Pittenger’s sorry walk back


Congressman Robert Pittenger is trying as hard as he can to apologize for his shocking comments to the BBC this week — but it’s not working.

Pittenger was asked in an interview what grievance the folks protesting the fatal police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte have and he responded this way: “The grievance in their mind is — the animus, the anger — they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”

At first Pittenger claimed the remarks were taken out of context, which is completely absurd though it does raise a question. In exactly what context does Pittenger think the comments would be appropriate and not offensive?

But there was no real question of context. His comments weren’t edited. He was asked a direct question about the protesters and he said they hate white people.

After the context claims weren’t working, Pittenger began issuing apologies all over the place, telling CNN that he was “trying to convey what protesters were saying and it didn’t come out right,” Tweeting that his intent “was to discuss the lack of economic mobility for African Americans because of failed policies,” and claiming in an online statement that his anguish about the events in his hometown led him “to respond to a reporter’s question in a way that I regret.”

But there was no ambiguity in Pittenger’s comments, no phrase that can be misinterpreted or inference that is up for debate. He said that folks exercising their First Amendment rights to protest the fatal shooting of an African-American man hate white people because they are successful and the protesters are not.

Sorry congressman, that’s not one you can take back. It is clear what you meant and how you feel. And folks in Charlotte aren’t likely to forget it for a long time.

— The hidden and growing impact of HB2: The Triangle Business Journal had a fascinating story last week about the film industry’s retreat from North Carolina. The head of the state film office told the paper that he can’t recall the last time a company applied for a film grant from the state. The General Assembly abolished the film industry tax incentive that made North Carolina a leader in film industry jobs.

But it’s not just the change in the tax program that is the problem. The head of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission says HB2 is also playing a role in keeping companies from bringing productions to the state.

That raises an important point about the claims that the anti-LGBT law is not having a major impact on the state economy. There are plenty of documented cases where companies have cancelled planned expansions and performers have cancelled concerts. The NBA, NCAA and the ACC have all moved major sporting events out of the state.

But many of the losses will never be known, the companies that crossed North Carolina off their lists of places to consider moving or expanding, the major conventions that no longer have North Carolina as a possible destination.

Professor and entrepreneur Joe DeSimone made that point powerfully in a recent talk to the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Wake County when he was asked if he would ever consider moving his Carbon 3D company back to North Carolina from Silicon Valley.

DeSimone said he wouldn’t because of the current political climate and that even if he did, his employees would revolt. He told the group that new companies that use his firm’s machinery were avoiding North Carolina because of HB2.

He also said the damage will continue and North Carolina has a long-term problem.

Keep all that mind when you hear that HB2 isn’t playing much of a role in the state’s economy. It is playing a role every day in keeping companies from considering creating jobs in North Carolina whether you hear about it publicly or not.

— Stam summarizes the problems with the lottery: Rep. Paul Stam is not right about much but he has always been right about the state lottery, opposing it from the beginning and trying to limit its expansion as a terribly flawed public policy.

In a recent story on WFDD radio about where lottery revenues go, Stam perfectly summed up one of the biggest problems with the state raising money by convincing people to buy lottery tickets even though it raises $600 million for education.

“They would just be paying other taxes, sales tax, income tax, so it’s just pulling out of a different cookie jar the same amount of money,” Stam said. “But it’s a way for people who are more well-to-do to push off on the poor more of the burden of government.”

Putting aside that paying for public schools — or the rest of government for that matter — is not a burden, but a shared responsibility, Stam’s point about lottery revenue is correct.

People in low-income areas play the lottery far more than folks in wealthy areas. The lottery is a regressive way to raise revenue for the state that ought to be raised through a fairer and more transparent tax structure.

In recent years, Republicans in the General Assembly have decimated or dismantled many effective programs that were created by Democrats. But so far they have declined to do much about one that preys upon low-income people to raise money for public schools. Too bad Stam hasn’t been able to convince his colleagues to reign in the predatory lottery.

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Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.

Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.

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