Talk Is Cheap…Until It Isn’t

This week’s Courier Herald column:

We’ve long since detached campaign rhetoric from reality.  The activists that control each party instead demand candidates tell them what they want to hear.  Voters tell ourselves it’s just talk.  We know what they really mean.

That’s the status quo, and most of us have made an uncomfortable peace with it – even if we don’t want to admit it out loud.  Then, occasionally, a candidate comes along that pushes the envelope to a point where the pain threshold is exhausted and the discomfort turns to proper indignation. 

Consider the quixotic candidacy of former Senator David Perdue.  His mission appears much more focused on defeating incumbent Governor Brian Kemp than on articulating…anything plausible with respect to the state’s future.  It’s as if he’s been sent on a kamikaze mission from former President Donald Trump, without getting the memo that kamikaze pilots are generally not around to receive their distinguished service medals.

We’ve heard a lot of talk from Perdue, which may be his singular talent.  He’s the “outsider” that has been a member of the U.S. Senate.  Promises to get that office included getting control of the national debt, which his 2014 campaign website labeled a “crushing” $17 trillion, or 100% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Perdue warned that the national debt could grow to $26 trillion by 2023 if he weren’t elected to fix the problem.  When Perdue left office after losing a runoff to John Ossoff, the national debt had crossed $30 trillion, at 130% of GDP. 

That’s his record, on his signature issue.  It’s not surprising that he doesn’t want to talk about this, but instead, all of his talk seems to dismiss whatever the sitting Governor is doing.

Brian Kemp’s central pledge in his 2018 race was a $5,000 pay raise to Georgia’s teachers.  The pandemic delayed the final installment of that until this year, when the state’s coffers were again flush after Governor Kemp bucked the national narrative and Atlanta media outlets by making re-opening the state’s economy a priority alongside fighting the virus.  Perdue called the teacher pay raises “disgusting” and an “election year giveaway”.

Another of Kemp’s 2018 promises was to mobilize state resources to combat increasing gang violence.  A task force was placed under the GBI, and the size of the State Patrol has been increased.  

Anyone connected to law enforcement understands the difficulty officers have faced in doing their jobs in an increasingly hostile, divided political environment.  David Perdue’s response is to say that the Georgia State Patrol is no longer an elite agency. 

In 2014, Outsider Perdue promised to bring state fiscal discipline requiring balanced budgets to Washington.  2022 Perdue is touring the state promising to eliminate the State’s income tax – a tax that generates 54% of Georgia’s revenue to pay teachers, law enforcement, etc. – without a hint as to what he would cut or where he would make up the lost revenue. 

“Other states have figured it out” is the usual canard. Someone needs to turn this Washington speak into a Georgia “here’s a spreadsheet, show us how you plan to do this” balanced budget.  Meanwhile, Governor Kemp has signed a huge income tax cut as the economy continues to grow.

Then there’s the state’s Economic Development track record of success.  There was a time when businessman David Perdue liked winning auto manufacturing plants, like Kia’s plant in West Georgia.  Perdue’s press releases on Rivian are a full apoplectic word salad invoking “woke,” “George Soros,” “climate change,” “reckless,” and “failed”. 

Rivian reported earnings this week with $17 billion in cash on hand and announced a new mid-sized SUV that will be built in Georgia, projecting a start date in 2024 and ramping to 200,000 vehicles per year in 2025.  Outside of infrastructure improvements and job training, Rivian’s incentive package requires the jobs to be created and maintained for the incentives to be earned over time.

It’s one thing to take pot shots to win votes.  It’s another to jeopardize current and future jobs in the state.  Unconfirmed reports have begun to circulate that Hyundai has chosen Bryan county’s megasite for a new EV and battery plant –  a facility that could scale to be the largest in North America. 

One would guess the official announcement may still be a few weeks away.  There’s the case of a primary vote on May 24th that may change the ultimate outcome.

There’s a lot of cheap talk going around.  That talk could become very expensive for Georgia if the promises made by the current administration are negated by a reckless candidate on a mission to avenge his and a former President’s failures in 2020.


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