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Nathan Deal's debt to society

Governor-elect's financial woes should help inform his leadership



You may have heard that Gov.-elect Nathan Deal has agreed to put his, um, "assets" (cough, cough) into a blind trust after he takes his oath of office, meaning he will not have direct access to his accounts and businesses.

Bet he wishes he'd done that a few years ago.

Our point is that Deal will likely benefit from having a financial professional manage his business affairs. While his spokesfolk claim the ex-congressman plans to have restructured his mountains of debt before the trust kicks in, we wouldn't be surprised if the trustee will need to liquidate some of Deal's property in order to pay off his outstanding bank loans.

For many average Georgians in equally lousy fiscal straits, on the other hand, the best they're likely to do is qualify for free debt-consolidation advice from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (recently renamed CredAbility in Atlanta). Other options are more grim: pawning a car title for quick cash, walking away from a house with an "underwater" mortgage, or even bankruptcy.

Certainly, we applaud Deal's blind trust announcement, which stands in stark contrast to Gov. Sonny Perdue's decision to continue managing his businesses while he was supposed to be running the state. Now we know why Perdue was so inactive as a governor — he was too busy looking for opportunities to make a buck.

After eight years of Perdue's questionable real-estate deals, secret loans and inappropriate business meetings with state officials, the public needs assurance that its elected officials are working for it and not using their positions for self-enrichment. (Frankly, that goes double for Deal, who'd already earned a reputation as a guy with few qualms about using his Congressional staff to help boost his business interests.)

We've got a feeling that Deal is going to come out ahead, blind trust notwithstanding. After all, winning elections tends to induce people to give you money. We wouldn't be shocked to see Gainesville Salvage & Disposal and Deal's other businesses flourish while he's in office, even without Deal signing the contracts.

We only hope that Deal will realize his luck and take steps to help less-privileged Georgians battered by the tough economy. Only three years back, there was a move in the state Legislature to bring back the payday loan industry, the most predatory of predatory lenders. We need to ensure that we don't go down that path again. And we know state coffers aren't flush, but there are plenty of folks for whom Georgia's since-repealed Homeowner Tax Relief Credit made a big difference.

We're aware that state lawmakers are eyeing an overhaul of Georgia's tax structure, including revisiting the long list of tax breaks and incentives that have been doled out like candy to favored industries. Mindful of having come to near financial ruin himself, Deal should break with his former GOP colleagues in Washington trying to extend tax cuts to their wealthy contributors and instead find ways to look out for the average homeowner struggling to pay the mortgage.

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