- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


March 28

Republicans question Democrats' resolve as public turns against impeachment
Cameron Walters, fresh from boot camp, one of 3 killed at Naval Air Station Pensacola
CNN's primetime ratings hit three-year low amid impeachment coverage

The Wilson Daily Times on the recognition of the Green Party in North Carolina:

Tar Heels will have a fourth political party to choose from when updating their voter registrations, and some North Carolina voters will see a new candidate designation on their ballots this fall.

By unanimous vote, the new nine-member State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement chose Tuesday to recognize the Green Party in North Carolina. The Greens applied for recognition under a new state law extending ballot access to political parties listed on ballots in 70 percent of U.S. states in the most recent presidential election.

That means voters now have five registration options - Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green and unaffiliated. It also allows Green Party candidates to file for office and appear on November ballots. Party members will nominate their candidates in a convention in lieu of holding primaries this year.

Whether you love, hate or have never heard of the Green Party, its inclusion is good news for democracy. Like-minded people banding together under a common banner and working to effect change is, after all, what America is all about.

“Opening up the ballot is good for North Carolina and will help to reinvigorate the political process,” Tony Ndege, state party co-chairman, said in a news release. “People have given up on the two-party system, and too many voters stay home on Election Day. The largest party right now is the disaffected American - people are hungry for real grassroots participation in politics and in their communities. The North Carolina Green Party looks forward to giving people a reason to engage and fight for the future that we all deserve.”

North Carolina has Jill Stein to thank for the expansion of choice voters will now enjoy. A doctor and medical school professor, Stein was the Green Party’s 2016 presidential candidate. She benefited from voters’ flirtation with third-party candidates due to dissatisfaction with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican standard-bearer and eventual President Donald Trump.

Polling as high as 7 percent at early- to mid-stages of the campaign, Stein was a balloted candidate in 45 states and received nearly 1½ million votes, topping the Green Party’s three previous presidential efforts combined.

Libertarian Gary Johnson, the other minor-party hopeful, drew just under 4.5 million votes, about 3.27 percent of U.S. ballots cast, crushing the Libertarian Party’s record for presidential performance. He was on the ballot in all 50 states.

Johnson polled as high as 13 percent and was considered a bona fide third-party threat until debate moderators denied him a place on the stage and a series of gaffes in televised interviews dampened his momentum.

The Green Party is a self-described progressive group whose name reflects its focus on environmental issues. Its 10 key values include ecological wisdom, nonviolence, decentralization of wealth and power, future focus and sustainability and personal and global responsibility. The Greens eschew corporate campaign contributions and political action committees and encourage grassroots activism.

Some Democrats fear the far-left Green Party could play the role of spoiler and siphon off some of its more progressive voters, just as Republicans fret about losing small-government conservatives to the Libertarian and Constitution parties. Traditionally, third parties face ballot access hurdles because the Ds and Rs in power would rather divide the Election Day pie between themselves than carve out more and smaller slices.

We’ve always said more choices are better than fewer choices, and we welcome the Green Party’s addition to North Carolina’s political landscape. We’d like to see even more political parties in the mix.

In the same vein, our state should stop punishing independents by requiring them to petition for ballot access. Collecting thousands or tens of thousands of signatures is a high hurdle that prevents otherwise qualified unaffiliated candidates from putting themselves forward for public service.

Unaffiliated is a catchall category for voters who are not a member of a recognized party. That designation is No. 2 in North Carolina voter registrations - behind Democrats and ahead of Republicans and Libertarians. Though unaffiliated voters don’t comprise a political party, if they did, that formidable voting bloc would immediately become a contender.

North Carolina should add an unaffiliated primary to its May election schedule, allowing any qualified candidate to compete against fellow independents for a spot on the general election ballot.

While the game’s still rigged and the playing field’s still tilted toward the two major parties, giving Greens a place at the table is a quantum leap forward for political choice.

Online: http://www.wilsontimes.com/


March 31

The News & Observer of Raleigh calls for more investment in rural North Carolina:

At The News & Observer’s Community Voices forum last week on “Bridging North Carolina’s urban-rural divide,” a librarian came forward during the question-and-answer period. She told the forum’s panel how budget cuts have forced libraries to reduce their hours and further limited rural residents’ access to the internet and librarians who can steer them to good sources of information.

It was a brief but telling exchange about unintended consequences. Republicans, who control the state legislature. think they’re helping rural North Carolinians by slashing business taxes, but lowering taxes requires tightening state spending, and that ultimately limits county and municipal budgets. Eventually, that austerity hits local libraries, making it harder for some rural residents to communicate and get ahead. The message is that rural North Carolina needs investment, not tax cuts.

Some rural parts of North Carolina are finding ways to move forward on their own, but most are struggling. Thirty four of the state’s 80 rural counties lost population between 2016 and 2017.. The economic boom that has lifted the state’s urban counties hasn’t touched many of the state’s small towns and farming communities.

At the forum, state Sen. Erica Smith, a Democrat representing eight rural counties in the northeastern part of the state, described a lack of access in her district to such basics as the internet and doctors. She said people gather in school parking lots to use the school’s internet signal and some drive for hours to see a doctor. She also described how schools struggle to find teachers and young people leave for better jobs.

There may be political gains in pitting rural against urban, but it’s not helping rural North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper is trying to address the need with a new program called Hometown Strong, but the state needs the legislature to join him and adopt policies that will help bring the two North Carolinas into better balance.

Some steps that would help are clear:

. Expand Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act is under siege by the Trump administration, but it’s still insuring people who otherwise wouldn’t be insured. The money for expansion is still there. Medicaid expansion would help sustain rural hospitals both as sources of care and employment.

. Increase school funding. Rural areas need help supporting quality schools and paying teachers. Good schools are the key to a better economy. They improve the quality of the workforce and are often the largest employer in rural areas.

. Support renewable energy. Wind farms and solar farms make use of empty land, provide extra income to support small farms and bolster the local tax base.

. Increase the minimum wage. Too many jobs in rural areas don’t pay enough to support a family. Set a minimum living wage and employers will meet it.

. Encourage farming alternatives and open access to markets. Rochelle Sparko, a panelist at the forum and policy director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, pointed to the growing market for organic foods and the need to make it easier for farmers to get their produce to urban customers.

Sparko rightly observed that to close the rural-urban divide, “A single point of connection, a bridge, is not enough. We need a complex network of connections.”

That network needs the support of people from all directions and on both sides of the aisle. It’s time for North Carolina to rise above politics to bring the two North Carolinas closer together.

Online: http://www.newsobserver.com/


April 3

The Fayetteville Observer on how a trade war would affect North Carolina:

For the past few weeks, all the president’s talk about trade wars has been an abstract notion for most of us - a concern for policymakers in Washington but nothing that would come home to disrupt our daily lives.

But when China announced Monday that it’s slapping a 25 percent tariff on pork products in retaliation to President Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, the global became local. It may be just a little sting, but we’re worried about what will happen if this is only the first round of a trade war soon to escalate.

North Carolina is the second-biggest pork-producing state in the country and most of the producers are in eastern North Carolina. According to pork industry statistics, Sampson and Duplin counties are the top two pork-producing counties in the country. Between them they raise more than a third of the more than 9 million hogs produced annually in this state. That’s a lot of spare ribs.

And in the case of China exports, that’s a lot of pigs’ feet, ears and stomachs, the primary products that China buys from American pork producers. According to a report this week by WUNC, North Carolina exported about $100 million in pork products to China last year. It’s unclear whether the new tariffs would kill that business. Equally puzzling is why China first targeted pork, since the Chinese company WH Group owns Smithfield Foods, this country’s largest pork producer, which also operates the world’s largest pork processing facility, just down N.C. 87 in Bladen County.

But then, China raises most of its own pork supply, importing only 3 percent of its pork products from the U.S. The biggest American pork importers are Canada and Mexico, a fact that should touch off big what-if concerns if the president makes good on his threats to blow up the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But that’s only the beginning of our worries. Trump and China are both making noises about escalating a trade war, and China is signaling that agricultural imports will be the earliest targets for new tariffs. Corn and soybeans - big business for North Carolina farmers - have already been mentioned.

The agricultural focus of China’s first wave of retaliatory tariffs makes it clear that the country is aiming a spear at the rural, agricultural parts of this country where the president has had the greatest support. If business is hurt and this causes Trump’s popularity to decline, there surely will be smiles in Beijing.

But if the trade war escalates, this state can be hurt in many more ways. North Carolina’s economy did $32.6 billion in export business last year and China was our third-biggest trading partner - trailing only Canada and Mexico. Overall trade with China last year brought $2.3 billion into this state’s economy. Chemicals are by far this state’s biggest export product, followed by transportation equipment, machinery, computer and electronic products and textiles and fabrics (yes, we’re still in that business, to the tune of $1.9 billion in exports last year). Again, we’re worried more about the fall of NAFTA here than a tariff battle with China, however painful that might be.

Given the delicate balance of a global economy, we doubt the president’s assurances that a trade war is easy to win, with few consequences for the American economy. But given the huge trade imbalance between the U.S. and China - we import from China vastly more than we export to it - it’s likely survivable.

But we’re much more worried about the president’s threats to tear up other trade agreements, especially NAFTA, which has turned the U.S., Canada and Mexico into what in many ways is a unified economy - much to the benefit of all three countries.

As much as the president wants to build a protective wall around this nation’s manufacturers, disrupting the global economy and free trade will cause far more harm than good for the American economy. We hope he heeds the early signs that this won’t end well for us.

Online: http://www.fayobserver.com/

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