• Isn’t It Really Time, at Long Last, for Us to Approve ERA

    FROM

    This article appeared in The Pilot on Sunday, November 19th, and the author, Paul Dunn, is a long time member of the Moore County Democratic Party.

    In a recent survey, 94 percent of Americans reported that they would gladly support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would guarantee equal rights for men and women.

    Ironically, 80 percent of those polled thought that the Equal Rights Amendment had been ratified by the states years ago. It wasn’t.

    The ERA reads:

    Section 1: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

    Section 2. “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

    Section 3. “This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”

    North Carolina, once admired as the most progressive of all Southern states, has not yet ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Whether it will now do so under an incredibly regressive Republican legislature is a big question mark.

    To date, it has not gotten fair hearings in committee. For the ERA to become law, only two more states must ratify it. Were North Carolina to do so, its former progressive reputation would go a long way toward restoration.

    On March 22, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the ERA. This year, ERA bills have been introduced in the legislatures of Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Utah, Virginia, and our own state of North Carolina.

    The Declaration of Independence reads that “All men are created equal.” The writers meant that literally. What Jefferson penned was based upon then-accepted ancient English common law. In 1787, when the U.S. Constitution became law, it did not recognize women as citizens, or as individuals with legal rights. A married woman’s person and property were owned by her husband. Slaves had no rights.

    You may be surprised to learn that the ERA passed both houses of the U.S. Congress 45 years ago. In 1972, there was no Flat Earth Tea Party, and believe it or not, the GOP included liberal legislators. But by the initial deadline, only 35 of the required 38 states had ratified the amendment.

    The amendment would probably have breezed through most state legislatures, had it not been for persistent pressure against it, beginning in 1970, by conservative activist (and Pat Robertson’s favorite lady) Phyllis Schlafly.

    She opposed gays in the military, favored making divorce law tougher, and believed that sexual harassment on the job was not a problem for “virtuous women.” Her argument was that, “In the ordinary course of human relationships, I think men do not persist in being turned down.” She opposed gay weddings, even though her son was gay. She derided moderate Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as a “feminist.” She claimed that O’Connor had “misled Reagan, who certainly didn’t have feminist views.”

    But just as her anachronistic opinions are minority viewpoints in 2017, they still hold powerful sway among many ultra-conservatives and religious fundamentalists. Many religious leaders still preach to their flocks that a woman’s place is in the home, and that she is to be subservient to her husband. Cruel attacks on Planned Parenthood are all hallmarks of the political tableau of the far-right enemies of ERA.

    Many who strongly favor the ERA point to glaring issues of historic pay inequality, persistent legislative action assuring pregnancy discrimination, and violence against women, often by husbands.

    Between 1972 and 1982, the N.C. General Assembly deliberated ratification unsuccessfully six times. Now there is a concerted effort by determined women’s groups, and by men who support the idea of liberty for all, to finally ratify the amendment. This renewed movement is prompted by extremely hostile political activities taken to demean the status of women and take away their freedoms.

    North Carolina’s Republican General Assembly officials, who may be thinking of voting against ERA ratification, should be reminded of what 26-year-old Abraham Lincoln wrote on June 13, 1836: “I go for sharing the privileges of the government who assist in sharing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no means excluding females).”

    The GOP’s first president believed in equal rights for women. In 1940 the GOP included ERA language in it party platform. It removed it in 1980.

    You may wish to ask State Reps. Jamie Boles Jr. and Allen McNeill and Sen. Jerry Tillman where they stand on the ERA.

    Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at Paulandbj@nc.rr.com.

  • Tax Overhaul Bears Gifts for Conservatives, Including Rights for ‘Unborn’

    From

    Tucked away in the Republican tax plan are several provisions that have little to do with overhauling the tax code and more to do with ensuring conservative lawmakers vote for the legislation.

    The 400-plus-page bill released Thursday includes changes that would codify the rights of “unborn children,” allow tax-exempt religious organizations to engage in political activities and impose hurdles for immigrants seeking to claim refundable tax credits.

    President Trump has long sought to appeal to religious and social conservatives, many of whom were initially wary of the candidacy of a thrice-married Manhattan billionaire who had openly boasted of his sexual conquests and displayed little interest in church or the Christian faith.  Read more …

  • Democrats Can Teach GOP Lessons About Deal-Cutting

    With thanks to the Democratic Women of Moore County President Darlene Dunham for taking the time to represent the DWMC (and the entire Moore County Democratic Party) so well! 

    Her opinion-piece from the Pilot is printed below, with a link to the Pilot’s webpage so you can read the Republican response.

    The author, president of the Moore County Democratic Women, lives in Southern Pines.
    By Darlene Dunham, Special to The Pilot
     
    The Republicans are in trouble. They control all three branches of government, but eight months into their tenures have produced no substantive legislation. This crop of Republicans have fought publicly and privately with each other and taken contrarian stands on their own party’s agenda.
    It appears they are painfully and publicly learning the lesson Democrats have been studying for decades: the art and science of herding cats. The Democratic Party’s “Big Tent” politics has always been about learning how to keep cohesion when disparate subgroups of the party wouldn’t or couldn’t go along with what the majority wanted.
    The savviest leaders under the Big Tent knew how to cut deals and use carrots, sticks and self-interest to get what they wanted from their recalcitrant members. Holding the center, passing legislation, getting folks elected depended on it. The Democrats knew what to do when they were in power.
    The Republicans, on the other hand, are most effective when they are obstructing and negating – when they are saying no. They were unrelenting with President Obama. If he wanted a policy or supported a plan, they would tear it down or vote against it in near-total unanimity.
    Yet not so much now with the unanimity, when they need all hands on deck to govern proactively. No, now the Republicans are falling apart. Members of their own party keep sabotaging them. Time to hit the books, Mr. Ryan and Mr. McConnell. Herding cats doesn’t get any easier the longer you delay.
    Inherent in the above statement is the notion that Republicans might possibly learn to govern effectively with enough study and discipline – that they could become a cohesive powerhouse of a party. It’s important, though, to remember how they found themselves in this enviable position, with which they are doing nothing.
    When they weren’t winning by straight-out fear-mongering, many of them were being elected by reducing complex ideas and policies into simplistic slogans, which they repeated endlessly: small government, family values, a strong military. There was rarely any discussion of what was meant when these candidates would mouth these phrases or of how these ideas would be implemented, paid for or integrated into existing policy.
    And lest the public forget, the most potent arrow in the Republican quiver – the one that would almost certainly guarantee them victories – was hyper-partisan gerrymandering.
    If the fear and pablum they were feeding the voters wasn’t enough for them to win, then they’d just draw illegal districts and triumph that way! If you’ve been taking the easy way out long enough, doing the truly hard work becomes almost impossible.
    Ultimately a party has to stand for something. It is not enough to simply be the party of no, of negativity, of negation. Governing is about, among other things, promoting the general welfare. If you believe in this imperative, as Democrats do, then you have policy ideas you want to promote to help the American people.
    If you arrive in Washington, having been elected in a gerrymandered district, spouting slogans, but having given no substantive thought to what you’ll do once you arrive, you’ll find it pretty rough going getting anything accomplished.
    Even now, when the reins are in their hands, Republicans are spending their goodwill, the public’s patience and an inordinate amount of time working to undo Obama-era legislation, rather than pushing forward their own plans for the country. So could it be, despite the fact that Republicans are so darn good at getting people to vote for them, such masters of killing bills and policy ideas they don’t like, that they are just bloody awful at the art of governance?
    It would appear that way if the Democrats are now the ones cutting deals with the president. The Republicans’ putative leader is an unapologetic opportunist. If what he wants to accomplish requires Democratic votes, then he’ll turn to them. And the Dems will always find ways to work with Trump when his issues align with theirs.
    When the Democrats actually had a plan for dealing with the debt ceiling that didn’t involve the insolvency of the United States, the president paid attention. And when Congressional Democrats – irrespective of their conservative or liberal bent – were committed to doing the right thing by the Dreamers, and had presented concrete, formulated suggestions and ideas about how to help these young people, the president listened to their suggestions and appreciated the advice.
    Every president wants a successful tenure. President Trump is no exception. If the party you belong to is incapable of forward momentum, you turn to the party that is.
    Maybe tomorrow Trump won’t negotiate, but today he might. The Democrats know perfectly well he is unpredictable, but they also know when to seize an opportunity to advance their agenda. It’s a lesson the Republicans might want to learn.

    Read the Republican response by clicking on the Pilot logo:

  • Seeking to Destroy The Obama Legacy

    An Editorial Opinion

    From Sep 5, 2017

    Contributed by James Laney, Aberdeen

    Why are the Republican-led Congress, and the present executive branch, trying to destroy the previous administration’s legacy?

    To be blunt, the Republican-led Congress and President Trump are in the process of repealing or overturning all of President Obama’s achievements, to the detriment of this country.

    Here are a small sampling of those achievements:

    * Health Care Reform, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

    * The Paris Agreement: For the first time, this agreement charts a new course in the global effort to fight the climate crisis.

    * The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: This Act allows the USDA, for the first time in 30 years, to make real reforms to school lunch and breakfast programs, including the enactment of Nutrition Fact Labeling.

    * President Obama’s decision to change immigration policy toward Cuba. The United States and Cuba officially re-established diplomatic relations July 1, 2015.

    * The Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

    * The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected millions of undocumented kids from deportation.

    * The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers July 14, 2015, also known as the Iran Deal.

    “Every new president changes course, particularly those succeeding someone from the other party,” Peter Baker wrote in The New York Times. “But rarely has a new president appeared so determined not just to steer the country in a different direction but also to actively dismantle what was established before his arrival.”

    For President Trump, and his past and present actions toward this country’s first African-American president, was he motivated by politics or hate, or acting for the same reason he waited 48 hours to explicitly respond to what happen in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12?

     

    James Laney, Aberdeen

  • Point and Counterpoint: Health Care 

    Though Far From Perfect, ACA Is a Good Starting Point

    On a regular basis, the Pilot dedicates space on it’s Opinion page to feature “dueling” commentary from Darlene Dunham, President of the Democratic Women of Moore County, and John Rowerdink, former Chair of the Moore County Republican Party.  The following appeared in the August 16th edition:

    The author, president of the Moore County Democratic Women, lives in Southern Pines.

    By Darlene Dunham, Special to The Pilot

    Before passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), too many people simply went without medical care, declared bankruptcy because of huge medical bills, or utilized expensive emergency rooms for routine health care problems. And not enough younger, healthier Americans purchased insurance to help spread the risk.

    Obamacare solved some of these problems, but not all. There were successes, especially in the early years. Overall, insurance companies were making a profit, emergency room visits were down, and many young adults, up to the age of 26, were able to remain on their parents’ policies.

    And in the state of New York, where the ACA has been fully embraced and managed as it was designed, the uninsured today make up just a tiny fraction of the population, a bit over 5 percent.

    The ACA may well have been a better product if the Republicans had chosen to engage in the crafting of it. But since they declined — and immediately starting attacking it — we’re now faced with a conundrum.

    Americans have clearly demonstrated they want the ACA. And they want their leaders to figure out how to fix it. Yet how do those Congress members, committed to killing a law they have detested for nearly a decade, suddenly find the energy and enthusiasm to help craft a better version?

    And what of those on the other side, who fought so hard to keep the ACA from being repealed? How do they muster interest in working with those they believe do not have the heart or commitment to do the difficult and painstaking work of creating a better ACA?

    First and foremost, Republicans need to figure out how to respectfully work across the aisle with the opposition party. The Democrats did the heavy lifting in giving America the ACA, and they fought hard to keep it. If the Republicans are truly interested in fixing it, they need to come to the table prepared to work with Democrats who are offering concrete solutions.

    As many Democrats warned, Obamacare is not a problem-free answer to this country’s health care issues. Though there are some Dems who believe that if the president would cease threatening to withhold cost-sharing subsidies to insurers and enforce the rules regarding the purchase of insurance or payment of penalties, the law would work just fine.

    Other Democratic leaders think there are parts of the ACA that do need some tinkering. Among their suggestions are higher subsidies and the addition of a “copper” option, beneath bronze in the list of plan choices. This plan would have cheaper premiums and higher deductibles and would be marketed to younger, healthier folks, encouraging them to purchase some form of basic health insurance.

    In addition to the suggestions mentioned above about ways to strengthen and improve the ACA (there are dozens more that have been put forward by Democrats across the country) here are additional steps that I believe our lawmakers should seriously consider:

    — Shore up the insurance markets. About 200 companies left the markets because the plans they offered provided almost no coverage and the ACA forbid the sale of them. Many of the states that had few choices in insurance providers before Obamacare still have few choices.

    — Add a public option to the insurance markets. It would help drive down costs.

    — Tell states to immediately expand Medicaid. This act alone will help stabilize hospitals, particularly rural health centers, which still have to provide care even when there is no avenue for reimbursement.

    — Allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. It is ridiculous that the VA can bargain with drug companies but Medicare cannot.

    While it may be a less-than-perfect vehicle, the ACA has been a much needed starting point in addressing a host of entrenched problems. Check out the Commonwealth Fund’s most recent performance rankings on health care systems worldwide. Of all the wealthy nations, the United States ranks dead last on most measures. It should be manifestly shameful to every American that the United States spends as much money as it does on health care and ranks this low.

    Yet it is still a very useful document if we pay attention to what it is saying. Essentially it reports that we still have a considerable amount of work to do to repair our broken system. But it offers us enough successful models to study so that ultimately — if we create fixes in the existing law, continue and build upon those favorable outcomes now taking place under the ACA, and perhaps borrow from what has worked in other countries (the Netherlands has a successful model similar to Obamacare) — the United States could have a health care system that insures everyone and is second to none.

    The ball is in your court, congressional Republicans. Will you cooperate with the Democrats to build a better ACA and a healthier America?

    (To view this article, and Mr. Rowerdink’s opinion, click here)