Thursday, December 1, 2011

Better Georgia to take on Conservatives

Editor's Note: The author of this post, Bryan Long, is Executive Director of Better Georgia.

I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. By some measures it’s been months. By other measures, years.

Today Georgia begins a journey toward a better, more progressive state. It’s the day progressives have decided we’re sick of letting the debate in Georgia be between the right and the far right.

It’s the day we launched Better Georgia, a new statewide initiative to bring together people who are disappointed with the direction Gov. Nathan Deal and the leaders of our General Assembly are taking the state

There are too many of us who believe Georgia deserves better to remain silent.

Better Georgiaseeks to focus lawmakers on schools and jobs instead of fringe issues that have made our state unattractive to business investment and job growth.

Anyone who has lived in Georgia for more than a decade can remember when our state was the shining Capital of the New South. We remember when Georgia led the nation as an example of smart business, outpacing our Southern peers with quality job growth and rivaling northern states with our education system. Today we lead the nation in bank failures.

It turns out that Gov. Deal’s Georgia looks a lot like Alabama.

Georgia faces historic levels of unemployment with nearly half a million workers looking for jobs. Georgia has the third highest poverty rate in nation, with two cities ranked among the nation’s 10 poorest places to live. And Georgia’s students are defaulting on student loans faster than the national average.

Meanwhile, businesses refuse to open in Georgia because our elected officials can’t seem to focus on building an environment that attracts the best jobs. This would include a community that celebrates diversity, provides a quality education and maintains a transportation system that works.

Georgia once took pride in rising above issues that held back much of the South. Today, Gov. Deal and many of our lawmakers are chasing every bad idea Conservatives have dreamed up -- from Alabama’s anti-immigrants law to Mississippi’s personhood amendment.

Earlier this year, Georgia passed a law that will cost the average family farmer $1.2 million in lost revenue annually, for a total up to $1 billion in losses statewide.

A section of this anti-immigrants law is similar to one passed in Alabama that requires police to check the immigration status of suspects they believe are illegally in the country.

Alabama’s law recently led to the arrest of a German manager with Mercedes-Benz who was visiting for business. Both states have watched crops rot in the fields and suffered economic losses at the hands of our lawmakers.

And now two Georgia lawmakers – one Republican, one Democrat -- have proposed separate bills that would bring the zygote “personhood” law to Georgia, putting the state’s research institutions in jeopardy. A similar referendum failed with Mississippi voters this summer.

Georgia’s economy is too fragile to be distracted for a minute with these issues. We can’t afford these laws that are proven to be bad for jobs and bad for our economic recovery.

Better Georgia is dedicated to fighting the nonsense that somehow passes for “common sense” under the Gold Dome these days. We’re dedicated to organizing Georgians who aren’t ready to give up on our state.

Take Action Now.

So, what can you do to help? If you live in Georgia, please join the movement.

The first step is to take a two-question poll that will help focus attention on real issues that matter to real Georgians:

Then, you can also join the discussion at
The most important action you can take right now is to tell your friends, families and coworkers that we’re not giving up on Georgia. We are prepared to stand together and rebuild the Empire State of the South.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tax Cuts and Free Trade Do NOT create American Jobs

The only jobs the government can create are government jobs and ones funded by government programs, which requires greater government spending not cuts to government spending. The government cannot create private industry jobs; those are created by demand. Demand is created when people have jobs and money to spend. The reverse is also true: fewer jobs, less demand; less demand, fewer jobs. It becomes a vicious cycle.

The truth is we may be expecting too much of our government if we expect them to create jobs and decrease spending. Also, it needs to be said that tax cuts do not create jobs either. They merely increase profits for corporations and individuals and create greater government deficits. Companies don’t hire more people just because they have greater profits; they hire people when demand requires it. If tax cuts did create jobs, with as many years that have passed since the Bush tax cuts were enacted, we would be building bridges over the Rio Grande to get the workers needed to do the jobs instead of fences to keep them out.

That being said, although government cannot create demand without significantly increasing spending, it can influence where jobs are created. Our current tax policy encourages companies to close US plants and move overseas. Since the tax code was changed under President G. W. Bush in 2004, 58,000 factories have closed in the US; thereby, eliminating millions of good paying, middle-class jobs. We need tax policies that make it more advantageous for those companies to move their operations back home. If our current corporate tax rate is too high, then let’s make it 0% for any and all corporations that are headquartered in and do 100% of their manufacturing and/or service in the US, or move back home. At the same time we need to greatly increase taxes for companies that have moved all or part of their operations overseas. We need both the carrot and the stick.

Free trade does not create US jobs either. It simply makes it cheaper and easier for foreign companies to sell their goods in the US and put US workers out of work. We need trade policies that actually protect and encourage production in the US. It is not our responsibility to bolster the economy of China or India or Mexico. We should be putting the American worker first. We need “fair trade” policies that will actually increase the number of US exports thereby creating jobs, not “free trade” policies that merely exports jobs.

At the very least, our government should only be buying products made in America; especially military equipment. Why would we ever buy military supplies from a foreign manufacturer? In the event of a war, they could easily stop production and make it difficult for us to get necessary repair parts. In addition we are giving away many of our secrets when we allow foreign companies to manufacture weapons systems. This is not only un-American it is just plain foolish.

We all need to do our part and buy American, even if it costs us a little more. We need to boycott companies that have moved their manufacturing and service (call) centers overseas, and reward those which have stayed home. And we need to call our Senators and Representatives and encourage them to pass “By America First” legislation for all government expenditures. That will at least put some Americans back to work, which will then create greater demand. That demand will then create even more jobs, which with the proper tax and trade policies will be good paying American jobs.

The Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson writes and speaks frequently on Faith and Politics. He can be reached at

Monday, August 15, 2011

Let's Make History Tomorrow!

In 1922, Viola Ross Napier of Macon and Bessie Kempton of Atlanta became the first women elected to the Georgia General Assembly. The morning after the election, Napier, a widow, a lawyer, a Democrat and the single mother of four children said:
 Miss Kempton and I will not be the only women in the House for long. We are just the wedge for others to come through. Many will join us at the next election. I feel sure it will be a good thing. (Macon Telegraph, 9/15/1922)
It would have been a good thing, but despite Mrs. Napier's optimism, it was 77 years before Rep. Nikki Randall,  the next Democratic woman from Macon was elected to the Georgia House, and tomorrow, voters in Middle Georgia have the opportunity to make history by electing, Miriam Paris, who would become the first Democratic woman from Macon to serve in the Georgia Senate.

I don't know about you, but I think 91 years is long enough to wait.

It's no accident that it took so long for women to begin to find their footing in the political arena in Georgia, and nationally. There is no venue more friendly to the "Good 'Ole Boy" system than politics, and perhaps no political fraternity tighter than the one under the Gold Dome. There may be no Greek letters and no secret handshakes, but in the halls of power, the glass ceiling is real. And if a woman, like Paris, dares to run for a seat that was bequeathed from one male legislator to another, she can expect to face blowback from the male-dominated political establishment.

In this race, Paris has weathered attacks on her family, her children, and her intellect. Despite being a lifelong Democrat who campaigned with her father from the time she was a little girl, despite having never voted in a Republican primary, despite having run and won election as a Democrat, despite her tireless support of Democratic causes and candidates (including President Obama), despite earning the endorsement of groups like Georgia's WIN List and EMILY's List who ONLY support Democratic women - facts be damned -Paris has been attacked for being "a Republican." Why? Because that's what happens when you take on the Good 'Ole Boy system. The truth is less important than winning, less important than holding on to power, less important than maintaining the status quo, and less important than keeping the glass ceiling intact. Paris' composure in the face of these withering, mean-spirited and baseless attacks is a testament to the qualities she will bring to her service in the Georgia Senate.

A WIN List endorsement is no easy get, and Paris earned it. Georgia's WIN List exists to provide progressive Democratic women with the scaffolding they need to run for office and WIN. Georgia's WIN List has a single purpose: to elect progressive Democratic women to state level office in Georgia. While I am no longer on the board of WIN List, I am proud of the organization's accomplishments and, more than ever, believe in the efficacy of the mission. Far too few women hold elected office. Despite the fact that more women will vote tomorrow than men, according to the Rutgers' Center for American Women in Politics  , Georgia currently ranks 25th in the nation for the percentage of women serving in the General Assembly. Currently, only 23.3% of those serving in the Georgia legislature are women, and only 8 women serve in the Georgia Senate. Georgia women hold no statewide offices, no congressional seats and neither United States Senate seat. We can change those numbers one election at at time.

As bad as those stats sound, they represent an improvement over 2010, when Georgia ranked 37th nationally with women holding fewer than 20% of all legislative seats. African American women face even greater challenges. Nationally, of the 1,740 women who serve in state legislatures, only 239 are African American. At 22, more African American women serve in the Georgia Legislature than in any other state.  Since 2000, Georgia's WIN List has had a hand in helping to support and elect most of these outstanding women.

Tomorrow, voters in Middle Georgia have the opportunity to elect Miriam Paris, an outstanding Democratic woman, a woman for whom service is second nature and who demonstrated the toughness necessary to weather the storms of this campaign with the sort of grace and dignity we would all do well to emulate. I think Ms. Napier would have liked Ms. Paris - a lot. Now, let's elect her.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Greed is the new American Religion

Greed is rapidly replacing Christianity as the dominant religion in the United States. Our love for the god of money is replacing our love for the Lord our God. We are allowing the worship of wealth to come before the worship of God, a direct violation of the first Commandment. This love of the almighty dollar affects not only the so called super rich but people at all socio-economic levels. No matter how much we have, or don’t have, we always want more. As Ecclesiastes 5:10 tells us, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” And, as Timothy reminds us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

We see this love of money even within the church. There are pastors who are more concerned about increasing their personal income, than they are about witnessing to their faith in Jesus Christ. Churches at the local and denominational level are more concerned about self-preservation than they are about doing the work of Jesus Christ in the world. Even when they talk about our need to bring more people to Christ, their subtext is often, “more people equals more dollars.”

At the national level we are willing to sell out the elderly, the disabled, the veteran, the most vulnerable among us to ensure additional wealth for those at the top. We should remember the words of Jesus from Luke 12:48 “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” Unfortunately, we keep score by who has the most things of this world and we honor those who accumulate the most wealth instead of those most faithful to the teachings of scripture.

In addition to failing to live up to the contract our government made with us, the citizens of this nation who paid into a retirement fund and a retirement medical insurance program our entire working life (Social Security and Medicare), cuts to those programs are also violate the fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and mother,” as well as violating the commandments Jesus gave us to care for the most vulnerable among us. These commandments were intended not only for us as individuals, but also for us collectively as a society. After all, a nation is simply a large group of individuals. What is good for one is good for all.

At the same time we refuse to cut spending on our savior, the military-industrial complex. We put our trust in our military power instead of in the Lord our God. When attacked, as we were on Sept. 11, 2001, we failed to listen to Jesus who tells us to, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Mt 5:44) and turned to the military for vengeance even though God clearly says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” (Duet. 32:35)

We could save billions if not trillions of dollars if we would simply declare an end to World War II and bring those troops home. We do not need to continue occupying Germany, Japan, Italy and other nations in Europe and Asia. History tells us that empires fell when they over extended themselves and tried to occupy and control more of the world than they were capable of. We need to allow other nations to take care of themselves and focus more on our own people. We could easily balance the budget if we would stop fighting unnecessary, unwinnable wars; stop producing weapons we don’t need; and bring the troops home for Iraq and Afghanistan as well.

Who do you love; I mean really love, God or wealth? Who do you trust; I mean really trust to protect you, Jesus or the military?

The Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson is a member of the South Georgia Annual Conference. He writes and speaks frequently on Faith and Politics. He can be reached at

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Macon Politics: This is the "Knock at Midnight"

On Tuesday, Maconites will go to the polls to vote for Mayor, Council and, in two special elections, will choose  new members for our local legislative delegation. Maybe elections are like labor, with the pain and stress forgotten once the election is over, but, if not, these campaigns have been among the most painful and divisive in memory. The overt attempts on the part of some to gain a political advantage by exacerbating the racial divide in our community threatens to undo the sincere work of many to address and heal past injustice and inequity and affirm our diversity as a strength. Any candidate who is willing to divide our community in this way, for personal power, is unfit to serve. On Friday, Rev. Eddie Smith, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Macon, made history by speaking out for the first time about the tenor of the current local campaigns. He was spot on, and below, I am providing a copy of his remarks.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Permission to Speak Freely?

I do not currently serve in any official capacity with the Democratic Party, and I am no longer on the Board of Georgia's WIN List. As much as I love both of these organizations, the fact that I am not currently serving gives me the opportunity to speak my mind without worry that my comments will be attributed to either organization. So, here goes.

While primary elections are always difficult, the current contests in Bibb County have produced some extremely counter-productive dialogue. We have serious problems to address in our community, yet, a great deal of time and energy has been spent discussing whether or not particular candidates, and their supporters are "really Democrats." This doesn't help our Party, and it certainly doesn't help our community.
It should not be controversial to want to work to expand the base and the reach of the Party I, along with many others, have worked so hard to support. If we really believe that the Democratic Party has something important and unique to of...fer to our community, our state and our nation, then we should not treat it as a social club where only those who know the secret handshake need bother trying to join. Creating narrow litmus tests for membership will ensure that we are the minority party in this state for a long, long time. We should define ourselves by our core values, most simply put that we believe that the rising tide should lift all boats, and never by any other measure. We should welcome those who want to be a part, especially those with the energy and vision of youth, and those of at any station in life who wish to commit themselves to working to make our community a better place to live, work and raise a family. Further, a willingness to work collaboratively with those of different political parties for the good of the community is an attribute, not a sign of disloyalty. In fact, a political party is only relevant to the extent it offers real solutions to the challenges we face. I would say we are in this boat together, but in reality, if we insist on narrow tests of allegiance, particularly tests that begin and end with the support of a particular candidate, we won't need a boat at all. A canoe will do.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

WIN List Endorses Paris for Senate

Today, Georgia's WIN List announced their endorsement of Miriam Paris, candidate for an open state senate seat here in Middle Georgia (SD26). With a track record of endorsing candidates who ultimately WIN their races, a WIN endorsement is no easy get and signals a strong, progressive Democratic women who, with the right support, is poised to WIN her race. (These WIN women mean business. In 2010, 26 of WIN's 28 endorsed candidates won their races, and WIN helped defeat a Republican incumbent to reclaim one of only seven state legislative seats in the nation that flipped R to D is 2010.)

Most people are shocked when I tell them that when Paris wins her race, she will become just the 9th women in the Georgia Senate. That's right, currently only eight women, seven Democrats and one Republican, serve in that chamber. Incredible, right?

I am no longer on the WIN Board, but as past chair and Middle Georgia resident, I'd like to add my hearty "AMEN" to WIN's endorsement, and urge others to support Miriam with their vote, contributions and volunteer hours. Paris is a highly qualified businesswomen who most recently served as President of Macon City Council. Paris, a Democrat, has demonstrated an ability to bring people together to tackle tough issues. For example, despite the toughest economic climate many have ever experienced, Paris worked with her fellow council members and the Mayor to balance the budget and build the reserves while resisting tax increases.

But, all that wouldn't have been enough for Georgia's WIN List. As past chair of the organization, I am well-familiar with WIN's tough, three-prong endorsement criteria  that examines the 1) candidate; 2) the campaign and 3) the district.  The bottom line? WIN's goal is to increase the number of progressive Democratic women in the Georgia Legislature, so they only endorse outstanding candidates who, with the right support, are poised to WIN their races - women like Miriam Paris. In this race, there's a great opportunity to make a REAL difference!