In the future, this country will be governed by idiots. That's the premise of Idiocracy, a 2006 film directed by Mike Judge (of Office Space and Beavis and Butt-Head fame). The problem, the narrator tells us, is that ignorant people reproduced faster than intelligent ones, crippling the gene pool. Now, addicted to mindless TV, the dullards can't think, so they elect charlatans and fools. Consequently, the roads are crumbling, the infrastructure is tumbling, even the crops are failing—until Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph come to the rescue after centuries in hibernation.
It's funny stuff. Watching a special showing at the Colony in Raleigh last week, my thoughts naturally turned to our own Gov. Pat McCrory. Actually, I don't think Pat would sign a law requiring that crops be irrigated with Gatorade just because the giant corporation that owns everything wants to sell more Gatorade—unless a lobbyist told him it would help the state's "brand."
Oh yes, McCrory has done and said some very stupid things since becoming governor six months ago. Some, like the decision to make North Carolina the only state in which the jobless are ineligible for federal unemployment benefits, were foisted on him by Republican legislators as he came into office. That one decision, which takes effect July 1, will cost 70,000 North Carolinians who've lost their jobs approximately $600 million through the end of 2013—money they desperately need and that the state's economy needs.
That's right, this decision will deny the people of North Carolina $600 million in federal aid, and it's not because McCrory and the Republicans slashed unemployment benefits more deeply than any other state—although they did that too. It's because they insisted on cutting benefits in mid-2013 rather than waiting until Jan. 1, 2014, when the federal program expires. Costs $600 million. Saves nothing. That's idiocracy.
That legislation was signed, sealed and delivered to McCrory before he'd even picked out a comfy recliner, but other blunders are totally on him. Here's a sample:
• Rejecting "unlawful demonstrations." The Greensboro sit-ins, which involved black students sitting at lunch counters reserved for whites, were unlawful too at the time. But McCrory, disdainful of those who study history instead of something useful, dismissed Moral Monday protesters because praying, singing and congregating in the General Assembly building violates a trespass law enacted by—the General Assembly. McCrory welcomes "lawful protest," he huffed. "What I don't want is just gimmicks for the media."
• No "outsiders," except my outsiders. McCrory slammed Moral Monday again at the state Republican convention in Charlotte in early June, warning that "outsiders are coming in." Shades of the Red Scare! Except that surveys of who's protesting confirm that 95 percent are North Carolinians. On the other hand, millions of dollars spent to elect McCrory and the Republican legislative majorities in 2012 did come from out of state, along with a slew of bad bills from the corporation-funded American Legislative Exchange Council.
• What could they want? McCrory told WRAL, "I actually, many times, don't know what [the protesters'] agenda is." Perhaps that's because he refuses to meet with them. For example, when public school supporters came to protest funding cuts, his office said he was busy in meetings and had no time to talk—and at that very moment, a passer-by snapped a picture of McCrory tossing a baseball on the Capitol grounds.
• "I Won't Back Down." McCrory claims the Tom Petty song as his theme. Does he realize that the song is about standing up to bullies? "I got just one life/ In a world that keeps on pushin' me around/ But I'll stand my ground/ And I won't back down." It's not suitable for a long-pampered governor whose party has veto-proof majorities in the General Assembly and is pushin' the neediest down.
• It's too complicated, #1. Last week, McCrory signed legislation repealing the Racial Justice Act, repeating Republican complaints that the law was "seriously flawed." The RJA allowed judges to determine whether racial bias drove a jury's decision to sentence a murderer to death rather than life in prison. Saying it was flawed suggests you could do better. So where's your RJA, Governor?
• It's too complicated, #2. Earlier, McCrory allowed a bill to become law without his signature that would seize the Asheville water system from the city government, controlled by Democrats, and hand it to a new regional authority controlled by Republicans. His reason for neither signing nor vetoing the bill, according to a statement, was that it "raises complicated inter-governmental issues," which he'll leave to the courts.
• It's too complicated, #3. McCrory and other candidates, mostly Republicans, took campaign contributions totaling more than $700,000 from the sweepstakes gambling industry. McCrory says he's against sweepstakes gambling. But although a prior General Assembly passed a law against it and the state Supreme Court upheld the law in December, McCrory's Department of Public Safety hasn't cracked down yet. "I'd like the laws to be enforced," McCrory told The Charlotte Observer recently. "The problem is, the industry keeps finding loopholes."
• It's too complicated, #4. McCrory last week issued five goals ("pathways") for education, including one telling school leaders to find "more innovative methods to increase teacher pay." Republicans in Raleigh, including McCrory, are cutting state aid to schools. How is that innovative?
• Privatize to save money? After rejecting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, a decision that will cost the state an estimated 26,000 health care jobs, McCrory wants to turn Medicaid administration over to private companies that will take their profits off the top. Privatization is how Mike Easley's administration wrecked mental health care in North Carolina. But why learn from history?
• Will talk for cash. McCrory will powwow with contributors tomorrow and Friday at an event in Greensboro hosted by the Renew North Carolina Foundation. Get two tickets for $10,000, or join for $25,000 and the tickets are free! It's for a good cause: social welfare for Republicans. Give them enough money, and they won't back down.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Idiocracy rules."