Sorry Republicans, facts matter—in Raleigh and in Washington

Sorry Republicans, facts matter—in Raleigh and in Washington

It’s not an original thought to point out that the Trump Administration is a larger version of what has been happening in North Carolina for the last seven years, a takeover by far-right ideologues hell-bent on dismantling the fundamental institutions of the government they lead, without regard to the suffering their decisions will inflict on the people they are supposed to represent.

At least two distinct battles are now constantly raging in Raleigh in Washington. One is being led by the new regime’s political opponents both inside and outside of government who are relentlessly reminding voters of the devastating consequences of decisions to privatize public schools, repeal a health care law that has cut the number of people without insurance in half, and wage war on the environment by recklessly rolling back key regulations and abandoning efforts to address climate change.

The other battle is internal, between the new rulers and a few reasonable holdovers within their ranks from the days when the Republican Party was not dominated by vindictive extremists determined to punish their political opponents while remaking the government they detest.

The collapse of the horrific Trumpcare health care bill in the Senate is the result of a loss by the new regime on both fronts. The opposition rallied millions of people to oppose the mean-spirited proposal that would kick more than 20 million people off the health insurance rolls and a handful of moderate Senators inside the Republican Party stood up and said no.

It is an important victory—for the moment. The battle on health care is not over and there are many more battles to come. The last seven years in Raleigh have taught us that the ideological warriors on the Right have a long list of institutions they want to hobble and scores they want to settle.

A troubling recent development in the last few weeks in Raleigh and Washington shows the lengths to which the folks on the Right will go to pursue their agenda—attacking the people and institutions who directly work for them if they do not bend the truth to fit their distorted worldview.

Last week the White House released a video attacking the Congressional Budget Office after the experts there said the Republican health care proposals would increase the ranks of uninsured in America by 23 million people.

Conservative pundits went on television attacking the CBO too, challenging the credibility of the professionals at the CBO for pointing out the real life effects of the health care changes being considered by Congress.

But the CBO works for Congress and the man who currently runs it was hired by Republican House and Senate leaders in 2015 after a strong recommendation by then Congressman Tom Price, who is now the HHS Secretary in the Trump Administration.

This is their CBO doing its job and presenting the facts, not an advocacy organization run by their political opponents. The health care law championed by Trump and his allies in Congress will result in 23 million Americans losing their health care coverage.

That is a fact from the CBO, an inconvenient fact for the right-wing crusaders, but a fact nonetheless.

A few weeks ago in Raleigh the nonpartisan staff of the General Assembly released a report showing that the tax cuts passed by the House and Senate this session would lead to a $1.2 billion state budget shortfall in two years and a hole of $1.4 billion two years after that.

The report assumes lawmakers will make needed investments to keep up with inflation and increased enrollment in public schools but does not project any major new spending initiatives.

Republican legislative leaders immediately criticized the findings claiming they were based on spending levels they would never endorse. Conservative commentators called the report a political document. One right-wing group called the nonpartisan legislative staff “leftist bureaucrats” and another asked if they “had been out in the sun too long.”

The man in charge of the General Assembly staff these days is former Raleigh Mayor Paul Coble, a conservative Republican who was hired by the current legislative leadership in 2015.

The Fiscal Research Division of the legislative staff that produced the report warning about the budget shortfall is often praised by members of the House and Senate for its expertise.

But not this time. They are leftists all of a sudden.

The tax cuts passed by the General Assembly will lead to a budget shortfall unless lawmakers make painful budget cuts to prevent it. That is also an inconvenient fact for the folks on the right, but a fact nonetheless.

Attacking the experts who produce those facts, even when they work for and were hired by the Republicans themselves, doesn’t change anything—but it does show the desperation of the ideologues now in charge.

Thank goodness facts still matter, whether Republicans in Raleigh and Washington like it or not.