Wisconsin Vote Stuns The Left

It’s been amusing to hear all the liberal talking heads on TV trying to claim that Tuesday’s vote in Wisconsin was no big deal. My friends, it was a very big deal indeed. In fact, it just may mark the beginning of the end of union power in this country.

Let’s be very clear about what was at stake in this election. It wasn’t just about ending collective bargaining for government employees. It wasn’t even about how much of their pay union members should contribute for their pensions or their healthcare. While these issues are important, they pale in comparison to what really mattered.

The paramount issue was whether the government could force someone to belong to a union in order to hold a job and deduct union dues from his pay without giving him any say in the matter.

Governor Scott Walker and a Republican majority in the Wisconsin Legislature ended that sweetheart deal for public-sector unions in the State. The results have been catastrophic for the bully boys (and girls) of collective bargaining.

Once the law went into effect, no State employee could be forced to join a union in order to hold a job. Dues would no longer be deducted automatically; employees had to specifically request the deduction of union dues from their paychecks.

Given a choice, guess what happened? Tens of thousands of former union members said “no thanks.” As a result, union membership and dues fell like a safe being dropped out of a window.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is the second-largest public-sector union in Wisconsin. The largest is the National Education Association.

Prior to the passage of the Walker reforms, AFSCME had 62,818 members in Wisconsin. Six months after the new law took effect, the number had declined to just 28,745 dues-paying members. In other words, once they weren’t forced to be union members, more than 50 percent headed for the doors.

Bryan Kennedy, the president of the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin, said that failure to recall Walker “spells doom” for his union. Let’s hope he’s right.

None of this should come as a surprise. Time after time and in State after State, whenever right-to-work laws have replaced compulsory union membership, the results have been the same: More and more workers refuse to support unions. As President Barack Obama’s team will tell you, it takes a heck of a lot of “community organizing” to make up the difference.

Fifty years ago, more than half of the blue-collar workers in America were members of a union. Today, only 7 percent of private-sector employees are union members. That is what happens when people are given a choice. A huge percentage of them will choose to keep the money they earn, rather than let some ham-fisted organization spend it — allegedly on their behalf.

Get government involved and the results are dramatically different. The percentage of government employees who belong to a union is about 37 percent. The total number of union members has skyrocketed, thanks to the explosive growth of government at Federal, State and local levels.

Walker won the Governorship in 2010 by promising to bring some fiscal sanity to Wisconsin, which was facing a $3 billion deficit. To do that, he said that union members would have to start contributing “their fair share.” (Sound familiar?)

His “5 and 12” plan called for government employees to pay more for their lavish pensions and their generous healthcare plans. Under the Walker proposal, contributions to the pension plans would climb to 5.8 percent of their pay. This was still a sweetheart deal compared to what private-sector workers get. Most of the latter have no pension whatsoever; those who do contribute, on average, a lot more than 5.8 percent of their pay toward their retirement.

Healthcare is even more expensive. The average private-sector worker pays 21 percent of the premiums for his or her coverage; government employees in Wisconsin paid just 6 percent of the costs of their health insurance, or less than one-third as much. The Walker plan would double that figure to 12.6 percent — still a bargain by almost any measure.

Union members in Wisconsin went absolutely ballistic at the thought of having to dig into their own pockets so much. Tens of thousands of them marched on the State Capitol in Madison, in a sort of local “Occupy” movement. When that wasn’t enough to intimidate the Legislature, 14 Democratic Senators fled the State. Yep, they high-tailed it to Illinois, so there wouldn’t be enough voters left in Madison to form a quorum.

That standoff lasted for a while. When a vote was finally taken, the Walker proposals passed handily. Union officials and their Democratic allies immediately launched a highly publicized petition movement to demand a recall of Walker, his Lieutenant Governor and four Republican State Senators. Thousands of union volunteers poured into the State. They ended up collecting more than 900,000 signatures for the petition — way more than the 400,000 needed to force a special election.

On Tuesday, the unions and their Democratic allies got what they said they wanted: a chance for the public to vote “aye” or “nay” on the Walker reforms. After one of the most costly and divisive campaigns in State history, a record number of voters showed up at the polls.

Bless their hearts! They gave Walker an even bigger victory than they did in 2010, when he defeated Tom Barrett (yes, the same guy) by 5.5 percent of the votes cast. This time his victory was even bigger; he carried the State by 53 percent to 46 percent.

Let’s not forget that other Governors, including Mitch Daniels in Indiana and Chris Christie in New Jersey, have seen their popularity soar the more they have challenged teachers and other union members.

By the way, I suspect Obama’s pollsters had a much better idea of what was going to happen in Wisconsin than the number crunchers at CNN. How else can you explain Obama’s invisibility in what was clearly going to be one of the most important pre-November elections this year?

Oh, sure, Obama issued a lukewarm endorsement of Barrett from the safe confines of the White House. But when it came time to press the flesh and energize the crowds in Wisconsin, the President was nowhere to be seen. Nor was Vice President Joe Biden.

Remember, Obama and Biden carried the State handily in 2008. Afterwards, the Veep told an enthusiastic crowd of union loyalists, “We owe you!” Sure thing, buddy. But not enough to risk getting some egg on their faces this time around.

Does Walker’s stunning victory mean that Wisconsin is “in play” for Romney this fall? Time will tell. But in the meantime, is that a groundswell I hear saying “Walker for VP?”

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Feds To Florida: Stop

No fair purging the voter rolls. Officials in Florida believe that as many as 182,000 non-citizens may be on the voter rolls in the Sunshine State. So Republican Governor Rick Scott ordered election officials to identify any ineligible names and purge them from the list. Now, however, the U.S. Department of Justice has ordered the process stopped. It says it must approve in advance any changes in voter-registration procedures. The Feds can’t allow any discrimination regarding who gets to vote — especially with major elections coming up in a few months.

Big Gulp meets Big Brother. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire Mayor of New York City, has a bold new program to combat rising obesity in the city. He wants to ban restaurants, movie theaters and even street carts from offering containers that hold more than 16 ounces of sugary drinks. “New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” Bloomberg told The New York Times. What’s next: mandatory exercise classes in the city’s parks?

A bounty for Obama’s grades. While critics are eager to dig into any shenanigans they can find to pin on Mitt Romney — even going back to his prep school days — they’ve been strangely silent about Barack Obama’s refusal to release his grades from college. So a conservative website is now offering a $20,000 reward to anyone who sends them his transcripts from Occidental College, Columbia University or Harvard Law School. So far, no one has come forward to claim the money.

That promise didn’t work out so well. Thanks to James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal for reminding us that when Congress was debating the first “stimulus” bill, the Administration of Barack Obama claimed that the $831 billion spending spree would create so many new jobs the unemployment rate would drop to 5.7 percent. So after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was rammed through Congress, what happened? Even using the government’s very questionable statistics, unemployment was at 8.2% in May.

–Chip Wood     

 

Thinking Of Fleeing The United States?

Wowee, some folks are sure angry that Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders of Facebook, decided to unfriend the country that helped make him a billionaire.

Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.) called a press conference two weeks ago to announce the introduction of the Ex-PATRIOT Act. The letters stand for “Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy.” I’ll bet somebody spent hours coming up with that one.

The measure would also bar individuals like Saverin from ever re-entering the United States.

Schumer couldn’t help sounding a little spiteful when he declared: “Saverin has turned his back on the country that welcomed him and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire. This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong.”

Clearly, Schumer would have changed “fleeing” in the headline above to “fleecing.”

For the record, let it be noted that Saverin paid every penny of taxes the Internal Revenue Service said he owed before he left our shores to become a citizen of Singapore. But that’s not enough for the greedy Senators. Their measure would impose a 30 percent capital gains tax on all of the assets of any American who dared to renounce his citizenship. It was predicted that Saverin’s Facebook shares would be worth about $3.5 billion after the initial public offering; that would have been a $1 billion bite.

Singapore, by contrast, has no capital gains tax; so it would appear that Saverin had a hefty financial incentive to make the move.

Nevertheless, the new Facebook billionaire issued a statement denying that he was leaving the U.S. to avoid paying taxes.

“I have paid and will continue to pay any taxes due on everything I earned while a U.S. citizen,” he said. He added that he was “very grateful to the U.S.” for the advantages he enjoyed since 1992, when he moved to the United States from Brazil. His decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship, he declared, “was based solely on my interest in working and living in Singapore.” Sure thing, Eduardo.

When I first heard this story, I couldn’t help but compare the threats and accusations against Saverin to the treatment another American billionaire received when he decided to relinquish his U.S. citizenship.

John Templeton was an investor and mutual fund pioneer who renounced his U.S. citizenship in the 1960s and moved to the Bahamas. The move saved him an estimated $100 million in taxes when he subsequently sold his interest in Templeton Growth Fund, an investment firm he started in 1954.

But rather than threats of being drawn and quartered, Templeton was honored and feted. He was granted both Bahamian and British citizenship. In fact, he was subsequently knighted by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of his many charitable activities. At the time of his death, it is estimated that Sir John had given away more than $1 billion. His numerous gifts included establishing the Templeton College at the University of Oxford. He left the bulk of his fortune to the John Templeton Foundation, which manages the Templeton Prize for Progress toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.

Templeton clearly believed he was a better steward of his wealth than our government would be since he took such a drastic step to reduce his tax bite, including what his estate would have to pay upon his death. But doesn’t every American who reduces his tax bill by making charitable contributions do the same  thing? By the way, this must even include Barack and Michelle Obama, who have made substantial gifts to charity. If they thought the government could spend the money better, why not just pay it in taxes?

When Templeton died four years ago at the age of 95, he was still one of the most admired and respected financial figures on the planet. I think it’s safe to say that Saverin will not be afforded the same affection and respect that Templeton enjoyed.

It turns out that an increasing number of Americans have decided to head for other shores. While the numbers are still a tiny fraction of our population, the trend is unmistakable: According to official figures, a mere 235 Americans gave up their nationality in 2008. Three years later, the number was more than seven times higher: 1,780 disgruntled Americans did so in 2011.

But that’s a pittance compared to the number of expats who have moved out of the United States without surrendering their citizenship. An estimated 6 million citizens live outside our borders. While that does not absolve them from paying taxes here, they do enjoy some substantial advantages — including, in many cases, a substantially lower cost of living.

So what about you? Are there any circumstances that would persuade you to pack your bags and head for another country? If you’ve already left our shores, I hope you’ll use the comments section below to tell us why you did, when it happened and where you went. I’m sure a ton of readers will be interested in your reasons — and your experiences.

If you are thinking of becoming an expat, where would you go? If the amount of economic freedom you will find in your newly adopted country is an important consideration, then you need to know about the Index of Economic Freedom. It’s a study that’s done every year by the Heritage Foundation, in cooperation with The Wall Street Journal.

You won’t be surprised to learn which countries head the list. Hong Kong is in first place, with Singapore right behind. Trailing those two Asian countries are Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada and Chile. Sad to say, the United States has slipped to 10th place on the list. Frankly, I was a little surprised we haven’t dropped further.

There were no surprises, either, at the bottom of the list. North Korea was dead last, with Zimbabwe, Cuba and Libya not doing much better. Other gems in the bottom 10, in descending order, were Equatorial Guinea, Iran, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, Venezuela and Eritrea. I don’t think you’ll find your own personal Shangri-La in any one of them.

As for me, while I have enjoyed visiting many of the world’s garden spots (and a few places that were more like garbage dumps), there isn’t one I’d consider making my permanent home — not even if it would save me a fortune in taxes.

Besides, I’m having too much fun in the fight for freedom here to seriously consider leaving. I hope you are, too.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Nobama

More people join the ‘anybody but Barack Obama’ club. It was no surprise that Mitt Romney won the Republican primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky last week. But did you hear what happened on the Democratic side? Forty-two percent of the voters in the Democratic primaries in those two States voted against the incumbent President. In Kentucky, where there wasn’t even an opponent on the ballot, Democrats selected “uncommitted.” That’s almost as embarrassing as what happened in West Virginia, where 41 percent of Democratic voters chose a prison inmate rather than our current President.

Taxmageddon could derail the economy. As discussed in last week’s Straight Talk, tax increases already set to take effect in January will cost taxpayers an additional $500 billion a year. Some economists estimate that it could knock 3 percentage points off the Nation’s gross domestic product and warn that another recession is all but inevitable unless Congress takes action to block this massive tax grab.

More Americans leave the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 63.6 percent of American adults were considered to be in the workforce in April — the lowest percentage since 1981. Some 88 million Americans have “chosen” not to be in the workforce — the highest level in history.

Fudging the unemployment numbers. The previous item helps explain why the Administration of Barack Obama can claim that the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent in April. And another eye-opener from the Bureau: Only 41.6 percent of people with jobs work more than 35 hours a week — the definition of having a full-time job.

–Chip Wood

Are You Ready For Taxmageddon?

Thanks a lot, Congress. It looks like you’ve really stuck it to us again. This time, just sitting on your hands and doing nothing is going to cause the biggest tax increase in our Nation’s history.

On Feb. 18, The Washington Post reported:

On Dec. 31, the George W. Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire, raising rates on investment income, estates and gifts, and earnings at all levels. … The Social Security payroll tax will pop back up to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent… And new Medicare taxes enacted as part of President Obama’s health-care initiative will for the first time strike high-income households.

The potential shock to the nation’s pocketbook is so enormous, congressional aides have dubbed it “Taxmageddon.”

Taxmageddon won’t be the result of one massive new assault on our wallets. Instead, it will come from tax cuts expiring in seven categories, along with new tax increases taking effect because of Obamacare.

The biggest of the bunch will come from the expiration of Bush tax cuts that were passed in 2001 and 2003. At the time, proponents argued that the only way to get enough Democrats to support the measures would be to include a cap on how long they would be in effect. As a result, our lawmakers agreed that the tax reductions would expire on Dec. 31, 2012.

Although Democrats love to refer to the measures as “tax cuts for the wealthy,” the across-the-board tax cuts actually reduced taxes for almost everyone who paid any income tax. Some 60 percent of the benefits went to middle- and low-income taxpayers.

Curtis Dubay of the Heritage Foundation prepared a detailed analysis of the tax hikes that are about to hit us:

Almost 34 percent of the tax increase from Taxmageddon comes from the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. These cuts are best known for reducing marginal income tax rates, but they also reduced the marriage penalty, increased the Child Tax Credit and the adoption credit, and increased tax breaks for education costs and dependent care costs.

In other words, they will impact just about everyone who pays any income taxes in this country.

We’re not talking about puny increases, either. Taxpayers at every level will be affected, with some of the greatest increases hitting people at the bottom of the ladder. For example, the lowest bracket is currently 10 percent. Beginning in January, it will jump to 15 percent — a 50 percent increase.

This “bracket creep” will affect every taxpayer. All of the existing brackets will go up at least 10 percent. Thus, 25 percent will become 28 percent; 28 percent becomes 31 percent; 33 percent climbs to 36 percent; and 35 percent rises to 39.6 percent. If you’re in the top tax bracket, congratulations! Your tax bracket just went up 13.14 percent.

That’s not all. Wait until you see what the new taxes in Obamacare will do to you. I’ll get to those in a moment.

People who depend on savings and investments will be hammered even harder than wage earners. Right now, the maximum Federal tax rate on long-term capital gains is 15 percent. Starting next year, that will go up to 20 percent — a leap of 33 percent. Those collecting dividends will suffer even more: The maximum rate will skyrocket from the existing 15 percent to a hefty 39.6 percent. (Assets acquired after Dec. 31, 2000, and held for at least five years don’t get hit quite as hard.)

In other words, the thriftiest among us — the people who carefully managed their household budgets, saved some money for the future and invested those funds in stocks, bonds and CDs — will be hit the hardest. The government attack on savings makes it seem almost as though there is a scheme in Washington to punish senior citizens and make them more dependent on government.

Almost every wage earner in America will pay more in taxes when the payroll tax cuts are allowed to expire. In his 2009 State of the Union address, Barack Obama promised: “If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime.”

Well, guess what? It turns out he wasn’t quite telling the truth — something a lot of us have pointed out many times.

Also scheduled to expire is a temporary fix of the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT was originally sold to a skeptical public as a way to make sure “the rich” pay their fair share – which, of course, it never did. In 2013 it will scalp a lot more than the top 1 percent of taxpayers; current estimates indicate 34 million taxpayers will fall victim to it.

Remember the phase-out rules for itemized deductions? The big spenders in Congress came up with the bright idea of eliminating most of the credit high-income taxpayers got for deductions on mortgage interest, State and local taxes, and charitable giving. The phase-out was eliminated in 2010. But it will be back in full force next year, unless Congress acts before then.

By the way, don’t think that only “the rich” will be affected here, either. If you’re a married couple with an adjusted gross income of $175,000, better be prepared to lose a big bunch of the money you can deduct from your Federal tax bill. If you’re married but filing separately, that ceiling drops to just $87,500 — a long way from Barack Obama’s $250,000 limit.

And here’s an even more frightening thought: The $500 billion in increased taxes that Uncle Sam wants to take from us in 2013 will just be the beginning. As our economy continues to grow, so will the impact of all these new and higher taxes.

Just because these tax increases don’t take affect for seven more months, don’t think we’re not feeling the effect today. As Dubay explains:

Although these tax increases will not start raising new revenue until next year, they are having a negative impact on the economy today. Families, businesses, and investors need to know how much tax they will pay in the future before making important economic decisions. The uncertainty caused by Taxmageddon means they are stuck in neutral while they wait for President Obama and Congress to act. This is slowing job creation and stopping many of the millions of unemployed Americans from going back to work.

So there you have it: higher taxes on all of us, plus fewer new jobs being created and an economy that just stumbles along, all because Congress refuses to act.

I hope you’ll remember this — and remind your neighbors about it — when it comes time to vote for a new Congress this November.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Red State Giving Obama The Blues

Losing North Carolina? In last week’s column Barack Obama’s Really Bad Day, I discussed how Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage could hurt him in North Carolina — a State he carried by a razor-thin margin in 2008. The latest Rasmussen poll says it’s already happening; Mitt Romney has taken a decisive 51 percent to 43 percent lead over the President in the Tar Heel State. Adding to the Democrats’ woes, several gay-rights groups are demanding that that they move their national convention to another State to punish North Carolinians for supporting an amendment to the State constitution declaring marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

JPMorgan Chase can afford the loss. The media have been filled with stories about how some errant trades in its London office cost banking biggie JPMorgan Chase about $2 billion. But I haven’t seen any mention of the fact that the losses represent just a fraction of the $25 billion the bank received in bailout money. One big difference between bankers and bureaucrats is that the former will learn from their mistakes, not just keep repeating them.

The Greek crisis produces a new vocabulary. Will other European nations agree to pay “drachmail” to keep a “grexit” from taking place? If not, could the “Acropolypse” lead to “Eurogeddon” ultimately? These are just some of the new words being coined to describe the possibility that Greece will leave the European Union. No one knows for certain if such a “grexit” will take place, of course — or even what the consequences of it would be.

That small nation has a big impact. The financial headlines make it appear that Greece is the most important country in the world right now. Investor concerns about what will happen there have lopped billions of dollars off stocks in this country. But consider: Wal-Mart is just one of the 30 companies that comprise the Dow Jones industrial average, yet Wal-Mart’s worldwide annual revenue and annual Medicaid spending are 40 percent larger than Greece’s entire economy. Doesn’t it seem strange that such a small economy could have such a huge impact on the world?

–Chip Wood

 

You Just Think You’re Unemployed

Where have all the workers gone? If you don’t have a job, but you’re no longer looking for work, guess what? You’re not counted among the unemployed.  The Washington Post reports that if the same percentage of adults were in the workforce now as when Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate would be 11.1 percent. While if you go back to when George W. Bush was sworn in, the unemployment rate would be 13.1 percent. I guess this means that if everyone stopped looking for work, Obama could claim the unemployment rate was 0.

They’re back — sort of. After hibernating most of the winter, when it was too cold to sleep in most Northern parks, the Occupy Wall Street crowd chose May 1 to announce that they were back in business. But hardly anyone paid any attention to their call for “people to refrain from shopping, walk out of class, take the day off of work and other creative forms of resistance disrupting the status quo” on the traditional communist holiday (International Workers’ Day). What say we all ignore them? That would certainly get their goat.

Too broke to declare bankruptcy? Here’s a story that had me scratching my head. CNNMoney claims that hundreds of thousands of Americans who would like to declare bankruptcy can’t afford to do so. That’s because it can cost $1,500 or more to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. The same study estimates that 200,000 people used their tax refunds this year to pay to file for bankruptcy.

Harvard’s absurd “minority” professor. Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law School professor who is running for the Senate against Republican incumbent Scott Brown in Massachusetts, seems to be a little red-faced these days, if you’ll pardon the expression. It seems her claims to be part Native American are a little shaky. There’s no actual proof that her great-great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee, just “family lore.” Harvard still claims she is an example of their “minority” hiring, however.

–Chip Wood

Barack Obama’s Really Bad Day

When there’s something to celebrate, it’s called a red-letter day. A black-letter day, on the other hand, is “a day on which a great incident of misfortune happened or has happened.” Well, Barack Obama had a black-letter day last week. In fact, May 8 may go down as the turning point in his re-election campaign — the day voters made it clear he would be a one-term President.

There were four pivotal events on May 8. Let’s begin with the one that may have been the most telling: the Democratic primary in West Virginia. Did you know that Obama’s primary opponent there got 41 percent of the vote and actually won 10 counties?

Unless you live in West Virginia, you probably didn’t even know that the President had a primary opponent there. But here’s the most amazing part: His opponent didn’t make a single public appearance in the contest.

He didn’t because he couldn’t; he was in jail at the time!

That’s right. Keith Judd, the guy who came close to defeating an incumbent President in West Virginia’s primary, is better known as inmate No. 11593-051 at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas.

All Judd had to do to get on the ballot was file the proper paperwork and pay a $2,500 fee.

WSAZ.com reported that Judd said: “Some outside supporter provided that to the Secretary of State; I do have outside support. I’m unaware of who that particular person was, and whether it was a person or a collection of persons.”

Judd has a history of entering various contests. According to New Mexico Telegram, Judd ran three times as a write-in candidate in New Mexico: twice for Mayor of Albuquerque and once for Governor. Judd himself told WSAZ.com that he’s been a perennial Presidential candidate since 1996. The Associated Press reported that in 2008, his name was on the Democratic Party ballot in Idaho.

I guess every inmate needs a hobby.

And I’m not surprised that four out of 10 Democratic voters in West Virginia would prefer anyone to Obama. After all, the President has made it clear he’ll do everything he can to destroy the coal industry in this country.

Prohibit businesses from burning coal, and there’s no reason to mine the stuff. Destroy coal mining, and you pretty much destroy the economy of West Virginia. That’s not hard for the folks there to understand. So it’s really no surprise that a lot of voters there would prefer anybody — even a jailbird — over the incumbent President. Look for every Democrat in the State to distance themselves as far as possible from the President in their own campaigns.

Obama’s re-election committee knows they didn’t have a chance of carrying the State. They wrote it off long ago. But if West Virginia doesn’t matter to the Democrats, North Carolina certainly does. The State is viewed as so crucial to Democratic prospects this year that they decided to hold their national convention in Charlotte.

So what happened when North Carolinians went to vote last week? They voted overwhelmingly in favor of adding a new amendment to the State Constitution, declaring that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Obama and Joe Biden had publicly opposed the measure. Bill Clinton even recorded robocalls against it. And when pollsters queried citizens before the vote how they felt about it, many people in the State claimed they weren’t in favor of it.

But it turns out there can be a big difference between what people say in public and how they vote in private. Voters in North Carolina turned out in record numbers for the election. And once they closed the curtain behind them, 61 percent of them voted to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Period.

(By the way, about 20 percent of Democratic voters checked “no preference” in the Presidential primary. Since Obama carried the State by a slim 14,000-vote margin in 2008, you have to think his prospects are iffy for winning it again this year.)

So what did the President do? The very next day after North Carolina passed a gay marriage ban, he came out in favor of gay marriage. That’s a strange way to get voters in the Tar Heel State enthusiastic about your candidacy, wouldn’t you say? This issue could even put a dent in the nearly unanimous support he receives from black voters.

Of course, the media have gone absolutely gaga over the President’s announcement. They’ve been waiting 3.5 years for his position to “evolve” this far. Newsweek magazine put the President’s face on the cover under the headline “The First Gay President.” A rainbow-colored halo appeared above Obama’s head.

The Democrats are counting on the President’s position to win them more support than it costs them. Time will tell if they’ve guessed right. Certainly, it won’t hurt him in Hollywood. A $40,000-a-head fundraiser at George Clooney’s house a few days later raised more than $15 million for Obama’s re-election coffers. But Hollywood isn’t the heartland. And the louder the gay rights brigade gets, the more votes it will cost them.

For our last two examples of Obama’s really bad day, let’s turn to the Midwest. One of the most important primary elections this year took place in Indiana, where voters told Richard Lugar it was time for him to retire from the Senate.

I almost said they decided to send him “back home.” But actually that was part of the problem. It seems Lugar hasn’t had a legal residence in Indiana for decades. For years, he listed a house he sold in 1977 on his voter-registration form.

Lugar had not faced a primary opponent since he was first elected to the Senate in 1976. But this year, conservatives united behind Richard Mourdock, a well-known and popular state official. Mourdock had the support of several Tea Party groups, the Club for Growth and Freedom Works.

So much for rumors that the Tea Party movement was a one-time phenomenon.

The Lugar campaign resorted to the same sort of scare tactics we’re going to see a lot of this year. In one TV commercial, a white-haired grandmother-type says, “He’s not thinking, is he? No idea of consequences, what this means to people. He’s going to ruin people.” While she speaks, the following sentence appears: “Richard Mourdock has a plan to cut every senior’s Social Security by nearly $2,500 a year.”

Happily, Hoosier voters didn’t buy it. Lugar received less than 40 percent of the primary vote, despite blatant appeals to Democrats and independents to vote for him in the Republican primary. Will this momentum carry Mourdock to victory in November? We’ll find out in six months.

Finally, please direct your attention to Wisconsin, where we won’t have to wait nearly so long for an answer. As you’ll recall, labor unions have spent millions of dollars there and imported thousands of activists to force a recall election for their nemesis, Republican Governor Scott Walker.

That election takes place on June 5. But the primary to pick his opponent was also held a week ago Tuesday. And significantly enough, more people cast ballots for Walker than for any other candidate.

One day, four elections. And four warnings for the left that a whole lot of voters want to see some changes made — just not the ones Obama and his buddies are trying to shove down our throats.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Racists For Obama

I wondered how long it would take for someone to raise the issue of racism in this year’s Presidential election. The answer came sooner than I expected. Last week, The New York Times ran the story “4 Years Later, Race Is Still Issue for Some Voters.”

In case you thought the story might be an exposé of the virulent hatred of America by some of President Barack Obama’s more extreme supporters (such as his longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright), forget about it. That’s old news and obviously not worth discussing any more. Heck, for the mainstream media, it was hardly worth discussing four years ago.

Nor was the story about the near unanimity of black voters to support a member of their own race worth discussing. Obama is expected to receive 95 percent of the black vote this year, just as he did in 2008 — no matter who his opponent is or what the issues are. Of course, there’s nothing racist in that.

No, the emphasis of the story was on how a tiny minority of white voters –especially those in “economically depressed regions with high proportions of white working-class residents” — said they wouldn’t vote for Obama because he is black.

So it’s OK for blacks to vote for Obama specifically because he is black. But it’s racist if a white votes for another white because of his skin color. Does anyone see a bit of a double standard here?

Of course, such bias (dare I say prejudice) has been around for a long time. Many liberals believe the only way to make up for decades of discrimination is to go overboard the other way. “Equality” wasn’t enough; we needed affirmative action and a new kind of discrimination.

Thus, it has become perfectly OK for this country to commemorate Black History Month. And, of course, every college that wants to keep its professors happy better offer a bunch of courses celebrating black achievements. But can you imagine the furor that would erupt if anyone dared propose teaching a class on white achievements?

What got the Times reporter so rattled was her concern that Obama’s race could keep him from being re-elected this year. As Sabrina Tavernise explained, “As Mr. Obama braces for what most signs suggest will be a close re-election battle, race remains a powerful factor among a small minority of voters.”

Of course she means a “small minority” of white voters. Had she broadened her survey to include blacks, she could have written that race mattered to “a large majority.” In fact, it matters to a very large majority. Blacks supported Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008 by a margin of almost 24-1. But of course there’s nothing racist about that.

The Obama campaign is doing everything it can to make sure that this particular history repeats itself. There is even a special section on the campaign website on “The Obama Administration’s Accomplishments for the African American Community.” Click here to see what I am writing about.

Then Tavernise hits her audience with the zinger:

“Given Ohio’s critical importance as a swing state that will most likely be won or lost by the narrowest of margins, the fact that Mr. Obama’s race is a deal-breaker for even a small number of otherwise loyal Democrats could have implications for the final result.”

Now that is a bunch of baloney. What are the odds that someone who voted for Obama four years ago (when he carried Ohio by a comfortable margin) will vote for his opponent this year because Obama is black? Does she really think this is something the voters didn’t know in 2008? Her argument that anti-black bigotry could cost Obama the election this year is ridiculous.

If Obama loses, it won’t be because a majority of voters reject his race. It will be because they reject his policies.

What Republicans Should Do

Faced with the fact that blacks will once again overwhelmingly vote for Obama this year, what should Republicans do?

The most absurd argument I’ve heard is that they should select Condoleezza Rice as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Sure thing. And how much of the black vote will go to Romney because he has a black female on the ticket?

Let’s face facts: If Romney got four times as many black votes as McCain did four years ago, that would still be as insignificant as a mosquito biting the Hulk. In 2008, the black vote came to 12.1 percent of the total. Obama captured 95 percent of it. Does anyone think there is anything Romney could do to keep Obama from getting the overwhelming majority of it again?

Nominating Condoleezza as Vice President to fragment the black vote makes as much sense as choosing a union leader to make inroads in the union vote. Or a bureaucrat to get the government worker vote.

If Romney is to have any kind of chance this year, he must select someone who will get potential voters to work like crazy for his election. Those dedicated doorbell pushers and yard-sign displayers aren’t going to come from the liberal side of the ledger.

To use a phrase you’ve heard hundreds times before (and will hear a thousand more times before this November), Romney has to choose a candidate — and stake out positions — who will motivate the base. That isn’t Rice.

Heck, I suspect it isn’t even a black whose views I do support, such as Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell or Representative Allen West. Although any of those three articulate defenders of American principles would sure add some fire to the race. Could you see any of the three debating Joe Biden? Now, that’s a confrontation I’d pay good money to see.

I hope the left will continue to bang on the “if you oppose Obama you must be a racist” drum because the more they do, the more votes it will cost them. This one just doesn’t play in Peoria anymore. In fact, the only place it does work is the Obamas’ former church. Oh, and maybe Al Sharpton’s congregation.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

It’s All About The Money

Obama having trouble raising big bucks. The headline in The New York Times read “Obama Sees Steep Dropoff in Cash from Major Donors.” It looks like the big givers aren’t opening their wallets as they did in 2008. This time, most donors are giving less than $200 each. While the total lags behind the record amounts he collected in 2008, Barack Obama’s war chest is predicted to hit $1 billion this year — far more than Mitt Romney will have on hand. The President has already appeared at more than 100 fundraisers in the past year.

George Soros writes some big checks. One major Barack Obama supporter who isn’t cutting back is George Soros. The ultra-liberal billionaire proudly announced that he will give $1 million to the super-PAC American Bridge 21st Century and another $1 million to the advocacy group American Votes. Both organizations favor causes on the left side of the political spectrum.

Canada stops making cents. The Royal Canadian Mint has produced its last penny. Ceremonies at the Mint’s manufacturing facility in Manitoba marked the end of a 150-year tradition. The coin cost the Canadian government 1.6 Canadian cents to mint; its elimination will save the country about $11.15 million a year. But don’t bother collecting them; with an estimated 20 billion pennies still in circulation, their value isn’t expected to rise anytime soon.

Money isn’t that important to this champion. Masters champion Bubba Watson shocked many golf fans when he withdrew from this year’s Players Championship, saying he wants to spend more time with his wife and newly adopted 2-month-old son. “The Players is one of the best weeks of the year but bonding with my son and wife is what it is all about right now,” Watson tweeted. The golfer was favored to win a big chunk of this year’s prize money: $1.7 million for the winner and a total purse of $9.5 million.

–Chip Wood

 

Washington Crucifies Job Creators

Well, hot diggity dog. At least one mean-spirited, overzealous Washington regulator got what was coming to him this week. Al Armendariz, a regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency, was forced to quit his job when some of his intemperate remarks got publicized. It would be great if the same thing happened to a few thousand of his fellow bureaucrats.

Armendariz was in charge of enforcing EPA regulations in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. He was appointed to his post in November 2009 by President Barack Obama and quickly demonstrated a zeal for the job. He was infamous for his office’s harsh prosecution — many would say persecution — of any company that fell afoul of EPA regulations.

In a lecture two years ago, Armendariz explained his “philosophy of enforcement” to the audience:

It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.

That’s a pretty chilling and cold-blooded attitude, wouldn’t you say? Notice that guilt or innocence has nothing to do with Armendariz’s methodology. All he’s concerned about is how quickly and how ruthlessly he can intimidate his subjects.

How would you like to have someone with this philosophy determining the future of the company you work for? Or founded? Or any private enterprise in this country, for that matter? Well, the sad truth is, there are thousands of petty tyrants like Armendariz working for your government — and being paid by your tax dollars — in hundreds of Federal bureaucracies. The only unique thing about Armendariz is that he got caught.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) deserves a tip of the hat for shining a spotlight on this particular cockroach. It happened because Inhofe decided to investigate an EPA vendetta against Range Resources, a drilling company the EPA accused of contaminating local water supplies. A lengthy investigation exonerated the firm, but not until Armendariz and his staff had done as much damage as they could to the company. As you probably know, the only energy producers the Administration of President Barack Obama likes are the wind and solar ones that need millions of dollars in Federal subsidies to survive. In the case of Solyndra Inc., $500 million in subsidies couldn’t keep it going.

But if you’re a for-profit producer of coal or oil or natural gas, forget it. You’ve got a big, bright bull’s eye painted on the middle of your back. And it was put there by Obama and his environmentalist buddies.

The Wall Street Journal recently published a lengthy opinion piece by Bob McDonnell, in which the Virginia Governor lamented how the Obama Administration pulled the rug out of from under plans to develop his State’s offshore oil and gas resources. He explained, “In 2010, Virginia was poised to become the first state on the East Coast permitted to produce oil and natural gas offshore.”

But the plans were nixed by Washington “with little explanation and even less regard for the strong bipartisan and public support for the offshore initiative.” Three months later, the Administration added insult to injury when it announced plans to subsidize wind-power development in Virginia’s waters.

And the same thing is happening from the Gulf Coast to Alaska. Profit-making (and tax-paying) private companies that want to develop our oil and gas resources are told “no way, Jose.” One project in Alaska that McDonnell cites could have created 55,000 new jobs annually — not to mention $145 billion in new payroll and $193 billion in additional government revenue. In case after case, it was a government bureaucrat — not the marketplace — that put the kibosh on the project.

And don’t get me started about the Keystone XL pipeline. Thanks to the Administration’s intransigence, thousands of jobs — and billions of barrels of oil — that could have been flowing from Canada to Texas and Oklahoma may now be going to China.

By the way, it’s not just Federal regulators who can promulgate some crazy rules. So can State and local governments, as many homeowners can testify. Just ask Joseph Pomares, who was recently cited for having “standing water” in a birdbath he added to a rental home he owns in Astoria, N.Y. A new regulation to the health code there makes landlords responsible for any infractions found on their property that could lead to the “breeding or harborage” of mosquitoes. It seems regulators there take their responsibilities to prevent West Nile virus very seriously. The citation he received advised Pomares that he was in violation of Article 151 of the city’s health code and could face a $2,000 fine if the situation was not remedied at once.

No doubt I could fill 100 more pages with similar injustices and outrages across this country. I was going to say that it was no doubt impossible to estimate the cost of complying with all the rules and regulations that have been inflicted on us by a Big Nanny government run amuck.

But if I said that, I’d be wrong. It turns out that the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a pro-free market think tank in Washington, has undertaken precisely such a study. And CEI says the total cost to our economy of government regulation amounts to a staggering $1.75 trillion a year.

To help put that price tag in perspective, CEI reports “Regulatory costs exceed all 2008 corporate pretax profits of $1.463 trillion.” How many jobs has it cost us? It’s impossible to know for certain, but the number is likely in the millions.

Speaking of unemployment, permit me to repeat something I pointed out in a Chip Shots item last week. Administration officials have pointed with pride to the latest unemployment figure, which allegedly has fallen to 8.2 percent. This is based on claims that 120,000 new jobs were added to the economy in March.

But buried deep in the report is the news that far more Americans who got new jobs dropped out of the labor force that month. The “no longer looking for work” numbers swelled by 164,000.

Just think about it: If every unemployed person stopped looking for work, our unemployment rate would be 0. That’s the sort of “recovery” this administration is giving us.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said that King George had “erected a Multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

Frankly, compared to what this Administration has done to us, our rebellious forefathers had it easy. Don’t you agree?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

King Of The Fundraisers

Obama is busy raising campaign funds. Although Barack Obama condemned “the corrosive influence of money in politics” in his State of the Union speech this year, it turns out that he wants to get his hands on as much of it as possible. A new book by Brendan J. Doherty, The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign, says that Obama has held more re-election fundraising events since taking office than the combined total of all five of his predecessors in the Oval Office. Doherty found that as of March 6, Obama had held 104 fundraisers.

How your money is spent. Three years ago, Barack Obama promised that his stimulus program would “create or save” 16,000 jobs in New Hampshire. Turns out he was only off by 15,155 jobs. The latest audit of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act confirmed that the $766.5 million in taxpayer dollars spent in the Granite State paid for the equivalent of 845 full-time jobs. Don’t you love how your taxes are “invested”?

Why not just reduce her taxes? I’m glad to report that the pious fraud known as the Buffett Rule seems to be dead in the water — at least this year. The measure to raise taxes on America’s millionaires got a lot of publicity when Warren Buffett complained that his secretary was taxed at a higher rate than he was. Before the measure is reintroduced in Congress, I have a different suggestion: Why not reduce Federal spending enough so that we could lower everyone’s taxes? That would certainly help stimulate our economy, don’t you think?

How the Obamas reduced their taxes. And speaking of lowering taxes, here’s something to consider: Even though the top income-tax rate in this country is close to 40 percent, our President and his wife paid only half that figure last year. How? By giving away 22 percent of their income to charity. While I applaud their altruistic generosity, isn’t it interesting to note that they were in effect saying they thought private charity would spend their money more effectively than if they paid it in taxes and let government do it? Hmmmm.

–Chip Wood

‘Even Obama Is Doing Worse Under President Obama’

Thanks for the laugh, Jay. Jay Leno cracked me up last week with this observation in his opening monologue: “President Obama released his tax returns. It turns out he made $900,000 less in 2011 than he did in 2010. You know what that means? Even Obama is doing worse under President Obama.”

Fudging the unemployment numbers. Barack Obama’s supporters have been bragging that the unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent in March. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that only 120,000 new jobs were created last month – 58 percent fewer than experts had predicted. The reason the unemployment rate dropped is that 164,000 discouraged Americans quit looking for work at all. Heck, if every unemployed person would stop looking for work, the unemployment rate would drop to 0.

Lost luggage drops dramatically. Here’s good news for frequent flyers: Your luggage is a lot more likely nowadays to arrive at your final destination when you do. SITA, a Swiss airline consulting firm, says the rate of mishandled bags has fallen from 18.88 per 1,000 passengers in 2007 to just 8.99 last year: a 52.4 percent decline. And most bags that go astray are found and delivered within 48 hours. It’s no surprise that the more connections you have, the more likely that you and your luggage will get separated.

Talk about bias in the media. Media Matters for America, the leftwing organization funded by George Soros, says it was formed to oppose the “biased” national media. And just what biases will it counter? The group’s application for tax-exempt status read: “It is common for news and commentary by the press to present viewpoints that tend to overly promote corporate interests, the rights of the wealthy, and a conservative, Christian-influenced ideology.” Right. Is there anyone anywhere who actually believes the national media are biased in favor of free enterprise and “conservative, Christian-influenced” values?

–Chip Wood

So Now It’s Doggiegate?

Last week in this space, I predicted that this year’s Presidential contest would be the dirtiest in our history. Guess I should have added that some of the attacks against Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, would also be among the silliest we’ve seen.

The latest example — and I’m sure there will be many more to come — is the “Seamus scandal.” In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s based on a vacation trip the Romney family took to Canada more than 20 years ago.

Not wanting to put Seamus, the family dog, in a kennel while they were gone, but not having room for him in the family car, Romney built a special box for the Irish setter and tied it to the roof of the car.

When I first heard the story, all I could think of was the image of Aunt Edna (played by Imogene Coca) strapped in a rooftop rocker in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” But in the movie, Aunt Edna was already dead. In real life, Seamus made the trip back and forth in complete safety.

Nevertheless, some of President Barack Obama’s fierce defenders have latched onto the story, convinced it proves that Romney is a heartless, uncaring elitist. New York Times columnist Gail Collins has written about the incident more than 50 times! Obama strategist David Axelrod has taken to tweeting pictures of dogs. There is even a website devoted to “Crategate.” The Facebook page Dogs Against Romney has more than 50,000 friends.

I don’t know how much damage the story has actually done to Romney’s reputation. But out of all of the fuss and bother has come an even weirder tale. It seems that when Obama was a child growing up in Indonesia, he and his family actually dined on dog.

I kid you not. Bloggers are having a field day with the allegations. There are rumors that Obama eats “pup tarts” and loves “chicken poodle soup.”

Can the campaign get any weirder than this?

Yes, it can. And if the Supreme Court declares that any part of Obamacare is unConstitutional, it probably will.

The Court is expected to issue its ruling sometime this summer. Most analysts predict that, at a minimum, the insurance mandate — the very heart of Obamacare — will be struck down. Many analysts expect all 2,700 pages of the law to be rejected.

Obama has already gone on the offensive against the Court. In a speech last month, he declared:

Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.

Of course, there would be nothing unprecedented at all by the Court issuing such a ruling. Obama’s comments revealed such a patently distorted view of history that even many of his supporters were appalled. The funniest reaction may have come from Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), who wrote:

His comments belie a grasp of constitutional concepts so lacking that perhaps the University of Chicago Law School should offer a refund to any students “taught” constitutional law by then-Professor Obama!

Ann Coulter pondered whether Obama actually passed any of the courses he took on the U.S. Constitution, writing: “I guess now we know why Obama won’t release his college and law school transcripts!”

Conservative columnist Thomas Sowell was even more blunt. He wrote:

There is no way that Barack Obama has never heard of it or really believes it to be “unprecedented” after two centuries of countless precedents.

In short, he is simply lying.

… On this and on many other issues, you would have to know what the facts are to know that he is lying. He is obviously counting on the fact that, in this era of dumbed-down education, many people have no clue as to what the facts are.

He is also counting on something else — namely, that the pro-Obama media will not expose his lies.

Can I hear an amen?

One Federal appeals court judge has put the Justice Department squarely on the hot seat over the President’s remarks. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments recently in another case challenging certain aspects of Obamacare. As Dana Kaersvang, the government’s attorney, began arguing in favor of Obamacare, Judge Jerry Smith interrupted.

“I want to be sure that you are telling us that the Attorney General and the Department of Justice do recognize the authority of the federal courts through unelected judges to strike acts of Congress or portions thereof in appropriate cases,” Smith said. He ordered Kaersvang to write him a letter stating the position of the U.S. attorney general and the Justice Department on the concept of judicial review.

“The letter needs to be at least three pages, single spaced, no less and it needs to be specific. It needs to make specific reference to the president’s statements,” the judge said.

We can’t know for certain how the Supreme Court will rule. But there is no question that most Americans want to see the Federal mandate repealed. The latest opinion poll I’ve seen puts the number at 72 percent of Americans who want this part of Obamacare overturned. A smaller majority want the entire measure repealed. And that was even before we saw the latest estimates of what this incredible boondoggle will cost.

Last month, the Congressional Budget Office released new estimates of what the Affordable Care Act will cost us taxpayers over the next 10 years. It turns out it’s not nearly as affordable as Obama and his supporters promised.

In March 2010, the CBO estimated the Obamacare would cost $940 billion over the next decade. Their new number is a staggering $1.76 trillion. Since taxes will cover less than half that amount, Obamacare will add a chunk to our national debt.

It’s now been two years since Obamacare was rushed through Congress. At the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”

Well, now we know what’s in it. And the more we learn, the less we like it.

Let’s hope that in November, most voters pay attention to issues that really matter — such as their freedom and prosperity — and ignore such frivolous sideshows as doggiegate.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Nothing Doing

Our do-nothing Senate. One of Barack Obama’s most popular campaign themes this year will be to denounce a “do-nothing” Congress. But in fact, the Republican-controlled House has passed plenty of important legislation, including tax cuts, jobs bills and a budget. It’s the Democratic-controlled Senate that’s been sitting on its hands. A report from the Secretary of the Senate said last year’s group is among the least productive in 20 years, with fewer bills passed, fewer roll-call votes taken and fewer amendments introduced. I guess we should be glad we’re not getting all of the government we’re paying for.

Now that’s a funny line. James Taranto, who writes the “Best of the Web” column for The Wall Street Journal, cracked me up when he wrote that someone on Obama’s staff should remind the president that “the symbol of America is not the bald ego.” That’s a good one, James.

Tax refunds used for bankruptcy filings. A National Bureau of Economic Research study shows that more than 200,000 taxpayers expecting a refund from the Internal Revenue Service will use the money to file for bankruptcy. Filing costs and legal fees average $1,477, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Last year, the average tax refund was $2,913, according to NBER. It’s good to know some folks will have a little money left over.

–Chip Wood

Barack Obama Shows How Low He Can Go

With his three wins earlier this month in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., Mitt Romney all but clinched the Republican nomination for President. The political pundits promptly announced that the 2012 campaign for the White House could finally get under way.

Baloney. Barack Obama has been campaigning for re-election for more than a year now (or, more accurately, about five minutes after he took office in January 2009). Judging by what we’ve seen so far, it’s going to be one of the nastiest campaigns this country has ever seen.

Four years ago, when he was campaigning on a promise of “hope and change,” here’s what then-Senator Obama said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention:

If you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

Sound like anyone we know?

Karl Rove wrote an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal in which he mentioned recent remarks Obama made to executives of The Associated Press (an audience that was guaranteed to be almost as friendly for him as union members). The President warned that the Republicans want to “convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts — especially for the wealthy.” Of course, no Republican anywhere has proposed any such thing — and the President knows it.

But you’ve got to love how the guy manages to position his redistributionist schemes as “investments.” How can you complain if he takes money from those who earn and give it to those who don’t (with substantial deductions along the way to pay for the bureaucracy that administers it) if he calls such actions “investments”?

Our President is an absolute master at impugning the motives of anyone who disagrees with him. Thus, he can tell the editors at AP that his opponents want to “let businesses pollute more and treat workers and consumers with impunity.” He knew that no one in his audience would challenge such ridiculous assertions.

Or how about this example? Unlike the Democratic-controlled Senate, which hasn’t passed a budget in the past three years, the House of Representatives approved one earlier this year. It calls for increased Federal spending from $3.6 trillion in fiscal year 2011 to $4.9 trillion in fiscal year 2022.

But in his speech before the AP, Obama denounced the plan for its heartless “cuts” because he wants to increase Federal spending nearly twice that much. His plan calls for spending $5.8 trillion in 2022. So in other words, in Obamaland, if one of your kids asks you to double his allowance, and you increase it only 50 percent, somehow you’re guilty of cutting it.

Of course, if Mitt Romney or any other Republican tried to use such shoddy logic, the media would be quick to point out the absurdity of the claim.

Speaking of dishonest statements, how about Obama’s promise that if Congress would only pass the “Buffett Rule,” it would “stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade”? Obama isn’t even close. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, this much-ballyhooed tax on anyone making $1 million or more a year will raise $47 billion over the next 10 years. Obama’s budget proposals for the same period will add $9.6 trillion to our national debt in the same period.

In other words, the Buffett Rule will pay for just about 17 days of the President’s next decade of deficits. But, hey, the public likes promises to “soak the rich.” And no President since Lyndon Baines Johnson has played the “us vs. them” card as often or as effectively as Obama.

As you know, the Buffett Rule is named after Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor from Omaha, Neb., who earned scads of publicity when he observed that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

Well, guess what? It turns out that Obama does, too. The President and his wife reported an adjusted gross income of $789,674 in 2011 and paid 20.5 percent of it in Federal taxes. The White House confirmed that Obama’s secretary, Anita Decker Breckenridge, paid a “slightly higher” percentage on her salary of $95,000.

According to White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage, that “is exactly why we need to reform our tax code and ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share.”

By the way, in 2009 and 2010, royalties from his bestselling books put Obama in the $1-million-a-year income bracket. But in 2011, the President wouldn’t have been subject to the Buffett Rule had it been in effect. I guess he’ll have to wait until he’s out of office and making millions of dollars on the lecture circuit before he falls victim to the proposal — assuming it ever gets passed, that is.

Meanwhile, the President and his cronies are raising hundreds of millions of dollars for this year’s re-election campaign. Bill Maher, the potty-mouthed comedian on HBO, contributed $1 million to a pro-Obama super-PAC earlier this year.

I shudder to think how ubiquitous the nasty ads from the Obama campaign will be with a billion bucks to spend, but I doubt they will stoop to the depths of some of their more vitriolic supporters, such as Maher. At least, I hope they won’t.

If you think the 2011 TV ad was featuring a wheelchair-bound old lady being thrown off a cliff was nasty, just wait. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Until next time, keep some powder dry — and the political commercials on mute.

–Chip Wood  

Another One Bites The Dust

Green Company Goes Into The Red. When the Department of Energy agreed to lend Solar Trust of America $2.1 billion, Secretary Steven Chu said the solar project would create “1,000 direct jobs [and] 7,500 indirect jobs.” It turns out the actual number of new jobs will be closer to zero. Last week, Solar Trust declared bankruptcy.

Our Defense Secretary’s Costly Commute. Since becoming the Secretary of Defense in July, Leon Panetta has flown to his home in Northern California 27 times. Although the trips cost $32,000 per roundtrip flight (the military planes required to transport the defense secretary have some of the world’s most sophisticated communications equipment on board), Panetta has to reimburse the government only $630 per trip.

Don’t check your baggage at this airport. CBS News says more than 200 baggage thefts take place every day at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. According to the report, thieves not only grab the most expensive luggage being checked, but they also look at the addresses on the luggage ID so they can target travelers from the most expensive neighborhoods.

Is This The World’s Most Unusual Job? Hermanus, South Africa may be the most idyllic spot on Earth to watch the antics of the Southern right whale during mating season. The village employs the world’s only Whale Crier™, whose sole job is to patrol the scenic cliffs surrounding the bay and blow a loud horn whenever a cavorting couple is spotted offshore.

–Chip Wood

 

Don’t Celebrate That Tax Refund

Arghhh! It just happened again. No, I’m not referring to the billions of dollars hard-working taxpayers will have to send to Uncle Sam by April 17. (We get an extra two days to file a return this year, thanks to the 15th falling on a Sunday and the 16th being a holiday in Washington.)

What gets my goat is when someone — especially a near and dear family member — celebrates receiving a tax refund. People act as though it’s manna from heaven. They rejoice in their totally unexpected bounty from a beneficent government.

I try to explain that the Internal Revenue Service really isn’t doing them a favor and that, in fact, the opposite is true. I tell them that by overpaying their taxes during the past year, they have in effect been giving a profligate and wasteful government an interest-free loan. When I say that, they look at me as through I’ve suddenly sprouted two heads.

They are utterly perplexed by my suggestions: They should not celebrate their tax refund, and they should do everything they can to keep as much of their money for as long as they can while working to put Big Government on a starvation diet.

The most common reaction I get to this diatribe is, “Huh?” Then they quickly change the subject.

So there will be no lengthy lecture from me this week about how a progressive income tax was an essential part of the Communist Manifesto, no rant about the conspiratorial origins of the Federal Reserve and no diatribe on the diabolical cunning of a withholding tax that renders the shark-like bite of Uncle Sam less painful than a mosquito’s nibble. No, I’ll just repeat my opening sentiment: Arghhh!

And I will share this poem by an unknown author to remind us why we can be glad that, by this time next week, Tax Day will be behind us again.

Tax his land, tax his bed,
Tax the table at which he’s fed.
Tax his tractor, tax his mule,
Teach him taxes are the rule.

Tax his cow, tax his goat,
Tax his pants, tax his coat.
Tax his ties, tax his shirt,
Tax his work, tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco, tax his drink.
Tax him if he tries to think.
Tax his cigars, tax his beers,
If he cries, then tax his tears.

Tax his car, tax his gas,
Find other ways to tax his a**.
Tax all he has, then let him know
That you won’t be done till he has no dough.

When he screams and hollers,
Tax him some more.
Tax him ’till he’s good and sore.
Then tax his coffin, tax his grave.
Tax the sod in which he’s laid.

Put these words upon his tomb,
“Taxes drove me to my doom.”
When he’s gone, do not relax.
It’s time to apply the inheritance tax.

Tax Freedom Day

By a strange coincidence, Tax Freedom Day arrives this year on the same day that Uncle Sam demands our tax return be sent to the IRS.

The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group founded 75 years ago, says the average American will work 107 days this year to pay the tab for all of his Federal, State and local taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, Americans will spend more in taxes in 2012 than the total amount spent on food, clothing and shelter.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, here’s a breakdown of the Federal tab: The average American will work 32 days this year to pay income taxes, 23 days to pay social insurance taxes, nine days to pay corporate taxes, two days to pay sales and excise taxes, and three days to pay all other Federal taxes.

He’ll also work eight days to pay State and local income taxes, 12 days for property taxes, 12 for State sales and excise taxes, and four days for other State and local taxes.

Add it all up, and it means we all work from Jan. 1 until April 17 to pay our taxes. But it could be a lot worse. According to the Tax Foundation, if the Federal government raised enough taxes to close the budget deficit, Tax Freedom Day would not arrive until May 14. That means that an additional 27 days of government spending is paid for by borrowing — and passing the bill on to our children and grandchildren.

So I’m very happy to report that a lot of Americans are taking the opportunity this tax season to tell their elected officials that they’re TEA’d off. That is, that they’re “Taxed Enough Already.”

Good for them! May their numbers multiply. And may more politicians in Washington and in State capitols start to listen to them.

Despite the demagogic cry that the “rich” need to pay “their fair share,” the truth is that the top 5 percent of U.S. taxpayers already pay about 60 percent of U.S. income taxes while the bottom 40 percent pay no income taxes at all. When President Barack Obama talks about “lowering” taxes, what he really means is he’s going to take more money from those who earn it and give it to those who don’t. This is not a “tax reduction.” It is a blatant example of a Marxist redistribution of wealth.

At the same time he’s promising more giveaways to the poor, Obama wants to raise the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent and slap anyone earning a million bucks or more with the “Buffett Rule.” Plus, he intends to reduce the deduction the so-called rich can take on their charitable contributions, mortgage interest and other taxes they pay.

What can you do about it? If you’re sick and tired of Big Government getting bigger and more bloated, I hope you’ll attend one of the Tea Party protests near you. It will be an opportunity to meet with a bunch of other folks who feel exactly as you do.

By the way, if you do go, pay close attention to which of your elected officials also attend and which ones wouldn’t come within a mile of the place. That will give you a very good idea of who deserves your support and who doesn’t in November.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Do The Media Want A Race War?

I have had it with all of the irresponsible, sensationalistic comments about the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

It’s no surprise that Al Sharpton and his fellow rabble-rouser, Jesse Jackson, are doing everything they can to stir passions to the boiling point. That’s been their modus operandi for more than 20 years. Does anybody remember Tawana Brawley, the fake rape victim Sharpton used as his first stepping-stone to national fame (or should I say infamy)?

But I can’t remember a time when the media were so eager to give nationwide publicity to every vicious lie and racist accusation. Forget about trying to get calmer heads to prevail or any of that nonsense about not rushing to judgment. The media want someone’s head on a platter (or at least George Zimmerman’s body in jail). And they want it now.

If they have to doctor the facts a bit to get it, so what? They’re willing to use some incredibly dishonest means to see that “justice” is done.

NBC was guilty of one of the most egregious examples, when it ran a clip on the “Today” show of George Zimmerman’s call to 911. According to the excerpt NBC broadcast, Zimmerman said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

Obviously, NBC wanted its audience to believe that Zimmerman is a Neanderthal racist who wouldn’t hesitate to gun down an innocent 17-year-old just because he was black.

As it turns out, Zimmerman did utter those words. But the clever editors at NBC left out some incredibly important dialogue that occurred between the two sentences. Here’s what was actually said:

Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

911 Dispatcher: “OK. And this guy, is he black, white or Hispanic?”

Zimmerman: “He looks black.”

Clearly, Zimmerman was simply answering the dispatcher’s question. He did not equate Martin’s race with “being up to no good.”  But that’s not how NBC portrayed it.  I guess Sharpton has a buddy in their editing room.

As you probably know, Zimmerman claims that after calling 911, he did not continue to follow Martin, as many of his critics contend. Instead, he says he returned to his SUV when Martin approached him. Words were exchanged, then Martin punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and started beating him. An eyewitness says he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, who was yelling: “Help, help!”

That was when Zimmerman shot his assailant. So far, the police have not released any evidence that contradicts his claim. Just to make sure the facts come out, however, Florida Governor Rick Scott has asked State Attorney Angela Corey to take over the investigation. Corey has a reputation in Florida as a tough, no-nonsense prosecutor. So there is no reason to believe she will be part of any cover-up.

That, of course, is not enough for Sharpton and his cronies. They are threatening to “escalate” the demonstrations if Zimmerman is not immediately arrested. The New Black Panthers Party has gone even farther, offering up a bounty for Zimmerman.

And where is our President in all of this? He says that “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin.” You do have two daughters, Mr. President. Does either one of them look like Aliyah Shell?

In case you’ve never heard of Aliyah, she was a 6-year-old black girl in Chicago who was shot to death last month while sitting with her mother on the front porch of her home. She was one of 10 blacks murdered in Chicago over St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Police say all 10 were murdered by other blacks.

In fact, according to FBI statistics, 93 percent of all blacks murdered in this country are killed by other blacks. But Jesse Jackson insists that “blacks are under attack.” And Spike Lee obviously had whites in mind when he wrote, “You can’t keep killing black children.”

Meanwhile, the media continue to do everything they can to treat Martin like a saint (Don’t you just love the innocent-looking baby pictures of him they show over and over again?) while trying to cast doubt on anything Zimmerman says in his own defense.

Attacked and beaten by the youth? ABC News says that “no abrasions or blood can be seen” in the surveillance video that was shot when Zimmerman arrived at the Sanford police station.

The police report made at the time says that Zimmerman’s nose was bleeding and his back was covered in grass stains when he arrived at the police station. His lawyer said his client went to the doctor the next day and was treated for a broken nose.

But of course facts don’t matter to agitators who are looking for a cause célèbre.

Even some liberals have acknowledged what’s been happening. Writing in The New York Times, Bill Keller referred to Al Sharpton’s rabble-rousing as “the kind of demagoguery that could prejudice a prosecution or mobilize a mob.” Then he added, “Is it not creepy, by the way, that Spike Lee was tweeting the suspected home address of George Zimmerman? As if to say, ‘Go get him!’”

Of course, as you probably heard, the leftist film producer (and host of a million-dollar fund-raiser for Barack Obama) got the house number wrong. Instead of terrorizing Zimmerman, he gave the street address of an elderly couple who fled their home in fear. Lee later apologized for sending out the wrong address — but not for trying to create problems for Zimmerman.

Last week Bobby Rush, a black Congressman from Chicago who says he is proud to have been a member of the Black Panthers, demonstrated his support for Martin by appearing on the House floor in a hoodie and sunglasses. He was escorted off the floor a few moments later for violating House rules on decorum.

Of course, Rush had achieved exactly what he wanted: more one-sided publicity in the national media. To my knowledge, he has said absolutely nothing about the murder of so many blacks, including Aliyah, in the district he actually represents. After all, those are merely statistics, while Martin’s death is an opportunity.

Who was it who said that the Democrats should never let a crisis go to waste? Clearly, Sharpton, Jackson and their cohorts will use this tragedy all they can. Too bad the national media are so willing to help them.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Not One Vote For Obama’s Budget Plan

Congress finally agrees on something. Since no Democrat was willing to submit President Barack Obama’s latest budget to the House, Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) decided to do it for them. He sponsored an alternative budget proposal based on Obama’s budget plan. What happened? Not a single legislator voted for it! That’s right, no one on either side of the aisle would say “aye.” The measure got a bipartisan rejection: 0-414.

Did they teach him this at Harvard? Earlier this week, President Barack Obama declared, “Ultimately I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” Of course, Obamacare wasn’t passed by a “strong majority.” The actual vote was 60-39 in the Senate and 219-212 in the House. And as a guy who taught Constitutional law, Obama should certainly be aware that the Supreme Court has frequently overturned legislation that passed with much greater support. If he’s trying to influence members of the Court, I don’t think this kind of outrageous exaggeration is the way to do it.

Another reason to repeal Obamacare. The Internal Revenue Service says it will need 4,000 more agents and a budget increase of $300 million to enforce all the provisions in Obamacare. Is this what the Democrats meant when they said the bill would create thousands of new jobs?

Can Keith Olbermann get along with anybody? I was amused to see that one of my least favorite TV talking heads has been booted from another job. It seems that Current TV co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt got tired of Olbermann’s endless griping and gave him the boot. Among Olbermann’s many complaints was that his limo drivers talked too much. A network insider told the New York Post that during his 14 months at Current, Olbermann “went through” eight limousine services. Picky, picky, picky.

–Chip Wood 

 

These Billionaires Wasted Millions Of Dollars

Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Texas billionaire Harold Simmons should find a better way to spend their money.

So far this campaign season, the two men and their families have contributed more than $35 million to various Republican political-action groups — the so-called “Super PACs.” Most of that money has been spent running negative ads about some Republican candidate for President on another candidate’s behalf.

Is this any way to save our country?

Of the two, Adelson has gotten by far the worse results for his money. Reportedly, he and his wife Miriam have contributed $16 million to Winning Our Future, the super-PAC formed to support Newt Gingrich’s run for the White House. His daughter, Shelley Adelson, contributed $500,000. The Adelson family was definitely the elephant in the house, contributing 87 percent of the $18.8 million the Super PAC has raised.

But with Gingrich falling further and further behind, contributions have pretty much dried up. While Gingrich insists he’s in the race to the bitter end, I don’t think anyone except his wife expects him to stage another miraculous comeback.  It doesn’t appear that he’ll win enough delegates to throw his considerable weight around at the Republican convention. Yes, he’ll get a major speaking slot. But don’t look for him on the ballot — or to have much say on who is.

Unlike his fellow billionaire, Harold Simmons hasn’t put nearly as much money behind a single candidate. The pro-Rick Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund received $1.2 million from Simmons. He gave $1.1 million to the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future and to the pro-Rick Perry Restoring Prosperity Fund (formerly Americans For Rick Perry). Thus far, Simmons has given $800,000 to the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future, although I expect that to change after Romney gets the nomination.

The biggest beneficiary of Simmons’ generosity has been American Crossroads, the Super PAC founded by Karl Rove and other former top Republicans. Thus far in this election cycle, it has received some $14.5 million from Simmons and his wife.

You have to admire Simmons’ objective here. “Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “Obama is the most dangerous American alive… because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country.”

Eight years ago, Simmons was a key contributor to the Swift Boat veterans’ attack ads against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. In the 2008 Presidential campaign, he helped finance ads stressing the ties between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, co-founder of the radical Weather Underground. Today, he regrets not spending more on them. “If we had run more ads,” he says, “we could have killed Obama.”

If Simmons has his way, that’s not going to happen this year. So you can expect that he’ll be writing a lot of checks between now and November.

And I’m happy to report that not all of them will go into the Presidential race. He promises to spend a ton of money on Congressional races. “Getting control of Congress is almost as important as beating the president,” he said. Simmons hopes to help Republicans gain control of the Senate and keep their majority in the House. If that happens, he says, “we can block” Democratic efforts to over-regulate business.

I actually disagree with Simmons on that point. I think getting more good Constitutionalists elected to Congress is more important than putting another establishment Republican in the White House. Sure, we would enjoy a wonderful psychological victory if Barack Obama were sent packing this November. But our enjoyment wouldn’t last very long if we got another George Bush I or II to succeed him. Thus far, I haven’t seen much evidence that Romney will fight very hard for the principles I hold dear — or, for that matter, that he even understands what they are. Have you?

I am going to be very selective this year in deciding who gets any of my money. I hope we’ll have a chance to elect a few more Rand Pauls and Pat Toomeys to the Senate. And a whole bunch of tough-minded, non-compromising conservatives in the House.

Remember, if Congress won’t approve it, the Administration can’t spend it. So even if we don’t defeat Obama this November or have enough votes to override his vetoes in 2013, we can sure throw a bunch of sand in the Democrats’ gears simply by taking away their money.

You don’t have to be a billionaire for your efforts to make a big difference in what happens this November. I hope you’ll pick some good guys and gals to support this fall. Put your money and your mouth behind them. Use the comments section below to let me know whom you like and why. Who knows? You may persuade several of our readers to support them as well.

I’ve already sent a few bucks to FreedomWorks, Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservative Fund; a couple of Tea Party groups; and my all-time favorite behind-the-scenes group, The Leadership Institute. What are you doing to make a difference?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Trash Talking

That’s some sure valuable trash. Here’s a stat that will blow you away. At least it did me. In the United States, we dispose of several million cellphones a year. One million cellphones contain more than 35,000 pounds of copper, 770 pounds of gold, 75 pounds of silver and 33 pounds of palladium. By the way, a computer’s circuit board contains four times as much gold and twice as much copper as a cellphone.

Someone should thank the guy. Eric Fehrnstrom, Mitt Romney’s top adviser, sure caught a lot of flak for his Etch A Sketch comment. Personally, I didn’t see much reason for the Twitter-fueled media frenzy over the remark. But one group of people should thank him for it: investors who own shares in the Ohio Art Co. The stock price more than doubled, thanks to all the publicity the comment got.

This is an “affordable” light bulb? Last year, the Federal government awarded a $10 million prize for the production of a new, energy-efficient light bulb. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the prize would spur industry to make LED lights that are “affordable for American families.” The winning light bulbs cost a not-so-reasonable $50 each.

And speaking of Washington wasting money. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment in Washington, D.C., has increased by 8 percent since 2009, despite a ton of new Federal grants, loans, contracts, tax benefits and entitlements. In fact, despite receiving $900 million in stimulus money in the past three years, Washington, D.C., can’t account for a single new job that has been produced as a result. Your tax dollars at work, folks.

–Chip Wood

The Joke’s On Us

This gives new meaning to April Fools’ Day. On the first of next month, Japan cuts its tax rate on corporate profits from 39.5 percent to 36.8 percent. So what, you ask? When that happens, it means that the United States will have the world’s highest corporate tax rate. Our combined Federal and State levies of 39.2 percent will be higher than taxes charged in Russia, China, Sweden and Denmark. Oh, and Japan plans to cut those taxes by another 2.3 percent in three years. Hey, aren’t we supposed to be the pro-capitalist country?

How many times did you use it? The 244-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica is abandoning its print edition. Those gold-lettered reference books that were sold by thousands of door-to-door salesmen will be no more. The company pointed out that its Web edition contains more information than its 32-volume print edition. And, besides, it is continuously updated.

A millionaire food stamp recipient. When Amanda Clayton, an unemployed 24-year-old in Lincoln Park, Mich., won $1 million in the State lottery, she promptly went out and bought a house and new car. She also continued to collect $200 a month in food stamps. When a local reporter asked her if she thought that was right, she replied, “I feel that it’s okay because, I mean, I have no income and I have bills to pay.”

Food stamps buy drugs and guns. Phyllis Fong, the inspector general of the Department of Agriculture, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that some welfare recipients are selling their food stamps for cash and buying drugs with the money. “By giving a recipient $50 in cash for $100 in benefits, an unscrupulous retailer can make a significant profit; recipients, of course, are then able to spend the cash however they like,” she said. “In some cases, recipients have exchanged benefits for drugs, weapons, and other contraband.” Your taxes at work, folks.

Chip Wood