It’s a reliable piece of Republican kitsch. A rugged, charming fellow gazes at the camera, chatting amiably with the viewers about his plan to make their lives just a little bit better. Pat McCrory ambled across a warehouse floor last year, reaching out to those who were struggling in North Carolina. He then walked into the governor’s mansion and cut their benefits to less than half what it takes to rent a small Charlotte apartment. Phil Berger’s new informational video brings us the old man standing in front a fork lift, commiserating with our frustrations and promising to bring us a warmed-over flat tax.
Berger’s pseudo-populism is only slightly less clumsy for avoiding an outright, Kansas-and-Louisiana style tax shift. In percent-change terms, his top income tax rate reductions are bigger than his sales tax cut by a factor of ten. Berger argues for paying for the cut by “just keeping what we have and slowing the growth of spending.” What he means is that we can just pretend that, in the future, a larger number number of students will not require more teachers. Inflation will allow lower tax rates to produce the same revenue number, so holding the line on paper while in fact means cutting public services to facilitate lower taxes on the wealthy. Despite his evasions, Berger has still put forward a proposal to enrich the wealthiest at the expense of children.
Compassionate conservatism, that old, dishonest schtick, is enjoying a revival in the Tar Heel state. McCrory tried the routine, and it worked as flawlessly as his plans were heartless. For the good of the state, Berger can’t be allowed to get away with it.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.