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.

Out on his ear?

In relatively breaking news, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina has filed a motion to vacate the House chair. Translation from wonkspeak: he wants to remove John Boehner as Speaker of the House. However, Meadows has couched his request in such a way that it has to go through committee, which essentially is a death sentence for the resolution. As he told the Washington Post:

What I’m hopeful for is this provided perhaps the impetus to have a discussion, a family discussion, where we can start talking about how we can make sure that every voice, every vote matters, and really about representing the American people. Ultimately what I want to is to make sure everyone is treated fairly.

So really this is not an effort to get rid of Boehner but to put him on notice? That won’t go too far. The time to get rid of John Boehner was in January, but there was no organization behind that effort. Short of him resigning as Speaker, we are stuck with him through 2016. Even if a majority of Republicans supported the effort, the Democrats probably won’t bite because John Boehner is probably the best Republican Speaker they can get, and there are a fair number of Republicans who will suck up to leadership.

America really needs a do-over in 2016. If there were ever a time for the “throw the bums out” mentality, it would be right now. Tough-talking complete outsider Donald Trump is light-years in front in GOP polling, and while it’s likely that lead will dissipate when people begin to pay attention it should be noted that early in the 2012 campaign, during the fall of 2011, those miffed at Washington were backing the outsider businessman in the person of Herman Cain. Like Trump talks tough on immigration, Cain made a lot of hay around his 9-9-9 tax program. Ugly rumors of an extramarital affair did Cain in, but we will need to wait to see what, if anything given his celebrity, can be dug up on the Donald.

I sense a mood of resignation from rank-and-file Republican regulars, though. In the back of our minds we figured this was how it would be despite getting the Senate back after an eight-year hiatus. There is always an excuse with this bunch, and even though people are weary of Barack Obama the press is not actively driving down his polling numbers as they did for George W. Bush – so there is the illusion that he is still popular. But well-liked presidents don’t lose over 80 Congressional seats during their tenure. (Bush lost 36 in 2006, but had gained 17 in the two preceding elections.)

I think the impression was that we would make Obama’s veto pen his most-used writing instrument, but once again we are being let down by a spineless leadership who quakes at the thought of being blamed for anything. News flash: you will be anyway so you may as well be guilty of what you are accused of.

No, we won’t see a Speaker of the House fall, but we will get more evidence the natives are restless.

The new “it” candidate

In each Presidential cycle, there always seems to be a candidate who breaks through against the conventional wisdom choices and becomes popular because he is a new face and excites the populace. Barack Obama was one of those in 2007, and he rode that early wave of popularity all the way through to the White House. They are usually from the opposition party to the one in the White House.

But aside from Obama, usually that particular politician flames out early in the process just as Howard “the Scream” Dean did in 2004 and Herman Cain did in 2011. So whether the cycle is going back in the other direction or we’ll hear the same old song is up to the voting public.

This cycle’s early “it” candidate has been through the electoral wringer quite a bit in the last four years, though, so he’s not exactly a completely unknown quantity. But over the last couple weeks, since the Iowa Freedom Summit, the star of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has rapidly ascended in the Republican ranks, putting him up into the top tier of candidates. Walker drew praise from no less than Rush Limbaugh, who believed the Wisconsin governor has clearly expressed a conservative manner of governance in his tenure over a previously staunchly Democratic state. “I believe Scott Walker is the blueprint for the Republican Party if they are serious about beating the left,” said Rush.

Walker, who recently formed an exploratory committee, comes into the race as one of several successful GOP governors. It’s a group that includes recent or current governors in Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and Chris Christie, along with former governors Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush. This group with executive experience has served to push back many of the other contenders, such as Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, who don’t have as much time in the national spotlight. (One exception in that group is Rand Paul, who remains among the top dogs.)

Yet the argument for a candidate like Walker is simple in light of the last six-plus years of having a president who learned on the job: it’s time to put the adults back in charge. In fact, you have to reach all the way down the Democratic field to Martin O’Malley to find a person who’s actually run anything on a scale that several GOP aspirants have – and O’Malley’s legacy was so poor that he couldn’t even get his lieutenant governor to succeed him in a majority-Democratic state. Otherwise, their top half-dozen contenders got their political experience mainly from the Senate and despite the oversized ego required to be a Senator they really don’t have a lot of qualifications for the job. Good or bad, four of the preceding five Presidents before Obama served as governors of their state.

The question going forward will be how much scrutiny Walker will receive, although having survived both a recall effort and re-election should mean there’s not too many secrets we don’t know about him. Much will be made about Walker’s lack of a college degree (he attended Marquette University but did not graduate) but it hasn’t stopped him from running the ship of state in Wisconsin. Consider him a magna cum laude graduate of the School of Hard Knocks.

I can see why Walker would be popular, though. He has the record of success against Big Labor Chris Christie can only dream of and beaten them back at the polls in a way John Kasich of Ohio could not. And while he doesn’t have the job creation record of a Rick Perry in Texas, his state also doesn’t have the energy potential Texas has. Wisconsin did rank fourth last year in the number of new manufacturing jobs, as industry has traditionally been the state’s economic bread and butter.

So is Walker the outsider the GOP rank-and-file is looking for? Time will tell, but he’s the buzz on social media right now and for good reason.

A full-court press for support

December 10, 2014 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Last Saturday I received this pamphlet in the mail, something I could only describe as a full-court press to make Dr. Ben Carson into a viable Presidential candidate for 2016.

To those who didn’t receive it, here is a description: it’s a 32-page, full-color pamphlet – essentially 8 full-sized sheets of paper, front and back, with a cardstock cover, festooned with patriotic images and some descriptive text. In essence, it’s a very long fundraising letter but its stated purpose is for the reader to sign it as if it were a petition in an enclosed envelope and send it back, preferably with a personal note of support.

But wait, there’s more! I also received ANOTHER six-page fundraising pitch along with yet a third single-page cover letter, again asking for money. Not knowing just how many were sent out – I received two because another copy was inadvertently left with mine in the mailbox (it’s been sent on to the intended recipient down the road) you have to figure this operation is costing the “Run Ben Run” front group at least low six figures and perhaps even seven if the list is over 200,000 people.

So what is the pitch? The booklet claims Carson is the only one who can beat Hillary Clinton. Why?

It all comes down to 17% of the Black Vote!

Hillary knows that any Republican candidate who wins just 17% of the black vote makes it impossible for her or any Democrat running for President to win even one swing state.

Why am I so sure that Dr. Carson will win at least 17% of the black vote? Here’s why…

2012 Presidential Candidate Herman Cain’s Internal Polls Revealed A Shocking Revelation!

When Herman Cain ran for President in 2012, he was stunned to learn that his internal polls showed him winning more than 40% of the black vote and more than 60% of the Latino vote.

As you can imagine, the Cain campaign team was perplexed. How could Herman Cain draw huge support from both the African American and the Hispanic community running against America’s first black president, Barack Obama? It didn’t seem to make any sense.

What they concluded was that poor African Americans and poor Latinos saw in Herman Cain a man who had experienced their lot in life – being born into poverty. They believed that he understood their plight and more important, he understood how to escape poverty and experience economic success.

In short, they identified with Herman Cain.

Now, if African Americans and Hispanics identified that much with Herman Cain…

Imagine How African Americans and Hispanics Will Identify With And Support Dr. Ben Carson! (All emphasis in original.)

Oh yeah, it’s laid on just that thick and written that breathlessly throughout the pamphlet, which also includes the claim that Ben is “A Genuine Ronald Reagan Conservative.” (No conservative worth his salt can make a statement without comparing himself to Reagan.) That’s not to say the results wouldn’t be similar, but I suspect there’s a giant disconnect between the situation in 2011 when Herman Cain was planning a run and 2015 when Carson is contemplating his. Remember, Cain had at least run for office once before in a statewide race – campaign experience Carson is lacking. Something this book doesn’t cover is how Carson will fend off every liberal member of the media digging up (or making up) whatever dirt on Carson they think will stick. Any crank with a malpractice suit against Dr. Carson’s practice will walk away with their 15 minutes of fame for sharing their (probably embellished) story.

Something this book does have, though, is very sketchy bullet points on some issues.

For example, Carson “advocates cutting government spending by 10% each year, across the board, until the budget is balanced.” So defense that’s already being cut to the bone would fare worse still under Carson. It’s the problem with across-the-board cuts – things which are bloated are cut too slowly, while vital programs are starved of funds.

He would repeal and replace Obamacare while giving everyone in America an electronic medical record and pretax health savings account. That makes more sense, but still leaves me mildly skeptical.

Carson advocates a flat tax in order to “make sure that everyone has skin in the game.” I’d prefer the FairTax but a flat tax would be acceptable provided we also eliminated backup withholding. Our church doesn’t take money out of our paychecks off the top, so why should the government?

As for social issues, Carson believes marriage is only between a man and a woman and is pro-life. The book also quotes Carson on welfare:

A truly moral nation enacts policies that encourage personal responsibility and discourage self-destructive behavior by not subsidizing people who live irresponsibly and make poor choices.

He also points out:

While values, knowledge, and compassion are the key for getting America back on track, the most important thing is prayer.

Carson seems to get most of his support from social conservatives who haven’t been terribly thrilled with the last two Republican nominees. It’s a branch of the Republican party that the powers that be seem to take for granted, although they helped to maintain the campaign for Rick Santorum for quite awhile in 2012. Many of those southern and midwestern states (including Iowa and South Carolina) will probably be the most fertile ground for Carson if he decides to run – on the other hand, this may not play as well in New Hampshire and Nevada, although the latter would be a test case for the Hispanic vote.

The pamphlet comes on the heels of a 40-minute long infomercial which aired last month in a number of markets just after the election (and is being re-broadcast this week on the Newsmax TV network, available from satellite providers.) Carson isn’t officially in the race but isn’t preventing the speculation, either.

As for the petition: sure, I sent it in. There’s nothing wrong with Carson that the run won’t reveal, although if I were leaning toward anyone right now I would say it would be one of the governors considering a bid. But it’s good to see someone who explicitly exhibits Christian values take a shot at the brass ring.

Carson for 2016?

It’s become a rite of passage for presidential hopefuls on both sides – the formation of a political action committee to gauge fundraising prowess and begin to collect IOUs for later political favors. So after a long runup where his name has been floated as a possible Republican contender, Dr. Ben Carson has taken that PAC creation step, dubbing the new organization the One Nation PAC. It builds on an unofficial online draft effort which has gone on for about a year.

Terry Giles, a businessman who would be Carson’s campaign chairman if he runs, told the Washington Times Thursday that the PAC was to “explore and analyze and engage in homework to determine what the political landscape would look like and how it might materialize for a Carson for President campaign.”

So a guy who back in December said he “thought when I retired I was going to play golf and learn how to play an organ” may instead make a bid for the highest office in the land. Quite honestly, I think the minority outsider part of the dance card might still be filled by Herman Cain; however, Carson has even less political experience than Cain did because Herman at least ran for a Senate seat from Georgia in 2004 before trying for the brass ring in 2011.

Having Cain to blaze the trail could be to Ben’s advantage, though. As he told The Weekly Standard in May:

I know how vehemently the left will come after you, try to destroy you, try to destroy your family. But at the same time I recognize that people like Nathan Hale – he said, ‘My only regret is I have but one life to give to my country’ … And if everybody runs for the hills because they’re afraid that somebody is going to attack them or their family, then [the left] will have won.

As the 2016 campaign will be for an open seat, like 2008′s was, there will be no shortage of Republican hopefuls vying for a place on the ballot. Rumors abound about everyone from the familiar names of Romney and (Jeb) Bush, to TEA Party favorites like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Sarah Palin, to a list of governors which includes Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mike Pence, and Chris Christie.

But with the exception of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, Carson beat all those others at the CPAC Straw Poll in March. So there are a number of voters out there looking for a true political outsider.

I believe this step is the prelude to setting up the exploratory committee, regardless of how the fall elections go. No one wants to get in the ring this soon because many of those who are considering a 2016 bid have to make it through this year’s election first. Once the election and holidays pass us by, I would expect Carson to make a go of it.

The R3volution will NOT be televised

August 11, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Mainstream media, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

On Monday another former Presidential candidate tries to become a media maven.

In and of itself, that’s not unusual as several of the alsorans have taken to the new media in various ways: Newt Gingrich has Gingrich Productions, which works in the realms of film and literature. Rick Santorum founded Patriot Voices as an advocacy group, but one which offers a movie called “Our Sacred Honor.” Perhaps the closest to doing multimedia is Herman Cain, but the ambitious “new online network of programming designed to give you the other side of popular culture, politics, entertainment” of CainTV has seemed to devolve into a mix of regular short videos and written commentary to go along with Herman’s nationally-syndicated radio show.

Yet the idea is still appealing, and on Monday Ron Paul will debut what he calls the Ron Paul Channel. There he promises:

When the Ron Paul Channel launches, we’ll take mainstream media by storm. No advertisers, no corporate agenda — just the truth delivered exclusively to subscribers like you.

From the looks of it, there will be at least some daily programming on the Ron Paul Channel beginning tomorrow – perhaps not a 24/7 setup like a cable news network, but having an exclusively online presence also saves in the overhead of actually securing a channel on cable or satellite, as Glenn Beck has done. Similarly, another alternative news network targeting the conservative audience is the TEA Party News Network, which is comprised of videos of their personalities on other news sources.

Trying a more conventional route, however, is One America News, which went on the air in July and runs constant programming to around 10 million cable-equipped homes. Their alliance with the Washington Times lends them some gravitas but may lead to a perception that they’re a knockoff of Fox News.

But Ron Paul has a rabidly loyal following that these other outlets don’t, with the possible exception of Beck. So what kind of audience can such a channel expect?

Let’s look at some numbers.

In 2012, according to Wikipedia, Ron Paul received 2,095,795 votes. However, there are perhaps 10 percent of these voters who would be the most militant followers and that’s the base one can expect to at least look at the RPC. So we’re down to 210,000 homes and maybe 10 percent of that crowd would be using the RPC as their primary news source daily. I think 21,000 viewers daily is a fairly decent estimate of their potential audience to start if all goes well and the programming is of sufficient quality. It may seem like a lot but it pales in comparison to what the cable networks reach, even on a summer weekend.

(As a point of comparison, the social media presence of the RPC has fewer than 13,000 followers right now between Facebook and Twitter. So I may not be far off base.)

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the RPC won’t be looking for sponsors, but subscribers. To me, that implies a monetary component which could be a few dollars a month or more for enhanced access. Obviously I could be wrong, and I hope I am because one would think that spreading the truth according to Ron Paul would be done in such a way to make it as accessible as possible.

A channel run by moneybombs? I suppose it’s possible; after all, we’ve found over the last half-decade or more that Dr. Paul is a pretty good marketer.

No surprise: the draft bears fruit

The official announcement will come in September via a bus tour – much like one conducted by opponent David Craig – but an article by Jeff Newman in yesterday’s SoMd News let the cat out of a bag which had been pretty much ripped open months ago: Charles Lollar will be a gubernatorial candidate.

Because the move is just making formal something political insiders had already figured on, it’s probably not going to change a lot of hearts and minds among insiders and activists. Put another way, a Lollar candidacy has already been priced into the market.

But there is one piece of the puzzle which seems to be escaping the commentators, with the exception of St. Mary’s College political science professor Todd Eberly, who was quoted in the Newman story. Perhaps it’s the evidence of a colorblind society in Maryland or the fact that Michael Steele already blazed this trail with his 2006 statewide U.S. Senate run, but there’s a good chance we could have a black vs. black governor’s race in 2014. So the question is whether blacks will feel more free to vote for a Republican because he would be black, or stay on the Democratic plantation?

I presume that Lollar’s campaign would be, at a minimum, based on the Red Print plan he has at his New Day MD website, to wit:

  • Reducing energy costs in an effort to become a net energy producer. Presumably alternative energy sources like wind and solar would be allowed to compete with coal, nuclear, and natural gas but it would be on their merits.
  • Borrowing from fellow black conservative Herman Cain, the “5-5-5″ plan: reducing the corporate tax rate to 5%, the sales tax rate to 5%, and the top income tax rate to 5%, all of which are presumed to allow the revenue to be replaced through increased economic activity and job creation.
  • What Lollar calls “zero-based regulation,” which as he explains, “will require all departments and agencies to justify their existence and the existence of their management priorities annually.”

Admittedly, I’m a policy wonk of sorts who studies this stuff and it all sounds like an admirable first-term goal to me. But what about the voter Republicans have always wanted to attract but could never persuade: to continue a race-based example, I’ll use the single black mom towing two kids around.

She’s probably not going to care a whole lot about what energy costs because she’s on a subsidy for the payment, and regulation is all Greek to her. That message will go straight over her head.

More importantly, she has been told by her Democratic leaders that taxes should be progressive, and the rich never pay their fair share. It’s going to take a good bit of explaining why two of the three “fives” are important to her, meanwhile, the third five of the sales tax rarely comes into play because she doesn’t spend a lot of money.

Where Charles may need to devote some thought and campaigning is in the realm of educational opportunity. It’s all but guaranteed that Anthony Brown would come around with all his supportive Democratic plantation masters, er, elected officials surrounding him and harp on the statistic that Maryland has the best schools in the nation. That may be true, but schools don’t do much good for dropouts, and therein lies much of the black community’s problem. The schools in affluent areas are masking the real issues their underperforming inner-city peers face, although there’s a cultural divide as well. It also needs to be addressed but that’s not the role of government.

If there are two people whom I would suggest Charles Lollar make use of frequently, they are Dr. Ben Carson (who is already in his corner and would be an intriguing LG choice) and Star Parker, a nationally-known conservative columnist who was once in the shoes of many government-dependent Marylanders. Negating Anthony Brown’s built-in advantage among the minority community is essential for victory in this state.

And I don’t think social issues can be ignored, either. But it’s a matter of targeting the audience for that one.

At any rate, it looks like our August Wicomico County Republican Club meeting will be akin to an exhibition game before the season opener for Lollar, as he’s scheduled to appear here on the 26th. So let’s see what this draft choice can do.

Odds and ends number 67

It’s very funny that I had a slowdown in newsworthy items around the holidays, so much so that I didn’t figure on doing an O&E post until perhaps mid-month. But over the last two days – bang! And here you are: bloggy snippets of goodness I felt were worth covering but not to the extent of a full post, just for a paragraph to three.

I’m going to start by promoting an event I plan on attending. Here’s what the Wicomico Society of Patriots has to say about their upcoming meeting January 15. The speaker will be Carroll County Commissioner and leading liberty advocate Richard Rothschild:

Who should attend?  Anyone who intends to continue to live and work on the Eastern Shore.  Elected officials will be in attendance.  This legislation impacts all of us, regardless of political orientation or affiliation, and all are invited to attend, listen, and question.  Two short videos will precede Commissioner Rothschild’s presentation to be followed by a question and answer session.  Mark your calendars now; you do not want to miss this meeting.  Alert your family, friends and neighbors. (Emphasis in original.)

Well, I’m alerting my neighbors and anyone else who stops by here. This will be a joint meeting of both the Worcester and Wicomico Society of Patriots, and will be held Tuesday, January 15 at 6 p.m. at Mister Paul’s Legacy Restaurant (1801 N. Salisbury Boulevard in Salisbury), a very nice facility familiar to those who follow liberty locally.

The SB236 law is perhaps the most heinous assault on property rights the state has ever produced in the name of Chesapeake Bay. In return for addressing a tiny percentage of the nitrogen problem in the Chesapeake, thousands of rural landowners could have their properties rendered worthless. So far Wicomico County has not submitted a map to the state, which in theory prevents certain subdivisions from being built at the present time.

A more damning check on progress is the national economy, but that’s a different subject. One potentially negative effect was discussed by Herman Cain in a recent commentary and it bears repeating, See if we haven’t heard this refrain in Maryland a time or two:

Democrats do not understand business very well. They don’t understand that when you pass a law that imposes new costs on businesses, those businesses will do what they can to mitigate the effects of those costs. When you make it more costly to hire people, there will not be as many people hired.

The fact that these real-world impacts are now being announced, as if no one anticipated them, is both entertaining and highly disturbing. We are being governed by people who don’t understand the impacts of their policies, people who think they can simply mandate anything and it will happen with no unintended consequences. I hope their ignorance doesn’t cost you your job.

You can say what you will about his support for the FairTax and the (unsubstantiated) allegations which derailed his run for President, but Herman Cain has common sense a-plenty about the effects of government regulation on the economy. The language of “mitigating costs” has real-world effects: cuts in hours and smaller paychecks for many millions of families whose breadwinners labor in a number of service industries, particularly food service. They may need to take a second (or third) job to make ends meet, and who knows how many out there are hiring?

And don’t dare rush from second job to third job either, at least in Maryland. A recent appeal from the Maryland Liberty PAC has these memorable lines:

Every speed camera in Maryland is an ATM machine for Martin O’Malley and his cronies in Annapolis.

Instead of cutting out wasteful spending to make ends meet like our families do, O’Malley invents new schemes to rob us of every penny we earn.

If you don’t think that’s true, consider that I personally witnessed the mobile speed cameras in operation during schools’ winter break on at least two occasions. I thought the idea was to make schools safer during the school year. (Yet they balk at allowing teachers to have guns.)

Of course, a couple years ago I told you how one local municipality was bending the rules, so those of you who read here know that speed cameras are truly a scam to fatten both county coffers and those of the operators who expect this to be a big business going forward. Rather than “reform and revisiting the speed camera law,” the Maryland Liberty PAC has the grand idea of having the speed camera law repealed. I fully support that effort.

I’m not as passionate, though, about one blogger’s call on Delegate Don Dwyer to resign now after being charged in the wake of a boating accident last summer. Certainly Dwyer has serious charges against him, but I would rather wait until his day in court has come and his fate is determined. Perhaps this was a “‘one-time occurrence’ which will not affect his performance in Annapolis.” (Oh wait, that was when Delegate Kumar Barve was arrested for DWI in 2007.)

The hypocrisy angle has been played up gleefully on the left, and if Dwyer is convicted I may change my mind. But the facts in the case seem to suggest the other boater was perhaps more at fault for the accident which left five children and Dwyer injured, so I think caution is in order.

Less cautious is the group Accuracy in Media, which released a statement that sees the acquisition of Al Gore’s little-watched Current TV by Al Jazeera as “an unacceptable danger to American citizens by further adding to the potential for home-grown Jihadists inspired by Al Jazeera’s inflammatory programming.” They also note that Time Warner Cable is dropping the channel.

While the punch line has generally involved Al Gore, the fact that he’s walking away with $100 million in what can be termed oil money has no lack of irony. And to think, he could have taken Glenn Beck’s money instead.

Yet there’s another side of the Al Jazeera issue not being mentioned:

The hearings, (Accuracy in Media head Cliff) Kincaid said, should also examine the fact that 30 public television stations around the U.S. are already airing Al Jazeera in violation of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules.

Florida broadcaster Jerry Kenney uncovered this aspect of the scandal and filed an FCC complaint over it. He discovered that Al Jazeera and other foreign propaganda channels are being provided to public television stations through the MHz Networks division of the Virginia-based Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corporation.

This is a list of stations affiliated with the MHz Networks – notice many of them are in large cities with a significant Islamic population.

But the government’s lack of oversight doesn’t stop there. In a new study, the Center for Immigration Studies criticized the federal government for not enforcing visa laws:

Report author David North, a CIS fellow and respected immigration policy researcher, comments, “It is incredible that after the would-be Wall Street bomber, the Times Square bomber, and the two 9/11 pilots were all found to have student visas, the Department of Homeland Security makes so little effort to pursue corrupt visa mills, flight schools not authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration, and needless language schools. National security requires the enforcement of our immigration laws.”

Interesting tidbit: very little taxpayer money goes to this agency, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP.) They make most of their money on a $200 fee would-be students pay. But the SEVP apparently doesn’t care whether the student is going to an elite university or diploma mill set up to give foreign students a reason to come to the country – as long as they collect the fees it seems like they’re happy campers. Sounds like a typical governmental agency.

Another typical government move was pointed out by a group you’re going to be hearing more about in a couple weeks. The Coalition to Reduce Spending called the recent fiscal cliff agreement the product of a “can-kicking Congress.” CRS head Jonathan Bydlak also noted:

The longer Congress continues to act fiscally irresponsible, the longer the American people will have to wait for the return of a healthy and prosperous economy.

He’s precisely right on that assertion. And the reason you’ll hear more from the group: Bydlak is also the January 15 “Ten Question Tuesday” guest, and that plug is a good point to bring this post to a close.

It’s time for a change

June 27, 2012 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

One of the reasons I was a Herman Cain backer early on in the 2012 campaign was his wisdom on tax policy. On Monday he wrote a piece reminding us that a number of patchwork, temporary “fixes” to our income tax rates expire at the end of 2012, and could doom what little recovery we might be enjoying if nothing is done.

Of course, there is no foolproof solution, even with Cain’s 9-9-9 plan – soon enough it could be 12-12-12 or even 15-7-21. Pick three divergent numbers and you might be a winner in this Russian roulette-style lottery involving both personal and federal finances. But the same is true for a flat tax as well, and it’s still based on income rather than consumption.

But even when a consumption tax is enacted, the other key is spending the money wisely. Back in 2008 the state of Maryland raised its sales tax from 5% to 6%, ensuring the state another $500 million or so in revenue. The problem was that the money was spent even before it was collected, as a governor who’s never met a government program he didn’t like (or wish he’d dreamed of himself) blew every dime of that (and then some) on new programs.

Given our experience with sales taxes from around the country, I don’t see how the argument that we can’t predict revenue from a consumption tax can be posed. And even so, it’s not like we don’t make adjustments to a budget (that is, when we actually have one) based on the events which occur between the time of passage and the moment that last dime is spent at the stroke of midnight on September 30.

It’s relatively simple to figure out how to get out of these messes we find ourselves in. On a state level, each year the GOP works out a budget that addresses the structural deficit without raising taxes; meanwhile, it’s worthy of note that if we retreated our federal spending to the level of the last Bush budget (FY2009, excluding the stimulus added by President Obama) of $3.1 trillion, a large part of our deficit would be addressed. Yes a deficit $500 billion or so is still absurdly high but it’s better than the $1.4 trillion we’ll likely run in the hole when the fiscal year ends September 30.

Beyond the numbers, though, is the concept of why a consumption-based tax scares those in government: it returns control to the people. The amount of money sent to Washington isn’t necessarily as important as the behavior influence our current labyrinthine tax code provides these faceless, unelected bureaucrats. Examples of carrots include buying a home or certain types of consumer goods deemed better for the environment, while sticks are things like holding stocks for too short of a time or making income outside normal channels (to trigger the alternative minimum tax.) There’s no doubt that H&R Block and others in the tax preparation field are deathly afraid of what a consumption-based tax would do to their business as well.

Moreover, the government isn’t paid first with a consumption-based tax because backup withholding is eliminated. Backup withholding was supposed to be a temporary program, enacted in a time of national crisis. But just like any other “temporary” tax, we’ve been saddled with this enforced deduction ever since, even in peacetime. It’s a little more fair for the self-employed who pay in quarterly installments; still, these numbers are based on a previous tax year and not present income. Some have been led to pay far more than they owe because of income fluctuations, but under a consumption-based tax they can adjust accordingly.

Over my lifetime they have made a sport out of tinkering with the tax code – rates go up, rates come down, and cherished deductions are created and then rescinded. For example, credit card interest could once be deducted, but that was changed. Dare to tinker with the home mortgage interest deduction, though, and you’ll have a lobby full of realtors calling for your head. It’s hard to buck the system that too many have become cozy with inside the Beltway.

And it’s because of that system that we may face taxmageddon in 2013. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like much will change in the next four years, barring the unlikely event of FairTax proponent Gary Johnson becoming president. Any change will have to be led by Congress and demanded by a tireless, irate minority who are willing to give up some of those deductions they annually take advantage of to restore broader control to themselves. Only then can we begin to take the yoke off our necks and begin to enjoy more economic freedom.

Odds and ends number 48

I suppose you can call this the post-election edition because a few of these items were swept aside in the runup to our primary earlier this week.

This one’s a bit controversial.

It’s only 37 seconds and while it makes a great point, I find it intriguing that the “dislikes” are running 2-1 over the “likes” on YouTube. Truth hurts? Any questions?

One thing we can’t question is the fact that as of Sunday the United States had the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. But the Republican Study Committee makes a good point:

Of course, volumes and volumes of special credits, deductions, and loopholes mean similar companies often pay very dissimilar tax bills. It’s natural for people and businesses to use every means available to hang onto the money they earn. We wouldn’t be an entrepreneurial nation if we didn’t. But the more time and money we spend navigating our ridiculously complex tax code, the less we produce of real value.

And that was part of the point in the Cain video. Not only is the tax rate high, but those who can afford lobbyists and campaign contributions tend to be the ones who pay the least in taxes – meanwhile, the mom and pop operation takes it in the shorts again. (That’s why 9-9-9 appealed to me. Any questions?)

The state of Maryland doesn’t get this either, according to Kimberly Burns of Maryland Business for Responsive Government.

As the Governor said himself, all this proposal does is delete the word ‘gas’ from ‘tax.’ A sales tax increase is an easy, unacceptable short-term fix to the longer term problem of business competitiveness. Just like the gas tax, it hits every Maryland working family and business right in the wallet.

Say hello to more factory outlet stores near Maryland’s borders in Delaware and Virginia. When you’re a small state like Maryland, sandwiched between two low-tax states, it’s foolish to think increasing the sales tax won’t effect Maryland’s competitiveness and the behavior of consumers.

If the 7% sales tax is passed – and remember, anything is possible in these desperate last days of the session – Maryland would have one of the highest sales taxes in the country and Delaware merchants will be licking their chops as their price advantage jumps to seven percent.

Maryland Republicans in the Senate point out another misconception on the offshore wind boondoggle by citing a Sun letter from Teresa Zent which makes an interesting charge: that $1.50 per month price is only “a cap on what a developer can plug into its proposal. It is not a cap on what a ratepayer might actually have to pay.” And that’s a tremendous point, because if your electric bill is figured on a price of perhaps 11 cents per kilowatt hour and wind energy will cost a quarter per, someone has to pay and the utilities (which, remember, have a monopoly on servicing a particular area) aren’t in it to lose money. By necessity, Maryland would be stricken with a further competitive disadvantage in electrical costs.

And while the election is over, I have to commend the participants in the U.S. Senate nomination battle for the campaign which was waged. They differed on issues, but when it came to attacking the opponent that was reserved for the real opponent, Ben Cardin. And even those weren’t personal but focused on how Cardin is out of touch and lacking in leadership in fighting for Maryland’s working families.

So it wasn’t unexpected that the two leading contenders released statements in this vein after the counting was done. Rich Douglas conceded thusly:

I want to congratulate my opponent on a hard-fought race in the Republican primary. Republicans and Democrats challenging Ben Cardin know that defeating elite royal family rule in Annapolis and incompetence on Capitol Hill is an enormous undertaking. I urge like-minded Democrats and Independent voters to close ranks with Mr. Bongino to replace Ben Cardin in November. It is time for a strong Maryland voice to be heard in the U.S. Senate. Today was the first step toward that goal.

Meanwhile, Bongino praised his opposition for the races they ran:

I am grateful to the voters of Maryland who have given me this amazing opportunity. I would also like to thank the other Republican challengers. We all share the same concerns about the direction of this country and agree it is time Maryland had new representation in Washington. I hope they will join my campaign to bring an outsider’s perspective to the US Senate.

Dan also set himself up for November, promising a campaign devoted to “the economy, national security, energy and government accountability.” He also added:

The people of Maryland deserve a Senator who will fight for them, and not the Washington establishment. We need leadership in the Senate that will work to increase opportunity for middle-class Americans, that will provide a path for those in poverty to advance and ensure this nation will once again be a place where jobs are created and people are willing to invest.

Part of doing that will be encouraging entrepreneurs and small business by making the tax code simpler and fairer instead of what the Cain video depicted.

Lastly, some laughed when Newt Gingrich spoke about bold initiatives in the space program, as he did last week. But the Competitive Enterprise Institute posited a step even beyond mere space travel: private ownership of other celestial bodies?

A proposed law requiring the United States to recognize land claims off planet under specified conditions offers the possibility of legal, tradable land titles, allowing the land to be used as loan collateral or an asset to be sold to raise funds needed to develop it.

Such a law would vitiate the 1979 Moon Treaty, which does outlaw private property claims in space, but to which the U.S. is not a signatory. This should be viewed as a feature, rather than a bug. The law would not impose any new costs on the federal government, and would likely generate significant tax revenue through title transaction fees and economic growth from new space ventures carried out by U.S. individuals and corporations. It would have great potential to kick the development of extraterrestrial resources—and perhaps even the human settlement of space—into high gear.

It’s quite a fascinating report, and it points out the difference between development in similar areas deemed off-limits to private property (Simberg cites Antarctica as an example of government-controlled property) where little development is occurring, as opposed to the far northern reaches of the planet where several companies are exercising mineral rights. He theorizes that billions of dollars could be made if private property rights were granted in space, and I can’t disagree.

I’m not going to be the first in line to be a space tourist or worker, but if opening up space can help the economy and promote future prosperity for succeeding generations, what are we waiting for?

Cain: Gingrich is able

This truly wasn’t a shock; back in December when Herman Cain exited the race I came right out and said I wouldn’t be surprised if he endorsed Newt Gingrich. They’re very familiar to one another as both hail from Georgia and you may recall they had a one-on-one debate with each other last fall. (Gingrich also had a similar debate with Jon Huntsman, which neither did anything for Huntsman nor got him to endorse Newt, as Jon Huntsman now backs Mitt Romney.) Cain’s consolation prize is now a position chairing Newt’s tax reform efforts.

However, the timing of this perhaps shows Cain’s lack of political savvy – or, to play devil’s advocate, means he marches to his own drummer and eschews standards which would place him within the political norm. Your choice. The latter seems especially true when you consider Cain had already made his “unconventional endorsement” of “the people.”

Honestly, as a former Cain supporter, I think Herman’s post-campaign decisions have been quite disappointing. His TEA Party response to the State of the Union address was all right, but it seemed to me he pulled his punches somewhat; of course one could also argue that had he endorsed Newt earlier he would not have received the slot. As I said up top, it wasn’t unexpected that he endorsed Gingrich but doing so at this time, when Newt’s campaign is otherwise imploding in Florida, smacks of desperation on the part of both – but moreso Gingrich, who’s trying to corral onetime Cain supporters into his camp.

Too bad that, for many, the horse has already left that barn – Newt isn’t going to get much of a bounce from an endorsement eight weeks after the candidate’s withdrawal. Obviously it wasn’t needed for Newt to win South Carolina, so to do so now indeed seems like flailing from a candidate who vows to “go all the way to the convention.” That movie has played before, and usually that sort of declaration comes just before the closing credits roll on the campaign.

Unfortunately, the GOP voters and caucus participants who have come before me have seen to eliminate most of my top selections from the race. It will leave me a choice – as too often seems to be the case in Presidential politics – of:

  • voting my conscience (even if he dropped out before the primary), or
  • voting for my third- or fourth-favorite choice who’s still there, or
  • voting against the guy I don’t want to win with his strongest remaining opponent.

A combination of the second and third options was the approach I took in 2008, basically voting against John McCain rather than for Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was pretty much my fourth option after Duncan Hunter, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani withdrew. (As I recall, Florida was Giuliani’s Waterloo, too.) In 2012 I’ve already lost Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry (although Perry is on the ballot here.)

But we’ll see if Cain’s backing for Gingrich is too little, too late. If it ends up I vote for Newt Gingrich, it won’t be because Herman Cain endorsed him. Instead, see bullet point #3 above and you’ll find my reason.

Odds and ends number 41

Not that I necessarily keep track of these things, but this is my first look in 2012 at those items which are worth a paragraph or three, but not a full post. It helps me clean out my e-mail inbox.

I couldn’t figure out how to embed this “Made in America” video, but I found it interesting when I watched it. I’m generally in favor of free trade and against strict protectionism, but if the difference is as small as they claim then buying American is worth it. Perhaps the claim of using 5% more American products would create 220,000 jobs is a bit dubious, but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt.

Our nation needs to take steps in regaining its onetime prominence as a leading manufacturer. But it’s interesting to note several of the companies prominently mentioned have at least one plant in a right-to-work state. I can’t ascertain whether these are all non-union shops, but chances are fairly good – given that only about 1/10 of the private-sector workforce is unionized – that these good, honest American jobs don’t come with the union label.

Not that Maryland is making any quick moves to join the ranks of Virginia and other right-to-work states – this year, HB91 hasn’t progressed beyond first reading. But the group New Day Maryland pointed out to me a couple other bills of interest in the General Assembly this term to keep an eye on, and I thought I’d pass along the word.

House Bill 23, the Dedicated State Funds Protection Act, would prohibit the fund-raiding Governor O’Malley is almost as well known for as his constant zeal to raise taxes. And House Bill 43 would allow appropriations bills to be subjected to the same referendum process as those bills not dealing with appropriations. (The last remaining legal straw opponents of the in-state tuition for illegal aliens referendum are grasping for is that the bill is an appropriations bill, although it’s not.)

Both these bills have a hearing scheduled for 2 p.m. on January 31. I presume written testimony is acceptable, too.

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