The forest and the trees

The forest and the trees

- in Fitzsimon File

You probably heard that the Republicans in the state House fell short Wednesday in their effort to override Governor Beverly Perdue’s veto of their ill-advised legislation that tries to exempt North Carolina from national health care reform.

You might have heard that in a purely political exercise the Senate voted to override Perdue’s veto of a bill that would take money from economic development funds that Perdue uses to recruit jobs. Senate leaders know that their counterparts in the House don’t have the votes to override that bill either and won’t even be taking it up.

But you may not have heard that the House approved legislation Wednesday that would hamstring efforts to protect rivers and streams from pollution, prevent state officials from adopting workplace safety laws, even make it impossible for the Department of Revenue to adopt rules to crack down on corporations that try to avoid paying their taxes.

Maybe you didn’t know that a House committee voted to change current law to allow people to carry concealed weapons in state and local parks and in restaurants that serve alcohol.

You probably didn’t hear that early Wednesday morning lawmakers considered a list of options to balance the budget that included laying off 18,000 teacher assistants and abolishing a nationally recognized early childhood program for at-risk kids.

Or that legislation is making its way through the General Assembly that could deny access to low interest federal loans to 177,000 community college students, many of whom are unemployed workers trying to learn another skill after losing their job.

There’s plenty more, but you get the idea. In what appears to be a deliberate strategy, the Republican leadership is moving so much partisan and ideological legislation so fast that the media and most advocates at the Legislative Building are finding it almost impossible to keep up.

In any other year, the bill to deny loans to community college students would be major news, but not this year. There is too much happening each day for the public to understand the big picture, how much the new right-wing majorities in the General Assembly are remaking North Carolina as they pursue their ideological agenda.

The shrinking mainstream media is doing the best it can. In fact there’s more legislative reporting than last year and far more live streaming of legislative meetings, but the number of reporters at the General Assembly is a fraction of what it was just a few years ago.

It’s a clever formula for the far right’s takeover of the state that is also made possible by the strict party discipline being enforced by Republicans. They vote in lockstep on every even remotely controversial issue, even if it means lawmakers vote against positions they held last year.

Senator Richard Stevens not only supported the legislation last session to require community colleges to make the low interest federal loans available, he sponsored it. This year he voted to repeal it.

Progressive advocates are finding similar stories every day, Republicans who were open at least to compromise last session adhering strictly to the party line this year. They all apparently have their orders.

That’s because this isn’t about what’s best for the state or even the give and take of the legislative process. It is a carefully orchestrated plan that’s underway to dismantle public schools, slash public investments and eviscerate the government that many Republicans and their financial backers have always loathed.

Too bad if at-risk kids, community college students and people with a disability or mental illness suffer. This is the right-wing’s moment and they are seizing it.

And it is all happening so quickly in so many different ways that people have no time to notice. They are too busy tending to each falling tree to see the creation of the dangerous forest.