Sunday, March 1, 2015

Stop Punishing Rich People

Ned Barnett of the News & Observer wrote a column on February 28 entitled, "The World According to Rucho" in which he describes Sen. Bob Rucho as the "state's super Republican." Mr. Barnett seems to suggest that the Senator's view of the current political and economic climate may differ from that of many North Carolinians. The good Senator has an individualistic filter through which he sees such issues as unemployment, abortion, taxes and redistricting, just to name a few. Don't look for a communitarian or a "we're all in this together" perspective from the gentleman from Matthews.

During his first trip to the NC State Senate (1997-2004) before he lost his seat in 2004, Sen. Rucho took to the Senate Floor to rail about NC's high taxes. This was a common speech for him, but the reaction he received on one particular day stays in my memory. It is difficult to know which of Sen. Rucho's attributes rankled the Democratic leadership more, the pronounced Boston dialect or the high-pitched anger.

His long rant about North Carolina's high tax rate was followed by the familiar, albeit inaccurate, refrain that North Carolina had the highest taxes of any state in the southeast. He continued by asking what he thought was a rhetorical question, "Why would anybody come here?!"

Former Sen. Tony Rand, the powerful and witty Rules Chair and Democratic Majority Leader sprung to his feet and said, "Mr. President, would the gentleman yield for a question?"

"Yes," said Sen. Rucho.

With his booming voice and molasses slow drawl for effect, Sen. Rand asked, "Senator Rucho...why are you here?!"

Delivered with perfect comic timing, Sen. Rand's question temporarily diffused the situation. But I believe that those comments and years of parliamentary power plays to shut down debate had some influence on the vengeful actions and abuses of power that we have witnessed since the Republicans took the majority.

One thing is for sure. The Republican majority has stopped punishing rich people.

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