Even left-leaning states are getting sick of higher taxes?

S.A. Miller of the Washington Times reports some Republican gubernatorial candidates are gaining ground in solid blue states because of concerns about high tax rates.

They call it “crushing the middle class” or “the big squeeze” or just plain “irresponsible.”

Regardless of the description they use, Republican candidates for governor in some of the Democratic Party’s most dependable strongholds are finding receptive audiences of voters fed up with too many taxes.

Incumbent Democratic governors in Connecticut and Illinois, which rank among the states with the heaviest tax burdens, find themselves trailing or tied in polls against Republican challengers a week before elections.

In Maryland, another deep-blue state with sky-high taxes, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a Democrat, had to vow “no new taxes” while struggling to convince voters he deserves a promotion to the governor’s mansion. His Republican opponent, businessman Larry Hogan, has made a top issue of the dizzying proliferation of taxes during Mr. Brown’s eight-year tenure with Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Republican victories in governors races in liberal-leaning Maryland, Connecticut and Illinois would signal a strong anti-tax tide building against Democrats ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.

Perhaps these states could benefit from sweeping tax reform.

Campaign finance laws too complex

Joe Trotter of the Center for Competitive Politics laments in the Washington Examiner about the overly complex web of federal campaign finance laws.

Writing for the U.S. Supreme Court majority in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “The First Amendment does not permit laws that force speakers to retain a campaign finance attorney, conduct demographic marketing research, or seek declaratory rulings before discussing the most salient political issues of our day.”

Unfortunately, campaign finance laws and regulations are now so complex that retaining a practicing campaign finance lawyer doesn’t guarantee you’ll stay on the right side of the law.

For example, the Campaign Legal Center, which supports additional complex disclosure and disclaimer rules, recently published a guide to federal rules for political advertising for TV and radio. The guide, however, only proved that even experts who deal almost exclusively in campaign finance law have trouble conveying and even understanding the rules currently in effect.

CLC wrote that “[Electioneering Communications] are usually funded by PACs, Super PACs, 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, labor unions, corporations, trade associations or individuals.” They followed up by saying “Within 24 hours of the date of airing the EC, the person or organization making an EC that aggregates more than $10,000 must report to the FEC. An organization must report the name and address of each donor who, since the first day of the preceding calendar year, has donated in the aggregate $1,000 or more to the person making the disbursement.”

Under the law, however, money spent by PACs and Super PACs is exempt from electioneering communications disclosure requirements. In fact, FEC regulations specifically state that PACs and Super PACs ”must report such communications as expenditures or independent expenditures under 11 CFR 104.3 and 104.4, and not under this section.”

This isn’t the only item in which this attempt to distill our campaign finance system into a couple of pages falls short. The campaign finance professionals at CLC write of Independent Expenditures that “Ad sponsors may spend unlimited amounts from any non-foreign source.” But that’s not quite right — and if you followed that advice, you could be an FEC investigation resulting in substantial fines. In fact, not only foreign sources, but also federal contractors and national banks are specifically prohibited from funding independent expenditures. Traditional PACs are limited to accepting $5,000 contributions when making independent expenditures. …

… If CLC’s experts are having trouble conveying political speech requirements, how can anyone without a law school education get into the business of running political ads and stay out of legal trouble?

Justice Kennedy’s sentiment that speakers should not need lawyers before engaging in political speech must become a reality for our nation’s campaign finance laws to comport with the First Amendment. Let’s at least see if we can make campaign finance law simpler than tax law.

The Federal Reserve: Less than meets the eye?

Norbert Michel of the Heritage Foundation has released a new study questioning the value of the Federal Reserve. Here’s the study‘s abstract:

Many economists take for granted that the Federal Reserve has positively contributed to economic stabilization in the U.S. In particular, it is widely believed that the Fed has helped tame business cycles and lower macroeconomic volatility. Despite this conventional view, surprisingly few comprehensive academic studies exist that assess the Federal Reserve’s overall performance since its founding in 1913. A close look at the evidence suggests that the conventional view should be re-evaluated. Several studies suggest that data deficiencies caused key pre-Fed-era data to appear more volatile than their Fed-era counterparts. There is, in fact, evidence that the Fed has not been as effective as once thought in accomplishing its stabilization goals, and even some evidence that the Fed era has had more economic instability than before the Fed’s creation.

There’s no doubt Austrian economists and other Fed critics will be shocked — shocked! — by Michel’s findings.

Stossel is not holding his breath that voters will toss out many incumbents

John Stossel‘s latest column at Human Events explains why he’s not predicting a massive vote Tuesday against unpopular incumbent politicians.

I’m told that the public is “angry” at today’s politicians. Eighty-two percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing. So will Tuesday’selection bring a big shakeup?

No. Congressional reelection rates never drop below 85 percent.

The last big “wave” election was 1994, when Democrats lost control of both houses. The media called it a “revolution,” and the late Peter Jennings from ABC likened Americans to 2-year-olds throwing a tantrum.

Even that year, the reelection rate was 90 percent.

Matt Kibbe of the group FreedomWorks and Hadley Heath Manning of Independent Women’s Forum came on my show to say they don’t believe that this will be the year voters “throw the bums out.”

Incumbents have all sorts of built-in advantages, said Manning: “Once you’re in office, you have network ties, usually with a big party organization, usually with other officeholders. You have ties to donors who have helped you in your previous round of fundraising.”

In the U.S., she says, “we don’t have kings, (but) we still have political dynasties.”

Politicians in office game the system to make it tougher for outsiders to challenge them. They always talk about getting money out of politics. They don’t mean getting taxpayer money out of their own end of politics — all those privileges such as government mailings and websites and broadcasting facilities right in the Capitol Building. No, the money they want to limit is outsiders‘ money.

When Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) says “this money is suffocating the airwaves, silencing the voices of the many,” she means she wants to prevent private groups funding political messages that sometimes criticize people like her. Expensive TV ads might allow unknown challengers to break through. Can’t have that.

Cato’s Tanner examines the potential impact of a GOP-controlled Senate

Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute assesses for National Review Online readers the likely impact of a Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

It has been common to dismiss this vote as the “Seinfeld election,” a campaign about nothing. It is true, after all, that most Democrats have run on the idea that Republicans are part of a Koch-funded plot to take away your birth control, while Republicans have been portraying their opponents as President Obama’s secret love child. Hard to detect much of a mandate from that.

It’s also true that anyone expecting big changes is probably going to be disappointed. We are not going to see major tax or entitlement reform. Obamacare is not going to be repealed. Nor is Dodd–Frank.

This is not because the Republicans likely to be elected are all a bunch of RINO squishes, as the fringes will inevitable charge, but because the institutional structures of Washington make change slow and cumbersome. Recall that with Obama as president, a large Democratic majority in the House, and a temporary super-majority in the Senate, Obamacare barely squeaked through. Even after next week’s election, the Republicans will enjoy nowhere near such control. Obama will still be president, with the power of the bully pulpit, executive orders, and the veto pen. Democrats will have the power to filibuster (the nuclear option killed the filibuster only for presidential appointments, not regular legislation). If every Republican were a Ted Cruz clone, it wouldn’t change this reality.

But does that mean the election is meaningless? Hardly.

First, a Republican takeover will enhance the ability to block bad ideas. Little if any of Obama’s worst legislation would have passed in a GOP-led Senate. It’s not just a question of votes, it’s control of the entire legislative process. Judicial nominations are likely to be handled very differently if Chuck Grassley is chairing the Judiciary Committee.

And, while big reforms aren’t going anywhere, there are some smaller but important pieces of legislation that are likely to pass if Harry Reid can no longer prevent them from coming to a vote.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Leslee Kulba profiles for Carolina Journal Online a rematch in the N.C. House District 36 election.

Roy Cordato’s Daily Journal probes the link between Obamacare and a “right” to health care.

Sales taxes and exemptions

Our friends over at Mercatus have a new study out on sales tax and exemptions.

Here’s my summary in five easy steps:

1. Need more revenue, raise sales tax

2. Estimates of extra revenue is often overly optimistic

3. Everyone is in favor of a tax hike – as long as they don’t have to pay it.

4. Lobbyists step in to get special interests exempted from the tax

5. The more exemptions, fewer people paying the tax, less revenue is generated, the higher the rate to bring in the expected revenue.

When the General Assembly convenes in 2015, they should continue tax reform by taking a good hard look at the many exemptions to NC sales tax. Taxation should be based on liberty, prosperity and sound principles of taxation.

The Federal Stimulus finally over

While many of us think the bailout and the federal stimulus was something that just occurred during the recession, here is a press release from the financial services committee about the end to quantitate easing.  Many believe the next recession is just around the corner, maybe this time the government will think twice before getting involved with the market.  As for the 2008 stimulus, six years later we can finally say goodbye.

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