The greatest value in newspaper editorial contests, for me, isn't in winning. It's in entering.
Obviously I like winning, too. Duh. But just the process of entering requires me to review the previous year's work, usually in one sitting. The effort puts things in perspective.
It also lets me see if I got even remotely close with any of my predictions. And in regard to at least one issue, I might have gotten close.
Last April 15, I commented on the first of Augusta's "tea party" rallies that were to be held that afternoon. In that column, I wrote:
"The tea parties can't be effective unless they are seen not as the culmination of a few weeks of planning, but as the starting point of a bigger movement.
"What should that movement include? More than anything else, voting."
Done, as the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts shows.
In the time between my comments and Brown's election, though, the national media lived down to another of my predictions:
"Now that this movement is underway I also worry that the major media, which has all but ignored the tea party planning, will finally figure out how to cover it - and its supporters will be sorry they got what they wished for (in demanding coverage)," I wrote.
"I fully expect tea-partyers either will be caricatured as ... windmill-tilting loonies, or blown off as disgruntled Republicans in venting-sore-loser mode over the loss of the White House and Congress."
It was precisely those caricatures that left the major media so shocked when they discovered the tea party movement wasn't just going to wave signs and go home - which, frankly, is what I had expected them to do myself.
The question is whether this movement, much of it based on the mad-as-hell philosophy of anti-government, also will play in state and even local elections here.
Brett McGuire certainly seemed to be trying to tap into it last week in his announcement that he's running against Ron Cross for chairman of the county commission. His claim that Columbia County government is run like "Obamanomics," though, is just eye-rollingly silly.
Speaking of silly, the manufactured outrage over comments last week by South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer certainly fit that definition.
I've mostly considered Bauer as little more than the best excuse for Mark Sanford not to resign as governor - because Bauer would then be able to take over. But even if Bauer's comments weren't exactly politically correct, they make a correct point.
The Greenville News reported that Bauer, during a town hall meeting, said his grandmother "told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed.
"The problem is, there are too many folks now who don't have to do a thing," he said. "In government, we continue to reward bad behavior. Anytime we give somebody money, we're rewarding them. We're telling them to keep doing what they're doing."
Naturally, some people are trying to make it sound as if Bauer was equating welfare recipients with animals.
But even if made in the most touchy-feely way possible, the truth is inescapable: Government gets more of what it subsidizes. We've spent trillions on poverty, and now we have more poverty.
For decades, the government paid women to have children as long as they didn't have a man around the house. What did we get? An alarming, if not unexpected, rise in single-parent homes - a key indicator of poverty.
What did the government require in return for that money? Nothing - not even the suggestion of responsible behavior. It wasn't until the relatively mild welfare reforms of the Clinton era that we saw some turnaround in that attitude, but the current economic climate is bound to wipe out that progress.
Critics can disagree with Bauer's choice of phrases all they like, but being polite and throwing money at the problem hasn't helped. Maybe it's worth trying the opposite.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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