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With the North Carolina state legislature in recess, Moral Mondays – the Forward Together Movement – began a march across the state, starting in Asheville on August 5 with the largest protest yet. The crowd “well exceeded” the 5,000 the Asheville police department had prepared for, with early police estimates to 10,000.

“You can’t do wrong in Raleigh and then hide back home,” said NC NAACP president the Rev. William Barber. Firing up the crowd as he has in Raleigh, Barber condemned the actions of the state legislature as “constitutionally inconsistent, morally indefensible and economically insane.” Barber and other speakers called out local and state legislators by name, some of whom were in the crowd.

“From the mountains to the coast, we’re sick of this mess,” Barber declared. “This is no momentary hyperventilation or liberal screaming match; this is a movement. We have a governor that has decided to be on the wrong side of history. We have a legislature that is bragging and boasting about its power and is legislating on the basis of lies and discrimination. Though they have temporary power, the future does not belong to them.”

Barber and other speakers addressed education, labor, LGBT rights and a bill seizing the local water system. Asheville local, Heather Rayburn, spoke surrounded with a group of other civil disobedience protestors arrested in Raleigh. Keeping with the moral theme, Rayburn reminded the crowd, “This group of jailbirds and I believe in the Golden Rule. That we should treat people the way we would want to be treated. And politicians should live by the Golden rule too.”

(Cross-posted from Crooks and Liars.)


Assault On Public Education

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What have I been telling you?

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“Public Education is the heart of democracy”

Going Public explores the privatization of public education, who’s profiting… and why now?

We’re currently raising funds to finish production. If you’d like to get involved or donate, please visit:

This is what the GOP in Raleigh has in store for North Carolina’s schools.

It’s an assault on the very idea of public education branded as “reform” because “profit” — the truth — wouldn’t sell. Because like Benedict Arnold multinationals, some of these “patriots” object to paying taxes that don’t redound to their personal and corporate coffers.

Besides, how much education do waiters and gardeners really need anyway?

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Moral Monday

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Growing numbers of people are gathering on Mondays in Raleigh to voice their strong support for the things that keep our society and economy ticking – Education, Health Care, and Voting Rights among them. The weekly gatherings are called Moral Mondays. Supporters have gathered outside and inside, and many have been arrested for refusing to end their peaceful occupation of public buildings. NC Policy Watch has a statistical list up today regarding the NC Senate budget. Excerpt:

Thousands and thousands – Number of low-income, pregnant women who will be kicked off of the state Medicaid plan and forced into the private insurance market under the Senate budget plan (“Senate budget plan kicks pregnant women off of Medicaid,” The Progressive Pulse, May 23, 2013)

25 – Years since former Republican Governor Jim Martin helped launch a major statewide effort to reduce North Carolina’s infant mortality rate (which was then highest in the nation) by expanding eligibility to Medicaid for low-income pregnant women (Ibid)

185% of the federal poverty level (or about $20,000 per year for a single person) – Income eligibility threshold for Medicaid health insurance for pregnant women that was ultimately enacted as part of that successful effort (Ibid)

From 13 per 1,000 to 7.2 per 1,000 – Amount infant mortality rate has fallen in North Carolina during that period (Tom Vitaglione, Senior Fellow for Health and Safety at Action for Children N.C)

133% of the federal poverty level (or about $15,000 per year for a single person) – Income threshold under the budget adopted by the North Carolina Senate (The Progressive Pulse, May 23, 2013)

It’s this kind of thing that has prompted the Moral Monday demonstrations that have grown week after week. Below you’ll find a video with lots of excerpts from previous events. There’s a big demonstration scheduled for today.


NC Senate Budget Proposal

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Use this thread for all things budgety. The proposed Senate Budget does not include any tax reform details. Rumor has it that the poor and middle class will be paying more under the coming tax shift, while big corporations and the wealthiest pay less. Keep that context in mind as you read all of the spin. Also bear in mind that education and health care are two of the primary pathways out of poverty and for staying in the middle class. The Legislature will deal with raising taxes on the poor a little further down the road. Here are some bulleted budget points from various sources.

– Senate leaders released a $20.6 billion budget Sunday night

– overall education spending dropping when compared to the current year.

– paves the way for an effort to privatize [Medicaid], something the governor is already studying.

– Among the other proposed changes the Senate budget would make to Medicaid and health services are:
— cuts covered doctor visits on Medicaid from 22 per year to 10.
— raises co-pays for services.
— cuts private nursing services by $5 million.
— cuts mental health drugs by $5 million.
— cuts aids drug assistance by 25 percent, or $2 million. The budget also contains a provisions that would direct the state prisons to seek to use ADAP funding to pay for HIV drugs for those in the state prison system.
— closes the state’s three alcohol and drug abuse treatment centers, saving $37 million. In turn, the budget sets aside $10 million to pay for drug treatment services provided through regional mental health care agencies.

– includes a controversial provision that would require applicants for certain welfare programs to undergo drug testing.

– remove class-size caps for elementary school grades.

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Tax Shift NC

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Y’all know that your North Carolina state government is about to lower taxes for the wealthy and big corporate interests while raising taxes for the poor and middle class, right? They’re also going to privatize Medicaid, which will reduce services for the poor. They’re also slashing child care - 31,000 kids are expected to be cut. They’re also doing away with environmental protections. They’re also savaging voting rights. Both the Senate and House versions of the budget are a move towards regressive taxation and underfunded services.

More info to come, but know that the folks at the General Assembly are about to send you the bill for their ALEC ambitions. North Carolina is their new laboratory, and we’re the lab rats.


The Math

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F to the N.C. House for moving to continuing to move to tighten eligibility rules for N.C. Pre-K, the state’s free program for at-risk 4-year-olds. House Bill 935 changes the definition of “at-risk’’ children eligible for the program to families of three making about $39,000 a year down to $19,000. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanley, said, “Eligibility is up here, and funding is down here. We’re making an effort to bring this eligibility down to something we can fund.”

Currently about 60,000 children are eligible under the definition, a number that could drop to 31,000. At the same time, the House was also moving on a proposal to end North Carolina’s estate tax, which sent $50 million to state coffers last year. Only 23 families paid the tax. Twenty-three families vs. 29,000 kids. The math does not reflect well on this legislature.

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During the post-September 11 panic, the radical right-wing pundits like Mark Steyn peddled fears that Muslims with their high birthrate might overrun western civilization and forcibly convert America to Islam. Now that they’ve gained the upper hand in the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA), radical right legislators (and their oligarch backers) are determined to forcibly convert state property and services purchased with public money into private profit. (Remember Russia?) For a quick buck, carpetbagging worshipers of the Golden Calf are flexing their muscles in Raleigh to demolish what North Carolinians built over the last half century.

For all their contempt for “the 47 percent” and “makers and takers” framing, Michael Lind explains that rent-seeking monopolists in the private sector are the real parasites:

In today’s rentier-friendly conservative ideology, somebody who makes payday loans at usurious interest rates, gouges businesses with high insurance rates, or gets paid tolls from a privatized toll road is as much a “maker” and an “entrepreneur” and a “capitalist” as someone who puts together a team of inventors, engineers, workers and investors to apply 3-D printing to printing replacement body parts. All money-making enterprises are supposed to be equally productive and socially useful, for no other reason than they make somebody rich.

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Let me tell you how it will be — BANKMAN!!

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Suze Orman discusses student debt at the Remaking America Panel recorded January 12, 2012.

(Cuz I got nothin’.)

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[h/t Upworthy]

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Picture 2Casey Blake at the Asheville Citizen-Times did a great job going through the candidates for Asheville’s City School Board. That article is here. This is an amazingly accomplished set of candidates. Any of them would do an excellent job, but it’s up to City Council to select those candidates who will be the right people at this time. Go have a look, and please let me know your thoughts.

The process is this: Anyone could apply up until the deadline last month. Thirteen people did. City Council composed five essay questions, and eleven of the candidates responded. Council members are reviewing the essay responses, and we will each choose five candidates to interview. School Board Member Peggy Dalman gets an automatic interview as she is applying for a second term, and at least five others will be interviewed based on which candidates receive the most nods from Council members. School Board candidate interviews will take place Tuesday, March 12 from 10am-Noon in Council Chambers in City Hall. That night we’ll vote on who ought to occupy the three available seats.

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Do You Detect A Pattern?

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TN mapIs it just me, or does it seem the GOP has an agenda to weaken the political influence of large cities where people tend to vote Democrat? No, I’m not just talking about North Carolina.

Charter school bill passes first test in Nashville

A bill allowing charter school applicants to apply directly to the state passed its first hurdle in Nashville Tuesday, potentially setting up a way for the suburbs here to have charter schools outside the control of the Unified Shelby County School Board.

The bill would allow charter school operators in Shelby and Davidson counties freedom to apply to the state to approve their charter applications instead of the local school board.


Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Chattanooga, challenged White on why the law should apply only to Memphis and Nashville.

“That’s where the activity in charters is going on. We thought it best to start the discussion there,” White said.

Would that would be a discussion like the “negotiations” over Asheville’s water supply or over Charlotte’s airport?

I just spoke with a town clerk on the other end of the state. When I told her about the NC Senate and the House bills aimed at placing the Charlotte airport under state control, she gasped, “That’s just not right.”