond their control) applies to thousands of other good people in our state who are going hungry right now thanks to the the actions of the General Assembly and the governor. The blatant hypocrisy evident in this double standard raises real questions about the governor’s motives in his recent, highly publicized embrace of the social safety net.


USA Today editorial decries conservative blockade of judicial nominees, highlights NC

In case you missed it, there was a fine editorial in USA Today a couple of days back slamming the ongoing blockade of Obama nominees to the federal courts, including the nation’s longest, which — thanks to Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr — is right here in North Carolina. This is from “Justice delayed: Gamesmanship on nominees extends well beyond the Supreme Court”:

“The Republican-led Senate sure knows how to make history, but not in a good way. By leaving town Sept. 28 without acting on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, it has left a nominee hanging for an unprecedented six-and-a-half-months without so much as a hearing — and left the Supreme Court limping along one justice short and vulnerable to more tie votes.

The foot-dragging extends well beyond the Supreme Court to the rest of the federal judiciary, where more than 50 other Obama nominees await hearings or confirmation votes….

Gamesmanship over judicial nominees is not new. As courts have become more ideological, both Democrats and Republicans play stalling games when the opposite party controls the White House. But Republicans have extended the typical battles over nominees to the Supreme Court and influential appeals courts down to the trial courts.

While these lower courts get less attention than the Supreme Court, they are the places where most people come in contact with the federal court system. Trial courts hear thousands of cases involving ordinary Americans: Entrepreneurs in contract disputes. Consumers targeted for fraud. Individuals arguing they’ve faced discrimination in seeking housing or a job.

Yet the Senate adjourned with more than 90 judgeships vacant  — more than 10% of the federal judiciary.

That’s the largest number since 1992, the final year of George H.W. Bush’s term when the Democrat-controlled Senate left more than 100. Stalling was no more acceptable then than it is now. But at least during the previous two years, the Senate had confirmed 122 Bush nominees. In the past two years, this Senate has confirmed just 22 of Obama’s nominees.

When many seats on the bench are empty and caseloads are heavy, justice is delayed. One seat on the North Carolina trial court has been empty for 11 years. (Emphasis supplied.)

The problem is simple: Senate Republicans are shirking their constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on judicial nominations. Americans deserve enough federal judges to hear their disputes and a Supreme Court with a full complement of nine justices to rule on national issues.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.


The new normal? Editorial asks the right question in hurricane’s aftermath

The city of Fayetteville has taken it on the chin in recent days from Hurricane Matthew and in the aftermath, an editorial in the Fayetteville Observer (“Is this what we’ll get from climate change?”) is asking a vitally important question that state political leaders have been ignoring for far too long:

“Is this the new normal for Fayetteville and for eastern North Carolina? It’s a question that should be on everyone’s mind as we mop up from our second bout of major flooding in just over a week.

And it should be on state leaders’ minds as well, as most of the counties east of I-95 prepare for flooding expected to be equal to or worse than the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Floyd 17 years ago. When Floyd put much of eastern North Carolina under water then, the experts called it the flood of the millennium – an extraordinary and epic drowning of the land.

But less than two decades later, here it is again. And we know ocean levels are steadily rising as well, which further complicates the problem in our easternmost counties.

It raises crucial questions about what measures need to be taken to protect life and property….

Even I-95 itself was flooded and impassable in places during and after the storm. What additional protection do we need for the East Coast’s most important north-south highway? Before these storms, reconstruction projects had raised the roadbed of the eastern sections of U.S. 64. Was it enough? Do many other roads need the same attention?…

However we choose to explain climate change, it’s here and altering our lives. We need some thoughtful discussion, informed by serious science, about how to proceed.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.


Another voice in Greenville condemns efforts to censor anthem protests of ECU band members

ecu-bandAs noted here and here last week, there have been some reprehensible reactions to the recent decision of several East Carolina University marching band members to “take a knee” during the playing of the national anthem. Perhaps the most ridiculous was Governor McCrory’s late week decision to pile on and to claim that band members somehow surrender their rights to free speech when they don their uniforms.

Happily, other sane voices are also speaking out. The following statement issued by the ECU School of Social Work issued the following “Resolution in Support of the East Carolina University Marching Band’s Exercise of Free Speech and Expression”:

“Whereas, the United States Constitution grants individuals the right of free expression;

Whereas, According to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics (1996), ‘Social workers should act to engage in social and political actions that seeks to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability.’

Whereas, the mission of The School of Social Work at East Carolina University includes  preparing professional social work practitioners who recognize the importance of human relationships by valuing difference, sustaining dignity, and fostering self-worth; provide ethical and effective social work services to individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities; engage with stakeholders and colleagues in the development of practices that reduce marginalization and oppression and solve problems; collaborate with stakeholders, colleagues, community members, and organizations to enhance overall health, wellness, and quality of life; and, Advocate for social and economic justice,

Whereas, The School at Social Work of East Carolina University asserts that learning takes place in a student-centered environment, which promotes the success of all students, including first generation, non-traditional, military, minority scholars, and caregivers of children and older adults,

Whereas, The School of Social Work at East Carolina University contributes to the development and dissemination of knowledge and develops tomorrow’s leaders by preparing graduates with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to inspire positive change and to succeed in a global, multicultural society,

Whereas, The School of Social Work at East Carolina University is dedicated to fostering the free, safe, and open exchange of ideas,

Whereas, The School of Social Work at East Carolina University supports the right of the members of the ECU Marching band as well as all other members of the university community to engage in peaceful and non-violent protest, in whatever manner they choose; and Read more


The best editorial of the weekend: “Amateur hour”

mccrory-stithIn case you missed it over the weekend, an editorial in the Charlotte Observer provided a succinct summation of the McCrory’s administration’s performance surrounding the damning coal ash scandal testimony of state toxicologist Ken Rudo. As you will recall, NC Policy Watch reporter Lisa Sorg reported last week that McCrory’s chief of staff Thomas Stith called a hasty late night press conference to accuse Rudo of perjury — even though he had not read Rudo’s testimony.

The Observer rightfully entitled its editorial on the subject “Amateur hour continues in Raleigh.” Here’s the conclusion:

“Stith was not at the meeting in question and so has no first-hand knowledge of what happened. ‘My understanding is the governor did not participate in the meeting,’ Stith said in his deposition.

It is extraordinary that a governor’s chief of staff would call a press conference and accuse a respected toxicologist of lying under oath when he has no first-hand and very limited second-hand knowledge of what happened.

But it’s just the latest example of McCrory and his administration bumbling into avoidable mistakes amid a tough re-election battle. For example, state law bars candidates from coordinating with independent political groups. Yet McCrory planned to speak at a fundraiser hosted by such a group, Real Jobs NC, on Friday. That sparked concern at the state Board of Elections. (McCrory’s plans changed because of Hurricane Matthew, his camp says.)

And last month, McCrory’s campaign planted questions at a Charlotte event that were portrayed as coming from the public.

Rudo, the toxicologist, says he is a Republican who voted for McCrory in 2012. He is surely just one of thousands who now regret it.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.