Weekly Briefing

Weekly Briefing

Defending Democracy Top Story Weekly Briefing

Darkness descends on the General Assembly

Stealth, secrecy, and laws crafted behind closed doors are now the norm at the state Legislative Building To their great and lasting credit, the people who run the Washington Post adopted a new motto last year as the Trump era dawned. The Post’s print and online mastheads began prominently featuring the phrase “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

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A rare chance to make trickledown economics work

Why regulators should order utilities and insurance companies to pass along their federal tax windfalls When Congress and the Trump administration enacted their massive tax cuts for profitable corporations and wealthy individuals at the end of 2017, they (and the corporate special interests behind the scheme) promised...

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Bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake: Why work requirements for Medicaid do not represent a reasonable healthcare compromise

It’s one of the great and bitter ironies of our modern American policy debates that it is conservatives who are often the chief architects of the largest and least useful government bureaucracies. No, this is not intended as a dig at the military or our departments of transportation.

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Defending Democracy Top Story Weekly Briefing

Is Trump finally approaching his McCarthy moment?

Latest racist attacks on immigrants could be an important tipping point As bleak as our national political landscape may seem right now, it’s worth remembering that it is far from the only time in American history in which a dangerous, dishonest and delusional con artist has held a position of great prominence. In the early 1950’s, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin rode his paranoid and dishonest witch hunt against supposed “communist subversion” to become one of the most famous and powerful men in the nation.

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Five myth-busting truths about the North Carolina economy

Conservative happy talk doesn’t change several important basics The mantra from conservative North Carolina politicians and pundits these days is that North Carolina’s hard right policy turn of recent years somehow provides “a model for the nation.” If you spend any time on policy-oriented social media, you can hardly refresh your browser without being pummeled by the claim that North Carolina’s economic outlook is amazingly bright and that it’s all the result of conservative decisions to slash taxes and “get the state’s fiscal house in order.”

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A New Year’s resolution for progressives: Hold fast and work for victory

Why attempting to appease conservative fundamentalists is not the answer These are tough times for American progressives. The President of the United States is a serial falsifier and an inveterate champion of the worst kind of predatory plutocracy. Meanwhile, the congressional majority that fuels and sustains much of his power and influence is, in turn, undergirded by an unholy alliance of robber barons, nativists and theocrats that rejects the very idea of a modern, plural democracy. Add to this toxic tableau an overlay of bitter, sometimes violent, racism and the hard reality of an economy starkly and increasingly divided between haves and have nots, and the picture gets that much darker.

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A holiday wish list for the naughty and nice in the North Carolina policy world

Well, another year has almost come and gone and the season of celebration and gift giving is well underway. What better time than this to construct a holiday gift wish list for some of North Carolina’s most prominent and hard-to-please politicos and pontificators? Here, therefore is our 2017 list. On the odd chance that some of these are actually fulfilled, it seems at least possible that 2018 will be a better and gentler year for all of us. Here’s to it.

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Plutocrats on the march

Trumpists prepare to raze another vital common good law It’s hard to keep up these days with the flood of poisonous ideas spewing from Donald Trump’s junta by the Potomac. At times, it seems as if Trump is not just a pal and admirer of Vladimir Putin, but that he is, quite literally, attempting to institute his own American version of the corrupt kleptocracy that the Russian dictator has constructed from the rubble of the old Soviet Union.

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Greed, conflicts of interest and using public services to get rich

Why North Carolina’s coal ash and mental health crises have a lot in common

Two of the biggest stories in the North Carolina policy world right now involve large, Charlotte-based institutions. Interestingly, though the two matters are seemingly unrelated, a closer look reveals a number of important commonalities in the controversies surrounding the state’s largest electric monopoly, Duke Energy, and its largest regional mental health provider, Cardinal Innovation Services.

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Damming the swamp

Could this be the Trump administration’s most outrageous act yet? The list of execrable actions taken by President Donald Trump during his first ten months in office is a long and deeply disturbing one. Even if one sticks strictly to policy actions and appointments and sets aside the President’s serial personal dishonesty and the criminal behavior in which he and multiple senior administration officials may have engaged, it’s still been a horror show.

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This is what government looks like when you run it on the cheap

Latest court system mess is directly linked to the Right’s ideological war on public structures Sometimes you have to hand it to the ideologues on the far right. They’re so persistent and creative and have gotten so effective at attacking, bad-mouthing, defunding and just plain undermining government, that often their destructive “victories” slide in right under the radar.

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The Right wages class warfare in Washington

Will Burr and Tillis really vote for this?

For much of the 20th Century, one of the labels that American politicians of a progressive bent feared most was the accusation that they were engaging in “class warfare.” Even for many on the left, the concept of class warfare – that is, of attempting to motivate and mobilize people of low and/or modest income to rise up against the wealthy – was widely frowned upon as antithetical to the nation’s longstanding tradition as a broadly middle class (or even class free) society. Forty years ago, the iconic liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith dismissed the idea of waging class warfare against the rich in America as “uncouth.”

Today, sadly, this aversion to class warfare seems quaint – and not because the left got over its queasiness about the subject.

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Fixing our public schools with blinders on

NC lawmakers to examine everything about education funding...except how much we spend The instinct to be frugal when it comes to how much government spends on public structures and services is not an unhealthy one. Whatever one’s views on the great ideological debates of our day, there can be no denying that waste, fraud and abuse will always be a constant problem for all large human institutions. If you have any doubts, I’ve got some surplus $640 toilet seats from the Pentagon for you to check out.

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Deception and bad faith at UNC

The Board of Governors is not just pushing the Right’s agenda, it’s intentionally withholding information from the public That there is a war underway for the heart and soul of higher education in North Carolina comes as no surprise to anyone who follows the state policy debate. For years now, North Carolina’s conservative...

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Hate rears its ugly head yet again

As Cooper moves to curb discrimination, the Right goes ballistic

In the age of Trump, there seem to be few limits on the depths to which purveyors of fear and hate will sink. Even conservatives who disliked or opposed Trump initially seem to have been emboldened in recent months by the President’s serial dishonesty and willingness to break long-established rules of decency in public behavior. It is with this backdrop that the saga of North Carolina’s infamous discrimination law, HB2, and the seemingly never-ending conservative war on equality for transgender individuals entered their latest phase last week.

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Defending Democracy Top Story Weekly Briefing

Our rogue General Assembly returns to Raleigh for yet another rump session

Why the legislature now operates this way and why it’s a big problem The North Carolina General Assembly (or, at least, a goodly portion of it) returned to town last night. Nearly four months after having passed a new state budget—the event that used to signal the conclusion of an annual legislative session—lawmakers are back yet again. The top agenda item this time for our “part-time” lawmakers: to override Governor Cooper’s veto of a bill to alter state elections passed during their last cameo appearance in the state capital. At least, that’s what we think the plan is.

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