Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


ECU NEEDS A CHANCELLOR WHO CARES MORE FOR EASTERN NC THAN CATERING TO POLITICIANS: It is time to get ECU back on track. It deserves a chancellor who demonstrates excellence in higher education and understands the future is made of partnerships. It deserves a leader who understands and nurtures the critical and unique relationships the university has with partners such as the non-profit Vidant Health. Vidant operates the medical center that serves as the teaching hospital for ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. It is also the hub for Vidant’s network of facilities that provide healthcare to a 29-county region in the eastern part of the state. The legislature has threatened to reduce funding to Vidant and rumors abound suggesting that UNC Healthcare is interested in buying Vidant. That talk needs to stop. Building the ECU -Vidant partnership should be a priority. And the new Chancellor should join with Vidant and fight for Medicaid expansion.

CORONAVIRUS: WE'RE ONLY AS SAFE AS OUR MOST VULNERABLE NEIGHBORS: They are nearly 400,000 North Carolinians without medical coverage and the 45 percent of Americans who don’t have paid sick days. They are the people who pause at what’s routine and dread what should be merely inconvenient — taking a couple hours to have a doctor check you out. That trip takes time that can’t be recovered, and that visit has to be weighed against the number of meals it might pay for. For too many, it’s a cruel calculation that brings no good choices. Maybe you don’t like the idea of the government helping these people out. Maybe you think they should bear the consequences of the life choices they’ve made. Maybe you haven’t even bothered to even give it much thought. Do you care a little more? Our well-being has always been tied to the most vulnerable. When people can’t afford the time or cost of basic health care, emergency rooms get clogged, medical costs rise and illness can spread. A Cornell University report last month showed that influenza infection rates dropped by 11 percent in a year in 10 states that enacted mandates requiring employers to offer paid sick leave.

STOP DIVERTING LOTTERY FUNDS FROM PROMISED EDUCATION ENHANCEMENTS: In the state Education Lottery’s first full year (FY2007-2008), 40 percent of the money distributed went to school construction; 26 percent to class-size reduction; 24 percent to pre-K education and 10 percent to scholarships. In the last fiscal year, almost two-thirds of the money distributed by the lottery funds ongoing school expenses. Fifty-seven percent goes to pay non-instructional support staff and 6 percent for student transportation. Just 19 percent is now available for school construction, 12 percent for pre-k education and 6 percent for scholarships. Public school funding over the last decade has failed to even keep up with inflation. The $9.44 billion the state is now spending (2018-19 budget), when considering inflation, is $570 million LESS than spending levels a decade ago (2008-09 -$8.19 billion in actual dollars, $10.05 billion adjusted for inflation). But damage is being done. Class-size reductions are not appropriately funded; pre-K education funding still falls way short of need and demand; school systems throughout the state are behind in both financing construction of much-needed new schools as well as updating or renovating current facilities. Promises of increased funding for scholarships have been neglected.

TRUMP IS PUNISHING AN HONORABLE PROFESSIONAL FOR TELLING THE TRUTH: Ms. McCusker played no known role, direct or indirect, in bringing that misconduct to the House of Representatives’ attention. All she did, while serving last year as acting Pentagon comptroller, was to tell the White House, via internal emails, that its holdup of the nearly $400 million Ukraine aid package might violate federal law, possibly causing the appropriations to lapse. She reacted with exasperated incredulity when an Office of Management and Budget official, Michael P. Duffey, tried to blame her for putting the funds at risk. In a September email, one of a series made public by Just Security, a website specializing in foreign affairs and defense policy, Ms. McCusker wrote, “You can’t be serious. I am speechless.” Now the White House has confirmed that her nomination for comptroller has been withdrawn. There was no explanation offered. No doubt the White House did not relish a confirmation hearing at which Ms. McCusker would have had to testify about the Ukraine matter; equally plausibly, Mr. Trump is continuing his campaign of post-impeachment payback that has already resulted in the unceremonious ouster of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council staff, Gordon Sondland being recalled as ambassador to the European Union and the withdrawal of former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu’s appointment for a top Treasury Department post, reportedly in part because of her hesitancy to indict former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. Axios has reported that Trump political loyalists inside and outside government are drawing up lists of officials deemed questionably loyal and targeting them for replacement.

BEWARE THE DEADLY CONTAGION SPREAD BY BLOWHARDS: Yet because President Barack Obama was in the White House at the time, some conservatives started dismissing the swine flu as a hoax. Right-wing media figures were particularly contemptuous at Obama administration suggestions that people get a vaccination against it. “Screw you,” Rush Limbaugh declared. “I am not going to take it, precisely because you’re now telling me I must. You have some idiot government official demanding, telling me I must take this vaccine. I’ll never take it.” Over on Fox News, Glenn Beck was similarly conspiratorial. “You don’t know if it’s going to make things worse,” he warned, urging viewers to do “the exact opposite” of what the government recommended. Donald Trump called into Fox News and dismissed concern about the swine flu, telling host Neil Cavuto that “it’s going to go away.” Trump also cautioned that “the vaccines can be very dangerous.” Matthew Baum of Harvard found that people in red states were indeed less likely to get vaccinated — and more likely to die of swine flu. In the end, that swine flu outbreak wasn’t as lethal as many had feared, but it still killed or contributed to the deaths of as many as 400,000 people worldwide. In the United States, it infected 60 million people, caused 274,000 hospitalizations and killed 12,469 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “As states become relatively more Republican, swine flu-related deaths rise,” Baum wrote in a 2011 article in The Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.


HUMA MUNIR: PROUD OF OUR ELECTED MUSLIM WOMEN: Regarding “Durham voters elect county’s 1st all-female board and 1st Muslim woman commissioner,” (March 5): I am elated to know that Durham County has elected its first Muslim woman commissioner. As a Muslim woman, I find this empowering. Too often, Muslim voices are misrepresented or become lost. We are told that Muslims don’t assimilate properly and are not loyal to one’s nation. But women like Nida Allam, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are showing the world that Muslims love their country and would do anything to help their communities. Every day, these women are fired up to work on issues that affect Americans everywhere. They are loyal and true patriots. In fact, they are following the teachings of Muhammad who said loyalty to one’s nation is part of faith. By running for office, they are true to their faith and their identity as Americans. I find these women incredibly inspirational. I am glad my daughter will have them as role models to aspire to.

RON SUTHERLAND: RDU FOREST "DEALS" ARE A BAD IDEA: We citizens are being asked to make a compromise about the future of the “RDU Forest” next to Umstead State Park. Let Wake Stone destroy Odd Fellows, where the Boy Scouts have camped for decades. Let developers destroy Lake Crabtree County Park. And in return, people who like forests and outdoor recreation will get a 10-year lease on the so-called “286” tract next to RDU. The leased lands would be used for mountain bike trails, at least for a few years until another compromise needs to be made to fund the airport. Seems reasonable right? A win-win? No, actually, this is the most absurd and abusive deal possible for those of us who actually care about keeping some green space in the Triangle. We’ve already compromised, we’ve already lost so much forest to development. Even worse: the way the RDU Airport Authority is claiming it can’t sell the land to add to Umstead State Park. It turns out that the FAA just allowed the Indianapolis Airport to sell almost 2,000 acres to make a park up there.

CHARLES COBLE: THE DAMAGE BEING DONE TO UNC'S REPUTATION IS INEXCUSABLE: I worked as a vice president in the UNC system from 1996-2002 under presidents Dick Spangler and Molly Broad. Those were days when the executive leadership and bipartisan Board of Governors was sterling and the university system was the envy of the nation. It is beyond sad to see how the N.C. General Assembly has laid waste to the reputation of our beloved system of higher education. The current leadership of the N.C. House, Tim Moore, and N.C. Senate, Phil Berger, should be turned out of office for squandering our tax money, throwing aside talented leadership, and soiling the reputation of North Carolina’s higher education system across our nation. Their ignorance of what they’re doing to kill the goose that is laying the economic golden egg in N.C. is reprehensible.



From the dark side

This week's loser is another Trump (John), managing editor of the Carolina Journal:

North Carolina law bans government agencies from making contracts with unions and bans public employees from striking. Some people, in North Carolina and throughout America, want to change that. Those people are getting louder.

For the past two years, as Carolina Journal’s Lindsay Marchello reported, the NCAE has hosted a teacher walkout, with thousands of teachers leaving the classroom for a day to march on the General Assembly. In January, the teacher advocacy group floated the idea of a teachers strike. NCAE members actually were sent a survey to gauge interest in taking more extreme action.

Those walkouts are imperative, because it makes no sense to lobby the General Assembly when nobody is there, like on Saturdays or when it's not in session. Groups like Civitas and JLF would love for such activities to be ignored, but those days are over.

Also in February, the Democratic majority in the U.S. House approved a massive pro-labor union bill. That bill, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, is a mishmash of pro-union provisions that would deliberately attempt to override state right-to-work laws and “beat back independent contracting and the gig economy,” Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies for the John Locke Foundation, told CJ.

"Right to work" is one of the most Orwellian terms to come out of the corporate-friendly Republican Party, and is designed solely to divide and conquer the people who actually produce, and create wealth for their managers. As far as that cute term "gig economy," there is nothing to admire about the loss of job security for a growing segment of our population.

The current field of Democratic candidates for president are generally friendly to unions and all too often spout words and terms such as “workers” and “middle class,” both of which have fallen to overuse. The terms are pervasive among North Carolina progressives, as well.

That's because we recognize the deteriorating conditions that afflict both of those groups, and are determined to reverse those conditions. Conservatives (especially pundits) don't give a shit about those people, as long as the top 10% continue to flourish.

Unions, a one-time useful tool toward achieving workers’ rights and the power to negotiate wages and benefits as a group, have mostly outlived their usefulness. Unions are now oftentimes a crutch for incompetent workers, a government lobby that siphons money from workers that goes to huge salaries for leadership, and a disruptive economic force wielding the power of threats and intimidation.

The most disruptive economic force that exists is the corporate board room. Investing profits in exotic financial instruments, instead of brick and mortar production facilities and employee training, has destroyed what was once the manufacturing hub of the world. At one time General Motors owned entire neighborhoods of home mortgages in Louisiana and Texas, thanks to deregulation of the financial industry by Republicans. Don't talk to me about the free market until you can find the trillions in wealth that got sucked down into that black hole.

As Sanders wrote about PRO, “Having to pay union fees despite not wanting union representation is a big problem in the 22 states that, unlike North Carolina, aren’t ‘Right to Work’ states. Thanks to provisions in the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, North Carolina and 27 other Right to Work states keep union membership from being a requirement for employment and protect nonmembers from being made to pay union fees regardless.”

Unionization requires a majority of workers approve it. You know, just like Republicans taking over the General Assembly. It's called democracy. Refusing to allow those workers to take that step, or undermining their collective bargaining power by allowing employees to benefit from Union representation without paying dues, isn't democracy. Not sure what it is, but I know what it's not.

The truth is, conservatives are afraid of unions because corporate management is afraid of unions. But unions are merely people, working together for a better future. If you're afraid of that, you need to do some soul-searching.