Friday, October 22, 2010

Unemployment and Job Creation

Ok, so... Let's see what these candidates stand for. I'll start with the economy, since that's one of (if not the biggest) driving force in these elections.

Unemployment & Job Creation

Nikki Haley. Three biggest things I see associated with her and unemployment is 1) she wants unemployment beneficiaries to pass a mandatory drug test, 2) she's trying to pin it on Sheheen that the state's unemployment fund is empty, and 3) she wants to cut small business taxes.

That being said, there are other things she's talking about doing, too, they just aren't getting as much attention. We can still take a look at those ideas, though.

Back to point one. I think the drug testing thing just wouldn't fly in SC. I mean, while I don't exactly agree with someone getting high on unemployment funds, I just don't think this is something the state can do to people. What about the other household members of someone receiving unemployment benefits? There's a similar argument going on in New York where Mayor Bloomberg wants to make it where food stamp recipients can't use their food stamps for sodas. There's also the issue that unemployment benefits are not welfare. Extended benefits are, but the first round of benefits you receive after being unemployed comes from the fruits of your labor. People have to work to get those benefits, and the right of the Government to say what you can and cannot do with benefits you technically earned is the issue at the heart of this.

Point two. This is a little taken out of proportion, but the point is that Sheheen didn't do everything he possibly could of done to stop this from happening. What had happened was... Sheheen was on this committee (of 6 Republicans, and 2 Democrats) at the time (2008) which screened candidates to be placed on the Employment Security Commission. From the Employment Securities website, you can see that they handle all unemployment claims, and workforce type of things for the state. So, Sheheen and these other seven State Senators were in charge of helping to put together the people that basically run the workforce management in SC. Haley's point here is pretty far out there, but the bottom line is that maybe Sheheen could have done something to make sure SC's unemployment funds didn't dry up during record levels of double digit unemployment in the state. I severely doubt it, however.

Point Three. I said cut taxes, but what she actually wants is to completely eliminate small-business taxes. Her argument (from the Post and Courier):
The four or five states in the country that have no corporate income tax have the lowest unemployment numbers.
Ok, that's not a terrible argument. I can agree to small business tax cuts (not elimination), but what's going to pay for this? I'm not a big fan of trickle-down economics anyways, and giving corporations more money isn't something I am too keen on. However, it comes down (to me) as a question of how small of a business are we talking? It'd probably get me a little pissed off if she got to do this, and her mom's company that "has an annual revenue of $500,000 to $1 million and employs a staff of approximately 1 to 4" got their taxes eliminated.

Her other ideas include privatizing the Workforce Centers, improving infrastructure, and educating the workforce in tech schools. I'm all for the last two ideas, especially improving infrastructure. As far as privatizing Workforce Centers goes, I'm not too sure about that. I am totally for exploring the idea, though.

She talks about some general reform ideas regarding the tax code that I like. From her site:
While the Department of Revenue administers 32 taxes, only three of those taxes generate over 90% of General Fund revenue: the individual income tax, the corporate income tax, and the sales and use taxes.  The remaining taxes add layers of bureaucracy, while garnering little revenue for the state...
... Simplifying the tax structure will help businesses understand and comply with tax codes, while simultaneously shrinking South Carolina’s tax bureaucracy.
I like this idea. While it may have seemed good at the time for SC legislatures to set up some taxes the way they did, it's clearly not benefiting us if it takes 29 different taxes to generate less than 10% of our state income. At the same time, those 29 different taxes all have to be handled by people in some Government office somewhere, eating up taxpayer resources. I'm sure there's a better way to go about taxing whatever it is that is getting taxed, without needing 29 different tax streams each complete with matching sets of loopholes and exemptions.

Onwards to Vincent Sheheen. He wants to "be personally involved in economic development and recruitment", work on connecting unemployed people with open jobs, and creating a "Department for Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses". He's got a Job Plan PDF here that outlines his entire plan. Number 2 in his plan is to prepare our ports for the Panama Canal expansion in 2014. Like Haley, he wants to focus on tech schools to get a more educated workforce. There a smattering of alternative and nuclear energy talk at the bottom that makes the chemist in me cheer.

Being more "personally involved" in trying to get growth going in the state sounds pretty nice, but it also sounds like one of those things that always get put on the backburner for something more immediate. Maybe he makes plans to go visit businesspeople one day as Governor, but something comes up, he sends someone else. Next time comes around, he makes plans to meet with business owners, but he has to go take care of something else... ect, ect. This seems to me like one of those kind of things that would be great if he did, but it's the kind of thing politicians often don't actually follow through on. So, kudos to him for being ambitious, but will it really happen?

I think Mr. Sheheen would excuse my skepticism of politicians. One of the things I've seen him talk about when going through articles and interviews for the blog, is that people don't trust the Government. Which is healthy, in my opinion. People shouldn't trust the Government. It helps keeps abuse to a minimum. So, my point is that I don't mean to be overly critical of Sheheen and Haley, but I generally come at any politician with the idea that they're lying to me foremost in my mind... just in case.

Back to this Department for Entrepreneurship and Small Business thing. I'm not a fan of this idea. What do we have a Department of Commerce for? Fix them, don't duplicate them. I think this Department would just add another layer of bureaucracy to this system, which in turn would cost taxpayer dollars to fund. I just think we ought to fix what we have, or even if it's found to not be broken, but not capable of doing this job, then expand them. Pick up a few more people to work out of the Commerce Department. The people there already have resources for this type of job, they're already familiar with this type of thing. Take advantage of that.

I really like this whole thing he's got planning for the Panama Canal expansion. I was very impressed to see him already talking about taking advantage of what it could do for our port cities. That's good planning, and it's good economics. 

I'll take a moment to go through Morgan Reeves's ideas. He wants to improve infrastructure, which is good. Infrastructure work is great for times with high unemployment. In the same line of thinking as infrastructure, he wants to upgrade and improve South Carolina buildings, make them more green and energy efficient.

He's got this great big High Speed Rail idea. Now, I'm all about some green technology, but this kind of stuff just doesn't work in America. Anyone interested, or with the time, should read this. It simply doesn't pay to take public transportation in America in many cases. The author of that article outlines a simple equation showing the problems with this (bolding is my own):
The cost of a transportation system is first of all, any flat fare. Call that F. Then there's a cost per mile (call it C) and the mileage (M). The value of your time we can call S (salary per hour), and the time it takes to travel is T. So we have Cost = F + CM + ST. Time will be mileage divided by your speed (V), so we have Cost = F + CM + SM/V = F + M(C + S/V). We can see that cost increases with mileage (obviously), high time value (every minute traveling costs more) and low speeds.
Reeves wants to make rails between all of our major cities. That's high mileage, and high time value. No amount of high speed is going to offset how much it just simply won't be worth the trip to the majority of South Carolinians. Reeves talks about how the train will be partially solar powered, and will generate income for the state, but the reality of rails is that they end up costing governments money. They either have to tax drivers to make it more expensive for them to drive, or lower the cost of using the rails to where it becomes more financially realistic. Either way, someone has to put out some money. You need far higher volumes of riders than we can generate in South Carolina to make something like this work. As much as I think it'd be awesome to have a rail that "will run alongside the interstate or in the median", the reality here is that this just wouldn't work.

If you take the time to look through Reeves's page I linked to above about the issues he talks about, he goes through a few more ideas. By and large I find them to be highly idealistic, though. They're good ideas on paper, but expensive to implement (solar panels on homes and schools), or they just expect too much from people ("Ask every business and citizen to donate $100 a year which would raise $400 million for our schools"). 

In the next post I'll get into some more issues, and the way each of the candidates say they'd handle them.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Background Work...

Sorry to take so long to get back into this.

Ok, so I've gone through Nikki Haley's (R) personal stuff. I'll go over Vincent Sheheen's (D) background, and then get into the Green Party/United Citizens candidate, Morgan Reeves.

So, Mr. Sheheen. There's a lot less info out there about Sheheen than Haley, as far as background goes. There is a solid legislative history behind him, though, which I'll get into later on.

Sheheen was born in Camden, SC. He's married, with three boys (13 year old twins, and a 9 year old). Went through the public school system growing up, and so do his boys. He's a Catholic. Sheheen went through undergraduate studies at Clemson, and then later on through law school with USC. He's got a few awards and such, but nothing near to what Haley has. Professionally, he's an attorney. He's been a law clerk, a city prosecutor, and an instructor in Law at USC.

That's about all I got on his personal background, both through his site, and Wikipedia. Other sites just re-hash stuff from those two. The professional background comes from

A lot of his side-work, volunteering-type of stuff is stuff with public schools, which I think is pretty awesome. Also, I haven't been able to find info about this elsewhere, but apparently (according to the Arab American Institute) Sheheen's great-grandparents are Lebanese. From that website, it seems Sheheen isn't really mentioning this, because it would take away from his campaign's focus.
“My campaign has purposefully been focused on and about South Carolina,” explains Sheheen, noting that Haley has not been locally focused, instead cultivating national press.
So, the Republican candidate is Indian, and the Democratic candidate is Lebanese... I can't say I saw that coming.

Anyways, Morgan Reeves. Reeves is the candidate supported by the Green Party and by United Citizens. There is so little info out about this person on the internet, that my previous blog post is the #3 hit for a Google search of his name. I'll give you what I got, though.

I couldn't dig very far back into his history, but I did find that he went to high school here (in a public school, Irmo High). After that he went to college in Michigan, majored in Urban Planning and Development, minored in Business Administration. He has a Ph.D in Theology, and appears to be extremely educated in religious areas, including a Doctorate of Divinity, and is a certified religious Counselor.

Reeves has an extensive religious professional background. He's has been a Pastor at six different churches, and volunteers as a minister for the Department of Justice. Besides his religious professional experience, he owns a land clearing company, and is the founder of the M.B. Reeves Community Unity Scholarship Foundation.

I guess every candidate for the SC Governor seat has to have something that just totally sticks out. Haley is Indian, Sheheen is Lebanese. Well, Reeves says he was a Detriot Lion. See, the thing about this guy isn't that he was a Detriot Lion, as cool as that might be. It's that he isn't listed anywhere on the 1981 NFL draft (which is the year he was supposedly drafted). He also isn't listed on the Detriot Lions' All Time Roster.
...So was he a Lion or what?

Either way, at least he isn't Alvin Green.

I'll be writing up the candidates' stances on unemployment and the economy in the next post, which I'll probably finish tonight after dinner :)


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gotta Start Somewhere, I Guess

So, apparently these elections is a lot more complicated than I thought. There are nine state offices up for grabs, including Governor. Then, six Solicitor circuits, 124 SC State House of Representatives, six United States House of Representatives, and one US Senate seat all up for grabs.

I'm going to basically give a rundown, over the next few days, of what these offices are, and then who's running for them, and how long their terms last.

~Let's start with the Governor and the state offices. The Governor seat  (currently held by Mark Sanford (R)) is contested by Nikki Haley (R), Vincent A. Sheheen (D), and Morgan B. Reeves (Green, United Citizens). The Governor is pretty much the parental advisory for the state. They are the final say on all state matters, and can even issue Executive Orders for the state. Basically, he is like the President of South Carolina.

States all have an Executive Branch of the state's government, and the Governor is the head of it. Because of this, they have some serious influence on foreign affairs, since states have a lot of direct economic contact with other nations. They are ultimately responsible for the way the state handles it's international trade. In addition to this, a state's National Guard is under the control of the Governor.

So, long story short (because there's sooo much more to it), the Governor runs the state for four years. So, it's pretty important. 

 Now, what about the candidates? Nikki Haley (R), Vincent A. Sheheen (D), and Morgan B. Reeves (Green, United Citizens).

Nikki Haley is the Republican nominee for Governor. Starting at the beginning - Her parents are Sikh immigrants from India. She has two brothers and a sister, and two children and a husband. Born in Bamberg, SC, she graduated from Clemson, majored in accounting. She's done a bunch of business-person type of stuff, like being involved with local Chamber of Commerces, multiple Associations and Foundations. I'll let you guys get into the details of her accounting career if you want, here.

Her full name is Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley. She was born and raised Sikh, and converted to Methodism (her husband's personal brand of Christianity) shortly before she was married. She still attends a Sikh Temple occasionally with her parents, although she is a member of a Methodist church, and is raising her children Methodist.

Now, I don't mean to go on about her religion and ethnicity, but it's kind of a big deal. As much as it screams PUBLICITY STUNT BY THE GOP to me (just like that, in big bold letters), she doesn't seem to be another Sarah Palin. On the contrary, she was described as "sharp and articulate" by a Newsweek journalist. I'd agree, too, with what I've seen so far. I'm very glad to see someone running that is not only a successful businessperson, but also a mother (often better education values), and someone who has a little bit of culture in her life. So, if it actually is a publicity stunt, it's a pretty good one.

Anyways, without having actually done my homework about what she stands for yet, my only reservation is with the Tea Party label she carries after her big endorsement by Sarah Palin. This endorsement, and some big money that followed it for ads, put her on the map. She was in last place in the polls before Palin came along, and also last in fundraising. That kind of worries me, but I'll save any judgments for when I go through some videos and legislation and stuff of her.

In the next post, I'll get into what she stands for, what she's historically done, and what she's up to in the news.

National Guard Wikipedia

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Purpose: This Blog Has One

~Well, I'm not big on blogging. This is my first blog, and consequently my first post. So, let me tell you about myself some, and about what brought me to making this blog. Hopefully somewhere along the ride I can tell you all what the blog is aimed at.

I'm a student, 22, a Chemistry major, several years into my degree. I've only recently started to get interested in politics. I'm looking to get involved, but quickly realized that I don't know where I fit in the political world.

So, this is my journey to find a cause to stand behind in politics. My first consideration was to put myself behind one of local South Carolina politicians running for something this November. I was like 'cool, I could maybe get some people to vote, and maybe help make a small change'. Well, who would I put my efforts behind? I really have no idea.

I know what I don't like - extremism, fear-mongering, and ignorance - in politics. And South Carolina politics are rife with these things. So, I need to find someone to support that isn't too extreme, doesn't play on people's fears too much, and isn't too ignorant.

My search began. Very quickly, I realized two things.

1) It would be super helpful if I had all the information I needed to make this decision all in one place. I don't mean something like a profile of each candidate. I want to know how their campaigns function, I want to know what they're doing in the news, I want to know how hard their trying. Things like that. Things that you can't get by visiting a politician's website, or by seeing attack ads on TV, or those God-awful signs along the road that try to brand their names into your mind by sheer repetition. Most importantly, I want this information to come from many different sources. The media right now is... untrustworthy, in my opinion, so it's hard to know what to believe. More sources means a lot to me, as far as credibility goes.

2) If I go and look all this stuff up to figure it out for myself, I'll want to share what I've found. Well, being a 22 year old college kid, not a lot of my friends give a crap about politics. Especially anything less than Obama's campaign in 2008. So, instead of randomly spamming stuff that I find on my Facebook wall, I'll put it all here. Hopefully, in the process, I'll get some good feedback about it, too.

So, Hi there blog readers. I'm Ray, and this is my journey in sifting through all of the information on our politicians in South Carolina, and trying to find someone to throw my support behind.