The great disconnect


Recent statements by state GOP leaders illustrate the growing chasm between our elected officials and the citizenry — a disconnect that goes way beyond party ideology.

In a recent press release, Rep. Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth), Speaker Pro Tem of the NC House, stated that the unemployment check is now the largest employer in 18 counties.

“Not having a job chips away at the natural drive to seek the joy of achievement,” Folwell states. “Government policies threaten to replace that joy with the misery of dependence.”

The state’s unemployment rate increased to 10.1 percent in July and the US Labor Department has estimated that as many as 17.5 percent of North Carolina’s workforce is either unemployed or underemployed.

Folwell fails to mention that the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a budget in June that has led to thousands of layoffs of state and local government employees, including teachers.

Last month, state and local governments cut more than 12,100 jobs while the private sector only gained 6,900 jobs. This recent trend has led to double-digit unemployment.

State Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes actually told a reporter that he hopes the number of state-employee pink slips increases in the future, saying that Republican legislators were elected to “right-size” government by making it smaller. Perhaps Hayes should be given the task of telling the spouses and children of state workers how their loved one will have to go out and find a job in the worst economy since the Great Depression. How can Folwell encourage a teacher in Forsyth County to seek the joy of achievement if they are among the 118 educators laid off due to budget cuts?

This week, as children go back to school, our youngest citizens will deal with the real-world consequences of this ideological war in Raleigh.

During the budget battle, Perdue railed against Republicans for refusing to extend the temporary one-cent sales tax, which would have reportedly generated $1.1 billion annually and saved thousands of teacher jobs. Since the one-cent sales tax expired on June 30, has anyone actually noticed? Does anyone mind paying an extra penny to ensure our children’s future?

State Republicans should understand that come November 2012, they will own this economy, and voters will not forget who led us down this dark path. But political parties are not monolithic. There are enough moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats in this state to pull our legislature back from the edge of extreme partisanship. Lawmakers simply have to muster the courage to speak their mind and refuse to march in lockstep with their parties — parties run by activists, who have clearly lost touch with the people they were elected to serve.

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