While President Obama and congressional Republicans negotiate toward a Dec. 31 deadline, North Carolina faces its own fiscal cliff.
The state owes the federal government about $3 billion that it borrowed to pay unemployment benefits. That's a big chunk of change -- it's the fourth biggest unemployment debt of any state in the nation -- and the number grows daily because the feds assess penalties until it's paid off.
The problem has been bubbling for a while (to read my column on it from last May, click here), and has finally gotten bad enough that it should be near the top of the legislature's to-do list when it convenes in a couple of months.
Lew Ebert, CEO of the North Carolina Chamber, stopped by the Observer editorial board Wednesday to talk about it. Ebert said the unemployment debt -- not taxes, not regulations -- was the single biggest cloud hovering over the state's economy. Those other issues can't really be tackled until state leaders deal with the debt, he said.
Ignoring it, Ebert said, is actually a tax hike, because the federal penalty on businesses keeps accruing -- to the tune of $400 million this year, he said.
The Chamber, representing businesses, advocates a three-step approach:
-- First, bond out the debt. That means issuing bonds to pay off the feds. The debt's still there, but then is owed to the bondholders, not the federal government, erasing the federal penalties. It also puts all N.C. taxpayers on the hook. Ebert says Treasurer Janet Cowell, a Democrat, indicated she would be open to the bonding. The Treasurer's office has not returned my call asking about that today.
-- Raise rates on employers.
-- Cut benefits to the unemployed.
Ebert acknowledged that businesses enjoyed generous tax cuts in the good times, and those cuts contributed to the system's insolvency. So do people getting benefits who shouldn't and, of course, the Great Recession.
For more detail on the Chamber's approach, click here.
Everyone will have to share in the pain to fix the problem. It's good that Ebert recognizes that higher rates have to be part of the solution. No one's getting rich off their unemployment benefits, but as part of the fix, liberals will have to acknowledge that millions are paid out improperly.
-- Taylor Batten
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Seceding from the United States? One pundit wise-cracked, "Hasn't that been tried before?"
Yes, but a story Monday pointed out that North Carolina had collected more than 10,000 signatures on a petition introduced by Randy Dye of Pittsboro to secede from federal government as a separate and sovereign entity. On that day, it was said to be one of 24 states with petitions on the White House website website
established by the Obama administration to allow citizens to take their
concerns directly to the White House. If the petitions get 25,000 signatures the Obama administration will issue a formal response to them.
As this week nears an end, reportedly all 50 states have now secession petitions on the website. Some like South Carolina have two or more, worded slightly differently but with the same intent.
The media is exhausting every angle and absurdity. The Week has "The 7 strangest details of the David Petraeus Affair" including that "Kelley's twin sister dated a governor" and that the New York Times Magazine Ethicist Chuck Klosterman "did not counsel Scott Broadwell - maybe." Apparently the Times ethicist wrote about a reader seeking advice of how to deal with a spouse cheating on him with a high-ranking "government executive" who sounds a lot like Petraeus. The Times says the writer wasn't Scott Broadwell — Klosterman himself isn't sure — "which begs the question: What other top-level government official is having a Petraeus-style affair?" The Week inquires.
The New Republic has an interesting twist in Noam Scheiber's "Paula Broadwell, a Hanger-On in King Petraeus's Court". It's all about how meritocracy gone awry is the culprit. Maybe this is a bit over-thought. I doubt being among the best and brightest would have helped entice the nation's top spy to stray if she'd been unattractive or plain. It's no coincidence that the women involved are beauties in great shape.
There's also the Daily Beast's Ken Sepkowitz writing "Doctors as Doormats in the David Petraeus Scandal" about the physician husbands of Broadwell and Kelley.
And in a lonely category of media commentary comes The Daily Beast's Allison Yarrow's, "A Scarlet Letter - the Monica Lewinsky-ing of Paula Broadwell." For those with short memories, Monica Lewinsky was the woman President Bill Clinton had an affair with while he was chief executive after lying to the American public - and to wife Hillary - about it. Notes Yarrow: "The more things change: one of the world’s most powerful men stepped out on his marriage, yet much of the public attention and opprobrium has focused on the far-less-powerful woman who was drawn to him..."
That many in the media and other onlookers see the women involved as mata-haris from which strong, decent men are being lured into illicit sex (or inappropriate flirtations) is hardly surprising. That's how we as a society view the "other woman" - she's trash while the man involved is somehow suckered in.
But it takes two to tango. And there's a simple way to avoid the "traps" of these beautiful, often obsessive women. It's sad to have to tell spies and generals this - they should know better after all. But when these black-widow spiders try to lure you in bed (and I'm oh-so sure they must be doing the luring - right?), be flattered but just say "no".
Try it sometime, men. It works.
Posted by Fannie Flono
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Kelley is the Tampa woman who complained to the FBI after receiving harassing emails from, it turned out, Charlotte's Paula Broadwell. The ensuing FBI investigation ultimately led to Gen. David Petraeus' resignation as CIA director.
The Washington Post reported that Kelley's brother, David Khawam, said his sister called him Sunday and said, "I've done nothing wrong. I'm the victim here."
Maybe, maybe not. News reports this morning say that Kelley exchanged thousands of "potentially inappropriate" emails with Marine Gen. John R. Allen, the four-star commander of the war in Afghanistan. Politico reports that the FBI on Sunday gave up to 30,000 pages of emails between the two to Pentagon lawyers. Allen was based in Tampa, where Kelley lives, before taking over Afghanistan operations from Petraeus in July 2011.
Earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI agent who first took Kelley's complaint and started the investigation allegedly sent shirtless photos of himself to Kelley prior to any of this. The agent is now under investigation by the internal affairs unit of the FBI, the Journal reported.
Kelley quickly became a mainstay in Tampa's social scene, mostly in military circles, after moving there from Pennsylvania. The mansion she shared with her husband, oncologist Scott Kelley, was the frequent site for parties featuring top generals and politicians. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Kelleys were foreclosed upon and in 2011 a judge ordered the property sold.
Kelley has described Petraeus as being like a grandfather to her family, the Tampa Bay Times reports. But her relationship with the general was close enough to prompt emails from Broadwell telling her to back off. And CNN reports that Broadwell's emails warn Kelley about leaving a number of generals alone, not just Petraeus.
Maybe Kelley really is a victim here. But there sure is a lot of smoke. Stay tuned; we have a hunch there's more to come.
-- Taylor Batten
Monday, November 12, 2012
It's a topsy turvy world in North Carolina. While Democrats cheer and Republicans moan over election results in Washington, it's the other way around in the Tar Heel state. Democrats are moaning over election results here from the governor's office through the N.C. General Assembly, and wondering how to resurrect a state party that's on its knees. Meanwhile Republicans are cheering their big wins, which include a majority on the state's high court, and looking with confidence on pushing the state farther right on policy and governing.
Barry Smith of the John Locke Foundation publication Carolina Journal lays out "the magnitude of the dramatic gains made by the Republicans in the Nov. 6 election." He said a postelection briefing by the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation showed:
"Republicans picked up three congressional seats in the state, with one seat (the 7th District) still in doubt. In that district, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre holding a razor-thin 411-vote lead over GOP state Sen. David Rouzer. The GOP also picked up seats in the 8th, 11th, and 13th Districts... The gains for the Republicans mean that they will enjoy a nine-to-four advantage in the states congressional delegate. Currently, Democrats hold a seven-to six advantage.
"Republicans also padded their majorities in the General Assembly. When lawmakers convene in Raleigh in January, Republicans will have a 32-18 advantage in the Senate (currently it’s 31-19) and a 77-43 majority in the House (currently it’s 68-52)."
The foundation also found:
• The new Senate will have 13 freshman members, five Democrats and eight Republicans.
• Thirty of the 50 senators next year will be serving in either their first or second term.
• Half of the members of the Democratic Senate caucus — nine of 18 —will be African-American.
• There will be 43 freshman members of the House next year – 12 Democrats and 31 Republicans.
• Sixty-nine of the 120 representatives will be serving in either their first or second terms.
• Twenty-two of the 43 House Democratic caucus members will be African-American.
Key reasons for N.C. GOP gains are no secret: Republican lawmakers redrew district lines in the state to give GOP candidates in several districts an advantage, and Republicans outspent Democrats to help get their candidates elected. That's politics. It's what Democrats did in the past to Republicans.
Progressives bemoaned the outcome, with Chris Fitzsimon, director of N.C. Policy Watch, calling the N.C. Democratic Party a "party in shambles, marred by internal scandals and open feuds between party leaders and top elected officials that made fundraising almost impossible."
That's our new moniker now that allegations have emerged that author Paula Broadwell who's lived in the Queen City since 2009 with her family had an affair with CIA director David Petraeus (or "betray us" as some disillusioned fans of the general are now calling him). He resigned as director last week.
The other mistress residing in the city - in case you forgot - is Rielle Hunter, once the paramour of presidential candidate and former U.S. senator from North Carolina, John Edwards. The outing of Edwards caused him to drop out of the 2008 presidential race.
Diane Diamond in the Daily Beast notes that the two women live within blocks of each other. "Perhaps the two spotted each other at the Dilworth Gardens Shopping Center just off Scott Avenue," she writes. Ummm.
While you're pondering that, take a gander at some of the conspiracy theories swirling around the handling of the Petraeus affair. The New Republic's Eileen Shim outlined several of them, with these two being leading theories: "that Petraeus delayed his resignation to avoid hurting President Obama on Election Day, and to hide the “truth” about Ambassador Chris Stevens’ death in Benghazi."
The Petraeus affair still fought with fallout from the elections for news coverage however. Here's some more of what pundits were saying.
From Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard:
"The white vote is a Republican stronghold - and not because of racism. In 2008, Obama fared better with white voters (43 percent) than Democrat John Kerry had in 2004 (41 percent). In 2012, Obama’s white support fell to 39 percent. He won 55 percent of the women’s vote overall, but only 42 percent of white women. Republicans shouldn’t feel guilty about their white support. Nor should they apologize for winning the male vote again this year (52 percent). Whites, particularly white men, are simply more conservative than African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. Their natural home is the Republican party. This is also true of the middle class, no matter where you set its parameters. The largest body of voters (31 percent) have family incomes between $50,000 and $99,000 a year. Romney won this bloc, 52-46 percent.
"Best of all, the Republican bench of potential presidential candidates is young, deep, and impressive. Here’s the short list: Senator Marco Rubio (41), Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (41), Paul Ryan (42), Senator Kelly Ayotte (44), South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (40), Senator-elect Ted Cruz (41), and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker (45). Democrats don’t come close to matching this group...With Pat McCrory’s election in North Carolina, Republicans hold 30 of the 50 governorships. This is no small feat. Governors invariably are the strongest political leaders in their states... They’re important players in national politics."
In the Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell tags the Obama win as a triumph of values - the wrong ones - in "Values Voters Prevail Again." He writes:
"In January, the Obama White House set out to pick a fight with the Catholic church over contraception. A Health and Human Services directive ordered that all insurance plans cover contraception, morning after pills, and sterilizations with no exceptions for religious conscience. This looked like an act of folly. Not only was it an affront to the free exercise of religion, but Catholics are the largest group of swing voters in the country... [But] The Obama campaign understood that 'reproductive rights' are similar to 'gun rights.' Even if the number of people who care about protecting them is small, all of them vote on the issue. And in a country that now has as many single women as married women, the number is not small. President Obama won the Catholic vote on the strength of a landslide among Hispanics. (Non-Hispanic Catholics opposed him 59-40 percent.)
Caldwell criticized Romney for not being firm on his beliefs, comparing his views on abortion to an old Groucho Marx line: "These are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." Caldwell noted of the presidential race: "The values were different, but structurally the outcome was the same one that we have seen decade after decade. Where two candidates argue over values, the public may prefer one to the other. But where only one candidate has values, he wins, whatever those values happen to be."
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
There's a theme running through editorials from N.C. newspapers about former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory's win as N.C. governor Tuesday night, the first Republican to hold the office in 20 years and the first Charlotte resident in 92: Huge challenges await him, his leadership ability will be sorely tested, and bipartisanship and centrist governing should be his calling card. We said the same things in our editorial, "Pat McCrory takes historic win." We hope the state's chief executive-elect takes to heart these sentiments, avoids blind adherence to hard-right party stands and truly works on behalf of all N.C. residents.
During his seven terms as mayor, Charlotte launched a light-rail system, developed an appealing “uptown” environment and raised its national profile to the point where it could be selected to host a national convention. McCrory set partisanship aside in the city’s best interests.
Now, when his party will control all of state government except some Council of State offices, McCrory should take the same approach. He wasn’t elected to follow the legislature’s plunge to the right but to find pragmatic solutions that can win bipartisan support....
Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight blog appears in the New York Times, might be getting the spotlight for his statistical modelling that was spot-on in predicting the results of the presidential election. He accurately called which candidate would take electoral votes in all 50 states (assuming Florida stays in President Obama's corner as the final tally comes in). He also appears to get right - or close to it - the the popular vote count percentage win for Obama.
But there were experts closer to home who got the prediction right as well.
Drew Linzer, an assistant professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta and a former pollster based in California, predicted on the website Votamatic.org on Tuesday morning that Obama would get 332 electoral votes and Romney 206. And his model for votamatic had been making that same prediction since June.
Farther away, Sam Wang, a Princeton University professor of neuroscience, had the race called at 332 electoral votes for Obama until 2 p.m. Tuesday when he moved Florida's 29 electoral votes to Mitt Romney, making it 303 for Obama and 235 for Romney. They're still counting in Florida so we'll see.
But it's great to see nerdy mathematicians getting some glory. It's also swell to see those anti-math, anti-science critics who pooh-poohed statistical analysis looking a little chagrined.
Posted by Fannie Flono
Monday, November 5, 2012
The American Presidency Project has a final tally of whom major U.S. newspapers endorsed for president in 2012. The winner and probably not a surprise: Barack Obama received the endorsement of 41 newspapers. Mitt Romney got the nod from 34. Two editorial boards gave a split endorsement.
Among the big endorsements for Obama: The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Washington Post. For Romney: The Dallas Morning News, New York Daily News, New York Post and Houston Chronicle. The conservative Wall Street Journal doesn't endorse candidates.
The Observer endorsed Barack Obama, although we noted that neither choice was inspiring.
Twelve newspapers that endorsed Obama in 2008 decided on Romney in 2012, while only one, the San Antonio Express-News, endorsed Obama this year after endorsing John McCain in 2008. Eighteen newspapers endorsed no candidates; most did so as matter of endorsement policy, not an unwillingness to pick one this election.
Among all newspapers, however, Republicans have received the nod more often in 16 of the previous 20 presidential elections, dating back to 1932, according to newspaper trade publication Editor & Publisher. Many of those Republican endorsements come from small circulation newspapers.
USA Today's John McIver helpfully breaks down the historical data:
That's a clear shift toward Democrats, although E&P shows a 146-120 Romney lead in endorsements thus far among all newspapers. .Since 1932, E&P has recorded almost 18,000 endorsements by more than 2,600 newspapers nationally. In any given year, there are 300 to 1,000 endorsements. Based on my study of E&P data, Republican presidential candidates have received more newspaper endorsements over the years — though perhaps things are starting to shift in the Democrats' favor. Let's look at recent decades:
- In the 1940s, out of 1,043 newspaper endorsements: Republican candidates got 76%, Democrats, 24%.
- In the '60s, out of 839 newspapers, Republicans received 68%, Democrats, 32%.
- In the '80s, out of 452 newspapers, Republicans got 78%, Democrats, 22%.
- In the 2000s, out of 394 newspapers, Democrats received 51.9% of the endorsements, Republicans 48.1%.
Peter St. Onge
Good morning and welcome to the pre-election edition of O-pinion, the editorial board's blog.
We're less than 24 hours away from Election Day. National polls continue to show a very tight race. State polls show that President Barack Obama has a slightly more favorable map than Republican Mitt Romney.
What are the pollsters and pundits predicting? Our prediction below.
Let's start with the most-talked about poll cruncher, Nate Silver of the New York Times. His FiveThirtyEight blog's calculations, scorned by Republicans but very accurate in 2008, show Obama with an 86.3 percent chance of winning to Romney's 13.7 as of this morning. The electoral college prediction: 307.2 - 230.8.
The reason, says Silver, is simple: State polls don't lie. Historically, they are a remarkably accurate predictor of what happens on Election Day. With polls in critical states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Iowa tilting consistently toward Obama, a widespread statistical bias would have to exist for them to be wrong. Not impossible, Silver says, but not likely.
The Real Clear Politics roundup of polls has Obama leading narrowly 47.8-47.4 in national polls, but with a more comfortable 303-235 electoral college lead. Both RCP and FiveThirtyEight have Romney winning North Carolina.
For conservatives who believe the polls don't reflect a Republican enthusiasm that will be reflected in turnout, take heart in Republican-leaning pollster Rasmussen Reports, which has Romney and Obama tied at 49 nationally and tied in Ohio - key to a Romney victory.
NYT liberal columnist Paul Krugman says it's stupid to call it a close race.
Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff for President George W. Bush, says data and anecdotal evidence of enthusiam points to a Romney win.
Ben Domenech of the political blog The Transom predicts that Obama's failure with whites and independents will "sink" him. Romney 278-260, he says.
Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics says Obama 290-248.
Conservative blogger Eric Erickson of RedState says he wavers by the hour, but believes (at least as of Friday) that Romney will win Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and Florida on his way to a 285-253 electoral college victory.
Time.com political guru Mark Halperin, on MSNBC's Morning Joe today, hints more than predicts:
The President’s team has plenty of enthusiasm. They clearly have a strong turnout operation. Their micro-targeting efforts are much more sophisticated than, I think, they’ve led us to believe so far. We will find out later. But if you’re a Republican and you want something to hang this on, enthusiasm, you go to the storm. You’re right. There are plenty of Republicans close to the Romney campaign who are saying, basically, if we lose this, it will be because of the storm. We’ll never know.The members of ABC's "This Week" roundtable largely favor Obama: GEORGE WILL - Romney: 321, Obama: 217; COKIE ROBERTS - Obama: 294, Romney: 234; RONALD BROWNSTEIN - Obama: 288, Romney: 250; MATTHEW DOWD - Obama: 303, Romney: 235; DONNA BRAZILE - Obama: 313, Romney: 225.
Dean Chambers of Unskewed Polls, which has contended that most presidential polling suffers from sampling errors, says Romney will win Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin on his way to a 311-227 romp.
The O-pinion projection? Conservatives should be encouraged by the comparative enthusiasm of the crowds at Romney rallies over the weekend. A promising sign for turnout in states like Ohio tomorrow? Maybe. But unless the polls are historically inaccurate, Obama has an unmistakeable edge in swing states. Obama 286, Romney 252. Here's our electoral map.
Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Peter St. Onge