LEGISLATIVE LEADERS SEEK TO TURN NC INTO BANANA REPUBLIC: There are regimes in the world that, barring disasters, cancel elections. They are derisively called Banana Republics, run by juntas whose strongman rulers aren’t quite sure they’ve rigged the voting to come out in their favor. Unfortunately these days, we don’t have to look beyond our borders – or even our state – to see this kind of undemocratic behavior. Senate Leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, House Rules boss David Lewis are the junta and North Carolina is a banana republic. They are cancelling the 2018 judicial and district attorney primaries because their efforts at rigging the elections through their latest gerrymandering scheme might not completely do the trick. Primaries for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals will also be cancelled – even though they’re statewide votes and not connected with any redistricting.
GUNS AND THE SOUL OF AMERICA: The pattern is by now numbingly familiar. A lone lunatic murders a mass of innocent people in some public location. There is a heartfelt cry for tighter control on gun ownership. Then state legislatures swing into action. They pass a series of laws loosening controls on gun ownership. As David Frum points out in The Atlantic, the five years since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School “have seen one of the most intense bursts of gun legislation in U.S. history.” More than two dozen states have passed new gun laws. And in almost all cases these laws have made it easier to buy or carry guns. In Republican states, they found, a mass killing “increases the number of enacted laws that loosen gun restrictions by 75 percent.” In Democratic states, mass shootings have no significant effect on laws passed.
BURR AND TILLIS NEED TO LEAD SO 256,650 NC KIDS KEEP HEALTH COVERAGE: While the U.S. Senate was preoccupied with its bumbling efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Healthcare Act, Congress left the health care of 9 million children – 256,650 of them in North Carolina – in jeopardy. We should not be surprised. North Carolina’s two senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, were on the obstinate and failing side of the latest effort to repeal Obamacare. That proposal would take health coverage away from 20 million Americans. While it never made it to a vote, both Burr and Tillis remarkably supported the measure. That fact should not be forgotten. Authorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program – N.C. Health Choice in this state – expired Sept. 30. Congress failed to renew it even though it has bipartisan support. The program provides health care for children in working families where incomes are above the level to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private or employer-based insurance. It is unfair and wrong to make the health care of children – or anyone for that matter -- a pawn in a pointless political game in Washington.
ONE HIGH RANKING THAT NC MUST LOSE-12TH IN POVERTY: Our failure to include progress on poverty in our measure of the health of our economy has led us down the wrong path. Rather than ensuring that everyone can do well, our leaders have cut taxes for the few in hopes that the benefits would trickle down. Rather than investing in what works, our leaders have ignored what we know works and cut our collective commitment to preventing child abuse, ensuring access to early childhood education, and connecting workers to job training to advance in their careers. A decade after the Great Recession began, we should feel the urgency to change directions and build an economy for all. We should be embarrassed to be near the top of the wrong kind of rankings. Every day that passes without taking this on to compete nationally and globally diminishes all of our economic security.
SHUT UP AND OBEY: Wade failed to pass statewide legislation that would allow local governments to remove legal advertising and public notices in newspapers and place them on government websites. So now she wants such a law for Guilford County only. This will hurt the bottom lines of local papers, including the News & Record. Wade says her goal is to save taxpayers money, which is not a guarantee. Nor would such a move serve the public interest because newspapers and their websites reach broader audiences than the county’s website. But that’s not the point. Some of her colleagues have said that this surgical strike in Wade’s home county is in reality payback to the News & Record for stories and editorials Wade has not liked. It follows a familiar process: If at first she doesn’t succeed, the Greensboro Republican uses her close ties to the Senate’s powerful leader, Phil Berger of Eden, and arcane loopholes to get what she wants. Bills that seemed dead creep back to life. Stragglers are herded into closed-door meetings and made offers they can’t refuse.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BETH MESSERSMITH: LACK OF PAID LEAVE IN NC BAD FOR FAMILIES AND BUSINESSES: Paid family leave was critical for my family when my son was born two months prematurely and spent time in the NICU. Luckily, my employer made sure I could take the time I needed without worrying about financial chaos; other parents aren’t so fortunate. Luck shouldn’t dictate access to paid family leave, and paid time off shouldn’t only cover those caring for new babies. At some point, everyone will need care or have family for whom they need to care. My mother is battling cancer, and I’m not alone in the sandwich generation – caught between caring for aging parents and our children at the same time. Without guaranteed paid family and medical leave, we will be forced to make impossible choices between our families and the paychecks that feed them. This is bad for families, businesses and North Carolina’s economy.
KURT LAUENSTEIN: WE'VE REVIVED BELIEFS OF THE MIDDLE AGES: So, how does anyone “know” anything he cannot see or touch? Such uncertainty characterized the Middle Ages: Magical thinking flourished as communities built walls against “strangers.” Miracles, visions, witches and evil spirits were commonly believed. The Earth was flat. People lived from hardship to hardship. Suspicion ruled. There was no scientific guidance to predict the future. Now, people deny landing on the moon, deny election results, deny Obama’s birth in Hawaii, etc. We live from calamity to calamity. People believe in science that gives them cellphones and automatic weapons, but not in science that shows climate change or the inherent danger of a gun in the house. When magical thinking replaces science, witches will return — and woe to anyone who looks or acts differently.
RACHEL FINKELSTEIN: WHEN WILL IT STOP? I teach at a high school in Chapel Hill. We regularly hold “code blue” drills that are meant to prepare kids for the event of a school shooting. The drills are routine, each rehearsal identical to the ones before it. They usually happen like this: The students huddle in small groups against the wall and practice being quiet while I’m in my head thinking of what I would do if this situation was real. I’m filling the empty spaces where there is no protocol with my own plan: If he’s outside my door, I’d drag the heaviest object in the room (my desk) and push it up against the entryway. Make sure I have my phone. Do not dig through my purse to find my phone. I have to know where everything is. I have to know where everyone is and is not. I don’t know what I’ll do if the shooter still manages to get through the barricaded doors; I haven’t figured this part out yet. But I do know that when our founding forefathers adopted the Second Amendment in 1791, they couldn’t see a future with automatic weapons. They didn’t have to consider the risks of one man killing 58 people and injuring hundreds. I also know that our senators seem to believe that the right to own machine guns and automatic weapons is worth more than the lives of children attending North Carolina schools. How many more shootings will there have to be before there’s a Raleigh or Chapel Hill? When will our senators advocate for gun laws that restrict assault weapons that can fire multiple rounds and are designed to kill? Teachers and parents of North Carolina are waiting to hear their answers. In the meantime, I’ll be with my students, practicing and preparing for the worst.