Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


NC'S REGAN IS A GOOD PICK TO RESTORE AND REVIVE THE EPA: Four years ago when Regan took over the state Department of Environmental Quality, he inherited an agency diminished by harsh budget cuts. Ineffective leadership left the dedicated rank-and-file agency workers unsupported and uncertain about their mission. But, as Regan demonstrated over the last four years, he was far more than a cheerleader. He was effective at resolving responsibilities for the thorny Duke Energy coal ash spill disaster the previous administration failed to resolve. His agency was also able to get Chemours Co. to end the polluting practices that had the chemical GenX contaminating drinking water sources in the lower Cape Fear River region. Following Gov. Roy Cooper’s October 2018 executive order on climate change and development of a clean energy economy, Regan developed a Clean Energy Plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s electric power producers by 70% and accelerate clean energy economy expansion opportunities in both the rural and urban areas of the state.

NC IS GETTING A BIG REVENUE SURPRISE. LET'S SPEND IT THE RIGHT WAY: The challenge for North Carolina’s state government in the months ahead will be to move from containing the public health crisis to repairing the damage done by its economic toll. The state is well positioned to do that even after the effect of federal stimulus spending wears off. It has $1.1 billion in its rainy day fund, $4 billion in an unreserved balance fund and a revenue stream that’s stronger than expected. When the General Assembly returns in January, the emphasis should be on how to use this good fortune for those less fortunate. That means not only direct payments, but investment in schools, rural health care, vocational training and infrastructure. Other transformative changes – improbable with the current legislature – would be Medicaid expansion and a higher minimum wage. What shouldn’t happen is a retreat in which lawmakers pad the state’s reserves and hold back on spending based on a misguided notion that the times call for caution. “The state should be pretty generous with the budget. Right now is a terrible time to contract the budget,” said Brown of UNC. Budget cuts with so many in financial jeopardy, he said, would be “throwing fuel on a raging dumpster fire.”

TRUMP THREATENS AMERICANS WITH YET ANOTHER LUMP OF COAL: The news was, at once, totally unbelievable and totally predictable. I speak , of course, of word that arrived last night that President Donald Trump is, in yet another irresponsible and immature fit of pique, throwing a last minute monkey wrench into painfully negotiated pandemic relief legislation. Trump’s action is, as his his wont, utterly destructive and irresponsible. Of course, the bill is flawed. Unfortunately, that’s what frequently happens in an imperfect, complex and diverse country of 300 million people at a time like the present. But the bill is also an absolutely essential piece of legislation that will provide critical, if far from adequate, relief to millions of people at a moment of dire emergency. Indeed, the fact that our normally dysfunctional Congress was able to produce any semi-useful legislation in this moment can only be seen as an extremely hopeful sign. Unfortunately, as is always the case with Trump, his latest action is not about the country or helping its citizenry; it’s about an utterly corrupt and incompetent man extracting revenge in response to the personal affront he took at being rejected by the voters. The bottom line: One hopes Trump will come to his senses and let the bill advance in order to avoid the pain and suffering that further delay would bring about, but we’re not holding our breath. January 20 cannot come soon enough.

THE U.S. WAS SUPPOSED TO BE EQUIPPED TO HANDLE A PANDEMIC. WHAT WENT WRONG?: The answer is, almost everything. President Trump is not responsible for how the outbreak began but bears a large burden for the catastrophic pandemic response. From the start, he squandered valuable time, silenced public health experts and scientists, politicized the regulatory agencies, abandoned a concerted federal response, botched diagnostic testing, lifted restrictions too early, and engaged in deception, illusion and confusion that left the American people fatigued and divided. Mr. Trump failed to adequately warn people, to take the threat seriously or to mount a pandemic response equivalent to the danger. Instead, he retreated to the realm of his own interests: his reelection campaign, his personal grievances, his misguided instincts and magical thinking. The result was a presidency of delusion and deception. Mr. Trump deliberately lied to the public about the grave dangers they faced. In an interview with The Post’s Bob Woodward on Feb. 7, the president said he knew the virus could be more lethal than the flu and that it spread through the air. “This is deadly stuff,” he said. But he told the nation Feb. 25, “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away.” On Feb. 27: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” On March 9, he said the “common flu” was worse than covid. On March 19, he told Mr. Woodward he did not want to be honest with the American people about the severity. “I wanted to always play it down,” he said. “I still like playing it down.” On June 20, he said, “Many call it a virus, which it is. Many call it a flu, what difference?” For political reasons, the White House muzzled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s premier source of public health guidance and crisis management expertise. On Feb. 25, Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned of massive disruption from the oncoming pandemic, saying it was not a question of whether it would happen but when. Mr. Trump was enraged — and the agency was stifled. Mr. Trump then hired as a White House adviser the Hoover Institution senior fellow Scott W. Atlas, a neuroradiologist without experience in infectious diseases, who advocated an approach of natural “herd immunity,” avoiding lockdowns while trying to protect the vulnerable and letting the virus run free among everyone else. It was madness then, and still is.

BISHOP BARBER AND LIZ THEOHARIS: WHAT BIDEN AND HARRIS OWE THE POOR: Before he was elected in November, Joe Biden promised that his “theory of change” for reforming the economy would be “ending poverty.” He pledged to champion a $15 minimum wage, affordable health care for all and federal action to address systemic racism. In the midst of an economic crisis, a pandemic and an uprising for racial justice, low-income Americans — Black, white, brown, Asian and Native — voted to overwhelm a reactionary base that President Trump had stoked with lies and fear. As Democrats have argued about losses in congressional districts that saw a surge of Mr. Trump’s base, some have suggested the Biden administration’s mandate is to compromise with Republican demands. But Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris’s victory depended on the turnout of a diverse coalition that wants economic and racial justice, and deserves bold policy solutions. Biden and Ms. Harris must reject the politics of austerity and fulfill their commitment to policies that address human needs and cultivate human capacities. While the Georgian runoffs will determine whether Democrats have a Senate majority, the new administration can take a bold stand now and commit to policies that would lift Americans regardless of their party affiliation. We must have immediate relief targeted to the Black, Native, poor and low-income communities that have suffered most from Covid-19, alongside universal action to address the root causes of inequality by guaranteeing every American access to quality health care, a $15 minimum wage, the right to form and join a union, and access to affordable housing. To address the political obstruction that has made so many other policy changes impossible, the Biden administration must push to expand voting rights to include universal early voting, online and same-day registration, re-enfranchisement of citizens affected by mass incarceration, statehood for Washington, D.C., and full restoration of the protections of the Voting Rights Act. Real change can be sustained only if the level of voter participation we witnessed this year is sustained. “If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,” the prophet Isaiah says, “you’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.” That is the nation millions of poor and low-income people voted for this year. It is the America we pray Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris will have the courage to lead toward.


KAITLYN DALY: WE NEED MORE THAN FAITH-BASED INSTITUTIONS TO SOLVE NC'S FOOD INSECURITY PROBLEM: Amid the pandemic, increased rates of food insecurity are estimated in all 100 N.C. counties, leaving residents struggling to access food. Historically, the burden of feeding those who are food insecure has fallen on faith-based communities. In N.C., the majority of front-line emergency food responders, such as food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, are run by such organizations. While these groups are critical, greater support from local citizens, the philanthropic community and policymakers is necessary to bolster capacity. Previous White House administrations have established partnerships between government and faith-based groups to strengthen federally funded efforts to meet nationwide social needs. We need more of these partnerships now. Moving forward, it’s essential for faith-based communities and federal programs to work together to create resilient food systems and safety nets.

JESSICA HOLMES: FEDERAL RELIEF IS NOT ENOUGH, NC'S LEGISLATURE NEEDS TO TAP SURPLUS: Congress has spent months debating the merits of supporting Americans with our tax dollars. The end result is an insufficient compromise to provide a one-time payment of $600 to qualifying individuals, half the stimulus payment passed earlier this year. This stimulus deal will not cover the basic needs of our most vulnerable children and their families when the average cost of an apartment in Wake County is over $1,200 a month. Clearly, $600 will not cover one month’s rent or a mortgage payment to prevent homelessness or keep families from being dependent on food pantries. The N.C. General Assembly should use its over $5 billion in reserve funds to further ease the effects of the pandemic on our families. With no relief in sight, our legislators need to step up.

SANDRA BELCHER: IS THIS WHAT "MAKING AMERICA GREAT" IS ALL ABOUT?: Is America great when Trump politicians and Trump supporters deny that the COVID-19 virus is a reality, deny that the virus kills and deny that as human beings we have a responsibility to save lives? Presently 3,000 people a day are dying from an infection that can be mitigated by a simple compassionate action — wearing a face cover. Trump and his followers see such behavior as impinging on their civil rights and their right to have control over their own bodies. How ironic since these same people call themselves pro-lifers on the question of birthing but don’t transfer pro-life actions to protecting others from COVID. Does this make America great? Is America great when people of color or of different ethnic backgrounds are treated as less valuable by Caucasians who call themselves the real Americans? Does denying people of color voting rights, taking children away from parents at our southern borders or committing violence against anyone who is different make America great? Is America great when the Trump faction labels Democrats as socialists or even communists when in reality they support capitalism but moderated by social support programs? They support unemployment benefits, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, affordable health care and COVID relief programs. Do Trumpers care what would happen to people without such programs? Does calling these programs communistic make America great? Finally, is America great when the president of the United States attacks the foundation of democracy — free and fair voting? He and 100 Republican House of Representative members and many Republican state leaders called for the Supreme Court to overturn the results of the national election. At the same time Republican senators stayed silent while the attempt to overthrow election results was made. Is it not their duty as elected leaders to defend and uphold the Constitution against all foreign and domestic threats? Isn’t overturning a free election a threat? Did they not take an oath of office to defend against such threats? Does forsaking their oath of office make America great? I wonder if government leaders standing up for democracy, standing up for the rule of law, standing up with integrity and compassion for all our people rather than lying, being derisive and bending laws to maintain power wouldn’t bring us closer to making America great?



If you think you're tired...

When I woke up on Christmas Eve (1986 I think) my wife and kids were still asleep, because it was like 5:15 a.m. and all sensible people are still sleeping at that time. I rode my motorcycle to Ft. Bragg for what I assumed to be a "light" PT session, since, you know, it was Christmas #$%^&8 Eve and we should have been off anyway.


After a good 40 minutes of hard exercising on nearly frozen ground, we ran about 7 miles. Nice endorphin kick, but that only lasts so long before bone weariness sets in. By the time I got home my wife was packing the kids in the car and headed to her parent's house, and I told her I would hopefully be there around 3:00 or so.


Instead of cutting us loose shortly after lunch as we were promised, some brown-nosing Lieutenant had the bright idea of a "Christmas jump" (airborne operation) to send us off in style. It was a pretty laid-back "chopper blast," meaning we just went to the drop zone and didn't have to put on our parachutes until about 10 minutes before our stick climbed on the whirlybird. It was about 3:45 when I hopped off the Huey, so I was thinking I could make it to Burlington by 6 or so.


Said brown-nosing Lieutenant forgot to tell the motor pool to come back and get us, and those folks were all gone by the time we got ready to leave. So we walked, about 11 miles back to where our personal vehicles were parked. When the LT tried to get some cadence going for a proper march, my Sergeant Major said some bad words and hurt his feelings.

When I finally straddled my Kawasaki and headed home, it was dark, and very cold. You may grasp the concept of wind chill, but until you've ridden 75 mph in 27 degree wet cold, you have no idea. I had a little cafe-style fairing on my bike which I tried to hide behind, but by the time I pulled into my in-laws' driveway, I was a corpsicle. It was about 9:15, and I was ready to slide under several blankets and try to thaw out.


My father-in-law said, "I've set out the tools you're going to need, but it's a little chilly out in that storage building, so you might need this," and he handed me a large thermos of coffee. I put together a bicycle, a tricycle, and a small big wheel for my daughter, who was pretty much still crawling at the time. By the time frozen exhausted Santa daddy placed them around the tree, he really couldn't focus on the clock. The hands were somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 o-clockish, and just before 6 when Santa daddy was woken up so Christmas could happen.

And yes, it is one of my fondest memories.