Gov. Pat McCrory lost the mantle of “moderate” in his first years in office. It was quickly clear that he would go along with whatever radical Republicans served up from the legislature, be it odious changes in unemployment insurance, racially targeted voting restrictions or a change in abortion law that made him break a campaign promise.
But what’s really immoderate about the man who was once a moderate Charlotte mayor isn’t his new right-wing tendencies. It’s that he’s excessive in assessing his achievements and blind to his mistakes. His record says he’s a go-along governor, but he declares himself an “outsider” who marched into Raleigh and “stepped on toes” regardless of what party the feet belonged to.
That tendency to state things in the extreme and the disconnect between what he says and what he has done undermine his credibility. Consider the stump speech he delivered in his first face-off with his Democratic opponent for governor, Attorney General Roy Cooper, at a forum in Charlotte.
McCrory noted that Charlotte boomed during his 14 years as mayor and that now, thanks to his leadership as governor, Charlotte and even the state’s depressed rural towns are doing much better.
“The (construction) cranes are back right here, and many jobs are returning to even small towns throughout North Carolina … this is the Carolina comeback,” he said. “We still have a long way to go, but the progress we’ve made in three years is progress that we’ve never seen.”
Governors can be expected to claim credit for economic recoveries, but few have done so after doing so little to help the economy. All McCrory has done is sign off on billions of dollars in tax cuts that have hamstrung state government after saying in his first year that tax changes should not reduce state revenue.
And the “comeback” is far from across the board. Rural North Carolina is hurting, and rural counties are losing population. A fourth of the state’s children are in families below the poverty line and the state’s average household income declined 8.7 percent from 2007 to 2014, falling in inflation adjusted dollars from $51,000 to $46,550.
If the governor has done anything to directly affect the economy, it has been in the negative. His rash signing of House Bill 2 has marred the state’s image and damaged its economy. In Raleigh, for instance, the Convention and Visitors Bureau says business lost because of HB2 is $4.4 million so far with $35.7 million in jeopardy. The withdrawal of the NBA All-Star game in protest of the law will cost the Charlotte economy an estimated $100 million.
McCrory’s taking credit for bringing back the state economy is like blaming his predecessor Gov. Bev Perdue for the Great Recession. Indeed, McCrory does just that. At the forum, he said he came into office when “our economy was a wreck ... our state government was a wreck ... the state was a wreck.”
There was a severe recession, but the state, its economy and its government were not wrecks. The leadership of past governors, legislators, state officials and business executives, Republican and Democratic, helped develop the educational institutions, research-based businesses and health care systems that are lifting North Carolina again.
The governor would be a more effective candidate and leader if he stopped being a rooster claiming credit for the sunrise. Instead, he should announce what he wants to do now that a new day is dawning.