It is April 15, also know as Tax Day in the United States. For me personally it is an interesting day. On one hand I believe the current progressive tax system utilized in the United States is actually regressive and prevents poor people from advancing their financial lot in life. But on the other hand I married a wonderful tax preparer ten years ago. My wife and I now own a business that specializes in payroll and income taxes. Seeing first hand the impact taxes have on people’s lives has actually reinforced my belief the current tax system is regressive. But that’s a post for a different day…
Last year I posted 5 great Tax Day songs. Here is a list of 5 more tax-related songs to ‘celebrate’ Tax Day 2014.
The first song comes from The Who. This song basically looks at the troubles that comes from success. Particularly success catches the attention of the tax man in this line: “Six for the tax man, and one for the band.”
I think Johnny Cash summed up well the feeling many people have about the current tax system: “‘Cause from those total wages earned, Down to that net amount that’s due, I fee the painful sense of loss between the two.”
Now is a song I feel belongs, but almost kept of the list because it goes way beyond problems with the tax system. Marvin Gaye recorded this song before I was even born, yet the many problems he lists in this masterful work seem all the more relevant today. Specifically for this post, I am taking note of Gaye talking about not being able to pay taxes due to bad breaks. Many Americans can relate to that today. But even more important in this song is the mention of inflation. Inflation in the United States is actually purposely created by the Federal Reserve and through Congressional spending. It is the biggest and most regressive form of taxation on the poor. Anyway, here is the song:
And now to Willie Nelson. This song is definitely a familiar situation for those trying to do better in life. Among the many things making it hard to keep going is the “money went to taxes”.
Finally I have to include a song from Remy. Just in time for Tax Day he has released a new song (that is a rework of Pharrell Williams song “Happy”).
I don’t know why I even try to keep myself to just five songs. Here are a couple more songs that are worthy of mention on Tax Day.
This is an older song from Remy, but I actually think it says even more about our current tax system than his newer song.
This is one I came up while searching YouTube. I think this song sums up my feeling pretty well.
Another song I found while searching YouTube. A piece of satire to the tune of American Pie.
Happy “Tax Day” everyone!
The District 23 House will be one of the more interesting legislative races in South Dakota this year. Any candidate hoping to win a legislative race in this district will have some traveling to do. And since every entry in the race is in the Republican primary, trying to figure out how to reach such a large area before June 3 is going to be a logistical and campaign finance nightmare. Luckily there be a series of Candidate Forums in District 23 to make it easier for constituents and candidates to interface.
The candidate forums are being organized by Concerned Citizens of District 23. Contact info for the group can be seen in the flier at the end of this post. Here are the events scheduled by this group over the next couple of weeks:
- April 14 – Bowdle – 7pm (Edmunds county)
- April 15 – Eureka – 7pm (McPherson County)
Prime TIme Bar & Restaurant- Main Street
- April 21 – Ipswich – 7pm (Edmunds County)
Edmunds County Courthouse Community Room (2nd Floor)
- April 24 – Gettysburg – 7pm (Potter County)
Gettysburg Fire Hall – 417 W Garfield Ave
- April 28 – Miller – 7pm (Hand County)
- April 29 – Faulkton – 7pm (Faulk County)
Community Center (West End of School – South Side of Highway)
I plan to attend at least one of the events, most likely the on in Ipswich since it is just a short drive down Highway 12 from Aberdeen. The physical distance between some of these events shows how great of an area district 23 covers. The map of district 23 (included in this post) shows it includes all of the following 6 counties: Campbell, McPherson, Walworth, Edmunds, Potter, Faulk,and Hand. Plus there is a just a little bit of Spink county that is included in District 23. That is one heck of an area for candidates to try canvassing. The redistricting performed a couple of years ago really left these candidates with a large and odd-shaped district to contend with.
Speaking of candidates. Here are the candidates seeking a legislative seat in District 23 this year.
District 23 House Race.
Incumbent Republican Representative Charlie Hoffman decided not to see reelection in 2014. The other incumbent Republican Representative Justin Cronin is seeking re-election. With Hoffman vacating his seat there are four others seeking to win the Republican primary. Nobody entered the race as a Democrat. The two candidates that win the Republican primary will by default win the general election due to a lack of registered Democrats entering the race. Here are the five that will be in the District 23 House race going after the two seats:
- Justin Cronin – As the only incumbent in the race it is expected he will easily retain his seat.
- Larry Nielson – I’ve met with Larry a couple of times and believe he would be a good candidate for those of us that believe in limited government. His biggest handicap in this race is living in Tulare, which puts him in that little piece of District 23 that is in Spink County.
- Dale Hargens – Earlier in this post I was careful to say there weren’t any “registered Democrats” in this race. I say that because Dale Hargens is a former Democrat legislator. In 2003-2004 Hargens was the Democrat Minority Whip and in 2005-2008 he was the Democrat Minority Leader. I’ll wait until I get a chance to speak with him before commenting on his change of party.
- Gene Toennies – I know very little about Toennies. Hopefully I can speak with him at one of the forums to see how this candidate from Cresbard stands on issues.
- Michele Harrison – I don’t really know a lot about her as a candidate. But living in Mobridge is a huge advantage in this race. I believe Mobridge is the highest population town in District 23. I will be interested to hear what she has to say at one of the forums.
District 23 Senate race.
The District 23 Senate race is drastically less interesting. The only candidate in this race is incumbent Republican Senator Corey Brown. It’s sad to see a lack of opposition in any race… I think it can be pretty much assumed the candidate forums are focused purely upon the House primary, and not on Senator Brown.
Yesterday the South Dakota Newspaper Association hosted a debate for the five Republicans seeking to win the primary in the US Senate race. The replay can be watched on the Argus Leader website. This is actually the first time all five candidates have been together in a debate forum. There were good and bad parts to this debate. Because of some shortcomings in the debate I believe Republican primary voters deserve more of these debates before making their decision on June 3. In this post I will look at how the debate was ran by the SDNA, and then some thoughts on what each candidate said.
How well was the debate run?
First I would like to focus on how the debate was moderated. The SDNA did a great job setting the ground rules and keeping the questions flowing. I hope future debate moderators will look at how this event was run and take notes accordingly. Maybe each question could be allowed a little more time, but not too much more.
The only real problem I had with the debates proceedings were some of the questions. The three asking questions were reporters from within the State of South Dakota. There were a few questions I felt were out-of-place for a Republican primary. In particular one question was staged as a statement disputing the typical Republican response to climate change. If a reporter wants to preach about their favorite political stance of the left they can do that for their newspaper. The audience for the debate was presumably Republican primary voters; who were not tuning in to get a lecture from a high-and-mighty reporter (remember when mainstream media reporters at least pretended to be non-partisan?). Even without that question, I felt there were very few substantive topics being discussed. Hopefully those running future debates will take that into account as well…
Now, on to the candidates! I will go in the order they drew to speak.
Many are treating Mike Rounds as the presumed winner of the Senate race this fall; and I believe mistakenly so. Watching him in the debate it is quite obvious why he avoided earlier debates (his supporters claimed the earlier debates were ‘too soon’, this trying to defend a candidate that entered the race 2 years before the election). On the first question he actually said he wouldn’t answer it and spoke on something else. Most of the debate he spent saying his current campaign catchphrase “South Dakota common sense”. He is using the old campaign trick used by politicians to get all statements to fall within that catchphrase; which sounds really good, but says nothing! His campaign staff is probably proud of his performance, but voters should be disappointed in the lack of substance from such a high-profile candidate.
When talking about Obamacare I was disappointed to hear him say that he has always fought against Obamacare. I would have preferred for him to be more honest and admit the legislation he helped implement to align South Dakota law with ACA. He actually could have used that as a point to show how the Federal government is strong-arming states into complying with over-reaching federal laws. Instead he pretended it didn’t happen. Unfortunately all fifty states had to make legislative changes to align with ACA, including SD. Pretending that didn’t happen makes it look like Rounds secretly supports ACA. I don’t really think Rounds supports Obamacare, but he didn’t fight against it or even try to bring attention to what our state was forced to change in our laws to comply with ACA.
EB-5 of course came up. He still fully supports EB-5 as a jobs creator. He also says no South Dakota money was lost in the use of EB-5 funding. That point is debatable. Rounds continued support of the EB-5 program is disheartening from a fiscal conservative standpoint. I would much rather see Rounds say “Hey, I thought it would work out, it didn’t”. Instead of continuing to support EB-5, Rounds should be fighting to remove the government from choosing winners and losers in the market. Maybe the primary process will bring out some unseen fiscal conservativeness before June 3…
On the good side I was happy to see Rounds mention the War on Coal being waged by the Obama administration. If he does make it to DC I hope he will remember his words and actively fight to protect jobs from over-reaching federal regulations that are killing our economy. He also mentioned the coal we don’t use here simply gets shipped to China and used there; and China does not have the technology in place to burn coal as cleanly as the United States does. If Rounds can stick to talking points like this he might actually sound like a limited-government Republican.
I also hopes he remembers saying the federal Department of Education needs to go away. Perhaps like most people he didn’t understand what Common Core was about when he was Governor and his administration began our state down the path of centralized education. A lack of knowledge of what actually happened while he was Governor is a recurring theme though…….
I don’t think it would be a surprise for any reader of this blog to know I support Nelson in this race. His answers were in stark contrast to those of Rounds. EB-5 in particular is an example of how the two are different. Nelson would push for the EB-5 program to be eliminated completely. Nelson listed many ways the EB-5 program is crony capitalistic and a likely place for corruption. This to me is the key as to why I support Nelson in this race: I believe South Dakota would be best served with a US Senator that will fight to remove federal influence from the free market. Currently there are very few portions of our economy that actually has any semblance of free market. We need representation in DC that will actually try to bring some free market principles forth as solutions.
When speaking of Obamacare Nelson mentioned how the Rounds administration, and the legislature at that time, helped to enact laws in South Dakota so the state would align with ACA’s requirements. This is something Nelson has been bringing up this whole campaign. Somehow mentioning these actions is categorized as an ‘attack’ that breaks Reagan’s 11th Commandment. I disagree (I’ve posted on this before). When Nelson says he would fight to repeal Obamcare and implement free market principles in its place I believe him.
To me the area Nelson did best in was when talking about the Ryan budget. Nelson says the Ryan budget is a good start, but doesn’t go far enough. He says his experience working within the military gives him insight into parts of the National Defense budget that could, and should, be cut. This is an area all Republicans should be looking to when balancing the budget. That doesn’t even mean reducing the power of our military. I means finding portions of the military spending that are no longer needed, and are only around so politicians can continue to get special interest money.
The only problem I had with Nelson in this debate is that I thought he went off topic a few more times than he needed to. I agree with him that special interest money’s are bad. But making a variation of the same message each round can make the viewers forget some of the other specifics they viewed during the debate. It might be a good way to get a message out, but its a bad method to use if he wants people to remember more than one takeaway point.
Mike Rounds & Stace Nelson
Before going on I’ll mention Rounds did actually bare his teeth and go on the offensive against Nelson. I was surprised to see him do it. He mentioned Nelson getting kicked out of the Republican Caucus while serving in Pierre. Nelson said that was done by moderates. Stace has been working hard to ensure limited-government concepts are present in Pierre. That at times has had him at odds with leadership in Pierre. I think the fact he was willing to stand up to leadership based upon conservative principles shows Nelson is the type of representative needed in DC!
Rounds also mentioned the press conference that Nelson had held with liberal Senate candidate Rick Weiland. Anyone that actually watched the press conference with Nelson and Weiland could not come away seeing the two as ‘allies’. In fact other than hating special interest money I didn’t hear anything in that news conference that the two agreed upon.
Some will say it was time for Rounds to start attacking back because of the constant attacks from Nelson. The difference though is that Nelson is attacking Rounds record as a SD legislator and executive actions as a SD Governor. Rounds attacks on Nelson had nothing do with actual legislative records or executive actions. But that is how I see it, primary voters may see it differently… It was interesting to see Rounds drop his Mr Nice Guy face though…
Due to the inconsistencies in her nominating petition (which is likely to be fraudulent) and other questionable activities from her campaign, I have previously said I wouldn’t give her campaign much attention. That remains to be true. I think she did horrible and had no substance in this debate anyhow…
Jason did a lot better than I thought an inexperienced politician would do. This is his first time running for office, and its a big race at that. Of all the candidates in the attendance he had the most ‘answers’. I disagreed with some of his answers, but I definitely respect that he is offering forth solutions.
When talking about Obamacare Ravnsborg promoted the Patient CARE Act as a replacement to ACA. This is an act brought forth by Sens. Burr, Coburn & Hatch. It includes many of the parts of ACA that people like, without the hundreds of pages of unrealistic regulation. Personally I don’t like the Patient CARE Act, but think it is good for candidates to discuss such alternatives. A big point Ravnsborg was trying to make is that the Republican Party as a whole has been poor at providing alternatives and has become known as the “Party of NO”. I do feel if he is elected Senator he would fight to change that “Party of NO” reputation.
Other areas Ravnsborg had some answers for were the budget by supporting the “penny plan” and supporting Senator Grassley to repeal EB-5. Most of his answers seem to be latching on to solutions already provided by Senators in DC and promoting them. I think that is a fair way for a candidate to proceed. No single person can have the answer to everything and Ravnsborg seems to understand that.
The main negative I have with Ravnsborg is his lack of experience. I think that can be good. But his lack of even a little state legislative experience means there is no record to run on. Maybe if he keeps offering answers to everything like he did in this debate, he can use that as a replacement to an actual record.
Rhoden was typical for him. He made some nice conservative talking points, but he had no fire in him. I actually think many voters that prefer a more moderate conservative would choose Rhoden over Rounds if they could connect with him. Rhoden has to find a way to actually connect with his audience, until that happens a race as the US Senate is out of his reach. Also he wouldn’t answer the EB-5 question because he didn’t have enough facts… That makes him seem somewhat disconnected from issues.
On the good side I really wish he had more time to expand on the strengthening of HSA’s. Part of Obamacare actually reduced the effectiveness of HSA’s, and Rhoden understands that. Here was a taxation part of the medical insurance industry that was actually helping families, and Obamacare has essentially killed it. Other candidates need to latch on to specific parts of ACA like this and show how it is hurting Americans.
Other good areas from Rhoden include using the Indian Reservations as an example of failed federal entitlement systems, opposing the ‘fact’ that climate change as described in the question is correct, and his personal experience as a legislator fighting against the EPA. If he could stick to topics such as these and show some emotion then maybe he can connect with more voters.
So who won?
I don’t think any ‘winner’ can be called for this debate. While I think the format was great, that wasn’t enough to provide an environment for there to be a clear winner. Too many of the questions were setup in a way that made them bad topics for a Republican primary. Personally I think my candidate of choice, Stace Nelson, did quite well. I would also say that Ravnsborg showed a lot more promise than he has in the past. Other than that it wasn’t really a debate anyone could say “X won this debate hands down!”. Maybe in a future debate we can get better questions..
Common Core continues to be quite a contentious issue nationally and locally. As a part of the Common Core Standards implementation has also been the transition to “Investigations” math. There are some parts of Investigations I quite like. But one part I don’t like is the idea that having a correct answer is less important than the steps taken to get an answer. Tests used with investigations can actually give a higher score to an incorrect answer with all work shown than a correct answer with no work shown. Today while watching old Abbott & Costello videos I found the perfect situation for Investigations math to be used. Here is the YouTube clip of the Abbott & Costello routine “28″:
And there you have it. By using Investigations math Costello would have gotten a high score by showing 13 x 7 = 28. Costello was decades ahead of the education system and he didn’t even know it!
Since I’m posting old videos I think its worth once again posting this classic Tom Lehrer bit of satire talking about the “New Math” movement back in 60′s.
Don’t miss the Brown County Republicans Reagan lunch tomorrow featuring US Senate candidate Stace Nelson
Tomorrow, April 9, will be the monthly Reagan Lunch hosted by the Brown County Republicans in Aberdeen. The event is from noon-1pm at Mavericks. If you are in the Aberdeen area this is a great opportunity to meet Stace Nelson in person.
For those that have yet to hear about Stace Nelson, here is a snippet about him from StaceNelson.com:
Stace Nelson is a proud 4th generation South Dakotan, Marine, State Representative and Christian family man. He was raised in Salem, Sioux Falls, and Mitchell area and graduated from Mitchell High School in 1985. Even before graduating, he followed a family tradition of enlisting in the service and served the country as a Marine and federal cop for over 23 years.
In 2010, he was elected to be a State Representative serving District 19 and holds a proud conservative voting record unmatched in the state.
• 2011 Session Republican Platform Voting Score Card
• 2011 South Dakota Freedom Index Report
He and his wife Aiza have six children and two grandchildren.
“I am who I am today because of my relationship with God. He has blessed, guided, and carried me through my whole life. With your support, and His hand on my shoulder, I will serve your interests and protect your rights in the United States Senate.”
In other Brown County Republican news, The Lincoln Day Dinner is set for Tuesday, April 22nd, at the Ramkota in Aberdeen. Governor Dennis Daugaard is the keynote speaker. Get your tickets by calling Char Cornelius, Bud Morris or Wayne Bierman. We will deliver the tickets to you.
I hope to see a good attendance at both events!
This week the US House of Representatives is focused on the federal budget. Among the bills going through the House is HR 1871: the Baseline Reform Act 0f 2013. The bill technically isn’t new, it was introduced last year (hence the reason it is a 2013 act) and in 2012 as HR 3578. Even though the idea isn’t new I think it is a bill that needs to be passed. The Baseline Reform Act actually has the potential to at least slightly slow down the growth of the federal government.
Currently federal budget baselines for discretionary spending are set to the prior years budget levels plus inflation. Ending this practice of automatic discretionary spending increases each year could go a long way in slowing down the monstrous growth of government programs. This is a good first step in trying to actually reduce the nations debt problem. Realistically it won’t do much to reduce the deficit or debt, but at least its a step in the right direction.
A second reason the bill is good is the very reason many Democrats were speaking against it: because it can be used as a way to cut off extra funding from certain federal programs. Exactly! It is just shy of impossible to end a federal program once it has started. Under the current appropriations process even the worse of federal programs will get an automatic budgetary increase each year. That is just crazy. Federal programs should have to operate like departments do for large companies in the private sector. Generally each department for a company in the private sector has to request increases and provide reasons for any budgetary increases. That is just sound fiscal policy.
It must also be noted that budget creators can still increase all of the budgets each year. All this change would do is stop the CBO from starting the baseline each year with an automatic budgetary increase. There is also a potential this new method could backfire and allow budget appropriators to give increases above inflation without anyone really realizing it. In this case though I think it is worth the risk to try this approach.
The bad news is the bill is unlikely to be brought up in the Senate. Senator Reid has proven to more obstructionist as the Senate Majority Leader than Representative Boehner has been as the Speaker of the House (both are horrible, but Reid is slightly more of a dictator). Reid will not allow any bills to be brought up that would put his Democrat allies in a rough position politically. So realistically this bill will die again this year. Next year there is hope for the bill passing. The 2014 election has the potential to tip the balance of power in the Senate. At that time it will be interesting to see if DC Republicans retain their current top priority of reducing federal debt and actually passing bills such as this through both houses (I have my doubts, the Bush years are still fresh in my mind).
Today I finally had some time to actually read the MCCUTCHEON ET AL. v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION brief. I’ve waiting to actually post anything about the SCOTUS ruling until I’ve actually read it. From a civil liberty perspective SCOTUS got this decision right. That doesn’t mean anyone has to like special interest money in politics. It just means that anyone fighting against that special interest money should do so in a way that respect the liberties of everyone; including those they stand opposed to.
I have always found it odd that anyone that respects freedom of speech, freedom of association, or civil liberties would support a law that prevents people from backing as many candidates as they wish. Life is a not a video game. There isn’t a “free speech meter” that gets used up after showing support for an arbitrary amount of candidates. Trying to limit the amount of candidates a person can contribute to was nothing short of trying to remove money out of politics. This is not allowed. Here is the opening paragraph from the briefing, which basically shows why the McMutcheon ruling is correct:
The right to participate in democracy through political contributions is protected by the First Amendment, but that right is not absolute.Congress may regulate campaign contributions to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption. See, e.g., Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 26–27. It may not, however, regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics, or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others. See, e.g., Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, 564 U. S. ___, ___.
There are no corruption concerns that come up with contributing to multiple candidates. People may not like that it happens, but that doesn’t make it wrong. The key part is “or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others”. In other words the rights of each individual are equal; Congress cannot pass a law that removes some free speech rights from one citizen and give it to another. That is basically what limiting the amount of candidates someone can contribute to had done. By reducing the ability of McCutcheon to exercise his free speech as he wished, it actually provided a greater voice for others that were contributing to other candidates. That is a form of progressivism I find most disturbing: rights redistribution.
There are ways to fight against the big money of special interest groups without actually trying to trample the rights of others. But almost all of the ways I can think of require voters that actually care about where money comes from and where it is going. There are many websites and non-mainstream media sources available that actually provide this information to the public. If people truly want to fight against special interest money in politics there is information available to fight against it.
One last point to remember is that special interest groups exist for almost any topic that can be thought of. Restricting the speech of sources that are ‘undesired’ will also restrict the speech of sources that are desired. This point was quite well made by Chief Justice Roberts when he wrote:
Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects. If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades—despite the profound offense such spectacles cause—it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.
It is time for those pushing to overturn Citizens United (and now McCutcheon) to give up that anti-liberty approach and find ways to fight special interest money without trampling the First Amendment.