If you think the Republican takeover of the North Carolina General Assembly was without some Koch-sponsored, long-term, state-deadening goals, then you're in line for some pretty big surprises before these boys leave town. (And I do mean boys, although the few girls jumping into the pile with them have no girlish apologies to make. It's medieval in there.)
. . . Missing from the news stories was any mention of a provision that was part of the budget the Senate passed that would end retiree health benefits for teachers and state employees hired after Jan. 1, 2016.
That would also be a dramatic change and was never debated in a committee or on the Senate floor. It was only discovered after the Senate had approved its spending plan.
And it has definitely been discussed in what Hall called the “secret society” that is now putting the budget together because it was part of the Senate budget and not included in the House plan.
Negotiators have to decide if it will be part of the final agreement.
Hall rightly pointed out that making retirement benefits less generous would make it more difficult to recruit and retain state employees. Their salaries have long been below those available in the private sector but were competitive when it came to health care and retirement benefits.
Turning the state employee retirement plan to a defined contribution system would change that, as would the Senate’s plan to end health benefits for retirees. Both proposals deserve full and open debate and more attention from the folks covering the General Assembly.
Odd Take on Recent History
The size of a state infrastructure bond and the projects it would fund are also apparently still unresolved, despite word from House leaders that they had come to an agreement about a bond package with their Senate counterparts.
But when pressed by reporters, the two sides had different versions of the size of the bond package, with House leaders claiming it would be $2 billion and Senate leaders saying the agreement was for a $1.5 billion package.
Both sides admitted that they had not decided yet on what projects would be built. In other words, there is no actual agreement.
The bond package is a top priority of Governor Pat McCrory and while he’s right that a bond would help the state, his sales pitch for it includes an odd take on recent history.
McCrory said in Washington this week that when he took office he was shocked at the lack of attention to basic operations of the state and that there hadn’t been a major bond to shore up the infrastructure since 2000.
Implicit in McCrory’s remarks was that folks running North Carolina before he took office were to blame for neglecting to invest in state buildings and operations.
Part of that is true. The last bond package passed by the General Assembly was approved by the voters 15 years ago and included $3.1 billion worth of projects at university and community college campuses.
But just eight years after that came the Great Recession that dramatically reduced state revenues and forced policymakers to use every available dollar to keep the lights on and the schools open.
Then as the state began to recover, McCrory’s fellow Republicans took over the General Assembly and slashed the budget even further to pay for tax cuts, leaving no funding to reinvest in state operations.
They Weren’t Interested in Building Anything.
McCrory is right that North Carolina needs a major bond package now to shore up its infrastructure and to create jobs but he should hardly be surprised or shocked the state’s infrastructure is in disrepair.
That’s what happens when you have a massive recession followed by a takeover of the government by folks ideologically hostile to government in the first place. Not much chance of the needed reinvestment that point.
* Chris Fitzsimon is founder and director of N.C. Policy Watch. (Contact: email@example.com)
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens
September 17, 2015
Fistfights Occur Frequently in Ukraine’s Parliament
Donald Trump has led the Republican Party into a dangerous trap.
Republicans are now competing for TV ratings rather than a serious run for the White House. It’s the “Republican Hopefuls Reality TV Show,” promoted heavily in advance by CNN as a modernized form of gladiator battle.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, "Reality TV" is a television program “in which real people are continuously filmed, designed to be entertaining rather than informative.” Wikipedia goes further, writing that “the focus tends to be on drama and personal conflict, rather than simply educating viewers.”
Completely in step with the above definition, last night’s three-hour Republican debate, aired on CNN from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Hills, California, featured 11 Republican presidential contestants hurling slurs, innuendo, below the belt personal insults and frequently childish digs at each other.
The entertainment industry magazine, "Variety," acknowledged the debate as pure entertainment when it noted that not only was it covering the event but a reporter from “Entertainment Tonight” was also on hand.
The first volley of insults at Trump came from the low-polling Republican candidates who debated earlier in the day: Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former New York Governor George Pataki, and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Jindal called Trump a “narcissist” while Pataki said Trump was “unfit” to be President. At the later debate, Trump shot back at Pataki saying he wouldn’t be able to “be elected dog catcher right now.”
Presidential candidates spar(r)ing at the prime-time, three hour debate included Trump, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, retired surgeon Ben Carson, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas.
Walker ridiculed Trump’s lack of political experience while getting in a dig at Trump’s prior reality TV show, saying “we don’t need an apprentice in the White House.”
Exchanges between Trump and Carly Fiorina were surreal. Moderator Jake Tapper asked Fiorina about Trump’s quote in a "Rolling Stone" magazine interview where he said the following about her appearance: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”
Tapper noted that Trump had later said he was referring to her “persona” and not her actual face. Fiorina responded: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
Showing that he’s incapable of grasping that there is more to women than their appearance, Trump responded that he thought Fiorina was “beautiful.”
Trump’s inability to escape from his obsession of attacking both women and men on the basis of their appearance while leading the field of Republican candidates in the polls is an embarrassment to America but is likely boosting TV ratings for these reality TV style debates. Trump is likely to milk that as long as he can.
In the first Republican debate on "Fox," moderator Megyn Kelly framed a question to Trump by noting, “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals.’ ” Trump interjected that he had been talking about “only Rosie O’Donnell,” as if that settled the matter. Kelly continued: “Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice it would be a ‘pretty picture’ to see her on her knees.”
In a recent published interview with Trump by "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd, Trump called Rand Paul a “moron” while again making an inexplicable dig at his appearance, calling him “a tiny little guy.”
Japanese Legislators Brawl Over Loosening Ties on Military, September 17, 2015
The challenge for Trump is to take this 11-character cast to the next level in the ratings battle. Fist-fights may be necessary, especially if Trump wants to compete with what’s happening in Parliaments around the world. There’s now even a web site filled with videos of politicians pummeling each other while Parliament is in session.
In a timely underscore of new-age gladiator politics, making headlines around the globe today is a fist-fight that broke out in Japan’s Parliament on Thursday over a bill to allow Japan’s military to fight abroad.
What a frigging bunch of clowns the Republicans have elected throughout the USA! USA! usa. (Although some of the Democrats aren't going for much higher standards either.)
I nominate Trump for FCC President.