August 2, 2010

Pawlenty knows politics.

Posted in 2012 Elections, GOP, John McCain's campaign, media coverage, taxes tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:17 am by realitytax

Senator McCain suggests his wife enter a topless contest in Sturgis

Is America ready for a first lady who's recently entered a topless contest?

While it’s arguably inappropriate objectification of his wife to bolster his career when lame-duck MN Governor Pawlenty describes her as his “red-hot smoking wife,” I disagree w/ wonkette’s characterization that it’s “two years early.” If Obama hadn’t started early he probably wouldn’t be President, and remember Senator McCain tried to woo votes from Harley riders by suggesting his wife enter the topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest in Sturgis in 2008.

If voters made their choices rationally the political calculus of candidates and campaigns would be very different. Voters often rationalize when interviewed, but research proves the decisions are more often based on emotion than intellectual evaluation.

Campaigns get longer and more costly all the time because mainstream media producers see candidate spending as helping their own bottom lines. In other words, it’s also arguably a conflict of interest to base so much of the determination of a campaign’s viability on successful fund-raising. True, in many cases advertising is a crucial factor, and we all accept that one of the keys to advertising success is repetition across a wide range of media to generate the maximum number of impressions. Yet wouldn’t it be refreshing for a network or newspaper to cap the amount of political ads they’d take at some reasonable level?

Voters report they’re actually annoyed by the saturation of TV as elections approach; in some cases the result seems to be tuning out altogether. Meanwhile where are the balancing stories about what the candidates have actually accomplished, how a candidate runs an efficient and fiscally restrained campaign focused on issues instead of fund-raising, or which ads are to distract from facts or obscure their votes while echoing slogans and talking points in much the same way Budweiser hammers away with their “King of Beer” message.

Lame-duck MN Governor Pawlenty anxious to try a different job

MN Governor Pawlenty spending most of his time raising money and his visibility

Pawlenty knows “earned” media coverage is less costly than buying ads, and he’s got the recent examples of Palin and Bachmann proving the press loves provocative statements more than substantive discussion. Any “news” outlet is reliant on ad revenues, which are in turn driven by ratings. Look how quickly most mainstream media companies jumped on the Shirley Sherrod story – a hint of controversy and the race for viewers/readers was on without what we used to think of as journalistic integrity, all in pursuit of the mighty dollar. Pawlenty certainly doesn’t want the national press talking to disgruntled Minnesotans or economists about how his “no new taxes” mythology has driven down quality of life and scuttled the state budget.

Look for conflicts of interest in coverage, and follow the money if you want to understand Pawlenty — but don’t underestimate either his political savvy or the impact his “red-hot smoking wife” may have on voters and donors.

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March 4, 2009

We need to invest in our country

Posted in foreclosure crisis, health care, mortgage reform, Obama administration, President Barack H. Obama, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 5:18 am by realitytax

USA flagAs an entrepreneur who has run several small businesses, I think it’s time to return to fundamentals on the economy, starting with investing in America again. It’s small businesses that will put people back to work; that’s how we’re going to get this country back on its feet. It’s entrepreneurs and small business owners who respond with enthusiasm instead of being bound in their decision-making by CFOs and slow-moving Boards of Directors focused on short-term bottom line numbers, (the kind of decision-making that led to the foreclosure and credit crisis, and ultimately the big business bailout using taxpayer dollars.)

To be sure, we need public education, technical schools, and affordable college tuition so young Americans are ready for these new jobs. It’s a global economy, but most of us work in the same city we live in. When we see bulldozersCaterpillar tractor and excavators moving dirt, and trucks hauling instead of sitting idle at auction sites, then we’ll know things are turning around.

The President is intent on stimulating the private sector, but big businesses with names we all know have abused deregulation and the public trust. Credit card companies raise their rates willy-nilly, and hide extra fees in the small print. How much of his economic stimulus can be paid for simply by ending wasteful government spending, and eliminating tax cuts for the super-rich?

Is it a coincidence that the size of the bailout Bush proposed roughly equals the cost of the war in Iraq?

That war has been a burden on our military, and paying the debt is a drag on our economy that will linger for years. The new President is winding that down, but we’ll be paying for it for years and spending is only half of the equation. The money to do these things has to come from somewhere. Government is here to stay: In some way we need to fund the things that make government work for the people. Our elected leaders, in turn, must stop letting our hard-earned tax dollars simply line the pockets of special interests.

The American Dream isn’t about letting lobbyists control who pays taxes and who gets rich, it’s that any child in this country should have a chance at becoming a productive adult who can support and raise a family comfortably.  Working full-time and pulling your weight should mean you don’t have to worry about grocery bills, the price of commuting, or paying to see a good doctor when you or your family needs medical care.

Tax credits for continuing education make it tempting to better yourself.  The tax cuts for the middle and lower class earners proposed by the Obama administration make a start at offsetting the skyrocketing costs of groceries, health care, and college, but we need to go further. One great idea is to give tax incentives to companies that cover increases in health care costs while the President tries to reform that out-of-control system.

Public pressure and increased scrutiny are starting to make companies think twice about  huge salaries and bigger bonuses for wealthy executives while pleading for bailout funds and cutting paychecks and benefits and pensions of the people who do the real work. Let’s take it a step further and tax those who make money by exploiting cheap labor overseas. Our government needs money to operate, Job Growth Aheadno matter if it’s to build roads, insure products made overseas are safe,  or to keep our military strong, and if a company doesn’t want to pay American workers they still have an obligation to contribute and support the system that has made their success possible. We need to reverse the trend of layoffs and plant closures; we need to rebuild the foundation of our economy – and the American Dream – by putting Americans back to work.

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February 22, 2009

Economic Recovery: Facts for D.C. to factor in

Posted in foreclosure crisis, health care, mortgage reform, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:24 pm by realitytax

MinnesotaWhen Congress and the President are working on the budget, they have a perfect case study for the “no new taxes” approach right here in Minnesota: we elected a rising star of the Republican party to be our Governor in 2002 on that pledge, Timothy J. “Tim” Pawlenty. Tim PawlentyNow in his second term, Governor Pawlenty won the office promising to balance the state budget at a time when Minnesotans were tired of the way politics had played out in the state capitol while Jesse”The Body” Ventura as Governor, and according to Wikipedia, Pawlenty attacked a deficit of  roughly “$4.3 billion without raising taxes, primarily by reducing the rate of funding increases for state services, including funding for transportation, social services, and welfare.

“New fees aren’t taxes”

If not for the fact that the tourism industry in the state took a big hit in 2005 due to a government shutdown and closure of highway rest areas, state parks and so on, we might have been ok with the winking at that pledge and calling some things new “fees” instead of taxes (heck, it was only $300 million or so,)double digit tuition increases at MN colleges as Governor slashes education spending and major increases in tuition at the state colleges and universities, or cuts in areas such as school spending — until we realized there was no longer a band playing at the high school events.  And in places where they value music, such as Fergus Falls, the communities and booster clubs can find local funding to keep band directors such as Scott Kummrow employed, right?

We needed the revenue, clearly, and the Governor didn’t raise taxes – although local jurisdictions had to fill the gaps as the money from the state dried up, but that’s another story. By the way, adding toll lanes to busy commuter routes isn’t a new tax, either. I have some question about how to label the bond bill the governor signed last year, but he vetoed some line items so maybe we can say he somewhat limited tax increases in the future?

But lets not quibble about fees and bonding, let’s talk about the Minnesota economy and budget – that’s the point.  Sure, we might have put thousands of Minnesotans to work if the bond bill had included funding for light rail connections between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and that probably would have stimulated business and tourism in those areas, but it would have made the bonding bill even larger and somebody would have had to pay and the delay only adds maybe $40 million to the cost – later, when he’s no longer the Governor. And now our budget deficit in probably only $7-$8 billion.

No New Taxes

In Minnesota trying to generalize that taxes were problematic by definition glossed over that the government runs on money: funding for nursing homes, teachers, and education was slashed, for example, and the costs passed on to local communities to “balance the budget.” The state budget deficit is now conservatively projected at double what it was when Pawlenty took office, while sales tax revenues fall and companies slash payrolls driving people onto unemployment rolls (placing their health care coverage at risk and further reducing consumer spending.) At least LA Governor JindalPawlenty isn’t posturing for the pundits as Louisiana Governor Piyush “Bobby” Jindal and a few others are by suggesting we won’t take “stimulus” money from the federal government –  He’s saying Minnesota government needs cash.

We borrow to buy homes, cars, and even smaller items that fit on our credit cards. We continually pay interest to some of the same companies that needed bailing out on Wall Street, while one group of people benefits: the rich. They don’t worry about the price of cheese, cars, or college.

History doesn’t support trickle-down theory.

our economy has only grown when taxes are high - corporations always find ways to hide their revenue from the tax man.For the common good it’s time we admit that when you cut taxes for the rich they mostly they stash more money into their nest egg(s) so they can retire early, live comfortably, eat cake, and travel the world. Meanwhile the rest of us watch our food budget, some see the investment in their homes plummet, and if we have put money aside we watch what remains of it shrinking in our privatized retirement accounts.

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October 27, 2008

I’m Joe the plumber, and I’ve decided who I’ll vote for.

Posted in 2008 Elections, John McCain's campaign, Presidential campaign, Senator Barack H. Obama, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 2:51 pm by realitytax

I’m Joe the plumber, and I’ve done some research into who will raise my taxes more, and I’ve reached a conclusion. It’s not an easy choice. I wanted to consider capital gains tax, too, because I own a home.

OK, I should clarify a few things in the interest of full disclosure.  My first name isn’t really Joe, but you can call me Joe, OK?  And while I’m not a licensed plumber if you’ve ever tried to install a garbage disposal, or reseat a toilet on a new wax ring yourself, you know you want somebody else to do it for you. OK, technically my boss isn’t running a licensed plumbing company either, but all that regulation isn’t really necessary, is it?  I mean, sure, a bit of regulation might have helped prevent the need to bailout the rich guys running Wall Street Banks and big insurance companies like AIG, but come on – plumbers?  What could go wrong?

See, here’s the thing: I’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit.  I don’t mean like some guy who rides in to town selling snake oil in the old wild west, either. I want to own my own business, that’s my version of the American dream.  I’ll bet you’re a lot like me – unless you’ve always voted for the same party in every election, or you’re a licensed plumber, of course.  So I compared McCain and Obama on other stuff, too, like their plan for health care (’cause that cost matters to a guy like me – I don’t actually even have health care right now.)

My family thinks I’m making it.  They make light-hearted jokes, and call me “Lord of the Rings” when it’s time to fix a toilet.  They think it’s very cool that I work for a small business.  Honestly? I’d be happy to earn more at a big company right now, but when the boss doesn’t even take in $250,000 in gross receipts it’s not like I can expect to be making six figures myself, right?

McCain’s an honorable man, he’s personally avoided making outright attacks as reprehensible as, say, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman who can’t even figure why she should apologize for implying a Senator might be un-American! Furthermore, he’s actually running as much against his record of voting with Bush as Senator Norm Coleman up in Minnesota, so even if his plans aren’t as well-developed and spelled out as Obama’s we know McCain’s now against some of what Bush got wrong anyway.

And I know that politicians will often say anything to win, so I’m not surprised that not everything coming out of the McCain campaign is true or that his message changes. That’s just politics as usual. I sure don’t expect that the media is covering either candidate accurately – they’re in it to make money, after all, they want us to keep tuning in, and that’s just business

Based on research, endorsements by people who obviously know more than I do, and talking to friends I’ve decided to vote for Barack Obama on November 4th.  

It’s just a lot easier for me to trust that a guy who only owns one house might follow through on his promises to work for the good of everybody. I mean, come on: McCain’s wife spent more on one outfit than I’ve earned in the last 8 years, just how concerned would he be about my taxes, leaky toilet flappers, homes being foreclosed, and other issues that matter to me here in the midwest if he gets an 8th house by being elected to fix the mess George Bush made of the budget and the Middle East?

I’m Joe the Plumber,
sometimes known as “Lord of the Rings,”
and I approve this message.

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October 16, 2008

Can somebody explain McCain’s goals and priorities?

Posted in 2008 debate, 2008 Elections, foreclosure crisis, health care, John McCain's campaign, mortgage reform, Presidential campaign, Senator Barack H. Obama, senior citizens, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:11 pm by realitytax

I don’t understand McCain’s priorities or his rationales. Maybe he’s never heard of insurance companies controlling medical procedures and limiting access to prescriptions – he’s got better coverage than I do, certainly. After watching the final Presidential debate of 2008 I can’t see how most senior citizens in the U.S.A. can afford McCain’s policies; he voted against much needed-increases in Medicare funding, taking away many seniors’ only access to health care.  He thinks the health care system is working just fine.

Senator McCain evidently has a different view of Social Security than I do. McCain wants to privatizes Social Security, as Bush had championed, so we’re all dependent on the vagaries of the stock market. We’ve seen the downside of that risky approach.  McCain, who championed deregulation in the stock markets, thinks the health care insurance industry should be similarly allowed to regulate itself. He asserts that will improve our health care without getting bureaucrats in the way, but he wants government bureaucrats to ride to the rescue of 11 million homes with bad mortgage deals, armed with $300 billion from the bailout plan. Am I the only one who sees a disconnect?

Turmoil in financial markets threatens – if not undermines – our retirement savings. Coupled to rising costs for everything from health care to energy, senior citizens and others on fixed incomes are looking for a leader who will use the office of the Presidency to improve our financial security via fiscally sound,  robust economic policies.  Yet McCain wants to deal with health care reform by granting insurance companies the latitude that banks used to crash the stock market?

Obama-Biden spokesman Bill Burton called on McCain to support Obama’s New Small Business Rescue Plan, saying:

Barack Obama supports allowing senior citizens to delay withdrawals from 401(k)s, and believes we don’t have to wait for Congress to act to provide seniors with these protections. He’s calling on the Treasury Secretary to temporarily suspend Treasury regulations and allow seniors to delay these withdrawals. He also hopes that Senator McCain will reconsider his ill-advised support for Social Security privatization, which suffers from the very same problem he is now trying to solve since it would potentially force seniors to retire when the market is down and their retirement accounts have disappeared. Senator Obama also calls on Senator McCain to support his new small business rescue plan that will extend badly-needed credit and tax relief to the men and women who are creating jobs in this troubled economy.

Senator Obama has a plan to help America’s senior citizens. Barack Obama and Senator Biden intend to protect Social Security and make sure Americans can afford to retire. The Obama-Biden proposals will expand retirement savings program and create new pension programs. Obama’s plan will eliminate income tax altogether for seniors who make less than $50,000 per year.

The Obama-Biden plan will protect and strengthen Medicare, and allow the federal government to negotiate for cheaper drugs for the Medicare program, so seniors can afford their pills. Obama will also increase funding for LIHEAP, to help seniors pay their winter heating bills.  I get that McCain wants to win, that he seeks the prestige of being President after years of service in the U.S. Congress, but I prefer the vision Obama and Biden have expressed – their ambition to use the influence of the White House to make changes that foster financial security and bolster national pride while positioning the U.S.A as a leader on issues ranging from energy and the environment to fundamental human rights.

McCain’s a fine man, and I’m sure he’d be an adequate President for those who are so wealthy that taxes are a theoretical number handled for them by an accountant that never impact their daily spending decisions.  The rest of us – the folks on Main Street who are still waiting for Bush’s economic policies to trickle down some personal economic prosperity or to create some jobs – will be better off under the inspired leadership of “that one.”

October 2, 2008

Much ado about…Gwen Ifill? Soft bigotry of low expectations for Gov. Palin

Posted in 2008 debate, 2008 Elections, media coverage, PBS, Presidential campaign, Sarah Palin, Senator Barack H. Obama, soft bigotry, U.S. Economy, VP tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:12 am by realitytax

Seriously? The extremists with an audience are out in full force today ranting that Gwen Ifill, the moderator of the much-anticipated October 2 Vice Presidential Debate, isn’t without bias. Michelle Malkin, for example, is outraged that Ifill has a book in the works about Senator Barack Obama. Mind you, it hasn’t been released yet, so Malkin could be just a shill trying to help Ifill’s publicity in advance, but I think the motive is likely more insidious.

Gwen Ifill, of PBSMs. Malkin could be lowering expectations of Governor Palin’s performance – even setting up an excuse in advance. Something along the lines of: “Nobody could expect the Governor to do well with a liberal ostensibly moderating the debate…” I realize Malkin’s an avowed opponent of multiculturalism, but to set up the “soft bigotry of low expectation” on the eve of the debate seems more than a little disingenuous.

I admit that despite being a fiscal conservative I find the Governor’s reported biblical literalism out of step with my preferred post-Darwinian point of view. I realize, too, that any number of proud social conservatives have expressed reservations over Palin’s readiness and/or suitability for the position of Vice President. But it behooves us to grant Governor Palin her time in the limelight, to approach the evening with as open a mind as is possible as we focus on the issues important to the voters – the economic bailout being considered by congress, deregulation, Iraq, taxes, and health care to name a few obvious issues more important than the fact a professional journalist from a non-commercial network is also an author. It’s not time to distract us by creating false controversy about the moderator.

Yes, it’s false controversy, though the echo chamber that surrounds right-wing pundits was in full fettle today. Ultimately even the Fox network (surely at least as “in the tank” for the Republican ticket as Ms. Ifill is accused of being for the Democrats) had to concede that Senator McCain has the utmost respect for Gwen Ifill, and is more than satisfied that she’ll serve ably and professionally as a moderator.

In fact, we arguably learn more about a candidate from a slightly adversarial interviewer (or moderator) than we would from somebody lobbing easy questions.  Governor Palin is something of an unknown on the national political scene in the U.S., and the campaign has not to this point made her very available for interviews or press conferences.  This is her chance to shine – and I, for one, expect her to do a creditable job in the spotlight.  This is not her first debate, and anyone ready to be Vice President surely has to be ready, willing, and able to handle questions from a PBS moderator in a controlled situation.  

Much ado about nothing

Will Ms. Ifill present more rigor than Charlie Gibson or Katie Couric?  Probably so. The late Tim Russert might have been rugged in this sort of context, but Gwen Ifill? Why are the right-leaning pundits so concerned? Why are they making this about people, not issues? And even if she is up against a more experienced, worldly debater in Senator Joe Biden, she’s been prepping for weeks; it’s show time! 

She’s not being asked to talk to Jon Stewart, after all.

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