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October 08, 2010



I was just at the debate - good job with the live blogging. This does a very good job of encapsulating what was said at the debate. The venue was very crowded, and seemed to be in Lawson's favor.

Price and Lawson both do a good job of answering questions. But Lawson has a precise vision and articulated his points better.

IMO, Price did a lot of blaming all of today's problems on Bush, but takes credit for the accomplishments of the 90's. You can't have it both ways. If Bush gets the blame for the deficit, then Clinton gets the credit for the 90's. Or Congress gets the credit for the 90's and Congress gets the blame for our current financial problems.

So, thank you Bull City Rising for helping put on a well run, even-handed debate. I'll be headed to the voting booth in a couple of weeks to cast my vote for BJ Lawson.


I went to the debate, but the venue was so tiny that a lot of us were left standing outside. Thanks for the blog post to encapsulate it for those of us who weren't allowed in.

Rachel makes a good point about how Price tries to split the credit for government decisions based on who was president at the time, not how he personally voted.

"BP is responsible, and should pay."

True. But if Price thinks that about BP, why didn't he think that about AT&T, which illegally spied on American citizens? Price voted to give the huge telecoms retroactive immunity, virtually ensuring that companies will continue to go along with illegal domestic spying programs in the future.

When you add these double standards to Price's lack of an economic vision, he's not the type of guy you can feel good casting a vote for.


Thank you, Lawson lackeys, for your thoughtful position papers. Take notice, people! The republican ticket is the way to go for all you clear-thinking either-or types! And all you pirate party haters and hi-tech conspiracy theorists, Lawson is your man, too!

Now all we need is some thoughtful political analysis!


Thank you. It was a good debate and I only wish that there was more room for the folks standing outside.
Listening to Price answer questions felt like we were listening to an outsider or someone who didn't live here. He always took a long time answering questions, constantly went over the time limits and yet at the end never really gave us clear and believable answers?
Lawson on the other hand, connected with the audience very well. He made us feel like we were genuinely listening to someone who lives here and shared our concerns. Not only did Mr. Lawson apply common sense, but he clearly articulated intelligently all his answers much better than Mr. Price.
I think it is time for Mr. Price to step aside and enjoy retirement. BJ Lawson is absolutely more trust-worthy to represent us in North Carolina.


Seriously, Lawson campaign staff. That guy is full of fluff! He sounds and looks good, but the substance behind his answers is nuts! He's to the right of Jesse Helms. Abolish the Dept. of Education? Pull out of the UN? Federal govt has no constitutional role in restricting offshore drilling? That's just crazy talk. I will grant that he does a really good job of making it sound like he's on your side, but you can put lipstick on a tea partier, but he's still a tea partier.


I was also at the debate. My husband, who somewhat on the fence, had to step out because in the back where we were standing in the back, the various younger campaign workers for Lawson were pretty fucking rude. I know it's a heightened environment, but it cost them a chance at a vote.

Me, on the other hand, I was there to support Price. Plenty of stuff is a hot mess, but pulling out of transportation funding[1] and medical research funding is straight libertarian dreaming. Not to mention his incredibly smarmy position on reproductive rights[2].

And while this is always what happens with it's an incumbent, the nature of politics is that you HAVE to make concessions sometimes and it feels like much of the mess we are in is because of the rigidity and lack of compromise that seems to be our current political standard. It's really easy to pick apart a 22 year record when you have no record to stand on.

[1] How are you intending on getting to DC, Dr Lawson? Apparently not driving on the freeway.

[2] A doctor should really know better than to mealy mouth about emergency conception.


I was at the debate. The turnout didn't represent the demographics of Durham, but it may very well represent the demographics of motivated voters in a mid-term. I've never been to a local debate before, but I wanted to see how Price was going to defend his votes for health care, cap and trade, the stimulus, and the bailouts. I didn't know a lot about Lawson other than he was a Ron Paul republican rather than a Rockefeller. Spending a Friday evening at a political debate indicates a lot of motivation on the part of the people that attended.

My impression of Price was that he was rather flustered at dealing with a hostile crowd familiar with his record -- something I suspect he hasn't seen much of in his very long career.

The comment "Treasury Bonds are as good as gold" was rather unfortunate. Taking credit for the balanced budget of the 90s and attacking the deficits of the 00s was unfortunate as well -- in the 90s the republicans controlled Congress, and the Democrats have been in charge for the giant growth in spending and the crash since 2006. By Price's assertion, the best combination is a republican congress and a democrat in the white house.

It's also pretty clear that Price hasn't read the bill for the Food Safety Modernization Act -- the exemption for small businesses really isn't much more than asking the FDA to be flexible. Buy your fresh vegetables from roadside stands while you still can if Price has his way.

Lawson was talking about basic philosophy instead of programs. Price attacks him for speaking with vague generalities, but Lawson seems to have the intellectual integrity to support the policies that follow from his philosophy. I was surprised that he was actually to the left of Price on Afghanistan. He's willing to transition social security into private accounts, but doesn't talk about how that would happen. He's willing to cut Medicare, but then says we need a safety net and doesn't describe how that will happen. He let Price get away with asserting that he wanted a 30% sales tax and didn't really pound home that the Fair Tax would eliminate the IRS and the income tax for good. Instead of saying that he wants to eliminate the Department of Education, he should have said something like "I want to spend more money on education by keeping our money right here in NC."

If anything, Lawson's arguments are very intellectual and he hasn't learned to speak in sound bytes that the media can grab onto. That just won't make sense to people whose idea of constitutionality is "Congress makes the laws."


@pablo - You might want to rethink your right/left spectrum for labeling people. Lawson appears to be a libertarian running as a republican, which means that you're not going to pigeon hole him easily. I doubt Jesse would have supported an early pullout from Afghanistan or ending the War on Drugs.

It's a sad time in America when the mainstream thinks it's crazy for a politician to stand up with a copy of the Constitution and ask how the Federal government has the power to do what it's doing. We're in the trouble we're in because so few people have actually read the constitution.


@Alicia - I think Dr. Lawson will be able to travel to Washington just fine on roads funded and built by the states of NC and VA. The real question is why we have to send our money to Washington so that they can make a bonfire with it, hand out special projects to buy votes in other states, and then send us back less than we provided, along with a huge list of conditions on how we get to spend our own money.

I'd really like to understand the thinking behind the idea that the government must fund medical research. Other businesses spend billions in R&D every year without any help from the government. The results of medical research can be quite profitable, so there's plenty of motive to do it. And before the government started taking most of what we earn in taxes it was actually possible to raise money for charities. What makes medical research different than nanotech, software, or materials research?

Frankly, if the politicians are going to be buying votes with our money I'd rather they did it right here. And if you're in favor of sending our representatives to Washington so they can bring back the pork for our research institutions here in the Triangle, then you might want to think about what has gotten us into the current mess.


I'm still trying to grok Lawson's platform. He doesn't really seem in line with the Republican party in a lot of cases (anti agricultural subsidies, pro fair tax, anti-war, etc). Just when I thought he might be more of a libertarian, he basically revealed that he was anti-immigration, and looking at his web site he seems like a protectionist (anti-NAFTA) to boot.

I'm having trouble figuring out what this guy really is. I really wish somebody would have asked some questions on personal liberty (war on drugs, gay marriage, etc), which aren't even mentioned at all on his campaign web site.


Wow the zombies are full in force. Good thing that they really don't represent Durham, and that Lawson is not going going to crack a 40% of the vote.

Lawson by the way is supported by Ron Paul so what we have here is another case of egotist rich person saying that we all be better if we do not participate and contribute in creating a better country.


It's pretty laughable that Lawson would stand in the middle of the Triangle, home to 4 research universities and RTI as well as the giants of corporate medical research, and suggest that NSF and NIH funding should be cut. Who does he think pays the salaries of his constituents?




We are not better off than we were 2 years ago. We're not better off than we were 20 years ago. NC still has high unemployment. It took me with a master's degree more than a year to get a job and I'm not for a NC-based company. David Price has done diddly squat for us in the 4th district for the past 22 years. B.J. Lawson not only has the guts to sign a $1 million bonded pledge that if elected he won't serve more than 4 terms, but he has the guts to call a spade a spade and call out the government what it is - a sham. You liberals in la-la land with your cushy jobs at UNC have no clue what's really going on. David Price is scared, and he should be. B.J. kicked major tail last night. David Price continues to do what he does best - say nothing of substance. Time for Price to retire on his fat, taxpayer-funded pension!


Lawson demonstrates how much of a fool he is when he called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Seriously, people, that may be a nice sound bite for the anti-welfare nuts, but it's not even close to being factually true.

Todd P

Wow - did I stumble into a red state blog? Lawson is a nut. He doesn't beleive in government regulation of business - at all. No regulation of oil companies, banks, insurance, food safety, product safety - it's watch you back time with Lawson, cause everybody is on their own vs big business.

If you want the big multi-national corporations in complete charge of the US government, more job outsourcing to Asia, and no safety net for the poor, unemployed, or elderly, then Lawson is your man.

Re-elect David Price.


Lawson will ruin the Triangle if his ideas were put in practice. No minimum wage, no medicare, no social security,no department of education, no department of transportation... If you want to live in Somalia why don't you move there?


@dob: whether or not it's worthwhile, Social Security essentially *is* a Ponzi scheme: you pay people who bought in before you, with the hope that new participants will do the same for you.

The whole system works fine, as long as a society's wealth generation is constantly increasing. That may have been a safe bet at one point, but it's very much questionable right now.

The goals of Social Security are laudable, but that doesn't change the fact that the way we fund it is incredibly dangerous.


@Cormoran - I see the Lawson supporters making arguments and the Price supporters resorting to ad hominem attacks. They make statements like "abolishing the dept of Education is crazy talk" without discussing why they think that would be a bad idea. They just call it crazy -- which is an unthinking response. So which side are the zombies on?

I think this election is going to be interesting. This district was designed to protect a democratic incumbent and Price has a huge fund raising advantage because of the giant amounts of lobbyist money coming into his campaign. still has NC4 listed as likely democratic, but there haven't been any polls other than the suspect one that had Lawson slightly ahead. But this year is very different. The level of motivation on the right is much higher than the left. If it's cold and rainy on Nov 2 the democrats are going to have problems even in NC4.

@dob - Would you please explain to us how Social Security is not a ponzi scheme? I think even David Price would agree that without reform it's going to run out of money. They've been paying the recipients for years with the money they take in from the payroll tax of present day workers -- the very definition of a ponzi scheme. The problem is that the workforce is aging and soon there won't be enough young workers to pay for the people drawing benefits. We can either make drastic reform or we can let it crash -- staying with the present system is not an option. Everyone should be very upset about this situation. The promise of social security was broken years ago. We're just playing out the hand now.

@Todd P - Lawson doesn't believe in the __Federal Government__ regulating business. He has the crazy notion that we should follow the Constitution and leave those sorts of things to the States.

The giant expansion of the federal government doesn't seem to be doing us much good in protecting us from evil corporations anyway. It just gives the giant corporations a single point of access to send their lobbying money to. Look at the very long list of lobbyists that have contributed to Price's campaign this year: Ask yourself why those companies think this was a good investment? Is there something they want in return? You know they didn't spend that money without an ROI calculation. If the corporations you fear so much had to divide their attention across 50 states with a hundred or so legislators each wouldn't we all be a bit better off?

The most important service David Price provides to the Triangle is that if you want to vote for Nancy Pelosi, you don't have to move to San Francisco.


@JeremyT: You could not be more wrong. A Ponzi scheme by definition requires an exponentially increasing number of participants. Social Security, by distinct contrast, uses the funds provided by the current workers to pay the benefits of the currently retired. It absolutely does not require an expanding economy in order to function, it simply requires balancing the income and the expenditures.

Seriously, you can read all about the mathematics in any of the annual reports of the Social Security Trustees. It's really not very complicated. Contrary to the doom and gloom spread by professional liars and believed by folks like yourself, Social Security isn't in crisis. If nothing were changed, in 30-40 years the expenditures would begin to outpace income, but that's entirely due to the fact that the cap on social security income isn't indexed to inflation. If that cap were indexed, or indeed, eliminated entirely, the problem vanishes. If benefits are means-tested, the problem vanishes. If the retirement age were raised slightly - a solution I strongly oppose - the problem vanishes.


@Greg: The percentage of GDP spent by the federal government has declined since the Bush administration. Care to enlighten us as to what giant expansion of the federal government to which you refer?


@dob - Care to cite a source for that? Spending as a percent of GDP in 2008 was 37%. In 2010 it is 44%. Considering the slope of the spending curve, there's no end in sight if we continue to send big spenders to Washington. Notice the very sharp change in spending levels between the Bush and Obama administrations.

But I was really talking about the massive expansion we've seen over the last 80 years. We're double as a percentage of GDP, and we're almost at WWII spending levels.

A ponzi scheme requires an increasing number of investors in order to keep going. They fall apart because that's impossible. Social Security has relied upon favorable demographics to continue and that's about to fall apart. In 1955 there were 9 workers per social security recipient. Today there are 3 and the recipients are living longer.

The last 5 Trustees reports have indicated that social security will hit a shortfall between 2037 and 2041 (that's 27 to 31 years, not 30-40) and will only be able to pay out 75% of obligations unless a change is made. Indexing to inflation would only work if inflation stays low -- but the current policies are designed to increase inflation. Means testing just turns social security into an income redistribution program instead of the insurance program it's supposed to be. Read about it for yourself at the SSA website:

Ray Gronberg

How do folks like Greg distinguish a "Ponzi scheme" from any private-sector business that takes on accounts payable and other liabilities going forward on the assumption of receiving a certain revenue stream?

Here's one potential answer to the question: A Ponzi scheme inherently involves criminal fraud. Absent that distinguishing feature, whatever you're applying the label to is actually something else. Charles Ponzi and his emulators engaged in cons. They convinced people to invest in an enterprise, concealing from them the fact that the enterprise did not actually exist.

Bull City Rising

Worth noting that Social Security was always designed, from day one, as a pay-as-you-go system. There was no artifice or myth to it. That was its design from the beginning, to be funded by tax dollars from today's workers to fund today's retirees.

We can increase the cap on taxable earnings or make a more progressive tax rate for Social Security payroll taxes and solve the problem whenever we wish.

FWIW, in NC last year we spent almost $71 in Social Security (non-SSI benefit) dollars for every $1 received in cash "welfare" aid, something that may be of interest to those who argue that the "few taxpayers" out there are somehow footing a bunch of non-working stiffs, an argument that plays out in the recesses of imagination more than in reality.

Of course, there's room in the marketplace of ideas to argue for abolishing Social Security and other safety net programs. To my mind, there's a sliver of the population whose wealth would inure them against the impact of such a change, thanks in part to disproportionate gains from the economic disruption of post-industrialization and open trade borders that has made the social safety net more needed than ever. And there are plenty of others who are not in good economic shape who are swayed by the arguments that the former group make. But I will be curious to see how those ideas fare in the 4th District.


As to the debate itself, my thanks to everyone who came out for an evening's spirited discussion. Lisa Sorg and I worked hard to ensure balanced questions, down to an even-handed selection of two right-leaning and two left-leaning questions from the audience for the debate.

My sense was that both candidates' supporters were slightly rowdy at times and brought up cheers, jeers, and zealous applause during their man's time and their opponent's. There is no doubt that the Lawson campaign was better organized on Fri. night for turnout, from seeing their supporters arriving earlier and carrying more media equipment than the Price side. I don't think it's fair to cast aspersions at one side or the other from Friday night.

Personally, I thought Dr. Lawson handled himself articulately and was a strong advocate for his beliefs last night. I disagree with many of his views, but I very much appreciate that compared to the embarrassments we're seeing in other districts, both he and Congressmen Price are running civilly-toned campaigns.


I was a respondent to Lawson's "poll". It managed, in 20 minutes, to tell me repeatedly that Lawson is a family man who loves the Constitution and Price is an out-of-touch liberal who votes with Nancy Pelosi all the time. And then asked me repeatedly what I thought of that and if it changed who I was going to vote for. That's not a poll, and any discussion of the "results" is laughable. The fact that, in spite of the "poll" being a smear campaign against Congressman Price, it still showed support for the Congressman and Lawson to be dead even suggests to me, as someone who heard all the questions, that Congressman Price continues to have substantial support in our district.

Lawson may be running a civilly-toned campaign in public, but behavior like push-polling is every bit as reprehensible as running Helms-style attack ads--there's just more room for plausible deniability that the candidate himself of course knew nothing about the push-poll nature of the poll his campaign commissioned.


@Ray - the distinction is that in a Ponzi scheme you have to continue to add new investors in order for the numbers to work. Simple AP/AR management doesn't require that the company constantly increase the number of customers that it sells in order to cover its losses. Social Security worked fine when the ratio was 9-1. 3-1 not so much.


@Greg: Citing the ratio of workers to retirees at Social Security's inception is misleading, as the latter category was obviously significantly smaller than it would become as more workers who'd been paying in were eligible to retire.

The system works fine with a ratio of 3 workers to every retiree. The mathematics are, at as far as these things go, absurdly simple.

I will try to find the source for the study I cited on GDP.

Todd P

I have also been push-polled by the Lawson campaign or its supporters. I laughed at the questions because they were so absurd.

Social Security is not in trouble. It is the most successful social safety net in our country's history, keeping millions of elderly out of poverty and providing people dignity in their retirement years.

It is fully funded until 2037, and 75% funded after that. The simplest fix would be to raise the cap on earnings so the tax would apply to more earnings of high income people. A progressive fix would be to drop the cap entirely and establish a floor instead, exempting the first $20,000 or $40,000 of earnings from the tax entirely. That way, everyone gets the same tax break.

Republicans have alsways hated Social Security - because it works. That's why they are so anxious to tear it apart.


@dob - Actually, the 9 worker number was from 1955, a generation after inception.

The numbers may work today, but the Trustees tell us that by 2017 we'll be down to 2.7:1 and we'll have to start dipping into the trust fund, which will take us to 2041 when we run out of money.

These aren't estimates by some right wing think tank. This is the report of the trustees of social security.

Even David Price doesn't claim that we don't need to do anything with Social Security. It's just a question of what.

Bill the Cat

Social Security is absolutely a Ponzi scheme, as is Medicare/caid and Obamacare. The size is many factors larger than Madoff.

Currently the Dallas Fed estimates the present value of our obligation at 117 trillion. That's $400k per person in the USA. There is no way, zero chance that every citizen can create that much productivity for the government. Lawson is correct - it is debt slavery.

We can deal with the debt issue like adults, or we can stick our heads in the sand, and wait for the USA to come crashing down just like Argentina (1970s), Germany (1920s), Greece, Spain, Italy (repeatedly). Governments do fail because of horrible fiscal responsibilty. I would rather not see us rip each other apart like they did in the Weimar Republic.


Debt slavery, at last we enter in recognizable racism of these teabaggers. Argentina did not crash, I suppose you mean economically, in the 1970's but they got a right wing military coup "to save the country". Germany did not collapse economically in the 20's from over expenditure by the state: They had to deal with the Great Depression, thankfully here we had FDR a great president that move us away from the conservative road to the precipice, plus war reparations. The economical and identity distress of Germany was used by a right wing group to claim power to grab power to "take their country back".

Michael Bacon

Clearly the federal government is doing no good for the Durham metro area, what with its largest employers being two public universities, a private university which receives massive NIH grants, a computer company that gets enormous government contracts, drug companies that rely heavily on NIH-funded research, the EPA and NIEHS, and a host of government contractors. All hail the model of private enterprise!


@Greg: I'm puzzled by your comment:

"Lawson doesn't believe in the __Federal Government__ regulating business. He has the crazy notion that we should follow the Constitution and leave those sorts of things to the States."

Doesn't the commerce clause in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution give Congress (i.e. "the Federal Government") the power to regulate business?


Come can do better than name calling and accusing someone of racist motives. I agree 100% with these new level headed common sense approach posters.

Also, I find it funny that the event did not represent Durham because it was too many whites. The racism and focus on race by Durhamites is sickening. Have I seen anyone worry about representation of Durham when it is an overwhelmingly black event? Based on the blind support of Obama from the black community could lead one to believe that the color of the candidates skin may have something to do with lack of interest in the event. Progressives....for a group that loves to call everyone else a racist you sure do obsess on race a lot.


@Peggy - no, the Constitution does not grant the Congress the right to regulate any business they see fit. It is empowered to regulate commerce among the several states. At the time of the signing, this had a very different meaning than is often asserted today. Here's a very interesting article that shows how Nancy Pelosi and many others in Washington misunderstand the Constitution with the assertion that Congress can do anything that has an effect on commerce:

Even with the weakening of the Commerce Clause restraints that the Supreme Court has imposed in the last 80 years there are still areas that the Court will not let Congress delve into. Were Nancy's standard to be used, what _couldn't_ the Congress regulate?

Not to put words into Lawson's mouth, I imagine that he would also make the argument that regulation of business that takes place completely within a state is better left to the people of that state. Whether or not Congress has the power to formulate any law it desires is a different issue from whether they should.


@Cormoran - I think you're stepping dangerously close to tripping over Godwin's law. You might want to read some history -- the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei were National Socialists -- decidedly left wing, not right.

You know, it is possible to make reasoned arguments that disagree with Obama and not be a racist.


@michael - Should we feel proud that our representative has done a good job of bringing the pork back to us?


Neither Price nor his supporters can make any claim as to why we should keep him in office. Price has been in Washington for 22 years. He is one of the Seven Cardinals. It is time to send this Cardinal south.


The Nazis were left wingers? Suuuuuuuuure for that reason they killed and sent to concentration camps many socialists and communists, busted unions, had all the German big companies donating to their party (like the Republicans and the chamber of commerce, even with foreign funds) To quote Hitler:
"The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of power and strength by the mass of numbers and their dead weight." (39)

The idea the the Nazis were leftist is not supported by any known historian, that is unless you consider Glenn Beck a Historian.

Michael Bacon

@Greg: Pork? Yes, cancer research, anti-AIDS drugs, Zantac, a government-established industrial park which has triggered hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment, the administration of hundreds of millions a year in international development projects, research in geographic information and satellite imagery, groundbreaking research on improving pregnancy outcomes, etc. All pork! Cut it all!

Seriously, here's what David Price does with his Appropriations subcommittee chair. He got a 400k earmark to subsidize the construction of the farmer's market pavilion. Pork! And what does it do? Provide the basic infrastructure so that the private marketplace can function more efficiently. Under a government roof, buyers and sellers more easily find each other, creating more choices for consumers and more work for local farmers. Pork! Yes, the best chops I've ever had come from Brinkley Farms. Mmmm, pork.

David Price voted against the Iraq war, against the budget-busting Bush tax cuts, led several investigations into waste, fraud, graft, and corruption in Homeland Security contracts, supports ending DADT, voted against the FISA warrantless wiretapping amendment, worked to make farm subsidies more sane and fairer to small farmers, voted to support better transportation infrastructure, cosponsored the Employee Free Choice Act, and supported the Waxman-Markey bill. David Price fits the 4th district, the most progressive district in the south, to a T.

And frankly, all this is rather academic. Even in a Republican wave year, Lawson has at best about a 15% chance of winning. Which is a good thing, because while a very nice guy, his view of constitutional law is nuts.

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