Charlotte Observer. May 30, 2021.

Editorial: In NC, the GOP governs by the Big Fib

The Big Lie that drives Republican politics at the moment is former President Donald Trump’s false claim that he won the election. The party has peddled another falsehood for more than 40 years.

Let’s call it the Big Fib: Cutting taxes on the rich and corporations will stimulate the economy and the benefits will trickle down to lower-income earners. That it doesn’t work has been proven by experience.

This fib is often joined with a second dubious claim that low taxes are the main reason companies move to a state. Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato, a Duke economics professor who studies taxes and corporate relocations, said lower taxes attract “some businesses on the margins,” but generally a low tax rate “is not the only reason or the main reason that firms move.”

Indeed, a 2019 survey by Area Development magazine found that the corporate tax rate ranked No. 6 in what matters as companies consider relocating. Access to highways, availability of skilled labor, quality of life and construction costs all ranked higher.

Republican lawmakers who control the General Assembly have spent the past decade following these illusions and claiming real results. Now, with state coffers flush thanks to an unexpected rise in tax revenue and a surge in federal COVID relief funds, Republicans are pushing for yet more tax cuts.

Republican leaders rolled out a plan last week that will phase out the 2.5 percent corporate tax – already the nation’s lowest – over seven years and cut the personal income tax from 5.25% to 4.99%. The plan would also raise the standard deduction by 18 percent and increase the child tax deduction by $500.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Warren Daniel, R-Burke, announced the plan by saying, “For the past decade, North Carolina has led the nation in tax reform policy under Republican leadership, and as a result our state’s economy is booming and state revenues are at an all-time high.”

Well, senator, that’s just not true.

The state’s economy is doing well because the national economy has been improving for a decade since the Great Recession. The pandemic was expected to end that rise, but it turns out that higher earners remained employed, the stock market surged and key drivers of the North Carolina economy – information technology and biotechnology – thrived.

The state has a $5 billion surplus largely because Republicans have refused to spend what’s needed. State spending as a percent of the state economy is well below historic levels. State revenues are also up because of rising fees and an added tax on online sales.

The repeated debunking of trickle-down economics has not stopped Republican lawmakers from putting the notion at the center of their governing philosophy.

The Carolina Partnership for Reform, which advocates for “restraints on the size and scope of government,” recently touted North Carolina’s rise to No. 5 on the State Economic Competitiveness Index put out by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Essentially, it’s a measure of how much a state is willing to cut taxes and neglect safety net programs.

If this is the formula for prosperity, it’s not clear from the experience of high-tax states. New Jersey has a $6.3 billion budget surplus. California, which ALEC has ranked near the bottom for economic outlook since 2014, has an 8.8 percent corporate tax rate, a top income tax rate of 13.3 percent and a budget surplus of $75 billion.

Nonetheless, North Carolina’s Republican leaders will continue striving to be No. 1 in low taxes and spending. At a time when strong tax revenues and federal pandemic relief funding offer a rare chance to increase spending on public education and improve the health and well-being of less fortunate North Carolinians, Republicans will again seek to waste the opportunity on costly tax cuts that undermine the true basis of the state’s prosperity.


Winston-Salem Journal. May 31, 2021.

Editorial: WFU’s tone-deaf naming dilemma

Wake Forest University has been wrestling with some less savory aspects of its history for a while now — as well as its present, taking steps to ensure that all students, especially minorities, feel welcome on its campus. In February 2020, President Nathan O. Hatch apologized on behalf of the university for its historic role in perpetuating slavery in the late 1800s. The university established a commission on race, equity and community and joined a consortium of universities studying the issue.

So we have no doubt that the university’s representatives had their hearts in the right place when they decided to rename Wingate Hall.

We just wonder where their heads were.

Near the beginning of May, Wake Forest announced that it would rename the hall, adjacent to Wait Chapel — originally named after Washington Manly Wingate, a Baptist preacher who owned slaves and served two terms as Wake Forest’s president — as May 7, 1860 Hall. That’s the date that Wake Forest, then led by Wingate, sold 16 enslaved men, women and children and used the $10,718 in proceeds to establish its first endowment.

Knowing the significance of that date would make many cringe. Instantly.

But somehow, the Powers That Be saw it differently.

“In selecting this name, we sought to memorialize them (the enslaved people) as vital contributors to the Wake Forest story,” Hatch said last week in a message to the WFU community. “Additionally, we envisioned that choosing this date as the building’s name would invite the question: What happened on May 7th, 1860?”

But the new name upset students, who began circulating a petition opposing it. And the Association of Wake Forest University Black Alumni sent a letter to Hatch, expressing its objections.

“While we agree with the university’s decision to remove Washington Manly Wingate’s name from the building, we were angered and dismayed by our exclusion from the selection of the new name for Wingate Hall,” the association said. “May 7, 1860 stands as a day of trauma for the individuals who were ripped from their families, and represents a day in history where Black people were sold in a transaction that benefited the university.”

The university put an immediate pause on the renaming plans.

“We have heard particularly from some Black students, for whom Wake has felt unwelcoming, that the name, ‘May 7, 1860’ on a campus building would further alienate or traumatize them,” Hatch said.

Hatch then asked Donna Edwards, a 1980 graduate and a former Maryland congresswoman, and university vice president Jose Villalba to chair a committee focused on clarifying the objectives in selecting a name for Wingate Hall and collecting and understanding the Wake Forest community’s concerns, reactions and suggestions for a new name. The committee is to complete its work and report by June 30.

The “1860” name had been run by the university’s Board of Trustees, and also, we presume, by the university’s Advisory Committee on Naming, created last summer. It’s a mystery how such a tone-deaf name could get by so many learned individuals. Maybe a commission should be established to study that question.

Wake Forest isn’t the only school now dealing with the Wingate name. Wingate University, near Charlotte, recently became aware that its namesake, the same Washington Manly Wingate, was linked to slavery. Somehow it hadn’t known, even after a 2018 investigation to see if anything on campus was named after someone with “an egregious past.”

“This truth hurts,” Wingate President Rhett Brown said in a statement. “It casts a shadow over our university, my alma mater, and is not in keeping with who we are today, what we value and how we strive to be more inclusive for the students who study here and the people who work here.”

The school has established a special committee to consider options.

Hatch is scheduled to retire on June 30. For 16 years, he has guided the university through many challenges, including COVID-19 — and dealing with the university’s connections to slavery. Overall he’s been an effective and conscientious administrator.

The final name chosen for the former Wingate Hall will be a part of his legacy. It should be a good one.