Friday, November 7, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: On to 2016!

Congressional elections are over, and as a result, the 2016 Presidential Election Season has officially begun.  In many ways, it feels like the 2016 Election cycle has been undereway longer and with more enthusiasm than this year’s mid-term elections ever managed, but even so, the elections this year produced a clear, decisive winner.  The people have spoken.  If their expressed will doesn’t get the country moving in at least some kind of direction, I know that I personally will be quite disappointed.  
The GOP now has an opportunity to prove something.  If it wants to win in 2016, the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt had better get to work.  It needs to show people that it can do more than just heckle from the cheap seats, or it risks again being banished to the wilderness like it was in 2008.
In a gracious victory speech, McConnell reached out to the president and said, “We have a duty to get beyond conflict.” His words were pretty, but conflict has paid off so well for McConnell and his party that it would be more than surprising if he suddenly began to seek common ground with the man he has spent six years portraying as the source of national ruin.
So yeah, the Republican Party won the election almost everywhere.  Even here in Connecticut, a decidedly blue state, we very nearly elected a Republican governor.  That’s a pretty strong statement.
I’ll be honest: I voted the straight Republican Party ticket.  Part of that was because I simply didn’t know much about many of the candidates, particularly in some of the smaller elections.  I mean, why do we elect a Judge of Probate?  One presumes that a judge is going to apply the law correctly as far as he or she sees it, and yeah, that leaves room for differences of opinion on cases where the law is to be interpreted on complicated issues, but… for probate?  Judge of Probate seems like a sure-fire judicial nominee, or perhaps it out to be a career professional working as part of the justice system bureaucracy.  The job requires proven professional competence with a skill set that most voters are not qualified to judge, after all, but it decides little if any actual policy.  I can’t fathom why a probate judge’s political views are important.
Neither of our local candidates made an attempt to run on either the issues or even on their resumes.  I’m not sure that there were any issues that would have distinguished them had they tried to show policy positions.  Instead, both sent out glossy-looking mailers showing them with their families, and as it happens, we got both mailers on the same day.  This is why I remember them.  Those mailers didn’t sway me, but I am a registered Republican, and I voted with my party.  
I have no idea who won the election and doubt that it matters much.
I followed Connecticut’s governor’s race more closely.  In fact, I changed my position at the last second and decided to support Republican Tom Foley over incumbent Danel Malloy.  I am not angry with Malloy, nor do I think he has done a bad job as governor, but Foley advocated a couple of points that were distinctly in our family’s best interest--school choice within local school districts and several specific state-level tax reforms.  In the end, this was enough to sway me.  The campaign was acrimonious, and the election was very close, but negative campaigning aside, I feel like we had two decent candidates offering competing but in neither case revolutionary visions for the future.  I would have like to see tax reform attempted in Connecticut, and I would love to be able to send my kids to the other high school in our district when that time eventually comes, but I can live with what we have.  Despite Malloy’s re-election, I feel like the state is still headed in a decent direction.
In D.C.—a city in which black residents are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white ones, according to an American Civil Liberties Union analysis—Initiative 71 passed by a wide margin, as polls predicted it would. Like all D.C. laws, the ballot measure is subject to congressional review. While Initiative 71 is more restrictive than other legalization efforts around the country, members of the D.C. Council are working on legislation that would legalize and establish a regulatory regime for pot retail in the District. Earlier this year, House Republicans attempted—and failed, thanks to the then-Democratic-controlled Senate—to gut a D.C. law decriminalizing marijuana possession.
I’m annoyed by the legalization movement.  I’m not saying that we need to be throwing poor black kids in jail because they smoke a little pot, but I would support future illegality enforced by fines instead of jail-time.  Perhaps that would not function particularly differently than legalization with heavy taxation, but with legalization comes state sanction, and that is the part that I do not support.  States do not need to be in the business of sanctioning pot sales.
Legal marijuana also puts business in a tough spot.  Many industries do drug-testing, and it’s often for very good reasons.  In my industry, we frequently work on live high-voltage electrical equipment, and people can and do get injured or killed when they make careless mistakes.  There are lots of ways to help prevent this, amongst which drug-testing is an important component.  If they catch you using, my company sends you to “the farm” for rehab, and anyone who’s ever been there will tell you that it’s the best thing that has ever happened to them.  However, if pot becomes legal, it puts the whole program in legal limbo.  I personally think we need that program, which is why I do not support legalization.
TR did a lot.  His progressive tax and
business reforms helped stave off
Communism in early 20th century America.
Progressive taxation. The rich pay more taxes, so they benefit most from the GOP’s anti-tax posture. But in this election, Republicans zeroed in on taxes that affect ordinary people. Thom Tillis, the GOP’s nominee for Senate in North Carolina, complained constantly about his opponent imposing a sales tax that “harmed the poor and working families more than anyone else.” Tom Corbett, the governor of Pennsylvania, made the same point. In Massachusetts, Baker criticized Democrats for raising gas taxes, utility taxes, and everyday registration fees, all of which hit the middle class. In Illinois, Rauner said sales taxes should target “services that are more business-oriented rather than on low-income working families.” In Arkansas, Hutchinson aimed his tax relief package at people making $75,000 or less. Some Republicans and libertarians, including right-wing Gov.Sam Brownback of Kansas, called for abolishing income taxes on low earners.
Slate’s argument is that Republicans carried the election largely because they ran using positions that are generally liberal.  The author lists thirteen examples, and I chose this one—the last one—because it’s an example of both why the argument is incorrect as well as why I personally voted Republican.
The rich may pay more taxes, but they have more money with which to withstand the blow.  They can take it.  They may not like it, but it’s doubtful that a relatively small increase in taxes is going to materially change the lifestyle of a family making more than, say, $115,000/year.  The same is not true for poor families paying regressive taxes.  If you have to literally count your money each and every week, then yeah, the $10 extra that you have to pay per week in sales tax is going to hurt in a very real way.  Ditto for the DMV and any number of other fee-based revenue collection agencies.  Even your utility bill is crammed to bursting with taxes that well-to-do folks barely notice but with which poor families struggle.
The idea, then, that lowering taxes only helps the rich is now and always has been a crock.  What’s changed isn’t the Republican stance on taxes.  It’s that the voters got pissed off enough at the Administration to actually hear what the message was trying to say.  Granted, Republicans now have to follow through on their pledges on regressive taxation, and that can only happen via changes to progressive taxation, but still…  Their message wasn’t different.  What’s was different was the way it was targeted.
Bottom line, we need tax reform.  I don’t personally think Americans voted primarily on issues of regressive versus progressive taxation, but those issues are still important, and the GOP has always been the more-adept party at addressing those problems.  Unfortunately, the Tea Party wing of the GOP has a tendency to want to simply abolish taxation--a policy which sounds nice but which is simply not grounded in reality--but with a Republican majority wedded to strong leadership, reform is not impossible.  I don’t know that I necessarily think that it’s likely, but the new leadership has promised it, and if they don’t deliver, they will be handing Democrats a powerful wedge issue in 2016.
4. Big Hero 6

This movie is getting great reviews.  We might try to go see it Sunday, but we're way behind on movies that we all want to see, so I'm not counting on making it.  If recent history is any guide, Sunday promises to be another in a long string of crazy days.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I've seen the new Star Wars trilogy describe as "the mostly hotly anticipated movie current in production", but I'm not super-excited.  Truth is, I don't know how much I believe that these guys can capture the magic of the original trilogy, and for that matter, I'm starting to think that part of that magic was simply the trilogy's time and place in American culture.

We had never before seen anything like Star Wars in 1978.  Now we have.  Without that revolutionary look, I don't know that the magic is replicable.

It's been a tough week.  I ran Sunday, so I took Monday off, and after that, I was behind the power curve.  With Election Night, I never made it to the pool on Tuesday, ran Wednesday but had to keep it short, did nothing at all yesterday, and am going to try to run again today--but again I have to keep it short.  I'm hoping to get to the pool tomorrow for a truly long workout, but it's been more than ten days since I've been in the water, so it's an open question how well my body's going to respond.  Then my office-mates and I are going drinking Downtown before heading to the Army-UConn game at 3:00.  That promises to be a good time, but I doubt I'll be home much before 9:00.

Sunday is another day, but again I have to fit in my long run, presumably my kids have to go to church for Christmas Pageant rehearsal, and we're talking about trying to get to the movies.  This is before we actually try to do anything Sunday afternoon.


It's a long weekend, at least.  I'm taking Monday off, and Tuesday is Veteran's Day.  I'm more than ready for the break.

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