Stuff Ballard Wrote

Category: Politics (Page 2 of 8)

“Good for business”?

Daily Planet, 9/2015

When Volvo chose South Carolina as the site for its first U.S. assembly plant, I wondered why. I knew Governor McCrory wanted that plant for North Carolina more than he wanted a smarter lawyer.

So I put my research hat on, and there it was, at WTOC (Savannah) online:

“According to Volvo, they chose Berkeley County which is right outside of Charleston because of their access to ports, they have a well trained labor force, and have experience in the high tech manufacturing sector.”

Ow, ow, ow. That “well-trained workforce” really hurt.

Ports, OK. Charleston is way bigger than Wilmington, and they have experienced in handling BMWs.

But South Carolina praised for a well-trained workforce? Everybody knows it’s NORTH Carolina with the world-class schools, community colleges and universities.  Or they used to.

Our Republican governor and General Assembly bore us by beating the “business-friendly” bongo every time they cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations and cut regulations – and lay off another few thousand teacher assistants. It’s almost a religion with them. Companies are led around by their bottom lines and nothing else.

They’re wrong.

Several business media outlets publish rankings of states on their being a good place to do business. One is Forbes Magazine.

Let’s look at two states that Forbes lists in their Top Ten: North Carolina and Minnesota.

Minnesota’s blurb in Forbes says, in part:

“Minnesota cracks the top 10 for a second straight year based on a strong current economic climate and quality of life….Minnesota has the fourth highest percentage of adults with a high school degree at 92.4%. With its good schools, low poverty rate and healthy populous, the state ranks second overall on Forbes’ quality of life measurements.”

North Carolina’s reads, in part, like this:

“North Carolina has the smallest union workforce in the U.S. in terms of percent of total employment. The resulting benefit is labor costs that are 16% below the national average—third lowest in the country. North Carolina has ranked in the top five overall for 9 straight years.”

When they say, “labor costs that are 16% below the national average,” what exactly are they saying? Right: North Carolinians work cheap.

On the one hand, you have a state rated high for its well-educated population and quality of life. On the other hand, you have a state rated high because its people are poorly paid.

And by the way, Minnesota is rated #1 on CNBC’s list of best states to do business. (North Carolina is ranked #5.) CNBC notes: “To some degree, Minnesota benefits from a trend….Rather than just seeking the lowest taxes or the highest incentives, companies are increasingly chasing the largest supply of skilled, qualified workers.”

“Quality of life” sounds sort of squishy – something I’ll know when I feel it. But Forbes and CNBC put business meaning to it.

The Forbest quality of life index looks at the index of schools, health, crime, cost of living and poverty rate. Minnesota is specifically praised for funding highways.

I can’t help but look at Minnesota’s pluses and then look at the accomplishments of our Republican General Assembly in North Carolina. Schools?   They cut, cut, cut. Health? They refused the freeby Medicaid expansion. North Carolina is rated #31 on Forbes quality of life index – just ahead of Texas, for heaven’s sake.

So we have two competing strategies for attracting companies: education and quality of life versus low pay for workers and low taxes for corporations.

There’s another side to this coin: the people of North Carolina. We are the collateral damage of our General Assembly’s policy of school cuts, environment cuts and corporate tax cuts (mine went up).

North Carolina’s slide from greatness continues.


Redistricting & GOP blatantation

Citizen-Times, 8/2015

Democrats controlled the N.C. General Assembly after the 2000 census, so they drew redistricting maps. In the first election under the Democrat redistricting, in 2002, for State House of Representatives:

Votes received: GOP 1,073,000, Democrats 904,000.

Seats won: GOP 61, Democrats 59. Fair election.


After the 2010 census, Republicans controlled the General Assembly, so they drew redistricting maps. In the first election under the GOP redistricting, in 2012:

Vote received: GOP 1,998,000, Democrats 1,875,000.

Seats won: GOP 77, Democrats 43. Unfair election.


In 2010, Republicans had sophisticated gerrymandering programs. Apparently in 2000, Democrats had old-fashioned software.

Or maybe they had scruples.

Understand: I’m not whining because I’m not winning. I’m calling in the U.S. Supreme Court.

You see, N.C. isn’t the only victim of GOP greed.   They hijacked other states where they control state government: Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Florida. In 2012 elections for U.S. Congress, in these seven states (including N.C.), Democrats got 16.4 million votes, Republicans got 16.7 million.   Split 50-50, right? Nope. GOP elected 73, Democrats elected 34.

By contrast, in California, 62 percent voted Democratic, and Democrats elected exactly the expected number. They have a nonpartisan California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Gerrymandering is an old trick. Patrick Henry tried to gerrymander James Madison out of a seat in Congress in 1788. But this new Republican vandalism must be stopped.

I smile at the New York Times article:   “Let’s establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions in all 50 states.” Uh-huh.   Would people who cheated so hard to get majorities suddenly get nonpartisan religion? (N.C. doesn’t have referendums initiated by the people.   Everything comes down from the General Assembly.)

And this from The Economist: “Citizens could try to use their vote to punish lawmakers who use their office to rig elections.” Yeah. Gerrymandering means you never have to say you’re sorry. That’s the whole idea: insulation from the rabble.

The only hope for overturned undemocratic gerrymandering is the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Vieth v. Jubelirer, the Court did not intervene in Pennsylvania’s gerrymandering, but Justice Kennedy’s opinion said they might intervene someday if a standard is set on what constitutes excessive partisanship. The stage is set.

The U.S. Constitution only tells us how to manage the right numbers in Congress. Redistricting is included in order to maintain fairness in representation.   Gerrymandering violates that principle.

The Court did strike down Georgia’s County Unit System in state elections. It was the first use of “one man, one vote.”

Of course, N.C. gerrymandering would be meaningless if Republican voters realized the injustice and voted to punish the perpetrators. How likely?   Well, an ESPN poll showed that in the whole U.S., only the six states of New England think the Patriots don’t cheat.  [

Phony Christian legislators

Daily Planet, 8/2015

“If we lived in a state where virtue was profitable, we would rush to be saintly.  But since avarice, anger, pride and stupidity commonly profit far beyond charity, modesty, justice and thought, we must stand fast ourselves.” – Sir Thomas More in the play/movie, A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt (modernized)

Yes, he’s the same Thomas More who wrote Utopia in 1516. And yes, the Utopians in his novel did have some pretty quirky policies,like universal healthcare.  And other stuff like punishing adulterers with enslavement.

More was a “political philosopher,” not a dreamer.   He was Henry VIII’s right-hand man until he refused to support Henry’s divorce and his taking over as head of the English church. He was executed.

It could be said that all of us are political philosophers. We all have our own ideas about how government should work. For a moment now, I want to do a little dreaming of my own.

What if…what if voters scrutinized candidates like they were hiring a caretaker for their parents? What if the media sought out a character profile of candidates, not just the woooo scandalous stuff? What do their neighbors and employees say about them? Are they fair, generous, humble, slow to judgment, encouraging, flexible, forgiving? Or are they glad-handing frauds, who love power and thrive on confrontation? Do they hold grudges? Are they vengeful, arrogant, heartless, egocentric, quick to anger, self-serving?   And perhaps most important, are they skilled at deception?

Political philosophy aside now, I want to write as a patriot who loves his adopted state and hates what our General Assembly is doing to it.

I’m not talking about Republicans’ conservative political philosophy. No, I’m talking about their actions that show who they really are. And I’m expressing sadness at the short-sightedness of people who vote for them.

All over North Carolina, Republican candidates promised Evangelical Christian that they would fight against abortion and gay marriage. Pastors picked up the beat, and Evangelicals voted Republican with great zeal.

And once elected, Republicans did indeed pass laws restricting abortion and got a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage. They did what they promised.

But then, just as the old saying goes, our conservative Christian Republican legislators gave in to the corrupting tug of absolute power.

To borrow from Winston Churchill: Never have so few lied so much to so many.

Let’s go back to the summer of 2013 for one example.   The 2012 election had increased GOP majorities in the General Assembly. Then in June, the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the federal Voting Rights Act so that prior federal approval wasn’t necessary any more.

Republicans acted right away, passing a Voting Reform Act that requires voter I.D., shortens early voting by a week, ends same-day registration, ends a successful high school voter registration program, gives polling observers more authority to intervene. The law was obviously designed to inconvenience Democratic constituencies.

So how did Republicans explain their legislation?   The law, they said, aims to end “rampant and widespread undetected voter fraud.” They really did say that. They’re good at cheating, bad at lying.

Colin Powell, speaking to the North Carolina CEO Forum, reacted like you probably did: “There is no voter fraud….How can it be [both] widespread and undetectable?”   He added: “I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it harder to vote.”

Indeed, investigation after investigation has found no significant voter fraud. Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State spent $150,000 and found nothing.  The Wall Street Journal told of one exhaustive study that found 2,068 cases of alleged voter fraud in the U.S. since 2000, including 10 cases of voter impersonation.

The ideal state government doesn’t need more Christian lawmakers who will vote faithfully on social issues. We need people of real character, who don’t cheat in the electoral process, who tell the truth, who don’t yield to the temptations that come with power.

Tarheel Tombstone! Yee-haa!

Citizen-Times, 6/2015

Your April 14 front page featured a Republican state senator who has proposed a bill to allow permit-holders to carry concealed weapons anywhere but courtrooms.

Tarheel Tombstone, here we come. See that sweet family two pews down? Well, Mom and d Pop-Pop have his-and-her Glcoks.

The bill’s author is quoted like this:   “In a country with more than 300 million guns, we have to come to grips with the extent to which we are violent by nature.”

There’s a word for that. It’s on the tip of my tongue. Oh yes: “vigilantes.”

We now have so many guns, he says, we need citizens moving among us to suppress our violent nature. I’d say the “gun rights” people have done their job.

The National Rifle Association started after the Civil War to improve the marksmanship of our citizen soldiers.   And that’s how it stayed until the Coup of 1977, when gun militants ambushed the establishment at their convention and took over.

With amazing skill, the new guys turned a target-shooting group into a political steamroller. They aligned themselves with the Republican Party, and they built a membership base, two related objectives.

America could get along fine if all of us owned guns – like Switzerland’s citizen militia, like the status quo in America when James Madison wrote the Second Amendment.

But peaceful ownership doesn’t fit the NRA strategy. Experience shows that membership falls without crisis. So they stir…and stir. Their message: gun owners should fear confiscation of their personal firearms – by the government.

Last month, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre displayed their strategy in his speech to their convention:

“Between now and the day [President Obama] leaves office, he has 650 days to do whatever he wants to whomever he wants.” He called this period “the most dangerous days in history for the Second Amendment and for our personal freedom.”

Garbage. See-through, cynical garbage. We’re a mature democracy, and the NRA knows it.

But public opinion is against them issue-by-issue, even among non-gun owners living in NRA households. So if they’re to maintain power over trembling Republican politicians, they must radicalize gun owners – beyond their four million members to the 77 percent of gun owners who aren’t NRA members.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz (NRA rated A+) said: “If Hillary Clinton is going to…come after our guns, then what I say is, come and take it.”

A bumper sticker out there shows a rifle sight and cross hairs and block letters: “Peace Sign.”

In 1999, a Pew Research Center poll found that the main reason people owned guns was: “hunting,” 49 percent and “protection,” 26 percent. In 2013, 32 percent said “hunting,” and 48 percent said “protection.”

Like Tarheel Tombstone? Vote Republican.


Christian vs. Christian in politics

Daily Planet, 1/2015

This past Election Day, I was handing out sample ballots with Democratic candidates highlighted. One man refused my offer – but when he had passed me perhaps 15 feet, he turned around and raised one arm with forefinger pointing to the sky.

“God will judge you for what you’re doing,” he said.

I may have said something like, “Okaaay.”  He surprised me. After years of electioneering, this was my first condemnation for being a Democrat.

I don’t make light of this encounter. It was an isolated skirmish in a much bigger war – the civil war that’s raging today in North Carolina.

Ours is not a shooting war, like the big Civil War or the Patriot-Tory sub-war during the Revolution. Those were wars about pure politics: independence from England and independence from the United States.

Our civil war today is about righteousness.   Christian against Christian.

My Election Day finger-pointer belongs to those Christians who believe that homosexuality and abortion are the great sins of our time. They base that belief on the Ten Commandments, the Apostle Paul’s First Corinthians 6:10-11 and Leviticus 18 and 20. These Christians vote Republican. I’ll call them Red Christians.

On the other side, Blue Christians hold rallies called “Moral Mondays.” Their idea of morality is based in the many teachings of Jesus, such as Matthew 25:34-40, where we’re told to help and take care of the sick, the needy, even those in prison.

So why is this a civil war? Why isn’t it just a difference of opinion? After all, they share the same basic faith. Red pastors of course teach Jesus; Blue pastors teach Paul.

Why? Because the two sides don’t just have competing ideas of sin and righteousness.   They take their views over into politics, where the stakes are nothing less than the future of North Carolina.

The core political issue is where the power of the state should be exercised. Should the state intervene on behalf of the poor, children and the mentally ill? Or should the state’s power be used against homosexuals and abortionists?

We’re not in a time of friendly difference of opinion and problem-solving. One side wins, and one side loses.

Civil wars are like that. In the French Wars of Religion in the 16th century, Establishment Catholics and Protestant Huguenots gushed blood for 25 years.   In the end, a half-million Huguenots left France.

In North Carolina, the sides are competing for the power to make their view of righteousness the law.

If Blue Christians get power, they enact legislation that favors the poor and children’s education (which they did until they lost power in 2011). If Red Christians win – and they have won three times in a row – they move to effectively close abortion clinics (which they’ve done) and ban gay marriage (which they’ve done).

The First Corinthians passage mentioned above gives perspective: “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Red Christians would see the man-with-man part and want the state to act against homosexuals. I, as a Blue Christian, see “the greedy” and do not want the state to favor the rich and powerful, who back Republicans to gain tax benefits.

In North Carolina, it’s clear who’s winning. The massive Red Christian vote has joined with secular Republicans who ideologically favor big business, and budgets slap down the poor.

Quite literally, and not a pun, it’s a war for the soul of North Carolina.

Butterflies & hurricanes

Citizen-Times, 10/2014

[poor predictions ]

Mathematician Edward Lorenz studied air movements to learn why weather is unpredictable. He found that weather events as small as the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings can affect the path of hurricanes. He named this phenomenon the “butterfly effect.”

I think we all feel like that butterfly sometimes about voting. Nature tells the butterfly to flap, with no thought to weather. Duty tells us to vote, but we doubt that we actually affect outcomes.

For Democrats, this is the Year of the Butterfly.

Our hurricane is the redistricting map drawn by Republican computers in Washington after the 2010 census. Republicans won in 2010, so they drew the districts.

Democrats gerrymandered when they had power, but they were amateurs. For example, in the 2010 election, Democrats won seven of N.C.’s 13 U.S. House seats.   After GOP redistricting, the N.C. delegation was 9-4 Republican, with one Democratic win an upset. (Voter registrations in N.C. are 41.9% Democrat, 30.5% Republican, 26.3% Unaffilicated.)

Here’s how the Raleigh News&Observer summarized the effects of GOP redistricting: “Only one of 13 congressional races in North Carolina was competitive last time. Ninety-one percent of the state House races were noncompetitive, and 86 percent of the Senate races were noncompetitive.”

A formidable hurricane for us butterflies to influence. But get ready to flap your wings, guys.

On one level, immediate gratification, our corner of the hurricane is vulnerable. Several of the people representing WNC have been outrageously arrogant since they took office. Gerrymandering makes reelection easy for incumbents, which means they don’t have to answer to their constituents. They can do whatever they please and smirk about it.

Reps. Tim Moffatt and Nathan Ramsey attempted a sneaky power grab of Asheville’s water system in 2012. They didn’t consult the city or even inform them of their intentions. Incredibly, Moffitt met with a city delegation in Raleigh fifteen days before filing his bill – and he didn’t mention the takeover.   Unacceptable arrogance. Michele Presnell is a serial bungler. If Democrats vote, these losers will lose.

But beyond the immediate, if Moffatt and/or Ramsey lose their computer-designed seats, control of the General Assembly in 2020, the next census and redistricting, will be uncertain. And the atmosphere in Raleigh will be conducive to passing a bill to require an independent, nonpartisan commission to handle redistricting. Such a bill passed the GOP-controlled House in 2011 but stalled in the Senate. Polls show around 70 percent public support.

That’s the big gain of a huge Democratic turnout in November. N.C. will have competitive elections. Everybody’s vote will actually count. Good people will be willing to run. Representative democracy will return to NC.

Democratic wing-flapping can turn the hurricane into soft, nourishing rain

Why people vote GOP…Why?

Daily Planet, 10/2014

[details dated but ideas stand]

Why would somebody vote for Republicans in 2014?

This looks like a rhetorical question, where the intent is to make the reader think for a second before the writer gives his answer. A set-up question. The Apostle Paul uses this device a lot in his writings in the Bible – like in Romans 8:31, where he asks, “What shall we then say to these things?” He then goes on to say what we shall say.

The opening question seems like a rhetorical question because we know why people vote Republican. Much has been written on that. But it’s a real question. I don’t know the answer.

One group of people vote Republican because their family has always voted Republican. It’s like growing up Baptist or an Atlanta Braves fan.

Second, there are those who are, more than anything, against “liberals.” These people tend to watch Fox News and listen to talk radio – sources that have a big interest in dividing everything into “conservative” and “liberal,” for their ratings’ sake.

Third, there are people who have a deep interest in political theory. They believe intellectually in small government, low taxes and free-market capitalism.

Fourth, religious conservatives. They vote Republican because they are theologically “conservative” and Republicans are seen as conservative. And also, the GOP, beginning in the 1970s, has taken stances on social issues, especially abortion and homosexuality, that are in line with their beliefs.

Last but far from least, the Tea Party. These folks despise authority of all kinds.   They vote Republican when they can’t beat the mainstream Republican in a primary.

That’s why people vote Republican – in ordinary times.

And in ordinary times I wouldn’t be writing this. People vote Democrat and people vote Republican for their own reasons, and that’s cool.

But my opening question wasn’t about ordinary times. It was about why people would vote Republican in 2014. That’s a whole ‘nuther question.

You see, voting Republican in 2014 means voting for Mark Meadows for U.S. Congress – the guy who led the shutdown on the federal government last year and now says he regrets doing it. He thought he could juke Obama into shutting down Obamacare.   He’s an inept bumbler.

Voting Republican this year means voting for Michele Presnell, Tim Moffatt and Nathan Ramsey for the Legislature – the gang who can’t shoot straight.

These guys went to Raleigh and rushed through legislation that was written for them by the “deep interest in political theory” folks – eggheads in think tanks in Washington. The newcomers high-fived. Easy as pie, this passing laws!

But trouble was, THEY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT COMES NEXT. They were amateurs wearing big league uniforms.

They cut taxes, mostly on the rich and corporations, and crowed that jobs and prosperity would come trickling down.   Whoops! Didn’t happen. The tax cut resulted in a huge budget shortfall. The Raleigh News&Observer headlined:   “Budget disaster of gigantic proportions looms over North Carolina.”

Here’s the thing. The whole country has seen a rise in employment, and a majority of states are entering their new fiscal years better off than any time since 2008.   North Carolina had a shortfall of $445 million last fiscal year, with even worse news coming up.

If these guys had done NOTHING, we’d have a budget surplus.

It gets worse. The News&Observer wrote in July: “In last week’s budget debate, lawmakers were uncertain of basic numbers about the state’s projected revenue.” Not easy as pie, this making laws work.

Along with budget mayhem, the gang who can’t shoot straight also dragged our public schools down to the murky bottom of national rankings.

Whatever a person’s reason might be to vote Republican in ordinary times, they’ve GOT to wonder about voting Republican this year, voting for Meadows, Presnell, Moffatt and Ramsey, don’t they?

Don’t they?


NC GOP are outlaws, podna

Daily Planet, 9/2014

November 2, 2010– the day the voters of North Carolina turned the town over to outlaws.

Of course nobody knew they were outlaws on Election Day. We didn’t find that out until they took power.

And then we knew. Oh, did we. The outlaws tossed aside their cloaks, and their eyes took on a tell-tale greedy glint.

Very soon after they gained power, the outlaws made certain that they wouldn’t lose power. They didn’t ban elections. They drew boundaries of legislative districts so that a majority of Republicans would win easily. So in most of the state’s districts, the outcome of the election would never be in doubt. Voters would feel they did their democratic duty by voting, but their votes would be meaningless.

Then they went to work on the election process itself. Outlaws tend to scoff at elections. For decades, Democrats had made voting more accessible, so more citizens could vote.   Republicans reversed all that and added more obstacles to voting by seniors and minorities (who vote Democratic).

Interesting how a person reveals his character when he gets power. Republicans showed greed and arrogance.

For decades the minority Republicans – not yet outlaws – had begged Democrats for more power-sharing in state government. But when they got power themselves, sharing wasn’t on their minds.

They came with far-reaching legislation that changed the lives of all North Carolinians, from schools to tax structure, and they did it with no proper debate or deliberation. Laws whooshed through the General Assembly, often with inadequate time for reading, sometimes in the middle of the night.

They were advised, over and over, “You can’t do that. It’s unconstitutional.” To which they replied, “Didn’t you see the results of the election?”  Verbatim Tom Tillis quote. (Interpreted into Outlaw language: “Constitution? We don’t care ‘bout no stinkin’ Constitution.”)

In fact, they couldn’t do that, not lf they wanted to live by the state Constitution. But that’s the way of an outlaw, isn’t it? They work outside the law.

Is this constitutional ignorance? At the takeover in 2011, it’s true that none of the Republicans had experience in leading government.

No, I think this is just a deeper level of arrogance. Anybody or anything that gets in their way, including the state Constitution, they ignore as “obstructionist.”

Then last month, their arrogance reached unprecedented heights and depths. As the Raleigh News&Observer reported: “After passing laws imposing new conditions on abortions and elections, taking away teacher tenure and providing vouchers for private school tuition, Republican state legislators have seen those policies stymied in state and federal courtrooms.

“So they have passed another law, this one making those kinds of lawsuits less likely to succeed when filed in state court. Beginning in September, all constitutional challenges to laws will be heard by three-judge trial court panels appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.” (Note: the chief justice is a very partisan Republican.)

As a townsperson, I don’t want outlaws running my town. I don’t like rich guys getting richer at my expense. I want my vote to count. I want the best education for my neighbors’ kids. I want good people running my town again.

Vote, people! Vote! Whatever else you do this November, VOTE!

GOP power trip trips

Daily Planet, 8/2014

[one prediction I got right]

During a high school reunion, several of us were talking over breakfast. Inevitably the conversation turned to politics. One of the wives laughingly told how her husband was a fanatic Republican, a GOP cash cow. After Republicans took Congress in 1994, she said, he was joyous. “I suppose you can relax now,” she said to him that night.   “No,” he said, “now I go after environmentalists.” My friend confirmed his wife’s story with a fiendish “Huh-huh-huh” laugh.

That laugh has stayed with me ever since.

In recent years I’ve wondered if Republicans in Raleigh “Huh-huh-huh” as they look around the General Assembly candy store and savor the wrappers that litter the floor.

Yes, I think they do. I imagine closed-door celebrations, like this one from 2012:

“I propose a toast,” says Tim Moffitt. “To the city of Asheville!”

“Yes,” says Nathan Ramsey. “And to their ongoing lessons in humility!” Laughter.

“And to urban well-drilling companies,” says Chuck McGrady. Laughter.

“I drink to Citizens United and wide-open money,” someone shouts.

“And, boys, let’s don’t forget Tom (Hofeller) the Mapmaker,” says Moffitt. “He drew the districts so I’ll driveI-40 the rest of my life.” Laughter.

“Didn’t he do a number on those liberals at Warren Wilson College?” someone shouts. “Zzzzt! Split ‘em right down the middle.”

Right about now, a voice comes from the round head perched on the round body sitting at the end of the table: Ralph Hise. “I raise my Diet Sprite to the NCAE. (mumble) uppity teachers (mumble). Let their union dry up faster than Asheville lawns.”

That moves Moffitt to stand up. “Gentlemen…to the North Carolina constitution! And the power it gives us in the General Assembly to manage local governments!”

I imagine them that all standing up, some shouting, “Hear, hear!” and some shouting, “Here, here!” One is shouting, “Yeah, power!” And one is shouting, “North Carostution!” His glass wasn’t Diet Sprite.

Do I know that GOP legislators slap down their opposition – like the city of Asheville with their Water Act (Moffitt, McGrady and Ramsey) and the North Carolina Association of Educators (Hise) as payback for past grievances?

Nobody can know another person’s heart with certainty.   But I can say absolutely that these guys went waaaay out of their way to take unnecessary actions. With priority needs all over the place, they pushed through hostile legislation.

The record is clear that Moffitt and Ramsey, who represent Buncombe County interests, and McGrady, representing Henderson County, ambushed Asheville in a sneaky power grab. They didn’t consult the city, or even inform them that their water system was going to be seized. Incredibly, Moffitt met with a city delegation in Raleigh fifteen days before filing the 2012 bill (HB1009), and he didn’t mention the takeover.

Their state law applied only to one city – the finding of the trial judge last month in favoring Asheville over the General Assembly on the water system. And their 2013 law (HB 488) offered no compensation to Asheville for its $100 million water system. That’s being vindictive, wouldn’t you say?

Hise’s SB727 (“No Dues Checkoff for School Employees”) similarly singles out one organization. Dues checkoffs for other groups were not affected. It’s been said that Hise had a chip on his shoulder toward the NCAE – or would have if the chip had stayed on his round shoulders.   Certainly unnecessary.

Folks, these men aren’t legislators. They’re thugs, bullies.

They’re aggressive weeds in a garden. They’re prospering for a while, but there are people who love the garden who will yank them up by the roots. And all will be well in the garden again.




Real fiscal conservatism

Daily Planet, 7/2014

In a recent fit of self-inventory, I was surprised to discover that I’m an economic, or fiscal, conservative.

My family lives within our means, below the lifestyle we possibly could afford. Our budget is balanced and we avoid debt like there still were debtors’ prisons.

And what’s more, my beliefs carry over to politics.   I’m a fiscal conservative there, too, albeit on my own terms.

But then that seems to be the way it is with most fiscal conservatives.

The Constitution definitely calls for limited government. That was the Founder’s vision. Then Jefferson wanted to buy Louisiana, and that meant debt. Then Madison had the War of 1812. Real hard-nosed fiscal conservatism doesn’t show its head again.

Ronald Reagan tried. He started in 1981 with massive tax cuts, good fiscal conservatism right out of Edmund Burke. Unfortunately, after eight years of raising and lowering taxes, the net loss in federal revenue tripled the national debt. He wanted defense spending more than he wanted a balanced budget.   Beating Russia was his Louisiana.

That’s not my kind of fiscal conservatism.

Then George W. Bush, after inheriting a budget surplus, cut taxes, passed a prescription drug plan and fought two wars – and paid for none of them. Dick Cheney famously said to the Treasury Secretary, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” So like Reagan, Bush multiplied the national debt while in office.

It seems that Republicans only get upset when tax money is being spent on Democratic programs. That’s bogus fiscal conservatism.

Today’s GOP is political abstract art. On paper, its various factions all want to reduce the size of government and government spending. But for their own ends.

The Tea Party, a diverse collection of angry anarchists, wants really small government. They have no plan for actually governing. Libertarian types (like North Carolina’s own Art Pope) want government out of the way to clear the way for 19th century whoopee capitalism. Social conservatives (whom Libertarians scorn as wanting to restrict freedom for morality’s sake) ride the GOP wagon in order to crush abortion and homosexuality.   They aren’t fiscal theoreticians.   And then there are the so-called “moderates” who actually want to govern.

While a thread of fiscal conservatism does run through them all, I wouldn’t be seen dead in that fabric.

No, my man is Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City. He says balance the budget – something Reagan and G.W. Bush didn’t do but Bill Clinton did – is what’s important. This is best done, he believes, by improving the efficiency of government so government spending can be cut. That’s his definition of “small government.” That’s where I am. Like my family, government should live within its means and pay as it goes.

Ideological government-cutting is naïve. If government were to be powerless, the vacuum would be filled by smart, slick, greedy…bad people. Everybody knows that.

Where I break with Republicans altogether is their willingness – no, their desire – to cut government spending at the expense of alleviating the people’s pain. Cutting Medicaid spending, school budgets, services to the mentally ill, etc., etc., is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I believe in a balanced budget, and I know government can spend its money more effectively. After all, the biggest enemy of government efficiency is the appetite that all politicians have for government slush in their districts. I like tough-minded lawmakers who look at staff jobs, new bridges, anywhere waste might be lurking. But I want this tough-minded person to have a soft heart toward the people. They come first.

I can’t go back to the dark days of small government and unprincipled capitalists in the 19th century. I’ll balance the budget with taxes if necessary.


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