Republican attack on the poor

Legislative committees scrambling to meet crossover

So many ways to punish people, so little time:

EXECUTIONS: The House Judiciary I Committee takes up a bill at 3 p.m. that would clear the way for executions to go forward without a doctor directly overseeing the lethal injection.

DEBTS: The House Banking Committee meets at 4 p.m. and will take up a bill to make it easier for debt collectors to sue for judgments against people who may or may not owe money.

Only in the minds of Republicans would multiple exonerated death row cases and revelations about systemic misuse of tainted hair and fiber evidence lead to the conclusion we need to "hurry up" and execute these people. And apparently their much-vaunted "tort reform" is only meant for bottom-up cases, not for corporations trying to squeeze the last drop of blood out of struggling families.

GOP poverty solution: Cut programs, then tax charitable non-profits

The convoy of bad ideas keeps rolling down the road:

Senate Bill 700, which was recently introduced in the General Assembly, threatens nonprofit tax exemption in North Carolina. It would reduce the cap on sales tax refunds to $100,000 per year, down from the current $45 million. If passed, this law would create new taxes for hundreds of nonprofits. They would have to pay a tax on almost everything they buy to support their charitable missions, including food, supplies, construction materials, computers, and utilities. This proposal would create unintended harm for nonprofits in all 100 counties of North Carolina.

The next time one of your Republican friends throws out the tired old argument, "The government shouldn't be helping poor people, churches and other charitable organizations do a much better job at it," make sure and mention this. Their zest for improving the lives of the 1% eventually places them in conflict with most of their stated positions, and the sooner voters realize they have no solutions the better.

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.

NC GOP's relentless attack on college professor

Apparently shutting down the Center is not enough punishment for speaking out:

Pretty sure this effort is mostly to distract from the embarrassing antics of the GOP Clown Car that skidded into town:

Republican efforts to suppress Gene Nichol backfired

Bouncing back stronger than before

On an otherwise dark day for the University of North Carolina, I am happy to announce that, in response to the censorship efforts of the Board of Governors, an impressive array of foundations and private donors has stepped forward to assure that the work of the center, if not the center itself, will continue and markedly expand. Generous grants and donations will allow for the creation of a North Carolina poverty research fund at the law school to support our efforts to describe, document and combat the wrenching challenges of Tar Heel poverty.

The fund will allow us to hire student, faculty and post-doctorate scholars to assist me in probing the causes of, and solutions to, economic injustice. We will carry forward the work of the center within the halls of the university, but with greater flexibility and increased resources. North Carolinians are not easily cowered. They react poorly to petty tyrants. They always have. If the Board of Governors moves to block the creation of such a research fund – a turn that is not unlikely – I will be eager to join them in federal court.

This should serve as another "learning experience" for Republicans, but I doubt they're clever enough to understand it. The capricious use of government power to stifle the voice of an individual or group will always generate a backlash. Call it the "underdog effect" if you like, or even the double underdog effect (going after Professor Nichol and those who are suffering from poverty), but we as a society abhor such behavior in our leaders. Yes, there may be some Conservative pundits and anti-intellectuals who favor this, but they are a distinct minority. What goes around comes around.

Exploring NC's gas tax conundrum

It's not as cut-and-dried as you might think:

The gas tax is a major revenue source for transportation projects such as repairing bridges, repaving roadways, and building highways. The failure of the current gas tax (and other transportation funding sources) to support these important public services means that backlogs for both maintenance and repairs projects persist. The state Department of Transportation estimates that North Carolina faces a $60 billion shortfall for transportation improvements through 2040, and that the state needs to come up with $32 billion just to keep the status quo.

I am genuinely conflicted on this issue, and it's doubtful I will be able to find a comfortable position on either side. I also find little comfort in the fact that infrastructure is crumbling all across the country, and not just in North Carolina. In response to a comment I made on Facebook about the regressive nature of the gas tax, Mark Turner made a good point:

NC GOP stifling the legal rights of farmworkers

Once again, Gene Nichol goes to bat for the least among us:

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee who introduced both the cuts and the creative reporting requirement is Brent Jackson of Autryville. He’s the Senate’s only farmer. The News & Observer reports: “Jackson Farming grows, packs, ships and brokers fruit and vegetables grown in this and several other states.” The Republican senator has “benefitted heavily from agribusiness financial contributions and has become their flag-bearer.”

And what, you might ask, does that have to do with Legal Aid of North Carolina? LANC runs a federally funded program called the “Farmworker Unit” – a statewide project committed to providing high quality civil legal services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers in North Carolina. The Farmworker Unit, according to its website, represents individual farmworkers, advising them of their rights and helping them get what the law requires. Shades of Cesar Chavez. Mystery solved.

North Carolina is becoming notorious for the mistreatment of farmworkers; from the all-too-common practice of using child labor, to the often brutal treatment of those workers who dare to even speak with labor organizers. But when you use the power of the government to forcibly obtain information to help wealthy private sector donors in their legal battles against those mistreated workers, you've really crossed the line:

The health of a million NC citizens at risk

Resting in the hands of the US Supreme Court:

We have written before about King v. Burwell, the case that will be heard before the US Supreme Court to determine whether or not health insurance subsidies can flow to states that refused to establish state-based marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act.

KFF researchers think more than 13 million people nationally, and about 1 million people in North Carolina, would lose tax credits if the Supreme Court denies subsidies to federal marketplace states. For most of these folks insurance would immediately become unaffordable. This is especially true because prices would most likely spiral upward as younger, healthier enrollees lose coverage.

The Affordable Care Act is a complex formula, created to solve an equally complex problem. While some elements of this formula are not critical to its success, some of them are, such as these subsidies. Thanks to the unwise and ideologically-driven decision to not expand Medicaid, North Carolina already has a gaping hole in coverage that most other states don't, or soon won't. If we lose these subsidies, also thanks to poor judgment on the part of GOP leaders who refused to lift a finger to build a marketplace, our people will suffer the consequences, and so will our healthcare providing network. It's not just a failure of leadership, it's the equivalent of setting up firing squads across the state, without having to worry about being charged with war crimes.

A dark chapter in NC's history books

And we're living it right now:

The new majority in the N.C. General Assembly hijacked Lincoln’s Republican Party and immediately began enacting an agenda that helped the greedy at the expense of the needy. They slashed unemployment benefits, killed the earned income-tax credit for the working poor, refused Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands, cut corporate income taxes, repealed the estate tax, gutted health and safety protections, cut per-pupil spending for education and shifted public money to private academies.

They also redrew legislative district lines to isolate and minimize the power of black voters. Then, in the weeks immediately following the Shelby decision, they jammed a host of voter restrictions into one bill that also cut restrictions on political donations. We call it the “Monster Law” because of its sweeping scope and because it is the reincarnation of the Jim Crow monster.

It's becoming more and more difficult to catalog all of the greedy and cold-hearted policies adopted by this Legislature, but a good mission statement to attribute to them is, "So many people to suppress, so little time." I often wonder how the future will grade us; how our actions will be perceived, by those who will inevitably have achieved a much higher level of enlightenment. And I fear they will revile us for our greed, prejudices, and short-sightedness.

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