Republican attack on the poor

Missouri moves to expand Medicaid to a quarter of a million citizens

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It's (long) past time for North Carolina to follow suit:

Missouri voters on Tuesday approved Medicaid expansion to many of the state’s poorest adults, making their conservative state the second to join the Obamacare program through the ballot during the pandemic.

The Missouri ballot measure expands Medicaid to about 230,000 low-income residents at a time when the state’s safety net health care program is already experiencing an enrollment surge tied to the pandemic’s economic upheaval. The measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.

This has always been a no-brainer, but the NC GOP's stubborn resistance to anything Obama-related has deprived over half a million of our fellow NC'ians their health and their very lives. I've published the following here before, but here's an Op-Ed I wrote a year ago that never made it past the mainstream media gatekeepers:

Cruelty is the point: The NC GOP's war on the poor & unemployed

There is simply no excuse for this draconian behavior:

It started in 2013 when, just after securing the governorship on top of both houses, the GOP supermajority passed HB4, a bill that made unprecedented cuts to unemployment compensation.

The bill lowered the maximum weekly payment amount from $535 to $350 and completely eliminated state appropriations for unemployment program administration, forcing the program to rely on declining federal funds. As a result, staff time designated to processing initial claims dropped by more than half from 2005 to 2020.

Get that? All these delays in processing the mountain of unemployment claims caused by the pandemic can (and should) be laid at the feet of Legislative Republicans. All this time they've been pointing a finger at Governor Cooper, they should have been pointing it at themselves. That's actually a question I've been trying to answer for a couple months, but I've been approaching it wrong. I looked at budgets going back five years to see if I could find a drop in funding, and couldn't seem to find said line items at all. That's because they're gone, and have been since 2013. Tens of thousands of North Carolinians have suffered because of that, and most of them blame the Cooper administration:

Living and dying for poverty wages during a pandemic

I hope you enjoy that Quarter Pounder with Cheese:

Bergeron-Lawrence described how her poverty wages and lack of access to paid sick leave had recently compelled her to go to work — despite battling a nagging and undiagnosed respiratory illness, where she was assigned to the drive-thru window — interacting with 50 to 80 people per hour. But what seemed to evoke the most anger and emotion in Bergeron-Lawrence was when she described how the McDonald’s corporate offices had brought in and distributed a shipment of “lovely little pins” to the restaurant employees that read “I am essential.”

As Barber observed, the pins constituted a pathetic and maddening token from a multi-national corporation that pays its front-line workers $10 an hour.

That $10 is about $4.70 per hour short of what she needs to pay rent and other bills, and that's not including food. She's probably getting $160 or so in food stamps per month, unless her second job (to finish paying rent) pushed her over the limit ($1,354 gross per month). And before you try to scribble some numbers, there is no way to make that work. You just can't. $15 per hour is not a "dream" wage, it's a survival wage.

New poverty report by the NC Justice Center

Trying to survive at the bottom:

In the wealthiest nation on earth, millions of North Carolinians spend every day just trying to survive. Low wages, lack of investment in an infrastructure of opportunity, and an economy with rules rigged for the wealthy few have resulted in the lucky few amassing unimaginable wealth while children and families go hungry and struggle to get ahead. This moral and economic failure touches people across the state and is particularly present in communities of color that have long faced barriers to prosperity and security erected through policy choices and systems of exclusion.

This cycle won't break itself, it requires actions on several fronts. Hunger leads to malnutrition, and malnutrition has a direct and detrimental effect on learning and performance in the K-12 school environment. Which leads to severely limited economic opportunities as an adult, which brings us right back to hungry children. And a stuttering economy:

Looming restrictions on SNAP benefits due April 1st

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For many, hunger is just around the corner:

The analysis notes that if the policies had been implemented in 2018, an estimated 3.7 million fewer people and 2.1 million fewer households would have received SNAP benefits in an average month. According to the study, the combined impact of the policies would have been to reduce overall SNAP participation by at least 15 percent in 13 states and make almost three-quarters of households with gross incomes above 130 percent of the federal poverty level ineligible for the program.

Losing much-needed food benefits would cause millions of individuals and families to lapse into food insecurity—defined as “the uncertainty of having, or unable to acquire, enough food due to insufficient money or other resources.”

Aside from the sheer cruelty of tightening restrictions on food stamps, it also represents sheer ignorance of economic forces. Instead of bailing out farmers, an expansion of SNAP would inject capital into not only the agricultural sector, but others, as well. But that is apparently way too complicated for the Liar-In-Chief. Here are the changes that are coming in a couple weeks:

It's the babies, stupid: Collapse of rural health care endangers lives

No county should be without a maternity unit:

In the rural Appalachian county, where winters are harsh and narrow dirt roads make driving difficult even when the weather is clear, the maternity unit at Angel Medical Center was an important asset. But then in July 2017, Mission Health, which owns the hospital, closed the unit for financial reasons, leaving women in the community without an in-county option for childbirth.

The closure forces women to travel 20 miles south over a mountain to Harris Regional Hospital in neighboring Jackson County, or even to Asheville, an almost 70 mile trek northeast, to give birth. In some cases, women may even have to venture as far as Charlotte, more than 180 miles away, Garrett said.

It has been mentioned before, but it can be extremely frustrating trying to advocate for rural healthcare when many of your readers hail from the Triangle, Triad, or Queen City regions. And it doesn't help when faux-Libertarians seem to be more concerned about overturning Certificate of Need regulations than expanding coverage to areas that are medical deserts. And of course those same "advocates" are relentlessly attacking Medicaid Expansion, which is very likely the only lifeline for rural healthcare available. The hypocrisy is mind-numbing.

Monday must-read: Barry Yeoman's hog lawsuit essay

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Sometimes you gotta take a stand:

In a federal courtroom in Raleigh, North Carolina, a 14-year-old honor student named Alexandria McKoy swore to tell the truth. Then she settled in to testify against the world’s largest pork producer.

McKoy had traveled 90 miles from Bladen County, part of the flat and farm-heavy coastal plain that covers most of eastern North Carolina. Her family lives on a sandy cul-de-sac that recedes into a driveway flanked by “No Trespassing” signs. Her mother grew up on that land, working in the fields with her sharecropper father and playing in the woods nearby.

These stories are powerful, because they bring the issue to life. There is no better demonstration of the complexity of property rights than the hog farmer vs. neighbor situation, especially when both are multi-generational natives to the area. Here's more:

NC Institute for Constitutional Law announces "relaunch"

It looks like Dallas has found a new job:

The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law (NCICL) will relaunch on September 12th, 2019 with laser-like focus on educating the public about the importance and limiting principals of the North Carolina Constitution and to ensure public accountability for elected officials who take an oath to uphold the text of the North Carolina Constitution as written.

NCICL’s first and primary mission is educational, however, the organization is poised to litigate to fight grievous violations of the North Carolina Constitution and the constitutional separation of powers.

Yanno, it's funny (not really) NCICL was not around to "fight" grievous violations of the separation of powers when the NC GOP was steadily stripping authority from the Governor-elect after he won his election. But now that the Veto-proof majority Republicans grabbed via gerrymandering has been broken, and the Governor is able to re-assert his Constitutional authority, we need a "laser-like focus." Or something. Speaking of the previous iteration of NCICL, it appears all of that has been scrubbed, and the new web page is being hosted on Nationbuilder. Which is of course the Republican Party's national platform for budding political campaigns. Film at eleven...

NC's tobacco farmers get the shaft in Trump's trade war

When your market is destroyed and nobody wants to help you:

The USDA lists more than two dozen crops that are eligible for the payments, but tobacco is not included among them due to federal rules that preclude the crop from receiving federal funds to promote its sale or export. “Tobacco did not receive one penny of that money,” said Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau. “And I’ve got news for you, the new money that’s coming out, tobacco is not going to share in that either.”

Wooten said that North Carolina farmers exported $162 million worth of tobacco products to China in 2017. In 2018, that figure was $4 million. He said the state’s farmers this year have planted the smallest crop of tobacco since before World War II.

I hesitated to write about this because I realize that probably 95% of the people reading don't care, and a good portion of you would love to see NC stop growing tobacco entirely. I get that. But that unbelievable drop in exports listed above is a stark reminder of just how dangerous this President is to our economy. And like it or not, tobacco was one of the main drivers of NC's economic growth for centuries. Follow below the fold for a mostly pointless and boring personal anecdote:

Trump admin blocks Utah from expanding Medicaid

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And they would likely do the same to North Carolina:

According to the senior officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, White House advisers argued that it did not make sense to approve generous federal funding under the ACA while the administration is arguing that the entire law should be overturned.

White House advisers on the Domestic Policy Council, Office of Management and Budget, and National Economic Council, which are controlled by conservative Republicans, were the staunchest opponents of allowing Utah to receive enhanced federal funding for its expanded Medicaid program.

For every action there's a reaction. It may not be equal and opposite, but it trends that way. Utah voters passed a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid, and Trump blocking that might just lose him that state in 2020:

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