Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rep. Chris Cannon, Jason Chaffetz, and Fiscal Responsibility

In my previous post, I mentioned my desire for a more fiscally responsible federal government. Yesterday I was contacted by representatives from Rep. Cannon's and Mr. Chaffetz's organizations. Here are their responses (posted with permission):

From Fred Piccolo, Rep. Cannon's communications director:

I read your post on Hot Blava in regards to the upcoming 3rd District primary. As a fellow fiscal conservative, I wanted to get you some information on Congressman Cannon to counter some of the more disingenuous things that have been said about his record. I only wish we had 434 other members of Congress who voted to protect our money like Chris Cannon does. I hope this helps you make your decision in this year's election and please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.
- Scored a 96% pork-free/taxpayer-friendly voting record according to the Club for Growth. The HIGHEST of any member of Congress from Utah and 67% better than Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
- According to the National Journal - Conservative on Economic Policy calculations, in 2006 Representative Cannon voted more conservative on economic policy issues than 96 percent of the House
- Citizens Against Government Waste, an organization that tracks votes on efforts to cut pork in spending bills gave Congressman Cannon the highest score in the entire Utah delegation, scoring a 77 percent fiscally conservative record
- National Journal, a non-partisan publication, ranked Congressman Cannon as the 17th (out of 435) most conservative member of the House on spending and taxes
- The National Taxpayers Union gave Congressman Cannon an "A" Rating and he was the 2006 Winner of the "Friend of the Taxpayer" award.
- Americans for Tax Reform made Congressman Cannon the only "Hero of the Taxpayer" award winner in the entire Utah delegation for his consistent votes against raising taxes
Some of Chris' latest votes:
- Sponsored the Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution
- For the Internet Tax Moratorium, preventing taxes on internet access. He was the lead Republican on the moratorium legislation and President Bush invited him to the White House for the signing of his moratorium bill

- For a Constitutional amendment requiring 2/3 majorities of both Houses of Congress to pass any tax increase (H Res. 89)

- For dismantling the IRS (HR 3097)

- For the Bush Tax cuts. Over $1.35 trillion in tax cuts for American families. (HR 1836)
- Against SCHIP expansion

- Against socialized or government-run health care every time it came before Congress
- For giving the President a line-item veto (HR 4890)
- For eliminating the death tax (HR 8)
- For eliminating the Marriage Penalty
- For increasing the Child Tax Credit
- For Welfare Reform

From Deidre Henderson, Utah County Chair for Jason Chaffetz's campaign:

The issue of fiscal discipline is very important to me. Over the last decade I have watched our national debt and national budget double. This has been very dismaying, as the Republicans were in control of both houses of Congress and the White House for the majority of that time period. By the way, the doubled budget only takes into account a tiny fraction of the cost of the War on Terror. The residual cost of the War is maintained through separate appropriations not even included in the annual budget. Even more dismaying is the fact that this burgeoning budget has developed while our own Chris Cannon has been in office.

This is one of the many reasons I am supporting Jason Chaffetz.

A key element in Jason's campaign is Fiscal Responsibility - I know those words seem embedded in every candidate's campaign, but watch the walk and you'll see who practices what is preached.

Jason is dedicated to maintaining a budget for his campaign - and he sticks to it! His philosophy is watch how a candidate runs his campaign, and get a preview of how they will be in office. If a candidate continually runs his campaign in great debt or spends exorbitant amounts of money on staff, meals, cars, offices, and expensive mailers, then that is what you will get in Washington - a lot of your hard earned money spent in meaningless and extravagant ways.

In addition to this important fundamental principle of fiscal discipline are some other critical issues that Jason is concerned about; accountability (both for individuals and those serving in public office), limited government, and national security. I encourage you to call Jason with any questions you may have. Attend a cottage meeting and hear him directly. Get to know the other candidates and compare the substantive areas of debate. I think you will find that Jason is by far the best candidate for our congressional district!

Fiscal responsibility is a dull, dry topic that nonetheless is very important to me. I worry about the tax burden on everyone--even if you don't pay income tax, you (probably) still pay payroll taxes, food taxes, property taxes, etc. (I'm not against taxes, I'm against BIG taxes.) I also worry about the demonization of corporations, "Big" business, and rich people. (I'm not a rich person, but I wouldn't mind being one someday!) I want our Congress to cut back on unnecessary spending (pork barrel projects and bridges to nowhere come to mind), streamline (and cut back) our current programs, and let us keep more of our own money.

All three major candidates for UT-3 agree with me. So what to do? Details help, as from Cannon's and Chaffetz's campaigns. Actions help, as with Rep. Cannon's past actions and Mr. Chaffetz's campaign pledges. Keeping things polite and friendly (I don't mind contrasting positions, but not personalities, please) helps a ton, at least for this voter. Other than that, I'm not sure how I'll decide. Other factors do come into play, as support of the Iraq war, the war on terror, illegal immigration, etc, etc, etc.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Politics--local and VERY local

As Tuesday, March 25th is the date for precinct caucuses here in Utah, I've been reading up on some of our local races. We've actually got quite a bit going on this year, with primary challengers in our house district race (66), our senate district race (13), and our federal congressional race (Utah's Third Congressional District).

It's not a surprise that Chris Cannon has an intra-party challenge again--people haven't been particularly pleased with Congress as a whole, and Rep. Cannon doesn't have the highest approval ratings in the world. This year there are two gentleman running against him for the Republican "nomination"--David Leavitt (our former governor's brother) and Jason Chaffetz (a former Chief of Staff for our current governor).

I believe that all three of these gentlemen are patriots, wishing to serve the country as best they can. I believe that all three want to protect our country from trouble within and without. I believe all three are honorable, upstanding citizens. So in this case, I'll be making my choice based on another criteria--fiscal responsibility. I personally haven't been pleased with Congress in that regard in the past several years, and I am considering voting against Chris Cannon for that reason--message-sending and all that. However, I won't just blindly vote for "anyone-but". According to both the challengers' websites, they are against the type of spending we have seen recently. Specifically, Chaffetz supports presidential line-item veto power over "pork barrel" earmarks. More research and information must be gathered before I am willing to commit to any of the three.

More locally, Senator Mark B. Madsen (senate district 13) has a challenger, J. Lane Henderson. I haven't been able to find much information about Mr. Henderson, but possibly he is (or was) mayor of Salem. I like Senator Madsen, though, and agree with many of his stances (as well as a voter-identification law he sponsored this session), so for now I don't see myself switching away from him.

Even more locally, Rep. Mike Morley (house district 66) has a challenger, Chance Williams. I can find no information about Mr. Williams beyond this quote in the Deseret News:
"I got tired of reading all the articles about (Rep.) Mike Morley (supporting a bill) that would benefit his construction company," said Chance Williams, a Republican candidate in District 66 running against the Republican Morley. "I want to see people working for legislation that would sincerely benefit the people."
I'm not familiar with this objection, and a quick search of the Deseret News archives (search terms Mike Morley and construction) leads to two articles--one which only mentions Rep. Morley in the comments (a forum I'm not inclined to put great trust) and one which discusses possible conflicts of interest and praises Rep. Morley for his "thorough" disclosure form. So, unless I discover more about this situation, I'm pretty comfortable supporting Rep. Morley.

I'm hoping to be a county delegate again this year--I had such a great time doing it for the last two years. Maybe even a state delegate--that would be an amazing experience. We'll see. Even if I don't get that opportunity, I'm really looking forward to the caucus Tuesday.

[Update: Be sure to read the comments--there is a lot of good information there]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rules Are Rules

The Democrats are in a quandary this year. Back in 2000 during the Florida recount debacle, they were arguing that rules weren't really that important. Republicans argued that the rules for vote counting had been set and that it wouldn't be fair to change the rules after the election and institute new counting standards for votes. Democrats believed there was a higher principle at stake and spurned the value rules. They were just too brittle!

Returning to 2008, it seems the Democrats have discovered the good old time religion of rules after all! Each of the leading candidates has their own "rules" argument.

Let's start with Clinton. She argues that we must count the votes in Florida. (Echoes of 2000 there.) A lot of people turned out to vote, and it isn't right to just ignore them. Sure, they broke the party rules, but it was really the nasty Republicans that moved the primary anyway, and the Democratic primary voters have a right to be heard notwithstanding the rules.

For Clinton, it doesn't matter that Obama, the lesser known candidate at the time, didn't get the opportunity to campaign in the state. Tough luck. "I've been on the national stage longer and I deserve the points for my win in this name-recognition competition." That seems to be her argument.

Just like in 2000, Clinton wants to disregard the rules that were set in place before the competition and pick a different outcome that suits her better. Obama is left to argue that "rules are rules." Just like Republicans back in 2000.

On a different front, Obama argues, generally via surrogates, that the "super delegates" must respect (i.e. rubber stamp) the results of the pledged delegate race. After all, if Obama wins more states, gets more total votes, and pledged delegates, he deserves the nomination. The super delegates shouldn't be going against the "will of the people."

The Clinton camp has a ready rebuttal to this line of reasoning: "rules are rules." There isn't any point in having super delegates if they can't make up their own minds. If pledged delegates had to carry the day, then we'd only have pledged delegates. But we don't. We have two types of delegates, each able to vote within different parameters. Those are the rules and they exist for a reason. Furthermore, the popular vote totals are irrelevant. Team Clinton can argue that they would have run a different race if they'd been trying to win over a majority of voters rather than a majority of delegates. You can't change the rules after the game has begun! That argument again sounds a lot like the Republicans back in 2000.

To each candidate, I'd say: rules are rules. If you don't like the rules, work to get them changed within the proper process. Quit trying to change the rules midstream. We need the predictability of a system of rules and laws if we're to have a fair and functioning republic. Let's all agree to play nice and play fair.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Krugman's Dismal View on Racial Intent

The biggest changes in society always seem to take a generation. We sometimes have to wait for the old generation to die off--or at least wane in influence--so that new ideas can get hold. I'm sure you've heard your grandparents say something utterly cringeworthy without a second thought. It doesn't occur to them that they might have said something inappropriate.

Racial relations in America seem to be at such a juncture. With the rise of Obama, older people (and commentators) seem to be fixated on the miracle of a black man rising in prominence. Younger people are simply transfixed by a message that they find inspiring; race is largely irrelevant for them.

I get so annoyed when people focus on race instead of substance. I care what you think and how you act, not what color you are. I think that the mainstream of American thought is with me on this.

I felt that familiar annoyance again as I listened to Paul Krugman, economist and columnist for the NY Times, giving a lecture. He was trying to make a case that conservatives use codewords like "welfare" to exploit the racist leanings of their audiences. Huh? Would it be so implausible to believe that people actually mean what they say? I'm including the video that sparked this post so that you can judge for yourself the quality of Krugman's argument about race in politics. See particularly chapter 8 around 22:33.

If I say I'm concerned about welfare, or families, or taxes, or illegal immigration and identity theft, the chances are that I mean exactly that. I'm not trying to secretly push a racist or an ethnic agenda. There are simply issues that resonate with me and that I think are important. I'm not driven by the political battles of a past age that are largely settled.

We're in the clean-up stages of our country's battle against racism. I don't deny the reality of it in the past, and I don't deny that it still occurs today. But we are structurally past it and blatantly racist sentiments are commonly reviled. I'm fully on board with the sentiment expressed so eloquently by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. which is paraphrased to say that we judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

I plead with the older generation to move past the race debates of bygone days. Though there is still work to do and progress to be made, that debate is won.