Opinion

Become Alabama in 12 easy steps

(News item: State revenues in North Carolina decreased by more than $200 million in July and August, the first two months of the fiscal year, when compared with the same months in 2013. That’s also $50 million short of state budget projections, the (Raleigh) News & Observer reports.)

Twelve Easy Steps to Becoming Alabama:

1) Slash taxes, as N.C. Republicans did last year when they cut both the corporate tax rate and the personal income tax rate, with the most significant benefits going to wealthy North Carolinians.

2) Tell citizens this is tax “reform,” not simply tax cuts.

3) Explain, too, that this will help “job creators” grow our state’s economy, despite the fact that history shows there is little to no link between tax cuts and economic growth. The reason for this is that businesses add jobs when they believe doing so will help them grow and make more money. They do not need a tax break to want to make more money, and they won’t add jobs until it’s economically advantageous to do so, regardless of tax breaks.

4) Do not explain that last part to voters.

5) Cut spending, as N.C. lawmakers have had to do to offset the hundreds of millions in lost tax revenue. These cuts can be made in a number of ways, such as trimming health and welfare benefits for poor people, or cutting unemployment benefits for those without a job.

6) Subtly blame these poor and unemployed people for needing government “handouts.”

7) Bonus Tip: One especially fertile target for spending is education. Freeze higher education pay and cut education budgets, despite increases in enrollment. Cut the money that’s spent per student in classrooms and raise teacher pay only after it’s politically destructive to ignore it. Then cut critical education needs like teacher assistants to help pay for those salaries, and fund the rest of the permanent pay increase with one-time only sources of state revenue.

8) Hope no one notices that last thing.

9) Wave off signs of trouble, as new state budget director Lee Roberts did this week when asked about the state’s alarming two-month revenue shortfall. Roberts said it was too early to worry, despite the N.C. Budget and Tax Center estimating that revenue will be down $300 million in 2015 and at least a half-billion dollars next year, when new tax cuts go into effect.

10) Remind people, as Republicans have, that revenue will be just fine when job creators from other states see how low our taxes are and load the moving vans. Don’t tell them that the high-end companies we want, along with the talented workers they might bring, don’t care as much about low taxes as they do issues like education, quality of life and social progressiveness.

11) Point to Texas, which is what Republicans often do when talking about how a tax-cutting state attracts business. Don’t mention that Texas is thriving more because of its booming gas and oil industries, which account for an increasing, not declining, share of the state’s supposedly “diverse” economy. That growth begets other growth, much like the banking industry did in Charlotte.

12) Do not point to Kansas, where tax cuts similar to North Carolina have brought budget shortfalls so severe that the reliably red state might not reelect conservative Gov. Sam Brownback. Said one longtime Republican voter to the New York Times this week: “We’re going to be bankrupt in two or three years if we keep going his way.”

Follow these simple steps and your revenues will continue to decrease, which will prompt more spending cuts. You will become attractive mostly to companies that want cheaper labor that’s not particularly educated. You will be able to provide that because you will be at or near the bottom of the nation in education spending.

You also will scrape the bottom in health statistics and poverty numbers and overall quality of living standards. You will be West Virginia or Mississippi or Arkansas. You will be Alabama.

But you’ll have low taxes. Congratulations.

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