Category Archives: Republicans

President Donald Trump

Donald Trump won the election last night, which, unfortunately, didn’t surprise me as much as I wish it did. I don’t like Trump, and I have made no secret of it.

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Trump giving his acceptance speech last night. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

However, President-elect Trump did give a great speech last night. For example:

“Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division, have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It is time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in the Show-Me State. My request of Mr. Trump is simple:

“Show me.”

  • Show me that you will seek the guidance of those outside your coalition by appointing a Democrat or independent to your Cabinet. Obama kept Republican Robert Gates in his cabinet after his election, and they got along well enough that Obama gave Gates the Presidential Medal of Freedom on his retirement.
  • Show me that you won’t repeal Obamacare without having something in place so that people with existing conditions–I think “pre-existing conditions” is redundant–don’t get discarded by their insurers at the first opportunity.
  • Show me that you really didn’t mean it when you said you would “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama,” but will instead review them and cancel the ones that truly need to be cancelled–and there are many, certainly.

Much of what Trump put in his “Contract with the American Voter” is good, necessary stuff. Improving our infrastructure will certainly create jobs–something that I have been wanting for a long time–but I question whether the Republican Congress will approve the spending. Properly funding and revitalizing the Veteran’s Administration is long overdue. Streamlining the business regulatory environment is also important. I don’t know how I feel about Trump’s desire to renegotiate NAFTA, but the treaty has been in effect for over twenty years, so it probably needs a tweak here and there. I think suspending immigration from ISIS zones is harsh, but if the suspension is for a very limited period while we quickly ramp up our ability to vet applicants, it might work.

There are certainly things I don’t like, such as school vouchers, the Wall, and ending defense sequestration–I think we can make due with our current budget if we detangle from Iraq and Afghanistan. If Trump can show that he’s willing to work with all sides to get things done, I think some of these can be managed to minimize collateral damage. I’m pessimistic, but hopeful. When I thought he should have tacked toward the center once he had wrapped up the nomination, he turned hard right with his pick of Mike Pence. I hope that now that he actually has the job he will mellow out his rhetoric.

Now, we wait, and give him a chance.

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Being A Moderate In A Polarized World

I have lived most of my adult life as the man in the middle. I tend to be a mediator when my friends argue. I actively avoid taking a side on most issues, because most issues are not black and white. 

When I was interviewed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press Editorial Board, I was asked if I was pro-life or pro-choice. I answered, “No.” I don’t like the political duopoly in the U.S., because most of the time the parties treat issues as for or against. On environmental issues, I agree with the Democrats that we need stronger regulations in many sectors, but I agree with the Republicans that the regulatory burden is often too great for small businesses. We should be able to find ways to both make our world cleaner and make it easier for businesses to understand and comply with regulations. 

I have heard pundits on both sides say that moderates just don’t have the courage to take a stand. Obviously, I think they are mistaken, but furthermore, I think that going against conventional wisdom often takes more courage, since the attacks come from all directions. As you can probably tell from my meme post, I tend to strike in all directions, but I am also looking for good ideas wherever I can find them. 

Too many people reject deals because they aren’t perfect. The Iran nuclear deal is an excellent example, because many people believe the U.S. gave up too much, but Iran feels, correctly, in my opinion, that giving up its nuclear weapons program is worth quite a bit. Liberals don’t like Obamacare because it isn’t single payer, conservatives don’t because it is too far from a free market. No deal is perfect, but sometimes good enough has to be good enough. 

The extremists usually only get things done through force, physical or otherwise. The moderates improve things peacefully.

Too bad there aren’t any left in Congress.

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Republican Party Platform (Part 3 of ?)

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The Second Amendment: Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms

This section could have been written by the National Rifle Association, because there is nothing here that shows any willingness to improve gun safety or even to improve existing legislation. Everything here is about expanding gun rights–some of which I do agree with–but nothing to prevent gun violence.

The Fourth Amendment: Liberty and Privacy

I agree with the GOP’s position to limit the use of drones on U.S. soil, and in limiting the use of tracking devices in motor vehicles. I do think that we need to be careful with the latter, as having vehicle transponders–even if anonymous–might be beneficial to safety as we move toward driverless vehicles.

The GOP’s position on encryption is troubling, as it shows a lack of comprehension on the technology. The problem is that making encryption accessible to the government when a warrant is issued inherently weakens the encryption.

I agree with the GOP’s opposition to the warrantless searches of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), but I am cynical of their motives, as there’s no move to resolve the problem of individuals and corporations dodging taxes by keeping funds outside the U.S.

The Fifth Amendment: Protecting Human Life

Like the Second Amendment section, this section could have been written by an interest group, in this case the National Right to Life Committee. I covered this ad nauseum here and here. Short version: The GOP is extreme on the right, the Democrats are extreme on the left.

The Fifth Amendment: Protecting Private Property

The GOP is against the abuse of eminent domain for private development projects, against the abuse of civil asset forfeiture, and against the seizure of environmentally sensitive property without adequate compensation. I agree wholeheartedly with all of those positions. Now, where do they stand on the seizure of private property from Indians?

The Fifth Amendment: Intellectual Property Rights

The GOP is great at protecting intellectual property rights–but they don’t say anything about getting intellectual property released to the public domain after a reasonable period. The original terms of copyrights were fourteen years, renewable once, but now we are up to life plus seventy years. This is ludicrous, and needs to be fixed. Lawrence Lessig wrote an article on “Re-crafting a Public Domain” which I think every Member of Congress should read.

The Ninth Amendment: The People’s Retained Rights

The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution declares that “[t]he enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This provision codifies the principle that our national government derives its power from the governed and that all powers not delegated to the government are retained by the people. We call upon legislators to give full force to this fundamental principle. We welcome to our ranks all citizens who are determined to reclaim the rights of the people that have been ignored or usurped by the federal and intrusive state governments.

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Yeah, I did see Suicide Squad this weekend.

So, which rights do you mean? The right to privacy, so that people don’t have to worry about the government arresting them for acts that happen in their own bedrooms? The right to equal protection under the law, like the right to marry, even if your partner is the same sex as you? The right to travel freely, regardless of your religion? The right to fair sentencing, regardless of your skin color?

Because I’m hearing the exact opposite of these things from the GOP.

The Tenth Amendment: Federalism as the Foundation of Personal Liberty

I would feel better about this section if the GOP were any better at limiting government than the Democrats, but they just aren’t: They just want government involved in different areas. Yes, the federal government has overstepped its constitutional mandates, but states have repeatedly shown that they are often unwilling or unable to defend the rights of individuals. I would have absolutely no problem with the federal government cutting spending and federal taxes if I had any confidence in some state and local governments actually spending money–and taxing accordingly–to make sure people had adequate education, health care, police protection, and other government services. Unfortunately–I’m looking at you, Kansas–we’ve seen quite clearly that Republican state governments often gut their programs to cut taxes at the expense of the poor.

Honest Elections and the Electoral College

The GOP, for some reason, thinks there is widespread electoral fraud in the U.S., and they think that keeping the Electoral College helps prevent electoral fraud affecting presidential elections. Because of the Electoral College, my vote for president doesn’t matter. Barring an unlikely collapse, Trump will win Tennessee by a huge margin, and because my vote won’t help sway things nationwide, it doesn’t matter who gets my vote. Also, the Electoral College helps maintain the two-party system, because the assumption is that no third-party candidate can get enough votes to get any electoral college delegates. If we restructured things for first-to-the-post or runoffs–in the event no candidate gets 50% on the first ballot–then third parties are viable.

Honest Elections and the Right to Vote

To guard against foreign involvement in our elections, we call for vigilance regarding online credit card contributions to candidates and campaigns.

How about allowing the cases of Trump’s campaign soliciting foreign campaign donations to move forward? I think that would be a good way to “guard against foreign involvement.”

I have no problem with Voter ID laws, provided that they:

  1. Provide a free government ID option.
  2. Provide a free way to get the necessary documentation, like birth certificates, for the purpose of obtaining 1.
  3. Provide assistance in transportation to ID-issuing offices.

The GOP has shown bad faith in wanting people to vote by cutting early voting hours, reducing the number of polling places, and cutting the hours polls are open on election days. If you support the right to vote, make it easier for people to vote, not harder. Personally, I would like to see progress made in secure online voting, but as the GOP is trending older, I am pretty sure that is not a priority for them.


The next section is on “Agriculture, Energy, and the Environment.” I am pretty sure that is in order of importance.

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Republican Party Platform (Part 2 of ?)

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Building the Future

Technology

There’s not much controversial here. The key here seems to be private-public partnerships, which are fine–if they work. Unfortunately, when it comes to broadband internet, the private players, pardon my language, suck. EPB here want to expand to the rural areas around Chattanooga, but Republican state legislators are blocking the move while Comcast and AT&T do nothing. Similarly, I agree that we are improving private launch capabilities for space research, but NASA needs adequate funding, which the GOP is unwilling to give.

America’s Electric Grid

“We support expedited siting processes and the thoughtful expansion of the grid so that consumers and businesses continue to have access to affordable and reliable electricity.”

I am pretty sure “expedited siting processes” is doublespeak for “weakened environmental regulations.” I don’t have a problem with streamlining the approval processes, as long as appropriate safeguards are in place. But the party of Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon–our two best environmental presidents–doesn’t particularly care about the environment.

Small Business and Entrepreneurship: Toward a Start-up Century

Once again we see talk of reducing regulatory burden when what we really need is to reduce the paperwork burden. The GOP wants to “consider the effect of capital gains rates,” but we all know that the GOP ideal would be to eliminate capital gains taxes.

What gets me here though is the mention of “National Labs, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and elements of the Defense Department” as “incubators of unconventional thinking.” So fund them. Democrats won’t argue.

The Federal Reserve

 

RonPaul

More transparency in the Federal Reserve System is probably a good thing. I’m not sure that annual audits are necessary, but some regular audits would not be horrible. I cannot help but get a little twitchy when someone talks about going back to the gold standard, as this is typically conspiracy theorist fodder.

Workplace Freedom for a Twenty-First Century Workforce

Often, “workplace freedom” is doublespeak for “giving employers the freedom to treat employees like commodities instead of like people.” Having said that, there are things in U.S. labor law that need reform. The Project Labor Agreements the GOP opposes often require union workers on government construction contracts–but minority construction workers tend to be non-union, leaving them out in the cold.

I have notice a disturbing trend in U.S. business regarding employees, and it is filled with irony. The group responsible for employees within organizations was rebranded from “Personnel” to “Human Resources” and is currently undergoing a second rebranding from “Human Resources” to “Workforce Management.” In the literature, HR-types justify the change by saying personnel departments treated employees like tools and HR treats employees as assets, but I disagree. I think personnel departments treated employees like people. (I think workforce management is a shift from assets to commodities, reflecting the disposable nature of employees.)

Transparency in unions is important, but I can’t help thinking that the objective here is to further weaken unions. Donald Trump is anti-union in his own businesses, and the party platform reflects that. I think many technology workers, for example, need union protection, as often their working conditions are borderline abusive, and they are under the constant threat of being replaced by imported H-1B workers.

If Republicans wanted true workplace freedom, they would move away from employer-provided health care and toward a single-payer system. One immediate benefit of this is that it would give parents to work part-time schedules while raising their children without fear of losing benefits or seniority–which should help reduce the wage gap. For many families, a forty-hour work week doesn’t make sense, and there is evidence that shorter work weeks make employees healthier, happier, and more productive. As pro-family as the Republicans claim to be, giving people the freedom to spend more time with their children would go a long way.

Having said all this, the actual policy recommendations in this section are pretty reasonable. As with anything, the devil is in the details.

The Federal Workforce

(There’s that word!)

“Federal employees receive extraordinary pension benefits and vacation time wildly out of line with those of the private sector.”

The United States is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday. The average U.S. private sector worker gets 16 paid days off–vacation days and holidays–per year. Every EU country has a legal minimum of four weeks paid vacation, not including holidays, which is what full-time federal employees get after three years of service. So, on vacation time, the federal government is in line with the rest of the world. To me, that indicates that we should pass legislation to bring the private sector into line with the federal government, and not the other way around.

As far as pension benefits go, I wouldn’t have any problem with transitioning federal pension plans toward 401(k)-type retirement plans, provided they included matching similar to what good private employers offer.

The big picture, though, is that I think much of this section is just spiteful. Most federal employees tend to vote Democratic, so slapping them around would make Republicans feel good.

We The People: A Restoration of Constitutional Government

This is largely a propaganda section. I’m sure I’ll address most of the problems with this as the specific issues arise further in the document.

The Judiciary

The GOP wants a Supreme Court that will overturn decisions like Roe v. Wade (abortion), Obergefell v. Hodges (same-sex marriage), and the various decisions that kept Obamacare in place. Of course they do.

Administrative Law

The platform sees a problem with executive branch workers creating rules instead of Congress. Raise your hand if you think Donald Trump wouldn’t rule by decree. George W. Bush wrote more executive orders than Obama has (Obama will probably end with slightly fewer at the end of his term), but Republicans weren’t complaining then.

The First Amendment

Religious Liberty

This section is mostly baseless fear mongering and a twisted interpretation of Amendment I’s religious liberty clause:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

The Supreme Court has, on numerous occasions, interpreted this as meaning that government and government employees cannot endorse one set of religious beliefs over another. A religious school can require a teacher to belong to that school’s religion and to live according to its tenets, but it can’t require the same from the custodian, as teaching religion has nothing to do with the custodian’s job and thus would violate anti-discrimination laws. Public school teachers, coaches, and administrators cannot lead public prayers or allow school equipment, such as amplifiers, to be used for that purpose, but there is nothing that prevents students from doing this on their own–and there is no danger of any law passing that would prohibit this, and even if it did, it would be unconstitutional. 

I have no desire to restrict anyone’s ability to practice their religion, but I do think many people–like certain megachurch leaders–abuse the tax-free status of their institutions. Likewise, when a business like the new Ark Encounter discriminates in their hiring practices, they should not receive government tax credits.

The platform also condemns those who would boycott businesses that “support traditional marriage.” I strongly oppose anyone who threatens violence against said businesses, but a for-profit business is not a church, and as such is subject to state and federal civil rights legislation. Even if the business is not violating the law, there is no reason to compel someone to support business owners who disagree with their views or lifestyle. Frankly, if you’re going to conduct your business according to your perceived Christian values, post those values so people don’t waste their time and yours.

The platform supports the display of the Ten Commandments–which version?–in public places. There is nothing wrong with that, provided that members of all religions are allowed to equally display texts from their religions. The Constitution does not give Christianity a privileged place in American society.

The bottom line is this: You are free to practice your religion in any way that you want, but you are not allowed to do this while representing the government or with the use of government resources. The Constitution was written to guarantee equal treatment of beliefs, without interference from the government. The Republicans believe that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, despite John Adams’ explicit words to the contrary, and want to make it into one.

A Personal Note

As you may have guessed from the above, I am not a Christian. Depending on your definition, I am agnostic or atheist, based on where you choose to draw the line. I was baptized Catholic, but for various reasons–mostly my inability to believe in miracles–I don’t think I ever believed in the Christian God. I believe that Christianity can make some people much better, but I have seen warped versions of Christianity turn people into monsters. Most of my friends are Christian, including one preacher, and I respect–and sometimes envy–their faith. It would be better for me politically to either hide my lack of religion or pretend to be Christian, but I would rather be honest and true to myself than dishonest and loved.

The candidate in this race who emphasizes his Christianity the most is Rick Tyler. If you think that all Christians are better than all atheists, you really need to take a long look in the mirror.

Constitutionally Protected Speech

“Limits on political speech serve only to protect the powerful and insulate incumbent officeholders.”

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Charles Dharapak/AP/Corbis

OK…I’m back.

The GOP is opposed to overturning Citizens United because they benefit tremendously from it. Likewise, they would like churches to be able to engage in political activities, currently prohibited by their status as 501(c)(3) non-profits. Congress has repeatedly passed legislation–which courts have upheld–that prohibits campaigning by organizations that operate on a tax-free basis. If this restriction were not in place, it would certainly be abused by candidates and political parties.


That brings me to page 13 of the 58-page platform.

Tomorrow night I will be speaking to the Roane County Tea Party. I hope this meeting is better than the last one I attended.

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Filed under Corporate America, Environment, Religion, Republicans, Taxation, Technology

Republican Party Platform (Part 1 of ?)

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I got a copy of the draft 2016 Republican Party Platform. It’s subject to amendment through this morning, so I will compare to the finished product when it becomes available.

Restoring the American Dream

Rebuilding the Economy and Creating Jobs

This section is just statistics and criticism of Obama for the economy not performing as well as it usually does post-recession. No specific policies suggested, so there’s no real criticism here.

Fair and Simple Taxes for Growth and Jobs

“Our proposal is straightforward. Whenever taxes penalize thrift or discourage investment, they must be lowered. Whenever current provisions of the code are disincentives for economic growth, they must be changed.”

Again, few specifics in this section, but the second sentence has interesting ramifications. Theoretically, what we want for economic growth is economic activity. Thrift–especially by the wealthy–is harmful to the economy because spending money is what generates economic activity. If a corporation is thrifty by maintaining high profits while paying large portions of its workforce wages at or near the minimum wage, this is a thrift that should be penalized. If your idea of investment is to buy real estate and invest the bare minimum to make the property available for rent, this is not positive economic activity. We should encourage investment in companies that improve the world while discouraging investment in companies that prey on the public. Not all investment is good.

Fundamental Tax Principles

A few things here worth mentioning:

  1. Opposing “tax policies that deliberately divide Americans or promote class warfare.” No one likes taxes. The wealthy view paying increased taxes as class warfare, while the poor may look at those same policies as improving equity. The current cap on Social Security contributions is seen as fair by the wealthy–as there’s a limit on what they can get from the system–but it’s seen as punishing the poor by taxing a higher percentage of their income.
  2. Maintaining the tax-free status of religious organizations. I think there should be a difference between money donated to and spent by a religious organization for the purpose of religion and money donated to and spent by a religious organization for charity. A megachurch pastor shouldn’t get his home and income tax-free. If your church endorses specific candidates for public office, that’s not religion, that’s politics, and it should be taxed accordingly.
  3. Calling for a value added tax or national sales tax with the simultaneous repeal of Amendment XVI (the amendment that authorized the income tax). I’m not opposed to a national sales tax in principle, but I think it should be phased in as the income tax is phased out. An immediate switch could be catastrophic for the economy. I also think we need to be very careful about how we implement a sales tax. If it shifts the burden of taxation to the poor, there’s a problem.

American Competitiveness in the Global Economy

This section is criminally misleading. Yes, the U.S. has the highest (or one of the highest, depending on your source) corporate tax rates in the world. If that rate was what corporations actually paid, this would be a problem. But it’s not.

According to The Congressional Research Service, the effective corporate tax rate is comparable to that of other OECD countries, once standard deductions are included. If you compare the tax rates weighted for GDP, the U.S. tax rate is 27.1% and the rest of the OECD is 27.7%. Office of Management and Budget figures show the percent of taxes paid by U.S. corporations is 10%, compared to 32% in 1952. Corporate tax deductions need to be reworked to reward producers and penalize leeches. I’m not sure the GOP knows the difference.

International Trade

“We need better negotiated trade agreements that put America first.”

Trade agreements are not a zero-sum game. It is rarely a case of one country winning and another losing. More often it is a case of boosting already strong sectors of the U.S. economy while sacrificing sectors that are struggling. There are problems with the way the U.S. negotiates trade agreements, because once government negotiators get enough experience to be effective they are poached by the private sector, but I don’t see the Republicans addressing that problem.

The call for China to stop excluding “U.S. products from government purchases” is hilarious in its naïvete. The bargaining chip there is ridiculously simple: Open U.S. contracts to Chinese products. Because far more industry in China is state-owned than in the U.S., we would be opening far less competition here than China would be opening there. But, of course, China’s negotiators are probably too smart to let that go as an even trade. Regardless, complaining about another country doing the same thing we do is a bit silly.

Restoring Financial Markets

Dodd-Frank wasn’t perfect, but it did introduce much-needed regulation into portions of the financial industry that were neglected–and which, contrary to what the platform says, contributed heavily to the 2008 recession. The GOP is correct when it says Dodd-Frank imposed a heavy regulatory burden on small banks, inadvertently allowing large banks to grow faster as they could more easily absorb that burden. One of the largest problems in government overall is the tendency to add new regulatory paperwork requirements while it never goes back to old requirements to reduce or eliminate obsolete or redundant paperwork.

The bulk of this section is a rant against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As with Dodd-Frank–and Obamacare, and untold other government entities–the default method of fixing something for the Republicans is to eliminate it and start over. Sometimes, yes, things are so bad that you just need to get rid of it and begin anew, but most of the time the problem is something you can fix. You don’t get rid of your car just because it needs a new oil filter.

Rebuilding Home Ownership and Rental Opportunities

The GOP, once again, blames the government rather than private lenders for the housing crisis that caused the 2008 recession. As a result, the GOP wants to roll back environmental regulations on home purchases and eliminate lending requirements based on race for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and federally-insured banks. I am fairly confident that the U.S. has not reached a level playing field for mortgage lending, so removing race-based quotas is premature. I could see removing the quotas on a case-by-case basis, if an institution has shown a pattern of compliance over a significant period. Environmental regulations may need to be updated and streamlined, but older homes still have lead-based paint, and the government is usually the only defense against other environmental contaminants.

Finally, the GOP wants to make sure that zoning decisions are made at the local level. Too often, zoning is used for gentrification purposes, at the expense of established minority neighborhoods. It sometimes seems like zoning officials get their marching orders from Rick Tyler.

America on the Move: Transportation

There are several policy recommendations in this section. First, the GOP wants to remove non-highway-related programs from being funded by the Highway Trust Fund, including mass transit, bike-share programs, sidewalks, and scenic byways: “These worthwhile enterprises should be funded through other sources.” If I had any confidence that these would be funded through other sources, I would wholeheartedly approve this initiative. However, state and local governments–especially Republican-controlled governments–are almost universally hostile to the idea of funding mass-transit or urban transportation programs, like bike-share and sidewalks. I think on this issue, what the Republicans criticize for “coerc(ing) people out of their cars,” is actually a pretty good thing. We should encourage people to live near their jobs and encourage companies to allow as many employees as possible to work from home.

Again, the GOP wants to lower environmental protections, this time in the National Environmental Policy Act–ironically, signed into law by Richard Nixon. They want to get rid of worker protections, namely the Davis-Bacon Act, which require government contracts to pay workers the prevailing wage in an area. The GOP also opposes an increase in the federal gas tax, which is problematic, since the tax is set at 18.4 cents per gallon instead of being set as a percent rate. As a result, since the tax has not increased since 1993, when accounting for inflation the tax should be about 30 cents per gallon. This tax should be converted to a percent rate.

Finally, the GOP wants to encourage private investment in rail and high-speed rail transportation. I’m skeptical on this point, as I am not sure the infrastructure investment is something that can be handled privately, especially with the right-of-way purchases required. The start of the California high-speed rail system is a comedy of errors, especially starting in the middle instead of at either end toward the outer suburbs where people already commute, but I don’t think removing federal funding is necessarily the answer.


Five pages down, fifty-three to go. Not sure how many sections overall. Tomorrow, I will take a break to do my candidate analysis for the August primary.

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Geoffery Smith – Anti-Establishment Republican

Last Monday, I met Geoff Smith at a Meet The Candidates event in Polk County. Even though I disagree with him on many issues, as he is a social conservative and I’m not, I respect his honesty and integrity. He is running against Chuck Fleischmann, the incumbent, and Allan Levene, who I am unsure if he has even ever been to Tennessee–he ran in Hawaii before and is also running in Georgia’s 14th district this year. Geoff’s campaign website is http://www.gsmith4congress.com. I’ll compare his positions with mine here, but it’s always best to get information directly from the source.

Geoffery S. Smith (from gsmith4congress.com)

Geoffery S. Smith (from gsmith4congress.com)

Smith served in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division and earned a master’s in public administration, and, most importantly, his first child is coming this July. (Good luck!) There are two kinds of people with whom I disagree: Those who are ignorant, and those who are well-educated but have different values. Geoff is definitely in the latter category.

He has seven issues listed on his website, so I’ll do a bit of comparing and contrasting.

Immigration

Illegal immigration allows safe haven for persons espousing socialism.   Illegals burden tax-payers, compromise national security, increase criminal activity, and damage the ideal American citizenship. Securing the border and deporting illegals is a priority for any country that has a mixed-economy. 

First, I don’t have a problem with socialists and have no idea what “ideal American citizenship” is, so I don’t have a problem with illegal immigration on that basis. In researching criminal activity by illegal immigrants I come up with a very mixed message, generally along partisan lines. Conservative news organizations, such as Fox News, portray illegals as committing a higher number of crimes than citizens. (Fox did point out that the federal government’s data in this area is inadequate.) Pacific Standard, in contrast, points out that as the number of illegal immigrants increases overall crime rates drop. USA Today may have had the best quote: “There’s no evidence that immigrants are either more or less likely to commit crimes than anyone else in the population,” Janice Kephart, a CIS researcher, said last week on the PBS NewsHour. As far as national security goes, this seems like more of a theoretical threat than an actual one, at least as far as Islamic terrorism is concerned. The 9/11 hijackers entered legally, the Boston Marathon bombers and the Chattanooga shooter were citizens, and the San Bernardino shooters were a citizen and his wife.

I agree that border security is important, just not billion-dollar walls important. If you’re worried about illegal immigration, then addressing global income inequalities is a better approach.

Economy

The economy works best when there is a stable dollar and government stays out of the way of business.   For most Republican politicians this is just rhetoric, but I believe in unleashing the creative potential of all Americans by cutting massive regulations in order for industry to compete and provide American jobs.   I also believe in implementing the fair-tax,  so as to not punish producers. 

This is probably where I agree with Geoff the most. We do need to streamline regulations so that American manufacturers can compete more fairly with imported products. I do think that we should do this while also pressuring those countries to improve their own environmental and labor regulations. I do believe that the Fair Tax is an improvement, in many ways, over our current income tax system, but I would prefer a graduated sales tax instead of a flat sales tax, with luxury items and non-necessities taxed at a higher rate than staple goods, but that’s a trivial difference–and to be fair, I’m not sure Smith would oppose that idea.

Life

Abortion is one of the major issues for my run for Congress. Planned Parenthood is fully-funded through the Consolidated Act of 2016 that Rep. Chuck Fleischmann voted for. I will not vote for one-penny of funding for Planned Parenthood and will have a 100% voting record with the National Right to Life Foundation. Great misunderstandings are associated with Planned Parenthood, much of which concerns the availability of services to women. For instance,  Planned Parenthood fails to offer even the basics of women’s health care, such as mammograms which is not offered at all.  Rep. Bill Johnson (Ohio) said in 2013 that 94% of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services are abortions. The agency must be defunded and all monies should be moved to areas where women ARE SERVED.

First, the Rep. Johnson quote is questionable at best, and misleading at worst. Planned Parenthood provides many services to women who aren’t pregnant, and the organization itself doesn’t track what services it provides to pregnant women. My answers to the National Right to Life Committee questionnaire are here and here, but the short version is that I don’t expect to have a 100% voting record with any organization. The big problem with defunding Planned Parenthood is that it is one of the only sources for many women to obtain contraception. If I had any confidence that conservatives would allow contraceptive or “morning after” pills to be sold over-the-counter without prescriptions, I would be more receptive to suggestions to defund Planned Parenthood. I think they would be more likely to invite a million Syrian refugees into the country.

Education

Education is not one of the constitutional roles of the federal government. Therefore, education should be totally under the control of the state and local government. The U.S. Department of Education is an unconstitutional federal agency and if elected I will do everything within my power to abolish the department and establish a plan to return total control of education back to the individual states.  It is not enough to abolish the department we must make sure that all education functions are returned to the state and not just moved to another federal agency. All education policies would also be determined and run at the state level. I would also do all that I can to end intrusive policies such as Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) which is the reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). This would be a major endeavor that would take careful planning and a transition period of not more than 2 years.

Liberals argue that the Commerce Clause allows the federal government to regulate education. I don’t agree. However, I do believe that the Equal Protection Clause of Amendment XIV does allow the federal government to intervene in cases where state and local governments provide a good public education to some children and not others, most notably when the Supreme Court forced integration in Brown v. Board of Education. I would prefer to go a step further than Geoff and have most public education functions handled at the local and not the state level. I do think that the state needs to be involved in special education, as smaller school districts may not have the resources to handle this effectively, and I think that states may need to help districts (current Title I districts) with providing funds for low-income students. I do think that the Equal Protection Clause might apply in this area, if state governments were unable or unwilling to provide good schools for all students. But, on the whole, I would like to see less federal involvement in education. I don’t think Smith and I are too far apart on this issue.

Veterans

Being a veteran,  I can ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’ on veteran issues. The reason for the VA’s poor record is the simple fact that civilians do not understand the issues concerning veterans. A fellow veteran understands these issues. Plus, the socialist system of treating our veterans needs to be addressed through free-market reforms, for example, putting a voucher system in place for our veteran’s treatment.

Both parties have done a horrible job making sure veterans get the treatment they earned. I described my views on health care when discussing Trump’s health plan, and I think that long-term, for many reasons, single-payer health care is necessary, and properly funding the VA and improving the way it is managed is part of that path. However, in the short-term, I think a voucher system so that veterans can use private providers instead of waiting months or years for treatment is a decent Band-Aid while we treat the main disease. Smith believes that we should “Repeal & replace Obamacare with free market reforms” (his campaign flyer). I don’t think free market reforms can work unless we were also willing to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid, because even without Obamacare government spending is over half of all healthcare spending in the U.S.

 2nd Amendment

I will have a 100% voting record with the NRA. I am one of the few politicians to ever shoot a wide-array of guns (semi-automatic, machine guns, grenade launchers) because of my time in the Army Infantry. The constitutionally protected right to bears arms is one of my most important issues.

Like I said above, I won’t have a 100% voting record with anyone. I do believe in the right to bear arms, but I also believe, as the Supreme Court does, that it can be regulated. For example, I would like all gun transfers to require a background check–preferably an instant online check, to put gun dealers on a level playing field with private sellers. I would also like to see all students take a firearms safety course in school, if for no other reason than to prevent accidental shootings.

Refugee Crisis

Thanks to Representative Chuck Fleischmann, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are coming to the United States. I see these refugees as a terrorist threat, and anyone who would vote to fund them is endangering everyone. The rape, murder, and all-out cultural shock the refugees have caused in Western Europe should have been enough evidence not to fund this Obama agenda.

The Daily Caller, not exactly a liberal mouthpiece, gives the number as 45,000 over two years. Most refugees hate Islamic State more than we do, and I don’t see them as a serious threat. If we want to cut that threat to almost zero, limit the refugees to women, children, and families without military-age men. We would still help our allies in Europe and the Middle East reduce their refugee burden while leaving them with all of the risk.


The Scorecard

As far as I can tell, I mostly agree with Geoff on the economy, education, and veterans, mostly disagree with him on illegal immigration, abortion, refugees, and probably a split on gun rights, so 3.5 for, 3.5 against, which is probably about as close as I get with most major party candidates. Given a choice between Chuck Fleischmann and Geoff Smith in the August primary, it’s not even close: I’d definitely vote for Smith. I have not yet decided which primary I am choosing–hurray for Tennessee’s open primaries!–but even though I disagree with him on many issues I know he’s a man with integrity who will do what he believes is right. That goes a long way with me.

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Supreme Court Confirmation

Today I emailed Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker regarding the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court:

Dear Senator —,

(Intro paragraph personalized for each senator)

I read today that seven of your Republican Senate colleagues had agreed to meet with Judge Merrick Garland regarding his appointment to fill Justice Scalia’s position on the Supreme Court, but I was dismayed to read that you were not one of them. I understand the Republican party line that the voters should have input on this via the upcoming election, but I feel it sets a dangerous precedent, one which has the potential to cripple future Supreme Courts by promoting 4-4 deadlocks.

However, let’s take that issue off the table. Judge Garland is a moderate liberal who had bipartisan support during his previous confirmation. As you tend to be more moderate than most of your Senate colleagues–on both sides of the aisle–having Judge Garland on the Court shouldn’t seem like a horrible option, especially compared to what might happen if you wait.

If Secretary Clinton is elected, she will most certainly nominate a liberal to the Supreme Court, and that liberal will very likely not be moderate at all. As polls show her beating Mr. Trump handily in a general election contest, it seems to me that Judge Garland is a better choice for Republicans than any future nominee. If, however, Donald Trump is elected, the uncertainty regarding the type of person he would nominate should sound alarms. As he is the candidate who will say anything to get support, I don’t think he can be trusted to nominate a conservative either. I can understand stalling if you think your party will end up with an open convention where you can nominate someone reasonable to head the party ticket–Any interest?–but if you think, like I do, that Clinton and Trump are the likely nominees, then stalling on this nomination is not in the country’s best interests.

Thanks for your hard work in the Senate.

Topher Kersting

Thanks for reading.

Topher

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