Maybe it’s the ongoing game of musical chairs in Gov. Pat McCrory’s communications staff or maybe it’s just the man himself, but whatever it is, the Governor’s public pronouncements continue to be peppered with admissions and allegations that bespeak a remarkable degree of obliviousness to the facts and the implications of his administration’s policies.
Yesterday morning’s announcement on raising teacher pay for new teachers featured a classic example. As the Governor began his remarks on his proposal and attempted to lay out the groundwork for it, he made the following rather amazing (and, one has to note, grammatically-challenged) admission:
“Today sadly, the starting teacher pay in North Carolina makes only $30,800. You know, that’s not even enough to raise a family or to pay off student loans, which this new generation of teachers are having to borrow money to go to college at this point in time. How do we expect someone to pay back that loan at that starting salary?”
While the Guv deserves an “attaboy” for making such a statement (yes, teachers make too little and government should do something about it!) he deserves nothing but a big “what the heck?!” for the stunning hypocrisy and lack of awareness it shows with respect to so many of his other policies.
Yes, Governor, you’re right: $30,800 is not enough on which to raise a family or pay back student loans. But this obvious truth applies whether you are a teacher or a waitress or a roofer. And given this obvious truth, why has your administration actively advanced numerous policy changes that make life demonstrably tougher for workers struggling to get by on $30,800 per year (and often a lot less)? Consider the following examples:
- Why did you raise taxes on such people (who reside in the second lowest income quintile) and bestow huge new tax cuts on the wealthy and large, profitable corporations?
- Why did you ax the Child Care and Dependent Care tax credits as part of the tax package?
- Why did you repeal the state Earned Income Tax Credit — which provided a direct tax break to thousands of families making in and around that amount?
- Why did you refuse to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — which would have covered thousands of working people of such an income stuck in the Medicaid gap?
- Why did you fund fewer Pre-K slots for low-income working families who desperately need assistance to keep their lower-paying jobs?
- Why did you put even more pressure on universities and students by cutting need-based aid and employing a budget director who is a long-time champion of even higher college tuition?
- Why did you slash unemployment insurance for thousands of families struggling to survive?
- Why did you cut millions of dollars from the Community Development Block Grant program line item to help support affordable housing for lower-income working families?
- Why did you cut public school funding so as to force teachers to spend even more from their personal income to keep their classrooms afloat?
- Why do you continue to oppose an increase in the minimum wage?
There are obviously many other examples, but the bottom line is this: Gov. McCrory is right that large numbers of lower-income North Carolina teachers are struggling to get by. But he is comically oblivious and disingenuous when he stands up in public and offers a proposal to make one tiny dent in a giant problem that he just spent the last 13 months making vastly larger and more pernicious.