Pat McCrory and the Republicans in the legislature are fighting hard to protect the gains they’ve made for North Carolina’s wealthiest citizens and ensure that the burden of any needed revenue is squarely on the backs of the middle class. The state House and Senate want to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would cap income rates at 5.5%, relying on regressive sales taxes to cover additional revenue.
So when that Class 3 or Class 4 hurricane barrels into North Carolina (And it will happen. Remember Fran and Hugo?) causing billions of dollars of damage, the burden of paying for the damage will fall on the people who can least afford to pay for it and many who will already be disproportionally affected. The people who lose their vacation homes will be bummed but they’ll recover. The people who lose their mobile homes will be devastated and then forced to pay for the disaster through higher sales taxes on the recovery efforts.
McCrory and the free-market ideologues running the state are more concerned with protecting what people make than ensuring broad prosperity. They’re very concerned with economic growth, not who benefits from it. They come from the Ayn Rand “Greed is good” school of thought and the amendments they’re pushing will keep money concentrated at the top while hamstringing the institutions that help people move up the socio-economic ladder.
To hear the modern GOP tell it, the New Deal and the Great Society (think Social Security, Medicare, SNAP) have ruined our country, turning it into a nation of takers. In reality, they miss the greatest accomplishment of the 20th Century—the partnership between the free market and government to assure widespread prosperity and upward economic mobility. While the free market generated wealth, the government made sure that society benefited through institutions and programs that built a powerful middle class.
Nowhere has that arrangement been more successful than in North Carolina. In just a few decades, we moved from a backward Southern state to the most forward-thinking state in the South. We had a public-private partnership that was supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Together, the business community and government built the Research Triangle Park, the University of North Carolina system, the Community College System, Smart Start and host of other programs that provided a well-trained workforce. We protected our environment and built a tourist industry that attracts people from all over the world. We grew faster than almost any other Southern state and were held up as model for smart investments and moderate government.
With the amendments they are proposing, McCrory and the GOP are trying to permanently restrict the tools that North Carolina used to build our state. They want to concentrate wealth in the hands of those who already have it and restrict state and local governments from providing the tools that move people out poverty and into the middle class. The real shame, though, is that the free-marketeers missed the lessons of the 20th century and are doing all they can to take us back to era of narrow prosperity and massive inequality because, somehow, they consider that “fair.”