Not better off

If you want to know how that “Carolina Comeback” is affecting North Carolina families, look no further than median income. The North Carolina Democratic Party yesterday sent out a press release showing that median income under Republicans has dropped $4,000 and is now 47th lowest in the nation. When they took control, North Carolina was ranked 38th in the nation.

These are the numbers should be causing Republicans to lose sleep. Not only are we behind where we were when the GOP took over, we’ve fallen further than our Southern neighbors. While most of them have seen at least short periods of increasing income over the past five years, we’ve seen none.

Once again, South Carolina is eating our lunch. In 2011, they were 50th in nation in median income. Today, they are 42. Their standing has improved eight places while ours has fallen nine. Thanks, GOP.

As Neil Irwin, the New York Times senior economic correspondent, says, the median income is the “rubber-meets-road measure of whether the economy is working for the mass of Americans.” In North Carolina, it’s not. The jobs McCrory and company tout are mostly low-paying. According to the NC Budget and Tax Center, almost 60% of new jobs pay poverty-level wages.

Two years ago, Pat McCrory responded to criticism by promising that North Carolina was on the verge of a powerful comeback. It hasn’t materialized. Not only are our wages lagging behind the rest of the South, so is our gross domestic product. Our GDP is below more than half of the other Southern states.

Republicans have been arguing that their tax cuts and “tough-love” approach to kicking people off unemployment insurance resulted in a low unemployment rate and a revenue surplus. The revenue surplus actually came from raising taxes on small business, seniors citizens, and the working poor while the unemployment rate dropped because they kicked those folks off the unemployment rolls, not because of any huge job growth.

Republican economic policies have failed the middle class in North Carolina. We’ve fallen further and recovered slower than most of the country. When voters ask the question, “Am I better off today than I was four years ago,” the answer, right now, is “No.”

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of, a website of commentary and analysis.

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