The Missed Messaging Opportunity in 2018

A new book by Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, The Hill To Die On, is a very interesting read overall. The book is not entirely about political campaigns, but there is one particularly interesting passage about the 2018 election cycle that demonstrates why Republicans lost in 2018.

Excerpt from page 285:

McCarthy’s solution was for the party to adopt a massive messaging shift, one that would come to define the 2018 election cycle: That morning he urged the dozens of Republicans gathered to forget the positive message on the economy that the GOP had publicly been touting. Instead, he implored them to go sharply negative on the issues that mattered the most: safety, and Democrats’ efforts to turn America toward socialism, destroy health care, and raise taxes. Why? Because his data showed that it worked, that’s why. McCarthy pointed out that positive messaging moved independent and college-educated women an average of 10.3 percent, while negative advertising moved them 13 percent.

Armed with data from the NRCC and other Republican political entities, McCarthy outlined a new strategy: attack, attack, attack. To win over swing voters and centrist Democrats, they should attack “government controlled, one-size-fits-all health care.” To win Republicans, “government-run” and “government takeover” should be the new watchwords. Never mind that Republicans had been in complete control of Washington for two whole years and were still walloping Democrats for their health care plan, a now-eight-year-old law that the GOP could not find the courage or the votes to repeal.

The authors make a good point in closing that second paragraph; rather difficult to run on more “repeal and replace” nonsensical rhetoric when the last “attempt” at it failed.

But there is a bigger point to what happened in 2018. There was no cohesive messaging about the tax cuts in 2018, which was something we kept pressing for in our podcast episodes during the election cycle last year. Very few candidates were good evangelists for the tax reform passage working and the economy improving.

When the Democrats started losing the argument on employment, as the unemployment number was dropping to new record lows monthly, they shifted to saying, “yeah but, wages are low,” well, in episode 22 we specifically discussed the fact that it took a little time for the economy to adjust, but wages were on the rise. Not only were wages increasing but benefit packages for employees were getting better, we discussed that in episode 10.

The point is, that the miracle that was taking place in the American economy was worth talking about, and instead the party leaders moved to the old standby tactics, rather than sharing with voters that they were the reason the miracle was happening, that they wanted to help expand the miracle in 2019 and 2020 and beyond.

Finally, the Republican party missed a huge opportunity on a conversation about Opportunity Zones (OZs). OZs were tucked away in the 2017 tax reform bill, around page 130 or so. And this concept has the ability to renew and revitalize neighborhoods and communities and it can put people to work immediately. Basically, every state was given a time frame to set aside some poverty-ridden areas to be designated as OZs. Then, investors are allowed to invest some money into these zones for a set amount of time, and during that time, the investors would not be penalized with capital gains taxes. So instead of investors pocketing this money, funds are able to be invested into new ventures in these high-poverty areas: new businesses, new infrastructure, new employment opportunities.

There is always 2019 and 2020 to have this conversation, I suppose…

Steve Parkhurst Reviews Mark Levin’s The Liberty Amendments

This review was first published at Big Jolly Politics:

Levin TLA

Mark Levin’s newest book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic, is a different sort of attempt at a national dialogue than any we have seen in recent history.

As national dialogues go, in 2011 President Obama disgraced himself in his attempt at a “dialogue,” which escalated into demagoguery, after the horrific shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. As you will recall, the president spoke that month in Arizona at a mini-DNC rally disguised as a memorial service, where he quickly resorted to typical left-wing tactics, attacking the Second Amendment and calling for tighter gun laws, restrictions and bans. The Presidents attempt at a “national dialogue” was short lived, poorly planned and altogether un-serious.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has attempted to initiate a few dialogues, including one in 2010 where he spoke to the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan and suggested ways for Michiganders to save Detroit. Gingrich was attacked, as usual, and earlier this year, well, we all know what happened to Detroit.

Congressman Paul Ryan authored the Roadmap to Prosperity, a plan to reform some aspects of government and start to reverse negative trends while providing the chance for individuals to choose an alternative to the failing social security system. As usual, the Left went on the attack, lying their way into history as defenders of the failing status quo. You may recall the commercial where a faux Paul Ryan pushes a senior citizen in a wheelchair over a cliff. Yes, that was “Leftist Dialogue for Dummies” if there ever was such a title.

Fast forward to 2013 and Mark Levin has authored a very important book that since its release two weeks ago has taken me some time to read, comprehend, appreciate, embrace and now fully advocate. This attempt at a national dialogue is more serious and substantive than anything attempted by the permanent campaigner. Levin begins his premise from the United States Constitution, where he takes Article V (not to be confused with the Fifth Amendment) and shines a new light on it. (the underlined portion is the aspect that The Liberty Amendments focuses on).

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

This look at federalism is refreshing and modern, and Levin is a great writer with a pristine intellect, as he demonstrates here:

Clearly there is much political, social, and economic diversity among the states. Some states respect the individual more than others. Some are downright oppressive in their imposition of regulatory and tax schemes. But people can move from state to state, and often do, to escape one state’s burdens for another state’s opportunities. Federalism is not about any single state or small faction of states imposing their will on the nation. It is about states serving, in the aggregate, as an essential buffer between the central government and the people, safeguarding the citizen from authoritarianism’s consolidated rule, thereby preserving and promoting self-government. After all, self-government is a fundamental feature of a constitutional republic. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “It was by the sober sense of our citizens that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and it is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back.

We can all agree to disagree on the specifics of Levin’s actual proposals (not that I personally disagree with any of these). Things like term limits for members of Congress and the Senate. Term limits for members of the Supreme Court. Having state legislatures, those officials most responsible to the people, go back to selecting the United States Senators. Significantly reducing out of control and unregulated bureaucracy. Calling for a 30 day period between the time a bill is completely written and the time it is voted on. Strengthening voter ID laws. Reforming the tax system.

The bigger issue is this idea, an idea as old as the Constitution itself, that the people can take back power from the federal government and return it to the states when they have had enough of the oppressive, heavy hand.

The founders did not intend that politicians would make a career out of “serving the people.” They reasonably figured someone would be elected from their community, would serve a short time, and would then return back home to their community, and their career. The idea of the career legislator, the professional politician, serving 20, 30 or 40 years, would have been a foreign concept to those great men. As Levin points out though:

“History demonstrates that republics collapse when demagogues present themselves as their guardians to entice the people and cloak their true intentions.”

What Levin is advocating for will not happen overnight. It will not happen in the next election cycle, or the election cycle after that. This will be a long, time-consuming effort. The effort will be frustrating. Is this endeavor worth the effort? Levin offers this thought in Chapter 1, for those not willing to undertake the challenge or even consider doing so:

“Still more may be resigned to a grim future, preferring lamentation to the hard work of purposeful action.”

Let that sink in.

The Liberty Amendments is chock full of notes and references, including much high praise for founders like James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and George Mason. The book is well researched, the writing is very good, it is not hard to understand or comprehend but on the contrary, it is very informative.

Pick up a copy of The Liberty Amendments. Give it a chance. If you agree with the underlying idea, that Article V provides a way out, get involved locally. Take “purposeful action.” Have meetings with small groups. Share ideas and get people thinking and talking. When you meet legislators or candidates, educate them and demand they consider these ideas. Those who refuse to listen, there is always another election cycle. Mark Levin is on to something here, and those ready to take part now have a guide.

As a note on modern politics, campaigns will have to go on as usual. Politics will still exist. We will still debate, argue and converse. This new concept that Levin is promoting will not take hold after 2014, or after 2016. But the slow work, the longer task, is to build up a grassroots army of individuals and legislators willing to take this next step. So, while you are preparing for 2014 and 2016, find a way to also advocate for Article V and a return to federalism. For in the end, it may be the last best hope at controlling Leviathan.

I will end this review with the words Levin used to close out his book, for he can say it much better than I ever will:

In the end, the people, upon reflection, will decide their own fate once their attention is drawn. As President Reagan stated, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope for man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us that we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”

Let us do all that can be done. Let us be inspired by the example of our forefathers and their courage, strength, and wisdom. Let us be inspired by the genius of the Constitution and its preservation of the individual and the civil society. Let us unleash an American renaissance in which liberty is celebrated and self-government is cherished. Let us, together – we, the people – restore the splendor of the American Republic.

Time is of the essence. Let us get started today!

We The People

The Right Tax Reform Now

By Steve Parkhurst

Monday is Tax Day.

Tax Day awakens a lot of people (those who actually pay taxes) and it often gets a discussion started about reforms to the tax code. Jack Kemp advocated, and I personally still support, a Flat Tax system. While I have liked the Fair Tax, I would never trust the politicians (especially the Democrats) to fully implement a Fair Tax system, and I would not want the politicians to have the ability to easily or worse, quickly, change the percentage of the consumption tax collected.

Texas Congressman Michael Burgess, M.D., has filed a bill called simply, The Flat Tax Act, HR1040 (gotta love the 1040 number). Congressman Burgess recently released this video about the Flat Tax, and the transcript is posted just below the video.

Hello this is your Congressman Michael Burgess. You know every year, Americans spend over 6 billion hours preparing their tax forms. Additionally, the Internal Revenue Service has over 2,000 forms and instructions listed on their website. It’s past time to reform this system which actually turns 100 years old this year.

To help restore fairness to the tax code by treating everyone equally and incorporating the all-American principle of freedom,I have introduced HR 1040 – the Flat Tax Act. This legislation would provide taxpayers the option of having a flat tax applied to their annual income. Unlike previous versions of the flat tax, this act will allow individuals and business to choose when to opt into the system. In addition, it would have no loopholes, but would allow some personal exemptions like a standard deduction.

This legislation will also phase-in the flat tax over a three-year period – a 19-percent rate for the first two years and a 17-percent rate in subsequent years. The program would be optional. Individuals need a tax system that provides a clear understanding of how their financial decisions will affect them. The Flat Tax Act is pro-growth, and will make filing easier on everyone. This is based on common-sense economics.

When Ronald Reagan cut the tax code in half in 1986, the result of that reform worked. The economy grew, jobs were created, and revenues were increased. Now, more than ever, this reform is needed for our country, for our economy, and for our American citizens.

Thank you for taking the time to listen. For more information on legislative issues before the United States Congress, please visit my website, burgess.house.gov. May God bless you and your family – and as always, may God bless Texas.

Also, Congressman Dennis Ross of Florida has written an op-ed called A Simpler, Flatter, Fairer Tax, and while he does not specifically call for a Flat Tax, he does make some great general points about the current tax system and he has a few remedies of his own:

This year, I introduced HR 243, the BOLD Act, which would address these issues. It would implement aspects of the Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission’s recommendations for lowering America’s debt and simplifying our tax code. The Bowles-Simpson Commission was a bipartisan group created by President Obama in 2010 to determine ways to improve America’s economic situation. Unfortunately, the president has ignored all of its suggestions.

– – –

First, we must reduce individual and corporate rates. The BOLD Act narrows the income tax into just two brackets: 10 percent for annual incomes less than $100,000 and 20 percent for incomes more than $100,000. My bill would set a flat corporate tax rate of 20 percent. Instead of having multiple tax brackets that favor people and companies who know where to find the loopholes, my legislation proposes lower, more fair tax rates for all.

Second, we must eliminate or phase out unfair tax policy, as recommended by the Bowles-Simpson Commission. Perfect examples are tax credits or reductions that pit various energy sources unfairly against each other.

More and more tax credits and deductions are added every year. They favor those people and corporations who have the funds to find and utilize the loopholes. Hardworking taxpayers can’t afford to pay for these special interest tax credits and loopholes.

Lowering the tax bracket and simplifying the tax code would still provide more-than-adequate funding for the necessary functions of government, and would give the benefit of simplicity and fairness in our tax system, better than tax loopholes.

Happy Tax Day Everybody! /sarcasm