There have been danger signals in Virginia for at least a year. The Democrats are pouring in massive amounts of money, our gun lobby managed to lose many legislative friends through comments made by their PAC. One once friendly chief of staff described the PAC chairman as “abrasive”.
Our Attorney General is looking like the current front runner for Governor.
Fifth District Congressman Robert Hurt vigorously defended his vote in favor of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) against hostile questions from constituents in Albemarle County on Saturday, one day after the controversial TPA bill came to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hurt stood firm against questioners at the county GOP’s monthly breakfast who asserted that the TPA gave President Obama unprecedented authority to negotiate free trade deals and who argued that free trade does not benefit Americans because usually imports rise more than exports do after free-trade agreements are implemented. He told me later that free trade is consistent with Republican and conservative principles and “would make Ronald Reagan proud.”
This whole “exports and jobs” framework is misguided. Thirty years ago in the Cato Journal, the economist Ronald Krieger explained the difference between the economist’s and the non-economist’s views of trade. The economist believes that “The purpose of economic activity is to enhance the wellbeing of individual consumers and households.” And, therefore, “Imports are the benefit for which exports are the cost.” Imports are the things we want—clothing, televisions, cars, software, ideas—and exports are what we have to trade in order to get them.
A growing number of economists and advocates of free trade have established that imports provide choices and opportunities that increase individual and national prosperity. These benefits do not come at the expense of economic dynamism. Instead, expanded economic activity due to trade in both directions creates jobs. Congress can best bolster the U.S. economy—and increase employment—by moving away from protectionism and toward freer trade that takes full advantage of the benefits of imports.
As Hurt left the Albemarle GOP breakfast, he paused for about six minutes with Bearing Drift before driving himself to another constituent event in Crozet. Here is part one of the audio recording of our interview, in which Congressman Hurt explains what TPA does and what it does not do:
And here is part two of the interview, in which Hurt notes how President Obama is distrusted by conservatives and how his Fifth District constituents can benefit from free trade:
Hurt cited Internet rumors like “’this means we’re going to give the president the authority to change immigration law!’” Those, he said, are “just totally, 100 percent false. It does not.”
He explained that, contrary to those rumors, “in order for any law of the United States to change, it has to come through Congress.”
Moreover, he said, “if it’s pursuant to a free trade agreement, it has to come through Congress twice, because it has to be adopted as a free trade agreement and, secondly, the actual change of the law has to be adopted through implementing legislation, which would be a second shot at the apple.”
Taking aim at the Internet rumor mill, Hurt asserted that “the idea that this President can affect any of our laws unilaterally or that we’re going to submit to some international tribunal is just hogwash.”
There will be another vote on these issues next week, probably Tuesday. Hurt pointed out that Speaker of the House John Boehner moved to reconsider the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill, which was defeated by an odd coalition of conservatives and left-liberals.
“The Speaker filed a motion to reconsider on the floor yesterday, which means we will reconsider the TAA vote next week, probably, and I believe this is correct. If we adopt the TAA measure, if it gets passed, if Nancy Pelosi stops siding with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and sides with the President, then there’s a chance that all of it gets put back on track.”
Until then, free trade policy — not just TPA and TPP, but also AGOA (reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which passed the Senate last month on a 98-1 vote) — is at a standstill in Congress.
The Washington Post has an instructive article on Virginia’s economy. Just not in the way the paper expects it to be.
We are informed that Virginia’s GDP didn’t grow at all during the first year of Terry McAuliffe’s tenure as governor. And we are told that the goose egg happened “despite McAuliffe’s best efforts.”
It’s the superman version of economics. And it is a fraud.
The idea that Mr. McAuliffe, or Bob McDonnell, Tim Kaine, Mark Warner or any of the rest could ever significantly alter the economic trajectory of a state with a GDP in excess of $425 billion with a deal here and a deal there is ridiculous.
That doesn’t stop them from trying. After all, it makes for excellent copy.
And that is exactly what the Post treats us to — the image of the Governor rushing about the globe, grabbing quick showers, searching for companies willing to say “yes” to his proposal to come to Virginia. We are even teased about an ‘exciting’ deal that will be announced today.
The rest of you who are running businesses here, paying your taxes, trying to make payroll…you can go pound sand.
Is Virginia’s economy in a bit of a funk? Sure. Declines in federal spending have hit the commonwealth harder than other states because of Virginia’s enormous dependence on the national treasury. And nothing short of moving the nation’s capital to Des Moines or shrinking the federal government to levels it hasn’t seen since the Coolidge years will change that.
Governors can and will continue to sprinkle economic development money around various corporate doorsteps. But don’t fall for the hype that any single politician, no matter how driven to seal deals, can single-handedly change the course of Virginia’s economy.
It’s an incredibly complex, fast-moving, ever-changing, group effort that involves millions of Virginians and billions of transactions every day.
If you want to stick with the superman version of economics, you can, sort of. But you have to go to the private sector to do so. Consider Apple. It’s market cap: over $730 billion. If it’s CEO, Tim Cook, decides tomorrow that the company will no longer sell iPhones, and instead go big on pet supplies, that $730 billion market value will crash like the Hindenburg. Cook would also be tossed out, and maybe even locked up, for trying to making such a move. Even economic supermen have limits.
Apple became a behemoth because it created products the market wanted at almost any price. The moment it stops doing that…hello, Blackberry. Virginia’s political class wants to be in that league. It sounds cool, and look at the perks! But their task is much different from an Apple. They are charged with creating an environment that allows individuals and companies to flourish.
All of them — not a favored, deal-sealed few.
Governors would be better advised to spend their time at home, looking for ways to improve the regulatory and tax environment so growth can occur on its own, in ways no forecaster or planner could ever imagine.
It would also mean the Governor and his staff would not be reduced to showering in airports, unless they are into that (and the spa at the Virgin Lounge in Heathrow is almost worth the trip. Excellent Eggs Benedict, too).
It’s almost 2016, so it’s time now for the quadrennial attempts to alter election laws to benefit a specific political party or candidate. This time, it’s the Democratic Party, attacking voter ID laws in Virginia, filing suit in Federal District Court in Richmond. This brings to four the number of suits Democrats have filed against photo ID laws, beginning with North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. The effort is being led by the Democrat’s lead election lawyer, Marc Elias, who I first met in November 2013 during the Attorney General recount in Fairfax.
Then, as now, he was zealously advocating on behalf of his clients. And then, as now, he was wrong. Fortunately, I could vote against him then. Now I can only comment. Needless to say, the photo ID laws championed by Mark Obenshain will undoubtedly pass muster and won’t be overturned. This lawsuit isn’t actually about the merits of the law.
There’s nothing wrong with Virginia’s photo ID law. It works as intended, provides voters with greater confidence that their right to vote isn’t being stolen through fraud and abuse, and there’s been little evidence in the 12 elections since last July (yes, 12) that the photo ID laws were depressing turnout or otherwise making it impossible for certain people to vote. Unlike some other states’ laws, photo IDs are made available at the taxpayer’s expense to anyone who doesn’t have one, and in the elections I oversaw in Fairfax County – Virginia’s largest and one of its most diverse jurisdictions – we saw no noticeable uptick in provisional voters due to lack of ID at the polls. No one is turned away on Election Day for not having an ID.
Speaker Howell, Mark Obenshain and other Republicans who have commented on the case have said the cases are politically motivated, which they obviously are. Senator Obenshain has also raised the specter the Attorney General Mark Herring, the most political Attorney General in recent Virginia history, might choose not to defend the photo ID law in this suit. That’s a good question, given General Herring’s dislike in defending laws with which he personally or politically disagrees, and we’ll have to keep an eye on him throughout this litigation. Regardless, there is no question that this suit is politically motivated.
This has become a serious problem in election law, and a serious problem in American politics. While there has always been some nibbling around the edges, the number of laws being passed every year at the state level, not just in Virginia but across the country, is skyrocketing (109 bills in Virginia alone last session). While there has always been a philosophy of “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” in politics – Too Conservative’s Vincent Harris has a piece up about the loss of ethics in politics today – the trend towards trying to alter the rules by which elections are held in order to get a little edge is getting out of hand.
Our laws regarding elections are complex and are difficult to administer. They have to be, because they have to be fair, and they have to balance the competing needs of efficiency at the polls with the security of the ballot and integrity of elections. That’s not easy. We can have completely secure elections, but expect long lines and very low turnout. We can have very efficient elections, where every voter gets a chance to cast their ballot quickly, and every fraudster has a chance to cast your ballot for you quickly, too. We have to balance our laws out as best we can to reduce and deter fraud while ensuring that elections don’t take years.
Photo ID in Virginia is a good example of a bill that properly balances efficiency with integrity. It increases faith in the process while having little to no real impact on voter turnout. It’s been the law for a year now, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Leave it alone.
Those who want to use election laws as just another tool in the belt of a political campaign to squeak out a few more percentage points are driving nail after nail into the coffin of representative government. They may win a battle or two, but they are losing the war. We, as a body politic – not as Republicans, Democrats or everything in between but as voters – need to step up and demand that our elected and appointed representatives stop playing games with election laws to win elections.
If you have to change the rules to win, you don’t deserve to win.
“What is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other….Republicans are systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting.”
That was not said by Frederick Douglass in the 1860’s, or Medgar Evers in the 1960’s. That was Hillary Clinton last week. This made me feel so, how shall I say, out of touch, because I knew nothing about these apparently obvious efforts to suppress the vote. I must have missed the memo or the dog whistle language that has evidently been embedded in GOP strategic revelations.
I mean, it must be prominent in Republican strategy, since this is, after all, a “sweeping” effort. I failed even to catch the right-wing equivalent of the New Black Panthers using billy clubs to intimidate white voters. Remember Minister King Shabazz and his colleague reportedly pointing at voters in 2012 and shouting racial slurs, including phrases such as “white devil” and “you’re about to be ruled by the black man, cracker.”
I must also have missed Hillary’s explanation of how, given all this voter suppression, a higher percentage of blacks than whites voted in 2012 for the first time in American history. And how young voters constituted a higher percentage of the vote in 2012 than even in 2008, when hope and change was pervasive.
That is hardly the end of it. For as long as many of us can remember, everyone voted on a single day. But now, there is early voting in 33 out of 50 states, federal motor voter laws that require states to let you register to vote when you register your car, plus internet registration and voting on the rise. Five separate constitutional amendments deal directly with the right to vote. Is there really a problem with people who want to vote but are stopped from doing so?
Do Republicans want less of the young, poor and minority voters to exercise their franchise? Of course they do, because that improves their chances of winning, but the question is whether the politics is supported by defensible policy. Raise your hand if you are willing to argue that a person who can’t prove he is who he says he is, especially given the myriad pathways to proof, should still be allowed a vote.
So what is Hillary talking about? Well, she was speaking in Texas and chose to highlight that state’s shameful record of present-day voter suppression. Madame Secretary’s case in point – Texas, which requires a photo identification be presented at the time a person wishes to vote, allows the use of a Concealed Handgun Licence (CHL), but not college ID’s. Yes, that is the outrage.
Texas is listed as one of only seven or eight states, including the Old Dominion, that qualify as a “Strict photo ID” state by the National Conference of State Legislatures. That means “[v]oters without acceptable identification must vote on a provisional ballot and also take additional steps after Election Day for it to be counted.”
The CHL is one of four Texas state-issued photo ID cards honored at the polls, along with three issued by the federal government. But Hillary is shocked and appalled that only those seven forms of positive ID are accepted by Texas. Perhaps she overlooked the part about Texas issuing photo ID’s for free. Yes, no charge, with applications available in English and Spanish at any of the over 200 driver license centers in the state. Does that qualify as burdensome? Is the right to vote not precious enough to insure the integrity of the results?
Does Hillary know or even care that CHL holders have a particularly high burden of proof – they must undergo a “fingerprint based state and FBI Criminal History background check”? After all, why would she – or anyone reporting on what she said – want to bring that up? True to form, this Kabuki dance she and the media are performing is devoid of critical analysis of whether real voters are being suppressed. And not only is the answer no, but that is in fact the opposite of the truth. Real intimidation is coming from the federal government, which is shamefully targeting those who are trying to keep the vote honest.
Witness the efforts the Obama administration to terrorize Catherine Engelbrecht for starting True the Vote, a “voter rights and integrity organization.” Once again Obama here has made the phrase”Nixonian” obsolete by using the levers of the federal government to try and destroy Ms. Engelbrecht because of her passion for an honest vote count. As observed by the liberal legal scholar Jonathan Turley, Obama has become the president Nixon wished he could be.
Surely, though, there must be more examples of Republican voter suppression, yes? Well, let’s look at the most Republican state in the nation and another state considered by many to be the most historically racist. Utah does not require a photo ID, while Mississippi does, but the state-issued photo ID is free. Draw your own conclusions.
One thing we know for sure is that the left acts terrified of an honest vote. How terrified? Well, in addition to federal intimidation of voter integrity groups, every single deep blue state in the country requires either zero ID or a non-photo ID with generous allowances for those who do not have one. How surprising.
Now there will of course be stories like this shouting “Texas Election Judge Had To Turn Away 93-Year-Old Veteran Due To Strict Voter ID Law”. Well, that too is bunk – you see, even if you don’t have any of the approved ID devices Texas requires to vote, you can still cast a provisional ballot. You then have six days to go to the local election board and either present a qualified photo ID, or sign an affidavit.
It is true that some states charge a nominal fee for a state-issued photo ID for those who have none of the ID’s that most people possess, generally somewhere between $15 and $25. Does that really constitute voter suppression? No, but while these states should probably issue these ID’s for free – the revenue is hardly worth the political cost – that will hardly stop the squawking from the left on this phantom issue.
Hillary does not want to even leave this issue to the states. She proposes automatic, universal registration to every person 18 or older. No need to register – ever. So that raises another question: to what extent should individual states even be permitted to set their own voting laws anymore? Should this issue be settled, as it almost always is by the left, through a once-size-fits-all federal law which would take all control away from individual states?
Now of course we all know Hillary is in search of wedge issues, and this one is a beauty. Those of us who have been around the block understand this is little more than another of her poll-tested policy pronouncements, and an effective one it is from a political standpoint. After all, she was able – in one fell swoop – to demonize Republicans in general and four prominent (presumptive) GOP presidential candidates (Bush, Walker, Christie & Perry) in particular for their voting rights atrocities as governors, while potentially energizing those key elements of the Obama base – young people, poor people and minorities – she will need to become president.
The fact that this sweeping indictment of the GOP is false, cynical and shameful has never been much of an impediment for her. It did not stop her from lying about Benghazi or deleting e-mails or accepting foreign contributions from countries doing business with the State Department. The fact that this is opportunistic demagoguery will be overlooked by a media consumed by hoopla, horse race and of course bias, and uninterested in challenging a proposition like voter suppression, much as they have no inclination to examine whether catastrophic climate change is a real threat.
In order to win the election, Hillary need only follow the successful get-out-the-vote model of Obama 2012 and do the hard work of identifying and cashing in on default Democrats and persuadable voters, especially those who lack enthusiasm. But why dedicate all the time, effort and money necessary to do so when you may be able to accomplish the same thing with mere demagoguery?
Sometime tomorrow (we think), the House of Representatives will vote on giving the president Trade Promotion Authority (known as TPA). I’ve seen a lot of confusion going around on just what this vote means, and I’m hoping this post can clear things up (full disclosure: I support TPA).
What the Vote is
Specifically, Congress is giving the president the authority to change any policy that would need changing to comply with a new trade deal – pursuant to final Congressional agreement by an up-or-down vote on the deal.
I emphasized that last part for two reasons (1) most of the opposition to TPA seems to forget or ignore that part, and (2) in the past, Congress didn’t even ask for that. From the 1930s through the 1960s, Congress gave the president the authority to cut tariffs and trade duties unilaterally in accordance with any trade deals he reached. The only conditions Congress requested (of the Kennedy Administration), were to have Members of Congress on the trade negotiation team and the creation of trade assistance programs to help workers affected by the loss of tariff protections. Other than that, the president could (and did) do whatever he wanted.
By the 1970s, Congress believed it had weakened itself too much in the recent past (a belief not completely unwarranted) and made itself the final arbiter of any trade deal. To ensure that deals could still be negotiated with relative ease, Congress only gave itself an up-or-down vote on any future deals, but that vote was still required. This has been the status quo since 1974, until the Authority expired in the aughts.
What the Vote is Not
Contrary to what you might have heard or read, Congress is not voting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (known as TPP). In fact, there is no TPP agreement; it’s still in negotiation. That’s why various members of Congress have to go into a secured room to look at TPP documents – those documents reveal the status of ongoing negotiations, not an agreement.
How do I know this? Well, in part, it’s because I follow Canadian politics, too, and while they’re obviously following this, they’re not even sure they’ll sign the deal (Financial Post, emphasis added):
Canadian negotiators will have to respond to persistent pressure from the U.S., Australia and New Zealand to tear down the wall of triple-digit duties that enable supply management in Canada’s dairy and poultry sectors.
Since virtually no information about the real state of the talks has been made public pursuant to a secrecy agreement among all 12 countries, no one can tell how determined the attackers of supply-management are. But it seems unlikely that they will be easily mollified. Protecting supply management may be a task that Canadian negotiators, or any negotiators, cannot accomplish. The threat has already been made by a high Obama trade official to the effect that Canada could be expelled, not exactly over cheese, eggs and chicken, but for declining to accept a core free-trade principle. Of course, no country can push another out of the group, but the alternative before any member to accepting conditions negotiated and agreed by all the others is obviously to exit.
There is no way a deal is in place, even “unofficially,” if one of the participants (Canada) is causing so much flak that they might be left out of the deal entirely.
I mention this because, again, a number of people assume that a deal is already in place, and once TPA is enacted (if it is), then the deal will be locked in without any chance of further review or decision. That is simply not the case.
So why does the President need TPA?
Trade agreements are the hardest to pull together, for the obvious reason that they have more impact on domestic policy than just about any other international agreement. More most nations (which have parliamentary majorities), the government’s support in the legislature for a deal is all but given, so no one worries about a deal falling apart in the legislature “after the fact.” Obviously, we don’t have the situation, and we’re a large enough market that our separation of powers makes other nations a little nervous. In fact, President Obama’s lack of trade authority is one of the things holding up the TPP (no one wants to sign if Congress ties it up in committee for years, or amends it to shreds).
Now, as I said, I support TPA. I think Congress would be doing the right thing by forgoing making amendments to trade deals in exchange for lower international tariffs on our goods and greater choice of the world’s goods for our consumers. I don’t expect unanimous agreement on that, but I do want to make sure we all understand what we’re arguing here. This isn’t about the Trans-Pacific Partnership; that debate will come later.
This is about whether or not the desire of Congressmen to amend a piece of legislation is more important than opening markets to our producers and more consumer choice for all Americans. I say it isn’t, and that’s why I support TPA.
This will sound like an angry post, mainly because I’m typing it when I should be asleep. I apologize for that in advance, because I’m not trying to be angry.
Anger is usually a mask for pain, at least it is for me…and after tonight’s primary results, I will admit that I am hurting.
Nearly every tax-hike opponent lost tonight. Granted, I could rationalize about campaigns that went off message, candidates that may not have been the right fit, etc., etc. It wouldn’t be enough to explain the scale and breadth of tonight’s defeats. The Republican voters of Virginia rejected limited government and low taxes…and rejected them with prejudice.
Thus, for me, a whole slew of straws are breaking the camel’s back.
I’ve had to read and hear people call me an “extremist” because I opposed three tax increases in a decade, while those same people go utterly batsh!t when the subject of marriage equality enters the conversation.
I’ve had to read and hear Republican elected officials rail against downward redistribution of income while they defend upward redistribution of income (agricultural policies, the Ex-Im Bank, TARP, etc.). I’ve had to read and hear Republicans U-turn on the liberation of Iraq.
I have to face facts. The Republican Party is leaving me on taxes, spending, microeconomics, and somewhat on foreign policy, as I must also acknowledge I’m leaving them on LGBT issues.
In short, this hurts, and it’s been hurting for a long time.
We have a new candidate venturing into the 21st Senate race -former Roanoke City Democratic Committee Chairman Don Caldwell, who has long been rumored as contemplating a run, has declared his candidacy as an independent against Nancy Dye, the Republican, and Sen. John Edwards, the incumbent Democrat.
Dye welcomed Caldwell to the race by saying,
“I believe that we can both agree that our community deserves better representation than what we have had for the past 20 years from John Edwards.”
“We need a representative in Richmond who is going to bring a fresh perspective to the State Senate—one based on the people and issues that affect every day Virginians, small business owners, and the many hardworking residents of the 21st district. I’m prepared to be that representative.”
The high court’s six-page ruling found that Bedford County Circuit Judge James Updike erred when he said he could not grant a temporary injunction based at least in part on the conclusion that the law of trusts cannot apply to a corporation.
“This legal conclusion is erroneous,” the ruling said. The justices heard arguments Thursday on whether the college was a corporation, a trust or both.
“It is important to emphasize, however, that our holding today does not rule upon the legal status of any particular party to this litigation,” said the ruling.
Ideally, this gets the ball rolling in the right direction. More as it develops.
UPDATE: Virginia Virtucon has more:
The Supreme Court didn’t take the next step and impose such an injunction, but merely held that the Circuit Court could did have the power to do so. This could be a big win for the opponents of the closure as it gives them more time to dig into the mysterious reasons that a seemingly stable, functioning college rich in land and history is being closed down without any real explanation. I’ve heard some rumors that there may be more to the story including out-of-state interests influencing the political process. More time to bring the mystery to light means more chances to save the school.
Is there anyone in Virginia on the side of the Sweet Briar Board of Visitors here?
This means Amherst County Attorney Ellen Bowyer gets another chance at securing more injunctive relief in her case against Sweet Briar College.
She is asking for injunctions requiring the college to halt all closure activities and operate next school year, and she is also seeking for the circuit court to appoint a special fiduciary to take over the college.
So far, she has only obtained an injunction that temporarily prohibits the college from using certain solicited donations for closure activities.
So again, some oxygen… and perceptibly some downhill running for Sweet Briar.