Heard in the Echo Chamber - Volume VIII
Welcome to the eighth installment of FITS' “Heard In the Echo Chamber,” our Sunday afternoon rundown of what’s really bubbling beneath the caldron surface of insider intrigues and political power dramas that make up life as we know it beneath the Copper Dome.
And in case you’re just visiting us for the first time, you couldn’t have picked a better week to check out the S.C. political community’s favorite new behind-the-scenes source for scoop, a blog column that's quickly becoming “Monday must-read material" according to one top South Carolina political journalist.
But enough kissing our own asses, let's go ahead and get your posteriors up to speed ... it's going to be one buck-wild, out-of-control, stir crazy week.
THE MAYOR STRIKES BACK
It ran in The State, Charleston Post and Courier, Greenville News and God only knows how many other editorial pages throughout South Carolina earlier this morning. Crafted around some dubious talking points circulated March 22 via a secret e-mail to House GOP Caucus members, it insists state spending is only increasing by 4.8% this year and that government has only grown by 3.9% a year since Republicans gained control of the House.
"It" is an op-ed written by the "Mayor of Importantville" himself, Bobby Harrell, the first thermonuclear missile launched from House RINOs in defense of their 2006-07 Pork-A-Pallooza state budget.
Here's the only problem with Harrell's op-ed: It's got more holes in it than Sonny Corleone's car trying to get through a toll-booth guarded by the Tattaglia family. Harrell most assuredly brought some cheese with his whine this time, but unfortunately that cheese is of the Swiss variety. Appropriately enough, FITS hasn't seen holes this big since an offensive line known as "The Hogs" was busy paving the way for John Riggins and the 1982 Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins.
Of course, what should we really expect from the biggest pig of them all but a squeal, right?
But is government really growing by just 4.8% this year as Speaker Harrell would have you believe? Sure it is ... except you've got to take out Lottery, EIA and Capital Reserve Fund dollars to get that math to work ... oh, and you can't count the massive supplemental appropriations bill that's got all the pet pork goodies tucked away in it. When you add those items (which last time FITS checked were indeed state expenditures), spending growth comes out to 10.15% over last year's budget - or more than twice the what the Speaker is telling you.
Nice try, Bobby.
Next the Mayor tries to sell us on the idea that government has only grown by 3.9% a year since Republicans took over in 1994. It's interesting Harrell picks 1994 as his year. Surely Brother Bobby knows the first budget our so-called Republican Majority had a hand in wasn't until FY 1996. Truth is, Republicans have actually grown government by 4.8% a year on average since they got their hands on the budget (a full percentage point above corresponding population plus inflation growth).
Also, that figure includes three consecutive negative growth years in which spending declined by hundreds of millions of dollars due to massive revenue shortfalls created by the recession of 2000-2002. Leading up to that crisis, the GOP-controlled House had taken it upon itself to jack up spending by a combined 23.6% during FY 1999 and FY 2000, spending all the new money the could get their hands on as fast as they could - just like they're doing right now.
Unfortunately, they did spend every penny they could get their hands on, which meant all that could be done when revenues did go south was budget-slashing, trust-fund raiding and unconstitutional deficit spending.
Translation? The GOP-controlled House spends like drunken sailors when revenues go up, which leaves government gasping for air when revenues go down. Sound like the behavior of someone with a substance abuse problem?
Again, nice try Bobby.
There are far too many other inaccuracies in this op-ed to address in just one sitting, but suffice it to say, it's about as trustworthy on the whole as Barry Bonds' insistence that he didn't use performance-enhancing steroids or Martha Stewart saying she never benefited from insider trading advice.
Oh, FITS does have just one last question, though, Mr. Mayor - Since you whine like a baby (or get other people to do your whining for you) every time the governor holds a press conference or puts out a release about the state budget, we were wondering if you bothered to share your latest missive with him or anyone on his staff before they saw it in the papers this morning? If not, you might consider dialing it down a notch when you read something you don't like in the paper.
Until then, go ahead and stick a fork in your oped .... FITS is done cooking it for you.
MORE ON TOWNSEND NOT RUNNING
Soon-to-be former Rep. Ronnie Townsend claims he's just ready to get back to private life. The RINO House Education Chairman insists he's had his fill of politics and is ready to move on.
Apparently, Townsend learned that video footage of him vigorously hugging Democratic Majority Leader Harry Ott while the two celebrated the 2005 defeat of Put Parents in Charge was, for lack of a better term ... "out there."
Townsend also learned that the video was likely going to be used against him in a television ad if he decided to seek re-election. Talk about a devastating message to counter - you're up there dancing a jig with the lead Democrat in the House after relegating thousands of South Carolina school children to yet another year's entrapment in the nation's worst public school system?
In other words, Rep. Townsend was not at all ready to get back to private life - turns out he really didn't have much of a choice in the matter.
One down ... lots more to go.
2008 GOP PRESIDENTIAL UPDATE
FITS broke a story two weeks ago about some key members of New York Governor George Pataki's team paying some under the radar political visits to the Palmetto State, sowing the first informal seeds for what could possibly become a serious exploratory effort by the dark horse, fiscally conservative Republican here in South Carolina.
We're keeping our eye on Pataki, but this week's chatter was about Virginia Senator George Allen, who paid a visit to South Carolina on Friday to talk about health care at a Florence-area hospital and, oh by the way, raise some cash while he happened to be around for 5th Congressional District Candidate Ralph Norman.
Allen's apparently coming back to South Carolina on April 8 (along with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who may have to formally declare residency here if he's not careful). Both are addressing one of those Republican rubber-chicken snoozefests where people don't actually go to listen, but rather to argue with other people about politicians they've long before made up their minds they're either for or against.
Allen, who along with Romney has been honing a particularly revival-esque brand of right-wing-ese to the fire-and-brimstoners during his multiple South Carolina visits, nonetheless took a break Friday from courting the state's 700 Club membership to woo a broader, more diverse demographic.
That's right, the Virginia Senator is making his pitch to intellectually-challenged individuals who say incredibly obvious things, of which there happen to be quite a few residing in South Carolina.
Here's an example of the Senator's new 'Captain Obvious' strategy at work:
"One of the things I've learned is that you find out a lot more about issues by talking to people involved in the issue," Allen said during his hospital visit.
Wow. They're really not kidding when they say he's the candidate that most closely resembles George W. Bush.
COMING TOMORROW ...
If you thought that FITS' "Who's Hot at The State House" list caused a stir a few months back, all we can say is grab your socks and hose and pull ...
Three special guests are flying into Columbia tomorrow to help FITS count down the Top 20 "Hot Legs at the State House." And we don't mean "legislators," "legislation" or "chicken legs," either.
The list will be released mid-afternoon, so if you want to whine about not being on it (or being on it, for that matter), you better grab a FITS staffer early tomorrow.
Until next week ... be heard.