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High Popalorum and Low Popahirum May 8, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.

Huey Long


FITSNews – May 8, 2007 – Before he became the most powerful governor in American history, Louisiana’s Huey P. Long was a traveling salesman – that simple, unassuming personification of a nation (and a time) that has long since passed us by. While working his sales routes, Long once happened upon a metaphor that would become a staple of his in describing political opponents that were – unlike him – virtually indistinguishable from each other. In T. Harry Williams’ biography of “The Kingfish,” we read:

“(Long) would tell how patent medicine men used to concoct a mixture to sell to Negroes as a hair-straightener. The makers called it ‘high popalorum’ or ‘low popahirum,’ depending on how they manufactured it. They made the first by tearing the bark of a tree down, and the second by tearing the bark up. When Huey dismissed two political rivals by comparing them to the two compounds, his amused rural listeners knew exactly what he was talking about.”

Present-day South Carolinians know exactly what Long was talking about, too. That’s because when it comes to comparing Democrats and Republicans in the S.C. General Assembly, there’s plenty of high popalorum and low popahirum to go around.

In the fifteen years since the “Grand Old Party” has taken over South Carolina politics, the only thing that’s really changed is the name of the party in power. Our tax code remains antiquated and non-competitive, our government structure remains a testament to 19th Century prejudice and our public schools remain the worst in the nation.

In other words, there’s not a nickel’s worth of difference between the Democrats who ran the show for decades prior to the early 1990’s and the so-called “Republicans” who are running the show today.

We’re just paying a lot more now for failure and inefficiency.

Take the $7.3 billion state budget that’s about to be sent from the State Senate back over to the House of Representatives this week. Both the document itself and its most influental advocate – Republican State Senator Hugh Leatherman – are microcosms (well, the budget is probably more of a macro-cosm) of the “high popalorum, low popahirum” problem facing our state.

That’s because at some point later this week the “GOP-controlled” State Board of Economic Advisors is likely to certify another $100 or $200 million in new revenue for the state. And at that point, the “GOP-controlled” budget conference committee will likely decide to spend that new money on a smorgasbord of government programs – much like the “GOP-controlled” legislature has already done with the previously-certified $1.3 billion in new revenue coming into the state this year.

Which is just what they did last year.

And just what they did the year before – the start of a 22% two-year increase in state spending that dwarfed the anemic growth in our state’s economy, as well as the anemic growth in the income levels of our citizens.

Sound unprecendented?

It’s not. In fact, it’s exactly what “Republicans” did in the late 1990’s when state government grew by 25% over a two-year period, only to have the bottom fall out of the national economy in 2000, leading to three straight years of negative revenue growth, the raiding of trust funds and nearly $1 billion in budget cuts to such “trivial” needs as education, health care and law enforcement.

Leading the charge in this decade-old state-sponsored spendfest has always been Sen. Leatherman, who conveniently shed his Democratic label (but not his “spend it all” philosophy of government) right around the time “Republicans” started taking control of the legislative process. Aided in recent years by House Speaker Bobby Harrell, House Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper and a gaggle of like-minded co-conspirators (Rep. Annette “If We Don’t Spend It The Senate Will” Young, for example), these big government Republicans have ballooned our state budget from $4.1 billion ten years ago to $7.3 billion today – a 78% increase.

On the outside looking in on this whole process the last five years has been South Carolina’s “Maverick” Gov. Mark Sanford, who has succeeded in putting the stratospheric spending increases into handy dandy charts and graphs but failed to do anything to even remotely slow the ascent.

And while Sanford has tilted at windmills, the taxpayers have missed out on their fair share of the recent windfalls.

The Republican governor, who ran in 2002 on the complete elimination of South Carolina’s 7% income tax, is now begging his GOP colleagues for a .17% reduction – that’s right, .17% – which he remains unlikely to get given his ongoing squabbles with the General Assembly.

So in the coming week we’ll see the same old, same old … strongly-worded press releases and intra-party bickering, impassioned floor speeches and desperate pleas on behalf of “the children.” If we’re lucky, we may even get a meaningless tax swap or an animal-themed media circus.

But beyond all the taxpayer-funded rhetoric, at the end of the day what have South Carolinians really received for this massive infusion of hard-earned cash?

Very little. Our unemployment rate remains among the nation’s highest and our income levels remain among the nation’s lowest. Our schools remain dead last in the nation in SAT scores and graduation rates. Nearly half of our population is either on Medicaid or without health insurance.

And yet instead of cutting taxes, passing real market-based reforms in education, restructuring government or reforming Medicaid, our “Republican” leaders have continued to spend, spend, spend – enough to make even the most intoxicated of sailors blush.

We continue to hear rumors of a growing “conservative caucus” in the S.C. House, a group of younger Republicans that claims to be “sick and tired” of the freespending ways of their colleagues.

But no such group ever materializes, and so the “go-along-to-get-along” mentality that has pervaded Palmetto State politics from time immemorial continues to make mincemeat out of your money.

Democrats, Republicans … liberals, conservatives … have the labels in South Carolina made even the slightest bit of difference?

High popalorum and low popahirum, indeed.



1. believeitnot - May 8, 2007

We told you so! Now willie has broken another “scoop” telling us that there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats in S.C. Geezzz. What a new flash – not!

The Republicans in S.C. did not take over 15 years ago. The Democrats just changed their party colors. Yet this rumormonger wants to offer his latest bit of written tripe as if it’s some kind of earthshaking observation. Poppycock!

Strom Thurmond lead the way in 1964 when he changed from Democrat to Republican. Others just followed his lead.

Speaking of Strom, tell us willie – when we will learn more about your claim that a midlands elected official has a “Strom problem.” This is so typical of you. Drop an acid rumor then ignore calls for you to “put up or shut up.”

Here’s a label for you: gossipmonger!

2. Carl - May 8, 2007

You’re right. Will’s not making it as a fiction writer. He really needs a daytime paying job. He can always DJ and blog at night.

3. tammy - May 8, 2007

wow Will…good piece…one to share, for sure.

🙂 t

4. fitsnews - May 8, 2007

Come to think of it, Sic WIllie is a lot like John Cusack in High Fidelity, except without the hair.


5. believeitnot - May 8, 2007

Tammy is right. This piece should be shared. Everyone should print our 50 copies for the homeless shelters to use as toilet paper. Please use a good grade or paper to offset the abrasive texture of the text and the fact the article is already full of $hit.

6. believeitnot - May 8, 2007


7. John Cusack - May 8, 2007

Please do not use my name on this blog. I will not be associated with a gossipmonger.

8. Kristin - May 9, 2007

This is the direction all of your blogs need to be taking, Will.

9. Mo Money, Mo Problems « FITSNews For Now - May 11, 2007

[…] – May 11, 2007 – Just as we predicted in our post on Tuesday, the S.C. Board of Economic Advisors announced Wednesday that Palmetto State legislators have […]

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