Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Beat(ing) Goes On

The incredibly generous, benevolent, and gracious grandees of the NC House Finance Committee allowed four minutes of public comment today before ramming through on a party-line vote a law to cut the maximum weekly unemployment benefit from $535 to $350 and replace 26 weeks of state-paid benefits with a sliding cap of 12 to 20 weeks, depending on how Gov. McCrory Squishy's economy is going.

Meanwhile and elsewhere in the legislative building, and to show that they've got their priorities straight and the best interests of children in mind, the Honorables introduced legislation to allow "certain teachers and other volunteers" to carry firearms as "school safety marshals."

And a female member of the General Assembly introduced a bill to make it illegal to display in public a "nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast."

(Penny Wise and) Pound Foolish?

The Watauga County Republican Party raised over $90,000 in 2012, but they spent over $30,000 of that on ... wait for it ... fundraising and "events" (and that's not even counting the $500 check they wrote on November 5 for their "Victory Celebration").

That's what a shallow volunteer base gets you -- the necessity of paying the Broyhill Inn and the Blowing Rock Country Club big bucks to raise your money.

GOP to NC: Let's Heap a Little More Punishment on the Unemployed

NC House Bill 4, with an opaque title meant to frustrate your attempt to understand what the Clown Car in Raleigh means to do to unemployment insurance, is being fast-tracked this morning through committee and might be voted on by this coming Monday.

Just another brick in the wall.

House member Jonathan Jordan's telephone number is 919-733-7727. Senate member Dan Soucek's telephone number is (919) 733-5742.

GOP to North Carolinians: You Don't Need No Stinking Medical Insurance

Gov. McCrory has said that he has not made up his mind whether the state should expand its Medicaid coverage or participate in a health insurance exchange, but it appears that the honchos in the General Assembly are making his mind up for him. Despite all his theatrical throat-clearing, we believe that Gov. McCrory Butthead will end up doing as he's told, and poor and middle-class citizens in North Carolina in need of health insurance will suffer.

WRAL is reporting that legislators "aren't waiting for him." Bills in both NC House and Senate were filed yesterday, on the first day of the session, to block the expansion of Medicaid and to block NC's participation in the creation of any health exchanges.

Lovely. The ideological radicals, in their Obama-hating spite, are prepared to see some 500,000 low-income North Carolinians become ineligible for Medicaid on January 1, 2014.

That's only one domino. Another would cut off another 700,000 middle-class families from being able to get the credits to make insurance more affordable.

Watching this vandalism of the social contract in Raleigh makes my heart turn to stone. I might eventually be wholly indifferent to any fate that befalls the people doing this.

The House bill is H16. House member Jonathan Jordan's telephone number is 919-733-7727.

The Senate bill is S4. Senate member Dan Soucek's telephone number is (919) 733-5742.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yup, NC Closing the Gap with Mississippi, Alabama

Yesterday during NC House Speaker Thom Tillis's press conference, someone present in the room tweeted that Tillis said our state needs "to close the gap with Mississippi, Alabama and other SE states on being business-friendly. Great role models."

Tillis was evidently speaking about corporate taxes and regulations, but he might as well have been talking about education, environment, quality of life ... you name it.

As of this morning, laws were introduced in the NC General Assembly to...

1. Reject the implementation of federal health care reform.

2. Greatly reduce and otherwise hamper unemployment insurance.

3. Outlaw labor unions in the state's Constitution, when we're already a right-to-work state.

Regressive, nullifying, backward, poor-hating. We're catching up with you, Mississippi and Alabama!

Gov. McCrory Attacks Liberal Arts Education

Gov. McCrory
We're only weeks into the McCrory administration and already we have one of those quotes that's going to haunt him until Judgment Day. On Bill Bennett's radio show, McCrory attacked liberal arts courses, particularly at UNC-Chapel Hill and especially "gender studies."

"If you want to take gender studies that's fine. Go to a private school and take it. But I don't want to subsidize that if that's not going to get someone a job," McCrory said. He said that he had instructed his staff on Monday to draft legislation that would change how much state money universities and community colleges receive -- "not based on how many butts in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs."

Almost immediately -- well, in fact, immediately -- #buttsinseats began trending on Twitter. Don't know how many of the butts in gender studies can get jobs, but we know one huge butt that became governor of North Carolina.

Attacking college professors is one of the easiest jobs a bully can pick for himself. A college professor is like a 19th-century "tenderfoot" blundering into a Wild West saloon for people like McCrory. "Let's make 'im dance a little," says old Pat McCrory, drawing his six-shooter.

Don't know what Pat McCrory majored in, and don't really care. But he appears to have kept the blinders on: "If it don't get me a job, it ain't worth my time." That's the McCrory doctrine. Which is a serious misunderstanding of what higher education can achieve, as well as a butt-headed "huh huh huh" about anyone not similarly short-sighted. It was also a declaration of war on UNC-Chapel Hill, which is certainly what we're looking for in a thoroughly modern governor of North Carolina.

Don't know what Pat McCrory's college major was in, but we know Bill Bennett's ... political philosophy.

Great is the God Irony!

Hattip: LO.

Jason deBruyn, writing in the Triangle Business Journal this morning, demolishes The Guv's argument with simple statistics:
In North Carolina, the overall unemployment rate still hovers above 9 percent, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a bachelor’s degree or higher have an unemployment rate below 4 percent. 
Conversely, for those with less than a high school diploma, the unemployment rate is 11.7 percent, three times higher than the rate with a bachelor’s degree.

McCrory was a political science and education major.

Almost immediately after McCrory finished his interview with Bennett, his flacks were trying to mend the damage: "This was not meant to be a personal attack on UNC,” spokeswoman Crystal Feldman said. “Gov. McCrory did not mean to tarnish UNC’s reputation.”

Yeah, right.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Bad Moon Rising"

Mark Binker recently pointed out that over 100 of the 170 men and women about to take their seats in the new North Carolina General Assembly were not in office three years ago. They are more ideologically homogeneous, too, and considerably more conservative.

Kirk Ross speculates on what this is likely to mean for the University of North Carolina system (and he didn't even mention the likely role of McCrory's chief budget officer, Art Pope): is hard to see how the new legislature, more ideologically driven and less experienced than any in recent memory, will be able to resist a test or two of the boundaries of intellectual freedom in state-funded academia. 
You may recall last year’s notorious sea-level rise bill, which essentially put a moratorium on the use of climate-change science in public policy. An early version of the bill imposed restrictions on the use of scientific research that would have applied to all state agencies and institutions including its universities. 
While ultimately UNC’s lobbyists were able to get that language stripped from the bill, it likely won’t be the last time the university will see rules on research rewritten, budgets shifted or programs zeroed out for ideological reasons.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Morning Smorgasbord

Paul Stam
Interesting and lengthy analysis of what to expect from the NC General Assembly in the legislative session about to convene, including projected intra-party spats between Republican big-heads. Best quote is from House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam, who said that the GA must cut back on state regulations. "I hope, by the end of the session, we'll have the craziest rules whacked down," said Stam.

By "craziest rules," Stam evidently did not mean the various and humiliating intrusions into a woman's right to choose an abortion, including vaginal probing, all of which he enthusiastically supported.

Julia Howard, an NC House member from Mocksville, is leading the GOP charge to reduce unemployment benefits for the jobless. Even though the federal government is picking up the tab, Julia and her friends want to reduce the top benefit by 35% anyway and also reduce the amount of time people can receive benefits. Why? They feel current benefits are "too generous" and make people "dependent" on the government.

To which Progress NC hatches a "what if":
...let's pretend Julia's karma has caught up with her. She's lost her re-election bid and returned to Mocksville only to find that, because she and her peers were too busy passing judgement on the unemployed to address economic development or job creation, her services as a real estate broker are no longer needed. Your mission: tell us, please, what Julia should do to earn a living now. That $350 a week in unemployment benefits won't last forever.

Speaking of Virginia Foxx clones, we came across this album sleeve on Facebook, where people were asking, "Who dat woman?"

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Jokes Just Write Themselves

The Republican National Committee convened for three days this week in Charlotte and reelected Reince Priebus as its national chair. They also argued with themselves and rationalized their recent national defeat. Supposedly, there was some considerable soul-searching, but as Politico pointed out, they collectively decided that “...the party’s main problem ... is who delivers its message and how, not the message itself. Overwhelmingly they insisted that substantive policy changes aren’t the answer to last year’s losses.”

Whatever, dudes. It’s your party. And you’re welcome to it.

But so far as actual soul-searching goes, you can be the judge...

19 Out-of-Context Quotations from Republicans in Charlotte That We Can’t Do Without
1. “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party,” said Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana

2. “We have to go places we haven’t been,” said Reince Priebus

3. “It’s not the platform of the party that’s the issue,” Priebus said

4. “We have allowed the message to get out that the Republican Party is the party of no and doesn’t care about diverse groups of people. It’s just nonsense,” said Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida

5. "Listen, we've got to grow our party without compromising our principles. That's the bottom line," Priebus said

6. "Tone matters. It's not only what you say; it's how you say it," said Saul Anuzis, a former RNC national committeeman from Michigan.

7. "I just think we have to be cognizant of the fact that you can approach [social issues] in such a way that is open and inclusive and tolerant and understanding of other people's positions," Anuzis said

8. "You just can't go off half-cocked and say stupid things," said Ada Fisher, a GOP national committeewoman from North Carolina

9. “When it comes to young people, when it comes to new African-American leaders, Hispanic leaders, we really have done an incredible job over the last few years. We’ve just done a lousy job bragging about it, ”said Priebus

10. “We don’t need a new pair of shoes; we just need to shine our shoes,” said West Virginia national committeewoman Melody Potter

11. Party leaders need to work on “not being sour-pusses on television or the radio, ” New Hampshire chairman Wayne MacDonald said

12. “Nobody is saying the Republican Party has to change our beliefs in any of our platform planks. This party wants to serve everybody that believes in our principles,” MacDonald said

13. “The thing we can’t do is start talking about crazy stuff,” said Mississippi Republican Chairman Joe Nosef

14. “This [Obama] administration is a socialist administration. There’s no question about it,” Curly Haugland, national committeeman from North Dakota, said

15. "I will talk to a head of lettuce if I can get them to vote Republican," said Party co-chair Sharon Day

16. “It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults," Jindal said

17. “Actually our principles are more conducive to minorities than the Democrats,” said Holland L. Redfield II, the Virgin Island’s national committeeman

18. "I think you're going to see a very renewed, aggressive effort by this party to put on a different face," GOP strategist Sally Bradshaw said. "We are going to go into areas that we do not go into and see folks that we do not see."

19. "Any Republican that's thinking about talking about running for president in 2016 needs to get his head examined," Jindal said
And then – and then – without objection, the full Republican National Committee approved a resolution by voice vote Friday calling on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood and redistribute the money intended for cancer screening and preventive services to organizations that do not perform abortions.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Parallel Worlds of Arthur Laffer

Who is Arthur Laffer? Short answer: the man most responsible for the Reagan administration's "trickle-down" tax policy that resulted in the first huge bounce in this nation's deficit.

Also the man behind the NC General Assembly's current plan to eliminate (or perhaps only greatly reduce?) the income tax on the rich.

Arthur Laffer has been the go-to guy for conservatives in various state legislatures looking to shift the tax burden away from the rich and onto the backs of the working class. In 2011, a right-wing think-tank in Oklahoma hired Laffer's consulting firm to write a report that "suggested that Oklahoma would benefit by lowering taxes on businesses and the wealthy and scrapping credits for lower- and middle-income residents."

This plan was introduced as a bill in the Oklahoma state legislature, and its authors hosted Laffer in the state to promote the idea. But economists started actually analyzing Laffer's numbers, and the bill didn't pass. But that didn't slow down Laffer one bit.

In 2012, another conservative shop invited Laffer to do the same job for the state of Kansas and also invited Laffer to come to the state and talk up his plan. Unfortunately, unlike Oklahoma, Kansas passed the plan and are just waking up to its full effects. The purpose behind the Laffer Plan is to squeeze government down to a size that can be drowned in a bathtub, and empirical evidence shows that states that follow this path suffer:

In Kansas, ... essential services are already in serious danger. After passing the Laffer bill, the state is now projecting $800 million annual budget deficits and has extended an emergency sales tax that should have expired years ago. The Kansas budget director has instructed all state agencies – including those that handle education, law enforcement and highway safety – to plan for a 10 percent across-the-board cut. If the tax cuts aren’t repealed, Kansas’s already cash-strapped schools and universities are expected to lose over a billion dollars in funding in the next five years. 
And for what? Businesses aren’t flocking to Kansas in anticipation of a lower marginal tax rate. Since May, the state has added only about 2,000 jobs. In the same span of time, Oklahoma – which rejected the same proposal – added nearly 12 times as many.
We're indebted to Nick Carnes, who has lived in both Oklahoma and Kansas, for the quotes above and for pointing out the sheer folly of the steerer of The Clown Car in Raleigh, who appear hell-bent to bring the Laffer Laugh-Riot to North Carolina. And, yes, the NC legislators are relying on a plan written by Laffer's consulting firm.

The Republicans' entire rationale, they say, is to improve the business climate in the state and thus bolster jobs. But Carnes points out that a state that starves its infrastructure, neglects its school system, whittles away at its university system is a state that will turn off businesses looking to relocate. Who wants to relocate to a 1950s version of Mississippi? (Or a 2013 version of Kansas, for that matter?)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pope's Icy Feet

Art Pope yesterday: "A gross transaction tax [by which he appears to mean an across-the-board sales tax on all goods and services], without any regard to whether you're actually making any money, not a tax on net income, I think that's going to hurt the economy," Pope said. "It is regressive in nature, no doubt about it."

Some are suggesting that this stance by Pope, as opposed to what Republican leaders in the General Assembly have been saying, is just shadows on the wall, that their real goal has never been the elimination of the income tax but just a further flattening of rates on high earners and corporations. And that they can achieve that best by whipsawing the public between the extremes and then "compromising" on making life much jollier for the rich.

That's a conspiracy with too many moving parts, IMHO, though the predicted ultimate outcome seems very likely. But I still think it might be a case of cold feet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Art Pope, Disagreeing with Himself?

The first mention we saw of this very curious example of cognitive dissonance was just before noon today on WRAL reporter Mark Binker's Twitter feed:
#ncgov Budget Dir Art Pope talking to journos at UNC. Says he doesn't think eliminating personal/corp income taxes is a good idea #ncga
This is more than just passing strange, since it's been the Pope-funded "think tank" Civitas Institute that has been promoting the idea that North Carolina would be brimming with fiscal health if we could just eliminate the income tax on the wealthy and on corporations and shift the burden to sales taxes, including most notoriously taxes on groceries and services, like lawn-cutting and hair-shearing.

Art Pope
It's also more than just passing strange, because the GOP-dominated General Assembly of North Carolina is in office largely because of the accumulated expenditures of Mr. Pope, who has drawn his money from five & dime stores across the state (often located in the poorest neighborhoods). Mr. Pope's combined contributions to conservative causes and conservative (Republican) candidates is currently estimated in the $40 million range. Leaders of the GOP in the General Assembly, Mr. Pope's obedient brigade, have already opened up a call for eliminating the state's income tax even before the legislature has actually convened.

The brains behind that state income tax elimination meme is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is funded by the Koch Boys, who are closely tied to Mr. Pope. If any one of them gets an itch, they all scratch simultaneously.

So ... was Mr. Pope experiencing a fugue state this morning? Did Mark Binker just hear him wrong? Or is he dissembling because (a) Deputy Governor Pat McCrory is getting cold feet or (b) Art Pope Hisownself is getting cold feet? (He has of late complained that he's being personally attacked.)

We'll wait with impatience for Mark Binker's full report on that curious scene at UNC this morning.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

John Cole, for NC Policy Watch

Gerrymandering Won't Save Gov. McCrory

Republicans everywhere, including that genius of understatement Joe Scarbrough, are touting gerrymandering as the only reason Republicans still control the U.S. House of Representatives.

We hope they'll keep strutting that stuff, because more voters need to understand just exactly what Art Pope's computer achieved in North Carolina, which is a prime example of the corrosive power-grab that The Gerrymander actually is.

We thank NC Policy Watch for pointing out that "the 13 Democratic candidates for Congress in North Carolina received 81,000 more votes in total than their 13 Republican challengers, even though only four Democrats won their seats."

Maybe the voters of North Carolina will allow that situation to continue indefinitely, to their own detriment, or maybe not.

But those planning to "take out" Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014 might take note that a Senate seat can't be gerrymandered, and Gov. Pat McCrory, already in thrall to the most extreme elements of his party, might also want to pay attention. As a voting whole, North Carolina hasn't shown that much genuine affection for the new Republican "brand," and McCrory's idiot grin may begin to wear thin when he starts signing all that extremist legislation coming out of Raleigh.

Raleigh's "Food Tax Republicans"

A little historical perspective, along with a little economic reality, on the NC GOP's plan to eliminate income taxes on the rich while quadrupling sales taxes on groceries, from the Greensboro News&Record (hattip: Clayton Henkel):
In the early 1960s, Democratic Gov. Terry Sanford pushed for a sales tax on food to raise money for schools. His critics called him “Food Tax Terry,” or something like it, for the rest of his life. 
Today’s Republican legislative leaders should take care they won’t be remembered as “Food Tax Phil” or “Food Tax Thom.” They could be if they take tax reform in the wrong direction.... would the burden of paying taxes be redistributed? A sales tax is regressive because people with modest incomes are compelled to spend most of what they earn rather than save or invest it. Their taxes as a share of income would increase without some means of offsetting their obligations. Without income tax exemptions, such as for children, larger families could pay a stiff penalty. After all, they have to purchase more food, clothing and other necessities. Rather than pay less taxes with more children, they’d pay more. 
Raising the tax on groceries could be hurtful and unfair, particularly if it’s meant to help make up for revenue lost by eliminating income taxes on high earners. 
North Carolina must devise a tax system that raises enough revenue to fund critical services and make productive investments, and that also requires those who can best afford it pay the largest shares. A nearly 8 percent tax on groceries for the poor would earn the politicians responsible a bad name.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Who's REALLY Pulling the Strings in North Carolina?

The Koch Brothers
It's no accident that at the same time N.C. Senate Republican leader Phil Berger was trotting out his big plan (surprise!) to eliminate corporate and personal income taxes in North Carolina and shift the tax burden to the poor and middle class through big increases in sales taxes, the Republican governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, was advocating the exact same thing to Nebraskans in his "state of the state" address.

Lo and behold, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Sam Brownback in Kansas are singing the same song. What's going on here?

It's the Koch Boys, acting principally through another of their "front" groups, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the outfit that pushed voter photo ID hard across the country, among other regressive measures that comfort the rich and afflict the rest of us.

'Course, in the dear old Tar Heel State, the Koches already had their Right Arm, Art Pope, who is now firmly in control of state government.

The ALEC philosophy for the Second Obama Term: Let the Muslim Kenyan have Washington. We've got the states, or at least some of them, and we intend to impose the Rich Man's Rule as quickly as possible.

(The connections between ALEC and NC Republican members of the General Assembly -- and some Democrats, bless their hearts -- is well documented and public. Phil Berger is on most of those lists, along with other Republican leaders in Raleigh.)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The War on Women in NC Will ACCELERATE

A Pew Research Center study released last week found that 63 percent of those surveyed don’t want Roe v. Wade overturned. Only 38 percent of Catholics -- Catholics -- favor outlawing abortion. Almost half -- 48 percent -- of Republicans favor keeping abortions legal (compared to 74 percent of Democrats).

Ain't no thang, though, to NC General Assembly member Paul "Skip" Stam, who promised an anti-abortion rally in Raleigh yesterday to expect more insulting road blocks for women in North Carolina.

Among other things, Stam said that a law will be introduced (and will undoubtedly pass) to exclude abortion coverage from federal health insurance exchanges, which is in itself kinda funny, since this same bunch also doesn't want anything to do with federal health insurance exchanges. But nevertheless, they'll OUTLAW THE HELL OUT OF ABORTION.
They are in control of women's wombs. Let's have no disagreement on that.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Class Warfare

Rich white men are in control of North Carolina's government now, so you peons better get used to what's coming down the pike: The rich are now fast-tracking a shifting of the tax burden from their pocketbooks to yours.

Don't believe it? They came out and said it yesterday in Raleigh.

We've already highlighted UNCG economist Dave Ribar's analysis of this brilliant Republican plan to make life for the rich a lot freer of the "social contract," but his warning needs repeating: “For this particular proposal, the responsibility would shift from rich households and prosperous corporations to poor households and smaller businesses."

Welcome to the world that Art Pope hath wrought.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fair Warning

It's one thing to spend Federal dollars to help people wiped out by Hurricane Sandy in New York, New Jersey, and adjacent states. It's another thing to blindly set a government policy -- "let's rebuild everything the way it was" -- which is apparently what the $60 billion aid package does which passed the U.S. House yesterday.

I'm mightily influenced by reading Rob Young's piece about the reality of sea-level rise and the reality-free impulse behind the aid bill (big hattip to Rob Schofield at NC Policy Watch for bringing this piece to my attention).

Rob Young is professor of coastal geology at Western Carolina University and director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. He earns major props for being co-author, with the amazing Orrin Pilkey, of The Rising Sea.

In a piece titled "Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill Fails to Face Coastal Realities," Young points out the flaws in this particular Federal emergency spending that actually sets coastal policy for the immediate future and the long-term. This policy-by-default says in effect, "We deny sea-level rise":
The bill goes far beyond the immediate need for emergency assistance by funding a massive coastal engineering effort that is not based on science or wise planning. As currently proposed, the bill would give the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers roughly $4.5 billion to spend on coastal construction projects related to “flood control and risk reduction.” Most troubling, the bill requires the Corps to attempt to rebuild the New Jersey and New York beaches to their “design profile.” In other words, the Corps will work to put the beaches back exactly as they were before the storm, ignoring the reality of rising sea levels and intensifying storms as the world warms.
In other words, O My Brethren, I have to agree with the "no" votes of the nine Republican NC U.S. House members on this particular aid package ... though for very different reasons than any of those Republicans have voiced.

I suspect when the next Great Storm wipes out part of the North Carolina coastline, these same nine will be clamoring for Federal restoration -- well, probably not Virginia Foxx, who isn't much into compassion for anyone -- and no one in a position of power will be paying any attention to what Mr. Young and other scientists are warning about the perils of ignoring sea-level rise.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight Attempts To Take Aim

What's this? New caution on the issue of voter photo ID among Republicans in the NC General Assembly?

Interesting article on the subject in the Fayetteville Observer.

Best quote is from Bob Hall: What is showing a photo ID before you vote supposed to cure, asks he, since there's virtually no evidence of fraudulent voter impersonation at our polls? "What's being cured? People's mental perception that there's widespread cheating going on?"

"Mental perception," relentlessly promoted by right-wingers and Republican operatives to explain to their base why they lose elections. It can't be because voters reject the Republican philosophy! Why, it's all those illegal immigrants being bused to the polls!

Rather call it "irrational mental perception" or just pure "fantasy."

Monday, January 14, 2013

What's Ahead for North Carolina

Republicans in the General Assembly evidently have a grand plan for "reforming" taxes in this state: eliminate -- eee-limb-a-nate -- all personal and corporate income taxes and shift the tax burden onto the poor and middle class through higher sales taxes, while imposing new taxes on services, like getting your hair cut.

Cool plan. Art Pope's minions thought it up and posted it a month ago on the Civitas website. Now Art Pope is Gov. McCrory's budget director, so he'll get 'er done.

Reuters is reporting on it. Some 65% of NC's annual budget comes from income and corporate taxes. Shifting that burden to the working class will mean that the state's sale tax will have to rise a couple of percentage points, putting the burden for government exactly where the rich have always known it needed to be: on the backs of the poor.

Sen. Bob Rucho is the chief stooge in the General Assembly tasked with getting this done, and guess who he's been getting help from:  Arthur Laffer, a former adviser to Republican President Ronald Reagan and one of the fathers of "trickle-down" economics.

Yep. The 1% are in control of North Carolina now, and they intend to make themselves very comfortable indeed.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Resolution Opposing the Taking of Municipal Water Systems

This resolution was drafted specifically with reference to Asheville's situation, where a Republican member of the General Assembly introduced legislation to simply grab Asheville's water system for the benefit of the rest of the county.

BUT it's something that could happen to Boone, especially with House & Senate representatives from this district who've already shown themselves quite willing to remove Boone's ability to regulate its extra-territorial boundaries and to punish the city generally.

Boone is currently in the process of investing millions of its taxpayers' dollars in building a new water source. With the Asheville precedent staring us in the face, there's no reason to believe that the state's General Assembly, under the control of muncipality-hating Republicans, won't simply pass legislation to take that water system and give it to developers in, say, Deep Gap, where few regulations exist to prevent the Deep Gap version of Pigeon Forge.
WHEREAS, Statewide legislation was introduced in the 2011 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly that would have forced the involuntary conveyance of a city-owned water system to a Metropolitan Sewer District; and 
WHEREAS, prior to the beginning of the 2012 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly, the Legislative Research Commission recommended legislation that would force the City of Asheville to transfer its Municipal water system to a Metropolitan Sewer District; and 
WHEREAS, the 2012 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly enacted legislation to begin the process of the forceful taking of a Municipal water system; and 
WHEREAS, it is anticipated that legislation will be introduced at the beginning of the 2013 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly that will force the transfer of a Municipal water system; and 
WHEREAS, public utilities have the unique responsibility to be protectors of public health and the environment, while serving as partners in the community’s growth and development; and  
WHEREAS, the forced taking of any local government infrastructure sets a dangerous precedent in the State of North Carolina, a precedent that will have a chilling effect on any local government investing in needed infrastructure in the future, thereby endangering business opportunities and economic stability in the State and resulting in job losses for citizens here and across the State. 
1. The ______ is opposed to legislation that forces the transfer of any City’s municipal water system to another entity.
2. The _______ is convinced that local solution arrived at by an open, collaborative process is preferable to a legislative directed disposition of local government assets.
3. The _________ is opposed to the forced taking of any local government infrastructure because such taking sets a dangerous precedent that will have a chilling effect on any local government investing in needed infrastructure in the future, thereby endangering business opportunities and economic stability in the State and resulting in job losses for our citizens here and across the State.Read, approved and adopted this the ____ day of _________, 201_ . 

First You Get the Raise, and Then You Do the Job

Pat McCrory just gave his cabinet secretaries 8% pay hikes as large as $13,200 -- more than anything afforded to typical state employees in recent years. This brings their salaries into the $130k or more a year range. Why the increase? “I’m trying to make it at least where they can afford to live while running multibillion-dollar departments,” McCrory said. Wow. Tell us: Just how do the rest of you struggling along on a mere $121,000 salary do it?! What's the real problem here? Are they all tapped out from the money they gave to the McCrory campaign? (Hattip: Pay-to-Play Pat)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Privatizing Municipal Water Supplies in NC

Aqua North Carolina, a private company that got its hooks into Cary, NC's water system, is now charging over $400 per month for some residential customers. They're just getting started.

Aqua North Carolina reportedly targets "troubled" municipal systems, promising efficiency, responsiveness, and naturally, good water, and so far they're not delivering on any of those ... just higher bills.


...which, in our estimation, ain't much.

BUT ... John Frank and Craig Jarvis are reporting that both Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis are making gurgling sounds about softening the expected voter photo ID law in North Carolina. They're making those sounds evidently because the State Board of Elections issued its report that almost 1 in 10 NC voters do not already have state-issued ID cards.

That's a game-changer, mumbled Thom Tillis.

Maybe they'll allow other forms of identity, like an ASU student card? And maybe the far-right crowd in the General Assembly clown car will go ahead with their harshest version of the law -- after all, they refused compromise last year after Gov. Perdue vetoed their first bill, and they're feeling their conservative, ALEC-shoveled oats even more after last fall's election.

We shall see ... and very shortly.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

NC Voter Suppression: Expect Some Crowding

Via the Dome in the Raleigh News&Observer:
A new report from the State Board of Elections found as many as 613,000 voters, or 9.25 percent of the North Carolina's voters, may not have a state issued driver's license or identification card -- raising the stakes ahead of Republican efforts to push for voter ID legislation in the upcoming session.The new analysis, which compared Division of Motor Vehicles records to state voter lists, discovered that 53 percent of the voters in question are Democrats and a quarter are over age 65. A disproportionate share -- about 30 percent -- are black.

Dan Forest Needs a Staff

First off, who the hell is Dan Forest?

He's our newly installed NC Lieutenant Governor and someone's son who's famous in Republican circles. (That's one of his campaign pitches to the left.)

He made a show of announcing his new staff, including a "director of operations" and a "director of constituent services" (featuring a recent graduate of ASU who's just completely brilliant in Republican circles, we hear) and (natch!) a "chief of staff."

As Gary Pearce sez, quoting an unnamed Raleigh source, “Just goes to show – it’s easy to talk about reducing the size of government until it’s your turn to build a taxpayer-supported empire.”

That same unnamed critic of politico empire-building had a bit more to say:
“Why does he need a chief of staff? And why on earth does he need a ‘director of operations’? To operate what? The copier? The office microwave? 
“And why are we paying for him to have a ‘director of constituent services’? Does he have constituents who are not represented by the governor or someone in the legislature? 
“The lite gov in this state has a single function – to preside over the Senate. He bangs the gavel and does what the leadership tells him, and he votes to break ties. Who needs a staff to manage this? Does he really need a trooper to drive him around? Who wants to harm him? Who even knows who he is? 
“Democrat Walter Dalton also had a needlessly large staff when he was lt. governor, so we thought a Republican would embrace the notion of smaller government and have a little office near the Senate chamber and an assistant to answer his phone in case it ever rings.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Dunce in Charge of NC's Environment

Pat McCrory's appointment to head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is one John Skvaria, who in an interview with WRAL suggested that oil is a renewable resource and expressed skepticism about climate change.

Yep, Industrial Polluters, the door is open to you in the Tarheel State.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Foxx Votes No on Relief for Sandy Hurricane Victims

Well, at least the woman (...) is consistent in her refusals to help Americans devastated by natural disasters. Once it was Katrina aid. Today it was Sandy. She voted no, one of 67 mostly Republican members to turn their backs on the citizens of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Joining her were the three newest North Carolina Republican members of the U.S. House, Mark Meadows (NC-11), Richard Hudson (NC-8), and George Holding (NC-13).

Wonder what they'll be saying, and how they'll be voting, when the North Carolina coast is wiped out by a hurricane.

All 67 of those voting against Sandy aid were Republicans.

Tony Tata To Lead DOT = A Favor for The Pope

So Pat McCrory appoints the former Superintendent of Wake County Schools, the controversial Tony Tata,  as his Secretary of Transportation, and everybody goes "Say whaaa?" Does that make any sense? Tony Tata got fired as Superintendent of Wake County Schools for botching school bus management, among other things, and compared to the man he's succeeding, Gene Conti, he's woefully under-qualified for this job.

This a.m., a News&Observer editorial gives an explanation for this puzzling appointment: Art Pope wanted it:
The DOT, long riddled with political patronage problems under Democratic governors, was straightened out by the departing secretary Gene Conti, who had experience in the state department and in the federal Department of Transportation before taking the job. Tata’s lack of experience is quite a contrast, and raises suspicions that his appointment is a political statement by McCrory’s budget guru and adviser Art Pope, the Raleigh businessman who contributed heavily to the GOP majority in the General Assembly. Prior to that, Pope helped win a temporary Republican majority on the school board. That majority hired Tata in 2010 despite his scant qualifications as an educator.
We're in for a lot of this sort of thing as long as Pat McCrory plays Assistant Governor to Art Pope.

Republicans in General Assembly Slapped for Violating the Constitution

The new Republican majority in the NC General Assembly took unprecedented action in 2011 to punish the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) by disallowing payroll deductions for dues. Gov. Perdue vetoed that bill. In another unprecedented action (a post-midnight vote) just exactly a year ago, the General Assembly Republicans, with the help of two turn-coat Democrats, over-rode the governor's veto.

That law was quickly enjoined by a restraining order just days after the veto over-ride, and it has now been ruled unconstitutional by the same judge. In the ruling issued yesterday, the judge said the dues-deduction ban "constitutes retaliatory viewpoint discrimination" against NCAE, which violates the group's free speech rights.

If you think for a moment that the full Republican regime we'll have in place in Raleigh after tomorrow won't use its power to punish (or attempt to punish) its ideological enemies, no matter how many judges slap them down for violating the constitution, you are too naive for this earth.

Next stop: voter suppression.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Lies, Assault Weapons, and Public Education in Forsyth County

It passeth understanding.

But the leading Republican contender for appointment to the Republican Board of Education in Forsyth, an appointment to be made by the Republican County Commission, sure as hell got himself off the top of the list as soon as people started asking questions about his Uzis and other toys of that ilk and how he got them.

The Alternate Reality of Grover Norquist

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Lake Geneva recently discovered the long-sought atomic particle, the Higgs boson, which is theorized to allow matter to achieve mass, and the operators of the LHC still hope to find other hidden elements of the universe, including additional dimensions of space.

One of those extra dimensions appears to reside in or near the brain of No-Tax Czar Grover Norquist, who has decided that the best antidote for John Boehner's collapse and the votes of 85 Republicans for the fiscal cliff deal is to deny that anything like a tax increase actually happened, and if it did happen, Republicans had nothing to do with it.

His butter-will-NOT-melt-in-my-mouth denial to Andrea Mitchell may go down as one of the great political fails of the modern era.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A Public-Private Partnership We Could Do Without

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement of course freaked out the banks. But now we're learning that it also freaked out our surveillance-prone government, which formed its own apparent conspiracy with the corporate world to hobble, or cripple or outright eliminate, OWS.

Naomi Wolf summarizes the beans spilled in FBI documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests:
The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations' knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).
It's like the election of 2008 really meant very little, so far as the domestic spying abuses of the Bush administration are concerned.

Bad Night in Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac

Both Virginia Foxx (R-5th District) and Brad Miller (D-13th District) voted against the Senate's "fiscal cliff" legislation last night. I agree with Foxx and Miller: that "fix" should not have passed.

House Republicans fractured, badly, and John Boehner's speakership appears to be on the line. Foxx didn't vote with Boehner and with her recent kissy-face partner, Paul Ryan, who amazingly supported the Senate deal. She voted against, following the path of that super ambitious snake Eric Cantor, and that other ambitious snake Kevin McCarthy, both of whom are clearly angling to push Boehner off his mountain. "Foxx and Cantor, sitting in a tree..."

Boehner reportedly told Sen. Harry Reid to "Go fuck yourself!" ... twice. No report yet on how many of Boehner's own Republican conference suggested he do something similar, after he informed them that the fiscal cliff legislation included no spending cuts. If Foxx didn't say it, she was certainly thinking it.

As for the Negotiator-in-Chief, we see no reason to retract our earlier estimation of his poker-playing abilities. President Obama gave away the farm, or at least a large portion of it, and the "victory" the White House is celebrating today is rotten at the core, setting up another confrontation with the Republican House in a couple of months where, once again, the president will negotiate.