2012 was the year we finally admitted that, much like a ship that sails for days one degree off course, our country and our state are lost and spiritually sick.
Witness the contentious gridlock in Congress and talk of the fiscal cliff that we will fall off in January. North Carolina’s executive and legislative branch leaders were almost as bad. Major problems of state need resolution but our leaders had rather fight than solve them. Civility, the common good and consensus have been sacrificed at the altar of partisanship, vilification of those who disagree and a win-at-any-cost mentality. Budget cuts are the solution for incompetently administered government programs. We Advocate tax cuts in lieu of reforming antiquated tax codes.
North Carolina’s economy sputtered, beginning the year at a 10.2 percent unemployment rate and ending slightly above 9 percent, among the top five states in the nation. Factor in the underemployed, working full time but earning far less than before the recession, and those who have given up looking work and that rate could be 19 percent or more. Rural areas are declining rapidly and losing hope. We’ve seen no plan from any sector to put people to work while our public infrastructure goes neglected, begging for repair, replacement or upgrading that could provide jobs for thousands.
Our “bigger is better” mentality has taken us far off course. Exhibit A is the greedy sellout of college athletics to big donors and television networks. The Atlantic Coast Conference has succumbed to the Siren song of the almighty dollar by taking in schools nobody cares about. UNC Chapel Hill ends the year trying to restore its luster while N.C. State fires a good coach for not putting enough butts in the seats of their expansive stadium. And let’s not overlook the bungled corporate merger between Duke and Progress Energy, demonstrating excesses that damaged two once-proud corporations.
Community hospitals and private doctor practices have been gobbled up by hospital conglomerates that compete for high-dollar services like specialty hospitals, the latest costly diagnostic devices and emergency departments they proclaim as the front door to their facility. The mentally ill fill our jails, wander the streets or get placed in facilities ill equipped to care for them because we conveniently forgot our pledge to provide a safety net for those who cannot care for themselves. Health care players, with the possible exception of doctors, make loud protestations about wanting to fix the system but talk is about all you get; most are too busy protecting turfs and worried about losing dollars. Medicaid and Medicare’s problems are bankrupting us.
Public education is changing rapidly but rather than embrace these changes educators drag their feet in adopting new technologies and teaching methods. Only 28 percent of North Carolina’s adults have a college degree but we continue to insist our high school students take a college track curriculum instead of offering career track options.
We end 2012 disillusioned, distrustful and disgusted with government, business, education, health care and most other institutions. Perhaps 2013 will be the year we see leaders more interested in doing right than being right, listening more than talking, people who possess a strong moral compass to bring us back to true North. We can ill afford many more years like 2012.
— Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of “NC SPIN,” a weekly statewide television discussion of North Carolina issues airing Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on WRAL-TV and at 8:30 a.m. on WRAZ-TV FOX50. He can be reached at www.ncspin.com.