The Follies of tax ads and confederate license plates

By: - October 30, 2015 11:16 am

Follies-crossed-400Misleading commercial on taxes from Americans for the Prosperous

The folks over at Americans for the Prosperous, who like to be called Americans for Prosperity, have an interesting take on the latest round of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy passed by the General Assembly this session and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The group is running a television ad praising McCrory and state lawmakers that begins “People all across North Carolina are smiling a little more. Why? Because Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly cut income taxes again.”

The ad doesn’t mention that the tax package also expanded the sales tax to services, so people across North Carolina will be paying more to get their car repaired and their new washing machine delivered and their children’s clothes altered.

The ad also leaves out the fact that when you take all the tax changes into account, the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers in the state will pay more under the tax plan while millionaires will receive another $1,800 tax break on top of the massive break they received in the 2013 tax cut package.

The News & Observer story about the ad mentions the regressive sales tax expansion and quotes Americans for the Prosperous Director Donald Bryson saying that elected officials passed an overall next tax cut.

It’s the same line Gov. McCrory used when he signed the budget that included the tax package, saying he was opposed to expanding the sales tax to services that most families use, but supported the plan in the end because it was a net tax reduction.

In other words, the state will collect less tax revenue next year because the income tax reductions for the wealthy cost more than raising the sales tax on working families brings in.

By that logic McCrory and his friends over at AFP would support any tax cut package at all, no matter how much it increased taxes on working families, as long it cut taxes enough on millionaires to add up to a net reduction in tax revenue for the state.

But that probably wouldn’t play as well on TV, an ad that started, “Millionaires across North Carolina are smiling a little more. Why? Because Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly cut their taxes again while making you pay more to get your car fixed.”

McCrory’s amnesia about Confederate license plates

Left out of the news coverage of the recent protests at UNC-Chapel Hill about the memorial to confederate soldiers known on campus Silent Sam was a reminder of the brief political consensus this summer that the state should not be issuing specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag.

The day after the racially-motivated massacre of nine people at an African-American church in Charleston in June, Governor Pat McCrory said that North Carolina should stop issuing the Confederate plates.

McCrory’s spokesman Josh Ellis said that in the wake of the shootings, “the time was right to change the policy.” McCrory’s comments followed similar remarks by other governors in the South like Terry McAuliffe in Virginia and were mentioned in national media like the New York Times.

Ellis was quoted in local media accounts saying McCrory would be asking the General Assembly to pass legislation to stop issuing the plates.

Legislative leaders seemed to agree that the Confederate plates should no longer be issued, but said McCrory could do it himself by executive order, since the Department of Motor Vehicles is under his administration.

The convenient standoff was the end of the brief consensus on the Confederate flag being featured on official license plates issued by the state of North Carolina.

McCrory got credit for standing up for what many people understandably see as an offensive symbol without actually doing anything about it and alienating part of his political base that supports the flag.
It is not even clear of McCrory ever asked a legislator to introduce legislation stopping the confederate plates.

He’s never brought up the issue again and nobody has asked him about it in any of the recent interviews he has done about the General Assembly session where he’s boasted about how much of his agenda was adopted.

McCrory’s amnesia about his stand on the confederate stands in sharp contrast to the actions of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, also a Republican.

After the church shootings Haley demanded that the South Carolina legislature pass legislation to remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds. Some conservative lawmakers balked but Haley used her political power to get the legislation passed and the flag came down.

McCrory spoke out about the flag after the shootings but did nothing to back up his words except say it was someone else’s responsibility.

Meanwhile the State of North Carolina is still issuing license plates featuring the Confederate flag.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066