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Entries for 'Carter Wrenn'

18
The other day down at the News and Observer ole Rob Christensen wrote about how Republicans in Raleigh are cocksure there’s not a chance they’ll lose their majorities in the State House and State Senate – because of redistricting.
 
Then he pointed out a not-so-good thing:  When politicians get the idea they’re so powerful they’re invulnerable it leads to mischief. 
 
Now, the way Republican legislators see the next election they’re safe in their castle, manning the battlements, with the drawbridge pulled up.  It’ll take a mighty horde to whip them.  And no horde’s in site. 
 
But just as it was true three thousand years ago in the time of King Solomon, so it may be true today: Pride goeth before a fall.
 
The other morning out of a clear blue sky rumors started flying that former Governor-for-life Jim Hunt has started a mega-million-dollar Democratic Super-PAC – to whip Republican legislators.  Which just might be a horde on the horizon.

 

 

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17
It’s got to be a temptation – but it may not have a happy ending.
 
Lately, President Obama’s taken to running the country by Executive Order – for  instance, the other day he found a part of Obamacare wasn’t going to work so he simply announced he wouldn’t enforce that part of the law.   
 
Which, in a way, sounded pretty good – even Republicans agreed that part of Obamacare was broken.  So, by not enforcing the law, the President avoided a train wreck.
 
On the other hand, there is a right way and wrong way to do things.  
 
Years ago, if a President believed we should go to war, he had to get Congress to pass a Declaration of War.  That system worked out pretty well.  During the first half of the last century we only fought two wars:  World War I and II. 
 
Then, in the second half of the century Presidents dispensed with the legal formalities and started sending troops to attack other countries on their own – without a Declaration of War.  Since then we’ve landed in six wars.  Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
 
The old traditional way of doing things – Congress passing the laws and the President enforcing them – wasn’t a foolproof way to run the country.  But it led to less mischief than giving one politician the power to say, This is what I want to do – and now that’s the law
 
Naturally, President Obama wants to see his agenda succeed but changing laws he doesn’t like is a step down a dangerous road. Today he may be changing laws to avoid a train wreck.  But tomorrow he (or another President) may use the same power to open Pandora’s box.

 

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14
One protestor waved a sign calling for legalizing medical marijuana and another held up a sign “Stop the War on Women” and Reverend Barber looked out at the multitude of marchers, lifted his arms, and thundered into the microphone how he meant to save the school children and save the poor and see that everyone got healthcare and how he wanted to put an end to sending people to jail because of their race then, without pausing for breath, he explained how he and the protestors standing in the street in front of him were the ‘trumpet of conscience’ in North Carolina walking in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King.
 
Now, I don’t know a southern male, black or white, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, who’s crazy enough to start a war on southern women. It’d be the worst mistake since Gettysburg.
 
Voice rising, gaining cadence, the Reverend started talking about morality and right off one thing was clear – the way he sees it he, Reverend Barber, right then, has a hammer-lock on righteousness and any fool and especially any politician who doesn’t see eye to eye with him has got to be immoral, amoral, or, worse, doesn’t give a toot about little school children and poor people.
 
The Governor, he thundered, was a varmint and Republican legislators were even worse varmints.
 
Of course Republicans have been known, occasionally, to sin. But it’s also true, if you boil away the Reverend’s thunder and brimstone, when he says he’s fighting for justice, generally speaking what he’s got in mind is taking money from one fellow and giving it to another.
 
There’s a pretty fair chance before he’s done the Reverend will do a fair amount of harm. But not to Republicans. To the people marching down the street beside him. Because they’re the poor souls he’s most likely to fool with his roaring self-righteousness. And there’s proof more folks than just Republicans have figured that out: No one saw Jim Hunt or Roy Cooper or Kay Hagen marching down Fayetteville Street beside Reverend Barber.

 

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11
It sure seems like Wallace Cheeves down in Greenville, South Carolina has had his share of ups and downs.
 
Right out of college, Cheeves went to work for the video ‘poker king’ of South Carolina. Then he went a step further and opened his own video poker company – which went out of business when South Carolina outlawed video poker.
 
Cheeves was nothing if not resourceful.
 
Next he set up a video sweepstakes company – but, before long, South Carolina put the kibosh on that too.
 
That led Cheeves to start another company to go into the riverboat gambling business in Georgetown and Colleton County, South Carolina – but then both communities banned riverboat gambling.
 
Still scrambling, Cheeves partnered with another company to put electronic bingo games in Alabama – but then Alabama confiscated their software and equipment in a raid on a bingo hall.
 
Unfazed, or at least undaunted, Cheeves partnered with a South Carolina Indian tribe to build a casino – but, true to form, South Carolina stopped him dead in his tracks again.
 
So Cheeves looked north to the rolling hills of Cleveland County in North Carolina and (after he proclaimed his casino was going to create a bonanza of 4,000 jobs) at last he got a Yes from the local politicians.
 
Then, before he could catch his breath and enjoy his good fortune, that Yes was followed by a No from every politician in Raleigh from Governor McCrory to Roy Cooper and 100 of 120 State House members.
 
A normal man might have given up. But Cheeves didn’t stop. He promptly hired three lobbyists and put them to work explaining the virtues of casinos to Raleigh politicians.
 
Still, somehow, all the pieces don’t seem to add up: We’ve got an Indian tribe that lives in South Carolina claiming they’re North Carolina Indians (or, at least, claiming they lived in North Carolina sometime back in the days before Columbus set foot in the New World) so they can build a casino here.  
And a lot of folks, or at least a lot of Raleigh politicians, are sort of dubious, too, about how a video poker mogul is going to create 4,000 jobs and turn into one of the biggest employers in North Carolina with one casino.

 

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10
A long time long ago in the far away Kingdom of Columbialand  two tribes battled over control of Congress for years then one of the tribes (the Republicans) split into two smaller tribes: The Pachyderms and the Tea Partiers.
 
The Tea Partiers turned out to be an unusual tribe. They had a creed and they also had no doubt at all the highest virtue of all was to fight ferociously for spending cuts.
 
When it came to spending cuts, the Pachyderm Chief agreed with the Tea Partiers. Or, at least, he said he did. But, in practice, the Chief had discerned an odd quirk of human nature: He’d figured out that while almost everyone (meaning all the voters in Columbialand) liked spending cuts, as soon as the Tea Partiers cut a specific program everything turned upside down. For instance, if the Tea Partiers cut farm subsidies farmers were outraged and adamantly said, No. He’d seen the same thing happen over and over; whenever the Tea Partiers tried to cut funding for parks, or schools, or widget makers – someone always got mad.
 
Once when the Tea Partiers tried to cut defense spending it made defense contractors so mad they’d told  the Chief they wouldn’t give him another dollar – which caused the Chief a huge conundrum. Because what he loved (with the same passion the Tea Partiers loved that creed of theirs) was winning elections.
 
So the way the Chief saw it what the Tea Partiers were doing was just plain lunacy and, finally, one December morning when he’d had enough he declared war. He opened fire with both barrels, telling everyone who’d listen the Tea Partiers were crooks who were raising money (from the Republican faithful) to line their own pockets then he made a deal with his sworn enemies, the Obamacrats, and passed a budget that increased spending.

For one moment, it looked like the Chief had won a huge victory. But then he got a rude awakening. He found out what he’d really done was start a Civil War. And, worse still, he was the one in hot water. Out in the hinterlands the average Republican didn’t think any more of his deal with the Obamacrats than the Tea Partiers did.

 

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24
50 years ago we declared war on poverty, spent $20.7 trillion, and lost. So now the President is trying again. Only this time he’s calling it a war on income inequality because a war on poverty only appeals to folks who are poor while a war on income inequality appeals to just about everyone except, maybe, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.
 
Now you’d think the President would start by attacking the root causes of the income inequality. But politics doesn’t work that way. Because what politicians are interested  in is votes – and taking money from one group of folks and giving it to another is a proven plan that works at the ballot box.  But like a lot of modern politics it does little to fix the root of the problem.
 
The other day in the newspaper Robert Rector reported there are now 80 means-tested welfare programs that take $916 billion from one group of folks and give it to 100 million other folks. Despite that poverty rates haven’t dropped but, on the other hand, poverty is not what it used to be. Today, our typical poor soul lives in a house or apartment in good repair with air-conditioning and cable TV that is larger than the house of an average non-poor soul in France, England or Germany. He has a car, TVs and a DVD player. There’s a fifty-fifty chance he has a computer. A one in three chance he has a big flat screen TV. And, thankfully, a big majority of today’s poor are not undernourished and didn’t endure a day of hunger over the previous year.
 
Still, no one doubts there are still people who need a helping hand – which led Mr. Rector to a surprising fact: Fifty-one years ago, the year before we declared war on poverty, 6% of America’s children were born out of wedlock. Today 41% of our children are born out of wedlock. Now, why on earth should a child’s mother and father not marrying make a farthing’s difference when it comes to how much a child earns when he (or she)  grows up?
 
The answer’s a mystery but statistics don’t lie and they say children raised in single parent homes are four times more likely to be poor, and children who grow up without a father at home are 50% more likely to be poor when they grow up.
 
It sounds illogical but the numbers say more traditional families mean less poverty. But for a politician in pursuit of votes that turns a simple political opportunity into a knotty intellectual problem.
 
One more fact: Today when a mother on welfare has the good fortune to fall in love with a man who has a job and marries him she loses her benefits. Now, in a way, that’s logical. But if you’re a single mother who may be losing, say, $10,000 in benefits it’s also 10,000 reasons not to marry the man of your dreams.

 

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21
Back when General Washington whipped King George the old saying ‘A penny saved is a penny earned’ was a bit of folk wisdom hardly a soul disagreed with – but these days modern economists have determined that kind of old-fashioned virtue is really a vice and that the true path to prosperity is borrowing – which is why the economists were tickled pink when they saw the headline the other week that read: ‘Consumer borrowing rose $18.2 billion in October.'
 
At last the long moribund ‘consumer-driven economy’ was showing signs of life.
 
Of course, this new modern idea of virtue is a little odd – after all, it leaves American families $18 billion deeper in the hole. But the masters of economics have no doubt they’re right – even though their turning virtue upside down hasn’t worked out too well over the last few years.

 

 

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17
The newspaper reporter asked if North Carolina’s Senate Primary was going to be the next litmus test of the Tea Party’s political muscle – and as fast as he could Greg Brannon’s campaign spokesman said ‘Yes’ then added the Primary was just like Senator Rand Paul’s election in Kentucky in 2010 and Senator Ted Cruz’s election in Texas in 2012.
 
“In those races, he said, you had a candidate that was handpicked and heavily supported by the DC establishment up against a Tea Party candidate supported by the grassroots. In both instances the grassroots candidate won big.”
 
Now, of course, you can’t fault Greg Brannon’s spokesman for wanting to get a step ahead of Thom Tillis – but what landed in the newspaper was only part of the story.
 
It’s true Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both won.
 
But on the way to winning they also raised a lot of money. Rand Paul with the help of his father’s supporters across the country. And Ted Cruz with the help of Senator Jim DeMint, who all but adopted him.
 
Here in North Carolina, so far, Greg Brannon and Mark Harris, who’re challenging Thom Tillis, have both been noticeably short of cash.
 
And that’s the big fact in the Senate race: No one, or at best only a handful of voters,  knows Greg Brannon. They don’t know he’s the next Ted Cruz. And he hasn’t had the money to change that. So the real fight in the Republican Primary isn’t between the Establishment and the Tea Party – it’s between Greg Bannon and his empty cash box.

 

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16
A couple of weeks ago the News & Observer  published a story that got folks stirred up over how the head of the Raleigh Housing Authority was making $280,000 a year and wining and dining his board of directors for $3,000 at a Christmas banquet at Raleigh’s elegant Second Empire Restaurant – all paid for by taxpayers.
 
The story caused a ripple which passed but then just before Christmas the News & Observer published a second story reporting the board had given the director nearly eleven weeks of paid vacation last year and the year before and the year before that.
 
The director, defending himself, said that wasn’t quite fair because part of his vacation was ‘comp time’ (which means if he worked 8 hours in a day instead of 7.5 then 30 minutes got added to his vacation time).
 
The Board of the Housing Authority – who’re all political appointees – stood foursquare behind the director. In fact, it just voted to give him an additional six days of vacation this year.
 
Meantime, up in Washington, the government’s borrowing a day to avoid cutting spending.

 

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15
Back before Christmas when Congress struck its ‘big budget deal’ the newspapers were running stories left and right telling everyone how Round 2 of the Sequester was going to be aw-ful and terr-ible and croo-el.
 
In one story a lady in Fayetteville told how the army was going to be so decimated by the next round of Sequester cuts that landscaping at Fort Bragg would grind to a halt. Another lady lamented how over in Durham Head Start was serving forty-two fewer children now than a year ago and Lord knows where it would all end.
 
In story after story pundits predicted coming tribulations that sounded eerily like the tribulations the same pundits predicted last spring: The homeless would go without shelter. The army would be crippled. The White House would never reopen for tours.
 
In fact, back last spring, during the first Sequester there was so much wailing and gnashing of teeth that just about everyone got into a dither but, then, the cuts came and went and the sky didn’t fall and life went on pretty much as usual. So this time when the same pundits  begin roaring Armageddon was at hand most folks just sort of shook their heads, thought, I’ve heard all that before, and went on about their business.
 
One group of folks who did get the dithers this time – in a big way – were Republican Congressmen. House Speaker John Boehner got such a bad case of the willies he got into a name calling contest with the Tea Party groups who liked the cuts, calling them varmints and villains then (to the Republicans’ surprise and Obama’s delight) whipping a bill through Congress that killed the cuts stone-cold dead.
 
Which sounded like the end of laments.
 
But wasn’t.
 
Because President Obama waited a few days then announced he wanted the Speaker and the Republicans in Congress to spend another $25 billion to extend unemployment benefits for another year.
 
And what did Speaker Boehner say?
 
He said he reckoned that, first, they ought to cut spending.

 

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