Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Invoking her own divine right, Haley dismisses public education

What people say and how we say it tells much about our psychology.

For example, South Carolinians reading the news that Governor Nikki Haley's vetoed $76 million in K-12 schools funding, and another $12.4 to buy new school buses for children attending public schools, might take her actions as examples of fiscal austerity.

It's the statement she made to the media that demonstrates her veto was motivated by contempt for the institution rather than mere austerity:

"We could give double this budget to education and there would be people saying it's not enough," she says. "It is now time in South Carolina that we look at how we are spending."

This, from a governor whose children, she says, attend public schools in Lexington County.

Why should we consider this contemptuous?

It's simple. Haley swore an oath to uphold South Carolina's Constitution. The oath was, ""I do solemnly swear that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been elected, and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge the duties thereof, and preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of this State and of the United States. So help me God."

That Constitution's Article XI is titled "Public Education," and it has only four sections. Section 1 establishes a State Board of Education and describes how its members will be elected. Section 2 establishes the office of the State Superintendent of Education. Section 3 clearly states, "The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free public schools open to all children in the State and shall establish, organize and support such other public institutions of learning, as may be desirable." And Section 4, just as importantly, prohibits state aid to private and parochial schools: "No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution."

While we're at it, our Constitution sets forth in Article VI, Section 7, that "There shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State a Secretary of State, an Attorney General, a Treasurer, a Superintendent of Education, Comptroller General, Commissioner of Agriculture, and an Adjutant General who shall hold their respective offices for a term of four years, coterminous with that of the Governor." This puts the election of the State Superintendent squarely in the hands of South Carolina's voters. This prevents a despotic governor from controlling, by appointment, the state's most important institution.

Since her inauguration, Haley has sought to take control of the State Superintendency described in Section 2 (and whose election by the voters is defined in Art. VI, Section 7), ignore Section 3 and circumvent Section 4. None of these actions are actions that "preserve, protect" or "defend" the state Constitution.

From this, the careful reader and observer of this governor's administration might reasonably conclude that Haley is motivated by contempt for public education specifically, and contempt for the state Constitution generally, in making several of the decisions she's rendered in her short tenure.

But one other bit of evidence begs to be considered.

Alongside the description of the wreckage left behind by Haley's line-item vetoes, today's edition of The State publishes the actual letter sent by Haley to House Speaker Bobby Harrell. It bears reading. Its opening paragraphs:

We are line-item vetoing portions of H.3700, R-106, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-2012 General Appropriations Bill.

We appreciate the cooperation of the General Assembly thus far. Our number one goal should be to learn from the past and avoid repeating mistakes related to spending that put South Carolina government in turmoil over the last four years. Our country and state's economy is not out of the woods yet. We strongly believe that, if we sustain the vetoes and live within a reasonable cap on spending, we will establish a firm footing and new mindset of government working for the people and not the people working for their government.

Our Constitution is clear on the principle that there will be only one governor at a time in South Carolina. The office of governor is not a position shared by more than one person. So by calling herself "we," in these paragraphs and throughout the 11-page veto letter, Haley is employing the pluralis majestatis, or the royal we -- a "nosism" used by monarchs and popes. It grew out of the moldy old "divine right of kings," which Henry II of England used to declare that "the monarch acted conjointly with the Deity."

So "we," when used by the monarch, is shorthand for "God and I."

Has Haley presumed that the Almighty ordained her choice of vetoes? If so, is it appropriate to believe that God ordains the withholding of $76 million from South Carolina's K-12 public school system, and the withholding of $12.4 million needed to buy new school buses? Really, did Haley consult our state's clergy on this matter before invoking the "divine right of kings"?

If so, that surely explains her inferred capacity to see the future, reflected in the part of the veto letter explaining her veto of $12.4 million for buying school buses: "We are vetoing this line because the state should not purchase new vehicles now for a fleet of school buses that we would likely sell to a network of new providers as part of a privatization effort." Before the legislation has taken such an action, Haley declares that it will be so. Again, was God consulted on this matter?

In vetoing the total budget for the South Carolina Arts Commission, Haley and God, presumably, wrote: "We value the arts, much like we value the Heritage Golf Classic, and like the Heritage, we also know that we have strong private partners that have the ability and the willingness to continue funding the arts."

Who knew God was a fan of golf? Does He have a position on the historic exclusivity policies of golf clubs? Where does He stand on the Tiger Woods affair?
And, given the massive volume of art dedicated over two thousand years to Him and His image, is it His will that private interests be trusted completely to support the arts? I'm reminded that the Church sponsored Michelangelo and countless other artists over time, and the Borgias, in collaboration with the Church, established support for the arts as a public enterprise more than seven centuries ago.

We may presume from Haley's veto letter that God has no interest in party politics, because Haley clearly uses the singular "I" to explain her veto of funding for the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

As I have made clear throughout the budget process, I believe private dollars are the appropriate way to fund a partisan Presidential Primary.

But by the time Haley gets to the veto of $56 million for public education, she reverts to the pluralis majestatis and her divine right; they make it clear that Superintendent Mick Zais's judgment pleases them.

There are two issues with this line item that move us to veto it. First, we agree with Superintendent Zais that funding the EFA -- a recurring expense -- with one-time money is an irresponsible way in which to budget. Second, prior to these dollars being allocated by the Senate, South Carolina's education spending was on-par with most other states. Our issue in education is not how much money we spend, but how we spend it.

If Haley is in league with a Deity, it is certainly not the Deity of "Suffer the little children" and "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do also for me." Or, lest we forget, "Render unto Caesar..."

A last note regarding Haley's use of the pluralis majestatis: The late U.S. Navy Admiral Hiram Rickover famously declared, and asked, "Three groups are permitted that usage: pregnant women, royalty, and schizophrenics. Which one are you?"

And Mark Twain similarly concluded, "Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial 'we'."

Here in South Carolina, where we've lived without a monarch since 1776 -- and, indeed, many argue that we've lived without a monarch since 1670, when Charles Towne was planted -- Her Excellency, unsatisfied with the history she's already made, is charting a course that must return us to monarchy, its divine rights and its contempt for the common man.

There's an example in modern popular culture of this sort of monarch; she, too, used the royal 'we' and warned us that "resistance is futile."

Hopefully, the legislature can make quick work of Haley's vetoes today and disabuse her of any monarchist tendencies germinating on the Capitol's first floor.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe she has a mouse in her pocket. Or perhaps she is infested with worms. That would explain her use of "we".