Commentary

Editorial rightfully blasts GOP’s “erratic,” “silly” behavior in 9th District controversy

Dallas Woodhouse

Robin Hayes

Be sure to check out this morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com — “Playground antics don’t help resolve real worries about election conduct.” The essay rightfully takes GOP bosses Dallas Woodhouse and Robin Hayes to task for their bizarre and irresponsible behavior regarding the flawed election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

The only adjective that the essay probably should have used to characterize the wacky Woodhouse/Hayes show is “Trumpian,” because most of what the pair has been saying makes about as much sense as a Trump tweet storm. Here are some on-the-mark excerpts:

The performances of North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes and the party’s Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse – amid efforts by Gov. Roy Cooper to keep state regulation of elections up and running – might easily be confused with behavior on a bad day at a pre-school child care center.

Their confrontational comments and inappropriate comportment came as a recent court order put the status of the State Board of Elections in limbo as it works to fairly and diligently handle the disputed election in the Ninth Congressional District. Hayes and Woodhouse don’t want an adult resolution. They want a schoolyard bully’s victory….

Their behavior has been erratic. In less than a month, they and other GOP leaders have: Demanded the Republican candidate Mark Harris be declared the winner; Supported a delay in certification of a winner pending a full investigation; Said the alleged improper activity tainted the Republican primary so there needed to be a full do-over and; Now, again, demanding Harris be certified the election winner.

In a silly statement Hayes said if he didn’t get his way he wouldn’t play, refusing to allow ANY Republican to take part in the interim Elections Board Democrat Cooper was forming. He took to playground name-calling.

After reminding readers of the seriousness of the allegations in the 9th District, the editorial concludes this way:

Republican leaders are emerging as a distractive sideshow to the very serious business of elections and governing. It isn’t entertaining.

It is past time for the state’s Republicans to shut down their not-ready-for-prime-time reality show. Stop the stonewalling. Stop the bullying. Join in building a North Carolina that welcomes a variety of voices and serves EVERYONE regardless of ideology or political affiliation.

Commentary, News

Minimum wage increases take effect in 21 states, but not NC

In case you missed it yesterday, reporter Richard Craver had a story in the Winston-Salem Journal about North Carolina’s increasingly obsolete minimum wage law. As Craver explains, numerous states raised their minimum wage yesterday, but not North Carolina, where stubborn right-wing ideologues at the General Assembly continue to say no.

Workers in 11 blue, five purple and five red states will receive a raise today by virtue of a state- or voter-mandated increase in their respective minimum hourly wages.

For the 10th consecutive year, North Carolina minimum-wage workers will not join them.

They remain at the federally mandated $7.25 an hour set in 2009, along with workers in 16 other states. Workers in the remaining states did not see an increase today, but were already above the federal minimum wage.

After explaining that about 8,000 state government workers recently saw a significant jump in their minimum wage to $15 per hour due to the action of the General Assembly, Craver explains that many more workers in the private sector are being left behind:

The 38,000 federal minimum wage workers in North Carolina are among 700,000 nationwide, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A full-time N.C. minimum-wage worker earns $15,080 per year — $1,000 less than the federal poverty level for 2016 for a family of one adult and one child.

An additional 52,000 North Carolinians make less than $7.25 because they work in the restaurant sector, where their compensation is often based more on customer tips.

Craver’s article goes on, frustratingly, to feature predictable quotes from a John Locke Foundation spokesperson that raising the minimum wage here will somehow harm the state’s “competitiveness.” (It should be noted that the Locke people have repeatedly argued down through the years that there should be no minimum wage law at all.)

Meanwhile, however, out in the real world, evidence continues to mount that the benefits of a higher wage outweigh any drawbacks. As CNN reported last fall:

Seattle has served as a national guinea pig for the policy since 2014, when its voted to gradually raise its minimum wage from $9.47 to $15.45 for large employers this year and $16 in 2019. The latest research, released Monday, shows that workers made more money despite getting fewer hours — but that experienced workers made out the best.

The study, conducted by economists at the University of Washington using state unemployment insurance data, found that the increase added about $10 per week on average to the earnings of low-income workers through 2016, even while reducing weekly hours slightly. But more experienced workers made $19 more per week, the research found, partly by making up for lost hours in Seattle at second jobs worked outside city limits.

In addition, employee turnover decreased, which the authors believe suggests that employers tried harder to retain their most productive staff members as wages went up. That’s a plus for existing workers, but potentially an obstacle for inexperienced or new workers trying to get that first line on their resume.

Indeed, the study showed that fewer new workers entered Seattle’s low-wage labor market compared to the rest of Washington. “Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance appears to have delivered higher pay to experienced workers at the cost of reduced opportunity for the inexperienced,” the study’s authors wrote.

Commentary, News

A look back at some of the stories that mattered in 2018

In case you missed them, be sure to check out the following Policy Watch news stories from 2018:

And here were some of our top radio interviews of 2018:

And, of course, no year-end review would be complete without highlighting some of the best editorial cartoons from the incomparable John Cole:

Happy New Year, y’all!

Commentary

Editorial calls for independent investigation of 9th Congressional District.

In case you missed it yesterday, a Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com argued persuasively that it’s time for Gov. Cooper and Attorney General Stein to launch a new and independent investigation into the electoral malfeasance in 9th Congressional District. This is the conclusion from the editorial:

The silence has been deafening from federal prosecutors. While the current U.S. Attorney Bobby Higdon has boasted of indicting 19 non-U.S. citizens with illegal voting in the state, there has been NO WORD on what if anything was done in response to [elections official Kim] Strach’s two-year-old plea….

Why didn’t state elections officials and these prosecutors, knowing there was REAL potential for election troubles, issue warnings to local elections officials? Why didn’t they make it a special point of highly visible emphasis to instruct local elections boards on proper handling of absentee ballots?

If merely a fraction of the energy that’s been put into the less-than-necessary-but-nice voter ID distraction, was directed to assuring absentee ballots were properly handled, North Carolina might have been able to certify the ONLY congressional election in the nation that remains unresolved.

This is no small matter. It should not wait until state or federal prosecutors get around to completing work on an investigation.

It would be nice if we could count on, and trust the General Assembly to look into this matter. But legislative leaders are more motivated to gain partisan advantage than assuring every eligible voter can vote, voting is not manipulated or abused, and all votes are fairly counted.

Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein need to bring together an independent, non-partisan panel to look into why there was no action to investigate the voting irregularities in Bladen and other southeastern North Carolina counties, identify REAL problems with current voting procedures and recommend common sense solutions to make sure our elections are clean and fair.

Commentary

The Faces of Poverty – a special interview with UNC Law Professor Gene Nichol

As we wind down the year, we look back at some of the newsmakers of 2018 who have lifted their voice to build a better North Carolina. Earlier this month, we were honored to sit down with Gene Nichol for an extended interview in which we discussed his new book; “The Faces of Poverty: Stories From Our Invisible Citizens”

Click below to hear the full podcast that aired last week on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Rob Schofield:

Nichol is Boyd Tinsley distinguished professor at the University of North Carolina. He was director of the UNC Poverty Center (2008-2015). Since 2015, his research has been supported by the N.C. Poverty Research Fund.