Monday, February 28, 2005

Unanimous! Unanimous? Senate changes, passes budget

Now it is off to the conference committee where the differences are to be hammered out. Details as they become available.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Sales Tax Holiday Gimmick Redux

Bob Damron is at it again. Always game for a half-baked scheme that resonates only under insufficient scrutiny, Damron is pushing for an annual weekend of exemption from sales taxes for back-to-school shoppers. This idea is popular for all the wrong reasons. It sounds good because everyone in Frankfort likes the idea of helping out the poor working folk with trying to send their crumb-crunchers off to school. It sounds better because retailers want a Christmas-like shoppers' feeding frenzy in August. But the net effect of such holidays in other states has been negligible for retail sales or economic activity. The claims of consumer savings are extremely dubious.
Having been unable to find any evidence of economic benefit for any state, municipality, retailer, or service provider in the dozen or so states with sales tax holidays, I will leave it to you to determine the value on a macro level. As a parent of four school-agers, let me suggest doing most of your back to school shopping in February or March, when sales are much better than 6%.
Let's drop the sales tax holiday foolishness.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Source for Loony Left Claims Found

New York Senator Charles Schumer has a website "Social Insecurity" calculator that purports to tell you how much you will lose under a personal account proposal. The fine print admits that the key assumption is a suggested change in Social Security payment calculations from a basis of "wage indexing" to one of "price indexing." What this means is that annual Social Security increases would be based on price inflation, rather than on the current wage inflation, which is higher. This is where Ben Chandler's claim of a cut of 50% in benefits (which mirrors Schumer's claim and which -- as has been pointed out on this site -- Chandler has now amended down to 30%) comes from.
The facts are substantially less sensational. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) did propose such a change in 2003. He has since backed off this proposal. This key piece of grit in the liberal craw, therefore, is not even a current part of the discussion. A more recent suggestion has been to go to price indexing only on higher income levels. While that would lower outlays, it would means-test Social Security. While that might be considered either a decent compromise or a back door tax increase, depending upon reasonable points of view, the loyal opposition responds like this:
"If you start means-testing the benefit, do you then start to turn this into, not a social insurance program, but a welfare program? That changes the perception of the program in Americans' minds," said Fred Griesbach, director of Pennsylvania's AARP chapter.
So are we to assume that the sticking point for our friends on the left is that they want to increase government control of Social Security with tax increases, but they just want to avoid the "perception" of such an increase in control? It is past time for Democrats to come to the family dinner table and discuss this rather than throwing rocks from the sidewalk.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Media continues to protect Chandler; Ben prevaricates

While mainstream media outlets continue giving Congressman Ben Chandler (D-KY) a pass on his Social Security misstatements, pressure from bloggers has caused him to change part of his story.
"The President's plan would reduce the benefits of future retirees by 30%," Chandler stated flatly in an email yesterday to Bluegrass blogger The Conservative Edge ( This represents a large change from Chandler's prior published statements that Bush planned to cut the Social Security checks to seniors and the disabled by "nearly 50%."
Chandler's information (both the old and new versions) has conflicted with all available descriptions of the personal account proposal, including that of the website that his staff insists was the original source for his inaccurate assertions.
The Louisville Courier Journal did print one article about anonymous phone calls with some of the inaccurate claims, but Chandler has, so far, avoided any of the scrutiny that might be expected to dog any public official, especially a Congressman making false charges against the President of the United States. Stay tuned for further developments.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Chandler's Social Security Scare Hits Louisville

James Carroll of The Louisville Courier Journal reports this morning that anonymous mass phone calls are going out in Louisville with false information designed to scare senior citizens and others about President Bush's Social Security reforms. Curiously, the false information (47% benefit cut for all recipients and $2 trillion cost for taxpayers) is the same that Rep. Ben Chandler is saying at campaign stops in rural 6th district counties and putting in small weekly newspapers. No one is claiming credit for the phone calls, but the details can be clearly traced to Chandler. We are still waiting for the "journalists" to make the connection.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Chandler Scares, Misinforms on Social Security; Media Sleeps

It has been ten days since Ben Chandler's attack on President Bush went out in the form of a press release claiming ridiculously that Bush plans to cut benefits to Social Security recipients by "nearly 50%" and that private account owners would be forced to "pay back at least 50% of what they earn in the account back in taxes." These claims are so outrageous and off base as to be written off as the wild rantings of a delusional partisan hack. And those two examples are just the tip of the iceberg. His scare tactics are nothing short of embarrassing. Chandler claims, literally, that some lucky few people will gain wealth from the Bush plan but that most people "will lose their retirement savings to fluctuations" in the same accounts! The same kind of error-riddled, even laughable, babble from a Republican elected to any office would elicit crushing scrutiny from a skeptical media. What response has Congressman Chandler's diatribe elicited so far? Silence. And repeated calls to Chandler's office for some kind of explanation for his outburst have gone unanswered as well.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

We'd like proof, Congressman Chandler

Congressman Ben Chandler, a representative for the 6th Congressional District of Kentucky has been writing and speaking out on President Bush's Social Security Plan. Chandler wrote an op-ed piece in the Jessamine Journal about the plan, and was scheduled to speak about the issue at the Lincoln County Seniors Center on Valentine's Day.While I applaud Chandler's desire to address the issue, he is making claims about the Bush plan that I have been unable to substantiate. Specifically, Chandler claims that under Bush's plan, "all seniors would receive an across the board benefit cut of close to 50%". I read a number of news sources on a regular basis, and I have never seen a story about this amazing claim.I have sent Mr. Chandler an e-mail requesting proof of his claim, and that he share the information with a major news organization. If true, I will join Chandler in opposing the Bush plan. If the claim is untrue, I call on Mr. Chandler to publicly retract the statements and apologize. I am sure that seniors will have been unnecessarily scared by the claim, if it is untrue.
Brian Goettl

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

New Media Rolls On

Kentucky Progress Radio is on the air this afternoon on 1340 AM, WEKY in Richmond. Tune in at 5:15 and stay tuned to 6:15. Call in number is 859-623-1340 and the email is

Monday, February 14, 2005

Planes, Trains, and Tax-and-Spend Republicans?

Governor Ernie Fletcher is back in the national news. This time it's not his airplane causing a ruckus, but his train wreck of a tax plan. Having already raised the hackles of Grover Norquist, Fletcher has now gotten the attention of National Taxpayers Union lobbyist Paul Gessing in a National Review magazine column.

Gessing calls Fletcher's plan bad economics and bad politics, saying "(Fletcher) has upset several business and taxpayer constituencies on the right, while not making any friends on the left."

At issue is the revenue neutral approach, which raises some taxes and lowers some others. While suggesting that the plan is too complicated for anyone to know if it is truly revenue neutral, Gessing suggests Fletcher would have done well to just cut spending and decrease the size of government in the name of "consistent conservatism." We agree.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Self-government is all about...

...good candidates! And while the Democrats are buzzing like busy little bees trying to move hard left, Republicans are seeking men and women of strong character to fill in the gaps left by the Deaniacs. Few people have publicly stepped forward, but there is a lot of action behind the scenes. Word is that Republicans will be well represented to improve upon their Senate majority and to become the majority party in the state House. And candidates are being developed for local races throughout the state. We will have the latest information here as it becomes available.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Lexington Mayor 2006 Race

It's time for a change in Lexington, but what is missing is a true leader who has demonstrated a steady hand in the heat of battle. Given that the FLOW organization has melted into a tub of goo despite the best efforts of the Lexington Herald Leader, I think it is time to draft the man who made it happen. Coalition Against A Government Takeover leader Warren Rogers would make an outstanding mayor for Lexington.

Spread the word.

Ben Chandler celebrates Howard Dean's coronation by SCREAMING about Social Security

The worst thing about having a Democrat representing you in Congress is having to read rants like Chandler's printed in the newspaper as a constituent communication. (Click on the headline above to read it yourself.) He had some pretty squirrelly things to say when he was running for governor, he has been a pretty consistent liberal vote in Congress, and now this. But, boy, he sure is famous!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

What if Fletcher never became Governor?

The Kentucky Post is running an online poll today asking readers to grade Ernie Fletcher on his job as governor. It is apparent that the Democratic Party of Kentucky has done a good job of getting the word out, as Fletcher has received an "F" from 42% of all voters.
One wonders how an objective observer would grade the Governor; the media that chronicles his exploits is decidedly skewed against him, yet some of his actions have been clearly ill-considered.
That brings up the thought: how would Ben Chandler have done in Fletcher's place? Given Chandler's voting record on fiscal issues in Washington D.C. -- and his words on the campaign trail in 2003 -- it would appear that had he been elected in November 2003, we Kentuckians (or at least the emboldened Democrats in Frankfort) would be attempting to tax ourselves into prosperity by now. The guess here is that a budget stalemate would have happened last year even with Chandler in the Governor's Mansion. The issue certainly would not have been revenue-neutral tax modernization, but massive tax increases and expanded government spending on social programs. The state House races of 2004 would have gone even better for the Republicans as a revolt against the taxes. Perversely, Democrats are trying now to position themselves as the responsible ones by proposing much higher taxes in the General Assembly this year. It follows that under a Chandler Administration, the remaining humbled House Democrats would be struggling now to position themselves as anti-tax. Instead we find them not only selling the notion that they are far right social conservatives, but that they have always been that way. Funny!
Chandler has accomplished nothing in Washington, thanks to his minority party status and his poll-driven conclusion that he just has to lay low to stay in office. Given his pro-tax tendencies we can surely be thankful both for that minority position and that Ernie Fletcher was the one elected Governor.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Liberals in $600 million Tax Hike Flip-flop; Chandler dodges scrutiny

The hubbub among Kentucky Democrats wanting the "freedom" to raise your taxes has conveniently avoided the flap between Grover Norquist and the highest-profile Dem in the state, Ben Chandler. It is a story worth noting.

In 2003, Chandler made a point of refusing to sign the American's for Tax Reform's Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Last week, several House liberals have decided en masse to back out of their promise to avoid raising taxes. Chandler in October 2003 then called the Pledge "irresponsible," a term echoed by others this past week. After losing the race for Governor, Chandler promptly signed the no tax pledge and proceeded to run for Congress as a self-styled "conservative" Democrat.

Once ensconced in Washington D.C., Chandler even voted to raise taxes on moderate income earners in the 10% and 15 tax brackets. Chandler's duplicity raised Norquist's ire (he called Chandler an "enemy of the taxpayer") but didn't prevent Chandler's re-election. Local media persists in attacking Norquist, but conveniently leave out this element of the story. Ironically, it is likely Chandler's flip-flop and his subsequent electoral success that powered this latest strategy.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Guy Hatfield Dies

Publisher of the Estill County Citizen Voice and Times Guy Hatfield died this afternoon from complications due to diabetes. He will be missed.

Democrats Melt Down Here and Abroad

First, Al Gore had his "risky scheme" and now that Kentucky House Democrats are sliding headfirst into a "$600 million tax increase" caucus of moral Democrats, the only question was which national Dem would be the next out of the box with some end of the week silliness. And the winner is: John Kerry!!

Kerry said in an email to supporters this morning that Social Security is a "phony crisis" and that we would be better served by thrusting American children into his socialized medicine program. Yes, he did. Someone alert the Kentucky Democratic Party! They've been one-upped! They may want an additional $600 million in taxes from you, but Senator Kerry has a plan to confiscate much, much more. Senator, we dub thee John "phony crisis" Kerry and encourage you to stay close to your wacky core beliefs. Stay tuned for more funny thoughts from liberals!

Charlie Hoffman Does the Dean Scream

"Conservative Democrat" Representative Charlie Hoffman (D-Georgetown) unmasked himself yesterday at a rally against conservatives when he dramatically held high a "No-tax increase" pledge paper from the Americans for Tax Reform and tore the paper to shreds.
Hold on to your hats, Scott County! Your representative wants to raise your taxes by $600 million. Maybe you should have voted for Chuck Bradley.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Feed the Poor: Tax Reform for Working Americans

Picture this: to help the plight of Americans in poverty, we eliminate all federal payroll taxes, replace them with a federal retail sales tax and exempt low income people from paying the sales tax. Our poorest citizens would truly be removed from the tax rolls. Further, we eliminate all income taxes to prevent Corporate America from passing along their taxes in regressive fashion to those least able to afford it. So the poor will have higher take-home pay and lower prices on all goods and services.
On top of all this, there are benefits even for the heartless Republicans. All federal income taxes of every kind will be abolished because we will repeal the 16th amendment. No Death Tax, no Capital Gains taxes, no Interest income taxes. All gone. And by getting rid of the need to pass along income taxes to consumers and by making the billions of dollars that we spend on compliance with the Tax Code we will make the economy more efficient and make our exports more competitive. This Tax Reform will be a jobs producing machine. Sounds like something liberals and conservatives alike could get behind, doesn't it?
But they can't.
A Republican Congressman from Georgia introduced it so the Democrats feel like they have to be against it.
What a shame.

Bush Speech Portends Kentucky Showdown

Nancy Pelosi, Democrat leader in the U.S. House, was going for the big moment in last night's response to the President's State of the Union address. She pulled out a reference to Bush's 1978 campaign for Congress in which he called for personal accounts to improve Social Security. Her claim, and hoped-for big moment, was that Bush predicted big trouble in Social Security by 1988 if personal accounts were not created.

Social Security obviously survived that decade, but what Pelosi doesn't want you to think about is why Social Security didn't fail then. Payroll tax increases in 1982 deserve the credit. And herein lies the persistent difference between the left and right on solving government funding issues.

Washington Democrats, when they aren't making the claim that Social Security is A-OK as far as the eye can see, say that raising payroll taxes will surely alleviate any future shortfall. Now let's be clear -- the numbers that Democrats keep pointing to do make a case for no imminent catastrophe in Social Security. And yes, the Bush assumptions do require unusually slow economic growth for their projections to occur. But Democrats here are only doing what they do best, arguing with a claim the President isn't making. The problem with Social Security is that is on a track to failure, not that the track itself is a short one. Further, the main issue is what are we trying to accomplish with Social Security and what works best, not, as the Democrats claim, that "good enough for government work" is good enough. Make no mistake: tax increases would help Social Security. But tax increases represent the Democrats' best response to Bush's reform agenda, and that is, politically speaking, a beautiful thing. Bush is looking for better solutions and the Democrats just want us to send them more of our money. See how that is shaping up for a series of Bush victories in his second term?

The pundits who claim Bush can't win on Social Security reform haven't seen this yet. And they don't see it in Kentucky's budget battles either. One problem is that Frankfort Republicans aren't playing the same game Bush is. They can't, yet. While Kentucky's House Democrats say that raising taxes represents the best way to fix the Commonwealth's fiscal woes, Republicans seem to be agreeing, but only in a revenue neutral fashion, so as to avoid the wrath of Grover Norquist. Democrats salivated last spring over the prospect of running for re-election on the strength of stopping the Governor from raising taxes on satellite systems and cigarettes. That didn't work, but only because there was no budget agreement. Next time around, Kentucky Republicans should look to Washington for how to emphasize the difference between the two parties. Fletcher did that fairly well by offering to let Democrats pass a budget without tax modernization. Here's hoping they take the bait. If the Dems stick to a budget that doesn't fix our fundamental problems, the races of 2006 can cast them as lacking the courage to act decisively. When the Democrats are relegated to minority status in the House, then we can change our focus to real reform. And we will then be able to move faster than rigid Washington. General Assembly rules give less power to minority obstructionists than does Congress.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Media Misses Big Story

Media Misses Big Story
By: Leland Conway

Minority females across the country are being denied a story they should all hear. Tucked quietly away between the major media networks’ prep work for what they hope will be a “See, we told you so” Iraqi election violence story and top Democrats vying to lead their party to victory in the next election cycle, is perhaps the greatest racial equality story in American history. Only a week after we celebrated Martin Luther King’s birthday, Condoleezza Rice has been sworn in as the first African-American female to hold the nation’s top diplomatic post.

Where is the celebration among the civil rights activist community? Where is the acknowledgment of the progress that we have made as a country by those who have so long desired it? I think it necessary here, to point out those 13 dissidents in the Senate (Democrats all, including the most liberal Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, and John Kerry) who voted against her confirmation. This was the most in history to oppose a Secretary of State nomination. For the party that has made so many empty promises to the NAACP for so long to come against this confirmation is confusing. Why is this not the biggest story of the decade in the main stream media? Why is this good news not being shouted from the mountaintops? It certainly has received coverage, but mostly on the negative attacks that Democrats were making against Rice. The biggest story of last week was California Senator Barbara Boxer’s bruised ego when Rice bested her in debate during the confirmation committee hearings.

Condoleezza Rice’s story is one of inspiring significance. Raised in segregated Birmingham, she has seen first hand the treachery of prejudice. Despite the obstacles before her, she has risen to one of the highest posts in the land. As a child, her parents took her to Washington D.C. where she saw the White House and told her mother “I am going to work there someday”. Her mother replied, “You can do anything you want to”. Minority women the world over should rejoice, and take heart. The trail has been blazed and the old stereotypes are falling.

There are certainly many battles still to fight to stamp out racism, but this particular victory is momentous. Not just because it is the first minority female to lead the State Department, but think of how it will change perceptions of America over time. Both from without and within, people who have long harbored quiet racial differences will be forced to re-examine the validity of those emotions now that an African-American woman has reached such a lofty position.

Fifty years ago, women were relegated to the role of housewife, and African-American men and women had to drink from separate water fountains than white people. Today, an African-American woman will guide American diplomacy, and there is serious talk of her possible Presidential bid in four years. Condoleezza Rice made herself what she is today through hard work, persistence and determination. Because of a society increasingly more open to diversity, she has become a mentor to people of all races, not just her own. Our society is progressing. With more work to do, we should stop bickering over political differences for a moment and thank God for this victory. I don’t see the Democrats rejoicing at something they long thought they would be the first to accomplish. But then, if Rice was a Democrat, it may never have been necessary for this column to have been written. Trust me; it would have been front page news.

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Fletcher: "We must pass tax modernization"

Governor Ernie Fletcher threw down the gauntlet to House Democrats tonight, calling on them to rise above the "timid status quo" and take on a "courageous course" by passing his tax modernization plan with the state budget this month.

Fletcher offered Democrats a couple of outs: he offered to keep the budget and tax plans separate -- a key sticking point last year -- and distinctly offered the choice of passing the budget without the tax plan, but characterized that option as a missed opportunity.

"This budget (without the tax plan) will allow us to continue government services, but it is not the vibrant vision we share for Kentucky," Fletcher said.

House Budget Chairman Harry Moberly (D-Richmond) and Speaker Jody Richards set the stage for budget brinksmanship by complaining about not having enough time to look at the Governor's proposal, most of which has been available publicly for almost a year.

Moberly's complaints were generic: "I don't think it's a budget that will move Kentucky forward," he said. "I think we need a greater vision."

Budget constraints like ever-increasing Medicaid spending, prison funding, and Kentucky's powerful state employee benefits lobby take much of the negotiation out of this session's budget talks. Also, the political imperative for some kind of agreement is intense on every side. So the likelihood of some kind of middle-of-the-road compromise is very strong. It will be interesting to see who wins the image war. Who will leave Frankfort in March with momentum for the 2006 political battles? Check out Kentucky Progress every day for the latest analysis. Your feedback is greatly encouraged.