This better not become a trend.
The Pierce County [Washington] Sheriff’s Department is searching for five people who allegedly attacked a uniformed National Guardsmen walking along 138th Street in Parkland Tuesday afternoon.
The soldier was walking to a convenience store when a sport utility vehicle pulled up alongside him and the driver asked if he was in the military and if he had been in any action.
The driver then got out of the vehicle, displayed a gun and shouted insults at the victim. Four other suspects exited the vehicle and knocked the soldier down, punching and kicking him.
“And during the assault the suspects called him a baby killer. At that point they got into the car and drove off and left him on the side of the road,” Detective Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News.
I hope that the anti-war crowd is as strong in their condemnation of this unconscionable action as anti-abortion leaders have been against Murderers for Life.
Violent protests in support of peaceful aims are not just hypocritical, they are wrong. People on all sides of this issue have a duty to condemn such reprehensible conduct.
How a neighborhood quickly deteriorates due to illegal immigration, and what I will do to stop it
Last week’s brutal slaying of Mary Sadler hit close to home for me. We used to live just one block from the scene of the murder.
I spent several days last week going door-to-door hearing what my old neighbors had to say. What I learned is that even before the murder, people were already concerned about those living at the home of the alleged murderer, as well as several other neighborhood houses where illegals aliens are thought to live. Many neighbors think that illegals are quickly causing their neighborhood to deteriorate. And here is how they described the process:
When a landlord rents a house, he assumes risk by letting the tenant into the home. To mitigate that risk the landlord almost always requires a credit check on the tenant. For that you need the tenant’s social security number. (When we lived in Cross Timbers, we rented a home and underwent a credit check.)
Well, since an illegal alien doesn’t have a valid social security number, a credit check usually turns up no credit record, and thus identifies the potential tenant as a bad risk. The only way a landlord is going to rent to such a person, is to raise the rent to compensate for the higher risk. So the first problem with renting to illegal aliens is that landlords exploit the alien’s illegal status by charging more than the house or apartment is worth.
The next problem is that the higher rent often causes the tenant to have to split the payment with one or more other families. (Neighbors pointed out two houses around the corner where in each, there were three families living.) More people in a house means more wear and tear on the house. Physically, the property deteriorates faster.
However, by virtue of his illegal status, the tenant has little legal recourse to force a landlord to maintain the home as he is required to by law and by the rental agreement. And obviously, the tenant himself has even less incentive to upkeep the property since he is both illegal and very temporary.
You can see why a landlord, if he is unscrupulous, might want to rent to illegal aliens. He can charge a higher rent, and pay less for maintenance on the property than if he rented to a qualified legal renter.
However, the people who pay the price are the neighbors. They get to watch once nice homes turn quickly into a state of disrepair: Broken windows aren’t fixed, shutters don’t get painted, old roofs aren’t replaced, lawns aren’t mowed, and flower beds turn to weeds.
It’s been only six years since we moved away from the Cross Timbers neighborhood, and already I could tell the difference. Older homeowners who have lived there for years still have beautiful homes with nicely manicured lawns and gardens. But more and more those nice homes are like islands in a sea of mediocre rental properties, some of which are monstrous eyesores.
Today, a young family looking to buy a reasonably priced home is more likely to bypass an established neighborhood like Cross Timbers for one of the newer subdivisions in the Bellevue area. Especially after a brutal murder has hit the neighborhood.
So what can we do to protect neighbors and neighborhoods from the deteriorating effects of an influx of illegal aliens?
I will propose legislation to make it a criminal offense to knowingly rent to an illegal alien. I certainly don’t want to add more regulations and requirements. It’s already hard enough to be a small businessman. However, this requirement adds no additional burden to the landlord, since in his regular due diligence when renting the property, he already should have done a credit check which would have identified the illegal potential renter.
The penalty for the crime of knowingly renting to an illegal alien will be a multiple of the rental income on the property. That alone should be enough to deter the crime, since it removes the potential financial advantage of renting to illegal aliens.
For most Tennesseans, our homes are the biggest purchase we will ever make. Those four walls and a roof, are not just physical shelter, they offer financial protection. The equity built up in a home is very often a large part of our retirement plans. We owe it to our neighbors to protect their investments and our neighborhoods.
To the best of my recollection, I have voted for two Democrats in contested races in my lifetime. The first one is the man who is currently my opponent in the 21st State Senate District, and the second is U.S. Representative Jim Cooper, whom I supported two years ago. (Jim, don’t misconstrue this to mean that I’m coming after your seat next–you can keep your weekly commute to that city of northern charm and southern efficiency.)
I say this in order to point out that, though I’m a Republican, occasionally the Democratic candidate is the better person for the job. And occasionally, the Democrat even more closely adheres to the traditionally Republican position than do some Republicans. Yesterday I saw an example of that when Jim Cooper spoke at the American Legion Post 5 luncheon.
Rep. Cooper is on a book tour of sorts. He has reprinted the Financial Report of the United States Government. This is a free government document but was originally produced only in a limited supply, hence the reprint. (It’s also available free in pdf format.)
This booklet is the official balance sheet for the United States government using accrual-based accounting. Let me first offer a definition and some explanation.
In accrual basis accounting, accrued expense is a liability resulting from an expense for which no invoice or other official document is available yet. Similarly, accrued revenue is an asset resulting from a revenue for which no official document was issued yet. The other side of the entry will always be a profit and loss account – expense in the first case and revenue in the latter one.
A company is making an accounting close on the last day of December. During the closing works, they realize that they still have not received an invoice for telephone calls made during December, as the invoice is usually issued several days after month-end. However, they are able to determine the expected amount which will be invoiced. Because the calls were made in that year, the liability exists already at the end of December. As such, the company needs to record an accrual – a liability that exists, but for which no official document is available yet.
In other words, accrual based accounting recognizes the present value of future expenses and revenues, and accounts for them in order to give a more accurate reflection of an organization’s fiscal position.
The other common accounting method is cash-based accounting, which only recognizes actual income and outlays, but ignores future debts. The government requires most companies to use accrual-based accounting. But which accounting method do you think the government requires for itself? Obviously the one that ignores future debts.
It was not too long ago that it was my party that was hawkish on deficits. In fact, President Bush made quite the point about the crippling effect of future Social Security outlays. However, no one seemed willing to even acknowledge the pending problem, so the issue went away–for now.
According to the official government report our deficit in 2005 was not $319 billion as is commonly reported, but was $760 billion using accrual-based accounting. (It’s actually about four times higher if you take into account social security and medicare.)
One of the reasons for the difference is that interest rates have gone up. Think of it as if the government has an adjustable rate mortgage. Another reason is that we have pushed expenses to the “out years” where possible, but we’ve incurred the obligations today. Like paying only the minimum balance on your credit cards, you can only do that for so long, while adding more and more credit card debt, before it eventually catches up to you.
Unfortunately, neither party has an incentive to identify (much less, fix) the problem. Republicans in Congress want to still claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility (even as they add more pork spending), while Democrats dare not address fundamental structural problems with social security and medicare that would risk alienating huge portions of their voter base. So problems are pushed off in a bipartisan manner for as long as they can. But a reckoning will come, and it will come while the Baby Boomers are drawing checks written by my generation and the generation after mine.
Rep. Cooper is one of the few elected officials who publicly recognizes the coming financial catastrophe, and that’s why I applaud him for at least ringing the bell. Unfortunately, he’s not without his own difficulties when it comes to spending. Remember the $3 million government grant to a private religious college to build a parking garage that was contained within the huge transportation bill last year? (If I’m permitted to make an analogy between Congressmen addicted to pork and alcoholism, Jim Cooper is at step one of a 12-step program: He at least acknowledges that he has a pork addiction. But that puts him one step ahead of most of Congress, and unfortunately, even most Republicans.)
I recently re-read what I wrote a year ago last week about that pork-laden transportation bill:
National Republicans enter the next election cycle with two huge problems . . . Republican inability to control spending and borders. These are two issues high on the list of base Republican voters. Lose the base, and Republicans lose the election.
Unfortunately for national Republicans (and for those local Republicans, like myself, who are in down-ticket races), I have to stand by my earlier prediction. National Republicans will likely lose the next election cycle. Especially since there are Democrats like Jim Cooper who are sounding more traditionally Republican about deficits than even many Republicans.
The City Paper’s John Rodgers wrote a story this morning on the possibility of reducing the state sales tax on food. Those in favor of reducing the tax: Governor Bredesen, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Bryson, and me. Those opposed: Senator Douglas Henry.
Senator Henry has long opposed reducing the sales tax on food because it is a “stable” source of tax revenue.
I apparently didn’t describe my plan clearly enough when I spoke with Mr. Rodgers, so let me explain. I believe that budget surplus money should only be used to build up the rainy day fund or to reduce taxes. To reduce taxes, the state “refunds” a portion of the 2006 budget surplus in the form of a temporary tax cut in 2007.
The budget year just ended saw a $411 million surplus. (BTW, the state sales tax on food in 2005 brought in $443 million, meaning that the surplus alone could have nearly eliminated the entire sales tax on food.) I would have put $200 million into the state’s rainy day fund–that’s nearly double what did go into the fund at the end of fiscal year 2006. The remaining $211 million would have gone into an account that would replace the lost tax revenue as a result of cutting the sales tax on food in half for 2007. At the end of the FY2007, any budget surpluses would again be rolled over into the following year in order to extend the temporary tax cut.
Senator Henry objected to my plan to return extra tax revenue to taxpayers ”because it would use one-time money to pay for an expense that reoccurs.” However, that’s exactly what the Legislature did when it obligated $300 million of the budget surplus to reoccurring expenses.
Another objection to my plan came from State Finance Commissioner David Goetz, who said that state lawmakers may have to make the “politically unfortunate” decision to ”increase” the future tax rate if the surpluses run out. However, the burden should always be upon the Legislature to justify a tax increase. Instead, now the burden is upon the taxpayers to ask for their surplus money back. That’s just simply not right.
While Senator Henry and I are both concerned about Tennessee’s fiscal health, we seem to have a fundamental disagreement about whose money it is. Taxes are your money. And when the state takes in more than it needs, the state has an obligation to either set the money aside for the future, or to return it to you in the form of a tax break. The Legislature has no right to spend surplus money.
My plan would have put $200 million of the surplus revenue into the rainy day fund, and would have returned the other half to you in the form of a 3% reduction in the sales tax on food in the upcoming fiscal year.
Instead now, the rainy day fund grew only half as much, your sales tax on food is twice what it could have been, and now the state has obligated an additional $300 million worth of reoccurring spending.
My plan isn’t just better for the state’s fiscal health. It’s a better plan for the fiscal health of Tennessee’s citizens and families.
Let me describe the difference between me and Senator Henry even more succinctly:
Senator Henry objects to my plan to reduce a regressive sales tax on food by $200 million because the tax cut might not be sustainable in the long run, but he supported a reoccurring spending increase of $300 million.
Which one of us do you want guarding your money?
Tomorrow morning I’ll be playing softball with the Young Republicans as the GOP defends our crown against the Davidson County Young Democrats. Please come out to Two Rivers Park and join us. The game is at 10:30, and lunch follows at noon.
If you’re interested, as I am, in the nexis of government and blogging, you really should be reading Bill Hobbs these days. After some initial resistance, he has been media credentialed to cover the National Conference of State Legislators forum on blogging.
Here’s an excerpt from his report about a presentation given by Utah State Representative and Majority Whip, Steve Urquhart:
Urquhart says his blog and the information he’s received from readers via comments and emails responding to a blog post has helped him pass legislation. “I’ve passed some legislation that I wouldn’t have been able to pass, or it wouldn’t have been in as good shape as it was, if it were not for the [feedback] from my blog.”
He says that, when he started his blog, some thought he was nuts, telling him that opponents “are going to take things out of context” and use it against him in a future campaign. But he’s finding instead that people are appreciative of the blog, even if they don’t always agree with him on issues. “You can show that in a blog – that you are attentive to the people and listening to what they have to say.”
The biggest benefit from blogging . . . is the opennes it conveys to constituents.
Blogging is not the be all and end all. However, it is a great way for legislators to stay in touch with constituents in a forum where both are on a level playing field. That is so rare in today’s era of carefully sculpted political events where audiences and issues are sanitized of anything controversial or difficult.
I hope that Urquhart’s comments reach the ears of other Tennessee Legislators who come to recognize the benefits of blogging’s openness and transparency.
Read the whole thing. And make sure to stop back by Bill’s place for updates.
Charlie of Charlie411 irregularly posts his recollections of Nashville’s past. All of his articles are great reads.
As this is the first week of school for many area kids, Charlie writes today about the early days of integrated schools. It’s an interesting, and scary, story of racism and hatred from 49 Septembers ago right here in Nashville.
. . . the mob turned its wrath on the black school custodian, who saw what was happening and ran from the building. I’m sure his life was spared when he managed to get away from the mob, but not before they trashed his parked car and gleefully set it on fire.
Read the whole thing.
If you were an experienced economist who was looking to escape California’s high taxes and stagnant economy, where would you relocate?
Well, if your name was Arthur Laffer (yes, that Art Laffer) you would move to Tennessee.
There are nine states in the U.S. with zero income tax. Tennessee happens to be one of them. I think that is a critical feature of any business being run. Why would you go to a state that has an income tax that’s ruining its population? This state has done a beautiful job,” he said.
There’s more here.
You can bet that an economist of Mr. Laffer’s stature analyzed every facet before deciding to move to Middle Tennessee. His example is why we must keep there from being a state income tax in Tennessee so that we can continue to be a beacon to the best and brightest from around the world.
From time to time, I want to ask you what you think about certain issues. The first question is what do you think is the most important issue that will confront Tennessee during the next year?
Please answer and comment below. I’d like to know what you think. You can only vote once, so if you’re torn between two or more answers, explain why in the comment section.
Still on the subject of the TMA’s questionnaire. The last question the TMA asked me was whether or not I supported repealing the requirement for certificates of need. The City Paper makes that topic the subject of their lead editorial today. I encourage you to read it.
This is a “boring” health care issue, but please bear with me for a minute. In Tennesseee, as in several other states, before you are allowed to build or add on to a hospital or clinic, you have to go to the state and ask for permission. No, this is not a building permit, and no, this requirement doesn’t just apply to public hospitals.
This is a regulation, specific only to the medical community, which requires that the state must first determine whether or not there is a enough need to justify a new facility.
Proponents of the existing rules, as the City Paper points out, argue that “competition can often drive the cost of health care up for patients.”
Let that sink in for a minute . . . Now remember back to the most basic laws of supply and demand that you learned in Economics 101. The proponents have it exactly backwards.
To see why this is true, imagine that restaurants had this rule. Were Whitt’s Barbecue and Judge Bean’s allowed to lobby the state to deny a restaurant license to proposed barbecue joints, Mothership BBQ might never have been born in Berry Hill. Without the increased competition, existing barbecue joints wouldn’t face increased pressure that keeps prices low and quality high. As a result of the competition the consumers win.
The same is true in medicine. In fact, as I have argued before, one of the ways to tackle health care problems in Tennessee is to introduce market forces into the system. The existing rules requiring a certificate of need deny consumers the positive effects of competitive pressures on the marketplace. It keeps medical costs high, and quality of service low.
Just like any other industry, hospitals should be free to invest in new locations where they think there is adequate demand to justify the service. Since it is their money at stake, they have a much better feel for the issue than does a government bureaucrat.
Therefore, I support the repeal of anti-competitive laws requiring a certificate of need, and would consider abolishing the entire commission if that is there only purpose.