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UNCThere were lots of compelling responses delivered by the defenders of various UNC Centers at yesterday’s inquisition in Chapel Hill, but one of the best came from Dean Jack Boger of the UNC Law School.

This is from the account in Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Boger pointed out that the law school’s Banking Institute was created to support the banking industry in North Carolina. ‘We don’t ask that center to consider socialism as an alternative or to talk about the dissolution of large banks,’ he said. Boger also pointed out that public health professors advocate against sugary drinks in the fight against obesity.”

Boger’s observation neatly highlighted the central absurdity of the ideological attack on the various UNC Centers launched by surrogates for right-wing financier/politico and wannabe UNC prez, Art Pope: Pope has already won. It is already the mission of a vast swath of the UNC system to support, defend, apologize for and train the future leaders of  North Carolina’s corporate business establishment. Read More

Commentary

Art Pope 3Phil BergerThe talk about Medicaid expansion for North Carolina in 2015 from political leaders without much power to do anything about it continues. Gov. McCrory and his HHS Secretary keep talking about expansion as does, rather amusingly, lame duck Speaker/U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis. Obviously, expansion would be a terrific thing and is horrifically overdue as the current absurd obstructionism is literally costing thousands of lives per year — all in the name of nothing but conservative ideology.

Sadly, however, neither of these stances by McCrory or Tillis will amount to a hill of beans come next legislative session unless the real conservative bosses in North Carolina politics give their assent. Those two bosses, of course, would be Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and the most important conservative power broker in state politics, Art Pope. After all, the General Assembly has already passed a law to prevent McCrory from doing the deed without their approval and, for all we know, Tillis could well be reduced to trolling the halls of the General Assembly next year as a lobbyist or McCrory lackey.

Meanwhile, there are few if any positive signals from Berger and Pope to be found. Berger says he’s still opposed and Pope…well, his hirelings continue to spout mean-spirited nonsense and gibberish on the subject.

Of course, all of this could change. The powers-that-be in the health care industry want expansion and understand the tremendous good it would do — both for people and in need and, perhaps even more importantly from the corporate perspective, their profits. Add to this the fact that conservative majorities in the General Assembly could be slightly smaller next year and there’s certainly reason to hope that the politics on the issue will continue to improve.

That said, when you’re dealing with true right-wing believers who don’t even bat an eye as their policies literally result in thousands of unnecessary deaths per year, it’s hard to see what’s going to bring about the change of heart. Moreover, at this point in his governorship, Pat McCrory gives literally no indication that he has the ability lead or shape the debate.

Commentary

Conspiracy kooksThe folks over on Right-wing Avenue — yeah, you know, the supposedly nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organizations that have been acting as virtual auxiliaries of the campaign of one of the two main U.S. Senate candidates in recent weeks — have a lot of troubling friends and allies on the fringe.

Take, for instance the website “Triad Conservative” (to which one can link directly from the Locke Foundation’s “Piedmont Publius” blog). This is from an article that appeared on the site over the weekend entitled “Time to Entertain Secession?”:

“Matthew Staver of Liberty Counsel argues that we are witnessing the end of Western Civilization.  He is essentially correct.  Western Civilization over the last two millenia has been intrinsically Christian.  Our national government is now post-Christian, post-modern and indeed anti-Christian.  And Greensboro’s own Kay Hagan has been at the forefront of this change.

The United States is no longer a fundamentally good country.”

The post concludes this way:

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Commentary

As reported here and on several other news sites in recent days (click here and here), the conservative, win-at-all-costs ideologues over at the Koch-Pope group, Americans for Prosperity, have been distributing misleading voter registration materials in recent days. A Charlotte Observer editorial over the weekend charitably described the situation this way:

With all the confusion around controversial new N.C. voting laws – laws being challenged in court that could be stayed before the November election – voters didn’t need a partisan group mucking up things even more. But that’s what has happened.

According to the N.C. Board of Elections, Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative group, has created quite a headache by sending out incorrect voter registration information, including what was dubbed an “official” voter registration form. But the form was fraught with errors and conflicting information, including the deadline to register, whom to send voter registration information to, and who answers queries about voter information.

The State Board of Elections says it has received hundreds of complaints from people receiving the forms. “It’s caused a lot of confusion,” said Joshua Lawson, a public information officer for the board. He noted that the board of elections works with political groups to prevent just this kind of misinformation, but Americans for Prosperity didn’t contact the board about the mailings.

The paper went on to say that the least the Koch-Popers could do is apologize, but true to form, the conservative crusaders are unrepentant. On Friday, the group issued a statement saying it “stands behind” the misleading and deceptive effort.

Of course, if you think about it, such a stance makes sense. If Americans for Prosperity started apologizing for every deceptive or misleading thing it produced, the group wouldn’t have much time to do anything else.

Uncategorized

TeachersHeadline-hunting legislative leaders got what they wanted and needed (for now) with yesterday’s latest budget announcement. They wanted the story to be first and foremost about big teacher raises and it appears pretty clear that they got that. Media outlets around the state are reporting that central component of the proposed budget agreement this morning and millions of North Carolinians are waking up to the news — even if it’s frequently tinged with skepticism.

The problem with this story, of course is that, by all indications, the pay raise is being purchased at an enormous price — i.e. big cuts everywhere else –including education — along with tiny and inadequate pay raises for other public employees (including education personnel).

In short, though many details remain to be seen, the central and disastrous driving force behind this year’s budget — last year’s regressive and backward-looking tax cuts remain in full force. As budget analyst Tazra Mitchell wrote here yesterday:

There are better choices available that will put North Carolina on a stronger path to recovery for children, families, and communities across the Tarheel state. For starters, lawmakers need to face the reality that we can’t afford further tax cuts and stop the income tax cuts that are scheduled to go into effect next January. Doing so will save approximately $100 million in the current fiscal year and $300 million in the 2015 calendar year. These revenues would go a long way towards reversing the most damaging cuts that were enacted in the aftermath of the Great Recession. That’s a short-term fix.  A longer term fix requires restoring the progressive personal income tax structure so that revenues are stable and more adequate.

The only saving grace of the budget is this: the message it sends to progressives. As dreadful as the budget is — both for the near and long term — it does serve to remind progressives of the power of advocacy. Read More