Monday, August 30, 2010

Send in the clowns

What happened to conservatism?

Conservatism used to the political home of ideas. We had the ideas that were solidly grounded in reality and logic. In contrast, liberals appealed to emotions in place of substantive positions. We won arguments even if we didn’t win elections. The leading liberal thinkers couldn’t hold a candle to the giants of conservatism.

Today? In place of William F. Buckley we have men like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. Gone are the days of shredding an opponent’s argument while seated and in a calm voice with the scalpel of superior arguments. Now we have self-promotion disguised under the veneer of patriotism and silliness in place of substance. The loudest voice rather than the best argument wins.

With the coarsening of society, conservatism has adopted the methods of the Left by appealing to emotions. We have shouting Bill O’Reilly and crying Glenn Beck. We have the acerbic Ann Coulter and the over the top Sean Hannity. In place of substantive arguments about free markets and individual liberty we have protests against mosques in New York City and a quarter of voters who think President Obama is a Muslim. The rational, calm voices like Peggy Noonan and Thomas Sowell are drowned out by the showmen. Maybe Americans are just dumber these days and can’t handle the substantive, meaty discussions and these banal entertainers we call “conservatives” have filled in the intellectual void.

What happened to conservatism that the leading voices on the political right used to be the intellectual heavyweights but now have been replaced by grandstanding kingmakers? Where did we lose our way and replace thoughtful discussion with self-promotional rallies?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How bad is it?

When we talk about the national debt, the numbers being used are so astronomical that most people can't understand the magnitude. The numbers are just too big. Here is an example from the Wall Street Journal that gives you a picture of how bad it is:

Even among such diverse voices, the nation's fiscal problems were a central concern. At $1.47 trillion, the federal deficit this fiscal year exceeds all defense and nondefense spending at Congress's discretion by $110 million. In other words, lawmakers could eliminate the entire military, all federal education, agricultural, housing programs, federal prisons, the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Coast Guard and border patrol, and the nation would still be in the red.

Imagine that if you can. No military, no Federal education spending, no Federal prisons. All of that and the nation is still overspending! We will see if the voters finally say enough is enough this fall. Cutting spending sounds great until the cuts impact you.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Virg Bernero's Michigan

"You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run”
- Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

In the GOP Primary to select a candidate for governor, businessman Rick Snyder came away the winner. Snyder is by far the most moderate of the candidates running for the nomination and the three other guys (Cox, Hoekstra and Bouchard) split around 2/3 of the GOP vote leaving the other 1/3 to vote for Snyder who came away with the victory. That is not sitting well with many conservatives who wake up this morning and realize that by splitting our votes we ended up with a candidate none of us are enthused about. Going into an important election led by a "hold your nose and vote" candidate is far from ideal but conservatives failed to coalesce around one candidate and this is what we got.

As many conservatives in Michigan stomp their feet over the nomination of Rick Snyder, we are hearing the predictable cries of “we will stay home in November”. I didn’t support or vote for Rick Snyder in the GOP primary and the guy I did support, Attorney General Mike Cox, came in third. I really have a hard time figuring out what Snyder wants to do as governor, he hasn’t mastered the political snippets that sound good and mean nothing. I read over several of his issues on his webpage and I think they need some work because I am fairly politically astute and have no idea what he is trying to do. Having said that, we are in a two-party system and our choices in Michigan come down to these three:

- Vote for Rick Snyder as the best option among the limited choices
- Stay home which increases the value of every liberal vote for Virg Bernero.
- Write in a candidate, which is never going to work, and likewise help elect Virg Bernero.

Options 2 and 3 guarantee a Bernero governorship and before we go in that direction, I thought it was worthwhile to look at Bernero's positions. Snyder may not be completely acceptable for conservatives but Bernero is completely unacceptable.

As soon as I went to Virg Bernero’s webpage, I was greeted with a news article touting his endorsement by “The Reverend” Jesse Jackson. So that is the sort of political circle of trust we are dealing with. Why in the world anyone cares who Jesse Jackson supports in the Michigan governors race is beyond me (or who Sarah Palin supports or who Joe the Plumber supports or who Mike Huckabee supports, etc.) Anyhoo, here is what Virg wants to do, for, Michigan

All quotes taken directly from the Bernero for Governor official page

On homosexuality:

Bernero was given the Ray of Light Award for “Outstanding contributions to the LGBT community.” Virg was also the primary sponsor of a Senate Bill to increase the sanctions to felony charges against those who intimidate, harass or commit hate crimes against another individual based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

On abortion:

Virg has always been a strong supporter of women’s reproductive rights. Virg feels that the extremely difficult decision as to whether or not to have an abortion is one that is best made between a woman, her family, and her physician. As Governor, Virg will uphold a woman’s right to choose.

On socialized medicine:

Virg has been an outspoken proponent of the President’s Health Care bill that was recently written into law. To people in Michigan, this means more than 141,000 people with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied insurance coverage. It also provides tax credits to nearly 800,000 people and tax cuts for more than 100,000 small businesses in Michigan.

To learn more about what this historic legislation means for Michiganders, click here:

Virg has never wavered on his support for this historic health care legislation. As Governor, Virg will continue to fight for universal access to quality, affordable health care.

On a state run bank (slogan: “Banking brought to you by the same people in charge of maintaining Michigan’s roads!”

Virg Bernero has proven that we can incentivize small employers to grow jobs here in Michigan. As Governor, Bernero will lay out the red carpet for business, not the red tape. That means facilitating the start-up of new businesses, making credit available, and easing the burden on startups. Bernero’s proposal to establish a state-operated bank that can make direct loans to businesses in emerging, job-creating industries will do just that. It has worked in North Dakota, and we can make it work here.

That is perhaps the most foolish of all of his ideas and that is saying something. A state run bank? From a state that can’t do anything right, a bank run by bureaucrats. Brilliant thinking! “It worked in North Dakota, why not here?” is not a slogan I want to approach the crucial next four years with.

Here are some of the endoresements Bernero touts:

Michigan National Organization for Women

Michigan Democratic Party -- LGBTA Caucus

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees



Progressive Women's Alliance (PWA)

Women Progressive Activists (WPA) (The PWA and WPA are 2 different groups, go figure)

Equality Michigan Action Network (a homosexual activist organization)

Lansing Association for Human Rights (a different homosexual activist organization)

I love the groups that hide behind “progressive” and “justice” because they are afraid to say liberal. I am a political conservative and I don’t try to hide that behind buzzwords. If your agenda is so repugnant that you are afraid to call it what it is (i.e. calling pro-abortion “pro-choice”), what does that say about your agenda?

Bernero clearly has never met a tax he doesn’t like, a government that is too big, a perversion he won’t embrace, a baby he thinks should have a right to live, a union boot he won’t lick. I hate to describe Snyder as the lesser of two evils because I think he has some things going for him. He is not perfect, especially on the issues I think are important but he is far better than Bernero.

Still think Snyder is unsupportable?

Monday, August 2, 2010

News Flash: Soaking the Rich Doesn't Work!

Shockingly, or not if you are even slightly observant, raising taxes on the rich decreases their share of tax revenue and lowering taxes on the rich increases their share of tax revenues. Arthur Laffer once again demolishes the notion that the rich don't pay their fair share and that taxing the rich helps the little guy.

Since 1978, the U.S. has cut the highest marginal earned-income tax rate to 35% from 50%, the highest capital gains tax rate to 15% from about 50%, and the highest dividend tax rate to 15% from 70%. President Clinton cut the highest marginal tax rate on long-term capital gains from the sale of owner-occupied homes to 0% for almost all home owners. We've also cut just about every other income tax rate as well.

During this era of ubiquitous tax cuts, income tax receipts from the top 1% of income earners rose to 3.3% of GDP in 2007 (the latest year for which we have data) from 1.5% of GDP in 1978. Income tax receipts from the bottom 95% of income earners fell to 3.2% of GDP from 5.4% of GDP over the same time period.

Why does it never work to “soak the rich”? Because the rich have better lawyers and accountants. People who are rich don’t get there by being stupid….

The highest tax bracket income earners, when compared with those people in lower tax brackets, are far more capable of changing their taxable income by hiring lawyers, accountants, deferred income specialists and the like. They can change the location, timing, composition and volume of income to avoid taxation.

As Laffer also points out, famous wealthy “tax and spend” liberals like John Kerry and Howard Metzenbaum have taken advantage of our screwy tax laws to shelter themselves from taxes, a strategy that is less available to those without the means to pay for fancy tax attorneys and accountants.

Increasing taxes on the rich doesn’t make the little guy less poor, it just discourages the rich from engaging in investment activities that in turn create jobs for the very people that raising taxes are supposed to help. Tax policy is little more than a cynical play used by politicians to curry favor with ill-informed voters. Those very same politicians, many of whom are fantastically rich, use the convoluted tax code to hide their own income from taxation. Meanwhile the nation continues to spend money it doesn’t have based on tax revenues it will never realize.

Wake up people!