McConnell on why NOT to reform

Just wanted to make sure that you read Glenn McConnell’s otherwordly explanation as to why real reform of DOT is anathema to him, and therefore to his instrument, the S.C. Senate.

Then read the column by Cindi Scoppe that eerily foreshadowed this argument from Sen. McConnell. She says it ironically and critically; the senator from Charleston says it with utter sincerity and deadly certainty.

Fortunately for him (but not for the rest of us), the S.C. Senate is immune to lampooning.

Remember, children, here in the Palmetto Dystopia:

  • War is Peace
  • Freedom is Slavery
  • Ignorance is Strength
  • Glenn McConnell is a Champion of Restructuring

Don’t believe that last one, UnParty members? He just said he was. Can’t you read?

16 thoughts on “McConnell on why NOT to reform

  1. mark g

    While I think Sen. McConnell has way too much power and influence in this state, and I have to chuckle every time I see him in a re-enactor’s uniform, I don’t disagree with him on this one.
    I have far less confidence in a Sanford appointeee than a strong commission. Can you really show me how cabinet agnecies out perform commission-contolled agencies? (Most agencies do a decent job, though that goes unnoticed until things go bad, like DOT.)
    The most laughable line in the McConnell colulmn is that DOT would “run like a business.” It sounds good, but nothing in state government could ever run like a business because of the rules and regulations that control bidding, how staff is hired and fired, and how provisos mysteriously appear and disappear, etc.
    McConnell’s plan is not that bad.

  2. LexWolf

    Brad, why are you so hot on DOT reform? Whenever there’s any suggestion to reform or cut a particular tax, you piously proclaim that the entire tax system must be reformed before a single tax can be cut. Why doesn’t the same thing apply to the DOT also? Why shouldn’t we insist on reform of all state agencies instead of just this single one?

  3. Brad Warthen

    We SHOULD restructure all the agencies. But you CAN actually improve one agency by restructuring it, although I would be far from satisfied by that. I won’t be satisfied until all executive agencies are integrated into the executive branch, and we’ve drastically reduced the number of constitutional officers.
    Not so with tax reform. Whether you’re increasing or decreasing one, you’re further distorting an already messed-up system — you know, push down in one place, pop up in another. Money being fungible, each tax has a greater impact upon all others than one agency has upon another — particularly the most independent, unaccountable agency of them all, the one with its own budget outside of the rest of state spending.
    McConnell’s “solution” would probably make things worse. The Senate approach is all about making sure the Legislature retains its fragmented hold on that executive agency.

  4. Lee

    You could also start reforming the tax system by cleaning up the most obvious defects.
    In 2005, the economy grew enough to produce excess revenue sufficient to replace all the property taxes. We could abolish the property tax and the state would not even miss it.

  5. LexWolf

    Nice try, Brad, but let’s get serious. Unless you assume that the state is entitled to a certain amount of revenue an increase or decrease in any particular tax has absolutely zero influence on any other tax. So would you like to try again? Why again can we reform individual agencies but not taxes, without reforming the whole enchilada all at once?
    I’m not disagreeing with you about the obvious need to put all agencies under the governor but I do think that your rationale is way out of whack. (I also think all federal agencies should be under the president, regardless of which party.)

  6. Michael Gass

    Mr. Warthen,
    I agree with you on McConnell. But you missed the best line in his letter:
    “We could be faced with bridges to nowhere and stalled projects of needed roads to alleviate traffic congestion, all being held up by politics.”
    Tell me again about the Hunley museum in Charleston, would you…

  7. bud

    McConnell’s plan for the DOT is just plain crazy. Why do we need a commission at all?
    Having said that, I think it is very naive to think an appointed Executive Director of the DOT would make a huge amount of difference. It would depend on who the governor is. If he likes someone it might actually be more difficult to get rid of that person if he or she does a poor job. After all, Ms. Mabry did get the axe. Long overdue perhaps but it did happen. Waste and cronysism are still going to exist in a cabinet form of government. That’s just the nature of government agencies.

  8. mark g

    I have to confess, while I get as frustrated as anyone when I read about waste at DOT, I don’t automatically assume all government agencies are bad. Why do they all need to be reformed?
    I think the Dept. of Motor Vehicles works pretty well, based on my limited personal experience. DOR seems to collect taxes pretty well. DHEC, DSS, Mental Health, Prisons…they seem to do OK. Public Saftey and Highway Patrol seem to do well.
    On a local level, my library system is awesome, and I have no complaints about Water and Sewer, Trash pick-up, etc.
    I don’t think assuming the worst of our state agencies is healthy. I’d suggest we look at the facts, and make reform on a case-by-case basis.

  9. Brad Warthen

    Someone sporting the apt sobriquet "Paleocon" (how apt? his comment began, "One of the greatest public servants that SC ever had, Ben Tillman…") joined us briefly, and has been ejected for unruliness.

    Newcomers should review the rules, and respect them. To save you the trouble of following the links, the main rule can be summarized as, the anonymous have no rights on this blog. If you won’t stand personally behind what you say, the rest of us don’t have to listen.

  10. LexWolf

    “I have to confess, while I get as frustrated as anyone when I read about waste at DOT, I don’t automatically assume all government agencies are bad. Why do they all need to be reformed?”
    Excellent question. So why do all taxes have to be “reformed” just so we can cut one tax? That’s our host’s position: no cutting any taxes unless all taxes are reformed. Never made sense to me but the only logical analogy is that we need to reform all agencies if we want to reform just one. This is basically Brad weaseling out of any tax cuts at all because he knows full well that there will never be a complete reform of all our taxes. Thus he can pretend that he is for some tax cuts.
    It’s an infantile mindset overall. It assumes that we are incapable of doing what needs to be done but that our bureaucrat “moms and dads” know better how to live our lives than we do ourselves. That might work for old kids like our host but it doesn’t work for me. The only place where this analogy doesn’t make sense is that kids wise up eventually and start living their own lives but Brad….

  11. Brad Warthen

    Actually, Lex, it’s about trying to inject some rationality and maturity into discussions of taxation.
    You could say that saying no tax cuts (or increases, but that doesn’t much matter because all they ever want to do is cut) until comprehensive reform is a way of saying, “Eat your vegetables before you eat any more candy.”
    Tax cuts are candy to legislators. They toss them out like cheap beads from a float at Mardi Gras. And the tax code gets more and more screwed up with each such action taken without any sort of consideration for the larger picture.
    Reform the system, then have your dessert.
    You’ll probably never understand a word of this, because to you, tax cuts are necessarily and by definition positive good. To me, cuts or increases are colorless, neutral. I don’t care what you cut or increase as long as the end result is responsible stewardship.
    There are exceptions. I would increase cigarette taxes, and I don’t care what you cut or spend at the same time. The point is pricing cigarettes out of reach of kids.

  12. Lee

    How do you plan to have tax reform without reducing some taxes and abolishing some others?
    How do you plan to bring honesty to a corrupt system with no due process, where capricious bureaucrats can bankrupt anyone with impunity, while handing out millions in tax breaks to someone else, without any oversight?

  13. LexWolf

    “You could say that saying no tax cuts (or increases, but that doesn’t much matter because all they ever want to do is cut) until comprehensive reform is a way of saying, “Eat your vegetables before you eat any more candy.”
    Tax cuts are candy to legislators. They toss them out like cheap beads from a float at Mardi Gras.”
    What color is the sky in your world, Brad? When was the last big tax cut in SC? Didn’t we have something like a $900 Million surplus last FY? How much of that did we get back from the legislative piggies? Almost every cent was spent instead! This year we seem to be looking at a $1.3 Billion surplus. How much of that will we get back as “candy”?
    You are so thoroughly blinded by your big-government ideology that you’ll probably never understand that.
    BTW, I think responsible stewardship is that which stewards least! Tax cuts are indeed almost always a positive good especially since most only ratchet the ever increasing tax burden down a bit.

  14. Brad Warthen

    Lex, do you think WalMart is gouging you if it makes $900 million more than it did the year before? Of course not. It just means a big increase in its economic activity.
    South Carolina’s economy is growing, so revenues grow.
    Here’s the fact: There has not been a general tax increase by the state of South Carolina since 1987. It was a small increase in the gas tax. By contrast, the Legislature hardly lets a session go by without a tax CUT big enough to brag about at re-election time. The growing economy helps them do that.
    The last one was the session just past — the big cut into school property taxes on owner-occupied homes.
    What you seem to want is to see government services shrink in relation to the growing economy, which is very bad economics. The economy will stop growing if it is not supported proportionately by education, roads, public safety, etc. It’s part of the infrastructure of the economy.
    But you would undo that because you’d rather see the economy shrink than government to grow with it. That simply doesn’t make sense, except to someone with an illogical antipathy toward the IDEA of government.

  15. BizWiz7

    If taxes are so great for the economy, why not raise them to 100%?
    If that is too much, what is the optimal amount? How do you know?
    In the last two years, SC tax revenues have grown $2,200,000,000 over budget, at 16% annually, while the economy has grown 3% annually. Why should the government grow 5 times as fast as the market economy? At that rate, taxes will soon be 100%, but we all know taxes will bring about a depression long before that.

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