Tag Archives: Michele Bachmann

Watching the Watchmen: the bipartisan failure on privacy

The revelations about the NSA spying program have set off a firestorm of partisan finger-pointing (such as this from late last week).  The reality, though, isn’t terribly complex.  Both parties are responsible for selling your privacy down the river with these sorts of programs.  There have been five key votes since 2001 that have been responsible for these programs.

The pattern shows that it doesn’t matter who’s in charge of the Presidency or Congress.  Washington D.C. will vote to take away your privacy, while fighting to make more and more of their actions secret.  The solution to this issue can’t be solved by switching which party is in charge — but rather by a sustained effort to keep pressure on both parties to do the right thing.  We must remain vigilant.

Below is a chart that shows the bipartisan failure on this issue, including votes by Minnesota’s Congressional delegation.  Click on the chart to see a larger version.

bipartisanfailure

Data sourced from THOMAS.gov

Get to the appoint: Chaska Ward 1 looking for a new councilor and other news

Chaska City Councilor Scott Millard resigned his seat effective at the end of the May 20 City Council meeting, and the Council has chosen to appoint a replacement to hold the seat through the end of Millard’s term.  The seat will be up for election in 2014.  Ward 1 residents who are interested in the position are welcomed to pick up an application package at City Hall (inexplicably, there’s no information on this process on the city website’s homepage).  Applications are due back by June 12, and applicants will interview with the Council on June 17.  The appointment will be made at the July 1 City Council meeting.  Don’t know if you live in Ward 1 (the southwest ward)?  Check out this map to see where to fall among the city’s four wards.  Per the Chaska Herald, former Ward 1 Councilor Gino Businaro has indicated he intends to apply.

In other news:

  • State Senator Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen) is attending the 2013 National Security Seminar at the U.S. Army War College this week.  Certainly such news can (and will) be viewed within the prism of other rumors.
  • Last week was a crazy week for politics in the Sixth Congressional District (which covers Carver and central and western Carver County) as both U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and DFL challenger Jim Graves pulled out of the 2014 race.  Former State Representative, current talk show host, and 2010 governor’s race loser Tom Emmer seems poised to jump in the race, making him the leading contender for the GOP nomination.  Meanwhile, no names have emerged on the DFL side thus far.  The Sixth is the strongest Republican district in the state, so there’s a thin bench of state legislators to pick from.  St. Cloud’s Tarryl Clark, who lost to Bachmann in 2010 before failing to secure the DFL nomination in the Eighth Congressional District in 2012, is sure to come up as a possibility.  State Auditor Rebecca Otto also lives in the Sixth, but is considered unlikely to run.  Graves would have likely stood a stronger chance to win the seat given the fundraising he’s already accumulated, which makes his decision curious.  Politicians who fear defeat are unlikely to make a difference in the long run, so perhaps Graves’s decision is less of a loss to Democratic hopes than thought.

Ortman faces uphill climb in potential race against Franken

Public Policy Polling released the first detailed polling on the 2014 U.S. Senate race today.  It shows that U.S. Senator Al Franken is — as of today, anyway — in pretty good shape 17 months out from the election.

Franken currently holds a +9 in his job approval ratings (51% approve vs. 42% disapprove) which is a solid rating for an incumbent heading into a re-election campaign.  Franken also currently holds at least a 15-point lead against any of the possible challengers polled.  Businessman Mike McFadden (the only potential candidate who has publicly expressed interest in the race) and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek trail Franken by 15 points, while State Senator Julie Rosen trails by 16 and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, radio talk show host Jason Lewis, and Chanhassen’s own State Senator Julianne Ortman trail Franken by 17.

There’s not a lot of good news in the polling data for Ortman.  Ortman’s name recognition is low (80% didn’t know who she was), but among those who did know her, almost four times as many had an unfavorable opinion as had a favorable opinion.  Those numbers gave her the lowest favorability numbers among the potential candidates in the poll.  Worse, she had an unfavorable opinion among Republicans and self-identified conservatives who knew who she was.  Franken leads Ortman by 29 points among women and by four points among men (even though Franken polls -8 in job approval among men).  However, her low name recognition does give her the opportunity to introduce herself on her own terms to voters.

Numbers like these help explain why Ortman may have felt the need to take time from the end-of-session rush last week to try and blast Franken over the IRS investigations of Tea Party groups.  If she intends to run, she needs to drive name recognition and establish herself as a credible contender because based on the polling numbers and Franken’s formidable fundraising — it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Meet Your “New” Republican Party!

State Rep. Ernie Leidiger will be holding his annual hog roast fundraiser next month.  This year’s event is themed “Meet The New Republican Party”, and features a pulled pork dinner, silent auction, activities for kids, karaoke, and a bonfire.  On-site camping is also available if needed.  Lots of special guests are also invited, like these fresh faces:

Hog Roast Emcee and failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer

U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann

U.S. Representative John Kline

U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen

Radio talk show hosts Jason Lewis and Sue Jeffers

State Senator Julianne Ortman

State Representative Joe Hoppe

Of course, these aren’t “new” faces at all.  These are just the same faces we’ve been seeing and hearing from for years now.  Keep looking down the list and — aha! — here are the new faces we’ve been looking for!

State GOP Party Chair Keith Downey

State GOP Deputy Party Chair Kelly Fenton

State GOP Secretary Chris Fields

Of course, of these folks, only Fields really qualifies a “new” face.  Heck, Fields hasn’t even lived in Minnesota for two years and he already has lost a race for Congress by 49 points.  Downey is a two-term former state representative who was heralded as an ideological leader behind the Republican House majorities that got routed in 2012.  Fenton, meanwhile, is a longtime party activist.

Even more to the point, though, is that while you can theoretically argue some of the faces are “new” — the ideas are the same old stale ones they’ve been peddling for years.  Let’s hope the pulled pork is fresher than the ideology.

[Picture above is 2010 gubernatorial loser and voice of the “new” Republican Party Tom Emmer]

Redistricting maps revealed: Eastern Carver County to CD 3; Chanhassen split into two State Senate districts [UPDATED]

[UPDATE:  State legislative details were originally incorrect.  They have now been corrected.  Additional maps showing the boundary of the part of Chanhassen in SD33 have been added as well.]

The redistricting maps were just released a few minutes ago.  Here are the key takeaways for Carver County:

From a Congressional perspective, eastern Carver County (Chanhassen, Chaska, Victoria, and Laketown Township) are now part of the Third Congressional District, with current incumbent Rep. Erik Paulsen (R – Eden Prairie).  The rest of Carver County is now part of the Sixth Congressional District.  Rep. Michele Bachmann is the current incumbent in the Sixth, but Bachmann’s Stillwater residence in not in the new Sixth, so she will have to decide whether to move to the new Sixth or challenge Rep. Betty McCollum in the Fourth Congressional District.  [UPDATE:  Bachmann will run in the Sixth.]  Rep. John Kline no longer represents any part of the county.

The area highlighted in red is now part of CD 3.

From a state legislative perspective, northeast Chanhassen is being combined with much of the Lake Minnetonka area in the new Senate District 33 with retiring Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) and Rep. Steve Smith (R-Mound) as the current incumbents.  The boundary of the area in SD33 is the area north of MN-5 and east of MN-41, as shown in the map below.

The rest of Carver County is the new Senate District 47 with Sen. Julianne Ortman as the incumbent.   The rest of Chanhassen, northern Victoria, and Chaska combine to make House District 47B with Rep. Joe Hoppe as the incumbent.  The remainder of the county is House District 47A, with Rep. Ernie Leidiger as the incumbent.

New legislative map for Carver County

Under 2010 Census results, it was inevitable that Carver County would be split up into more than one Senate district — the County’s rapid population growth over the last decade dictated that.

About those “people who don’t pay taxes”

Republicans have spent a lot of time lately complaining about the sizable portion of Americans who now don’t pay federal individual income taxes.  Current estimates show that over 45% of taxpaying units have a zero or negative federal individual income tax liability, a percentage that has grown over time.

To them, they say, it’s a “skin in the game” problem.   Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, for instance, recently said “We need to broaden the base so that everybody pays something, even if it’s a dollar. Everyone should pay something, because we all benefit.”

Let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that people who don’t pay federal individual income tax are still being taxed in substantial ways — including payroll tax and gas tax at the federal level (the individual income tax only represents 41% of federal revenue) — and look at just who these “nonpayers” actually are.  Are they “lucky duckies” as the Wall Street Journal like to call them?  And just how did they get to the point of paying no federal individual income tax?

Obviously, the key factor behind most of the folks who fall into the nonpayer category is their income.  Specifically, they don’t have a lot of it.  88% of nonpayers have household incomes of under $40,000.  Of the remaining 12%, almost half of them have incomes of over $100,000, including about 4,000 households with incomes over $1 million (that’s up 53% from 2007, even though the number of households with incomes at that level has fallen over that time).

There are other key attributes that tend to drive whether one is a nonpayer or not:  46% of nonpayers are elderly and 64% of nonpayers have dependent children.

So how did we get to this situation?  The short answer is that both parties have filled the tax code with targeted credits.  In the immediate WW-II period through the Nixon Administration, the percentage of nonpayers stayed pretty close to 20%.  The introduction of the Earned Income Tax Credit in 1975 spiked that percentage up slightly such that the percentages tracked closer to 25% until the late 1990s.

Since then, the tax code has been littered on a bipartisan basis with multiple credits that have, in part, caused the sharp increases we have seen in recent years.  The first step was the introduction of the Child Tax Credit in 1998, which gave a $400 tax credit for each dependent child on the return.  This credit was expanded in 1999, 2001, and 2003 (reaching its current level of $1,000).  In 2001, the child and dependent care credit was expanded, and in 2003, the new lowest tax bracket of 10% was established and taxpayers got a cut in capital gains and dividend taxes (this contributes greatly to the wealthy folks who fall into the nonpayer category).  In 2008, taxpayers received stimulus checks, and in 2009, the stimulus bill included the Making Work Pay Tax Credit (replaced in 2011 by a temporary payroll tax cut).

These provisions, building one upon the other and in combination with the weak economic conditions, have created the 45%-plus nonpayer rate we have seen in recent years.  Removing these tax credits would fully cut the number of nonpayers in half.

The real question, then, is where do we go from here?  Should we follow Republican logic to its conclusion, remove the credits, and raise taxes on 60 million lower-income Americans?

That’s where the question gets tougher.  Removing credits like these actually impact all Americans, and the middle class and wealthy would take the brunt of the damage.  Except for the earned income tax credit, all of the credits noted above provide greater benefits to the top three quintiles of Americans than they do the poorest in our society.  In total, the top 20% earn twice as much as a percentage of income (and far more than that in real terms) as the bottom 20% from these provisions.

As such, removing these credits — in and of themselves — is not a solution.  Not only would it take money out the pockets of those who can least afford it, but it would further squeeze middle-class families AND take substantial money away from the wealthy — the so-called “job creators” Republicans have been so anxious to protect.

The real answer to what we’re facing is a return to principles embraced on a bipartisan basis in 1986.  Simplify the tax code by removing all but the most essential credits and deductions.  Lower rates across this wider tax base.  Treat all income the same, regardless if it was earned through work, earned as a capital gain or dividend or inherited.

Such reform would accomplish goals that both parties have:  more people would be paying in, the tax code would be simpler (it shouldn’t be used as a backdoor way to handout money), and it can continue to be just as progressive (or even more so) than before.

Crashing the Tea Party

A unique political study done by researchers at Harvard and Notre Dame that tracks the same 3,000 people and their political opinions over time reveals some new insights into the Tea Party movement — and strips away much of the political narrative that surrounds it.  The group was first interviewed in 2006, and then again in 2011.  The results are fascinating, let’s look at the key findings:

The Tea Party was never a nonpartisan movement made up of political novices who had just gotten fed up with politics — in fact, researchers found that the single best predictor of whether or not someone would be a member of the Tea Party was past affiliation and involvement in Republican politics.  As a group, they were more likely than the average to have contacted government officials back in 2006.

The Tea Party movement is overwhelmingly white and members have low opinions of immigrants and blacks.  True in 2006, and still true today, according to the study.  In fact, these opinions are more consistently held among Tea Partiers than the belief in shrinking government.

Religion is the driving force for many Tea Partiers.  The second biggest predictor of Tea Party membership (after being a Republican) is agreement with the notion that religion should play a prominent role in politics.  The Tea Partiers in this survey put increasing the role of religion in government ahead of fiscal issues like reducing taxes or cutting the deficit.

Tea Party ideology is increasingly out of step with the rest of America.  Out of 23 groups polled about in the study, the Tea Party receives the lowest approval ratings, lower than atheists and Muslims.  That is despite the fact that the entire survey group has moved to the right on economic issues.  In fact, the difference seems to lie in their strident beliefs on religion in politics and government — and area where the survey group (even non-Tea Party Republicans) has moved away from.

A Tea Party candidate for President, such as Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry, may be able to win the Republican primary but they are going to have a very difficult time winning the general election over a center-left President like Barack Obama.

 


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