Monday, January 7, 2008

McCain, Romney, Giuliani, Paul, Huckabee

Dennis Prager’s thoughts about John McCain are accurate. He believes in restraining imprudent spending and a strong America with resolve against terrorism. And, he is a noble and sincere man, who generally follows his heart. But, his heart is not constrained by a lucid ideal about the proprieties and capacities of the federal government. Perhaps that relative ambiguity has permitted him to acclimate to the misguided culture of Washington, which tends to see itself as master of everything. And, it results in incongruities such as Prager mentions.

I think that Mitt Romney is obviously a competent man and probably a good man, with an obviously good and loyal family. But, I suspect that both his ambition and his great wealth incline him to be pliant in his assertions and intolerant of potential disappointment. To me, this has created a desperate and misleading candidate. Maybe he could have done better, but he hasn’t.

Personally, I LIKE Rudy Giuliani and would recommend him for many jobs. But, one of them is NOT chief executive of The United States, charged with protecting and defending The Constitution, which to me he seems plainly not to understand. I AM a conservative who believes that a culture is in decline that is loosing its respect for human life, especially its own offspring. I believe that a culture that does that can express selfishness and incivility in every area of human commerce. It is striking to me that no political party will generally affront a core constituency. Democrats for example, would understandably never nominate someone who had breathed a word to drive away any homosexual, even though that relatively small constituency is not uniform. Republicans would not nominate someone who called for expanding federal power and taxation, or for the collection of private firearms.

Interestingly though, I think because of pop-culture, put forward early and many lined up behind, a man who does not embrace a defining confession of the largest constituency in America in either party. Is this because they became accustomed to delivering a nominee and watching social conservatives line up to support him, and finally decided to go for broke? Hey, it worked for Pat Robertson, who obviously is not a shepherd, at least any more. But, the brazenness is very striking. I mentioned pop-culture: if media did not largely endorse and promote treating human life as a matter of personal expedience, no politician would endorse that; not even Democrats, I don’t think. “Pro-choicers” would be a smaller constituency than Ron Paul’s.

Speaking of whom, I think Ron Paul WILL make a showing in New Hampshire, competing with Huckabee and Giuliani for third. But, I think that will be his high-water mark. Paul is smart and he is philosophically clear. Unfortunately, his philosophy entails severe moral and security blind spots. Ron Paul has a floor to his support: an intense group will always support him. But, he also has a definite ceiling: He will never gather even 10-15% of Republican support, nationally.

I want to understand your misgivings about Mike Huckabee. Full disclosure: I am an ardent and longtime Huckabee supporter. You played an expression of his firmness about terrorist aggression. Taxes? Just look at the facts not the scuttlebutt, available on the web. As a governor, he had to balance budgets and make state government work, renewing inadequate road and education systems and improving public parks. Yes, in ten and a half years, taxes increased in Arkansas by 500 million dollars. But, the percentage of tax burden increased at half the rate of the average state, over that time. And, the improvements were measurable in all cases. And, Huckabee understand and often cites the difference between the province of state and feral government defined in the 10th Amendment.

I spoke with you a couple of months ago about the smoking ban clamor, saying that he approved a workplace regulation, in response to a Chris Matthews question, and, that he would not target private smoking accommodations. Again, just look at the record: a ban was passed in Arkansas, exempting businesses that catered only to adults or with three or fewer employees. I also cite the black and white fact that the federal government has in fact, assumed a HUGE liability for future medical costs. Discouraging unhealthy behavior is bare humane and fiscal prudence. The hostility some have toward Huckabee is not justified, certainly by facts cited. And, frankly, I am WAY more conservative philosophically than Dennis Prager or any of the vocal Huckabee critics, and my history shows it. Prager once described himself as a having been a Kennedy Democrat. Not me. Economically, George Will once said, “We’re all Keynesians, now.” No, we’re not


Stephen R. Maloney said...

Fair-Tax a Non-Starter? My friend and economic advisor Jerry Bowyer has raised many disturbing questions about the so-called (miscalled?) fair tax. Here's his article.

Questions for the Fair Tax Crowd
by Jerry Bowyer

Why do you think that a sales tax is less prone to corruption and complexity than an income tax?

When the income tax was originally promoted by William Jennings Bryan and other populists it was labeled as being fairer, since it would not hit the poor. When initially implemented it was very simple. However, over time special interest groups were able to lobby for exemptions, deductions, and other special treatment. Why would a sales tax not undergo the same process? Does the fair tax somehow magically abolish selfishness?

Are sales taxes, where they are currently in operation, simple and free from special interest lobbying?

The Europeans have a sales tax, called the VAT, which is extremely complex. Why wouldn’t that happen here? States have sales taxes, which, even despite their low rates still have long lists of items which are exempt or not exempt, and they still have people who cheat on them. If this happens at low rates, why wouldn’t it happen at much higher rates? Does moving the concept from Europe to the U.S., or from the State level to the national level, somehow render the legislative process more pure? If so, why is our income tax so riddled with complexity and special pleading to begin with?

Does it apply to non-profits?

If so, then they’ve become taxable and it would discourage charity. Also, wouldn’t churches become taxable? Aren’t there constitutional issues here? If not, then the tax advantage of non-profits disappears. If they’d be taxed the same way as businesses, wouldn’t this remove a great deal of tax encouragement for non-profit enterprise and shift talent and treasure away from that sector?

Are used goods, non-taxable?

If so, this means less goods production, more yard sales, eBay stuff, etc. Won’t this hurt traditional retailers and goods producers? Why wouldn’t this encourage evasion through rehabilitation? After all what exactly constitutes New vs. Used? If I repair a car, it’s used, but what if I upgrade it? New engine, but old chassis, is that new or used? Computers, too. New hard-drive, but old CPU; is that new or used? How does this not get complicated?

What about the transition period?

Before the sales tax takes effect, won’t there be a buying binge? Afterwards, won’t there be a buying drought? If so, doesn’t that cause a debt spike to finance purchases before the ‘sale’ ends? The implications for banking and currency policy are way too complicated for me to foresee.

Isn’t it true that the rate is not really 23% but 30% at least, because it’s tax-inclusive?

And even this does not count dynamic effects in which changed behavior and evasion narrow the base and raise the rate.

How do we determine the interest portion of mortgage payment?

If non-specified, business will simply give big discounts on price and then make up for it in the interest calculation, as interest is deemed non-taxable. These calculations are highly malleable and can become very complex. Homes will be financed with low-ball prices and high interest rates, and sup-prime mortgages will skyrocket.

If a cap is put on excludable interest, then at what rate? Federal rates? That makes the Fed a tax-setting agency and hyper-politicizes monetary policy.


Mr. Bowyer is chief economist of BenchMark Financial Network and a CNBC contributor.

WA for Mike said...

I think that Mike Huckabee is the best choice for America.
Mitt Romney has changed his views to many times for me. Mccain is just a little to liberal, and so is Giuliani.

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