Opinion: Daily Journal

Gerlach Joins the Circus

RALEIGH – I wouldn’t exactly call North Carolina state government the “Greatest Show on Earth,” but it does share many common characteristics with a circus. There’s the elephant parade and the donkey trot. There’s a lot of shouting, but it’s mostly an act. The parades are bedazzling but circular. It costs regular folks an arm and leg to get in. Cyclists balanced precariously on high wires peddle furiously but go nowhere. And, of course, there are clowns, plenty of clowns.

Now there is a new performer in the Raleigh circus attraction known as the Mike Easley administration. He is Dan Gerlach, director of the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center and a formidable foil of mine during the past six years of public policy debates around town. He is leaving his sinecure at the center, the project of a vast-left-wing-conspiracy outfit called the N.C. Justice and Community Development Center, to join Easley’s staff as a Senior Policy Advisor for Fiscal Affairs.

Presumably his role in the carnival will be helping to perform a magic act – an attempt to pull a balanced budget out of the flimsy old hat the state legislature handed the governor this year. I hope Dan’s sleeves are baggy.

The administration already qualifies as a three-ring circus in that its leadership consists of a “power trio”: Susan Rabon for administrative affairs, John Merritt for political affairs, and Franklin Freeman as main spokesman to the legislature. So where does Dan’s fiscal sleight-of-hand act fit in? Well, according to the official release from the governor’s press office, he will “serve as a liaison between the State Budget Office and the Governor’s staff.”

Huh? Why does Easley need a liaison between different arms ofhis own office? What’s next, the hiring of a liaison between the Governor’s staff and his press office?

On second thought, that might actually be an improvement.

I presume that Dan, whose political liberalism has not yet corrupted his good sense, didn’t write this position description. Indeed, in a phone conversation, I confirmed that much of his work for Easley (which starts at the beginning of the year) will involve two study commissions on North Carolina’s tax policy and government efficiency, respectively. One can only hope some good will come out of these important endeavors.

So good luck to my friend Dan, husband of the long-suffering Peggy and father to the darling Laura. At least we can say that the Peter Principle is not yet a factor, as Dan has yet to be promoted until his reaches his level of incompetence. Given the circus he is joining, that is simply not possible.