Five years of GOP rule cripples state, report shows

Five years of GOP rule cripples state, report shows
December 10
00:00 2015

By Cash Michaels

For the Chronicle

After five years of Republican governance in North Carolina, a new report from a nonpartisan government watchdog group says the state has been “altered and weakened,” definitively reversing its prior progressive course, and has actually fallen behind in the areas of education, social programs and public policy investment.

In effect, North Carolina’s rich have greatly benefited from numerous tax cuts at the expense of the state’s poor who, statistics show, are slipping deeper and deeper into poverty, especially with the elimination of several social safety net programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and cuts to unemployment benefits.

The multi-part report titled “Altered State,” is produced by the editorial staff of NC Policy Watch, a progressive nonprofit project of the N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh. It consists of eight news stories and several commentaries that take an in-depth and concise analysis of the drastic changes in several public policy areas that have resulted in North Carolina becoming one of the most conservative states in the nation.

Indeed, in the report’s introduction, NC Policy Watch Executive Director Chris Fitzsimon goes back to an October 2011 meeting that then state House Speaker Thom Tillis had at a Mars Hill restaurant that was videotaped where he promised “… that one of his goals was to ’divide and conquer’ people on public assistance.”

Tillis, now a U.S. senator, explained that he wanted to get people with disabilities to “look down” at others on public assistance, low-income families whom he deemed unworthy of public support. Fitzsimon continued. “It was a revealing moment for the new Republican majority in Raleigh, laying bare one of their goals, to unravel the social safety net in pursuit of their aim to shrink the government they disdain and slash taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

“It is part of an agenda they have pursued without pause in the last five years,” Fitzsimon added, “and the damage to North Carolina has been remarkable and stunning to behold.”

From the slashing of the social safety net to fewer protections of the environment, drastic cuts to the public education budget to restrictions in voting rights, the report denotes all of the areas where conservative policies over the past five years, mostly targeting the poor, have had a devastating impact.

Rob Schofield, director of Research for N.C. Policy Watch, helped to edit the report and wrote the conclusion. He says anyone seeking an accurate picture of where North Carolina stands now versus five years ago needs to read “Altered State.”

“The folks who are driving this train are determined to roll back the clock,” Schofield says.

Though he says “Altered States” is “a lot of bad news,” Schofield says he tried to ensure that there were areas of hope that were also highlighted. Still, when areas like median income being much lower for families than five years ago pop up, it’s hard to encourage that those challenges can be overcome.

The result is that North Carolina has dramatically moved from the middle of the pack in terms of all 50 states in areas like per pupil spending and unemployment benefits, to literally near the bottom with less progressive states like Alabama and Mississippi.

With the numerous tax cuts employed since 2011 when the Republicans took over the N.C. General Assembly, the state is operating with less revenue, especially with the rich paying, on average, $15,000 less in taxes.

If there is one thing Schofield says should stay with readers regarding the changes that have already taken place, it is that there is no sign that any changes are slowing down, meaning that more is on the way.

“The damage that has taken place over the past five years has been enormous,” says Rick Glazier, executive director of the N.C. Justice Center and former Democratic state lawmaker. “But if we’re going to turn things around in the years to come and put North Carolina back on the path to progress, it’s imperative that people understand where things stand. This report does a great job of bringing home the nature of the challenges we face.”

From now until the middle of December, a new article will be issued each morning online from the “Altered State” report. Go to for more.

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