The State of North Carolina has been blessed in many ways. One of her blessings, in spite of her rugged, dangerous coastline, is that she has never had to attempt to survive a tsunami sweeping in from the sea and destroying all in its path.
However, she has been subjected to a tsunami of newly-elected young (and old) Turks who have systematically staged and produced a greatly devastating wave of what they determine to be economically inspired changes. They believe this will make the state a domain in which they believe their party and their programs will prosper. But they forget about the people who do not have incomes, or voices, on the level of senators and representatives. These mostly silent people form the underlying cushion for so many of the activities in which all of us participate.
They have seriously damaged the entire system of education in North Carolina which had heretofore been a source of great pride to the people of this state, and which has been formed over many years of struggle and sacrifice. Those years produced the Community College System, tops in the nation; schools of math and science which turned out students highly proficient and capable of leading the way in our nation today; health care systems, including Medicaid and Women’s Services which have stood as models for other states. In the days ahead, we will know for sure that these proud accomplishments are in the past.
These politicians, in their determination to make up for all the years when North Carolina could depend on the Democrats to provide for the common welfare, and in their efforts to force their own philosophies down the throats of people who cannot help themselves, have done more damage since November of 2010 than can be repaired through many years, even if their terms ended tomorrow.
In the past two days, the papers have been filled with information about the fearless leader of these destroyers – Thom Tillis. According to stories in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Tillis has lost no time in padding his salary and that of his assistants. He gave himself a 27% raise. He gave his chief of staff a 25% increase, boosting him from $120,000 per year to $150,000 per year. His general counsel received a 27% raise, going from $110,000 to $140,000 per year. Two of his policy advisers received $12,000 raises for each of them, putting them up from $70,000 to $82,000. Do policy advisers work a 40-hour week, or is this job just a moonlighting addition to a regular job?
Tillis himself received a reported 27% increase. And here we all thought being a legislator was not really a full time job, since most legislators still have a home many miles from Raleigh, and other income. By the way, don’t they also receive travel reimbursement and per diem for meals away from home, and lodging, and other fringe benefits?
I must say that Tillis’s promises before the election to cut expenses in his office and in the spending of state tax money seem to have as much validity as his protestations that his party has done no damage to the educational system of this state, among other destructive activities we are now hearing about.
And, by the way, none of those people receiving those huge raises will pay the first dime of Social Security tax on the amounts they receive above $106,000. That is the present cap on Social Security taxes which anyone receiving a salary must pay. Seems a strange balance - wouldn’t common sense require that any forgiveness of paying into Social Security be on the lower end of the scale, rather than on the highest end?
When Jim Davis was running against John Snow in the late, lamented election last fall, he charged Snow with having cut a great many teachers’ jobs. Apparently he and his present owner, Art Pope, who purchased his own private legislator with almost half a million dollars invested in the election in a small, obscure mountain county, felt that the new guys in town could do an even better slash job, ignoring their spurious promises to keep all teachers and aides and other school personnel on board. I suppose Senator Davis voted to uphold all the cuts and slashes his party has made against the North Carolina school system.
Those of us who have lived a couple of generations have seen many changes come and go, but few of us have seen such punitive changes visited on an entire state. But I do have faith that this worm will turn one day, if those of us who care about and strive for the good of our fellow man as well as ourselves, will only keep the faith and will put ever more effort into electing representatives and senators who will also care about the people who put them in office, and who will strive for the common welfare.
I remember a line from the John Steinbeck book, “The Grapes of Wrath,” when one of his characters from dust-bowl Oklahoma was thinking of all the troubles and trials they had endured, when she said “But we are the people, and the people go on forever.”
Hopefully there will be enough people of good will who will begin to think about the trampling of the state policies which have just occurred, and will right some of those wrongs, on another day to come. If we cannot find the will and the effort to elect people of honor to these positions of responsibility, perhaps we deserve a situation in the state of which we have just had a small taste. I suggest there will be worse to come.
Sue Waldroop — Franklin, N.C.