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Political pundit talks economy with Chamber

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY – While political pundit John Hood said he has no idea who will win the presidential election, he told the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce that North Carolina will elect the state’s first Republican governor since 1988.
Pat McCory’s victory will end the second-longest single party gubernatorial streak in America, predicted Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation who spoke Thursday at the Chamber’s annual meeting.
Hood, who’s writing a biography of Jim Martin, the last Republican governor to serve the state, said North Carolina needs more than a new political party in the governor’s mansion to reverse a statewide economic slowdown that began 15 years ago.
“Changing parties is not the point,” he said. “It’s changing ideas that’s the point.”
Hood, author of the new book “Our Best Foot Forward: An Investment Plan for North Carolina’s Economic Recovery,” advocated a center-right philosophy of public and private sector investment in infrastructure and industry to help turn the state’s economy around.
While he eschewed endorsing a political party and called his foundation a “nonpartisan think tank,” Hood said there is little evidence that the left’s economic policies work.
In his analysis of 100 studies done in states and countries across the globe during the past 80 years, Hood said he determined that investment is the key to economic growth and progress.
“We make it more complicated than it needs to be,” he said. “We need to save and invest for the future. In the long run, we will be happier, healthier and wealthier.”
Hood also advocated changing the state’s tax code, which he said punishes people for saving and investing and encourages spending. He proposed exempting net savings and investments and said the state needs to encourage more private investment in companies.
“We have to stop thinking in short-term ways,” he said.
North Carolina needs less regulation, including making it easier for people to obtain permits to start a business, he said. Residents also should be allowed to run businesses out of their home.
The state’s schools are not as bad as people claim, performing at the national average, Hood said. Trouble is, “being average in America is still not competitive on the world stage,” he said.
At one time, North Carolina led the country in economic growth. Hood said the state’s economy is even worse that it appears by some accounts, pointing out the unemployment rate is actually 17.5 percent if everyone of working age is included in the calculation.
Once dubbed the “Dixie dynamo,” North Carolina’s economy began to stumble in the late 1990s, he said.
Although Site Selection magazine on Thursday gave North Carolina the top spot for business climate, Hood disagreed with the ranking and said it places too much emphasis on variables like economic incentives.
When looking at measurements like per capita income, gross domestic product and job market, the state does not fare as well, he said.
Hood said past state leaders he has interviewed acknowledge some of their decisions were wrong.
“There is a recognition that North Carolina is in trouble,” he said.
Yet Hood said he’s an optimist who believes the state is going to “make significant strides” in coming years.
Hood writes a weekly syndicated column that appears in the Salisbury Post and other newspapers. He serves as a weekly panelist on “N.C. Spin,” a political discussion program.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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