By Scott Robertson
I wish more of the predictable headlines lately were positive news. This is the third column I’ve led off with, “Obamacare is the law of the land. Still.”
The U.S. Senate, barring a miracle between the deadline for this column and the time you’re reading this, has failed yet again to come up with a workable replacement for the Affordable Care Act. From all reports, Cassidy-Graham was so much like its predecessors as to guarantee it would not pick up the support of moderates like Susan Collins, yet it was worse in the eyes of conservatives Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.
Generally, when a government body or official undertakes a bout of intentional windmill-tilting, its primary goal is to pull our attention away from something else that’s going on. Just as government action is the main producer of unintended consequences in the world, so government’s loud inaction is generally a leading producer of distraction.
For instance, when it became obvious this weekend that the Cassidy-Graham bill was in trouble, the President pre-empted those headlines by loudly calling out the National Football League for allowing its players to kneel during the playing of the national anthem. I totally agree that disrespecting the anthem is wrong. But I also understand that absolutely nobody in America was in any way harmed by the protest. It was well-deserving of being ignored until it died from lack of attention.
Nobody smells out a nice juicy distraction like the President, though, and of course the NFL players were spoiling for a fight already, so away the nation went, into a whirlwind of buying jerseys and burning jerseys, all because Washington needed a distraction from the fact that it hasn’t been able to live up to its promises.
Another predictable headline, this one local, was written this week when NN Inc., announced it would move its corporate headquarters from Johnson City to Charlotte. In July, NN announced the sale of its Precision Bearing Components (PBC) Group to Tsubaki Nakashima for $375 million. The PBC Group includes the Erwin and Mountain City, Tenn., properties that were the heritage assets of the old NN Ball & Roller company founded by Dick Ennen (and memorialized in the company’s NASDAQ symbol: NNBR). Once the sale of those properties closed, there was remarkably little logical reason for NN to remain headquartered in Johnson City. As an international company, NN will certainly achieve travel cost savings by moving to an airline hub city.
David Mildenberg, editor of North Carolina Business magazine pointed out another salient fact in his coverage of the NN move. “Six of NN’s eight senior execs have joined the company since former Eaton Corp. official (Rich) Holder became CEO in 2013: Not a lot of community loyalty there. One director, William Dries, was CFO at Charlotte-based EnPro and United Dominion Industries.”
One other predictable story from this week at least has a silver lining for Washington County taxpayers. We’ll no longer have to pay the county attorney to waste time dealing with a lawsuit challenging the county commission’s right to redistrict more than once every ten years. While one may not agree with the law allowing the county to do so, it is the law, and it is not ambiguously written. There’s a difference between trying to get a bad law changed and trying to punish someone for following a bad law.
Of course, the county commission would argue it’s not a bad law at all. By redistricting, the commission spent money to more closely equalize the size of the districts, thus bringing each district closer to equal representation.