RALEIGH — Although I support the tax cuts and other fiscal policies adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory over the past two years, I have repeatedly urged policymakers and commentators alike to avoid making grandiose claims about those policies’ immediate effects on North Carolina’s economy.
Polling, it is said, is more of an art than a science. Pollsters are among the first to say this — particularly when the products, causes or candidates they project to succeed fall flat. When their predictions turn out to be on the mark, however, pollsters hope you picture them with pocket protectors instead of palettes.
Government is far, far bigger than it used to be. Liberals generally cheer this development. Conservatives regret it. To understand the disagreement about this change, one must first understand the magnitude of the change.
As the 2014 election cycle draws to a close, few states have drawn so much national attention as North Carolina, thanks to the tight Hagan-Tillis race, the dramatic turn in state government from blue to red, and our status as a presidential swing state in 2008 and 2012.
For longtime residents of the state, however, national attention is nothing new.
In 1925, advertising executive and future Congressman Bruce Barton wrote the book that made his national reputation, “The Man Nobody Knows.” In it, he imagined what Jesus Christ would be like if he resided in the modern world. Barton drew lessons from his thought experiment about business, personal relationships, self-improvement and charity.
In the homestretch of the Senate race between incumbent Kay Hagan and challenger Thom Tillis, the disclosure that Hagan’s family profited from the 2009 stimulus package she voted for has drawn a great deal of attention.
The first and only time I ever helped take a political survey was during my undergraduate days at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill back in the 1980s. I was one of many journalism students who made phone calls on behalf of the Carolina Poll, a regular survey of North Carolinians on political and social topics.
Just before Labor Day, the publicly available polls of likely voters had incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan roughly tied with Republican challenger Thom Tillis. Since Labor Day, the polling average has shifted about three points in Hagan’s direction.
When Republicans won their legislative majorities in 2010 and expanded them in 2012, they ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism and reform. They’ve largely delivered on it. Tax and regulatory burdens are lower. State spending growth has been restrained. Lawmakers have implemented major changes in transportation funding and education policy.
Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan has been running hard for reelection for more than a year. Republican nominee Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House, has been campaigning against Hagan for nearly as long. Republicans, Democrats and independent-expenditure groups have already begun their battle over control of the state legislature.
Critics of the Republican-led General Assembly allege that the teacher-pay raise included in this year’s state budget could have been implemented in a much simpler fashion: by giving across-the-board hikes to all rather than giving large raises to early-career teachers and relatively small raises to some experienced ones.
Today I’ll offer my own top fiscal priority for 2015: saving for a rainy day.
It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters most -- or so we have been assured by deep thinkers ranging from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Steven Tyler. When it comes to North Carolina’s revised 2014-15 state budget, however, the journey proved to be less an idyllic journey through the countryside than a drive through rush-hour traffic with a station wagon full of cranky kids.
I’m told that while there is no firmly established gift tradition for a 28th anniversary, the modern practice is to signify the event with an orchid.