Life o’ Mike is part of Together NC, a coalition of groups devoted to working toward public policies that align with the needs of the public.
As we have watched the policies — and the budget — of the current state legislature shred the social safety net and harm our schools and universities, we have tried to educate the public about the harm these cuts will cause to real people.
This week, though, we had a little fun. We figured that since the legislature is taking us back to the 1950s and earlier, we would celebrate it with a “Backwards Budget 0.5K.”
It was just a loop around Halifax Mall outside the Legislative Building in Raleigh, and no one broke any bones trying to run backwards. Most of us were sensible enough to walk backwards.
There were some powerful stories there, though. Lee Storrow, once a Sunday school student of mine and now a Chapel Hill City Councilman, was there representing a tobacco-prevention group whose funding has been cut.
Kristy Andrews was there with her mother-in-law, Janice, and son, Jeffrey. Kristy’s husband died of lung cancer when he was just 30. The cause was tobacco. Janice and I have both lost sons to corporate greed, even though the death certificates both say cancer. Without prevention education, more teens will be lured into tobacco use, even though the tobacco companies say they don’t market to kids. I remember their denials of ”No sir, I don’t believe tobacco is addictive,” even as my father struggled to quit smoking after he was diagnosed with emphysema.
I’m with Kristy and Janice. I want the money for anti-tobacco education restored to the budget.
The Legislature also cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which is the only access to care for tens of thousands of women in North Carolina. I know when my kids were little I wouldn’t have had access to care without them, and the need is even more urgent today. We’re talking about breast and cervical cancer screenings and vaccinations against the HPV, which causes cervical cancer. Women go to Planned Parenthood to learn how to prevent pregnancy and to get the contraception they need to do so.
I’m tired of hearing how mental health care has been cut or services for people with disabilities have been reduced, or that we can’t afford to keep Medicaid at its current, immorally low levels.
I’m tired of hearing that we can’t fund pre-K education for children at risk of failing in school without it, or that we have to cut back on food stamps for hungry people so that the wealthy can enjoy even more money, or that our public schools, colleges and universities will have to live with less.
So, I went to Raleigh and walked backwards around the Halifax Mall to make the point that we should be moving forward as a society, not backwards. Now I’m back in Asheville working toward a day when we all will have access to quality health care.