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McCrory cartoonGov. Pat McCrory took a rather startling and troubling position the other day when he spoke at the behest of a tobacco lobbyist against efforts in France and Ireland to further restrict cigarette packaging to promote public health.

Apparently, kowtowing to the hometown industry is more important than protecting the lives and well-being of a bunch of anonymous furreners.

Having established the precedent, however, maybe the Guv could follow up by doing the industry’s bidding on another matter impacting the health and well-being of kids he’ll never meet — farmworker children.

As it turns out, the tobacco industry has — at least publicly — endorsed a policy change that would, once and for all, end the scandal of child labor in American tobacco fields. As Associated Press reported today:

Two years after the Obama administration backed off a rule that would have banned children from dangerous agriculture jobs, public health advocates and lawmakers are trying anew to get kids off tobacco farms.

The new efforts were jumpstarted by a Human Rights Watch report in May that said nearly three-quarters of the children interviewed by the group reported vomiting, nausea and headaches while working on tobacco farms. Those symptoms are consistent with nicotine poisoning, often called Green Tobacco Sickness, which occurs when workers absorb nicotine through their skin while handling tobacco plants.

The article goes on to say that:
Philip Morris International, which limits the type of work children can do on tobacco farms, says it would like to see stronger U.S. regulations in this area.
Whatta’ ya’ say Guv? As long as you’re gonna’ be in the pocket of big tobacco, how about staying there when it would actually support a good cause?
Commentary

State Fair cartoonAs has been reported in several places, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens upheld the common sense ban on hidden, loaded handguns at the State Fair yesterday. According to Judge Stephens:

“It would be unwise and imprudent to allow firearms into the State Fair.”

Amen to that. Stephens ruling makes eminent sense for a variety of reasons — the risk of accidents on rides, the enormous, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds on the Midway and the already more-than-adequate presence of law enforcement officials, just to name three.

The decision also figures to be popular with the public. When I went on the conservative Bill LuMaye radio show last Friday to discuss the issue, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that most callers — even self-described concealed carry licensees — thought the Fair an inappropriate venue for firearms.

One thing that the controversy does point out however is this: the law cited by the gun advocates in their lawsuit IS vague. That it even exists in its present form is a testament to the recklessness of the General Assembly and Gov. McCrory in approving it.

Let’s hope that in 2015, legislative leaders and the Guv own up to their mistake in approving the legislation and call for an amendment to specifically ban all hidden weapons at the Fair and other similar venues.

Commentary

The lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer this morning rightfully laments the fact that North Carolina’s economic recovery appears to be petering out while other states rebound more quickly.

In the end, however, there’s no mystery. The persistence of unemployment points to how badly the job market deteriorated and how tax cuts and spending cuts do little to restore it. North Carolina has cut taxes in a way that disproportionally benefits higher earners while expanding taxes or removing exemptions that helped middle-income and low-income earners and retirees. Tax breaks for the wealthy tend to go into savings while a tax break for lower income earners would have gone directly into the economy.

North Carolina’s cuts in state funding for education have an outsized impact on the economy. Unlike many states where local governments bear most of the cost of schools, North Carolina funds education primarily from the state level. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicaid has cost the state’s economy billions of dollars in federal funds and reduced or blunted employment by hospitals.

There’s not much state government can do to escape the influence of the national economy. But states can do more to soften the effects of a national recession and speed the effects of a recovery. North Carolina should spend aggressively on education, participate fully in the Affordable Care Act and focus tax breaks lower down the income scale.

That’s not being done, and the economic pain is being extended.

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Charlotte Observer offers a glimmer of hope on this front in the form of additional confirmation from the McCrory administration that it has finally recognized one of its biggest blunders when it comes to pumping dollars into the state’s economy — the failure to expand Medicaid:

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Commentary
DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

Multiple newspapers have called for North Carolina’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos to resign or be fired during her first 20 months in office. Now, one of the first to speak out has done so again.

One year ago this week, the Henderson Daily Dispatch said the following:

Aldona Wos must immediately resign her position as the secretary of our state’s Department of Health and Human Services. If she does not, Gov. Pat McCrory has to make the decision for her.

Now, this week, after indulging in some amusing sports analogies, the paper renewed its plea/demand:

Wos’ department isn’t having a one-time issue. It has been a train wreck from the beginning.

She’s made bad hires that cost taxpayers in payouts against potential claims, put personnel in positions for which they are not prepared and awarded quarter-million dollar consulting work to her husband’s firm….

Taxpayers are bleeding from horrific mismanagement. Wos would have been long gone in any business other than politics. North Carolinians deserve better.

Hat tip: Logan Smith at Progress NC

Commentary

Charlotte light rail.jpgThere are too many details to be fleshed out and examined to provide a definitive assessment of Governor McCrory’s new proposed state transportation plan that he unveiled yesterday.  For instance, the summary talks about expanding mass transit and building new light rail — both encouraging signs — but it’s too early to say whether these ideas are just polite nods in that direction or real signals of an intention to move away from paving the entire state, one new interstate lane at a time.

One thing that can be said for certain at first blush however is this: It’s encouraging to see the Governor talking optimistically about public investments for the common good. After almost nothing but right-wing bluster about slashing public structures (and the spending that supports them) in education, health care, environmental protection and several other important areas, it’s nice to hear the McCrroy administration at least admitting that public institutions and new investments have an important role to play in the state’s future.

Of course, the idea of investing in roads has always been the one area in which most conservatives have made an exception to their rules about the supposed evils of government.  So, it seems quite possible that the new DOT plan could just be a brief interlude in the ongoing assault on all things public. We’ll know more in the days ahead as the plan gets spelled out in more detail, but until then, we’ll try to maintain a little hope that, with the General Assembly out of town and Art Pope out of the budget office, McCrory has, at least temporarily, morphed back into his civic-boosting mayoral persona of old.