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A truly Trumpian budget for North Carolina

Secrecy. Greed. Dishonesty. Self-dealing. Neglect disguised as concern. Contempt for democracy. If one were asked to describe the most notable hallmarks of the administration of President Donald Trump, it would be hard to come up with six more accurate characterizations.

Back in 2015 when Trump was first running for the Republican presidential nomination, it was easy to find prominent North Carolina conservatives who could foresee and would publicly acknowledge the threat that Trump posed to the very fabric of the American experiment. Today, tragically, less than three years later, that’s all ancient history. In 2018, not only has the North Carolina conservative movement embraced Trumpism, it is now in the process of aping all of the most shameful features of Trump’s loathsome approach to governance.

To see the latest concrete confirmation of this appalling state of affairs, North Carolinians need look no further than the preposterous state budget bill that Republican legislative leaders rolled out yesterday. Faced with the distinct likelihood of losing their legislative supermajorities at the polls this fall, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore appear to have opted for what can only be described a scorched earth approach to lawmaking.

The between-the-lines mantra evident in the 748 pages of new law [2] and budget summaries [3] sprung on the people of the state yesterday in one giant, unamendable dirt clod: “We may not be in charge like this next year so we’re going to wreak as much havoc as we possibly can in the time we have left.”

Whether it’s yet another round of tax giveaways to the rich, the continued underfunding of public schools and early childhood education, new assaults on environmental protection and public transit, the shocking neglect of school safety, dozens of outrageous pork barrel giveaways to favored special interests or just the absurd lack of process that accompanied it, the new 2019 budget is an example of Trumpism at its absolute worst.

As with just about everyone else in the state policy world – including scores of men and women who will ultimately vote on it just days after it was unveiled – the Policy Watch team is only beginning to sift through all of the details of the massive budget proposal, but even a cursory glance reveals several remarkable and destructive components, including the following:

And so, quite tragically, it goes as one wends one’s way through the budget behemoth. In area after area, healthy sums are doled out to favored (often bizarre [8]) special interests at the same time that dozens of essential public structures and services are patronized with mere lip service or less. The budget even cuts funding [9] to the state’s suicide prevention hotline!

But, of course, in the end, nothing renders the new proposal more fully “Trumpian” than the utter and outrageous lack of process. Like the would-be despot in the White House, legislative bosses are either so afraid of real debate or so utterly disinterested in democratic process that they have decided to use a parliamentary maneuver to prevent members of either party from even offering amendments to the proposal.

The budget and the tactics accompanying it are, in other words, cut from the same political cloth one would expect to see on display from Trump’s patron in the Kremlin rather than the kind associated with a functioning western democracy.

About all one can say about the budget is that caring and thinking people now know – as they do at the national level – where things really stand.