The cost of mediocrity

by | May 22, 2023 | Editor's Blog | 7 comments

Carolina Forward has a report out today debunking Republican claims that the party has turned North Carolina into an economic powerhouse. The GOP has been crowing about the state’s rank on various “Best states to do business” lists. They cite their decade of tax cuts and deregulation for overhauling our economic engine and attracting companies to the state. The problem with their claims is that the state was already on all of those lists when Democrats were in control. In fact, they’ve had minimal impact on our economic strength and they have made worse the problems that needed to be addressed, most notably the dire straits of many of North Carolina’s rural counties. 

As we’ve noted here at PoliticsNC, under GOP rule since 2010, our economy and our population has grown more slowly than it did in the two decades under Democratic control. Now, Carolina Forward has looked at out nonfarm employment and real median income and finds the state performing solidly, but not exceptionally. That’s not what Republicans claim or want to admit. 

Carolina Forward also notes that Oxfam has named North Carolina the worst state for workers two years in a row. Other costs include 46th in teacher pay and 42nd in per pupil spending. We’ve seen a steep decline in funding for our university system. As one study at Duke noted, in 2017, state appropriations per student were at their lowest in more than 20 years, disproportionally impacting low income families who are expected to pay a larger portion of education or forced to take out more in loans. In other words, our children and young people are paying the price of GOP control. 

Republicans’ insistence of refusing to expand Medicaid has exacerbated the loss of hospitals and access to medical care, especially in rural areas. Our infant mortality rate is among the highest in nation, putting us in league with Mississippi, Alabama, and West Virginia. Our maternal mortality rate is far above the national average and almost certain rise as a result of the new abortion restrictions. Finally, our life expectancy is down considerably and we now rank in the lower third of the nation. 

North Carolina has suffered in ways that are less measurable. We’ll never know how much revenue and economic development we lost due to the HB2 debacle. The heavy-handed UNC Board of Governors and the various school boards of trustees have cost us leading researchers who aren’t interested in working in a system micromanaged by anti-academic ideologues. We won’t see those impacts immediately, but our university is sure to feel them over time as other research universities gain from our losses. 

When Democrats were in control, conservatives used to mock the narrative that North Carolina was some kind of exceptional state. They claimed that our businesses were taxed too heavily, holding back our economy and prosperity. After more than a decade of the GOP controlling the purse strings, we know that we are no better off economically and much worse off when it comes to education, health, and quality of life issues. And we still haven’t seen the longer term impact of cutting funding to public schools and universities.

As Carolina Forward points out, here’s what is certain: our rural areas have taken a beating under GOP rule. They are losing population, aging, and growing poorer. Republicans have certainly not helped these trends and may have exacerbated them, yet the people in these counties keep voting against their self-interests. More evidence that Republicans are bad for you.


  1. Matthew Eisley

    Partisanship often clouds clear thinking and practical problem-solving. Ironically, some of the Republican legislators who led the charge a decade ago to defund North Carolina’s regional economic development partnerships — an early-1990s Hunt initiative that tied all of our state’s rural counties to its urban and suburban job centers — later complained that rural counties were getting left behind. Well, no kidding Sherlock. Legislative leaders were warned repeatedly what would happen if they stranded rural counties. Republican lawmakers should have instead put their own people in charge of the regional partnerships and kept funding their marketing efforts. Alas, some heads are too hard.

  2. Cherylann Wilkinson

    I believe it was Eugene Vidal who observed “There’s only one party in the United States of America and it’s the Property Party.” To wit- this post excorciating Republicans and exonerrating Democrats. Slow down Mr. Mills.

    You are correct: the Best States to Do Business lists pre-existed the Republican takeover of state government in 2010. However the heavy-fisted exploitation of working class people is a Governor James B. Hunt staple: neoliberal, pro-business governance, wage wars and to the hell with the rest of us. What was good for the Chamber and the Pentagon was good for North Carolina- or so the Huntgeist thinking went. Workers and minimum wage hikes- throw them to the lions. Workers dare to unionize- jail them. Workers dare to seek safer conditions- damn the Communists. That was the Democratic Way. It still is. Josh Stein on the right to work….lol…..ask him why don’t you? (He won’t answer the question.)

    When a gay person ran for Senate they threw him under the bus along with all like him- and that was in 2010! Then along came (surprise) HB2 which was gifted to Roy Cooper as a winning economic issue (the NBA backed out of Charlotte…oh my) and he banked it. Cooper is no slouch. Sadly his attempt to bank on abortion fell on the Cotham curse- she a Four Star Democratic Award Honoree. Roy didn’t see her coming. She wasnt’ hiding.

    Y’all old geyzers can’t have it both ways. I suggest you find your favorite shade of hypoicrisy and stick with it. Then go fish. The photo above of the two most powerful persons in North Carolina in my 45 years: Western humility in pinstripes (Moore) and New York bespoke reserved elegance (New Yorker Phil Berger). Power. Winners. Results.

    Your entitlement has renedered you pointless.

    • cocodog

      Interesting comment, you mean Gore, not Eugene who made that observation. Eugene’s area of expertise was aviation. They are father and son. Unions have a unique place in the history of American labor. Democrats supported employees right to organize and engage in collective bargaining for years. Unions raise a lot of folks from working poverty to the middle class through collective bargaining for wages and benefits. Republican supported right to work laws are nothing more than giving the boss the right to work his employees to death, pay than less than a reasonable wage, provide him a reasonable retirement or medical benefits. In other words, turn a human being into a commodity to throw away when they are no longer profitable to the boss. Rest assured; the boss is only increasing his profits without any consideration for the folks who make that profit possible. Moreover, unions provide apprenticeship programs that train folks for a job.

  3. cocodog

    What surprises me is those who blindly support Republican nonsense, cannot figure out where these self-dealing, power hungry Republicans are taking this state. They are not creating an ideal environment for sustained economic growth. Write legislation that turns off major corporations from coming to this state and creating good paying jobs, and benefits. The Republican idea of basic education is the charter school. They fund them with taxpayer money, create legislation which allows them to call themselves public schools. But they are not! Charters are not controlled by a locally elected board, can select their students. Although, a percentage fold up or have their charters revoked, Republicans still divert money from the traditional public school, into the pockets of the charter school operator. Funds that could be used to recruit and retain qualified teachers. Moreover, Republicans have taken what used to be considered the foremost college system and professional schools reducing them to political footballs. In addition, pass legislation that expresses the views of minority of hard-liner Christians to restrict women’s health care. Codify hate in terms of anti-gay laws and repress non- religions. You are not from around here and you are not one of us goes so far!
    Corporations do not look forward to constructing a facility where they have difficulty hiring qualified employees, because their prospective talent do not fit the Republican mold. Disney is clearly considering Florida an unfriendly state, it is certain it would not wish to settle in North Carolina where there is a probability of a repeat performance. Manufacturers would not be inclined to build factories here. Small businesses that spring up in support of major manufacturing in terms of parts, etc. will never come into existence. These folks do not want to settle in a state where legislation will create problems for their operation. They do not live in a bubble; they can clearly see what Republicans are doing to Disney.

    • ringlet86


    • WeirdBall

      Well said! NC continues to circle the drain because of Republican shenanigans.

  4. ringlet86

    Well I guess we could be any of the numerous and growing “pro regressive” Enclaves around the country. They are doing oh so well these days.

    In truth given that our monetary unit of account is completely debased and the further inflation of it makes it hard to tell what really is going on. So Ho Hum is probably pretty good given the circumstances. That is a realistic view in my opinion. Could it be better? Sure, it always can be. but when you unit of account is racing towards a zero value well…There is not much you can do.

    Just remember when the FED talks about “price stability” they are not talking about Gas, Meat, Eggs, lettuce, and Cars etc.
    They are talking about wages and that has been a mantra that goes through ALL administrations and one that both Parties follow. The FED does not want wages to rise in the country, For them its too inflationary. Yes, I know its laughable, but to the FED you being able to save, invest, and afford bread is inflationary. Absurd I know, but it is absolutely the case.

    two quotes”
    …In the labor market, demand for workers far exceeds the supply of available workers, and nominal wages have been growing at a pace well above what would be consistent with 2 percent inflation over time. Thus, another condition we are looking for is the restoration of balance between supply and demand in the labor market….

    and…Wage growth, too, shows only tentative signs of returning to balance. Some measures of wage growth have ticked down recently (figure 6). But the declines are very modest so far relative to earlier increases and still leave wage growth well above levels consistent with 2 percent inflation over time. To be clear, strong wage growth is a good thing. But for wage growth to be sustainable, it needs to be consistent with 2 percent inflation.

    ( so you guys can make more money, but at a rate LESS than we steal form you with our inflation!) Such nice guys… and wages haven’t really risen in any real way since the 1970s.

    So you see guys. Keeping people at just enough to keep them hungry, but not starving is a Bipartisan issue that is far greater than who runs NC and what policies they pursue. Carolina forward is feeling the leg of the elephant, Carolina Journal feels the other leg etc,

    also in there is a very interesting view on our labor force and maybe a clue as to why our southern border is wide open with no controls whatsoever. But I digress.

    These guys tell us to our face what they are doing to screw us all. Its just in print on their website, not on CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and the Normal alphabet channels. Hell, Its not even on the business channels.

    Now Carolina Forward (Forward Comrades!)proclaims to be non partisan but if Thomas likes it, and cites them… lol. It’s definitely not. I read through a lot their stuff and its basically a bunch of whining about all the things the left whines about (are they EVER happy?) Because of the obvious leftist slant I simply don’t believe anything they have to say.

    Anyway. Have a nice day.

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