NC'S NEGLECTED UNEMPLOYED NEED AND DESERVE BETTER, NOW: That lack of concern and preparedness has left nearly half a million hard working North Carolinians, who never dreamt of being out of a job, applying for unemployment benefits as a result of policy orders relating to the COVID-19 outbreak. They may be victims of a legislature that too often sought to comfort the wealthy at the expense of the state’s working families, children and the disadvantaged. The 2013 reforms to the state’s system, in reality “was an ideologically inspired effort to effectively eliminate unemployment insurance.” It appears to have been working. At the end of 2007 about 38 percent of North Carolina’s unemployed received unemployment insurance payments for as many as 26 weeks. By the end of last year, that was down to 10 percent who received benefits for no more than 12 weeks. This is simple – either you care about our unemployed and our uninsured, or you don’t.
PHIL BERGER TRIES TO PROJECT HIS OWN CORRUPTION ONTO GOVERNOR COOPER: "All of this raises natural and legitimate suspicions about the motives of the Governor and the Board he controls,” Berger wrote. “Those same suspicions raise alarm bells at the prospect of a partisan Board of Elections controlling a process in which they ostensibly send ballots to every voter. There is zero trust that this process would be fair and transparent.” Was Berger preemptively accusing the governor of rigging the election? No, said Berger spokesman Pat Ryan. The senator doesn’t expect Cooper to rig the election, Ryan said, but Berger doesn’t trust that the governor and his board of elections would conduct it fairly. That’s a distinction, maybe, but not much of one. Maybe Berger’s statement isn’t that stunning. Maybe there’s an underlying assumption - or at least a suspicion - that everyone behaves in partisan fashion these days, even in elections. The president certainly has voiced that suspicion - saying before and after the 2016 election that the other side cheated. It’s also true that Cooper and N.C. Republicans have a years-long history of mistrust and power struggles, some of which have ended up in court. But for North Carolina’s most powerful Republican to publicly say he doesn’t trust the state’s most powerful Democrat to run a fair election? It’s a reminder of how poisoned our discourse has become, and it shows the steep hill our leaders face to meet this COVID-19 election challenge.
A MESSAGE OF GRATITUDE FROM UNC HOSPITALS: Several weeks ago, we put a call out for masks, gloves and other protective equipment that were in short supply. Our hospitals have received a steady stream of donations from businesses, schools, community organizations and more. New donations continue to arrive daily. In addition, groups of students at UNC, N.C. State and elsewhere are helping us by weaving masks and building face shields. We will ensure that all of this protective equipment reaches our staff and allows them to continue caring for the sick. We’ve received heartwarming emails, signs, photos and other messages of thanks from individuals across our region. Sports figures have sent us videos with words of encouragement, including UNC coaches Roy Williams and Mack Brown, former basketball star Eric Montross, and Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour. Our hospitals continue to receive many donations of food. Meals, snacks, drinks and more have helped us ensure our staff stays nourished and prepared. Many organizations and individuals have stepped up to help healthcare workers with child care, transportation or other daily tasks. During this crisis, it’s often the simple acts that make a meaningful difference.
THE SECOND MOST DANGEROUS CONTAGION IN AMERICA: CONSERVATIVE IRRATIONALITY: The most dangerous contagion we now confront is the coronavirus, which has killed more than 20,000 Americans and thrown more than 16 million out of work. The second-most-dangerous contagion is the conspiracy-mongering, hostility to science and outright irrationality promulgated by President Trump and his loudmouth media enablers. It will take intensive contact tracing to follow the spread of crackpot ideas: Is Trump infecting the cable news hosts, or are they infecting him? Suffice it to say, the president and his media fans are both afflicted with perilous misconceptions that are making the threat from the coronavirus far more acute. At first, both Trump and his media toadies dismissed the threat from the coronavirus, claiming it was no worse than the flu and that it would miraculously disappear by April. Any suggestion that Trump was mishandling the threat was dismissed as a “hoax.” Then on March 13, Trump finally declared a national emergency, and the tone among the Fox News propagandists instantly changed — from deriding concern about the coronavirus among liberal bed-wetters to lauding Trump’s heroic wartime leadership. The new resolve did not last long: Within days, the drum beat on the right evolved into “the cure cannot be worse than the disease.” Conservative talking heads argued that the economy had to be reopened even if it meant sacrificing the lives of the aged and infirm who are most vulnerable to covid-19. Trump was listening: On March 24, he announced that he would “love” to restart the economy by Easter.
TRUMP WANTS 50 WISCONSINS ON ELECTION DAY: The voting debacle in Wisconsin on Tuesday was further evidence of an incontrovertible reality in American politics: The Republican Party does not believe in free and fair elections, where free means equal access to the ballot and fair means equitable rules and neutral procedures. Here’s what happened. Last week, once it was clear that coronavirus would make in-person voting unsafe, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, convened a session of the Wisconsin Legislature to find a solution. The Republican majority leader gaveled the chamber in and just as quickly gaveled it out. There would be no session and thus no solution. Republicans wanted to hold the election as is, endangering the lives of voters who went to the polls in the midst of a pandemic. When, on Monday, Evers issued an executive order to push the election to June and give officials time to implement universal vote-by-mail, it was immediately overturned by the conservative majority of the state Supreme Court. Shortly thereafter, the conservative majority of the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state Republican Party, which had sued to stop an extended deadline for absentee ballots. Thousands more Wisconsin voters than usual had requested ballots, causing delays in the process. By blocking the extension, the court effectively disenfranchised thousands of people who were waiting for ballots, as well as thousands more who chose to stay home rather than risk illness to vote in person. Wisconsin voters who went to the polls had to pay what amounted to a poll tax in the form of fear, anxiety and possible sickness, imposed by conservative Republicans on the courts and in the State Legislature.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
JONATHAN MICHELS: OUR FOR-PROFIT HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS BROKEN: The coronavirus pandemic lays bare the ways in which our expensive, inefficient and profit-driven health care system has left our communities defenseless against public health crises. During 13 years as a front-line health care worker, I have been laid off twice. While hospital executives continued to rake in millions in salaries and bonuses, those health care workers still employed were made to care for more patients with fewer resources. Believe me when I tell you that hospitals are setting communities up for heartache by eliminating essential workers in the midst of a deadly pandemic. Instead of allowing hospitals to siphon money out of the system by targeting patients who can pay for expensive procedures or avoiding those without the ability to pay, we need a national health program like Medicare for All. It would divert resources to where the needs are: maintaining safe staffing levels and services that produce healthy outcomes.
RACHEL SIEGAL: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS ON THE RISE DURING QUARANTINE: Necessary social distancing measures, such as shelter-in-place restrictions, have led to an increase in domestic violence. Calls to domestic violence hot-lines have risen 20-50%. The N.C. legislative response to COVID-19 must include violence prevention funding to support shelters for domestic violence survivors. The state’s response package must also include funding that helps businesses support domestic violence survivors - e.g., funding hotel rooms for survivors or funding to help businesses implement a process for survivors to safely report their experience to the business and police. At the federal level, N.C. Congressional representatives should support a fourth COVID-19 stimulus package to fund continued efforts to work towards the safety of survivors of domestic violence.
SONDRA STEIN: VOTE-BY-MAIL IS THE PERFECT SOLUTION FOR COVID 19: I was heartened to read that State Board of Elections director Karen Brinson Bell is investigating ways to make it easier for N.C. voters to vote by mail this November. While I love the ritual of coming together to vote in person, experts believe a resurgence of COVID-19 is likely in the fall. It is foolish for us to create a situation in which we need to choose between exercising our franchise and preserving our lives, especially when we have time to establish secure procedures to maximize voting by mail. Let’s make it easy for every registered voter to receive a ballot by mail and return it safely by providing prepaid postage. Five states already do this for all elections – without voter fraud – and 16 others do it for some elections. We can too.