the whitestick papers

looking at politics from a different perspective

Posts Tagged ‘taxes

Why we lost the big ones in Oregon

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All things considered, we did all right in Oregon.  We brought both chambers of the legislature back from a Democrat supermajority to dead even in the House and nearly even in the Senate.  We’d have tied up the Senate as well if Jackson County hadn’t kept “discovering” and counting votes until they got the result they wanted, but we’re not going to correct that problem until we have a Secretary of State that isn’t corrupt.  Keep that in mind for 2012.

We did, however, lose the big races in Oregon, bucking a trend that saw the US House overrun by Republicans , the Senate all but tied up, a host of Republican Governors and even a bunch of new Republican-dominated state legislatures .  The “Remember November” tsunami may have turned into a red tide in Oregon, but part of the problem is we had a seriously uphill battle in several cases.  Blumenauer and DeFazio were going to be hard to beat no matter what, and both Lopez and Robinson did an excellent job getting the results they did.  We all knew Telfer and Huffman started off trailing so badly after the Primary that they’d have a tough time catching up and their campaigns never seemed to catch fire.  So what happened there isn’t much of a surprise.

However, the three races we could have, or even should have, won we didn’t.  And it looks like the reason Dudley, Cornilles and, to a lesser extent, Bruun fell by the wayside is essentially the same reason Huffman fell flat.   They bought into what the “certified smart” folks have peddled for years, which has led to defeat after Republican defeat.

NW Republican (http://nwrepublican.blogspot.com/2010/11/chris-dudleydan-laveykerry-tymchuck.html)  has done an excellent job detailing the underpinnings of the Dudley defeat, and there’s no reason to restate those here.  This writer had only minimal contact with the Bruun race and would only be able to comment on what seems to be the case rather than from personal and objective observation.  However, having been a fixture in the Washington County Victory effort and in persistent contact with the Cornilles campaign since he first announced some 16 months earlier, there’s a lot a careful and experienced observer can report.

From the beginning, Rob did exactly what he should have to gain the office.  He went through established channels – former Senator Gordon Smith to Representative Greg Walden – to get to the folks back east.  He made a public announcement, worked the party leadership, contacted the principal donors and ran a campaign focused on November rather than May.  His nomination was a given before the official filing date in March and, despite a good showing, his Primary opponents never stood a real chance.  Doug and John won’t like hearing that, but that’s the way it is.

The problem is Rob paid a lot more attention to folks brought in from DC in April and July rather than those who have lived and campaigned in the First District for years, even decades.  There are folks here who know what it will take to beat David Wu and, frankly, it’s the same sort of thing that pushed Republicans over the finish line all over the country. But it’s something the “certified smart” specialists from the consulting firms avoid like progressives avoid tax cuts.

In a word, it’s leadership, and Rob was never allowed to show his.

A leader says “This is the direction we need to go,” and defines specific things he’ll do if elected.  In this cycle, repealing Obamacare and extending (or even expanding) the Bush tax cuts would have garnered interest and intensity.  However, the “certified smart” mantra is never make a statement your opponent can use against you.  As a result, Rob campaigned on a message of “Well, I’m not a Democrat” (designed to catch a ride on the Tea Party surf) and refusing to commit to repealing Obamacare, even if Republicans had a veto-proof majority.

Rob Cornilles is one of the best candidates to run since the Democrats took control of Oregon’s First District some thirty-odd years ago.  He’s amazingly able, bright, clever, dedicated, determined, energetic and engaging.  He really needs to run again, either for Congress or for some other office.  At 44%, he by far did the best against David Wu since Molly Bordanaro came up short with 47% when the two newcomers ran against each other in 1996.  During his concession speech, he said we hadn’t seen the last of him in politics – and that he’d make an announcement in the upcomings weeks along those lines.  It’s not too much to hope that means this is just the first race he enters.  If he does it right, he will win.

Rob’s leadership ability is clear from his successfully creating and then filling a niche in a niche industry.  We definitely need “citizen legislators” with a business background, not just in Congress but at all levels.  The hope is he’s learned from this experience and, while keeping an ear open to the folks from Back East who funnel so much money into these elections, he’ll also take the advice of people who live here.

If so,  next time it could be Wu giving the concession speech…

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Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

10 November 2010 at 11:57 am

Wrapped in golden chains

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If you’re old enough, the title of this article strikes a chord wherever it is that memories of the early 1970’s still live and triggers the sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival (or, as we came to know them, CCR).  In his tribute to the generation’s coming out party, Woodstock, John Fogerty ‘s Who’ll Stop the Rain included a cryptic couplet that clearly refers to government, a popular target of the day.  The complete set of lyrics goes:

Five year plans and new deals, Wrapped in golden chains.
And I wonder, Still I wonder Who’ll stop the rain.

The references are pretty clear; “five year plans” were the hallmark of the Soviet Union under the domination of communism, and the New Deal was the chief feature of progressive US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s effort to combat the Great Depression.  But how are these tied together, much less “wrapped in golden chains”?

I don’t know whether or not Fogerty had it in mind, but there is a clear connection and significance, not only to the 1970’s but to today.

Beck in the 1920 and 1930’s, those Americans who championed the benefits of communist politics and socialist economics discovered they were a tough sell to the good citizens of the United States.  So, instead of using those terms, they hit upon the term “progressive” to describe their views; after all, in an era marked by two depressions separated by one of the greatest periods of growth in American history, who could possibly be against progress?

Later, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, that term wouldn’t have quite the positive spin it used to, so they started using the term “liberal” to describe how they wanted people to live.  Lately, that term has also started getting a bad taste to it, so they’ve gone back to “progressive”, but, no matter how it’s labeled, at its core the point of view is still socialist.

The bottom line of progressive thought is that the government – particularly with them in charge – knows what’s best for the people.  That’s the point of five-year plans; you can’t trust the people to know what’s best to produce or what crops to grow.  It needs the wisdom and oversight of the experts to make sure it gets done right.  The food shortages, long lines waiting to buy necessities and invariably poor quality machinery and other goods demonstrate just how well that worked out.

The New Deal was supposed to improve everyone’s lives, giving people jobs and hope again.   Truth be told, it did help the national infrastructure, but the Keynesian economic model it was based on assumed that work paid for by the US taxpayer was just as valuable as that provided by industry or agriculture.  As a result, men would dig holes in the morning that other men would fill in that afternoon.  Nothing was produced except a couple of paychecks, and that from the profitable efforts of other people.

The problem with government control, like five-year plans, or provision of jobs, like the New Deal, is that it comes at a cost.  Government, by its very nature, can’t produce anything.  It has to rely on its people to produce something so it can take part of it to do its job.  So, whenever it decides what its people can and can’t produce; when it spends more than it takes in; when it takes more and more in taxes, it takes liberty away from its citizens.  Sure, what they get may look good, and some people might even prefer the luxury of living in substandard conditions so they don’t have the responsibility to produce all that much, but even golden chains are still chains.

The problem is that progressive thinking has gotten into the water, so to speak, of government at all levels and with government officials of all types and political affiliation.  Any time an elected official tells you this program or that assistance for the poor, needy, hungry or whatever is a really good thing, they’re showing progressive colors.  That’s exactly the sort of often well-meaning but in the end self-serving destructive fad John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine and the like recognized as tyranny.

Is it any wonder Barack Hussein Obama and his cohorts in the US House and Senate believe they need to pass a healthcare package the majority of Americans believe is wrong?  They, after all, know better than we do what we need, and no one is going to stand in their way of giving it to us.

“See how the gold glitters so nicely?  Wouldn’t you like to wear these chains?”

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

26 February 2010 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Basics

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Sounding a common theme

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During the last election cycle, the Democrats had a common theme: they weren’t George W. Bush.  It seemed like every race at every level had, at it’s core, a message that the other guy in the race was somehow tainted by the evil that was President Bush.  They really didn’t have to promote or promise anything, and the country as a whole got exactly what they expected; a crop of legislators and other leaders who weren’t George W. Bush.

A large percentage of the voters have realized that what they are (socialists) is a lot more important than what they weren’t (George W. Bush), but that dawning revelation is beyond the scope of this article.  The thing I want to point out is the value of a bunch of candidates sounding a common theme.

This technique is best seen in things like the “Contract with America” which galvanized support behind several Representative races in the mid 1990’s.  It’s also at the core of the “Ten Promises” being proposed for the Senate races this cycle.  The “certified smart” folks tend to dismiss it but, if done correctly, it can work.  What happens is that multiple voices saying the same thing and reaching for a common goal energizes folks.  As Samuel Adams noted, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”

This election cycle calls for the same sort of thing; a common theme into which many voices can provide harmonies so that the people of the United States know exactly where the incoming crop of candidates intend to take them.  The “Ten Promises” or something like it will work on the national scene and it’s my humble opinion it’s something every candidate for federal office should adopt.

There are elements of the national effort that will fly in state races as well, but each state is likely to have its own individual twist or focus.  Here in Oregon, for example, people are probably going to realize just what they did to themselves by passing Measures 66 and 67.  The biggest lie told was that it wouldn’t affect them and, by that time, they should have seen the effects in the form of higher prices, lost jobs and missing businesses.  So bringing a human face to the suffering and pointing the finger at the incumbent who supported the taxes should be effective.

But we also need to have a positive message, and we have an excellent one in the concept of funding core functions first.   I don’t know what it’s like in other states, but the Oregon Legislature likes to fund everything but schools and emergency services first so that, when the end of the session looms near, they have to “scrape” for the money to cover these services, which most people believe are what the state government should be doing.   Promising to pass legislation that will require state budget considerations start with these core functions and then look to fund other things afterwards is going to gain a lot of support from the voters of all political stripes.

Except, of course, for the public employee union leaders and their corrupt political officials who’ve developed this little scheme so they could coerce the citizens into letting them pull more and more cash out of their wallets.  But, despite their best efforts to grow government on the backs of those who produce something for a living, they’re still the minority.  It’s a case we can win with the people.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

16 February 2010 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Basics

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Reflections on a setback

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It’s difficult to describe my emotions this morning.  Sure, I’m disappointed the people of Oregon decided to accept the job-killing taxes so many of us worked for the last six months to get on the ballot and let the Legislature know it was a bad idea in a recession.  When we did this sort of thing  five years ago, the result was so overwhelming the politicians didn’t attempt another new tax again until this session, and we naturally figured the hard work was over when we got the referendum petitions in and approved.  We assumed, with good reason, the people of Oregon wouldn’t pass a tax increase during record unemployment and a down economy.

But we didn’t count on the lessons the left had learned in the meantime.

We should have realized they were planning shenanigans when they tried to confuse voters by changing the vote on referendum, making a :”yes” vote mean “no, we don’t want the new tax” and vice versa.  We considered it a minor victory when that died due to the public outrage, but should have been on notice this was going to be a different sort of battle.

Then there was the stall tactic by the Governor who, although he knew we wanted to refer these taxes to the ballot, sat on them for weeks, deliberately reducing the time we had to gather the necessary signatures.  That didn’t work out so well; he eventually caved to the public pressure and we delivered 2-and-a-half times the required number of signatures, even with the shrunken window of opportunity.

The most outrageous con came next, when we found out the Legislature had changed the rules on how the ballot title was written.  Instead of a panel of those for and against working together to put out a reasonably neutral statement, they instead arranged for a Legislative committee, lopsided to favor the taxes, to write them.  As you might expect, instead of a balanced presentation the citizens got a bit of propaganda slanted to encourage a vote to accept the taxes.

The campaign was, for the most part, pretty typical.  We focused on the logical impact of raising taxes on small businesses and corporations.  They have a limited number of options when that happens; raise prices, reduce costs (usually by laying off workers), shutting down or moving out of state.  None of these are a great idea in a recession, and we said so.

Outspending us three to one, the public employee unions and their allies focused on two elements so the citizens were led to believe the new taxes wouldn’t touch them.  If all you talk about is the direct impact, that’s largely true, but it ignores the indirect consequences of losing jobs and businesses and, for that matter, the taxes they pay.

There was, of course, also the threat of having schools and safety services hit hard if the taxes didn’t go through.  That was largely a sham, as there was nothing in the Measures that required them to be reduced; that’s the Legislature’s job.  As it is, there’s a surplus in the state’s bank account more than four times the size of what these taxes raise and nothing to keep them from tapping into it.  In fact, I’d be willing to predict that, when the revenues drop because businesses fail and leave town (as our only Fortune 500 company, Nike, has said it will, along with its 7,000 jobs) over the next year or so they’ll have to use some of it to make up the difference.

The bottom line; I’m disappointed, but pleased and proud of the work we did.  We were outspent and outmaneuvered, but we also learned from this.   One of the conversations last night hit upon an idea that will turn the socialists’ claims and dire predictions against them, and there’s a new unity among groups that have, in the past, tended to look at each other a little suspiciously.

The Second American Revolution was dealt a blow yesterday, but no war has ever had a victory with every battle.  We’re down but not out, and we’re determined to win next time.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

27 January 2010 at 9:35 am

Posted in Events

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Men in tights

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I’m sure you’re familiar with the legend of Robin Hood – a band of merry men and dashing derring-do in Sherwood Forest and all that.  You know about Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian and the rest who mischievously “…steal from the rich and give to the poor…”, frustrating the evil King John and his dastardly minion, the Sherriff of Nottingham  There have been countless movies, TV shows, plays and books produced over the years so it’s an image nearly everyone can easily call to mind.

But did you realize the background it’s set against is still with us?  In fact, it’s a setting that’s been around throughout all of human history.   The names and details change, but the broad strokes would be recognized in nearly every country in nearly every age.  And the funny thing is, those who want and believe government should and can solve people’s problems see the same picture differently than those who argue for small government.  Allow me to illustrate.

Those who want the government to solve the problems they see around them, if they thought about it, would see themselves in the role of Robin and his band of merry men.  After all, they care for the poor, the downtrodden, the unfortunates of the world, and want those poor folks to have the same opportunities and advantages the rich do.  Government is the only power bigger than those wicked corporations, businesses and people who have gotten fat on the sweat of the common man and, by golly, it makes sense to take away some of the ill-gotten gains of the rich and give it to the poor through taxes and fees – share the wealth, as it were.

You can almost see them nodding in agreement, can’t you?  There’s a problem with that image, however, and it takes only a slightly closer look at the scene, and maybe a little understanding of medieval society, to realize they’ve really got it wrong.

First off, who were King John and the Sherriff of Nottingham?  Were they wealthy businessmen who took advantage of the poor citizens living in and around Sherwood Forest?  Not at all; they were corrupt government officials who unfairly taxed the people, taking a portion of what the people earned to serve their needs and wants rather than, as intended, the needs of the people.  The people being taxed were, by and large, the shopkeepers, bakers, smiths and the like who performed services or built and provided goods for others.  Or they were laborers, those with no training or skill who traded their own physical strength for food and various forms of payment.

We could go into detail about the feudal economic system, with its lords, dukes and kings, but the bottom line is those who were producing the wealth were being forced to support a self-centered and self-serving aristocracy, who had all the authority, wealth and military power behind them.  You can look at the corrupt rule of the Roman emperors, countless kings and queens both ancient and not so long ago, modern dictatorships in Europe, Africa and the Americas to see a similar pattern, but the real question is, can you see it where you live now?

In this day and age, in this nation, we don’t have a Robin Hood or a band of outlaws who help us as they roguishly cut the purses of tyrants who dump every-increasing taxes and newly-created fees on our backs.  But we have something the good people of Nottingham never did – an opportunity to vote to throw out those who oppress us and put in place people who will prevent the abuse of power in the future.

In a sense, each of us is our own King Richard, and our own Robin of Locksley.  Ultimately, the responsibility for our own liberty is in our hands.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

26 January 2010 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Basics

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