Perhaps years hence

Back in 2013, the editors of The News & Observer using their house brand of economics were confident that Republican economic reforms would fail. Even though those reforms to taxes, unemployment benefits, and regulatory burdens were empirically sound, the editors thought they were so obviously destined to fail that they sneered:

Perhaps years hence, North Carolina will be thriving economically, and credit will belong to these stout Republicans who persevered in their faith that Keynesian economics is wrong, that Obamacare is evil, that unemployment assistance fosters unemployment and that, on the third or fourth try, trickle-down tax cuts for the rich really will trickle down to everyone else. — Editorial board, The News & Observer, August 22, 2013

One “year hence,” the state was showing signs of an impressive recovery. The state was experiencing “one of the nation’s largest improvements in labor-market performance and overall economic growth.” Would the N&O’s editors rethink?

No. Instead, they said the tax cuts had created an “artificial crisis” and declared outright that

there is no clear evidence that the tax cuts are stimulating the state economy. The unemployment rate has dropped along with the rest of the nation, but much of the drop reflects a reduced labor force. Lately, the state unemployment rate has crept up as more unemployed people have resumed a search for work as the national economy improves. — Editorial board, The News & Observer, July 5, 2014

In the winter of 2014-15, the editors felt validated by early budget projections of a shortfall ranging between $200 million to $1 billion. Why wait for the actual numbers? Editorial page editor Ned Barnett pounced:

The main effect of Republican tax cuts has been to starve a state budget already lean from years of recession-induced austerity. … Tightening government spending while the economy is trying to come back has stymied the recovery in North Carolina. Last year, public sector payrolls shrank, led by a 3.8 percent drop in the state government workforce. How can the state’s government be shedding jobs as its population is growing? It does so by ignoring the state’s needs. …

North Carolina hasn’t just stopped moving forward, it has stopped keeping up. It’s sliding backward, losing ground. And its people are, too.

What’s so discouraging about this reversal is that it’s self-inflicted and unacknowledged by those responsible. As the General Assembly returned to session this month, Republican leaders showed not a whit of concern about the revenue shortfall or a doubt about their scorched-earth approach to state funding or any sign of listening to those who say the state should do more. …

The question is, how much damage will be done before Republicans are forced to look past their illusions and see the real state of North Carolina? — The News & Observer, January 31, 2015

Turns out, that year ended up with a budget surplus of $860 million. That was about two “years hence.” It was also the first in a series of budget surpluses — and these revenue collections set off built-in triggers for further tax cuts.

Fast forward to the present day. North Carolina is considered a national model for tax reform.

And the same editors, so confident four years ago that the state would not be thriving economically that they sardonically suggested they’d credit Republicans if it were? Well, they’re still not doing that. They’re now writing pieces telling what Republicans should be doing with yet another surplus of state revenue, and it better not be tax cuts because They. Don’t. Work!

Get a load of this, written four “years hence”:

North Carolina’s projected budget surplus now has grown to $580.5 million, up from $552.5 million. The news ought to encourage some great ideas and broader horizons from legislative leaders – more money for public education, perhaps a guarantee of more than one year for arts and music and physical education programs, bonuses for teachers, boosts for community colleges, investment in programs at the local level that help disadvantaged families.

Instead, Republicans in charge speak mainly of tax cuts for business and the “middle class,” but that middle class terminology is often deceptive. Most GOP tax cuts help the wealthy more than they do the middle class, of course, and the business tax cuts already have been excessive in a state that has long ranked one of the most accommodating for business. — Editorial board, The News & Observer, May 8, 2017

Republicans did a thing we said absolutely could not lead to good stuff. We’ve had good stuff for four years running now. It’s outrageous Republicans keep wanting to do the thing. We need good stuff, not the thing!

The funny thing about the thing is, the N&O is very much in favor of corporate tax cuts if they get to choose to give it to only some corporations and call it “tax incentives.”

There’s a bonus insanity ensconced in the middle of this piece:

But when news of the surplus and then the revised, larger surplus broke, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, architect of things like HB2, responded to Democratic calls for using the money to help schools and families hit hard by Hurricane Matthew by saying: “While Gov. Roy Cooper thinks politicians know best how to spend your hard-earned money, we believe you know what’s best for your family and your bank account.”

That statement insults the intelligence of every citizen in North Carolina …

“Perhaps years hence,” I’ll understand how it insults people’s intelligence to acknowledge they know what’s best for their own families.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...