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Entries for 'Carter Wrenn'

20
The Old Bull Mooses in the State Senate had seen enough so they went on a rampage to repair Medicaid and, before they were done, they’d gored hospitals, doctors, the Governor and  just about everyone in sight except the people who’d written the budget that made them mad in the first place.
 
Surveying the carnage a reporter, respectfully, asked one of the Young Bulls, It appears to me you just passed a plan that ends care to 12,000 old and blind and disabled people – do I read that right?
 
The best answer the Young Bull could have given would have been to stop to explain why those blind people don’t need Medicaid.
 
A less happy (but still reasonable) answer would have been to explain why, even though they do need Medicaid, there wasn’t money to pay for it.
 
Instead, he said candidly, We didn’t cut care to 12,000 old, lame and disabled people – we only cut care to 5,300.
 
It was unfortunate.  It’s a safe bet every Republican Senator fighting a tough re-election campaign this fall is going to see that line again.
 
A moment later, the Young Bull must have felt a twinge of unease because he tried to put things in a better light but, instead, tripping over his own feet he turned a somersault head over heels, legs, hooves and tail flying.
 
A lot of the folks we’re cutting, he explained, won’t have a problem getting care because they can go on Obamacare.
 
That, of course, raised eyebrows.
 
Because the Old Bulls in the Senate are the most dead-set against Obamacare folks around. They voted down the Obamacare exchange. And killed President Obama’s Medicaid expansion, so the Young Bull’s answer didn’t quite ring true.
 
They’ve had a long and happy run ruling the roost in Raleigh but, this time, going on a rampage simply made the Old Bulls look ornery.

 

 

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19
It turns out there’s a three member state commission (named the ‘Board of Review’) – where each Board member is paid $120,000 – for working part-time.
 
Of course, three appointments of that magnitude had to be a temptation to any keen-eyed politician – so, as might be expected, a month ago a committee of legislators suggested taking two of the appointments from the Governor and giving one to the Speaker of the House and the other to the Senate President.
 
That didn’t sit too well with Dale Folwell, the head of the Employment Security Commission, where the ‘Board of Review’ is located, so he attended a House Finance Committee meeting where he explained the legislature’s idea was not just unkind but dead-wrong.  When that appeal didn’t turn the tide, voice sharpening, Folwell told legislators the way he saw it his agency was being bullied.
 
That, normally, wouldn’t have ruffled many feathers but this time the legislators in the room knew Folwell was talking about one particular legislator who was sitting right there in the room too.
 
Now the General Assembly is a small, insular place – not unlike a sewing circle – where rumors fly back and forth like wildfire and most legislators had heard the rumor that Representative Julia Howard last fall, had wanted the Governor to appoint her to the ‘Board of Review’ but Dale Folwell had said, No way.  No how.  No time
 
When Folwell fired his broadside at her in the committee, Representative Howard, who’s no shrinking violet, wasn’t intimidated one bit.
 
She shot back Dale Folwell’s outburst was ‘totally out of place’ then Folwell shot back that Howard ‘just wanted to get herself appointed to the best part-time job in NC’ and then Howard shot back Folwell was just spinning a tall tale because she’d never sought that appointment and never would.
 
House of Cards is a big hit about the conniving that goes on in Congress.  But, if they make a sequel, they might take a look at politics in Raleigh.

 

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18
Kay Hagan didn’t put it quite this bluntly but, basically, what she said was Thom Tillis is a Neanderthal.
 
Now, no one, except for State Senators, believes being called a relic of the Stone Age is a compliment so, understandably unhappy, Tillis blasted Hagan right back saying the environmental regulations she supports (to end global warming) will cost jobs.
 
The press then asked Tillis if it was true – as Hagan said – that he didn’t believe in global warming.  And Tillis dodged.
 
Then the press asked Hagan which environmental regulations she supported and she not only dodged but added saving the planet might have to wait because new regulations might cost jobs.
 
That, of course, left Hagan in a fix.
 
But it left Tillis in a fix, too, because disagreeing with Al Gore (about saving the planet) means opening the newspaper and reading that all the scientists and every intellectual and every sensible person walking around on two legs believes the icecaps are melting – except that troglodyte Thom Tillis.
 
And lying in the dust, nursing his wounds, after being trampled by scientific infallibility what could Tillis say?
 
There are possibilities.
 
Like the words: Malthusian Catastrophe.  Piltdown Man.  And Population Bomb.
 
Back in 1798 an English scientist-economist, Thomas Malthus, produced a study that proved beyond a doubt the population was growing so fast doom was unavoidable. And just about every scientist and intellectual agreed.  The coming Malthusian Catastrophe was a fact. It was just a matter of time.
 
In 1912 an English scientist dug up a skull and jawbone from the Pleistocene Era buried in a pit in Piltdown, England, rushed back to London and announced he’d found the missing link – ‘Piltdown Man’ – and that was accepted as scientific fact, too, until, years later, carbon testing proved he’d found the skull of a man and jawbone of an ape.
 
In 1968 Paul Ehrlich, a scientist at Stanford University, wrote The Population Bomb and prophesized, ‘The battle to feed humanity is over…  In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.’
 
Ehrlich’s book sold 2 million copies and the intellectual community went wild – it was required reading at UNC.  Only Neanderthals disagreed.
 
All those scientific facts turned out to be fads.
 
Of course, ‘Piltdown Man’ doesn’t mean Al Gore’s prediction of doom is wrong but on the other hand it is cause for a reasonable man to cast a discerning eye on scientific infallibility – without being a Neanderthal.

 

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17
In May as soon as the Notables and Honorables who serve in the State Senate arrived in Raleigh and settled into their seats, they glanced at Governor McCrory’s Budget, flipped it into the waste bin, and substituted their own budget.
 
What happened to Medicaid’s an example. With their usual delicacy, the Old Bull’s in the Senate discarded the Governor’s plan then, after a few moments debate, passed their own plan.
 
Now one problem with Medicaid is the darn thing always ends up over budget – no one in the Department of Health and Human Services (or in the legislature) can figure out how to write a budget that’s accurate – so at the end of each year Medicaid’s awash in red ink and, to their chagrin, at the last minute Senators have had to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to plug the holes. 
 
Finally, the Old Bulls had had enough and came up with their own plan – they decided to dump the whole train wreck on Managed Care Organizations (corporations that manage state Medicaid programs for a fee) which didn’t sound too bad except no cure is perfect and this one had a glitch the Old Bulls hadn’t fixed: The more care the Managed Care Organizations deny sick people the more money they make.
 
Now Senator Phil Berger’s as nice a guy as you’ll ever meet.  He’s soft-spoken. Polite.  Courteous to a fault.  But when it comes to passing legislation the State Senate – where he rules the roost – is like a dyspeptic elephant wielding a blunderbuss.
 
It’s either shooting something or stomping someone all the time.
 
But when the Honorable Senators fired both barrels at the Governor an odd thing happened – the Governor showed a flash of temper and said a nasty four letter word: Veto.
 
It was like zapping the elephant with a cattle prod.
 
The Senate and Governor were eyeball to eyeball with the Old Bulls betting the Governor wouldn’t have the temerity to make good on his threat – but, in a way, they’d also handed the Governor an opportunity.
 
For the last year, every time they’ve had a disagreement with the Governor, the Senate Republicans – who have a veto-proof majority – have marched in lock-step and rolled right over him. 
 
The Older Bulls pointed the way and Younger Bulls dutifully fell in line.
 
But it’s a hard truth that, in fact, the Governor has more power than the Old Bulls. He has a bigger soap-box.  He’s more popular with Republicans.  Has more supporters.  More money.  And, this fall, the Governor can do a lot more to help a struggling Senator – facing a tough campaign – than the Old Bulls in the Senate.
 
And if the Governor had a handful of loyal Republican friends in the Senate who’d work with him (instead of marching in lock-step when the Old Bulls point the way) there would be an earth-shaking shift in the balance of power in Raleigh.
 
And Governor Pat McCrory wouldn’t be watching his budgets land in the waste bin.

 

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17
Thirty years ago it sounded fine when Democrats set out to save North Carolina from the wickedness of a Republican Governor firing Democratic state employees – they were ridding state government of nasty old politics.  
 
But it didn’t turn out quite the way they expected because, when all was said and done, they’d created a new tribe that had never been seen before in North Carolina. 
 
Back then, the new tribe began its journey in unchartered territory but its first members quickly adapted and prospered, learning a wise bureaucrat avoided controversy (like the plague) and with a modicum of common sense could happily avoid the strain of long hours and hard work.
 
When Governor McCrory arrived in Raleigh the seeds planted three decades earlier had flowered and flourished like kudzu. 
 
After he was sworn in, the Governor learned the state’s bureaucratic elite had been steadily working on NC Tracks (a $500 million computer program) for a decade and, a little shocked so much time had passed, he told them, No more delays. Let’s get it done.
 
Six months later the bureaucrats reported the program was ready to launch so the Governor pushed the go button – and there was a meltdown.
 
The same thing happened when he launched another computer program, NC Fast.
 
Then the Coal Ash spill hit him right between the eyes and, by then, the Governor must have begun to suspect what he needed most were not people to set policies but people who could fix things and, maybe in the next breath, he figured out he was caught between a rock and a hard place – because the people he’d just ordered to fix the coal ash ponds were the same people who’d failed to fix them for decades.
 
A less patient man would have proposed getting shed of the state personnel laws so he could get shed of bureaucrats who’d mismanaged a $500 million computer program but, instead, the Governor made a milder request: He simply asked the legislature to make it a little easier to replace a neglectful bureaucrat.
 
It’s hard to tell what he expected but his proposal was greeted with a howl of outrage.  The press let fly.  The Democrats let fly.  The bureaucrats let fly.
 
Giving the Governor more power to fire bureaucrats, the State Employees Association said, would lead to corruption.
 
Now, even in a fallen world that’s a bleak picture: Because Democrats set out to prevent wickedness thirty years ago, today, to avoid corruption we have to protect bungling.

 

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13
When it comes to avoiding another coal ash spill, the problem may not be (as the environmentalists believe) the villainy of Governor McCrory.  The problem may be more subtle. 
 
Going back decades, the career state employees over at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have told Duke Energy it was handling coal ash just fine.   
 
That seems odd now.  But it really wasn’t all that unusual then.
 
Back in 1917, before Duke Energy ever built the first coal ash pond, Alcoa Corporation was smelting aluminum down on the Yadkin River and in those days – since the EPA didn’t even exist – it simply loaded the waste (which is more toxic than coal ash) onto trucks and dumped it in the woods around Badin. Later, after the EPA came along, Alcoa began dumping the waste in unlined landfills and, over the years, regular as clockwork, state bureaucrats would write Alcoa and ask, Send us a report about your pollution. 
 
And Alcoa would send a long report back which basically said, As you know, there’s been pollution (in the past) but none of it is an immediate threat to anyone so rather than cleaning it up we propose to leave it as is and go on monitoring.  
 
Then the state bureaucrats would write back, Fine, and stamp the report and file it in a warehouse full of other state documents.
 
 Apparently no one stopped to wonder if it made sense to ask the folks who’d have to clean up the pollution whether it was a problem.
 
Then Duke’s coal ash pond ruptured and Governor Pat McCrory found himself face to face with another unusual fact: The folks he had to put to work (at DENR) cleaning up the mess were the same folks who’d been telling Duke Energy – for years – it was doing just fine.
 
Now the environmentalists aren’t fond of the Governor and they’ve got their reasons but maybe, this once, the Governor’s not the villain.

 

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12
The unexpected almost always happens – but who’d have expected this: Down in Mississippi the Tea Party has been battling it out with the Republican Establishment, trying to whip Senator Thad Cochran and when all the votes were counted the Tea Party candidate led Cochrane by an eyelash 49.6% to 49%. 
 
The surprise?
 
On Election Day African-American Democrats ‘crossed over’ to vote in the Republican Primary – for Thad Cochran.  Helping him make the runoff.
 
Which is about as unexpected as it gets.

 

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11
I’m very, very nervous… Democratic State Representative Marcus Brandon said.
 
Disagreeing, Republican Representative Michael Specialecountered, What’s the price of selling our souls?
 
When it comes to keeping ‘Common Core’ the politicians in Raleigh have divided into two armed camps.
 
Rep. Michael Speciale is dead-set against it. Rep. Marcus Brandon is for it.
 
Thom Tillis is against it. Kay Hagan is for it. 
 
Governor McCrory is for it (with reservations). Lt. Governor Dan Forest is against it without reservations.
 
In the News and Observer one Common Core opponent declared it ‘violates the Constitution’ – while the Chamber of Commerce declared it’s great and killing it will kill jobs.
 
A lady from New Bern declared, Common Core is anti-American. The readings teach kids to hate America – and I stopped reading right there, thinking, Governor McCrory anti-American?
 
Curious, I went online to find out exactly what about Common Core was un-American but finding an answer wasn’t as easy as it sounded. A search turned up hundreds of muddled rants scattered across websites from Raleigh to Timbuktu, none clearly explaining how Common Core was ‘anti-American.’ I was about to give up, thinking, This is just another political howl – when I spotted a nugget.
 
According to The Daily Caller, the experts at Common Core have perfected a sophisticated formula to rate the complexity of books so they can assign each book to the appropriate grade level – using the formula they rated The Sun Also Rises too simple for 4th graders and assigned it to third graders to read along with Curious George Gets a Medal
 
Which settles it. 
 
They ought to shut the whole thing down

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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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