TAX OVERHAUL MUST WORK FOR ALL, NOT JUST RIG IT FOR RICH AND BIG BUSINESS: “I think in their heart of hearts they believe that only the wealthy really help the economy, and they believe that the wealthy just carry the rest of us on their backs, that we're all worthless, and only the Charles Kochs and Robert Mercers of the world really add economic value to the economy, and, of course, this is just utterly ridiculous.” You don’t grow the economy by cutting taxes. The economy expands when consumers – mostly those at the middle income levels – have more disposable cash to go out and buy things. Look no further than our own state to see the proof. Over the last five years, the General Assembly has lavished tax cut upon tax cut to corporations and the wealthy while, in many ways, increasing tax burdens on those in the middle. What is there to show for it? A stagnant economy, underfunded critical state needs, declining tax revenues and the distinct possibility of a half-billion hole in the next state budget.
THE THINGS THEY STILL CARRY: A U.S. Army soldier who served in Iraq in 2007 was engaged in almost daily combat, and he watched his friends die in firefights and blown apart by IEDs. He even thought it was his turn when a rocket exploded beside him, knocking him unconscious. After he returned home, he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, but while he was still in the fight in Iraq, his temperament and personality changed. A heated argument in the chow hall then set into motion a series of events that resulted in him receiving a less-than-honorable discharge. Now, he cannot access Department of Veterans Affairs health care, including mental health care, to treat his PTSD and TBI. I currently represent this soldier in his new fight, the fight for justice and relief from the scars of his combat service.
LONG OVERDUE WELCOME HOME FOR VIETNAM VETERANS: The welcome home from friends and family was like that received by GIs returning since the Spanish American War. And Dow Jones liked what it saw in that DD214, putting me to work 45 days after my discharge. The missing link – veterans from earlier wars. There were no invitations to join the VFW or American Legion and a wall of indifference when I brought up the subject with members I knew. It was a quarter century before I was approached by either of those groups about joining. By then my own shell of indifference rejected those as insincere. I had "gotten past" veterans groups to the extent I never looked into the Vietnam Veterans of America, whose slogan -- Never again will one generation of Veterans abandon another -- described my feelings well.
GENE NICHOL: CRIMINALIZING POVERTY IN NORTH CAROLINA: Late in the last legislative session, the General Assembly moved to make it almost impossible for judges to waive an array of costs and fees imposed in criminal cases that poor defendants typically cannot pay. Such waivers are frequently constitutionally mandated. But our legislators detest them. So now courts are prevented from excusing fees without providing a 15-day notice to a long list of state agencies, giving them opportunity to object. Judges say the new rule is “designed to make the process so cumbersome” no one will issue waivers. If fees aren’t excused, and payment isn’t forthcoming, an array of additional sanctions, including incarceration, can be triggered. Shades of the debtors’ prison.
IN OPIOID CRISIS, REASSURING WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH: President Donald Trump has spoken some strong words to the nation about the seriousness of the opioid epidemic. That’s appropriate, given the growing numbers of Americans who are dying because of abuse of these powerful, addictive painkillers. But it will take more than words to make a real difference. In his address last week, the president spoke convincingly about the death of his brother from alcoholism and of the dangers of addictions. The opioid epidemic, he declared, is a national public-health emergency. That’s undeniably true. The national opioids commission Trump appointed earlier this year, with Gov. Roy Cooper as a member, estimates that 142 Americans die every day because of opioids, or, to put it another way, every three weeks the death toll is equal to that in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
JOE JACKSON: PROTECT N.C. FORESTS FROM WOOD PELLET MILL: “Cooper should block mill that reduces forests to wood pellets” (Oct. 25) was very informative, revealing and a clear call for action to anyone who cares about our environment, our democracy, our treasured North Carolina forests and a sustainable future for our children. Informing the readers about the adverse impacts that the Enviva wood pellet mill would have both locally and globally is a responsible and greatly appreciated public service. The writer stated that an average of 13,000 acres of forests would be cut down annually by this type of mill. Given the unquestionable value of our forests, this is an unacceptable outcome and one that should not be taken lightly. A permit for this type of operation was issued without the appropriate forewarning or adequate input from the local community. That is unconscionable in this day and time. The quality of life on nearby residents will surely be impaired. The governor’s “commitment to continue to embrace a clean energy future” is indeed a reason for hope. Let us not allow this hope to diminish by complacency or indifference to this unfortunate situation in Richmond County.
ALICE CARLTON: LET'S USE DIPLOMACY INSTEAD OF MILITARY: Our world appears to become more dangerous every day with tensions between the U.S. and China, North Korea, Russia, the Middle East and many places in Africa. I have heard that two-thirds of the State Department positions remain unfilled and that Secretary Tillerson has stated that his priority is making it more efficient, while President Trump wants to cut its budget by 30 percent. Nevertheless, the Senate Appropriations Committee has substantially increased the State Department budget. For our own national security, we need those State Department positions to be filled. We need to draw on all the expertise we can to use diplomatic means to resolve international tensions before we reach the point of no return. As Oscar Wilde said long ago, “As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.” I believe I am far from alone in saying we are weary of these continuing wars. Let us make war vulgar and diplomacy our priority. Sens. Burr and Tillis should urge Tillerson to fill the empty positions in the State Department and support diplomacy around the world.
ROBERT HORTON: GOP TAX PLAN WILL HURT SENIORS: Thanks to the GOP/Trump tax plan, many retired senior couples will see our federal income taxes double, triple and quadruple. I ran my 2016 tax return using the rules in the proposed GOP/Trump tax-reduction plan and found it would increase our joint federal income tax by almost 400 percent. My wife and I live on Social Security, her small teacher’s pension and withdrawals from our IRAs. We are in our mid-70s and consider ourselves a middle-income couple. In 2016, we owed federal taxes of $393 on taxable income of $3,909. Under the GOP/Trump plan, we loose the excess medical and dental expense deduction, the N.C. taxes deduction and the two personal exemptions. Which leaves only the new $24,000 standard deduction. That causes our taxable income to increase to $12,947. Taxed at the new bottom rate of 12 percent, we would owe $1,554, almost four times the $393 we paid in 2016. All seniors should recalculate their 2016 tax return using this GOP/Trump plan’s rules and see the effect. Then contact your representatives in Washington and let them know how their “huge” tax cut effects you.