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REQUIRING A PHOTO ID TO VOTE MAKES SENSE

Posted 12/30/10

There might be some fireworks to open the 2011 legislative session of the Missouri General Assembly because of an extremely questionable election that took place in neighboring Jackson County. You may not have followed this story closely because it is not an election that any Platte County voter or election authority would have a connection with. There has also been relatively limited news coverage considering the allegations that have been made.

The election in question is a race for the 40th Legislative District, which is essentially in the “historic northeast” area of Kansas City. The district is south of the Missouri River, east of downtown Kansas City, west of I-435 and mostly north of I-70.

The election has probably also drawn less attention because the fight is over a Democrat primary election in a district where the demographics are so bad for Republicans that there is no reason to spend the resources to run a Republican candidate. The fight is an all-Democrat fight between a legacy Democrat, John Rizzo, the son of the chairman of the Jackson County Legislature, and Will Royster.

This has been an interesting story to follow. One of the local bloggers was “reporting” (and I use that term loosely in the case of this blogger) on the election for the weeks leading up to the election. The election was much closer than any pundits thought it would be. The election night count was a 10 vote victory for Rizzo. However, the margin continued to shrink throughout the election reporting process. The margin of victory dropped to six and then to three and finally to a one vote victory by the time an automated recount was conducted.

There are a number of irregularities that have been alleged by Royster. However, there are two particularly ugly ones. Royster claims a large number of Somalis who could not speak English were brought to a polling place and assisted in voting by a Rizzo supporter. It is also alleged that several Rizzo campaign supporters, including relatives of Rizzo, voted in the election even though campaign documents list home addresses for these voters that are outside of the 40th District.

I have been intrigued by these allegations because I did not know how someone could vote if he or she was not registered to vote at that particular precinct and how someone could register to vote without being a U.S. citizen. I know whenever I go to vote, I always present my driver's license and they often look for a while before they can find me in the voter registration book. What I always think is humorous is the election judges know me personally and are normally asking me how my parents are doing in the course of checking my ID and looking me up in the book. Notwithstanding that personal knowledge of me, I still always present a photo ID.

A dispute over which Democrat will be seated in the House is not normally a fight the full House would get into. Normally the Democrat caucus would resolve the issue. However, incoming House Speaker Steve Tilley says he may refuse to seat Rizzo as a result of the allegations of voter fraud. This, of course, would be a prelude to again trying to force a photo ID requirement when voting in Missouri.

Requiring a photo ID to vote makes good sense. I know it would be inconvenient for that very small percentage of people who do not have a driver's license to obtain some form of photo ID, but that inconvenience is relatively small for the privilege of participating in the greatest democracy. Besides, I'm not sure how you really function without a photo ID anyway. Although Royster supposedly lost his election, he actually might do more to help reform election laws in Missouri by never actually being seated in the House. Thank you, Mr. Royster.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


FORCED SPREADING OF THE WEALTH ISN'T CHARITY

Posted 12/23/10

Christmas is upon us again. Although the true meaning of Christmas is God taking on human form to become our Savior, the season is often thought of as the “season of giving.” This is natural. God gave us the best gift on that first Christmas. It is natural to want to show your appreciation for that special gift and for all of God's other gifts to us by giving gifts to others. Sometimes these gifts are for people we love and care about. Other times these gifts are for people we don't even know. Examples of the latter are food drives, coats for kids drives and general clothing drives.

Charity is great. However, liberals have the wrong idea about charity. The liberal idea of charity was summarized by someone who was filling in on the radio for the recently departed Chris Stigall a couple of weeks ago. He described it like this:

A liberal and a conservative are walking down the street. They come upon a homeless man on the street. The liberal quickly reaches into the conservative's pocket, pulls out a $20 bill and says “Look at how charitable I am.”

Liberals just don't get it. They think forced spreading of the wealth is charity. It isn't. That is socialism or, more accurately, theft.

That is what always irks me about liberals. They give little or nothing to charity, but they advocate for higher taxes to support social programs. For example, during the years 2000-2004, Obama gave less than 1% of his income to charity. Over a 10 year period prior to becoming vice president, Biden gave an average of only $369 per year to charities. Liberals “talk the talk,” but they do not “walk the walk.” They don't personally support social programs. Instead, they want to raise the taxes of hard working people and “redistribute the wealth” of those hard working people to others. That is not charity. That is theft.

Although I am adamantly opposed to forced charity or wealth redistribution, I am a strong advocate of voluntary charity or voluntary sharing of the wealth. I encourage you to do two things between Christmas and New Year's Day. First, stop and count your many blessings and consider what resources you have to voluntarily share with others. Second, and more importantly, also take a forward looking glance. While you are feeling the “Christmas spirit,” which may or not be religiously motivated, 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.

Related to this second thing, don't just think about what money you might want to give in 2011. Think about what special organization you may want to volunteer to help in 2011. Charities can certainly use your cash, but the personal touch of giving of one's time is often more valuable and meaningful than writing a big check. And, although you should be charitable because it is good for the people you are helping, I'll let you in on a little secret. It's good for you, too. You'll get a warm feeling inside knowing that you have helped another person. Don't do if for that reason, but it is okay to enjoy that feeling as a nice extra bonus.

I do have to warn you of something. Once you start giving, it is hard to stop. You'll just want to do more. However, there is one big difference than the liberals' way of giving. You are giving your own time and money and not someone else's.

Merry Christmas.

(James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


A SMALL VICTORY FOR LIMITING THE REACH OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

Posted 12/17/10

The American people and the integrity of the U.S. Constitution won a minor victory this week. A U.S. District Court judge in Virginia struck down the provision in the Obama-Care legislation that requires every person to purchase health insurance or face penalties.

The theory of the mandate makes sense if you are going to have a national health plan. Otherwise any national health insurance package would fail because no one would actually buy the health insurance until they get sick. This would make the insurance plan cost prohibitive because no one but sick people are in the plan.

Even if a mandate makes sense, the ability of Congress to require that everyone buy health insurance has to be authorized by the U.S. Constitution. In many cases Congress has relied upon the “Commerce Clause” to give it authority to pass laws. The Commerce Clause is found in Article I Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution. The clause states that Congress shall have the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” The Commerce Clause is often linked with the Necessary and Proper Clause, which is found at the end of Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution and says Congress has the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Office thereof.”

For many years the Commerce Clause was interpreted narrowly. In many cases the Commerce Clause was not interpreted to allow Congress to implement certain New Deal programs. However, early in FDR's second term, the U.S. Supreme Court changed its analysis to defer to Congress on what is meant by “commerce.” This opened the flood gates to a massive expansion of federal government regulation and programs.

The judge in this case said "An individual's personal decision to purchase or decline to purchase health insurance from a private provider is beyond the historical reach of the Commerce Clause." This judge has apparently actually read the U.S. Constitution. (That is something I wish everyone in Congress would do once in a while.)

There are other cases that attack Obama-care that are pending in the courts. One of those cases is a case that has been filed in Florida which challenges whether the federal government can force states to expand their Medicaid programs. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is also one of the parties challenging Obama-Care in a U.S. District Court in Missouri.

The whole Obama-Care debate actually is a great opportunity to discuss the role of the federal government. If Congress would actually read the U.S. Constitution they would find that the role of the federal government has its powers limited by the U.S. Constitution and that it should have a very small role to play in our daily lives. The federal government should provide for the national defense and perform certain functions that only the federal government is in a position to perform. However, there are many government functions that are not the responsibility or even within the authority of the federal government. For example, public education is a very important government function. However, this should be a function of state and even more local governments and not the federal government.

This decision is only a U.S. District Court decision. The real weight of the decision won't be felt until the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court. But even a small victory for limiting the reach of the federal government is a step in the right direction.

(James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


DEMOCRATS WRONGLY BELIEVE OUR MONEY IS THIER MONEY TO SPEND

Posted 12/9/10

The Democrats either read my November 17 column or they have hired some better political consultants. Three weeks ago I wrote:

“The only thing I can think is that the Democrats don't really want to extend the Bush tax rates for ANY taxpayers. Otherwise, they would force the Republicans hand and make them turn down an extension of the lower tax rates for the majority of taxpayers. In fact, if they were serious about extending the Bush tax rates for those taxpayers below certain thresholds, the Democrats would have pushed the legislation through prior to the election so they could have campaigned on the tax rate extension.”

Last week the Democrats in Congress did what I recommended. (Of course, they probably did this because they finally hired some political consultants that actually had brains in their heads rather than because they read my column, but I can still toot my own horn for predicting the strategy.)

The Democrats in the House passed a bill that would extend the Bush tax rates for those making less than $250,000. The Democrats in the Senate were up to their own shenanigans. They brought up two proposals. One proposal followed the plan adopted by the House to extend the Bush tax rates for those making less than $250,000. This proposal received a majority vote 53-36, but this was not enough to break a potential filibuster. The Senate Democrats then came back with a plan to extend the Bush tax rates for all taxpayers except for those making more than a $1 million. This too was rejected by a majority (53-37), but less than a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

This forcing of the Republicans' hand was a great strategy. It forced the Republicans to stay united and vote against an extension of the Bush tax rates because the upper income taxpayers were left out. As a political junkie --and not a tax policy analyst--the vote to extend the tax cuts for everyone except those making more than $1 million was a brilliant strategy. It made the Republicans stance of “tax cuts for all” an even riskier political position.

The problem is that the Democrats weren't smart enough to push these votes BEFORE the November Election. If the Democrats had actually voted on the extension of the Bush tax rates for the majority of Americans and forced the Republicans to vote “no” because the higher income taxpayers were going to face dramatic tax increases, the Democrats could have endlessly demagogued the Republicans in pre-election advertising. Now the vote will be old and stale before the next election cycle. So, the political impact of the “no” vote by Republicans will be dramatically reduced.

This really is a debate over two issues. First, the Democrats think the money we earn is THEIR money to spend as they want. They believe they are doing us a favor when they let us keep it. Republicans believe the money we earn belongs to us. Second, the debate is over how much is enough to pay to the government? Why should anyone pay a tax rate of over 42% (39.6% income tax rate and 2.9% Medicare rate) on the last dollar earned? And that 42+% is just the federal tax rate. There is still state income taxes and in many cases local income taxes. On top of this, you have sales taxes of 10% when you spend your money and high property taxes if you own real estate or personal property. Ouch! Congressional Republicans are trying to hold the line on this burden.

After the recent votes and after my deadline, the reports were that the negotiations were continuing. Stay tuned.


(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


MISSOURI REPUBLICANS GET AN EARLY CHRISTMAS GIFT FROM DEMS

Posted 12/5/10

Missouri Republicans received an early Christmas gift this year. The gift is from a small group of Democrat activists in St. Louis. This group wrote a letter to Governor Jay Nixon in which they said “Today we pledge, as a group, that we will not get involved in campaigns for State and National candidates until we meet with you and we feel a more effective party is established.”

The report from a St. Louis blog says that these Democrats “were a bit stunned by how badly the Democrats lost on Nov. 2.” These activists really can't be that bright. Anyone who didn't see that train coming has no political savvy whatsoever. Obama, Pelosi and Reid have passed humongous spending that has increased the national debt in the last year by over $1 trillion (That's with a “T”!!!) while pushing for dramatic changes in the national health care system and seeking to dramatically increase our utility costs through cap and tax. This agenda might be fine with east coast and left coast liberals, but it is not fine with normal people in Missouri. These actions were taken by Democrats on a national scale and were not necessarily the bad acts of state-level Missouri Democrats. However, the local Democrats failed to distinguish themselves from the insanity of the national Democrats and got taken down with them.

The letter demands “a full-time paid Director, a publicist/message developer, and an outreach co-ordinator [sic] to reach all of our state's townships with our democratic objectives.” The group must not know much about what goes on in the Democrat Party. The Missouri Democrat Party has an executive director and a communications director. There is also a system to maintain contact with the local party committees and local activists. Of course, if the Democrat system for local contact is anything like the Republican system, I am certain it could use some improvements in this area. So, on this demand, these activists have a legitimate beef.

The really great thing is that these Democrat activists are self proclaimed “progressives.”That is a word they came up with to describe themselves because the word “liberal” has become a dirty word. However, they are still liberals even if they try to change their name.

The small group claims their priorities include “equal educational opportunities, a fair tax structure, civil rights, security, protection of the environment, basic health care and decent paying jobs.” All of those things sound great. However, of course, you have to know what that they mean by those things. For example, to them “a fair tax structure” means where the hard working people get to pay a disproportionate amount of tax while the freeloaders who are taking the most out of the system pay nothing or “decent paying jobs” means having employers paying employees based upon what the employee wants to make rather than based upon what value the employee gives to the employer.

The activist commented on Nixon to the St. Louis blogger Nixon that “It's been noticed that he's catering to the Republicans.” She better get used to it. Republicans have a super-super-majority in the State Senate (26-8) and a nearly two-thirds majority in the State House (106-57). Nixon can work politely and professionally with Republicans or accomplish nothing. That won't be changing over the next two years.

This is a win-win situation for Republicans. Nixon either bows to the demands of these self-proclaimed activists and moves the Missouri Democrat Party off the deep end to the left or angers a key component of his volunteer base and loses their support. Either way the Republicans win because Missouri Democrats follow the crazy liberals or the crazy liberal volunteers don't show up to work in the next election cycle. Merry Christmas, Republicans.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


EARMARK SYSTEM NEEDS REFORMED BUT NOT ELIMINATED

Posted 11/28/10

Congress reconvened last week with both the current Congressmen and the incoming freshmen all traveling to Washington. The freshmen were going through orientation and the incumbents returned to begin finishing up incomplete business. A hot topic of discussion was earmarks.

At first it seemed that a potential earmark ban would be dead on arrival. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell initially provided a clear explanation of the point of earmarks. He asked the question whether it made sense for Congress to appropriate large sums of money without any instructions to the executive branch of how this money should be spent. This was a very going point. However, within a few days, Senator McConnell was collapsing under the pressure to adopt a ban on earmarks. Congressman-- soon to be Senator--Blunt was one of the few who stood his ground by refusing to sign on to a policy to ban earmarks.

There is a lot of pressure for Congress to ban earmarks. A Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 58% of those polled favor a politician who will cut spending over a politician who will bring federal money home for his district or state. Thirty-three percent favor a politician who “brings home the bacon.” It is easy to appreciate the general public's outrage over earmarks. There are a lot of stupid earmarks. Also, even if the earmarks all were for legitimate and important things, there is simply too much spending right now. Attacking earmarks is certainly seen as one way to curb this out of control spending.

Some of the general public's outrage may come from how they perceive politicians' reasons for pursuing earmarks. The Rasmussen Reports poll shows 54% believe that politicians pursue earmarks because they believe they will help them get re-elected. Only 29% believe that politicians pursue earmarks because the politicians believe the earmarks are what are best for the district. (The others were “not sure.”) I am guessing that nearly none of those polled have ever studied the federal budgets or any state or local budgets and have no idea how complex the process is. Furthermore, I suspect that nearly none of those polled have actually had to figure out how to fund a road or sewer improvement in their local community.

I fully appreciate the objection to earmarks. There have been a lot of really dumb earmarks over the years (e.g., an earmark to study the effects of cow flatulents on global warming). However, contrary to the thoughts of many, earmarks should not be a dirty word. When Congress includes an earmark in its budget, Congress is simply telling the executive branch or the states that this pot of money we have set aside is to be spent in this specific manner. What is wrong with that? Congress is simply being specific about how the money it sets aside should be spent rather than making a general allocation for unelected bureaucrats to spend.

Don't get me wrong. The earmark process could certainly use some reform. However, earmarking should not be entirely banned because of some of these deficiencies in the process.

Before succumbing to the pressure to ban earmarks, the public should be asked a different question than the ones proposed by Rasmussen Reports: Do you prefer (A) for Congress to budget money by specifically saying how that money is to be spent or (B) for Congress to set aside money for unelected bureaucrats to spend however they want? I'm guessing the overwhelming majority will prefer A.

If those who are opposed to earmarks want to say that federal spending is out of control, then I say I agree. Yes. Absolutely. Cut spending. However, Congress should not give up control over how budgeted money is spent by doing away with the ability to earmark the money that is spent for specific projects.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


WHAT WILL THESE DUCKS DO WITH THEIR LAME SESSION?

Posted 11/18/10

The lame duck Congress went back into session this week. One topic sure to be at the top of the list of issues to be addressed is how to deal with the income tax rate structure leading into 2011.

During Ronald Reagan's term, the tax rates were reduced to two rates -- 15% and 28% with a 5% surcharge on higher incomes to phase out the benefit of the 15% bracket for these taxpayers. George H.W. Bush was pressured into adding a 31% bracket. Then Bill Clinton gave us the 36% and 39.6% bracket. Our first post-Reagan rate reduction came in 2001 when George W. Bush and the Republicans in Congress restructured the rates to create a new 10% bracket and adjusted the other brackets to 15%, 25%, 28% 33% and 35%.

Unfortunately, it was only possible to pass the Bush rates for a ten year window. That window is set to expire at the end of 2010. When the Bush rates expire, the 10% bracket will go away and the other rates will jump up to their previous levels.

The expiration of the Bush rates will have a dramatic impact on the economy. With the change in tax rates, billions of dollars will be shifted from the taxpaying citizens to the government. This will have a devastating impact on the economy.

The expiration of the Bush tax rates will also have a dramatic impact on individual taxpayers. For taxpayers who are currently only in the 10% bracket, the expiration of the Bush tax rates will trigger a 50% increase in their federal income tax bill. Taxpayers in the 28% bracket will experience the impact of the expiration of the 10% bracket AND incur a 12% increase in their current 25% marginal tax rate.

Ouch! The bottom line is that the expiration of the Bush tax rates will hurt all taxpayers even the ones in the lower tax brackets.

Democrats have a stupid love affair with higher taxes. However, while their ideas may be stupid, they are not necessarily politically stupid. They realize that a dramatic increase in the tax rates for ALL taxpayers is not going to go over well. It will hurt individual taxpayers and hurt the economy as a whole. That is why they have been talking for months about extending the Bush tax rates for taxpayers below certain income levels (i.e., $200,000 or $250,000 depending upon who you ask). What I have not figured out yet is why the Democrats have not brought an extension of the Bush tax rates for taxpayers below a certain threshold to a vote.

The Republicans support the extension of the Bush tax rates for all taxpayers. The dispute is whether the lower rates are extended temporarily or permanently for some of the higher tax brackets. If the Democrats had any political senses they would bring specific legislation up for a vote that would extend the Bush tax rates for the taxpayers below their threshold and then dare the Republicans not to vote for it because the legislation does not include an extension of the tax cuts for taxpayers at all income levels.

The only thing I can think is that the Democrats don't really want to extend the Bush tax rates for ANY taxpayers. Otherwise, they would force the Republicans hand and make them turn down an extension of the lower tax rates for the majority of taxpayers. In fact, if they were serious about extending the Bush tax rates for those taxpayers below certain thresholds, the Democrats would have pushed the legislation through prior to the election so they could have campaigned on the tax rate extension.

The quack, quack, quack of the lame duck session is under way. We'll have to wait and see what these ducks do with it.

(Email active Republican James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

WHEN IT COMES TIME TO CUT SPENDING, SUPPORT THE CONSERVATIVES

Posted 11/12/10

The lame duck Congress went back into session this week. One topic sure to be at the top of the list of issues to be addressed is how to deal with the income tax rate structure leading into 2011.

During Ronald Reagan's term, the tax rates were reduced to two rates -- 15% and 28% with a 5% surcharge on higher incomes to phase out the benefit of the 15% bracket for these taxpayers. George H.W. Bush was pressured into adding a 31% bracket. Then Bill Clinton gave us the 36% and 39.6% bracket. Our first post-Reagan rate reduction came in 2001 when George W. Bush and the Republicans in Congress restructured the rates to create a new 10% bracket and adjusted the other brackets to 15%, 25%, 28% 33% and 35%.

Unfortunately, it was only possible to pass the Bush rates for a ten year window. That window is set to expire at the end of 2010. When the Bush rates expire, the 10% bracket will go away and the other rates will jump up to their previous levels.

The expiration of the Bush rates will have a dramatic impact on the economy. With the change in tax rates, billions of dollars will be shifted from the taxpaying citizens to the government. This will have a devastating impact on the economy.

The expiration of the Bush tax rates will also have a dramatic impact on individual taxpayers. For taxpayers who are currently only in the 10% bracket, the expiration of the Bush tax rates will trigger a 50% increase in their federal income tax bill. Taxpayers in the 28% bracket will experience the impact of the expiration of the 10% bracket AND incur a 12% increase in their current 25% marginal tax rate. Ouch! The bottom line is that the expiration of the Bush tax rates will hurt all taxpayers even the ones in the lower tax brackets.

Democrats have a stupid love affair with higher taxes. However, while their ideas may be stupid, they are not necessarily politically stupid. They realize that a dramatic increase in the tax rates for ALL taxpayers is not going to go over well. It will hurt individual taxpayers and hurt the economy as a whole. That is why they have been talking for months about extending the Bush tax rates for taxpayers below certain income levels (i.e., $200,000 or $250,000 depending upon who you ask). What I have not figured out yet is why the Democrats have not brought an extension of the Bush tax rates for taxpayers below a certain threshold to a vote.

The Republicans support the extension of the Bush tax rates for all taxpayers. The dispute is whether the lower rates are extended temporarily or permanently for some of the higher tax brackets. If the Democrats had any political senses they would bring specific legislation up for a vote that would extend the Bush tax rates for the taxpayers below their threshold and then dare the Republicans not to vote for it because the legislation does not include an extension of the tax cuts for taxpayers at all income levels.
The only thing I can think is that the Democrats don't really want to extend the Bush tax rates for ANY taxpayers. Otherwise, they would force the Republicans hand and make them turn down an extension of the lower tax rates for the majority of taxpayers. In fact, if they were serious about extending the Bush tax rates for those taxpayers below certain thresholds, the Democrats would have pushed the legislation through prior to the election so they could have campaigned on the tax rate extension.

The quack, quack, quack of the lame duck session is under way. We'll have to wait and see what these ducks do with it.

(Email active Republican James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


WHEN IT COMES TIME TO CUT SPENDING, SUPPORT THE CONSERVATIVES

Posted 11/12/10

It feels like déjà vu. I remember the excitement of and after Election Night 1994. There is a similar excitement and hope that comes with Election Night 2010. However, I have a slight amount of trepidation when looking to 2011. The challenge is whether the Republican-controlled House will be able to win the public relations battles throughout 2011 and avoid being made out to be the “bad guys” like President Clinton successfully did to the Republicans in Congress in 1995.

As you will recall, Newt Gingrich and the Republicans in Congress came to power on the Contract with America. This was a list of specific things that Republicans promised to do if they won the House. Primarily, this Contract promised to bring a list of things to a vote in the House in the first 100 days after assuming office. Some who pay less attention to history may believe that the House did not do this. They did. Everything in the Contract was not only brought to a vote, but actually passed in the House and sent to the Senate. However, many of the Contract items died in the Senate. The most unfortunate casualty was the balanced budget amendment.

Some of the public confusion may be due to the media rallying to the rescue of Clinton. The American voters clearly said they wanted less spending. The Republicans in Congress in 1995 tried to give them that by holding the line on spending. However, Clinton rejected the smaller budgets of the Republicans which led to a budgetary impasse and a government shutdown that was painted as a negative on the part of the Republicans.

In part I blame this public relations nightmare for the Republicans losing their way. Fiscal conservatives had been victorious. They held the line on spending, but somehow were made out to be the “bad guys” when Clinton rejected the smaller budgets. This bizarre development made many Republicans, especially the less conservative ones, less willing to hold the line on spending.

Here is my proposed action plan for the incoming Republican Congress. First, extend the Bush tax cuts at all income levels. If the tax rates rise to the rates during the Clinton era, this will pull tons of money out of the economy. It will impact taxpayers from the smallest incomes to the highest incomes. This shifting of cash from the taxpayers to the government will lead to a double dip recession. Second, pass a bill that repeal s the health care bill in total, but at the same time creates a “blue ribbon” commission to study health care with a few politicians, but mostly professional experts, picked by the House, the Senate and the President. This way we reverse the extremely unpopular Obamacare, but show a willingness to work on well-thought-out solutions recommended by experts. Third, cut spending back to the 2008 levels. This is still too much spending, but it is still hundreds of billions less than where Obama has taken spending in the last two years. Fourth, push through a balanced budget amendment that requires the federal government to operate with a balance the budget unless a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress approve deficit spending, but include a phase in provision to allow the federal budget to absorb the shock of this change.

My hope is that the Republican-controlled House can win the public relations battles in 2011 and 2012 while holding the line on spending. If they can, we can restore America's greatness. If not, we will continue to dig the hole deeper and risk economic ruin for the world's greatest economy. This depends a little on the media spin put on the tough decisions required to balance the budget. However, it depends even more on the willingness of the American people to support the fiscal conservatives when it comes time to cut spending.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


DEMOCRATS GOT FULL CREDIT FOR THEIR ACTIONS

Posted 11/5/10

Phew! The mid-term elections are finally over. It has been an extraordinarily long mid-term election cycle. It seemed like the campaigning began all the way back in April 2009 with the Tea Parties in Kansas City and all around the country. (The first “modern” Tea Party was actually held a few weeks earlier on February 27, 2009 and protested both Bush's Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout bill and Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus bill.)

I'm sure we'll have lots of analysis over the next few weeks. Democrats have been trying to downplay for weeks the anticipated mid-term losses that were predicted. It is true that the party in power tends to lose seats in the middle of a president's first term. In fairness to the Democrats, above average losses should have been expected because unemployment is high and the economy is sluggish. However, the Democrats had huge control margins going into this election cycle.

I read a series of hilarious comments from Democrats before the election. President Obama complained “[I]t was very difficult for us to spend a lot of time doing victory laps and advertising exactly what we were doing, because we had to move on to the next thing.” One of the funniest was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who said, “[W]e haven't really gotten the credit for what we have done . . . .”

Huh? The election results reflect exactly the opposite of what Pelosi is saying. The voters know that Pelosi and crew have pushed through Obama's massive debt increasing stimulus package and a health care bill that a majority of Americans did not want. They also know that Pelosi pushed “cap and tax” through the House even though it luckily stalled in the Senate. No. I say the voters have given Pelosi and company full credit for what they have done. The problem for Pelosi and her chums is that the voters didn't like what they did.

The voters objected to Obama's stimulus package, but Congress passed it any way. The voters strongly objected to the health care bill, but Obama and Pelosi rammed it through any way. Obama announced plans to increase the national debt by over $1 trillion (with a “T”!!!) per year for the next several years despite clear public disgruntlement with out of control government spending. While doing these things that a majority of Americans did not want, Congress didn't bother to pass a budget.

In fairness to the Democrats, I don't believe that you should govern from polls. I think the right thing to do is to tell people what you believe in when running for office and then push those policies forward. However, when it becomes blatantly obvious that the policies you campaigned on are grossly unpopular, you may have to tweak those policies in order to achieve an effective governing consensus. This is particularly true when the public figures out that the kind of “change” you were selling in the last election was not what they want. When this happens, you need to show some respect to the voters.

Obama and the Democrats in Congress adopted a typical liberal elitist policy of “Let the voters be damned. We're smarter than them and know better than them.” This was obviously not a good strategy. No. Contrary to Pelosi's belief that she and her pals did not get credit for what they have done, they instead got full credit for their actions. Unfortunately for them (and fortunate for America), the voters didn't like what the Democrats have done.

Now that the election is over, let's hope that we can start towards a path of sound fiscal management by the federal government. Yeah. I know it won't happen, but I can still dream about it.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


WILL THE WHOOPIN’
OF DEMOCRATS
BE BIG ENOUGH?

Posted 10/29/10

There is less than a week to go until the mid-term elections. There is little doubt that the Democrats are going to get a whoopin'. The only question really is whether it will be enough of a whoopin' to put Republicans back in control of Congress.

There are 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 100 seats in the U.S. Senate. It takes 218 seats to hold a majority in the House. Right now the Democrats hold a 255-178 majority. (Apparently there are two seats currently vacant.) The Republicans need to pick up 40 net seats in the House to be in the majority.

Only a third of the U.S. Senate seats are up for re-election every two years. This year, there are a couple of additional seats up for election due to special elections to fill partial terms of Senators who have died or resigned prior to the end of their terms (e.g., Obama and Biden). So 37 of the 100 seats are up for election. The Democrats have a huge advantage in those seats that are not up for election this cycle 40-23. So the Democrats only need to win 11 of the 37 seats to maintain a simple majority and they only have to win one seat to maintain a 41 vote minority that could keep any filibuster from being broken on a party-line vote.

Rasmussen Reports has a steady stream of polling in the Senate races and uses that to maintain a “Balance of Power” ranking. As of Monday, Rasmussen had eight seats in the Solid Democrat category and 18 seats in the Solid Republican column. This would make the split 48-41 with 11 seats in play. Of these 11 seats Rasmussen lists none in the Lean Democratic category and five in the Lean Republican category (including Missouri). This would put the split at 48-46 in favor of the Democrats. The six seats listed as Toss Up are California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Washington. These numbers mean the Republicans have a legitimate shot at getting to 51 seats in the Senate, but they would have to win all the seats leaning their way and half of the seats considered Toss Ups to get there. This is certainly do-able, but not easy. What makes this seem less likely to occur is that so many of the Toss Up seats are in states, like California, that have been “blue” for many election cycles.

What is even harder to predict is whether Republicans will pick up the 40 net seats they need to get control of the House. One bit of exciting news for Republicans is that Rasmussen reported on Monday that its polling shows the generic Congressional ballot at 49% Republican, 40% Democrat. That is an amazing spread. However, the problem is that this is not a national election. It is a series of 435 smaller elections.

Of the 435 seats, many of the seats are solidly Democrat or Republican. For example, Billy Long in Mo-7th is in a very red district and Emanuel Cleaver in Mo-5th is in a very blue district. Polling by ABC shows 149 seats as solid Democrat and 161 seats as solid Republican. The remaining 125 seats are split 45 Lean Democrat, 45 Toss Up and 35 Lean Republican.

In Kansas and Missouri, we should see at least one pick up and possibly as many as three. Kevin Yoder should take the 3rd District in Kansas back to the Republican column. Vicky Hartzler in the 4th District in Missouri and Ed Martin in the 3rd District in Missouri have pushed two Democrat incumbents from solid Democrat to Lean Democrat. Everything would have to fall in favor of Hartzler and Martin for them to win, but polling has them in striking distance of victory.

We'll know if the whoopin' was big enough in less than a week.

(A longtime leader in area Republican politics, James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


LAWYERS HAVE TOO MUCH INFLUENCE ON THE SELECTION OF JUDGES

Posted 10/15/10

In a surprise move, the Missouri Bar has finally caved on at least a few minor revisions to the Missouri Plan. The Missouri Plan is a process used in Missouri to select trial court judges in larger counties, like Platte and Clay Counties, and all appellate-level judges through “supposedly” non-partisan judicial selection commissions. These commissions are made up of a higher court judge, two lawyers elected by the local lawyers and two lay people appointed by the governor.

These commissions nominate three candidates to be judges. The governor then picks between one of these three candidates. If the governor doesn't like any of the candidates and rejects all the candidates, then the commission picks the next judge from its slate of nominees.

In recent years, there have been efforts to reform the Missouri Plan. These efforts were initially made through the state legislature. When the Missouri Bar effectively blocked those efforts, the reform advocates attempted to collect the signatures for a ballot initiative to reform the judicial selection process.
For years I have been saying to the leadership of the Missouri Bar that they need to embrace an open discussion about minor reforms to the Missouri Plan. The leadership of the Bar has previously said the Missouri Plan is perfect and no changes should be made. The reformers say that the entire Missouri Plan needs to be scrapped. My position has always been that the Missouri Plan is pretty good, but it could use a few tweaks to be even better. I have advocated for a well thought-out and open debate of a few minor adjustments to the Missouri Plan so that an un-debated ballot initiative can be avoided. Until now, my recommendation has been flatly rejected by the Bar.

So, I was extremely surprised when the Missouri Supreme Court recently announced changes in the judicial selection process. In the past all of the interviews and voting information were closed to the public. The interviews will now be open to the public and the commissions will now have to publicly disclose the number of votes received by each of the nominees sent to the governor. The commissions will also begin to seek public recommendations on qualified judicial candidates.

All of these reforms are a step in the right direction. Most importantly, this is finally evidence that the leadership of the Missouri Bar is no longer going to take the position that there are no possible changes that could be made to make the Missouri Plan a little better. However, these reforms are still missing at least two critical elements.

First, the Missouri Plan needs to be modified so that if the governor rejects a slate of nominees then the commission has to go back and come up with three different nominees rather than letting the commission choose the judge. This rejection process should not be allowed to go on forever, but it should be allowed to happen two or three times. The reason is that the commissions have a tendency to stack the three nominees with two nominees the governor absolutely can't stand and one nominee the governor has to reluctantly accept or have no say in the process.

Second, the commission should be changed so that the lawyers no longer have a majority of the votes on the commission. My suggestion is that the commissions be expanded to seven members by adding two more lay people. The lawyers have way too much influence over who sits on the bench.

I was certainly surprised to see these changes voluntarily adopted by the Missouri Supreme Court. The changes don't go far enough, but they are certainly a step in the right direction. All I can say is that the Bar must have finally figured out that the reformers are serious and the Bar will certainly face another petition drive if they didn't do something. Good for them and good for Missouri.

(Reach James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


THE KING HAS NO CALCULATOR

Posted 10/8/10

I accidentally heard Michael Savage on the radio last week. I say accidentally because I don't normally listen to his show. He can be kind of irritating in his delivery. However, I had 710 on because I listen to Chris Stigall in the morning and often keep the radio tuned to 710 at lunchtime to listen to Dave Ramsey. So, I was still on 710 when I got in the car to go pick up my daughters from volleyball practice.

Savage was ranting like he normally does, but he had a great line and a frightening fact that he shared. His great line was “the king has no calculator.” He was referring to Obama as the “king” and his “having no calculator” referred to Obama's inability to control spending.

As I was chuckling about “the king has no calculator” line, Savage actually noted a very disturbing fact. In 19 months the Obama Administration and Democrat Congress has increased the national debt by $2.5 trillion (with a “T”!). Savage noted that this is more than the growth of the national debt from George Washington to Ronald Reagan.

Wow! Obama and his Democrat buddies have run up more debt in 19 months (less than 40% of a single presidential term) than nearly 200 years of other presidents combined. Again. I say “Wow!” That is frightening.

What is even scarier is where Obama proposes to take this country over the next several years. Not only has he created $2.5 trillion in new debt, but when his policies are financially scored into the future, we are talking about over a trillion dollar (again with a “T”!!!) increase in the national debt EVERY YEAR for years and years into the future.

Like most of you, I too was frustrated that Republicans failed to keep a lid on spending. However, according to statistics in Karl Rove's book, Courage and Consequence, George W. Bush slowed the growth in domestic non-security discretionary federal spending from 16% in Clinton's last budget to 6.2% in Bush's first budget, 5.5% in his second budget, 4.3% in his third budget, 2.2% in his fourth budget and below inflation on average for his second term.

We also need to remember that Republicans did try to hold the line on spending after the 1994 Republican Revolution. However, when the Republicans stood up to Clinton, they were vilified for shutting down the government. If voters want Congress to block out of control spending, they need to stand up for those elected officials who are willing to take a stand. If the Republican Congress was accepted as heroes when fighting wasteful spending in the mid-90s then maybe they would have done better at controlling spending.

We the people have an important role to play. We, as voters, need to stand up and support those who really do try to cut spending. There is some hope. Ordinary people are sick of out of control spending and oppressive taxation. This is evidenced by the Taxed Enough Already or TEA Party movement. However, these ordinary people get that it is not just the taxes. It is even more about the spending than it is about the taxes!

Savage is right that King Obama and Queen (or maybe I should say Court Jester) Nancy Pelosi have no calculator. They need to get one. More importantly, they need to learn how to use it. Notwithstanding the comments of the crazy liberals, the government cannot keep spending money that it does not have. The math on this simply does not work. Spending simply must be cut.

I know it would not be easy to balance the budget and start shrinking the national debt. Hard choices would have to be made. However, Obama and his buddies in Congress wanted this hard job. They either need to perform that job by reducing spending or resign and let someone else give it a try.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

FEW PEOPLE KNOW OF THE PROMINENT CRAZY LIBERALS

Posted 10/1/10

I laughed out loud this week when I read an article from Politico. The article reported on polling data that showed that “more people are getting their news about the upcoming elections from cable television than any other source, and from Fox News more than any other cable channel.”

The funny thing was a statement that “The . . . poll . . . reflect[s] a trend that many commentators and media analysts find disconcerting: Voters are tuning to media sources that reinforce their political world views rather than present them with more objective reporting that might challenge their assumptions.” I'm sure the thought that the network news channels provide objective reporting has you laughing out loud right now as well.

Objective reporting is almost non-existent in the so-called “mainstream” media. There is so much garbage out there in the media it is very difficult to get to the real facts. Besides, who wants to watch some so-called “reporter,” who is really more of a commentator, try to convince you that socialistic policies are good for America.

Truthfully, I don't watch the news -- cable or otherwise. There is no reason to watch the local TV news. I can summarize tonight's 30 minute newscast for you in this paragraph: The Royals lost. There was a murder or at least a shooting in a specific part of town where almost all the murders and shootings happen. There was a fire. There was a car accident. It might rain tomorrow or it might not. (Or, if you watch whatever channel has Katie Horner, the world might end from a pending storm.) There you go. Now you know everything that will be on the local news tonight. You don't need to watch.

The local TV news provides almost no coverage or what goes on in the Capitol in Jefferson City or Kansas City's City Hall. There is even less coverage on what happens at the Administration Building in Platte City. So, if you want to know what is going on, you will have to look somewhere else.

In fairness to television news, it is very difficult to explain complex issues in short choppy segments. The only way you can explain complex issues is the more extensive discussions that you see in cable news shows where 10 or 20 minutes is spent on a single topic. Even then it is hard to have a serious analysis. However, that is certainly more meaningful than the 30 second to two minute clips on the evening news.
There was something else funny in the polling data. Few people know the identity of the most prominent crazy liberal show hosts. For example, 42% have never heard of Keith Olbermann, 55% have never heard of Rachel Maddow, and 70% have never heard of Ed Schultz. These hosts are also not viewed to have a favorable impact on political debate: Olbermann (23% positive; 25% negative); Maddow (18% positive; 18% negative) and Schultz (11% positive; 11% negative). Ha! No one knows or cares what these clowns have to say.

There are dramatically contrary results for conservatives. The “never heard of numbers” are dramatically lower for Rush Limbaugh (5%); Bill O'Reilly (12%) or Glenn Beck (23%). Bill O'Reilly also has highest positive rating of all at 49% positive.

Another interesting quote from the article was a statement by Chris Atherton, Dean of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, that Rush Limbaugh's influence was probably limited to “entertainment value.” This is not a surprise or even contrary to Rush's objectives. Rush himself has said that his show is about entertainment. I'm sure Rush is laughing all the way to the bank.

So, read The Landmark for objective reporting and entertaining commentary from Ivan and others, tune in to other media sources that will “reinforce your political world views,” and laugh at the “never heard of” liberals.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


MANY BELIEVE GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS ACTUALLY INCREASE POVERTY

Posted 9/23/10

When I was born, America was in the midst of one war, Vietnam, and about to enter a second war, “The War On Poverty.” President Johnson's “War On Poverty” was a noble gesture. The goal of eliminating poverty in the wealthiest nation in the world was certainly based upon good intentions. However, as the saying goes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Where are we in the War On Poverty today after 40+ years and wheel barrel loads of money? If polling results tell us anything, it seems that we are losing the War On Poverty.

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 43% of those polled believe that government programs increase poverty. Only 22% believe that government programs reduce poverty. Another 23% say that government programs have no impact on poverty. It is stunning to consider the amount of money that is being spent on these programs when 66% believe that that money is either increasing poverty or having no impact on poverty.

As you might suspect, the opinion on the impact of government programs on poverty varies based upon one's party affiliation. Eighty-one percent of Republicans and 69% of unaffiliated voters believe that government programs designed to get people out of poverty are not very or not at all effective.

On the other hand, 56% of Democrats believe that such programs are effective. In addition to the lack of confidence in the effectiveness of government programs to reduce poverty is an even more interesting statistic. Sixty-two percent of Republicans and 46% of unaffiliated voters say current government programs actually INCREASE the level of poverty.

Although Republicans and Democrats may disagree on the effectiveness of government programs to combat poverty, Rasmussen says “there's little partisan disagreement . . . that most of those who live in poverty are likely to remain that way for the rest of their lives.”

It doesn't have to be that way. You can change your life. I read a George Will article several years ago where he outlined what you need to do to avoid poverty. Everything he said was pretty simple. His list included things like finish high school and don't have a kid too young. Will had done some research and found that the overwhelming common denominators of those in poverty were that they had dropped out of school and had a child before they were 21. Both of these things are things that individuals have a chance to avoid.

Like those polled, I don't believe that government programs are reducing poverty and agree that some of the government policies are probably increasing poverty and establishing a group of people who will spend their lives in poverty. However, there are non-government programs out there that can help overcome this cycle of poverty. If you read my column regularly you know that one of my favorite programs is Hillcrest Transitional Housing, which provides transitional housing to the homeless, but more importantly, gives people who have gotten themselves into a difficult financial situation the skills to avoid this situation in the future.

I don't want to give another nickel to the government to waste on these anti-poverty programs. History has shown us that they are not working. However, I gladly contribute to Hillcrest Transitional Housing to help people make their own lives better through “tough love” programs. In fact, you can join me in that effort on Saturday night when Hillcrest has its annual Auction and Gala. Call (816) 587-9037 for details.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


EXTEND THE TAX CUTS AND REPEAL THE TAX INCREASES

Posted 9/16/10

You hear a lot of talk these days about extending “the Bush tax cuts.” These were tax cuts put in place in the first and third years of the Bush Administration. These tax cuts included reducing the 39.6% rate Bill Clinton gave us down to 35%. However, the “Bush tax cuts” also included the creation of a new 10% tax bracket and increasing the married filing jointly tax brackets in the 15%, 28% and new 10% brackets so that married taxpayers don't pay higher taxes as a result of having their incomes stacked together.

The “Bush tax cuts” were only allowed to run through 2010. Then the tax law changes were to re-set to the Clinton tax rates. It is my understanding that this 10-year limit on the Bush tax cuts was caused by Senate rules that prevented the lower rates from being passed for longer than ten years unless there were 60 votes in the Senate. Since Bush couldn't get 60 votes, he had to settle for the 10-year cap. (It has been more than nine years since this was passed, so someone might be able to better explain the technical glitch that forced the 10-year limit.)

The bottom line is that if the “Bush tax cuts” are allowed to expire then everyone who pays taxes will be paying higher taxes. This is particularly bad for folks who have taxable incomes equal to Bush's new 10% bracket (i.e., taxpayers with taxable incomes of $16,750). Under the Bush tax rates, they would pay $1,675 in taxes. After the repeal of Bush's 10% bracket, their tax bill will leap by $837.50 or 50% to $2,512.50. Ouch!!!

Folks in the higher tax brackets will see an even greater tax increase in terms of dollars. However, the percentage tax increase will be smaller.

Some Democrats have come around on the Bush tax cuts. Obama has even softened on the subject and said that he would support keeping the Bush tax cuts on those making less than $200,000. Robin Carnahan has claimed that she would support an extension of ALL of the “Bush tax cuts.” Carnahan is obviously following the polls. A majority of Americans favor the extension of all the “Bush tax cuts” including those applicable to those making over $200,000.

I want to go one step further. I would like Congress to repeal the Bush tax increases. What do I mean? These were tax increases that were passed under Bush's dad, George H.W. Bush.

In 1990 Mr. “Read my lips . . . no new taxes” Bush gave us the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. This law created a new 31% bracket. Before this, Ronald Reagan had given us a semi-flat tax with only the 15% and 28% brackets. (There was a 33% bracket, but this was really a limited 5% surcharge on the 28% bracket to burn off the benefit to high income taxpayers of the 15% bracket so all taxpayers over a certain level of income were paying at a 28% rate.)

It has been a while since I read this bill, but I also believe OBRA of 1990 also gave us the phase out of itemized deduction and the phase out of personal exemptions. These phase outs prevented upper income taxpayers from taking full advantage of their personal exemptions and their itemized deductions (e.g., charitable contributions).

I have always found these sorts of provisions to be outrageous. If Congress wants to impose more taxes on higher income taxpayers, then just establish a tax bracket with a higher rate. Don't monkey around with all the other aspects of the tax calculations. A taxpayer should not lose the benefit of his charitable contributions or personal exemptions based upon income levels.

So, my recommendation is to do more than just extend the “Bush tax cuts.” While Congress is at it, also repeal the “Bush tax increases.”

(Email our tax cut authority James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

WALL STREET SHOULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING WITH OBAMA

Posted 9/10/10

People on Wall Street are stupid. (Now I realize it is an invalid over-generalization to say such a thing about an entire group of people, but let me just go with this theme, keeping in mind that there are exceptions to this broad statement.)

My fundamental pet peeve with Wall Street is that it has complex computer programs that trade stocks not based upon the financial performance of the underlying companies, but rather based upon statistical variations. This causes companies to trade at dollar values that have no connection to economic performance and in some cases causes companies that have never turned a profit to trade at huge collar values.

A second irritation with Wall Street is that they gave us the housing crisis. Don't get me wrong. I still blame people who took out mortgages that they could not afford for much of the problem. The lack of individual responsibility is a critical part of the problem. The failure of the borrowers to behave appropriately cannot be ignored. However, it also must be remembered that these borrowers could not have behaved irresponsibly if the lenders weren't willing to loan them the money. The lenders were willing to loan money “willy-nilly” (I think that is a technical Wall Street term) because the lenders immediately sold the mortgages into a big bundle of mortgages assembled by Wall Street. Some critics saw the problem of making these irresponsible loans. However, some executives on Wall Street said the only way this could go wrong is if home prices dropped all over the country at the same time. This was seen by these experts as impossible because it had not happened during their lifetimes. That analysis was, of course, stupid.

However, neither of those flaws of Wall Street are why I am calling people on Wall Street stupid in this column. No. People on Wall Street are stupid for first backing Obama and now for not backing him based upon a position of Obama that Obama made clear that he held when he was campaigning.
Daniel Loeb is a hedge fund manager on Wall Street. He is an active Democrat fund raiser. He was a strong Obama supporter. However, Loeb has now turned against Obama. The New York Times reports that Loeb sent a letter to his investors in which he said:

“As every student of American history knows, this country's core founding principles included non-punitive taxation, constitutionally guaranteed protections against persecution of the minority and an inexorable right of self-determination. Washington has taken actions over the past months, like the Goldman suit, that seem designed to fracture the populace by pulling capital and power from the hands of some and putting it in the hands of others.”

Well, DUH!!! If Mr. Loeb is just now figuring this out then he is stupid! Obama made his positions abundantly clear when he was campaigning. He believes in taking money from one group of people and giving it to another. How is it that Mr. Loeb is just now figuring this out?

Loeb is not alone. The New York Times reports that other Wall Streeters who formerly supported Obama have turned against him including Steven A. Cohen, founder of the hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors, and Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase.

All I can say to these clowns is that you dummies got what you asked for. You supported a guy whose central mantra is and was the re-distribution of wealth. Didn't you understand that he was talking about you and your clients when he was planning this re-distribution? Apparently not. Hence, the label of “stupid.”

(Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


POLLS STRONGLY FAVOR REPUBLICANS NOW, BUT WILL THEY SCREW IT UP?

Posted 9/3/10

Robin Carnahan is desperate. Why do I say that? At the State Fair two weeks ago, Carnahan said she now supports the extension of all tax cuts enacted during the Bush Administration.

Wow! What an act of desperation. Democrats by their very nature LOVE taxes. The whole Democrat perspective is to take money from one group of people and give it to another group of people or at least spend it on stuff the Democrats want to “give” us.

Carnahan didn't come out and say that she supported extending the current tax rate structure for certain people. The Associated Press reported that she said “Now is not the time to be doing anything to raise taxes. We're still in the midst of a downturn in the economy, so we need to keep those tax cuts in place all of them.”

Carnahan's statements are absolutely correct. The government doesn't need to be sucking money out of the economy right now. In a booming economy, modest tax increases might slow down the economy. However, when the economy is as sluggish as it is right now, these significant tax increases would be devastating to the economy.

This isn't rocket science. My 13-and 10-year-old daughters get it. If my tax bill goes up by thousands of dollars in 2011, which it is slated to do, then that is less money that I have to save for their college or buy them stuff. My girls may not appreciate that by just saving money in the bank it creates money for the bank to loan businesses to buy new equipment and expand their business or to regular folks to buy a new house and that those activities create jobs for people. They do understand that we may stop going out to brunch after church on Sundays if I need to pay higher taxes. We will also be likely to vacation in Branson rather than some place beyond the borders of Missouri.

I don't believe Carnahan believes what she is saying. I just think she is saying what she must say to avoid a defeat in November. That is a defeat that is looming. Polling by Rasmussen has shown a consistent lead for Roy Blunt. A Rasmussen poll from three weeks ago had Blunt leading Carnahan 50% to 43%. A poll from last week showed Blunt's lead at 51% to 40%.

Even more alarming to all Democrats is the generic Congressional ballot. This poll asks “If the election were held today would you vote for the Republican nominee for Congress or the Democrat nominee for Congress?” A Gallup poll has the Republicans with a 10 point lead (51% to 41%) in the generic ballot. This is stunning. The Hill reports that this is the greatest Republican advantage since generic Congressional ballot polling began in 1942. To put this in perspective, The Hill also reports that polling before the Republican Revolution in 1994 only had Republicans with a five point lead on the generic ballot.

Now don't get too excited. First, this is a Gallup poll, which is not as reliable as some of the other polls. Second, there is polling from last week that shows that 62% of voters believe the country would be better off if most incumbent Congressmen are defeated. Carnahan will continue to try to paint Blunt as an “evil insider.” This hasn't worked effectively yet, but she still has 60 days to beat that drum. Third, even though the generic ballot points to many Republican victories, all the races are ultimately decided within their own states or districts. Some Democrats are not vulnerable to defeat despite the bad political environment for them. Even more concerning, as one of my active political friends noted, Republicans always find a way to screw up as the election approaches. Still, I would rather be us than them right now.

(James Thomas is a leader in the area Republican party. Email jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


LIBERALS AND DEMS SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT THESE REPUBLICAN NEWCOMERS

Posted 8/27/10

 

Several years ago one Democrat activist commented that “Democrats won't consistently win until we get a Democrat version of James Thomas.” It was true the Republicans were crushing the Democrats in what not too long ago was an almost exclusively Democrat county, but this Democrat's comment was mistaken. It really wasn't me that was leading to these successes. I just happened to be the only one of many Republican activists, who was not also an officeholder or candidate, that was seen by this Democrat activist at all the civic stuff (e.g., chamber meetings, EDC meetings, etc.).

One Republican candidate made a similar comment after his unsuccessful run for office several years ago. He said that John Elliott, Kurt Killen and I all gave him money and were all nice to him during his campaign, but none of us did anything special to help him win. It was his contention that no Republican could win in Platte County without the help of the three of us. Like the Democrat activist, he was mistaken. Elliott, Killen and I had worked hard to help folks get elected that year. However, we were only a very small part of a much larger hard working crew.

Although the active Democrat and unsuccessful Republican candidate may have exaggerated the role of yours truly and a few of my friends, I can tell you the Democrats should be worried about a bunch of new folks that are becoming involved.

The Platte County Republican Central Committee (“PCRCC”) started to become stagnant a couple of years ago. Some of the hard working members, including me, were getting tired. We needed fresh energy.

This started to change when some new folks joined PCRCC. Abby Olson joined PCRCC two years ago and immediately provided new energy. However, she recently resigned from the committee so she could do things outside of PCRCC. She formed the Green Dragon Conservative Club, which helped the Park Hill South Republican Club bring Rusty Humphries to Kansas City for a special event. Olson also hosts a monthly meet and greet at her home on the third Friday of the month where conservatives can meet and find ways to get involved.

Another new participant that joined PCRCC a few years ago is Timothy Thompson. He has provided new enthusiasm and led PCRCC's Strategic Planning Subcommittee. When we thought I was off the committee, Thompson approached me about succeeding me as chair of the 32nd Legislative District Committee. I encouraged him to do so. In fact, even after I was put back on the committee, I made a point of handing over the gavel to the vice chair so I could nominate Thompson to replace me as chair. Thompson has not disappointed me. Even before being nominated as the 32nd Legislative District chair, Thompson organized a fundraiser at his home for Ron Schieber. Way to go, Tim!

Olson and Thompson have already done great things, but this is just the beginning. The Democrats (and all liberals) really need to be worried about the many new folks who have joined PCRCC. These include Jacque Cox, Deana Sealey, Nancy Kraus Womack, Theresa Emerson and others. These folks are motivated and ready to work. They want to recruit volunteers and candidates, contact voters, raise some money and win some elections. I told these excited new folks that I only had one regret about my anticipated absence from the PCRCC: I regretted that I would not be part of the new enthusiasm that they were bringing to the committee. I'm re-energized by their enthusiasm.

With a combination of the excitement and enthusiasm of these new folks and the experience of some of those who have been around a while, the Democrats might want to run for cover. Once these new folks get a couple of years of experience to go with their enthusiasm, they will be a serious force to be reckoned with.

(James Thomas is an active leader in the Republican party. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

GENERAL ASSEMBLY HAS VERSION OF STAR WARS

Posted 8/20/10

“A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . .” We have all seen those words floating through stars at the opening of the Star Wars movies. We have a problem similar to Star Wars.

My introduction to Star Wars began with Episodes IV, V and VI, which made up the first trilogy produced for the big screen. As that trilogy unfolds, we learn that Obiwan Kenobi had a relationship with Luke's father, who was killed by Darth Vader. Eventually we learn that Luke's father was not killed by Darth Vader, but that Luke's father became Darth Vader. We also learn that the Republic was not always the bad guys. After decades of waiting, Episodes I, II and III reach the big screen. These episodes introduce us to a young Anakin Skywalker, who is still good, a Senator Palpatine, whose evilness has not yet been revealed, and the Republic that is still the “good guys.” The intriguing questions are how does Anakin turn into Vader? How does Palpatine become emperor? And, how does the Republic turn into the enemy?

It is very interesting to watch the process unfold. Everything unravels when the “acting” Senator from Naboo is tricked into proposing a resolution to grant “emergency powers” to the then Chancellor Palpatine to empower him to protect the Republic. As soon as he receives these powers, Palpatine authorizes a clone army that makes the Republic (and himself) extremely powerful.

We had our own version of the Star Wars “emergency powers” resolution in the General Assembly this past year: Senate Bill 844. On its face SB 844 was painted as a grand effort at “ethics” reform. In reality, SB 844 was a power grab by a few people.SB 844 neutered the functioning of political party committees. In fact, even though political party committees exist under non-campaign finance law statutes and have members elected by the people, SB 844 severely restrict the role of political party committees under campaign finance laws. For one thing, “political party committees” at the county, legislative district and senate district levels are now considered to be “political action committees.” SB 844 also changed the law so that “political action committees” can no longer accept contributions from other committees.

This restriction on receiving contributions is outrageous on its face. Prohibiting political party committees that exist under non-campaign finance law statutes from receiving contributions is contrary to First Amendment principles of free speech and free association. However, there is more to the outrage.

The restriction on political party committees receiving contributions from other committees DOES NOT apply to committees designated by the majority and minority floor leaders of the State House and State Senate. What does this mean? Well it means that the House Republican Campaign Committee (“HRCC”) and the Senate Majority Fund and their Democrat counterparts are not subject to this campaign finance law restriction on political party committees. So? What this means is that instead of political fund raising power being spread throughout the State through over 600 committees which have statutory rules on their creation and the election of their members, this fund raising power is focused in two Republican and two Democrat committees, which are controlled by political insiders without any say by the statutorily-created political party committees.

What does this mean for us? Think Rod Jetton or Bob Griffith on steroids. It creates overwhelming power in the HRCC and Senate Majority Fund and their Democrat counterparts, which are controlled by just a handful of people in Jefferson City. I saw this disaster coming. I fought against. I was on a conference call on the day before the last day of session trying to prevent the bad things in this bill. I was ignored. As Senator Amidala says to Senator Organa as the chancellor is assumes control, I can only say “So this is how a liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause.”

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


POLITICS MAKES FOR STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

Posted 8/11/10

Phew! Primary season is over. This primary season was quiet for quite a while until it turned ugly during the last few days. However, it did leave us reasons to apply some old adages.

The first one is that “politics makes for strange bedfellows.” Nowhere was that more true than the 34th Senatorial District race. A clear example is with Susan Phillips' endorsement of Rob Schaaf. I have known Susan for almost 20 years. I worked with her when she was a political activist prior to her becoming formally involved with the party. I helped her find ways to take an active role in the party. I gave her advice on the procedures to follow to win the county caucus for her presidential candidate in 1996 and get within four votes of winning the Congressional District caucus. (Susan went on to broker a deal at the State Convention with the Dole delegates so that her allies had almost half of the state-wide delegates to the National Convention.) In 1999 I played a central role in Susan's first campaign for state representative. Thereafter, I have continued to be an active supporter of her efforts. I have always considered her a friend and a political ally.

In all the years that I have known Susan her number one issue has always been the pro life issue. It was always a litmus test to her. If Susan and I met with a prospective candidate who was not pro life, her immediate answer was “No.”

I appreciate that the Republican Party has a “big tent.”We don't have to agree on every issue even though the Republican platform is clearly a pro life platform. Candidates and party activists should not automatically be shut out because they are not pro life. (Don't think I am getting “squishy” on you. Although I respect the right to disagree, I will personally only write checks to pro life candidates and will fight to keep the pro life plank in the platform because I am pro life and because my experience has been that candidates who are not pro life are liberal on all the other important issues like the general role of government, regulation, taxes, etc.)

Susan's adamant position on the pro life issue is actually what caused me to be surprised by her support of Rob Schaaf. (I was also surprised because Susan was spreading unflattering and disturbing rumors about Schaaf a few weeks earlier.) Schaaf was not endorsed by Missouri Right to Life -- probably due to his support of cloning. Also, Schaaf received large sums of money from the pro-cloning forces in the final days of the election. This would normally make Susan adamantly opposed to a candidate. However, in this case she stuck with Schaaf. Hence, we have the old adage that “politics makes for strange bedfellows.”

Maybe that is due to another adage, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” I'm not sure what Susan was mad about, but certainly she must have been hopping mad at her old friend Charlie Shields about something to ignore Schaaf's position on cloning, given her long-held pro life stance.

There is another adage that may apply to DeStefano: “Get it in writing.” It was no secret that term-limited incumbent, Charlie Shields, did not want Schaaf to be his successor. After Jason Brown dropped out of the race, Susan was recruited to become the candidate. After Susan declined, Shields and company kept looking. Just a few weeks before filing closed, DeStefano was convinced to get in the race. Early on Shields showed his support by contributing $10,000 to DeStefano's campaign. However, as Election Day neared, Shields refused to come forward with a public endorsement. Before DeStefano committed himself to this race, I guess he should have “gotten it in writing.”

Yes. Another primary election is over and there are plenty of clichés to go around.


(James Thomas, an active leader in the GOP, can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


BECAUSE EVERYBODY NEEDS A HERO

Posted 8/4/10

What seemed like a quiet primary season turned ugly in the last few days. The finger pointing and name calling reached a crescendo as Election Day approached. I'm guessing that many of you are tired of politicians accusing each other of so many things that you aren't sure which one is telling the truth. So, I thought I would take a little break this week and write about something other than politics: Heroes.

We all have different heroes. If you asked me who my political hero was I would probably say Ronald Reagan. Of course, I only met him once and that was in a room with 103 other high school seniors so maybe I should pick a hero I know personally. But I didn't want to write about political heroes this week. I didn't even want to write about other heroes like a fireman who runs into a burning building to save someone, a police officer that protects us from criminals or a soldier who risks injury or even death in the fight for our freedom and well being. No I wanted to write about a different kind of hero.

I wanted to write about the kind of hero that will never have a statute erected in his honor or a day named after him. I wanted to write about those ordinary simple guys that have worked hard to make America great in their own way.

My dad is one of those guys. He has never done anything that will put him in the history books. He has just gotten up every day, worked hard and loved and supported his family.

When I was growing up, I loved my dad and knew he loved me, but we didn't do much non-work stuff together. I can't recall going hunting or fishing together. He was too busy working. You see he had what I call “a farming habit.” Some dads have trouble with booze, drugs or gambling. My dad farmed. He went to the city every day to his day job, got home about 4 in the afternoon, and then went out to work in the field until it was too dark to work any longer. However, despite his long hours of labor, my dad almost never missed one of my school functions, music performances, sporting performances or award ceremonies.

Since I bought my first house 23 years ago and got heavily involved in political campaigns 16 years ago, dad and I have done a lot more together. I may be a really talented lawyer and accountant, but I am “mechanically stupid.” My dad is great at fixing things and has every tool in the world. So when I have a project to do, I try to invite him over to take advantage of his knowledge and his equipment as well as to have an excuse to spend time together. (If I don't call my dad, my wife will because she does not trust my mechanical skills.) My dad and I also spend time every election season driving around putting up 4 x 8 signs. My arms are often sore after driving fence posts, but it is great to just spend time riding around in the truck with my dad.

My dad isn't my hero because he can fix almost anything or because he has a pickup and a post hole driver although both have come in handy over the years. No. My dad is my hero because of the simple things he represents. He represents hard work, faithfulness to God and your spouse, and loving, supporting and protecting your family. I know these may sound like simple things, but I truly believe that a collection of people with these values are what makes America great.

Don't worry. Next week we can be back to complaining about politicians. I just thought we could all use a break this week.

(James Thomas is chair of Sixth District Republicans. Reach him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


SO MUCH FOR A QUIET LOCAL PRIMARY SEASON

Posted 7/30/10

We are less than a week away from the August primary. I actually drafted my column last Friday and planned to comment about how this was a quiet primary season. I started out noting some of our more interesting primaries like the 1994 county clerk's race or the 1996 sheriff's race.

However, the Republican primary to succeed Charlie Shields as state senator for the district that covers Platte and Buchanan Counties has gotten heated. This race was an early prospect for excitement. It was originally anticipated that it would pit two term-limited State Reps, Jason Brown and Rob Schaaf, against each other. However, after campaigning for the State Senate for most of 2009, Brown moved over to the Presiding Commissioner race after Betty Knight announced her plans to not seek re-election. For a few weeks it looked like Rob Schaaf would be the only candidate in the Senate primary. However, as the close of filing approached, local businessman John Destefano got in the race.

In my original draft, I said that I would have preferred that DeStefano win this primary because of his decades of business experience, but said that Schaaf would still be better than the do-nothing Democrat candidate. DeStefano's experience has not just been with running a little t-shirt shop. His business experience is as a member of the senior management team of a multi-billion dollar business. That is what state government is: a multi-billion dollar business. I would prefer someone with private sector experience of a similar magnitude to be making the difficult financial decisions that need to be made in Jeff City. That is especially true in these difficult financial times.

However, since last Friday, Schaaf and his allies have resorted to numerous lies and half-truths which caused me to seriously question his integrity. This conduct also reminded me that right up until the time he was hauled off to jail, Schaaf's campaign advisor was Rod Jetton, the former speaker of the house who is surrounded by as many corruption allegations as any Democrat speaker and who is being prosecuted for allegedly drugging and violently sexually assaulting a woman. No. Schaaf's dishonesty has caused him to go from an okay second choice to a horrible choice. So much for a quiet local primary.

There are three state-wide items on the ballot: the U.S. Senate primary, the state auditor primary and Proposition C. Although anything can happen, it is presumed that Roy Blunt and Robin Carnahan will win their respective U.S. Senate primaries. Each of them have millions in the bank and neither of them have opponents who have two nickels to rub together.

Two Republicans are duking it out to face incumbent State Auditor Susan Montee. One of the candidates, who has never even run for dogcatcher before, actually thought his first ever political campaign was going to be for the U.S. Senate before he was “paid off” to switch to the state auditor's race. I laughed at first, but this candidate is backed by big dollar donors, including a donor who offered Sandra $100,000 in 2006 if she would support human cloning. (She said “No!”) The other candidate, Allen Icet, has substantial knowledge of state government having served as chair of the House Budget Committee for several years. However, neither of them is a CPA. (I'm not sure how you effectively supervise an office of CPAs when you aren't one.)

One bit of fun is Proposition C, which gives Missourians a chance to express their lack of support for Obamacare. The technical point of Proposition C is to amend Missouri law to prohibit a citizen from being penalized for not buying health insurance or making or receiving direct payment for health care services. However, the real point is to vote “Yes” to say you don't like the federal government taking over our health care. Please join the fun by voting “Yes” on Proposition C.

(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

NAACP SHOULD BE PROMOTING A MESSAGE OF OPPORTUNITY

Posted 7/22/10

I'm going to do two risky things this week. First, I am going to be critical of the positions taken at the recent NAACP Convention in Kansas City. (There is always a great risk that criticism of a group like that will be misinterpreted and labeled as racist.) Second, I'm going to rely on reporting in The Kansas City Star as the basis of my comments. (That might be a more risky thing to do.)

The NAACP Convention unanimously adopted a resolution demanding that the leadership of the Tea Party movement denounce its racist elements. That is just stupid. Why should the NAACP be telling those in the Tea Party movement what to do?

Some in the Tea Party movement suggested that the NAACP denounce the New Black Panther Party and its racist agenda and comments. The NAACP refused. Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP said that the New Black Panther Party “. . . is a mere flea compared to the influence and size of the Tea Party. And the New Black Panther Party is not a member of the NAACP. What we are asking the Tea Party to eschew is not the racism of some outside organization, but the bigotry within.”

That is just silly. All rational people can agree that communicating through “hate speech” is not an effective way to communicate. Very little is accomplished by groups of people shouting rude comments at each other. However, the NAACP is apparently only upset when it is a few unauthorized comments from Tea Party members rather than the official position of the New Black Panther Party.

There was another disturbing theme reported from the convention. Rosyln Brock, the new chair of the NAACP's board of directors, was reported in The Kansas City Star as saying the NAACP has a vested interest in improving the plight of all Americans who live in poverty, lack sufficient health care coverage and face mortgage foreclosures, and whose children attend inadequate public schools. She went on to say “The silence in America has been deafening as individuals who feel locked out of a prosperous society repeatedly ask the question 'Is anybody listening . . . does anybody care?'”

Brock just doesn't get it. No one is out there listening and caring about giving anyone prosperity. The Declaration of Independence plainly said it was the “pursuit of happiness” and not happiness itself that was a man's unalienable right. It is up to the individual to get off his butt, go out there and make a future for himself. The gift of America, the true beauty of America is that this is the land of opportunity. It is not supposed to be the land of someone giving you stuff for nothing.

Don't get me wrong. I fully appreciate that I had a huge head start in the race of life. I had great parents. They told me from the time I was a small child that I could be anything I wanted to be. They taught me that hard work, education and responsible personal financial decisions are the tickets to a more secure financial future. I also had the benefit of attending a rural/suburban public school where the farm/blue collar work ethic and the message of make good grades and make something of yourself was reinforced.

If the NAACP really wants to help the poor and the downtrodden, it needs to promote the message of opportunity. Tell people not to wait for someone else to care. Tell them to care enough to get off their butts and change their own lives. Promote self reliance and independence. Be sure to teach the “love of your neighbor” along the way, but don't teach that individuals should rely on their neighbor to carry them. And, teach them to have fun along the way. Remember it is the pursuit of happiness. Enjoy the journey. I sure am.

(James is chair of Sixth District Republicans. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

THESE DAYS, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT USES A DIFFERENT WEAPON

Posted 7/15/10

The Fourth of July Weekend is the anniversary of something besides the Declaration of Independence: a three-day battle concluding on July 3, 1863 in a little town in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg. I was thinking about this over the Fourth as I was finishing up the alternate history Civil War trilogy co-authored by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen.

Civil War buffs know well that on July 3, 1863 General Lee ordered General Pickett on what is famously known as Pickett's Charge. It was like Fredericksburg in reverse with the Confederate troops being cut down as they attempted to take Cemetery Ridge. The failure of Pickett to take the ridge is considered to be the turning point of the Civil War. Many historians have discussed the “what ifs” of that day.

The trilogy essentially begins on the first day at Gettysburg. Just like what really happened, the brave Union cavalry holds the high ground until infantry support can arrive. Then, late that night on what was the first day at Gettysburg the story changes. I won't spoil the trilogy for you except to say that after Lee failed to take the high ground on the first day his entire army executes a dramatic maneuver similar to Chancellorsville and slips around the Union Army and gets between it and Washington. This forces Union generals to fight on Lee's terms rather than theirs. The story unfolds from there over the three-book series.
The books do a great job of telling the story from the perspective of various officers (like General Lee and General Grant), from the perspective of some ordinary soldiers and even from the perspective of President Lincoln. This gives a personal connection to the unfolding saga. The story captures the glory and the horror of the conflict. However, an interesting aspect of the story was that after each major battle, the troops of each side sought to provide aid to their wounded opponents and in some cases even wept over the opposing casualties.

The story does a good job of expanding upon some of the underlying reasons for the conflict. Some of the politicians in the Confederacy may have been fighting to preserve slavery, but that was not what most of the southern men and even the generals were fighting for. Some of the Union men were fighting to end slavery, but according to the story most of them were fighting to preserve the republic. There is even an effort by certain senior southern leaders to abolish slavery on both moral grounds and on practical grounds of seeking to bring France and England into the war as allies of the Confederacy.

Mostly the story captures the strategic and tactical movement of troops to achieve a military objective. There is a certain romanticism to the gallant men of the Army of Northern Virginia as they fight a foe that dramatically outnumbers them and with far superior manufacturing and transportation capacity. I was intrigued by the efforts of the generals to outmaneuver each other and put their men in the right place to be successful.

The Civil War was the greatest American tragedy. ALL the casualties were Americans. And, the war was fought exclusively on American soil so that the collateral damage and civilian casualties were also ALL American. The Civil War battles make for great study of military history and maneuver. And, with a little twist, an alternate history of the Civil War makes for some great fiction.

One hundred fifty years later the federal government uses a different weapon to force states to bend to its will: its checkbook. In order to entice states to conform to its bidding, the federal government gives out or withholds what it seems to believe is a limitless source of cash. Another American tragedy for our children and grandchildren, but at least no brave men have to die in this conflict.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

AMERICA STANDS AT ANOTHER CROSSROADS

Posted 7/9/10

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

I re-read those opening words of the Declaration of Independence this past 4th of July weekend and marveled at their eloquence and the power they expressed. The eloquence continues:

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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

The Declaration goes on to list a litany of specific acts of the King of Great Britain that the Continental Congress was upset about, to note that the colonist had petitioned many times to have these grievances addressed and that those petitions were denied or ignored and to state that the colonies relationship with Great Britain is dissolved and they are “free and independent states.”The closing line is another expression of pure elegance:

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

America is at another crossroads. Our government has adopted policies that are “destructive” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As the Declaration of Independence states, “it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish” that government 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.”

Fortunately for us, the unique structure of our Constitution allows us the opportunity “to alter or to abolish” our government at the ballot box instead of at the point of the bayonet. Let us “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” to elect in November only leaders who will preserve our rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

(James Thomas is chair of the Sixth District Republicans. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra @kc.rr.com)

 


 

HOLD ON TO YOUR WALLET, THE LEGISLATURE IS BACK IN SESSION

Posted 7/1/10

Are you frightened? You should be. The General Assembly is back in session. Any time the legislators are in Jefferson City, they can spend more of your money.

The regular session ended as usual in mid-May, but Gov. Nixon has called the legislators back for a special session to consider the Manufacturing Jobs Act and a bill that makes changes to the public employee retirement system. The Manufacturing Jobs Act does not say “Ford Motor Company,” but it is clearly designed to give tax incentives to Ford.
I am a little torn about this bill. I really don't like government picking winners and losers by giving some businesses special incentives while not giving those incentives to other businesses. However, if Missouri doesn't give incentives to Ford, there is a very real risk that Ford will take its good-paying blue collar jobs to another state that will give it tax incentives. So, Missouri is stuck. It can either play the government giveaway game or lose the Ford plant jobs to another state.

The tax incentive allows a “qualified manufacturing company” (a carefully defined term that everyone understands is supposed to mean Ford) or a “qualified supplier” to retain the withholding taxes from retained jobs instead of depositing these withholding taxes with the government. The percentage of withholding taxes that can be retained and the number of years these taxes can be retained varies depending upon whether the manufacturer manufactures a new product or modifies or expands the manufacture of an existing product.

Assuming that state government is going to give tax incentives of some sort, this is not necessarily a bad plan. The publicly-stated goal is to keep good-paying jobs in Missouri. By tying the calculation of the incentive to the amount of the withholdings from the retained jobs, the legislation connects what it is trying to preserve (i.e., good-paying jobs) to the amount of the incentive. So, IF state government is going to give an incentive to retain good-paying jobs, this is a good plan that connects the benefit to the manufacturer to what the government is trying to accomplish.

The problem with this $15 million per year giveaway to Ford is that the government needs to find the money to pay for it. There were new funding proposals made earlier this week, but the initial proposed source of the money to give to Ford was to require new government employees to pay part of the costs of their retirement benefits.

I don't like funding a government give-away on the backs of the state's employees; however, this pension proposal does open the door to a desperately needed reform of the state's pension plan. Right now the government pension benefit is typically a defined benefit plan which pays retirees a percentage of their salary after retirement. A better proposal would be to convert the current defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan where a set percentage of current compensation of state employees is contributed to an account for each employee. This account could be fully contributed by the state or part contributed by the state and part contributed by the employee. However, instead of the employee having a stream of retirement payments funded by the government, the employee would have a “pot of money” that the employee could use, control and enjoy. This type of plan gives a state employee more freedom to control their own retirement and the freedom to work for the government for a while either before or after working in the private sector without tying their pension benefit to a specific number of years spent in a cubicle in some state government building.

The special session is under way. The specifics of the two bills are changing on a daily basis. Regardless of what happens over the next few days, just remember to hold on to your wallets because the legislators are back in Jefferson City.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

GENERIC BALLOT STRONGLY FAVORS REPUBLICANS

Posted 6/24/10

Predicting an election nineteen weeks out is already difficult because so many things can happen in the 130+ days leading up to Election Day. However, contradictory polling data is making it even more difficult to predict the outcome of the November elections.

Some signs look very good for Republicans. The generic Congressional ballot polling by Rasmussen Reports strongly favors Republicans. This polling asks voters the question of “If the election were held today would you be more likely to vote for the Democrat candidate for Congress or the Republican candidate for Congress?” The question does not involve matching up specific candidates against each other. The generic Congressional ballot currently favors Republicans by a 10 point margin of 46% to 36%. It is my recollection that this is more favorable than the polling data right before the Republican Revolution of 1994. This is also a dramatic shift from the generic Congressional ballot polling right after Obama's inauguration, which favored the Democrats by a 7 point margin of 42% to 35%. That is a 17 point swing over the last 17 months.

While this signals great news for Republicans, polling by Rasmussen Reports from last week also shows that 72% of Republican voters believe the GOP members of Congress have lost touch with the party base throughout the nation. Only 21% disagree and say that Republican Congressmen have done a good job of representing Republican values.

In stark contrast to this polling data, 61% of Democrat voters think their representatives in Congress have done a good job of representing Democrat values over the last several years. Only 29% of Democrat voters believe Democrats in Congress have lost touch with Democrat voters throughout the nation.

The polling has consistently shown for months that large percentages (i.e., in the 75% range) are angry with their elected officials and the direction government is going. Interestingly, a Rasmussen Reports poll from last week shows that 66% of voters describe themselves as at least somewhat angry at the media, including 33% who are “Very Angry.”

Voters believe a liberal bias exists with the media. Polling from just before Election Day 2008 showed that 51% said most reporters were trying to help Obama win the election while just 7% thought the media was trying to help McCain win. Polling from last week shows that 48% of voters believe most reporters are trying to help Obama pass his agenda when they write or talk about Obama. Only 18% believe that reporters are trying to block the passage of Obama's agenda.

Reporters are certainly not seen as objective. Sixty-eight percent of those voters polled say most reporters when covering a political campaign try to help the candidate they want to win. Fifty-four percent of voters polled think reporters would hide any information they uncovered that might hurt a candidate they wanted to win.

Voters also think the media has too much influence on Congress. Sixty-two percent say what the media thinks is more important to the average member of Congress than what voters think.

The shift is slowly occurring over who is perceived to be to blame for the economic crisis. In May 2009 62% said that Bush was to blame for our economic problems. That number is now down to 47%. The percentage who blame Obama's policies is now up to 45%.

What does that mean for November? My guess is that Republican candidates who have been consistently conservative, like our own Congressman Graves, will win big. Republican candidates who do not support the conservative message are going to have a hard time being successful if there is a “conservative-sounding” Democrat. (I use the quotations because I don't think there are hardly any actual “conservative” Democrats.) Of course, a lot can happen in 130 days.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

ANGER REMAINS IN GOP FOR VOTES ON TARP

Posted 6/17/10

At a recent Republican meeting I learned that people are still angry about those Congressmen, including some Republicans, who voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program or “TARP.” Actually, I'm also angry about anyone who voted for TARP.

As you will recall, TARP was the “bailout” plan that was developed in the fall of 2008 to address the credit crisis. At the time we were all told that the credit markets were frozen and that no financial institutions were going to be lending any money to anyone for anything. A key stated reason for this is that these institutions had a bunch of “stinky” assets, in particular “sub-prime” mortgages, on their balance sheets. The inability of these institutions to loan money was driven in part because some claimed that these “stinky” assets were “hard to value” and in some cases were actually worth zero. If these institutions had these big zeros on their balance sheets, they would not be able to continue to loan money.

I personally was against any sort of bailout. The free enterprise system gives investors the freedom to choose their investments and keep the rewards of those investments, but investors also bear the risk of failure. If big banks invested in risky loans in pursuit of higher interest charges received from the borrowers, then that was their decision. However, they also must accept the risk of failure. For it to truly be a FREE enterprise system, people need to be permitted to fail. If institutions made bad loans or purchased bad loans that were bundled with other loans that was their fault and they should suffer the consequences. The rest of us should not have to pay because these institutions were stupid.

However, IF, and that is a HUGE “if” to me, the government was going to do something, then the stated purpose of TARP, as described by its name (“Troubled Asset Relief Program”), was appropriate. The plan was for the government to buy up these “troubled assets” that were on the books of these financial institutions. The institutions would then have cash instead of troubled assets and they could then loan that money out and the credit crisis would be averted. So, IF the government was going to do something, the buying up of these “troubled assets” was a reasonable approach.

Unfortunately, language in the bill allowed the use of the TARP money for anything else the Secretary of Treasury deemed appropriate. This led to all kinds of other things other than just buying up bad assets like bailing out car companies and making capital investments in banks.

Some reasonable precautions were put in place when TARP was passed in the fall of 2008. First, it was broken in two components with half the money appropriated up front and a second vote required by Congress to release the second half of the money. Second, early versions of the bill included a bunch of other junk (e.g., money for ACORN and other pork barrel projects). Most of these were eliminated before the bill was passed.

It also needs to be remembered that at the time the experts were claiming we were in an “end of the world” scenario. President Bush and Congress did not want to appear to be doing nothing in response to the crisis. So, they did something. I disagreed with doing something, but if you were going to do something this was not an unreasonable something, on its face.

Our Congressman Sam Graves voted “no” on the original bill and “no” on the authorization of the second half. Good for him and good for us. Unfortunately, some Republicans voted “yes” on the original bill in response to the hysteria at the time. However, before throwing these Republicans overboard, you should ask whether they voted “no” on the second part after it was shown that the first part was not used as intended.

(James Thomas is chair of Sixth District Republicans. Reach him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

IT'S A CONSERVATIVE REVOLUTION, NOT A REPUBLICAN ONE

Posted 6/11/10

Perception is reality. In politics that is truer than in many other areas. Based upon the validity of the statement that “perception is reality,” Republicans may have some problems in November.

I have said repeatedly that the revolution that we are anticipating this fall is not a Republican Revolution.It is a conservative revolution. I have also shared with you polling data from a few months ago that shows that three-fourths of Americans are angry. Based upon the perceptions of some that at least some Republicans have not been conservative or “conservative enough” the Republicans can not necessarily count on the support of these “angry” voters. This assumption is based upon polling data from Rasmussen Reports on who is to blame for the deficit.

A Rasmussen Reports nationwide telephone survey shows that 49% of adults say that former President George W. Bush and the Republicans are responsible for the size of the current federal budget deficit. This same survey shows 43% blame President Obama and the Democrats. The break along party lines is fairly understandable. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats blame Bush and the GOP. Eighty percent of Republicans blame Obama and the Democrats. However, the perception of the unaffiliated voters, who are the ones who really decide elections, is what is critical. Of those voters not claiming to be part of either major political party, 53% blame Bush and the Republicans and 36% blame Obama and the Democrats.

This perception may be severely damning to Republicans even though it is not necessarily supported by the facts. In his new book, Courage and Consequence, Karl Rove notes that in Clinton's last budget he grew domestic non-security discretionary federal spending by a whopping 16%. Bush cut that to 6.2% in his first budget, 5.5% in his second budget, 4.3% in his third budget, 2.2% in his fourth budget and below inflation on average for his second term. As a percentage of GDP, Bush's deficits ran an average of 2% of GDP, which is close to the 1.7% average deficit since WWII.

The truth is that Republicans and Democrats elected leaders are both to blame for the out of control federal spending. Of course, they are not the only ones to blame. Much of the American electorate is to blame for letting our elected leaders keep spending so much money and not requiring the federal government to operate with a balance budget. The American electorate is (or at least the local leaders we elect are) also to blame for always going to the federal government with a hand out asking the federal government to fund a large portion of capital projects or social programs without considering where does this “mysterious federal money” come from, anyway?

Notwithstanding the joint blame for the federal deficits, I still prefer to support Republicans who at least on some occasions serve as a “speed bump” for this out of control spending. However, based upon the perceptions that are shown by Rasmussen's poll, Republican candidates have their work cut off for them to prove to November's voters that they really want to control spending.

(Email James Thomas, jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

WE GET UP IN THE MORNING, GO TO WORK, SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS

Posted 6/4/10

I had to travel to St. Louis for a client matter two weeks ago. As usual, I listened to a book on CD while I was driving.This trip's selection was a novel called “The Lost Constitution.”

The book was about an early draft of the U.S. Constitution that included annotations handwritten by many of the New England delegates. This annotated draft was stolen. The book discusses two parallel paths of searching for the stolen constitution. One path follows a track dating from 1786 until after the Civil War during which the person from whom the draft constitution was stolen and his descendants seek to find it and get it back. The story is also told from a present day perspective where an antique bookseller is searching for the annotated draft.

While the plot was entertaining, the reason I am writing about this book is a great saying that was repeated many times in the book: “This is America. In the morning we get up, go to work and solve our problems.”

That truly is one of the great things about America. We do have the ability to get in the morning, got to work and solve our problems.

As a kid growing up my mother repeatedly told me I could do anything I wanted when I grew up if I worked hard, got good grades and stayed out of trouble. You know what? My mother was right. I am doing exactly what I always wanted to do with my life and loving doing it.

I tell my kids the same thing my mother told me. I emphasize to them that hard work, especially while they are in grade school, will set the stage for future academic success in high school and college. That academic success will give them choices in life so they can follow career paths that are intellectually rewarding and, hopefully, sufficiently financially rewarding that they can be happy with the career choices they make.

To me finding something you love doing and making a sufficient income that you can meet your personal financial goals is the American dream. [Keep in mind that not everyone has the same financial goals or the same passions.] However, the American dream is under attack from two sources.

First, the American dream is under attack from liberals who want to destroy the incentive to be successful and who want everyone well, everyone except the “elite people” like themselves to be at nearly the same level. For example, confiscatory tax policies are designed to prevent wealth accumulation and allow the government to take money from one group of people and give it to another.

The American dream is also under attack by Americans who have grown lazy and don't want to work for a living or who want things they don't pay for. A case in point is an alarming article from the New York Times, “Owners Stop Paying Mortgage . . . And Stop Fretting About It,” that someone e-mailed me. This article described folks that simply stopped paying their home mortgages and don't care. Some of them have continued to live in their homes for more than a year, but have not paid a nickel towards the mortgage payments. These folks are taking the money that should have gone for their mortgage payments and instead are spending it on going out to eat, taking their airboat out for the weekend or visiting the Hard Rock Casino. Guess who bears the burden of the folks who refuse to perform their commitments? You guessed it. Us: the hard-working, commitment-keeping folks who pay our obligations.

Notwithstanding these liberal attacks and these lazy Americans, America IS still the greatest country in the world if we will fight to keep it that way. To do that, we need to get up in the morning, go to work and solve our problems.

(James Thomas, chair of the Sixth District Republicans, can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

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