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%.