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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.”

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Coal AshAt least two stories on the entity that seems to be fast becoming North Carolina’s Public Enemy #1 (Duke Energy) are worth your time this morning if you didn’t catch them last night.

First is this AP story about how Duke lobbyists undermined the efforts of environmental advocates last year by getting friendly legislators to slip a provision into an omnibus deregulation bill that did their bidding on coal ash regulations:

“Documents and interviews collected by The Associated Press show how Duke’s lobbyists prodded Republican legislators to tuck a 330-word provision in a regulatory reform bill running nearly 60 single-spaced pages.

Though the bill never once mentions coal ash, the change allowed Duke to avoid any costly cleanup of contaminated groundwater leaching from its unlined dumps toward rivers, lakes and the drinking wells of nearby homeowners….”

Second is this WRAL.com story about Duke pumping coal ash into a stream that leads to the Cape Fear River:

“Advocates with the Waterkeeper Alliance say pictures they released Monday of workers for Duke Energy pumping water from a coal ash pond into a stream that feeds the Cape Fear River shows the company violating state and federal clean water rules.

Duke officials don’t dispute they were pumping the water, but they say they were allowed to do so for maintenance work under current permits for the pond, which is at a retired power plant in Moncure.

‘To label the secret, unmitigated, intentional discharge of untold amounts of highly toxic wastewater as ‘routine maintenance’ seems ludicrous,’ said Peter Harrison of the Waterkeeper Alliance.”

 

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In case you missed it, the lead editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer neatly sums up the disastrous 59 page jumble of regulatory changes signed into law by Gov. McCrory last Friday. After noting that the measure was supposedly about “streamlining” regulatory processes, the editorial says this:

“On signing the bill, the governor repeated the sentiment, saying, ‘This common sense legislation cuts government red tape, axes overly burdensome regulations and puts job creation first here in North Carolina.’

Sounds logical and harmless. Except the bill is not what its title and the governor claim it is. It is illogical and dangerous. It is concessions to developers and polluters crammed into a massive bill that was rushed through the legislature in the crush of closing business.

This bill will ‘streamline’ regulatory process with a sledgehammer and blowtorch.”

Read the entire editorial and its detailed explanation of why the bill’s hodegpodge of new laws are not really about “reform” by clicking here.

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The Guv has hinted that he might try saying “no” to at least a couple of the General Assembly’s worst, last-minute absurdities (and it would be an amazing act of lap-dogginess if he doesn’t). So, if he does act, which ones will it be?

Over the weekend, Steve Ford at the N.C. Council of Churches neatly summarized three bills that seem to be at the top of the Governor’s potential “No” list:

“If Gov. Pat McCrory goes along with the General Assembly’s partial “disassembly” of state environmental rules – and if North Carolina loses significant ground in the battle against pollution, as likely would be the case – he won’t be able to say he wasn’t warned.

Fourteen of the state’s environmental groups have teamed up with a request that McCrory veto House Bill 74 – which they describe as a ’68-page compilation of special interest handouts.’ The so-called Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate and House in the closing hours of the legislative session that concluded on July 26, with environmental advocates strongly objecting….”

Read Steve’s entire column by clicking here.

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A group of 14 North Carolina environmental advocacy groups submitted a letter to Governor McCrory yesterday in which they urged him to veto two controversial bills advanced by polluters during the waning hours of the recently adjourned legislative session.

The letter describes the two bills as follows:

“House Bill 74 is a sixty-eight-page compilation of special interest handouts, some of which have already caught your attention. As you noted in your press conference on July 26th, the bill weakens standards that protect citizens, communities and gamelands from the impacts of landfills. Additionally, you pointed out that the bill strips local governments of control over the size and types of billboards that can be erected in a community….

[Senate Bill 515] is the third delay of a much-needed and federally required clean up of Jordan Lake. The rules need a chance to bear results. Once implemented, wastewater plant upgrades and better stormwater management will reduce water pollution in Jordan Lake and the rivers and streams that feed into it. Several local governments have already invested a lot of time and money complying in good faith with the Jordan Lake rules, and Senate Bill 515 punishes them for making those investments. In addition, delaying the rules exposes upstream municipalities and developers to legal challenges for failure to adequately protect a resource that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already found to be impaired.”

Click here to read the entire letter as well as new survey results showing that strong public support of most North Carolinians for strong environmental protection laws.