Republican attack on the poor

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.

Tillis and the looming destruction of the social safety net

It's not what you know, it's who you listen to:

Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the state’s senior senator, escorted him around, as did others who know the place well. Now Tillis is one of the 100 senators, talking to them all the time. “Not only about the senatorial process, but which hallways you can go down that don’t actually have a dead end,” he joked, at least in part. The Capitol is a labyrinth of marble stairways, long corridors, senators’ secret hideaways and underground passageways. It’s easy to get lost.

The desk of Tillis’ chief of staff, John Mashburn, is under a large state seal in the same room as the receptionist, directly opposite the office’s entrance. Mashburn is known as a very conservative Republican. He’s a North Carolina native with long experience on Capitol Hill, including work for the late Sen. Jesse Helms.

Mashburn is more than just another of Helms' old cronies. He's an anti-Welfare zealot, whose goal of punishing the poor has been blocked for decades by less radical elements in the GOP, not to mention Democrats. But he may finally get his wish by pulling Tillis' strings:

More regressive taxation on GOP's 2015 agenda

Instead of rolling back corporate tax cuts, the general public will suffer even more:

The 2008 recommendations from a blue-ribbon panel created by Democratic Gov. Mike Easley and his party's legislative leaders included more than doubling the annual vehicle registration fee and raising the tax on car purchases — called the Highway Use Tax — from 3 percent to 4 percent. Both combined would have generated another $400 million annually.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow and a car dealer, said Senate colleagues would be cautious about agreeing to raise taxes "but I think we also know the needs in transportation are great."

And I think we also know where you would stand on the car tax issue. Which is regressive, but not nearly as regressive as increasing sales taxes on food, clothing, and other essentials those hovering on the poverty line must have. This article is a few weeks old, and the new NCGA website has zilch information on the upcoming session, so I'm doing a little tea-leaf reading here. But the fact the GOP was able to shift the tax burden from the wealthy to the not-so-wealthy via sales tax shenanigans, without suffering at the voting booth, leads me to believe they will go back to that community well again, and soon. Film at eleven.

New Year hopes from the naive at heart

A valiant but wasted effort by the N&O Editorial staff:

It would not be realistic, or even reasonable, to expect that Republicans and Democrats would join hands ’round a campfire, but neither should those who work in the Legislative Building on Jones Street act like foes on a field in Gettysburg.

For even among North Carolinians and Americans who agree on virtually nothing political, there are shared values and hopes: All hope their children will grow up, succeed, be happy and healthy and avoid the personal crises of drugs and violence and other temptations that destroy potential and pave a path to misery. It matters not whether they raise those children in mansions or cabins.

Yes, we all hope our own children will be happy, healthy and successful. But that's where the difference between Republicans and Democrats becomes evident. Republicans don't really care about other people's children; whether those kids succeed or fail, it's simply not their responsibility. It's a selfish and fatalistic approach to public service, and one of which they should be ashamed, but they've got the dogma-spouting Randians there by their side, providing what they think is legitimacy for such inhuman behavior. And that can be applied to the world at-large, as well:

Pope's Puppets swing and miss in defending UNC BOG

When Libertarians try to rewrite history:

In the 2012-13 academic year, the center hosted members of the AFL-CIO to discuss “the legislature’s war on labor”; screened clips from a “Story of America: A Nation Divided,” about “the fundamental divisions and the political struggle throughout America”; screened “The American Winter,” which “highlights the human impact of budget cuts to social services, a shrinking middle class, and the fracturing of the American Dream”; discussed “Wage Theft in North Carolina”; and invited people to projects sponsored by the Durham People’s Alliance and the N.C. Justice Center.

Where were the success stories of combating poverty through limited government and economic freedom – the approach that has saved millions from poverty in countries such as Taiwan, Estonia and South Korea? They weren’t mentioned, as far as one can tell from the archives.

To their main underlying complaint, that Conservative and/or Free Market proponents are not "invited" to such seminars: When you refuse to acknowledge that poverty and wage inequality and workplace discrimination and a bunch of other problems even exist, much less need to be addressed, why should you be included in these discussions? And we wouldn't be having many of these discussions if your bent ideology hadn't permeated the Legislature already, encouraging massive cuts to the social safety net. So thanks, but no thanks. And as far as your "missing" examples of small government success stories, you've (as usual) overlooked the obvious:

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