Health careThere are lots of obvious ways in which conservative ideologues are rolling back decades of progress in North Carolina. From taxes to guns, clean water to abortion rights, school privatization to voting rights, Medicaid expansion to predatory loans, the list of high-profile issues is a long one.

What’s more, it is not exhaustive. A lot of the damage is taking place largely under the radar as free market fundamentalists work in scores of unsexy nooks and crannies to lift up the god of unfettered casino capitalism and eradicate common good rules and regulations that curb greed and serve the public interest.

A very helpful op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer shines a light on a classic example of how right-wing nerds of ruining our state in an obscure but important area. The subject is so-called “Certificate of Need” laws or “CON.” For decades, CON laws have helped assure that major health care resources like hospitals and surgery centers are at least somewhat fairly distributed throughout the state and not just clustered in high wealth and highly populated communities.

Unfortunately, repeal of CON laws has been something close to an obsession amongst the groups in the Art Pope empire for many years. The drumbeat to repeal has now gotten so loud that lawmakers are seriously considering action in this area.

As the op-ed in the N&O this morning by  Roanoke Rapids hospital CEO William Mahone (“Why Certificate of Need laws are important to NC health care”) makes clear, however, repeal of CON laws would be a disaster for most folks not living amongst the state’s “haves.”

As Mahone, notes, the notion of “deregulating” an industry in which federal government reimbursements already account for two-thirds of hospital patients is just silly. All the repeal of CON laws will do is to effect a shift of resources away from community-based hospitals to free-standing specialty centers located in or on the fringes of affluent urban communities. This is from the op-ed: Read More


As noted below in Lunch Links, Robert Reich is everywhere these days with the release of his new movie, Inequality for All. If you’d like to read the gist of his message in a succinct column, check out this new essay from his website:

The Myth of the Free Market and How to Make the Economy Work for Us

By Robert Reich

One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the Right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the “free market” is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government. So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity — to make the economy work for us — are unwarranted constraints on the market’s freedom, and will inevitably go wrong. 

By this view, if some people aren’t paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren’t worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they’ll earn next month or next week, that’s too bad; it’s just the outcome of the market.

According to this logic, government shouldn’t intrude through minimum wages, high taxes on top earners, public spending to get people back to work, regulations on business, or anything else, because the “free market” knows best.

In reality, Read More


Dean Baker has a great little myth-buster post up this morning in which he takes  the WaPo’s E.J. Dionne to task for his “loser-liberalism.” As Baker notes, liberals buy in much too readily to conservative spin about right and left attittudes toward government regulation and “free markets.” Read More