Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES, ANSWER "YES" WHEN ASKED TO EXPAND MEDICAID: Failing to expand Medicaid carries a HUGE cost to North Carolina – both in the health of our citizens and to the state’s economy. Every month the toll increases. Since 2014: 2,115 to 6,346 North Carolinians have died for lack of needed medical care. 21,720 diabetics have had to go without medication. 56,233 women have gone without annual mammograms for breast cancer screening. $11.52 billion in federal funds have been lost. 67,160 jobs have not been created. The leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly -- specifically Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland -- could easily bring this neglect to an end. But their reflexive disdain for ANYTHING backed by former President Barack Obama prevents a change.

NC, IT'S TIME TO BE HEARD. GET READY TO VOTE: But this “Rising American Electorate” doesn’t register and vote in proportion to their growing numbers. At the beginning of 2018, 26.1 percent of African Americans, 32.7 percent of unmarried women, 31.1 percent of Latinos, and 38.6 percent of millennials were not yet registered to vote. And research projects that approximately 40 million members of these historically under-represented groups, including more than 1.1 million North Carolinians, will not vote this year. This would be a disaster for democracy. Every American – and our system of self-government – suffers when so many of our fellow citizens don’t have a say in the nation’s leadership and direction. How can our elected officials decide who has healthcare coverage, who can afford to send their kids to college or who can retire without plunging into poverty unless they hear the voices and heed the votes of every segment of society? Without the participation of all the people, public officials will be out-of-touch, public policies will be ineffective, and government at every level will lack legitimacy.

LINDSEY GRAHAM IS THE SADDEST STORY IN WASHINGTON: The battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was an especially ugly episode of a reality-show presidency that degrades almost everyone swept up in it, and many characters stagger away from it looking worse than ever. That’s Senator Lindsey Graham you see at the head of the pack. That’s Graham you hear talking and talking and talking some more, in committee rooms and on stages and before the television cameras that he rushes to the way a toddler chases soap bubbles. His words are whichever ones guarantee a major role and a powerful patron, which means that these days he sounds like a more articulate echo of his golfing buddy: Donald Trump. But Graham is special. He really is. I can’t think of another Republican whose journey from anti-Trump outrage to pro-Trump obsequiousness was quite so illogical or half as sad, and his conduct during the war over Kavanaugh completed it. For the president he fought overtime, he fought nasty and he fought without nuance.

WIDER USE OF CLEAN ENERGY WOULD REDUCE POWER OUTAGES DURING STORMS: What has not garnered as much attention in news reports is how the weaknesses in our traditional sources of energy were on such display during this storm and, as a stark contrast, how the state’s clean energy sources, quite literally, powered through. Despite high winds and heavy rains, very little damage was reported to our state’s solar farms. The Amazon US East Wind Farm sustained no damage and the turbines maintained normal operation throughout the storm. A microgrid (a “mini” grid that can operate independently when the main grid is down) on the Outer Banks stood ready as a valuable asset in case the main grid there had been damaged. It’s exciting that we were able to see tangible benefits from our state’s investments in clean energy during Hurricane Florence. I am optimistic that a possible silver lining of the storm is that it helps shine a light on opportunities for improvement and expansion of clean energy initiatives in North Carolina.

NC NEEDS TO TAKE WATER ISSUES SERIOUSLY: After Hurricane Florence, Alamance County alone sent more than 120,000 gallons of human waste south to our neighbors. That’s hardly how we wish to treat our Tar Heel friends in their time of difficulty. The final outcome in Wilmington and other cities in the Cape Fear watershed is they are dealing with a fetid stew of human waste, animal carcasses, hog waste, coal ash and GenX. The human waste can carry along disease with it, including Hepatitis A and norovirus. And none of that includes longer-lasting issues of heavy metals in the water that is a constant and daily issue within North Carolina waterways. It’s so gross as to be unimaginable. What makes it worse is that the Haw River, Lake Jordan and the Cape Fear River are drinking sources for cities along the watershed. The Department of Environmental Quality can’t fix our rivers and drinking water issues by itself, either. It needs the backing in the form of money from the state legislature — those who represent citizens along the waterways. Both Democrats and Republicans drink from those water and disease knows no political colors.


LAURA PORTER: AT THE END OF THE DAY, KAVANAUGH WAS SIMPLY NOT QUALIFIED: It is likely impossible to know what transpired between Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford more than 30 years ago. He may have been falsely accused. Or he may have committed sexual assault. We most likely will never know. What we do know with complete certainty is that his testimony last week was dishonest, disrespectful, and openly partisan. He does not possess the integrity or temperament required of a Supreme Court Justice. He also revealed prejudices that make him unable to fairly and impartially rule on many cases that come before the Supreme Court. This is why over 2,400 law professors signed a letter opposing his nomination. This is why former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said Kavanaugh was unqualified for this position. This is not about being fair to Brett Kavanaugh. It’s about being fair to the American people. We deserve better.

KH CARRUTH: U.S. CITIZENS DESERVE BETTER THAN KAVANAUGH: When Ambition becomes the adversary of Truth, no offense will be off the table. Such is the case for Brett Kavanaugh. Research demonstrates the railing accusations asserted by Mr. Kavanaugh during his appearance before the Senate committee is a classic example of one who, when charged with misdeeds and unwilling to yield ambition or confess to any wrong doing, will coil and strike like a viper rather than admit the truth. When the Truth is not on your side, the most common and successful defense becomes an irate, indignant and vicious offense. Tossing in how badly you, your good name and your children have been violated by a conspiracy of the opposition will certainly stop accusers in their tracks. An animated offense will at least slow the opposition. Likewise, it will rally your supporters who cannot believe anyone could treat you so badly. Judging by his actions laboratory research would suggest Brett Kavanaugh is a liar. The citizens of this country deserve better than having to accept such a questionable member of the highest court. You can do better than this. We deserve better than this.

CARMEN ARBOGAST: THE FACTS ABOUT DACA: Did you know there are about 250,000 undocumented students enrolled in schools throughout the United States? A large percentage of those students were brought to the U.S. by their family members when they were infants, meaning they had absolutely no choice in the matter and the U.S. is the only home they know. The term DACA is an acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, and in order to apply for DACA status one must first meet the criteria. The minors must have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, lived continuously in the U.S. since June 2007, present in the U.S., on or before June 2012 and must never have been convicted of a felony or any significant misdemeanors; note that this last requirement can disqualify the applicant in their entirety. The DACA policy is utterly important to the Hispanic population because although it is not considered a legal status it is still a form of legality that can provide the recipient with an opportunity to a proper education and legal employment. Creating a new policy that can allow DACA recipients a path to citizenship can have a greater positive impact on the economy, as a majority of DACA recipients work legally and do pay taxes. While entities continue to attack the validity of what DACA really is, this letter serves as an informational document for the public to gather a simple understanding of the policy, in efforts to minimize the comparison of hard working DACA recipients to undocumented criminals.



From the dark side

John Hood is on deck this week, mainly because of what he doesn't tell his readers:

That North Carolina had billions of dollars socked away to address emergencies such as Florence was no accident. Prudently and methodically, the General Assembly has spent years building up financial reserves. Foolishly and repeatedly, critics faulted lawmakers for saving these dollars rather than spending them.

There has been a partisan dimension, no question. After winning majorities in both legislative chambers in 2010, the Republicans made it a high priority to accumulate a substantial rainy-day reserve equal to at least 8 percent of annual state spending, and preferably upwards of 10 percent.

In this breezy little historical reminiscing, John leaves out the pain and suffering of tens of thousands of NC citizens. He also mischaracterizes the genesis of this hefty surplus.

By the height of the Recession, NC had generated some $3 Billion in debt to the Federal government, for payment of unemployment benefits to the countless workers laid off during those troubled times. In order to pay that debt off, Republicans brutally slashed both the dollar amount and the duration of unemployment benefits, leaving countless families struggling to put food on the table.

We paid that debt off in record time, mostly on the backs of those unemployed, but did Republicans show even the tiniest bit of empathy and restore some of those benefits that had been taken? No. They had found a gold mine, and they weren't about to close that baby down.

Democrats favor keeping some money in reserve, of course, but have often argued that GOP policymakers were overdoing it. Larry Hall, then the Democratic leader in the North Carolina House, complained during the 2016 legislative session that the Republican majority was saving too much and spending too little. “We artificially starved ourselves,” he said just before that year’s budget bill passed the House. “We have funds available, and we’ve decided not to invest.”

And while campaigning against McCrory in 2016, Roy Cooper blasted the governor for “building up the rainy day fund in excess of what’s necessary for the state,” and for letting the money “just be sitting there” rather than spending it.

And they were right. One of the largest areas Republicans have cut in their zest to reduce government spending is environmental regulation. Water quality staffing alone has been slashed by some 40% in the last 6-7 years, and now our drinking water resources have become so tainted by CAFOs and industrial contaminants, people across the state can no longer trust their tap water.

But let's get back to that $2 Billion John is bragging about:

A few weeks later, Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina. As you might expect, Cooper immediately stopped complaining about an overly large rainy-day fund.

At this point, maintaining significant fiscal reserves ought to be a goal shared by North Carolina politicos of all persuasions. It’s not as if they can’t imagine what it would be like to experience a massive storm with inadequate savings. Most can remember 1999, when Hurricane Floyd ravaged large swaths of the state.

Then-Gov. Jim Hunt and a Democratic-controlled legislature settled on a $840 million disaster-relief package. But there wasn’t enough dedicated savings to pay for it. They had to cobble together the funding from several sources, including reverted funds from the operating budget. As a result, the North Carolina had inadequate reserves in 2000-01 when a recession bit into state tax revenues, creating massive budget deficits.

Hood is usually too careful to undermine his own argument, but he slipped up this time. Under Democratic control 19 years ago, the Legislature decided to spend $840 Million on hurricane relief. Fast forward to 2016 under Republican rule, that Legislature only budgeted $200 Million for hurricane relief. A few years later, for a more damaging storm, those same Republicans only saw fit to spend $56 Million in their initial appropriation. Seeing a trend yet? You should be.

The shameful truth is: That $2 Billion is not a "rainy day" fund. It's a "more tax cuts for the wealthy" fund, an insurance policy that all their irresponsible pandering to the top 8% of earners, who dutifully fill the GOP's campaign war chests every two years, will not come back and bite them in the ass.

Stop bragging about that money you stole from the unemployed, and start spending it on the homes and schools and roads that got washed out during the biggest "rainy day" we've ever had.