NC CHIEF JUSTICE BEASLEY LEAVES LEGACY TO EMULATE: Beasley became the first African American woman to be chief justice in March 2019. She’d served on the state’s highest court since 2012. On March 13th of this year, 13 months after Gov. Roy Cooper named her chief justice, Beasley issued her first directives to deal with the pandemic. Clerks of court were to make sure notices were posted that people who might have been exposed to COVID-19 not enter the courthouse. Routine Superior and District court proceedings were suspended unless they could be conducted remotely, were to deal with an emergency or due process. She also gave the senior judges in judicial districts discretion to make decisions on proceedings – giving critical consideration to protecting the health and safety of all those involved. There’s little glamour in making sure a job gets done – no matter how challenging the circumstances. But it is the mark of competence that has nothing to do with partisanship or politics.
NC'S $335 COVID RELIEF CHECKS WERE A BIG REPUBLICAN MISS: The Extra Credit Grant Program was a careless dispersal of desperately needed relief money by Republicans uninterested in consulting with Democrats, who wanted to ensure that the checks would reach the most needy families. Instead, the program ensured that even high earners would be included. Eligible parents included those filing jointly with an adjusted gross income up to $400,000 and single filers with a gross income up to $200,000. An analysis from the N.C. Justice Center estimates that one in every four checks went to households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more, while many of those hardest hit by the pandemic missed out on the aid. The state Department of Revenue reports that it so far has sent 1,053,679 checks to North Carolinians who filed 2019 tax returns reporting qualifying children. Meanwhile, even with the extension, there were only 41,000 applications for a check. The department does not have an estimate how many non-filers were eligible, but an estimate by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy put the number at 243,600.
THE DEATH PENALTY KILLS PEOPLE WHO NO LONGER EXIST: The best argument against the death penalty is precisely the one real argument for it: vengeance. Capital punishment is nothing but institutionalized vengeance and anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool or a liar. Vengeance is not only an obscene and draconian basis for a legal system, but those who preach it belie that they are seeking vengeance against a person who no longer exists. When the government killed Christopher Vialva on September 24th, he was not the panicking 19-year-old kid who had made a heinous mistake over two decades ago in Texas. He was not, as the prosecutor had called him during his trial, “a mad dog that needed to be put down.” Christopher had grown into a man of faith and family. He gave and received love at will. He read books and praised god. The same is true of his codefendant, Brandon Bernard, who was executed Dec. 10 at the Federal Correctional Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. If this cannot be stopped, let their deaths at least sensitize us to our worst demons, and return us to our better angels. We should all be outraged. We should all be devastated. Each and every one of us must take personal responsibility for ending federal executions. We must do better than this. We must be better than this.
THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND BETWEEN FACT AND FICTION ON THE ELECTION RESULTS: At a Wednesday Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) declared that it is “not sustainable” for a large proportion of Americans to believe the election results are illegitimate. He then set about encouraging this false belief by dignifying debunked attacks on the vote’s integrity. Mr. Johnson insisted that pro-Trump forces have raised “legitimate concerns” about “violations of election laws,” “fraudulent votes and ballot stuffing” and “corruption of voting machines and software that might be programmed to add or switch votes.” Former Trump election security chief Christopher Krebs told the panel that the election was highly secure and that attacks on local voting officials were deeply unfair. Yet Mr. Johnson trotted out Trump lawyers who alleged massive numbers of illegal votes and blamed losses in court on negligent judges refusing to look at their so-called evidence. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) declared that “the fraud happened.” Other GOP senators emphasized that their constituents thought the vote was rigged. The overall message, about perhaps the cleanest presidential election ever run in the United States: We cannot prove that fraud changed the outcome, but we cannot rule it out, and Americans should be angry regardless. Republicans are inaugurating a new, dangerous era in which political parties may refuse to acknowledge election results merely because they dislike the choices voters made. The damage is twofold: Dignifying fake claims of widespread election irregularities shreds confidence in democracy, destabilizing the nation’s politics and encouraging potentially violent resistance to duly elected leaders. There is no middle ground between truth and lies. Republicans are promoting a dangerous fiction, which they will then rely on to make it even harder for Americans to vote.
THE RETURN OF THE PHONY DEFICIT HAWKS: Republicans appear willing to make a deal because they fear that complete stonewalling will hurt them in the Georgia Senate runoffs. But they are determined to keep the deal under a trillion dollars, hence the reported $900 billion price tag. That trillion-dollar cap, however, makes no sense. The amount we spend on emergency relief should be determined by how much aid is needed, not by the sense that $1 trillion is a scary number. Of course, we know what’s going on here. While Republicans have made the political calculation that they must cough up some money while control of the Senate is still in doubt, they’re clearly getting ready to invoke fear of budget deficits as a reason to block anything and everything Biden proposes once he’s finally sworn in. It should go without saying that the coming G.O.P. pivot to deficit hawkery will be completely insincere. Republicans had no problem with rising deficits during the pre-pandemic Trump years; they cheerfully passed a $1.9 trillion tax cut, mainly for corporations and the wealthy. But the hypocrisy isn’t the main issue here. More important, shortchanging relief in the name of fiscal prudence would mean vast, unnecessary hardship for millions of Americans. I’m an optimist about prospects for economic recovery once we achieve widespread vaccination. But that won’t happen until well into 2021, and even a rapid recovery will take months after that to bring us back to something like full employment. Making a deal that only provides enhanced benefits for 10 weeks is like building a bridge that goes only a quarter of the way across a chasm. And the case for more spending won’t end with short-term economic recovery. We’ll still need huge investments in infrastructure, child care, clean energy and more. Republicans will try to stop all of this, claiming that it’s because they’re worried about debt. They’ll be lying, and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
JANICE NICHOLSON: STOP THE STEAL BEING PERPETRATED BY TRUMP: President Trump is urging his loyal but misguided followers to “stop the steal” of an election he insists he won. Trump is right that there is a steal going on — his lies to his base are destroying their trust in democracy and leading some to dangerous behavior. Even worse, is his duplicity and greed in urging those who voted for him to send money to support his right to a second term when the reality is that the money is building him a $200 million slush fund. Yes, it is time to “stop the steal” and focus on helping U.S. citizens, especially those who need the basics of food, shelter and health care.
LEE QUINN: NO TAX GRANTS FOR DOWNTOWN SOUTH: Raleigh leaders would be in gross neglect of their duties if they issue a Tax Increment Grant to any Downtown South developer. The grant would deprive local government of millions in uncollected property tax revenue over many years at a time when the state legislature is poised to yet again abrogate its responsibilities to properly fund schools and other vital functions. It’s nothing more than an unnecessary handout to a big developer. While Downtown South seems like an interesting idea, any developer worth his/her salt should be able to pull it off without being handed $172 million of our public funds to make it happen. Developers build buildings. Educators, health workers and first responders build a community. Let’s not rob the essential to pay the unessential, especially in this moment of our collective crisis.
RACHEL CANTER: THERE'S A HUNGER EPIDEMIC TOO: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused childhood hunger to soar to record-level highs. One in four children in North Carolina could face hunger this year because of this health and economic crisis. But hunger is a problem we can actually fix. If Congress temporarily increases SNAP (food stamp) benefits by 15%, families in need would receive an additional $25 per person each month. This benefit is a lifeline for those in our state who are facing extreme hardship — unemployment, rising food prices, eviction and hunger — because of this pandemic. It’s critical that Congress gets to work on legislation that includes this SNAP increase. SNAP is one of the most effective ways to feed people and stimulate our economy. Right now, Congress is failing these children by delaying relief legislation and leaving nutrition assistance out. I urge Sens. Tillis and Burr to work with Congress to boost SNAP now.