It is time for accountability

posted Mar 16, 2018, 1:11 PM by Oconee Democratic Party

The Journal, Seneca, SC

Posted on March 16, 2018


The title of Rep. Bill Sandifer’s column in the March 9 Journal should have read “Entire state WILL feel the pain of nuclear debacle” instead of “COULD” feel the pain. Rep Sandifer is wrong when he says that “Oconee County gets only a small portion of its power from Santee Cooper,” the state-owned utility which has a 45 percent share in the failed nuclear project and now has massive debt. Blue Ridge and Seneca Light and Water get about 80 percent of their power from state-owned utility Santee Cooper! With more than 29,000 total customers, most households and businesses in Oconee WILL see our electric bills increase. The only question is how much.

Rep. Sandifer left out a lot of the story about “the largest failed utility project in modern history.” He is a member of the Public Utilities Review Committee and is chair of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, both responsible for public utilities oversight.

The Base Load Review Act was strongly advocated by Rep. Sandifer when it was fast tracked in the legislature and passed with little opposition in 2007. Without the BLRA, the project would never have been started. During hearings on the BLRA, Rep. Sandifer’s questions about the bill centered on protecting the utility investors instead of protecting the rate payers, who are his constituents! Trust but Verify was abandoned.

The Base Load Review Act gave SCE&G a virtual blank check to get rate increases without proving that the VC Summer Project was still viable, feasible and well managed (prudent). Moreover, Sandifer’s committees did not investigate red flags, including design delays, production issues, cost overruns and multiple changes of contractors, until the last contractor, Westinghouse, filed for bankruptcy and abandoned the project.

At this point, Santee Cooper could be sold, raising rates and squandering a valuable public investment, the electric co-ops could be forced to absorb and pass on the cost of the failure, or they could take their buying power to other electricity generators. With any of these scenarios, there is no doubt that Blue Ridge and SL&W power rates will increase.

Rep. Sandifer cannot deny his direct leadership role in causing this debacle. At this point, he is “closing the barn door after the horse is out.” Meanwhile, Oconee County folks are left in the empty barn due to this incompetence and negligence. It is time for accountability.

Jody Guy Gaulin


Citizens United must be modified

posted Feb 20, 2018, 7:02 AM by Oconee Democratic Party

The Journal, Seneca, SC

Posted on February 19, 2018


I read the indictment of three Russian companies and 13 Russian individuals over the weekend. It is a fascinating document, and I recommend that everyone read it. Although it is 37 pages, much of the information is repeated for each defendant, so it is a quick read.

There is a tremendous amount of detail contained in it. I can’t wait to read a book that details how this information was obtained. I applaud the special counsel and his team for gathering these details and obtaining this Indictment.

However, I think that the Russians took risks that they could have easily avoided. They could have funneled the resources they used to an American company, perhaps by buying a Florida mansion for much more than its true value. That American company could have performed the same actions, and they would have been legal under Citizens United.

I do not condone the actions of the Russians, but I also do not condone the right of an American company to invest unlimited resources to influence our elections.

Simply put, the Supreme Court has ruled that we have a Constitutional right to be the very best government that money can buy!

Citizens United must be modified!

Carl Fortson


‘While I breathe, I hope’

posted Feb 2, 2018, 11:10 AM by Oconee Democratic Party

Posted on February 2, 2018, The Journal, Seneca, SC


After listening to Gov. McMaster’s State of the State address on Jan. 24, I wonder, which state is he living in? Gov. McMaster has failed South Carolina in so many ways. His tax plan, cutting $2.2 billion from the state budget, will not only ruin our state’s credit rating, it will cripple our schools. Over and over, this type of tax policy has shown it is bad for business, jobs and families. How will our citizens have health care, a good education, paved roads and safe bridges under this tax plan?

Improving education and caring for our children should be a priority. However, in his speech, Gov. McMaster offered no real solutions. South Carolina has failed to meet the constitutional requirement to create a “minimally adequate education” for all students. The governor vetoed more than $21 million in desperately needed funding for school buses.

Democrats led the charge and unanimously voted to override the governor’s veto. I am delighted that Sen. Alexander and Reps. Sandifer and Whitmire also voted to override the veto.

School buses that catch fire need to be replaced! Democrats have always stood up for our children while Republicans refuse to adequately fund our public schools.

Gov. McMaster conveniently failed to speak honestly about new tariffs and offshore drilling — proposed by President Trump — which will further damage South Carolina. What’s the point of praising Samsung and other manufacturers when he can’t help them keep jobs in South Carolina?

Lastly, the State of the State speech was the perfect opportunity for the governor to take on the Republican culture of corruption in Columbia by offering real reform, but he did not. It appears he does not have the courage to stand up to Trump and the powerful who put him in office.

With two smart, courageous, talented, caring candidates running for governor on the Democratic ticket in 2018, the good people of South Carolina should hope that this is McMaster’s one and only State of the State speech.

“While I breathe, I hope.”

Paulette Keffas-Chassin


Oconee Democratic Party

When government works for the people

posted Jan 25, 2018, 6:20 AM by Oconee Democratic Party

Posted on January 23, 2018, The Journal, Seneca, SC


Justin Lee Campbell’s article on the Jan. 1 “First Day Hikes” at our local state parks sent me down memory lane and reminded me what is possible when the government works for the people. At these hikes, park rangers talked about the role of U.S. government Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps, which “put people to work while building and improving park systems” during the Great Depression. The CCC camps were Democratic policies created under FDR that put money in people’s pockets, helping to stabilize the economy and ultimately stopping the country’s downward spiral. My late uncle was one of these proud, hardworking but poor CCC cadets who were provided shelter, training and three square meals each day and nominal pay, most of which was sent home. In South Carolina alone, the CCC built 16 state parks still in use today. CCC camps also planted trees, laid telephone lines, built bridges, fought fires, constructed lookout towers and built roads. These young men used the skills they gained to lead productive, successful lives.

Having grown up and lived most of my life in Seneca, I have spent many a day at Oconee State Park and on hiking trails throughout local national forests and wilderness areas. Oconee State Park’s beautiful rock and log shelters, cabins, buildings and the dam and lake stand as a legacy to the CCC, a successful Democratic initiative. When I look at what makes America great, I think of our legacy of state and national forests and parks. I cringe today when the current administration is moving to sell off public lands, reduce the size of national monuments and make entrance fees unaffordable for average families. Preserving these as public lands and keeping them accessible IS our heritage!

With today’s critical infrastructure needs, we would do well to have bipartisan consideration of the Democratic blueprint to fund infrastructure projects in our communities that will create jobs and generate economic benefits that will pour — rather than “trickle” — down.

Jody Guy Gaulin


Forget Terrorism

posted Jan 21, 2018, 5:15 PM by Oconee Democratic Party

Posted on January 17, 2018, The Journal, Seneca, SC


Forget terrorism!

Most Americans have a far greater chance of dying from lack of medical care than from terrorism. Let me explain.

A study done several years ago in Massachusetts, after universal health care became available there, concluded that for every 830 people insured, there would be one fewer death per year. The converse is also true: for every 830 people who lose insurance, there will be one additional death per year.

Just to be more conservative, and to simplify the math, allow me to round 830 up to 1,000; saying that for every 1,000 people losing insurance, there will be one additional death per year.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that, because of recent changes to the Affordable Care Act, 13 million people will lose their insurance coverage. That means 13,000 additional deaths per year. And that is per year, every year. That’s many more than have been killed by terrorists in the past.

This is terrible! This is awful. But, wait, there is more to come.

The recent tax cuts reduced the income expected by the federal government by trillions of dollars. Already we have heard cries that entitlements have to be reformed. Cuts have to be made to Social Security and to Medicare.

First of all, these programs are not entitlements! They are insurance contracts that you and I have paid for and will pay for throughout our working lives. Most insurance companies invest the premiums that we pay so that they will have adequate resources to meet their obligations when they come due. Has our government done that?

No, they would rather pretend that these are welfare programs and lower the benefits. This would effectively pay for the benefits recently granted to corporations and the wealthy by switching the burden to our backs!

President Trump promised no cuts to Social Security or to Medicare. Let’s hold him to that promise.

Carl Fortson


Rich get richer and poor get poorer

posted Jan 9, 2018, 4:08 PM by Oconee Democratic Party

Posted on December 27, 2017, The Journal, Seneca SC


Sen. Tim Scott misrepresented the benefits for the American people in the recently passed Tax Cut and Jobs Act (The Journal, Dec. 21), calling it a “Christmas gift for the American people.” This law is a Christmas gift for only the wealthy.

Republicans rushed to push this legislation forward in a highly irregular manner with no opportunity for open bipartisan discussion and in spite of non-partisan economists’ warnings that the numbers did not match the claims. Pressured by wealthy donors who threatened to pull money from the campaigns of those who failed to vote for this bill, the Republican Congress caved and pandered to these self-interested individuals while ignoring the concerns of their constituents — just give Trump something to sign. Current polls indicate that 55 percent of American voters disapprove of this law. Perhaps they will hold their representatives accountable in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

The bottom line is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer with passage of this legislation.  Some members of the middle class may initially see a few hundred extra dollars in their paychecks, but the non-partisan CBO analysis indicates that half of all Americans will be paying more taxes by 2027. The initial temporary crumbs tossed to some members of the middle class pale in comparison to the $11 million-$15 million a year in tax benefits estimated for Donald Trump, who asserts that he and his wealthy cronies get no benefits from these tax cuts. The tax rates for the wealthy drop from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. Non-partisan economists reveal that 83 percent of the benefits in this law will go to the top 1 percent.

Large corporation owners applaud this plan. It permanently reduces their tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent. Republicans maintain that increased profits from this reduction will be used to increase wages and jobs. Others argue that increased profits will go into dividends for investors and further line the pockets of the wealthy.

Removal of the individual mandate of Obamacare will deny 13 million people health care insurance and increase the premiums for others, who may then be forced out of the health care program.

The cost for the tax cuts will add $1.5 trillion to the national deficit over 10 years. The Republicans claim that increased economic growth will pay for the deficit. However, 37 out of 38 leading economists surveyed by the University of Chicago disagree. Numbers do not lie.

Carolyn S. Brown


Let's try some new faces

posted Dec 26, 2017, 4:25 PM by Oconee Democratic Party

Posted on December 25, 2017, The Journal, Seneca, SC


    Whose side is he on?  So far, most of Trump’s “accomplishments” blatantly undo American protections, civil rights, even our progress. Trump has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, crippling America’s trade partnership with Pacific Rim countries, and reversed a rule mandating oil/gas companies report their foreign government (bribery) payments.

    Trump revoked a rule expanding the number of people who could earn overtime pay. Rules allowing states to create retirement savings plans for private-sector workers — gone. The employer requirements to record workplace injuries — no more! Data about worker injuries on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website — deleted.

    Even Trump’s coal miners are getting the shaft. Deaths in U.S. coal mines have surged over last year’s as Trump gutted processes and procedures put in place by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, while appointing a coal executive, whose own company mine has a horrible safety record, to lead that agency.

    An executive order mandating contractors comply with laws protecting women in the workplace — reversed. Rules mandating government contractors disclose past violations of labor law — “unnecessary.” Clean Air and Water Act — demolished. Ending federal use of for-profit private prisons — no way!

    Rules mandating financial advisers act in the best interests of their clients — forget it. Affordable FHA mortgage insurance — vetoed.  Americans’ ability to unite in class action lawsuits against financial institutions’ shady actions — ended. Implementation of a rule making it easier for farmers to sue big agricultural companies — blocked.

Law enforcement can once again seize assets from suspects who haven’t been convicted of any crime, because a ban on civil forfeiture is no more.

    Trump blocked the Clean Power Plan, which focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and seeks to repeal it entirely. A study on the health effects of mountaintop-removal mining — gone. Obama’s ban on drilling for oil in the Arctic — poof!

    Why? Profits outweigh the welfare of ordinary, “we the people” Americans. And who agrees with all these America First actions against “the people” — our Trump yes-men: U.S. House and Senate representatives Jeff Duncan, Tim Scott, Lindsey Graham, etc.  Let’s try some new faces.

Sherry McKnight


Women tapping into their own strength

posted Dec 1, 2017, 7:19 AM by Oconee Democratic Party

The Journal, Posted on November 30, 2017


I think I’ve died and gone to heaven after looking at the most recent election results. All my life I’ve dreamed that women would take their rightful place alongside men in politics and business in our country. Until now, I believed that I wouldn’t see this happen in my lifetime, even though women are just as smart, just as creative and just as talented as men. We make up 51 percent of the population, but where is our representation?

However, there is hope that balance will come before I leave this Earth. Look what happened. Jennifer beat Mike, Wendy beat Randall, Danica beat Robert, Kelly beat Ronald, Elizabeth beat Scott, Hala beat Richard, Betsy beat Jake, and Margaret beat Francis in the House of Delegates for the Virginia State Congress. The overall number of women serving in that 100-member congress will jump from 17 to 27 next year. That is only halfway to the goal of half of representation, but at least it’s progress.

The Women’s March on Washington in January 2017 triggered a movement. An estimated half million women came to Washington, D.C., and 4.6 million more marched throughout the U.S. We want and deserve our rightful place in the decision-making in politics and business. The scales are finally being righted. Case in point, first-time politician Ashley Bennet beat incumbent John Carman, a man who mocked the Women’s March on Washington.

We’ve had 42 women governors since 1925, including territories. Six women are currently serving as governors. There are 39 women running for U.S. Senate and 353 running for the U.S. House as well as many other offices like attorney general, auditor and governor in 2018.

Women are tapping into their strength because they see what politics has become without their presence. There is a seat at the table that needs to be filled by the other half of humanity. I just hope I can stick around long enough to see that 50 percent achieved. With more women in positions of power, perhaps we will finally see pay equity, less sexual harassment, more diversity at all levels of government and business.

Patty Warner


An anti-intellectual attack

posted Dec 1, 2017, 7:15 AM by Oconee Democratic Party

The Journal

Posted on November 30, 2017


Graduate students are normally supplied with a small stipend and a nontaxable tuition waiver to help offset the cost of higher education. Approximately 145,000 graduate students and 27,000 undergraduates nationwide benefit from nontaxable tuition waivers. Graduate students already struggle to make ends meet on stipends of $16,000 to $30,000 — most are less than $20,000. To lose tuition waivers would significantly increase the “on paper” income of these students and even push them into a higher tax bracket. The higher taxes would saddle them with greater hardships and more debt. Furthermore, loss of tuition-based benefits would devastate some graduate education programs by forcing some students to drop out and discouraging others from entering.

The United States cannot afford to allow Republicans to harm graduate students and graduate programs with this tax bill. Graduate students are the nation’s future scientific researchers, educators and other professional leaders. This Republican attempt to impose additional financial burdens on an already strapped, educated population is a harmful anti-intellectual attack on the nation’s university graduate programs and their gifted students. Penalizing those in intellectual pursuits while giving tax breaks to large corporations and the very wealthy is frightening and reprehensible.

Carolyn S. Brown

‘Mr. Duncan, withdraw that bill!’

posted Oct 14, 2017, 4:38 PM by Oconee Democratic Party

Posted on October 6, 2017, The Journal, Seneca, SC


I have long objected to Jeff Duncan’s Sportsmen Heritage Recreation Enhancement Act, but I have not spoken out about it until now. However, a recent event has given me a new appreciation for the value of sound associated with gunfire. Mr. Duncan’s bill would, among other things, legalize the sale and use of silencers.

Our daughter, Diane, was at the concert in Las Vegas on Sunday evening when Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd. Fortunately, she, and many others, are safe because of one simple fact: they heard the sound of gunfire and took actions to protect themselves.

Mr. Paddock had made modifications to several of his guns to increase the speed at which they fired, and I firmly believe that, had silencers been available, he would have used one.

Imagine the increase in carnage if he had used a silencer! People would have been falling for no known reason. Chances are that the music would have continued. Would the carnage have increased by a factor of 10? Of 100?

Silencers have been illegal in this country for many years, and for good reason — they protect people. It is far better for sportsmen to experience the inconvenience of wearing hearing protection than to risk the possibility of a mass shooter with a silencer.

I close by paraphrasing former President Ronald Reagan, a man that I know Mr. Duncan admires:  “Mr. Duncan, withdraw that bill!”

Carl Fortson


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