Daily dose: McCrory's tripping edition


McCrory discloses financing for trips he said he didn’t need to reveal (Raleigh News & Observer) -- NC Gov. Pat McCrory has filed, again, another new ethics disclosure report, which includes eight trips he took last year. McCrory initially didn’t think he needed to report trips like these.

Private profits, public burden: What's missing in the low-wage debate

Keeping the minimum wage down is a costly mistake:

The report estimates that state and federal governments spend more than $150 billion a year on four key anti-poverty programs used by working families: Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps and the earned-income tax credit, which is specifically aimed at working families.

“The low-wage business model practiced by many of the largest and most profitable employers in the country not only leaves many working families unable to afford the basics, but also imposes significant costs on the public as a whole,” Sarah Leberstein, a senior staff lawyer with the National Employment Law Project, testified recently before Connecticut lawmakers.

Something as simple as this shouldn't be difficult for people to grasp, but it is. Even some liberal friends & family of mine will argue vehemently against raising the minimum wage more than just a little bit, partly because they're prone to navel-gazing, but also because we (as a country) have been bombarded with Capitalist propaganda since early childhood. Hard work pays off, be smart with your money, plan for the future, yada yada yada. It's not necessarily wrong, but it blinds us to the realities of the global economy. I actually stumbled across this Berkeley study a few days ago, which only reinforced what I already knew: Employers have been sucking a lot more from the government teat than most people realize, by shifting their worker's pay to taxpayers. I even tried to 'splain it to some Conservatives on Facebook:

On McCrory's claim of "widespread support" in NC for offshore drilling


It's neither widespread nor supportive:

He said the people of North Carolina support drilling. Does he have any basis in reality for that statement? Or by “people of North Carolina” does he mean his friends in the oil and gas industry?

It’d be nice if he could wrap his mind around wind and solar and talk to his buddies at Duke Energy about that.

Pat McCrory and "reality" seldom cross paths, and when they do, he usually gets all upset and shakes his fists at it. Art Pope really doesn't need to be in the administration anymore, he's already done his work to promote the Koch Brothers' agenda, and it will take years to get the stink of the fossil fuel industry out of the halls of our state government.

Inefficiency and out-of-control spending, GOP style

If this is responsible government, I'd hate to see their reckless side:

Rubin agreed to analyze the study and discuss his findings with prosecutors at a reduced government rate of $850 an hour, which would have increased to $1,250 if he had testified. Rubin paid a doctoral student assistant and all expenses, including one trip each made to North Carolina, with some of the money, he said in an email last week.

Finalizing terms of the contract delayed its approval for two months, by which time Rubin said he had already put in 45 hours of work, totaling $38,000. Since the state couldn’t retroactively enter into a contract, it paid him from a fund for expert witnesses and approved a $22,000 personal services contract for the remaining hours of the work.

After agreeing to pay this Harvard professor such an insane amount of money for so little work, Republicans in the General Assembly have the audacity to complain about UNC System professors not teaching enough classes for their salaries? The word "hypocrisy" just doesn't seem to capture the level of irony involved in this case, but this one is even more ironic:

Our Schools Are Saved!

At last! Help for our ailing public school system!

Reps. Justin Burr & John Torbett have filed HB 858 to collect $500,000 from lottery proceeds to create funding for suitable portraits of George Washington for every public school that requests one from the governor's office!

SECTION 1.(a) There is established in the Office of the Governor for the
2015-2017 fiscal biennium a grant program to provide funding to the State's public schools for the purchase of suitable framed portraits of George Washington so that each public school that requests funding may display the likeness of the first United States President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in a dignified location and manner so as to educate students about one of the most important figures in the nation's history and an enduring model of character, leadership, and civic responsibility.

Not enough money for textbooks, teachers, teachers' aides, computers, copy paper, but Thank, Goodness, there will be pictures… excuse me, Portraits, of George Washington for our children to gaze upon in their schools.

Daily dose: "It's not a tax, it's a fee" edition


GOP hikes for insurance taxes, other fees may pave NC highways (WRAL-TV) -- Saying North Carolina's tax on gasoline is an unreliable source of revenue for the state's highway construction and maintenance program, Republican lawmakers on Thursday rolled out a plan to increase vehicle fees and a tax on automobile insurance coverage to augment gas tax funds.

Signed, sealed and delivered: Mike Hager, representative for ALEC

Having only one or two constituents must make things less complicated:

North Carolina legislators involved in ALEC have introduced HB 681, the latest attack on the state renewable portfolio standard. Sponsors of HB 681 include at least two ALEC member politicians: state Representatives Harry Warren and Mike Hager.

Hager led the clumsy attack on RPS in 2013, amid opposition from his own party. Hager was a longtime employee of Duke Energy, which is itself a corporate supporter of ALEC's distributed lobbying operations, and required to comply with RPS laws in states where it generates energy.

Honestly, I'm getting tired of writing about Mike Hager. But the only way I'm going to stop is if he stops trying to push an out-of-state billionaire's agenda in NC to the detriment of our renewable energy policy. Of course, one way to stop him from doing that is to vote his butt out of office, but that's not likely to happen in his District, unless another Republican takes him down.

Daily dose: Modern-day bigot statue to replace ancient bigot statue

Billy Graham honor sparks bitter debate (AP) — A proposal to honor North Carolina favorite son Rev. Billy Graham with a statue in Washington won state House approval Thursday, but not without complaints from Democrats about the process and counter-claims from Republicans that critics had something against Graham.

Graham statue bill leads to angry debate (WRAL-TV) -- A bill naming the Rev. Billy Graham to represent the state at the U.S. Capitol led to angry debate in the state House Thursday after its backers circumvented the standard legislative process.

Greensboro/High Point tops list of hungriest cities in US

And there doesn't appear to be a solution in the works:

Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) are Census Bureau‐defined areas that include central cities plus the surrounding counties with strong economic and social ties to the central cities. In looking at MSA food hardship rates, FRAC aggregated 2013 and 2014 data to produce more accurate estimates and smaller margins of error.

The worst MSAs may be Greensboro‐High Point, North Carolina, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Fresno, California, but 98 of 100 MSAs have at least one in eight (12.5 percent or more) households reporting food hardship. While there was variation around the country, the inability to purchase adequate food was a serious problem in every MSA.

While hunger may be an extremely complex problem that doesn't lend itself to easy fixes, it is very easy to make it worse. You can cut back severely on unemployment benefits, you can cut back on funding for food stamps and/or make it difficult to administer properly, you can get rid of the Earned Income Tax Credit and/or take away certain tax deductions that particularly affect children or the elderly, and several other unwise and inhumane policy steps. But when you do all of those things without a care for the consequences, you have graduated from being conservative to being a genuine threat to the health and welfare of the society you're sworn to protect.


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