Migratory bird protections to be permanently restored by Biden administration

The best op-ed of the weekend: Economist speaks the simple truth about ‘socialism’

Dean Baker

Dean Baker

In case you missed it, be sure to check a fine op-ed by economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research that ran over the weekend in the Winston-Salem Journal. In “‘Socialism’ — or plain old progress,” Baker offers a thorough debunking of the loony claims being advanced by some on the political right in opposition to President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, (which he rightfully likens to President Eisenhower’s big investments in public education and the interstate highways system). Here’s Baker:

Almost 70 years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower pushed bipartisan legislation that created the interstate highway system. Earlier leaders made universal access to education, starting with kindergarten and running through high school, standard throughout the United States. The Republican Party of today would have one word for these policies: socialism.

Social and economic progress in the United States has always depended on a smart mix of public policies and private incentives. After World War II, the enormous growth surge that largely created the middle class depended on the federal highway system that allowed for modern suburbs and the speedy transportation of goods around the country.

The growth surge also depended on a well-educated workforce that was advanced by universal access to high school, and the huge growth in college education that resulted from the G.I. Bill of Rights and low-cost government student loans.

The demands on American society today, Baker observes, offer many parallels. We need to combat the climate emergency. We need universal broadband. We need to make it possible for women to work outside the home by providing childcare as is done in most advanced European countries.

As Baker also points, out though regularly described by many media outlets as “massive,” Biden’s proposed spending plans about to around 1.4% of GDP over the next decade, which is actually a small price to pay for such massive and indispensable progress.

And then there’s the matter of the President’s plans to pay for  these investments modest tax hikes on the rich and profitable corporations. Here’s Baker’s on-the-money assessment:

Every time a Democratic president pushes a plan that increases taxes on the rich, the Republicans insist it will wreck the economy. Every time a Republican president pushes through a tax cut for the wealthy, we are told that it will lead to an investment boom creating good-paying jobs for everyone.

It never works out this way. The economy grew faster after President Barack Obama raised taxes in 2012, and it boomed after President Bill Clinton’s 1994 tax increase. There was no investment boom when Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump cut taxes.

Non-socialists are prepared to live in a growing economy, even if the rich have somewhat fewer homes and somewhat smaller yachts.

Exactly. Click here to read the entire op-ed.

NC single mom pens Mother’s Day plea to GOP legislative leaders

This Mother’s Day, new North Carolina mothers are receiving an unexpected gift thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP), the federal relief bill that provides for an additional 10 months of postpartum healthcare for women who give birth. Currently, pregnant women covered by Medicaid get coverage for only 60 days after birth, even though most maternal deaths happen not in childbirth, but in the first year after birth.

The ARP relief package is opening up new opportunities for millions of people who’ve been struggling through the pandemic without healthcare, income and jobs to get the help they need to recover from COVID. In addition to extended unemployment benefits, more money for public education, free testing and vaccinations, and direct cash payments to 85% of households, the package also provides more funding for Medicaid services like coverage for the uninsured, expanded home and community-based care, and maternal health care.

This is all great news for new mothers who now receive Medicaid, but not for those who would also be eligible if our state had already expanded Medicaid. There is a proposed bill in the North Carolina Senate (SB 530) that would expand Medicaid coverage to new mothers, but only to new mothers, and only for one year. Limiting expanded eligibility just to them, and just for this limited period of time, rather than extending it permanently to the 500,000 North Carolinians who would benefit from a full expansion, would be misguided and wrong, especially in light of the generous financial incentives the ARP offers our state and others that have not yet expanded Medicaid.

We hear and read of talk at the General Assembly that Medicaid expansion could be a possibility this session. That would be great news for moms and their babies, particularly for low-income families and for women of color, who are more likely to have complications in pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts.  The United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the Western world. Read more

From vaccine hesitancy to pistol permits and child marriage: The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. Advocates say Senate leader Phil Berger is torpedoing effort to end child marriage

Under amended legislation, 8th graders will still be able to wed in North Carolina, but not buy a lottery ticket or work with commercial ovens

Dr. Judy Wiegand was only 13 years old when her mother accompanied her to get married to the 16-year-old father of her unborn child in Virginia.

Wiegand, originally from Kentucky, told Policy Watch that she was sexually assaulted when she was 13. She had a crush on a boy who asked her to have sex. Wiegand didn’t consent, but she didn’t resist, either. She simply didn’t know what sex was or what the repercussions were. Her family had never taught her about puberty, boys and sex.

Wiegand said her parents felt pressured by the church and other community members for her to marry the boy. “I don’t blame my parents,” said Wiegand, who testified before the Kentucky legislature in 2018, which then raised the minimum age to 17 with parental consent. “I blame the community and the community’s way of thinking.” [Read more…]

2. As vaccination rates decline, DHHS and health care providers trying to reach rural, underserved communities

The total number of vaccinations dropped by 23% over one week in April, an indication that North Carolina still faces challenges in achieving its vaccination goals.

Now the state Department of Health and Human Services wants to direct vaccination efforts toward neighborhoods where few people have gotten shots.

“We have likely gone through all of the people who were very ready to get their vaccine,” said Amanda Fuller-Moore, a pharmacist in the public health division of the NC Department of Health and Human Services. “They were ready to do whatever it takes. Now we’ve reached a population that is more ‘bring the vaccine to me.’”

Last week, DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen announced ways to make it easier for more doctors to administer COVID-19 vaccines at their offices. [Read more…]

3. 50% of NC adults are now vaccinated against COVID-19. A legislative spat showcases why getting more on board only gets harder from here.

Rep.Keith KidwellThe North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced a significant milestone Thursday in ending the pandemic – more than 50% of adults (18 and older) in our state have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 43% of the adult population is now fully vaccinated against the virus.

While those numbers are impressive, legislators in the House Health Committee demonstrated this morning just how difficult it will be to reach herd immunity.

Rep.Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) urged the committee to advance House Bill 572, prohibiting a vaccine mandate by executive order, rule or agency.[Read more…]

4. Hear no evil, see no evil? Senate committee limits public comments on controversial farm bill that would limit public comments

A Senate committee on Wednesday shut down public discussion of a contentious portion of the Farm Act, which coincidentally, sharply curbs public input on swine farms that install biogas systems and anaerobic digesters.

The hog and energy industries support biogas, arguing the systems help alleviate climate change by capturing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that would otherwise be released into the air.

But many environmental groups and neighbors of industrialized hog farms oppose the digesters. They say these systems don’t solve the many other problems posed by the farms: open lagoons and spray fields, both of which emit methane; the risk of degraded groundwater from applying feces and urine on farm fields; other air pollutants, including particulate matter and ammonia; and the environmental justice issues the farms raise for communities of color. [Read more…]

5. NC House votes to repeal state pistol purchase permit system

Proponents say federal background checks will suffice, but critics fear that a loophole for private sales will lead to a spike in murders and suicides 

The North Carolina state House of Representatives okayed a bill (HB 398) that would do away with the state’s pistol purchase permit system. The proposal would repeal current statutory provisions that include a ban on selling certain firearms without a permit, requirements for background checks (including mental health records), and other laws regarding the administration of permit issuance and related record keeping. The measure was approved by a vote of 69-48 Wednesday and referred to Senate Rules Thursday.

The elimination of the pistol purchase permit system does not impact the state’s concealed carry permit system nor do away with the need for North Carolinians to go through the federally-run computer background check when making a purchase at a licensed gun store. [Read more…]

6. NC House committee fast tracks bill further restricting abortion rights

The North Carolina House Judiciary I Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that seeks to further limit access to abortion services in North Carolina. House Bill 453, the “Human Life Nondiscrimination Act,” seeks to prohibit a patient from obtaining an abortion if it is being sought because of the actual or presumed race or sex of the fetus or the presence or presumed presence of Down syndrome.

As Policy Watch reported previously, the measure cleared the House Health Committee Tuesday with a 17-9 partisan (Republicans for and Democrats against) split. Under the proposed law, physicians would have to confirm that the patient’s decision to obtain an abortion has nothing to do with any of the proscribed categories.[Read more…]

Bonus read:  Bill with new abortion restrictions clears first legislative hurdle

7. $23 million coming to NC to help public school students experiencing homelessness

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in March 2020, most families with influence and wealth quickly and seamlessly shifted to remote learning.

Affluent families already had the necessary high-speed internet connections and the electronic devices to navigate learning from home. Many also had the wherewithal to employ tutors and to create “learning pods” to keep students engaged.

Those resources were not widely available to children in less affluent families, and especially not to children experiencing homelessness during what has become the worst public health crisis in a century.

“The children whose families are fighting for survival don’t have that luxury [of tutors and learning pods],” said Glennis Davis, executive director of A Giving Heart Project, Inc., a Charlotte-based nonprofit that supports children experiencing homelessness.[Read more…]

8. NC GOP leaders attempt to gerrymander the truth  (Commentary)


If there is a Forrest Gump of the modern North Carolina political right, it would have to be Dallas Woodhouse. No, Woodhouse isn’t a slow-talking simpleton with a big heart. To the contrary, he’s a skilled, colorful and fast-talking political operative with lots of experience in messaging, P.R. and driving the news.

 

Like Gump, however, Woodhouse has a knack for turning up in a variety of different guises to be in and around big political stories. Frequently, if not always intentionally, Woodhouse reveals important truths about them.

A one-time TV news reporter who has taken on numerous roles over the last few decades in support of hard-right causes – running advocacy groups, campaigns, private consulting firms and even the state Republican Party itself – Woodhouse is a survivor who periodically runs into trouble, but always seems to bounce back with a new gig. [Read more…]

9. Weekly radio interviews and commentaries with Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield

 

Click here for the latest interviews

10. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

 

Watch author David Zucchino discuss his book, “Wilmington’s Lie: the Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy”

If you missed Thursday’s fascinating and informative NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation on the new book, Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy that featured the Pulitzer Prize winning author David Zucchino, don’t despair.

The Zoom recording of the entire hour long conversation, can be viewed by clicking here.