Mountain Snail

Stuff Ballard Wrote

Tag: NC GOP (page 1 of 2)

Tax villains (& their enablers)

Daily Planet, 8/2016

A previous column in this space included a quote about the whopping advantages that the top 0.5% have over the rest of us – tid-bits like borrowing at almost no interest, private wealth managers and influencing legislation.

The part about influencing legislation is a national abomination. But unfortunately, it’s a sin that only the U.S. Supreme Court can wash away. Let’s talk about something that can be fixed.

The lines in the quote that really boiled my britches say the super-rich can “hold personal assets in tax havens” and “they have access to the very best in accounting firms and tax attorneys.”

All my working life I paid taxes. All working people pay taxes. It’s our responsibility as citizens. It’s how our country and our state stay in business.

All through our history, Americans have held to this pay-my-share principle. When issues arose, as in the Whiskey Rebellion, they were about fairness and what the tax revenue would be spent for.

In the late 19th century, the idea of an income tax gained popularity.  An income tax law actually passed Congress in 1894 – 2 percent on people making more than $4,000 a year ($100,000 today) – but it was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Opponents to an income tax were led by Andrew Carnegie and his steel lobby and old-time “establishment” Republicans, who were tight with industrialists.

The Sixteenth Amendment passed Congress in 1909 and went out to the states. In the election of 1912, all three presidential candidates – William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson – supported the amendment.

This is America. We believe in fairness. We have always believed that those who’ve got should bear more responsibility than those who don’t.

That brings us back to my boiling britches.

In the United States today, the super-rich not only have the stuff, they also have the politicians who write laws concerning stuff. (By the way, as The New York Times stated, “The share of national income captured by the richest 1 percent of Americans is even higher than it was at the dawn of the 20th century.”)

What attitude do you think the tip-toppers should have regarding taxes? You and I pay our taxes from our living money. These people could pay by taking one less hunting trip to Paraguay in their private Gulfstreams.

But they don’t. They have tax havens and slick tax attorneys to minimize, or eliminate, their tax debt.

What is this – greed? Yes, but more. It’s also cold-blooded cruelty. When they don’t pay, someone else has to pay to fund government. And that someone is the working sucker.

North Carolina is a neon case study. In 2013, the Republican General Assembly overhauled our tax code. They instituted a flat tax that lightens the rich end of the see-saw, and they eliminated a host of deductions, including those for medical and child-care expenses.  They cut out the earned income tax credit for the working poor, and oh yes, they expanded the sales tax base. Our end of the see-saw clanked down hard.

The smirking, cynical tax-dodgers should be tarred, but it’s our legislators and governor who dance to their tune.  They’re the tax villains.

They cackled around Raleigh that everybody would experience lower taxes (later modified). Well, I hadn’t paid state taxes since I retired, and then suddenly I owed over $200, and I’m paying sales tax for services all over town.

If everybody in North Carolina who experienced a tax increase after the General Assembly’s tax cuts were to vote to throw the self-serving perpetrators out, not even gerrymandering could save them.

Governor McCrory is not gerrymandered. November 8 is the day. Roy Cooper is the name. He’ll make taxation fair.

 

 

GOP Christians with power

Daily Planet, 5/2016

An obscure Republican Congressman from Michigan wrote something truly remarkable:

“The Christian who enters politics must do so with the aim of achieving political justice. He does this by subjecting his own personal ambition and desires to the scrutiny of God’s revelation in the Scriptures. And as God gives the grace to do so, he learns to make the needs of his neighbor his own. In so doing, his search for justice becomes an act of sacrificial love.”

Paul Brentwood Henry served four terms and was elected to a fifth term when he died in 1993.   He was a solid evangelical conservative. His congressional district included super-conservative Grand Rapids.

What did Henry write here? He verbalized an attitude, didn’t he – a magnificent outlook on power. It’s almost like he’s saying: The more power Christians gain, the more they should be servants of the people.

Jesus taught his disciples (Luke 22:26):   “The one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.”

As a member of Congress, Henry had real political power. And yet he writes about subjecting personal ambition and desire to the needs of others.   He even calls it sacrificial love.

It goes without saying that this philosophy should guide all politicians, Christian or not – humbly, diligently accepting as one’s life priority the needs of one’s neighbor. After all, the citizen legislator is literally representing his neighbors.

Conveniently for this discussion, we have a large group of Christians with political power right here in North Carolina: the majority Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly. They certainly make much of their faith, and they certainly have power.

How are they doing?

I’ve heard Raleigh Republicans called hypocrites and “pseudo-Christians.” Maybe that’s because for their five years in power, they haven’t done anything that could remotely be called selfless service to the people.

They took power in 2010 through a vicious, rotten campaign of character assassinations, and they’ve consistently followed that model ever since.

Their methods?

Deception. Right after taking power in 2011, they staged hearings around the state to get citizen input on redistricting.  But what do you know, that was precisely the time when their computers were slicing up counties and precincts to create districts that ensure huge Republican majorities. There was no debate and no explanations. Election outcomes are now automatic – so citizen neighbors’ votes are meaningless.

Lying. I’ll choose two from a five-year stream of lies. Claiming “voter fraud,” Republicans enacted a sweeping “election reform” package in 2013.  It was, plain to the naked eye, designed to suppress Democrat voting. In fact, studies have shown that voter fraud is almost nonexistent. Investigations found 31 cases of voter impersonation in a billion votes cast.

The now-famous House Bill 2 gave Republicans a grand stage for lying. The whole idea, plain again, is to stir up evangelical voters ahead of November’s general election by squelching the growing gay rights movement. The“men in women’s locker rooms” allegation is a duh-level disguise. Those of you who are familiar with HB2, get a pad and count the lies in this interview with Dan Bishop, one of the GOP sponsors of HB2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJsOT53Atdo&feature=youtu.be.

Most Democrats in the General Assembly are Christians, too, of course, but they don’t parade their faith like Republicans do, and they don’t have power. They don’t have opportunity to demonstrate Paul Henry’s principle of of selfless service.  Not yet anyway.

Wouldn’t you love to see the 2016 Democratic campaign strategy sound like Paul Henry wrote it? Maybe something like:

“We come to you as humble servants with only one goal: to make your life better. We’re not seeking power. We’re politicians, but we promise never to show it.”

I’m realistic enough to think it could happen.

“Good for business”?

Daily Planet, 9/2015

When Volvo chose South Carolina as the site for its first U.S. assembly plant, I wondered why. I knew Governor McCrory wanted that plant for North Carolina more than he wanted a smarter lawyer.

So I put my research hat on, and there it was, at WTOC (Savannah) online:

“According to Volvo, they chose Berkeley County which is right outside of Charleston because of their access to ports, they have a well trained labor force, and have experience in the high tech manufacturing sector.”

Ow, ow, ow. That “well-trained workforce” really hurt.

Ports, OK. Charleston is way bigger than Wilmington, and they have experienced in handling BMWs.

But South Carolina praised for a well-trained workforce? Everybody knows it’s NORTH Carolina with the world-class schools, community colleges and universities.  Or they used to.

Our Republican governor and General Assembly bore us by beating the “business-friendly” bongo every time they cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations and cut regulations – and lay off another few thousand teacher assistants. It’s almost a religion with them. Companies are led around by their bottom lines and nothing else.

They’re wrong.

Several business media outlets publish rankings of states on their being a good place to do business. One is Forbes Magazine.

Let’s look at two states that Forbes lists in their Top Ten: North Carolina and Minnesota.

Minnesota’s blurb in Forbes says, in part:

“Minnesota cracks the top 10 for a second straight year based on a strong current economic climate and quality of life….Minnesota has the fourth highest percentage of adults with a high school degree at 92.4%. With its good schools, low poverty rate and healthy populous, the state ranks second overall on Forbes’ quality of life measurements.”

North Carolina’s reads, in part, like this:

“North Carolina has the smallest union workforce in the U.S. in terms of percent of total employment. The resulting benefit is labor costs that are 16% below the national average—third lowest in the country. North Carolina has ranked in the top five overall for 9 straight years.”

When they say, “labor costs that are 16% below the national average,” what exactly are they saying? Right: North Carolinians work cheap.

On the one hand, you have a state rated high for its well-educated population and quality of life. On the other hand, you have a state rated high because its people are poorly paid.

And by the way, Minnesota is rated #1 on CNBC’s list of best states to do business. (North Carolina is ranked #5.) CNBC notes: “To some degree, Minnesota benefits from a trend….Rather than just seeking the lowest taxes or the highest incentives, companies are increasingly chasing the largest supply of skilled, qualified workers.”

“Quality of life” sounds sort of squishy – something I’ll know when I feel it. But Forbes and CNBC put business meaning to it.

The Forbest quality of life index looks at the index of schools, health, crime, cost of living and poverty rate. Minnesota is specifically praised for funding highways.

I can’t help but look at Minnesota’s pluses and then look at the accomplishments of our Republican General Assembly in North Carolina. Schools?   They cut, cut, cut. Health? They refused the freeby Medicaid expansion. North Carolina is rated #31 on Forbes quality of life index – just ahead of Texas, for heaven’s sake.

So we have two competing strategies for attracting companies: education and quality of life versus low pay for workers and low taxes for corporations.

There’s another side to this coin: the people of North Carolina. We are the collateral damage of our General Assembly’s policy of school cuts, environment cuts and corporate tax cuts (mine went up).

North Carolina’s slide from greatness continues.

 

Redistricting & GOP blatantation

Citizen-Times, 8/2015

Democrats controlled the N.C. General Assembly after the 2000 census, so they drew redistricting maps. In the first election under the Democrat redistricting, in 2002, for State House of Representatives:

Votes received: GOP 1,073,000, Democrats 904,000.

Seats won: GOP 61, Democrats 59. Fair election.

 

After the 2010 census, Republicans controlled the General Assembly, so they drew redistricting maps. In the first election under the GOP redistricting, in 2012:

Vote received: GOP 1,998,000, Democrats 1,875,000.

Seats won: GOP 77, Democrats 43. Unfair election.

 

In 2010, Republicans had sophisticated gerrymandering programs. Apparently in 2000, Democrats had old-fashioned software.

Or maybe they had scruples.

Understand: I’m not whining because I’m not winning. I’m calling in the U.S. Supreme Court.

You see, N.C. isn’t the only victim of GOP greed.   They hijacked other states where they control state government: Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Florida. In 2012 elections for U.S. Congress, in these seven states (including N.C.), Democrats got 16.4 million votes, Republicans got 16.7 million.   Split 50-50, right? Nope. GOP elected 73, Democrats elected 34.

By contrast, in California, 62 percent voted Democratic, and Democrats elected exactly the expected number. They have a nonpartisan California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Gerrymandering is an old trick. Patrick Henry tried to gerrymander James Madison out of a seat in Congress in 1788. But this new Republican vandalism must be stopped.

I smile at the New York Times article:   “Let’s establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions in all 50 states.” Uh-huh.   Would people who cheated so hard to get majorities suddenly get nonpartisan religion? (N.C. doesn’t have referendums initiated by the people.   Everything comes down from the General Assembly.)

And this from The Economist: “Citizens could try to use their vote to punish lawmakers who use their office to rig elections.” Yeah. Gerrymandering means you never have to say you’re sorry. That’s the whole idea: insulation from the rabble.

The only hope for overturned undemocratic gerrymandering is the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Vieth v. Jubelirer, the Court did not intervene in Pennsylvania’s gerrymandering, but Justice Kennedy’s opinion said they might intervene someday if a standard is set on what constitutes excessive partisanship. The stage is set.

The U.S. Constitution only tells us how to manage the right numbers in Congress. Redistricting is included in order to maintain fairness in representation.   Gerrymandering violates that principle.

The Court did strike down Georgia’s County Unit System in state elections. It was the first use of “one man, one vote.”

Of course, N.C. gerrymandering would be meaningless if Republican voters realized the injustice and voted to punish the perpetrators. How likely?   Well, an ESPN poll showed that in the whole U.S., only the six states of New England think the Patriots don’t cheat.  [

Phony Christian legislators

Daily Planet, 8/2015

“If we lived in a state where virtue was profitable, we would rush to be saintly.  But since avarice, anger, pride and stupidity commonly profit far beyond charity, modesty, justice and thought, we must stand fast ourselves.” – Sir Thomas More in the play/movie, A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt (modernized)

Yes, he’s the same Thomas More who wrote Utopia in 1516. And yes, the Utopians in his novel did have some pretty quirky policies,like universal healthcare.  And other stuff like punishing adulterers with enslavement.

More was a “political philosopher,” not a dreamer.   He was Henry VIII’s right-hand man until he refused to support Henry’s divorce and his taking over as head of the English church. He was executed.

It could be said that all of us are political philosophers. We all have our own ideas about how government should work. For a moment now, I want to do a little dreaming of my own.

What if…what if voters scrutinized candidates like they were hiring a caretaker for their parents? What if the media sought out a character profile of candidates, not just the woooo scandalous stuff? What do their neighbors and employees say about them? Are they fair, generous, humble, slow to judgment, encouraging, flexible, forgiving? Or are they glad-handing frauds, who love power and thrive on confrontation? Do they hold grudges? Are they vengeful, arrogant, heartless, egocentric, quick to anger, self-serving?   And perhaps most important, are they skilled at deception?

Political philosophy aside now, I want to write as a patriot who loves his adopted state and hates what our General Assembly is doing to it.

I’m not talking about Republicans’ conservative political philosophy. No, I’m talking about their actions that show who they really are. And I’m expressing sadness at the short-sightedness of people who vote for them.

All over North Carolina, Republican candidates promised Evangelical Christian that they would fight against abortion and gay marriage. Pastors picked up the beat, and Evangelicals voted Republican with great zeal.

And once elected, Republicans did indeed pass laws restricting abortion and got a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage. They did what they promised.

But then, just as the old saying goes, our conservative Christian Republican legislators gave in to the corrupting tug of absolute power.

To borrow from Winston Churchill: Never have so few lied so much to so many.

Let’s go back to the summer of 2013 for one example.   The 2012 election had increased GOP majorities in the General Assembly. Then in June, the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the federal Voting Rights Act so that prior federal approval wasn’t necessary any more.

Republicans acted right away, passing a Voting Reform Act that requires voter I.D., shortens early voting by a week, ends same-day registration, ends a successful high school voter registration program, gives polling observers more authority to intervene. The law was obviously designed to inconvenience Democratic constituencies.

So how did Republicans explain their legislation?   The law, they said, aims to end “rampant and widespread undetected voter fraud.” They really did say that. They’re good at cheating, bad at lying.

Colin Powell, speaking to the North Carolina CEO Forum, reacted like you probably did: “There is no voter fraud….How can it be [both] widespread and undetectable?”   He added: “I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it harder to vote.”

Indeed, investigation after investigation has found no significant voter fraud. Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State spent $150,000 and found nothing.  The Wall Street Journal told of one exhaustive study that found 2,068 cases of alleged voter fraud in the U.S. since 2000, including 10 cases of voter impersonation.

The ideal state government doesn’t need more Christian lawmakers who will vote faithfully on social issues. We need people of real character, who don’t cheat in the electoral process, who tell the truth, who don’t yield to the temptations that come with power.

NC wasn’t South until 2010

Daily Planet, 2/2015

I read a column recently that suggested Democrats should forget the South. Democrats, the columnist said, should go about building an enlightened society that meets the needs of our people. He ended by saying that, if we’re lucky, the South will try again to secede.

With that last part, my mind went, Hmmmm.

I indulged in a fantasy. Just suppose…oh, just suppose they did it! What if the South really did want out?

Our columnist didn’t define “the South.” I did: South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.   It would be painful to lose Austin and New Orleans, but maybe they’d serve as sweet yeast in the dough. (Texas isn’t really South. They don’t eat grits. But my secession fantasy was a good opportunity to get rid of them.)

These states rail constantly against “Washington, D.C.,” don’t they? Didn’t the Texas governor’s threat to secede find local support?

So, my fantasy continued, what if Hillary’s landslide in 2016 were to trigger the same emotions that Lincoln’s election did in 1860? What if some Southern attorneys general sued for secession? What if our Supreme Court decided to revisit Ableman v. Booth and Cooper v. Aaron, the cases that killed states’ rights? What if they brought back Thomas Jefferson and James Madison theory on the subject and decided Lincoln was wrong in putting down the “rebellion”?

What if? Pop the corks!

We love our kids and want to remove bad influences from their lives. We should do the same for the state we love.

For decades, North Carolinians elected strong, wise people as lawmakers and governors, Democrat and Republican. We were the Shining Star of the South, the smart Carolina. Our leaders were visionary, future-looking people. We protected our glorious natural resources. We built a world-renowned university system. We maximized voter participation.

Then came 2010. What could possibly have made our citizens elect people who would drag us into Mississippi muck?   We can see the bottom of the barrel from where we are now. What indeed?

I hear it! The sloshing, swooshing sound of bad ideas seeping across our southern border!

Go back to early 1861. Our governor and General Assembly were against secession.   North Carolinians voted down a proposal just to convene a convention on secession. Then came Fort Sumter, and momentum shifted.

At the Democratic National Convention in 1948, Mississippi and Alabama delegates walked out when Hubert Humphrey said, “The time is now arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.” Our delegates did not walk out, and we voted for Harry Truman in November.

We’re not like South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama. The rest of the country isn’t either, not even other red states.

Let them have their country. Throw in the military bases as incentive.

Let them have for-profit schools. They’ll be a banana republic with super-rich elites and dirt-poor workers.

Let them ban unions altogether.   Mississippi’s already last in wages, and South Carolina is Europe’s Mexico.

Let them…. Pop! My fantasy bubble burst, and I was back in the real world.

But the real world is now called McCroryland .   Here we meet Alice and the White Rabbit and watch billions of federal dollars for Medicaid returned to sender because the sender was President Obama. Here we hear the great man explain that cutting unemployment benefits from $535 to $350 will “ensure our citizens’ unemployment safety net is secure.”   In McCroryland the sea level won’t rise because developers don’t want it to.

Maybe if I concentrate real hard, this fantasy bubble will pop, too.

Why people vote GOP…Why?

Daily Planet, 10/2014

[details dated but ideas stand]

Why would somebody vote for Republicans in 2014?

This looks like a rhetorical question, where the intent is to make the reader think for a second before the writer gives his answer. A set-up question. The Apostle Paul uses this device a lot in his writings in the Bible – like in Romans 8:31, where he asks, “What shall we then say to these things?” He then goes on to say what we shall say.

The opening question seems like a rhetorical question because we know why people vote Republican. Much has been written on that. But it’s a real question. I don’t know the answer.

One group of people vote Republican because their family has always voted Republican. It’s like growing up Baptist or an Atlanta Braves fan.

Second, there are those who are, more than anything, against “liberals.” These people tend to watch Fox News and listen to talk radio – sources that have a big interest in dividing everything into “conservative” and “liberal,” for their ratings’ sake.

Third, there are people who have a deep interest in political theory. They believe intellectually in small government, low taxes and free-market capitalism.

Fourth, religious conservatives. They vote Republican because they are theologically “conservative” and Republicans are seen as conservative. And also, the GOP, beginning in the 1970s, has taken stances on social issues, especially abortion and homosexuality, that are in line with their beliefs.

Last but far from least, the Tea Party. These folks despise authority of all kinds.   They vote Republican when they can’t beat the mainstream Republican in a primary.

That’s why people vote Republican – in ordinary times.

And in ordinary times I wouldn’t be writing this. People vote Democrat and people vote Republican for their own reasons, and that’s cool.

But my opening question wasn’t about ordinary times. It was about why people would vote Republican in 2014. That’s a whole ‘nuther question.

You see, voting Republican in 2014 means voting for Mark Meadows for U.S. Congress – the guy who led the shutdown on the federal government last year and now says he regrets doing it. He thought he could juke Obama into shutting down Obamacare.   He’s an inept bumbler.

Voting Republican this year means voting for Michele Presnell, Tim Moffatt and Nathan Ramsey for the Legislature – the gang who can’t shoot straight.

These guys went to Raleigh and rushed through legislation that was written for them by the “deep interest in political theory” folks – eggheads in think tanks in Washington. The newcomers high-fived. Easy as pie, this passing laws!

But trouble was, THEY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT COMES NEXT. They were amateurs wearing big league uniforms.

They cut taxes, mostly on the rich and corporations, and crowed that jobs and prosperity would come trickling down.   Whoops! Didn’t happen. The tax cut resulted in a huge budget shortfall. The Raleigh News&Observer headlined:   “Budget disaster of gigantic proportions looms over North Carolina.”

Here’s the thing. The whole country has seen a rise in employment, and a majority of states are entering their new fiscal years better off than any time since 2008.   North Carolina had a shortfall of $445 million last fiscal year, with even worse news coming up.

If these guys had done NOTHING, we’d have a budget surplus.

It gets worse. The News&Observer wrote in July: “In last week’s budget debate, lawmakers were uncertain of basic numbers about the state’s projected revenue.” Not easy as pie, this making laws work.

Along with budget mayhem, the gang who can’t shoot straight also dragged our public schools down to the murky bottom of national rankings.

Whatever a person’s reason might be to vote Republican in ordinary times, they’ve GOT to wonder about voting Republican this year, voting for Meadows, Presnell, Moffatt and Ramsey, don’t they?

Don’t they?

 

GOP forbids sea level rise

Citizen-Times, 8/2014

This comedy of sadness began in 2010, when a state-appointed science panel of the Coastal Resource Commission (CRC) recommended that N.C. prepare for a 39-inch sea-level rise this century.

We’re at particular risk because we have 2100 square miles of broad, low-lying coastline and thin barrier islands. So structures with long lives, like houses and roads, should be designed accordingly.

Bring in the clowns. Republicans captured the General Assembly that year, and almost immediately, they filed HB 819, a bill that bars state agencies from adopting any “rule, policy or planning guideline that defines a rate of sea-level change.”

In 2016 the CRC will present the state’s official prediction for how fast N.C. sea levels will rise. Late-night comedians made N.C. a laughing-stock. A Scientific American blog quipped that N.C. “can escape sea level rise…by making it against the law.”  

Two weeks after the bill passed, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that sea-level rise at Cape Hatteras and northward is accelerating four times the global average. Nature Magazine wondered if nature is “mocking N.C.’s law-makers.”

I don’t have to tell you what’s going on here, do I?

Real estate and homebuilding interests are big donors to Republicans. One group of mostly development types, called NC-20, argues that “there was virtually no science at all supporting [accelerating sea-level rise], only ‘computer models’ driven by assumptions about global warming [and] ice melting.” And: “All that ‘preparation’ would not come cheaply.” NC-20’s main scientist is John Droz, a real estate investor on the coast who has degrees in math and physics. Incredibly, WRAL.com wrote that Droz posted a call for people with experience in sea-level rise who would bolster his views, because, he wrote, “This is not my area of expertise.”

Later he claimed to have consulted 30 oceanographers.   (NC-20’s website notes a lesson they’ve learned: “Facts do not matter in regulatory issues as much as power.”  

Wow. So while other states less at risk than N.C. (at least Maine, Delaware, Louisiana, Florida, California) believe in science and are preparing for up to four-foot sea-level rises, our Coastal Resource Commission will set N.C.’s own private estimate.

Oh, did I say that Republican leaders have replaced eight of the 13 members of the CRC, plus the chairman (a donor to the governor’s campaign)? The CRC is now friendly to development.

You’re tempted to classify these people as anti-environment nutcakes. But it’s much worse. They’re cynics. Like everything else since 2010, Republicans support the guys making profit. They blow smoke about the “flawed science” of the experts’ report. But in fact, they’re formulating a convenient untruth. Throw ‘em out. This year Tim Moffitt and Michelle Presnell. More in 2016 when our loser governor loses.

Money bought a stacked deck

Citizen-Times, 5/2014

The presidential election of 1896 and the N.C. legislative election of 2010: 114 years apart and remrkablyy similar.

Democrat William Jennings Bryan thundered against Robber Barons like Rockefeller and Carnegie, vowing to break up their empires.

Republican William McKinley was managed by Mark Hanna, who had one political belief: money wins.   His fundraising was easy. The Robber Barons were terrified of Bryan.   Rockefeller, Carnegie and J.P. Morgan contributed the modern equivalent of $20 million each. They gave McKinley a 23-to-1 money advantage. Then as president, McKinley delivered for them, and their profits soared.

Early in 2010, as The New Yorker magazine reported, former Bush chief-of-staff Ed Gillespie flew from Washington to Raleigh to meet with multimillionaire GOP super-activist Art Pope. He pitched a plan to take over the N.C. General Assembly.   With redistricting coming up in 2011, GOP computers could change N.C.’s Congressional delegation from 7-6 Democrat to 10-3 Republican. And legislative districts could be drawn to give permanent Republican control.

Gillespie’s key component was money. Relatively little was spent in off-year legislative races in N.C., so big dumps of cash in key races could bring a GOP majority.   The U.S. Supreme Court had just decided Citizens United vs. FEC, so big money could flow.

Pope jumped into the flow. He set up and mostly funded two organizations: Real Jobs NC and Civitas Action. They plastered N.C. with half-truth and no-truth mailbox cards against Democratic incumbents.

The New Yorker article details how in Senate District 50, in far-west N.C., two dozen mailers plastered John Snow.   Nearly a million dollars was spent against Snow in a district where both candidates wouldn’t normally spend $250,000.   They beat Snow.

As we all know, Republicans took the General Assembly in 2010 and redistricted as Gillespie wanted.

In 2012, Pope encored 2010. To view his mailers, visit https://www.civitasaction.org/mailers/.

Democrats knew Pope’s barrage was coming in 2012 but lacked resources and state party leadership (they still do) and could do nothing about it.

Since then, the Supreme Court has further struck down limitations on campaign contributions.

So, here we are. Money is practically unlimited. Redistricting is blatantly stacked. Republicans are expert axmen.

As the philosopher says, “It is what it is.”

Now, what do we do about it?

Remember how Redcoats grumbled when Patriots fired from behind trees? Well, Democrats have been Redcoats long enough. Blunt-force tactics work. People say, “I hear terrible things about Kay Hagan” – untrue terrible things in TV ads.

I don’t say match lies with lies. Tell the awful truth about Raleigh Republicans – but tell it like Civitas Action would.

Money to do it? Gotta get it – race-by-race, county-by-county, precinct-by-precinct, dollar-by-dollar. The future’s at stake.

Courage & First Alabama

Citizen-Times, 2/2014

I was Internetting my way through Sherman’s March to the Sea, to see how close the March came to my ancestors, when one sentence stopped my eyes in their sockets. Sherman’s personal escort across Georgia was the First Alabama Cavalry, a Union regiment.

What? White Alabamians protecting Sherman? Who were these guys?

A recruitment flyer (from the Internet) tells their story:   “Loyal Southerners, Come to Your Country’s Call!   To put down Treason and Rebellion and hand down to our Children, unimpaired, the Rich Legacy of the Glorious Union achieved and sealed with the blood of our forefathers.”

These guys saw through the scam of the Confederacy.   “Planters and so-called gentlemen” had pushed through secession and were successfully whipping up war fever.   First Alabama men went against the anti-Union enthusiasm all around them. They knew they would suffer retribution, during and after the war, but they went to secret recruitment sites in 13 counties to ride under the “Old Flag.”   They were men of discernment and courage.

When I read this, I said out loud, “That’s what we need this year in N.C.”

The Confederacy was an experiment with no hope of long-term success. It existed entirely for the benefit of the wealthy. States’ rights hamstrung Jefferson Davis. (Georgia threatened to secede from the Confederacy.) Poor whites, who fought their war, would be infinitely worse off in this piecemeal plutocracy. The Confederacy was a suicidal theory, and First Alabama guys knew it.

Republican experiments in N.C. today are likewise suicidal. Their theory of small government, not proven anywhere, benefits the wealthy and big business, short-changing everybody else. Our schools, healthcare and environment will likely be devastated beyond remedy if their experiment continues.

In the election of 2014, N.C. needs people of discernment and courage to save our future. Republicans have rigged the election system, though extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression laws, so they’re guaranteed reelection – barring a massive backlash.

And that backlash must necessarily include people who have voted Republican in the past.

These people may be in a church community where everybody assumes that because Republicans oppose abortion and homosexuality, they can be trusted to make decisions fair to all. But can they? For example, there’s no election fraud that calls for voter IDs. There’s no Democratic plot to outlaw gun ownership.   New tax laws shift burdens away from the rich. We can afford Medicaid expansion.

It will take thousands of courageous people to ignore what everybody around them is saying and examine facts for themselves – like how a for-profit company that will privatize our schools gave big to key Republican campaigns.

Let’s hand down to our children the rich N.C. legacy of equal benefit for all, rich and poor.

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