Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


LEGISLATORS, ABANDON PARTISAN BULLYING AND FOCUS ON STATE'S URGENT NEEDS: The dark and stormy hyper-partisan atmosphere, fueled by the only veto-proof majority since the governor was granted the power 22 years ago, has dissipated as a new legislature gathers for the first time. We hope now that a gubernatorial veto carries some clout, legislators will think and act more cooperatively and less ideologically as they craft legislation. To get important things accomplished, legislators will need to consider and address the interests and needs of ALL North Carolinians – not just narrow and favored special interests or powerful partisan patrons. It is an opportunity for REAL leadership to emerge. Skill in building consensus will hold greater currency than the muscle to intimidate and steamroll. How will GOP leaders Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore handle themselves?

WAKE RENEGES ON CROOKED CREEK PARK, BUT IT'S NOT OVER YET: It started out as Crooked Creek. On Monday, it became U-turn Creek. That re-christening came courtesy of a confounding 4-3 vote by the Wake County Board of Commissioners. The majority decided to reverse last year’s $4 million purchase of the closed Crooked Creek Golf Course near Fuquay-Varina and cancel plans to convert the 143-acre tract into a county park. They did it despite a lack of parks in fast-growing southern Wake County; despite a purchase price below the land’s assessed value; despite the fact that the land comes with paved paths, parking lots and utilities that the county won’t have to install; despite the fact that Wake County has never sold parkland and despite overwhelming support for the park from people in the area. And they did it because, well, because they could. It’s hard to tell whether the vote is more irresponsible or irrational. Either way, it was highly unpopular. Supporters of the park filled the board’s chambers and more looked on from an overflow room.

HB2 IS STILL HAUNTING NORTH CAROLINA: Many of HB2′s provisions were repealed. But some were left on the books, at least for a few more years. That includes a prohibition on individual cities and counties passing anti-discrimination ordinances that are any more stringent or comprehensive than the state’s own laws. And state law does not forbid discrimination for sexual identity or orientation. It’s legal, in North Carolina, to discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people simply because of who or what they are. And that’s the gift that keeps giving. It may well have been a factor in Amazon and Apple deciding against locating huge new campuses in the Triangle area. It’s enough of a problem that the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority budgeted $3 million over the past two years for “Post HB2 Marketing/Sales support.” They wouldn’t be spending that kind of money if there wasn’t a lingering problem, and the authority’s annual report noted that six states still ban official travel here because of HB2.
And now, from Wilmington, comes this news: Netflix has decided against filming a series set on the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

TRUMP DESERVES TO BE IMPEACHED. BUT SHOULD HE BE?: One gets the sense sometimes that people think of impeachment as a magic trick. Abracadabra and presto! Trump disappears in a cloud of Cheetos dust, America is saved. It’s a great fantasy, but only that. Because Trump is not the problem, only a symptom. And America doesn’t need to be saved. No, for its own mental and moral health, America needs to save itself, needs to clearly and emphatically reject what it has become. Impeachment does not do that. Voting the awfulness out does. Consider this new Congress, with its record number of women, including its first Native-American women, its first Muslim women and its youngest woman ever, this Congress that looks so much more like the country it serves. Consider the organizing, the canvassing, the fundraising, the putting lives on hold, the stop-complaining-about-it-and-getting-involved it took to produce this result. Then roll up your sleeves and forget about magic. That’s not what got us into this mess. It’s not what will get us out.

WHY AUTOCRATS LOVE EMERGENCIES: In a democracy, presidents must have patience and thick skin. They must be able to compromise. And crucially, they must be able to lose. Autocratic-minded leaders, by contrast, find democratic politics intolerably frustrating. Most lack the skills or the temperament for the give-and-take of everyday politics. They are allergic to criticism and compromise. They have little patience for the intricacies of the legislative process. Crises offer these would-be authoritarians an escape from constitutional shackles. National emergencies — especially wars or major terrorist attacks — do three things for such leaders. First, they build public support. Security crises typically produce a rally-round-the-flag effect in which presidential approval soars. Citizens are more likely to tolerate — and even support — authoritarian power grabs when they fear for their safety. Second, security crises silence opponents, since criticism can be viewed as disloyal or unpatriotic. Finally, security crises loosen normal constitutional constraints. Fearful of putting national security at risk, judges and legislative leaders generally defer to the executive. National emergencies can threaten the constitutional balance even under democratically minded presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. But they can be fatal under would-be autocrats, for they provide a seemingly legitimate (and often popular) justification for concentrating power and eviscerating rights.


KELLY MORRIS ROBERTS, PHD: THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARTER SCHOOLS REVEALED: Many thanks for the article “Popularity of charter schools is causing this NC school district to lose students” (Jan. 7) and the quotation from Terry Stoops, vice president of research for the John Locke Foundation. Directly from Stoops: “ Charter schools were designed to foster competition with districts.” Not, as we were told in 1997 when charters started, to foster innovation. Not labs free from some regulations so we could find the best ways to benefit all kids. Not think tanks full of the best people working together with school districts on behalf of equity and excellence for all. Finally we hear the truth about why charters are here and why the public is paying for them. We are creating winners, losers, and inequity as a sharp and documented result. If factors of diversity and inclusion are factored in, we are in reality simply creating losers and inequity in both systems, no doubt about it, in an unprecedented move for our great state. These are children. We know better, and this rare admission can help us choose better for the state of North Carolina, once a national leader in education.

WILLIAM TOTH: EMBRACE OF TRUMP BY CHURCH DISHEARTENS: Some say Christianity is under attack in America. I suggest, instead, that their hurtful, judgmental words and actions, not to mention virtual worship of all things Trump by some “Christians,” has created a perception of “religion” as oppressive and cruel. That has marginalized them, not the actions of others. I, myself, was a devoted member of the Catholic faith my entire life. I even taught at Catholic schools for 10 years and my parish was at the center of a great deal of my social life. I left the church two years ago when the pastor took to pontificating on his right-wing visions for the world from the pulpit; I grew weary of leaving church confused and angry. The church community I knew so well morphed, and not in a good way. Many who had belonged for decades fled for better climes. Now, hearing so many evangelicals likening Trump to the second coming of Christ, I have become totally disillusioned with “Christianity” as a whole. Never wanted to see this happen. It has pained me greatly.

M.L. STEPHENSON: SON OF THE CONFEDERACY SPEAKS OUT: I am a graduate of UNC-CH. My family’s ties with the university go back more than 200 years. Some of my ancestors fought and died for the Confederacy. They were brave men, motivated by sincere conviction and belief, but they were wrong. Erected out of nostalgia for slavery, a symbol of Jim Crow, and an idol for the Lost Cause, Silent Sam has always been a glorification of white supremacy and oppression. It has always been and is a monument to evil. Evil is not purified by the passage of time, nor is the immoral made honorable by history, tradition, or custom. To say otherwise is to be immorally disingenuous. The installation of Silent Sam anywhere on campus is the reaffirmation of the evils it represents. The university is meant to lift up and enrich all who encounter it. The presence of Silent Sam will degrade and shame not those whom it is intended to devalue, but the university and ourselves. Any defense of this symbol is a defense of an embodiment of racist suppression. I call upon all my fellow North Carolinians, especially my Carolina brothers and sisters, to voice their opposition to the re-establishment of this hateful symbol of bigotry

Author's note: My ancestors also fought for the Confederacy, my GGG Grandfather and his son, and I agree wholeheartedly with the above.



From the dark side

This week's propaganda piece is brought to N&O readers care of Civitas:

The recent buzz around North Carolina “losing out” on big projects from Amazon and Apple underscores politicians’ strong desire to pick winners and losers in the economy. Legislators from several states competed over who could lavish these corporate giants with the biggest handouts and tax breaks.

Doling out millions of taxpayer dollars and other political privileges creates unfair advantages for the few politically favored corporations while harming the many North Carolina businesses that have been paying taxes and creating jobs for decades.

Such crony relationships put big business and big government in bed together and not only create an unfair playing field, but an environment highly conducive to political corruption.

For the most part I agree with the above, but I don't blame (state) government for creating this situation, which his literally turned into a "do or die" thing, if you want to recruit corporate headquarters. If any blame could be laid on government, it would be the Federal government's unwillingness to exercise any anti-trust restraint on corporations, especially when it comes to them gobbling up smaller companies.

But that's an argument for another day. It's Civitas' solution to this problem that, while predictable, is still a meme too far:

There is a solution, however. What if North Carolina could be a national leader in rejecting corporate cronyism, while at the same time creating more than 43,000 jobs and creating the fifth-best business tax climate in the nation?

How? Just eliminate the state’s corporate income tax.

What better corporate incentive could there be than zero tax liability on all corporations operating in North Carolina?

In a study just released by the Civitas Institute, economists concluded that eliminating the state corporate income tax would create 43,000 jobs over the next decade alone and grow average worker salaries by more than $1,500.

Okay, first of all, 43,000 jobs over a ten year time period is laughably small. But even more laughable is that $1,500 thing. Over the decade spanning 2000-2010, which has the added factor of ending at the height of the Recession, U.S. average median incomes for the 2nd Quintile rose from $33,000 to $38,000 ($5,000 gain), and the 3rd Quintile jumped from $52,174 to $61,500 ($9,326 gain).

In other words, if NC wages only grow by $1,500 over the next decade, we are even more screwed than we thought possible.

But aside from those telling numbers, Civitas' jibe about "corporate cronyism" is so ironic I can taste it in my mouth. Especially since the new CEO (Donald Bryson) worked so hard for the Koch Brothers, blocking renewable energy and waving the banner for fossil fuels. I mean, come on. Civitas wouldn't exist if it wasn't for corporate greed. Look in a fucking mirror.

Many economists note that the state corporate income tax is the most harmful to economic growth of all state taxes. While corporations are a favorite whipping boy of the political Left, the fact is corporations don’t pay taxes, people do. The people bearing the cost are shareholders, customers and employees of those corporations.

Guess who primarily benefits from the additional business investment spurred by the tax cut? Workers who are hired to fill the newly created jobs, and existing workers whose wages increase because investments in capital goods make them more productive.

In the end, benefits of tax cuts to “large corporations” accumulate mostly to workers.

That's like a faulty meme smorgasbord. First of all, as we have witnessed with the Federal tax cuts, those corporations will *not* pass those savings along to their workers, or their end customers purchasing the products or services. The shareholders, and especially the corporate shareholders who have controlling interests, are the only ones who will benefit. Period. Wages don't grow, new jobs aren't created via expansion, or any of those other oft-repeated but never proven claims.

As to what "most economists" claim about state corporate taxes, even if it were true (it's not, because they don't), here's the reality: There are only *two* states with zero corporate taxes, South Dakota and Wyoming. South Dakota's median household income is about $3,800 below the national average, unemployment is slightly above average, but considering its population is well below a million, both of those numbers should be (wildly) reversed if Civitas' "theory" about corporate income tax was even remotely true. Wyoming's median income is slightly above (U.S.) average, but their average property tax is 62 cents per $100 (meaning some areas are hella high), and their sales tax is just under 6%.

What's not mentioned in this article (glaring absence) is the fact Republicans have already reduced the corporate tax to 2.5%. Why would they leave that out, you might ask? That's real simple. If readers were aware of that, they'd be more inclined to say, "Let's see how this works before we get rid of corporate taxes entirely." Which is the last thing Donald Bryson and Brian Balfour want, because they know that 95% of the above article is bullshit, and the only thing time will reveal is how wrong they are.