Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


EXPANDING MEDICAID CAN ACTUALLY CUT STATE-FUNDED SPENDING: Even with added spending of about $400 million needed for Medicaid expansion (which the state’s hospitals and other healthcare providers have offered to help shoulder) North Carolina would still be ahead of the game by as much as $500 million. This federal law, passed by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, is a real deal for North Carolina taxpayers. Gaining half-a-billion dollars – even amid the budget surpluses the state now enjoys – is significant. It offers the opportunity to invest in other critical needs that have for too long gone unmet – particularly complying with the state’s constitutional guarantee to provide every child in the state with access to a quality education.

MAIL-IN VOTING IN NC ISN'T BROKEN. WHY ARE REPUBLICANS TRYING TO "FIX" IT? SB 326 isn’t a bill about election integrity. It’s a bill about voter suppression. It’s about trying to stop people from voting, same as other voting measures Republicans have introduced in the past decade. That includes a voter law enacted in 2013 that was later struck down after a federal appeals court ruled it was designed to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” We agree that election integrity is at stake right now — not just in North Carolina, but across the country. But its biggest threat is not mail-in voting. Nor is it any of the other election fantasies that Republicans and former President Donald Trump have propagated since November. The most significant threat to free and fair elections are the barriers to voting that Republicans across the country have tried to put in place, before and since. It’s time Republicans stopped trying to fix things that aren’t broken by alleging problems that don’t exist. They’re right — distrust in elections is dangerous. But they’re the ones fanning the flames.

QUALITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR EVERY CHILD. WILL LEGISLATORS BE PART OF THE SOLUTION OR THE PROBLEM? What should happen? The budget the legislature sends to the governor should include both funding for the next two years of the Comprehensive Remedial Plan for providing every child access to a quality education and a commitment to fully implement the plan over the next eight years. Do that -- include Medicaid expansion and Cooper’s plan for spending federal COVID-19 relief funds – and they’d have a deal he couldn’t refuse no matter what else – tax cuts, pork barrel spending for favored legislators -- they might stuff into the spending plan. Other than obstruct and complain about the courts and other advocates actions and plans, legislative leaders have yet to articulate any comprehensive plan of their own. Judge Lee and the opposing sides in the Leandro case have worked in good faith. They have arrived at and presented an effective plan. Simply put, legislators need to support and adopt the plan or get out of the way.

WHY CONSERVATIVES KEEP CREATING IMAGINARY ENEMIES TO FIGHT: The key characteristic of this manufactured controversy is that it is a symbolic battle masquerading as a practical one. By passing laws to ban an idea that is never taught in schools from being taught in schools, they’re trying to create a threat, then claim they vanquished it, thereby offering their supporters a feeling of reassurance and agency. That doesn’t mean these bills will have no practical impact; teachers are reporting that they’ve become terrified of even addressing topics around race now that it could run afoul of state law. But none of this has anything to do with what critical race theory actually is; it’s a stand-in, a tool to create a new Lost Cause narrative in which conservative Whites are society’s true victims. By now, this routine should be familiar; we went through the same thing a few years ago with the imaginary threat of “sharia law.” Many Republican legislators didn’t know precisely what it was, but they wanted everyone to be afraid of it, so in state after state they passed laws forbidding its use in court. Another key element of these frenzies: They’re usually marked by a combination of organic local activism and elite direction from conservative organizations, often located in Washington. And critically, they are fed by agenda-setting and cheerleading from conservative media — especially Fox News. They’re simultaneously grass roots and artificial turf, which creates the self-reinforcing cycle that spreads and sustains them.

THE BIDEN-PUTIN MEETING WAS PROGRESS. BUT NOT ENOUGH: The Biden administration’s short-term objective of using the summit to de-escalate some tensions, like the buildup along the Russia-Ukraine border, ending the tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats and forestalling the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny made a summit a good tactical play. But this one-off summit has done little to advance the long-term strategic objectives of containing Russia’s growing aggression and interference in the domestic affairs of Western democracies. The overriding U.S. foreign policy aim must be to prevent an existential confrontation with Russia, given its growing belligerence, propensity to employ conventional military capability and consistent pattern of apparently miscalculating the effects of attacks on neighbors and adversaries. U.S. policy must focus on reducing the short-term risks of miscalculations while addressing the ever-increasing long-term risk of a confrontation with Russia continually testing U.S. resolve. What is necessary is an approach that establishes prohibitively high costs and denies the benefits of Russia’s belligerence. This includes symmetric and asymmetric responses to Russian cyberattacks, significantly increased security assistance to Ukraine if Russia continues to escalate its war there and active engagement with Russian civil-society and pro-democracy groups as Moscow continues its information warfare in the United States and the West. The Biden administration’s approach has to be a combination of sustained engagement, including strategic stability talks with senior national security leaders from both countries, along with calibrated steady pressure to end Russian aggression. Getting that right, without tipping into a full-blown confrontation, is the Biden administration’s Gordian knot.


CHRYSTAL BARTLETT: REVENUE SURPLUS SHOULD GO TO CRITICAL NEEDS, NOT TAX CUTS: How lovely to learn that North Carolina has collected billions more in taxes than expected. (June 16) Now we can use this unexpected bonus for one-time expenditures, not recurring ones. No, not recurring corporate tax breaks. Any business knows better than to take a windfall and create recurring line items. Maintaining infrastructure, school building, parks and roads — long neglected due to “no new taxes!” — are a perfect way to spend non-recurring funds. If the N.C. General Assembly must give someone a tax break, let it be for the lower/middle class. In turn, they will stimulate the economy. Many studies show that “trickle up” is both possible and probable. Now, legislators must go make a good budget without any more drama or doomed “something to run on” legislation. It just wastes time.

JEROME BROWN: WE MUST OPPOSE VOTER SUPPRESSION ACROSS THE BOARD: From the onslaught of voting related bills being introduced in the N.C. legislature, it is clear that the N.C. GOP is borrowing from the shared playbook coming out of Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Florida. We are not blind. We see what they’re trying to do. North Carolina citizens have to let their representatives know that they will not sit quietly and allow the clock to be rolled back, not one bit. The actions taken by the GOP give citizens like me more resolve to get people registered to vote, educate them on the issues, and get them to show up during early voting and on Election Day. The N.C. GOP cannot win and will not win no matter what they throw against the wall. North Carolina citizens should not have any encumbrances placed in their path when it comes to casting their vote.

CAROLE KATZ: DON'T WORRY ABOUT MASKS, WORRY ABOUT THE GUNS: Regarding these June 16 headlines: “911 callers describe fatal shooting of 19-year-old outside Food Lion,” “Man with multiple guns arrested at UNC-Chapel Hill,”and “4 dead, 4 injured in South Side Chicago shooting”... To all those who want “their freedoms” back, having to trade in your COVID mask for a bulletproof vest is not freedom. If you want your freedom, get behind reasonable but serious gun laws and get your vaccine. I do not want my freedoms restricted by those who aren’t vaccinated. I do not want to fear drive-by shootings. And lord help us if our voting rights are restricted. Let’s recognize what’s at stake and work to protect our freedoms and democracy.



The lesson of Juneteenth

A (Facebook) friend of mine recently made an observation (that floored me, because he had never even intimated any racist tendencies) that maybe many slaves remained on their Texas plantations because they didn't have anywhere else to go, and there was food & shelter and such where they were.

It was in response to an argument that had developed over whether the slaves needed to be told about the end of the war, which a few contrarian progressives viewed as just another insult veiled in concern. Or something. We love to attack each other over the silliest of reasons.

Understand, the message delivered in Galveston was almost exclusively aimed at the slave owners, who without a doubt were aware of Lee's surrender, and that Federal emancipation laws (codified in the U.S. Constitution by that time) could no longer be ignored. The fact those laws had to be enforced by the military is the true lesson that needs to be learned. That white slave-owners were intent on ignoring such as long as they could get away with it is what we need to remember, because that legacy continued virtually unchecked for the following 100 years, at least in the South. Where a little black girl had to be escorted and protected by soldiers from the anger of a white mob, just so she could go to school.

Half a century after that, the right to vote for African-Americans is being challenged, and the right to drive a fricking car down the street without being summarily executed for holding a cell phone is something to be "debated," but not defended.

How did we get (back) here? Not sure if we ever left, but the root cause of the above is prejudice. Pre-judged, if you will. African-Americans are pulled over by police at a much higher rate than whites (racially profiled), skin color is a probable cause. Understand, this has been happening all along ("whose horse is that you're riding?"), but the BLM movement has put it on the front page, and is forcing us to (finally) reckon with it.

But we also must understand, it's not just law enforcement that needs reform. Karen needs to be reformed as well (yeah, I know, giving her a name is reductive and subjective, and lacks nuance. But nuance is not one of Karen's strong suits). My point is, that prejudice originates in our society, and then contaminates the ranks of law enforcement, not the other way around.

And the only way to fix that is via education at a young age, exposure to genuine history and not white-washed historical fiction. But prejudice is like a virus; it will do anything to survive and procreate, which includes mutating into something that seems reasonable, in order to avoid society's antibodies.

Would that we had a vaccination for that.

In case you needed an example...

I was there yesterday, where I took this picture:

That's the Town administrator of Green Level and the NC House Representative for the district. It was a very well-managed celebration, no alcohol or drugs, and yet a roadblock was set up nearby (again with the racial profiling) to harass and intimidate law-abiding citizens. I'm so pissed off right now I can't adequately describe it.