Shirley Sherrod & America’s Bad On Calling Her Racist

July 22, 2010

I’m going to be moving on thin ice with this post. However, I feel that I must comment on the forced resignation and then reneging and apologizing to Shirley Sherrod.

She was an official in the Department of Agriculture. She spoke at a NAACP convention and a clip of her speech was released late last week. She was later forced to resign based on her statements, where she recalled a scenario where she didn’t want to help out a poor farmer because he was white. What isn’t shown is her followup statements where she said that she helped him and she realized there were essentially two types of people: those who were needy and those who weren’t.

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The Unfair “FairTax”

May 27, 2010

For my first post, I thought I would tackle something that divides Republicans. Gaining momentum in the Missouri legislature has been to exchange the Missouri income tax system and replace it with a sales tax, commonly known as the “FairTax” system. The Missouri House has shown that they are able to pass it, but the Missouri Senate is where the plan has stalled.

In Missouri, the sales tax plan would “not exceed 7%.” Switching to a sales tax-based plan is a bad idea. The champions of the plan argue that everyone will get a probate, or check that would cover the increased cost in taxes on necessities. No incomes taxes and receiving a check by the state each month sounds good right? Re-evaluate this with me with 3 major considerations.

1. The plan does exempt a few services such as tuition paid for education and donations to charities to be exempt. The following is a small list of what would be charged sales taxes that do not currently charge sales tax:

  1. Rent
  2. Healthcare/Dental Care
  3. Prescription Drugs
  4. Utilities (including cable/internet)
  5. Child care
  6. Purchasing cars/homes, etc.

While a 7% sales tax may not be much on a $10 a month prescription drug, it is significant on that home that did cost $100,000, has increased to $107,000. Rent for us college age students would rise from $600 per month to $642 a month.

2.  While the plan said the statewide sales tax wouldn’t be more than 7%, would this bring in enough revenue to Missouri? Because no state has made a transition fully to a “fair tax” system, to reach current revenue estimates, this tax rate could need to be as high as 12%.

Because the plan is capped at 7%, if Missouri makes this transition and were to bring in say $7 billion instead of the anticipated $8 billion, the state would be forced to make cuts to balance the budget. The Missouri legislature just cut over $500 million in General Revenue from its budget, and that was incredibly difficult to do. We will see a tougher budget year in 2012. Do we want to see a change in our tax system to create instability when budget times are already incredibly tight?

Let’s take myself as an example. Under the current tax system, while it is complicated, I hired an accountant to do my taxes. As both full time students, my wife and I had no tax liability (state or federal) and had a nice tax return. This wouldn’t be possible under the “fair tax” plan. The only calculator that I found online to attempt to compare the two systems was on the Fair Tax’s website. This calculator is of no help because it compares a federal “FairTax” plan.

3. An argument for the “FairTax” is that it would lower consumer prices, and increase consumer spending. While saying that if we take away taxes from a business, that they will immediately drop the cost of the product by the amount they are taxed is speculating, let’s go with it.

Because this plan is just for Missouri, would a company decrease their prices in Missouri and not the rest of the country? I don’t think so.
The “FairTax” model plans on consumer spending. The average family is over $8,000 in debt in credit cards alone by purchasing consumable items. Assuming a family does save money under a new system, do they help keep the economy afloat by purchasing a higher taxed item or do they pay down their credit card debt or pay bills with? Or, do they go to Illinois or Arkansas to purchase their $20,000 car instead of Missouri?

I would encourage everyone to read about the “FairTax” before making their opinion. Many research groups (proponents would argue these groups are liberal organizations) have said that moving to a consumption tax in Missouri would increase taxes for 95% of Missourians. During public testimony, dozens of groups testified in opposition to the proposal. Fortunately for Missourians, this proposal will not appear on the 2010 ballot, but this proposal isn’t completely dead yet.


The GOP’s November Strategy, considered.

May 24, 2010

From Arizona to Kentucky to Indiana to that one sex club in Los Angeles, the GOP has been in one imbroglio after another. In the “election of the angry-at-anything-voter”, what is the GOP strategy for victory in November?

To be honest, I do not know if they quite have one at this point. I mean, it looked like the Tea Party was going to be the catalyst for a Republican landslide last year. These conservatives were fired up and ready to demolish the Democrats over weak leadership, an “unpopular” health care bill, and a general sense of depression among liberal activists over the seemingly insurmountable odds staring them in the face with regards to the implementation of the Democratic agenda that swept into office only months before.

A few things have changed since then, the most pressing thing being the position of the Tea Party in the Republican Party. While they were simply seen as a force for protest in 2009, they have become a monster all their own, and the Republican Party may end up being its own biggest casualty. Tea Party-backed candidates have triumphed in Utah, where three-term conservative Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) will not appear on the Republican primary ballot after failing to garner enough votes at the Utah State GOP Convention. They have also triumphed in Kentucky, where Dr. Rand Paul is now the Republican nominee to face Attorney General Jack Conway in that state’s U.S. Senate race.

The problem, though, is that these candidates may not be very polished and, by extension, worse candidates. Take the Paul conundrum over civil rights. Now, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed 46 years ago and is settled law. When asked about his views, he could have simply said, “I feel that the de jure racism of our past is a settled matter. I support freedom for all, regardless of creed or color. Period.” Yet, he could not resist making his libertarian defense of freedom from regulation, and it may cost the Republicans a safe seat in the U.S. Senate. Now, can anyone tell me that Trey Grayson would have somehow been less conservative? That is what I thought, too.

The same situation has played out in Arizona, where pressure from Tea Party operatives and right-wing immigration groups forced Gov. Jan Brewer’s (R-AZ) hand in signing some of the most regressive immigration policy since the internment camps of World War II. This will have a grave effect on efforts to recruit Latino support for Republican candidates in the fall. The much ballyhooed strategy to recruit minority GOP candidates may have been seriously damaged by these events.

Then, you have the sex scandals. Their effect on depressing the GOP faithful needs no further explanation besides to say that I’m pretty shocked that a party rocked by these sorts of events in 2006 would not have learned its lesson by now.

So, my question is this: given all this, what is the path for Republican victory?  First, we must define victory.  A victory must be more than usual; simply winning 20-25 House seats and 4-5 Senate seats is no victory.  That is normal for a first-term President’s first midterm election.  A victory would constitute a 30+ seat gain in the House and a 7+ seat gain in the Senate.  How possible is this?  On the House side, it is quite possible.  With the bulk of new Democratic Congresspeople coming from places like Idaho-1 or Virginia-5 (rural, conservative districts that strongly tilt red in federal elections), I would expect that a lot of these will be swept out of office.  They would still need a few swing districts, and after the Critz victory in Pennsylvania, those doors may not be as open as once thought, especially if the economy continues to tick upward.  In the Senate, it is nearly impossible.  Winning all five tossups plus a Connecticut or a Washington?  I do not see that happening.  The GOP will campaign on the deficit, and that will get people fired up for sure.  However, how many people can even say what the federal deficit is?  How about the national debt?

This election will come down to GOTV; midterms always do.  But with the recent missteps from the GOP, the tidal wave that appeared to be ready to thunder onto the electoral shores of November may end up gliding in like a gentle wave.  It will sure be fun to watch.