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Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
Winton-Salem (N.C.) Journal on cancer funding:
We don't care much for legislative spending mandates, but there are times when cutting a mandate, regardless of its value, becomes a matter of putting dogma over common sense.
This year, the General Assembly redirected funds from the national tobacco settlement to the General Fund. In past years, $8 million of that money had been very appropriately earmarked for the N.C. Cancer Hospital.
In 2007, the legislature began appropriating funds to the hospital to draw down huge private and government grants to fight cancer. In most years since, the appropriation has been $50 million, and there was language in the law that said the legislature would appropriate that much every year. Those funds were budgeted even in the depths of the recession.
But this year $8 million was cut; another $42 million is still in the budget. For many programs, that might sound like a reasonable cut in a tight budget year, except that, first, cancer is a very unreasonable disease and, second, the budget was tight this year only because legislators chose to enact a major tax cut for some of the state's wealthiest residents.
It isn't a coincidence that the 2007 General Assembly started this funding. It was in that year that cancer supplanted heart disease as the leading cause of death for North Carolinians. And at our cancer hospital, some of the world's most renowned scientists have been working to find cures and treatments with the money that began to flow that year.
Let's put aside the human cost here, however, and look just at economics and jobs. The cancer hospital has used this money to draw down grants from other sources at a rate of four-to-one. That means the missing $8 million would have likely led to another $32 million in grants this year, money that would have been spent in North Carolina. And much of that money would have then generated both jobs and tax revenues.
Not all earmarks are bad. Just ask any cancer patient who has benefited from treatments developed at our hospital.
News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C., on NFL brain injuries:
Next week the National Football League begins play in earnest, and across the nation millions of Americans will welcome another season of this thrilling, but violent sport.
But this season will be different. It is the first in which the NFL has financially conceded that the brain-rattling hits that give football its powerful and, for the NFL, immensely lucrative appeal may be taking a serious toll on players. Last week, the league agreed to pay $765 million to settle legal claims brought by more than 4,500 players and their families over concussion-related brain injuries.
It's hard not to applaud the sudden offer of money for retired players and their families. They have lived not only with the debilitating effects of multiple concussions, but also with the NFL's long refusal to acknowledge that its riches have been built on a terrible price paid by many players.
The settlement, which will cover all 18,000 former NFL players, was reached by court-appointed mediators. ...
Yet the federal judge who must approve the settlement, Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia, could provide more help for past, current and future players at all levels of football by rejecting this tentative agreement.
For one, the settlement is too small. The NFL will generate a projected $10 billion in revenue this year. Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said he wants revenue to reach $25 billion by 2027. Should a payment of less than $1 billion — notably without an admission of guilt — be enough to make the long-term consequences of the NFL's game go away?
Secondly, the settlement does more to slow progress on the problem than to resolve it. ...
The settlement provides $10 million for research into football-related brain injuries. Much more is needed to ascertain the safety of the game as it is played not only in the NFL, but also at all levels down to youth football. How dangerous is the contact? And what, if anything, can be done to reduce the risk of brain injury in football — and hockey, lacrosse and soccer — when the head is repeatedly in hard contact with helmets, pads, sticks or balls?
The NFL and contact sports at all levels have stopped dismissing hits to the head as simply having one's "bell rung." The potential consequences have been shown through the relentless reporting of The New York Times' Alan Schwarz and the research of such sports scientists as professor Kevin Guskiewicz, the director of UNC's Center for the Study of Retired Athletes.
For all the money generated by the NFL, surely more than $10 million can go to studying and preventing brain injuries that are obvious, documented and ongoing.
That the NFL is willing to settle marks progress on sports-related head injuries. But it shouldn't mark the end of this issue. As the latest NFL season kicks off, so must a much deeper and better-funded campaign begin into what happens to the brain in a game based on collisions and haunted by concussions.
Charlotte Observer on the IRS and gays' joint tax filing
You won't hear many Americans express joy at filing income taxes. But it's not difficult to understand Geraldine Artis' happiness. Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced the government would allow gay married couples to file their federal taxes jointly in every state. On hearing that news Artis said: "We're just so overjoyed about not having to experience that negative feeling of not being a legitimate family. We're looking forward to the experience of filing our taxes jointly and being treated as a family."
The announcement was not that unexpected. It came in response to the Supreme Court's ruling in June that overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which had disallowed federal benefits to same-sex couples. Under DOMA, gay couples who lived in states that recognized their marriages could file their state taxes jointly but had to file their federal taxes separately.
Of course, the Treasury decision means gay couples in states that don't recognize same-sex marriages — North and South Carolina among them — may still have to file separate state returns even if they opt to file a joint federal return. That would create some financial complications.
But that's of small concern to gays and lesbians, and advocates for equal rights for them. ...
Gay marriage opponents have the same fear. Said Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association: "There will be enormous federal pressure now on states to conform to the IRS. The Supreme Court decision placed an (improvised explosive device) under every state marriage amendment in the land. I predict we will very quickly see legal action in the 37 states that do not give legal recognition to same-sex marriage to force them to conform to federal policy on their tax forms."
North Carolina is already headed to court for a gay rights lawsuit that will be expanded to include the state's 2012 ban on gay marriage. We wouldn't be surprised to see the lawsuits address this too.
Just as we lauded the DOMA ruling for overturning a law that denied gays protections the U.S. Constitution guarantees, we applaud this Treasury move. It gives gays the same federal tax benefits that opposite-sex couples receive. To conform to the high court decision, other federal agencies have already announced that they will allow federal benefits for same-sex spouses of federal workers and military personnel.
One by one, discriminatory practices and unequal treatment of gays and lesbians are being toppled. This move is among them. It's welcome and long overdue.