Commentary, Defending Democracy, News

Congressional Black Caucus denounces Farr nomination, demands rejection by Tillis, Judiciary Committee in today’s vote

With the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee set today to reconsider several Trump nominations to the federal bench and positions in the Department of Justice that expired at the end of 2017, the Congressional Black Caucus will hold a press conference this morning to register its opposition to two men in particular: Eric Dreiband, whom Trump nominated to serve as Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and Thomas Farr, Trump’s nominee to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

This is from the letter the Caucus sent to Judiciary Committee chair, Charles Grassley regarding Farr:

“Mr. Farr has amassed a record that puts him at the forefront of an extended fight to disenfranchise African-American voters in his home state of North Carolina. More over, Mr. Farr has dedicated many years of his legal career to undermining the rights of workers who have experience workplace discrimination.”

The letter goes on to detail many of Farr’s troubling acts during his long career as well as the outrageous blockade that took place for two African-American women that President Obama nominated to serve in the long vacant position. It concludes this way:

“Given all these concerns, we cannot state forcefully enough our opposition to the nomination of Thomas Farr. It is no exaggeration to say that had the White House deliberately sough to identify an attorney in North Carolina with a more hostile record on African-American voting rights and workers’ rights than Thomas Farr, it could hardly have done so. We believe Mr. Farr’s record raises serious questions regarding his commitment to equal justice under the law that disqualify him from service on the federal bench.”

All in all, it’s an extraordinarily strong condemnation. North Carolina’s Thom Tillis (click here for contact information)is a member of the Judiciary Committee,

Commentary

Latest estimate: 4,000 Americans have died already because of Trump healthcare policies

In case you missed it yesterday, the latest numbers show that millions of Americans lost their health insurance last year as conservative policies in Washington and around the country began to take their toll. This is from a story in the Washington Post:

“More than 3 million more people lacked health insurance at the end of 2017 relative to the end of 2016, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. A recent estimate of the connection between a lack of insurance and mortality suggests that for every 800 people without insurance for a year, one will die — meaning that 4,000 more people may have died during the year than would have had they been covered.

That increase in the percentage began in the first quarter of Donald Trump’s presidency. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the percentage of uninsured adults in the United States was 10.9 percent — a low after three years of declines following the passage of the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). In 2013, before the law went into effect, nearly 1 in 5 adults lacked insurance. Over the course of last year, that figure rose again to 12.2 percent.

The largest driver for this change, Gallup reports, was people declining to buy their own insurance. Over the course of 2017, as Republicans on Capitol Hill debated the shape of a possible repeal of the ACA, the mandate that individuals have health-care coverage was a frequent target of rhetoric. In December, as part of the sweeping tax-overhaul bill signed into law by Trump, that mandate was repealed. An analysis of the effects of that measure by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in November found that the repeal would lead to 13 million fewer people with insurance coverage by 2027 — and 4 million more by 2019.”

Meanwhile, as today’s lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer pointed out, this is only the beginning of the unnecessary deaths:

“The Congressional Budget Office projects 13 million Americans will become uninsured because of the repeal of the individual mandate, which required that Americans buy health insurance or pay a small fine. Though it was unpopular, it was a linchpin of the law and a complement to the federal mandate that everyone receive care in emergencies, even when they couldn’t afford to pay. It made sure there were enough young, healthy people in the marketplace who don’t spend much on health care but whose presence kept premiums down for the older and sicker. For at least some middle-income Americans, those rising premiums will not be offset by the Trump tax cut.

The law helped stabilize hospitals, which didn’t have to write off as much debt from unpaid-for services. It also made it more likely that middle- and lower-income Americans would receive care and be less likely to face personal bankruptcies. More Americans with comprehensive coverage also helped push the abortion rate down to an all-time-low and lowered rates of teen pregnancy. It did all of this – along with helping millions of seniors pay for prescription drugs – while decreasing the deficit a tick. The new tax law will be responsible for fewer insured Americans and increasing the deficit once again.

It’s a horrific tradeoff. Health insurance provides peace of mind that a small bump in take home pay never could. Because Republicans aren’t committed to making sure this trend doesn’t take hold, it’s up to voters to find leaders who will be.”

Commentary

Forecast is good for this Saturday’s women’s marches

Today looks like it will turn out to be a snow day for large swaths of North Carolina, but the forecast for Saturday promises blue skies and temperatures in the 50’s for the Women’s Marches that will take place in cities across the state.

Here’s the scoop on some of the major marches for folks looking to plan their weekend schedules:

Women’s Marches will take place in Raleigh, Charlotte, the Triad, Asheville and Wilmington (among other places) on January 20th. Click below to learn more and find opportunities to participate and volunteer:

Raleigh Women’s March will be meeting at Halifax Mall in Raleigh at 9:00 AM. Link to volunteer.

Charlotte Women’s March will be meeting at First Ward Park in Charlotte at 10:00 AM. If you plan to attend the march please sign up here. If you’d like to volunteer please use this link.

Triad Women’s March will be meeting at Corpening Plaza in Winston-Salem at 12:00 PM.

Asheville Women’s March will be meeting at Memorial Stadium at 11:00 AM. Link to volunteer.

Women’s March on Wilmington will take place from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM at 102 N. 3rd St.

See ya’ there!

 

Commentary

Must read editorial: Duke should pass along federal tax break to consumers

This morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com hits the nail on the head with its conclusion that Duke energy should be required to pass along its recent federal tax windfall to consumers. As the editorial (“Utility companies’ tax cut must yield rate break for N.C. consumers”) points out:

“State regulators, in North Carolina it’s the state Utilities Commission, allow these companies to charge rates that cover their costs and provide a return for investors. Those costs include production and distribution of the power, maintenance of equipment and transmission facilities, and the cost of paying taxes.

When the federal tax rate is slashed from 35 percent to 21 percent, the impact is huge.

How big? Well one utility company, Baltimore Gas and Electric, has already figured it is worth $82 million a year back to its 1.25 million electric and 650,000 natural gas customers in central Maryland. While there’s no estimate on how much might go to North Carolina consumers, Duke Energy has 3.3 million retail electric and 717,000 natural gas customers.

Because companies like Duke can pass the cost of federal taxes onto consumers it is only right that when those taxes consumers have been paying get cut, consumers should get the full benefit.”

The editorial goes on to explain that Attorney general Josh Stein is rightfully pushing for the pass-through along with some of his peers from other states. Here’s the conclusion:

“Corporations have been taking advantage of a raging stock market, record profits and unheard of amounts of cash in their coffers. It is past time to extend this economic expansion to the other 99 percent of the nation.

‘The benefit of those tax cuts should go to the consumers,’ Stein said. ‘Otherwise it’s a windfall for the corporations that they don’t need or deserve. You can’t get reimbursed for a cost you don’t incur.’

Gov. Roy Cooper and the leadership in the General Assembly, if they truly believe in relief for ALL North Carolina taxpayers, should join Attorney General Stein’s efforts to be sure it is the CONSUMERS who should get, and deserve, this tax cut benefit. The Utilities Commission should deliver it, in full.”

Exactly.

Commentary

Editorial rightfully asks us to remember the MLK that wasn’t widely popular in his time

It’s King Day. Today, January 15, would have been the 89th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As with so many great figures in history, the passing decades have softened our remembrance of the time in which King was active and during which he lost his life. Today, even conservative right-wingers whose forebears stood in opposition to virtually everything King tried to accomplish now pay respectful homage and join in celebrating the endless TV reruns of the “I have a dream” speech.

As a weekend editorial in the Charlotte Observer reminded us, however, we would do well to remind ourselves today — at a time in which the president of the United States makes nice with white supremacists makes a mockery of so much of what King tried to accomplish — that King was not so universally loved when he was in the midst of the struggle. As the Observer points out:

“Martin Luther King Jr. was not a well-liked man. He was one of the most polarizing figures in the United States during his final few years of life. He was not the cuddly creature we re-invent every King Day to lie to ourselves and our kids about how he only wanted us to get along. His approval rating began to rise only after he was no longer here to demand America live up to its ideals.

King wanted peace, but not at the expense of equality. He wanted little black girls and little black boys to play together, but not if it meant pretending racism didn’t exist. He respected authority, but challenged those wearing badges and carrying batons and sitting in the Oval Office.

He wanted moral clarity, not cheap comfort. Were he alive today, he’d still be hated by those wedded to the status quo. Because he’d notice the poor still being vilified as lazy. He’d see large corporations, like Walmart, brag proudly about modest pay increases then quietly announce thousands of layoffs. The GOP would still have enacted a tax law skewed to the rich then pass work requirements for Medicaid benefits – something they have never required of wealthy Americans receiving government largesse. He’d know the government pays private collectors triple what they retrieve in back taxes from the low-income while high-income tax cheats skate.

That’s why we should shelve the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech this King Day. It has been used too often as an excuse to not have to face hard truths or fight for the most vulnerable among us.”

As the editorial goes on to note, King was a man who rightfully defended so-called “rioters,” critiqued capitalism, called for radical redistribution of wealth and power, called for whites to be made aware of their racial ignorance and pushed back against so-called “moderates” who counseled patience in the fight for equality.

The bottom line: As the editorial explains:”He wanted justice and peace. If he could have only one, there’s no doubt which he’d choose.”

Darn right.