Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


UNC BOARD'S IDEOLOGICAL BIAS EXPOSED IN COURTING PRINCETON'S CONSERVATIVE CENTER: It is of questionable wisdom, not to mention fairness, for the UNC Board to complain of ideological bias and close some campus-based centers while at the same time actively courting another, clearly ideological center. Does anybody on the board worry about this inconsistency? It is particularly troubling to consider that such a center might be publicly funded or carry the endorsement of the state. As it is imagined now, it is not the place to spend the taxpayers, tuition or student-fee dollars. This board is acting with the kind of fiat that we’re used to seeing from the General Assembly. Sure, the board has the power and authority. But there should be a sincere effort to demonstrate a need, and desire to build support – in this case from a campus, its students, faculty and administrators.

CLASS SIZE MANDATE IS AN ATTACK ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS: This legislation is a piece of political trickery known as an “unfunded mandate.” It’s fairly simple math – to have smaller classes, you need more teachers and classrooms. Lowering class size without providing adequate funding effectively eliminates positions for arts, music and P.E. teachers in order to be in legal compliance. This is no accident; rather, it’s a strategic maneuver by the GOP supermajority to create chaos on the local level. Districts now must scramble to comply with state law. For the average person not steeped in the cynicism and downright meanness our state legislators routinely show toward public schools, this makes little sense. Public schools are designed to benefit everyone. Why would someone intentionally create a budget crisis for school districts? Who would do such a thing?

AMERICANS ACT, OVERWHELMINGLY EMBRACE OBAMACARE: “Enrollment defied expectations and the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine it,” Lori Lodes, a former Obama administration health official who joined with other Obama alumni to push the program when federal efforts were curtailed, told Kaiser Health News. “The demand for affordable coverage speaks volumes — proving, yet again, the staying power of the marketplaces.” North Carolinians clearly understand the need for adequate health care coverage and believe people should have it. Over the last six weeks, more than a half-million spoke with their actions. North Carolinians know the truth when they see it – and state legislators need to remove their ideological blinders and see it too. Accept the truth: The ACA works; citizens embrace it; it saves lives. When the General Assembly goes into session in January, the leadership should make a top priority, accepting the federal support to expand health coverage to those most in need.

2017: THE UNEXPECTED (AND INSPIRING) YEAR OF THE WOMAN: "Women claimed big victories" with the Nov. 7 elections "in a night that marked many firsts and could signal the start of a sea change for women in politics," wrote Governing magazine, a publication not known for breathless declarations on culture and feminism. "The sheer volume of success for women candidates was a surprise to many, mainly because they were running against incumbents who historically win re-election 90 percent of the time. But not this year. Incumbents in Georgia, New Jersey and Virginia all lost their seats to women." The milestones women achieved last year were significant, for sure. But for the most part, they were seals of approval bestowed upon women by the patriarchy. Women made progress because men at male-led institutions scooted their chairs over a bit - just a bit - and let a few women join their circle of power. But what happened in 2017? That was organic and driven by women. It was a massive shift in our culture. It was 51 percent of the population demanding long-overdue change in the way we are treated.

TIME TO END "UP OR OUT" IN THE MILITARY: Allowing a service member to raise his or her family in just one or two places would contribute to improved morale and, as a bonus, better retention too. Add improved schools, health and child care and recreational opportunities and you’ve got an environment far more supportive of career military officers and enlisted personnel. Cutting the number of family moves also saves money in a major defense budget expense. Wilkie also questions the longstanding “up or out” policy that sends service members packing if they don’t climb a continuing ladder of promotions. “Not everyone is on track to become vice chief of staff of the Army,” he said. “As long as you meet standards, you should be allowed to stay.” That would be an enormous change in military culture, but one that makes sense in creating better professional opportunities. Some extremely capable people sometimes don’t want to take the next step up — they’re finding great satisfaction right where they are and they know that the next promotion would put them in a place they don’t want to be.


ANDREA BIONDI: CONGRESS MUST RESTORE CHIP FUNDING: Regarding “Funding impasse puts health coverage at risk for millions of children” (Dec. 20): I am a constituent writing to encourage Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr and Rep. George Holding to support reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program immediately, using a bipartisan approach. The proposal to fund CHIP by taking money from the Affordable Care Act and weakening Medicare is insufficient. We need a sensible resolution soon. Parents of children in North Carolina are already facing difficult decisions about their children’s health care because they cannot afford to pay for their medical expenses out of pocket. Not passing CHIP will do tremendous harm to families right here in our state and our district. North Carolina is due to run out of CHIP funds by the end of the first quarter of 2018. Please help the children of North Carolina by funding CHIP as soon as possible.

HANNALEE ISAACS: GIRLS HAVE "POWER": While riding the Metro train on the way to the Women’s March last January, I felt power and pride when my aunt, cousins, their friends, and I came together, chanting. Soon, the whole train was yelling: “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now! What do we have? Girl power!” Our generation’s greatest threat to civil liberties is the rise of extremism and intolerance. The election of Donald J. Trump as president reflects this shift. Nov. 9, 2016 changed our history as a nation permanently. The 45th President is not a leader “for the American people.” He certainly is not for young women and girls. His election will not be our defeat; it is our rebirth. We have much work to do in 2018 and beyond, but change is possible. If we can empower the next generation of girls to be active members of our democracy, change will occur. Young girls need to know that they are important. They have power if they are willing to use it. If the Women’s March showed us anything, it is that even in the worst times, when hope seems long gone, we have the strength to carry on when we embrace each other and work together.

MARVIN MADDOX: WE NEED TO KEEP OUR FRIENDS: Regarding “Trump threatens to cut aid to opponents in UN vote over Jerusalem” (Dec. 20): For a very long time U.S. foreign policy focused on having friends. Now it seems that we are not interested in “friends.” We simply want “compliant followers” who will quietly back all our actions, a policy based on fear rather than friendship. However, our friends aren’t responding well to the new policy as evidenced by the recent 128-9 vote in the U.N. Our relationship with western Europe is especially troubling to me. Two of my military years were spent in Germany. My wife and I have frequently visited western Europe and always felt welcome. However, last year when we were in France, the situation seemed to be changing. This trip we weren’t interested in talking with French people who might ask us to discuss the deteriorating political situation in the U.S. France has had problems with far-right parties, but it was never expected that it would be a problem in the U.S. The Western Europeans are our friends. We should treat them as friends.



From the dark side

This week's winner of the jackass award is John Hood, for his tax cut cheerleading:

When Congress enacted tax reform a few weeks ago, the final product bore a striking resemblance to the state tax changes North Carolina’s legislature has enacted since 2013. That’s no accident. Our state’s influence on national politics and policy has been growing for years — a trend likely to continue in 2018 and beyond.

The broad outlines of fundamental tax reform have never really been in dispute, at least among conservative and centrist policymakers. The tax code exists to pay for necessary government services, not to engineer social outcomes. It ought to raise revenue at the least-possible cost to economic growth and personal freedom.

Generally speaking, revenues are most efficiently produced by levying low tax rates on broad tax bases. However, it is possible for the base to be defined too broadly, in a way that punishes savings and investment by taxing them multiple times while consumption is taxed only once.

Bolding mine, because I've had this argument with John in the past and he refuses to acknowledge the fallacy at the core of his opinion. The savings and investments are taxed *only once*, it's the interest income (new income) that gets taxed afterwards. I'll use the same example I gave him just to show you how disingenuous Hood can be:

One man goes out and digs ditches for a living, making $50,000 per year, while another man sends his money out to work for him, also making $50,000 per year. At the very least, those two men should pay the same amount of taxes on their earnings.

When faced with that obvious situation, John tried to go off on a tangent talking about how some investments might be wiser than others, yield better results, yada yada. But of course he never acknowledged he might have been wrong about the "multiple taxation" thing, because that would pull the rug out from 2/3 of his argument.

He finishes with the "can't we just get along?" meme that he has polished for years:

More to the point, our political discourse suffers from the same malady evident in most of the rest of the country: a coarseness, a nastiness, an inability to argue one’s case forcefully and passionately without accusing the other side of evil intentions or rank stupidity.

I’d love to see North Carolina set a national example here, as well. Of course we are going to disagree. You may well think some of the policies I’ve just discussed in this column deserve condemnation, not praise. Fine. Argue your point. Don’t just hurl insults.

If these issues were simply academic in nature, I could handle that softening of discourse. But they're not. Every tax cut that gets passed, every regulation that gets undone, every government program that gets smothered by an invisible hand with a pillow, causes unnecessary suffering. And when you cause such pain, you don't get to walk away with nary a scratch. It's about personal responsibility, and if you don't want to feel that heat, the stop pushing policies that hurt people. It really is that simple.

If Hood would like some civility ...

... here's a respected academic saying, in the nicest and most objective way, that he and his fellow conservatives are full of shit. Hood pretty much proves it everytime he shills for Art Pope in one of his op-eds.

This is worth a read to think about how we've moved away from reason over the past few decades where beliefs aren't grounded in science or facts. Really, is there any Republican policy you can think of that is actually grounded in reliable research or facts? How often have the Republicans in the NC legislature or Congress gone out of their way to hide or distort the facts behind the policies they pursue?

Just about anything I read by Hood sounds like a tract by a 19th century evangelical that bases a world view on economics in stereotypes about the poor and working class and moral "poor shaming" about laziness, rather than objective data.