North Carolina’s citizens are justifiably proud of its many accomplishments. Throughout the last several decades, a strong and steady commitment to invest in public structures, systems and solutions has lifted North Carolina above its southeastern neighbors in critical areas like education, infrastructure, health, the environment, the social safety net and quality of life generally.
Now that progress is in grave jeopardy. The combination of the Great Recession, a damaging series of shortsighted “cuts only” budget decisions and ignoring needed tax reform is dragging the state toward the bottom in category after category. The result: crowded classrooms with overworked teachers, huge tuition hikes and fewer opportunities in higher education, a crumbling and increasingly obsolete transportation system, polluted water, and a health care system in which the uninsured cannot afford or find health insurance. Inequality continues to rise, with the middle class fast becoming a memory instead of the engine of prosperity. As low and moderate-income North Carolinians fall even further behind, we have to do more to create opportunity for those on the unfortunate end of the economic spectrum. To do so would not only create a fairer economy, it would maximize North Carolina’s economic potential.
Fortunately, it is not too late. Though battered by the hard economic times, North Carolina remains resilient. We have the economic and human resources necessary to change course and to return to the steady progress of the last century.
But we cannot cut our way back to broad-based middle class prosperity or wait for it to trickle down from on high. Instead, we must come together and renew our shared commitment to common good solutions that emphasize investing in our future.