On dueling tax cuts

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R–Wisconsin) was the first Republican to come out against the House of Representatives-approved tax cut bill last week.

Johnson’s reasoning was that the tax bill reduces taxes for subchapter-C corporations (including publicly traded corporations, which comprise all of 0.1 percent of U.S. businesses) but not for any other business, including subchapter-S corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships or sole proprietors.

Three Republican economists give their take on tax cuts:

Last week was a surprisingly good one for Republicans on their signature tax bill. First, they smartly added the repeal of the ObamaCare individual mandate tax, a move that cuts taxes for lower income Americans and reduces the deficit to make room for even more tax cuts. It doesn’t get better than that. Then they passed the bill out of the House by a bigger margin than most of the vote counters expected. Republicans rightly are rallying together to get this done by Christmas.

Let us be clear, this is not a great bill. It sure could be improved, as we describe below. But it is a good bill, and it will create a more prosperous economy that we believe will benefit all income groups. We have advised Donald Trump that 3 percent growth can be expanded to 3.5 percent to 4 percent, due to more businesses relocating back in America, more capital investment as the return of investment rises, and more higher paying jobs as the economy grows.

By the way, 3.5 percent growth would feel like an adrenaline rush after the sluggish 1.6 percent growth in President Obama’s final year in office. ‎This also translates into at least $2 trillion more revenue to the federal government over the next decade and a declining national debt burden as a share of gross domestic product.

We hope Republicans stick with the repeal of the ObamaCare tax cut because this would deliver an enormous double policy victory. With the individual mandate gone, expect to see a mass rush for the exits as Americans freely choose new insurance plans that are affordable and tailored to the specific needs of their families.

We are especially pleased that the 20 percent corporate rate, the heart and soul of the bill, remains intact. Talk of raising the rate to 22 percent would only water down the growth and jobs impact. We also believe the immediate business expensing will encourage businesses to start spending more of the cash they are sitting on. Thank God the un-American death tax is repealed. A lifetime of taxes is enough.

Repeal of the state income tax deduction will force states and cities to start spending more judiciously and help weed out waste in city hall and state capitals. New York and Connecticut spend almost twice per person on state and local government what New Hampshire spends, and yet services are better in the “live free or die” state. No longer will Uncle Sam underwrite one-third of municipal services. We hope this leads to more privatization of services and tax cuts all over the nation.

The tax bill can and should be improved in the Senate with these fixes. The bill should cut the highest income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent as in the original Trump plan. Everyone should get a tax rate reduction, and the most harmful rate is the highest one. The tax bill should add more relief for small business. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is right. Small businesses should see their rates cut closer to 25 percent, not 35 percent. They create half the jobs. To pay for this tax cut, close more corporate loopholes and cap more deductions.

There should be no backdoor capital gains tax hike. There are reports that the Republican plan would raise capital gains taxes on some long held stock. This is a bad idea. The rate should be cut, not raised on investment capital put at risk. Lawmakers should use the JFK and Reagan models of the 1960s and 1980s as the historical evidence for even bolder tax cuts. We believe that with modest revisions in the Senate, this could be the biggest pro-growth reform since the Reagan years, and it’s about time.

The end of the state and local tax deduction would be opposed in Wisconsin except that only one-third itemize deductions on their federal taxes. The House bill keeps the property tax deduction up to $10,000. A property tax bill beyond $10,000 would require, on average, a house valued beyond $500,000, which, perhaps ironically, would probably affect supposedly rich Republican voters the most.

The issue, of course, is that if you live in a low-tax state, your federal taxes are higher than they would be without the state and local tax deduction. This might be one way to finally enforce reducing state and local taxes, which remain too high.

Johnson is correct that tax breaks for business need to be broader than just C-corporations. Whatever a business spends its after-tax profits on — pay for employees, dividends for owners, or back into the business — is preferable than paying taxes, which as you know are paid by business customers, not the business.



Slick Willie reconsidered

Ross Douthat:

In the longstanding liberal narrative about Bill Clinton and his scandals, the one pushed by Clinton courtiers and ratified in media coverage of his post-presidency, our 42nd president was only guilty of being a horndog, his affairs were nobody’s business but his family’s, and oral sex with Monica Lewinsky was a small thing that should never have put his presidency in peril.

That narrative could not survive the current wave of outrage over male sexual misconduct.

So now a new one may be forming for the age of Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. In this story, Kenneth Starr and the Republicans are still dismissed as partisan witch hunters. But liberals might be willing to concede that the Lewinsky affair was a pretty big deal morally, a clear abuse of sexual power, for which Clinton probably should have been pressured to resign.

This new narrative lines up with what’s often been my own assessment of the Clinton scandals. I have never been a Clinton hater; indeed, I’ve always been a little mystified by the scale of Republican dislike for the most centrist of recent Democratic leaders. So I’ve generally held what I’ve considered a sensible middle-ground position on his sins — that he should have stepped down when the Lewinsky affair came to light, but that the Republican effort to impeach him was a hopeless attempt to legislate against dishonor.

But a moment of reassessment is a good time to reassess things for yourself, so I spent this week reading about the lost world of the 1990s. I skimmed the Starr Report. I leafed through books by George Stephanopoulos and Joe Klein and Michael Isikoff. I dug into Troopergate and Whitewater and other first-term scandals. I reacquainted myself with Gennifer Flowers and Webb Hubbell, James Riady and Marc Rich.

After doing all this reading, I’m not sure my reasonable middle ground is actually reasonable. It may be that the conservatives of the 1990s were simply right about Clinton, that once he failed to resign he really deserved to be impeached.

Yes, the Republicans were too partisan, the Starr Report was too prurient and Clinton’s haters generated various absurd conspiracy theories.
But the Clinton operation was also extraordinarily sordid, in ways that should be thrown into particular relief by the absence of similar scandals in the Obama administration, which had perfervid enemies and circling investigators as well.

The sexual misconduct was the heart of things, but everything connected to Clinton’s priapism was bad: the use of the perks of office to procure women, willing and unwilling; the frequent use of that same power to buy silence and bully victims; and yes, the brazen public lies and perjury.

Something like Troopergate, for instance, in which Arkansas state troopers claimed to have served as Clinton’s panderers and been offered jobs to buy their silence, is often recalled as just a right-wing hit job. But if you read The Los Angeles Times’s reporting on the allegations (which included phone records confirming the troopers’ account of a mistress Clinton was seeing during his presidential transition) and Stephanopoulos’s portrayal of Clinton’s behavior in the White House when the story broke, the story seems like it was probably mostly true.

I have less confidence about what was real in the miasma of Whitewater. But with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, we know what happened: A president being sued for sexual harassment tried to buy off a mistress-turned-potential-witness with White House favors, and then committed perjury serious enough to merit disbarment. Which also brought forward a compelling allegation from Juanita Broaddrick that the president had raped her.

The longer I spent with these old stories, the more I came back to a question: If exploiting a willing intern is a serious enough abuse of power to warrant resignation, why is obstructing justice in a sexual harassment case not serious enough to warrant impeachment? Especially when the behavior is part of a longstanding pattern that also may extend to rape? Would any feminist today hesitate to take a similar opportunity to remove a predatory studio head or C.E.O.?

There is a common liberal argument that our present polarization is the result of constant partisan escalations on the right — the rise of Newt Gingrich, the steady Hannitization of right-wing media.

Some of this is true. But returning to the impeachment imbroglio made me think that in that case the most important escalators were the Democrats. They had an opportunity, with Al Gore waiting in the wings, to show a predator the door and establish some moral common ground for a polarizing country.

And what they did instead — turning their party into an accessory to Clinton’s appetites, shamelessly abandoning feminist principle, smearing victims and blithely ignoring his most credible accuser, all because Republicans funded the investigations and they’re prudes and it’s all just Sexual McCarthyism — feels in the cold clarity of hindsight like a great act of partisan deformation.

For which, it’s safe to say, we have all been amply punished since.

I said in print 20 years ago that if a man was willing to abrogate his vows to his wife before God and before the community, he couldn’t be trusted in anything else. That was certainly the case with Bill Clinton. Hillary wasn’t a victim, she was a willing coconspirator to get more power for herself. In this one case it’s too bad that adultery isn’t a criminal offense.


Dividin’ Biden

David French:

The Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooting presents a serious problem for those who claim that the government offers the answer for gun violence. After all, the government failed at every turn, and it was up to a private citizen to stop one of the worst mass shootings in American history. The shooter was disqualified on multiple grounds from legally owning a gun, yet he obtained his weapons anyway. The police were apparently nowhere near the church (they can’t be everywhere in rural America) and couldn’t intervene for many long, agonizing minutes. It took a brave citizen with an AR-15 to match the shooter’s firepower and bring his rampage to an end.

So, what’s a gun-controlling politician to say here?

[Tuesday] the Internet lit up with claims that former vice president (and possible 2020 Democratic front-runner) Joe Biden told a young questioner that the Texas hero who stopped the Sutherland Springs shooting never should have owned the gun he used to engage the killer. I think the better description of his remarks was that he gave an utterly incoherent response about gun control, a response that tells us a great deal about the inadequacy of Democratic talking points about mass shootings. You can watch the clip for yourself below:

First, a young woman asks Biden, “With the tragedy that just happened in Texas, how do you justify the Democratic view on gun control, when the shooter was stopped by a man who was legally licensed to carry a gun?” Biden’s first words in response are generating headlines. He immediately said, “Well first of all, the kind of gun being carried, he shouldn’t be carrying,” and then he went on to boast about his role in authoring the now-lapsed “assault-weapons ban.”

Watching it charitably, I believe the “he” Biden is referring to is the shooter, not the man who stopped him (after all, it’s barely been reported that the Texas hero used an AR-15), but it’s obvious that if we reinstituted an “assault-weapons ban,” law-abiding citizens wouldn’t have access to the weapons while criminals would have no qualms disregarding the bans or imitating the San Bernardino killers by modifying legal weapons to violate the law. Moreover, even if the shooter complied with a so-called assault-weapons ban, he’d still have access to pistols that can inflict equivalent carnage — just as they did at places like Virginia Tech or a Luby’s Cafateria in Killeen, Texas.

But that’s not all Biden said. His next words were puzzling:

It’s just rational to say certain people shouldn’t have guns. The fact that some people with guns are legally able to acquire a gun and they turn out to be crazy after the fact, that’s life. There’s nothing you can do about that, but we can save a lot of lives, and we’ve stopped tens of thousands of people from getting guns who shouldn’t have guns.

Well, yes. Certain people shouldn’t have guns. That’s why we have laws banning people exactly like the Texas shooter from owning his gun. And yes, we have stopped “tens of thousands of people” from purchasing weapons. But it has also become clear that the government is less competent than we thought at enforcing existing law. Is the right response to a shooting like the Sutherland Springs massacre to implement new laws that wouldn’t have stopped the shooter? Or should the government more effectively enforce the laws that banned his gun ownership entirely while also protecting the civil liberties of the man who saved so many lives?

While Biden can be famously incoherent, it’s telling that one of the Democratic party’s most charismatic standard-bearers doesn’t have a better answer on gun control. For all the Twitter heat and rage after each shooting, it’s clear that we’re reaching a point of political futility. It’s all culture war now.

Would so-called common-sense gun control make a difference? As Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post outlined in painstaking detail, none of them would have stopped any recent mass shooting. In fact, all of the proposals would serve mainly to inconvenience law-abiding citizens, and none would imposing any material obstacle to determined criminals. It’s nibble-around-the-edges stuff that’s meaningless in addressing actual gun crime in the United States.

And what about the occasional calls to repeal the Second Amendment and follow repeal with actual gun confiscation? In addition to fracturing the nation and initiating massive civil conflict, it would be effective mainly at leaving guns solely in the hands of criminals. A government that’s not competent at implementing a simple background-check system is utterly incapable of physically pulling more than 300 million guns out of private hands. It would be impossible.

And that leaves us with the last and potentially most important effort — culture change. Many on the left obviously want to stigmatize gun ownership, to make gun ownership as culturally gross as, say, opposition to gay marriage. If a critical mass of people didn’t want guns and thought that gun ownership was fringe nonsense, then gun control and even outright confiscation would be easy. It would represent the American consensus.

The problem, however, is that the Left keeps losing the cultural argument. When they were advocating for greater tolerance on sexual matters, they were arguing for more permissive moral norms. Lots of people like more permissive norms, especially when it comes to sex.

The effort to stigmatize gun ownership is fundamentally different. Rather than seeking to expand liberty, the Left is asking Americans to relinquish their freedoms. Yet the further one is removed from upscale urban neighborhoods that are saturated with police, the less appealing the argument becomes. There is a reason that people who purchase weapons or obtain concealed-carry permits become evangelists for gun rights. Once you obtain the means to defend yourself, you don’t want to ever be more vulnerable again. Gun ownership is empowering.

The policy argument will rage on. As it does, look for Biden-like incoherence to be the rule rather than the exception. Democrat politicians have to say something to stay on the right side of the culture war, but that something will almost always fall apart under close scrutiny. But no matter, when it comes to gun-control arguments, it’s the sentiment that really counts.

I eagerly await to hear how Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Vinehout will explain to people on her rural campaign stops (she represents Alma in the state Senate) why her party favors taking guns away from law-abiding gun owners.


The Democratic war on women

The Atlantic, not known for sympathy to conservatives, brings up this inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party:

Believing women about assault—even if they lack the means to prove their accounts—as well as understanding that female employees don’t constitute part of a male boss’s benefits package, were the galvanizing consequences of Anita Hill’s historic allegations against Clarence Thomas, in 1991. When she came forward during Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing and reported that he had sexually humiliated and pressured her throughout his tenure as her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it was an event of convulsive national anxiety. Here was a black man, a Republican, about to be appointed to the Supreme Court, and here was a black woman, presumably a liberal, trying to block him with reports of repeated, squalid, and vividly recounted episodes of sexual harassment. She had little evidence to support her accusations. Many believed that since she’d been a lawyer at the EEOC, she had been uniquely qualified to have handled such harassment.

But then something that no one could have predicted happened. It was a pre-Twitter, pre-internet, highly analog version of #MeToo. To the surprise of millions of men, the nation turned out to be full of women—of all political stripes and socioeconomic backgrounds—who’d had to put up with Hell at work. Mothers, sisters, aunts, girlfriends, wives—millions of women shared the experience of having to wait tables, draw blood, argue cases, make sales, all while fending off the groping, the joking, the sexual pressuring, and the threatening of male bosses. They were liberal and conservative; white collar and pink collar; black and white and Hispanic and Asian. Their common experience was not political, economic, or racial. Their common experience was female.

For that reason, the response to those dramatic hearings constituted one of the great truly feminist events of the modern era. Even though Thomas successfully, and perhaps rightly, survived Hill’s accusations, something in the country had changed about women and work and the range of things men could do to them there.

But then Bubba came along and blew up the tracks.

How vitiated Bill Clinton seemed at the 2016 Democratic convention. Some of his appetites, at least, had waned; his wandering, “Norwegian Wood” speech about his wife struck the nostalgic notes of a husband’s 50th-anniversary toast, and the crowd—for the most part—indulged it in that spirit. Clearly, he was no longer thinking about tomorrow. With a pencil neck and a sagging jacket he clambered gamely onto the stage after Hillary’s acceptance speech and played happily with the red balloons that fell from the ceiling.

Yet let us not forget the sex crimes of which the younger, stronger Bill Clinton was very credibly accused in the 1990s. Juanita Broaddrick reported that when she was a volunteer on one of his gubernatorial campaigns, she had arranged to meet him in a hotel coffee shop. At the last minute, he had changed the location to her room in the hotel, where she says he very violently raped her. She said that she fought against Clinton throughout a rape that left her bloodied. At a different Arkansas hotel, he caught sight of a minor state employee named Paula Jones, and, Jones said, he sent a couple of state troopers to invite her to his suite, where he exposed his penis to her and told her to kiss it. Kathleen Willey said that she met him in the Oval Office for personal and professional advice and that he groped her, rubbed his erect penis on her, and pushed her hand to his crotch.

It was a pattern of behavior; it included an alleged violent assault; the women involved had far more credible evidence than many of the most notorious accusations that have come to light in the past five weeks. But Clinton was not left to the swift and pitiless justice that today’s accused men have experienced. Rather, he was rescued by a surprising force: machine feminism. The movement had by then ossified into a partisan operation, and it was willing—eager—to let this friend of the sisterhood enjoy a little droit de seigneur.

The notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed by Gloria Steinem must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life. It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover (never write an op-ed in a hurry; you’ll accidentally say what you really believe), it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.

Called “Feminists and the Clinton Question,” it was written in March of 1998, when Paula Jones’s harassment claim was working its way through court. It was printed seven days after Kathleen Willey’s blockbuster 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley. If all the various allegations were true, wrote Steinem, Bill Clinton was “a candidate for sex addiction therapy.” To her mind, the most “credible” accusations were those of Willey, who she noted was “old enough to be Monica Lewinsky’s mother.” And then she wrote the fatal sentences that invalidated the new understanding of workplace sexual harassment as a moral and legal wrong: “Even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment. He is accused of having made a gross, dumb, and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life. She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took ‘no’ for an answer.”

Steinem said the same was true of Paula Jones. These were not crimes; they were “passes.” Broaddrick was left out by Steinem, who revealed herself as a combination John and Bobby Kennedy of the feminist movement: the fair-haired girl and the bare-knuckle fixer. The widespread liberal response to the sex-crime accusations against Bill Clinton found their natural consequence 20 years later in the behavior of Harvey Weinstein: Stay loudly and publicly and extravagantly on the side of signal leftist causes and you can do what you want in the privacy of your offices and hotel rooms. But the mood of the country has changed. We are in a time when old monuments are coming down and men are losing their careers over things they did to women a long time ago.When more than a dozen women stepped forward and accused Leon Wieseltier of a serial and decades-long pattern of workplace sexual harassment, he said, “I will not waste this reckoning.” It was textbook Wieseltier: the insincere promise and the perfectly chosen word. The Democratic Party needs to make its own reckoning of the way it protected Bill Clinton. The party needs to come to terms with the fact that it was so enraptured by their brilliant, Big Dog president and his stunning string of progressive accomplishments that it abandoned some of its central principles. The party was on the wrong side of history, and there are consequences for that. Yet expedience is not the only reason to make this public accounting. If it is possible for politics and moral behavior to coexist, then this grave wrong needs to be acknowledged. If Weinstein and Mark Halperin and Louis C. K. and all the rest can be held accountable, so can our former president and so can his party, which so many Americans so desperately need to rise again.

If what Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore did in the late 1970s is important today (and that will be up to Alabama’s voters to decide since Alabama’s criminal and civil statutes of limitations have passed), then what Bill Clinton (and Hillary aided and abetted) in the 1990s is important too.

Tuesday’s votes, one week later

David Leonhardt begins with conventional wisdom about Tuesday’s votes in the few states that had elections …

The Democratic Party certainly did well in last week’s elections. In one place after another, voters seemed to reject President Trump’s hateful, lawless politics. The results have further energized progressives for 2018, which will be a vastly more important referendum on Trump than 2017.

… and then brings the reader to reality:

But if Democrats are going to succeed next year and beyond, they can’t focus only on last week’s positive signs and start believing their own spin. They also need to think about the warning signs. There were more of those than many people realize.

The reality is, the Democratic victories occurred almost entirely in areas that had voted for Hillary Clinton last year. In Trump country, Democrats continued to struggle.

Outside of highly educated suburbs and racially diverse cities, Democrats still do not have an effective response to Trumpism. And they need one. To build a national coalition — one with the power to pass policies that can help the middle class, protect civil rights and combat climate change — Democrats have to do better in whiter, more rural areas.

Virginia — the focus of attention last week and a blue-leaning state — highlights both the good and the bad. The Democratic margins in suburbs and cities were smashing, thanks to a surge in turnout. Elsewhere, though, the situation was very different.

Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor-elect, didn’t only lose outside of the big metropolitan areas, and badly. He lost by more than the previous Democratic nominee, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, had in 2013. Of Virginia’s 133 counties and cities, Northam fared worse than McAuliffe in 89 of them.

True, Northam did better than Clinton had, but only modestly so, as The Times’s Nate Cohn noted. That’s another way of saying that Trump’s success with the white working class now looks almost like the norm.

Patrick Ruffini, a savvy conservative pollster, made a similar point when analyzing Virginia’s House of Delegates results. On first glance, those results look fantastic for Democrats. They flipped 15 of the 100 delegate districts, including a few inspiring long-shot wins. Yet only a single one of those 15 districts had voted for Trump. Republicans largely held the Trump districts, which let them keep control (pending recounts), 51 delegates to 49.

I know that many progressives are tired of hearing about the white working class. They would rather stop obsessing over small-town America and instead pursue a coalition of minorities and highly educated whites, like the coalition that won Virginia last week.

But giving up on the white working class would be a terrible mistake. Whites without four-year college degrees make up fully half of the adult population, and they tend to be dispersed, rather than packed in small geographic areas, which increases their political power.

Accepting landslide defeats among the white working class effectively forfeits many state legislatures — like those in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, all of which are now Republican. State legislatures don’t just make policy. They are also in charge of gerrymandering.

Without the white working class, Democrats will need everything else to go spectacularly well to retake the House of Representatives next year. Virginia itself has four Republican-held seats that analysts think will be in play. Northam won only two of those four districts, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Or consider the Democrats’ four special-election House losses earlier this year, including the high-profile Georgia race. All were in Trump-won districts that Democrats couldn’t quite flip.

How can the party can do better? It’s not an easy problem, and I wouldn’t trust anyone who claims otherwise. But the crux of the matter is clear enough: Democrats have to get the white working class to focus on the working-class part of their identity rather than the white part.

Most voters don’t make decisions by doing a cost-benefit analysis of candidates’ proposals. They instead tend to vote for candidates who instinctively seem to get their lives. Voters are attracted to candidates with whom they can identify.

Trumpism focuses people on the white part of identity. The Virginia campaign, for example, revolved around talk of immigrants and old Confederate heroes. When those are the topics, Democrats are going to struggle (however frustrating that may be).

But race isn’t the only part of people’s identities. When voters instead focus on class, Democrats thrive. Think back to Barack Obama’s populist-tinged 2012 re-election campaign. Or look at the senators, like Sherrod Brown and Claire McCaskill, who hold their own outside of metropolitan areas. Or the landslide victories for ballot initiatives on Medicaid and the minimum wage.

The best news for Democrats is that they don’t turn off many suburban and urban voters by focusing on class. Most of them are struggling with slow-growing wages, too.

Leonhardt doesn’t mention, however, the biggest single issue that divides Republican voters and Democratic voters — gun rights — which is really the worst news for Democrats.

How federal taxes affect state taxes

The Badger Institute (the former Wisconsin Policy Research Institute):

The House Republican tax reform bill unveiled last week offers a $1.5 trillion (that’s trillion, not billion) tax cut, most of which redounds to the benefit of businesses. The top corporate tax rate would be slashed from 35 percent to a flat 20 percent rate, whereas small businesses would see their pass-through income taxed at a maximum 25 percent, down from 39.6 percent. Also, the tax structure for companies doing business abroad would be completely revamped — for the better.

For individuals, the bill is more of a mixed bag, with winner and losers. It would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to four, increasing the income range within each bracket. At the same time, several tax breaks that taxpayers in high-tax states such as Wisconsin have come to rely on would be eliminated or reduced.

The real showstopper is that state income taxes would no longer be deductible. That’s fine for people who live in states that exact no or very little income tax. But what about here?

Consider that Wisconsin’s top state income tax bracket is 7.65 percent, among the highest in the country. According to Urban Milwaukee’s analysis of Internal Revenue Service data, in 2015, more than 800,000 Wisconsin taxpayers claimed deductions for state income taxes, totaling $6.22 billion. You don’t have to be a CPA to understand the effect that denying such deductions could have on Wisconsin’s taxpayers.

That’s not all. The reform bill also would cap real property tax deductions at $10,000. Although the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that across the state there are relatively few homeowners with property tax bills in excess of $10,000, a closer county-by-county analysis tells a different story. For example, Milwaukee County ranks 42nd out of 3,143 counties nationwide for property taxes imposed as a percentage of median income.

This means a lot of Milwaukee County residents do pay over $10,000 per year in property taxes. Residents of Dane County and certain other Wisconsin counties also feel the brunt of high property taxes. Up until now, being able to deduct all of one’s property taxes has served as a palliative of sorts for many homeowners in these counties.

But perhaps not so much in the future. The consequence of capping property tax deductions, along with eliminating the state income tax deduction, would effectively punish a large swath of Wisconsin residents just for living where they do.

To be sure, the House bill would almost double the standard deduction. That would reduce the number of people itemizing deductions (including state income and property taxes), since the only reason to do so is if those deductions combined exceed the standard deduction. Nonetheless, there is no question that Wisconsin taxpayers who continue to itemize (and there will be plenty of them) would get dinged.

The first impulse might be to contact House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) or one’s congressman to make a plea for putting things back to the way they have been. Before doing that, however, we should ask ourselves whether the answer lies there or, instead, with our own state tax system.

As already noted, several states have little or no income tax, and most have property taxes far below our own. Why should the federal government continue to subsidize Wisconsin taxpayers via the tax code because we can’t figure out a more equitable way to raise revenue — or cut spending?

Instituting open-road tolling on major highways as a way to fund roads, instead of resorting to income taxes, or consolidating local government as a belt-tightening measure are both worth a closer look than they have been given so far.

Almost everyone agrees that simplifying federal tax laws is necessary, and eliminating state income tax deductions and capping deductions for property taxes are small steps toward that end. As Todd Berry, president of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, told the Journal Sentinel the other day, “I hope people realize there are … good reasons to try to clean up and simplify a pretty hard-to-justify tax system.”

There is a ways to go before the House bill or anything like it becomes law. Still, the smart money says that change is a coming and Wisconsin better be ready.

Whether or not one agrees with all the particulars of the House Republican tax bill, give Congress credit for at least starting to fix a longstanding problem. Wisconsin ought to “clean up and simplify” its own tax system.

If it does, that could help make our state more competitive in the marketplace — and help a lot of its residents who otherwise might take a hit under federal tax reform. The moment is upon us to act.

The war on conservatives

Dan O’Donnell:

Rand Paul may be the latest Republican to be physically attacked, but he is far from the only one.

In June, a deranged liberal from Illinois who had volunteered on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, drove all the way to Virginia to shoot as many Republicans as he could find, targeting their congressional baseball practice and severely injuring House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer, and two Capitol Police officers.

Just a month earlier, a liberal activist accosted North Dakota Republican representative Kevin Cramer and shoved fake dollar bills into his suit jacket.  Four days before that, a woman was arrested for trying to run Tennessee Congressman David Kustoff off the road. After she pulled over, she “began to scream and strike the windows on Kustoff’s car and even reached inside the vehicle.”

In Florida, the office of Republican Congressman Ted Yoho was vandalized by protesters, and a woman left a voicemail saying, “Next time I see you, I’m going to beat your f**king ass.”  Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz received a similar voicemail:

Hey Jason Chaffetz—I suggest you prepare for the battle, motherfucker, and the apocalypse.  Because we are going to hunt your ass down, wrap a rope around your neck, and hang you from a lamppost!

That same month, authorities deemed credible a series of threats to Virginia Representative Tom Garrett, including one that read “this is how we’re going to kill your wife.”  Other messages threatened to kill Garrett’s children and even his dog.  In Tucson, Arizona, the FBI arrested a man for making repeated death threats to Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally.

In February, a violent mob descended on the office of California Congressman Dana Rohrbacher and attacked a 71 year-old staffer, knocking her unconscious.  This was the same month that UC-Berkeley students threw rocks through storefront windows and set their own campus on fire because alt-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak there.  Two months later, a speech by conservative writer Ann Coulter had to be cancelled because of similar violence and threats.

At Middlebury College in Vermont, angry liberals attacked political scientist Charles Murray as well as one of the school’s professors, Allison Stranger.  She suffered a concussion, while Murray was violently shoved before the mob started attacking the car they jumped in for safety.

In Oregon, the annual Rose Parade had to be cancelled because of threats of physical violence against anyone who dared to march with the Republican Party.

Last October, a Republican field office in North Carolina was firebombed and spray painted with the message “Nazi Republicans get out of town or else.”  And the night Donald Trump won the presidency, the president of Cornell University’s College Republicans was violently assaulted.

And that’s just the violence and threats of violence against elected Republicans, their staffers, Republican organizations, or prominent conservative figures.  The list of attacks against everyday conservative-leaning citizens is even longer.  Just since Donald Trump was elected President a year ago:

An angry liberal high school student in California punched a female classmate in the face after she wrote on social media that she supported Trump.  Another California high schooler screamed “You support Trump, you hate Mexicans” as she viciously beat a girl.  A high school student in Florida punched a classmate for carrying a Trump sign.  A group of high school students in Maryland punched a student demonstrating in support of Trump, then repeatedly kicked him as he lay defenseless on the ground.

And it wasn’t just high school students: A group of elementary students in Texas attacked a classmate who voted for Trump in a mock election.

A group of African-American men in Chicago viciously beat a white man while screaming at him that he voted for Trump.  In a separate incident in Chicago, a group of people beat a man following a minor car accident.  As they attacked him, they screamed “You voted Trump!”

A self-described anti-bullying ambassador shoved a 74 year-old man to the ground while protesting Trump’s win outside of Trump Tower.  In Connecticut, two men attacked a man who was holding a Trump sign and an American flag.

During the airport protests following the announcement of President Trump’s so-called travel ban, a mob knocked a pro-Trump demonstrator unconscious.  That same month, a Trump supporter was attacked while trying to put out a fire started by an anti-Trump mob.

A former professor at Diablo Valley College in California inflicted “significant injuries” on three Trump supporters when he beat them with a U-shaped bicycle lock.  And in Indiana, state police said a driver fired several shots at a truck with a “Make America Great Again” flag and an American flag on it.

The grand total is nearly 30 politically-motivated violent incidents on conservatives in just over a year—an average of more than two per month—all committed by angry liberals.

So much for liberalism being the ideology of peace and tolerance, huh?

O’Donnell didn’t mention all the harassment (including Gov. Scott Walker’s parents) and threats that took place in the wake of the Act 10 debate, which no liberal in this state criticized even once.

Apparently more conservatives need to start carrying guns.


The next gun control attempt failure

Jonah Goldberg writes about the most divisive issue in politics today:

Among the many problems with the Great Gun Debate these days is that the pro-gun crowd wants to make it a culture-war battle and the anti-gun crowd wants to pretend that it isn’t.

On public policy grounds, the pro-gun people have the better arguments. Firearm homicides have declined since the 1990s despite the loosening of gun laws.

Almost none of the remedies proposed in the wake of mass shootings would have actually prevented those crimes (though had so-called bump stocks been banned — as they should be — fewer would have died in the Las Vegas shooting last month).

Indeed, it’s common in the aftermath of shootings to hear pundits and politicians call for the passage of laws that already exist. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have insisted that “machine guns” be banned — they essentially already are. Others talk about banning “assault weapons” as if such a designation describes a specific kind of weapon. It doesn’t. Nor would banning assault weapons, however defined, put much of a dent in the problem. Rifles of all kinds account for just 3 percent of the murder rate.

More broadly, President Trump and a GOP-controlled Congress will not do anything significant to restrict gun rights in America. And the experience under President Obama, particularly in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, demonstrates that even some Democrats don’t want to move against their electoral self-interest.

One year ago right now

One year ago at the exact moment this was posted, the polls closed in Wisconsin.

This was about the time that the news media and political experts started to see evidence (NSFW language warning) that the predicted easy Hillary Clinton win and Democratic sweep wasn’t going to happen:

And how did the media professionals act? The Washington Free Beacon chronicles:

Esquire interviewed 40 people who either covered or worked on one of the campaigns during the 2016 presidential election. The individuals gave their personal stories about the unexpected election of President Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton. Most of the reporters and editors who were interviewed expressed shock and horror at Trump’s upset victory.

Here are some of their stories.

For some reason, I feel compelled to add:

Rebecca Traister, writer at large for New Yorker Magazine, shared her feelings on being confident about a Clinton victory and how she subsequently felt “so alone” when it was apparent that Clinton would lose. She also observed Clinton supporters throwing up and crying on the floor, according to Esquire, which recounted the progression of her thoughts throughout the night.

They were serving, like, $12 pulled pork sandwiches [at the Javits Center]. It was nuts, people were bouncing off the walls. Everyone genuinely believed she was going to win. I don’t know if it made me feel more confident or not.

I felt so alone, I knew it was done. I was by myself on the floor. I started to cry.

I was thinking everything from, “I’m gonna have to rewrite my piece” to, “Can we stay in the U.S.?” I texted my husband, “Tell Rosie to go to bed. I don’t want her to watch.”

People were throwing up. People were on the floor crying.

In the cab home, the cabbie had on the news, that’s when I heard his acceptance speech, and I said, “Can you turn it off?” I couldn’t hear his voice. I was like, “I can’t listen to his voice for the next four years.”

I got back to Park Slope, I went to check on the girls. When I went to say goodnight, I looked at Rosie, and I had this conscious thought that this is the day that will divide our experience of what is possible. This is the day where a limitation is reinforced for her.

MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff said his thoughts changed from not believing Trump could win to “totally” believing Trump could win.

“I went from this feeling of, ‘Oh my god, wow. I can’t believe it,’ to, in a matter of seconds, ‘Oh, whoa, I can totally believe it,'” Soboroff said.

“Crooked Media” podcast host and former senior political correspondent for MTV News Ana Marie Cox recalled how some of her friends worried about their future.

“A Muslim colleague of mine called his mother. She was worried he was going to be the victim of violence at any moment,” Cox said. “A colleague who is gay and married was on the phone with her wife saying, ‘They’re not going to take this damn ring away from me.'”

Editor of the New Yorker David Remnick discussed his sudden revelation that journalists need to “put pressure on power,” once Trump was elected.

Not only did I not have anything else ready, I don’t think our site had anything, or much of anything, ready in case Trump won. The mood in the offices, I would say, was frenetic.

That night I went to a friend’s election-night party. As Clinton’s numbers started to sour, I took my laptop out, got a chair, found a corner of that noisy room, and started thinking and writing. That was what turned out to be “An American Tragedy.”


Jelani [Cobb] and I spoke around midnight. We were both, let’s put it this way, in the New Yorker mode of radical understatement, disappointed. Jelani’s disappointment extended to his wondering whether he should actually leave the country. He wasn’t kidding around. I could tell that from his voice.

We agreed that night, and we agree today, that the Trump presidency is an emergency. And in an emergency, you’ve got a purpose, a job to do, and ours is to put pressure on power. That’s always the highest calling of journalism, but never more so than when power is a constant threat to the country and in radical opposition to its values and its highest sense of itself.

Jelani Cobb, a writer for the New Yorker, was discomforted by the New York Time‘s headline “Trump Triumphs.”

“I saw the New York Times headline and I was very discomforted by it,” Cobb said. “For one, I knew that I had a child on the way.”

U.S. news editor for BuzzFeed News Shani O. Hilton remembered how quiet the train was from Brooklyn the night of the election.

“You get on the train from Brooklyn. It’s silent. And not in the normal way of people not talking to each other. It felt like an observable silence,” Hilton said. “I saw at least three people sitting by themselves, just weeping silently.”

New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro went home and questioned whether he should change jobs.

“I went home and woke up my husband, I think it was 4 or 5 in the morning, and asked him what the next steps should be journalistically. Should I move to Washington? Should I change jobs?” Barbaro said. “It was pretty disorienting.”

Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel opined that most of the people he saw at an Atlanta airport who looked like him—”a white dude with a mustache, fairly bloated by the campaign”—voted for Trump who, as far as they knew, was a a “bigot.”

“I was connecting through the Atlanta airport. I looked around and thought, well, for eight years, I didn’t really think about who voted for who,” Weigel said. “But as a white dude with a mustache, fairly bloated by the campaign, most of the people who look like me voted for this guy who, as far as they know, is a bigot. I remember feeling that this divider had come down, this new intensity of feeling about everybody I saw.”

Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos shared his plan for the Trump presidency, which is to resist and not be neutral.

“I’ve been to wars, I’ve covered the most difficult situations in Latin America. But I needed to digest and to understand what had happened. I came home very late. I turned on the news. I had comfort food—cookies and chocolate milk—the same thing I used to have as a kid in Mexico City,” Ramos said. “After that, I realized that I had been preparing all my life for this moment. Once I digested what had happened with Trump and had a plan, which was to resist and report and not be neutral, then I was able to go to bed.”

Former CNN host Reza Aslan expressed his horror, describing how he had a panic attack when he heard the news that Trump won.

I thought, “Oh my God, how terrible are we that it’s even this close?”

My wife stayed up and I went to sleep, then she woke me up around 1 or 2 in the morning bawling and told me that it was over. My poor, sweet wife. She wanted to hug and kiss me but I went into a panic attack and couldn’t breathe.

I remember thinking, as clear as day, this is who we are. This is what we deserve.

You take your kids to school, you go to the store, you go to the post office, you’re looking around, and you’re thinking, “These people hate me.”

The Stockholm Syndrome reactions to Saint Hillary’s losing might be the biggest reason I’m glad Trump won, even though I didn’t vote for him. The examples of gross lack of professionalism should have gotten all of these “reporters” fired, along with their bosses.

Kevin McCarthy evaluates the past year, as RightWisconsin reports:

National Review contributing editor Andrew McCarthy says that even though President Donald Trump’s behavior can be at times maddening, we’re still better off with Trump rather than Hillary Clinton.

“While I was not a Trump person in the primaries, I was a Cruz person, I was always Never Hillary,” McCarthy said. “Even though I find some President Trump’s antics maddening, I still think we’re better off than had we been – by far – if Hillary Clinton were president.” …

McCarthy cautioned Trump supporters about talking about thwarting the president’s agenda.

“When they talk about moving the president’s agenda, I think they ought to bear in mind he is a president that won with a minority of the popular vote,” McCarthy said. “He won fair and square. But more people, substantially more people, voted against him, supported the other candidate.”

“Even within the tens of millions of people who voted for him, a goodly slice of them were more antagonistic towards his opponent than enthusiastic about him,” McCarthy said.

But McCarthy said conservatives were better off because they were not enthusiastic backers of Trump during the primaries, so they don’t “own” him.

“So I think we do what we’ve been doing, which is support him when does the right things and try to encourage him to do the right things,” McCarthy said. “And we can feel perfectly free to oppose him when he does, you know, when he strays.”

“I haven’t found life under Trump difficult at all from that regard,” McCarthy said. “I’m sure I might feel differently about it if I held elective office, because that’s when you have the complications of party discipline, but that’s not my problem so I haven’t found it too difficult.”


When the elites don’t get it

Glenn Harlan Reynolds:

Even David Brooks is admitting it:  “Our elites really do stink.” And he’s right. But why? In part because they’re inbred, and care too much about each other’s opinions.

I’ve been watching a lot of institutions fail, lately, from Hollywood, to the news media, to the NFL and ESPN, to political parties and academia, and I see a common factor. The problem is that whatever job its members are supposed to be doing at the moment, our ruling class cares more about what the rest of the ruling class thinks about it, than about the job it’s supposed to be doing. The result, quite often, is a debacle.

Take the NFL protests. These have played badly with fans — you know, the people who actually attend the games and watch them on TV. But to Roger Goodell and the people who run the NFL, “social justice” and progressive views on race take a priority. So even though the player protests have been poison for ratings, the NFL so far has been unwilling to stop them.

And look at ESPN. As a sports network, its primary audience is white, often working-class men who want to watch and talk about sports. But ESPN’s on-air talent seems determined to pretend that they’re on MSNBC, delivering “woke” lessons about politics to an audience that wants to hear sports news. Again, the on-air talent and the management are heavily invested in looking progressive to other folks in broadcasting. The audience? They’re an afterthought. (ESPN finally suspended Jemele Hill for suggesting that people supporting the players start a boycott, but was okay when she called President Trump a “white supremacist,” and when host Michelle Beadle told white men to “shut up and listen for five minutes.” The fans aren’t so hot on being lectured, apparently; ESPN’s ratings are falling and its financial future is in doubt.

Hollywood was happy to talk about politics, too, and lecture the rest of America about how morally inferior we are compared to our show business betters — Hollywood is America’s moral conscience, according to Harvey Weinstein enabler George Clooney. Everyone in Hollywood posed and preened in support of various progressive causes, even as they were, in fact, covering for all sorts of sexual predators. On top of that, most of the films they’ve been making are terrible. (Mostly remakes, comic-book movies and, for variety, remakes of comic-book movies; when it’s something new it’s often a preachy bomb like Suburbicon.)

Of course, in my own field of higher education it’s the same. When students on campus went from simply protesting to disrupting events and classes and mobbing speakers (and fellow students), the leaders of higher education didn’t respond appropriately. Part of it is cowardice on their part, but that cowardice stemmed largely from an agreement with the protesters, because they shared the values of higher education administrators. (I’m betting pro-Trump student groups who shut down classes or assaulted speakers, if such existed, would have been given far less leeway). Now the schools where those protesters ruled, from the University of Missouri to Evergreen State to Reed College to OberlinCollege, are in trouble. Had the leaders done their jobs, instead of trying to look good for their peers, the institutions they were entrusted with would be doing better.

The current hip term for this behavior is “virtue signaling” — the effort to demonstrate to one’s peer groups that one holds all the right views and positions. But of course, all humans virtue signal to a degree. What makes it worse today is that our ruling class is such a monoculture. In the words of Angelo Codevilla:

 “Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the ‘in’ language — serves as a badge of identity.”

And it’s an intensely tribal group, one with great fear of ostracism. A century ago, America had different, overlapping ruling classes with different values: Corporate moguls seldom sought the approval of press barons who seldom cared what academics thought about them and vice versa. Now they’re all cut from the same cloth, which makes this phenomenon much more pronounced, and much more dangerous.

Our ruling class has a diversity problem. But I think it’s about to get more diverse. Which is good. Because the current one, as Brooks says, stinks.

Too many people in my own line of work crave attention, approval and to be seen as cool, particularly those who work in Washington and state capitols. We’re not. We shouldn’t try to be.

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