In a few weeks the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will be upon us. St. Patrick, according to popular lore, is celebrated at least in part for driving all of the snakes from Ireland.
We might one day be celebrating a holiday set aside to remember Gov. Pat McCrory, or perhaps both McCrory and State Sen. Phil Berger, as the men who drove the poor from North Carolina.
Surely, that is their goal. How else to explain the actions by Berger, the senate leader, and McCrory?
Berger came into this session of the General Assembly talking about tax reform, lowering income taxes and raising sales taxes as his primary means to make those changes — including re-instituting the state sales tax on groceries. These are moves which would have a disproportionately significant effect on the poor.
Both men have been against the expanded healthcare system popularly known as ObamaCare, so much so they insist upon keeping North Carolina out of the expanded Medicaid program despite ample evidence it would be a net plus for the state economy in addition to allowing millions of uninsured state residents to finally have access to affordable and necessary health care.
Yesterday McCrory signed into law a bill making massive cuts to the state unemployment system, most notably cutting weekly jobless payments by up to 35 percent and dropping the maximum number of weeks a person can collect jobless benefits from 26 weeks to a range of 12 to 20 weeks, depending upon the state’s unemployment rate at the time. Interestingly, McCrory signed the bill behind closed doors, without allowing the media access to the action — another disturbing theme that has emerged during McCrory’s brief tenure in office.
McCrory, Berger and their ilk cite the same old tired statements in justifying their actions — expansion of Medicaid comes with no guarantees the state will receive federal reimbursement after three years; jobless benefits must be cut to allow the state to repay a debt to the federal government for those benefits; the state’s tax code is regressive and hurts the opportunity to land new business in North Carolina.
We don’t mean to dismiss those statements, because each, when taken alone and viewed on the surface, have some legitimacy. But there are other ways to attack these issues.
Medicaid expansion, for instance, could be accepted contingent upon renewal in three years, once the state learns if promised federal funding will continue after that time.
A fix to the employment benefit debt owed to the federal government should be more balanced and include a little more give by employers, given that the debt was caused largely by cuts made to the money employers pay into the fund.
And, most of all, the GOP-controlled state government could have taken some time, looked at all sides of each issue, invites those from both side of the issues to make their pitches as to why their respective sides are correct. One example would be to study a number of reports that have indicated accepting the Medicaid expansion, even if federal government funding dropped after the initial three-year period, would still spur the economy to the point that new tax revenue for the state would offset extra expense.
Instead, every day the General Assembly is in session, every new day of the McCrory administration, makes it appear even more strongly that these people came into office with a personal agenda, a certain dogma was driving their decisions, and that measured, comprehensive consideration of all affected by government policy is of little concern.
Or, more succinctly, McCrory, Berger and their cohorts seem determined to tout North Carolina as a land where poverty does not exist, because they’ve driven all the poor from the state.