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25
Governor Perdue reached across the Pacific to Washington last week to make a point that signals her 2012 strategy: Republicans are hurting education.
 
While she was in China, her office sent a letter to Senators Hagan and Burr endorsing “The Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act.”
 
She wrote that the bill, which went down to predictable defeat, “would provide $900.3 million to support 13,400 teacher jobs in North Carolina. In addition to improving our schools by putting more teachers back in the classroom, these funds would provide a much-need boost to our economy in the short term by putting food on the table for thousands of working families.”
 
She took a shot at North Carolina Republicans: “The General Assembly forced deep and unnecessary cuts to North Carolina’s educational budget earlier this year….School districts across the state are feeling the pain, and that pain will only worsen next year when the federal Education Jobs Act money expires.”
 
Here’s the political caucus. A key undecided group for 2012 is women, especially mothers with young children. They acutely feel the economic pain. They’re disappointed in Obama. They’re also concerned, polls show, about the future of the public schools.
 
Democrats have to deflect these voters’ disappointment in the direction of Republicans – and tie the GOP to declining schools. And Republicans seem determined to help them.

 

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24
In 1996 six months after Steve Forbes began his campaign for President his brother Tim told me, Here’s how Presidential campaigns work: They stand my brother up on stage then they strip all his clothes off and beat him to a pulp. But in a way it makes sense. Because, I guess, people figure if he’s tough enough to survive all that he’s tough enough to be President.
 
The only thing that has changed in the last 15 years is the 24-hour news cycle, which means a candidate can be stripped and pulverized in a week – as Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry and Herman Cain have now learned.
 
Last week in Las Vegas Bachmann, Romney, Perry, Santorum, and Gingrich all let fly at Cain, saying his 9-9-9 plan raised taxes on 84% of the people. Cain glared back, snapped, Absolutely not so, added, Read my plan, you dummies, then flat out denied his plan raised taxes period. 
 
Before the week was out the 24-hour news cycle had nailed Cain. He had to ‘tweak’ his plan to untax the people he’d said he didn’t overtax in the first place. So, now, the 9-9-9 plan’s the 9-9-minus 9 plan and in the next debate Cain’s sure to be asked, Herman, did you read your plan?
 

 

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24
It was interesting watching Republicans react to the death of Gadhafi and the end of his regime. It pained them to give President Obama any credit.
 
They strained instead to find a way to give credit to President Bush.
 
Just like when Osama was killed. The Republicans were quick to credit Bush.
 
But, when the issue is the sorry economy, they put all the blame on Obama. Bush had nothing to do with that.

 

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24
If Bev Perdue had a few more Cabinet Secretaries like Lanier Cansler she’d never have to cut spending a penny – no matter what Republican legislators said.
 
Last summer the Republicans told Cansler to cut the state’s $12.9 billion Medicaid budget by $350 million. The other day a team of legislators came back to Raleigh to see how Cansler was doing.
 
He wasn’t.
 
The problem, Cansler told legislators, isn’t that he doesn’t want to cut spending. It’s just that he can’t get Washington to go along. Which puzzled the Republicans who naturally asked, Well, Governor Perdue’s a Democrat and President Obama’s a Democrat – what’s the problem?
 
The problem doesn’t seem to entirely be Washington’s intransigence. Instead, Secretary Cansler may have legislators looking for cuts in the wrong places. Down in Mississippi and up in Ohio Republican Governors are saving money by moving Medicaid patients out of institutions – like Nursing Homes and Rest Homes – into in-home care which is less expensive. Cansler’s department, on the other hand, likes to move patients in the opposite direction. Into institutions.     
 
Putting mental patients in institutions (instead of caring for them in their own homes) has landed Cansler’s department in hot water with Obama’s Justice Department. The bottom line: Moving mental patients out of institutions is a way to save money Washington favors.
 
And, then, there’s the CSC contract, the biggest contract in State government. In 2008, to get the contract CSC Corporation promised the state its high-tech computers would process Medicaid claims so effectively it would save millions. Instead, three years later, there is no new state of the art computer system. CSC is two years behind schedule and $200 million over budget and it says there will be no new system for at least two more years.
 
How much of the $350 million could legislators save by cancelling CSC’s contract?
 
One legislator actually asked Cansler’s aides, Well, instead of spending all this money to make all these rich companies richer why not just hire some folks and do it all on paper? Of course that got him ridiculed by lobbyists and by reporters but his point wasn’t really to argue the virtue of paper over mega-bytes. It was that paper shuffling seems to be one thing Secretary Cansler’s department does well.
 
Of course, there’s another perfectly understandable explanation for why Lanier Cansler won’t cut that $600 million, two year behind schedule computer contract or cut how much the state is spending on Nursing Homes. Before he was Secretary, Cansler lobbied for CSC Corporation and for the Nursing Homes industry.
 

 

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22
Judging by the Las Vegas debate, the seven guys and the one lady running for President in the Republican Primaries are getting testy.
 
Right off, with no pleasantries, everyone lit into Herman Cain – which seems to be the paradigm for Republican Presidential campaigns. The pundits and bloggers and Fox News anoint a flavor of the month who roars to the top of the polls – first it was Bachmann, then Perry, now Cain. Then everyone else on the stage takes aim at the new ‘star’ and fires away until the star collapses.
 
So, in Las Vegas, Herman Cain got clobbered. But, to his credit, he had plenty of fight in him. Everyone on the stage ripped into Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, saying it raises taxes on 84% of the people and Herman stared them down and said, No way, you dummies. Read my plan.
 
The problem is that doesn’t leave Cain much wiggle room and the truth’s bound to come out and if Perry and Romney and Bachmann and Gingrich and Santorum are right about that 84% ole Herman’s harpooned.
 
Michele Bachmann’s other adjustment to her lagging poll numbers was subtle: A new hairdo. She still hasn’t managed to look like Margaret Thatcher but she did look less like a top model which is a step in the right direction. And her hammering Cain made sense because if she’s going to pick up votes they have to come out of him.
 
After the debate the bloggers and pundits and CNN were fawning and cooing over Rick Perry saying he’d showed up at last but, in the end, charging into a debate like an angry gorilla may not be a sound political strategy.
 
The one thing that’s becoming clearer and clearer with each debate is there are three candidates on the stage who’ve studied and thought and weighed the issues well enough to answer a tough question with more than a platitude: Romney, Gingrich and Ron Paul.
 
Of course, this is politics where whirl is king and an unexpected error can change all equations but at the end of the day, after a bit of winnowing, it may well be the two candidates still standing on the stage will be Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
 

 

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21
Taxes are to politicians as zappers are to bugs. They can’t resist the temptation, and they end up getting fried.
 
Latest example: Herman Cain. Or, as he would say, “Herman Cain!”
 
In their debate this week, his Republican rivals pretty well ripped apart his 999 tax plan. Turns out it would raise taxes on something like 70-80 percent of Americans.
 
How ‘bout them apples (and oranges), America?
 
For Republicans, the mysterious killer attraction with taxes is always some kind of flat tax. It always turns out to look like a way to raise taxes on everybody and cut them for rich people. It always leads to political oblivion. See Steve Forbes and, soon, Rick Perry.
 
For Democrats, it’s always “tax reform” – and the idea that we’ll raise taxes on corporations and the rich and cut them for everybody else. Except the public never buys it. All they hear is “raise taxes.”
 
But, somehow, politicians keep getting drawn to the zapper.

 

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20
Here’s an unusual experiment in ethics: Is Citibank guilty or innocent of bilking investors by selling home mortgage bond packages? The answer, the bank says, is neither. It’s neither innocent nor guilty. In fact, it’s neutral on the issue. But, the bank adds, it will pay a $285 million fine to put the past behind it, and so it can continue to work to ‘help with the economic recovery.’
 
Of course, the fine is bad news for Citibank’s stockholders – who’re $285 million poorer this morning. But it’s good news for Citibank CEOs and executives who get to keep their profits and bonuses from selling the tainted bonds.
 
There was also a story in the newspaper this morning about whether the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are shaping up to be arch-political enemies or two new tribes of populists roaring down parallel tracks.
 
Citibank’s escape from the Washington regulations may provide a hint of an answer.
 
The way the Occupy Wall Street protestors see it the clever CEOs lied, skizzled, stuck stockholders with the bill and waltzed away with millions in their pockets.
 
The way the Tea Partiers see it the CEOs paid off the corrupt Washington politicians in advance with campaign contributions so the politicians would pass laws that made it legal to lie, skizzle, stick stockholders with the bill and walk away with millions.
 
Could this turn out to be one rip-off – with two villains?
 

 

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20
A Republican TAPster sends along this N&O blog with the observation: “Looks like the Democrats might have found their version of an Art Pope.”
 
Keung Hui, in a blog headed, “Dean Debnam's group gives Common Sense Matters another $25,000,” wrote:
 
“It looks like we should expect another flurry of mailers from Common Sense Matters targeting Wake County school board candidate Heather Losurdo in her runoff campaign.

“A campaign finance report received Tuesday by the Wake County Board of Elections shows that the 527 group received $25,000 last Tuesday from the N.C. Futures Action Fund, the group led by Dean Debnam. This comes after the more than $52,000 that Common Sense Matters spent on mailers going after Losurdo and school board chairman Ron Margiotta before Oct. 11.

“When you throw in the other Democratic-leaning 501 and 527 groups that were involved pre-Oct. 11, tens of thousands of dollars more could be spent in the next three weeks in mailers and television ads to defeat Losurdo.”

 

 

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19
One industry in North Carolina is guaranteed to get a big boost next year: the political industry.
 
President Obama’s two-day bus tour this week gave a glimpse of what’s to come. You’re going to see a lot of him the next 13 months – and a lot of the Republican candidate.  And they’re all going spend big money here.
 
Obama’s campaign is on track to raise a mind-boggling billion-dollars plus. As in 2008, he’ll have enough money to choose when and where he wants to fight. The Republicans will be constantly responding.
 
Then there are all the independent campaigns and Super PACs with their super-money.
 
Do the math: There will maybe be 10-12 states truly in play next year. None are more important than North Carolina and Virginia. If Obama wins both, he wins reelection – period.
 
So figure more than $100 million pumped into the state. The DNC convention alone with pump tens of millions of dollars into Charlotte and the state.  Hotels, restaurants and rental cars will go fast. Owners and employees will be busy and happy.
 
Broadcasters will be flush with cash from selling ads. North Carolina-based consultants will be in demand. Reporters will be busy chasing candidates, surrogates and undecided voters all over the state. Carter and I will have a field day blogging and giving interviews to reporters in and out of state.
 
If you don’t like a heavy diet of politics, you’re in the wrong place next year.

 

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19
Some ne'er-do-well over in Johnston County got himself arrested, thrown into jail, hired a bail bondsman, then skipped town leaving the bondsman holding the bag. Which left the bondsman with 20 days to file a motion to get his money back – if he could show the bail jumper had died unexpectedly or been locked up in jail somewhere else, say, like South Carolina. And that’s what the bondsman did. He filed the motion and got his money back. Only it turned he fibbed. The motion wasn’t true. Which didn’t sit too well with the Johnston County schools which were supposed to get the forfeited bail money.
 
So the schools sued.
 
Next it came out that a lot of bail bondsmen in more places than just Johnston County had been filing fictitious motions to get their money back – they’d fib then sit holding their breath for 20 days hoping no one noticed their slight of hand before the deadline passed.
 
A Johnston County Court put a hole in that scam by ruling that if a bail bondsman fibbed that 20 day deadline didn’t make a nickel’s worth of difference. The bondsman still had to pay the money which went straight to the schools.
 
Then politics got into the act. Someone in the legislature decided it wasn’t fair to hold a bail bondsman accountable for a little fib. Before they adjourned both the State House and Senate passed a law that said if the bondsman hoodwinked the court and didn’t get caught for 20 days he was home free.
 
Of course that attracted the newspaper’s attention. The reporters went to snooping, asking, Who wrote this law? and the answer was curious.
 
The ‘Bail Bondsman Protection Act’ was buried in a larger bill sponsored by Representative Justin Burr – who is a bail bondsman. But, Representative Burr told the newspapers adamantly, he didn’t have a clue how that new law got into his bill. It wasn’t there, he said, in his original bill and he didn’t know how it got in there except he was pretty sure whatever happened happened in a House-Senate Conference Committee he wasn’t even on.
 
The newspaper went to a member of the Conference Committee but he couldn’t recall how the new law got into the bill either. Then the newspapers went to Senate Bull-Moose Tom Apodaca who usually knows just about everything that goes on in the legislature. But Apodaca was in the dark too. In fact, he pointed out, he’d recused himself from the vote on the bill because he is a bail bondsman too. Of course, Apodaca added, even if he had recused himself he was always happy to answer a question or two from any puzzled legislator who needed help understanding the bail bonding business.
 
So how did the law get into the bill? No one knows. No one knows who wrote it. No one knows who put it in the bill. It just appeared out of thin air.
 

 

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