1 in 10 North Carolinians Support Political Assassinations

We love Medicaid + Wake goes back to school + the OC jail screwed up + booze gets more expensive + everyone wants Obamacare + Biden goes big

Tues., March 23, 2021

Happy Tuesday, friends. I hope spring is finding you well and vaccines are finding their way to your lovely arms.


Today’s Number: 81

Percentage of North Carolina Republicans who believe that “what our country really needs is a strong, determined leader who will crush evil, and take us back to our true path”—a hallmark of authoritarianism—according to a new poll from Meredith University.

  • 62% of Democrats and 55% of unaffiliated voters agree.

The poll has a ton of noteworthy data points. Here are a few:

  • Satisfaction with the direction of the U.S.: 40%

  • Satisfaction with the direction of the state: 46%

  • Support raising the minimum wage: 79%

  • How high: $10/hour, 32%; $12/hour, 23%; $15/hour, 28%

  • Support eliminating the mask mandate: 30%

  • Oppose eliminating restrictions on businesses: 56%

  • Support expanding Medicaid: 67%

  • Oppose the right to hold political signs in front of government buildings: 8% (Huh?)

  • Support taking over a government building to make a political point: 12%

  • Support political assassinations of leaders acting “inappropriately”: 9% (What?!)

  • Cooper approval: 52%

  • Biden approval: 56%


+TODAY’S TOP 5

1. Wake Sends Middle and High Schoolers Back to Class

Last night, the Wake County School Board voted 6–3 to switch middle- and high-schoolers to daily in-person classes with minimal social distancing. The change begins on April 5, but families can opt for the Virtual Academy or online schools by April 1.

  • Superintendent Cathy Moore: “There is no risk-free proposition in any of this. Our teachers are the front-line workers in the classroom with what we’re asking of them, and they have responded along the way.” (N&O)

  • The change, at the end of the school year, will crowd schools, cause scheduling changes, and probably be a logistical nightmare.

  • Johnston County’s school board voted unanimously to move to in-person classes beginning April 12.

Meanwhile: North Carolina’s positive test rate is ticking up.

  • “North Carolina failed to meet the state’s target for positive COVID-19 tests [5%] for the first time since March 5, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. For test results reported Friday and Saturday, the state’s most recent data, 5.7% and 5.8% came back positive respectively.” (N&O)

  • Last week, the Wake school system reported 57 COVID cases, 70% of which came from students. (ABC 11)

▶️ OTHER WAKE COUNTY NEWS

  • The Wake County Board of Commissioners banned discrimination against natural hairstyles, following the lead of Durham and Carrboro. Studies have shown that Black women with natural hair are less likely to get interviewed for jobs. The ordinance only applies to county workers. (WRAL)


2. The OC Jail Screwed Up, an Inmate Died

Last March, four inmates in the Orange County jail followed Maurice King into his cell, closed the door, and “stomped and choked” him, he told paramedics. King died at the hospital of heart failure triggered by the beating. An investigation by the state health department found “officers making rounds but not looking into [King’s] cell.”

  • Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood responded by saying the detention officers’ mistakes had nothing to do with King’s death: “While the deficiencies noted by the Chief Jail Inspector did not cause or contribute to the inmate’s death, they are nonetheless concerning and are being prioritized for correction.”

  • Video obtained by the N&O shows that it took detention officers 90 minutes to figure out that something was wrong.

  • King and another inmate, Tyler Grantz, planned to fight, according to the district attorney. Grantz has been charged with manslaughter. Blackwood says others on the cell block tried to cover up the fight, which is why the officers missed it.


3. The ABC Will Charge You More for Booze

In 2018, Auditor Beth Wood ripped the ABC Commission a new one over a warehouse contract it had given to LB&B Associates in which it approved millions of dollars in price increases without reviewing whether those increases were necessary. The audit also found that the ABC was paying for warehouse space it didn’t use and was paying LB&B for services the company didn’t perform.

  • Earlier this month, the ABC Commission approved a new contract with LB&B—which lists Commission chairman Zander Guy as one of its references, coincidentally—this time paying by shipment rather than a flat fee.

  • The per-load fee increases by 2% each year, and with it, so will the cost of my bottle of rye. 🙁

  • Except … not by much. The contract will affect the state’s bailment fee. But on a per-bottle basis, that will only work out to 20 cents a bottle. (N&O)

▶️ OTHER BOOZE NEWS

  • Here’s some happier liquor news: The Triangle will soon get a long-overdue dog bar. Raleigh’s West Street Dog will open at 400 N. West St. in late summer. It will be a doggy daycare and grooming salon during the day, and a place to drink while your pup runs around off-leash in the evenings and on weekends. (TBJ, subscription)


4. Lots of People Want Obamacare

Soon after taking office, President Biden reopened the Affordable Care Act exchanges. In the first two weeks of the special enrollment period—which runs from Feb. 15 to May 15—more than 200,000 people did.

  • That’s “a sign that those who lost insurance during the pandemic remain in desperate need of coverage.” (NYT)

If the Biden team is any good at marketing, a lot more people will sign up over the next seven weeks. That’s because the American Rescue Plan Act greatly expanded both eligibility for and the amounts of ACA subsidies for the next two years. In other words, almost everyone will pay less—in some cases, thousands of dollars less.

As I wrote for the health care site No Patient Left Behind:

According to KFF, 3.4 million people forgo health insurance because they earn too much to receive an ACA subsidy but not enough to afford a monthly premium. Another 3.3 million opt for off-exchange options, including plans that don’t meet ACA requirements, while 1.4 million pay full freight for private plans. 

Almost all of them—about 8 million people—will now get a break, sometimes thousands of dollars a year. And no one who buys a medium-tier plan on the exchange will spend more than 8.5 percent of their income on premiums, a huge savings especially for millions of people. …

At least 3.4 million consumers will see their premiums vanish—many while getting better health insurance coverage.

Under the ARPA, people earning less than 150 percent of the [federal poverty line] (about $19,000 for an individual) will receive subsidies covering their entire premium for benchmark silver plans. Before, with Obamacare, they’d pay 2 percent of their income.  …

Subsidies are more generous for those at higher income levels, too. Under the ACA, consumers at 200 percent of the FPL paid 6.5 percent of their income toward a benchmark-plan premium; now, they will pay just 2 percent.

The NYT points out that the ARPA also dangles a bunch of money in front of the 12 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid—North Carolina included—to encourage them to do so.

  • Ruby-red legislatures in Alabama and Wyoming are considering the offer.

  • So far, no dice in North Carolina, despite 67% of the state supporting expansion.

▶️ OTHER HEALTH CARE NEWS

As it turns out, we might need all that health care. A study suggests Americans might have put on 20 pounds or more during the pandemic year. (NYT)


5. Biden Plans a $3 Trillion (!) Infrastructure Package

If you were worried about Joe Biden playing it safe, you can relax. With a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill in the bag, he’s now teeing up a $3 trillion infrastructure (plus universal pre-K, plus free community college, plus climate protections) plan. The officials leaking this stuff to the press said it was preliminary—i.e., this was a trial balloon—but the idea is to break the package into two parts: infrastructure and other stuff.

  • “That effort is expected to be broken into two parts—one focused on infrastructure, and the other focused on other domestic priorities such as growing the newly expanded child tax credit for several years.”

  • “If pursued, the infrastructure and jobs bill could help define Biden’s presidency. The president has faced intense pressure, including from some Democrats, to scale back his domestic policy ambitions and work with congressional Republicans on more incremental legislation following his $1.9 trillion covid relief plan, which every Republican voted against.” (WaPo)

Related: Let’s get real. There’s no point in trying to work with Republicans, who will find an excuse to oppose Biden’s agenda no matter what concessions he makes. We’ve seen this play before. Why does anyone pretend otherwise?

  • If he taxes the rich to pay for it, they’ll say he’s punishing job creators. If he doesn’t raise taxes, they’ll say he’s blowing up the deficit. If he pares it down by half, they’ll still say it’s too big.

  • If this happens, it’s going to happen with 51 votes, not 60. If they’re dragging Joe Manchin over the finish line, it’s probably doable; if they think the last vote is, say, Marco Rubio, they’re insane.

  • Biden—a Senate institutionalist—is finally starting to get that. Last week, he endorsed changing the rules so that senators filibustering a law would actually have to stand up and talk.

  • You can tell how effective such a simple change would be by the way Mitch McConnell freaked out: “Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin—can even begin—to imagine what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like—none. None of us have served one minute in a Senate that was completely drained of comity, and this is an institution that requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon.”