Thursday, October 26, 2017

'NC General Assembly Republicans Have Done It Again'!

The barn door is wide open for UNA candidates to run for Congress
(first published in North State Journal 10/25/17)

‘What did the 'Mean Old Republicans' (MOR) in the General Assembly do now?’ you might ask if you are on the other side of things that haven't been going your way for the last 8 years in North Carolina.

They overrode a veto by Governor Roy Cooper of SB 656: The Electoral Freedom Act of 2017.

The press and opponents are claiming SB 656 'ends democracy as we know it!' because it eliminates primary elections in North Carolina for judges and district attorneys starting in 2018.

Quick: Name the last 10 candidates in your party for district or superior court judge in the district in which you live in North Carolina. Did having a primary for judge really matter to you?

What else is in SB 656? Does it really 'end democracy as we know it?' as critics claim?

North Carolina General Assembly Republicans have opened up the barn door to participatory democracy in congressional races in North Carolina. That is what they have done.

Section 2 of SB 656 clearly states the following requirements for a registered Unaffiliated (UNA) candidate in North Carolina to get on the general election ballot through collection of signatures on a petition for their candidacy for various elective offices:

  • For statewide office, which includes Governor, US Senator, Lt. Governor, Council of State offices, NC Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, a UNA candidate only has to collect signatures equal to 1.5% of the vote for Governor in the most recent election, or roughly 71,500, with 200 signatures from each of at least 3 congressional districts
  • For district races such as US Congress and district attorney races, UNA candidates must collect signatures equal to 1.5% of the total number of registered voters in the district down from 4% previously. (with one major exception)

What does this mean in practical terms?

It means that highly-qualified people who don't like the Republican or Democrat Party anymore and have taken the momentous step to re-register as UNA can get on the fall general election ballot for Congress 1) without blowing a ton of money in a bruising primary; 2) they can start their campaign on the last Friday in June preceding the general election instead of the year before and 3) they can win election to Congress in the fall with perhaps 37% of the vote in a three-way race instead of 50%+1 in a two-way race.

With no runoff.

There are roughly 520,000 registered voters in each congressional district in North Carolina. A 1.5% signature threshold means a well-organized-and-funded UNA candidate would only need to get 7800 signatures to get on the fall ballot instead of 20,800 under previous law.

In the election world, getting 7800 signatures is peanuts. A candidate can get that many at a NASCAR race in one afternoon.

No money would be wasted in a primary they probably wouldn't win anyway since UNAs tend to be more moderate on issues than are motivated, often single-issue primary voters.

Lowering the general election victory threshold to 37% from 50%+1 is a major incentive since UNAs represent 30.4% of all registered voters in NC today. A UNA would only need to pick up a few Democrat and Republican votes from each side to get to 37% in the fall election to win if Rs and Ds split the rest of the vote somewhat evenly.

UNAs typically represent what used to be known as the ‘center’ of politics on the bell curve: more socially libertarian but fiscally conservative and responsible.

The ‘exception’? General Assembly races remain at the 4% of registered voters threshold for signature collection instead of dropping to 1.5%.

They ain’t dumb, that is for sure.

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Thursday, October 19, 2017

'Politics is Philosophy By Other Means'

(first published in North State Journal 10/18/17)
Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general, wrote in his classic book on military strategy in 1818, 'On War':

'War is a mere continuation of policy by other means'

Taken one step further, this axiom can become:

'Politics is a mere continuation of philosophy by other means'

Everyone has their own individual philosophy about how the world 'ought to be'. These ideas and concepts come from some source from history unless the person has a personal epiphany and makes them up out of thin air somehow.

Many people want to expunge any personal philosophy from the public arena as we engage in discourse about our self-governance.

That is humanly, psychologically, mentally and physically impossible to achieve. We are not automatons that can be programmed to consume raw data in bits and bytes and spit them back out without some processing through our human emotions, thought patterns and worldview.

Many on the left have adopted the collectivist populist philosophy of class warfare to 'raise taxes on the rich!'  This line of thinking can be traced back to the 'Social Contract' of Rousseau in the 18th century and Hegel early in the 19th and, sadly, reached its full-blown expression in the writings of Karl Marx in 1859.

When it comes to using politics as a means to implement a particular philosophy into the American consciousness and public policy, the left has already ‘won’ in many respects. We have a progressive tax code; a massive entitlement system covering health, welfare and retirement programs for a majority of Americans today and a federal government that spends over 20% of our entire GDP each year.

Contrast the progressive tax code of today with the original intent of our Founders when it came to taxes.

"[A]ll duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States” they wrote and ratified in Article 1, section 8 of the US Constitution.

Our Founders had no intention of singling out any class of taxpayer for special or unusual taxation policies no matter their wealth or income status. Our convoluted income tax system would set their powdered wigs on fire as they tried to fill out even a basic income tax form 1040 on their own.

We are supposed to be a nation of liberty, fairness and equal opportunity. All concepts instituted in our Constitution by our Founders after reading philosophers such as John Locke and Adam Smith.

Our tax code should not be used as target practice against any particular set of taxpayers nor should it favor any particular set of taxpayers either. Today, somewhat amazingly, it does both.

Consider the fact that the left says ‘the rich should pay their fair share!’ in taxes. According to whose standards, theirs or some philosopher from the 1800s? Who gets to decide exactly what their ‘fair share” should be anyway?

The top 0.1% of all taxpayers, or about 140,000 people out of 140 million taxpayers, already pay 16% of all income taxes paid today.  The top 1% pay 35% of all income tax. The top 10% of all taxpayers in the United States today pay 2/3rds of all income tax paid to the federal government.

Perhaps the left is referring to Luke 12:48 which says: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." Except that would be bringing religion into government debate, not just philosophy.

There is a real philosophical ‘war’ going on in the halls of Congress right now over this very question as our Congressmen and Senators struggle not only with tax reform but with determining the very size and scope of our federal government after years of aggressive expansiveness under President Obama.

Politics is hand-to-hand combat. Let’s hope it stays in the realm of philosophy.

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

'North Carolina Republicans Did Not Invent Gerrymandering in 2011!'

'Man! Have to wonder if Governor Gerry knew how much trouble he was causing when he made me!'
(first published in North State Journal 10/11/17)

The Supreme Court heard arguments last week about a redistricting case in Wisconsin that some believe was 'too extreme' when it came drawing state legislative maps purely for partisan political purposes.

What is 'too extreme'?

How about a congressional district that was drawn in North Carolina that was 91% Democrat by registration in 1984? Would that today be considered 'too extreme' for partisan political purposes by everyone concerned about gerrymandering?

That was the makeup of the Second Congressional District I ran in during the 1984 campaign as a Republican. Sadly, the same masses of lawyers and advocates who are today running to the Supreme Court to declare gerrymandering as 'unconstitutional' in any way, shape or form were not as concerned about it in 1984.

The issue of drawing legislative districts is a specific constitutional duty given to state legislatures in Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the US Constitution to coincide with every decennial census.

Alexander Hamilton argued during the ratification process in New York that “the true principle of a republic is, that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.”

When it comes to redistricting, that means state legislatures. Not the Supreme Court. Or the President. Not even the US Congress or Senate. The elected representatives closest to the voters themselves are the elected representatives in state legislatures and general assemblies.

The Supreme Court has assiduously stayed away from issuing firm definitive rules and parameters for redistricting since 1789 mainly because the Court has consistently seen it as an issue specifically reserved for the state legislatures to handle, for better or worse.

Governor Elbridge Gerry himself started it all in 1812 during the War with England, when he signed a state legislative redistricting plan to benefit and advantage his Democratic Republican Party in Massachusetts.

The North Carolina General Assembly has a long and proud history of drawing partisan gerrymandered districts at the federal and state level long before the Republicans took over control in 2010.

All of it by Democrats since at least 1898.

What are some fair, common-sense ways to perhaps put some boundaries on gerrymandering without having the Supreme Court dictate the makeup of every legislative map going forward?

They could rule that in order to insure 'one-man, one-vote' equality of all citizens who are registered to vote, districts should be drawn in a relatively compact, contiguous manner that follows existing county or municipal lines where people have a 'community of interest' they can elect representatives to represent them on.

Rural districts have nothing in common with a big-city representative who doesn't know what ‘gee’ and ‘haw’ means to a farmer. Metropolitan areas don't need to be represented by elected officials who have no idea of what a 2-hour commute is to work since they may walk to work every day to name just one example.

If the Supreme Court unwisely sets specific percentage targets for redistricting by party, what happens if Democrats change their party to ‘Progressive’ and Republicans change their name to ‘Conservative’? Do they have to go rule again?

What happens if parties change philosophy over time as has happened many times in American history? Would the same percentages still hold if the Supreme Court rules in such specificity?

What about Unaffiliateds today? Should they be mechanically drawn into districts so they can win by an arcane formula concocted by a majority of 9 unelected Supreme Court Justices in order to mete out ‘fair representation’ for those registered voters?

If the Supreme Court issues specific dictates governing redistricting, which is clearly a state prerogative in the Constitution, they might as well retroactively disqualify every district drawn in America since 1789 and say the Founders got it all wrong and The Supreme Court should have been the legislative map-drawers from the beginning.

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

If You Are Upset About The Level Of Money In Politics, You Should Support Radical Tax Reform

(first published in North State Journal 10/4/17)

Call your Senator and Congressman and demand they close most tax loopholes in the US tax code if you are upset about the level of money in political campaigns today.

Taking money out of politics is not the main reason to do tax reform.

But it would be a nice benefit, wouldn’t it?

Why would true tax reform take money out of political campaigns?

Huge sums of campaign money come from people and lobbying organizations who want to protect their specific tax exemption, deduction or loophole in the current, stale and sclerotic federal tax code.

If Congress would lower overall tax rates and eliminate as many tax loopholes as humanly possible, the amount of PAC and special interest money flowing to candidates should fall precipitously as well.

In an ideal world where personal and corporate income taxes are replaced by, for example, a single simple consumption tax on billions of transactions made each day in America, there would be next to zero reason to send campaign money to support a candidate other than to keep the consumption tax as low as possible and support a particular political philosophy on one side or the other.

Much of today’s campaign contributions go to protect someone’s ox that might be otherwise be gored one day.

If you are one of the 44 million households that itemize tax returns, ask yourself the following question: ‘Would I rather have all my income each year or the tax deduction I am afraid of losing?’

Chances are your calculus would lead you into the consumption tax camp immediately overnight. You would be taxed on what you purchase, consume or transact every day; if you are frugal, your taxes will be minimal.

If you are like many professional athletes and buy $10 million mansions, you would pay much more in taxes than the average person. Spendthrifts would become the new ‘top 1%’ when it comes to paying taxes.

There are literally thousands of examples of unfair anomalies in the current tax code due to preferential tax treatment.

In 1942, NFL owners got Congress to add the NFL and other professional sports organizations to the list of non-profit entities such as the American Medical Association, Boy Scouts of America and hospitals, colleges and universities in the country that do important charitable work in local communities.

How the NFL ever was compared to the Little Sisters of the Poor in terms of contributions to society is beyond explanation.

What if the tax reform bill now under consideration in Congress set into motion cosmic forces that one day soon led to the abolition of the income tax code in its entirety and replaced it with a simple per-transaction consumption tax?

No 'income tax' would mean 'no reason to shelter your income no matter what size it is’ from federal taxation. There would be no reason for any tax deductions, exemptions or breaks that are usually available only to the highest income earners in America anyway.

And, therefore, no reason for much of the money that goes into campaign spending each year.

A 10% per transaction consumption tax would most likely bring in the same amount of revenue as the current income tax without all of the Rubik's Cube machinations and tax avoidance schemes we have concocted since 1913.

Possibly more since the current tax code shelters enough income to prevent close to $2 trillion of taxes annually from being paid to the federal treasury.

Every time a purchase is made from buying paperclips to a new stadium, each person, entity, company or organization would pay a 10% tax to the federal government at the time of purchase at the checkout counter or closing.

Tax reform in 2017 should be the beginning of tax reform going forward. Not the end.

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today

Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today