In a recent opinion piece, the John Locke Foundation’s John Hood criticized the economic policies of North Carolina’s previous state policymakers for delivering “substandard” economic gains since the late 1990s.
As evidence, Hood cites the fact that North Carolina’s economy produced lower gains in real GDP per capita than the national economy from 1997 to 2007 (or 2010).
Hood’s analysis is correct: North Carolina’s economy did deliver lower per capita economic growth than the national average. But Hood neglects to mention which states’ economies performed better than North Carolina’s in his chosen time periods. Tennessee? Nope. South Carolina and Georgia? Not even close. Even the “Texas Miracle” didn’t match North Carolina’s economic performance from 1997 through the start of the recession. In fact, North Carolina’s economy has delivered greater per capita gains than the southeast as a whole since 1997. (See data here.)
Even though North Carolina’s economy outperformed the average of the southeast since the late 1990s, Hood’s column implies that North Carolina’s economic policy environment did not adequately promote economic growth in recent years.
But which state economies did deliver higher per capita growth than North Carolina? In addition to some resource-rich states like Idaho and the Dakotas, states with stronger economic performance than North Carolina since 1997 include Vermont, Minnesota, Oregon, and Massachusetts. Even much-maligned California and New York delivered higher per capita growth than North Carolina and the rest of the southeast.
Hood closes with a call to restore North Carolina’s economic competitiveness. What Hood’s own evidence indicates, however, is that the “you’re on you’re own” brand of economic policies pursued by many of our southern neighbors has failed to deliver the promised economic benefits. What the evidence shows has worked is working together to make the sound public investments necessary to rebuild a strong middle class and deliver a future of shared prosperity for all North Carolinians.