Republican attack on the middle class

North Carolina's U.S. Senate race is a tossup

We desperately want blue, but purple will do (for now):

Running in a key presidential battleground, Tillis has to hope things go Trump's way here. The first-term incumbent, who only narrowly won in 2014, ended up avoiding a contentious primary but had to spend money and political capital in the off-year to do it. He didn't make many friends with an infamous flip-flop on Trump's border wall, first penning a Washington Post op-ed against use of an emergency declaration to secure funds for the wall and later, in an appeal to Trump, reversing his position.

He's up against former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, a member of the Army Reserves. It'll be an expensive race, with forces on both sides of the aisle already having booked millions of dollars for TV advertising. Cunningham is outpacing the incumbent on fundraising, bringing in $7.4 million to Tillis' $2.6 million in the second quarter.

CNN has NC as their #4 state for a "flip the Senate" category, but I believe it is the most critical state. Support for Tillis in GOP circles is lukewarm at best, and if he is able to squeak by again, it would not bode well for other NC races. We have to watch out for national conservative PACs swooping in, but we also need to prepare for homegrown shenanigans:

NC Chamber behind the nixing of increased unemployment benefits

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Insert an angry, frustrated observation in this space:

The chamber opposed the proposal to expand the state’s maximum unemployment benefits by $50 a week, Starling said.

Starling said the way that proposal had been written, it wasn’t clear if the extra money would go to everyone receiving unemployment, or only people receiving the maximum amount. And without a financial estimate of how much it would cost, he said, many businesses were wary of potentially having to pay more into the unemployment system in the future.

Yeah, nevermind the fact that extra $50 would be injected directly into the economy, at a time when that economy needs it desperately. Oh no, the possibility businesses might have to contribute an extra few dollars into the unemployment insurance fund sometime down the road is intolerable. But what is tolerable to the Chamber are the loans the government is giving them:

Lies, damn lies, and Tim Moore: Rewriting history on unemployment cuts

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Look up "disingenuous" in the dictionary, and it shows his picture in the margin:

By 2019, one in 10 unemployed workers in North Carolina was receiving benefits, the lowest share in the nation. But the state’s trust fund was in far better shape than when the legislature passed tighter restrictions in 2013.

“It was certainly a painful thing to do, and it was a tough vote,” said Tim Moore, now the Republican speaker of the North Carolina State House. “The balance that we had to strike was between making sure we’re taking care of somebody who truly can’t find a job, versus allowing in folks who simply did not want to work.”

If that was all it was about, giving benefits to those who truly needed them, you wouldn't have cut the maximum weekly benefit from $535 down to $350. And you wouldn't have reduced the duration of payments from 26 weeks down to 13. This was pure reverse Robin Hood; taking money from the neediest of families to help justify cutting taxes for the wealthy. And I am bone tired of Republicans bragging about that "trust fund," because it was a heinous violation of trust that fueled the $3+ Billion in blood money that filled it. I'll let Reverend Barber conclude this argument:

NC's unemployment benefits are a national disgrace

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The NC GOP should be ashamed when articles like this are published:

Because it’s administered by the states, the generosity of UI varies widely. Most states offer up to 26 weeks of UI, but some offer far less: Florida and North Carolina offer only 12 weeks currently, though their generosity increases with the state unemployment rate. Missouri offers only 13 weeks per statute, a number that doesn’t increase with the unemployment rate.

There’s similarly large variance in the recipiency rate — the share of unemployed people getting UI — and benefit size as a share of the average weekly wage. The highest recipiency rate is in Massachusetts, where 57 percent of unemployed people get benefits. In North Carolina, only 10 percent do.

Get that? Only one out of every ten unemployed North Carolinians receive benefits, which means they are out of work a hell of a lot longer than the paltry 12 weeks we offer. Said differently, the draconian measures Republicans enacted 7 years ago are not pushing people back to work, they are pushing families out of their homes. But that 2013 bill did something else, too, which was beyond idiotic:

Trump tariffs are forcing NC farmers into bankruptcy

This is not fake news, but he will try to spin it that way I'm sure:

The number of family farms filing for Chapter 12 bankruptcy last year spiked 20 percent nationally, according to a study by the American Farm Bureau Federation. That’s the highest increase since 2010, the year after the Great Recession ended. In the Southeast, it swelled 48 percent from 2018.

The $87 billion agriculture industry plays a crucial rule in North Carolina’s economy, according to N.C. State University. It employs 17 percent of the state’s workforce. According to the Farm Bureau, there were 16 filings in North Carolina in 2019 — a 33 percent jump from 2018 — and 10 in South Carolina, more than three times higher than the 2018 total.

Funny thing, you hardly ever see one of these bankrupted farmers on the news, except maybe in some deep-dive documentary where the producers spend weeks tracking people down. It's actually not funny, because when they are finally forced to give up, the last thing they want to do is admit their failure to a large audience. It's a hard life, making one or two paydays a year cover all your costs and feed your family until the next harvest. The last thing they need is a toddler knocking over that fragile formula by disrupting their market. But by and large, farmers still support Trump, even though he has thrown them under the bus in favor of Big Ag numerous times:

Food insecurity in Chatham County reaches critical level

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And the food pantries are struggling to keep up:

Chatham County, at the state’s geographical center, is home to 68,778 residents, 7,480 of whom are food insecure, according to data compiled by the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

In Chatham County, roughly one in nine people are struggling with food insecurity, which is slightly less than the statewide average of one in seven. But economic conditions in Chatham and have created an insidious cycle of need in recent years.

If there was ever a strong argument against our Capitalist system, it's this one. There's more than enough food in our state/country to feed everybody; we throw away some 38 million tons of food each year in the United States, and yet 41 million Americans don't get enough to eat. And when government leaders try to make up for their tax cuts by cutting food stamp spending, the absurdity of those numbers gets even worse:

Folwell's Folly: Fractured networks could be very costly for state employees

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Our incompetent Treasurer is playing Russian Roulette with health care:

Hospitals and providers were given a July 1 deadline to sign the Clear Pricing Project contract or be considered as out of network to SHP on Jan. 1, 2020. Folwell said Wednesday that 27,000 medical providers have signed the contract.

However, just three of the state’s 126 hospitals have done so. Cone Health of Greensboro said on July 1 that it would not sign the contract, saying it would cost the health-care system at least $26 million.

Still don't have a firm grasp of all the moving parts of this thing, but it's a good bet going through a medical procedure will be a lot more complicated if it isn't stopped. Some patients may end up spending less, but others will probably pay more, and the onus is on the General Assembly to throw the brakes on until we can assess the value/damage:

Early voting begins today in 3rd District Congressional Primary

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And there's enough candidates to field 3 baseball teams:

Early voting begins today in a special primary election to fill the 3rd Congressional District seat left vacant by the death of Walter Jones. The actual primary is April 30.

Twenty-six candidates — 17 Republicans, six Democrats, two Libertarians and one member of the Constitution Party — filed to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat. Because only one Constitution Party candidate filed, there is no primary for that party.

The General Election could get very interesting. With a Libertarian and a Constitution...arian? on the ballot, the Republican is going to have to do a complicated ideological dance to keep from losing votes. Or maybe not. But first said Republican will have to survive this Primary, and the (very likely) 2nd Primary that will follow:

Taking back the U.S. House somewhere between possible and probable

Little Donnie just might have an aneurysm:

A flurry of Republican retirements has led to 42 open seats, many of them the sort of well-entrenched incumbents in competitive districts whose retirements are the most valuable for Democrats. The Democrats have succeeded in recruiting well-funded and strong candidates in many of the battlegrounds, which has tended to lessen the advantage of incumbency even in the districts where Republicans are running for re-election. A court decision in Pennsylvania has eliminated the party’s gerrymander there.

Democrats appear highly competitive in many conservative districts. Already, there are polls showing Democrats ahead in Kentucky’s Sixth District, West Virginia’s Third, North Carolina’s Ninth, New York’s 22nd and Montana’s at-large district. Mr. Trump won each by at least 10 points.

We should issue the obligatory caution about counting chickens before they hatch and go vote, but things are looking much better than I thought they would, even as recently as a few months ago. And it looks like we're making headway in many rural districts, which is fantastic news:

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