August 27, 2015

Fiorina Will Almost Certainly Miss the CNN Debate

  5:18 pm

With this morning’s Quinnipiac poll averaged in, here are the latest candidate averages as defined by the CNN debate criteria:

cnn avg 8-27

If this looks a little odd to you, you’re not the only one. Remember, CNN has determined they will average polls from July 16 to September 10 to determine who the top ten in the race are – meaning there will more than likely be more polls in their average from before the Cleveland debate than after it. This is mystifying because it doesn’t reflect the true state of the race, and Carly Fiorina is going to be the biggest casualty.

Notice in the CNN average, she is in 12th place with just 1.92%. However, if we were to look at just the three post-debate polls, she suddenly shoots up into 7th place:

cnn avg pd 8-27

It would be tough to see Fiorina, who has gotten 5% in every poll after her Cleveland debate performance, locked out of the grown-ups club this time around. She’s currently doing better than Christie, Paul, Huckabee, and Kasich, but still won’t have a seat at the table.

But wait — what if polling continues to put her at or around 5% from now until the debate? It still wouldn’t matter. Math is not on Fiorina’s side here because of CNN’s rules. I started playing around with my spreadsheet to see if I could figure out what it would take to get Fiorina into the top ten, then came across this article from The Fix where they already figured it out: for Fiorina to make CNN’s top ten debate, twenty more polls would have to be released between now and then showing her at 5%. Given how slowly polls are coming out this time around, that’s just not going to happen.

What this does is keep Chris Christie alive slightly longer (assuming the rumors of him dropping out after August aren’t true). It also gives Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee a nice artificial lift as well. Perception counts for a lot in a televised debate, and CNN’s numbers have Jeb and Walker flanking Trump at center stage, with Huckabee nearby. If, however, they used only post-Cleveland polls, Carson would be center stage with Trump with Jeb off to the side, and Huckabee would be over at the edge of the stage.

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August 21, 2015

It’s The Economy, Stupid!

  3:22 pm

(Most statistics taken from Mort Zuckerman in The Wall Street Journal.)

One weeps that the issue most on the minds of the GOP base is immigration when every poll shows that the number one issue on the minds of actual voters is the economy and jobs.

Has anyone noticed that Obama has no plan to increase economic growth? Trillions of dollars of Keynesian quantitative easing and near-zero interest rates have accomplished practically nothing. The relative lack of economic growth has fostered the breakdown of society and the intense anger of so much of the electorate.

In the last 5 years the U.S. has added 11 1/2 million new jobs, but the number of full-time jobs is 0.7% lower than it was when Obama took office. The number of part-time employees is 84% higher than the 2003-2007 average. The broadest measure of the unemployment rate factors in the number of people who are employed part time but want to be employed full time. Use that measure and the unemployment rate is well over 10%.

The labor participation rate has dropped to 62.6% despite the fact that many in the prime of their working life years having given up on trying to find a job. Any plan to increase growth to 4% or higher has to motivate employers to increase hiring full-time workers.

It also has to lead the way to increasing wages. Wage growth has been nearly nonexistent despite our economy being in a supposed recovery. Business investment is down and, as a result, labor productivity is down. In the real world, wages can’t rise without productivity increasing.

Add to this continued and massive budget deficits, the fact that Social Security payments are about to exceed payroll tax deductions, with the entire system slated to go bye bye in less than 20 years, and astronomical projections for medical care spending in the foreseeable future as more and more baby boomers reach retirement.

What we need to increase economic growth and restore The American Dream:

  1. Lower and broader-based tax rates for businesses and people. To avoid increasing deficits, that also means dramatically cutting government spending and waste
  2. Reduce the cost, currently estimated at approximately $2 Trillion a year, of business regulations.
  3. Tort reform. Tort expense to the business community currently costs a trillion dollars a year. Most of that expense can be eliminated.
  4. Add more Right To Work states and move toward the elimination of public sector unions. Unions are intrinsically anti-productive.
  5. As Jeb says, we need to “embrace the energy revolution.” Part of that is getting the EPA out of the way of energy exploration and development.

The good news is that all of our candidates at least pay lip service to a “fairer and flatter” tax system. Some of our candidates, such as Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio have detailed tax reform proposals that are superior to the status quo.

Most also at least mention the need for regulatory reform. What’s especially needed is applying cost benefit analyses to every existing regulation and terminating the ones that do more harm than good.

Numbers 3, 4, and 5 will be part of any comprehensive plan to generate economic growth that causes GDP to rise by 4% or more. That is Jeb’s primary focus, but listen for economic specifics from all the candidates.

The economy and jobs will cause us to win the presidency if we propose strategies to increase growth, and that make sense.

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August 19, 2015

POWER RANKINGS: AUGUST

  12:53 pm

1. Marco Rubio  U.S. Senator from Florida

Sen. Rubio at number one? How? Trump is leading! Breitbart News says Trump is the frontrunner! Well, August horse race polls are not the best indicator of how the race shakes out, as President Giuliani should remind you. Favorability and overall acceptability combined with organization and fundraising are better indicators of long term success. With Bush and Walker stumbling, Marco Rubio stands to benefit the most. Rubio was considered by many to be the big winner in the first debate, and he is trending up across the early states, leading Bush in both Iowa and Nevada. With the other establishment candidates faltering, the likable and charismatic Rubio is gaining, with a surge in fundraising added to his leading campaign haul. Soon, the establishment will need to decide to double down on the increasingly unfavorable Jeb Bush or, as the Democrats did in 2008, move their support to the young rising star.

2. Jeb Bush  former Governor of Florida

Gov. Bush slips from the top spot after a month of dreadful news for the dynastic presidential hopeful. Despite early leads in fundraising and organization, Bush’s numbers have continued to slide, partly due to the rise of Donald Trump, but also due to the lingering concern of a third Bush candidacy. The upward trends of Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich leave Bush with little room for error, as he trails Rubio in Iowa and is staring down a Kasich surge in the Bush firewall of New Hampshire. With his unfavorable numbers topping both Trump’s and Clinton’s, Bush’s argument of electability is now largely without merit. His Right to Rise super PAC is now hoping a massive media blitz will help stop the bleeding.

3. John Kasich  Governor of Ohio

Kasich’s late start hasn’t stopped him from making big inroads in New Hampshire, a state his campaign has focused heavily on. Kasich added the support of Tom Rath, who joined former Sen. Sununu in backing the Ohio governor, in a direct blow to Jeb Bush’s New Hampshire effort. Rath and the Sununu family have long standing ties to the Bush family, and this could be an indicator of more defections to come. Kasich also received the endorsement of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a longtime Mike Huckabee supporter who has clearly sensed that the tanking former Arkansas governor is finished.

4. Donald Trump  Chairman and President of The Trump Organization 

Xenophobic billionaire and prominent Democratic donor Donald Trump continues to lead with a small plurality in the fractured GOP field. Despite any conservative credentials, gravitas, or substance, Trump has proven resilient due to his bombast and star power combined with a saturation of press coverage from Democratic allies in the media. Still, the Planned Parenthood supporter has awful favorable/unfavorable numbers and still lacks a professional campaign organization. Also, unlike other wealthy self-funded candidates like Perot, Forbes, or Bloomberg, Trump has not yet committed substantial money to his campaign.

5. Ted Cruz  U.S. Senator from Texas

Cruz continues to be steady as he goes. With Trump filling the role of blowhard, Cruz seems almost substantive by comparison. He has stayed out of the fray, performed well in the first debate, and has watched as the numbers of his top social conservative opposition (Huckabee, Jindal, Perry, Walker) tank. As it stands, Cruz will benefit the most from the inevitable end of Trump and the fall of others such as Perry and Huckabee.

6. Scott Walker  Governor of Wisconsin

Walker was damaged the most in the first debate, with his numbers in free fall ever since. It seems that the Pawlenty comparisons he tried to shake have proven resilient. To make matters worse, Walker has flip-flopped on a number of issues in a desperate bid to chase headlines with Donald Trump. His trends don’t look good.

7. Ben Carson  former Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital 

Dr. Carson benefitted the most from the first debate, seeing a surge into to second place in multiple polls behind only Donald Trump. The former surgeon also has very high favorable numbers across the party spectrum, and has raised enough money to be a credible candidate. However, his organization has thus far been underwhelming, and his grasp of foreign policy is still a glaring weakness going forward.

8. Carly Fiorina  former CEO of Hewlett-Packard

The clear winner of the “kid’s table” debate, Fiorina has used her debating talents and media savvy to launch herself into the top ten and will likely make the main debate next month. Her consistent and substantive attacks on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton have earned her a devoted fan following, but her lack of funding will keep her from the top tier.

9. Rand Paul  U.S. Senator from Kentucky

Paul’s numbers have tanked in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationally. He, along with Scott Walker, seem to have taken the most damage from the first debate. Things have gotten so bad that Rand has now trotted out Ron Paul on the trail in a desperate final bid for attention.

10. Chris Christie  Governor of New Jersey

The New Jersey governor has slipped out of the top ten nationally and is in danger of missing the next debate. To add insult to injury, his friend John Kasich has stolen the role of “straight talking governor” in New Hampshire. Christie is going for one final media push, but rumors are swirling that his campaign could end soon.

Drop Out Watch:  Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore

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August 8, 2015

The Fair Tax: Making America Great Again

  1:54 pm

Yesterday we established that the Fair Tax advocated by Mike Huckabee would prohibit all Income Taxes forevermore. Also gone would be Payroll taxes and taxes on capital gains, and all other federal taxes, be they corporate, self-employment, gift and estate, or alternative minimum. Gone would be personal tax forms and filling, payroll withholding, personal or business income tax record keeping, and taxes on social security or pensions. All to be replaced by a national, one-time tax on first time purchases. There would be no taxes on buying used cars or homes, e.g.

And gone forever would be the IRS.

Today we will look at how this makes America great again.

In the comments we took up the fact that imported goods would no longer receive preferential treatment over domestically produced goods at the check out counter. Economists estimate that embedded taxes, on average, constitute 22% of the cost, and price, of goods produced in our country. Under the Fair Tax, our exported goods, then, would be 22% cheaper on average. But prices of imported goods would have the cost of embedded taxes from their country of origin built into them, and then, when people buy them here, they would also pay the national sales tax on them.

The net result is that we would export a lot more, and one of every 6 workers in America are already involved in the export industry. Concomitantly, we would import a lot less. That would do a lot more than just give us a positive balance of payments for the first time in any of our lifetimes. It would bring a lot more capital into the country, stimulating accelerated economic growth, and it would create a lot, and by that I mean millions, of additional jobs.

This principle extends to companies from other nations who manufacture here. There wouldn’t be any embedded taxes in the cost of what they make in the United States, and if they then exported from their factories and plants in the states, those trade advantages would accrue to them as well.

Former Secretary of The Treasury John Snow called The Fair Tax “the biggest magnet for capital and jobs in history.” Enact The Fair Tax and companies will rush to our shores to build manufacturing facilities so that they, too, can sell into a global economy with no tax component in their price.

I became interested in The Fair Tax quite a few years ago when I was watching C-Span and saw a group of 3 economists testifying on it. One of them was from Stanford and he said that the major negative of The Fair Tax is that if we adopt it, within 4 or 5 years we won’t be able to find enough workers to fill all the jobs it will create.

In fact, there are economists who have closely examined the proposed tax system who estimate that we could double the size of our economy in less than 15 years.

The Fair Tax will make America great again.

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August 7, 2015

Gaming the Race Six Months Out – Part One, Candidate Overview

  3:58 pm

Now that the first debate is in the books and we are hitting the tail portion of the summer, the Race 4 2016 is beginning to really take some shape. I decided to put my analyst hat on for a bit here and try to game out the race the rest of the way. This is probably an exercise in futility and things could look very different six weeks from now, let alone six months. However, I think this will be a fun exercise.

First, here are some quick and, best as I can, impartial thoughts on the candidates, their performance thus far and their viability.

Governor Jeb Bush – Make no mistake, Jeb Bush remains the front runner. Still. Barely. His grasp on that position is tenuous, at best. All the money in the world will not be able to overcome what appear to be very real deficiencies in Bush as a candidate, especially against a field this strong. What was obvious last night was that even Bush’s best niche as a candidate – the serious, focused, “adult in the room” – was usurped by more talented candidates.

Dr. Ben Carson – Dr. Carson’s appeal, which I never really understood, was on display last night, at least at times. He is likable, genuine and he fills a nice niche as an outsider which will appeal to a segment of the party. Yet, as things begin to get closer to voting I see Carson’s support, and money, drying up.

Governor Chris Christie – Governor Christie was one of the stronger candidates on stage in last night’s debate and showed at least some of why he was once thought of as a front-runner. He is beginning to carve out a place as the tough guy in the race and his exchange with Rand Paul will at least win him a second look from mainstream conservatives, but he will remain strongly disliked by the far-right. He has work to do, a lot of it in fact, but it appears he will have some staying power.

Senator Ted Cruz – Senator Cruz is who we thought he was – the hardcore, far-right conservative. And that is a formidable position to hold in a GOP primary. Cruz’s appeal is largely with middle-aged, working-class white men in the rural and exurban South and Heartland who listen to talk radio, drink Bud Light and drive pickup trucks. His goal as the race moves into its next phase will be to consolidate his support among that group and, as I will explain in my next column, he is probably the candidate best positioned to do that.

Mrs. Carly Fiorina – Mrs. Fiorina demonstrated, forcefully, why she belongs on the main stage with the serious candidates. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was sharp, articulate, quick on her feet and extraordinarily presidential. More importantly, as a woman, it is going to be hard for other candidates to attack her. That, coupled with her very obvious and real talents as a candidate, she appears poised to be in the race for the long haul if she can raise the necessary money.

Governor Jim Gilmore – A lot folks were not aware that Governor Gilmore was even in the race. After a largely forgettable performance in the afternoon debate yesterday, I am not sure many more know he is in the race now and I doubt he will be in the race much longer.

Senator Lindsey Graham – Senator Graham was largely disappointing in the afternoon debate yesterday. I found that somewhat surprising as Graham is a good communicator and his folksy demeanor plays well. Yet, as someone who was largely an afterthought going into yesterday he had to do more. He will not last much longer.

Governor Mike Huckabee – The former Arkansas Governor did well, as expected, yesterday. An excellent communicator with a loyal following, Huckabee has staying power in the race. His problem, however, is two-fold; one he not that strong of a conservative on issues beyond the social and he never has been much of a fundraiser. He needs to do a lot of work on both those areas if he is going to make it to the final round.

Governor Bobby Jindal – Governor Jindal performed strongly in yesterday’s debate, demonstrating a strong grasp on policy and a top-tier intellect. Problem is, in a field this large it is going to hard for a candidate like Jindal, with little name recognition and even less money, to stand out. Sans finding some kind of silver bullet, and firing it soon, Jindal will be an early exit. He will, however, make an excellent cabinet secretary in a Republican administration.

Governor John Kasich – Governor Kasich was very strong yesterday. As a late entrant into the race there were concerns Kasich had waited too long, that does not appear to be the case.  His very strong debate performance figures to bring a major boost both his name recognition and fund-raising ability. Being from Ohio and having a long resume of successful governmental experience will help too. Barring a major gaffe, which is a possibility given his penchant for speaking off the cuff, Kasich is a good bet to remain in this race for the long haul.

Governor George Pataki – The former Governor of the Empire State, who performed well in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and can boast being a three-term governor of a dark, dark blue state, did not perform badly in the afternoon debate. He was not great, either. And for a candidate that is near the very bottom of the barrel, that will prove highly problematic and Pataki will likely be forced to exit the race sooner rather than later.

Senator Rand Paul – Perhaps no candidate’s performance both in yesterday’s debate and the race at large has been more polarizing than Paul’s. He has a sizable and vocal base of support from libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives but his challenge has always been if he can expand upon that. Truth be told, I do not think we have a definitive answer on that yet. Even if the answer turns out to be no, and it the estimation of yours truly it is trending that way, Paul will have staying power, because of his base, as his father demonstrated. With his re-election to the Senate a virtual guarantee, Paul will likely remain in the race long-term to highlight the issues about which he and his base are passionate, even when it becomes clear he has no chance in hell to win the nomination.

Governor Rick Perry – On paper, Governor Perry looks like a very formidable candidate. He is a multi-term, widely successful governor of the nation’s second-largest state, a “checks all the boxes” conservative with charisma, a southern base of support and is one of only two veterans in the Republican race. Yet none of that has translated into support. It’s puzzling. And Perry and his team will have to solve that puzzle soon if he is to remain in the race much longer.

Senator Marco Rubio – Those of us who follow politics closely are all keenly aware of the very formidable strengths Senator Rubio brings to the table. Last night, the rest of the country got to see it as well. Rubio was good. Very good. He can sell conservatism in a way that appeals to such a broad segment of the electorate. Recent talk about the “Rubio summer slide” should be silenced after last night’s performance. As his supporters (which, full disclosure, yours truly is one) have been saying his slow-and-steady wins the race approach looks like a good grand strategy. He is going to be able to raise plenty of money, he is excellent on the stump, in interviews and, as we saw yesterday, in debates as well. Rubio will be in the race for the very long haul.

Senator Rick Santorum – Senator Santorum’s second run at the presidency looks like it will end a lot sooner than his first. It is hard to find a niche to which he appeals; others are better-equipped to go after blue-collar voters and hardcore social conservatives. However, he is a tenacious politician and he will not give up easily, quickly or without a fight. It is plainly obvious to everyone now that he is not going to win, or even get close, to the nomination, but it will take Santorum a lot longer to get out of the race than another candidate who found themselves in a similar position.

Mr. Donald Trump – Trump was nothing short of awful yesterday; he was the very definition of un-presidential. Many political observers, most especially yours truly, have struggled mightily to understand his appeal. So it is possible that Trump’s supporters – the ones who voted him the debate’s runaway winner in yesterday’s Drudge poll – liked what they saw last night and will continue to support him. However, it is hard to imagine that yesterday’s embarrassing performance did not hurt him at least somewhat. Trump’s death as a candidate will likely, unfortunately, be a long and slow one. There is a segment of voters who do genuinely like him, passionately, and the media cannot get enough Trump talk. To make a sports analogy, Trump is the Tim Tebow of the 2016 race.

Governor Scott Walker – Governor Walker had a steady performance last night. He really did not do anything to distinguish himself but he certainly did not make any gaffes or do anything damaging. He has been doing the ground work in Iowa where his natural appeal makes him an ideal fit for first in the nation caucus state. Yet, Walker is going to need to start doing more lest his charisma gap – which is very real – does not lead voters to at least start looking at other candidates.

Part Two of this piece, which is coming very soon, will make an attempt to game out the next eight months of the race. Stay tuned!

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An Undecided’s Take on Last Night’s Debate

  2:00 pm

As one of your resident undecided Republican primary voters, I went into the main show last night looking to see how the main candidates stood up to scrutiny. I had all of one definite opinion pre-debate – I was not going to vote for Donald Trump in the primary. That has not changed, but my views on some of the other candidates have changed a bit actually seeing them in a debate setting. To give a little background on my views/votes – in 2008, I was a Fred-head and unabashedly supported Thompson in the primary. In 2012, I started off as a Cainiac, but as the wheels derailed and his train fell apart, I ended up voting for Perry in the primary. I start this off as an undecided primary voter who had few leanings except for an opinion that Donald Trump is not fit to be President, so that bias will still come through below.

  • Jeb Bush – I feel overall Bush did no harm in this debate, but the fact is he was underwhelming. He did part of what he needed to do – he explained to voters how he’s different than his brother and how he governed in Florida. That said, he seemed to hold back and, quite frankly, was a little boring at times. I was expecting more out of him.
  • Ben Carson – Carson did as well as he could considering the setting and the lack of airtime he received. His last two answers he knocked out of the park. But, in the entire debate he felt less like a Presidential candidate and more like a candidate for local office. He was soft spoken, which is fine, but it came across to me as a lack of fire in the belly.
  • Chris Christie – I was undecided on Christie leaning toward ignoring him in the primary before the debate. After the debate? I felt he won the battle with Rand Paul on issues of data collection. I felt he had some solid answers and definitely gave himself a boost in this debate. Him arguing and defending his record is a must in the debate setting, and I felt he gave good answers on life issues. On foreign policy, though, he felt more like Rand Paul’s foil than someone with a separate detailed policy. He did well as Paul’s foil, made Paul look childish, but that’s not enough for me.
  • Ted Cruz – Ted Cruz was polished, well spoken, and…bland at times. Cruz is usually so much more bombastic, he seemed to tone that down during the debate. The bombast is part of Cruz’s charm as a candidate, so I’m not sure what made him decide to pull it back. He’s positioning himself as the main conservative alternative and I think he did well trying to do that, but I feel his performance did not make him truly stand out. All that said, when his answers were the most personal was when I felt he did the best – talking about his faith and that of his father, was a well done response to a bit of a clown question.
  • Mike Huckabee – Huckabee continues to be Huckabee. He was folksy. He was on point on social conservatism. He was pushing the Fair Tax. What surprised me was his well crafted (at least some of them) answers on foreign policy issues. While retaining his folksy charm, he gave some hard hitting commentary on the Iranian deal which definitely resonated with me and I’m sure it did with other voters as well.
  • John Kasich – Kasich did a good job introducing himself as the new guy in the room. That said, to me – he came across like he was giving me a lecture most of the time more than offering me policy details. His discussion of his blue collar roots felt forced and not genuine. He also doubled down hard on defending some of his more center-left positions. That’s fine that he’s ready to defend them, but don’t expect right leaning primary voters to be happy about it (including me).
  • Rand Paul – Rand Paul ran as the libertarian alternative – just like his father. And in the debate setting, he came across much like his father did, albeit a little less off the wall. His foreign policy answers were where he was the weakest, especially when talking about cutting funding to Israel and his exchange with Christie on the collection of phone record data. Chanting “Fourth Amendment” at Christie while he was trying to have a substantive debate was childish and made him come across as petty and abrasive.
  • Marco Rubio – Rubio won this debate, hands down. He was polished. He avoided jumping into any of the Trump confrontation. He gave red meat answers on the issues with a smile and a manner of speaking which does not alienate moderate voters. He also talked about his back story and did so in a way without feeling forced like Kasich’s discussion of his father the mailman.
  • Donald Trump – Trump did exactly what I expected him to do. He was rude to the moderators. He did his best not to actually offer any policy details, except to say that single payer works well in Canada and Scotland (it doesn’t). I do not understand how you could watch his debate performance and still come out of it supporting him for President. He was not Presidential, said he’d consider going third party if he lost the primary, and still refuses to explain with any evidence why he thinks the Mexican government is pushing people across our border. He also bragged about “owning” politicians who he donated to. It was petty and unbecoming of a Presidential candidate. I think it will be a travesty if he is in the next debate and Perry / Fiorina are not.
  • Scott Walker – Walker’s performance was vanilla. It wasn’t bad and it had some real high notes, including hammering home the Obama-Clinton doctrine on foreign policy and discussion of his multiple wins in Wisconsin. As an Evangelical Christian myself, his comment on his faith in Christ was priceless. That said, overall he just wasn’t memorable. The comparison between him and Tim Pawlenty are going to get more and more frequent.

And there you have it – my thoughts on the debate. Cause I know you were looking for them. To put them into the categories Matt did before, I felt it went:

Helped Themselves A Lot: Rubio

Helped Themselves a Little: Christie, Cruz, Huckabee, Kasich

Did No Harm: Bush, Carson

Did A Little Harm: Paul, Walker

Crashed and Burned: Trump

__________________________________________________________________________

-Matthew Newman is an engineer and blogger who also writes at Old Line Elephant and Red Maryland. Follow Newman on Twitter @mdmrn.

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The Fair Tax

  1:32 pm

Remember when Rand Paul took a chain saw to the 70 some thousand page tax code, then threw the pieces into a wood chipper, and then set the remains on fire?

The tax code is crippling our economy. Businesses and other organizations spend more than 6 billion hours each year complying with the tax code, with estimated compliance costs. conservatively, of more than $225 Billion a year. Add the cost and headaches of individuals filling out tax forms, and the costs to the economy of chasing tax loopholes, and consequently allocating money to less than optimal returns, and one starts to glimpse the very avoidable economic damage done to the country.

All of the costs to business are embedded in the prices of goods and services consumers buy. And the hundreds of millions of hours individuals spend keeping tax records and filling out tax forms reduces the quality of life for everyone who pays taxes.

To find a better way, some of our candidates are espousing tax reform plans. Some I like better than others, and I will probably write about each, because it’s THAT important. Rubio and Paul each have excellent plans, and there are others, but all of them are better than the status quo.

The one I like the best is The Fair Tax, championed in the campaign by Mike Huckabee, so that’s the one I will take up first. And obviously there is no way to do it justice in a single FPP. It will take this one to tell what it is,  the massive benefits of it to the economy and jobs, and at least another still to clear up misconceptions about it.  Make sure and snark,  but snark for specific reasons and ask questions when necessary, and I will respond as helpfully as possible.

The Fair Tax is a consumption tax that will replace other taxes:

That means NO income tax
NO payroll taxes
NO self-employment taxes
NO capital gains taxes
NO gift or excise taxes
NO alternative minimum taxes
NO corporate taxes
NO payroll withholding
NO taxes on social security or pension benefits
NO personal tax forms
NO personal or business income tax record keeping
NO personal income tax filing whatsoever
NO Internal Revenue Service, NO April 15, all gone forever.

Proponents of flat taxes often say we can end the IRS as we know it. With The Fair Tax we can end the IRS, period. See the difference?

The biggest negative of the proposal is that it’s easy to attack. Having been in favor of it for several years, though, I can certify that all of the attacks boil down to 3 or 4 basic misconceptions.  If it was easy to fully explain I wouldn’t have to do follow up FPPs, the bill wouldn’t have to be 133 pages long, books wouldn’t have been written about it, and it would have been passed long ago.

It can be revenue neutral, but depending on the sales tax rate decided upon, it can be set up as a tax cut mechanism as well.  Next, I will explore the massive benefits to the economy and jobs, and I will do it tomorrow.

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Debate Reaction Roundup

  11:36 am

Yesterday before the debate, Nate Silver calculated that less than one-tenth of voters were paying attention to the Republican primary. Let that sink in for a moment — that means over 90% of folks are not engaged and following this race like we political junkies are.

Aside from the obvious implications about polling, that means for 90+ percent of folks, last night was a chance to see the candidates and get an impression of them for the very first time.

That’s huge. And when we view the debate through that lens, rather than choosing winners and losers, a more helpful metric might be: who helped themselves, and who hurt themselves during these introductions?

Helped Themselves A Lot
Kasich – The homefield crowd helped him a lot and gave him the subconscious appearance of being well-liked and respected. In a field with loudmouth hotheads (Trump, Christie, Cruz) and impersonal bores (Bush, Jindal, Walker), Kasich fills the niche of the warm, personal, “I feel your pain” guy. I see voters watching the debate last night and saying, “You know, I like him.” Very few people even knew who Kasich was before last night, so his goal was to make a positive first impression. He did that with flying colors.

Rubio – Knowledgeable, fluent, intelligent, crisp and able to pivot on his feet to hit curveballs, Rubio clearly shined last night. Most every media outlet (including Fox News, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and the Washington Post) declared him the “winner.” The one moment that might come back to haunt him was his abortion exception talk. Fact checkers could hit him with it now and Democrats will certainly hit him with it in the general.

Helped Themselves A Little
Huckabee – Huckabee did what Huckabee does best: excel at being personable, likeable, and at delivering scripted jabs in the form of humor. In a campaign, Huckabee is most at home on the debate stage, and he evidenced why he’s a solid second-tier candidate in this race. Huckabee is hurt by being overshadowed in this massive field, however — the NYT notes they “lost track” of him on the crowded stage last night, and the Washington Post notes Huckabee has carved out a solid but small niche that will only be enough if other candidates slip away.

Carson – Another candidate who gets lost amidst the heavy hitters, Carson had to show up in a big way last night to break through. He didn’t quite achieve that, but he certainly didn’t do any harm, either. His soft-spoken mannerisms don’t command attention, but at the same time they’re not off-putting. Carson’s closing statement/joke was his strongest statement of the evening, which is good for him because it’s the one most folks are likely to remember.

Cruz – It seems that Cruz’s goal in this race is to become the default conservative, and he continued down that path last night. Cruz did nothing to stand out above the crowd, but also didn’t get himself in trouble by reverting back to the bomb-throwing firebrand he’s become stereotyped as. For voters looking to settle on a generic conservative candidate, Cruz gave them that option last night.

Christie – Governor Christie was hoping to be the dominating, loud, truth-teller in this field, but Donald Trump swooped in and took that role instead. Last night, Christie reminded voters why, before the various scandals that have rocked his tenure in New Jersey, he was considered one of the frontrunners. He used Rand Paul as a foil in the national security debate, filling the role of Rudy Giuliani fighting with Ron Paul back in 2008, and it worked well as a way to reassert himself with the sizeable neoconservative wing of the party.

Hurt Themselves A Little
Bush – Bush is in second place in this race, behind a candidate few pundits expect to last – so in essence, he is the frontrunner. However, he is that specifically because 90+ percent of voters aren’t paying attention yet; to those 90%, Bush offered little last night in the way of a reason to support or vote for him. Almost everyone declared his performance underwhelming — the Washington Post called him “lackadaisical,” Fox News says he was just “okay” and that “he failed to excite,” and CNN even called him the outright loser of the night, noting he was “aloof,” “defensive,” “nervous, halting, and painfully uninspiring.” I didn’t see it as being that bad, but after two subpar performances (Cleveland and the New Hampshire forum) Bush is really going to have to step up his game if he wants to remain in the driver’s seat.

Walker – Walker is Iowa’s darling, and his responses were tailored toward maintaining that relationship with the first-in-the-nation caucus state. However, it is his own description of himself that might do him in during this race: “aggressively normal.” Walker slipped a couple of points in the futures markets during the debate, not because he did anything wrong, but because he kept earning comparisons to Tim Pawlenty, another vanilla, boring midwestern governor who had great unrealized potential.

Hurt Themselves A Lot
Trump – This was the obvious one. Trump was crass, unpresidential, and left even his supporters scratching their heads and rethinking their support. Many Trump fans have taken to social media to declare support for other candidates after watching the Trump disaster unfold last night. The big question is: will the defections be enough to translate into a drop in the polls and allow the other more serious candidates to regain some of the media’s attention now?

There’s one candidate I can’t quite place on this scale: Rand Paul. The responses to his performance last night are starkly divided, with some loving it and some hating it (indeed on the CNN panel, one panelist declared Paul the winner of the evening and another declared him the biggest loser). It seems to me that Paul was able to burnish his libertarian credentials last night and shore up that portion of his niche voting bloc – so in that way, he helped himself. At the same time, his campaign was supposed to be about expanding his base beyond his father’s libertarian base, and he certainly harmed himself in that respect last night. Paul remains a candidate with one of the most fervent bases of support, but one of the smallest as well.

Finally, zooming out a bit, Fox News was a big winner last night – showing grit and a determination to challenge the candidates. It was a bit of an “Only Nixon could go to China” moment, in that if MSNBC or CNN had asked the same questions Fox did, there would be cries of bias and unfairness. Instead, when Fox asked them, they came across as tough and reasonable. Also, I’d say the Republican Party as a whole was a winner. One of the subplots of this 2016 race for the GOP is to recover from the disaster of the 2012 race where Mitt Romney was the only serious candidate in what became rightly known as a clown car. While liberals are attempting to stick the GOP with that same epithet this time around, this field put that misnomer to rest last night. The 2016 field features a myriad of accomplished and serious candidates (and it helped to not have Santorum or Perry on the stage).

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July 29, 2015

POWER RANKINGS: JULY

  9:16 am

1.  Jeb Bush  former Governor of Florida

Gov. Bush returns as the default frontrunner, in part due to his historic fundraising strength, but more so due to the effects of the “Summer of Trump”. With the left-wing billionaire dominating media coverage of the race, lesser known candidates have been deprived of much needed air time. Bush, with his dynastic name, is somewhat immune to this effect, leaving him relatively unscathed in national polls. However, Trump does pose a bigger threat to Bush than other candidates running, mostly due to the unpredictable, anti-establishment history of the New Hampshire electorate. Unlike Scott Walker, Bush has been unable to maintain his early state lead, falling far behind Trump in the first primary state. The longer Bush stays behind a buffoon like Trump, the weaker he looks and the less likely a third Bush presidency becomes.

2. Scott Walker  Governor of Wisconsin

Walker has finally entered the race and immediately added to his commanding lead in Iowa. Walker’s early state strength is more impressive when you consider other candidates have seen their numbers crumble in the wake of the Trump media frenzy. Walker’s aligned super PACs have over $20 million in the bank, more than enough to build on and sustain his Iowa lead. However, Walker has become the new favorite target of the left-wing billionaire, and he must be careful how far into the weeds he wants to go in responding to the erratic and unelectable Clinton donor.

3. Marco Rubio  U.S. Senator from Florida

Sen. Rubio has seen some of his poll numbers fall as the Florida republican has receded from media attention, focusing more on fundraising and organization during the summer. His efforts have paid some off some, as his campaign raised the most money of any candidate, and his super PACs brought in the third most. Rubio has also avoided some of the more embarrassing elements of this summer’s campaign, namely getting dragged too deep in the muck by realty TV show character Donald Trump. Rubio has managed to retain his stunningly high favorability ratings, making him the most liked candidate in the field, something that bolsters his electability argument against the more unfavorable Jeb Bush and the rapidly declining Hillary Clinton.

4.  John Kasich  Governor of Ohio

Kasich’s late start hasn’t stopped him from making big inroads in New Hampshire, a state his campaign has focused heavily on. With a team that knows New Hampshire well, a local boost from the Sununu family, and solid PAC fundraising, Kasich may still become a top challenger to Bush on the establishment side. Now that it looks like he’ll make the debates, his momentum may continue to build. With the bursting of the Trump bubble looming, attention will turn to candidates who are not insane or a blight on party, and Kasich will be a top choice when that occurs.

5.  Ted Cruz  U.S. Senator from Texas

With the “bomb-throwing loudmouth” slot being filled by Trump, Cruz finds himself largely without his natural niche. He lame attacks on Sen. Mitch McConnell won’t win him back his status as Cruz is the only candidate in the field who hasn’t stood up to Trump’s more outlandish statements, leaving the Texas senator open to criticism for weakness and gutlessness. However, Cruz’s fundraising has put him in a position to capitalize on the collapse of other candidates in the far-right bracket of the primary process, making him the most likely of the fringe candidates to survive a longer campaign.

6. Chris Christie  Governor of New Jersey

Christie’s comeback has been very slow, but a few polls released since his announcement have him doing slightly better than expected. His unfavorables still need major work, and his New Hampshire-or-bust campaign needs strengthening, but he’s done enough to make the debates, where his talents can be most effective.

7. Rand Paul  U.S. Senator from Kentucky

Paul’s numbers continue to slide, a fact that was made more alarming but his horrible fundraising quarter, both by his campaign and aligned PACs. Paul’s “libertarian moment” seems to have passed him by. With so many candidates soaking up the media spotlight, Paul was supposed to have the money and an organization to give him an edge in the early states. It just hasn’t materialized.

8. Rick Perry  former Governor of Texas

Gov. Perry has been the strongest voice for conservatism in the face of the media-created Trump bubble, taking the liberal billionaire to task for a number of his leftist positions and idiotic statements. Perry, one of only two veterans running for the nomination, has earned a true second look for his courage in the face of media hysteria.

9.  Donald Trump  Chairman and President of The Trump Organization 

It is with great embarrassment and tremendous shame in my party that I have to include this buffoon in these rankings. Unfortunately, Trump’s numbers cannot be ignored. However, polls alone are not the decisive factor in primary elections, with money and organization at this early stage carrying greater weight. Trump has yet to put serious money into his campaign the way Ross Perot did, and his lack of a real ground game will show over time. The fact that the Koch brothers have cut him off to their database and research puts him in greater need of his own “yuuuge” financial resources.

10.  Mike Huckabee  former Governor of Arkansas

Gov. Huckabee followed his disturbing defense of Josh Duggar last month with an outlandish attack on the President this month, comparing him to the SS officers who committed mass genocide against the Jews during World War II. This pattern of nonsensical rhetoric was coupled with a disastrous fundraising quarter for the TV host-turned-also ran. On top of it all, Huckabee’s numbers in Iowa are tanking, leaving his chances of being the nominee on life support.

Honorable Mention:  Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal,  Ben Carson

No Chance: Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore

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July 28, 2015

MIKE HUCKABEE AND THE DOOR TO THE OVEN

  10:18 am

Yesterday, Mike Huckabee took the strongest stance yet against the Iranian nuclear deal. As Matt Coulter has already pointed out, Huckabee stated that “[President Obama] would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven.” Huckabee was of course referencing the loss of at least six million lives in the Jewish Holocaust.

The response from the MSM has been swift and very expected. They have seen an easy opportunity to do three things they love: defend the President, put down the GOP candidates, and further weaken the standing of the Jewish people in the Middle East.

As Matt points out, this will be and should be, brought up in the first debate next week. But where we differ on opinion is that Mike Huckabee will accept this with arms wide open. Why? For two reasons. The first is that Mike Huckabee cannot stray away from his firm-held convictions. We have seen this on gay marriage, on abortion, and now clearly on the potential destruction of Israel.

The second reason is that on one or a set of stages that may include somewhere between eight and sixteen candidates, you have to set yourself apart. Mike Huckabee will be seen as the guy who is all in against a nuclear Iran. The MSM does not quote the Iranians. Neither does Matt Coulter. Leave it to Mike Huckabee, and this writer, to bring you a little piece of truth you may all have failed to overlook:

– “We have manufactured missiles that allow us…to replace Israel…with a big holocaust.” – Ayatollah Khamenei’s Iranian Martyr Foundation representative
Source: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2342.htm

– “It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of the region.” – Ayatollah Khamenei
Source: http://jcpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/IransIntent2012b.pdf#page=6

– “If they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” – Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader
Source: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2002/Oct-23/21779-nasrallah-alleges-christian-zionist-plot.ashx

It blows my mind to think that the GOP, including a majority on this site, are not in favor of allowing Iran to get a nuclear weapon, and yet when a candidate speaks out, and uses Iranian leader’s own words again this deal, he is shunned.

The one area my friend Matt and I agree on, however, is that by stating “he”, being President Obama” instead of “this deal”, Huckabee truly does compare Obama to Hitler. I believe it would be wise to clarify on that portion of his statement, while continuing to double, triple, and quadruple down on the fact that this deal truly does prop the door wide open for another Jewish Holocaust.

 

I will end with words from the Governor:

By the way, it’s nothing that I haven’t said for the past 42 years, having been in and out of Israel and having been a strong believer that the reason that the Holocaust happened was because so many people naively believed Neville Chamberlain’s ridiculous statement that we’re going bring peace in our time, and we ended up seeing 11 million people murdered, 6 (million) of whom who were Jews who where marched to those very ovens that I’ve stood in front of.”

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