Despite all the talk of a “war on science” being waged by political conservatives and Republican politicians -- to match their supposed wars on women, men, the young, and the old, no doubt -- North Carolina now features a shrill and relentless rhetorical war on social science by political liberals and Democratic politicians.
Think that the quality of political debate is low and declining? I agree. For a recent, telling example of the problem, consider the debate about North Carolina’s participation in Common Core.
If all you know about North Carolina’s recent economic performance is what you get from Twitter feeds, partisan press releases, or brief mentions on television newscasts, then much of what you “know” is flat wrong.
Puzzled by the past several months of histrionics about North Carolina’s election-law changes? You’re hardly alone. By any objective standard, the Voter Identification and Verification Act enacted last year was commonsensical in structure and modest in potential effects.
While crafting the state budget last year, the North Carolina General Assembly applied the latest empirical research to the question of how best to improve teacher quality. In response, lawmakers have been roundly excoriated by the usual suspects -- which only served to demonstrate that the public-policy acumen of the usual suspects is, uh, suspect.
Where are America’s economic hotspots?
If you answer that question based solely on what politicians or pundits say, you might well get it wrong. You might think that Sunbelt states consistently outperform Frostbelt states, or that California’s economy is a basket case. And if your media diet is limited enough, you might think that North Carolina’s recent economic performance has been lackluster or even poor.
Liberal activists may fume, and left-wing editorialists may grind their teeth, but legislative leaders are going to defend their 2013 opportunity scholarship bill against lawsuits by the teacher union and other special interests.
In February, Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler declared that the North Carolina General Assembly had no authority to determine telecommunications policy in North Carolina.
Well, okay, Wheeler didn’t single North Carolina out for particular scorn.
During most of its history, North Carolina was a state of widely dispersed residents. There were no truly big cities, many small towns and fewer sparsely populated counties than, say, Virginia or Georgia had. Particularly along the state’s rivers and streams, you’d find a thriving mill town or farming village every few miles.
Congress should give President Barack Obama more power — when it comes to the issue of free trade, that is.
In late February, some 44,000 discouraged North Carolina workers suddenly disappeared.
Relax. It’s not as mysterious as it sounds. What happened was that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its long-awaited revision of five years of household-employment data for North Carolina and the rest of the country.
If North Carolina Democrats were to gain some legislative seats this year, state and national pundits would probably spill gobs of ink -- or at least fill gobs of pixels -- with elaborate explanations of how the party began to recover its footing in a state it once dominated.
Based on North Carolina’s modern political history, however, what would really be surprising is if Republicans didn’t lose seats in 2014.
Is there any more potent political issue in North Carolina than education? Probably not. As allies of the teachers union, Democrats hope to ride the issue back into power in Raleigh, at least by 2016. As advocates of performance pay and parental choice, Republicans hope to compete effectively with Democrats for the support of voters who value greater education opportunities for North Carolina children.
Admitted ignorance is a sign of maturity, of a willingness to learn. It can be remedied with facts. What really does grave damage is when politicians think they know something and act on it — even when what they “know” is false, misleading or incomplete. That’s how tax money is squandered, government power is abused and problems are allowed to fester.
Generally speaking, things are better than they seem -- and getting better all the time. I say this not only as a naturally optimistic person but also as one who prefers hard facts to easy sentimentality.