Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


IF A TAX BREAK IS GOOD FOR NC CORPORATIONS, DON'T TREAT STUDENT LOANS DIFFERENTLY: Astonishingly, unless the legislature acts, North Carolina is going to force these same folks to pay from $500 to $1,000 in personal state income tax. While the federal government isn’t going to charge income tax for the loan forgiveness, state legislators failed to adopt the same exemption for state taxes. This is a state legislature that’s never seen a corporate tax cut it didn’t embrace. It wasted little time to link to federal tax codes to exempt those businesses from state taxes on millions they got in federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) dollars. It should act with the same dispatch to extend the same break to those with student loans. No one should buy the political spin of the likes of North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who took to Twitter to say: "This is a slap in the face to middle and working-class Americans already struggling with high inflation who will now have to pay off the debt of higher earners." Tillis didn’t offer the same critique for his big-business friends who got their big federal aid and tax exemptions. It was middle and working-class Americans who were forced to take out these loans in the first place, not "higher earners." Tillis is so out of touch with his constituents it's not even funny anymore. And if BergerMoore thinks this won't be a problem come November because that tax won't be due until next Spring, they are sorely mistaken. Voters will know, we will make sure of that.

THE RIGHT'S LAUGHABLE AND OFFENSIVE ATTACKS ON BIDEN'S STUDENT LOAN DEBT RELIEF: There’s the claim that it will somehow worsen the inflation that’s been plaguing the global economy. But as expert after expert has patiently explained, the program simply isn’t big enough to have such an impact. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman observed with respect to the U.S.: “We’re talking about tens of billions a year in a $25 trillion economy. That’s basically a rounding error.” And then there’s the offensive allegation that many of the people who will benefit are undeserving. Always sure-to-offend Texas Sen. Ted “Cancun-is-the-place-to-be-during-a-paralyzing-ice-storm” Cruz, alleged that the plan is about aiding pot smoking “slacker barista(s) who wasted seven years in college.” Meanwhile, North Carolina’s Rep. Virginia Foxx, the ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, echoed that claim by effectively describing Biden’s plan as a giveaway to deadbeats and an effort by Biden to “appease his radical progressive base.” But, of course, such detached, “get off my lawn” broadsides ignore the fact that the cost of college has tripled over the last 40 years, while federal Pell grants for young people of modest means have remained flat. And speaking of detachment, it seems worth noting that Foxx attended UNC-Chapel Hill when in-state tuition averaged $175 per year and American worker productivity was a fraction of present-day levels. What’s more, as Holly McCall of the Tennessee Lookout observed last week, these attacks also ignore the fact that, as of the end of 2020, almost a quarter of the total student loan debt, or about $336 billion, was owed by Americans ages 50 and over. And let’s also not forget that a considerable chunk of the debt is attributable to scamming for-profit schools, like Trump University, which lured students into expensive loans with bogus promises of lucrative careers – a phenomenon that lawmakers like Foxx abetted with lax oversight and a failure to adequately fund legitimate colleges and universities. I can't believe it's 2022 and Virginia Fox is still farting in that Congressional seat. 27 years, between the NC Senate and US House, and I can't think of a single decent policy proposal she's come up with.

LEGISLATORS MUST HEED SECRETARY KINSLEY'S PLEA, EXPAND MEDICAID NOW: If the General Assembly passes legislation to expand Medicaid by the end of September, the state Department of Health and Human Services will, before the end of the year, get health care services to more than 600,000 North Carolinians who now lack access to critical basic medical care. In a Sept. 3 letter state Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley sent to members of the General Assembly, he said “a failure to act will have significant health and financial consequences.” North Carolina has already lost out on billions of federal tax dollars – that have flowed to 38 other states that have expanded Medicaid over the last 13 years. “It is urgent we pass legislation to expand Medicaid and establish the Healthcare Access and Stabilization Program so North Carolina can reap the benefits,” Kinsley said. He said the state can gain up to $2 billion in additional federal funds if it acts now. The Health Access and Stabilization Program is federally funded through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and provides hospitals with enhanced Medicaid reimbursement so those rates more closely match what commercial health insurers pay and the cost of actually providing care. The aim is to help hospitals – particularly those that aid the most critical and disadvantaged patients -- remain financially viable and able to treat those patients most in need of care. It provides rural hospitals with about 90% of their unreimbursed cost and would cut the $2.3 billion Medicaid reimbursement gap to $541 million, erasing more than $1.5 billion in financial strain on North Carolina health systems and hospitals. This is another issue that has been falsely cast as a "Liberal giveaway." If it was lazy urban folks it was designed to help, then rural hospitals wouldn't be begging for it to keep their doors open. The GOP base needs this just as much (if not more) than rank and file Democrats. This too will be brought to the voters' attention between now and November.

THAT TIME KENNETH HARDIN WENT TO FACEBOOK JAIL: The last time I was there, I only spent an hour. Doing that hard time was still an emotionally traumatic experience for me. It was social media jail and I’m a repeat offender of violating its community standards. It wasn’t so much as jail as it was a virtual holding cell, but I was there long enough to earn my teardrop emoji face tattoo that represents the less than hard knock life I lead. My crime was sharing my honest opinion about the former Racist in Chief. It’s hard out here in these mean print and online streets for an opinion writer, so I knew it wouldn’t be long before I caught a one hour bid. One positive thing I’ve learned from both the Popeye’s chicken debacle and my time behind bars is to place emphasis and focus on things I can actually control and impact. I’ve never found an intellectual discussion that I wasn’t willing to lace on a pair of metaphorical boxing gloves and go a few rounds. My opponents typically come to the bout intellectually unarmed. The fights usually end with a first round TKO. This always leads to low blows being thrown by my outmatched opponent. The mistake that’s typically made is to believe the glasses, suspenders, tailored suits and bow ties mean I’m unwilling to get down in the mud. I’ve learned and now have my priorities in order. I no longer engage in public discussions with folks centered around race, religious doctrine or political affiliations. If anyone’s curious about what I wrote that was heinous enough to ruffle the frilly underpants and injure the fragile sensibilities of the social media Po-Po, here it is, “I share this with as much contempt as humanly possible for all those who supported the Racist in Chief that temporarily occupied the White House. This also goes to all his cult-like supporters who serve as nothing more than a repository for his detestable behavior. Your banal trash existence was made worse by the ridiculous manner in which you showed blind allegiance to a man who hates you and does nothing to improve your condition. The media and so many others outside his base of like-minded cretins in political leadership roles are complicit because you’ve done nothing to put an immediate end to his treasonous and seditious behavior.” I told y’all I could get muddy. I realized it does my mental and emotional well-being little good to devote a single ounce of cognitive energy debating anyone who doesn’t believe in the freedoms and democracy this country offers. But, I won’t ever be totally silent. I endorse this opinion 100%.

I CAN'T OUTRUN THE RISKS OF BEING A WOMAN RUNNER. AND I'M SICK OF IT: I will never forget when I charged up the final hill to complete my first Marine Corps Marathon in October 2018. At the base of the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, a young servicemember draped a medal with the famous eagle, globe and anchor insignia around my neck and congratulated me with a resounding OORAH! Conquering those grueling 26.2 miles was exhilarating. I felt strong. I felt confident. I felt empowered. Until I went on a run a few days later. It was a fall evening with a hint of crispness in the air. A group of men loitering in front of a convenience store started running behind me in D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood and chased me for three blocks. I was terrified. Now I wasn’t running for a personal record. I was running for my life. My runner’s high was obliterated by the cold, sober reality of being a woman in this sport: Any sense of strength, confidence and power generated by running is fleeting. I’ve been thinking of this ever since I learned the news last week about the death of Eliza Fletcher, the kindergarten teacher and mother of two children who was killed while on an early-morning run in Tennessee. Fletcher’s routine has been picked apart to somehow justify her fate — classic victim-blaming. But Fletcher could have done everything right as a runner, as most women who are attacked do. It doesn’t matter. The bleak truth is that violence finds us despite our best efforts to prevent it. Reactions from the running community reveal that encounters such as the one I had are common among female and female-presenting runners of any age, location and ability. In an echo of #MeToo, countless women have come forward to share their stories, demonstrating that it’s in fact more shocking to learn about a woman who has not had a scary experience while on a run. Like so many other women, I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m exhausted by the expectation that the onus to prevent the harassment and intimidation of female runners is, should and always will be on us. Not on a culture that normalizes the objectification, degradation and subjugation of women. Not on the broken justice system. Not on the urban planners who fail to provide sufficient lighting, jogging paths and other safe public spaces to exercise. I run to feel free, to be at peace, to ground myself. Running is my escape and my sacred practice. I intend to keep running as long as I can — dangers be damned.


LEE GABLE: WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? Why are so many Republican Party members supporting those who are willing to accept the overthrow of our republic? It is one of the most difficult things for many of us in our country to understand. They are still supporting a man and his terrorist followers who are willing to do anything — anything — to take control of our country. These people are not condemning those who attacked our Capitol, severely injuring law enforcement personnel who risked their lives for our republic and to protect a Republican vice president. They don’t condemn terrorists who plotted to kidnap a governor. They don’t condemn people who are making death threats to politicians and judges who do not say or do what they want. They support condemnation of people who have told the truth about what they observed before and on Jan. 6. They refuse to search for the truth by listening to sources who are not objective but are instead propagandists. Even though every court challenge of the last presidential election has found no evidence that there was any wrongdoing in the vote-counting, they refuse to accept the findings and continue supporting statements of a man who told more lies than any other president we have had. Why? Like malleable clay, they have allowed themselves to be shaped into the likeness of their idol, Donald Trump. And after being fired in that kiln, all moral and ethical elements have been baked out of them. They are well and truly lost, and all we can do is make sure they are not placed in positions of responsibility.

CHUCK AND DAWN EGERTON: MOVE THIS CONFEDERATE STATUE: Dear honorable Randolph County commissioners and citizens of Randolph County, We appreciate the opportunity to write to you, as fellow Randolph County citizens with a grave concern — to move the Confederate monument from our historic courthouse square for the integrity and unity of our community. As the true, documented history reveals, this monument does not represent the racial and culturally diverse society that Asheboro and Randolph County have become. Its prominent and symbolic location, in front of our historic seat of justice, is a traumatic reminder to many families living here today whose ancestors suffered for centuries in the holocaust of slavery’s cruelty, stolen labor and human/child trafficking. It promotes the lies of the Lost Cause and disrespects the many heroes in Randolph County’s history that opposed the Confederacy, many of whom lost their lives, and our repeated, overwhelming majority votes against secession. The recent discovery of over 680 "slave deeds" (bills of sale for actual human beings, including children as young as 11 months) found in the Randolph County Registrar of Deeds office drives this point home. We stand with all Randolph County citizens who do not embrace this monument's declaration — in the Confederate's own words — of white supremacy and the perpetuation and propagation of slavery — core tenets of the CSA (Confederate States of America), letters carved into its stone. This monument does not represent us! We are Randolph County! We urge our commissioners to do the right and honorable thing and vote for its removal to an appropriate place. We urge our fellow citizens to write your commissioners to voice your support of this effort. Please visit this link to five videos produced by the Asheboro/Randolph branch of NAACP to help understand why moving this monument is important to our county's future and our true heritage. I believe the commissioners did vote for a resolution supporting the removal, but that is merely the first step.

DORA BOWEN-GLAZEROFF: WE NEED TO BUILD WOMEN UP: Reading the Sept. 6 Economy & Business article “These single women say they face a workplace penalty, too” as a female high school student, made me lose hope in my future. Is it not enough that unmarried pregnant women are shunned in the workplace but they are even discriminated against when they are not in a relationship? Even now, I can already see the signs. At my high school, which requires a test-based application, my class is majority-male. Specifically, in my Advanced Placement physics class, one of the most difficult courses offered, only four of 28 students are female. Additionally, the class council, our student government, is all male. These statistics are not a coincidence: According to a 2019 study by Christine L. Exley and Judd B. Kessler, women are less likely to “self-promote” themselves than men, even when they are just as successful. This belief that they are not qualified might be what prevented my female classmates from taking AP Physics or running for class council. We not only need to prevent gender-based discrimination; we also have to build women up so they know they are enough. What Dora said, and kudos to WaPo for publishing her letter. We *all* need to work on this, and we can start by no longer asking high school (or college) women if they have a boyfriend. That's not some sort of "achievement," it often serves to limit them. I caught myself doing that not too long ago, and immediately apologized. The programming runs deep, but we need to break it.



Reaching out to the middle...

Something struck me the other day, and it's been hovering in the back (or side) of my brain ever since. Several commenters on a Facebook post dropped the word "Centrist" into their diagnosis of what's wrong in our state/country, using it in the pejorative. Everything is shifting to the right, so the center is really solidly in the right-wing.

While there is some truth to that, it's also misleading as hell. And potentially counterproductive in the effort to shore up our Democratic system.

The fact that Unaffiliated voters have outpaced both of the political parties in North Carolina is a prime example of this. They have chosen this designation for a variety of reasons, but "identity" is a common factor. They do not want to identify as either a Republican or a Democrat, and while some of these folks chose this option because they hold extreme Left or Right ideologies and feel those two parties are not with them on that fringe, it's those who long for the middle that I want to address.

If you doubt that desire for the middle, just take some time perusing opinion polls. When a middle-of-the-road option is offered, or a less extreme Left or Right choice is available, the majority of respondents will choose that. Which one do you choose?

Recognizing the middle is important, especially in dealing with state-or nation-wide races. Trump won in 2016 because those middle people assumed his negative traits would be marginalized once in office. And those same middle people fixed their previous mistake in 2020.

The reason I bring this up now: we are going to see Democratic candidates reaching out to those middle people, in an effort to eke past that 50% finish line. They must do this, if they want to win. And it won't represent an "abandonment" of their principles, or weakness, or "caving in to the Establishment."

It actually takes courage to do this, as odd as that may sound. Because they know many in their base will look askance at this, feel personally betrayed. But you shouldn't. Betrayal is not a generalized phenomenon, it is specific. Which leads me to some words of warning for candidates.

In striving to reach the middle, take care you don't reach past them. The vast majority of voters believe in a woman's right to choose. That includes the middle. The middle also respects the rights of LGBTQ folks, immigrants, the working poor, and the middle is also concerned about the separation of church and state.

Don't find yourself on the wrong side of any of those issues, because you will lose more than just the middle.