Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


ALLOW THE POST OFFICE TO GET BACK INTO THE BANKING BUSINESS: A robust postal banking system is a development that progressives, and the American Postal Workers Union, have long favored. Many Americans, especially those in lower income and minority communities, don’t trust the financial system or don’t have easy access to it. “One in four American households is unbanked or underbanked, including half of all Black households,” notes the Save the Post Office Coalition. “This leads to costly alternatives that function as a lifetime tax on accessing your own money.” The American Postal Workers Union negotiated a banking pilot program in its 2016 contract, but the previous postmaster general declined to act on it. When DeJoy came in, the union redoubled its efforts and persuaded him to give it a shot. Of course, any significant expansion would require legislation. Which means — all together now! — that Congress needs to make itself useful. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has been championing postal banking for a few years. As part of its agenda, the Save the Post Office Coalition wanted Congress to include a more expansive test program in the appropriations for the 2022 fiscal year. This is a great idea, and could improve the quality of life for many.

WHO'S REALLY BEHIND THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS: The real issue emerges when companies buy homes not to resell, but to rent. Wall Street homebuying is one of the main drivers behind the affordable housing crisis. When companies — such as American Homes 4 Rent and Invitation Homes — buy up single-family housing, they increase the price of homes by creating scarcity in the market. Meanwhile, they act as corporate landlords, with rent prices at the mercy of Wall Street. The rental value of single-family homes has risen an estimated 15 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, conditions in these rental properties are notoriously poor, and corporate landlords are found to be far more likely to evict tenants — or use the threat of eviction to their advantage. Invitation Homes, for example, is a property management company that was formed from Blackstone, a private equity firm. Invitation Homes is concentrated in the South, and owns properties in 16 U.S. cities. Because of the company’s expansive assets, Invitation Homes has the ability to get mortgages at significantly lower interest rates than the average homebuyer — 1.4 percent, compared to the average 2 to 4 percent. The problem of corporate home buying is only growing more expansive, with little being done to mitigate the effects of single-family homes being converted into rental properties by private equity firms. Major cities bear the brunt of corporate homebuying, and it has the potential to worsen in Orange and Durham Counties as the Triangle sees economic growth and development. A lack of affordable housing anywhere is cause for concern. Yes, it has a ripple effect, and that ripple feels like a tsunami when you're trying to find a place for your family to live.

LEANDRO PLAN WOULD LIFT ALL NC SCHOOLS; LEGISLATIVE LEADERS OFFER ONLY UNCERTAINTY: The undeniable facts: It is a fundamental right, as promised in North Carolina’s Constitution, that every child has the opportunity to receive a sound basic education. North Carolina, at least since 1997 as determined by the state Supreme Court and reaffirmed in 2004, has failed and continues to deny that promise to many North Carolina children. The plaintiffs and defendants in the “Leandro” case worked together with non-partisan experts to develop a consensus remedial plan addressing the state’s shortcomings. This was reviewed by state Superior Court Judge David Lee who ordered its implementation. North Carolina’s newest self-appointed education czars, Senate Leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, have been silent, dismissive and even insulting in their responses to the action plan and the judge’s order. The remedial plan outlines seven broad areas where North Carolina has failed to meet its Constitutional obligation to the state’s children as well as providing detailed programs to address those failures. It is well worth implementation, a Judge Lee’s Oct. 18 deadline for action on the plan approaches. What’s in the Berger-Moore-Truitt solution? What’s their remedy? The truth is, they couldn't care less. Struggling public schools are a feature to them, not a flaw, in their crusade to push charter and (mostly Christian) private schools. They lack the incentives and responsibility to lead on this (and many other) issues.

A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS LOOMS. WAKE UP, DEMOCRATS: If Kagan is right, and I think he is, there is a wild discordance in the respective attentions to the upcoming battle. One side gathers troops into formation while the other hangs out at coffee shops, salons and fundraisers, hoping things aren’t as bad as they seem. The times call for a Lincoln or a Roosevelt. We don’t have one available. President Joe Biden’s habitual “let’s all get along” misses the severity of the moment’s challenge. There is no common ground to be shared with seditionists. It makes one wish that Nancy Pelosi occupied the Oval Office. Or perhaps Stacey Abrams — who has shown necessary skills of hand-to-hand combat on the Republicans’ toughest turf. But that means it is crucial that all of us — Democrats, Republicans, independents and otherwise — realize, with clear eyes, what is at stake. The American democracy is flawed. It has seen more of the tragic perhaps, than the inspirational. Its actual story is not much like that painted in civics books. Its brutalities have pressed most cruelly on the most vulnerable. And its joys have often been reserved, despite its homilies and testaments to the contrary, to the perpetually powerful and privileged. Still, for me, and I’m hoping for the majority of us now, the American experiment is the most important we know. It is time, once again, to contribute a chapter. It won’t do to sit out the battle. Our forebears have the right to expect more of us. So do our children. I have enormous respect for Gene Nichol, but I believe he is wrong about a few things. Uncle Joe is more of a fighter than a pragmatist, and has accomplished a great deal already. He may not bark and instigate like Donald Trump, but that's a good thing, frankly.

HOW DUMB CAN A NATION GET AND STILL SURVIVE? T.S. Eliot wrote that the world ends "not with a bang but a whimper,” but I fear our great nation is careening toward a third manner of demise: descent into lip-blubbering, self-destructive idiocy. How did we become, in such alarming measure, so dumb? Why is the news dominated by ridiculous controversies that should not be controversial at all? When did so many of our fellow citizens become full-blown nihilists who deny even the concept of objective reality? And how must this look to the rest of the world? Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease that has killed more than 700,000 Americans over the past 20 months. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all but guarantee that recipients will not die from covid. I have, or had, an acquaintance who refused to get vaccinated, despite pleas from his adult children to protect himself. He got covid-19, and it killed him. Most of the deaths the nation has suffered during the current delta-variant wave of the disease — deaths of the unvaccinated — have been similarly needless and senseless. Covid-19 is a bipartisan killer. In the tribal-political sense, the safe and effective vaccines are a bipartisan miracle, developed under the Republican Trump administration and largely distributed under the Democratic Biden administration. People in most of the rest of the world realize, however, that vaccination is not political at all; it is a matter of life and death, and also a matter of how soon — if ever — we get to resume our normal lives. Why would people not protect their own health and save their own lives? How is this anything but just plain stupid? You're right, it is stupid. But we're told that calling stupid people stupid is not the way to sway them, that less insulting approaches will be more effective. I don't see it. I'm afraid this is a case of terminal stupidity, and is untreatable.


SUSAN VICKERS SMITH: ONLY THE TEACHING OF TRUE HISTORY CAN SAVE US: I nearly cried when I read about Johnston County commissioners essentially holding the school board hostage by threatening to withhold $7.9 million in funding unless the school board approved a policy banning critical race theory teachings in the schools. James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Allowing the full story of America’s history to be taught and acknowledging the pervasiveness of racial bias and discrimination in our culture is the first step towards actualization of what we declare in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” If we really want America to be great, we’ll work to make this declaration true for all of us. That starts with learning the full story of our history. We've allowed the white-washing of our history for so long, the real story seems like crafted fiction. Fixing this will not be easy, or comfortable.

DEBORAH HOOKER: NC'S SUPREME COURT SHOULD LEAD BY EXAMPLE ON ETHICAL ISSUES: The Sept. 30 editorial about N.C. Supreme Court Justice Phil Berger Jr.’s guest appearance at a partisan fund-raising event was eye-opening. I discovered that as a member of my county’s Board of Elections, I am subject to more stringent policies regarding public displays of partiality or partisanship than N.C. Supreme Court justices. Statute 163-39 in the 2019 Edition of Election and Related Laws and Rules of North Carolina states that I can face dismissal if I “make written or oral statements intended for general distribution or dissemination to the public at large supporting or opposing the nomination or election of one or more clearly identified candidates for public office.” The same applies to publicly endorsing “one or more clearly identified referendum proposals.” And while I can write a personal check to support a candidate, I cannot “solicit contributions for a candidate, political committee, or referendum.” I understand that we all carry our party affiliations with us. But the restraint demanded by these statutes is more than a reminder of our duty to impartiality, whether that be as election officials or judges. It is a practice. Just like any other skill you want to maintain or improve, you practice it. Where there's smoke, there's fire. Where there's a strong appearance of a conflict of interest, the line has already been crossed.

DENISE BAKER: LIKE TRUMP, THE GOP DOESN'T WANT TO PAY ITS BILLS: We know that if you refuse to pay your credit card bill when it comes due, bad things happen. Like a credit card, the federal debt ceiling is about money already spent, not new funding. Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell ignores this fact and threatens to take the U.S. and world economy into bankruptcy by refusing to raise the debt limit. According to, since 1960 the debt ceiling was raised 78 times, 49 under Republican presidents and 29 under Democrats. Congress passed three bipartisan continuing resolutions to suspend the debt limit during Trump’s presidency. The Democrats are now asking the Republicans to cooperate at a time when the U.S. economy is still recovering from the COVID pandemic, but McConnell refuses, even though the government will have to default unless Congress acts by Oct. 18. We’re already seeing the consequences of McConnell’s irresponsibility. The stock market is plummeting because investors are worried. If a default happens, the federal government will not be able to pay Social Security, veterans’ benefits, Medicare and Medicaid, and other assistance citizens need. Why does McConnell want to bankrupt us? Let our Republican senators know that you will hold their party responsible if this fiasco occurs.



Intersectionality vs. exclusivity

Yeah, that's a pretty heady comparison, which probably already has you thinking of examples. But here's the thing: if I don't mention the examples you are mulling, it doesn't automatically mean that I don't care about them, or that I am unaware. Such presumptions very often lead to conflicts which are detrimental to overcoming obstacles, especially in the realm of social justice.

We'll start with a given: We each have issues that are paramount; that drive our passions, and we feel stronger about than other issues. This can stem from personal experience, a direct connection to the problem. Or because we have researched and studied the problem more than other issues. This is only natural, and not a failing of some sort. Which also means, if somebody else advocates for (or against) a different issue, that is not a failing on their part, either.

Intersectionality is the understanding that many of these issues are (already) connected in many ways, and progress on one issue can, and often does, stimulate progress on others. A deeper respect for the contributions of women in the workplace also increases society's respect for their ability to choose what's best for their health, both physical and financial. Fighting bigotry against LGBTQ folks also erodes prejudice against other marginalized populations.

Exclusivity, on the other hand, teaches us just the opposite. It's a zero-sum game, where forward movement on one issue automatically pushes regression on other issues. Not only is this thinking fallacious, it's a fallacy that is nurtured and championed by those on the Right. They thrive by separating us, pitting us against each other, so we can be more easily defeated. Think about that the next time you want to "correct" a fellow progressive who is advocating for (or against) something that is not your main thing.

The problem is, the Right has human nature on their side. We are naturally protective of our own hierarchical value systems, because they are intrinsically tied to our egos, our self-esteem. And thus are easily exploited.

It is not easy to deviate from that, to set aside our natural inclinations and work together for comprehensive progress. But nobody ever said progress would be easy. Nobody who truly understands the challenge, anyway.