The Republican Party’s hammer

I’m pretty partial to the expression, “when all you’ve got is a hammer, everything you see is a nail.”  That expression hits the nail on the head for the modern Republican Party.  All they’ve got is “tax cuts!”  Unemployment?  Tax cuts!  Struggling education system?  Tax cuts!  Headache?  Tax cuts!  Now, of course, tax cuts can be an appropriate policy just like a hammer can be a great tool.  But they aren’t a panacea and there’s a lot more to building a house than having a hammer and there’s a lot more to effectively running a government than just clamoring for tax cuts.

Great, great column by the N&O’s Rob Christensen (honestly, as relentlessly non-partisan a journalist as I know) today about how this tax cut obsession bodes very ill for North Carolina’s future.  The Tax Foundation has decided that NC has a horrible business climate based solely on tax rates.  And that’s what the NC Republicans keep trotting out.  That’s like judging a city’s desirability solely by swimming pools or libraries per capita.  Tells you something useful, sure, but there’s oh so much more.  You really should read the whole column, but here’s some good bits:

You can just picture all the smart boys and girls at the legislature, the governor’s office and the think tanks poised in front of their lap tops searching through the data to justify their contention that North Carolina’s climate is anti-business.

North Carolina was ranked as having “the top business climate” in the country displacing Texas in 2012, according Site Selection, the magazine of corporate real estate strategy and economic development. DELETE.

North Carolina ranked third best state for business by Chief Executive magazine in 2013 behind Texas and Florida. DELETE.

North Carolina ranked fourth in the country as the best state for business in 2012 behind Utah, Virginia an North Dakota, according to Forbes Magazine. DELETE.

North Carolina ranked fourth best in the country for business in 2012, according to CNBC, following Texas, Utah and Virginia. DELETE.

North Carolina ranked 44th in tax climate for business by the Tax Foundation. PRINT…

The Tax Foundation considers it [Wyoming] the perfect state as far as taxes. Rounding out its top five of the lowest tax states for business are South Dakota Nevada, Alaska, and Florida.

And what are the states North Carolina is trying to avoid? The worst state, according to the Tax Foundation, is New York, followed by New Jersey, California, Vermont and Rhode Island.

Now you may have varying ideas about those states. But few people would argue that Wyoming, South Dakota and Nevada are the nation’s economic engines and that New York, New Jersey and California are the nation’s economic backwaters…

The studies that placed North Carolina among the most attractive states for business included a number of factors: Cost of doing business, low unionization, regulatory environment, education, quality of life, transportation and access to capital.

Which is why the narrow-gauge focus on taxes has its drawbacks. If you cut taxes too deeply you can affect the other things that make North Carolina an attractive place to live and to work.

Spot-on.  And, classic Christensen, the overly narrow focus on taxes “has its drawbacks.”  Yeah, and drinking vinegar has its drawbacks.  It’s just stupid and completely non-nonsensical as any meaningful basis for understanding the attractiveness of a state.  That’s the drawback.  And, of course, it’s not just that cutting taxes too deeply “can” affect these other factors that make a state a place that people want to live and work; it absolutely will.  Do Republicans think that when our state’s education is the match for Alabama and Mississippi that high-tech businesses will want to locate here so they can have low taxes but then send their kids to piss-poor schools in culturally impoverished communities?

And I had not realized just how ugly this is for higher education:

But the state funding for the University of North Carolina is being squeezed like a lemon – from $2.7 billion in 2008-2009 to $2.5 billion in Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget. First it was the recession, now it is austerity measures. In one of the fastest growing states in the country, the UNC budget would normally have been expected to grow to $3.7 billion this year, based on the budget growth of previous years.

Big tax cuts would mean the squeezing is just beginning. Which may be why lawmakers are talking about shifting more kids to community colleges.

Community college is great and we should be building up the system, but from students who otherwise would not get higher education.  Not by taking students from four-year colleges.  That’s sure as hell not going to build the state in the future.   All-around, the whole approach is just breathtakingly short-sighted.  Depressing.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

3 Responses to The Republican Party’s hammer

  1. Bob Andron says:

    I’m going to Moral Monday tomorrow night.

    “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”
    Dante Alighieri
    Italian national epic poet (1265 – 1321)

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