Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007
Time to address real problems to improve Palmetto State
SEPT. 2, 2007 - - South Carolina seems to have spent the
summer trying to prove the old maxim, "Truth is stranger
than fiction." Consider recent news:
- YouTube fame. Millions have downloaded and chuckled
over a 48-second YouTube video of Miss South Carolina Teen
USA's incoherent answer to a question on why Americans can't
find the U.S. on a map. (To be fair, she says she was flustered
under TV scrutiny and we take her at her word.)
- Prison problems. The state's shoot-from-the-lip
Corrections Department director denigrated a draft Senate
report of mismanagement and mistreatment of prisoners by
attacking the report, which sources say was leaked to him
early as a kind of cheat sheet so he could be prepared to
be outraged. Interestingly, the report was prepared by staffers
of the Republican-led state Senate, which received a hail
of fury from Director Jon Ozmint, also Republican. And after
Ozmint's antics, the Senate committee looking into Corrections
problems promptly punted the allegations to law enforcement
authorities and legislative auditors, which means the fury
will die down and the status quo will continue.
- Drug problem. South Carolina's newly elected treasurer,
Thomas Ravenel, resigned and went to treatment after being
indicted on a federal cocaine charge. He's become a national
poster boy, along with GOP U.S. Sen. Larry Craig and others,
for the hypocrisy of lax morals as leaders in a party that
has been strident and holier-than-thou on a score of social
While these overt displays of human behavior don't make South
Carolina look too good nationally, neither do recent studies,
which again show the state at the bottom of the list:
- Poverty. While national poverty rates fell from
12.6 percent of Americans to 12.3 percent in new Census
figures, South Carolina ranked 12th highest at 15.7 percent
- - a one-tenth of a percentage point increase over 2005
figures. In Charleston County where million dollar houses
and expensive cars are de rigeur, poverty went up
almost 3 percent to 18.1 percent of residents.
- Obesity. South Carolina made news in the last week
as being the fifth fattest state in the union, according
to the Trust for America's Health. No wonder the Palmetto
State rated 48th in the nation (out of 51 when including
Washington, D.C.), for relative health, according to the
United Health Foundation.
- Education. For the second year in a row, the state's
average SAT score dropped. Some say the state's 49th-in-the-nation
ranking on the standardized test is misleading because most
S.C. students take the test, while states with the best
scores have few people take it, which skews results. Regardless,
having the score drop isn't a good sign.
- Jobs. The state continues to have high unemployment.
The most recent monthly report placed South Carolina's unemployment
rate at 5.9 percent - - fourth highest in the country.
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Bottom line: News and statistics show that people's perceptions
and the reality of South Carolina aren't getting better. State
lawmakers should take note. There's more that they can do
instead of being obsessed with issues around the edges - -
tinkering with workers' compensation, lowering taxes, working
for coastal insurance solutions that benefit few or wasting
time on whether to require ultrasounds for people interested
in abortions (when the tests generally already were being
State legislators ought to look at what really matters in
South Carolina: improving job prospects, increasing standards
of living for people in poverty, improving education and making
health care more affordable. To continue to focus policy matters
on hot-button issues doesn't serve the state.
Perhaps South Carolina legislators can find the same sort
of courage that GOP U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham displayed this
week when he said he was tired of the business as usual that
made elected leaders afraid to do the right things because
of possible campaign attacks.
"I am so tired, we're all very tired, of thinking of
every problem based on the next election," Graham said,
according to The
Post and Courier. "I'm tired of governing that way.
I'm tired of living my life that way."
He added, in remarks to the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce,
"The worst thing that can happen is somebody can say
something bad about me. And you know what? That doesn't bother
me one bit."
Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report,
can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
long history in South Carolina
than 1,600 newspapers have been established in South Carolina
since 1732, when Eleazer Phillips, Jr., of Boston printed
the colony's first newspaper in Charleston, the South-Carolina
Weekly Journal. He died in a yellow fever epidemic on
July 10, 1732.
At almost the same time that Phillips began his Journal,
Benjamin Franklin's first South Carolina partner, Thomas Whitmarsh,
printed the first issue of the South-Carolina Gazette on
Jan. 8, 1732. Although Whitmarsh died of yellow fever the
following year, his newspaper survived to become South Carolina's
best-known and most enduring 18th-century newspaper.
It was restarted in 1734 by Franklin's second partner, Lewis
Timothy, who worked for Franklin in Philadelphia as the first
professional librarian in the colonies before moving to South
Carolina. Timothy and his wife, Elizabeth, published the Gazette
for four years before he died in December 1738. His widow
took over the newspaper and became the first female publisher
in America. Their son, Peter Timothy, was perhaps the most
widely known Southern journalist of the 18th century, but
he printed his last edition of the Gazette on July
Statehouse Report has partnered with USC
Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly
historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which
is used with permission and not for republication, is
taken from The
South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book
published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors
and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope
you enjoy this new feature.
Under the direction of John Miller of London, the South
Carolina State Gazette and Daily Advertiser became the
first daily newspaper in the state and the third daily in
the country in 1784. the state's oldest daily newspaper, the
Charleston Post and Courier, traces its origins to
the establishment of the Charleston Courier in 1803.
-- Entry by Patricia G. McNeely, The
South Carolina Encyclopedia
version of "dog days"
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
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