Why stop with the Senate? Robinson should go ahead and declare for President in 2024

The word is out that North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is contemplating a run for the soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat of Republican Richard Burr. This is from a story by Travis Fain of WRAL:

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, one of the more popular Republican politicians in North Carolina, is “seriously considering” a jump into the state’s 2022 U.S. Senate race, a spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.

A second source, a Republican operative in the state, also said Robinson is “seriously considering” the move, that he reached out to other senior elected Republicans about it and that he “has been encouraged to enter.” Both sources asked that their names not be used, but one is a spokesperson for Robinson himself and the other a well-known operative.

Other signs point to his interest as well. A survey of likely GOP primary voters, taken earlier this month, indicates Robinson could be a front-runner in the race, if former President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, stays out.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson

While perhaps a bit surprising given that the sum total of Robinson’s lifetime service in public office now stands at 98 days in a job with no real responsibilities (that’s how long he’s been Lite Guv after a rather bizarre, out-of-nowhere political rise that stemmed from having delivered a pro-gun rant at Greensboro City Council meeting), Robinson is clearly possessed of at least three attributes that are vitally important for politicians in 21st Century America — especially in the Trumpified Republican Party.

First, he has no record of public service or accomplishment in government. Indeed, it’s a little unclear exactly what he did before he ran for office either. His Wikipedia page — for what it’s worth — reports the following about his life prior to running for office:

Robinson was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, as the ninth of ten children.[1] His father was abusive, and he and his siblings lived in foster care for part of their childhood.[2] From 1985 to 1989, he served in the United States Army Reserve.[3] Robinson worked at a furniture factory[3][4] and had begun to study history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.[5]

His own campaign page provides a few more details and presents a somewhat rosier picture.

Either way, this is perfect for a modern politician as, just as the case with Donald Trump in 2016, it give his opponents nothing in the world of government or policy for which to blame him.

Second, Robinson has apparently had his share of financial issues. This is the extent of what Wikipedia says about his personal life:

Robinson and his wife, Yolanda, have two children.[3] They live in High Point, North Carolina.[5] Robinson has filed for bankruptcy on three separate occasions, has been sued for payments, and had liens placed on him by the Internal Revenue Service as recently as 2012. He says that he has straightened out his financial problems.[7]

This too, is perfect. What could be more in keeping with the numerous examples set by Trump than having an extended history of trouble with creditors and repeatedly finding yourself in court over financial disputes? Today’s Republican voters clearly appreciate a candidate who knows how to take care of Number One.

And third and finally, like Trump, Robinson clearly thinks big. After all, who would have thought that a philandering, casino-owning TV barker with no record of public service or accomplishment could leap from the tabloids to the White House in a campaign rooted in a blatant lie about the birthplace of his predecessor?

If Trump could pull that off, who’s to say Robinson can’t follow a similar path to the Senate?

Indeed, given this backdrop, Robinson might as well go ahead and declare for the presidency in 2024 now and run two races at once. After all, has anyone really double-checked where Joe Biden was born?

Washington cleanup continues as Biden administration cans troubled Trump food program

Image: USDA

You’re probably already doing it every morning when you wake up for a dozen reasons, but if you’re looking for another cause to be thankful that Donald Trump has been exiled to his little mini-Xanadu in south Florida, here’s a good one.

As reporter H. Claire Brown reports for The Counter (an up and coming news site for all things related to food and food policy), the Biden administration has dumped another flawed — and quite possibly corrupt — Trump administration scheme to supplant a basic public service with a quasi-private, half-baked program run in part by amateurs.

The program was called the “Farmers to Families Food Box program,” and like a lot of Trump-era schemes, it undoubtedly sounded better when pitched by a salesman in a five-minute meeting with a Trump appointee or family member than it turned out in the real world. The idea was that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would help respond to the pandemic by buying surplus farm food, boxing it up and delivering it to families in need. As Brown reports, however, the program was plagued with problems from the start:

But flaws in the program’s implementation became evident almost immediately: USDA chose inexperienced distributors—including a catering company and a financial services provider now under investigation—to launch the box program. Food pantries soon began complaining that deliveries weren’t arriving, that the produce arrived in poor condition, and that the boxes themselves were falling apart. Some of our earliest reporting found that USDA was paying well above retail price for milk distributed through the program. Many argued that boosting SNAP benefits or providing other forms of direct cash assistance for people in need of food may have been far more efficient than the box deliveries.

Our reporting later revealed bigger problems with the food box program: In the first round of distribution, more than 1,000 counties were left out. Food pantries reported incurring tens of thousands of dollars in extra delivery costs after the program failed to follow through on the agency’s truck to trunk promise. Religious organizations were distributing the boxes with a side of pro-church messaging. And the boxes were really, really expensive: In Puerto Rico, for instance, one distributor was charging USDA $100 per box—a price more than triple what a local farmer said a similar amount of local produce would cost.

In other words, it was the classic Trump scam: a shallow, ill-conceived and poorly executed plan to replace a basic public service — food assistance — with a convoluted replacement plan that would be easy pickings for profiteers and proselytizers.

Brown goes on to report that new Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told a congressional hearing yesterday that “There was a significant difference of administrative costs and in some cases people were [paid] a tremendous amount just to fill the boxes. There was inadequate accounting of where the boxes were actually delivered. There was a lot of food waste and loss that we uncovered as a result of listening sessions.”

None of this, of course, is to say that there weren’t many good and well-meaning people involved with the program or that it didn’t deliver some help to some folks in need. What the failure does remind us, however, is that there are many things our government already does well (and could do a lot more of) if know-it-all politicians and their uninformed lackeys and hangers on just got out of the way and provided adequate funding to the professionals we’ve already hired and trained to provide core public services.

Click here to read Brown’s story.

New report: NC tax policy promotes racial inequities in numerous ways

A new report authored by Alexandra Sirota and Leila Pedersen of the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center analyzes who pays taxes in North Carolina and the ways in which our current tax code directly — and via the investments it supports — impacts Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and white residents.

Its unsurprising conclusion: North Carolina is not measuring up well. This is from the introduction to “State tax policy is not race neutral”:

The COVID-19 crisis has made clear that communities can experience the same events with disparate impacts along the lines of race, ethnicity, and income. Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities and people with low incomes have been hit hard by the virus; these North Carolinians continue to experience higher death rates, more workplace safety risks, higher job losses, and greater income losses.

The health and economic disparities emerging from the pandemic are a cumulative result of inequities and barriers created by policy choices and a history of racism, bias, and discrimination. Policies and public institutions that limit access to education, quality jobs, and intergenerational wealth for communities of color continue to do harm and fuel racial and economic inequities today.

North Carolina’s tax code and budget are wrought with such policy choices, which can result in racist outcome that worsen barriers to well-being for people and communities of color, according to new data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). The greater tax load carried by Black, Indigenous, and Latinx residents has been exacerbated by state tax policy choices made in 2013, which were layered on historic policy choices that set up a tax code structure that already asked for inequitable contributions from taxpayers of color. By analyzing the impact these policy choices have on different racial and ethnic groups, policymakers could gain clearer insight into the choices that are shaping (and harming) our lives and could make policy choices that advance more equitable outcomes.

This report analyzes the outcomes of who pays taxes in North Carolina and the ways in which our current tax code directly — and via the investments it supports — impacts Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and white residents. Each year, the foundation of our policymaking is often whether and how we will raise collective resources to advance our state’s well-being.

Tax policy, when designed with equity in mind, can support racial justice and sustainable economic growth that delivers broad-based benefits to all. The pandemic has made clear that North Carolina lawmakers can and must make intentional and sound policy choices that respond to the systemic causes of COVID-19’s disparities.

Click here to explore the report.

Biden administration spells out exactly what the American Jobs Plan would mean for NC

As part of its ongoing effort to sell its big new national infrastructure plan — “The American Jobs Plan,” the Biden administration has prepared fact sheets on the kind of assistance the proposal would bring to each state. The White House reports that “additional issue-based fact sheets will be released in the coming days and weeks. Fact sheets on how the American Jobs Plan Advances Racial Equity and the American Jobs Plan Supports Rural America have been released in recent weeks.”

Here is the list for North Carolina:

The Need for Action in North Carolina

For decades, infrastructure in North Carolina has suffered from a systemic lack of investment. The need for action is clear: The American Jobs Plan will make a historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure.

  • ROADS AND BRIDGES: In North Carolina there are 1,460 bridges and over 3,116 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 10.7% in North Carolina and on average, each driver pays $500 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair. The American Jobs Plan will devote more than $600 billion to transform our nations’ transportation infrastructure and make it more resilient, including $115 billion repairing roads and bridges.
  • PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: North Carolinians who take public transportation spend an extra 59.9% of their time commuting and non-White households are 3.4 times more likely to commute via public transportation. 15% of trains and other transit vehicles in the state are past useful life. The American Jobs Plan will modernize public transit with an $85 billion investment.
  • RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE: From 2010 to 2020, North Carolina has experienced 42 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $50 billion in damages. The President is calling for $50 billion to improve the resiliency of our infrastructure and support communities’ recovery from disaster.
  • DRINKING WATER: Over the next 20 years, North Carolina’s drinking water infrastructure will require$16.8 billion in additional funding. The American Jobs Plan includes a $111 billion investment to ensure clean, safe drinking water is a right in all communities.
  • HOUSING: In part due to a lack of available and affordable housing, 632,000 renters in North Carolina are rent burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent. The President proposes investing over $200 billion to increase housing supply and address the affordable housing crisis.
  • BROADBAND: 6.5% of North Carolinians live in areas where, by one definition, there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. And 56.3% of North Carolinians live in areas where there is only one such internet provider. Even where infrastructure is available, broadband may be too expensive to be within reach. 14% of North Carolina households do not have an internet subscription. The American Jobs Plan will invest $100 billion to bring universal, reliable, high-speed, and affordable coverage to every family in America.
  • CAREGIVING: Across the country, hundreds of thousands of older adults and people with disabilities are in need of home and community-based services. The President’s plan will invest $400 billion to help more people access care and improve the quality of caregiving jobs.
  • CHILD CARE: In North Carolina, there is an estimated $660 million gap in what schools need to do maintenance and make improvements and 44% of residents live in a childcare desert. The American Jobs Plan will modernize our nation’s schools and early learning facilities and build new ones in neighborhoods across North Carolina and the country.
  • MANUFACTURING: Manufacturers account for more than 18% of total output in North Carolina, employing 473,000 workers, or 10.4% of the state’s workforce. The American Job’s Plan will invest $300 billion to retool and revitalize American manufacturers, including providing incentives for manufacturers to invest in innovative energy projects.
  • HOME ENERGY: In North Carolina, an average low-income family spends 8-1 0% of their income on home energy costs forcing tough choices between paying energy bills and buying food, medicine or other essentials. The American Jobs Plan will upgrade low-income homes to make them more energy efficient through a historic investment in the Weatherization Assistance Program, a new Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to finance building improvements, and expanded tax credits to support home energy upgrades.
  • CLEAN ENERGY JOBS: As of 2019, there were 112,720 North Carolinians working in clean energy, and the American Jobs Plan invests in creating more good paying union jobs advancing clean energy production by extending and expanding tax credits for clean energy generation, carbon capture and sequestration and clean energy manufacturing.
  • VETERANS HEALTH: North Carolina is home to over 700,000 veterans, 11.3% of whom are women and 41.7% of whom are over the age of 65. The President is calling for $18 billion to improve the infrastructure of VA health care facilities to ensure the delivery of world-class, state of the art care to veterans enrolled in the VA health care system. This includes improvements to ensure appropriate care for women and older veterans.

The big companies funding the legislature’s latest attack on transgender rights

Much of modern corporate America is expressing support these days for the causes of human rights and LGBTQ equality, but as journalists Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria point out in a new post at the website Popular Information this morning, some of the politicians they fund — especially here in North Carolina — are not.

This is from “These rainbow flag-waving corporations are backing the sponsors of anti-trans legislation”:

Seven members of the North Carolina Senate have introduced draconian anti-trans legislation targeting children, adults, and medical professionals. An investigation by Popular Information reveals that these legislators have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations that purport to be champions of LGBTQ rights and equality.

After explaining the ways in which Senate Bill 514 would:

  • ban anyone under the age of 21 from receiving gender-affirming treatment, including reversible hormone therapy,
  • impose fines on medical professionals who provide gender-affirming treatment to anyone under the age of 21, and
  • require government employees, including teachers, to report children who demonstrate “gender nonconformity” to their parents, and
  • protect the practice of “conversion” therapy,

Legum and Zekeria explain that the sponsors of the bill have received big campaign contributions from supposedly progressive-minded corporations.

Duke Energy, for instance likes to tout itself as pro-LGBTQ rights, but it’s a big giver to the senators behind SB 514:

A Popular Information investigation, however, reveals that Duke Energy has donated $75,200 to the sponsors of S514 over the last three years. That makes Duke Energy the top corporate donor to the politicians pushing this anti-trans measure.

Duke Energy has donated $16,800 to Senator Ralph Hise (R), who authored S514, including $10,800 last year. Hise also vocally supported North Carolina’s notorious “bathroom bill,” which prohibited trans people from using the bathroom that matched their gender identity, in 2016. Hise voted against the successful repeal of HB2 the following year.

The same in true for Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC:

Blue Cross NC is also a top corporate donor to the sponsors of S514, donating $35,900 to the group since 2018. The company donated $9,400 to North Carolina Senator Joyce Krawiec (R), who has repeatedly shared anti-trans articles on Twitter, including one that claims the “transgender movement has strong totalitarian overtones that Americans don’t fully understand.”

The bill not only conflicts with Blue Cross NC’s corporate messaging but also its stated views on hormone therapy as essential medical care. Blue Cross NC considers hormone therapy “medically necessary” for adults and children under 18 under certain conditions.

And the list goes on. According to Legum and Zekeria, their research identified 36 major corporate donors to the sponsors of the legislation, including Atrium Health, Cigna, and the law firm McGuire Woods.

One fervently hopes that the publicity will cause these powerful entities to help deep six this dreadful legislation ASAP.

Click here to read the entire article and see the list.