Archive for the ‘Print column’ Category

DeMint: States can lead conservative comeback

Since the 2012 election, some conservatives have blamed their losses on their message while others pointed fingers at the messengers. Truth is, both camps have a point.

That’s why Jim DeMint aims to tackle both problems from his new perch at the Heritage Foundation, which he is joining as president after eight years as a U.S. senator from South Carolina.

“I’m convinced if we have the right ideas, the right messengers, the right message, we can win,” DeMint told me Tuesday before greeting Heritage members at the Westin Buckhead.

Part of the challenge is stylistic: “We can’t just talk like a bunch of engineers” about things like budget deficits, he argued.

“We’ve got to help people see how our policies actually can make their lives better. … And the way we can do it is actually put the camera on people whose lives have been changed.”

DeMint pointed specifically to the different approaches GOP-led Pennsylvania and Democrat-controlled New York have taken to their natural-gas …

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Welcome to Atlanta, Mr. President. Now about pre-k . . .

President Barack Obama is expected in Atlanta today, to pitch a problem to a solution.

No, I don’t have that backward.

The president’s planned visit today to a Decatur pre-k school comes on the heels of his lauding Georgia’s preschool program during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. He wants to use it as a model for a federal effort “to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.”

While I join Obama in applauding educational innovation in the states, I can think only of reasons a federal preschool program is a bad idea. Not least is the fact that the existing federal preschool program, Head Start, has been declared a failure by the very agency that administers it.

Head Start, a program for low-income children, has been around since 1965. But three years ago, after four and a half decades and $166 billion spent on the program, the Department of Health and Human Services concluded first-graders who had been in Head Start held virtually no …

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Debate about gay members unlikely to end well for Scouts

Yesterday was Scout Sunday in the United Methodist churches that sponsor more than 11,000 Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs. That figure ranks the Methodists second among all sponsors of Scout units, right behind the Mormons and ahead of the Catholics.

Together, those three churches essentially own the franchise for nearly half of all Scout units, serving two in five boys in the program nationwide. Including all other faith-based organizations, both figures rise to roughly two-thirds.

That’s about half of what you need to know to understand the difficulty the Boy Scouts of America faces as it deals with calls to admit gay youth and adults after 103 years of disallowing them.

The other half is that pressure put on the BSA by secular groups, such as businesses and large non-profits, comes largely in the form of financial contributions they withhold from the organization until it meets their core conviction that excluding gays is wrong.

Which runs counter to a core conviction …

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One message minority voters already sent Georgia’s GOP

The GOP’s post-election listening tour comes to Atlanta today, with a twist.

Reince Preibus, the recently re-elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, is scheduled to meet this afternoon with a couple of dozen black Republicans in an “engagement and listening session” aimed at widening the GOP’s appeal. It’s an imperative bit of outreach for Georgia Republicans — the like of which the state party, despite undeniable demographic trends away from its nearly all-white voting base, has done dangerously little.

No doubt, any number of ideas will be discussed during this session. But there’s one policy that is a color-blindingly obvious necessity for any serious attempt to win over minority voters: school choice.

Just a week ago, hundreds of students and their parents and teachers braved the cold for the annual school-choice rally on the Capitol steps. As is the case every year, the majority of these students were not white.

And almost all of them will be eligible to …

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Ethics quandary at the Gold Dome: What’s a lobbyist?

Of all possible obstacles to ethics reform, who thought the biggest one would be defining the word “lobbyist”? Yet, that’s where we stand today.

For years, the biggest obstacle was getting legislators to take up the issue of lobbyist gifts to legislators. Georgia is one of three states with no restrictions at all on them.

House Speaker David Ralston was one of the strongest, and most powerful, objectors to regulating these gifts. To Ralston’s credit, he responded to public pressure by revealing this past week two mostly good bills. Among other changes, his bills would ban nearly all lobbyist gifts to state and local officials; require campaign contributions in the run-up to the session to be reported within days (rather than in July); and, critically, restore the state ethics commission’s rule-making authority.

Now, if we can only figure out who the lobbyists are.

It sounds easy, right? After all, everyone knows what lobbying is: an effort to influence public officials to do …

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In defense of Georgia’s tax-credit scholarships

This month the Wingfield household, like millions of others across America, has received a growing number of tax documents. Among them are forms certifying that we gave $50 to this charity or $100 to that one, allowing us to reduce what we owe in taxes.

What neither we nor the IRS will receive is official documentation that our church converted X number of non-believers into Christians, or that a charity we supported decreased poverty or sexual exploitation by a quantifiable amount. Or that everyone who benefited from our donations earned less than a certain amount of income.

Yet, similar bits of data are being requested of one of the kinds of non-profits we could have supported but didn’t: Georgia’s student scholarship organizations.

These SSOs accept donations from Georgia taxpayers, who can then reduce their state income taxes by an equal amount — up to a limit for all donors of about $50 million per year, or one-quarter of 1 percent of all revenues the state expects to …

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Tough choices loom as Georgia maps its road(s) ahead

Few people expected Georgia’s legislators to pursue any big new transportation initiatives this year. So far, legislators are meeting that expectation.

The rejection of the T-SPLOST in nine of Georgia’s 12 regions is still fresh, and most state agencies face budget cuts amid stagnant tax revenues. Yet, this is a critical moment for our state to figure out how to pay for transportation infrastructure.

But not only our state. All signs indicate the so-called budget sequester will force Congress to cut spending by tens of billions of dollars a year. And that will be just “the first of many large cutbacks” affecting transportation, predicts Robert Poole.

Robert Poole

Robert Poole

“There will be no more ‘nice to have’ things,” says Poole, co-founder and head of transportation policy at the libertarian Reason Foundation. “If we’re going to continue … to invest in transportation, the states are going to have to pick up the ball.”

But, Poole added during a Thursday speech at a Georgia Public …

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Medicaid bed tax: Misnamed, unsustainable, divisive — and apparently irresistible

For an up-close view of the brokenness in our political and health-care systems, and especially of the way they make one another worse rather than better, you could hardly do better than watch the debate over Georgia’s hospital bed tax. It has it all.

First, there’s Medicaid. It’s the program states can’t live with — no matter how much money they pour into it one year, the cost only rises the next, in part because states have limited control over it — and can’t live without — the federal dollars involved are too numerous to pass up.

Medicaid funding is an inherent contradiction in fiscal responsibility: In order to balance their budgets, states look for ever more ways to get ever more money from a federal government that is ever more in debt. Meanwhile, even as Medicaid funding rises, Medicaid patients have ever more trouble finding doctors who will accept them because of the program’s low reimbursement rates.

So, Medicaid is so broken as to somehow render politicians …

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Louie Giglio and ‘the right to hold differing views’

I’ve never been to Louie Giglio’s church. But I drive past it every Sunday on the way to the church I do attend.

Passion City Church meets in a building that once was home to a Home Depot Expo and a PGA Tour Superstore. If you aren’t familiar with the site, one thing you ought to know is it has the kind of enormous parking lot you’d expect for a mega-box store and that it’s filled to capacity each week as volunteers and traffic cops direct the flow of motorists, pedestrians from the nearby Lindbergh MARTA station, and the shuttles that ferry still more worshippers to Giglio’s church.

You also ought to know that, for a couple of months last year, there were fewer parking spaces available than usual. That’s because part of the pavement was occupied by a gigantic statue of an arm and hand reaching skyward — I’m talking about 103-feet-tall gigantic — with, among other messages, “Indifference Is Not an Option” written on it.

“Indifference” to human trafficking and slavery, that …

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Chambliss: Government shutdown is up to Obama

If you think the 112th Congress was a weak, unproductive bunch, you’re not alone. Saxby Chambliss agrees with you.

“Unfortunately that’s the way it feels inside, not just outside,” Georgia’s senior senator told me over coffee at his Cobb County office Tuesday. “Harry Reid’s leadership [in the Senate] leaves a lot to be desired, and the in-your-face stuff that the president’s thrown at us has gotten a lot of backs up on our side, in both the House and the Senate. You throw the presidential election in there and it just kind of all came together, and nothing got done.”

Readers who are not GOP partisans would probably add House Republicans to Chambliss’ list of Washington’s bad actors. But after spending the past few years working with a handful of his fellow senators to fashion a big, bipartisan deal to reform the federal tax code and reduce spending, to no avail, Chambliss conveyed disdain for the way the Jan. 1 agreement to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff came about. And he …

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