On Monday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory approved SB 353, the alleged “Motorcycle Safety Bill,” which had been amended to include extreme restrictions on abortion access. During Governor McCrory’s campaign, he said he would not sign any further abortion restrictions; yesterday he did exactly that. Recently, McCrory claimed that the bill – despite its title, despite the back-slapping hurrahs of anti-choice spokespeople – does not restrict access to abortion clinics. This disconnect between the Governor’s stated understanding and the public’s understanding is endemic of a larger semantic problem in our political process.
Let us begin with a piece of vernacular: Fiscal Responsibility. The term is thrown about quite frequently by all manner of factions and splinter cells in our political spectrum. Here in North Carolina, a new budget, one which cuts unemployment benefits by about 33%, which will immediately terminate benefits for almost 170,000 North Carolinians, and which cuts public education spending by $260 million, has been praised by Governor McCrory for its Fiscal Responsibility. Meanwhile, the North Carolina Senate has passed a bill that will guarantee an increase in children born into poverty and to single mothers, many of whom will probably be needing unemployment benefits and whose children will necessarily rely on the public education system.
As SB 353 lumbers from the Senate to the Governor’s desk, smashing all who would oppose it, I find myself desperately trying to fit the positions of the extreme Right with the narrative they provide. Thomas Friedman addressed this same quandary in October of 2012, with a piece entitled “Why I am Pro-Life.” Friedman argues that one may not call oneself pro-life and “be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare.” This is also the case with fiscal responsibility; it is not fiscally responsible to gut unemployment and the education system while restricting birth control.
If the goal in North Carolina is to increase our financial stability, to increase jobs and revenue, to be “fiscally responsible,” our legislators ought to focus on policies that attract a wide range of industry and investment. Judging by the national media’s coverage of this session in the North Carolina Legislature, this current administration and its policies are ensuring for our state a poor reputation nationwide. Private sector investment and skilled labor are necessary for economic growth. The policies currently being enacted in our legislature and the reputation that comes with them will certainly dissuade many potential investors; well-educated and skilled workers will not move their children to a state with the fifth lowest teacher salary in the nation.
So, is this problem merely semantic? No, of course not. There is still the problem of large voting blocs that believe it is correct to enact religious dogma as law. But, there is a semantic component, and much of the fault for this lies with the Fourth Estate. When journalists parrot the false narrative presented to them by politicians, rather than researching and reporting the facts of a political position or policy, a feedback loop is created and the false narrative is allowed to occlude the true narrative.
It has been said, “a lie repeated often enough becomes truth,” and the state of our current political conversation supports this claim. Pro-life is not the deregulation of firearms, just as fiscal responsibility is not dismantling the support system – unemployment, public education – for the citizens these policies effect.