In his Sunday column in the N&O, Rob Christensen laid bare the problems with the Republican agenda in North Carolina. The rationales for many of their actions during this past session of the legislature are based on falsehoods. As I’ve said before, they are breaking what works and ignoring what’s broken.
But the goal of the Republicans was never to fix anything. The goal is an ideological transformation of North Carolina. They want to turn the state into a free-market utopia where competition solves all our problems and the 1980’s mantra “Greed is good” replaces “Esse quam videri” as the state motto.
They’re fixing schools that aren’t broken by starving them of resources, because really, aren’t they a drain on people who can afford to send their kids to private schools? They’re shifting the tax burden to the poor and middle class because those are the lazy suckers who use government services the most and everybody should pay their own way instead of depending on handouts. You know, builds character.
Republicans have been saying government is broken but never specifying how. Pat McCrory tells us he was left a financial mess with the bad budgets of his predecessor, but Bev Perdue didn’t write those budgets. Thom Tillis and Phil Berger did. McCrory and Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos keep telling telling us about the shortfalls in Medicaid but miss the fact that they were caused primarily by the economic collapse and then made worse by the Republican legislature cutting $350 million from the Medicaid budget.
However, the government-is-broken argument had more than a grain of truth and Democrats were wrong to deny it. There was plenty that needed fixing and they should have defined the parameters. State government was full of cronyism and silence from Democrats allowed Republicans to address that problem by adding 1,000 more patronage positions. Our tax structure is outdated and we took an unnecessarily hard hit during the recession. But instead of fixing it while maintaining its progressive nature, Republicans are moving beyond trickle-down to a system that will starve state government (i. e., schools, health care and environmental protections), offer huge tax cuts to our wealthiest citizens and likely increase the disparity between the haves and have-nots.
The difference, though, between the Democrats and Republicans could not be more clear. Democrats believe that we are all in this together and those who have done well should help those who are struggling. We believe in the collective responsibility for educating our children and young people, because our future is dependent upon their success.
In contrast, Republicans believe in the power of the individual and nobody owes anybody anything. The market will solve all our problems and survival of the fittest will weed out the weak links, like all those folks who choose to live in rural North Carolina. And if their rationale for getting to that place is not quite true, well, that’s just politics.