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Road crewsThere was a great cartoon in the New Yorker magazine a couple of years back in which a man whose house is on fire stands next to it with a bucket in his hand, waving away arriving firefighters and saying “No thanks–I’m a libertarian.” As North Carolina endures another major winter storm today and tomorrow, it’ll be interesting to see how many conservative, anti-government Tea Partiers have such a thing to say about the public services and structures that will save lives, bind our society together and expedite recovery.

The guess here is the number will be very small. When it comes to natural disasters, even the far right seems to forget its hate of government and all things public — if only temporarily. For some reason, all of the “government = slavery” talk and rants about monstrous commie plots seems to go by the wayside when roads need to be plowed and basic safety and utilities need to be delivered or made possible. Who wants to listen to Limbaugh when there’s a big snowstorm blowing?

While it would be tempting, however, to attack and deride anti-government folks for their hypocrisy at such a moment, we would all do better over the coming days to simply welcome them back into the communal fold. So hang in there, stay warm and keep an eye on your neighbors — whatever their political beliefs. Maybe just maybe, the experience of coming together during a crisis will even remind a few  of our conservative fellow citizens that society fares much better when it hangs together on warm and sunny days too.

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Tired of incessant delays during their flights home caused by the furlough of FAA air controllers, Congress voted last night and this morning to find the money to end the furloughs. About time.

Of course, the controller cuts have been far from the only stupid and counter-productive cuts brought on by that ultimate of inside-the-Beltway ideas/terms: “sequestration.”

Think Progress  has 12 more that you can read by clicking here.

Meanwhile, in a related vein, it seems worth noting that this morning’s editorial cartoon by Dana Summers of Tribune Media Services that appeared in the print edition of Raleigh’s News & Obsever  (you can look at it by clicking here)  is a classic example of what happens when ill-informed people rely on inaccurate and offensive stereotypes as the basis for their “opinions.” Thanks goodness our safety isn’t in the hands of intellectually lazy knuckleheads like Mr. Summers.

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In Kansas, tax reform isn’t exactly playing out the way some lawmakers had hoped.  The state that Grover Norquist once called “the starter gun for tax competition” has passed a series of income tax cuts over the past year with the stated goal of eventually eliminating income taxes altogether in the near future.  This “race to zero” is well underway in several states with conservative governors and legislatures.  Here’s a quick look at how that’s working out so far for Kansas:

A $2.5B budget shortfall

The Kansas Legislative Research Department is projecting a $2.5 billion revenue hole through 2018 because the legislature has yet to figure out an effective way to replace lost revenues as a result of the income tax cuts.

A threatened credit rating

Last month, a state court ruled that the Kansas legislature was breaking the law by underfunding public schools as a result of the income tax cuts, which prompted Moody’s Investors Service to warn of a negative credit risk for the state.

Less funding for public services

Concerns over the state’s credit rating aren’t the only thing that should give Kansans pause.  By starving public schools and other services critical to economic success, the state is jeopardizing future growth. Read More

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Some people took offense at yesterday’s attempt at satire regarding the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In response to which all a body can say is: Would that they had taken offense to the real world actions of the North Carolina General Assembly on the subject of destructive Atlantic Ocean phenomena!

And speaking of the policy implications of the disastrous weather of recent days, this morning’s Weekly Briefing (“Who ya’ gonna’ call?”)  uses Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath as a means of raising the subject of our societal investment in public structures and systems and providing a reminder of how absolutely essential they are for the well-being of our economy and society generally.

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The Winston-Salem Journal posted an editorial this morning that follows up on an encouraging story in Raleigh’s News & Observer over the weekend about juvenile crime.

As the Journal notes in describing the state’s successful move away from the “lock ‘em up” approach favored in years gone by:

“The change took children out of prison-like environments and put them into therapeutic centers with educational opportunities and counseling on how to handle the problems that life throws at us. In short, we stopped being hell-bent on punishing youth, first and foremost, an approach that often simply turned rookie criminals into more efficient criminals. In its place, the state implemented a rescue plan, a program by that concentrated on the potential next generation of adult criminals. State services were used to intervene, rescuing these children before they were lost for good.”

Put simply, state officials have begun to move in the direction of constructing a service system that pays attention. Read More