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North Carolina - Democrats

11
Everybody knows Republicans, and especially conservative Republicans, don’t like government subsidies. They’re corporate welfare. They’re government picking winners and losers.  And interfering with the free marketplace. 
 
That’s why Republicans opposed Obama’s solar energy subsidies like Solyandro – a solar business ought to be able to stand on its own two feet and if it can’t government handing it cash is bad false economics.
 
That’s logical.
 
But even if you’re a saint it’s a struggle to avoid temptation – and politicians have the added burden of being able to use other people’s money to help their friends.
 
Bottom line: Just a few days ago, in Raleigh, Republican State Senators voted to give fracking companies a million dollar subsidy.

 

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09

 

Horrified by the vision of legions of fired Democratic state employees, back when Jim Martin was elected Governor, Democrats changed the law so Martin couldn’t fire much of anyone – then announced (with a show of virtue) they’d gotten nasty old politics out of the state government.
 
But the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray: One day the typical state employee had a boss and the next he didn’t, then he figured out in place of a boss he had not a person but a set of rules (called the ‘Personnel Act’): He didn’t have quite the same job security as a tenured professor but he wasn’t far from it as long as he didn’t do anything egregious like larceny. 
 
Which turned out to be a temptation no self-respecting man should have to bear. 
 
The typical state employee’s day subtly changed.  He fell into a rhythm, eating, sleeping, tending to his wants and needs, and placidly spending eight hours in his office receiving and filing reports on, say, coal ash ponds.  Then, as the years rolled by, placidness compounded and compounded again and deepened into somnambulance until, one fine day, reality reared its head: A coal ash pond ruptured.
 
Pat McCrory had run for governor in 2008 and lost, toiled three years preparing to run again, built a new and stronger campaign, whipped Walter Dalton, and arrived in Raleigh full of new ideas but, when that coal ash pond ruptured, found himself face to face with an unforgiving fact: He had no one to clean up the mess except the same bureaucrats who’d spent decades blissfully asleep at the switch ignoring what had turned out to be a ticking time bomb.
 
Worse, wherever he looked he had the same problem. Over in the Department of Health and Human Services, they’d spent eight years and $500 million working on a new computer program but the minute the Governor pressed the go button there was a meltdown.
 
The program sputtered then settled into a smoking heap and the only people he had to fix it were the people who’d told him to press the button.
 
It seemed the Governor could set policy (and had plenty of well-meaning people like State Senators telling him what his policy ought to be) but what he really needed were people who could do things – who could fix problems.  Like coal ash ponds. 
 
So he tried a logical step: He asked the legislature to give him not the kind of unlimited power Jim Hunt had during his first two terms but a bit more power so he could replace somnambulant bureaucrats but as soon as the words were out of his mouth the State Employees Association and Democratic Legislators started hollering, accusing him of putting nasty old politics back into state government.

 

 

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02
As Democrats look to counter Senate Republicans on teacher pay, they should look outside the revenue box.
 
The 11 percent raise/end tenure plan caught the headlines and seemed to catch Democrats (and Governor McCrory) off guard. Democrats responded that the plan would gut education, UNC and Medicaid to fund an election-year pay raise that comes with strings attached.
 
But suppose Democrats raise the bidding now. Suppose they say: 11 percent is a nice start, Senator Berger, but not nearly enough. Let’s raise teacher pay 33 percent, so Houston can’t hire away our good teachers. And let’s pay for it by raising taxes on upper incomes and raising sales taxes on everybody.
 
(Why 33 percent? Well, it sounds good. And that’s how much North Carolina raised teacher pay in Governor Hunt’s last term in the ‘90s.)
 
Some Democrats fear opening the tax-increase box. But that may be a false fear, left over from the politics of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
 
If voters are truly angry about the damage done to public schools, then they may be ready to pay to fix it, if the fix seems fair enough and broad enough.

 

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29
If you did a poll – and Senator Berger surely has – you’d probably get overwhelming support for this proposition: “Should public school teachers get an 11 per cent raise in exchange for giving up tenure?”
 
Therein lies the challenge to Senate Democrats. Berger says: “You say you want higher teacher pay. Here it is.”  But here’s the trap: Teachers have to give up “tenure,” which most people think means that after you’ve been in a job for a while you can’t be fired, no matter how lazy, unproductive or incompetent you are.
 
Democrats have an education job to do here. They have to define what “tenure” really is. Not automatic protection for incompetent teachers, but minimal protection against arbitrary and capricious personnel decisions by principals and administrators who may not like a teacher for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with their performance or ability.
 
Like, say, a teacher who speaks up about a lousy principal, or objects to a bad central-office decision, or raises an uncomfortable question about school policies, or is so good an incompetent principal feels threatened or – yes – is a member of the “wrong” political party.
 
One education expert I talked to described Berger’s proposal this way: “It's another one of their manipulative political moves. People automatically think ‘yay! Higher teacher pay!’ But that's such a small part of the picture. Lack of tenure turns teachers into obedient minions. It completely eliminates creativity, innovation, teacher leadership, and progress within schools. If teachers are too worried about their jobs to speak up, education hits a stalemate. Which in turn makes all these ‘liberal ideas’ (read: common core) nearly impossible to implement successfully. Which is exactly what they want. Raising teacher pay is great, but they're doing it to hide the fact that they're throwing teacher autonomy and creativity in the trash.”
 
Long ago, a wise man gave me good advice about politics: Never underestimate the intelligence of voters, and never overestimate the information they have.
 
To escape this trap, Democrats need to fill the information gap.

 

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28
On Election Day my cousin Winifred who’s pure steel magnolia walked into the voting booth, stared at the names of the three judges running for Supreme Court, remembered the Republican ad saying Judge Robin Hudson was for child molesters, thought, I’ve seen enough of that kind of nastiness, and did something she’d never done before – voted for a liberal Democratic judge.
 
More recently, calling itself a ‘Civil Rights Group’ (for Hispanics) the old liberal shibboleth People for the American Way is trying its own brand of nastiness, running radio ads on Spanish-speaking stations saying, Thom Tillis is against everything that’s important for Hispanic families.
 
Everything.
 
Not a few things. Not some things. Everything.
 
Now it’s a stone cold fact Thom Tillis is for sending murderers to jail. Isn’t that important to Hispanic families? And it’s a stone cold fact Tillis is for throwing drug dealers in jail. Isn’t that important?
 
I could go on but you understand my point – there’s a long list of fundamentally important things Thom Tillis, Hispanics and just about everyone agree on.
 
So why on earth would People for the American Way run an ad telling Hispanics something that is obviously untrue?
 
The most obvious answers that come to mind are arrogance and cynicism.
 
Either they’re so arrogant they believe they can say anything and get away with it – or so cynical they think they can say anything and people will fall for it.
 
Of course, there is one other possible explanation – that the ones who’ve made a dumb mistake are People for the American Way because they’ve now given Cousin Winifred a rock-solid reason to vote for Thom Tillis.
  

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28

 

To get their votes, the politicians are up to a lot more than just promising women the ‘power’ to fulfill their heart’s desires – listen to the serenade Democrats are singing: If you vote for Kay Hagan, Democrats say, you’ll get more pay and equal pay and health care and birth control and education and, they add, Thom Tillis opposes equal pay and abortions and (brace yourself) believes states should have the right to ban contraception.
 
Now, as a male, that last one threw me. 
 
I’d like to hear Thom Tillis explain banning contraception to men – not women. 
 
Why our country is so free and promiscuous Miley Cyrus can gyrate three ways to Sunday on TV and even the Baptist preachers have given up complaining – so who’d have thought any politician would figure banning contraception would get him anything other than run out of town on a rail. Politicians would be more likely to ban chastity than contraception.
 
So, I was expecting Thom Tillis to laugh and say, Did you ever hear so much piffle? Folks ought to vote against Kay Hagan just for telling a tale like that.
 
But Tillis didn’t.
 
Instead, Tillis’s spokesman tried his hand at making promises of his own but of course he can’t possibly out-promise a Democrat – saying Thom Tillis is ‘going to get the economy back on track’ sounded pale beside Kay Hagan saying she’ll make every wicked, woman-exploiting man in a suit wish he’d never been born and put more money in women’s paychecks.
 
How on earth can Thom Tillis hold a candle to that?

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27
According to the newspaper one super powerful group is going to pick the winner in the Senate race: Women. 
 
Not money. Or virtue. Or sin. But Women.
 
Which, of course, if you’re a woman, may sound like floozy flattery. 
 
Or if you’re a woman, and a tad skeptical, you might be wondering, Why are all these politicians whispering sweet nothings into my ear? 
 
Could the answer be there’s a serpent curled in the weeds whispering to the politicians, Just tell her she’s got the power to fulfill her heart’s desire – that’ll get you her vote.’

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23

 

There are scads of Super PACs running around attacking Thom Tillis or Kay Hagan so one more came as no surprise except when Planned Parenthood said it was going to whack Tillis I thought, Whoever heard of a government-funded group spending $3.3 million on a Super PAC? It didn’t seem quite right. Planned Parenthood spending taxpayers’ money to elect Kay Hagan – so she’d give them more taxpayers’ money.
 
But then I thought that wasn’t fair – that, after all, the Chamber of Commerce has a Super PAC doing its best to elect Speaker Tillis and what its members get from the government makes Planned Parenthood look like a piker. 
 
For example, just last month, the local  Chamber spent a quarter million dollars to help Republicans defeat a Democratic Supreme Court judge then, at the Chamber’s behest, Republicans in the State Senate sponsored a law to give pharmaceutical companies (who’re members of the Chamber) a legal pass so they can’t be held responsible when they sell defective drugs.
 
Super PACs: A new wrinkle in a very old kind of politics.


 

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22
Gary is taking a break from blogging. Here's one from a Tapster.
 
The Senate’s headlong rush this week to jumpstart hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina proves they’ve learned absolutely nothing from the Dan River coal ash spill.

Senate Republicans say they want to create jobs and stimulate home-grown energy, and the sooner the better (especially in case the political world changes and they lose control in NC!) But the chatter around town is the Senate is moving too quickly, perhaps even recklessly, to mess with the state’s groundwater without imposing sufficient regulation and oversight on the front end.

The Dan River spill occurred at the site of an industry which is totally regulated by the state, yet it still happened and will affect that river system for years.

In the afterglow of that spill, North Carolinians understandably are skeptical of their regulators and corporate leaders, which is why the legislature and Mining Commission should take time to reassure the public with a rigorous framework of expectations, requirements, controls and penalties before any fracking pioneers start poking around in our aquifer.
  

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22
Gary is taking a break from blogging. In his absence, he asked Thomas Mills to fill in. Thomas blogs at www.politicsnc.com where this article is cross-posted.

Republicans in Raleigh have a problem with their storyline. They keep insisting that North Carolina is on a “Carolina comeback” but nobody’s feeling the benefits--except the rich. They cite falling unemployment numbers but those are just statistics and don’t reflect the reality of people’s lives.
 
The GOP says that our unemployment rate is lower than it’s been since the recession began and that the state created more than 70,000 jobs over the past year. However, people still aren’t feeling much better. Income is flat and the workforce is still significantly below pre-recession levels despite an increase in population.
 
Instead, people are seeing the hit to services. In schools across the state, parents are being asked to give more to make up for the cuts that the General Assembly passed. And even as they give more money to their children’s classrooms, they are watching programs get cut. In Chapel Hill-Carrboro, entire programs for gifted children are on the chopping block.
 
Parents aren’t feeling better about their pockets books. They are feeling insecure about their children’s education. In essence, they General Assembly has passed along a hidden tax since families are subsidizing classrooms to a greater extent.
 
And contrary to their storyline, the North Carolina economy is not outperforming the nation as whole by any great extent. Our job growth is steady but mediocre at less than 2% and the drop in unemployment rate is due partially to people leaving the workforce.
 
We also hear about the wonders of tax reform and are told we have more money in our pockets, but most aren’t feeling it. If we are, in fact, paying less taxes, the amount is not noticeable and is certainly not enough set people off on spending sprees. Instead, we’re bracing for more cuts due to a revenue shortfall.
 
Pat McCrory and the GOP legislature told us they were going to fix government and get our financial house in order. North Carolina would be an economic powerhouse again and sunny skies were ahead. Instead, we have a $445 million hole in our budget, our best teachers are leaving the state and McCrory is talking about more cuts to university system. They can spout statistics ad nauseam but until people are feeling more confident about financial situations and public institutions, their claims will fall on deaf ears.

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Carter & Gary
 
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Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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