Which state politicians are confusing me? The leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly, for starters. Their position appears to be that allowing private citizens to set up and play video-gambling machines at legal establishments would be morally abominable, even if the resulting business would throw off tens if not hundreds of millions of tax dollars into state and local treasuries.
North Carolina governments shouldn’t be paying their bills from ill-gotten gambling revenues, they say.
But these same legislative leaders thought it was okay several years ago for the government to set up its own gambling enterprises, under the purview of the state lottery commission, and take an active part in encouraging North Carolinians to gamble to generate tax revenue.
These same leaders also think it’s okay for North Carolina governments to own and control liquor stores, gouging customers with high prices and poor service to generate yet more revenue from the sale of demon rum.
And these same legislative leaders want to give tens of millions of dollars in tax credits to Hollywood filmmakers who choose North Carolina as the location for making movies that often contain graphic violence, nudity, and prurient material.
If their real concern were government tolerating and encouraging immoral behavior, their policies would be different. The only explanation that makes any sense is that these politicians simply want to increase the ability of government to own, control, and manipulate private businesses, so as to maximize both government revenue and their own power.
In which case, they should at least have the decency to stop invoking the subject of morality.
State legislators aren’t the only politicians whose words and deeds are confusing to me. Take those Democrats trying to defend Bob Etheridge’s “Who Are You?” meltdown. While not exactly excusing the longtime congressman’s behavior, they seem to think that the mysterious identity of the two “students” with video cameras represents a mitigating factor. Weren’t the two videographers just vicious Republican operatives using a carefully baited trap to set up Etheridge?
Well, let’s say they were. So what?
Having watched the video several times, I find it incomprehensible that any reasonable person would react the way Etheridge did to a couple of kids in suits asking if a Democratic congressman “fully support[ed] the Obama agenda.” Egads! I wonder how violent Etheridge would have become had the two miscreants done something really provocative, such as challenging him to a game of Scrabble or demanding that he abstain from immanentizing the eschaton. In his righteous indignation, the feeble Mr. Etheridge might have felt compelled to pull a knife on those scary young punks in neckties.
And finally, I continue to be confused by the odd behavior of the state chapter of the NAACP and its leader, Rev. William Barber. When conservatives took control of the Wake County Board of Education in last fall’s elections, Barber and his allies became apoplectic at the possibility, now the certainty, that the district would abandon forced busing. They’ve gone as far as to stage acts of civil disobedience, complete with arrests at a recent board meeting, all the while promising a federal lawsuit to overturn the board’s new neighborhood-schools policy.
Yet neither Barber nor any other liberal activist I know of has staged a sit-in protest in Charlotte, Durham, Winston-Salem, or any of the other North Carolina school districts that years ago adopted student-assignment policies identical or similar to the policy Wake County is about to adopt.
Why is Wake being singled out? Is it because its neighborhood-schools policy is being adopted resolutely by a conservative board rather than being adopted reluctantly by a liberal board bowing to public opinion and the clear direction of the federal courts? Is it, in other words, about politics rather than education?
I just hope that, in my confused state, no North Carolina politician has the audacity to accost me on a public sidewalk this afternoon and asks me the time. I can’t be held responsible for what might happen.
John Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of CarolinaJournal.com.