SPEAKER MOORE'S BOASTING ABOUT EDUCATION DOESN'T ADD UP: North Carolina schools today have more students than ever, but fewer assistant principals, nurses, social workers and guidance counselors. Money for teacher assistants has been sliced $62 million. There are 3,150 fewer teachers in our schools today than there would be if formulas in place during the 2011-12 school year were still followed. North Carolina is on target this year to drop from 42nd – not much of a position to start with – to 43rd nationally in per-pupil spending. That’s more than $3,000 per student below the national average. The reality is that Moore and his ideological soulmates in the General Assembly are more intent on cutting taxes for big corporations and the wealthy than providing the needed funding for properly paid teachers and quality public schools. When it comes to doing more for education in North Carolina, Moore’s boasting is no more than school-yard trash talk. All platitudes, with little to back it up.
MOVING TOWARD REASONABLE VOTING DISTRICTS: Nathaniel Persily is a serious man whose academic specialty at Stanford University in California is, in a word, democracy. He researches issues such as voting rights, the political parties, campaign finance laws and redistricting. He is a glutton for knowledge, and given those topics and the way they inflame debate in American politics these days, some would say for punishment. Republican lawmakers, who try at every opportunity, and sometimes try to make their own opportunities with misguided law, to skew election rules in their favor, insulted the intelligence of voters in blatant attempts to guarantee their dominance at the polls, whether that meant voter suppression rules (Voter ID, cutting early voting days) or their greedy district lines. Endless hours have been spent in court in defense of their foolishness against public-spirited citizens and organizations seeking fairness. It appears Nathaniel Persily has intended to deliver as close to that as he can. The only safe prediction is that Republicans will complain, if it reduces their ridiculously unfair advantage even a little.
MARGARET DICKSON: WHAT KEEPS US UP AT NIGHT: Why does the United States have exponentially more mass shootings than any other country on the globe? Are we an inherently more violent people? Do we have more mentally ill citizens? Does our diversity cause us to attack each other? The answer may be simpler than we think. Our mass shootings may well be because we have way, way, way more guns than any other country. Americans account for 4.4 percent of the world’s population, and we own an astounding 42 percent of the world’s guns. Recent research by University of Alabama professor Adam Lankford found that only one other nation, Yemen, has a higher rate of mass shootings than we do. Not surprisingly, it also ranks second in gun ownership. Cynics say nothing will happen as long as the National Rifle Association gun lobby maintains its financial lockdown on our Congress, including North Carolina’s own U.S. Sens., Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, who have accepted $7 million and $4.4 million respectively in NRA campaign contributions. Sadly, the cynics seem to be right. British journalist Dan Hodges wrote this two years ago regarding the United States’ long-running debate over gun regulations: “In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”
WILL TRUMP IMPACT 2018 NC ELECTIONS? There did seem to be a strong, and negative, Trump effect in Virginia’s elections Tuesday. Exit polls there found that about one-third of voters said they were expressing opposition to the president. Democrat Ralph Northam was elected governor by 9 percentage points over Republican Ed Gillespie, and Democrats picked up more than a dozen seats in the House of Delegates. North Carolina Democrats should have learned one important lesson from their counterparts in Virginia: That is to field qualified candidates in every race. They haven’t done that in congressional, legislative and county districts where they didn’t think they could win. Democratic challengers in Virginia did win many of those contests. North Carolina Republicans can run on the strength of the state’s economy and other successes, but the president is likely to be a factor in some voters’ minds. GOP candidates may not get away with embracing him in their primaries and running from him in November.
ENDING OPIOID EPIDEMIC COSTS MONEY: President Donald Trump recently declared a public-health emergency for the opioid epidemic. The announcement was mostly meaningless to opioid addicts and the people trying to help them because it did not include any useful new ideas or dollars to fight the epidemic, which kills thousands every month. The few details offered with the declaration are especially troubling. The government could redirect resources, potentially taking public-health dollars away from other urgent needs. The research is clear: Medication is the best hope to get addicts off opioids — both prescription drugs and heroin — but that medication is expensive. If the president truly cares about the epidemic, he should look closer at what is actually working right now in places like Washington state and promise to renew grant money that is offering treatment to more people.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BARBARA SCHUTZ: UNC CIVIL RIGHTS CENTER SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO LITIGATE: Regarding “State Bar says UNC civil rights center is not authorized to practice law” (Nov. 10): I am appalled to learn that the most vulnerable in our state may soon be unable to receive legal aid provided by law students at UNC. The students need practical experience; the recipients need help. I cannot imagine a better combination of talents meeting needs. UNC is notable for both its academic excellence and its service to the state. The Center for Civil Rights at the UNC Law School is only one example of that service. Recently, a medical student at UNC Hospital operated on my shoulder to remove a melanoma. She was supervised by her professor, but she made the incision, removed the tissue and sewed up the wound. Will medical students be the next target?
DENISE BAKER: REPUBLICAN PLANS THREATEN MEDICARE: Rep. Ted Budd recently mailed a four-page color brochure produced at taxpayers’ expense announcing Medicare enrollment dates. He states, “Today’s Medicare recipients have spent a lifetime paying into the system. That’s why it is imperative we protect the program for today’s seniors and strengthen it for future generations.” Why, then, did Budd vote for the 2018 Republican budget proposal that cuts health care spending over the next 10 years by $1.5 trillion, including $473 billion for Medicare? When I wrote to Sen. Thom Tillis to object to these reductions to Medicare, he said that the budget resolution proposes total spending cuts of $5.1 trillion to provide for a tax cut of $1.5 trillion. Then he told me not to worry because the proposed budget has not yet been enacted into law. “This is strictly a framework and procedural step to begin the reconciliation process.” Reconciliation allows bills to pass with only 51 Republican votes if they will not add to the federal deficit over 10 years. If Medicare and Medicaid are not reduced, the Trump tax cuts will add to the federal deficit. Which do you think the Republicans are more likely to do: cut Medicare and Medicaid or increase the deficit?
DONNA CHRISTENSEN, M.D.: ONLY MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS SHOULD DECIDE WHAT A "REAL EMERGENCY" IS: “Is it an emergency? Insurer makes patients question ER visit” (Nov. 9) highlights a recently implemented policy from America’s second largest insurer, Anthem, which will negatively impact thousands of patients across the United States. This policy may result in patients receiving surprise hospital bills for ER visits the patients themselves believed were imminent emergencies, but which were later classified as “avoidable.” Contrary to the rationale for this policy change, a recent study from the University of California at San Francisco found that only 3.3 percent of emergency department visits can be considered “avoidable.” Recommending that patients should only use the ER for “real” emergencies forces Americans to make a dangerous choice only licensed medical practitioners should make, putting them in critical danger. As longtime health care advocates, we urge Anthem to fix its policy. We believe it violates the basic tenets of the insurer/patient agreement and provides yet another example of abusive practices that prevent Americans from accessing quality health care.