A few years ago, when Democrats controlled North Carolina, Republicans routinely dismissed rankings from places like Site Selection Magazine or CNBC. Back then, the state was always among the top of the nation for great places to do business. Now that the GOP is control, those rankings are evidence of their vaunted Carolina Comeback.
The latest ranking comes from CNBC and lists North Carolina as the fifth best state in the nation to do business. For the record, it was third best state in 2011 when Democrat Beverly Perdue was governor. It dropped all the way down to number nine under the GOP before struggling back to its current fifth place ranking.
A look at the article, though, illustrates the divide that will drive state elections in North Carolina. The ranking says that North Carolina has fallen to 30th in the nation in quality of life measures. In other words, they’re saying it’s a great place to do business, but not such a great place to live.
In particular, House Bill 2 is hurting its ranking. CNBC writes, “The Tar Heel State is controversially grinding down diversity. Businesses willing to overlook that will find plenty of workers and capital.” Do we really want to become the state that attracts businesses that don’t care about discrimination?
North Carolina has always been a great state for businesses. Democrats kept taxes relatively low and public investments relatively high. They had a balanced regulatory record that protected the environment while still encouraging economic growth. Back then, we were an enviable place to live.
Today, the moralists and the free-marketeers in the GOP have built an alliance that allows for discrimination while shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class. The result is a state where the rich do well, the middle class struggle, and minorities are second class citizens. We’ve emerged from the Great Recession more slowly than most other states and our income is growing slower.
Our economy is certainly improving. Our reputation is not—or at least not the way we should want to be. Democrats certainly weren’t perfect but at least they weren’t embarrassing. The Republicans in North Carolina are.