On the job training for elected officials can be tough, and costly

Culleton on Carroll

July 21, 2011|By John Culleton

Often, the best ideas for a column come from readers.

One reader recently objected to a column about Republicans vs. Democrats and said the real issue for voters is, instead, the people vs. elected officials of both parties.

He wanted to throw all the rascals out. I think he failed to note that all of those rascal officials were chosen by the people not so long ago.

All of our local officials, all of our Carroll County delegation and our representatives to Congress are Republicans.

You'd have to get to the level of statewide officials before you could find a Democratic rascal to terminate.

Of course, one can throw the rascals out in the Republican primary; the voters tried that last time. But the voters may have jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

Only one current commissioner out of five has previously served as a commissioner — and she was voted out after one term in her previous incarnation.

In my analysis, she got in office again because in her district, the vote was split among many primary contenders. She certainly was not the majority choice.

That happened before, years ago, in a Democratic primary for the office of governor. The vote was divided among three serious candidates; and George Mahoney, who had never held political office before and was a member of the Dixiecrat-style segregationist wing of party.

With less than 30 percent of the primary vote, Mahoney got the nomination. So, most Democrats were forced to vote for the Republican in the general election. To my everlasting sorrow, I too cast a vote for Spiro Agnew.

Somehow, I don't think a commission of political novices is always a good idea. On the job training can be expensive for the public, and ignorance of local political history is not bliss.

I suggest going back to three commissioners, elected at-large. The county is small enough to be governed by such a body. And if there must be three Republicans, at least it will be the three best Republicans, as decided by voters in all parts of the county.

Another email I received castigated all citizens who accept a government check. This writer wanted to deny voting rights to those who accepted government assistance because of poverty.

Indeed, centuries ago in merry ol' England, one had to be a property owner to vote. The poor need not apply.

But then, I recall a story about a woman, married and with a baby, who worked a minimum wage job at a bank. Her husband had worked in construction, but sickle cell anemia laid him low.

So public assistance of all kinds kicked in, from food stamps to special shoes for the baby, who had a birth defect. (My son had a similar defect, and those special shoes have to be replaced frequently.)

The husband recovered enough, with treatment, to take a minimum wage job at another bank, and the family income rose above a certain magic number.

Immediately, all assistance stopped. By doing the right thing, they were worse off than before.

There have to be income limits on public assistance programs. But a total cutoff at a certain level and full benefits below that level makes no sense. Instead, there should be a graduated scale.

When Social Security had a retirement test they used a graduated scale. For earnings up to say $300 a month, there was no deduction from benefits. Beyond that, there was a deduction of $1 of benefits per $2 earned. And at a higher level, there was a dollar-for-dollar deduction.

Such a graduated system for all assistance programs would make sense to me.

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