Another week, another stunning quote from a Republican member of the General Assembly. This time it was Rep. George Cleveland who told a legislative committee Thursday that no one in North Carolina lives in extreme poverty.
That comes as news to most folks in North Carolina, especially the more than 700,000 people in the state who live below half of the federal poverty level. That includes more than 250,000 children.
Cleveland’s ridiculous claims this week garnered national attention and come in the wake of a series of boneheaded comments from the folks now in control of the legislative branch of government.
In case you missed some of them, here is a brief and by no means exhaustive rundown.
In late January, Rep. Larry Pittman said in an email to all legislators that doctors who provide abortion services should be executed by public hanging.
Pittman was appointed to the General Assembly in October to replace Rep. Jeff Barnhart who resigned from the House to become a lobbyist for, among other things, online virtual for-profit charter schools.
Dividing and conquering
Last October House Speaker Thom Tillis told a group of Republicans in Madison County that his goal was to “divide and conquer” people on public assistance by convincing people with a disability to look down on other people who were poor.
Those people and food stamps
Last June Senator Don East did his best George Cleveland imitation during a debate about legislation that would end the practice of allowing low-income people to get a waiver to avoid paying a fee to get a fishing license.
East asked a fellow legislator if wasn’t true that “under current law these people can still use the food stamps to buy munchies to eat when they go fishing?”
Unsafe and proud of it
Also in June, Senator Stan Bingham shared with the Senate a story about going for a ride with Senator East in his Charger SRT8.
“We got out to (Hwy) 52, and there’s a ramp there. Don asked me, says how far do you think it is to the end of the ramp? I said, I don’t know, 300, 400 yards. God knows we were running 145 miles an hour by the time we hit the end of the ramp.”
No low-income kids allowed
Last February, during the floor debate about lifting the cap on charter schools, Senator Jerry Tillman was asked about charters that did not offer transportation or free or reduced lunch, effectively make it impossible for students from low-income families to attend.
Tillman told the Senate:
“It’s certainly okay if they don’t go there [the charter school]. They can go to their public schools. They can get their free and reduced price lunch.”
Better to let’em die
Last January, Rep. Larry Brown had this to say about state’s efforts to fund HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment:
“I’m not opposed to helping a child born with HIV or something, but I don’t condone spending taxpayers’ money to help people living in perverted lifestyles.”
Queers and fruitloops
Brown’s comment about people with HIV came only a few months after he said this in an email about an award being given to then House Speaker Joe Hackney by a gay rights group
“I hope all the queers are thrilled to see him. I am sure there will be a couple legislative fruitloops there in the audience.”
The straw hat is a dead giveaway
And just to come full circle back to Cleveland, here is an oldie but a goodie. It’s Cleveland a few years ago, claiming that folks at Western Union ought to be able to tell who is an undocumented immigrant and who is not, just by looking at them.
“Anyone working in a Western Union I would hope has enough common sense to be able to discern who they should question and who they shouldn’t… If a fella comes in with a pair of shaggy boots on, and jeans and a t-shirt, and he’s got a straw hat on? I mean, come on! Give me a break!”
That’s quite a group representing us in Raleigh these days.
( If you want to go every further back in legislative history, check out the top ten quotes in the last 15 years compiled in a Friday Follies from 2010 )