posted on August 02, 2013 10:52
An old friend who now lives in Maryland wrote the other day and asked, What in blazes is going on in the North Carolina legislature?
Well, right now, thankfully, nothing. The legislators have decamped.
But what kind of devilment went on in the legislature before the peace of August southern afternoons was restored?
Not exactly what you’d think.
One group of politicians has been howling that legislators (of the Republican stripe) laid waste to the ‘old ways’ of North Carolina – that, like Viking helmeted Vandals, Republicans descended on Raleigh in hordes and sowed mayhem on the poor, children and women – on everybody but old rich white men and corporations.
Answering the howlers, the other group of politicians say after a long hegira in the wilderness they’ve restored North Carolina’s true path, revived our struggling fortunes, and, now, we are walking down the road to the Promised Land.
Let’s take one issue at a time.
State Spending – There was a reduction in the rate state spending increases. There was no spending cut. State spending actually increased. Just less than Democrats thought was proper.
State Tax Revenues – The same is true of tax revenues. There was a reduction in the rate state tax revenues increase. More taxes will be paid to the state this year than last year and next year than this year.
Neither of those changes is particularly revolutionary. Or radical. Government is going to continue to grow and get bigger. But it will grow and get bigger more slowly.
And, my guess is, politically, most people will be happy with government growing a bit slower – if they ever get beyond the howling and figure out that’s what happened.
Tax Reform – Republicans ‘reformed’ the tax code. The income tax is an example. North Carolina has had a progressive income tax (where the wealthy paid a higher tax rate than the unwealthy) for years. The legislature replaced that with a ‘Flat Tax.’ The new rate is so low everyone’s income taxes will go down but, my guess is, politically, opposing a progressive tax code is going to be a heavy load to bear at the ballot box next election.
Unemployment Benefits – The state ‘owes’ Washington $2.5 billion for unemployment benefits – so Republicans cut benefits and did it in such a way that 170,000 people lost their federal unemployment benefits. They argue that will create jobs. Let’s hope so.
Medicaid Expansion – President Obama wanted to expand Medicaid to provide health insurance to uninsured people. It was government run healthcare – so Republicans voted it down. But, on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to bet on denying insurance to 500,000 people being popular.
Education – To hear Reverend William Barber, the ‘star’ of the Moral Monday protests tell it, Republicans ruined North Carolina’s public schools (which were not in all that great shape to start with). In fact, Republicans increased spending on education by $400 million this year. Again, that’s not as much as some folks felt was necessary – but it’s not exactly ruining education.
Abortion – Republicans set out to limit abortions (not a bad or even unpopular idea) but then slipped into a political hedge, claiming their real goal was to protect women’s health. No one was fooled. Republicans took it on the chin.
Voter Laws – Republicans changed a number of election laws and Reverend Barber howled they were turning back the clock to the days of Jim Crow and branded everything Republicans did as voter suppression.
In a way, Democrats have a point. The changes impact Democrat demographics more than Republican demographics. But, that said, it’s a stretch to call it suppression.
For instance, Republicans ended ‘Straight Party’ voting. I guess a Democrat can say denying a voter the opportunity to go into the polling booth and mark one block to vote a Straight Party Ballot is suppression. But it’s hardly taking away anyone’s right to vote. They just have to mark more blocks. Beyond that, how many Democrats are likely to sigh, Well, if I can’t go to the polls and vote a straight party ballot I won’t go at all.
If Republicans’ goal was voter ‘suppression’ – that was a pretty inept way to go about it.
All in all, the election law changes won’t make much difference. They won’t do what (some) Republicans hope. Or what Democrats fear.
The actual devilment spawned by the General Assembly was more intangible. Legislative politics made a kind of unexpected quantum leap, going overnight from old-fashioned backroom deal-cutting skullduggery to modern age politics and the howl. The ‘howl’ now rules state politics. And it may be years before we have another sensible political debate in North Carolina.
Friday, August 02, 2013 5:56 PM
I'd love for every single one of our major newspapers and "local" TV networks to get out the exact text of what you've said here, Carter. Of course, that's not going to happen because, after all, it makes perfect sense and it is sensible and....it favors the republican-led legislature and the republican governor.
Isn't it so sad that the truth just loses out to silence of facts in our news media and only rhetoric and spin is presented? We're doomed before we ever get started. Democrats are licking their wounds and are asking the news outlets to change around what people see and believe.
I wish our "horrible rich older white folks" in North Carolina would band together and buy every major newspaper and TV station and become just "mini-Fox News outlets". Wouldn't that be wonderful?
Friday, August 02, 2013 6:13 PM
Can I just pass this on here? I got it from my state representative, Bert Jones. Your post here, Carter, speaks to a number of issues, but the issue of taxes, to me, is paramount to all taxpaying citizens of North Carolina.
Sad that we will NEVER see anything like this from most media sources in our state:
From Representative Bert Jones:
"The tax reform we recently passed into law for North Carolina takes us from a dismal 44th in business tax climate in the nation to 17th in one stroke of the pen. National pro-jobs and pro-family groups are citing us for leading the nation this year in making our state more attractive for jobs, and for people maintaining more of their own hard earned money. Virtually every North Carolinian that pays income tax will see tax relief with our new lowered, flat tax rate and greatly increased 'deductible' on which you will pay ZERO income tax. This is like a "pay raise" for every North Carolinian that works and pays taxes. We also repealed the onerous "death tax" (estate tax) on families. Our new tax policies reverse a long trend of higher taxes that gave our state the highest tax burden in the South, destroyed jobs, and helped plummet us to the fifth worst unemployment rate in the nation. This is one step, and we will continue to work for a better jobs climate in our state to help improve the quality of life for the citizens of North Carolina."
Friday, August 02, 2013 10:06 PM
Several points, Carter:
1) Medicaid is a wealth transfer program, so many who are not welfare recipients will applaud this move to cut this bleeding of taxpayers money to the welfare class. Medicaid is also putting a big hurting on county budgets. This Medicaid expansion is part of Obamacare, and the polls show the public opposes Obamacare. The Democrats here are the extremists, not the Republicans.
2) The original abortion legislation did make some limits on late term abortions, limits that Gallup poll data shows the public are broadly behind. Not the radical feminists, of course, but most women and most moderates. However, the Governor had a cow and that part was deleted. What was left was NOT an abortion restriction, but a wise health and safety safeguard to prevent dangerous abortion mills like that of Kermit Gosnell. The Democrats, here, not the Repubicans, are the extemists
3) You are correct that the voting laws do suppress two Democrat voting blocks. You did not state which ones they are but it is obvious - a) the deceased voters, and b) the fictitious voters (see ACORN). But again polling data says that a large majority of North Carolinians support Voter ID laws, so it is the Democrats, not Republicans, who are the extremists
4) Other states have a flat tax for their state income tax. This is hardly extremist, unless one believes in Marxist class warfare doctrine. Forty one countries now have the flat tax and several others are considering it. The current ruling party in Poland won the last election with moving to a flat tax a major part of their platform, for instance. Among US states, those with flat taxes include Obama's home state of Illinois, ultra-liberal Massachusetts, Colorado, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Utah, and Indiana. If NC Democrats make this an issue, they will be putting themselves to the left of Massachusetts Democrats.
The partisan hack media such as the McClatchey newspapers and WRAL are as evil at political propaganda as Josef Goebbels, and they are working overtime in their propagandizing to twist and distort what our legislature has one.