Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hill finds a publicity op he doesn't like

A hat tip to HoosierPundit who reported on the Bloomington Herald-Times story on B-PAC's rally on Saturday. According to Timothy Baer, one of the organizers, Rep. Hill accepted an invitation to attend, but then reneged when he learned that there would be TV cameras there.
BLOOMINGTON — Dozens of people gathered at Bloomington’s City Hall Saturday to hear a Declaration of Peace for the war in Iraq.

Those in attendance got to view an extensive multimedia presentation outlining the nine points that members of The Declaration of Peace — a national peace organization — and the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition hope to get across to local, state and federal legislators...

Baer said U.S. Rep. Baron Hill had been scheduled to attend, but canceled after learning the event would be broadcast on community access television and that media outlets had been invited.

HP's commentary:

Of course, it would be hard for Baron to tell his supporters one thing in Bloomington and then tell the rest of the district something else (his standard method of operation) if those pesky reporters were there covering him doing it and making recordings of what he was saying. The recordings would make it very difficult for Baron to deny saying what he said later on, when he needed to explain himself to the rest of the district.

In the last election, Hill wanted to position himself somewhat to the "left" of Sodrel. Within that position, he wanted to posture more towards the left while in Bloomington and just to the left of Sodrel elsewhere in the district. This wasn't particularly principled, but such posturing is often effective politically.

One modest problem for Hill in 2006: it enabled me to be the strongest anti-war candidate. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get my message out as much as I would have liked. And some who heard my message chose Hill anyway-- as the lesser of two evils who had a significant probability of winning.

Going into 2008, I'd guess that Hill will try to walk a similar line, moving further to the left as the war has grown increasingly unpopular. And I'm sure that he'll try to claim that he was there in 2006 as well. I'll do what I can to keep the record straight. Hopefully, Timothy and his colleagues have long enough memories to help out!

Hill supports another tax break for the middle and upper classes

From Lesley Stedman Weidenbener in today's C-J:

Homeowners who don't itemize deductions on their federal income tax returns would still get a break for property-tax payments under separate bills filed by U.S. Rep. Baron Hill and U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh.

The lawmakers are aiming to help Hoosier homeowners facing dramatic property-tax increases this year, but the proposals would benefit anyone across the country who pays property taxes but takes the standard federal income tax deduction...

Already, federal law allows people who itemize tax deductions to subtract what they pay in property taxes from their income. That reduces their ultimate tax liability.

But homeowners who claim the standard federal deduction don't get a break for their property-tax payments. In Indiana, that's an estimated 940,000 people, said Bayh, D-Ind.

This part of the proposal, by itself, is attractive. Why should some people get a tax break while others don't? Then again, this still benefits homeowners at the expense of renters-- so more people would get the tax break, but far from everyone. How about we just go with a flat tax-- a lower marginal tax rate with some exempted income based on family size, but no deductions (except perhaps for charity)?

The other problem with this is that any reduction in income taxes will benefit the upper-income classes-- since they are responsible for almost all of the income tax revenues. I don't have a problem with that per se. But it's hilarious and hypocritical to see Democrats rip Republicans (to some great effect) on their "tax breaks for the wealthy"-- whenever the GOP wants to cut income taxes. But now, when two Democrats lead the way, everything is fine.

One could also imagine some wealthy people-- with big houses (and large property taxes) who don't itemize or barely itemize-- who will benefit tremendously from this proposal.

The bottom line issue is that income tax cuts, by definition, must help those who pay those taxes-- and that's almost exclusively the top half of income earners. As always, it's time to bang the "payroll tax" drum. Why don't Democrats work to cut the taxes on income that hammer the working poor and middle class? Lack of imagination, intellect, or will-- or a desire to play politics rather than affect a far more equitable and efficient policy change?

Bayh said yesterday that the legislation would end the "double taxation" that results when people who don't itemize their deductions are paying federal income taxes on money they've used to pay property taxes.

OK, now this is Bayh talking and not Hill-- but isn't it interesting that two Democrats are against "double taxation" in this context. What is their stance on capital gains taxation and estate taxes?

Peter Sepp, vice president for communications for the National Taxpayers Union, said most homeowners should not be taking the standard deduction. That's because interest from a mortgage also qualifies as an income-tax deduction and is available only to those who itemize.

But Sepp said the proposal by Hill and Bayh would particularly help older homeowners who've paid off their mortgages and have little other reason to itemize their deductions. He said the group would support the idea.

"Anything that keeps a few more tax dollars from being swallowed up by the federal beast would be a reason to celebrate," Sepp said. "Taxpayers in high property-tax states would rejoice over something like this."

Another interesting point. Although Bayh and Hill intend this to help Hoosiers, it will end up redistributing money from low property-tax states to high-property tax states!

The legislation would cost $7 billion to $13 billion, Bayh said.

Under the pay-as-you-go budgeting system in Congress, lawmakers would likely have to find reductions in spending to offset the revenue loss. Bayh said that could be done by closing some corporate offshore tax loopholes or by money made available if the United States ends its operations in Iraq.'s those pesky trade-offs. It should be interesting to see how Democrats negotiate this after claiming to tie their own hands in a slightly more fiscal-conservative posture.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sodrel's October "surprise" and Hoosier bloggers in response

From Sunday's C-J, Lesley Stedman Weidenbener reports on the status of a potential run by Mike Sodrel. If he decides to jump in, it'll be his fourth race against Hill, and probably his second race against me. For their careers in national electoral politics, Hill is 4-2 ( 4 wins; 2 losses); Sodrel is 1-2; and I'm 0-1.

Of Hoosier political blogs: at least Blue Indiana, Taking Down Words, and HoosierPundit have already commented on this story.

BI gets in two nice pokes. First, he notes that Sodrel "continues to delay citing the rigors of a negative election (stone, meet glass house)". Funny! Of course, Sodrel and Hill are both stones when it comes to complaining about negative campaigning. They both seem to like chucking a lot of rocks and then moaning about the game.

Second, BI says "Nowhere do I see a mention of that little thing often described as 'the drive to serve the people of the 9th district,' but what's a little brutal honesty about your true motivations between friends." Good stuff, although a little picky. In any case, would we prefer such honesty or Hill's dishonesty and failure to serve the people? There are very few politicians who serve the people; most are serving special interest groups-- the lifeblood of electoral politics in a democracy. Hill is about par for that unfortunate course-- from his passion for earmarks to his failure to speak on a range of issues that are quite harmful to the working poor and middle class.

In TDW's comments on her original posting, she says "I know you trolls love to make Baron out to be some liberal, but guess what? That attack failed in 2006, and it'll fail next year, too." There's a lot that could be said here-- ranging from how Baron is too liberal in some arenas and not nearly "liberal" enough on other issues (the War and working poor/middle class issues). But suffice it to say that if you're content with either Hill or Sodrel, you're too easily pleased, not paying attention, or willing to compromise a lot.

HP turns the story into a slam on "career" politician Hill and TDW.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Republican Mike Sodrel made an appearance at a Bloomington GOP event last week and -- according to some who attended -- sounded very much like a candidate for Congress.

But on Friday, the three-time candidate and one-time winner of the 9th District U.S. House seat said he won't make an announcement -- one way or the other -- until the first week in October. He said that's the latest it would be wise to wait.

"I need to do it early enough that I can get started or early enough that someone else get can started," Sodrel said by phone from his home.

As you might expect, this is a widely anticipated decision....

In both of those cases, the campaigns from both sides were brutal. Last week, Sodrel said that's one of his considerations. "It's hard for the granddaughters to watch the campaign ads," said Sodrel, a trucking company executive. "I know it's coming. Even if your opponent doesn't buy it, his friends will."

But Sodrel said while there's pressure not to run from his family, there's plenty of pressure to jump back into the race from those on the outside. That's not surprising. He's been a proven fundraiser in the past -- though that's probably more a testament to the closeness of the races than to his own devotion to making the difficult money calls. He's certainly well known in the district, having run three times and served for two years.

The decision may come down to two key factors: The enthusiasm of his supporters and the Democratic presidential primary. The former is obvious. It takes a huge team of eager volunteers to make a campaign for Congress credible. But the latter could be important as well.

Sodrel doesn't likely have the time to find out whether Clinton will be the nominee before he runs. He just can't wait that long. "It's time to make up my mind," he said, "and either do it or not."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

what Hill said about what Petraeus said (revisited)

We have been teased by this president for far too long, and the tease continues. Unfortunately, American lives are at stake...

I was struck by Baron twice using the word "tease"-- and then noting that American lives are at stake.

Of course, Baron has been "teasing" his constituents when he claims to be pro-life, a fiscal conservative, and a friend of the working poor and those in the middle class.

And notably and "unfortunately", American lives are at stake in the context of abortion. Whether we look through the lens of science-- where it is a certainty that human life is sacrificed through abortion-- or through the lens of ethics/morality/religion where it is an abomination to treat human life in such a cavalier manner, Baron's position here is a fatal tease.

In the context of fiscal conservatism and the state of the working poor and the middle class, it's the quality of life for the more marginal members of society that's at stake. Baron and the Democrats continue to saddle the American taxpayers (current and future) with staggering spending and debt. And Baron continues to say nothing about payroll taxes, the 1% rate of return for Social Security (and a negative rate of return for African-Americans), substantive education reform, policies that increase the price of food, clothing and shelter, and policies that lock the working poor out of labor markets.

Baron is quite a tease himself. And at the end of the day and the end of the tease, it should be obvious that the Emperor/Baron doesn't have any clothes on.