PLAYING POLITICS OVERRIDES PAYING FOR QUALITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: What is most important to Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and the majority in the legislature? Politics and partisan loyalty. It is not public education. That was made clear when they offered to increase the teacher pay raise if Democrats would vote to override the governor's veto of the main state budget bill. That is the big reveal. Playing games with teachers' salaries. None of this is based on what is needed to assure a quality education for North Carolina’s children. All of it is about politics. It is about how much legislators must spend in their effort to avoid negotiating with Gov. Roy Cooper. Teachers and parents can add and subtract. They know that North Carolina spends less per student for public education than all but five states.
ATTACKING FREEDOM OF THE PRESS IS A DANGER TO DEMOCRACY: While the United States has traditionally served as a beacon for press freedom, it is with troubling regularity that news media professionals face many dangers today, putting your right to know at risk. Reporters are verbally harassed both on- and offline simply for doing their jobs. Efforts to obtain and report on public records that the people have a legal right to see meet denials from government officials, who too often also seek to shut journalists out of meetings and courtrooms. Legal threats and lawsuits aim to intimidate journalists into silence, stop publication of their stories and bankrupt them or their employers. Physical danger is on the rise, too: At least 30 reporters have been attacked so far this year. Every day, journalists must weigh these threats against gathering and reporting the news. If they can’t do their jobs, the loss suffered is real, and it is suffered by the public at large, which is denied knowledge on a range of issues that affect our ability to govern ourselves in a complex world.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?: “Scumbag” and a “bottom feeder” – that is how Dylan Watts, speaking on behalf of state Senate leader Phil Berger and the other 28 Republicans in the Senate, described Bob Hall. Hall is the retired head of the election and voting advocacy organization Democracy North Carolina. He had the temerity -- Watts termed it “pathetic” and “phony” -- to question whether Berger, who represents Rockingham County and practices law there, was using campaign funds appropriately to essentially pay the mortgage on a Raleigh home. Dylan Watts, meet Bob Hall. He is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellow Award (known as the “genius grant”) and the N.C. Press Association’s First Amendment Award. For 25 years Hall led the non-partisan Democracy North Carolina’s efforts to keep elections and government clean as well as get as many people to vote as possible – regardless of political affiliation. Apologies are in order from Berger and the members of the GOP caucus. Watts needs to find another job.
VIRGINIA DEMOCRATS FINALLY HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO STRIKE DOWN GERRYMANDERING: With control of both houses of the state legislature in their grasp starting in January, along with the governor’s office, Virginia Democrats will have agenda-setting power in Richmond for the first time in a generation. Legislation to promote gun safety, safeguard abortion rights and expand early-childhood education, among other broadly popular measures, are top talking points for many lawmakers in the party’s new majority caucus. Lest they forget, Democrats can also push the Old Dominion a critical step closer to fixing a long-standing defect by leveling the electoral playing field and, in the process, empowering Virginia voters to choose their candidates, rather than the other way around. We’re speaking of a proposed state constitutional amendment on redistricting reform, which would strike a badly needed and much-delayed blow against gerrymandering in a state where it has been common practice. For years, this page has skewered politicians of both parties — in Virginia, Maryland and elsewhere — for using ever more sophisticated computer models to fine-tune the electoral map to their own advantage, drawing maps for congressional and state legislative districts that are job-protection rackets for incumbents. By slicing and dicing communities, counties, towns and cities, lawmakers have ensured their own holds on power — and shamelessly manipulated unsuspecting voters.
THE BILLIONAIRES ARE GETTING NERVOUS: When Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, the top marginal tax rate on personal income was 70 percent, tax rates on capital gains and corporate income were significantly higher than at present, and the estate tax was a much more formidable levy. None of that dissuaded Mr. Gates from pouring himself into his business, nor discouraged his investors from pouring in their money. Yet he is now the latest affluent American to warn that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan for much higher taxes on the rich would be bad not just for the wealthy but for the rest of America, too. Other perturbed plutocrats have made the same point with less finesse. The billionaire investor Leon Cooperman was downright crude when he declared that Ms. Warren was wrecking the American dream. Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, complained on CNBC that Ms. Warren “uses some pretty harsh words” about the rich. He added, “Some would say vilifies successful people.” The available evidence strongly suggests that taxation exerts a minor influence on innovation. Experts have an imperfect understanding of what drives innovation, but taxation isn’t in the same weight class as factors including education, research and a consistent legal system. Congress has slashed taxation three times in the past four decades, each time for the stated purpose of spurring innovation, investment and growth. Each time, the purported benefits failed to materialize. President Trump initiated the most recent experiment in 2017. The International Monetary Fund concluded this year that it had not worked.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
KATHLEEN KALINOWSKI: BERGER'S TOWNHOME MIGHT BE LEGAL, BUT IT'S FAR FROM ETHICAL: I really don’t care if the State Board of Elections decided that Senate Leader Phil Berger’s purchase of a townhome using campaign funds is legal. It may be “legal,” but it is certainly not ethical. Paying rent on a property is understandable and doesn’t result in a financial advantage for the representative. But the purchase of a property is not necessary and could result in financial gain. When Berger no longer needs his townhome and decides to sell, at a presumably higher price considering Raleigh’s growth, who’ll take home the profit from the sale? Will he reimburse his campaign fund? I somehow doubt it. Berger is benefiting financially as senator. It may be legal, but ethically it stinks to high heaven.
TRAVIS WILLIAMS: IF YOU ARE IN A POSITION TO DO SO, HIRE DISABLED WORKERS: I know the challenges of securing employment while living with a disability. I completed my education with multiple degrees and became a licensed professional counselor. I’ve worked 16 years in state government. Today I am a systems change manager for the NC Council on Developmental Disabilities. An estimated one in five North Carolinians will have a disability during their lifetime. Of those, only 35 percent will find jobs. Earlier this year, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order designed to increase opportunities for fair wages, employment and careers for individuals with disabilities. I encourage employers everywhere to be a blessing in the life of a talented job seeker with a disability.
JIM DYE: WE'LL KEEP LOSING OUT UNTIL WE LOSE THE GOP: For months, Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican General Assembly in North Carolina have been at odds over a budget. Gov. Cooper wants to provide Medicaid health care coverage to 450,000 to 650,000 North Carolina citizens while Republicans do not. The Republicans do not trust our federal government’s word to provide 90% of the money for the coverage. As a result, North Carolina is one of 14 states where needy citizens are going without health insurance. Thirty-six other states that provided the coverage are proving Republican thinking to be a farce. Medicaid expansion would result in 35,000 more citizens in Guilford Country receiving health care. A study at George Washington University projects 2,700 more jobs in Guilford Country within three years, generating $638 million to the local economy and resulting in $7.6 million in tax revenue from 2020 to 2022 — if Medicare were expanded. The Medicaid issue is the main hurdle on this budget but not the only one. On education, Gov. Cooper’s proposal calls for an 8.6% pay raise for public school teachers. The Republican Assembly proposes only a 3.8% raise. North Carolina is losing millions in federal dollars and losing teachers while citizens are losing health care and maybe their lives. The answer is that North Carolina needs to lose its Republican General Assembly.