North Carolina's three-legged stool

Published October 17, 2014

By Tom Campbell

by Tom Campbell, Executive Producer and Moderator, NC SPIN, October 16, 2014.

Time was political candidates didn’t spend all their money and energies telling us what a contemptuous scoundrel their opponent was. Instead, they shared their vision for how we could be better and how they proposed to make it so. I know it is a fantasyland excursion but can we imagine a modern-day campaign based on this approach? Let’s call it North Carolina’s three-legged stool of education, jobs and health.

The first leg of the stool is education. Every candidate claims to support education but what does that mean? We don’t know because nobody defines the mission or purpose for education. The website has it right: “The mission of North Carolina’s public schools, community colleges and universities is to graduate good citizens who have the skills needed in the marketplace and the ability to enjoy life.” Good citizens obey laws, nurture neighbors and family and vote. Education enables us to understand and take advantage of whatever cultural and intellectual pursuits we might enjoy. And unless someone is born wealthy each must be able to make their way in the workplace.

There is much good in our current education system but there is a compelling case for change and the sooner we stop pointing fingers of blame, figure out what it takes to achieve that mission and make needed reforms the faster we can build a great 21st century education system.

The history of our state is filled with people seeking better opportunities and of capital chasing cheaper labor and more cost effective production. Ours is a story of manufacturers who moved here to escape higher priced labor and taxes and, more recently, a saga of how we lost those companies and jobs to more cost-efficient technology or cheaper labor offshore. Many of today’s jobs require college but a large number of good jobs don’t and we aren’t providing the skills training many current jobs require.

Politicians pay lip service to the importance of small businesses in creating jobs but their actions speak otherwise. They cut taxes for large corporations and dole out millions in incentives to big companies that promise lots of jobs. But, as we are learning from an excellent WRAL-TV series, most of those big “elephant” companies we lure with incentives seldom live up to their promises and will move elsewhere in a heartbeat to improve next year’s bottom line. We are better off focusing on the small businesses that each add one, two or ten new jobs and collectively build a stronger economy and communities for years to come. Our job creation leg should have a goal that our state is the best environment in the nation for small businesses to start and thrive.

The third is health. North Carolina has a history of unhealthy people. Poor lifestyle choices have resulted in high blood pressure, diabetes and far too many who are obese. Poor health costs us more than money. It robs us of being able to enjoy our lives and opportunities. Good health is not the responsibility of doctors, hospitals or insurance companies. We must assume personal responsibility and accountability. Good health involves being more active, making better food choices and getting better primary care.

A good stool is balanced on its own legs, so to be the North Carolina we desire our three legs must be sturdy and equal. Wouldn’t you prefer this campaign to what we are currently witnessing?



October 17, 2014 at 8:27 am
James Watkins says:

In the latest economic rankings from the US Chamber of Commerce- hardly a left wing organization- a state like Minnesota has the 2nd ranked talent pipeline, but one of the "worst" business climates based on taxes and regulations. Yet it's economic performance is in the top 10 with unemployment over 2% less than North Carolina.

I fail to see how businesses and corporations should do not need to contribute to the the education and well being of it's people. They need well educated- healthy people to work in their organizations. This is the way North Carolina, with it's great colleges and universities, can differentiate itself with other regional states- We could have a great talent pipeline. Right now NC is ranked 25th in talent pipeline. We can do much better.

October 17, 2014 at 2:03 pm
Richard Bunce says:

How about personal freedom and individual liberty... how about that Tom?