Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:
● State Republicans occupy all the big offices and control both the House and the Senate. And what does it get us? Probably Sunday liquor sales. And a House Speaker in David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, whose overwhelming appeal was that he possessed that common-sense grounding that has been a hallmark of the self-reliant, small-government fiscal conservatives. And what happens? He lets lobbyists promoting high-speed rail spend $17,000 sending him, his family, his chief of staff and his wife, to Germany and the Netherlands over Thanksgiving week to look at high-speed rail. In Washington, House Republicans have targeted for elimination or major cuts Amtrak subsidies, and intercity and high-speed rail. It’s a high-cost, subsidy-sucking pipe dream with no Thanksgiving-week urgency whatsoever. Free, unsolicited advice to the speaker. Pay back the money and never let lobbyists take you out of the state of Georgia. If a mass-transit look-see is required, spend my tax money.
● The primary problem with the Atlanta school system is cheating on accountability tests. But the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools slaps sanctions on the system because the board bickers. It may be distracting, but local control means that except under the most extreme circumstances, voters fix their own governance problems. Here I’d question whether SACS has identified the right problem to sanction. We should get uncomfortable when higher governments and government-like groups play in local politics.
● Thanks to corrections officials for their resourcefulness in finding the sodium thiopental necessary to carry out the execution of the evil predator, Emmanuel Hammond, aptly nicknamed “demon,” who murdered Julie Love of Atlanta in 1988. Last-minute appeals had argued that the drug came from a “fly-by-night supplier operating from the back of a driving school in England.” Thanks, too, to lawyers for settling their own questions about the caliber of the supplier.
● “Stimulus” is a dirty word in politics at the moment. Hence, the new round of spending proposals in president Obama’s State of the Union is “investments.” John Podesta, who headed Obama’s transition team, summed up the speech and the response by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.: “The Republicans are preaching castor oil; [The President]’s preaching optimism.” Translation: You can be responsible — or you can hope the government’s money won’t run out until you do.
● I raise this question without knowing the answer. How many of the college students down at the General Assembly who say “we can’t just complain about what’s going on,” to keep the HOPE program solvent — and therefore learn to be more effective lobbyists — actually have part-time jobs or did something to save for college? I’m betting that in fewer than 20 years HOPE has changed the way families and students think about college financing, changing from work-save-borrow to money-will-be-there.
● Bernice King, observing the bitter infighting that characterizes the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in its twilight years, declines the presidency, to which she was elected in October 2009. Smart woman. Her decision is convincing evidence that she was the right choice.
● Gov. Nathan Deal plans to create a Georgia Competitiveness Initiative. While high-cost states like California may need to declare bankruptcy to avoid public pension time-bombs that irresponsible politicians have kicked into the future, Georgia can make itself attractive to business by getting the state’s fiscal house in order and by taking control now of future pension liabilities. One way is to go from defined-benefit to defined-contribution plans for new hires. Another goal should be to make the state attractive enough that tax giveaways to business aren’t necessary.