S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.0902.more.htm

Time to address real problems to improve Palmetto State
By Andy Brack, Publisher

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 issues.

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 done).

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: brack@statehousereport.com.

Recent commentary

Newspapers have long history in South Carolina

More 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 9, 1780.


S.C. 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

lighter side
Different version of "dog days"

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

Recent feedback

8/13: Australia is tip of iceberg, John P. Ford, Sumter, S.C.
8/13: Americans have grown apathetic, David Whetsell, Lexington, S.C.
7/30: Queensland has enterprising spirit, Sandra Plock, Sumter, SC
Domestic violence laws may be used wrongly, Marty Hicks, Mount Pleasant, SC
6/26: Brack is inconsistent, Bill Rentiers III, Lexington, SC
6/14: East Edisto would be boon to ACE Basin, Maggie Ridge, Hollywood, SC
6/12: Protect large tracts, Benjamin Lennon, Short Hills, NJ

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  • NEWS: Grandstanding on jobs
  • SC ENCYCLOPEDIA: SC newspapers
  • AGENDA: Meetings on tap
  • RADAR SCREEN: Not amused
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  • SCORECARD: Who's up and down for the last week
  • MEGAPHONE: About the Iraq ...

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SC politicos dodging jobs
By Bill Davis, editor
From the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

AUG. 31, 2007 -- A search for a comprehensive jobs plan in South Carolina appears to have devolved into a circular game of pass-the-buck. And that's ironic, considering most politicians weave "jobs" and "economic development" into every reelection speech.

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Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. No republication is allowed.