By Phil Noble
Consider the following from recent news sources:
On unemployment in S.C. and nationally –
- For April 2016, the S.C. unemployment rate rose for the second month in a row to 5.8%, up a bit from 5.7% in March – this is bad.
- The April unemployment rate in S.C. ranged from a high of 9.1% in Allendale to a low of 4.34% in Lexington County – this is good or bad, depending on where you live.
- While S.C.’s jobless rate was 5.8%, the jobless rate was 5.0% nationally – this is bad as we are below the national average.
- The number of people working in S.C. rose to an all-time high of 2.8 million, up 7,300 people in April alone – this is good, as more people are working.
- In April, statewide the financial and manufacturing sector added a combined 3,500 jobs and the leisure/hospitality and professional and business services sectors were up by 2,200 positions – this is good, these are big sectors of our state’s economy.
- In April, the S.C. trade, transportation and utilities sector lost 2,000 jobs – this is bad as these are also big sectors of our economy.
And this on wages –
- In 1996, the federal minimum wage was $4.25 an hour and today it is $7.25 an hour – this is good as the wage has gone up.
- The buying power of a minimum wage pay check during this time has dropped 27.3% – this is bad in that the effective wage had gone way down and we in S.C. have lots of people stuck in minimum wage jobs
- An average living wage for a single adult in South Carolina is $10.49 an hour. The living wage for a family of four is about $13 an hour – this is bad as it shows that many people in our state just can’t make it on their minimum wage job.
And this on the types of future jobs –
- A Bloomberg news analyst predicted that 50% of current jobs will be lost in the next 20 years – this is bad in that there was only 25% unemployment in the Great Depression.
- One recent estimate was that almost 90% of the new jobs created by big manufacturing companies coming to S.C. were filled by people from outside S.C. – this is bad as our current workforce can’t perform the needed jobs of new business.
- One industry analyst says that the average student graduating from college today will have at least seven different jobs over their work life, and three of them have not been invented yet – this is good if you have the smarts to keep up and bad if you have limited skills and education.
- Of the top ten fastest growing career fields, all of them require increased technological and computer skills – this is bad as S.C. seriously lags in teaching young people these important new skills.
So, what is anyone to make of all this good news and bad news? How does anyone sort it out?
There are three big take aways from all this: 1) the job market is in huge flux and the only thing we know for sure is that the future will be radically different from the past. 2) Technology and computer skills, along with general educational achievement, are the absolute requirements for success in the job market of the 21st Century.
And the third take away is perhaps the most frightening: South Carolina is doing a very poor job of providing the education, technology and computer skills required for our young people to succeed in the future.
There are those who would argue that we in S.C. are “on the right track.” And yes, I would concede that we are on the right track – but our progress is way too slow. It’s as if we were competing in a race to New York City, yes if you have a bicycle and are heading up the coast, you are on the right track. But you are in big trouble if most of the rest of the country (and much of the world) are in a race car.
Who wins this race?
If you look at what the state legislature did for education in their annual budget, it’s clear that their main focus was on pumps for bicycle tires and new batteries for the head lamps. It is only those apologists for failure in the Statehouse that think our current bicycle is good enough.
We can do better; we deserve better.
Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and serves as President of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group started by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform. email@example.com
By Cathy Elliott
A reader sent me a text message recently, which said, “Thank you for your honesty about NASCAR.”
Was that a compliment? I can’t quite decide.
Despite my deep fondness for stock car racing, I do realize I’ve been a little rough on NASCAR lately. I compared the race in Las Vegas to a Dr. Seuss book, and threatened to sue Chase Elliott. I publicly called out someone with the last name Earnhardt, which is probably – no, DEFINITELY – just plain reckless.
I have been told I might need to tone it down a bit, and perhaps that’s good counsel. After all, Shakespeare did advise us that “discretion is the better part of valor,” which I take to mean that a little caution is usually a better plan than rash courage.
Oops. Too late. Don’t judge me; it’s an opinion column. I just call it like I see it.
Fortunately, the timing has worked out for me to do a little damage control this week, since although NASCAR is not perfect – and thank goodness it isn’t, because how boring would that be? – they do one thing better than any other professional sport in the world, and I’m not exaggerating.
That thing is patriotism.
More of an endurance contest than a race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) serves as a showcase for some of the team and driver attributes we forget about during shorter, beating-and-banging-style events, things like patience, fortitude and strategic thinking.
These skills are also critical to success in times of war. So it seems somehow appropriate that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ (NSCS) most grueling event is run on Memorial Day weekend.
Memorial Day was first officially observed in 1868, as a day to remember those who have fallen while serving our nation. NASCAR is a sport that is unflinchingly respectful of our country; CMS traditionally stages an exciting pre-race show with a patriotic theme, and this year, all 40 NSCS drivers will bear the name of a fallen service member on their race car windshields during the Coca-Cola 600.
“Each of the names proudly displayed on these race cars tells a story of honor and sacrifice,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR chief operating officer. “As the NASCAR industry reflects on Memorial Day Weekend, we’re proud to honor these and all fallen service members in a way that helps ensure their stories and lives are never forgotten.”
Goodyear is getting in on the act, too, replacing the “Eagle” sidewall design with “Support Our Troops” messaging on all tires used during Memorial Day weekend.
There is a demographic of folks born during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, referred to as “Generation Me,” purportedly subscribing to the theory that individual needs should always take top priority.
That is certainly a less than patriotic view of things, but fortunately, it isn’t all-pervasive. There are still plenty of people out there who believe that patriotism means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country, and NASCAR fans are a wonderful example of that. God bless them, every one.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” All professional sports have their selling points, but when it comes to a love of country, and a willingness to actively demonstrate that commitment, no one does it better than NASCAR.
One of my favorite parts of a race occurs before the first lap is run. Prior to each event, the teams line up on pit road. Before they go flying around the track, a pre-race prayer for their safety, and for the safety of the nation, wings its way toward Heaven. A full color guard raises our nation’s banner to the sky.
Then, with their hands over their hearts, and their families standing at their sides, the drivers and their teams join the crowd in singing America’s national anthem.
Before a single green, white or checkered flag waves, NASCAR always takes time to honor the red, white and blue.
Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough To Tame. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Columns article posted by The News and Reporter on May 26th, 2016
Question: Would you take a college course called “Beer and the People Who Drink It?”
Of course you would, if you could beat the throngs of university chill-chuggers to the punch on registration day. I’d wager that the class with this title would set the record as the sole standing-room-only course on campus before 11 a.m.
Interest and attendance are the easy parts. Now, who do you call to instruct this captive audience in the ways of Beer Supply and Demand? This February I spoke to the perfect candidate, a man who was introduced to me as the “Beer Dictionary.” That distinguished professor was none other than Untappd CTO and co-founder, Greg Avola, who made a science of what he called “The Education of Beer.” My first interview with Greg gave me a mere glimpse into the future of Untappd, the premiere beer based social networking app. Now I had the chance to present a case study to this brew guru and learn how both Greg and Untappd were still at the top of their respective games.
California is full of, well, many things, but let’s focus on two for now…IPA’s and transplanted beer fans from the east coast. I have yet to meet a single one who didn’t have a soft spot for that iconic Pennsylvania Lager with the Yuengling label. Alas, the popular Pottsville ale was unavailable west of the Mississippi and soon elevated to the same status as a fine Cuban cigar. But remember that beer survived the plagues of Egypt, the fall of the Roman Empire and countless other historical catastrophes. Those in the beer community knew that it was only a matter of time.
Sure enough, one intrepid pub in North Hollywood cracked the code. In 2015, The Brickyard Pub launched an updated beer menu with the addition of Yuengling lager. This solved one problem, but created another. To this day we aren’t sure if the owners underestimated the public or if the projected sales were grossly miscalculated, but the rush that ensued depleted the entire stock in a matter of hours. Soon the bar was forced to turn away hordes of disgruntled Yuengling fans moments after they walked through the door. No stock, no sales, no profit.
So what went wrong?
When I posed this riddle to Greg, he first admitted that he was an unabashed Yeungling supporter.
“On the east coast, we take something like that for granted,” he said.
The key, in his opinion, was “understanding what was around you,” the beer culture if you will, and catering to it. This line of thinking lead Greg and his partner, Tim Mather, to launch Untappd for Business (UFB) in February of this year.
In the last six years, Untappd had become the definitive social platform for over two million thirsty subscribers. Now UFB gives the average bar, restaurant or liquor vendor a pipeline into the public beer consciousness. To begin, there is a simple set up available through the Untapped for Business website (https://untappd.com/business). In mere minutes, any venue can create a digital menu through the UFB interface and promote it through Facebook as well as their existing websites. Through UFB’s analytics, the average malt-monger can view popular beers in the area and know what the locals will be searching for long before first call.
This was a huge step towards one of Greg’s goals, which was to find the solution to what he called “mobile fragmentation.” Untappd is, and will continue to be, a streamlined mobile interface for businesses and subscribers alike. Untappd users have the option to search for “that elusive beer,” flag it, and get a notification whenever a seller within a fifteen mile radius adds that brewski to its inventory. The dream was a digital crossroads where consumers can find buyers and vice versa. With over five hundred businesses on board in less than four months, it was safe to say that Greg Avola was well on his way to making that dream a reality.
By the end of this symposium, my head was spinning. Although I felt like I had just earned an honorary doctorate in Avola’s Academy of Beer Relations, I knew that some things never changed. Whether we pass a pint to a new friend in a bar or jump into action after a notification on our smartphones, we will continue to be part of a community that marvels in the simple suds of one of the world’s oldest libations. Just make sure you bring enough for the rest of the class.
Untappd is available at https://untappd.com/. Untapped for Business available at https://untappd.com/business
Columns article posted by SC Press Association on May 23rd, 2016
By Phil Noble
The papers this week had big stories about Donald Trump speaking to the National Rifle Association convention and accepting their endorsement. Among his promises to the NRA was his vow to eliminate gun-free zones in schools on his first day in office.
In Trump’s typical over the top rhetoric, he proclaims himself the greatest defender of the Second Amendment in the history of the world.
No surprise here – that’s Trump.
But, I wonder if Trump would come to Charleston, stand in front of Mother Emanuel Church and explain to everyone why he supports keeping the ‘Charleston loophole’ – and opposes pretty much every common sense measure that has been proposed to keep guns out of the hands of the likes of Dylann Roof?
Will this guy who says he always ‘tells it like it is’ … the guy who like the school yard bully (that he is) loudly proclaims he’s such a tough guy with guts, etc… come explain his NRA endorsement to the families of the Emanuel Nine?
Don’t hold your breath.
In fact, it’s not just the families of the Emanuel Nine that might have a problem with Trump’s radical gun policies – it’s most of the state of South Carolina.
The three most recent public opinion polls show that the attitudes of people in our state are not what the most rabid NRA extremist would have you think there are. A few hard numbers from a Sept. 10, 2015 PPP poll:
- 89% of voters in the state support background checks on all gun purchases, compared to only 7% who are opposed. This includes 91% of Republicans, 90% of Democrats, and 85% of independents in favor of these background checks;
- 77% think there should be a waiting period before purchasing a gun to only 11% opposed. 86% of Democrats, 75% of Republicans, and 67% of independents support waiting periods.
Dylann Roof was able to buy a gun because his background check had not been completed before the mandatory three day waiting period had elapsed – and thus he got his gun. This provision that defaults to gun purchasers getting the gun if their background check is not completed in three days, is now called the “Charleston loophole.”
The findings of an Oct. 15, 2015 Winthrop Poll shows that overwhelmingly South Carolinians – regardless of party – want the Charleston loophole closed:
- 80% of South Carolinians polled say they would support legislation requiring background checks be completed before a would-be gun buyer can have a firearm;
- 80% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats agreed with closing the loophole.
Winthrop Poll author Dr. Scott Huffmon said of the results: “Most folks of any political stripe don’t see this as a gun-grab-type measure … I would hazard to guess that most people had no idea that the background check did not have to be completed before you got a gun.”
An earlier Feb. 20, 2015 PPP poll on the broader issues of gun ownership found that common sense is overwhelming gun extremists’ positions in South Carolina. This poll found:
- 76 to 14% support a law preventing domestic abusers from buying guns. Republican support was 71-17% in favor of such laws;
- 64 to 24% support making convicted abusers turn in any guns they currently own. Among Republicans they favored the measure 61 – 27%;
- 61 to 27 % believe that guns should not be allowed on college campuses.
So, who is it in South Carolina that is whipping up the gun nut hysteria? Let me give you a few more facts and statistics:
- In 2015, South Carolina led the nation with the largest rate of ‘lost or stolen’ firearms per 100 licensed dealers reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF);
- The rate of ‘lost and stolen firearms’ in S.C. was 25.3 per 100 licensed dealers; the U.S. average was 15.4;
- In S.C. today, there is no limit on how many guns a person can buy at any given time in a ‘private sale’;
- In 2009, the number of guns used in commission of a crime exported out of S.C. per 100,000 residents was more than twice the national average according to ATF.
It’s pretty clear: the people of South Carolina have reasonable and responsible views on gun safety. It is the Statehouse politicians that do the bidding of (and take the money from) the gun lobby/NRA/Donald Trump types, who are the problem.
Trump is obviously not going to come to Charleston and explain his views to the families of the Emanuel Nine. However, if there is a member of the S.C. Legislature that would be willing to come explain their opposition to closing the Charleston loophole – let me know, I’ll set up the meeting.
My email address is below.
Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group started by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform. email@example.com
By Phil Noble
Last week in Charleston a large mural of Rev. Clementa Pinckney was unveiled. It was done by 28-year-old Columbia artist Tripp Barnes. It is big and colorful and covers the whole outside wall of a building on St. Phillips Street, a few blocks from my house and from Emanuel AME Church.
In addition to his likeness, the mural also has a short but powerful quote by Clem: “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history – we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”
President Obama quoted these words at Clem’s funeral and it seems that these lines are increasingly being used to define at least part of Clem’s legacy.
So, in the spirit of all of us trying to better understand each other’s history, I’d like to offer a few bits and pieces of a common history – Clem’s and mine – about our shared interest in religion, politics and our neighborhood.
I live at the corner of Pitt and Bull Street right near the College of Charleston. My house was built in about 1886 as the parsonage or home of the ministers of the next door Plymouth Congregational Church. In 1887 over 100 African Americans founded Plymouth and it’s one of the oldest black congregational churches in the South. It is an example of independent black churches formed at the dawn of Emancipation. An early pastor was Francis L. Cardozo (more on him later) and he was also involved in the founding of Avery Normal Institute, an early school for black children.
Over the years, Plymouth pastors who lived in my house were active in anti-lynching and equal rights campaigns. Plymouth also hosted a number of prominent back figures; W.E.B. Du Bois, a founding NAACP member, visited in 1925. Singer and activist Paul Robeson (more on him later, too) stayed here while campaigning for presidential candidate Henry Wallace in 1948. (Full disclosure: the above info is from a state historic marker I helped get erected a few years ago.)
Rev. Francis L. Cardoza was the first African American elected to statewide office in America. He was born in Charleston, the son of Lydia Weston, a free woman of color, and Isaac Cardozo, a Sephardic Jew who worked at the federal customhouse. They had a common-law marriage, as state law prevented their marrying.
Cardozo worked as a carpenter and a shipbuilder and in 1858, he matriculated at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and he later attended seminaries in Edinburgh and London. He was ordained a Presbyterian minister. (So much for stereotypes – then and now – that all Reconstruction Era black politicians were uneducated louts, straight out of the fields.)
He became the first African American elected to statewide office when he was elected S.C. secretary of state in 1868. He was later elected state treasurer in 1872 and was re-elected twice. When Cardozo was elected treasurer, African Americans held 4 of 8 statewide executive offices (but not governor) and four of five congressional seats.
Just down Bull Street is the home of Denmark Vesey, the self-freed former slave who was accused of plotting a slave insurrection in 1822. Vesey was pastor of Emanuel AME Church and when the alleged plot was discovered, he and 30 others were hanged and the church burned.
The rebuilt church was the same church where Rev. Pinckney was pastor and where the killings occurred on June 17 – the same date as the planned Vesey rebellion. Vesey’s home at 56 Bull Street is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Down Pitt Street in the next block from my house, is the home of Alonso J. Ransier. He was born in Charleston in 1834 as a free person of color. He was elected in 1868 to the S.C. House of Representatives and was also a member of the 1868 state constitutional convention that authorized for the first time a state public school system.
In 1869, Ransier was chosen as head of the S.C. Republican Party after his predecessor, Benjamin F. Randolph, was shot and killed while canvasing the Upstate districts for the presidential campaign of 1868.
In 1870 Ransier was elected the 54th Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina and in 1872 was elected to the U.S. Congress. After leaving Congress in 1875, Ransier was appointed by Republicans as a collector for the Internal Revenue Service. With the end of Reconstruction, he was relegated to menial work and at his death in 1882, he was working as a Charleston street cleaner.
Now for Paul Robeson. The son of a run-away slave, Robeson won an academic scholarship to Rutgers where he became an All-American football player. Then while playing in the NFL, he earned a law degree from Columbia University. He then became a renowned singer and then a stage and screen actor. He toured worldwide and became a global celebrity and was known as ‘the most famous Negro in the world.’
In 1948, former Vice President Henry Wallace ran for president on the newly formed Progressive Party ticket and he offered the Progressive Vice Presidential nomination to Robeson – but he refused. It was the Truman and Dewey election and Wallace had formed the Progressive Party partly in response to the breakaway anti-civil rights Dixiecrats Party and their candidate for President Strom Thurmond.
When Robeson came to speak at Plymouth, he was campaigning ‘in the belly of the beast’ i.e. Dixiecrat Charleston. His unpopular leftist views had made him a pariah to some and no hotel – black or white – would give him a room. He stayed at the parsonage where upon an angry crowd gathered and threw rocks through the front window. Ironically, Robeson’s wife was the granddaughter of Rev. Cardoza.
So, there you have it, a little bit of Clem’s history – and my history – from our neighborhood.
In South Carolina we have ‘each other’s’ history and we have our shared history and we need to all try to understand both.
Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group started by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform. firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos article posted by SC Press Association on May 16th, 2016
See more photos from the press conference here.
By Cathy Elliott
After much deliberation and soul searching, I have decided that I have no choice; I need to sue Chase Elliott.
Here’s why. As the running order of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race rolls across the top of my screen each week, there it is — C. Elliott’s position in the race. (In case you haven’t noticed, I am C. Elliott.)
That’s when the comments start rolling in, things like, “Hey, Cathy, I didn’t realize you had moved up to full-time Cup Series racing,” and “Rick Hendrick put you in the 24 car? Holy cow. Clearly he hasn’t seen you drive,” and my personal favorite, “When did NASCAR start allowing Hyundais on the track?”
Fans of the hit TV show Better Call Saul will remember an episode in which attorney Jimmy McGill, later known as Saul Goodman in the series Breaking Bad, was threatened with a lawsuit after buying a billboard featuring his own name and likeness. Jimmy’s brother was a senior partner in a more established law firm — Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill — and prevailing opinion around the conference table was that any public association with Jimmy would tarnish their reputation.
Recent events indicate that this attitude is spilling over into the real-life NASCAR world. It would seem there is a new business ordinance that racing families must adhere to, decreeing that in certain situations, you are not entitled to use your own last name. This can be a particularly pesky problem when that last name happens to be Earnhardt.
In case you’ve missed it, here’s what’s been happening over the past couple of weeks.
Kerry Earnhardt, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s first child and oldest son, along with his wife Rene, has entered into a cooperative business relationship with the building company Schumacher Homes. Called the “Earnhardt Collection,” it is a home design and furniture business.
“I chose to leave a successful career in racing and could not be happier with what we’ve been able to achieve in the five years we’ve been building our home lifestyle brand inspired by our love of the outdoors,” Earnhardt said.
However, Teresa Earnhardt, Dale Sr.’s wife at the time of his death, takes issue with this or any other company bearing the Earnhardt name. According to a statement she made in appeals court — yes, this has gone to court — she has concerns that using the name “Earnhardt Collection” will likely “deceive or cause confusion among people that the homes and products are endorsed by Dale Earnhardt or by her.”
Let’s just be honest here and say that Kerry’s comment about leaving a “successful” career in racing may have been just a tad overstated, but that’s not important. Also, the last I heard, the late Dale Earnhardt wasn’t endorsing anything from beyond the grave, and I’m pretty sure Dale Jr., the most beloved and popular figure in modern-day racing by a country mile, doesn’t begrudge his big brother the opportunity to achieve some level of success in business.
Family squabbles are the most painful of all arguments. They can get personal, and hurtful. They can be the source of grudges that have the power to cripple people not only financially, but emotionally as well. The sad part is that in many instances, like this one, they are just not worth fighting over.
They can also be silly and make no sense. How can a person justify denying someone’s right to use the name written on their birth certificate? Teresa, your current net worth is publicly estimated at $50 million. Do you really begrudge a guy the right to sell a couch and some throw pillows?
It’s just as ridiculous as my opening line about Chase Elliott, and thanks to my extremely vivid imagination, in a way it’s a similar situation — he was born with his name. I just married mine.
In a famous line from the play Romeo and Juliet,” William Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
He got it partly right. There is definitely an odor here … but it sure doesn’t smell like roses.
Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough To Tame. Contact her at email@example.com.
By Rep. Bill Taylor
Government belongs to YOU, not politicians. You have every right to know what your elected and appointed officials are up to and how government bureaucracies operate at every level whether they be towns, cities, counties, school boards or state government.
That’s why 40 years ago South Carolina enacted the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was model legislation for the nation at the time, but sorely needs updating to plug holes that have been created by those who don’t want to be bothered by citizen inquiries and sunshine on government.
For six years I have championed legislation to enhance the FOIA. It’s progressed every session, but this year is its best chance ever. We’re near the finish line with H.3191, but a rookie State Senator has decided to block its passage.
Alone in Her Defiance
Sen. Margie Bright-Matthews arrived at the Statehouse in January elected to fill the remaining term of Sen. Clementa Pinckney left vacant by his tragic shooting death. The rookie senator, a Democrat trial lawyer from Walterboro, is using archaic Senate rules that allow one senator to have near veto power by blocking a bill from a vote by the full Senate.
The defiance of Sen. Bright-Matthews was demonstrated in her lone vote of opposition in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which passed H.3191 by a vote of 17-1.
This has been one of the most thoroughly vetted bills this session. It has had 20 hearings in the House and Senate and by a special Ad Hoc House Ethics Committee. It passed the House 16 months ago 90-16. If it gets to the Senate floor it will likely win approval and a conference committee will hammer out differences created by Senate amendments.
There are only a few Legislative days left in this session…good government needs your help!
Please take a moment TODAY to call or write Sen. Bright-Mathews and respectfully request she stop blocking improvements to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act. I’m not certain if she personally reads her government emails (MargieBrightMatthews@SCSenate.gov), but it’s worth sending her a note. It would be more effective to call to her office (843-549-6028). Give her assistant the message:
“Drop your opposition and let the FOIA legislation be voted on by the Senate.”
Please help me get this important legislation across the finish line. If we fail we’ll have to start all over again next year. You deserve access today. Thank you in advance for your help.
Bill Taylor is from Aiken and represents House District 86.
Columns article posted by SC Press Association on May 9th, 2016
By Phil Noble
Tackling ‘big issues’ is tough. It’s far easier for policy makers and politicians to make a speech or issue a press release with a few snappy phrases and then claim they are ‘doing something’.
And if you really want to make things difficult, add in such volatile and emotional issues as race, culture, sex and money – then it becomes a ‘really big tough issue.’ Who wants to take this on – it’s easier to talk about transgender bathrooms or such.
Recently, columnist Steve Bailey took on all these issues in his column Low Marriage Rate Has High S.C. Cost. Bailey is a South Carolinian who has returned home after a highly successful career in journalism at The Boston Globe and other papers and he now writes occasionally for The Post and Courier.
Bailey cited a recent study by the American Enterprise Institute based on U.S. Census data and this is what he found:
- S.C. is 50th in the percentage of parents who are married and have children under 18 years of age.
- Only 48% of S.C.’s adult males 25-59 are married – we rank 49th after ‘heathen New York’ (Bailey’s words, not mine).
- We have the 3rd highest child poverty rate and 3rd lowest median family income.
- Along with North Carolina, we have the nation’s lowest rates of social mobility – i.e. the toughest place for poor kids to make it into the middle class.
Bailey says, “We stand out because of our comparatively low levels of education, low median income level for men without college degrees and higher percentages of minorities. And we finish at or near the bottom on one measure after another when it comes to marriage.”
This last finding on social mobility is especially troubling. We all want to believe in the American Dream – that if we work hard and play by the rules our children will be better off than we are. This is the very foundation of our country … it’s who we are.
And the study found that “South Carolina is the poster child for this (low social mobility) … the American Dream is weakest in the country in South Carolina because so many kids are raised out of wedlock.”
Read that quote again.
We do not deserve this. And we can do better. We must build ladders of hope and success where our people (and their children) can climb the ladder out of poverty.
As with any ‘really big tough issue’ it’s easier to just not talk about it – for a variety of reasons:
- Sex is not something politicians should be talking about, it’s not polite – wrong.
- Poor people are ‘different’ and they don’t really want to work or have a secure family – wrong.
- We are a God-fearing conservative state and people believe in marriage – wrong.
- The government is handling this and besides, there’s really not much that can be done – wrong
We can do something. It’s not hopeless. We can effectively deal with these big tough issues. Bailey cites two examples: in recent years rates of both teenage pregnancy and smoking have declined as both have become less socially acceptable.
So, what must we do?
Here are four things we as a state can do right now to have a big impact.
First, end the marriage penalty. We should eliminate the marriage penalty for means tested welfare programs that discourage low income folks from getting married. Think about that – government policies are financially penalizing poor folk who want to get married.
Second, increase the minimum wage and expand job training opportunities for effective job training. As Bailey says, “The only anti-poverty program more effective than a good marriage is a good job.”
Third, make access to contraceptives easier for women to avoid pregnancy in the first place. The states of Delaware and Colorado are having great success with long acting reversible contraception such as a new generation of intrauterine devices and implants.
Fourth, Gov. Haley should create a cabinet level Secretary of Families and Marriage to oversee and coordinate all of the above policy changes. Creating this new position would send a strong signal that she is serious about doing something.
Yes, this is a ‘really big tough issue’ but we can do something about it if we look at what works in other states and focus on hard headed cost benefit analysis. Just one example: for every $1 dollar Colorado invested in long acting birth control it cut Medicaid cost $5.82.
One of my favorite quotes is from John Kennedy, the man who first inspired me at age nine. He said, “Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”
The question for us in South Carolina is how big do we want to be?
Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group stated by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform. firstname.lastname@example.org