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24.5.07

Democrats, real and stealth, vote to subvert people's will

Democrats in the Louisiana Legislature and in the Governor’s Mansion yesterday showed they are so wedded to spending the people’s money that they don’t care if they crumple up the state’s Constitution in the process.

HB 228 by state Rep. Steve Scalise would define properly that way in which the “growth factor” is computed for budgetary spending cap purposes. The Constitution limits the amount of growth in spending on operating items to the growth in the economy, circumvented only by a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

It also specifies that the growth factor is computed by “the average annual percentage rate of change of personal income for Louisiana as defined and reported by the United States Department of Commerce for the three calendar years prior to the fiscal year for which the limit is calculated.” But the governor’s Division of Administration traditionally has not done this since it refuses to wait a couple of weeks before releasing a budget; rather, it always has used a quarter-to-quarter comparison between the first three quarters of years two and three to plug in a number for the missing quarter of the third year.

22.5.07

New forecast reaffirms need for tax cuts, little new spending

Louisiana’s Revenue Estimating Conference has coughed up the final set of numbers that will define Louisiana’s budgeting process going forward – reemphasizing the need to use the money prudently even as it is uncertain whether Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Legislature will do so.

Roughly, the state’s budget surplus is $3.5 billion. Of that, $827 million must be spent on non-recurring items such as capital items, debt reduction, or on unfunded accrued liabilities in pensions systems. The remainder may be spent for any purpose, split almost equally what can be applied this ending year and next, but “spend” in this context includes also reductions in revenues in the short term from actions such as tax cuts.

Significantly, the four-member panel certifying these numbers acknowledged the assumption made by the Legislative Fiscal Office that revenue growth would be sparse over the near term. Translation: the big boost by federal government spending for disaster recovery has leveled off and will no longer provide a safety net in case energy prices, the main cog in the latest small revision upwards, fail to remain at peak levels.

LA Senate panel fails to produce adequate tax cut bill

Yesterday the Louisiana Senate’s Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee passed along an amended SB 66 by Sen. Robert Adley. It restores some deductions to income tax liability previously enjoyed until a few years ago by Louisiana income taxpayers, phased in over the next few years. While it’s an adequate start, that committee itself missed a golden opportunity to really offer tax relief and boost the state’s economy by its rejection of another bill.

SB 29 by Sen. Max Malone would have phased in over four years a complete elimination of income taxes, both personal and corporate. Several states presently do not have income taxes, including next-door neighbor Texas, so the idea is not unprecedented.

Yet the committee dealt with the bill in an unserious, almost flippant manner. Vice Chairman Adley declared that, with the estimated $3 billion a year reduction in revenue that eventually would be lost from this source (about three-quarters of it from the individual side), that it was “irresponsible” and wondered where other sources of funding could come from. In mere minutes, the matter was concluded and the entire committee except for Malone voted against it.

This cursory treatment was odd considering that Louisiana traditionally annually has difficulty in government funding services (unless, as is the case presently, a federal government windfall gets pumped into the state) and is one of the poorest states in the Union. Obviously, the tinkering at the margins Adley and others timidly have pursued has done little, if anything, to change this situation, so that Malone’s idea was dismissed so easily just indicates the wages of this shallow thinking and inferior legislating.

Obviously, as other states have no income tax as policy and are better run and more economically developed than Louisiana, the idea works. But if Adley and others are so concerned about other funding, they should consider three options together which will provide some more funding and bring greater sanity to the state government fiscal process that will encourage economic growth.

The big problem with individual income tax in Louisiana is that it soaks the wealthy and middle class, the most productive users of financial resources reliance upon which will maximize economic growth. (Perhaps this is a reason why Democrats like Adley or Gov. Kathleen Blanco seem so resistant to cutting income taxes – they see government primarily as a redistributive instrument of wealth.) A shift to a broader-based tax instead of this is what’s needed for economic development.

Discussion about this alternative for years has floated around: change the property tax structure. Louisiana’s highest-in-the-country homestead exemption not only soaks the middle class and wealthy, but also the poorer who only can rent, and business. Lowering it would spread out the burden and would give almost all parishes more operating funds, allowing the state to cut back on its contributions.

In addition, the state could levy its own property tax (it does not but is empowered to do so up to 5.75 mills). Almost everybody probably would pay no more in taxes if this swap for income taxes is made and a significant chunk of that $3 billion would be made back up by the reduced revenue sharing and state property tax creation.

Still worried about a shortfall? Then cut spending, something Blanco and Senate Democrats seem loath to do by their attempting to push through changes to the indigent care system in the state that threaten to increase costs and decrease quality in order to protect special interests. True reform of the system could bring substantial savings to the state in a few years.

While SB 66 will bring benefits, it’s not even close to the answer to put this state on a solid fiscal footing by encouraging sufficient economic growth. Off-hand rejection of SB 29 once again shows too many of Louisiana’s elected officials simply are not doing adequately the jobs for which they were elected.

21.5.07

Opponents' agendas should not derail abortion bill

As sensible legislation advances through the Louisiana Legislature regarding abortion, in response the pro-death abortion lobby is blowing a hypocritical gasket over anything, to the least degree, that even only discourages the ability to terminate human life.

Comically, concerning three bills addressing the practice the spokeswoman for one of these lobbies ranted, “All three of these bills show an utter disregard for women's health and safety … they all let legislators, rather than doctors, practice medicine,” seeming oblivious not just to the fact that her group’s view shows utter disregard, but outright hostility, enmity, and cruelty to the health and safety of unborn human beings, but that understanding the value of human life is not a medical but moral question – a value of society translates into law (we hope proceeding from a divine source).

More hypocritically, abortion supporters seem particularly concerned about one of the bills, HB 25 by state Rep. A.G. Crowe, which mandates that information about the consequences of abortion to the mother and fetus are spelled out to her before a decision is made. These opponents argue that some of the information that would be disseminated does not have scientific consensus surrounding it, and term this a kind of misinformation the real of agenda of which is to discourage abortion.

But this criticism fails if we adopt the attitude many display concerning the man-made “global warming” hoax. Even though little hard evidence suggests that man’s activities are causing rising temperatures, some supporters of notions to severely curtail economic activity to prevent this maintain that even the possibility that this could happen justifies these actions, to be on the safe side. Why not adopt the same attitude with abortion: if there’s any doubt at all that the unborn experience pain at 20 weeks rather than 30, let’s err on the side of safety.

To understand the real source of opposition to this bill, however, we must come to grips with the motivations of many of the opponents. Some are closet racists, who see abortion as a vehicle for non-whites to voluntarily curtail their reproduction. Others are utilitarian eugenicists, who want to purge defective genes out of society in order to reduce the presence of the disabled in society and the health care costs they impose on the state. (Both kinds are not new to western democracies, with dire consequences.) Still others are narrow-minded feminists who see pregnancy as man’s imposition on women and count every abortion as a victory over male “oppression.” And some take pieces of silver in exchange for providing these services in some way to ending innocent life.

Many abortion advocates do not have such venial motives; either they are morally confused about the sanctity of life or they selfishly put the convenience of the aborter over human life (when the woman’s life is not genuinely threatened). However, too many, often the most strident boosters of abortion, hypocritically mask their true agendas, probably in many cases not even willing to admit it to themselves much less to the public. This explains their true motives behind fanatical opposition to a bill that merely provides more information.

More information never is a bad thing, but no doubt this information will prick at some women’s consciences and they will opt out of abortions as a result. Regardless, opposition to this happening reveals the true agenda of many abortion supporters – they care nothing about the women involved (they already despise the unborn, obviously); rather, they have one or more agendas to fulfill by trying to maximize the volume of abortions. Such sentiments do not constitute valid reasons to reject the bill.

20.5.07

Shreveport Times bias all that different from decade ago?

We’re unalike in many ways – she has some assets that I don’t, she’s blond and I’m not, and she writes bombastically while mine is a more measured approach – but one thing we have in common is that, in essence, as opinion columnists the Shreveport Times has fired both Ann Coulter and myself. And that tells us something about the local Gannett affiliate’s editorial side, then and today.

Coulter’s canning was the subject of much Times debate (which it made public). The event that triggered it had nothing to do with her writing but a remark she made in a speech that a few groups of out the American mainstream found annoying. But being that these groups’ views comported to those of a large portion of America’s media elites, the remark was publicized by them far beyond any realistic value it had to public policy debate.

The Times let itself get caught up in this frenzy. Of course, it has the right to run whatever columnist’s work it wants, just as the public has the right to decline to read it (and it has increasingly exercised this option). But it bent over backwards to give explanations as to why her column was cancelled and, after readers’ complaints, even taking on some friendly fire when it also dumped the equally strident but liberal pundit Bill Press. (Shreveport’s weekly news/entertainment tabloid, Forum News, now carries both.)

The reason why The Times went to such explanatory lengths was to obscure that Coulter was banished because she is just too good at what she does – exposing the hypocrisy, fallacies, and anti-intellectualism of today’s liberalism. Apparently, I was granted the same honor eight years ago.

Just about a decade ago, the editorial staff at The Times (who I think just one member of which remains with it today) decided they should create a regular rotation of paid columnists who were local and mandated to write about state and local issues. I was one, another was a fellow political scientist at a university away from here, another selected still writes for Fax-Net Update, and a few others were chosen. My academician colleague was dispatched from the gig quickly, and, about 18 months later, I was the next to go.

By the time it happened, I pretty much figured out why. Right from the start it was clear I was the only, “token” conservative of the bunch. Do not ever forget that The Times, like most of the mass media because of their liberal ideology, does not welcome but only tolerates well-argued conservative opinion, putting up with it only because the majority of its opinion consumers prefer it and so they cannot get away without throwing a sop to such customers.

Worse, I was not going to play the “house” conservative role. The “house” conservative is someone with some understanding, often not that complex, of conservatism who either does not have great command of facts, or is not as logical in thinking as needs be, or who frequently bases arguments on Scripture (which liberal elites often incorrectly see as not intellectual). In short, this kind of writer’s opinions do not seem as threatening to the views of media elites and their allies and gives the media outlet a chance simultaneously to claim it is promoting diversity in views and to provide an inferior foil to its preferred liberalism.

Syndicated columnists like Coulter wouldn’t be slotted as a house conservative because their subjects never touch on local matters, and thus local liberal elites and their issues would escape criticism. But local and state matters were my bailiwick and it did not go unnoticed. The editorial page coordinator of those days (now long gone from the area and newspaper business) on several occasions told me how a lot of powerful local figures were becoming upset by my columns. That’s natural, because I relentlessly criticized the absurdities of their statements and decisions, the lack of logic and fact in their choices and the inanity of their justifications, relying upon conservative principles which through passage of history and exercise of intellect have been shown to be the most valid way in which to understand how the world works.

Understand that the people and organizations I criticized were not used to treatment on such an effective scale, that the clout they and their allies exercised in the community was considerable, and that they and The Times if not ideologically with the editorial staff then commercially with its management shared the same bed. One scheduled day of my column, it didn’t run. After I made an inquiry, later in the week I got a curt one-sentence letter from The Times informing me it no longer would run my column. It never gave any other explanation for this, a courtesy at least it granted Coulter.

Since then, any conservative views by regular Times columnists have almost never addressed local politics (while several area ultra-liberal writers have chirped on for years often addressing local affairs). It’s almost an entirely different crew at The Times now, while fortunately I have found at Fax-Net an editor who really does believe in presenting diverse views. But perhaps now, with so much competition coming from so many sources such as this venue, when a columnist becomes too inconvenient for it at least The Times will conduct a show trial before casting her off, instead of committing a silent assassination.