Monday, July 30, 2012

Texas Runoff Races

I gave my recommendation for Texas’s US Senate race last Wednesday (I’m going for Ted Cruz). But I was putting off the rest of the ballot until after Saturday’s tea party meeting, where we had one last chance to hear from candidates.

So, this is last minute, with election day tomorrow, but some of these races will be deciding the new occupant of the job, where there is no creditable democrat opposition. So your vote in this runoff is not only important, it will count for more than usual, because so few people go to vote in a runoff election.
Note: There are fewer voting locations open, because a runoff has fewer voters, so locations have combined. If you go to your regular voting day precinct voting location, it might not be there. So look up ahead of time where to go:

Texas Railroad Commissioner Races
The RR Commissioner is not about railroads; it is about oil and gas and resource management. You want someone in this job that understands how Texas’s economy is tied to energy, gas, and use of natural resources. Texas is set up with three statewide commissioners; they are 6-year terms coming up for election in alternating years. However, because one of  the commissioners stepped down with an unexpired term, there’s more than one position on the ballot.
Michael Williams had stepped down to run for a congressional seat (after serving as RR Commissioner for more than one term), and Governor Perry appointed Barry Smitherman to fill that slot; he is now on the ballot for that unexpired term. He didn’t receive 50% of the vote in the primary, so is now facing opponent Greg Parker. This is one of those cases where I recognize I am influenced by meeting people in person. I voted for Smitherman in the primary, based only on what I found online. He was the appointed incumbent, and I couldn’t see that the position was causing any particular issues.
But then Greg Parker came to speak. This was the second time he came to speak to our group, but I’d missed the first one earlier in the spring. But the others assure me he was equally impressive both times. He’s a relatively young, very smart, very funny black guy. (Note: I mean no offense by using the term black to apply to race; African-American seems inaccurate, since Charlize Theron is an actual African-American, and to be accurate we’d need to say “descended from an African race with greater melanin concentration,” which would be unwieldy. Incidentally, we’ve had a surprising number of blacks, Hispanics, and even Vietnamese candidates speak at our meetings, and unlike the stories you get from media, their ideology as conservatives makes them completely welcome among us, and we hope they are the vanguard of many among various minorities that join us because we have so much in common.)
Greg Parker has a PhD in public policy and studied economics at MIT. As he said, “I’ve been trained by all the liberals, and I’m still conservative.” He wrote a book meant to reveal the myth of global warning (Global Warming…Really?—which I have not yet gotten hold of, but I’m interested after hearing him). This seems to be a specific difference between him and Smitherman. Both claim to be conservative, want more jobs for Texas, and want energy independence. But it may be that Smitherman’s direction toward that end is by way of “green” energy, such as wind power. I’m not against wind power, and there are parts of the state where that makes sense. But it’s expensive; it doesn’t create a lot of jobs; and it’s not a solution to government interference in the use of our state’s natural resources.
I had hoped to hear from Smitherman, to hear his version of his policies. But he didn’t make it. So, knowing what I do right now, based on meeting Parker in person, I’m giving him my vote in the runoff election.
The other RR Commissioner position was held by Elizabeth Ames Jones, who chose to run for US Senate rather than run for reelection. So this was also an open seat. The two on the ballot are Christi Craddick, a private lawyer specializing in the oil and gas world—from all directions, including land owners as well as small and large operating companies. She has helped write legislation favorable to business in the state, restricting regulation to just what is needed to protect property rights as well as reasonably clean air and water. Her opponent is Warren Chisum, a reliable conservative from the state legislature, who has run a small operator company in oil and gas.
Again, I am influenced by meeting a candidate in person. Christi Craddick is impressive, and handles questions related to various aspects of the business very well, with a wealth of information in her knowledge base. She has a successful practice, where she does a lot of good for the industry. It is probably a cut in pay to take on this job, but it is her passion, and she believes she can well serve the state. She has a lot of energy, and good ideas for meeting people in the field across the state. She grew up in Midland, in a family that has been in oil and gas for generations. She believes in hearing from the people who work in the industry; you can’t do this job from a desk in Austin.
Which brings us to what we know of her opponent. He’s a democrat who has run for RR Commissioner at least twice, and is about 80 years old; remember, this is a six-year term. In other words, the real race is being settled now, in the runoff election. I have nothing in particular against Warren Chisum. But hearing from her, I am convinced she is a good fit for the job.
Harris County Sheriff
One of the tougher races on the ballot right now is for Harris County Sheriff. Harris County, where Houston (a liberal-run metropolis) is located, is one of the largest law enforcement jurisdictions in the nation. It requires someone who is not only very strong on law and order, but also someone good at managing people among challenging circumstances. I like both of the candidates: Louis Guthrie and Carl Pittman. I have heard both of them, more than once, in person. I solved the indecision between them by voting for a third candidate (Ruben Monzon, who was also impressive and had been recommended to me, although I hadn’t met him) in the primary. Now it’s down to these two.
Both campaigns have dug up a bit of dirt on the other. I don’t have the resources to ferret out what if any is true, or maybe even important. So, setting that aside, I am leaning toward Louis Guthrie. I believe he has better experience, of longer duration in this area. And I believe he has both more management experience as well as natural leadership qualities.
Carl Pittman has been endorsed by Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which either hurts or helps, depending on your viewpoint. (My son Political Sphere spent half a decade in Arizona, and has mixed feelings about Sheriff Joe.) He’s a big, friendly, conservative black man. Again, totally welcome in our party. I hope that as we make a decision like this, if it goes against him, he will still be a leader in bringing other minorities who share so many of our values into the conservative camp.
This race is not one that will be settled during the runoff. The incumbent is Democrat Adrian Garcia, who got into office during the Obama sweep of county races. He will be a formidable opponent. My sense is that Louis Guthrie is best able to take on that challenge.
There are a few judges in the runoff. There are just a couple I feel strongly. One is David Medina for Supreme Court, Place 4. He spoke to our little group and seemed to me very well informed, very capable, and truly conservative in the constitutional sense. Another is Michael Landrum, for District Judge, 129th District (in Harris County area). He comes regularly to our meetings, and I like what he has to say. But also numerous other sources have recommended him, reinforcing my opinion.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Let the Games Begin

I’m looking forward to seeing the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games tonight, followed by more watching of sports than I usually do except during summer and winter Olympics. I’m hoping there will be inspiring stories worth telling here, because it’s a worthwhile thing that the world gets together in peace and celebrates together in friendly competition.

But this post today relates to the Olympics only peripherally. I was reading Sean Trende’s piece the other day on Real Clear Politics, and he observed (with plenty of data, which he always provides) that the race is always about the incumbent. If the incumbent’s time in office is unacceptable, then it’s about whether the challenger is acceptable.
Mitt Romney heading 2002 Winter Olympics
AP photo/Joe Cavaretta
People have already decided about Obama—and it’s negative among anyone who might change their vote from last time. So the question at this point is not about Obama; it’s about Romney. And people are only just beginning to tune in to pay attention. Surprising to those of us who have paid attention all along, and particularly to those of us who have been learning about Romney since the early 90s, people don’t know him yet.
Ads against Obama (other than those recent ones that took advantage of his moment of candor about government’s omniscience, which is something that needs to be told) are mostly a waste of air time and money. What is needed is a blitz of who Romney is.
Today is my little contribution to that effort. Starting with what we know of him from the Olympics.
Let’s start with setting the stage. Back in the late 1990s, just three years out from the Olympics (so, five years into planning) there was scandal involving the bidding process, and budget deficits and building delays. It looked possible that the games could actually fail to materialize.
Mitt Romney was invited in to head the games for some specific reasons: he was known for saving businesses in crisis, he was known for strong leadership under pressure, and he was particularly know for integrity, which was essential in this particular crisis. In barely more than a week after the request came, he had turned over the running of his highly successful investment capital firm to trusted staff and worked full-time on the Olympics. He took no pay for his service over those next several years. In fact, he donated about a million of his own money, which he felt he need to do while he was calling friends in the business world and asking them for donations and sponsorships.
His beloved wife, Ann, suffered from multiple sclerosis, diagnosed in 1998. Her story is that she felt Mitt focused totally on her as the center of his life. Many people report he is able to make people feel that way, but I think it is most natural with Ann. He clearly adores her.
So, personal challenges and overwhelming Olympic crisis were his life in those days. But the Olympics turned around so well under his guidance that people forget how tenuous that had been. By half a year out, it looked like it would be practically a cake walk. And then 9/11 happened. The meaning of the tragedy for the country was so memorable that the date is one of the few that immediately brings to mind the historic tragedy. For the Olympics, it meant there were just five months left to guarantee that hundreds of thousands of people could come to a US city with safety from attack. You can be certain that this was the real test of Romney’s ability to meet a crisis.
His attention to detail, his ability to inspire by concentrating on the underlying principles (it’s about the athletes, in this case, and the security of the environment was what they deserved), and his extremely capable (and frugal) management of money resulted in not just adequate Olympics that don’t go badly into debt, but highly successful Olympics, as an event as well as a financial boon. It’s not out of line to say that what he did was miraculous—and there aren’t many people in the world today who could have filled his shoes.
There’s a two-part article covering his efforts at the 2002 Winter Olympics in The Deseret News. Part I covers more general leadership over those years. Part II covers more specifically what Romney did in response to the threat caused by the 9/11 attack. Another good source is Romney's own account, Turnaround.
If we only looked at what he did during these Olympic years, Romney would be outstanding as a presidential candidate. But in addition to that we also have his business record, creating profit and jobs in the free market, as well as his crisis management in Massachusetts as governor (again, taking no income for performing that job).
When people say he is hard to know, I think it is because they aren’t used to people like him. To me he seems very similar to many men of integrity I have known; he is just smarter and more successful than most. But, as we say, unto whom much is given, much is required. I believe that his “ambition” to become president isn’t about power; I believe it is about a love for this country and a belief that he has the unique skills and experiences that can help us right now.
That’s really enough for today. But, since it’s in the news, I’ll say just a bit about the “gaffe” this week in London. Here is a transcript of the exchange in a 9-minute interview between NBC’s Brian Williams and Mitt Romney:
BW: And in the short time you’ve been in London, do they [the Olympics] look ready, to your experienced eye?
MR: You know, it’s hard to know just how well it will turn out. There were a few things that were disconcerting. There’ve been stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials. That obviously is something which isn’t encouraging. Because in the games—there are three parts that make games successful. Number 1, of course, are the athletes. That’s what overwhelmingly the games are about. Number 2 are the volunteers, and they’ll have great volunteers here. But number 3 are the people of the country. Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment. But that’s something which we only find out once the games actually begin.
Again, this was from a 9-minute interview. I heard the whole thing and totally missed this part as something troublesome. The memorable moment was when Williams questioned him about the rumor that he was seeking a VP candidate who was a “boring white guy,” and Romney quipped that he’d already checked and learned that Williams was not available. Made me laugh. Not offensive, but quick and dry humor (which Williams seemed to miss).
The “gaffe” seemed to me a reasonable response to a direct question. Romney was validating the suggestion by Williams that there were problems; he was aware of them, as Williams and presumably the viewers were as well. And then he went on to emphasize the importance of the athletes and the volunteers, and his hope that the people of London were engaged and enjoying the games without guaranteeing that for them as an outsider. That is why it was so easily repaired in conversation later with the prime minister.
So, it would have been better if he had foreseen the media’s all-out effort to scan every single word for something to put forth as a gaffe. But it really wasn’t intended as a criticism of London and their Olympics.
I hope both the Olympics and the rest of Romney’s overseas trip go smoothly.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Texas Senate Race

Monday evening I got to attend the last debate between candidates for US Senate from Texas: David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz. Earlier I listened to a radio debate they’d had last week on the Matt Patrick Show. I’ve been leaning toward a candidate for a while, but I wanted to be fair and hear them, just to be sure. [The Monday night debate was filmed and moderated by KRIV, the local Fox TV station, and was presented at King Street Patriots. I haven’t found a full recording to link yet, however.]

Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst
photo from
Let’s start with this understanding: Texas is a conservative state. It hasn’t always been, but it finally elected a Republican governor in the early 1990s and hasn’t gone back, and the legislature has grown continually more conservative since that time. When I started going to Texas state conventions in 2004, most of what we heard was conservative, but mixed in was still a fair amount of “Let’s not be too extreme; we might not want to go that far.” No longer. The last couple of conventions, if anyone had attempted to give a “moderate,” squishy message, they’d have heard boos.
So if you have two candidates in a runoff election for the Republican candidate in Texas, you can be certain that all the words will be conservative. So, to know if they really mean it (and possibly both do), you need to know more of their background, their records, and their hearts—if you can sense that, which is why I wanted to hear them in person.
David Dewhurst has been around a while. He has been Rick Perry’s lieutenant governor since George W. Bush left the governor’s mansion for the White House. He’s done his job well enough. Texas has moved more conservative in that time. Our business climate is better than most states: no income tax, lower taxes and less strangling regulations. That’s why one of the biggest problems is dealing with surging growth while the recession slogs on with high unemployment (around 7% in Texas, lower than the rest of the nation, but still too high).
If you look at the last legislative session (2011), a lot of incremental pro-life legislation got through. And Texas is standing up to the federal government’s health care and other intrusions on our sovereignty. I had wanted a TSA anti-groping bill to go through, but it failed. At the time I believed it was David Dewhurst’s fault that it didn’t come up for final vote. But I am fuzzy on details now. It passed the state senate (where he is essentially the head as lieutenant governor, the way the VP is in the US Senate). It was in the state house where it didn’t come up for final vote. I wanted an answer about how that went down. I wanted to ask this question, but didn’t get a chance (and it didn’t come up during the two debates I heard):
I’m concerned about TSA’s infringement against our right to be free from illegal searches and seizures. What do you see that can be done about it at the federal level, and at the state level?
But I still don’t know their answers. Mostly I was satisfied with their conservative answers to the rest of the questions. Ted Cruz has the advantage of speech. Dewhurst speaks well enough, but he is likely to talk Texas slow, with stories to make a point, and maybe some generalities. He mentioned that he grew up with a stuttering problem, and while he has overcome that (I’d say beyond anything I could notice; I never knew this before), he says he’s a doer, not a talker.
Ted Cruz, a lawyer and former state solicitor general, who has helped argue for Texas on constitutional issues before the Supreme Court issues, is smooth and organized. He’ll answer a question with, “We’ll do these three things,” and then list them. So there are style differences. I can see how Dewhurst can be appealing, and why he’s been reelected without much of a fight. But I prefer Cruz’s style when there’s a “debate” with limited time, and we want to get the answers as efficiently as possible. It shows thoughts organized in a way that are likely to lead to measurable actions.
The two mostly agree on issues, as well as on many solutions. Both agree that immediate full repeal of Obamacare is a first priority—and neither of them like the phrase “repeal and replace.” Just repeal. Cruz said he would “keep not a single word of Obamacare.” Both agree that we need to use market reforms to keep Medicare and Medicaid from bankrupting us and enslaving future generations—but we need to keep our promises to those who need it and have gone through their working lives counting on the help.
Cruz made one of his lists about how to go about the needed reforms: allow insurance across state lines, encourage health savings accounts (that can be passed along to heirs), and de-link health insurance from employments, to make insurance portable—to empower the patient and disempower government.
Dewhurst is very a successful businessman—an oil-related business he built from the ground up and still runs. He grew up poor. His dad was killed by a drunk driver when Dewhurst was only three (he mentioned this more than once in the debate). His mother went to work, and taught him faith, integrity, truthfulness, humility, and hard work.
Cruz mentioned (only once, although it was also in his introduction) that his father escaped from Cuba at age 18, broke and unable to speak the language. But with hard work and perseverance he and Cruz’s mother were able to prepare the next generation for success in America.
Contention in this campaign, as well as during the debate, comes down to accusations against each other. I’ve heard many (many times) of the Dewhurst-approved ads claiming Cruz is crooked, un-American, chooses to advocate for the wrong side (a Chinese-owned company in a case against another Chinese-owned company, if I understand correctly). Cruz was effective when he held up a campaign card, right after telling us about his father’s ordeal in coming from Cuba, and told us to imagine how his father felt when he recently received that card in the mail and read on the back that his son was un-American. Dewhurst said it didn’t say that, but, really, I’ve heard the ads and probably seen those very leaflets: the wording might not be exact, but the implication is clear. That is what Dewhurst was saying.
The kerfuffle the other way was about Dewhurst’s position on immigration and whether he had ever been for amnesty. There was, according to Cruz, a speech Dewhurst gave, I think in 2007, where he said he could support a guest worker program (which isn’t exactly amnesty, but he was talking about creating a legal pathway for those already here, so Cruz has a point). Cruz pointed out the inconsistency, such as it is, and cited Dewhurst’s Lieutenant Governor website as the source with the speech. And then suddenly the speech was no longer there at the previous link. Cruz said Dewhurst must have removed it for political reasons. Dewhurst, while claiming his position has always been consistent, only argued that the speech was not taken down in response to the ad but had been archived a year prior.
Cruz has also claimed that Dewhurst shouldn’t take credit for as much budget success as he has claimed, that some of it is “smoke and mirrors.” This raised the ire of Sen. Dan Patrick, who said the claim maligned the entire legislature, which had done remarkable work and made real budget cuts. Patrick may be right. It is difficult to get traction when coming up with negatives in either record, but at least Cruz has been attacking record rather than character.
This is the worst these two can dredge up; clearly this isn’t Chicago. In the dirty ads contest, I’d say Dewhurst has thrown the most mud. And while negative campaigning in general does work, it also works at the risk of making both sides look bad.
One question was, “Will you keep your promise to be conservative after the election,” and I liked Cruz’s answer, and I’m sorry I didn’t write fast enough for an exact quote. He said yes, but then everyone would say that. So it’s like his father said about being Christian; make sure there’s enough evidence to convict.
I am persuaded to vote for Ted Cruz. I think they are both conservative enough. I think Dewhurst believes he is conservative, but possibly in the way Rick Perry believes he is conservative. Conservative—as long as the support of the people and the legislature make sure they’re conservative. And then they get credit for being kept in line. When I heard Ted Cruz talk about the Constitution, and arguing for our God-given rights, I believed he understood the philosophy of conserving our founding documents.
There isn’t much opposition from the Democrat (unknown to me at this point, until I eventually look up who it is). So it is generally believed this runoff election will decide who will be the next senator from Texas. Early voting is currently underway through Friday. And election day is Tuesday, July 31st.

Monday, July 23, 2012


My son Political Sphere has persuaded me about who Romney’s choice for VP will be. Here we are, going on record,  so that on the off chance we're right, we can say, “Yes, we knew it all along.” If we’re wrong, that’s no big loss. All the big name political prognosticators are making a wide range of guesses, which means most of them will be wrong as well.

I don’t know what Romney’s process will be for making this choice. But I do expect it will be meticulously thorough and principle based. I think I can trust his process. So whoever it is, there will be good reason.
I’m more or less representing Political Sphere’s reasons for the choice.
·         The VP needs to be consistently conservative, with a record.
·         The VP needs to be available—i.e., can better serve as VP than in his/her current position.
·         The VP ought to have a significant strength to bring to the ticket—such as foreign policy.
The relatively long list out there has several consistent conservatives. It’s a shorter list that also fits the second criterion. Rep. Paul Ryan articulates the conservative message better than most, but replacing him in Wisconsin, and therefore in the US Congress, would be difficult, unless Wisconsin makes a much larger shift than it has so far.
The same goes for Chris Christie. If we took away a conservative governor from New Jersey so early in their attempted recovery from budget disaster, we’d leave a gaping vacuum—not likely to be filled by another Chris Christie. It’s a similar story for Bobby Jindal. Louisiana finally has a chance to dig its way out of liberal corruption; let’s not take that away from them. Also, both Christie and Jindal could use a few more years of experience, and then be better ready to serve the nation following a Romney presidency.
It’s the same thing for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. We need him in the Senate. There’s no guarantee Florida would replace him with another conservative, let alone someone of his caliber. And the US Senate is in powerful need of every conservative we can get. Pushing through any conservative legislation (including repeal of Obamacare/tax) requires a senate majority. And, again, Rubio is young and has served at this level only a short time so far. Let’s just say we have a deep bench for future campaigns.
Some people talk about gaining constituencies: women, minorities, unions, etc. I don’t think that way. I’m not against someone because of rheir sub-constituency, but I can only be for them if they have the ideology and record, as well as the leadership ability, that we Americans need.
I think it’s safe to say the choice won’t be Condoleeza Rice. The reason is that the Romney camp is very good about not leaking info. You can be certain Ann Romney knows the rules. And it was Ann Romney who let out the idea that women were being considered, which in turn led to the speculation that it was certain to be Rice. That would only happen as a distraction; Romney doesn’t do trial balloons. Therefore, we can conclude that the choice is not Rice.
Choosing Marco Rubio because he is Hispanic is no more likely. Having a Hispanic or black or female would be a positive—only if that person fit all the other criteria. Because the spin from the opposition is that, if such a person is conservative, then they’re not really Hispanic or black or female, but rather a sellout or anomaly. So any populist-motivated choice is unlikely and unwise.
It’s time for the big reveal: our pick for VP candidate is Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona.
Senator Jon Kyl
official photo from Wikipedia
He has served as minority whip, the second highest GOP position in the Senate. He has roots in the Midwest, moving to Arizona for law school and staying in Phoenix. He is rated as the fourth most conservative US senator, which is high enough to meet the first criterion. And even Time Magazine admits he is one of the top 10 best senators.
And it may be a plus to have someone on the ticket who has legislative experience, rather than a second governor. Ann Coulter, who is the only other person I’m aware of who has been guessing Kyl as a VP possibility, admits that the two-governor thing might be the single drawback to her first choice, Chris Christie. (Note: I noticed her suggestion that it could be Senator Kyl only because Political Sphere had already brought him to my attention.)
John Kyl is retiring this term, and announced that decision early enough to allow for an unhurried election of a replacement. So he is available. Political Sphere thinks his reason for retiring is to be available as a VP pick—that this has been considered and not leaked for many months already. I don’t know if I can go that far, but I like the idea that a VP is there for no further political reason, but simply to serve the country. That was an advantage with Dick Cheney as Bush’s pick.
While Romney is well versed on foreign policy and worked with world leaders for the Olympics, John Kyl does bring some needed foreign policy experience. He has been the ranking member of the Crime and Terrorism subcommittee, as well as Immigration, Refugees and Border Security. I like that he is on the subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. And it doesn’t hurt that he is the ranking member on Taxation and IRS Oversight, as well as on subcommittees for Health Care and for Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy.
If you were going to design a senator’s background and experience to aid our country in a time such as this, you would give him the experiences of Senator Jon Kyl.
I think it’s likely that Arizona will go for Romney regardless of his VP pick (assuming he doesn’t choose someone with a fatal flaw, which I cannot foresee happening). But Kyl will help solidify the Arizona vote, which might help down ticket as well. He might even bring in some votes in nearby New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada. He was elected to the Senate in 1994, and served in Congress prior to that from 1987. Three terms was a good long run in the Senate, but not a whole lifetime career, as some have made it.
There’s been enough opportunity for opponents and media to fully vet him, and no skeletons have popped up. There has been plenty of time to have negatives appear on his record, but his record is strongly conservative, no matter who was president. The only recent big “controversy” was his statement that Planned Parenthood’s main business is abortion and should therefore not be receiving government subsidies. He used the figure 90%, which was not provable; Planned Parenthood self-reports but claimed that figure was vastly overstated. Hmm. As controversies go, that one doesn’t sound too bad.
There’s a lot to like about Senator Kyl. Maybe enough to put him on the Romney ticket. There was a bit of speculation that the decision would come sooner rather than later, but since the Olympics start this week, my guess is the announcement will wait until the media and the electorate can hear it. Maybe it will be during that week prior to the GOP convention. If the VP pick is Senator Kyl, then Ann Coulter is likely to get credit for being right. But remember, you read it here first.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Still Dancing the Backward-Step-Pivot-Forward

One thing we learned about Romney during the primary debate season was that he was good under attack. Better than when he’s not under attack. When everybody starts to worry that he can’t handle it, something magical happens, and he comes out ahead and stronger.

We talked about this back in January. Somebody who knows a lot more about debate than I do described it as the Backward-Step-Pivot-Forward move. He defends himself (the backward step), then turns (pivots) and makes what looked like a weakness into an offense on his own terms (forward). I think that’s what we saw this week. (Jennifer Rubin used the word “pivot” in this piece Tuesday, which clued me in to what we were seeing.)
Everyone was so concerned about Romney under attack for being rich and successful. How was he going to defend against the onslaught of “Bain Capital outsourced jobs” and “Why doesn’t he give us several decades of tax returns? What is he hiding?” Then, fortuitously, Obama goes off teleprompter and says the offensive “You didn’t build that” line.

Without even knowing what hit him, Obama was on defense in a big way. Some of it would have happened regardless of the opponent; Obama is just tone deaf about how to talk to actual business builders. But what Romney and campaign have done is point out that, “this wasn’t a gaffe; it’s his ideology.” That is the defense, pivot, and offense answer to "He made money at a capital investment firm."
The problem isn’t, as Obama seems to believe, that he hasn’t been able to “tell the story.” The problem is that his way of thinking, his belief system, is harmful to America and Americans. All that needs to happen for him to be defeated is for his beliefs to be revealed.
Romney hasn’t had to say (as others have with conviction, energy, and accuracy) that Obama is a socialist. As they tell you in writing classes: show, don’t tell. He doesn’t have to use a label when Obama accommodatingly announces that he believes government is the all-powerful grantor of privileges that has allowed some hard workers to become successful, and they should be beholden to him as government’s icon. All Romney has to do is call attention to what Obama admits he believes, while contrasting that with what real American workers believe.
Romney came back with this response: “President Obama attacks success, and therefore under President Obama we have less success. And I will change that.” (A good 4-minute video of his response is here.)
And the message has connected. The Romney campaign has made good use of it with new video ads (like this one, titled “These Hands”) and other materials. But plenty of volunteers are carrying the message widely. People start asking, “If I didn’t build my business, who did?” When the president brushes away all their blood, sweat and tears—all the risk and dedication over years of sacrifice on the way to modest but deserved success—as insignificant compared to the advantage they got from government, they’re not going to take kindly to that.
I’ve been entertained by some of the visual representations. I found about two dozen on Facebook in the last couple of days. Below are a few of my favorites. (Some identify sources, but I’m sorry I can’t identify original sources for all of them. The most prolific source was Kevin Jackson’s The Black Sphere page.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Proper Role of Government--Again

There’s a method used by the opposition to freedom, that we’ve seen examples of this week. It’s about time it stirred up a response. I’m referring specifically to Obama’s lecture last week to small business owners that they didn’t succeed on their own merits.

The way he said it was offensive to hard-working entrepreneurs everywhere (no surprise). But to be fair, the minute-and-a-half clip we keep hearing [linked in Monday’s post] was taken from a larger context that made it clear he was talking mainly about infrastructure. It’s not a new point. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat candidate for senator from Massachusetts, used almost the exact same wording last September:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there. Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.
But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
There was indeed a social contract; it was that, if we pay taxes, we would receive these particular services from government: roads, protection of property rights, etc. (They also mention using employees who were educated by government—but personally I see that as a hardship to the employer; a privately educated populace would make for better employees. But I digress.) But is there actually a successful entrepreneur in question who got rich but illegally avoided paying those taxes? It seems to me the contract was already kept. But they’re adding on some new “contract,” something called “you couldn’t possibly have exceeded the success of others without some special help, so you therefore owe some special extra payment.”
That, in a nutshell, is why business owners, who put in the risk of time, energy, and money—all on top of paying taxes—resent being told they don’t deserve to enjoy the fruit of their labors.
But there’s another point Obama et al. make: that conservatives are wrong to hate government, because government does all these great things that we enjoy. Here’s the fallacy: conservatives don’t believe in anarchy, or absence of government. Conservatives believe in limited government, with the purpose of protecting our God-given rights. Infrastructure, such as road-building, is often included because it benefits generally—the whole populace, rather than particular special interests. (That’s what “general welfare” means in the Constitution: for the benefit of all at once.)
Whenever statists make this argument, they say, “They’re going to lay off police and firefighters.” Those making the argument are talking about federal government, but the things they say will disappear are not federal responsibilities; they are mostly local, with a few state responsibilities tossed in. What should the federal government be doing? Protecting our borders and our sovereignty, protecting us from enemies foreign and domestic (in other words, from invasion, from foreign criminals on our soil, and from home-grown criminals, particularly those crossing state lines), and interstate infrastructure. There’s not much else.
The Constitution spells out how the federal government will be run, and enumerates the limited powers—reserving all else to the individuals and the states. It’s clear. And if it wasn’t, we have the writings of the founders—volumes, like The Federalist Papers, The Anti-Federalist Papers, and the copious notes kept by James Madison during the constitutional convention. Conservatives (not necessarily Republicans, but those who wish to conserve the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution) still have the same philosophical underpinnings, still want the same freedoms, still believe God is the source of our rights rather than government. Of course we know there must be government; Constitutionalists were the ones who set it up, to help us protect our life, liberty, and property.
But to equate wanting to limit federal government to its enumerated powers with wanting no government—with the result of society suffering without police, firefighters, or either local or interstate roads—is a sleight of hand that is pretty much an outright lie. And there’s something very disingenuous about claiming that there’s an either/or equation where if you benefit from any level of government at any level, you should therefore submit to anything government wants to impose “for your good.”
Paul Ryan says it well here (the image is from The Heritage Foundation’s Facebook page).

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Truth Is Is That...

The non-grammatical construction in the title is something that I’ve heard here and there for years but that I don’t use. It struck me this week how often I hear it in Obama’s off-the-cuff (non-teleprompter) remarks and other media conversations. What does it mean?

Grammatically, you’ve got a subject with article—the truth—followed by a linking verb—is. Next you’d expect another subject or a description of some kind to be linked to. It could be another noun: “Truth is beauty.” Maybe an adjective: “The truth is beautiful to those who value it.” You might have the subject linked to a phrase: “The truth is that I didn’t really want to come.” But when is it appropriate to link to a second linking verb followed by a phrase? Never. So what does it mean?
Truth is not always the subject in this construction. Similar “is is” constructions include, “The fact is is that…” and “The point is is that…” which Obama used in his claim the other day that successful business owners are not responsible for their own success. (It's in the final few seconds of the clip below.)

I pointed the “is is” construction out to my son Political Sphere the other night. He hadn’t ever noticed it before. Didn’t remember ever hearing it. When I called attention to it in an Obama clip, he said it was like fingernails-on-a-chalkboard wrong. Unfortunately, now he’s going to be noticing it everywhere, which will cause frequent cringing. Sorry about that.
But, again, what does it mean?
I have a ready supply of usage and grammar resource books, as well as basic internet search engines. I can’t find a discussion of the “is is” construction. It is without question ungrammatical. Usage is another thing; that’s about whether it is used, and where and under what circumstances. It may be that it is newer than my books, or that it is considered so non-standard that it doesn’t deserve discussion (I’m guessing the latter).
Political Sphere had an insight from his days of training as a car salesman. Never tell the customer “this is the lowest I can go,” or “the truth is,” or “honestly,” because those things work against the sale. You will not be believed, probably with good reason. A quoted price is never the lowest you can go, because if the customer absolutely insisted that the price be one cent less, you’d go lower; the sale would be worth it. The customer senses that and doesn’t believe you. And when you say “the truth is” or “honestly,” you’re saying, “now at last I’m telling you the truth,” which implies that up until this point you haven’t been truthful or honest. And if that is so, why should the customer believe you suddenly now, just because you say so.
This is what I think is happening with Obama’s verbal “is is” tic. He is saying, “this is now the truth,” as opposed to what he’d said heretofore. And it’s disingenuous; it doesn’t really mean, “this is true.” What it means is, “this is my opinion that I am pushing you to take as fact, backed only by my say so.”
It is something like “um” and other placeholders while a person thinks up what to say. It doesn’t necessarily mean that what follows is a lie, but it does highlight that possibility. It does not engender the intended assurance.
In Obama’s case, since I think he’s pretty much always wrong, I would prefer that he keep using the construction—that he keep assuring us, “Believe me, what I’m saying now is true, because, um, uh, um, because I say it is”—since it brings attention to his mendacity. And becoming aware of what is true is what we want in this election.
I think we probably all have a verbal tic or two, and I try not to judge people too harshly just because everything they say, especially when it’s recorded all day long, isn’t smoothly articulated. But supposedly this person got into office, not on any record of accomplishments (which he lacked), but on the strength of his oratory skill. So, given the high expectations, I ought to be able to expect something better than a steady stream of “is is” and “uh, um, uh.”
On that note, I have this question: Why does Obama pronounce Afghanistan with short a’s, as in “after,” or “apple,” but he pronounces Pakistan with what are called “pure vowels,” something like “pahk-ee-stahn”? That inconsistency has been consistent over several years; he always uses those pronunciations. Why?
Some of my pronunciations are affected by learning languages and/or becoming familiar with a culture. I no longer pronounce the capital of Argentina as “Buenos Ehrees”; I use pure vowels to say, “Buenos Ah-ee-rehs.” It just became natural, and one is as easy as the other, so I use the more accurate one. But I pretty much always say the capital of France as “Pehr-is,” rather than “Pehr-eé.” I’m not French; I don’t speak French, and the American pronunciation is easier and more natural to me.
So I presume, based on Obama’s consistency about Pakistan being pronounced more like a native would, that he has an affinity for the Pakistani nation, language, culture that he does not feel for Afghanistan. He tells of a three-week visit to Pakistan between his Occidental College and Columbia years, following a visit with his mother in Indonesia. Maybe that would be enough. Still, the contrast with the Afghanistan pronunciation is harsh—like fingernails on a blackboard—especially when both countries come up in a single speech.
Or—and this is a strong possibility—everything Obama says sounds to me like fingernails on a blackboard simply because our beliefs are so at odds that I cannot hear him without cringing. I’m in favor of an experiment: he should change his beliefs, learn the philosophies of our founders, appreciate them, and become able to articulate them. If he changes to a pro-Constitutionalist and I still don’t like to hear what he says, then we’ll know it’s just me. But for now, I think he’s the problem.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Low Taxes Don't Cause Recessions: Part II

We were previously talking about the comparison between this politically manipulated chart (above) and this more complete one (below), along with some relevant history.

We had gotten to pretty much the middle of the Great Depression—the big blank part on the propaganda chart. What we know about that time was that taxes were high and wages were kept artificially high—both contributing to extended high unemployment and a sluggish economy stuck in a trough, instead of bouncing back. Added to this were seemingly arbitrary regulations interfering with various sectors of the economy. Unpredictability is another factor that prevents investment and job growth.
These things look familiar because we’re seeing them, close up, right now. And the administration just scratches its collective head and says, “We just need to keep doing more of the same until it works.” Please insert definition of insanity here.
Back to the timeline. Some people assume that the Great Depression ended with the outbreak of WWII in 1941. What happened then was that FDR stopped some of the micromanaging of the economy to focus on the safety of the nation in a dangerous world. (We can thank him for that; at least he valued the nation enough.) Resources had to go to military. Many workers, including the unemployed, went into the military, leaving openings in manufacturing and elsewhere that needed filling. So by some definitions, the Depression did end.
Are you familiar with the broken glass example? A vandal comes and breaks a baker’s window. The baker then employs a glazier to replace the window, so the glazier has more income, which he spends to by a suit. And so on, implying that the economy is better off because of the broken window. But this looks only at what is seen, not what is unseen. The baker was building up capital to buy a larger oven and hire more workers. But he had to use the capital on the window, which he wouldn’t have had to do without the breakage. So there was a loss in the economy to the baker, to his possible employees that didn’t get hired, and to the manufacturer of the new oven that didn’t get purchased. Those losses are unseen. The economy is actually worse off because of the unnecessary glass breakage. Thomas Sowell describes seen vs. unseen in his piece this week called “Jobs Versus Net Jobs.”  
The point here is that, while there was visible economic activity caused by WWII, the capital spending didn’t really grow the economy. Spending for the war was necessary, just as repairing the window would be once it was broken. But what helped the economy was getting FDR to stop getting in the way of it.
Progressives being what they are, they were merely more dormant during the war. What you have following the war is still extremely high marginal tax rates and more government interference. This is the period where people used the phrase, “To err is Truman.”
Right after the war the top marginal rates were dropped slightly, from an insane 94% to 86.45%, and then to 82.13%. Let’s be honest; a drop to 82.13%, while better than 94%, is still so confiscatory that no one capable of making the top level of income would pay it. Such a person would find the numerous loopholes placed there specifically for the purpose of avoiding payment. (Lobbying for specific favors was pretty much as described in the fictional version, Atlas Shrugged.) Or that person would set aside money in places that would not be considered income (trusts, investments, or just a jar buried in the yard), rather than keep earning income without getting to enjoy it.
The rate bounded up again to 91% and stayed there for a decade. There’s something to be said for stability. But, again, no one paid this rate. It brought in essentially no revenue. The data missing from the chart is what the rates were for the next couple of tiers lower, and how those near top earners responded to them; also missing is information about other government interference affecting stability in the market. As a rule, the more profit an earner can count on using, the more the earner is likely to risk it as capital investment—leading to economic growth.
You can see a steady and slightly lower 70% marginal tax rate from 1965 through the last Carter budget of 1981. (Back in the 73-74 recession, in those Republican years before Carter, unemployment was a painful 4-6%; yes, that was considered high back then, before Carter suggested we get used to a different version of normal.) Steadiness is a good thing. But, again, high rates mean high avoidance. And other government interference, such as price controls and regulation in chosen sectors, equals economic drag.
Then, under Reagan, despite a Democrat Senate and House, we see a drop in marginal tax to 50% then 38%, and further under Bush 41 to 28%. Recovery and economic growth ensued, disrupted only when Bush reneged on the “no new taxes” pledge. Revenues also went up, even with the much lower rates, offering evidence that Laffer is right. (Read about the Laffer Curve here and my piece on it here.) Rates went up under Clinton, but then they steadied with the coming of the election of a Republican House in 1994 (first time in 40+ years).
We had some recessions, and burst bubbles, during the last three post-Carter decades. But there is no evidence of any recession taking place because top marginal tax rates were too low. In fact, it is harder for Federal Reserve interference and federal government over-regulation to do their damage when the rates are kept low enough. That’s why it took until after 2006, when Democrats took control of Congress, before the build-up of meddling in the housing sector finally resulted in that bubble bursting.
Higher education costs are extremely high right now, without an equivalent payoff to consumers (students). Government interference has led to both the higher costs and the lower quality and value. Health care costs rise the more government interferes as well—which is why we must repeal the monstrosity so untruthfully titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Both of these are likely to become bubble bursts rippling into recession conditions. No level of top tax rates, either high or low, would prevent the eventual bursts of any bubbles.
It comes down to this: if someone thinks low taxes cause recessions and high taxes are good for the economy, would you want such a person to get near any sector of the economy that you care about? Smart people just say no.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Low Taxes Don't Cause Recessions: Part I

There are some things that are just not worth bothering to answer. But sometimes I get goaded into it, because of timing, or exasperation.

I, like you too, probably, have people on Facebook I’m connected to, but not because of politics, and yet we tolerate their posts for the sake of other reasons. There’s one of these in particular whose life I want to keep up with, but whose politics—especially the steady stream of everything put out by the Obama campaign website for minions to pass along—just causes a roll of the eyes.
Among the continual propaganda (alongside my care not to let politics be intrusive on my wall), this post came a few days ago:

It is apparently a characteristic of Obama minions that they have a moat and beam problem (and probably aren’t even familiar with the source of that imagery: Matthew 7:3-5).
The steady stream of posts has continued since that one a few days ago. This one came on Monday, with the comment, "Very sad. We need to fix this."

So, let’s see if I catch the message: low tax rates cause recessions and depressions. If only government would confiscate more money, then businesses would hire more workers and create more wealth. I’m not imagining that message, am I?

And the data verifies it, right? Well, not exactly. There is data shown here that implies a cause/effect relationship, but there are some really big gaps in the data as well as the surrounding history—which you have to be ignorant of in order to believe this implication. It is similar to noticing that 95% of obese people eat tomatoes either frequently or occasionally; ergo, eating tomatoes causes obesity. Well, not really. Even if the data is true, there’s a whole lot of data missing that would give a better picture of the causes of obesity. With the additional data we might find not only that eating tomatoes does not cause obesity, but we might find it’s a good food to help avoid obesity. So to give the limited data with the causal implication is pretty much—a lie.
One thing noticeable on the Obama-provided chart is a lack of data for the Great Depression. No problem; I can Google. I easily found the Historical Highest Marginal Income Tax Rates from 1913 (the first year they were imposed) through 2012.
Here’s a little history. When the income tax was proposed, it was pressed through as the 16th Amendment over more than half a decade, based on the promise that the rate would never rise above 7% and would only be imposed on the very wealthy. That held for three years. Then in 1916 it more than doubled to 15%. But that wasn’t sufficient for Woodrow Wilson; he more than quadrupled it in a year to 67%, and the following year to 77%. Good for the economy? Not really. But there was a world war on, so maybe  there was a temporary need? But it was maintained at 73% for the next three post-war years.

Then in 1921 there was a stock market crash—every bit as severe as the 1929 crash. But government didn’t interfere, and the market corrected. According to the historical chart, one change from 1921 to 1922 was a decrease in the marginal tax rate. And those rates continued to be lowered down to a steady 25% for the rest of the decade. The Roaring 20s. A prosperous decade.
Yes, those rates were still low when the stock market crashed. Was that the cause? Most people look at overspeculation during the inflationary policies caused by the Federal Reserve failing to return to the gold standard following WWI. Related to the top marginal tax rate, there was a belief that rates would stay low, or even drop lower, up through 1929, when it had been dropped to 24%. But then, in 1929 the rise back up to 25% was passed. Those speculating because of reliably low rates would see that as a signal to get out of the market. After the legislation was passed to slightly raise the rate, but before the rise shows up on the historical chart, the 1929 crash happened. Was that change in rates the cause? Not enough data here, and this certainly isn’t the full picture. You have to include artificially low interest rates manipulated by the Fed. But we can be pretty sure it wasn’t the lower rate voted for in 1928 that caused the crash in October 1929.
Following the crash, the market began to recover, signaled by significant return growth in employment—until the government started interfering. That was Hoover, a Republican, but a "progressive," not a conservative. The interference halted the nascent recovery, and every interference caused further hindrance. Then, in 1932 the rate is drastically raised to 63%. Did this lead to an increase in employment? Of course not. It did lead to Hoover being voted out of office, and rightly so.
Unfortunately, the alternative was the even more “progressive” FDR. He held the rates at 63%, while interfering in various other government intrusions, though 1935. Then in 1936 he jumped the top tax rate to 79%. Coincidentally, 1936-1937 was a serious downturn in the economy. That’s when the word “recession” was invented, because it sounded less dire than “depression.”
But wait! There’s more! We’re only a third of the way through the timeline. So the rest of this will have to be continued in Part II in a couple of days.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Happiness Quotients

Arthur Brooks, the same one who wrote about conservatives being markedly more generous than liberals [covered here], wrote a piece this week comparing the relative happiness of conservatives and liberals. The data, he says, is consistent over decades, so we know this: conservatives are more likely to consider themselves very happy than liberals are. Also, from either end, those who feel strongly about their beliefs are more likely to consider themselves very happy than those in the moderate middle.

We know the what. We can speculate on the why. And if we could identify causation, we could then recommend a “how to” for being happy—or at least as happy as you personally can be.
Some of the factors coincide with what we know about civilization. Here Brooks addresses some of the “whys” of conservative happiness:
Many conservatives favor an explanation focusing on lifestyle differences, such as marriage and faith. They note that most conservatives are married; most liberals are not. (The percentages are 53 percent to 33 percent, according to my calculations using data from the 2004 General Social Survey, and almost none of the gap is due to the fact that liberals tend to be younger than conservatives.) Marriage and happiness go together. If two people are demographically the same but one is married and the other is not, the married person will be 18 percentage points more likely to say he or she is very happy than the unmarried person.
The story on religion is much the same. According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, conservatives who practice a faith outnumber religious liberals in America nearly four to one. And the link to happiness? You guessed it. Religious participants are nearly twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives as are secularists (43 percent to 23 percent). The differences don’t depend on education, race, sex or age; the happiness difference exists even when you account for income.
Whether religion and marriage should make people happy is a question you have to answer for yourself. But consider this: Fifty-two percent of married, religious, politically conservative people (with kids) are very happy—versus only 14 percent of single, secular, liberal people without kids. [Emphases mine.]
So, how about these steps as a how-to:
·         Be religious; connect with God and with a worship community.
·         While you’re at church, make connections that will lead to a happy marriage with a like-minded religious person.
·         Then have family and raise them with religion and religious principles in the home.
·         Favor freedom combined with personal responsibility rather than submission to centralized control.
And then there’s the mistaken notion about extremes:
People at the extremes are happier than political moderates. Correcting for income, education, age, race, family situation and religion, the happiest Americans are those who say they are either “extremely conservative” (48 percent very happy) or “extremely liberal” (35 percent). Everyone else is less happy, with the nadir at dead-center “moderate” (26 percent).
Again, we have to speculate on the “whys.” But my guess is that what is being described as “extreme” is actually “engaged.” It feels better to be doing something, taking action, being part of a solution, than to be silently acted upon. Even if you’re wrong. Although, if you follow the steps above, then you’re much more likely to be making the choices that lead to thriving civilization.
  1. Not all religious societies are civilized (according to my definition), but every civilized society is a religious society. This absolutely does not mean state-sponsored religion or lack of religious freedom; in fact, the opposite is true. Freedom of religion is essential, and the flourishing of religion in general must be encouraged.The family is the basic unit of civilized society. Whatever threatens the family threatens civilization. So preserving and protecting the family is paramount in laws and social expectations in a civilized society.
Under #1, whatever the religion, the civilizing influences will include these requirements:
  • Honor God
  • Honor parents
  • Do not murder (take innocent life)
  • Do not have sex outside of marriage
  • Do not steal
  • Do not lie
  • Do not covet (want what belongs to your neighbor)
All of #2 actually fits within these rules. But I believe we need #2 to specifically describe how the civilizing principles get passed along from generation to generation. 

And civilization is worth passing along. According to the Spherical Model, Civilization lookslike this:

Families typically remain intact, and children are raised in loving homes, with caring parents who guide their education and training, dedicating somewhere between 18 and 25 years for that child to reach adulthood, and who then remain interested in their children’s success for the rest of their lives. 

Civilized people live peaceably among their neighbors, helping rather than taking advantage of one another, abiding by laws enacted to protect property and safety—with honesty and honor. Civilized people live in peace with other civilized people; countries and cultures coexist in appreciation, without fear. 

There is a thriving free-enterprise economy. Poverty is meaningless; even though there will always be a lowest earning 10% defined as poor, in a civilized society these lowest earners have comfortable shelter and adequate food and clothing—and there’s the possibility of rising, or at least for future generations to rise. 

Creativity abounds; enlightening arts and literature exceed expectations. Architecture and infrastructure improve; innovation and invention are the rule. 

People feel free to choose their work, their home, their family practices, their friendships and associations. And they generally self-restrain before they infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. Where there are questions about those limits, laws are in place to help clarify boundaries of civilized behavior. When someone willingly infringes on the rights or safety of another, the law functions to protect that victim as well as society from further uncivilized behavior from the offender. 

To those of us who have seen civilization, at least in pockets of time and place, this doesn’t seem all that foreign or far-fetched. We’ve seen it in practice. We’ve seen it work. We’ve experienced the general sense of happiness that comes from living in a civilized society. No wonder we’re happy to choose this rather than the experimental, consistently failing, state-control systems offered as the alternative. Dependence doesn’t bring happiness the way success does.

Friday, July 6, 2012

First Century of the XVI Amendment

During lunch yesterday, my son Political Sphere asked if I’d read the 16th Amendment, the one on income tax. Not lately, I said. He’d been re-reading it, to see if it explained the ObamaTax decision last week, because the amendment is pretty unlimited (making me assert, yet again, that the founders knew what they were doing, and messing with it through amendments is always risky). It got me thinking, but I wasn’t ready to write about it yet. Not to worry; Political Sphere put together a guest post. So the rest of this is his. 

Amendment XVI
Passed by Congress July 2, 1909
Ratified February 3, 1913 

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration. 

national archive photo, found on Wikipedia
I was reading a piece by Sean Trende yesterday where he set forth a hypothetical tax situation comparing the essential equality of a tax credit and a tax penalty. He basically explained the same thing as well known economist Greg Mankiw has done several times on his blog. And this is what I want to touch on. Economically and legally this argument [that a tax credit and a tax penalty are the same] is correct, but psychologically and politically it is a different story. 

The sixteenth amendment, shown above, was passed by Congress in 1909, and its ratification process was completed in early 1913. It provides essentially unlimited power to Congress to levy taxes on all "income" (individual, corporate, or organizational) without any check. It does not limit it by saying it must be a percentage of income. It does not even clarify what is income. Theoretically, if Congress so chooses, they could levy a tax of $10,000 per individual, per year, regardless of wealth or income, for merely living, so long as the payment of such tax was only exacted on “income."  But it should be noted that no group of politicians has been politically foolish enough to do this—until now, almost exactly 100 years since Congress passed this amendment. 

There are two ways government can affect behavior, either with the carrot or with the stick—in other words through taxation or subsidy. Generally the government subsidizes what it wants to encourage, such as raising children, growing crops, or purchasing a fire hazard (aka Chevy Volt). Also they generally tax whatever actions they want to discourage, such as smoking, drinking, or earning income.   

But the current administration, for the first time since Congress gained unlimited taxing power, will try to use their stick to encourage behavior. I doubt this new method for affecting behavior will be successful—that is, even if it is successfully implemented. I think it will lead to a tax revolt with thousands, or perhaps even millions, like me choosing to "self insure[*]" rather than pay the tax or purchase insurance at the overpriced community rate.

[*] This is merely the legal term I intend to use as I continue to do as I currently do, remaining uninsured and paying for my own health care bills.  Since there is no possible way for a licensed insurance company to prove that they have enough funding to cover their clients’ unlimited needs, I figure there can be no legal requirement for me to prove my ability to pay.