1. Think about how others interpret what you say.
- Substance is important- but spend time on your presentation
- Don’t brush aside challenges
- Ask yourself: “How could someone twist the meaning of my words around?
2. Be sociable.
- You have to spread the message, especially to those who don’t agree with you.
- Be the person others want to emulate, and respect.
3. Be positive more than negative- remember, liberty is a GOOD thing.
- Focus on how bad everything is.
- Try to persuade people with fear and anger.
- Don’t let people portray you as angry.
- Hayek was positive, and talked about how things COULD be better.
4. Use demographics to your advantage.
- Logic is different for different people- be aware of motivating factors.
- Vary your argument based on your audience (War on Drugs is detrimental because minority groups have been disproportionately harmed, for example).
- Should we advocate liberty to specific groups? YES!
5. Don’t idealize the past- and look towards the future.
- We have never been completely free. Blacks and women may see the past as different than white men.
- Focus on the future, and the positive nature of liberty.
- Don’t say society was ever ideal (necessarily), because full liberty was not available.
6. Humanize the argument:
- Don’t talk in the abstract. Get down into the nitty-gritty.
- It’s easier to argue against a theoretical position against a real-world problem.
7. Use sound bites.
- Catchphrases and soundbites work.
- The shorter the better.
- Convey key points.
- They should be easy to remember.
- Stay on message, and REPEAT the soundbites.
Myself and Allie Winegar Duzett will be blogging at Americans for Prosperity’s National Summit today. Enjoy!
Yesterday, Jed Lewison of Daily Kos put up a post comparing Clinton’s eight years of spending to Bush’s eight years of spending. The post- which cited the very reputable Tax Policy Center for its budget claims- showed just how badly Bush spent compared to Clinton. According to Lewison, Clinton saved over $100 billion in his final budget, Fiscal Year 2001.
I found the post interesting- not the least because Lewison cited the TPC, a partnership of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution- but also because TPC’s (and, thus, Lewison’s) claims are in direct contrast to what the Treasury itself shows in the 2000-2001 Fiscal Year, which is an increase in the federal debt of over $100 billion. I decided to contact Lewison about his claims. Below are the questions I sent, and his responses:
1. According to the Treasury, the debt increased from 9/30/2000 to 9/30/2001. What are the differences between the numbers you used and the numbers from the Treasury?
2. How much of the Bush debt you cited can be attributed to the growth in entitlements started pre-Clinton and pre-Bush years (i.e. not including the Medicare Drug Bill, etc. that added to the debt) and that obviously grew during both presidencies?
1) The increase in total debt is basically an increase in the Social Security Trust Fund (i.e., intragovernmental debt, money that the government owes itself, which accounts for a bit over a third of all debt). I’m not an expert on all the accounting rules, but if you look at the non-intragovernmental debt, it decreased. But how Social Security is accounted for is a separate issue from the overall fiscal well being of the Federal government under Bush and Clinton.
2) Outside of new programs like the Medicare drug plan, the rate of growth in entitlements should be a wash; since they are proscribed by law, both administrations would have experienced growth in them. The underlying demographics would have had to have been huge to explain the difference in overall spending growth rates.
Regarding #1, Clinton almost balanced the annual budget, but never took care of the long-term entitlement issues America was (and still is) expected to face. So while he (and his Republican Congresses) should get credit for almost balancing the budget, they should also get blame for not touching the Third Rail of politics that is Social Security. I think Lewison is mostly right on this one, though I disagree with his last sentence. (Note: the 2000-2001 recession cut into the revenues in FY2001, which Clinton could not have accounted for in his FY2001 budget, since the recession started one month after the start of FY2001.)
Lewison is a bit more inaccurate in his second point. The rate of entitlements can’t be a wash, as they continue to annually increase as a percentage of the national budget. This in no way excuses Bush and the Republicans for their spending spree(s), nor the Democrats who were in charge for two fiscal years during the Bush presidency, but it does clarify things a bit, I think.
Lewison’s post does point out that a Democratic president spent much better than a Republican president, and rightly so. He did, however, miss that that Bush was opposed by most Republicans on TARP (which Democrats mostly supported, as well as much of the Republican leadership), and while he acknowledged the drop in revenues from the recession at one point in the post, he neglected to do the final math. Using Lewison’s numbers:
- The FY2009 deficit was $1.4 trillion;
- the stimulus accounted for $200 billion of that deficit;
- and the recession accounted for $400 billion losses in revenue for FY2009.
So, while the deficit was an atrocious $800 billion, what Bush was directly responsible for in FY2009 deficit was not nearly as bad as Lewison would like to think. It certainly was not as bad as the FY2010 or proposed FY2011 budgets under President Obama (who, admittedly, has to deal with a terrible recession and seven decades of entitlements and many years of war he is not responsible for).
Overall, as I have been saying for some time, both parties need to grow up. The Debt-Paying Generation is here, as a previous post pointed out, and unless we get a batch of politicians willing to reform how much we spend on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and defense, the situation is only going to get worse. (And no, the new health care law won’t help prevent that financial worsening.)
Full disclosure: I informed Lewison I would likely be using his comments in a post. I am not pulling a bait-and-switch by asking him for his thoughts without disclosing I would use them.
Over the last several years, the common mantra among the left (as well as some on the right), has been that New England and the Northeast are doomsday regions for Republicans. There are no Republican Representatives in New England, for example, and only three Republican Senators in the entire NorthEast.
Unfortunately for liberals, this mantra has been proven premature. While the Republican resurgence- begun by Senator Brown (R-MA) and New Jersey governor Chris Christie- isn’t necessarily conservative (Christie is a moderate on social issues, and Brown recently voiced support for the financial regulation bill working its way through Congress), it certainly is Republican. One allegedly blue state in particular, New Hampshire- which has kicked out two Republican Representatives; a Republican Senator; and a Republican governor in the last six years- has now competitive races in its four Senate, Representative, and gubernatorial races this year. Another “blue” state, Connecticut, may elect a Republican to replace the corrupt Democratic Senator Chris Dodd.
As a conservative, I find this pretty optimistic. While few of the candidates are as conservative as I would like, they are at least less liberal than those Democrats currently holding offices or running for open seats, and in some cases they are very conservative. Admittedly, this is happening in a strong anti-Democratic year, but it’s still happening, and that’s the important thing.
One race in particular that I think is being overlooked in the national scheme of political races is the 4th District race in Connecticut. Held by Republicans for decades, it was the last Republican Representative seat in New England until 2008- and Chris Shays only lost by slightly over 2,000 votes that year. The current Representative, Jim Himes, has voted with the Democratic Party line on the big votes- including, but not limited to, cap-and-trade, health care and financial regulations- and is being opposed by several Republicans.
One of the Republicans, Rob Merkle, is a very conservative candidate who has term limits; limited government; tax reform; effective job growth; and pro-life platforms. He opposes the stimulus and TARP, and wants Too Big To Fail to end through the free market- the best anti-TBTF policy in existence. Best of all, though, unlike his major primary opponent, Dan Debicella, Merkle has never run for political office before. He is a businessman who actually knows what works, unlike both Debicella (who, for example, wants a cap on increases in federal spending, instead of reversing the deficits, which is what Merkle wants) and Himes (who worked for crony capitalist Goldman Sachs for years).
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I work for Rob Merkle as the campaign blogger and online media specialist. (Check out the blog here.) I was brought onto the campaign a) on the recommendation of a mutual acquaintance whose conservative credentials are unchallengeable, and b) after a lot of talking with Merkle about his view of government; its limits; and how best to apply changes to bring the government within those limits. According to Merkle, the biggest issue facing America is the national debt, and he wants to lead the charge against the unwillingness of Members of Congress to risk re-election in order to implement appropriate changes.
All in all, the Northeast is not yet strong Democratic territory. It may not be conservative central, but given the gifts of bad bills; arrogance; and the inability to create jobs the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have given the Republican Party, perhaps conservatives like Rob Merkle can bring a strong Republican resurgence to the Northeast.
In the near future, The Heritage Foundation’s Bill Beach and I will officially introduce the soon-to-be-important term “The Debt-Paying Generation,” (DPG) a term that all Americans should become familiar with. It is the financial future of America, and not a pretty one at that.
What is the DPG? It is those Americans who are presently between 5 and 30, and will be hardest hit from childhood through death by the debt irresponsibility in Washington. According to calculations broken down from Census Bureau data, the DPG is approximately 35% of the total American population, and currently stands at 108,670,000. Given expected life spans- nearly 80 years old on average, and having increased an average of three years since 1990- it is not impossible to believe that the DPG will be the longest-lived generation in American history.
Why is this age group being named the “Debt-Paying Generation?” Well, primarily because this generation will almost certainly have to pay down most of our national debt through higher taxes, which almost certainly will relegate them to the status of being the first generation of Americans to live a worse life than its immediate predecessors. Additionally, to rub salt in the wound, the big three entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—will have to be cut and, thus, will pay less to the Debt Paying Generation than the Boomers.
In short, to summarize an upcoming Heritage Foundation paper on the subject, a huge population of Americans will be financially burdened, and their quality of lives diminished, because of errors and dereliction of duty by Members of Congress and presidents in both parties. (Full disclosure: I worked for two months at Heritage on said paper.)
When I interviewed Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for this site, I asked her about the DPG. She expounded upon how much debt is being added by the Democrats, and how it is demoralizing to young people. According to Bachmann,
I will tell you, anywhere I go to speak, I ask that question. “Do you believe you live better than your parents?” Almost everyone in the audience puts their hand up. I ask them, “do you think your children will live better than you financially?” Virtually no one puts their hands up. I doubt in the last 234 years, if you ask that question of any generation, that they would think that their children would not be better off than they are; I just don’t think that you would have gotten that response. That’s really what is frightening today, because we’ve always been a country that’s been about forward- looking people, and growth. And this is one of the first times when Americans look into the future, and they see diminished way of life, and they see decline.
It is not only Democrats, of course, who are at fault. Republicans voted in unpaid-for Medicare legislation; tax cuts that added to the debt, according to the Congressional Budget Office; and launched a War on Terror that, according to the Congressional Research Service, had cost over $900 billion as of September 2009. Additionally, few Republicans are willing to address our overall defense spending, which increased between 2001 and 2008 by over 90%, not including inflation. However, the real problem is the unwillingness of both parties to address our growing entitlements which, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), need to be cut by 12% of GDP by 2015 in order to keep the debt manageable. (This equals just over $400 billion in annual cuts at the federal level, in 2012 dollars.) In absence of this courage, of course, tax hikes (or “revenues,” in the election-year language of Democrats) will be necessary, and the level of taxation will just devastate the DPG.
Unfortunately, I do not see the political will in Congress necessary to make the changes the IMF recommended. From the Beach/Siggins essay:
The IMF recommendations would consist of Congress eliminating, in 2012 dollars:
- 57% of defense; or, if Congress keeps the full defense budget,
- Over twice the interest payments for next year; or, for a third option,
- Over 30% more than the president’s entire proposed Medicaid budget.
Each of these would have to happen every year until 2015. Of course, Congress could simply eliminate the entire discretionary budget; all of Social Security; and two-thirds of the interest payments for FY 2011 (well, except that not paying the debt’s interest would be to default on the debt itself) to reach the same total cuts this year, and leave the budget in other years untouched.
Medicare and Medicaid are necessarily the biggest concern of budget hawks, especially those who look decades into America’s financial future. Not far behind, however is Social Security. I recently conducted an interview with James Agresti, the founder of Just Facts, a New Jersey-based think tank, about Social Security and its impact on the National Debt. James- who regularly updates the burden of the national debt on Americans on his website- informed me that the Social Security Administration (SSA) may be misrepresenting the solvency of Social Security. According to James,
[I]n 2001, the Social Security Administration projected the trust fund balance would reach $2.54 trillion by the end of 2007. It actually reached $2.24 trillion- 13 percent lower than projected. Yet, if you compare the projections from the 2001 report and the 2008 report, they’re more optimistic in the 2008 report than in the 2001 report. So the financial condition of the Social Security program is worse than they projected…but yet they are saying it’s going to be better in the future. So in 2001 they were saying, [with] expected annual deficit in 2075, we’d have to increase Social Security taxes by about 49 percent to cover that deficit. In 2008, they said we’ll only have to increase taxes by 32 percent.
On April 15, The Center for American Progress noted that in President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid add up to 41.5% of the federal budget. That is expected to grow astronomically over the next 70 years, under current budget proposals and with Congress’ current intestinal fortitude. Unfortunately, it won’t be these politicians who suffer- it will be their kids and grandchildren. To paraphrase a columnist from the Center for American Progress in The Washington Post some weeks ago, we need a generation of politicians who don’t care about being re-elected, and will thus make the tough choices. Hopefully, the American people vote in such politicians this fall, and in 2012, to prevent America from having its own Greek Tragedy, riots and all.
In today’s “This Week” appearance, George Will hammers the president over his woeful attempts to turn the mid-term elections from being about his policies to being about the “snake oil” (the president’s words) of his opposition. Check out Jake Tapper’s introduction to the issue; the clip of the president speaking; and Will’s comments, from the beginning of the video through 1:34.
Dustin Siggins: So, I guess my first question, it’s a pretty simple one- you’ve run for Congress in the past, and this is a very pro-Republican/pro-conservative year in Congress. Why run for governor? Yes, the tide is anti-incumbent, but New Hampshire has a tendency to buck trends, and Governor Lynch has won by two huge margins in his last two election runs.
John Stephen: Well, you know, my background and experience suits me well for running for governor. You know, I ran the largest state department, Health & Human Services, and was able to run it with fiscal discipline and return $143 million over four years, and kept my budget flat each year, and when you deal with Health & Human Services spending, you’ve gotta make sure that you take care of the people in need, but yet, if you can return value to the taxpayers, and be more efficient, that’s what people expect. And then I was also at the Department of Safety as Deputy Commissioner. I was the first Homeland Security Coordinator, and I’ve done a lot, you know, and I was Assistant Attorney General, prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General- appointed by Governor Gregg, and then appointed by Shaheen, who’s a senator, a U.S. Senator- she was governor at the time- a Democrat governor. Then I was appointed by Republican governor Craig Benson, and I’ve had governors on each side come to me and appoint me to positions.
In the last two years- roughly two years- I’ve been working as a health care consultant for a firm in Boston called The Lucas Group, and I have private companies I consult with, to help them grow, and to help them achieve success in terms of the bottom line, and I do a lot of consulting with venture capitalists, and things like that. It’s been a tough economy, as you know, but yet we’ve been working hard with private business. But then I also had the opportunity as head of our government team at The Lucas Group to work with three governors over the last couple years and help them save, in one case, in two cases, over a billion dollars, putting them on a road to savings of a billion dollars or more. And just by coming up with ideas that I know well in terms of efficiency. I started out in my mom and dad’s restaurant business, washing dishes, mopping floors, so I started out with a small business perspective- watching budgets, making sure we controlled spending. So I took that conservative- that fiscal conservative- thought process and values, the values I share, all the way to the government positions that I’ve held. And running for governor, is like, you gotta make sure you run it like a business. I helped other governors do that, but problems in Washington have come to New Hampshire. High taxes and spending, here in New Hampshire, are choking jobs, they’re hurting small businesses. We had this governor, in the last four years, has passes 84 new taxes- 84, in small New Hampshire? A 24% increase in spending? At the same time, I was working with other governors- one a Democrat in Illinois, with his Taxpayer Action Committee, and also Governor of South Carolina, helping re-engineer his state government. Employment commission and also helping the governor of Rhode Island get a health care waiver that saved millions of dollars for his state.
I had my hands in savings opportunities and seeing these governors in other states cut spending, seeing what’s coming ahead, knowing that you can’t tax your way out of a recession. At that point, a number of folks from the New Hampshire State Republican Committee contacted me, and I have two young daughters here, and I live here, I love this state, I was born in this state. This is not the same New Hampshire I was born and raised in. And I was contacted by folks from all over the state to take that experience that I’ve garnered, or gained, over the years, and bringing value to taxpayers, to come back to New Hampshire and do the same thing again, ‘cause now’s the time. We need to stop the spending, stop the out-of-control spending in New Hampshire, stop the excessive taxation that’s hurting our culture and our New Hampshire way of life, and you know- coming from Littleton, Dustin- New Hampshire’s a low-tax, limited-government state. Live Free or Die. We were the first state to declare its independence from Great Britain, the first colony, and we always pride ourselves on being first in the nation, well- I’m running so we can get back to the first in the nation, and showing the entire United States what it’s like being from New Hampshire. Independent, cutting spending, and also returning value to taxpayers.
DS: Which is great. My only question is, that’s what the guy ran on in 2006. I forget the guy’s name off the top of my head- he ran on a similar platform. I interviewed him for my campus paper [DS: Correction. I organized an event on my campus for the candidate, one Jim Coburn, and a campus news reporter interviewed the candidate. I apologize for my bad memory.] He got shellacked. Governor Lynch won a record re-election in the state. It was something like 74, or 76, percent. [DS: 74%-26% was the margin between Lynch and Coburn- I guess my memory improved.] And obviously now, it’s 2010, it’s a different year, different political culture. How do you plan on taking this and saying to New Hampshire, “Hey, the guy you voted for three times in a row isn’t the right guy?” And a lot of people, you know, 84 taxes, it’s hard for people to grab onto what that means-
JS: Well, first of all, when Governor Lynch ran against those other two candidates, we didn’t have the environment. Like you said, 84 new taxes and fees. We didn’t have an environment of a 24% increase in spending in four years. We didn’t have an environment where our limited liability companies in New Hampshire- which are the bedrock of New Hampshire’s small businesses- received an income tax passed by Governor Lynch during the deepest recession of our time. I mean, times have changed. And another thing is, Governor Lynch is running for an unprecedented fourth term. That’s unheard of in New Hampshire history. He’s had his chance, and we can’t afford two more years- and the people are responding. In the latest Rasmussen poll, the poll showed that 47% are supporting him on re-election. And that number is going down. He’s had 70% approval a little more than six months ago, so we’re starting to get our message out, and today- or as of the latest poll- he’s at 51% approval, which tells you, Dustin, his support is diminishing. What you had said was absolutely correct- those candidates, during those times, the message didn’t work, the fact is that people weren’t paying as much attention to what was going on in Concord, the liberal spendthrift agenda was starting to percolate, but it hadn’t come to the point where it actually was hitting their wallets and their pocketbooks.
Today, ask any person in New Hampshire that has legally registered a car how much they had to pay. Ask the guy from Rochester that has to go to work in Boston every day, how his toll prices have gone from five hundred dollars to $1,500 in four years. Ask Andy Crews, who owns AutoFair in Manchester- car dealership- who, he had some extra money a year ago to buy another dealership a year ago, and his accountant told him because of the LLC tax, not to buy the dealership. He would have been able to grow jobs- create jobs- and ask the 50,000 people in New Hampshire that are out of work today if they like what Governor Lynch has done the past few years. You know, it’s all about government being fiscally responsible and creating an environment- because government doesn’t create jobs- creating an environment so that small businesses can flourish and create jobs. And that’s what our campaign’s gonna be about- low taxes, limited government, creating an environment to grow jobs by having tax cuts on employers- and those are the things that Governor Lynch does not support. Those are ideas that Governor Lynch does not support. He has shown his penchant for big government, and so there is going to be a very stark contrast in New Hampshire now- believe it or not- and I don’t like to say this, but it’s true, according to the Tax Foundation, has the highest business tax rate in the country. Now when we start telling people en masse about this issue in New Hampshire, I believe strongly this is the last term of Governor Lynch.
DS: When I left New Hampshire, the spending was just starting to increase- I left in 2008. And I talked to Corey Lewandowski from Americans for Prosperity-
JS: Yes, Corey’s a good guy.
DS: And he explained to me how the LLC tax is only going to go on for a year, I believe- that it was only going to go on for a year, and it was going to be dropped because of opposition from New Hampshire citizens.
DS: So that’s at least a good thing, that that tax is going away. What would you say- and just briefly, I only have a couple more minutes with you- briefly, what’s the one tax that you would eliminate, and also, what’s a program you would cut to offset the revenue lost from cutting that tax? What’s a program you would cut or streamline?
JS: Well, first of all, I’m gonna be putting out a plan on Monday with a number of ideas, but I would definitely work to restructure and modernize state government. And one big area I would move forward on is managed care for Medicaid. And Anthem did a report a few months back that indicated we could save $300 million in New Hampshire a year- now, Dustin a year!- if we were able to have what 40 states have in this country- a Medicare managed-care product; which means, mainly, that the 150,000 (roughly) lives that in New Hampshire are on Medicaid- the people, that are on Medicaid- that they have to go through a gatekeeper, like we do for health insurance, like everyone else. Right now there is no gatekeeper. They go to emergency rooms if their child has a cold, or, you know, there’s no program like that. So that alone is one area. Then there are other areas where can consolidate functions- backroom functions- every department has HR, every department has business office, every office has attorneys- we are going to look at doing a lot of things that the private sector is doing in terms of efficiency. And I would work to eliminate the Business Enterprise Tax, which is hurting a lot of small businesses. And I would eliminate it for those businesses that pay taxes after their year-end shows a loss. Even if they lose money, they pay taxes in New Hampshire, which is just unconscionable, as far as I’m concerned.
Many of the other taxes that passed, most of them need to be looked at. And one that- I mean, there are many that I would roll back and repeal. But I would want to have a tax holiday for rooms and meals. We increased the rooms and meals tax by 12% under Governor Lynch just last year. I’d want to go back to no rooms and meals tax, zero, no tax, during certain periods of the year when we want to increase tourism during the slow periods. And I would be the first governor in this state to basically stand up and say, “No rooms and meals tax.” We’re going to look at restricting the tax code on businesses as well.
DS: And would that lead to an imbalance in the budget? I mean, I believe New Hampshire’s Constitution says it has to be a balanced budget, and so if you obviously cut taxes without cutting appropriate spending- you mentioned $300 million a couple of minutes ago- cutting all of these taxes, would you still have a balanced budget?
JS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Not only will- these tax cuts will stimulate job growth, they’ll help employers make more profit to give to their communities, employees, and the state, for the business profits tax. And what it will also do is start to create an environment where, overall, we’ll have more and more job growth through creation of new lines of business. People will start coming into this state. I think that’s important. But we’ll no longer have the highest business tax rate in the nation. We’re going to turn it around and have one of the lowest in the Northeast. That alone will stimulate job growth. And what will happen is people who are working outside the state will start thinking about coming back here, and more people will be working in New Hampshire, and that leads to more revenue. But also, you’ve got to control spending. Yes, the spending can be controlled. You absolutely can make reductions, even across the board. We’ll keep spending in check, balance the budget, and begin to restore the Rainy Day Fund. And when New Hampshire companies are going to Massachusetts- which I heard, throughout this campaign trail- they’re going to Massachusetts to do business rather than in New Hampshire, that’s a problem. And once you fix that problem, and you create jobs, New Hampshire will, once again, be the envy of the nation.
DS: Well, I guess I have one last question for you, and it’s not economics-related at all. The conflicts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq- as the governor, you’re in charge of the troops from New Hampshire, correct?
JS: That is correct.
DS: Do you support being in Iraq and Afghanistan, until at least the July 2007 deadline [DS: Clearly, I meant the 2011 deadline…I have no idea why I said “2007.”] and beyond that, if necessary? Do you believe that’s a worthy cause for New Hampshire citizens to be fighting over and dying for?
JS: As the Commander-in-Chief for the state, I’m gonna support the decisions made in Congress.
DS: Even despite the federalism that is allowed to you?
JS: I mean, first of all, I’m a big supporter of the 10th Amendment, and I believe strongly that we also need to have a strong national defense. And, you know, I’m going to work alongside and with the federal government to make that we follow the lead of the United States federal government in terms of national forces.
DS: Okay. Thank you very much
The campaign of Bob Turner- who is running against Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) this year- was kind enough to schedule an interview with Mr. Turner. The interview was originally published at www.rightosphere.com, and is seen below.
Dustin Siggins: So I was reading National Review, the review you got, and I found it very interesting- especially because, on a personal level, I tried to interview Rep. Weiner some weeks ago
Bob Turner: *Chuckles*
DS: On his Politico piece about Social Security. I was going to do a bit of investigative journalism, getting his perspective; getting the perspective of someone else who disagrees with him; and his press secretary answered my phone calls, never responded to my e-mails, and blew me off. So it was very interesting how that worked, especially considering how much he’s on Fox, and how much he’s out there, that he wouldn’t want to talk to someone. I found that very interesting. So I will admit I have a bit of a personal vendetta in going to talk to you.
BT: *Chuckles* Okay.
DS: I have no shame in admitting that. Speaking of Politico, I’m sure you have an opinion on Social Security. Do you agree with the Congressman that Social Security is sound, and if not, how do you fix it?
BT: Weiner suggests that Social Security is sound. In reality, it is no more secure than any other U.S. debt obligations. Some people think the Social Security fund is like a secured savings account, but Social Security money has been spent. What’s left is an IOU, so this is no more secure than every one of our other debts, and all our debts are reliant on the state of the economy.
DS: Okay. How would you- what do you think are good policies to implement, to prevent this IOU from getting worse, which it’s only going to, at this rate?
BT: Well, to fix and to secure Social Security, we need to address the overall health of the economy. Obama’s economic policies- which Weiner supports- are a failure. The way to fix the economy is not through social stimulus spending, but we have to promote business growth. That is the tried-and-true way; it’s still tax cuts and tax credits for research and development; lower capital gains tax; incentives for venture capitalists; new business credits. These are the kind of programs and stimuli that create jobs and expand the economy.
We also have to keep an eye on prudent spending- spending cuts, reduction in government expansion, elimination of waste- you know, all of the tried-and-true methods to get this train back on track.
DS: Okay. I’ll take a little segue into social issues for just a moment.
DS: I didn’t see anything on your website regarding abortion. I was wondering what your opinion on it was.
BT: I’m an unabashed pro-lifer. I’m opposed to abortion on moral, religious, social grounds. Partial-birth abortion is particularly heinous, and Weiner has supported that. That would put me on the extreme other end of that position. This is not so much a legislative issue as judicial, except for federal fundings, which if- no, when I’m elected, I would certainly oppose all federal funding of abortion.
DS: You mentioned judicial issues. Can you explain that, just a little bit?
BT: Well, in Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court has said the states cannot legislate abortions as a personal right, so it would probably take a Constitutional amendment, and a major social issue I just don’t think is on the agenda for the next two or four years. The only practical opposition here will be funding- or defunding- of any abortion programs on the federal level.
DS: Fair enough. This has [inaudible] issue since Mitch Daniels- governor of Indiana- said we should have a truce, but obviously with President Obama in office we’re never gonna be able to get a pro-life-
BT: Well, exactly.
DS: – person on the Supreme Court. I guess my third question- I don’t know how much you’ve followed this- Rep. Weiner has targeted Goldline-
BT: Oh, yeah, I got a lot to say about this one.
DS: I was wondering two different questions (related). One, whether or not Goldline has done good or bad things, is this what a Congressman should be involved in? Should a Congressman be involved in targeting a company like this? And second of all- and related to that- if not, why do you think not? If so, why do you think so?
BT: There’s far more to this than meets the eye, and I’d like to give you a bit of my personal experience on this. I believe Representative Weiner is carrying the water for the Obama administration in his fight against Glenn Beck. In reality, it’s a diversion and a sideshow from many of the real issues that Beck is speaking about. You know, we have serious issues, and this ordinarily wouldn’t be worth too much attention, but what they- they: Weiner, Pelosi, Obama, and Company- are really doing is targeting this advertiser to chase the advertiser off the air. By so doing, they harm Beck. Get enough advertisers to do that, and he’s off the air.
Now, some years ago, I did a program, the TV program, with Rush Limbaugh. It lasted three or four years on the air. It was a half-hour television show. I don’t know if you remember it. It was in the mid-90s.
DS: Um, I was 10 at that time, so probably not.
BT: [Laughs} Oh, okay- so you don’t. You were not the target audience.
DS: No, I was not. [Laughs]
BT: At that time, it was a syndicated program, that means the company I was running produced, financed it, distributed it to the stations, and then sold the advertising time to recoup its investment. We found ourselves scrounging for advertisers because a lot of mainline advertisers had received letters. It didn’t take many, and through a little investigation we were reasonably sure those letters were generated by surrogates of the DNC. Most of the letters were from GLAAD, or NOW, accusing Rush of being homophobic, misogynistic, etc. What it did was make the advertisers hesitant. What ultimately happened is the rates we were charging were about half of what we would ordinarily get- which hindered the program. The program was still profitable, but instead of the ratings- which were a little under a 3, which might have generated $25 million a year- we were doing $15, $14 million per year, not making it that attractive for Rush to continue, or his executive producer- brilliant young guy names Roger Ailes.
DS: Roger Ailes? I’ve never heard that term applied to him, but maybe it’s all relative.
BT: That was in the mid-90s. [Laughs]
DS: [Laughs] I’m 24 years old, so I may be a little-
BT: So after that number of years we said, “This is not-“ It was profitable, but it was not profitable enough to be worth the effort, particularly when Rush was doing 10 times better or more in radio. So that effort against the advertisers turned out to be decisive. I see the same thing here, and I can tell you that from personal experience this is not about attacking Goldline- this is about attacking Beck’s advertisers to hinder or cripple the program.
DS: I think it’s a sign of success when he has-
BT: Oh, indeed. He has them scared.
DS: He’s got them scared. You know, they keep talking about all these advertisers that have dropped him, but the evidence just isn’t there that- I just read the most recent numbers; he got something like 2.54 million viewers on his Fox show. [DS: The actual ratings, according to Huffington Post(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/30/cable-news-ratings-top-30_n_630984.html#s108334) have Beck at 2.057 million viewers per day- third in cable behind O’Reilly and Hannity, respectively.] It’s something along those lines. I mean, he’s smoking everybody, except for Hannity and O’Reilly. So it’s really not working.
So I guess- one of my last questions- I looked at Real Clear Politics to see what they judge the race as, and they don’t even judge the race as competitive. According to the National Review piece, you got in because there was no one to write a check to.
BT: That is true.
DS: So how do you- I don’t know how long Rep. Weiner’s been in office for, but it’s been quite some time-
BT: He’s going for his seventh term.
DS: He’s articulate- I’ve seen him on TV- he’s articulate-
DS: Slick, okay. He has a lot of alleged facts at his control- how do you overcome this? I guess it’s an anti-incumbent year, but-
BT: True. I’m not sure how others may judge the competitiveness of this race, but I know something about the people of the 9th District and what they’re concerned about. This is a district of working middle-class homeowners, small business operators- these people work, they pay taxes, these are (dare I say) typical Americans in a very ethnically-diverse area. But these are the things they have in common, and they are worried. They are worried about jobs, about the economy, and they are extremely dissatisfied with the current administration and, I believe, they tie in the Democrats Pelosi and Weiner with as being architects of this problem. Now, the fact that Anthony Weiner has not run against anyone in the last few elections, to me, does not mean he is unbeatable. In the grassroots support, I just feel it. We have just begun, and my political career is three months old. We had our first meeting with volunteers, and we had about 70 people show up.
BT: The goal is to get a thousand to cover every one of the 512 EDs in this district, but it’s growing exponentially. I asked, with a show of hands, “How many of you have [n]ever been involved in a political campaign before?” [DS: The audio did not catch the “n” in “never”- which Mr. Turner did say.] And my hand was the first one up. But after that, about 90% of the people in that room have never been involved, and they cut across multiple ages and areas of this district. I found that a very encouraging sign.
If you talk to Karl Rove or Dick Morris, they’ll tell you you need a photogenic candidate. You need Slick slogans and political tricks, and you need a ton of campaign money. Well, how are we doing? Well, I’ve got a face for radio-
DS: [Laughs] I’m in the same boat you are.
BT: And as far as slick political slogans and all, we’re gonna run on principles. That should be unique.
BT: And for a ton of money, we got volunteers, and we have a lot of them. I can feel the ground moving, and the grass is swaying in our direction. I think this will be under the radar until September. We’re getting a reasonable response to the contribution effort, but a lot of this won’t be seen until later in the campaign, but I think people will kind of wake up around the beginning of September, and they’ll realize this will be a very competitive race.
There are a lot of things going on- a lot of changes in this district that are not apparent on the face of it, but I think this is going to be a very competitive race.
DS: Well, then, I guess I have one more question for you, before I let you go. You mentioned earlier the Obama social spending, and you just said you are going to run on principle. For me personally, I believe the biggest issue facing this nation is our debt- the debt crisis coming down the pike. According to the CBO it’s 2020, according to the IMF it’s 2015, that we hit 100% of debt-to-GDP ratio.
DS: So I was wondering two things: How do you think Americans (I don’t know if you will be able to answer this), how do you think Americans can trust Republicans, considering it was Bush who really started this spending, and Obama, who’s just made it worse. How can Americans trust Republicans, and secondly, as a Member of Congress, would you be willing to cut defense spending- which has at least doubled in the last decade- as a part of reigning in that spending?
BT: I’d be looking to cut spending. I’d be less inclined to cut defense spending when we’re in the midst of the long war, and in a very uncertain world. I believe America’s strength is in its strong military, and secondly, in its strong defense of the right and principles and human freedom, and not some wishy-washy diplomatic tactician’s-
DS: But it’s worked out so well.
BT: [Chuckles] Yeah. The money that can be cut- and there’s only so much real cutting that can be done- is in the redundancies and the wasteful government spending and a cap on spending. And digging into the administrative programs to cut out billions- hundreds of billions- in waste and unneeded programs. But the real way to manage the deficit is to increase the productivity of the nation as a whole. It may even have to be- and it will be- tax decreases in particular areas, particularly against business, that will help grow the economy, and bring that ratio of GDP to deficit down to what we can have manageable levels. It will take a long time before we can really attack this, and I think what we need is appropriations reform in the House- how bills are put together- how earmarks and riders can be attached to bills. We can change all that within the House rules, and a majority of Republicans can do that. Whether they have the political will, I think, in January, we’re gonna find out. We’ll be the majority, and we have [to] them to the test. I am more committed to the principles than to the party, and I hope there are enough others like that, but that remains to be seen. But you’ll get a fight from me, I can tell you that.
DS: Well, you got in because, as you said earlier, there was nobody to write a check to, so I doubt you’re going to be in for a 25-year career in the House.
BT: [Laughs] That would be most unlikely. I think an actuary would put my life expectancy at a little under that anyway, but-
DS: Well, I don’t know how old you are- 66?
DS: Wow. Geez.
BT: [Laughs] Yeah, we don’t have to dwell on that-
DS: [Laughs] No, no, no- you have the experience, you have the…all the things Rep. Weiner does not, that’s your advantage, right?
BT: Well, yeah, that’s true to a degree. I’ve actually started businesses, and run them, and had real jobs, yes. Mr. Weiner, Mr. Obama, have never had a real job, have never in a business environment, never been at risk.
DS: Well, we definitely agree on this last point.
Last week, I posted on Media Matters and its tearing apart of a very misleading Fox News chart on unemployment since December 2007. Overall, I agreed with Jocelyn Fong, who conducted MM’s analysis, but I felt that she was a bit over the top, especially I felt the core of Fox’s argument was right on- after all, unemployment numbers are unemployment numbers.
However, late last week, my friend James Agresti- the founder of the think tank JustFacts.com and the co-host of Just Facts Radio– read the MM post. He immediately e-mailed me saying Media Matters not only had a legitimate gripe, but that “skewing the intervals is dishonest.” Essentially, James’ argument was the same as Fong’s: that by showing unemployment as consistently going up, without the correct change in employment since December 2009, Fox is giving its viewers the impression that unemployment is still going through the roof, despite the fact that- as a chart in the MM analysis shows- this is not the case. James took the time, in a follow-up phone call, to make this clear to me.
Fong and James made the same argument, but I somehow missed the significance during Fong’s analysis. I will be sure to be more careful in the future before posting.
On Monday evening, a friend told me that Patrick Murray, the Republican opponent of Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), was holding an event on the roof of my apartment complex. Intrigued due to the RealClearPolitics video of Moran saying “the economy has recovered” this past weekend, as well as the ethics issues Moran was cleared of earlier this year, I attended the event, where the campaign allowed me a few minutes to interview Murray.
My first question to Murray was about the recession statement by Moran. Murray noted that the good job news was largely coming from the hiring of Census workers, and said the high unemployment rate showed that the stimulus didn’t work. He also said the comments by Moran showed that after 20 years in Congress, he was out of touch with his own constituents.
The final word on the Congressman’s comments? An emphatic “No!” regarding being out of the recession.
Following up on his comment of Moran being out of touch, I asked what Murray thought of term limits. He said he supported them, though he wasn’t certain what the best limitations were. He verified that he would want to hear different options before deciding on one, though he reiterated his support for term limits.
One of the Murray supporters at the event had told me she liked Murray because he was not a politician, which I found interesting. That brought me to ask Murray if he had chosen to run because of the ethics issues Moran had run into, and he simply and firmly said “No.” He then explained he was running because Moran was not the best person for the job, due to a variety of factors, including anti-Semitic remarks the Congressman made. He also stated he felt Moran was doing too much explaining to his constituents, and not enough listening. He cited a health care town hall where Moran brought former Vermont governor Howard Dean in to explain the health care bill, instead of listening to the concerns of his constituents. [Note: This was an infamously raucous town hall from last year.]
Murray launched into a few details regarding what he felt needed to be done. He said jobs; national security; and the national debt were front-end concerns, and said regarding the debt that we as a nation need to “turn this ship around.” He also said Moran and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi were “at the heart” of the tax-and-spend policies of the current Congress.
Due to time constraints – Murray did say we could go into more detail should I want to sit down with him again – I asked only one more question: as a Republican, if he were elected, would Murray work to cut defense spending as part of an overall approach to turning the debt ship around?
Fiscal hawk Republicans like Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have put themselves on the record as supporting such a policy. Murray, a former Army Colonel with 24 years of experience in the military, said he could not comment on what Senator Coburn had done, but that he supported Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ recent proposal to cut between one and two percent of the defense budget after careful analysis. He said he was “very hesitant” to cut the budget in the middle of two wars, and that the first duty of the federal government is to provide for the common defense.
Unfortunately, I had to let Murray get back to the event, but I plan to follow-up. He seems like he has a pretty good head on his shoulders, and it would be great to have another conservative Republican with military experience since there are so few in Congress.
Author’s Note: I contacted the Moran office so they could respond to some of what Murray said, but as of the publication of this article his office had not responded.