Economics and the tilt to socialism

My son was home from college for spring break. As we ate dinner one night, he described to my wife and me how a professor warned the students that many of the jobs they are studying for will be gone within a few years. Artificial intelligence and automation could put millions out of work in the very near future, the professor had told the class, and my son seemed genuinely worried.

In the next breath, he recounted a speech he heard from one of the lesser-known Democratic presidential candidates who discussed a future where U.S. citizens may receive a “universal basic income,” particularly if AI and automation take us to the point where there just aren’t enough jobs for a growing population. 

Open government is part of who we are

Whereas the public bodies that administer the legislative, policy-making, quasi-judicial, administrative, and advisory functions of North Carolina and its political subdivisions exist solely to conduct the people’s business, it is the public policy of North Carolina that the hearings, deliberations, and actions of these bodies be conducted openly.

— NC General Statute 143-318.9 

When our local boards hold official meetings, they often end with a closed or “executive” session. The North Carolina Open Meetings law allows elected officials to deliberate secretly on a just few specific subjects, which are clearly outlined in the law.

Careers can wait; it’s time for some adventuring

When the text came letting us know that our daughter Hannah had arrived safely in Costa Rica, a sense of relief — mixed with pride — enveloped me. 

To state the obvious, parenting is both complicated and never-ending. You get your kids to 18 and out of high school, you feel some small sense of accomplishment. If they choose college, you do your best to help out and provide whatever guidance you can. As they enter adulthood, the role becomes more complicated. You’re not quite on the outside looking in, but it sometimes feels that way.

The tide is turning on marijuana

The libertarian in me believes in the “live and let live” mantra, which when it comes to legalizing pot means I think it’s way past time for it. No adult should ever be fined or arrested simply for possession of small amounts. It’s ridiculous, in my opinion.

But last week’s Smoky Mountain News cover story on marijuana legalization and the growing of hemp created some heavy-duty social media back and forth, so much so that it’s clear Americans are still divided on the issue.

The homeless issue is not going away

A genuine dilemma, or merely some people grousing? You tell me.

We’ve been hearing complaints for months now that the homeless situation in and around Frog Level and the Pathways Center in Hazelwood is causing problems for locals and businesses. And that it is spreading to other parts of town.

Hard-line conservatives own this shutdown

“I think it’s the right thing to do as much as we use the park and as free as this is. It’s one of the few there’s no charge. I don’t mind giving back. It’s a beautiful park. It’s ours — I take care of my house, I’ll take care of the park.”

— Mike Walker of Franklin, a frequent Great Smoky Mountains National Park user, who was picking up trash near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center during the shutdown.

It is bringing out the best in some and the worst in others. I’m talking about the government shutdown.

Come this Friday, around 800,000 federal workers won’t get a paycheck, which means many won’t be able to pay their bills. That’s everyone from Secret Service agents and federal prison guards who daily put their lives on the line to rangers in our national parks.

Serving ‘something larger than themselves’

“Stray from the truth, and whoever corrects you can be dismissed as ‘the other side.’ The strategy runs on a dangerous assumption — that we’re not all in this together.”

— Time magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year article

When it was reported that Time magazine had named the “guardians” as their person of the year, I have to admit to the sin of pride.

The guardians it was referring to were reporters and journalists, those with media outlets large and small who toil daily to inform on important and fundamental issues so that we might be better citizens.

Nurturing the ties that bind

I’ve spent most of my career at small newspapers, and one thing I’ve learned is the value of making connections.

I’m not talking connections that bring personal gain, but rather those that bring people together. One of my former publishers used some variation of that word almost every time he talked to reporters and editors responsible for getting out on the street and developing story ideas: “How many people would such and such story connect?” “How can we reach out to that particular community and make some connections?” “We should follow up with that story and connect the dots.”

Meadows reacts too lightly to ethics rebuke

It sure would be nice for his constituents to hear Rep. Mark Meadows come out with a mea culpa regarding his actions in the sexual harassment controversy that has dogged his office for the last couple of years. Apparently, that’s not going to happen, even after the official rebuke he received last Friday from the bipartisan House Ethics Committee.

Election results will make for a stronger democracy

There were many winners and losers last week on Election Day, but perhaps the best outcome is that the move to end gerrymandering appears to be taking root across the country. 

Nothing will do more to quiet the current strident tone of our political discourse than having state legislatures and the U.S. House better represent the will of the people. That means lawmakers will have to compromise, and radical gerrymandering is the enemy of reasoned debate.

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