- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


March 24

The Post and Courier of Charleston on “opportunity zones” to transform poorer communities:

A bright idea for spurring investment in economically distressed areas, approved as part of the federal tax reform bill, has the potential to pump much-needed capital into some of the poorest communities in South Carolina and across the nation.

With a little economic alchemy, Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, hopes to transform the problems of the rich into opportunities for the poor.

Under his Investing in Opportunity Act, individuals and businesses can defer or reduce capital gains taxes by reinvesting their profits in Opportunity Funds. In turn, they are required to invest 90 percent of their capital in high-poverty zones designated by governors.

In South Carolina, where the poverty rate is slightly higher than the national average, about 30 percent of residents live in areas that would qualify as an “opportunity zone,” defined as a census tract where the poverty rate is at least 20 percent and the median income is 80 percent or less than the county median income.

“We could see major private-sector dollars being invested in distressed communities - no new bureaucracy, no new government programs - simply an incentive package to provide access to opportunities for kids who grew up in single-parent households like myself,” Sen. Scott said during a recent tour to publicize the effort.

The funds could bankroll projects ranging from affordable housing to business startups to solar farms.

Capital gains taxes can cost investors 20 percent or more of their profits. But by re-investing in so-called O-Funds, they could reduce those taxes significantly over time. Some details about how O-Funds will be managed are still being worked out by the Treasury Department, but investors seeking a tax shelter with the potential to create jobs and housing shouldn’t wait to get in line.

A five-year reinvestment would reduce the basis for capital gains taxes by 10 percent; after seven years, 15 percent. Those taxes can be deferred through 2026. O-Fund investments held for at least 10 years would be exempted for any further capital gains taxes.

The Investing in Opportunity Act is the first federal program aimed at helping poor communities in a decade, The New York Times reports.

On Friday Gov. Henry McMaster announced his choice of 135 opportunity zones across South Carolina. Those include seven census tracts in Charleston County, including part of North Charleston where Sen. Scott grew up. A large swath includes the Volvo plant in Ridgeville.

“By incentivizing private investment and economic prosperity in low-income communities across the country, Sen. Scott’s proposal may result in the most transformative free-market solution in generations,” the governor said.

The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated Sen. Scott’s program would reduce federal tax revenue by a relatively modest $1.6 billion over 10 years.

Some critics of the idea are concerned that it could simply accelerate the gentrification of economically depressed areas by driving up housing costs and pushing longtime residents out. In South Carolina, state lawmakers need to ensure the careful regulation of O-Funds by the Department of Commerce to make sure they go toward affordable housing and the creation of jobs and businesses.

Credit goes to Sen. Scott and Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, for getting the program included in the tax bill. The idea itself comes via a Washington think tank and tech mogul Sean Parker, who sought a way to put otherwise stagnant capital to work for the greater good.

Making it work will be up to investors and entrepreneurs with a zeal for improving long-neglected communities.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/


March 25

The Times & Democrat on term limits for elected officials:

U.S. Term Limits, the leader in the national movement to limit terms for elected officials, likes what it is hearing from candidates wanting to succeed South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy.

Four Republicans - Lee Bright, Josh Kimbrell, William Timmons and Daniel Hamilton - have signed the organization’s congressional term limits pledge. They also committed to proposing term limits on Congress.

USTL President Philip Blumel said, “The support for term limits of Bright, Kimbrell, Timmons and Hamilton show that there are individuals who are willing to put self-interest aside to follow the will of the people. America needs a Congress that will be served by citizen legislators, not career politicians.”

The U.S. Term Limits Amendment Pledge is provided to every announced candidate for federal office.

It reads, “I pledge that as a member of Congress I will co-sponsor and vote for the U.S. Term Limits amendment of three (3) House terms and two (2) Senate terms and no longer limit.” The U.S. Term Limits Constitutional Amendment has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate by Sen. Ted Cruz and the House of Representatives by Rep Ron DeSantis.

In November 2017, U.S. Term Limits had more than 50 pledge signers in Congress. Gowdy has been a favorite of the movement, having scored an A rating on the USTL Legislator Scorecard.

The USTL believes it has momentum for term limits, citing a nationwide poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates in January 2018.

McLaughlin’s analysis states, “Support for term limits is broad and strong across all political, geographic and demographic groups. An overwhelming 82 percent of voters approve of a constitutional amendment that will place term limits on members of Congress.”

Blumel noted, “We have seen a dramatic increase in those wanting term limits on Congress. More than 82 percent of Americans have rejected the career politician model and want to replace it with citizen leadership. The way to achieve that goal is through congressional term limits. Lee, Josh, William and Daniel know this and are willing to work to make sure we reach our goal.”

The term limits amendment bills would require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, and ratification by 38 states, in order to become part of the U.S. Constitution.

The goal of those espousing term limits is noble. They want a government that functions better and is more in touch. But will a constitutional limit on the amount of time a person can serve in Congress achieve such?

We think not. The Constitution that is the underpinning of the American system of government gives power to the people through the ballot box. Telling constituents they cannot re-elect a member of Congress takes away from the power of the people.

We may be old school, but South Carolinians should look back on the service of longtime U.S. Sens. Strom Thurmond and Ernest Hollings.

Thurmond, a Republican, and Hollings, a Democrat, understood their state better than the right and left wings of their respective parties. Hollings, while always facing election-year attacks for liberalism, was a conservative Democrat and voters approved of him. Thurmond, while always linked in some fashion to a segregationist record from years before, served long enough to see history recognize him more for being a key player in the rebirth of the GOP in the South.

Both lawmakers, most times working together, were instrumental in developing South Carolina through influence in Washington that critics today would call “pork-barrel politics.”

And what of Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott today? Both earn high marks as lawmakers and enjoy significant popularity at home.

It should remain within the right of Graham and Scott to seek a return to office as many times as they wish, and the right of every South Carolinian to vote either or both out office. Voters and their ballots can impose a term limit on any candidate standing for re-election, whether they’ve served one term or 20-plus years.

Denying them that right and sending new faces to Washington in some arbitrary number of years is no guarantee of better government.

Online: http://thetandd.com/


March 27

The Aiken Standard on newspaper tariffs:

For many years, people across the United States, not just Aiken County, have said “I just like having the paper in my hand and reading it.”

Newspapers have been around for centuries, the Aiken Standard is in its 151st year. But changes have been costly.

A shift to digital advertising has been viewed as the “surface” reason for the decline in print media, but there are other factors such as the rising cost of ink used in printing the paper.

Now newspapers around the U.S. are being hit from another angle as a paper mill - North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC) - in Washington State is attempting to get behind federal trade and tariff laws to make newspaper about 50 percent more expensive. The mill has complained to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission about international competition. Newspaper printing costs will skyrocket.

This will have an effect on everything from staffing, space and of course, the reader.

Nearly all newspaper companies are supplied by Canadian suppliers due to the use of hydroelectric power and shipping costs. Most U.S. paper mills have shut down and if the Canadian suppliers shut down because of the tariffs, the U.S. mills could not supply newspapers with the paper they need.

The tariffs began this month and are being collected at the border. It’s an increase of $600 to $800 per ton. May not seem like much, but for us here in Aiken it may mean an increase of 22 percent in costs.

It is vital to keep these costs down, the newspaper industry has lost too many good newspapers across the world and it keeps getting strangled with uncontrollable expenses. In recent years more major newspapers like The Tampa Tribune and The Rocky Mountain News have completely shut down while some are experiencing vitality in the digital arena. Others, owned by the Gannett corporation, have stopped printing at one spot and are printed at another paper close by - like Anderson and Greenville. Nearly 20 smaller community and college newspapers in South Carolina and Georgia are printed on the Aiken Standard’s printing press on Rutland Drive in Aiken.

Newspapers remain vital to the local reader. Aiken County readers do not get the amount of coverage anywhere else as they do with the Standard. We will make every effort to continue to cover and heighten the coverage of local elections, city and county government, high school athletics, the Triple Crown and certainly next week’s Masters. Fortunately, we are able to adjust and modify our business model as needed during shifts in the economy.

We believe the tradition of good journalism and a healthy local newspaper contributes to part of what makes Aiken one of the best places in the world to live.

Online: https://www.aikenstandard.com/

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