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.

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

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 

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 

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.

“I can reverse that decline.”

It’s not quite the Jimmy Carter “malaise” statement, but onetime Virginia governor Jim Gilmore is trying again for our nation’s highest office. He became the seventeenth and (presumably, anyway) last major GOP candidate to enter the race at a time when those who don’t make the top ten debates may be considering an exit strategy. In fact, his abortive 2008 campaign was already done by this point on the political calendar thanks to emergency eye surgery.

Gilmore, though, was actually starting off well in my comparison of candidates from that year so it will be interesting to see how he does. Like many of the others, he has been the chief executive of a state (or, more precisely in his case, a commonwealth) so many of his accomplishments work around the successes he had way back around the turn of the century when he was governor. (Of all the candidates who have held similar office, Gilmore has been out of office the longest – over 12 years. It can be argued that Virginia’s one-term limit may have worked against him.)

It’s an all but foregone conclusion that Gilmore won’t be a “top ten” candidate for the debates, so the question is whether his late start will allow him to survive the inevitable exit from the race of several bottom-feeders. (According to RealClearPolitics, that bottom tier consists of Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham. Graham isn’t even registering on their polls, which have Pataki last at 0.6%. Perry is a full point behind John Kasich and Chris Christie, who are both at 3.2%.) A late entry is not hurting Kasich, who only got in a week ago and has cracked the top ten.

Gilmore has started out by touting his Growth Code, a tax agenda which he calls “our way back to economic prosperity.” It’s nowhere near as radical as the FairTax, but does some tweaking and reworking. As for the rest, your guess is as good as mine although he stresses national security quite strongly in his announcement.

So we will see how he does, and I will try to integrate him into my ranking system as I go along. (I fear I may not be done before some of these candidates drop out. It’s a long process with seventeen candidates.) But it’s worth it to be an informed voter.

2016 dossier: Energy

Third out of my ten priority issues for the 2016 candidates is energy, where candidates can score up to seven points with an agreeable policy. You’re likely asking what would be agreeable to me, so here is a quick primer.

As you likely know from reading this site regularly, I’m in favor of letting the market determine what is efficient and inexpensive. Since oil is plentiful and relatively cheap within our shores, I think we need to allow exploration wherever possible including offshore areas currently off-limits. The same goes for natural gas, with hydraulic fracturing being a proven technique to extract both oil and natural gas. It should be encouraged, including the infrastructure needed to more safely transport it – yes, that means build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Maybe the best way to put it is that I advocate a “most-of-the-above” energy policy. Those items which are exceptions would be federal subsidies for the solar and wind industries, which should be made to compete on a more level playing field. We need to also dump the Renewable Fuel Standard because it makes no sense to grow food to turn into fuel. This may not make me a lot of friends in the corn industry, but it’s time to end the failed experiment.

I also have nothing against the coal industry, so let them keep mining and burning coal.

Now that you get the idea of where I stand, where do the candidates stand?

There are a couple more specific resources that I used for this exercise. On the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), the Huffington Post blogger Heather Taylor-Miesle shared the following, with some assistance from the League of Conservation Voters:

I also leaned on a well-done Ballotpedia article for many of these candidates, as well as their campaign websites. This gives me an idea of just how much they are committed to energy as a topic for the campaign.

But I honestly wish every candidate would cover every issue as thoroughly as Bobby Jindal presents his energy platform. Even the title is optimistic: “Organizing Around Abundance.” There’s not much at all to dislike within it, either. I spent a very productive half-hour reading through the report and if he doesn’t win the Presidency we should at least make Jindal the Secretary of Energy. The next President has the blueprint dropped into his or her lap right here.

Total score for Jindal – 6.9 of 7.

Ted Cruz couches his energy policy as one of jobs and opportunity, and in that respect he is right on. He voted to end wind subsidies, and told an Iowa crowd in the middle of corn country that ethanol subsidies had to go. His Ballotpedia energy profile lists any number of bills he co-sponsored to assist in deregulating the energy industry. The only question is how well he would be able to use his bully pulpit, but there’s not a lot to dislike about the Cruz approach so I give it high marks.

Total score for Cruz – 6.6 of 7.

Claiming to want a free-market approach seemed to take a back seat for Rand Paul when he wanted to win votes in Iowa. Going to E15 full-time would be a disaster, but he supports it.

Listen, if he wants to live a sustainable lifestyle on his own time that’s cool but “well thought-out regulations” is generally an oxymoron to the highest degree. So while I like his stances on encouraging drilling and exporting oil and natural gas, Rand comes in a cut below the top tier.

Total score for Paul – 5.0 of 7.

On his state level, Rick Perry has presided over a boom in most energy sectors, although some accuse him of lagging on solar. He signed a modest renewable energy portfolio, which thanks to abundant wind resources is covered – at a cost of several dollars a month on state electric bills.

But Perry, surprisingly, doesn’t have an energy policy spelled out. I know he’s fracking-friendly and supports exporting of oil, but the key unanswered question is just how far he would allow a state-centered approach to go if it gets in the way of his overall goals. Are state’s rights that paramount?

Total score for Perry – 4.2 of 7.

While Lindsey Graham voted recently to end the PTC, there are areas of his energy program which cause me concern. (He gets kudos for wrapping it up in one easy-to-digest package, though. It’s more than most of his counterparts put up.) The nagging thought I have is about “investing in cutting-edge technologies.” Did we not learn a lesson with Solyndra? And in the back of my mind, I wonder if he still believes this after seeing five years of the fracking boom?

Total score for Graham – 3.6 of 7.

It’s always revealing to see who the Left dislikes most, and Scott Walker was declared as the “worst candidate for the environment.” This was basically because he didn’t fall in with Radical Green. He seems to remind them of Snidely Whiplash, even cutting funding for a renewable energy research center. Yet on a state level he has kept a number of programs going, even though he was also worried about the effects of wind turbines on health.

But I saw the flip-flop on the RFS, and that hurt his chances with me. Nor does he delve into energy on his website.

Total score for Walker – 3.5 of 7.

Mike Huckabee is all over the map on energy. He won’t commit one way or the other on wind, has gone from ethanol supporter to opponent depending on venue and audience, but says we should exploit “anything and everything” when it comes to domestic energy. I like the ideas of relaxing export and exploration restrictions on oil and natural gas, but suspect that green energy subsidies won’t be going away soon as he once backed cap-and-trade. He would be better than some others, and I like the America-first attitude, but he falls short of the top tier with his indecisiveness.

Total score for Huckabee – 2.7 of 7.

You would think Jeb Bush would be very good on energy given his family’s interest in oil. But he has a go-slow approach in several areas, including the delayed phaseout of the PTC and a call for “rational” restrictions on fracking – remember, “rational” is always in the eye of the beholder. He is in favor of finishing Keystone XL and opening federal lands to drilling, which is a minor plus, but also endorsed a national goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025 – that would be a job-killer. I’m just afraid a Bush administration would be a repeat of his brother’s, where we were saddled with programs such as the Renewable Fuel Standard (which he wants to keep) and regulatory demise of inexpensive incandescent light bulbs.

Total score for Bush – 2.5 of 7.

While George Pataki deserves some credit for advocating an end to New York’s fracking ban and correctly feels that wind subsidies need to be blown away, what worries me are his thoughts on ethanol. I think the jury is still out on “clean,” but while corn-based ethanol is relatively renewable and American-made, I would rather eat my corn than put it in my gas tank. I can’t eat tar sands or sweet light crude.

Like Bush above, Pataki also signed the “25 in ’25″ pledge, so I don’t think he gets that the market should lead, not government.

Total score for Pataki – 2.5 of 7.

Chris Christie has a very mixed record – great for items like pulling out of the RGGI boondoggle that Martin O’Malley entangled us into, but in the same breath he banned new coal-fired power plants in the state. After putting out a one-year moratorium on fracking, he at least came to his senses 2 years later and vetoed a fracking ban. Offshore wind projects are stalled, but he has high hopes for solar. Rationalizing our approach to regulations and lifting the ban on exporting crude oil are positives, but not going after some of the biggest hurdles to a free energy market negates these campaign planks.

As a whole, though, he’s less trustworthy than Bush but hangs around that same level.

Total score for Christie – 2.3 of 7.

Making news on how his views have changed on the climate is the bulk of my look into Marco Rubio‘s policies. At one time he voted for looking into a cap-and-trade program for Florida, but claims he was never really for it. At that time he had a lot of green-friendly ideas, so I don’t know where he stands now. It’s a trust issue.

Total score for Rubio – 2.0 of 7.

Carly Fiorina has slim pickings when it comes to energy; however, her vow to eliminate the PTC by 2020 is at odds with the “all-of-the-above” approach she championed in 2010. More recently she’s tried to convince skeptical audiences we can innovate our way out of climate change, but that innovation once included support for a cap-and-trade program once proposed by John McCain. I just don’t see a whole lot of consistency and the lack of an issues page on her site makes it even worse.

Total score for Fiorina – 1.5 of 7.

John Kasich is new to the race, and as such has no energy platform on his website. But several discouraging acts of late give me pause: an effort to increase taxes on energy producers coupled with the reversal of an earlier decision to allow fracking on state lands outweigh positive moves to freeze the state’s renewable energy portfolio requirements and place prudent tabs on wind turbine siting. I see more of the same leftward drift with Kasich.

Total score for Kasich – 1.4 of 7.

While he isn’t opposed to fracking, the pandering Rick Santorum did in Iowa at the feet of King Corn made me wonder if he wouldn’t do the same on other issues. He once voted against the PTC but Iowa is also a leader in wind, so who knows what he will say next. Will he really stand up to the EPA? You would think a candidate from a fracking state would say more on his website and in general about energy, but Rick doesn’t.

Total score for Santorum – 1.4 of 7.

Okay, we know Donald Trump understands the economic benefits of fracking and loathes wind and solar power. But I have no idea what this will do with policy. All the hullabaloo over immigration and John McCain isn’t helping either.

Total score for Trump – 0.5 of 7.

You may have noticed an omission among the group atop the post when it came to wind. Quite frankly Ben Carson is a non-entity when it comes to energy issues. Aside from a vague reference to “developing our natural energy resources,” the biggest indicator I could find is this piece where he claims in one breath he wants a free energy market, but makes the exception for not just E-15, but E-30. If you want to lose the boat owner vote you just succeeded wildly.

Total score for Carson – 0.0 of 7. (Yes, that is a goose egg.)

It used to be that Social Security was the “third rail” of politics – touch it and you’re dead. But now I think social issues have become that for the GOP; nevertheless that is my next topic.

2016 dossier: Second Amendment

July 13, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Unfortunately, the Second Amendment continues to be under assault from those who misinterpret its meaning to believe the “well regulated militia” is the National Guard and that the only ones who should have guns are the police and military (except when the latter are on base, of course.)

So the question for me is relatively cut and dried; my job is to determine how well these candidates would lead on reversing this trend if they were elected president. No more talk of a so-called “assault weapons” ban, but instead encouraging states to allow reciprocal concealed carry and convincing Congress to roll back the existing gun laws. What part of “shall not infringe” do they not understand? You’d think they were on the Supreme Court with their poor understanding of law and the Constitution.

Anyway, this category is worth up to six points and those who wish to make us more free to defend ourselves from whatever comes along score better than those who say, “well, maybe except for this instance” or “you know they were talking about muskets back then, not AR-15s.”

Ted Cruz is one of those who gets that. He’s been a staunch defender of Second Amendment rights, features his record prominently on his campaign website, and correctly notes that it’s not just about self-defense. My very minor complaint regards some provisions in this bill he co-sponsored with Senator Grassley a couple years ago – for one, the “Cruz Task Force” may be a little overbearing.

Total score for Cruz – 5.8 of 6.

Rand Paul gets the same score as Cruz, but for a different reason. Even though the District of Columbia is in the wrong regarding its gun laws, it does seem a little hypocritical that Rand is trying to block their laws through Congressional action. If it wasn’t good enough for Andy Harris to do it on the marijuana issue, then Rand Paul should not either. But he’s actually more strident on gun rights than even the NRA, correctly noting that mass shootings could be stopped (or even prevented) by armed citizens.  It’s also interesting that he equates the Second Amendment with the Fourth Amendment.

Total score for Paul – 5.8 of 6.

Mike Huckabee talks a lot about defending the Second Amendment and the rights of gun owners, and he gets the idea that it’s there to defend our liberty. Presumably he would also not stand in the way of enhanced carrying laws based on his assessment of the Dylann Roof situation. Plus he owns several AR-15s, and while the Left made light of that pencil analogy it really is true. In a lot of ways, Mike gets it and hopefully he can lead on the issue. My only concern is he would simply play defense as opposed to pushing back the frontiers of ignorance on the issue like those above him are doing.

Total score for Huckabee – 5.4 of 6.

Just slightly below my top tier as well is Marco Rubio. While he also is steadfast on the Second Amendment being there for self-protection – and walks the walk as a gun owner and concealed-carry permit holder who would like to see reciprocity – there are limits to how far he takes the Second Amendment. The Undetectable Firearms Act is simply a method to keep otherwise law-abiding citizens unarmed in an era where 3-D printing technology is now able to create firearms made of the resin used in that process. Again, please refer to “shall not infringe.”

Total score for Rubio – 5.3 of 6.

I wish I had a little more on the plans Bobby Jindal has for America regarding the Second Amendment, since he doesn’t cover them on his campaign site. However, if he is as active a supporter for gun-friendly reforms as President as he was as governor, we would be in fine shape. Even the restriction he added allows for its removal when appropriate.

And while he doesn’t put in the same terms as Cruz or Paul, Jindal has a fairly good understanding of the importance of the Second Amendment. So he’s right up among the highest tier hopefuls with a score over 5.

Total score for Jindal – 5.2 of 6.

Much like Jindal, Jeb Bush has a solid pro-gun record as governor, which he touts with regularity unlike Bobby. (I like the quote about the Second Amendment being the original Homeland Security in the last piece.) But I worry about expansion of instant background checks that Bush favored. It’s only based on his state track record that he ranks as highly as he does, as Bush is silent on the issue on his campaign site.

Total score for Bush – 4.8 of 6.

Maybe the one thing I don’t like about Lindsey Graham and his approach is the defensive posture. I’m glad you will stand against further intrusions on our rights, but the jury is still out with me on the incremental approach coming back. A couple things stand out in his favor, though: advocating for concealed carry reciprocity and understanding that home defense may require more firepower, much as the idiots on the Left may snicker.

Yet he criticized Ted Cruz for making a similar remark about protecting liberty. Since I have a sheriff who knows confiscating guns is a suicide mission, I have to come down on Cruz’s side. That is why Graham is looking up at him in my rankings.

Total score for Graham – 4.8 of 6.

Like Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush, Scott Walker has loosened the gun restrictions in his state over his time in office. But while he has claimed on separate occasions that he is “a firm defender of the Second Amendment” and is “proud to stand up” for it, I don’t see the forceful advocacy and bully pulpit ability that we need, so he ranks a little below the upper tier.

Total score for Walker – 4.8 of 6.

What passes for a Second Amendment record for Rick Perry is really a batch of peripheral issues – all nice, and feathers in any governor’s cap, but not necessarily moving the ball down the field. (Although, clarification on Castle Doctrine is important.) And while he’s for concealed carry even in schools, he’s not as big on open carry. Maybe there’s logic to that, but why stand in the way of a state? If you don’t want to carry openly, you don’t have to – unfortunately, due to a politically motivated indictment, Perry can’t carry legally right now anyway. I think Rick would be okay, but not as good as others.

Total score for Perry – 4.2 of 6.

As someone who claims the Second Amendment is there to protect the First, I was dismayed to find no reference to the issue on the Rick Santorum campaign website. I know Rick feels that an armed America is a safer America – which I believe is correct – but was disappointed to read that we have “reasonable accommodations in place” when it comes to gun laws. No, we really don’t – “shall not be infringed” is very clear language to me as a reasonable accommodation.

Total score for Santorum – 3.2 of 6.

Honestly, I don’t know what to make about Ben Carson. There are times (as well as on his website) where he at least says the right things, and as we all know he has no voting record on the issue to glean information from. But he’s also stated that “assault weapons” should only be available for rural Americans before trying to walk back and further clarify where he stands.

Maybe he is “evolving” on the issue, but something tells me that he would work his way to the wrong side if elected.

Total score for Carson – 3.0 of 6.

Because Carly Fiorina has only run for office once, in 2010, we don’t have a lot from her. In her California Senate race, she came out against the assault weapons ban that was being discussed at the time, correctly noting that the features gun control advocates thought were dangerous were instead harmless. That was good, but in the story it’s also reported she would take a “wait and see” approach on further bans.

So while she claims to be a Second Amendment supporter, she didn’t elaborate on this when she had the best opportunity to do so. That’s rather alarming to me.

Total score for Fiorina – 2.8 of 6.

Perhaps Donald Trump has evolved over the last 15 years, but the guy who once called for an assault weapons ban is now claiming our Second Amendment rights are being taken away. As he gets farther down the campaign trail, I hope we get more clarity on his hawkish views on guns, including which infringements would be eliminated. At this juncture I hear only platitudes as other issues are being lost with the Donald’s immigration remarks. More on that in a future installment.

Total score for Trump – 1.2 of 6.

Chris Christie is not what you would call a friend of the Second Amendment. He did little to reverse New Jersey’s draconian gun laws, which are so extreme innocent drivers face prison time, but at least realized that more wouldn’t help him become president. Now it’s about the “right balance.” But nobody is being fooled by Christie’s changing stance. Still, he’s against concealed carry and so-called “assault weapons,” so electing him would be a step backwards for gun advocates.

Total score for Christie – 0.5 of 6.

George Pataki took advantage of tragedy to push through what was then billed as the nation’s strictest gun control laws, adding “we hope other states follow.” Now he believes states should put limits on gun use. I will give him a modicum of credit for believing we need no new gun laws, but that stance may change with the next headlining incident.

Total score for Pataki – 0.1 of 6.

Next in line, for seven points, is the world of energy. I suspect this will provide some separation as gas prices haven’t been the issue in recent months, so not all candidates are speaking out on the issue. But I’ll see what I can dig up on it.

2016 dossier: Education

As I promised awhile back, now that my monoblogue Accountability Project is out of the way I can begin to focus on the 2016 presidential race. With the exception of governors John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, it looks like we have the initial field in place for the start of what should be a memorable campaign – if only for the sheer number of people seeking to clean up the mess Barack Obama has made.

As I have done before, I break my method of choosing a candidate to support down by issues, which I rank in importance as part of a 100-point scale. Education ranks at the bottom of my ten top issues, thus a perfect score in this category is five points.

So what would be the ideal course of action for our next President? There are a number of answers I’ve written about previously, but to boil it down to a few items:

  • The first step would be to eliminate Common Core as a federal incentive. It would be the icebreaker to a philosophy of restoring educational control to the states, with the eventual goal of maximizing local control.
  • This President should then do what Ronald Reagan promised to do but could not: abort the federal Department of Education.
  • He (or she) should then become the leading voice for real educational reform in two areas: maximizing school choice and establishing the standard that money follows the child.
  • The President should also be an advocate for alternate career paths such as vocational education and apprenticeships as well as ending the stranglehold the federal government has on financing college education.

For this exercise I am going to rank the fourteen current candidates from best to worst, assigning them a point value from zero to five.

Rand Paul would abolish Common Core – although since it’s actually owned by a private corporation he can’t exactly do that.

He also believes strongly in local control, quipping that “I don’t think you’ll notice” if the Department of Education were gone, and adding that local boards of education shouldn’t have to fight Washington over curriculum. But where he shines is his statement that money should follow the child.

As you’ll see below, some put qualifiers on their advocacy of that concept. “Let the taxes Americans pay for education follow every student to the school of his or her family’s choice,” he wrote in the Washington Times. That, friends, is the correct answer.

Total score for Paul – 4.4 of 5.

Ted Cruz has many of the same good ideas Paul does, vowing to end Common Core and scrap the Department of Education. He also proposed legislation designed to enhance school choice for children on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. While I haven’t heard or seen Cruz speak much to the other areas on my docket, I am giving him a little bit extra because he has shown a willingness to lead on issues.

The only faults I find with his Enhancing Educational Opportunities for All Act is that it only benefits lower-income children. If every child has a right to a quality education, every child should benefit, as Paul points out.

Some may ask why I feel that way, since wealthier students can likely afford private schools. However, the chances are good that they invest more in the system through paying higher property taxes, so they should be given the same opportunity. Remember, money is only following the child to the extent a state would support him or her, so any overage would be borne by the parents.

Total score for Cruz – 4.2 of 5.

Bobby Jindal was for Common Core for awhile, but now notes the more parents and teachers deal with it the more they dislike it - he also thinks it will “strip away state’s rights.”

Yet he’s definitely hurt in my process because, while he argues that federal control should revert back to the states, he only wants to return the Department of Education “to its original intended purpose.” There was no intended purpose for the Department of Education except to suck up to the teachers’ unions for backing Jimmy Carter. They just wanted a Cabinet-level department.

Bobby’s only reason for scoring as high as he does is that he has done the most to create a situation in Louisiana where money indeed follows the child regardless of school type – a roster which includes online schools. In doing so, he has also shown the true feelings of teachers’ unions, who claimed Jindal’s reforms “would destabilize the state’s public education system and reduce teachers’ job security. They also claimed parents are not mentally equipped to choose a good education for their children.” (Emphasis mine.)

Once he realizes that the federal government is infested with bureaucrats who think the same way, Jindal could do a lot of good.

Total score for Jindal – 4.0 of 5.

It dawned on me that the reason Rick Perry doesn’t speak out as forcefully against Common Core is that his state never adopted it. He also wasn’t as forceful about dismantling the Department of Education, although it was part of the gaffe that ended his 2012 campaign.

Yet the reason, Perry claims, why his state did not do any federal programs was that Texas had established higher standards. He had also called upon colleges in his state to create degree programs which could cost no more than $10,000, which several Texas universities have achieved. It’s a initiative Perry claims has spread to Florida and California.

Of course, the question isn’t whether these state initiatives can be done at the federal level but whether Rick can stand by as President and allow the laggards to fail. He seems to understand, though, that education is a local issue.

Total score for Perry – 3.8 of 5.

The one thing that sticks out about Lindsey Graham is his support for homeschooled kids, for whom he vows “you have no better friend. He also expresses his opposition to Common Core as a tool of coercion, which is good but maybe not quite as good as those above him.

However, he has previously worked to eliminate the Department of Education and supported tax measures aimed at assisting young educators with their student loans. It’s not a idea I could wholeheartedly back because I dislike pandering via tax code, but it will be interesting to see how Graham’s campaign develops on this front and hear some of his other thoughts.

Total score for Graham – 3.4 of 5.

Mike Huckabee was once for Common Core, believing it needed a “rebrand,” but now is against it saying “We must kill Common Core and restore common sense.” Whether that means some sort of standards just for public schools or not, his thinking has changed dramatically. But it could be better late than never, unlike Jeb Bush.

Mike is an advocate of school choice, claiming he was the first governor to place a homeschooling parent on his state board of education, and also noted that he increased teacher pay. He also thinks the federal Department of Education has “flunked” and needs to be “expelled.”

While he says the right things, I just don’t trust him to be a forceful advocate for sound educational policy. I just sense that Big Education will roll over him.

Total score for Huckabee – 2.8 of 5.

While he is new to the race, Chris Christie has a 15-point reform agenda which he believes “can and should be a model for reform for the nation.” It covers a number of subjects: teacher tenure and pay, school choice, charter schools, college affordability and accountability, and ideas for higher education.

Unfortunately, what it doesn’t tell me is what he would do to eliminate federal involvement; in fact, as this is written it sound to me like he would simply make New Jersey’s initiatives nationwide. Other states should succeed (or fail) on their own merits, but I would encourage them to adopt ideas like “stackable credentials,” apprenticeships, and credit for prior experience.

Total score for Christie – 2.6 of 5.

More than any other candidate, Marco Rubio talks about the federal role in college financing. But he also talks about alternatives such as vocational education and believes parents need to be empowered through the enhanced choice of educational scholarships that they can use anywhere. Local control also extends to curriculum, and Rubio suggested that the Department of Education may be eliminated.

But if the federal government is going to have a role in college financial aid, it’s likely that no federal agency will be eliminated. Rubio seems to be on a populist rather than conservative path, with the major difference being Uncle Sam’s role in financing school. Why should they have any role in something the private sector could easily do?

Total score for Rubio – 2.5 of 5.

Scott Walker has a mixed record on the important subject of Common Core. He will say he’s against it, but hasn’t gone out of his way to eliminate it in Wisconsin. And while his state has gone farther than most to install a measure of school choice, there are a number of restrictions and only certain families qualify, so it’s not always a case of money following the child.

Like Huckabee and Graham above him, Walker is a strong backer of homeschooling. He also has shown the teachers’ unions he’s the boss, but has been silent on what he would do with the Department of Education and doesn’t speak a great deal about local control. This puts him more squarely in the middle of the pack.

Total score for Walker – 2.5 of 5.

I don’t know if Rick Santorum intentionally stole the tagline of “common sense not Cfommon Core” from Mike Huckabee or vice-versa. But that’s about all he talks about, aside from a nod to local control which he doesn’t really come out and embrace.

One thing that I would expect Rick to talk more about is vocational education, considering he has supported the rebirth of manufacturing. But nothing has been said, at least that I’ve found.

Total score for Santorum – 2.4 of 5.

George Pataki was the governor of New York for 11 years, so a large portion of his agenda is an extension of his record there. So while he says that “Common Core should go” and that education should be local, he would not rid us of the Department of Education, but retain it in a “very limited role.”

The idea of tax credits that could apply in either a public or private system has a little bit of merit, though, and that’s what pushes him ahead of other contenders – that is, assuming he could use his office as a bully pulpit to get states to adopt this.

Total score for Pataki – 2.2 of 5.

In his educational platformBen Carson talks mainly about local control and that Common Core must be “overturned,” which is good. School choice is also a subject he has touched on.

But aside from the platitudes and buzzwords, I really don’t see a lot of depth in what Carson has to say. And, like Pataki, there’s one thing which definitely detracts from his overall score – he will not eliminate the Department of Education. While I don’t agree the Department should be an arbiter of speech, I really don’t agree that any government agency will accept a reduction in its role – it simply must be uprooted.

Short of some major pronouncements of policy regarding issues others above have touched on, this is not a strong category for Ben.

Total score for Carson – 2.0 of 5.

In several ways, Jeb Bush is like Rick Perry and others above. His state has been a leader in school choice, he advocates for digital schools conducted online (think of a high school version of the University of Phoenix, to use a familiar example) and he favors school choice.

But the issue I have is that he would prefer a top-down approach, and while he argues Common Core should not be construed as a federal creation of standards (which is true to an extent, as a private entity created and licenses it) he still encourages the federal government to have a role in education, to provide “carrots and sticks.” Those carrots and sticks should be created by the market, not the federal government.

Total score for Bush – 1.8 of 5.

For all I know, Donald Trump could be good on education – perhaps he could make it into one giant for-profit enterprise and eliminate the government altogether. But I doubt it.

And aside from thinking Common Core will “kill Bush” (he is against it, though) and believing education should be local, there’s not much on the Donald’s educational platform. I hate the lack of specifics, and if he was to run based solely on educational philosophy I would fire him.

Total score for Trump – 1.0 of 5.

Aside from a number of vague statements about school vouchers, the size of federal impact, and the thought that Common Core limits parents’ options, Carly Fiorina really hasn’t put together much of an educational platform. And some question her change of tune from her Senate run four years ago.

When others have an agenda that is well spelled out, the lack of specifics from Fiorina sticks out like a sore thumb.

Total score for Fiorina – 0.5 of 5.

Next up will be a category with considerably less nuance and a value of six points – the Second Amendment. And as a programming note, I think I will leave this up through Sunday night and otherwise leave the site dark for Independence Day.

Another chance to pick Rick?

May 18, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Say what you will about Rick Santorum, but in the 2012 campaign he ended up being the last man standing against Mitt Romney because he carried a number of states in the South and Midwest – states which are the backbone of the Grand Old Party’s national strategy.

And if you judge by the e-mail he sent to his Patriot Voices supporter list, it appears as if he will try it again in 2016:

A few days ago, Politico referred to me as the “odd man out” of the Presidential race.

A few weeks before that, they referred to me as an “underdog.”

Yet another outlet recently asked, “Is Rick Santorum losing his core audience?”

I haven’t even announced my intentions for 2016 yet, and the mainstream media is already piling on in an attempt to scare me out of the race!

Michael, can you pitch in a generous gift to my testing the waters committee right now and show them just how wrong they are?

These “mainstream” journalists seem to have forgotten that just three years ago, I won the Iowa Caucuses after visiting every single one of the state’s 99 counties.

It’s no surprise that the inside-the-beltway media elites don’t want me to run for President. If 2012 taught us anything, it’s that a strong conservative message paired with passionate grassroots supporters like you wins elections.

Now they’re trying to convince the American people that I can’t build on that success.

I know they’re wrong. I know you know they’re wrong.

Now help me prove just how wrong they are.

On May 27th, I’m going to announce my plans for 2016. And if I decide to run for President, I need a strong grassroots base of support from people like you ready to get to work with me from Day One.

Let me know you’re in by pitching in a generous gift right now.

Thank you so much for your support!

I’m not going to send any money, but it’s worth repeating that I voted for Rick in 2012 (mainly because those I really preferred were already out of the race, but still…he got my vote.) Whether he can hang on to that same coalition which propelled him to primary victories in those states he won is the question, though.

Rick inherited much of the same electorate which supported Mike Huckabee in his unsuccessful 2008 bid, but Huckabee’s already made it known that he’s in the race; meanwhile, the younger and more dynamic Ted Cruz has also built up a following. With new entrants seemingly jumping in weekly (like Bobby Jindal forming his exploratory committee today) there’s not much room for error nor a lot of time to build up a war chest.

It seems that the debate stages are getting more crowded. And while the naysayers on the Left compare this race to a clown car, the joke may sooner of later be on them as the GOP receives a battle-tested candidate against the one who was given the crown.

Who’s out may be as important as who’s in

Recently I’ve posted about three likely entrants into the 2016 Presidential race – Jeb Bush and Dr. Ben Carson on the Republican side and Jim Webb representing the Democrats. Naturally with an open seat the interest in the job increases, since there’s no incumbent with his built-in advantages to contend with. This opens the field to a lot of potential contenders who passed on the 2012 race for various reasons. Recall that many of those who ran in 2012 on the GOP side are still active in the political arena – Newt Gingrich with his production group, Rick Santorum with Patriot Voices, Mitt Romney with endorsements and help with financial support, and Rick Perry with his RickPAC, among others.

Obviously Democrats were silent in 2012, but it’s been known that grassroots movements have sprung up for Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren (who’s trying to tell her supporters “no”) while Martin O’Malley began his own PAC for 2014. Joe Biden claims he “honest to God hasn’t made up my mind” about running.

On the GOP side, these aforementioned contenders have one thing in common: except for Perry, who did not seek another term and leaves next month, they are not currently serving in office. (On the other hand, among the Democrats only Webb and Clinton are out of office, although O’Malley joins that group January 21.) Yet the GOP has an extremely deep bench of current governors, many of which are in their second term and have national name recognition: in alphabetical order, the group includes Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich in Ohio, Mike Pence of Indiana, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

In recent years, our presidents have tended to be former governors: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter all came from that background. Obviously their tenures in the Oval Office were a mixed bag of success, but Americans tend to be more confident that those who ran a state can run a federal government. (The only recent exceptions to this were 2012 with Mitt Romney and 1988, where Vice-President Bush defeated Michael Dukakis. Maybe being governor of Massachusetts works as a disqualifier.)

With the large potential field of governors, it may be just as important to know who’s out. When you have a state to run for another four years, the excuses for trips to Iowa and New Hampshire are fewer. It’s not to say that governors who want the brass ring won’t try and make that effort, but as we’ve seen with Martin O’Malley and his frequent journeys to New Hampshire and Iowa in his second term, there is the potential for losing focus on your real job. It was enough to cost his anointed successor his election, for the dubious gain of polling at 1 percent or less in most 2016 Presidential polls.

There are perhaps 15 to 20 figures in national politics who could potentially run for President on the Republican side – far more than the Democrats boast. Of course, only one can win a party’s nomination, but beyond that there are only three or four who can be in the top tier and raise the money necessary to wage a national campaign. (It’s something that Martin O’Malley is finding out firsthand on the Democrat side, since he’s not one of those.) It’s been claimed on a grassroots level that the last two Republican campaigns were decided when the “establishment” settled on one candidate before the activists did – that group split their allegiances and votes several ways until it was too late. By the time Rick Santorum outlasted Gingrich, Perry, et. al. he was no more than the highest loser because at that point the nomination was just about sealed for Mitt Romney. Romney may have been the best candidate for 2012, but he wasn’t good enough to get the nearly 3.6 million who passed on voting for Barack Obama a second time to come on board.

People like to keep their options open, but since the announcements of who’s in seem to be receding farther and farther from the actual election, it may help those of us on the Right who would like to select a candidate to know who won’t be running. Obviously there will be a few ardent supporters who will pine for that candidate to reconsider – as far-left populist Democrats are finding with Elizabeth Warren – but we could save a lot of wasted money and effort by finding out who won’t make a half-hearted attempt at an early date.

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.

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