Here is something about Gov. Pat McCrory’s alleged Carolina Comeback that you don’t hear every day.
Most of the jobs created in North Carolina in the last few years would have been created anyway, without the policies of McCrory and the General Assembly—the tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, the drastic reductions in unemployment insurance for laid off workers, and the dismantling of state regulations that protect the environment.
That’s not liberal spin.
That is the conclusion of a prominent conservative commentator in a recent column extolling the virtues of those regressive policy decisions in the last few years and painting a rosy picture of how the state’s economy has fared with Republicans in charge.
There are plenty of misleading claims in the column too but the conclusion is important to remember in this political year when the propaganda mills are churning out talking points bragging about how well North Carolina is doing thanks to the decisions made in Raleigh.
The fact that the corporate tax breaks and unemployment insurance cuts had little to do with the state’s recovery is only one of the things to remember about the alleged Carolina Comeback that McCrory frequently touts. Here, courtesy of the N.C. Budget & Tax Center, are six more.
1) North Carolina has made little progress recently in reducing unemployment. The national unemployment rate fell by almost a full percentage point in 2015 to 4.9 percent in January 2016. The North Carolina rate is still at 5.6 percent and all four states that border North Carolina have a lower unemployment rate. Too many people are still having a hard time finding a job.
2) North Carolina is not adding jobs fast enough to keep pace with its growing workforce. Job growth in the state is not even in the top ten and trails other southern states like Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, etc.
3) Many parts of North Carolina are still struggling years after the recovery from the Great Recession began. In 79 of the state’s 100 counties there were more people looking for work in January than before the recession and 65 counties have fewer jobs than before the recession began.
4) The disparity in overall economic well-being varies dramatically across the state. A recent Prosperity Watch report from the Budget & Tax Center finds that not only is the average child poverty rate in North Carolina a disturbing 24.1 percent, it ranges up to more than 40 percent in some counties.
5) Wages in North Carolina are not keeping up with other states. The weekly wages of the average worker in the state grew only 1.5 percent 2014 to 2015. That is less than workers gained in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and many other states. People with jobs are still working hard, they are just not making as much as their counterparts in other places.
6) Tax cuts have not made our economy grow faster. The national recovery deserves most of the credit for the improvement in North Carolina. And several neighboring states that have not cut taxes have seen their economy grow more. It turns that giving tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy doesn’t result in an economic boom for everybody else—or even most people.
None of these inconvenient facts are likely to make it into the talking points of politicians defending the actions of the last few years.
The truth is things have improved in North Carolina like they have across the nation but workers are still struggling to find jobs that pay a decent wage and the tax system favors those at the top even more than it used to.
There are a lot of ways to describe all that, but comeback is not one of them.
Chris Fitzsimon is the Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch.