Commentary

Pat McCrory press eventAt some point, it’s got to rankle Pat McCrory. The man has been Governor of the state and, effectively, the head of a party with huge legislative majorities for nearly two years now, but when it comes to making laws and policies, he might as well be, well, the Mayor of Charlotte.

Lest anyone think the recent election (in which McCrory’s ally Thom Tillis got elected to the U.S. Senate) did anything to change this situation, State Rep. Nelson Dollar spoke up yesterday to make sure that everyone knows it did not.

The subject was Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act — an urgent and life-saving proposition that the Guv has finally come around on and that makes eminent political, economic, moral and common sense. Conservative Republican governors in several states have already successfully led efforts to expand Medicaid in their states to large and beneficial effects.

Unfortunately, Rep. Dollar — an occasional voice of reason on Medicaid in recent months and, for now, chair of the House Appropriations Committee — is having nothing to do with expansion for the time being. Like the reactionaries in the state Senate, Dollar staked himself out yesterday as an opponent — at least until the state has “a better idea of what the lay of the land is.”

But, of course, mapping “the lay of the land” — both as to whether Medicaid will be sold off and privatized (a terrible idea that Dollar has rightfully opposed) and whether John Roberts will have a change of heart in the latest Supreme Court challenge to the ACA — will take several months at least. Thus to delay consideration of expansion until such matters have been clarified is to all but kill the whole idea (and doom several thousand more people to premature deaths for lack of health insurance) for 2015.

Which brings us back to the Mayor, er uh, the Governor. How will he respond to this broadside against what would clearly be his most important policy accomplishment and first successful effort to lead the General Assembly rather than serve as its affable and pliant rubber stamp?

Let’s hope this latest humiliation stirs up some anger and resolve in McCrory to take charge of the situation and become the one who’s giving the orders in Raleigh for a change.  Whatever happens will be a strong indicator as to whether McCrory really wants to become the Governor of North Carolina or remain in his current and mostly ceremonial role as the state’s chief ribbon cutter and the General Assembly’s errand boy.

News
Andre Peek (L) and Tammy Covil (R) serve on the Academic Standards Review Commission.

Andre Peek (L) and Tammy Covil (R) serve on the Academic Standards Review Commission.

The state commission charged with reviewing and replacing the Common Core State Standards seems to be losing some of its momentum. Meeting for the third time since their appointment, commission members acknowledged Monday that without a dedicated budget it would be near impossible to bring in experts and accurately assess what benchmarks students should master.

The Raleigh News & Observer noted the frustration of Governor McCrory’s own appointment to the Academic Standards Review Commission:

“We are running out of time,” said Co-Chairman Andre Peek, an IBM executive from Raleigh. “This needs to be solved soon. We need money to bring in professionals.”

And as WUNC’s Reema Khrias reports, Peek’s not the only one annoyed by the current state of affairs:

“The lack of funding sort of communicates – to me – that there are very low expectations from this commission. If we can’t get some funding, most of the changes we’ll be recommending will be anecdotal,” said Tammy Covil, a New Hanover County school board member.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, a key proponent of repealing the Common Core standards, plans to meet with top legislative leaders in the coming weeks to try to line-up resources for the panel.

The Academic Standards Review Commission holds its final meeting of the year on December 15th.

Click here to read the legislation that calls on North Carolina to replace Common Core and establish its own robust standards that must be “age-level and developmentally appropriate.”

Commentary

Last year nearly 18,000 people died in the world from terrorism. This was a record high.

That figure includes all deaths by explosives along with every other means terrorists use to commit violence. This statistic also includes the entire world population of 7 billion people. It tracks violence in war zones, failed states and other troubled places where no real government exists, let alone regulations.

From 2000-2010, about 335,000 Americans died from firearms.

That means that the worst ever year for terrorism, which includes all terrorist violence, throughout the entire globe of 7 billion people, cost a little more than half as many lives as guns cost during an average year in one country, which happens to be the richest country in the world and an ostensibly functioning democracy.

I wrote this a few weeks back about why things have to change in America. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Commentary

Facts matter in policymaking. A growing number of data tools are available to help inform policymakers and the public of local conditions and trends so that policies to respond can be data-driven and achieve better, efficient results.  The latest tool is the Opportunity Index released annually by the Opportunity Nation and Measure of America.  This interactive website provides state and county level data on economic, education and civic factors that inform us about the levels of opportunity for residents.

North Carolina ranks 35th in the nation in terms of its level of opportunity with a total score of 50.6 below the national average of 52.8.  The good news is that North Carolina’s score has improved since 2011 when the Opportunity Nation and Measure of America first released the index but this improvement, by 3.1 percentage points, was insufficient progress relative to other states to move our state up significantly in the rankings.  NC was ranked 36th in 2011.

A few indicators were clearly moving in the wrong direction for North Carolina over this period:  poverty increased from 16.3 percent to 18 percent, median household income declined by more than $2,000 and the number of 3- and 4- year olds in public or private preschool fell from 46.7 percent to 42.2 percent. Read More

Commentary

Conservative politicians whose campaigns are funded by corporate interests love to talk about the “genius of the market” and “clamping down on burdensome business regulations.” And while there are no doubt many important virtues associated with both of those concepts, here’s what the genius of the market and business deregulation produce much too often in modern America: exploitation and rip-offs.

A new WRAL news story last night explored a classic example: the targeting of military personnel by scamming, high-cost sales outlets like USA Living. As reporter Monica Laliberte explained:

USA Discounters targeted the military with its patriotic vibe by posting advertisements on a Fort Bragg website and sponsoring military events. The company sells everything from furniture and TVs to jewelry and appliances and even car rims. It promises military members are “always approved for credit.”

Trill’s contract included fees of $1,057 for a warranty and $828.84 for debt cancellation, which covers the debt if something happens to him. The finance charge was $2,065.47. All paid, the furniture that was priced at $5,000 would ultimately cost him $10,513.88.

The next time someone feeds you the line about burdensome business regulations (like next week across the Thanksgiving table, for example) tell them about scams like this in which American heroes are targeted every day. And then remind them that this is why we have to have business regulation in America; not just to protect consumers (because if companies will rip off military families, you know they won’t hesitate to do the same to anyone else), but also to level the playing filed for businesses that operate ethically and honestly. After all, as the veteran/victim in the WRAL story noted:

“Is this the world we fought for? I mean, is this really what you fought for?” Trill said. “Everybody’s scamming everybody. Everyone’s trying to dip into your pockets for a little bit extra. It absolutely makes me sick.”