8.27.2014

I'm PNR and I Think This Message Could Be Better

I know the little candidate statement in political ads is required - "I'm Candidate X and I approve this message."  It distinguishes those ads put out by the campaign itself from those ads put out by third parties which are not supposed to be coordinated with the candidate's campaign.  Still, it's a little jarring.

It would be kind of fun to have an ad which seems to end about 15 seconds in and the candidate comes out to say, "Hi.  I'm Candidate X and, actually, I'm a little disappointed in this ad.  I wanted something with more oomph, a pretty spokeswoman, and touching on issues Y and Z, too.  But I'm trying to be fiscally responsible and this is what we could afford."

I think such an ad would, if done well, be kind of charming and help to humanize a candidate after all the cut-and-paste ads that kind of run into each other.  Probably go viral, too.  So I offer the idea to whichever candidate for whatever office from any party who wants to try it.

8.26.2014

Even If Nothing Criminal Done, Get Rid of EB-5

I thought it would be worthwhile, in light of my posts regarding the EB-5 matters the Democrats are trying to make hay with, that I disapprove of the program.

I don't think Gov. Rounds or Gov. Daugaard are doing anything illegal or unethical with the program or the Governor's Office of Economic Development, either.  But I think the underlying premise for such an office and for the EB-5 program is deeply flawed. 

Ethanol subsidies.  Ag subsidies.  Wind subsidies.  Small business loans.  Big business loans.  Too-big-to-fail.  Tax incentive this and tax incentive that.  Even the distinction between taxing rental properties at a higher rate than the home one lives in.  All of these distort markets and give people incentives to do what they otherwise would not do, that is, what they think is probably a dumb thing to do.

What is more, each and every one of these subsidies, guarantees, deductions, and incentives is an open invitation to corruption.  This includes welfare transfer payments, too.  The rich people who don't need food stamps may complain about what they see as abuse of the program, but the fact is, if they were on food stamps they'd be gaming the system every bit as much.  How do I know?  Look what they do with their 1040s in April.  See this TV room.  Park my work computer in it and, voila! In an instant it's an office and a deductible business expense.  Is that new pickup tempting me?  Call it a farm expense and I can write the whole thing off even though I have a perfectly serviceable truck.  Even if we're not trying to be corrupt - even if we are following the letter of the law - we're still busily trying to game the system to squeeze as much out of the government while putting as little in as possible. 

Governor Rounds may have resisted this temptation to cut corners on the law, but his friend Richard Benda apparently did not.  How many other decent people have been led into temptation by these sorts of programs only to succumb in like manner?  Too many.  I like the idea of ethical government, but it would be a whole lot more likely if we were not constantly leading government officials into temptation.

This is one of the reasons I find the Democrat caterwauling about EB-5 insincere.  I don't hear a lot of desire to end it and similar programs.  I hear only the moral hubris of people who think they'll be able to resist the temptation others did not should we entrust them with these misguided programs.  There is no evidence for that view.  Rather there is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary - at least, there are an awful lot of Democrats who have gotten very rich on a senator's salary.

When I hear Democrats asking for the elimination of the EB-5 program and all similar programs, then maybe I'll be able to take their complaints a bit more seriously.  Right now, it's standard-issue election cycle hypocrisy.

Want Companies to Forego Inversions? Stop Double-Taxing Them

Let's say you lived a little closer to the Canadian border and you had two jobs - one in Saskatchewan and one in Minnesota.  The income you make in Canada is taxed by the Canadian and provincial government.  And the income you make in Minnesota is taxed by the US and state government.

Oh, yeah.  The state of Minnesota and the US government also tax the money you make in Canada.  Well, they do if you bring any of it back into the US.  If the money you make in Canada stays in Canada, they leave it alone.

But, if you change your citizenship to Canada, you can still work both jobs and both governments will still tax the income earned in their respective countries, but you can move money back and forth as you need to without worrying about it getting taxed a second time.

You'd be strongly tempted to change your citizenship to Canadian, wouldn't you?  Sell the place in Minnesota, buy a place in Saskatchewan, become Canadian...  There are a few other hassles that you might look into to see if it were worth it, but if we're talking tens of thousands of dollars, it'd be a no-brainer, wouldn't it?

So why are people surprised that a corporation like Burger King is doing this?  The money they make in the US is taxed in the US.  The money they make in Canada is taxed in Canada.  But because they are corporate "citizens" of the US, the money they make in Canada is also taxed in the US.  In addition to the fact it's being taxed a second time, it's also taxed at a higher rate than it is in Canada.  We're not talking tens of thousands, but millions here.

Yes, it's a hassle to move to Canada.  But if it will save millions of dollars in taxes while gaining the freedom to move one's funds where they can be best used to maintain and expand the business, it is a very natural, understandable thing to do.

The answer to this is not to call them "unfair" or "unpatriotic" or "money-grubbing."  There is nothing patriotic about sitting still while the federal government confiscates your earnings from other countries as well as what you earn here.  The money-grubbers in this case are not the corporate CEOs, but the government taxers.  I'd even say it's a border-line violation of the sovereignty of those other countries for the feds to do what they're doing.  A far better response would be to eliminate the double-taxation of foreign earnings.  We don't even have to reduce the corporate tax rate, although it would be good if we did (that's often a double-taxation, too, by the way).  Simply accepting that we have no business taxing money earned in another country would keep Burger King headquartered in the US.

8.25.2014

SD Democrats - Distracted, Indistinguished, Not Gaining Votes

Political campaigns are about getting votes.  Votes are obtained by presenting a positive message that resonates with voters.

An aspect of political campaigns is also, as you might expect, interfering with your opponents' ability to get votes.  This is what negative advertising and scandal-mongering do - they don't get votes for the scandal-monger, but suppress the vote-getting ability of the scandal-mongeled.

This negative approach is useful when the election is close, when there is a high percentage of undecided voters, or when one is the front runner trying to suppress a challenger.  None of these apply to the Democrats in South Dakota.

The EB-5 strategy employed by the Democrats has only the weakest effect on Rounds' and Daugaard's ability to get votes.  It has almost no effect on those votes they've already secured.  And it does nothing to get votes for Democrat candidates.

Granted, they have a problem with their positive message at present, too.  What Democrats are for, a majority of South Dakotans are not.  That means they need to persuade South Dakotans they're right and other South Dakotans should support them.

This they are utterly failing to do.  I have a hard time seeing that they're even making a serious effort at it.

What is more, given the number of other candidates (2 independent senate candidates and 1 for governor), Democrats have to coalesce the votes the GOP doesn't have around a single candidate if they are to have any hope at all.  Instead, they are content to simply be one of the pack nipping at the GOP heels.  They are indistinguishable, thus confusing voters as to who's who among the non-GOP alternatives.

8.22.2014

Democrats EB-5 Strategy Shaping Up as Poorly Executed Long Shot

EB-5 EB-5 EB-5 EB-5.

It seems that's all soon-to-be Senator Rounds' opponents have.  It also seems to be all Governor Daugaard's opponents have.

They can't go after Rounds or Daugaard on policy because it is rather clear a substantial majority of South Dakota voters like those policies.  They may have some quibbles around the edges, but on the whole, they like them.  What is more, when it comes to the policies being advocated by the others, a majority of South Dakota voters do not like them.  Policy debates only make this clearer and so they are a losing proposition.

That leaves character and appearance or style.  Hence EB-5.

But for this tactic to work, the Democrats on the legislative committee investigating this matter need to be in top form.  They need to know their stuff, coordinate their tactics, and use that to ask serious questions.

Instead, it seems Wismer and Lucas aren't communicating on tactics and at least one of them - Democrat gubernatorial candidate Wismer - finds the reports before the committee more trouble than they're worth to read.  As such, the more she talks about it, the more unserious she appears.

This leaves Weiland, their senate candidate, kind of twisting in the wind.  Without any official information or coordinated strategy by the committee members, he has little ability to leverage the issue into vote-getting on the stump.  That forces Weiland into pushing more the substantive policy differences between himself and Rounds - a practice that can only hurt him at the polls because, as I said earlier, it's clear that this state's voters prefer Rounds' policies to Weiland.  If anything, they are more concerned that Rounds won't be conservative enough in his policies.  Such concern is hardly going to drive them into the arms of Weiland's campaign.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers is also blowing that one big time with his horribly insensitive "re-enactment" of Mr. Benda's suicide.  Has he no feeling for the family and friends of Mr. Benda?  Has he no compassion at all?  This grisly theater only makes it harder for the Democrats to ask the kinds of questions their supporters are desperate to have forcefully asked.  If they continue to push on the Benda matter, they only seem like supporters of this disgraceful stunt.

If they are serious about making this their one major campaign issue, then it's past time for the Democrats to do their homework on EB-5 and coordinate a strategy.  The linchpin of this is not Weiland, but Wismer, and she's muffing it.

8.21.2014

What to Do in Iraq?

What to do in Iraq?

What ought to be done and what we, as a nation, have the political will to do are very different things, I fear.  We can blame Obama if we like, and in truth he has a great deal of culpability for the lies and fantasies he painted and continues to paint regarding the world and the way it works.  But the fact is, those lies and fantasies he paints are successful because a great many of us want to believe them.  We have been taught that everything is solvable if we just talk it out and wrap the counseling session up with a group hug.  If we just understand them and they understand us, then we'll be able to live together in harmony with a shared bottle of Coke.  We can solve the human propensity for evil by educating about what's right and occasionally taking a recalcitrant student to the principal's office - in this case, the International Court in the Hague - where we'll give him a "Time Out."  All we need is some big brother or father figure to step in, wag his finger at the children, and make them play nice - and we NEVER EVER spank them.  Violence, as you know, never solved anything.

And it's all hogwash.  Violence solved the problem of National Socialism.  Violence and the threat of violence solved Soviet oppression.  Violence - and only violence - ended slavery in this country.  Violence solved the problem of Japanese imperialism.  Violence and the threat of violence ended apartheid in South Africa.  Violence solved the tax problems facing American colonists.  Violence solved the oppression of the French monarchy.  Violence solved the problem of Napoleon, too.  Violence and the threat of violence, balanced ever so delicately, maintained the peace in Europe from 1815-1867.  Carefully applied, disciplined violence applied to the backsides of my children solved their misbehavior, too.  Again and again it is violence that resolves the issues of history.  We might wish it were otherwise, but as Limbaugh is fond of saying, the world is governed by the aggressive use of force - and it is no less true for being said by him, however irksome he may be to my liberal friends.

What about Gandhi?  What about Martin Luther King, Jr.?  In a way, violence solved the problems they were trying to address, too.  In Stephen B. Oates' biography of MLK, Let the Trumpet Sound, he remarks on an instance when a protest was arranged and the sheriff did not respond as Bull Conner did.  He encouraged his deputies to pray with the protestors if they liked, but to leave them alone as they gathered - to not start anything.  The protesters did their thing and left - no arrests, no news headlines, no nothing.  King regarded the event as a failure and they did not return to that town.  It was the violent response of Bull Conner and those like him, splayed across the newspapers and headlines of a nation with a conscience and a sense of morals that solved the problem.  The Gandhi/King non-violent approach only works if two other factors are present - a fundamentally moral culture, and a violent response from the oppressor.  If either of those is absent, little changes.  Don't believe me?  Ask Tibet.

We must be prepared to apply violence - disciplined, controlled, intelligently applied, but also utterly ruthless violence - to ISIS and its copies throughout the Middle East and the world over a sustained period of time.  Obama pulled out of Iraq when he did because the American people lacked the will to do this, not because he's a moron or a traitor.  As elected leaders ought, he reflected the will of the people who elected him - a fairly solid majority, as it happens.  And he is reluctant to re-enter Iraq because we still lack that will to fight.  The outrage over Foley's execution will fade in a couple days, overcome by whatever else shows up on the news.  But if 9/11 was not sufficient to sustain the difficult, lengthy work that must be done if ISIS is to be finally defeated, the brutal execution of a hostage or two won't be enough, either.

Until the people of this country gin up the will to fight the enemy that is Islamo-fascism to the point that we will march through the Middle East as Sherman marched through Georgia in 1864, after 3 1/2 years of bloody war, there is nothing to be gained by sending a few, or even a lot, of soldiers back.

President Bush said, after the attacks on 11 September 2001, that this would be a long war and we must be prepared to fight it in daylight, in the shadows, at home, and abroad over many years if we are to achieve victory.  He was right.  He was also confident that we would do so.  Given the last 8 years, I am not so sure he's right about that.  I know our soldiers are ready to make the commitment to victory, however long it takes.  The body politic, however - that's a different question.

8.20.2014

The Officer's Story in Ferguson

Interesting.  Very interesting.

It seems there is another side to the story - backed by evidence.  Officer Wilson has severe facial injuries received as an apparent result of Mr. Brown's attacking him through the window of his police vehicle.  Mr. Brown started to leave, and Officer Wilson exited his vehicle, gun drawn, and attempted to make an arrest.  At this point, Mr. Brown allegedly turned around, threw his hands up, said, "What? You gonna shoot me?" and then charged Officer Wilson.  This is when Officer Wilson fired.

The shots reported by the officer and other witnesses as being fired prior to Officer Wilson shooting Mr. Brown apparently occurred in the course of a struggle for the officer's weapon.

It seems there is evidence (the injuries sustained by Officer Wilson and the ballistics regarding the rounds fired prior to those fired at Mr. Brown) to support and corroborate this version of the story.  There are also eye witnesses to corroborate Mr. Brown's attack on the officer through the window of the vehicle.

If this is in fact what happened, then Officer Wilson indeed had reason to fear for his life and was justified in opening fire on Mr. Brown.  The rioting, the looting, and the protesting has - if this is true - all been in defense of a guilty man.