Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On Huckabee And Conservatives, Dennis Prager And The Fair Tax, And John McCain's Economy Comments

I still have not been posting regularly, though I have been cruising other Blogs. There is much on my mind that I want to get into. But alas, current considerations come to the front.

First of all, I’ll just mention John McCain’s discussion of the economy, yesterday. I still hold out hope that he might be drawn to the cause of The Fair Tax, the economic promise of which I now consider critical. But John McCain expressed once again, his fervor for constraining spending, which must attend any changes or qualifications in our tax system. McCain’s repeated vow to veto earmarks (“I’ll veto them and make the authors famous…”) Is a first step, but essential and paradigmatic of his resolve that must be applied relative to considerations of government and taxes and spending.

As for taxes, McCain proposed a simpler filing method as option for individuals to the detailed filing of exemptions and deductions. Frankly, as often as I disagree with McCain, his resolve on a few things like this and winning against Islamic fundamentalism almost makes me cry.

Also, I had a Blog exchange about Huckabee, who announced HuckPAC today, and opinion among conservative Bloggers. And, Dennis Prager had segments on his radio program with Georgia Rep. John Linder about The Fair Tax and actor/writer Ben Stein about his movie which opens Friday: “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” I will see the movie and expect that I will comment. But, today I will write about Prager’s embrace and discussion of The Fair Tax. I will send him a letter about some questions that he asked and why The Fair Tax is more important than just being a good idea, which I will post after the Blog exchange.

As part of today’s post, Adam Graham at Huckabee Alliance wrote:

…John Hawkins of Right Wing News did a poll of the right side of the blogosphere. You’ll recall a recent poll showed Huckabee an 18-15% favorite for the VP Spot in a national poll over Mitt Romney. Hawkins right-of center sample of bloggers chose Mitt Romney. This isn’t a huge deal because it’s within the margin of error nationally. However, Huckabee didn’t even show up with the minimum amount of votes to qualify for standing (5 points) and topped the list of least desired Vice-Presidential candidates. Here are the results in Reverse order from #15-#1:

15) Tom Ridge: Former Governor, Pennsylvania (5.0)
14) Tommy Franks: Former General (5.0)
13) Tim Pawlenty: Governor, Minnesota (5.5)
12) Rudy Giuliani: Former Mayor, New York (7.0)
11) Newt Gingrich: Former Congressman, Georgia (7.5)
10) Elizabeth Dole: Senator, North Carolina (7.5)
9) Mel Martinez: Senator, Florida (10.0) Condi Rice: Secretary of State (16.5)
7) Christie Todd Whitman: Former Governor, New Jersey (19.5)
6) Joe Lieberman: Senator, Connecticut (19.5)
5) Charlie Crist: Governor, Florida (20.0)
4) Colin Powell: Former Secretary of State (23.0)
3) Jeb Bush: Former Governor, Florida (23.5)
2) Lindsey Graham: Senator, South Carolina (26.5)
1) Mike Huckabee: Former Governor, Arkansas (42)
First of all, I don’t know what Tommy Franks did get on somebody’s naughty list. However, among elite conservative bloggers, a McCain-Huckabee ticket would be worse than a ticket with a pro-choicer on it (McCain-Ridge/McCain-Giuliani/McCain-Rice/McCain-Whitman, McCain-Powell), a Democrat (also pro-choice) (McCain-Lieberman), an illegible candidate (McCain-Martinez), and McCain’s co-leader in pushing for amnesty while attacking all amnesty opponents as bigots (McCain-Graham.) It’s shocking, really. Let’s no longer call this group, the rightosphere, let us call them instead the out-of-touchosphere. If there’s a been a reason for good cultural conservative to start and build strong blogs, this is exhibit A.
Larry

This year was very informative for me as a lifelong philosophical conservative, with all the "conservative" criticism of Huckabee. I zeroed in on three elements that inspired that animosity against Huckabee. Firstly, the establishment political commenters, writers and organizers were just culturally uncomfortable with Huckabee's unblushing profession of evangelical faith. A lot of the standard criticisms were cited, but I think at bottom this was just a little gauche in the circles they travel in. Note that many of them embraced the Mormon Romney, whose dogma was even more different. But, he was more duly modest about it, never saying pop-culturally uncouth (never mind that it is very appropriate) things like "My faith not only informs me, it defines me." For example, it animates his respect for life, the poor, justice, freedom, creation...all quite legitimate, as long as God has nothing to do with it.

Secondly, high-dollar economic conservatives didn't like The Fair Tax, which would tax the extravagances usually written off as "business expenses. For example, think of the tax on a corporate jet. When I was a salesman, we and our guests ate very well: it was all "written off."

But, in the case of most of these Bloggers, I think it was just a visceral reaction, confirmed by other critics, against Huckabee's gracious consideration of typically un-Republican issues and populations: what became referred to (largely erroneously) as Huckabee's "populism." He talked about "Main Street." and environmental stewardship, got union endorsements, affirmed the concerns of minorities, etc. In the minds of these people, all of this squared with charges, sincere and political, of "liberalism," which of course made many conservatives' skin crawl.


Dennis Prager:

I’m glad to see you firming up on support for The Fair Tax. I want address three things with regard to your discussion today. First and briefly, as you have before, you questioned why it is named “The Fair Tax.” The answer explains both why it is fair and why many wealthy individuals and traders tend to oppose it. Warren Buffett recently challenged corporate officers that he would give a million dollars if they could prove that they paid taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries. Last I heard, there were no takers. Right now, the very wealthy have teams of experts to “write off” every luxury as a “business expense. Heck, salesman of corporations and clients and prospective clients always eat and drink very well. Why not? It’s all “written off.” Now, think of a 23% sales tax on items like jets and yachts and such: EVERYTHING that was heretofore a “write off,” would be taxed at 23% under The Fair Tax. Corporate officers would rather pay their teams of tax preparers and keep their “write offs” than have tax free businesses and capital gains and have to pay 23% on every extravagance. As I say, “people accustomed to privilege aren’t real excited about fairness.”

Secondly and most importantly, The Fair Tax is no longer just a good idea. The economic activity that its implementation would provoke is the only way I can see that America may meet the tsunami of entitlement liability that it has taken on that is now upon us, and hopefully without calamitous tax increases, benefit cuts, and monetary inflation, which is taxation by another name. Strangely, there is not enough focus on this. But hyper-inflation and probably both huge tax increases and benefit cuts are inevitable if something dramatic is not done: watch the value of your reserves and investments evaporate.

Thirdly, you asked about what would be problems with The Fair Tax. In short, there will be problems, but they are relatively negligible compared to the current system. My biggest concern has been that, especially in the Internet age, there will be great appeal to saving taxes on expensive items by trying to ship items into the US from tax-free offshore sources. Linder says things will be taxed when brought into the country, and they should be to keep American enterprise on an equal footing. But monitoring smuggling across our borders, and appraising and assessing all items shipped in, which will have to included elaborate scanning and invasion of packages, will be no small endeavor. But the crime of tax-evading smuggling raises the question of other even internal tax-evasion. For one thing, barter will expand dramatically. But goods will also be sold on the street in an expanded “black-market. Think for example, of tax-free jewelry and electronics: a 23% saving will be a huge inducement to this kind of dealing.

Yes, all of these will be HUGE considerations. But, at least, this tax-evasion will be stark and indisputable crime. Under the current system, the “crime” is usually very gray and technical, and conviction involves elaborate and expensive prosecution. Deductions and exemptions are claimed and accepted or denied, and adjudicated in long trials. In truth, we may (and I hope we) find that much more of our commerce and especially our government function should be reigned in to state and local jurisdictions. Wouldn’t you rather see local police and courts restraining and prosecuting the crooks on the street?

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