More Jackson County Opinions...

MARCH 26, 2003


Column
By:Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
March 26, 2003

Beware the push to raise taxes
If you believe 22 percent of Georgians favor the return of a sales tax on groceries - or 21 percent wouldn’t mind an increase in their gasoline tax (with the price of gas already going through the roof) - just to protect bloated state government from major cutbacks in spending, then -
Get out your checkbook. We’re going to sell you not just one bridge, but all the bridges across the Chattahoochee River at an unbelievably low price. And we’ll throw in a one-way ticket to Baghdad to show our appreciation.
With a straight face, some of the big Atlanta media have published a poll of a mere 500 respondents that claims Georgians overwhelmingly favor tax increases to help balance Georgia’s budget. That must be good news to statehouse Republicans and Democrats who have been plotting new tax increases for the past three months.
Most Georgians know the economy is in trouble. Consumer spending is way down. Investment savings accounts are turning into nearly valueless paper. Good jobs are getting hard to find. The defense industries such as Lockheed Martin are among the few big businesses that appear at the moment to have an optimistic future.
So it is hard to believe that any Georgian — much less nearly one-fourth of the population — would favor paying more for groceries and gasoline in the form of regressive sales taxes just because the Legislature and governor are too timid to whack Medicaid or go after the state’s biggest tax deadbeats.
But that’s what the pollsters insist on telling us: Georgians favor paying more taxes to help Georgia’s government balance its budget.
Perhaps if the pollsters had given respondents a few more details, they might not have been so eager to leap aboard the higher-taxes bandwagon.
For instance, if the pollster had said: “Before I ask you if you’re willing to pay more taxes, let me inform you of a couple of things. The Georgia House Ways & Means Committee has approved a package of tax reductions which would accomplish the following:
“- Grant DaimlerChrysler a tax break of $5,250 for each job it brings to Georgia, provided the company invests at least $450 million and creates 1,800 jobs. DaimlerChrysler stands to reap a $17 million annual tax benefit from this little bill.
“- Provide a tax credit of $2,500 per employee for companies whose headquarters facilities employ at least 50 people full-time. Tax breaks for these companies could run into the millions.
“- Exempt from the sales tax all construction materials used in building the $200-million aquarium in Atlanta. That would deprive state tax coffers of additional millions.
“I should also tell you that Georgia tax writers say they have no intention of letting the state comply with President George Bush’s tax-cutting proposals. In other words, dividends on investments in Georgia would still be taxed to the hilt, even if the federal government decides to exempt them. And there’s a move afoot to restore the full inheritance tax to the Georgia tax code.
“Now let me ask you if you’re ready to pay higher taxes on groceries, personal property, gasoline, cigarettes and liquor. ...”
Most Georgia households probably don’t care about adding more tax to booze, smokes and snuff. In fact, a good many of us believe tobacco ought not to be sold at all. It should be declared an illegal substance. But that’s a health story, not a budget tale.
Georgia leaders, Republicans and Democrats, have long boasted of running one of the nation’s most conservative state governments, but when it comes to taxes, that claim is plainly not true. Georgians pay taxes on nearly everything, including income. Our state government purposely avoids complying with federal tax laws so Georgia will not also be forced to honor federal tax exemptions and deductions.
Gov. Zell Miller began a move toward tax relief in the early 1990s when he persuaded the Legislature to remove the sales tax on groceries. (It had already been removed from prescription drugs.) Then Gov. Roy Barnes came along and lowered property taxes.
Now, the current statehouse gang, caught in the midst of a recession, can’t wait to reinstate some of those taxes. And barely scientific polls are helping them do it.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or by calling (770) 422-2543.

Jackson County Opinion Index

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Column
By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
March 26, 2003

Talking about integrity
Enough already! We don’t need to write — or read — anything else about the basketball fiasco at the University of Georgia.
I am going to write something else anyway. The reason is, something else — needed or not — has to be said.
We’ve heard a lot about academic integrity the last several weeks. Nothing wrong with that. However, at the present time, in the present situation, I’ve had academic integrity up to here. (Use your imagination.)
I’m with Richard Wehunt, the pride of Jefferson High School and all of Jackson County. I’m mad as (censored), too. To tell the truth, I’ve been mad all season, and the feeling is intensified during March Madness.
Richard’s coach called him the greatest pure shooter he had ever seen. That being the case, why didn’t he get more playing time?
Richard won one game outright and contributed to several other victories. I believe he would have contributed to even more if coach had given him the chance.
But the brunt of my anger is not directed at the Harricks – senior or junior.
When Michael Adams left little Center College in Kentucky and came to Athens as president of the University of Georgia, I jokingly told everybody he was my brother. I ain’t claiming him anymore. And that’s no joke.
Now, here’s something else that has to be said. I’ll put it in the form of a question. How about a little leadership integrity?
I don’t believe you can have academic integrity without it, and leadership integrity was woefully lacking in this basketball mess.
It is a mess Adams has been involved in from the beginning. Leadership integrity starts at the top. If you don’t have it there, don’t look for it at the bottom.
This mess began when Adams hired Jim Harrick with the full knowledge that UCLA fired him for falsifying an expense account and then lying about it.
With Harrick senior on board, Adams relaxed the University’s policy against nepotism and hired Harrick junior. (“Professor” Harrick “taught” 35 “students” in a basketball course and gave all of ‘em As, including several who never bothered to show up for class. That’s taking “crip course” to a new level.)
At Harrick senior’s urging, Adams signed off on Tony Cole, a vagabond “student” and point guard who would not be admitted to any university that practiced academic integrity, but was welcomed at one that lacked leadership integrity.
After Cole squealed about Georgia’s NCAA infractions, Adams engaged in CYA (don’t ask) maneuvers that resulted in the suspension of two players guilty of academic fraud — plus 12 guilty of nothing.
The innocent players learned of their suspension and withdrawal from the SEC and NCAA tournaments by watching a press conference on TV.
When these players went to the president’s home to hear the news from the CEO himself, he called the cops.
(I don’t believe Athletic Director Vince Dooley had a whole lot to do with these decisions. If you do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I would like to sell you.)
The president justified his actions thusly: They were the best way “to insure that we speak to the academic integrity of the University of Georgia.”
Eric Crawford, in a letter to the editor of The Athens Banner-Herald, asked, “Is punishing the innocent an appropriate way to protect the integrity of an institution?”
I have followed this story closely, and I have yet to read, see or hear where President Adams accepted any personal responsibility for what happened to this basketball team.
But the man has his admirers. Lots of them.
I don’t care that Governor Sonny Perdue, the Board of Regents, and 58 percent of those polled by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution think Adams did the right thing. I don’t. I think he (censored) 12 innocent basketball players.
Dorothy Pierce, a hairstylist from Conyers, summed up the rational, logical, thoughtful, intelligent reasoning of the 58 percent. “I would say that probably a large majority of the players were not at fault. It’s just a few, and those few have to be punished. So in order to do that, unfortunately everybody has to be punished.”
I’m sorry, Ms. Pierce, but that makes absolutely no sense to me.
OK, he was right to suspend Chris Daniels and Rashad Wright. But Richard Wehunt and the other innocent players? No way.
If you disagree, let me ask you a question. Say you are in a math class with 19 other students. Two are caught cheating. They are kicked out of class. And so are you and 17 others. How do you feel about that? If you are the parents or grandparents of any of those 18 innocent students, how do you feel about that?
Let’s say grandma and grandpa are settled in the local assisted living establishment. Everything is going well on the 14-room wing until two old codgers slip booze into the place and start partying. Naturally, they are asked to make other arrangements. And so are grandma and grandpa and their innocent neighbors.
Ridiculous example? Maybe. But when any innocent person, whatever his or her age, is punished for someone else’s wrong doing, it ain’t right.
As you know, both Harricks wound up suspended, too. When Adams suspended the two basketball coaches, why didn’t he suspend all the other coaches? Mark Richt and Suzanne Youclan would have to go. It’ll never happen, but kicking Richt and Youclan out because the Harricks misbehaved makes as much sense as kicking Richard Wehunt and Jarvis Hayes out because Daniels and Wright played hooky.
Virgil Adams is the former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.


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