Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Idaho's Republican Governor Bitter Over Having To Withdraw His Unpopular Proposal To Raise Taxes For Car Registration Fees!!!

Idaho’s Republican Governor Butch Otter has removed his proposal for a flat $150 fee to register a car in Idaho. This massive proposed tax increase was meant to pay for roads. It would have also put Idaho in about 8th place in terms of car registration fees among the 50 states. We have high taxes in Idaho, as discussed in one of my posts below.

Anyhoo, Governor Otter was mad about his proposal being met with cold shoulders in the Legislature. In this Idaho Statesman article, his statement was “bitterly worded,” and he accused legislators of “desir[ing] political cover behind which they can continue avoiding a difficult but necessary responsibility of government.”

My, my, my. How pious. Boo hoo! Cry me a river! Butch, the one-time libertarian, is now the Nanny State Governor.

What part of “fiscal responsibility” does he not get? Last year, his first general fund budget was 8.75% bigger than the previous budget, and his proposed budget this year was 10.87% bigger than his first budget. Idaho’s last two Republican Governors and their overwhelmingly Republican Legislatures increased spending to the point where our current budget is 32.58% more than it would have been if it had been increased to account for population growth, income growth, and inflation. When are the Idaho Republicans going to get a clue? This is not all Butch’s fault—he’s part of it, but so is former Governor Dirky Kempthorne and the Republican majority in the Legislature. They are all a bunch of tax and spend monkeys!

There are probably several needs out there. However, before we start spending more tax money, our Republican leaders need to step back and start cutting all the unnecessary government waste. Across-the-board cuts are also in order. The Republicans have been lollygagging along for too many years in Idaho, unaccountable to anyone and unafraid of the ballot box. I’m a fiscal conservative who had voted Republican and worked for the Republican Party and officials, and I am sick and tired of it. No more for me. I’m voting against every one of the S.O.B.’s this year. Every single one of them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Sad Day: William F. Buckley, Jr., Passes Away!

A sad, sad day! William F. Buckley, Jr., was one of my favorite people. He was a fascinating man. I’ve read many of his books, and I never failed to watch him anytime I saw him on a television show. In one of his books, I remember him saying something about true conservatives always asking themselves whether a policy proposal would increase or decrease liberty, and always picking the side that would increase liberty. That was his suggested barometer for making policy. I certainly wish more conservatives in office followed his advice. The modern Republican Party has been hijacked by a bunch of unethical tax-and-spenders. Tonight, I am going to get out one of Mr. Buckley’s books and read it again.

Rest in Peace, William F. Buckley, Jr. God bless.

Read the news at The Corner on National Review Online.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Idaho's Republican Governor About To Propose 100% Tax Increase For Our Car Registrations!!!

OMG! Continuing from several posts below, the Idaho Republican Party, which has been in total control of Idaho since 1995, is once again asking for a HUGE tax increase. This time, they will soon be proposing to increase our car registration fees by 100%!!! This breaking news from the Idaho Statesman reveals that the secretive plans to raise more revenue from Idaho’s taxpayers are just starting to come out in public view. Based on the state tax and fee comparison data I evaluated and discussed in a post below, this kind of increase would move Idaho from having the 24th highest car registration fees, on average, in the nation, to having the 8th highest car registration fees!!! We would go from being slightly below the average fee to being 65.96% above average!!!! Unreal. As detailed below, the Idaho Republican Party has been taxing and spending Idahoans to death for more than a decade now. We cannot continue on this path of fiscal insanity!!!!!
UPDATE: The Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell is reporting in her blog (Eye on Boise, see hyperlink on the right of this page) that the new proposed car registration increase would be a flat fee of $150 per vehicle, regardless of age. This is huge. This is more than 100% for one of my cars. Her data is slightly different than the data I've evaluated--she says we move from being 30th to 17th in the nation with this massive tax increase.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Northern Idaho Toilets: Trip To Loop Creek With Norwegian Relatives

In the summer of 2007, some of my Norwegian relatives came to visit my family in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Among the various and sundry activities, we took them over to the Loop Creek area near Wallace and Avery. My grandfather and his father had several mining claims in that area, including a patented mining claim. At any rate, the picture above shows Olav sitting on a very large, old tree stump that is near an old cabin that still stands just off Loop Creek, near Kelly Creek. The cabin is known as "T-Bone's Cabin," because a guy named "T-Bone" lived in it for many, many years. He had a mine nearby. He was one of my grandpa's friends. T-Bone inherited the cabin from a hooker. Yes, a hooker. That was back in the day when Adair and several other small towns existed along the old Milwaukee line that is now known as the Hiawatha bike trail. With respect to the stump, it was T-Bone's toilet. At one time, he had a shower curtain around it. I am totally serious. We had Olav sit on it to demonstrate the creativity of the northern Idaho toilet.

Friday, February 15, 2008

UPDATE: Forecasting Reapportionment in 2010!!!

Extending from a post below about reapportionment, I used a forecasting software package to forecast county population growth in Idaho out to 2010. The package picked the best forecasting method (double exponential smoothing, single exponential smoothing, double moving average, etc.) for each county and generated county populations for each future year out to 2010. The post below explains what I mean by "northern," "southwestern," and "southeastern" counties.

The end results show the following:

1. Idaho’s total population will be 1,586,730 in 2010. That is 22.07% bigger than in 2000.
2. The average district size in 2010 (35 districts divided into total population) will be 45,335.
3. The southwestern counties will be entitled to 15.58 districts. The two big counties, Ada and Canyon, will have 593,247 people, which will be 37.39% of the entire state’s population. Ada and Canyon County continue to grow faster than the rest of the state. In 2000, 33.56% of the state's population was in these two counties. It is a compact area, too, covering just 1,644.71 square miles. In comparison, the state's other urban area, which includes Kootenai County in northern Idaho and contiguous Spokane County in eastern Washington, covers 3,008.76 square miles. In 2010, Ada and Canyon Counties will be entitled to 13.09 districts, which is a gain of one full district. Currently, one of the Canyon County districts is split into Gem County. Under the 2000 Census, all of the southwestern counties were entitled to 14.53 districts, so they will clearly gain one new district.
4. The southeastern counties will be entitled to 12.14 districts. This is a reduction from the 12.93 districts they were entitled to under the 2000 Census.
5. The northern counties decrease from the 7.53 districts they were entitled to under the 2000 Census to 7.28 in 2010.
Clearly, Ada and Canyon Counties will gain a legislative district. The numbers seem to indicate that however the next reapportionment commission draws the lines, it would need to take slightly more away from southeastern Idaho, because the drop is more than twice as big per district as the north. Idaho grows, and I know Kootenai County has and will continue to grow, but the sheer size and rate at which Ada and Canyon Counties grow really swallow up the growth in the north when it comes to legislative districts. At any rate, my best guess is that we will see a new district close to Boise and, if fairness and legality prevails, there will be 7 districts wholly enclosed in northern Idaho, 12 wholly enclosed in southeastern Idaho, and 15 wholly enclosed in southwestern Idaho (including 13 in Ada and Canyon Counties), and 1 district that could stretch into the north, southeast, and southwest, perhaps centered around Boise, Valley, Idaho, Lemhi, and Custer Counties, which would put the district within 5.58% of the ideal district size. The courts require no more than a 10% deviation from the ideal district size, which is not complicated to understand or implement, but Idaho's history with this requirement has not been good. When it comes to reapportionment, expect partisanship, gamesmanship, blame, and lots of nonsense.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Looking Ahead To Reapportionment in 2010: Trends Favor Democrats & Disfavor Southeastern Idaho

Today, Idaho has 35 legislative districts. Each district contains 1 senator and 2 representatives. With a couple exceptions, legislative districts do not cross county lines, and the law requires the county boundaries be respected to the extent possible when new lines are drawn.

When Idaho’s legislative districts were redrawn following the 2000 Census (lines must be redrawn after a Census is completed), the state’s population was 1,293,593. Thus, if you divide 35 districts into that number, you get 36,970 people living in each district. There is some deviation from that number, but the courts require the each district be very close to the perfect number.

Reapportionment is a nasty, partisan business. In Idaho, a commission appointed by officials from both major parties is assigned the job of drawing new districts. Each political party wants lines drawn to give them the best chance of winning seats. There are also regional biases, with commissioners trying to draw lines that give their area of the state the maximum number of districts possible. Last time, in 2000, the southeastern part of the state lost legislative seats. There were numerous lawsuits and a lot of hurt feelings that arose from that process.

The Census Bureau last provided county population estimates on July 1, 2006. At that time, Idaho’s population was estimated to be 1,466,465, an increase of 13.33%. If you divide 35 legislative districts into the 2006 population estimate for Idaho, you get 41,899 people per district.

I have taken this new theoretical number of people per district, compared it to each of the county population estimates for 2006, and set forth my conclusions below. In discussing areas of the state, I refer to the “north” as being all counties from Idaho County on up, the “southwest as being counties south of Idaho County and west of Lemhi, Custer, Blaine, Camas, Gooding, and Twin Falls Counties, and the “southeast” being all other counties to the east. The counties that have gained the most through 2006 include Canyon, Ada, and Kootenai. The counties that have lost the most through 2006 include Bannock, Elmore, Latah, Nez Perce, and Minidoka. Too see a map of Idaho, its counties, its legislative districts, and a list of legislators, click here.

1. The biggest gainers are Ada and Canyon Counties. Canyon is the biggest gainer, with .58 new districts. Ada County gains .43 new districts. Together, the compact Ada-Canyon area already has enough people to gain a full new legislative district. Thus, it appears that the southwest, especially the Ada-Canyon area, already has one new district (3 more legislators) locked up—in total, the southwest counties would have 16 districts (48 legislators).
2. Kootenai County comes in third, with.20 new legislative districts. Kootenai is the only county in the north that gains. The other northern counties (Boundary, Bonner, Shoshone, Benewah, Latah, Clearwater, Nez Perce, Lewis, and Idaho) actually would lose almost half a district (.41). The north should remain about the same with 8 districts (24 legislators), although they are collectively .21 down.
3. The southeastern part of the state is down the most. Collectively, the southeast counties are down .60, more than half a district. Only four southeastern counties are up: Bonneville is up .03, Jefferson and Teton are up .02, and Power is up .01. The biggest losers in the southeast are Bannock (.17), Minidoka (.09), Bingham (.08), and Cassia (.07). Thus, the southeast is down the most, making it the most likely area of the state to lose a district. If so, it would have 11 districts (33 legislators).

Thus, as it stands, it appears that there will be a new legislative district in the Treasure Valley, a loss of a district somewhere in southeastern Idaho, and a wash in the north. Ada County currently has 8 districts (24 legislators), and half of Ada County’s legislators are Democrats. As the Treasure Valley grows, the trend seems to be in favor of Democrats. The 2010 Census could bode well for the Democrats.

When Will The Idaho Republicans Quit Spending So Much Of Our Money?

The chart above shows what has happened with Idaho's General Fund budget since the Idaho Republican Party took over the Governor's Office in 1994 and solidified its dominance of the Legislature and the entire state budget. It is not pretty--the Idaho Republicans have spent taxpayer dollars at a rate that far outpaces per capita income growth, inflation, and population growth.

The blue line shows the actual general fund budget beginning in fiscal year 1995 and continuing on each year to Governor Otter's proposal for fiscal year 2009. Those numbers come straight from the Idaho Legislature's website.

The red line shows what the general fund would have been if the Republicans had kept pace with per capita income growth, inflation, and population growth. The red line is what I consider to be a "fiscally conservative budget." It does not represent any budget cuts, however; it only represents what would have happened if, beginning in fiscal year 1995, we would have only increased the budget to account for per capita income growth, inflation, and population growth.

To arrive at the numbers on the red line, I used the actual general fund budget for FY 1995 (Cecil Andrus's last budget) as the base year budget. Then, I first increased the actual general fund budget by the annual percentage increase in per capita income, numbers which came straight from the Idaho Department of Labor's website. I had to forecast per capita income numbers for 2007 and 2008 using the past data, because those numbers are not available.

Second, I upwardly adjusted again for Idaho's annual population increase. Those numbers came straight from the United States Census Bureau's website.

Third, I upwardly adjusted one last time for the increase in the consumer price index (CPI), a national figure obtained from the United States Department of Labor's website. The Idaho Department of Commerce's website explains that Idaho uses the national CPI because there is no index for Idaho. I had to forecast the final fully adjusted general fund budget for FY 2009 using past data because economic data for that time period is not yet available.

The chart tells a sad, sad story. Among the many points that can be made from this chart are the following:

1. When Governor Phil Batt ended the Democrats' control of the Governor's Office in Idaho at the end of 1994, the last fiscal year General Fund budget (1995) of former Democrat Governor Cecil Andrus was 1.26 billion dollars. This year, Republican Governor Butch Otter has proposed a fiscal year 2009 general fund budget of 3.13 billion dollars. That is 2.47 times bigger than the budget that the Republican Party inherited from Governor Andrus. If Idaho's all-Republican government had passed the conservative budgets shown on the red line, our fiscal year 2009 budget would be 1.95 billion dollars, or just 1.54 times bigger than Governor Andrus's last budget.

2. The Idaho general fund really started to take off in fiscal year 1999, which was Governor Batt's last budget. Overall, Governor Batt did a good job with the budget, which is a reflection of his honest-to-goodness fiscally conservative nature. Kudos to Governor Batt! Governor Kempthorne, however, really kicked the general fund budget increases into high gear. He and the Republican-dominated Legislature had to back off a bit when the national economy sank into a recession after the Internet bubble burst and the economic consequences of 9-11. Alas, starting again in fiscal year 2005, the Idaho Republicans got back to spending like drunken sailors in a Shanghai saloon. Governor Otter's newest budget proposal (currently being debated in the Idaho Legislature) does nothing the alleviate the huge discrepancy between how much our government spends and how much it should spend if wage growth, inflation, and population growth are considered.

3. If Idaho's general fund budget increased close to increases in per capita income, inflation, and population growth, my forecast would give Idaho a fiscal year 2009 budget of 1.95 billion dollars. I consider this number to represent a truly fiscally conservative budget. Governor Otter proposes 3.13 billion dollars. The grand total difference between all of the actual general fund budgets and truly conservative general fund budgets from fiscal year 1996 to fiscal year 2009 is 5.16 billion dollars.

4. Recent budget increases under Governors Kempthorne, Risch, and Otter are downright scary. Beginning in fiscal year 2007 and continuing through to fiscal year 2009's proposed budget, the increases have been 18.93%, 8.75%, and 10.87%.

Finally, if the Republicans want to argue that their huge budgets are justified by Idaho's growing economy, as represented by Idaho's gross domestic product (GDP), they will lose on that count too. From 1997 to 2006, Idaho's GDP rose by 75.05%, whereas Idaho's general fund budget grew by 121.37%. They can't run; they can't hide. The Idaho Republican Party has spent this tax money with Republican governors, a veto-proof Republican majority in the Legislature, and a Democrat Party that has had no serious power base at all in Idaho for more than a decade.

I am simply stunned and massively disillusioned with how the Idaho Republican Party has grown government and spent our tax money. The Idaho Republican Party is not the party of fiscal conservatism. The stone cold facts reveal the Idaho Republican Party to be the party of taxing and spending.

Speaking of Taxes in Idaho...

The big issue for this legislative session in Idaho will be spending even more of our money. Governor Otter and Republican Senator John McGee (Caldwell) are spearheading a massive tax increase that will be focused on our car registration fees. As detailed in the Spokesman-Review (Betsy Russell, 1/8/2008, Spokesman-Review story link), the fee increase could result in a doubling of the amount we currently pay to register our cars. The money would supposedly go to fix and build roads, which of course is a noble purpose (the Government almost always has a good reason to spend our money), but the argument that our current registration fees are very low avoids a couple key points.

1. There are 41 other states (including D.C.) that have income taxes and rate systems that are comparable to Idaho's system. Idaho has the 9th highest income tax rate of those 41 states. Seven states do not have an income tax (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.) Two states limit income tax to interest income and dividends (New Hampshire and Tennessee). One state taxes a portion of your federal income tax liability (Rhode Island). Idaho has a high income tax rate.

2. Idaho has the 12th highest sales tax rate in the country. Five states do not have a sales tax, including Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon.

3. Idaho has the 2nd highest sales tax rate on food in the entire country. Only 15 states tax food, and only Tennessee is higher than Idaho (7% v. 6%).

4. Idaho also has the 2nd highest sales tax in the country on nonprescription drugs, with only Tennessee being higher (7% v. 6%). Only 14 states tax nonprescription drugs.

5. Idaho has the 11th highest gas tax in the country, at 25 cents per gallon. Idaho's gas tax rate is 14.9% above the average.

6. Idaho has the 16th highest diesel tax in the country, at 25 cents per gallon. Idaho's diesel tax rate is 12.15% above the average.

7. Idaho has the 20th highest gasohol tax in the country, at 22.5 cents per gallon. Idaho gasohol tax is 4.78% above the average.

8. Idaho has the 20th highest maximum corporate income tax rate in the country, at 7.6%. Not counting the states that do not impose a corporate income tax, Idaho's rate is 3.86% higher than the average. This is a generous ranking, though, because many of the states above Idaho have graduated corporate income tax rates. Among the states that impose a flat corporate income tax rate (which is Idaho's method), Idaho's corporate income tax rate ranks 13th highest in the country.

Source: Federation of Tax Administrators’ website, FTA Home Page.

The point here is that our Republican leaders think they have found a tax imposed by the state that is not as high as other states, and they are using that argument in an effort to convince people that we can and should pay more taxes, via increased car registration fees. Yet, Idaho's existing income, sales, and gas taxes are already very high. The Idaho Republicans apparently want all of our taxes to be high, which makes sense because with the way they spend money, they need us to pay high taxes.

The kicker, however, is that based on data that I’ve been able to find, Idaho’s vehicle registration fees for typical vehicles is not low. Data maintained by the United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration shows Idaho, in 2001, was in 24th place in terms of fees for a typical vehicle. (Summary of State Motor-Vehicle Registration Fee Schedules, Table MV-103 - Highway Taxes and Fees 2001 .) Idaho’s rates were 17.02% below the average in 2001, but 27 states were lower. A couple states (Minnesota and Oklahoma) had exorbitant fees. If you take out the top five and bottom five states, Idaho’s fees are close to average. Idaho's car registration fees are not low; at best they are in the middle tier of states, close to average.

Idaho's leaders are being disingenuous. The argument about whether to pay more car registration fees needs to be conducted in an honest environment, an environment that includes three overarching truths: (1) Idahoans already pay high taxes overall; (2) Idaho's government has grown considerably over the past decade, showing no restraint whatsoever unless forced by outside events (e.g., the Internet bubble and 9-11); and (3) our roads may indeed have been neglected in favor of other spending by the government. However, through it all, since 1995, Idaho has been ruled by the Republican Party, so whatever problems we have today are entirely of their creation.

I believe, as a fiscal conservative, that before we begin talking about raising more taxes and spending more money, our leaders, who are almost uniformly self-proclaimed conservatives, should be cutting all government spending; spending an entire legislative session thoroughly going through the state budget and eliminating all spending that is not absolutely necessary. We must stop this crazy ride we have been on for more than a decade!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Governor Otter: Raises for State Employees is the Number 1 Issue in Idaho!!!

The Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell reported in her blog on February 4, 2008 (Eye on Boise ::, Idaho’s Republican Governor considers 5% raises for state employees to be his “No. 1 priority.” In fact, Governor Otter’s budget director said that 5% raises for state employees has been his number 1 priority since August, which was 5 months ago. Here’s the entry from Betsy’s blog:

Otter insisting on three things
Quizzed at his confirmation hearing by the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning, Gov. Otter’s budget director, Wayne Hammon, said the governor recognizes that state revenues may fall with a recession, but he’s “insisting” on keeping three items he called for funding in his budget: 5 percent average merit raises for state employees, along with benefit changes; funding for expanding a state scholarship program; and $20 million for aquifer modeling. The 5 percent for raises, Hammon said, "has been since August his No. 1 priority." Posted by
Betsy 4 Feb 8:06 AM

All I can say to this is “wow! WOW!” Is it any wonder why the Republican Party is reeling? Back in the day, the Republican Party stood for fiscal conservatism and smaller government. Now, the leader of the entire party considers 5% raises for state employees to be the most important issue facing the state. Unreal. Obama is looking better and better to me every day, in every way.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday: Pulled Pork and a Fatty!

Here's the finished product, right before serving. We ate at halftime of the game. The pulled pork was on the grill for about 8 hours, and the fatty took about 90 minutes. They both came off during the first half, and I wrapped them in foil until we ate. It was excellent--the best pulled pork I've yet smoked. The fatty was excellent. This was the first time I used feta cheese, which is strong. Next time, I will use it again, but not quite as much, and I will put in a thin spread of creme cheese.

As far as the Super Bowl goes, it was awesome. Probably one of the three best games ever. After all the hyperbolic talk about the Patriots being the best ever, two truths remain: (1) the 1972 Miami Dolphins reside in Perfectville, population 1, and they can toast with champagne tonight, because they are the greatest single team in NFL history; and (2) the 1970's era Pittsburgh Steelers are the greatest dynasty team in NFL history, winning 4 Super Bowls in 6 years, two of which came against very powerful Dallas Cowboys teams. The Patriots have been a great team, but they are not in the same league as the 1972 Miami Dolphins and 1970's-era Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here's The Pork Roast & Fatty On The Grill

I just put on the Fatty, and I turned the pork roast and moved the probe. You have to move probes now and then, because you can get false readings, especially if it's near fat or the bone. Always use a bone-in roast, and avoid roasts that are injected with stuff. Like I said below, I'll take the Fatty off the grill at 165 degrees, and I'll take the pork roast off at about 200 degrees. I will probably let them both rest for awhile after cooking inside some foil. Foil is okay to use after you've cooked the meat.

Here's What A Fatty Looks Like Before Smoking!

Alright, continuing from the post below, after I filled the flattened out fatty with the good stuff, I then rolled it back up, making sure to seal in all the stuff inside. You might need to add some more oil to your hands when doing this, as it makes it easier and prevents the sausage from sticking to your hands. Once rolled up, I put some of the same dry rub on it that I used on the pork roast. Then, I wrapped it in plastic wrap. Always rap your dry rubbed meats in plastic wrap before you cook them. Do not use foil or a container. Wrap in plastic! This fatty will sit in the refridgerator for a couple hours before I put it on the smoker. In a little while, I will add another post with a picture of the fatty and pork roast on the grill.

By the way, here's the dry rub recipe I used for both meats today:

1. 8 parts paprika;

2. 4 parts All Season;

3. 4 parts garlic salt

4. 2 parts chili powder;

5. 2 parts ground oregano;

6. 2 parts coarse ground pepper;

7. 1 part cayenne papper; and

8. 1 part kosher salt (kosher salt sticks to meat better).

This dry rub recipe is adapted from a recipe I got from a Memphis Tiger football fan. I use more salt, especially with pork. If you use it on beef, I would use garlic power instead of garlic salt, and I also might reduce or eliminate the kosher salt altogether. I refuse to use rubs with sugars in them, although I do sprinkle brown sugar on salmon, but only with a few minutes left in the cook. Sugars burn, and I've never had much luck with sugars in rubs used on meats like pork roasts and brisket.

Super Bowl Sunday Smoke! A Fatty and Pulled Pork!

Today, Super Bowl Sunday, I am smoking a pork roast to make some pulled pork and a "fatty." For you hippies, a "fatty" is a sausage roll wrapped around some stuff, like cheese and peppers. The picture above shows you the Fatty I made this morning. It consists of a Jimmy Dean sage sausage roll flattened out (rub with some olive oil before doing that, and also let it cool down outside the fridge for a little while before doing it). Then, I put some thin slices of Jarlsberg cheese it in, covered with some feta cheese mixed with garlic, and then some slices of jalapeno and Anaheim chili peppers.

To smoke it, I will put it on the grill (with my pork roast, which has been going since early this morning) about 2 o'clock this afternoon. I am maintaining a smoker temperature of about 240 degrees. The fatty will take about 90 minutes, until it reaches an interal temperature of about 165 degrees. For you non-smokers, you must have one or two internal probes--that's how you know when to take off any kind of meat (although I don't use them for fish or ribs).

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Clinton Political Machine: Racist, Bigoted, and Worn Out

This Wall Street Journal op-ed makes a rather obvious point about the Clintons that their Republican enemies have long known: The Clintons are extremely divisive figures, and their politics rests upon a strategy of dividing people along racial, ethnic, religious, class, and other lines. For the victim-recipients of the Clintons’ political attack machine, it is absolutely maddening, because they do it in a way that gives them just enough plausible deniability to allow their supporters (including many in the media) to shamelessly defend them.

The Clinton Political Machine plays possum, and it works in the following way:

1. Say or plant (directly or through operatives) something that insults or motivates a class of people, but do it in a way that will allow them to deny any baiting. Bill Clinton’s shameless and racist mockery of Barak Obama as a token black candidate is a great example.

2. When called to question about it, smile, deny, and attack others for bringing racism, etc., into the campaign. With his patently racist insult of Obama, Bill Clinton will shrug his shoulders, say something wonderful about Jesse Jackson, remind everyone that he was the “first black President,” and then outrageously suggest that the attacks on him are racially motivated. In the past, his supporters will smile and defend him like the sycophants they are; and

3. At this point, the Clinton Political Machine swoops in and proclaims grandiose things about bringing everyone together, ending whatever discrimination might be related to the initial salvo, and condemning everyone who does not see it their way as being bigots. Their sycophant supporters will smile knowingly, sip their wine and eat their cheese, and have their dinner parties.

In the past, partisan Democrats have allowed the Clintons to get away with this time and time again. Now, faced with a pretty popular Democrat in a primary, the Clintons are starting to see cracks in the fa├žade, and it appears that many Democrats are dropping the charade. At cocktail parties everywhere, including some swanky affairs on stunning verandas in Marin County and fashionable lofts in Manhattan, liberals are gagging on their foie gras and brie as they try to sort through this new paradigm that is emerging in American politics!

I still think Hillary will win, but I am beginning to see her as being old-fashioned, tired, worn out, and dinosaur-like. If she does win, the Democrats who have spent so much energy hating Bush and working against Bush, will get to feel the wrath of the other half of America, which has been biding its time with a President that fell far short of expectations. Obama will not engender this kind of dynamic, at least initially. He is reaching out to everyone. The Clintons long ago drew their line in the sand; they only want to win with one more vote than their opponent.

If the Clinton Political Machine has been figured out by its enablers, it's a good thing, but it’s still a long ways from being over. Democrats pursue power for the sake of power, without regard to consistency and ideology, and there is no doubt in my mind that if Hillary maintains her lead and wins the nomination, partisan Democrats will fall in behind her ready to march like ducks, allowing the Clintons to continue to divide America.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Idaho's "Garvee Bond" Money Not Building Roads!

Among the many various and sundry things Idaho’s Republican Legislature and Governor have been spending our money on is the absolutely craptastic “Garvee Bond” fiasco, where Idaho borrows money from the feds, sinking us further into the Abyss. Anyhoo, our lawmakers have taken to calling this monstrosity “Connecting Idaho,” and they sell it by claiming that it will fix roads everywhere. Everyone wants better roads! How can you argue with such a wonderful idea!?!

Well, this Idaho Statesman story details how our Republican leaders have blown away $450 million dollars on this thing, which is a $1 billion project (That number will certainly grow much larger!). Of the $450 million that has been appropriated by the Legislature, $150 million has been contracted or spent, according to the story. The rest has been appropriated, but it is sitting idle because the Idaho Transportation Department cannot keep up. Yet, they are asking for another $134 million this year. Here’s the real kicker though:

“ITD numbers show the percentage of Connecting Idaho money going into road-building, as opposed to planning, rising significantly during the next three years, hitting 88 percent in 2011. Cutting off funding now could cost the state millions more in the long-run, ITD officials say.”

That’s right: About 88% of that money goes to planning, not building or fixing roads.

I’ve been saying this a long time: We are not getting roads built with these hundreds of millions of dollars. What we are doing is paying private corporations to “plan” and “study” the roads. Those corporations, many of which are armed with lobbyists and employees who were once key staffers for Republican officials, are planning and studying our roads, but they aren’t building many of them.

The Garvee Bond fiasco was and is a gigantic construction industry welfare bill. In my view, it has gutted the Idaho Transportation Department, which is a huge agency that we created for the purpose of doing the planning and studying. It is now a shell of its former self, with basically no purpose but to serve as a middleman, giving the private companies the money that the Legislature appropriates. ITD, not these private construction corporations, should be doing much of the planning, and contractors should be doing the building. I also believe that ITD needs to have sole "project managers" to be clear points of contact and responsibility on all projects. Another major problem is the layers and layers of process and review that the government has created for public works construction projects. It is important to protect the environment, public safety, and select the best option, but in my view the process has become far too cumbersome and accounts for much of the huge costs and time delays.

This is just ridiculous, and it is another example of the completely out-of-control spending and feckless leadership that has been going on Idaho since the late 1990’s, post-Governor Batt. Shame on the Republican Legislature for allowing this to ever happen in the first place, and shame on them and the Governors Kempthorne and Otter for allowing this boondoggle to continue!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Components of Idaho's General Fund Budget

Idaho’s general fund budget consists of five major funding components: (1) individual income tax; (2) corporate income tax; (3) sales tax; (4) product tax; and (5) miscellaneous revenue. As explained in the Division of Financial Management’s General Fund Book for FY 2009, “product tax” includes things like cigarette, beer, and wine taxes, and “miscellaneous revenue” includes things like court fees and fines, alcoholic beverage licenses, estate taxes, and departmental transfers. DFM's General Fund Book for 2009, Revenue Projections.

In FY 1995, when the Republicans took over the Governor’s Office, the General Fund was about $1.2 billion. The five major funding components accounted for the following percentages of that total:

1. Individual Income Tax, 46.30%
2. Sales Tax, 37.39%
3. Corporate Income Tax, 10.22%
4. Miscellaneous Revenue, 4.93%
5. Product Tax, 1.16%

In FY 2007, the pie chart shown above shows where we have gone. Individual income taxes are a slightly bigger portion of the general fund pie, as is the sales tax. The miscellaneous revenue slice is not quite as big. The product tax slice, which was a very small slice in 1995, is even smaller. The most notable drop is the corporate tax slice, which has gone from 10.22% to 6.76% of the pie, a decline of 38.98%.