September 4, 2015

“Starve The Beast”

  5:07 pm

There is a consensus on the Right that our current tax code, which is expressed concisely in a little more than 73 thousand pages, needs to be simplified. It takes us literally billions of man hours a year to fill out the paperwork, keep detailed records, and deal with IRS agents when audited. And it takes hundreds of billions of dollars in total costs as well. Much of this goes to specialists such as tax attorneys and tax accountants, and employs lots of experts at every major company in America. Maybe all of this could be avoided and all those man hours and billions of dollars could be reallocated toward more productive pursuits? Or just to leisure or family life?

The three types of plans that have been talked about or proposed are The Fair Tax, a flat tax, or a simpler and fairer version of our current system that combine lower rates per tier and fewer tiers with fewer loopholes. I’ve already written two FPPs on The Fair Tax, espoused by Mike Huckabee, and which is pending before both the Senate and the House.

Jeb Bush is going to come out with his specifics on tax code revision next week, which will flesh out part of  his plan to increase economic growth to 4% and above. He’s said he’s really excited about it, and people will see a lot of ads for it later in the campaign.

Sometime this month, Donald Trump has promised to reveal a specific tax code reform. Marco Rubio has already proposed a 3-tier plan, designed by Senator Mike Lee of Utah, that deserves its own FPP.

Other candidates on our side have hinted or weighed in on the subject. Ted Cruz has suggested we need a flat tax that allows a citizen to file his return on a post card. In a similar vein, Ben Carson has suggested a Biblical tithe of 10%, but hasn’t addressed the obvious questions pertaining to one, such as how to reach a balanced budget, ever, with a 10% flat tax.

The most appealing flat tax proposal comes from Rand Paul.  He calls for a 14.5% flat tax that would eliminate the payroll tax, and most deductions.  More than one Economist who has analyzed it asserts that it would be the most pro-growth tax cut in history.

Rand says “I want to see an America where our business taxes are the lowest in the world, not the highest.  I want to see an America where regulations wither away and we can compete again worldwide.”  He stressed that his plan is not revenue neutral because government is so big already that it’s strangling the economy .  What he wants to do is make government smaller while moving toward a balanced budget within 5 years.  He is the one candidate who has actually drawn up a series of successive federal budgets that will balance while less revenue comes in.  “If we want the economy to grow again…if we want America to be great again, our government must become significantly smaller,” he says.

“I believe that the only way to rein in big government is to starve the beast.”

Statistics have long shown that every time the government takes in a dollar, it spends more than a dollar.  Thus, his proposed reform of the tax code would usher in the largest tax cut in history and it proves that Rand is unafraid to take on the leviathan state.


Trump Doubles Down, Calls Hugh Hewitt a “Third Rate Radio Announcer”

  10:58 am

Last night, Donald Trump suffered what may be the worst political interview since Sarah Palin’s debacle with Katie Couric in 2008. Social media was exploding with incredulity – not only at how badly Trump had done and his utter lack of knowledge, but also (and perhaps more importantly) how Trump handled the fallout. When the interview started going public and Trump realized just how bad it made him look, he complained about “gotcha” questions, said Hugh was unfair, and floated the idea that maybe he would boycott Hugh’s show from now on.

Because Hugh had the gall to ask a wannabe Commander-in-Chief basic questions about one of the most important foreign policy locations on the globe.

This morning, Trump is doubling down on his ridiculousness, calling Hugh Hewitt “a third rate radio announcer.”

(By the way, I love the response of Dave Weigel, from the Washington Post, to that statement: “At least he didn’t think Hugh Hewitt was the leader of Hezbollah.”)

Look – I’m not sure how many times Donald Trump can get away with being completely absurd and denigrating those who make him look foolish, but I do know this: picking a fight with Hugh Hewitt is a bad idea. (Like throwing rocks at a gunfighter, as one commenter put it.) Hugh is one of the best, if not the best, in the business today. He has as reputation as a solid conservative who is incredibly fair and also not afraid to ask the tough questions of fellow conservatives (or of liberal Democrats, in Donald Trump’s case). He is beloved by everyone around the blogosphere. Donald Trump likes to throw around the adjective “classy” far too much; the irony here is Hugh is truly the definition of the word. Hugh is a friend to Race, going back many years, and we here at Race are proud to support his blog, his radio show, and him as a person. So in a fight between Donald Trump and Hugh Hewitt, we will side with Hugh 100 times out of 100. I suspect Donald Trump will find something similar brewing this morning around the rest of the conservative blogosphere, and for a campaign that is built entirely on manufactured perception and hype, that could be a problem.

Of course, Donald Trump will still have hypocritical hype machines like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and others to carry his poisoned water for him. (As conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin said, “I can hardly wait for know nothing radio hosts to side with know nothing Trump over Hugh.”) There used to be a sort of solidarity among conservative commentators; now, as Trump’s followers blindly buy into his divisive rhetoric and turgid bomb-throwing, cracks are appearing all over the place. One wonders just how many bridges Donald Trump will burn before causing a critical mass to abandon him to his own destructively selfish ends.

An interesting side angle to this dust up: Hugh Hewitt will be one of the moderators at the CNN/Reagan Library debate in a couple weeks. Mr. Trump, I recommend you study up before hitting that stage.


September 3, 2015

Trump Flops in Hugh Hewitt Interview

  10:03 pm

My Twitter feed is exploding right now with negative reactions to Donald Trump’s horrible interview with Hugh Hewitt. It was a failure of epic proportions, along the lines of Sarah Palin’s CBS interview or Herman Cain‘s multiple interview stumbles on foreign policy.

For those who want to listen to the train wreck, there’s a link here:

And the rest of the reactions are just as bad:

Almost as bad as Trump’s fumbling around and not knowing anything about foreign policy was his response to even being asked about it: he defaulted to his M.O. and whined about how unfair Hugh’s “gotcha questions” were (again, going completely against the image of thick-skinned fighter he’s attempting to cultivate). He’s even threatening to never go on Hugh’s show again. Whining and complaining make him look bad enough already, but there was another wrinkle that adds insult to injury — Carly Fiorina aced the same questions when she went on Hugh’s show:

At this point, it’s nearly impossible to offer any hypothesis about what might cause Trump to lose support in this race. But Hugh is one of the most brilliant, best loved, and toughest interviewers in the business today, and it’s difficult to see how Trump comes out on the other side of this any stronger. Trump’s only saving grace here might be that normal voters aren’t paying attention on a Thursday night before Labor Day weekend.


BREAKING: Trump will sign GOP Loyalty Pledge, Promise Not to Go Third Party

  10:03 am

This morning, Politico is reporting that Trump has privately told his team he will be signing the GOP loyalty pledge and promise not to go third party. Here’s more from Politico:

A close associate tells POLITICO that Donald Trump plans to sign a loyalty pledge Thursday that would bind him to endorse the Republican nominee, and would preclude a third-party run. Trump made the stunning decision, which he has long resisted, to avoid complications in getting listed on primary ballots, and to take away an attack line in the next debate, the associate said.

Trump, who has led the GOP field in poll after poll, has long viewed the threat of a third-party candidacy as priceless leverage – and even used that word when he refused to take such a pledge in the first debate, on Aug. 6.

So his decision to give it up is a sign that he increasingly wants to show his campaign is real and not a stunt. The colorful magnate is also trying to make that point by adding staff in key states, issuing position papers, and pursuing access to primary ballots throughout the country.

EDIT: And here we go, he’s signed it:


September 2, 2015

Will The Pig Like It?

  2:12 pm

George Bernard Shaw:  “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

So far in the campaign, Rick Perry, Lindsey Graham, and Rand Paul have all gone after Donald Trump. None have fared well, to put it mildly. After weeks of Donald smearing Jeb Bush, Jeb ran his first counterattack ad this week, and to quote Trump: “Will Jeb sink as low in the polls as the others who have gone after me?”

The reason for Trump’s seeming obsession with attacking Jeb is obvious. Donald’s campaign is essentially a reality show and every good reality show needs an enemy. Jeb is the obvious choice, for a campaign based on the exclusion of Hispanics, to characterize as the enemy. He’s married to a Mexican immigrant, fluently speaks the language of the undesirables, and has even said that the motivation for Hispanics immigrating to the United States is love.  Besides, most major prognosticators consider him the odds on favorite to win the nomination.

Ana Navarro of CNN said “Knowing Jeb, I’m sure he’d prefer to be talking about policy proposals rather than trading verbal jabs with Trump…but what: Is he going to do? Let the guy mischaracterize his record and positions and attack him daily? Enough is enough!”

Bush associate Tim Miller observed that “there’s no path for success in cowering into a corner and hoping for the best. When he released his ad, Jeb said “He attacks me every day with barbarities. They’re not true. What we did today was to put out in his words to show that he’s not conservative.” The ad signaled that he will try to take Trump down in the coming weeks. The debate on the 16th should be interesting.

Josh Kraushaar in the National Journal notes that fundamentally, Trump’s attacks on Jeb have been on his personality. “He’s a very low energy person” he charges. Translation: He won’t fight for you, but I will. “He’ll find out it’s not an act of love.” Translation: He’s about to pay big time for his coddling of Hispanic immigrants.  Even on his wife:  “Jeb Bush has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife.”  Translation:  What would you expect from someone who would marry one of them.

So it’s on.  Under similar circumstances Mitt had to take out Gingrich after Newt won the South Carolina Primary, and he obliterated Gingrich in the Florida Primary debate, and in the primary itself as it shaked out.  Kraushaar, in his article in the Journal article entitled “Jeb Bush’s Donald Trump Distraction” says that Jeb’s real adversary in the campaign isn’t Trump, it’s John Kasich and Marco Rubio.  He has to get past them to emerge as the establishment candidate before gong on to win the nomination.  It’s inconvenient that Donald is in the race, but there it is.

You might think that Jeb going up against Donald is like David going up against Goliath, but Ed Rogers in the Washington Post disagrees:  ” I think Jeb Bush wins this exchange.”  He reasons that in the long term it’s beneficial to the Bush campaign for Trump to acknowledge that Jeb is his chief competition.  And Trump’s recent anti-Jeb ad linked Jeb’s “gentle tone and practical approach to immigration reform” with “the actions of a few horrific murderers everybody knows Bush would actually send to the chair if he could.”

Rogers  goes on:  “Trump and his campaign probably don’t get this–at this stage in the game, the Republican Primary race is actually composed of a relatively small number of informed observers and participants.  Most Republican activists  won’t buy the message that this ad is selling.”  In fact Bloomberg did a focus group featuring 10 Trump supporters that ultimately revealed that only 2 of them would actually vote for Donald when push comes to shove.

The Primary will determine whether Jeb’s coming battle with Donald will achieve what Mitt achieved in his battle with Gingrich, or whether it’s a kamikaze mission; one where you destroy the target and die in the process.  But whatever happens the pig will enjoy it while it lasts.

He lives for that stuff.



September 1, 2015

August 31, 2015

Trump’s Tax Plan Based On Liberal Class Warfare

  2:30 pm

Donald Trump is getting ready to release his new tax plan, and all indications are that it will center around raising taxes for the rich. In fact, in Trump’s own words,

[S]ome people, they’re not doing their fair share.

This statement, straight out of the liberal playbook, is a cheap and deceptive appeal to populism. The problem is that it is also wildly anti-growth, patently false, and only serves to harm the country in the long run if such a policy is implemented.

Democrats have been harping on this notion of “fair share” for decades, and for decades they (and now Trump) have ignored the facts of our current tax situation. Consider:

  • The bottom half of income earners in America (somwhere around 45-47%) pay zero income taxes. This means the entirety of the tax burden in America falls on just half the population.
  • The top quintile of income earners in America accounts for roughly 50% of the total income per year — yet they are responsible for paying 84% of the taxes.
  • Going further, the top one percent of earners take in 17% of the total income, yet pay 46% of all taxes.

Let me repeat this, because it is vitally important to the economic health and future of the country: 84% of the taxes are paid by one-fifth of population. Nearly half of our total tax burden is laid upon one percent of Americans.

Liberal Democrats, along with Donald Trump now, would like nothing more than to see that burden increased even further. Why? Because it’s easy to demonize the rich. It is low-hanging fruit and cheap votes from a largely ignorant electorate. Populism is a lot easier to sell, because it sells itself: see that group over there? They’re the problem. Not you. If only they would do their fair share, things would be so much better.

And so we get public opinion polls that show most Americans think their taxes are too high — even though they don’t pay any! — and taxes on the rich are too low.

It’s class warfare, and it’s been expected from the other side of the aisle for years. Now Donald Trump is engaging in the same cheap deception, which matches his M.O. so far this primary campaign: ignore the facts and use rhetoric to divide rather than unite.

But, some will point out, Donald Trump is rich! He wants to raise taxes on himself!

If you believe for a second that Trump will end up paying a penny more in taxes under the new laws he created, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. I guarantee whatever tax plan he enacts will be full of loopholes that his lawyers will know how to take full advantage of.

America is already one of the only, if not the only industrialized nation on the planet that relies so heavily on the richest income earners to carry everybody else. The result of liberal class warfare plans like Trump’s and other liberal Democrats? Well, when France foolishly raised taxes on the rich as a way to increase revenue, the rich just moved out. Short of that extreme, these liberal tax plans make for a far less inviting business atmosphere, slowing hiring and business expansion, and thus hurting job growth overall. In a free market economy, the government’s role ought to be to incentivize job creation and job growth, not to sell out the country’s future for cheap votes based on divisive and deceptive rhetoric.


Poll Watch: Carson Ties Trump in Iowa

  11:09 am

Monmouth University Iowa Republican Caucus

  • Carson – 23% (8)
  • Trump – 23% (13)
  • Fiorina – 10% (3)
  • Cruz – 9% (7)
  • Walker – 7% (22)
  • Bush – 5% (7)
  • Kasich – 4% (2)
  • Rubio – 4% (5)
  • Paul – 3% (5)
  • Huckabee – 2% (6)
  • Santorum – 2% (3)
  • Christie – 1% (1)
  • Jindal – 1% (4)
  • Perry – 1% (3)
  • Pataki – * (*)
  • Gilmore – 0% (0)
  • Graham – 0% (0)
  • Undecided – 5% (11)

Survey of 405 likely caucus goers was conducted Aug 27-30 and has a margin of error of ±4.9%. Numbers in parentheses are from the July Monmouth survey.

It will be really interesting to see how the media cover results like this. Much of Trump’s support has come from self-fulfilling news cycles: Trump leads in a poll, the media cover Trump more than the other candidates combined because of it, therefore Trump leads in the next poll and the cycle continues. With Carson breaking out and tying Trump in Iowa, if the media decide to take the spotlight off of Trump and put it on Carson, it could have similarly inverse effects…

And it will be interesting to see if there really is some sort of alliance between Trump and Carson. If Trump starts feeling threatened by Carson, how would he even go about attacking him? “I love Ben Carson, but he doesn’t have any political experience and has a tendency to say crazy things.” Oh, the irony…


August 29, 2015

The “Furious Majority” of 2016

  5:55 pm

In 1968, it was said there was a “silent majority” of voters. In 1994, it was said there was an “angry majority” of voters. In 2015, the voters are not just angry, they are “furious.”

No more proof than the early success of the presidential campaigns of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders should be needed, but there’s more evidence. In at least one major poll, conservative physician Ben Carson is in second place. Neither Trump nor Carson have ever been elected to office. And there’s more. Businesswoman Carly Fiorina is doing well, and Vice President Joe Biden, hitherto not taken seriously as a 2016 presidential candidate, is being widely urged to run. Although she has said she won’t run, Senator Elizabeth Warren clearly has  notable support in the liberal grass roots.

Only Biden in this group would be classified as “establishment,” and he probably won’t run because the Democratic Party elites still prefer the “sinking” Hillary Clinton and are trying to push him out of the way.  Jeb Bush, the early GOP frontrunner, and clearly the establishment candidate, is fading in the polls despite his name recognition and huge amounts of money raised for his campaign.

Why is this all happening?

American voters are perennially unhappy with politicians, so why is the current “fury” to be taken more seriously than the “silence” or the “anger” in previous presidential elections?

The answer is the result of a number of circumstances, but most notably the chronic failure of current government to restore general economic well-being and confidence, the apparent “dishonesty” of most political rhetoric, the persistent and increasing lack of transparency in the conduct and management of government bureaucracy, and voters’ growing insecurity about the nation’s role in the world. These are taking place with elected and appointed officials of both parties, and there is very little evidence that much is being done about it.

It is being exacerbated by the Obama administration’s cavalier attitude to problems arising from undocumented immigration, its unilateral withdrawal from the U.S. role of leadership in the world, and by the uneven domestic economic recovery.

This has given Republicans a temporary advantage, but should they win in 2016 and fail to produce visible gains, the advantage will shift right back to the Democrats.

Not only are the left and the right “furious” with Washington, DC, so is the unheralded but vital political center, the key element in deciding who wins the White House in 2016. (Historically, populists in the U.S. came from the far right or the far left, but recently, “centrist populists” such as Jesse Ventura and Ross Perot have arisen to disrupt American elections.)

The establishments of both parties would like the Trump, Carson, Sanders and the Fiorina to go away, and almost certainly they will try to make this happen merely by discrediting the candidates. I think this could be a huge political miscalculation. I think it could infuriate voters even more.

The resolution of the political “disruption” can only happen if the “establishment” candidates begin paying attention to what is truly upsetting voters.

My high school motto (McDowell High School in Erie, PA) was Factum Non Verbum (“The Deed Not The Word”). I did not forget it. When a Latin phrase endures for so long, it would be only a matter of time when it made lots of sense on one more occasion.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


August 28, 2015

Trump’s Strength and Weakness Are the Same: Irregular Voters

  12:55 pm

Civis Analytics is a data firm founded by Obama’s campaign analytics director. (Despite their partisan affiliation, I think we can all agree that the Obama campaign excelled both in 2008 and 2012 in the area of voter analytics.) They recently did a Republican primary survey for the purpose of analyzing the support each of the candidates are receiving, and it is really interesting. First, the topline results:

  • Trump – 16%
  • Carson – 11%
  • Bush – 9%
  • Rubio – 7%
  • Huckabee – 7%
  • Cruz – 7%
  • Walker – 5%
  • Fiorina – 3%
  • Kasich – 3%
  • Paul – 3%
  • Christie – 2%
  • Perry – 2%
  • Santorum – 1%
  • Jindal – 0%
  • Pataki – 0%
  • Gilmore – 0%
  • Undecided – 22%

This looks a lot like other polls we’ve been seeing, with one glaring exception: Trump has about half the support here as he does in other polls. The reason is two-fold: first, the survey did not try to force respondents into choosing, so it has a higher level of undecideds than they other polls out there right now; secondly, this survey was not a random dial survey like most polls — it was conducted using voter registration records accessed publicly via Secretaries of State so the results could be analyzed more accurately.

To the first point: this speaks directly to the name recognition problem and mimics a phenomenon we first saw with Jeb Bush. The more you push people to choose, the more they pick the name they’re most familiar with — presently, Donald Trump. The more you allow people to choose undecided, the lower Trump’s numbers go. Civis demonstrated this effect by weighting their results to match a typical general population survey, showing Trump and Bush both benefiting from name recognition. In that same reweighting, Rubio, Huckabee, and Cruz’s numbers went slightly down, showing that people who are paying more attention to the race are more likely to support those three candidates.

That in and of itself is interesting. But it doesn’t explain everything that is going on in this survey (Trump’s numbers only rise to 18% when name recognition is taken into account, for instance). What is even more interesting is the second point. This was a legitimate poll of registered voters, not just folks who will tell a pollster they are registered even if they might not be (studies have shown as many as 90% of Americans will tell pollsters they are registered to vote even if they’re not). So, off the top, we see Trump’s numbers are lower with actual registered voters. Civis goes one step beyond this, though.

They went on to cross-analyze the level of support against voting history since 2000 and found this correlation: the more times someone had voted since 2000, the less likely they were to support Donald Trump. In fact, Trump’s support was was the largest among people who had only voted once in the past 15 years and steadily declined from there as voting participation increased.

Among people who haven’t voted at all since 2008, for instance, Trump’s support clocked in at 22%. Among people who have participated in at least one election during that time, Trump’s support dropped to just 15%. That seven point difference was the largest in the field. Using the same criteria, Bush’s support dropped five points, and Chris Christie dropped four (from 5% for irregular voters to just 1% for active voters). In other words, the more engaged someone is politically, the less likely they are to support Donald Trump.

This makes sense on a primal level, of course, but now we have the hard data to back it up. It also tells us something about Trump moving forward: his reliance on irregular voters is his biggest strength, but also his biggest weakness. In fact, analyzing this same survey led the Nate Cohn to pen an article titled, “There’s Evidence Trump’s Support is Overstated.” He begins the article with this lede:

Ever since Donald Trump has risen to the top of the polls, Republican strategists have questioned whether those polls might be overestimating his support.

There is evidence to support that theory.

Why? Simple: irregular voters are, well, irregular. Trump’s lead in the polls essentially is based on three things: people forced to choose a candidate and pick based on name recognition, people who aren’t registered to vote but say they are, and people who do not routinely vote in elections even if they are registered to do so (and highest among people who have only voted once in the past 15 years).

On one hand, it’s a positive that Trump is bringing new voters into the political arena and energizing voters who haven’t voted for years. On the other hand, if past performance is the best predictor for future results (and, voting-wise, it tends to be), that’s not exactly a solid foundation upon which to build. It is quite reminiscent of the Kerry/Edwards campaign relying on the mythical youth vote to push them over the top in 2004.

Now, is it possible that everyone what says they’ll vote for Trump will actually do so starting next February? Sure. Is it probable? Not at all. Civis has pulled back the curtain on Trump’s support for us: allow people to be undecided and only survey people who are actually registered to vote, and his support plummets. Take into account irregular voters and those who don’t have a history of voting hardly at all, and it falls even lower than that.

By the way, the flipside of the coin is interesting as well: among registered voters who have a history of regular voting, Kasich increases his support by 4 points, and Cruz, Fiorina, and Huckabee all increase by 3 points. Those four have a rock solid foundation of support to build on.


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