The soul of the GOP

September 27, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Cathy Keim, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The soul of the GOP 

By Cathy Keim

I wrote a piece on Thursday night about John Boehner’s upcoming problem with the continuing resolution. To my surprise, Speaker Boehner announced on Friday morning that he would resign at the end of October. He claims that he had the votes to survive Rep. Mark Meadows’ (R-NC) motion to vacate the chair, but we will never know now if that was true.

At his resignation press conference he stated:

But more than anything, my first job is — as Speaker, is to protect the institution.

He seemed to think that by resigning he was protecting the institution. Actually, I believe that he was not protecting the institution by his continual acquiescing to President Obama’s desires, nor has he stopped the infighting amongst the House members by his resignation.

His self-deception will continue, it appears. In the corporate world when an employee is terminated, they are often escorted to the door immediately. Here, the Speaker is resigning before he can be fired, but he has decided to hang around for another month to help with the transition and has already said that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would be a good Speaker of the House.

Since he is resigning due to conflict, perhaps it would be better if he left posthaste and didn’t try to influence the election of the next Speaker.

Here is my original piece. I still think that many of the points are worth reading since Boehner’s resignation has not fixed anything. Unless a new Speaker is elected that will replace the failed GOP leadership model, then there will be no improvement and the conflict between the conservative and moderate GOP House members will continue.

(Editor’s note: I slightly revised the original piece to refer to Boehner in the past tense as appropriate.)

Original piece:

It is possible that we are seeing the end of the Republican Party. We are rapidly approaching another continuing resolution battle where the fight is between two factions of the GOP rather than between the Democrats and the Republicans. The conservative portion of the House of Representatives would like to stand up and fight even to the point of shutting down the government. The mainstream portion would prefer that they go along to get along.

There are two potential sources of members refusing to go along with the party line: the Defund Planned Parenthood group and the no to Syrian refugee resettlement group (both of which may overlap.)

We may have to call this the Carly Fiorina dilemma: shut the government down to stop the attack on our physical security by importing thousands of Syrians who cannot be vetted by the FBI to ensure that they are not jihadists or shut down the government to stop the destruction of our moral character by the killing of our babies and selling their body parts for profit.

Personally, I am for attaching amendments to the CR to achieve both of these goals. However, as we have seen with the CRomnibus bill and numerous other opportunities, the leadership would rather throw in the towel before the fight begins than stand up to the President.

I am not a gambler, but as Kenny Rogers sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” Speaker Boehner seemed to have one policy and that was to fold ‘em and run away.

His refusal to fight resulted in the relinquishing of the power of the purse and the complete abandonment of any check on the executive branch of the government.

Speaker Boehner is leaving in part because he was in the unenviable position of being squeezed between the unhappy conservative members. If he insisted on the clean CR he would lose at least 50 conservative Republican votes – meaning he will need Democrat votes to pass his CR.

Had this come to pass, it would have caused Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) to call for his motion to vacate the chair. At that point, it is possible that the Speaker would have only been able to retain his position if he had support from the Democrats. He would have retained control as Speaker, but at the cost of being beholden to the opposition party for saving his speakership. There was even talk that Boehner would give subcommittee chairmanships to Democrats.

At some point, you have to ask, is it really worth being the Speaker of the House if it would require destroying your party to retain power? For Boehner, the answer was no.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-LA, is trying to woo the conservative bloc by offering to use reconciliation as a method to defund Planned Parenthood. Reconciliation only requires a simple majority, as we remember from the Obamacare fight. By using reconciliation, the amended CR could make it to President Obama’s desk, where he would promptly veto it and that would be the end of that since the GOP could not get the 67 votes necessary to override a veto.

So what does that get us? Nothing. Planned Parenthood would continue to receive 41% of its funding from taxpayers. Although they cannot directly use the money to fund abortions, we all know that they just shift money around and pretend that it didn’t enable them to do exactly what they want to do. PP would continue to abort babies. They would perform about 440,000 more abortions before President Obama would finish his last day in office.

If the GOP leadership would stand up and fight, there could be a chance to save some of those 440,000 babies. If they would refuse to allow thousand of “refugees” into the USA, they would not have to be concerned about jihadists gaining entry through the refugee programs.

Despite the clear and present danger to the lives of our unborn citizens and of violent jihadists gaining entry to our country, Speaker Boehner showed every sign of weepily folding without a fight. And by his staying through October, a grand bargain may well be set in motion.

Rather than hoping that the next president will be a Republican who will fix everything by undoing executive orders, I plead with our current leaders to do what we sent them to DC to do: fight.

Do not brag to me about how many bills you passed in the House when we all know they never made it through the Senate, so they never achieved anything. Stop passing bills that never go anywhere and get a strategy that will actually advance our cause. If we must shut the government down to get the president’s attention, then let’s do it. All essential personnel are required to work anyway, so the government never really shuts down.

This president has already shown his vindictive streak the last time there was a government shutdown when he “closed” the World War II Memorial and national parks. We know what he will do. Let’s prepare an offensive strategy.

We have many vocal Presidential candidates who can very ably make the case to the public that the President is the one that is shutting down the government by his veto. This may be the best possible time to have this battle since the Presidential candidates can use their public time to advance the cause.

Wouldn’t you like to see Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and even Donald Trump explain why we needed to pass the CR with the defund Planned Parenthood amendment and the no refugee amendment?

Speaker Boehner and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell should welcome the help since they have been silent far too long.

2016 Dossier: Role of government

September 24, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 Dossier: Role of government 

In my final category, I have reviewed my previous work to get an idea of just what impact I believe these candidates will have in two distinct directions: right-sizing government in terms of power and in reducing spending to take less money out of everyone’s pocket. (Because we don’t mandate a balanced budget, this is a little different than strict taxation, although taxation played a role in this effort.)

There are two other factors I think are important here. I believe Rand Paul is the only one on record to eliminate entire Cabinet departments now that Rick Perry is out. Paul will also end the Patriot Act, which should be allowed to expire.

On the fiscal side, Bobby Jindal is a governor who has actually cut spending since taking office. And we’re not talking the phantom Martin O’Malley-style “cuts” but actually less money, to the tune of nearly $3 billion from his predecessor in his first budget. Spending has only increased modestly in the years since. (Compare this to Larry Hogan, who was hailed as a budget cutter for only increasing spending a percentage point or two from his predecessor.)

For this understanding of the role of government, they get an extra two points apiece over and above what I would give them.

Ted Cruz gets extra points for this. We need a fighter.

Jeb Bush, of all people, has some idea of how to approach the issue, too. So I gave him an extra point and a half.

I liked what Ben Carson had to say about the size of government so he got an extra point for this. the same goes for Carly Fiorina’s critique.

On the other hand, this critique of Mike Huckabee enhances his reputation as a big-government populist, just like John Kasich has his critics. Marco Rubio also has a reputation as a “reformocon” embracing expanding government.

Populism such as that of Rick Santorum can also lead to bigger government.

Since this is a fourteen-point category, I started everyone off with seven points. Things I saw to reduce the size and scope of government got a + on my ledger and things which made government bigger got a (-). I added each + to 7, subtracted each minus, and gave the bonus points to come out with these numbers:

  • Rand Paul, 14 points
  • Ted Cruz, 13 points
  • Bobby Jindal, 13 points
  • Carly Fiorina, 9 points
  • Lindsey Graham, 9 points
  • Ben Carson, 7 points
  • Mike Huckabee, 7 points
  • Jim Gilmore, 6 points
  • Rick Santorum, 6 points
  • Donald Trump, 6 points
  • Chris Christie, 5 points
  • John Kasich, 5 points
  • Marco Rubio, 5 points
  • Jeb Bush, 3.5 points
  • George Pataki, 3 points

So I have come down to a handful of intangibles and a final decision. That will be in my final Dossier post early next week – hopefully the field will stay at 15 long enough to let me write it.

The call to action

By Cathy Keim

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There is going to be another Protest Planned Parenthood rally in front of the Easton Planned Parenthood facility on Saturday, October 10, 2015. Once again this will be in conjunction with over 330 protests across the nation.

Michael covered the last protest but since then several more videos have come out from the Center for Medical Progress. If you take the time to watch them, you will see Planned Parenthood staff discussing that they must be careful how they approach the issue of selling baby parts because it wouldn’t play well as a newspaper headline. They were correct on that count. More disturbing, though, is watching as they pick through the pieces of a baby to see how much it would be worth if sold to a tissue procurement firm.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life writes:

In our day, many Christians shy away from the word ‘protest,’ but there is no reason to do so. To affirm good means to reject evil. To stand up for what is right means to protest what is wrong.

When people realize the atrocities going on in Planned Parenthood, such as the harvesting of body parts, and when they have the courage to view what an aborted baby actually looks like, a voice of protest arises from inside of them: “No, this is wrong; this must stop!”

At that point, every human being is at a crossroads: we either act on that voice of protest or we silence it.

Too many times we squelch the voice of protest because it is easier, we are busy, it would be embarrassing, or we just don’t know how to go about protesting. Maybe we feel like it won’t make any difference anyways.

And with that decision another part of us dies. Carly Fiorina said at the last debate that:

I’d like to link these two issues; both are incredibly important. Iran and Planned Parenthood. One has something to do with the defense of the security of this nation. The other has something to do with the defense of the character of this nation.

You haven’t heard a plan about Iran from any politician up here, here is my plan. On day one I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend to Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him that we will stand with the state of Israel. The second to the Supreme Leader to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we the United States of America will make it as difficult as possible to move money around the global financial system, we can do that, we don’t need anyone’s cooperation to do it. And every ally and adversary we have in the world will know that the United States of America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with allies.

As regard to Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape – I dare Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

I think Carly Fiorina correctly connects the Planned Parenthood issue as equal in importance to the Iran agreement. The horrible Iran deal weakens our physical security while the Planned Parenthood holocaust destroys our moral character.

We have become so used to millions of lives being stamped out in their mother’s womb that we are numb to the horror. It is time to shake off our slumber and rise to the call to action. For many, this first step of standing with a sign in front of an abortion provider may seem difficult, but think of the alternative which is to let your conscience die piece by piece. Once you take action, you will find that it frees you to take other steps.

The media speaks with a monolithic voice to lull you into complacency. Because they repeat the same meme over and over again, people think that everybody is in agreement on the issue.

I talk to lots of people that think that there is nothing that they can do to change things or they think that they are not brave enough to face the disapprobation of their family and friends. Give it a try and see if standing up for the defenseless is not worth the effort.

Another point that Father Frank Pavone makes is:

When you look at the organizations that help sponsor these events, you will find people and groups who pour out their time, money, and energy all year long to provide alternatives to abortion and healing after abortion. Some of the organizers are pregnancy centers and maternity homes. Abortions do not happen because of freedom of choice, but because some people feel they have no freedom and no choice. The same people who come out and protest a Planned Parenthood on a Saturday will volunteer at a pregnancy center during the week. Moreover, they reach out to provide counseling and healing to those who have had abortions. We who reject abortion do not reject those who have had abortions, but rather embrace them with mercy and forgiveness.

As I looked around at our last Protest Planned Parenthood rally, I saw people that use their time and money to help their community in many ways from supporting pregnancy centers, to helping the homeless, mentoring children, and advocating for the value of life at every stage. These are the acts of free people choosing to help others. The government would prefer that we numb ourselves with senseless entertainment while they control how everyone lives.

Join us as we protest against the evil of abortion and selling baby parts for profit. Let us stand for the defenseless.

2016 Dossier: Entitlements

September 20, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 Dossier: Entitlements 

While the category of entitlements is worth 13 points, the only people who would get all thirteen are the ones who would embark on an orderly sunsetting of all the familiar entitlements: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. I don’t think any of the contenders would go that far, but we’ll see.

But it also helps to tell me about their vision of the role of government, for the perfect candidate would be most interested in limiting the size and scope of government to a Constitutionally appropriate level. Those who are most willing to divest power to the states and stay out of their affairs will do best. That last part is worth 14 points but also depends quite a bit on previous categories such as education and taxation, among others, as well as fiscal responsibility.

We will then be down to the catch-all category of intangibles and the coveted monoblogue endorsement.

Since he dropped out of the race, I’m off the hook for Rick Perry. That’s sad because he was tracking as a dark horse in my race. Nevertheless, I soldier on with 16 contenders now.

It’s pretty much given that GOP contenders would drop Obamacare like a bad habit, so the question is: what comes after?

  • Among other things, Jeb Bush‘s plan would shift the program to the states, with the federal government maintaining a hand in catastrophic coverage and tax credits for premiums.
  • Ben Carson is a strong supporter of health savings accounts, which have the benefit of allowing people to share their burden. His idea is to have the government fund each for $2,000 per year.
  • Chris Christie hasn’t put forth a replacement plan – but he expanded Medicaid in New Jersey under Obamacare.
  • Allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines through the Health Care Choices Act is the Ted Cruz plan.
  • “Let’s try the free market,” says Carly Fiorina, with states managing their own high-risk pools.
  • Jim Gilmore thinks there are good things about Obamacare, such as the ban on denial for pre-existing conditions and coverage by parents to age 26 but he thinks states can handle those. He would favor a proposal offered by Rep. Tom Price in 2013 that encouraged interstate sale of insurance, premium tax credits, and HSAs.
  • Lindsey Graham isn’t specific about “cost-effective, market-driven reforms” aside from favoring association plans.
  • I think the Mike Huckabee solution is to pass it on to the states.
  • As he has in other areas. Bobby Jindal has an exceptionally comprehensive plan to replace Obamacare.
  • John Kasich would adopt what he calls the “Ohio Model” nationwide.
  • Whatever George Pataki does to replace Obamacare, it would include the pre-existing condition regulations.
  • Rand Paul favors HSAs, allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, and a tax deduction for all health care expenses.
  • Tax credits and regulatory reform highlight the Marco Rubio plan.
  • Rick Santorum has backed HSAs, tax credits, and selling insurance across state lines but now advocates “federal support for everybody to be able to go out and get the plan they want.”
  • Through a spokesman, Donald Trump‘s campaign vowed to make insurance available across state lines and give individual tax relief.
  • Scott Walker plans to revert authority to the states and install sliding-scale tax credits based on age to go with the HSAs and selling policies across state lines.

On Medicaid:

On Medicare:

  • The left cried that Jeb Bush wished to “phase out” Medicare. Alas, he wants to protect it.
  • HSAs may be the panacea for Medicare, too. Why not? Ben Carson seems to have one solution.
  • Means-testing, increasing the eligibility age, and standardizing deductibles make up the Chris Christie plan.
  • Ted Cruz opposed the “doc fix” bill because he wanted reforms to give seniors “more power and control.”
  • The same “get our house in order” argument applies here for Carly Fiorina.
  • I found nothing to pin down Jim Gilmore‘s position.
  • Means-testing and raising the eligibility age are reform starting points for Lindsey Graham.
  • “I will kill anything that poses a threat” to Medicare (as well as Social Security), Mike Huckabee thunders.
  • Premium support and Medigap reform highlight Bobby Jindal‘s plan.
  • John Kasich argues entitlements have to be “innovated” to survive.
  • George Pataki would increase co-pays.
  • Rand Paul sponsored Medicare reform legislation in 2013 that would have voucherized Medicare, but he’s supposedly backing off that a little bit now.
  • The Marco Rubio vision for Medicare would involve a premium support system, based loosely on Medicare Advantage.
  • Rick Santorum would change it via increasing the eligibility age or changing the COLA structure.
  • Because it’s “not fair,” Donald Trump won’t cut Medicare (or Medicaid.)
  • In 2013 Scott Walker was in favor of cutting Medicare (and Social Security) but it would likely fall on younger workers.

Social Security proposals seemed to fall into three tiers. Most candidates, with the exceptions of Gilmore, Huckabee, Jindal, and Trump, would raise the retirement age. But few (Bush, Christie, Paul, Rubio, and Santorum) advocated for means testing and fewer still (Cruz, Jindal, and perhaps Kasich) had the guts to advocate for partial privatization. Ben Carson even went a bit farther with the idea to allow for wealthier seniors opting out (although it sounds like the money paid in would be forfeited.)

I wasn’t expecting high scores, so it’s no surprise my best candidate has just 7 points.

  • 7 points – Bobby Jindal
  • 6 1/2 points – Ted Cruz
  • 6 points – Ben Carson, John Kasich
  • 5 points – Rand Paul, Scott Walker
  • 4 1/2 points – Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio
  • 4 points – Rick Santorum
  • 3 points – Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, George Pataki
  • 2 points – Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee
  • 1 point – Donald Trump

Next will be the last major category, role of government.

Debating the importance

September 16, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Debating the importance 

As soon as I heard a commercial from CNN comparing tonight’s Republican presidential debate to a prizefight, I knew it wouldn’t be worth watching.

The thing I find most interesting, though, is that by elevating Carly Fiorina to the “big kids table,” the withdrawal of Rick Perry, and the absence of Jim Gilmore for whatever reason, they had just four for the initial debate: Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum.

Now I am a transcript guy – I would rather just read a speech than watch it because it takes me five minutes to work through an hour-long speech in real time. But I think the also-ran debate came closest to my idea when this all started, and it would probably be great reading because with only four contenders and 90 minutes to kill, we could actually have either good depth or a great variation of questions.

And even in those four you have a good variety of viewpoints: two governors and two Senators, with one of the governors also having Congressional experience. One of each category is currently in elected office while the other has been in the private sector for a decade. They also run the gamut from the moderate wing of the party to the social and fiscal conservative outskirts.

On the other hand, the other 11 in the later debate will have most of the oxygen sucked out of the room by one Donald Trump. So far in the campaign I have been less than impressed with him, but Trump is on top of the polls because a lot of people want a complete shakeup in Washington and assume he’s the guy for the job.

So I’m sure the coverage and spin will be all about what The Donald said, did, and had for a postgame meal. Will that make the voters any more informed? I doubt it.

Generally speaking, the media as a whole is not favorable territory for conservatives. Particularly in the last two cycles, we have seen the media given the perception that they shaped the GOP campaign. John McCain was a media darling until Barack Obama secured the nomination and McCain chose the then-obscure and tough-taking Governor Sarah Palin for a running mate. All media passes expired at that point.

In the 2012 campaign we had a similar phenomenon to the Trump insurgence at about the same point in the campaign. It came from an outsider who made his mark in business and had the additional appeal of being a minority and a cancer survivor, with an economic plan that would change the entire system. It was simply amazing how much dirt was found on Herman Cain, and if you ask me, the media was scared to death that Cain could beat Barack Obama by being a competent minority who is conservative. If Ben Carson pulls ahead in the polls, you can bet your bottom dollar they will be out to find or make up something that will stick.

So it makes me wonder why the media hasn’t really gone after Trump, hounding him like Palin or Cain. I just have that sense that the dirt on Trump is waiting until he closes in on the nomination and it’s too late to change.

There is the chance such an event would further galvanize support for Trump, but as much as they have glossed over Hillary’s record I doubt it. (While the GOP debates are being promoted as must-see TV, it’s interesting to me how they have limited the Democratic debates to a half-dozen or fewer. Less risk of a gaffe.)

If you were watching I hope you enjoyed it, but I had more productive pursuits this evening.

2016 dossier: Foreign Policy

September 9, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 dossier: Foreign Policy 

As I work my way up to the most important aspects of deciding on a Presidential candidate to back, I come to foreign policy which will be worth 12 points.

In doing this part, I’m going to make the assumption that, by and large, these candidates will represent a sharp turn from the disastrous direction our foreign policy has taken under our current President and (for one term) his presumptive Democratic replacement. So since these candidates will represent a sea change, I also want to know how much of a priority they place on it. This will actually make my research easier since I will do it specifically from their campaign websites, including their position papers and news they link to.

For various reasons, I’m ambivalent about certain aspects of foreign policy but I want those who oppose our nation treated as enemies and those who back us to be embraced as friends. I’m no longer convinced we can build nations as we tried to do in the Middle East but regard radical Islam as a threat which will require a Long War to neutralize and contain.

Thus, it’s time to see how they do.

Not only does Jim Gilmore have a comprehensive approach to foreign policy on the website, in all aspects save one it is spot on. My lone quibble would be the wisdom of creating a NATO-like defense pact with Middle East nations against Iraq, one which would include Israel. Aside from that, he has charted an impressive course that tops the field.

Total score for Gilmore – 11.5 of 12.

Lindsey Graham is basing his campaign on being the national security hawk, so you better believe he has a plan. Parts of it may be a difficult sell, but it’s combined with some ideas on the domestic front as well, Overall, a great effort.

Total score for Graham – 11.0 of 12.

In establishing the “Rubio Doctrine,” Marco Rubio has hit on many key points and included others, such as our relationship with Europe. But to me it may be a little too interventionist because we don’t need to be the world’s policeman and that’s how I interpret the statement. Nor do I support making Section 215 of the Patriot Act permanent. It’s why Rubio doesn’t have a higher score.

Total score for Rubio – 9.0 of 12.

Focusing more on national defense and the failures of the Obama administration, it seems that Bobby Jindal is a firm believer in the old Reagan-era “peace through strength” doctrine. Some will certainly call him a neocon, but he presents a compelling case for returning to that brand of thinking. However, he doesn’t consider the civil liberty aspect of his ideas, and that drops him slightly.

As he did on energy, though, he presents a very comprehensive plan.

Total score for Jindal – 8.4 of 12.

Jeb Bush stresses three things when it comes to foreign policy: the war on radical Islam, our friendship with Israel, and the mistake we are making in normalizing our relationship with Cuba without demanding democratic reforms first. He has a very detailed plan to address radical Islam, but it may be a tough sell to the American people because surely the Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) will be talking down those efforts.

Yet there is an elephant in the room ignored – or perhaps a bear and a dragon. Admittedly, Bush’s website is a little frustrating to navigate but I found no mention of Russia or China and how he would address those nations. Overall, though, his effort is solid.

Total score for Bush – 8.0 of 12.

Eight years ago, the thing that sank his father’s campaign with me was an unrealistic, isolationist view on foreign policy. Rand Paul is a little more flexible in that regard, and is hesitant to return to the Middle East because of it. He believes that we should not go it alone in that theater, and to that extent he is correct. I’m not as certain how he would deal with other enemies in a Cold War-style situation, though, which is why I hesitate to grade him higher.

Total score for Paul – 7.5 of 12.

Scott Walker is set against radical Islam and the Iranian deal, but I’m not as certain how he will react against others who threaten us. He seems to want to follow a Reaganesque path, but it’s worth noting that we withdrew from the Middle East under Reagan. Will Walker buckle under that pressure?

Total score for Walker – 7.0 of 12.

The conventional wisdom was that Ben Carson would be weak on foreign affairs as a political neophyte. So while he is for keeping Gitmo open, noting plainly that we should be a friend to Israel, warning about Russian aggression, and decrying the poorly thought-out Iran nuclear deal, it’s done as a broad statement rather than a detailed approach. It may be fleshed out in coming months, but for now it isn’t as strong as some others.

Total score for Carson – 6.0 of 12.

Similarly to Carson, Carly Fiorina had spoken in broad, big picture terms on her foreign policy. But she vows on day one to reassure Israel about our friendship and tell Iran that their deal is going to change to allow more surprise inspections. She’s also vowed to send a message to Vladimir Putin through various strategic moves like reinstating an Eastern European missile defense system and rebuilding the Sixth Fleet. It’s a promising start.

Total score for Fiorina – 6.0 of 12.

Chris Christie has a relatively comprehensive foreign policy vision which is global as it mentions both friends and foes. However, there are two issues that I have with it. One is the civil libertarian aspect of continuing Patriot Act provisions, which Chris avidly supports, and the other is about not treating China as an adversary. Until they stop pointing missiles at us, threatening the sovereign state of Taiwan, and manipulating currency to benefit their economy at our expense, I consider them a foe. Communism and Constitutional republics are mutually exclusive.

Total score for Christie – 5.5 of 12.

Ted Cruz seems to have his head on straight regarding foreign policy, but the information is so piecemeal I had a hard time digesting it all. A for effort, D for presentation.

Total score for Cruz – 5.0 of 12.

I have much the same problem with Rick Perry. For example, he did a major policy speech last year that was warmly received – but it’s hard to tell how he would react to newer crises. Aside from immigration, he seems more a domestic policy president.

Total score for Perry – 5.0 of 12.

With Mike Huckabee, as I read through his site I get the sense that we will have a reactive foreign policy more so than a proactive one. For example, he decreed that we should hack China back after they hacked into our computer systems. It seems to me that would be an expected move but not necessarily strategic. While he stresses Israel a lot, he seems a little simplistic so I don’t get that great of an impression.

Total score for Huckabee – 4.8 of 12.

John Kasich seems to want to tie the extent of his foreign policy to the extent of the economy, noting we can afford enhanced defense spending as we improve the economy. But I don’t really see what he would do in terms of relationships.

Total score for Kasich – 4.8 of 12.

With a foreign policy primarily focused on the Iranian deal and using Kurdish proxies to subdue ISIS, there’s a lot I’m left wondering about when it comes to George Pataki. So he doesn’t score very well.

Total points for Pataki – 4.0 of 12.

I can tell you that Rick Santorum doesn’t like the Iran deal and wants to bomb ISIS back to the 7th century. As for China, Russia, and how to pick up the pieces afterward, who knows?

Total score for Santorum – 2.0 of 12.

After doing well on immigration, Donald Trump falls again on foreign policy. There is rhetoric and there is a plan, and Trump has plenty of former and not much on the latter.

Total score for Trump – 0.0 of 12.

My next part is worth 13 points; however, I suspect scoring will be low because my view on entitlements is decidedly more libertarian than the field will likely present.

2016 dossier: Immigration

September 2, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 dossier: Immigration 

Before Donald Trump supposedly made this an issue, I decided that immigration was one of my highest-priority issues in selecting a presidential candidate.

In the last few decades our nation has wrestled with the question of what to do with the hordes who sneak across our southern border or simply decide when the time is up on their legally-acquired visa that they’re not going anywhere. Perhaps Ronald Reagan’s biggest mistake was signing the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, for while he believed that, “Future generations of Americans will be thankful for our efforts to humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people: American citizenship,” the inverse has occurred. Our borders are a sieve and millions who believe a second amnesty is around the corner have swarmed to our land, doubling down by having “anchor babies” who are considered citizens via a faulty interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

So let’s talk about that aspect. Oddly enough, a story (from NBC News, of all places) discussed how several of the candidates felt about ending birthright citizenship. Mostl are in favor of ending the practice:

  • Ben Carson: Reportedly told a Phoenix rally that birthright citizenship “doesn’t make sense to me.”
  • Chris Christie: it “needs to be re-examined.”
  • Ted Cruz: “as a policy matter (it) doesn’t make sense,” he said last week on “Face The Nation.”
  • Lindsey Graham: “I think it’s a mistake.”
  • Mike Huckabee: once against it, but recently told radio host Hugh Hewitt he was now open to it.
  • Bobby Jindal: “We need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.”
  • Rand Paul: proposed a Constitutional amendment to end the practice.
  • Rick Santorum: “(an) enticement (that) should be ended.”
  • Donald Trump: “biggest magnet for illegal immigrants.”

Those who would leave it as is:

  • Jeb Bush: “I don’t support revoking it.”
  • Carly Fiorina: we should put our energy into border security.
  • Jim Gilmore: Quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “every person born in this country has the right to citizenship.”
  • John Kasich: Once a supporter of revoking birthright citizenship, now says, “we’re gonna welcome you to a path of legalization.”
  • George Pataki: “I don’t support amending the Constitution to kick out kids who were born here.”
  • Rick Perry: If the border is secured, it “becomes inconsequential,” as quoted in the Dallas News two weeks ago.
  • Marco Rubio: won’t repeal the Fourteenth Amendment, but is open to not allowing the practice.
  • Scott Walker: Apparently has moved out of the “end birthright citizenship” camp.

As regards the actual process of dealing with illegal immigrants, the naysayers would tell you we can’t deport all 20 million of them. Maybe not, but we could at least get rid of the criminals and turn up the heat on employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. I see nothing wrong with E-Verify as a starting point, as long as it can be done quickly. We also need visa reform to keep better tabs on those who are our guests. And while it goes without saying we need to secure our border with Mexico, the question is how best to do it. One big problem is that a significant part of the border is a river and I don’t think sharks will live in fresh water. (Yes, I am joking.) But we should build a sturdy fence, whether Mexico pays for it or not. We were promised as much a decade ago.

But the biggest sticking point is amnesty. We are in this situation because amnesty once was granted so the precedent is there. Anyone who has shown up illegally over the last 30 years now feels entitled to all the benefits because, if we did it once, we can do it again. If we do the 20 million who are here will become 50 million, all expecting the next amnesty and “path to citizenship.” To me, the path to citizenship begins by going back to their country of origin but, because of birthright citizenship, those anchor babies became their golden tickets which allow them to stay. To me that’s wrong and unfair to those doing it the right way.

Imigration is an issue that, frankly, may make the person who has to be the bad guy plunge in the opinion polls. And it’s certain that the Beltway Republicans will whine and complain about losing the Latino vote, but it’s not necessarily true that a hard line on immigration will significantly hurt us with less than 10 percent of the electorate. (Yes, that is all we are talking about.)

So how do the candidates do? Some speak to the issue directly on their campaign websites while others remain less direct.

In his first effort at comprehensive policy creation, Donald Trump has hit the sweet spot. While there may be a few places I think are unworkable, it is a great template to follow in both proposal and attention to detail. It’s no wonder his popularity is increasing; obviously this category is a gigantic step up for him.

Total points for Trump – 10.5 of 11.

It’s not quite to the standard that Trump set, but Rick Santorum has a good, basic outline of his immigration policy ready for inspection and it correctly hits most of my highlights.

Total score for Santorum – 9.0 of 11.

Border security is paramount for Rand Paul, who has his own plan that’s mindful of civil liberties. One thing I like about it is the idea of not having a national identity card. The only drawback may be that it’s sort of a go-slow approach because we’re not securing the border that quickly. On the whole, though, it’s worth a look.

Total score for Paul – 7.7 of 11.

Bobby Jindal doesn’t have his immigration policy spelled out as those above him do, aside from the typical “secure the borders” rhetoric and a desire for people to follow the law. But as a first-generation American, he makes a brilliant point about assimilating that others aren’t making. Even he Americanized his name as Bobby is the nickname he adopted as a child. It sure beats Piyush.

Total score for Jindal – 7.5 of 11.

For a guy who was the governor of a border state, I thought Rick Perry was a little evasive in this interview. Of course, if I assume Perry goes with his record as governor he does better than the guy who signed a Texas version of the DREAM Act. So he’s going to score better than average but not really at the top of the heap.

Total score for Perry – 7.5 of 11.

Ted Cruz has a relatively simple view on immigration: “legal good, illegal bad.” I applaud his insistence on following the rule of law, but am scratching my head as to why he wanted to quintuple the number of H-1B visas at a time when companies are flouting the existing rules and favoring foreign workers over Americans.

Total score for Cruz – 7.4 of 11.

Assuming that something he wrote last November is still valid, Ben Carson has a somewhat unique approach to the illegal immigration issue: a guest worker program. And while he stresses those who wish to be guest workers should apply from their country of origin, my fear is that the Chamber of Commerce types who want ultra-cheap labor will get the return home portion of the idea scrapped. After all, what employer will really want to hold a job for someone for months while they go through that process?

Total score for Carson – 5.1 of 11.

Being for stopping illegal immigration is one thing. But Mike Huckabee has a somewhat vague, fuzzy plan to do so after securing the border. And as someone who at times seems to pander to the crowd, I’m not as trusting in Huckabee as I would others in the field.

Total points for Huckabee – 5.0 of 11.

Jim Gilmore starts out so well, with a nice, relatively comprehensive summary of his policy. I totally support deporting the criminal illegal aliens among us, but the problem is – and perhaps I am misunderstanding it – he would allow illegals here to continue working in place. I think they need to return home and get in line. Otherwise, there are some decent points as Gilmore’s campaign finally begins to flesh things out.

Total score for Gilmore – 4.5 of 11.

Securing the border is key to Scott Walker, who has turned heads by bringing up a border fence with Canada, too. Supposedly he is moving toward more of a hardline stance on immigration, but he has been all over the map even during the campaign and the fact he doesn’t discuss it as an issue on his campaign site is evidence he wants to play both sides against the middle. I’m not convinced.

Total points for Walker – 3.5 of 11.

Now that I’ve seen some of Carly Fiorina‘s “Answers,” I get that she wants to secure the borders first. But it’s also a copout to blame both parties for a lack of political will over the last 25 years. What I want to know is how you will overcome that inertia.

Total points for Fiorina – 3.0 of 11.

It’s described as a “moderate” approach to immigration, but while Chris Christie says he’s no longer for amnesty, he’s also not supportive of an enhanced border fence. He would rather work to dry up sources of employment, which is fine for those coming to work but not those who wish to have anchor babies or conduct criminal activity.

Total score for Christie – 2.5 of 11.

The bottom five are all for giving illegals some sort of legal status. Way to encourage another 50 million of them, guys.

“Don’t send me a(n immigration reform) bill without a pathway to citizenship or I will veto it,” said Lindsey Graham. Well, they don’t call him “Grahamnesty” for nothing, and if it weren’t for at least getting it on birthright citizenship nothing is what he would get for this category.

Total score for Graham – 2.0 of 11.

Marco Rubio will tell you he’s for several aspects of combatting illegal immigration: the border security, E-verify, and so forth. But he’s another who is hard to pin down because he doesn’t highlight immigration on his site, so I have to base my thoughts on him on his coming out against the Trump plan, supporting a large increase in H-1B visas as well as legal status for illegals after a decade, and most of all being part of the Gang of Eight.

Total score for Rubio – 1.5 of 11.

Jeb Bush visited the border, whined about how much the Trump plan is big government, then said we need to give illegals “a vigorous path to earned legal status where people…work and not receive federal government benefits.” Do you honestly think such a program will last five years before the work requirement is waived? Please.

Total score for Bush – 0.0 of 11.

John Kasich stops short of granting them citizenship, but is squarely in the camp of legalizing the illegals, which he would “prefer.” I prefer someone interested in the rule of law, not emotion.

Total score for Kasich – 0.0 of 11.

George Pataki would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. I don’t care what he says about securing the border because by allowing law-breakers a path to citizenship if they have no criminal record and do 200 hours of community service he has forfeited any respectability on this issue. Do you honestly think bureaucrats will check all these criminal records and verify the community service? It’s called a rubber stamp, and patently unfair to thosr who did it right.

Total score for Pataki – 0.0 of 11.

The next topic is one I’ve had in previous elections, but in a different form. Instead of just looking at the Long War against radical Islam, I’m expanding it to look at foreign policy in general, for 12 points.

2016 dossier: Taxation

August 18, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 dossier: Taxation 

Coming in next in importance to me as the sixth of my ten pet issues in taxation. This may be the simplest to explain of all the issues because I don’t think there is a candidate among the 17 Republicans who wants to increase them.

However, if you ask me – and since I write this blog and you have read this far I’m going to presume you want my opinion – my preference is for a consumption-based tax like the FairTax. It creates a scenario where we have the most control over how much we pay while encouraging saving and allowing us to take home much more of our paycheck. My second choice, if I had to maintain an income-based tax scheme, would be a flat tax with a low rate and limited deductions. Sure, the tax preparer lobby would scream but they deserve to. It should not take me the better part of a weekend to compile the paperwork and prepare two tax returns, but as it stands now I have to.

As for corporate taxes, I would be amenable to a low rate of perhaps 10 percent. Right now our rate is more than triple that.

So let’s take a look at where candidates stand and how many of 10 points they gather. Alas, none get ten because there’s none talking about the very important step of repealing the Sixteenth Amendment.

If I am reading Rand Paul‘s “Fair and Flat Tax Plan” correctly, it has a relatively low rate for everyone but more importantly eliminates the FICA tax. Practically all working Americans would get a quick raise.

It takes the income-based tax about as far as it can go, but also has a better chance of being accepted by the public.

Total score for Paul – 9.0 of 10.

While he hasn’t really addressed what he would do as President, I’m giving Bobby Jindal high marks for two reasons. One is that, over nearly two terms as governor of Louisiana, he’s been highly resistant to increasing taxes as well as taking a meat ax to the state’s budget. Could he become the second coming of Calvin Coolidge at a federal level?

On the one hand, he was a backer of Rick Perry’s 2012 flat tax plan, but on the other hand he attempted (alas, unsuccessfully) to bring a version of the FairTax to Louisiana. That basically leaves a swing between 9 points and seven so I took the middle course.

Total score for Jindal – 8.0 of 10.

He’s been on record as supporting the FairTax, so Mike Huckabee is at the top of the heap. The only problem is that we don’t know the needed rate. We also don’t know what we will see with corporate tax rates, which may be because they are eliminated with the FairTax.

Unfortunately, Huckabee was criticized for his taxation record in office so I’m reticent to give him a really high score.

Total score for Huckabee – 7.5 of 10.

Combine the support of a Forbesian flat tax with the record of cutting taxes John Kasich has put together and he has a relatively strong case for improving taxation. In Ohio, he proposed an idea to eliminate income taxes for business owners, but make up the revenue through a higher corporate tax, additional sin taxes, and a sales tax increase. Although Art Laffer liked Kasich’s idea, I see it as a sort of Frankenstein hybrid of both income and sales taxes when we need to eliminate one in favor of the other.

Total score for Kasich – 6.0 of 10.

Ben Carson is looking for a tax system which is “fairer, simpler, and more equitable” with a call for “wholesale tax reform.” His idea is loosely based on Biblical tithing, which is generally considered a 10 percent tax; however, he conceded that the rate may have to start higher and work down over time to stay revenue-neutral. He’s also alluded to reducing the corporate tax rate, although it may not drop to 10% either.

The idea of eliminating the progressive tax has merit, though. It just may prove politically difficult to weather all the harpies who think their tax breaks are too important to eliminate – that should be a circus worth watching. The next step for Carson is learning that revenue-neutral is not necessarily what we need because government is not God.

Total score for Carson – 5.5 of 10.

“I will abolish the IRS,” says Ted Cruz. At one point, he was going to do it with the FairTax but more recently he’s lowered his sights to a flat tax with a few popular deductions, such as charitable contributions and the mortgage interest deduction. We don’t know just what rate Cruz is proposing for individuals, but he is on record that a 15% corporate tax rate would be acceptable.

I’m a little disappointed that he backed away from the FairTax for political expedience, for true leadership would bring people around to the merits of the issue.

Total score for Cruz – 5.5 of 10.

More or less, the one platform plank that Jim Gilmore has shared so far is the Growth Code, a plan to reduce individual taxes to three brackets of 10 to 25 percent while eliminating taxes on capital gains and other investment income. He would also reduce corporate taxes to 15%. It’s a good start, but I would like to see an end to progressive taxes altogether.

Total score for Gilmore – 5.0 of 10.

Much like others in this portion of this summary, Marco Rubio has a simpler two-bracket system he first unveiled last year with Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Since then the brackets have been firmed at 15 and 25 percent, with a 25% corporate tax. The rates fall between Gilmore’s and Perry’s, so Rubio’s score will, too.

Total score for Rubio – 4.9 of 10.

Rick Perry hasn’t revised his 2012 tax plan yet. It was a plan that gave people the option to pay a 20% flat tax on a specific year’s return or stay with the old system, which would eventually be phased out. He would also reduce corporate taxes to 20% as well.

Although the plan was endorsed by Bobby Jindal at the time, Bobby moved on in the correct direction. Until I find out otherwise, I have to assume this is the Perry plan and it’s just average.

Total score for Perry – 4.8 of 10.

I’ve been waiting for Rick Santorum to reveal his economic plan for weeks. Supposedly it will be reflective of the one from his 2012 campaign, which is fairly similar to those other hopefuls in the 4-to-5 point range. While rates may change, though, I don’t think the complexity goes away. So we work back to square one.

Total score for Santorum – 4.6 of 10.

On his website, Chris Christie keeps it simple, calling for “creating a flatter, fairer, and simpler individual income tax system and keep returns simpler by reducing deductions and giveaways.” He also advocates for a 25% corporate tax rate, which is an improvement to about average among industrialized nations.

Listen, anything to help can be considered a victory but those from this point down the candidates either just tinker around the edges or even make things worse.

Total score for Christie – 4.5 of 10.

He cut taxes in Wisconsin, but Scott Walker only wants to turn the clock back to the 1980s, expressing an interest in reviving the tax reforms Ronald Reagan put in place. This is all well and good, but to be honest we aren’t all that far off where Reagan was in comparison to where we were when he took over for Jimmy Carter. So it’s not all that impressive to me in a crowded field.

Total score for Walker – 4.2 of 10.

In his announcement speech, Jeb Bush alluded to creating “a vastly simpler system” with fewer rates. But some complain that Bush was no longer willing to participate in a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit by taking a small tax increase for supposed cuts. (If only his dad had ignored that siren song, Hillary Rodham would be an activist lawyer for some far left-wing group and Bill Clinton would be another in a long line of Democratic presidential losers free to cat around at will.)

At any rate, his vagueness on the subject bothers me so he doesn’t score all that well.

Total score for Bush – 4.0 of 10.

Lindsey Graham is all over the map. He’s been for a flat tax, which would qualify for the “simpler” scheme he seeks if not the “fairer” that leftist critics who love the current super-progressive system don’t want. Lindsey also advocates for lower corporate tax rates.

But he falls victim to the same mentality plaguing Jeb Bush, thinking Democrats would actually cut spending if he raised taxes – even, as he clains, it would only be certain deductions. That’s just the start of hard-working Americans being rolled anew.

Total score for Graham – 3.5 of 10.

I’m looking forward to how Donald Trump puts H&R Block out of business. Until then, I can’t give him a good score.

Total score for Trump – 2.0 of 10.

George Pataki favors scrapping the tax code, but who among this group doesn’t? Described as a governor who started out as a serious fiscal conservative, he devolved into just another big spender by the end. What worries me, though, is that he’s considering raising corporate tax rates to pay for infrastructure. That’s a guaranteed job killer.

Total score for Pataki – 1.0 of 10.

Carly Fiorina wants a “transparent and fair” tax code and released a lot of returns to make her point. But that’s it. This makes it hard to take her seriously.

Total score for Fiorina – 0.5 of 10.

Postscript 9/26: Since Fiorina has since advocated for a simpler system that reduces revenue, I’m adding 1.5 points to her score. She should at least match Trump here.

Next on the docket, for eleven valuable points, is immigration. That may provide some sharp differences.

2016 dossier: Trade and job creation

August 12, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 dossier: Trade and job creation 

The fifth portion of my look at the GOP field looks at trade and job creation. Those that have the best ideas will qualify for nine points. This category has the potential to be very hit or miss, however. So allow me to set some of the guidelines I am looking for.

When I speak about trade, my goal is that of having free trade that is fair for all parties. With the criticism that’s been leveled at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, I don’t necessarily consider it fair trade. I’m also leery of fast-track authority, although I may well feel better about it with a conservative in charge.

As for job creation, I’m looking for specific ideas which don’t involve lowering taxes because that will fall under taxation, which is a later segment in my dossier series. But taking a meat axe to regulation would be fine, as would creating the conditions under which a workforce can thrive. It will be somewhat tough to score this segment, so the more information made available the better it is for a candidate.

Bobby Jindal gets it, and is not afraid to let people know about it. The formula must work because he is a job-producing governor.

For Bobby, it begins with the power of energy, but it doesn’t stop there. Free trade is fine if we have a good negotiator on our side, but right now we don’t so there’s no need for a Trans-Pacific Partnership yet. And the minimum wage is a smokescreen when we should be looking for more. My only concern is that he is still open to an increase when the idea should be one of the market determining the wage. But that’s a minor blemish on an otherwise solid category for Jindal.

Total score for Jindal – 8.4 of 9.

There is also great promise with Ted Cruz. If he can do those things he ran for Senate on we would be in fine shape. Removing regulations on energy and spreading the truth on the minimum wage bolster a sound agenda. Yes, he flipped on Obamatrade but he came to his senses in time – and trade is one of his specialties. He seems to be an intelligent, passionate advocate for the working man.

Total score for Cruz – 8.1 of 9.

There’s a lot to like about Rick Perry on the subject of job creation – his state created a lot of them during Rick’s tenure. While he had the energy boom to thank for much of it, his principles of low taxes and predictable regulations would hold the nation in good stead.

But I hesitate a little bit from giving him a higher score because just as he quickly backpedaled from being a supporter of trade promotion authority to an opponent simply based on Barack Obama’s lack of negotiating skills and secrecy, he has walked back his complete (and correct) opposition to any federal minimum wage to just not wanting a hike.

He will be in the top tier of this category, though, as he sounds most of the right notes. Now if he could just stay in the race…

Total score for Perry – 7.2 of 9.

In Congress, Rand Paul has sponsored legislation to give Congress move oversight on regulations and worked against additional trade promotion authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And he would rather lift all the boats than increase the minimum wage.

Yet the most interesting piece in his job creation toolbox is the Economic Freedom Zone, an idea he claims to have borrowed from the late Jack Kemp. It sounds good in theory, but my beef with it is that it is targeted to specific areas. For a guy who seems like he would be against government picking winners and losers, this seems to be an unusual move. It’s sort of like having a big-ticket business right across the border from sales-tax free Delaware, where you watch the competition take advantage of government edict.

Total score for Paul – 6.5 of 9.

Rick Santorum has a leg up on some of the competition because he devotes a portion of his economic plan to restoring manufacturing to America. It’s a proposal that includes the idea that regulations are too severe but, more importantly, speaks about the aspect of fair trade by opening up new markets if they play fair. He came out against the TPP as well as fast-track, noting he voted against NAFTA.

But a good plan is muddled by Rick’s support of a higher minimum wage. I suppose that is the difference between populist and conservative, but what he may gain in pandering to a few he would lose when their jobs went away. He’s also been promising his economic plan was a few weeks away on his website, so I’m tired of waiting.

Total score for Santorum – 6.3 of 9.

I find the trade and job creation ideas of Lindsey Graham interesting: “a clenched fist and an open hand…you choose” when it comes to trade, and backing one minimum wage increase while opposing a more recent one.

The entire reason he jumped up to this level came out of one idea of his:

The most costly and far-reaching federal regulations should be subject to sunset provisions, so that there is a built-in process to ensure that they are subject to review, cost-effectiveness analysis, and accountability.  Those regulations that cannot stand up to scrutiny or are no longer essential should be eliminated.

I have called for sunset provisions for far more than simple regulations, but just bringing up this concept separated him from the middle of the pack.

Total score for Graham – 6.0 of 9.

As someone who has worked exclusively in the private sector, Carly Fiorina knows something about job creation – although her critics point to HP’s job losses. And they may dispute her claim that regulations don’t go away because there are some exceptions that prove the rule. But she is right on the trade front and minimum wage, which are plusses.

Total score for Fiorina – 5.6 of 9.

I give credit to Chris Christie for making my job easier by creating his economic plan, which is a mixed bag of good ideas and near-misses. (Chief among them is the idea of reducing payroll taxes only for those over 62 and below 25, which would likely hurt those at the cusp of those ages.) I also find the mistrust of Barack Obama on trade good to hear, especially when Christie wants to revisit NAFTA.

But he’s squishy on minimum wage, and that holds him back somewhat.

Total score for Christie – 5.2 of 9.

Scott Walker has the tag line of “Let’s get to work” on his website, but I had to go elsewhere to find his ideas on job creation. It was noted that his record may look subpar but his state started from a better position and doesn’t get the benefit of the energy boom with the exception of being home to some of the best fracking sand available. While he used several conventional ideas that can work on a state level, such as investment in job training, he doesn’t really have a broad national plan. Presumably he would be a leader in nationalizing right-to-work, but we don’t know that – but we know he correctly thinks the minimum wage is “lame.”

Walker supports the TPP and the trade promotion authority that goes with it. To me that is “lame” and deducts from his score in the category.

Total score for Walker – 5.0 of 9.

Ben Carson brings a unique approach to this question. I’ll get the bad part out of the way first – he supports a minimum wage increase. But he came out early against Obamatrade and is interested in curtailing the regulatory state in surprising ways.

I also think he has some moral authority for his message on work, which is one I agree with. He also has a healthy skepticism about the current economic state, which will play well with his conservative base. He can serve as an example so I placed him a tick above some peers who I grade about the same.

Total score for Carson – 4.6 of 9.

Jeb Bush falls in the middle thanks to support of Obamatrade coupled with the idea of state minimum wages. But was the audience of Wall Street banking executives the right one to advocate for financial reform? I don’t think Main Street trusts Wall Street just yet, which is why Jeb lands in the middle.

Total score for Bush – 4.5 of 9.

For Mike Huckabee I see a lot of obfuscation. His populist approach is fine, with the philosophy of working for a “maximum wage” admirable. But it’s vague, and he won’t commit to saying no to an increase in the minimum because he signed one as governor.

On the trade front, though, he opposes trade promotion authority. It’s not a bad platform, just not that great in a crowded field.

Total score for Huckabee – 4.5 of 9.

The ideas of Marco Rubio trend along the same lines as Scott Walker, but without the executive action. His job creation platform refers mainly to taxation and education, with just a nod toward regulatory reform.

Meanwhile, his opposition to increasing the minimum wage is tempered by his support for “Obamatrade.” My fear is that he will fold on the minimum wage to do his cherished college financial aid reforms, since the two can go hand-in-hand.

Total score for Rubio – 4.5 of 9.

For John Kasich, it’s an interesting mix: he runs a state that privatized its Department of Development, but wants to place a steep tax increase on a particular job creator. He supported NAFTA but doesn’t want to see workers get the shaft. And his state has a minimum wage which automatically increases even though he opposed this in Washington. (Our DNC “hacktivists” claim Kasich believes it should be a state matter, which is the correct stance. I don’t link to them.) On the whole, I would like him to do better.

Total score for Kasich – 4.0 of 9.

Many of the more conventional ideas above are also in George Pataki‘s playbook, and he has done them: rolled back regulations in New York, vetoed a minimum wage increase, and has the idea of increasing manufacturing jobs. But he’s uncertain on the TPP. And a lot has changed in a decade.

With so little to go by, it’s hard to give him a high score.

Total score for Pataki – 4.0 of 9.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God has ever created,” says Donald Trump. He continually cries that China, Mexico, and Japan are “killing us” economically. But would a 25% tariff on Chinese goods, as he’s proposed before, be the answer? Some say it would start a trade war we couldn’t win, but others think China is manipulating its currency by an even greater factor. To the good side, though, he’s not in favor of a minimum wage increase.

So far, though, Donald hasn’t fleshed out his overall jobs program. Being a businessman makes him an expert of sorts in the subject, but could he deal with a Congress that’s more obstinate than his employees?

Total score for Trump – 2.7 of 9.

Much as I’d like to know about Jim Gilmore, his recent entry in the race sort of limits his potential. Although it’s couched as job creation, his Growth Code will play more in the taxation category. So I can’t give him many points.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 9.

Next on tap is a fairly simple and straightforward subject – taxation. It will be worth ten points.

More musings on Trump

August 10, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on More musings on Trump 

Since the debate on Thursday night, it appears that Donald Trump has gotten pretty much what he wanted: aside from a little bit of talk about Carly Fiorina doing well enough to leapfrog someone and reach the top ten, the political conversation has been about The Donald.

But the problem is that Trump hasn’t been able to use this time or attention to expand his platform. Instead, he’s trying to create an “us vs. them” narrative against Fox News. It’s red meat to his legion of supporters.

That’s a strategy which works with the plethora of candidates in the race now, but invariably some will begin to fall away. And those at the bottom (for now I will exclude Carly Fiorina) probably don’t have a support base that would gravitate to Trump’s camp – Lindsey Graham backers may move to Marco Rubio, and those who support Jim Gilmore or George Pataki could be easily swayed into the John Kasich or Jeb Bush camps. Rick Santorum social conservatives are a natural fit for Mike Huckabee, and those who like Bobby Jindal or Rick Perry could slide over into the Scott Walker fold. With Donald Trump holding such high negatives, his ceiling is lower than most of the others.

Right now the field works in Trump’s favor – 25% looks really good in a 17-person race. But the polls I would like to see are the ones which would put him up against just the top five, eliminating the chaff of the bottom dozen. I suspect Trump would only be in the high 20s or low 30s given that situation, and as the field consolidates he would fall behind.

Admittedly, once we get down to a half-dozen Republicans there is a distinct possibility that polling on the GOP side could resemble the numbers Democrats post, where Hillary Clinton has always held a significant lead. I’m doubtful a Trump vs. Hillary race would be good for America in the long run, but it would be quite the spectacle as we irretrivably slid down the tubes.

 

Handicapping the GOP debate

August 5, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Handicapping the GOP debate 

And then there were ten.

To millions of Americans, the field for the Republican presidential nomination just got cut down to ten. Woe be to Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and the two Ricks – Perry and Santorum – because they may as well have dropped out. (In fact, it would not surprise me to see one or two of them throw in the towel by month’s end as their fundraising will likely dry up because the top ten will gain in the polls thanks to this exposure.)

If it were up to me, the format would have been different – a three-hour event featuring groups of five or six at a time. And if I were forced to pick a top ten based on my assessments of the candidates thus far, Carson, Christie, Kasich, and Trump would be out and Graham, Jindal, Perry, and Santorum would be in. I don’t like the idea of this event driving the polls, but it will.

Having said that, I think the debate can be useful if the right questions are asked. Let’s not have the “gotcha” questions – while I value the social issues, I figure that there will be sufficient time for five questions and (foreshadowing alert) my key issues are taxation, immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and the role of government. Let’s have some opportunities to allow candidates to differentiate themselves.

And I hope the bottom-feeders are savvy enough to answer these same questions in such a way to contrast themselves. For example, a guy like Rick Perry should have a good answer to a role of government question because he’s a firm believer in the Tenth Amendment. (Perry was the victim of John Kasich’s early momentum because he was 11th in the polling average, and Kasich was 10th.)

But I think I know how it will go, and the (literal) center stage will belong to The Donald. Frankly, I think a significant share of interest in this debate is of the same type that watches NASCAR racing waiting for the eighteen-car pileup. How will he handle the pressure of having to answer questions? If they put him in the middle and start at each end, he has a tremendous advantage because he can hear a few answers but not be the poor sap who has to sound like a broken record at the end.

Overshadowed in all this, though, is one key fact: we haven’t heard a peep about a Democratic debate, and Martin O’Malley is unhappy about it. Literally, they have not scheduled a date for one yet.

Naturally I don’t see the Democrats’ debate coming anywhere near Fox News, nor do I see anything but questions where the only real answer is how much they can pander to minorities, gays, union members, Radical Green, and whatever other splinter groups they cater to. E-mail, Benghazi, and foreign policy failures will be off-limits in those debates. But I do want to see how that clown car tries to play up the failure of the last six-plus years considering most of them (except Jim Webb) have been an active participant in some way.

So I may just have to watch tomorrow, if I can remember what channel Fox News is on.

2016 dossier: Social issues

I don’t think I even had this down as a concern four or eight years ago, but as I get older and grow in my faith these things become more important to me. So I will devote a valuable eight points to these issues, which I would loosely define as abortion, preservation of traditional marriage as in only between a man and woman, and religious freedom issues such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Ideally, abortion would only be legal in very rare circumstances, marriage would return to being between one man and one woman with same-sex couples allowed civil unions to grant them a similar legal status to marriage (but not co-opting the term), and those who have religious conscience would be allowed to follow their faith directive. I understand that this might open a can of worms insofar as the traditions of certain religions, particularly Islam, so it should be understood that America was based and founded on Judeo-Christian principles and our laws and customs tend to follow those. I see nothing wrong with that course.

When a candidate believes “2016 will be the religious liberty election” and scorns fellow Republicans about running from the fight to “rearrange their sock drawers,”  there’s a pretty good chance he will rate highly, and Ted Cruz does. I’m also not worried about his abortion stance if leftist ninnies are screaming about it, for example, questioning the fact January 22 is a day of infamy among pro-lifers. Cruz also turns around the tired leftist “war on women” meme, calling unfettered abortion the “real war on women.

If you add in his call for civil disobedience when it comes to same-sex marriage and consider his overall record, I think we have a winner.

Total score for Cruz – 8.0 of 8.

Very close behind Cruz is Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, whose state is considered the most pro-life in the country. Just like Cruz, his stance on abortion drives the Leftist ninnies batty, as they seem to forget their idea was to keep abortions safe, legal, and rare. Two out of three ain’t bad. He’s called out the inside-the-Beltway crowd for their cowardice as well.

As the governor of a state that had its definition of marriage between a man and a woman overturned by the Supreme Court, he was reluctant to follow the directive, waiting for the court with jurisdiction over the state to actually overturn the will of the people before relenting. Now he wants a change in the Constitution.

A recent action, though, would seem to bolster the argument against the religious freedom executive order he signed. But as usual, the media got it wrong: Westboro protesters were free to demonstrate, but Jindal simply ordered a strict enforcement of state laws which already prohibit disrupting funerals.

Total score for Jindal – 7.9 of 8.

Coming in just behind Cruz and Jindal is Mike Huckabee. Mike has no problem defending life; in fact, he responded to an obvious “gotcha” question about deploying the FBI or federal troops to stop abortion by curtly saying, “we’ll see when I become President.” The Left had a field day with it, as one would expect.  Huckabee also decried the “manufactured crisis” regarding Indiana’s original religious freedom law and vowed to use executive authority to prevent it.

Huckabee also blasted the Obergefell ruling, calling it an “out-of-control act of unconstitutional judicial tyranny.” You would figure a man with Huckabee’s background would do well here and indeed he does, with just the slightest hint of apprehension from me about how far he would take executive power. He’s also far more vague on his website than he is in the press.

Total score for Huckabee – 7.8 of 8.

Much of what I needed to know about the plans of Rick Santorum when it came to social issues came in this neat little statement. I also knew from his last run he was pro-life, yet he complains about the media treatment he gets. Well, when most of the media is left-wing it’s what you need to expect.

So I have no problem with the issue standards – which are very much like those who come in ahead of him – just the whining.

Total score for Santorum – 7.6 of 8.

After reading up on Rick Perry, I decided to give him a score that is about halfway between Bobby Jindal, who could argue with Perry’s claim about being the most pro-life governor (and has the laws to back it up), and Ben Carson, because both Perry and Carson have misspoke on gay marriage. A defender of state’s rights, Rick defended the Indiana religious freedom law, signed one for his own state, and decried the Obergefell decision because it usurped 10th Amendment authority.

Unlike the others above him, though, I don’t see Rick using the bully pulpit as much on these issues.

Total score for Perry – 7.0 of 8.

Overall, I think Marco Rubio will be fine on social issues – he’s pro-life, has a compelling story to tell, and seems to have the right idea on the Obergefell ruling. Several others wish to fight this at the state level, too. He’s also good on religious freedom. I also like how he’s given space on his campaign site to these issues, although his unusual layout makes it hard to find.

He doesn’t seem to get as much credit on these as others in front of him. In that respect he’s like Rick Perry but doesn’t have the advantage of being able to pass laws. In the Senate Rubio is more well-known for immigration than social issues, and that holds him back a little in both categories.

Total score for Rubio – 6.4 of 8.

Ben Carson makes no bones about it: he is “unabashedly and entirely pro-life.” Obviously his perspective as a physician helps there, and much of his appeal comes from those who make social issues paramount. He also supports religious freedom legislation like Indiana’s original RFRA law, which supposedly allowed discrimination against same-sex couples so they “clarified” it.

The problems have come when he tripped over his tongue on being gay, and conceded the Supreme Court made gay marriage “the law of the land” (although he personally favors civil unions in lieu of same-sex nuptials, which is my stance as well.) His comments and subsequent walking back of them hurt him a little bit here as well, but overall this is by far his strongest category to date.

Total score for Carson – 6.0 of 8.

Trying to straddle a line between libertarianism and faith can be difficult, and it puts Rand Paul a little below the top tier of candidates on this issue. He’s admirably pro-life and gets it for the most part on religious freedom, although he was slow to defend the Indiana law that should have been just what he wanted: key social and moral issues left up to the states. But as long as taxation and child-rearing legalities are dependent on marriage, you can’t simply take government out of it as it stands currently. On the other hand, sound thinking in other areas can work toward that goal, which is why I don’t deduct as much on Rand as I do for others who simply wash their hands of the issue (see below.)

Total score for Paul – 5.5 of 8.

During his tenure as governor of Florida, Jeb Bush was placed in the unique position of defending the life of Terri Schiavo, who was the unwitting subject of a legal tug-of-war between her estranged husband and the remainder of her family. Ultimately he lost that fight, but overall Jeb has a relatively sound pro-life record.

Where I begin to differ with Jeb is his “evolving” (read: retreating from the truth) on marriage, particularly true in his choice of advisers. At one time he decried the idea of homosexuals having “special legal protection,” but now is fine with letting states decide and not amending the Constitution to declare marriage as the union of one man and one woman. He also backed away a little on Indiana’s RFRA law after the outcry from the gay lobby. His brother retreated from a conservative stance more and more as he went on as President, and I fear Jeb may start from an even worse position despite his assertion that his faith will guide him. At this juncture he’s only slightly better than average.

Total score for Bush – 4.5 of 8.

John Kasich has a very sound pro-life record and approach, which I applaud even if the lefties don’t.

But I see him shrinking from the fight in other important areas, telling the Republicans “it’s time to move on” from traditional marriage and stating Ohio doesn’t need a religious freedom law despite the fact he backed the federal one as a Congressman in 1993. Just wait, governor, you will. As he backs away from those positions, it makes me wonder if he has the fortitude to remain on the side of the unborn. If you value working across the aisle I wonder about that.

Total score for Kasich – 4.5 of 8.

Scott Walker joins this crowd in the middle with much the same resume as Kasich – a staunch record for life that includes a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act he signed days before his announcement, but ambivalent opposition to same-sex marriage (perhaps due to family concerns) and a lack of desire to enact a religious freedom law in Wisconsin.

So he gets the same score as Kasich and Jeb Bush, who is cut from a similar cloth.

Total score for Walker – 4.5 of 8.

Carly Fiorina is very good on the pro-life front, noting on the trail that her mother-in-law was advised to abort the man who would become her husband. On that front she’s also unafraid to call out liberals for their hypocrisy. She’s also on the right side when it comes to religious freedom.

But, in the same breath, she’s going the wrong way on gay marriage, and the lefties (who would back Hillary anyway) are happy about it. I’m also disappointed she doesn’t make any statement on these issues on her campaign page, although it is short on a lot of specifics in the first place. And even though she is misled about the crux of the gay marriage issue, at least she will disagree without being disagreeable.

Total score for Fiorina – 4.2 of 8.

Maybe Chris Christie came late to the party, but as governor of New Jersey he touts his pro-life record. It’s relatively close to the mainstream, with the usual “rape, incest, and life of the mother” exceptions. But he’s not fought hard on same-sex marriage, meekly allowing his state’s supreme court to enact it and telling us that, while he didn’t agree with it, same-sex marriage was now “the law of the land” as Ben Carson did. He also would not support county clerks following their conscience, which tells me he’s no big advocate for religious freedom. He supported Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on a personal basis, but was backing the changed law.

Total score for Christie – 4.0 of 8.

I decided, after a little bit of thought, that while Lindsey Graham is earnest in his pro-life beliefs and deserves a lot of credit for trying to enact a federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act – anyone who says in one breath they are for traditional marriage and religious freedom but in the next advises us to wave the white (or maybe it should be rainbow) flag and “move forward” because there’s little chance at success. Instead, he pledges to fight on religious liberty.

But if he’s willing to throw in the towel there, when will he stand and fight? As I kept reading and considering, he kept sliding down my list.

Total score for Graham – 4.0 of 8.

I’m probably being a little unfair to Jim Gilmore since he just got into the race, so he hasn’t made a priority of staking out positions on all the issues. However, in looking back mainly to his abortive 2008 campaign, I found he has an eight-week window where abortion is okay. And while he was against same-sex marriage and civil unions back in 2007, so was Barack Obama. One thing that troubles me is this 2013 interview where he seems to be cautioning Republicans to stay away from social issues. That, though, is the conservative base and they need to be fired up in order to get to the ballot box.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 8.

While he leads in the polls for now, Donald Trump is near the bottom of my list. The only thing that saves him from the bottom is his relatively recent pro-life conversion. And even though he vows to be the “greatest representative for Christians” if elected he doesn’t seem comfortable with the evangelicals and was hesitant to state his opposition to gay marriage. There are far better alternatives as far as social issues go.

Total score for Trump – 1.6 of 8.

It’s no surprise George Pataki is at the bottom of my list given he is pro-“choice.” Yet he doubled down on bad decisions by blasting the Indiana religious freedom law, and is fine with same-sex marriage being the law of some of the land, saying let the states decide. Basically that takes us back to a pre-Obergefell status and it’s easier to fight at that level, so I guess I can give him a little something for that.

Total score for Pataki – 0.5 of 8.

I need to catch Kasich and Gilmore up on previous issues (education, Second Amendment, and energy for Gilmore) so once I do that I will move on to the next category, trade and job creation.

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