Memo to Team McCrory’s media relations crew: From now on, no one is allowed to leave “the Boss”‘ unsupervised when mouth-breathing MSM types are in sight.
The other night, the governor-in-waiting was leaving an event in Winston-Salem when he was confronted by the Greensboro News & Record’s Travis Fain (any relation to Jim Hunt & Mike Easley crony / appointee Jim Fain?) :
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Pat McCrory wants to cut both income and corporate tax rates. He’s mum on details, but it seems likely he’d need to fiddle with sales taxes, too, to keep things revenue nuetral (a stated goal) and since he’s voiced support for taxing consumption (question 11).
So it seemed reasonable for me to ask him yesterday, after a campaign event in Winston-Salem and as part of a broader interview: What are the current state income, corporate and sales tax rates. He declined to answer. Our exchange:
Me: When we talk about taxes – I’m gonna put you to the test real quick – what is the corporate tax rate in North Carolina?
McCrory: (Some stammering) I’m not going to take that test. I don’t believe in taking – You can start hitting me on the exact budget number for North Carolina …
Me: Well, I’m just saying, you want to lower the income tax rate, you want to lower the corporate tax rate, it’s reasonable for me to ask. Don’t you agree?
McCrory: I just don’t know at what point you’re going to start the test. And I’ve been through this game before.
Me: Well it’s just three questions. Corporate rate, income tax rate and sales tax rate.
From there he laid out some basic plans to cut tax rates, which you can read about in a longer story I’ve got running Sunday on the governor’s race. After that I made one more effort, telling him again that I thought it was a reasonable question.
“I’ve already given you my answer,” he said.
As we headed to our cars, McCrory indicated that he had gotten this sort of do-you-know-state-government-question from other reporters, and he just decided to shut that down. He gave the exact budget example, and the can-you-translate-the-state-motto example. For the record, it’s “esse quam videri or, “to be, rather than to seem.”
Later that afternoon, McCrory’s press secretary emailed to “follow up on your question.” He gave me the various rates, accurately, and noted that the campaign has quoted them before in campaign materials.
So, if you were wondering whether McCrory’s campaign knew about Google and it’s power to locate basic information about state government, rest easy.
Addendum: I didn’t ask Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, McCrory’s Democratic opponent in this race, the same question when we met for a similar interview Tuesday. Frankly it didn’t occur to me as a question until Thursday, and it seemed particularly appropriate for McCrory, since he’s going around saying the rates are too high. If you legitimately think they’re too high, surely you should know what they are.
On one hand, I think Fain had an interesting point. On the other hand — if you’re going to slam Pat as an idiot, get all of the grammar and spelling errors out of your hit piece. (I copied and pasted Fain’s piece word-for-word AS PUBLISHED on the N&R website.)
If this Fain guy had any integrity, he should have asked Dalton THE SAME question. I wonder if ol’ Walter could have answered that stuff on the fly while walking to his car after a busy campaign event.
This should be a warning to ALL GOP CANDIDATES: The mainstream media learned from the Todd Akin affair in Missouri and the resulting uproar in the Republican ranks. It’s the same phenomenon that followed Woodward and Bernstein’s work on Watergate. Every other journalist wanted to follow in their footsteps and bring down a president. In our post-Akin world, every political correspondent is trying to be the next guy or gal to trip up an inarticulate GOP candidate in an on-the-record scenario. Here’s how I would have handled this guy, if he was following me to the car:
REPORTER: ”Ooh, Ooh. Mr. Clifton, Mr. Clifton. Can you tell me the exact rates for the current corporate, income, and sales taxes in North Carolina? You say they’re too high and need to come down. Tell me what they are, so we can hear what you think is too high.”
ME: ”Young man, our state’s economy is a disaster. Businesses are shutting their doors. Unemployment offices are swelling with people seeking benefits. Reducing tax rates is a tried, true and tested method for spurring economic growth. When the rates go down, revenue to the government increases. When tax rates go down, businesses are encouraged to make investments and take risks. They are more likely to add to their payrolls. We saw this at its best when President Reagan took over for Jimmy Carter. Carter went down in flames in the 1980 election, and he just about took the American economy with him. President Reagan worked with a bipartisan group in Congress to reduce tax rates, and we got historic levels of economic growth. The people of our state need a lot of help in these trying economic times. Reducing their tax burden is one of the best ways I know to help them. ”
Then, shake the reporter’s hand, and give him the most sincere smile you can muster. Climb in the car, and leave him standing there with his frustration. Do not engage him in the class warfare spin he is regurgitating. Who is paying what percentage does not matter. Getting more money BACK into the economy is the answer.