Credit where credit is due: Gov. Roy Cooper scored a major win in his recent travels to Japan, securing a deal with Toyota to build one of the largest electric-vehicle battery plants in the world. The Japanese auto giant had already planned on investing $6 billion to build EV batteries in the Triad area, creating 2,100 jobs at the site. But now, that will be expanded to a $14 billion investment and 5,100 jobs.
That’s definitely worth celebrating. Economic development of that scale is bound to benefit the state for years to come.
But that’s not the full story, because that’s not really what Cooper seemed focused on in his comments to WRAL on the big news. Instead, he focused on income inequality and on climate change.
“That’s how we attack the wealth divide,” Cooper told WRAL. “That’s how we get middle class families more secure. … We know that is where the market is going: Away from fossil fuels. So we’re at the front end of a tremendous wave here on clean energy.”
To the degree there is natural demand for electric vehicles, that’s great. It will be good for our state to help meet that demand. But much of the demand for EVs is artificial, created by politicians who think it would be better for us all to drive them, despite our electric grid already being under strain. Demand for EVs doesn’t appear to be materializing at the scale they desire anyway. In fact, Ford announced just today that EV sales are so disappointing that they are going to scale back their investments.
And the idea of “income inequality” — largely taken from socialist economics — is certainly not one we want to inject into our state’s economic decision making. Different jobs require different levels of skill, effort, experience, and education. There are a scarcity of people who can fill positions requiring the highest levels of these qualities — for example an NBA basketball player, expert neurosurgeon, or nuclear engineer. Society highly values these positions and therefore pays them more than jobs that require skills that are less scarce. Therefore, just like with the poor, we will always have the rich among us.
But Cooper is not just injecting climate hysteria and socialist economics into his economic agenda. He also is leaning heavily on the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) framework that has taken over many sectors of society, as became clear in recent days during a back-and-forth with the NC Chamber of Commerce.
The controversy started with Cooper sending a letter to the Chamber blasting them for not signing off on his black appointees to various boards and commissions. The General Assembly leans on the Chamber’s recommendations when making their decisions for certain positions. Cooper said that the Chamber had backed fewer of his black appointees than his white ones.
Cooper concludes his letter (which can be read in full at the bottom of this article) by asking that the Chamber “look at the facts, and reflect on the damage the Chamber’s actions can cause to our state’s reputation, business community and judicial system.”
Gary Salamido, the president and CEO of the NC Chamber, replied, saying that is was “sadly notable that your Friday correspondence was initially delivered to the media and then to our organization.” Salamido contended that Cooper’s “inappropriate assertion that the NC Chamber staff is in any way, intentionally or not, racially motivated is extraordinarily misplaced, highly offensive, and completely without merit.”
He flipped the script by noting that Cooper is backing Josh Stein (who is white) for governor over Michael Morgan (a black justice recently retired from the NC Supreme Court), and that Cooper appointed a non-minority to replace Morgan for that seat.
“Having worked tirelessly and effectively to secure a promising future for the entirety of North Carolina’s business community – and always doing so without regard to identity – being wrongly and arrogantly lectured to by the state’s chief executive with outrageous claims of racism is enormously hurtful and dispiriting,” Salamido said. “It was a moment our team will never forget and one we trust you will not repeat.”
Salamido made clear that the problem with Cooper’s nominees is that the disagreement over particular nominees “relates to the qualifications and full commitment, not the immutable characteristics” of those in question, and that Cooper should have “engaged more constructively this past legislative session to secure” his picks.
Of course there are highly qualified minority candidates for these positions, but Cooper should make sure he appoints them because of those qualifications and works with the business community and the legislature to explain why they are the right person for the job.
Who can forget also when our state was honored as the No. 1 state in business by CNBC for the second year in a row, how Cooper took the opportunity, in the short congratulatory interview, to deflect to how we can improve on social issues and climate change? At least he’s consistent.
But North Carolina’s economy should not be seen as a tool to achieve other priorities — whether income inequality, green energy, or DEI. It should create products and services where there is demand. As my colleague John Hood said in a column earlier in this week, “the primary means by which companies do good is by providing valuable goods and services to consumers.” And, as much as politicians may want to add to that list, that’s enough.