Years of conservative control have damaged North Carolina

It's been five years since conservatives took control of the General Assembly, and three years since Pat McCrory joined them in Raleigh. And, so far, they've done nothing but hurt North Carolinians, with the notable exception of themselves and their wealthy supporters. Teacher pay and per-pupil spending are lower than in 2008, the high point of the recession; they've made it harder to vote, but easier to buy and carry a gun; 100,000 people have been forcibly taken off of food stamps, and those who can't find jobs have been told nothing except, "It's your fault. Work harder." North Carolina is trending downward, with no signs of turning around soon, and it's all thanks to the men in charge. 

Read more at NC Policy Watch

They took over state government completely in 2012 with the election of former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory as governor. McCrory had lost to Democrat Bev Perdue in 2008, but the stars were again aligned for Republicans four years later when Perdue announced shortly before the campaign started that she would not seek reelection. That left Democrats scrambling to find a candidate before settling on Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton, whom McCrory handily defeated.

Republicans also understood that their gerrymandered districts and many of their most radical attempts to remake the state would face legal challenges. Gathering millions in donations from allied outside political groups, they maintained a majority on the N.C. Supreme Court, where many of the challenges to their agenda would land.

With all three branches of government securely under their control, the ideological shift left few areas of state policy untouched. People who were already struggling have been hurt the most — low-wage workers, single mothers, people of color and immigrants. Vital life supports, such as child care subsidies, pre-K programs, unemployment insurance and food stamps, have been slashed.

And there’s been more than a loss of basic benefits. People living on the margins have been demonized in the last five years too, blamed for their struggles, penalized for their inability to find jobs that don’t exist, and cruelly stereotyped for political gain. The folks now in charge of Raleigh haven’t just made government smaller, they have also made it meaner.

Most of the money they saved from slashing safety net programs hasn’t been reinvested in education or job training or infrastructure. Instead, even as tax revenue has risen as the state recovers from the Great Recession, the savings have been given to corporations and the wealthy in a series of massive tax breaks.

Thanks to the anemic budgets of the last five years, North Carolina now spends almost 6 percent less on state services than in 2008 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Now the folks in charge are pushing to lock in the woeful recession-era level of public investment by adding arbitrary spending limits to the state constitution in the misnamed Taxpayer Bill of Rights. In Colorado, the only state that has adopted it, it has been a disaster.

Now the folks in charge are pushing to lock in the woeful recession-era level of public investment by adding arbitrary spending limits to the state constitution in the misnamed Taxpayer Bill of Rights. In Colorado, the only state that has adopted it, it has been a disaster.

Nowhere have the cuts hit harder than in public schools, where rankings in teacher pay and per-pupil funding have spiraled toward the bottom of the 50 states.

Once recognized across the country for its commitment to public education, North Carolina now is making headlines for how much of it is being dismantled, with teachers fleeing to other states because of low salaries and the culture of animosity and disrespect from state leaders.

The meanness is evident here too. The nationally recognized Teaching Fellows program has been abolished, even as the state struggles to recruit bright students into the profession, merely because of its ties to prominent Democrats like former Gov. Jim Hunt.

Low-income kids and their families are the biggest losers in the attacks on public schools, but there are winners in the ideological assault: new for-profit companies that run charter schools, private and religious academies that now receive taxpayer funding and sketchy online institutions that are raking in state dollars.

The new ruling class in Raleigh, while professing a commitment to reduce the scope of government, increased its role in people’s personal lives and health care decisions, interfered with local issues in communities across the state, and pushed to resume executions even as two men were freed from prison, one from death row, after serving for more than 30 years for a murder they did not commit.

They made it harder for some people to vote but easier for many people to get a gun and take it into more places — bars, restaurants, parks and playgrounds. They have systematically rolled back important environmental protections, undeterred by the massive coal ash spill into the Dan River in 2014, the worst environmental disaster in the state’s history.

Comments

There are no comments yet.

Leave a Comment