Posterity or product placement?

February 10, 2017

Inside Insight

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New painting raises timeless concerns

On Wednesday, the official portrait of state Senator Hugh Leatherman was unveiled. It will hang in the Senate chamber beside that of former state senator and lieutenant governor Glenn McConnell. It depicts Leatherman standing with a picture of the Leatherman Terminal at the Port of Charleston in his hand; above and to the right is a model of a Boeing jetliner. Take the senator out of the picture and what we have is a perfect failure to recognize several problems.

When legislators vote to build something, they don’t actually build something, and they don’t pay for it. They vote to spend taxpayers’ money to build it.

Politicians love to name roads, buildings, port terminals, and boat landings after one another, even though it’s the citizens who worked hard, paid their taxes, and saw their money spent on sometimes ridiculous projects, like a green bean museum. Without those taxpayers, BMW, Boeing, Volvo, Honda, Michelin, Continental, Bridgestone, Amazon, et al. never would get the tax cuts and other goodies that they claim they need in order to come to South Carolina.

And while we can talk forever about government “partnering” with the private sector, unlike your government, which is supposed to act in all of your interests, corporations are generally bound to act only in the best interests of their shareholders.

As a part of Boeing’s first incentives deal with the state, in 2009, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the company reportedly promised to create at least 3,800 jobs and invest $750 million in South Carolina by the end of 2016. As part of another incentive package with the state in 2013, the company was supposed to have invested $1.1 billion and created 2,000 jobs.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if Boeing hadn’t met those benchmarks. However, The Nerve also has had trouble determining whether anyone from the state has even checked. We’re not even sure if they count. Just this week, for example, it was reported that the company has cut 700 jobs from its North Charleston workforce. Are those jobs lost from the 3,800 or the 2,000, or does it not matter to legislators because it happened in 2017?

We can safely assume that Boeing’s primary concern isn’t making sure those jobs numbers are met or keeping South Carolinians employed. It’s its bottom line. That’s just how business works, and how it should work. If orders fail to come through, you lay workers off until production picks up.

This is why the marriage of government and corporations is always going to be a little like trying to combine a giraffe with a tiger. Even if you somehow got a viable offspring, you wouldn’t want to put your name on it, and you probably wouldn’t want to pose with it for posterity.



  • Philip Branton

    Posterity or Product Placement…?

    Hmm…. How about “3” amigos of fossil oil energy. Hugh, Port and Boeing….

  • Laird

    You raise several interesting points here. First, no state facility should ever be named after a living politician. There’s only downside to that. And by the same token, I don’t think portraits of senators should be hung in the state house before they retire.
    But the bigger issue is controlling those deals with corporations relocating to SC. If the deal contains state concessions or other aid in exchange for new jobs, total investment, whatever, some agency of the state should be charged with monitoring and confirming that the agreement is being honored. And all such agreements should contain mandatory claw-backs if the terms aren’t being met. I’m not sure which agency should be monitoring this: logically it should be the State Auditor, but that office reports to the State Fiscal Accountability Authority and thus to politicians who might not be terribly interested in enforcing the terms. Perhaps it should be the Comptroller General, who is (for the moment, anyway) directly elected and thus independent of both the legislature and the governor. But clearly someone should be charged with the responsibility for enforcing the terms of those deals.

    • William

      Dept of Commerce keeps those records.

  • Dan Ruck

    You are right! Who’s counting? I volunteer of behalf of The Nerve. A retired investigative journalist, I have the time and the incentive. Dan Ruck, 864-569-1852 and

  • Bring it Down

    Putting the names of living politicians on government buildings, etc, is a serious indicator of mental disorders .. .such as “narcissism.”

    Am so sick of lawless corrupt rogues like Leatherman. People need to start flooding the Dept of Justice with complaints about him and the rest of the SC legislature. The empire needs to be brought down!

    • Anthony Domagala

      Welcome to the team brother! Email us at Let’s get this antimasonic party started! ⚖