Open Thread for Tuesday, October 21, 2014 — Ennui Edition


Ferris: Cameron, what have you seen today?
Cameron: Nothing good.
Ferris: Nothing – wha – what do you mean nothing good? We’ve seen everything good. We’ve seen the whole city! We went to a museum, we saw priceless works of art! We ate pancreas!

I thought about doing a Virtual Front Page. It’s been awhile. But I looked around, and it just didn’t seem like there was enough going on out there to warrant one.

I’m not exactly flush with suggestions for an Open Thread, either. Perhaps y’all will be. I seem afflicted with a certain ennui regarding the news, especially on the local level. I try to put my finger on just why that is, and the first thing that occurs to me is this: We’re about to have an election — an important one, in which we will choose this state’s leadership for the next four years.

And… there’s nothing in it to get enthusiastic about, even slightly. It continues to appear, as it has appeared all year (so nothing new there), that we will have another four years of Nikki Haley. Not the end of the world, but not the beginning of one, either. Nothing changes. After eight years of one governor who didn’t believe government should do anything, we’re about to repeat the experience. And I find it very hard to believe that anyone, including Ms. Haley’s most stalwart supporters, is enthusiastic about the prospect.

Things will stay the same. As they always do in South Carolina. One is hard-pressed to think of anything that has happened to dramatically affect our lives in this state since Gov. Fritz Hollings persuaded Sen. Edgar Brown to institute our technical college system over a bottle of bourbon. Oh, wait — I’m forgetting the eventual integration of our schools in 1970, 16 years after Brown v. Board. That has had a gradual, but dramatic, effect  on our state. It has, for instance, led to the long, slow strangulation of support for public education among the white middle class, with such byproducts as the “school choice” movement.

But we have nothing as good as good as the tech schools and integration, or as dramatically devastating as white flight, on our horizon. Just… more of the same. So many things that need to change if we’re to catch up to the rest of the country, but we’re looking at more of the same.

But hey… as I said… maybe y’all can think of something good to talk about…

And maybe I’ll snap out of my Cameron Frye mood. Let’s hope so, because this makes for dismal blogging…

40 thoughts on “Open Thread for Tuesday, October 21, 2014 — Ennui Edition

  1. Doug Ross

    “After eight years of one governor who didn’t believe government should do anything, we’re about to repeat the experience. ”

    At the request of the majority of voters… if they saw better results, they’d loosen up the reins.

    Term limits would also provide SOME opportunity for new blood, new ideas, and dismantling the power structure that has been built on tenure and patronage instead of capability. But, nope, you keep dreaming that someday all the voters will pay attention. Not going to happen.

    Your dream candidate turned out to be a dud because he lacks the passion to implement change. He much prefers toiling in the back of the Senate, trying to push through a 4K education bill that very few people care about. In the end, he was just a lawyer looking for a promotion. Like her or not, Nikki Haley wanted the job more than Vincent did.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      What dream candidate? Are you talking about Joe Riley? He’s the last one I saw that I could get enthusiastic about. And he hasn’t run for governor since 1994…

      1. Doug Ross

        Really? You mean the ongoing fanboy posts about Sheheen over the past five years were just my imagination? Up until recently, when it became obvious that Sheheen was going to lose, what was the worst thing you could say about him as a candidate? Where did you have any disagreement with him on any issue?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I don’t know that I HAVE any policy disagreements with him. But I think I’ve made it pretty clear, in post after post, that I’ve been disappointed in his candidacy. Can I get a witness on this, folks?

          Vincent would make a fine governor, I think, even though I’ve never had the chance to observe him in an executive position. He’d be a fine governor, that is, on POLICY. I think he’d struggle with some of the ceremonial stuff that comes so naturally to Nikki. And I say that not to be dismissive of Nikki. An ability to project yourself and connect with people is an important skill in one who would govern.

          That said, I still think South Carolina would be better off with him as governor.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Which is a long, LONG way from what I would call a “dream candidate.”

            Joe Riley would have been a transformative figure for South Carolina, as he has been for Charleston. (Did you note that Conde Nast rates his city as the second best to visit in the WORLD?)

            I do not view Vincent that way, I’m sorry to say.

            And what South Carolina truly needs is a transformative figure, who can combine vision, inspiration, determination and charisma to lead us to a better day for our people…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      And as for this: “if they saw better results…”

      What on Earth do you mean? Results of WHAT? Nobody’s tried to DO anything in a generation, much less actually get it implemented. How could there BE results, good or bad?

      1. Doug Ross

        Please.. we see the results every day in all our interactions with state and local government. Let’s not pretend that the government is taking in more money than it ever has. Penny taxes, hospitality taxes, fees, etc. The money keeps flowing in and the results remain the same – mediocrity is considered excellence.

        I’ll believe they are good stewards when they stop funding ice rinks and buying $5 million dollar warehouses and funneling hospitality tax dollars to the well connected arts programs.

        We could have a government that does the right thing at the right price. We don’t. We won’t.

    3. Kathryn Fenner

      Dream candidates: James Smith.
      Alan Wilson–there, I said it–he’s far from perfect, especially in his politics, but he showed courage and grit taking on Bobby Harrell, and as he says in today’s The State, he relies on the excellent attorneys in his office. That is the definition of a good executive.
      Alex Sanders is too old, now.
      Fred Delk, who showed smarts in the Susan Smith debacle, making Union look attractive, and who has shown great leadership in transforming the Vista while keeping it real.
      Tameika Isaac Devine, who works and plays well with others.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Alan Wilson, young as he is, is strong in the ways Nikki Haley is not.

        I think a lot of James, but I fear that as a public speaker (a critical skill), he’s not much more dynamic than Vincent…

        1. Doug Ross

          You have to get off this “young as he is” idea. 41 isn’t young. 41 is twenty years past college. 41 is on the cusp of middle age and should be his peak time — still young enough to have the energy and willingness to learn and not too old to be set in his ways and thinking he knows everything.

          We need more 40 year olds and a lot fewer 70 year olds in government. If 65 is the right retirement age for everyone else, let’s do the same for politicians.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            65 is not the right retirement age for everyone else. People in physically taxing jobs probably should be allowed to retire sooner, but many with jobs that require little physical effort, but which benefit from maturity and wisdom should be allowed to work as long as they are willing and able. Personally, I’d rather have a 70 year old judge than a 25 year old one. Professors, counselors, and politicians may, but are not required to, have developed wisdom that makes them especially competent.
            People who hate their jobs may retire when they no longer need the income.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              What she said.

              Alan’s not only young to be in charge, but — something else that Doug hates to hear — he’s lacking in relevant experience.

              But he’s done a lot more with the limited experience he’s had than most people do. Which is why I give him a thumbs-up despite his comparative lack of experience.

          2. Bart

            Whoa, back up for a minute Doug. At my age, I am still going strong and can hold my own with any 40 year old when it comes to mental acumen and in more instances than not, hold up physically as well. My business requires I work with people of all ages and excluding the every changing face of “computer technology”, my experience shows when it comes to planning, decision making, and understanding the market, I find I am in on a slightly higher level of understanding than my younger counterparts.

            Old is when you no longer care to learn, work, compete, and just want to sit down on your ass and do nothing. If all I wanted to do was watch television, travel, and play golf, stagnation would be the end of me. That is why there are so many older people who do tell people to “stay off my damn lawn”.

            Recently, we had some remodeling and work done in our home and most of the men who did the work were closer to my age and knew what they were doing and did a darn good job.

            I don’t know your age but guessing it is around 50. If I am correct, in 20 years check your attitude and see if it is what it is today.

  2. Bryan Caskey

    “Things will stay the same. As they always do in South Carolina.”

    I understand your sentiment, but things change here. Right now, we’re not experiencing dramatic change in much of anything. To get dramatic change you need a dramatic event. Lacking that, you have to be patient with the incremental change that happens very slowly. But just because there isn’t dramatic and sudden change doesn’t mean you stop pushing and kicking for it.

    Don’t get discouraged, Cameron. And keep kicking the front bumper of that Ferrari. Eventually, you’ll knock it off the jack, and you’ll get some of that dramatic change you’re looking for.

    1. Doug Ross

      Maybe things seem the same to Brad because he isn’t big on change. I see things happening all around town and in the state. But I don’t define progress by how many more government programs are implemented or how many more tax dollars are raised.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Neither do I, Doug.

        And I’m not following your logic. If I were not “big on change,” I’d be ecstatic. Because things just keep on being the same…

        1. Doug Ross

          Describe the changes you want that don’t involve taxation.

          Gay marriage is coming. Legalized pot is coming.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Government restructuring. Doing away with all the excess elected Constitutional officers. Getting rid of those 500 or so unnecessary little mini-governments called Special Purpose Districts. Taking down the flag. In education, three things: district consolidation, merit-based pay, making it easier for principals it fire bad teachers.

            That’s just off the top of my head. You do all those things, and I’ll be a happy camper; I’ll sing your praises.

            And you not only don’t need more taxes to do them, but you’re likely to SAVE money on several of them…

            1. Doug Ross

              I hate to break it to you but none of those would happen even if Vincent Sheheen wins the election. The flag will come down eventually but the rest of them require too many connected people giving up power. Even something that seems so simple like giving principals more power to fire teachers would be fought tooth and nail by the teaching establishment both at the administration level and from the ground level teachers.

              We should focus on things that can be done incrementally like simplifying the tax code, shifting spending from non-essential functions to the core functions that government should provide, and implementing term limits via a statewide ballot initiative to diffuse the power structure. Career politicians aren’t going to shoot themselves in the foot for the benefit of the rest of us. They have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of office.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Comprehensive tax reform (of which simplification would be a part) would have been high on my list, but you asked for things “that don’t involve taxation”…

            2. Doug Ross

              “taxation” meaning increasing taxes. Fixing the tax code should be a net zero worst case scenario and net decrease in taxes ideally. For 90% of South Carolinians, filing taxes should be possible with a single online form that can be completed in 30 minutes. That should be the goal.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Yeah…. (Hear that in Bill Lumbergh’s voice)… I was trying to avoid a long, distracting discussion over the whole issue of whether tax reform must necessarily “be a net zero worst case scenario and net decrease in taxes ideally.” So I left it out…

            3. Doug Ross

              Well, if it isn’t net zero or better than it’s not simplification, it’s raising taxes. if the goal at the start isn’t net zero, don’t bother. That’s like simplifying your lawn watering by replacing a hose with an irrigation system.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                That statement is not logical. Whether it is simplification (which is but one consideration among many in true reform) is completely and absolutely separate from whether it’s net zero. Those are entirely separate concepts. If the new rule was that you handed over your entire income to the government, that would certainly be simplification — as it would be if you paid NO taxes. But it wouldn’t be reform.

            4. Doug Ross

              You can’t sell simplification if it means raising taxes. That’s dead on arrival. You have to consider the unseen benefits – more time and resources that can be spent on other things. Fewer resources spent on enforcing, analyzing, prosecuting tax evaders.

            5. Brad Warthen Post author

              You might have trouble selling reform (of which simplification forms just a part) if taxes overall go up, but that still doesn’t make the concepts related.

              We’re talking about what constitutes reform, not how politically palatable it is. If you want to talk about that, we can get off on a tangent about how many political opponents will come out of the woods when you start trying to “simplify”…

              But of course, that’s not our topic. I was responding to your challenge to “Describe the changes you want.” You didn’t ask me to say how I was going to sell them.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    “Even something that seems so simple like giving principals more power to fire teachers would be fought tooth and nail by the teaching establishment both at the administration level and from the ground level teachers.”


    And I’m always amused at the idea that we just need to spend more (or hire more people) to get a better product. That’s like thinking that if you spend $200k on a Yugo, it’s going to be a good as a Ferrari.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      No, but when you have $200K to work with, you attract better design and construction techniques.
      Many of us would have considered teaching and been good at it if it had the prestige and compensation (which raises the prestige) that our chosen careers offered.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Market forces are hardly at work here.
          The market price may limit the result, though. A Yaris is not going to be as nice as a Lexus, in any rational system, though.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    If you really want to get reform done, Glenn McConnell could do it. He would know how to empower the governor….The fact that he didn’t when he was legislative king doesn’t mean he couldn’t or wouldn’t if he were governor.

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    In today’s Free Times, Eva Moore, currently the most trenchant journo writing in town, reports on Joe Wilson’s Hamas/Ebola terrorism comments–and notes that Hamas, while classified as a terrorist organization by the US and UN focuses its efforts on *Israel.*

  6. Bryan Caskey

    Well, you have a few problems with the market for teachers:

    1. There’s a barrier to entry: You have to have a “teaching certificate” I think. I’m not sure what that actually entails, so I’m not sure how hard (or not) it is to get one. However, this does restrict the potential immediately applicants, so I think it’s a legitimate factor.

    2. The wage offered: As Kathryn mentioned, wages for teaching positions are low, relative to other positions. Accordingly, the amount of people offering to supply their labor teaching is low, as their skills are compensated at a higher wage in other markets.

    3. The relative inability to fire poor performers: In most industries, if a wage-earner performs poorly, they do not remain employed. I think everyone would agree that it is more difficult to remove poorer performing teachers in the public school system, relative to other industries. This has the economic effect of crowding out other individuals who would be better teachers. There are only a limited number of teaching positions available. You don’t need ever more and more teachers; there’s a limited number of consumers of your product (pupils to teach). Accordingly, the goal is to get the best teachers into the limited number of positions available.

    Paying teachers higher wages would increase the labor supplied and result in higher-skilled applicants. However, you have to couple an increased wage with the ability for poorer performing teachers to be removed as the flip side of that coin, so as to enable a more fluid market. If you did those two things, you might get a better product, which I would define as better quality education.

    However, you still cannot discount the factor of parental involvement in the quality of a child’s education. No matter how great the teachers are, parental involvement is probably just as important.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      I think you need either an education degree (ugh) or an extra year of college. USC has a one year program that qualifies you. You don’t need a teaching certificate for private schools, but they don’t pay even as well as the public ones.
      I think parental education is even more important than parental involvement. An educated parent will use a vastly larger vocabulary around his/her child, and in all likelihood model more education-friendly behaviors. Helicopter parents may hinder….

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    And The State predicts Bobby Harrell will plead guilty tomorrow at his court date, resign from office.

    1. Doug Ross

      One down, about twenty more to go. What term limits would fix, we must rely on the level of corruption reaching a point of no return. Anyone really think this is just a recent lapse in judgement?

Comments are closed.