Lesson one: the stimulus

Let me bounce off last night’s post, beginning with the so-called stimulus package.

In this case, though, it’s not just the young voters who want the government to do something, but almost everyone.

There’s no question we’re in a difficult economic period, but it bears repeating that the whole mess started when some of those who borrowed for a larger, more expensive home than they could truly afford found themselves unable to sustain their payments. At that point, the foreclosures began, the overbuilt housing market became even more saturated, and home values plummeted.

As money became tighter, harried consumers cut back on purchases, forcing retailers to close stores or go out of business entirely. In turn, this threw more onto the unemployment lines while at the same time states saw their revenues decrease at a time when they thought spending more on social programs was the way to go.

Enter the stimulus programs of the last 12 months or so. What did you do with your rebate check from last year? Many paid bills, while others put the money away in savings. As economic conditions became worse it was obvious that $150 billion didn’t do the trick – nor has the $350 billion used to bail out a number of banks appreciably loosened the credit market.

Step three seems to be where the Obama Administration and Democrats spend upwards of a trillion dollars on a number of scattershot proposals, including a tax cut for those who don’t pay taxes. In my day, that was called a welfare check – but then there’s no shame for being on the dole anymore. In truth, last year’s check was wealth redistribution too – those who earned above a certain threshold did not get one, either.

Let’s use a little logic here, kids. I know that most of you weren’t taught critical thinking in school, so this may be a foreign concept. Bear with me.

Those of you who are working – it’s likely you make a certain amount per hour and work 40 hours a week if you’re full time. To make math easy, let’s say you make $10 an hour, so your weekly paycheck should be $400. But it’s not, is it? If you’re like me, you have about 1/3 taken out for various reasons, mostly to pay taxes.

For the most part, those taxes go to the federal government. It was a law called the Community Reinvestment Act passed by the federal government which in essence told the banks that they had to lend to those who probably wouldn’t be good credit risks, or they would find it difficult to expand or merge to run more efficiently and profitably.

It was also the federal government who indirectly set the policy of easy credit for homeowners and others in order to make ours an economy based on consumer spending rather than investment.

So, in order to fix the problem they had a hand in creating, the federal government wants to take that money you earned through your hard work and, after they take their cut, give it to a vast array of organizations and inferior (e.g. subordinate to them) governmental bodies (who also take their cut) who will spend some of that money to “stimulate” the economy. Of course, also bear in mind that the money out of your check, even when combined with everyone else’s money, still will fall something on the order of a trillion dollars short of what the federal government would like to spend – for years to come.

Because of that shortfall, one (or both) of two things happen. The debt accrues over time because of interest, making it a larger burden on you later in life; or, the dollars you earn lose purchasing power because there’s more of them out there. You weren’t around for the double-digit inflation of the Carter years, I was. Your $10 an hour would only be worth $9 after a year, yet you work just as hard.

Now imagine that, instead of giving your money to the government who MAY provide you benefits (assuming you happen to be in a group who they target the benefits to at that particular moment, these things are always subject to change) you get to keep more of what you earned and spend it where you want to. Or you could save it and invest for your future dreams, like purchasing a house with a solid 20 percent down payment, as they did in the old days.

Does that sound appealing to you? Well, welcome to conservatism. It’s not practiced by the Democratic Party, so you may wish to rethink that political leaning.

If you’re not convinced yet, don’t worry. I have plenty more where that came from.

Tax reform even Geithner couldn’t screw up

Despite the fact Treasury Secretary designate Timothy Geithner managed to mess up his taxes over several years to the tune of underpaying $34,000 – even though his employer gave him instructions on how to deal with the issue and reimbursed him for the taxes paid – it appears he’ll be confirmed nonetheless; that is if the overwhelming vote to bring him out of committee is any indication.

But this post isn’t intended to bring up that old news; after all, don’t we all mess up on our taxes to the tune of many months’ salary for those of us who don’t work in the elite financial world? On the contrary, I think it’s a perfect time to discuss a subject I’ve waxed eloquent on a number of times before.

Little noticed among the hundreds of bills introduced in the House of Representatives is yet another attempt to implement the FairTax. For the fourth Congress in a row, H.R. 25 is sponsored by Georgia Rep. John Linder and will likely again never see the light of day, buried in committee. (Maybe he needs a new bill number since 25 isn’t cutting it.) The only problem I see with it is H.R. 25 doesn’t repeal the Sixteenth Amendment. (However, there is an aptly-numbered resolution in this Congress which does call for repeal.)

This would be perfect for someone like Tim Geithner, who claimed to simply use TurboTax to do his returns. (Listen, I used that program last year and will do so again – there’s no way I was $34,000 off! My refund wasn’t even a tenth of that.)

Some may argue that a recession is a poor time to enact a tax which is based on consumption, but I heartily disagree.

Now is the perfect time for the FairTax because we’d have a worst-case scenario for revenue generation. As economic conditions improve – as they surely would if those of us who are working no longer have to deal with the IRS backup withholding out of our check, meaning more money in our pockets to spend – the government could start gaining the funds to pay for other important items like an enhanced military and backstopping entitlements (at least until they’re sunsetted; hey if I’m going to dream I’m dreaming big!)

The problem with the Obama Administration’s favored solution to our economic woes is that they determine where the money goes and how it’s spent. (Not to mention they’re essentially creating the cash from whole cloth and adding trillions to our budget deficit. Didn’t the Democrats complain about the GOP presidents’ huge deficits? Why yes they did, just read a few of Final Frontier’s comments and somewhere she’ll make mention of that very point!)

Instead of bailing out every bank and automaker who has run into trouble because they couldn’t say no, why not truly stimulate the economy by allowing the public (read: the market) to determine where they spend their own money? I know, they may do something stupid like put it in the bank or invest the money in tax-free municipal bonds instead of buying the latest made-in-China electronic gadgets, but to each his or her own, right?

The more I think about the situation with taxation in our state and our nation, the more I think a consumption tax makes sense. I realize Maryland went to increase their sales tax and didn’t draw the revenue they expected, but that was because of competition from adjoining states. If every state has to collect a particular percentage federal tax, it may level the playing field to some extent. (I’d still go to Delaware for big-ticket items but perhaps that threshold would increase.)

So while I’m probably beating my head against the wall expecting some sort of sane action out of this edition of Congress, hope does spring eternal and perhaps Linder’s idea may finally get some traction.

Disappointed and disillusioned

And I thought it was the Democrats who allowed incompetence to rise to the top. Apparently the GOP really wants to follow in those shoes; that is if this report by Reid Wilson from The Hill’s Briefing Room blog is to be believed. (In a related story, they’re predicting a multi-ballot race, which I’ve suspected would be the case all along with several contenders.)

This compilation of those who have announced publicly who they’ll support for the Chairmanship of the Republican Party shows that the incumbent Mike Duncan has the plurality among those who’ve expressed a preference. Granted, there’s only about half of the 168 who vote that have gone public, but one has to wonder why some would continue with a leader who’s already lost one national election.

Perhaps it’s because we’re very close to the situation and there’s a favorite son candidate representing Maryland, but the buzz around Michael Steele based on his debate performance and name recognition doesn’t seem to be permeating all that many of those who actually make the decision next week.

It’s somewhat akin to the situation conservatives found themselves in for the 2008 Presidential primaries. There are several good candidates who will probably split the vote and allow the status quo to win. John McCain was the “establishment” GOP candidate in the 2008 election and Mike Duncan represents the establishment to me.

There’s no better proof of this than noticing that, despite the state having its own favorite son candidate in Ken Blackwell, two of Ohio’s representatives are in the Duncan camp. And this is something else I feel I need to comment on.

Bob Bennett was in charge of the Ohio Republican Party while I served as a Central Commitee member there. While the setup is somewhat different in the Buckeye State, the fact is Ohio Republicans have seen their onetime grasp of each statewide office loosened and ripped away because the state party brass relied too much on their own judgment. They didn’t trust the will of the GOP base enough to select the best candidates – well, that should tell readers in a nutshell why Duncan is the wrong man for the job.

Ken Blackwell has never been the darling of the establishment Republicans in Ohio, who seem to think that candidates have to be wishy-washy moderates to have a chance to win statewide. Unfortunately, the last wishy-washy moderate to win statewide from the GOP side was the reviled Governor Bob Taft, who raised taxes and became embroiled in the Coingate scandal. Once Blackwell finally had the opportunity to run for governor (Bennett and the Ohio GOP talked Blackwell out of running in 1998 in favor of avoiding a primary against their annointed Taft) the party had been damaged beyond repair and Blackwell became the scapegoat, getting less than 40% of the vote.

Personally, I think Steele would be a good national GOP chair but Blackwell would be a better one. One thing whoever wins the nod needs to make priority one is encouraging some of the deadwood to get out of the way and bring aboard new leadership at the state level.

The old guard is what gave the Republican Party both Bushes, Bob Dole, and John McCain. While many of them came in with Ronald Reagan, they squandered much of the Reagan legacy on candidates who failed to ignite the conservative base – or when one was selected, like Sarah Palin, they turned the long knives on her.

We’ve tried it their way for the last 20 years and with the exception of the Contract with America, the GOP record hasn’t exactly been stellar when compared with the stated party principles. Selecting the wrong guy to run the party may accelerate the rush toward the exits for conservative rank-and-file party members and voters.

Ten Questions for – Dr. Jim Pelura, Chair of the Maryland Republican Party

As I like to do on about a monthly basis, here is another installment of what I call Ten Questions.

Back in December of 2006, Jim Pelura and I came into our positions at the Maryland GOP together – I was sworn in as a Central Committee member and he was elected at that convention as Chair of the Maryland GOP. Admittedly, I voted for his opponent but obviously he didn’t hold that against me when he agreed to do the interview.

monoblogue: Let’s go back to the beginning. The 2006 elections have just concluded and Republicans were shut out in statewide races, including the relatively popular Governor Ehrlich losing a reelection bid. Nationally the GOP faced the prospect of being in the minority for the first time in 12 years. So what motivated you to run for the Chair position you now hold, and how many people thought you were completely crazy? 

Pelura: Why did I run?

I had been concerned for some time that the MDGOP was out of touch with the grassroots and the traditional Republican philosophy of small government, low taxes, fiscal responsibility and faith in the individual. I was concerned that the liberal agenda of the Governor and majority of the General Assembly would have no voice of opposition among the Republican rank and file. I was not ready or willing to give up on Maryland that easily.

As for the second part of your question………not as many as one would think, although a friend said that he was going to give me a few sessions with a psychiatrist for Christmas that year!

monoblogue: Oh, there were and still are plenty of voices of opposition to liberal policies here in the Free State. But you found yourself inheriting a Maryland GOP which was in dire financial straits and had to make some unpopular financial decisions. Were you surprised at the extent of the problem when you came onboard? And do you think that the Maryland Republican Party will be able to compete financially in 2010?

Pelura: If you remember, at the December meeting where I was elected, the outgoing Chairman announced that I was being left about $300,000.00. We all knew that fundraising would be difficult due to the recent elections and that money in the bank would be needed to “get over the hump”.

As we soon learned, that $300,000.00 was actually about $20,000.00 and there were about $60,000.00 in bills to be paid. Needless to say, I was surprised.

But, by making significant cuts in expenditures and taking out a line of credit, we survived.

Fundraising is still a concern, however, but there are significant “bright spots”.

The line of credit is nearly paid off, small donations are way up from in the past (in terms of the “health” of the Party, I would rather have 10,000 $1.00 donations than one check for $10,000), and many of the “big” donors are showing interest in giving to the MDGOP once again.

The Maryland Republican Party will be ready for 2010, both financially and in terms of good and credible candidates for elected office. Continue reading “Ten Questions for – Dr. Jim Pelura, Chair of the Maryland Republican Party”

A lesson in dominoes falling

This morning we learned that struggling retailer Circuit City has thrown in the towel, the latest in a series of chain stores to do so. In a few weeks, Americans will have another reminder of how economic times are as they drive by yet another shuttered storefront.

At the same time, President Bush leaves office with the catcalls of the liberals and the media (but I repeat myself) following him out the door and back to Texas. Frequent liberal critic “Final Frontier” delivered one scathing criticism of GWB on a previous post of mine, part of which I’ll reprise here:

I never said Bush acted like a”true conservative,” I said he simply went out and did whatever he wanted to do (or probably more correctly Dick Cheney), which turned out to be a disaster…

(snip)

…GWB and his republican pals DID spend their political capital by spending like drunken sailors, abandoning any sort of value system … and focusing on Iraq when they should have been focusing on Afghanistan and New Orleans. GWB and his circle of pals paid no attention to the growing fiscal crisis (and the Dems are equally guilty on that one), did not seriously go after bin Laden, did nothing in Darfur, did nothing in New Orleans, did nothing as international opinion of the U.S sank…

The diatribe goes on from there, and I left out the parts of her response concerning gay marriage for the purpose of this post. I do want to rebut Final Frontier in part by noting that Bush’s legacy will be one of fighting the Long War, and success isn’t measured there in what we did but what we did not have to do – that is to say, we haven’t had a 9/11 part 2 thus far.

Fairly or unfairly, anything negative which happens during a President’s term generally serves as another reason to blame him – given the media prism in our society today, it’s especially true when a Republican is president, not so much when a Democrat holds office. However, the comment FF makes does distribute blame equally between the Bush Administration and the Democrats for the economic woes we are facing – a surprising concession on her part.

But I’m choosing to look at this on a larger level, and to bring Circuit City into the picture. First off, I’m sorry to see them close because I liked them much better than Best Buy. Continue reading “A lesson in dominoes falling”

Venting on Human Events

Regularly I get e-mail updates from the Human Events website. Generally it’s for columns I like to read by writers with a number of disparate styles – Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, Chuck Norris, Ted Nugent, and the Evans-Novak Report are among my favorites, even if I don’t always agree with them. It’s the latter which prompted the comments I’m going to revisit here.

I caught it at a time when I could have a front-page comment and steer an argument. So I wrote the following, based on quotes within the story:

“Republicans are comfortably settling into a minority position.”

Well, that’s problem #1 in a nutshell. And people wonder why conservatives are in a revolt?

“Indeed, some Republicans are quietly hoping Coleman will give up the fight.”

When stealing an election becomes an acceptable standard, it’s not just the Republican Party that’s in trouble, but the Republic itself.

Both these comments take the GOP to task for the very complacent attitude that I sense. Certainly there is an argument which can be made for giving the new Congress and President a chance, but I don’t really recall that same courtesy given to the last President – and he bent over backwards and forwards to exhibit his willingness to work with the other side. Remember the “new tone”? Continue reading “Venting on Human Events”

A leadership void

These are the first three paragraphs of an op-ed by Carter Clews at the Americans for Limited Government blog:

Every day in Washington’s political citadels, a new coalition triumphantly announces its emergence as the self-anointed savior of the increasingly moribund conservative movement. Or, some old organization “re-invents” itself and declares that it is now ready to lead as never before.

Most boldly proclaim their unbridled affection for the “New Media.” And some even demonstrate an admirable aptitude for digitalizing prose and pressing “Send.”

All of which is fine – as far as it goes. The problem is, it doesn’t go far enough. In fact, much of it at this point in time is dangerously going in the wrong direction. And the conservative movement desperately needs a few good men – and at least one good woman.

While the remainder is well worth the read, I’m going to take a slightly different angle on this and look at it in more literal terms. Continue reading “A leadership void”

Odds and ends no. 16

This is yet another collection of little items worth a paragraph (or two or three) of comment but perhaps not a full post on its own.

First, I want to announce two changes in format for my site, both of which will begin with this post. One is already something I do on Red Maryland because that site is a muli-contributor post. Beginning with this post, I’m going to introduce the “more” feature.

I wasn’t originally a great fan of that feature because I like to have posts be a complete block, but in many respects there will be advantages to this system. Ideally the totality of my posts would run the length of the sidebars so scanning a week’s worth of posts for occasional visitors would still expose them to my ads. (Hey, I like making a little coin with this site, you know, and the more the better.) So instead of 8 posts on the front page, I’ll push the number to 12 because that’s roughly a week’s output for me.

The second change is just a matter of preference, for which this post will be the first in the new format. Since I began the site, it’s always had a numerical post tag; for instance the last post was p=3225. When I began the site, it made perfect sense because the numbers were sequential. But after a recent WordPress upgrade I made for the site I noticed my numbers were no longer sequential, which defeated my purpose for having that post format. So now I’ll make my site conform more with most other sites which use a title slug as a post tag.

(Late note: this also retroactively updated items so those who have existing links to posts on my site may want to check and make sure they still work.)

Here it works out to be a nice point to insert a “more” tag, which I’ll probably begin to add in on occasions the post gets up around 700 words or so. Continue reading “Odds and ends no. 16”

Thoughts on the live blog and RNC Chair race

There’s a couple other things I’d like to get to, but for tonight I’ll stick with the RNC debate I liveblogged earlier today. Rather than try to copy-and-paste a long transcript, you can just go here and hit “replay”.

It was the first time I’d ever tried liveblogging and I thought I managed it pretty well for the most part. Probably the hardest thing was trying to pay attention to what was being said and also the comments coming in. I only had 2 or 3 different commentors so it wasn’t really difficult once I got the feel for watching the column where comments are shown for approval. But that’s why you have comment blocks instead of their being dispersed closer to real time. Now I know.

In a way I’m sort of glad I didn’t have a giant audience – maybe it was 6 or 8 at most. Then again, people can go back and reread it anytime so there may be more who see the post. As I noted in my introduction, who’s brilliant idea was it to place the debate at the same time Rush was on?

The consensus of those voting in my liveblog poll was split 50-50 between Ken Blackwell and Michael Steele winning the debate. Personally I though Blackwell did the best while Michael Steele didn’t really take advantage of the hometown crowd as much. Saul Anuzis had his moments as did Chip Saltsman. I really didn’t care much for Mike Duncan because he had the opportunity to do these things he was suggesting beforehand and didn’t take advantage – it’s time for new blood in my opinion.

As for the form of the debate itself, I really wasn’t enthused about the “lightning round” questions, nor was I big on all the references to Facebook and other social networking sites. Certainly they will be helpful but if you don’t have a message they won’t matter. Ron Paul pretty much owned the internet insofar as the GOP went and we see how far he got.

I just got an e-mail from the Media Research Center and they’ve made a choice in the race. It may not be all that popular in these parts, but here you are:

The Republican Party needs to be rebuilt.  It needs to be reconnected to the conservative principles that made it the majority Party in Washington.

And we have at this important moment a genuine opportunity to affect the direction the Party will take in the years to come.  The election of the next Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair will take place at their meeting at the end of this month.  Who they choose will determine the future of the Party, and for conservatives and our country this decision could not be more important.

Last Friday, conservative leaders representing some forty different organizations met.  These leaders represent a broad cross-section of the conservative movement.  One attendee, Virginia Republican National Committeeman Morton Blackwell, had prepared and distributed a list of questions for the RNC Chair candidates to help determine who would be best suited to move the Party forward.  (The 37 questions and the six candidates’ answers can be found at Townhall.com.)

All of the candidates responded to the questions, and all made an effort to promote the conservative cause. Each would be a fine choice to lead the important RNC rebuilding effort.

But after our review of the candidates’ answers and a discussion of their other qualifications, my colleagues and I announced our support of Ken Blackwell — and urged the 168 members of the RNC to elect him at their late-January meeting.

We face many challenges in the weeks, months and years ahead.  We need a strong, focused, conservative Republican Party engaged in the fight.  I think Ken Blackwell is the person to lead this charge.

Ken Blackwell has been a principled Reagan Republican his entire life and career.  He ran and successfully served the people of Ohio in multiple capacities as an unquestioned and unapologetic conservative. He has long been a leader in the conservative movement, both nationally and in growing it from the ground up with his involvement with state level organizations throughout the country.  He has been a tremendously successful entrepreneur, and is a stalwart champion of the free market.

He is a man of unquestioned integrity.  He will be an outstanding RNC Chair.

 I think either Blackwell or Steele is going to win. The letter from the MRC asked us to contact our state committee representatives to urge them to vote for Ken Blackwell, but that’s not happening in Maryland, no way no how.

In thinking about this race, I believe that the kingmaker is going to be Mike Duncan. Certainly the “establishment” Republicans will be behind him, and it’s probably not going to be a situation where any candidate wins on the first ballot because there’s six running. However, I see Duncan as a strong enough third to have his supporters be a sizable bloc which can make or break either candidate – my guess is they’d go for Steele as their second choice. The longer voting goes, the more chance that Michael Steele will be seen as a compromise candidate who straddles the line between the rabid conservatives who seem to be lining up behind Blackwell and the establishment Beltway GOP.

I’ll place myself out on a limb and say that if there’s only one ballot, Blackwell wins. But if they need a second ballot or more, eventually Steele will be the victor. In either case, we need someone who will take the fight to our liberal enemy and stand up to those in the party who want it to drift toward the center.

Over the last 30 years or so, the center of the country has actually shifted rightward. This is no time for a course reversal, but an acceleration in those places where we can achieve the desired results. The winner needs to hit the ground running for 2010 because there’s little time to waste.