Editorial: Tillis' 'transformed' North Carolina is rosy fantasy

Posted 5:00 a.m. Tuesday

Jobless generic, job board, unemployment generic

CBC Editorial: Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017; Editorial # 8221
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Sen. Thom Tillis so desperately wants to make North Carolina a red state he’s taken to wearing rose-tinted glasses.

Tillis, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, discusses tax cuts he helped ram through the General Assembly while he served as House speaker.

Readers perusing the piece could be forgiven if they came away thinking the former state House speaker had paved the streets with gold, made public school teachers’ supply closets overflow with resources, given state workers big raises, ended waiting lines at the DMV, slashed costs for university students and made sure everyone had easy and affordable access to health care.

While Tillis claimed he held off hordes of special interest lobbyists seeking special tax breaks in his so-called tax reforms, the truth is he worked hand-in-hand with the business lobbyists to deliver a huge corporate tax cut that hasn’t stimulated the economy, nor led to further investment.

The Tillis “analysis” was big on sweeping declarations and short on specifics. Who can blame him for looking to paint over the details of reality with the broad brush of generalizations?

Let’s add a few facts to the senator’s grandiose conclusions and provide the kind of reality check that middle class North Carolinians know all too well.

“More than 350,000 jobs have been created, and the unemployment rate has been cut nearly in half,” says Tillis. Well, how many jobs were lost over that time? How many frustrated workers just gave up and left the workforce?

When comparing North Carolina’s pre-recession employment numbers with the numbers today, there’s a clearer picture: Employment growth hasn’t come close to keeping up with the state’s population growth.

North Carolina’s population has increased 11 percent over the last decade but the size of the prime-age workforce (ages 25-54) increased just 8 percent – suggesting that some people who should be in the workforce have dropped out, including many still in their prime who lost jobs in the recession and eventually gave up trying to find something else. And that’s not to mention the number of people who have been forced to take jobs at lower rates of pay or fewer hours than they desired.

That is slightly better than treading water, in our book.

Of great concern should be the sectors where we’ve lost jobs. Compared to 2007, North Carolina has 53,000 fewer construction jobs (a 21 percent drop) and 70,000 fewer manufacturing jobs (down 13 percent). Much of the growth, meanwhile, has come in sectors characterized by low wages, few benefits and more precarious job security.

Since the recession, most North Carolina households have found it tougher to make ends meet. Median household income in North Carolina has been losing ground to inflation over the last decade. The median income of $46,193 a decade ago would be $54,964 today when adjusted for inflation. Given the latest household median income of $50,584, families are bringing in $4,376 less per year. Think of it as an 8 percent pay cut.

The current poverty rate for the state, 16.4 percent, is HIGHER than it was in 2007 – at 14.3 percent. That’s no comeback – it’s heading backwards.

What’s really going on with those Thom Tillis tax cuts?

What Tillis calls tax reform has really been a massive shift in who pays the cost of government and how they do it. In simple terms, the Tillis plan cut taxes on corporations and raised sales and use taxes on everyone else. In the last decade, sales tax collections have increased 40 percent while corporate income taxes have DROPPED 48 percent. The burden of paying the costs of government is being moved onto lower income taxpayers from higher income ones.

Tillis used overly broad strokes to paint his rosy and unrealistic picture of a “transformed” North Carolina. But when you take a closer look at the numbers that show the state’s economic performance, a different picture emerges.

Faith in trickle-down economics has left Tillis all wet and his rank-and-file constituents’ hopes for economic improvement high and dry.

While Tillis and his fellow leaders in the General Assembly have been busy taking care of the state’s comfortable big corporations – show horses – the middle and working class households of the state are left in their dust.


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  • Joe Eastland Oct 10, 12:18 p.m.
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    At least make some feeble attempt to pretend to be objective.

  • Chris Perdue Oct 10, 8:42 a.m.
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    So now it is OK to talk about labor participation rates. When that was brought up before the elections, it was b/c all the baby boomers were retiring. Now it's b/c of republicans. And we have thrown trillions of dollars at poverty for 50 years, and the poverty rate has barely moved. CBC gets their morning talking points from the DNC like all other news outlets.

  • Cnc Stone Oct 10, 8:11 a.m.
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    No the bottom line is the ncga and local government have an objective and that is “ to run the poor people out of the state “ my only question is who’s going to pay tax’s then cause rich people don’t pay tax’s ?

  • Teddy Fowler Oct 10, 7:38 a.m.
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    Bottom line: If you are a Republican you will get little or no credit from CBC for anything.