The North Carolina Senate announced that it might try to override Roy Cooper’s budget veto this afternoon. They’ll take a vote if they think they’ve got the support. Democrats, for their part, have taken to social media calling for their caucus to stay strong, using the hashtag #21strong to signify all 21 Democrats are sticking together. 

Cooper has said that he won’t sign a budget that doesn’t include Medicaid expansion. Republicans call him obstructionist because he won’t budge from the pledge. It’s led to the stalemate that has the legislature still in session as we approach November. The session usually ends before September. 

The debate lays out the priorities of the two parties. While Republicans claim that Medicaid expansion could lead to a huge expense for state government, they’re poised to pass another tax cut for corporations. Since they took control after the 2010 election, the GOP has slashed the corporate tax rate and flattened the individual tax rate with the vast majority of the benefit going to the wealthiest North Carolinians. 

Their philosophy follows the trickle-down economics instituted by Reagan. If businesses and people keep more of their money, the theory goes, they’ll plough it back into the economy through spending and investments and everyone will benefit. Instead, it’s led to the highest income inequality since the census bureau began tracking it. It’s left wages stagnant while the stock market keeps setting new records. In other words, people who work for wages have seen little benefit while investors have seen a boon. It’s why much of the country is still struggling to recover from a recession that ended almost a decade ago and others are wealthier than they’ve ever been.

Democrats believe the playing field needs to be leveled. In North Carolina right now, they want to provide health insurance to people who otherwise can’t afford it, especially the working poor. A majority of states have passed Medicaid expansion because they’ve seen the benefits. Republicans in North Carolina refuse to pass it because somewhere down the road, they might have to ask the people who’ve benefited from our lopsided economy to pay a little more to help the people who’ve been hurt by it. 

The populist anger that’s defined the past few years is a result of the inequality that mars our system, even if that anger is misdirected. It’s not the immigrants that Fox News vilifies that cause wages to stay low; it’s a tax structure and trade policies that reward investors at the expense of workers. Under the economics of Ronald Reagan, productivity has increased by about 70% while hourly wages have increased about 12%. Medicare expansion is one step toward righting this wrong. The Democrats in the North Carolina Senate should stick to their principles. 

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