Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


DON'T TELL WOMEN WHAT THEY CAN DO WITH THEIR BODIES, FUND THE SERVICES THEY NEED: So when we talk about why, why a prenatal diagnosis of down syndrome can be so frightening for a family. I think it is important that we consider, maybe it’s because we have not provided adequate supports for these families and for their children. We must work towards reducing stigma and providing supports. We know how to do that. We know that early childhood intervention services can change the trajectory for a child with down syndrome. Yet these services are woefully underfunded. We know that as these children grow some will need community living supports, and yet, these services are not readily available to those who have the greatest need. Colleagues, if we want to get serious about walking with women through their journey of a prenatal diagnosis, the prescription is not to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. The prescription is funding for services, information for families, and comfort for families in knowing that their child will have access to education, therapies and the medical supports that they need.

NC REPUBLICANS ARE RACING TO THE BOTTOM WITH THEIR TAX CUT FETISH: A few years ago, North Carolina became the host of an ongoing experiment as its GOP leaders began implementing policies aligned with economist Arthur Laffer and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In Laffer and ALEC’s annual publication “Rich States, Poor States,” the authors define an Economic Outlook (EO) index and promise that “if state legislators will make it a priority to improve on [the index] they will be rewarded with faster growth and more jobs in their state.” North Carolina Republicans beginning in 2011 made it their mission to improve the state’s EO rankings. It did so by cutting taxes, reducing government jobs, reducing worker-compensation outlays, reducing unemployment-insurance benefits, and similar policies. By 2013 North Carolina ranked 6th in the EO index and moved up to 2nd in 2015. In ALEC’s most recent EO index, North Carolina ranks 5th. The Republican leadership apparently sees the current budget season as an opportunity to improve this rank further through additional cuts in tax rates. We believe that it is cruel and dangerous to continue with this strategy. North Carolina’s “improved” EO ranking was made possible thanks to ignoring or rejecting policies that arguably improve people’s lives more than tax cuts —issues such as public K-12 education funding, Medicaid expansion, unemployment insurance and infrastructure.

ADDING MISERY TO ALREADY UNEMPLOYED JUST HURTS, DOESN'T MOTIVATE: No one’s getting rich off of the unemployment benefits they receive. Those still getting benefits need the money for basics. They are quickly pumping those dollars right back into North Carolina’s economy – some paying rent and utilities, others buying groceries, addressing personal needs, paying medical bills and more. They’re struggling just to address the basics of daily life. Including the additional federal benefits, about 162,200 workers (nearly the population of Cary) who’ve been out of work currently receive an average $535 weekly – slightly more than $13 an hour. Another 82,000 freelance and contract workers (almost the size of Asheville), who typically do not qualify for any unemployment benefits are getting an average $450 per week ($11.25 an hour). If the bill passed by the state House of Representatives last week becomes law by July 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year, those same workers would likely have their benefits cut for the last month of the federal program to an average $235 weekly (about $5.90 an hour) and those freelance and contract workers will get $150 a week ($3.75 an hour). In that single month at least $293 million – and some estimate it could be as much as $500 million -- in federal funds will stay in Washington instead of being pumped into North Carolina’s economy.

I'M A WOMAN WHO RUNS ON RURAL ROADS. THE FEAR IS ALWAYS THERE: I live in rural northern Michigan, a region celebrated for its cherry orchards, shoreline state parks and small-town tourist attractions. People travel from all over the United States to experience what I do every day on my morning run: the mist rising off the water, the towering beech trees, the rolling hills. Each day running these dirt roads restores my sense of wonder. Mollie Tibbetts was also a rural runner, a college student spending her summer back in her tiny hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. On July 18, 2018, she went for an evening jog. At some point during her run, according to police reports, a man circled her several times in his car. He later admitted to investigators that he got out of his car and ran after her, became angry when she threatened to call the police — and then blacked out, awakening and finding Tibbetts’s body in the trunk of his car. He drove to a nearby cornfield, police said, and left her body covered with corn stalks. She had been stabbed to death. Sydney Sutherland, 25, was running on a rural road in Arkansas last year when she was abducted, raped and murdered, police said. Attacks can happen anywhere that a solitary woman is jogging: Wendy Martinez, 35, stabbed to death on a D.C. street in 2019; Karina Vetrano, 30, sexually assaulted and choked to death in a park near her home in Queens in 2016; Vanessa Marcotte, 27, found strangled in the woods near a rural road in Massachusetts where she had been running in 2016. The list goes on and on. In March, a 22-year-old woman jogging near a Nashville park eluded two men who tried to pull her into a minivan, police said. This is my greatest fear as a woman who runs. Out here, it isn’t the black bears or the rumored cougars or even the occasional aggressive farm dog (I’ve negotiated a few). It’s the moment a single truck I don’t know turns down the dirt road where I’m running.

VOTER SUPPRESSION MUST BE THE CENTRAL ISSUE: The right to vote is everything in a democracy. Without influence over power, you are completely vulnerable to that power. There is no way to access prosperity or ensure personal protection when you live in a society in which people who share your interests are inhibited in their political participation. So the current efforts by Republicans across the country are a chilling omen as well as an eerie echo. Since the time Black people gained the right to vote during Reconstruction, racist white people have been trying to strip as many of them of that right as possible. In fact, disenfranchising people of color and immigrants is the overwhelming history of voter suppression in this country. White people not only wanted the power that resulted from winning elections, they insisted on the power to shape the electorate that could participate in elections. Black people dealt with those efforts at voter suppression, in a direct way, for nearly a century, until the successes of the civil rights movement led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But no sooner did some barriers come down than others went up. Up sprang mass incarceration, a phenomenon that disproportionately affected Black people and again stripped many of those Black people of their right to vote. Then came the backlash to the first Black president, and the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Now you have the election lie coming from a white supremacist president who was defeated in part because of the voting of people of color in key states. We can’t look at what is happening now with voter suppression as just one more horrible thing that the Republican Party is doing. And we can’t look at it as just a maneuver to alter presidential outcomes. When you can’t vote, you can’t vote for anything from the president all the way down to the local school board. Voter suppression is about silencing, it is about weakening, it is about controlling though constriction.


LAURIE MCDOWELL: TRUMP LOST, STOP GIVING HIM MEDIA EXPOSURE: Regarding “Trump endorses Budd in crowded GOP primary,” (June 7): Are we now to be subjugated to three years of nonstop media coverage of the loser of the 2020 election? Donald Trump lost the election. He also lost the popular vote in the 2016 election, but I don’t recall hoards of unhappy Democrats wrapping themselves in the flag and storming the Capitol. Please, do not feed his ego by giving him so much media coverage. Instead focus on the achievements and challenges of the current legitimate administration.

LAURA CRUMPLER: USING UNLICENSED TEACHERS IS NOT THE ANSWER: Regarding “Noncertified teachers could ease shortage,” (June 10 Editorial): If we had a doctor, lawyer or even hairdresser shortage, I cannot imagine any rational person thinking we should forego licensing for them. The answer is to treat teachers with respect and pay them what they deserve. The current “pretend” solution demeans teachers. It further dismantles public schools and ignores the role licensing and licensure boards play in monitoring ethical standards for all professions. Licensing helps ensure that teachers meet academic standards and do not pose danger to our children because of low moral character. Licensing is statewide, ensuring that bad teachers can’t escape oversight by simply moving to the next county. Let’s raise teacher standards and pay, instead of continuing to lower both.

JANE STEVENSON: CUTTING OFF FEDERAL BENEFITS FOR NC'S UNEMPLOYED IS BAD POLICY: The N.C. legislature has moved to stop the $300 federal unemployment supplement before it expires in September. The rationale given by Republicans is anecdotal and not confirmed by legitimate research. Nevertheless, they claim people are unwilling to come back to their jobs — mainly in the restaurant industry — because the federal supplement is “overly generous.” In the current stage of the economic recovery the vast majority of those getting the federal benefit are unable to secure jobs paying livable wages. This policy will hit minorities, single mothers and other already victimized groups especially hard. It will also impact the restaurant industry as millions who lose benefits will no longer able to eat in restaurants.



Elevating the voices of women

As you may have noticed above, all three LTEs featured were written by women. And the top op-ed was written by (Senator) Sarah Crawford. I would do this more often if I could.

But over the years I have noticed a gender imbalance in editorial voices, from small local papers all the way up to the NYT and WaPo. You see it in letters, op-eds, and very clearly in the ranks of syndicated columnists. Yes, there are magazines and other publications dedicated to featuring the views and opinions of women, but that is actually a symptom of the problem, not the cure.

I have also noticed in letters to the editor that women authors tend to be more "brief." A few sentences and they're done. While brevity can be an asset in driving home a particular point, I have a feeling there's something else going on in most cases. Like maybe the fear of being too wordy, too detailed, too outspoken? When you're used to being interrupted before you can make your point, brevity can become ingrained. And so can silence.

Of the last 5 batches of LTEs published in the News & Observer, 19 were written by men, and 12 were written by women. Of the 10 op-eds published by the N&O this month, 9 were written by men and 1 (one) was written by a woman.

While women are fairly well-represented in standard news-gathering pieces, we don't seem to care much for their opinions. "Just the facts, ma'am."

If you want to figure out why our society seems to be unraveling, why science struggles to overcome superstition, this is a damned good place to start. Because when you ignore over half of our population due to gender bias, evolving is simply impossible.