We know about Rick Snyder’s obsession with replacing elected officials with unelected (and unaccountable) Emergency Financial Managers. We know about Scott Walker’s attacks on unions. We know about Rick Scott’s voter suppression program, along with his opposition to Obamacare. Maybe North Carolinians thought that somehow their new Republican Governor, Pat McCrory, would some how be different. Maybe as the moderate as he said he was during his campaign and during Monday’s State of the State Address, but he’s turning out to be a boiler plate right wing extremist on steroids.
Of the laws McCrory passed since he arrived at the Governor’s mansion, nothing captures the essence of his mind set like his unemployment law. It includes cuts to Unemployment benefits reducing the maximum weekly cap from $530 to $350, North Carolina Unemployment Benefits Cut – North Carolina Takes A Turn As Mississippi – Esquire reducing the duration of benefits from 20 weeks to 12 weeks and eliminates benefits for people who left work for health or family reasons. McCrory’s statement about the bill sounds like he’s channeling Paul Ryan’s logic on Medicare and his worship of the almighty job creators, “This bipartisan solution will protect our small businesses from continued over-taxation, ensure our citizens’ unemployment safety net is secure and financially sound for future generations, and help provide an economic climate that allows job creators to start hiring again.”
But wait, there’s more. Aside from the dramatic cuts in benefits, the law increases unemployment taxes paid by businesses through a combination of eliminating the zero-percent rate that roughly 30,000 businesses weren’t paying, a 20 percent state surcharge and Federal taxes of $21 / employee. Aside from these goodies, North Carolina will lose Federal emergency relief benefits that were part of the fiscal cliff agreement. According to the Charlotte Observer:
” The federal benefits, extending payments past 26 weeks of unemployment, were awarded as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal in Congress. But the federal law requires states to maintain their existing benefit structure. The U.S. Department of Labor said 170,000 people will lose an estimated $780 million in benefits in North Carolina because of the new law.”
Besides gutting unemployment benefits at a time when the unemployment rate in North Carolina is 9.2%; McCrory signed a new law that should make xenophobes everywhere proud. After resisting Federal requirements for states to issue drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, (DACA) McCrory changed his mind and opted to issue the licenses albeit with a North Carolinian version of Star of David armbands.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports: ”Across the top of the new license is a pink strip. In the center, red capital letters say, “NO LAWFUL STATUS.” On the side another set of red capital letters say, “LIMITED TERM,” referring to the license holder’s two-year reprieve from deportation.” As Moises Serrano, told the W-S J : ”Imagine trying to get on a flight at the airport, and you have to use this license. It’s an invasion of my privacy. I am undocumented and unashamed, but I say that on my terms.” I’ll bet the Queen of “papers please” wished she could high-five McCrory for this stroke of genius.
As if cutting unemployment benefits when unemployment is high and stigmatizing DACA license holders, McCrory is looking to Jindalize North Carolina’s tax system . He also said no to expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, though if Rick Scott can change his mind, it’s remotely possible that McCrory will do the same. McCrory’s plan to make education more “business friendly” by discouraging post-secondary education got a nod from the State House. The House gave overwhelming final approval Wednesday to a bill creating new kinds of high school diplomas and course plans that emphasize vocational or career paths that don’t require 4-year college degrees. (my emphasis) Oh, and there’s one more thing. It seems that McCrory wants to replace members of local boards with people who think like he does because it just makes things more efficient. From the News Observer: ”The state’s GOP-dominated legislature and Republican governor would have a free hand to sweep out all the members of several key boards and commissions and replace them with their own appointments, under a bill advanced Tuesday.”
The barbarity doesn’t end there. Cherie Berrie (I swear that really is her name) who was recently elected as North Carolina’s Labor Commissioner, wants to abolish the minimum wage. Of course, one may be tempted to wonder why on earth would North Carolinians vote for these people? The answer reminds us just how consequential state elections can be. This is the sort of government that gerrymandering builds. Erik Spanberg of the Charlotte Business Journal explains:
“Two years after the GOP took control of the House and Senate for the first time in a century, the party increased its margins to super-majorities, meaning Republicans are now veto-proof. As for a Congressional delegation now firmly in Republican hands — Dems held a 7-6 advantage but enter 2013 with just 4 of the state’s 13 Congressional seats — and the dominance in the General Asembly, Parker and others say the vote is more evenly divided (true) and skewed by redistricting carried out by Republicans (also true). State Senator Dan Blue of Wake County, a Democrat who spent 22 years in the House, calls the revamped districts “resegregation” and hopes legal challenges will lead to new boundaries.”
One can’t help noticing the irony. When Republicans govern, government is the problem.