Commentary

Army vet skewers attempts to use military as excuse to derail wind energy

AmazonWindFarmToday’s “must read” opinion piece for those who care about North Carolina state government and the future of clean, sustainable energy is Steve Harrison’s outstanding op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. In it, Harrison, and army vet and one of the main driving forces behind the website Blue NC, does a masterful job of debunking the efforts of state Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown and others to do the bidding of the fossil fuel industry by attempting to use the military as an excuse to torpedo wind energy in eastern North Carolina.

After explaining Brown’s contention that wind farms would interfere with the flight paths of military aircraft, Harrison says the following:

“What Brown failed to tell his colleagues in the N.C. Senate is: The FAA is the primary ‘decider’ of what constitutes an obstruction to flight paths in the entirety of U.S. air space. ….The FAA has an entire division dedicated to potential obstructions, including a section that deals specifically with wind turbines. An FAA permit is required before you can even break ground on a wind energy project, and each turbine is assessed individually, not just the whole project. In other words, the implication that state government needed to step in and solve this problem is categorically untrue.

What’s also untrue is Brown’s statement that the Military Affairs Committee has been contemplating this issue for years. While the committee might have been created out of 2013 legislation, it’s really only been formally active for less than a year. And as recently as February, flight path obstructions didn’t make its list of priorities.

By May the issue was included in its long list of priorities, and it had developed a map of flight paths with which it was concerned. But that initial committee map had only three colors (red, yellow, green) designating potential flight paths. These corridors were already large enough; encompassing close to half of eastern North Carolina’s geographical footprint.

But that wasn’t enough for Harry Brown. The map that emerged from the General Assembly had magically sprouted two more colors (orange, dark grey), effectively blocking wind farms in about 85 percent of eastern North Carolina.

While you’re contemplating politicians who would use the military to further other agendas, like the destruction of the clean energy sector, contemplate this also: I am not anti-military. Not only do I support our bases in North Carolina, I’ve trained at most of them. I was stationed at Ft. Bragg for several years, and I’ve made 69 jumps out of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. I lost a couple of very good friends in North Africa when their helicopter got tangled in some power lines.

I know, probably a lot better than Harry Brown, just what’s at stake on this issue. There is room for both military operations and renewable energy, including wind turbines, in the future of our great state.”

Thanks Steve, for all you do for our state. Great job as usual.

Commentary

National expert: Ten easy-to-understand reasons why Medicaid works

Greater Drop in Uninsured Rate Among Adults in Medicaid Expansion StatesEdwin Park of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a fabulous post on the group’s Off the Charts blog today about the amazing successes of Medicaid. The post — “Medicaid Works: 10 Key Facts” — lays out “ten key facts about how Medicaid helps millions of Americans live healthier, more secure lives” and thereby debunks decades of conservative mythology about this vital public public structure. The post also helps make clear once more why the decisions of states like North Carolina not to expand the program under the terms off the Affordable Care Act have been such a disaster. Here are the first five:

“1. Medicaid provided quality health coverage for 97 million low-income Americans over the course of 2015.  In any given month, Medicaid served 33 million children, 27 million adults (mostly in low-income working families), 6 million seniors, and 10 million persons with disabilities, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates.

2. Medicaid has cut dramatically the number of Americans without health insurance.  Since the implementation of health reform’s major coverage expansions in 2014, Medicaid and the new health marketplaces have helped cut the number of uninsured Americans from 45 million to 29 million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.  States that expanded Medicaid have had significantly greater reductions in the share of residents who were uninsured than non-expansion states (see chart).  By 2020, an estimated 13 million more adults will have enrolled in Medicaid and gained access to affordable health coverage due to health reform.

3. Medicaid participation is high.  Some 65.6 percent of low-income adults with children who are eligible for Medicaid are enrolled, according to the Urban Institute, a relatively strong participation rate compared to some other programs.  And evidence so far among states adopting health reform’s Medicaid expansion shows substantial increases in overall Medicaid enrollment, which indicates robust participation among expansion-eligible individuals.  In addition, 88.3 percent of eligible children participate in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), according to the Urban Institute.

4. Medicaid has improved access to care for millions, including those with chronic conditions.  A landmark study of Oregon’s Medicaid program found that beneficiaries were 40 percent less likely to have suffered a decline in their health in the last six months than similar people without health insurance coverage.  They were also likelier to use preventive care (such as cholesterol screenings), to have a regular clinic where they could receive primary care, and to receive a diagnosis of and treatment for depression and diabetes.

5. Medicaid provides significant financial support to low-income beneficiaries.  Medicaid lifted 2.6 million people out of poverty in 2010, equating to a 0.7 percentage-point drop in the poverty rate.  The program cut poverty most among adults with disabilities, children, seniors, African Americans, and Hispanics.  Research from Oregon’s Medicaid program also shows that beneficiaries were 40 percent less likely to go into medical debt or leave other bills unpaid in order to cover medical expenses, and that Medicaid coverage nearly eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical costs.”

Click here to read the other five.

News

Gov. McCrory signs off on charter takeover of low-performing schools

McCrory ASDAs expected, Gov. Pat McCrory has signed House Bill 1080, controversial legislation that will allow for-profit charter takeovers of several low-performing schools in North Carolina.

McCrory’s office announced the signing Tuesday, although the news was buried in a press release about the governor’s signing of legislation intended to help state officials keep track of veterans.

It’s unclear when the governor gave his seal to the bill. On Tuesday, staff at McCrory’s press office did not respond to Policy Watch’s inquiries about the signing.

The bill, which was opposed by most Democrats and public school backers in the state legislature, creates a statewide “achievement school district” for five low-performing schools.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican school-choice supporter who also sits on the State Board of Education, will chair and appoint an advisory committee to choose a superintendent for the special district. That superintendent would tap the schools by Nov. 15, and the State Board of Education is expected to approve those choices by Jan. 15.

Given the short time frame, members of the State Board of Education said in a conference call earlier this month that they intended to move quickly implementing the achievement school district.

Supporters, including a right-wing, ALEC-affiliated group out of Oklahoma that purchased a full-page ad in a June News & Observer, described the measure as an “innovative” approach to reforming chronically low-performing schools, but critics points out similar reform efforts have produced mixed results in other states such as Tennessee. 

We’ll stay tuned as state leaders roll out the achievement school district.

Commentary

#WageWeek: Raising the minimum wage will help promote equal pay for women

As part of our #WageWeek celebration, we have invited partners to contribute to our blog series on the importance of raising the minimum wage. This piece was written by Bronwen Wade with NC Women United. Previous entries in this series can be seen here and here.

Raising the minimum wage will help promote equal pay for women

By Bronwen Wade

Women earn just 79 cents for every dollar paid to men for the same job at the same level of experience. Raising the minimum wage will play an important role in achieving equal pay for women—and ensuring that our country adequately values the work they perform.

Policies combating gender discrimination in pay are important, but must be complemented by an increase in the minimum wage.  The pay gap is a persistent problem when women enter traditionally male-dominated fields.  However, the unjust minimum wage and its disproportionate effect on women reflect a country in which we do not value traditionally feminine labor.

Establishing a fair minimum wage has two goals.  The first is to ensure that workers can meet their basic needs and have a good quality of life; the second is to create an equitable distribution of resources in our country.  The real value of the minimum wage has dropped over the last 50 years while the real value of executive pay has grown exponentially.  The current minimum wage supports an economic system where women workers and their families live in poverty at extremely high rates in order to subsidize higher pay for a smaller pool of mostly male executives.

Raising the minimum wage can help free women from a cycle of living paycheck-to-paycheck and being unable to invest in their future or provide for their children.  It can also help break a tradition of distributing more of our economy’s resources to men and fewer of our resources to women of color and their families.  Increasing the minimum wages is necessary both for improving women’s quality of life and for creating a more just economic system.

In the United States, poverty has increasingly become a women’s problem.  Across every racial group, women are more likely to live in poverty than men.  Most impoverished families are single working mothers of color with children, many of whom are working minimum wage jobs.  The minimum wage does not provide enough income for these families to survive on; and Black and Latino women and children continue to bear the brunt of growing income inequality. Read more

Commentary

McCrory’s weak whining about HB2 opponents

McCrory bathroomIt’s hard to know what’s more pathetic at this point, Gov. Pat McCrory’s lame and inaccurate defenses of his LGBT discrimination law (HB2), his ridiculous efforts to blame his political opponents for the fact that the law is still on the books, or his new complaints about recent revelations that some of opponents were happy that companies and other actors were joining in the mushrooming boycott of the state and were (GASP!) trying to score political points over the matter.

In the latest chapter in the saga, McCrory actually deigned to speak to the news media yesterday for a change — this time to complain that recently leaked Democratic Party documents showed “the state of North Carolina, the City of Charlotte and especially small businesses were being used as a pawns by Roy Cooper, by the mayor of Charlotte and by the Democratic Party on an issue that was made up purely for political purposes and to raise money.”

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at such a ridiculous allegation. Maybe one should just shake one’s head in wonder at the remarkable quantities of gall the man seems to keep in reserve.

Think about it: Here’s a career politician who has been in elected office for the last two decades complaining that those opposed to his reactionary agenda on any number of vital issues are happy that others are joining their cause to roll back his destructive and discriminatory signature law and, while they’re at it, making some political points. This from a man who’s placed politics ahead of what at least seemed to be his principles at nearly every turn over the past three and a half years! You really can’t make this up. At this rate, the Guv will be blaming Democrats for his blatant decision to go back on his 2012 campaign promise not to approve any new restrictions on reproductive freedom for women.

The bottom line – No matter how hard he tries to change the subject and to distract with silly red herrings like yesterday’s claim, HB2 is McCrory’s law and it will continue to be. One could respect him a great deal more if he would own up to that fact and cease his constant efforts at political spin and blame avoidance.