That metallic burning smell in the air these days in Raleigh is most likely the right-wing spin machine overheating trying to confuse and mislead people in North Carolina about what the General Assembly and the McCrory Administration did this summer.
McCrory’s political supporters have slapped a silly and contrived television ad together that is now running in the state’s largest media markets while the folks at the embattled Department of Health and Human Services released a semi-cartoonish infographic of their “accomplishments” this year that conveniently left out every one of the myriad of shocking scandals and mistakes that have plagued the agency in the last few months.
Legislative leaders are weighing in too, with nasty op-eds demeaning educators and public speeches making absurd claims, the most ridiculous of which might be that teachers received the equivalent of a one percent pay raise in the tax cut package passed this summer. Senator Jerry Tillman told that whopper just the other day.
The Republicans own tax tables showed that someone must earn $250,000 year to receive a one percent tax cut. Most teachers earn about one-sixth of that much.
None of the rhetoric or spin is new. It’s just the same stale talking points careening back and forth in the right-wing echo chamber, from propaganda outfits to legislators’ newsletters to talk radio and right-wing blogs and then back again.
You have read about most of them here before, but to make it easier to fend off the disingenuous claims, here is a simple list of seven of the biggest and most common falsehoods emanating from Right Wing Avenue as the summer comes to an end.
1. They increased spending on public schools.
No they didn’t. They spent over $100 million less than the Office of Management and Budget, headed by none other than Art Pope himself, told lawmakers it would take to keep schools funded at the same level as last year.
They spent over $500 million less on public education than lawmakers spent in 2007-2008 when you adjust for inflation. That’s why thousands of teacher assistants are being laid off, hundreds if not thousands of teacher positions are being lost, classes are getting bigger and funds for supplies and school buses and textbooks are being cut.
That’s not speculation. You can read about the cuts every day on ncpolicywatch.com. Just click on the button “Tracking the Cuts: the Dismantling of Our Public Schools.
And remember, teachers in North Carolina must work 15 years to make $40,000 and our per pupil spending is almost the lowest in the country. If all that’s not enough, the budget lawmakers passed and Governor McCrory signed siphons $10 million from public schools and sends it to completely unaccountable private and religious academies.
2. They cut taxes for everybody and that will turn the economy around.
No they didn’t and no it won’t.
They cut taxes for out of state corporations and the wealthy. When you factor in the end to the state Earned Income Tax Credit, the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers will pay more under the tax shift plan, including many small businesses.
The legislature’s own Fiscal Research Division says that a couple with two children that earns $60,000 with most of the income from their small business will pay $2,700 more in state taxes.
Millionaires, on the other hand, will get almost $10,000 a year break.
As for the jobs claim, most economists don’t believe it—and not just liberal scholars. Dr. Mike Walden, an adjunct scholar with the John Locke Foundation, says the evidence shows that cutting state taxes on the wealthy and corporations does not create jobs.
McCrory promised many times that any tax reform plan would be revenue neutral but the great tax shift he signed will cost $600 million over the next two years, $2.4 billion over the next four years. That means less money for teachers and schools and health care for folks who need it.
3. Medicaid is the reason we couldn’t give teachers and state employees a raise.
Medicaid is the reason that we couldn’t adequately fund programs for people with a mental illness or a disability. Medicaid is the reason that we couldn’t fund the drug courts. Medicaid is the reason lawmakers abolished the award-running Teaching Fellows program.
If there is a problem in North Carolina, the folks in charge now will tell you that it’s all Medicaid’s fault, with its cost overruns and out of control budget.
But Medicaid did not cost that much more than most people expected this year. Perdue Administration officials told the General Assembly the savings they were building into last year’s budget were simply not possible, but they passed a budget counting on the savings anyway.
Then there is Community Care of North Carolina, a home grown nonprofit managed care group recently given an award by Senator Richard Burr for its efficiency and patient outcomes and cost savings. McCrory and his HHS team want to end CCNC and instead turn over Medicaid to out of state for profit managed care companies.
4. The attacks on women’s health care rights are actually about making health care safer.
No they aren’t. It is simply about reducing access to abortion services. Last session the General Assembly voted to force 13 year old rape or incest victims to watch an ultrasound and talk to anti-abortion zealots before they could have a legal medical procedure even if the girl and her parents had made their decision.
This year, lawmakers passed a sweeping attack on abortion rights that McCrory signed that could close down almost every abortion clinic in the state. Rep. Paul Stam admitted in a television interview that part of the motivation for the legislation was to reduce women’s access to abortions.
The new law comes after McCrory promised in a televised debate last fall not to sign any further restrictions on abortion. Mark that down as a simple, straightforward campaign promise broken.
5. All the attacks on the poor and working poor are actually designed to create more jobs for low-income families.
No they are not. They are designed to reward their corporate campaign contributors and pander to their right-wing base and the hatred they have for President Obama.
The draconian cuts to unemployment benefits and cutting off emergency federal benefits to 70,000 laid off workers came in legislation crafted by the well-connected lobbyists for the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, folks who have long railed against the state’s reasonable unemployment system and used the debt incurred during the Great Recession to dismantle it.
Governor McCrory and state lawmakers refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care even though it would have provided health care coverage for 500,000 uninsured low-income adults with the federal government picking up the full cost of expansion for three years and 90 percent after that.
They dislike Obama far more than they care about the uninsured.
6. The dismantling of environmental protections will also create jobs and will not damage our natural resources.
This might be the biggest whopper of all. North Carolina managed to have both one of the best climates in the country year after year and effective protections of our land, water, and air that made the state a destination point for tourists and business executives looking for a high quality life for their families and employees.
This administration and legislature have declared war on the environment in dozens of ways, many of them in the “regulatory reform act” that rolls back protections from everything from dangerous coal ash to leaky garbage trucks to pollution of our lakes and streams.
7. The dramatic changes in voting laws are only about restoring integrity and public confidence in our elections.
No, they are not. They are about making it more likely that Republicans will win elections by making it harder for people who support Democrats to vote. That is the strategy behind not only the unnecessary and disenfranchising voter ID law, but also the more than 20 other voting changes snuck into the elections bill at the last minute.
Reducing the number of early voting days, ending same day registration, and ending pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds have nothing to do with integrity of the process. They are designed for one reason, to make it harder for certain people to vote.
The law also allows big donors to give more money to candidates and to give money more secretly to shady independent groups. That doesn’t do much for public confidence or the integrity of our elections.
As offensive as the voting changes are, they make sense in the crass and cynical political world view of the folks now running things in Raleigh. They know most voters don’t agree with their radical agenda and they aren’t certain that their efforts to confuse people about what they actually did will work.
The voter suppression bill is their insurance policy.
But folks are figuring that out too. That’s why the right-wing spin machine is overheating.