The bait and switch?

January 5, 2017 · Posted in National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The bait and switch? 

Those who read here know my feelings about our President-elect and that he didn’t get my vote in November – instead it went to the Constitution Party and its candidate Darrell Castle.

As part of that process I began to follow the CP on social media, and I noticed their link to a story that came out before Christmas regarding an attempt by a surrogate of a Johnny-come-lately to the 2016 presidential race to use the Constitution Party ballot line they had earned in a number of states. I’ll quote the lede from the Daily Caller:

Former Republican Washington Sen. Slade Gorton attempted to convince Constitution Party presidential nominee Darrell Castle to drop out so that independent conservative presidential candidate Evan McMullin could have more ballot access.

Gorton, who endorsed McMullin, and Castle both described to The Daily Caller what happened in early December. “What he had in mind was that I would drop out of the race and Evan McMullin would take over my ballot line and would be the Constitution Party’s candidate,” Castle said about a phone call that he says took shortly after McMullin announced his candidacy (in August.)

The story goes on to note that McMullin, who had the benefit of far more press coverage and was actually included in the polling in some states, garnered many more votes than Castle. A reasonably final tally gave McMullin 725,902 votes to Castle’s 202,979 – the Daily Caller undercut Castle by about 20,000 votes. (By comparison, the more “common” third party candidates Jill Stein of the Green Party and Libertarian Gary Johnson received 1,457,044 and 4,488,919 votes respectively. McMullin and Castle were fifth and sixth in the national totals.)

If you’ve been at it this long, you’ll recall as well that McMullin was one of the candidates I considered in the race after the GOP left conservatives like me high and dry, but I found him wanting on a number of issues. However, the erstwhile Senator Gordon had a good point regarding the possibility a more well-known candidate would help the Constitution Party in the long run. While he wasn’t a doctrinaire libertarian, consider that Gary Johnson in his two runs took the LP from onetime Republican Rep. Bob Barr’s 523,713 votes in 2008 to nearly 4.5 million this time – exceeding an eightfold increase in eight years. The LP purists probably hated Johnson, but he gave the party a media presence and that is the way to get their overall message across. Certainly the other candidates who ran under the Libertarian banner were pleased to have some attention toward their bids based on the recognition of their presidential candidate.

So I would argue that another former governor might be a great choice for the Constitution Party candidate in 2020. Freed from the shackles of political correctness, this person can take the proven budget cutting ability exhibited, the pro-life stance, and devotion to the workings of policy to a venue where a more nationally known voice is needed. Personally, I believe former governor Bobby Jindal would be an ideal choice for the CP – not only would the switch bring the party some attention, but I believe Jindal could be the bridge candidate the party would need as a transition to its rightful place on the national stage as well as the type of policy wonk who could spell out a platform enabling our country to transform itself from the federal behemoth that pays lip service to its founding documents to an exceptional America that plays by the rules its founders set for itself, allowing us to form a more perfect Union.

Of course, the conventional wisdom would be to scoff at this notion, as Jindal is young enough to be a candidate in 2024 and several cycles beyond (he was born in 1971.) But he never gained traction in this just-completed campaign, and the state of the Republican Party may be such by the time Donald Trump is finished that it may not be recognizable to conservatives. On the other hand, even if Jindal only gets 1% of the vote in 2020 that would increase the Constitution Party numbers sixfold without a tremendous change in philosophy. While that’s nowhere close to winning, Jindal could be to the CP what Barry Goldwater was to conservatism in 1964 – doing well enough in a hopeless situation that success eventually came.

The Constitution Party isn’t in the position to win the presidency yet. Their first job is to somehow get ballot access in all 50 states, while simultaneously inspiring a crop of leaders who will take the party banner into the battle for local and state offices against the present red-blue duopoly that seems to be two sides of the same coin in most respects.

For far too many of our office-holders, their fealty to the Constitution ends about the same time their oath of office does. As one who recited that oath as a party appointed or elected official half a dozen times, I took my promise seriously. I couldn’t in good conscience support a party standardbearer who I thought untrustworthy, so I left the Republican Central Committee. In the months since as I have studied things, I’ve developed an interest in the Constitution Party and believe they should be the home for many millions of Americans who still care about what made America great. If he should somehow take my advice and come over to the Constitution Party, I think Governor Jindal will be of major assistance in expanding its ranks.

Eight is far less than enough: a postmortem, part four (and last)

December 17, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Culture and Politics, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Eight is far less than enough: a postmortem, part four (and last) 

For Maryland, the results for the 2016 finally in and official. There are a number of conclusions which can be drawn from them.

Originally I predicted that Evan McMullin would be “eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide” while Darrell Castle would pick up about 1,100 votes. Turned out that McMullin exceeded expectations by about as much as Castle underperformed them, with the former garnering 9,630 write-in votes while the latter had 566.

As I see it, this has as much to do with press coverage and awareness of the McMullin campaign as it did where he stood on the issues – but it’s interesting that McMullin did the best in Anne Arundel, Howard, and Frederick counties as a percentage of the vote. In those three counties he had over 1/2 percent of the vote as a write-in. These were also counties where Trump received less than 50% of the vote – in all, his 35% of the vote was driven down by just five jurisdictions where he was under that mark: the usual suspects of Baltimore City, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties, along with Charles and Howard counties. (In essence, the inner city and capital regions.) On the other hand, Castle’s performance was more consistent with his small average – he actually did best in Somerset and St. Mary’s counties by percentage, although in Somerset’s case it’s just 6 votes of 9,900 cast. The “eight” in the title refers to the 8 votes Castle received in Wicomico County. So there are seven others who agreed with me.

But if you look at this race from the perspective of breaking a two-party duopoly that seemed very evident in this race – as both candidates did their share of moving to the left on certain issues, making themselves indistinguishable as far as rightsizing government goes – there is a huge lesson to be learned: ballot access is vital.

If you take McMullin, who entered the race too late to make the ballot in most of the 42 states where he actually contended (there were several where he even missed the cutoff for write-in access) and analyze his vote totals nationwide, he’s received between 60 and 70 percent of his votes from those 11 states where he was on the ballot. Granted, Utah by itself – a state where he was on the ballot – will make up about 1/3 of his overall total once all the write-ins are tabulated (hence the possible range on ballot vs. write-in) but the disparity between states where he was on the ballot and listed as a write-in is quite telling.

It’s even more steep for Castle, who put the Constitution Party over the 200,000 vote plateau nationwide for the first time. The 24 states where he had ballot access ended up accounting for 186,540 of what should end up being between 204,000 and 210,000 votes. (With seven states that have not yet or will not report write-in totals under a certain threshold, Castle is at 202,900 nationwide, so 204,000 seems plausible.) There were 23 write-in states for Castle, so the difference is quite stark.

[By the way, 200,000 votes may not seem like much, but at last report two other candidates I considered, James Hedges of the Prohibition Party and Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, had 5,617 and 4,838 votes, respectively. The vast majority of Hedges’ votes came from Arkansas (where he was on the ballot and edged Castle by 96 votes with 4,709 vs. 4,613) and Mississippi (715 as a write-in), while Hoefling got nearly half of his total from the two states he was on the ballot (Colorado and Louisiana.) In Maryland they had 5 and 42 write-in votes, respectively.]

And if you compare the Constitution Party to the Libertarians, the vote totals over time have been far smaller but Libertarians have had ballot access in most states since 1980. Considering the Constitution Party only made it in half the states (and missed in four of the six largest, with only write-in status in Illinois, New York, and Texas and no access in California) they overcame a lot just to get as far as they did.

As the Republican Party moves farther and farther away from conservatism toward the adoption of populist planks, softening on social issues, and the idea that government simply needs to be more effective and efficient rather than limited – a philosophy that will probably take further root as they’re going to have Donald Trump’s hand-picked chairperson to lead the GOP come January – those of us on the political right may have to search for a new home. (Obviously I’ve had this thought in mind, too.) The Constitution Party may not be perfect – I don’t agree 100 percent with everything in their platform but that’s true of any political party – but perhaps it’s time to bring them to the point of being a viable place for those who believe in all three legs of the Reagan-era conservative stool.

To have ballot access in 2020 in Maryland, the Constitution Party would have to follow the same route the Libertarians and Green Party have often had to: collect 10,000 signatures to secure access for the remainder of the gubernatorial cycle. If they can secure 1% of the vote in a statewide election they maintain access – based on their showing in the 2014 election, the Libertarians automatically qualified for this cycle but for several beforehand they went through the petition process.

It’s somewhat easier in Delaware, as the Constitution Party already has a portion of the number of 600-plus voters registered with the party they need to be on the ballot. Perhaps the place to look is the moribund Conservative Party of Delaware, which has a website full of dead links and no listed leadership – but enough registered voters that, if the two were combined under the Constitution Party banner, they would have enough for access with about 100 voters to spare.

While I’m not thrilled that the candidate I selected after a lengthy time of research and bout of prayer received just eight votes in Wicomico County, I can at least say there are a few of like mind with me. It’s seven fewer people I need to educate because they already get it and won’t compromise their beliefs. As for the rest of the conservatives in the nation, the task over the next four years is to convince them they don’t have to settle, either.

Thoughts on Trump: a postmortem, part two

November 11, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Thoughts on Trump: a postmortem, part two 

When I did part one I intended to wait until all of the write-in votes were counted and tallied before continuing, but it appears that process will be very time-consuming and drag out over the next couple weeks. So I will save the third part for that facet of the evaluation I wasn’t anticipating would take so long and carry on with what we do know to date, beginning with the rest of my predictions. I’m still working in reverse order.

On the Wicomico County level, Donald Trump will carry the county with ease, with 63.7% of the vote compared to 32.8% for Hillary. Gary Johnson will hover around 2.3% here and Jill Stein at 0.4%; in fact, Evan McMullin will beat her…

I keep making the mistake of thinking Wicomico County is more conservative than reality bears out. Trump won Wicomico County, but underperformed my expectations by a full 10.6 percentage points (53.1% vs. 63.7%.) Hillary received 8.8% of my overage, going from the 32.8% I guessed to the actual 41.6%, while Gary Johnson was the recipient of a small portion as well, outperforming with 3% against the 2.2% I predicted.

But it was the Green Party candidate Jill Stein who vastly outperformed, going from a cipher to a semi-cipher with 1%. She received 388 votes, and with 526 write-in votes to allocate – a total which presumably includes a batch for non-candidates like Larry Hogan or Mickey Mouse – I think Stein will end up beating McMullin after all. He needs nearly 3/4 of all the write-in votes and that’s a tall order.

The suspense will be much less in Maryland, where Trump will lose but not as badly as polls once suggested. Out of 2.6 million votes cast (again, down slightly from 2012) Hillary will get 56.1% and Trump 38.7%. Among the rest, Gary Johnson will get 3.3%, Jill Stein will pick up 1.2%, and write-ins the rest.

Turns out turnout wasn’t even as good as I thought, even knowing the high number who voted early. As of this writing, there were 2,545,896 Maryland votes for President, and you’re asking a lot for a 2% undervote on that part of the ballot (although it is possible.) But Hillary picked up an “extra” 3.5% in the state, a total that Trump exceeded by underperforming my estimate by 3.8%. (It is 59.6% for Hillary vs. 34.9% for Trump.) Gary Johnson also came up short, getting 2.8% vs. the 3.3% I projected, but Jill Stein came close with 1.3% as opposed to the 1.2% I predicted. But the write-ins I guessed would be less than 1 percent are (as a combined total) leading Stein 32,957 to 32,406. (Worth noting: over 6,000 absentee/provisional votes have been deleted from the write-in totals, so the final tally among them may be closer to 30,000 rather than the 40,000 I noted in part one. Still, that is over thrice the number of write-ins cast in 2012 at this point – although a high number will be non-official candidates as well.)

For the last part, I’m going to bring in my predicted electoral map.

The important race: Hillary Clinton will pull out a fairly close popular vote race by 1 or 2 points nationwide, but fails to eclipse 50 percent just like her husband. However, there is a highly distinct possibility we may live the 2000 election all over again: the Electoral College very well could finish 279-259 Trump and the straw that breaks Hillary Clinton’s back will be losing Florida. Trump will win 30 states but Florida will be the dagger the GOP regains to defeat Hillary. Also from the 2012 map Trump will regain Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio for the GOP, plus one Electoral College vote in Maine. (That one vote in Maine could be key if Florida and Pennsylvania trade places, with the former going to Clinton and the latter Trump. If Trump takes one Congressional district in Maine he would prevail 270-268, but if that elector decides to go with the other three Maine electors it becomes a tie.)


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

The reasons neither candidate breaks 50 percent: about 4.5% for Gary Johnson, 1.5% for Jill Stein, and various write-in candidates will split roughly 2% of the vote. This means Hillary beats Trump by something like 46-45 or 47-45.

It does not look like Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote by more than a margin that would trigger an automatic recount in many states (0.5%.) Both Clinton and Trump are hovering in the 47 to 48% range; based on standard rounding rules it’s 48-47 Hillary right now. So I was actually correct on margin.

But I’m intrigued by the states I messed up on. Let me share a little secret with you: my prediction map was based on a very simple formula – take the last poll from each state and if it was anything less than Clinton +3 give it to Trump. After all, people tell me I barely know Maryland and Delaware politics, let alone the dynamics of swing states I have never been to. But I did sense there was a Bradley effect going in that people either wouldn’t admit to a stranger they were voting for Trump or they were convinced that where there was the smoke of allegations over dirty dealings by Hillary Clinton there was the fire of influence-peddling, despite the FBI clearing her twice.

So Donald Trump did not win Colorado, Nevada, or New Hampshire as I predicted (although there may be an automatic recount in New Hampshire based on margin.) But I think he will gladly trade those 19 electoral votes for the 46 he gets by winning Michigan (maybe, as that is also likely an automatic recount margin), Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (!). Trump lost Colorado by 3 and Nevada by about 2, so they were close as were Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both taken by Trump by about 1 percent. Even if they find a trunkful of votes somehow deposited under home plate where Tiger Stadium once stood, though, Trump wins the Electoral College by 290-248. (If Michigan holds it’s 306-232, not quite the 332-206 Obama was re-elected with, but a healthy margin nonetheless. Even without Michigan, though, Trump beats Bush’s 2004 re-election, let alone the 2000 race.)

Yet despite underperforming my expectations, the Libertarian Gary Johnson blew away his party’s previous best national showing with 3.3%. Jill Stein actually did worse than I expected, garnering just less than 1% nationally. On both sides of the spectrum, those who wavered in their support for alternative candidates fell prey to the siren song of the duopoly who continually tries to convince people a vote other than R or D is “wasted.” And that’s the way the establishment continues to reign. So let me digress for a moment to wrap up the prediction part of this post…

First of all, national turnout will be about 124 million votes, which will be down from 2012 but not as bad as I once predicted.

Turnout was better than I guessed, but it will still be down from 2012. (By the way, I thought someplace I wrote it was 128 million in 2012, but the undervotes pushed it beyond 129 million casting a ballot. So far they have counted 126.8 million ballots.)

…and pick up with my thoughts on why Trump did so well where he was expected to lose.

If you see a common theme in those three states (as well as Ohio) this election was all about trade and job creation. These are the voters who have seen their livelihoods taken away by NAFTA and the relocation of manufacturing to other nations like China, so they have a latent animus against the Clinton family to begin with.

Yet these were also the union voters who either went with their union leadership to support Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama, or (more likely) just said the heck with it and stayed home because they liked neither choice presented by the duopoly. And let’s face it: to these working-class people George W. Bush only became president because his dad pulled the strings,  John McCain wasn’t appealing because he was a Washington insider, and Mitt Romney was the subject of their class envy. But Donald Trump made the election about things they cared about with his populist, pro-America appeal, so they turned out for him.

And it’s worth adding that pollsters tend to call those they know are likely voters. As I noted, much of this group stayed home for the last several elections and they’re skeptical enough of the press to deceive the pollsters if they do happen to call – thus, all the pollsters overestimated the base of support for Hillary in these states.

If I have a perception of these Trump voters, they remind me of my dad: he was a union worker for over 35 years, was drafted into the Army and served his hitch (fortunately in the period between Korea and Vietnam), and he worked for several years at a friend’s greenhouse even after he “retired” from his longtime employer (a concrete block plant that is no longer in business.) I have no idea if he voted, but if he did he fits well the profile of one of those Trump supporters who came out of the woodwork.

So I’m left with the surprise and shock I received when I opened up my browser to the New York Times website where I was tracking the results and finding they were predicting a Trump victory was more and more likely. It was surprising because it was lining up with my EC prediction, and shocking once the results began rolling in from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Conversely, I’m not shocked by the discord in the election’s wake, just saddened (remember, I didn’t vote for Trump either – but I’m not going to march in the streets about it.)

My last part is going to wrap up the predictions once I get the write-in results. Already Darrell Castle is at 180,000 votes nationwide and that will hopefully increase as states where he was a write-in tally their ballots. Considering the Constitution Party has never broken 200,000, it’s a start. I’m going to be interested to see how Castle fares in Maryland and Delaware.

I suppose the next great political event around these parts will be the runup to the Maryland GOP Fall Convention that I will miss (but only in the sense I won’t be there – as it turns out I have much better plans for that particular weekend) but will elect a new party Chair whose top job will be to re-elect Larry Hogan in two years.

In the meantime, I may do a little work on my book this weekend. I also found out there will be a change afoot with this site, so stay tuned.

Closing the loop: a postmortem, part one

I’m sure that many millions of people like me who stayed up until almost 3 this morning (yet had to get up and go to work) were of several minds: anything from watching a slow-motion trainwreck to openly savoring the bitterness coming from the hearts of the so-called “experts” who predicted a massive blowout loss for Donald Trump. And until the last maybe week to 10 days I was among that group, but it seems there is a reservoir of support Trump could keep tapping into that other Republicans could not.

That subject is one I will get to in due course (that being part two) but for the moment I just want to work through my series of predictions and see if my crystal ball has been fixed. Just as I reeled them out from national to local, I will wind them backward to wrap them up.

And just as an aside, while early voting had historically high turnout, the reason will end up being that people just wanted to wash their hands of this election.

I think that panned out to a fair extent. Turnout is lining up to be right around or perhaps slightly below where it was in 2012, depending on how many absentees or provisional ballots there were. Including early voting, Maryland brought out a little over 2.5 million voters. Considering the state has about 300,000 more voters in this cycle, I think the turnout percentage will decrease or stay about where it was – the timing of votes was what shifted.

Across the border, I fear Delaware will vote for more of the same then wonder why their state isn’t getting better. Basically the state will have the same political composition with different names on the nameplates in Congress and state executive offices – not that Sussex County agreed with it, but they will be outvoted as usual by the New Castle Democrat machine.

In the state of Delaware, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by a 53%-42% margin, Democrat Congressional hopeful Lisa Blunt Rochester won 56%-41% over Republican Hans Reigle. and in all three state government races, the Democrats won by almost identical margins: 58%-39%, 59%-41%, and 59%-41%. Aside from an extra 10,000 or so votes cast in the governor’s race to accommodate the Green and Libertarian candidates, the Democrats’ totals were all within 2,000 votes and the GOP within 2,500.

But if you break it down by county and the city of Wilmington, you find that Hillary won 84.8% in Wilmington, 59.4% in the rest of New Castle County, 44.9% in Kent County, and 37.2% in Sussex County. The problem is New Castle County’s Hillary votes were more than the combined overall total of either Sussex or Kent County. Sussex only went 41% for Rochester, 45% for governor-elect John Carney, 47% for lieutenant governor-elect Bethany Hall-Long, and 40% for new insurance commissioner Trinidad Navarro. Going forward they need to keep statewide Democrats in the 20s in Sussex County, but that may be a tall task as those who retire there generally come from Democratic core states and apparently don’t change their voting patterns.

On the questions, I believe Question 1 will get in the neighborhood of 80% statewide but maybe 75% here. The biggest controversy will be that Question A’s Option 2 will win a plurality of the vote but not quite a majority – a spirited Democrat effort will pull Option 2 down to 48% but Option 1 will get just 32%, with 20% opting for the hybrid. Otherwise, all the charter amendments will pass by healthy margins of 65 to 80 percent in favor.

Question 1 got 73.6% here (so I was close) but I underestimated the statewide wisdom to some extent, as the partisan measure passed on a 72-28 margin overall (as opposed to 80%.) I was just 3 percentage points off on Question A but Option 2 managed a slight 51% majority rather than a plurality. The Democrats probably got a late start in backing Option 1 because it underperformed my estimate by 7 points while the hybrid Option 3 outperformed by 5 points. The other questions ranged from 63 to 77 percent in favor, so I was in the ballpark. Maybe my public opposition brought them down 2 to 3 percent each.

Andy Harris will be returned to Congress, but not by as much as previous years. He will get 60.7% of the vote both overall and in Wicomico County, but Joe Werner’s 35.9% of the vote districtwide will shrink to 33.8% here. The Libertarian Matt Beers will have 3.2% districtwide but do somewhat better here, with 5.2% support in Wicomico County.

I was somewhat correct with Harris. He got 7% better than I predicted districtwide, but I was correct that he did decline slightly from 2014, when he was a shade over 70%. That extra came from Werner as he came up 7.9% short of what I thought he would and Matt Beers came in 1% better at 4.2%. Here in Wicomico, though, I was much closer: Harris underperformed my guess by 1.7% while Werner jumped 3.3%. The Libertarian Beers came in 1.5% less here. It’s worth noting, though, that the Libertarians’ share of the vote has increased slightly with each election they participate in – back in 2008 they had 2.5%, in 2010 3.8%, in 2012 3.8% (but Muir Boda came close to edging the write-in Democratic candidate here in Wicomico with 5.9% vs. 6%) and now 4.2%.

Looking at the U.S. Senate race, I think that Chris Van Hollen wins no more than eight counties but those will be enough to propel him to victory with 61.1% of the vote, compared to Kathy Szeliga’s 37.8%. Margaret Flowers will get 0.6% and various write-ins the rest. Wicomico will be one Szeliga wins, but not quite as strongly as Trump – she gets 59.3% of the vote while Van Hollen has 40.3% and Flowers 0.2%.

Van Hollen won just six counties, but unfortunately for Szeliga they included the four biggest so she was trounced. I gave Van Hollen about 1% more credit than he deserved, but Szeliga got no benefit as she was 1.4% short. All the underage went to Flowers, who grabbed over fivefold the share I predicted at 3.2%. Just as some on the right may give Libertarians the vote in a race they know is safe (I’ve done this several times in the past) I think those well out on the left figured it wouldn’t hurt to push the Flowers total up. But when Szeliga undercuts my modest expectations (to have a shot, she really had to be in the 75% range here and elsewhere on the Eastern Shore) by a full 5.7%, it’s a short wait for a concession speech. Van Hollen only lost our supposedly conservative county by 10.4 points (and beat my guess by about 3 points) but a shocker was that Flowers did about as well here as she did statewide. I thought she would be lucky to get 100 votes locally; she picked up 1,163.

I’m going to stop with that because I want to see the write-in votes for President before I comment on that race. But I will say that I am shocked at the number of write-in votes, as over 40,000 were cast statewide. I’m sure many of these won’t be counted, but it won’t be 85% of them like it was in 2012. I may have been overly pessimistic on Evan McMullin, Darrell Castle, Tom Hoefling, and so forth as they may split 15 to 20 thousand votes (although McMullin will get the lion’s share.) We won’t know for a few days, though, and when we do I will pick up with the second part regarding the Presidential race.

All over but the shouting

November 8, 2016 · Posted in 50 Year Plan, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on All over but the shouting 

It’s the end of the “road to 2016” for me.

For me personally this has been a very strange election cycle, with the only one closely like it in the last 20 years being 2004. That was the year I moved to Maryland in October, too late to register here. So I voted absentee in Ohio and helped George W. Bush carry that state.

That was the one year I can think of (besides this year) where I didn’t work a poll for a state or national election. I thought my political career was winding down then but I was bitten by the bug soon enough. Less than a year later I was going to Republican Club meetings and by 2006 I was back in the mix as a member of Wicomico County’s Republican Central Committee.

But this time it was truly different. Once I left the Central Committee, disgusted and disheartened that my party could select such a poor nominee that belied so many of its small-government principles, I essentially shunned the political process entirely in the sense that I didn’t go to meetings, work at headquarters, or stand at a poll. Yes, I did express my support for particular candidates, but at that point in the process I was looking forward to a new and different chapter of involvement. Things look a lot different when you are 52 and married than 40 and single. I think I have done my part – now it’s time for all those voters Trump supposedly brought onboard the “Trump train” to help the Republican Party, or perhaps what’s left of it if we are saddled with a Hillary Clinton presidency.

I still have an agenda, though. Just because I’m not doing the political events doesn’t mean I won’t be interested in promoting the ideas of limited, Constitutional government in accordance with Biblical values. It’s a combination that truly made America great, and in order to make America great again what we really need is to change the paradigm. It’s a little bit like having the choice of Coke or Pepsi but longing for 7-up. This cycle has really brought the false duopoly from which we suffer home to me: too many people suffer from the delusion that not voting for one candidate is voting for the other. Imagine you support neither, read that sentence again and you will realize how little sense that “not voting for one is a vote for the other” theory makes.

Somewhere someone got the bright idea that Republicans needed to be more like Democrats to win, so they convinced Republicans to simply promise to make government work better rather than do the hard work of rightsizing it. Notice Donald Trump did not talk about promoting liberty, nor did he speak to Biblical values. (Perhaps “2 Corinthians” gave him away?) It reminded me of Larry Hogan’s 2014 campaign – and yes, it worked in Maryland but aside from some tinkering around the edges what limitations of government have been achieved?

The process of political education (or re-education) needs to begin once we know who wins tonight. That’s the one thing I hope to bring to the table going forward, leavened with the other stuff I like to write about because all politics and no play makes Michael a very dull boy.

But I am truly glad this saga is over. There was a time in my life where I treated Election Day like the Super Bowl, but I was almost always disappointed. Looking back, I’m not sure I made a difference being a field worker. Yet I have what people tell me is a God-given talent to write, and with that I hope to teach and learn a few things, too. I have a project in the works I’m hoping to have finished this time next year. Some of you may be aware of this, but I’m working on a book about the TEA Party. To me, it’s a fascinating political movement that deserves study for what it did right – and what it’s done wrong.

Since I slowed down my writing pace here over the summer, I enjoy sitting down and writing more. Has it cost me some readership? Perhaps, but that’s also something the remaining readers can work on by sharing and promoting my posts.

But I’m looking forward to the next cycle regardless of who wins, and it’s because it opens a chapter of life that I can’t wait to write. Someone was saying to me they saw a 100,000 word blog post coming on, but I think I’ll reserve a good chunk of the remaining 99,200 words, give or take, for my book and other future writing. As for tonight, I’ll just trust God is in control.

The wild guesses for 2016

November 7, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on The wild guesses for 2016 

In years past, our Central Committee used to make a gentlemen’s bet on the election results and I was often the one who prevailed. But I seem to recall I had a rough go of it the last couple times out and these days I have no idea if my crystal ball is broken or not. Undaunted, here are my slightly educated guesses on how this election will turn out locally, statewide, and nationally.

First of all, national turnout will be about 124 million votes, which will be down from 2012 but not as bad as I once predicted.

The important race: Hillary Clinton will pull out a fairly close popular vote race by 1 or 2 points nationwide, but fails to eclipse 50 percent just like her husband. However, there is a highly distinct possibility we may live the 2000 election all over again: the Electoral College very well could finish 279-259 Trump and the straw that breaks Hillary Clinton’s back will be losing Florida. Trump will win 30 states but Florida will be the dagger the GOP regains to defeat Hillary. Also from the 2012 map Trump will regain Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio for the GOP, plus one Electoral College vote in Maine. (That one vote in Maine could be key if Florida and Pennsylvania trade places, with the former going to Clinton and the latter Trump. If Trump takes one Congressional district in Maine he would prevail 270-268, but if that elector decides to go with the other three Maine electors it becomes a tie.)


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

The reasons neither candidate breaks 50 percent: about 4.5% for Gary Johnson, 1.5% for Jill Stein, and various write-in candidates will split roughly 2% of the vote. This means Hillary beats Trump by something like 46-45 or 47-45. But if Hillary wins in the Electoral College by keeping Florida (or another close state like North Carolina or Ohio), by dawn on Wednesday the caterwauling about #NeverTrump begins, conveniently forgetting that not only was Trump a weak candidate propped up by initial incessant and fawning media coverage that (as if by magic) turned more negative when he won the nomination, but Gary Johnson and Jill Stein took enough from Hillary to deny her a majority, too.

The suspense will be much less in Maryland, where Trump will lose but not as badly as polls once suggested. Out of 2.6 million votes cast (again, down slightly from 2012) Hillary will get 56.1% and Trump 38.7%. Among the rest, Gary Johnson will get 3.3%, Jill Stein will pick up 1.2%, and write-ins the rest. Evan McMullin will get the majority of counted write-in votes, eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide. I think Darrell Castle comes in next with around 1,100, which almost triples the 2012 Constitution Party candidates Virgil Goode and James Clymer (both ran under that banner as the party had split factions.) This would be astounding when you consider there were over 10,000 write-in votes cast in 2012 but most of those weren’t counted. (The actual top vote-getter among write-ins back in 2012 was Santa Claus with 625 – Goode was second.) Thanks to McMullin, though, this year the stigma behind write-ins will be broken somewhat.

On the Wicomico County level, Donald Trump will carry the county with ease, with 63.7% of the vote compared to 32.8% for Hillary. Gary Johnson will hover around 2.3% here and Jill Stein at 0.4%; in fact, Evan McMullin will beat her by getting 0.6% of the vote. Of the other 100 or so votes, I figure Darrell Castle gets about 45.

Looking at the U.S. Senate race, I think that Chris Van Hollen wins no more than eight counties but those will be enough to propel him to victory with 61.1% of the vote, compared to Kathy Szeliga’s 37.8%. Margaret Flowers will get 0.6% and various write-ins the rest. Wicomico will be one Szeliga wins, but not quite as strongly as Trump – she gets 59.3% of the vote while Van Hollen has 40.3% and Flowers 0.2%. Not backing Trump will give Szeliga a larger undervote than normal, while Van Hollen may actually exceed Hillary as independents split their tickets.

Andy Harris will be returned to Congress, but not by as much as previous years. He will get 60.7% of the vote both overall and in Wicomico County, but Joe Werner’s 35.9% of the vote districtwide will shrink to 33.8% here. The Libertarian Matt Beers will have 3.2% districtwide but do somewhat better here, with 5.2% support in Wicomico County. Because of the nature of the First District, don’t be surprised if Harris runs slightly ahead of Trump (mainly across the Bay.) The Maryland Congressional delegation will remain 7-1 Democrat, with Amie Hoeber and Mark Plaster coming the closest to ousting the incumbents but losing by single-digits.

On the questions, I believe Question 1 will get in the neighborhood of 80% statewide but maybe 75% here. The biggest controversy will be that Question A’s Option 2 will win a plurality of the vote but not quite a majority – a spirited Democrat effort will pull Option 2 down to 48% but Option 1 will get just 32%, with 20% opting for the hybrid. Otherwise, all the charter amendments will pass by healthy margins of 65 to 80 percent in favor.

Across the border, I fear Delaware will vote for more of the same then wonder why their state isn’t getting better. Basically the state will have the same political composition with different names on the nameplates in Congress and state executive offices – not that Sussex County agreed with it, but they will be outvoted as usual by the New Castle Democrat machine.

So that’s my take on how it will go – do readers have ideas of their own? And just as an aside, while early voting had historically high turnout, the reason will end up being that people just wanted to wash their hands of this election. Voting a week early enabled many to tune the election out – they did their civic duty and now could get on with life.

We will see on Wednesday how shocked and surprised I am. I was certainly shocked with the state-by-state figuring I did to predict a 2000 repeat.

Earning my presidential vote: intangibles and the endorsement

Back in September 2015, when I made my initial endorsement out of the Republican field, my intangibles consisted of several factors: executive experience, the candidate website (as I admitted at the time, somewhat picayune), and other issues they brought up.

Now I have a smaller field, with just five contenders who I can vote for here in Maryland: Darrell Castle/Scott Bradley of the Constitution Party, James Hedges/Bill Bayes of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling/Steve Schulin of America’s Party, Gary Johnson/William Weld of the Libertarian Party, and independents Evan McMullin/Mindy Finn.

If you want to review the entirety of this series before you read on (so as to get caught up), you can find my initial criteria for selection and my key issues: education, Second Amendment, energy, social issues, trade and job creation, taxation, immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and role of government. It’s a lot of reading and quite a bit of research – but just think of it as me doing the work for you and you will be okay.

There are five points at stake here, and one feature of this area is that it can be subtractive as well – a candidate can lose points.

Obviously there is only one candidate with executive experience, and that is former governor Gary Johnson. So he receives a point for that.

In the original rendition I awarded (or deducted) up to two points for the candidate’s website, feeling that it’s now the first place voters turn to in order to make their decision. However, I am amending this to a one-point addition or deduction for a reason I’ll explain in a moment.

Darrell Castle has a website that is a little clunky, but once you find the issues page he not only has positions laid out, but links to dozens of his podcasts he’s done over the last few years, which are categorized by topic. It reminds me a lot of Carly Fiorina’s campaign website except much of the content is audio rather than video. He adds the point to his total.

James Hedges has a more rudimentary website that I found to be not all that helpful. I had to do a little more digging to find his positions, which to the average voter means he will be passed by. They have the Prohibition Party platform but only a supplemental link to one issue out of many listed. He loses one point.

With a philosophy of a modern “front porch” campaign, I found the website of Tom Hoefling to be just okay. However, he is very active on social media as well, which is how I learned about a couple of the policy positions I couldn’t glean from the main site – I asked him directly. It can almost be annoying to follow him; then again, if you think of all the e-mail you get from a specific candidate, seeing his name pop up on notifications on an hourly basis or more isn’t too terrible. So he adds the point.

Gary Johnson has a very good website, which reflects his national standing as he has the resources to keep it updated. As you read, the issues page is very comprehensive so I didn’t have to use many other resources. He gets the point.

The same goes for Evan McMullin, although I don’t care quite as much for the website design. He has a very comprehensive issues page, which has probably made up half of the wordage of this series. One thing I didn’t add in my descriptions is that he contrasts himself to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with his policy writings. So he gets the one point, too.

Because of the nature of these candidacies, ballot access isn’t automatic as it is for the Republican/Democrat duopoly. (Since the two parties make the rules, they tend to discourage competition. It’s a symptom of what is wrong with our current political system.) So it’s worthwhile to know just how accessible these candidates are.

  • Darrell Castle/Scott Bradley: on ballot in 24 states, write-in 23 states (and Washington, D.C.), pending write-in access in California. Locally they are a write-in for both Maryland and Delaware.
  • James Hedges/Bill Bayes: on ballot in 3 states, write-in 10 states. Locally only Maryland voters can write Hedges in.
  • Tom Hoefling/Steve Schulin: on ballot in 2 states, write-in 37 states (and Washington, D.C.), pending write-in access in California. Locally they are a write-in for both Maryland and Delaware.
  • Gary Johnson/William Weld: on ballot in all states, including Maryland and Delaware.
  • Evan McMullin/Mindy Finn: on ballot in 11 states, write-in 32 states (and Washington, D.C.). Locally they are a write-in for both Maryland and Delaware; however, they are filed with Nathan Johnson as VP candidate. This was done in order to qualify for access; Finn was selected later by McMullin as his intended VP. If elected, Nathan Johnson will resign as VP in favor of Finn, who is the only woman in this group.

Because all but Hedges can secure enough electoral votes to be president, they get credit for ballot access – 0.5 points for Castle, Hoefling, and McMullin, and 1 point for Johnson.

As part of this section, I also wrote up a short bio detailing the experience for each candidate.

Darrell Castle turned 68 years old on October 11. He served in Vietnam in the Marine Corps, currently a bankruptcy/personal injury lawyer. Ran on the Constitution Party ticket in 2008 as VP under Chuck Baldwin.

Jim Hedges would be the oldest President, currently 78 years old. Once a township assessor in Pennsylvania, the only elected member of the Prohibition Party at the time and first since 1959.

Tom Hoefling will be 56 years old upon inauguration. He previously ran for President on the American Independent Party ticket in 2012, securing three state ballots and eleven write-in positions, picking up over 40,000 votes. He also ran for Governor of Iowa in 2014. Wrote the America’s Party platform in 2012 and is a close political ally of onetime Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes.

Gary Johnson would be 64 years old on inauguration day. He was governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003 and ran as a Republican for President in 2012 before withdrawing and securing the Libertarian nomination, receiving 1,275,951 votes or just under 1 percent. (They were on the ballot in all states but Michigan and Oklahoma, with Michigan access as a write-in.)

Evan McMullin is 40 years old, making his first run for political office. He is a former CIA counterterrorism expert and chief policy director of the House Republican Conference.

Finally, I learned that Darrell Castle opposes an Article V convention, fearing a “runaway convention.” He fears our nation will have a lower standard of living in 25 years thanks to massive debt, a declining birthrate, and foreign entanglements. Favors GMO labeling and decriminalization of marijuana, and believes states have a right to secede, but opposes the military draft and would not draft women if there were one. Given the mixed bag of miscellaneous comments and positions, I will give him another half-point. 2 points.

In his statements, Jim Hedges admitted he was from the “liberal wing” of the Prohibition Party, which allowed him to add some of their more leftist planks. He termed it as the party’s chance to survive by attracting younger voters as it has dwindled in popularity – it’s been around for nearly 150 years, but only received 518 votes nationally in 2012. So his run is as much about keeping the flame burning than winning, and they deserve to be in the process. I will be charitable and return the point I deducted before. 0 points.

One statement from Tom Hoefling can be added to this mix: that private property is a cornerstone of American liberty. I take this to mean that he is a staunch defender of private property rights, which in this age of Kelo and Agenda 21 is a good stance to have. I’ll add two remaining points for that. 3.5 points.

Gary Johnson has a commendable position on veterans that should be considered if that is your key issue. I’ll give him one extra point here. 4 points.

The same regarding veterans can be said of Evan McMullin, so he also gets one extra point. 2.5 points.

**********

I have now considered and awarded appropriate shares of all 100 points, so I have finally reached the end of my process. The candidates will now be assessed in reverse order.

While the Prohibition Party should have a voice in the process – and could be the conscience of the conservative side of the spectrum – the fact they nominated a member of their left wing in James Hedges meant he did not do well in my system, gathering just 36 points out of 100. The only categories they did well in were immigration and social issues; otherwise the nominee was near the bottom.

Evan McMullin reminds me of a typical Republican politician, someone who thinks the system is fine with some improvements. The problem is that I feel the system is broken and we need to start repairing the damage rather than patch it up around the seams – so he only received 39 points out of 100. His best categories were energy and foreign policy, which led to my comment that he would make a solid Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense. But in most areas McMullin wrote a lot but lagged the field.

Having said that, I am rooting for him to win Utah and break up the electoral map from red and blue. Perhaps he can set a trend.

I was a little disappointed that Gary Johnson only scored 50.5 points in this system, especially since he got off to a good start by winning both the education and Second Amendment categories. He also won in trade and job creation, but finishing near the bottom in social issues and last in immigration and foreign policy did him in. However, he is setting the Libertarian Party up for future success in many states where ballot access depends on a particular percentage of the vote. They could also qualify for federal funding, although their party philosophy may make them refuse it.

Once Johnson faded from the front of the race, I came down to two major contenders – Darrell Castle and Tom Hoefling. One of them won a total of four categories worth 36 points while the other won two categories, but they were worth 27 points. Neither ever finished last in a category, and both had only one fourth place finish.

In looking over their point totals, the difference was in just a couple issues: one was far stronger in entitlements than the other, while the reverse was true in foreign policy.

Tom Hoefling is a strident anti-abortionist, but it came down to a point where I was troubled by my understanding of how he felt about it in consideration of the rule of law. Here is the phrase in question, from the platform he wrote:

(E)very officer of the judicial, legislative and executive departments, at every level and in every branch, is required to use all lawful means to protect every innocent life within their jurisdictions; and that we will henceforth deem failure to carry out this supreme sworn duty to be cause for removal from public office via impeachment or recall, or by statutory or electoral means, notwithstanding any law passed by any legislative body within the United States, or the decision of any court, or the decree of any executive officer, at any level of governance, to the contrary. (Emphasis mine.)

Above all, America is a nation of laws, with the Constitution as supreme law of the land. I understand we are given inalienable rights, with life paramount above them, but we must also render unto Caesar what is his and all of us – even the most cold-blooded abortionist – are entitled to live under the law, not the whim of a dictator. If you want to change laws, you must change hearts first because that leads to electoral allies being placed in office. This is why Hoefling only got 3 points in the category and finished with 63 points overall.

And because Darrell Castle got 7 points in the category by understanding the limitations placed on his role by the Constitution, he ended up with 67 points overall – and my vote.

So on November 8 I will walk into my Civic Center polling place and cast my ballot, writing in Darrell Castle for President. I know he won’t win the state, but my goal is twofold: I am voting my conscience, as Ted Cruz advised me to, and perhaps I am planting the seed for an alternative to the two-party system.

I’m sure most of the people I know well will be holding their nose to some degree and voting for Donald Trump. But why reward a party and nominee that has done little to advance the cause of conservative, Constitutional government and is so unpopular in the state the last poll had the GOP nominee trailing by 30 points or more? Democrats have had a field day tying the GOP nominees to Trump, almost as if they selected the Republican nominee themselves to their advantage.

So I encourage you to join me in supporting a Constitutional ticket:

DarrellCastle2016_WebBanner-01-1

After all this writing, I’m taking tomorrow off (aside from placing Marita Noon’s column) and will return with something for Wednesday.

Earning my presidential vote: role of government

In the final of my issues segments, I get to the most important one to me: how the President understands and addresses the role of government. I’m just going to dispense with the bullet point this time: government must be limited and conducted in accordance with the Constitution. To do otherwise is an abomination and diminishes our standing as a nation – unfortunately, we have endured this status for (depending on the perspective of the observer) anywhere from the last eight years to the last hundred. (Some even trace it back to the War Between the States or even the Marbury v. Madison decision.)

To re-introduce the candidates, we begin with Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, then it’s Jim Hedges of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and independent Evan McMullin. Johnson is on the Maryland ballot; the rest are write-ins but their votes will count. And if you want to start this series from the beginning (this is the tenth part) you can go here and I link to each succeeding part in turn. At stake is fourteen points, which is the highest individual total.

So let’s see what the people have to say, shall we? I’m going to warn you: this is the longest part because a lot of elements fell into this category.

Castle: No one wants to limit government because it doesn’t fit the goals of the establishment, which is why there’s little coverage of his campaign.

“Who wants to have limits set on what you can do if you can be emperor of the world? Power corrupts. The Founders knew that. It’s human nature to want more and more power, which the Founders understood very well. The people of the United States have permitted their government to exercise almost absolute power, and that’s a mistake. The system the Founders gave us is not self-policing; the people have to do that, through their representatives. And we seem to have pretty much forgotten that.”

Would end the Federal Reserve and return nation to the gold standard.

“Today I want to speak to you in defense of liberty and against tyranny. I speak for the republic and against the fascism that seems to be enveloping us. The general government was created by the sovereign states for a specific purpose; that purpose was to protect our God-given rights. Anything that runs afoul of that purpose is therefore illegal and unconstitutional. And since virtually everything this government does runs afoul of that purpose, virtually everything it does is illegal and unconstitutional.”

“Private property rights are under assault in communities and rural areas across the nation as state and federal authorities move to enforce new planning development programs, particularly under the labels of Sustainable Development or Local Visioning.

Local elected representatives are being overshadowed by the establishment of non-elected boards, councils, planning commissions and regional governments. These non-elected organizations are taking government further away from the people as they are unseen and unapproachable. While totally unaccountable to the people, they enforce policy that affects property rights, tax rates, etc.

Across the nation communities are being pressured by federal agencies to accept grants for local sustainable projects that affect property rights and destroy local control. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

I would withdraw the federal government from such international, sovereignty destroying legislation. I would stop the federal government from manipulating local communities with handouts, and begin the process of handing control of their lives and property back to the local people.”

“I would end the Federal Reserve’s control of the United States’ monetary system by repealing the Federal Reserve Act. Interest rates would no longer be tampered with, as lenders and borrowers would set their own rates.

I would remind the banks that there would no longer be a Federal Reserve to lend to them in an emergency so if a bank gets in trouble, it’s on its own.

Then I would let the American people know that they are now free to use whatever currency they want. The dollar would again be exchangeable for a fixed quantity of gold and the U.S. Treasury would now accept any major currency, including bitcoin, in payment of taxes. As a result, the country would return to a traditional and sensible money system so people could decide for themselves what kind of money they wanted to use. They could save it, spend it, or put any price they wanted on it if they wanted to lend it out.”

Respects people who favor term limits, but disagrees.

War on Drugs has been a “terrible disaster.” (Facebook) “Tell me something today that has created more crime than the War on Drugs.” It’s time to declare peace. (“Iron Sharpens Iron” internet radio show)

Hedges: Term limits for Supreme Court justices.

“The role the federal government should be to ensure that all citizens are treated equally before the law, that we don’t retreat back to the times when only white, male, land owners were allowed to participate in government.

The states should be allowed to make their own regulations about a lot of things. Now, if there is a spillover two adjacent states, such as air pollution from coal-burning power plants, or alcohol sales adjacent to Indian reservations, then the interstate compacts or national courts need to resolve these conflicts. But, the states can experiment with 50 different solutions to various problems and maybe a few of those experiments will work and be a guide for everyone, while a mandatory national policy has just one chance of getting it right.”

Voodoo economics from Democrats and Republicans – deficit spending. Alarmed by “sustainable level of deficits.”

Key issue: who is in charge, states or D.C.? “Today we have 50 sovereign, independent states that are united under the Constitution. States need to step up, since states created federal government.” (Bayes)

Supreme Court and President cannot make law, Court members who do so should be impeached. (Bayes)

“The Constitution mandates that Congress shall have the sole power to coin money and to regulate its value. We will abolish the Federal Reserve System, establishing in its place a government-owned National Bank. Predatory lending activities and punitive rates of interest will be banned. We will encourage the formation of state banks where qualified entrepreneurs can borrow money for investment in job-creating enterprises at minimal interest.” (party platform)

Party favors balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Hoefling: We seek to restore the intended balance between the three separate branches of our government, and to strictly limit government to the Enumerated Powers granted and expressed by the will of the people of the United States in our Constitution.

All existing functions of the Executive branch that are outside of those Enumerated Powers must be eliminated.

All spending and regulation by the Legislative branch that lies outside the Enumerated Powers must cease.

Judges who attempt to legislate from the bench, or who abandon the clear principles of our Constitution, must be checked if liberty and justice are to prevail in our society once again.

We demand a return to adherence to the provisions of the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

We also call for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. Its enactment greatly reduced the power of our state legislatures and state governments – which are much closer to the people – and damaged our system of federalism. (party platform)

“Just as ‘good fences make for good neighbors,’ good government is mainly about knowing where the legitimate boundaries are, and having the courage to defend those borders forcefully. This is true in terms of the defense of our territory, our security, and our national sovereignty, but it also applies to the sworn duty of all of those in government to equally protect the God-given, unalienable rights of each individual person, from their creation onward, their sacred obligation to stay well within the enumerated powers of our constitutions, and of the role legitimate government must play in balancing the competing rights and interests of the people, in order to establish justice.” (personal website)

Johnson: No excuses. No games. A REAL balanced budget.

By 2017, the national debt will be $20 TRILLION. That is not just obscene, it is unsustainable — and arguably the single greatest threat to our national security.

Responsibility for the years of deficit spending that has created our debt crisis rests squarely with BOTH the Republicans and the Democrats. The debt doubled under President George W. Bush — and doubled again under President Obama. During that time, both parties enjoyed control of Congress, and the deficit spending just kept piling up.

It doesn’t have to be that way, despite what the politicians say. But the idea that we can somehow balance the federal budget without cutting military spending and reforming entitlements is fantasy. What is required is leadership and political courage. As Governor of a state with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, Gary Johnson stood up to excess spending, vetoed 750 bills and literally thousands of budget line items … and balanced the state’s budget.

Governor Johnson has pledged that his first major act as President will be to submit to Congress a truly balanced budget. No gimmicks, no imaginary cuts in the distant future. Real reductions to bring spending in line with revenues, without tax increases. No line in the budget will be immune from scrutiny and reduction. And he pledges to veto any legislation that will result in deficit spending, forcing Congress to override his veto in order to spend money we don’t have.

Limit terms. Increase accountability. Bring back representation.

Under a republican form of government, representatives should be accountable to all people, not institutional forces like lobbyists, special interests, and partisan gamesmanship. Yet today, politicians are often unable to do their job because they are incentivized to do what it takes to get re-elected, not to do what is right for the American people. This doesn’t make them bad people. But it does make for bad representation.

This is why we adopted the 22nd Amendment in 1947, to limit the number of terms a President can hold office to two terms. We did this because we recognized that a President should focus on representing the people instead of playing politics.

Yet today, we have a perpetual election cycle that incentivizes politicians to speak along carefully crafted campaign talking points, constantly ask special interests for campaign donations, and rely on their political party campaign machines for election support. And we wonder why we have such extreme partisanship in Washington?

Can a Republican support gay marriage? Not if his or her first priority is to get re-elected.

Can a Democrat vote for a tax cut? Not if his or her first priority is to get re-elected.

And that is where we are at today. Whether it’s foreign policy, taxes, civil rights, or any other issue — Democrats and Republicans alike cannot take positions on behalf of their constituency because partisan campaign rhetoric trumps the pursuit of practical policy.

As the spending continues unchecked. As the wars continue. And as Government keeps taking away more freedoms, the dangerous dedication that politicians have to getting re-elected keeps representatives from doing the job they were elected to do in the first place.

That’s why Gary Johnson is a strong advocate of term limits. And that’s why Governor Bill Weld served as national co-chairman of U.S. Term Limits.

Run for office, spend a few years doing the job at hand, and then return to private life. That’s what Gary Johnson and Bill Weld did as governors, and that’s what all our representatives should do too.

Our founding fathers established the 4th Amendment, for example, to prevent the government from snooping into our private lives without a warrant.

Yet today, we have a national government that spies on private communications, monitors your financial transactions, photographs your license plates, and even will track everything you do at a public library — all without warrants or due process of law.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld want to get the government out of your life. Out of your cell phone. Out of your bedroom. And back into the business of protecting your freedoms, not restricting them.

End the War on Drugs. Reduce Recidivism. Support Law Enforcement.

The failed War on Drugs is, of course, the greatest example. Well over 100 million Americans have, at one time or another, used marijuana. Yet, today, simple possession and use of marijuana remains a crime — despite the fact that a majority of Americans now favor its legalization.

And who is most harmed by the War on Drugs? Minorities, the poor, and anyone else without access to high-priced attorneys.

More generally, mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of offenses and other efforts by politicians to be “tough” have removed far too much common-sense discretion from judges and prosecutors.

These factors, combined with the simple fact that we have too many unnecessary laws, have produced a society with too many people in our prisons and jails, too many undeserving individuals saddled with criminal records, and a seriously frayed relationship between law enforcement and those they serve.

Fortunately, a growing number of state and local governments are taking steps toward meaningful criminal justice reform. The federal government must do the same, and Gary Johnson is committed to bringing real leadership to this long-overdue effort.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are committed to meaningful criminal justice reform. (campaign website)

McMullin: Evan McMullin is a constitutional conservative who will reverse the unaccountable expansion of federal power at the expense of state and local government. He will restore the constitutional system of checks and balances, which designates Congress—not the president, the courts, or the bureaucracy—as the only body capable of making laws. Evan will appoint judges committed to upholding the Constitution as originally written and understood, instead of imposing their social agendas or legislating from the bench. These reforms will help to ensure that our country continues to have government by the people, of the people, and for the people.

In defiance of the Constitution, President Obama has relied on executive action to force through controversial proposals that failed to win support in Congress. When Congress refused to pass the immigration reforms that Obama wanted, he issued a de facto amnesty that would cover as many as 5 million illegal immigrants. When Obama failed to persuade Congress to restrict carbon dioxide emissions, Obama had the EPA issue a Clean Power Plan that would achieve his goals. Federal courts eventually blocked both Obama’s amnesty and the Clean Power Plan.

Even when Congress does what Obama wants, he has taken new powers for himself that go far beyond legal limits. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”), the president repeatedly made substantial changes to the program without congressional authorization. He suspended requirements, issued waivers, and even appropriated federal dollars without permission from Congress.

Under Obama, independent agencies have also begun to exceed the bounds of their authority. In 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sought to block Boeing from operating an aircraft plant in South Carolina, not because Boeing broke any laws, but because South Carolina laws are less favorable to unions.

The volume of regulation has also increased substantially under Obama. As of mid-2016, the Obama administration has issued 600 major regulations, defined as those with a cost of at least $100 million each. The total cost of these regulations is $743 billion and they will require 194 million hours of paperwork to implement. In his remaining months in office, Obama may issue another 50 major regulations with a cost of $70 billion.

For constitutional conservatives, neither of the leading candidates in this election provides much hope for a return to limited government and an effective system of checks and balances.

Evan McMullin believes in the wisdom of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves for state governments and for individuals all the powers that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly give to the federal government. The framers of the Constitution understood that what works best for Massachusetts might not work as well for Virginia. In addition, a government that is closer to the people is more accountable to the people.

By embracing a one-size-fits-all approach, numerous federal programs have become far more burdensome and less efficient than they ought to be. Even though Medicaid is in desperate need of reform, a thicket of federal regulations stands in the way of state-led innovation. While the federal government should encourage high standards for public education, Washington’s heavy-handed promotion of Common Core has set back the cause of reforming education.

As president, Evan would support House Joint Resolution 100, a proposed constitutional amendment for the re-empowerment of the states. This amendment would enable a two-thirds majority of the states to repeal any Executive Order, regulation, or administrative ruling issued by the executive branch.

Evan would also oppose new regulations unless there is a clear definition of the problem to be solved and compelling evidence that the cost of regulations would be less than their benefits. Evan also supports the REINS Act, which would require up or down votes by Congress on the most significant regulations that the executive branch introduces each year.

In addition, Evan would sharply reduce the number of unfunded mandates, which compel state governments to shoulder the cost of implementing federal regulations. He would also oppose legislation such as the Dodd-Frank Act that delegates unlimited lawmaking powers to federal agencies.

Finally, Evan will appoint exceptionally qualified judges with a proven record of interpreting the Constitution as it was originally written. While the world today is much different than it was 1789, the Constitution embodies timeless principles that remain the foundation of limited government.

Today, after decades of federal expansion and executive overreach, there is a need to return to these foundational principles. Only Evan is committed to restoring our Founders’ vision and rebalancing our government to put power back in the hands of the people.

Our national debt stands at an astonishing $19.5 trillion, an increase of $9 trillion since President Obama took office. This reckless growth represents not just a threat to our prosperity, but also to our national security. Out-of-control spending on entitlements is the most important reason for the national debt’s staggering growth. The annual cost of entitlements is now $2.3 trillion per year, which amounts to 60 cents out of every dollar spent by the federal government.

Evan McMullin believes that the only way to preserve Social Security and Medicare is to enact reforms that make these essential programs more efficient while fighting pervasive fraud and abuse.

While preserving Medicare and Social Security is an important objective in its own right, entitlement reform is also necessary to ensure that the federal government can afford other priorities, including scientific research, infrastructure repair, and national defense. An important side effect of uncontrollable spending on entitlements is the lack of funding for every other government program. Fifty years ago, entitlements consumed 26 percent of federal spending; today, they consume 60 percent. Over that same period, defense spending has fallen from 43 to 15 percent of the federal budget.

The strength of our nation depends at least as much on a robust economy as it does on our armed forces, however. Without funding for scientific research and infrastructure repairs, the economy suffers. Furthermore, a sharp increase in our debt raises the likelihood of an economic meltdown as bad or worse than the one we endured in 2008. Under President Obama, our debt has risen from 39 to 77 percent of our country’s annual income, which economists call Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. This percentage will keep on growing until we elect a president who understands the simple truth that you can’t keep spending money you never had.

There is an urgent need to restore the bonds of trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they are sworn to protect, especially African-American communities. Over the past 20 years, police departments have played an indispensable role in bringing down crime rates across the nation. To preserve these gains, we must ensure respect for every citizen’s right to fair and equitable treatment under the law. The time has also come to reform our courts and prisons, so that we rely less on incarceration, which can break apart both families and communities.

Improved training and community outreach can help to prevent the kind of encounters that have escalated into violence. When police officers patrol the same community year after year, they have the opportunity to build relationships with local residents. Trust is built as police engage with members of the community in positive settings—such as schools, parks, and public forums—not just when confronting potential lawbreakers.

Additional training in communication skills and de-escalation strategies can help police officers to prevent conflict even when confronting potential lawbreakers. The office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) at the Department of Justice is an important resource for local police departments that can provide advice, best practices, and resources for new initiatives.

Evan believes that ‘stop and frisk’ policies are a form of unreasonable search and seizure, and therefore inconsistent with our Fourth Amendment rights. He also believes strongly that body cameras help to bring transparency to encounters with the police. Camera footage can help to ensure accountability for officers who behave recklessly, while verifying that responsible officers followed all appropriate procedures. Police departments must ensure that these cameras are in good working order and have a clear and enforceable policy for when the cameras must be on.

Violent felons should remain in prison for as long as necessary to prevent them from causing additional harm. However, the American justice system has resorted to incarceration for a wide range of low-risk, non-violent offenders, leading us to have the highest incarceration rate in the world—four to five times higher than England, which is second. We could save tens of billions of dollars per year by making greater use of alternatives to prison as well as emphasizing rehabilitation in order to reduce the rate of recidivism.

Evan believes that responsible sentencing reform is the first step toward lower incarceration rates. First, far too many crimes have become federal offenses, particularly routine drug crimes. Even the late Justice Antonin Scalia lamented this trend. Second, judges should have greater discretion rather than having their hands tied by mandatory minimum sentences, which worsen racial and income-based sentencing disparities. Third, judges should be empowered to enroll offenders in diversion programs that emphasize community service, treatment for addiction, and other approaches to rehabilitation. Already, Texas and other states have implemented similar reforms without compromising public safety.

The size and cost of the federal prison system have grown by leaps and bounds, a trend that will only continue without reform. Since 1980, the number of federal prison inmates has grown from 20,000 to more than 200,000. The cost per prisoner rose 50 percent, from $20,000 to $30,000 per year, between 2000-2010. Prison costs now take up one quarter of the Department of Justice’s budget, and the proportion is rising. If this approach prevented crime, it might be worth it. However, experience shows that the relationship between building prisons and reducing crime is unclear. For example, the state of New York lowered incarceration rates by 24% from 1994-2012 while leading the nation in progress against crime.

To maximize effectiveness, sentencing reform should be paired with new programs to reduce recidivism and set non-violent offenders on a path to reintegration. A study by the Pew Center found that more than 40 percent of state prisoners return to jail within three years. To prevent crime as well as further incarceration, prisons should expand job training and educational programs that can help released prisoners find work. Outside of prison, there are too many barriers to employment for those who have served their sentences. Low-risk offenders should not face a blanket denial for all professional licenses or certifications. People who have paid their debt to society must have a pathway back.

The biggest beneficiaries of all these changes will be families and communities. Today, about 1 in 30 children has a parent behind bars, a four-fold increase since 1985. For African-American children, the figure is closer to 1 in 10. The children of inmates often struggle in school, have higher teen pregnancy rates, earn less as adults, and are more likely to commit crimes and wind up in prison themselves. Evan McMullin believes in responsible reforms that will break the cycle of poverty and give these children the opportunities in life they deserve while preventing crime and saving taxpayer dollars. (campaign website)

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I liked a lot of what Darrell Castle had to say. I must say that this campaign has really opened my eyes to the effect of the duopoly we languish under, as neither major-party candidate is liked by a lot of the people, but those in charge of the media and the establishment seem to prefer them – so they won. Imagine a true debate with all the candidates who have campaigns sufficient to win 270 electoral votes – the two dominant parties would have a conniption when they saw the polls afterward.

To be honest, I’m not really up on the economic effects of the gold standard but it makes some sense to have our legal tender pegged to something of value rather than our credit, which has to be shot with $20 trillion in debt and climbing. He also refers to an issue that I haven’t heard a lot about, which falls under the banner of the UN’s Agenda 21. In a battle between so-called “sustainable development” and private property rights, I will come down on the side of the latter and so will Castle. He’s also correct in his assessment on the War on Drugs. Perhaps the only thing I disagree with him on is term limits, but overall I think Castle gets it pretty well. 11.5 points.

The Prohibition Party and Jim Hedges has been a mixed bag all along, as I thought it would be. I’m not sure I agree with the idea of SCOTUS term limits since those judges are appointed; however, I could see an age restriction as several states already have. On the other hand, he is correct regarding the idea of the state governments being able to make their own way and being able to judge success.

But I observed in the few minutes I had to listen to Hedges’ VP candidate that Bill Bayes should have been the top of the ticket, as he appears to represent the more right-wing side of the Prohibition Party. He made the good points about states creating the federal government in the first place. Finally, I like the BBA but am cold to the idea of a National Bank. 6 points.

Tom Hoefling makes a solid case for himself regarding what government should and should not do, although it doesn’t go into the specifics I would prefer. And that could be a problem going forward since we went from a series of chief executives who completely understood how government was supposed to work to a next generation that thought they understood but also thought they needed to modernize a timeless concept. Ten generations later the concept is completely lost except when it is convenient for political reasons. News flash: you cannot pick and choose which provisions of the Constitution you want to enforce. If you don’t enforce all, you enforce nothing.

And a bonus point for calling for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, which was a mistake that blots our Constitution. Maryland should also have a Senate based on pre-Seventeenth Amendment concepts, with each county legislature appointing two Senators to represent them (meaning 48 instead of 47.) 12 points.

It’s interesting that Gary Johnson takes the most libertarian point he has and leads with it. In order to submit a balanced budget, Johnson would have to take out roughly $600 billion, or about 1/6 of it. I have no doubt he could do it, but the problems he has with this approach are a) Congress actually does the appropriation, and b) they are elected in the pay-for-play system Johnson rails against so his budget will be DOA (like Reagan’s were.) He would have to secure the bully pulpit to explain to America the advantages of smaller government.

Unlike Castle (or many Libertarians) Johnson is for term limits, which is the correct stance in this day and age. He also opposes the War on Drugs.

But I do question his admonition about the government being in the bedroom, which is derisive shorthand for having traditional, religious-based opposition to abortion and same-sex “marriage.” What two adults do in the privacy of that room is none of their business, but claiming rights that don’t exist as a byproduct of that relationship is a problem.

I would expect the Libertarians to do well in this category, but they could have done better. 10 points.

In practically every case, Evan McMullin has written the longest description of how he would reform government. But there is little in the way of suggesting how he would reduce it. Indeed, appointing judges steeped in original intent would help, as would a renewed emphasis on the Tenth Amendment and state’s rights – although he doesn’t advocate for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, nor is he willing to jettison the entitlement programs that would best serve to rightsize government.

It’s also worth noting much of his treatise regards criminal justice reform and police-community relations where it should be local authorities taking the mantle, not the federal government and their penchant for micromanagement. All in all, he is sort of the Beltway-type Republican that seeks a more efficient big government rather than limited government. 6 points.

We have just about reached the end. Tomorrow will bring intangibles that apply to the various candidates and my final decision.

Earning my presidential vote: entitlements

Social Security was once considered the “third rail” of American politics: touch it and you die. But I would contend that we have added Medicare, Medicaid, and perhaps Obamacare to that description. Republicans talked tough about repealing Obamacare through defunding it, but chickened out when the threat of being blamed for a government shutdown became the price to pay. But knowing the toll these programs take on our budget and idea of limiting government, I only need one bullet point for this one.

  • The next president should set in motion the eventual sunsetting of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. If states are dumb enough to try this stuff, that’s their problem. But “promote the general Welfare” did not mean cradle-to-grave dependence on the federal government for support.

To re-introduce the candidates, we begin with Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, then it’s Jim Hedges of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and independent Evan McMullin. Johnson is on the Maryland ballot; the rest are write-ins but their votes will count. And if you want to start this series from the beginning (this is the ninth part) you can go here and I link to each succeeding part in turn. At stake is thirteen points, which is the second-highest individual total.

Castle: Would repeal Obamacare and replace it with a “free market solution.”

Poor would be best helped on a voluntary basis. No provision for it in Constitution – money is not ours to give. (“Iron Sharpens Iron” radio show)

Hedges: “A financial foundation must be provided to those who cannot work.” There must be affordable housing, basic medical care, and convenient public transportation for all.

“We advocate an actuarially sound federal Social Security System.” (party platform)

Health care should be a state-level concern, but will address “inefficiency” from insurance company overhead and profits. (party platform)

Hoefling: All of the “entitlements” you list are unconstitutional. James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

We have a moral obligation to care for our older folks, and any who cannot care for themselves. But it is immoral to usurp power, and to rob our children and grandchildren in order to keep the socialist Ponzi scheme going.

We survived and thrived for 300 years in this country without socialism, by acting as Christians. We’re going to have to learn to do that again, one way or another. Because, within the space of the next eight or nine years, we’re going to see our government go completely insolvent trying to pay for “entitlements” and interest on the debt. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office has said that by 2025 the ENTIRE budget will have to go to those two things, with nothing left over for anything else. That is bankruptcy, on a Biblical scale. (response to question on Facebook)

Johnson: Johnson has personally endorsed privatizing Social Security, too — an idea favored by some Republicans (but not Donald Trump). This arrangement would let Americans self-direct their Social Security retirement funds through personal investment accounts, allowing them to buy stocks, for instance.

Johnson also favors raising Social Security’s Full Retirement Age from the current maximum of 67 to either 70 or 72. “Look, it’s [the Social Security Trust Fund] insolvent in the future. It’s going to be insolvent. It has to be addressed,” he told The Washington Examiner in July. Whether Americans could afford to hold off claiming until 70 or 72 to receive full benefits, however, is a real question, considering the majority of beneficiaries today start taking their Social Security money at the earliest age they can, age 62.

And Johnson would like to see Social Security begin “means testing that’s very fair.” Translation: The amount people receive in Social Security retirement benefits would be based on their financial well-being at the time they apply. Today, your benefit is based purely on your previous earnings.

Johnson would repeal Obamacare “in a heartbeat” if given the opportunity, he has said. “If the GOP bill lowers costs and improves care, I’ll sign it,” Johnson proclaimed in a CNN Libertarian Town Hall in June. On Joe Rogan’s podcast in May, Johnson blamed Obamacare for his health insurance premiums quadrupling “and I have not seen a doctor in three years,” he added. “I wish I didn’t have to have health insurance to cover myself for ongoing medical need.”

He wouldn’t have to under his main health care proposal.

Johnson would like to get rid of health insurance as we know it. Instead, Americans would buy health insurance only for catastrophic events and illness.

He believes a free-market system would lead to more affordable health care with price transparency and open competition. This system, Johnson told Rogan, “would probably cost about one-fifth of what it currently costs. We would have Gallbladders ‘R’ Us. We’d have gallbladder surgery for thousands of dollars as opposed to tens of thousands of dollars. We’d have Stitches ‘R’ Us, we’d have X-Rays ‘R’ Us. We’d have the radiologists next to X-Rays ‘R’ Us to read those X-rays.”

As for Medicare, Johnson told 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft, “We’re not looking to eliminate Medicare. We do believe in a safety net.” But, he said to The Washington Examiner, “Medicaid and Medicare both need to be devolved to the states.” Johnson has referred to those programs as “the worst runaway expenditure in the federal government today.”

When he was governor, Johnson has said, “I oversaw the reform of Medicaid in New Mexico. Changed it from a fee-for-service model to a managed care model. Improved on the delivery of health care in New Mexico and saved hundreds of millions of dollars.” Johnson has maintained that if the federal government had given New Mexico 43% less money for Medicaid and put him in charge of the delivery of health care to the poor there without “all the strings and mandates that went along with their Medicaid money,” he could have done it.

As president, Johnson has said, he’d balance the federal budget partly by letting states restrict eligibility for Medicaid. (excerpts from Forbes article by Richard Eisenberg)

McMullin: Obamacare has failed American families, driving up costs and reducing access to quality healthcare. With costs running into the trillions, Obamacare is also sinking America further into debt while imposing hundreds of billions of dollars of new taxes. By emphasizing competition and innovation instead of government controls, we can build a modern health care system that delivers accessible, affordable, and high-quality care. We can also protect vulnerable populations, including patients with preexisting conditions. Real healthcare reform means putting patients, families, and doctors first.

Obamacare has proven incapable of controlling the growth of healthcare costs, which take an increasing cut out of workers’ paychecks or even force them to give up insurance. Major insurers are pulling out of Obamacare exchanges because the program is so poorly designed and so full of complex regulations that the insurance companies are losing money despite vast federal subsidies. The cost of those subsidies will be $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, or an average of $120 billion per year. The program will also impose more than $200 billion in penalties on workers and employers – and still 33 million Americans won’t have health insurance.

We must repeal Obamacare as soon as possible, replacing it with a more streamlined, pro-market approach to insurance. The few positive elements of Obamacare, such as guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, could easily be incorporated into a new program in a much more efficient manner.

The heart of any Obamacare replacement should be a tax credit for every household that does not have insurance through an employer. Instead of the government defining a long list of benefits every insurance plan must have, customers should be able to tell insurance companies what they want. This will spur competition and ensure that the tax credit is sufficient to purchase any number of different plans. Allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines would also increase competition and bring down costs. Finally, encouraging the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) will help create more educated consumers who seek treatment from efficient and high quality providers.

Medicare plays an indispensable role in providing health care for America’s senior citizens; it must be put on a sound financial footing so that all Americans have access to high-quality care in their retirement years. The only way to preserve Medicare for the next generation is to get hold of the runaway costs that threaten the program’s viability while spurring massive growth of the federal debt and deficit.

Established 50 years ago, Medicare hasn’t adapted to an aging population with a rising life expectancy. Instead of covering 1 in 10 Americans, the program now covers 1 in every 6—or 50 million men and women—who spend close to 20 years as Medicare patients, up from just 15. At the same time, relentless inflation in medical costs has led the cost of coverage to triple. Whereas payroll taxes and premiums once covered 70 percent of costs, the government now spends $700 billion per year while collecting only $100 billion from Medicare payroll taxes.

Without reform, Medicare and other entitlements will push our government to the edge of bankruptcy. Evan McMullin is not afraid to challenge the status quo in order to put Medicare on a sound footing for the future.

The way to reform Medicare is encourage competition and innovation by putting patients, families, and doctors for first. The key to reform is premium support, a system in which all beneficiaries would receive a uniform subsidy toward the purchase of coverage from competing health plans, including the option of traditional Medicare. This approach would give seniors greater freedom to choose the plan that best suits their needs, while spurring competition among plans to provide the best quality care at the most efficient price.

To promote informed decision-making by beneficiaries, the federal government must develop and distribute user-friendly publications that enable beneficiaries to compare plans, estimate out-of-pocket costs, and assess the quality of competing providers. By making informed decisions, beneficiaries can encourage a cycle of competition and innovation that leads to better outcomes for all.

Medicaid’s purpose is to provide lower-income Americans with the health care they need but can rarely afford. Despite its tremendous cost, there is little evidence that Medicaid is actually improving the overall health of the citizens it insures. The program should be reformed substantially, so that it continues to fulfill its critical mission without pushing our national debt past the breaking point.

When first established in 1966, Medicaid covered just 2 percent of the population. Today it covers more than 20 percent—almost 70 million men, women, and children. Obamacare alone has pushed 12 million individuals onto Medicaid. The annual cost of the program has risen to $550 billion, an increase of $200 billion under President Obama. The cost per beneficiary has also risen sharply to more than $7,000 per year.

Along with other entitlements, Medicaid is pushing our government to the edge of bankruptcy. Evan McMullin is prepared to demand accountability from Medicaid, in order to bring costs under control while delivering better health outcomes for Medicaid patients.

Despite having a different purpose than Medicare, Medicaid would also benefit from reforms that emphasize competition and innovation while putting patients, families, and doctors first. Currently, individual states rely on federal matching funds for Medicaid. This leads to inefficiency because the system rewards states for spending more instead of spending more wisely.

Instead, there should be a cap on federal support. This can be accomplished by giving states block grants instead of federal matching funds, or by giving states a fixed dollar amount for each individual enrolled in Medicaid. The advantage of the latter is that in the event of an unexpected increase in enrollment—because of a recession, for example—states will be able to handle the change.

This would be complemented by paring back the extensive restrictions that Washington places on state Medicaid programs, which discourage innovation and prevent states from taking full responsibility for outcomes. Medicaid could also become far more responsive to patient needs by creating a separate program for disabled and elderly recipients, whose needs are far different from able-bodied adults and their children.

Together, these changes provide a promising way to increase the accessibility of healthcare to Medicaid participants. Right now, many doctors refuse to accept Medicaid patients because reimbursements rates are so low. These reforms point the way toward ensuring that Medicaid patients become valued customers, not second-class citizens. (campaign website)

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If I could have gotten more depth out of Darrell Castle, I would have likely scored him higher. Philosophically he’s correct that we should be our brother’s keeper, but I would like to know how he gets from point A to point B. 5 points.

The statist tendencies of Prohibition candidate Jim Hedges come through in this answer. It is not the government’s job to provide the items he specifies, at least not according to my Constitution. No points.

Tom Hoefling has a great answer, and it’s the honest truth: the system as is will be unsustainable. More detail on how he would address the issue would be good, but he also has a correct philosophy. 10 points.

Gary Johnson wisely takes the first baby steps toward some of my goals: privatizing Social Security, devolving Medicare and Medicaid to the states, and repealing Obamacare. I would expect this from a Libertarian, although in the case of Social Security it’s tempered somewhat with changes in retirement age and the gimmick of means testing. It’s a good policy overview rather than a philosophical one. 9.5 points.

This topic is another example of a “tinker around the edges” philosophy of Evan McMullin. Instead of reforming the programs and slapping yet another Band-Aid on a gaping wound, the idea should be one of addressing the very function of a program that the government shouldn’t be involved with. He would unnecessarily consign yet another generation to the slavery of governmental dependence because eventually the reforms will need reforms of their own. 3 points.

I have just two more categories to go. Tonight I will discuss the role of government and tomorrow will be the intangibles and final decision.

Earning my presidential vote: foreign policy

One of the most important functions for a President is that of spearheading our foreign policy. So what would I think a sound foreign policy consists of?

Well, in five bullet points or less, here you go:

  • America is the world leader, or perhaps one can call it a first among equals. So act like it rather than “leading from behind.”
  • By that same token, though, we don’t have to be involved everywhere. There are certain places where it is our national interest to intercede (such as the threat from radical Islam) and others we have no business dealing with.
  • Nations that are our friends and have been for decades should be treated as such. No returning Churchill’s bust or snubbing Israel.
  • If we are to go to war, let Congress declare it. To me, boots on the ground engaging an enemy in anything aside from isolated incidents equals war.
  • We should leave the UN and they can go over to Switzerland for all I care. If we are to be united with other nations, it should be our peer group of industrialized republics which have governmental styles similar to ours. Tinhorn dictatorships and nations with missiles pointed our way need not apply.

This, though, is one of my more flexible issues because there are good arguments to be made for several approaches outside of strict isolationism and continual intervention in dozens of nations to spread our military resources too thin without the declaration of war or compelling national interest.

As always, if you wish to follow the series from the beginning start here. This particular category is worth 12 points.

Update: It occurred to me just now that I should re-introduce the candidates: Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, Jim Hedges of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and independent Evan McMullin. Johnson is on the Maryland ballot; the rest are write-ins but their votes will count.

Castle: He firmly believes in upholding Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which makes it clear that only Congress can declare war, and that those powers are not granted to the president. He left the Marine Corps a very different person than when he went in. (website)

“We need to secure our borders before we talk about going after the terrorists overseas…In general, I favor the policy of nonintervention in foreign affairs, just as the Founders did.”

“I believe that the United States (U.S.) should regain its sovereignty and chart its own course. This is not isolationism. The U.S. cannot remain isolated from the forces agitating today’s world, which is so interrelated in trade, finance, instantaneous communications, etc.

How does America deal with other nations while keeping our sovereignty, our freedom, and our independence intact? Can the U.S. keep its own laws and Constitution, set its own policies, or do we surrender to the decisions and dictates of an international collective of nations?

Many people, including many in our own government, would love to see American nationhood fade into history. They fear not only the power of America, but also the ideas that still make us the most powerful nation on earth. Those ideas serve as a contradiction to the way the rest of the world operates, and would serve us even more if we were once again an independent nation.”

“The ideas of America are not compatible with membership in the United Nations (U.N.). The U.N. is world headquarters for the church of unbelieving humanism. The fundamental doctrine of the U.N. is that the world should be a global collective, redistributing shares of material prosperity to every human on earth. That is a religious and not a political idea. Faith in God is replaced by faith in Humanity. The U.N. is the sanctuary of the idolatry of Man.”

Would not intervene in Syria, it’s their business who runs the country. (YouTube)

Opposed to foreign aid, but supports Israel. (YouTube)

Don’t go sticking our noses into every rattlesnake nest. Absence of war is not isolationism, but he would not shrink from a battle when our interests are threatened.

Brexit was “one of happiest days of my recent life.”

President has authority to make war, though. Grenada was an example – wrapped up well within 60 day authorization. May not be Syria situation without Iraq/Afghanistan. (Iron Sharpens Iron radio show)

Hedges: opposes Democratic policy of giving away sovereignty to the United Nations. Would not give aid to nations which mistreat women as slaves or concubines.

“We will conduct foreign affairs with the preservation of American liberty and independence as our chief objective. We are jealous of American sovereignty; we are opposed to the interference of America in the like sovereignty of other nations. American garrisons in foreign countries should not exceed the level required to protect American diplomatic missions unless specifically authorized by Congress. We support volunteer armed forces, well trained and highly motivated; we oppose conscription except in time of Congressionally declared war.” (party platform)

Hoefling: We believe in a supremely strong, prepared, and well-equipped civilian-controlled United States military, and a bold, visionary and intelligent program of principled constructive engagement with the rest of the world. For us, “peace through strength” is not a mere slogan. It is the means of survival for our country in a very dangerous and often hostile world. Our friendship should be a sought-after possession of all men and women of good will everywhere in the world. Our enmity should be something that all rightfully fear.

As Ronald Reagan opposed and defeated the designs and desire of the Soviet Union to dominate the world and place it under the tyranny of their Evil Empire, we stand unalterably opposed to all who approve of, plan or commit terrorist acts. Since the first principle of America is the protection of innocent human life, any who would use acts of terrorism targeted at innocent civilians to forward their political, ideological or religious aims incur our effective and determined enmity. (party platform)

We completely oppose any action that surrenders the moral, political or economic sovereignty of the United States and its people, and demand the immediate restoration of that sovereignty wherever it has been eroded. (party platform)

Johnson: No Nation Building. No Policing the World. More Security Here at Home.

The objective of both our foreign policy and our military should be straightforward: To protect us from harm and to allow us to exercise our freedoms.

Looking back over the past couple of decades, it is difficult to see how the wars we have waged, the interventions we have conducted, the lives sacrificed, and the trillions of tax dollars we have spent on the other side of the globe have made us safer. If anything, our meddling in the affairs of other nations has made us less safe.

Many senior military and foreign policy analysts have concluded that the rise of ISIS can actually be traced back to instability created by our meddling in the affairs of others. This is because the last several administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have used our military resources to pursue undemocratic regime changes, embark on impossible nation-building exercises, and to establish the United States as the policeman of the world.

This imperialistic foreign policy makes it easier for ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other violent extremists to recruit new members. We need to build a strong military. But we should not use our military strength to try to solve the world’s problems. Doing so creates new enemies and perpetual war.

Besides, we have enough problems to solve right here at home.

As President, Gary Johnson will move quickly and decisively to cut off the funding on which violent extremist armies depend. He will repair relationships with our allies. And he will only send our brave soldiers to war when clearly authorized by Congress after meaningful, transparent deliberation and debate.

The idea that we can defeat terrorism by simply putting more boots on the ground or dropping more bombs ignores the reality that this expensive tactic simply hasn’t worked. In fact, it’s made the situation worse. (campaign website)

McMullin: Before World War II, many Americans fell prey to the delusion that if we pull back to our own shores that the world’s troubles will pass us by. After the war, Americans came together in agreement that only our leadership could prevent another catastrophic conflict, while promoting liberty and economic growth as well.

Thanks to our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, there has been no great war for 70 years, and prosperity and freedom have spread around the globe. Americans have served and sacrificed to maintain our security in those decades, but the horrors of a global conflict have been avoided.

Evan McMullin will continue this tradition of leadership that has made America the world’s indispensable nation.

Alliances with other free nations have long been one of the most important sources of American power in the world. Real leadership is not a protection racket or a mercenary army where the United States charges others for providing security. Rather, it is about building long-term partnerships with nations that share our values.

In these security partnerships, the U.S. has and will continue to speak candidly about the need for allies to shoulder their share of the burden. In contrast, suggestions that the United States may abandon its allies in the face of foreign threats is an open invitation for China, Russia, Iran and others to expand their spheres of influence, and to provoke dangerous conflicts that may drag us into war.

Opposing brutal dictatorships and speaking out on behalf of democracy and human rights are also essential to American leadership. Other nations follow our lead because they understand that we pursue the collective good, not just our own narrow self-interest. While American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and intelligence officers have borne the cost of this leadership, the pursuit of common interests has enabled us to build a network of democratic allies across the globe.

After eight years of weak leadership under President Obama, we deserve a President who knows what it’s like to fight terrorists on the front lines, rather than making excuses for his failures.

Evan McMullin will provide the leadership America needs in the world. He will pursue the defeat and destruction of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, rather than dismissing such threats as “the jayvee team” or saying they are “already contained.” He will punish Iran for violating the nuclear deal, rather than ransoming American hostages with stacks of foreign currency. He will stand with Israel, rather than blaming a loyal and democratic ally for instability in the region.

Evan will impose tougher sanctions on Russia and increase America’s military presence in the Baltics in order to deter and reverse Putin’s aggression, rather than pretending that he is a partner for peace in Syria. Evan will stand up for the rights of American and allied ships to sail freely in international waters, rather than letting China dominate the Western Pacific.

Finally, he will reverse the reckless cuts that have brought the size, strength, and readiness of the U.S. military to a dangerous and historic low.

When America ignores rising threats to peace and stability, they don’t go away—they just get worse. “Leading from behind” isn’t leading at all; it only ensures that by the time we need to get involved, the situation is worse, the risks and costs are higher, and the world is on the brink of a crisis.

America can and must do better. We must strengthen our alliances and put our friends, not our enemies, first. We must renew our focus on human rights, including the genocidal persecution of civilians in Syria and elsewhere.

Americans never shy away from a challenge, and we have stood and sacrificed for our ideals in the face of Nazism, Communism and Islamic terrorism. The failed leadership of Barack Obama has left the world on fire, and (his) disastrous judgment has fanned the flames. We need a president who has the integrity, the wisdom, and the courage to lead.

Evan McMullin will be that President.

America’s men and women in uniform are the pride of our nation. Their sacrifices and hard work keep us safe day in and day out. Yet increasingly, we are failing in our obligation to provide them with the training and equipment they need. The number of planes, ships, and soldiers in the Armed Forces is falling toward levels not seen since before World War II, even as the world grows more dangerous. President Obama’s reckless leadership, aided and abetted by Congress, has put the military on a path to almost $1 trillion in cuts compared to projected needs.

The consequences of this neglect are all too real for American service members. Both the Marine Corps and the Air Force have stripped spare parts from museum planes to keep their aircraft flying. Last year, the Air Force’s top general told Congress, if his airplanes were cars, there would be “twelve fleets of airplanes that qualify for antique license plates in the state of Virginia.” Meanwhile, only one third of active Army combat brigades are ready to fight. The Navy is wearing down its sailors and ships with extended deployments, because the fleet is too small to carry out its missions.

There are strong advocates for the Armed Forces on both sides of the aisle, yet President Obama insists that he will only spend more on defense if every dollar for the Pentagon is matched by a dollar for domestic programs. In short, he is holding the military hostage to his domestic priorities.

Our troops deserve better. Evan McMullin believes that what we spend on the military should reflect our country’s strategy and the threats to our security, not domestic political goals. He will never ask our men and women in uniform to compromise their honor, and he most certainly will never dismiss the expertise and advice of our senior military leaders. Rather, when Evan is President, American service members will know they have a friend and advocate in the White House.

The Department of Defense must be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. Far too often, the cost of major weapons programs has greatly exceeded projections, while the programs fall years behind schedule, depriving the troops of the cutting edge equipment they deserve. Evan McMullin supports bipartisan efforts in Congress to reform and rethink the weapons development and acquisition process. Above all, there is a need to establish clear lines of responsibility so that senior officials can no longer pass the buck when explaining what went wrong.

The Pentagon also needs to bring the ratio of troops to civilians —or “tooth to tail”—back into balance. The number of troops has fallen by more than 100,000 since 9/11, yet the number of civilians has risen by 50,000. While DOD civilians serve with commitment and pride, the Pentagon does not even have the ability to fully track its manpower requirements and decide which positions are necessary and which are duplicative. No profitable business would run this way, and we should expect and demand more from our government.

Similarly, the Pentagon has a poor understanding of its contractor workforce, whose size is comparable to its civil servant workforce of about 750,000. While focusing on the challenges to efficient weapons buying, the Pentagon has made far too little effort to monitor spending on everyday goods and services, on which it spends tens of billions of dollars every year.

Finally, the Pentagon must complete its efforts to trim the excess facilities that still remain from the Cold War era, when the force was 50 percent larger. Many of these facilities are partially shuttered, so they serve little purpose while consuming maintenance dollars.

A President’s most solemn responsibility is to the men and women under his command. Evan is the only candidate in this election who will take their needs seriously. Under Evan’s leadership, we will rebuild the military and give our service members the tools they need to defend our freedoms and our way of life—while also protecting Americans’ hard-earned dollars. (campaign website)

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I tend to agree with practically everything Darrell Castle says. If this is a Constitution Party foreign policy, you can count me in. 12 points.

Jim Hedges and his Prohibition Party are fairly similar to Castle, but not quite to the degree of detail. 10 points.

My one question of Tom Hoefling regarding that statement: how far do you take protection of innocent human life? One could interpret that as passing up the opportunity to engage the enemy at the risk of civilian casualties, while another argument would have this statement be our justification for being the world’s policeman. Neither of those is helpful to our aims. 7 points.

The overarching question about Gary Johnson‘s foreign policy is that of abandoning those fights we have stepped into. We have no true way of knowing if we are not safer than we would have been had we not intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan because there’s no guarantee that the Taliban or Saddam Hussein would not have facilitated a 9/11-style attack. After all, what was the motivation for the first WTC bombing in 1993? We are dealing with people who aren’t forgetting the Crusades hundreds of years ago.

So as tempting as it may sound, I’m not into an isolationist foreign policy. Unfortunately, we need to subdue our enemies, not give them free reign. Other candidates seem to understand this distinction rather than throw shade on preceding presidents. 4 points.

Evan McMullin has a very good background for this aspect of the presidency – if he doesn’t win, he could certainly make a valid case for being Secretary of State or perhaps Secretary of Defense in a conservative administration. Obviously there will be a group who considers him a neo-con but since we have put ourselves into these conflicts, there is an argument that we should play to win. He also pays a great deal of attention to the military, more so than any other candidate. This is his strongest category by far, and he hits on a lot of good aspects – just hold back on the world policeman tendencies as human rights enforcer and deal with the more pressing national threats first.  10.5 points.

We are getting down to the final two categories as well as the intangibles. Next I tackle the ticking time bomb of entitlements.

Earning my presidential vote: immigration

Last week the Center for Immigration Studies came out with a claim that the number of those living in our country who speak a foreign language at home has tripled since 1980, now numbering almost 65 million. We also fret about the terrorism risk from those who would claim to be refugees or simply sneak across our border. In short, immigration is the hot-button issue that propelled Donald Trump to the GOP nomination – unfortunately, he’s since radically backpedaled on the issue to the advocacy of “touchback amnesty” that will likely lose its “touchback” provisions.

So the question is: are we a nation of laws or not? Illegal to me is illegal, not “undocumented.” So here’s my stance in five bullet points or less:

  • We are told that you can’t deport 11 million illegals. But you can create the conditions where they will leave on their own through stricter law enforcement.
  • We need border security. If the “virtual wall” doesn’t work, then we need to build a physical barrier.
  • There also needs to be a reform of the visa system. A large and growing part of the illegal immigration problem is visa overstays, so it’s time to crack down.
  • An end to “birthright citizenship.”
  • While testing for religious beliefs is illegal and quite impractical – since certain religions permit lying to advance them – one has to ask why we accept immigrants and grant visas to those from countries who are our enemies.

As always, if you want to back up and review this series on earning my vote from the start feel free to. But here is where my contenders stand on the immigration issue, for eleven points.

Castle: “I believe that immigration in all its forms should be stopped until we can vet immigrants properly and our borders are under control. We can’t be allowing people with terrorist ties, or who are carrying dangerous communicable diseases, to enter our country unchecked. But once we have regained control of our borders and the flow of immigrants, we can admit as many as we choose, in a controlled and lawful manner.

I do not favor asylum for those here illegally nor do I favor a path to citizenship. Welfare or entitlement programs, if you choose to call them that, should be strictly for American citizens. I have said that I would not deport wholesale but I would not hesitate individually if the need arose.”

Should not take in refugees, “I’m all for secure borders.”

Hedges: “We would deploy sufficient resources to stop all illegal traffic in people and drugs across America’s land and sea borders. We would not provide driver’s licenses, educational subsidies, or welfare benefits to illegal aliens, except that the medical conditions of gravely ill illegals would be stabilized before they are deported. We strongly oppose granting citizenship to ‘anchor babies’ born to illegal alien mothers.” (party platform)

Hoefling: We demand the immediate securing and continuous vigilant maintenance of our sovereign territory and borders. We oppose any private or governmental action that rewards illegal entry into the United States in any way, and demand speedy and full enforcement of our laws concerning all such activities. (party platform)

Johnson: Practical Reform. No Walls. Incentivize Assimilation.

Having served as Governor of a border state, Gary Johnson knows the complex issues associated with immigration reform first hand. Solving immigration problems is not as easy as building a wall or simply offering amnesty.

We should appreciate and respect the diversity of immigrants that come to the United States to be productive members of society. But we also need to recognize that everyone who comes here is not so well-intentioned.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld don’t want to build an expensive and useless wall. The only thing a big wall will do is increase the size of the ladders, the depth of the tunnels, and the width of the divisions between us.

Candidates who say they want to militarize the border, build fences, and impose punitive measures on good people, ground their position in popular rhetoric, not practical solutions.

Governors Johnson and Weld believe that, instead of appealing to emotions and demonizing immigrants, we should focus on creating a more efficient system of providing work visas, conducting background checks, and incentivizing non-citizens to pay their taxes, obtain proof of employment, and otherwise assimilate with our diverse society.

Making it simpler and more efficient to enter the United States legally will provide greater security than a wall by allowing law enforcement to focus on those who threaten our country, not those who want to be a part of it. (campaign website)

McMullin: The story of America is the story of immigration. Evan McMullin’s family left Ireland in the 1600s to seek a better life in the New World. Part of his mother’s family fled Poland because of the Nazi menace.

The country we love was built by immigrants. Yet while we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. We must preserve our sovereignty, our security, and the rule of law.

We also need a president who will enforce the law instead of forcing through an illegal amnesty by executive order. Nor should “sanctuary cities” be able to refuse cooperation with the federal enforcement efforts.

The path to reform begins with securing our borders. Once they are secured, there should be a process of earned legalization for the illegal immigrants who are already here. There is simply no efficient way to deport 11 million individuals; doing so would break apart families and likely cost $100 billion. Furthermore, legalization is not amnesty.

While addressing illegal immigration, it is vital to remember that legal immigration is one of America’s greatest strengths. Immigrants and their children have a long record of hard work, starting businesses, and creating jobs. Still, we need to reform the legal immigration system so that it prioritizes American interests and security, including the protection of workers from low-wage, low-skill competition.

There should be a robust debate about immigration, but there should be no place for the kind of hateful and divisive rhetoric frequently on display in this campaign.

To secure the border, we need more manpower, better technology, and—in some places—walls. First, the government should hire 20,000 new Border Patrol agents. Second, the government should invest in advanced sensing and surveillance technologies, including cameras. Finally, there are several hundred miles of the southern border where walls are being built and must be completed. However, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars to build a wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

The incentive that attracts illegal immigrants to the United States is the opportunity to work. To reduce that incentive, employers should be required to use the eVerify system, which was designed to help them determine if job applicants are in the country legally. “Sanctuary cities” must follow the law as well, or face the cut off of federal funding.

Above all, the president must obey the law. President Obama’s executive amnesties in 2012 and 2014 sought to place more than five million illegal immigrants beyond the reach of law enforcement. This year, however, a federal judge struck down the amnesties and the Supreme Court deadlocked on the issue.

A president who respects the Constitution knows that only Congress can make the law; executive amnesties violate this principle.

Deporting 11 million illegal immigrants is simply not practical. It would likely cost more than $100 billion and force the federal government to act in an intrusive manner that would violate the privacy of both citizens and legal residents. Deportation would also break up families, hurting children who are not responsible for their parents’ actions. Criminals, however, would still be subject to deportation.

The first step toward earning legal status is for all those who are here illegally to come forward and register themselves. Next they would pay an application fee and a fine, undergo a background check, and demonstrate competence in English. If they do those things, they would get a temporary work and residence permit, but would not be eligible for welfare or entitlement programs. If they obey the law and pay their taxes for several years, they could apply for permanent residency.

This is not amnesty; amnesty is when lawbreakers get something for nothing. Evan’s approach requires every illegal immigrant to earn the right to stay here.

Our country’s immigration policy should serve its economic interests. The best and brightest from all over the world want to live and work in America, yet the current immigration system mistakenly prioritizes the reunification of extended families.

Immigrants founded forty percent of the American companies in the Fortune 500. They also founded one half of Silicon Valley’s most successful start-ups. In other words, they help create high-quality jobs for all Americans.

The effect of current policy, which focuses on family reunification, is to encourage the arrival of those with less education, fewer skills, and little savings. This creates competition for American workers who don’t have the advantage of a college education and already face the greatest challenges in today’s high-tech economy.

Another problem is the misuse of programs, such as the H-1B visa, that are designed to attract the best and brightest. Instead, companies may use these programs to find cheaper replacements for skilled American workers. We need to make sure that all our immigration programs are being used in good faith.

The way that we deal with immigration will have a profound impact on our identity as Americans. We must be careful to preserve our nation’s unity and commitment to fairness. At the same time, our debates and our policies should reflect the civility and tolerance that helped forge a nation out of immigrants from every nation on earth. By replacing divisive rhetoric with genuine action to secure the border, we can work towards immigration reform that makes America safer, fairer, and more prosperous. (campaign website)

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I like the idea Darrell Castle has regarding an immigration pause, but there is a legitimate argument that stopping immigration entirely will just convince people to try other methods. such as overstaying their visas or sneaking across the border until they are secure. One question is whether he would use the military to do so, risking violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. Generally his is a solid approach, though. 7 points.

The approach from Jim Hedges (or at least his party) is very good, although as I study the candidate I question if he would follow through. It does provide necessary disincentives, although it doesn’t have an exit strategy. 7.5 points.

Secure the border and enforce the laws. The America’s Party approach from Tom Hoefling is beautiful in its simplicity, although it leaves some gaps as to detail. 7 points.

Gary Johnson criticizes the approach of his opponents as impractical, but what he comes up with is impotent for solving the issue. As I noted above, more Americans than ever speak a foreign language at home so the assimilation approach does not seem to be working. Those who come here legally and wish to assimilate aren’t the problem because they follow the rule of law, and to provide for those who do not follow the rules is a slap to those who do. No points.

Similarly, Evan McMullin argues “legalization is not amnesty” but paying a fine isn’t much of a punishment. He has some good thoughts in a number of areas, but I do not believe in amnesty such as he proposes. I may consider the immigrant who goes back and does things the right way after a significant period of time (measured in multiple years) has elapsed, but what McMullin proposes will simply be a magnet for more illegal immigration. 3 points.

I’m more inclined to hear arguments on both sides of foreign policy, which is my next topic.

Earning my presidential vote: taxation

As I noted yesterday, the economic portion of my study began with how people can better get more money in their pockets, but this morning I’m going to discuss how best people can keep what they earned. (To start from the beginning, go here. I’m linking to each succeeding part at the end.)

Regarding taxation, the next president should (in five bullet points or less):

  • Strive for a consumption-based taxation system to replace the income-based system.
  • Work to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment, as that is a key element in accomplishing the first point above.
  • Corporate taxes should be lowered to be competitive with other nations.
  • Do away with the estate tax while we’re at it.
  • Stop using the tax code to reward behavior, aside from the reward for saving and investing a consumption-based tax would produce.

So how do our candidates look regarding these points? Honestly, some look pretty good – and this is one of the shorter parts. This is the first of our double-digit point categories; 10 points are available.

Castle: I have proposed a taxing system whereby taxes would be apportioned to the states as the census dictates. If my state of Tennessee had two percent of the nation’s population, for example, it would be liable for two percent of the budget. It would be incumbent upon the representatives from Tennessee to help hold down Federal spending. The Federal Government would be encouraged to spend less not more. The states would be empowered and Washington would be dis-empowered. Washington’s hold over the states would be broken and the states would be sovereign again – Washington would have to ask the states for money. States would be free to collect their revenue as they see fit. Alaska might tax its natural resources and Florida might tax tourism. In Nevada, it would obviously be gambling. Since people could keep their income the economy would explode with growth.

Prefers FairTax to income tax, but has less control by states. “I would like to see (the Sixteeneth Amendment) repealed, if possible.” (Facebook page)

Hedges: Until renewed Volstead Act (Prohibition), higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco.

“There is no way to cut back income and at the same time deliver more services. Things that taxpayers want, the taxpayers must pay for.”

Hoefling: We consider the federal income tax to be destructive of our liberty, privacy, and prosperity. Therefore, we are working to bring about its complete elimination and the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We recommend that the current system be replaced by an equitable, simple, noninvasive, visible, efficient tax, one that does not destroy or even infringe upon our economic privacy and liberty. (party platform)

Johnson: Stop special interest loopholes. Reward responsibility. And simplify our tax code.

Today’s federal tax code does all the wrong things. It penalizes productivity, savings and investment, while rewarding inefficiency and designating winners and losers according to political whim.

For far too long, tax laws have been used not just as a means to collect needed revenues, but as a way for special interests to penalize their competitors while subsidizing themselves. The result is a tax code that is more than 70,000 pages long, enforced by a government agency with almost 100,000 employees. As a result, our tax code has created a nightmare for the average American, while providing shelter for those with the means to manipulate it.

Governor Johnson advocates for the elimination of special interest tax loopholes, to get rid of the double-taxation on small businesses, and ultimately, the replacement of all income and payroll taxes with a single consumption tax that determines your tax burden by how much you spend, not how much you earn. Such a tax would be structured to ensure that no one’s tax burden for the purchase of basic family necessities would be increased. To the contrary, costs of necessities would likely decrease with the elimination of taxes already included in the price of virtually everything we buy.

Many leading economists have long advocated such a shift in the way we are taxed, and Gary Johnson believes the time has come to replace our current tax code, which penalizes the savings, productivity and investment we so desperately need. (campaign website)

McMullin: Evan McMullin will…make the tax code fairer and simpler, helping to spur business innovation, especially the growth of small businesses, which are the country’s most important job creators. Small businesses should pay closer to 25 percent of their profits in taxes, whereas now there are many that must pay almost 40 percent. Right now America also has the highest corporate tax rate – 35 percent – of any advanced economy. Even Barack Obama has said that it should be substantially lower. Income tax rates also need to come down, especially for the middle-class; once the economy starts growing again at an acceptable rate, high-earners should also get a break.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one program that shows how we can fight poverty while encouraging work—it provides a tax refund for those who have jobs but don’t earn enough to be self-sufficient. One shortcoming of the EITC is that tax refunds may not arrive until someone has been working for more than a year. To provide a stronger incentive to work, there should be immediate benefits for those who have jobs. This can happen by transitioning from tax refunds to wage supplements, which add money to every paycheck, starting from day one. Wage supplements also create a strong incentive to spend more time at work, since the benefit rises with each hour spent on the job.

By adding to the paychecks of low-income workers, EITC and wage supplements accomplish the same goal as an increase in the minimum wage, but without reducing the number of jobs available or punishing job creators. If the federal minimum wage rose from $7.25 to $15 per hour, many jobs that pay $9 or $10 per hour would disappear, because employers could not afford the cost. When such jobs disappear, the primary victims are the poor and unemployed, who depend on such jobs to acquire skills and get a foot in the door so they can eventually rise up. (campaign website)

With the exception of a slightly higher corporate tax rate, McMullin’s tax proposal is largely in line with the tax reform plan put forth by House Republicans over the summer. Individual income taxes would be reduced to three brackets from seven at rates of 12%, 25% and 33%. Small business taxes would be reduced to 25%, and the corporate tax rate would also be reduced to 25% (the House GOP plan pegs the corporate tax rate at 20%). (TheStreet.com)

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I think Darrell Castle‘s idea is very intriguing because it would certainly rein in the federal government. Let’s say the federal budget is $4 trillion. Castle uses 2% as an example; it so happens Maryland is roughly 2% of the national population. That would mean the state would be liable for $80 billion, which is about twice our state’s annual budget – but certainly is doable when you figure the state’s GDP is about $365 billion. If a state didn’t want to come up with its share, well, maybe its Congressional delegation would become serious about rightsizing government. To me, that’s the beauty of the idea. He also gets the point regarding the Sixteenth Amendment. 8.5 points.

I question the wisdom of Jim Hedges and his ideas about taxation. It’s understandable that he wants higher sin taxes given the nature of his party (albeit these are consumption taxes, which doesn’t make them completely bad), but the implication that taxpayers want more services is the part I am at odds with. I think taxpayers want more efficient services, but if you ask almost anyone they can point out something they feel the government is wasting money on. This is another area where Hedges’ more leftward tendencies step away from what I think his party really stands for. 1 point.

Tom Hoefling and his America’s Party platform is spot on, except for not specifying the types of taxation which would qualify as “equitable, simple…” and so forth. He has the basics down cold, though. 8 points.

In so many words, Gary Johnson is for a consumption-based tax, too. His misstep is not calling for repealing the Sixteenth Amendment because everyone knows that when the government wants to spend more money they will immediately return to soaking us with the income tax as double taxation. 5.5 points.

The problem with Evan McMullin is that his tax platform tinkers around the edges of a terrible system; in fact, he makes it worse and more progressive to the extent that high-income earners will have to wait for their break until the economy improves. (But who really drives the economy with investment as opposed to consumption?) I think the EITC was intended as a tool to help the working class but now it’s become just another government handout – yet McMullin wants to double down with wage supplements? We do not need another entitlement program. Stick with the lower rates for all, mmmmkay? 2 points.

Well, that spread the field out some. We will see how much more of that occurs tomorrow when I resume the series with immigration.

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