BY NOT EXPANDING MEDICAID, LEGISLATORS FAIL THOSE WHO MOST NEED THEIR HELP: If ignorance is bliss, the state Senate might be the happiest place on the planet. It also may be where the largest number of President Barack Obama haters hang out. The logical conclusion: It is not about state money since the state’s hospitals have agreed to a plan that would cover the 10 percent cost of Medicaid expansion that isn’t being paid for through federal funds. That’s the only way to comprehend the unrelenting opposition to even study, much less expand, health care coverage to more than half-a-million citizens who don’t have it now. It is hatred of Obama. Period. It is far past time that North Carolina expands health coverage, as have 34 other states including most recently, Virginia. Does anyone care that refusal to expand Medicaid coverage is, truly, a life and death matter?
MUCH FEARED SEN. BERGER FACES FEARLESS NEWCOMER: Here’s the campaign matchup. Who should be afraid of whom? On one side, state Sen. Phil Berger, a nine-term Republican from Eden, leader of the Senate and a politician who plays hardball with those who oppose him, whether it’s the Democratic governor or an upstart in his own caucus. On the other, Jennifer Mangrum, a former third-grade teacher and now an associate professor of teacher education at UNC-Greensboro. She was opposed to HB2 and appalled by Donald Trump’s election. She switched her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and is making her first run for elected office. As a political newcomer, Mangrum should be the jittery one, but she’s not. “I’m a third-grade teacher at heart,” she says. “I’ve dealt with playground bullies before.”
WHAT FATHERS REALLY NEED FOR FATHER'S DAY: None of us are immune from the need, but we only penalize those who can least afford it. If my wife and I had been working hourly, minimum wage jobs, there is a good chance my son’s illness would have broken our family. That reality is simply not acceptable. If Father’s Day stands for anything, it stands for the proposition that being a parent is a noble and essential duty that deserves to be celebrated, if only once a year. We spend money on bad ties, silly mugs, and “#1 Dad” baseball caps. But I assure you that the promise of guaranteed paid leave to care for their families would mean significantly more to fathers everywhere. It’s something we can do. Seven other states and the District of Columbia already have some form of paid sick leave. Let’s resolve that this is the last Father’s Day that any parent in North Carolina has to worry about their job when someone in their family is sick.
SEPARATION STRESS COULD SCAR IMMIGRANT CHILDREN: At minimum, forced separation will cause these children extreme emotional distress. Most of us know this intuitively. Less intuitive, as Nim Tottenham of Columbia University told me, is that "the sadness is not the thing that really matters here. What matters is this is a trauma to the developing nervous system." Extreme emotional responses to separation from parents is part of evolution's plan to keep those parents close - to "break any parent's heart," as Megan Gunnar of the University of Minnesota said. That's because throughout human evolution, an absent caregiver has meant almost certain death. Jude Cassidy of the University of Maryland put it best: When faced with separation from loved ones, "we fight as if it's a matter of life and death, because it is." Those in Congress who have been slow to rein in this insidious White House policy should be aware, as they ponder how to proceed, that these children wrenched from their parents will long bear the scars of the lawmakers' inaction.
VICTIMS NO LONGER SILENCED BY THOSE IN POWER: Lulabel says officials had warned her not to mention being the victim of an alleged sexual assault on campus and what she claims was the school’s failure to take action when she reported it. For the first few minutes, she obeyed that restriction, concentrating instead on standard-issue stuff: hopes, dreams and overcoming adversity. But when Lulabel turned to the forbidden topic, her microphone mysteriously stopped working. “Let her speak!” people cried out. But Lulabel was not allowed to finish. That wasn’t the end of the story, though. The next day, she took to YouTube, where she gave her speech in its entirety, including the banned sentence, a paean to perseverance that went as follows: “And even learning on a campus in which some people defend perpetrators of sexual assault and silence their victims, we didn’t let that drag us down.” At this writing, Lulabel’s video has been viewed 335,379 times.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
LUIS TOLEDO: TAX CAP WILL HURT THE POOR: This week, the N&O reported that “North Carolina voters may soon get a chance to limit legislators’ ability to raise their income taxes.” The reality is that, far from placing a limit on the taxes paid by everyday North Carolinians, the proposed change to the state Constitution would likely lead to increases in taxes paid by everyday North Carolinians. Sales taxes on more goods and services (and at higher rates), property tax increases from local governments, excise taxes and fines and fees, as well as the loss of various deductions such as property tax deductions and medical expense deductions, would be considered. The reality is that these revenue options would be needed because the low income tax rate that they would lock in won’t allow the state to meet current needs, and we’ll certainly fall behind the needs of a growing state. Freezing income tax rates will really only serve to freeze the state’s ability to make adequate investments in public education, healthcare, transportation, public safety, and more. It will keep in place tax cuts that have primarily benefited the wealthy and profitable corporations. It will hurt our families and communities.
HELEN WOLFSON: PROJECT BLITZ IS HARMFUL TO LGBTQ CITIZENS AND WOMEN: In “House OKs putting ‘In God We Trust’ signs in schools” (June 8), Project Blitz is described as “an effort to flood state legislatures with bills such as ‘In God We Trust’ legislation.” Project Blitz is more than that. The project’s 116 pages of sample legislation begins with legislation to display “In God We Trust” in public schools and libraries. This bill, like others early in the document, is expected to raise few objections while laying the groundwork for later bills. These later bills would change the meaning of religious freedom from something that grants Americans freedom of belief to something that permits discrimination based on beliefs. The proposed legislation is particularly harmful to the LGBTQ community and to women. Project Blitz’s goal is to change the landscape regarding the separation of church and state, which is a fundamental part of our democracy. As the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty so eloquently says, “religious liberty is best protected when church and state remain institutionally separated and neither tries to perform or interfere with the essential mission and work of the other.”
SARAH COTHREN: IMPROVING MENTAL HEALTH SHOULD BE PRIORITY: On June 10-13, I traveled to Washington, D.C., along with about 250 American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) advocates from all 50 states, to educate Congress on priority areas to help improve mental health and prevent suicide. We provided information to all 535 congressional offices urging them to support legislation in several key areas that would play a vital role in preventing suicide and improving mental health across the country. My life was turned upside down on Oct. 29, 2016, when I lost my senior-year college roommate to suicide while completing my undergraduate degree at Appalachian State University. After a month of crippling depression and anxiety caused by the loss of Savannah, I reached out to the AFSP to become involved in their organization. I have always found that submerging myself in community service helps ground me and knew that in order to honor Savannah’s legacy, involvement in the AFSP was necessary. Not only does the AFSP provide hope and healing to those affected by suicide, but they have also been recognized as the largest private funder of suicide prevention research. In meeting with members of Congress, it was our collective goal to instigate real change in our government and further our mission to make mental health as important as physical health, to continue to bring hope and healing to those affected by suicide, and to ultimately eradicate suicide. Note: For those in crisis or those helping someone else in crisis, the suicide prevention lifeline is available at all hours by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also reach the Crisis Text Line at all hours by texting “HOME” to 741-741.