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Say What?

New Corbett ad.

It is rather astonishing to me that Wolf is running on a platform of raising taxes.

September 30, 2014 at 9:39 pm Comments (0)

$2 Pack Tax Signed

Cigarette retailers in Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Cheltenham and Upper Darby thank you.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed a law on Wednesday imposing a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes and little cigars sold in Philadelphia to help fund the city’s cash-strapped schools.

This new levy, which takes effect Oct. 1, is anticipated will generate $70 million to $90 million per year of recurring revenue to support the district.

In his and others remarks about the legislation that allows Philadelphia to enact the tax, it was emphasized that it was a bi-partisan effort that got this bill across the finish line that Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, began pushing for two years and created a lot of legislative drama along the way.

“This was not a partisan issue. It was about the students of Philadelphia,” Corbett said. “House Bill 1177 is another step in our mission to provide great education for every student in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It provides a steady funding source for the School District of Philadelphia and will support a safe and secure learning environment for the students there.”

So next fall, when the cry once again goes out that the Philly school district is broke and needs money, expect the call to be “a statewide cigarette tax” to cover the gap.

September 24, 2014 at 4:34 pm Comment (1)

Government is not a business

Tom Wolf wants us to think that he’ll run the state government like a business. His business, specifically. Government is not a business. Government is more like a mafia.

Not quite, but not as far off as you might think. Try stiffing the government its protection… er… tax payments, and see how long it takes until the men with guns come to sell your house out from under you, or maybe even stick you in a cage.

Don’t get me wrong, businessmen can be good in public office. Many of them see the need to streamline operations and cut fat. Quite a few of them understand the need for modest rather than overbearing regulation, and tax regimes that are low and predictable. These do not seem to be the major points Mr. Wolf is selling.

The “business” lesson Wolf seems most eager to apply is the raising of revenue. (“Fiscally responsible” is the new “tax and spend”.) But government revenues are an altogether different animal from business revenues. Business revenues are obtained by providing a valuable good or service to a voluntary customer base. Government revenues are obtained through force (implied and first, then literal) of arms. The only way to avoid this is to leave the state for another hopefully less mafioso jurisdiction.

Given that some level of taxation is necessary for any government, the question of growing revenues –presuming such a thing should be deemed desirable– relies on one or both of the following: growing the economic base and raising rates.

The latter, though more easily accomplished, undermines the former. Guess which one Tom Wolf emphasizes.

With glee, Wolf also brags about his company’s employee profit-sharing model. I don’t want government to share profits with its employees. Neither should any sane taxpayer.

But if we’re going to use a business analogy, ethical businessmen don’t fudge figures, as with the supposed billion dollar education cuts that have somehow resulted in record state spending on education. Neither do sound businessmen ignore long-term obligations, as with our broken pension system, for which the Wolf pack has no apparent solution. And nobody walks in to the board of directors and asks to be CEO without putting out a detailed fiscal plan.

Imagine it:

CEO candidate: We need to spend more on R&D.
Board: How much more?
CEO candidate: No clue.
Board: Thank you for your time. Please leave.

September 23, 2014 at 9:33 pm Comments (0)

To those attending the PAGOP fall dinner

Please mention the Shaneen Allen case to Governor Christie, and implore him to take whatever action is necessary, up to and including a pardon.

Also, donate.

September 9, 2014 at 9:26 pm Comments (0)

Excellent ad from Corbett camp

It’s nice to be able to applaud a campaign ad for once.

Kudos to whoever made this ad. The campaign would be wise to give you all their money.

It’s about time our side started pointing out that all the “cuts” to education have resulted in record high funding.

There are so many brilliant aspects to this ad that I don’t want to jinx it by pointing them out.

April 17, 2014 at 8:57 pm Comments (0)

Garbage ads

It appears that Scott Wagner has won a special election for PA Senate as a write-in.

I’d like to preface the rest of this post by confessing that I did not follow this race at all and have spoken to nobody about it.  I couldn’t tell you whether Scott Wagner is the devil or the messiah.  Thankfully, that determination is irrelevant to my point.

The person or people who approved these attack ads (one ; two) need to seriously rethink how they want to run Republican campaigns.

Chiefly, I want to throw a serious red flag over the use of “millionaire” as a pejorative.  Our party ran Mitt frakking Romney for President a mere 16 months ago, and somebody with the memory of a horsefly thought it was a good idea to rag on a guy for being a millionaire?!? Do you think we’ll never run any more rich candidates?

These ads strike me as the type of feeble ads Democrats run against Republicans.  Running ads like these does nothing but reinforce clichéd Democratic themes about Republicans.  You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Look, you want to run ads against a guy, fine. Knock yourselves out.  Just have some self-awareness and perspective when you do so.

March 18, 2014 at 10:28 pm Comments (0)

A Lack of Nuance

Having recently railed against the “establishment”, it’s time for a crack at the base.

As I have previously asserted, the base is allergic to compromise.  While this idea is widely taken as a given among the establishment and the Left, few take the time to analyze the behavior.  The problem is actually a somewhat broader aversion to nuance.  Outrage fuels donations, and donations pay the bills, so there’s somewhat of a negative incentive for base-oriented groups to promote nuance.  But a lack of nuance can often inhibit constructive conservative policy movement.

A thought experiment: What if Democrats credibly and convincingly offered to cut Federal spending to such a degree that the budget would come into immediate balance, and also could somehow fix the Federal entitlement problem.  In exchange, Republicans would agree to a one percent increase in the personal income tax.  Do we take the deal?

True, the parameters of the thought experiment are absurd on their face, but for the sake of argument, take it for what it is.  We’d be fools not to take this deal, right?

Whoa, now!  Once you start to entertain this deal, you’re “for” raising income taxes.

Well, no, you weren’t really “for” it.  You were willing to make a concession in order to get a number of other things that you wanted and thought were more significant.

Take a more realistic issue, immigration.  The moment a Republican starts having any sort of conversation about immigration reform,  he is blasted as being “for” amnesty.  (The opponents of immigration reform use the term “amnesty” rather promiscuously, but for the sake of argument, I’ll use it here and not bother about details of what does or does not constitute “amnesty”.)

Understand that, to the Left, some form of amnesty is a sine qua non for any concessions on significant border security improvements, employment e-Verify, or – heaven forbid – voter ID.  You don’t even begin to have negotiations about how to deal with millions of illegal immigrants until you lay your amnesty bargaining chip down on the table.

But by reacting violently to this potential offer of amnesty as something we could consider giving up in order to get a better outcome, the base makes this a question of amnesty vs non-amnesty, not a question of what we could possibly get in exchange for amnesty.  When we put the focus on what we get in exchange for amnesty, we put the Democrats on the defensive.  When we focus on whether to offer amnesty at all, we make ourselves irrelevant, and the status quo reigns.

To be fair, Republican politicians have a history of being cheap dates.  I dare say though, it wouldn’t kill us to “show a little leg” on this issue.  I’m not “for” amnesty, I’m for using the offer of amnesty as a means of getting more significant concessions from the other side and for (hopefully) putting the issue behind us.  If we get a bad offer in return, we walk away and blame the Democrats for not being serious and for keeping people in the shadows unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, nuance requires trust, which is in short supply.

March 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm Comments (2)

A Lack of Trust

Some weeks ago I was asked my thoughts about the way forward for the conservative movement. I felt a little like I had been asked to provide a proof for Einstein’s general relativity and then handed a napkin and a crayon.

I mentioned the obvious “base-vs-establishment” split, but could not see an obvious way forward.  If anything, the divide continues to grow wider.  Both sides are at some fault, and I would be hard pressed to say which is more blameworthy.  However, the flaws of the base are fairly well known and understood, so I will be focusing more on the “establishment”.

The authority of the “establishment” is predicated on two assumptions.  Firstly, that they know what they are doing, and secondly, that the base will get at least some of what they want by deferring at times to the party leadership.  This is the essence of the unwritten compact among Republicans.

Both legs of this platform have been thrown into serious question in the last few election cycles. The McCain and Romney campaigns epitomize the failures of the party, both technical and ideological.  Our last two standard bearers did not understand the philosophy underlying the conservative movement, and then when pressed had no chance of adequately conveying or defending it.  Steve Schmidt should have his proverbial license to campaign revoked.  There are many more examples than these, which are merely the most prominent.

The transactional leg of the compact is no less suspect.  Pennsylvania Republicans, despite controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, have been unable or unwilling to take even small steps toward privatizing our Soviet-style liquor stores, nor have they been able to mitigate the certain fiscal doom of the looming pension crisis.  Federally, Republican leadership recently capitulated on the debt ceiling hike without getting so much as the re-naming of a post office in return.  (Please note, I have argued for having fights on appropriation bills and continuing resolutions, not the debt ceiling.  Nevertheless, the swift and unconditional surrender was a little unsettling.)

The “establishment” relies on a model of the electorate that assumes voters (1) have consistent policy preferences that (2) are logically consistent and unidimensional and (3) that voters cast their votes according to which party or politician best satisfies these policy preferences.  It’s an interesting model, one that has served academics and political practitioners for decades.  But like all models — even the useful ones — it is wrong.  It also happens to be least applicable where practitioners would most like to apply it — with the “swing”/”centrist” voter. The major problem with this seductively simplistic model is the general and perpetual prescription of retreat on all substantive issues.

The base, understandably irritated with the strategy of perpetual retreat and burned by a few too many failures of the transactional leg of the compact, has become allergic to compromise on any issue. Simply, to the extent that the base ever trusted the establishment, the base doesn’t trust them any more at all.

It doesn’t help matters that the establishment has declared open war against the Tea Party.  To be fair, the feeling is often mutual, but party leaders “misunderestimate” the intensity and resolve of the base.  Attacking or delegitimizing certain elements of the base/Tea Party (-even deservedly-) does not make the party leadership any more attractive.  Democratic pollster Pat Caddell threw up a flag prior to the 2010 elections that America was in a “Pre-Revolutionary” state. Among Republican base voters, this feeling has not subsided.  Tens of thousands of Connecticut gun owners have seemingly scoffed at the state requirement to register their weapons.  (And why should they, when registration seems to lead to police abuse and eventual confiscation of weapons.)  Those Connecticut –Connecticut– gun owners are surely not all tea partiers.  And yet, they have shown a clear disregard for state control.  This is not how a healthy democracy functions.

The base, much to its detriment, seems not to comprehend that the electorate is against us.  Frankly, it is a little incomprehensible to me that Obama was re-elected, and yet here we are.  The general electorate was never particularly well-informed or sophisticated, but seems much less so in recent years. Correspondingly, there has been an increase in “liberal” political identification amidst the massive disruption and likely collapse of Obamacare, the biggest liberal project in several generations.

The common ground may be what the base wishes to do, but can’t seem to, and what the establishment may be somewhat better equipped to do, but won’t, and that is to fight the basic linguistic and cultural assumptions that have crept into the swing-voter’s mind.  Maybe once in a while somebody should explain the difference between “insurance” and pre-payment for service.  Or explain that “access” is not equivalent to “subsidy” (birth control), and lack of subsidy is not equivalent to a “ban” (embryonic stem cell research).  When debating Democrats, have our candidates ask, “and then what will happen?”, per Thomas Sowell’s Applied Economics.  Explain that the Democrats would rather that the poor were poorer when it comes to “inequality”. And once in a blue moon, explain that the economy is not a zero sum game.

But as things stand now, there’s just no trust to be found for Republican leadership.  Until some modicum of trust can be re-established, hostilities will persist.

February 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm Comments (0)

Ryan-Murray Budget: Outrage level 30%

Look, Ryan-Murray is not good. I’d probably vote against it if I were in Congress.

However, I have a hard time getting too incensed about it. One of the problems of our contemporary politics is the seeming inability to differentiate the merely bad from the atrocious. Ryan-Murray is merely bad. It is not the WORST THING EVER!

The bad parts are indeed bad. Perhaps Ryan was ignorant of this provision, but under the deal a tax increase can pass the Senate with a simple majority vote. Probably more importantly, the sequester has been weakened. It’s not quite right to say it’s “broken”, because much of it remains in place, but it’s not quite right to say that it’s still intact, because it isn’t. The precedent has been set that spending can be increased. If you get the impression that Ryan is willing to pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today, you’d be basically correct.

In a half-hearted defense of Ryan, certain things should be pointed out. The headline number of spending increase/decrease is essentially negligible in the grand scheme of things. Defense spending gets some breathing room, without which there’s a chance we would have lost the votes of a bunch of GOP House members and gotten a worse deal. The Congress is reclaiming from the Executive some of the fiscal authority it had squandered. So, we get back to something approaching normal order, and in theory we have a firmer base from which to attempt to hold ground.

In theory.

It’s not quite a crap sandwich. It’s perhaps a sandwich with some crap-onnaise on it. At the very least it’s a sandwich upon which Harry Reid farted after having eaten quite a bit of Mexican food.

Given how little anything changes with this agreement, I’d say I’m outraged about a 3 on a 10-scale. I can’t give myself an aneurism about this deal. I’m not making this a personal “key vote”, but neither am I going to be very happy with those who vote for it.

December 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm Comments (0)

Toying with us

In a sane and rational world, and in light of the illegal delays and waivers issued by the administration, insisting that the individual mandate be delayed for a year was not a particularly radical demand.

Despondency surged as I realized Obama was toying with us, much like a predator might play with its prey before delivering the death-blow. The administration took extraordinary care to make sure the shutdown was as inconvenient as possible, shutting down things that it is not ordinarily possible to shut down, such as open-air monuments, private businesses and homes,… and the ocean.

At first I thought Obama’s strategy might backfire. Surely he had overplayed his hand! Then I watched the 6:30 news for a few evenings. And what finally convinced me that the administration would get away with it was the concern-trolling by the media about the Obamacare rollout failures.

–Oh, if only the Republicans’ antics weren’t sucking up so much oxygen, we might be able to report more about these glitches in Obamacare!–

Really? What have I experienced in the last five years would lead me to believe that the media was eager to report on a story reflecting negatively on Obama? Would that be the failure of the stimulus? Or Fast and Furious? Or Benghazi? Or the IRS?

No, they were pretty openly mocking conservatives. They knew what an empty promise they were suggesting.

Brian Williams’ snarky asides during the evening newscasts would have made Dan “fake but accurate” Rather blush.

Speaking of Benghazi, the modus operandi was pretty similar. Put out some bogus story for the weekend/Sunday show cycle, allow the media to go with it, and let the story die within a week, because heaven knows neither the media nor the American public has an attention span longer than a week. With Benghazi it was that ridiculous story about the YouTube video. With Obamacare, it was the fairy tale about overwhelming demand for the product.

Though nobody was exactly covered in glory in the public’s eye, polls showed Republicans faring worse than Democrats on the subject of the “negotiations” long before any actual negotiations took place, and in spite of the fact that it was the publicly stated position of both Harry and Barry that they would not be negotiating at all. The mind boggles.

And to top it off, you’ve got the likes of John McCain, who should be ejected from the party for serial violations of the eleventh commandment. If anybody invents a time machine, they need to loan McCain the Delorean so he can go back and retire 15 years ago.

This is not an environment in which any serious policy debates can be had, let alone won.

Oh, and the next time somebody says we’ll have more leverage on the debt ceiling rather than the continuing resolution, just go ahead and slap that person in the face for me.

October 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm Comments (0)

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