Both state Rep. Nelson Dollar and Senate pro tem Phil Berger had letters to the editor this week detailing their take on Republican successes this legislative session (read them and here. Most readers not so impressed. Here's a sampling of reader letters:
In case you missed the link, you can peruse all of Dwane Powell's 2013 legislative cartoons in one place here
We've gotten lots and lots of letters from teachers and the people who love them in the wake of all of the legislative moves that many believe will erode the quality of education in North Carolina and drive good teachers away. Here's a sampling. These are largely unedited.
We've printed a couple of Point of View submissions from folks who have gotten arrested during a Moral Monday protest. Here's another account from Frank Hyman of Durham. He owns a small business and has held two local elected offices.
My wrists were red and sore when the cuffs came off. The detention officer said, “Boy, yours were really tight.” I was among 84 North Carolinians who had been arrested and cuffed for exercising our constitutional rights at the General Assembly on a Moral Monday. We used civil disobedience to show our disapproval of Republican legislation. I was there because as a business owner I could afford the time, didn’t need the tax cuts and — this may surprise you – felt my views represented the majority of North Carolinians, both Democrats and Republicans.
Republican Governor Pat McCrory makes the case that calling the event Moral Monday implies that those with whom we disagree are immoral. I guess that’s a smarter tactic than mistakenly calling thousands of North Carolinians “outsiders” as he did recently. Some of the governor’s supporters also bristle at the name and have thrown around alternative terms like “Moron Monday” and “Money Monday.”
But perhaps the governor and I could agree to drop these subjective terms and re-christen the event with an objectively accurate name. I propose giving it the nickname “Majority Monday” since polls over the last two months show that fewer than a quarter of voters support most of the Republican legislators’ actions and in many cases solid two-thirds majorities oppose them. Republicans claim they are merely carrying out their campaign promises, but can that be true if:
· Only 13% support Republican plans to cut corporate and personal income taxes and raise the sales tax, but 68% of voters are opposed. (Remaining voters are counted as “not sure.”)
· Only 26% support the Republican denial of Medicaid coverage to half a million North Carolinians, but 56% oppose that.
· From 17%-29% support the Republican move to allow concealed handguns either in bars, parks or college campuses. Majorities of North Carolina voters ranging from 65% to 73% oppose those misfires.
Overall only 20% of voters approve of the job the General Assembly is doing. And 56% of voters disapprove. Can these numbers be believed? They come from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, which was rated highly by The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Business Insider and a Fordham University study as one of the most accurate swing state pollsters during the 2012 election. But wait, here are more lopsided results.
· Only 10% support the Republican proposal to ring up a sales tax on groceries; 81% oppose it.
· Only 13% support the Senate’s tax plan and 21% support the House’s tax plan. A majority of North Carolina voters oppose the two plans by 68% and 55% respectively.
· Only 33% support the Republican plan to shrink the number of early voting days. A 59% majority opposes the reduction.
· Only 14% support the Republicans’ move to pull the plug on renewable energy; 73% of voters oppose that effort.
· Only 26% support the Republicans on dropping the Earned Income Tax Credit. But 61% of voters oppose that cut. I suspect that 61% group includes many – if not all – of the 64,000 veteran and military families who depended on that tax credit last year.
Yes, in a public protest like Moral Monday — or Majority Monday if you will — participants are mostly Democrats like myself. But in the privacy of their homes, 63% of unaffiliated voters and 40% of Republican voters report their disapproval of the General Assembly’s caustic bills.
The Republican leadership has clearly swung to the right of North Carolina voters, even across party lines. Most Tar Heels sense the painful handcuffs Republican legislators are bringing their way. So can a protest movement representing a majority of voters stop them? We’ll know in 2014.
A letter too long to print from Tom Vitaglione, senior fellow at Action for Children North Carolina:
If you are unaware that the General Assembly has spent a lot of time and energy “protecting the unborn,” I want to welcome you back from wherever you have been. Parenthetically, you may be wondering about job creation activity. Don’t worry – you didn’t miss a thing. In fact, the only thing our leaders did in that regard is to limit or eliminate unemployment insurance benefits.
You may also be unaware that our leaders have been exhibiting an ideological quirk – they will go to great lengths and don’t mind intruding on the family when the unborn are concerned but quickly lose interest in helping children once they are in evidence.
Just one example is a Senate proposal to cut back on Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, which is virtually certain to increase infant mortality. And then there is the House proposal to eliminate the legislature’s own study commission – the Child Fatality Task Force – which has made recommendations over the past two decades that have led to a 40 percent reduction in the child death rate. In addition, there are a host of proposed service reductions, including those in early childhood education, as well as reduced support for our schools.
You may be wondering what happened to the “consistent ethic of life” that has long been a guiding principle for improving the human condition. I simply don’t know what happened. All I know is that even the Catholic Church has been focused on the unborn while simultaneously castigating its own nuns for putting too much emphasis on social outreach to the poor and vulnerable. It makes it harder to persuade our political leaders to value life at all stages when a leading theological voice remains inconsistent.
If you have suggestions on what to do about this, please let me know. And it is urgent. Recent reports indicate that North Carolina is the 15th-worst state to be a child, and the 10th-worst state to be a woman. And those reports came out before the current measures being put in place by the General Assembly.
Perhaps the most important thing for us is to recall the biblical proverb, “Without a vision, the people perish.” It seems clear that our leaders have lost sight of a just society; it is up to “we the people” to raise up the vision of equality and justice and a government that helps attain these goals. And lest we get discouraged, remember that these goals have always won out, whether it be against the Romans, the Huns, the Nazis or the Dixiecrats. It might take a while, but history is on our side if we keep the faith and persevere.
To bolster us during this dire period, keep in mind the passages of Psalm 37: “Be still before God; wait patiently, not envying those who prosper, not fretting at those whose malicious plans bring down the needy and poor. … I have seen oppressors triumph, towering like cedars of Lebanon. When I passed by again, they were gone; I searched, but they could not be found… So look for the honest, and look to the righteous; the future belongs to the peacemakers. God is their help, their deliverer, their refuge in times of distress.” So be it.
The N&O’s former cartoonist just couldn’t sit out this legislative session, not with all the fun things to draw. He’ll be offering his view every Sunday in The N&O during the session. Here’s this week’s.
Getting lots of response to the Friday Point of View "Pro-life bills take the moral path" by Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life Inc. Here's a glimpse of the feedback, largely unedited. Read Holt's piece here
A letter that is too long to print but worth sharing:
I am a retired North Carolina High School principal who also taught English for 12 years.
When the General Assembly disbanded the Teaching Fellows program, I was very sad. Teaching Fellows were consistently the most qualified and enthusiastic teachers I hired, and every spring when I helped finalize the high school seniors my high school was sending as a scholarship candidate, I was ecstatic because these were the students I wanted teaching my children four years down the road.
I keep thinking of Dean Smith, Roy Williams, and Mark Gottfried and wondered how their programs would fare if the best and most talented student-athletes were denied a scholarship to play ball at Carolina or State. Why would North Carolina’s elected officials deliberately tell the state’s most gifted potential teachers that they were totally unworthy of state educational support.
The next year unfolded and the General Assembly continued to cut the number of teachers supported by the state. Our elected leaders then had the audacity to tell my neighbors that they were merely reducing the overall allotment of funds each district would receive, and it was each district’s responsibility to determine where to make the cuts. I can only believe that these elected leaders think the state’s citizens are stupid and that my subdivision doesn’t realize that teachers ARE the bulk of each districts budget. `
This morning I read that the Senate’s budget proposes eliminating the pay step every teacher in North Carolina has had a chance to realize for over 40 years by earning a master’s degree to supplement their instructional foundation. No single event in my educational past improved my teaching as much as the master’s degree in English that I earned taking classes during the summer and at night over five years. Knowing that my pay would rise because I had improved my skills was part of the compact that existed between teachers and the parents of their students.
For several years now I have come to believe that our state’s legislators simply hated public school teachers and were trying to develop ways to discourage the most talented North Carolina students from going into teaching. It felt like their plan was to dilute the quality of North Carolina’s teaching corps in order to lower overall public school instructional quality. I now think their efforts are more focused than that.
Every morning I drive past the shiny, spacious, crisp new Wal-Mart that is being built in north Chatham County across the street from my neighborhood. I know that this facility will need to hire lots and lots of new employees. Clearly the General Assembly members will feel good when North Carolina’s best and brightest greet them with, “Hi. Welcome to Wal-Mart.”
David J. Thaden