Wednesday, November 25, 2009

All politics is local - especially stimulus politics

A testy flappette erupted Monday night at the City Council meeting, involving the conjoined issues of federal stimulus money and the degree to which any district rep should go against the wishes of a fellow district rep on an issue in his own district.

The issue was whether to award a contract for $639,362 in stimulus bucks. The money will pay for fiber optic cables and cameras and other techno-equipment to let traffic lights on 13 miles of N.C. 51 (Pineville-Matthews Road) and about a mile of Providence Road south of N.C. 51 adjust their timing in response to traffic. I.e., better traffic flow, fewer backups at lights. Want more details? Here's a link to the agenda, see page 18.

As it happens, the project is almost entirely inside District 7, represented by Republican Warren Cooksey.

And for months, Cooksey has been pulling a Mark Sanford routine, although in his case it's not trysts with an Argentine soulmate or questionable use of funds, just Sanford's refusal of federal stimulus money for South Carolina. Cooksey's been voting against any measure that involves federal stimulus money. He opposes the stimulus spending because it raises the national deficit, because the president and Congress are Democrats (he doesn't say that, but you get the idea), yada yada. You know the arguments.

Meantime, just about every time you say hello to Republican Mayor Pat McCrory, he goes off about how the Democrats are horribly misspending all that stimulus money and how dumb they're being, etc. etc. I don't even talk to him that much and I've heard it at least a half-dozen times. He played that riff again Monday night. I imagine some council members might be a wee bit annoyed at the endless Demo-bashing.

In other words, partisan national politics is infesting council operations – no surprise, and not the first time.

This time, though, the partisan stuff got tangled in an existing, informal pattern among district reps that says you generally don't oppose another district rep's position on issues in his/her district. It's not a firm agreement, nor always followed. But you see it a lot in zoning cases, for instance. (For the record, I wish district reps would apply their own judgment to those zoning issues instead of letting the one person who's more apt to be swayed by shallow NIMBY concerns control the whole shebang. But that's a posting for another day.)

Monday night, some council members wondered aloud: If the district rep opposes this, why should we be for it? (Purely coincidentally all were Democrats).

Democrat Michael Barnes, District 4, said (I'm paraphrasing here), If a district rep doesn't believe in projects in his district, why should we support them?

Democratic at-large rep Susan Burgess pointed out for anyone watching on TV that she would support the spending to help traffic on N.C. 51, even though the district rep opposed it.

Then Republican at-large rep John Lassiter, who lives near N.C. 51, got surprisingly testy. It was as though he had been holding inside weeks worth of anger at Democratic council members. Trust me, the guy was angry. He said (again, I'm paraphrasing), I don't understand how you [i.e. the Democrats] would choose to vindictively punish the people in the district just because their rep is acting on his conscience.

In the end, the measure passed, but four district reps voted no: Barnes, District 3 Warren Turner, District 2 James Mitchell, and – no surprise – Warren Cooksey.


Mia said...

This polarization is getting old. I can't stand either party, but I'm not about to bash the Dem's as it is their turn to run the country. I'm curious to see how that works out in a few years considering how bad things were run before. The country does not turn on a dime and these things take more than a few months. On the topic of the refusal for funds, if their rep wants to take a stand then fine. My district could use the funds instead.

Anonymous said...


You write "my district could use the funds instead." Two questions:

1. Do you know an actual beneficial project for which the funds could be purposed, or are you just in selfish "gimme gimme gimme" mode?

2. Are you aware that the US has a $12,000,000,000,000.00 debt (of which your household's share is over $160,000.00 and climbing)? Do you think your selfishness should be paid for by future generations, with interest to boot?

consultant said...

Here we go again. The blind leading the backwards.

The Republicans are all of a sudden fiscal conservatives. Sorry GOP, you lost that mantle a long, long time ago.

Bush tax cuts for the rich, a huge prescription drug program that is a gift to the pharmaceutical industry that doesn't really help seniors, and two "wars" that are coming up on 1 TRILLION dollars in borrowed money-all this thanks to Bush/Cheney and all the people who voted for twice-twice.

So Republicans, quit all the crying about "raising my taxes". Your neocon politicians already raised them. Broke the bank. Man up and live with your political failures.

The modern Republican Party doesn't want to govern. Period. It just wants the power so it can enrich some of its buddies. That's it. The Democrats aren't too far behind this gravy train mentality. But the Republicans have taken it to the extreme.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, consultant, and I'm a registered Republican. I've was one long before the current crop of pretenders were in swaddling clothes.

What would be best for the country. and what would put an end to polarization. is if the pseudo-Republicans admitted that they are really Dixiecrats.

They should form their own Dixiecrat Party like they did back in 1948. They'll be easier to identify with their hoods on.

JDC said...

Mary wrote: "(For the record, I wish district reps would apply their own judgment to those zoning issues instead of letting the one person who's more apt to be swayed by shallow NIMBY concerns control the whole shebang.)"

Mary, what I'd like to see are district reps following the advise of the city's planning staff, the zoning committee and the majority of neighborhood property owners in deciding rezoning petitions, rather than blindly supporting the district rep who is acting solely in the best interest of developers and the real estate lobby.

How do you feel about that, Mary?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Better traffic flow on a CLT street. Now there's an idea.

My father-in-law put up most of the traffic lights in South Florida (miami, Lauderdale, Keys areas). When he visits CLT he goes completely out of his mind at the complete incompetence that had to go into the building of our roads and management of our traffic flow.

He's right, it's pathetic. Did Barney and Andy design this place or what ?

Anonymous said...

Lassiter should have been directing his "anger" at Cooksey instead of Barnes and the Democrats. Lassiter lives in Cooksey's district, so he should have been asking Cooksey to support the ITS request because his constituents need those ITS improvements. He should have held his own District representative accountable.

Rebecca said...

"Susan Burgess pointed out for anyone watching on TV" - LOL

Anonymous said...

"I imagine some council members might be a wee bit annoyed at the endless Demo-bashing."

Mary, are you trying to insinuate that while the Republicans were in power, the Dems never bashed them? I certainly hope not. The Dems never got over the 2000 election results and bashed every move the GOP made from 2000-2006.

Consultant - I see you have fallen for the "tax cuts for the rich" BS that the Dems have been using to create wealth envy in the American people. For one, since 10% of the people pay 50% of the taxes, the "rich" are paying too much. And secondly, the Dems are defining "rich" as any taxpayer earning $250K or more, but a lot of those are small business owners, and small businesses represent 80% of the American workforce. By demanding higher taxes of this group, small business owners can't afford to hire many new people, further dragging the economy down. Put aside your wealth envy (and I'm not one of those "rich" folks, I'm an administrative assistant that makes 40K a year).

As for the issue itself, I can understand Cooksey's stance against the stimulus $$; it has not created the millions of jobs Congress & the President promised it would, and it has created financial peril for our and our kids' generations. On the other hand, while this project creats little or no job growth, better traffic flow would decrease the number of vehicles sitting endlessly at red lights (emitting greenhouse gases in the process) while the opposite light remains green with no traffic there. If there were better traffic flow all over town, that would go a long way in addressing our ozone problem. Cooksey should have supported this project.

Anonymous said...
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consultant said...


"The Dems never got over the 2000 election results and bashed every move the GOP made from 2000-2006."

That's factually incorrect. Many of us Democrats bashed EVERY move the GOP made from 2000 to 2008! You left off 2 years.

consultant said...


I know it's a reach, but you might want to read some of the Federalist Papers.

People get on blogs and want to argue political and economic theory and so forth and have not the slightest idea what they are talking about.

I could recommend a lot of stuff, but why not start here, since so many conservatives want to go back to the origins of our country. Let's start with the source.

If you find the writing and ideas difficult to understand, they're probably no less confusing than the ideas circulating today which seem to confuse you.

Good reading and let us know if you learn anything.

Happy holidays.

Anonymous said...

“J” wrote that "... small businesses represent 80% of the American workforce. By demanding higher taxes of this group, small business owners can't afford to hire many new people, further dragging the economy down.”

Right culprits. Wrong economic theory.

Most of the small businesses you mention are corporations taxed under Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code: the so-called “S-Corps”. This provides them with limited liability while avoiding taxation at both the business and individual levels. In other words, the business isn’t taxed. Any profit or loss is reported instead on the individual tax return (Form 1040). It's taxed there.

And these S-Corp businessmen don’t necessarily rely on turning a profit to make a living. Most pay themselves a salary drawn on the corporation. They, too, are employees as well as owners.

In other words, if you have a big business loss, you won’t be paying income taxes, period. In fact you can probably carry back the loss to get a refund of taxes paid in a prior year or years.

If you have income, you’re taxed at your marginal rate on Form 1040 after first getting to subtract itemized deductions and perhaps some other losses.

Sounds like a good deal to me. In fact, businesses get to take substantial depreciation deductions or immediate writeoffs for new equipment, office buildings, and even certain cars or trucks. That “funny money” might even reduce their paper profit to zilch, meaning no income to pass to Form 1040 except for the wages they paid to themselves.

If an S-Corp, or even a sole proprietorship, hires an employee, they get to deduct the wages, payroll taxes and certain benefits paid. That reduces corporate or proprietorship income, which means less taxes to be paid on Form 1040.

So why aren’t small business owners hiring? Why aren’t they buying computers, office furniture, corporate vehicles and other equipment that in turn mean production jobs for those who build those assets?

It sure isn’t because of corporation taxation. It might be a cash flow problem in paying off debt, and a worry that interest rates might take a swing upward. But something tells me greed also plays a role.

Capitalism doesn’t set a moral wage and seek to help others earn a salary. It rationalizes that the owners (stockholders) have the right to take as much as they want, and tough luck for the others.

Hey, I’m a capitalist, too. But let’s not blame the myth of overburdening corporate taxation. Let’s blame the people who don’t realize you can only drive so many Maybachs at the same time, or live in so many beach houses at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I don't like my doctor.

He diagnosed my ailment and prescribed medication to cure it.

But I fooled him. I didn't take the pills! Now who is looking bad?


We Conservatives who refuse to accept the stimulus package.

consultant said...

"We Conservatives who refuse to accept the stimulus package."

Are you talking about the $700 billion dollar TARP package George Bush and Hank Paulson pushed through Congress in November 2008? Or, are you rejecting just "parts" of the stimulus package? Like Georgia Republican Sen. Chambliss. A true patriotic hypocrite (I think he calls himself the no. 1 hypocrite in the country), who hates all federal money except the money that helps him get reelected.

Sen. Chambliss can call himself a hypocrite because most of the people who vote for him don't know what hypocrite means.

Anyway, you didn't take the pills. Did you get better? If so, good for you! Now what's your point?

Anonymous said...

Charlotte unemployment hits 12%. The stimulus money really worked. These jokers do not have a clue on how market economics works. IMPEACH CONGRESS!

Anonymous said...

Hey consultant. It was supposed to be funny. Let me rephrase it so even you can see my point about conservatives and their sour grapes.

"I don't like my President.

He diagnosed our nation's economic ailment and prescribed a stimulus medication package to cure it.

But I fooled him. I didn't take the stimulus pills! Now who is looking bad?

Anonymous said...

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