Republican attack on the poor

NC Institute for Constitutional Law announces "relaunch"

It looks like Dallas has found a new job:

The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law (NCICL) will relaunch on September 12th, 2019 with laser-like focus on educating the public about the importance and limiting principals of the North Carolina Constitution and to ensure public accountability for elected officials who take an oath to uphold the text of the North Carolina Constitution as written.

NCICL’s first and primary mission is educational, however, the organization is poised to litigate to fight grievous violations of the North Carolina Constitution and the constitutional separation of powers.

Yanno, it's funny (not really) NCICL was not around to "fight" grievous violations of the separation of powers when the NC GOP was steadily stripping authority from the Governor-elect after he won his election. But now that the Veto-proof majority Republicans grabbed via gerrymandering has been broken, and the Governor is able to re-assert his Constitutional authority, we need a "laser-like focus." Or something. Speaking of the previous iteration of NCICL, it appears all of that has been scrubbed, and the new web page is being hosted on Nationbuilder. Which is of course the Republican Party's national platform for budding political campaigns. Film at eleven...

NC's tobacco farmers get the shaft in Trump's trade war

When your market is destroyed and nobody wants to help you:

The USDA lists more than two dozen crops that are eligible for the payments, but tobacco is not included among them due to federal rules that preclude the crop from receiving federal funds to promote its sale or export. “Tobacco did not receive one penny of that money,” said Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau. “And I’ve got news for you, the new money that’s coming out, tobacco is not going to share in that either.”

Wooten said that North Carolina farmers exported $162 million worth of tobacco products to China in 2017. In 2018, that figure was $4 million. He said the state’s farmers this year have planted the smallest crop of tobacco since before World War II.

I hesitated to write about this because I realize that probably 95% of the people reading don't care, and a good portion of you would love to see NC stop growing tobacco entirely. I get that. But that unbelievable drop in exports listed above is a stark reminder of just how dangerous this President is to our economy. And like it or not, tobacco was one of the main drivers of NC's economic growth for centuries. Follow below the fold for a mostly pointless and boring personal anecdote:

Trump admin blocks Utah from expanding Medicaid

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And they would likely do the same to North Carolina:

According to the senior officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, White House advisers argued that it did not make sense to approve generous federal funding under the ACA while the administration is arguing that the entire law should be overturned.

White House advisers on the Domestic Policy Council, Office of Management and Budget, and National Economic Council, which are controlled by conservative Republicans, were the staunchest opponents of allowing Utah to receive enhanced federal funding for its expanded Medicaid program.

For every action there's a reaction. It may not be equal and opposite, but it trends that way. Utah voters passed a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid, and Trump blocking that might just lose him that state in 2020:

A Cooper Veto of the Budget is exciting pundits

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Concurring on the concurrence is the question:

The length of the 2019 legislative session — outside another rash of extra sessions — could come down to whether Gov. Roy Cooper and Senate Democrats are willing to bog down the state budget process for the sake of inserting some form of Medicaid expansion.

Cooper could also choose to veto the Republicans’ compromise budget bill to highlight disagreements over public education and environmental issues as well.

Maybe even more than the Governor, this is a test of the willpower of NC House Republicans. The Senate's Budget is a stinking mess, and unless the House can wrangle some fairly serious changes, Cooper is going to have to Veto the thing. Don't usually lean on Puppet quotes to drive home a point, but Mitch Kokai makes some good ones:

Everything that's wrong with NC Republicans in one picture

Dollars and sense: Medicaid expansion in NC is long overdue

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If saving lives isn't enough for you, how about saving rural hospitals?

The data are overwhelming. In states that have expanded, the move has been a boon, both for the health of patients, the strength of local economies bolstered by thousands of new health care jobs, and increased stability, in particular, for rural hospitals that have been buffeted by changes rocking the health care system.

“There’s more data that’s showing a link to employment, overall better economic conditions,” said Hemi Tewarson, director of the health division at the National Governors Association. “There have been studies done that show rural hospitals have done better in expansion states compared to non-expansion states, primarily because they have another stream of reimbursement that has kept them more stable.”

As long as the bulk of our health care system remains in the private sector, we must enact programs that make rural hospitals and clinics "economically viable." If we don't, rural folks will end up having to travel 75 miles or more to be treated. That's simply too far for "well-care" visits, so most of those trips will be for serious (if not life-threatening) injuries or illnesses. It's those regular visits that can extend lives and improve the quality of those lives:

The legalization of marijuana can no longer be ignored by Democrats

Pay close attention, because the your base surely is:

The issue today is a pillar of progressive politics, but not because of graying hippies who like their Rocky Mountain High. Rather, for many Democrats, legalization has become a litmus test for candidates’ commitment to equal treatment for all races in policing and criminal justice as well as fighting economic inequality.

Numerous states already have or soon will legalize the use of marijuana in one shape or another, but North Carolina (not to mention the Federal government) is still incarcerating tens of thousands under its misguided "War On Drugs" mentality. You can beat somebody until they're almost lifeless, or defraud them out of their family's meager savings, and get less jail time than having a half-pound of a certain plant, and when that insanely warped system of (in)justice falls heavily on young black males, the motives behind it become crystal clear:

Berger gets fact-checked on his attack of Medicaid expansion

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He's not the sharpest tool in the shed:

In his shot-across-the-bow statement, Berger listed what he called seven fictional claims by Democratic supporters of expansion, along with what he touted as facts refuting the claims. It appears many of Berger’s points come from the right-leaning Foundation for Government Accountability.

Berger said Democratic claims “are simply misleading at best and purposely deceptive in some instances.”

We've had several years of looking on longingly at other states (who aren't plagued by ideologues), and the evidence is overwhelming. Expanding Medicaid is not only the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do, as well. Here are a couple of Berger's misfires:

Washington County Hospital joins ranks of NC's failing rural health care system

Another victim of privatization:

Washington County Hospital CEO Melanie Perry tells WCTI in New Bern that the facility's owner has plans to resolve several problems, including dwindling medical supplies and workers not getting paid for two weeks. Empower HMS promised 50 employees that checks would arrive Monday, but staff members said they never came. There has been no word on when or if the medical supplies will be replenished.

Perry said closing the county's only hospital would be devastating to the town of Plymouth, approximately 125 miles east of Raleigh.

Before we dig deeper into this unfortunate situation, a few words on how this could have been avoided are in order. When a public (municipal) entity provides a service, whether it's health care, transportation, water & sewer, or any other critical infrastructure issue, all considerations about turning a profit (net revenue gain, if you will) or even "breaking even" should be disregarded. Providing services to citizens is what government is for, and that's why we pay taxes. And this goes double in rural areas, where the economy simply cannot support/sustain a perpetually profitable business. Had local elected officials understood that back in 2007, they might not have sold this hospital in the first place. Because once a facility like this enters the private sector, the sharks start circling:

Gene Nichol on poverty: "They are invisible to us."

Should be required reading for all Democratic candidates:

Nichol builds his case by weaving together the ugly data points about income, education, jobs, and health care with personal anecdotes from hundreds of interviews with the people most affected. It adds up to a damning narrative about a large and growing underclass fostered by callous policy-making in Raleigh and Washington.

“Scarcely a word about poverty is uttered in the halls of the General Assembly,” he writes. “Recent North Carolina governors have almost never mentioned it, regardless of political party.”

In defending our small town's public transportation funding, I've spoken several times about our collective responsibility to do what we can to ameliorate some of aspects of poverty. And I get a lot of nods, and polite applause. I have no doubt most of those folks are genuinely concerned, but I also have no doubt most of them don't believe anything will work. They're willing to dedicate a small amount of resources to it, but that's more about "feeling good" than it is about actually bringing about change. The book is available on Amazon and other outlets, and at UNC Press:

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