The ongoing revolutionary circus continues unabated in Raleigh, as the General Assembly keeps piling up a record of screwing ordinary North Carolinians while handing over the state to big business interests. And they're doing it with such class, too. The classiest touch so far came from Tommy Tucker, a state senator from Waxhaw. Tucker told a newspaper publisher who opposed a bill Tucker ramrodded through committee, "I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet," setting off an uproar of outrage around the state.
If only that was the worst news from the capital last week — a week in which The New York Times named the formerly moderate Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory among the 10 most conservative governors in America. A look at what McCrory and the GOP-run legislature have cooked up during their mere three months in office shows how the validity of the gov's new distinction.
It's getting hard to keep up with the atrocities. No Medicaid expansion for the state's most vulnerable citizens. "Privatization" of the Commerce Department, i.e., responsibility for dispensing corporate incentives will be turned over to business people, rather than taxpayers' representatives. Cuts in public-education funding, and a bill to yank $90 million out of already underfunded public schools and hand it to private schools. Taking away Charlotte government's control over the city's airport. It goes on and on.
Last week, car drivers in North Carolina barely survived a GOP attempt to let auto insurance companies run over their customers by setting their own rates any way they want. Only a last-minute blitz by Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and consumer advocates convinced a House committee to dump the bill, thereby saving you and me from automatic increases, year after year, in auto insurance prices.
That action won't stop the business idolaters in the General Assembly, though, as was evident after WRAL-TV in Raleigh obtained 5,000 pages of documents giving more details of the deal that handed insurance giant MetLife $100 million in publicly funded grants. The documents provided a very revealing look at the subservience of the McCrory gang to business interests, while showing how elected officials and corporate lawyers communicate with one another when those officials are basically groveling before the power of Charlotte's uptown legal sharks.
At least one official, Karen West, general counsel for the state Commerce Department, tried to keep the game as honest as possible, considering that what was being worked out was tantamount to legal bribery. West traded barbs with Mike Delaney, a lawyer for Moore and Van Allen, the Charlotte law firm that negotiated the agreement. (Gov. McCrory worked for Moore and Van Allen practically right up to his inauguration.) West accused Delaney of demanding a guarantee that MetLife would get the incentives grants if the company went to the trouble to apply for them, even after West had told him such an arrangement would be against N.C. law. West finally had to go to Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker to get the point across.
The documents also show that Commerce Department officials called the MetLife application "a nightmare" as late as mid-February and complained repeatedly that MetLife was too slow in providing figures that could verify the company's eligibility for a taxpayer-funded blowjob.
But for sheer shamelessness in the prostitution of government to business profits, it's hard to top an announcement made last week that left me shaking my head in disbelief. It didn't garner much attention, but it should have. Americans For Prosperity (or as progressives often call it, Americans For the Prosperous) and Lt. Gov. Dan "Sue Myrick's tea-partyin' son" Forest announced a $500,000 AFP campaign to sell voters on an overhaul of the state tax code via deep cuts in corporate and personal income taxes and new taxes on common services (hair cuts, attorney fees, etc.). How's this for government/business incest? AFP is a private group founded by the Koch brothers; McCrory's budget director, Art Pope, used to lead AFP's board; the head of AFP in North Carolina is Dallas Woodhouse, a longtime associate of Pope, who essentially bankrolled the AFP's development in the state; and finally, Lt. Gov. Forest is, of course, a public servant, even though he participated in the AFP's announcement.
The AFP press conference provided a kind of pathetic sidelight: just in case anyone thought government still held a watchdog role toward business interests in North Carolina, Woodhouse noted that a role for Forest in the campaign "has not been defined." Forest countered that he'd sure be glad to do whatever AFP thought would help, by golly, such as taking part in community meetings and appearing in ads. This repugnant episode led BlueNC to coin a headline I wish I'd thought of first: over a picture of the General Assembly, these words: "The best little whorehouse in North Carolina."