There’s something about Andy…

It has now made national news that the townhall meeting held by Andy Harris up at Chesapeake College turned into a loud protest brought on by the local, so-called “Indivisible” groups. (Even more amusing is their reaction when Harris called out one woman who continued to be disruptive. It’s from a page called “Shareblue” which is trying to be the Breitbart of the regressive Left.) Now I have attended Harris townhalls in the past (here are three examples; unfortunately two of them no longer have the photos) and they have often began with PowerPoint presentations – this is nothing new. But it seemed like the fringe Left wanted blood, so they reacted accordingly.

In some other forum I made the point that we never get to hear from the other side. Maybe I just don’t find out about it because I’m not on the radical left e-mail list, but it seems to me that our Senators rarely hold townhall meetings and when they do they are in politically safe (for them) areas like Silver Spring.

Yet the argument from the Left is that they are simply doing what members of the TEA Party did during the initial Obamacare debate in 2009. (The “Indivisible” crowd claims to be using the same tactics the TEA Party did.) I will grant the TEA Party stepped out of bounds on a few occasions – one case in point was this protest* in front of then-Congressman Frank Kratovil’s Salisbury office in July of 2009 that I covered (which remains one of the most commented-upon posts I’ve ever done here) – but when it came to a townhall setting, yes, we showed our passion. In comparison to the new alt-Left, though, we were well-behaved.

Then again, local conservatives have had to put up with disruptions from the Left for awhile so perhaps this isn’t a new phenomenon.

As evidence of the difference, I attended a meeting set up by Senator Cardin in August of 2009. It wasn’t initially intended as a true townhall meeting because its target audience was seniors, but a few of those in the local TEA Party (including me) managed to secure tickets – the 100 or so there could have easily been double or triple if the room were set to accommodate them. This explains how the meeting came to be:

Originally the meeting was set up back in March and wasn’t intended to be a town hall; however, once the health care controversy blew up this became a hot ticket. The intention was to get the perspective of residents who are over 50 and live on the Lower Shore, and the ground rules were pretty strict. There would be no questions during Senator Cardin’s presentation, the ratio would be one question for a GraySHORE member for each one from a non-member, and questions would have a 30-second limit.

In the welcoming remarks, it was noted that the state as a whole is getting younger but the Eastern Shore is aging. While the state is a “net exporter of seniors” at least 7 of the 9 Shore counties are net importers. We are also older and poorer than the state at-large. The idea behind GraySHORE was to brief elected officials with policy recommendations.

Something I found intriguing was the mention of Senator Cardin’s career. He has been our Senator since 2007, but served in Congress since 1987 and was a member of Maryland’s General Assembly for almost two decades before that – he was first elected in 1966. Basically, Senator Cardin fits the definition of a professional politician and I thought that was worth mentioning before I got too far.

When Senator Cardin came up, he noted that he was skipping the slide show to get to the questions. He also commented that this size group was a “manageable” group for dialogue.

As he had on prior occasions, the Senator couched the health care question as one of “what happens if we do nothing?” Health care costs were rising faster than income and would double in the next decade. As well, Cardin gave that mythical 46 million uninsured figure as part of his case and claimed that it cost each of us “an extra $11,000 per year to pay for (those not covered).”

The idea behind reform was to bring down costs through wellness and prevention and through better recordkeeping, while creating individual and employer mandates through the bill. It would provide a “level playing field” for private insurers and remove the caps on coverage, but above all reform “must reduce costs and be paid for.” Cardin compared the idea to Medicare, which has worked “extremely well” over its lifespan and was put into place because insurers wouldn’t cover the elderly or disabled. (Emphasis added for this post.)

It should also be pointed out that most of the TEA Party objections centered on policy and not necessarily personality. Bear in mind that the first TEA Party protests were over the stimulus proposal because the bill that eventually came to be known as Obamacare (which used as its shell a bill passed in the House but completely gutted by the Senate in order to satisfy the Constitutional requirement that bills dealing with revenue had to come from the House – a legislative sleight-of-hand if there ever was one) hadn’t been introduced yet. That came later on in the summer. So at the time this was done there were a number of competing bills for the Senate to consider.

And did the TEA Party raise a ruckus over that summer? Certainly, and they asked a lot of questions. But listen to how this went down. My guess is that the context of this video is one where it was taken after some townhall event or other public appearance by Kratovil. The questions are certainly pointed, but the key is that the audience is listening to Frank’s side of the story. They may not believe it, but they are being respectful. Now imagine if the lot at Chesapeake College were to be in that same situation with Harris – I doubt Andy would get a word in edgewise.

In truth, I think the “Indivisible” group would have began no matter which Republican secured the nomination and won the election – out of the field of contenders for the 2016 GOP nomination Donald Trump was probably the second-most philosophically close to the left (with onetime New York governor George Pataki, a pro-choice Republican, the only one being closer.) Remember, Trump is the one that added the “replace” to repeal of Obamacare.

I will grant that several of Trump’s Cabinet choices are relatively conservative, but for the most part they are also outsiders and I think he was looking more for that aspect of “draining the swamp” by intentionally selecting people outside the Beltway axis than selecting those who are for rightsizing government. But the leftists would likely be out in some force for John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, et. al. - just not to this extent. About the only two 2016 aspirants who would have attracted as much ire as Trump would have been Ted Cruz (because he would have governed from a truly conservative philosophy) and Scott Walker (based on what happened in Wisconsin.) Maybe Bobby Jindal would have been a third.

But here’s a message for those who believe Andy Harris can be toppled in 2018: Go ahead and nominate the most radical leftist you want to Congress, and you will watch Harris spank him or her by 20 to 25 points. Thanks to your favorite former governor, this district basically has the bulk of Republicans in Maryland and considering Andy had almost 80% of the primary vote (over a candidate with legislative experience, a previously unsuccessful candidate, and one other “regular” person) I don’t think you will get too far.

And I know you will point to Frank Kratovil’s 2008 victory over Harris as proof a Democrat can win here but bear in mind that the redrawn district took away the portion of Anne Arundel County Harris won by about 3,000 votes and added Carroll County, where Republican Roscoe Bartlett won by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, or 25,000 votes. Even though the First District doesn’t take in all of Carroll County, I think that with the post-2010 First District Harris would have won in 2008 with over 50% of the vote.

Your caterwauling doesn’t help your cause. And if you want to use the TEA Party as your measuring stick, it’s worth noting that their success was really fairly limited insofar as national electoral results go. The problem with those on the far Left is that they are trying to sell the same stuff that didn’t work for their other “answers” to the TEA Party like the Coffee Party, Occupy Wall Street, and so forth, and most Americans don’t buy it. They wanted repeal without replacement, immigration laws to be followed and the border secured, regulatory agencies reined in, and – most especially – they didn’t want a third Obama term via Hillary Clinton.

Of all the things that fuel the Indivisible movement, they can’t get over the fact that under the rules in place Hillary lost despite getting more votes. Well, to borrow a phrase from another liberal movement, it’s time for you all to move on.

__________

*As longtime readers know, many of my photo archives were lost with the demise of an Adobe website where I used to link to them rather than place them on my website server – at the time my storage there was limited. In a stroke of remarkable fortune, this Kratovil protest piece was on the front page of my site when the Wayback Machine did its occasional archive so I recovered these photos earlier today – the post is once again complete and coherent.

Thoughts on Ted Cruz and his endorsement of Donald Trump

September 25, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Let’s start off with my initial emotions on this announcement: disappointment, then resignation. I think this adequately captures both sides of the equation going forward, so allow me to elaborate.

I consider myself a limited-government conservative, or perhaps better described as a conservative with libertarian tendencies in a number of respects and areas. I often write about the idea of “rightsizing” the federal government down to a point where it does the minimum required of it in the Constitution, and this worldview affected my perception of the 2016 Presidential field. Ted Cruz was not my overall first choice out of the group, but of those remaining when Maryland’s day in the sun came back in late April he was – by miles - the best remaining choice in terms of my stated desire to reform the federal government in a Constitutional manner.

On the other hand, I had already heard and seen enough from Donald Trump to know that he wasn’t going to significantly improve the situation inside the Beltway. He had already backtracked and capitulated on enough campaign issues for me to see that he wasn’t going to be trustworthy enough to be the GOP standard-bearer. Although we went for a period of about 2 1/2 months before the Republican National Convention with the idea that there still were chances to derail the Trump train, the national Republican party (and Trump zealots) did their best to make sure that the “victory” Trump won (dubious at best, thanks to the number of open primaries) with just a plurality of the Republican vote would stand. In the end, many supporters of Ted Cruz as well as John Kasich were browbeaten into acceptance – the rest became the significant number of #NeverTrump folks out there, of which I was one. I would not accept Trump as the nominee, and my conscience would not allow me to work within an organization that promoted someone of dubious value to the conservative movement.

So when Ted Cruz stood at the podium of the convention and exhorted everyone to vote their conscience, I considered it a highlight of an otherwise pathetic coronation of The Donald as Republican nominee. My confidence in Trump upholding the planks of the GOP platform was about the same as the confidence that he could go a week without being on the media for saying something asinine – in both cases, about zero. The fact that the Trump people booed Ted Cruz off the stage was proof that they weren’t principled enough to stand before conservatives to defend their candidate when his bona fides were questioned.

Obviously I was not thrilled to see Cruz fall off the #NeverTrump wagon after all that transpired between Trump and “lyin’ Ted” during the primaries. (Of course, that assumes he was really ever on it.) But as Christians we pray to have our trespasses forgiven as we would those who trespass against us, and from the tenor of Cruz’s comments in his statement I think he has forgiven Donald Trump for what he said during the campaign as simple competitive rhetoric.

And Cruz has a number of political calculations he has to account for, too. After November the election season turns to the 2018 cycle, and Cruz is part of it as the junior Senator from Texas. Certainly there are already people in Texas politics smarting from the very fact that Cruz upset the establishment choice of former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary there four years ago, but former Gov. Rick Perry is one of those rumored to be considering a 2018 run for Cruz’s seat. Opponents cite the alienation of Trump voters as just another factor against Cruz, since there’s also the perceived blame for the 2013 government slowdown and the reputation for being a boat-rocking troublemaker that Cruz carries. (It should be noted that all that baggage was supposed to sink Cruz’s presidential campaign early on, but he outlasted most of the rest of the field that was supposedly more palatable to the electorate.)

For all his issues, it’s clear that for Ted Cruz to have a political future he had to modify his stance on Trump, and that was made more convenient by the unqualified Democratic candidate and the pledge he took to support the Republican. Over the next four years he is more useful in the Senate than martyred by his own rhetoric.

So let’s say Trump loses, Cruz retains his Senate seat, and the Clinton/Kaine team continues the damage done by Obama/Biden. The question is whether people will be as passionate about Cruz in 2020 or if they will consider him damaged goods? Assuming Trump loses and doesn’t wish to try again at the age of 73, the early favorite in 2020 has to be Mike Pence – just as the first rights of refusal went to Sarah Palin in 2012 and Paul Ryan this year. But there will certainly be a crop of those who didn’t grasp the brass ring this year looking to seize the nomination: I would strongly suspect that group includes Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Bobby Jindal. All of them (except Kasich, who briefly ran in 2000) were first-time candidates – the political world seems to be that of just two strikes and being out, which eliminates guys like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee as old news. All but Kasich also seek the votes of strong conservatives, with Kasich being more of a moderate.

At this point I would still like to see Bobby Jindal make a 2020 run, as there’s little chance one of the 2016 crop knocks him off as the king of my hill. But someone new could strike my fancy or there could be a significant moderation in Jindal’s political views. Still, I would welcome Ted Cruz to the fray with open arms, knowing he had to do those things he may not have liked in order to keep his position of leadership in the conservative movement.

As for me, I remain #NeverTrump whether it’s politically damaging or not. Since politics is not my job I have little to lose but a lot to gain as I work to convince people of the benefits of limited government and support those inside politics who advocate it with actions, not words.

Gilmore says goodbye

February 13, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

If you didn’t realize onetime Virginia governor Jim Gilmore was still in the Presidential race, you can save the realization now because he withdrew yesterday – much to the chagrin of all 145 people who voted for him in Iowa (12) and New Hampshire (133.) But seriously, had he done more to round out his platform Jim may have received my support. On a lot of issues he was leading in the right direction but just as his abortive 2008 bid failed to catch fire so did his 2016 effort.

Gilmore had this to say about his exit:

“My campaign was intended to offer the gubernatorial experience, with the track record of a true conservative, experienced in national security, to unite the party.” Gilmore said, “My goal was to focus on the importance of this election as a real turning point, and to emphasize the dangers of continuing on a road that will further undermine America’s economy and weaken our national security.”

“Nonetheless, I will continue to express my concerns about the dangers of electing someone who has pledged to continue Obama’s disastrous policies,” Gilmore said. “And, I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that our next President is a free enterprise Republican who will restore our nation to greatness and keep our citizens safe.”

Alone among the remaining contenders as a military veteran, Gilmore also had an interesting tax plan that was the linchpin of his campaign. But jumping into the race in late July, when most people were contemplating a vacation and only a week or so before the first GOP debate, made what was already a tall task virtually impossible. One has to wonder what impact Gilmore may have had with an April or May announcement.

But Gilmore made a very salient point as he campaigned in New Hampshire:

“Every time they give Donald Trump 33 minutes on MSNBC, it’s like giving him $1 million. It’s wrong,” Gilmore said, pounding the table as his voice rose. “They’re shaping the race, they’re favoring candidates, and it’s been very detrimental to my campaign.”

Does that sound a little whiny? Perhaps: I think I could make the same case if my name were Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, or even Jeb Bush. Three of these gentlemen came into the race shortly after Donald Trump did (Jeb Bush got in the day before Trump announced) and all of them failed to make much of a splash thanks to the media blowtorch that is Trump. (Arguably, John Kasich’s campaign has suffered to some extent as well, although he timed his announcement just right to get on the stage at the first debate. Kasich’s New Hampshire finish is likely to be the high-water mark of his campaign, though.)

Yet if you read between the lines, I’m not entirely sure Gilmore isn’t going to endorse The Donald. Just take three passages from the last sentence I cited from Jim’s release.

“I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that our next President is a free enterprise Republican…” Given that Trump is the remaining business person in the race, that seems to be a good lead-in with respect to an endorsement.

“…who will restore our nation to greatness…” Sounds like “Make America Great Again.”

“… and keep our citizens safe.” With a wall at our border, perhaps? It all seems to be a play to give the endorsement to Trump, making Gilmore the first ex-candidate to do so.

So allow me to update my tier map:

  • Bottom tier: George Pataki (Marco Rubio), Donald Trump
  • Fourth tier: Chris Christie, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina
  • Third tier: Rick Santorum (Rubio), Jim Gilmore, Ben Carson
  • Second tier: Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham (Jeb Bush)
  • Top tier (and these guys were miles ahead of the rest): Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal (Rubio)

I suspect my third and fourth tiers will be cleaned out by the time we get to the SEC primary in March.

Oh, and speaking of Virginia politicians, the other Presidential aspirant from that state opted not to make an independent bid. Said Jim Webb:

We looked at the possibility of an independent candidacy. Theoretically it could be done, but it is enormously costly and time sensitive, and I don’t see the fundraising trajectory where we could make a realistic run.

Considering Webb would have possibly been in the mix with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and perhaps a disgruntled Donald Trump, a third-party run wasn’t going to make a dent.

Debating the need

December 16, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Apparently they had a debate last night.

I think I watched the first main event (since I didn’t get back home in time for the now-infamous “kiddie table” debate) but since then I have chosen to spend my time on other, more useful pursuits like doing my website. Unfortunately, until you get down to a manageable number of people (about five to six at the most) it’s not worth the effort. (Granted, the more recent warmup debates should have been quite good with only four people participating.)

But I wonder how the race would have gone had they used my original idea of randomly selecting six participants per debate and doing three in one evening. It’s probable that the general order may have stayed fairly close, but when you are depending on a poll to determine debate placement that has a margin of error larger than the amount of support some in the bottom tier were getting, there could have been people taken off the main stage who may have deserved a place. Who knows: if the Donald would have had the bad luck of the draw to be outside prime time in the first couple of debates he may be closer to the pack or even out of the race. Just food for thought.

It seems to me that the debates are now sort of like an NFL Sunday. In the 1:00 games you have the teams without a great fanbase or that are doing so-so…sort of like the early debate. It’s the 4:25 national game and the 8:15 primetime game that people care about – in fact, NBC gets to pick the game it wants in the last few weeks of the season, with some exceptions. So the prime-time game the other night would have been the Cruz Cowboys taking on the Trump Generals. (Yes, I had to borrow from the old USFL but Trump owned the New Jersey Generals so it fit. In fact, the ill-fated idea to move the USFL to a fall schedule was his.) Anyway, supporters of every candidate watch and keep score like a fantasy football game, and everyone is confident of victory. My social media was filled with commentary.

One thing that the debates were supposed to provide, though, was some winnowing of the field – so far it hasn’t changed a whole lot. With several governors in the race originally but the general political mood being that of seeking an outsider, 2016 wasn’t the year for Rick Perry in his second try or Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal in their first. Notably, Walker was the only main-stage debater to withdraw, although had he not he would likely have been relegated to the second-tier thanks to his polling support evaporating rapidly. Perry just missed the cut for the first debate to John Kasich and never really recovered, while Jindal never caught on (unfortunately.) On the other hand, people seem to hate how John Kasich and Jeb Bush perform in debates but they continue to qualify – meanwhile, the rules were bent a little bit to put Carly Fiorina in the second debate and Rand Paul in the most recent one.

But if you go back to the first of October (and I’m looking at the RCP universe of polls) you’ll find the following movement:

  • Trump +11 (27 to 38, with a range 22-41)
  • Cruz +8 (7 to 15, with a range 4-22)
  • Rubio -1 (13 to 12, with a range 8-17)
  • Carson -5 (17 to 12, with a range 9-29)
  • Bush -5 (10 to 5, with a range 3-10)
  • Christie +2 (2 to 4, with a range 1-4)
  • Kasich -2 (4 to 2, with a range 1-4)
  • Fiorina -5 (6 to 1, with a range 1-7)
  • Paul 0 (2 to 2, with a range 1-5)
  • Huckabee -3 (4 to 1, with a range 1-5)
  • Graham 0 (1 to 1, with a range 0-2)
  • Pataki -1 (1 to 0, with that being his range)
  • Santorum -2 (2 to 0, with that being his range)
  • They don’t poll for Jim Gilmore. I think he’s still in it.

We actually have 3% more undecided than we did before. But you can see that after the top four, picking the next tier can be tricky because several are polling under the margin or error. Even with these debates, the sheer amount of headlines Donald Trump creates have done more to pad his lead than the formal gatherings.

I imagine the bottom-feeders are putting their eggs into one basket at this point. Jeb Bush still has quite a bit of money, while Chris Christie, John Kasich, and George Pataki are playing to do well in New Hampshire. On the other hand, candidates with evangelical or populist appeal like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum are counting on Iowa. I guess Carly Fiorina is basing her appeal on her gender, Rand Paul is trying to light a fire under his dad’s supporters in the libertarian part of the GOP, and Lindsay Graham is likely hoping to use his home state as a springboard.

But even with Bobby Jindal withdrawing – granted, he was only getting 1 to 2 percent – the only gainers since October are Trump and Cruz. Ben Carson’s meteoric rise is now a free fall; however, he’s still in the top four that command nearly 3 out of 4 GOP voters. The other 10 are fighting over that last quarter.

We will know by year’s end who will go on, as the fundraising totals have to be in. I suspect there may be fewer chairs needed for that debate.

A crappy way to start the evening

November 17, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

You know it’s been a bad day when this is what you see first thing on social media, and it refers to “has been to run” as past tense:

I cannot tell you what an honor it has been to run for President of the United States of America. My parents came to this country 45 years ago searching for freedom and a chance.

When I was born, we lived in student housing at LSU, and never in their wildest dreams did they think their son would have the opportunity to serve as Governor of Louisiana or to run for President.

They raised me to believe Americans can do anything, and they were right, we can. But this is not my time, so I am suspending my campaign for President.

Going forward, I believe we have to be the party of growth and we can never stop being the party that believes in opportunity. We cannot settle for The Left’s view of envy and division. We have to be the party that says everyone in this country – no matter the circumstances of their birth or who their parents are – can succeed in America.

One of the things I will do is go back to work at the think tank I started a few years ago – where I will be outlining a blueprint for making this the American century.

We must show the way forward on growing our economy and winning the war against terror, and especially defeating radical Islam.

I realize that our country is off on the wrong track right now. Everyone knows that, but don’t forget, this is still the greatest country in the history of the world – and every single one of us should start every day by thanking God that we are fortunate enough to be US citizens.

Now is the time for all those Americans who still believe in freedom and American exceptionalism to stand up and defend it. The idea of America – the idea that my parents came here for almost a half a century ago – that idea is slipping away from us. Freedom is under assault from both outside our borders and from within. We must act now, we do not have a moment to spare.

Now is that something you’d hear from Donald Trump or any Democrat? Don’t think so.

This truly saddens me: here was a candidate who I agreed with to a large extent on all of my key issues. Looking at them piece by piece Jindal was in my top five on every one. Every. Freaking. One. The wonk in me loved his detailed plans, which seems to come naturally if he led a think tank.

But if there were two things for which I would fault Jindal’s campaign, it would be these.

First of all, he got in too late. Granted, hindsight is 20-20, but a person who doesn’t have a great deal of name recognition needs to overcome that with an early start. Jindal was the first to announce after Donald Trump did on June 16th. Consider this: of the five candidates who announced after Trump, two are now out (Jindal and Walker), one’s never been a factor (Gilmore), and the stock of the other two has fallen such that Chris Christie fell out of the main debate this time and John Kasich is losing friends quickly with his debate performances. Jindal should have jumped in right before Memorial Day – that month probably lost him 5 or 6 points early on, and if he had been in that range he would easily have made the initial prime-time debate. He never got past the “kiddie table” debate where Carly Fiorina did.

The second is never adequately countering the prevailing “Louisiana is a failure” narrative. Making budget cuts is never popular, and Jindal took pride in having less spending even now in his final year of his second term, then his predecessor did. I think it’s a badge of honor in terms of right-sizing government but if you read the liberal Louisiana media each day it’s a drumbeat of bad news. Simply put, Jindal refused to raise taxes and that was his cardinal sin in the eyes of the media in Louisiana. The low-information voters were the ones giving him low marks on the polls despite the job creation record Jindal had.

Of course, the last time a very outspoken conservative governor was placed on a Presidential ticket, she was absolutely trashed in the media. But if a non-governor wins the nomination, he or she would be wise to consider Jindal as the VP choice given his executive experience. There’s no doubt the media is in the tank for Hillary so we may as well be pedal-to-the-metal conservative on the GOP ticket. Screw the establishment.

As for me and my choice, I may keep my powder dry and options open. Indeed, some candidates scored better than others but more information has come out and perhaps some issues take higher precedence with recent events. So we will see.

2016 dossier: Intangibles and the endorsement

When I started this process back in June, the field of Republican presidential hopefuls was still expanding. Now that October is almost here, the roster is shrinking as Rick Perry and Scott Walker have already left and, aside from Carly Fiorina who was promoted to the main event, the half-dozen or so who didn’t make the initial Fox News debate almost two months ago now are on the endangered list. (Perry was one of the also-rans then; based on the most recent polling data Scott Walker was bound to slide out of the top ten or eleven before the next debate.)

But I’m ignoring the polling data in order to wrap up my personal process. My polling data will have 100% support for whoever comes out on top, and the five remaining points I award for intangibles finishes the 100-point scale, which began with education, the Second Amendment, and energy, then continued with social issues, trade and job creation, and taxation before concluding with immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and the role of government.

I have decided that those candidates who have served as governors will get one point for that, so the first point accrues to Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki. After eight years where we lacked executive political experience in the White House, I think we need it back.

Up to two more points will be awarded (or deducted) for the candidate’s website. Admittedly this is a little picayune; however, the presentation and willingness to be concise and persuasive on issues reflects to me on how they will act accordingly as President.

So there are two candidates who get both points: Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. Both are well-organized and have an abundance of information about where they stand.

Just behind them with very good, one-point websites are Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina (whose Answers segment is rather unique), Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and John Kasich.

On the other hand, I was disappointed with other websites for lack of clarity, poor layout, or a general lack of attention to detail. Ted Cruz falls into that category of one-point deductions, as does George Pataki and Donald Trump.

Rick Santorum loses two points, simply because he has promised an economic plan “in a few short weeks” since June. It’s almost like he’s going through the motions of having a website.

Finally, there are other issues people bring up which may not fit into one of my categories.

Jeb Bush has an interesting take on cyber security, which will add a point to his score.

Total score for Bush – 3.0 of 5 points.

Ben Carson gets kudos for this piece as only he can, being the one black Republican in the race.

Total score for Carson – 1.0 of 5 points.

Chris Christie fills up his tree by discussing criminal justice reform and having the belief that veterans should be able to use any available medical facility, not just VA hospitals and clinics.

Total score for Christie – 4.0 of 5 points.

Although I could have added this to the role of government, Ted Cruz‘s actions in defending the Constutution are worth mentioning..

Total score for Cruz – 1.0 of 5 points.

Carly Fiorina answers at least 80 valid questions on her site, and I agree with her on many not brought up previously.

Total score for Fiorina – 3.0 of 5 points.

I checked to see if I alluded to Jim Gimore‘s stance on climate change when I discussed energy and I had not. He’s a skeptic of anthropogenic climate change, which is a point in my book. Otherwise, I’ve covered his issues.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 5 points.

I didn’t gain anything from Lindsey Graham insofar as issues went, so he just gets the one point for the site.

Total score for Graham – 1.0 of 5 points.

One thing I like about Mike Huckabee‘s site is the record as governor. Certainly it glosses over some items but it’s a helpful reminder he wasn’t just a face on TV.

Total score for Huckabee – 3.0 of 5 points.

Something Bobby Jindal addresses on his site, which I haven’t seen much of otherwise, is radical Islam. It’s worth a point.

Total score for Jindal – 3.0 of 5 points.

I think John Kasich has beefed up his website over the course of this process, turning a negative into a positive.

Total score for Kasich – 2.0 of 5 points.

George Pataki has a poor website that lacks an issue page.

Total score for Pataki – 0.0 of 5 points.

I love the diversity of Rand Paul and his issues, which includes civil liberties and auditing the Fed.

Total score for Paul – 4.0 of 5 points.

Splashed on the front of the Marco Rubio website was a proposal for paid leave, which is a problem. But he is taking the fight to Hillary, which is a plus. It’s one of a plethora of items he’s placed on his site.

Total score for Rubio – 4.0 of 5 points.

Rick Santorum doesn’t tread any new ground with his issues, so he stands where he was.

Total score for Santorum – (-2.0) of 5 points.

Donald Trump has a slightly better website, but still not up to snuff.

Total score for Trump – (-1.0) of 5 points.

It’s time to determine who should be our next President – the one who will have a raging mess to clean up.

From the bottom up we go:

  • George Pataki – 20.3 points
  • Donald Trump – 29 points
  • Chris Christie – 39.1 points
  • John Kasich – 40.5 points
  • Jeb Bush – 41.1 points
  • Carly Fiorina – 42.6 points
  • Rick Santorum – 44.5 points
  • Jim Gilmore – 45.5 points
  • Ben Carson – 46.2 points
  • Marco Rubio – 49.6 points
  • Mike Huckabee – 52.5 points
  • Lindsey Graham – 52.8 points

I’m going to stop right there because my top three were head and shoulders above the rest of the field – a nearly 20-point spread. So I’m going to recommend two and endorse the winner.

Ted Cruz finished with 71.1 points. There was a point where he was leading but he slipped in a couple categories.

But where I could see him as an excellent President is his willingness to fight for principle. He hasn’t had a lot of success up to now because he’s saddled with a body of 99 others who mainly seem unable or unwilling to follow his lead as he tries to restore the pre-eminence of the Constitution.

Rand Paul was second-best with 74.4 points. The overall breadth of his platform is excellent, and while I may not be on board with his foreign policy I think he has learned from the extreme positions of his father. Both Cruz and Paul are champions of limited government, and a nation with a President Paul would rally back to its proper place in the world.

Unfortunately, neither of those two have significant executive experience while the man who has won the monoblogue endorsement does. Governor Bobby Jindal combines that leadership quality with some of those most well-thought out policy positions in the field. He scored 79.3 points, which meant he pretty much won this before the intangibles.

Now I’m aware of the report which was based on “experts” predicting Jindal would be next out. That would be a complete shame because out of all the candidates I can see Jindal being a modern-day Calvin Coolidge – reducing the budget in real terms (as he did in Louisiana), getting government out of the way, and bringing true prosperity back to the nation by allowing us to be an energy superpower.

It’s my job to begin reversing those polls and putting a thumb in the eye of those “experts.” Bobby Jindal wins my endorsement for President of the United States.

The end of Walker

September 22, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Think back with me, if you will, to those frosty days of last winter and early spring. Remember when Rush Limbaugh seemed to mention Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on an almost daily basis as a guy who knew how to take it to liberals? There was a point where people were openly clamoring for him to get in the GOP race, thinking he – not Jeb Bush – was the man to beat. After all, the Democrats had thrown the kitchen sink at Walker three times without beating him, even after he stared down the unions in Wisconsin and got them to blink.

In the post-mortem of Walker’s shuttered campaign, my take in general is that he shouldn’t have waited until June to get in. Had he jumped sooner, it’s possible that some of the others at the bottom may have taken a pass because he may have used his reputation to line up support. Granted, I’m sure some of his most inside people knew weeks in advance what Walker’s intentions would probably be, but waiting until later can be seen as indecisive or not having the fire in the belly.

But I want to talk about my thoughts on Walker as a potential President. As my faithful readers know, I do a lot of reading and comparison on candidates to find the one I think is best. He or she may not be on top in the polls at the moment, but this is after all the time for choosing.

Early on, based on reputation, I thought Scott Walker would be one of my top picks but he disappointed me at every turn. I didn’t see him as the conservative answer we needed on several issues, and his sliding back and forth on a few was worrisome. At the time of his suspension I had just wrapped up the dossier on entitlements and he had a plan that was somewhat conservative but also had some strains of big government like age-based tax credits. With me, he never really got the traction to get out of the middle of the pack.

On the other hand, Rick Perry usually did well and he would likely have finished in my top 5 based on his thoughts about shifting power to the states in many areas. But he was outside the top ten cut, so no one really noticed he was withdrawing.

Walker’s rapid decline in the polls came as people began coming to the realization that he was a nice enough guy and maybe can fight on a state level, but not a particularly accomplished debater. Truthfully, he wasn’t adding much to the race until his Hail Mary regarding curtailing public sector unions and establishing national right-to-work. (States would be allowed to opt back out, so never fear – the Democrats who run Maryland into the ground would have demanded a Special Session to appease their union toadies.)

It’s a great idea, but it looks like someone else will have to run with it now.

2016 Dossier: Entitlements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Medicaid:

On Medicare:

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

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

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

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

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

2016 dossier: Foreign Policy

September 9, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

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

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

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

Thus, it’s time to see how they do.

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

Total score for Gilmore – 11.5 of 12.

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

Total score for Graham – 11.0 of 12.

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

Total score for Rubio – 9.0 of 12.

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

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

Total score for Jindal – 8.4 of 12.

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

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

Total score for Bush – 8.0 of 12.

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

Total score for Paul – 7.5 of 12.

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

Total score for Walker – 7.0 of 12.

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

Total score for Carson – 6.0 of 12.

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

Total score for Fiorina – 6.0 of 12.

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

Total score for Christie – 5.5 of 12.

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

Total score for Cruz – 5.0 of 12.

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

Total score for Perry – 5.0 of 12.

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

Total score for Huckabee – 4.8 of 12.

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

Total score for Kasich – 4.8 of 12.

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

Total points for Pataki – 4.0 of 12.

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

Total score for Santorum – 2.0 of 12.

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

Total score for Trump – 0.0 of 12.

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

2016 dossier: Immigration

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

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

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

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

Those who would leave it as is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total points for Trump – 10.5 of 11.

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

Total score for Santorum – 9.0 of 11.

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

Total score for Paul – 7.7 of 11.

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

Total score for Jindal – 7.5 of 11.

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

Total score for Perry – 7.5 of 11.

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

Total score for Cruz – 7.4 of 11.

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

Total score for Carson – 5.1 of 11.

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

Total points for Huckabee – 5.0 of 11.

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

Total score for Gilmore – 4.5 of 11.

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

Total points for Walker – 3.5 of 11.

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

Total points for Fiorina – 3.0 of 11.

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

Total score for Christie – 2.5 of 11.

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

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

Total score for Graham – 2.0 of 11.

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

Total score for Rubio – 1.5 of 11.

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

Total score for Bush – 0.0 of 11.

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

Total score for Kasich – 0.0 of 11.

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

Total score for Pataki – 0.0 of 11.

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

2016 dossier: Taxation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total score for Paul – 9.0 of 10.

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

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

Total score for Jindal – 8.0 of 10.

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

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

Total score for Huckabee – 7.5 of 10.

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

Total score for Kasich – 6.0 of 10.

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

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

Total score for Carson – 5.5 of 10.

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

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

Total score for Cruz – 5.5 of 10.

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

Total score for Gilmore – 5.0 of 10.

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

Total score for Rubio – 4.9 of 10.

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

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

Total score for Perry – 4.8 of 10.

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

Total score for Santorum – 4.6 of 10.

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

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

Total score for Christie – 4.5 of 10.

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

Total score for Walker – 4.2 of 10.

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

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

Total score for Bush – 4.0 of 10.

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

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

Total score for Graham – 3.5 of 10.

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

Total score for Trump – 2.0 of 10.

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

Total score for Pataki – 1.0 of 10.

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

Total score for Fiorina – 0.5 of 10.

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

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

2016 dossier: Trade and job creation

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.

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