- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

March 9

The Telegraph, Macon, Ga., on base union members needing to pay attention:

There is an election coming up. No, not the primary elections in May where state House and Senate members will be selected and move on to the General Election. It’s not the U.S. Senate and House races. While those elections are important, the ballot on March 18 could have deeper immediate ramifications than any of the other elections combined.

It is actually a do-over. Local 987 of the American Federation of Government Employees voted to install union leadership on Oct. 15, 2013. A new slate, led by President Robert Tidwell, was elected to replace Tom Scott and his administration. Labor relations at Robins Air Force Base have long been contentious. Robins had more employee grievances than its competing bases in Oklahoma City and Ogden, Utah, combined. Union members decided a change was necessary.

AFGE members should be very concerned and return to the ballot box March 18. While not an audit, the accounting firm of Clifton, Lipford, Hardison & Parker LLC raised a number of issues about how $266,888 in union funds were spent from Jan. 1, 2011, through Nov. 5, 2013. The local didn’t have policies or guidelines delineating who was authorized to use union credit cards, circumstances of use or a policy that required documentation of expenditures. Also, there were no approved board minutes during that period.

The report has more, but we have limited space. There also have been some sordid situations since the election — shredded records, vandalism and instances where law enforcement had to get involved.

The question union members have to ask themselves during this very critical time in the base’s history: What kind of union leadership do you want? The challenges are great — on-time performance, BRAC, additional or fewer missions. It’s time union members paid attention. You can bet Air Force leadership at the highest levels is watching.




March 9

The Times, Gainesville, Ga., on ‘No tax hike’ pledge:

During the 1988 presidential race, candidates went back and forth over who was more sincere about reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag, which even then seemed a silly issue in the midst of the more serious matters of the time.

Now a new pledge is dominating elections, this one a bit more substantive but just as distracting in its own way.

Republican candidates seeking office in Hall County this year are being asked to sign a “no tax” pledge leading up to the May 20 primary. Hall GOP leaders began doing so in 2010, following a national trend led by conservative activist Grover Norquist to oppose all tax increases. The idea is to have candidates put in writing their promise to remain fiscally conservative.

Most are quick to sign such a pledge, but a few running for Hall school board seats this year have balked, believing such a rigid promise ties their hands once in office. And we can see their point.

We agree raising taxes at any time should only be a last resort. Governments should balance their budgets and spend no more than they take in.

Yet herein lies the problem: While no one wants to raise or pay more taxes (except maybe Hollywood millionaires), sometimes unforeseen problems make it unavoidable. Office-seekers who throw that option off the table are tying their own hands and setting their constituents up for a letdown. Issues that are the focus of campaigns often change after an election, and officials often must adjust to a changing reality.

Asking candidates to sign such a “no tax” pledge is painting them into a corner they can’t escape. Those who refuse likely will be targeted by other candidates as “big taxers,” even if all they really intend is to avoid making promises they may not keep. They will be labeled as “less than a real Republican” for this wise choice, apparently under the view that all party members must think and act in lockstep on every issue or risk being branded a wannabe.




March 9

The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle on 100-year checkup:

Audits are a fundamental tool to hold government and quasi-government entities accountable.

Without thorough examination by independent parties, citizens would have to rely on the agency’s word that its operations and accounting are above-board.

When it comes to the activities of the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, verbal assurances just aren’t good enough.

Thankfully, momentum is building for legislation to enable the General Accountability Office to audit the Fed, something that has not happened in the 100 years since it was created to set monetary policy.

The bipartisan Federal Reserve Transparency Act passed the House late last year. A similar bill co-sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul is making its way through the Senate. The Kentucky Republican’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a longtime Federal Reserve critic, tried unsuccessfully to get similar bills passed.

Though the proposed legislation provides no specifics about the scope of the audit, there already is substantial pushback from former and current Fed officials, who are used to doing most of their work in secret. Officials fear, for example, that their closed-door Federal Open Market Committee will be subject to “second guessing.” Transcripts of deliberations are released five years after the fact to shield members from political blowback arising from policy decisions.

When government is nervous about openness, it should make everybody nervous.

We hardly would advocate micromanaging Fed operations, but there should be significant oversight. Deciding how much money enters the economy, and under what terms, are critical Fed responsibilities that should be better monitored.

We need increased transparency at the Federal Reserve. Considering its massive influence over the U.S. economy, its bureaucratic movements cry out for consistent oversight. That’s something all citizens should approve of, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.

Government simply can’t be trusted to watch itself, and neither should its biggest bank.





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