TWC: Exile on 08

Exile on ’08
Race: U.S. Senate
Incumbent: Elizabeth Dole (one term)
Possible Challengers: State Rep. Grier Martin (Wake), State Sen. Kay Hagan (Guilford), State Board of Education Chair Howard Lee. At least one other major name is considering the race.
Conventional Wisdom: National handicappers Cook, Rothenberg and Congressional Quarterly all report the seat as either “leans Republican” or “advantage-incumbent.”
Unconventional Wisdom: A diverse group of observers ranging from Dem-cheering blogger SenateGuru2008 to GOP uber-fundraiser Paul M. Weyrich say a strong Dem challenge could unseat her.

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TWC: Shameful shambles

Better late than never: last week’s column.

Shameful shambles
As those of you following theses kinds of things know, irony is dead, replaced by stark realities and painfully obvious absurdities. So, no, it was not ironic to see front-page headlines the other day laying out so clearly the state of the state 2007.

Topping the page, naturally, was the shiny new incentive package for a couple of large international corporations. At the bottom of the page was the story of another state mental hospital about to get decertified by the feds. Doesn’t get a lot clearer than that.

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Atkinson to run for re-election

This just in:

Atkinson announces re-election plans

Raleigh — Today, State Superintendent June Atkinson announced that she will seek re-election. She states that her number one priority is to increase the North Carolina high school graduation rate. Recently, it was announced that the 2007 graduation rate is 69.4 percent, up from the 2006 rate of 68.3 percent. In addition, she reports that even with the increase in standards in the state’s accountability program, the growth and proficiency rates of schools are up. Schools making or exceeding growth targets grew by 17.9 percentage points from 2005-06 to 2006-07 school year.

Dr. Atkinson says, “Our students’ learning is unprecedented and the state public education system is moving in the right direction. I will continue to work with all partners – the State Board of Education, local school leaders, teachers, elected officials, businesses, professional organizations, and parents to ensure our students are prepared for a global economy. A focus on using technology in meaningful ways and developing a system of professional development will be key to improving student achievement. There is much work to be done to ensure students are prepared for the 21st century. ”

Sunday Morning Post

Sleeping weather at last!

– After seeing the fight just over a high risk insurance pool here, Universal Health Care seems so pie-in-the-sky. Of course, its really the only way out of this screwed up system and, well, I like pie.
MoveOn outta here — McCain gets all Love it or Leave it.
– More benefits of Global Warming new shipping lanes
Reuters: Investment adviser asks if wealth are necessary
Round these here parts:
-WSJ explains why Darryl Hunt ended up in prison for 18 years for a crime he did not commit.
– Rob delves in on Walter Jones alleged apostasy on the Iraq war
– Wow. Hoover is ga-ga over Bill Graham and says Tom Fetzer told him Graham’s leading Moore and Perdue in the polls. Here’s a taste starting with the positives of using your own money to campaign:

He has already spent $2.3 million of his own money getting the message out and he continues to gain popularity.
He is young and handsome, too, and that counts more than many people might think.

Okeeh. Dome got an update on the polls. It was a misquote. Um, yeah. So any guesses when the good people of Dunn going to learn that?

Facing South: NC becomes a model in how not to do energy policy
– If you haven’t been following this Haw River Park story, hop over to Ed’s place where he’s been keeping up with things.
Biodiesel plant draws flak

TWC: Trush and Consequences

Truth & consequences
As promised, there’s been a step-up of immigration raids. This at a time when our junior senator is making the rounds of local law enforcement encouraging the deportation of those apprehended and found to not be here legally.

On the surface it all kind of makes sense — an easy sale of nativist talking points. Break the law — get tossed out.

Except that the border is as porous as a colander and the laws of economics are in direct conflict with those in the general statutes. Then there’s the not-so-perfect federal I.D. system that’s already sent actual U.S. citizens out of the country.

A real immigration policy includes context and confronts these realities. But we don’t have a real policy and in response to the politics of the day we’ve seen a compartmentalizing of immigration. The result promises even greater chaos than we have today.

Most of that will come from the shift of greater responsibility for immigration enforcement to local law enforcement. In most places, this has been long resisted and for good reason. In this case, the short-term gains will be far outweighed by the long-term consequences for a couple of key reasons.

First, back to the border for a minute. There’s little reason to be confident that anyone deported today who wants to get back into the country will be deterred from doing so.

Second, local agencies have resisted joining the La Migra posse because it makes it very difficult to work within the immigrant community to make them safer — more crimes go unreported, more witnesses don’t come forward. Most agencies have tried to get closer to the immigrant community and win trust to prevent gangs and drugs from taking over. Driving people deeper underground is going to create more fertile ground for crime. And all the while, politicians will tout this as their effort to get tough.

We’ve already seen that “get tough” means breaking up families and tossing people out who are contributing members — in some cases, longtime contributing members — of society.

But with an election around the corner and politicians like Sen. Dole firmly committed to tapping nativist rage, there’s little chance that the debate will see an injection of sanity anytime soon.

Fred’s ahead
New poll numbers for North Carolina from Public Policy Polling show that the recently announced Fred Thompson has jumped ahead of his Republican rivals. A breakdown of the poll by area codes shows Thompson leads comfortably in all regions of the state. Overall, the poll shows Thompson favored by 34 percent, followed by Giuliani (16 percent), Romney (13 percent) and McCain (7 percent).

A bit tighter on the Democratic side with John Edwards and Hillary Clinton continuing to battle for the lead. Broken down by area codes, Edwards is running stronger in the Triangle and the mountains and Clinton is ahead in Charlotte and the southeast. Barack Obama is running strong in the southeast, where he’s tied with Edwards.

Overall, Clinton leads with 30 percent, followed by Edwards (28 percent) and Obama (21 percent).
The numbers on the governor race shows Beverly Perdue with a clear lead over Richard Moore. She’s ahead 35 percent to Moore’s 28 percent.

On the Republican side, it looks like Fred Smith’s “Q” factor has yet to kick in despite all those local pig pickin’s he’s been hosting. Bill Graham is up 23 percent over Robert Orr and Smith who are tied at 9 percent.

The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent for the Dems and 3.8 percent for the GOP.

What constitutes a crisis?

I had a similar reaction to the folks at N.C. Policy Watch when I saw the N&O today. Top of the page was a story about the incentives package. Bottom of the page was another story about a state mental hospital losing federal funding.
My comment: This is madness.
Chris is a little more thoughtful:

But in many families’ lives, reform has become another word for frustration and despair. Finding adequate services in many communities is impossible or at least extraordinarily difficult. Now comes word that the hospitals aren’t safe either and state officials are admitting that the new hospital will be overcrowded and it hasn’t even opened yet.

It’s no wonder that people with mental illness have lost faith in this Administration’s ability to do anything to help them. Dempsey Benton was sworn in recently as the new Health and Human Services Secretary and he has his work cut out for him.

But it shouldn’t be impossible. After all, it only took two days for lawmakers and the Administration to come with a plan give $60 million to a handful of corporations.

Sunday Morning Post: lection season edition


Good morning. ‘lection season and all. But first:
– Got a tropical storm and maybe a hurricane off the coast.
– Meanwhile back at the legislature, it’s all about H1761. My take. Fitszimon.
– Here’s a read via WSJ— Bizarre story out of Jonesville.

State races:
– Gov — Perdue and Moore already has the feel of a heavyweight contest with slow, close-in slugging; Smith/Graham/Orr can’t hardly raise a nickle these days.
– Senate — Everyone appears to be waiting for the end of the federal filing period.
– Mike McIntyre’s getting a challenger. 04 story on Breazeal’s recruiting work for the Reserves.
Fred’s ahead according to PPP
Pearce & Wrenn on fundraising for Perdue & Moore;
– Dome notes that Fetzer Stephens is making a bundle off Bill Graham (the lawyer from Salisbury, not the beloved evangelist);
IHT on Holliman’s surgery, McAlister’s fine and the Tire company stuff;

If I wasn’t home typing I’d be watching Chimney Swifts in Asheville.

TWC: Where the rubber meets the road

From this week’s column, some thoughts about incentivising folks

The General Assembly is contemplating a return engagement in Raleigh next week with the intent of taking up Gov. Mike Easley’s veto of an incentives bill for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

Easley’s objection, which reportedly came as a shocking twist to legislators after a two-year negotiation over the package, was that the threshold for the number of jobs the bill would protect was reduced.

Easley points out that Goodyear could lay off 25 percent of its workforce – 700 or more jobs — and still pocket the cash. In his succinct veto message, the governor does not mince words.

He opens with: “House Bill 1761 would set a dangerous precedent for North Carolina’s economic development policy and is not fair to her taxpayers.”

Backers of the bill, which passed 98-11 in the House and 41-5 in the Senate, dispute the governor’s premise and say the number of jobs was a compromise reached after advocates for a Bridgestone Firestone plant in Wilson raised concerns about the job threshold.

In raising his objection and then offering an alternative plan for helping businesses, the governor has not only inspired the return of the Legislature, he’s also touched off another debate on the value and repercussions of incentives.

“Never in the history of the state,” Easley says in his veto message, “has anyone given a company up to $40 million and allowed them to lay off hundreds of workers.”

Not yet, anyway. But it’s easy to see that in the current (ahem) “pro-business” climate, expanding criteria for payouts to corporations could be a hard trend to stop. It’s also rife with pitfalls, not the least of which is the fact that PAC donations are the mother’s milk of politics.

The intersection of corporate incentives and corporate donations is not a pretty place and can lead to a distorted sense of what constitutes an “incentive” and a need for one.

Goodyear, for instance, just recently announced that it’s paying down nearly $1 billion in debt and planning new plants overseas. The Wall Street Journal’s headline on the story after its latest quarterly report in early August is “Goodyear profit surges on cost-cutting, global sales.”

Still, they apparently would like an average of $5 each from every man, woman and child in North Carolina to help modernize their plant here. They’ll likely get something close to what they want, and in doing so could set in motion efforts by scores of others seeking similar dispensation.

Before we go down that road, though, bring on another debate over the consequences.

If you look at the latest Forbes survey of best places for business, this state ranks very favorably in the business-cost category (we’re 6th), which takes into account taxes and labor and energy costs, and in regulatory environment (we’re 2nd), which measures regulatory and tort climate, incentives, transportation and bond ratings. Where we rank lowest (30th) is in the quality-of-life category, which is an index of schools, health, crime, cost of living and poverty rates.

When the state really ramped up its incentive efforts about ten years ago, they were sold as a necessary evil to preserve jobs and recruit new industries to replace the ones we were losing. A better business climate, we were told, would benefit us all. Since then, incentives have certainly improved the bottom line for corporations in North Carolina, but the ripple effect has yet to reach us all.