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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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 :: Jonathan Pait
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Of deficits and frontrunners
Jonathan Pait
March 7, 2002

Deficit Smoke and Mirrors

During my daily reading of The Greenville News, I came across the article, "Upturn may erase deficit." My first response was, "Hey, that is good." Then a second thought hit me. "Hmmmmm, let's see. The government has been patting itself on the back for the last several years for an ever-shrinking deficit. The Democrats have attacked Bush for his plan that would, as they say, increase the deficit. However, could it be that they actually had little to do with it. Maybe it is the American people out supporting our economy that is making the greatest difference. Let's give ourselves a pat on the back."

The article does say that the CBO cautions that this improvement will only come if the government maintains current fiscal policies--no cuts and no increases. It is tempting to ask a question though. If the American people had more money in their wallets to spend, would that not help the economy even more which would in turn strengthen the current upturn leading to more revenue and smaller deficits? In other words, if we could get a tax cut and even hold government spending at current levels (better yet, reduce it), wouldn't we see an even faster reduction in the deficit? This isn't all a zero sum game. Of course, Iím not an economist, so what do I know.

When is a frontrunner a frontrunner?

I believe Jimmy may be jumping the gun here. Even though I believe he is expressing the sentiments of a lot of people--even Peeler supporters. However, I wouldn't use my nose spray to clear my sinus passages for catching a sniff of that upset quite yet. Let me explain by comparing it to one of my favorite computer games (no, not Doom), Age of Empires.

You can have some great fun at a LAN party playing Age of Empires with a group of like-minded conquest hungry computer geeks. Everyone is placed in a virtual world with a bunch of lowly peasants. From this humble beginning they build a civilization that they hope will amass enough power to go out and destroy the other civilizations and conquer the "known world." Sounds like politics, doesn't it?

A great strategy in the game is to build two "towns." One town is in an obvious location where other players can easily stumble upon it. However, off in a more distant, better-defended location you build the true center of your civilization. Meanwhile you send out scouting parties that you actually hope will come across your enemy very early in the game. You then allow the enemy to chase you right into the growing civilization of another player involved in the game. Unfortunately, you will probably lose your scouts, but fortunately, you have introduced your opponents to each other. A battle ensues of which you are not a part. Quietly you build your civilization.

In the battle being waged between your opponents there will be a winner. However, that winner will be weaker than your own civilization. At the right time you can move in for the strike. Your enemies became your allies without even knowing it.

"Okay, so that is Age of Empires, but this is the S.C. Republican Gubernatorial primary." Hang in there, there is a connection. You see, with seven candidates it is easy to get overwhelmed with information pouring across the PR News wire. There can be a glut of information early on that actually causes people to tune out. "Hey, I'll just wait and see what things are like closer to the primary. Probably half these guys wonít be here anyway."

Also, the candidates early in the dealing can run the risk of exposing their hand. Unfortunately, if they are not the frontrunner, they don't have much a choice. They have to get exposure so people will take them as a serious candidate. You can't really fault them and if the candidate is strong enough of a draw, it can actually help him.

In conclusion, that is the advantage of being the frontrunner--whether that moniker is deserved or not. You can sit over quietly building your plan and preparing to block the thrust of your opponents. If you are really good, you can work behind the scenes to help set your opponents against each other. When the smoke clears, your opponents will have had time for people to evaluate their plans (not always a good thing) and will have spent lots of money. You come on the battlefield fresh and well provisioned.

No, don't start sniffing too much for that upset. You might not like smell.

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