Why ETV Matters, by Mark Quinn

Trying to catch up on my e-mail, I ran across this item which also bears upon the Sanford vetoes:

Why ETV matters

For nearly 3 years, my job in public television has forced me to explore many of the crushing effects America’s Great Recession has had on our state. Now, it appears, the economic tsunami which began to wash over the land in 2008, may wipe away 50 years historic and pioneering television produced by ETV. The Great Recession has arrived on ETV’s doorstep, and I am forced to report on what may be the demise in vitality of a treasured state institution.
I work as the host of a weekly radio and television program entitled, The Big Picture. The premise is fairly simple, and almost ancient in its origins. Barry Lopez, the prolific novelist and essayist, summed up my job thusly: “it means to go out there and look and come back and tell us, and say what it is that you saw.” For millennia, this has been an integral part of the human experience. The earliest cave drawings were nothing more than one person’s reporting of the world that existed over the mountain or across the river. And it has always been so.
And while it’s deeply gratifying to travel our state to find the stories that give expression to the lives we lead today, there’s equal satisfaction in being a conduit to help serve another timeless need that we all have, the need to be heard. There is immense power in the connection with ordinary, everyday people and the dignity they claim when they are allowed to tell their story. The brilliance of ETV hasn’t been its coverage of the powerful or the popular, as essential as that may be. It’s been thousands of collective glimpses into the lives of everyday people doing extraordinary things. Or peeks at places you never knew existed. It’s the story of South Carolina.
For me, public television is taking you somewhere you will never go you’re your local newspaper. Nor will you ever go there with your local television station.
For me ETV is sitting in the Sullivan’s Island living room of best-selling author Dorthea Benton Frank, laughing riotously at the random acts of calamity life will throw at you… knowing if you don’t laugh, you will likely cry.
It’s thumbing through a scrapbook and shedding a tear with Dale and Ann Hampton in their Easley home, remembering their daughter Kimberly who was killed in the war in Iraq. This is where divine grace lives.
It’s being completely captivated by the force of nature known as Darla Moore. Her bank account is impressive, but her resolve, wit and determination are much more so. The first woman to conquer Wall Street still lives in Lake City.
It’s sitting down with 5 former first ladies of South Carolina, and hearing what we all assume; that life inside the Governor’s mansion is for most, a pretty grand affair.
It’s Mrs. Iris Campbell, recounting the thick fog of cigar smoke that surrounded the pool of the Governor’s mansion, as her husband hosted a group of German businessmen and wrote out the plan for BMW’s move to South Carolina on a series of cocktail napkins.
It’s the terrible misfortune of Mike Burgess, staggering as best he can through a life that includes a wife who contracted Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 46. Another day when it’s tough not to cry.
It’s spending a day with the resolute Mayor of Marion, Rodney Berry. The city has been in an economic funk for 20 years. It’s on the rebound now thanks to a fierce pride and stubborn resolve to remake its image in the absence of textiles and tobacco.
It’s hiking to see the rare rocky shoals spider lilies on the Catawba River, knowing the river itself has been named America’s most endangered. I’m not a naturalist, but the lilies are regal and captivating.
It might be a boat ride down the Pee Dee River with a group of unlikely activists. They are hunters and fisherman who opposed the building a coal-fired power plant on the river’s banks. They won.
It’s standing in Arlington National Cemetery on a gray, cold November day with Colonel Charles Murray, recipient of the Medal of Honor. He’s a World War II veteran who calls today’s soldiers America’s Greatest Generation.
It’s a long walk through the Harvest Hope Food bank in Columbia with Denise Holland. She saw the Great Recession first. The number of people they serve is up 250%. Denise Holland is scared, but grateful to tell the story of the down and out, and the dispossessed.
It’s 82 year old Laura Spong, now a best-selling artist. Her paintings fetch as much as $10,000. She took up serious art at the age of 62. Anything is possible.
It’s Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, trembling in anger when he produces a small picture of a teen-age boy, shot dead. Mayor Joe wants better supervision of people on probation and parole. Some of his pleas are now being heeded.
It is the absolute decency of former Governor Richard Riley, and his pleas for civil political discourse as we talk about leadership in the 21st century. This one will take some work.
It’s conversations with Dr. Walter Edgar about the complex history of the south, and why it’s meaningful traditions are an endless source of fascination for people all around the world.
And it’s the passion of Charleston chef Sean Brock. His seed-saving campaign to bring back South Carolina grains and vegetables that are almost extinct, is the biggest revolution in lowcountry cooking in a half century.
Chances are, unless you watch ETV, you probably haven’t heard much about any of these stories. And let me be clear, these stories will not be told, will never see the light of day if our institution is starved of its support.
Think about this: the average story on your local television news station is 75 seconds. Imagine that. I worked in that world for many years and can tell you that most all of these stations are truly committed to their communities. But how effectively can they tell you about our collective condition in 75 seconds?
I represent a very small part of the overall efforts of ETV, and its deep connection to the many thousands of people in South Carolina. And yet, I know that my enthusiasm is matched and even exceeded by many of my co-workers. What we do, everyday, is collect the patchwork pieces of stories that make up the fabric of our life here in this state. Public media is an incredibly important resource in a noisy and sometimes polluted information environment.
Bill Moyers, dean of public broadcasters said, “the most important thing that we do is to treat audience as citizens, not just consumers of information. If you look out and see an audience of consumers, you want to sell them something. If you look out and see an audience of citizens, you want to share something with them, and there is a difference.”
More than 50 year ago, in the advent of a ground-breaking experiment that came to be known as ETV, the mission of public broadcasting was to create an alternative channel that would be free not only of commercials, but free of commercial values, a broadcasting system that would serve the life of the mind, that would encourage the imagination, that would sponsor the performing arts, documentaries, travel. It was to be an alternative to the commercial broadcasting at that time. And guess what, it worked… and it still works today.
Can South Carolina survive without ETV? Absolutely. Will she be as rich? Not a chance.
What will you do to keep the story going? What will you do to help save ETV?
.
Mark Quinn
Host, The Big Picture
www.scetv.org

44 thoughts on “Why ETV Matters, by Mark Quinn

  1. Michael P.

    “Can South Carolina survive without ETV? Absolutely.”

    He answered his own question. Maybe Mark would like to tell the governor and legislature where to make cuts.

    Reply
  2. martin

    I would love to know what Fritz Hollings thinks about all this.

    He had a piece in Huffington Post a few weeks ago giving somebody hell about something. I sure do miss him…from the not so long ago days when some politicians were giants (frequently flawed) rather than the small, petty and mean who seem dominant these days.

    Reply
  3. Brad

    Actually, Michael — no one needs to advise anyone where to find cuts.

    What some of you are missing is that the budget is balanced. The budget is always balanced. The constitution requires that lawmakers pass a balanced budget.

    Sanford is cutting this stuff because he wants to.

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  4. Michael P.

    Balanced with what? Answer… one time stimulus money. So if we’re not having budget problems, since it’s “balanced”, why are teachers being laid off? Why is DSS looking at laying off something like 40% of their staff? Why are state agencies discussing furloughs? Why are agency and department heads freaking out about next year’s budget? Because the budget is balanced???

    Good for Sanford, he’s smart enough to realize that the government doesn’t need to have their hand in non-government issues. What does running the SC state government have to do with ETV or the Arts Commission? Nothing.

    Reply
  5. Karen McLeod

    I’ve got a great money saving idea! Furlough the govenor for the rest of his term. And before the legislators cut many of these things, they should consider a pay cut for themselves.

    Reply
  6. Michael P.

    Balanced budget, just because you have $100 to spend on groceries, if you have $100 worth of food in your shopping cart and pick up a carton of cigarettes (non-necessity), you have to put back milk, bread, vegetables, and meat (necessity). I’d rather have money spent on grade school teachers than museum and art curators. That’s how a balanced budget works.

    Reply
  7. Doug Ross

    Balanced No Waste

    Balanced Funds Are Allocated To Highest Priority Items

    All balanced means is that they spent everything they plan to take in on whatever they want to spend it on.

    Reply
  8. Brad

    Michael, it should gratify you to know that another reader offered a comment highly critical of your, um, analysis of the situation — but that I didn’t approve it because that reader called you a rude name.

    As you know from your own experience with having your comments disallowed, I don’t allow that.

    If the other reader would like to rephrase the comment, I’ll reconsider it.

    Reply
  9. Lynn

    Michael P. sure doesn’t like curators. I’ll try to remember to cross to the other side of the street if I see him coming. –if I knew what he looked like, which I don’t, which is probably fine with both of us.

    Reply
  10. Wade K

    One thing that the extremist Tea Party folks like Mr. Sanford and Mrs. Haley seem not to realize is the role that quality public services (like ETV) and cultural life generally can play in spurring economic development and growth. We all want to see economic growth, of course, but attractions like the State Museum and our public libraries, services like ETV and public radio, and institutions like our public schools and USC all help create an environment where companies will want to locate and expand.

    Having been in school the past few years in the Research Triangle in North Carolina, I can tell you that these things matter. Companies want to locate (and their executives want to live) in a state with a high quality of life. A responsible tax level is certainly part of the equation, but if our state continues to fall apart and neglect its assets in a fastidious or unnecessary attempt to stay in the black, we’ll soon not have the sort of environment where anyone will want to live or work, no matter how low our taxes.

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  11. Steve Gordy

    Mark Sanford’s approach (also the General Assembly’s approach, but in a different way) to making budget cuts reminds me of H.L. Mencken’s comment about a former U.S. President. His comment was to the effect that the U.S. electing this person was the equivalent of a man at a Roman banquet trying to assuage his hunger by catching flies with his tongue.

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  12. Matt

    I love ETV. I love their South Carolina-centric programming like “The Big Picture” and “Carolina Stories”. Also like the British comedies, the debates every election cycle, etc.

    Most people I know only watch ETV for things like Sesame Street (these people obviously hve little children).

    I wonder what ETV’s ratings actually are?

    I give ETV a little bit of money every year. But someone like me with my politial leanings would probably be giving more if I didn’t already know that they were getting my tax dollars.

    Maybe ETV needs to hit up their more liberal “artsy” supporters around the state who generally love seeing their tax dollars go to the arts…they are generally willing to shell out lots of extra money to ETV anyway so they can get the little ETV sticker for their Subaru’s bumper. Maybe ETV should just start chargin more for those little stickers…

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  13. Michael P.

    Lynn, I’ll just keep my eye open for you, as an art curator do you prefer the bag lady look or the ultra-sophisticated, high society wannabe look?

    I don’t have a problem with curators… but when times are tight, I’ll take a teacher or health worker over a collector and cataloger any day.

    Reply
  14. scout

    I’ll have a go at Michael and try not to use a rude name.

    You ask, “So if we’re not having budget problems, since it’s “balanced”, why are teachers being laid off? Why is DSS looking at laying off something like 40% of their staff? Why are state agencies discussing furloughs? Why are agency and department heads freaking out about next year’s budget? Because the budget is balanced???”

    Because the balanced budget, before Sanford started hacking at it, was leaner than last year. Agencies across the board have less money to work with and thus are discussing all those things you cite – under the balanced budget passed by the legislature, before it went to Sanford. Sanford is now chopping on the already sparse but balanced budget, making a bad situation worse, because he has bizarre extreme ideologies and because he can.

    I’ve read the governor’s veto letter – he makes a good point here and there – It would be fine with me if they upheld the veto’s on the lt. gov.’s security detail and on raises for the house and senate. But reading his annotations of why he vetoed stuff and then reading real world rebuttal from people in those agencies, I totally get the feeling Sanford is like a guy trying to free up space on his hard drive by deleting program files right and left because he “thinks” he knows what they do and he “thinks” he doesn’t need them. And then -oopsy- suddenly his computer won’t restart. Only problem is it’s not HIS computer, it’s OUR state. I think my favorite is that he took all of the budget and control board’s money citing among other things that they collect rent income from agencies across the state, apparently forgetting that he had just taken the rent money away from many of those agencies in his previous vetos. He also is just sure most of these agencies can make up the difference in federal and private funds, yet many of them will lose the federal funds they get as a result of his cuts because they often are federal grants that require state matching funds and/or guarantees to provide certain services, which he is rendering them unable to do. In some cases, the federal money brought in by these grants flows through these agencies straight to the state – and these pipelines will be shutdown – in some cases, these agencies will owe large sums of money back to the federal government for having to renege on the their part of the grant. I just get the feeling he lives in a little fantasy bubble about how things work in the real world vs. how he’d like them to work. His cuts have far deeper implications for the people of our state than he will acknowledge, or maybe even has the power to comprehend.

    I would like more explanation on the veto of the federal medicaid money that may not materialize. He makes a good point there, but I don’t understand how he thinks his veto solves the problem, unless I’m missing something (which is possible.) Can someone explain to me – if his veto of the medicaid part of the budget is upheld, is the legislature obligated to find other money for those agencies, or are they just out of luck. If they are out of luck, then he makes no sense at all.

    Michael you say you think ETV and the Arts Commission have nothing to do with running state government. That is one point of view. I suppose one’s opinion depends on what you consider the purpose of government. What if one of the purposes of government is to make possible a healthy and well rounded society for it’s citizens? I think the society that would develop from your brand of government would be a stark, bleak, and unforgiving place with extreme class divisions and lots of poverty. Not really the place I want to live. Just my opinion.

    Reply
  15. Kristin Sinclair

    One more reason to hold ETV in such high esteem. Over the week end I watched an pre taped interview with Gresham Barrett. The interview was excellent, the conversation was cordial. The candidate did his very best, to have a smile on his face and appear at ease.

    But then he made one comment that showed a weakness that could not be concealed. The fear was in the power held in the form of 3rd party interests and those alternative voices being heard. He made the comment, that there was no place for third parties in our election system. That one, comment said a whole lot about the person being interviewed.

    Why Third Parties are important.
    Third parties have the ability to bring issues to the fore front of political awareness and acceptance allowing people to embrace a concept and improve upon it until the ideas have won the support of a majority of decision makers.

    Usually the ideas which become popular by a majority, are adopted into the platform of a major political party.
    Women’s Right to Vote introduced by more than one 3rd party in the 1800′s was later embraced by the mainstream parties by 1916.

    Child labor laws were introduced into the political process by third parties to become a platform of the mainstream parties by 1916.

    Immigration Restrictions were first formerly introduced by third parties in 1890.

    Reduction of Working Hours were introduced by a 3rd party in 1938.

    A Progressive Income tax was first introduced by 3rd parties in 1890, later to become an issue supported by the mainstream 1909, later ratified in the form of the 16th amendment in 1913.

    Social Security was a concept introduced by 3rd party interest to offer financial support for the unemployed in the 1920′s, later to be a system which grew into Social Security which began in 1935.

    Tough on Crime concept first introduced 1968 by a 3rd party candidate, to become an issue embraced by mainstream political forces also in 1968.

    One current third party has had a long held platform which supports
    Ecological Wisdom, Community Based Economics, Grassroots democracy, decentralization of government, Gender Equality, Personal and Social responsibility, Respect for diversity, Non Violence, Global Responsibility, Future Focus.

    We need third parties to help provide thinking outside of the comfortable norms of those who hold power in the system of what is now. Are some stances so idealistic that it is hard be able to implement the ideals into a working reality, well yes of course. The power of a good idea can truly provide the momentum that we people need to continue to be better.

    Yes, ETV is a valuable resource, thank goodness for it. Thank You, Thank You. Ad yes, we give. And no I do not even have an ETV sticker on my car.

    Yes, the mainstream political process is a valuable social resource, and yes third parties are needed as well.

    Reply
  16. Doug Ross

    What harm would come from having ETV run commercials?

    And does the editorial content of ETV reflect the general political/cultural philosophy of the people of South Carolina?

    Reply
  17. Michael P.

    scout – Some would say strip joints are a form of expressive dance. Maybe strippers and strip club curators can stand in the line with the artists and museums.

    The state government needs to spend money on running the state, they don’t need to be funding art festivals and Uncle Bob’s Big Ball of String museum.

    Reply
  18. Burl Burlingame

    Museums are knowledge reservoirs we refill to make sure future generations aren’t shortchanged in the culture department. It’s just simply bizarre to hear someone call for shuttering museums and libraries to justify hiring teachers. Public education is an investment, not a utility. Maybe these extra teachers can be given one book to share, and no access to South Carolina’s rich heritage.

    Reply
  19. Michael P.

    Burl, you have $40,000 to spend… who do you hire, a teacher or a museum curator? Both the Department of Education and the State Museum are equally lacking. You can’t hire both for $20,000 each.

    Your move to choose only one.

    To pay for books, we’ll cut extended session pay for legislators.

    Reply
  20. Brad

    Just to explain this once more: The Legislature has, to use your analogy, $80,000 to spend. With that, it has hired a teacher and a museum curator.

    It has done so without having to offer them $20,000 each. Each gets the full salary. Also, it has only spent the money available. Lawmakers are constitutionally prevented from spending more than the amount that comes in.

    What the governor wants to do is pay the teacher (although he’d really rather not, but he knows he can only cut so much and have a chance of getting away with it), then take $40,000 for the curator and have it sit in the bank while the museum shuts down. He is NOT, repeat NOT, proposing that this money be spent on more vital functions of government. He does not want the money to be spent.

    THIS is what is happening. THIS is what we’re talking about.

    Reply
  21. Doug Ross

    Brad,

    The true scenario is that there is $80,000 – half of which is borrowed money that won’t be available next year.

    Sanford says, “Let’s not pretend we have it. Make some choices with the money you have to prioritize items.”

    The legislature says “We’ll deal with that crisis next year when we’re 40K in debt AND have to cut one of the positions”.

    Maybe I don’t understand but isn’t he just vetoing the spending? He’s not vetoing the legislature’s revenue estimate is he? They can’t turn around and say we forecast $20B revenue last week and now we forecast $20B minus the Sanford vetoes. They can balance the budget by shifting money from other expenses – like TERI, boards and commissions, Okra Struts, the slush fund that the House and Senate leaders use to distribute the pork to their buddies.

    All the money they need is there now. Gotta make some choices, boys and girls.

    Reply
  22. Michael P.

    No… the legislature has $40,000. If they spend the $80,000 you’re proposing, they’d be running a $40,000 deficit. Holy cow this is like talking finance to my dog.

    Where are you coming up with $80,000? If the legislature uses your math, no wonder we’re in trouble… they’re taking in $40,000 and spending $80,000. Next year, when the stimulus money is cut off, lets say half to make it easier, they’ll be wondering how to fill a full-time job ($40,000) with a part-time employee ($20,000).

    Last year – $80,000 – 2 employees
    This year – $40,000 – 1 employee
    Next year – 20,000 – .5 employee

    Reply
  23. Brad

    First, Michael, your hostile attitude is bringing you perilously close to being banned from this blog. I’m hesitating to do that only because I’m not sure whether you’re deliberately inventing your own fantasy version of the situation in order to be obnoxious and insulting, or you really, truly don’t understand these things I’m explaining to you. (Notice that I didn’t call you a dog for not understanding, should that be the case.)

    You are 100 percent wrong in your assumption that there is not enough money to pay those two hypothetical employees. If they are in the budget, the money is there. There isn’t money in the budget for a THIRD employee — say, one of those state troopers we need to hire and can’t — because there ISN’T enough money to do that.

    The cutting necessary to adjust the budget downward because of revenue that we had in past years and don’t have now has already happened, before the governor’s vetoes. The lawmakers have cut appropriations and done without to the necessary extent, because they have to.

    Once again, the Legislature is required by law not to spend a dime more than what is available in that fiscal year. IF IT’S IN THE BUDGET, THE MONEY WILL BE THERE. If revenue estimates turn out to be overly optimistic, the Budget and Control Board will have to act to cut the budget further. In other words, if the money isn’t there, it won’t be in the budget any more.

    So am I getting this across to you?

    To explain further, using your same hypothetical case, the governor is maintaining that NEXT year there will be only $40,000 instead of $80,000 (to use your choice of numbers). What he wants to do is not fund that second symbolic position this year, put the money in the bank, and have it available next year when the stimulus is gone.

    All this would accomplish is that the money would be spent NEXT year instead of this year. We would go ahead and do without that money, and that employee, a year earlier than necessary. Unless of course we’d keep it in the bank another year, which would be insane.

    Do you follow?

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  24. Brad

    By the way, anyone of you who DO understand what I’m saying, this would be a good time to nod — and in case you see a better way to explain it that I’m missing, a way that you think would be helpful to Michael, please weigh in.

    Reply
  25. Michael P.

    Interesting, Doug gets what I’m saying and explains it in another way. I defend my position (which I believe is correct) and I get threatened with being banned.

    Brad I’ve worked with thousand dollar budgets and multi-million dollar budgets and absolutely do not budget money I do not have. With ongoing RIFs, layoffs, not filling open positions, etc… SC does not have the money to long-term support your scenario.

    I think you, like the legislators, are looking at short-term solutions, when I’m looking at long-term solutions. Okay let’s say we use your money and now have $80,000 to work with, the short-term solution, two people stay employed for 1 year and one person stays employed for .5 years (expecting only $20,000 available for the 2011 budget). In the long-term solution, one person stays employed for 3 years considering the future budget stays at the $20,000 for this position and you add the $20,000 carry over for two consecutive years. As things look right now, 2011 is going to be worse than this year so you’re looking at possibly losing both positions next year, unless one wants to go part-time. Hopefully within the three years things will be better than they are now, economic models are typically cyclical and we’re approaching the bottom with the 2011 budget, in 3 years hopefully things look brighter. You make one tough decision now instead of two next year. You weigh the value of the two employees and eliminate the one who provides the least value. In my example, it’s a museum curator, because if a museum has to close it’s doors for two years it’s less of an impact than if a classroom shuts it’s door for a year. And who says the museum has to close it’s doors completely? It’s a little more difficult if you’re expecting a teacher/firefighter/patrolman to go part-time.

    BTW – Stop being so thin skinned, I did not call you any names. Have you ever taken a finance course in your life or managed a budget? I’m going to state from this conversation that you haven’t done either. If you consider that a personal attack, then so be it and do what you feel you have to do. It’s your blog, you can take your ball and go home or stay and argue your side.

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  26. scout

    Doug, you say

    “The true scenario is that there is $80,000 – half of which is borrowed money that won’t be available next year.

    Sanford says, “Let’s not pretend we have it. Make some choices with the money you have to prioritize items.” ”

    I’m not sure that is what Sanford is saying. He implies that that is what he is saying but he is being misleading. The choices have been made and he is not making any new choices for how to spend this money. The only choice he is making is to not spend it – he is not redirecting it to other functions which are bigger priorities – he just wants to put it in the bank. He wants our state to do without in order to save the money. Even if the part of the budget he lops off is essential and he knows he is not redirecting any other money to cover those essential functions – and even though he seems to actually acknowledge that they are essential – he still advocates we do without that essential thing, in order to have some money in the bank.

    I agree that the legislature spending medicaid money that is not guaranteed to come from the federal government is not a good idea, but Sanford’s solution is worse. He essentially is saying, ‘since the legislature was stupid to fund these essential core services with this potentially nonexistent money, I will absolutely guarantee that these essential core services get no money.”

    He also suggests that should the money materialize later, it should be put in the bank at that point. I’m pretty sure the state would not be allowed to do that – just like he wanted to use the stimulus money for purposes other than what it was given for, this medicaid money from the federal government, is ‘shocker’ obligated to go to medicaid – not to a bank account.

    Does he live in a fantasy world, or does he just think the rules don’t apply to him? (maybe that’s the same thing).

    Reply
  27. scout

    Brad, I get what you are saying.

    Here is my take. There seems to be a perception among some, a view misleadingly encouraged by the governor I think, that the budget as handed to him by the legislature needs to be further cut because we have a shortfall of money and can’t afford to pay for all the things that the legislature put into the budget. Brad’s point is that that is a wrong perception.

    Brad is saying that the legislature is required by law to only put things in the budget for money that we know we have. Sanford is cutting things out of the budget because he prefers to save money at the expense of all sanity, not because we have a shortfall of money.

    Here is an analogy: Suppose last year a family made $500 a week. Last year they budgeted $200 a week on food, $200 on rent, and $100 on medicine for their special needs child. This year due to the economic downturn, they only make $350 dollars a week. They adjust their budget and spend $100 on food, $150 on rent, and $100 on medicine. Note their new budget is balanced – it adds up to their total income, and they have already had to make hard choices. Then the evil stepfather steps in and says you don’t need to spend $100 on medicine, you need to put that $100 in the bank every week – to save for next year when things will really be bad. True, but what if your kid is dead by then. Then I would argue that maybe this year was when it was really bad, due to the evil stepfather.

    Brad, will I get banned if call the governor rude names.

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  28. Burl Burlingame

    I ain’t so good with numbers.
    The point I’m attempting to make is that museum curatorship — and education is general — should not be considered disposable.
    Also, in many states, state museums are required by statute to provide services to the state as well as the general and educable public. What happens is that the state continues to demand these services even while cutting off the funding that underwrites them.
    It can be something as simple as pest control. Suppose there’s an outbreak of termites in South Carolina. Has this happened before? Is it cyclical? What worked best as an eradication method? That sort of knowledge is stored in natural-history museums funded by the state. Kill the museum, kill the knowledge.
    Museums are repositories of information necessary for the continuation of civilization. MichaelP seems to think that “collectors and catalogers” are in positions removed from the needs of daily life. They’re not, not any more than utility companies work steadily to guarantee uninterrupted service.
    Sometimes cuts have to be made. I understand that. I argue only that the accumulated knowledge of modern life isn’t easily disposable. It matters.
    And, just to stir things up, when was the last time the South Carolina National Guard had massive cutbacks due to the governor’s political whim? I’m just askin.’

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  29. David

    I don’t agree with cutting ETV or libraries or other educational institutions which I, like most, believe are important to our society. And I think Sanford is vetoing these things because he either doesn’t believe that they are legitimate functions of government or he wants to cut taxes further and not because he’s saving up to pay teachers next year.

    And obviously I don’t know anything about what the budget is supposed to be like next year — I don’t even know the numbers for this year. But with that said, I don’t think Doug is unreasonable to consider that we should save up some acorns for next year if our revenues are going to be even lower. Doug is saying we cut the museum curator this year and save one more teacher next year. Maybe it’s not the right thing to do, but it at least sounds reasonable. But again, I don’t know much.

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  30. Brad

    Thank all of y’all for your comments, and for assuring me I’m not losing it.

    Michael, I’ve managed budgets since about 1980, although in the last few years, the budgets I’ve had to manage have been pathetically small and hardly worth mentioning. My formal training is limited to a seminar for “finance for non-finance managers” that our CFO once dragged the non-business-side senior managers to. It wasn’t exactly rocket science.

    Now you can attach all the importance you want to that lack of formal training. But I tell you that I understand what’s going on with the state budget better than you do. I base that on your statements, combined with my 32 years of covering state governments here and elsewhere.

    And Scout, it’s OK to call the governor an evil stepfather, within the context of your analogy. That’s sort of within the Disney range of epithets. But you don’t get to call him a dog. (Unless you mean it in the sense that Bill Clinton was a babehound, or that all men are dogs in that respect.) In fact, in keeping with not wanting to offend Middle Eastern sensibilities, you may not show him the bottom of your shoe, either.

    I’m being facetious to make the point that Michael misses. It’s not the word that you call someone. It’s the obvious malice that shows through in general tone. Since this is, as Michael correctly notes, my blog, I am not limited to objective standards — such as a list of proscribed words or phrases — in policing civility. When it comes to incivility, I apply the standard that Justice Potter Stewart applied to obscenity: I know it when I see it.

    So how will you know when you are running afoul of this standard? Simple: Heed my warnings.

    And Scout — when you get home tonight, say hey to Jem and Atticus for me…

    Reply
  31. Matt

    Brad, is it possible for some of your blog readers to see things differently from you and still not be objectively wrong? I think so. You did present some objective facts regarding the state budget, but I don’t read anything in Michael’s thoughts that would have forced him to ignore those in formulating his perspective.

    I would suspect people like Michael P. would agree with today’s editorial in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal which asks those fighting for funding to remain in the budget for vetoed programs a simple question: what’s your plan for where the state should get the money to fund these programs?

    I know you don’t read all the links people give you, but since this is an editorial from the SHJ I thought it would be of-interest to you.

    http://www.goupstate.com/article/20100616/ARTICLES/6161003/1128/OPINION?p=1&tc=pg

    “All of the programs, projects and departments that saw their funding slashed by those vetoes have a right to lobby, but they have the responsibility to put their lobbying in the form of a plan. It’s not enough to explain why they deserve the money. They must also explain what programs, in the long run, are a lower priority and should be cut, or what taxes should be increased to generate their funds.”

    Reply
  32. Susan G.

    Michael P.,

    You seem to be surprised that what Doug says and what you say are in substance the same, and yet you’re being picked on. I find this disengenuous myself, and find it hard to believe you can’t tell the difference. But in case you truly are confused, here’s the parts I find unnecessary and mean (from this series of posts):

    “Lynn, I’ll just keep my eye open for you, as an art curator do you prefer the bag lady look or the ultra-sophisticated, high society wannabe look?”

    “Holy cow this is like talking finance to my dog.”

    If you cut just those two sentences out of your posts above, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with you.

    I read those sentences to my third grader, and he simply identified them as “mean”. If he can tell, I’m sure you can.

    Reply
  33. Doug Ross

    Anyone care to bet that if the vetoes are NOT overridden that the consequences will be nowhere near as dire as all the interested parties claim?

    ETV won’t shut down. Neither will any of the museums. Money will be found in the budget and the legislators will claim to be heroes defending the noble arts and museum establishment. Phony posturing is what we will see.

    Many of you act like there’s no possible way to shift money around within state agencies. It happens all the time. A budget isn’t written in stone. It’s a budget. The legislators just don’t want to touch their slush funds and pet projects.

    So stop being Chicken Littles claiming the sky is falling until you actually see the sky falling. It’s not going to happen. Yes, a few percentage points may be knocked off some budgets – well, talk to the legislators who decided to spend the money on other stuff. But there’s no reason why the state government should be immune to the realities of the current economic conditions. Things are tough out there. Tax revenues reflect a lagging indicator. This year’s budget reflects last year’s horror story.

    The other alternative is to raise taxes. The legislators haven’t got the guts to do that.

    Reply
  34. Brad

    Absolutely, Matt, on your initial question.

    However, Michael keeps betraying a central, objective misunderstanding about this budget debate. You just indicated that you share the same misunderstanding, when you asked, “what’s your plan for where the state should get the money to fund these programs?”

    To say it one more time: No plan is necessary. The money is there (that is to say, every reason to believe it WILL be there, since the budget deals with FUTURE revenues and expenditures; neither the Legislature nor the governor know for sure what revenues will actually be, so all either party can do is go by the estimates — if it later turns out that revenue estimates were WRONG, then the budget will be cut accordingly). The appropriation would not be in the budget were it not, because the legislature is not allowed to pass a budget that is out of business. Unlike the federal government, the state does not do deficit spending.

    Also, in some of the comments I see supporting the governor’s position, there seems to be an assumption that if the governor doesn’t spend the money on a museum, it will go to teachers or some such. It will not.

    Now, I’m going to give Michael the benefit of the doubt, because some of his comments indicate that he’s thinking multi-year — that he’s saying if you don’t spend the money on a museum now, it will be available to hire a teacher LATER.

    Fine. Of course, the Legislature doesn’t budget multi-year. It deals with revenues and expenditures a year at a time. There is no mechanism of which I am aware for doing so, and frankly, I’d be very suspicious of transitioning to the Washington habit of constructing 10-year spending plans and the like, which are pretty much always based on smoke and mirrors.

    What we come down to here is a matter of philosophy. Most politicians, conservatives as well as liberals, believe that if you extract a dollar in taxes from a citizen, you ought to spend that on governmental services.

    The governor has indicated many times that if given the chance, he’d prefer to sock that dollar away — to put it in a reserve fund or something. Of course, he’d prefer that the dollar not be collected in tax to begin with, but once it’s collected, he’d prefer that it not be SPENT. This is because he does not believe in government, and therefore does not want to see the money spent on functions of government, including those that most of us regard as legitimate.

    Since he has no chance of persuading anyone to go along with him on socking the money away rather than spending it on teachers or cops, he goes after things that he MIGHT be able to persuade some people are “frills.” But the goal in the end is the same — to spend less, even if you have to sock away the taxes you took from people already, even in hard times.

    That’s where there is room for disagreement, however crazy it may seem to me to agree with the governor.

    But some of the things I hear Michael and others say ARE objectively wrong.

    We are all entitled to our own opinions. To paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan, we are not entitled to our own facts.

    Reply
  35. Doug Ross

    Sanford also believes that tax dollars should be used to pay down debt. This frees up money spent on interest for other things. That is a good, fiscally conservative approach to stewardship. The stewardship aspect of politics is rarely considered – spending other people’s money is always a lot easier than treating it like you would if it were your own.

    Reply
  36. Matt

    “You just indicated that you share the same misunderstanding, when you asked, “what’s your plan for where the state should get the money to fund these programs?””

    I didn’t ask that question; the editorial board of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal does in today’s editorial. But I think you might be taking the question too literally.

    Does SC face a budget shortfall? Yes. (And yes, I get that SC must balance the budget…I learned that from a class at USC taught by Charles Reid a while ago). Did the legislature already make budget cuts this year? Yes.

    The perspective that the Governor has (not that the legislature will go along with it) is that the vetoes should force the legislature to re-prioritize it’s spending for the budget (not that that is actually happening). The governor may not be able to do this, but it is entirely possible for the legislature to take money from one of these non-essential programs it currently funds and use it to make up the difference in cuts to a more essential existing program. Too bad the process on both ends doesn’t work out this ideally.

    Reply
  37. Michael P.

    “Fine. Of course, the Legislature doesn’t budget multi-year.”

    Maybe that’s the problem…

    There are states that do multi-year budgets, one of the Dakotas does I believe. They meet every other year, and knock out two separate budgets in less time than SC takes to do one budget. There may be other states that meet every other year. So it can be done.

    Maybe government budgets are different than business or personal models. But I can’t believe that just because you bring in a dollar you are required to spend a dollar and not put aside 22 cents in a rainy day fund. Also, if you want to keep it in-state, state agencies are required to develop multi-year budgets and adjust them as current funding changes. Most that I’m aware of do 1, 2, 3 and 5 year budgets. I find it strange that the top level does not require anything more than a 1 year budget.

    You may find my comments wrong, but I also find your comments unlike in any business model I’ve worked with. Which makes me now understand more and more how our government and economy is where it is.

    Reply
  38. Kathryn Fenner

    Props to Karen–yes, let’s furlough Sanford, and scout for “I totally get the feeling Sanford is like a guy trying to free up space on his hard drive by deleting program files right and left because he “thinks” he knows what they do and he “thinks” he doesn’t need them. And then -oopsy- suddenly his computer won’t restart. Only problem is it’s not HIS computer, it’s OUR state.”

    Captures it all.

    and yes, Brad, I follow and agree.

    Reply

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