Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

With help like this …

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

There’s an odd headline in The State today:
Bill would help SC schools amid budget cuts
Sounds good, right?  Then you read the article.

South Carolina lawmakers gave key approval Wednesday to a bill allowing school districts to increase class sizes and furlough teachers to absorb budget cuts

That’s “help”?  If cramming more and more students into a classroom and cutting teacher pay (which really isn’t that great to begin with) is meant to help our schools, I shudder to think what a bill hurting our schools would look like.

State of the State

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Governor Sanford had his “State of the State” address last night.  While I didn’t get a chance to watch it live, The State has a transcript up for us to9 read and analyze.

A common theme among conservatives is that government is wasteful.  While that’s true in a sense, it isn’t helpful.  Alternative systems for providing services that the government does are also wasteful – perhaps even more so than the comparable government system. (Consider the cost of our health care system compared to most other industrialized nations with various forms of “government” health care…)  Governor Sanford suggests that …

[…] every one of us tied to government can follow the lead of working South Carolinians in being creative in finding ways to do more with less. Whether in Dillon or Grey Court or Yemassee, doing more with less is what families across our state are indeed doing everyday – and those of us who work in government should find ways to honor these daily decisions being made by the people who pay for government.

It’s as if he doesn’t recognize that most of us state workers have been asked to do “more with less” for quite some time now.  As my three loyal readers know, I’ve worked as an instructor at one of our technical schools for nearly a decade.  I’ve watched enrollment increase as state funding stagnates.  Faculty workloads have increased because of all these new students, while at the same time money for salary increases to merely keep up with inflation and money for needed upgrades and maintenance to classrooms and labs has disappeared.

On a personal note, when I decided to introduce a digital blackboard to my classes – to make note-taking and interactive problem solving easier for my students – the money for the device came out of my own salary.  “Doing more with less”, indeed.

How about the governor and legislature figuring out how to make sure state services are adequately funded during times of economic stress.  In other words, a way to keep state services operational when these services are needed most.  Helpful hint:  The solution  probably doesn’t involve this:

The second leg of what we have proposed to stimulate the economy is a flat tax of 3.65 percent in one’s individual income tax return.


To pay for this part of the tax cut, we would raise our lowest in the nation cigarette tax from seven cents to 37 cents.

Jacking up the cigarette tax and using the money to prop up another tax cut strikes me as counterproductive at best.  Increases in the cigarette tax should be used for funding to help keep people off of cigarettes in the first place.  Subsidizing cigarette taxes for income tax is otherwise simply a way of taxing the poor, who are more likely to smoke and less likely to be able to quit.*** And aside from the regressive nature of this kind of tax, haven’t we already seen the dangers of substituting a stable tax for an unstable one?

*** The linked article is from the UK, but it likely holds up here, too.

No room at the inn

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

This blog has been quiet recently.  That’s due to the fact that a new semester has started. New semesters mean getting swamped – not only by preparation for the semester’s classes and labs, but also by the onslaught of new students who have only just decided that they need to come to school.

Lots of them.

The president of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education said “enrollment is booming” at the state’s 16 technical colleges – up to 20 percent – as laid off workers seek training for a new job.

That’s something the legislature should consider when deciding how much to slice off of the technical college budget during this legislative session.  Tech schools are retraining the state’s workforce – and they need money to do it.  Withiout adequate funding, students will come … but there will be no room at the inn.

Death and taxes

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

South Carolina has some rather … strange … priorities.  We’re in the middle of a crisis in the state budget, and faced with cutting vital services that might help South Carolinians survive this recession.  A big part of our problem is that we don’t have enough tax revenue to keep our necessary services up and running.

And then there’s this

Business was — you might say — booming this past weekend, as the state’s first sales tax-free weekend attracted throngs to gun shops.

A tax-free holiday for guns?  In this budget climate we really shouldn’t be having gimmicky “tax-free holidays” on anything.  if you wonder how we in South Carolina got into this mess we’re in, here’s yet another example.

Or is the tax-free holiday on guns our legislature’s response to this?

South Carolina has the highest violent crime rate in the nation - again!

South Carolina has the highest violent crime rate in the nation - again! (from America's Health Rankings 2008)

I guess it’s cheaper than funding the police and the prison system …

Hat tip to Snead – even if he does cheer for the wrong college football team.

Close calls

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Okay, it’s the night of the big election and the reports are pouring in.  And to generate excitement, networks are “calling” states for Obama and McCain.

Here’s MSNBC, calling South Carolina for McCain:

MSNBC calls South Carolina for McCain!

MSNBC calls South Carolina for McCain!

While I do realize that Obama has a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning South Carolina, isn’t it customary for the winner of an election to have more votes than the loser?

Here’s CNN calling Maine for Obama:

Maine goes to Obama!

Maine goes to Obama!

… with a grand total of three votes in!  I know that Maine is a pretty small state, but … three votes decides the election?  Obama by a 2:1 margin … literally.

I voted

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

I voted.

It was a rather odd experience, actually.  The polling place I was assigned to was an elementary school – one in desperate need of a new building.  They were also in deperate need of signs telling people where to go.  Other than a few “Vote Here” signs pointing from the street into the parking lot, the only other obvious sign anywhere on any of the doors was a paper sign reading “EXIT”.  After wandering the empty corridors of the school for a minute or two, I finally found out that the way to get to the voting machines was to go into the door marked “EXIT”.

Despite the talk of long lines and wiating around in the rain to vote, there was only one person in line ahead of me.  There were two lines based on last name, and there were probably about eight people in the other line.  Still, there was essentially no wait at 2 PM.  (My wife, who was assigned to a different polling place through some stupidity at the local voter registration office, said she had to wait about 25 minutes.)

So get out there and vote, if you haven’t already!

Go vote!

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Tomorrow is election day.  Whether you’re a progressive or a conservative, you should go over to your local polling place tomorrow and vote.  It’s important, even if it means you have to go out in the rain.

That said, this is a progressive blog – and we here at Shrimp and Grits would prefer that y’all vote for progressive candidates.  Candidates that support real heath care reform.  Candidates that support (and do not mock in national debates) proper funding for science education – and education in general.  I could go on, of course, but I’m on a short break while waiting for my lab to start.

Sadly, your vote (and mine) for the more progressive Presidential candidate won’t mean much here in South Carolina.  Our electoral votes will almost certainly go to McCain instead of Obama.  But there is a better reason to vote, and it has to do with this mailer I reveived the other day from the (of all people) Republicans in the State House.

'The Scoreboard"

The Scoreboard

Here’s where your vote actually will count for something.  Tired of failed Republican governance and busted budgets?  Then you might want to consider that “scoreboard”

The Plan

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I’m not exactly sure why the pretty solidly Democratic Shrimp and Grits household gets bombarded with Republican mailers, but we do.  I’m going to discuss one we got recently from our local Republican house member.  It details a nine-step plan to make South Carolina better.

I’m going to start out with Step 2.  (Why not 1?  Bear with me …)

Eliminate burdensome regulations

Eliminate burdensome regulations

South Carolina is not known for having lots of “burdensome” regulations as it is.  What are we going to cut here – food safety?  Air quality standards?  Water quality standards?

Limit state spending

Limit state spending

I’ve got to point out here that the state government – both the general assembly and the governor’s mansion – is controlled by the Republican party.  Yet somehow, all South Carolina Republicans are brave reformers, fighting against the “big spending” … wait for it … Republicans.

Still, keep in mind that the Republicans here say they’re for reducing state spending.  Let’s see what else they propose

Become energy independent

Become energy independent

So now the Republicans are concerned with our reliance on oil?  Remember, these are the same Republicans that ripped the solar panels off of the White House because energy independence was a liberal cause.

I do wonder if promoting drilling off places like Myrtle Beach is a winner.  Sure, a majority of South Carolinians might very well favor offshore drilling somewhere, but I wonder how many South Carolinians support it off our state’s beaches.  There’s not that much oil to be had out there (compare the yearly usage in the link and the total reserves), and there’s a risk of real damage to one of South Carolina’s biggest industries – tourism – if something goes wrong.

Increase energy efficiency

Increase energy efficiency

Now remember, #2 above was to remove “burdensome regulations”.  But an across-the-board decision for all state agencies to reduce energy consumption by 20% is okay?  And what does this do to agencies that were already operating efficiently?

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for energy efficiency.  But I find it hypocritical to let industry off the hook, here, while putting a regulation on state agencies that industries would be up in arms over if it applied to them.

Improve our infrastructure

Improve our infrastructure

I agree wholeheartedly with this.  Our roads are lousy, and there are no usable public transit systems in the state.  Even the tourism industry is probably getting hurt by the fact that there’s no good way to get around our tourist attractions.  (Been to Myrtle Beach lately?)

If we lived in a world where magic road fairies come and build bridges, trains, and roads while we slept, then we would be in great shape!  But in the real South Carolina, improving our dilapidated infrastructure is going to cost money.  Big money.

Workforce development in education

Workforce development in education

This seems more like a forced effort to rail against “bureaucracy” than an actual plan to do anything, but I wonder if any South Carolina politicians (Republican or Democratic) would consider a system like the one in Switzerland, where apprenticeships and technical training are common?

But even if there is too much “bureaucracy” in our education system, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to fire enough administrators to have enough money to upgrade facilities, let alone develop new training programs.  So we’ll need more money.

Develop a read map

Develop a read map

Well, just so long as it’s not a timetable!

Work for more cooperation, less politics

Work for more cooperation, less politics

This is about as content-free a point as #8, but I can’t resist a little more snark.

Perhaps if we elect more Democrats there will be less squabbling between the Republicans in our legislature and the Republican in the governor’s mansion?  Or, at least, the squabbles will be less important.

That’s the last step of the plan.  So what was #1 on the list of nine things the Republicans want to do to make South Carolina better?

Think about it.

What’s the Republican solution to everything?

Cut taxes

Cut taxes

Cut taxes!  To get the money needed to rebuild our infrastructure (#6), we’ll … cut taxes!  To get the money needed to update our state agencies with newer energy efficient technologies (#5), we’ll … cut taxes!  To get the money necessary to overhaul the state’s educational system (#7) we’ll … cut taxes!  And the magic road fairies will take care of the rest.

About taxes in South Carolina:  Our taxes are rather middle-of-the-road.  We’re not a state with a huge tax burden in the first place, so all we achieve with more tax cuts is busting our state budget – even worse than it is now.  Balancing it, then, means that we’ll have to cut services.

And we have cut services.  That’s a shame, because it’s during trying economic times that we need these services the most.  Services like health care, well-maintained roads, and up-to-date educational facilities.

Remember, when you’re in the voting booth, who got us into this mess in the first place.  It’s easy – they’ll be identified with the letter (R).

Debate #3: The Final Beat-Down

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

I didn’t have the opportunity to record my thoughts on the debate as it happened, but here are some thoughts on the final Presidential debate.  I’ll probably post some more as I get time.

Here’s a link to the debate transcript from CNN.

Let’s talk about education.  Here’s John McCain talking about what he will do about science education. He’ll cut spending on things that are useful to science education as wasteful “pork”.  Things like planetariums.

Sen. Obama has asked for nearly $1 billion in pork-barrel earmark projects… including $3 million for an overhead projector in a planetarium in his hometown. That’s not the way we cut — we’ll cut out all the pork.

I’m not sure who McCain thinks this tidbit – which he’s mentioned in the past two debates – is supposed to impress.  I do know that he’s probably managed to alienate any science educator in the country who is paying attention.  For those of you who weren’t – John McCain thinks science outreach is wasteful “pork”, and he will eliminate it.

And while we’re on the subject of “pork”, Obama happened to bring up an important point:

Now, Sen. McCain talks a lot about earmarks. That’s one of the
centerpieces of his campaign.

Earmarks account for 0.5 percent of the total federal budget.

So McCain’s campaign is built on obsessing over half a percent of the budget?  No wonder Republicans are so bad at controlling the national debt.  They can’t see the forest for the trees.

What’s the problem?

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Here’s a big reason I have trouble voting for Republicans.

"Government isn't the answer.  Government is the problem.  it's time to empower workers and businesses, get government out of the way, and create jobs.  That's my top priority."

Government isn't the answer. Government is the problem. It's time to empower workers and businesses, get government out of the way, and create jobs. That's my top priority.

This quote was on a mailer from the local Republican representative.  For all I know, Phillip is probably a nice guy.  The quote is typical Republican boilerplate – certainly not something he came up with on his own.  But the attitude in the quote is what has gotten the state – and the nation – into the fix it’s in.  If you elect people who sincerely believe that government can’t work, you will most certainly get a government that doesn’t work.