Dont Worry. Be Happy
If the wealth-redistribution favored by the Left can't buy you happiness, how then do you get it? According to this story, 20 years of research shows that being a married, church-going woman is a real good start ... and country dancing helps too.
Steaming hot commentary on journalism, Tennessee, politics, economics, the war and more...
- Name:Bill Hobbs
- Location:Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Dont Worry. Be Happy
Finally, some good news about the Metro Nashville Education Association, the teachers' union that has long blocked meaningful education reform in Nashville.
Bredesen a Lawbreaker?
If I have to break state law to win, I'll probably do it, says Bredesen.
Tennessee state law bars a candidate from spending more than $250,000 of their own money on their campaign. The U.S. Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo says such limits are an unconstitutional abridgment of free speech. But here's the rub: Tennessee's law has never been challenged in court. So it is still the law. If Phil Bredesen spends a penny more than $250,000 of his own money on his campaign, he is breaking the law.
1. It will be interesting to see how newspapers like The Tennessean, which have long editorialized in favor of limits on campaign spending including restraint on spending by wealthy candidates, responds if Bredesen, their favored candidate, exceeds the state's limit.
2. If Bredesen disregards the law and spends more than $250,000 of his own money on the campaign before challenging the law in court, it will show him to be a man who considers himself above the law. There is a constitutional process in Tennessee for changing the law or challenging it. Bredesen could work to have the law changed legislatively - or he could file suit to test its constitutionality. Those are the only two acceptable choices for a law-abiding citizen, and only a law-abiding citizen deserves to be elected governor.
Half-Bakered emailed me a great dissection of Phil Bredesen's newest TV commercial - the one where Bredesen responds to Van Hilleary's ad revealing Bredesen's pro-tax history and current wobbliness on the income tax. Here's what HB says, which I couldn't have said any better:
Listen to the Bredesen response ad again. His exact words, repeated in news articles too, are "I do not support an income tax." The key is those three words: "do not support." It's passive, avoiding. Hilleary's stance is much different. He *opposes* the IT. It's active, oppositional.
Imagine a few years from now. TennCare reforms are stalled. Spending is still outpacing revenues. Another budget impasse looms. Naifeh has done his homework this time and has the support lined up in both the House and Senate. He passes his IT bill and sends it to Bredesen.
Governor Bredesen says, "I do not support this bill. I don't even like it. But, this is what the Legislature has sent me and something must to be done. We must move forward and deal with important issues like education and health care. So, it is with great sadness that I will sign this bill."
You do not have to support a bill to allow it to become law. But if you oppose it -- as both gubernatorial candidates did in the past IT battle - that will kill it right there. We've proved that.
Bredesen is giving himself the appearance of opposition while leaving wiggle room for the future. Plain and pure.
I would only add this: I don't think Bredesen would sign it. I think he'd let it become law without his signature, and give a speech announcing that he didn't veto it because the Legislature can override with a simple majority, and clearly they had the votes to do so. He'd say that while he "does not support" an income tax, he recognizes that he can not stop the legislature from imposing one. He'd probably also issue a meaningless call for amending the constitution to strengthen the governor's veto power, just to make himself look like the victim rather than the perp.
And then he'd have what deep down in his liberal tax-and-spend heart of hearts Phil Bredesen really wants: an income tax without the blame.
Gored: Confessions of a Former Gore Voter
I am ashamed to admit it now, but I voted for Al Gore once. Back in 1988. He was running for president. I was working for a newspaper in Lubbock, Texas. He was a former journalist, and a Tennessean, though I'd learn later his credentials in both categories were rather suspect as he was raised in a posh DC hotel and spent only a short time as a reporter.
He was also a hawk among doves during the 1988 primaries, and a much better pick than that liberal weenie Dukakis, so after he addressed a rather large crowd at Texas Tech University a few weeks before Super Tuesday, I decided to vote for him in the Democrat primary that year. Besides, George Herbert Walker Bush had Texas sewn up. So I voted for Al Gore.
I have long wished I could take it back, but never more so than this week after Gore's embarrassingly awful speech Monday to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. A speech full of lies and deception, full of Al Gore exposing his total lack of core beliefs and his total willingness to fabricate, dissemble and shift positions solely for the purpose of making himself look good. Of making himself president. You can scroll down for all the details. You can check other blogs for more coverage. I recommend InstaPundit.com as a good place to start - especially this item.
The only good thing about that speech is that it may well have Gorpedoed the Democrats' chances of taking the House and keeping the Senate. Al took rhetorical aim at his chief foe - President George Bush - but may well have blown himself and his party up instead. Call it the first collateral damage of the Iraq phase of the war on terrorism.
Still, I wouldn't vote for Al Gore for dog catcher now. Chief dog poop remover, perhaps. Someone's gotta clean up behind him.
UPDATE: A hearty Tennessee "Welcome!" to the folks finding their way here from Instapundit. Here, you'll find a lot of stuff about Tennessee politics and the never-ending battle over the state budget and a proposed income tax, plus musings on journalistic error and bias, and links to things I find interesting related to the war. Plus an occasional picture of my kids. The good stuff is below. There's a short bio of me over there ----> on the right, along with the ubiquitous blog tip jar. By the way, I'm looking for a full-time job right now.
Hilleary's New Ad
It is factual. Phil Bredesen did support a graduated income tax while running years ago for a legislative seat in Massachussetts. He did in fact suggest a payroll tax for Davidson County. He did in fact raise property taxes three times. He did say he could change his mind on the income tax and push for one in his second term.
Phil Bredesen is a typical tax-and-spend Democrat, and very Sundquistian. He is squealing about the ad because the truth hurts.
The ad is good strategy. The Bredesen camp has been slyly attempting to link Hilleary with Sundquist in voters' minds by pointing out that Hilleary is a congressman and Sundquist was too. But Sundquist favors higher taxes and an unconstitutional state income tax while Hilleary has never voted for any tax increase of any kind, and recognizes that the income tax is not allowed by the state constitution. Bredesen, meanwhile, has a record of pushing for new taxes and higher taxes.
Now that Hilleary has caught Bredesen in the polls - and Bredesen's support appears to have plateaued despite him spending millions of dollars - it is the right time for Hilleary to set the record straight.
Bredesen has sought to define Hilleary as something he is not. Hilleary's ad sets the record straight. The biggest threat to the wallets of Tennessee's taxpayers is Phil Bredesen. In the race to succeed Don Tax-and-SpendQuist, Van Hilleary is the taxpayers' best friend.
Gored: Exposed By His Own Words
Al Gore gave a speech yesterday condemning the use of force against Iraq. Here is what Al Gore said about Iraq and the use of force on May 23, 2000, while running for president and making a speech to the American Israel Political Action Committee:
In 1991, I broke with many in my own party and voted to use force to stop Saddam Hussein's aggression in the Middle East. I believe in bipartisanship, most of all when our national interests are at stake in foreign policy. Throughout my service in the House and Senate, as many of you know, I was frequently among the small group that tried to build bipartisan bridges to bring Democrats and Republicans together in support of policies that would promote what is in our nation's best interest.
Despite our swift victory and our efforts since, there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein still seeks to amass weapons of mass destruction. You know as well as I do that as long as Saddam Hussein stays in power there can be no comprehensive peace for the people of Israel or the people of the Middle East. We have made it clear that it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone.
We have sought coalitions of opponents to challenge his power. I have met with the Iraqi opposition and I have invited them to meet with me again next month, when I will encourage them to further unite in their efforts against Saddam.
We have maintained sanctions in the face of rising criticism, while improving the oil-for-food program to help the Iraqi people directly. We have used force when necessary, and that has been frequently. And we will not let up in our efforts to free Iraq from Saddam's rule. Should he think of challenging us, I would strongly advise against it. As a senator, I voted for the use of force, as vice president I supported the use of force. If entrusted with the presidency, my resolve will never waver. Never waver.
Editor's Note: He wasn't entrusted with the presidency. So he wavered.
One other item from the same AIPAC speech:
To keep Israel secure and to keep the region at peace, we must look even farther ahead. In this global age where it is possible for any state or group, potentially in the future, to inflict terrific destruction with relative ease over thousands of miles, we have to view security, not just regionally, but in a much wider context.
Apparently Al Gore no longer things it is possible for a terror attack to inflict terrific destruction on U.S. soil.
Income Tax Helps Define NH Gov. Race
An independent poll puts Republican Craig Benson 25 points ahead in the New Hampshire governor's race. Benson is speaking out against his opponent, Democrat State Sen. Mark Fernald's proposal to impose a 4 percent income tax on the people of New Hampshire.
Today's PoliticsNH.com has more on the story.
"There is a pattern in other states that have added the income tax, that spending increases and income tax rates go up," Benson said at a press conference, backing up his assertion with data from the Cato Institute, the Lincoln Center for Public Policy, and the National Taxpayers Union Federation that shows that states that faced the largest deficits as a percentage of their total budgets this year were states with an income tax. On the other hand, states with the fewest problems also had no income tax.
Weirdly, Fernald's campaign claimed the states with income taxes faced deficits because they overspend and "haven't shown fiscal restraint." Come to think of it, that is sort of Benson's point - income taxes lead to bloated budgets and, eventually, higher taxes.
Here's coverage of the New Hampshire income tax debate from the Manchester Union Leader, the Concord Monitor, and the Nashua Telegraph.
Barnes in 2004?
Columnist Godfrey Sperling says here that Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes might be an attractive candidate for the Democrat Party's presidential nomination in 2004. He makes his argument based on the fact that senators rarely get elected to the White House and the Democrat field is crowded with senators, while the last two times the Dems won the White House the nominee was a southern governor.
Sperling says Barnes gets high marks from Hamilton Jordan, who was Jimmy Carter's "brilliant campaign strategist." He quotes Jordan saying "Jimmy Carter gives Barnes high marks for governorship." Which, given the four-year debacle known as the Carter presidency, is a bit like saying "Stalin gives Saddam high marks for non-violence."
Sperling totally ignores one of Barnes' strengths. According to the recent Cato Institute study ranking the fiscal performance of the nation's governors, Barnes gets high marks for a consistent tax-cutting strategy that has yeiled good results for the state's budget, for taxpayers and for the Georgia economy.
Says Cato: Roy Barnes of Georgia may be the pre-eminent tax-cutting Democrat on the national scene. In his first year in office he pushed a Taxpayer Bill of Rights that has saved Georgia homeowners $350 million so far. He has also cut the unemployment insurance tax in Georgia, resulting in tax relief of over $1 billion to businesses and workers. He now wants to cut the state capital gains tax. When the recession hit, Mr. Barnes imposed a freeze on state hiring and made across-the-board cuts of 2.5% in the 2002 budget and 5% in the 2003 budget. No wonder Gov. Barnes is considered a potential presidential contender.
Gored: Britain's Blair reveals case against Iraq
A day after presidential wannabe Al Gore stakes out an anti-war position vis a vis Iraq, saying it isn't a threat, Britain's prime minister releases a dossier on Saddam detailing the threat. Poor Al's got terrible timing.
"Unless we face up to the threat, not only do we risk undermining the authority of the U.N., whose resolution he defies, but more importantly and in the longer term, we place at risk the lives and prosperity of our own people," Blair said.
Who you gonna believe - the guy who has access to the latest intelligence data or the guy who doesn't?
Blair's detailed 50-page dossier detailing Saddam Hussein's extensive weapons-of-mass-destruction program and Saddam's readiness to use such weapons even against his own people is shocking even to those like me who have read extensively about Iraq. Saddam is not a growing future threat. He's a threat now.
Blair released a similar indictment of the Taliban and al Qaeda shortly before the U.S. commenced to make war on Afghanistan. My guess is war is imminent against Iraq, with or without U.N. approval. It will start soon after Congress passes a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Saddam's regime.
Here's what I think will happen: The U.N. will dither and continue to put its hope in "weapons inspections," although Saddam will continue to put obstacles in the way of effective inspections. Congress will pass the resolution by mid-October. Shortly thereafter, Bush will address the nation, via televised address either from the Oval Office or in a speech to a joint session of Congress, and declare that the U.N. has proven itself to be ineffective, impotent and therefore irrelevant in dealing with the Iraq problem, and therefore the U.S. has no choice but to deal with Iraq with the help of our allies. Within hours, stealth bombers will begin the attack on Iraq.
Lottery Opponents Pick Losing Number
The Gambling Free Tennessee Alliance is waging its battle against the proposed state lottery largely on moral grounds - summed up as "It's bad for the poor" - but they are getting nowhere. Opposition to the lottery is down 2-1 in the polls, and fundraising is lackluster at best. The lottery appears likely to pass.
WLAC radio talk show host Phil Valentine thinks they could've done better by building the case as one of restraining government growth. A lottery grows the size of government. I agree.
As the still-simmering Tennessee tax revolt has shown, the people are not willing to pay for larger government. Yet the proposed Tennessee lottery will create a university scholarship entitlement that will soon outstrip the meager revenues generated by the lottery. It happened in Georgia, the state lottery Tennessee lottery supporters most often cite as the model for their hoped-for state lottery.
At that point, Big Government will be at your door, demanding more taxes. And, if you voted for the lottery, it will be your fault.
More on Fiscally Reckless Don
The Tennessean reports on the Cato report two days after you read about it here, but true to their pro-income tax agenda they allow Sundquist flack Kriste Goad to get away with pure political spin:
The spin: "Tennessee is the lowest-taxed state in the union," Goad said.
The truth: Technically true, but only because we didn't let Sundquist have his income tax three years ago, two years ago, one year ago, or this year. An income tax would have vaulted Tennessee to near the top among states in taxation within a few years.
The spin: Goad notes that two of the states whose governors got the best grades from Cato have higher taxes and bigger state budgets than does Tennessee.
The truth: Technically true, but a diversion from the main point of the Cato ranking. Cato was grading how governors have handled budget and tax issues in the last year, NOT the size of a state's budget or its level of taxation.
It's true, for example, that Colorado has an income tax and Coloradans pay higher taxes. But Gov. Owens prevented the problem from getting worse and instead improved things by cutting spending and reducing taxes.
Owens and Sundquist both faced a slowing economy and slowing revenue growth. Owens responded by cutting taxes and cutting spending, as he has done consistently since being elected four years ago. Today, Colorado enjoys balanced budgets and its economy is stronger than Tennessee's. Gov. Sundquist responded by proposing massive tax increases and spending increases for four straight years, culminating in this year's tax increase of nearly $1 billion. That tax increase is one reason the state's economy remains sluggish.
The real message of the Cato report is this: Colorado's constitution protects taxpayers from the kind of massive tax increases and spending binges that Gov. Sundquist favors. Until Tennessee has a similar Taxpayers Bill of Rights provision in its constitution, taxpayers here will remain vulnerable. Incidentally, Van Hilleary supports giving Tennesseans such protections, while tax-and-spend Phil Bredesen does not.
(For more on this issue, scroll down to my Sept. 20 post, Sundquist Gets Failing Fiscal Grade.)
The Tennessean turns a story on a conservative group running ads against a pro-income tax candidate into a story attacking the conservative group. The story reports on The Tennessee Forum spending $60,000 on ads aimed at defeating pro-income tax state Rep. Bobby Sands in his bid for an open seat in the state Senate. Sands voted for the unconstitutional income tax plan proposed by House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh.
Sands tells The Tennessean he finds it "alarming" that people are spending money to speak out against him and try to keep him from getting elected. It's called free speech and democracy, Rep. Sands, and there's nothing alarming about it. You voted for the income tax, and you don't want people to know, so you wish The Tennessee Forum wouldn't spend money to run ads informing people. Sorry. You don't get to make that call. But if you want to spend money running ads defending your vote, go for it.
Who is the Tennessee Forum? "We are basically a group of citizens that has a no-income-tax agenda," says Susan Kaestner of Nashville. "We have generally conservative type views. I don't think you can improve the economy that is already struggling by taking $1 billion out of the individual taxpayers' pockets. It needs to be clear we are not very happy with the tax that was passed, either."
A few weeks ago, I invited regular readers of this website to donate to help underwrite some expenses, hoping to raise about $1,000 in six weeks. So far, I received donations totaling just over $200. Some of the money has been used to pay for an enhanced version of the publishing software, allowing us to publish ad-free, and also to handle pictures and graphic images. As donations continue to come in, I expect to move this site to a new server and easier-to-remember domain name, and set up the system so additional writers from across the state can contribute to it. And stories and commentary will be grouped by subject matter rather than the current all-on-one-page approach. I also plan to add an automated daily and weekly newsletter to the site and other features.
You can help by donating via the Amazon "tip jar" over on the right-hand column of the page, or by emailing me at bhhobbs -at- comcast.net for my mailing address. You may also support the ongoing operation of this site by shopping online here for your vitamins, nutritional supplements and other products. A bonus: purchases on that site are exempt from the Tennessee sales tax. You'll save nearly $2.70 on a $30 purchase. That's $2.70 Don Sundquist can't spend - and $2.70 you CAN spend. Boo hoo for Don. Yay for you.
Thanks for your support.
The Sunday Tennessean offered a strangely-headlined sidebar to its front-page story on the poll showing U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary gaining ground on tax-and-spend Democrat Phil Bredesen in the Tennessee governor's race. The sidebar doesn't appear to be available online. The headline suggested the income tax is not much of an issue in the governor's race or in legislative campaigns across the state. The story, however, mentioned no such question being asked.
More on the Massachusetts Tax Revolt
The initiative to end the Massachusetts income tax is lead by Carla Howell, who also is the Libertarian Party's candidate for governor. Recent polls have public support for Initiative 1, also known as the "Small Government Act," at 40 percent - within striking distance of victory.
On her website, Howell says she's running for governor "to make Massachusetts government small."
"Ending the Income Tax in Massachusetts will help make government small. Repealing every Anti-Gun Freedom Law on the books in Massachusetts will help make government small. Exposing the fatally-flawed, wasteful, and destructive Big Government Programs in Massachusetts will help make government small," says Howell. "Small government is beautiful."
The Small Government Act "is designed to take $9 Billion out of the hands of government and put it back in the hands of the 3,000,000 Taxpayers who earned the money. It's designed to be the first step in making Massachusetts government small," according to the web site promoting the initiative.
The site lists 9 Common Sense Reasons to End the Income Tax in Massachusetts, one of which notes that while Big Government advocates say the state can't afford to reduce its budget from $23 billion a year to $14 billion, the fact is Massachusetts spending has doubled in the last 10 years; $14 billion is still $4 billion higher than liberal big-spending Gov. Dukakis though was sufficient in 1991; and Massachusetts state government ran on $14 Billion or less for 15 out of the last 20 years.
The site also notes that ending the income tax will put an average of $3,000 back into each taxpayer's bank account annually, resulting in the creation of 300,000 to 500,000 new jobs in the private sector in Massachusetts - enough to wipe out unemployment in the state.
No wonder the initiative is gaining support.
Sundquist "Fiscally Reckless"
An article in the Friday Wall Street Journal calls Gov. Don Sundquist of Tennessee "fiscally reckless," but praises other governors for cutting taxes and trimming spending.
Here are some excerpts:
Most governors have complained that the financial troubles are a result of factors beyond their control: the recession, the stock market slump, new spending requirements as a result of terrorism, and exploding health-care costs. In truth, the primary culprit has been the profligacy of the nation's governors themselves. In the past 12 years state budgets have increased by more in dollar terms ($240 billion) than they did in the previous 100 years. State spending in the late 1990s grew twice as fast as the federal budget did: The governors somehow managed to outspend Bill Clinton.
Bill Owens of Colorado ... was recently praised by National Review as "America's best governor." He is also one of the most fiscally tight-fisted. Thanks to a model state spending limitation measure, Mr. Owens has provided tax rebates to Colorado citizens four years in a row, saving the average Colorado family $1,500. He also cut the income tax rate from 5% to 4.75%; slashed the taxes on capital gains, interest, and dividends; and businesses have received property tax relief. Colorado's economy has flourished.
Roy Barnes of Georgia may be the pre-eminent tax-cutting Democrat on the national scene. In his first year in office he pushed a Taxpayer Bill of Rights that has saved Georgia homeowners $350 million so far. He has also cut the unemployment insurance tax in Georgia, resulting in tax relief of over $1 billion to businesses and workers. He now wants to cut the state capital gains tax. When the recession hit, Mr. Barnes imposed a freeze on state hiring and made across-the-board cuts of 2.5% in the 2002 budget and 5% in the 2003 budget. No wonder Gov. Barnes is considered a potential presidential contender.
The lesson of the 1990s is that governors can't tax their way back to prosperity. An analysis by the American Legislative Exchange Council of state tax policy during the past decade found that the 10 states that cut taxes the most created twice as many new jobs as the 10 states that raised their taxes the most. In investment terms, it's always wise to short states that are raising tax rates.
(For more on Sundquist's fiscal recklessness, and the alternative path of fiscal sanity that Tennessee voters can opt for in the November election, scroll down to my Sept. 20 post "Sundquist Gets Failing Fiscal Grade.")
Massachusetts Tax Revolt
Here's an update on the brewing tax revolt in Massachusetts, where voters in November will get a chance to vote on an initiative to repeal the state income tax. Pass or fail, the initiative is a comforting reminder to Tennesseans that we are not the only taxpayers battling politicians who like higher taxes - and that we can, by electing the right people, avoid having an income tax in the first place.
Sundquist Gets Failing Fiscal Grade
The respected Cato Institute has given Gov. Don Sundquist a grade of F in its Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors for the year 2002.
I've quoted heavily from it below, but if you want to see the full 65-page Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2002, you can download it here in a PDF file.
Of Sundquist's fiscal policies, the Cato report had nothing good to say. Here is Cato's one-page summary of the fiscal legacy of Gov. Don Sundquist:
No one can explain why he did it, but Governor Don Sundquist created a needless four year political civil war regarding income taxes. Tennessee has never had an income tax. The voters overwhelmingly do not want one. Sundquist promised never to propose one. But after his successful reelection bid, he pulled an about-face and became a huge supporter of the tax he had earlier disavowed. Sundquist had said before that an income tax was not needed because "new taxes would dampen the fire of enterprise and investment and job creation."
The broken tax pledge incited a ferocious tax revolt in Tennessee. Every time the tax has come to a vote in the past four years, armies of enraged citizens have converged on the capital with cars honking to shut down business inside the legislature. The good news is that the income tax was defeated on every occasion. This past summer, Sundquist forced a shutdown of the government until the legislature would agree to his tax scheme, but when the votes did not emerge, Sundquist finally backed down.
In subsequent elections, Sundquist cronies who favored the income tax were voted out of office, and it appears that that is the end of the tax threat for now. Sundquist is serving out his final months in office as perhaps the most disliked governor in America. Why did Sundquist want an income tax? He argued that it was needed to keep the budget in balance. But for more than a century Tennessee has balanced its budget without an income tax. Indeed, Tennessee has a huge competitive advantage by not taxing income. Budget problems were the result of Sundquist’s own spending excesses. Per capita state spending soared under Sundquist. In the 1990s, tax receipts grew by 55 percent, twice the rate of population plus inflation.
A key source of the budget problem is the state’s disastrous big government health care program called TennCare. In Sundquist’s first six years in office, TennCare’s cost surged more than twice as fast as the cost of Medicaid. Sundquist did not create TennCare, but he has been a big defender of the program and he has shunned talk of reforming it.
When legislators refused to accept his income tax plan, Sundquist proposed raising many other taxes - the car tax, the gross receipts tax, the sales tax, professional licensing fees, taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, and driver’s license fees. Sundquist browbeat the legislature into a $1 billion tax hike this year - one of the biggest tax increases in any state in percentage terms - which included a hike in sales, alcohol, and tobacco taxes.
No governor in recent memory has had a four-year period more hostile to taxpayers than Don Sundquist.
Now, compare that to the record of Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, who got a grade of A, summarized by Cato this way:
Bill Owens was recently praised by National Review as "America’s best governor." We agree. Over four years, Owens has amassed a sterling record of fiscal accomplishment. He has strongly supported the state’s tax and expenditure limit (known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR), which restricts the growth of tax revenue to the growth of Colorado’s population plus inflation. That has led to four straight years of tax rebates to Colorado taxpayers and prevented the state government from spending the budget surpluses of the late 1990s. Consequently, spending has not exploded under Owens as it has in almost all other states in recent years. That restraint has allowed the state to avoid tax increases in the current economic slowdown, and the budget crisis that has hit most states has not hit Colorado as heavily.
The tax rebate checks during Owens’s tenure have been quite large, with about $6 billion rebated, or more than $1,500 per family. In addition, Owens has argued successfully that if taxes are to be rebated, then income tax rates should be cut to grow the economy. That way, excess taxes would not have to be collected in the first place. He cut the income tax rate from 5 to 4.63 percent; slashed taxes on capital gains, interest, and dividends; and gave businesses property tax relief. He has led the charge against the Internet tax that many of his gubernatorial colleagues support. He has refused to join other states in demanding help from Uncle Sam to balance the state budget.
"The states have an overspending problem, not a revenue problem," he notes. Colorado’s economy has flourished under Owens’s sound fiscal management and his support of policies to stimulate Colorado investment and growth.
The good news: The disastrous Sundquist era is almost over. Tennesseans will elect a new governor this fall. And therein lies Tennesseans' opportunity to restore fiscal sanity to their state.
One of the two main candidates believes in and has a track record of fiscal restraint and opposition to higher taxes. It isn't Phil Bredesen, whose record is one of higher taxes and big spending. Only one of the two main candidates firmly opposes the income tax. It isn't Phil Bredesen, whose position on the income tax is best described as "moveable."
Only one of the two main candidates favors adding a Colorado-style Taxpayers Bill of Rights provision to the Tennessee constitution, to guarantee sensible fiscal policies in the future. It isn't Phil Bredesen. He opposes any restraint on taxes or spending.
Both candidates talk the talk on fiscal restraint. But only one walks the walk. He is Van Hilleary.
Bias Watch: Tennessean Repeats Misleading Revenue Spin
An editorial in today's Tennessean wails about the lower-than-expected tax revenue in August. But the paper is being intellectually dishonest in the way it reports the facts. The paper chooses to focus on the amount of the revenue shortfall - $3.6 million - but chooses not put it in context. Why? Because the shortfall is miniscule. Revenue came in just 0.6 percent under the budgeted estimate. That's a tiny shortfall, one certainly within the acceptable margin of error. To use such a minor discrepancy between the budgeted estimate and the actual revenue to stump again for the income tax would make the paper's editorialists look ridiculous, so they don't report the whole truth.
If revenue falls 0.6 percent short every month, would it be a crisis? Would we need an income tax to "solve" the problem? Of course not. It would add up to a total shortfall for the fiscal year of less than $50 million compared to the budgeted estimates. Over the last few years the state's various departments and agencies have ended each fiscal year with approximately $100 million in excess unspent funds. The Tennessean doesn't tell you that, either.
Confederates Rise Again:
The United Daughters of Confederacy aren't happy with Vanderbilt's plan to erase a part of their history, according to a story in today's Tennessean, which includes this priceless quote from Carolyn Kent, who was president of the Tennessee division of the UDC from 1998 to 2000: "There's a movement at Vanderbilt to really focus on diversity and multiculturalism. But in that mix, there seems to be no room for anyone of Confederate descent." The story says the UDC is considering legal action to block the name change. The UDC paid for a third of the building's construction cost. Kent says many UDC members who are VU alumnae won't contribute another dime to the university.
VU's Confederacy of Dunces
Some people are wondering what's up with Vanderbilt University in light of the news that Vandy will remove the word "Confederate" from "Confederate Memorial Hall," thus dishonoring the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who paid to have the dormitory built in 1935.
Although the story says Vandy doesn't want to forget the UDC's generous gift and how it helped educate so many southern women, the school is in fact rushing to erase that history by giving the dorm a generic, designed-to-offend-nobody name: "Memorial Hall."
Has Vandy been taken over by the PC brigades? But of course. And the name of that dorm is the least of it.
Check out this article from the archives of Front Page Magazine, by noted author David Horowitz.
Here is a liberal excerpting of it:
I spoke at 23 universities this spring and appeared at Vanderbilt on April 8. The invitation had come from a conservative student group called Wake Up America, which was formed three years earlier for the purpose of bringing speakers to campus. Despite its dedicated agenda, however, Wake Up America has only managed to put on four events in the three years of its existence. This is not because of a scarcity of conservative speakers ready to speak on college campuses. It is because Vanderbilt refuses to provide funds to Wake Up America to underwrite its aspirations. Vanderbilt’s attitude towards Wake Up America is in fact anything but supportive. Vanderbilt officials have treated the group like an alien presence from the moment of its conception.
Thus, when Wake Up America’s founder, Dan Eberhart, approached the Assistant Vice Chancellor and head of Student Life, Michelle Rosen, to gain approval for his group, she told him, "there is no need for your organization because a student group already exists, namely the Speakers Committee." This was an Orwellian subterfuge. The Assistant Vice Chancellor knew that the Speakers Committee was a partisan student group dedicated to bringing left-wing speakers to the Vanderbilt campus. James Carville, Ralph Nader, Kweisi Mfume and Gloria Steinem, for example, are recent visitors, courtesy of the Committee. These are pricey celebrities and the Vanderbilt student activities fund has granted the Speakers Committee $50,000 a year in the past to make their wish list real. This year the Student Finance Committee, which administers the fund, has increased the Speakers Committee grant to $63,000. By contrast, in its entire three-year existence Wake Up America has never been granted a single cent to bring conservatives to the Vanderbilt campus.
The Speakers Committee is actually only one of an array of left-wing groups that are the beneficiaries of Vanderbilt funds. In a recent press release announcing the disbursement $1,143,963 to student groups, the Student Finance Committee defined its purpose in these noble words: "to fund activities that will have broad campus appeal and that will guarantee a diversity of activities within our community." A glance at the roster of funded groups reveals, however, that this diversity principle does not extend to the realm of ideas.
While Wake Up America, receives no funds, the Vanderbilt Feminists receive $10,620; the Vanderbilt Lambda Association (a group of gay leftists) receives $12,000; the (left-wing) Middle Eastern Student Association receives $4,700; the (left-wing) Black Students Alliance receives $12,400; the (left-wing) Organization of Black Graduate & Professional Students receives $13,120; the (left-wing) Vanderbilt African Student Association receives $1,500; the Vanderbilt Association of (left-wing) Hispanic Students receives $14,200; and the (left-wing) Vanderbilt Asian American Student Association gets $15,000.
Horowitz also makes this recollection about his April 8 appearance at Vandy:
Despite a downpour, about 250 people showed up for the speech in Wilson Hall and listened civilly while I described "How The Left Undermined America’s Security." The attendance was even more gratifying than usual because the Vanderbilt Hustler, which was the student paper, did not inform the campus community of the speech (or report on it after I gave it).
Thanks to Todd Anderson for first bringing the VU/Confederate Memorial Hall story to my attention.
Just (Don't) Do It
Frank Cagle stomps all over the "Track Shoe Caucus."
Of Taxes & Spending
The following essay comes from Chuck Muth, executive director, American Conservative Union.
With Hillary Clinton taking point and Tommy Daschle riding shotgun, Democrats are increasingly calling for a "freeze" on President Bush's tax cuts in order to stanch a growing budget deficit and "help" the economy to recover. Allow me to agree. (Someone pick mom up, I think she fainted). However: Any "freeze" on the tax cuts MUST also come with a freeze on government spending. Exactly where it is today. No increases, period. Not even for war. Not even for cost of living adjustments. A freeze is a freeze. If you need more money to fight terrorism, take it out of the National Endowment for the Arts. Or make Sen. Byrd of West Virginia give back one of his highways. And until the tax cuts are later "unfrozen," no consideration of any or additional or new spending. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. Instead of being defensive over the Democrat calls for a tax freeze, let's see Republicans screw up enough nerve to call their bluff. Yeah, right. Don't hold your breath.
If you don't subscribe to Muth's daily "News & Views" email newsletter, you should. Visit his site at ChuckMuth.com.
The CA's Capital Hill Propagandist
Half-Bakered eviscerates the execrable Paula Wade's recent coverage of TennCare and the governor's race, exposing her incomplete, biased, reporting as pro-TennCare pro-Income Tax propaganda.
I won't excerpt it here because it's so good you need to read the whole thing - and the next item right below it. And this one too.
(Full Disclosure: I have little regard for Paula Wade's honesty or credibility. A few years ago, Paula Wade was caught spreading false information about me in an attempt to undermine the credibility of my reporting on the income tax and state budget. Wade told people I was on the payroll of an anti-income tax organization. That was false and, I believe, a deliberate lie. It was self-evident that at that time I was a newspaper reporter and columnist - just as Wade was. Confronted, neither Wade nor her editors or publisher ever apologized to me for her spreading lies about me.)
They Wish the Income Tax was a Dead Issue
Knoxville News-Sentinel reporter Tom Humphrey explains how the income tax issue is hurting Democrats running for the state senate seat - and how, ironically, if Democrat state Sen. Lincoln Davis wins his race for Congress, his appointed successor could be a Republican - and give the GOP control of the state senate.
Humphreys notes that Bobby Sands, the Democratic consensus candidate for an open Senate seat in Middle Tennessee, is facing a strong challenge by Republican Murfreesboro attorney Bill Ketron. "Sands ... voted for a state income tax, providing a battering ram for Ketron. And recently, an anti-tax independent expenditure group called Tennessee Forum has picked Sands as its No. 1 target and is spending more than Ketron and Sands combined to trash the Democrat," reports Humphreys.
Note to Readers: I can't find contact information for the Tennessee Forum. If you know how to contact the organization, or know their web site or email address, please email me at bhhobbs -at- comcast.net
See Rock City
Apparently, people are seeing Rock City and other Chattanooga-area attractions in growing numbers. As Chattanoogan.com reports today, collection of hotel-motel and room taxes set records in August (with August revenue coming from July hotel occupancy).
By the way, your best online source for news from Chattanooga is without a doubt Chattanoogan.com, and not just because they occasionally re-publish my commentaries. The site covers Chattanooga news quite well. Meanwhile, the Chattanooga Times-Free Press now charges for access to its web site.
A Deficit of Reality
The Knoxville News-Sentinel opines today about a federal budget rule it says helped Congress reduce deficits in the 1990s. The KNS only misses two facts. 1. Deficits were reduced because of rapid economic growth spawned by the Reagan-era tax cuts in the mid- and late 1980s resulted in an almost geometric progression of federal revenue in the 1990s. 2. A requirement that tax cuts must be "paid for" via other tax increases or spending cuts is based on static economic analysis that assumes tax cuts have no positive impact on economic growth. The Reagan era proved the opposite. Tax cuts can result in more government revenue as the economy grows.
This photo in The Tenenssean today, taken yesterday on a downtown Nashville street outside the Convention Center where President Bush was delivering a speech inside, is a wonderful counterpoint to that picture we saw a few months ago of a Palestinian girl wearing fake dynamite sticks and being held aloft by her proud (but deranged) father an at anti-Israel protest in Germany.
I found it curious that this young Iraqi girl is clutching her American flag so tightly, while the nearby anti-war protestors in Nashville yesterday were not holding American flags at all.
P. Casey Daley/Tennessean staff
Hoping to see President Bush, Safaa Albadran, 4, stands outside the downtown convention center under a banner held by her father, Karim, left, proclaiming "Saddam: Out - Democracy In."
(If the image doesn't load, Click Here.)
Here's a sign of the increasingly conservative tilt in American culture:
"Socially conservative churches that demand high commitment from their members grew faster than other religious denominations in the last decade, according to a study released yesterday by statisticians who count American religious affiliations every 10 years," reports the New York Times.
"The study, Religious Congregations and Membership: 2000, found that the fastest-growing religious denomination in the last 10 years was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which enlists thousands of young Mormon missionaries to recruit door to door and boosted its membership in the United States by 19.3 percent to a total of 4.2 million since the last survey in 1990.
"The denominations that recorded the next highest growth were the conservative Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, with 18.6 percent; the Assemblies of God, a major Pentecostal denomination, with 18.5 percent; and the Roman Catholic Church, with 16.2 percent."
Life Imitates Satire
A former U.N. weapons inspector who's made dozens of trips to Iraq says says new inspections of Saddam's weapons programs won't be effective. The inspector, Richard Spertzel, "thinks that inspections - through the questions asked by inspectors, and the opportunity for contact with top-flight experts from around the world - perversely increase Baghdad's knowledge of weapons technology," writes Rich Lowry of National Review.
That's awfully close to the "real reason" Saddam has decided to let inspectors back in, as revealed here.
"Frankly, I just want to know if these bombs are going to work," said Hussein. "Our scientists don't have enough experience and Iraqis don't exactly have a reputation for craftsmanship. Who better to judge whether these armaments are functional than the best weapons inspectors in the world?"
"Colin Powell is aghast at the idea."
More brilliance from Victor Davis Hanson. If you don't read VDH regularly, you don't really understand the war. Check my links list for a link to his archives. His Sept. 11 essay is also very good. Says VDH: "The Right, not the Left, now is the greater proponent of global freedom, liberation, and idealism - with obvious domestic ramifications for any Republican president astute enough to tap that rich vein of popular support."
A Smart Elephant
Just happened across a new Tennessee blog, and I like it. Elephant Rants, written by one Justin Bollinger, calls itself a "daily dose of conservative rants and ravings with links to other 'right' wing web sites and commentary." I especially liked this deconstruction of the anti-war bias in Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Tom Humphrey's reporting of a poll on Tennesseans' views of fighting terrorism and going to war against Iraq. The poll shows a majority of Tennesseans support going to war against Iraq. Humphrey and the News-Sentinel implied it showed the opposite. Bizarre. I'll be adding Elephant Rants to my permanent links list soon as I get around to it.
The President and the Iraqis in Nashville
I had the distinct pleasure of being in the audience at a luncheon fundraiser for Senate candidate Lamar Alexander today in Nashville and hearing President Bush speak. Unfortunately, I couldn't blog the event - as news coverage is published online I'll add links to it - but some things stand out.
The president appeared to speak without notes, and delivered a strong and coherent speech that pulled no punches. He harshly criticized the Democratic-led Senate for failing to pass a defense appropriations bill needed to fight the war against terrorism, and criticized them for not treating the war as what it is: a war that will "define civilization." He also re-affirmed the Bush Doctrine and re-affirmed his committment to oust Saddam Hussein.
Outside the Nashville Convention Center, meanwhile, about 100 anti-war protestors chanted and waved signs. It was the usual left-wing fruit salad protest staged by a ragtag band of people who mostly looked like they badly needed a bath. Organized and advertised as an "anti-war" protest, it featured an incoherent mishmash of messages from the Liturgy of the American Left. Along with anti-war signs and signs calling Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld "the real terrorists," there were signs critical of Bush's environmental policies, and signs for assorted other left-wing causes unrelated to war and terrorism.
Meanwhile, nearby, stood a dozen young Iraqi men, holding signs in support of a war against Saddam, and chanting pro-Bush slogans with a smile. One sign read "Saddam Hussein is the Virus, Bush is the Cure."
I spoke to a couple of these Iraqis. One told me his story. He moved to the U.S. from Baghdad, and now lives in Nashville. He has family in Baghdad. He told me he is willing to risk losing them in a U.S. attack because Saddam must go, and the Iraqi people "are just waiting for the first shot" by U.S. forces as the trigger signal to revolt against Saddam.
"We're with George Bush to the end," he said.
Will Saddam's army fight against the U.S.? I asked. Not a chance, he assured me. Saddam's Iraq "will collapse in an hour" if we go in, he said.
Will the people of Iraq be happy to see American troops? "Yes," he said, a big smile on his face. What did he think of the anti-war protestors? "They don't know what they're talking about," he said.
In an era when Arabs in America are alleged to be afraid to show their face for fear of harassment and "profiling," these Iraqi immigrants stood proudly on a street corner to speak their mind on the imminent war with their home country. They were not intimidated by the incoherent rantings of the anti-war protestors nearby because they spoke from personal knowledge of life under Saddam and why he must be driven from power. It was a sublimely American moment - and one that neatly exposed the moral bankruptcy of the message of the anti-war protestors who shared the sidewalk.
For these young men from Iraq, America means freedom and the right to protest and speak their mind. In Iraq, they and their families would be being killed right about know. On the other hand, those anti-war protestors would probably be invited to a banquet with Saddam.
UPDATE 9/18: The Tennessean today claims there were 300 anti-war protestors. But the crowd looked smaller than a recent anti-income tax rally that the same paper claimed numbered only around 100 or so. Perhaps the political leanings of either the crowd or the paper affect the counting ability of The Tennessean?
But at least the paper noticed the presence of Iraqi protestors in favor of the U.S. going to war against Iraq.
"Those people over there are supporting Osama (bin Laden) but they are so naive they don't know it. Whoever looks for peace and an end to terrorism should support the president, said one pro-war Iraqi, Ali Alebdy, who came to Nashville as a refugee five years ago, neatly explaining the moral incoherence of the anti-war Left.
Weirdly, The Tennessean calls Alebdy "an Iraqi-American." But an Iraqi-American is a person of Iraqi ancestry born in America. Perhaps the oh-so PC Tennessean needs a refresher course in ethnic hyphenation. The people on the sidewalk yesterday voicing support for the war are not "Iraqi-Americans" who theorize about Saddam without personal knowledge. They are Iraqis and, unlike the anti-war protesters, they know what is wrong in Iraq and what it will take to fix it. Because they've been there. Because they still have family and friends there.
Online shopping hints at stock market rise?
Online sales rose 14 percent in August compared to July, according to e-commerce tracking firm comScore Networks Inc. That far surpasses the 0.4 percent increase for total retail sales in August as measured by the U.S. Department of Commerce. According to comScore, consumers spend about $10 billion to $11 billion online every three months, and will spend about $45 to $50 billion online this year (excluding travel, which raises the total to around $85 billion). Online spending in the first quarter of this year, excluding travel, was 30 percent higher than in the first quarter of 2001. In June and July, online spending was up about 20 percent over the same months in 2001, and online sales in August were up 40 percent over August 2001.
comScore has identified an interesting corollary between online spending trends and the stock market: online spending patterns foretell stock-market gyrations. Data from January 2001 to January 2002 shows that changes in the year-over-year growth of online spending preceded the movement of the Dow Jones industrial average by about two weeks, he says.
You can participate in the online spending boom - and reduce your state tax burden at the same time. This online store sells a variety of exclusive vitamins, nutritional supplements and personal care products, and because it has no physical presence in Tennessee it is not required to charge you the state or local-option sales tax. On a $30 purchase, you'll save about $2.70. That's $2.70 that Don Sundquist, Bob Rochelle and Jimmy Naifeh won't ever get to spend. Boo hoo for them. Yay for you. A bonus: A portion of your purchase price will go to fund the expansion and ongoing operation of this web site.
Prime Minister Cretin
Canadian commentator Mark Steyn drills Canadian Prime Minister Chretien a new one for blaming Sept. 11 on "American arrogance." Omigosh this is funny - especially if you can't stand French-Canadians who are arrogant despite have little to be arrogant about.
There are good Canadians, too. Like these guys, who deserve a medal.
The Fish Rots From The Head Down
More bad news for Sundquist: The feds and the TBI are investigating whether sweetheart insider contracts granted by the Sundquist administration to friends of the governor violate any laws.
NewsChannel5's investigative reporter, Phil Williams, has produced a series of damning reports about how some close friends of the governor have received millions of dollars in state government contracts outside the normal bid process. In once case, a Chattanooga company, Workforce Strategists, that had only existed on paper for six days, got a multi-million contract without bidding. And, as Williams recently revealed, a member of the governor's Cabinet (Alex Fischer) held a financial stake in a company that got all its money from TennCare.
No wonder the governor is hiding from reporters.
State Rep. Rob Briley's final campaign mailing before being elected to the state legislature last fall asked voters in east Nashville whom they could trust to vote no to a state income tax. Next to a picture of the young Democrat working hard at his desk ran a sentence reading "Rob Briley opposes a state income tax." - The Tennessean, April 21, 1999, reflecting on Briley's promise to voters during the 1998 election to oppose the income tax.
Rep. Briley voted for the Naifeh income tax plan.
Thanks to Ben Cunningham at Tennessee Tax Revolt for pointing out this story from the archives of The Tennessean.
The Sunday Irony
No surprise here: Today's Tennessean editorializes in favor of government getting more money. In that they are always consistent. The irony here is that The Tennessean is happy voters have the chance to change the state constitution to raise the cap on a variety of government fines - but when it comes to the income tax, which is clearly unconstiotutional and ruled such by three different state Supreme Courts, the paper's editorialists are determined foes of allowing voters to decide the issue via either constitutional referendum or convention.
A Maine Tax Protest
Check out this Associated Press coverage of an anti-tax protest at the Maine state capital. The protestors want a revenue shortfall dealt with via spending reductions rather than higher taxes. Imagine that. Also on their wish list: a true tax reform plan that includes a variety of things, including a provision that sounds a lot like the Taxpayers Bill of Rights that has protected Colorado against budget crises for more than a decade.
"The proposal would seek to limit the growth of government spending by linking it to inflation and population growth, while providing a formula for voters to override the limit," reports the AP.
Here in Tennessee, Republican gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary backs giving Tennesseans a similar Taxpayers Bill of Rights. Democrat Phil Bredesen, who raised property taxes three times in eight years as mayor of Nashville (by a hefty 42 percent for the average homeowner), opposes capping government spending through such a sensible measure.
Houston, We Have A Question
This is cool. But why does one need permission from the U.S. government - or any government - to go there?
It Pay$ to Be Gov. $undquist's Friend$
Here's an interesting story from the Associated Press noting one lawmaker's fears that the governor is going slow on prison construction in order to open a "back door" to privatization. Gov. Sundquist has long favored prison privatization, though he publicly dropped the idea in 1998 after Nashville-based prison company CCA endured a spate of bad publicity over stabbings, escapes and other problems at a prison it runs in Ohio.
But does Sundquist now have renewed interest in privatization?
Given all the revelations recently by NewsChannel5 investigative reporter Phil Williams regarding how Gov. Sundquist's administration has delivered tens of millions of dollars worth of state business to friends of the governor under sweetheart no-bid contracts, it's worth noting that the CEO of the leading operator of privatized prisons, CCA, is longtime Sundquist friend and ally John Ferguson, who served as Sundquist's finance commissioner through the first two years of the push for an income tax.
The Revenue Spin Continues
New revenue data just released within the last 45 minutes by the Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration indicates strong revenue collection in August - but the F&A press release continues the Sundquist Administration's ongoing strategy of putting the worst possible face on good numbers.
Powered by a rebounding economy and the tax rate increase, overall revenue was up 9.22 percent compared to August 2001. So you would think the tone of the latest monthly press release announcing revenue totals would be buoyant. And you'd be wrong.
F&A's monthly revenue press releases typically describe revenue growth in terms of the percentage increase or decrease compared to the "budgeted estimate." But the latest report, which covers revenue collected in August, leaves out the percentage figure.
Why? Because revenue is less than a percentage point off the "budgeted estimate." In other words, it is statistically within the margin of error. The new fiscal year - August revenue is the first revenue for the fiscal year - has started without a meaningful shortfall.
But that's not what the Sundquist administration wants you to think. They intend to maintain the budget crisis fiction through the end of Sundquist's term. The alternative, admitting the recent shortfalls have been caused by over-spending, is unthinkable to them.
So the press release focuses on tax collections being below the budgeted estimate by a certain dollar figure, $3.6 million, because that sounds worse than the percentage: 0.61%.
The press release notes that sales tax collections were $4 million below the estimate, but when adjusted for the tax rate increase and the change in the cap on taxes on large purchases, "there was not growth in sales tax collections for the month."
Revenue from the franchise & excise, gasoline and inheritance taxes - all showed growth above the budgeted estimate.
But here again the press release deliberately obscures the strong growth in revenue from those taxes, focusing on dollar amounts of growth compared to the budgeted estimate, rather than percentage growth over last August. Compared to August 2001, Inheritance tax revenue nearly doubled. F&E taxes were up 20 percent, and gasoline tax revenue rose 7 percent, two solid indicators of a rebounding economy.
Sales tax collections were up 10.5 percent - but that increase includes the tax rate increase.
I've asked F&A for details on sales tax revenue to determine how much of the revenue reflects the sales tax rate increase, in order to provide an apples-to-apples comparison to August 2001 sales tax revenue. When that information is received, I'll post it here as an update at the bottom of this item.
UPDATE: According to F&A Deputy Commissioner Gerald Adams, excluding the sales tax rate increase and the change in the single-item cap, sales tax revenue was flat compared to a year ago August. If you remove the $40.1 million in additional sales tax revenue attributed to the tax increase, overall state revenue was up 2 percent compared to August 2001. Coming off of a recession and with the economy still said to be sluggish, that's fairly solid growth.
I'll be watching to see if the mainstream newspapers explore the numbers in depth or merely regurgitate the heavily spun and factually incomplete press release from the Sundquist Administration.
UPDATE, Saturday, Sept. 14: The revenue story in the Saturday Tennessean predictably follows the Sundquist administration's negative spin, starting with its overly negative headline: Tax Revenue Less Than Expected. "The first results are in from the state's new tax system, and the news is not encouraging," writes Duren Cheek, a pro-income tax reporter. He avoids mentioning that actual revenue missed budgeted estimates by an insignificant amount - less than one percent. Incomplete, misleading, lazy, biased reporting unbefitting the state capital's daily newspaper.
Neither the Memphis Commercial Appeal nor the Knoxville News-Sentinel had published a revenue story online as of Saturday.
Bad Move, Phil
Phil Bredesen is courting Republicans who voted for Jim Henry in the primary. Hmm. Lessee. Henry is for the Income Tax, big time. Once signed up to help Gov. McWherter lobby for it. Bredesen says he's against it for now, but could be for it, but really isn't, but might be, but not right now, but in the future might change his mind and be for the income tax even though he isn't right now at this point which, just coincidentally, is in the middle of a campaign...
Anyone think Bredesen is courting Henry's supporters as a way to signal pro-IT Democrats that he's really not the big ogre they think he is regarding their favored tax?
Half-Bakered recently had the best description of Bredesen's position on the income tax, calling it "movable."
Arkansans Asked to Ax Tax
I hadn't noted until today, but in Arkansas voters will soon vote on whether to constitutionally ban taxing food. Thanks to Half-Bakered for pointing it out a few days ago. Seems the anti-tax sentiment isn't limited to Tennessee.
Reforming Tennessee's Tourism Marketing
South Knox Bubba offers some interesting insights into recent promises by both Van Hilleary and Phil Bredesen to increase funding for tourism marketing efforts if they get elected guv'nah of the great state of Tennessee. He also notes that Florida does just fine with "no income tax, lower business taxes, a lower sales tax, and no sales tax on groceries." A follow-up comment to that: Florida put its tourism marketing arm under quasi-privatized venture co-funded by the state and by tourism businesses, who also help operate the program and benefit from co-op advertising. It is funded by a special tax on rental cars - a tax, it should be noted, paid largely by non-Floridians who travel to the state for business or pleasure. Results have been good - state costs are capped and tourism is up, boosting the economy and state revenue.
I wrote about about Florida's approach to tourism marketing back in late 1999 for the now-defunct newsweekly In Review. Florida levies a $2 per day rental car tax, which generates $22 million a year for Visit Florida. Private-sector tourism businesses can buy a membership in Visit Florida - sort of like paying Chamber of Commerce membership dues - and then participate in running the marketing program. By the end of 1999, more than one in five Florida tourism businesses had joined Visit Florida.
As I reported back then, "Most Florida tourism businesses, especially the small bed-and-breakfasts and attractions that are the majority of the industry, pay just a few hundred dollars a year - but, thanks to the collective efforts of Visit Florida, that money is leveraged into marketing worth millions for the state and around $4,000 for each small tourism business."
This is the kind of new approach Tennessee needs to consider. I think Van Hilleary knows this.
A Way to Reform School Spending?
Here's more coverage of a small but growing trend in rural school districts: students go to school for four days a week, but for longer hours each day. Results from districts that have tried it include better student academic performance, less student and teacher absenteeism, and lowered costs for transportation and other overhead. Money saved is available for funding tutoring programs, adding art and music teachers and offering college-prep courses.
"Schools find that by knocking off Fridays or Mondays can save money on transportation, heating and substitute teachers," reports the Associated Press. "Advocates say four-day weeks have other advantages. They leave teachers with fewer interruptions and fewer student absences. They also cut down on teacher absences and allow schools to hire fewer substitutes - the fifth day is used for teacher training or to free up teachers for personal appointments. School districts in six states - Louisiana, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and South Dakota - are trying it this year."
The AP reports: "In many rural areas, the change allows schools to keep art, music and other classes often cut in tight budgets" and that some school officials say four-day weeks also improve student morale and behavior.
About 100 school districts nationwide, all rural and most with fewer than 1,000 students - are using four-day schedules this fall. Is anyone at the General Assembly even looking at whether this concept might help some of Tennessee's smallest and most financially-challenged school districts better allocate their financial resources? Probably not.
For the Children?
This story from today's Tennessean details how the number of students at state-funded Tennessee Preparatory School has fallen by 82 percent, yet the budget has been reduced just 4.2 percent. It also reveals that the Department of Childrens Services plans to use the money for other things, though it was budgeted to run the school. Not one person mentioned in the story is critical of the program's budget or DCS' plans to divert the money to other programs, though it's hard to believe there aren't critics of such uncontrolled spending. This story reminds me of the strange way Tennessee's welfare budget didn't fall significantly even as welfare rolls were cut in half by welfare reform.
Perhaps the administration needs the money to help businesses owned by Gov. Don Sundquist's friends and even one owned by Sundquist's former top deputy Alex Fischer, as NewsChannel5's Phil Williams has exposed in recent days. The stench of corruption and deliberate mismanagement emanating from this administration is growing stronger every day.
Quote of the Week
"This nation has defeated tyrants and liberated death camps, raised this lamp of liberty to every captive land. We have no intention of ignoring or appeasing history's latest gang of fanatics trying to murder their way to power." - George W. Bush, Sept. 11, 2002
Every day since the terror attacks of 9/11 I have thanked the good Lord Al Gore isn't president. Don't tell me you don't. I won't believe you.
And amen to this.
Let's roll, indeed. And soon.
Do You Believe This Guy?
"You're looking at a couple weeks of bombing, and then I'd be astonished if the campaign took more than a couple weeks. Astonished," said former president Bill Clinton on the David Letterman show Wednesday night. One of two things is happening. Either Clinton is doing the right thing and helping President Bush by assuring worried liberals that going to war against Iraq is the right thing to do and can be done relatively easily - or Clinton's comment is part of a deliberate political strategy to set the bar of expectations so high that if defeating Iraq takes, say, 3 months, Bush will look incompetent even in victory. I'm betting on the latter and expect we may soon begin hearing similar comments from other prominent Demcrats.
We the People
Here's an interesting report on a little-mentioned angle of Sept. 11.
Tennessean: Guns Worse Than 3,000 Dead
The Tennessean is so knee-jerk anti-guns that it said in today's editorial that, while guns in the cockpits might well have prevented 3,000 deaths on September 11, having guns in the cockpit that day would have been a bad idea.
Says the paper's editorialists: "The pilots who want to go armed ... argue that last Sept. 11 a gun in the cockpit could have made a big difference. That is true, but the next time, that same gun could make another situation more deadly."
More deadly than what? More deadly than September 11?
I'll be resuming posting on this site in a day or two. Meanwhile, a fundraising update: Thanks to some people who responded to my request for donations to upgrade this site, approximately $100 has come in. You'll notice this page no longer has that annoying banner ad across the top. Soon, I'll be adding pages to the site dedicated to specific topics and inviting additional writers to participate in the site. Additional improvements will depend on additional fundraising. Click here or scroll down for more info on our funding needs.
Larry Daughtrey is upset that a certain candidate for governor won't stop talking about the income tax. He criticizes Van Hilleary for saying the income tax isn't dead.
Daughtrey in his most recent Sunday column wrote this: While the legislature was in session and desperate enough to do almost anything, Hilleary was pouring out weekly press releases pronouncing the income tax dead and declaring that "it's time to move on." Now that the income tax is dead, Hilleary proclaims that it lives, over and over.
Perhaps Daughtrey doesn't read the paper he works for. Not too many days ago, The Tennessean reported in this story that House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh plans to revive his push for the income tax in two years, and is donating to the legislative campaigns of pro-income tax Democrats. As I noted here on Aug. 23, gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen has not promised to veto an income tax if the legislature passes one.
If Hilleary loses and Naifeh wins re-election, the income tax will most certainly be back on the agenda in two years and if it passes, Bredesen will not veto it.
The income tax isn't dead. Daughtrey - an avid cheerleader for the unconstitutional tax - knows this but chooses to lie about it and slam Hilleary every chance he gets. Because if Hilleary wins, the income tax really is dead.
Sick of Daughtrey's lies? Tell him so! Send him an email at LDaughtrey@aol.com