Questions for Governor Ritter

Hi All;

I have a goodbye interview with Governor Ritter this Wednesday @ 3:00. What would you ask him as he looks back at his term and forward to what the new administration faces?

Congressman Jared Polis – the story behind the story on the tax compromise

(Bumped into Friday, highly discussable – promoted by Colorado Pols)

FRIDAY POLS UPDATE: For details of the Colorado delegation’s split vote on the tax cut compromise, check Phoenix Rising’s latest diary.

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Congressman Polis was kind enough to talk to me last night and explain what was going on behind the scenes on the tax compromise bill from the Democratic House perspective. It’s a fascinating story with several parts posturing, several parts negotiating, and a sprinkling of making a point. It’s not politics as we learn it in the textbooks, but it is politics as it is actually practiced. And thank you to Jared for laying out what was actually going on. (I think how Jared and others in the House handled this bodes well for their being able to negotiate well from the minority over the next 2 years.)

Jared first discussed all the efforts involved in the lame duck session, and how crazy it is trying to move all that through. First is the omnibus appropriations bill or a continuing resolution, the DREAM act, DADT, the defense authorization bill might come back from the Senate without DADT, and then the tax bill. He has been so busy that he was never in his office all day with all the meetings going on, including he is on the steering & policy committee which is presently working out who all the Democratic ranking committee members will be.

The Tax Compromise

I then asked Jared what he was doing, thinking, voting, etc. over the last couple of weeks on the tax bill. He started off by saying the big items in the bill at first were addressing the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and revising the estate tax. And he stated that he supports the bill. Then he went into the full history (the next several paragraphs is my paraphrasing Jared’s explanation):

In November of 2009 the House passed an Estate tax that he found reasonable and he not only supported it but was a floor manager of the bill. Instead of the estate tax dropping to 0% for 2010, it would have set it at 45% on everything passed on over 3.5 million. The Senate did not act and so the estate tax has been 0% this year. Jared described the 0% inheritance tax as “in my mind is a travesty” (very good to hear such strong words on this).

Next about a month ago the House passed a very clean tax bill that let the cuts expire on income over 250 thousand and retained them for the first 250 thousand of income. This was a bill he ran on and supported. It went to the Senate where it got 53 votes and therefore failed. So we were then facing a course where all the tax cuts expire which was not a course he supported. A family making 40K would see their taxes go up 1K/year, a family making 60K would see an increase of 1.5K. Jared also pointed out that this was the platform both he and President Obama ran on and this is an area where he fully supports the President.

So Congress was then looking at a significant increase in taxes when people are struggling to stay afloat, coupled “with something that is even more onerous … the expiration of unemployment benefits.” Specifically there are several thousand Coloradans a week who will roll off unemployment starting next week “right before Christmas” if this is not renewed. Jared then added “I have no confidence that Republicans would renew unemployment benefits.”

My $0.02: I think it’s a key point that Jared (and therefore certainly many other Democratic Congress people) believe that with a Republican majority there will be no extension of unemployment benefits. And that is a very reasonable assumption. As such, continuing extended unemployment benefits becomes now or never.

Therefore that required a trade. President Obama wanted the middle class tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits. What was the price for that? Tax cuts for the wealthy “which seems to be their legislative priority.” The Republicans held the Democratic parts hostage because they had the power to do so. In addition “my party, the Democratic party did not do very well in the election and they’re coming to town.” And so come January if we Democrats wait till then we are likely to get less or nothing.

There’s no advantage in waiting for a worse deal later. He understands philosophically the desire to let the Republicans screw it up, but in responsibility to his district, he cannot let unemployment benefits to run out and allow a tax increase to hit the middle class. And the President had limited leverage because of the upcoming change in Congress.

I then asked if the tax cut for the millionaires was the only part the Republicans cared about. Jared replied “it seems to be … yeah that’s what they want, they want some adjustment on the estate tax as well.” He then said that there was bi-partisan support for adjusting the estate tax because the minimum next year is 1 million and that’s a problem for many family farms and other small family businesses. What is in the bill is not as good as the House bill last year (35% above 5 million vs. the House’s 45% above 3.5 million).

My $0.02: Jared is rich, moderate, and a strong believer in the power of the free enterprise system. If anyone is going to find common ground with the Republicans in Congress, Jared will. And he sees them as interested solely in giving more to the rich. I’d say that’s a pretty clear indicator of Republican intent.

One of the things the progressive caucus wanted to get in the bill was to continue the renewable energy tax credits. This was “one of the reasons you saw our caucus, the Democratic caucus, doing some posturing.” That gave us some leverage in negotiating some changes. This posturing led to an agreement by the Republicans to add the renewable energy grants, a couple of renewal energy tax credits, etc.

I asked if some of the last week was primarily a negotiating ploy. Jared replied “we wanted to show there was ambiguity as to if it could even pass the house … I thought that was a good idea, not that the remarks to the press were not genuinely heartfelt … but the reason we all joined in on this was that strategically they should not take the House Democrats for granted.” That there had to be some concessions to the House Democrats.

In the negotiations, the House Democrats were not involved, the House Republicans were not involved, the Senate Democrats were not involved. It was just the President and the Senate Republicans. So this was a way to push back and make the bill a little better. (And probably also a way to remind Obama and McConnell that they couldn’t take the House for granted.)

But after that was done “not passing a bill is unconsciousable and contrary to everything the Democrats stand for” to allow unemployment benefits to run out in the midst of a recession and to have a tax hike on low and middle income workers.

DADT

I next asked about DADT – does he think it will pass the Senate. Jared first talked about how wonderful it was they passed a stand-alone bill in the House, including 15 Republicans voting for it. He then pointed out that it has the votes in the Senate so it’s merely a matter of timing and scheduling. But he said that first the Senate has to figure out how to keep the government open. But then, if there’s time, then yes.

I then asked him to look 10 years out, every state will have gay marriage – at that point what will be the next major civil rights issue. He said that’s hard to predict but quite possibly it could be poverty or education. Jared pointed out that the quality of a child’s education is decided by the neighborhood they live in, that we have some fine public schools, but we also have some with a 60% drop out rate. (I think providing a quality education to all could well be the next civil rights struggle.)

Next Year

I first asked if he thinks this country can get serious about debt when the Senate will not allow a tax increase on millionaires. Jared replied that he was encouraged by President Obama’s leadership in this including the fiscal commission and the ideas coming from several progressive groups. The tax bill makes things worse, but the big issues are medium and long term, not short term. So we do need to insure we don’t bankrupt our country, but he’s encouraged by the President’s efforts on this.

I next asked about the housing crisis. Jared’s immediate reply was that many families are barely scraping by and barely making their house payment. If the tax cuts expire we will see a lot more foreclosures as more families can no longer cover their mortgage payment. So if we don’t renew the tax cuts for the middle class, the housing crisis will be worse. Ditto if unemployment benefits expire.

He then discussed how Colorado has had a long bottom for a couple of years, unlike Las Vegas which is still in really bad shape. Talking specifically about Adam & Boulder County, we’ve had stagnation for awhile, but he doesn’t think it will get worse. And a “very progressive” part of the tax bill reduces the payroll tax on the first 108K. This will again help people with their mortgage payments. So, while foreclosures are still high, they have dropped some and should continue to drop.

I followed up asking if the payroll tax cut will damage social security, by making it permanent and then having to reduce social security to match that cut. Jared replied “no.” As a progressive cut it’s good, as a strong stimulus it’s good. He then discussed how social security has long term issues that we need to address. Yes it will move forward a year or two when they need to address social security, but we need to address it regardless. Addressing it will probably be raising the cap, means testing the benefits, etc. when they need to take steps to keep social security solvent.

Next I asked if he thought Congress next year would be able to do anything effective on jobs or effective stimulus. Jared first discussed the simulative effect of the compromise bill. Then speaking of next year he said “I don’t see any kind of jobs effort coming from the Republicans. They’ve certainly been devoid of ideas this session.” He then added that if they presented any ideas, he would be thrilled to work with them on it.

My final question was does Washington have less of a gut feel for the recession as unemployment is stovepiped in certain segments and so our Congress people don’t see it first-hand. He started off saying a third of the Democratic staff are out of work (because of the flip due to the election results). So they know many people specifically who are out of work and struggling to find a new job. He then discussed how Congress people see this constantly when they are back in their district, talking to people, etc. Jared runs in to people all the time that have lost jobs, can’t find work, are underemployed, etc. So he is directly aware of how tough and desperate it is for many, speaking eloquently and emotionally about this.

Jared’s Closing Statement

I asked Jared if there was anything he wanted to add. He talked about how next session is going to be interesting because he doesn’t know what it will be like to be in the minority (I know – it sucks). “We will not be running the place, we will be responding, messaging.” He then added the good news is the Democrats won’t have the responsibility of governing but instead can attack the Republicans for their mistakes. “I say that wearing my political hat, but wearing my American hat I really hope they come up with some good ideas.”

He then added that this tax bill is one of the most difficult bills he will vote for, because it has a lot of things in it he does not support. But that it is far better, not even a close call, passing a bill rather than allowing unemployment insurance to expire and presenting the middle class with a huge tax hike.

Full recording of interview (including 2 times when he had to put me on hold): JaredPolis.wma

Jared’s letter to his colleagues regarding the bill (pie charts are evil but the letter is good): Dear_Colleague_Obama_Tax_Proposal22.pdf

Senator Michael Johnston Interview

First off an apology, I forgot my recorder and so was not able to record the interview. So we’re going by my memory and a couple of notes I made. Consider all “quotes” to be paraphrases.

We started off with Senator Johnston asking me about my idea to address TABOR, etc. He was interested because most every Republican I have mentioned it to finds it an interesting alternative and so it might get wide support. The idea is to eliminate all budget restrictions in the constitution and replace it with a limit that total state revenues from all sources cannot exceed X% of the state GDP averaged over the previous 3 years.

Michael’s first response was why not a percentage of total state income (fine with me). But he then discussed that an approach like this would let the legislature then adjust different revenue sources without having to take each change to the voters. He was a bit plaintive about the fact that in no other state do they need to go to the voters at all, but did accept that in Colorado the voters insist on being asked.

My first question was on SB-191. I said that passing the legislation was the easy part, implementing it effectively is the hard part. Michael said he’s recently learned that and plans to stay heavily involved in the process as it moves through the Governor’s Council, then to the Board of Education, and then back to the legislature.

He said the Council is doing a great job with everyone, including the CEA members, are working diligently to build a really good system. So he is continuing to pay attention to this and realizes he’s just started down this path.

I next asked what he’s going to focus on this year. Three main areas. The first is to give instate tuition for undocumented children who live in Colorado. He was very passionate in his discussion about how it is the right thing to do and is of benefit to the state of Colorado. (He’s right on both counts.)

Second was energy where he is introducing three pieces of legislation. First is a bill to make it easy for homeowners to get a loan to improve the energy efficiency of their house and then split the savings in the monthly utility bill with half going to pay off the loan and half they keep (nice incentive). He agreed virtually all homeowners can do this today going to their banks, but this will make it a single step and that ease means more will do it.

Second (on Energy) is to have all buildings, residential and commercial, when sold or rented get an energy use rating so that the purchaser or tenant knows what their probable utility bill will be. He says he particularly likes the system Washington state has in place. The idea is that facilities that have high energy usage will have a stronger incentive to improve as the bad rating will make it harder to sell or rent the building.

Third (on energy) is to improve the transmission lines in the state. Senator Johnston says between wind and solar potential in this state, we have enough to power all of California. But that power needs a way to get to California. He wants to modernize the grid (it presently is antiquated) and set up a system to carry all the excess power we can generate to California.

I asked about getting it through the states between here and California and he discussed how the states are going to work together to create a transmission super line, but he then said that he had not discussed this with any other states. (So good idea, but I think there’s quite a bit of homework remaining for this one.)

I next asked Michael what he’ll do after his terms are up. He said he hadn’t given it any thought and that 7 years will be the longest he’s ever held a single job. (The way he put this and acted, I think he was being truthful.) He then offered that if he went back to being a principal after this, he would be very happy. I observed that those are two different roles, the principal is an executive while the Senate is legislative. He agreed but said they each had their advantages.

My $0.02: Senator Johnston in passing SB-191 had arguably the most impact of any single legislator in the last session. And he did that as the most junior member. To a lot of people heavily involved in politics that screams fast track and they’re figuring he’s on the road up and is eyeing what’s next – governor, department head, etc.

I think it’s a lot simpler, he’s in the legislature to improve the lot of the people of Colorado through the legislation he passes, the services he protects, etc. He’s focused on the job he can do there, not on using it as a stepping stone. And I think this makes him a much better and more effective legislator.

We then switched to asking what Republicans he looked to to find common ground. He first listed Josh Penry and said he will miss him as Josh was really good to work with. He next listed Senator Brophy and said while they tended to widely disagree, Greg was always thoughtful, willing to listen, and would look for compromise. And finally he listed Nancy Spense as a moderate he could find common ground with in many cases.

And then the flip side, what Democrats are so locked in to their views that there’s no point in working with them. I got a look of “is any politician dumb enough to answer a question like that” and said none of them. He said that all of them were open-minded and that they are  a good group. (Hey, it was worth a shot.)

I next asked about the Fed’s actions addressing the depression. He talked about how ARRA stopped states and local governments from being devastated and that many would have been forced into bankruptcy. He then discussed the upcoming compromise bill saying that while he wasn’t thrilled with it, he supported it, then launching into a discussion about how many people in his district are dependent on the unemployment insurance extensions in the bill.

Senator Johnston brought up the very valid point that most on the right wing are screaming that the compromise bill is unacceptable, and to him that’s a sign that it is a fair compromise – that both wings are against it. (That is a very good way to measure it.) He then added that once it is passed, the Democrats have to work hard to bring back the progressive wing.

I then brought up the question of does the state have a strategic plan. Michael said that yes, but that the governor has a plan, the Republicans in the Senate have a plan, the Democrats in the Senate have a plan,… He then discussed how Governor Ritter had a very clear strategic view on education and green energy – and did a superb job implementing that plan (very true). He sees the present strategic plan being to increase jobs in the state and continue to protect and support the people in the state.

Next up was the question of measuring the impact of state actions, improvements, tax exemptions, etc. Michael immediately jumped on the fact that none of the predicted negative impacts from eliminating some tax exemptions occurred and in fact companies like Pepsi that predicted layoffs actually increased hiring. (My guess is this is indicative of many in the legislature and so they will be very willing to eliminate additional exemptions – and ignore any predictions of negative consequences.)

He also said there is nothing in place to measure the impact of anything the state does. He agrees it is something the state should do. (Legislators have limited time and bandwidth – I think Senator Johnston will support anything along these lines, but he’s not going to drive it.)

I then asked if state departments should be antagonistic toward business. His reply was “I hope not.” When I took him through my experience with the Department of Revenue where they could not answer 2/3 of our questions and they told us to ask a tax expert (and left unsaid that they would then come after us if they disagreed) – he was very surprised. He started asking me questions about how the state could best give businesses clear answers so they could know they were correctly following the law. I suggested that they should provide answers, and live with that answer for a year – this was one of the two times he took notes, so maybe we’ll see improvement here.

I next asked him what program he would end. Michael’s first comment was that when the budget situation is this grim, everyone looks to what they will try to keep and silence is viewed as consent to cut. So legislators are focused on what to save. But he then after some thought said that he would support drastically reducing DARE (which I think is the polite way of saying end). He said that reviews of the program showed that it didn’t have much impact (I have read that too).

Then the flip side, I asked what program he would like to create. He immediately said the career ladders proposal in SB-191. This is a program for the top teachers to document their best practices and then teachers who are new or struggling can look up what has worked well teaching the same subject, and makes use of the practices that best fit their situation. This is a part of the bill that was going to be funded by Race to the Top, but the Governor’s Council can propose the state funding it and the legislature can hopefully scrape up the funds (that they saved from DARE).

My $0.02: There are a significant number of teachers who think Senator Johnston wants to fire lots of teachers. I don’t think that is true at all and I think his answer here illustrates that his focus is on making teachers successful.

Next up was TABOR. Michael’s first discussed the fiscal commission that is looking at this whole mess and he is interested in what they will come up with. He then thinks we will either need to do a one-time revocation of the one-issue rule (as an amendment) followed by an amendment that undoes TABOR and the other constraints (his first choice). Or they will need to put a tax increase on the ballot (his second choice).

I asked him if he was open to a constitutional convention and he said yes. However, he was not aware that this route requires three elections and that put a bit of a damper on his support for the idea.

I then asked about his level of constituent service (I heard a complaint). He apologized for doing poorly on it and said his goal now is to answer everything within 1 week. And he asked me to put out a plea – if you have sent him an email and not received a response, please resend your email. He did try to track down the complaint I heard but was unable to find it. (This is definitely not his strong suit but he is trying to do better.)

I closed out by asking if he had any advice for his fellow Democrats. Michael’s reply was that no, he’s still learning. (Clearly he does not view himself as an expert or major player.) He then went on to say they will have to work differently this year unlike last year when a D on the bill pretty much guaranteed passage (that’s sad). And they will need to focus on growing jobs and providing core services.

Conclusion

Senator Johnston is personable, smart, & energetic, but so are many others in the legislature. What I think makes him stand out is he’s focused on accomplishing his goals and fine that the job is short term. And he’s clearly willing to put it all on the line to accomplish his goals. Michael is not in the legislature on the way to somewhere else, or to accomplish various items in the future – he’s there to get some things done today and tomorrow.

I think this makes him a very effective legislator. And my bet is in 9 years he’ll be a principal again putting the same focus and energy into his school.

Questions for Congressman Jared Polis

At 7:00pm tonight so get those suggestions in quickly.

Update: It was a really good interview and Jared answered in detail about the last 2 weeks (and a lot more). I’ll try to get this posted by tomorrow afternoon.

Thank you for the suggested questions (some were used).

The WikiLeaks release

Some very thoughtful commentary about why this information should be released.

From the New York Times

The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match.



But the more important reason to publish these articles is that the cables tell the unvarnished story of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the country most heavily in lives and money. They shed light on the motivations – and, in some cases, duplicity – of allies on the receiving end of American courtship and foreign aid. They illuminate the diplomacy surrounding two current wars and several countries, like Pakistan and Yemen, where American military involvement is growing. As daunting as it is to publish such material over official objections, it would be presumptuous to conclude that Americans have no right to know what is being done in their name.

And from The Guardian

The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment,” he wrote. Furthermore, he says, the paper informed the US government in advance about what they planned to publish and redacted certain information that might put individuals’ lives at risk or compromise ongoing military operations. “The State Department knew of the leak several months ago and had ample time to alert staff in sensitive locations,” Jenkins says. “Its pre-emptive scaremongering over the weekend stupidly contrived to hint at material not in fact being published.

And what do they show. We’ll we’re just starting to get the details and a lot of it is not at all surprising. Most everyone is out for themselves, many countries are incredibly corrupt, and our diplomats are often both heavy handed and inept.

What is worrisome is that there is so much pressure behind the scenes to solve problems by starting additional wars and otherwise continuing with business as usual. As Simon Jenkins says:

The money-wasting is staggering. Aid payments are never followed, never audited, never evaluated. The impression is of the world’s superpower roaming helpless in a world in which nobody behaves as bidden. Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the United Nations, are all perpetually off script. Washington reacts like a wounded bear, its instincts imperial but its power projection unproductive.

America’s foreign policy is revealed as a slave to rightwing drift, terrified of a bomb exploding abroad or of a pro-Israeli congressman at home. If the cables tell of the progress to war over Iran or Pakistan or Gaza or Yemen, their revelation might help debate the inanity of policies which, as Patterson says, seem to be leading in just that direction. Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event. If that is not in the public’s interest, I fail to see what is.

Tons of details at the New York Times and Huffington Post

Fixing our broken system

Ok, the election is over, now it’s time to start thinking about governing instead of campaigning. Through all of this, it consistently struck me that we have three gigantic problems that we are not addressing. If we don’t fix these three, then we are going to remain stuck and stuck is not a pretty place.  

First we need to reform campaign financing. Successful candidates have to spend 6+ hours every single day to raise the funds they need for the Senate, close to that for the House, and it’s getting up there for competitive state offices both executive and legislative. This is fundamentally corrupting because people, be they an individual contributing 5 bucks, a business executive contributing $2,400.00, or a lobbyist bundling 100k, are only going to contribute to a candidate who will advance their interests. And the larger the checks, the more specific the interests.

This is why Wall St. has the Senate by the balls. You can’t raise the money needed to win without contributions from there – lots and lots of contributions. I don’t think most Senators like the limits they face to raise enough money to win. But they make the reasonable and rational decision that they will do the best they can within the limits required to get reelected – because if they don’t whoever replaces them will face those same limits. I also think that our legislators, while they enjoy the competitive advantage the present system gives them (they’re the best at raising the money), fundamentally hate the limits it places on their actions.

The bottom line is that until we change how races are financed, the victorious candidates will be constrained by their major contributors. Not owned, but constrained. And to free them to respond to us, the voters, we need to break their financial dependency. To do this I think we need to:

  1. Public financing for every candidate in the general election who is a member of a major party or who is pulling more than 10% in an average of the polls. If a candidate declines public financing, then their opponents will be funded to the same level (Jared I love you but I think we need to make financing a level field).
  2. In the primary the same thing – with a requirement that they raise X dollars from Y donors. The donors must be in their district. And those limits are enough that they do have to go sell themselves to a lot of people (a good thing), but not one that sucks up a ton of time. The purpose of this is primary funding only goes to credible candidates.
  3. There must be full disclosure of the contributors to any organization that runs any kind of political ad. If the ad is nothing more than God Bless America, they must disclose. No disclosure, then the ads cannot run. This in no way impinges on the 1st amendment as you can say anything you want, you just have to first say your name.
  4. No limits on contributions. You can contribute any amount to any person, cause, interest group, etc., including candidates who choose to avoid public financing. The money will find a way so limits just change how it is delivered and to what group. Having it go to the parties (that would be the main impact if we have public financing) actually increases accountability.

Second we need to address unemployment. The only way to turn the economy around is to reduce unemployment. As long as the economy is in the toilet government expenses are higher and government income is lower. Reducing unemployment flips that so we have reduced expenses, increased revenue, and an avenue to balancing the budget and the money to address the other problems we face.

First off, we have to be honest about the problem. The true unemployment rate is 17% including those that have given up and those who are underemployed. This is close to 30 million people. We need to get 15 million back to work or otherwise busy to bring the economy back (measuring the true rate you do have about 5% unemployed at “full employment” because people switch jobs, get fired and are looking for a month or two, etc.) So how do we do this?

  1. There are 5 million open jobs today. The big problem is that the jobs are in one place and the person who wants to take it is unemployed elsewhere – in a home where they owe more than it’s worth. So we pass a law that anyone who moves over 100 miles to take a job can walk away from their home and the bank must take it back. Yes that’s tough for the banks, but they got us into this mess, and we gave them a ton of money to fix their self-inflicted error. They can use part of the bonuses they’re presently paying to cover this.
  2. There are 20 million students in College. I figure schools can on average handle a temporary 20% increase in students using their existing infrastructure – many will be bursting at the seams but it’s doable. So we send 4 million to school. Many unemployed have skills for jobs that are not coming back, not even with full employment. What would this cost? Figure $40,000.00/year, a little over 20K to the college and a little under 20K for the student to live on. And repayment would be a percentage of their taxes so the government would make back this investment (and it is an investment that will pay off big time).
    The cost would be 160 Billion/year. If the Bush tax cuts expire for all (which is the truly sensible course), then federal income increases 370 Billion/year. So let the tax cuts lapse (all of them), implement this program, and the deficit is still cut 210 Billion/year. And this will reduce unemployment by 5 million (not 4) because colleges will need to hire additional people to teach and support the additional students.
  3. Improving our infrastructure is not only desperately needed for the future, but it is one of the most effective ways to turn the economy around (much better than tax cuts). While the direct cost of each job created by this spending is 350K/job, when you count the secondary jobs created it drops to around 200K/job (it is so high because you’re spending a lot on stuff, not people). To put 1 million to work would require spending of 200 Billion. We take that from the 210 Billion left over after letting the tax cuts expire and funding college.
  4. Ok, that’s 11 million of the 15 million. By itself that will get the economy heading upward – fast. I’ll leave it to Congress to figure out the last 4 million unemployed. Oh, and it’s a great counter argument to extending the tax cuts – you want the cuts or 6 million jobs…

Third we need to complete financial reform. The financial reform bill had some good stuff in it. But it was not enough to avoid another financial crash, and the banks are already up to many of their old tricks. When people claim it was the greatest financial reform since FDR, that’s because it was the only reform since FDR. Both parties have indulged in an orgy of financial deregulation since 1980 at the behest of their Wall St. contributors. And the result has been that all three recessions since the Clinton boom have been due to financial games.

What is needed here is straightforward, but politically difficult. I think we will need to get campaign finance reform through first because if we don’t, every legislator who votes for the below will lose their next election – and they know that. But once they are free to vote in the interests of the country we need to:

  1. Bring back Glass-Steagall. It worked superbly well for 60 years until it was removed. Tweak it a bit if necessary, but by tweak I mean make better, not eviscerate at the behest of Wall St. And until we bring it back we will continue to have recessions caused by Wall St.
  2. Break up the banks that are too big to fail. As long as a bank is too big, then it is too big to fail. And those super large banks have a tremendous advantage over their competitors because investors know the federal government will not let them fail. We did it to Standard Oil because its size alone was harmful to our economy, we can do the same with the largest banks.

Democracy isn’t easy. One election alone does not fix everything. Even people with the best of intentions are limited by the system and their own knowledge and skills. So we have to keep working to improve the system. I do think at present we are at a point where the above is possible – people are upset and they are paying attention.

First posted at Liberal and Loving It – Fixing our broken system

Acknowledging the Integrity of our Opponents

From Jon Stewart’s closing statement at the Rally:

The country’s 24-hour, political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming ants epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.



We hear every damned day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. The truth is, we do! We work together to get things done every damned day! The only place we don’t is here (in Washington) or on cable TV!

And from Jeff Jarvis (about the Rally):

Stewart was raising a standard for how our alleged leaders should respect us so we could respect them in return. “Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false,” he said. Stewart was doing nothing less than resetting the relationship of the powerful to the public. He was re-empowering us. His speech and his event were profoundly democratic. Not Democratic or Democrat–democratic.

Media took most of his barbs and for good reason. I must confess that I came away feeling a bit ashamed to be a member of the media and journalism tribe (even as I played hooky from the Online News Association’s annual confab uptown). Stewart and Colbert rightfully castigated us. Oh, yes, they aimed mostly at cable news. “The country’s 24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder,” Stewart said.

But the rest of us in the news business are not blameless. We, too, monetize fright. We are evil coaches on grade school playgrounds, making sides and then pitting them against each other. When we in the press included TV and cable news people in our journalistic club and rejected bloggers and citizens, we legitimized them. When we don’t repudiate their ways, we excuse them. Shame on all of us.

I found the Rally very moving. More than anything else, in the spirit shown by the people there. People who came to state they are in favor of reasonableness and acknowledging each other as fellow human beings. Looking for what unites us rather than focusing on the differences we have. And then there was Jon Stewart’s closing statement which struck me as key to what we need to do. To work together on solutions, acknowledging disagreements but then working together.

He called out Congress and the 24 hour news networks for doubling down on disagreement, being part of the problem rather than part of the solution. And that is true, but we in the political blogosphere are equally at fault. Our impact may be less, but our efforts all too often are identical – to make disagreements gigantic and ignore agreements. To focus on conflicts rather than solutions.

It’s easy to point at the other side and tell them what they should do different. What’s difficult is to speak about where we, our side, have focused on differences for partisan advantage rather than looking to where we can work together to address the problems we face. In all too many cases we look for the parts where we differ so we can fight, rather than the parts where we agree.

So here goes my paying penance:

I’ve possibly spent more time interviewing Republicans in this state than any other liberal blogger. And without exception I have found them to be people who sincerely want to do what is best for our state. And who approach the issues they see in front of us thoughtfully. They are each imperfect. They make mistakes. They have blind spots. But that just means they’re human beings – like the rest of us.

Ken Buck has been honest about his views on abortion when the politically opportunistic thing for him to do would have been a much softer stance. The question of when life becomes human is a fundamental philosophical question where there is no way to prove what the correct answer is. So we each must find our own answer. And he has been pilloried for being “anti-woman” when this is a question that disproportionately impacts women, but that does not make it anti-woman. Saying women should not have jobs or should submit to their husbands – that is anti-woman. But we all agree that once you have a child, that imposes dramatic restrictions on your life as a parent.

Tom Tancredo has focused most of his attention on illegal immigration. And immigration politics has always been tightly tied to racism. But at the same time very few people propose that we open the borders to allow anyone to come in at any time. To quote Jon Stewart “Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Party-ers, or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez is an insult–not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate.” Tom Tancredo has by and large focused on the economic impact of illegal immigration.

I’ve talked to a number of Republican legislators (special props to Senators Penry & Brophy) and they are all focused on what is best for the state of Colorado. They believe that the state government needs to address waste & inefficiency. Any honest answer to that should be that yes, like every organization, waste & inefficiency exists in our government. To claim otherwise strains credibility. Their first reaction to any issue is to ask if the private sector can address it. But shouldn’t we want some to be looking in that direction?

And in all this, what we all want tends to be the same thing. Listening to a Republican listing out the basic problems we face is very close to listening to a Democrat. I may (mostly) disagree with their solutions, but I respect their intentions and their efforts. And I acknowledge that there may be times where they are right and I am wrong.

Fundamentally we are not Democrats & Republicans, fundamentally we are Americans. And that means that when we look to address problems, when we vote, when we speak and write, in all those cases we should do what is best for America, not what is best for party or self. Exaggerating our differences for partisan advantage is harming our political discourse and contributing to our gridlock.

I leave this with a final quote from Jon Stewart:

Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do! But they do it. Impossible things, every day, that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.



Because we know, instinctively, as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is there will always be darkness, and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land.

Google election stats

Ok, here they are for all of October through this morning. My ads are set to display on any search in Colorado. So this shows you what is being searched on in Google for this election.

Keyword repeats – I have multiple ad campaigns on some keywords, so each is listed differently. Total use of that term in searches is add up each case.

Impressions – how many times the ad was shown. This should be the number of times those words were searched on in Google.

Click Through Rate – the percentage of times the ad was shown that someone clicked through to my ColoradoBallot site. (In the business world 2% is considered really good.)

Keyword Impr. CTR
Total – all keywords 234,293 3.19%
ken buck
42,343 2.14%
colorado amendment
38,153 2.05%
michael bennet
21,202 3.70%
colorado amendments
20,721 3.67%
amendment 60
9,844 3.84%
amendment 63
8,635 3.51%
amendment 62
8,478 2.39%
ballot initiatives
8,075 2.80%
bennet buck
7,480 2.70%
dan maes
6,538 1.51%
betsy markey
5,390 2.39%
scott gessler
4,708 5.33%
stan garnett
4,386 14.98%
amendment 101
3,969 4.06%
walker stapleton
3,460 11.56%
senate election
3,388 3.10%
sample ballot
3,119 0.93%
bernie beuscher
2,944 2.41%
cory gardner
2,780 4.17%
john suthers
2,046 4.99%
senate candidates
1,762 1.76%
election amendments
1,690 4.20%
colorado initiative
1,453 0.89%
amendment 61
1,400 5.43%
hickenlooper tancredo
1,294 4.33%
ballot measures
1,230 2.76%
constitutional amendments
1,043 0.58%
election amendment
1,021 1.47%
colorado initiatives
1,008 1.49%
senate race
986 0.91%
cory gardner
972 1.54%
maes tancredo
844 3.32%
ballot review
789 2.53%
ballot information
767 2.09%
amendment vote
766 1.83%
markey gardner
732 4.51%
ballot amendments
699 4.72%
john suthers
692 1.73%
colorado constitution amendments
591 3.55%
amendment ballot
572 2.10%
bernie buescher
556 10.61%
colorado constitution amendment
500 3.00%
representatives election
482 0.21%
scott kimball
458 2.40%
cary kennedy
370 4.59%
ballot 101
349 4.30%
ballot initiative
348 2.59%
garnett suthers
345 9.86%
colorado constitutional amendment
334 2.10%
kennedy stapleton
260 9.62%
ballot measure
260 1.54%
buescher gessler
253 9.49%
ballot amendment
252 2.38%
stan garnet
252 0.79%
constitutional amendment
190 1.58%
amendment abortion
182 1.65%
senate ballot
176 2.27%
hickenlooper maes
168 8.93%
john hickenlooper
167 3.59%
amendment elections
129 3.88%
representatives ballot
56 1.79%
amendment health care
54 1.85%
initiative 101
51 3.92%
representatives vote
44 2.27%
proposed constitutional amendment
29 0.00%
amendment healthcare
20 0.00%
suthers kimball
13 0.00%
amendment definition person
11 0.00%
garnet suthers
8 12.50%
amendment property tax
6 0.00%

Aaron Harber – Too Little, Too Late

Note: Aaron asked me to post this and he just registered so in 2 days he will be posting his stuff directly.

How can Hickenlooper “go negative” and does he even need to anyway?

Everyone wants to know whether or not John Hickenlooper will “go negative” and start attacking Tom Tancredo, now that some polls show Tancredo may be as little as one point behind Hickenlooper.  While two recent polls do show Tancredo closing the gap even more than he had before, Hickenlooper remains comfortably (up to 10 points) ahead in other polls.  With such a wide gap, the issue of “poll accuracy” will be resolved on Election Day.

The bottomline is while Hickenlooper won’t go negative himself, if Tancredo truly does catch up with the Mayor, Hickenlooper’s allies may go negative on his behalf.  Hence, it will be third parties who will do the dirty work.  A group such as the Democratic Governors’ Association could easily jump in the fray as could many other pro-Democratic entities.  And there is no question there is a wealth of opportunity in the “Tancredo File” created over the years by former Congressman Tancredo himself.  Nevertheless, the anti-Tancredo groups face three major problems.

The first problem is they would have to produce anti-Tancredo advertisements quickly.  This often means having lower quality or less effective ads or even making mistakes because the production of ads is rushed.  And those mistakes can backfire quickly as two other Colorado candidates recently discovered (Walker Stapleton and Cory Gardner).

The second problem is buying television spots at ideal broadcast times may be difficult because the best ones already were booked days, weeks, and even months ago (and a lot of these premium spots were purchased by the Hickenlooper campaign).  This means a third party group will have to pay a premium to get the most desirable times — making it difficult to structure efficacious ad buys based on resource limitations.  In many cases, dollars will only go half as far as usual — making effective advertising purchases very expensive and less effective.

The third problem is that attacking Tancredo right now may not have the impact it might have had in prior years.  The various campaigns have been airing negative ads for months and people are sick of them.  And this is the time candidates usually begin airing “nice” ads about themselves and cut back on the attack ads so the timing is not ideal for a new round of attack ads.

People may pay less attention to negative ads or even revolt against Hickenlooper for breaking his word to “not go negative” (on the assumption many viewers will incorrectly assume the attack ads are either directly from or at least inspired by the Hickenlooper campaign).  Tancredo, if he is agile, will use any negative ads against him to argue Hickenlooper’s word is not good — a bad way to end the campaign for Hickenlooper.  So one strategy for Hickenlooper may be to do nothing and be satisfied with his lead.

Negative ads against Tancredo, for better or for worse, also may not resonate because people already know who Tom Tancredo is.  It will be more difficult to attack him effectively because there aren’t too many surprises.  He’s been around for years and is an “open book.”  Plus, what many people like about Tancredo is how he says what he believes and does not appear to be the typical, always-calculating-what’s-best-to-say politician.  That may be his greatest attraction.  Many people like Tancredo personally even if they disagree with him.

While Hickenlooper has continued his string of humorous ads, during this Great Recession (and it is still ongoing for most people), this approach may have been less effective than in previous years.  Many people are not laughing at much right now.

Over the course of several campaigns, everyone has seen the Mayor on his scooter, buying a new suit to double his wardrobe, jumping out of an airplane, and now taking a fully-clothed shower.  While these have been amusing and have helped maintain Hickenlooper’s support at a high level — and his more serious ads have helped, too — some voters see Hickenlooper as yet another Democrat who simply has a good sense of humor.  While this is an advantage for Hickenlooper and has kept him on top, it has not done so by as wide margin as might have been the case in the past.

The people who want change aren’t looking to Hickenlooper and they certainly aren’t looking to Maes; rather, it’s Tancredo who appeals to them.

Even if the polls which show Tancredo in a statistical tie with Hickenlooper, it actually is more difficult for Tancredo to win the election than many people realize because a significant number of people have completed their ballots due to voting having started about two weeks ago.  With a several hundred thousand ballots already cast, changes in voter opinions matter less.  Hence, even if Hickenlooper’s lead is narrowing, he already has reaped the benefit of early voters and, therefore, is likely to win even if Tancredo’s support is surging at the end of the campaign.

There is no question Tancredo’s progress has been amazing.  His accomplishments, even if he loses the election, are absolutely historic for a contemporary third party candidate in Colorado.  No matter what one’s party affiliation or political leaning may be, everyone has to be amazed at what Tancredo has accomplished especially when the following are considered:

(1) He is the candidate of a party 99% of Coloradans do not recognize,

(2) He started seriously campaigning after the Primary Election in mid-August (about 70 days ago) — a year behind most candidates,

(3) He has relatively little money compared to Hickenlooper (although he is raising far more money than Dan Maes), and

(4) He still grapples with the reality enough voters (5 to 10%) support Maes to keep Hickenlooper in the lead – with the vast majority (probably two-thirds) of those voters otherwise supporting Tancredo if Maes dropped out of the race.

Tancredo’s problem is Maes will not drop out because there are only several days left in the campaign and Maes does not feel he has anything to gain by dropping out now.  And Maes despises Tancredo so much he would rather see Hickenlooper win.

Even if Maes did drop out, it may not be enough to help Tancredo win because Maes’ name still will be on every ballot as the Republican nominee.  Thus, even if Maes were to drop out, some Republicans would vote for him anyway because they either did not knowing Maes had dropped out or because they always vote for the Republican nominee.

Nevertheless, there actually is a chance, if Tancredo can continue his surge and Maes drops out immediately, Tancredo could win the election by 1 or 2 points.  Right now he is likely to lose by a similar margin even if he continues to do well.  With Maes on the ballot, the odds today still are heavily on Hickenlooper’s side.

To see the two-hour special edition of “Colorado Election 2010: The Final Word” — where candidates have their last opportunity to explain why voters should support them, watch KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado Channel3) on Sunday, October 31st, at 8:00 pm, or COMCAST Entertainment Television on Monday, November 1st, at 7:30 pm.  “The Final Word” also will be online on Saturday, October 30th.   To watch all 48 interview and debate programs with the candidates and ballot representatives 24/7, go to www.Colorado2010.com.  

Attorney General John Suthers & murderer Scott Kimball

The fundamental tenet of medicine is “first do no harm.” We should expect the same from our Attorney General. I believe that Attorney General John Suthers violated this fundamental tenet of his job when he approved the early release of felon Scott Kimball, who then went on to murder 4 people.

Including a 16 year old girl.

Early Release with No oversight

When the FBI requested to release Scott Kimball from prison to operate unsupervised as an informant, that required the approval of the U.S. Attorney – John Suthers. The requirement is very specific, that the U.S. Attorney himself must approve the action. It is a fundamental responsibility of the U.S. Attorney to verify that the early release will lead to information that is worth the risk, and that the convicted felon is under adequate supervision. What did John Suthers do? in his own words:

“It’s possible that at a briefing meeting they would have said, at the request of the FBI we’ve transferred a guy down here and we’re working with him as an informant or something,” Suthers said of the regular meetings he held with officials in his office. “But I have no knowledge of that, and it appears I had no meetings about the case or anything, and I have no recollection of any involvement in the case.”

Scott Kimball was arrested for a parole violation at the request of the State of Washington. But at the request of John Suthers’ office, they dropped the charge. As reported by Fox news:

FOX31 News has learned that Suthers’ team called –what sources describe as– a secret summit conference. It was held on June 20, 2003. The FBI, DEA, Denver Police and four people from Suthers’ office were there.

Insiders say Denver Police were skeptical, but Suthers’ office prevailed and once again Kimball was set free.

Within the next few months, he killed Kaysi McLeod and his uncle, Terry Kimball. His family believes he tried to kill his own son and investigators believe he tortured and killed another young woman. Yet the next month, Suthers’ team was back in court telling the judge, who was increasingly “troubled” over the way Kimball was being handled, that they had him on “a very tight leash.”

“Well, he wasn’t on a tight leash. As far as we can tell from looking at the records, really, nobody was paying attention to anything that was happening,” says Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett.

What Did the FBI get from Scott?

In Scott Kimball’s own words:

“I never gave them any useful information,” Kimball says.

Four (or more) innocent people dead, people who would be alive if John Suthers had exercised any judgment, and for it nothing.

Why did the Early Release for Scott Kimball?

Why did the FBI ask for an early release? Why did John Suthers approve an early release? Because “he claimed his cellmate planned to arrange for the murder of a witness in a drug case.” That’s right, a convicted con man claimed he was asked to murder a witness and that was sufficient for the FBI and John Suthers to spring him – unsupervised. This was completely brain dead – anyone in prison is willing to lie to get out. Approving this showed zero judgment.

Should They Have Known Better?

While releasing Scott Kimball based on an unverified statement was clearly dumb, John Suthers claims that they had no reason to believe Scott Kimball would commit additional felonies upon release? Really? That statement shows additional poor judgment.

There is no way someone like this should have been released early. Scott had a clear history of preying upon society including rape, and his total lack of concern about anyone else made murder a definite possibility. To release him without supervision showed a total lack of judgment on the part of the FBI and John Suthers.

And Even More May Have Been Missed

And it gets worse. It looks like Scott Kimball could be responsible for several other murders here in Colorado. Murders that if he had been caught on, would have precluded subsequent killings. Scott Kimball could be the largest mass-murderer in state history.

This is not just missed signs, this is wholesale incompetence. What does it say when it requires the news media to do the initial work for the Attorney General’s office?

Accountability

I understand that life is imperfect, and even the best of us makes mistakes. I understand that things that are clear in hindsight can be a lot more opaque at the time decisions must be made. And investigating criminals requires dealing with other criminals, who tend to be low-life scum. That’s the world we have to work with.

But this goes so far beyond that. By any measure this was gross incompetence. By any measure this was a combination of zero judgment, no follow-through, and an inability to see clear evidence of Scott Kimball’s involvement in murder after murder. And the key person at the center of this total cluster-fuck is John Suthers.

If we are to hold our elected officials accountable, if we are to insist on minimal competence, then we must vote John Suthers out of office. Not just to require accountability, but also for our own safety.

If John Suthers is reelected then there are no consequences for actions in office.

The Choices for the Colorado State Races

First off I’m moderately liberal (or as it’s described up here in Boulder, a right wing reactionary). But I try to be even-handed and fair when I lay out the choices in the state level races.

Second, we Democrats have done a lousy job at the federal level. But at the state level I think we’ve done very well dealing with an awful situation. I also think the Republican members of the legislature have done a good job. A lot of very important legislation was crafted and passed this past session with active effort by members on both sides of the aisle.

Governor – Hick-inator vs. The Tanc

John Hickenlooper comes with the best possible preparation for the job, mayor of our largest city. As mayor of Denver he has done a good job of professionally managing the city and handling the cuts required from reduced revenue. He will almost certainly continue the existing approach of trying to further streamline the government.

Tom Tancredo comes with decent experience having managed a division of the federal Department of Education and as a U.S. Congressman. It will take him a bit longer to get up to speed but he should be very capable of doing so. He will almost certainly address some of the budget constraints by reducing state employee salaries and benefits to the level he thinks is appropriate. There is some validity to this approach, but it’s going to be a bloody fight.

Both have said they are going to look closely at what they can do to help Colorado businesses grow jobs. And there is a lot the state can do. John Hickenlooper will lean more toward actions the state will take to help while Tom Tancredo will lean more toward things the state should stop doing to get out of the way. A good example is Oil & Gas regulation where Hick will look for ways to reduce the negative impact of the regulations while Tanc will look to roll them back. My take on eliminating the Oil & Gas regulations is that it’s akin to renting your house to a rock band – the initial check is great but when you come back to a wrecked house and your dog has been molested, it’s not that good a deal.

If you want the state to reduce its size, reduce what it does, you should vote for Tom Tancredo. He will use the reduced revenues as a means to accomplishing this. If you want the state to continue its present service level, with improvements, but the level we are at, and an increase when the economy recovers, then you should vote for John Hickenlooper.

And no matter which one wins, most of their job will be trying to minimize the impact of further major reductions in state funding. And regardless of which one wins, higher education is hosed (the constraints in the constitution leave Higher Ed and prisons as the only large budget items that can be cut).

Treasurer – Kennedy vs. Stapleton

The treasurer has a single primary job – keep the state funds safe and get a decent return on the investment. That’s it. Yes they go talk about various issues. Yes they help set up financial systems to assist government entities that have limited resources and bonding ability. But the key issue is the state funds. Any money lost in the invested funds is an additional budget cut.

Cary Kennedy has done a superb job where the state has lost no invested funds and has had a return on the investment that most Wall St investment houses can’t equal. With a record like this I don’t care what party the Treasurer is, I don’t care what their political philosophy is, they have my vote. I’d vote for Dick Cheney if he was delivering these results.

Walker Stapleton might do a good job. But the best he could aspire to is to equal Cary’s track record. Walker himself has said that Cary has done a good job, but he thinks he can do better. However, he has nothing to demonstrate that his investment acumen would be superior. He has stated that he will use his investment banker background to try and improve on Cary’s record. With higher risk comes higher reward so he could get us a better return, but we could also end up with significant losses.

If you view the Treasurer position as getting the best return on our investments, and doing so safely, then you should vote for Cary. If you’re willing to take a larger risk of losing some of our investments, but possibly getting a higher return from those investments, then you should vote for Walker. Personally I just don’t see how it makes any sense to change Treasurer with her results. Especially when state revenues are declining further.

Attorney General – Garnett vs. Suthers

John Suthers has been our Attorney General for the last 6 years and until recently was viewed by Democrats & Republicans as doing a good job. Yes we Democrats would disagree with some of his decisions more often than Republicans, but all in all a competent fair AG. The Attorney General in many ways should be run in a nonpartisan manner and Suthers, just like Ken Salazar, has (mostly) done that. But…

John Suthers was previously the U.S. Attorney for Colorado. At that time he approved the temporary release of convicted felon Scott Kimball, an individual who one judge had stated should never be released. John spent 5 minutes reviewing the request, approved it, and provided no oversight of Kimball after he was released.

I think it would be unconsciousable to re-elect and individual who sprung a felon from prison early, for no good reason, with no real supervision, leaving him free to murder innocent people. And John Suthers has disclaimed any responsibility for this. If holding our elected officials accountable is to have any meaning, I think we must vote for Stan Garnett.

Stan Garnett is the District Attorney for Boulder County where he has been doing a superb job and has been scrupulously fair as well as significantly improved the efficiency of the office. Stan is clearly qualified and would make the A.G. office more focused on what it can do to help the people of Colorado.

Secretary of State – Buescher vs. Gessler

Bernie Buescher has been the Secretary of State for the last two years and has continued in the Mike Coffman approach (previous SoS, a Republican) of running the office effectively and in a nonpartisan manner. However, Bernie has also ignored the serious problem where his office allows criminals to fraudulently take over as the registered agent for any company registered in Colorado.

Scott has spent a lot of his professional career working for very partisan Republican groups including Coloradans for Change, Colorado Conservative Voters, and the list goes on… Now this is not proof that he would be partisan in the SoS office, after all this is a partisan elected position. But it is reason for concern. On the plus side, he has said that he will make securing company registrations one of his top priorities in office.

If you want a Secretary of State that is mostly nonpartisan, but does lean a little Democratic, and you’re not too concerned about the ongoing theft the SoS office presently enables, then you want to vote for Bernie. If you want a Secretary of State that will shut down the ongoing theft the office enables, or you want a SoS that would probably lean heavily Republican, then you want to vote for Scott.

Personally I’m torn on this one. Because the SoS oversees elections I want them to be nonpartisan and I think Bernie is a better choice by that criteria. But as a business owner I don’t want to see companies robbed, and the accompanying job loss that entails.

State Legislature

I think the legislature this past session did a superb job. Not only was a lot of that a bipartisan effort, but the main legislation shoved through in a partisan manner was some of the worst thought out of the session (undoing some of the tax exemptions). I know I will get yelled at by my fellow Democrats but I think the best thing for our state, and Colorado comes before party for me, is a divided legislature.

So for the House, if you are undecided, my suggestion is to vote for the Democratic candidate. They are by and large quality candidates (there are a few exceptions). The House is going to stay Democratic.

And for the Senate, if you are undecided, my suggestion… uh… OW! eh.eh… I can’t say it! Well let’s say that there are a number of quality candidates, although there are also a surprising number that have serious felony arrest records. But if it’s a Republican without a record for domestic violence or other serious felony, give them a look.

first posted at The Choices for the Colorado State Races

What are Democrats Running For?

From 2002 to 2008 we Democrats slowly, oh so slowly, fought like crazy to get back in the majority. The country was being mis-managed and taken in the wrong direction and we worked our asses off to turn it back around. In 2006 when we regained Congress we wanted to see change, but accepted that gaining the presidency was key and focused on 2008.

And then with 2008 we had an extraordinary victory. A blowout for the presidency. 60 votes in the Senate. A sizable majority in the House. Finally we had what we had aimed for. We could turn the country back in the right direction. We could manage it competently. We could address the big problems we face and make the country and the world a better place.

At the same time, most of us realized that this did not mean an immediate implementation of every liberal fantasy. The populace is largely moderate. Change takes time. Effective management requires new people appointed and time for them to straighten things out. New legislation requires discussion and negotiation to craft good bills. But everything was in place.

And then…

  • Over a year after Obama took office, entering knowing that the MMS was a sex & drug fueled orgy with the oil industry rather than a watchdog – we had the BP blowout. In all that time there had been no effort to actually perform the mandated oversight. We haven’t had an improvement in managing the government.
  • The healthcare reform effort was politically inept taking over a year, included putrid buy-offs of some Senator’s votes, and did nothing to address the out of control cost escalation. The various proposals for a public option were submarined at the behest of the insurance companies, after single payer was killed for them before discussions even started. (What was accomplished is good, but the process was so long and ugly that it turned an improvement into a political liability.)
  • The financial reform bill was the absolute minimum the voters would let Congress get away with. We had the rare opportunity to truly reform the financial system over the objections of Wall St. and instead Congress and the Obama Administration worked to minimize restrictions on the banks. And so we have obscene bonuses and unlimited campaign contributions returning to Wall St.
  • And what about the biggest problem people face? Unemployment at a true rate of 17% and an economy that is stuck. We had an initial stimulus that was too little. And we now have everyone in Congress wanting to reduce the deficit – which is the worst possible action at this point for the economy.

And in this election how are our Democratic Congresspeople responding? Most of them are claiming that they oppose Obama, they oppose HCR, they oppose the stimulus, they want to reduce the deficit. It’s not just that they are doubling down on the Republican talking points. They are not pointing to any successes. They are not pointing to anything accomplished.

What happened to us? We control the presidency and Congress. We started two years ago with large dreams. And after two years we have very little accomplished, and are running away from those few accomplishments. We are letting the tea partiers, the right wing of the Republican party who would never vote for a Democrat – we are letting them set our political agenda.

Now you can reply that the Republicans are worse. And that’s true. But “we suck less” is not the world’s most compelling political slogan. So as candidates try to get the Democratic base enthused and moderates to vote Democratic, they run up against these problems:

  1. With a playing field as favorable as it can get for one party in this era, we accomplished almost nothing. We’re ineffective.
  2. Washington has mostly ignored joblessness – which is the #1 priority for the majority of voters, even most that do have a job. We’re indifferent.
  3. Democrats aren’t running for anything. They’re against everything they passed, but they’re not for anything. We’re passive.

So a vote for the Democratic party is a vote to continue doing nothing. A vote for the Democratic party is a vote to reward failure. A vote for the Democratic party is acceptance that things will not get better. Yes the Republicans are worse but does that mean we vote for corporate lackeys who will leave the economy in the toilet as it lurches from disaster to disaster? Because if we don’t punish ineptitude, then we will continue to get more of the same.

I think we need to face up to a couple of things. First this is not a team event of Democrats vs. Republicans where fealty requires that we back our side no matter what. Our country is in a world of hurt and we need to do what is best for the country, not what is best for our party. That means we need to speak honestly about what we get from each candidate and select the candidate who is best for the country. Anyone who blindly votes for either party is not putting our country first. And keep in mind that most Republicans have the same goal we Democrats do, a stronger country, a booming economy, and opportunity for all. Many of our differences are on how to get there.

Second we need to face the fact that the Obama Administration is not doing a great job. We all have a lot of ourselves tied up in believing they will, because we put everything into getting him elected. And a lot of our faith in the Democratic party is tied into how he would do better. But ignoring reality won’t fix things. After the election we need to look at how we can pressure the administration to step up and lead on the big problems we face, and lead effectively. (Better management of the bureaucracy would be nice too.)

Third, we need to determine what message our vote sends this November. I am loathe to vote for candidates who’s platform is they oppose the few limited successes that we have seen over the past two years. And I am loathe to reward failure. But politics is many times selecting the least bad choice and that is what we face today. With that said, I am open to suggestions – is there a way to cast a vote that says “I’m voting for you but if you don’t start fixing things I won’t next time – and this time I’ll follow through on my threat. Really, I’m not kidding, next time I won’t vote for you (even though I gave you a pass this time)”?

As to those that will say now is not the time to discuss this, that we need to be 100% focused on getting Democrats elected – bullshit. For the past two years Congress has shown no interest in what the voters wanted unless they were members of a tea party demonstration. This is the one time our elected representatives have started to at least pretend to pay attention to us. November 3 it will be back to business as usual.

Bennet vs. Buck Debate

6:32 – Senator Bennet first – saying thank you to our troops. Now talking about the rough economy with middle income costs increasing but income has not. Next talking about 13 trillion dollars in debt with nothing to show for it. How we have not invested in our infrastructure.

6:35 – Ken Buck second – saying that he has been all over Colorado listening. Talking about the concerns people have for jobs and making ends meet. Next talking about the deficit, both the total and the yearly deficit. Says the deficit has hurt jobs by “spending money we don’t have on programs we don’t need.” Pinging Bennet saying he spends weekdays voting for deficit spending in D.C. and weekends in Colorado talking against deficit spending. Proposing a balanced budget amendment. And giving small business certainty as to what costs they will face.

Much louder cheers for Ken Buck – don’t know if that’s the region or if Buck packed the audience.  

6:39 – Asked if negative advertising works. Senator Bennet says that taxes have been reduced for most and he runs ads on that setting the record straight. Got a large boo for that. Senator Bennet then said that yes we all have our own opinions but the facts are the facts – got a good round of applause for that. Then ended it with the tax cut for small business.

The moderator just spanked the audience for yelling “shut up.” Well done.

Ken Buck talking about Bennet’s ads being called false. And says when false ads are run, then the record needs to be set straight. He then added that fair comparison ads are a good thing to have.

Senator Bennet said that other’s say his ads are fair. He then brings up Ken Buck quotes to eliminate the Dept. of Education and his comments about some education programs. Ken Buck responded asking Senator Bennet to have the complete recordings the Bennet campaign has to the news media because they are taking his words out of context. This discussion got a bit pissy between them.

6:45 – Asking which is more important, undoing the tax cuts or continuing them to help the economy. Ken Buck replied first saying that lower taxes will increase revenue. (Yeah right – and if we take them to 0 then we’ll have infinite income.) Next bringing up the high overhead of some taxes (very good point).

Senator Bennet – starts off saying we have to be honest and that taxes are lower than ever before. Next talking about how we’re borrowing like crazy while cutting takes and not covering our expenses.

6:48 – What issues will be most important to independent voters. Senator Bennet replied that it’s the economy and the fiscal position of the economy. Next talking about how he has voted more with the Republican party than almost any other Democrat in Congress.

Ken Buck starts with jobs saying it is very important for everyone. Next to bring energy jobs back to Colorado, but to do it in an environmentally sensitive way. Third he brings up education and saying that it is best handled in a bottom up manner rather than top down from D.C.

Senator Bennet responding saying that he agrees with Ken Buck on this issue, on jobs, on energy, and on education. Ken Buck comes back thanking Senator Bennet for agreeing with him, but then pings him on some of his votes that have hurt those specific issues, dragging immigration into this.

6:54 – What should victory in Afghanistan look like? Senator Bennet starts off saying the most important job in the Senate is to support our troops both in action and when they return. He then said what matters is to take out Al Qaeda, backstop the Pakistan military fighting the terrorists, and backstop the Pakistan military securing their nuclear weapons. And that is where the mission ends – no nation building.

Ken Buck – first mentions his son at West Point. First insure Afghanistan is not a haven for terrorists. Second we have to eliminate the drug trade there. Third we need to eliminate terror support in Southeast Asia. He then concluded agreeing with Senator Bennet that nation building is impossible there.

6:57 – the DREAM Act. Ken Buck says he will vote against the DREAM Act. He then says that we do need a way for children who grew up here to go to school. But he wants it to not allow anyone who committed a serious crime, and that they first have to perform some service such as serving in the military. He concludes by saying he wants it to be earned.

Senator Bennet – starts by saying that he’s a co-sponsor. Talks about how his mom’s side came here from Europe and how much America means to them. He is speaking beautifully about what America is and what it means and how important that is. Beautiful words. And how awful it is for a child who graduates from High School who cannot go on to College.

7:02 – What to do about entitlements. Senator Bennet starts off by saying that this is the key question – that 55% of our spending is entitlements and debt. And we need to reduce medical spending, paying on outcomes rather than on effort (superb point). Then says that the government is on auto-pilot and that we need to sit down to figure this out.

Ken Buck – starting by saying we have made a sacred promise to our seniors and we need to hold to that. Wants to look at the middle group (I think he means middle age) and bring in things like adjusting the retirement age, means testing, etc. He also wants to give workers incentives to save for their retirement. And this additional income supplements social security.

Asking Senator Bennet for specific reforms. Senator Bennet first says he does not support the privatization of social security. Next talking about the 20% hospital readmission rate and how it is nuts because the hospital keeps getting paid – for doing a lousy job. Said there are many other examples.

7:08 – What does the tea party affiliation means? Ken Buck lists several groups and says that in whole that they are the grass roots. And he sees what is key to that is he has admitted that the Republicans are as much to blame for our problems as the Democrats. That both have raided the treasury for their friends. (This is the message that I think will win the race for Ken Buck.)

Senator Bennet asked about being called “Obama’s chosen one.” Senator Bennet first talking about some of his disagreements with President Obama. Senator Bennet next talking about outside groups running ads for Ken Buck that are from very extreme conservatives.

7:12 – Ask about campaign financing. Senator Bennet talks about how it’s horrible, that allowing companies to dump unlimited dollars, and that the 527s don’t have to list who donates to them. From this he shifted into our exporting, and how we invented solar panels but China is now the leading exporter of them. He brought it back by saying that the special interests get the system rigged for them individually even if it harms the country.

Ken Buck says he thinks we should have complete and immediate disclosure of who is donating to every group. He called out union donations in particular. He then brought up The Blueprint (great book) and how it created shadowy groups that brought about the Democratic wins in Colorado.

Senator Bennet started off by saying that he thinks trackers are fine. He next agreed with Ken Buck on transparency and that he would love to find who is funding the 5 groups pounding Senator Bennet.

7:17 – Asked about stem cell research. Ken Buck starts off saying that he is pro-life and therefore opposed to embryonic stem cell research, but is fine with adult stem cell research. On Supreme Court justices, he will not treat abortion as a litmus test, that he wants justices who will interpret the law, not make it.

Senator Bennet starts off saying he is pro-choice and does a great job saying that he does not want the government telling his daughters what they can do with their bodies – very emotional. He then added that he strongly supports embryonic stem cell research because from that we can cure diseases. He then spoke that he understands that people will disagree with this.

7:20 – DADT? Senator says he thinks we should repeal DADT. He followed on with there is no way our country benefits from denying some people the right to be true to themselves.

Ken Buck wants to retain DADT. He says he is fine with gay people serving, but that they cannot be open about it. That the military is better served by appearing homogeneous. (This makes no sense.)

7:22 – Will you lose your seat over healthcare? Senator Bennet replied that yes, but yes if it was a good bill that addresses a lot of the serious problems we face. He then went through the problems we face where we spend twice as much as any other industrialized country – and that this need to be solved.

Ken Buck first said that Senator Bennet was asked that question when the Senate bill was up to be voted on. Ken Buck next said the thing most people were upset about was the corrupt process used to pass the bill where Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu got specifying pieces for their states. He then suggested giving individuals the same tax break corporations get and bring in tort reform.

7:27 – Ken Buck closing statement – Talking about how the people have kept telling Washington what they want addressed. That what the people said was heard in D.C., but that it was then ignored. Very passionate list of the issues where the people have been ignored.

Senator Bennet – he wants to create a competitive economy and give our children a better place than we have. He then brought up specific case of a woman who told him that if we just worked together we can do anything, and she’s right. That with all of us we can continue to build the American dream. (This was a surprisingly weak closing.)

Now we have everyone in the audience shouting out for their candidate. Senator Bennet & Ken Buck shake hands. And we’re done.

My $0.02

I think this was a really good debate – substantive questions and both candidates gave specific answers. And quite a bit of ground was covered in the hour. The moderator did a superb job of apportioning time and controlling the crowd. So lots of good info about the differences between the two.

Senator Bennet’s strong and weak point is that he dives into the details. This reflects well on him that he can call up supporting facts and he shows a clear understanding of the issues. It’s a weak point in that he tries to make a nuanced intellectual argument supporting his candidacy rather than an easily understood simplistic answer which would sell a lot better.

Ken Buck’s strong point is he does a better job of making an emotional compelling argument for his candidacy. His weak point is that he’s a conservative!!! No wait, that’s not fair – it’s that AARGH yes that is it.

The bottom line is they’re both quality candidates. They differ strongly on most social issues. They’re closer on economic issues, but they’re still substantial differences (especially if you measure Senator Bennet by his votes, not his campaigning). They’re both focused on the economy and each thinks what they propose is our best way out of this mess. I think this makes for a great election as it gives us a clear choice (and you should pick the Democrat!!!)

Who won the debate

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Where do we place our defensive line?

In the Battle of the Bulge (WWII) the allies first priority was to hold the shoulders (edges) of the German advance while falling back as needed in the pocket. Holding where they must while temporarily retreating where necessary was key to minimizing the impact of the German offensive.

This election is going to be bad news for us Democrats. We need to minimize our losses. And that means we have to put our resources into the very close races that matter the most. Not who we like best. Not based on how we wish we still had the momentum of ’08. We need to follow the model laid out in The Blueprint where we make a dispassionate decision based on the numbers.

First off, I think our most important seats this election are the state level executive positions, for two reasons. First the U.S. House is almost certainly going to flip and even if the U.S. Senate does not flip, it will be even less effective than it is now. This means we are on our own mitigating the impact of the recession. To do so the two most critical offices are Governor and Treasurer.

Treasurer is key because having an inept Republican with goofy financial ideas investing our money will lose the state money, potentially a lot of money.  Dollars drive most everything and having Stapleton piss away money is the same as passing a tax cut. Fortunately we’re in good shape on these two races.

Second is state legislative races. Control of the state House & Senate is gigantic. But the key point is control – put in the effort required to retain control. Extra seats are nice and let’s take what we can get, but it’s not more important than the remaining items below. So we need to look at how each race is shaking out, which competitive ones are required to retain control, and can we credibly win those – and then put our efforts in on those if we have a decent chance.

Third, I think the federal seats we can hold come next – because there’s no term limits. In most years incumbency helps a lot (not so much this year). And so, we want to keep the Gang of Four in their seats. But we have to do so where we have a chance. My earlier plan was to donate heavily to Bennet and Markey and spend weekends going door to door in Longmont for both. But if many of us do that and they both then lose by 2% instead of 4%, but Ed Perlmutter and John Salazar each lose by 100 votes, we did a very stupid thing.

Fourth and final is Secretary of State and Attorney General. Yes both are important. Yes having a partisan hack in either hurts the state. But the level of damage is less than what we face with the other seats. And both will be open seats again, AG in 4 years and SoS in 8. (It is particularly hard to put this last because we have superb people for these jobs in Bernie and Stan.)

So how should we approach this?

  1. Make a donation to Cary Kennedy.

  2. Wait on the rest of your donations. The polls this month will start to lock in what the real odds for each candidate is. Donate small amounts for those you really like, but save the majority of your money for September 30.

  3. If the gubernatorial race gets competitive (which could well happen), then be prepared to go all in on Hick. We’re in a world of hurt economically and that office will have more impact than every other office together. On the flip side, if Hick retains a strong majority give him your support, but not your money.

  4. If treasurer remains close, donate substantially there.

  5. If the House and/or Senate control hangs on one or two close races, donate the rest there.

  6. You have a couple of bucks left over? Ok, take a very dispassionate look at the Gang of Four races. Donate to the ones where the numbers have them tied or our guy in a lead well within the margin of error. Cry over the others.

  7. Still some bucks left? Ok Ms. Moneybags, same thing with Bernie, Stan, and any additional close state legislative races. If they’re close, kick in some money.

Being rational about this sucks. If I got to give a free win to one candidate it would be Betsy Markey. I think Bernie Buescher and Stan Garnett are both superb. (And I have donated a little to all three.) But just as in ’08 we won just about every close and sort-of close race, this year is clearly looking to give the Republicans most of the close and sort-of close races.

And to those Democrats who say speaking like this helps the Republicans – bullshit. Looking realistically at the situation and acting to minimizing the damage helps us Democrats. Shooting the messenger helps the Republicans. Donating to someone we like but who can’t win this year may make us feel good today, but it’s not going to help the country.

Where do you think our final defensive line will be?

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Tom Tancredo Interview

This was a surprising interview. I expected to mostly be discussing illegal immigration and why that was the key issue in the race. Instead I found Congressman Tancredo to be primarily concerned with the lack of integrity in Dan Maes and secondarily concerned with the state of our public schools. And yet, Tom’s instinct is to discuss illegal immigration to the exclusion of most everything else.

So I started off by asking him why he choose to enter the race. He started off by saying that he is a strong believer in working within the party and that he was very comfortable supporting first Josh Penry, and then Scott McInnis. Tom then discussed the last couple of months.  

He first discussed Dan Maes saying that he found him an unacceptable candidate early on because in his initial discussions with Dan, Dan told him he supported immigration reform with amnesty and therefore he could not support him. He then discussed how over time he (and all of us actually) found that more and more of Dan’s background as he listed it was untrue. But this was also not a big deal at the time as he was not going to win.

Tom then discussed Scott McInnis and his concern that he was “not grounded in conservative governance.” I pointed out that the core issue was Scott could appeal to people like me and Tome replied “yes and we had to do something about that.” So Tom & Josh came up with the Contract for Colorado, Scott signed off on it, and life was good. Tom further listed how he worked hard to support Scott, how Scott had the money, the votes, etc.

He then discussed how, when the “allegations of plagiarism came out” it was impossible for Scott to win. And Dan was unacceptable. So that is what lead to Tom’s deciding to run. This is key to Tom’s purpose in the election now, that “Dan shouldn’t win.” I then asked what if the Republicans had a candidate that could not win, but who did not have questionable integrity and who was very conservative – what then. Tom replied that he would strongly support them. I then flipped it and said still had personal integrity, but they were a RINO. Tom in that case said he would “stay out of it,” but would vote for them.

My $0.02: The key point of this is Tom Tancredo’s primary goal in running is to be a spoiler. To split the vote and insure that Dan Maes does not win. And he is doing so because he believes that Dan Maes lacks the integrity to be governor. First off, this means Tom is not dropping out unless Dan does first. Second, it means Tom will hammer Dan on his personal integrity and that could not only put Tom ahead of Dan in the final vote, but could give Tom a shot at winning.

I next asked what would be the major item he would concentrate on as Governor. He first discussed how the big money is the federal money. And at the state, as well as the federal level, the discretionary funding was a very small part of the total and therefore you can’t effect much change there. Therefore he says real change requires structural change and “that will require going to the ballot, going to the people.” Tom brought up the specific cases of union contracts and PERA. And to address them will require going to the courts and to the ballot. He then discussed the mandates backed into the constitution such as Amendment 23.

He next brought up illegal immigration. Congressman Tancredo went on for a bit about the costs to the state, primarily in educating their children, and the reduction in available jobs for citizens. The main action he would take as Governor is to mandate eVerify by employers. And with those jobs opened up to citizens only, he believes the market will adjust to make the jobs of interest to citizens.

Skipping this part: There has been boatloads of interviews with Congressman Tancredo on this issue and even if the whole hour was devoted to this subject, nothing new would be learned. So go to those other interviews for his thoughts on this, and the counter arguments.

I then asked what else he would do. Tom said the next issue is that the state is not welcoming to business. He first discussed a poll of Oil & Gas executives that ranked Colorado the best place to do business in 2008 and then ranked us worst in 2010. He then said “something happened there.” He then talked about the recent legislation that has split the oil from the gas guys and he termed that “divide and conquer.”

He talked about making Colorado a place where “if you come here and do things the right way, if you play by the rules, We’re not going to give you any special exemptions, but on the other hand we’re not going to focus on you and pull you out and say this is not the kind of development we want in our state.” He then went on to say “it’s not I want a green economy, I want a thriving economy.”

He then brought up the example of Colorado Springs where they asked the major employers what are the problems they see in the city. And the businesses told them what concerned them, and they were mostly very mundane things. Tom would like to see the state do the same thing. He then discussed the permit processes that exist for so many businesses, and working to make that process as smooth and quick as possible. In all of this he never discussed removing or changing the rules, he discussed making them as easy and straightforward in practice as possible.

Tom then suggested offering cash bonuses to state employees who come up with ways to streamline the process in their departments.

My $0.02: This is a message the business community will find very compelling. The state of Colorado at present is very antagonistic toward business. And that impacts jobs because time spent trying to figure out what the state wants is time not spent growing a company.

Congressman Tancredo next brought up a superb idea. His question is “why is Indiana, a rust belt state, why are they better off than we are?” He wants to look at what the differences are that explain Indiana’s economy doing better, find out which are government related (he thinks it’s a lot) and address those items. He wants to figure out what we need to do to become attractive to business and industry.

One interesting point as Tom went through the problems we face attracting businesses, and that corporate headquarters have left Colorado, is that he did not take cheap political shots at Ritter and Hickenlooper. Instead he discussed how we have a problem and he wants to find out what the real causes are, and fix them.

I next asked who are the top 5 people he will bring in in his administration to help him accomplish all this. His reply was “I have absolutely no idea.” He then went on to say that he only got in to this race 3 weeks ago. He then followed on to say they will be conservatives and they will mostly be Republicans. He then did say that John Tipton is one of the first people he will ask to serve.

My next question was his view on 60, 61, & 101. Tom’s reply was that he fully supports them. His reply was “the first two came about because people were being taxed without their permission.” He discussed how the government kept working to use the word fees instead of the word tax to get around TABOR. And if 60, 61, & 101 pass, you can then put together a tax increase proposal and present it to the people in the ’11 election. And that it is an important lesson for the state to learn, that they need to ask first.

He does see the cuts they would force as being dramatic. But he does not see them as destroying civilization as we know it. He does think it will force the state to make some major decisions and to address core cost issues that have been avoided. It will force the state to address state salaries that have climbed much faster than inflation. He thinks the result will mostly be salary cuts. He also thinks that a lot of the decisions forced will be changes that will be better for the state long-term.

My $0.02: I think Tom is right that the state has done everything it can to dance around TABOR rather than bringing tax proposals to a vote of the people. And I think he’s right that the state has avoided addressing cost issues that drastic cuts would force it to address. But I also think 60, 61, & 101 would have a brutal impact on the state.

I next asked Tom about my idea that we replace TABOR, Amendment 23, etc. with an amendment that says total receipts to the state cannot exceed X% of the state’s GDP averaged over the previous 3 years. This is taxes, fees, everything. But the legislature is then free to adjust and tax, fee, etc. without a vote as long as the total stays under the limit. He said “that’s quite interesting… I like it.”

Next up was what I think would be the easiest question – name a program he would end. He talked about how when Colorado passed the tobacco tax it increased Medicaid eligibility from 250,000 to 480,000. He would undo that extension.

I then asked the flip side, to name one he would create or significantly extend. His reply was “creating a new program is not really on my agenda.” So nothing new added (which is a fair answer).

Ok, so my next question was what will he do to fix K-12. At this point Tom Tancredo became more impassioned than at any other part of the conversation (including illegal immigration). He started off by saying “I would take my magic wand…” So I then asked, ok let’s say you do have a magic wand, and you get one use – do you use it to fix K-12 or to eliminate illegal immigration. (An interesting thing about a question like this – most candidates love it because the idea of being able to truly fix a big problem is so compelling to them.)

Congressman Tancredo thought about it for a bit and then said K-12. He then discussed his background, as a teacher, the education bills he had carried in the legislature, and his work for the Department of Education. He has a lot of history in this area. He wants to bring in full choice, public schools, charter schools, and vouchers. He sees the marketplace of multiple schools competing for students will force an improvement in schools. He also wants to see schools do a better job teaching children civics, giving them a better understanding of our government and what it means. (Of course, then they’ll all be Democrats.)

I asked about SB-191 and he does not think that will help much, because it is still a centrally controlled top-down single system. He comes back to giving each parent the freedom to determine what school works best for their child. He is fine if we can just get vouchers for children in poor districts (where the schools tend to be terrible). He brings up the very valid point that a lousy education means that those children will cost society more because they’re left in a life of economic poverty.

Next I asked for a vote that hurt his political future. He immediately answered TARP. Tom said that this would harm him in any future run for any office. And the smart move, as many other reps did, was to vote no and hope it passed. He talked to the presidents of 25 banks from 1st Bank to Wells Fargo. You have this highly technical bill that “if it doesn’t pass, then all inter-bank lending stops in 24 hours.” And you have millions of companies depending on this. He was told by people on all sides of the spectrum that the results would be a collapse of biblical proportions if it didn’t pass. He also talked about where people turn when things go this bad, and it’s not Democracy and free enterprise.

My $0.02: I think Congressman Tancredo’s vote here shows strong moral character in that he voted what he thought was necessary over what was in his own political interest. And he did so voting the opposite of what his political philosophy is. And to those who are upset with him on this vote – he was right. We did face a complete economic collapse and that vote was key to avoiding the collapse. None of us liked giving the banks all that money, especially when they responded by giving all of us the middle finger by watering down the financial reform bill and bringing back even larger bonuses. But it had to be done.

For my last questions I asked him, if he’s elected, then 8 years from now what will be his biggest accomplishment. His reply was that the majority of people in this state will say they are better off than they were 8 years earlier.

Conclusion

Tom Tancredo is an interesting guy. I don’t agree with him on much, but I think he comes at his decisions and policies in a thoughtful way and tries to do what is right. He comes at the question of Governor with a very good big picture approach and some very interesting ideas. He’s very conservative, but is not a drown the government in a bathtub type – his support of 60, 61, 101 is grounded in respect for the rule of law, but also that he thinks the impact would be manageable until a tax increase could be put on the ballot.

And then there’s immigration… I think Tom Tancredo is his own worst enemy on this, because he gravitates to discussing it exclusively, which then hides all those other facets of him and labels him by this one issue. So can Tom win as Governor? Maybe, but only if he STFU on immigration and instead talks on these other points. (I’m not saying he hides from immigration, but that if he focuses on the rest.) And if he stays Mr. Immigration, he still guarantees a loss for Dan Maes, and that is his primary goal.

And if Dan drops out then I’m guessing Tom will drop out the next day. And that would be a shame because he makes the discussion between the candidates a lot more interesting. On the flip side, if he’s in to the end, I’m guessing he’ll easily beat Dan Maes and may give Hick a run for his money.

Audio of interview at Tom Tancredo Interview

Questions for the Governor-ator candidates

Update: Thank you all – a boatload of really good questions (and an equal number of snarky ones). Wish I had 2 hours to interview.

I’m interviewing Congressman Tancredo tomorrow and I’ve been promised an interview with Mayor Hickenlooper. So suggested questions please.

As to Dan Maes, he’s suddenly too busy for interviews. I guess his new handlers have decided they don’t want him talking to anyone who might quote him. After all, that worked so well for Jane Norton…

A modest proposal

Most voters see the state in operation in one place – the D.M.V. As such, most people measure the efficiency of the state by the efficiency of the D.M.V. If someone is in and out of the DMV quickly with a minimum of hassle, they will leave with a positive impression of the state administration.

And by the same measure, if the effort is slow, frustrating, and requires hours of waiting (ie what normally occurs), then they will leave with a very negative impression.

If every other part of the state’s administration is so efficient and effective that it’s a model for the private sphere, that has less impact than what people see at the DMV.

If I was Chief Operating Officer for the state I would set a goal that 95% of the visitors to the DMV spend 5 minutes or less waiting (10 minutes if they have a driving test). And then I would focus on that, measuring and publishing the results in every office for each day, week, and month. Find the offices that are successful, find out what they do differently, and duplicate it.

This would be a more powerful counter argument to the “eliminate fraud & waste” argument than anything else than could be brought up. It would also be a strong argument that additional taxes would be effectively and efficiently spent.

I think this is eminently doable, because everyone who shows up at the DMV in the morning is taken care of by the close of business. A customer focused business administration would be all over this.

Colorado loses out on Race to the Top

from HuffPo

On Tuesday, the Department of Education confirmed that $3.4 billion in federal funding will be divided between Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island for their efforts to reform their education systems.

This is total bullshit.

Update: Putting Hawaii aside (as that had to be political), 8 of the remaining states touch the Atlantic. And the remaining one Ohio was 10th and 3 points different it would have been NJ making it a clean sweep for the East Coast. This seems statistically unlikely if it was a fair competition…

First off, this state did a superb job on stepping up to the challenge, not just with SB-191 but on a number of other items. Colorado absolutely deserves to be on the list.

Second – Hawaii??? Hawaii has done nothing. When the budget came up short they cut days in school and are now patting themselves on the back for saying they won’t do that again.

To everyone in this state who worked on this, to every parent, teacher, administrator, and the state level officials – you all did a superb job and this is totally unfair.

Ken Buck Interview

Ken Buck is one of my favorite interview subjects because he is very comfortable with who he is and strives to give complete answers. At one time in the interview he asked me if he had answered a question sufficiently. My primary goal in these interviews is to illustrate who the candidate is and Ken makes that easy.

Ken’s focus is to eliminate deficit spending. However, listening to what he dove into on subject after subject I think it is more accurate to say that Ken is driven to have the federal government restrict itself to performing the jobs appropriate to the federal level, and to set our tax rate to match that expense. The real common thread through all of Ken’s answers was push addressing issues down to the most local political level where they can be handled.

Ok, so on to the interview. I first asked him if he’s enjoying himself. His reply was “well, no.” He then discussed how he likes talking policy, meeting with folks, etc. But that the end of the primary was a lot more negative than he had expected. (Inter-family fights can be rough – we had that on the Dem side too this year.)

I next asked what is the biggest problem we face. Ken’s reply – “spending is the biggest problem we face.” I asked if this was more important than the economy and he replied that they are linked. That is we had spending under control then the economy would not be in as much trouble. He combined them saying “clearly we have to put people back to work, clearly we have to stop spending as much as we are.”

He then said what I think defines how Ken would vote in the senate – “clearly we have to let states, local government, and the private sector take care of a lot of the issues that the federal government is trying to take care of.” This fundamentally is what you will get if you elect Ken Buck to the Senate.  

I next asked about jobs, specifically if there is anything we should be doing at the federal level to address our horrible unemployment problem. Ken started discussing how job growth comes from small business (very true) and that we need to give small business certainty so they are comfortable expanding. To Ken certainty is business knowing what the tax rates, health care costs, regulatory costs, etc. will be down the road.

He next discussed the problem that small businesses can’t get loans. The banks have money, but they won’t loan it to small businesses. He discussed how we need a counter-cyclical program where we have banks loan more at times like this and less during booms rather than having the bank lending match the economic cycles. I asked how we get this and Ken’s reply was that one of the things in the financial reform bill that made sense was it puts tools in place for the regulators to get the banks to do this.

My $0.02: Lack of lending to small business is a giant impediment to recovery. Small business will be the prime engine of recovery and most small businesses cannot grow without credit. While this issue lacks sex appeal, it is critical and kudos to Buck for focusing on it.

I then brought up the question of demand. Assume tax rates are locked in and credit is available, a company is not going to hire more people if they can’t sell more widgets. Ken’s reply was that we unquestionably need to create jobs. He then went to the example of oil drilling on the Western Slope. Ken started by saying that while he thought Governor Ritter’s new regulations had an impact, the primary cause of the decline in drilling was caused by the recession.

Ken then walked through how layoffs on the oil rigs then caused layoffs throughout the communities out there of all the people who made a living providing services to the oil workers describing the true size of the layoffs caused by the reductions in drilling. That led to the question of how do we get the jobs back. Ken first brought up leases that Interior is sitting on (true, but there are a ton of approved leases not being drilled). He then jumped to wanting to see us drill more oil here, both for the good jobs it brings and for national security, and import less.

Ken then continued on discussing energy to say we need to look at nuclear energy, we need to promote renewables. And that this effort on the energy sector will create a lot of the jobs we are looking for to address unemployment.

I asked if he supported the idea of taxing imported oil to make domestic drilling more cost effective. Ken’s reply was that he does not like tariffs because he’s “a free market kind of guy.” He then added that it doesn’t make sense to him that it costs less to bring oil & gas across the ocean than to drill it here. He then added that he thinks the oil & gas companies and the environmentalists can sit down and effect a compromise that they are all happy with.

My $0.02: This made me feel a lot better about finding bipartisan solutions to our problems. I think you could lock Al Gore and Ken Buck in a room and they would rapidly come out with a solution that was acceptable to both, and was better from having both viewpoints involved. This is the environment we need to return to in the Senate.

I next asked if we should look at another stimulus bill. One that this time would be focused solely on the capital improvement projects that are clearly needed and not loaded up as a Christmas tree with something for everyone. Ken’s reply was no – that the stimulus bill we had did not work. He then added that the way out is to stimulate small business and not to grow government. He then added that capital improvement is a one-time fix, that once you’ve repaired the bridges over I-25, then there’s no more work to do.

Ken then dove in to the issue that we’ve created policies that have driven jobs overseas and if we don’t bring those jobs back and remain competitive, then we will continue to face this problem. He then added a comment that I think defines the core Ken Buck – “the answer to me is not onetime government spending, as much as it is trying to figure out where, in my view this country’s economy blossoms because of inexpensive energy, lower taxes and barriers to entry, than other countries.” And he finished that we need to get back to that to continue to being a manufacturing country.

Next question was should the Bush tax cuts expire. Ken replied that they should be extended. I then listed out how the Bush tax cuts are 1/3 of the deficit, that Medicare, Medicaid, & defense alone lead to a deficit, and as a balanced budget guy where will he cut spending (and it would be deep) and/or increase taxes to balance the budget. Ken’s reply was that we need to grow our economy because that is the only way to increase revenues. He added that raising taxes sends jobs overseas and leaves people here with less money to spend, further impacting the economy.

Ken then discussed reducing what the federal government does, and by so doing also reducing the cost of running the federal government. But on the programs he lists, he is not discussing ending them, he wants to see them moved back to the states. Ken does not see the federal government as the solution to most problems. He specifically brought up pushing education back to the states. He also brought up that a robbery of a bank is handled by the FBI while a robbery of the 7-11 next door is handled locally.

My $0.02: I think this is very illustrative of Ken’s view of government. He’s not saying government should stop providing services it presently provides (although I am sure he can list some things he thinks should end). Instead his focus is on figuring out which level of government he thinks is appropriate for each service. And call me crazy but I agree with him that the local police can handle bank robberies.

That led to my asking him if he thought our tax policy favored the rich. He replied “no” but then went on to discuss how the big problem is that the tax system is way too complicated. And because of that complication everyone figures no one is paying their fair share. He then brought up Paul Ryan’s plan for tax simplification where the only deduction is number of kids. Ken then brought up how we spend 200 Billion a year on filling out our taxes and that doesn’t manufacturer a single additional widget.

I next asked how do we fix the K-12 system. Ken sees a very important role for the federal government where it can support research on what works best in the classroom and promulgate the results of research out to schools. But he is opposed federal requirements and funding such as Race to the Top an NCLB. He then added that competition is the best way to find best practices and the combination of public, charter, parochial, private, and home schooling provides the innovation that we need.

Ken then spoke directly about how our educational system is not presently providing what we need for our economy and our country. That we need more scientists & engineers, but that it needs to be accomplished locally. I asked if the educational system can reform without federal pressure. Ken said “yes.” He started with he doesn’t blame teachers at all for what’s going on. He sees the core problem that parents have not been involved enough, and that he thinks Michael Bennet would say the exact same thing from his experience at DPS.

Ken discussed the fundamental need for a parent (usually the mom) to be fully involved in the child’s education. To attend every parent-teacher meeting, to insure homework is being doe each night, etc. That this engagement is key to the child’s success and it can only be encouraged at the local level. As D.A. Ken would at times sit down and talk with the parents of kids in trouble and he would lay out for them the difference in their child’s future earnings based on if they graduated high school, if they graduated college. And he would see a light bulb go off in the parent’s mind as they realize the impact education could have for their child.

Next up was Ken’s independence. It’s easy to say one is independent and will not vote a straight party line, but the key is what will be done in the Senate where party line votes have caused major gridlock. I asked if there was an Obama policy that he agreed with and would have voted for. He said that was a difficult question and he couldn’t think of one. He then talked about the financial reform bill which had parts he liked although because of weaknesses in it he would not have voted for it.

Ken spoke very highly of the parts of the bill that will institute counter-cyclical lending and that it addresses to some extend the trading of derivatives. He described derivatives as “a very scary situation that is lingering out there that could send us into another tailspin.” So he clearly sees the danger of derivatives and that the reform bill did not fully address that danger.

The weaknesses? That it ignored Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and he is concerned about the nebulous independence of the consumer financial protection agency. Ken discussed at some length how its governance is like the Fed and he does not like agencies that do not clearly report to the executive branch because they can become runaway agencies.

So I asked if there would be an issue where he could see himself voting with the Dems to stop a filibuster. Ken thought about it for a bit and then apologized saying he didn’t know. He clearly saw this as a possibility but couldn’t think of a specific case where he would disagree with the Republican leadership. This took a humorous turn when I brought up the example of a case where could he take a position where Mitch McConnell wanted to have him shot. Ken said absolutely and added that Mitch McConnell was not a big Ken Buck supporter. Nor were the rest of the GOP Senate leadership.

Ken brought up the very fair point that the Republicans are every bit as much to blame as the Democrats. He said that if he had been in the Senate during the Bush administration he could have pointed to numerous things. But now with the Obama administration, suddenly the Republicans are fiscal conservatives and so they’ve moved to his position.

My $0.02: I don’t know if Ken will ever vote with the Dems on a filibuster. But if he does, while outwardly he will be very serious and thoughtful speaking to the Republican leadership, deep down inside I think there will be a part of Ken Buck that has a giant smile on his face. I think Ken will vote his policies, not his party. But those two will line up most of the time.

That led to asking if he thinks the filibuster or individual hold rules should be changed or eliminated. He thinks both should be retained. He first started discussing the genius of our government being designed so that it is difficult to change things. That this inefficient balance of power makes for a better government. Key to this is “the Senate is where bad bills go to die.” (Unfortunately it’s also where good bills go to die.)

Next up was healthcare reform. I asked if there was anything he could see the Senate doing over the next 2 years when legislation would have to meet Obama’s approval, but funding could be restricted by the Senate.

Ken started going big picture saying that a Republican Congress will make Obama a much more popular president. He went back to Clinton where the first 2 years were his toughest, and then we had 6 years of Clinton/Gingrich where between that conflict we had a better outcome. He also saw the same advantage back in Reagan/O’Neill. He sees the same thing happening next year.

Ken then dove in to addressing healthcare costs. He first brought up tort reform, wanting to change the approach. He thinks medical courts should be considered where medically expert judges would streamline that process. He thinks we need more done in the area of portability. He then brought up one that could be gigantic, giving the tax benefit to individuals to match the tax benefit that goes to employers which would then increase competition.

That third one could have a major impact so I asked if that could get through Congress. Ken answered this by saying part of the problem was we had this gigantic bill that they were in a hurry to get through (I’m sorry but a year is not a hurry). Ken Buck things the Senate would work much better if the bills were broken out into individual bills on each specific piece of a problem and those pieces were then clearly debated. He thinks this would not only lead to better policy, but it would make it much easier for the American public to understand the legislation moving through the Congress.

My $0.02: Maybe they can find a compromise between reforming the filibuster/individual holds and instituting a single subject rule. One of the main reasons for these gigantic bills is the effort required around each bill moving through the Senate. If you’re going to break one bill in to many, then each bill has to move through faster with fewer speed bumps.

I next asked about illegal immigration. He started off talking about the present situation where we have a need for labor where we have not regulated it and it has put a disproportionate burden on many communities. He then discussed how whenever there is a need in America it will be fulfilled (hey – free enterprise works!) just as there is a demand for drugs in America that leads to sales of illegal drugs. He then said we need to work on the demand side of these problems (illegal drugs, immigration, etc.).

So step 1 for Ken Buck is get people into this country legally, much more quickly, with a verifiable card that has biometric info. And at the same time there is a need to secure our borders. He then discussed making it easier for companies to determine if an applicant was a citizen or legal worker. (Not a word demonizing illegal immigrants and not a word about amnesty.)

I next brought up the example of Emma Sky on General Odierno’s staff and asked him who is his insurgent? His immediate answer was his wife. (I’ve found about half the people I interview give this example – an engaged spouse that differs with a politician is, I think, a superb positive in many ways.) He then said that he was in the U.S. Attorney’s office as the conservative voice under a Clinton appointed Attorney. He went on to say he has not decided on Senate staff yet, but there will be Democrats on his staff so he is hearing a diversity of views when making decisions.

He also volunteered that on the campaign trail he has talked with a number of Democratic candidates that he has a huge amount of respect for. And he will talk to them about issues. Ken says he likes talking to people from differing viewpoints because he is never 100% right and in talking through issues with others he would see where ideas he had could be improved. He concluded with “I don’t want to just talk to people who want to suck up to me or who think the way I do.”

Next question, I asked what in 6 years will be his biggest accomplishment from his first term in the Senate. Ken’s reply was “I tried my hardest for a constitutional balanced budget amendment. I tried my hardest to eliminate spending. I tried my hardest to create a federal government that really co-existed with the other levels of government.” He then followed up that he doesn’t think the odds are good for the constitutional amendment, but that the debate will help address deficit spending.

He then followed up that he is going to find a way to make things work back in D.C. That they need to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. But at the same time, they have to get the federal government to a size that makes sense.

My $0.02: I think this illustrates what Ken is going there for, to find a way to work with others to craft a solution that reduces the footprint of the federal government and matches spending to tax receipts.

My final question was on abortion. I asked that as we have a wide range of opinion in this country as to at what point a fertilized egg becomes human, and fundamentally this is an opinion or belief, how would he like to see this legislated. Ken replied “I recognize that most Americans disagree with me. And I recognize that the worst laws are laws that a small group tries to impose on a majority.” Ken then talked about the effort he is involved in to provide a place for pregnant women to stay while they take the baby to term and then keep it or put it up for adoption.

Ken then added “we need to change the hearts and minds of people on abortion before we’re ever going to have a law that is accepted in this country.” Ken brought up the very valid point that he does not duck from the issues so when people ask him his personal opinion on abortion, he tells them what he thinks. But his record of effort is to provide alternatives. He concluded saying this is not an issue he is running on.

Conclusion

What do we get with Ken Buck? Number one is he will be focused on pushing many jobs the federal government does back to the states and local government. And that is something an individual Senator can have some impact on bill by bill. Number two is he will be focused on reducing our deficit. He’s not volunteering to raise any taxes to do so – but no elected official campaigns with a promise to raise taxes, that’s our political environment today (which speaks poorly of us voters more than of the candidates).

I also want to speak of what Ken Buck is not. He is not a drown the government in a bathtub proponent – he wants to move programs to the states, not end them (although I’m sure he can name some he would end). While he is personally socially conservative, he does not want to impose his social mores on the country.

I do think he will look for common ground with the Democrats. The filibuster has made the Senate unworkable without compromise. I think Ken will be open to that, except on the issue of deficit spending. But that’s a big exception since most legislation is about spending money on something. On the flip side, we Democrats are going to lose a couple of seats in the Senate and so significant compromise will be required and Ken will definitely not be a lapdog to Mitch McConnell.

Finally, Ken Buck consistently tries to give people direct answers to their questions. This means at times, with afterthought, he realizes he said something dumb. We want our politicians to be spontaneous, honest, and authentic. When they are they are also imperfect and inconsistent – because they are human beings. My hope is that campaigning as he does is rewarded not penalized.

Recording of interview at Ken Buck Interview (very end).

Anatomy of an Interview

I just completed an interview of Ken Buck and technically I think it went better than any before. So I thought this would be a good time to list out what the process I use is and how it plays out. (And for any experienced journalists out there that laugh at parts of this – please post comments with suggestions. I’m still learning.)

My Approach

My number 1 goal is to add to the conversation. So any question that has already been asked I don’t want to waste everyone’s time on. Many times there is a different angle that makes visiting the same topic of interest. So learning something new.

Second, I’m not going to change anyone’s mind with a couple of sentences they’ve probably heard before. The goal is to find out what they are going to do and why. With that said, asking them to speak to counter arguments is generally of interest. I try to see issues from their point of view both to do a better job figuring out what follow-up questions to ask and to better explain them. (This is pretty easy in most cases as generally we all agree on goals, it’s how to get there where the big differences surface.)

I try to ask high level questions and then shut up to see what points they speak to, and where else they take the conversation. Many times what is not said is as illustrative as what is said. I also think the issues they go on at length about are the ones they really care about and that lets us know where their energy will really go. (Good example, Senator Bennet, Representative Polis, and Governor Ritter could easily spend an hour discussing education.)

The Constraints

So how long do I get? There’s an agreed upon time up front – and it’s never that length. I’ve had a couple of “1 hour” interviews chopped to ½ hour. On the flip side Governor Ritter (2nd interview) and Representative Perlmutter both spoke for twice the agreed upon time. As the interview progresses I watch how antsy the press aide is getting to guesstimate how much time is left (I’ve gotten pretty good at that).

Ok, so for a 1 hour interview (that’s the usual length) I figure 10 – 12 questions. First off, I come in with 20 questions since my 1st interview with Governor Ritter – he was very terse in each answer and I was having to wing it. And that means about 5 minutes per question, letting the ones on a really interesting tangent go longer because some will be shorter. On about half the topics there is 1 or 2 more questions I really want to follow up on, but not at the cost of not having time for question #10.

The Goal

So we go into the interview with two goals. I want to get a good picture of what drives them, what they will put a lot of effort in to, and how they will see issues. The candidate wants to get across the package they are selling themselves as. I sometimes get emails saying I captured who the subject is better than any other interview (strangely, most often for Republican subjects) and I take that as success. Sometimes I fell afterwards that I got the picture they wanted to sell but don’t know how much if anything I got of the real person.

For most candidates I think the approach is advantageous to them – who they really are does come out in so many ways today and so they do have to sell who they are. But I do understand why a candidate like Jane Norton would avoid it, I’m not sure how a blank slate would do in this process but I don’t think it would be positive. But for most candidates I think the interviews I do are good for them and useful to the voters.

The Process

So what’s involved? First is getting the interview set up. This runs the gamut from a single email to an ongoing series of begging and pleading over months (16 months in the case of Ed Perlmutter).

Next is figuring out the questions to ask. I come up with a couple myself but the main source is I post who I’m interviewing on ColoradoPols and ask for suggested questions. I get a ton of suggestions that are on very specific issues (I don’t use those) but I also get a lot that are perfect for general questions to illustrate who the candidate is. The difficult part of this is deciding which ones to use, and ordering them.

Then the interview which is generally a 30 – 45 minute drive in each direction plus the interview itself. Then comes writing it up which generally takes me 3 – 4 hours. When I did 3 interviews in 1 day for the Hawaii Governor’s race, that was 11 hours over the next 2 days to write them – brutal. (This part I don’t enjoy.)

The Result

I have no idea how many people read the interviews because I don’t have access to the stats on Huffington Post or Colorado Pols. But I can track hits to my blog and from the day the ballots arrive in the mail until election day I suddenly get thousands of hits daily. And that’s just for my blog. So a lot of people find them useful.

And I think I have succeeded in being fair in the interviews. I know many find it strange that I try to be favorable to each subject in their interview, yet remain very partisan outside of the interview. But the fact that most Republican candidates remain willing to sit down with me tells me that I am able to do so, and that they understand I’m able to separate the roles.

So I’m still having fun doing this.

Jobs update – still poor with bursts of suckiness

Update: from Paul Krugman

Skeptics pointed out that slashing spending in a depressed economy does little to improve long-run budget prospects, and may actually make them worse by depressing economic growth.



This was a strange argument even a few months ago, when the U.S. government could borrow for 10 years at less than 4 percent interest. We were being told that it was necessary to give up on job creation, to inflict suffering on millions of workers, in order to satisfy demands that investors were not, in fact, actually making, but which austerians claimed they would make in the future.



But, in America, we do have a choice. The markets aren’t demanding that we give up on job creation. On the contrary, they seem worried about the lack of action – about the fact that, as Bill Gross of the giant bond fund Pimco put it earlier this week, we’re “approaching a cul-de-sac of stimulus,” which he warns “will slow to a snail’s pace, incapable of providing sufficient job growth going forward.”

from The Washington Post

They blame their profound caution on their view that U.S. consumers are destined to disappoint for many years. As a result, they say, the economy is unlikely to see the kind of almost unbroken prosperity of the quarter-century that preceded the financial crisis.

Across the industrial parks and office towers of the Chicago region, in a more than a dozen interviews, senior executives said they see Americans for years ahead paying down debts incurred during the now-ended credit boom and adjusting spending to match their often-reduced incomes.

This speaks to the fundamental issue, if people aren’t spending then business won’t invest – it would be stupid to do so. Things aren’t getting worse, but neither are they getting better.

And the emphasis on investment now is additional bad news for most (it’s actually good for my company):

And like the corporate sector as a whole, when Crawford gives the green light to an investment, it’s usually designed to lower the need for labor. Instead of expanding capacity, such as building a bigger distribution center and having to hire more workers to fill it, he is looking to serve existing customers more efficiently.

So can we fix it with tax policy? No.

But when Speer and other executives were pressed on the role that tax and regulatory policies play in hiring, they drew only vague connections. Speer said his decision whether to hire is driven primarily by demand for his products. Orders are coming in strong enough that he is running about 20 hours a week of overtime. So he is weighing whether to hire two or three additional manufacturing workers.

Can we fix it with capital construction (stimulus)? No.

He said an additional burst of fiscal stimulus from Washington might help boost economic growth for a period of months. But that is unlikely to affect his decisions about hiring and expansion, which Speer said are based on expectations for sales over years to come, not just the immediate future. As long as U.S. consumers remain deeply strained, he is unlikely to undertake aggressive expansion.

Can we fix it by making more credit available? No.

For large companies such as Illinois Tool Works, the price of borrowed money isn’t the problem. The company had $1.3 billion in cash on its balance sheet at the end of June, up from $743 million at the end of 2008. Lower interest rates wouldn’t make much of a difference, either.

“I could borrow $2 billion tomorrow for 3 1/2 percent,” said Speer. “But what am I going to do with it?”

I’m not saying that any of the proposals out there are of no utility, everything can help some. But it’s not a game changer.

We use WWII as the example of how to get out of a depression. But one giant thing WWII provided was certainty that there was going to be massive purchasing for years. Not just 50,000 bombers but 100,00 next year and the year after.

So what to do?

Got me. But one thing FDR did very well is he tried many different things, kept those that worked and fixed or ended those that didn’t. Each of the effective measures helped, and the process of ongoing attempts gave people faith in the future.

In Washington now it takes immense effort to start any new program. That effort not only adds a lot of delay but each proposal is both watered down and loaded up with pork to get it through. And forget killing any new program no matter how ineffective it turns out to be.

So, any brilliant ideas???

Suggested questions for Senate candidates

Hi all;

I will be interviewing Ken Buck this Friday and I hope to get an interview with Senator Bennet scheduled later today. My plan is to interview both with mostly the same questions and then post both interviews at the same time.

So… Please post suggested questions below. As always, the focus is on what they will do in office and why we should select them.

As each interview is over 6 hours of my time, I am not asking Charley Miller for an interview. I greatly respect the effort he is putting in, but the time hit is killer.

Also, I should have interviews set up with the three Gubernatorial candidates soon. When I do I’ll put up a diary on that asking for questions for them.

How do we resolve the core Jobs issue?

Ok, let’s say the Democrats in Washington were able to pass everything they wanted to address the jobs situation. What would we get? More money for the states to keep state and local government employees employed and additional stimulus money. And if all we faced was a financial meltdown, this would be sufficient. But I think we’re facing a much larger problem.

When the industrial revolution occurred, the increase in productivity meant that there were more people than jobs. It took generations to sort that out and in the meantime many starved, and many more had lives of economic poverty. I think we’re facing a change equally fundamental today where 70% of the workforce can provide for 100% of the population. In addition, the number of blue collar jobs that pay a middle class income are dropping dramatically.

I think this is a large part of why this recession was so bad – a lot of the labor that built the bubble was financial paper that moved money in circles which provided a lot of white-collar jobs. And it was funding unnecessary home building which provided a lot of blue-collar jobs. But all those jobs produced nothing other than a speculative bubble and so when the house of cards collapsed, those jobs disappeared – forever.

Yes rebuilding our infrastructure, building up green power sources, etc. are all useful tools to specifically address the recession today. But that work provides almost no jobs after the work is completed. Yes making loans available to small business is necessary for them to expand, but it doesn’t do much good if there are no additional sales. The “solutions” proposed don’t do squat to address the fundamental challenge we face.

So what do we do? I have no idea. And I don’t think having a giant meeting of the great economic thinkers will figure it out – Clinton had a meeting like that in ’92 and the word Internet never came up. But I do think we need to start talking about it. What do we do when manufacturing requires 2% of the workforce as farming does? Because this transition is occurring a lot faster. And the high-tech industry does not, nor does it need to employee a lot of people (our goal is to reduce the people needed to perform a job – including our own).

If the President and Congress are not even looking at this problem, then we’re left to be thrown around on the winds of change with no control over our destiny.

One Suggestion

I don’t think this idea speaks to the core question, but I do think it will help us find solutions, and do so by having many people each in their own way find an answer that works for them. My suggestion is a G.I. Bill for the unemployed.

The G.I. Bill was not passed to thank the troops (although it was sold that way). It was not passed because it would provide a gigantic increase in our productivity (although it did). It was passed to keep the troops out of the job market and to have them re-enter over time. Congress and the President were very worried we would drop back in the depression if all of the soldiers immediately re-entered the job market.

The G.I. Bill was a great success, not only because it was the right thing to do for the troops and avoided a deep recession due to millions suddenly looking for a job. It was also one of the best investments the government ever made with the cost being paid back many times over in the increased productivity of millions who would otherwise never have gone to college. In sum, the G.I. Bill reduced unemployment and increased the long term economic output of the United States. Exactly what we need today.

I think we should offer an Unemployed Bill where the government will provide tuition (in-state public university amount), the equivalent of room & board, plus unemployment payments continue while in school. And the goal should be to pull 5% of the workforce into school (the true unemployment/underemployment rate is 17%). When you add in the additional people that the schools will need to hire, this will eliminate the high unemployment we presently face.

In return, anyone who takes advantage of this system then pays an increased tax rate on their taxes for X years after they finish. Maybe 2 years for each semester they are in the program. This way the government gets the investment paid back, both directly from the individuals in the program and indirectly through the increased productivity of our economy. What’s not to like?