On July 9, the New York Times editorial page portentously announced “The Decline of North Carolina.” The editors warned that ever since last November, when Republicans won the governor’s mansion and both legislative houses for the first time since Reconstruction, the government of the Tar Heel state has become “a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot.”
The Times patiently explained that Republican leaders have been very, very naughty for proposing income-tax cuts and a ban on sex-selective abortions, repealing the tendentiously named Racial Justice Act, and rejecting the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, among other sins. In short, the paper’s editors are disgusted with Republicans for daring to act as if the majority of North Carolinians who elected them actually want or expect policies different from those of the Democrats — who, speaking of demolition derbies, entertained voters with years of wacky hi-jinks including a secret jet service, lavish taxpayer-sponsored art tours of Europe, a dinner for four that was actually a lady’s jacket, crooked carnies running the State Fair, a stupendous lottery scandal that began before the state even had a lottery, and a comically dishonest appointee who briefly became the nation’s most infamous district attorney.
But never mind all that. Never mind, either, that the state has continually borrowed from the U.S. Treasury to pay for unemployment benefits, building up an unfunded liability of $2.5 billion. The Times editors, in their wisdom, are content to blame new Republican governor Pat McCrory and legislative leaders for finally attempting to pay back the loan:
The cruelest decision by lawmakers went into effect last week: ending federal unemployment benefits for 70,000 residents. Another 100,000 will lose their checks in a few months. Those still receiving benefits will find that they have been cut by a third, to a maximum of $350 weekly from $535, and the length of time they can receive benefits has been slashed from 26 weeks to as few as 12 weeks.
Quelle horreur. Others might be more horrified by the fact that the state’s debt to the feds incurs interest amounting to $21 per worker per day, a cost that will be passed on to employers under state law.
The editors further explained that the great Republican Regression is especially disappointing for the Tar Heel State, because in years past its citizens behaved in such a promisingly progressive fashion, especially for (sniff) the South:
North Carolina was once considered a beacon of farsightedness in the South, an exception in a region of poor education, intolerance and tightfistedness. In a few short months, Republicans have begun to dismantle a reputation that took years to build.
Today, North Carolina State GOP chairman Claude Pope wrote on behalf of his party to thank the Times for its effusion of concern. Via Politicker:
Thank you, New York Times. We southern hillbillies are always honored when the Old Gray Lady’s beacons of intelligence bestow their political wisdom from on high.
And why shouldn’t we be eager to heed your advice on critical legislative matters pending in the Tar Heel State?
After all, you’ve stood courageously against some of humanity’s most imminent threats – like soda. Does the thought of hiking taxes on North Carolina’s job creators make your Ivy League hearts flutter as fast as a new tax on Dr. Pepper? It must. Why else would you be so serious about leaving the unemployed stuck in poverty, instead of helping them climb out of it by creating new jobs?
You’re one of the world’s most ardent advocates of diversity and tolerance. Except the ideological kind, of course. Remember 1956? That’s the last time you endorsed a Republican presidential candidate.
That’s right: Carter, Dukakis, Mondale – all met your elite editorial standards. So it’s understandable you felt the need to traipse into this General Assembly’s business, with no mention of the Democrat disaster that preceded it.
If you had ever stepped foot in North Carolina, you’d know the carnage you describe is actually a massive rebuilding and clean-up effort. Your ideological soul mates sunk [sic] this state into a financial hole larger than your collective egos.
No wonder the liberals here swoon over your every word. What you oracles of knowledge lack in humility, you certainly make up for in fair-mindedness, and accuracy.
Although, your “demolition derby” of hyperbole did miss the mark on our legislative agenda. The voter ID laws we’re “rushing” through have actually been in the works since January. The convicted death row inmates you defend – those guilty of some of our state’s most egregious, violent crimes – already have an avenue to prove discrimination, one that doesn’t rely on faulty political science research.
What was it, exactly, about North Carolina that you found so “farsighted”? Was it double-digit unemployment? Horrendous dropout rates? Declining wages? The highest taxes in the Southeast?
And spend more money for better education, you say? How’s that working for your public schools, NYC? Still poorly-performing, and poverty stricken?
Oh, and thanks for all the revenue. The “grotesque” policies you decry are bringing North Carolina more residents from New York than any other state in the nation.
Thanks again, New York Times. We aspire one day to live in a state as progressive, clean and friendly as your city. And to live in a world as enlightened as your editorial board.