When educational statistics and state politics collide, the results can be cringe-inducing.
As Democrats and Republicans debated North Carolina’s recently approved state budget, they devoted much of their attention to the income statement of state government. They argued about next year’s revenues and expenditures. What didn’t get nearly as much attention was how the budget affected state government’s balance sheet of assets and liabilities.
Is state spending on education an investment or a political payoff? Critics of the North Carolina state budget just approved by Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature use the term “investment” a lot. But their arguments sound more like cheap politics.
When you hear politicians utter the phrase “economists say,” be skeptical. There may well be economists who agree with their particular policy idea. But economists and other social scientists don’t speak with one voice. There are many differences of opinion, reflecting differences in assumptions and methodology.
A few weeks ago, I was interviewing one of North Carolina’s senior Democratic statesmen for my upcoming biography of former Gov. Jim Martin. Not surprisingly, the interview occasionally veered from the events of 20 years ago to the events of 2013.
Liberal politicians, activists and commentators have spent months prodding, baiting and criticizing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-led state legislature. While occasionally goading their targets into making unwise comments, the obstructionists have failed to keep North Carolina’s new conservative leaders from pursuing fundamental reforms of the state’s failed public policies.
In Raleigh, the conservatives are confidently progressive and the progressives are desperately conservative.
Life, the old saying goes, is best thought of as a journey, not a destination. When it comes to reforming North Carolina’s tax code, however, I’d say the reverse is true. The journey may have been messy over the past few months, as state lawmakers and policy analysts pitched and debated various plans. But in the end, all that will really matter is the destination.
During the past year, North Carolinians have heard many things about Obamacare, Medicaid, and health care reform that turned out to be untrue.
If reforming North Carolina’s tax code were easy, one of the many tax-reform efforts of the past 20 years would have succeeded. Didn’t happen.
Just about every political cause in Raleigh is being pitched as a spur to economic growth. It’s easy to see why. North Carolina continues to post one of the worst unemployment rates in the country. Poll respondents continue to list job creation as the top priority for their elected leaders.
The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP is spearheading a weekly series of protests at the state legislature called “Moral Mondays” directed against Republican-supported bills such as tax reform and voter ID. Might I respectfully suggest that the participants agree to a weekly series of instructional sessions about free speech in a constitutional republic? Let’s call them “Teachable Tuesdays.”
The need for remedial education on the principles of self-government became apparent during the May 13 protest. One participant held up a sign stating “This is what Democracy looks like!” And Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP chapter, remarked that the state capitol police “should not be arresting us. You should thank us for having the courage to tell it like it is.”
Uh, no. While robust political debate and colorful protests are just fine, attempting to block elected lawmakers from entering their chambers to conduct legislative business — which is how the Monday protests conclude before the police move in — is precisely the opposite of democracy.
Fiscal conservatism comes naturally to me. After all, my middle name is McDonald.
“People generally quarrel,” G.K. Chesterton once wryly observed, “because they cannot argue.”
Now that Pat McCrory has passed the oh-so-important mark of 100 days in office, the political class in Raleigh feels obligated to offer a critique of his administration. The most common one is that Gov. McCrory is playing “small ball.”