Darts and laurels

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 17, 2009

Dart to “gotcha” journalism ó this week’s example being the rabid rush to pillory N.C. Sen. Richard Burr because he told his wife to withdraw some emergency cash from an ATM at the onset of last fall’s credit crisis. Although Burr has described the ATM episode previously, the anecdote drew wider attention this week after he included it in a speech in Hendersonville. From the tenor of the reaction among national (and some state) media, you’d have thought the Republican senator had robbed an ATM, rather than made some weekend withdrawals. Liberal commentators leapt to the attack, including MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, who designated Burr “Worst Person in the World.”
In reality, as anyone could see who read the account of Burr’s speech in the Hendersonville Times-News, the ATM anecdote was a small segment of a broader discussion of the economic crisis. Burr used the episode to make a point about the severity of the credit freeze.
Of course, all’s fair in war and politics. Since he’s up for re-election, Burr should realize that any perceived vulnerability will be exploited to the fullest. Rather than take the criticism seriously, he should just point out that, as a staunch conservative, he follows a pay-as-you-go philosophy ó and ATMs facilitate that approach.
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Laurels to the nation’s public libraries, which are being celebrated during National Library Week (April 12-18). National Library Week was conceived in the mid-1950s out of concern that Americans were spending less time with books and more with radios and TVs ó and this was before 100-channel cable packages and the Internet. Library supporters believed that once people were motivated to read, they would support and use libraries. Today, the role of libraries has greatly expanded. On any given day ó every day, in reality ó local patrons come to the Rowan Public Library seeking information about countless subjects and areas of interest, from help with homework to guidance for job searches and genealogical explorations. Our libraries do more than ever, which makes them more important than ever. They deserve our support ó and our thanks.
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Dart to the complexities of the U.S. tax code. This is a perennial complaint that inevitably roils the mind each year around April 15. While taxation rates and government spending inevitably spur debates on the left and right (re this week’s “tea party” protests), there’s near universal agreement that the tax code itself is a byzantine monstrosity. President Obama, like his predecessors, has vowed to simplify the tax code. Good luck with that. Special interests hold sway here as much as everywhere, and guess what: Those special interests include ordinary citizens. Anybody want to volunteer to give up their mortgage-interest deduction ó or Hope tax credit for college tuition?