Open Thread for Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Quick: Where have you seen this picture before?

Quick: Where have you seen this picture before?

Y’all are free to take off on the subject of your choosing.

But if you have trouble coming up with one, here’s one that’s on my mind this morning. Did you see this?

he S.C. House’s main budget-writing panel voted Tuesday to allow counties and cities to buy some state roads.

Now, counties must use 25 percent of the money that they get from the General Assembly to maintain state roads. If the amendment approved Tuesday becomes part of next year’s budget, counties and other local governments instead could use that 25 percent to buy state roads.

Road purchases by counties and local governments could eat into the more than 20,000 miles of state roads that are 2 miles long or shorter, said House and Ways Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson.

The state owns and maintains more than 41,000 miles of roads, the vestige of years of state control over local governments….

The question that immediately comes to mind is, why on Earth would already-strapped local governments want to buy roads from the state?

If state government would set local governments free to raise taxes as they see fit, maybe localities could take on this added burden. Until that happens, local governments would be crazy to take on maintenance of roads that the state can’t seem to come up with the money to take care of. Yeah, this plan supposedly offers a revenue source — a fixed amount grudgingly provided by the state. But if the state can’t get the job done with that money now, how is distributing it to multiple entities, each with its own structure and administrative costs, going to fix the problem?

A strong thread in the narrative of the state’s relationship with local governments, ever since the false promise of Home Rule in the mid-70s, has been to foist off on the locals things the state doesn’t want to pay for, without allowing the locals to come up with their own ways of paying for it. The state gives an unfunded, or underfunded, mandate with one hand, and holds the locals down with the other, greatly restricting how they can raise revenue.

Maybe there’s a good point in this idea somewhere, but I’m missing it.

Sorry. Didn’t mean to go on and on about this. This is an open thread…

28 thoughts on “Open Thread for Wednesday, February 19, 2014

  1. Doug Ross

    Should hospitality tax dollars be used to bail out the Columbia New Years Eve party? Naturally, I say no. The same people against the baseball field because it takes money away from other programs should agree. But will they?

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        It was supposed to be a free party put on by the city, that was represented to said city as self-supporting. I don’t know what the economic multiplier effect was from this–did it divert partiers from paying to celebrate somewhere, or did it net more celebrants who maybe bought something while they were here?

        Guys from across the river who got comped into the VIP lounge don’t count…

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    I’m trying to find out what happened in the executive session after the city council meeting last night. Rumors are flying, and it has been suggested that the city manager ought to hold off making any large purchases….

  3. Norm Ivey

    Open thread…

    Here’s an idea–how about a Brad’s Blog book read? The predominant themes of Brad’s blog are politics, economics, and history. Maybe Brad (or someone) could suggest a book that would be of interest to those who read and respond here. I think politically we seem to be a pretty diverse group, most of whom engage in constructive discussions. I’d be curious to see how we all respond when we are all reading the same material.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Good idea. Except I don’t read a lot of books about politics and economics. I read a lot of newspapers and magazines on the subjects, but books not so much.

      I’ve got a problem with books on public affairs. They nearly always fully state their premise in the introduction, and I can decide what I think of the argument based on that. All the succeeding chapters just seem like mind-numbing repetition of the premise, which causes me to lose interest. I don’t see why academics need so many words to make a point…

      History, when it’s well-written, is different. It tells a story, and that carries me along…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I’ve always thought of the essay as the longest effective form of writing for expressing political ideas… A nice, long piece in a magazine goes on about as long as anyone needs to.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I doubt that I will ever have time, in what remains of my life, to sit still through an entire book about Dugout Doug.

          So many other good biographies I want to read first, starting with some that I actually own (from putting them on my birthday or Father’s Day wish list), such as Ron Chernow’s about Hamilton (Fritz Hollings recommended it to me when it first came out a decade ago, and I asked for it, and got it, and there it sits), the second book in the Edmund Morris trilogy about Theodore Roosevelt, that James Madison book that came out a year or two ago by Richard Brookhiser. I’ve got bios on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Robert Oppenheimer (which may be the oldest unread book on my shelves). And others, no doubt, that slip my mind…

          1. Bryan Caskey

            I’m mainly reading it because I knew so little (almost nothing) about him before starting this book, but I knew he was a monumentally important figure in WWII and post-war Japan.

            He’s certainly an interesting man. The comparison to Caesar is (I believe) Manchester’s criticism of his pridefulness.

            I’m looking at this book as eating my vegetables, so to speak.

    2. Doug Ross

      Bill Brysons’ latest, One Summer: 1927 America, was very good. A cross section of America right before the Depression Era seen through the stories of Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Calvin Coolidge, etc. Lots of parallels to the topics of today.

      Also for those of you who need some insight into economics delivered in a easy to digest format:

      It helps to explain how every action taken by the government or markets has unintended consequences.

    3. Mab

      Great idea!

      I would definitely commit to “engage in constructive discussions […and ]respond when we are all reading the same material…”

      The Mabster would show his/her intellectual side, not just the canines — PROMISE.

  4. Bryan Caskey

    As New Jersey faces a road transportation crisis due to lack of snow-melting rock salt, Main has 40K tons of ti just sitting there. The only problem is that they can’t get it there quickly due to bureaucracy and an old law preventing a foreign-flagged ship from going from one US port directly to another.

    Another example of how government regulation is super-awesome.

    I guess just buying an American flag for $1.99 and putting it on the front of the ship won’t cut it.

  5. Karen Pearson

    Norm, your idea interested me. I don’t usually read politics–I do fiction, history, biography mostly–almost any kind of fiction. How about an occasional thread offering space for comments on any book that someone found particularly interesting. No one has to read any/everything, but it might give us a chance to look at something different, something we might not otherwise look at because we’re not familiar with the author, or genre.

        1. Norm Ivey

          I meant to go back to the old thread and thank you for the heads up on Help Thanks Wow, but by the time I finished it the thread was pretty old and would have required some detective work to locate. (I know it’s an itty-bitty thing, but it was one of those I read while waiting for something else–frequently interrupted.) I enjoyed the book, but the author seemed to be coming from a dark place that I just haven’t experienced (Thanks.) Personal Faith has always been more appealing to me than Organized Faith, and I appreciated it on that level. So thanks for the heads up.

          I wouldn’t dream of assigning you a book to read. I did enough of that when I was in the classroom. However, I just finished The Sixth Extinction. I’m not sure it’s your cup of tea, unless you have an interest in paleontology or science in general. I thought it was going to be kind of preachy, but it really wasn’t–more of an exploration of how animals have become extinct, and how we’re the cause of extinctions in the present era. Cue George Carlin.

  6. Karen Pearson

    The latest book to strike me I “Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me” by Ian Cron. Its autobiographical and traces the story of growing up with a a father who was both a forceful personality and an alcoholic. It’s exploration of mental and spiritual maturation under difficult circumstances explores some difficult, painful paths. It’s also hilariously funny in many places.

  7. Scout

    I usually read mostly fiction. But currently I am reading Cat Sense by John Bradshaw. I also have The Reason I Jump, The Inner Voice of a Thirteen Year Old Boy With Autism, by Naoki Higashida in my nook.

    Not exactly politics though.

    I would be interested in book threads.

  8. Mark Stewart

    Walter Edgar’s South Carolina A History. I know it’s encyclopedic, but I like reading books like this – sort of like browsing the aisles of an old book shop. Plus, everyone in the state would benefit from flipping through the pages. Might also cut down on the repetition of the same mistakes (see proposed ham-handed road transfer proposal above).

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