Used to be that when people went into public service as legislators, they helped to do great things that really benefitted people.
At the federal level, think about the interstate system (Eisenhower), envisioning putting a man on the moon and all the cool stuff that came from that (Kennedy), civil rights legislation (Johnson), Medicare and Medicaid (Johnson), expanding freedom (Reagan) and, regardless of what you think of it, the Affordable Care Act (Obama).
At the state level, past leaders created the technical college system, educational television, boosted manufacturing, raised taxes for better education and built lots of roads — so many that we now have a hard time maintaining them.
But as is frequent in politics, it’s normal to ask, “What have you done for me lately?”
The blatantly obvious answer is, “Not much.”
Sure, it’s good the Legislature passes budgets and keeps most of the state’s agencies running. It’s great the state Senate is looking into the big mess at the state Department of Social Services. It’s certainly helpful for the state Department of Commerce to lure more jobs here.
But that’s what they’re supposed to do. What about thinking big to do things that would really impact South Carolinians, one in five of whom are on food stamps?
When we posed this question a week or so ago to a group of people trying to better understand what was going on in the state, the best answer we got was that lawmakers in the last 25 years had gotten rid of miscegenation — the law that made it illegal for people of different races to marry.
Really? That’s it? Sure, some of the folks in the group weren’t from South Carolina, but it’s pretty pitiful if 35 smart people can’t come up with more than that. That is not a reflection on them, but it is telling in so many ways.
What it should highlight is just how little actually gets accomplished by legislators that is really meaningful for most South Carolinians.
Over the last 25 years, two highlights are the state lottery, which has generated $3.4 billion for education since 2002, and the Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which currently funds $549 million in highway projects.
One cynic, however, pointed out that both are responses to a failing political structure. The Legislature wouldn’t pay more for higher education with tax dollars, so they let residents — many of them poor — gamble away their few dollars in hopes of winning and, in turn, helping to pay for college for mostly white middle-class kids. Similarly, state legislators couldn’t keep their fingers out of the transportation pot for pet roads, so they had to create another agency that could get things done that really needed to be done.
In the last 25 years, legislators also created the state Conservation Bank to protect property, but they have to argue every year whether to give it a few million dollars to protect special places. They’ve done sentencing reform, which is slowly dropping the prison population by lowering numbers of nonviolent prisoners in jail. Legislative funding helped to cut the teen pregnancy rate in half. And lawmakers funded pro-business measures that most people don’t recall readily.
But this is also the state that turned the tax structure on its head with the Act 388 tax swap that replaced some property taxes with higher sales taxes, which put a larger burden on the poor and middle class. Legislators also took the Confederate flag off the Statehouse dome, only to put it in a more conspicuous place in front of the State House.
One wag notes, “Maybe the story is nothing has been accomplished!” over the last 25 years. Another bitterly skewers our leaders, “That bunch in Columbia is such a bunch of lightweights, they wouldn’t even leave footprints in the newly driven snow.”
On balance for 25 years, is this a record for us to break out the champagne? Lots of South Carolinians are still poor, hungry and uneducated. Makes you wonder why those legislators meet so long and so often in Columbia. How about if they just stay home next year?
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Accepting Applications for Shakespeare’s Kidz!
Students ages 10-16 are invited to join South Carolina Shakespeare’s new youth company, with classes running September 20th-December 11th followed by a final performance. Contact Katie Mixon with questions about scholarships and applications: PKatieMixon@gmail.com.
Brew Pub Site Available
3520 Augusta Road, West Columbia. Click for more information.
Delicious Downtown Breakfast
Tony’s is open for breakfast every day from 7:30-10:30! Conveniently located on Washington St. right off Main. Stop in for something filling and delicious before work! Follow us for updates on specials.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Pool Cleaning Full & P/T avail. Must have a clean driving record, organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00/hr. Please bring a copy of your driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Please call for an interview. 803-865-1200
Wing Zone is now hiring for experienced delivery drivers, cooks & cashiers. Apply in person @ 132 Assembly St. or call 803-933-9464.
Free Times is looking for a highly organized, detail-oriented self-starter to assist in gathering material from advertisers, coordinating between the sales and production departments, and handling routine clerical tasks. Must be proficient on a Mac, able to conduct business via phone, email, text, Dropbox, social media platforms and face to face while under deadline in a fast-paced, sometimes distracting work environment. The position requires the ability to multitask, excellent oral and written communication skills, and solid experience in quickly learning new computer programs. This is a full time position with benefits. Send a cover letter, resume and salary expectation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com