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S.C. Noble: Republicans have an attitude problem

Posted: December 19, 2014 10:20 a.m.
Updated: December 22, 2014 1:00 a.m.

When I was a school boy, there was a kid down the street named Rodney who had an “attitude problem,” or at least that’s what the adults called it. To me and my friends, Rodney was just a jerk.

He had a big chip on his shoulder and was always complaining others were taking advantage of him or whining about things not being fair to him. Rodney didn’t have any friends, and our parents pretty much forced us to include Rodney in our activities.

Recently, I read two articles about how our state was dealing with two important issues, government finances and education, and it made me think about Rodney. I’ve decided that we in South Carolina (especially Republicans) have an attitude problem about the federal government -- and as was the case with Rodney, our attitude makes us seem like jerks.

Truth be told, this has been the case with our state since its earliest days, going all the way back to Colonial times. South Carolina was founded largely by the aristocratic “second sons” of England. The first son inherited the family title, manor house and estate. The second son pretty much got nothing and was often looked down on as second class. Many of them packed up in disgust and came to the New World in general and Charleston in particular.

Thanks to the plantation system -- i.e. slave labor; cheap, fertile land; and vast waterways to provide transportation -- these second sons got filthy rich very quickly. By the time of the Revolution, nine of the 10 richest men in America were South Carolinians. The per capita wealth of (white) Charleston was six or seven times that of Philadelphia, New York or Boston. These second sons were now far richer than the first sons back home in England and quickly developed a “to Hell with them” attitude. Put another way -- why do we need them, let’s start our own country.

And indeed they did. And, having once won one revolution, a hundred or so years later their sons and grandsons who inherited the same attitude (along with their plantations and wealth) tried it again. It was called Secession and the Confederacy; this time it didn’t turn out so well.

However, being the stubborn, hard-headed types that we are, we didn’t let losing a war change our attitude. Indeed, now, having nurtured this resentful attitude for more than 150 years, it has only intensified, and our animus is once again directed toward the federal government -- a/k/a the Yankees, outsiders, Washington, and everything and everyone that is not “us.”

All this brings me to the two news articles I recently read. The first was about a Pew Trust research study which examined the amount of money we in South Carolina get back money from Washington. We rank eighth in the county in the percentage of our state gross domestic product that comes from Uncle Sam. While the national average is 19 percent, we in South Carolina get about 27 percent of our GDP from Washington.

It is indeed ironic: our state is so dependent on federal spending, yet our state’s politicians (mostly Republicans) spend so much of their time telling us how everything Washington does is bad and how they are protecting us from this evil monster on the Potomac. And, in fairness, they aren’t just railing about Obama, as they were just as anti-Washington when the last two Bushes were in the White House.

Now think about that for a moment. What if you had an uncle named Sam who favored you over most of your other cousins but you trashed him every chance you got? Well, you get the picture.

The second story was about the new educational standards called Common Core. Predictably, many of our state’s (Republican) politicians are ranting and nearly foaming at the mouth in their opposition to the “federal mandates” of Common Core. To listen to them, President Obama himself sat at his desk in the Oval Office and personally wrote out this wicked plan, and is forcing it on the states under threats not seen since the days of Lincoln.

The truth is just the opposite. In reaction to the failings of the No Child Left Behind education policies of the Bush era, the bi-partisan National Governors Association and Council of Chief State Schools Officers came up with Common Core. And, as was the case with most states, in 2010 the S.C. Board of Education and the Education Oversight Committee adopted the Common Core standards. Need I remind you that we had a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature at the time?

Now, the extreme right has decided that Common Core = Obama (ObamaCore, as some have taken to calling it); thus opposition to it means scoring cheap political points. And so our Republican-dominated legislature is in the process of tearing up a set of rational, state-based standards, and is instead ramming through a bunch of ideologically-driven nonsense. The result is that our children -- already stuck in a failing education system -- will suffer even more.

Although I felt sorry for him, I never liked Rodney. Even as a child I knew his rotten attitude was wrong, unjustified and just made life unpleasant for those around him.

It’s the same with our state today. We (especially Republicans) need to change our attitude and quit blaming others and get on with the business of doing positive things to move us toward being the great state we can be.

(Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and president of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group founded by former Gov. Richard Riley. His column is provided by the S.C. News Exchange.)

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