Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


A UNIVERSITY'S BETRAYAL OF HISTORICAL TRUTH: On the eve of Thanksgiving, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) over a Confederate monument that had stood for more than a century on the university’s flagship campus, in Chapel Hill, before demonstrators toppled it in August 2018. The settlement, though, establishes a de facto financial partnership between the university system and the SCV to preserve the monument. The SCV is free to use Silent Sam and this generous subsidy to continue its long-standing misinformation campaign about the history and legacy of the Civil War, with an endowment that rivals that of the university’s history department. But the cost to the university can’t be fully tallied in dollars and cents. A great public university should stand for the pursuit of truth, not the promotion of historical distortions and falsehoods.

ENERGY STORAGE TAX CREDITS COULD RESHAPE NC AND THE US: The Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2019 would expand the current investment tax credit (ITC) to encompass energy storage technology. At the moment, only some storage projects that are paired with solar development can qualify for the ITC. But those restrictions leave out a huge number of energy storage projects that can deliver cost savings to customers. To enact widespread grid modernization in the U.S., we need our energy storage capabilities to grow fast. This type of federal assistance is a proven method to growing nascent energy sectors. For almost 30 years, the U.S. government supported our natural gas industry with tax credits. Now our nation is a global leader in natural gas production. Strata Solar, the North Carolina company I’m a part of, has already been ramping up our energy storage projects for everything from large utilities in California to small towns in North Carolina. Consumers across the nation are still paying premiums to access power during times of peak demand. Energy storage has the ability to change that. If utility-scale power generation is matched with advanced storage, then energy can be saved until it is needed at peak times, which virtually eliminates the scarcity that is behind utilities charging peak-demand rates to consumers.

DYSFUNCTIONAL UNC BOARD NEEDS MORE DIVERSITY, GOVERNOR'S INPUT: A deal to give university property – UNC-Chapel Hill’s Silent Sam along with $2.5 million -- to a group who claim to be descendants Confederate veterans. The Sons of Confederate Veterans deny the horrors of slavery; contest the facts of the origin and outcome of the Civil War. It’s leadership seeks “a return to a godly, stable, tradition-based society with no ‘Northernisms’ attached, a hierarchical society, a majority European-derived country,” said Kirk Lyons, a lawyer who is adjutant of the SVC’s “Isaac Newton Giffen Camp 758” in Black Mountain. How could a University system that, in its code, pledges to “protect faculty and students in their responsible exercise of the freedom to teach, to learn, and otherwise to seek and speak the truth” do even a dime’s worth of business with this group? How could the (interim) chancellor of UNC-CH, find any words of praise – or even grudging acceptance – of such a horrible decision. Yet, on the day the settlement was signed, Kevin Guskiewicz offered his “deepest appreciation” to the UNC Board of Governors for “resolving this matter.”

WHILE THE PRESIDENT RAGES, THE WORLD IS MELTING: As President Trump spent another week rage-tweeting, the world continued to warm, and the consequences became ever-clearer — and more alarming. A consortium of 89 scientists released in the journal Nature on Tuesday a study showing that Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is losing seven times as much ice now as a quarter-century ago. At times, climate deniers insist that the Earth’s ecosystems are so vast that humans could not affect them as drastically as scientists insist. So try to imagine the size of these shifts: Greenland has lost nearly 4 trillion tons of ice since 1992. Scientists fear Greenland has shed nearly 400 billion tons this year alone. Greenland’s melting has already driven up sea levels by more than a centimeter, with much more to come. Each centimeter makes a difference, equating to about another 6 million people suffering from annual flooding. Also on Tuesday, the federal Arctic Report Card found that thawing permafrost may already be emitting massive amounts of greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere. As melting proceeds, microbes break down dead plants and animals previously trapped in the permafrost, releasing carbon dioxide and methane in the process.

WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS IMPEACHMENT: “This is the fastest, weakest, thinnest, MOST PARTISAN impeachment in American presidential history,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, promptly retweeted by the president. Yet that is, I think, a misreading of history. The essential difference between Nixon and Trump lies not in their misconduct or in their unsuitability for office, but in the grim refusal of today’s Republican Party to notice wrongdoing and its determination to stand by Trump come what may. What’s different today is not the abuse of power by a rogue president, but his party leaders’ shortage of principle. That in turn flows partly from the pernicious influence of Fox News, which enables a Trumpian ecosystem that is largely impervious to facts. In a narrow sense, this blinkered approach may succeed politically for the Republicans. I suspect that to some swing voters, this may look like nothing more than one more Democrat vs. Republican food fight and a distraction from substantive issues. The famous quote that everyone remembers from Watergate (said by a Republican!) is, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” That is never asked this time around, as Representative Eric Swalwell has noted, because we largely agree that President Trump knew everything from the start. It was Trump himself who pressured Ukraine and, in a rough transcript we have all seen, who asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.


KURT BECKER: THE MONUMENTAL WASTE OF THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: Regarding “Documents reveal misleading public statement on war in Afghanistan,” (Dec. 9) I would like to add the cost of this 18-year war, which has reached $1.5 trillion. This never-ending war has been funded with borrowed money. By 2023 we will have paid $600 billion in interest. What have we or the Afghans received for $1.5 trillion? More violence every month. We have many urgent needs here in the United States. Bridge replacement and road maintenance have been delayed for lack of federal funds. Young people are struggling to pay off crushing student loans. Rents are sky-high in many cities. The need for affordable housing is urgent.

SUE ESTROFF: WE HAVE BEEN BETRAYED BY THE UNC BOG: This is how it happens. One transgression at a time; a perverse version of “journeys begin with one step.” We are well beyond the first step. Now we must stop, dig deep, and take another path. Incrementally, one step at a time, the moral commons of this campus has been violated repeatedly. Silent Sam haunted us with his presence and now with his absence. We reason, listen, accommodate, and then the folly of our equanimity becomes clear. We are contained, indulged, distracted with committees and ambiguous statements meant to appease and distract. There is obfuscation, expediency, and in the end the demeaning disrespect of imposed, unquestioned authority. All at our expense. We have been betrayed by those with statutory authority, but we will not betray our social and moral authority by accepting this step, and the next, and the next.

VICKI RYDER: TRUMP'S IMPEACHMENT IS A CRITICAL AND NECESSARY STEP: If you or I were to walk into a bank, pull out a gun, and demand money, we’d still be guilty of armed robbery even if we didn’t get to walk away with a single cent. The fact that we didn’t get what we came for doesn’t reduce the severity of the crime. No one is above the law and no one gets to walk away from culpability by claiming that they failed to accomplish what they set out to do. If President Trump walks away without impeachment then our laws and our Constitution will have lost all meaning, and our democracy reduced to nothing more than just another in a long history of con jobs and “deals” by a shameless and unrepentant snake oil salesman.



From the dark side

This week's loser is the N&O, for publishing Ivanka Trump's mischaracterization of U.S. job growth:

The recent news that the economy blew past expectations and added 266,000 jobs in November, along with positive revisions of 41,000 additional jobs to the prior two months, show that the labor market is experiencing a new revival under President Donald Trump and remains strong well into the longest expansion in U.S. history. But looking behind the headlines about these impressive numbers reveals that this economic boom disproportionately benefits previously left behind Americans by offering paths to self-reliance rather than reliance on government programs.

I wish you could see my computer screen. The ad bloc on the bottom of the N&O page keeps flashing a McDonald's logo, which is a perfect symbol of how wrong Ivanka is about that self-reliance thing:

America's unemployment rate is at a half-century low, but it also has a job-quality problem that affects nearly half the population, with a study finding 44% of U.S. workers are employed in low-wage jobs that pay median annual wages of $18,000. Contrary to popular opinion, these workers aren't teenagers or young adults just starting their careers, write Martha Ross and Nicole Bateman of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, which conducted the analysis. Most of the 53 million Americans working in low-wage jobs are adults in their prime working years, or between about 25 to 54, they noted. Their median hourly wage is $10.22 per hour — that's above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour but well below what's considered the living wage for many regions.

The shift from the middle-class downward did not begin with Trump, but it seems to be accelerating. I don't expect a silver-spoon baby like Ivanka to understand that, but I do expect the editorial staff at the N&O to grasp that fact. But apparently this nonsense sells papers:

These gains are bringing people off the sidelines into employment. In October, nearly three-quarters of people entering employment came from outside of the labor force — the highest number on record. And the prime-age labor force is growing, reversing losses under the prior administration. Under the prior administration’s expansion period, the prime-age labor force shrank by roughly 1.5 million people, while so far under the current administration it has expanded by 2.1 million. The current labor market revival is not a continuation of past trends, but instead a direct result of Trump’s pro-growth policies.

Since Trump took office, he has targeted programs like SNAP (food stamps) and Social Security Disability, pushing millions of Americans to the brink of homelessness and malnutrition. Of course the work force has grown, but it's out of desperation, not because of "pro-growth" policies which dear Ivanka has yet to actually list.

The rise in labor demand is not only leading to more jobs, but also to higher pay and lower income inequality. The lowest wage earners have seen the fastest nominal wage growth (8.9%) of any income group since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was signed into law.

So they're making $10 per hour instead of $9.25. Whooptie-fuckin'-do. They still can't afford a two-bedroom apartment, and they damned sure can't afford the $15,000 per month rent Ivanka and Jared pay for their DC house. Which they probably consider a bargain.

This growth in jobs and wages has increased economic self-reliance rather than reliance on welfare programs. As Americans filled open jobs, the number of people in poverty decreased by 1.4 million last year, and the poverty rates for African Americans and Hispanics reached historic lows. Under the Trump administration, the number of people claiming unemployment insurance as a share of the population is the lowest on record. Similarly, Medicaid rolls are decreasing predominantly because of a reduction in the number of individuals eligible for the program, caused by income growth as opposed to eligibility restrictions.

These are all features of the effort to force Americans into low-wage, menial jobs. Bumping somebody slightly above the poverty level also bumps them off Medicaid, especially in the states that haven't expanded it (hello NC). This is not just lipstick on a pig, it's putting rouge on the face of a cadaver.

Another element of our efforts is the opportunity zones created by the 2017 tax reform. Opportunity zones provide tax-advantaged treatment for economically-distressed areas. These tax cuts spur investment and drive up labor demand, directly helping the disadvantaged achieve self-sufficiency through increased economic activity. Supply-side tax cuts are the opposite of the traditional, failed approach to fighting poverty, which entails higher taxes to fund demand-side subsidies for health care, food and other goods that incentivize people to limit their hours or stop working to qualify.

This might be the biggest load of BS in the entire article. The Opportunity Zone program is nothing more than a new tax dodge for the wealthy, with a built-in self-destruct formula for whatever is actually built in mostly urban environments. And it's a good bet Jared and Ivanka are already using it to dodge their taxes, not to mention what art-of-the-deal Chump is doing with it.

This article is begging for an in-depth counterpoint, but I am simply not qualified to make it. There are a lot of smart people reading this, and one of you needs to step forward with an Op-Ed or LTE.