Greenville News gets on Nikki’s case

Don’t know whether you’ll be able to actually read this Greenville News editorial online (they make it hard), but here are excerpts:

Stop bashing state’s unemployed

The state’s more than 236,000 unemployed workers deserve better treatment than they have gotten in recent days from Gov. Nikki Haley. In her rush to score points with voters who mistakenly believe the unemployed have done something to earn their unkind fate, Haley used careless language to push a fundamentally flawed idea.

“I so want drug testing,” Haley was quoted as saying last week when discussing South Carolina’s stubbornly high unemployment rate that has gotten worse on her watch. “It’s something I’ve been wanting since the first day I walked into office.”…

Haley’s campaign mirrors those being run in a couple dozen states where some politicians are trying to convince people that drug-testing of the unemployed is needed to improve the nation’s wretched unemployment numbers. It’s an approach that simply defies the reality of what has happened over the past few years as the worst economy since the Great Depression has resulted in unemployment stuck near double digits.

This politically driven campaign ignores an important fact. Until the day they were handed their pink slip by companies looking to shore up their bottom lines, unemployed people actually had a job. And in much of America, those jobs came with a mandatory drug test before the job was filled and with other opportunities for random or for-cause drug tests during employment….

… Drugs were a factor in only about 1,000 of more than 400,000 unemployment claims, according to an Associated Press story from earlier this year.
Gov. Haley and other state leaders should focus on bringing more jobs to South Carolina and nurturing a system that better matches employers with workers. And they should stop this unseemly crusade of beating up on unemployed people just to score political points.
I’ll add a thought to that…
Who ARE these people with whom you can make political points by saying stuff like this? Who ARE these people who think of the unemployed as the undeserving “other”? It’s unimaginable to me. Well before I lost my 35-year newspaper career, I knew plenty of people who were out of work, across the economy, and plenty of others who were worried, and with good reason? Who lives in such a bubble that they don’t know all of these worthy, smart, hard-working people?
Oh, I know the answer to those questions. But I’m still incredulous that anyone could be so lacking in perception, and so mean-spirited. And I continue to be stunned that people such as Nikki Haley can appeal to such lowest common impulses and succeed in elections. And I’m sick and tired of this being the case. I want to live in a rational world.
And that’s the bottom line, really. I suppose it’s entirely about compassion in the case of people who are way nicer than I am. But I’m more about recognizing the things that are actually wrong with our economy, seeing how they affect us all, and seeing how even rational self-interest (altruism aside) requires us to address these problems realistically instead of acting like hermit crabs and reaching desperately for stupid excuses to dismiss what’s actually happening.

30 thoughts on “Greenville News gets on Nikki’s case

  1. bud

    Brad, did your time as unemployed change your perception about who are unemployed? Seems like you have to walk in someone elses shoes awhile to fully comprehend why the do what they do. That’s one reason why I find laws restricting personal behavior so offensive. While I might find it unseemly to smoke pot or play video poker it doesn’t seem appropriate for me to tell someone else what to do.

  2. Karen McLeod

    I have come to the conclusion that the powers backing this “conservative/tea party/republican” political force out there is one that is absolutely determined to distract the general public from the most immediate problems in order to ensure a government that will protect and further their power/wealth. Please note that I put “conservative/tea party/republican” in quotes because I truly think that the ones seeking to manipulate public opinion are not the same folks who actually believe that the unemployeed are drug users, or that it’s all a pregnant girl’s fault if she gets pregnant, or that all people have a real choice about whether or not to get health insurance, and if they don’t, they shouldn’t get more medical care than they or their children can’t afford out of their own pockets. More and more I suspect that there is a party of very powerful, very cynical sociopaths, who are directing people away from real problems (eg.unemployment, lack of health care, education, climate change) and toward ephemeral ones (eg.mass illegal drug use, over taxation/deficit reduction, low moral standard, slack religious practice). The target keeps changing, but it’s all directed at maintaining the status quo which continues to erode our middle class. We are headed toward a country where there are a few massively wealthy and a great majority are very poor. I’m not advocating communism; I’m advocating for a society where everyone has enough to have a chance.

  3. Brad Warthen

    Sure it made a difference, Bud. Before, it was other people. After, it was me.

    That’s a joke. The truth is, in some ways, breaking the news to other people that they were being laid off was harder than getting the news about myself.

  4. Juan Caruso

    Since illicit drug users are largely unemployable outside the nondescript realm of day laborers,
    what can be the rationale for providing them “unemployment compensation” intended to tide people over until they get a job?
    When many of returning veterans cannot find employment, I would rather they get the benefits than drug abusers. Call me conservative.

    Now, that makes sense to me, especially with a myriad of other entitlements that DO NOT require drug testing.

    WSPA filmed a statement I watched last week while in Greenville. A representative for a large, private employer noted that of every 100 job applicants interviewed recently, 25 have failed drug tests (that is a 25%, of course).

    No one answered when I asked in an earlier comment on your blog what the CURRENT rate might be (until WSPA). Twenty-five per cent is huge.

  5. Doug Ross

    What do you propose Nikki Haley might do to create jobs?

    What would Vincent “Silent Bob” Sheheen have done?

    Governor’s don’t create jobs. Sure, she could pretend we don’t have a large population of uneducated people waiting for unskilled labor positions to materialize out of thin air.

    Here’s some things that could be done immediately to create jobs but would be fought by the nanny-staters:

    1) Legalize casino gambling. This would create thousands of low skilled jobs.

    2) Stop allowing prisoners to pick up trash. Open up that function to bidding by the private sector.

    3) Increase gas taxes by X cents and immediately begin funding road and bridge projects. But every new dollar must go into a fund that has 100% visibility down to the penny for where the money went and must show the specific NEW jobs created by the funds.

  6. Brad

    I propose that she start by:

    — Not denigrating the unemployed of South Carolina as a class of people.

    — Stop giving the erroneous impression to prospective employers all over the world that prospective workers from South Carolina are a bunch of drug-addled illiterates.

    I can assure you that we wouldn’t have had a problem with Vincent Sheheen on either of those scores.

    And Doug, I don’t see why anyone would disagree with you on number 3. Well, except for most of our politicians, who are all about pandering to the voters’ self-defeating demand for cheap gas.

  7. Doug Ross

    Take a look at’s salary database some time and you’ll see the economy is going just fine for many government employees.

    2727 state employees make more than $100K per year.

    There are 72 people making more than $200K at USC alone.

    Nice jobs if you can get them.

  8. Karen McLeod

    Brad, I wish I weren’t starting to believe it. I don’t go for conspiricy theories. But someone seems to have started a war on the poor. I keep hearing people who are having fits because this is a “Christian nation” and we’re letting atheists, witches, muslims, buddists, educated elitists, ______ (fill in the blank) ad infinitum tell us what to do. Then we turn around and continue to take from the poorest, most helpless among us. I don’t think that the majority of American people are like that. I think that they’re being propagandized to believe half truths, and to fear for their own safety so much that they can’t see that their brothers are so much more in harm’s way.

  9. Doug Ross


    So basically the best thing for Nikki to do is not say anything?

    I would like to see the unemployment rates for South Carolina broken down by level of education. I’ll keep asking the same question – What jobs do you think can be created for high school dropouts (a category that we lead the nation in)? Food service… manual labor… (if you can compete with the illegal immigrants who will work cheaper).

    Anyone without a job AND without a high school diploma who is not pursuing a GED deserves whatever they get.

  10. Doug Ross

    “And Doug, I don’t see why anyone would disagree with you on number 3. Well, except for most of our politicians, who are all about pandering to the voters’ self-defeating demand for cheap gas.”

    So how can you blame Nikki Haley for what is obviously a failure of the legislature (you know, the same jokers who have been running the show before Nikki Haley was there, before Mark Sanford was there).

    Haley is the easy target. Harrell and Leatherman are the culprits.

  11. Brad

    Doug, I blame Nikki for what she does and says and what she doesn’t do and doesn’t say.

    I truly, truly don’t believe it would be fair to blame anyone else for those things.

    And you might as well get used to it: The governor is going to get a lot of scrutiny on this blog. Just as Sanford did before her (and, before the blog, Hodges, Beasley and Campbell on my pages). That’s the way it’s always been here, and will continue to be.

    As you know, or should know, I’ve been all about increasing the power of the governor in South Carolina, because that is the ONE position in the state with the potential (once properly reconfigured) to lead us to positive change — to explain the problem, articulate a coherent solution, and provide the political leadership to overcome our system’s profound cultural and structural resistance to change. (Individual lawmakers can’t make things happen. They have the power to STOP things from happening, which is not the same thing. Legislative government is the most change-resistant yet devised by man.)

    That means being very, very honest about the fact that if we DO look more to a governor, the governors have to be a lot better than the ones we’ve had lately. I’m going to keep holding the bar above their heads, and pointing out clearly how far short they fall, until we get a good one.

    I’m sorry that that bothers you so much.

    It bothers me that you keep acting like I don’t point out the shortcomings of the Legislature, when I am the person who has written more about the failings of that institution, and the structural problem of its excessive power than anyone in this state with the possible exception of Cindi Scoppe — who picked up the habit from me.

    But when you try to act like this or that particular, individual lawmaker is somehow more responsible than our governor for failing to lead, you are misunderstanding the situation entirely.

  12. Mark Stewart

    Nikki is bad enough, but when Lindsey Graham goes all “class warfare” about the idea of raising the income tax rates on those making over $1,000,000 per year to equal the rates paid by those earning less than $250,000, I have to roll my eyes at the state of this state’s politics.

    Doug, the higher the prior income/education level of the unemployed or chronically underemployed, the more hidden they become.

    Every society has always had a percentage of total no-good louts who lay around doing nothing for society – it’s been that way since the beginning of time. What’s different about recessions and depressions is that masses of otherwise employable and motivated people can’t find sustainable work. Yes, many of them need to repurpose their lives, maybe even relocate. But the fundimental situation of an overall economy stuck in neutral remains the central issue. All this other noise is just distraction from the need to press our economy forward. That’s the only way to unlock opportunity; move the ball downfield, even inches a carry…

  13. Burl Burlingame

    Have all the conservative spinners gotten the memo about “class warfare” yet? Our poor downtrodden millionaires need YOUR help to make ends meet.

    “By the time I feed my family, I only have maybe $400,000 left over.” — Rep. John Fleming (R-LA)

  14. Doug Ross

    “It bothers me that you keep acting like I don’t point out the shortcomings of the Legislature,”

    Because when you do it, you speak about the body as a whole and never call specific people out. I can guess why that is but it would just be a guess.

    Simple question – who has more power to influence a change in the taxes and spending in South Carolina state government – Nikki Haley or Bobby Harrell?

  15. Doug Ross


    “Doug, the higher the prior income/education level of the unemployed or chronically underemployed, the more hidden they become. ”

    What does that mean? Are you trying to suggest that having a college degree has no bearing on whether you can find a job over a dropout?

    No diploma = no chance

  16. Doug Ross


    Don’t worry about Lindsey. He’ll switch back to his populist ways as soon as he gets past the next Republican primary. If there’s one thing he is principled about it’s his commitment to his own re-election.

  17. Brad

    Doug, you don’t have to “guess why,” because I just told you.

    Oh, wait, I didn’t mention the most painfully obvious reason — except for my handful of readers who actually belong to the Legislature, NONE of us gets to vote on who the individual legislative leaders are. To me, political journalism is about giving people information they can use as voters. For that reason, I will always tell you more about the people you can hold accountable — especially when, as individuals, they have far greater ability to set the agenda than lawmakers do.

    You’ve never understood the potential power for good that the governor can be. That’s because you don’t understand intangibles. You look at delineated powers. Well, so do I. But I also see the powers that are NOT delineated.

    One of the arguments I got a lot from experienced politicos back during the Power Failure project was the point that the governor can (and in the past, has) accomplished a great deal without the constitutional powers the office should have. And that’s true. It just falls short; I see no reason to hobble the office, when we have such a crying need for vision and change.

    The problem with the Legislature is an institutional, structural one — one that no individual (not even Glenn McConnell) has the power to change (assuming Glenn wanted to, which he doesn’t).

    The form of government that John Locke helped set up here (I refer to the enlightenment guy, not the guy on “Lost”) was perfectly designed to resist change. The main mechanism for maintaining the status quo was the complete dominance of the Legislature. It took a consensus of the Legislature to make anything happen — a consensus you were unlikely to see emerge.

    A governor is a far more likely agent of change — if you elect the right governor and give him/her the necessary tools. And a governor answers to all of us.

    For those reasons, our lawmakers have always kept the governor weak.

    One of our problems today is that while there were once one or two lawmakers who wielded enough power to make things happen now and then (Edgar Brown, for instance), there’s no one like that now.

    So while I will write about this or that lawmaker’s foolishness on this or that issue (or praise them when they have a good idea), you can only hold them actually responsible in a corporate sense. If you want to narrow it down, blame the GOP caucus in the House — that’s a specific entity that determines what happens in that body, and therefore in the General Assembly as a whole.

    To go back, the individual I blame most for what the Legislature is in SC is Locke. I like the way Wikipedia characterizes his Fundamental Constitution of the Carolinas: It “established a feudal aristocracy and gave a master absolute power over his slaves.” Exactly.

    Not any particular master, but all of them, and the elected lawmakers were their representatives. The insane thing is that this system that was created to protect the prerogatives of that class of people is still in place, when that class of people is long gone.

  18. Brad

    Oh, wait, I thought of another reason: There is no one that you ever name as someone you want to blame in particular in the Legislature that I think is as bad at his job, or as harmful to this state by the simple fact of holding that job, as Nikki Haley is as she preposterously holds the office of governor. And yeah, I thought the same about Sanford.

    I used to give Jim Hodges hell, and I still consider his lottery to be a horrible idea, but I’d far rather have him — or Beasley, for that matter — than Nikki Haley.

    As for lawmakers — if there were one I would place the most personal blame on, it would be McConnell. He is the biggest, and most powerful and influential opponent of meaningful change in our state. And then there are smaller things to get irritated with him about, such as his obsession with the Hunley.

    But I can also defend him. I remember, for instance, his having played a huge role in greatly improving our judicial selection process. It’s not what I want it to be — I want the governor to nominate, and the Senate confirm — but it’s a far better, more thoughtful and merit-based process than it was before, and infinitely better than the “reform” that some call for: direct election.

    As for the things I don’t like about McConnell, well, what are we supposed to do? As long as his district keeps electing him, he’s going to be there. And as long as he’s there, he’s going to wield power because of his considerable intelligence, understanding of the system, and skill (qualities that put him in marked contrast to our governor).

    Now that I think about it, if you add up all the critical things I’ve written about McConnell over the years, they’d probably come pretty close to the number of critical things I’ve said about Nikki (especially if you take away for all the positive things I said about Nikki when she first emerged). But as much as I dislike many of the things he’s done, I also respect him, and that makes a difference.

    Now, do you need me to go down a list and talk about each of the other 169 members similarly, to help you understand me? Well, I don’t think I will, not only because I have a life and think it would add little, but because I think it would do nothing to help you understand why I am more appalled by the appalling things the governor does than by anything any other one individual in government does. You and I just process information that differently.

    The Legislature as a WHOLE can rival the governor in frustrating me. But not any particular individuals in it.

  19. Mark Stewart

    Doug, I meant that you are far less likely to know about your (hypothetical) neighbors’ financial distress than you are to be certain that a high school drop out has little chance of making a living. I totally agree with you on that.

    I agree, too, that Lindsey Graham has run off the rails. I can’t be so charitable as to think this is just primary cycle nonesense. However, I will welcome the day that the old Lindsey Graham can stand up and speak with that once strong voice. If he’s just going to be a DeMint wannabe, then SC is in a world of hurt – as is the country.

  20. martin

    This group is why we have the same “conservative” agenda coming to fruition in legislatures across the country. It might have a nifty website, but cookie cutter laws nationwide amounts to a conspiracy.

    “In 1983, ALEC responded to the Reagan Administration’s landmark study, A Nation at Risk, with a two-part report on Education which laid the blame for the nation’s educational decline squarely where it belonged-on centralization, declining values, and an increasingly liberal social agenda that had pervaded schools since the 1960s-and which offered such “radical” ideas as a voucher system, merit pay for teachers and higher academic and behavioral standards for students as possible solutions to the problems.

    After much success with policy formation and education, in 1986, ALEC made a commitment to form formal internal Task Forces to develop policy covering virtually every responsibility of state government. Within a year, nearly a dozen ALEC Task Forces had been formed, and they quickly become policy powerhouses. By 1987, the newly-formed Civil Justice Task Force developed the first comprehensive response to the nation’s frivolous litigation explosion; the Health Care Task Force had developed policies on medical savings accounts, a concerted strategy for reassessing mandated coverage, and a comprehensive response to the growing AIDS crisis. And the Telecommunications Task Force became second-to-none in the development of groundbreaking ideas in the face of rapid-fire technological advances and efforts to regulate them.”

    Sound familiar? There’s lots more where this came from and it’s been guiding our legislature undercover for 20 years.

  21. martin

    And, here’s a little from their school choice section. You think Howie Rich is the only one at work on this? That’s where the real conspiracy comes in, the overlapping goals of the Cato Institute, cofounded by Howie & the Koch brothers, whose dad was a charter member of John Birch and this American Legislative Exchange Council. And, we haven’t even gotten to The Family and Dick Armey’s Tea Party.

    “Whenever school choice legislation is considered, the stakes are enormous. Children, parents, teachers and taxpayers all stand to benefit dramatically from well-designed programs.

    That’s why it is so important for all school choice legislation to be very carefully crafted, starting with an eye toward its constitutionality under relevant state constitutional provisions. Not only is this sound and responsible drafting, it also assures that when a choice program is enacted and then challenged in court it has the greatest likelihood of being upheld.

    This guide to the key constitutional provisions of all 50 states is designed to provide a convenient reference for legislators and advocates. As the reader will see, school choice programs are constitutional in nearly every state. The key is to design the right kind of program, and this guide is meant to help legislators do just that. Any state summary in this report should be a starting point only. We encourage legislators to obtain copies of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation listed in this guide and to contact the Institute for Justice for the more in-depth analysis that will be necessary in crafting specific legislation.

    We look forward to working with you to secure the future of school choice in your state.”

    And, there are sections about state employee pension benefits and what to do about them and just about any other issue that is currently being enacted by Republican legislatures. No conspiracy? Dream on. You will wake up one day and realize this democratic republic has become a one party state. Read the comments to political stories in The State. That seems to be what many people want.

  22. Ralph Hightower

    SC Governot Nikki Haley denigrated the citizens of South Carolina by saying half of us are drug addicts and the other half are illiterate.

    For that, Nikki Haley owes an apology to South Carolina.

    Will we get an apology?

    No, because she is always right, according to herself.


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