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REPUBLICANS IN PLATTE HAVE TOTAL CONTROL, NOW HOW WILL THEY GOVERN?
Posted 12/28/12

January 1, 2013 will mark the first day that something has ever happened since the sun first came up on Platte County on January 1, 1839. For the first time ever, all of Platte County's elected officials will be Republican. (Technically, David Cox will not take over as assessor until September, but he was elected in November so you get the idea.)

This has been a long time in coming. Platte County didn't even elect a Republican until 1968. So, Platte County existed for 130 years before there was a Republican in the courthouse (today the County Administration Building).

Since Bill Honeycutt and Tom Thomas were elected county commissioner (I think they were still called county judges back then) and sheriff, respectively, there have been steady inroads made by Republican candidates in Platte County. (Honeycutt likes to joke that he was the first Republican ever elected in Platte County because his name was higher on the ballot than Thomas', but Thomas was elected for the whole county and Honeycutt for just a portion of the county so Thomas might have a slightly better claim to being the first Republican elected in Platte County.) Republicans have had some successful years at the ballot box, but never before have Republicans gone 12-0 in county government.

Having an all Republican courthouse/county administration building has been a goal of mine since I first became active in county politics almost 20 years ago. The hard work of many people before I came along set the stage for an increasing number of Republican victories. The collaboration of many people over the last 20 years, especially quality candidates, combined with these other earlier efforts has led to today's Republican successes.

The real question is “Now what?” Republicans have total control of county government. So, what are they going to do with this control?

I have frequently noted that the areas of the country with all the problems are all run by Democrats. Just look at the worst parts of Missouri – Kansas City and St. Louis. In Kansas City there isn't a single Republican on the city council. What is the most screwed up part of our community? That's right -- the south of the river portion of Kansas City. Look at other failing cities in America. They also are all run by Democrats. California and Illinois have completely messed up state governments that are on the verge of bankruptcy. Who's in charge in those states? Democrats. Do you see a pattern?

So, our Republican dominated county government has an important question: “How will they govern?” Will they pursue tax and spend policies and massive increases in county government debt that create a future train wreck for the citizens of our county? Or will they exercise prudent and responsible leadership for our county?

For the sake of all of us, I hope it is the latter. I also hope the same thing for the credibility of the local Republican Party and its candidates both past, present and future.
Next Tuesday will bring a new year and a new era to Platte County. Republicans officeholders will be completely in charge. I am optimistically hoping that this will be the beginning of many more successful and prosperous years for Platte County and the Platte County Republican Party.

(Local Republican activist James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


IT'S NO SHOCK HOSPITALS WANT OBAMACARE AND EXPANSION OF MEDICAID
Posted 12/23/12

The Missouri Bar Association recently marched on the capitol to demand that lawyers be paid more in legal fees. No. Not really, but something very similar has happened in the last few weeks. The Missouri Hospital Association has been demanding that the Missouri General Assembly increase the state government's spending on Medicaid.

The Affordable Care Act (what most people know as ObamaCare) calls for the states to make dramatic expansions of Medicaid. (Medicaid, which is paid for by state government with some federal reimbursement, is health care for poor people. Medicaid should not to be confused with Medicare, which is health care for old people.) The pain to the state budget is actually fairly modest in the early years as the federal government will pick up a large percentage of the cost in the first few years. However, once Medicaid is expanded and the federal reimbursements drop off, the state government is faced with a huge bill without the money to pay it.

Missouri has been down this road before. Governor Carnahan pushed through dramatic expansions to eligibility for Medicaid. The rising cost of health care for an increased number of people put Missouri on a path to financial ruin. Missouri's Medicaid obligation was gobbling up an ever increasing percentage of Missouri's budget and was poised to overwhelm the state government's solvency or at least require dramatic cuts to other areas, such as education.

When Governor Blunt took office, he worked with the Missouri General assembly to tackle the out of control Medicaid spending and draw the eligibility conditions back into line. This allowed Missouri to get somewhat back on track financially and, most importantly, allowed Missouri to survive the economic downturn by not having to keep funding a dramatically expanding Medicaid program. (Missouri still had huge Medicaid expenses, but these expenses were far less than they would have been without the action of Blunt and the Republican-controlled General Assembly.)

The Missouri Hospital Association wants to put Missouri back on the out of control spending path brought to us by Carnahan. They claim that this new spending will add 24,000 new jobs in Missouri. Of course, when you look at the $8.2 billion in spending, these jobs come at a cost of over $340,000 a piece.

The Missouri Hospital Association is also promoting a claim that they provided $1.1 billion in uncompensated care in 2011. This uncompensated care figure is a combination of charity care and bad debt expense. However, the hospitals seem to be forgetting that many of them are not-for-profit organizations that have as a component of their mission to provide a substantial amount of free care to the community.

Do hospitals serve an important role in our community? Yes. Should we expect the doctors and other staff of the hospital and the institution itself to be reasonably compensated for the services they provide? Absolutely! However, whenever I hear an organization wanting the government to spend more money that is going to go directly into their pockets, the warning bells start sounding.

As you listen to what are certainly some legitimate requests for more funding from the taxpayers, ask yourself if a bunch of lawyers or whatever organization that you belong to was asking for the same thing, would you say “Yes”? My guess is that you wouldn't.

(James Thomas is active in local Republican politics and can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 


RECRUITING THE RIGHT CANDIDATE IS MUCH OF THE BATTLE
Posted 12/16/12

An article by Manu Raju in Politico entitled “GOP Plots to prevent more Todd Akins,” notes that “Republicans say resolving their primary problem is, well, their primary problem.” Raju's humorous turn of phrase does make an interesting point. In the 2012 cycle, many Republican candidates throughout the country came out on top in hard fought primary battles only to be knocked off by their Democrat opponents in the general election. In Missouri we know that story all too well with the Todd Akin debacle.

The political insiders in Washington and elsewhere are talking about the importance of recruiting. Well DUH! I have spoken to Republican groups throughout the region over how to build a successful local Republican organization like we have in Platte County. Yes. We have gotten a boost from shifting demographics. However, the most important thing the local party does is recruiting. I tell people all the time that an election is not won or lost in November. The election is normally won or lost as much as a year before the actual election when we choose our candidate. Sure. A lot of work happens from the date of selecting a candidate until the actual Election Day that impacts the outcome of the election, but presumably if you recruited the right candidate, you have already set the stage by having selected a candidate that will do the work that is required.

The problem is what do the political insiders do once a candidate is recruited? For example, I'm pretty sure that many of the political insiders wanted someone other than Todd Akin as the Republican nominee for Missouri's U.S. Senator. However, what did they do to support their preferred nominee? Did they publicly endorse their candidate? Did they host fund raisers for their candidate? Did they help their candidate with introductions to traditional Republican donors? Or did they simply sit and watch as the primary progressed and hope the candidate they wanted to win (and possibly even actively recruited) was successful?

I could be wrong, but it certainly appeared that most of the “big wig” Republicans declined to endorse during the primary. This left their preferred candidate to fend for himself or herself without any public support from the recruiting party.

Now don't get me wrong. I think certain folks need to be very cautious about openly supporting a non-incumbent candidate in a primary election. The Chairman and Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party probably shouldn't publicly endorse in a primary election or at least when they make an endorsement in a primary election it should be in their individual capacities and not in their official capacities.

Likewise, the chairman of the Platte County Republican Party should not endorse a candidate in a local primary in his capacity as chairman. However, there is certainly nothing wrong with the chairman actively and publicly supporting a candidate in primary in their individual capacity.

Of course, these political insiders who are bemoaning Akins' loss deserve their share of responsibility during the primary. Not only did they not openly and publicly support their preferred choice in the primary, but when Akin “blew his own foot off,” they did not try to rehabilitate him. Instead they handed the Democrats numerous derogatory quotes against Akin.

There is an important caution. Missouri Republicans don't want “big wigs” from Washington coming in and picking our candidates for us. Of course, the way for us to avoid that is for the local Republicans to stay active.

(Email jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


HERE'S A PROPOSAL FOR A 'GRAND COMPROMISE'
Posted 12/7/12

A “Grand Compromise” is near to avert the fiscal cliff. You can almost sense it with each article your read. Despite the tough talk on each side, the Republicans are about to cave.

Compromise is the way to resolve the fiscal challenge facing the federal government. However, the kind of compromise we are about to get is not a good one. The Democrats will hold the line on their ridiculous spending policies. Republicans will partially hold the line on not raising tax rates. However, Republican Congressional leaders will agree to a compromise that reduces deductions for high income taxpayers, which despite the rhetoric of these wimpy Republicans, is really a tax hike for high income taxpayers.

The real fiscal cliff is not that tax rates are going to go up while tiny spending cuts are mandated. (These spending cuts are big dollars, but they are “tiny” as a percentage of total spending.) The real fiscal cliff is just a simple math problem. The federal government is spending way more money than it takes it. This can be managed and disguised for short periods of time. However, after decades of overspending followed by Obama's four years of spending that have increased the federal government's debt by about $5 Trillion (with a T!!!) or about 50%, the math simply doesn't work. The federal government simply can not keep spending more money than it takes in. This overspending has to stop!

So, my proposal of a “Grand Compromise” is a little different. Congressional Republicans agree to some tax increases. However, these tax increases MUST be passed in conjunction with the adoption of (NOT just meaning vote on) a Balanced Budget Amendment that prohibits the federal government from spending more than it is projected to receive unless there is a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress.

This Balanced Budget Amendment would take effect at the later of the first fiscal year it is ratified in accordance with the rules of the U.S. Constitution for approving amendments or the fiscal year beginning on October 1, 2017.Contemporaneous with this Balanced Budget Amendment, the debt ceiling could be raised on a stair step basis for each of the next four fiscal years to allow a five year phase in of the cuts that will be necessary to balance the federal budget. In exchange for a constitutional limit on spending, Republicans would agree to increasing the tax rates to the Clinton Tax Rates or something between the Bush Tax Rates and the Clinton Tax Rates.

Now I don't like the idea of tax rates going up. When the tax rates go up, the economy will slow down and probably enter another recession. I also don't like being asked to pay more than I am already paying since I am already paying way more than my fair share. However, if Republicans are going to agree to increased taxes, they need to only do so as part of addressing the critical problem.

The problem is not that taxes are too low. The problem is that the federal government is spending way too much. By having a Balanced Budget Amendment, Congressional leaders would be forced to make the hard decisions of how to spend the money we have. The pot of money is only so big. When the money is gone, it's gone. That's all there is. That's how responsible people manage their personal finances. That's how the federal government should be expected to operate.

(James Thomas is active in local Republican politics. Reach him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 


THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH, FREE BREAKFAST OR FREE PIZZA
Posted 12/1/12

John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John's Pizza, and John Metz, the owner of 40 Denny's Restaurant franchises, have come under fire during the last two weeks for their comments about ObamaCare.

ObamaCare will cost Papa John's an estimated $5 to $8 million per year. Schnatter has said that he intends to pass along this cost to the pizza purchasers. Schnatter anticipates that this will add an additional 15 to 20 cents to each order. Schnatter also reported that many Papa John's franchises are considering cutting employees' hours to help pay for the cost of ObamaCare.

The Washington Times reports that liberal crazies have demanded that Papa John's just pay the costs of ObamaCare without passing the cost on to consumers or making cuts to employees. I just can't get over how clueless these liberal “community do-gooders” are. They just think money somehow magically appears to business owners and that business owners should just cut already narrow profit margins even narrower. Of course, the added cost of taxes and government regulation, including the new ObamaCare, which is both a new tax and new regulation, are passed on to the customers of a business.

Many consumers won't really appreciate the fact that ObamaCare is increasing the cost of their Papa John's order. However, Metz has a plan to cover these increased costs and make sure that customers know why their bill has gone up. He is planning to add a five percent surcharge to customers' bills at his Denny's Restaurants so that he can both cover the cost of ObamaCare to his business and make it clear to his customers why their bills have gone up.

ObamaCare requires businesses with more than 50 workers to offer an approved insurance plan to their employees or pay a penalty of $2,000 for each full-time employee over 30 employees. However, only employees working over 30 hours a week must be covered under their employers' health insurance plan. The unintended consequence of ObamaCare is that many employees may see their hours cut to under 30 hours a week so their employer can avoid the insurance burden. In fact, some chains, such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, are reported to be considering reduced worker hours.

Metz states that he would provide all his employees health insurance costs. However, the estimated insurance coverage cost of $5,000 per employee would cost him about $175,000 per restaurant per year. However, he notes that most of his restaurants don't have $175,000 in profit. So, he would actually lose money on most of his restaurants by providing this insurance coverage.

This simple math doesn't stop the ObamaCare supporters, who seem to lack even a basic understanding of economics or even math for that matter, from making all kinds of crazy comments on Twitter. A common theme is that some companies, such as Applebee's are racist for considering a hiring freeze while faced with the potential ObamaCare costs. Another Twitter user (or more accurately a “twit”) attacked Red Lobster and Olive Garden for being racist. This “twit” apparently was unaware that the CEO of Red Lobster and Olive Garden is black.

It is just simple math. If government polices (i.e., ObamaCare) increase the business operator's costs, then the business operator has to pass that cost on to the purchasers of the business' products or services. There simply is no such thing as a free lunch or free breakfast at Denny's or free pizza at Papa John's.

(James Thomas is active in local Republican politics and can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


THE EARLY VOTING DEBATE, AND LET'S GO TO A CLOSED PRIMARY SYSTEM
Posted 11/23/12

It never fails. After every election there are numerous editorials advocating for early voting. I know it might be more convenient for some people, but early voting for all is a bad idea.

Early voting might work fine in the presidential election. Presidential campaigns go on for more than a year with lots of press coverage and paid media. If a voter doesn't have a pretty good idea who he or she is going to vote for 30 days or more before the election, the person probably shouldn't be voting.

This is not the case with candidates further down the ballot. Candidates for county office don't have the resources to buy media months before the election. The only paid voter contact these candidates can afford is often a single piece of mail sent during the last week before the election.

Even some state-wide candidates can't afford paid voter contact for more than a week or two. Since a one week state-wide media blitz costs more than half a million dollars, many state-wide campaigns, even those with a million dollar budget, can't buy even two weeks worth of state-wide media.

If lots of people start voting early, then that means that lots of people have not received a message from many of the down ballot candidates. So, many of these voters are voting without having much, if any, information on these down ballot candidates. This is bad policy.

I know some folks will argue that they want early voting so it is more convenient, but it really isn't that difficult for everyone (except for those legitimate reasons to vote absentee) to vote on the same day. I voted on the way to school/work. My daughter and I left the house 30 minutes early on Election Day. I walked right in, showed my ID and was walking out the door in less than 10 minutes. The only reason that my daughter and I needed to allow the extra 20 minutes is that our polling place is in the opposite direction of school/work.

If anyone wants to talk about reforming election laws, I have a couple of reforms to consider. First, let's have a consistent voter ID policy. When I go to vote, the election judge asks for my ID even though she knows me personally. It doesn't bother me to show my ID. Second, let's go to a party registration and closed primary system. This way folks who do not consider themselves affiliated with a particular party cannot vote in the other party's primary election. The primary isn't about picking the elected officeholder. The primary is about picking who will be your party's candidate in the general election. You shouldn't be voting outside of your party in a primary.

I know that sometimes, you simply can't get to the polls on Election Day. (Once I got called out of town on business at the last minute before an April election and had to run up to the Election Board to cast my ballot before I left town.) Sometimes you simply have to vote early. However, the overwhelming majority of us can endure the challenge of voting on the same day. It really is an insignificant sacrifice. In fact, it is actually a symbol of our collective status as Americans to endure the small sacrifice of all voting together on the same day.

(James Thomas is active in local Republican politics and can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


ROMNEY DIDN'T HAVE THE RECORD TO BE A CONSERVATIVE CHAMPION
Posted 11/16/12

“Republicans may never win a national election again!” At least that is what some political talking heads are saying. With the Presidential Election behind us, Republicans do need to take a good hard look at the Electoral map and try to understand why Republicans did not win back the presidency in 2012. However, “never winning again” is a little over the top for some pundits to proclaim.

This assertion makes me chuckle. It doesn't match up with the last 30 years of political history. By the end of the 80s, the Democrats were struggling to figure out if they could win back the Presidency after Reagan had won twice, Bush (41) had won handily in 1988 and had sky high approval ratings after the successful conclusion of the Gulf War. Then this “new kind of Democrat” from Arkansas came along to win in 1992. After Republicans successfully controlled Congress from 1994 through the early 2000s, there were some commentators that claimed that there was a new Republican majority that would be around for decades. Of course, 2006 rolled around and Republicans lost control of Congress. So, anyone who claims that there is a permanent paradigm shift to favor one party over the other simply hasn't been paying attention to politics for the last 30 years.

The liberals in the Republican Party are pointing to Romney coming up short and saying “See! Look what happens when we nominate a conservative.” Huh? A conservative? Romney is the guy who created ObamaCare in Massachusetts years before anyone had even heard of a community organizer from the streets of Chicago with an odd name.

Romney actually challenged Senator Kennedy, the liberal lion, by claiming that he would be more liberal than Kennedy. I know Romney partially reinvented himself for his 2008 run and further reinvented himself for his 2012 run, but a conservative? Romney may have spouted conservative rhetoric, but he certainly did not have the record to be a conservative champion.

An article published right before the election did identify a problem of the Republicans. The article said that Romney had a strong majority of the white vote and that Obama had an even strong majority of the non-white vote. So the critical issue was the “color” of the vote. The article concluded that Romney needed the white percentage of the vote to be something like 73%. A follow up article right after the election noted that the white percentage of the vote was actually only 71%, which accounted for the percentage by which Romney lost. I don't know if this analysis is correct, but it is what the article claimed.

Don't get me wrong. Republicans need to do some serious analysis of this election. Formerly heavily-Democrat rural areas are now voting Republican. Great! However, many suburbs, which were formerly solid Republican territory, have been trending Democrat or at least “less Republican.” So, some soul searching is necessary. Furthermore, Republicans need to make clear their positions that really should appeal to the Hispanic community and women voters. Republicans need some work with these demographics. However, not winning again is a little over the top.

In fairness to Romney, it is always hard to beat an incumbent. He was certainly a better all around candidate than McCain or Dole. However, before liberals can say the conservative message won't sell, Republicans need to run a candidate who actually has conservative credentials.

(James Thomas is active in local Republican politics and can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


4' X 8' YARD SIGN PLACEMENT WAS A POLITICAL TRADITION
Posted 11/9/12

It's finally come and gone. Election Day is finally over. (Well maybe. As I write this before Election Day to meet my press deadline, there are still rumblings that some folks may get additional days to vote, but those folks are in “dark blue” states so I don't think the additional time to vote will make any difference.) It has been an eventful election cycle, but I have grown weary towards the end.

I've had a great interest in politics since I was a little kid. My heroes growing up were not football stars or baseball players. My heroes were buys like Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. However, I did not become actively engaged in politics until the 1992 cycle when folks from my law firm who supported David Steelman in his bid to become Missouri's Attorney General and were recruiting lawyers in the office as volunteers.

My same friends that roped me into volunteering for David Steelman also brought me to First Friday. From there I started to meet the local Republicans and the next thing I knew I was volunteering for lots of local and state-wide candidates. After that 1992 election, we set a goal to have a courthouse that is all Republican. It was a tall order at that time as we only had a few of the county offices at that time, but with this election cycle and the hard work of a lot of excited and motivated volunteers, Republicans are poised to win all the courthouse offices.

As I sat down to write this column, I suddenly came to the realization that this is the first election cycle in two decades when I haven't spent the weekend before the election out running door to door to try to get those last few votes that might be out there for the candidates I support. I also realized that this is the first election in two decades where I haven't spent at least part of my summer and/or fall driving around with my dad in his truck putting up 4 x 8 signs.

It's hard to believe that I really miss that. Now I don't necessarily miss driving fence post in to the rock hard ground of Platte County. I like to joke with folks that now that I own an interest in a farm that I am a farmer, but truthfully I haven't lived on a farm for nearly 30 years. Since I got out of law school and became a desk jockey, I haven't done a “real man's” day worth of work. But I did miss driving around with dad in his truck.

Truthfully, it is getting hard to find locations for 4 x 8 signs these days. One of the great locations was a place we called “Swaney's barn” just south of 92 in Platte City. That barn is long gone and replaced with new fast food restaurants and retail establishments. Many of the good locations in southern Platte County have also disappeared as the population and real estate development has grown by leaps and bounds and gobbled up sign locations.

As this campaign season comes from a close other than cleaning up the headquarters and the signs that are out there, what will we talk about? Well, I guess there is NASCAR. Oh wait. That ends in two weeks as well.

(James Thomas is a Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


PLAYING TOO LOOSE WITH THE PURSE STRINGS WILL COLLAPSE THE REPUBLIC
Posted 11/2/12

According to legend, a woman shouted out to Benjamin Franklin as he was leaving the Constitutional Convention and asked “What kind of government have you given us?” To which Franklin is said to have replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” He was right. The Constitution gave us a great republic.

Franklin is also attributed as saying, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” This may be a misattributed quote. The alleged Franklin quote is more likely properly attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler, a Scottish-born British lawyer and writer. Regardless who actually used those specific words, the statement is an accurate one and represents the true question facing American voters next Tuesday.

Voters truly have a choice of whether they want America to collapse from giving away more handouts than it can afford or whether they want to stop the insane re-distribution of wealth that began quietly long before Obama, but which has become an open and vocal battle cry since Obama began campaigning in the 2008 election cycle.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released just last week finds that only 51% think the government spends too much on poverty programs. Wow! That's all. Maybe they don't know what the government is spending. A report from two weeks ago finds that federal and state 'welfare” spending topped $1 trillion (With a “T”!!!) last year. That is a 30% jump since Obama became president. From 2008 to 2011 the federal portion of welfare spending increased from $563 billion to $746 billion, a 32% jump. State governments accounted for the other nearly $300 billion in welfare spending.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised. When 47% of Americans are paying no federal income tax, I guess we should expect that nearly that same percent (49%) don't think we are spending too much on government handouts.

Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political philosopher who toured America during its early years, is attributed as saying, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

Another quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin is “A democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” That is the choice we are facing next Tuesday. Will the wolves vote to eat the sheep? Or will enough of the sheep refuse to be eaten and stand against Obama's wealth redistribution plan.

Now don't get me wrong. It isn't just welfare spending that is breaking the federal piggy bank. The most fundamental problem is that neither our president nor Congress accepts that they have to limit their spending to what they collect in taxes. I know the Republicans have disappointed us in the past by being too free with the purse strings. However, Obama has ballooned the debt by $5 trillion (with a T!!!), approximately 50%, over less than four years. It HAS to stop! Or our great republic will collapse.

(James Thomas is a local Republican who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


TRYING TO OVERLOOK THE POLITICAL INEPTNESS OF TODD AKIN
Posted 10/26/12

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Voters have important decisions to make on Election Day. One of those important decisions is Claire McCaskill or Todd Akin.

There are so many reasons not to vote for Todd Akin. One of these reasons is his “legitimate rape” gaffe. His onslaught of “foot in mouth” disease just a few days after winning the Republican primary may have received more press than any ten seconds spoken by a Missouri politician ever has.

I'm certainly frustrated by Akin's comment, but I'm more irritated that he was “politically dumb” enough to get “down in the weeds” on a discussion of abortion in the first place. Akin's response to the abortion question needed to be brief and to the point. When the topic came up he just needed to say “I have a 100% pro-life voting record. My opponent believes in abortion as a method of birth control.” Then he needed to plant his pivot foot and say “But abortion is not the main concern for this election cycle.

What the voters are concerned about are jobs, taxes and spending. Let's talk about those . . . .”

Akin's “political stupidity” does make it difficult to vote for him. When he first got in the race 18 months ago, I thought that Akin might make a good candidate. He had served in Congress so he was supposedly familiar with the important issues and he had $1,000,000 in his campaign war chest. However, throughout the campaign his fund raising has been lackluster. His campaign strategy has also seemed to be inept as he has relied upon family members to run his campaign rather than hiring campaign professionals.

Regardless of these negatives, there is a critical reason to vote for Akin: He is NOT Claire McCaskill. Yes. The guy has put his foot in his mouth. Yes. The guy has failed to seek out competent political advice to run his campaign. However, we shouldn't pick our elected officials by what political consultant they hire. We should look at their stands on the issues.

Akin has a glowing conservative voting record.

Akin voted against President Bush's “No Child Left Behind” and massive expansion of the prescription drug benefit for seniors. He opposed more spending and raising the debt ceiling. McCaskill on the other hand is “gaga” for Obama. (Remember the photo of Obama with McCaskill in the background lovingly staring at him?) McCaskill voted for ObamaCare. McCaskill has supported pretty much everything that Obama has wanted.

So, while Missouri voters have an important decision on Election Day, they don't have a hard one. They can vote for McCaskill and give the liberal agenda another vote in the Senate or they can vote for Akin and give Missouri a Senator who has a 100% conservative voting record.

Like many Missourians, I don't want to reward Akin's “political ineptness.” However, there is no way I can vote for McCaskill and her extremely liberal positions. Don't be fooled by McCaskill's commercials claiming she is a “middle of the road” Senator. Her voting record is with the liberal agenda of Obama and the Democrats. If you like higher taxes, more spending and massive federal government deficits, vote for McCaskill. If not, then “hold your nose” and vote for Akin. Political ineptness and all, he is still the better choice.

(James Thomas is active in Republican politics. Reach him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


RACES MAY COME DOWN TO WHICH CAMPAIGNS HAVE MONEY
Posted 10/19/12

Money is the life blood of politics. I know it stinks. I hate it too. Public policy decisions and the people we elect to make those decisions should be based upon well reasoned and well articulated arguments for or against a particular policy or candidate. A candidate's resume and a candidate's stand on particular issues should be what drive the outcome of elections. However, those generally aren't what determine the outcome of elections. Ultimately, elections come down to money.

Take the U.S. Senate race. Akin should be coasting to victory in this race. McCaskill “hitched her wagon” to the Obama train very early. She was with him during the primaries. She has supported policies of Obama that were very unpopular in Missouri. Obama is projected to lose Missouri handily. His loss should take McCaskill down with him. It still might. However, two things could prevent that.

First, Akin has demonstrated absolute incompetence as a political candidate. Based upon his number of gaffes, it would appear that Akin has attended the Joe Biden School of How NOT To Run a Campaign. Besides his verbal missteps on the campaign trail, Akin has failed to hire competent people to manage his campaign.

Second, and the more likely reason that McCaskill may survive the challenge from Akin, is money. McCaskill has made some bad votes. Despite her efforts to appear “middle of the road,” McCaskill is clearly drinking the liberal Koolaid. However, because McCaskill has a tremendous cash advantage, she can run TV commercials describing herself as a “middle of the road” candidate. While these commercials run, Akin is “dark” because he doesn't have the money to go toe-to-toe on TV. So, while Akin may have a good story to tell despite his gaffes, no one will hear it because he lacks the cash to be on TV.

Things don't look much better for the rest of the Missouri Republican state-wide ticket. The campaign finance reports filed earlier this week for the period ending Sept. 30 show the Democrat candidates generally having tremendous cash on hand advantages. In the governor's race, Jay Nixon has $4.94 million in cash on hand compared to Dave Spence's $1.5 million. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is at a much smaller disadvantage to his Democrat challenger, Susan Montee, with his $267K versus her $270K. In the race to fill the open Missouri Secretary of State seat, Democrat Jason Kander is sitting on $1.07 million cash on hand versus the $297K held by Republican Shane Schoeller. Incumbent Democrat Attorney General Chris Koster's $2.5 million gives him a nearly five to one advantage over Ed Martin's $524K. Democrat Treasurer Clint Zweifel's $1.28 million gives him an even greater advantage (proportionally) over Cole McNary's $160K in the bank.

Some of the Democrats have significant leads in the polls. However, at least one recent poll shows Akin with a four point lead. Some of the other races are also polling very close. So, notwithstanding their cash on hand advantages, many of these Democrat candidates could lose. However, a poll three weeks out isn't the poll that matters. Over the next three weeks the Democrat candidates can use their significant cash advantages to allow them to tell their stories to the voters in their TV commercials while their Republican opponents can buy far less TV time.

Sadly, instead of the campaigns being about ideas, it may come down to which candidates have the most money to share their ideas with the voters.

(James Thomas is active in Republican politics. Reach him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


THIS ELECTION HAS TO BE ABOUT OBAMA'S FAILED POLICIES
Posted 10/13/12

My Republican friends keep telling me not to be so worried about the presidential election. Obama's policies are an absolute train wreck. How could a majority of voters give him four more years?

Well, a Rasmussen Reports poll emphasizes the basis of my concern. Rasmussen Reports issued the results of a poll last week that says that 53% of likely U.S. voters consider the presidential election as a referendum on President Obama's agenda and 25% regard it as more about Mitt Romney's agenda. I find this totally baffling. How could this election possibly be about anything but Obama's policies? Even more disturbing is that over 20% of likely voters are unsure of whether this election is a referendum on Obama's policies or Romney's agenda. Huh? What planet are these “likely U.S. voters” on?

If you weren't watching the polls and were just looking at the economic and foreign policy news, you would anticipate that Obama would be crushed. We have high unemployment. Economic growth is at a near standstill. We have out of control government spending. The national debt has increased by approximately 50% since Obama took office.

Things don't look better from a foreign policy standpoint. The Middle East seems to be falling apart with various governments either being overturned or in the process of being overturned. The Iranians are still saber rattling over their nuclear program. And just for a little more fun, the Chinese have just commissioned their first aircraft carrier and are engaged in maritime scuffles (albeit with water cannon) with the Japanese over some unoccupied islands.

No. If you look at these facts, you couldn't imagine how Obama could win. However, those tracking the likely Electoral College vote show that Obama solidly has 241 votes in the Electoral College. This leaves him only 29 Electoral College votes short of what he needs to win. The race comes down to eight states with a total of 106 electoral votes: Virginia (13), North Carolina (15), Florida (29), Ohio (18), Wisconsin (10), Iowa (6), Colorado (9) and Nevada (6).

Romney is in a precarious position. He needs to win almost all of these swing states to win. Pre-debate polls showed Romney trailing in all but one of these states. However, according to many commentators, including many Democrats, Romney crushed Obama in the first debate. So, maybe Romney can take away the narrow margin that Obama holds in these states. Of course, that assumes that the debates actually cause people to change how they plan to vote.

Rasmussen Reports tells us that 47% of likely voters do not see this election as a referendum on Obama's policies. You just have to ask yourself whether this 47% really doesn't see this as a referendum on Obama's policies or whether this is the same 47% that is paying no federal income taxes and simply living off the rest of us.

I did see a great sign in Riverside. In 2008 a homeowner changed his sign back and forth from pro-Obama to pro-McCain signs. However, the current sign is ABSOLUTELY AWESOME. It says “Zombies for Obama.” The sign even has a couple of zombies hanging on it.

That sounds about right. An Obama supporter is a mindless member of the undead who simply wants to feed off the rest of us.

(James Thomas is active in local Republican politics. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


SALES TAX LEADS TO A SNEAKY 'SECRET' USE TAX
Posted 10/5/12

Sneaky. Sneaky. Sneaky. Yep. The Kansas City City Council is just as sneaky as our Platte County Commissioners. They got voters to approve a tax for one thing, but that vote created a “secret” tax for them to spend on something else.

The Kansas City City Council with the encouragement of the Kansas City Parks Board just rammed through a new one-half cent sales tax dedicated to parks and other public improvements. A key similarity of Kansas City's new one-half cent parks sales tax and Platte County's one-half cent parks sales tax is that these parks sales taxes also generate corresponding use taxes. A use tax is like a sales tax, but it is imposed when you make the purchase somewhere else (like on the internet or otherwise out of state) and did not pay sales tax at the time of purchase.

There are a couple of reasons that a sales tax may not have been paid. One reason is that if you buy something from a catalog or over the internet, Missouri's state and local governments do not have a “nexus” over the seller that allows them to force the seller to collect a sales tax and remit it to Missouri. Or some states have different rules for what items are subject to sales tax. For example, some states do not impose a sales tax on airplanes, but other states do. If you buy an airplane in one of those airplane friendly states – like Kansas -- and bring it to Missouri, which taxes the purchase of airplanes, Missouri and all the local jurisdictions like Kansas City and Platte County will subject the airplane to use tax at such time as when the airplane “drops out of the flow of interstate commerce.” So, a slight oversimplification is to say that the use tax is a replacement of the sales tax you would have paid on an in state purchase, but did not pay because you made your purchase outside of your own state.

Another similarity of the parks sales taxes in Kansas City and Platte County is what happens to the revenue from the use taxes that are created as a result of these dedicated sales taxes. As readers are aware after the big controversy with the budget at the start of the year, Platte County does not apply the use taxes generated as a result of the Platte County Parks Sales Tax or the Platte County Roads Sales Tax to parks or roads. Instead, the millions of dollars in use taxes generated because of these dedicated sales taxes are used for general revenue operations of Platte County that have no relationship with parks or roads.

Well guess what. Kansas City is doing the same thing. The new Kansas City Parks Sales Tax will generate about $5 million a year from the use tax that was created by the new parks sales tax. Is this money being added to the parks budget? HECK NO! Kansas City is using this “new” money to fund a program to demolish abandoned houses in the inner city.

Worthy cause? Sure. Legitimate function of local government? Probably. But did the voters really understand that by giving Kansas City a dedicated parks sales tax that they were also creating a new slush fund for the City Council? I sincerely doubt it. That is why I say, “Sneaky. Sneaky. Sneaky.”

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)



 


LEGISLATORS WERE VERY CONFUSED ON AUTOMOBILE USE TAX ISSUE
Posted 9/28/12

The Missouri General Assembly held its annual veto session last week. These veto sessions were fairly uneventful for decades because veto overrides have been rare. One source reports that there have only been 23 veto overrides since Missouri became a state and only 11 veto overrides since 1836 and five of those have been in the last 13 years.

In 1999, my friend Susan Phillips won a special election in August and cast her first vote as a newly elected state representative to override Mel Carnahan's veto of a bill banning partial birth abortion. Carnahan's successor, Bob Holden, had two of his vetoes overridden: a bill allowing Missourians to carry concealed weapons and a bill requiring a 24-hour waiting period before having an abortion. Just last year Jay Nixon has his veto of the bill establishing the new congressional district boundaries overridden.
Earlier this month, the General Assembly overrode Nixon's veto of a bill allowing employers to not have to offer health insurance coverage that pays for contraception or abortions. Such coverage was mandated under ObamaCare. The new law which goes into effect because of the override will certainly be the subject of additional litigation since there will be a question of whether the ObamaCare legislation can be offset by a state statute. Of course, the provision should never have been part of ObamaCare. There is no reason that organizations like the Catholic Church or the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod should have to provide health insurance that would cover procedures that are contrary to their religious doctrines.

Republican leadership did come to their senses and not seek to override the governor's veto of a retroactive use tax increase on the purchase of motor vehicles. The legislature has been very confused by this issue.

The legislation was prompted by a recent Missouri Supreme Court case. A taxpayer purchased a car out of state. The taxpayer agreed to that Missouri use tax applied to the purchase, but successfully challenged the imposition of a local use on a vehicle purchased out of state when the local jurisdiction has not adopted a local use tax.
The Missouri General Assembly sought to override the Supreme Court decision by retroactively imposing a local use tax on motor vehicles. This retroactive tax sailed through the legislature in the regular session, but Nixon vetoed the bill. In talking to several legislators just a week before the veto session, they still did not seem to understand that they were imposing a local use tax on motor vehicles when the local jurisdiction did not have a local use tax. When I talked to some of these legislators before the veto session and really explained what the legislation did, many of them said “Oh. We didn't understand that.”

In fairness to the legislators, they had all been told by Missouri auto dealers that this bill needed to pass or people would be making their motor vehicle purchases out of state to avoid the local use tax. What is frustrating is that the same legislators that were willing to impose a local use tax on out of state purchases to protect Missouri car dealers are the same legislators who don't see that imposing a massive sales tax in Missouri in exchange for eliminating the Missouri income tax would have the same negative impact on Missouri retail businesses.

(James Thomas is a longtime active Republican who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 

 


OBAMA GROUPIES WHO WANT FREE STUFF VS. HARD-WORKING AMERICANS
Posted 9/21/12

Mitt Romney sparked some controversy at a private fund raiser recently. However, his comments summarize the central issue of this election. Romney said:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what."

Romney added: "My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5-10 percent of people who are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon, in some cases, emotion, whether they like the guy or not."

(I pulled these quotes from a story entitled “Romney: Secretly recorded remarks 'not elegantly stated'” posted by NBCNews.com. The story does not indicate how the media got a recording of comments at a private Romney event.)

The media has tried to make a controversy out of these comments saying Romney is alienating half the voters. Romney has backpedaled a little stating that his comments were “not elegantly stated.” However, he has stuck to his central theme.

Romney told the press that his comments were consistent with the distinction he draws between himself and Obama. Romney said. "The president believes in what I've described as a government-centered society where government plays a larger and larger role, provides for more and more of the needs of individuals and I happen to believe instead in a free enterprise, free individual society where people pursuing their dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy in the world."

NBCNews.com also quotes Romney as saying that Obama's message on taxes is, in fact, "attractive" to Americans who aren't paying any taxes, "and therefore, I'm not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively as those who are in the middle."
I know the press would like to distort Romney's comments as a huge negative, but to me they are extremely factual. Obama wants to create an “entitlement society” where everyone is dependent upon government. Romney wants to create what he describes as “a free individual society” where people can work hard, pursue their dreams and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

I cannot think about Obama's policies without thinking about the huge nationally televised rally that Obama held the week before the 2008 election. Stuck in my mind is one particular woman who was interviewed. She was in a near orgasmic state as she gushed about Obama. What did she say? She said she would not have to worry about her rent or food on her table or how she would pay her other bills because Obama was going to take care of her.

Yes. That is what this election is about. Obama groupies wanting free stuff or hard working Americans opposed to giving the government as much as half of what we earn.

(James Thomas has long been active in local Republican politics. Reach him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


SILVER-TONGUED DEMOCRATS MAKE SOMETHING REALLY BAD SOUND REALLY GOOD
Posted 9/14/12

I only saw a little bit of the Democrat Convention. I really don't care to listen to Democrats talk about taking my money and giving it to someone else or claiming to be fiscally responsible when Obama has increased the national debt by 50% in just a little over three years. However, I did catch former President Clinton's speech on Wednesday night.

Clinton gave an amazing speech. In many cases he was full of baloney. However, his delivery is just so darn good. And, to make matters worse, the not so main stream media doesn't fact check the Democrats. So, great delivery of something that sounds good is very persuasive even if it isn't precisely accurate.

The Democrats are banging the drum of new slogan “Shared Opportunity, Shared Responsibility.” That sounds really good. Who isn't in favor of everyone having a chance to succeed while everyone shares in the responsibility of government. However, that is NOT what the Democrats mean. Shared opportunity means the Democrats want to give more hand outs to more people. Shared responsibility means that the Democrats either want those of us who work hard for a living to pay for it or they want to just put it on the imaginary government credit card.

The only negative from Clinton's speech that I saw (other than being full of baloney) was that he kept pointing with his finger a lot. (Apparently, his mother never taught him it isn't nice to point.) Every time he would point with his finger I kept seeing him pointing with that same finger when he denied having relations with a White House intern.
I guess the real question is whether the American people will be sold a bunch of baloney once again. In 2008 Obama ran a great campaign. He talked about “Hope” and “Change.” All of that sounded good. He sure looked good and sounded good saying it. The voters ignored that fact that other than being able to give a really good speech, the guy had almost nothing to offer. He had passed no major legislation. He had never met a payroll. He was all hype and slick delivery with no substance.

Of course, on a few rare occasions, like when Joe the Plumber questioned Obama, the truth came out that Obama and the Democrats merely wanted to “redistribute the wealth.” And they aren't even talking about folks that are really “wealthy” since the Democrats think the folks that are “comfortable” are somehow classified as “rich people.”

The Obama agenda was clearly one of more government control, more government spending and more taxes on people who work for a living. If you listened carefully, Obama told us he wanted to make America more of a socialist country, but he sure sounded good saying it.

The decision really is pretty simple. Do we want our country to continue running up massive debt? Do we want massive tax increases that will cause many employers and investors to further cut payrolls or investments? Do we want government to control more and more of our daily lives?

I sincerely believe that a majority of Americans would answer “No” to each of these questions. The problem is that the silver-tongued Democrats like Clinton and Obama sure make something that is really bad sound really good.

(James Thomas, active local Republican, can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


CHOICE OF RYAN INDICATES REFORMING GOVERNMENT SPENDING IS A PRIORITY
Posted 9/7/12

The 2012 Republican National Convention is behind us and the Democrat Convention is in full swing. There were no big surprises from the Republican Convention, but I would have to say I was a little surprised when Romney announced a couple of Saturdays before the Convention that he was tapping Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate.

Congressman Ryan is awesome on fiscal policy. He is a true fiscal conservative. He has been very vocal about the need for Congress to make hard choices about how the federal government spends its money. It is not mathematically possible for the federal government to continue to spend money it doesn't have. He has tried to drive an honest discussion over these tough fiscal decisions.

However, this very thing that I like about Congressman Ryan also carries a great deal of political baggage. Congressman Ryan does an outstanding job of explaining that the federal government doesn't have enough money to pay for all the handouts and freebies that his fellow Congressmen want to give everyone. But Ryan's outspokenness on the need to make hard fiscal choices has made him a target of substantial demagoguery.

For example, during the budget fight a few months ago the Democrats ran an ad showing a man, presumably Congressman Ryan, pushing an elderly woman in a wheel chair off a cliff.

Many candidates have run away from the hard choices. In fact, one of my major frustrations is that some candidates talk the fiscal conservative talk on the campaign trail, but they completely fail to hold the line of spending once they get to Washington, Jefferson City or Platte City. Although I don't appreciate that candidates I support become “fiscal wimps” once they take office, I do appreciate that there is a very practical aspect to this. Any time an elected official tries to hold the line on spending people come out of the woodwork crying for their “cookies.”

The choice of Ryan seems to indicate that there will a major focus on reforming government spending practices over the last few weeks of the presidential campaign. George Will had a great column last week in which he noted that this presidential election is now devoted to “calling the nation's bluff.” Will notes that twice as many Americans self-identify themselves as conservatives versus liberals. Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan, a real fiscal conservative, as his running mate helps set the stage for a presidential election that is really about an important policy choice: do Americans want a president and a national government policy that is focused on “handing out cookies” to various constituent groups or do Americans want the federal government to return its focus to its original purpose?

Maybe, just maybe, we can have an honest debate about spending. And maybe, just maybe, all those folks who talk at the coffee shop or over lunch about how they want the government to stop spending more money than it takes in will actually stand up with the Romney-Ryan ticket and try to stop the out of control growth of the national debt.

The problem is that – notwithstanding their self-identification as conservatives, we may have too many people living off the government to be able to electorally bring us back from the fiscal abyss. Let's hope we can before it's too late.

(James Thomas has long been active in local Republican politics. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


ELLIOTT'S KNOWLEDGE WILL BE MISSED FROM GOP CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Posted 8/31/12

It is the end of an era in Platte County Republican politics. John Elliott has resigned from the Platte County Republican Central Committee. A month ago he told me he was planning to resign from the committee at some point, but he was not sure when he would resign.

Elliott has been the most brilliant political mind on the committee for the last 20 years. Elliott was just starting his third year on the committee when I joined the committee in 1994. That is the year he put together enough votes to end the rule of the “Not So Magnificent Seven,” the seven out of 28 committee members who controlled the committee through weighted voting. They often didn't show up so a quorum was not present and the committee could not conduct business. The end of weighted voting opened the door to a new day for the committee.

Elliott has been the mastermind behind many successful campaigns. He ran Dick Anderson's primary upset campaign for sheriff in 1996. He coordinated Steve Wegner's replacement of Diza Eskridge on the county commission in 2000. (He then was a key player in removing Steve Wegner from the county commission in 2004.) He ran Jason Brown's first state representative campaign in 2002.

For many years, Elliott also ran a lot of party-based activities. He ran phone banks and data base operations for the committee for many years. The party and many individual candidates owe a substantial part of their success to Elliott's hard work.

Elliott has done it all. He has provided strategy advice to many, but that is only part of what he does. He doesn't just develop a strategy and tell the candidate or the party volunteers to go out and execute the plan. He is out driving fence posts for big signs into the rock hard ground of late summer-early fall. He is running door to door dropping literature in the days leading up to the election. He also works the polls on Election Day. (My parents saw him working at their polling place earlier this month.) He has also committed his own financial resources to many candidates and party causes and twisted a few arms to raise a few bucks for the party and conservative candidates.

Now just because Elliott leaves the committee it does not mean that he will be gone from local politics. You can do a lot (actually even more) without having to spend two or three hours at a meeting on the first Monday of every month. In fact, Abby Olson resigned from the committee a couple of years ago to start The Green Dragon Conservative Club. She also opens up her home for a monthly social event for grassroots folks to meet candidates and learn about new ways to be involved. So, you can do a lot of politically important things without being part of the committee.

The committee will be weaker without Elliott's knowledge and experience. There are some talented and energetic folks on the committee, but Elliott's knowledge and skill set will still be missed.

Fortunately for Platte Countians, I don't think Elliott is actually “riding off into the sunset.” I suspect he'll still be around fighting for conservative candidates and causes outside of the committee. That's good for all of us.

(James Thomas is a longtime local GOP activist who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


AKIN IS NOW DAMAGED GOODS, BUT CAN HE RECOVER?
Posted 8/24/12

Foot in mouth disease has affected all of us from time to time. I have uttered a few sentences that were not artfully put together that I wish I could take back. I have even said some things in the heat of an argument that I don't really mean and wish I could take back. Fortunately for me, these self-inflicted injuries have generally come in a small group setting that is sometimes as small as one other person.

Todd Akin has not been as fortunate. The winner of the Missouri Republican Party's U.S. Senate Primary had his latest outbreak of foot in mouth disease on a weekend television program. Akin immediately apologized for his poor choice of words, but by Monday afternoon a clip of his misstep was national news heard by a huge percentage of the country.

I don't disagree with the criticism of Akin's poor choice of words. I also am not a big Akin fan. He was my third choice for U.S. Senate behind Sarah Steelman and John Brunner. There were a variety of reasons for this. The primary one was that I thought he was the easiest of the three candidates for Claire McCaskill to defeat. This wasn't just my general perception. The polling data leading up to the Republican Primary frequently compared the three major U.S. Senate candidates in hypothetical matchups with McCaskill and Akin always led McCaskill by the smallest margin of the three.
Akin is now damaged goods. I don't know if he is so damaged that he can't recover.

But there is no question that this instance of “foot in mouth” is not helpful to his campaign.

I have not liked how this has been handled. I was particularly upset about how so many Republicans attacked Akin. And, to make it worse, it wasn't like the people shouting for Akin to step aside were people necessarily looking out for the best interests of the Republican Party and the interests of Missouri and America. Much of the local chatter was from folks who supported someone else in the primary. It may not be accurate, but there was certainly the appearance that folks supporting the losers from the primary were trying to “throw Akin under the bus” so their candidate could have a second “bite at the apple.”

I was also disgusted with how major sources of funding sent out press releases stating that they were pulling their financial commitment to this race as a result of Akin's 10-second misstep. It is certainly possible that these funding sources made personal calls to Akin informing him of their position, but the perception is that they just started lobbing hand grenades at the guy without first talking to him privately about whether continuing his campaign was in the best interest of the Republican Party. My perception is that the money sources and political insiders are now trying to kick Akin out of the race because he was not their first choice as a nominee. That may not be what is going on, but that is what it looks like.

Akin made a terrible misstatement. He has apologized. For now, Akin is still the nominee. The question now is whether the full body of Akin's political service is disregarded for a 10 second onset of foot in mouth disease. This one was a doozie, but should it end his political career?

(James Thomas has been active in state and local Republican politics for many years. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


DEMOCRATS GOT THEIR WISH WHEN AKIN WON GOP PRIMARY
Posted 8/16/12

McCaskill and the Democrats got exactly what they wanted out of the three-way Republican primary: Todd Akin. Now the question is whether they can paint Akin so extreme that McCaskill looks like a “middle of the road” politician rather than the extreme liberal that she is.

McCaskill's preference for Akin wasn't hard to figure out. Polling for months showed that all three potential Republican candidates were leading McCaskill. However, Akin was always leading McCaskill by the smallest margin of the three.

The Democrats ran negative ads against each of the three Republican candidates in the U.S. Senate primary. However, the negative ads ran against Akin were presumably designed to help him win the Republican primary. The Democrat “attack” ads against Akin said he promotes a “pro-family agenda” and was “just too conservative” for Missouri. These ads propped up Akin's conservative credentials in a Republican primary, which is a good thing, but set the stage for McCaskill to beat on Akin as an “extreme” conservative for the November election.

The “not so mainstream” media is already reading from the McCaskill campaign's playbook. The St. Louis Post Dispatch has already written an editorial entitled “Akin's Win Sets Up the Senate Election Missourians Deserve.” The opening lines of the editorial outline where the “not so mainstream” media and McCaskill want to take this election. The editorial begins:

“When U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Wildwood credited God with his victory in Tuesday's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, he offered the perfect insight into everything that is Akin Nation. ‘I want to give thanks to God our creator who has blessed this campaign, heard your prayers and answered them with victory,’ Mr. Akin told his cheering throng at the Columns Banquet Center in St. Charles.

“To certain Republican primary voters, those words flow like heavenly harps from above, strumming the chords of evangelical Christians completely comfortable with the imagery that their God chose Mr. Akin over two other godly Republicans who also had asked their followers to pray for victory.

“To many Democrats and independents, the statement is a reminder of everything they despise about Mr. Akin's brand of politics, where bringing his religious views into the public square is a righteous thing regardless of our nation's constitutional protections for all people, be they godly or not.”

The Democrat strategy is simple: Akin is a right wing nut and McCaskill is a caring, middle of the road public servant. Of course, McCaskill and the Democrats have to attack Akin in this manner because they have to run away from McCaskill's record. She has been described as Obama's greatest ally in the Senate. Not a good thing when Obama is likely to lose Missouri by five points. McCaskill voted for ObamaCare, which Missourians opposed through Proposition C by a 71.1% to 28.9% state-wide vote. McCaskill supports higher taxes, more spending and higher deficits.

Notwithstanding McCaskill's horrific record, I am nervous that she might win.

McCaskill has proven in the past to be very capable of becoming something she is not for purposes of the campaign. She created an image of herself as a “aw shucks” middle of the road Democrat in 2006. With the help of her mother as a very effective campaign tool, she might just be able to pull off that lie again.

(James Thomas is active in local Republican politics. Reach him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


ECONOMY FACING POTENTIALLY DEVASTATING 'FISCAL CLIFF'
Posted 8/10/12

The U.S. economy is facing a potentially devastating “fiscal cliff” that is approaching at the end of 2012. I receive lots of reading materials on the subject. My daily e-mail from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants had a headline in it on Tuesday that said “A Fiscal Cliff of $7 Trillion Awaits the U.S. Economy in January.” This isn't unusual. My CPA materials have been discussing the fiscal cliff for months. However, what was interesting is that the AICPA article included a link (http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/06/news/economy/fiscal-cliff/index.htm?iid=HP_MP_River) to a CNN story on the fiscal cliff. (Typically we see CNN as a “Democrat-friendly” media outlet.)

The “fiscal cliff” is actually a combination of four things. It is the automatic spending cuts of the Budget Control Act, the expiration of the Bush tax law provisions, the expiration of the payroll tax cuts and the tax increases of Obama Care.

When Congress negotiated the raising of the debt ceiling in 2011, they put in place provisions that will automatically cut spending by $110 billion if a debt reduction plan is not implemented. The $110 billion sounds nice, but the actual deficit for the next fiscal year is over $1 trillion (with a T!) so the $110 billion in spending cuts really means the hole is only getting deeper by $900 billion instead of $1 trillion. Progress? Yes. Meaningful progress? No.

If the Bush era Bush tax law provisions expire at the end of 2012, the 10% tax bracket will be eliminated and other tax brackets will jump from 25% to 28%, 28% to 31%, 33% to 36% and 35% to 39.6%. The capital gains rate will also rise from 15% to 20% and the qualified dividend rate will go from 15% to the taxpayer's marginal rate of tax, which could be as high as 39.6%. The phase-out of itemized deductions and personal exemptions will return. The child tax credit will be cut in half. Marriage penalty relief will expire. And the Alternative Minimum Tax will apply to about 4 million more taxpayers.
The reduction in the employee side of Social Security taxes is set to expire at December 31. This means that someone with a $50,000 paycheck will pay $1,000 in payroll taxes in 2013.

Then there are all the tax increases under ObamaCare. A new 0.9% surtax will apply to wages on incomes over $200,000. There is also a 3.8% Medicare surtax on the investment income of “high income” households.

There is speculation that Congress will come back in a lame duck session after the election and do something to address the “fiscal cliff.” There are others who predict the deadlock will continue with the lame duck Congress, but that the new Congress will implement retroactive fixes after the end of the year. However, as we “look into the abyss” there is a real problem for the U.S. economy. Individuals are delaying new investments and businesses are delaying hiring new people as they wait to see what their 2013 tax bills will look like. If businesses and investors are faced with significantly higher taxes in 2013, they will need to hold on to their cash to be able to fund these tax liabilities instead of making new investments and hiring new employees.

As we look into the abyss, try not to fall in.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


A PLATTE COUNTY GOP PRIMARY USUALLY MEANS CRAZY THINGS
Posted 8/3/12

We have a joke in our house: “What is the hottest week in Platte County? . . . Whatever week they hold the Platte County Fair.” Now this may not be entirely true based on the thermometer, but memories of campaigning in the excruciating heat several years ago just caused this joke to stick at our house.

Well, we may need to come up with a new joke at our house: “What are the craziest few weeks in Platte County?” No. It isn't when there is a full moon. It is in the few weeks leading up to a Republican primary. It seems that for the last few years some folks just go completely bonkers as the Republican primary approaches. And, they seem to take any disagreement over local Republican primary politics as a personal affront.

I have watched as one of my dearest political friends has developed a flaming hatred for anyone who disagrees with her: even me, one of her most trusted political advisors through many political battles. I have watched as one of the new hard workers in the Republican Party, who I still see as part of the bright future for the Republican party, has launched her own tirades.

Some folks seem to have lost their focus. The GOP is poised for a historic accomplishment. If we can sweep the six county offices in November, every county officeholder will be a Republican. How cool is that!?! Isn't that the goal of the party?
My prediction is that only one county race even has the potential to be close in November. Three of the races will be over with the primary and, if the candidates work hard, we should handily win the “northern” commissioner and the public administrator. That leaves the assessor's race as the only potentially close race. If David Cox goes door to door and raises the money for his mail, he will win the assessor's race and Republicans will get the sweep, but I was hoping not to have a bitter primary fight that might create a distraction for his campaign.

Regardless of whether Republicans get to 12-0 or 11-1 from this election, I wanted to acknowledge the lifelong contributions of the matriarch of the Republican party, Barbara Cooke. She is not seeking re-election to the committee.

Barbara has been a fixture in the Republican Party since when “Republicans used to meet in a closet” both because you had to keep your Republican affiliation a secret in Platte County to avoid public chastisement and because there were so few Republicans that they could actually fit in a closet. Barbara welcomed Republicans of all types – conservatives, RINOs, etc. -- with a smile.

The Republican Party is better because of Barbara. My life is better for knowing her. Thank you, Barbara, for your friendly demeanor and your many years of faithful service. Although Barbara is leaving the committee, I hope we can still count on her to help staff the headquarters and continue to welcome everyone into the Republican Party with a smile.

All Republicans can learn a lesson from Barbara. Somehow she has always managed to not be affected by the craziness of Republican primary season. She has found a way to not allow Republican primary fights to interfere with friendships. Good for her. Good for us all.

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


IT’S IMPORTANT
TO ELECT GOOD WORKERS
TO COMMITTEE POSTS
Posted 7/27/12

We have a joke in our house: “What is the hottest week in Platte County? . . .

Whatever week they hold the Platte County Fair.” Now this may not be entirely true based on the thermometer, but memories of campaigning in the excruciating heat several years ago just caused this joke to stick at our house.

Well, we may need to come up with a new joke at our house: “What are the craziest few weeks in Platte County?” No. It isn't when there is a full moon. It is in the few weeks leading up to a Republican primary. It seems that for the last few years some folks just go completely bonkers as the Republican primary approaches. And, they seem to take any disagreement over local Republican primary politics as a personal affront.

I have watched as one of my dearest political friends has developed a flaming hatred for anyone who disagrees with her: even me, one of her most trusted political advisors through many political battles. I have watched as one of the new hard workers in the Republican Party, who I still see as part of the bright future for the Republican party, has launched her own tirades.

Some folks seem to have lost their focus. The GOP is poised for a historic accomplishment. If we can sweep the six county offices in November, every county officeholder will be a Republican. How cool is that!?! Isn't that the goal of the party?

My prediction is that only one county race even has the potential to be close in November. Three of the races will be over with the primary and, if the candidates work hard, we should handily win the “northern” commissioner and the public administrator. That leaves the assessor's race as the only potentially close race. If David Cox goes door to door and raises the money for his mail, he will win the assessor's race and Republicans will get the sweep, but I was hoping not to have a bitter primary fight that might create a distraction for his campaign.

Regardless of whether Republicans get to 12-0 or 11-1 from this election, I wanted to acknowledge the lifelong contributions of the matriarch of the Republican party, Barbara Cooke. She is not seeking re-election to the committee.

Barbara has been a fixture in the Republican Party since when “Republicans used to meet in a closet” both because you had to keep your Republican affiliation a secret in Platte County to avoid public chastisement and because there were so few Republicans that they could actually fit in a closet. Barbara welcomed Republicans of all types – conservatives, RINOs, etc. -- with a smile.

The Republican Party is better because of Barbara. My life is better for knowing her. Thank you, Barbara, for your friendly demeanor and your many years of faithful service. Although Barbara is leaving the committee, I hope we can still count on her to help staff the headquarters and continue to welcome everyone into the Republican Party with a smile.

All Republicans can learn a lesson from Barbara. Somehow she has always managed to not be affected by the craziness of Republican primary season. She has found a way to not allow Republican primary fights to interfere with friendships. Good for her. Good for us all.

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


IT’S IMPORTANT
TO ELECT GOOD WORKERS
TO COMMITTEE POSTS
Posted 7/27/12

The August primary has several important races including U.S. Senate, Governor, Lt. Governor and Secretary of State. There are also county races that will be decided in the primary, including the southern county commissioner and the county treasurer. There are also some obscure races that will be resolved on Aug. 7.

Some of those obscure races are the committeemen and committeewomen positions to be the official representatives of the major political parties in the county. The county committee positions are the building blocks for each political party. The committee members select representatives that become additional political party committees such as the legislative district, senatorial district, congressional district and state committees.

Before 2002, each township was represented by a committeeman and committeewoman. Since 2002, Platte County has gone from a township approach of electing committeepersons to a legislative sub-district system. Each full legislative district in the county is broken down into five sub-districts. (Legislative districts that are partly in the county and partly outside the county have less than five sub-districts elected in the county.)

Since the legislative district boundaries were redrawn because of the census, the political party committee sub-districts had to be redrawn as well. This has caused some committee members to be drawn into the same sub-districts and other sub-districts to have no currently serving representatives.

The positions on the political party committee are non-paying positions. In fact, for the good committee members, the positions actually cost a person a lot of money and a lot of time.

What makes for a good committee member? A committee member needs to bring one of three things: money, good ideas or hard work. It is even better if someone brings all three. The money one brings to the committee does not have to be your own. Barbara Cooke, the matriarch of the Republican Party, has always been a contributor to the party, but her big contribution is getting many other people to contribute. There are plenty of folks that may bring political ideas to the party, but the ideas we are talking about are not political ideology. The ideas are leads for potential candidates and new ways to help our candidates get elected.

Most importantly, good committee people need to be willing to work. This work includes showing up at the monthly meetings and participating in the subcommittee work and other activities between meetings. It isn't unusual to have people who volunteer 10 or 20 hours every month and even more during election years or leading up to fund raising events.

Of course, we still have a few loafers. We have one committeeman who hasn't been to a meeting in two years. (I don't know why he keeps running for election.) We have another committeeman who shows up about half the time, but what he is infamous for is making the motion to adjourn at every meeting. (Not exactly a contributing member to the group.) However, in addition to these loafers, we have some great folks that work really hard for the committee. They plan fund raising and other events, recruit candidates, organize the headquarters, volunteer at the headquarters and work on individual candidates' campaigns.

When you vote in the primary on Aug. 7, keep in mind these extremely obscure committee positions and make sure you elect good workers for the party.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)



LOCAL REPUBLICANS CAN'T HAVE DEMOCRATS 'REVIEWING OUR PLAYBOOK'

Posted 7/16/12

Be careful what you wish for. It may not work out quite the way you intended. That adage has been particularly true in Platte County politics.

I have been interested in politics since I was a little kid. As a sixth grader my mom and I watched the nomination vote of the Republican National Convention in 1976 hoping that somehow Ronald Reagan would pull off the upset and win the nomination.

however, I didn't know how to get active in politics until I graduated from law school and one of my colleagues got me to volunteer on the David Steelman for Attorney General campaign and also brought me to the Platte Republican Association's “First Friday.” It wasn't long after that until I was very active in local Republican politics
I remember the zeal I had at the time. My goal was to be part of an effort that crushed the Democrats and drove them from the courthouse. I made a lot of great friends along with way. Some of them had been working for years before I came along. Others joined the effort as the years went by. Our successes mounted. We would surge for a while and then experience a few setbacks.

These setbacks were usually because some of our hard working volunteers would get distracted with more important things (e.g., their families or their jobs) of they would just get burned out. However, we had a core group that continued pushing forward and eventually reinforcements of “new blood” would arrive to carry the Republican flag.

There was another reason for our setbacks. As we crushed our Democrat opponents through better recruitment, better organization and more support from our local Party committee, the “enemies” began to change. When there were few Republicans in the courthouse, it was easy for Party activists to rally together and put aside our differences and fight the Democrats. However, as the courthouse has become dominated by Republicans, the fight has shifted from Rs vs. Ds to conservatives vs. liberals. Then, after nearly all the liberals were eradicated, it became a fight amongst the conservatives for some unexplained reason.

However, we have a new problem creeping into the Republican Party. We now have Democrats who want to run on the Republican ticket because it is seen as the easiest path to victory. I know one former county officeholder who said that “she decided to run as a Republican because the Republicans will do more for you.” That problem seems to be expanding. Nancy Armstrong was supposedly encouraged to run on the Republican ticket for county treasurer by the retiring Democrat incumbent, Bonnie Brown, because she could not win as a Democrat. So now we have Democrats helping us to recruit “Republican” candidates.

Another problem that has developed is that some of candidates on the Republican ticket fail to understand that politics is a “team sport.” For example, Beverlee Roper is challenging Kathy Dusenbery in a Republican primary race for county commissioner, but she has chosen to engage one of the worst Democrat consultants in Jackson County to come north and help her. We want Democrats to vote for Republicans and we should be polite to Democrats, but we can't have them “in our huddle” and “reviewing our playbook.” It undermines the team.

I guess this infiltration is just another unintended consequence of the local Republican Party's success.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)



 

INSTEAD OF SPENDING WHAT WE DON'T HAVE, WE NEED A SYSTEM OF CHOICES

Posted 7/16/12

King James is back after his Ivan imposed dethronement (i.e. word limit). Now to the one legislative thing I would change if I were King for a Day.

If I could fix one legislative thing in America, it would be the budgeting and taxing process of the federal government. (I know some would argue that budget and tax policy are two separate things, but I am going to treat the budgeting and tax process as one thing because they are integrated for all practical purposes.)

I would impose strict rules on budgeting. The budget of the federal government would have to be a balanced budget with incoming revenues equaling expenditures. I would create a phase in period that would give us five to seven years to reach this balanced budget, but once the fully phased in balanced budget kicked in, Congress could not spend more than the projected revenues unless there was a two-thirds majority vote to do so. This two-thirds majority vote would allow flexibility when it was absolutely necessary for Congress to authorize spending more than it takes in (e.g., war or other national crisis), but it is not a simple majority that would make it too easy to violate the balanced budget rules. Some of the budget choices would be hard and even painful, but we need a system that forces choices rather than spending money we don't have.
One related budget reform that I would impose is that not a single penny could be spent unless a budget – and not a continuing resolution -- is actually adopted by Congress. This would avoid our present crisis of the Democrat-controlled Senate failing to adopt a budget for several years now.

I would also gut the current taxing system. A system where 48% of the people don't pay a single nickel of federal income tax makes no sense. I would develop a system where everyone pays a little something even if their contribution isn't significant. I would keep the medical expense, state and local tax, residential interest and charitable contribution deductions, but I would do away with any phase out of deductions and any narrowly drafted deductions that are designed to force specific actions by taxpayers in limited income brackets. (E.g., You should be able to contribute to an IRA whether you make $10,000 or $200,000.)

I would also tinker with the rates. I might try to develop a new initial 5% rate. I would not let the maximum rate be greater than 33%. It makes no sense that the federal government gets more than a third of the last dollar that someone makes whether that dollar is the ten thousandth or the one millionth dollar. The alternative minimum tax would be gone as well. This is currently an outrageous trap that actually hits people who “earn” a strong income from “working” much harder than it impacts taxpayers who receive much higher incomes, but those incomes come from investments rather than work. I would also make changes to the tax law subject to a super majority vote to limit tinkering.

I know it is pure fantasy to think that these reforms might happen. No one can get the politicians of either side to sit down at the table and develop policies that make sense. However, the country would prosper again if we could get these reforms in place.

(James Thomas is a Republican leader in Platte County who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


THERE ARE MANY THINGS THAT NEED FIXING

Posted 7/7/12

As we celebrate this 4th of July, it is an appropriate time to write about the greatest document in human history, The Declaration of Independence. Prior to that hot day in July, philosophers had written about the ideas expressed in the Declaration that the people are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights like the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that government gets its rights from the governed rather than the governed getting their rights from the government. However, I thought I would take a rather un-American approach on this grand day of celebration. Instead of writing about the greatness of the whole concept of America as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, I thought I would write about what is the one legislative thing I would change if I were King for a Day.

There are so many things that need fixing. For example, although education is the ticket to a better future, our inner city public schools are failing. If I could fix one thing to make America a better place, this might be the place to start. However, I viewed this and several other problems as being problems with people's voluntary choices rather than actual government policies. We cannot legislate or spend our way out of the mess of the inner city public school system or so many other problems. We have to change the attitudes of the students and, probably more importantly, the parents. This cannot be fixed legislatively.

Similarly, I wanted to completely scrap our current welfare state. The system we have in place today discourages work. And, despite the good intentions of liberals, it doesn't really help the people it is designed to help. Instead of giving them a path out of poverty it creates a permanent multi-generational poverty cycle. Of course, this also involves changing people as much as it involves changing the law. So, I decided to pass on this one.

A very close second on my list of the one thing I would fix if I were King for a Day is Social Security. We have created a system that is not mathematically sustainable. People receiving or near receiving Social Security need to be protected. The employer side of Social Security taxes needs to stay in place to fund these obligations. Further obligations to these people will just have to be funded out of general revenue, which they are going to have to be anyway. I would like to tell people to keep their money and let them save voluntarily for their own retirement. However, given our many years of the “nanny state,” I know that isn't realistic. So, I would replace the employee side of Social Security for younger people with an involuntary retirement savings plan.

However, unlike the current system that exists where the government has your employer take 6.2% of your paycheck and gives it to the government to spend on things other than its Social Security commitment to you, your former Social Security “contribution” would now go into an account similar to an IRA that you control, but you cannot withdraw for anything but retirement.

Phew! All of that and I am just now getting to the one thing I would fix as King for a Day. Due to Ivan's limits on my royal decree, I'll just have to tell you next week what King James would do during his one day reign.

(Tune in next time. Until then, email jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


THE TAX INCREASES ON THE HORIZON ARE MASSIVE AND HARMFUL

Posted 6/29/12

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

No. Not really, but in a way the sky is about to fall.

Right now America is running at full speed toward an intersection of financial events that have the potential to have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy. At the end of this year there will be massive tax increases. These tax increases are a combination of (1) the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which were extended until the end of 2012 just two weeks before they were set to expire at the end of 2010, (2) the ill-considered cut in the Social Security taxes made at the end of 2010 and (3) the new taxes of ObamaCare.

How massive are these tax increases? A report indicates that these tax increases will constitute 3.5% of GDP. To put that in context, the huge tax increases that Bill Clinton pushed through to begin his first term were only 0.6% of GDP. The huge tax increase under Lyndon Johnson in 1968 was only 1.7% of GDP. In fact, the upcoming tax increases are actually greater, as a percentage of GDP, than the sum of all the tax increases over the last 30 years. (I base these numbers on a chart circulated via e-mail by Business Insider.)

As you will recall, these tax increases have a negative effect on the economy. For example, Clinton's huge tax increase to begin his term made the economy slow for about two years. The tax increase we are talking about to kick off 2013 is nearly six times this Clinton tax increase.

I am very concerned about what impact these tax increases will have on an already weak economy. Will these tax increases cause the economy to collapse?

Instead of looking at the entire U.S. economy, just look at the economy on a household scale. My wife's Suburban will pass the ten year/180,000 mile mark next year. Her plan is to buy a new Suburban. However, if our household is faced with thousands of dollars of tax increases for 2013 on the same level of income we earn in 2012, will we write that check for the new Suburban? In fact, if the economy slows down as predicted, will we even have the same income in 2013 as 2012? I don't know.

Let's say we don't buy a new car next year. That's just one new car not sold in 2013. Well, take our household and multiply that to cover the 330 million people in this country. Now you can see how tax increases could devastate the economy.

Keep in mind that the Bush tax cuts actually favored the lower income taxpayers, not in the dollar amount of the tax cuts, but in the percentage of the tax cuts. The expiration of the 10% tax bracket created by the Bush tax cuts will actually cause a 50% tax increase on those taxpayers in that bracket.

I have been shouting from the rooftops that we need a long term tax policy that does not change every year or two. Congress and the president seem to want to wait until after the election to deal with this problem. However, that only leaves a few weeks.
So, watch your head. The sky may not be falling today, but it might start falling in 2013.

(James Thomas, local Republican leader, can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


FORMER SEN. DANFORTH CONTINUES TO SHOW WHY HE IS WRONG

Posted 6/22/12

Former Senator John Danforth continues to show why he is wrong, wrong, wrong. In a recent speech hosted by the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis Danforth said “Compromise is not a dirty word. Compromise is the essence of politics. Compromise is needed to get us out of our current fix.”

Danforth is horrifically wrong. Compromise is what got us into our “current fix.” For decades there has been WAY too much go along and get along attitude in Washington. And too much “you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.”

Just look at how we put together spending packages. A Senator from X will support a project desired by a Senator from Y in exchange for support by the Senator from Y of the Senator from X's desired project. This by itself is not bad. Everybody going home with something they want makes sense. However, the flaw with this compromising is that the back and forth has not been subject to a cap on spending based upon the total dollars collected by the government. The back and forth would eventually result in more money being allocated than was actually available so Congress would just spend more money than it had.

You can have this overspending from time to time. During certain circumstances, such as a war, government can spend more than it brings in for a short time. However, this is absolutely unsustainable as a permanent practice. There has to be some mechanism where the over spending from one year is offset by under spending in a future year.
This “compromise” is not just hurting us on the budget. It also hurts us on other policy issues. We all know the old adage of “you boil a frog by putting the frog in a pot of water and very slowly increasing the temperature over time.” Well when we compromise on policy issues and just give up a little bit today and a little more the next day, we eventually end up having switched to the exact opposite policy over enough time. There must be some “line in the sand” at some point.

Danforth was a little bit right. In describing his perceived need for compromise he said “For Republicans that will mean abandoning the idea of no new taxes. For Democrats, it will mean agreeing to substantial changes in entitlement programs.” A legitimate argument can be made that Congress may have to overcome part of its spending problem with more revenue.

Although I am philosophically opposed to ANY tax increases, I would at least be open to discussing tax reforms that have the effect of increasing taxes IF those reforms were connected with meaningful tax and spending policy reforms. Any tax reforms must be flatter and fairer. (We can't have 48% of the people paying no income taxes.) Agreeing to increase taxes must be tied to getting rid of the federal programs that are not appropriate federal functions and dramatically cutting other federal programs. Most importantly, there must be some serious protections such as a balanced budget amendment and limitations on future tax increase. Absent these sorts of considerations, there is absolutely no reason to agree to any tax increases.

Without dramatic changes in taxing and spending policies, a “compromise” ushering in higher taxes would still be a “dirty word.”

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 



 

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE UNIONS

Posted 6/15/12

Former Senator John Danforth continues to show why he is wrong, wrong, wrong. In a recent speech hosted by the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis Danforth said “Compromise is not a dirty word. Compromise is the essence of politics. Compromise is needed to get us out of our current fix.”
Danforth is horrifically wrong. Compromise is what got us into our “current fix.” For decades there has been WAY too much go along and get along attitude in Washington. And too much “you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.”
Just look at how we put together spending packages. A Senator from X will support a project desired by a Senator from Y in exchange for support by the Senator from Y of the Senator from X's desired project. This by itself is not bad. Everybody going home with something they want makes sense. However, the flaw with this compromising is that the back and forth has not been subject to a cap on spending based upon the total dollars collected by the government. The back and forth would eventually result in more money being allocated than was actually available so Congress would just spend more money than it had.
You can have this overspending from time to time. During certain circumstances, such as a war, government can spend more than it brings in for a short time. However, this is absolutely unsustainable as a permanent practice. There has to be some mechanism where the over spending from one year is offset by under spending in a future year.
This “compromise” is not just hurting us on the budget. It also hurts us on other policy issues. We all know the old adage of “you boil a frog by putting the frog in a pot of water and very slowly increasing the temperature over time.” Well when we compromise on policy issues and just give up a little bit today and a little more the next day, we eventually end up having switched to the exact opposite policy over enough time. There must be some “line in the sand” at some point.
Danforth was a little bit right. In describing his perceived need for compromise he said “For Republicans that will mean abandoning the idea of no new taxes. For Democrats, it will mean agreeing to substantial changes in entitlement programs.” A legitimate argument can be made that Congress may have to overcome part of its spending problem with more revenue.
Although I am philosophically opposed to ANY tax increases, I would at least be open to discussing tax reforms that have the effect of increasing taxes IF those reforms were connected with meaningful tax and spending policy reforms. Any tax reforms must be flatter and fairer. (We can't have 48% of the people paying no income taxes.) Agreeing to increase taxes must be tied to getting rid of the federal programs that are not appropriate federal functions and dramatically cutting other federal programs. Most importantly, there must be some serious protections such as a balanced budget amendment and limitations on future tax increase. Absent these sorts of considerations, there is absolutely no reason to agree to any tax increases.
Without dramatic changes in taxing and spending policies, a “compromise” ushering in higher taxes would still be a “dirty word.”

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE UNIONS

Posted 6/15/12

The huge news last week was the Wisconsin recall election. After Scott Walker was elected Governor of Wisconsin in 2010 he embarked upon an effort to avoid massive overspending by Wisconsin's state government. One aspect of Walker's reforms was to do away with collective bargaining for government employees.

You may recall the childishness that ensued in Wisconsin while this fight was underway in 2011. The Republicans had the votes in the state legislature to push through Walker's reforms. So, the Democrat legislators fled the state and shirked their responsibilities to the people who elected them. Government workers called in sick and picketed at the capitol.

Wisconsin is an unusual place for this fight. It is not exactly a “bright red” state. The state has not been won by a Republican presidential candidate since 1984. Obama won the state by 15 points in 2008. In 2010 Walker was part of the Republican wave beating the Democrat candidate by 52% to 48%. So, while that was a solid victory, it was not a resounding victory.

After their childish behavior in Wisconsin ended and the state legislature adopted Walker's proposed reforms, the government employee unions with support from the “usual suspects” began an effort to recall Walker and several state legislators. Despite all the chest beating, trash talking and big spending of the Democrats and their union thugs, Walker was a bigger winner (54%) than he was in the 2010 election.

This is a significant setback to government employee unions. For the past several years these government employee unions have been on an ever expanding path. In fact, as the ranks of the “traditional” private sector union employees have shrunk, the unions have relied upon the expansion of government employee unions to expand their ranks.

The thought of unions in a government employee context is bizarre. These are government jobs so these employees already have it better than most employees. Yes. The cash compensation is often less than might be available in the public sector.

However, government employees tend to have lots of benefits -- including fat pensions -- that offset these lower wages. An added benefit is that these government jobs also tend to have lots of extra holidays and a pace that is often not (but not always) as intense as private sector jobs.

The thing that frustrates me the most about this whole process is the general attitude of these government employee unions. For example, the firefighters' union in Kansas City has a political action committee entitled “Taxpayers Unlimited.” I respect the service the firefighters perform. It is a big deal and they should be well compensated. However, the message conveyed by the name of their PAC (i.e., that there is no limit to what the taxpayers should pay) is rude and out of line.

In fairness to the government workers, the attitude of the government employee unions is not necessarily the attitude of many or even most of the hard working government employees. I suspect that most firefighters don't approve of their union’s attitude that there is no limit to what the taxpayers should pay.

Walker's victory may not translate to a victory for Romney in Wisconsin in 2012, but, maybe, it will at least open the door to an honest discussion about government employee compensation and the role of government employee unions.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


STATE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION WAS A RELATIVELY SMOOTH PROCESS
Posted 6/8/12

Phew! Another State Convention is behind us. Although I don't have to do nearly as much work for the State Convention as I have to do for the County Caucus and Congressional District Convention, it is still an exhausting process. There was a lot of work done by a lot of people for months in advance of the actual State Convention and leading up to the County Caucuses held back in March where the delegates to the State Convention were selected.

Some parts of the State Convention can be fun. The real business of the State Convention actually only takes place on Saturday. However, there are programs, dinners, and hospitality suites on the Friday before the State Convention technically convenes. However, since I had to be at my post before 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, I just did a quick courtesy pass through the hospitality suites and was back at my hotel by 10 p.m.

I was at the Convention Center at ten till six on Saturday morning to work on credentialing. I had an awesome group of three ladies -- Dixie Crider and Pauline Hindman of DeKalb County and Wanda Shupe of Gentry County -- show up before 6:30 a.m. to help with the credentialing process. To be more accurate, they actually “did” the credentialing process while I stood around and “helped” them when there was a problem.

The start of the convention was delayed because the Fourth and Seventh Congressional Districts took a really long time to get their delegates and alternates credentialed. The moving up of alternates to delegates was made more complicated for me because there was not enough seating for all the Sixth Congressional District Alternates to be seated in one place so I had to hunt for the other alternates. However, despite these hiccups, the State Convention ran relatively smoothly.

Our State GOP Chairman, David Cole, did an exceptional job of displaying a cool demeanor even in the face of silly motions and parliamentary goofiness from the floor. The delay in credentialing pushed us to around noon before we formally elected Cole as the convention chair. The Nominating Committee was also a little slow so we had nearly 2,000 delegates and well over 3,000 people total sitting for a long time. The two big controversies were procedural votes over whether to recess for lunch before the “Session 1” business was completed and whether to adjourn after the platform was adopted, but before any platform resolutions were presented from the floor.

Notwithstanding the passionate efforts of the Mitt Romney and Ron Paul forces to put forward their proposed slates of delegates to the National Convention, all the parties were generally well behaved. This was in large part due to Chairman Cole going out of his way to make sure everyone had their chance to make motions and debate.

To my knowledge, which I'll admit only extends back over the last five or six conventions, this was a historic State Convention for Platte County. Platte County picked up two delegates to the National Convention at the State Convention, Joan Harms and Eric Zahnd. Platte County already had one delegate to the National Convention, Jim Rooney, selected at the Sixth Congressional District Convention. To my knowledge, Platte County has never had three people selected to attend the National Convention before.

(Reach local GOP leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


DEMS' ATTACK ADS RELATED TO BAIN CAPITAL ARE INACCURATE, DECEPTIVE
Posted 6/1/12

The Democrats are running ads attacking Mitt Romney and, of course, the ads are inaccurate and deceptive. The ads relate to the purchase by Bain Capital, the firm that Romney previously headed, of a failed steel plant owned by Armco Steel in northeast Kansas City. Bain Capital purchased the plant in 1993 and operated the plant as GST Steel until 2001. The ad attacks Romney because Bain Capital shut down the plant leaving more than 700 people out of work.

The ad is misleading and inaccurate on so many counts. First, the plant wasn't actually shut down until 2001, which was two years AFTER Romney had left Bain Capital. So, Romney was no longer in charge of Bain Capital at the time of the decision to shut down the plant. Somehow the Democrats just skip over this essential fact.

The ad is also misleading because it misses an essential point. The plant was essentially defunct under Armco Steel. In fact, by the early 90s nearly all U.S. steel operations were being severely outperformed by their foreign counterparts. So, we are talking about workers at the plant already being out of work or on the verge of being out of work. When Bain Capital came in, they created continuing employment for the 700+ people for another eight years.

This oversight is almost certainly in part due to intentional deception by the Democrats. They take a true fact (A steel plant operated by subsidiary of a company that Romney formerly led closed down leaving 700+ people out of work) and conveniently leave out numerous facts, such as Romney hadn't been at Bain Capital for two years before the shutdown of the plant. However, it is also possible that the Democrat ad makers either don't understand or don't care how these situations often develop.

I have had several clients that have businesses that while the businesses are generally sound financial businesses, they sometimes get in financial trouble. This is generally due to management miscues. Regardless of the reason, when my clients get in this situation, we often look for a “white knight” to come in and save the employees' jobs. My small business owner clients tend to see their employees as extended family and do everything they can to preserve the employees' jobs even as they are losing all of their equity in the business and any prospect of future employment for themselves.

There has been no discussion of whether Bain Capital was a “white knight” in the GST Steel situation. By buying up the Armco steel plant, Bain Capital kept 700+ people working for eight more years. Even though GST Steel was not able to continue operating long-term, it certainly kept lots of people employed in good jobs much longer than they would have been if Bain Capital had not come along.

There is another interesting twist with these ads. Although the ads involve a business previously located in Kansas City, you won't likely see the ads run in the Kansas City TV market. Why? Because Missouri does not appear to be in play for Obama in 2012. Missouri could still go for Obama, but today the political pundits do not see Missouri as likely to go for Obama. Of course, the bad news is that Obama could still win re-election without carrying Missouri. Four more years of Obama would be bad for Missouri and bad for America.

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


MODERN VERSION OF THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER
Posted 5/27/12

There is an old fable about an ant and a grasshopper that goes something like this:
The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and welled. The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold. MORAL OF THE STORY: You need to be responsible for yourself.

A couple of weeks ago, someone sent me an e-mail that included a modern version of the ant and the grasshopper story. I have seen many variations of the modern version, but the one that was sent to me went like this:

The ant works hard in the withering heat and rain all summer long building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while he is cold and starving. CBS, NBC , PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such wealth this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so? Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, 'It's Not Easy Being Green...’

ACORN stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house where news stations film the group singing, “We shall overcome.” Rev. Jeremiah Wright has the group kneel down to pray for the grasshopper's sake. President Obama condemns the ant and blames President Bush, President Reagan, Christopher Columbus, and the Pope for the grasshopper's plight. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share. Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive fines and taxes, his home is confiscated by the Government Green Czar and given to the grasshopper.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper and his friends finishing up the last of the ant's food while the government house he is in, which happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around them because of deferred maintenance. The ant has disappeared in the snow, never again to be seen. The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident, and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once prosperous and peaceful neighborhood.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Be careful how you vote in 2012.

I know it is just a variation of an old fable, but the story is actually a fair reflection of the liberals' vision for America.

(Email jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION IS A RELIGIOUS IDEOLOGY TO OBAMA
Posted 5/18/12

What do you think when you see a car with an Obama sticker? Two quick thoughts come to mind for me.

The first is “Well there's an idiot!” What intelligent person could possibly support Obama. Well, sometimes from looking at the car and sometimes from looking at the person in the car, if there is one, you get some clues. First, the assumption that the person is intelligent is probably the first mistake. However, sometimes the appearance of the car or the driver may give you a hint that this is a freeloader from society. If you are a freeloader, it makes perfect sense that you would support Obama and his policies.

Sometimes the car is empty. Sometimes the car is a relatively nice car. That is actually what prompted this column. I saw a fairly new and outwardly well-maintained Volvo with an Obama sticker parked in front of the Tivol jewelry store when I came back from lunch one day last week.

My first reaction was, as usual, “What an idiot!” However, one can still be “an idiot” and still have a fair amount of “book learnin'.” So that led me to contemplate my second question that usually pops into my mind when I see an Obama sticker: “Why does this person think that I should give the government a greatly disproportionate share of my earnings to waste or to simply give to someone else?”

To me, the redistribution of wealth aspect of Obama is the most disturbing policy he has. Obama has made no secret about his primary mission of taking one group of people's money and giving it to someone else. He admitted his redistribution motives on the campaign trail in 2008. Even worse, wealth redistribution is not just a political philosophy to Obama. It is a religious ideology to him. His church did not seek to bring people to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. No. His church's mission statement, as published on its website, was “to correct America's maldistribution of wealth.” It makes me outraged that the government pursues policies to take a greatly disproportionate share of my hard earned labors and give the fruits of my labors to someone sitting at home on the couch, watching TV and just waiting for the next government check to arrive.

Although I really would like to confront these people who support stealing my money, I know I can't because of the TV commercials of Direct TV that warn you about getting upset about your cable TV. These commercials show a person who gets upset about their cable TV which leads to a string of events that causes the person to wind up beaten up and in a ditch or their house blows up or they end up with a grandchild with a dog collar. If I were to confront these people who want to steal from me, I would probably poke them in the nose and get a visit from one of Sheriff Dick Anderson's fine employees and maybe get a stay in the government-funded “hotel” that Anderson manages.

No. I won't really ask these people why they want to steal my money, but know this, when I see an Obama sticker, I see the owner of that vehicle as someone who wants to steal from me.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE LIBERAL AND THE CONSERVATIVE MENTALITY
Posted 5/11/12

A radio show host this week commented on a speech given by Obama in which he told the crowd to believe in him and give him time to fix America's woes. (I'm not sure which host this was because 710 recently jumbled their programming schedule.) The host contrasted that with Ronald Reagan's message of “believe in America.”

This distinction really shows the difference between the liberal and the conservative mentality. Liberals like Obama think they are smarter than the rest of us so we need to give ourselves over to their wisdom and do what they tell us. We don't need to be independent and earn our own money. We need to just rely upon them to look out for us. We just need to be sheep that toil for them and let them take care of us.

On the other hand are conservatives like Reagan. He tells us to believe in America, believe in ourselves and we will again make America a “shining city on a hill.”

What made America great is not our presidents. (Although we have had some good ones and some bad ones.) What has made America great is Americans: individual citizens who work hard, do what's right, take care of their families and respect others.
One of my favorite movie segments is from the movie Pearl Harbor. The crushing blow at Pearl Harbor is over and now the Americans are planning to strike back as an aircraft carrier jam-packed with B-17s sails towards Japan for what will become the Doolittle Raid. Jimmy Doolittle and the admiral are up in the conning tower discussing the slim prospects for the war. Doolittle tells the admiral that he is confident that we will win, maybe not today but eventually. And he says, “You wanna know why?” and gestures to the two heroes of the story who are chatting on the deck below “Men like that is why we will win.”

Obama and the controlling liberals like him will not make America great. Americans will make America great. And, these Americans are not necessarily people who will do heroic things or things that will get their names in the history books. No. The Americans that will make America great are the millions of ordinary folks that work hard, do what's right, take care of their families and respect others.

However, there is a critical concern. If the citizens of America elect liberals like Obama, they run the risk that these liberals will eventually destroy the things that make America great. We already have a “work ethic/contribution” problem. Nearly half (approximately 48%) of Americans pay zero in federal income tax. So, a lot of folks are paying nothing to fund the federal government while that same federal government discourages hard work and success with confiscatory tax policies.

The question in November is pretty simple. Do Americans believe in the charismatic leader who will take care of us? Or in the strength and determination of the American people? Do Americans want a nanny state where liberals set rules that tell us what we must buy, what we can eat, what cars we can drive? Or, do Americans want the freedom to keep more of what we earn and make our own choices?

I hope they pick the latter in both cases.

(Reach Platte County Republican leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


THERE ARE TWO KEY PROBLEMS WITH THE POWER AND LIGHT DISTRICT
Posted 5/6/12

Kansas City was in the Wall Street Journal last week and it wasn't a good thing. The article focused on Kansas City's $850 million investment in the Kansas City Power & Light District in an effort to revitalize downtown.

The Journal reports that the eight-block restaurant, nightclub and retail complex is running well below the revenue projections that were made for the project. In any other real estate project, this would be an unfortunate development for a private developer. However, for those of us in the Kansas City area, this is a train wreck that we are paying for.

The Power & Light District is funded in large part with $295 million in bonds that the city issued for the project. These bonds were to be paid from future sales and property taxes generated in the district. However, these tax revenues are running way short of the projections. So, the city has to make up the difference in these tax revenue shortfalls to make the bond payments.

The annual debt service obligation is approximately $20 million. The city has been pumping $10 to $13 million a year into the project to cover the shortfall of tax revenues compared to the debt service. For next year's budget the city has set aside $12.8 million to cover the anticipated shortfall.

I know we often throw around big numbers and think “What's the big deal? A million here, a million there.” Well let's put this in context. The city's budget is a little over $1 billion so we are talking about committing around 1% of the city's annual budget to cover the shortfall of this project. So, $12.8 million is a lot of money. It is something like one-fourth of what the city will spend on capital improvements this year. Also, it isn't like the city has any extra money lying around. For example, the proposed budget for this year calls for $7.6 million in cuts to the fire department.

I'm not opposed to “smart” incentive programs. In the Northland we have examples of how Tax Increment Financing has worked brilliantly. The KCI TIF, which is the area north of Barry Road where the Walmart and Lowe's are located, has worked exactly as planned. In fact, the KCI TIF has exceeded its revenue projections by so much that the TIF Plan has been amended multiple times to capture this unanticipated revenue. There has been similar success with the Shoal Creek TIF off of 152 near Liberty.

There are several great things about these TIF projects. First, they are not Super TIFs so one-half of the new revenue generated is actually going to the various taxing jurisdictions. Second, these projects are not paying for private property owners buildings or huge fees to developers. Instead, these TIFs are being used to fund infrastructure improvements that were not even on the radar screen of City planners.

There are two key problems with the Power & Light District. First, is the crazy idea that bars and restaurants are legitimate economic development. Second, is that the project is downtown. I know the city planners operate under the misconception that “If they build it, people will come.” However, the bottom line is no one wants to go downtown. Unfortunately, we still have to pay for their flawed thinking.

(Email Platte County Republican leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


ST. LOUIS EDITORIAL BOARD HAS
NO SENSE OF ECONOMICS
OR THE REAL WORLD

Posted 4/28/12

I'm going to repeat something I have said before: The editorial board of the St. Louis Post Dispatch is stupid. No big surprise. Most “big city” newspapers have editorial boards that are dominated by clueless liberals with no sense of the economics or the real world

What has me ticked off this time? Well, on Monday the editorial board published an editorial entitled “Missouri can't afford to leave $400 million on the table.” The whole point of the editorial was that Missouri is one of the few states in the country that still allows at least a partial deduction of federal income tax paid as part of the calculation of Missouri taxable income for purposes of determining Missouri income tax due. The editorial board describes the deduction as “a costly tax code luxury” and wants this deduction eliminated so that the tax collections from Missourians would go up by $400 million.

I realize that me debating tax policy with clueless liberal big city newspaper editors is like these editors bringing a knife to a gun fight and one of those flimsy plastic knifes at that. Having an accounting degree, law degree and an advanced law degree focused on taxation means I actually know what I am talking about and they are just a bunch of blubbering idiots. However, it is more than just understanding how the tax code works. I actually have a clue about the real world and they apparently don't.

The editors probably don't realize that Missouri's federal income tax deduction is already severely watered down. In his first year in office Governor Carnahan forced through the biggest tax increase in Missouri history that capped the federal income tax deduction at $10,000. So, even though a taxpayer might pay $40,000 in federal income tax, he only gets a state income tax deduction for federal income tax paid of $10,000. This means that the watered-down version of the deduction already means that the taxpayer is paying $1,800 more in state income taxes. The editors would have this taxpayer pay another $600 in state income taxes.

The editors describe what would be a massive tax increase as “recovering $400 million dollars.” Huh? How is the State “recovering” anything? Taking taxes from working people is simply legalized theft.

The editors also say these “recovered” taxes would “spare Missouri's 6 million residents a lot of hardship.” Huh? Sure, there are some Missouri residents who live off the rest of us who might get more handouts. However, those of us paying the increased taxes wouldn't be spared any hardship. In fact, we would be carrying a heavier load.

I also find irritating that the editorial board focuses on the fact that many states no longer allow a federal income tax deduction as part of the calculation of state taxable income. Of course, the editorial board ignores any rate differentials or any other calculation differentials. Furthermore, the editorial board doesn't even mention those states that don't even have an income tax.

This is just typical liberal idiocy. They think the money earned by the citizens of Missouri is somehow their money to be taken and redistributed as they see fit. The perspective of these clueless liberals is that letting hard working people keep more of the money they earn “produces no noticeable public benefit.” Morons!

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


THE RIGHT FOCUS IN POLITICS IS ON THE 'LITTLE' RACES

Posted 4/21/12

The county caucuses were just held a few weeks ago. Many newcomers showed up thinking they would vote for a Republican nominee for president. They didn't.

The county caucuses actually select delegates and alternates to the congressional district and state conventions. At these conventions delegates to the Republican National Convention will be selected. These delegates will actually be the ones to cast their votes for the Republican nominee for president.

I don't mean to belittle the process. This multi-step process is important. Missouri's system is also very grassroots-oriented. It allows ordinary citizens the ability to participate in the nomination process.

Just look at a place like St. Charles County. The caucus process in St. Charles County was overrun by Ron Paul supporters so that all the delegates from St. Charles County to the congressional district and state conventions are supporters of Ron Paul. A small group of dedicated grassroots activists was able to choose these delegates despite the fact that their candidate can't seem to get more than 10% of the vote in a primary. This is a prime example of how Missouri's process favors the grassroots activists.

It is great that Missouri has a process that allows the grassroots folks to have a significant role in choosing our presidential nominee. It is great that the votes from Missouri are allocated by grassroots efforts and not big TV and mail campaigns. However, these grassroots efforts are generally wasted. These folks may influence a county caucus or even the state convention, but the primary system used in most of the country really limits the impact of those efforts.

I would really prefer that these enthusiastic people spend their energies in a more productive manner. I know the presidential race is sexy and exciting. It is talked about on the national news shows. There are TV commercials. However, it is far removed from Platte County.

No. I really wish I could get people to understand that the right focus in politics is on the “little” races. This is where a few dedicated volunteers can have the most impact. Just think about the 300 people who came to the Platte County caucus spending those four to six hours going door to door for a state representative campaign. That would be huge!

These “little” races are really important. County officeholders, city council people, school board members and state representatives often deal with the issues very close to us that affect our daily lives. These positions are also the starting point for most all candidates who move on to some other political office. For example, former U.S. Senator Jim Talent, former Governor Matt Blunt and Congressman Sam Graves started out as state representatives. U.S. Senator Roy Blunt started out as a county clerk.

Don't get me wrong. We need volunteers for the 2012 presidential race. Volunteering on these campaigns is important. It is just that my personal bias is to work for folks like state representatives Ron Schieber and Nick Marshall, county treasurer candidate Rob Willard and the rest of our local candidate slate. I know these candidates personally. I respect them and trust that they will fulfill their duties faithfully. I encourage you to go ahead and volunteer for the presidential campaign, but also pick your favorite local candidate and help that candidate win.

(Email local Republican leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


DEMOCRAT PARTY HAS TROUBLE FINDING LOCAL CANDIDATES

Posted 4/12/12

In 1994 Diza Eskridge was a candidate for one of the “junior” county commissioner seats. She had defeated the incumbent in the Democrat primary. When speaking to the Platte County Breakfast Club the following month, Eskridge said “If this was like most years, the election would already be over.” (Eskridge went on to win a narrow victory in November.)

That was true until a few years ago. For more than 130 years, the real fight in county races in Platte County was in the Democrat primary. The winner of the Democrat primary generally was elected by default in November because there was no Republican candidate. Or, if there was a Republican candidate such candidate had little prospect of winning in November. Platte County didn't elect a county-wide Republican until 1968. A local Republican did not defeat an incumbent Democrat until Judy Stokes was elected County Treasurer in 1984.

Oh how things have changed.

The local Democrats did not even bother to file candidates in three of the six county races for 2012. The County Commissioner from District One, the Treasurer and Sheriff are guaranteed to be Republican. This might not entirely be a surprise if these offices were held by Republican incumbents. It is difficult to unseat incumbents. Sometimes you just can't find the right person to have a legitimate chance. However, two of these three offices are actually open seats.

The Democrats did file challengers for the County Commissioner seat for District Two, which I think of as the northern junior commissioner, and Public Administrator. Both of these are open seats. Jim Plunkett did not file to seek re-election. This prompted Duane Soper to file as a Republican. As filing neared closing, Sharon Aring filed as a Democrat. Aring is a member of the Democrat Central Committee. So far it is unclear whether Aring intends to be a serious candidate or whether she is just a placeholder for the Democrats.

The Public Administrator situation is a little unusual. The incumbent, Terry Edwards, is a Democrat. However, she had endorsed her chief deputy, Toni Clemens, a Republican, to succeed her. This apparently upset the Democrats. They recruited Chris Hershey to oppose Clemens.

What is odd is that fighting for the public administrator office is such a major priority for the Democrats. I always make the public administrator position my lowest recruiting priority. The job is important and a well-qualified person is needed for the position. However, the job is a thankless job. It is not what the title implies. It has nothing to do with setting public policy. The position involves representing incapacitated people in the handing of their affairs. It is a REALLY hard job that takes a special person, like Clemens, to do it.

The Democrats lone incumbent is the Assessor. David Christian was appointed to this post after Lisa Pope's death. I have known Christian for years from his civic involvement, but I have never known him to have any particular knowledge or skill with property valuations. David Cox, who has worked in the real estate industry, is challenging Christian.

Eskridge's words will be at least half right this year. Half the county-level races will be over after the primary. However, no Democrat will be the winner at that point. That's great as far as I'm concerned. Now we just need to do the work to win the other three.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE HAS CHANGED IN 20 YEARS

Posted 4/6/12

Oh how things have shifted in the last 20 years. I used to go to fund raisers and rallies where all the speeches focused on “if we [Republicans] could just pick up a few more seats, we could control the Missouri House.” I also remember joining forces with Todd Graves in the mid-90s to start laying the ground work for a young upstart, Eric Zahnd, to make a bid to run for the State Senate in 1998. Zahnd was still in law school, but he was gearing up to challenge the incumbent, Sydney Johnson. Part of our pitch was that we just needed to pick up two or three more State Senate seats to have 18-16 edge.
As filing for county-level and state-level offices closed last week, things are dramatically different than there were 20 years ago. With the passing of the filing deadlines, no one else can run for these posts unless they choose to run as write-in candidates or as independent candidates. However, these sorts of candidacies are almost never significant. If a person wants to have a serious shot at winning, the person needs to have filed by the end of filing.

Republicans have gone from a day where we are trying to pick up one or two seats to take control of the State Senate to having a super-majority currently and locking up control of the State Senate for the next two years at the close of filing. Only half of the 34 State Senate seats are up for re-election every two years. Republicans currently hold 13 of the 17 seats not up for re-election. Of the 17 seats that are up for re-election this fall, five Republican candidates have no Democrat opponents. This assures the Republicans of a majority even if no Republican Senate candidate wins a contested race.

Things are almost as good in the State House. There are 163 State Representative seats. This means it takes 82 seats to hold a majority. The Democrats did not bother filing opponents against 52 of the Republican candidates. This means that the Republicans only need to win 30 of the 82 contested seats to maintain a majority. (The Republicans did not file candidates in 29 seats so the Democrats have already won these.)

Locally, our State Senate seat is not up this year. And, despite being statistically a Democrat-leaning seat, it is held by a Republican.

Platte County now has two full and part of two other State Representative districts. Galen Higdon, who represents the south side of St. Joseph, southern Buchanan County and northern Platte County didn't pull an opponent despite being in a very Democrat-leaning district. The new 12th District, which includes Platte City and stretches eastward through part of Platte County north of 92 highway and over to Smithville and Kearney, has no Democrat opponent. So the winner in the Republican primary between Ken Wilson and Josh Hurlbert will be the next State Representative. Nick Marshall and Ron Schieber, formerly in the 30th and 32nd districts, respectively, and now in districts numbered as the 13th and 14th have each had Democrats file against them. However, these opponents have raised no money and don't look like quality opponents -- particularly in a year with Obama at the top of the ticket in Platte County.

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 


ACTIVISTS NEED TO GIVE THE SYSTEM A CHANCE TO WORK

Posted 3/29/12

Trayvon Martin is becoming the household name of the spring. Martin is a 17 year old who was killed in Florida by George Zimmerman, who was apparently out on a neighborhood watch at the time of the shooting. The death of anyone is always a tragedy. However, as usual, the disgusting rabble-rousers come out of the woodwork to shout “No Justice, No Peace.” The problem is that they don't bother to actually investigate the facts.

Initially this was reported as a white man who shot a black kid. That actually isn't true. Zimmerman is actually a man of mixed heritage. Yes. He apparently looks whiter than Trayvon, but this isn't some lily white suburbanite who gunned down a kid. So, the racist claims may not be accurate.

The story is also told that this was just some innocent kid who was shot for being black and wearing a hoodie. That just seemed a little odd to me. What circumstances would cause a person to shoot someone on the street just because the person was black or wore a hoodie? Yes. I know there are some racist crazies out there that have no respect for other people that look different than them. However, that does seem a little odd.

Apparently there is more to the story than the protest leaders want to let on. There are reports that Martin actually attacked Zimmerman. Zimmerman alleges that he was knocked to the ground and repeatedly punched in the face by Martin. Supposedly, there is physical evidence to support Zimmerman's version of the facts.

Furthermore, the troublemaking activists want to claim that this is an innocent kid who was shot down in the prime of life. Recent news stories indicate that the kid was actually suspended from school. The suspension was apparently for drug possession and not for violent conduct. However, as facts leak out the kid was apparently not a model citizen.

Now don't get me wrong. I am in no way condoning the shooting of a 17 year old even with a jaded past. However, before we accept the troublemaking activists' version of the story, we need to make sure we have all the facts.

I'm not surprised to see some of the troublemaking activists on the scene fighting for TV time to use this tragedy to further their own positions. I'm not even surprised to see that President Obama is trying to take advantage of this tragedy by saying “If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon” at a press conference. However, I was a little surprised that Kansas City's Mayor Sly James appeared at a rally in Kansas City on Monday.

A grand jury is set to hear the evidence in April to see if a crime was committed and whether charges should be brought against the Zimmerman. Maybe the facts will show that Zimmerman was the aggressor. Maybe the facts will show that this kid attacked Zimmerman and he defended himself. Maybe the facts will show that Zimmerman used excessive force to respond to an attack. I don't know what the facts will show.

However, before going on TV, holding marches and protests and shouting “No Justice, No Peace,” these TV-loving activists need to let all the facts come out and give the system a chance to work.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 


ANY OF THE REPUBLICANS WOULD BE BETTER THAN OBAMA

Posted 3/19/12

A fictional character from a novel I read last month probably did the best job I have heard of describing the process of selecting our president. Arnie van Damm, former chief of state of President Jack Ryan, said in Dead or Alive, a novel by Tom Clancy, “. . . it's like a restaurant with a short menu. You can only choose from what the cook's cooking, and you can't leave and go to Wendy's if you're not happy with the selection.”
It really is pretty sad. Out of 330 million people, the four Republican candidates that are still campaigning are the best we can come up with? From talking to other folks about our choices for president, a lot of them feel the same way.

One person recently described it this way. He would like to take the management skills of Mitt Romney, the character of Rick Santorum, the passion of Ron Paul's followers and the ability of Newt Gingrich to articulate conservative principals and combine them to create the perfect candidate. Unfortunately, we can't do that.

The lady who cuts my hair summed it up this way. She said it is like being a little kid and being told that you have a choice between brussels sprouts, beats or broccoli. As a kid, you don't like any of those choices, but you have to take one.

These analogies also got me to thinking about my former secretary's favorite place to go to lunch, Andre's on the Plaza. The menu changed daily without any pattern. There were always two choices and quiche. The two choices were never “man food.” And, of course, real men don't eat quiche. I always hated going there. However, for her birthday and for secretary's day, I would agree to take her there for lunch. (Of course, I would usually make a secret run out to a drive thru before or after our lunch together.)
I have been disappointed with our candidates for president for three of the last five election cycles. I have turned down the opportunity to go to the National Convention several times. In part it is because I would rather take the several thousand dollars the trip would cost and contribute that money to our local candidates. It is also because I have been holding out for going to the National Convention when there is a candidate that really excites me.

On Saturday the Republican Party in most Missouri counties will hold caucuses to begin the first round of the process of selecting Missouri's delegates to the Republican National Convention. Caucuses are great because they are grassroots politics at its finest. Caucuses are very messy because they are grassroots politics at its finest. Our county party chairman, Jim Rooney, and the rest of the county party committee have put in a great deal of work to make sure we have an orderly process on Saturday. However, it will still be messy.

This nomination process will be like a trip to Andre's. Unfortunately, I can't sneak by a drive thru for my “real” lunch. I will simply work to protect the process of selecting our nominee in an orderly fashion and support the candidate that is chosen. What all of us need to remember is that any of the candidates is ABSOLUTELY better then Obama.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


THE CONTRACEPTION CONTROVERSY: MUCH MISINFORMATION OUT THERE

Posted 3/11/12

I have been trying not to write about the contraception controversy, but there is just too much misinformation out there.

Let's start at the beginning. ObamaCare is designed as a massive takeover of the health care/health insurance industry by the federal government. As part of this takeover, the federal government has been given very broad discretion in drafting regulations that impose new requirements regarding what must be included in health insurance policies.
These regulations would require all health insurance policies to cover contraceptives and other related services. The leaders of the Catholic Church and others have objected to this regulation because there is no “opt out” provision for these religious institutions. According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, contraception is wrong. Therefore, the Catholic Church does not want to be required to include contraception and other doctrinally objectionable items in the health insurance coverage it provides to its employees.

President Obama came up with a ludicrous position saying that the insurance companies are the ones providing the contraceptives and other objectionable services. So, the Catholic Church isn't really paying for these things. However, that is just nuts. If the Catholic Church pays any portion of the insurance premiums for its employees, it is funding this coverage regardless of any fiction that says the insurance company is really paying for these items.

This controversy has brought out factual misstatements, demagoguery and lunacy. One misstatement is that those opposing this regulation are out to prevent access to contraception. That is also nuts. No one is trying to have any government entity ban contraception. Those opposed to the regulation are simply saying that the Catholic Church (and others in similar circumstances) should not be required to pay for health insurance that must include contraception coverage.

This debate caused a group of crazy women in the Missouri legislature to propose HB 1853. This bill would create a new Section 568.200, which would prohibit vasectomies. This bill didn't have anything to do with insurance coverage. It simply would prohibit vasectomies in Missouri. In fact, it was actually proposed to be included in Chapter 568, which relates to “Offenses Against the Family” such as bigamy and incest. Crazy!

But stupidity reaches to both sides. A law student at Georgetown testified before Congress that her Catholic-related school should pay for her contraceptives. I'm not sure why this girl thinks that anyone else should pay for her contraceptives. If she chooses to engage in the kind of activity that requires contraceptives, she should pay for that herself. However, Rush Limbaugh fired back and said "What does it say about the college co-ed . . . who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.” Rush was WAY over the top with his comments. These and his other comments were inappropriate and in poor taste.

The Catholic Church isn't wrong. It should not be forced to pay for health insurance coverage that is in direct opposition to its religious doctrine. And the demagogues on the left need to quit misrepresenting that this is a fight about banning contraceptives. It isn't. The question is “Should the federal government mandate that a religious institution provide insurance coverage that is in direct opposition to its doctrine?” It shouldn't.

(Email jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


FINANCIAL TRAIN WRECK AHEAD IF OBAMA GETS HIS WAY ON TAXES

Posted 3/4/12

I saw a sad but true cartoon in an e-mail I received this weekend. It shows President Obama addressing an audience. Obama is saying “I won't allow the half of Americans who pay no taxes to bear the burden of the other half who aren't paying their fair share.” The cartoon shows the members of the audience with question marks above their heads.

Our current tax structure is completely messed up in this country. We have an income tax system where 48% of the “taxpayers” pay ZERO in income taxes. Wow! Nearly half of the “taxpayers” are paying nothing.

We have a federal income tax system where taxpayers in the upper brackets are paying 35% on the marginal dollar of earned income. (Until 2013, the tax rate is less if the next dollar is dividends or capital gains.) This is just income tax. It does not include payroll/self-employment taxes or state income taxes.

If the current tax rates are not extended, the highest marginal rate will go to 39.6% and the favorable rate on dividends and capital gains will expire. Taxpayers will also be hit by a new ObamaCare tax on investment income starting in 2013. Ouch!

Obama wants to advance a system where half of Americans pay no taxes and the high end taxpayers pay more than 50 cents on the dollar in federal income taxes, payroll/self employment taxes, ObamaCare taxes and state and local income taxes. Furthermore, Obama wants to advance a system which will cap deductions for charitable contributions and home mortgage interest. If Obama gets his way, we are talking about a financial train wreck.

To make things even worse, Obama does not actually have to get any new legislation to get much of what he wants. Between the scheduled expiration of the Bush era tax rate structure, the expiration of the temporary cut in the payroll tax and the implementation of ObamaCare taxes, most of this the tax disaster will occur if no action is taken.

A February 18 article in the Washington Post, “'Taxmageddon' looms at the end of payroll tax holiday,” summarized many of the details of this approaching tax policy disaster. We are talking about tax policy changes that will suck roughly $500 billion out of the economy in 2013. That is a huge amount of money being taken out of investment and job creation. “Taxmageddon” will have devastating effects on the economy. The article quotes Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics, who predicted that the tax increased combined with cuts from the debt ceiling deal would slash economic growth by nearly three percentage points next year.

It is long past the time when Congress and the President need to start acting like grownups and have an honest discussion about tax policy. I don't like progressive tax rates, but from a practical standpoint folks who make more money probably have to pay a higher marginal rate. However, EVERYBODY needs to have skin in the game. We can't have a tax system where nearly half the people pay nothing. We also can't have a tax system where the highest 5% of incomes pay half of the taxes paid.

Reasonable and meaningful permanent tax reform needs to be adopted before Taxmageddon occurs. Otherwise, the next Obama cartoon may make you cry.

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


LIKE PLATTE COUNTY, KANSAS CITY'S SALES TAXES SHOW A MESSED UP SET UP PRIORITIES

Posted 2/24/12

Disproportionality in allocating public resources is a major frustration of mine. Last week I objected that the parks sales tax was disproportionately high relative to the roads sales tax and general revenue sales tax. It isn't that parks aren't important. It is simply that Platte County is allocating a disproportionate amount of resources to parks rather than other priorities.

Platte County's disproportionate Parks Sales Tax is mildly upsetting. However, if you really want to get me fuming, we can discuss the disproportionate amount that Kansas City spends on mass transit.

First of all, the idea of “mass transit” in Kansas City is a joke. Kansas City by itself, let alone taking into consideration the Kansas City metropolitan, is geographically WAY too big to support any sort of meaningful mass transit system. At one point I recall former Mayor Kay Barnes saying that you could put Manhattan, London, Paris and San Francisco all within the geographic footprint of Kansas City. Kansas City simply is too spread out to effectively operate a mass transit system.

Now, when I go to the “big city,” i.e., the south of the River portion of Kansas City, the buses at 10th and Main Street are often full. However, I see buses zipping up and down I-29 or Ambassador Drive with one or two or even no passengers. The point is that almost no one rides the bus. Surveys show that the first thing people buy when they get enough money is a car so they don't have to ride the bus.

Don't just rely upon my personal observations. A study by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 1.27 percent of Kansas City workers use public transit. This ranks Missouri right below Monroe, La. Lawrence, Kansas ranks higher than Kansas City with 1.28% of commuters using public transit. The point is that almost NO ONE is riding the bus.
Kansas City is allocating WAY too much of its resources to these empty buses. Kansas City has two sales taxes – a one-half cent sales tax and a three-eighths cent sales tax -- that support the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. This constitutes 59% of the KCATA's funding. The KCATA gets another 17% from federal sources. The passengers of the buses only contribute 17% of the funding.

Having sales taxes of 7/8 of a cent for transit is ridiculous when you consider that Kansas City only has two ½ cent sales taxes (i.e., one cent total) for public improvements. These public improvements taxes don't just pay for roads and bridges. These taxes have to fund all public improvements, including parks, public buildings, etc.
It is simply out-of-whack priorities to have 7/8 cent of sales taxes allocated to public transit when Kansas City only has one cent of sales taxes allocated to all of its public improvements. This is especially true when only 1.27% of the people are even using public transit.

Good government is about setting the right priorities, especially with the financial resources of the citizens. When government subsidizes mass transit that is used by just over 1 out of every 100 people with an amount that is almost equal to the amount spent on roads, bridges and other public improvements that are used by everyone, that is a messed up set of priorities. Government needs to be smarter with the people's resources.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


REDUCING PARK TAX MERITS DISCUSSION; REDUCING ROAD TAX MAY NOT BE A GOOD IDEA

Posted 2/17/12

There is a new idea floating around the county administration building. There is some consideration of shifting some of the roads sales tax to a law enforcement sales tax.
This idea grew out of the recent budget controversy. As you will recall, when the county prosecutor did not get as much money as he wanted, he proposed that the county commission ask the voters to reduce the park sales tax and create a new law enforcement sales tax.

The prosecutor's idea actually merits some discussion. The parks sales tax is too high. The rate is one-half cent. This is the same rate as the county's general revenue sales tax, which funds a substantial portion of the county's general operations.

A parks sales tax of one-half cent is disproportionately high compared to the county's other revenue sources. After the parks sales tax was adopted in 2000, I advocated for only renewing it at one-eighth cent or one-fourth cent. (I hated to renew the parks sales tax at all, but once the county had created all of these maintenance obligations, it needed a way to fund this on-going maintenance.) Of course, the county commission failed to wean the county off of the use tax revenue created for the general fund by the one-half cent parks sales tax. So the county commission needed the one-half cent parks sales tax not only to fund its pet projects, but also to fund its general operations.

The county commission seems dead set against shifting any of the parks sales tax to a new law enforcement tax. However, there are rumblings that the county commission might consider shifting some of the roads sales tax to a law enforcement sales tax when the roads sales tax comes up for renewal.

There are a few drawbacks to renewing the road sales tax at a lower rate and shifting the reduced tax rate to a law enforcement sales tax. First, this is just “shifting deck chairs.” Law enforcement and roads are both critical government functions. Does it matter if these are funded from general revenue or special-purpose sales taxes?

Second, the county has gotten a lot of leverage with the roads sales tax. For example, the county may fund 20% of a project and get 80% paid by another entity, such as MoDOT or Kansas City. Most importantly, when the county partners on a project with Kansas City, it completes the project dramatically quicker and cheaper than Kansas City would. For example, the N. Congress and Barry Road improvements were done in cooperation with Kansas City, but Platte County controlled the process. The project started the day after school let out and was finished before school started. That was Platte County efficiency. If Kansas City was in charge, the project would have drug on for months or years longer. Just look at how incompetent Kansas City was in dealing with improvements to Barry Road west of I-29. It took years and still isn't really finished.

The prosecutor's proposal to cut the parks sales tax and shift some of that tax rate to a law enforcement sales tax has some merit. I'm not so sure about shifting a portion of the roads sales tax. Some more discussion and analysis is definitely needed before I'll be convinced this is a good idea.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


MISSOURI'S OPEN PRIMARY APPROACH MAY NEED TO BE CHANGED

Posted 2/4/12

Missouri should strongly consider becoming a “closed” primary state.

Right now Missouri is an “open” primary state. What that means is that you when you register to vote you do not claim any particular political party. So, when you go to the polls for a primary election, you can tell the election judges whether you want any political party's primary ballot regardless of which party you actually consider yourself aligned.

I know that many folks are confused by the entire primary process. Some folks want to be able to go vote for the Democrat candidates in one race and Republican candidates in another. For example, in the 1994 August Primary, there were two people from our church who were on the primary ballot. Sandra was running in the Republican Primary. Another member of our congregation was running in the Democrat Primary. (This other candidate was really probably a Republican, but the former Queen of the Republican Party told him he couldn't run as a Republican. She had no authority to say this, but instead of fighting with her, he just went to the Democrats who welcomed him with open arms.) As I was working the polls on that hot August day, people came out and asked me what they should do. I told them it didn't really matter because both Sandra and the other candidate were unopposed in the primary.

I don't know if it is statistically significant, but there is certainly a lot of cross-over voting in the primaries. I know that in 2004, the former chairman of the Republican Party took a Democrat ballot in the primary so he could vote for Claire McCaskill over Bob Holden in the governor's primary. However, what really prompted this column is that Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill admitted to reporters that she considered casting an absentee Republican ballot in Tuesday's presidential primary. Her sole stated purpose for considering pulling a Republican ballot was “making mischief.”

I understand a desire of some unaffiliated people to want to vote in the primary of a political party with which they do not have a close affiliation. If you live in an area dominated by one party, you may want to vote in the other party's primary in order to vote for the least bad member of the opposing party because the winner of that primary is probably going to be elected in the general election. However, that is not the evil I am concerned about. The problem is people who intentionally cross over to other party's primary in order to “create mischief.”

A primary election is NOT about selecting who will hold a particular office. The primary is about who will represent OUR party or THEIR party as the candidate for that particular office. WE should choose our candidate. THEY should choose their candidate. If you aren't a Republican, you should stay out of the REPUBLICAN Primary. Likewise, Republicans should stay out of others' primaries. If you aren't connected with any political party, you should stay home in the primary. The primary is about the parties picking their candidates. It is not about who will hold office.

Since some folks have trouble acting responsibly, we should at least debate going to a “closed” primary process where you have to vote in your own party's primary.

(James Thomas, local Republican leader, can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


TAKING A LOOK AT FEDERAL TAX POLICY

Posted 2/4/12

Last week Mitt Romney released his personal federal income tax return. Romney's returns reported over $20 million per year in income. He gave over $3 million per year to charity. However, he only paid about $3 million in federal income tax, which is an effective tax rate of just under 15%. (Keep in mind that this is only federal income tax. State income tax can also be significant.)

The week before Newt Gingrich released his tax return. He reported income of a little more than $3.1 million and federal income tax of just under $1 million, which is an effective tax rate of over 30%. (Don't think Obama isn't making money. His nice salary from us -- the taxpayers -- and his book royalties gave him income of over $1.7 million with a federal income tax bill of around $450,000, which is an effective tax rate of 26.3%.)

Compare this to a married couple with each spouse making $100,000 per year from self-employment. Their marginal income tax rate will be 28% to 33% along with 15.3% in self employment tax. That means that they will be paying 43% to 48% on a marginal dollar. (This is a marginal rate, not an average rate, but it is still a significant difference.)
So, what is the difference? The reason that Romney pays a much lower tax rate despite having significantly more income is the kind of income he has. More than 90% of Romney's income is dividends and capital gains. These are taxed at 15%. Also, dividends and capitals gains are not subject to Social Security or Medicare Taxes (at least not until ObamaCare taxes are fully phased in). If someone had wages similar to Romney's total income they would be paying 35% marginal federal income tax rate plus another 1.45% Medicare tax on top of that.

Some have called for a minimum tax. We already have an Alternative Minimum Tax (“AMT”). The AMT wipes out most of a taxpayer's deductions, includes a modest exemption and applies a 28% rate. However, this rate adjustment does not apply to capital gains and dividends which have their separate 15% tax rate. The AMT dings a lot of folks who have nice-sized salaries or self-employment income, but doesn't impact taxpayers with huge unearned incomes.

There are some legitimate policy reasons for taxing capital gains and dividends differently. It may be that after a careful evaluation of these policy considerations that it is determined to be appropriate that the federal tax code apply different tax rates to dividends and capital gains than what apply to earnings from working. Favorable treatment of dividends and capital gains certainly does promote the investment of capital, which creates employment opportunities. However, as Warren Buffet notes, it is a little odd that his secretary pays a higher marginal rate on the next dollar she makes from working for him than he makes from dividends he receives in a company he owns.

I am not necessarily advocating for the abandonment of favorable tax treatment of dividends and capital gains. However, in taking a comprehensive look at tax policy, this is something that should be considered. I would certainly consider raising tax rates on capital gains and dividends before making any increases in the tax rates on “earned” income from wages and self-employment.

(Reach local Republican leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


IT'S CRAZY HOW QUICKLY THINGS CAN CHANGE IN POLITICS

Posted 1/29/12

Three states have now held their nominating processes for presidential candidates. For the Republicans, there have been three different winners: Rick Santorum – although undeclared – in Iowa; Mitt Romney in New Hampshire; and Newt Gingrich in South Carolina. The next stop is Florida, which holds its primary on Jan. 31.

It is crazy how quickly things change in politics. A little over a week ago, Romney was believed to have won Iowa by a narrow margin. He had picked up an expected win in New Hampshire and was predicted to be on the path to victory in South Carolina. This would have been the first time that a non-incumbent Republican would have won the first three nominating contests in many years. Romney was poised to run away with the nomination after only these three states had held their nominating contests.

Then the wheels started to come off for the Romney campaign. Romney's victory in Iowa was taken away. The final tally appears to be a narrow victory for Santorum. This by itself was not a big deal. Romney had not planned to win Iowa until right before the caucuses were held. And, Romney crushed the rest of the field in New Hampshire. However, then Rick Perry drops out of the race and endorses Newt. This by itself is not a big deal. I think endorsements are overrated in a campaign. One elected official can't necessarily transfer his or her voting base to another candidate with an endorsement. However, the real detriment to Romney was that another conservative candidate was no longer in the race, allowing the conservatives to cast their votes for Newt rather than the anti-Romney candidate of the month (or the day).

I don't like the way our candidates are attacking each other. Newt has some nasty ads about Romney's work at Bain Capital. There are things I don't like about Romney, but his work at Bain Capital is not one of those things. Romney is trashing Newt about his work as a lobbyist after leaving Congress. I don't like that ex-Congressmen turn to being lobbyists. However, it really isn't a surprise. Newt could have gone back to being a college professor, but clients were willing to pay him big money to roam the halls of Congress. There is anything inherently wrong with that. Wouldn't you have taken the better paying job? There are things I don't like about Newt, but his working as a lobbyist doesn't upset me.

The funny part is that despite all the hype, these three little states don't contribute much to the delegates required to win the nomination. So far Newt has 23, Romney has 18, Santorum has 11 and Ron Paul has 6. It is a long haul to get to the 1,143 delegates needed to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention.

Newt doesn't have the organization or money that Romney has. So, he may not be able to sustain a long fight for the nomination. However, I got some interesting feedback from some “ordinary” Republicans on Friday night. These folks, who happen to attend church multiple times a week, didn't care about Newt's personal mistakes. They just want him to fix the economy. So, maybe Newt can overcome the mistakes of his past.

We'll just have to wait and see.

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


AN INFORMED ELECTORATE WILL CUT THE COST OF CAMPAIGNS

Posted 1/22/12

The members of the editorial board of the St. Louis Post Dispatch are idiots. I'm sure I could come up with a number of reasons for saying that, but the one I specifically want to draw to your attention is an editorial published last month entitled “Missouri voters must reduce influence of money in politics.”

The general argument that there is too much money in political campaigns is not by itself a bad one. A person could have a legitimate opinion that too much money is spent on campaigns. However, the editorial board does not say that. Without considering how political campaigns spend money, the editorial board advocates for putting campaign contribution limits on state and local campaigns. The editorial board obviously fails to understand the whole point of money in political campaigns.

The money that political campaigns raise is almost exclusively spent on media (TV, radio, etc.), postage and printing. For example, a state-wide campaign in 2008 raised over $1,000,000. Almost all of that money was spent in the last two to three weeks of the campaign and almost all of that was spent on TV and radio.

TV is just so darn expensive. A one week TV buy at a 1,000 points will cost around $400,000 for a state-wide campaign. If you want to be up for three weeks before the election, you need more than $1,000,000. So, even if a campaign raises $1,000,000 it doesn't have any money left after its TV buy for a modest cost for staff, postage, printing or any radio or newspaper advertising.

There are two reasons that campaigns have to spend so much on contacting voters. First and foremost, is that spending money on direct voter contact avoids the filter of the media outlets, such as the editorial boards of the major newspapers, which are overwhelmingly made up of liberals. Of course, this media bias isn't just on the editorial pages. It also flows over into how news is “reported” by the media. If a candidate wants to get his message directly to voters without having the message misconstrued or even ignored by the media, the candidate has to have direct communication with the voters.

The second reason that candidates have to spend so much money on campaigns is that so many voters don't pay attention to what is going on with campaigns. In fairness to these voters, it is often hard to get information about political campaigns other than the big ones (e.g., President, U.S. Senate and Governor). I know before I was intimately involved in politics, I used to search for information on the local candidates and find little if any information. I would literally go to vote knowing little or nothing about the local candidates. If folks like the editorial boards want less money to be spent on campaigns, they could do a better job of providing information about the candidates.
Campaigns are expensive. I wish they cost less. However, the great expense is largely due to the media bias and to the media's inattention. Campaign contribution limits are NOT the solution to expensive campaigns.

Campaign contribution limits fix nothing. The solution is for the media to do its job and for voters to spend the time to become informed. An informed electorate will reduce the cost of campaigns.

(Email local Republican leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 



THERE HAS BEEN MEANINGLESS
RHETORIC, BUT ALSO A CHANCE
TO DISCUSS TAX REALLOCATION

Posted 1/14/12

I had to laugh at the crazy tussle at the courthouse last week. Eric Zahnd was calling for a cut in the parks sales tax and the creation of a new law enforcement sales tax because the budget for the county prosecutor's office was not increased by as much as he wanted (even though the county commission was going to give his office a small budget increase). Then we had our county commissioners threatening to stop all work on the expansion of the community centers because of Zahnd's rant.

I don't disagree with Zahnd's claim that spending more on parks projects than we spend on law enforcement represents misplaced priorities. For years I have been saying that a parks sales tax at a rate equal to the county's general revenue sales tax was too high. In fact, if you go back and read my May 20, 2009 column, you can see that I was beating that drum for many years before the renewal of the parks sales tax in 2009.
My question for Eric is "Where were you in 2009 when the conservatives expressed opposition to renewing the parks sales tax at a rate of one-half cent?" It is my recollection that he was "hiding under a rock" while the real conservatives expressed opposition to the renewal of the park sales tax at a one-half cent rate. Now his comments are simply rhetoric that is too late to be meaningful. His new-found fiscal conservatism is particularly hollow after he blew $200,000 on renovating his office last year.

Truthfully, back in 2009 the county commission had to seek a renewal of the park sales tax at one-half cent because of something I wrote about in my May 27, 2009 column: the use tax. A one-half cent parks sales tax also creates a one-half cent use tax. However, unlike the park sales tax, which has to be spent on parks, the related use tax can be spent on whatever the county commission wants.

On the night they were elected In 2004, I strongly encouraged commissioners-elect Jim Plunkett and Tom Pryor to develop a six year plan to wean Platte County off of the use tax related to the park sales tax. This way, when the parks sales tax would be set to expire, it could be renewed at a rate less than one-half cent. They didn't do this. So, even if the county commission was now receptive to Zahnd's proposal of reducing the parks sales tax to one-eighth cent and creating a law enforcement tax of one-fourth cent, they could not do this without also trimming several hundred thousand more from the county's general revenue expenditures.

The sad thing is what has happened in response to Zahnd's rant. The cry baby has gotten his way and his budget is slated to be funded at the full amount requested and the sheriff's budget is slated to be funded at more than what he requested. Historically, the sheriff would always “ask for the moon” in the budget process so over-funding his budget sounds ridiculous.

I do support discussion of what Zahnd proposes. There is an important opportunity to consider re-allocating Platte County's special purpose sales tax as the date for the renewal of the road sales tax approaches. If Zahnd wants to turn his rant into a constructive policy discussion, that would be great. I'm not holding my breath, but I hope he does.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


WHAT'S AHEAD IN 2012 IN THE WORLD OF POLITICS?

Posted 1/6/12

To start the New Year, political columnists often look into their crystal balls to predict the future. I would be the first to tell you that is very difficult to do in politics. The general election is 10 months away. That is a lifetime in politics.

I looked back at my predictions to start 2011 and noted that I said “I don't have the slightest idea who will lead the Republican ticket.” I would have to say that a year later I still feel that way.

We have watched this last year as several candidates with a lot of “star appeal” have chosen not to get in the presidential race in 2012 (e.g., Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee). We have also watched potential candidates rocket from nowhere to the front of the pack only to “run out of gas” (e.g., Michelle Bachman) or worse, crash (e.g., Herman Cain).

The one common theme we have seen in this presidential race is the anti-Romney factor. One after another we have seen an “anti-Romney” candidate rise to the front of the race only to fall apart. There are two reasons for this. First, Republicans keep looking for “anybody but Romney” to step forward as the candidate. However, as these candidates are subjected to more scrutiny or just try to manage the burdens of a national race, they fall apart. Romney is the one candidate with the financing and infrastructure to actually run a national campaign.

Many of my friends still think 2012 will be a great Republican year. I am not so enthusiastic. First, Republicans have a history of nominating the wrong candidate (e.g., Ford, Dole and McCain). If history repeats itself, we will have another four years of Obama. Second, although Obama is a terrible president, he is an awesome campaigner and strategist.

A clear example of Obama's political savvy is how he outsmarted the Republican Congressional leadership on the Social Security tax cut. In exchange for a two year extension of the Bush tax rates, Obama got Republicans to agree to a one year reduction in the Social Security tax in December, 2010. Republicans were planning to say that if Obama lets the Bush tax rates expire he is raising taxes. Well now Republicans can't let the cut in the Social Security tax expire or Obama can say the same thing about them.

Obama also outsmarted the Republican Congressional leadership on the debt ceiling and spending bill. He got Republicans to agree to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for an up or down vote on a balanced budget amendment at some point in the future. However, the balanced budget vote was a meaningless exercise that simply gave cover to some Democrats who would likely be in trouble in November by letting them vote for a balance budget amendment that was never going to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to pass.

I do think the Republican presidential nominee will win in Missouri. would hope that Claire McCaskill would be defeated in the U.S. Senate race. However, since none of the Republican candidates have shown that they can raise money, I'm not very hopeful. I do have two predictions that I feel really good about: Sam Graves will win in a landslide and local Republicans will win solidly in Platte County.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached by email at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY SHOULD NOT BE IGNORED

Posted 12/29/11

I came across two disturbing articles in my recent reading. Both articles had to do with criminal activity.

The first disturbing article was a report on a study that says nearly one-third of young people are arrested by the age of 23. Huh? Nearly one out of every three kids is arrested by the age of 23? That's crazy! But that is what it said.

Reuters reported that Robert Brame of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and his colleagues conducted surveys from 1997 through 2008. Their surveys found that 30 percent of all of those surveyed had been arrested by the time of reaching age 23.

One of two things has to have been true. Either this was a flawed sampling technique or young people are REALLY screwed up.

The second article was from Missourinet. It was also disturbing, but not necessarily surprising. The Interim Committee on Criminal Justice did a study and found that three-fourths of Missouri's prison inmates are in for parole or probation violations. The study included a comment by Missouri Supreme Court justice Ray Price that “We are failing in our approach” noting that 50% of prisoners return to the system within a few years of being released.

The study notes that Missouri's prison population more than doubled in the last 20 years. The survey also reported that general funding spending on corrections increased by 39% over the last decade. During that same timeframe, overall state general fund spending has increased by only 14%.

The study makes it clear that when people go to prison they are not generally being “reformed.” Instead, they generally go back to their same old ways upon release.
The study made a number of recommendations for how Missouri could deal with its repeat crimination activity. One of those recommendations was to provide lesser penalties for technical violations of parole. Let's think about that. Right now parolees face re-incarceration for parole violations. That is not causing the parolees to comply with the terms of their parole. However, the survey recommends lesser penalties for parole violations to encourage compliance? Huh? A lesser penalty is supposed to improve compliance? That's nuts.

One of the other recommendations is to reduce the penalty for drug crimes. We have heard this discussed many times before. Reduce the penalties for doing illegal drugs to free up room in our prisons. Shouldn't someone start with the question of why are these substances illegal in the first place? Aren't these substances illegal because they alter people's brain chemistry and make them likely to do harm to others? If these substances are declared illegal and there are to be criminal penalties to protect us, shouldn't the penalties be harsher rather than softer?

The disturbing point about both of these articles is that they are ignoring the critically important principle of personal responsibility. That is the whole point. Individuals need to be held accountable for their actions. They need to exercise personal responsibility in how they conduct themselves in society. I sincerely question whether one in three people are arrested before age 23. However, if that is true, our entire society is in big trouble. And, it isn't going to get better by giving people shorter prison sentences and softer parole compliance requirements. You just wonder what these people are thinking.

(Email James Thomas, local Republican leader, at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


BE GENEROUS VOLUNTARILY BUT FIGHT GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS THAT DON'T WORK

Posted 12/23/11

'Tis the season of giving. Giving to others VOLUNTARILY is good. However, forced giving is bad for the giver and often bad for the recipient. Sometimes it is just downright stupid!

A prime example of stupid forced giving is the government's program that provides phones to low income customers. Why are we giving cell phones to anyone?!? A cell phone is a luxury – NOT a necessity.

My daughters have been begging me for cell phones for years. I finally broke down and got my 14-year old a cell phone for her last birthday. I might have tried to hold out longer, but she is attending a high school 40 minutes from home and often needs to contact her mother or me about last minute changes in her athletic practice schedule. So, she has a legitimate use for a cell phone. And, most importantly, I am paying the bill and not asking someone else to pay it for me.

My younger daughter tells me that she is the only kid in her sixth grade class that does not have a cell phone. I know two girls got cell phones over the summer. So, that is probably true. However, I am still not willing to cave in to the peer pressure.

Although I refuse to pay for at least one of my kids to have a cell phone, I am apparently paying for several other people's cell phones through my tax bill. Maybe my younger daughter could get one of these “free” cell phones that is funded through my tax bill.

This is another example of an out of control government program. In 2008 the program spent $800 million. During the three years Obama has been in office, the program has nearly doubled to over $1.5 billion (WITH A “B”!). That is crazy! I guess this is what they call Obama money!

If your blood isn't boiling, then read on. Missouri's food stamps program, which in its modern version is like a debit card, is also out of control. An investigation by a St. Louis TV station found that these debit cards have been used for cash withdrawals at places like Sea World and Magical Midway Amusement Park in Orlando, Florida and casinos, bars and businesses in Las Vegas.

These programs have expanded dramatically over the last few years with shrinking oversight. From 2000 to 2011 Missouri's food stamp program has grown from $358 million to $1.333 billion. That is $1 out of every $20 in Missouri's budget! And the size of the fraud investigations staff has shrunk from 30 to 20.

No one should go hungry. We need to help out our neighbors. However, giving people a debit card is NOT giving people access to food. It is giving people funds they can spend however they want, including for non-food expenses far from home.

I hope I haven't ruined your giving spirit this Christmas season. God tells us to “love our neighbors.” So, I hope you have or will make generous charitable gifts to help your fellow man this season. If you are looking for a “hand up and not just a hand out” program, then Hillcrest Transitional Housing is a good one. Be generous on a voluntary basis, but fight the government programs that don't make sense and don't work.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


JUDICIAL PANEL EXPERIENCED PROBLEMS WITH SENATE MAPS

Posted 12/17/11

The Judicial Panel that drew the new state legislative districts gave me a chuckle last week. They released the new State House and Senate District maps the previous week. However, on Friday, they pulled the Senate District map from the Office of Administration website and by the end of the day posted a new Senate District map.

When the Senate District map was originally released, several people questioned the constitutionality of the Judicial Panel's map. No lawsuits were filed, but there was certainly a lot of complaining.

Sections 2 and 7 of Article III of the Missouri Constitution govern redistricting in the House and Senate, respectively. Both these Sections say that the state population is to be divided by the number of districts to be drawn (163 in the House and 34 in the Senate) and that the districts are to be drawn with populations that are “as nearly equal as possible,” with “contiguous territory” and “as compact as may be.” However, Section 7 adds a special rule for the drawing of Senate Districts that says “no county lines shall be crossed except when necessary to add sufficient population to a multi-district county or city to complete only one district which lies partly within such multi-district county or city so as to be as nearly equal as practicable in population.” A multi-district county or city is one that has more than the target population for a Senate District.

Clay and Jackson Counties are both big enough that they are “multi-district counties.” When the Judicial Panel originally released its map, it crossed over from Clay and Jackson Counties into other counties. The result was that places like Johnson County, Missouri were split into multiple Senate Districts. The Judicial Panel revised its Senate District map on Friday and changed how the Senate Districts cross over between counties.

The problems that the Judicial Panel experienced could have been avoided. The Judicial Panel could have initially released draft maps and then taken public comment on those maps. This would have allowed the public comment to identify the potential constitutional challenge to the maps so that the maps could have been fixed before the “final” maps were issued. However, the Judicial Panel chose to draw the maps entirely in secret.

One interesting quirk with how the Judicial Panel drew the maps is that they have drawn a State Senator who is not up for re-election until 2014 into the Senate District of another Senator. In Missouri the odd-numbered Senate Districts are up for re-election in presidential election years and the even-numbered Senate Districts are up for re-election in non-presidential election years. Senator Will Kraus, who was elected to a four-year term in 2010 in the 8th Senate District, has been drawn into the 10th Senate District. The new boundaries will become effective on Jan. 1, 2013. However, Kraus is not up for re-election until 2014.

Even the re-drawn maps do not impact Platte County. All of Platte County and all of Buchanan County continue to make up the 34th Senate District. No problems there.
No changes were made to the recently-released House District maps. With respect to the House District maps, they appear to be “poorly drawn, but constitutional.” The “poorly drawn” reference is primarily to the fact that so many districts cross county lines unnecessarily.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


DON'T LIKE THE NEW STATE DISTRICT LINES? JUST WIN, BABY!

Posted 12/10/11

The new Missouri legislative district boundaries have been released. Redistricting occurs every ten years. Initially, House and Senate Redistricting Commissions are appointed by the Governor from nominees from the Republican and Democrat Parties. If these Commissions cannot agree on new boundaries, the Missouri Supreme Court appoints a panel of six appellate court judges to draw the boundaries.

The House and Senate Redistricting Commissions met over a six month period. During that time the Democrats took crazy positions and refused to negotiate. The end result was a deadlock that shifted the process to the Judicial Panel.

The new maps affect the 34 State Senate Districts and the 163 State House Districts. The 34th Senatorial District, which includes all of Platte and Buchanan Counties, was the only Senate District in the state that was unchanged. However, Platte County's population growth guaranteed changes in its House districts.

The Judicial Panel did several things that I don't like. For example, the Judicial Panel renumbered all the districts. Instead of Platte County having all of the 30th and 32nd and part of the 29th, Platte County will now have all of the 13th and parts of the 11th, 12th and 14th. However, the Judicial Panel did adopt most of the proposals I made for Platte County as a member of the House Redistricting Commission.

The Judicial Panel renumbered all the districts. Instead of Platte County having all of the 30th and 32nd and part of the 29th, Platte County will now have all of the 13th and parts of the 11th, 12th and 14th.

Like the old 29th, the 11th is a district that is shared with Buchanan County. However, instead of the district generally staying west of I-29, it will now stretch across a portion of northern Platte County to include Dearborn and Edgerton.

Besides giving up Dearborn and Edgerton to the new 11th, the old 30th is giving up the area south of Dearborn and Edgerton, north of 92 Highway and east of I-29 to the new 12th district to be shared with Clay County. The new 12th crosses I-29 to include Platte City.

The new 13th, which is the bulk of the old 30th, added Parkville and picked up the area east of I-29, south of I-435 and north of Tiffany Springs Road that used to be in the 32nd.

The new 14th, which is the bulk of the old 32nd lost Parkville and the area north of Tiffany Springs Road to the 30th. However, the district picked up an area near Briarcliff West.

I didn't like several things the Judicial Panel did. It crossed county lines more than necessary. Also, the Judicial Panel completely ignored the residences of incumbents and drew about a third of the incumbents into the same districts. No Platte County incumbents were drawn together, but several other parts of the state were adversely impacted.

There is an important lesson that the Democrats should take from this process. A lot of the pain they are feeling – for example four incumbents on the south side of Kansas City were drawn into two districts -- could have easily been avoided if the Democrats had been willing to negotiate on the proposed maps. Some of the Democrat Commissioners were cooperative. However, my counterpart, Trent Skaggs, and most of the Democrats refused to sit down at the table and have any discussions.

I'm sure there will be a lot of moaning about whether the way the district maps are drawn favors the Democrats or the Republicans. From my initial review, the maps do not appear to be significantly skewed towards either party any more than the existing voluntary clustering would cause. And, to the extent Republicans have been disadvantaged, my advice is stop your whining, go out and recruit the best candidates and “Just Win Baby!”

(James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


WE CAN COME BACK FROM THE ABYSS, BUT WILL WE?

Posted 12/1/11

In the early 19th Century Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political philosopher, traveled through America and wrote a two volume treatise entitled Democracy in America. As an outsider looking at a young America he had some very interesting insights.

America was fledgling nation at the time. Democracy was not a wide-spread concept in the world at the time. When you look at some of Tocqueville's observations it seems that he had a “crystal ball.”

Tocqueville wrote:

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

Tocqueville's comments are not only coming true. The situation is becoming worse than he envisioned. It is true that voters are electing candidates who promise them “goodies” from the public treasury. However, it is worse than that. The voters are electing candidates who are offering them “goodies” not from the currently available tax revenues, but from future tax revenues as well.

I blame liberal Democrats more than Republicans for the mess we are in, but many Republicans are to blame for this mess as well. I attended a speech by George Will in the fall of 2000 in which Will said that fiscal conservatism is dead. Will noted that in the 2000 presidential campaign both the Democrat candidate, Al Gore, and the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, were calling for a federal prescription drug benefit for seniors. His point was that the candidates of both parties were advocating spending more money and expanding the things that the federal government does.

There is a glimmer of hope for America. The landslide elections in 2010 were really about bringing an end to out of control government spending. There is at least some component of the electorate that sees that the federal government cannot keep spending more money than it takes in. However, there are still enough of the “old guard” remaining in Washington to raise concerns.

Just look at the joke of the “Super Committee.” They completely failed to address America's spending problem. Even more ridiculous is that the task given to the Super Committee was so insignificant in the first place. The committee was asked to cut $1.2 trillion of spending over the next ten years. That is only $120 billion per year. That is a lot of dough, but even in Obama's inflated budgets that is a cut of less than 4% of the federal government's total spending.

Tocqueville noted that the average life expectancy of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. I truly fear that the clock may be running out on America. With the fiscal irresponsibility going on today, I am truly concerned that my children may not have a better life than I did. Isn't that the goal of a great civilization: to leave the world a little better than you found it and consistently making things better for the next generation?

We can come back from the abyss, but will we?

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


THE QUESTION IS: WHAT VALUE IS THE EMPLOYEE PROVIDING?

Posted 11/25/11

The press has recently been discussing studies that show that Missouri state employees are the worst-paid in the nation. The study claims employees in the eight surrounding states earn ten to 75 percent more than Missouri employees.
I have not seen the actual studies. As usual, the press reports on these studies without providing links to the actual studies. I'm not willing to accept the studies as accurate without further information. There are frequently details, such as fringe benefits, that make it difficult to compare different compensation packages. Also, cost of living differences have a dramatic impact on how far a particular compensation level will stretch. This is true even within the State of Missouri. For example, the cost of living is much higher in Kansas City and St. Louis than it is in the less urban areas of Missouri.
These studies are irritating. The studies are not asking the most essential question. The question is not how much Missouri's state employees are paid compared to employees of other states. The question needs to be whether the value these state employees are providing is less than or greater than their current compensation.
I'm sure you have had the opportunity to interact with state employees that are exceptional. They deserve to be paid double what they make. At the same time, you have probably also come across state employees that are so worthless that they have no business getting any paycheck at all. (I cannot recall a state employee as bad as I have mentioned, but I do certainly recall some other government employees who should not still be getting a paycheck from the government.)
These studies also have a never-ending circular impact. I have frequently watched the various school districts in our area compare the compensation they pay their teachers to the compensation paid by the surrounding school districts. One year one school district will be paying their teachers more so a second school district will want to raise its compensation. A couple of years later the second school district will be paying its teachers more so the first school district will want to pay its teachers more. It just seems to be a self fulfilling circle of study after study calling for higher compensation, which ultimately just means the school districts want to raise tax rates again.
Instead of focusing on the pay of government employees in surrounding states, the governor and the Missouri legislators need to focus on whether Missouri is having trouble recruiting quality applicants. If the pay and benefits are such that high quality and high performing employees are not available to Missouri, then Missouri needs to rethink its compensation structure. If Missouri is able to attract and retain high quality employees, then changes are not necessary.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to hard working people making more money. If you are doing a great job as a teacher or a state employee, you should be well compensated. Of course, compensation is more than just a paycheck. For example, the pension plans for state employees and teachers are generally very good.
By asking the question of “what value is the state employee providing” rather than whether another state's employees are making more, the compensation should reflect the employee's value to Missouri and its taxpayers.

(Send email to jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


LAGER HAS FOUGHT FOR LESS SPENDING AND HONEST GOVERNMENT

Posted 11/18/11

A month ago I wrote a column about Republicans struggling to find their way. After historic wins in 2010 it appears that on a national and state-wide scale Republicans may have trouble fielding quality candidates that can win the presidency, Missouri's U.S. Senate seat, the governorship and other statewide offices. Things look ominously similar to the letdown the Republicans experienced from their 1994 victories to the 1996 elections. However, there is a new bright spot that just developed on Monday. Brad Lager has announced his candidacy for Lt. Governor.

Lager is a state senator from the senate district adjacent to our 34th Senatorial District. This district includes 16 counties in northwest and north central Missouri: Andrew, Atchison, Caldwell, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Linn, Livingston, Mercer, Nodaway, Sullivan, and Worth. (This is the district Congressman Graves served before being elected to Congress.)

Lager had a unique beginning to his career in public service. When he was elected to the Maryville City Council in 2001 he became the youngest member to serve on the council.

I have known Lager since he was originally elected to the Missouri House in 2002. During this time he served as vice-chair and then later as chair of the House Budget Committee. He also served on several House committees including Professional Registration and Licensing; Transportation and Motor Vehicles; Appropriations for Agriculture and Natural Resources; Policy Development; and Legislative Research Oversight.

Lager was elected to the state senate in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. Lager is the Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. In the last session of the senate he sponsored legislation that would have reduced the number of frivolous lawsuits against employers in employment discrimination suits. (Gov. Nixon vetoed this legislation.) Lager also serves as vice chair of the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee, Select Committee on Redistricting and the Senate Interim Committee on Natural Disaster Recovery. Lager also serves on the Gubernatorial Appointments; Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics; and Ways & Means and Fiscal Oversight Committees.
Lager has been described as a “fiercely independent legislator.” He has consistently fought for less spending and honest government. That is what I really like about him. His focus is on doing the right thing for the citizens of Missouri and not on caving to the demands of the special interests. For example, he has been a strong advocate of reforming Missouri's tax credit system, which is a special interest haven.

Lager's quote from his announcement press effectively sums up his political philosophy, “Missourians are tired of self-interested politicians beholden to special interests getting in the way of good government. My solemn promise to the people of Missouri if elected lieutenant governor is to continue to do everything in my power to create an environment where job creators can create jobs by reducing regulation, cutting spending and getting government off the backs of Missourians and out of the way. As a small business owner, I understand that every dollar that government taxes and spends would be better spent by small businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs to fuel our economy and create jobs.”

I have had the pleasure of knowing Lager for 10 years. His focus on doing the right thing would make him a great state-wide office holder for Missouri's citizens. I'm glad he is running.

(Reach James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


MEL HANCOCK WAS A HERO TO MISSOURI CONSERVATIVES

Posted 11/11/11

Last Sunday marked the passing of a hero of Missouri conservatives and an enemy of “tax and spend” liberals. Mel Hancock died on Sunday at his home in Springfield.
Hancock served in Congress from 1989 to 1994. Since he represented a district in southwest Missouri, he may not be as well known to folks around here for his service in Congress.

What most folks outside of southwest Missouri will recognize Hancock from is what is known as the “Hancock Amendment.” The Hancock Amendment set a limit on the growth in state revenue based upon a percentage of the growth in personal income of Missouri's residents. When state revenue exceeds this cap, tax refunds must be made to the citizens of Missouri.

The Hancock Amendment had a tremendous impact during Mel Carnahan's time as governor. In his first few months in office, Carnahan pushed through the biggest tax increase in Missouri history. This huge tax increase triggered tax refunds under the Hancock Amendment. Eventually, Carnahan and the Democrats were able to pass certain modifications to the Hancock Amendment which now allow taxes to go up by $50 million a year without triggering refunds.

The other side effect of the Hancock Amendment was a number of adjustments in tax law. The massive Carnahan tax increase really impacted taxpayers who pay lots of federal income taxes because it capped the state income tax deduction for federal income taxes paid at $10,000. The response of Carnahan and the Democrats to the mandatory Hancock Amendment refunds was to create “targeted tax cuts” that reduced taxes on people who weren't really paying higher taxes. For example, the state-level sales tax on groceries was eliminated under Carnahan. Of course, Carnahan imposed far more in additional income taxes on higher income taxpayers than what they were paying in state-level sales taxes on groceries. So, Carnahan and the Democrats manipulated the intent of the Hancock Amendment to shift even more of the tax burden to those who were already paying higher taxes. Carnahan and the Democrats also came up with numerous tax credits which some believe were managed in a way to reward their friends while keeping the state revenues below the Hancock Amendment limit.

Hancock was a well-respected conservative. His average ranking from the American Conservative Union from 1989 to 1994 was 99%. Hancock finally topped this when he scored a perfect 100% in 1995. One notable event during Hancock's Congressional service was when he joined with 19 other lawmakers to file a lawsuit in 1992 to try and block a planned congressional pay raise.

Unlike some politicians that don't seem to know when it is time to go back to the private sector, Hancock fulfilled his self-imposed four-term limit and did not seek re-election in 1996.

Hancock was succeeded by Roy Blunt who held the seat until being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. Blunt complimented Hancock saying, “In everything he did, Mel was dedicated to creating better and less government.”

With the passing of Hancock, Missouri taxpayers have lost a true champion of fiscally responsible government. However, at least for now, the Hancock Amendment lives on to at least partially protect us from the ever-increasing hunger of state and local governments for more and more of our hard earned money. Thank you, Mel.

(Email local Republican leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


GET THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF THE RETIREMENT BENEFITS BUSINESS

Posted 11/6/11

An article published by the Washington Post on Oct. 29, 2011 reported that Social Security has gone “cash negative.” What this means is that the Social Security system is now taking in less money than it is paying out.

Now some big government liberals will try to tell Social Security beneficiaries not to panic because there is a huge Social Security Trust Fund from which benefits can be paid. However, what these liberals fail to tell you is that the only thing in this “trust fund” is a bunch of IOUs from the federal government. So, for payment to be made from the “trust fund,” the federal government has to take money out of its operating budget to transfer to the “trust fund.”

The shortfall for this year is projected to be $46 billion. If Congress adopts Obama's proposed payroll tax break, Social Security will need an extra $267 billion to pay promised benefits next year.

When Social Security began, your age for eligibility for benefits was close to your life expectancy and there were many people paying taxes into the system for every beneficiary. Now, one-fourth of Social Security benefit recipients will be receiving benefits for more than 25 years. Today, there are 55 million people receiving Social Security benefits and only three workers paying into the system per beneficiary. By 2035 it is projected that there will be 91 million Social Security beneficiaries and only two workers paying into the system for every benefits recipient.

This is simply a math problem. It simply cannot be sustained.

I have a fix that should at least be analyzed. My proposal is designed to get the government out of the retirement benefits business and give people individual freedom.
For everyone receiving Social Security benefits today, keep the system in place for them. The benefits that the government has committed to pay, keep them coming even though in large part these benefits will have to come from general revenue. For those between 45 and 65 give them a choice. They can either stay in the present system or join the alternative system. For those under 45 and those who want to elect out of the system, create a new system.

Under the new system the employee side of Social Security would no longer be sent to the Social Security Administration. Instead, this money would go into a “Social Security Individual Retirement Account” to be used only for retirement. If a person making $60,000 a year today pays the 6.2% employee-side Social Security tax into this account from age 25 to 70 and receives an annual pay raise of 3% and a annual return of return of 7%, the person will have $1.6 million at age 70. This would fund an annual retirement income of 50% of the person's pre-retirement income for 22 years without touching any other savings.

Keep the 6.2% employer-side Social Security tax in place to fund those still in the existing system. Any excess benefits would have to be funded by the government's repayment of the IOUs.

I know this would be a radical change and some actuarial analysis is needed; however, it has two great benefits. First, it gets the government out of the retirement benefits business. Second, it frees people from being dependent upon the government.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


NO COMPARISON BETWEEN TEA PARTY AND 'OCCUPY X'

Posted 10/28/11

Efforts have been made to compare “Occupy X” and the Tea Party movement. There really is no comparison.

The Tea Party movement was a grassroots effort that got its name from both the first “Tea Party” in Boston in 1773, but also from the first letters of the words expressing the whole theme of the Tea Party: “Taxed Enough Already.”

I have visited with many Tea Party folks. They are hard working folks that earn their own way, pay their bills on time and pay taxes. The Tea Party movement is made up of some active conservative Republicans, but for the most part the movement has attracted people who were formerly politically inactive and who are fed up with both Republicans and Democrats. These folks are mad about taxes and irresponsible government spending. They are also sick of paying so much to carry the load for the 48% of Americans that pay no federal income taxes.

I've never met an “Occupy X” protestor. However, I have seen pictures and videos of them and heard and read their interviews. Now I am partially judging a “book by its cover” without actually talking to these people, but the gist of what I have taken from this information is that the “Occupy X” protestors are freeloaders who want working people – like me and people from the Tea Party movement – to give them free stuff.
Tea Party folks and “Occupy X” protestors would agree on one thing. Neither group supported the bail out of Wall Street. In fact, the supposed original point of the “Occupy X” movement was to protest the Wall Street bail out. That is where the similarities end.

The Tea Party folks want less government regulation and less spending. They want more accountability from government. They do not see government as the answer to all of our problems. The “Occupy X” protesters want more government handouts. The “Occupy X” protesters are part of the 48% that pays no federal income tax. They also want to raise taxes on the Tea Party folks and have the government give the money to them.

Left to their own devices, the “Occupy X” movement will die out on its own. However, there are a few reports that unions and some other crazy liberal groups are providing resources to prop up the “Occupy X” movement.

There is one scary point. These freeloading “Occupy X” people could be the beginning of our own Bolshevik revolution. This could be 1917 all over again.

Benjamin Franklin has been credited with saying “When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.” If the “Occupy X” protestors convince Americans to elect leaders who will give money we don't have to them, then the destruction of America is in our future. If the Tea Party folks win, then America can still have a bright future. Let's fight for the latter.

There is one thing I can tell you for sure. Any specific Tea Party protest will not last more than a few hours. The people in the Tea Party movement have to attend to their jobs, families and other responsibilities. The “Occupy X” protestors can hang around for days because they don't really have any -- or at least don't accept any – responsibilities.

(James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


MUCH OF THE GOP FUNDRAISING IS LACKLUSTER

Posted 10/23/11

After a really exciting wave in 2010, Republicans may need to prepare for a severe let down in 2012. This really doesn't come as a surprise. We saw something similar in the transition from 1994 to 1996.

A year before the election the various campaigns “keep score” based upon fund raising. Right now much of the Republican fund raising is lackluster.

In the presidential race, Obama raised about $42 million for the third quarter. This isn't really a surprise. He is the president. A sitting president should be able to raise money just by showing up at an event.

Obama essentially raised as much money as all the Republican candidates combined. Once again, this is not a big surprise. With one clear candidate on one side who happens to be the incumbent and a bunch of candidates on the other side none of whom has established himself/herself as the front runner, you would wonder if the Republican candidates can collectively even come close to the incumbent president's fund raising numbers.

Of great concern for the Republicans should be Missouri's U.S. Senate race. Claire McCaskill raked in $1.2 million in the last quarter. Congressman Todd Akin and former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman raised only $285,000 and $96,000, respectively. (Steelman did loan her campaign $400,000 to “beef up” her cash on hand.)

McCaskill's love affair (politically speaking) with Obama coupled with Obama's poor polling numbers in Missouri should leave McCaskill vulnerable. However, a Republican challenger will have to have enough money to promote a clear message. The other possible Republican nominee is businessman John Brunner. Brunner did not enter the race until after the close of the third quarter so he did not have to report any fund raising numbers. Brunner has already been on TV and radio. Presumably, this advertising has been “self-funded” from his personal resources.

The present governor's race is where Republicans appear to be very vulnerable. Jay Nixon's poll numbers have not been bad despite the poor economy. Nixon has also appeared to learn from some of the failures of former Democrat governors – like Bob Holden -- and avoided some of their stupid mistakes. However, he could be beat. The problem is that the Republicans do not have a clear candidate yet. The “presumptive” Republican candidate has been Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. He has been raising money for an undesignated “state-wide” office since the last election, but so far he has not officially announced his candidacy for governor. To make things worse, Kinder was outraised 3-to-1 by Nixon in the third quarter, spent more money than he took in for the quarter and has been embroiled in a personal conduct controversy.

Bill Randles is actually the only announced Republican candidate for governor. However, despite Randles’ good ideas, he has failed to show signs of being a real candidate by raising money. His third quarter report shows that Platte County Treasurer candidate Rob Willard raised more money than Randles.

We are still more than a year before the November elections. A lot of things can change over the next 12 months. John McCain's campaign was on life support at this time in 2007 before he went on to be the Republican nominee. But, I would still prefer it if the Republican candidates were winning the fundraising battles.

 


 

MAY NEVER WATCH MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL AGAIN

Posted 10/14/11

I may never watch Monday Night Football again.

The latest problem with the distortion of comments by Hank Williams Jr. is just one factor. Truthfully, I generally quit watching Monday Night Football a while ago. With the old 8 p.m. start, the games would run past 11 p.m. I just struggled to get up at 5 a.m. after being up that late. Also, my favorite TV series (The Big Bang Theory) used to be on Monday night so I used to let the DVR record that while I was supervising homework and then I would watch the show after I got the kids to bed. (I enjoy The Big Bang Theory and its nerdy scientists, but the themes are not kid appropriate.) It is my understanding that since ESPN took over Monday Night Football it has moved the start time to 7:30 p.m., which is a lot better, but since I got out of the habit of watching, I rarely think to turn it on even though the Big Bang Theory is now on Thursday night.

A few years ago there was a big brouhaha after Rush Limbaugh made a comment about a quarterback being built up by the media because he was black. It seemed like a fairly silly reason for ending Rush's contract. However, at least the comment was made as part of the actual broadcast.

The comments by Hank Williams Jr. were NOT part of the Monday Night Football broadcast. He made the comments during an interview. Also, his comments were not really derogatory.

What Williams said was that President Obama and Speaker Boehner golfing together was like Adolf Hitler and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu playing a round of golf together. It was an analogy. It is my understanding that the analogy did not necessarily indicate whether Obama or Boehner was supposed to be Hitler.

Furthermore, it doesn't really matter. Williams made a reference to two guys, who although separated by decades of history, would likely hate each other. The analogy makes perfect sense. Democrats can think Boehner is Hitler while Republicans can think Obama is Hitler in the analogy. It doesn't matter. The point is that Williams used an analogy using historical figures that everyone with a brain would interpret to mean that the two would hate each other regardless of which one you thought was the Hitler in the analogy.

This twisting of words is stupid. It reminds me of when a Republican Party operative lost his job after saying that the Democrats were “parading around” then-State Auditor Claire McCaskill “like a cheap hooker.“ He never said Claire was a “cheap hooker.” He just said the Democrats were treating her like one. However, the MRP still fired him.

Although ESPN has severed the connection with Williams and Monday Night Football, Williams is the one who will get the last laugh. Williams has written additional lyrics to one of his songs and taken a swing at ESPN and Fox and Friends. Apparently, he wrote the lyrics on Friday morning, recorded them on Friday afternoon and had them ready for release on iTunes on Monday. I guess I'll have to ask my daughter to download them from iTunes to my iPod.

In the meantime, I'll either be reading a book, writing my column or watching Hawaii 5-0 on Monday nights.

(Email local Republican leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE

Posted 10/7/11

Last week the Missouri Republican Party chose to drop the presidential primary and return to a county caucus system for selecting delegates to the Republican National Conventional.

Missouri has historically used the caucus system for selecting delegates to the national convention. To my knowledge – some old timers can correct me -- the first time Missouri ever used the presidential primary was 1988. Missouri went back to the caucus system in 1992 and 1996. Then Missouri used a presidential primary in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

Missouri was set to use the presidential primary in 2012. However, new RNC rules said Missouri's presidential primary had to be moved from February to March or Missouri would lose half of its delegates. A legislative fix of the date of the presidential primary got tangled up in other political issues. So, instead of losing half of its delegates, the Missouri Republican Party chose to abandon the presidential primary and return to the caucus system.

One thing that is somewhat confusing is that even when Missouri had a presidential primary, it was still using the caucus system to select delegates to the national convention. However, even though selected through the caucus system, these delegates were required to vote for the winner of Missouri's presidential primary on the first vote at the national convention.

This was my basic objection to the way Missouri was operating in recent years. There was a presidential primary which bound delegates to the National Convention to a specific candidate, but then we still had to follow through with the caucus process to determine who would actually be the delegates to the National Convention. This was a waste of time. There was no reason to endure the complicated and time consuming caucus process if the presidential primary had already bound the delegates to a particular candidate.

The caucus process is grassroots politics at its finest. The county caucuses are where the delegates to the Congressional District Conventions and State Convention are chosen. The actual delegates to the National Convention are chosen at the Congressional District Convention and the State Convention. So, to win Missouri's delegates, a presidential candidate has to have a network of local people who can coordinate other local people to turn out and support the candidate at the county caucuses. These local people then have to be committed to move on to the Congressional District and State Conventions. This changes the campaign from a candidate spending a bunch of money on TV to building a local grassroots organization.

There have been epic battles at the county caucuses which have flowed through to the Congressional District and State Conventions. One of them was a little before my time. However, Ron Muck, a friend of mine from Clay County, proudly tells stories about how he and a bunch of other hard working grassroots folks were able to take Missouri for Ronald Reagan instead of President Ford in 1976. This really upset the “establishment” Republicans.

The caucus process is sometimes messy. The establishment folks don't like not being entirely in control. Also, because of the grassroots element, there are often less experienced folks who fail to understand the subtleties of the caucus rules and parliamentary procedure. So, tempers can flare. However, this is a real grassroots activity.

So, let's get ready to rumble!

(Send email to jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


A RADICAL RESPONSE MAY BE NEEDED TO HAVE CONGRESS DO ITS JOB

Posted 9/29/11

Politicians may talk about guns, abortion and gay marriage, but the central issue for the operation of government is taking money from the taxpayers to fund its operations and allocating the money it has taken amongst various spending priorities. Setting a budget is the most basic and fundamental function of governing.

Congress must accept its responsibility for adopting a budget. The federal government has been operating without an actual budget for the last two years. Instead, the federal government has been operating on a series of “continuing resolutions” which allow government agencies to continue to spend money even though no formal budget has been adopted. This practice must stop.

I actually have a radical idea to address this. If Congress does not adopt a budget by the beginning of its fiscal year then two things should happen. First, the temporary budget for the next six months will be whatever the budget was for the first six months of the prior fiscal year. I don't like this automatic budget provision. However, I do not want to create a government shut down so, I will concede this temporary extension of bad spending policies.

Second, and this is the really radical idea, every single member of Congress shall be automatically removed from office effective as of the end of the current budget year. All seats in Congress shall be subject to special elections. And, no removed member of Congress and no spouse or other family member of a removed member of Congress would be eligible to run in the special election or in any subsequent election for at least 10 years.

Now I know that this is a little bit crazy. I also know the only way this would work is if it were a carefully crafted constitutional amendment so that the sitting Congress couldn't change the rules. Also, some bugs would have to be worked out to keep the president from having too much power. However, the logic of this is very simple.

If you have an employee who is not doing his job despite your efforts to correct his shortcomings, you eventually have to fire him. People are elected to Congress to do a job. The most important part of their job is to adopt a budget. This automatic removal would simply be firing people in Congress who are not doing their job.

I know we have elections where we can fire our Congressmen every two years, but all of us know that this is very difficult to do. The power of incumbency makes it very rare for a sitting Congressman to be defeated unless that Congressman radically strays from the viewpoints of his constituents.

This threat of removal would also solve another problem. In setting a budget, cooperation is required in order to reach a consensus on spending priorities. However, as we have seen, the various parties simply “dig in their heels” and refuse to work together towards a solution. The threat of removal would actually give all the players something to lose by not “playing nice” with each other and truly working in a cooperative manner.

I know this is a little crazy, but since Congress can't seem to do its most basic function, a radical response may be what it takes to get Congress to do its job.

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


THREATENING TO INCREASE TAX BURDEN ON THOSE WHO EMPLOY PEOPLE IS NOT A GOOD PLAN

Posted 9/23/11

I'm very concerned that it may be a while before we actually see a meaningful economic recovery. Of course, in mentioning my concerns, I am potentially adding to the delay in the recovery because economic growth is directly related to people having a positive outlook about the future and being willing to spend money. However, besides people's attitudes, another major factor in any sort of economic recovery is some degree of certainty. I'm not sure Obama really understands this because he just added to the uncertainty with his Monday “deficit reduction” analysis.

First of all, it is hilarious that Obama would even remotely claim to be pursuing any sort of “deficit reduction.” Here is a guy who has repeatedly proposed increasing the annual deficit by over $1 Trillion (WITH A T!!!) essentially forever into the future. So, except for brain dead folks who listen to sound bites without paying any attention to the actual facts (i.e., folks who voted for Obama in 2008), no one could even remotely believe that Obama has any real interest in deficit reduction. Or, if Obama has some interest in reducing the deficit, he certainly has no interest in reducing spending.

One major source of uncertainty is what will happen with income tax laws and, in particular, income tax rates in the future. We seemed to have at least temporarily settled this issue when the lame duck Congress reached agreement with Obama and extended the existing tax rates for two more years. However, Obama has repeatedly proposed higher taxes.

Adding to this uncertainty is the ever increasing regulatory burden. For example, the ObamaCare package included new rules on the 1099s so that a 1099 would have to be issued to almost everyone. This requirement would have been extremely burdensome. Congress repealed this part of ObamaCare so it never took effect, but a lot of business folks spent a lot of time gearing up for the expected law change.

The 1099 proposal is just one of many new regulatory burdens that has been proposed or that are in process. ObamaCare itself adds numerous complexities for businesses. Obama has many other proposals that increase taxes and regulatory burdens. This seemingly endless series of expanded regulations or prospect of expanded regulations leaves business owners paralyzed. They are simply opting to do nothing in the short term.

Obama has a lot of ideas floating out there that create unease. For example, the Obama Administration has proposed eliminating the income tax deduction for home mortgage interest. This isn't exactly comforting to an already soft real estate market.

In proposing higher taxes on upper incomes Obama tries to deny that he is proposing class warfare. He claims that it is simply math. Well, if math is what Obama is concerned about, he might think about the nearly half of taxpayers that are paying ZERO in income taxes.

If Obama really wants to give the economy a chance to recover, the best strategy would be to convey a sense of steadiness. Don't cause consumers and business owners to be afraid of what tomorrow will bring. Reforming and improving the tax laws could make sense, but threatening an increased tax burden on those who invest money and employ people is not the way to do it. These threats just defer the recovery.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


SOME SCHOOLS SIMPLY FALLING SHORT OF STANDARDS THEY SET FOR THEMSELVES

Posted 9/16/11

In last week's column I expanded on Yael Abouhalkah's observation that the average ACT scores are lower for students with higher percentages of children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches. The day after I wrote my column for last week I read a story from The St. Louis Post Dispatch that reported that some schools in the St. Louis area were hiring private investigators to investigate students trying to attend their schools who don't actually live in the district.

The focus of the story was a mother from East St. Louis who forged an occupancy permit so her son could enroll in a better school. The mother now faces a possibility of a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail. The woman did knowingly break the law. But, you do have to feel a little bit sorry for her and her son. She was just trying to help him have a better life. Interestingly, her son actually attended the school illegally for the entire prior school year. So, the school district is also contemplating forcing the woman to pay tuition for the prior year.

The sad thing is that if the woman and her son had been in the country illegally instead of U.S. citizens, the federal government probably would have forced the school district to accept the student, provide him “English as a Second Language” classes and give him extra tutors.

The woman did have a simple solution. She could have moved into the district. Of course, sometimes moving is not an option when you rely on easy access to mass transit or just close proximity to your employment.

I do not condone this woman's illegal conduct. However, I sincerely admire her efforts to help her son by helping him get a better education. She has the right idea. A good education is a good and reasonable path to a better life.

Of course, the biggest problem is that the school district the woman and her son live in is not performing well. That was the whole point behind No Child Left Behind. The theory was that a school district has a minimum obligation to teach the students. If the school district fails to meet this obligation – as measured by student test scores – then the failing districts have their federal money cut off.

In Missouri many school districts are crying because they can't meet the minimum standards. The irony is that the Missouri education establishment was actually able to set its own minimum standards for No Child Left Behind. So, if the schools are falling short, they are simply falling short of the standards they set for themselves.

There is a great controversy brewing in the courts right now over a Missouri law that gives students the ability to transfer to a different school district if the student's school district has lost its accreditation. This has some St. Louis students demanding admission to suburban school districts. The fight is on over who has to pay. The law was set up to require unaccredited school districts to write the check, but they are fighting it in court.

I just wish I had an endless supply of cash. If I did, I'd send this woman a check made payable to the better school district and $1,000 to pay her fine.

(Email James Thomas, local Republican leader, at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


WHEN IT COMES TO EDUCATION, YOU GET OUT OF IT WHAT YOU PUT INTO IT

Posted 9/9/11

You have heard the question posed: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” That was the response I had to a recent commentary by Yael Abouhalkah of the Kansas City Star entitled “New Test Scores Reveal Old Educational Divide.”

Yael notes that several local school districts released the average ACT scores for their students. He notes that students in school districts that generally have low percentages of children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches have higher average ACT scores than students in school districts with high percentages of children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches.

Yael reaches the conclusion that “Most notably, they [the lower average ACT scores] point to the real need to improve education for students in Kansas City and Kansas City, Kansas.” Unfortunately, Yael does not explain what he means by this. What exactly needs improvement? Is there something wrong with the teachers? Is there something wrong with the textbooks? Is there something wrong with school administration? What needs to be improved?

Some education advocates would simply say they need more money. However, we have tried that in Kansas City. A great analysis by the CATO Institute entitled “Money and School Performance: Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment” documents that spending phenomenal amounts of money did not improve test scores.
Statistical evidence shows a general correlation between higher average incomes and higher average ACT scores. That prompts “the chicken or the egg” analysis. Are the higher ACT scores the result of the higher incomes? Or does a stronger focus on education in the higher income homes actually give rise to the higher incomes?

Isn't it really a self-fulfilling prophecy? Students who see education as the ticket to a better life work hard to make better grades and get more out of school. The better grades lead to “better” jobs (using “better” as a reference to the size of the paycheck and not to the importance of the job). People with better jobs make more money and expect more from their children so they encourage their children to succeed academically. This leads to higher test scores, which lead to better grades, which lead to “better” jobs, which lead to higher incomes, which lead to higher expectation of their children . . . . Do you see a pattern here?

I have long known that you get out of education what you put into it. I had great parents that set high expectations for me. I know that I was expected to do my assigned school work and not cause trouble at school. So, I did those things. If I didn't do those things, I'm sure that my parents would have been quick to correct me. My parents made sure that the most important aspect of my educational performance – my [and their] attentiveness to my responsibilities – was in place.

The fix to the education crisis is the fixing of the students or, more appropriately, in fairness to the students who aren't really old enough to make decisions for themselves about proper focus and commitment, the parents. The problem is that you can't necessarily legislate personal responsibility and the proper attitudes about education.

That is unfortunate because kids, who are at least partially – if not mostly -- innocent, are the ones who are harmed by being trapped in this cycle.

(Reach James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO USE A LITTLE OF GRANDMA'S COMMON SENSE

Posted 9/2/11

I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey and his radio program. He advocates a debt free lifestyle of “living like no one else so you can live like no one else.” None of his advice is sophisticated or complex. He really just shares common sense ideas with people. In fact, he describes his advice as “the same advice your grandma would give you, but we keep our teeth in.”

A woman recently called in to Dave's show. She was working through the steps of Dave's “Live Debt Free” program, but she was experiencing a problem. Her mother had run up huge credit card bills. Now the mother was pressuring her daughter to pay these bills for her.

Dave supported the daughter's desire to help her mother. However, he counseled the daughter to not immediately give in to her mother's request. The daughter should insist that her mother change her way of managing her financial affairs. If the mother isn't willing to make changes, Dave counseled the daughter to not give her mother any money or pay any of her bills.

The daughter noted that her husband had told her the same thing. However, the daughter was concerned about being loving and compassionate to her mother.
That is when Dave jumped in with his wisdom learned from his Grandma. He noted that it is NOT loving to give an alcoholic a drink. In fact, it is just the opposite. If you gave an alcoholic a drink you are actually committing an un-loving act and adding to the alcoholic's misery.

That is the common sense that is desperately needed in Washington. We can't raise taxes to fund Washington's spending problem. All we would be doing is adding to their bad habits. No tax increases should even be considered unless Washington first puts in place real budgeting and spending reforms. Raising taxes to fix the government's spending problem would be like raising the blood alcohol content to combat drunk driving.

We also need to reform our welfare –type programs. Giving people money for sitting at home doing nothing is not a loving act of compassion. Instead it is a destructive act that promotes dependency. It is the equivalent of giving an alcoholic a drink.

Some kind of “work” should be required to get a government check. A check recipient needs a couple of days a week set aside for job hunting. On the other two or three days, the check recipient should be required to show up at a government work pool. This pool of workers would be sent out to do simple, but important tasks. For example, these workers might pick up trash in a city park or paint the park's playground equipment. This work constitutes doing something for the government check because money for nothing does not promote the right behaviors. A few days working in the hot sun might also enhance the job hunting desire.

Government might choose to help people who are having financial difficulties. It is the compassionate thing to do. However, in showing compassion, the government should not promote the wrong behaviors. Helping people needs to be coupled with promoting the right behaviors. Otherwise, the government isn't really helping anyone.

The time is long overdue for Washington to use a little bit of grandma's common sense.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


SUCCESSFUL REAGAN RANCH EVENT PROVES GOP HAS MOTIVATED GROUP

Posted 8/26/11

WOW! That is the best way I can describe the Reagan Ranch Event featuring Michael Reagan and sponsored by the Platte County Republican Party. This “WOW” is based upon the attendance and upon the number of new people who made the event possible.

I haven't seen the precise attendance figures, but there was a huge crowd for the event. There has been light attendance for some Platte County Republican events. Not the case here. They were parking cars all over the Womack's pasture.

Just to give you another hint of the size of the event, it is my understanding that the event actually attracted three different Democrat trackers. I had the misfortune of running into one of these trackers when Sarah Steelman came up to talk to Sandra and me. Our conversation with Steelman was cut short as the event's host, Nancy Womack, helped separate the tracker from Steelman for at least a brief period of time. I did have the pleasure of a dig at the tracker when I asked her: “Did the Democrat Party pay your $15 to be here?”

We have had some pretty good events in Platte County before. Linda Cozad led the first Platte Purchase Celebration in 1995. I got my friend Nelsie Sweeney to chair a second Platte Purchase Celebration in 1997. These were both great events, but the Reagan Ranch event had higher attendance and raised more money than either of these events.

The team that came together to make this event possible was outstanding. A few of the “old guard” helped with the event. However, the truly exciting thing is that new energetic folks did the bulk of the work. Teresa Emerson chaired the subcommittee for the event. She had lots of help from other new committee members, such as Jacque Cox and Nancy and Larry Womack, who opened up their home and ranch to be the site of this event.

I was also excited that the subcommittee used lots of non-committee members to carry out its function. It is very important that the efforts of the County Committee include folks who aren't on the committee. There simply aren't enough people on the committee to do all the work that is needed.

I did have a funny experience on the day of the event. My oldest daughter and I responded to the call to help clean up the Womack's place after it had been hit hard by the early morning storm. While we were working, one of the new folks was chatting with John Elliott and asking if he had much involvement in many politics. I respected the new person's efforts and forced back a chuckle as the woman had no idea that she was introducing herself to the most significant political operative in Platte County politics for the last 20 years. This new recruit may not know much local political history, but that is completely offset by her diligent efforts.

A few months ago I wrote about the new folks who were getting involved with the county committee and noted that we would have to wait and see if they were willing to do the work. Well, the Democrats better look out because this is the most motivated group of volunteers with which I have ever had the privilege to work.

(James Thomas, local Republican leader, can be reached via email at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

 


DEMOCRATS DON'T WANT TO COOPERATE IN REDISTRICTING EFFORT

Posted 8/19/11

“Why do the credit rating agencies have so much power?” That is the stupidest question I have heard during the debate over raising the debt ceiling. And, I have heard this comment by both liberal and conservative politicians and talking heads in the media.

Watching the debt ceiling debacle in Washington has given all of us a ring-side seat for the messy legislative process. I have had a firsthand experience with this sort of messy process by serving on the House Redistricting Commission, which is charged with redrawing the State Representative districts in Missouri to reflect the changes in population.

It has been frustrating because most of the Democrats have shown an unwillingness to work together. The stonewalling by the Democrats caused the Commission to reach an impasse and let the process move to a judicial panel.

I have substantial experience in negotiations. I frequently negotiate business transactions from a small scale to multi-million dollar business acquisitions. Although these negotiations are often difficult, occasionally heated and sometimes unsuccessful, the parties are always trying to reach some common ground. Most of the Democrats on the Redistricting Commission had no interest in negotiating a map. This uncooperativeness was frustrating.

The representatives on the Redistricting Commission were chosen by Congressional District. My counterpart was Trent Skaggs. Our proposals for redrawing the State House district boundaries were wildly divergent. Our differing proposals for Platte County provide an example of this divergence.

Currently Platte County has two full State Rep Districts, the 30th and 32nd, and gives a small portion of its population to the 29th District, which is mostly in Buchanan County. The 30th and 32nd have grown in population by 5,000 to 6,000 each.

I proposed that the 32nd give Parkville to the 30th to get the 32nd within 0.2% of the target population. I then proposed that the 30th give up northeast Platte County to a new district that crosses over with Clay County to get it within 0.7% people of the target population. This proposal to link the northeastern part of Platte County to a new district that was partly in Clay County made sense because the neighboring district in Clay County needed to lose over 20,000 people.

Skaggs proposed to carve up Platte County into five districts. Only one district was wholly within Platte County. Three of the districts crossed over into Clay County. These crossover districts did not simply cross over as rectangles. Instead, Skaggs proposed long squiggly lines that stretched at an angle.

When the commission met on July 18, Skaggs politely listened to my concerns – in particular that I wanted two districts fully within Platte County -- and offered to send me a proposed revision to his map. Despite my contacting Skaggs multiple times, he made no efforts to cooperate.

Now there were a few Democrats who really were trying. The Commissioners from the 1st and 4th Congressional Districts were working with their Republican counterparts to try to agree on a map. I really felt bad for the Democrat Commissioner from the 1st. On Thursday she worked for many hours with her Republican counterpart. She was very close to reaching a consensus. However, our Friday morning meeting her fellow Democrats had put an end to her efforts and told her that they would not support her.

When I lamented to a Democrat commissioner that I thought Skaggs was the most to blame for not developing a proposed map, he simply said “We [the Democrats] just proved again that we can't agree on anything.” That is a sad and frustrating statement.

(Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


BLAME FOR RATING DROP LIES WITH POLICYMAKERS IN GOVERNMENT

Posted 8/14/11

“Why do the credit rating agencies have so much power?” That is the stupidest question I have heard during the debate over raising the debt ceiling. And, I have heard this comment by both liberal and conservative politicians and talking heads in the media.

The reason this comment is so stupid and irritating is that it is so blatantly incorrect. The credit rating agencies do NOT have the power. The power rests with the President and Congress in how they choose to conduct the financial affairs of the federal government.


If the federal government's budgeting practices are reckless and irresponsible, it is not the fault of the credit agencies when they say the federal government is spending so much more than it takes in and has so much debt that the federal government is not as creditworthy as it once was. The blame for a drop in the federal government's credit rating lies with the policymakers in government.

Considering these concepts from a governmental standpoint is sometimes hard to comprehend because it so massive. So, let's look at a simpler example.

Let's say a married couple has an income of $24,000 per year. However, they have a spending habit of $36,000 per year. So, they are basically overspending to the tune of $12,000 every year. Also, they have been overspending for decades. So, their accumulated credit card debt is $140,000 or nearly six times their annual income. (Keep in mind that this is credit card debt and not debt secured by a home or other collateral.) They go to their banker and say they intend to keep up this $12,000 per year deficit spending for the next ten years and want the banker to increase their credit card limit by another $120,000.

Two questions: First, what do you think the banker is going to say? How about “Are you people crazy? Why in the world would I loan you another $120,000 of unsecured debt?” Second, if these folks have a terrible credit score is that the fault of credit rating agency or the fault of this couple's poor budgeting habits?

As anyone with any common sense can see, the bad credit rating of this couple is the result of their massive unsecured debt and their spending habits relative to their income. The poor credit score is not the responsibility of the credit rating agency.

Now take this example and replace the couple with the federal government then multiply the numbers by 100 MILLION. That gives you the magnitude of what we are talking about with the federal government's spending problem.

Now, whose fault is it that the federal government has run up $14.3 Trillion in debt? And whose fault is it that Obama and the Democrats want to keep spending more than $1 Trillion (with a “T”) than the government takes in each year? (In all fairness, Obama and the Democrats are not the only ones who have engaged in overspending. However, the last Republican deficit of $380 billion makes Republicans look like “girly-men” next to Obama's nearly $1.7 Trillion deficit in his first budget alone.)

It certainly isn't the fault of any credit rating agency. It is the fault of the elected officials in Washington. So, stop pointing the finger and start working on getting your spending under control.

Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com


HYPOCRISY OF THE POLITICIANS NEEDS TO BE POINTED OUT

Posted 8/8/11

I was reminded of two things this weekend. First, there is no reason to ever watch the news on TV. Second, Democrats in Congress are nothing but a bunch of lying sacks of baloney. (I had to clean that second one up a little bit because my mother and kids sometimes read my column.)

On Friday night I was relaxing on the sofa and participating in that most important of man sports – channel surfing. In doing so, I violated one of the most important rules of channel surfing and did not jump directly from 39 to 62. This caused me to flip past a news channel. There was a banner on the screen saying that the Democrats were about to give a press conference about the debt ceiling negotiations so I stopped surfing and waited for the press conference to start.

Once the Democrats took the podium the lies and disingenuous comments began. The Senate had just voted to table the proposed debt ceiling legislation that had come over from the House earlier in the day. The Democrats then accused the Republicans of not working on the debt ceiling legislation. WHAT?!?!? The Democrats had just refused to consider the Republican proposal, which is actually just the latest of several Republican proposals, and were now accusing the Republicans of doing nothing to avert a financial crisis. Were they drunk?!?!?

Republicans have been the only ones making any proposals to curb the massive growth of spending and get the federal budget under control. For over 800 days (i.e., MORE THAN TWO YEARS) the Senate has failed to pass a federal budget. And these disingenuous, lying dirt bags have the gall to claim that Republicans are making no effort to address the issue!?!?!

It gets worse. The Democrats said they were opposed to a Balanced Budget Amendment because it would cause federal judges to make spending decisions in the future. No it wouldn't! The only way the courts would be involved is if the do-nothing Democrats in the Senate continue to fail to do their job. After the Democrats left the stage, the talking heads reappeared on the TV screen. Did they bother to point out the lies or hypocrisy of the statements just made by the Democrats? No!

Now don't get me wrong. I am not in favor of the media putting its spin on the news. However, when factually inaccurate statements are made, the media needs to point out the falsehoods. This is one of the things I hate the most about many in media. Most in the media generally just report the “he said/she said,” but rarely bother to actually investigate and see who is telling the truth and then share the truth with the public. Of course, that would require members of the media to do a little research. Instead, they take the easy course and just parrot what has been said by someone else with no consideration of whether the statements are accurate.

Just remember, if you see a Democrat on your TV, he's probably lying and the talking heads aren't likely to point out the fraud. So, follow the channel surfing rules and skip the news channels. There is little if any accurate factual information there any way. Maybe you can find a re-run of Gilligan's Island.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

THE RIGHT FIGHT SHOULD BE ABOUT THE ACTUAL BUDGET

Posted 7/29/11

No one seems to clearly understand what it means if the federal government debt ceiling is not raised. This was emphasized for me when I was listening to one of those investment advisor programs on talk radio on Saturday morning. The host of the program said that if the debt ceiling is not raised that the U.S. will default on its treasury bonds. That is not true.
Just because the debt ceiling is not raised does not mean that the federal government has no cash available to pay the interest on the federal debt. Individuals and businesses will still be sending in tax payments. So, the government will still have cash coming in to pay the required interest payments.

No. The failure to raise the debt ceiling does not necessarily mean the federal government will default on U.S. Treasury bonds. Unless the Obama Administration chooses to pay other bills before paying the federal government's debt obligations, the government will still have the money to keep paying the interest due on the treasury bonds. Of course, it is possible that the Obama Administration would allow the federal government to default on the U.S. Treasury bonds just to try to make the Republicans out to be the bad guys.

If the debt ceiling is not raised, then the federal government will have to start making tough choices. The federal government will go from having a credit card with no limit to a credit card that is maxed out. Decisions will have to start being made about what priorities to spend a finite amount of money on rather than sliding the big government credit card through the machine at the counter and ignoring the fact that the government is spending money it doesn't have and also ignoring that this debt will eventually have to be paid back.

So far, the Obama Administration seems unwilling to set any priorities. A little more than a week ago a senior Obama Administration official said that the Obama Administration is not willing to set priorities on what bills to pay with the limited resources the government has available without an increase in the debt ceiling. The Obama Administration should have the resources to pay the interest on the U.S. Treasuries and certain other bills (e.g., Social Security checks, payments for national defense and health care reimbursements). However, the position of the Obama Administration appears to be that if the debt ceiling is not raised, it will allow the federal government to default on all its obligations and try to blame the Republicans. How childish.

My biggest complaint is that we are not fighting about the right issue. The ultimate fight should not be over the debt ceiling. The fight should be over the actual budget. (The amount of “over-spending” that the budget allows impacts the debt ceiling, but the more comprehensive battle should be over the budget.) The next fiscal year begins October 1. The budget for 2011-2012 should set priorities for spending and identify any agreed increase in the national debt. There should be no patchwork spending resolutions. Federal law needs to be clarified to provide that if there is no budget adopted, then there can be no government spending with the exception that any interest on the national debt still has to be paid.

(James Thomas is one of the most influential members of the Republican party in Platte County. He can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


WILL OBAMA TAKE THE FALL FOR REFUSING TO DO HIS JOB?

Posted 7/22/11

The biggest issue facing America and possibly the world right now is what happens on the debt ceiling fight in Washington. No one really knows what it means to the global economy. This is also a defining moment for fiscally-responsible government and--to the extent that fiscal responsibility is linked to the Republican Part-- the Republican Party.

The Democrats are on the losing side of this debate if you look at the polls and at common sense. However, the real question is whether anyone is actually listening to what is being said.

Here is what White House press secretary Jay Carney said about the plan of House Republicans to cut, cap and balance the budget: "What we are witnessing here with this measure is classic Washington posturing, kabuki theater.” Carney added that the measure would "dismantle ... our social safety net: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."

What exactly are Obama and his fellow Democrats against? They are against a plan to cut current spending levels, to cap federal spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product and to send a Balance Budget Amendment to the states for ratification. If you are applying even the smallest degree of common sense and fiscal responsibility, how could you be against a plan that involves the government not spending more than it takes in? (But who said the Democrats had any common sense?)

One of my fears as I have watched this unfold is that the Republicans will claim victory after negotiating spending cuts that are not really spending cuts. For example, there has been talk of agreeing to a debt ceiling increase in connection with reducing spending by $4 trillion over the next 10 years. At first blush, this would appear to be a victory. However, it is not necessarily a victory. It really depends on what cuts you are talking about.

Since Obama has taken office, he has proposed budgets that have increased spending by massive amounts. Obama's proposed spending for fiscal year 2011 was $920 billion higher than Bush's proposed spending for fiscal year 2008. So, if Republicans agree to $400 billion in cuts they are really just slowing down the growth in spending and not really getting the spending back under control.

In part the idea that the federal government will run out of money when the debt ceiling is reached in early August is a misnomer. Tax revenues will still be coming in that could be used to pay certain bills. However, that would require the Obama Administration to set priorities. According to an interview of a senior administration official that I heard replayed on the radio, the current position of Obama and friends is to NOT set priorities. For example, the interviewer asked if as money comes in it could be used to send out Social Security checks and payments for national defense items and similar priorities. The official refused to say that priorities can be set. Instead, Obama and the Democrats plan to hold old people, health care providers and our military as hostages in an effort to blame Republicans for the crisis. Clinton got away with making Republicans the scapegoats in 1995. We'll know in a few weeks if Obama takes the fall for refusing to do his job or whether fiscally-responsible Republicans are again made out to be the fall guys.

(James Thomas is a local Republican Party leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


ELITISM IS A PROBLEM FOR DEMOCRATS

Posted 7/15/11

The next to last chapter of Bill Bishop's book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, is entitled “The Big Sort” campaign. This chapter describes how the 2004 Bush campaign designed the winning strategy by focusing on “like-minded” voters and driving out turnout among supporters instead of focusing on trying to persuade undecided voters.

This concept is really nothing new. I have heard attributed to Abraham Lincoln that the way to win elections is to “identify your supporters and turn them out on Election Day.” The 2004 campaign just happened to use various micro-targeting techniques to identify supporters that are common to businesses, but which have not generally been used in political campaigns. Those of us on the ground in 2004 were somewhat frustrated because the national Republicans wanted to use some of these micro-targeting techniques, such as magazine subscriptions, to identify likely supporters when the Platte County GOP had already spent thousands of dollars to develop better data than the RNC had. The basic concept was a good one and it worked very effectively.

In looking back at the election Bishop also points out several things that John Kerry and the Democrats did wrong. Bishop's quote from Crook County Democrat Steve Bucknum most accurately described the Democrat's problem: “The problem with Democratic Party is elitism.”

The editors of Seattle's alternative newspaper, the Stranger, made this elitism problem very clear when it published “The Urban Archipelago.” They said “Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism and compassion . . .And we are the real Americans. They --- rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs – are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools and hate-mongers.”

The concept of “The Urban Archipelago” is exactly why I don't want to live around or be associated with most liberals. They talk about tolerance and acceptance. However, that tolerance and acceptance only applies when you are agreeing with them. If people happen to express contrary positions, they are “rubes, fools and hate-mongers.” If it wasn't so disgusting, it might actually be funny that people who claim to be so tolerant are in reality so intolerant.

There are a few exceptions in America where the areas with liberals are growing – e.g., Austin and Boulder. However, the generally true reality was summarized in a quote that got then-Governor Matt Blunt in trouble in February of 2005 when he said “The only places Democrats are winning elections are the places where no one wants to live.”

In Missouri that is especially true. For example, the 12 state legislative districts in western Jackson County that are currently held by Democrats have lost approximately 48,000 people. That is a loss of over 10% of their population in the last 10 years. During this same time period the 35th Legislative District, which is a very Republican district in northern Clay County, has grown by more than 50%.

Although the “elitism” of those in the Democrat Party is disappointing and irritating, it is good for Republicans. It keeps driving people away from the Democrats to the Republican Party. As far as I'm concerned the snooty liberals can stay all lumped together on their “islands.” I prefer to live with “real” people. If that means hanging out with a bunch of camo-wearing, gun-totin', Bible thumpin' folks, that is great!

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


FUNDAMENTALISTS VS. BIBLE MINIMALISTS

Posted 7/8/11

One topic discussed in Bill Bishop's book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, is how a voter's position on one issue will dictate his or her position on many others.

I found this to be true a long time ago. I have always been “pro-life,” but I did not realize how significant this position was until I became actively involved in Republican politics. What I quickly discovered is that a candidate's position on abortion is a litmus test issue that will indicate that candidate's position on many other issues. I have noticed that anyone who would self-describe one's self as pro-life tended to be pro-gun, pro-business and anti-tax. To the contrary, if a candidate was self-described as “pro choice,” they were opposed to private gun ownership, viewed government and not private industry as the answer to every problem and supported every tax increase to ever be proposed. Now there were occasional exceptions, but in my experience these exceptions have been very few.

Bishop actually discussed a different question, but one that had a very similar pattern to the abortion question.

Before discussing this question, Bishop broke down church membership into two segments. One segment is what he calls Private Protestantism, which “promoted individual salvation and promised that personal morality would be rewarded in the next life.” The other segment is Public Protestantism, which said that “the way to God required the transformation of society.” Bishop notes that those who are Private Protestants essentially are Republicans and those who are Public Protestants are essentially Democrats.

Bishop refers to a study of the 2004 presidential election results by a political scientist at East Carolina University that indicates sorting people by their beliefs about the Bible is one of the most telling things about those persons' position on political issues. Bishop uses certain definitions. “Fundamentalists” are those that believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.

Fundamentalists accounted for nearly half of the voters in red states and only 28% of the voters in blue states. “Bible Minimalists” are those who believe that the Bible was the work of men and not God. The Bible Minimalists accounted for 12% of the voters in red states and 18% in blue states. “Moderates” are those who believe that the Bible was the Word of God, but shouldn't be taken literally. The Moderates accounted for 38% of the voters in red states and 53% of the voters in blue states.

The study didn't just look at whether Fundamentalists, Bible Minimalists or Moderates lived in red or blue states. The study looked at certain issues. For example, 80% of Fundamentalists opposed spending any government money on abortions. Three-fourths of Biblical Minimalists in blue states favored government spending for abortions. Nine out of ten Fundamentalists in red states opposed gay marriage. Three-fourths of Biblical Minimalists in blue states favored gay marriage.

The tracking of Biblical views and political issues was not limited to political issues that are tied to “faith” like abortion and gay marriage. The study also found that Fundamentalist supported the Republican agenda (e.g., a strong military and jobs over the environment) while Biblical Minimalists supported the Democrat agenda (e.g., less support a strong military and favoring the environment over jobs).

The study concluded that the 2004 election was “. . . not a culture war between red states and blue states, but rather a war between Fundamentalists and Biblical Minimalists within both red and blue states.” The study is not a surprise. It is something that I have seen for nearly two decades of participating in politics.

Next week will likely be the last week discussing The Big Sort. The topic is the Democrats’ primary problem: elitism.


PARTISANS ARE THE ONES WHO VOTE, DONATE AND WORK

Posted 7/2/11

In Bill Bishop's book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, Bishop notes that over the last 30 years Americans have voluntarily “sorted” themselves into “like-minded” communities so nearly half of all Americans live, socialize and worship with people of similar political ideologies. Bishop blames this “sorting” for what he sees as an ever increasing partisanship, whether Democrat or Republican, and extremism, whether liberal or conservative, in America.

Bishop traces significant influences for this sorting to the summer of 1965. Numerous events occurred in this time frame. Lyndon Johnson pushed Congress to create Medicare and Medicaid, the war in Vietnam escalated significantly, there were dramatic accomplishments and tragedies with the civil rights movement followed by the racial disaster of the Watts Riot. Bishop notes how all of these events led to a dramatic decline in the public's trust of government and of political parties.

Following the summer of 1965 Bishop notes that individuals began to shift their places of residence, church memberships and political allegiances to “like-minded” people. The fact that Bishop finds part of this odd is surprising to me. I would contend that clear differences between political parties is important to the viability and success of political parties. I know that many of my Republican allies became disenchanted and quit donating and volunteering when they felt that Republicans were simply becoming “watered-down” versions of the Democrats. (At the time it seemed they were right. However, after four years of a Democrat-controlled Congress hopefully everyone will remember that big spending Republicans can't even come close to Democrats in spending.)

Bishop complains that “sorting” is causing political parties to adopt more extreme positions. In part he is right. However, I would argue the difference is between “more distinct” positions rather than more “extreme” positions. For example, it would be very difficult for a pro-abortion, anti-gun, pro-tax candidate to survive in the Republican Party. Likewise, it would be very difficult for a pro-choice, pro-gun, anti-tax Democrat to survive in his party.
Before the 2008 election a friend and I were having lunch one day and he expressed concern that the Republican Party was too dominated by the pro-life forces. (He himself is a pro-life Catholic. He just happens to be a businessman who is more concerned with fiscal issues than social issues.) I quickly asked him how many dollars and how much time he had given to Republican candidates in the last election cycle. The answer to both was “None.” I told him he just proved my point.

After a hard-working candidate the next two most important things for a successful political campaign are volunteers and cash. As someone who helps raise money and who works with volunteers, I told him that the pro-life advocates are some of the best donors and the hardest workers in the Party. I agree with the position of the pro-life advocates, but even if I didn't, the Republican Party could not survive without their time and money.

I told my friend if he wanted to reduce the influence of the pro-life advocates he could do so by writing a check and volunteering his time.

Bishop reminisces that our “ninth-grade civics version of American democracy may have told us that as citizens come to understand both sides of an issue, they're emboldened by knowledge and set off to engage in the exciting work of self-government.” However, Bishop admits “that's not the way it works.” He notes that “hearing both sides of an issue – and seeing the gray in most questions – is the ticket to withdrawal.” As scientific studies have shown “partisans are the ones who vote and who donate to and work on campaigns.”

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


STUDY: PEOPLE OF A PARTY WILL ADOPT POSITIONS OF A PARTY

Posted 6/24/11

I already finished the book I started last week: The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. Even though the author was clearly an “off the deep end” liberal, he was a very good writer and his bias only came through on a few occasions. As I mentioned in last week's column, the basic premise of Bishop's book is that over the past 30 years Americans have voluntarily “sorted” themselves into “like-minded” communities so that by 2004 nearly half of all Americans lived in “landslide counties,” which Bishop defines as counties where the voters go for one presidential candidate or the other by over 20 percentage points.

Bishop's concern with this “sorting” is reflected in the subtitle to his book “Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart.” One of Bishop's themes is that there is an ever disappearing “middle.” Instead there is an “Us” and a “Them.” This separation into various “camps” and actually living around and socializing with only like-minded people is creating an ever more partisan approach to politics. Bishop views this partisanship as destructive to well-reasoned political discourse and the developing of solutions to society's problems.

Bishop doesn't just rely on antidotal evidence. He discusses several scientifically conducted studies. These studies found that where a people are grouped together with other like-minded people they will arrive at a more extreme, whether more liberal or more conservative, group position than the average position of the individual members of the group. The studies indicate where a group of like-minded people are put together for the purpose of discussing an issue, they seem to “over adopt” the position of the group. This may be an effort to fit in or it may be that the more extreme participants are able to pull more people closer to their position when the members of the group start on the same general side of an issue.

Bishop also discusses studies that show that people of a particular party will adopt the positions of their party even if these positions were not previously held. I am reminded of a story that former U.S. Senator Jim Talent once told me about former Congress Dick Gephardt. Talent and Gephardt apparently grew up not far from each other. They came from families with similar values. Talent also said that Gephardt used to be “pro-life.” However, when Gephardt wanted to rise to a position of prominence in the Democrat Party, he switched to the “pro-abortion” position of the national Democrat party. The reverse happened with our former State Representative/Senator Charlie Shields. He was originally pro-abortion, but early in his political career switched to being pro-life. This may have been a moment of enlightenment or simply an important strategic move for political survival. Regardless of the reason, Shields shifted to conform to his party's position.

I have personally experienced this “shifting” in ideology. I have always believed that the Second Amendment had meaning and importance, but it did not used to be a “hot button” issue for me. However, during my years of being involved in politics the importance of the Second Amendment to me as a political issue has dramatically increased. I now truly appreciate the risk of liberals trying to take away the guns and freedoms of hard-working honest Americans. (In reality my attitudes probably didn't actually “shift,” but instead I simply developed a deeper appreciation of this particular issue.)

The place where Bishop's liberal bias slips out is where he refers to Congress as “do nothing” because it has failed to increase the minimum wage, address global warming and other liberal causes. Bishop blames the “sorting” for the “deepening pool of discord” that has prevented Congress from passing legislation on these issues. As a conservative, I actually see it as a victory that Congress has not passed new laws to deal with these issues.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


DO FOLKS VOLUNTARILY MOVE TO AREAS OF LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE?

Posted 6/18/11

This weekend I started a new book: The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. I was very interested in reading this book because I had already read a few excerpts from the book on-line. The basic premise of Bishop is that housing patterns over the last 30 years have shown that Democrats are moving into Democrat neighborhoods and Republicans are moving into Republican neighborhoods.

When I first started the book, I was not sure I was going to like it. The author made it clear that he was an “off the deep end” liberal. He described his house hunting exercise when he relocated to Austin. Things that appeal to him in his neighborhood would be disturbing to someone like me. For example, soon after the beginning of the Iraq War Bishop's neighborhood protested by printing t-shirts and bumper stickers. The “off the deep end” liberal demographic makeup of his neighborhood was reflected at the polls in the 2000 presidential election. Bush won Texas with 60% of the vote. However, in Bishop's neighborhood Bush finished third behind both Gore and Nader. When I created a mental picture of the area where Bishop lived, I pictured something like Brookside on steroids.
Bishop pointed out that when he initially chose his neighborhood he was not looking to live around like-minded liberals. It just happened to work out that way.

It was a few years after Bishop had moved to Austin that he began to consider the issue of whether people were voluntarily sorting themselves into Democrat and Republican neighborhoods. In fact, his initial study did not actually begin as a political analysis. He was initially considering “why some communities develop vibrant economies and others stagnate.”

I could easily answer the question for him. The areas that are run by Democrats are “going in the toilet” and the areas run by Republicans are expanding and improving their economies. Now my conclusions are based upon observation without the benefit of statistical analysis, but that is what I have been able to observe. For example, Platte County has been experiencing a steady boom over the last two decades while the Jackson County portion of Kansas City keeps going downhill. The same is true in urban areas all over the country. These urban areas where Democrats are the strongest are generally experiencing serious difficulties while suburban areas that are able to escape the failed Democrat policies are able to grow and expand.

Some may attempt to argue that many portions of Platte County that have experienced a boom are within the city limits of Kansas City. That is true. However, I would argue that if these areas were free of the poor management and financial drain of what Yale Abouhalkah of the KC Star calls “Kansas City proper” that the success would be far more than what we have actually experienced.

Soon after Bishop started his analysis, he stumbled on a 30-year trend in housing patterns. He found that areas of the country were becoming more Democrat or more Republican over time. A central aspect of this analysis was a study of presidential election results from 1976 or 2004. He separated counties as “competitive” based upon whether there was a margin of less than 20 points in the presidential election. Counties with a margin of 20 points or more were considered landslide counties. In 1976 just over 26% of the voters lived in landslide counties. By 2004 48.3% of voters lived in landslide counties.

Bishop has extensive statistical data to support his conclusions that people are voluntarily moving near like-minded people. He offers a much more in depth analysis that expands beyond the results of presidential elections. I'll likely share some of that in later columns. However, if you can't wait, go out and order his book. I found it on Amazon.com. Bishop may be an “off the deep end” liberal, but he is certainly a good writer.


HOW MUCH IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING ON A PER-PERSON BASIS?

Posted 6/11/11

Unless you are a crazy liberal like Obama or Pelosi, you would probably say that the current levels of spending by the federal government are out of control. (You can see my Jan. 12 and Feb. 16 column for quotes from Obama and Pelosi that show a disconnection of their sense of reality from the actual math of the federal budget.) In considering how much money the federal government is spending, I wanted to consider the problem from a different perspective. How much is the federal government spending on a per person basis?

I looked up a few numbers and did some simple calculations. Obama's proposed budget for next year calls for spending of $3.73 trillion. (Never mind that that number happens to be over $1.1 trillion more than projected revenues for fiscal year 2012.) When you divide that $3.73 trillion in spending by the approximately 330 million people in this country that calculates to spending just over $11,300 per person.

Let's put that in perspective. The income level identified as being the poverty level for a single person by the Department of Health and Human Services for 2011 is $10,890. What that means is that a person who precisely hits the top income for the HHS' definition of poverty does not have enough income to fund his or her share of government spending if that person gave every nickel to the government. (Keep in mind that we are talking about poverty on a “per person” basis and not a household basis. A family of four is below the poverty level at $22,350.)

Think about that a different way. A family of four would need to contribute $45,200 to fund its share of the Obama's proposed annual government spending. What income level does a family of four earn to hit this level of taxation? If a married couple has a husband and a wife who EACH make $100,000, they would EACH pay $7,650 in Social Security and Medicare Taxes. If they have approximately $50,000 of itemized deductions and personal exemptions, they would pay another approximately $30,000 in income taxes. This would roughly equal this family's share of the per capita cost of government.

Of course, the average American family does not have two $100,000 per year incomes. In reality the average income is $39,527. This generates nowhere near the needed per person level of taxation. (Of course, not all the cost of government is funded from taxes that come from individuals.)

The current level of spending is just crazy. The budgeting process comes down to a simple question of setting priorities.

In building a budget, the federal government must start with a different question. Instead of asking “how much does the government want to spend?” the first question MUST be “How much does the government have available to spend?” (This number is projected to be $2.63 trillion for the next fiscal year.) Then the federal government needs to work through a list of priorities on what it is going to fund. Some really good projects and programs may be left unfunded. However, the government simply cannot spend money it does not have.

I would like Obama and Congress to act like grown-ups and do their job of setting priorities and balancing the budget. However, if they can't, there is a simple solution. The 2008 budget proposed by Bush included projected spending of $2.9 trillion. We could start by cutting every department back to that level of spending. That would create 90% of the cuts that are needed. Then we can start looking for the other 10% in cuts that are needed. Sadly, Obama and Pelosi actually think over $1 trillion per year in deficits make them deficit hawks.

 


DESPITE HICCUPS, MARTIN LUTHER ACADEMY HAS BEEN GREAT EXPERIENCE

Posted 5/28/11

My oldest daughter, Shannon, is graduating from Martin Luther Academy this week. (MLA only goes to the 8th grade.) MLA has provided a great learning environment for Shannon and her younger sister, Anne.

The birth of MLA began in early 1997. Shannon was born that year. Todd Graves' oldest child, Katie, was born just three weeks before Shannon. In early 1997, Todd came to me and said “What do you think about starting a private school?” It seemed like a great idea to me, but we needed to study the concept. A steering committee was formed for that purpose by the three Lutheran churches in Platte County.

The steering committee had focus groups and did various analysis of the potential demand for a private school. The data indicated there was a great demand, but it seemed like a bigger project than three churches could take on. Then we met Steve Ewert. He was also interested in starting a school in the Northland. So, we joined forces, created an association and expanded the project to Clay and Platte Counties.

MLA initially opened in a leased building in the fall of 2003, but at the end of the lease MLA had to “temporarily” move to Christ Lutheran Church in Platte Woods. MLA was there for six and half years.

MLA has had ups and downs along with way. In 2002 land just north of 108th Street was purchased. This property was eventually traded for land just south of 108th Street.

However, the neighboring developer went under without completing the improvements he was required to make to his property to provide better access to the property. So MLA still can't use the property the way it would like.

Last year the association bought a church building at 7112 N. Overland Drive. The association renovated the building and added a gym. MLA moved in to the new building over Christmas break.

Despite the hiccups along the way, the school has been a great experience. There are hundreds of people who have worked to make the school a reality and who continue to work to make it an on-going success. I wish I could thank all of them by name, but the list is just too long. So, let me just thank a few.

First, thank you to Todd Graves. It was his idea in the first place. Without his inspiration, we would have never taken the first steps. Thank you to Pastor Krueger, who if he had nixed the idea at the outset it would have likely died right then. Thank you to Steve Ewert who was MLA's first board president. He provided a positive attitude even as the school went through some of its most challenging times. Also, MLA would not have gotten into its new building on budget without his efforts as “construction supervisor.” Thank you to Mary Smith. She served on the school's first board of directors. She stepped down this year after 11 years of service. She has been MLA's longest serving board member. She has provided strong leadership and a historical perspective for all of MLA's endeavors. Thank you to all of those who have donated time and talent to MLA. Without their perseverance, MLA would have never made it to this point.

Thanks especially to MLA's faculty and staff who have done so much to educate our children. MLA offers an exceptional academic product in a loving, Christian environment. In fact, the scores of MLA's student's national testing put MLA in the 97th Percentile. That's great!

Now don't get me wrong. I am an advocate of all forms education – public, private and home schooling. However, as my oldest daughter moves on to high school, I am especially thankful for the educational experience that MLA has been for her. I wish Shannon and all her friends well as they embark on the next chapter in their lives.

(James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


IT'S UP TO INDIVIDUALS TO ADDRESS THEIR OWN SITUATIONS

Posted 5/20/11

Plato, Missouri was the site of a big celebration this week. The U.S. Census Bureau has announced that Plato is the population center of the United States. Plato -- with a population of 109 -- is located in Texas County, which is in southern Missouri about halfway between Cape Girardeau and Springfield.

What caught my interest was not something from the speeches of Governor Jay Nixon or Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson. No. What caught my interest was an editorial from St. Louis Today entitled “What does Plato tell us about the state of poverty in nation?”

The premise of the article is that Plato, Texas County and much of rural Missouri is poor. In its analysis the article points to median household income figures of Texas County compared to the U.S. as a whole and Missouri as a whole. Some of this analysis is misplaced. The cost of living in other parts of the country and even other parts of Missouri is dramatically different. It costs a lot less to live in small town Missouri than other places.

The editorial also fails to consider that whether or not you are “rich” or “poor” is not necessarily something that can be measured in dollars. I grew up on a farm. It is a great place to raise a family. Money was something we were short of, but the quality of life was great even without the big dollars. However, the editorial does have a valid point that the folks in Plato are less well off financially than people in other parts of Missouri and other parts of America.

The concluding statements of the editorial are what bothered me. It said “Poverty is real. Our children are at risk. What are we willing to do about it?”

My objection to the concluding question is the emphasis on who is doing the acting: “What are we willing to do about it?” Once again the liberals on the editorial board of St. Louis Today miss the point. It is not up to us to address individual poverty. It is up to individuals to address their own situation.

The day after I read this editorial, I received my daily e-mail from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. In it was a quote from Les Brown. Brown said, “If you take responsibility for yourself you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams.”

Brown has it right. Achieving wealth or happiness, whether measured in dollars or by something else, is not up to someone else. It is up to each individual. Now I appreciate that the editorial board may point out that there are a lot of children who live in poverty through no fault of their own. However, the persons who are responsible for that situation are the parents of those children. These parents must accept responsibility for their situation and take steps to change it. Of course, these individuals may not want to take the steps to change their situation. If these individuals are not willing to take the steps to change their own situation, there is really little we can do for them.

The one thing we absolutely should not do is supplement the lifestyle of these individuals with government handouts with no expectation of them doing some sort of work for that financial support. I am a strong advocate for giving someone a “hand up” to help them through hard times. However, we can't let that “hand up” become a “handout” that essentially becomes a lifestyle choice funded by others. If we do that, we are not doing these individuals any favors. Instead we are dooming them to a life of dependency with little hope of that changing in their lifetimes or even their children's lifetimes. That is a disservice to these individuals. Also, it will not give them the American dream. Instead it will make them the American nightmare.

Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


CHANGING DISTRICT BOUNDARIES WON'T SAVE THE DEMOCRATS

Posted 5/13/11

The Missouri General Assembly has completed its redrawing of the Congressional District boundaries. (Redistricting for the State House and State Senate is just getting started.) The General Assembly passed a map and sent it to the Governor. The Governor vetoed the map. However, the map was quickly overridden by the General Assembly after the Republicans got four Democrat members of the House – with encouragement from Democrat Congressmen Cleaver and Clay -- to support the override.

Democrats are crying because Congressman Carnahan has been drawn into the same district with Clay. However, as a result of the new census figures, Missouri is dropping from nine Congressmen to eight Congressmen. So, at least two incumbent Congressmen were going to have to be drawn into the same district. Also, Clay's district was about 20% short of its population target. Clay did not want the district to look to the Republican-leaning areas to the north or west of his district for more people so he gladly accepted Democrat-leaning areas from Carnahan's district. Carnahan was already about 20% short of people. The loss of another 20% to Clay left him about 40% short of people. So, it makes sense that the remainder of Carnahan's under-sized district was divided up among the other districts to reach their population target.

The Democrat leaders in the General Assembly are also whining because they claim the new districts supposedly create six Republican and only two Democrat district. However, when applying the proper redistricting principles of “communities of interest,” where people with common interests are grouped into the same districts, the maps are appropriate because Missouri's Democrat voters seem to be heavily concentrated.

The problem for Democrats in Missouri is a national trend analyzed by Bill Bishop in his 2008 book entitled The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of America is Tearing Us Apart. Bishop has analyzed housing trends over the last three decades and concludes that Americans have been voluntarily separating themselves into more homogenous communities of like-minded people. The result is that Republicans and Democrats are clustering together. This is creating a trend of areas that consistently vote overwhelming for one party or the other.
This trend is clearly present in Missouri. Just look at the red and blue maps from the 2010 state-wide elections. (You can find these maps on the Missouri Secretary of State's website.) The map from the 2010 U.S. Senate race shows that the only counties that were won by the Democrat candidate were the Jackson County portion of Kansas City, the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County. The rest of the map is red.

The Democrats want to point to the close presidential election of 2008 as a basis for why a supposedly 6-2 map is unfair. Well they need to actually study the election results more carefully. Yes. McCain won Missouri by only 3,903 votes. However, Missouri was still geographically a very red state with Obama only winning the Jackson County portion of Kansas City, St. Louis City and Boone, Buchanan, Jefferson, St. Louis, St. Genevieve and Washington Counties. The other 108 counties were red. So, when you draw a constitutionally-mandated map that is “contiguous” and “compact as possible,” the Democrats have so heavily grouped themselves into the same general areas that they have voluntarily created the situation.

Of course, the real problem is that the ideas of the national Democrat party just don't sell well in Missouri. So, changing district boundaries wouldn't really save the Democrats. They need to change their platform to win.

Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

IT'S TIME TO STOP THE FLOW OF RED INK

Posted 5/5/11

There are moments that can change the course of history: a spring day in 1775 when a bunch of farmers and small townsfolk stood in a field in opposition to the most powerful military in the world, a hot summer in 1776 at a convention hall in Pennsylvania when the Declaration of Independence was hammered out, a few years later at another convention hall where the U.S. Constitution was drafted. We have a chance for another one of those historic moments this spring. There is an opportunity for America's greatness to be protected for the future.

What is that potential historic moment? It is the decision on whether to raise the debt ceiling for the federal government and what strings, if any, are tied to any increase in the debt ceiling.

I would prefer that no increase of the debt ceiling be allowed. However, I am also a pragmatist. I accept the reality of the difficulty in immediately cutting the current out-of-control spending by the federal government and the sudden jolt it might give to the weakened economy if Congress really would make the hard decisions that it needs to make about spending in a single fiscal year. Given this reality, I understand that some increase of the debt ceiling is regrettably necessary. However, even though some modest increase may be necessary to avoid too dramatic of a shock to the economy, any agreement to an increase of the debt ceiling should come with strings and limitations.

My first limitation would be that the first year's increase in the debt ceiling should be limited to the 2008 budget deficit, which was about $1 trillion less than the budget deficit for Obama's first year in office. Thereafter, small increases in the debt ceiling might be allowed for the next few years, but eventually no further increases should be allowed. In fact, we should probably have a requirement that the debt ceiling has to start shrinking.

The most important limitation is that no vote on the increase of the debt ceiling will occur until a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed by Congress as provided for under Article V of the Constitution. This balanced budget amendment might have a clause that permits the provisions of the balanced budget amendment to be ignored by Congress upon a two-thirds majority vote of Congress. This would allow flexibility for when an overwhelming majority in Congress believes that a crisis requires the federal government to borrow more money.

The political hypocrisy simply has to stop. For example, a couple of weeks ago a clip was played on the radio of the then-Sen. Obama being critical of increasing the debt ceiling as part of approving one of Bush's proposed budgets. I wanted to scream. Obama's proposed budgets for his first two years in office have increased the federal debt by more than all eight years of Bush's presidency.

Don't get me wrong. I'm mad at Bush and prior Congressmen for spending too much. However, their annual deficits are dwarfed by Obama's most recent plan to spend over 50% more than the government takes in.

I hope Congress takes this opportunity to “make history” and stop the flow of red ink. This is a huge deal! I truly believe that if the deficit spending does not stop that America will no longer be the greatest nation on earth. This single vote could determine whether America will remain a great nation or whether it will eventually go the way of the Greeks, the Romans and all the other collapsed civilizations. Regardless, history will be made.

(Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


DON'T LET EMOTIONS OVERWHELM JUDGMENT

Posted 4/29/11

The “Prime Directive” from Star Trek prohibits interference with the internal development of alien civilizations. This concept is not just one of modern science fiction. The idea is a concept dating back to the Peace of Westphalia, a treaty from 1648 that had as one of its essential principles the non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of another state. The principles of the Prime Directive and/or the Peace of Westphalia are important concepts when considering the appropriateness of the U.S.'s involvement in Libya and its role earlier this year in regime change in Egypt.

Libya has never been our friend. Under Khadafi's rule, Libya has been a sponsor of terrorism. However, when President Bush announced America's War on Terror and a policy to hold nations that harbor or support terrorists accountable, Khadafi fell in line and opened his country to UN inspectors and acted like he was changing his ways.

In Egypt, Mubarak was an elected leader. Mubarak was an ally to the U.S. in the first Gulf War and the War on Terror. We may not agree with how he operates his country domestically, but he has been a friend of the U.S.

Although the media frequently described the protesters in Egypt and the rebels in Libya as heroes, if you read between the lines, the media noted that many of the protesters were “unemployed youth,” which sounds a lot like unemployed rebel rousers. Also, although there were lots of protestors in the streets of Egypt and Libya, these protesters were still a very small part of the population. And, at least in Egypt, there were elections scheduled to be held in less than two years to choose new leaders.

Let's look at the situation in Egypt and Libya from a different perspective. Let's look at the anti-ObamaCare and Tea Party protesters as in the same role as the protesters in Egypt and Libya. Would we condone these protesters resorting to violence to get their way? Would we condone foreign support of these protesters including military strikes into our country in support of these protesters? I don't think so.

I will quickly concede that the unleashing of modern military power on a civilian population would have devastating consequences. It should not happen. As a husband and father, I would have a problem sitting on the sidelines and watching this happen if I had the full capacity of the most powerful military force in the world available at my beck and call to prevent it. However, let's ignore the emotional aspects for a minute. The question is whether the U.S. government should intervene based upon appropriate standards of international conduct?

Once again, I don't think so. Individual countries have a right to determine their own internal affairs. We should not interfere with the domestic matters of other countries if these countries are not threatening their neighbors. (I know at some point, Bush's invasion of Iraq was labeled as an effort to liberate the Iraqi people. I always viewed the invasion under its original purpose of sending in 250,000 weapons inspectors because Saddam was refusing to comply with the inspection requirements).

Khadafi and to a lesser extent Mubarak have not treated their people the way they should. I certainly do not want Khadafi slaughtering innocent civilians in the course of putting down a rebel uprising. An argument might be made that protecting innocent civilians is a legitimate exception to the Peace of Westphalia/Prime Directive. Maybe this is like when Kirk or Picard ignores the Prime Directive and risks court martial to pursue a “greater good” notwithstanding the legal question marks surrounding his actions. However, as Picard argues in the “Pen Pals” episode, “the Prime Directive is meant to prevent us from letting our emotions overwhelm our judgment.” Food for thought.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


OBAMA COATS HIS TOILET PLAN IN A WRAPPER OF 'HOPE'

Posted 4/22/11

Obama went into full campaign mode last week when he gave a speech at George Washington University on Wednesday. He needed to do so.

Obama and the Democrats are under enormous pressure from all of their potential voters. The freeloaders that live off the rest of us are crying about potentially losing some of their freebies and having to work for a living like the rest of us. The hard working middle class folks who sometimes vote for Democrats because they are deceived by the erroneous Democrat mantra that the Republican Party is for the rich people have figured out that the out of control spending by Obama is unsustainable and will eventually lead to the downfall of America.

Faced with all this pressure, Obama gave a very well crafted speech in which he appears optimistic about America, opposed to budget deficits while being opposed to cutting any “essential” spending.

Obama referred to some historical efforts at compromise. He referred to a compromise reached between the senior George Bush and the Democrats in Congress to raise taxes to keep the funding in place for our troops during the first Gulf War. [Of course, Obama fails to point out that those tax increases are the primary reason the senior Bush was a one term president.]

Obama blames Bush for the soaring deficits. Once again, Obama ignores the facts. The collective deficits run up during Bush's eight years in office are less than the deficits that Obama has run up in his first two years in office. Also, while saying he wants to cut spending, Obama actually proposes over $1 trillion (WITH A T!!) in deficits in his next budgets for multiple years into the future. Don't get me wrong. Bush and the Republicans who controlled Congress from 2001 – 2006 are not without blame. However, their out of control spending is dwarfed by what Obama has done in his first two years.

My fear is that Obama might just get away with it. I see it as very possible that Obama gets a second term. Obama is a brilliant campaigner. He can tell people he's going to spend America into a deep hole that will eventually destroy our country, but he has the ability to say it with such charm and poise that those voters that make up the squishy middle may just fall for his claims to want to cut the deficit.

One thing that will help him get away with it is his carefully chosen words. When he talks about raising taxes, he claims to only want to raise taxes on “the rich” or “millionaires and billionaires.” Of course, his plan is to raise taxes on anyone who makes over $200,000.

If you really listen carefully to what Obama is saying, he lays out his plan to make America a much more socialistic or even communistic country. He wants to take money from one group of people and give it to another. He said the same things in the 2008 campaign and crazy freeloaders flocked to him because “Obama is going to pay my mortgage and pay for my groceries.” (Do you remember the interview with the near-orgasmic woman from the big event right before the election?) He coats this plan to flush America down the toilet in a wrapper of “hope.” Unless people really pay attention, he just might achieve his goal.

(Send email to jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


IT'S NOT A 'CUT' SINCE 'IT' WAS NEVER IN PLACE

Posted 4/15/11

As usual the “big” media outlets are inaccurately describing a political issue when they are “reporting” on the federal government's budget crisis. They continue to fail to identify the real culprits in this crisis and fail to accurately describe what they are calling “cuts.”

The federal budget cycle runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. So, the current budget year began on Oct. 1 of last year and is set to expire on Sept. 30 of this year. Of course, the media does not want to point this out because that would squarely put the blame on this crisis where it belongs.

The current budget year began before the 2010 elections. Congress should have adopted a budget early in 2010. However, even if Congress didn't adopt a budget until the last day of the prior budget year, the budget should have been adopted more than a month before the 2010 elections.

Why was the budget not adopted before the current budget year began? The answer is simple. The Democrats in control of Congress failed to do their most basic function--adopt a budget. Of course, the Democrats didn't want to adopt a budget. The reason is that if they did, they would have likely been beaten up even worse in the November election cycle.
The media needs to be accurate about placing blame for why there is not a budget. When the Democrats controlled Congress they failed to adopt a budget. The Democrats had a significant majority in the House. Democrats in the Senate were just shy of a filibuster proof majority. And, no filibuster was attempted to block the budget. No. The failure to adopt a budget falls entirely at the feet of former Speaker Pelosi and former Senate Majority Leader Reid and their Congressional majorities. The media needs to make this clear.

The media is also mislabeling the process of what is going on now with the various continuing resolutions to keep the government in operation without actually adopting a budget for the full fiscal year. The media is continuously referring to “cuts” being made. This is completely inaccurate. There is no budget so nothing can possibly be ‘cut!’ It may be that the continuing resolution approves less money for spending on particular items than was in Obama's proposed budget for this budget year or for that same item in the prior year's budget. However, nothing is being cut if it has not been approved yet.

This whole situation is outrageous to me! The most basic function of the legislature is to adopt a budget for the current fiscal year. The legislature can argue about guns, gays, abortion or other “hot button” political issues. However, no resolution of these issues has to be reached in any given year. The one piece of business that absolutely must be addressed each year is the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. And, it should be required that this is resolved before the fiscal year begins or the government does not have authority to spend any money.

The short term resolution reached last week on the budget is only a stop gap measure. The budget fight will continue. Although I am passionate about many of the social issues, this budgetary fight will decide whether America continues to be a great nation or whether it declines into oblivion.

The first question is a simple one. Is the government going to continuing to spend more than it takes in? If it does, the federal government and the nation will eventually collapse. It is simple math. Unlimited deficits are not sustainable. But, as this debate goes on, don't be misled by the “not so mainstream” media's explanation of who is to blame for the current crisis and whether anything is actually a “cut.”

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


VOTING BY MAIL SYSTEM WOULD BE A BAD IDEA

Posted 4/7/11

The talk continues for the prospect of early voting and/or voting by mail. This idea is based on good intentions, but it is a really bad idea.

First, such a system has a tremendous prospect for fraud. Without photo ID it is hard to control fraud when people physically show up to vote. Just imagine how bad it would be if the voters didn't even have to show up at the polls.

Second, early voting will dramatically disrupt political campaigns. People pushing such an idea must have no concept of how political campaign works. Let's focus on a “little” campaign (i.e., something well below a major state-wide campaign). If you are running for county clerk or some similar office, you start your campaign nine months to a year before election day. About six to eight months before the election you start going door to door and hitting every parade and chili supper in your district that comes along. As the election gets closer you hit up all your friends and family to run a phone bank in the few weeks right before the election. One purpose of those phone calls is to find yard sign locations. Two weeks to 10 days before election day you go out and put up your hard signs. You don't have much money so you only can send one piece of mail and you may have to target your voters because you can't send it to every household. You generally send that piece of mail sometime during the last week before the election. The whole campaign is a crescendo that ends on election day. If the early voting advocates get their way, the mail for these candidates would not reach voters before they vote. That is simply wrong.

I will admit that early voting for something like president or a major state-wide office could occur with a minimal disruption of the campaign process. However, these campaigns are designed to reach a crescendo on election day. Even well funded below-governor statewide campaigns often only have enough money for one or two weeks of TV advertising. So, even these statewide candidates could be virtually unknown to the voters.

If the desire is to address the inconvenience of voting, then the number of election days could be reduced. There are too many “secret” elections at this point. Elections could be limited to April, August and November. No more secret February, June or October elections that few voters know about. (The Kansas City primary might be the one exception to this voting schedule.)

On occasion, some folks have trouble getting to the polls.That is what absentee ballots are for.I got called out of town at the last minute for business one April and realized I was going to miss the election. I just ran by the election board's office and cast my ballot on the way out of town. Or just this week I had to go to Jeff City on Tuesday. I just went to vote soon after the polls opened at 6 a.m. and then headed out of town. It really wasn't that difficult.
When I go vote it never adds more than 20 minutes to my morning.I take my girls to school in the morning. I make them be ready a little earlier than usual. We go to our polling place, which is actually in the opposite direction of the school, cast a ballot and still get to school in plenty of time. This trip to the polls before school is actually an important training experience for my girls.

I know the early voting advocates mean well, but they need to quit complaining about the convenience of voting. It is a privilege to vote. It is our civic duty. It really isn't that hard for all of us to vote on the same day. Just go and cast your ballot and stop complaining.

(James Thomas is an active Republican who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


RECRUITING IS KEY TO SUCCESS IN LOCAL POLITICS

Posted 4/1/11

Let me throw out a radical idea: Local elections should be partisan.

I'll be the first to admit that pot holes and waterlines are not Democrat or Republican. Law enforcement is not and never should be administered based upon whether the victim or the criminal is a Democrat or a Republican. Reading, writing and arithmetic are universally necessary objectives of our public schools regardless of party affiliation.

All of that is true. However, there is something that is severely missing when there are no organized parties involved in the process of recruiting and electing candidates for the elected positions that will deal with pot holes, waterlines, law enforcement and education.

I have told people for years that the most important work the Republican Party does to win elections is not done during the last few weeks before the election. The most important work we do is done a year or more before the actual election. That most important work is recruiting.

Not all political parties approach it the same way, but the Platte County Republican Party has generally taken a very deliberate approach to recruiting. For most of the election cycles for the last 16 years, the local party has had an active recruiting effort. We typically start working on recruiting for the next election cycle even before the current election cycle is over. It is not an easy task. It is really hard to find well qualified people who are willing to give up much better paying positions in the private sector to serve their community. (The difference for Democrat recruiters is that the kind of candidates they look for actually get a pay raise by going to work for the government.) We have to find people at the right stage of their lives that can run for office (e.g., no children at home or a spouse who can financially supplement their public service). It is even more difficult to find people willing to deal with the challenges that often come up during the campaign.

Sometimes our recruiting efforts don't produce the best candidates. Sometimes the best candidate just “comes out of the blue” and volunteers. However, the point is that the local Republican party does have an on-going effort to recruit high quality candidates for office. That is why Platte County has become more and more Republican. We have been able to recruit better people to run on our ticket.

The lack of recruiting not the partisanship is what is missing in local elections. Although this was before my time, I have read the history of the breaking of the Pendergast machine. A local group of citizens got together and recruited candidates to run for city elections. This organization didn't stop with recruiting. It then supported the candidates it chose.

These types of political organizations continue today. The Citizens Association and Forward Kansas City, a Northland specific group, are examples of these types of organizations. However, there is one major difference. These organizations do not actually recruit candidates and raise their own money to help their slate win. Instead they generally just screen candidates and make recommendations.

That is the missing piece. There need to be political organizations that recruit for local elections, like city council and school board, and then provide resources to get those candidates elected. These organizations need to be made up of the “good government, civic leader” types that used to play a prominent role in local politics many years ago.

So, while I am not advocating that we have “Ds” and “Rs” on the ballots for candidates for city council, water district and school board, there is a great need for a return of the active political organizations that function like political parties in the recruitment and support of candidates. Otherwise, we’ll continue to get generally weak candidates those of us in KC had in this last election cycle.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com


EARNINGS TAX SUPPORTERS BASICALLY SAYING 'TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT'

Posted 3/25/11

There is an old country song with a line that goes “Take this job and shove it. I ain't working here no more.” That song should be the theme song for those supporting the earnings tax in Kansas City since that is what the advocates of the tax are saying to people who may want to work in Kansas City but who don't like paying the earnings tax.

In November a statewide ballot initiative prohibited any additional cities from imposing an earnings tax and required the Kansas City and St. Louis earnings taxes to be reconsidered by the voters every five years. In Kansas City the earnings tax is a 1% tax on the gross wages of individuals or 1% of the net profits earned by a business in Kansas City.

The first vote on whether or not to retain the earnings tax in Kansas City will be held on April 5. If the earnings tax is eliminated, it will be phased out over five years.

If you believe the proponents of the earnings tax, the world will come to an end if the earnings tax is not extended for five years. They have tried to scare people with threats of cutting services like no snow removal. (Those of you who live in the city limits are probably chuckling right now as you think “What snow removal?”)

Let's look at some real numbers from the City's website. The 2010-11 budget projects earnings taxes of $189 million out of a $1.225 billion budget. So, contrary to the claims of earnings tax proponents, the earnings tax is only a little more than 15% of the total budget. The proponents will say that the total budget is the wrong number to look at and say that you need to only look at general revenue. General revenue is $520 million. The earnings tax is 38% of this number.

In fairness to the tax lovers, the elimination of the earnings would have a significant impact on the budget. However, what we are really talking about is reducing overall spending by 3% for each of the next five years. So, while this would be a challenge, it certainly would not be the end of the world.

A key complaint about the earnings tax is that it discourages people from living and working in Kansas City. A real life example comes from my first year as a lawyer over 20 years ago. At the time, the highest first year lawyer salary in Kansas City was $52,000. Of the lawyers in my class, the ones who worked in the Johnson County office had a higher net income. They didn't have to pay $520 in earnings tax and almost $1,000 for parking that those of us in the Crown Center office had to pay. This approximately $1,500 in additional net income was a 3% difference in net pay. While this isn't a huge deal, it is certainly a reason to not want to work in Kansas City. Furthermore, when you can work 10 minutes from your nice home in the suburbs and don't have to fight the traffic to come to the “big city,” working outside the city limits of Kansas City is an added plus.

The advocates for the earnings tax have actually made the opponents' argument for them. Dan Confran, one of the advocates' spokesmen, said on more than one occasion that if someone doesn't want to pay the earnings tax then “don't work here.”

Point made. If you don't like the earnings tax, then don't work in Kansas City. So, advocates of the earnings tax are saying “Take your job and shove it” (or move it) to anyone who is considering working in Kansas City. It sure makes Platte City, Parkville, Riverside, Platte Woods and anywhere else in our community outside the city limits of Kansas City even more appealing.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com


IN KANSAS CITY, GOOD LUCK PICKING THE 'LEAST BAD' CANDIDATES

Posted 3/18/11

For those who live within the city limits of Kansas City, it is very disappointing to go vote. When voting in the City primary, there were a few races where I stopped and asked myself, “Do I really have to vote for one of these losers?”

In one of the at-large council races I had met one of the candidates the week before. He was obviously in over his head and had very limited knowledge of how Kansas City government operates. However, I still voted for him because the other candidate did know how city government worked and I did not like the things this person was doing on the council.

After the primary, Alan Dillingham, a candidate for the Second District At-Large seat, visited the Greater Kansas City Pachyderm Club. He gave a great presentation and talked about his goal of restoring appropriate conduct at City Hall. I commented to him after the meeting that it is humorous to consider that if he is elected he would probably be the youngest councilman currently serving, but he would still be the most adult-like in the group.

We talked about why he would want to be involved with City politics since you have to “work with children.” He said that good people have to get involved or else only the bad people will run the city. Dillingham was right. However, the problem is that you actually have to be able to win the election.

Kansas City is really a one party town. Although the races are technically non-partisan, they are dominated by Democrats or at least unaffiliated tax and spend liberals. There are six in-district council positions that are only voted on by the voters in that district. There are six at-large council positions that are voted on by the whole city. So, all of the at-large candidates have to win in the very-Democrat south of the river areas. I predict that Dillingham will win north of the river, but lose south of the river where his fiscally responsible “grown up” message will not appeal to the Democrat-dominated precincts.

I am really torn between Mike Burke and Sly James in the mayor's race. Mike Burke is a Northlander. That is a plus. Also, when I served with him on the City's Public Improvements Advisory Committee, he did a good job of running the meetings. However, I am little puzzled about why the City's Port Authority has felt the need to pay Burke's law firm over $3.3 million in fees over the last 11 years. Furthermore, he is cut from the same mold and even endorsed by Kay Barnes. Barnes was bad for Kansas City. She ran up huge amounts of debt on big ticket items that we didn't really need. Burke would likely be more of the same.

On the other hand,James said at a candidate forum that he doesn't really know much about the Northland and only really comes north of the river to go to the airport. So, while his fresh ideas would be great for the city, his total lack of knowledge of the Northland could be a serious problem for those of us who live in the “good” part of Kansas City. (I use “good” to refer to our part of Kansas City in part because it is true and also because Yael Abouhalkah of the Kansas City Star refers to the south of the river portion of Kansas City as “Kansas City proper.”)

Of course, there is a solution for us. We could de-annex the portion of Kansas City that is north of the river and become “The Northland.” Of course, those in “Kansas City proper” will never let us go. They like our money too much.

So, good luck picking the best (or least bad) candidates on March 22. With a few exceptions, like Dillingham, it is slim pickin's.

(Email local Republican leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


CUT TO HEAD START SHOULDN'T BE LABELED AS 'OUTRAGEOUS'

Posted 3/11/11

A column by E.J. Dioinne Jr. in the Washington Post on Monday caught my eye. If you get a chance to read it, you should take it. You can find it at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/06/AR2011030602925.html.

The point of Dioinne's column is that House Speaker Boehner is in a great negotiating position when it comes to the budget. He can go to budget meetings with the Democrats and give the outward appearance of being the calm person in the room while blaming the freshman Republicans, which have been referred to as “a band of wild-eyed bomb-throwing freshman,” for his need to hold a stronger negotiating position. This is not a new way of negotiating. There are many instances where one party holds themselves out as the reasonable party while another party on the same side of the negotiation makes ridiculous demands to get the party on the other side of the negotiation to come to some sort of common ground.

What is disturbing about Dioinne's column is that he seems so willing to label some of the proposed cuts as “outrageous” without further consideration as to how the money is being spent. His specific quote is:

Begin with the outrageous $1.1 billion, 15 percent cut from Head Start, a program that offers preschool education to roughly 965,000 poor children. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, this would knock 218,000 kids out of Head Start and force 16,000 classrooms to close.

Let's break this down. A 15% cut to the Head Start budget of $1.1 billion would mean that the budget for Head Start is $7.33 billion. ($1.1 billion divided by 15%.) If this $7.33 billion budget funds the participation of 965,000 children, then that means that Head Start is spending $7,671 per child in the program. ($7.33 billion divided by 965,000 children.)

My belief is that education and a loving and supportive home are the two most important things to help people avoid poverty and live meaningful and productive lives as adults. I taught my own children to read before they went to Kindergarten because I know that reading is so important. I accept that I am “smarter than your average bear” and that I also had the resources to buy my kids books and other materials to help them learn to read. I know that everyone is not as fortunate yet. So I whole-heartedly support programs that focus on educating children so they can “lift themselves up by their bootstraps” and make their own lives better and their future children's lives better. That means that even a conservative like me feels “warm and fuzzy” about programs like Head Start.

Although I strongly endorse the stated goal of Head Start, I really have concerns about the cost per student for this program. Does it really take $7,671 per child? I mean my kids' private school spends less than that for elementary school deduction. My daughter's high school tuition is only going to be $7,000 next year. Even the big spending Park Hill and Platte County school districts will only spend about twice that figure for their full time education programs.

Mr. Dionne is wrong to so quickly label the $1.1 billion cut as “outrageous.” Sure Head Start has a great stated purpose. I don't really think the federal government should be in the education business. However, let's ignore that for a minute that education is something that should be left to the states. The real question is should it really cost $7,671 per child for the Head Start program? I don't think so. That is an excessive amount to be spending even though this is certainly a worthy although probably not constitutionally appropriate mission for the federal government to pursue.

(Send email to jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


MISSOURI WILL BE LOSING ONE OF ITS CONGRESSIONAL SEATS

Posted 3/3/11

Last week the Census Bureau released population for five more states, including Missouri. As has been anticipated, Missouri's population did not grow as quickly as some other states so it will be losing one of its nine Congressional seats.

When you take Missouri's population of just under six million and divide by eight, it means that the new Congressional districts will need to include approximately 750,000 people. To be more precise, the actual number target population number is 748,616. This is a dramatic increase in size from the approximate 622,000 population per district from when the lines were re-drawn after the 2000 census.

Here is a breakdown of the current population of each Congressional District and the change in population that will be needed:

District Current Population Adjustment Needed
01 587,069 161,547
02 706,622 41,994
03 625,251 123,365
04 679,375 69,241
05 633,887 114,729
06 693,974 54,642
07 721,754 26,862
08 656,894 91,722
09 684,101 64,515

Right now the 1st, 3rd and 5th Districts are held by Democrats. The 1st and 3rd are in St. Louis. The 5th is a substantial portion of Jackson County and a little bit of Cass County. The 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th are all held by Republicans.

The speculation is that the 3rd District is the district that will be drawn out of existence. (The districts will obviously be renumbered after being redrawn so that our own 6th District could very likely have a different number in the future.) Russ Carnahan currently is the Congressman from the 3rd District. The speculation that this district will be drawn out of existence is in part because the Republicans have greater control when it comes to drawing the lines. However, there is also a very practical reason that the 3rd District is probably the one to be eliminated. The 3rd District is 123,365 people short of the target. The 1st District is 161,547 people short of its target. The thought is that the 1st District will be expanded into the third to address its population shortfall. Then the rest of the 3rd district will be carved up between the 2nd, 8th and 9th to get to the right population numbers.

Since the per district size of each Congressional District has jumped so dramatically, our own 6th District will need another 54,642 people. Currently the 6th District reaches into Jackson County. If the boundaries of the 5th District were to begin with all of Jackson County, then the 6th would have to pick up what it loses in Jackson County as well as this 54,642. Since the 6th currently takes in all of northwest Missouri, the 6th would have to move eastward.

The challenge for those of us in Platte and Clay Counties is how does the 5th District get redrawn. This district needs to pick up 114,729 more people. Even if the 5th District is expanded to include all of Jackson County, which has a population of 647,000 people, the 5th will still need to find another 100,000 people. The line drawers could look north of the river for these additional people. Let's hope not. I sure like having Sam Graves as my Congressman.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


'NORMAL' PEOPLE ARE DEMANDING LESS SPENDING

Posted 2/24/11

I would like to direct you to a column entitled “The Politics of the New Middle America” by E. J. Dionne published on February 15, 2011 by The American Prospect. You can find the article on-line at http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_politics_of_the_new_middle_america. The article is subtitled: “In 2010, disaffected voters didn't embrace the Republican vision. They looked in vain for the Democratic one.”

I don't believe the subtitle is entirely true. I don't believe that voters “looked in vain” for the Democratic vision. To the contrary, I think voters ran away from the Democratic vision of out of control spending, government takeover of major components of the health care system, more government regulation and higher taxes. I do agree that voters probably didn't “embrace the Republican vision.”The voters probably did embrace the espoused Republican vision, but I'm not sure the voters really believed that Republicans would fully deliver on that vision.

I would be one of the first to express frustration with Republicans in Washington and elsewhere over the last few years. Congressional Republicans “talked the talk” about cutting spending in the early to mid-2000s, but continued to rack up big deficits. For example, the last budget adopted by a Republican-controlled Congress was the fiscal 2007 budget that included a $342 billion deficit. That means the Republican budget spent $342 billion more than the government collected. However, this pales by comparison to the Democrats spending $1.6 trillion (with a T!) more the budgeted revenue in the most recent budget.

Just look at what the Democrat-controlled Congress did to the national debt. When the Democrats took control of Congress after the 2006 elections, the national debt was just under $8.7 trillion. Four years later when the Republicans re-took control of the U.S. House, the national debt had ballooned to almost $13.9 trillion. That is a jump in the national debt of almost $5.2 trillion or almost 60% in just four years.

“The Politics of the New Middle America” explores the Democrats efforts to put together a winning coalition made up of a new majority on the basis of well-educated middle- and upper-middle-income white voters allied with African Americans, Hispanics, and the young. This coalition is really a linking of the two opposite ends of the socio-economic ladder. On one end are the limousine liberals who think they know more than other people and should make decisions for the benefit of others. On the other end are the financially less well-off. What is missing from the new Democrat model is the huge chunk of “normal folks” in the middle.

The article blames the shifting in the election outcomes from 2006 and 2008 to 2010 upon Democrats losses among “white working-class voters” shifting from a 10% loss to a 30% loss. These folks are the folks that Obama would say are “bitter” and “clinging to their guns and their religion.” Obama is right. There is clearly a component of the electorate who are dissatisfied with the direction he and his Democrat buddies are taking this country. They do not want the government spending 73% more than what it collects in a given year. These folks are not the Ivy League-educated snooty-types, but they are still smart people that can do basic math. You cannot spend more money than you take in year after year. It simply won't work. Eventually, you have to pay for that over spending.

Hard-working Americans, “white working-class voters,” the “normal” people have not abandoned the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party has simply adopted policies that are contrary to common sense and everything these people believe in. Now Republicans must deliver on their promises of less spending to keep these “normal” people as part of their election-winning coalition. All I can say is, they'd better.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


OBAMA'S STATEMENTS ABOUT THE BUDGET ARE FRAUDULENT

Posted 2/18/11

Just five weeks ago I wrote that former Speaker of the House and now Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was either “. . . seriously 'math challenged' or . . . simply delusional.” This was my response to Pelosi's statement that “Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go . . .” even though the Pelosi-led Congress raised the national debt by nearly $5.2 trillion (with a T!) or almost 60% in just four years. President Obama seems to be suffering from the same disorder that is afflicting Pelosi.

In his weekly Saturday address, Obama had the audacity to use a reference to a Missouri teacher's personal sacrifices to fund her daughter's education during the economic downturn to say that the government must now make difficult decision to reduce its debt, while still investing in education for a better future. These are great words. I agree with them. However, you actually have to look at the reality of what Obama is proposing rather than the flowery language he uses to describe his proposed 2012 budget.

Obama's Saturday speech was a prelude to the release of Obama's proposed budget for 2012 on Monday. The federal deficit is expected to increase to $1.65 trillion this fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2010-Sept. 30, 2011), according to the Obama administration's proposed budget for fiscal 2012 that was scheduled to be released on Monday. This is an even bigger deficit than the most recent Congressional Budget Office estimate of $1.48 trillion. Obama's proposed budget for fiscal 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011--Sept. 30, 2012) calls for $3.73 trillion in government spending in fiscal 2012, which is $1.1 trillion (with a T!) more than projected revenues for fiscal year 2012.

In his speech on Saturday Obama said, ““So, after a decade of rising deficits, this budget asks Washington to live within its means, while at the same time investing in our future. It cuts what we can't afford to pay for what we cannot do without. That's what families do in hard times. And that's what our country has to do too.”

Living within its means?!?!? Spending $1.1 trillion more than the projected revenues of $2.63 trillion is deficit spending of 42% for the current year. That is cutting what we can’t afford to pay for?!?!?!

Let's state this in terms that we can all understand. Let's say I give each of my daughters $100 to go spend on clothing. They go shopping and each spend $142. To Obama, my daughters would be living within their means. That's crazy!

We are long overdue for a balanced budget amendment. If Obama really wants the federal government to do “what families do,” then he needs to get on board with a constitutional amendment to require the federal government to operate with a balance budget. Republicans pushed a balanced budget amendment after taking control of the U.S. House after the 1994 elections. The proposed amendment actually was passed by the House before dying in the Senate.

I would like to pretend that our elected leaders in Congress can act like grownups and not spend money we don't have. However, they can't. So, there needs to be a balanced budget amendment to keep them from spending the future generations into insurmountable debt.
At the same time the American people and the media need to refuse to accept the ridiculous rhetoric of politicians who speak of the government “living within its means” and “cutting what we can't afford to pay for” when they are proposing massive deficit spending.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


REAGAN AND HIS '77 SPEECH AN INSPIRATION TO MANY TODAY

Posted 2/11/11

Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan! If he were still living, Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 on Sunday, February 6. As I have written before, Ronald Reagan is probably my favorite president of all time. He has inspired me and so many of my friends.

I was in sixth grade when Reagan ran for president in 1976. That year the convention was in Kansas City. My mom and I stayed up watching the tally for the presidential nomination. I kept hoping that somehow Reagan would be able to find the votes he needed to win. He narrowly lost the nomination to incumbent President Gerald Ford. After the vote, Reagan was strongly encouraged to come to the floor to give a speech. There have been many reports of convention delegates saying “We just nominated the wrong guy” after hearing that speech. ord, of course, ended up losing to Jimmy Carter in November.

Reagan didn't give up after 1976. In fact, one of his most famous speeches is a speech he gave in 1977. I've heard it referred to as “The New Republican Party.”You can read it for yourself at reagan2020.us/speeches/The_New_Republican_Party.asp. In the speech Reagan talks about how a majority of Americans are conservatives. e advocates for uniting the “economic conservatives” and the “social conservatives” to present a united front on conservatism. I have read the speech many times. The concluding lines of that speech have provided great inspiration to me:

“Our task now is not to sell a philosophy, but to make the majority of Americans, who already share that philosophy, see that modern conservatism offers them a political home. We are not a cult, we are members of a majority. Let's act and talk like it.

“The job is ours and the job must be done. If not by us, who? If not now, when?

“Our party must be the party of the individual. It must not sell out the individual to cater to the group. No greater challenge faces our society today than ensuring that each one of us can maintain his dignity and his identity in an increasingly complex, centralized society.

“Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business, galloping inflation, frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite.

“Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people. Any organization is in actuality only the lengthened shadow of its members. A political party is a mechanical structure created to further a cause. The cause, not the mechanism, brings and holds the members together. And our cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America's spiritual heritage to our national affairs.

“Then with God's help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us.”

This February 1977 speech is seen as the foundation of the New Republican Party.
There are many inspiring aspects of Ronald Reagan, his accomplishments and his service to our country. However, the things Reagan talked about in this speech are the principles that motivate so many of us and are the reason that so many of us are active in the Republican Party.

I was going to write about all the great accomplishments of Reagan and his policies. Instead, I think it is enough to say he inspired me and so many of my friends to service. Thank you and happy birthday, Mr. President!

(James Thomas is a Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


OBAMA NOW TRYING TO MIMIC CLINTON'S POLITICAL STRATEGY

Posted 2/5/11

With the winners of the 2010 elections having only taken the oath of office less than a month ago, attention has already turned to the 2012 elections. I predict that Obama will be very tough to unseat in 2012.

One reason Obama will be tough to beat is that he seems to have learned something from the 2010 elections and something from President Clinton's third and fourth years in office. Obama himself admitted that the Democrats took a shellacking in the 2010 elections. Obama could have simply ignored the public statement provided by the election results the same way he ignored the very vocal public objections to ObamaCare. Obama's approach to ObamaCare in the face of a huge public opposition: full speed ahead. Obama's response to the tax cut fight shows that he is willing to adjust his approach to get reelected.

When Obama first took office, he made statements about cooperating with Republicans on policy issues that went something like “Republicans are free to come along for the ride, but they will have to sit at the back of the bus.” After the 2010 elections, Obama quickly caved on the temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts. This was probably a strategic decision. If Obama had blocked the temporary extension of the tax cuts until after the new Congress was seated, the Republicans would have passed them any way, forced Obama to veto them and then he would be the “bad guy.” Even worse for Obama, if he had stood in the way, the Republicans would have probably pushed through a permanent extension of the tax cuts instead of a temporary one. Also, if the tax cuts had expired, it would have sucked billions of dollars out of the economy. This would almost certainly have led to a double dip recession, which would have likely doomed Obama's re-election chances. By postponing the expiration of the tax cuts, Obama has delayed the negative impact on the economy of the expiration of these tax cuts until after the next election cycle.

Obama has also been modifying his political rhetoric. Even though Obama is still advocating for massive amounts of new government spending, he at least is giving that spending a kinder, gentler label of “investment.” Don't be fooled. Obama is still a tax and spend liberal. He still believes in government mandated wealth re-distribution. He is just trying to re-form his public image from being an open socialist/communist. Obama even talks about reducing the deficit. Of course, these statements are made at the same time that he proposes massive spending increases so I'm not sure how he actually hopes to reduce the deficit.

After the Republican Revolution in 1994, Bill Clinton sufficiently reformed his public image to allow him to win a second term. Obama seems to be trying to follow that part of the Clinton strategy.

Clinton had something else going for him. Like Republicans often do, we nominated a presidential candidate because it was “his turn” to be the nominee for president even though he was the wrong person for that particular election cycle. If history teaches us anything, Obama can likely count on Republicans to do that again. The one hope is that the new conservative energy provided by the Tea Party movement will push the Republican Party to pick a solid and reliable conservative as its presidential candidate.

Sadly, the biggest challenge for all Republicans in 2012 will be whether the voters will support conservatives when it comes to making tough decisions on spending. The “squishy middle” abandoned Republicans when they tried to hold the line of spending in 1995. Will that happen again? I hope not. If the government doesn't stop spending so much money, we will all be doomed.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

EVEN GOVERNORS SHOULD BUCKLE THEIR SEAT BELTS

Posted 1/28/2011

A few days ago Governor Jay Nixon was in a car accident. The car he was riding in was rear-ended by another driver. (Imagine the embarrassment/concern of the driver of the other car when he found out that he not only hit a car that was driven by a highway patrolman, but that car also had the governor inside.) Nixon was taken to the hospital for some neck pain, but was released.

I was in a car accident right before Thanksgiving. The other driver was going too fast on a slick, narrow road when he popped over a small hill and found that his lane was blocked by a car attempting to turn left. He slammed on his brakes, skidded across the center line and banged in to me. My recent experience would make me feel sorry for the governor except for one thing: The governor was not wearing his seat belt.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't believe in the mandatory seat belt law. (The governor did not technically violate the seat belt law because he was in the rear seat of the vehicle so apparently he was not required to be wearing a seatbelt.) I think you should be free to not wear a seat belt. However, if you are a prudent and responsible person you wear your seatbelt at all times.

This isn't a difficult thing to address. My kids get it. Right before we leave the house, there are two questions that are asked. First, do you have everything you need for school/basketball/volleyball or whatever? Second, are you buckled? Only then do we back out of the garage and head down the road. On occasion, I will be messing with something in the front seat as we are heading down the driveway and be momentarily unbuckled or on the way home I might unbuckle about 200 feet before getting to the driveway because I am going to pull up to the mailbox and reach out to get the mail. I immediately get objections from my kids for not being buckled.

I 'm glad my kids were listening when I explained to them the importance of wearing a seatbelt. I have told them about Derrick Thomas' accident on that icy January Sunday. Thomas was driving his Suburban too fast and he and one of his two passengers were not wearing seatbelts. The passenger who was not wearing a seatbelt was thrown from the vehicle and killed. As we all know, Thomas eventually died from injuries suffered in the accident. The guy I point out to my kids is the passenger who was wearing his seatbelt. He was reportedly a little banged up, but walked away from the accident.

Even though I think you are an idiot if you don't wear your seatbelt, I don't think the government should make you. However, I would be fine with there being a legal rule that says if a party is injured in an accident and is not wearing a seatbelt, then that party cannot recover for his or her injuries from that accident unless the party can prove that the injuries could not have been avoided even by wearing a seatbelt.

It is the same idea that I have about motorcycle helmets. I think you would be crazy to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. However, I don't think we should have a law that says you have to wear one. The law should be that if you splatter your brains out on the pavement because you are not wearing a helmet then the party who caused the accident and the taxpayers should not have to pay for your medical bills or your disability unless it can be shown that the helmet would not have prevented your injuries.

I'm not a fan of Governor Nixon's policies, but I don't want to see anyone killed in an accident. So buckle up, Governor!

(Buckle your seat belt and email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


COUNTY MAKING RIGHT MOVES WITH 2011 BUDGET

Posted 1/21/2011

“There is a new sheriff in town.” No. Not really. But there is a new presiding commissioner in the Platte County Administration Building.

I knew that Jason Brown had conservative values. However, I was very concerned that, like other “allegedly” conservative commissioner candidates before him, Brown would not be able to be true to those conservative principles when he actually embarked upon the difficult task of governing and felt the pressure of everyone asking for money. Brown shows early signs of staying true to his conservative principles.

Monday night Brown and fellow commissioner Jim Plunkett came to the Platte County Republican Central Committee meeting to talk about the county's 2011 budget that will be adopted later this month.

Platte County can only budget to spend the amount of money it estimates it will receive for the year. It is true that the “guesstimation” of revenue is simply a guess. However, the idea is to make the best guess possible based upon the information that is available. For 2010 the sales tax revenues came in 3.3% over budget and the use tax revenues came in 10% under budget. The commissioners were nervous because the money they received from the Missouri Department of Revenue in January for sales taxes collected in November actually showed a 13% drop from last year's November sales tax collections. This put the commissioners scrambling to keep the budget under control.

Brown and Plunkett explained that the proposed 2011 budget calls for a reduction in general revenue spending. The 2011 budget projects a 5% decline in sales tax revenue and a 10% decline in use tax revenue. This meant that the 2011 budget had to be less than the 2011 budget by several hundred thousand dollars. Brown and Plunkett explained that the all of the officeholders were very cooperative with the budget cutting process. When the situation was explained to the officeholders they each came forward with items that could be trimmed from their budgets.

After delivering the budget cutting news Brown and Plunkett said “after the bad news, now for the good news.” There was a collective chuckle from the PCRCC members because for nearly all of them the idea that the county would spend less money in 2011 than in 2010 was good news. So, from a conservative perspective, the commissioners actually offered more good news. The commissioners explained that through under control spending in prior years, the budget called for placing $3 million into a narrowband radio fund to begin to fund the cost of the federally-mandated new emergency radio system. This unfunded mandate is going to become a huge issue. Commissioners are trying to get a jump on the anticipated budget burden.

This was the exact opposite of a PCRCC meeting I attended in January of 2004 when the then-commissioners were poised to adopt a budget that included a 17% increase in sales tax revenue despite the auditor's projection of only a 7% increase. The bloated revenue projection was necessary to cover all the anticipated spending so the then-commissioners ignored the auditor's projections. The PCRCC objected to the overly-optimistic revenue projections, but the then-commissioners ignored the PCRCC's feedback. The budget projections sparked a political war that resulted in the two junior commissioners up for election that year being replaced. (The actual sales tax figure for 2004 was a 7.7% increase over 2003.)

Less than a month into his term as presiding commissioner it is too early to tell if Brown will be able to stay true to his conservative principles. However, this action on the budget is certainly a good start.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


NANCY PELOSI IS EITHER MATH-CHALLENGED OR DELUSIONAL

Posted 1/13/2011

Democrats are crazy. Okay. Okay. That is an over-generalization. However, given last week's comments by Nancy Pelosi and the fact that Democrats have re-elected her as their leader, you do have to wonder about the sanity of Democrats who serve in Congress.

At her final press conference as Speaker of the House, Pelosi said “Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go.”ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!? Pelosi is either an unashamed liar or she has no connection to reality.

Pelosi became Speaker in January 2007 following the 2006 election cycle, which gave the Democrats control of the House. When Pelosi became Speaker, the national debt was $8,670,589,242.973.04 (i.e., almost $8.7 trillion). On Dec. 22, 2010 (i.e., the last day of the 111th Congress), the national debt was $13,858,529,371,601.09 (i.e., almost $13.9 trillion). That is a jump in the national debt of almost $5.2 trillion or almost 60% in just four years.

The ballooning of the debt is easy to explain. For fiscal 2007 the budget deficit for the year was $342 billion. For fiscal year 2010, the budget deficit was $1.6 trillion. So we went from a place where the Republican-controlled Congress was spending (at least) $342 billion more than it should to a place where the Democrat-controlled Congress was spending (at least) $1.6 trillion more than it should. That means Pelosi and her pals were over spending to the tune of nearly five times the rate of overspending by the Republican-controlled Congress.

There are only two possible explanations to Pelosi's comments. Either she is seriously “math challenged” or she is simply delusional.

When you look at her comments on ObamaCare, it leads one to think it may be a little of both. Pelosi still claims that ObamaCare will result in savings and reduce the deficit. There are some huge tax increases that are part of ObamaCare. These massive tax increases will offset some of the cost of ObamaCare. However, only in a delusional dream are even these huge tax increases enough to cover the increase costs of ObamaCare.

I know a lot of former Democrats, including my friend and fellow columnist Russ Purvis, who have chosen to leave the Democrat Party and become either independents or Republicans. These former Democrats just couldn't stand the insanity and/or stupidity of the leadership of the Democrat Party. I encourage those of you who have conservative values, but who are clinging to the Democrat label to do one of two things: Either leave your party and join us or get rid of the crazy people who are the leaders of your party.

If you do neither of those things and keep the same crazy leadership that promotes crazy liberal policies, you are actually doing me a favor as a Republican activist. As long as a nut-job like Nancy Pelosi is the spokesperson for your party, it improves the prospects for my team to keep on winning.

Even though keeping the crazy liberals that lead your party makes it easier for my team to keeping winning elections, please replace your delusional leadership. These liberal policies are bad for America. The federal government cannot keep spending money it doesn't have. Deficit spending can exist for short periods, but it cannot go on indefinitely. And pretending that you are a deficit hawk when you have actually ballooned the national debt by 60% in four years and the annual deficit by almost fivefold will not help America's economy or restore America's greatness. We--and more importantly, our children-- deserve better.

(Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


HERE’S WHAT THE VOTERS
ARE INTERESTED IN, AND
IT’S NOT COMPROMISE

Posted 1/10/2011

To start the New Year, political columnists often look into their crystal balls to predict the future. I would be the first to tell you that is very difficult to do in politics. Anticipating the outcome of the 2012 elections nearly two years out is extremely difficult.

For one thing, we don't know who the candidates will be. I'm fairly confident that Obama lead the national ticket for the Democrats. I don't have the slightest idea who will lead the Republican ticket.

There are lots of prospective candidates. Sarah Palin probably has bigger “star appeal” than anyone. The conservative grassroots folks would work their tails off for her. However, she has been bashed horrendously by the media so that she may not be an effective candidate. Also, her stepping down as governor in the middle of her term probably hurt her tremendously. alin is probably in the perfect spot right now. She is in a position to make a little money. She can influence elections and remain politically relevant by throwing her support behind select candidates without actually being the candidate. That may be the best place for her.

There are the “also rans” from 2008: Huckabee and Romney. Neither of them could overcome a lackluster McCain campaign in the primaries so I'm not sure how strong either of them is. Haley Barbour would make a great president. He did a great job as chairman of the RNC and has been an excellent governor. However, Barbour spent a few years as a lobbyist so that might hurt his chances. The rumor is that Next Gingrich is toying with the idea of getting in the race. I am a huge Newt fan. What he did with GOPAC and then with the whole “Contract with America” campaign was exceptional. I have read his books and he has a lot of great policy ideas. However, he has a number of skeletons in his closet so he is probably not electable. Hopefully, whoever is the candidate would include Gingrich on a policy team to help develop effective ideas for governing.

A couple of “lesser knowns” would make great candidates: Senator John Thune from South Dakota and Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana. Both of these guys have some great ideas. However, their name ID is still very low.

Whether Republicans are successful in 2012 is subject to several other things that are out of their control. The economy is sure to have a significant impact. My prediction is that the economy will have recovered from the deep slump during the beginning of Obama's term in office. However, I don't think the economy will be clipping along at full speed. The temporary fix of the new tax law should prevent a double dip recession. However, since the fix was only temporary, I predict that employers will slowly begin to hire back workers, but they will not hire all the workers they might need until there is more certainty with the tax law.

Another important factor is how do Republicans act and how do the voters react to how the Republicans act. In 1995 Republicans stood up against big spending. The spending fight reached an impasse that led to a government shutdown. Stopping big spending is what the voters said they wanted. However, the voters viewed Republicans as the bad guys when they tried to hold the line on spending. This public reaction is probably why so many Republicans lost their conservative roots and went on spending sprees to please their constituents. If the Republicans try to hold the line on spending again and the voters act this way in response, that will be very damaging to the fiscal conservative movement.

Then there is the most important factor. The Republicans have a history of nominating the wrong candidate (e.g., Ford, Dole and McCain). If history repeats itself, we will have another four years of Obama.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

For earlier columns click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEMOCRATS DON'T WANT TO COOPERATE IN REDISTRICTING EFFORT

Posted 8/19/11

 


BLAME FOR RATING DROP LIES WITH POLICYMAKERS IN GOVERNMENT

Posted 8/14/11

“Why do the credit rating agencies have so much power?” That is the stupidest question I have heard during the debate over raising the debt ceiling. And, I have heard this comment by both liberal and conservative politicians and talking heads in the media.

The reason this comment is so stupid and irritating is that it is so blatantly incorrect. The credit rating agencies do NOT have the power. The power rests with the President and Congress in how they choose to conduct the financial affairs of the federal government.
If the federal government's budgeting practices are reckless and irresponsible, it is not the fault of the credit agencies when they say the federal government is spending so much more than it takes in and has so much debt that the federal government is not as creditworthy as it once was. The blame for a drop in the federal government's credit rating lies with the policymakers in government.

Considering these concepts from a governmental standpoint is sometimes hard to comprehend because it so massive. So, let's look at a simpler example.

Let's say a married couple has an income of $24,000 per year. However, they have a spending habit of $36,000 per year. So, they are basically overspending to the tune of $12,000 every year. Also, they have been overspending for decades. So, their accumulated credit card debt is $140,000 or nearly six times their annual income. (Keep in mind that this is credit card debt and not debt secured by a home or other collateral.) They go to their banker and say they intend to keep up this $12,000 per year deficit spending for the next ten years and want the banker to increase their credit card limit by another $120,000.

Two questions: First, what do you think the banker is going to say? How about “Are you people crazy? Why in the world would I loan you another $120,000 of unsecured debt?” Second, if these folks have a terrible credit score is that the fault of credit rating agency or the fault of this couple's poor budgeting habits?

As anyone with any common sense can see, the bad credit rating of this couple is the result of their massive unsecured debt and their spending habits relative to their income. The poor credit score is not the responsibility of the credit rating agency.

Now take this example and replace the couple with the federal government then multiply the numbers by 100 MILLION. That gives you the magnitude of what we are talking about with the federal government's spending problem.

Now, whose fault is it that the federal government has run up $14.3 Trillion in debt? And whose fault is it that Obama and the Democrats want to keep spending more than $1 Trillion (with a “T”) than the government takes in each year? (In all fairness, Obama and the Democrats are not the only ones who have engaged in overspending. However, the last Republican deficit of $380 billion makes Republicans look like “girly-men” next to Obama's nearly $1.7 Trillion deficit in his first budget alone.)

It certainly isn't the fault of any credit rating agency. It is the fault of the elected officials in Washington. So, stop pointing the finger and start working on getting your spending under control.

Local Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com


HYPOCRISY OF THE POLITICIANS NEEDS TO BE POINTED OUT

Posted 8/8/11

I was reminded of two things this weekend. First, there is no reason to ever watch the news on TV. Second, Democrats in Congress are nothing but a bunch of lying sacks of baloney. (I had to clean that second one up a little bit because my mother and kids sometimes read my column.)

On Friday night I was relaxing on the sofa and participating in that most important of man sports – channel surfing. In doing so, I violated one of the most important rules of channel surfing and did not jump directly from 39 to 62. This caused me to flip past a news channel. There was a banner on the screen saying that the Democrats were about to give a press conference about the debt ceiling negotiations so I stopped surfing and waited for the press conference to start.

Once the Democrats took the podium the lies and disingenuous comments began. The Senate had just voted to table the proposed debt ceiling legislation that had come over from the House earlier in the day. The Democrats then accused the Republicans of not working on the debt ceiling legislation. WHAT?!?!? The Democrats had just refused to consider the Republican proposal, which is actually just the latest of several Republican proposals, and were now accusing the Republicans of doing nothing to avert a financial crisis. Were they drunk?!?!?

Republicans have been the only ones making any proposals to curb the massive growth of spending and get the federal budget under control. For over 800 days (i.e., MORE THAN TWO YEARS) the Senate has failed to pass a federal budget. And these disingenuous, lying dirt bags have the gall to claim that Republicans are making no effort to address the issue!?!?!

It gets worse. The Democrats said they were opposed to a Balanced Budget Amendment because it would cause federal judges to make spending decisions in the future. No it wouldn't! The only way the courts would be involved is if the do-nothing Democrats in the Senate continue to fail to do their job. After the Democrats left the stage, the talking heads reappeared on the TV screen. Did they bother to point out the lies or hypocrisy of the statements just made by the Democrats? No!

Now don't get me wrong. I am not in favor of the media putting its spin on the news. However, when factually inaccurate statements are made, the media needs to point out the falsehoods. This is one of the things I hate the most about many in media. Most in the media generally just report the “he said/she said,” but rarely bother to actually investigate and see who is telling the truth and then share the truth with the public. Of course, that would require members of the media to do a little research. Instead, they take the easy course and just parrot what has been said by someone else with no consideration of whether the statements are accurate.

Just remember, if you see a Democrat on your TV, he's probably lying and the talking heads aren't likely to point out the fraud. So, follow the channel surfing rules and skip the news channels. There is little if any accurate factual information there any way. Maybe you can find a re-run of Gilligan's Island.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

THE RIGHT FIGHT SHOULD BE ABOUT THE ACTUAL BUDGET

Posted 7/29/11

No one seems to clearly understand what it means if the federal government debt ceiling is not raised. This was emphasized for me when I was listening to one of those investment advisor programs on talk radio on Saturday morning. The host of the program said that if the debt ceiling is not raised that the U.S. will default on its treasury bonds. That is not true.
Just because the debt ceiling is not raised does not mean that the federal government has no cash available to pay the interest on the federal debt. Individuals and businesses will still be sending in tax payments. So, the government will still have cash coming in to pay the required interest payments.

No. The failure to raise the debt ceiling does not necessarily mean the federal government will default on U.S. Treasury bonds. Unless the Obama Administration chooses to pay other bills before paying the federal government's debt obligations, the government will still have the money to keep paying the interest due on the treasury bonds. Of course, it is possible that the Obama Administration would allow the federal government to default on the U.S. Treasury bonds just to try to make the Republicans out to be the bad guys.

If the debt ceiling is not raised, then the federal government will have to start making tough choices. The federal government will go from having a credit card with no limit to a credit card that is maxed out. Decisions will have to start being made about what priorities to spend a finite amount of money on rather than sliding the big government credit card through the machine at the counter and ignoring the fact that the government is spending money it doesn't have and also ignoring that this debt will eventually have to be paid back.

So far, the Obama Administration seems unwilling to set any priorities. A little more than a week ago a senior Obama Administration official said that the Obama Administration is not willing to set priorities on what bills to pay with the limited resources the government has available without an increase in the debt ceiling. The Obama Administration should have the resources to pay the interest on the U.S. Treasuries and certain other bills (e.g., Social Security checks, payments for national defense and health care reimbursements). However, the position of the Obama Administration appears to be that if the debt ceiling is not raised, it will allow the federal government to default on all its obligations and try to blame the Republicans. How childish.

My biggest complaint is that we are not fighting about the right issue. The ultimate fight should not be over the debt ceiling. The fight should be over the actual budget. (The amount of “over-spending” that the budget allows impacts the debt ceiling, but the more comprehensive battle should be over the budget.) The next fiscal year begins October 1. The budget for 2011-2012 should set priorities for spending and identify any agreed increase in the national debt. There should be no patchwork spending resolutions. Federal law needs to be clarified to provide that if there is no budget adopted, then there can be no government spending with the exception that any interest on the national debt still has to be paid.

(James Thomas is one of the most influential members of the Republican party in Platte County. He can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


WILL OBAMA TAKE THE FALL FOR REFUSING TO DO HIS JOB?

Posted 7/22/11

The biggest issue facing America and possibly the world right now is what happens on the debt ceiling fight in Washington. No one really knows what it means to the global economy. This is also a defining moment for fiscally-responsible government and--to the extent that fiscal responsibility is linked to the Republican Part-- the Republican Party.

The Democrats are on the losing side of this debate if you look at the polls and at common sense. However, the real question is whether anyone is actually listening to what is being said.

Here is what White House press secretary Jay Carney said about the plan of House Republicans to cut, cap and balance the budget: "What we are witnessing here with this measure is classic Washington posturing, kabuki theater.” Carney added that the measure would "dismantle ... our social safety net: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."

What exactly are Obama and his fellow Democrats against? They are against a plan to cut current spending levels, to cap federal spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product and to send a Balance Budget Amendment to the states for ratification. If you are applying even the smallest degree of common sense and fiscal responsibility, how could you be against a plan that involves the government not spending more than it takes in? (But who said the Democrats had any common sense?)

One of my fears as I have watched this unfold is that the Republicans will claim victory after negotiating spending cuts that are not really spending cuts. For example, there has been talk of agreeing to a debt ceiling increase in connection with reducing spending by $4 trillion over the next 10 years. At first blush, this would appear to be a victory. However, it is not necessarily a victory. It really depends on what cuts you are talking about.

Since Obama has taken office, he has proposed budgets that have increased spending by massive amounts. Obama's proposed spending for fiscal year 2011 was $920 billion higher than Bush's proposed spending for fiscal year 2008. So, if Republicans agree to $400 billion in cuts they are really just slowing down the growth in spending and not really getting the spending back under control.

In part the idea that the federal government will run out of money when the debt ceiling is reached in early August is a misnomer. Tax revenues will still be coming in that could be used to pay certain bills. However, that would require the Obama Administration to set priorities. According to an interview of a senior administration official that I heard replayed on the radio, the current position of Obama and friends is to NOT set priorities. For example, the interviewer asked if as money comes in it could be used to send out Social Security checks and payments for national defense items and similar priorities. The official refused to say that priorities can be set. Instead, Obama and the Democrats plan to hold old people, health care providers and our military as hostages in an effort to blame Republicans for the crisis. Clinton got away with making Republicans the scapegoats in 1995. We'll know in a few weeks if Obama takes the fall for refusing to do his job or whether fiscally-responsible Republicans are again made out to be the fall guys.

(James Thomas is a local Republican Party leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


ELITISM IS A PROBLEM FOR DEMOCRATS

Posted 7/15/11

The next to last chapter of Bill Bishop's book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, is entitled “The Big Sort” campaign. This chapter describes how the 2004 Bush campaign designed the winning strategy by focusing on “like-minded” voters and driving out turnout among supporters instead of focusing on trying to persuade undecided voters.

This concept is really nothing new. I have heard attributed to Abraham Lincoln that the way to win elections is to “identify your supporters and turn them out on Election Day.” The 2004 campaign just happened to use various micro-targeting techniques to identify supporters that are common to businesses, but which have not generally been used in political campaigns. Those of us on the ground in 2004 were somewhat frustrated because the national Republicans wanted to use some of these micro-targeting techniques, such as magazine subscriptions, to identify likely supporters when the Platte County GOP had already spent thousands of dollars to develop better data than the RNC had. The basic concept was a good one and it worked very effectively.

In looking back at the election Bishop also points out several things that John Kerry and the Democrats did wrong. Bishop's quote from Crook County Democrat Steve Bucknum most accurately described the Democrat's problem: “The problem with Democratic Party is elitism.”

The editors of Seattle's alternative newspaper, the Stranger, made this elitism problem very clear when it published “The Urban Archipelago.” They said “Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism and compassion . . .And we are the real Americans. They --- rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs – are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools and hate-mongers.”

The concept of “The Urban Archipelago” is exactly why I don't want to live around or be associated with most liberals. They talk about tolerance and acceptance. However, that tolerance and acceptance only applies when you are agreeing with them. If people happen to express contrary positions, they are “rubes, fools and hate-mongers.” If it wasn't so disgusting, it might actually be funny that people who claim to be so tolerant are in reality so intolerant.

There are a few exceptions in America where the areas with liberals are growing – e.g., Austin and Boulder. However, the generally true reality was summarized in a quote that got then-Governor Matt Blunt in trouble in February of 2005 when he said “The only places Democrats are winning elections are the places where no one wants to live.”

In Missouri that is especially true. For example, the 12 state legislative districts in western Jackson County that are currently held by Democrats have lost approximately 48,000 people. That is a loss of over 10% of their population in the last 10 years. During this same time period the 35th Legislative District, which is a very Republican district in northern Clay County, has grown by more than 50%.

Although the “elitism” of those in the Democrat Party is disappointing and irritating, it is good for Republicans. It keeps driving people away from the Democrats to the Republican Party. As far as I'm concerned the snooty liberals can stay all lumped together on their “islands.” I prefer to live with “real” people. If that means hanging out with a bunch of camo-wearing, gun-totin', Bible thumpin' folks, that is great!

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


FUNDAMENTALISTS VS. BIBLE MINIMALISTS

Posted 7/8/11

One topic discussed in Bill Bishop's book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, is how a voter's position on one issue will dictate his or her position on many others.

I found this to be true a long time ago. I have always been “pro-life,” but I did not realize how significant this position was until I became actively involved in Republican politics. What I quickly discovered is that a candidate's position on abortion is a litmus test issue that will indicate that candidate's position on many other issues. I have noticed that anyone who would self-describe one's self as pro-life tended to be pro-gun, pro-business and anti-tax. To the contrary, if a candidate was self-described as “pro choice,” they were opposed to private gun ownership, viewed government and not private industry as the answer to every problem and supported every tax increase to ever be proposed. Now there were occasional exceptions, but in my experience these exceptions have been very few.

Bishop actually discussed a different question, but one that had a very similar pattern to the abortion question.

Before discussing this question, Bishop broke down church membership into two segments. One segment is what he calls Private Protestantism, which “promoted individual salvation and promised that personal morality would be rewarded in the next life.” The other segment is Public Protestantism, which said that “the way to God required the transformation of society.” Bishop notes that those who are Private Protestants essentially are Republicans and those who are Public Protestants are essentially Democrats.

Bishop refers to a study of the 2004 presidential election results by a political scientist at East Carolina University that indicates sorting people by their beliefs about the Bible is one of the most telling things about those persons' position on political issues. Bishop uses certain definitions. “Fundamentalists” are those that believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.

Fundamentalists accounted for nearly half of the voters in red states and only 28% of the voters in blue states. “Bible Minimalists” are those who believe that the Bible was the work of men and not God. The Bible Minimalists accounted for 12% of the voters in red states and 18% in blue states. “Moderates” are those who believe that the Bible was the Word of God, but shouldn't be taken literally. The Moderates accounted for 38% of the voters in red states and 53% of the voters in blue states.

The study didn't just look at whether Fundamentalists, Bible Minimalists or Moderates lived in red or blue states. The study looked at certain issues. For example, 80% of Fundamentalists opposed spending any government money on abortions. Three-fourths of Biblical Minimalists in blue states favored government spending for abortions. Nine out of ten Fundamentalists in red states opposed gay marriage. Three-fourths of Biblical Minimalists in blue states favored gay marriage.

The tracking of Biblical views and political issues was not limited to political issues that are tied to “faith” like abortion and gay marriage. The study also found that Fundamentalist supported the Republican agenda (e.g., a strong military and jobs over the environment) while Biblical Minimalists supported the Democrat agenda (e.g., less support a strong military and favoring the environment over jobs).

The study concluded that the 2004 election was “. . . not a culture war between red states and blue states, but rather a war between Fundamentalists and Biblical Minimalists within both red and blue states.” The study is not a surprise. It is something that I have seen for nearly two decades of participating in politics.

Next week will likely be the last week discussing The Big Sort. The topic is the Democrats’ primary problem: elitism.


PARTISANS ARE THE ONES WHO VOTE, DONATE AND WORK

Posted 7/2/11

In Bill Bishop's book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, Bishop notes that over the last 30 years Americans have voluntarily “sorted” themselves into “like-minded” communities so nearly half of all Americans live, socialize and worship with people of similar political ideologies. Bishop blames this “sorting” for what he sees as an ever increasing partisanship, whether Democrat or Republican, and extremism, whether liberal or conservative, in America.

Bishop traces significant influences for this sorting to the summer of 1965. Numerous events occurred in this time frame. Lyndon Johnson pushed Congress to create Medicare and Medicaid, the war in Vietnam escalated significantly, there were dramatic accomplishments and tragedies with the civil rights movement followed by the racial disaster of the Watts Riot. Bishop notes how all of these events led to a dramatic decline in the public's trust of government and of political parties.

Following the summer of 1965 Bishop notes that individuals began to shift their places of residence, church memberships and political allegiances to “like-minded” people. The fact that Bishop finds part of this odd is surprising to me. I would contend that clear differences between political parties is important to the viability and success of political parties. I know that many of my Republican allies became disenchanted and quit donating and volunteering when they felt that Republicans were simply becoming “watered-down” versions of the Democrats. (At the time it seemed they were right. However, after four years of a Democrat-controlled Congress hopefully everyone will remember that big spending Republicans can't even come close to Democrats in spending.)

Bishop complains that “sorting” is causing political parties to adopt more extreme positions. In part he is right. However, I would argue the difference is between “more distinct” positions rather than more “extreme” positions. For example, it would be very difficult for a pro-abortion, anti-gun, pro-tax candidate to survive in the Republican Party. Likewise, it would be very difficult for a pro-choice, pro-gun, anti-tax Democrat to survive in his party.
Before the 2008 election a friend and I were having lunch one day and he expressed concern that the Republican Party was too dominated by the pro-life forces. (He himself is a pro-life Catholic. He just happens to be a businessman who is more concerned with fiscal issues than social issues.) I quickly asked him how many dollars and how much time he had given to Republican candidates in the last election cycle. The answer to both was “None.” I told him he just proved my point.

After a hard-working candidate the next two most important things for a successful political campaign are volunteers and cash. As someone who helps raise money and who works with volunteers, I told him that the pro-life advocates are some of the best donors and the hardest workers in the Party. I agree with the position of the pro-life advocates, but even if I didn't, the Republican Party could not survive without their time and money.

I told my friend if he wanted to reduce the influence of the pro-life advocates he could do so by writing a check and volunteering his time.

Bishop reminisces that our “ninth-grade civics version of American democracy may have told us that as citizens come to understand both sides of an issue, they're emboldened by knowledge and set off to engage in the exciting work of self-government.” However, Bishop admits “that's not the way it works.” He notes that “hearing both sides of an issue – and seeing the gray in most questions – is the ticket to withdrawal.” As scientific studies have shown “partisans are the ones who vote and who donate to and work on campaigns.”

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


STUDY: PEOPLE OF A PARTY WILL ADOPT POSITIONS OF A PARTY

Posted 6/24/11

I already finished the book I started last week: The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. Even though the author was clearly an “off the deep end” liberal, he was a very good writer and his bias only came through on a few occasions. As I mentioned in last week's column, the basic premise of Bishop's book is that over the past 30 years Americans have voluntarily “sorted” themselves into “like-minded” communities so that by 2004 nearly half of all Americans lived in “landslide counties,” which Bishop defines as counties where the voters go for one presidential candidate or the other by over 20 percentage points.

Bishop's concern with this “sorting” is reflected in the subtitle to his book “Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart.” One of Bishop's themes is that there is an ever disappearing “middle.” Instead there is an “Us” and a “Them.” This separation into various “camps” and actually living around and socializing with only like-minded people is creating an ever more partisan approach to politics. Bishop views this partisanship as destructive to well-reasoned political discourse and the developing of solutions to society's problems.

Bishop doesn't just rely on antidotal evidence. He discusses several scientifically conducted studies. These studies found that where a people are grouped together with other like-minded people they will arrive at a more extreme, whether more liberal or more conservative, group position than the average position of the individual members of the group. The studies indicate where a group of like-minded people are put together for the purpose of discussing an issue, they seem to “over adopt” the position of the group. This may be an effort to fit in or it may be that the more extreme participants are able to pull more people closer to their position when the members of the group start on the same general side of an issue.

Bishop also discusses studies that show that people of a particular party will adopt the positions of their party even if these positions were not previously held. I am reminded of a story that former U.S. Senator Jim Talent once told me about former Congress Dick Gephardt. Talent and Gephardt apparently grew up not far from each other. They came from families with similar values. Talent also said that Gephardt used to be “pro-life.” However, when Gephardt wanted to rise to a position of prominence in the Democrat Party, he switched to the “pro-abortion” position of the national Democrat party. The reverse happened with our former State Representative/Senator Charlie Shields. He was originally pro-abortion, but early in his political career switched to being pro-life. This may have been a moment of enlightenment or simply an important strategic move for political survival. Regardless of the reason, Shields shifted to conform to his party's position.

I have personally experienced this “shifting” in ideology. I have always believed that the Second Amendment had meaning and importance, but it did not used to be a “hot button” issue for me. However, during my years of being involved in politics the importance of the Second Amendment to me as a political issue has dramatically increased. I now truly appreciate the risk of liberals trying to take away the guns and freedoms of hard-working honest Americans. (In reality my attitudes probably didn't actually “shift,” but instead I simply developed a deeper appreciation of this particular issue.)

The place where Bishop's liberal bias slips out is where he refers to Congress as “do nothing” because it has failed to increase the minimum wage, address global warming and other liberal causes. Bishop blames the “sorting” for the “deepening pool of discord” that has prevented Congress from passing legislation on these issues. As a conservative, I actually see it as a victory that Congress has not passed new laws to deal with these issues.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


DO FOLKS VOLUNTARILY MOVE TO AREAS OF LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE?

Posted 6/18/11

This weekend I started a new book: The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. I was very interested in reading this book because I had already read a few excerpts from the book on-line. The basic premise of Bishop is that housing patterns over the last 30 years have shown that Democrats are moving into Democrat neighborhoods and Republicans are moving into Republican neighborhoods.

When I first started the book, I was not sure I was going to like it. The author made it clear that he was an “off the deep end” liberal. He described his house hunting exercise when he relocated to Austin. Things that appeal to him in his neighborhood would be disturbing to someone like me. For example, soon after the beginning of the Iraq War Bishop's neighborhood protested by printing t-shirts and bumper stickers. The “off the deep end” liberal demographic makeup of his neighborhood was reflected at the polls in the 2000 presidential election. Bush won Texas with 60% of the vote. However, in Bishop's neighborhood Bush finished third behind both Gore and Nader. When I created a mental picture of the area where Bishop lived, I pictured something like Brookside on steroids.
Bishop pointed out that when he initially chose his neighborhood he was not looking to live around like-minded liberals. It just happened to work out that way.

It was a few years after Bishop had moved to Austin that he began to consider the issue of whether people were voluntarily sorting themselves into Democrat and Republican neighborhoods. In fact, his initial study did not actually begin as a political analysis. He was initially considering “why some communities develop vibrant economies and others stagnate.”

I could easily answer the question for him. The areas that are run by Democrats are “going in the toilet” and the areas run by Republicans are expanding and improving their economies. Now my conclusions are based upon observation without the benefit of statistical analysis, but that is what I have been able to observe. For example, Platte County has been experiencing a steady boom over the last two decades while the Jackson County portion of Kansas City keeps going downhill. The same is true in urban areas all over the country. These urban areas where Democrats are the strongest are generally experiencing serious difficulties while suburban areas that are able to escape the failed Democrat policies are able to grow and expand.

Some may attempt to argue that many portions of Platte County that have experienced a boom are within the city limits of Kansas City. That is true. However, I would argue that if these areas were free of the poor management and financial drain of what Yale Abouhalkah of the KC Star calls “Kansas City proper” that the success would be far more than what we have actually experienced.

Soon after Bishop started his analysis, he stumbled on a 30-year trend in housing patterns. He found that areas of the country were becoming more Democrat or more Republican over time. A central aspect of this analysis was a study of presidential election results from 1976 or 2004. He separated counties as “competitive” based upon whether there was a margin of less than 20 points in the presidential election. Counties with a margin of 20 points or more were considered landslide counties. In 1976 just over 26% of the voters lived in landslide counties. By 2004 48.3% of voters lived in landslide counties.

Bishop has extensive statistical data to support his conclusions that people are voluntarily moving near like-minded people. He offers a much more in depth analysis that expands beyond the results of presidential elections. I'll likely share some of that in later columns. However, if you can't wait, go out and order his book. I found it on Amazon.com. Bishop may be an “off the deep end” liberal, but he is certainly a good writer.


HOW MUCH IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING ON A PER-PERSON BASIS?

Posted 6/11/11

Unless you are a crazy liberal like Obama or Pelosi, you would probably say that the current levels of spending by the federal government are out of control. (You can see my Jan. 12 and Feb. 16 column for quotes from Obama and Pelosi that show a disconnection of their sense of reality from the actual math of the federal budget.) In considering how much money the federal government is spending, I wanted to consider the problem from a different perspective. How much is the federal government spending on a per person basis?

I looked up a few numbers and did some simple calculations. Obama's proposed budget for next year calls for spending of $3.73 trillion. (Never mind that that number happens to be over $1.1 trillion more than projected revenues for fiscal year 2012.) When you divide that $3.73 trillion in spending by the approximately 330 million people in this country that calculates to spending just over $11,300 per person.

Let's put that in perspective. The income level identified as being the poverty level for a single person by the Department of Health and Human Services for 2011 is $10,890. What that means is that a person who precisely hits the top income for the HHS' definition of poverty does not have enough income to fund his or her share of government spending if that person gave every nickel to the government. (Keep in mind that we are talking about poverty on a “per person” basis and not a household basis. A family of four is below the poverty level at $22,350.)

Think about that a different way. A family of four would need to contribute $45,200 to fund its share of the Obama's proposed annual government spending. What income level does a family of four earn to hit this level of taxation? If a married couple has a husband and a wife who EACH make $100,000, they would EACH pay $7,650 in Social Security and Medicare Taxes. If they have approximately $50,000 of itemized deductions and personal exemptions, they would pay another approximately $30,000 in income taxes. This would roughly equal this family's share of the per capita cost of government.

Of course, the average American family does not have two $100,000 per year incomes. In reality the average income is $39,527. This generates nowhere near the needed per person level of taxation. (Of course, not all the cost of government is funded from taxes that come from individuals.)

The current level of spending is just crazy. The budgeting process comes down to a simple question of setting priorities.

In building a budget, the federal government must start with a different question. Instead of asking “how much does the government want to spend?” the first question MUST be “How much does the government have available to spend?” (This number is projected to be $2.63 trillion for the next fiscal year.) Then the federal government needs to work through a list of priorities on what it is going to fund. Some really good projects and programs may be left unfunded. However, the government simply cannot spend money it does not have.

I would like Obama and Congress to act like grown-ups and do their job of setting priorities and balancing the budget. However, if they can't, there is a simple solution. The 2008 budget proposed by Bush included projected spending of $2.9 trillion. We could start by cutting every department back to that level of spending. That would create 90% of the cuts that are needed. Then we can start looking for the other 10% in cuts that are needed. Sadly, Obama and Pelosi actually think over $1 trillion per year in deficits make them deficit hawks.

 


DESPITE HICCUPS, MARTIN LUTHER ACADEMY HAS BEEN GREAT EXPERIENCE

Posted 5/28/11

My oldest daughter, Shannon, is graduating from Martin Luther Academy this week. (MLA only goes to the 8th grade.) MLA has provided a great learning environment for Shannon and her younger sister, Anne.

The birth of MLA began in early 1997. Shannon was born that year. Todd Graves' oldest child, Katie, was born just three weeks before Shannon. In early 1997, Todd came to me and said “What do you think about starting a private school?” It seemed like a great idea to me, but we needed to study the concept. A steering committee was formed for that purpose by the three Lutheran churches in Platte County.

The steering committee had focus groups and did various analysis of the potential demand for a private school. The data indicated there was a great demand, but it seemed like a bigger project than three churches could take on. Then we met Steve Ewert. He was also interested in starting a school in the Northland. So, we joined forces, created an association and expanded the project to Clay and Platte Counties.

MLA initially opened in a leased building in the fall of 2003, but at the end of the lease MLA had to “temporarily” move to Christ Lutheran Church in Platte Woods. MLA was there for six and half years.

MLA has had ups and downs along with way. In 2002 land just north of 108th Street was purchased. This property was eventually traded for land just south of 108th Street.

However, the neighboring developer went under without completing the improvements he was required to make to his property to provide better access to the property. So MLA still can't use the property the way it would like.

Last year the association bought a church building at 7112 N. Overland Drive. The association renovated the building and added a gym. MLA moved in to the new building over Christmas break.

Despite the hiccups along the way, the school has been a great experience. There are hundreds of people who have worked to make the school a reality and who continue to work to make it an on-going success. I wish I could thank all of them by name, but the list is just too long. So, let me just thank a few.

First, thank you to Todd Graves. It was his idea in the first place. Without his inspiration, we would have never taken the first steps. Thank you to Pastor Krueger, who if he had nixed the idea at the outset it would have likely died right then. Thank you to Steve Ewert who was MLA's first board president. He provided a positive attitude even as the school went through some of its most challenging times. Also, MLA would not have gotten into its new building on budget without his efforts as “construction supervisor.” Thank you to Mary Smith. She served on the school's first board of directors. She stepped down this year after 11 years of service. She has been MLA's longest serving board member. She has provided strong leadership and a historical perspective for all of MLA's endeavors. Thank you to all of those who have donated time and talent to MLA. Without their perseverance, MLA would have never made it to this point.

Thanks especially to MLA's faculty and staff who have done so much to educate our children. MLA offers an exceptional academic product in a loving, Christian environment. In fact, the scores of MLA's student's national testing put MLA in the 97th Percentile. That's great!

Now don't get me wrong. I am an advocate of all forms education – public, private and home schooling. However, as my oldest daughter moves on to high school, I am especially thankful for the educational experience that MLA has been for her. I wish Shannon and all her friends well as they embark on the next chapter in their lives.

(James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


IT'S UP TO INDIVIDUALS TO ADDRESS THEIR OWN SITUATIONS

Posted 5/20/11

Plato, Missouri was the site of a big celebration this week. The U.S. Census Bureau has announced that Plato is the population center of the United States. Plato -- with a population of 109 -- is located in Texas County, which is in southern Missouri about halfway between Cape Girardeau and Springfield.

What caught my interest was not something from the speeches of Governor Jay Nixon or Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson. No. What caught my interest was an editorial from St. Louis Today entitled “What does Plato tell us about the state of poverty in nation?”

The premise of the article is that Plato, Texas County and much of rural Missouri is poor. In its analysis the article points to median household income figures of Texas County compared to the U.S. as a whole and Missouri as a whole. Some of this analysis is misplaced. The cost of living in other parts of the country and even other parts of Missouri is dramatically different. It costs a lot less to live in small town Missouri than other places.

The editorial also fails to consider that whether or not you are “rich” or “poor” is not necessarily something that can be measured in dollars. I grew up on a farm. It is a great place to raise a family. Money was something we were short of, but the quality of life was great even without the big dollars. However, the editorial does have a valid point that the folks in Plato are less well off financially than people in other parts of Missouri and other parts of America.

The concluding statements of the editorial are what bothered me. It said “Poverty is real. Our children are at risk. What are we willing to do about it?”

My objection to the concluding question is the emphasis on who is doing the acting: “What are we willing to do about it?” Once again the liberals on the editorial board of St. Louis Today miss the point. It is not up to us to address individual poverty. It is up to individuals to address their own situation.

The day after I read this editorial, I received my daily e-mail from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. In it was a quote from Les Brown. Brown said, “If you take responsibility for yourself you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams.”

Brown has it right. Achieving wealth or happiness, whether measured in dollars or by something else, is not up to someone else. It is up to each individual. Now I appreciate that the editorial board may point out that there are a lot of children who live in poverty through no fault of their own. However, the persons who are responsible for that situation are the parents of those children. These parents must accept responsibility for their situation and take steps to change it. Of course, these individuals may not want to take the steps to change their situation. If these individuals are not willing to take the steps to change their own situation, there is really little we can do for them.

The one thing we absolutely should not do is supplement the lifestyle of these individuals with government handouts with no expectation of them doing some sort of work for that financial support. I am a strong advocate for giving someone a “hand up” to help them through hard times. However, we can't let that “hand up” become a “handout” that essentially becomes a lifestyle choice funded by others. If we do that, we are not doing these individuals any favors. Instead we are dooming them to a life of dependency with little hope of that changing in their lifetimes or even their children's lifetimes. That is a disservice to these individuals. Also, it will not give them the American dream. Instead it will make them the American nightmare.

Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


CHANGING DISTRICT BOUNDARIES WON'T SAVE THE DEMOCRATS

Posted 5/13/11

The Missouri General Assembly has completed its redrawing of the Congressional District boundaries. (Redistricting for the State House and State Senate is just getting started.) The General Assembly passed a map and sent it to the Governor. The Governor vetoed the map. However, the map was quickly overridden by the General Assembly after the Republicans got four Democrat members of the House – with encouragement from Democrat Congressmen Cleaver and Clay -- to support the override.

Democrats are crying because Congressman Carnahan has been drawn into the same district with Clay. However, as a result of the new census figures, Missouri is dropping from nine Congressmen to eight Congressmen. So, at least two incumbent Congressmen were going to have to be drawn into the same district. Also, Clay's district was about 20% short of its population target. Clay did not want the district to look to the Republican-leaning areas to the north or west of his district for more people so he gladly accepted Democrat-leaning areas from Carnahan's district. Carnahan was already about 20% short of people. The loss of another 20% to Clay left him about 40% short of people. So, it makes sense that the remainder of Carnahan's under-sized district was divided up among the other districts to reach their population target.

The Democrat leaders in the General Assembly are also whining because they claim the new districts supposedly create six Republican and only two Democrat district. However, when applying the proper redistricting principles of “communities of interest,” where people with common interests are grouped into the same districts, the maps are appropriate because Missouri's Democrat voters seem to be heavily concentrated.

The problem for Democrats in Missouri is a national trend analyzed by Bill Bishop in his 2008 book entitled The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of America is Tearing Us Apart. Bishop has analyzed housing trends over the last three decades and concludes that Americans have been voluntarily separating themselves into more homogenous communities of like-minded people. The result is that Republicans and Democrats are clustering together. This is creating a trend of areas that consistently vote overwhelming for one party or the other.
This trend is clearly present in Missouri. Just look at the red and blue maps from the 2010 state-wide elections. (You can find these maps on the Missouri Secretary of State's website.) The map from the 2010 U.S. Senate race shows that the only counties that were won by the Democrat candidate were the Jackson County portion of Kansas City, the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County. The rest of the map is red.

The Democrats want to point to the close presidential election of 2008 as a basis for why a supposedly 6-2 map is unfair. Well they need to actually study the election results more carefully. Yes. McCain won Missouri by only 3,903 votes. However, Missouri was still geographically a very red state with Obama only winning the Jackson County portion of Kansas City, St. Louis City and Boone, Buchanan, Jefferson, St. Louis, St. Genevieve and Washington Counties. The other 108 counties were red. So, when you draw a constitutionally-mandated map that is “contiguous” and “compact as possible,” the Democrats have so heavily grouped themselves into the same general areas that they have voluntarily created the situation.

Of course, the real problem is that the ideas of the national Democrat party just don't sell well in Missouri. So, changing district boundaries wouldn't really save the Democrats. They need to change their platform to win.

Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

IT'S TIME TO STOP THE FLOW OF RED INK

Posted 5/5/11

There are moments that can change the course of history: a spring day in 1775 when a bunch of farmers and small townsfolk stood in a field in opposition to the most powerful military in the world, a hot summer in 1776 at a convention hall in Pennsylvania when the Declaration of Independence was hammered out, a few years later at another convention hall where the U.S. Constitution was drafted. We have a chance for another one of those historic moments this spring. There is an opportunity for America's greatness to be protected for the future.

What is that potential historic moment? It is the decision on whether to raise the debt ceiling for the federal government and what strings, if any, are tied to any increase in the debt ceiling.

I would prefer that no increase of the debt ceiling be allowed. However, I am also a pragmatist. I accept the reality of the difficulty in immediately cutting the current out-of-control spending by the federal government and the sudden jolt it might give to the weakened economy if Congress really would make the hard decisions that it needs to make about spending in a single fiscal year. Given this reality, I understand that some increase of the debt ceiling is regrettably necessary. However, even though some modest increase may be necessary to avoid too dramatic of a shock to the economy, any agreement to an increase of the debt ceiling should come with strings and limitations.

My first limitation would be that the first year's increase in the debt ceiling should be limited to the 2008 budget deficit, which was about $1 trillion less than the budget deficit for Obama's first year in office. Thereafter, small increases in the debt ceiling might be allowed for the next few years, but eventually no further increases should be allowed. In fact, we should probably have a requirement that the debt ceiling has to start shrinking.

The most important limitation is that no vote on the increase of the debt ceiling will occur until a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed by Congress as provided for under Article V of the Constitution. This balanced budget amendment might have a clause that permits the provisions of the balanced budget amendment to be ignored by Congress upon a two-thirds majority vote of Congress. This would allow flexibility for when an overwhelming majority in Congress believes that a crisis requires the federal government to borrow more money.

The political hypocrisy simply has to stop. For example, a couple of weeks ago a clip was played on the radio of the then-Sen. Obama being critical of increasing the debt ceiling as part of approving one of Bush's proposed budgets. I wanted to scream. Obama's proposed budgets for his first two years in office have increased the federal debt by more than all eight years of Bush's presidency.

Don't get me wrong. I'm mad at Bush and prior Congressmen for spending too much. However, their annual deficits are dwarfed by Obama's most recent plan to spend over 50% more than the government takes in.

I hope Congress takes this opportunity to “make history” and stop the flow of red ink. This is a huge deal! I truly believe that if the deficit spending does not stop that America will no longer be the greatest nation on earth. This single vote could determine whether America will remain a great nation or whether it will eventually go the way of the Greeks, the Romans and all the other collapsed civilizations. Regardless, history will be made.

(Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


DON'T LET EMOTIONS OVERWHELM JUDGMENT

Posted 4/29/11

The “Prime Directive” from Star Trek prohibits interference with the internal development of alien civilizations. This concept is not just one of modern science fiction. The idea is a concept dating back to the Peace of Westphalia, a treaty from 1648 that had as one of its essential principles the non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of another state. The principles of the Prime Directive and/or the Peace of Westphalia are important concepts when considering the appropriateness of the U.S.'s involvement in Libya and its role earlier this year in regime change in Egypt.

Libya has never been our friend. Under Khadafi's rule, Libya has been a sponsor of terrorism. However, when President Bush announced America's War on Terror and a policy to hold nations that harbor or support terrorists accountable, Khadafi fell in line and opened his country to UN inspectors and acted like he was changing his ways.

In Egypt, Mubarak was an elected leader. Mubarak was an ally to the U.S. in the first Gulf War and the War on Terror. We may not agree with how he operates his country domestically, but he has been a friend of the U.S.

Although the media frequently described the protesters in Egypt and the rebels in Libya as heroes, if you read between the lines, the media noted that many of the protesters were “unemployed youth,” which sounds a lot like unemployed rebel rousers. Also, although there were lots of protestors in the streets of Egypt and Libya, these protesters were still a very small part of the population. And, at least in Egypt, there were elections scheduled to be held in less than two years to choose new leaders.

Let's look at the situation in Egypt and Libya from a different perspective. Let's look at the anti-ObamaCare and Tea Party protesters as in the same role as the protesters in Egypt and Libya. Would we condone these protesters resorting to violence to get their way? Would we condone foreign support of these protesters including military strikes into our country in support of these protesters? I don't think so.

I will quickly concede that the unleashing of modern military power on a civilian population would have devastating consequences. It should not happen. As a husband and father, I would have a problem sitting on the sidelines and watching this happen if I had the full capacity of the most powerful military force in the world available at my beck and call to prevent it. However, let's ignore the emotional aspects for a minute. The question is whether the U.S. government should intervene based upon appropriate standards of international conduct?

Once again, I don't think so. Individual countries have a right to determine their own internal affairs. We should not interfere with the domestic matters of other countries if these countries are not threatening their neighbors. (I know at some point, Bush's invasion of Iraq was labeled as an effort to liberate the Iraqi people. I always viewed the invasion under its original purpose of sending in 250,000 weapons inspectors because Saddam was refusing to comply with the inspection requirements).

Khadafi and to a lesser extent Mubarak have not treated their people the way they should. I certainly do not want Khadafi slaughtering innocent civilians in the course of putting down a rebel uprising. An argument might be made that protecting innocent civilians is a legitimate exception to the Peace of Westphalia/Prime Directive. Maybe this is like when Kirk or Picard ignores the Prime Directive and risks court martial to pursue a “greater good” notwithstanding the legal question marks surrounding his actions. However, as Picard argues in the “Pen Pals” episode, “the Prime Directive is meant to prevent us from letting our emotions overwhelm our judgment.” Food for thought.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


OBAMA COATS HIS TOILET PLAN IN A WRAPPER OF 'HOPE'

Posted 4/22/11

Obama went into full campaign mode last week when he gave a speech at George Washington University on Wednesday. He needed to do so.

Obama and the Democrats are under enormous pressure from all of their potential voters. The freeloaders that live off the rest of us are crying about potentially losing some of their freebies and having to work for a living like the rest of us. The hard working middle class folks who sometimes vote for Democrats because they are deceived by the erroneous Democrat mantra that the Republican Party is for the rich people have figured out that the out of control spending by Obama is unsustainable and will eventually lead to the downfall of America.

Faced with all this pressure, Obama gave a very well crafted speech in which he appears optimistic about America, opposed to budget deficits while being opposed to cutting any “essential” spending.

Obama referred to some historical efforts at compromise. He referred to a compromise reached between the senior George Bush and the Democrats in Congress to raise taxes to keep the funding in place for our troops during the first Gulf War. [Of course, Obama fails to point out that those tax increases are the primary reason the senior Bush was a one term president.]

Obama blames Bush for the soaring deficits. Once again, Obama ignores the facts. The collective deficits run up during Bush's eight years in office are less than the deficits that Obama has run up in his first two years in office. Also, while saying he wants to cut spending, Obama actually proposes over $1 trillion (WITH A T!!) in deficits in his next budgets for multiple years into the future. Don't get me wrong. Bush and the Republicans who controlled Congress from 2001 – 2006 are not without blame. However, their out of control spending is dwarfed by what Obama has done in his first two years.

My fear is that Obama might just get away with it. I see it as very possible that Obama gets a second term. Obama is a brilliant campaigner. He can tell people he's going to spend America into a deep hole that will eventually destroy our country, but he has the ability to say it with such charm and poise that those voters that make up the squishy middle may just fall for his claims to want to cut the deficit.

One thing that will help him get away with it is his carefully chosen words. When he talks about raising taxes, he claims to only want to raise taxes on “the rich” or “millionaires and billionaires.” Of course, his plan is to raise taxes on anyone who makes over $200,000.

If you really listen carefully to what Obama is saying, he lays out his plan to make America a much more socialistic or even communistic country. He wants to take money from one group of people and give it to another. He said the same things in the 2008 campaign and crazy freeloaders flocked to him because “Obama is going to pay my mortgage and pay for my groceries.” (Do you remember the interview with the near-orgasmic woman from the big event right before the election?) He coats this plan to flush America down the toilet in a wrapper of “hope.” Unless people really pay attention, he just might achieve his goal.

(Send email to jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


IT'S NOT A 'CUT' SINCE 'IT' WAS NEVER IN PLACE

Posted 4/15/11

As usual the “big” media outlets are inaccurately describing a political issue when they are “reporting” on the federal government's budget crisis. They continue to fail to identify the real culprits in this crisis and fail to accurately describe what they are calling “cuts.”

The federal budget cycle runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. So, the current budget year began on Oct. 1 of last year and is set to expire on Sept. 30 of this year. Of course, the media does not want to point this out because that would squarely put the blame on this crisis where it belongs.

The current budget year began before the 2010 elections. Congress should have adopted a budget early in 2010. However, even if Congress didn't adopt a budget until the last day of the prior budget year, the budget should have been adopted more than a month before the 2010 elections.

Why was the budget not adopted before the current budget year began? The answer is simple. The Democrats in control of Congress failed to do their most basic function--adopt a budget. Of course, the Democrats didn't want to adopt a budget. The reason is that if they did, they would have likely been beaten up even worse in the November election cycle.
The media needs to be accurate about placing blame for why there is not a budget. When the Democrats controlled Congress they failed to adopt a budget. The Democrats had a significant majority in the House. Democrats in the Senate were just shy of a filibuster proof majority. And, no filibuster was attempted to block the budget. No. The failure to adopt a budget falls entirely at the feet of former Speaker Pelosi and former Senate Majority Leader Reid and their Congressional majorities. The media needs to make this clear.

The media is also mislabeling the process of what is going on now with the various continuing resolutions to keep the government in operation without actually adopting a budget for the full fiscal year. The media is continuously referring to “cuts” being made. This is completely inaccurate. There is no budget so nothing can possibly be ‘cut!’ It may be that the continuing resolution approves less money for spending on particular items than was in Obama's proposed budget for this budget year or for that same item in the prior year's budget. However, nothing is being cut if it has not been approved yet.

This whole situation is outrageous to me! The most basic function of the legislature is to adopt a budget for the current fiscal year. The legislature can argue about guns, gays, abortion or other “hot button” political issues. However, no resolution of these issues has to be reached in any given year. The one piece of business that absolutely must be addressed each year is the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. And, it should be required that this is resolved before the fiscal year begins or the government does not have authority to spend any money.

The short term resolution reached last week on the budget is only a stop gap measure. The budget fight will continue. Although I am passionate about many of the social issues, this budgetary fight will decide whether America continues to be a great nation or whether it declines into oblivion.

The first question is a simple one. Is the government going to continuing to spend more than it takes in? If it does, the federal government and the nation will eventually collapse. It is simple math. Unlimited deficits are not sustainable. But, as this debate goes on, don't be misled by the “not so mainstream” media's explanation of who is to blame for the current crisis and whether anything is actually a “cut.”

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


VOTING BY MAIL SYSTEM WOULD BE A BAD IDEA

Posted 4/7/11

The talk continues for the prospect of early voting and/or voting by mail. This idea is based on good intentions, but it is a really bad idea.

First, such a system has a tremendous prospect for fraud. Without photo ID it is hard to control fraud when people physically show up to vote. Just imagine how bad it would be if the voters didn't even have to show up at the polls.

Second, early voting will dramatically disrupt political campaigns. People pushing such an idea must have no concept of how political campaign works. Let's focus on a “little” campaign (i.e., something well below a major state-wide campaign). If you are running for county clerk or some similar office, you start your campaign nine months to a year before election day. About six to eight months before the election you start going door to door and hitting every parade and chili supper in your district that comes along. As the election gets closer you hit up all your friends and family to run a phone bank in the few weeks right before the election. One purpose of those phone calls is to find yard sign locations. Two weeks to 10 days before election day you go out and put up your hard signs. You don't have much money so you only can send one piece of mail and you may have to target your voters because you can't send it to every household. You generally send that piece of mail sometime during the last week before the election. The whole campaign is a crescendo that ends on election day. If the early voting advocates get their way, the mail for these candidates would not reach voters before they vote. That is simply wrong.

I will admit that early voting for something like president or a major state-wide office could occur with a minimal disruption of the campaign process. However, these campaigns are designed to reach a crescendo on election day. Even well funded below-governor statewide campaigns often only have enough money for one or two weeks of TV advertising. So, even these statewide candidates could be virtually unknown to the voters.

If the desire is to address the inconvenience of voting, then the number of election days could be reduced. There are too many “secret” elections at this point. Elections could be limited to April, August and November. No more secret February, June or October elections that few voters know about. (The Kansas City primary might be the one exception to this voting schedule.)

On occasion, some folks have trouble getting to the polls.That is what absentee ballots are for.I got called out of town at the last minute for business one April and realized I was going to miss the election. I just ran by the election board's office and cast my ballot on the way out of town. Or just this week I had to go to Jeff City on Tuesday. I just went to vote soon after the polls opened at 6 a.m. and then headed out of town. It really wasn't that difficult.
When I go vote it never adds more than 20 minutes to my morning.I take my girls to school in the morning. I make them be ready a little earlier than usual. We go to our polling place, which is actually in the opposite direction of the school, cast a ballot and still get to school in plenty of time. This trip to the polls before school is actually an important training experience for my girls.

I know the early voting advocates mean well, but they need to quit complaining about the convenience of voting. It is a privilege to vote. It is our civic duty. It really isn't that hard for all of us to vote on the same day. Just go and cast your ballot and stop complaining.

(James Thomas is an active Republican who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


RECRUITING IS KEY TO SUCCESS IN LOCAL POLITICS

Posted 4/1/11

Let me throw out a radical idea: Local elections should be partisan.

I'll be the first to admit that pot holes and waterlines are not Democrat or Republican. Law enforcement is not and never should be administered based upon whether the victim or the criminal is a Democrat or a Republican. Reading, writing and arithmetic are universally necessary objectives of our public schools regardless of party affiliation.

All of that is true. However, there is something that is severely missing when there are no organized parties involved in the process of recruiting and electing candidates for the elected positions that will deal with pot holes, waterlines, law enforcement and education.

I have told people for years that the most important work the Republican Party does to win elections is not done during the last few weeks before the election. The most important work we do is done a year or more before the actual election. That most important work is recruiting.

Not all political parties approach it the same way, but the Platte County Republican Party has generally taken a very deliberate approach to recruiting. For most of the election cycles for the last 16 years, the local party has had an active recruiting effort. We typically start working on recruiting for the next election cycle even before the current election cycle is over. It is not an easy task. It is really hard to find well qualified people who are willing to give up much better paying positions in the private sector to serve their community. (The difference for Democrat recruiters is that the kind of candidates they look for actually get a pay raise by going to work for the government.) We have to find people at the right stage of their lives that can run for office (e.g., no children at home or a spouse who can financially supplement their public service). It is even more difficult to find people willing to deal with the challenges that often come up during the campaign.

Sometimes our recruiting efforts don't produce the best candidates. Sometimes the best candidate just “comes out of the blue” and volunteers. However, the point is that the local Republican party does have an on-going effort to recruit high quality candidates for office. That is why Platte County has become more and more Republican. We have been able to recruit better people to run on our ticket.

The lack of recruiting not the partisanship is what is missing in local elections. Although this was before my time, I have read the history of the breaking of the Pendergast machine. A local group of citizens got together and recruited candidates to run for city elections. This organization didn't stop with recruiting. It then supported the candidates it chose.

These types of political organizations continue today. The Citizens Association and Forward Kansas City, a Northland specific group, are examples of these types of organizations. However, there is one major difference. These organizations do not actually recruit candidates and raise their own money to help their slate win. Instead they generally just screen candidates and make recommendations.

That is the missing piece. There need to be political organizations that recruit for local elections, like city council and school board, and then provide resources to get those candidates elected. These organizations need to be made up of the “good government, civic leader” types that used to play a prominent role in local politics many years ago.

So, while I am not advocating that we have “Ds” and “Rs” on the ballots for candidates for city council, water district and school board, there is a great need for a return of the active political organizations that function like political parties in the recruitment and support of candidates. Otherwise, we’ll continue to get generally weak candidates those of us in KC had in this last election cycle.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com


EARNINGS TAX SUPPORTERS BASICALLY SAYING 'TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT'

Posted 3/25/11

There is an old country song with a line that goes “Take this job and shove it. I ain't working here no more.” That song should be the theme song for those supporting the earnings tax in Kansas City since that is what the advocates of the tax are saying to people who may want to work in Kansas City but who don't like paying the earnings tax.

In November a statewide ballot initiative prohibited any additional cities from imposing an earnings tax and required the Kansas City and St. Louis earnings taxes to be reconsidered by the voters every five years. In Kansas City the earnings tax is a 1% tax on the gross wages of individuals or 1% of the net profits earned by a business in Kansas City.

The first vote on whether or not to retain the earnings tax in Kansas City will be held on April 5. If the earnings tax is eliminated, it will be phased out over five years.

If you believe the proponents of the earnings tax, the world will come to an end if the earnings tax is not extended for five years. They have tried to scare people with threats of cutting services like no snow removal. (Those of you who live in the city limits are probably chuckling right now as you think “What snow removal?”)

Let's look at some real numbers from the City's website. The 2010-11 budget projects earnings taxes of $189 million out of a $1.225 billion budget. So, contrary to the claims of earnings tax proponents, the earnings tax is only a little more than 15% of the total budget. The proponents will say that the total budget is the wrong number to look at and say that you need to only look at general revenue. General revenue is $520 million. The earnings tax is 38% of this number.

In fairness to the tax lovers, the elimination of the earnings would have a significant impact on the budget. However, what we are really talking about is reducing overall spending by 3% for each of the next five years. So, while this would be a challenge, it certainly would not be the end of the world.

A key complaint about the earnings tax is that it discourages people from living and working in Kansas City. A real life example comes from my first year as a lawyer over 20 years ago. At the time, the highest first year lawyer salary in Kansas City was $52,000. Of the lawyers in my class, the ones who worked in the Johnson County office had a higher net income. They didn't have to pay $520 in earnings tax and almost $1,000 for parking that those of us in the Crown Center office had to pay. This approximately $1,500 in additional net income was a 3% difference in net pay. While this isn't a huge deal, it is certainly a reason to not want to work in Kansas City. Furthermore, when you can work 10 minutes from your nice home in the suburbs and don't have to fight the traffic to come to the “big city,” working outside the city limits of Kansas City is an added plus.

The advocates for the earnings tax have actually made the opponents' argument for them. Dan Confran, one of the advocates' spokesmen, said on more than one occasion that if someone doesn't want to pay the earnings tax then “don't work here.”

Point made. If you don't like the earnings tax, then don't work in Kansas City. So, advocates of the earnings tax are saying “Take your job and shove it” (or move it) to anyone who is considering working in Kansas City. It sure makes Platte City, Parkville, Riverside, Platte Woods and anywhere else in our community outside the city limits of Kansas City even more appealing.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com


IN KANSAS CITY, GOOD LUCK PICKING THE 'LEAST BAD' CANDIDATES

Posted 3/18/11

For those who live within the city limits of Kansas City, it is very disappointing to go vote. When voting in the City primary, there were a few races where I stopped and asked myself, “Do I really have to vote for one of these losers?”

In one of the at-large council races I had met one of the candidates the week before. He was obviously in over his head and had very limited knowledge of how Kansas City government operates. However, I still voted for him because the other candidate did know how city government worked and I did not like the things this person was doing on the council.

After the primary, Alan Dillingham, a candidate for the Second District At-Large seat, visited the Greater Kansas City Pachyderm Club. He gave a great presentation and talked about his goal of restoring appropriate conduct at City Hall. I commented to him after the meeting that it is humorous to consider that if he is elected he would probably be the youngest councilman currently serving, but he would still be the most adult-like in the group.

We talked about why he would want to be involved with City politics since you have to “work with children.” He said that good people have to get involved or else only the bad people will run the city. Dillingham was right. However, the problem is that you actually have to be able to win the election.

Kansas City is really a one party town. Although the races are technically non-partisan, they are dominated by Democrats or at least unaffiliated tax and spend liberals. There are six in-district council positions that are only voted on by the voters in that district. There are six at-large council positions that are voted on by the whole city. So, all of the at-large candidates have to win in the very-Democrat south of the river areas. I predict that Dillingham will win north of the river, but lose south of the river where his fiscally responsible “grown up” message will not appeal to the Democrat-dominated precincts.

I am really torn between Mike Burke and Sly James in the mayor's race. Mike Burke is a Northlander. That is a plus. Also, when I served with him on the City's Public Improvements Advisory Committee, he did a good job of running the meetings. However, I am little puzzled about why the City's Port Authority has felt the need to pay Burke's law firm over $3.3 million in fees over the last 11 years. Furthermore, he is cut from the same mold and even endorsed by Kay Barnes. Barnes was bad for Kansas City. She ran up huge amounts of debt on big ticket items that we didn't really need. Burke would likely be more of the same.

On the other hand,James said at a candidate forum that he doesn't really know much about the Northland and only really comes north of the river to go to the airport. So, while his fresh ideas would be great for the city, his total lack of knowledge of the Northland could be a serious problem for those of us who live in the “good” part of Kansas City. (I use “good” to refer to our part of Kansas City in part because it is true and also because Yael Abouhalkah of the Kansas City Star refers to the south of the river portion of Kansas City as “Kansas City proper.”)

Of course, there is a solution for us. We could de-annex the portion of Kansas City that is north of the river and become “The Northland.” Of course, those in “Kansas City proper” will never let us go. They like our money too much.

So, good luck picking the best (or least bad) candidates on March 22. With a few exceptions, like Dillingham, it is slim pickin's.

(Email local Republican leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


CUT TO HEAD START SHOULDN'T BE LABELED AS 'OUTRAGEOUS'

Posted 3/11/11

A column by E.J. Dioinne Jr. in the Washington Post on Monday caught my eye. If you get a chance to read it, you should take it. You can find it at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/06/AR2011030602925.html.

The point of Dioinne's column is that House Speaker Boehner is in a great negotiating position when it comes to the budget. He can go to budget meetings with the Democrats and give the outward appearance of being the calm person in the room while blaming the freshman Republicans, which have been referred to as “a band of wild-eyed bomb-throwing freshman,” for his need to hold a stronger negotiating position. This is not a new way of negotiating. There are many instances where one party holds themselves out as the reasonable party while another party on the same side of the negotiation makes ridiculous demands to get the party on the other side of the negotiation to come to some sort of common ground.

What is disturbing about Dioinne's column is that he seems so willing to label some of the proposed cuts as “outrageous” without further consideration as to how the money is being spent. His specific quote is:

Begin with the outrageous $1.1 billion, 15 percent cut from Head Start, a program that offers preschool education to roughly 965,000 poor children. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, this would knock 218,000 kids out of Head Start and force 16,000 classrooms to close.

Let's break this down. A 15% cut to the Head Start budget of $1.1 billion would mean that the budget for Head Start is $7.33 billion. ($1.1 billion divided by 15%.) If this $7.33 billion budget funds the participation of 965,000 children, then that means that Head Start is spending $7,671 per child in the program. ($7.33 billion divided by 965,000 children.)

My belief is that education and a loving and supportive home are the two most important things to help people avoid poverty and live meaningful and productive lives as adults. I taught my own children to read before they went to Kindergarten because I know that reading is so important. I accept that I am “smarter than your average bear” and that I also had the resources to buy my kids books and other materials to help them learn to read. I know that everyone is not as fortunate yet. So I whole-heartedly support programs that focus on educating children so they can “lift themselves up by their bootstraps” and make their own lives better and their future children's lives better. That means that even a conservative like me feels “warm and fuzzy” about programs like Head Start.

Although I strongly endorse the stated goal of Head Start, I really have concerns about the cost per student for this program. Does it really take $7,671 per child? I mean my kids' private school spends less than that for elementary school deduction. My daughter's high school tuition is only going to be $7,000 next year. Even the big spending Park Hill and Platte County school districts will only spend about twice that figure for their full time education programs.

Mr. Dionne is wrong to so quickly label the $1.1 billion cut as “outrageous.” Sure Head Start has a great stated purpose. I don't really think the federal government should be in the education business. However, let's ignore that for a minute that education is something that should be left to the states. The real question is should it really cost $7,671 per child for the Head Start program? I don't think so. That is an excessive amount to be spending even though this is certainly a worthy although probably not constitutionally appropriate mission for the federal government to pursue.

(Send email to jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


MISSOURI WILL BE LOSING ONE OF ITS CONGRESSIONAL SEATS

Posted 3/3/11

Last week the Census Bureau released population for five more states, including Missouri. As has been anticipated, Missouri's population did not grow as quickly as some other states so it will be losing one of its nine Congressional seats.

When you take Missouri's population of just under six million and divide by eight, it means that the new Congressional districts will need to include approximately 750,000 people. To be more precise, the actual number target population number is 748,616. This is a dramatic increase in size from the approximate 622,000 population per district from when the lines were re-drawn after the 2000 census.

Here is a breakdown of the current population of each Congressional District and the change in population that will be needed:

District Current Population Adjustment Needed
01 587,069 161,547
02 706,622 41,994
03 625,251 123,365
04 679,375 69,241
05 633,887 114,729
06 693,974 54,642
07 721,754 26,862
08 656,894 91,722
09 684,101 64,515

Right now the 1st, 3rd and 5th Districts are held by Democrats. The 1st and 3rd are in St. Louis. The 5th is a substantial portion of Jackson County and a little bit of Cass County. The 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th are all held by Republicans.

The speculation is that the 3rd District is the district that will be drawn out of existence. (The districts will obviously be renumbered after being redrawn so that our own 6th District could very likely have a different number in the future.) Russ Carnahan currently is the Congressman from the 3rd District. The speculation that this district will be drawn out of existence is in part because the Republicans have greater control when it comes to drawing the lines. However, there is also a very practical reason that the 3rd District is probably the one to be eliminated. The 3rd District is 123,365 people short of the target. The 1st District is 161,547 people short of its target. The thought is that the 1st District will be expanded into the third to address its population shortfall. Then the rest of the 3rd district will be carved up between the 2nd, 8th and 9th to get to the right population numbers.

Since the per district size of each Congressional District has jumped so dramatically, our own 6th District will need another 54,642 people. Currently the 6th District reaches into Jackson County. If the boundaries of the 5th District were to begin with all of Jackson County, then the 6th would have to pick up what it loses in Jackson County as well as this 54,642. Since the 6th currently takes in all of northwest Missouri, the 6th would have to move eastward.

The challenge for those of us in Platte and Clay Counties is how does the 5th District get redrawn. This district needs to pick up 114,729 more people. Even if the 5th District is expanded to include all of Jackson County, which has a population of 647,000 people, the 5th will still need to find another 100,000 people. The line drawers could look north of the river for these additional people. Let's hope not. I sure like having Sam Graves as my Congressman.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


'NORMAL' PEOPLE ARE DEMANDING LESS SPENDING

Posted 2/24/11

I would like to direct you to a column entitled “The Politics of the New Middle America” by E. J. Dionne published on February 15, 2011 by The American Prospect. You can find the article on-line at http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_politics_of_the_new_middle_america. The article is subtitled: “In 2010, disaffected voters didn't embrace the Republican vision. They looked in vain for the Democratic one.”

I don't believe the subtitle is entirely true. I don't believe that voters “looked in vain” for the Democratic vision. To the contrary, I think voters ran away from the Democratic vision of out of control spending, government takeover of major components of the health care system, more government regulation and higher taxes. I do agree that voters probably didn't “embrace the Republican vision.”The voters probably did embrace the espoused Republican vision, but I'm not sure the voters really believed that Republicans would fully deliver on that vision.

I would be one of the first to express frustration with Republicans in Washington and elsewhere over the last few years. Congressional Republicans “talked the talk” about cutting spending in the early to mid-2000s, but continued to rack up big deficits. For example, the last budget adopted by a Republican-controlled Congress was the fiscal 2007 budget that included a $342 billion deficit. That means the Republican budget spent $342 billion more than the government collected. However, this pales by comparison to the Democrats spending $1.6 trillion (with a T!) more the budgeted revenue in the most recent budget.

Just look at what the Democrat-controlled Congress did to the national debt. When the Democrats took control of Congress after the 2006 elections, the national debt was just under $8.7 trillion. Four years later when the Republicans re-took control of the U.S. House, the national debt had ballooned to almost $13.9 trillion. That is a jump in the national debt of almost $5.2 trillion or almost 60% in just four years.

“The Politics of the New Middle America” explores the Democrats efforts to put together a winning coalition made up of a new majority on the basis of well-educated middle- and upper-middle-income white voters allied with African Americans, Hispanics, and the young. This coalition is really a linking of the two opposite ends of the socio-economic ladder. On one end are the limousine liberals who think they know more than other people and should make decisions for the benefit of others. On the other end are the financially less well-off. What is missing from the new Democrat model is the huge chunk of “normal folks” in the middle.

The article blames the shifting in the election outcomes from 2006 and 2008 to 2010 upon Democrats losses among “white working-class voters” shifting from a 10% loss to a 30% loss. These folks are the folks that Obama would say are “bitter” and “clinging to their guns and their religion.” Obama is right. There is clearly a component of the electorate who are dissatisfied with the direction he and his Democrat buddies are taking this country. They do not want the government spending 73% more than what it collects in a given year. These folks are not the Ivy League-educated snooty-types, but they are still smart people that can do basic math. You cannot spend more money than you take in year after year. It simply won't work. Eventually, you have to pay for that over spending.

Hard-working Americans, “white working-class voters,” the “normal” people have not abandoned the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party has simply adopted policies that are contrary to common sense and everything these people believe in. Now Republicans must deliver on their promises of less spending to keep these “normal” people as part of their election-winning coalition. All I can say is, they'd better.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


OBAMA'S STATEMENTS ABOUT THE BUDGET ARE FRAUDULENT

Posted 2/18/11

Just five weeks ago I wrote that former Speaker of the House and now Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was either “. . . seriously 'math challenged' or . . . simply delusional.” This was my response to Pelosi's statement that “Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go . . .” even though the Pelosi-led Congress raised the national debt by nearly $5.2 trillion (with a T!) or almost 60% in just four years. President Obama seems to be suffering from the same disorder that is afflicting Pelosi.

In his weekly Saturday address, Obama had the audacity to use a reference to a Missouri teacher's personal sacrifices to fund her daughter's education during the economic downturn to say that the government must now make difficult decision to reduce its debt, while still investing in education for a better future. These are great words. I agree with them. However, you actually have to look at the reality of what Obama is proposing rather than the flowery language he uses to describe his proposed 2012 budget.

Obama's Saturday speech was a prelude to the release of Obama's proposed budget for 2012 on Monday. The federal deficit is expected to increase to $1.65 trillion this fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2010-Sept. 30, 2011), according to the Obama administration's proposed budget for fiscal 2012 that was scheduled to be released on Monday. This is an even bigger deficit than the most recent Congressional Budget Office estimate of $1.48 trillion. Obama's proposed budget for fiscal 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011--Sept. 30, 2012) calls for $3.73 trillion in government spending in fiscal 2012, which is $1.1 trillion (with a T!) more than projected revenues for fiscal year 2012.

In his speech on Saturday Obama said, ““So, after a decade of rising deficits, this budget asks Washington to live within its means, while at the same time investing in our future. It cuts what we can't afford to pay for what we cannot do without. That's what families do in hard times. And that's what our country has to do too.”

Living within its means?!?!? Spending $1.1 trillion more than the projected revenues of $2.63 trillion is deficit spending of 42% for the current year. That is cutting what we can’t afford to pay for?!?!?!

Let's state this in terms that we can all understand. Let's say I give each of my daughters $100 to go spend on clothing. They go shopping and each spend $142. To Obama, my daughters would be living within their means. That's crazy!

We are long overdue for a balanced budget amendment. If Obama really wants the federal government to do “what families do,” then he needs to get on board with a constitutional amendment to require the federal government to operate with a balance budget. Republicans pushed a balanced budget amendment after taking control of the U.S. House after the 1994 elections. The proposed amendment actually was passed by the House before dying in the Senate.

I would like to pretend that our elected leaders in Congress can act like grownups and not spend money we don't have. However, they can't. So, there needs to be a balanced budget amendment to keep them from spending the future generations into insurmountable debt.
At the same time the American people and the media need to refuse to accept the ridiculous rhetoric of politicians who speak of the government “living within its means” and “cutting what we can't afford to pay for” when they are proposing massive deficit spending.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


REAGAN AND HIS '77 SPEECH AN INSPIRATION TO MANY TODAY

Posted 2/11/11

Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan! If he were still living, Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 on Sunday, February 6. As I have written before, Ronald Reagan is probably my favorite president of all time. He has inspired me and so many of my friends.

I was in sixth grade when Reagan ran for president in 1976. That year the convention was in Kansas City. My mom and I stayed up watching the tally for the presidential nomination. I kept hoping that somehow Reagan would be able to find the votes he needed to win. He narrowly lost the nomination to incumbent President Gerald Ford. After the vote, Reagan was strongly encouraged to come to the floor to give a speech. There have been many reports of convention delegates saying “We just nominated the wrong guy” after hearing that speech. ord, of course, ended up losing to Jimmy Carter in November.

Reagan didn't give up after 1976. In fact, one of his most famous speeches is a speech he gave in 1977. I've heard it referred to as “The New Republican Party.”You can read it for yourself at reagan2020.us/speeches/The_New_Republican_Party.asp. In the speech Reagan talks about how a majority of Americans are conservatives. e advocates for uniting the “economic conservatives” and the “social conservatives” to present a united front on conservatism. I have read the speech many times. The concluding lines of that speech have provided great inspiration to me:

“Our task now is not to sell a philosophy, but to make the majority of Americans, who already share that philosophy, see that modern conservatism offers them a political home. We are not a cult, we are members of a majority. Let's act and talk like it.

“The job is ours and the job must be done. If not by us, who? If not now, when?

“Our party must be the party of the individual. It must not sell out the individual to cater to the group. No greater challenge faces our society today than ensuring that each one of us can maintain his dignity and his identity in an increasingly complex, centralized society.

“Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business, galloping inflation, frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite.

“Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people. Any organization is in actuality only the lengthened shadow of its members. A political party is a mechanical structure created to further a cause. The cause, not the mechanism, brings and holds the members together. And our cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America's spiritual heritage to our national affairs.

“Then with God's help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us.”

This February 1977 speech is seen as the foundation of the New Republican Party.
There are many inspiring aspects of Ronald Reagan, his accomplishments and his service to our country. However, the things Reagan talked about in this speech are the principles that motivate so many of us and are the reason that so many of us are active in the Republican Party.

I was going to write about all the great accomplishments of Reagan and his policies. Instead, I think it is enough to say he inspired me and so many of my friends to service. Thank you and happy birthday, Mr. President!

(James Thomas is a Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


OBAMA NOW TRYING TO MIMIC CLINTON'S POLITICAL STRATEGY

Posted 2/5/11

With the winners of the 2010 elections having only taken the oath of office less than a month ago, attention has already turned to the 2012 elections. I predict that Obama will be very tough to unseat in 2012.

One reason Obama will be tough to beat is that he seems to have learned something from the 2010 elections and something from President Clinton's third and fourth years in office. Obama himself admitted that the Democrats took a shellacking in the 2010 elections. Obama could have simply ignored the public statement provided by the election results the same way he ignored the very vocal public objections to ObamaCare. Obama's approach to ObamaCare in the face of a huge public opposition: full speed ahead. Obama's response to the tax cut fight shows that he is willing to adjust his approach to get reelected.

When Obama first took office, he made statements about cooperating with Republicans on policy issues that went something like “Republicans are free to come along for the ride, but they will have to sit at the back of the bus.” After the 2010 elections, Obama quickly caved on the temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts. This was probably a strategic decision. If Obama had blocked the temporary extension of the tax cuts until after the new Congress was seated, the Republicans would have passed them any way, forced Obama to veto them and then he would be the “bad guy.” Even worse for Obama, if he had stood in the way, the Republicans would have probably pushed through a permanent extension of the tax cuts instead of a temporary one. Also, if the tax cuts had expired, it would have sucked billions of dollars out of the economy. This would almost certainly have led to a double dip recession, which would have likely doomed Obama's re-election chances. By postponing the expiration of the tax cuts, Obama has delayed the negative impact on the economy of the expiration of these tax cuts until after the next election cycle.

Obama has also been modifying his political rhetoric. Even though Obama is still advocating for massive amounts of new government spending, he at least is giving that spending a kinder, gentler label of “investment.” Don't be fooled. Obama is still a tax and spend liberal. He still believes in government mandated wealth re-distribution. He is just trying to re-form his public image from being an open socialist/communist. Obama even talks about reducing the deficit. Of course, these statements are made at the same time that he proposes massive spending increases so I'm not sure how he actually hopes to reduce the deficit.

After the Republican Revolution in 1994, Bill Clinton sufficiently reformed his public image to allow him to win a second term. Obama seems to be trying to follow that part of the Clinton strategy.

Clinton had something else going for him. Like Republicans often do, we nominated a presidential candidate because it was “his turn” to be the nominee for president even though he was the wrong person for that particular election cycle. If history teaches us anything, Obama can likely count on Republicans to do that again. The one hope is that the new conservative energy provided by the Tea Party movement will push the Republican Party to pick a solid and reliable conservative as its presidential candidate.

Sadly, the biggest challenge for all Republicans in 2012 will be whether the voters will support conservatives when it comes to making tough decisions on spending. The “squishy middle” abandoned Republicans when they tried to hold the line of spending in 1995. Will that happen again? I hope not. If the government doesn't stop spending so much money, we will all be doomed.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

EVEN GOVERNORS SHOULD BUCKLE THEIR SEAT BELTS

Posted 1/28/2011

A few days ago Governor Jay Nixon was in a car accident. The car he was riding in was rear-ended by another driver. (Imagine the embarrassment/concern of the driver of the other car when he found out that he not only hit a car that was driven by a highway patrolman, but that car also had the governor inside.) Nixon was taken to the hospital for some neck pain, but was released.

I was in a car accident right before Thanksgiving. The other driver was going too fast on a slick, narrow road when he popped over a small hill and found that his lane was blocked by a car attempting to turn left. He slammed on his brakes, skidded across the center line and banged in to me. My recent experience would make me feel sorry for the governor except for one thing: The governor was not wearing his seat belt.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't believe in the mandatory seat belt law. (The governor did not technically violate the seat belt law because he was in the rear seat of the vehicle so apparently he was not required to be wearing a seatbelt.) I think you should be free to not wear a seat belt. However, if you are a prudent and responsible person you wear your seatbelt at all times.

This isn't a difficult thing to address. My kids get it. Right before we leave the house, there are two questions that are asked. First, do you have everything you need for school/basketball/volleyball or whatever? Second, are you buckled? Only then do we back out of the garage and head down the road. On occasion, I will be messing with something in the front seat as we are heading down the driveway and be momentarily unbuckled or on the way home I might unbuckle about 200 feet before getting to the driveway because I am going to pull up to the mailbox and reach out to get the mail. I immediately get objections from my kids for not being buckled.

I 'm glad my kids were listening when I explained to them the importance of wearing a seatbelt. I have told them about Derrick Thomas' accident on that icy January Sunday. Thomas was driving his Suburban too fast and he and one of his two passengers were not wearing seatbelts. The passenger who was not wearing a seatbelt was thrown from the vehicle and killed. As we all know, Thomas eventually died from injuries suffered in the accident. The guy I point out to my kids is the passenger who was wearing his seatbelt. He was reportedly a little banged up, but walked away from the accident.

Even though I think you are an idiot if you don't wear your seatbelt, I don't think the government should make you. However, I would be fine with there being a legal rule that says if a party is injured in an accident and is not wearing a seatbelt, then that party cannot recover for his or her injuries from that accident unless the party can prove that the injuries could not have been avoided even by wearing a seatbelt.

It is the same idea that I have about motorcycle helmets. I think you would be crazy to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. However, I don't think we should have a law that says you have to wear one. The law should be that if you splatter your brains out on the pavement because you are not wearing a helmet then the party who caused the accident and the taxpayers should not have to pay for your medical bills or your disability unless it can be shown that the helmet would not have prevented your injuries.

I'm not a fan of Governor Nixon's policies, but I don't want to see anyone killed in an accident. So buckle up, Governor!

(Buckle your seat belt and email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


COUNTY MAKING RIGHT MOVES WITH 2011 BUDGET

Posted 1/21/2011

“There is a new sheriff in town.” No. Not really. But there is a new presiding commissioner in the Platte County Administration Building.

I knew that Jason Brown had conservative values. However, I was very concerned that, like other “allegedly” conservative commissioner candidates before him, Brown would not be able to be true to those conservative principles when he actually embarked upon the difficult task of governing and felt the pressure of everyone asking for money. Brown shows early signs of staying true to his conservative principles.

Monday night Brown and fellow commissioner Jim Plunkett came to the Platte County Republican Central Committee meeting to talk about the county's 2011 budget that will be adopted later this month.

Platte County can only budget to spend the amount of money it estimates it will receive for the year. It is true that the “guesstimation” of revenue is simply a guess. However, the idea is to make the best guess possible based upon the information that is available. For 2010 the sales tax revenues came in 3.3% over budget and the use tax revenues came in 10% under budget. The commissioners were nervous because the money they received from the Missouri Department of Revenue in January for sales taxes collected in November actually showed a 13% drop from last year's November sales tax collections. This put the commissioners scrambling to keep the budget under control.

Brown and Plunkett explained that the proposed 2011 budget calls for a reduction in general revenue spending. The 2011 budget projects a 5% decline in sales tax revenue and a 10% decline in use tax revenue. This meant that the 2011 budget had to be less than the 2011 budget by several hundred thousand dollars. Brown and Plunkett explained that the all of the officeholders were very cooperative with the budget cutting process. When the situation was explained to the officeholders they each came forward with items that could be trimmed from their budgets.

After delivering the budget cutting news Brown and Plunkett said “after the bad news, now for the good news.” There was a collective chuckle from the PCRCC members because for nearly all of them the idea that the county would spend less money in 2011 than in 2010 was good news. So, from a conservative perspective, the commissioners actually offered more good news. The commissioners explained that through under control spending in prior years, the budget called for placing $3 million into a narrowband radio fund to begin to fund the cost of the federally-mandated new emergency radio system. This unfunded mandate is going to become a huge issue. Commissioners are trying to get a jump on the anticipated budget burden.

This was the exact opposite of a PCRCC meeting I attended in January of 2004 when the then-commissioners were poised to adopt a budget that included a 17% increase in sales tax revenue despite the auditor's projection of only a 7% increase. The bloated revenue projection was necessary to cover all the anticipated spending so the then-commissioners ignored the auditor's projections. The PCRCC objected to the overly-optimistic revenue projections, but the then-commissioners ignored the PCRCC's feedback. The budget projections sparked a political war that resulted in the two junior commissioners up for election that year being replaced. (The actual sales tax figure for 2004 was a 7.7% increase over 2003.)

Less than a month into his term as presiding commissioner it is too early to tell if Brown will be able to stay true to his conservative principles. However, this action on the budget is certainly a good start.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


NANCY PELOSI IS EITHER MATH-CHALLENGED OR DELUSIONAL

Posted 1/13/2011

Democrats are crazy. Okay. Okay. That is an over-generalization. However, given last week's comments by Nancy Pelosi and the fact that Democrats have re-elected her as their leader, you do have to wonder about the sanity of Democrats who serve in Congress.

At her final press conference as Speaker of the House, Pelosi said “Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go.”ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!? Pelosi is either an unashamed liar or she has no connection to reality.

Pelosi became Speaker in January 2007 following the 2006 election cycle, which gave the Democrats control of the House. When Pelosi became Speaker, the national debt was $8,670,589,242.973.04 (i.e., almost $8.7 trillion). On Dec. 22, 2010 (i.e., the last day of the 111th Congress), the national debt was $13,858,529,371,601.09 (i.e., almost $13.9 trillion). That is a jump in the national debt of almost $5.2 trillion or almost 60% in just four years.

The ballooning of the debt is easy to explain. For fiscal 2007 the budget deficit for the year was $342 billion. For fiscal year 2010, the budget deficit was $1.6 trillion. So we went from a place where the Republican-controlled Congress was spending (at least) $342 billion more than it should to a place where the Democrat-controlled Congress was spending (at least) $1.6 trillion more than it should. That means Pelosi and her pals were over spending to the tune of nearly five times the rate of overspending by the Republican-controlled Congress.

There are only two possible explanations to Pelosi's comments. Either she is seriously “math challenged” or she is simply delusional.

When you look at her comments on ObamaCare, it leads one to think it may be a little of both. Pelosi still claims that ObamaCare will result in savings and reduce the deficit. There are some huge tax increases that are part of ObamaCare. These massive tax increases will offset some of the cost of ObamaCare. However, only in a delusional dream are even these huge tax increases enough to cover the increase costs of ObamaCare.

I know a lot of former Democrats, including my friend and fellow columnist Russ Purvis, who have chosen to leave the Democrat Party and become either independents or Republicans. These former Democrats just couldn't stand the insanity and/or stupidity of the leadership of the Democrat Party. I encourage those of you who have conservative values, but who are clinging to the Democrat label to do one of two things: Either leave your party and join us or get rid of the crazy people who are the leaders of your party.

If you do neither of those things and keep the same crazy leadership that promotes crazy liberal policies, you are actually doing me a favor as a Republican activist. As long as a nut-job like Nancy Pelosi is the spokesperson for your party, it improves the prospects for my team to keep on winning.

Even though keeping the crazy liberals that lead your party makes it easier for my team to keeping winning elections, please replace your delusional leadership. These liberal policies are bad for America. The federal government cannot keep spending money it doesn't have. Deficit spending can exist for short periods, but it cannot go on indefinitely. And pretending that you are a deficit hawk when you have actually ballooned the national debt by 60% in four years and the annual deficit by almost fivefold will not help America's economy or restore America's greatness. We--and more importantly, our children-- deserve better.

(Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


HERE’S WHAT THE VOTERS
ARE INTERESTED IN, AND
IT’S NOT COMPROMISE

Posted 1/10/2011

To start the New Year, political columnists often look into their crystal balls to predict the future. I would be the first to tell you that is very difficult to do in politics. Anticipating the outcome of the 2012 elections nearly two years out is extremely difficult.

For one thing, we don't know who the candidates will be. I'm fairly confident that Obama lead the national ticket for the Democrats. I don't have the slightest idea who will lead the Republican ticket.

There are lots of prospective candidates. Sarah Palin probably has bigger “star appeal” than anyone. The conservative grassroots folks would work their tails off for her. However, she has been bashed horrendously by the media so that she may not be an effective candidate. Also, her stepping down as governor in the middle of her term probably hurt her tremendously. alin is probably in the perfect spot right now. She is in a position to make a little money. She can influence elections and remain politically relevant by throwing her support behind select candidates without actually being the candidate. That may be the best place for her.

There are the “also rans” from 2008: Huckabee and Romney. Neither of them could overcome a lackluster McCain campaign in the primaries so I'm not sure how strong either of them is. Haley Barbour would make a great president. He did a great job as chairman of the RNC and has been an excellent governor. However, Barbour spent a few years as a lobbyist so that might hurt his chances. The rumor is that Next Gingrich is toying with the idea of getting in the race. I am a huge Newt fan. What he did with GOPAC and then with the whole “Contract with America” campaign was exceptional. I have read his books and he has a lot of great policy ideas. However, he has a number of skeletons in his closet so he is probably not electable. Hopefully, whoever is the candidate would include Gingrich on a policy team to help develop effective ideas for governing.

A couple of “lesser knowns” would make great candidates: Senator John Thune from South Dakota and Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana. Both of these guys have some great ideas. However, their name ID is still very low.

Whether Republicans are successful in 2012 is subject to several other things that are out of their control. The economy is sure to have a significant impact. My prediction is that the economy will have recovered from the deep slump during the beginning of Obama's term in office. However, I don't think the economy will be clipping along at full speed. The temporary fix of the new tax law should prevent a double dip recession. However, since the fix was only temporary, I predict that employers will slowly begin to hire back workers, but they will not hire all the workers they might need until there is more certainty with the tax law.

Another important factor is how do Republicans act and how do the voters react to how the Republicans act. In 1995 Republicans stood up against big spending. The spending fight reached an impasse that led to a government shutdown. Stopping big spending is what the voters said they wanted. However, the voters viewed Republicans as the bad guys when they tried to hold the line on spending. This public reaction is probably why so many Republicans lost their conservative roots and went on spending sprees to please their constituents. If the Republicans try to hold the line on spending again and the voters act this way in response, that will be very damaging to the fiscal conservative movement.

Then there is the most important factor. The Republicans have a history of nominating the wrong candidate (e.g., Ford, Dole and McCain). If history repeats itself, we will have another four years of Obama.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

For earlier columns click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FUNDAMENTALISTS VS. BIBLE MINIMALISTS

Posted 7/8/11

 


FUNDAMENTALISTS VS. BIBLE MINIMALISTS

Posted 7/8/11

One topic discussed in Bill Bishop's book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, is how a voter's position on one issue will dictate his or her position on many others.

I found this to be true a long time ago. I have always been “pro-life,” but I did not realize how significant this position was until I became actively involved in Republican politics. What I quickly discovered is that a candidate's position on abortion is a litmus test issue that will indicate that candidate's position on many other issues. I have noticed that anyone who would self-describe one's self as pro-life tended to be pro-gun, pro-business and anti-tax. To the contrary, if a candidate was self-described as “pro choice,” they were opposed to private gun ownership, viewed government and not private industry as the answer to every problem and supported every tax increase to ever be proposed. Now there were occasional exceptions, but in my experience these exceptions have been very few.

Bishop actually discussed a different question, but one that had a very similar pattern to the abortion question.

Before discussing this question, Bishop broke down church membership into two segments. One segment is what he calls Private Protestantism, which “promoted individual salvation and promised that personal morality would be rewarded in the next life.” The other segment is Public Protestantism, which said that “the way to God required the transformation of society.” Bishop notes that those who are Private Protestants essentially are Republicans and those who are Public Protestants are essentially Democrats.

Bishop refers to a study of the 2004 presidential election results by a political scientist at East Carolina University that indicates sorting people by their beliefs about the Bible is one of the most telling things about those persons' position on political issues. Bishop uses certain definitions. “Fundamentalists” are those that believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.

Fundamentalists accounted for nearly half of the voters in red states and only 28% of the voters in blue states. “Bible Minimalists” are those who believe that the Bible was the work of men and not God. The Bible Minimalists accounted for 12% of the voters in red states and 18% in blue states. “Moderates” are those who believe that the Bible was the Word of God, but shouldn't be taken literally. The Moderates accounted for 38% of the voters in red states and 53% of the voters in blue states.

The study didn't just look at whether Fundamentalists, Bible Minimalists or Moderates lived in red or blue states. The study looked at certain issues. For example, 80% of Fundamentalists opposed spending any government money on abortions. Three-fourths of Biblical Minimalists in blue states favored government spending for abortions. Nine out of ten Fundamentalists in red states opposed gay marriage. Three-fourths of Biblical Minimalists in blue states favored gay marriage.

The tracking of Biblical views and political issues was not limited to political issues that are tied to “faith” like abortion and gay marriage. The study also found that Fundamentalist supported the Republican agenda (e.g., a strong military and jobs over the environment) while Biblical Minimalists supported the Democrat agenda (e.g., less support a strong military and favoring the environment over jobs).

The study concluded that the 2004 election was “. . . not a culture war between red states and blue states, but rather a war between Fundamentalists and Biblical Minimalists within both red and blue states.” The study is not a surprise. It is something that I have seen for nearly two decades of participating in politics.

Next week will likely be the last week discussing The Big Sort. The topic is the Democrats’ primary problem: elitism.


PARTISANS ARE THE ONES WHO VOTE, DONATE AND WORK

Posted 7/2/11

In Bill Bishop's book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, Bishop notes that over the last 30 years Americans have voluntarily “sorted” themselves into “like-minded” communities so nearly half of all Americans live, socialize and worship with people of similar political ideologies. Bishop blames this “sorting” for what he sees as an ever increasing partisanship, whether Democrat or Republican, and extremism, whether liberal or conservative, in America.

Bishop traces significant influences for this sorting to the summer of 1965. Numerous events occurred in this time frame. Lyndon Johnson pushed Congress to create Medicare and Medicaid, the war in Vietnam escalated significantly, there were dramatic accomplishments and tragedies with the civil rights movement followed by the racial disaster of the Watts Riot. Bishop notes how all of these events led to a dramatic decline in the public's trust of government and of political parties.

Following the summer of 1965 Bishop notes that individuals began to shift their places of residence, church memberships and political allegiances to “like-minded” people. The fact that Bishop finds part of this odd is surprising to me. I would contend that clear differences between political parties is important to the viability and success of political parties. I know that many of my Republican allies became disenchanted and quit donating and volunteering when they felt that Republicans were simply becoming “watered-down” versions of the Democrats. (At the time it seemed they were right. However, after four years of a Democrat-controlled Congress hopefully everyone will remember that big spending Republicans can't even come close to Democrats in spending.)

Bishop complains that “sorting” is causing political parties to adopt more extreme positions. In part he is right. However, I would argue the difference is between “more distinct” positions rather than more “extreme” positions. For example, it would be very difficult for a pro-abortion, anti-gun, pro-tax candidate to survive in the Republican Party. Likewise, it would be very difficult for a pro-choice, pro-gun, anti-tax Democrat to survive in his party.
Before the 2008 election a friend and I were having lunch one day and he expressed concern that the Republican Party was too dominated by the pro-life forces. (He himself is a pro-life Catholic. He just happens to be a businessman who is more concerned with fiscal issues than social issues.) I quickly asked him how many dollars and how much time he had given to Republican candidates in the last election cycle. The answer to both was “None.” I told him he just proved my point.

After a hard-working candidate the next two most important things for a successful political campaign are volunteers and cash. As someone who helps raise money and who works with volunteers, I told him that the pro-life advocates are some of the best donors and the hardest workers in the Party. I agree with the position of the pro-life advocates, but even if I didn't, the Republican Party could not survive without their time and money.

I told my friend if he wanted to reduce the influence of the pro-life advocates he could do so by writing a check and volunteering his time.

Bishop reminisces that our “ninth-grade civics version of American democracy may have told us that as citizens come to understand both sides of an issue, they're emboldened by knowledge and set off to engage in the exciting work of self-government.” However, Bishop admits “that's not the way it works.” He notes that “hearing both sides of an issue – and seeing the gray in most questions – is the ticket to withdrawal.” As scientific studies have shown “partisans are the ones who vote and who donate to and work on campaigns.”

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


STUDY: PEOPLE OF A PARTY WILL ADOPT POSITIONS OF A PARTY

Posted 6/24/11

I already finished the book I started last week: The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. Even though the author was clearly an “off the deep end” liberal, he was a very good writer and his bias only came through on a few occasions. As I mentioned in last week's column, the basic premise of Bishop's book is that over the past 30 years Americans have voluntarily “sorted” themselves into “like-minded” communities so that by 2004 nearly half of all Americans lived in “landslide counties,” which Bishop defines as counties where the voters go for one presidential candidate or the other by over 20 percentage points.

Bishop's concern with this “sorting” is reflected in the subtitle to his book “Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart.” One of Bishop's themes is that there is an ever disappearing “middle.” Instead there is an “Us” and a “Them.” This separation into various “camps” and actually living around and socializing with only like-minded people is creating an ever more partisan approach to politics. Bishop views this partisanship as destructive to well-reasoned political discourse and the developing of solutions to society's problems.

Bishop doesn't just rely on antidotal evidence. He discusses several scientifically conducted studies. These studies found that where a people are grouped together with other like-minded people they will arrive at a more extreme, whether more liberal or more conservative, group position than the average position of the individual members of the group. The studies indicate where a group of like-minded people are put together for the purpose of discussing an issue, they seem to “over adopt” the position of the group. This may be an effort to fit in or it may be that the more extreme participants are able to pull more people closer to their position when the members of the group start on the same general side of an issue.

Bishop also discusses studies that show that people of a particular party will adopt the positions of their party even if these positions were not previously held. I am reminded of a story that former U.S. Senator Jim Talent once told me about former Congress Dick Gephardt. Talent and Gephardt apparently grew up not far from each other. They came from families with similar values. Talent also said that Gephardt used to be “pro-life.” However, when Gephardt wanted to rise to a position of prominence in the Democrat Party, he switched to the “pro-abortion” position of the national Democrat party. The reverse happened with our former State Representative/Senator Charlie Shields. He was originally pro-abortion, but early in his political career switched to being pro-life. This may have been a moment of enlightenment or simply an important strategic move for political survival. Regardless of the reason, Shields shifted to conform to his party's position.

I have personally experienced this “shifting” in ideology. I have always believed that the Second Amendment had meaning and importance, but it did not used to be a “hot button” issue for me. However, during my years of being involved in politics the importance of the Second Amendment to me as a political issue has dramatically increased. I now truly appreciate the risk of liberals trying to take away the guns and freedoms of hard-working honest Americans. (In reality my attitudes probably didn't actually “shift,” but instead I simply developed a deeper appreciation of this particular issue.)

The place where Bishop's liberal bias slips out is where he refers to Congress as “do nothing” because it has failed to increase the minimum wage, address global warming and other liberal causes. Bishop blames the “sorting” for the “deepening pool of discord” that has prevented Congress from passing legislation on these issues. As a conservative, I actually see it as a victory that Congress has not passed new laws to deal with these issues.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


DO FOLKS VOLUNTARILY MOVE TO AREAS OF LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE?

Posted 6/18/11

This weekend I started a new book: The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. I was very interested in reading this book because I had already read a few excerpts from the book on-line. The basic premise of Bishop is that housing patterns over the last 30 years have shown that Democrats are moving into Democrat neighborhoods and Republicans are moving into Republican neighborhoods.

When I first started the book, I was not sure I was going to like it. The author made it clear that he was an “off the deep end” liberal. He described his house hunting exercise when he relocated to Austin. Things that appeal to him in his neighborhood would be disturbing to someone like me. For example, soon after the beginning of the Iraq War Bishop's neighborhood protested by printing t-shirts and bumper stickers. The “off the deep end” liberal demographic makeup of his neighborhood was reflected at the polls in the 2000 presidential election. Bush won Texas with 60% of the vote. However, in Bishop's neighborhood Bush finished third behind both Gore and Nader. When I created a mental picture of the area where Bishop lived, I pictured something like Brookside on steroids.
Bishop pointed out that when he initially chose his neighborhood he was not looking to live around like-minded liberals. It just happened to work out that way.

It was a few years after Bishop had moved to Austin that he began to consider the issue of whether people were voluntarily sorting themselves into Democrat and Republican neighborhoods. In fact, his initial study did not actually begin as a political analysis. He was initially considering “why some communities develop vibrant economies and others stagnate.”

I could easily answer the question for him. The areas that are run by Democrats are “going in the toilet” and the areas run by Republicans are expanding and improving their economies. Now my conclusions are based upon observation without the benefit of statistical analysis, but that is what I have been able to observe. For example, Platte County has been experiencing a steady boom over the last two decades while the Jackson County portion of Kansas City keeps going downhill. The same is true in urban areas all over the country. These urban areas where Democrats are the strongest are generally experiencing serious difficulties while suburban areas that are able to escape the failed Democrat policies are able to grow and expand.

Some may attempt to argue that many portions of Platte County that have experienced a boom are within the city limits of Kansas City. That is true. However, I would argue that if these areas were free of the poor management and financial drain of what Yale Abouhalkah of the KC Star calls “Kansas City proper” that the success would be far more than what we have actually experienced.

Soon after Bishop started his analysis, he stumbled on a 30-year trend in housing patterns. He found that areas of the country were becoming more Democrat or more Republican over time. A central aspect of this analysis was a study of presidential election results from 1976 or 2004. He separated counties as “competitive” based upon whether there was a margin of less than 20 points in the presidential election. Counties with a margin of 20 points or more were considered landslide counties. In 1976 just over 26% of the voters lived in landslide counties. By 2004 48.3% of voters lived in landslide counties.

Bishop has extensive statistical data to support his conclusions that people are voluntarily moving near like-minded people. He offers a much more in depth analysis that expands beyond the results of presidential elections. I'll likely share some of that in later columns. However, if you can't wait, go out and order his book. I found it on Amazon.com. Bishop may be an “off the deep end” liberal, but he is certainly a good writer.


HOW MUCH IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING ON A PER-PERSON BASIS?

Posted 6/11/11

Unless you are a crazy liberal like Obama or Pelosi, you would probably say that the current levels of spending by the federal government are out of control. (You can see my Jan. 12 and Feb. 16 column for quotes from Obama and Pelosi that show a disconnection of their sense of reality from the actual math of the federal budget.) In considering how much money the federal government is spending, I wanted to consider the problem from a different perspective. How much is the federal government spending on a per person basis?

I looked up a few numbers and did some simple calculations. Obama's proposed budget for next year calls for spending of $3.73 trillion. (Never mind that that number happens to be over $1.1 trillion more than projected revenues for fiscal year 2012.) When you divide that $3.73 trillion in spending by the approximately 330 million people in this country that calculates to spending just over $11,300 per person.

Let's put that in perspective. The income level identified as being the poverty level for a single person by the Department of Health and Human Services for 2011 is $10,890. What that means is that a person who precisely hits the top income for the HHS' definition of poverty does not have enough income to fund his or her share of government spending if that person gave every nickel to the government. (Keep in mind that we are talking about poverty on a “per person” basis and not a household basis. A family of four is below the poverty level at $22,350.)

Think about that a different way. A family of four would need to contribute $45,200 to fund its share of the Obama's proposed annual government spending. What income level does a family of four earn to hit this level of taxation? If a married couple has a husband and a wife who EACH make $100,000, they would EACH pay $7,650 in Social Security and Medicare Taxes. If they have approximately $50,000 of itemized deductions and personal exemptions, they would pay another approximately $30,000 in income taxes. This would roughly equal this family's share of the per capita cost of government.

Of course, the average American family does not have two $100,000 per year incomes. In reality the average income is $39,527. This generates nowhere near the needed per person level of taxation. (Of course, not all the cost of government is funded from taxes that come from individuals.)

The current level of spending is just crazy. The budgeting process comes down to a simple question of setting priorities.

In building a budget, the federal government must start with a different question. Instead of asking “how much does the government want to spend?” the first question MUST be “How much does the government have available to spend?” (This number is projected to be $2.63 trillion for the next fiscal year.) Then the federal government needs to work through a list of priorities on what it is going to fund. Some really good projects and programs may be left unfunded. However, the government simply cannot spend money it does not have.

I would like Obama and Congress to act like grown-ups and do their job of setting priorities and balancing the budget. However, if they can't, there is a simple solution. The 2008 budget proposed by Bush included projected spending of $2.9 trillion. We could start by cutting every department back to that level of spending. That would create 90% of the cuts that are needed. Then we can start looking for the other 10% in cuts that are needed. Sadly, Obama and Pelosi actually think over $1 trillion per year in deficits make them deficit hawks.

 


DESPITE HICCUPS, MARTIN LUTHER ACADEMY HAS BEEN GREAT EXPERIENCE

Posted 5/28/11

My oldest daughter, Shannon, is graduating from Martin Luther Academy this week. (MLA only goes to the 8th grade.) MLA has provided a great learning environment for Shannon and her younger sister, Anne.

The birth of MLA began in early 1997. Shannon was born that year. Todd Graves' oldest child, Katie, was born just three weeks before Shannon. In early 1997, Todd came to me and said “What do you think about starting a private school?” It seemed like a great idea to me, but we needed to study the concept. A steering committee was formed for that purpose by the three Lutheran churches in Platte County.

The steering committee had focus groups and did various analysis of the potential demand for a private school. The data indicated there was a great demand, but it seemed like a bigger project than three churches could take on. Then we met Steve Ewert. He was also interested in starting a school in the Northland. So, we joined forces, created an association and expanded the project to Clay and Platte Counties.

MLA initially opened in a leased building in the fall of 2003, but at the end of the lease MLA had to “temporarily” move to Christ Lutheran Church in Platte Woods. MLA was there for six and half years.

MLA has had ups and downs along with way. In 2002 land just north of 108th Street was purchased. This property was eventually traded for land just south of 108th Street.

However, the neighboring developer went under without completing the improvements he was required to make to his property to provide better access to the property. So MLA still can't use the property the way it would like.

Last year the association bought a church building at 7112 N. Overland Drive. The association renovated the building and added a gym. MLA moved in to the new building over Christmas break.

Despite the hiccups along the way, the school has been a great experience. There are hundreds of people who have worked to make the school a reality and who continue to work to make it an on-going success. I wish I could thank all of them by name, but the list is just too long. So, let me just thank a few.

First, thank you to Todd Graves. It was his idea in the first place. Without his inspiration, we would have never taken the first steps. Thank you to Pastor Krueger, who if he had nixed the idea at the outset it would have likely died right then. Thank you to Steve Ewert who was MLA's first board president. He provided a positive attitude even as the school went through some of its most challenging times. Also, MLA would not have gotten into its new building on budget without his efforts as “construction supervisor.” Thank you to Mary Smith. She served on the school's first board of directors. She stepped down this year after 11 years of service. She has been MLA's longest serving board member. She has provided strong leadership and a historical perspective for all of MLA's endeavors. Thank you to all of those who have donated time and talent to MLA. Without their perseverance, MLA would have never made it to this point.

Thanks especially to MLA's faculty and staff who have done so much to educate our children. MLA offers an exceptional academic product in a loving, Christian environment. In fact, the scores of MLA's student's national testing put MLA in the 97th Percentile. That's great!

Now don't get me wrong. I am an advocate of all forms education – public, private and home schooling. However, as my oldest daughter moves on to high school, I am especially thankful for the educational experience that MLA has been for her. I wish Shannon and all her friends well as they embark on the next chapter in their lives.

(James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


IT'S UP TO INDIVIDUALS TO ADDRESS THEIR OWN SITUATIONS

Posted 5/20/11

Plato, Missouri was the site of a big celebration this week. The U.S. Census Bureau has announced that Plato is the population center of the United States. Plato -- with a population of 109 -- is located in Texas County, which is in southern Missouri about halfway between Cape Girardeau and Springfield.

What caught my interest was not something from the speeches of Governor Jay Nixon or Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson. No. What caught my interest was an editorial from St. Louis Today entitled “What does Plato tell us about the state of poverty in nation?”

The premise of the article is that Plato, Texas County and much of rural Missouri is poor. In its analysis the article points to median household income figures of Texas County compared to the U.S. as a whole and Missouri as a whole. Some of this analysis is misplaced. The cost of living in other parts of the country and even other parts of Missouri is dramatically different. It costs a lot less to live in small town Missouri than other places.

The editorial also fails to consider that whether or not you are “rich” or “poor” is not necessarily something that can be measured in dollars. I grew up on a farm. It is a great place to raise a family. Money was something we were short of, but the quality of life was great even without the big dollars. However, the editorial does have a valid point that the folks in Plato are less well off financially than people in other parts of Missouri and other parts of America.

The concluding statements of the editorial are what bothered me. It said “Poverty is real. Our children are at risk. What are we willing to do about it?”

My objection to the concluding question is the emphasis on who is doing the acting: “What are we willing to do about it?” Once again the liberals on the editorial board of St. Louis Today miss the point. It is not up to us to address individual poverty. It is up to individuals to address their own situation.

The day after I read this editorial, I received my daily e-mail from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. In it was a quote from Les Brown. Brown said, “If you take responsibility for yourself you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams.”

Brown has it right. Achieving wealth or happiness, whether measured in dollars or by something else, is not up to someone else. It is up to each individual. Now I appreciate that the editorial board may point out that there are a lot of children who live in poverty through no fault of their own. However, the persons who are responsible for that situation are the parents of those children. These parents must accept responsibility for their situation and take steps to change it. Of course, these individuals may not want to take the steps to change their situation. If these individuals are not willing to take the steps to change their own situation, there is really little we can do for them.

The one thing we absolutely should not do is supplement the lifestyle of these individuals with government handouts with no expectation of them doing some sort of work for that financial support. I am a strong advocate for giving someone a “hand up” to help them through hard times. However, we can't let that “hand up” become a “handout” that essentially becomes a lifestyle choice funded by others. If we do that, we are not doing these individuals any favors. Instead we are dooming them to a life of dependency with little hope of that changing in their lifetimes or even their children's lifetimes. That is a disservice to these individuals. Also, it will not give them the American dream. Instead it will make them the American nightmare.

Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


CHANGING DISTRICT BOUNDARIES WON'T SAVE THE DEMOCRATS

Posted 5/13/11

The Missouri General Assembly has completed its redrawing of the Congressional District boundaries. (Redistricting for the State House and State Senate is just getting started.) The General Assembly passed a map and sent it to the Governor. The Governor vetoed the map. However, the map was quickly overridden by the General Assembly after the Republicans got four Democrat members of the House – with encouragement from Democrat Congressmen Cleaver and Clay -- to support the override.

Democrats are crying because Congressman Carnahan has been drawn into the same district with Clay. However, as a result of the new census figures, Missouri is dropping from nine Congressmen to eight Congressmen. So, at least two incumbent Congressmen were going to have to be drawn into the same district. Also, Clay's district was about 20% short of its population target. Clay did not want the district to look to the Republican-leaning areas to the north or west of his district for more people so he gladly accepted Democrat-leaning areas from Carnahan's district. Carnahan was already about 20% short of people. The loss of another 20% to Clay left him about 40% short of people. So, it makes sense that the remainder of Carnahan's under-sized district was divided up among the other districts to reach their population target.

The Democrat leaders in the General Assembly are also whining because they claim the new districts supposedly create six Republican and only two Democrat district. However, when applying the proper redistricting principles of “communities of interest,” where people with common interests are grouped into the same districts, the maps are appropriate because Missouri's Democrat voters seem to be heavily concentrated.

The problem for Democrats in Missouri is a national trend analyzed by Bill Bishop in his 2008 book entitled The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of America is Tearing Us Apart. Bishop has analyzed housing trends over the last three decades and concludes that Americans have been voluntarily separating themselves into more homogenous communities of like-minded people. The result is that Republicans and Democrats are clustering together. This is creating a trend of areas that consistently vote overwhelming for one party or the other.
This trend is clearly present in Missouri. Just look at the red and blue maps from the 2010 state-wide elections. (You can find these maps on the Missouri Secretary of State's website.) The map from the 2010 U.S. Senate race shows that the only counties that were won by the Democrat candidate were the Jackson County portion of Kansas City, the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County. The rest of the map is red.

The Democrats want to point to the close presidential election of 2008 as a basis for why a supposedly 6-2 map is unfair. Well they need to actually study the election results more carefully. Yes. McCain won Missouri by only 3,903 votes. However, Missouri was still geographically a very red state with Obama only winning the Jackson County portion of Kansas City, St. Louis City and Boone, Buchanan, Jefferson, St. Louis, St. Genevieve and Washington Counties. The other 108 counties were red. So, when you draw a constitutionally-mandated map that is “contiguous” and “compact as possible,” the Democrats have so heavily grouped themselves into the same general areas that they have voluntarily created the situation.

Of course, the real problem is that the ideas of the national Democrat party just don't sell well in Missouri. So, changing district boundaries wouldn't really save the Democrats. They need to change their platform to win.

Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

IT'S TIME TO STOP THE FLOW OF RED INK

Posted 5/5/11

There are moments that can change the course of history: a spring day in 1775 when a bunch of farmers and small townsfolk stood in a field in opposition to the most powerful military in the world, a hot summer in 1776 at a convention hall in Pennsylvania when the Declaration of Independence was hammered out, a few years later at another convention hall where the U.S. Constitution was drafted. We have a chance for another one of those historic moments this spring. There is an opportunity for America's greatness to be protected for the future.

What is that potential historic moment? It is the decision on whether to raise the debt ceiling for the federal government and what strings, if any, are tied to any increase in the debt ceiling.

I would prefer that no increase of the debt ceiling be allowed. However, I am also a pragmatist. I accept the reality of the difficulty in immediately cutting the current out-of-control spending by the federal government and the sudden jolt it might give to the weakened economy if Congress really would make the hard decisions that it needs to make about spending in a single fiscal year. Given this reality, I understand that some increase of the debt ceiling is regrettably necessary. However, even though some modest increase may be necessary to avoid too dramatic of a shock to the economy, any agreement to an increase of the debt ceiling should come with strings and limitations.

My first limitation would be that the first year's increase in the debt ceiling should be limited to the 2008 budget deficit, which was about $1 trillion less than the budget deficit for Obama's first year in office. Thereafter, small increases in the debt ceiling might be allowed for the next few years, but eventually no further increases should be allowed. In fact, we should probably have a requirement that the debt ceiling has to start shrinking.

The most important limitation is that no vote on the increase of the debt ceiling will occur until a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed by Congress as provided for under Article V of the Constitution. This balanced budget amendment might have a clause that permits the provisions of the balanced budget amendment to be ignored by Congress upon a two-thirds majority vote of Congress. This would allow flexibility for when an overwhelming majority in Congress believes that a crisis requires the federal government to borrow more money.

The political hypocrisy simply has to stop. For example, a couple of weeks ago a clip was played on the radio of the then-Sen. Obama being critical of increasing the debt ceiling as part of approving one of Bush's proposed budgets. I wanted to scream. Obama's proposed budgets for his first two years in office have increased the federal debt by more than all eight years of Bush's presidency.

Don't get me wrong. I'm mad at Bush and prior Congressmen for spending too much. However, their annual deficits are dwarfed by Obama's most recent plan to spend over 50% more than the government takes in.

I hope Congress takes this opportunity to “make history” and stop the flow of red ink. This is a huge deal! I truly believe that if the deficit spending does not stop that America will no longer be the greatest nation on earth. This single vote could determine whether America will remain a great nation or whether it will eventually go the way of the Greeks, the Romans and all the other collapsed civilizations. Regardless, history will be made.

(Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


DON'T LET EMOTIONS OVERWHELM JUDGMENT

Posted 4/29/11

The “Prime Directive” from Star Trek prohibits interference with the internal development of alien civilizations. This concept is not just one of modern science fiction. The idea is a concept dating back to the Peace of Westphalia, a treaty from 1648 that had as one of its essential principles the non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of another state. The principles of the Prime Directive and/or the Peace of Westphalia are important concepts when considering the appropriateness of the U.S.'s involvement in Libya and its role earlier this year in regime change in Egypt.

Libya has never been our friend. Under Khadafi's rule, Libya has been a sponsor of terrorism. However, when President Bush announced America's War on Terror and a policy to hold nations that harbor or support terrorists accountable, Khadafi fell in line and opened his country to UN inspectors and acted like he was changing his ways.

In Egypt, Mubarak was an elected leader. Mubarak was an ally to the U.S. in the first Gulf War and the War on Terror. We may not agree with how he operates his country domestically, but he has been a friend of the U.S.

Although the media frequently described the protesters in Egypt and the rebels in Libya as heroes, if you read between the lines, the media noted that many of the protesters were “unemployed youth,” which sounds a lot like unemployed rebel rousers. Also, although there were lots of protestors in the streets of Egypt and Libya, these protesters were still a very small part of the population. And, at least in Egypt, there were elections scheduled to be held in less than two years to choose new leaders.

Let's look at the situation in Egypt and Libya from a different perspective. Let's look at the anti-ObamaCare and Tea Party protesters as in the same role as the protesters in Egypt and Libya. Would we condone these protesters resorting to violence to get their way? Would we condone foreign support of these protesters including military strikes into our country in support of these protesters? I don't think so.

I will quickly concede that the unleashing of modern military power on a civilian population would have devastating consequences. It should not happen. As a husband and father, I would have a problem sitting on the sidelines and watching this happen if I had the full capacity of the most powerful military force in the world available at my beck and call to prevent it. However, let's ignore the emotional aspects for a minute. The question is whether the U.S. government should intervene based upon appropriate standards of international conduct?

Once again, I don't think so. Individual countries have a right to determine their own internal affairs. We should not interfere with the domestic matters of other countries if these countries are not threatening their neighbors. (I know at some point, Bush's invasion of Iraq was labeled as an effort to liberate the Iraqi people. I always viewed the invasion under its original purpose of sending in 250,000 weapons inspectors because Saddam was refusing to comply with the inspection requirements).

Khadafi and to a lesser extent Mubarak have not treated their people the way they should. I certainly do not want Khadafi slaughtering innocent civilians in the course of putting down a rebel uprising. An argument might be made that protecting innocent civilians is a legitimate exception to the Peace of Westphalia/Prime Directive. Maybe this is like when Kirk or Picard ignores the Prime Directive and risks court martial to pursue a “greater good” notwithstanding the legal question marks surrounding his actions. However, as Picard argues in the “Pen Pals” episode, “the Prime Directive is meant to prevent us from letting our emotions overwhelm our judgment.” Food for thought.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


OBAMA COATS HIS TOILET PLAN IN A WRAPPER OF 'HOPE'

Posted 4/22/11

Obama went into full campaign mode last week when he gave a speech at George Washington University on Wednesday. He needed to do so.

Obama and the Democrats are under enormous pressure from all of their potential voters. The freeloaders that live off the rest of us are crying about potentially losing some of their freebies and having to work for a living like the rest of us. The hard working middle class folks who sometimes vote for Democrats because they are deceived by the erroneous Democrat mantra that the Republican Party is for the rich people have figured out that the out of control spending by Obama is unsustainable and will eventually lead to the downfall of America.

Faced with all this pressure, Obama gave a very well crafted speech in which he appears optimistic about America, opposed to budget deficits while being opposed to cutting any “essential” spending.

Obama referred to some historical efforts at compromise. He referred to a compromise reached between the senior George Bush and the Democrats in Congress to raise taxes to keep the funding in place for our troops during the first Gulf War. [Of course, Obama fails to point out that those tax increases are the primary reason the senior Bush was a one term president.]

Obama blames Bush for the soaring deficits. Once again, Obama ignores the facts. The collective deficits run up during Bush's eight years in office are less than the deficits that Obama has run up in his first two years in office. Also, while saying he wants to cut spending, Obama actually proposes over $1 trillion (WITH A T!!) in deficits in his next budgets for multiple years into the future. Don't get me wrong. Bush and the Republicans who controlled Congress from 2001 – 2006 are not without blame. However, their out of control spending is dwarfed by what Obama has done in his first two years.

My fear is that Obama might just get away with it. I see it as very possible that Obama gets a second term. Obama is a brilliant campaigner. He can tell people he's going to spend America into a deep hole that will eventually destroy our country, but he has the ability to say it with such charm and poise that those voters that make up the squishy middle may just fall for his claims to want to cut the deficit.

One thing that will help him get away with it is his carefully chosen words. When he talks about raising taxes, he claims to only want to raise taxes on “the rich” or “millionaires and billionaires.” Of course, his plan is to raise taxes on anyone who makes over $200,000.

If you really listen carefully to what Obama is saying, he lays out his plan to make America a much more socialistic or even communistic country. He wants to take money from one group of people and give it to another. He said the same things in the 2008 campaign and crazy freeloaders flocked to him because “Obama is going to pay my mortgage and pay for my groceries.” (Do you remember the interview with the near-orgasmic woman from the big event right before the election?) He coats this plan to flush America down the toilet in a wrapper of “hope.” Unless people really pay attention, he just might achieve his goal.

(Send email to jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


IT'S NOT A 'CUT' SINCE 'IT' WAS NEVER IN PLACE

Posted 4/15/11

As usual the “big” media outlets are inaccurately describing a political issue when they are “reporting” on the federal government's budget crisis. They continue to fail to identify the real culprits in this crisis and fail to accurately describe what they are calling “cuts.”

The federal budget cycle runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. So, the current budget year began on Oct. 1 of last year and is set to expire on Sept. 30 of this year. Of course, the media does not want to point this out because that would squarely put the blame on this crisis where it belongs.

The current budget year began before the 2010 elections. Congress should have adopted a budget early in 2010. However, even if Congress didn't adopt a budget until the last day of the prior budget year, the budget should have been adopted more than a month before the 2010 elections.

Why was the budget not adopted before the current budget year began? The answer is simple. The Democrats in control of Congress failed to do their most basic function--adopt a budget. Of course, the Democrats didn't want to adopt a budget. The reason is that if they did, they would have likely been beaten up even worse in the November election cycle.
The media needs to be accurate about placing blame for why there is not a budget. When the Democrats controlled Congress they failed to adopt a budget. The Democrats had a significant majority in the House. Democrats in the Senate were just shy of a filibuster proof majority. And, no filibuster was attempted to block the budget. No. The failure to adopt a budget falls entirely at the feet of former Speaker Pelosi and former Senate Majority Leader Reid and their Congressional majorities. The media needs to make this clear.

The media is also mislabeling the process of what is going on now with the various continuing resolutions to keep the government in operation without actually adopting a budget for the full fiscal year. The media is continuously referring to “cuts” being made. This is completely inaccurate. There is no budget so nothing can possibly be ‘cut!’ It may be that the continuing resolution approves less money for spending on particular items than was in Obama's proposed budget for this budget year or for that same item in the prior year's budget. However, nothing is being cut if it has not been approved yet.

This whole situation is outrageous to me! The most basic function of the legislature is to adopt a budget for the current fiscal year. The legislature can argue about guns, gays, abortion or other “hot button” political issues. However, no resolution of these issues has to be reached in any given year. The one piece of business that absolutely must be addressed each year is the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. And, it should be required that this is resolved before the fiscal year begins or the government does not have authority to spend any money.

The short term resolution reached last week on the budget is only a stop gap measure. The budget fight will continue. Although I am passionate about many of the social issues, this budgetary fight will decide whether America continues to be a great nation or whether it declines into oblivion.

The first question is a simple one. Is the government going to continuing to spend more than it takes in? If it does, the federal government and the nation will eventually collapse. It is simple math. Unlimited deficits are not sustainable. But, as this debate goes on, don't be misled by the “not so mainstream” media's explanation of who is to blame for the current crisis and whether anything is actually a “cut.”

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


VOTING BY MAIL SYSTEM WOULD BE A BAD IDEA

Posted 4/7/11

The talk continues for the prospect of early voting and/or voting by mail. This idea is based on good intentions, but it is a really bad idea.

First, such a system has a tremendous prospect for fraud. Without photo ID it is hard to control fraud when people physically show up to vote. Just imagine how bad it would be if the voters didn't even have to show up at the polls.

Second, early voting will dramatically disrupt political campaigns. People pushing such an idea must have no concept of how political campaign works. Let's focus on a “little” campaign (i.e., something well below a major state-wide campaign). If you are running for county clerk or some similar office, you start your campaign nine months to a year before election day. About six to eight months before the election you start going door to door and hitting every parade and chili supper in your district that comes along. As the election gets closer you hit up all your friends and family to run a phone bank in the few weeks right before the election. One purpose of those phone calls is to find yard sign locations. Two weeks to 10 days before election day you go out and put up your hard signs. You don't have much money so you only can send one piece of mail and you may have to target your voters because you can't send it to every household. You generally send that piece of mail sometime during the last week before the election. The whole campaign is a crescendo that ends on election day. If the early voting advocates get their way, the mail for these candidates would not reach voters before they vote. That is simply wrong.

I will admit that early voting for something like president or a major state-wide office could occur with a minimal disruption of the campaign process. However, these campaigns are designed to reach a crescendo on election day. Even well funded below-governor statewide campaigns often only have enough money for one or two weeks of TV advertising. So, even these statewide candidates could be virtually unknown to the voters.

If the desire is to address the inconvenience of voting, then the number of election days could be reduced. There are too many “secret” elections at this point. Elections could be limited to April, August and November. No more secret February, June or October elections that few voters know about. (The Kansas City primary might be the one exception to this voting schedule.)

On occasion, some folks have trouble getting to the polls.That is what absentee ballots are for.I got called out of town at the last minute for business one April and realized I was going to miss the election. I just ran by the election board's office and cast my ballot on the way out of town. Or just this week I had to go to Jeff City on Tuesday. I just went to vote soon after the polls opened at 6 a.m. and then headed out of town. It really wasn't that difficult.
When I go vote it never adds more than 20 minutes to my morning.I take my girls to school in the morning. I make them be ready a little earlier than usual. We go to our polling place, which is actually in the opposite direction of the school, cast a ballot and still get to school in plenty of time. This trip to the polls before school is actually an important training experience for my girls.

I know the early voting advocates mean well, but they need to quit complaining about the convenience of voting. It is a privilege to vote. It is our civic duty. It really isn't that hard for all of us to vote on the same day. Just go and cast your ballot and stop complaining.

(James Thomas is an active Republican who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


RECRUITING IS KEY TO SUCCESS IN LOCAL POLITICS

Posted 4/1/11

Let me throw out a radical idea: Local elections should be partisan.

I'll be the first to admit that pot holes and waterlines are not Democrat or Republican. Law enforcement is not and never should be administered based upon whether the victim or the criminal is a Democrat or a Republican. Reading, writing and arithmetic are universally necessary objectives of our public schools regardless of party affiliation.

All of that is true. However, there is something that is severely missing when there are no organized parties involved in the process of recruiting and electing candidates for the elected positions that will deal with pot holes, waterlines, law enforcement and education.

I have told people for years that the most important work the Republican Party does to win elections is not done during the last few weeks before the election. The most important work we do is done a year or more before the actual election. That most important work is recruiting.

Not all political parties approach it the same way, but the Platte County Republican Party has generally taken a very deliberate approach to recruiting. For most of the election cycles for the last 16 years, the local party has had an active recruiting effort. We typically start working on recruiting for the next election cycle even before the current election cycle is over. It is not an easy task. It is really hard to find well qualified people who are willing to give up much better paying positions in the private sector to serve their community. (The difference for Democrat recruiters is that the kind of candidates they look for actually get a pay raise by going to work for the government.) We have to find people at the right stage of their lives that can run for office (e.g., no children at home or a spouse who can financially supplement their public service). It is even more difficult to find people willing to deal with the challenges that often come up during the campaign.

Sometimes our recruiting efforts don't produce the best candidates. Sometimes the best candidate just “comes out of the blue” and volunteers. However, the point is that the local Republican party does have an on-going effort to recruit high quality candidates for office. That is why Platte County has become more and more Republican. We have been able to recruit better people to run on our ticket.

The lack of recruiting not the partisanship is what is missing in local elections. Although this was before my time, I have read the history of the breaking of the Pendergast machine. A local group of citizens got together and recruited candidates to run for city elections. This organization didn't stop with recruiting. It then supported the candidates it chose.

These types of political organizations continue today. The Citizens Association and Forward Kansas City, a Northland specific group, are examples of these types of organizations. However, there is one major difference. These organizations do not actually recruit candidates and raise their own money to help their slate win. Instead they generally just screen candidates and make recommendations.

That is the missing piece. There need to be political organizations that recruit for local elections, like city council and school board, and then provide resources to get those candidates elected. These organizations need to be made up of the “good government, civic leader” types that used to play a prominent role in local politics many years ago.

So, while I am not advocating that we have “Ds” and “Rs” on the ballots for candidates for city council, water district and school board, there is a great need for a return of the active political organizations that function like political parties in the recruitment and support of candidates. Otherwise, we’ll continue to get generally weak candidates those of us in KC had in this last election cycle.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com


EARNINGS TAX SUPPORTERS BASICALLY SAYING 'TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT'

Posted 3/25/11

There is an old country song with a line that goes “Take this job and shove it. I ain't working here no more.” That song should be the theme song for those supporting the earnings tax in Kansas City since that is what the advocates of the tax are saying to people who may want to work in Kansas City but who don't like paying the earnings tax.

In November a statewide ballot initiative prohibited any additional cities from imposing an earnings tax and required the Kansas City and St. Louis earnings taxes to be reconsidered by the voters every five years. In Kansas City the earnings tax is a 1% tax on the gross wages of individuals or 1% of the net profits earned by a business in Kansas City.

The first vote on whether or not to retain the earnings tax in Kansas City will be held on April 5. If the earnings tax is eliminated, it will be phased out over five years.

If you believe the proponents of the earnings tax, the world will come to an end if the earnings tax is not extended for five years. They have tried to scare people with threats of cutting services like no snow removal. (Those of you who live in the city limits are probably chuckling right now as you think “What snow removal?”)

Let's look at some real numbers from the City's website. The 2010-11 budget projects earnings taxes of $189 million out of a $1.225 billion budget. So, contrary to the claims of earnings tax proponents, the earnings tax is only a little more than 15% of the total budget. The proponents will say that the total budget is the wrong number to look at and say that you need to only look at general revenue. General revenue is $520 million. The earnings tax is 38% of this number.

In fairness to the tax lovers, the elimination of the earnings would have a significant impact on the budget. However, what we are really talking about is reducing overall spending by 3% for each of the next five years. So, while this would be a challenge, it certainly would not be the end of the world.

A key complaint about the earnings tax is that it discourages people from living and working in Kansas City. A real life example comes from my first year as a lawyer over 20 years ago. At the time, the highest first year lawyer salary in Kansas City was $52,000. Of the lawyers in my class, the ones who worked in the Johnson County office had a higher net income. They didn't have to pay $520 in earnings tax and almost $1,000 for parking that those of us in the Crown Center office had to pay. This approximately $1,500 in additional net income was a 3% difference in net pay. While this isn't a huge deal, it is certainly a reason to not want to work in Kansas City. Furthermore, when you can work 10 minutes from your nice home in the suburbs and don't have to fight the traffic to come to the “big city,” working outside the city limits of Kansas City is an added plus.

The advocates for the earnings tax have actually made the opponents' argument for them. Dan Confran, one of the advocates' spokesmen, said on more than one occasion that if someone doesn't want to pay the earnings tax then “don't work here.”

Point made. If you don't like the earnings tax, then don't work in Kansas City. So, advocates of the earnings tax are saying “Take your job and shove it” (or move it) to anyone who is considering working in Kansas City. It sure makes Platte City, Parkville, Riverside, Platte Woods and anywhere else in our community outside the city limits of Kansas City even more appealing.

(James Thomas is a local Republican leader. Email him at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com


IN KANSAS CITY, GOOD LUCK PICKING THE 'LEAST BAD' CANDIDATES

Posted 3/18/11

For those who live within the city limits of Kansas City, it is very disappointing to go vote. When voting in the City primary, there were a few races where I stopped and asked myself, “Do I really have to vote for one of these losers?”

In one of the at-large council races I had met one of the candidates the week before. He was obviously in over his head and had very limited knowledge of how Kansas City government operates. However, I still voted for him because the other candidate did know how city government worked and I did not like the things this person was doing on the council.

After the primary, Alan Dillingham, a candidate for the Second District At-Large seat, visited the Greater Kansas City Pachyderm Club. He gave a great presentation and talked about his goal of restoring appropriate conduct at City Hall. I commented to him after the meeting that it is humorous to consider that if he is elected he would probably be the youngest councilman currently serving, but he would still be the most adult-like in the group.

We talked about why he would want to be involved with City politics since you have to “work with children.” He said that good people have to get involved or else only the bad people will run the city. Dillingham was right. However, the problem is that you actually have to be able to win the election.

Kansas City is really a one party town. Although the races are technically non-partisan, they are dominated by Democrats or at least unaffiliated tax and spend liberals. There are six in-district council positions that are only voted on by the voters in that district. There are six at-large council positions that are voted on by the whole city. So, all of the at-large candidates have to win in the very-Democrat south of the river areas. I predict that Dillingham will win north of the river, but lose south of the river where his fiscally responsible “grown up” message will not appeal to the Democrat-dominated precincts.

I am really torn between Mike Burke and Sly James in the mayor's race. Mike Burke is a Northlander. That is a plus. Also, when I served with him on the City's Public Improvements Advisory Committee, he did a good job of running the meetings. However, I am little puzzled about why the City's Port Authority has felt the need to pay Burke's law firm over $3.3 million in fees over the last 11 years. Furthermore, he is cut from the same mold and even endorsed by Kay Barnes. Barnes was bad for Kansas City. She ran up huge amounts of debt on big ticket items that we didn't really need. Burke would likely be more of the same.

On the other hand,James said at a candidate forum that he doesn't really know much about the Northland and only really comes north of the river to go to the airport. So, while his fresh ideas would be great for the city, his total lack of knowledge of the Northland could be a serious problem for those of us who live in the “good” part of Kansas City. (I use “good” to refer to our part of Kansas City in part because it is true and also because Yael Abouhalkah of the Kansas City Star refers to the south of the river portion of Kansas City as “Kansas City proper.”)

Of course, there is a solution for us. We could de-annex the portion of Kansas City that is north of the river and become “The Northland.” Of course, those in “Kansas City proper” will never let us go. They like our money too much.

So, good luck picking the best (or least bad) candidates on March 22. With a few exceptions, like Dillingham, it is slim pickin's.

(Email local Republican leader James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


CUT TO HEAD START SHOULDN'T BE LABELED AS 'OUTRAGEOUS'

Posted 3/11/11

A column by E.J. Dioinne Jr. in the Washington Post on Monday caught my eye. If you get a chance to read it, you should take it. You can find it at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/06/AR2011030602925.html.

The point of Dioinne's column is that House Speaker Boehner is in a great negotiating position when it comes to the budget. He can go to budget meetings with the Democrats and give the outward appearance of being the calm person in the room while blaming the freshman Republicans, which have been referred to as “a band of wild-eyed bomb-throwing freshman,” for his need to hold a stronger negotiating position. This is not a new way of negotiating. There are many instances where one party holds themselves out as the reasonable party while another party on the same side of the negotiation makes ridiculous demands to get the party on the other side of the negotiation to come to some sort of common ground.

What is disturbing about Dioinne's column is that he seems so willing to label some of the proposed cuts as “outrageous” without further consideration as to how the money is being spent. His specific quote is:

Begin with the outrageous $1.1 billion, 15 percent cut from Head Start, a program that offers preschool education to roughly 965,000 poor children. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, this would knock 218,000 kids out of Head Start and force 16,000 classrooms to close.

Let's break this down. A 15% cut to the Head Start budget of $1.1 billion would mean that the budget for Head Start is $7.33 billion. ($1.1 billion divided by 15%.) If this $7.33 billion budget funds the participation of 965,000 children, then that means that Head Start is spending $7,671 per child in the program. ($7.33 billion divided by 965,000 children.)

My belief is that education and a loving and supportive home are the two most important things to help people avoid poverty and live meaningful and productive lives as adults. I taught my own children to read before they went to Kindergarten because I know that reading is so important. I accept that I am “smarter than your average bear” and that I also had the resources to buy my kids books and other materials to help them learn to read. I know that everyone is not as fortunate yet. So I whole-heartedly support programs that focus on educating children so they can “lift themselves up by their bootstraps” and make their own lives better and their future children's lives better. That means that even a conservative like me feels “warm and fuzzy” about programs like Head Start.

Although I strongly endorse the stated goal of Head Start, I really have concerns about the cost per student for this program. Does it really take $7,671 per child? I mean my kids' private school spends less than that for elementary school deduction. My daughter's high school tuition is only going to be $7,000 next year. Even the big spending Park Hill and Platte County school districts will only spend about twice that figure for their full time education programs.

Mr. Dionne is wrong to so quickly label the $1.1 billion cut as “outrageous.” Sure Head Start has a great stated purpose. I don't really think the federal government should be in the education business. However, let's ignore that for a minute that education is something that should be left to the states. The real question is should it really cost $7,671 per child for the Head Start program? I don't think so. That is an excessive amount to be spending even though this is certainly a worthy although probably not constitutionally appropriate mission for the federal government to pursue.

(Send email to jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


MISSOURI WILL BE LOSING ONE OF ITS CONGRESSIONAL SEATS

Posted 3/3/11

Last week the Census Bureau released population for five more states, including Missouri. As has been anticipated, Missouri's population did not grow as quickly as some other states so it will be losing one of its nine Congressional seats.

When you take Missouri's population of just under six million and divide by eight, it means that the new Congressional districts will need to include approximately 750,000 people. To be more precise, the actual number target population number is 748,616. This is a dramatic increase in size from the approximate 622,000 population per district from when the lines were re-drawn after the 2000 census.

Here is a breakdown of the current population of each Congressional District and the change in population that will be needed:

District Current Population Adjustment Needed
01 587,069 161,547
02 706,622 41,994
03 625,251 123,365
04 679,375 69,241
05 633,887 114,729
06 693,974 54,642
07 721,754 26,862
08 656,894 91,722
09 684,101 64,515

Right now the 1st, 3rd and 5th Districts are held by Democrats. The 1st and 3rd are in St. Louis. The 5th is a substantial portion of Jackson County and a little bit of Cass County. The 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th are all held by Republicans.

The speculation is that the 3rd District is the district that will be drawn out of existence. (The districts will obviously be renumbered after being redrawn so that our own 6th District could very likely have a different number in the future.) Russ Carnahan currently is the Congressman from the 3rd District. The speculation that this district will be drawn out of existence is in part because the Republicans have greater control when it comes to drawing the lines. However, there is also a very practical reason that the 3rd District is probably the one to be eliminated. The 3rd District is 123,365 people short of the target. The 1st District is 161,547 people short of its target. The thought is that the 1st District will be expanded into the third to address its population shortfall. Then the rest of the 3rd district will be carved up between the 2nd, 8th and 9th to get to the right population numbers.

Since the per district size of each Congressional District has jumped so dramatically, our own 6th District will need another 54,642 people. Currently the 6th District reaches into Jackson County. If the boundaries of the 5th District were to begin with all of Jackson County, then the 6th would have to pick up what it loses in Jackson County as well as this 54,642. Since the 6th currently takes in all of northwest Missouri, the 6th would have to move eastward.

The challenge for those of us in Platte and Clay Counties is how does the 5th District get redrawn. This district needs to pick up 114,729 more people. Even if the 5th District is expanded to include all of Jackson County, which has a population of 647,000 people, the 5th will still need to find another 100,000 people. The line drawers could look north of the river for these additional people. Let's hope not. I sure like having Sam Graves as my Congressman.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


'NORMAL' PEOPLE ARE DEMANDING LESS SPENDING

Posted 2/24/11

I would like to direct you to a column entitled “The Politics of the New Middle America” by E. J. Dionne published on February 15, 2011 by The American Prospect. You can find the article on-line at http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_politics_of_the_new_middle_america. The article is subtitled: “In 2010, disaffected voters didn't embrace the Republican vision. They looked in vain for the Democratic one.”

I don't believe the subtitle is entirely true. I don't believe that voters “looked in vain” for the Democratic vision. To the contrary, I think voters ran away from the Democratic vision of out of control spending, government takeover of major components of the health care system, more government regulation and higher taxes. I do agree that voters probably didn't “embrace the Republican vision.”The voters probably did embrace the espoused Republican vision, but I'm not sure the voters really believed that Republicans would fully deliver on that vision.

I would be one of the first to express frustration with Republicans in Washington and elsewhere over the last few years. Congressional Republicans “talked the talk” about cutting spending in the early to mid-2000s, but continued to rack up big deficits. For example, the last budget adopted by a Republican-controlled Congress was the fiscal 2007 budget that included a $342 billion deficit. That means the Republican budget spent $342 billion more than the government collected. However, this pales by comparison to the Democrats spending $1.6 trillion (with a T!) more the budgeted revenue in the most recent budget.

Just look at what the Democrat-controlled Congress did to the national debt. When the Democrats took control of Congress after the 2006 elections, the national debt was just under $8.7 trillion. Four years later when the Republicans re-took control of the U.S. House, the national debt had ballooned to almost $13.9 trillion. That is a jump in the national debt of almost $5.2 trillion or almost 60% in just four years.

“The Politics of the New Middle America” explores the Democrats efforts to put together a winning coalition made up of a new majority on the basis of well-educated middle- and upper-middle-income white voters allied with African Americans, Hispanics, and the young. This coalition is really a linking of the two opposite ends of the socio-economic ladder. On one end are the limousine liberals who think they know more than other people and should make decisions for the benefit of others. On the other end are the financially less well-off. What is missing from the new Democrat model is the huge chunk of “normal folks” in the middle.

The article blames the shifting in the election outcomes from 2006 and 2008 to 2010 upon Democrats losses among “white working-class voters” shifting from a 10% loss to a 30% loss. These folks are the folks that Obama would say are “bitter” and “clinging to their guns and their religion.” Obama is right. There is clearly a component of the electorate who are dissatisfied with the direction he and his Democrat buddies are taking this country. They do not want the government spending 73% more than what it collects in a given year. These folks are not the Ivy League-educated snooty-types, but they are still smart people that can do basic math. You cannot spend more money than you take in year after year. It simply won't work. Eventually, you have to pay for that over spending.

Hard-working Americans, “white working-class voters,” the “normal” people have not abandoned the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party has simply adopted policies that are contrary to common sense and everything these people believe in. Now Republicans must deliver on their promises of less spending to keep these “normal” people as part of their election-winning coalition. All I can say is, they'd better.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


OBAMA'S STATEMENTS ABOUT THE BUDGET ARE FRAUDULENT

Posted 2/18/11

Just five weeks ago I wrote that former Speaker of the House and now Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was either “. . . seriously 'math challenged' or . . . simply delusional.” This was my response to Pelosi's statement that “Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go . . .” even though the Pelosi-led Congress raised the national debt by nearly $5.2 trillion (with a T!) or almost 60% in just four years. President Obama seems to be suffering from the same disorder that is afflicting Pelosi.

In his weekly Saturday address, Obama had the audacity to use a reference to a Missouri teacher's personal sacrifices to fund her daughter's education during the economic downturn to say that the government must now make difficult decision to reduce its debt, while still investing in education for a better future. These are great words. I agree with them. However, you actually have to look at the reality of what Obama is proposing rather than the flowery language he uses to describe his proposed 2012 budget.

Obama's Saturday speech was a prelude to the release of Obama's proposed budget for 2012 on Monday. The federal deficit is expected to increase to $1.65 trillion this fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2010-Sept. 30, 2011), according to the Obama administration's proposed budget for fiscal 2012 that was scheduled to be released on Monday. This is an even bigger deficit than the most recent Congressional Budget Office estimate of $1.48 trillion. Obama's proposed budget for fiscal 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011--Sept. 30, 2012) calls for $3.73 trillion in government spending in fiscal 2012, which is $1.1 trillion (with a T!) more than projected revenues for fiscal year 2012.

In his speech on Saturday Obama said, ““So, after a decade of rising deficits, this budget asks Washington to live within its means, while at the same time investing in our future. It cuts what we can't afford to pay for what we cannot do without. That's what families do in hard times. And that's what our country has to do too.”

Living within its means?!?!? Spending $1.1 trillion more than the projected revenues of $2.63 trillion is deficit spending of 42% for the current year. That is cutting what we can’t afford to pay for?!?!?!

Let's state this in terms that we can all understand. Let's say I give each of my daughters $100 to go spend on clothing. They go shopping and each spend $142. To Obama, my daughters would be living within their means. That's crazy!

We are long overdue for a balanced budget amendment. If Obama really wants the federal government to do “what families do,” then he needs to get on board with a constitutional amendment to require the federal government to operate with a balance budget. Republicans pushed a balanced budget amendment after taking control of the U.S. House after the 1994 elections. The proposed amendment actually was passed by the House before dying in the Senate.

I would like to pretend that our elected leaders in Congress can act like grownups and not spend money we don't have. However, they can't. So, there needs to be a balanced budget amendment to keep them from spending the future generations into insurmountable debt.
At the same time the American people and the media need to refuse to accept the ridiculous rhetoric of politicians who speak of the government “living within its means” and “cutting what we can't afford to pay for” when they are proposing massive deficit spending.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


REAGAN AND HIS '77 SPEECH AN INSPIRATION TO MANY TODAY

Posted 2/11/11

Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan! If he were still living, Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 on Sunday, February 6. As I have written before, Ronald Reagan is probably my favorite president of all time. He has inspired me and so many of my friends.

I was in sixth grade when Reagan ran for president in 1976. That year the convention was in Kansas City. My mom and I stayed up watching the tally for the presidential nomination. I kept hoping that somehow Reagan would be able to find the votes he needed to win. He narrowly lost the nomination to incumbent President Gerald Ford. After the vote, Reagan was strongly encouraged to come to the floor to give a speech. There have been many reports of convention delegates saying “We just nominated the wrong guy” after hearing that speech. ord, of course, ended up losing to Jimmy Carter in November.

Reagan didn't give up after 1976. In fact, one of his most famous speeches is a speech he gave in 1977. I've heard it referred to as “The New Republican Party.”You can read it for yourself at reagan2020.us/speeches/The_New_Republican_Party.asp. In the speech Reagan talks about how a majority of Americans are conservatives. e advocates for uniting the “economic conservatives” and the “social conservatives” to present a united front on conservatism. I have read the speech many times. The concluding lines of that speech have provided great inspiration to me:

“Our task now is not to sell a philosophy, but to make the majority of Americans, who already share that philosophy, see that modern conservatism offers them a political home. We are not a cult, we are members of a majority. Let's act and talk like it.

“The job is ours and the job must be done. If not by us, who? If not now, when?

“Our party must be the party of the individual. It must not sell out the individual to cater to the group. No greater challenge faces our society today than ensuring that each one of us can maintain his dignity and his identity in an increasingly complex, centralized society.

“Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business, galloping inflation, frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite.

“Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people. Any organization is in actuality only the lengthened shadow of its members. A political party is a mechanical structure created to further a cause. The cause, not the mechanism, brings and holds the members together. And our cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America's spiritual heritage to our national affairs.

“Then with God's help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us.”

This February 1977 speech is seen as the foundation of the New Republican Party.
There are many inspiring aspects of Ronald Reagan, his accomplishments and his service to our country. However, the things Reagan talked about in this speech are the principles that motivate so many of us and are the reason that so many of us are active in the Republican Party.

I was going to write about all the great accomplishments of Reagan and his policies. Instead, I think it is enough to say he inspired me and so many of my friends to service. Thank you and happy birthday, Mr. President!

(James Thomas is a Republican leader who can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


OBAMA NOW TRYING TO MIMIC CLINTON'S POLITICAL STRATEGY

Posted 2/5/11

With the winners of the 2010 elections having only taken the oath of office less than a month ago, attention has already turned to the 2012 elections. I predict that Obama will be very tough to unseat in 2012.

One reason Obama will be tough to beat is that he seems to have learned something from the 2010 elections and something from President Clinton's third and fourth years in office. Obama himself admitted that the Democrats took a shellacking in the 2010 elections. Obama could have simply ignored the public statement provided by the election results the same way he ignored the very vocal public objections to ObamaCare. Obama's approach to ObamaCare in the face of a huge public opposition: full speed ahead. Obama's response to the tax cut fight shows that he is willing to adjust his approach to get reelected.

When Obama first took office, he made statements about cooperating with Republicans on policy issues that went something like “Republicans are free to come along for the ride, but they will have to sit at the back of the bus.” After the 2010 elections, Obama quickly caved on the temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts. This was probably a strategic decision. If Obama had blocked the temporary extension of the tax cuts until after the new Congress was seated, the Republicans would have passed them any way, forced Obama to veto them and then he would be the “bad guy.” Even worse for Obama, if he had stood in the way, the Republicans would have probably pushed through a permanent extension of the tax cuts instead of a temporary one. Also, if the tax cuts had expired, it would have sucked billions of dollars out of the economy. This would almost certainly have led to a double dip recession, which would have likely doomed Obama's re-election chances. By postponing the expiration of the tax cuts, Obama has delayed the negative impact on the economy of the expiration of these tax cuts until after the next election cycle.

Obama has also been modifying his political rhetoric. Even though Obama is still advocating for massive amounts of new government spending, he at least is giving that spending a kinder, gentler label of “investment.” Don't be fooled. Obama is still a tax and spend liberal. He still believes in government mandated wealth re-distribution. He is just trying to re-form his public image from being an open socialist/communist. Obama even talks about reducing the deficit. Of course, these statements are made at the same time that he proposes massive spending increases so I'm not sure how he actually hopes to reduce the deficit.

After the Republican Revolution in 1994, Bill Clinton sufficiently reformed his public image to allow him to win a second term. Obama seems to be trying to follow that part of the Clinton strategy.

Clinton had something else going for him. Like Republicans often do, we nominated a presidential candidate because it was “his turn” to be the nominee for president even though he was the wrong person for that particular election cycle. If history teaches us anything, Obama can likely count on Republicans to do that again. The one hope is that the new conservative energy provided by the Tea Party movement will push the Republican Party to pick a solid and reliable conservative as its presidential candidate.

Sadly, the biggest challenge for all Republicans in 2012 will be whether the voters will support conservatives when it comes to making tough decisions on spending. The “squishy middle” abandoned Republicans when they tried to hold the line of spending in 1995. Will that happen again? I hope not. If the government doesn't stop spending so much money, we will all be doomed.

(Email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


 

EVEN GOVERNORS SHOULD BUCKLE THEIR SEAT BELTS

Posted 1/28/2011

A few days ago Governor Jay Nixon was in a car accident. The car he was riding in was rear-ended by another driver. (Imagine the embarrassment/concern of the driver of the other car when he found out that he not only hit a car that was driven by a highway patrolman, but that car also had the governor inside.) Nixon was taken to the hospital for some neck pain, but was released.

I was in a car accident right before Thanksgiving. The other driver was going too fast on a slick, narrow road when he popped over a small hill and found that his lane was blocked by a car attempting to turn left. He slammed on his brakes, skidded across the center line and banged in to me. My recent experience would make me feel sorry for the governor except for one thing: The governor was not wearing his seat belt.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't believe in the mandatory seat belt law. (The governor did not technically violate the seat belt law because he was in the rear seat of the vehicle so apparently he was not required to be wearing a seatbelt.) I think you should be free to not wear a seat belt. However, if you are a prudent and responsible person you wear your seatbelt at all times.

This isn't a difficult thing to address. My kids get it. Right before we leave the house, there are two questions that are asked. First, do you have everything you need for school/basketball/volleyball or whatever? Second, are you buckled? Only then do we back out of the garage and head down the road. On occasion, I will be messing with something in the front seat as we are heading down the driveway and be momentarily unbuckled or on the way home I might unbuckle about 200 feet before getting to the driveway because I am going to pull up to the mailbox and reach out to get the mail. I immediately get objections from my kids for not being buckled.

I 'm glad my kids were listening when I explained to them the importance of wearing a seatbelt. I have told them about Derrick Thomas' accident on that icy January Sunday. Thomas was driving his Suburban too fast and he and one of his two passengers were not wearing seatbelts. The passenger who was not wearing a seatbelt was thrown from the vehicle and killed. As we all know, Thomas eventually died from injuries suffered in the accident. The guy I point out to my kids is the passenger who was wearing his seatbelt. He was reportedly a little banged up, but walked away from the accident.

Even though I think you are an idiot if you don't wear your seatbelt, I don't think the government should make you. However, I would be fine with there being a legal rule that says if a party is injured in an accident and is not wearing a seatbelt, then that party cannot recover for his or her injuries from that accident unless the party can prove that the injuries could not have been avoided even by wearing a seatbelt.

It is the same idea that I have about motorcycle helmets. I think you would be crazy to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. However, I don't think we should have a law that says you have to wear one. The law should be that if you splatter your brains out on the pavement because you are not wearing a helmet then the party who caused the accident and the taxpayers should not have to pay for your medical bills or your disability unless it can be shown that the helmet would not have prevented your injuries.

I'm not a fan of Governor Nixon's policies, but I don't want to see anyone killed in an accident. So buckle up, Governor!

(Buckle your seat belt and email James at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


COUNTY MAKING RIGHT MOVES WITH 2011 BUDGET

Posted 1/21/2011

“There is a new sheriff in town.” No. Not really. But there is a new presiding commissioner in the Platte County Administration Building.

I knew that Jason Brown had conservative values. However, I was very concerned that, like other “allegedly” conservative commissioner candidates before him, Brown would not be able to be true to those conservative principles when he actually embarked upon the difficult task of governing and felt the pressure of everyone asking for money. Brown shows early signs of staying true to his conservative principles.

Monday night Brown and fellow commissioner Jim Plunkett came to the Platte County Republican Central Committee meeting to talk about the county's 2011 budget that will be adopted later this month.

Platte County can only budget to spend the amount of money it estimates it will receive for the year. It is true that the “guesstimation” of revenue is simply a guess. However, the idea is to make the best guess possible based upon the information that is available. For 2010 the sales tax revenues came in 3.3% over budget and the use tax revenues came in 10% under budget. The commissioners were nervous because the money they received from the Missouri Department of Revenue in January for sales taxes collected in November actually showed a 13% drop from last year's November sales tax collections. This put the commissioners scrambling to keep the budget under control.

Brown and Plunkett explained that the proposed 2011 budget calls for a reduction in general revenue spending. The 2011 budget projects a 5% decline in sales tax revenue and a 10% decline in use tax revenue. This meant that the 2011 budget had to be less than the 2011 budget by several hundred thousand dollars. Brown and Plunkett explained that the all of the officeholders were very cooperative with the budget cutting process. When the situation was explained to the officeholders they each came forward with items that could be trimmed from their budgets.

After delivering the budget cutting news Brown and Plunkett said “after the bad news, now for the good news.” There was a collective chuckle from the PCRCC members because for nearly all of them the idea that the county would spend less money in 2011 than in 2010 was good news. So, from a conservative perspective, the commissioners actually offered more good news. The commissioners explained that through under control spending in prior years, the budget called for placing $3 million into a narrowband radio fund to begin to fund the cost of the federally-mandated new emergency radio system. This unfunded mandate is going to become a huge issue. Commissioners are trying to get a jump on the anticipated budget burden.

This was the exact opposite of a PCRCC meeting I attended in January of 2004 when the then-commissioners were poised to adopt a budget that included a 17% increase in sales tax revenue despite the auditor's projection of only a 7% increase. The bloated revenue projection was necessary to cover all the anticipated spending so the then-commissioners ignored the auditor's projections. The PCRCC objected to the overly-optimistic revenue projections, but the then-commissioners ignored the PCRCC's feedback. The budget projections sparked a political war that resulted in the two junior commissioners up for election that year being replaced. (The actual sales tax figure for 2004 was a 7.7% increase over 2003.)

Less than a month into his term as presiding commissioner it is too early to tell if Brown will be able to stay true to his conservative principles. However, this action on the budget is certainly a good start.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


NANCY PELOSI IS EITHER MATH-CHALLENGED OR DELUSIONAL

Posted 1/13/2011

Democrats are crazy. Okay. Okay. That is an over-generalization. However, given last week's comments by Nancy Pelosi and the fact that Democrats have re-elected her as their leader, you do have to wonder about the sanity of Democrats who serve in Congress.

At her final press conference as Speaker of the House, Pelosi said “Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go.”ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!? Pelosi is either an unashamed liar or she has no connection to reality.

Pelosi became Speaker in January 2007 following the 2006 election cycle, which gave the Democrats control of the House. When Pelosi became Speaker, the national debt was $8,670,589,242.973.04 (i.e., almost $8.7 trillion). On Dec. 22, 2010 (i.e., the last day of the 111th Congress), the national debt was $13,858,529,371,601.09 (i.e., almost $13.9 trillion). That is a jump in the national debt of almost $5.2 trillion or almost 60% in just four years.

The ballooning of the debt is easy to explain. For fiscal 2007 the budget deficit for the year was $342 billion. For fiscal year 2010, the budget deficit was $1.6 trillion. So we went from a place where the Republican-controlled Congress was spending (at least) $342 billion more than it should to a place where the Democrat-controlled Congress was spending (at least) $1.6 trillion more than it should. That means Pelosi and her pals were over spending to the tune of nearly five times the rate of overspending by the Republican-controlled Congress.

There are only two possible explanations to Pelosi's comments. Either she is seriously “math challenged” or she is simply delusional.

When you look at her comments on ObamaCare, it leads one to think it may be a little of both. Pelosi still claims that ObamaCare will result in savings and reduce the deficit. There are some huge tax increases that are part of ObamaCare. These massive tax increases will offset some of the cost of ObamaCare. However, only in a delusional dream are even these huge tax increases enough to cover the increase costs of ObamaCare.

I know a lot of former Democrats, including my friend and fellow columnist Russ Purvis, who have chosen to leave the Democrat Party and become either independents or Republicans. These former Democrats just couldn't stand the insanity and/or stupidity of the leadership of the Democrat Party. I encourage those of you who have conservative values, but who are clinging to the Democrat label to do one of two things: Either leave your party and join us or get rid of the crazy people who are the leaders of your party.

If you do neither of those things and keep the same crazy leadership that promotes crazy liberal policies, you are actually doing me a favor as a Republican activist. As long as a nut-job like Nancy Pelosi is the spokesperson for your party, it improves the prospects for my team to keep on winning.

Even though keeping the crazy liberals that lead your party makes it easier for my team to keeping winning elections, please replace your delusional leadership. These liberal policies are bad for America. The federal government cannot keep spending money it doesn't have. Deficit spending can exist for short periods, but it cannot go on indefinitely. And pretending that you are a deficit hawk when you have actually ballooned the national debt by 60% in four years and the annual deficit by almost fivefold will not help America's economy or restore America's greatness. We--and more importantly, our children-- deserve better.

(Republican leader James Thomas can be reached at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)


HERE’S WHAT THE VOTERS
ARE INTERESTED IN, AND
IT’S NOT COMPROMISE

Posted 1/10/2011

To start the New Year, political columnists often look into their crystal balls to predict the future. I would be the first to tell you that is very difficult to do in politics. Anticipating the outcome of the 2012 elections nearly two years out is extremely difficult.

For one thing, we don't know who the candidates will be. I'm fairly confident that Obama lead the national ticket for the Democrats. I don't have the slightest idea who will lead the Republican ticket.

There are lots of prospective candidates. Sarah Palin probably has bigger “star appeal” than anyone. The conservative grassroots folks would work their tails off for her. However, she has been bashed horrendously by the media so that she may not be an effective candidate. Also, her stepping down as governor in the middle of her term probably hurt her tremendously. alin is probably in the perfect spot right now. She is in a position to make a little money. She can influence elections and remain politically relevant by throwing her support behind select candidates without actually being the candidate. That may be the best place for her.

There are the “also rans” from 2008: Huckabee and Romney. Neither of them could overcome a lackluster McCain campaign in the primaries so I'm not sure how strong either of them is. Haley Barbour would make a great president. He did a great job as chairman of the RNC and has been an excellent governor. However, Barbour spent a few years as a lobbyist so that might hurt his chances. The rumor is that Next Gingrich is toying with the idea of getting in the race. I am a huge Newt fan. What he did with GOPAC and then with the whole “Contract with America” campaign was exceptional. I have read his books and he has a lot of great policy ideas. However, he has a number of skeletons in his closet so he is probably not electable. Hopefully, whoever is the candidate would include Gingrich on a policy team to help develop effective ideas for governing.

A couple of “lesser knowns” would make great candidates: Senator John Thune from South Dakota and Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana. Both of these guys have some great ideas. However, their name ID is still very low.

Whether Republicans are successful in 2012 is subject to several other things that are out of their control. The economy is sure to have a significant impact. My prediction is that the economy will have recovered from the deep slump during the beginning of Obama's term in office. However, I don't think the economy will be clipping along at full speed. The temporary fix of the new tax law should prevent a double dip recession. However, since the fix was only temporary, I predict that employers will slowly begin to hire back workers, but they will not hire all the workers they might need until there is more certainty with the tax law.

Another important factor is how do Republicans act and how do the voters react to how the Republicans act. In 1995 Republicans stood up against big spending. The spending fight reached an impasse that led to a government shutdown. Stopping big spending is what the voters said they wanted. However, the voters viewed Republicans as the bad guys when they tried to hold the line on spending. This public reaction is probably why so many Republicans lost their conservative roots and went on spending sprees to please their constituents. If the Republicans try to hold the line on spending again and the voters act this way in response, that will be very damaging to the fiscal conservative movement.

Then there is the most important factor. The Republicans have a history of nominating the wrong candidate (e.g., Ford, Dole and McCain). If history repeats itself, we will have another four years of Obama.

(Email James Thomas at jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com)

For earlier columns click here.