Daunting fears and ignorance in our political structures have propelled this country to the brink of impasse and ineffectiveness – so much ineffectiveness in a time of economic recovery that the recovery effort seems stymied.
These fears and the ignorance that accompanies them bring a new wave that rages across this country. From Arizona to New Mexico, Wisconsin to Virginia, the Carolinas to Florida, states are being taken over by not necessarily crazed Republicans but the faction that exists within said party, the Tea Party.
This wave of Neo-Republicans has forced immigration legislation, voter reform, tax reform, gun laws, anti-abortion laws and even same-sex marriage bans.
The same individuals who ran on platforms to reduce government involvement in our lives are passing ultra conservative agendas that infiltrate every aspect of Americans’ lives. It doesn’t stop there; the nation is plagued with Republican Party hijackers that wish to hamper the success of the country and its citizens.
From the list of states above, the governors of each ran on policies and philosophical standpoints that would help speed recovery, yet the first bills debated were unemployment benefits, drug testing, immigration reform, adoption or rejection of the Affordable Care Act and redistricting of voter precincts. Of all the significant legislation proposed, the budgets of each were the most important, and even there, we saw failure.
In these budgets were strategically placed cuts that affected K-12 education, teacher pay, tenure, elections, university system tuition, drug laws, healthcare restrictions, the loss of state personnel, increases in DMV fees, car registration and sales taxes. This same wave penetrated our state in 2010. This wave beckoned a new era of conservatism that breached all principles of the word.
Republicans now control the North Carolina General Assembly, Supreme Court and Governor’s Office for the first time since Reconstruction. Governor Pat McCrory ran on promises and policies that most of the independents and some moderates could stomach. With that, McCrory also won support from Democrats who reaped benefits from his tenure as mayor of Charlotte.
Unfortunately for college students, it was a magic trick. Our governor put his promises and policies into a hat and pulled out the Tea Party philosophies. Our governor released a budget that cut public education; he praised the basis of a bill to reform election laws, which in 2016 would make it harder for college students and elderly people to vote by requiring a state identification card and reducing early voting and same day registration.
McCrory also helped lead the charge to deny healthcare to over 400,000 North Carolinians, the majority of which were children. Our governor then promoted a reduction in taxes for the middle class. He spoke to citizens and visited over 20 sites in North Carolina, promoting business models and businesses alike that would propel North Carolina to success, along with a tax reform plan that really was not about taxes at all.
You see, our governor, like other Republican governors, assumed that they could reduce the tax revenue and still maintain spending levels. Doesn’t that logic sound familiar to the Bush tax cuts and the implementation of a war? The math doesn’t add up. But what will add up will haunt all the North Carolinians who didn’t vote and who didn’t express themselves at the ballot.
Our legislature created loopholes for agencies to increase fees. They even created some of their own, like the meal plan tax starting Jan. 1, 2014. Now it will cost more for college students to eat on campus, to get their car inspected or to get a driver license – it will even cost more to take a class that requires a certificate from the Department of State, including cosmetology programs and the notary public program.
These are just some of the changes that have pulled North Carolina to the bottom. We have seen Republican controlled Boards of Elections try to derail college students’ ability to vote on campus. Luckily, those decisions were rejected by the state board and reversed by the counties.
The bad part of this wave is not so much that it exists but that it transcends state lines to the point where we no longer have the excuse of being ignorant to the facts – because all of the facts are similar. Every state listed has ended their estate taxes and “reduced income tax” for the middle class, but they have also raised fees on those same people.
These Republicans are fearful of intelligence and action, and because they know you must have both to overtake them, they will create laws and barriers to maintain control.
In 2010 our General Assembly participated in a process known as redistricting, and in doing so, they drew lines in favor of Republican leaning districts. The change was so dramatic that the president lost the state in 2012 by 40,000 votes, coming from three precincts that he won in 2008; one of them didn’t exist at all until redistricting.
So far, our Republicans have cut $66 million from the UNC system, ended tax free weekend (which mainly helped middle class families), approved increased tuition and fee schedules for college students, reduced the amount of grants given to college students, raised fees on home and car inspections, created laws to deter or restrict us from voting and even voted to allow guns on state grounds.
Things are not getting better – if anything, we have stalled. Unemployment in the state is going down not because jobs are being created, but because people have stopped looking. Republicans who swept the country in 2010, much like the president in 2008, have failed their constituents.
My plea to my fellow Niners: gather all the information possible to make the most informed decision. Make sure you vote in every election because your taxes, freedoms and rights depend on it, and stay alert to what is happening on campus with our very own Board of Trustees. Go to the public meetings, and express yourselves accordingly. The year 2014 is around the corner, and with it the officials who will be key to your future.