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Moore_15cRaleigh’s News & Observer ran a big profile of House Speaker Tim Moore over the weekend in which it highlighted the fact that Moore’s tenure has not quite matched the hard right ideological fervor of his predecessor, Thom Tillis, or the current leadership of the state Senate. At times, he’s even worked with Democrats to help pass some measures, including the budget and the recent state bond package. In addition, he’s made somewhat less use of the abusive tactics favored by Tillis for shutting down debate and occasionally has raised the ire of some fire-breathers on the far right.

Before observers get too carried away with this portrayal, however, it’s important to note that it says a lot more about how bizarrely extreme the modern right wing has become than it does about any significant moderation by Moore. By any fair assessment, Moore’s politics remain far to the right of Ronald Reagan. Consider the following items and issues on which Moore has adhered to or advanced a downright reactionary agenda:

Medicaid expansion:  On the single most important issue before state government — a policy change already enacted by Republicans all over the country that could save thousands of lives and lift up the state economy — Moore continues to do nothing.

Public education: Moore continues to help advance the Right’s pro-voucher, pro-charters privatization agenda and has done little-to-nothing to repair the damage inflicted on K-12 funding in recent years.

Environmental protection: Under Moore’s leadership, the list of proposals to gut environmental protection just keep on coming.

Taxes: Though he has not yet completely embraced the Senate’s extreme efforts to mimic the suicidal policies of states like Kansas, Moore continues to support additional tax cuts for corporations even as the state struggles to meet its most basic needs. He’s also done nothing to repair the damage caused by the  destructive 2013 tax cuts or to reinstate the critically important Earned Income Tax Credit.

LGBT equality, reproductive rights, the death penalty, guns: And, of course, Moore has promoted the far right “social agenda” on each of these issues in 2015, including: the discriminatory “religious freedom” law for magistrates and registers of deeds, the bill to up the state’s absurd  abortion waiting period, the bill to keep death penalty drugs shrouded in secrecy and the bill to introduce concealed weapons into even more venues.

The confederate flag: Moore has done nothing to end the state’s embarrassing display of the rebel flag on license plates and has made it harder to remove confederate memorials.

The bottom line: Speaker Moore may be an affable guy who takes it a tiny bit slower than some when it comes to the most extreme components of the far right agenda, but in a world in which much of the modern American Right backs Donald Trump for President and openly consorts with groups and individuals that favor “nullification” of federal laws, this should not be confused with “moderation.” On issue after issue, Moore continues push North Carolina dramatically and rapidly backwards.

Commentary

Columnist Myron B. Pitts of the Fayetteville Observer has an excellent, if sobering, essay this morning about the North Carolina General Assembly. It’s entitled “State’s decisions, from bad to abysmal” and it attempts to rank the worst decisions made by North Carolina lawmakers over the past half decade. Admittedly, Pitts has carved out a daunting task for himself, but see if you agree with his list, which starts with the awful 2013 tax changes and runs through the death-promoting decision to deny health insurance to hundreds of thousands of people.

NOTE: As the General Assembly is still in session, the list may well have to be updated in the coming weeks. Stay tuned and feel free to offer your additions.

Click here to read Pitts’ list.

Commentary

Editorial pages across the state are calling on state lawmakers (and, in particular, the state Senate) to end the absurd delay in the FY 2016 budget that is already more than a month overdue.

Sunday’s Greensboro News & Record says it’s clear that lawmakers should adopt the House version of the budget:

“It’s been a decade since the legislature went so late into the summer before agreeing on a budget, and there’s no end in sight. Every day adds to the cost of keeping the General Assembly operating. Unlike in some states, North Carolina’s legislature doesn’t put any limits on how long it can stay in session. It should. But it also should simplify the budget process by excluding everything that isn’t actually necessary.

At 500 pages, the Senate’s proposed budget is 200 pages longer than the House plan. Yet the House managed to fund every state agency in its modest 300 pages. The House budget was approved by a strong bipartisan vote. Senate budget writers added too many measures that should have been handled in separate legislation. Only Republicans voted for the Senate budget. A concurrence vote in the House failed unanimously. Clearly, the House blueprint is more broadly appealing, and Senate negotiators could move things along if they would simply adopt the House version.”

This comes on top of similar calls last week from Raleigh’s News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer to end the posturing get on with things. Here’s the N&O:

The delay isn’t just a problem of political dysfunction. It has serious consequences for funding public education, and there’s nervousness among school administrators about how long the impasse will continue.

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Commentary

The indictments of the often-predatory for-profit college industry continue to pile up. This is from a new article by Prof. Stephanie Cellini for the Brooking Institution in which she argues that public community colleges are regularly a much better bet for students:

“Some back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that for-profit associate’s degree students need at least an 8.5 percent annual earnings gain to cover the cost of tuition, foregone earnings, and debt service at a typical for-profit college. Our estimates fall short of this threshold, suggesting that for the average student, the earnings gains are too low to justify the cost and generate a positive return on investment. It also suggests that many students may not have full or accurate information on the earnings gains that they can expect post-college.

How do these estimates compare to the social costs of a for-profit education?  Adding in costs to taxpayers in the form of federal student grant aid, loan defaults, and other sources of federal funding would require a 9.8 percent earnings gain to cover the cost to the individual and society. In the public sector, despite higher taxpayer costs, the much lower costs to students means that  only a 7.2 percent annual gain is needed to cover the combined private and social costs—a figure well below current earnings gains estimates in that sector. These figures again suggest that—on average—public institutions may be a better deal for students and taxpayers.”

Of course, as Lindsay Wagner reported recently, lousy performance is far from the only common problem when one patronizes the for-profit college industry. There’s also the risk of blatant, predatory rip-offs.

Commentary

Jerry TillmanSenator Jerry Tillman and the rest of the General Assembly are on vacation this week even though they have not finished their most important task of the summer, passing a state budget for the next two years.

The delay is causing problems for school districts across the state as local education officials don’t know how many teacher assistants they can afford to hire or how many textbooks they will  have money to order.

This morning’s News & Observer detailed the uncertainty for year-round schools in Wake County, the state’s largest district, that has the budget flexibility to handle the funding limbo for a while.

It is much tougher for smaller districts that always have to scramble to make sure they have enough staff on hand when most students return to school in August.

This year’s legislative vacation and budget delay makes their job next to impossible. Tillman doesn’t seem too worried about not meeting the budget deadline or what schools are facing.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican, said the lead time to hire for the start of the school year depends on when legislators have a budget deal. The General Assembly approved a temporary state budget last week to keep the state running until Aug. 14.

“It could be two months, it could be two weeks,” he said.

School leaders in Wake and other districts have questioned finding the space to handle the lower class sizes proposed by the Senate. More teachers and lower class sizes may require some “creative scheduling” by districts, or “creative use of space,” Tillman said. “Most of them can handle it.”

Two weeks, two months, whatever. School officials will have to guess about their budgets and hire teachers or teacher assistants to teach kids…or not.
Tillman’s not going to lose any sleep over it. It’s only public education after all.