The myth persists on the Right in North Carolina that the decision by Governor Pat McCrory and legislative leaders to slash unemployment benefits for laid off workers is responsible for the big drop in the state unemployment rate.
It’s a talking point that is constantly parroted by Republican legislators, right-wing think tanks and even national conservative media outlets; that cutting off unemployment benefits forced workers to find jobs and lowered unemployment. It’s the “Carolina Comeback” McCrory mentions at every opportunity and that his supporters cite incessantly on social media.
But it is simply not true, as pointed out again in a column in the News & Observer Friday by Dean Baker with the Center for Policy and Economic Research in Washington and John Quinterno with South by North Strategies in Chapel Hill.
They make the same clear and convincing case that the N.C. Budget & Tax Center has been making for months, that there has been no massive job creation in North Carolina in the last year resulting in a lower unemployment rate. Laid off workers are not finding jobs—because not many jobs have been created.
As Baker and Quinterno point out, while the state may have created more jobs in the second half of 2013 than in the first half of the year, overall fewer jobs were created in 2013 than in 2012. And only 13,000 more people were working in North Carolina December of 2013 than in December 2012, after a year of the alleged Carolina Comeback.
The column notes that more than 50,000 people were reported as leaving the labor force in the last six months of 2013. That means they were not working and not actively seeking work. There were no jobs for them to find and they are no longer counted when the unemployment rate is calculated, so the rate appears lower.
Overall, more 110,000 fewer people were in the labor force in 2013 than in 2012. There simply was no Carolina Comeback in 2013 for the unemployed, no matter how hard the folks on the Right try to spin it.
Less talk about those weaker regulations
The absurd claims about the unemployment benefit cuts are the ones made the most often by Carolina Comebackers to take credit for lower unemployment rates, but folks who support the radical agenda of Governor McCrory also point to the tax cuts for out of state corporations and the wealthy last year and the push to weaken or repeal reasonable state regulations, especially ones designed to protect the environment.
The tax cut argument doesn’t make much sense. It couldn’t have created many jobs since cuts hadn’t gone into effect in 2013. And for folks who think the prospect of lower taxes made businesses more likely to expand or locate here, that’s highly unlikely too since state and local taxes account for less than two percent of business costs.
As for the positive effect of weakening environmental regulations, that’s a point that has been made far less frequently lately in the wake of the devastating coal ash spill in the Dan River that has prompted a criminal investigation of McCrory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources by the U.S. Justice Department.
President Reagan a social engineer?
Speaking of the tax “reform” passed last year, Rep. David Lewis took to Twitter this week to refute the assertion that lawmakers raised taxes on low income families last summer—even though the General Assembly’s own staff says a married couple who has two children and earns $20,000 will pay $262 more under the tax changes.
Lewis says that’s because legislators finally ended “social engineering,” referring to the expiration of the state Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers. Roughly 900,000 workers received the credit, including 60,000 military families.
Former President Ronald Reagan called the EITC the best anti-poverty, pro-family program that ever came out of Congress. Lewis prefers to call it social engineering and end it, leaving hardworking low-income families out in the cold with a tax plan that also give millionaires a $12,000 a year tax cut. At least we know where his priorities are.
GOP touts raise for third of teachers
And finally on the spin front is a cookie cutter press release from Republican House members with the headline “Teacher raises announced.” There’s also a link to video of what is described as the “press conference” where Governor McCrory and legislative leaders announced the plan.
The headline actually should read: “Gov. McCrory announces raises for third of teachers; 2/3 receive nothing.” And the announcement was not made at a press conference. It was made a carefully staged media event at the high school that McCrory attended in Guilford County.
No questions were allowed of the speakers at the podium during the event, which is one of the things that has to happen for it be considered a press conference.
Staged media events for politicians are hardly new, but they are not press conferences.