Politics: July 2010 Archives

Koster Releases First TV Ad

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John Koster's first TV ad is up. It's mostly to introduce him to the voters who don't yet know him, especially up in the northern part of the Congressional District 2.


I have a new idea for restructuring our federal government.

Ministers with the power to restrict government activity.

The Minister of Shut Up, for example, has the power to force anyone in government, including the President, to shut up. So when the President says, "My predecessor's failed policies are to blame for the recession," the Minister tells him to shut up. This will greatly increase the quality of our public discourse.

There's also a Minister of Liberty who has the power to overturn or restrict any government action that violates civil liberties, and a Minister of Financial Responsibility that can veto any spending that isn't covered by revenues.

Now, here's the important part: obviously, these positions are only as useful as the people who hold those positions. So if you appoint them, or elect them popularly, you have a big problem. Politicians would appoint people who would not restrict their actions, and the people would elect people who would allow the government to do what they want government to do. It gets us nowhere.

So we will have a popular vote, but the only people who get to vote are people who have a real interest in upholding the restrictions involved. So only people intolerant of bull get to vote on the Minister of Shut Up. Only civil libertarians could vote for Minister of Liberty. And only fiscal conservatives get to vote for Minister of Financial Responsibility.

You might wonder then, what about the liberals? What do they get to vote for? It's only fair that everyone should get to vote for some position, but it seems like at least two of those positions are tilted heavily to the right, and we don't want liberals to feel left out. So, we need a position for them to vote for that is involved in very actively pursuing large government, in taking care of everyone's needs, in fighting against liberty, and so on.

We already have one: President.

So liberals get to decide what government will do, independents get to tell people to shut up, libertarians get to restrict government from hurting our liberty, and conservatives get to say what we won't spend money on because it's too expensive. Everyone gets to vote for only one thing.

I have not decided yet how best to determine whether someone really is a civil libertarian or liberal or what-have-you. Maybe some sort of lie detector test, or maybe just force everyone to pick one position to vote for: they will vote for the position they care most about, which will be the one that is actuated to push their interests, whether it is making government do things, securing liberty, keeping fiscal sanity, or just telling everyone else to shut up.

I think it could work. slashdot.org

Sam Taylor over at The Bellingham Herald quotes a John Koster press release titled "Larsen Votes to Create Permanent Bailout Culture."

Taylor says, "I've already blogged on here that the truth is far different, that the verbatim language of the measure sets up mechanisms for the institutions themselves to pay for any restructuring (not taxpayers). The New York Times also has a good, in-depth piece on how that restructuring works, too, over here."

But the problem is that -- as that very New York Times piece clearly points out -- "The bill will still allow the government to fashion ad hoc remedies in the case of a failing financial institution. ... [I]t appears there is enough wiggle room in the bill and elsewhere in the laws that the government will still be able to structure unique one-off solutions in any financial crisis." The taxpayers, according to the NYT article, very well may be on the hook: "Even if it is not money, backdoor federal assistance in one form or another may arguably still be provided to other parties to permit them to arrange a private deal."

Taylor ignores those facts and instead hyperfocuses on two things: the phrase in Koster's press release headline (which does not even appear in the text of the press release) that Rick Larsen voted "to create permanent bailout culture," and that the bill sets up a system so that the taxpayers won't foot the bill. As to the latter, the NYT piece addresses it sufficiently to make the point: "there are provisions that would still encourage government deal-making," and "while the bill forbids the use of taxpayer money to 'prevent the liquidation of any financial company,' there is always latitude in times of crisis to stretch the law as was done during the financial crisis." To argue that there won't be bailouts still happening just doesn't pass the smell, laugh, or fact test, and even his own link to the NYT says Taylor is wrong. Yes, going through restructuring in the bill might not result in taxpayer funding, but there's many other ways to provide "assistance."

As to the former, what Koster's press release actually said was the bill "will likely open the door for permanent taxpayer-funded bailouts for Wall Street." Far from being not "the truth" -- given the fact that even the NYT says that deal-making, wiggle room, ad hoc remedies, latitude, and backdoor assistance will still encouraged, allowed, and arguably still provided -- it's a perfectly reasonable belief to have. We know from history that "give an inch, take a mile" is the rule of the day in DC, as in most political circles. Believing that if they can bail out, they will bail out, is not remotely unreasonable.

If you believe bailouts are good, fine. But let's not pretend that -- like Obama said -- this bill prevents them from happening, or that it is somehow not "the truth" to believe that, under this bill, bailouts will be encouraged. slashdot.org

My candidate for Congress in WA-2, Republican John Koster, pointed out today that the infamously crooked Charlie Rangel has, according to OpenSecrets, contributed $24,000 to incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen. Larsen is tied for receiving the 15th most money, out of the entire Congress, from Rangel.

That can't be good for Larsen.

According to FEC reports, over the last decade Rangel's National Leadership PAC gave Larsen $17,000, and Rangel's candidate committee gave Larsen another $7,000.

Could be worse, though; he could've received $24,000 from Nancy Pelosi, too. Oh wait: he did (from her candidate committee and her "PAC to the Future").

I kid. I think tying Larsen to Pelosi is a. accurate, and b. will justifiably hurt him, but honestly, I don't care that she gave him money. That's how politics works. Same thing with Rangel: Larsen may not have known Rangel was corrupt. But he should do the right thing and, now knowing the money was in part the fruit of corruption, he should do something good with it. slashdot.org

From the EFF press release:

"We believe Gov. Gregoire's climate change executive order is an unconstitutional order," said Michael Reitz, director of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation's Constitutional Law Center, who represents the taxpayers in this case. "Gov. Gregoire violated the doctrine of separation of powers by snatching a failed bill out of the legislative process and issuing it in the form of an executive order. If the governor wants to pass laws, she's in the wrong branch of government."

I can't yet speak to the claims in detail, but the complaint claims that the executive order "directs state agencies, local governments, planning councils, business representatives, and other entities to take specific actions and to implement new responsibilities and processes."

If that's true, the EFF has a strong case. My guess is that the case will rest on how true that is, because, certainly, while the governor has some authority, without specific statutory or constitutional grant, to tell state agencies what to do, it's limited; and more certainly, she has no such authority to tell anyone else what to do. slashdot.org

Rep. Rick Larsen said last week that getting less money from individual contributions than challenger John Koster "shows that folks across Northwest Washington support my efforts."

According to FEC filings, in the first quarter of 2010, Larsen raised $97,244 from individuals, compared to Koster's $163,188. In the second quarter, just ended in June, Koster still outpaced Larsen in individual contributions, $203,493 to $197,573.

The bulk of Larsen's money during this campaign -- 57% of it, almost $600K -- has come from political action committees (PACs), and most of that has come from out of state, despite Larsen's decrying of the mere possibility of significant out-of-state funds going into Koster's campaign. This quarter, for the first time this cycle, Larsen's individual contributions outpaced his PAC contributions, but it still was less than Koster's.

Koster pulled in only $9500 from PACs (which includes the $5000 from Sarah Palin's PAC), which accounts for only 2.5% of his total. Certainly, it would be nice to have the political connections and high profile Larsen has to rake in that kind of PAC money, but clearly, "folks across Northwest Washington" are so far -- like me -- picking John Koster over party-line Democrat Rick Larsen.

Coming on the heels of a couple of polls that put Koster well ahead of Larsen -- an internal and an external -- it's not looking great for the five-term Democrat. Koster is breathing down his neck, and it's hard to see how Larsen isn't very worried right now.

(P.S. I was on Orcas Island over the weekend, and so was Rick Larsen. I didn't see him -- or his signs -- but I did see many Koster signs between the Ferry and Moran State Park.) slashdot.org

Failed Policies

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President Obama, as he has for years, said again the other day that it was the failed Bush policies that got us into our economic mess.

But from all of his campaigning on that a couple of years ago, through now, I've never heard him explain exactly which Bush policies got us into this mess, and how they did it. He's handwaved at tax cuts, but he's never explained how tax cuts caused any economic problems other than, at worst, a higher deficit (which Obama has massively increased, through his vote for TARP in the Senate, then the stimulus and second TARP, and the health insurance bill, and so on). He's mentioned changes in bank laws that happened under Clinton.

What else? Someone out there please enlighten me. slashdot.org

John Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, thinks of the children and says, "Taken together, these four initiatives will cost our state -- and our children -- half a billion dollars in public investments every two years, undermining our children's prospects for education and economic opportunity. That isn't patriotic. It is just plain wrong."

Burbank lies throughout his piece -- for example, saying that privatizing liquor sales will result in more teenage deaths (which isn't warranted by the facts), and repealing the new candy-and-soda tax will result in more obesity and diabetes (which is literally impossible, unless people would ingest more candy and soda after the tax is repealed than before it was in place) -- but his biggest lie is the one the Democrats tell us all the time: that a reduction in general funds means a reduction in funding for education.

They constantly remind us that it is the constitutional "paramount duty" of our state to provide for education for children; what they don't like to note is that this necessarily means that spending money on anything other than education, while education is not being fully funded, is unconstitutional. And that means that if education is underfunded, the Democrats who run the legislature, and the Democratic Governor, are violating the Constitution.

The fact is, they want to cut education, because that's the best way to get people to want to raise taxes. But when they cut education below what they believe is constitutionally required, they are violating the very Constitution they pretend they need to raise taxes to uphold.

I defy Burbank to think honestly about what the Founders would have said is patriotic. He will find that taxing candy, controlling all liquor sales, and deceptively using "the children" to justify all manner of tax increases was not what they had in mind.

The Patriots were contrasted in the Revolution to the Loyalists. The Loyalists supported the central British government, including its high taxes, and backed -- and participated in -- British propaganda. They thought resistance to British rules was morally wrong. They feared the crowds who were angry at the government. They were pessimistic, disbelieving that people could govern themselves.

Burbank, like many of today's progressives, doesn't sound like a Patriot to me. He sounds like a Loyalist. slashdot.org

Bill Gates Sr. is Full of It

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Our Washington State Constitution was amended for the fourteenth time, in 1930, to read:

All taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of property within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax and shall be levied and collected for public purposes only. The word "property" as used herein shall mean and include everything, whether tangible or intangible, subject to ownership.

In 1933, the Supreme Court of Washington decided Culliton v. Chase, saying:

It would certainly defy the ingenuity of the most profound lexicographer to formulate a more comprehensive definition of "property." It is "everything, whether tangible or intangible, subject to ownership." Income is either property under our fourteenth amendment, or no one owns it. If that is true, any one can use our incomes who has the power to seize or obtain them by foul means. ... No more positive, precise and compelling language could have been used than was used in those words of our fourteenth amendment. It needs no technical construction to tell what those words mean. The overwhelming weight of judicial authority is that "income" is property and a tax upon income is a tax upon property.

That is: income is property, therefore an income tax must be uniform, therefore it is unconstitutional to put an income tax solely on the rich.

Now, fast forward some 80 years. Bill Gates Sr. dislikes this decision. He wants to tax the incomes of only the rich, through I-1098. So he gets Hugh Spitzer to write an analysis for Gates' Tax Alternatives Report almost 10 years ago.

Spitzer wrote with the intent of attacking this longstanding precedent, saying, "The lead opinion in Culliton stated that Aberdeen had held that income is property, that a tax on income must therefore be uniform, and that a nonuniform income tax violated Washington's Constitution. As it happens, Aberdeen did not decide that income was a form of property, at least not under the Washington Constitution."

Now, Aberdeen had relied on two opinions that had been overturned, and so itself may be considered inoperative. That, plus Spitzer's assertion that Culliton relied on Aberdeen for its definition of income as property even though Aberdeen didn't do that, should sink Culliton. Right?


Spitzer correctly notes that Culliton claims Aberdeen decided "that income was property for the purposes of taxation," but it's perhaps telling that Spitzer, in his article, never mentions the fact that our Constitution's definition of property was changed between Aberdeen and Culliton, and that Culliton makes explicit reference to that change in the very context Spitzer was referring to:

After the decision by this court in the Aberdeen Savings & Loan Assn. case, supra, deciding that income was property for the purposes of taxation, the people adopted the fourteenth amendment, supra, which made it a part of the fundamental law of the state.

(Emphasis added.)

So even if Aberdeen didn't say that income is property for the purposes of taxation under our Constitution, and even if Aberdeen is no longer operative anyway, Culliton explicitly recognizes that after Aberdeen, the Fourteenth Amendment to our state's Constitution does say that income is property for the purposes of taxation, that "Income is either property under our fourteenth amendment, or no one owns it. ... No more positive, precise and compelling language could have been used than was used in those words of our fourteenth amendment."

If Aberdeen never existed, Culliton would still stand on its own. When discussing the law from other states, Culliton says:

None of the decisions from other states have any bearing upon the law before us, because of our peculiarly forceful constitutional definition and the difference in their constitutional authorization or restriction.

It doesn't say "because of our peculiarly forceful precedents," but refers explicitly to the amended Constitution. It continues:

We have no constitutional provision authorizing taxation of income as one thing and property as another. We have only the constitutional provision that property "shall mean and include everything, whether tangible or intangible, subject to ownership." Until we have such a constitutional amendment, the hands of the people, as well as the legislature, in enacting laws, are tied.


It is perfectly obvious that, when the proponents of initiative No. 69 framed the act, they lost sight of our constitutional definition in the fourteenth amendment. The declaration in the law of a purpose to tax all annual incomes as such and not as "property," cannot override the constitution. It is also clear that the people when legislating, the legislature, and the courts, are and should be bound by the limitations, restrictions, definitions and prohibitions of the constitution. It is the fundamental law of the state.

It is simply not possible to read this decision and come away with the idea that it is not entirely supported by -- in the compelling opinion of the Court -- the text of the Constitution. Even though it mentions Aberdeen as support, it quickly notes -- and reiterates many times -- that it is the Constitution's definition of property that is inescapably holding.

Bill Gates, Sr. is going to waste a massive amount of taxpayer dollars putting up a blatantly unconstitutional initiative, and I just hope that he actually believes the nonsense that Culliton was based on bad precedent rather than the text of the Constitution. slashdot.org

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from July 2010.

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