Category Archives: Priorities

Russia now spends more of GDP on military than we do

In Putin's worldview, a small price to pay to recapture former glory...

In Putin’s worldview, a small price to pay to recapture former glory…

That’s attention-grabbing, but it shouldn’t be all that shocking, given that a), the Russian economy is smaller than ours and b), the United States itself spends less of GDP on the military than it did for most of my lifetime.

But still, as things ratchet up in Ukraine, this is worth taking note of…

Oh, and what’s my source for this? Is it some warmongering neocon publication, trying to drum up sentiment for increased U.S. military spending? Nope, it was The Guardian, which is hugging itself with delight today for winning a Pulitzer for aiding and abetting Edward Snowden. So there.

An excerpt:

Russia spent a higher proportion of its wealth on arms than the US last year for the first time in more than a decade, according to figures published on Monday by a leading international research body that highlights Moscow’s resurgent military ambition as it confronts the west over Ukraine.

Western countries, including Britain and the US, reduced defence budgets, but Russia increased arms spending by 4.8% in real terms last year to almost $88bn (£52m), devoting a bigger share of its GDP to the military than the US for the first time since 2003, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri)….

SC House Democrats come up with a solid plan for remaining the minority party

This just in from the SC House Democratic Caucus:

SC House Democrats Release 2014 Legislative Priorities
Columbia, SC – South Carolina House Democrats released their list of 2014 legislative priorities on Tuesday. House Democrats will focus on six main issues this session including more funding for education and teacher pay, establishing a state-mandated minimum wage, Medicaid Expansion, road funding, and early voting. The caucus will also propose legislation addressing immigration, workplace discrimination, and higher education this session.
2014 House Democratic Caucus Legislative Priorities:
1. Raise teacher pay to the national average
2. Restore cuts to base-student-cost.
3. Establish a state-mandated minimum wage.
4. Bring home our tax dollars by expanding Medicaid
5. Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges
6. No-excuse early voting
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said 2014 was the year to get serious about funding our priorities.House Dems
“House Democrats are serious about tackling the issues that face our citizens each and every day,” said Rep. Rutherford. “Our hard-working teachers deserve a raise and their students deserve a fair shot at success. We will never be able to be competitive with rest of the country if we continue to underfund our schools and underpay our teachers. Democrats understand that a thriving K-12 school system is directly tied to a thriving economy – we can’t have one without the other.”
“When it comes to finding a stable and responsible funding solution for our crumbling roads, all options must be on the table,” said Rutherford. “And Governor Haley’s ‘money tree’ is neither stable nor responsible.”
“South Carolina is one of only four states in the nation without a state minimum wage,” said Rutherford.” In order to compete in the 21st century economy we have to do away with 19th century ideas that are holding us back. We need to modernize all areas of South Carolina’s economy. We cannot compete in a global world or even with our neighbors without an adequate minimum wage structure.”
“We refuse to be silenced when it comes to bringing our federal tax dollars home to reform and expand Medicaid, said Rep. Rutherford. “Many Republican Governors across the country have put aside partisan politics and embraced Medicaid Expansion. We will continue to ask Governor Haley and House Republicans to stop playing national politics with the health of South Carolinians and to stop wasting our tax dollars on silly political games. Refusing this money is fiscally irresponsible and morally indefensible.”
####

Let’s zero in on those six priorities:

  1. Raise teacher pay to the national average
  2. Restore cuts to base-student-cost.
  3. Establish a state-mandated minimum wage.
  4. Bring home our tax dollars by expanding Medicaid
  5. Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges
  6. No-excuse early voting

There’s nothing wrong most of those goals, taken individually. Except maybe the minimum wage. I’ve always thought the conservatives had a pretty good argument when they say raise the minimum wage, reduce the number of jobs at that end of the spectrum.

Oh, and the early-voting thing. I don’t hold with that at all. People should take voting seriously enough to go to a little trouble to do it. And that includes standing in a queue (unless, of course, you do have a good excuse).

A case can be made for each of the other four items — taken by itself. The fact that this state refuses to accept the extremely generous Medicaid deal the feds are offering is nothing short of insanity. Concentrate on that — something you could get a lot of business leaders to support you on, and you might get somewhere. But include it on this list, and you just sound like you’re offering Obama Light.

When you say “This is it; these are our priorities,” you give political independents, much less wavering Republicans, no reason even to cooperate with you on things you agree on, much less come over to your side.

By saying these are THE things that matter most to you, you’re establishing yourself firmly as the Political Other to the majority of SC voters. You’re saying, We don’t even stop to think about issues; we just buy into whatever the national Democratic Party puts out as this year’s talking points.

Which is not going to get you far in South Carolina.

Out of those six priorities, there is one item that you might be able to get the broad center behind: “Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.” And the Dems fail to be bold enough on that to say what that funding solution would be.

You could get, once again, considerable business support for an increase in the gas tax for infrastructure, if you had the guts to stand up for that. With support like that, you could actually expand your support base a bit, and have a real chance of accomplishing one of your priorities. Nikki Haley’s “money tree” is a ridiculously unstable basis for something as important to economic development as our road system. But you give it the same weight as raising the minimum wage, and it’s like you’re just taking marching orders from the national party.

As this list of priorities stands, it is a formula for going nowhere, a sermon to read to the choir, a map to staying in a political rut.

Fisher ticked off about the wrong end of the penny tax contracting debacle

File photo of Kevin Fisher as a candidate.

File photo of Kevin Fisher as a candidate.

In Kevin Fisher’s latest column, he expresses ire over the episode in which Richland County Council first gave the contract for managing hundreds of millions worth of roadwork to the out-of-state contractor ICA Engineering, then yanked it back.

But instead of being indignant that in initially awarding the contract, the council utterly blew off the concerns of the citizen panel appointed to be a watchdog over the spending of the penny tax, Kevin is mad that council responded to public outrage by calling for a do-over:

Indeed, while our local government is now conducting the people’s business in a manner that would make Vladimir Putin proud, the citizens of Richland County, S.C., USA should be ashamed.

Again.

I’d like to say we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, but we always take it. I don’t know why that is, but it is. It’s an unusual civic tradition.

In the case of the award/unaward of that $50 million engineering and construction contract, I would love to have seen the winner/non-winner (ICA Engineering) take Richland County straight to court. However, the company has instead chosen to swallow hard and bid again, and if that is their business judgment I respect it and wish them well.

But I can assure County Council that if they had done the same thing to me, aggressive attorneys would have already been hired, a massive lawsuit filed and a legal colonoscopy would be underway on them both individually and as a public body….

First, an aside… I have to confess that I’m sort of unclear about what Peter Finch’s character was so mad about, or why it struck such a chord among the viewing public, in “Network.” Maybe it was clear to me when I saw it back in 1976, but I never liked the film enough to see it again, and it’s slipped my mind…

End of digression…

I’ll agree with Kevin that this is not the way public contracting usually goes. But then, public bodies seldom act with such disregard to a body created to make sure the public will is followed. Frankly, I don’t think the creation of such a body should have been necessary. But it was part of the deal that gave the council these funds to disburse, and a deal is a deal, as Kevin would apparently agree.

Kevin’s column was brought to my attention by Luther Battiste, who had a strong interest in having the bidding process start over, as a member of the local team that had scored higher than ICA, but didn’t get the contract. He wrote this to Kevin:

Mr. Fisher : I  read with great interest your column particularly because of my 15 years on Columbia City Council.  I actually agree with you much of the time and believe you raise the issues that need to be contemplated and discussed. I am part of the team that finished second in the voting for the contract to manage the ” penny tax” funds.  Our prime contractor is local and our team was local, diverse and extremely qualified. I think you missed the ” issue” in your recent column.  CECS followed the dictates of the Request for Proposal and was rated number  one by staff in their rating of the groups. ICA which is actually and out of state firm was rated third thirty points below CECS.  Richland County Council after receiving legal advice decided that there were problems with the process of awarding the contract.  I think you probably did not have all the facts when you reached the conclusion that ICA was mistreated and should pursue legal action. I hope you take my comments as constructive.  I look forward to reading future columns.

Thoughts?

 

 

City shouldn’t shoulder the burden for Bull Street ballpark

photo posted on www.post-gazette.com

As The State said, ‘The Columbia City Council seems to have been seduced by a voice very similar to the one that enticed Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, with its promise that “If you build it, he will come…”‘

Mark Stewart suggests this topic:

Brad.,
How about discussing how and why the City of Columbia is staking its future viability on the development of publicly fianced minor league baseball (and, frankly, private retail, commercial and residential development) at the Bull Street boondoggle?

I find this situation to be absolutely stunning myself.

And since he’s a good friend to the blog, and adds much to the quality of civil discourse here, I decided to start a separate post on the topic.

Also, it’s a big local issue that I’ve been remiss in not blogging about.

The thing is, I haven’t really been passionate on the subject. See, on the one hand, I really, really want to see professional baseball come back to the city. Not because I’ll personally go to the games, but then, I’m not someone who goes out and spends money to be entertained. No, my motivation is vaguer and more abstract than that. You know how the Godfather said, “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man?” Well, I have this idea that a city that doesn’t have a pro ball club can never be a real city. There it is. Not really an argument worth blogging about, is it?

And in the end, I probably reluctantly end up taking the position Warren and Cindi have taken, which is consistent with the positions we took on such things in the past:

A MINOR league ballpark would be a nice complement to the mega-development planned at the old State Hospital site on Bull Street. As a matter of fact, it would be nice to have a minor league team move back to Columbia as well.

But, as we have said in the past, any baseball park that can’t be built without Columbia taxpayers shouldering the load should not be built. If Greenville developer Bob Hughes wants a ballpark, he should lure private investors — including the team — to the table to finance it.

That’s not to say Columbia can’t participate in some limited way. The city already is on the hook to provide the development with infrastructure such as water, sewer and roads, which would include that needed to support a minor league ballpark. And we can see the city providing limited incentives beyond that to help lure a team to town, but only after the club puts its own skin in the game by making financial commitments toward building a stadium, which would reduce the chance that it would up and leave as soon as it gets a more lucrative offer from another city….

Already, the Bull Street redevelopment is costing the city more than anticipated (a bunch more — I don’t know about you, but $23 million is more than I make in a year). So the city shouldn’t be a spendthrift when it comes to something as nonessential as a sporting venue.

Basically, footing the lion’s share of the cost with public money violates the “Publix Rule” we set on the editorial board a number of years ago. The city put up about $300,000 to help a Publix come into the old Confederate printing press building. The store was a success, and has had a salutary effect on fostering the whole live-work-play dynamic in the city center, and been a plus to the local economy. We regarded that 300k as a good investment.

With baseball as with other things, the city should generally confine itself to Publix-sized incentives.

Haley also being nice to the arts this year

I saw I had an email the other day from the South Carolina Arts Alliance, and I figured, “Well, it’s about that time, when they’re gearing up to fight Nikki Haley’s budget.” I assumed this was the first of a series of increasingly frantic notices, as in 2012 and 2013.

So I didn’t actually look at the release until just now, as I was trying clean up my Inbox. And I saw this:

art advocates

Whoa.

I knew she was seeking to add funding for poor rural school districts, and boost spending on mental health, but now the arts?

I suppose the Democrats will call that election-year opportunism as well, but that raises the question: Is she right? Assume she’s being a complete opportunist here: Is the woman who road to power on the love of the Tea Party right when she now concludes that this is the way to get re-elected.

If so, when and how did this change in the SC electorate occur?

There’s another way for cynics and partisans to read it, of course — that Nikki believes she has the Tea Party sewn up, and she can afford to go fishing in the political center. But from what I’ve seen, if you don’t agree with those folks on everything, they don’t believe in you. Is there any fury like a Tea Party scorned?

The most interesting thing in all this is not what it does to Nikki Haley’s political future, but whether there has been an actual sea change in the electorate. And if there has been, what does it all mean, Mr. Natural?

What it would cost to make public college tuition-free

My daughter, who by the way earned a free ride through college through merit scholarships, brought this to my attention today, from a recent piece in The Atlantic:

Here’s Exactly How Much the Government Would Have to Spend to Make Public College Tuition-Free

A mere $62.6 billion dollars!

According to new Department of Education data, that’s how much tuition public colleges collected from undergraduates in 2012 across the entire United States. And I’m not being facetious with the word mere, either. The New America Foundation says that the federal government spent a whole $69 billion in 2013 on its hodgepodge of financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants for low-income students, tax breaks, work study funding. And that doesn’t even include loans.

If we were we scrapping our current system and starting from scratch, Washington could make public college tuition free with the money it sets aside its scattershot attempts to make college affordable today.

Of course, we’re not going to start from scratch (and I’m not even sure we should want to make state schools totally free). But I like to make this point every so often because I think it underscores what a confused mess higher education finance is in this country…

Huh…

Penny watchdog group upset over selection of contractor

I was surprised this didn’t make the front of The State today (yeah, there was other big news, but it’s still possible, you know, to get more than four stories onto a front), given that it’s about the group appointed to be a watchdog on the penny sales tax being very unhappy with the county’s biggest decision on spending the road-construction money:

Members of a citizen watchdog committee objected Monday to the selection of an out-of-town engineering firm to manage Richland County’s transportation improvement program.2005-Penny-Uncirculated-Obverse-cropped

“I’m sure you’re a great firm,” Elise Bidwell told members of ICA Engineering’s team, introduced to the transportation penny advisory committee. “But I want to know how much of the money … is actually going to go to people in Richland County for doing the job.”

Committee members said they heard the second-place finisher was rated higher than ICA on their commitment to hiring small, local and minority subcontractors.

But transportation director Rob Perry would not discuss the ratings. He said they were a private part of contract negotiations.

Richland County Council set up the 17-member citizen advisory committee, short-handed as TPAC, to oversee details of the county’s massive transportation improvement program – which got under way with last week’s pick of a project manager.

But committee members said they should have been consulted. Since they were not given the rationale behind the decision, some said, the selection plays into the hands of those skeptical about government….

Richland County Council selected ICA Engineering, headquartered in Kentucky, over Columbia-based CECS Engineering Consulting Services and three other firms.

The highly competitive contract, valued at $50 million over five years, sets in motion the beginning of the county’s massive transportation improvement package…

Disclosure: This is particularly interesting to me because ADCO did some work (a brochure) for the CECS group, which had scored higher than the group that got the contract.

It’s also interesting because I advocated for the penny (and would do so again), and this committee was set up to assuage the concerns of others about how the money would be spent, and members of the panel seem to think they’re being blown off by the county.

Which is not good.

I don’t know what can, or even should, happen going forward (like the panel, I’m sort of in the dark here), but this deserves further, very public, discussion.

Nikki Haley’s education proposal looks very promising

UPDATE: Spoke briefly today with Ted Pitts, who said the governor’s proposal was attached to the relevant press release on the governor’s website. Which seems rather obvious, now that he points it out…

Someone complained, sort of, that I didn’t comment on Nikki Haley’s education proposal yesterday. Sorry. I wasn’t sure I knew enough about it, based on the news stories. (I sort of had the same reaction a bunch of lawmakers did. I wanted to know more.)

But now I have a little more confidence than I did in saying this: It looks really good. It addresses one of the most serious problems in SC public education, and does so in a way that I think is politically courageous for a Tea Party Republican.Governor Haley Official Portrait

If you doubt it, look no further than the lame response from Democrats. Vincent Sheheen said essentially, Hey, I’ve had a lot of good education proposals way before Nikki did. Todd Rutherford said, Yeah, but how come we had to wait four years for her to pay attention to education? The state party said pretty much what Rutherford did.

If it looks good to me, and even those with a huge motivation to find fault with it can’t find anything to criticize, it must be pretty good, right?

Here’s why it’s good: The public education problem in South Carolina is, to oversimplify a bit, a rural poverty problem. Normally, what you hear from Republicans of a certain stripe is, “Look at those awful standardized test scores (really, they mean the SAT, because we don’t look all that bad on other measures); they prove that public education is a failure.”

But the truth is, we do know how to do public education in affluent suburbs, where there are sufficient resources and kids come to school ready to learn. Not so much in poorer parts of the state.

One of the nagging problems is that kids who start at the back of the pack and who don’t have a lot of help and support at home are harder to educate. And yes, that can mean “more expensive to educate.” They need more highly skilled teachers — not just those who couldn’t get a job in the ‘burbs — and more support services to catch up.

So, how do you get a state where the real political power resides in the suburbs (in those white districts that vote Republican) to go for a plan that sends more of their tax money to the poor, rural areas?

Well, somebody has to exert some leadership to make it happen.

Which is what the governor is proposing to do here. Good for her, and I certainly hope she succeeds.

Apparently, some newspapers still have money to waste

scene

That’s all I can think after glancing through this offering of “one-line films created by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.”

Which, the credits tell us, were produced by The New York Times Magazine.

And which star Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Bradley Cooper, Oprah Winfrey and others.

Wow. Apparently, some newspapers still have money to waste…

Should $125 million be spent on the Carolina Coliseum?

The Carolina Coliseum, back when you could see it from the north side.

The Carolina Coliseum, back when you could see it from the north side.

I think I entered the Carolina Coliseum for the first time in late summer, 1971. The building was only about three years old then.

The occasion was the “Jesus Christ Superstar” tour. This was long before it was either a play or a movie. The album had come out a few months before, and this was a touring group that performed the music concert-style. It featured Yvonne Elliman, from the original album, as Mary Magdalene.

Great show, even without anyone really acting out the story. You youngsters have to realize we were into listening to albums with our eyes closed and headphones on in those days. In fact, the first time I heard the album, this girl named Mary (Riley, not Magdalene) was lying on her back listening to it on the floor of a beach house that a mutual friend’s family had rented at Barber’s Point on Oahu, with the stereo’s speakers positioned either side of her head, inches from her ears. I don’t recall what I thought of the music at that point because a large part of my brain was occupied just looking at Mary.

Then, a few weeks later, I was back in the Coliseum for registration for the fall, my one and only semester at USC. This involved shuffling around from queue to queue signing up for one class at a time, holding these long computer punchcards in our hands. I think the way it worked was when you signed up for a class, you were given a punchcard for that course and section. Then when you were done, you handed in your small deck of cards, and someone fed them into a computer and presto, you had a schedule.

It was the first time I ever had anything to do with computers (I don’t think I saw a hand-held calculator for another year or two), and I was impressed. It all felt very space-age. Which is a term we used to use for “modern,” in the days when we thought the moon was but the beginning of manned exploration of space.

So, you know, this was a while ago.

It cost $8.5 million to build the Coliseum in 1968 (which would be more than $57 million today). The new Moore School going up next to it has a price tag of $106.5 million.

Now, there is a proposal to renovate the Coliseum for $125 million:

Plans call for turning the 12,000-seat arena into classrooms and labs, a one-stop shop of student services, an adjunct student union and a practice facility for the Gamecock basketball teams.

To quote that revered academic Dr. Peter Venkman, “It just seems a little pricey for a unique fixer-upper opportunity, that’s all.”

But that’s just a first, gut reaction. Perhaps a case can be made for it. What do y’all think?

There’s no question: GOP will be to blame for shutdown

This morning on the radio, I heard reports that some Republicans in Congress are hoping they can shift blame for the likely government shutdown to the president and Senate Democrats.

Wow. Talk about your fantasies.

As you know, I love to blame both parties for everything (which drives Bud crazy).

But in this case, there is simply no question: The Republicans made this happen all by themselves. Some of the older, wiser heads in the party know this — they remember the Gingrich shutdown — and have a bad, bad feeling about now.

But the young innocents of the Tea Party charge blithely on — partly because on a certain level they really don’t care whether the government shuts down (their extreme ideology makes them feel, deep down, that that’s a consummation devoutly to be wished), but also because, in case it does turn out to be something less than a lark, it will be blamed on Democrats.

But no one whose thinking is not distorted by ideology can miss what has happened here.

First, there is the Tea partisans’ insistence on making every single raising of the debt limit some kind of showdown at the OK Corral, which meant we were doing to have a crisis this month anyway.

Then, there is this bizarre fixation on not funding a perfectly legitimate law that has stood up to every legitimate thing they could throw at it. It survived legal challenges. When they tried to run against it in an election, they lost. They have demonstrated 42 times that it is not in their power to repeal it. So now they want to defund it, or delay it — which would be patently illegitimate on its own — and have brought about an imminent shutdown of the whole government in their bid to stop the law from taking effect.

On the issue of Obamacare, they are an utterly defeated army that has turned guerrilla and has nothing left to fall back on but acts of sabotage.

What they have done is so obvious, and so obviously outrageously irresponsible, that there’s little chance that anyone outside of the more fervent parts of their base could dream of blaming anyone but them.

I just figured I might as well go ahead and say that, before the shutdown occurs…

Sheheen hits Haley on absenteeism, education funding

Here’s a release that came in from the Vincent Sheheen gubernatorial campaign:

Dear Brad,

When the going gets tough, Nikki Haley gets going…right out of state. 

This week a published report showed South Carolina topping the list of states slashing school spending and hurting public education, specifically citing Governor Haley’s political ideology as a main reason for the dramatic cuts. 

That’s just after the release of a report showing that South Carolina’s middle-class families are struggling even more with falling incomes since Nikki Haley took office. 

The going is getting tough for the people of South Carolina. And where’s Nikki Haley? Out-of-state raising money for the past three days at events she hid from her public schedule

Tell Nikki Haley that the challenges facing middle-class families and small businesses in our state won’t be solved by her jetting off to New York and Philadelphia to raise money for her campaign. 

Please donate $250, $100 or $50 today to make her a one-term governor so she can spend as much time as she wants outside of South Carolina. 

Thanks, 

Andrew

Of course, before you click on that link and give Vincent money, you’re going to click on this link and give to our Walk for Life team, right?

Here, by the way, is the report to which the release referred about education funding:

Even in 2008, before the dramatic budget cuts the state has enacted in the past few years, South Carolina spent the fourth-lowest amount on education. As fiscal year 2014, South Carolina primary and secondary students will each be educated with about $500 less than before the recession. The lack of education funding is, in part, due to the political ideals of Governor Nikki Haley. In 2011, she vetoed the state’s budget and included $56 million in cuts to education. In addition, Haley refused to accept money from the Education Jobs Fund — a federal program intended to mitigate budget constraints in schools across the country. South Carolina was the only state that did not seek money from this program.

Some talking points on the library bond vote

I haven’t seen a lot out there about the Richland Library bond vote on the Nov. 5 ballot. So I thought I’d pass on this memo I received from folks who are pushing for a “yes”:

Dear Friends,

 

Did you know the Richland Library bond referendum will be on the November 5 ballot?  Below is some basic information.  If you would like more details or how to be involved in Vote For Our Libraries, contact us!  betty@voteforourlibraries.com  803-233-2414

Richland Library

 

Since 2007, the library has had a capital needs plan that calls for renovations and additions to all library facilities based on the changing ways we serve and advance our community.

 

Key Facts:

 

Why is the Library Requesting a Bond Referendum?

Voter approved bonds are the only way the library can obtain substantial funds for building and renovations. The goal is to update all library locations by adding and reconfiguring space, technology and resources to better fit the way customers need and use the library today. The capital needs plan was developed in 2007 and is reviewed each year. The only new buildings are Ballentine and Sandhills. Following green building guidelines and sustainable practices will mean substantial energy savings for all locations.

 

Why now?

It’s been 24 years since the last bond referendum in 1989, and most of our facilities haven’t been significantly improved or updated since then. Interest rates are at an all-time low – it costs half as much today for twice the value added in 1989.

 

What will it cost the taxpayer?

Estimates indicate the maximum impact on taxpayers to be $12-14/year for a $100,000 home. For as little as one cup of coffee each month, we can ensure access to needed resources and technology, as well as the opportunity to share information and exchange ideas.

 

Why spend money on libraries when everyone has a smartphone/tablet?

Technology has made libraries more essential to their communities – not obsolete. In fact, many people in Richland County rely on the library for access to technology, computers and the Internet. Even if you may not use the library, your friends, family and neighbors are most likely relying on its services.

We’re No. 1! We’re number one! (In incarceration rate)

CIubsq7

Let’s see if I can get this gif to work. There’s supposed to be a tumbleweed blowing across the barren crossroad. It’s meant to illustrate this point: “this is what it looks like when you take all of the countries that jail more people than we do and put them into one GIF.”

In other words, nobody exceeds the US of A in this important statistic. And among your more-or-less advanced sort of nations, the OECD nations, No. 2 Israel is way, way behind us.

A list like this is totally unfair to us, of course. It ignores the special problems we have. For instance these other countries don’t have as many poor, black males as… Oh, wait. That doesn’t make us sound any better, does it?

On a brighter note, it seems that among the United Prisons of America, South Carolina is only at No. 9, way behind Louisiana, which has more than triple our rate.

Of course, last time I heard, we had the dubious distinction of spending less per prisoner than any other state — meaning less on security, less on rehabilitation, etc. I was unable to determine in a quick search whether that was still true…

Bishop Guglielmone on Medicaid expansion in SC

Cindi Scoppe had a column, way back on the St. Patrick’s Day, in which she cited a letter by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, the head of the Roman Catholic in South Carolina, advocating for Medicaid expansion in SC.

I meant to say something on the subject then, but didn’t get to it. Which is ironic. Cindi’s not even Catholic (OK, she’s a kind of Catholic; she’s Anglican — but not Roman Catholic).

Anyway, something came up to remind me of it this week — a story in the Anderson paper about religious leaders in SC pushing for Medicaid expansion — so I thought I’d go ahead now and share the bishop’s letter.

It is a letter that, unlike the pronouncements of our governor and the House leadership, makes all the sense in the world:

February 20, 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
To be Christian means that we are concerned about the wellbeing and health of all people. God took on flesh to restore the integrity of broken and wounded humanity. Indeed, Jesus made healing of the sick central to his ministry. “He came to the world to make us fully human, to help us to realize our human dignity as creatures made in the image of God. He came to bring the fullness of life” (USCCB Pastoral Letter: Health and Health Care, Nov. 19, 1981).
Throughout the centuries, the Church has carried on the ministry of Jesus by establishing
hospitals and nurturing the apostolate to the sick in response to the needs of suffering people. Pope John XXIII included medical care as a basic right founded on the sanctity of human life in his encyclical, Pacem in Terris. Reaffirming this traditional concern for today, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “Health is a precious good for the person and society to promote, conserve and protect, dedicating the means, resources and energies necessary so that more persons can enjoy it. Unfortunately, the problem still remains today of many populations of the world that do not have access to the necessary resources to satisfy fundamental needs, particularly in regard to health. It is necessary to work with greater commitment at all levels so that the right to health is rendered effective, favoring access to primary health care” (Benedict XVI: Message to the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, Nov. 18, 2010).
The Catholic Bishops of the United States have consistently called for access to health care forall our citizens: “Our approach to health care is shaped by a simple but fundamental principle: ‘Every person has a right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God.’ Health care is more than a commodity; it is a basic human right, an essential safeguard of human life and dignity” (USCCB Resolution: A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform, June 18, 1993). While the Church’s call for access to health care reflects an application of the Gospel to a contemporary need and therefore reflects the urgency of the Gospel, determining how to implement such access is open to prudential judgments of how to make it happen most effectively. We must continually discern wise solutions to the challenges we face, solutions that are both economically and politically viable. In that task of discernment, however, we as Catholics bring time-honored principles of Catholic social teaching to inform our reflection.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) now being legally enacted in our
country is an attempt to bring health care access to a broader range of citizenry in the United States. It is not perfect. In fact, the U.S. Catholic Church is deeply concerned about mandates associated with aspects of the law that would require religious institutions to provide contraception coverage, asking us to violate a consistent position by the Church on this. There are also many concerns about how to rein in the costs of health care so that its expansion is affordable to our country. However, providing access to health care is consonant with Catholic social teaching. Indeed, it is more than consonant — it is called for by Catholic social teaching.
This spring, our South Carolina state legislature will consider whether to opt into the expansion of Medicaid as provided for by the Affordable Care Act. Persons eligible for Medicaid would be expanded by about three hundred thirty thousand more South Carolinians who live near the poverty line but previously have not been eligible. Key state-wide elected leaders and many in the General Assembly have voiced their opposition to this expansion. Leaders of our state’s hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, on the other hand, have endorsed this legislation. It will expand their ability not only to serve the poor of our state but to pay for those services. The State of South Carolina would be required to pay for ten percent of the total cost of this expansion after three years of full funding by the Federal Government. This will require us as a state to find the revenue to pay for this expansion. It will cost us.
Bearing a cost for the sake of something greater is the heart of our faith; it brought us salvation. At the same time, we can and must make this expansion and our whole healthcare system more effective and economically viable. If health care funding as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, we nevertheless are not powerless as a society to refine and make it more effective even as we implement it.
I write as your Bishop in noting the call of Catholic social teaching, and I appeal as a fellow
citizen in making a case for acceptance of Medicaid expansion by our state. I urge my fellow Catholics to study this issue and form your own prudential judgment on its wisdom. However, I ask that you start that evaluation with a presumption in favor of what the Church says is a good to be pursued in society, namely, the flourishing of all people through access to health care. Hold as well our faith conviction that shared sacrifice for a greater good and concern for the poor make us more like Christ. Make your views known to your legislators. For my part, I believe Medicaid expansion offers a step forward for South Carolina.

In the Lord’s Peace,
Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone
Bishop of Charleston

Thoughts on the Boeing expansion?

dreamliner

This release from the state Senate GOP…

Boeing has been an incredibly [sic] partner for us as a state. Despite labor unions’ early attempt to interfere with their presence here, Boeing is already creating jobs for over a thousand South Carolinians, with a multiplier effect that touches every part of our state.

 

We overwhelming passed a bill this week that gives Boeing the tools they need to create another 2,000 jobs here. You read that right…ANOTHER 2,000 jobs, and nearly a $1 billion more in capital investment.

 

It’s a great day for South Carolina not only because of the impact these jobs will have in people’s lives, but also because it solidifies our state’s reputation as a go-to destination for world-class manufacturing…

… got me to thinking I should start a thread on this major new industrial investment by our state. This thing’s moving through the Legislature pretty quickly, so don’t type too slowly if you have something to say. A quick summary of the situation from The State:

The S.C. Senate gave final approval Thursday to $120 million in state bonds, two days after the aircraft maker said it would add 2,000 jobs and $1 billion in investment at its North Charleston Dreamliner 787 jet plant. Boeing must meet those employment and investment goals by 2020 as part of the incentive agreement.

Meanwhile, the state House agreed Thursday to fast-track the incentives bill and begin floor debate Tuesday, Speaker Bobby Harrell’s office said…

“We have made a commitment to Boeing and our state keeps its word, particularly when it comes to economic development,” said Harrell, R-Charleston. “This is a good investment for our entire state that will create exciting new opportunities for our citizens and provide our state with huge returns.”…

The 15-year, state-backed bonds would pay for a 320-acre site next to Boeing’s plant at Charleston International Airport and to prepare the property for expansion. The money would not pay for new buildings, state officials said. 

 

Smith: Anti-Obamacare witness transported on state plane

Here’s an interesting release that just came in:

Rep. James Smith Responds to Use of State Plane by Right-Wing Radio Host

 

Today, some members of the South Carolina General Assembly learned that one of only two people to testify in favor of H.3101, otherwise known as the Obamacare Nullification Bill, at today’s subcommittee hearing, was given special travel arrangements by being flown to Columbia from Washington, DC on Palmetto 2, a state airplane.  Dr. Walter Williams, a professor at George Mason University and popular right-wing radio host, gave testimony in favor of H.3101 today in Columbia after his taxpayer funded flight was authorized by Spartanburg State Representative, and lead sponsor of H.3101, Bill Chumley. The other person testifying in favor of the bill was a prominent Tea Party activist Kent Masterson Brown, who admitted he was paid $7500 to testify.

Representative James Smith, a member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Laws, released the following statement in response:

“This is the height of hypocrisy and politics at its worst.  For taxpayers to be forced to foot the bill so that an out-of-state political zealot can push his extreme agenda is not only a dereliction of his duties as a public servant, it is just fundamentally wrong.  During his testimony, Dr. Walter Williams espoused the abuses of government spending and intrusion while engaging in precisely the same behavior.  While we work to make health care more affordable and accessible to our citizens, Representative Bill Chumley, would rather frivolously spend tax dollars to fly Tea Party ideologues down to South Carolina on the state airplane. I call on Representative Chumley to immediately reimburse the taxpayers for his reckless and irresponsible decision to spend tax dollars to promote his own extreme Tea party agenda.”

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Gee, I didn’t even know that a single member of the Legislature could authorize something like that…

There can be a drawback to suggesting that voters make their own signs about your campaign for Congress

mark sign

We all know about Mark Sanford’s bizarre campaign signs. You know, that he’s encouraging people to take scraps of cast-away plywood and crudely letter them with the message, “Sanford saves tax $.” Signs like this one.

Sanford thinks this is terribly clever, and sends out a terrific message about him in his bid for the GOP nomination for the 1st Congressional District. Me, I think it just reminds us what a startlingly cheap so-and-so he is, and not in a good way at all. More like this way:

In her 2010 memoir, former first lady Jenny Sanford tells her own stories — most of them unflattering — of his frugality. In one, Mark Sanford bought her a diamond necklace for her birthday. He ultimately made her give back the beloved gift after deciding he’d paid too much for it…

Anyway, an alert reader sent me the above image, which the reader reports was found “near Ravenel Bridge in Charleston.” This is what the sign refers to, in case you’ve forgotten.

So sometimes you might just want to go ahead and have official signs run up, and put them out yourself. It’s easier to stay on message that way…

AARP poll: SC grownups favor Medicaid expansion

I say “grownups” because all the respondents were over 45. It was the first word that came to mind. I’ll allow that there may be some grownups out there younger than 45. Anyway, here’s a report from the Charleston paper on the poll:

Most South Carolina adults interviewed for a new poll think the state government should expand Medicaid eligibility to include more low-income residents.

The poll was commissioned by AARP, a group in favor of expanding Medicaid in South Carolina under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A statement about the poll was published Tuesday on AARP’s website, but the full results have not been released.

It found that 54 percent of 800 adults polled in February favor Medicaid expansion and 57 percent disagree with Gov. Nikki Haley’s decision to decline federal money to accomplish that. All of the adults included in the survey were 45 and older.

South Carolina has a choice to opt out of the expansion because the state would eventually need to pay for part of it — 10 percent of the costs by 2020. The federal government would fully fund Medicaid expansion for three years and at a minimum of 90 percent after that…

Maybe when Nikki Haley gets to be 45, she’ll develop a more sensible approach to this, too. It’s possible. I don’t know what the excuse of the GOP majority in the Legislature might be.

By the way, AARP is lobbying in 40 states (including SC) for Medicaid expansion. But that should come as no surprise, since AARP has a lot of grownups in it…

White House prediction of sequester’s impact on SC

Yesterday, the White House put out a state-by-state breakdown of what it said would be the likely impacts if sequestration happens.

Some excerpts of what the report said about South Carolina:

  • In South Carolina, approximately 11,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $59.5 million in total. Army: Base operation funding would be cut by about $62 million in South Carolina. Air Force: Funding for Air Force operations in South Carolina would be cut by about $19 million.

  • Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 900 children in South Carolina, reducing access to critical early education.

  • South Carolina will lose approximately $12.5 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 170 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 15,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 30 fewer schools would receive funding. In addition, South Carolina will lose approximately $8.6 million in funds for about 100 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.