The Virginia Republican Throwback Pledge

In the last several days, a number of Virginia activists, bloggers, and the Donald Trump campaign are up in arms about a pledge the Republican Party of Virginia is insisting on voters signing.  They want all voters in Virginia’s March 1st Republican Presidential Primary to sign a document indicating that they are Republicans.  It certainly makes sense to have only Republicans choose the Republican nominee.  However, despite this worthless pledge, there is no way to tell who is a Republican because the party’s principles are ill-defined and ill-enforced.  In addition, the fact that the party is making all Virginia taxpayers pay for this primary should be reason enough to shoot down this foolish pledge.

However, this isn’t the first time that the Republican Party of Virginia has tried to compel Virginia voters to give them their loyalty.  Although many likely don’t remember, the RPV created a pledge prior to their 2012 primary.  This was was far more odious as it read, “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.”  Why anyone would agree to such a blanket statement without knowing who the nominee would be and what he or she stands for is baffling.

TTIn response, on December 30, 2011, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard urged his readers to boycott the Virginia primary if the RPV insisted on this pledge.  I discovered this piece after he had included a link in the article to my website.  As I wrote four years ago, “A few moments ago, I was surprised to find that well-known neo-conservative analyst and editor of The Weekly Standard, William Kristol, wrote a piece yesterday linking to my blog, The Virginia Conservative. Even though we disagree on quite a few issues, (and I don’t think that boycotting is the best solution to the problem) I’m glad to see that we both believe that the loyalty oath in the upcoming VA GOP primary is folly.”  As a result of massive public outcry against it, the party dumped the pledge shortly thereafter and it was soon forgotten by almost everyone.

However, here we are four years later and again the Republican Party of Virginia is pushing its pledge and, just like last time, the public is rising up against it.

As Shaun Kenney of Bearing Drift wrote recently, the party can either hold a convention, which is privately funded by the party in which they get to choose who participates, or they can choose an open primary that is and ought to be open to any voter that helps fund it.  As a party supposedly devoted to fiscal responsibility and liberty, they shouldn’t suckle at the public teat for funding of their private inter-workings, try and fail to restrict participation, then complain when they end up with another terrible candidate in the mold of John McCain or Mitt Romney.

You have to wonder if the leaders of the RPV remember their history at all.  Are they doomed to making the same mistake every four years, using tax dollars to fund their private party contests and then trying to restrict which of these taxpayers can participate?  Will this ugly issue resurface in 2020 (assuming the GOP loses the presidency again) or 2024?

It is profoundly frustrating the Republican Party and their State Central Committee continually demand unquestioned loyalty to their party and their elected officials especially given that neither one is held to any sort of ideological standard.  Is there any wonder why more people, like Franklin Graham, have left their party and become independents?

Well, if history is any guide, we’ll discuss this issue again four years from now as we work to shoot down another RPV pledge.  Enjoy your Throwback Thursday.

The GOP is Falling Apart

Image from sodahead.com
Image from sodahead.com

On Saturday night, before sitting down to play Die Macher with a handful of friends, I had the opportunity to speak with a local professor about politics.  A self-identified Republican, he voiced his frustration with the direction that the party has been heading.  In an earlier conversation he mentioned that although he had donated to the party in the past, he has not done so in some time.

As a libertarian within the GOP, the professor said that he now has little in common with the other factions in the party.  Although the Republican Party used to be an advocate for both fiscal responsibility and limited government, those haven’t been primary concerns in many years.  Amusingly, the professor has a Republican elephant magnet on his refrigerator, but it is turned upside down as if the party were now dead.

Looking at the matter objectively, what have limited government advocates gained in the past 15 years with the Republican Party?  Yes, in the first half George W. Bush was president and in the second Barack Obama has been at the head.  All the while the Republican Party has been in control of Congress more often than the Democrats.  But the policies under both the Republican and Democratic leadership have been fairly consistent.  We’ve gotten a massive increase in our national debt and an expansion of government programs including: No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Medicare Part D, Obamacare, the Patriot Act, NDAA, continual war in the Middle East, the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, curtailing of our civil liberties, extrajudicial killings of foreign civilians, scores of executive orders, and the list goes on.

As the professor lamented, far too many social conservatives seem to tolerate or even embrace these intrusions so long as Republican politicians continue to offer lip service to God in the public sphere while national defense Republicans howl at any sort of cost saving measures regarding our armed forces or the idea of cutting back on our ever-expanding policing of the world.

Perhaps the worst part is that limited government conservatives are actively being fooled (or more realistically they are fooling themselves).  For example, when the 10th district of Virginia was deciding upon a Republican candidate to replace Frank Wolf, anyone who had been paying attention would know that based upon her rhetoric and record that Barbara Comstock was not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination.   After she won the nomination and the election many seemed surprised when she voted more like the Democrats than any other national Republican legislator in the state.  Or how about Paul Ryan?  When he campaigned for vice president in 2012, I had an opportunity to listen to him in person and came to the unfortunate conclusion that he was about as committed to limiting the power of government and reducing the national debt as my own representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6).  It seems odd that people are now calling Speaker of the House Paul Ryan a traitor after he pushed through the latest budget given that his track record showed that that was exactly what he was going to do if he were given such authority.  Isn’t it painfully obvious that neither Paul Ryan nor Barbara Comstock share our ideology?  Therefore, why in the world should we support them?

Over at Bearing Drift Brian Schoeneman bemoans the infighting in the Republican Party, declaring that the libertarian Republicans “openly flaunt their unwillingness to stand by the Party when it does things they disagree with, going so far as to run and support third party candidates that have cost Republicans victories”.  However, the better question one should ask is, why should liberty-minded folks continue to support the Republican Party?  In the last decade and a half can you name even one federal department that has been eliminated or drastically curtailed as a result of Republican leadership?  Can you point out more examples of ways that the Republican Party has reduced government involvement in our lives…or ways that they have expanded it?

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The William & Mary College Republicans and Margaret Thatcher in 2000.

I would argue that regardless of party Americans desperately need a Margaret Thatcher.  After World War II the Conservative Party more or less surrendered on the issue of limiting the power of the British government, much like the current Republican Party, instead trying to make the bloated national government as efficient as possible.  However, Thatcher upset the wisdom of the day by openly questioning government involvement in a variety of areas that used to be under the control of the private sector, charities, or churches and, once she became prime minister, instituted policies which began to dismantle government control.  How many leaders of today’s Republican Party are willing to take such a step?  Certainly not Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and not most of the Republican or Democratic candidates running for president.

The traditional three-legged stool of the GOP is falling apart because the party has almost completely abandoned the tenets of liberty and limited government.  The party is led by men and women who treat power and not principle as the holy grail of politics and are willing to sacrifice anything to achieve it.  When these people don’t get the influence that they so desperately desire, rather than blaming their failed policies they blame us for not blindly following them!  If the Republican leadership is unwilling or unable to abide by the limitations set forth in the Constitution, perhaps liberty-minded folks ought to take the advice of Dr. Henry Jones at the end of Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade:

The Waiting

IMG_0307Christmastime is often a time of waiting.  Children eagerly look forward to unwrapping the colourfully wrapped packages nestled under the tree in a few days.  I’m sure that some of their parents are beginning to wonder when school will start again.

I have been waiting too, but not for anything which can be found in a fancy box.

Since January of 2015, I have been working toward setting up a meeting with a particular Democratic senator.  After reading some of his opinions online and listening to some of his speeches on the floor of the Virginia Senate, I have felt compelled to speak with him, one of a handful Democrats I have wanted to get to know (another being former Representative Dennis Kucinich.  Who knows if that will ever happen?).   Although there have been two potential opportunities for a face-to-face dialogue over this year, the first in the spring and a second possibility recently, both have been unsuccessful and thus this plan has been pushed off to at least the start of the 2016 legislative session.

I’m also looking forward to having lunch with another state senator, this one a Republican.  I am told that this event too will likely transpire in Richmond sometime during the next session.

For three months, I patiently awaited word from a friend and political associate, as we were planning to grab lunch together again.  However, recently I was informed that all that time spent waiting was in vain.  Now the meeting will not happen.  It is terribly disappointing.

Now, I am waiting to meet a new political contact in person, a new potential friend and like-minded ally in the ongoing fight.  I am told that our meeting will happen soon, but currently have no idea of the day, time, or location.

And there are two political organizations that are interested in working together to help advance our shared principles of liberty.  Although I believed both would be getting back in touch in early December, I now must wait until at least early to mid January.  One of which I’ve been trying to set up something with since 2008.  Nine long years.

All of this waiting and hoping is starting to take its toll.  The waiting, the praying, the hoping.

I feel like I have become a modern-day Diogenes, looking for honest, honorable, and like-minded men and women in a world dominated by scoundrels.

I’m reminded of this short poem:

Patience is a virtue.

Possess it if you can.

Seldom found in a woman.

Never found in a man.

However amusing, it is a lie, of course.  Men can be patient, as all of this waiting has reminded me.

Good things come to those who wait, they say.  But as the waiting continues, hopes begin to blossom.  And, at times when this waiting fails to pan out, disappointment is as heavy as a lead blanket, smothering the slumbering dream that lies beneath.  Waiting can sometimes make you feel powerless.

But, with little other option, the waiting continues.

Corporate Taxes: More Trouble than They’re Worth

Image from http://economics21.org
Image from http://economics21.org

A Guest post from Robert Short Sr.

The ofttimes ignored question when tax policy is discussed is, “What is the purpose of Taxation?”, in particular, “What is the purpose of this tax?” The question is important because the common sense answer is to fund the government. Yet most of the time politicians and others don’t even mention this. The normal reason given for a certain tax rate is either to “make everyone pay their fair share”, “punish the greedy wall street leaches”, or “unleash America’s job creators”.

So which is it? Well actually it’s all of the above. Our tax policy is the result of a continual shift in public sentiment. When the public is focused on other issues, which to be honest is north of 99.9% of the time, those with a high degree of interest in the tax code are able to lobby, reason, beg, and bribe their own carve outs into law. But once these carve outs hit a critical mass the public rebels, demanding an end to Crony Capitalism and the corrupt officials who partake. We get inundated with lists of companies that didn’t pay a dime in taxes (a note, these lists almost always only mention income taxes, as a company paying billions in other taxes kinda takes away from the reports message) and so on. This goes on until another soccer ball distracts the public and the process repeats, over and over again.

Not only is this cycle stupid, but it leads to greater corruption and huge amounts of waste. Logic dictates that a company will support any tax cut or loophole that saves it more in taxes than it costs to comply with. Especially since the company can deduct the costs of complying with the carve out from their remaining taxes. Whole industries have come into being merely to facilitate this compliance. Many people make all of their taxable income by helping other people minimize their taxed income. Leading to, by some estimates, up to a million people who are motivated to maintain or increase compliance costs.

According to the IRS, American companies spend over 4.4 billion dollars a year just filing their tax returns, and this is the smallest cost of compliance. According to a study done by Jason J. Fichtner and Jacob Feldman of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the total cost of compliance is well over 200 billion dollars a year. To put this in perspective, the corporate tax compliance cost is larger than the economy of South Carolina, larger than the economies of 23 states.

So is there a way to save those billions, get rid of most of the corruption in Washington, “make everyone pay their fair share”, “punish the greedy wall street leaches”, AND “unleash America’s job creators”?

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

End corporate taxes and tax the owners of the companies instead. Rather than taxing profits companies make when they earn them, tax the profits when they are given to the owners, either through dividends or through stock buybacks.

I’ll get to the numbers in a second, but first I want to focus on the aforementioned goals. For starters obviously the switch would eliminate the compliance costs associated with the current tax scheme, and as a bonus it would transfer the compliance obligation to one of the cheapest, in terms of compliance, taxes, the Capital Gains Tax.

Such a change would also upend the current Crony environment of Washington. The reason corporate lobbying is so pervasive is that over 50% of Americans own stock, mostly through retirement accounts, and if someone asked them would they rather the value of their investment go up or down, every single one of them would say up. So companies have a great incentive to make that happen. But if the taxes for corporate profits were transferred to the owners, their incentives would no longer line up as neatly, and it would be much harder to organize an effective lobbying effort to create new carve outs, not impossible but much, much harder.

What’s that I hear? A Bernie Sanders supporter yelling about how this is a give away to big business? Fear not my friend, this plan will ensure that “everyone pays their fair share”. Currently if you are a multinational corporation you can basically pick your tax rate by manipulating where your income is ‘earned’ (a future post will go into this), but if you are a family owned business, a small manufacturer, an Etsy mogul, you cannot, you earn your income here in the US and pay the full amount of taxes. Under this plan the multinational and the mom and pop pay the same amount. The mom and pop are also no longer disadvantaged by their inability to hire someone like me full time to find and exploit the carve outs, like the GE’s of the world can.

Now diverse contingents of folks, everyone from the last occupier on Wall Street to the ardent Ron Paul fans, are thinking what about those who gamed the system. Those who took millions from the government only to screw over the workers? Well, this system fixes much of that. Most Corporate Welfare is not direct payouts; rather it is handled through what are called Tax Expenditures. These have the advantage of not showing up on the budget as actual spending items but having the exact same effect. This plan eliminates every single one of them. Then if Congress wishes to support a private company, it must do so in full sight of the American people.

Additionally, this plan punishes greed. If someone wants to buy a company and bleed it dry, without regard to the workers or common decency, they still can, but they will pay through the nose in taxes. But if someone chooses to buy a company, manage it correctly, and reinvest their profits into the company, they pay no taxes, and get to grow their investment tax deferred, essentially turning every company into a 401(k).

This piece dovetails with the oft repeated goal of “unleashing America’s job creators” (ignoring that it is worker spending that creates jobs in a market economy, not investment from on high). Since the job creators do not pay any taxes on their profits while they are creating jobs, they are incentivized to continue doing so. Only when they choose to take income out for their own use do they get hit with a tax bill. This allows them 100% control over how much they pay in taxes.

Now for the actual numbers, the part of the show where Larry comes out and sings a silly song, (sorry was listening to my kids’ movie in the background). Currently the federal government takes in 300 billion dollars in corporate taxes. Meanwhile, Michael Thompson, Managing Director and Chairman of S&P Investment Advisory Services at S&P Capital IQ the top 500 companies in the US, known as the S&P 500, give back over one trillion dollars in dividends and stock buybacks this year. That one trillion is not the total amount, only the fraction that those 500 companies make up, and that is also after they paid their share of corporate taxes and compliance costs. So this plan could be revenue neutral if all investment income was treated as regular income, assuming no economic growth caused by this plan.

Oh and it would also allow for the repatriation of the two trillion dollars hiding overseas from US taxes (again a topic that a future post will discuss).

But that’s just my two cents.

R.W.T. Short, Sr. is an accountant and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is a civil libertarian and Veteran’s Rights activist. He lives in Lynchburg, Va. with his wife of eight years, their three children, their dogs, and a colony of former stray cats his daughter adopted. He can be reached via email at Robert.W.T.Short.Sr@GMail.com and on Twitter at @RobertShortSr.

Tearing Out A Man’s Tongue…

Political dialogue is important, which is why I am Facebook friends with a variety of politicians and “like” a lot of political parties and organizations.  I try to maintain ties with a variety of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, and independents.  You shouldn’t simply surround yourself with people who agree with you all the time, as doing so places you in a very small circle and doesn’t allow much room for thought and the possibility of change.  However, I do insist that my contacts treat each other civilly.  For example, several years ago a fellow Ron Paul supporter I knew got into a heated argument with one of my Republican friends and ended up declaring that it would be better if his mother had aborted him.  Regardless of your political affiliations, such a remark is totally over the line.  One can have disagreements about policy without delving into personal attacks.

Photo from January 19th, 2015
Photo from January 19th, 2015

I appreciate my Facebook network of friends who are elected officials, but have discovered that several have gone missing.  After doing a bit of digging I determined that they have blocked me.  I believe Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) blocked me first.  Delegate Bell and I got into a scuffle on my blog back in late 2013 after he crafted a bill that would have drastically changed the opt-in program for organ donation.  I had argued that making this change would, in effect, mean that your body would be assumed to belong to the state unless a citizen declared otherwise.  As you might imagine, this article generated considerable negative press and he ended up pulling the bill, which I praised him for doing.  Since that time Delegate Bell and I have not really communicated (even though we posed for a photo earlier this year) and at some point in 2015 he took the step of blocking me.  I believe it was around the same time I wrote a piece chastising the Augusta County GOP for releasing an ad telling voters to vote Republican in order to “preserve our Christian heritage“.

IMG_2980Next was Marshall Pattie, a Republican Supervisor from Augusta County.  I first met Pattie as we were both running for office.  I was seeking a seat on the Harrisonburg City Council while he sought the Republican nod for the Virginia Senate in the 24th district.  Over about the next year and a half we had several conversations.  Although I did my best to remain objective about the race on this site, I discovered that sometimes he would tell me one thing and then later do or say something totally contradictory.  Here are two examples:  On June 30th, 2014, I attended Marshall Pattie’s official campaign kickoff in Waynesboro.  After the event, he came up to me and told me that he wanted to help my campaign for council but was worried that the Republican leadership would be upset if he did, especially as he was a recent convert to the party.  I explained that I appreciated his support but understood his situation and didn’t ask him for any public help.  However, the next time I saw one of his posts on Facebook, it was a photo of him wearing stickers of my opponents and going door-to-door on their behalf.  Shortly after the November 2014 election, I was told that he spoke at the local Young Republican meeting and declared that Harrisonburg would have elected two Republicans to council if only I had not been in the race.  I asked him if he actually said these words and he confessed that he did, but promised that he would not say it again because he did not believe it to be true.  I didn’t really communicate with him further as I felt these two events had amply proven him to be untrustworthy.  I am not alone in this sentiment, as I know other activists (Republicans and Democrats) who have had similar experiences with him and have drawn the same conclusions.  If you closely examine the figure in the middle of the photo from the 2015 July 4th parade in Staunton, you will see it is Marshall Pattie.  If looks could kill, eh?

The third, believe it or not, is the Republican Party of Virginia.  About once a month or so I would comment on something they posted either offering a factual correction (if they posted something in error) or urging them to actually adhere to the principles found in their creed.  I was also very troubled when the Virginia Republican Party recently took what I thought was an extraordinary step, kicking Delegate Mark Berg (now I-Winchester) out of the party.  I still believe that action was unjust.  However, on the evening of December 12, 2015 I discovered that the party had blocked me from commenting on anything else.

Delegate Mark Berg, local activist Laura Logie, and Delegate Ben Cline
Delegate Mark Berg, local activist Laura Logie, and Delegate Ben Cline

I’ve gotten into disagreements with just about every elected official from time to time.  Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and I have had differing opinions on what constitutes an isolationist.  I supplied a local paper with a photo from the announcement of Delegate Ben Cline’s (R-Rockbridge) Democratic opponent.  I believe Delegate Cline is one of the best delegates and I was not trying to hurt his reelection chances.  Instead, I did it because I felt the paper had fallen down on its responsibility to provide important news to their readers concerning their political choices.  I successfully lobbied the General Assembly to defeat Delegate Steve Landes’ (R-Augusta) party registration bill.  However, in none of those cases did either the elected official or I rush to block the other over these issues as they were, in my opinion, all political fair game.

In full disclosure, I have blocked four people on Facebook.  Three were Republicans staffers and one was a Libertarian (or perhaps better labeled as a former Libertarian).  In each case these people attempted to threaten me into silence.  Whether you agree or disagree with a position or an individual, the use of coercion, be it either through physical or emotional threats, is completely unacceptable.  There is a certain line I will not allow anyone to cross and therefore terminated all further interactions with these individuals.

Censorship+most+often+also+means+you+fear+the+truth+_3d2d1a4bbf6fcae55cdde627c46ab85bAfter I discovered the RPV block I was reminded of a moment at the end of the first season of Game of Thrones.  In the episode a bard had performed a song that King Joffery found offensive.  Acting as Joffery often did, the king presented the bard with a choice, for his insolence he would either lose his fingers or his tongue.  In response, Tyrion Lannister offered this thought on censorship:  “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar; you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

Yes, we all have differing opinions and sometimes these differences can strain or even destroy relationships.  I have not kept track of how many Facebook friends I have both gained and lost due to political conversations.  And, although unfortunate, that is fine.  However, the act of blocking a person, not because they are intentionally nasty, but due to disagreements does make one wonder if a person or group is simply afraid what would happen if other people knew this information and adopted these viewpoints.

Anyway, I want to thank the vast majority of elected officials and political parties who have not blocked me or anyone else simply as a result of posting something they didn’t like.  In the long journey ahead there will be times when we agree and times when we disagree.  However, I hope we can always remain civil and never sever the lines of communication without reasonable cause.

Waiting for “The One”

Image from Tim Tebow's Twitter account
Image from Tim Tebow’s Twitter account

Earlier this week former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and his now-former girlfriend, Olivia Culpo, made the national headlines.  It seems that the former Miss Universe dumped Tebow due to his plan to wait until marriage to have sex with her or anyone else.

Unfortunately, we are moving toward a culture where if a person exerts any sort of sexual restraint it is seen as an aberration.  We are urged to give in to the passion of the moment.   We are told that as long as the two are clean and practice safe sex, there is no harm in it.  After all, we should eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!

Although slut-shaming, as it is called, certainly still exists and is a terrible way to deal with this issue, it feels like sexual exploration is becoming more and more the norm, especially for men.  Some people think that women ought to remain pure, but a man should act like a stud and have sex with as many women as possible.  I’m sure that there are quite a few people who believe that if a 28-year-old guy, especially a professional athlete like Tebow, hasn’t had sex by that age, clearly there must be something wrong with him.  I’m pleased to say that we are moving in a direction of greater liberty, but it is not in one where conservative lifestyle choices are either respected or desired.

Nevertheless, there are some of us, like Tim Tebow, who have decided to wait.  I suppose we do so for a variety of reasons; the two that most readily come to mind are religious and/or moral convictions and the strong bond between two people that could develop from such an experience and the desire to share it only with the right individual.

If a person decides to wait, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she doesn’t face the same inclinations.  Yes, for those who decide to wait the temptations are pretty much the same as anyone else experiences.  And, yes, sometimes it can be tough.

Nevertheless, although some people may consider it pointless or foolish, for those of us who are waiting for “the one”, there is this desire to tell him or her that I’ve waited all this time for you and you alone.  And, although it is less and less common and may not be all that realistic anymore, many of us hope that she will tell us that she waited for us too.