Commentary, News

New poll: Pro-gun control politicians should not be afraid to speak up

Finally, at long last, American public opinion is really catching on to the need for stronger gun safety laws and politicians should stop being afraid to voice a similar sentiment. That’s the finding of a new poll as reported by Washington journalist Nathan Gonzales in the political newsletter, Roll Call.

This is from a new story posted this morning entitled “Democratic Candidates Should Be Bolder on Gun Control, Poll Finds: ‘The center has shifted on this issue,’ gun control advocate says” that examines a new poll conducted in June on the effectiveness of various gun safety messages:

“I’m normally reluctant to write about issue polls because they often fail to put into context how voters prioritize that particular issue when they are making an electoral decision. For example, people have opinions on the environment, but it’s not often a top issue when they vote.

But this poll is a little different.

It modeled three different base Democratic messages against a standard conservative message. The first base message talked about the economy, education and health care. The second base message included those same issues along with a ‘moderate’ gun message, including protecting the Second Amendment and universal background checks, and ‘keeping guns out of dangerous hands.’ The third base message included the same initial issues along with a more progressive gun message that combined a commitment to an assault weapons ban with a call for fewer guns and making them harder to get.

The first option prevailed over a conservative candidate message by 13 points, 50 percent to 37 percent. The second message won by a wider 17-point margin. The third message, which included the more progressive position on guns, triumphed by the widest margin, 22 points. None of the ballot tests included party affiliation for the candidates.

The sample makeup was 47 percent Democrats, 38 percent Republicans, and 15 percent independents. But the bigger takeaway is who was influenced.

The third message resonated particularly among women, who preferred it by more than 20 points compared to the other two. More specifically, the stronger gun language did much better among Democratic and independent women….

While the third message was the least popular of the three among men, the second message was still more compelling than one with no mention of guns.

Slicing the respondents a different way, liberal and progressive Democrats supported all three of the messages similarly. But there was a significant uptick among moderate to conservative Democrats for the third message compared to the first two messages, seemingly defying conventional wisdom.”

The bottom line: Voters — particularly women — are tired of pussyfooting around on the gun control issue. Politicians ought to pay attention.

Commentary, Trump Administration

Blue Cross’ 2019 premiums would be 18 percent lower if not for ACA sabotage

For the first time in 25 years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is seeking to lower its premiums for individual health insurance coverage. Yesterday the company announced that it filed a request with state regulators for an average rate reduction of 4.1 percent across all health insurance plans that it will offer on the individual market in 2019.

While this is surely good news—especially for the small fraction of North Carolina enrollees who pay full price because they do not qualify for premium subsidies—it could have been much better news. Instead of seeking a 4.1 percent decrease, the company could have reduced rates by 22.1 percent if it weren’t for the political attacks on health care that have taken place in the past year.

After Congress failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the summer of 2017, the Trump administration abruptly cut off payments that reimburse insurers for providing Cost-Sharing Reduction subsidies to enrollees with low incomes, causing Blue Cross to raise its 2018 rates on North Carolinians by 14.1 percent to make up for the losses. In today’s announcement, Blue Cross notes that if those payments were still in place, “requested rates would be another 14 percent lower” in 2019. Premiums would have been an additional four percent lower if Congress hadn’t eliminated the individual mandate penalty as part of its massive tax break handout to corporate American and the wealthy in December.

While ACA sabotage has been Trump’s major health care policy approach, opponents of the ACA have long deliberately undermined the law and hurt the millions who benefit from it since before the days of Trump. In the early years of implementation, Congress defunded a program designed to stabilize the markets, leading to premium spikes and an exodus by insurers from the exchanges.

The North Carolina General Assembly has also embodied this “politics over people” health policy agenda, as they have rejected Medicaid expansion since 2013, leaving billions of federal dollars on the table that would help the state cover over 600,000 North Carolinians. Not only does that leave hundreds of thousands of our neighbors uninsured, but it also costs more for people who are insured with private coverage. In states that expanded Medicaid, private insurance premiums are lower by seven percent on average. This ongoing act of health care sabotage hurts all of us.

So, yes, Blue Cross’ rate reduction is good news, but that 4.1 percent decrease could have been a 22.1 percent decrease. Imagine how much more progress we could make if our state and federal lawmakers committed to improving health care for people instead of playing into politics.

Commentary

Call goes out for comments on Census citizenship question

Be sure to check out a great essay that appeared in The Nation recently by former Obama administration official Vanita Gupta, who now leads the Leadership Conference Education Fund. In “Say No to a Citizenship Question on the 2020 Census,” Gupta explains why all Americans should be commenting by next Tuesday’s deadline on the Trump administration’s proposed citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census.

“The Commerce Department is soliciting public comments on the 2020 Census to help evaluate the quality of information the questionnaire will collect. That means all of us can speak directly to the Trump administration about the critical need for a fair and accurate census. Here’s why that is so important.

The United States Constitution requires a count of every person in the country every 10 years. This is an enormously important undertaking. At stake in 2020 is fair political representation at every level of government and the distribution of more than $800 billion a year in federal funds that state and local leaders use to provide public goods like health care, education, housing, and economic development.

There’s only one chance in a decade to get the Census right. And because so much rides on an accurate count, protecting the integrity of the Census has traditionally been a nonpartisan commitment. Not anymore. The Census has become the latest front in the Trump administration’s ongoing war on justice, fairness, and the rule of law in America.

This spring, after the Census Bureau spent nearly a decade carefully preparing and testing questions to be included on the 2020 questionnaire, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross caved to political pressure from Jeff Sessions’s Department of Justice. Overriding the Census Bureau’s nonpartisan experts, Ross directed the bureau to include a question on citizenship status in the Census form, without any time to test its wording or potential impact on people’s willingness to complete the questionnaire.”

Gupta goes onto explain that documents recently released as part of lawsuit show that the citizenship question is the result, not surprisingly, of internal Trump administration pressures from anti-immigrant hardliners.

As she notes further, if the question is included, it’s sure to depress Census participation and response rates and thereby lead to a serious undercount that will hurt scores of communities. Fortunately, it’s not too late to sop the question. Here’s Gupta’s conclusion:

“Here’s where we, the people, come in: by flooding the Commerce Department with our comments. Do you want to preserve the integrity of the count? Make your voice heard. Do you want to ensure your neighborhood schools, hospitals, and parks are fully funded? Make your voice heard. Are you tired of the administration scapegoating immigrants and refugees? Make your voice heard. The Commerce Department’s comment period runs until August 7, and you can act now by going here.

Let us all defend the integrity of the 2020 Census and the Constitution. Lend your voice, so no one gets left behind.”

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: Will NC become “a parliamentary state”?

Between numerous letters to the editor and opinion pieces of various columnists and contributors, the editorial pages of North Carolina’s major news dailies have been overflowing with angry takedowns of the General Assembly’s latest outrageous power grabs. One of the best editorials on the subject appeared yesterday in the Wilmington Star News. This is from “Republicans in legislature passed law, now ignore it”:

“In case you haven’t noticed, the Republican faction running North Carolina’s legislature doesn’t play well with others. If the game isn’t going their way, they’re likely to flip the board over and try to change the rules.

Case in point: The brouhaha over state constitutional amendments on the November ballot.

The GOP leadership is still very, very disappointed in the voters for electing as governor a known Democrat, Roy Cooper, back in 2016. Not that it matters much; with veto-proof majorities in both houses — thanks to creative redistricting — the Republicans routinely ignore Cooper by overriding his vetoes.

But he does rile them a bit. So the Republicans came up with a package of amendments, basically to turn the governor into a figurehead and North Carolina into a parliamentary state.”

After outlining the amendments, the editorial goes on to blast the legislature’s effort of recent days to seize control of writing the amendment captions for the November ballot:

“Of course, no one should be surprised that Berger, Moore and Co. changed the rules mid-game — again, a rule that apparently was hunky-dory two years earlier. The GOP leadership at the legislature is growing more and more flagrant. The bosses obviously figure that with President Trump’s picks occupying seats, the U.S. Supreme Court will throw out constitutional objections to their not-so-subtle gerrymandering. Thus, they can run North Carolina through all eternity and get away with whatever they like.

Which makes this fall’s election all the more vital. It could well be the last time all North Carolina voters have a chance to make a real difference in state politics.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

DPI insider: Superintendent Mark Johnson’s new reorganization scheme is a “joke,” “travesty,”

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson

The blog post to which it is attached (“About That ReOrg at DPI And What The Hell Is a Deputy Superintendent of Innovation?” by public schoolteacher Stuart Egan) is excellent and worth your time if you haven’t already seen it, but the comment posted early this morning by a DPI insider who uses the online handle “ncdpivet”(the latest of several such comments), is also a “must read” for those who would like to grasp the nature of the wrecking ball conservatives are taking to North Carolina’s public education system.

Egan puts it this way after describing the demise of the past practice whereby many DPI staff reported to both the Superintendent and the State Board of education:

“A man with less than two calendar years of teacher training and classroom experience combined along with an unfinished term on a local school board now ‘calls’ the shots for all of those veterans in a DPI whose budget is being slashed by the very people who prop up Johnson.”

And this is the comment from the DPI insider:

“Here we go again. One more insult to all my colleagues at DPI, and this one is a doozy. Right as we’re dealing with the unnecessary elimination of jobs that many valued and productive colleagues were in, now we see demotions of the ones who have actually been running the day-to-day operations and the promotion of others who have done nothing. Maria [Piter-Martin] has been the de facto superintendent and everybody knows it. She’s been the one at the division meetings, the conferences, the agency preparations for monthly State Board meetings, etc., doing all the things that a superintendent is supposed to do. Even now, in his very email, she’s identified as the best point of contact for local district officials and superintendents. Isn’t our state superintendent supposed to be that person? And she’s been the epitome of a professional. And what does she get for that? Half of the divisions who used to report to her have been assigned to someone else; and not to just anybody. The person who got promoted, and is receiving these critical divisions to supervise: Has. Never. Been. A. Teacher. Or. Administrator. In. A. Public. School. He might smile and be very nice, but come on! Federal Programs? Our entire statewide testing system? Career & Technical Education and Curriculum & Instruction? All with zero experience in actually administering any of these at any level? Read more