RINOS MIGHT WANT TO SPEND TIME READING THE GOP PLATFORM
Political junkies got a preview of what to expect in the November election from some primaries and special elections held on May 18 and from the Utah Republican Party Convention held earlier this month.
Sen. Arlen Specter won't get a sixth term as a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. Rand Paul, son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, defeated the so called “establishment” candidate in the Kentucky U.S. Senate primary. The Democrats claimed victory in a special election for the Congressional seat held by the late Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania. And a currently-serving U.S. Senator from Utah lost his bid to again be his party's nominee.
Polling data from last year showed that Specter was going to get clobbered in a Republican primary. This prompted Specter, who became a Republican many years ago, to re-join the Democrat Party last year. By joining the Democrats, Specter kept favorable committee assignments and leadership positions in the U.S. Senate and avoided a likely losing primary battle. President Obama even campaigned for Specter. Unfortunately for Specter, Democrat Congressman Joe Sestak “did not get the memo” and challenged and defeated Specter in the Democrat primary. This may actually have been a great thing for the Democrats hopes of holding that U.S. Senate seat. Early polling shows that the Democrat challenger currently holds a small lead over the winner of the Republican primary.
In Kentucky, Paul challenged Kentucky Secretary of State “Trey” Grayson for the U.S. Senate seat held by the retiring Jim Bunning. Grayson had the support Kentucky's other U.S. Senator, Mitch McConnell, and other political insiders. Paul was supported by those active in the Tea Party movement and endorsed by Sarah Palin. However, Paul was not just some upstart. He and Grayson both raised over $2.7 million. In fact, the last report showed less than a $67,000 difference in their fund raising.
Democrats have tried to claim that the victory of their candidate in the special Congressional election for Murtha's seat means that the Democrats will still do well in November. However, the Democrats need to re-evaluate what their nominee did in that race. The Democrat candidate ran away from the Democrat Party's agenda and opposed Obama's call for “cap-and-tax” and Obama-care. This makes clear that the Democrats hopes for success rely on their candidates opposing the liberal agenda of Obama and the Democrat Party.
On a funny and yet sad note, a Rasmussen poll shows that 41% say a random selection from the phone book would do a better job than the current Congress. Only 38% disagree and 20% are undecided. A couple of caveats are needed in looking at this data. The 41% includes 55% of Republicans and 52% of unaffiliated voters who feel this way, but only 21% of Democrats who agree. Since the Democrats hold a majority in Congress, this should not come as a big surprise.
The theme is clear. As I have written before, the polling data shows that three-fourths of the voters are angry. However, it is important to note what they are angry about. Voters are angry about out-of-control spending. So, if the Democrats and even incumbent Republicans want to stay in office, they are going to have to stand up against the out-of-control spending in Washington.
A case in point is the three-term U.S. Senator from Utah. At the Utah GOP convention, he did not get enough votes to represent the GOP in the November elections. However, this was NOT just an anti-incumbent mentality. This “coup” was against a Senator who voted to bail out Wall Street, co-sponsored mandatory health insurance coverage and aggressively pursued earmarks. That is what you call a RINO (Republican In Name Only). If he is surprised that Republicans don't want him carrying their banner, he might want to read the platform some time.
(Reach James Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org)
BLUNT DRAWING CLEAR DISTINCTIONS IN HIS RACE
As chairman of the Sixth Congressional District Republican Committee, I try to attend Republican events in other counties. Last Saturday night, I attended Clay County's Lincoln Days.
The emcee for the event was my fellow-Landmark columnist and 710 radio host Chris Stigall. As he usually is as the emcee of these sorts of events, Stigall was great. The event had several great speakers, including Congressman Sam Graves, Congressman Roy Blunt, Ann Wagner and John Ashcroft.
Ann Wagner is the former chair of the Missouri Republican Party, former vice chair of the Republican National Committee and, most recently, former ambassador to Luxembourg. I have had the pleasure of working with Wagner on Republican efforts for several years before she went to Luxembourg. Wagner is currently the co-chair of the Blunt for Senate campaign. Wagner warmed up the crowd for Blunt with stories from her experiences in Europe and great examples of how America is slipping towards European-style socialism.
Blunt had a great new stump speech. I took two important things from Blunt's speech. One is a story that Blunt told about his early childhood home. This home relied on a stove in the center of the house to provide heat. Blunt said he remembers being told at an early age to not touch the stove. However, like any young boy, he eventually touched the stove. Of course, he burned his hand and decided he didn't ever want to do that again. Blunt compared his experience with that stove to what has happened in American politics. American voters were introduced to something different in 2008 and wanted to try it out. (They wanted to touch the stove). Now that they have given that “something different” a try, American voters don't like what has happened and want to reverse the decision they made in 2008. (They don't want to touch the stove again.)
The other great aspect of Blunt's speech is the clear distinction he made between himself and Robin Carnahan. Blunt said it was pretty simple. There isn't anything important on which he and Carnahan agree. Blunt is for lower taxes. Carnahan is for higher taxes. Blunt is for patient freedom in our health care system. Carnahan is for a federal takeover of our health care system. Blunt is opposed to doubling our utility bills through “cap and trade” legislation. Carnahan is for higher utility costs for all. What is great about Blunt drawing these distinctions is that it seemed that Jim Talent never made simple distinctions between himself and Claire McCaskill, which was a factor in his loss to her in 2006. Blunt is not going to make that mistake.
John Ashcroft, former State Auditor, former Governor, former U.S. Senator and former U.S. Attorney General, was the keynote speaker. He cut his remarks short because the program was running long. However, he did share some stories from his relationship with Roy Blunt from the early days of his political career, which was even before Roy had a political career. He also discussed the continuing threat of terrorists and the need for the Obama Administration to not let its guard down and to not mistakenly treat terrorists like ordinary criminals.
The evening concluded with the naming of the Republican Man and Woman of the Year. Shawna Searcy was named the Clay County Republican Woman of the Year. She has served on Congressman Graves' staff and has spent a lot of volunteer time helping other candidates. The Clay County Republican Man of the Year was Jeff Roe. Congressman Graves was asked to make the presentation to him. Clay County Republican Party chairman Ben Wierzbicki was also honored as the Clay County Republican Man of the Decade. I have worked a lot with Wierzbicki. He is very deserving for his hard work for lots of different candidates.
(Reach James Thomas at email@example.com)
THE PROBLEM IS: WHO IS CLASSIFIED AS RICH?
Soak the rich! That was a theme used by Obama in 2008. It has also been a common theme of Democrats over the years. This theme is consistent with the Democrats socialistic/communistic values. A central theme for Democrats is taking money from one group of people and “redistributing” it to another group of people. Democrats like to pit various socio-economic groups against each other.
The polling on this is not horrible for Democrats. A Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 44% of voters would rather vote for a candidate who opposes all tax increases, but 44% like a candidate who would only increase taxes for the wealthy. (The other 12% are undecided.) So, the tax the rich theme is not an automatic loser position for Democrats.
The problem is, who are the rich?
During the 1992 campaign, Clinton promised a middle class tax cut. However, between his election and his taking the oath of office, he proposed the biggest tax increase in history claiming it was targeted against the “rich.” Some aspects of this tax increase hit families making around $60,000 per year. So, apparently, in the eyes of Clinton, those making more than $60,000 per year must be outside the “middle class” and part of the rich.
Obama campaigned in a similar manner promising to cut taxes on middle class families and to only raise taxes on the rich. At one point Obama claimed that only those making more than $250,000 per year would see their taxes go up. However, on the campaign trail Biden let slip that the tax increases would hit those with incomes well below $250,000. More recently Obama has indicated that he may have to go back on his campaign promise of no tax increases for those making less than $250,000 a year.
I have monitored focus groups where the issue is raised over “who are the rich?” None of the participants ever have a clear answer. Interestingly, most of the participants admit that making $100,000 per year doesn't make someone rich.
I have a different definition of “rich.” My definition of who is rich is “someone who doesn't have to get up and go to work for a living.”
My wife, Sandra, and I are what I would call “comfortable.” We have a nice place to live and plenty of food to eat, as evidenced by my embarrassing weight gain during the course of our marriage. We are able to fund charitable giving while saving money for our kids' college and our retirement. However, I would NOT consider us “wealthy.” We haven't bought a new car since 2003. (In the interest of full disclosure we did pay cash for three used cars during that timeframe.) We only take an “away” vacation every other year and vacation in Missouri in the other years. We want for nothing that we really need, but we certainly are not living the lifestyle of the rich and the famous.
We are able to fund our charitable goals, savings goals and comfortable standard of living through our incomes. However, if Sandra and I don't get up in the morning and go to work, the “gravy train” stops running. We could not enjoy our “comfortable” lifestyle for very long without working for a living.
During the campaign there was all this hype about crazy things that Obama's “pastor” said from the pulpit. Those crazy statements should not be the greatest concern. Of greater concern should be that the church's published mission statement is “correcting America's mal-distribution of wealth.” Yes, Obama wants to “soak the rich.” He wants to take the money from hard-working people and give it to others who don't work for a living. He seems to forget that no poor man ever gave a man a job. Or, more likely, he wants to make more people dependent on the government so they will have to keep electing Democrats to survive.
(James Thomas is chair of Sixth District Republicans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
PALIN PROMOTES THE 'CONSTITUTIONAL CONSERVATIVE' APPROACH
Sarah Palin was in town on Saturday, so I skipped out on my normal Saturday in the office to go see her.
When Palin was first picked as McCain's vice presidential nominee, I wrote a column that said “I think I'm in love.” Before you get upset at that being some sort of sexist comment, let me remind you what I wrote back in the fall of 2008. I wrote that “I think I'm in love” based upon Palin's record of what she had done in Alaska. First, she stood up to members of her own party when they were not acting appropriately. In fact, to become governor, she had to run against the incumbent Republican. I know how tough it is to stand up to your own party when they are not following party principles. So, I have the utmost respect for Palin for this. As governor, Palin also cut taxes and cut spending. As a fiscal conservative, how could you not “love” that?
Palin gave a great speech that focused on positive themes for how to return America to greatness. She attacked Obama's policies. She challenged those in attendance to fight the creep towards socialism and the erosion of our liberties. She encouraged people to be proud to be Americans instead of apologizing for America. She kept the focus on returning America to greatness without having a negative tone.
The Landmark's own Chris Stigall did some Q&A with Palin after the speech. Stigall asked her “What can ordinary people do?” She suggested something I have said over and over: “Volunteer for a candidate you believe in.” She also suggested, if possible, making contributions to a candidate, but her most important thing was to work for a candidate.
Stigall asked her about how to identify a good candidate. Palin said you should talk to the candidate about the constitution. Does the candidate believe the constitution is an “evolving document” or does the candidate believe that “other than The Bible, the constitution is the most important thing to them?” Palin advocated working for candidates who are “constitutional conservatives.”
Palin also said it is great that candidates start on a local basis with a school board or city council/mayor type position. In these positions the candidates learn firsthand how decisions in Washington impact real people and local government. Understanding this should make these people better public servants in the future.
Stigall also asked her about what you should do about Republicans who let you down. Palin pointed out that individuals will from time to time let you down. She advocated working for candidates who support certain values instead of just based on party affiliation. She noted that her husband still identifies himself as an independent. However, she wants the Republican Party to be successful because the planks in the platform of the Republican Party are consistent with the “constitutional conservative” approach to government.
Palin also did not rule out a future run for president . . . of her local PTA.
Saturday's event included lots of speakers besides Palin. Fred Thompson, who I had originally hoped would be the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, gave a great presentation. Something I have always liked about Thompson is that he explains difficult issues in simple terms. J. C. Watts, the former Oklahoma quarterback and Congressman, also spoke. I'm a big fan of Watts' conservative credentials and hope he will eventually re-enter public service.
Probably the most exciting thing about Saturday's event is the large crowd of excited people in attendance. I saw a few long-time acquaintances, but there were tons of people I did not know. The hard work and energy of these previously un-involved people are what is needed to return America to greatness. Only by participating in the political process can we defend ourselves from the erosion of our liberties and the decline of America's greatness.
(James Thomas is chair of Sixth District Republicans. He can be reached at email@example.com)
TAXES, TAXES, TAXES
Taxes. Taxes. Taxes. I'm sick of paying taxes. Apparently, I'm not the only one.
Recent polling by Rasmussen Reports shows that 66% of Americans believe they are over-taxed. Only 25% disagree. (To those 25% who disagree, I say send in more if you want, but keep your hands off my money.) Not surprisingly, 96% of those who self-identify with the Tea Party movement believe they are over-taxed.
More polling by Rasmussen shows some interesting opinions on taxes.
Seventy-five percent of those polled say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, 55% of those polled believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes.
There is also a belief that the middle class shares a disproportionate share of the tax burden. Sixty-five percent believe that middle class taxpayers pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the wealthy.
Although many believe the middle class pays more than their share of taxes, this does not translate to a mentality of take it all from the “rich people.” Polling shows that 61% favor a cap on taxes so no one would pay more than 50% of their total income in state, local and federal taxes combined. The remaining 39% are evenly split between opposed and “don't know.” In fact, 56% of those polled say someone earning $1,000,000 should pay less than $500,000 in taxes. Only 10% believe a $1 million earner should pay more than 50% in taxes.
There is great concern amongst the American people about the ever increasing national debt. However, that concern does not equate to supporting higher taxes to decrease the deficit. A key reason for that is the voters don't believe that the tax increases would actually be used to reduce the deficit. Fifty-eight percent believe that the government is more likely to spend increased taxes on new government programs rather than reducing the deficit. The voters blame the out of control spending by politicians for the deficit. Eighty-three percent of Americans say the rise of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending rather than the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more taxes.
There is a small group of voters who want more taxes and bigger government. Twenty-three percent of voters favor a more active government with more services and higher taxes. (I'm guessing these folks are the ones getting all the benefits of the higher taxes that the other 77% have to pay.)
This preference for more government tracks closely with attitudes about whether increased government spending helps the economy. The same 23% believe increased spending helps the economy while 59% believe increased spending hurts the economy.
A plurality of Americans (46%) favors an across-the-board tax cut. The closest thing we have seen recently to across-the-board tax cuts was the Bush tax cuts of 2001. This was one of the most fair tax policy changes that I have ever seen. It was not a series of targeted tax cuts that produced winners and losers. Instead it was an across-the-board adjustment of tax rates. Many folks in the 15% tax bracket saw their taxes cut by one-third when the 10% tax bracket was created. The reduction of the 39.6% bracket to 35% may have been more actual dollars to high income taxpayers, but in reality it was a much smaller percentage of their overall tax burden.
Polling supports what I would have concluded anecdotally tally. Americans are sick of paying taxes. They believe that increasing deficits is due to out of control spending by politicians. Voters are generally not willing to pay more taxes to reduce the deficit because they don't trust the politicians to not just spend the money on increasing the size of government. Is anyone in Washington, Jefferson City or Platte City listening?
(James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
ANALYZING THE RACES FOR STATE SENATE, STATE REPRESENTATIVE
Last week I wrote about the upcoming races at the county level. Here in Platte County, there is also a State Senate seat and three State Representative seats up for grabs.
Two Republicans and one Democrat are vying to succeed term-limited State Senator Charlie Shields. The Democrat is a state representative from St. Joseph who has done very little during his tenure in the State House. He has also done very little on his campaign raising only $11,800 last quarter and $37,475 for this election cycle.
When Jason Brown dropped out of the State Senate race to run for county commissioner, State Representative Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph probably thought he had a clean shot at the Republican nomination. However, John Destefano entered the race on the last day of filing.
Schaaf has reported solid fund raising on his last report -- $149,042.65 for this election cycle. However, he has spent almost $90,000, which is WAY too much to have spent so far from Election Day. Schaaf has been a consistent voice for conservatism. However, sometimes he has an unusual way of delivering his message that has not always endeared him to the political insiders. There is no secret that Schaaf was not Shields' first choice for his successor.
Destefano is a retired senior executive at a large company. His budgeting and financial experience would be very helpful to the Missouri General Assembly. As a Platte Countian, Destefano should have the advantage in the Republican primary. However, his county of residence may become a detriment to Destefano in November. I have heard many Buchanan Countians say they do not want to give up THEIR State Senator. (I was not aware that there was EVER a State Senator from Platte County, but there apparently was one about 90 years ago.) We'll just have to wait and see whether geography is a greater issue than liberal Democrat policies in picking one's State Senator.
Three Democrats and one Republican have filed for the 29th District seat, which includes Weston, areas in Platte County north of Platte City and west of I-29 and the south side of St. Joseph. Republicans have never been able to overcome the Democrat leanings of the south side of St. Joseph. However, the Republican, Galen Higdon, won this area of Buchanan County in his unsuccessful bid for sheriff in 2008. The Democrat candidates are Dennis Snethen, Bill Caldwell and Ken Shearin.
In 30th District, which is the seat currently held by term-limited Jason Brown, Republican Nick Marshall faces Democrat Lexi Norris. Marshall spent four years as an assistant county prosecutor before spending the last six years in private practice. Marshall is married with five children. A stark contrast to Marshall's conservative values is the liberal Norris. She is a recent transplant to the 30th District and lives in an apartment with her husband.
The 32nd District seat is currently held by Jason Grill. Grill's conduct on the night he was first elected in 2006 illustrates the kind of person he is. According to a police report filed by the alleged victim who later declined to pursue the case, Grill stayed at a bar until closing time that night and then attempted to rape a girl in a car in the parking lot. Grill comes from a good family. Grill's father, who I have known for 17+ years, is one of the most decent men I have ever met. However, his son is a joke and a disgrace and needs to be booted out of office. Also, besides his disgraceful personal behavior, Grill has done nearly nothing to represent his constituents in Jefferson City.
Grill is being challenged by Ron Scheiber. Scheiber is a long-serving member of the Park Hill school board, has been very active in the SPCAA and a business owner. Scheiber has the kind of conservative values and decency that we need in Jefferson City.
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at email@example.com)
DID LOCAL DEMOCRATS PICK A BAD YEAR TO MAKE A COMEBACK?
The stage is set. Filing for the fall elections closed two weeks ago so we now know who will be the candidates for November.
The two most exciting days of filing are always the first day of filing and the last day of filing. This year was no exception with multiple candidates showing up to file on the last day.
The Democrat Party has mostly been asleep locally for the last few election cycles and allowed many local races to have no opponents. That is not the case this year as the Democrats have found candidates for all but one of the local races.
Two-term incumbent Eric Zahnd will be unchallenged in seeking his third term as Prosecutor. There is a good reason for that. Zahnd may have started out a little rough eight years ago as he struggled to find the right mix of personnel in his office and his office lost its first few major cases. However, since that rough start, Zahnd has had a long string of major victories. The only criminals who appear to be safe from prosecution in Platte County are Democrat State Representatives, two of whom have had rape claims made against them, but neither of whom has been prosecuted. Note to criminals: Commit a crime in Platte County and you'll do time.
The other Republican incumbent, Gloria Boyer, is seeking her second term as Recorder of Deeds. Before being elected in 2006, Boyer was a long-serving deputy under Ida Cox. The Democrats found a last minute challenger for her. However, Boyer's dedicated service and outstanding past performance will make her tough to beat.
With Betty Knight retiring as presiding commissioner after 16 years, the Democrats have decided to make a challenge. However, the Democrat candidate is recently retired from a big-spending federal bureaucracy, which will not help him much against local war hero and term-limited State Rep. Jason Brown, who also happens to have a huge campaign war chest.
The retirement of County Collector Donna Nash after 28 years of service has created another open seat. Two deputies in Nash's office want to succeed her. Sheila Palmer, who has long been suspected to be Nash's successor, has filed as the Republican candidate. The hard-working Palmer will face off against Democrat Becky Dye.
The only two Democrat incumbents up for re-election this fall--Auditor Siobhann Williams and Clerk Sandra Krohne--also pulled last minute opposition.
Krohne is seeking her fifth term. She was the biggest local Democrat vote getter when she first ran for election in 1994. She has since rolled to re-election victory in 1998, 2002 and 2006. She will be challenged by Joan Harms. I only met Harms a few months ago. I did not and would not have encouraged Harms to challenge Krohne because Harms' skills could be far too valuable to strengthening the local Republican Party infrastructure. However, Harms has shown herself to be an exceptionally hard worker with great organizational skills. Although I didn't encourage Harms to run, she will make a great candidate. This will be Krohne's hardest general election campaign yet.
Williams is being challenged by Kevin Robinson, a person I have never met. Robinson will certainly have plenty of legitimate suggestions on how Williams might conduct the Auditor's office better. However, the current war between Williams and the county commissioners may actually do more to strengthen Williams' candidacy rather than hurt it.
Besides the six county races, Platte County also has a state senate and three state representative seats up for election in November. I'll share more insight on those in later columns.
Current national polling has limited meaning because the six months between now and the November elections is a lifetime in politics, and it is national and not local polling. However, those national polls hint that the local Democrats may have picked a bad year to attempt a comeback.
(James Thomas, chair of the Sixth District Republicans, can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
DON'T GIVE THEM AN INTEREST-FREE LOAN
The deadline to file your individual income tax return is April 15. I dread this day and the huge check I have to write to the government. However, if you are getting a refund you may be excited about filing your tax return.
I was reading an article on the internet and read a stunning statistic. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman was quoted as saying that the average federal tax refund is $3,036. Wow! That is a huge refund!
Now it would be cool to get a big check in the late spring or early summer. You could spend this check on funding your family's summer vacation, having your house painted, making some other spring repairs around the house or buying a new John Deere to make mowing and other yard work more enjoyable. That check from the government is like “found money.” However, it isn't. If you get an income tax refund check from the federal government, it means that you have made an interest free loan to the federal government.
Would you loan anyone else that kind of money for free? Of course not. So, why make that kind of loan to the government.
You can do something to address this. Go to your employer and adjust your withholdings. You should be able to tell your employer that you want a specific amount withheld from each paycheck. However, if your employer is unwilling to do this, you should review the withholding tables and figure out what kind of filing status to use and how many exemptions to claim.
This calculation is a little tricky for married people with two incomes. The tables are really designed for calculating each spouse's income. Married people have to take into consideration that their incomes are stacked on top of each other for purposes of their income tax calculation.
It is not hard to have a good guess at an appropriate withholding number. Look at the total tax due on your current federal income tax return. Then allocate this amount between the two incomes based upon the percentage each spouse's income is as part of the total income. Then divide each spouse's share of the total tax bill by the number of pay periods. When doing this calculation, be sure to increase your withholdings for any increase in tax rates or any taxes on any pay raises that would not have been reflected on last year's tax return. You don't want to make an interest free loan to the government, but you don't want to come up short on April 15 and have to pay in money that you have not saved for that purpose. You should round up your tax withholdings just a little to give you a cushion. Another way to figure this is to divide the amount of your refund by the number of pay periods and have your withholdings reduced by that amount. If you don't prepare your own return, ask your return preparer to help you with this calculation when you are picking up your tax returns.
Some folks like to use the tax refund as a forced savings plan so they can have a pot of money to spend in the spring. There is a way to accomplish that. When you redo your tax calculations for the current year and figure out how much you can cut your withholdings, set up an automatic transfer that will pull this amount from every paycheck and put it in a savings account. This way you are building your own savings account instead of making an interest free loan to the government.
I had a good year last year so I owe the government several thousand dollars more on April 15. In addition to paying last year's taxes, I also have to pay my first estimated payment for my 2010 taxes. So, those loud screams you hear next week will probably be me.
(Email James at email@example.com)
SOLVING THE GOVERNMENT'S MATH PROBLEM IS SIMPLE
Every morning after I drop the kids at school, I tune to Chris Stigall's show on the radio. So, when I get in the car at lunch time, my radio is tuned to 710 and Dave Ramsey is usually on.
If you have never heard Dave Ramsey you should start listening. He gives great financial advice. None of his advice is complicated. In fact, he even uses “the common sense of your grandma” to describe his type of advice. I don't agree with all of his suggestions, but I do agree with nearly all of what he says.
Although Ramsey's talk show is about very practical-level financial issues and not political issues, you can't talk about ordinary people's personal finances without once in a while talking about what is going on in Washington.
Ramsey was recently talking about the mess in Washington and had this to say, “It is not a conservative problem. It is not a liberal problem. It is not even a political problem. It's a MATH problem.”
I could argue that the government not spending money it doesn't have is a conservative idea and the failure of government to exercise the discipline of not spending money it doesn't have is a liberal problem and a political problem. However, I won't because at the end of the day the mess in Washington really is a MATH problem.
Obama has presented a budget to Congress that proposes spending $3.8 trillion. However, this budget only projects tax revenue of $2.2 trillion. The MATH problem is: where is the $1.6 trillion difference coming from? Debt.
What is even worse is what kind of debt we are talking about. This isn't like the kind of debt where you buy a house and you have a plan for repaying that debt out of future revenues in monthly installments spread out over 180 or 360 months. In that situation, you have an asset that--at least historically--will increase in value over time and a payment plan that will enable you to eventually pay off that debt. No. This is like the irresponsible type of credit card debt where you buy a consumable item (e.g., a meal at a restaurant) with no plan for repaying the charge you just put on your credit card.
Even worse, this isn't just a little MATH problem. This is a humongous MATH problem. We are talking a budget with spending of over 70% more than the projected tax revenues. Wow! Even worse, this is an increase in the national debt in a single year of almost $5,000 for every man, woman and child in America. Unbelievable.
I know I write about this out of control spending all the time. Well, there are two reasons for that. First, how government collects money from its citizens and how it spends that money is what government is all about. Sure, we can talk about guns and abortion and all those other things. And, I am unapologetic about being pro-life and pro-Second Amendment. However, those other issues are NOT what got me interested in government. I am concerned about how government taxes and how government spends. That is what governing is really about.
Second, this out of control spending is what can truly lead to the demise of the greatest nation on earth. By spending money we don't have, we make our country vulnerable to other countries, like China, that own huge portions of our debt. However, we also position ourselves for causing our government to collapse on itself as the interest burden takes an ever increasing portion of the annual budget. Unless reversed, this Ponzi scheme will eventually collapse on itself when the government debt burden becomes so great that it causes the collapse of our government and our entire national economy.
So, let's solve the MATH problem. How? It's simple. The government cannot spend money it doesn't have.
(Email James Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org)
THE DEMOCRATS HAVE RAMMED THROUGH MISGUIDED HEALTH CARE LEGISLATION
With the health care vote on Sunday, the Democrats have made a significant gamble. The gamble is twofold. First, how long will the American people remain angry about Democrats ramming the health care bill through despite strong public opposition? Second, are the Republican candidates weak enough in the swing districts to allow the Democrats to retain their majority?
Polling done as late as Saturday night by Rasmussen Reports showed that the American voters opposed the health care plan by 54% to 41%. Notwithstanding this opposition, the Democrats in Congress rammed through misguided health care legislation. With the November election still over seven months away, the Democrats are hoping that the anger of the American voters will die down and allow them to hold on to control of Congress in the fall.
Seven months can be a lifetime in politics. So, Democrats may have a chance for the anger to die down and allow them to get re-elected in November. Also, many of the actual changes will not take affect right away, so many Americans may not have a full appreciation of how bad this legislation really is.
The Democrats have also taken another calculated risk. The Congressional elections are not national elections with one candidate against another. Congressional elections are 435 local elections with 435 candidates against 435 other candidates. The localness of these elections will play a signification factor in whether the Democrats can hold on to Congress. For example, Missouri has two Congressional districts (the first in St. Louis and the fifth in Jackson County) that it would be almost impossible for the Democrats to lose. Similarly, the Seventh Congressional District is a seat that it would be very difficult for a Republican to lose. The demographics and political ideology of voters in these areas are such that each party should retain these respective seats. The calculation by the Democrats does not stop with political ideology of the 435 Congressional districts. The Democrats have also had to calculate which seats are safe and which seats are at risk based upon the strength of the currently identified candidates. For example, Sam Graves is the incumbent in the Sixth Congressional District. After the drubbing he gave liberal-Democrat-darling Kay Barnes (about 59% to 36%), no Democrat will be able to make a strong race against him. However, some Democrat incumbents may be vulnerable. For example, Ike Skelton, the 34-year incumbent in Missouri's Fourth Congressional District, is in for one of his toughest elections ever. This year he faces a serious challenge from Republican candidates. So, the Democrat leadership allowed Skelton to vote no.
Even though few people have had time to fully understand all the details of the bill, the voters understand the Democrats were using “smoke and mirrors” to describe the bill's impact. Democrats claim that the bill will actually extend coverage to 32 million uninsured while cutting the deficit. There are only three ways this can happen: (1) the doctors and hospitals are paid less, (2) less care is provided, or (3) a combination of the two. The reduction in payments is certainly imminent as the bill did not address next month's scheduled 21% cut in payment rates to doctors who treat Medicare patients. The American voters know the Democrats are lying about the cost. Eighty-one percent of those polled believe the health care plan will cost more than projected.
Of course, another way the plan is helping reduce the deficit is that there are significant tax increases built into the bill. The bill imposes an additional 3.8% Medicare tax. The bill also adds a 3.8% tax on interest and dividends for certain taxpayers. Ouch!
The question is whether the voters will forget about their elected leaders ignoring them when they go to vote in November.
(Email James Thomas at email@example.com)
MONEY NOT THE KEY TO EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT
The Kansas City Missouri School District (KCMSD) school board voted to close 26 schools last week. It is unfortunate that some schools located close to students may be closing. However, this sort of correction has been needed for a long time.
John Covington became the new superintendent of the KCSMD last year. Like all the superintendents, the guy came in with high hopes for success. It looks like he has taken a first important step in trying to right size the district.
There are two numeric problems. The first is that the KCMSD has way too many employees. Covington came from a school district with a similarly sized student population, but his former school district had half as many employees as the KCMSD. Also, the student population of the KCMSD has been on a steady decline so that the district has far more building space than it needs.
The KCMSD also has performance problems. The district has failed to educate its children and lost its accreditation.
Revenue was a problem for the KCMSD for many years. In the 60s and 70s the KCMSD made multiple attempts to raise school taxes. The voters repeatedly rejected these tax increases. (This is something that is hard to imagine for those who live in the Platte County R-3 and Park Hill districts who may have never seen a school tax levy increase defeated.) As a result of being unable to get the voters to increase taxes, a group of parents resigned from the school board and filed a lawsuit seeking a court -imposed tax increase.
The theory was that a wheel barrel of money would fix all the performance problems of the KCMSD. It didn't. The KCMSD spent over $2 billion over 12 years, which was more spending per pupil on a cost of living adjusted basis than any other of the 280 largest school districts in the country. What does the KCMSD have to show for it: lower test scores and higher dropout rates. This result clearly rejects that spending more money is the answer to improving education.
There was something else insulting about the whole KCMSD desegregation case. One key proposition was that test scores of inner city black students would improve if they were in the same classroom with middle class whites. I know that a desegregation/integration element was necessary for the court to have authority to order the taxpayers to pay more money to the KCMSD, but if I was an inner city minority I would be outraged if someone who claims they are trying to help me says I need a middle class white to make me perform better.
The KCMSD disaster has proven one thing. Money is not the key to educational achievement. This is not unique to KCMSD, but in no other district has such mind-boggling amounts of money been spent.
Covington needs to be given a chance to succeed. Many reform-minded KCMSD superintendents run in to resistance from community activists because the school payrolls are a major source of employment in the inner city. (E.g., Emmanuel Cleaver's church includes more than 200 educators.) These inner city advocates tend to fight any attempts to fire any non-performing educators. This makes it difficult for a superintendent to eliminate non-performing teachers. And, if you don't get rid of non-performing teachers, you will never be able to improve the students' performance.
The success of Covington is critical to the next generation of students in the KCMSD. Education is the best ticket out of poverty and to a better future. We have already spent $2 billion and given a whole generation of students next to nothing to show for it. For the sake of the next generation of students, Covington needs to be allowed to continue with policies to make the KCMSD more successful and improve the quality of education for its students. Closing unneeded schools was a first step.
(Email James at firstname.lastname@example.org)
IN LOCAL POLITICS, ONE VOLUNTEER CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE
People are angry. (A poll by Rasmussen Reports shows that 75% of likely voters are at least somewhat angry at the government's current policies.) Some of these voters want to become part of the solution by becoming involved in the political process. However, they are not sure how to do that.
One way to be involved in politics is to take an active role in a political party and/or a campaign. The Party needs three things: (1) money, (2) ideas and (3) hard work. I encourage people to incorporate all three of these things in their involvement in the Party.
Some people are upset about money in politics, but it is critical. Campaigns are run primarily by volunteers, but larger-scale campaigns (e.g., state-wide and Congressional campaigns) cannot be run entirely by volunteers. Some paid staff is needed to run day to day operations and to coordinate volunteers. Smaller-scale (e.g., county-level or state representative-level) campaigns are usually run without any paid staff. However, substantial amounts of money are needed for printing, postage and advertising.
The money someone brings to the Party does not have to be their own. For example, Barbara Cooke, the matriarch of the Platte County Republican Party, does not write large checks to the Party. However, she usually raises more money than anyone through selling tickets to others. But, if someone wants to be an elected member of the local legal body that makes up the Republican Party (i.e., the Platte County Republican Central Committee (“PCRCC”), the person needs to contribute a minimum of $100 to the local Party. In addition, PCRCC members should plan to commit $1,000 to $5,000 or more per election cycle to contribute to individual candidates.
Ideas are critical to the future of the Party. However, we are not talking about philosophical ideas. The ideas that are needed by the Party are creative fundraising ideas and the next great idea on ways to connect with voters. These ideas are critical to keeping the Party moving forward.
Most importantly, hard work is needed. All campaigns, even state-wide and federal campaigns where millions of dollars are spent, are heavily reliant on volunteers. These volunteers make phone calls, go door to door, put up signs, address and stuff envelopes and many other tasks that are essential to getting the candidates' messages out to the voters. In addition to performing these sorts of tasks to support candidates, volunteers also are needed to do similar tasks for the Party.
You don't have to be a member of the PCRCC to do these things. In fact, the PCRCC needs 10 or 20 times as many volunteers as there are actual members of the committee to do the work that needs doing. One way to become involved is to come to a monthly meeting of the PCRCC and let it be known that you want to volunteer. (The PCRCC meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of the month at the Platte County Administration Building.) A second option is to volunteer to help a candidate.
If you really want to work on a “big” campaign, I'm sure Roy Blunt and Sam Graves' campaigns would welcome your help. I strongly encourage you to spend at least a little of your volunteer time on each of these campaigns because they are so important. However, I would especially encourage you to volunteer for a county or a state representative candidate. These campaigns can be a lot of fun. Also, when you volunteer for these local campaigns, you usually have regular contact with the candidate and get to play a very significant role in helping the candidate get elected. One volunteer can make a huge difference in these local races. There is plenty of work for everyone. So, if you are one of the 75% of Americans who are angry, become part of the solution.
(Email James, head of the Sixth District Republicans, at email@example.com)
REPUBLICANS WERE WINNERS AT THE HEALTH SUMMIT
Last week's health care summit was nothing but a political stunt. The summit was not about coming to a consensus. Reports posted on the Los Angeles Times website by the end of the day of the summit stated “Democrats appear committed to moving forward with their plan without any Republican support . . . .” A headline from The Washington Examiner declared “"After summit flop, Democrats prepare to go it alone on Obamacare.”
The only reason that the summit was called was to address a public relations problem of the Democrats. Polls showed the voters were very unhappy that Democrats were trying to ram through a 2,700 page piece of legislation that had the input of only a few insiders. A montage of quotes from Barrack Obama himself on the campaign trail saying that the discussion about health care would be done in an open forum on CSPAN was extremely damaging. When Obama locked CSPAN out of meetings he destroyed his credibility. It doesn't take a genius political consultant to see that this was going to be a huge problem for the Democrats. So, Obama tries to fix the problem by giving the appearance of being open and transparent by holding a summit. I don't see the voters being fooled by this gambit.
There are some problems with the health care industry. There are some improvements that are worthy of discussion. However, the Democrat plan is not really about making those improvements. The Democrat plan is about controlling more and more of our personal lives and making us more and more dependent on government.
The Democrat proposal does not fix the problems that they say they are trying to fix. First, Democrats claim that there are millions of uninsured and that reform is needed to give these people insurance coverage. Well, the Democrat proposal leaves millions un-insured.
Second, the Democrats say that we need to control the costs of health care. The Democrats claim that their plan will actually save money. Any such claims are disingenuous actually to the point of being ridiculous. The Democrats are going to give more people health care and spend less than we are spending now? There are only two ways that this can happen. Either the doctors need to be paid less for what they do or there needs to be less health care provided to people (or a combination of the two). Of course, the Democrats are not really the one's paying for this. This “free” health care is being provided through the generosity of hard working, taxpaying Americans who will actually pay the bill.
The funding mechanism for this is also interesting. One funding source is to impose additional taxes on the health care plans of hard working Americans. Now wait a minute. Isn't one of the basic concerns with “health care” really the ever increasing cost of health insurance premiums? Won't new taxes on these premiums have the effect of further increasing the cost of our insurance premiums? Of course, no one said the Democrats' plan actually makes any sense. A second source of funding is to impose new taxes on interest and dividends. Right now interest and dividends are subject to income tax like all other income, but not the Social Security and Medicare taxes that wages are subject to. A modified version of the Medicare tax would be applied to interest and dividends. Not good for retired folks who are living off their savings today.
At this point, it appears the Republicans were the victors of the summit. A columnist from The Atlantic, who supports the Democrats’ plan, concluded that "the Republicans did not come across as the party of no. They looked well-informed, pragmatic and engaged in the discussion. It was the Democrats who leaned more heavily on talking points, and seemed evasive and unspecific." Maybe this modest victory can help avoid government takeover of our health care.
(Reach James Thomas, chair of Sixth District Republicans, at firstname.lastname@example.org)
INCOMPETENCE IN THE MANAGEMENT OF PUBLIC MONEY
Voters are angry with government policies. (Last week I noted that a poll by Rasmussen Reports shows that 75% of likely voters are at least somewhat angry at the government's current policies.) A lot of that anger is directed at Washington. There are plenty of reasons to be angry with Washington policies. However, there are plenty of reasons to be angry with local government as well.
A key example is the Bi-State Tax/Union Station fiasco. In 1996 voters in Jackson, Platte and Clay Counties in Missouri and Johnson County, Kansas approved a historic bi-state sales tax to fund the restoration of Union Station. (The voters in Wyandotte County were smart enough to not join in this boondoggle.)
The restoration was a $236 million project. To put that in perspective, that is about five times what the City of Kansas City spends on capital improvements in a given year or about one-fourth of Kansas City's annual operating budget.
I personally did not support the Bi-State Tax. In fact, I was angry at our county commissioners at the time for even putting it on the ballot. However, the Union Station advocates did make an appealing argument that Union Station was a historic structure worthy of saving. Also, the supporters of the project had a reason to believe the historic building would not again be allowed to fall into disrepair because the Bi-State package included a $40 million endowment that was intended to permanently keep the facility in good repair.
Union Station re-opened in 1999. So where are we 10 years later? Union Station is floundering! The operation has lost money for nine of its post-renovation ten years. The operators have blown through the $40 million endowment and borrowed more money to stay afloat. Now there is talk of a new tax in order to enable Union Station to stay open.
I hate to say I told you so, but “I told you so!” (Readers who like my column can probably make the same claim.)
This is just one blatant example of recurring incompetence in the management of public money. Government is entrusted with a responsibility to do something. They blow it. So government comes to us wanting more money. The taxpayers give it to them because it is for a good cause. The government blows it again! Guess what? The government will come looking for more money. As taxpayers, we must say “No!”
There are numerous worthy causes. I will grant that Union Station is a cool old building of historic significance. But what happens when the taxpayers give money to fix government mismanagement? The government takes the money and wastes it probably laughing at the taxpayers the whole time.
The cycle has to stop! Just like an irresponsible family member who may need to be shown “tough love” and forced to stand on his or her own two feet, our government is the same way. Taxpayers need to say “No” and tell government it must be smarter with OUR money. Many politicians seem to think that when economic circumstances mean less revenue for the government that they should ask us to pay more taxes. Politicians need to appreciate the reality that if economic circumstances mean less money for the government, the same is probably true for the taxpayers. If we have less money coming in, we have to spend less. The government must do the same and cut spending.
No. You don't have to look to Washington to be angry about government policies. There is plenty to be angry about at City Hall or the County Courthouse. Just remember this. The leaders of our government are elected by us. If they are not being smart with our money, we need to replace them. However, that means we have to be involved, which means staying informed, supporting fiscally conservative candidates and in the case of the truly dedicated among us becoming candidates.
(Email James at email@example.com)
PEOPLE ARE NOW OVERWHELMINGLY ANGRY WITH GOVERNMENT POLICIES
Finally! People are overwhelmingly angry with the government's policies.
A poll by Rasmussen Reports shows that 75% of likely voters are at least somewhat angry at the government's current policies. What is even more telling is that 45% describe themselves as “very angry.” Only 11% say they are not very angry. Eight percent say they are not angry at all.
Not surprisingly 89% of Republicans are angry with the government's current policies. A whopping 78% of independent voters are angry. What is somewhat surprising is that 61% of Democrats are angry even though Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress.
The most dramatic difference is between what Rasmussen calls “Mainstream” voters and the “Political Class.” (Rasmussen's label of “Mainstream” should not be confused with the liberals in Johnson and Jackson Counties who call themselves the Mainstream Coalition.) Of the “normal people” that fall under Rasmussen's “Mainstream” label, 88% are angry. On the other hand 84% of Rasmussen's “Political Class” are not angry. This difference can mostly be explained by the two class' perception of the country's political leaders. Sixty-eight percent of Mainstream voters do not believe the leaders of either major political party have a good handle on what is needed today. Sixty-one percent of the Political Class disagree.
The most angry income bracket is $60,000 to $100,000. This is a good sign. Maybe these folks have finally figured out that they will bear the brunt of bad government policies. It is true that folks above $100K in annual income are subject to a lot more taxes than those in the $60K to $100K bracket. However, since there are only so many higher income taxpayers, the heaviest burden will eventually have to be borne by those in the $60K to $100K income bracket who make up such a large majority of American taxpayers.
As an active participant in the Republican Party, I share the anger of the overwhelming majority of Americans. I have met with many “angry” people and listened to their complaints. I generally agree with them except for the 35% of voters who believe the Democrats and Republicans are so much alike that an entirely new political party is needed. Someone who thinks that has not done his research. There are HUGE differences between Democrats and Republicans. We have some Republican leaders who have not been true to our Party's principles. However, a new party is not the answer. We just need to replace those “confused” Republicans and hold their replacements accountable to the stated principles of the Party. A group of my conservative friends and I have worked to replace “confused” Republicans in the past and will do it again. My friends and I have done this despite the significant personal sacrifices involved because conservative values are essential to our country's future success.
The current anger will have little effect unless it is converted to productive work for change. I recently had lunch with two women who claim to be leaders of dozens of people who are angry with our government's policies. I have reached out to them and their followers in an effort to give them productive work to do. I am hopeful they will join the fight to strengthen the Republican Party and cause it and its candidates to be a solution to the current bad government policies.
There is an important point to understand. We can have little impact on a national basis until we have an effective local organization. Locally is where a lot of the work needs to be done. What we need are more conservatives working to advance conservative government policies.
If you are one of the 75% of voters that are angry, you have a unique opportunity. If you are angry and want to save America from these destructive government policies, contact me. I'll help you find a way for you to be part of the solution.
(James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
OBAMA FAILS AT PLAYING ROLE OF 'DEFICIT HAWK'
“Tax and Spend” Obama is trying to make himself out to be a “deficit hawk,” but the people aren't buying it. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama proposed a three-year freeze on discretionary government spending, but only 9% of voters think the freeze would reduce the deficit a lot.
You can't blame Obama for trying to create a new image for himself. The Massachusetts voters just handed him a stunning defeat by electing a Republican Senator to replace Ted Kennedy. In doing so, the exit polls indicated that the voters were more upset about government spending and government deficits than they were about the proposed government takeover of health care (and they weren't happy about that either). Obviously Obama needs to create a new image for himself or the Democrat-dominated Congress or his party will be in for a shellacking in November.
The supposed “freeze” was actually pretty silly. The freeze in increased spending applied to less than 15% of the budget. The “freeze” was also proposed contemporaneously with a $3.8 trillion budget that included a record $1.6 trillion deficit. This would be more than a 13% increase in the current national debt.
The public appears to have seen through Obama's disingenuous claims that he is trying to reduce the deficit. Polling by Rasmussen Reports indicates that Obama was only able to convince 9% of those polled that his “freeze” would reduce the deficit a lot. A whopping 81% disagree with these “Obama Kool-aid drinkers,” including 42% who say that Obama's freeze will have no impact on the deficit.
The solution is simple. The government has got to stop spending money more money than it takes in. Fifty-seven percent of those polled by Rasmussen Reports would like to see the government cut spending. Only 12% believe the government should increase spending.
When are the dummies in Washington ever going to figure out that the federal government cannot continuously spend money it doesn't have?!?
Government bodies need a way to incur debt. Some projects have a useful life greater than the current budget year so it makes sense to borrow money for those projects and pay for them over time. Also, government needs the ability to borrow money in a time of war or other crises. However, government cannot operate in a manner that spends more than it takes in with no plan for repaying its debt. This type of out-of-control spending can last for a little while, but eventually it will collapse on itself.
I admit that in 2002, I spent more money than my annual income. I built a new house that year. I did not have enough cash to pay for that house. So, I borrowed the extra money I needed to pay for the house. However, when I borrowed that money, I did so with a plan for repayment over time.
There are two differences between what I did in 2002 and what the government is doing every year with its budget. First, my “over spending” in 2002 was limited to one year. The government is overspending year after year after year. Second, I borrowed the extra money with a timeline for repayment. The government borrows money with no real plan for repaying the principal.
The overspending has to stop. The government cannot take in $2.2 trillion and then spend 75% more than it takes in. Cutting spending would not be easy. However, it must be done. Otherwise, the interest expense on the national debt will be more than we can bear. Without adding another cent of debt, a 1% increase in the interest rate the government pays will cost $120 billion. The American people understand this problem. And that is why Obama is trying to create a deficit hawk image. Fortunately, the voters don't appear to be falling for it.
(Reach James Thomas at email@example.com)
IN-DEPTH LOOK REVEALS PROBLEMS WITH A 'FAIR TAX'
I'm sure you have heard of the “Fair Tax.” The idea is to replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax.
There has been a new development with respect to the Fair Tax. Local advocates for the Fair Tax have been encouraging the adoption of the Fair Tax on a state level by replacing Missouri's current income tax with a much larger sales tax.
Fair Tax advocates have had limited success pushing their agenda forward on a national basis. So, you might think that the proposal “doesn't have legs” on a Missouri-only basis. However, the Fair Tax actually sailed through the Missouri House last year before dying a legislative death in the Missouri Senate. The Missouri Fair Tax is back before the General Assembly again this year. There was a hearing on the proposal in the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee last week.
As someone who doesn't like paying income tax, the elimination of Missouri's income tax initially sounds like a good idea. However, a more in depth consideration identifies many problems with Missouri replacing its current income tax system with its own version of the Fair Tax.
The concept currently being proposed is to eliminate the over 100 exemptions from sales tax. Some of these exemptions are very narrow and could be eliminated without most people feeling any impact. However, eliminating certain exemptions would have a tremendous impact. The most notable exemption that people would feel is the elimination of the exemption on services. So, when you are ill, your doctor's bill or hospital bill would be subject to sales tax.
The extremely practical problem is that the Missouri Fair Tax could cause many citizens to cross state lines for their purchases. Missouri's sales tax rate could jump as high as double or triple the sales tax rate in the surrounding states. A much higher sales tax rate in Missouri will motivate consumers to travel to neighboring states for making many purchases. This will drive down Missouri's revenue base. (I realize there is the Missouri Use Tax to try to offset this revenue loss, but few consumers actually file and report their Use Tax obligations.) With 70% of Missouri residents living near the border, the temptation of lower taxes across a nearby state line would likely lead to a different sort of Quantril's Raid.
Another concern with the Fair Tax is that it is regressive. Although all taxpayers would pay the same rate of tax on their respective purchases, the grocery bill and cost of other basic necessities of higher income individuals is much less of a percentage of the spending of higher income individuals than the percentage of the spending of low and middle income individuals. Thus, the Fair Tax creates a greater tax burden on low and middle income individuals than the current system where low and middle income individuals may pay little or no taxes. To compensate for this regressiveness, a rebate has been proposed. However there are numerous difficulties in identifying the taxpayers eligible for this rebate and actually making the distribution of this rebate.
One key argument in favor of the Fair Tax is it will dramatically simplify the tax system. That statement is not true if the Fair Tax is adopted on a Missouri only basis. For the most part, Missouri income taxation “piggybacks” off the federal income tax system. The federal income tax system would remain in place. So, there would be no real simplification of the tax system.
Some changes to Missouri's tax system may be appropriate. However, there have not yet been enough studies to predict the impact of the Missouri Fair Tax on Missouri's revenue stream and taxpayers' behavior. At least one legislator I have spoken with has the right attitude. He said that it is not the time to be tinkering with Missouri's tax structure when faced with the current budget crisis.
(Email James at firstname.lastname@example.org)
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES IN POLITICS
Wow! What a difference a year makes.
In January of 2009 Obama had an approval rating of 62% and an Approval Index of 23%. (Rasmussen Reports describes the Approval Index as the percentage who strongly approve, which in January of 2009 was 43%, minus the percentage who strongly disapprove, which in January of 2009 was 20%.) By the end of 2009, Obama's approval rating had dropped to 46% and his Approval Index was down to NEGATIVE 15% (26% minus 41%).
This 38 point swing is before any updated approval ratings after the Scott Brown victory in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts. The Brown victory is shocking in many ways. First of all, we are talking about “dark blue” Massachusetts. This is a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 37% to 12%. More significantly, until last week, no member of Massachusetts' Congressional delegation was a Republican and no Republican had been elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts since 1972.
This also did not start out as a close race. In November, Brown trailed Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley by 31%. Just three weeks ago, Brown trailed Coakley by 17%. However, Brown went on to win by 5%. That is a 36 point swing in just over two months.
I do not dismiss the old adage that “all politics is local.”Coakley certainly made miscues that shrank her huge lead. She criticized Brown's old pickup truck. This would obviously hurt you in Missouri, but apparently also hurts you in Massachusetts. She also angered Boston Red Sox fans by referring to Curt Schilling as “another Yankee fan.”That would be just as devastating to a campaign as calling George Brett “another Yankee fan.”
However, notwithstanding these local elements, the national issues still had a significant impact on this race. Although exiting polling indicates that the economy and the deficit were bigger issues to Massachusetts voters, the impact of the national health care debate cannot be ignored. Voters are outraged over Obama's efforts to socialize health care. Polling from last week indicates that 61% of voters nationwide want Congress to drop the health care plan and focus on the economy and jobs. The fervor of opposition is also high: 18% strongly favor Obamacare while 50% strongly oppose it.
The anger at Obama and the Democrats is translating to other races. In the generic Congressional Ballot, Republicans lead Democrats 45% to 37%. This is a 15 point swing from a year ago when Democrats lead Republicans 42% to 35%.
The backlash will likely impact more U.S. Senate races. Brown's election cost the Democrats their filibuster-proof 60th vote. Recent polling indicates that if the election were held today, the Democrats' 59-41 advantage could drop to 52-48. The experts believe it is unlikely for Republicans to pick up seven to nine seats, but they still anticipate that Republicans will gain three to five seats.
The reverberations from Scott Brown and the anti-Obamacare/anti-socialism message can also be seen in Missouri. The latest Rasmussen poll has Roy Blunt ahead of Robin Carnahan 49% to 43% in the U.S. Senate race. This is a significant improvement for Blunt from trailing 44% to 46% in December and being tied at 46% in September. The race is still listed as a “toss-up” by political analysts, but it is certainly better to have a 6% lead in the polls in a toss-up race than trailing by 2% in a toss-up race. With the elections still over nine months away, a lot can happen, but it will be interesting to watch.
There is another important lesson from the 36 point swing in the Brown-Coakley race over two months. I normally don't want to bother running candidates in races as “token” candidates when they appear to have little prospect of winning. However, Brown-Coakley shows it is important to field candidates in even long-shot races just in case the political winds change.
(Email James Thomas, chair of Sixth District Republicans, at email@example.com)
PLACE NO DOLLAR RESTRICTIONS ON CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS
I always get a chuckle when politicians talk about ethics reform. That isn't really fair. I personally know dozens of holders of elected office who are dedicated public servants that are focused on serving their constituents to the best of their abilities. However, there are enough morally bankrupt, self-centered egomaniacs in elected office to taint the reputations of those faithful servants. The old adage is true: It only takes one rotten apple to spoil the whole barrel.
The press has been screaming about the need for reform. They often express outrage at Republicans, particularly former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton. There are valid reasons to express outrage over Jetton's conduct. However, he has not yet been charged with any misconduct in connection with his elected duties. The same cannot be said of the Democrats. In the last twelve months, three Democrat legislators in Missouri have been indicted and forced to leave their elected positions.
Republicans and Democrats alike have proposed various reforms. some of these reforms have merit. Two such reforms are prohibiting legislators from employing other legislators as campaign consultants and making legislators wait for a period of time after leaving office before becoming lobbyists.
A legislator working as a political consultant for other legislators is not necessarily inappropriate. I am aware of one state representative that worked as a political consultant without even a hint of political corruption. His political consulting had no impact on his service in the legislature. However, in other circumstances, there is a sense that political consulting payments have been used to buy votes or control what issues are brought before the legislature to be voted on. To avoid even the possibility of this occurring, a prohibition on a legislator working as a political consultant for another legislator seems reasonable.
It also seems reasonable to impose a restriction on a former legislator turning into a lobbyist immediately after leaving office. Going from legislator to lobbyist is a natural progression for many hard working and honest public servants. After a legislator spends several years working in the General Assembly it makes sense for that legislator to use his contacts and relationships in a career after his or her public service. However, there is a great deal of risk of a “political payoff” if a legislator can push through some legislation, leave office and immediately start getting a paycheck from some entity that the legislator helped while in the legislature. So, some restrictions in this area would be appropriate.
I am adamantly opposed to two reforms that have been discussed. I am opposed to imposing campaign contribution limits and limiting campaign contributions from political committees.
Re-instating campaign contribution limits has one key benefit. I have joked with my “adopted” state representative (Jason Brown) that I miss campaign contribution limits because I liked the ability to write a maximum contribution check and tell candidates that I can't give any more due to limits. However, there should be no dollar limits on political campaign contributions. Political campaign contributions are a form of political speech. Free speech is an essential aspect of our Constitution and our democracy. There should be full disclosure, but no dollar amount restrictions on political contributions because such restrictions impair our free speech rights.
No restrictions should be imposed on contributions to or from political committees. The whole point of organizing as a political party committee is to help elect candidates. One thing political parties do to help elect candidates is to give money to the candidates they are trying to elect. It is not appropriate to restrict these contributions. To do so would undermine the very reason for the existence of political party committees.
(Reach an unrestricted James Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org)
THERE'S NO GREAT BENEFIT TO LIVING WITHIN KANSAS CITY
A plethora of petitions are being circulated to put various issues on the ballot in 2010. One of those is a petition to eliminate the 1% earnings tax in Kansas City and St. Louis.
The earnings tax has long been an impediment to doing business in Kansas City. Businesses located in Kansas City must deduct 1% from the earnings of their workers. This is enough to make some businesses and some employees prefer to be outside the City of Kansas City.
When I was a first year lawyer, I went to work at one of the big Kansas City law firms. We had a downtown office and a Johnson County office. A few associates started out in the Johnson County office instead of the downtown office. The associates in the Johnson County effectively made $1,500 per year more than the downtown associates. First, they didn't have to pay $80 per month for parking. Second, they didn't have to pay the over $500 of Kansas City earnings tax. The Johnson County associates really had an advantage. This advantage was more than a net compensation difference. They also had the added benefit of a five or ten minutes commute to work that did not involve the painful drive to and from downtown in heavy traffic.
The earnings tax is certainly one factor in businesses moving from Kansas City to Johnson County. A bigger factor is probably that business owners left Kansas City to escape the Kansas City Missouri School District, but the earnings tax was certainly a factor as well. Also, once the business owners had left Kansas City, the natural next step was to relocate their businesses closer to their homes.
If you work outside the city limits of Kansas City, but live in Kansas City, you also have to pay the earnings tax; however, your employer probably won't deduct the tax for you. So, you need to plan ahead and put this money aside for paying the tax when it is due. It might be worthwhile to pay extra taxes if Kansas City was a great city that it was worth paying extra money to live in. However, all you have to do is look at Kansas City's response to this latest snow storm to know that there is no great benefit to living in Kansas City.
I have a friend who lives in the “lawyer's ghetto,” which is what I call the area from State Line to Brookside and the Plaza to 75th Street because it seems that every other house has a lawyer who lives there. This friend sent me a picture where the photographer is standing in the street that is still deep with snow and slush. The photographer is looking west into Kansas where you can see State Line Road as clear and dry payment. You might suspect that because State Line Road is a major roadway. However, when you look farther to the west into Leawood you see the extension of the street into Kansas is also clear and dry pavement.
The city council recently adopted a resolution by a 12-1 vote opposing the petition drive. (Mayor Funkhouser was the lone “no” vote on the resolution in opposition.) The council and the staff have made statements like the elimination of the earnings tax would make the city “unlivable” and “budgeting and planning . . . impossible.”
I don't disagree that eliminating such a large portion of the general fund would require alternative revenue sources. One of those sources would be new businesses and residents who no longer located elsewhere to avoid the earnings tax. However, this would not likely replace all of the lost revenue. So, some spending cuts and reallocation of resources, which are needed any way, and some alternative revenue sources would be needed. This petition drive may not make the ballot, but it will be interesting if it does.
(Petition James Thomas via email to email@example.com)
THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE WILL CHANGE IN 2010
As 2010 begins it is hard to say what might happen politically this year. But with all the retirements and term limits, there will be change in 2010.
Kit Bond's announcement that he will not seek a fifth term in 2010 has guaranteed that Missouri will elect someone new as U.S. Senator in 2010. Will Missouri have two Democrats as U.S. Senators for the first time in over 34 years? Since Jack Danforth was elected as a U.S. Senator in 1976, Missouri has had at least one Republican Senator. In fact, Missouri had two Republican Senators for 20 of the last 24 years.
Missouri is again poised to have the most significant U.S. Senate race in the country. Missouri will likely decide whether the Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority. Congressman Roy Blunt is in for a tough fight with Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. If the election were really about ideas, Blunt would crush Carnahan. Blunt, despite a few hiccups, has a solid conservative record that should appeal to Missouri's conservative leaning voters. Carnahan is a liberal. However, so far Carnahan has done a good job of hiding many of her ideological positions. I suspect she will take a page from the McCaskill playbook and try to position herself as a conservative Democrat. Like McCaskill, she is not a conservative even by Democrat standards, but McCaskill's handlers did a nice job of packaging McCaskill and hiding her real positions. I suspect Carnahan's handlers will do the same. This should make for a close race regardless of who ultimately wins.
Term limits will create shakeups in the Missouri General Assembly as well. This will be especially felt in Platte County where State Senator Charlie Shields and State Representative Jason Brown are prevented from seeking re-election in 2010 due to term limits.
Shields was the first Republican ever to hold the state senate seat that includes Platte County. (If there ever was a Republican that represented Platte County in the state senate it would have been many years ago.) There was hope that not only would Platte County continue to have a Republican Senator, but it would actually have a Platte Countian as a state senator. (I was not aware that Platte County ever had a state senator from Platte County, but apparently there was a Platte Countian who served in the state senate in the 1920s.) However, since Jason Brown has dropped out of the state senate race, it will be even more difficult for the state senator to come from Platte County.
Platte Countian Rob Willard, a former assistant county prosecutor, has thrown his hat in the ring for the State Senate race. Willard is an excellent speaker with a great political mind, but he will have to survive a primary against State Representative Rob Schaaf before taking on the Democrat in November. Willard will be an excellent candidate, but defeating a sitting state representative in the primary election and then another one in the general election will be tough.
There will also be a shakeup at the county-level. Betty Knight's decision to retire instead of seeking a fifth term as Platte County Presiding Commissioner has guaranteed that we will have a new presiding commissioner a year from now. Jason Brown has dropped out of the state senate race to pursue the presiding commissioner seat. Brown's service in Iraq and as a state representative along with the campaign war chest that he has been accumulating over the last year should make him a formidable candidate. If the Democrats want to hold the presiding commissioner seat for the first time since 1994, they will have a lot of work to do.
It is a long time until the November elections. A lot can happen between now and then. However, one thing is for certain, there will be changes in the political landscape in 2010.
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
REPUBLICANS IN DIRE NEED OF CREDIBLE MESSENGERS
As 2009 comes to a close, we have a chance to gaze into the coming new year and consider what might happen politically in 2010.
The mid-term elections are just over ten months away. Of course, in politics, ten months is like a lifetime so any attempt to actually predict the political future is difficult. However, I will give it a try anyway.
On the night of the 1992 elections my wife predicted that the Republicans would make a great comeback in 1994. In fact, she even made “The Republicans Will Win in 1994!” her screen saver on her home computer. She was right. Bill Clinton got off to an unpopular start. Although Clinton had promised a middle class tax cut on the campaign trail, between Election Night 1992 and taking the oath of office in January of 2003, Clinton abandoned the middle class tax cut and replaced it with a massive tax increase. Under his wife's direction, Clinton also tried to take over America's health care system. The citizens were outraged and the Republicans took control of Congress for the first time in over fifty years.
Some similar trends are appearing in the first year of the Obama Administration. He is on verge of taking over (and eventually destroying) our health care system. He is threatening massive tax increases. Some of these are open and blatant. Other tax increases are hidden in the health care legislation and other legislation such as the climate control legislation.
Notwithstanding these events in Obama's first year in office, I don't have the same vibe that I had in 1993. I think the reason is that the Republican Party as an institution has tarnished its credibility by failing to drive its stated agenda of less government forward during when it controlled Congress from 1995 to 2006.
Some of this “vibe,” is antidotal. For example, I was at a social gathering on Saturday night where one of the guests was ranting about the failures of the Republican Party to deliver on its promises. I couldn't disagree with him. He was right.
However, part of this “vibe” is based upon polling data. Notwithstanding that the Republicans are leading Democrats on the generic Congressional ballot, Rasmussen decided to have a little fun. Rasmussen did a poll based upon the assumption that the Tea Party was its only political party. In this poll, generic Tea Party and Republican candidates collectively had a five point advantage over the Democrat. However, the actual breakdown in the general Congressional ballot poll was 36% Democrat, 23% Tea Party, 18% Republican and 22% Unsure. Among unaffiliated voters, 33% favored the Tea Party while 30% were undecided, 25% preferred a Democrat and 12% preferred a Republican.
Republicans did not do well with Republicans: 39% favored a GOP candidate, but 33% supported the Tea Party option. This should not be a surprise. Other Rasmussen polling shows that 73% of Republican voters believe the GOP leaders in Washington are out of touch with the party base. Once again, I can't disagree.
I have written and talked about this for over a year. The Republican Party has the right message: Conservative principles of less spending, lower taxes and less government regulation. Polling shows these are what a majority of Americans want. However, the Republican Party has a problem. It seems to be having trouble finding a credible messenger to carry this message.
One only has to look at Missouri's U.S. Senate race to see this problem. In a recent poll where the generic Republican vs. Democrat candidate polled 5% in favor of the Republican, Roy Blunt (R) and Robin Carnahan (D) were in a tie. A more recent poll showed Carnahan as a two point favorite. This is still within the margin of error and it is a LONG time until the election, but it does not yet look like Republicans will “partying like its 1994” in 2010.
(Email The Right Stuff, by Sixth District GOP chairman James Thomas, at email@example.com)
MAKE CHARITABLE GIVING PART OF YOUR 2010 BUDGET
A few days ago I realized a second disadvantage of Russ Purvis admitting that the Democrat Party has become too fiscally liberal for him.
The first disadvantage, of course, is that I no longer have someone of the opposite political party that I am good enough friends with to be able to have entertaining discussions about issues and policies. The hard part is finding someone that you disagree with, but that you respect personally and politically enough to discuss some difficult issues without either of you taking it personally. Russ and I can still enjoy these discussions, but according to his own words, he is not a Democrat anymore, so it is not quite the same.
The second disadvantage that I realized is that Purvis and I missed the opportunity to plan a second annual food drive for Hillcrest Transitional Housing. I love the approach of Hillcrest. It helps homeless people get back on their feet by providing them food and shelter. However, Hillcrest provides something so much greater than a hot meal and a warm bed. Hillcrest helps people learn to budget and manage their finances so that they will not continue to need a helping hand. Hillcrest also requires people to work or be looking for work so they can take care of themselves in the future.
Christmas is a time when many people think about giving to others. It is a natural thing to do. When considering God's gift to us on Christmas Day, many are so filled with appreciation for this gift that they strongly desire to do nice things for other people.
Since the celebration of Christmas falls within one week of the end of the calendar year, it actually serves as a great time to think about what you want to do for others. You can look back to the many blessings you have received during the year. You can evaluate the resources you have available from your year of hard work and consider how much you can give to help others. A lot of charitable giving occurs during the month of December.
However, having Christmas within one week of the end of the calendar year means that Christmas is just one week before the beginning of the new year. This calendar position provides not only a chance for a backwards looking glance, but also a wonderful forward looking opportunity. While you are feeling the “Christmas spirit,” which may or not be religiously motivated, you can evaluate your family's budget for the upcoming year and decide how many resources that you plan to set aside for charitable purposes for the next year.
Over the next week, try to take a few minutes to do that kind of planning. Think about what part of your family's budget that you want to set aside for charitable purposes. Start small if you need to. However, make whatever commitment you choose the first dollars in your budget. You may decide that your financial commitment only allows you to commit a few of your first dollars in the next year. If so, think about things you can do to help others. So many people are so busy that they often will write a check, but not find time to do things for others. The personal touch of giving of one's time is often more valuable and meaningful than writing a big check.
I'm embarrassed to say I blew it this year. I should have taken the initiative to reach out to Purvis' successor to arrange another friendly food drive competition for the benefit of Hillcrest that would have ended the night of the Landmark Christmas Party. (I just put it on my 2010 calendar so hopefully I won't forget again.) The great thing about this battle between political parties is that regardless of which political party claims victory, the real winners are those people served by Hillcrest.
(Email James Thomas, chair of the Sixth District Republicans, at firstname.lastname@example.org)
COMPARING TIGER WOODS' TALE TO BILL CLINTON'S
A couple of weeks ago I thought the world was coming to an end. No. It was not because I went to that new movie 2012. (I haven't seen it.) It also was not because we were nearing the end of the church year and the scripture readings were eschatological. No the reason I thought the world might be coming to and end was that I read a Jason Whitlock column and wholeheartedly agreed with him.
I have never been a Whitlock fan. In fact, I generally don't read his columns. However, I stumbled on to a column with an interesting headline (“Tiger's real crime? Not playing the media game”) and read most of the column before I checked the byline and discovered that it was written by Whitlock.
The theme of Whitlock's column is that Woods is really in trouble because he “. . . failed to show the proper amount of deference to the mainstream media.” I don't entirely agree. I think the biggest factor was that the media likes to trash famous people even if the misconduct involved has nothing to do with the person's reason for fame (e.g., being a great golfer). The media-types just love to “throw mud” when they can.
Whitlock had some great comments. He drew a distinction between the tabloid media, who he described as “journalistic strippers shaking their moneymakers,” and the “alleged journalists.” About the latter he said “these hypocrites want a level of transparency from a golfer they don't remotely approach as journalists.” Whitlock identified specific critics and said they “want the man publicly flogged and embarrassed, and they want him to beg the media to fix his p
The column just kept getting better. Whitlock said “I'm sharing this because it's important for the public to know that the media act dishonestly all the time. We're far more phony than Tiger Woods ever could be.” Whitlock gave a specific example of a Tiger critic who didn't bother mentioning that he was being investigated for a party at his home where a 14-year-old girl claims she was assaulted.
Whitlock said “The media are lying to you. They won't tell you their real agenda . . . This is all a bad joke. This whole affair highlights why the mainstream media have lost the public's trust. We don't deserve it. We're controlled by hidden agendas.”
A couple of days later I heard a radio journalist say that Woods “is a bum” for how he treated his wife and kids. I agree. The most important relationship you have in this world is with your spouse. Woods violated that trust. However, where were all these media-types when Bill Clinton was being “serviced” in the Oval Office?
I have noted before that the media employed a perfect strategy with Clinton. They made Clinton's “extracurricular activities” all about sex and then told us it was a personal matter that did not have anything to do with him being President. Clinton's “activities” were certainly inappropriate and violated his marital vows. However, what Clinton did that was “illegal” and that impacted the performance of his duties as President were that he lied under oath. Clinton's breach of faith to his wife evidences his untrustworthiness and his unworthiness to be elected to any public office. However, the reason that Clinton should have been removed from public office is that he committed perjury.
Notwithstanding the perjury part, there is an important difference between the Clinton and Woods situations. Clinton's faith and loyalty to his wife were actually relevant to his worthiness to hold public office. (I have always said that if a person will cheat on his wife, then that person will have no problem cheating the general public.) However, Woods' personal misconduct has no relevance to his ability to smack a golf ball.
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at email@example.com)
WHY TELL THE BAD GUYS WHEN WE PLAN TO LEAVE?
President Obama's speech last Tuesday night regarding how he proposed to handle Afghanistan probably hurt him in at least one popularity poll--his children.
For several weeks now, ABC has been promoting a new Christmas show “Prep and Landing” as the next great family Christmas special right up there with “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Frosty the Snowman.” I don't know if the show will live up to the hype or not, but my kids definitely wanted to see it.
When my wife went to set the DVR to record the show because the show's airing was going to conflict with violin lessons, she got a surprise. It was not possible to record the show. In the previously announced time slot for “Prep and Landing” it listed a “Presidential Address.” Needless to say, my kids were disappointed.
I went online and found that “Prep and Landing” was rescheduled for a week after its originally scheduled airing. So, the DVR has been set to record it. (It is again scheduled to conflict with violin lessons.) My column deadline was before the show aired, so I don't have a report on whether the show lived up to the hype.
Although I am merely speculating about the unpopularity of President Obama with his children for disrupting the scheduling of “Prep and Landing,” his Afghanistan speech did not appear to help his popularity with the voters.
Obama's position on Afghanistan is somewhat confusing. On the one hand, he is committing to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. At the same time he is committing to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan within 18 months. It is like Obama is trying to take both sides of the issue. On the one hand, he is saying to those who believe the War on Terror should be fought against the Taliban in Afghanistan that he will send more troops for the fight. On the other hand he is saying to his anti-military base that he is setting a timeline for a withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Polling by Rasmussen shows that 37% support the overall plan while 38% oppose it and 25% are unsure. When polled on the separate components of the plan, 53% of those polled support the plan to send 30,000 additional troops and 47% support the commencement of withdrawal in 18 months.
Truthfully, I would probably have to say I am “unsure” about whether I support or oppose the overall plan. Since the commanders on the ground say they need more troops for the fight against the Taliban and I, along with 83% of those polled by Rasmussen, believe that the situation in Afghanistan is important to U.S. national security, and, along with 67% of those polled by Rasmussen believe that the war in Afghanistan was an appropriate response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I support the plan to send more troops. However, telling your enemy that you are not really serious about winning the conflict by announcing a plan to begin withdrawing troops in 18 months is not something I would support. The Taliban take a long-term view. The conflicts in that region have gone on for centuries. If we tell the bad guys that we plan to leave, they will just wait us out. And, the good people in that country who might stand up to the bad guys will be reluctant to do so because they know we will be leaving soon.
Obama's Presidential Approval Index is now at a negative 12 percent-- Strongly Approve rating of 28% minus Strongly Disapprove rating of 40%. Overall, 46% of polled voters say they somewhat approve of Obama's performance while 54% disapprove. I know they aren't voters, but I would speculate that Obama picked up some additional disapproval numbers with his own children when his speech pre-empted “Prep and Landing.” It didn't matter at my house. My kids never supported him.
(See James at The Landmark Christmas party on Friday or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
THE IMPACT OF PUBLIC SERVICE ON A FAMILY
Well I know at least my mother reads my column. She read my hint about wanting Sarah Palin's new book and gave it to me last week. I am only about a third of the way through the book, but a story about when Palin was running for mayor of Wasilla caught my attention because of a similar experience Sandra had on the campaign trail in 2006.
Palin writes that after a debate during her first run for mayor, “a fellow who was part of our local network of well-meaning good ol' boys” walked up to her and said, “You know, you'll do fine in the campaign, but you're not going to win because you have three strikes against you.”
Palin says she thought, “Okay, I know what he's going to say:”
Strike one: At thirty-two, I was too young. I'd be the youngest mayor in Wasilla's history.
Strike two: I couldn't win because I was a woman. I would be the first woman mayor in Wasilla's history.
And strike three: I knew he'd tell me I didn't have enough experience.
Palin says she looked at the man and waited. He then said “The three strikes against you are Track, Bristol and Willow.”
Palin writes “My kids are strikes? . . . [T]he Mama Bear in me rose up then. For one thing, Stein (her opponent) had four kids. The mayor before that had had a bunch of kids. The only difference was that they had wives.”
Something similar happened when Sandra was visiting a Pachyderm Club in Columbia. When it got to the question and answer part of Sandra's presentation, some grandfatherly old man asked Sandra “How do you expect to be State Auditor when you have small children at home?” (Our girls were six and nine at the time.)
Before Sandra even had a chance to respond, some woman in the crowd challenged the man with “Would you even dare ask one of the four male candidates that question?”Being properly chastised, the question was dropped.
Notwithstanding the absurdity of imposing a different standard on women, I do believe that it is a legitimate consideration to consider the impact that public service may have on a family, especially when the public service involves being in Jeff City for the first five months of the year. I have been accused on more than one occasion of trying to talk candidates out of running for state senator or state rep because of family concerns. This discouragement has not just been limited to women. I have also discouraged men with young children from running due to the impact on their families.
You can be a parent of small kids and run for public office. However, the other parent must pick up the slack at home. I know. I was Mr. Mom for over seven months in 2006. I was not good at part of it (e.g., the girls had to get their hair cut short because I was not good at fixing their hair before school). Parenting duties were a real impediment to my law practice. Sometimes, I was not as supportive of Sandra as I should have been. However, at the end of the day, our family got through it.
Palin makes an appropriate comment about her run for lieutenant governor a few years later. She writes “I did not run an energetic campaign. I had always burned with a purpose, but this time I was stretched so thin that there was just no room for another log on the fire. My energies remained in my full-time job as mayor and in raising my family. There were times when I thought, You know what I could really use? A wife.”
I couldn't agree more. My wife is amazing. I know I don't have what it takes to do her job. And, I have no desire to compete for it.
(Catch him at The Landmark Christmas party or email James at email@example.com)
DUMB ACTIONS IN CALIFORNIA WILL IMPACT THE REST OF US
I am sick of government regulation. The government regulates everything. I hope the government has finally crossed a line that will get people angry enough to stand up and say, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”
The proverbial “straw that broke the camel's back” may be a unanimous vote of the California Energy Commission to require all new televisions to be more energy efficient beginning in 2011. The requirements will get tougher in 2013. And after that, you can only expect it to get worse. (That is what has happened with the air quality standards. Kansas City meets the standards so they just make them tougher.)
A story from The Associated Press on the subject reports that:
“Most-power-hungry TVs will be banned from store shelves in California after state regulators adopted a first-in-the-nation mandate to lower electricity demand. Given how large the California market is, the regulation could end up as a de facto standard.”
The AP goes on to note that only a quarter of all TVs on the market currently meet the 2013 standard.
The only bit of short term good news is that these new standards would only apply to TVs 58 inches and smaller. So, a replacement for my 70 inch TV would not be subject to these standards . . . for now. However, I'm sure that it is only a matter of time before there are new standards for TVs in excess of 58 inches.
Two things are outrageous about this action by the California Energy Commission. The first is that the California Energy Commission is a bunch of un-elected bureaucrats. The five member commission is appointed by the governor of California with the confirmation of the California State Senate. What is also interesting about this commission is that the commission has one member from the public at large but the other four members must come from four areas of expertise: law, environment, economics and science/engineering. Great! California gives us a bunch of “we know better than anyone else” experts who can pass rules that the rest of us have to live with and even Californians can't vote them out of office. (I'm pretty certain that few legislators--even in a liberal nut state like California--would survive a vote to restrict people's TVs.)
Second, these idiots in California will impact the rest of us. With over ten percent of America's population, dumb things in California tend to impact the rest of us because manufacturers do not want to comply with one standard for California and another standard for the rest of the country.
This has simply got to stop. Un-elected bureaucrats should not have the authority to have this kind of impact on any business or industry. A national reform movement is needed to prevent this endless regulation.
So, this Thanksgiving Day, as you sit in your favorite TV watching spot and enjoy a football game while blissfully moaning about eating too much Thanksgiving dinner, remember these crazy unelected bureaucrats who want to impair your post-feast TV viewing pleasure. And, as you head back to work next week, vow to become part of the solution and do something about it.
Personally, I had my last TV for 17 years. I would still have it today, but two years ago the repairman refused to come out and fix a 17 year old TV for the third time in its life. If I can get by for 17 years on this TV, I'll be good until 2024. However, even if I my TV will make it that long, I'm still not happy about all this government regulation and want to fight to remove from office any politicians who give this kind of authority to unelected bureaucrats.
(James Thomas gives you the Right Stuff every week. Email him at )
MCCAIN LOST DESPITE PALIN'S POSITIVE INFLUENCE
Sarah Palin's book will not be released until the middle of this week, but that did not stop the Sunday morning news programs from being full of discussions of the book and its contents.
I don't watch the Sunday morning news shows, but I did read an article on the internet with quotes from some of these shows. David Gregory, a moderator of one of those Sunday morning news programs, commented that Palin's book provides even more evidence that McCain truly went with a wild card in choosing Palin as his running mate. He says, “A lot of [the book] underscores how risky this decision was by John McCain to put her on the ticket. They were going for a big splash, but they also got a lot of headaches with Sarah Palin, and in the end, she proved to be a liability.” It amazes me how foolish these Sunday morning show hosts are.
It is true that Palin was somewhat of a surprise pick. She only had two years of experience as a governor. Of course, this was two more years of experience as a chief executive officer of a state's government than McCain or his opponent in the presidential race. Palin also had not been exposed to the “inside the Beltway” media crowd in her role as governor of Alaska so she was not “one of the special people” they like to interview.
Palin was not “headache free,” but she did not cost McCain the election. In fact, she probably kept McCain's loss from getting worse. The conservative base, which is the heart and soul of the Republican Party whether the “we're smarter than anyone else” crowd wants to admit it or not, were energized by the freshness of Palin. She did make a few blunders. However, I would argue that most of those blunders were caused by how McCain's people handled her.
When Palin first was introduced to America, McCain's people tried to restrict the access of the media to her. I certainly would not have had her go on the big name TV news magazine programs at first. However, I would have had her on every conservative talk radio show in the country for the first couple of weeks. Then, when Palin had at least a little time with more friendly audiences, I would have cautiously allowed her to be interviewed by the “special people” in the media who think they are smarter than the rest of us.
Palin really probably saved McCain from a complete blow out. His campaign was a disaster and had been a disaster for months. In fact his campaign almost imploded even before the primaries really started. When Palin came on the scene, she energized the base to go out and work. In fact, Palin was a bigger draw to campaign rallies than McCain. I'm sure the McCain campaign staff didn't like that.
The McCain campaign did a lot of things wrong. However, if you want to identify the one wrong thing from which McCain just couldn't recover, I would tell you it is when McCain suspended his campaign to come back to Washington to discuss the bailout issue. Suspending his campaign was not the problem. McCain did not have the money to compete on TV so this gave him a break for a few days. However, after suspending his campaign in a dramatic gesture, McCain voted for the bailout any way. That is when he showed himself as someone who just didn't get it. The American people didn't want uncontrolled spending and bailouts of corporate fat cats who made bad business decisions. McCain lost his campaign despite Palin's positive influence.
I won't run out and buy Palin's book, but I wouldn't mind reading it. I know my parents and my wife read my column. My birthday and Christmas are both coming up in less than six weeks. Hint. Hint.
(James Thomas, chair of Sixth District Republicans, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
A CONSERVATIVE REVOLUTION MAY BE COMING
I've said it before and I'll say it again. A revolution is coming, but it may not be a Republican Revolution.
Some exciting things happened for Republicans on Tuesday, Nov. 3. The Republican candidates won the only two races for governor in the country.
A Republican was elected governor of Virginia. Virginia has been a fairly safe Republican state for presidential candidates, but the last two governors have been Democrats. Also, Virginia slipped from the Republican presidential candidate column and gave its electoral votes to Barrack Obama in the last election. Republicans came roaring back in Virginia with a nearly 20 percentage point win in the governor's race.
A Republican was elected governor of New Jersey. New Jersey is a safe Democrat state. The Republicans have only held the governorship of the state for four of the last 20 years. New Jersey so rarely gives its electoral votes to Republicans that Republicans don't typically spend much time there. One newspaper report from last fall claimed that when John McCain opened a campaign office in the state in the 2008 election cycle that he was the first Republican candidate to do so in many years.
Something exciting happened for conservatives in upstate New York. A special election for a Congressional seat became a three-way race. The Republican leadership tapped an ultra-liberal candidate. The grassroots of the Republican Party and conservatives not necessarily associated with the Republican Party said they had enough. A third party candidate was backed by these conservatives. It got so bad that the “Republican” (quotations intentional) candidate dropped out of the race the weekend before the election. As further evidence that the “Republican” candidate was not really a Republican, she endorsed the Democrat when withdrawing. The conservative candidate only got 45% of the vote with the Democrat candidate getting 49% and the withdrawn “Republican” candidate getting 6% of the vote.
Although the conservative lost, this was an incredible showing by a third party candidate. Also, it should be noted that the winning Democrat candidate came out against several of Obama's legislative priorities when campaigning, although he may feel pressure to tow the party line when he shifts from candidate to Congressman.
This leads me back to my whole point. A revolution is coming; however, it may not necessarily be a Republican Revolution. It depends in large part on what kind of candidates are on the Republican ticket.
As I have mentioned before, I have a t-shirt that provides a pretty clear definition of what it means to me to be a Republican. It reads like this:
(ri-peb'-li-ken) n. 1: the Grand Old Party; 2: known for conservative money policy; 3: thinks giving a hand up is better than giving a hand out; 4: the party of Lincoln and Reagan; 5: someone who wants to see more accountability and less government; 6: thinks the USA is the greatest country on earth.
This pretty much sums it up for me. I think it pretty much sums it up for most folks. The Republican Party may be a diverse party, but it still has conservatism as the underlying theme identified by the overwhelming majority of its grassroots members even if not by its elected officials.
At the moment polling by Rasmussen shows that voters trust Republicans more than Democrats on all ten key electoral issues Rasmussen regularly tracks. However, Rasmussen also has polling from early September that shows that 74% of Republican voters believe the Republican Party's representatives in Congress have lost touch with GOP voters nationwide. Wow!
So, while a revolution may be coming, it may not be a Republican one. It may just be a conservative revolution.
(Email James Thomas as email@example.com)
SALARY SITUATION SHOWS NEED FOR CHANGE IN THE LAW
From the 11/5/09 issue
Many people were upset last month because our elected Platte County officials voted themselves pay raises. Based upon conservative principles, I was upset right along with these people. However, I can see another side to the pay raise issue. Let's start with the many things that are wrong with the raises and then consider the other side.
First and foremost, what stinks the most about the pay raises is that the elected officials are the ones who made the decision that they should raise their own pay. This is an outrageous situation. These officials have the power to vote themselves pay raises without input from anyone else.
Second, while Platte County is certainly faring better than most government entities at this time, Platte County is not immune from the economic woes that many citizens and many government entities are facing. Platte County is facing little growth or even shrinkage in revenues in the next fiscal year. These difficult financial times may require the various departments to cut employees or reduce salaries to maintain a balanced budget. The elected officials should not be getting raises when this is going on.
Third, being an elected official is about serving your community. The focus should not be on financial rewards of this service. The focus should be on doing what is right for your community.
These and other reasons make the raises inappropriate. However, let's consider the other side of the issue.
First, state law creates the Platte County Salary Commission as the way salaries of county officeholders are set. I don't particularly like the system, but our elected officials are merely working within the boundaries of the system that exists.
Second, despite years of debate over this issue, including conflicting legal opinions from the county counselor, the salary increases that were adopted will not go in to effect until after the current officeholders stand for re-election. So, if you are not happy that an elected official voted for his or her own pay raise, you can boot them out of office at the next election before he or she gets a chance to collect the increased paycheck.
Third, is it fair to expect an elected official to work for his or her entire career of service at the same salary as when the officeholder was first elected? I would argue that the current mid-$60K salary is more than what most of our county officials deserve for the work they do. However, let's ignore that point for this discussion. Instead, let's focus on the impact of inflation on the initial salary remaining fixed forever. Every year the costs of food, gasoline, etc. keep going up. If an officeholder is stuck at the same salary when faced with inflation, you are really asking that officeholder to actually make less each year because inflation erodes the buying power of the fixed salary.
This last point leads to a real problem in efforts to recruit good officeholders. I know being an officeholder is the best job that many of our current officeholders have ever had or ever will have. However, as Republicans who advocate for good government, we are actually trying to recruit candidates for whom this is not true. The problem is that usually means we have to find candidates who don't need a paycheck to support their family. We get lucky sometimes and find quality elected officials who don't need a paycheck (e.g., Judy Stokes, Susan Phillips or Sandra Thomas), but how do you tell a prospective candidate with a stay-at-home spouse and small kids that “we want you to run for this full-time job for which the paycheck will be the same now as it will be four, eight or twelve years from now.”
No. I don't like our county officeholders voting for their own pay raises, but that is what state law gives us. We just need to change state law.
(Email James at firstname.lastname@example.org)
WE DON'T NEED THE 'LAWSUIT LOTTERY'
From the 10/28/09 issue
“I hate lawyers.” I use that expression several times a year. Why? It is not really because I hate lawyers. Instead it is because I hate the frivolous lawsuits that fill our courts and impair the pursuit of justice for the truly aggrieved.
We have all read about the person who went to a McDonald's drive-thru, spilled coffee on herself and then became a millionaire by suing McDonald's for selling hot coffee. (Don't you want your coffee to be hot?) Some other joker sued a dry cleaner for thousands of dollars for damage to his pants. (I'm pretty sure the pants weren't worth thousands of dollars.) There are plenty of similar baseless lawsuits out there. I just read about a new one two weeks ago.
A salesman at an office supply company has sued his former employer because he says he was fired for voting for Obama. The former salesman bases his claim on an e-mail his boss sent out before the election. The e-mail told employees to “re-think your vote” and joked that the company would be initiating new policies if Obama was elected. For example, salesmen would be splitting commissions to “spread the wealth.”The e-mail went on to say “the last few people hired should clean out their desks,” but they should not feel bad because Obama would give them free health care, food stamps and let them stay in their homes even if they couldn't afford their mortgage.
The former salesman has sued for $1.2 million. The lawsuit should be tossed out on pure stupidity. However, this is an important reminder that you should refrain from circulating funny e-mails in the office. It is also a reminder that some disgraceful lawyer actually filed the case. Just another reason for me to say, “I hate lawyers.”
In response to the lawsuit, the boss of the company says that he has no idea who the salesman voted for. He was terminated for poor sales performance and not for who he voted for. The boss says: “I have 40 employees in my company and assuming that Mr. Obama was voted in by 53% of the popular vote it would only stand to reason that half of my company voted for him. Why then would I only fire . . . [this salesman] . . . and not half of the company?”
Lawyers have an important role in our society. The famous quote from William Shakespeare's Henry VI, “The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers,” is actually a compliment to lawyers. The speaker in the play was part of a plot to overthrow the government. The statement was likely intended as an insult to lawyers, but it was also a remark about the lawyers' ability to disrupt the plans of the bad actors.
There are plenty of folks who suffer from injuries that have a legitimate claim to compensation and it is appropriate for them to be compensated and have legal counsel to assure their rights are protected. However, we don't need the lawsuit lottery to make millionaires out of lawyers and parties with minor injuries. (In fact, in some of the class actions cases, the only ones who get any real money are the lawyers.)
Lawyers have an important role to play in society. Many of my childhood heroes (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, etc.) were lawyers. I have often joked that my theme song should be “Lawyers, guns and money” by Meatloaf. The guy in the song is in trouble and sings “Send lawyers, guns and money. The . . . [stuff] . . . has hit the fan.” Thus, you need a lawyer when you're in trouble.
The courts need to be open to the injured. Lawyers need modest (but not insane) incentives for representing these aggrieved parties.However, the frivolous lawsuits --like the one of this salesman -- have got to stop.
(James Thomas is an attorney who is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Reach him at email@example.com)
OBAMA'S AWARD DRAWS ATTENTION TO HIS LACK OF CREDENTIALS
From the 10/21/09 issue
I almost felt sorry for Obama last week when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The committee making the award probably thought they were doing something positive for Obama. Instead, they drew attention to Obama's lack of credentials, his ineffectiveness and his anti-American speeches.
This guy has led a charmed life. There were some tough aspects of his childhood. Obama was fatherless for all practical purposes and basically raised by his grandmother. Notwithstanding these challenges, he survives childhood, goes to college and somehow gets accepted to an Ivy League Law School. That's cool. Then he is elected editor-in-chief of the Law Review even though no one can point to any written legal work to support his qualifications for this post. Good for him.
The guy moves to Chicago and becomes a community organizer. Later he becomes a State Senator. Four years later he runs for U.S. Congress and loses. Then he gets his big break in 2004. There is a U.S. Senate seat up for election in his state. The incumbent is forced to withdraw from the race. The lead challenger is also forced to withdraw. Obama becomes the candidate in what is a wide open race. No real Republican candidate emerges. (Republicans were so desperate to find a candidate that they brought in Alan Keyes from Maryland.) Obama coasts to victory. However, along the way, although only a mere candidate, Obama is elevated to national prominence by getting to give a prime time keynote speech at the Democrat National Convention. The stage is set!
Just 25 months after taking his seat in the U.S. Senate and without having done anything significant in the U.S. Senate, Obama announces his candidacy for president. Wow! Then, on a “change” message, which is the perfect message after the incumbent is finishing up two terms that have been burdened by a necessary response to terror attacks and a declining economy, Obama is elected President of the United States. Good for him. (Bad for America, but good for him)
But the lucky breaks don't stop there. Just 11 days later, Obama is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. It doesn't matter that he did nothing prior to becoming president to be worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. It doesn't matter that his 11 days in office is barely enough time to locate all the bathrooms in the White House, let alone do anything worthy of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. The guy isn't only nominated, he actually WINS the prize. Wow!
In struggling to find any justification for the prize, Obama fans point to speeches in which he encouraged “world peace” and fewer nuclear weapons and said that the problems of the world are America's fault. Those must have been really good speeches.
Despite the tremendous honor that is supposed to come with winning the Nobel Peace Prize, I suspect that Obama (or at least his senior political advisors) wish this had never happened. All this prize does is point out the utter lack of accomplishments of this guy. Even worse, the award draws attention to his “everything is America's fault” speeches and makes him the subject of many jokes.
Here are just a few of the dozens that have been sent to me: Obama wins the Heisman Trophy after watching a college football game! Or, Obama wins an Emmy after watching a TV show! Or, Obama wins the Stanley Cup after watching a Hockey Game! Or, Obama wins the Tour De France after riding a bike!
This reminded me of a magazine's “Person of the Year.” The magazine put a mirror on the front of its magazine below the heading of “Person of the Year.” So, if you picked up the magazine you saw yourself as the “Person of the Year.” Maybe the Nobel Prize Committee could pass out mirrors below a heading of “Look here if you want world peace.” Works for me.
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
GIVE AWAY YOUR OWN MONEY, NOT THE PEOPLE'S MONEY
From the 10/14/09 issue
I've heard a lot of Davy Crockett stories over the years. However, last week I heard a new one that is now my favorite.
While serving in Congress, Crockett gave a speech in opposition to Congress voting to create a special pension for the widow of a naval officer. In his speech, Crockett spoke of having great respect for the service of the officer and sympathy for his widow. However, Crockett refused to support the pension because “Congress has not the power to appropriate . . . money as an act of charity.” He said “We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our OWN money as we please in charity, but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money.” Crockett went on say “Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”
This was not always Crockett's approach. During an earlier session of Congress, there was a large fire in nearby Georgetown. Crockett and other members of Congress rushed to help fight the fire. They saw that many women and children were suffering after the fire. The next morning Congress, including Crockett, put aside all business to pass a bill appropriating $20,000 for their relief.
The next year Crockett was campaigning in his district when he met a farmer who objected to the appropriation. Crockett defended himself saying the appropriation was an insignificant sum and the treasury was full and overflowing. The farmer responded that “It is not the amount . . . that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to a man. . . . So you see . . . you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people.”
A simple farmer understood the Constitution better than a majority in Congress both in Davy Crockett's day and today.
I am particularly angered by liberals who want to take OUR money to give to others while giving NONE of their own money. Liberal politicians (e.g., Al Gore and Joe Biden) have given less than $1,000 per year to charity, but yet want US to give billions in taxes to them to re-distribute to others.
True leadership comes from being an example to others. Crockett volunteered to give his own money rather than giving the people's money. THAT is what needs to happen. People need to privately help others without government interference. Hillcrest Transitional Housing is one of my favorite “helping hand” charities. I have given Hillcrest thousands of dollars. I hope to give thousands more. However, I don't want to give another cent to politicians in Washington to give away to others.
We have a moral obligation to care for our fellow man. However, that caring needs to be on an individual basis and NOT through the federal government. Crockett made a mistake early on, but eventually learned from a simple farmer that the public money is not his to give away. Like Crockett, our sitting Congress-people need to see the error of their ways or they need to be replaced.
(Chair of Sixth District Republicans, James Thomas can be reached at email@example.com)
WILL TODAY'S KIDS BE BETTER OFF THAN THEIR PARENTS?
From the 10/7/09 issue
I had several topics that I was considering writing about this week, but one topic kept coming back to me over and over. Before the Obama presidency, I had some concerns about what kind of America we would leave for our children. Since Obama has brought his plan of socialism to the White House, I have grown increasingly concerned about what kind of future our children will have.
America is founded on the principle stated in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That “pursuit of Happiness” can be summed up as creating a better life for our children. That “pursuit” has been coming true for generations. Although there have been individual exceptions, each American generation (as a whole) has done better than the previous generation. My generation may be the last generation for which that is true.
A picture someone sent me a couple of weeks ago summed up an essential element of my concern. It was a picture of a baby in a stroller at the recent 9/12 rally in DC. The baby's mom was holding up a home-made poster that read “$38,400 ALREADY IN DEBT before my 1st Birthday.” Someone else sent me a picture over the weekend of a little girl (probably between 2 and 3) wearing a placard that read “I'm Already $38,375 In Debt and I Only Own a Dollhouse. Thank You, Mr. President.”
I had a related conversation with a dear friend over lunch last Monday. We discussed our concerns about what kind of future my children and her grandchildren may have. Those concerns were driven by several societal concerns, but they were also driven by the heaping amount of debt being created for our children.
What pushed me over the edge to write about this topic is a poll from Rasmussen that was released on Saturday. In January, 47% of those American adults surveyed believed that today's children will not be better off than their parents. That percentage grew to 53% in July. The percentage grew to a whopping 62% in a poll taken just last week. So, it is not just me and a few of my friends with these concerns. It is apparently a substantial majority of Americans.
One concern for the future of our children is the ever increasing entitlement philosophy. So many people today think that they are “owed” something without having to do anything to earn it. That is flawed thinking. You have a right to the “pursuit” of happiness, but not necessarily “happiness.” You have to work for it.
Another concern is the massive debt that has been created for our children. (The approximately $38,000 debt seems low. I assume that does not include all the unfunded future obligations like Social Security.) We cannot keep increasing the debt burden on our children for today's spending sprees.
Obama is not the first one to increase the national debt. The national debt rose every year from 2002 through 2008. However, Obama is on pace to increase the national debt IN ONE YEAR by more than the increase in the national debt in the last seven years. This has to stop!
After referring to the “unalienable Rights” the Declaration of Independence says “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men . . . That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
I'm not calling for a new government, but we definitely need to “alter” the direction of this one. Our children's futures depend on it.
(James Thomas, GOP columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
SET MY PEOPLE FREE
From the 9/30/09 issue
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” That opening line from the Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens was appropriate in Kansas City recently. A few weeks ago there was great “weeping and gnashing of teeth” as Kansas City lost a bid to locate the Wizard's soccer stadium at the site of the long defunct Bannister Mall. Wyandotte County has lured the Wizards to Kansas.
When I heard the report on the radio with sorrowful quotes from representatives of Kansas City, my response was “Yippee!” My enthusiasm did not come from the idea that the Wizards would now play closer to my home. No. I have no interest in professional soccer. My enthusiasm came from the fact that someone other than Kansas City taxpayers will be subsidizing the Wizards.
It has long been a pet peeve of mine that taxpayers in Kansas City pay for or subsidize all of the features that make the Kansas City metropolitan area a “real” city. Folks out in Johnson County don't contribute to the tax base of Kansas City (unless they work or shop in Kansas City), but yet they enjoy the many benefits that Kansas Citians pay for to make Kansas City a “major league” city.
It is great that Wyandotte County has “stepped up to the plate” (As you can tell, I don't care much for soccer since I can't even come up with a sports-appropriate metaphor) to provide a stadium for the soccer team. Finally, we have someone other than Kansas Citians paying for some of the “major league” elements of Kansas City. (I realize that Jackson Countians are really the ones who have funded the Royals and Chiefs stadiums, but for several years Kansas City contributed $2 million per year to support the stadiums. We in Platte County could now be paying for the stadiums if the Bi-State Stadium/Arts “Think Big” Tax from 2004 had not failed in Platte County.)
The Wizards deal does have some potential loss to Kansas City. The Wizards project was tied to new offices for Cerner so moving those offices to Kansas will cost Missouri-side jobs. However, this is mostly a push. If these jobs were generating taxes for Kansas City, they were being given away with the incentive package given to the Wizards/Cerner. Plus, unless people who currently live in Kansas City and work at Cerner actually move out of the city limits, they will still have to pay earnings tax to Kansas City.
Johnson and Wyandotte Counties have a tremendous benefit over us. When you pay taxes in those counties, those taxes fund improvements in those counties. However, when you pay taxes in Kansas City, those taxes go south of the river mostly to never return.
A statement by a young attorney from my old firm is right on point. She lived in Brookside, but I had invited her to attend a Platte County EDC luncheon because of her interest in development law. On the drive back to the office she said “Why don't we just stop Kansas City at the river.” I have said the same thing for years. We should just de-annex the portion of Kansas City north of the river from Kansas City and create “The Northland.” As its own city, The Northland could issue a bond to fund a big cash payment to Kansas City as part of the de-annexation. From then on The Northland could be its own taxing jurisdiction with taxes collected in The Northland funding improvements in The Northland instead of south of the river.
This even seems to be what Mayor Funkhouser (another Brookside dweller) wants. Funkhouser recently said the city shouldn't be building any more roads. That is fine. “Let my people go” and we will build our own roads. If The Northland truly were free, there is no limit to the great things we could do.
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at email@example.com)
ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS
From the 9/23 /09 issue
“The national budget must be balanced . . . People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” I recently used that quote from Cicero from 55 B.C. in a column and wanted to expand upon it this week.
America faces an eventual economic collapse if it does not stop spending more than it takes in. There is a solution. STOP THE FREE STUFF! People must stop counting on the government for their support and accept personal responsibility for their actions.
This can be illustrated by a disturbing newspaper story about a recent local rally protesting any possible cuts in state provided child care. To humanize the protest, the story identified a mother of four who was pregnant with her fifth who said she couldn't work or continue her college education without the subsidy. She said her husband's salary could not support the family.
I blew up when I read this story. I was delighted to hear that this family had both a mom and a dad to support the kids. I was also glad to hear that the mother wanted help with child care (and not necessarily other free stuff) so she could work or continue her college education, presumably to get a better job in the future, and saw her fifth child as a “child' and not a “choice.” What set me off was this woman had four kids and was working on a fifth. Let's exercise a little personal responsibility!
I have two kids. One reason I stopped at two is that I have a limited amount of time to go to all my kids' volleyball games, violin recitals, etc. and just to spend time with them in a positive and nurturing manner like a good parent needs to do. However, a second reason I only have two kids is that kids are expensive! I only have so many financial resources to commit to raising children and eventually helping pay for college.
Then there is this woman with four kids and “one in the oven” wanting US to pay for her child care. If you can't afford child care, don't get pregnant!
I'm sure your mother told you that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” She is absolutely right. Someone has to pay for that “lunch.” One solution to too much spending is to get more revenue.
That position was advocated by a counter-protestor who showed up at a Tea Party over Labor Day Weekend with a sign that said “Tax the Rich.” This “uniformed person” doesn't understand that the so-called “rich” are the ones who take risks and create businesses and jobs. Without people with capital to invest in businesses there would be no jobs. Besides, even if a 100% tax was imposed on the “rich,” there would not be enough money to pay for all this government spending. Furthermore, it would cripple the economy if taxes were raised enough to pay for all the free stuff. Even President Obama admitted just last month in a speech in Wakarusa, Indiana that raising taxes “would just take more demand out of the economy and put businesses in a bigger hole.” (I don't think Obama believes this, but he did say it.)
Don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of child care assistance programs that help with costs of child care so people can work instead of drawing a government check for sitting at home. I would support funding these types of programs before funding others. But I do get sick of people expecting other people to pay for their choices. The free stuff has to stop! (Maybe free child care could come with a free vasectomy for her husband or a tubal ligation for her.) People must accept personal responsibility for their actions. As Cicero said, “People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
FEWER FREELOADERS ARE NEEDED IN OUR SOCIETY
I read a column last week by someone who sounded like an unmotivated and unhappy worker. He bemoaned that someone (not even him) had to work on Labor Day. This just seemed silly to me. I worked most of the day on the Saturday and Monday of Labor Day weekend. In fact I make a special point of working on EVERY Labor Day because shouldn't “laboring” be the whole point of a day set aside to celebrate labor?
It takes all types of people to make the world go around. Not everyone wants to work as much as I do. I respect that different people have different priorities and pleasures. Also, not everyone has found joy in their vocation. That is sad. Some days are better than others, but I love what I do. Everyone should try to find joy in their vocation. As my momma always told me, “If you love what you do, you will never 'work' a day in your life.”
The troubling part of the column was not the general whining of the commentator, but the ridiculous statement made in the column's closing sentence: “We not only have to pay people enough to meet their financial needs, we also have to give them plenty of off-hours, weekend and vacation time to make their spirits and souls feel like moving the body out and about.” That is not just disturbing, it is silly.
We DON'T pay people based on their financial needs. We pay people based upon the value of the services they provide. The compensation is tied NOT to the service provider's financial requirements, but instead tied to the value (or the perceived value) of that service to the customer. You aren't working for yourself. You are working for the customer. The customer is paying you based upon what value you provide them and not based upon what you need (or think you need or want).
We also don't have to GIVE anyone time off. People can choose how much time they take off on their own based upon whether they are comfortable earning the amount of income they want (not need). Furthermore, my “spirit and soul” is motivated by what I do for a living. I know some folks are not fortunate enough to have a vocation that they love. For those that don't have a vocation they love, I suggest they find something else to do with their lives. As for me, I will continue to labor on Labor Day and on most weekends because I love what I do and want to keep doing it.
I know that these comments were made by just one “misinformed” individual. (Hopefully my mom will be proud that I didn't say “stupid person.”) But, if this attitude that our employers or customers need to pay us enough to cover the costs of what we “need” as opposed to paying us for the value of what we provide them becomes the norm, the greatest society and economy in the world could collapse.
Even though I WANT to work, regrettably, I also HAVE to work because the government takes so much of my money that it takes me until late in the week to finish working for the government and start working for my family and me. So, if I work on Saturday and “government holidays,” I at least get to keep half of that as well.
Maybe if we had fewer freeloaders who want to have “plenty of off-hours” to “make their spirits and souls feel like moving the body out and about” while getting “free stuff” from the government, then maybe I could keep more of what I produce instead of giving it to the government to redistribute.
I hope this is just the bemusings of one sad and unhappy individual. If not, our whole society could be in trouble.
(James Thomas, chair of the Sixth District Republicans, can be reached at email@example.com)
IN ORDER TO SURVIVE, IT'S TIME TO STOP THE FREE STUFF
“The national budget must be balanced. The national debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”
That sounds like a sound-bite you might hear from a conservative politician today. It isn't. The quote, which was e-mailed to me by a reader a couple of weeks ago, was attributed to Cicero, a Roman author, orator, & politician, back in 55 B.C.
Like Rome, America will probably fall some day. However, it would be nice to postpone that fall as long as possible. Avoiding upside down fiscal policies would help postpone that fall.
What is the biggest risk to America? It is not military in nature. Yes. Terrorists can inflict tragic losses on us. Other countries could hurt us. However, short of a nuclear holocaust, America would come out on top in any military conflict.
No. The biggest risk to America is economic. This seems hard to imagine since America has the most powerful and successful economic structure in the world. However, if the federal government keeps spending money it does not have with no plans for repayment, the system will collapse.
Think about how this would apply in your personal life. Let's say you spend more money than you bring in for many years. Eventually you accumulate a massive debt. Now I am not talking about debt that is tied to an appreciating asset so that even with your debt there is an offsetting asset on your balance sheet (e.g., an appreciating home with a mortgage). What I am talking about is credit card debt that is spent on eating at restaurants or other consumables or car loan debt that is tied to a depreciating car. If you do this for long enough, your debt service will eventually become so great that your economic life will collapse and you will be wiped out.
Now think about doing this as a national government. The government spends more money than it takes in for many years. All along the way the country keeps racking up debt. This debt is mostly spent for consumables-- paychecks to employees, etc. Even when the government buys a capital asset, like a road, it is generally a liability from the beginning. Eventually the government's debt service becomes so great that it can no longer service its debt. A national government can simply print more money, but this does not come without a cost.
The basic effect of flooding the economy with “funny money” is hyperinflation that will destroy the economy.
Just as you and I cannot economically survive if we constantly spend more money than we bring in, a government cannot do this either. What is worse is that instead of this uncontrolled spending leading to the economic demise of you or me, it could lead to the demise of our entire nation and its economy.
The current charade can continue for a few more years, but a day of reckoning will come eventually. My greatest concern is not for me, but for my kids and for all children of America. A child born today starts out being subject to hundreds of thousands of dollars of national debt. This is a huge burden for the children of America to have to bear.
There is a solution. STOP THE FREE STUFF! I'm sure your mother told you that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” She is absolutely right. Someone has to pay for that “lunch.” It would cripple the economy to raise taxes enough to pay for all the free stuff so the free stuff simply has to stop. As Cicero said “The national debt must be reduced . . . People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”
(Reach James Thomas, chair of Sixth District Republicans, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
GOVERNMENT-RUN HEALTH CARE SHOULD BE REJECTED
Obama and his cohorts want to claim that they want to reform health care. That is incorrect. They want to take over health care.
The basic premise of the Obama plan is to put everyone on government run health care. That is NOT the kind of reform we need. We need to go the other direction and get people OFF of government provided health care.
The current trend is alarming. The Missouri Department of Social Services reports that one in every seven Missourians is on Medicaid. This is not Medicare, which is health care for old people. This is MedicAID, which is health care for poor people.
Missouri can barely sustain its current Medicaid burden, let alone take on more. Right now Missouri's Medicaid program costs about $7.2 billion a year. This is over 30% of Missouri's entire operating budget. Funds from the federal government help cover some of this cost, but Missouri has to pay almost half of this cost out of other state resources. This $3.3 billion (about one out of every seven dollars that Missouri brings in and about one out of every five dollars that Missouri brings in from non-federal sources) is money that Missouri is spending on government-paid health care rather than schools, roads and bridges and other functions of state government.
Real health care reform should not ADD people to government provided health care. Real reform should take people OFF of government provided health care.
Although America has the greatest health care system in the world, some reforms of America's health insurance system would be appropriate for discussion.
One of the biggest challenges is portability. Since health insurance is frequently obtained through a plan sponsored by one's employer, a person may have difficulties with continuing his or her health insurance coverage if the person changes jobs or lose a job. The Obama alternative health insurance from the government is not an appropriate solution. However, some other solutions to the portability issue, such as extending the opportunity to access a former employer's health insurance plan through COBRA, would be worth discussing.
Another challenge is the escalating cost. However, a large part of the escalating cost comes from the way health insurance is designed. Today many people go to the doctor and pay $10 co-pays. These people have no idea what is being paid for the services they receive. We need to get back to a system where people pay for their own doctors' visits and basic needs and only have health insurance pay for the “big stuff.” Another aspect of escalating costs is that the government wants to mandate what health insurance must cover. These mandates simply add to the cost of insurance. Instead of mandates, the ability to contract freely with a system of clear disclosures should be used.
The most ridiculous claim is that putting more people on government provided health care will save money. That is simply crazy. There are only two ways that government provided health care can cost less either the health care providers are paid less or the patients just get less health care. The latter of these is something that Obama and his cronies don't want to talk about: rationing. The problem is there is no way that costs can be kept down and more people added to government provided health care unless the people already in the system simply get less care.
The scariest part is the impact that government run health care would have on our individual freedom. Just think how much greater control the government will have over our individual lives if it decides what health care benefits we receive. Scary!
Reform of our health care delivery and payment system is worthy of discussion. However, government run health care should be rejected outright.
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. He can be reached at email@example.com)
WHICH PRECINCT HAS PLATTE COUNTY'S SMARTEST VOTERS?
The smartest voters in Platte County live in the Hoover precinct. I'm not saying that just because my parents live there even though they are pretty smart.
I'm not saying my parents are smart because they have fancy diplomas on the wall. In fact, they don't. They are what snobby people might call “uneducated.” However, you don't have to have a piece of paper to prove that you are “smart.” My parents were debt free house and all by the time they were 35 and that was back in the days when my dad was a blue collar worker and my mom was just making a retail salesperson's hourly wage. That sounds “smarter” than almost everyone I know. No. My parents have the kind of smarts that are really based upon common sense.
Having a diploma on the wall is a great accomplishment. (I have three.) However, that does not make you “smart” in the ways of the world. For example, one of my former law partners bought a new car and drove it until the engine burned up because he never changed the oil. This guy was a brilliant lawyer, but he was not “smart” enough to change the oil in his car every 3,000 miles. I am “smarter” than that, but I will be the first to admit that I am “book smart, but mechanically stupid.”
I also won't say that the Hoover voters are the smartest voters in Platte County because they rejected the Parks Tax by a whopping 72%. No. The Hoover voters are the “smartest” voters because they are the most consistent.
For several years I have been trying to understand the inconsistency in voters.To evaluate those inconsistencies, you first have to examine the consistencies. For example, in 2004 the voters in the Hoover precinct gave George W. Bush one of the highest percentages of the vote. At the same time Hoover voters soundly rejected the “Think Big” Tax, which was the Bi-State Tax for sports stadiums and the arts. (Fortunately, the tax did not pass.)
The apparent inconsistency can be found in Parkville. In 2004 Parkville voters gave Bush the second highest support of any precinct in the County (63%). At the same time Parkville voters gave the Think Big tax its highest approval in the County (58%). I just don't get it. To be consistent, it would seem that voters in favor of a lower tax/fiscally conservative (at the time) presidential candidate would also be against more taxes especially when those taxes are going to primarily be spent somewhere else.
I understand Parkville being the highest percentage of the vote (75%) in favor of the renewal of the Parks Tax. Approximately 40% of the County's Parks Tax has been spent on amenities in or that touch Parkville. If Parkvillians tried to tax themselves at a sales tax rate to give themselves these kinds of amenities, they would have to have a sales tax of several cents rather than a half cent. So, I understand their support of the Parks Tax. But, why vote for the boondoggle of the Bi-State Tax while supporting a tax-cutting presidential candidate?
I have a few theories. Parkvillians--collectively, not necessarily individually--are at higher income levels so they oppose higher income taxes, which have a disproportionate impact on them, while supporting sales taxes, which tend to be regressive and impact the lower income folks more than the higher income folks. Or maybe folks who are deep in debt in order to get more “stuff” are willing to pay higher taxes to get more stuff. Or maybe Parkville voters think you have to be in favor of all local taxes in order to be part of the “cool crowd.”
These are just theories. This is a topic that needs more detailed and scientific analysis, but it might just come down to voters with old fashioned “smarts” like my parents are more consistent with their voting than any diploma holding voters.
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
IT'S TIME TO WEAN THE COUNTY OFF THE PARKS USE TAX
In 2000, the Platte County Commission promoted a ten-year half cent sales tax. This was for parks and storm water, but really mostly for parks.
The county commissioners made some compelling arguments back in 2000. Platte County really did need more athletic fields for youth sports. Also, Platte County's tremendous growth made it important that land be set aside for future parks while that land was still available and “affordable.”
In 2000 my biggest objection to the parks tax was that I did not think the county commissioners would ever let it sunset in 2010 despite the promises to the contrary. Of course, just a couple of years into the parks tax, I realized that the county had a different problem.
As explained in my May 27, 2009 column, the half cent parks sales tax also creates a half cent parks use tax that is NOT spent on Parks. As expressed by one county commissioner in his out of control rants, the loss of the parks use tax that is NOT really spent on parks would reduce available general revenue by about $1.5 million annually. The loss of this money from general revenue was the basis for his promise of a “financial bloodbath” if the parks tax was not renewed.
This problem should not have been a surprise to any of the commissioners. I saw this problem coming more than five years ago and warned them about it. In August of 2004 I encouraged the two new commissioners-elect to begin a plan to wean the county off of the parks use tax that was used for non-park purposes. Soon thereafter I encouraged Betty Knight to do the same. I even warned Kathy Dusenberry of the problem when she was campaigning in 2008. None of them listened. So, Platte County was threatened with a “financial bloodbath” if the parks use tax was not renewed.
All of these efforts to warn the county commissioners of this impending problem were private conversations. Now, thanks to Ivan, this advice does not have to be a private conversation. Here is my advice to the commissioners:
Start now! You have eleven years! Wean the county's general revenue off of the parks use tax!
This weaning does not have to cause extreme pain. Just endure a small amount of pain each year until the county can tolerate the full pain.
The parks use tax generates $1.5 million that is now spent on non-parks expenses. For 2010, set aside 10% of the parks use tax in a parks reserve fund. Then each year for the next nine years thereafter, set aside an additional 10% from the parks use tax for a parks reserve fund. Assuming the parks use tax remains a flat $1.5 million, the spending of the parks use tax for non-parks purposes for 2010 should be limited to $1.35 million with $150,000 going into the parks reserve fund. After ten years none of the parks use tax should be used for non-parks expenses and all of the parks use tax should go to the parks reserve fund. By the time the parks tax is set to sunset again, the parks reserve fund would grow to $9.75 million. (This assumes no growth in the parks use tax and no interest. A 4% annual growth would actually create $12.7 million in the parks reserve fund.)
With nearly $10 million in a parks reserve fund the county could maintain its current annual parks maintenance budget of $450,000 for over 20 years without raising another cent of tax. Or, since I know the commissioners will never let the tax sunset, the tax could be renewed at one-eighth cent with both the sales tax and the use tax from this tax dedicated to parks. Based upon today's numbers this would generate about $2.25 million each year. This is about five times the county's current parks maintenance budget.
Remember: START NOW!
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Reach him at email@example.com)
PROFESSOR WAS THE ONE WHO ACTED 'STUPIDLY'
When President Obama was recently asked about an incident where a college professor was arrested by the police, Obama initially said the police acted “stupidly.” After an uproar was created over his remarks, Obama backed off his position and invited the arresting officer and the professor to the White House for a beer.
I have wanted to write about this since I first heard of the incident. However, unlike Obama, I have been waiting until the actual facts became known before making a comment. The facts now show that the professor is the one who acted “stupidly.”
The incident began when a passerby made a 911 call to report that two men were trying to force entry into a house. (Contrary to early news reports, the tapes of this 911 call do not show that the caller identified the apparent intruders as “black” men.) Sgt. James Crowley was the first to respond.Apparently he was off duty at the time, but was in the area and in uniform and responded to the call when it came in.) Crowley arrived at the house and entered through the open front door. He found the professor there. He asked the professor for some ID and asked him to step out on the front porch of the house. The professor reportedly was uncooperative, became belligerent with the officer and began asking the officer for his badge number.
The one who acted “stupidly” is the professor. When you encounter a law enforcement officer, the first thing you need to remember is that the officer should be addressed as “Sir.” Within reason, you do what the officer asks. If he steps over the line in the process of his contact with you, there is a way to address your grievance after the fact. However, in that moment, when it is just you and the officer present, you need to respect his authority.
If I was standing in my house and turned around and found someone dressed as a police officer standing behind me, I would have been shocked and surprised. However, one of the key reasons I would have been shocked is that I would not have left the front door open and unlocked.
If a police officer asked me to step outside and produce ID, I would be a little bothered by that, but, if you think about it, the officer is acting appropriately. The officer received a report that two men were trying to break into the house. He has found one guy. He might be an authorized occupant of the house, but the officer does not know that yet. The officer appropriately asks the person to step outside. If the person is an authorized occupant and there are one or more intruders in the house, the relocation to the front porch will help protect both the officer and the authorized occupant from any criminals inside the house.
Of course, the professor does not respect that the officer is doing his best to protect him from possible criminals. Then, even on the front porch, the professor becomes belligerent with the officer and other officers that have arrived on the scene by this time. Stupid move, buddy. Time to go for a little ride in the back of a police car.
Yes. There are a few overzealous and/or undertrained police officers. Sgt. Crowley does not appear to be one of them. He acted professionally throughout the incident.
The stupid one is the professor, but it is no surprise. Like a sad few in the black community, he gains power and makes his money on encouraging racism. His first response to any situation is it must be racially motivated. Wrong. It is just a good cop trying to do his job to the best of his ability. Sadly, racism will not ever end as long as “angry black men” like this professor won't let it.
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
COMMISSIONERS HAVE GIVEN US COMEDY, DRAMA
Phew! That was a close one. I thought the world was going to come to end. But we were saved. Yes. The parks tax passed this week by a narrow margin. A “fiscal bloodbath” has been avoided by the less than 4.4% of the registered voters in Platte County.
Watching this process unfold did provide some summer entertainment. There was comedy from the efforts of some to try to deny the fact that the county spends more on parks than it spends on roads or law enforcement. The numbers are clear. They have been researched and reported by The Landmark so I won't say any more on that front.
There was the political tap dancing over the issue of whether the parks tax generates any revenue for the county that is not spent on parks. One commissioner was adamant that “all of the parks tax is spent on parks.” As a skilled politician, she told the truth without telling the truth. No one has ever said that the parks tax is not spent on parks. The truth is that the parks tax creates an extra $1.5 million in use tax that is NOT spent on parks.
There was the drama of a county commissioner making phone calls to people threatening a “financial bloodbath” at the county and other retaliation if the parks tax did not pass. This commissioner made specific threats against the sheriff and his department. Those phone calls had the political intrigue of private conversations, but then it all became public when this same commissioner went on a tirade in open session last Thursday. This out-of-control commissioner undermined his partner-in-tax when he made it clear that the parks tax does cause a corresponding use tax that gives the county money that it spends on things other than parks.
Then there was the horror. This came not from the comments of the commissioners, but rather from another local media outlet. (Horror is probably too strong of a word for a media ‘pundit’ with so little readership, but I was going with a theme.) His suggestion was that “if you don't like it here, leave.” Yes. This owner and editor of a local junk mail shopper suggested on his web site that being opposed to any tax-and-spend program of the government was so egregious that you should just leave the county. It does not matter that you are a taxpaying citizen or even an elected official in the City of Platte City. If you don't like taxing and spending, don't voice objections, just leave. Wow! You would suspect a media outlet to be a champion of free expression and debate. Not this fellow. The First Amendment be damned!
Then, there is the broken-hearted love story. This summer's events have reinforced the position of some that you cannot disagree with them on a public policy issue without them taking it as a personal attack. You can't say “I don't like your idea” without that person hearing “I don't like you.”
The real drama here was likely played out months ago in a backroom. As with the release of any blockbuster movie, it takes money and a carefully timed release. The political drama likely developed as the commissioners got financial commitments from those who would make huge fees from the parks tax. The timing was also perfect. In August of an odd numbered year just over 8% of the people voted. Most voters probably didn't even have it in the front of their minds that there was an election. Also, if this had been on the ballot in August of 2010 and Betty Knight ran in a contested Republican primary at the same time as promoting an over-sized tax, she would have likely lost. So, Knight gets more money to spend and she does not have to promote a tax while campaigning for a fifth term.
What will we do for fun next summer?
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Reach him at email@example.com)
THIS PARK TAX PROPOSAL IS NOT REASONABLE
In 1994 Newt Gingrich led a group of Republicans to take control of Congress for the first time in 40+ years using the “Contract with the America.” With encouragement from the Republican Party nationally, Platte County adopted its own “Contract with the County.”
The Contract with the County contained a list of basic principles that the Platte County Republican Party stands for and all the candidates at the time agreed to support. Interestingly, the one sticking point was the provision on taxes. In order to get all the candidates to agree to the Contract with the County, we had to water down this provision to say that the Platte County Republican Party “supports reasonable and necessary taxes.”
On the surface that wording seems somewhat innocuous. Who would not be in support of “reasonable and necessary” taxes? However, to appreciate what is really meant by that watered downed language, one must know the background of how that language ended up in the Contract with the County.
All the way back in 1994 there was an internal fight in the Platte County Republican Party. The conservatives wanted to say they were opposed to any new taxes. However, one sitting officeholder and two candidates for county commissioner were not comfortable with that approach. They had new spending that they wanted to undertake if they were elected. Since, unlike the federal government, Platte County is statutorily required to at least propose a balanced budget, these candidates knew that taxes would have to be raised to fund this spending. So, they did not want to say they were opposed to all new taxes.
The recommendation by an all-Republican county commission of a tax for parks is not inconsistent with the wording of the Contract with the County IF -- and that is the big if--the taxes are “reasonable and necessary.” However, the parks tax is neither reasonable nor necessary. The amount of the tax is 20 times what the Platte County Auditor says the county parks department spends on maintenance. Wow! A key component of the plan is horse trails. No. I am not kidding. Parks are great. Before I built a mini-park in my back yard, I used to take my daughters to the park almost every Saturday when I got home from the office. Who doesn't like parks?
The problem is that this proposal is far in excess of what is reasonable and necessary and really goes to fund a bloated parks bureaucracy. There are seven full time staffers in the county parks department. These are NOT the lawn crews and other folks who actually keep the parks looking nice. No. These are a bunch of bureaucrats who sit around and think up ways to spend more money.
The real problem is a change in philosophy. For years, county government had a very limited function. Unless you live in unincorporated Platte County, you don't rely on county government to fix your streets or provide your police protection. These are really city responsibilities. However, since the mid-1990s, county government has taken an ever increasing responsibility for functions of the cities. Platte County is fixing roads that are clearly the responsibility of Kansas City or other cities. Platte County is putting money into parks projects that should be funded by the cities. In many cases the county commissioners are giving county tax dollars to cities to have the cities build what they want.
Don't say “No” to parks. Parks are great amenities for our community. But, do say “No” to this particular proposal.
There are two key reasons to vote “No” on Aug. 4. First, the parks tax is not reasonable and necessary. The tax is far greater than what is necessary. Second, the county commissioners should not be raising taxes at the county level and handing out those taxes as “cookies” to the cities that do their bidding.
(James Thomas is head of the Sixth District GOP. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
NON-SUPPORT OF PARK TAX SHOWED CHARACTER
“. . . Character is doing what's right when nobody's looking.”
That is a quote I have hanging on my wall from former Congressman J.C. Watts from Oklahoma. Someone famous may have used those words before Congressman Watts, but Congressman Watts attributes those words to advice he received from his father.
I have actually modified those words to be more appropriate in certain situations. I have said “Sometimes character is doing what's right when EVERBODY'S looking.”
That is how I see the actions of the Platte County Republican Central Committee last week when they adopted a resolution that said the party “does not support the renewal of the Platte County Parks Sales Tax at the rate of one-half cent.”
It would have been much easier to do nothing. The three County Commissioners, who are the ones who have proposed the tax, are all Republicans. In the interest of party unity and Rodney King-ness (i.e., “can't we all just get along”), it would have been easier to be silent.
However, to their credit, several committee members spoke up in opposition to the tax. Abby Olson was the first to raise objections when she asked how can the Republican Party be silent about a local tax when we keep pointing the finger at Washington, D.C. and shouting about high taxes and out of control spending? Edie Prost agreed with Olson and questioned how she could serve as an elected representative of the Republican Party and take a position contrary to what all the Republicans she has talked to are saying to her.
What is particularly interesting is that Olson and Prost are both in their first year on the committee. A lot of times the new folks on the committee will just sit back quietly and wait for someone else to provide the leadership. Not these two women. They joined the committee to advance the values stated in the platform of the Republican Party. They have not been shy about speaking up and providing leadership. They have shown real character. I am proud to serve with them.
Real character is sometimes most clearly shown when you stand up to your friends. A quote from Albus Dumbledore, a fictional character from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, is particularly appropriate. As the story is nearing its climax, Harry Potter and two of his friends are about to leave their dormitory in the middle of the night in order to stop the villain in the story from obtaining the Sorcerer's Stone. Neville Longbottom, a member of the same house (sort of like a fraternity) attempts to stop Potter and company because being out of their dormitory after hours will get them in trouble and cost their house points in the House Cup competition. Longbottom fails, but his efforts were rewarded. In awarding last minute points in the House Cup competition, Dumbledore grants additional points to Longbottom and his house saying “There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” I would argue that Dumbledore did not quite get it right. I would argue that it actually takes MORE bravery to stand up to your friends than it does to your enemies.
Some of the pro-tax forces are claiming that the actions of the committee were aimed at the commissioners. They were not. The resolution was carefully worded so the focus was on the tax. But there is no escaping the fact that three officeholders who campaigned as Republicans are the ones promoting the tax.
The committee members particularly the relatively new ones -- who voted in favor of the resolution of non-support of the tax showed real character. They did the “right” thing when EVERYBODY was looking.
(James Thomas, chair of the Sixth District Republicans, can be reached at email@example.com)
WHY OBAMA WANTS YOU TO
PAY HIGH ELECTRIC RATES
Last week the “messiah” was in Italy. Why do I use that term to describe President Obama? The reason is because of what Obama and other leaders of the G-8 did in Italy last week.
The G-8 is not a formal alliance or organization like the United Nations or the World Bank. It is actually just a forum attended by particular nations. Those in the G-8 include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union is also represented by the president of the European Commission. Representatives of these nations get together, talk about stuff and sometimes come up with agreements among the nations.
Last week the G-8 agreed that average global temperatures should not increase by more than two degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Wow! Now, Obama and other international leaders are going to control the temperature.
The whole global warming hysteria is just that hysteria. Some “scientists” claim that global temperatures have been on the rise for more than 500 years. I would be interested to see any actual supporting data on world temperatures from 500 years ago. Exactly where do these “scientists” get their data? I have serious doubts about the reliability of any such data.
The one question that none of the global warming fanatics ever talk about is the impact of variations in the heat given off by the sun. The sun is a massive burning ball of gas. It does not burn at a constant rate or temperature. Variations occur. Couldn't these variations be the primary explanation for why temperatures on the earth vary? Of course, no one can question the “high priests” of the global warming “religion.”
Obama is an avid believer in the “religion” of global warming. He is pushing policies to cut “green house gas” emissions. It is hilarious that this “religion” talks in terms of “green house gases.” One of the biggest green house gases is carbon dioxide i.e., what we exhale when we breathe. Maybe we could reduce green house gas emissions by simply cutting down on the hot air coming out of Washington.
Some of these global warming zealots are completely off the deep end. I read an article about a woman in New York who is so nuts about global warming that she unplugged her refrigerator. While that is kooky, I will say one thing for her: She “practices what she preaches.” She thinks global warming is real and that it is caused by people using refrigerators so she is not going to use hers any more. It is nuts, but at least it is consistent.
If Obama is so concerned about global warming maybe he should turn off the air conditioning at the White House. I bet that takes a lot of electricity. Congress could help out by turning off the air conditioning in the Capitol and adjourning for the entire summer. It would do these politicians good to get out of D.C. and see how real people live. Also, having Congress in recess would prevent them from voting for other ways to spend more of our money.
Now I am sure that Obama will not be turning off the air conditioning in the White House. However, he does want us to turn off our air conditioning. Now he has not said that specifically, but the cap and trade bill that Obama is pushing through Congress will raise our electric rates by about 50%. Air conditioning is something that we will have to cut if the cost of electricity increases dramatically. That is why Obama does not mind if electric rates go up. He wants us to use less electricity. Maybe we should just unplug our refrigerators while we are at it.
Yes. The “messiah” is at it again. Who knows maybe next week he will “part the Red Sea” or maybe just Chesapeake Bay.
(Chair of the Sixth District Republicans, James Thomas can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org)
MAYBE POLITICIANS' WIVES
SHOULD BE GUN-TOTERS
Democrats are doing everything they can to drive the voters away from them. They want to dramatically increase government spending, give handouts to people not willing to work for a living AND to corporate fat cats, raise taxes, increase government regulation and the costs of living and doing business in America. All of these things are contrary to what polling data says the American people want. The Democrats' agenda is an incredible opportunity for Republicans to reduce or eliminate the Democrats' majority in the U.S. House in 2010.
So what's the problem? The Republican Party continues to struggle with fielding credible candidates. Maybe the Republicans need to run some “HELP WANTED” ads. A sample might look like this:
HELP WANTED: Good candidates for public office from dog catcher to U.S. President. Must REALLY believe in less government spending, lower taxes, less government regulation and less government intervention in our lives. The wife of any male candidate must either be a National Rifle Association member, hold a conceal carry permit or at least be willing to purchase a firearm and attend a firearm training course.
Republicans need candidates that are credible on the issues that are the long-term central themes of the Republican Party less government spending, lower taxes, less government regulation and less government intervention in our lives.
So much of political campaigning is about name ID. That is why candidates for higher office have often held some lower office that has allowed the candidates to obtain name ID. State Reps become State Senators. State Senators become Congressmen. Congressmen become U.S. Senators.
The problem on the national stage is that many Republicans that have served in Congress have been part of increasing the size of government during the time when Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House.
You don't have to go to D.C. to see Republicans who have lost their way. Right here in the County Courthouse we have County Commissioners who have turned in to big spending liberals.This is despite prior attempts of conservative Republicans to “clean house” and replace the big spenders with candidates who promise to cut spending. However, conservatives are simply “thanked” by having different big spenders.
I digress. The real point of this week's column was to have a little fun with the help wanted ad's requirements for a male candidate's wife. Given the numerous indiscretions of male elected officials throughout the country these requirements are particularly appropriate. (Women candidates should not feel unwanted. I prefer women candidates for most offices. Men have been the ones caught being unfaithful so they need the special spousal requirements.)
We have elected officials both Democrats and Republicans -- who can't seem to remain faithful to their wives. Some like interns or other employees at their government offices. Others visit expensive call girls. Some fall in love with women from Argentina. Or, the worst of all, some like strange men in a bathroom stall at the airport. Maybe these elected officials would behave better if they knew that their wives were waiting at home with a loaded firearm and/or, even better, a huge carving knife and the knowledge of how to use it.
Now I'm not advocating violence. It would obviously be inappropriate (maybe “illegal” would be a more precise word) for a woman to shoot or castrate her cheating politician husband. However, if these philandering elected officials had a little fear of the consequences on the home front for unfaithful conduct, they just might not go astray.
(Chair of the Sixth District Republicans, James Thomas can be reached at email@example.com)
CAP AND TRADE WILL COST
ALL OF US IN A BIG, BIG WAY
Obama and the Democrats in the U.S. House may have given us the scariest development so far in this presidential administration “cap and trade.” This legislation can still change and be slowed down, possibly killed or at least made “less bad” in the U.S. Senate, but don't hold your breath.
I have been planning to write about this topic for several weeks. However, the legislation has been changing so rapidly that I was trying to get all the facts before writing my column. It is my understanding that over 100 pages per day were added to the legislation each day during the three or four days leading up to its passage.
What is cap and trade? It basically places a “cap” on the amount of carbon dioxide (i.e., what we breath out every time we exhale) and other greenhouse gas emissions that can be let off. Those with excess capacity for emissions can sell that emissions capacity to others.
What does that mean? The first thing it means that our electric rates will go up. There are wide ranging estimates on how much electric rates will rise, but KCP&L has estimated that this legislation would increase electric rates up to 50% over the next three years. Ouch!
This legislation actually has a double impact on the cost of electricity. First, it will force utilities to buy credits in order to meet the new standards created by the government. Second, the ever tightening standards created by the government will require utility companies to replace perfectly functional power generation plants. What does all that mean? More cost for the electricity. What does that mean to you? Electricity will cost you a lot more. Even worse, electricity will not just cost you a lot more, but it will also cost businesses more. What do businesses have to do to stay in business long-term? They have to pass that cost on to their customers.
The impact on those in the Midwest would actually be much worse on us than those on the two coasts. Far more electricity is produced in the Midwest from coal-fired plants than it is on the two coasts. So, that means that Midwestern electric rates will rise much more quickly than the rates on the two coasts.
Low labor costs and low utility costs are two things that attract businesses to the Midwest. We don't have beaches, perfect weather (except about two weeks a year) or mountains. We attract jobs to the Midwest because we have good people with a good work ethic and a lower cost of doing business here. If this bill ultimately passes, it will increase the cost of electricity in the Midwest relative to the other parts of the country and have a significant negative impact on economic development in the Midwest.
There are also other disturbing ideas being promoted by supporters of this legislation. They just don't want to go after the producers of electric power. They want to come after the consumers. They want to require changes in how we consume electricity in our homes. They want to regulate our appliances and the kind of light bulbs we use. It is only a short jump from there to government inspectors invading your home to deny you the right to have electricity for your big screen TV or that old fridge you have in your garage for your personal stack of beverages.
This legislation is not the law yet, but it is getting dangerously close. This isn't a Republican or Democrat issue although the Democrats are overwhelmingly the ones promoting cap and trade. This is a basic freedom issue. Now is your chance to rise up and speak out. Tell your U.S. Senators that you don't want to pay more for electricity and you don't want further government regulation of your consumption of electricity. Do it now before it is too late!
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
REPUBLICANS NEED CREDIBLE MESSENGERS
Will 2010 be another Republican Revolution like 1994? I would like to say yes, but it really depends on two things: message and messenger.
Republicans have the message if they choose to use it. The winning message for 2010 should focus on less government, less spending and lower taxes. These fiscal issues have been the foundation of the Republican Party for several decades.
These issues are winners. All you have to do is look at the recent polling by Rasmussen. People are outraged over the government takeover of our economy. Two-thirds of the people did not want the government to bail out GM. Now that the government has taken over GM and Chrysler, 80% of voters want the government to sell its shares of GM and Chrysler as soon as possible.
The American people are opposed to the out-of-control spending. By a 45% to 36% plurality, voters want the remaining spending under Obama's $787 billion stimulus package cancelled. (Approximately 20% were unsure.) Fifty-three percent believe that increased government spending hurts the economy. A majority of Americans favor across the board tax cuts.
The most troubling issue for Obama and the Democrats is that 39% now believe that the country's economic problems are being worsened by the policies that Obama has put in place. That is not a majority yet, but it is a 12 point jump over the last month. A narrow majority still believes that the economic woes are the result of a recession that Obama inherited from the Bush Administration, but the percentage that believe that has dropped by eight points in the last month. Voters are also wising up as to who is best to look out for their economic well being. Sixty percent now trust their economic judgment more than Obama's. (I know it is amazing that this number is this low, but this is an 11 point jump from February polling.)
The Republicans have it all laid out for them. Obama is seen less and less as the “savior.” He is slowly taking blame for the economy. Republicans have the winning message that is consistent with their historical message.
So, what's the problem? Why am I not yet confident that Republicans will pummel the Democrats in 2010? There are two reasons.
First, while the traditional Republican message of fiscal responsibility is seen as the right message, some Republican elected officials (as opposed to the party faithful) are not willing to push this message.
Second, who will be the messenger? So many current Republican leaders lack credibility on these fiscal issues. Sixty-nine percent of GOP voters say Republicans in Congress are out-of-touch with the party's base. Even 50% of GOP voters in Arizona say their beloved John McCain is out of touch with the Party's base.
The base is committed to the message of less government intrusion in our lives, less government spending and lower taxes. I attended a fund raiser two weeks ago where the crowd was obviously fired up by this message. However, all one had to do was look over at a table where two of our Platte County Commissioners sat (I assume as guests as opposed to donors) to watch them squirm as the crowd cheered for lower taxes and less spending.
Right here in Platte County, Republican politicians have the chance to fight for lower taxes and less spending. Are our commissioners working toward that goal? No! They are proposing a huge tax that will raise so much new money that they don't even know how they will spend it all. At a time when the Republican message of fiscal responsibility seems clearly poised to carry the day, we don't have credible messengers stepping forward to carry that message.
Republicans could have another 1994. But it will require them to stay on message and have credible messengers. Let's just hope Republicans can find those credible messengers.
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at email@example.com)
GOVERNMENT BORROWS WITHOUT A
Two weeks ago I noted that I shared Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream from his “I have a dream speech” that our children would grow up in a color blind society. I do share that dream, but a different dream is what sparked my interest in politics.
I have always been interested in a wide range of political issues and followed politics with great interest since I was in grade school. However, since my teenage years I figured out that what government was all about was how the government gets its money and how it spends it.
The modern day political figure who inspired me was Ronald Reagan. Reagan inspired me on the issues of reducing government spending and lowering taxes. However, the “dream” that truly inspired my interest in politics was reducing and eventually eliminating the national government's debt.
When Reagan was campaigning in 1980, he talked about balancing the federal budget and eliminating the national debt. I used to work up charts on this by hand to entertain myself while sitting through high school classes. (You have to keep in mind that neither Excel nor personal computers were available at the time so it was necessary to do these calculations by hand.)
I had it all figured out. The national debt was about $1 trillion. So, if you balanced the budget and dedicated $50 billion per year in your budget to reducing the national debt, the national debt would be zero in twenty years. Also, I figured that the $50 billion per year would initially be difficult to find; however, after ten years the interest savings on the national debt (assuming a 10% interest rate) would actually pay for the $50 billion per year deficit reduction payments. That was my dream a debt free America!
Now I understand a lot more than I did as a teenager. I appreciate the appropriateness of some debt to pay for long-term purchases like buildings and other capital improvements. I also appreciate the role that U.S.
Treasuries have as an investment vehicle and as a measuring device in the market place. It is also important that the federal government have mechanisms in place to be able to borrow money from time to time for emergencies. So, eliminating all government debt is probably not practical or appropriate. However, the dream is not entirely inappropriate. The government really does need to have a situation where it only borrows money with a plan for repayment.
The federal government -- under both Democrats and Republicans -- has a frightening budgeting process. The government is not just borrowing money from time to time. What is going on is that the government is borrowing money with no plan for repayment.
Contrary to the Dave Ramsey philosophy, I have had debt during my life, but I have handled that debt differently than how the government has managed its debt. Unlike the government, I have only taken on debt with a plan for repayment. I had student loans, but I paid them off in five years. Today I still have a home mortgage, but I have a plan to eventually pay off my home mortgage and be completely debt free.
The government does not work this way. The government simply borrows money for the spending it wants to do this year. However, the money is not borrowed with any plan for repayment. The government acts like it has a big credit card that it can charge on forever and never have its lenders ask for anything except interest payments.
I still have a dream that someday our government will not spend more money than it receives and that it will not borrow money without a plan for repayment of that debt. We'll just have to wait to see whether the dream I share with Dr. King or my primary dream ever really come true.
(Email James Thomas, the chair of Sixth District Republicans, at firstname.lastname@example.org)
OBAMA TAKING CONTROL FROM THE 'OPPRESSORS'
It has taken less than six months for Obama to seize government control of at least one American industry and change the way America operates. Obama's speeches during the campaign hinted that he wanted to convert America from a capitalist country to a socialist country. Obama's support of making America a communist country was less openly stated, but once America becomes a socialist country, it is just one more step to communism.
So we can all be on the same page, let's work from some definitions from dictionary.com. Socialism is defined as “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.”Dictionary.com notes that in Marxist theory socialism is “the stage following capitalism in the transition to communism characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.”
Marxism is defined as the system of economic and political thought developed by Karl Marx and his associate, Friedrich Engels that the state throughout history has been a device for the exploitation of the masses by a dominant class, that class struggle has been the main agency of historical change, and that the capitalist system, containing the first seeds of its own decay, will inevitably, after the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, be superseded by a socialist order and classless society where all the means of production are commonly owned.
Communism is defined as “a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.”Communism with a capital “C” is “a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.”
All of this fits perfectly with the black liberation theology of President Obama's church of so many years which has a mission statement of correcting America's mal-distribution of wealth. Obama's preacher told him from the pulpit that he is being kept down and oppressed by others so the oppressed must rise up and take control away from these oppressors. Obama has now done that.
The latest developments with the bankruptcy of General Motors is socialistic. Under the proposed bankruptcy restructuring, the assets of GM will be transferred to a company that is owned 60% by the U.S. government, 12.5% by the Canadian government, 17.5% by the unions and 10% by the unsecured bondholders. The government (i.e., the community as a whole) will now have ownership and control over the means of production and distribution.
How did this happen? In large part this has been allowed to happen because the U.S. government has been pumping money in to GM over the last six months instead of making the company file for bankruptcy earlier. If GM had filed for bankruptcy earlier, it could have restructured its union contracts and emerged from bankruptcy a stronger company. Instead, the government (and the unions) will own the assets of GM the “means of production and distribution.”Socialism!
It is not uncommon for companies to use bankruptcy as a vehicle to allow someone to ride in on a “white horse” and save a business and the many jobs it creates.I have used this process to save business operations in the past. However, I don't see the government effectively being able to save GM. The government rarely does anything well. (Just look at what a great job the government has done with Social Security.) Now consider the government deciding what kinds of cars to build and how to sell them.
This is unfortunate for another reason. I have owned many GM products: most recently two consecutive Buick LeSabres and my wife's Chevrolet Suburban. However, I just don't see myself buying a “Government Motors” vehicle in the future.
(Reach James Thomas, chair of the Sixth District Republicans, at email@example.com)
SOTOMAYOR SUPPORTS REVERSE DISCRIMINATION
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Martin Luther King Jr. spoke those words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 23, 1963. I share King's dream. I believe in King's dream of a color-blind society. That is what makes the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court so disturbing.
Yes. Sotomayor probably was likely tapped for the appointment because she was a member of two constituency groups. Obama can “kill two birds with one stone” by appointing a woman who is also of Hispanic descent. The fact that Sotomayor was chosen at least in part for reasons of political expediency does not disturb me. The reality is that Obama was politically expected to appoint a woman or non-white to the bench with his first Supreme Court appointment.Making judicial appointments for political reasons is disappointing, but not disturbing. It is just part of the process.
No. What I find disturbing is Sotomayor's support of reverse discrimination. This attitude was brought front and center in Ricci v. New Haven, a case Sotomayor ruled on as a federal appellate judge. The City of New Haven had an examination process that was weighted 60% to a written test and 40% to an oral test to determine which firefighters would be appointed to more senior positions in the fire department. The written examination was developed with the assistance of an outside consulting firm and carefully structured to avoid any racial bias. However, after the promotion candidates had taken the exam and the test had been scored, the city chose to discard the test because too few minority firefighters scored high enough to be promoted. In fact, none of the 27 black exam takers scored high enough to be promoted. Those firefighters who had scored well on the discarded test (most of whom were white, but two of whom were Hispanic) sued the city for racial discrimination for throwing out the test. The trial court and appellate court --with Sotomayor's support -- upheld the city's actions.
In fairness to the city, they were in a tough position. If they promoted the highest scoring exam takers and none of them were black, one of the black candidates or some minority advocacy group might have sued the city. Faced with this possibility, the city promoted no one. Of course, the city still ended up in a lawsuit based upon a different type of discrimination so the decision to promote no one was not only wrong, but it was a financial loser as well. (What is lost in the discussion of the case is whether promoting no one really constitutes discrimination.)
The problem is that the city took action to discriminate against a group of people on racial grounds even though a carefully structured examination process showed those candidates to be the most qualified. Sotomayor upheld this discrimination.
This is NOT the basis of a color-blind society. This is just a different type of discrimination. Sotomayor supports this kind of discrimination. The prospect of someone who supports this sort of discrimination serving on the Supreme Court is disturbing.
More than 45 years after King's famous speech, we still do not have a color-blind society. We are much closer than we were 45 years ago. I hope progress continues. Maybe by the time of my children's children we will have achieved this goal. However, continued progress towards this goal will not continue if the Supreme Court becomes filled with justices who support reverse discrimination. A nation where people are not “. . . judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” cannot favor people of any particular racial class or it is just another form of discrimination.
(James Thomas is chair of Sixth District Republicans. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
SECRET TAXES SHOULD MAKE YOU HOPPING MAD
Last week I promised to tell you the real reason the Platte County Commissioners have to renew the Parks Sales Tax and eventually the Roads Sales Tax and warned you that the reason would make you “hopping mad.”
Why do the Platte County Commissioners have to eventually renew the one-half cent sales tax for parks and the three-eight cent sales tax for roads? The use tax!
What is the use tax? The use tax is like a sales tax. However, unlike the sales tax, which is collected from customers by retail businesses at the time of a sale, the use tax is charged on purchases made by people and businesses in Platte County, but on which they have not yet paid any sales tax. Some examples would be when you place an order through a catalogue or over the internet. You typically will not pay any sales tax on these purchases. However, you still owe use tax to Platte County and other jurisdictions in Missouri on these purchases.
Individuals rarely actually pay their use tax liability. Former Gov. Carnahan's Director of Revenue tried new enforcement procedures, particularly against individuals. These procedures prompted a legislative response to eliminate the need for most individuals to file a use tax return. This legislation did not eliminate the tax liability, just the need to file a return. Aggressive enforcement of the use tax against businesses continues today.
When a county like Platte has a local use tax, the local use tax rate is identical to the local sales tax rate. So, when the half-cent parks sales tax and the three-eighths cent roads sales tax were put in place there was a corresponding 175% increase in the local use tax.
Now here is the part that will make you “hopping mad.” Although the increase in the local use tax rate is attributable to the parks sales tax and the roads sales tax, Platte County does not spend this additional tax revenue on parks or roads. Instead, it spends this money on other things.
This has always been a big deal to me. The use tax brings in millions of dollars each year. I knew it would require a multi-year plan to wean the county off its dependency on these taxes. In 2004 I encouraged the county commissioners to develop a plan to adjust the county's general revenue expenditures in order to slowly wean the county off of the dependency on these additional use taxes. I doubt the county is ready to do without these use taxes in its general revenue.
Although the use taxes attributable to the parks sales tax and roads sales tax are going to general operations, at least the roads sales tax is not going to expenditures that will remain when the road sales tax expires. A few years ago the county paid an inflated price for a building (which now serves as what is known as the Platte County Resource Center) that had been on the market for years. The use tax from the roads sales tax has been used to pay the debt taken out by the county to buy this building. This debt should be paid off when the road sales tax expires.
Just keep the use tax in mind whenever you are being asked for an increase in the sales tax. A sales tax for a special purpose should NOT give government a secret additional tax to be spent on things other than the same special purpose as the sales tax. Ask how the related use tax to a special sales tax will be spent before supporting it. In fact, maybe state law should require such a disclosure.
The problem for Platte County is that the county commissioners' spending plans are so great that it would be difficult for them to balance the budget if the use tax attributable to the parks sales tax was actually used for parks. As a taxpayer, that should make you “hopping mad!”
(James Thomas is chair of Sixth District Republicans. Reach him at email@example.com)
TAX-AND-SPEND TYPES RESIDE AT COUNTY LEVEL
Tax and spend liberals are not just dominating the Democrat Party. Some are also lurking in the Republican Party. These big spending politicians are not just Senators from Pennsylvania or Congressmen from other parts of the country. These out-of-control spenders are even in the Administration Building in Platte County.
It is frustrating that these big spenders want to spend your money. What is even more frustrating is that they want to try to convince you to agree with their spending sprees.
A key example of this was evident on Saturday morning when I was at a fund raising event with my girls. While there, I was approached by Kathy Dusenbery, one of the junior commissioners from Platte County. I was polite, but I was busy and not interested in an extended conversation. I thought after this brief encounter that I was done, but I was wrong. A little later that morning I was accosted by Dusenbery again. She wanted to tell me that the commissioners were planning to renew the sales tax for parks at a half cent. Her purpose had to either be to irritate me or to convince me to agree with her.
We were originally told that the Parks Sales Tax was not going to have to be renewed. After ten years the County would have done all these great things and not have to continue the tax for maintenance. However, knowing how the tax and spend liberals work, I knew it was highly unlikely that the commissioners would allow the Parks Sales Tax to expire. So, back in 2004, I suggested that steps be taken then to plan for a renewal of the Parks Sales Tax at one-eighth cent. This would give the County the resources to maintain the parks system, but it would not have so many resources that it could continue a bloated parks bureaucracy. I made this same recommendation to Dusenbery on several occasions in 2008.
I knew from these prior conversations that Dusenbery would not agree to a renewal of the Parks Sales Tax at a lower rate. I also knew that she would want to renew the Parks Sales Tax at a half cent and she might even want the renewal to not have a ten-year sunset like the current tax does. So I did not bring it up when I saw her on Saturday.
Dusenbery could not resist. She had to approach me and try to get me to agree with her tax-and-spend policies. I understand part of this. If you can get Mr. Fiscal Conservative to go along with a spending plan, it should be easy to convince everyone else. However, I have made it clear that I am not in support of this decision. I can only think that Dusenbery wanted some validation of her tax and spend philosophy from Mr. Republican. She must be feeling concerned about her Republican credentials. I was no help for her insecurity.
When I expressed concern about a Republican wanting to raise taxes, Dusenbery claimed that the voters would be the ones raising taxes. I then asked her if she was going to encourage the voters to raise their taxes. Of course, she was.
I tried to walk away, but Dusenbery just kept bugging me. I eventually had to go from polite and distant to very blunt. I told her that she and tax-and-spend liberals like her are a disgrace to the Republican Party. I told her I would not support her decision. I also told her that she shouldn't care. I don't live in her district and cannot vote for or against her. Lucky for her, that also means that I can't run against her.
Next week, I'll tell you the real reason the commissioners HAVE to renew the Parks Sales Tax and eventually the Roads Sales Tax. It will make you hopping mad.
(This will be an interesting summer. Stay in tune with James via email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO LIVE BY SAME RULES AS TAXPAYERS
“What's good for the goose is good for the gander.”
“It cuts both ways.”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
These are all different ways to express the ideas that you should treat others the way you want to be treated and the rules applicable to one person should apply to every other person. Those ideas are just a basic expression of fairness.
The current lack of fairness in the Nixon Administration's operation of our government set me off last week. Jay Nixon's budget director, Linda Luebbering, admitted that Missouri is holding up Missourians' income tax refunds. In a statement to the press Luebbering said, “. . . we have to hold those . . . [income tax refunds] . . . up to make sure we have enough cash on hand. We . . . have to manage our cash on a daily basis.”
I have long suspected that governments have done this. Earlier this year Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius threatened to hold up income tax refunds in Kansas, but she later backed down. However, it is one thing to suspect this kind of behavior on the part of government, but it is another to have the Nixon Administration admit to doing it. (Former directors of revenue under other Democrat governors have admitted to the same thing.)
Needless to say, this made me hot!! The taxpayers have to pay their taxes on time. There is no excuse under the law for a taxpayer to delay making a payment to the government because the taxpayer needs to make sure the taxpayer has “enough cash on hand.” In fact, if a taxpayer does not pay what the taxpayer owes on time, the government hits the taxpayer with interest and penalties.
What do you think would happen if on June 15 (the next estimated payment due date) a taxpayer mailed a little note to Gov. Nixon that read: Sorry. My company's cash flow is a little tight this month. I'll send you a tax payment when cash flow allows.
We all know what would happen. At a minimum, the taxpayer would be slapped with interest and penalties. The taxpayer also might get a visit from the tax collectors.
This kind of behavior is exactly why I encourage my clients to pay to the government the amount necessary to avoid underpayment of tax penalties, but only the minimum amount necessary to avoid these penalties. I know it is great at the end of the year to figure your taxes and discover that you have a nice refund coming back. In some ways this is like found money. However, what it really means is that you made an interest free loan to the government. And, with Democrats like Nixon and his minions running the place, it is likely to be a longer interest- free loan than you would like.
“What's good for the goose IS good for the gander.” The government should have to live by the same rules as the taxpayers. If a taxpayer has to make estimated payments on April 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 15, regardless of whether the taxpayer has “enough cash on hand,” then the government needs to live by the same rules. So Jay, GIVE THE PEOPLE THEIR MONEY BACK! It is the only fair thing to do.
(James Thomas is an attorney and chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at email@example.com)
REPUBLICANS WERE ABOUT READY TO KICK SPECTER TO THE CURB
Political parties matter. They serve as a mechanism for organizing around a set of collective ideas and working to advance those ideas.
Political parties are not provided for under the Constitution. However, political parties developed at the very beginning of our country. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both railed against political parties. However, they both worked hard to develop a strong party system that would give them control of Congress.
Last week Senator Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania announced he was leaving the Republican Party to join the Democrats. This has the potential to be a big deal. Specter could be the critical sixtieth vote that the Democrats need in the U.S. Senate to push whatever legislation they want without the threat of a filibuster.
Specter left because it was very likely he was going to be defeated in the Republican primary. He was one of three Republicans that joined with the Democrats in the U.S. Senate to pass a massive $787 billion spending package. This vote and others has put Specter in “hot water” with the voters, especially Republican primary voters.
Regardless of the efforts of Democrats to label their spending as “stimulus” for the economy, most of the American people realize that is simply bunk. As many liberal Democrats have said, “This crisis is too important to waste.” So, these big spending Democrats are using concerns about the economy to spend money like crazy. They label this spending as “stimulus,” but in reality, it is largely just the release of a pent up desire to spend money that Republicans have not let them spend for the last several years.
Specter's departure is a direct consequence of disgruntlement over this out of control spending. A Rasmussen poll released just days before his switch showed Specter viewed unfavorably by 55% of Pennsylvania Republicans. This same poll showed Congressman Pat Toomey with a 51% to 30% lead over Specter in the 2010 Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate.
In the announcement of his party switch Specter said “I am not prepared to have my 29 year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.” No kidding, Sherlock!!! That is because the Republicans had shown that they were about to bounce you to the curb.
What I find outrageous about Specter's party switch is that he relied heavily on Republican support to stay in office in 2004. Many Republican resources were consumed in getting Specter re-elected.
Specter's departure will be helpful in one way. To defeat an incumbent (or the “chosen one”) from your own party is difficult. It can be painful to speak out against a member of your party who has “lost his way.” (I know because I have experienced that pain.) Also, faithful party volunteers and donors tend to stick with the incumbent. So, although early polls showed Toomey with an early lead, Toomey may have struggled to raise money and volunteers to compete with Specter in the primary. Specter's abandonment of the party frees up faithful Republican volunteers and donors to support Toomey. It also frees Republicans to aggressively talk about the dumb things happening in Washington when your guy is not the one voting for them.
The Republican Party has a “big tent” that is open to everyone. However, the party is first and foremost the party of fiscal conservatism. If someone wants to carry the banner for the party, he should really consider whether his positions are consistent with this primary tenant of our party. Specter was not a fiscal conservative so he left. Good riddance!
Let's just hope Republican leaders in Missouri are paying attention. The public wants leaders who are fiscally responsible. If the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kit Bond has a conservative record on spending, the candidate's chances of winning are good. If not, Republicans will likely lose the Senate seat.
(James Thomas is head of the Sixth District Republicans. Reach him via email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
OBAMA'S TAX CUT CLAIM JUST DOESN'T HOLD WATER
I recently stumbled across a quote attributed to Voltaire in 1764.
In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give it to the other.
That is not the Republican attitude about government, but it certainly seems to be the attitude of Obama and most of the Democrats in Congress.
On the campaign trail in ’08 there was constant hype about repealing the “Bush tax cuts.” What the advocates for the repeal of these tax cuts fail to understand is that these tax cuts kept us from entering into a recession much sooner than we did. They also seem to ignore the fact that the tax cuts were a tremendous benefit to taxpayers in all tax brackets. For example, the creation of the new 10% bracket cut the tax liability of some lower income taxpayers by a third. Wow! Also, one of the changes made during the Bush Administration was to move the 15% and 28% brackets for married couples closer to twice the 15% and 28% brackets for single taxpayers. Since so many families are two income families today, this was a very significant change.
I know Obama is out claiming that he has cut the taxes of 95% of Americans. That is simply a bunch of baloney. The Obama Administration has had new withholding charts issued so that the withholdings of many taxpayers are changing. However, this is not actually a reduction of the tax liability for people. For example, my wife's withholdings for federal income taxes were reduced by a few dollars per month. That would be great if it was real. Yes. Her withholdings were reduced. However, our actual tax bill has not been reduced. So what that simply means is that I have to increase my estimated payments to avoid an underpayment penalty.
Speaking of estimated payments, one thing that is absolutely outrageous is that I have to pay in 110% (Yes! More than 100%) of my prior year tax liability to avoid an underpayment penalty. Also, the term “quarterly” estimated payments is really a misnomer. You would think that to be consistent the “quarterly” estimated payments would be due on April 15, July 15, October 15 and January 15 so they would be payable 15 days after the end of each calendar quarter. No. They are not. Estimated payments are due on April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15. So, taxpayers have to pay in estimated taxes for the second and third quarters before the quarters are even over.
I just wish everybody had to pay estimated payments. If people really had to feel the pain of writing out their checks to the government, they would not tolerate the high taxes and the stupid spending. The tax revolt would come much sooner.
I did have this great idea recently. I was sitting in the grocery store parking lot waiting for my wife to get back from a quick trip inside. I was watching these people with an Obama sticker on their car. I wanted to ask them why they were so clueless to have supported Obama. Then it hit me. Instead of trying to learn what causes certain people to make bad decisions, I should simply ask everyone I see with an Obama sticker for $20 to help offset my increased tax bill. As Obama supporters, they obviously don't mind paying higher taxes and obviously believe in the re-distribution of wealth. So, they should each be glad to cough up $20 to me to help me pay these higher taxes.
So, if you don't want me to accost you like a panhandler, take your Obama sticker off your car. Otherwise, the next time I see you I will be asking you for a contribution to the Thomas Family Higher Tax Fund.
(Email James Thomas, head of Sixth District Republicans, at email@example.com)
PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER TO FIX THEIR OWN PROBLEMS
Last week I referred to the 20% of Americans who favor socialism over capitalism and the 27% who don't know which they prefer as “stupid.” I went on to note that the “stupid” people may just be “grossly uninformed.”
After I had cranked out my first draft, I thought using the “s” word might upset some people. I sent my draft column to Ivan, but he didn't object. (Of course, Ivan doesn’t mind controversy, so he may not have been the best person to ask.) I even started to re-write my column, but I ended up way over the word limit that Ivan gives me. So, I just let him run with my draft, assuming that I would just deal with the hate mail. I haven't seen any. Not even my mother objected.
Although I haven't gotten any objections, I still wanted to explain that these “stupid” people may just not have had a “correct perspective” when considering socialism. This “correct perspective” can be illustrated by a story I have heard told over and over.
A guy's daughter comes home from college all fired up about socialism and “redistributing wealth.” Her father chooses to teach her with a great example. You see his daughter is a hard worker and a conscientious student who makes good grades, but she has friends who like to party and who are barely C students. So, her father asks her if she would like to split her grades with her friends so that she and her friends all get Bs. She, of course, objects. She works hard for her grades while her friends goof off. She does not want to give away her higher grades that are the result of her hard work to students who choose to do less. So, her father asks her why he should want to give up his extra earnings through taxes to those who work less than he does. Suddenly, his daughter is not as supportive of socialism.
Obviously the girl in this example is not one of my daughters. They start with the proposition that taxes are bad. (This is a little strong in that the government does need revenue to perform its core functions, like national defense, roads and bridges, etc., but it is still not a bad starting point.) My girls understand that the extra tax burdens imposed on our family will reduce the resources we have to take them out to dinner, buy them clothes and toys, take them on vacation or save for their college.
My girls also have the entrepreneurial spirit. I constantly hear, especially from my nine year old, about her plans to start a business. She wants to sell cookies, water and lemonade to the guys building houses at the end of the street. She wants me to rent the building where the Pizza Hut used to be at 72nd and Prairie View so she can open up a balloon shop. These are just a few of her business ideas.
I am just glad my daughters get it. When the government takes our money in higher taxes, we have less. Also, my daughters don't expect someone to give them things. They want to find a way to make their own money.
Dave Ramsey (the “total money makeover” guy on KCMO 710) really summed up the situation well. First he said: “You are the answer to your problems.” Absolutely! People have the power (and responsibility) to fix their own problems. Then he said “When you take away our incentive to win, you will destroy our whole civilization.”
The “socialism vs. capitalism” question is probably the most important question facing America. It will determine whether America continues to be a great nation or falls in to mediocrity. Let's just hope that the “grossly uninformed” obtain the “correct perspective” and support capitalism and the greatness of America. The alternative is just too scary to imagine.
(Reach James, chair of Sixth District Republicans, at firstname.lastname@example.org)
IT HAS BEEN PROVEN SOCIALISM DOES NOT WORK
Last week I pointed out that there was hope for America. More ordinary people becoming engaged in their government will bring America back to greatness. However, I also pointed out that there will still be some rough times and permanent damage inflicted by Obama and his minions. I was reminded of those rough times and likely damage by two incidents that occurred this past week.
The first incident was a Rasmussen poll that brought to light that there are many stupid people in America. (Yes. I did just use the “s” word. However, you have to remember referring to someone as “stupid” for being grossly uninformed or simply not very smart was not a dirty word when I was raised. So, you can't blame my mother for this “stupid” reference.) In this particular telephone survey, 53% of those surveyed believed that capitalism is better than socialism. These are not the stupid people. The stupid people are the 20% who disagree and the 27% who don't know.
The polling data for those under 30 years of age was frightening. The split was 37% prefer capitalism, 33% prefer socialism and 30% don't know. Those in the 30 to 40 age bracket did a little better. For this age category 49% favor capitalism, 26% favor socialism and 25% don't know. The over-40 crowd fares much better. This group strongly supports capitalism while only 13% favor socialism.
If you analyze the data on whether those polled are investors, the results are more clear. Investors favor capitalism by a 5 to 1 margin. (However, it does seem ridiculous that any investors would favor socialism.) Of those who are not investors, only 40% favor capitalism while 25% prefer socialism.
The gap on this issue is clearly evident when analyzed on partisan lines. Republicans favor capitalism by an 11 to 1 margin. Only a plurality of Democrats favors capitalism (39%) over socialism (30%). Those not affiliated with Republicans or Democrats favor capitalism by 48% over 21% supporting socialism.
These grossly uninformed or not very smart people who favor socialism over capitalism or who simply don't have an opinion are the folks that will make it hard to bring America back to greatness. These uninformed and unintelligent people will be an impediment to implementing polices to improve the economy by rewarding capital investment, risk taking, hard work and creative thinking.
The second incident was a shocking conversation I overheard at lunch on Saturday. I was working all day at the office and decided to walk across the parking lot to grab a quick bite at The Cafe. I considered myself fortunate that the hostess sat me in the back corner because I was planning to review drafts of documents while I ate. Unfortunately, although I was in the back corner, I was sitting next to a table of very loud women.
The parts of the conversation of these women that I overheard were disturbing. They were angry women from Johnson County. It was clear that they were Democrats and very liberal based upon much of the “inside baseball” conversation they carried on in their loud voices. They said many “stupid” things during their loud conversation. Then came the “stupidest” statement of all: “We're a socialist country. Get over it!” I was delighted when they paid their bill and headed back to Johnson County.
Socialism does not work. It was tried at Jamestown. It failed. It has been tried in Europe. Those countries have become mediocre and weak. Communism, which is just one step to the left of socialism, has also been tried and failed. The Soviet Union collapsed under communism. China still claims to be a communist country, but what is going on there is not exactly communism.
I still believe that ordinary, but smart and motivated people will save America. However, along with way, we will have to overcome the stupid ones.
(Email James Thomas at email@example.com)
ORDINARY FOLKS NEEDED IN OUR GOVERNMENT
There is hope! There is light at the end of the tunnel! The dark days are not over. There will likely be more pain and hardship to endure before things really get better again. However, there are signs that the people will rise up and again make America the land of prosperity.
Why am I more hopeful than ever that good times are ahead? The main reason is the phone calls I am getting. My friends, clients and referral sources all know that I am actively involved in politics. I often get calls from them asking my advice on who are the better candidates and why. However, here lately I am getting more and more calls from apolitical folks who are fed up and want to find a way to get involved in changing the direction of America. These motivated people will be what saves America.
One example of the invigoration of folks to become involved are the Tea Parties being planned around the country. The first one was held a few weeks ago. (The first Tea Party was actually held two days and 191 years before my date of birth in protest of the Tea Act whereby the British Parliament imposed taxes on the American colonists, but I think you know I was referring to the recent Tea Parties.) After the first few Tea Parties, this became a movement around the country. A big Tea Party is planned in Kansas City on the afternoon of April 15 at Liberty Memorial with one of my favorite radio show hosts, Chris Stigall, as the keynote speaker. (For more information you can check out kcmotalkradio.com.) What I thought was particularly appropriate is that this event will be held within sight of the post office where folks who are the ultimate procrastinators will mail their last minute tax returns and just a long baseball throw from the new Internal Revenue Service Center.
The Tea Party is not a partisan event; however, the folks that are upset about high taxes just happen to be good potential voters for Republican candidates. The growing outrage over Obama's policies and high taxes is a great opportunity for Republicans to provide leadership for these rightfully upset people.
The problem is that Republicans need to find the right person to provide this leadership. That means that some of the major players on the national stage for Republicans will have to be pushed aside to make room for new voices. For example, I was recently at a meeting of some Republicans where “he IS the problem” was the basic response to the mentioning of the name of one prominent Missouri Republican who formerly held a prominent role in Congress. There is a strong sentiment among a lot of Republicans that the Republicans who were in the leadership of Congress during recent years lost their way and chose to become “Democrat-light” instead of sticking to conservative policies of less spending and lower taxes. There are prospects who can provide this leadership. On a trip to DC, Congressman Sam Graves introduced a group of us to several of his colleagues who understand fiscally conservative principals and can provide leadership on these issues.
There is one major fear that I have. That fear is how much damage that Obama and his minions will do before America is put back on the right track. For example, many misguided programs that were put in place by FDR and LBJ are still with us today. I am very concerned about how many bad programs Obama will leave us with over the next few years.
The Tea Act was not the last bad thing in the 1770s. There were more bad things to come before America became a free nation. We will have to endure more. But, ordinary folks becoming involved in their government and standing up to bad polices will bring America back to greatness.
(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
THE WRONG PEOPLE WILL GET STUCK PAYING FOR THIS
There is a lot of discussion about “Who is to blame for the current economic crisis?” There are a lot of different opinions on the subject. If you listen to President Obama and the Democrats, it is all President Bush's fault. If you listen to the Republicans in Congress, the blame should go to Bill Clinton's policy on home ownership and community organizers like our current President who threatened to sue banks if they did not loan money to people who did not really have the creditworthiness to justify the loans.
I have a different opinion as to who is most at fault for our current economic crisis. Instead of placing the blame at the top, the blame belongs first and foremost at the bottom. The blame should first go to those homebuyers who bought houses that they could not afford.
Although irresponsible borrowers are the ones who need to bear the most blame, they are not the only ones at fault. The mortgage crisis was brought on in large part by the irresponsibility of many in the home mortgage industry.
The home lending process was out of control. Borrowers used to have to put 20% down to buy houses. Then it became common that borrowers could get by with 10% down. Later, there became a process where buyers could get 80% first mortgages and 20% second mortgages so they actually put nothing down. Eventually the lending process became so bad that buyers could borrow 120% of a home's purchase price. In some cases, the loans were even interest only or even less than the interest due in order to “qualify” the borrowers for the mortgages. In many cases the loans were adjustable rate mortgages that were artificially low at the beginning so the buyers could initially qualify for the loans.
Lenders bear some of the responsibility for making loans that there was little hope the borrowers could repay. Who should bear more responsibility than the lenders, but still less responsibility than the borrowers, are the Wall Street investment bankers who came up with the packaging and selling of these loans in such a way that no one was really evaluating the creditworthiness of the borrowers. Since the originating lenders planned to immediately sell the loans, the originating lenders paid less attention to the creditworthiness of the borrowers. As the loans were bundled with other loans, less and less attention seems to have been paid to the creditworthiness of the borrowers.
This is not just a mortgage crisis. It is also a general credit crisis. Here again, borrowers bear most of the blame. Too many consumers seem to have thought that a credit card is just free money to spend without any plan for repayment. Again, the over-spending consumers are not the only ones to blame. The credit card companies that gave these consumers this easy credit are also to blame. These companies are worse than drug dealers who start by giving away their “product” for free until they get their customers hooked and then charge confiscatory prices for what they offer. They gave consumers six month 0% offers to get them to rack up a bunch of debt and then they hit them with huge interest rates and fees.
Bush had little to nothing to do with the current crisis. Obama is more to blame than Bush for the credit mess. In his younger days when working as a “community organizer,” which is a nice word for “thug,” Obama reportedly threatened banks with lawsuits if they did not loan money to people who were not really creditworthy. Since the banks were going to immediately sell the loans anyway, they chose to make the loans and avoid a lawsuit.
The bad news is that people who were responsible with their credit are the ones who are going to get stuck with the paying for this mess.
(James Thomas is chairman of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at email@example.com)
SHAREHOLDER CONTROLS NEED TO BE TIGHTENED
There was plenty of political grandstanding last week in response to news that AIG had paid approximately $165 million in bonuses to certain executives after taking $173 billion in bailout money. Obama and many in Congress were “pounding the pulpit” and demanding that the bonuses be returned. Congress attacked the bonuses by proposing a special 90% tax on these specific bonuses.
Like every hard-working, self-supporting, responsible-bill-paying American taxpayer, I was outraged that executives may have gotten huge bonuses after their company was kept afloat by the American taxpayers. But, I was pretty sure there was more to the story than was initially being disclosed. There was. In fact, it was Democrats in Congress who made the bonuses not only possible, but likely necessary.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D Conn.) made an amendment to the stimulus plan during the conference committee process on the stimulus bill. This amendment stated that the limits on compensation payments in the stimulus bill would not apply to “any bonus payment required to be paid pursuant to a written employment contract executed on or before Feb. 11, 2009.” Dodd and his bailout buddies actually legally authorized the bonus payments because they were made subject to written employment contracts that were executed months before February 11, 2009.
When it became clear that they had made a mistake, the bailout fanatics in Congress attempted to pass a retroactive 90% tax targeted at these specific bonuses. What?!?! That is crazy! And scary!
These executives entered into written employment contracts. Now that the time has come to get paid, the government wants to impose a special tax because they don't like the employment contracts. If such an action is ever held to be constitutional, then we are all in trouble. That means that the government can undercut any of us if we ever happen to make a legal contract that is favorable to us, but not liked by Congress.
I am as upset as the next guy about what sounded like huge bonuses being paid to executives who have run their companies in to the ground. This kind of incompetence should never be rewarded. I fail to see how few, if any, corporate executives are worth the millions in cash compensation they receive. However, the solution is not for government to prohibit how much these executives make. Instead the director and shareholder controls over executive compensation need to be tightened.
Senior executive compensation is usually set by a corporation's board of directors. This board of directors is elected by the shareholders and should be answerable to the shareholders about whether the compensation given to executives is consistent with the value these executives provide to the corporation. The problem is a breakdown in the shareholders' control over the directors and the directors' control over the executives.
I am all in favor of a salesman or inventor making wheel barrel loads of money if he produces huge commissioned sales or designs a new product for the company. However, I have trouble seeing how any executive deserves multi-multi-millions of dollars in cash compensation for an administrative role. I especially don't see the justification for this kind of compensation when the company is losing money.
I agree with the masses and even Obama and the Democrats in Congress that these bonuses stink. However, the executives played within the rules (and even a specific amendment to the bailout bill that was put in by a Democrat) and should not lose the bonuses because some people don't like it.
These “stinky” bonuses do present an opportunity. All businesses in America should review their executive compensation plans and develop mechanisms to assure that executive compensation is reasonably related to performance and the value provided by the executive. The directors' control over executive compensation (and the shareholders' control over the directors) should be tightened. However, these controls need to be mechanisms of the businesses and not of the government.
(Email James at firstname.lastname@example.org)
GOVERNMENT DOES NOT EXIST TO MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY
Two recent discussions on talk radio really sparked my interest.
Last week Rusty Humphries was talking about some of the founding principles of America. The Constitution is the document that governs the operation of our government, but the Declaration of Independence really contains our founding principles. The second sentence of the Declaration says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (I copied that text -- including the capitalization -- from a reproduction of the Declaration which was a wonderful office warming gift from my parents.)
Rusty was pointing out the confusion over this language. It does not say that everyone has a right to “Happiness.” It says that everyone has a right to the “pursuit of Happiness.”A lot of people today seem to think that government exists to make them happy. It does not. Government exists to give people a framework within which to pursue their happiness.
I also recently heard an exchange Rush had with a caller who was upset about the bonuses being paid to certain employees at AIG. (I am potentially upset about this as well. I will likely provide more precise comments in a later column.) Rush quickly got to the heart of the matter. The caller was not upset so much about a company paying bonuses to its employees while it was getting bailed out by the taxpayers. The caller was more upset because from his perspective these employees make too much money.
Rush quickly asked the caller how much money he wanted to make. The caller said $250,000. Rush then asked how old he was. The caller said 32. Rush responded that the caller was young enough that he had his whole life ahead of him and could do anything he wanted with this life. Then Rush asked the caller what he planned to do to achieve his goal of making $250,000 a year. The caller hung up.
After the caller was gone, Rush pointed out the whole problem. Some people think that having success, which some measure by how much money they make even though this is not really a good measure of success, just happens. Rush pointed out that the successful people he has met with say it often takes 10 years or more and more than 10,000 hours of dedicated effort to be successful. Rush pointed out that the caller apparently was not willing to make the commitment to achieving his own success.
Many clients I work with have found the path to success. For example, I have a client whose plumbing service company nets over $400,000 per year. However, his success should not be measured by how much money he makes. His success should be measured by how many people want to hire his company to do their work and how many high quality plumbers want to work for his company. Some say “luck” is a key element to success. However, as one of my other clients pointed out “luck” stands for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge. His point was that if you start with a plan for success and then go out and work hard to implement that plan, then it is not mere good fortune that you are successful.
The key principle of America is the “pursuit” of happiness and not happiness itself. In fact, the “pursuit” is the fun part. It is true that God gave me certain gifts. One of the most important was a pair of loving and supportive parents who encouraged and nurtured a “poor dumb farm kid” to get an education and make something of himself. That has led to the really fun part, my “pursuit” of my own happiness, which comes in part from my vocation, but also from many other things in my life.
(Pursue James Thomas via email to email@example.com)
HIS DEFICIT-CUTTING TALK IS EASY TO SEE THROUGH
The last six weeks has shown us two Obamas. Like Jekyll and Hyde, Obama bounces back and forth between being the biggest spender in history and a deficit hawk.
One day Obama is saying that we will have trillion dollar deficits (with a T!) in to the foreseeable future. A few days later he is holding a “fiscal responsibility summit” and claiming he is leading an effort to crack down on wasteful government spending.
Soon after his “fiscal responsibility summit,” Obama releases his proposed budget which has trillion dollar deficits (once again, with a T!) for not just this year, but also projected for the remainder of his current term as president. Then Obama has the audacity to make public statements about cutting the deficit in half in five years. Well, when you just doubled the annual deficit to a trillion dollars, you only have to get back to the prior spending levels to get the deficit down to half a trillion dollars.
Let's keep in mind that the deficits we are talking about are annual deficits and not the national debt. To put this in perspective, each annual trillion dollar deficit increases the national debt by about 10%. Wow!
Why the two Obamas? The answer is simple. Republicans are making great inroads by attacking the massive spending plans of Obama and his Democrat buddies in Congress. The American people are smart enough to know that the federal government can't just keep spending money at this pace without drastic consequences. Obama may promote really dumb policy ideas, but he is not “politically” stupid. He knows that his spending will get him in trouble. So, he counters his massive spending with great sound bites that his accomplices in the media use to give him political cover for his out of control spending.
For example, after a particular meeting at the White House, the media gave Obama 24 hours of news coverage which referred to this political grandstanding opportunity as a “fiscal responsibility summit.” Similarly, a couple of weeks later Obama held a press conference in which he said he would “cut the deficit in half in five years.”
The media ran that quote in every news report for that day and the next without mentioning that Obama had just proposed doubling the deficit. I happened to be in the car several times and almost puked from hearing the quote repeated over and over and over.
Why is Obama trying to sound like a deficit hawk? Because if he doesn't his approval ratings will plummet. Why is the media running all these clips that make Obama sound like he is trying to cut spending when all the facts clearly show the contrary? Because they love the guy and want to give him every break they can.
Here are some basic points. You cannot spend yourself rich. You cannot create prosperity by spending money you don't have. The government needs to operate more like we should operate in our personal lives. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. If you haven't read it, don't sign it.
The latter of those points relates to the recent so-called stimulus package passed by Congress without members of Congress having a meaningful chance to read what they were voting on. Before Obama took office he said he would offer a stimulus package to build roads and bridges. However, only about 4% of the stimulus package is dedicated to roads and bridges. The balance is for junk like $30 million to restore a wetland that would protect the habitat of the salt marsh harvest mouse in Speaker Pelosi's district.
I think we all know who the “real” Obama is. He is the one that wants the government to have greater control over the economy and our personal lives. He is also the one with the mistaken view that the government can spend America back to prosperity.
(There may be two Obamas, but only one Landmark columnist named James Thomas. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
WHEN BIAS MAKES ITS WAY INTO THE NEWS STORIES
The corporation which owns the Kansas City Star was almost kicked off the New York Stock Exchange last week. To remain listed on the NYSE, a company must not trade below $1 per share for more than 30 consecutive days. The Star's parent company would have failed that test last Friday if the NYSE had not announced on Wednesday that it was suspending the $1 per share rule until June 30.
The Star has been bleeding financially for quite some time. The Star has made multiple layoffs in response to steadily declining readership. This is not a problem that is unique to The Star. The New York Times is also losing readers and money. You can now buy a share of stock in the NYT for less than the cost of the Sunday edition of the paper.
The Star and NYT want to blame declining readership on the internet. This is certainly a factor, but is it not the real problem. The problem is the overwhelming liberal bias of these newspapers. These newspapers are bleeding cash because they advocate liberal positions instead of reporting the news.
There is a place for “opinion” in a newspaper. I write this column from a conservative perspective. Ivan puts his “spin” on the news of the day in his Between the Lines column. But these biases are on the opinion page(s) and do not flow over to the reporting of the news. Also the “opinions” are expressed by a specific person and not simply attributed to the editorial board (i.e., the newspaper in general).
I refuse to pay for The Star. I actually feel a little bad when the guy comes through the neighborhood trying to get me to subscribe. I always tell him, “I'm sorry. I know you are just trying to make an honest living, but I will never pay for that liberal piece of trash.” In fact, for a while they tried to throw the paper in my driveway for free. I called and told them to stop. I didn't want their rag cluttering up my driveway until trash day.
It really is a sad development that the Kansas City metropolitan area does not have a daily “paper of record.” A free press plays an important role in our democracy. However, when the press is so biased, it is not fulfilling that role.
In addition to its bias, The Star is not fulfilling its role in providing news coverage. The Star generally has little news reporting from the state capitol. For example, a few years ago Catherine Hanaway, who was then the Minority Leader in the House, asked me to serve on a budget review panel to give recommendations for improving the budget process. (We jokingly called this the “green eye shade panel” because it was made up of a bunch of accountants and financial types). When we issued our report at a press conference, it was carried by all the TV news outlets in Jefferson City and Columbia and was front page news in the Jefferson City and Columbia newspapers the next day. Not a word was written by The Star about our recommendations.
The press has not always claimed to be free from bias. During the first W's Administration (i.e., George Washington) there was a Federalist Party newspaper and a newspaper backed by Thomas Jefferson and his supporters. The difference was that everyone knew these newspapers were biased and read them with that understanding.
The newspaper business is a business. You have to offer your customers a product they are willing to buy. I can't stand the liberal dribble of The Star that not only floods the editorial pages, but also oozes--more precisely, flows freely -- to the news articles. Given the continuous decline in readership, I must not be the only one who is not willing to pay for their biased reporting.
(James Thomas provides the lean to the right on this opinion page. Reach him at email@example.com)
OBAMA COULD BE THE 'SAVIOR' FOR THE REPUBLICANS
There has been a lot of talk about Barrack Obama being “the messiah” who will save so many people from their woes. For example, do you remember the woman who was interviewed on TV right after Obama's infomercial on the Wednesday night before the election? She said she could not wait until Obama was president so she would not have to worry about paying her rent, buying groceries or caring for her family. Obama was going to take care of all of that for her. Or maybe you remember the woman who just last week asked Obama to give her a place to live.
Obama's promise to bring socialism or even near communism to the United States has given “hope” to many. This should not be a surprise to anyone. Obama openly spoke like a socialist on the campaign trail. Obama also spent many years in a church that had as its mission statement “to correct America's mal-distribution of wealth.”
Obama cannot be the savior for all of these people standing around with their hands out unless he ruins America. There simply are not enough productive working people in America to give all these people a free ride. Well . . . there are enough productive working people to fund these hand outs, but the only way to support the numbers that Obama wants to support is to draw down the standard of living for 40 to 50 percent of all Americans. The interesting twist is that Obama may be the “savior” for the Republican Party.
Lincoln Days, an annual state-wide gathering of Republicans, was held in Kansas City over the weekend. The basic theme from all the speakers sounded like the Lincoln Days speakers from 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000. The speakers cried out about the ridiculous spending that the Democrats have already begun within less than a month after regaining control of both the Presidency and the Congress.
Spending is out of control. Contrary to its name, the so-called “stimulus” bill was not really designed to put people to work. The package did include a relatively small investment in infrastructure. For example, three to four percent of the spending package was for constructing and repairing roads and bridges. There was some additional infrastructure-type spending as well. However, the bill was heavily laden with silly projects like $30 million to restore a wetland that would protect the habitat of the salt marsh harvest mouse in Speaker Pelosi's district or funding government control of our health care system.
The offensive thing about the spending package is that it is basically just new debt with no plan for repayment. This would be like you getting a new credit card in the mail with a $10,000 credit limit. You immediately run out and spend the credit card up to the limit. However, when making your purchases, you have no plan for repayment of the debt. So, your spending spree does not just cost you the initial $10,000. You are also burdened with thousands of dollars of interest that will have to be paid in the future.
That is what the Democrats have done. They have spent a bunch of money with no plan for how to pay for it. Our children and grandchildren will be paying for this “stimulus.”
Many Americans are outraged by the Democrats' out-of-control spending and the bailouts to bankers, businesses and ordinary people who have been financially irresponsible. Republicans have the opportunity to reclaim their label as the fiscally responsible party. The problem is that Republicans have some credibility problems on this issue. Some Republicans “spent money like Democrats” when they controlled Congress.
However, the hope is that some of those who tried to hold the line on spending, like our own Congressman Sam Graves, will be able to restore the Republican Party's credibility on fiscal responsibility and lead the Republican Party and America “out of the wilderness.”
(James Thomas will help lead ticked off taxpayers/Landmark readers out of the wilderness. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
HISTORY WILL SHOW THIS 'STIMULUS' TO BE A JOKE
The so-called “stimulus” package is a joke. The Congressional legislation is nothing more than a bunch of pent up spending priorities that Democrats have not been able to push through with a Republican president blocking their path.
Some people have commented that an increased investment in infrastructure by the government would stimulate the economy. I don't want the government spending money it does not have. However, I agree that if money was really spent on roads, bridges and similar infrastructure that helps the economy that the money spent not only creates jobs in the short term from the actual construction of the improvements, but also has an on-going positive impact on the economy.
The problem is that the stimulus package actually spends very little on roads and bridges. Okay, the $27 billion set aside for highway and bridge construction and repair is a lot of money when stated as a number by itself. However, that is less than three percent of the total spending package.
The bill also has $8 billion in aid to states to defray budget costs. So Uncle Sam is going to bail out states that have spent way too much money. Of course, states like Missouri, which have had a Republican governor for the last four years have only a small budget crisis. (Once again, a projected $250 million crisis is a lot of money, but out of a $20 billion budget that is only about a 1% problem.) States like Illinois and New York, which have had long-term Democrat control, are facing billions of dollars in shortfalls.
The stimulus package also includes $19 billion to modernize our health information technology systems. This is intended to track health care provided throughout the country and create a mechanism for the government to comment on whether the health care treatments that are being provided are necessary or economical. This is the first step in a government plan to regulate our access to health care.
The bill does include some tax relief. However, that tax relief is also a joke. It is estimated that the tax law changes would save taxpayers about $13 a week. Of course, as we should expect with all Obama tax cuts, the “tax cuts” are available to those who don't pay any federal income taxes and are phased out for the middle income folks who actually pay the overwhelming majority of the taxes paid. In other words, these “tax cuts” are really just additional welfare payments.
This spending bill also includes plenty of ridiculous spending. For example, the bill includes $30 million to restore a wetland that would protect the salt marsh harvest mouse. I don't think it is merely a coincidence that this wetland is located in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district. For those keeping score, that is $30 million for a mouse and $13 per week (or less) for you.
If the point is to stimulate the economy, the solution is simple. This bill amounts to over $2,500 for every man, woman and child in America. If you want to stimulate the economy, just give my family of four a $10,000 credit for this year's tax bill. My family (and every other taxpaying family in America) having an extra $10,000 to invest for college or retirement, buy a new car or otherwise spend would certainly stimulate the economy.
There were already some glimmers of economic recovery from prior to the passage of this bill. Retail sales and home sales were up in January. It is too early to be a trend, but at least there has been a slight uptick in the economy. Things may get worse before they get better, but they will get better. When they do get better, history will show that this so-called stimulus package had nothing to do with the economic recovery.
(The Right Stuff stimulates discussion each week at a much lower cost than the ‘stimulus.’ Email the columnist at email@example.com)
RUSS IS WRONG: BAD IDEAS NEED TO BE CHALLENGED
When Ivan first asked Russ and me to start writing weekly columns a little more than a year ago, I thought Russ and I would find more opportunities to write columns on the same topics more often than we have. However, even though we almost always write our columns independently, I have found that our topics are often intertwined.
For example, last week I expressed my outrage over how so many of Obama's nominees for senior positions in his administration have not paid their taxes. Russ concluded his column with a paragraph calling for Obama to pull former Senator Daschle's nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services because of Daschle's failure to report and pay tax on a large amount of income.
As I have mentioned before, Russ and I agree on many things. And, on those things on which we disagree, we can disagree politely and respectfully.
Most of Russ' column last week was dedicated to calling for an end to partisan actions that are hurting Missouri and America. I agree that in the process of governing that our elected representatives need to focus on the best interests of the citizens of Missouri and America. However, I do not agree that the items that Russ identified are partisan actions.
Russ chastised Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) for criticizing Gov. Jay Nixon (D) for proposing the use of stimulus money to balance the State's budget. I don't see such chastisement as “partisan.” I see it as legitimate criticism of a bad idea. For one thing, when Nixon announced his proposed budget, there was no stimulus money that had been authorized. So, Nixon's proposal was based in part on “wishful thinking” rather than something that already existed. Also, to use one-time money from a possible stimulus package to balance a budget that includes on-going annual spending is bad planning. Former Gov. Bob Holden made a similar proposal early in his administration. When that one time money did not exist in the second year of his budget, he suddenly had a lot of on-going spending commitments without any money to pay for them.
Russ also seems to think that no Republican in the House voting for the stimulus plan was partisan. There is an important fact to consider. Some of the Republicans in the House wanted to be part of the discussion of the stimulus plan; however, Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to allow any proposed amendments or other suggestions from the Republicans. It was a “take it or leave it” proposition. Faced with this kind of approach in the House, the Republicans chose to stand together and say, if you have to have it all your way, we want to make it clear that this truly is your way with no input from us.
I have many concerns with the stimulus proposal. First and foremost is the size of the plan. A lot of different numbers have been floated, but one of them is $900 billion. That is $3,000 for every man, woman and child in America. What is even worse is that is just the initial price tag. It is my understanding that this massive spending package is actually not being funded by taxes, but is pure additional debt. The future interest on this debt is simply overwhelming. Republicans--actually, all Americans--should be upset about this.
Russ is right that the focus needs to be on what is best for America and Missouri and not on partisan bickering. Russ is wrong to say that Republicans should remain silent when a Democrat proposes a bad idea in order to avoid being partisan. If a bad idea is proposed, it should be challenged. If a semi-good idea is proposed, refinements to move that idea from a semi-good idea to a good idea should be presented regardless of party affiliation. That is what we elected our elected representatives to do.
(Always right--or at least always to the right of the Democratic column--James Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
TAX RAISERS SHOULD AT LEAST PAY THEIR OWN TAXES
I got really hot when I learned about all the tax evasion going on with many of Obama's closest advisors.
Taxes are a major issue for me. Besides having an accounting degree and having passed the CPA exam, I also have an advanced law degree in the area of taxation. Although I help clients with a wide variety of business, real estate, estate planning and other legal issues as part of my day job, my knowledge of the tax law is always intricately related to this advice. In fact, clients often hire me to help them with their other business and legal issues because they know I am also well versed in the tax issues and will integrate that knowledge with the other advice I provide them.
Besides having an in-depth knowledge of the tax laws, I also have a conservative perspective to taxes. The money taken by the government for taxes belongs to those who are being taxed. It is necessary that government levy some taxes in order to fund the operations of the government, but those taxes should be as low as possible and the money “taken” by taxes should be used as wisely as possible. Furthermore, the government should only spend money on legitimate government functions so that taxes can remain as low as possible.
The liberals have a different view. The liberals view taxes as the government's money. Conservatives view tax cuts as a means to let taxpayers keep more of their money. However, liberals see tax cuts as the government giving money to the taxpayers. Liberals refuse to acknowledge that the money belonged to the taxpayers in the first place.
Obama clearly has the attitude that tax cuts are “giving” money to people. That is incorrect! Tax cuts are simply letting people keep money that was theirs in the first place.
The federal government relies heavily on income taxes as a means to fund its operations. The unique aspect of the federal income tax system is that it is based on voluntary compliance. It requires taxpayers to accumulate information and voluntarily report their income and pay the appropriate amount of tax due.
I always take great care to see that I pay in all the required taxes that I owe. However, that is not the case for many prominent players in the new Obama Administration. In fact, their conduct can best be described as tax fraud.
Tim Geithner, the newly appointed Secretary of the Treasury, did not pay in all of his taxes. A significant amount related to a household employee for whom Geithner did not properly report and pay the taxes that are due. I am fully aware that reporting and paying taxes for a household employee is not an easy task. But, it is the law. So you have to do it. Since Geithner so blatantly failed to follow the tax law and his new position was going to place him in charge of the government entity that regulates taxes, he should never have been confirmed by the Senate.
Geithner is not the only tax evader in the Obama Administration. Former Senator Tom Daschle has been nominated to head up Obama's health care reform effort. However, only recently did Daschle file amended tax returns to report $128,203 in unpaid taxes on unreported income of $250,000 for the last three years. This is outrageous! Here is a guy who never met a tax increase he did not like, but he does not have the decency to report all of his income and pay the tax due on that income.
I guess we should not be surprised by the attitude of these liberals towards taxes. These liberals don't mind raising taxes because they don't plan to pay what they owe any way. Of course, honest people actually have to pay the taxes the liberals impose.
(Reach the conservative James Thomas via email to email@example.com)
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR ELECTED LEADERS
Lobbying -- some people think it is a dirty word. They are wrong. Sometimes corruption will creep in to lobbying. That is wrong. However, there is nothing wrong with telling your elected officials what you think.
When driving to a client meeting last week, I caught Rush on the radio suggesting that the American people needed to hire lobbyists to represent them in Washington. In the usual Rush model he was being a little silly to make a great point. “We the people” must make sure our elected officials know what we want. Our elected officials are accountable to us. The only way our elected officials can know what “we the people” want is if we communicate with them.
The one reason that hiring lobbyists to represent “we the people” makes some sense is that we generally don't have time to pay as close of attention as necessary to keep our elected officials on the right path. We have jobs, kids and other responsibilities. There are not enough hours in the day to track all the proposed legislation and regulation that is out there. Truthfully, I have heard some of our elected officials admit that the lobbyists often help them know “the good, the bad and the ugly” in proposed legislation.
At those times when “we the people” do speak up, the voice of the people frequently carries the day. For example, when the Democrats, a few maverick Republicans and President Bush were trying to push through an amnesty provision for illegal immigrants, the people spoke very loudly. The result was that the amnesty provision was killed.
Another recent success was the first attempt at the Wall Street bailout. Before the first vote in the House, the American people cried out against it. The House voted it down. Then the bailout proposal went to the “more deliberative” Senate. They chose to ignore the cries of the people they supposedly represent. (I guess that is a lot easier to do when you only run every six years.) The Senate not only passed the bailout that had been rejected in the House, but the Senate also added billions of dollars of pork to the bill. Then it came back to the House where the cries of the people were ignored.
What is far more troubling than open lobbying is something described as “shadowy lobbying” in an Associated Press story (“Lobbyists Skirt Obama Earmark Ban,” January 25, 2009). Instead of Obama's proposed $825 billion bailout including projects identified clearly be name, the strategy is to allocate the money under formulas and descriptions which will make it difficult for the general public to figure out how the money is being spent. Even worse, some of the money will be given in chunks to various agencies that will then choose how to spend the money.
The bottom line is that for a particular road to be built, someone is going to “earmark” it for funding. The question is whether “we the people” want our elected officials to “earmark” the money for the projects out in the open for all to see, or whether we want a bunch of unelected bureaucrats to decide how to spend the money. I would prefer the former.
“We the people” may not hire our own lobbyists, but we do need to be in communication with our elected officials. I was just in Jefferson City last week roaming the halls of the Capitol, but you don't have to make a special trip. A letter or an e-mail is an effective way to communicate with your elected officials. Also, get to know your representative's staff. I have never called Congressman Graves to lobby him. However, I have frequently visited with his staff about good and bad tax policy and other proposed legislation. If you don't like something, speak up or your elected officials will never know what you think.
(James Thomas provides a view from the Republican side. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
BAILOUT MENTALITY WILL DAMAGE BUSH'S LEGACY
After Bush's victory in 2004, I put on my car a small black square bumper sticker that had a big white “W” and the words “The President” written below and, just to irk the liberals, the word “still” inserted in red letters above “The President.” With Bush leaving office this week, the time has come to remove my bumper sticker.
Right now Bush's approval ratings are very low. Some predict he will go down in history as the worst president ever. A year ago, I would have strongly disagreed.
Many presidents who have low approval ratings are later identified by historians as being very good presidents. A case in point is our own Harry Truman. He was so unpopular at the end of his presidency that he lost the New Hampshire primary in 1952 and later withdrew his bid for re-election. However, many historians now rank Truman as a good president. In office he had to face difficult decisions. He often made decisions that were highly criticized at the time, but looking back with 20/20 hindsight his controversial decisions proved to be the right decisions. So, despite his low approval ratings at the time he left office, Truman is viewed as a good president.
I predicted the same fate for President Bush a year ago. He has had some difficult challenges during his presidency, but he has handled them well.
By the time Clinton left office, the dot com bubble had burst and the economy was on the decline. Bush helped revitalize the economy with tax cuts.
In his first year in office, Bush was faced with the challenge of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He provided great leadership for America and the world. His approval ratings shot into the 90s.
Bush, with the approval of Congress, led us in to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. There was a real belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. We knew he had them in the past because he had used them on his own people. We could not determine whether Saddam had really disposed of all of his WMDs as required by treaty because Saddam interfered with the weapons inspectors. After the 9/11 attacks there was a legitimate concern that a rogue state like Iraq might give WMDs to terrorists to use inside the U.S. I don't care what any of the Democrats in Congress claim today. Nearly all of them supported the invasion and made public statements that they thought Saddam was a threat.
The well executed military strategy ended the “real” war within a matter of days. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of a long drawn out process of fighting a guerilla war, which takes patience and a long time to win.
Bush began his second term talking about real reforms to social security. Things looked good. But, by the fall of 2005 his administration seemed to be off track.
There was hope that Bush would give us smaller government. However, his expansion of education spending at the federal level and the additional of a prescription drug benefit will go down in history as some of the biggest government spending ever.
I still thought Bush would be remembered as a good president until the fall of 2008. The mistakes were not initially his. Poor business decisions by the so called “financial geniuses” on Wall Street as well as bad decisions by many American consumers placed the U.S. economy on the verge of collapse. Bush responded with “bailout mania.” This bailout mentality will severely damage Bush's legacy.
Having been to the White House three times and having seen Bush in person several times in the last eight years, I'll be a little sad as I scrape my “W” sticker off my car. At times Bush failed the conservative movement, but he mostly had the right ideas and was certainly far better than what his successor promises to be.
(We won’t be scraping the JTC3 sticker off your Landmark any time soon. Email him at email@example.com)
DRINKING TOO MUCH OF THE LIBERAL KOOL-AID
Pirates, liberal crazies in the media and liberal crazies in Europe are the topics for this week. I was actually planning to write about something else when a headline from an Associated Press story on msnbc.com on Saturday and a comment by Rush on Monday caught my attention.
The headline read “Somali pirates drown with ransom money.” My first thought was “Cool!It would make for a good laugh if some of our military or black ops guys delivered “ransom money” to some of those pirates, but it was really a bunch of explosives that sank their little boat.” So, I clicked on the article.
As you may have heard there has been an outbreak of piracy on the high seas. Most of this has occurred on the coast of Africa and much of it near Somalia. The pirates have attacked a wide variety of ships from many different countries. These pirates have captured many different vessels including an oil tanker loaded with $100 million of crude oil and a Ukrainian cargo ship, which was loaded with weapons.
Some of the countries or private shipping companies have been willing to pay a ransom to recover their ships and cargo. The U.S. Navy photographed a parachute delivering a package to the pirates in control of the oil tanker. The speculation was that this may have been a ransom payment. I was disappointed to read that the pirates' boat “overturned in a storm.” I was hoping that instead the pirates had opened the “ransom package” and got a different sort of “reward” for their illegal activities.
So far, the pirates have not attacked American vessels. There is a lot of water for the U.S. Navy to protect, but it may not be necessary if the pirates know a little American history. Soon after the Revolutionary War, the U.S. Navy was created by the commissioning of six frigates. One of these frigates, the U.S. Constitution, was more famously referred to as “Old Ironsides” after a cannon ball bounced off its side in battle. These frigates saw duty against pirates in the Mediterranean. Fighting these pirates is also a line from the anthem of the U.S. Marines (“From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli”).After the young U.S. Navy paid a visit to these pirates, they stopped raiding U.S. shipping.
The next to last sentence of the article was what really set me off. It read “The multimillion dollar ransoms are one of the few ways to earn a living in the impoverished, war-ravaged country.” Only a crazy liberal in the media would try to justify acts of piracy as “one of the few ways to earn a living.”
Just when I thought that this was the crazy liberal line of the week, I heard Rush reading from a European newspaper article on his radio show. The article said that plans were underway in Europe to ban plasma TVs because of their high electricity consumption because of the negative effect that this high electricity consumption has on the environment. What!?!
Now I'm not a plasma TV guy, but that is not because of some environmental whacko concern. I have read articles probably written by folks selling something other than plasma TVs saying that plasma TVs have the potential to burn an image in to the screen. I also looked at the price tag of plasma TVs and decided I could get a lot more screen size for a lot less money by buying an LCD. Size DOES matter in TVs.
So, I will leave it up to you to decide. Who is crazier? The Associate Press writer who commented that piracy is “one of the few ways to earn a living” in Somalia? Or the environmental whackos in Europe who want to ban plasma TVs? I think they both have been drinking a little too much of the liberal Kool-Aid.
(James Thomas is not a liberal Kool-Aid drinker. He is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
BLUNT'S TERM AS GOVERNOR HAS BEEN A SUCCESS
Since Governor Blunt's term as governor will end on Jan. 12, this is a good time to reflect on the successes and failures of his governorship.
Governor Blunt inherited a mess. Blunt's predecessor--Bob Holden--had an out-of-control appetite to increase government spending. Holden caused the state to be faced with a billion dollar deficit and held school children hostage by withholding money from our schools. Blunt inherited this mess. He turned this around in his first year in office. He brought the budget in to balance and stopped withholding money from schools.
Blunt ran for governor on a platform of controlling government spending, cutting taxes and curbing frivolous lawsuits. He delivered on nearly all of his campaign promises in his first six months in office. I would give Blunt an A+ for this part of his term as governor. While campaigning, he said he would do certain things and he did all of those things immediately after being elected. That is what we want from our candidates once they actually get elected.
After his first six months in office, Blunt had a few hiccups in governing. There are a few reasons for this. First, since Blunt so quickly accomplished the goals on which he campaigned, he had to identify new goals to pursue. Second, there was ever increasing tension with Republican factions in the legislature who were jockeying for notoriety and power. This “king of the mountain” gamesmanship is simply a distraction from good governing. Blunt was not part of this, but the fact that it was going on in the Republican ranks caused a distraction from advancing a common agenda. Third, some of the people that work in state government, including even some Blunt appointed, did not always conduct themselves appropriately. One example is a department director who was accused of sexual harassment. However, when you have thousands of employees you are bound to have a few that do not perform as expected.
Blunt has been highly criticized for the Medicaid cuts. However, most of this is simply demagoguery. During Carnahan and Holden's terms as governor, the Medicaid rolls had been expanded dramatically. When Blunt took office, one out of every six Missourians was on government-provided health care. This was simply more than the state could afford. Something had to be done. So many Missourians were drawing on the system that it was overwhelming the rest of the state's budget.
Blunt worked with the General Assembly to reform the system. One of those reforms was to require people to actually prove eligibility before receiving benefits. One state senator has shared an interesting fact with me. Many people simply dropped off the rolls when it became necessary for them to prove they were eligible for benefits. The bottom line is that the reform of the Medicaid program was necessary or it would have bankrupted the state. Blunt was part of that important process of reforming Medicaid so the program could continue to serve those people that it was designed to serve.
Blunt also implemented some great new procedures, including the establishment of the Missouri Accountability Portal. This on-line resource allows Missouri's a single point of reference to review how their money is being spent and other pertinent information related to the enforcement of government programs.
Blunt has also introduced the concept of bidding the rights to manage the fee offices where people go to renew their license plates and drivers' license. These offices have long been a form of political patronage. Blunt began the process to place the management of the fee offices out for competitive bid as they have come up for renewal. To his credit, Blunt's successor has announced plans to bid all of the offices once he takes office.
As this chapter in Missouri history ends, we can look back at Blunt's term as governor a success.
(James Thomas is chair of Sixth District Republicans who can be reached at email@example.com)
For columns from 2008