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Entries for April 2011

29
Every now and then you read a sentence that hits you like a hammer. So it was the other day when I thumbed through the April 17 Newsweek, which I hadn’t picked up in many moons.
 
I chanced upon an essay by Niall Ferguson, “Doing the Right Thing: America finally comes to its senses and faces the fiscal facts.” He put his finger on the choice America faces today when it comes to solving the budget crisis.
 
Ferguson quoted Winston Churchill:  “The United States will always do the right thing—when all other possibilities have been exhausted.” He concluded:
 
“For a long time many people clung to the delusion that the United States could simply borrow $1 trillion a year for the rest of time. Now only two possibilities remain.
 
”The first possibility is the one devised by Rep. Paul Ryan, which would eliminate the deficit largely through deep spending cuts and Medicare reform. Possibility two is President Obama’s bid to close the budget gap with more modest cuts and tax hikes on ‘millionaires and billionaires.’
 
“It’s a bracingly binary choice. Shrink the government. Or squeeze the rich.”
 

 

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28
The N&O front page today showed how Republicans are frittering away their once-in-a-blue-moon political advantage.
 
The more they talk about Obama’s birth certificate and the threat of Shariah law in America, the less they can take advantage of his real vulnerability, which was captured in an inside-page story: Americans are losing confidence in his handling of the economy.
 
For Obama, the more he can talk about how Republicans aren’t paying attention to the economy, the better he looks.
 
Obama’s greatest skill as a presidential candidate in 2008 was his ability to use his opponents as a foil. Ask Hillary Clinton, John McCain and – if she were lucid – Sarah Palin.
 
The Republicans are making it easy for him to do it again.
 
Ditto in North Carolina. The more time Republicans spend defending us against Muslim law, making it harder to vote and making it easier to take guns anywhere, the less time they are seen spending on people’s real economic anxieties.

 

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27
A TAPster notes that the House’s proposed budget includes a provision that would direct the Department of Administration to look into selling “state-owned land, buildings, and other assets that are unused, underused, or do not involve a core function of government.”
 
It did not take this wag long to come up with some suggestions:
 
“Battleship North Carolina. Sell it to Carnival Cruise Lines and ask them to drag it out of the Cape Fear River muck and put it to work as a cruise ship.
 
“State Ports Authority. Shut it down and sell its riverfront property in Wilmington and Morehead City to condo developers. As we’ve said before, the pirates learned 400 years ago that the North Carolina coast is called the Graveyard of the Atlantic for a good reason.
 
“All those state cars parked on Blue Ridge Road. Why are so many of them parked there all the time anyway?
 
“The NC Railroad Company. Why is the state in the railroad business? Actually, the state only owns the right of way between Morehead City and Charlotte: 100 feet wide and 300 miles long. Sell it to Norfolk Southern or CSX and see if they can get a passenger train from Raleigh to Charlotte in less time than it takes to drive.
 
“Governor’s Mansion. Why does the Gov get a free place to stay? The Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem rent apartments or buy condos in Raleigh. And, she’s never there when you need her, anyway, because she’s off at a horse race or cutting a ribbon. Give her a state-owned cell phone and convert the mansion to a cozy B&B.
 
“The Western Mansion. Seriously?
 
“All those fancy new state-owned office towers in downtown Raleigh. If the GOP successfully shrinks state government, there won’t be enough bureaucrats to fill these up. Plus, did anybody think to include some operating dollars in the skinny state budget for these new places?
 
“Every DOT dump truck. Why does the state need to own many dump trucks? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to pay a local dump trucker to haul rocks or dirt or whatever DOT hauls?
 
“Mecklenburg County. Give it away. More trouble than it’s worth.
 
“Highway 12 on the Outer Banks. Quick sale before hurricane season and the state has to pay a gazillion dollars to rebuild it – again.
 
“The State Aquariums. Free Willie!”
 

 

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27
An active Raleigh Democrat and TAPster reports “there is quite a flap among the local Dems” over reports that outgoing Mayor Charles Meeker will back Nancy McFarlane, because she reportedly is registered as unaffiliated.  But our source adds, “Apparently McFarlane's husband is a Dem, and has given lots of money to the party,” which makes up for a lot.
 
Also: “Have not heard what is happening on the Republican side - I doubt John Odom will run, though he has been asked to do so. I think people not involved now will be coming out of the woodwork.”
 

 

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27
A TAPster found the nuggets below in Public Policy Polling’s crosstabs on 2010 Governor's race between Pat McCrory and Bev Perdue.  They illustrate the challenge the Governor faces.
  • 29% of self-identified President Obama voters disapprove of Governor Perdue's job performance
  • 18% of self-identified Obama voters say they will vote for McCrory for Governor over Perdue
  • 21% of self-identified Obama voters say they have a favorable opinion of McCrory
  • 48% of residents who have lived in the state 10 years or less have an unfavorable opinion of Perdue
  • 70+ voters are the only age demographic where Perdue leads McCrory, with 40% of these voters "undecided"
  • 46% of self-identified "moderate" voters disapprove of Perdue's job performance
  • 57% of self-identified "somewhat conservative" voters disapprove of Perdue's job performance
  • McCrory has a 49% to 37% advantage over Perdue with most likely female voters
  • Independent voters prefer McCrory 49% to 30% over the Governor
  • 21% of unaffiliated voters say they remain undecided in the McCrory/Perdue head-to-head match-up
  • 37% of most likely GOP voters say they don't know enough about Pat McCrory to have an opinion of the Mayor
  • 15% of African American voters say they don't know enough about Bev Perdue to have an opinion of the Governor.

You can see the survey and crosstabs here. www.publicpolicypolling.com

 

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26
Suddenly I feel for Responsible Republicans.
 
There is such a breed. I know some of them personally. Some of my best friends are Republicans!
 
They’re more conservative than I am – on most things. But they’re responsible people. Generally, they feel that America would be better off if government spent, taxed and regulated less. They’re more conservative on social and cultural issues. But nothing extreme or nutty.
 
Most of the Republican leaders in the legislature, like Speaker Thom Tillis and Senator Richard Stevens, strike me as being that way.
 
But hold the mayo here: A Public Policy Poll found that fully 65 percent of North Carolina Republicans either wish the South had won the Civil War or are not sure it was a good thing the North won.
 
Really?
 
The question was:  “Are you glad that the North won the Civil War or do you wish that the South had won?”
 
Among North Carolina GOP voters, 35 percent were glad the North won. Thirty-three percent – almost the same – wish the South had won. And 32 percent weren’t sure.
 
The poll didn’t delve any deeper, so we’re left to wonder. Do those 65 percent think it would be better for today’s America to be divided into two – or more – smaller nations? After all, if the Confederate states could secede, might not Texas, California, Oregon and Washington, the Mountain West, etc., etc., have decided to go on their own?
 
We could be just like Europe! Whatever happened to American “exceptionalism”?
 
Or is it that they think slavery really wasn’t such a bad thing?
 
This explains why a lot of Republicans got upset over the legislature – including Republicans – pardoning a Reconstruction-era governor who stood up to the Ku Klux Klan.
 
It also explains why Republicans risk blowing their best chance in decades to become a majority party in America.
 

 

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25
Well, Gary, at least no one can say we’ve gotten more close minded as we’ve gotten older: Here you are (Putting Pocketbooks First – below) saying Republican Representative and lawyer Leo Daughtry voted against ‘Med-Mal Caps’ to protect his own legal fees and here I am saying, Hold on – you’re following the wrong money in the wrong direction.
 
Last Wednesday twenty-one Republican legislators voted – including Leo Daughtry – to amend the ‘Med-Mal Cap’ bill, in order to protect people who suffer permanent, life-changing injuries like disfigurement, paralysis or loss of a limb. Fifteen were not lawyers. And Leo Daughtry doesn’t handle Medical Malpractice cases.
 
Here’s a different story of ‘follow the money’: Over the last two elections, top House and Senate Republicans have taken $900,000 in contributions from the Medical Society and its compatriots and, now, those same legislators are pushing a bill to give amnesty to negligent doctors who commit malpractice in the ER and to dictate jury awards to protect other negligent doctors.
 
This time, if you follow the money, it doesn’t lead to lawyers it leads to politicians.
 

 

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25
Have you noticed that, since Anthony Tata became Wake schools superintendent, the decibel level has dropped dramatically?
 
Has he muzzled the school board? Put them in detention? Resorted to corporal punishment?
 
Whatever his abilities as a superintendent, Tata seems to have a talent for reassuring people. Not long ago, this Fox-commentating, Sarah Palin-endorsing one-time liberal bête noire was speaking to a Wake County Democratic group.
 
One prominent Democrat who met privately with Tata a while back – and was impressed – told me: “I’m not sure the board majority knew what they were getting when they hired him.”

 

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25
Jack Betts writes that Republicans in the legislature are about to “blow it.”Mark Binker writes that – despite promises of bipartisan cooperation – “the state’s chief executive and top lawmakers are at loggerheads.”
 
Is anybody surprised?
 
Of course they had to promise to get along. No politician wants to be the first to speak the truth: “We’re going to do everything we can to screw those guys.”
 
Of course it’s harder for Republicans to govern as the majority than it was to campaign as the minority. So it ever is.
 
And of course the legislature is going to do dumb things. Don’t they always?
 
Welcome to divided government.  Welcome to the train wreck that has been coming since Governor Hunt and then-majority House Republicans teamed up back in 1996 and let the people vote on whether the governor should have the veto.
 
We’ve had Republican governors and Democratic legislatures before. But Governor Perdue is the first governor who’s faced a legislature controlled by the other party AND is armed with veto power. She may be liking it. Every time she pulls out the veto stamp, her approval ratings go up.
 
So you can probably count on her vetoing whatever budget finally emerges from the legislature. Which could mean weeks of gridlock.
 
Who loses then? Probably the legislature. It has 170 people doing dumb things; the Governor and her staff are outnumbered, no matter how hard they try.
 
Plus, the longer Democrats delay a final budget, the longer they delay redistricting. Maybe past the 2012 elections.
 

 

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25
Republican House Leader Skip Stam, according to the newspaper, has introduced a new law limiting how much corporations with state contracts can give to politicians who grant the contracts. Surely a step in the right direction.
 
But, that said, while Representative Stam’s limiting donations to the Democratic Governor and folks in the Executive Branch he’s not limiting contributions to his fellow Republican legislators. So why not go a step further and limit contributions from corporations who hire lobbyists to get legislators to pass bills to fund their state contracts?
 
This new law – of Representative Stam’s – is part of a trend that’s gotten up a full-head of steam in the legislature that would make a Gilded Age politician proud: A cadre of powerful Republican Senators and Representatives – Tom Apodaca, Bob Rucho, Thom Tillis and Jon Rhyne – have been changing laws left and right to help some folks at other folk’s expense.
 
For instance, over the last two elections, six Senate leaders (and the Senate Republican Caucus) have taken $700,000 in contributions from corporate interests and medical interests and, now, they’re changing the laws to eliminate malpractice lawsuits and dictate jury verdicts to favor doctors and hospitals.
 
Republican Legislators have also taken $4,000,000 from Chamber-of-Commerce-type-corporate-interests and Representative Jon Rhyne has a bill to grant pharmaceutical companies amnesty when they sell harmful drugs like Vioxx or Parlodel. Rhyne’s also sponsored a bill to cut payments by auto insurance companies to victims of wrecks. And Senator Bob Rucho has a bill to make it easier for auto insurers to raise premiums – freeing them from the clutches of the Insurance Commissioner.
 
Here’s an example: If Senators Rucho and Apodaca pass their medical malpractice bill and a bricklayer gets hurt by malpractice in the emergency room he’s out of luck. He eats his lost wages. And pays his own medical bills. And the multi-million dollar hospital corporation (whose malpractice harmed him) walks away without paying a penny of restitution.
 
For years, we Republicans have stood four-square against giving government the power to favor one group over another. But Representatives Tillis and Rhyne, and Senators Rucho and Apodaca have changed that overnight.
 

 

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