Republican attack on the poor

Keep Folwell's hands out of the Treasury

He's already done more than enough damage:

Perhaps Folwell’s most recent accomplishment is helping restore the state’s unemployment insurance reserve to more than $1 billion while leading the Division of Employment Security. The reserve was $2.5 billion in debt when Gov. Pat McCrory took office. It was even higher — $2.8 billion — at one point.

The bowling pin, he says, directly correlates with the effort required to reform a state agency. Just like reforming a state agency, Folwell says there’s never the same number of balls, employees or resources, as pins, targets or goals. “You’ve got to have clarity of thought,” Folwell said.

Yeah, I mean, no. If you hadn't tried to explain the bowling pin thing, I would have assumed it meant knocking over stuff (bureaucratic costs, whatever). But after that inventory of things hastily grabbed from various sports? I have no idea what the bowling pin means anymore. Juggling? Wrapping your hand around the neck of a little white dude? Whatever, it's not only the state's investment portfolio at stake in this election, there are home rule issues to consider as well:

GOP Hunger Games commence

Feed the hungry, but don't make it too easy for them:

Food stamp recipients in North Carolina soon will lose benefits unless they prove they’re working, volunteering or taking classes for at least 20 hours a week.

Sen. Norman Sanderson, a Republican from Pamlico County, said the change would push unemployed people on food stamps to look for work. “I think you’re going to see a lot of them go and get that 20-hour-a-week job, or they’re going to enroll in some sort of higher education to improve their job skills,” he said before the September vote.

And I think a lawmaker who takes food off somebody's table because he "thinks" something positive might happen as a result is a reckless ideologue, not a public servant.

DMV fees another chapter in the GOP's great tax shift

For every selfish action there's a regressive reaction:

The bottom line is that middle- and low-income people lose on the shift. The pauper and the millionaire will both spend an extra 30 percent in DMV fees, but the millionaire will get a vastly larger savings than the pauper from the income tax cuts.

This inequity will be piled upon another in March. That’s when the 6.75 percent sales tax in many counties is extended to cover car repairs and installation and maintenance services. With the new tax, a $750 repair will cost the customer $800.

By all rights, the GOP's across-the-board attacks on the poor and middle class should result in a stampede to the voting booths in November. But they're counting on the two things that helped bring them to power in the first place: Lassitude on the part of Democratic-leaning voters, and social divisiveness that keeps religious people voting for charlatans because they say the right hateful words. Not much we can do about the latter; hate is harder to cure than cancer. But we can wake up those Dem voters, if we have the desire and the organization to do so.

An agency of one: NC's Medicaid reform inaction

Miles of paperwork to go before we're through:

“It’s going to be really difficult,” Larson said. “They’re going to set the foundation for what the system is going to look like.” And according to the bill, that waiver application needs to go to the federal government on June 1, 2016. An outline for the waiver has to be submitted to the General Assembly by March 1.

As yet, the new state agency that will run the updated Medicaid program has one employee. And Richard pointed out that existing employees at DHHS have to keep the current program running as they prepare for all these documents under a compressed timeline.

One might ask "why" a new Cabinet-level agency would still have only one employee at this stage of the game, and how could that one person possibly accomplish all the tasks needed in the next few months? The answer is simple, as Queen Aldona taught us so well during her tenure:

Yanking away the ladder

NC Policy Watch's Altered State series continues:

The unemployed have been subjected to especially severe treatment. North Carolina cut its benefits to the lowest levels in the nation, from a maximum of $535 a week to $350. The reduction rendered more than 170,000 long-term unemployed residents ineligible for additional federal benefits in the second half of 2013. North Carolina was the only state to reject this federal money, even as its unemployment rate topped the national average.

The lowered benefits have pushed some people into a downward spiral difficult to shake off. Ramona Aragon of Durham lost her job as an administrative assistant in March. It was the first time she’d ever been laid off, and she immediately applied for unemployment benefits while she looked for new work. But 15 weeks went by without her application being processed, and, with her savings depleted, she had to sell her belongings and move back into her parents’ home with her two children, 13 and 7.

As depressing as it may be, revisiting these issues is a critical exercise for advocates and those seeking political change. We can't allow the victims of the GOP's warped worldview to fade into obscurity, because they are still suffering and desperately need a remedy that can only be provided in the voting booth.

Taking the "Medic" out of Medicaid

MBA preferable, health care experience not required:

"Dee’s knowledge of process standardization, system implementation, operations, finance and project management, coupled with her prior experiences as a COO across private and public sectors, will ensure a successful beginning for the Division of Health Benefits," Brajer wrote in a memo Thursday.

Jones is a former chief operating officer for the Department of Administration and will hold that title in the new Division of Health Benefits. Essentially, she will be the division second in command.

He left out her experience in real estate and cable telecommunications, which I'm sure will come in handy in administering a statewide program that can make the difference between life and death for a couple of million NC citizens, many of them children:

Legislative idiocy: Using a 35 year-old video game analogy

Taking oversimplification to a whole new level:

For many of the Republicans who control the state legislature, the reason for the change is simple: budget predictability.

"For years and years and years, Medicaid has been considered the budget Pac-Man that eats up all the dollars that people in this chamber would like to see spent on many, many other things," Rep. Bert Jones said during the North Carolina House's debate of the bill last month. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the overhaul into law on Sept. 23.

*sigh* What's even worse, this article was in the Kitsap Sun, a Washington (state) newspaper that gets dropped on my sister's driveway every day. I'm thinking about calling her, just to get the inevitable embarrassing yet accurate jokes out of the way.

NC GOP's attack on the poor: Hunger Games part 2

The myth of churches taking up the slack:

There are currently 24,394 individuals receiving food and nutritional services through the Cleveland County Department of Social Services. Of those recipients, only the able-bodied adults between ages 18 and 50 who have no children could potentially see a change in their benefits. Although the law will simply lift the waivers and reinstate the former policy, Ellis said the news was unexpected.

“I think it will increase the need for food pantries in the county,” Ellis said. “We’re very fortunate in that we have churches and the Greater Cleveland County Baptist Association that provides food assistance.”

And it's misleading statements just like the one above that provide cover for lawmakers when they unnecessarily punish the poor. Here's what that Greater Cleveland County Baptist Association is prepared to do in aid of the hungry:

Bergermeister blows hot air over Medicaid reform

A litany of pat responses:

Berger says the overhaul, which was approved after more than two years of deliberations, will allow a majority of the state’s 1.8 million Medicaid recipients to get an improved quality of care because organizations led by insurance companies and organizations led by local groups of medical providers will compete to manage care of patients.

“What we should see is some fairly healthy competition,” said Berger, a Republican from Rockingham County . “It's my belief that competition will assist in both the area of controlling cost and on the quality side.”

That's a steaming pile. A much better assessment came from one of Berger's fellow Republicans Nelson Dollar:

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