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Save our state

April 4, 2013

Published here on April 3, 2013

The Republican Party is taking us straight to hell. At least that’s the message you would have walked away with had you attended last week’s “Save our State” conference.

Last Thursday, several university professors met at Duke University’s campus to complain about Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-controlled General Assembly, mostly to protest the proposed $139 million in cuts to the UNC System. The panelists had a lot to say, voicing concerns about everything from the rejection of Medicaid expansion to the proposed changes to voter ID laws. Nancy MacLean, a professor of history and public policy at Duke, stopped just short of calling the GOP racist in her criticism, referencing Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign.

Where’s Michelle Obama when I need a good eye roll?

One “Save our State” complaint was that North Carolina public spending on K-12 education ranks 46th in the nation. However, we’re also at the bottom of the list when it comes to being debt-free — there are only two states that owe more money to the federal government than North Carolina. Look at it that way, and you could say it makes sense…

Plus, McCrory’s proposed budget includes funding to hire 1,800 new teachers and help 5,000 at-risk 4-year-olds go to pre-school. This is a far cry from an educational Armageddon.

The “Save our State” logic is a bit skewed. Helen Ladd, a professor of public policy studies and economics at Duke, claimed McCrory and his General Assembly minions are depriving the state of education, and thus its most valuable resource.

Here’s the problem: North Carolina’s most valuable resource is not education. It’s not tourism, it’s not manufacturing and it’s not technology. Big government won’t say out loud what we need most because our greatest resource is tapped out: money.

I’ve heard the justifications for spending ourselves into the ground, but consider this – when the money dries up, so does progress.

No, you may argue, the United States is a free country. We house the greatest scientists and mathematicians in the world. Innovation will forever fuel our economy.

Yeah, well, freedom and cultural gusto have nothing to do with it. The Nazis and the Soviet Union both did just fine in the world of scientific progress. The guys behind the Berlin Wall beat us in the first space race. Complain all you want about how trimming education funding is going to slaughter American innovation, but in the end it won’t matter when we won’t be able to pay for anything. Obama’s proposal to map the brain pales in comparison to NASA’s achievements. One million dollars toward brain mapping? With $16 trillion in the hole, he’s lucky to get even that.

In the end, debt is debt, and we’re drowning in it. When the 2008 meltdown hit us full force, our state government — already in the red — could do little to provide jobs. This is not even a column about smaller government — just fiscal common sense.

It’s ironic that coordinators decided to name this event “Save our State,” because that’s exactly what McCrory is trying to do.

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