Why We Should Be Nervous

Back in July of 2016, long before I thought of running for office, I wrote about Donald Trump’s economic policies towards China;

“Of course, if we place tariffs on their goods, they are likely to do the same to ours. As the prices of our domestic goods increase and inflation becomes certain, our currency will be less valuable to them and so they will be able to buy even less. Countries like China and India, where almost half the world’s population (market) lives will be unable to buy American made products at all.”

Now almost 2 years later The Donald has ramped up discussions about tariffs, and he may be right (yup, I said it). While he recently tweeted “We are not in a trade war with China, the trade war was lost many years ago…”Make no mistake, we are in a trade war with China that is going to last for decades.

It began on March 8th when the US announced tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum. This past Tuesday the Office of the US Trade Office announced tariffs on over 100 Chinese goods, particularly in the technology sectors.  These tariffs will affect about $50 billion of imports annually. So, later the same day China announced tariffs on guess how much US exports? Yup you guessed it, over 100 products totaling, you guess it right again, about $50 billion. If that doesn’t sound like a trade war, it’s is certainly a war of words. And the stock market, which believes in words a lot, reacted, dropping almost $1500 of value in less than a month.

Here is why we should be nervous. Back in 2015, Beijing announced the “Made in China 2025” initiative. That document calls for China to be nearly self-sufficient in key technology industries and for Chinese companies to own 80% of those sectors in their home markets by 2020.  The initiative plans to accomplish this by issuing huge low-interest loans from state investment funds and aiding the purchase of foreign competitors. China expects to invest over $300 billion of government funding in the plan. President Trump recently stopped two Chinese acquisitions of American tech companies. Canyon Bridge Capital Partners, a Chinese-controlled buyout fund, tried to takeover chipmaker Lattice Semiconductor and Singapore’s Broadcom attempted a takeover of Qualcomm, one of China’s biggest competitors in wireless communications.

This past Sunday, Premier Li Keqiang said “We will accelerate R&D (research and development) and commercialization of new materials, artificial intelligence, integrated circuits, bio-pharmacy, 5G mobile communications and other technologies…” In the process, China plans to reduce the dependence on companies like Boeing, Airbus, General Electric, Siemens, Samsung and Intel.  According to German think tank Mercator “Chinese high-tech investments need to be interpreted as building blocks of an overarching political program. It aims to systematically acquire cutting-edge technology and generate large-scale technology transfer. In the long run, China wants to obtain control over the most profitable segments of the global supply chains and production networks.”  That sounds like war.

While the plan to invest $300 billion into economic growth sounds crazy in light of the fact that the Republican controlled US government just added $1.5 trillion to our national debt by giving tax breaks to the wealthy, it is not without precedent. Remember something called TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), aka the bailout? That program invested, you guessed right once again, over $300 billion. Because most of that money was in loans and equity all recent analyses place the results at around $30 billion of profit! There is one major problem with that solution, according to Republicans; it was implemented by President Obama.

Now China is planning to do roughly the same thing. Although they are not facing an international economic crisis they understand that in the near future they will be if they don’t invest today. Unfortunately, our government can’t focus on more than four years at a time. If we don’t change our economic policies by investing in innovative technologies, we are destined to join the ranks of second-tier countries that depend on foreign countries like China to lead the way into the future.

Behind the Curtains of a Campaign (NRA Review)

This is our first installment in “behind the curtains of a campaign.” It is about the numerous candidate questionnaires we get and a short review on the one I got from the NRA.

For the record my position on gun control is the following:
1) ban assault-style weapons from the public domain (except the police and the military)
2) raise the minimum age to purchase other guns to 21
3) require universal background checks and waiting periods
4) no arming of teachers

You can read more about my position on gun control here.

Don’t Vote

Your right to vote is under attack. Staying home on election day is exactly what the people in power want you to do. The very nature of Democracy is under siege. Our politicians only answer to a wealthy few and the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves and it’s not good enough.

Why is it that year after year, election after election, the only people who vote are the ones that are angry enough to care? And why aren’t you angry enough?

You can vent on facebook, twitter and Instagram. You can chant on marches, carry clever signs and offer thoughts and prayers but it’s not enough.

We are at a delicate moment in the history of our country. Our elected officials are typically voted in by one-quarter of eligible voters and even then by the slimmest of margins. The fifty percent of voters that don’t vote think they are voting against the system, against the incumbents, against the past. But they are kidding themselves. If you want change, don’t leave it up to others to make the decision for you, they won’t. If you want to see new ideas and new paths you have be angry enough to work for it. The only thing that matters is change. If you want change for the better, if you want change at all, it’s up to you to go out and get it.

Voting is easy. If you need a ride, you can get it. If you need a baby sitter, you can get it. If you don’t know where to go, just ask. In 2016, 102 million people didn’t vote. Donald Trump got a total of 63 million votes.

But the people in power don’t want you to vote. Keeping people from voting is as American as apple pie. It took a civil war, a suffragette movement and an act Congress just to get the right to vote for African-Americans and women. So how do you hold onto power? Easy. You make it harder, or impossible, for those people to vote. This suppression of the voices of change is the centerpiece of the Republican Party’s 2020 strategy. They systematically eliminate same-day registration, close polling stations in minority areas and cut back early-voting hours and Sunday voting.

These laws may not be as blatant as the poll taxes or literacy tests of the Jim Crow 1800’s but they are just as real in the 21st century.
Frustration is understandable, and to some degree it’s justified. But if people don’t vote, elections will be decided by smaller and smaller groups of voters. The ones that are angry enough to care will be the ones that determine who runs our country.

The most important way to fix this is to make it easier for people to register and to vote. Automatic voter registration, mail-in ballots and expanding voting times are solutions that voter rights advocates have been fighting over for decades. North Carolina has closed polling places in some areas and changed early-voting hours. Early-voting lines can stretch for hours. These changes partially explain the almost 9-percent decline (more than 65,000 voters) in African-American early voters. In North Carolina, a local party chairman emailed election officials to remind them that limited early voting was “in the best interest of the Republican Party.”

The good news for young people, African-Americans and other targeted populations is that there’s a simple defense against lawmakers who are okay with preventing you from exercising your right to vote. Vote them out. While you still can.
Fortunately, this strategy only matters in close elections. But that should make you very nervous. A lot of North Carolina elections are extremely close. In 2016 the average margin of victory for US Senate, Governor, Lt Governor and Attorney General was about 3%. The 2018 races for the State General Assembly are expected to go down to the wire.

The Declaration of Independence says Governments get their “powers from the consent of the governed.” The casting of a ballot is the most effective way for us to communicate our consent to the leaders we have chosen and to offer our consent to new leaders we believe in.


NC House Bill 90 (NC Truth in Education) – My Analysis

OK, I’ve had some time to read through HB 90 quite a few times. My thoughts are as follows;

It does buy some time and a lot of funding for school districts to hire the teachers they will need to staff smaller K-3 class sizes. This is a huge win for the parents of those children. It was inevitable that the General Assembly would cave in this election year. It was just too hot a topic to let it be a talking point for Democrats in November. One of the major complaints of school districts was that reducing class size over a one-year period did not give ample time to recruit and hire the needed teachers. This new strategy addresses that by phasing in the reductions over a four year time frame. In fact it keeps the class size the same for next school year.

But the Republican majority couldn’t just do something smart and good without trying to muck up a bunch of other things. They felt like they were bending to the will of their voters so they had to take more control of something else. They decided to create a whole new line item allotment for funding “enhancement” teachers (art, music, theater, physical education, health and other similar programs). Generally, the money placed into that allotment for K-5th grade can be used to pay for classroom teachers in K-12th grades. However classroom teacher allotments cannot be used to pay for enhancement teachers. There is a weird exception to this beginning in 2021. Money can be used from teacher allocations to pay for “visiting international exchange teachers through a visiting international exchange teacher program approved by the State.” I don’t really get this exemption but I’ll do more research on it.

The allotment itself is one enhancement teacher for every 191 students. I have no clue where this number comes from. But using West Pine Middle School as a random example; the allotment would cover 4.3 enhancement teachers. There are currently 6 enhancement teachers working there. You can do the math.

There are two other problems that HB 90 does nothing to address.

The first is the additional capital outlay required to add the classrooms school districts will need (except in districts affected by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – I know you’re confused – I’ll get to that in a minute). As we all know, Moore County will be voting on a Bond Referendum to deal with its most critical schools this May. Those badly needed bonds will only keep a few of our elementary schools from crumbling around the feet of our students and teachers. It will not address the capital needs of all the rest of our school buildings.

The second is that it does not deal with the fact that hiring teachers is becoming increasingly difficult. As North Carolina school systems respond to the need for more K-3 teachers, less and less young people are joining the profession. It’s been estimated by Moore County Schools that the state will need to add nearly 62,000 new teachers once the class size reductions take full effect. The UNC school system is graduating about 14,000 certified teachers a year. That number is down dramatically from 2010 when more than 18,000 graduated (-25%). That means that if we hire every single graduate it will take more than four years to fill all the slots. Of course we can’t hire any of them until the increased funding begins, so we’ll just have to ask them to hang loose. At the same time NC teacher salaries rank well into the bottom half of US averages (there are many different ranking systems but none put NC above 35th). The General Assembly has not offered any plan on how to address this issue.

Now for the nutty stuff;

The General Assembly is trying to cut two completely unrelated deals by lumping them into this bill. Because it finally dawned on them that they are giving in and doing what constituents have been begging them to do for more than year, they are saying they will give us what we want only if we give them what they want. And what they want is you guessed it, more power.

Back in January Governor Cooper got the builders of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a proposed 600 mile natural gas pipeline expected to be started in spring and completed in 2019, to commit almost $60 million to a “mitigation” fund. The money would be used to help pay for environmental issues, economic development and renewable energy projects in the pipeline’s path. The pipeline goes through at least three and maybe four aquifers as it winds through eight NC counties, including Cumberland.

What the GA is requiring is that these funds be handed over to them, to be used for school districts that lie in the affected counties. This would not include Moore. Now, that doesn’t sound all bad except that we know what happened with Lottery funds. Those monies were supposed to be “over and above” funding but eventually replaced existing funds.

Additionally, the General Assembly is now holding the Elections and Ethics board hostage. In January the state Supreme Court struck down for a second time, the attempt by the Republican Party to grab control of the Elections Board. As part of this bill the General Assembly wants to not only tell the Governor who he can appoint but also wants to add a ninth person from a list provided by the other eight members.

In case you don’t think any of this is important, this is the Board that authorized a dramatic rollback of early voting and a reduction in polling places, particularly in minority-heavy communities during Governor McCrory’s tenure.

It’s these kinds of deceptions that frustrate sensible people. Trying to trade blatant power grabs for doing the right thing is simple misdirection. Its look over there, while we do this over here. This is just one more reason why I’m running for the State House. Representative Boles has been strangely silent on this.

Do you have thoughts on NC House Bill 90? Please don’t hesitate to contact me here or via social media using the links below:

Gun Control & Terrorism

I believe it takes a huge amount of hubris to think that anyone can solve the ISIL-terrorist-jihad problems by “stopping them over there.” This war has been going on for roughly three thousand years. Alexander the Great, Pope Urban II, Saladin and President Truman all believed they could control that area of the world and all were unsuccessful. I am not sure what anyone sees as “new” over there.

What is new is globalization. We have tried with little success to eliminate those whose religious and political beliefs conflict with our own sensibilities. Globalization requires us to protect what is ours. This involves two things: keeping weapons away from those we think to mean us harm, and keeping those who have those ideas away from us.

OK – so how?

First, gun controls. If someone is suspicious enough to be on a no-fly list or other watch lists we are already restricting their constitutional rights. Eliminating access to weapons is relatively minor in that scheme. If you are against this restriction, then you must also be against no-fly lists and watch lists as they more severely constrict the pursuit of happiness.

Second, border safety. We need to protect harbors and airports because this is how unauthorized weapons must enter the country. It is possible that such a threat will walk (or drive) across the Rio Grande or the Grand Tetons but it’s more likely to happen at JFK or Los Angeles.

I urge everyone to support legislation and amendments that restrict access to guns by those who we have already been deemed dangerous. This includes people we don’t want on airplanes and people we don’t believe are mentally stable. Those that are unfairly restricted will need to have redress and that can come later. In the present we need to put a foot down, draw a line in the sand – whatever you want to call it – and stop one wrong person from doing us harm. That is a foundational responsibility of our federal government – to protect its citizens.

photo by: Drab Makyo