Perhaps no issue better illustrates the philosophical divide between left-wing Democrats and right-wing Republicans than the Earned Income Tax Credit.Â Here in Iowa a theatrical stunt a few weeks back by ultra-Liberal Iowa City Democrat Senator Joe Bolkcom put the issue front and center.Â In the hopes of pressuring Governor Branstad to support a huge increase in the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit, Pleasantville resident Julie Heck was brought in to symbolize the need for this action by taking part in a press conference before then testifying in front of the Ways and Means Committee.Â Ms. Heck is a single mother of three who is currently receiving the Iowa Earned Income Tax credit, and on this day set about making the case that while she is glad to have itâ€”it sure would be nice to get more of our money.
While Democrats were no doubt tickled by both the media exposure and the perceived effectiveness of this spectacle, the realities surrounding her specific situation, including her own stunning words, expose the utter disregard that liberal Democrats have for all Iowa taxpayers.
The Press Conference
In the press conference Ms. Heck says that she is a single mother of three who works full time and attends college full time at Simpson.Â She made $33,000 in income last year.Â Beyond not paying a penny in Federal income tax, she instead receivedÂ a $5,279 check from the Federal government which combined $2,279 from the Federal E.I.T.C and another $3,000 from the Federal Child Tax Credit.Â Receiving the Federal E.I.T.CÂ in turn qualified her to receive an additional $160 from the Iowa E.I.T.C.Â Without getting into all the numbers, after using a portion of her Federal refund to pay the $410 she owed to the state of Iowa, she ended up not only with a zero dollar income tax burden, but instead was actually paid $4,869 by the government.
While so much is wrong with this picture, two things are particularly disturbing.Â Firstly, instead of being grateful to live in a system that allows her to receive a net profit of $4,869 from the income tax code, she actually had the audacity to sit in front of a microphone and decry the fact that she had to pay any Iowa income taxes at all.Â And, remarkably unsatisfied with what she has already received, she wants even more moneyâ€”it is just unbelievable.
Perhaps the biggest slap in the face here is what she admits to spending some of this refund money on.Â At the 3 minute mark of the video posted above, she plainly states that she is using her Federal â€œrefundâ€ money to help pay for her college tuition, and then proceeds to say that some of this money also goes to match the funds her children manage to save throughout the year.
As a taxpayer who over the last two years alone has sent tens of thousands of dollars to the Federal government and several thousand more to the state of Iowa, I find these details outrageous.Â Let me be clear, I have no problem paying taxes to help those who are destitute, starving, or un-sheltered.Â However, paying for a mother of three who decides that she now wants to attend college full time is a far different matter.
Once any American citizen makes the decision to bring three human lives into the world it is solely their own responsibility to provide for those children by any means necessary.Â Â In this case it clearly means working a second job to provide for her family instead of spendingÂ our tax dollarsÂ to attend college.Â I ask you this, how many hundreds of thousands of Iowans, especially small business owners, send their money into the government each year and afterwards do not have enough left over to afford schooling, or to match their childrenâ€™s savings?
The Politics and Implications
Finally we have Sen. Bolkcom, the Iowa personification of this entitlement mentality, and the political and financial implications of this situation.Â After Ms. Heckâ€™s statementÂ Sen. Bolkcom threatens (at the 7:20 mark) that until the â€œearnedâ€ income tax credit is brought up from its current 7% to either 13% or 20%, that in his mind all tax relief for Iowans is off the table.Â Realize here what this man is actually saying.Â That before he entertains any legislation to cut the taxes of Iowans who have been throttled by actually paying high taxes for yearsâ€”Ms. Heck must first receive an even larger refund.
This attitude and approach are stunning.Â Putting on display a woman who makes $33,000 a year, who attends college fulltime, and already receives nearly $5,000 in government money through the tax code to justify almost tripling the Iowa E.I.T.C is beyond insulting.Â This clearly shows all taxpayers in IowaÂ what little respect some have for the contributions we are making to government coffers every year.
Republicans agreed multiple times last year to increase the percentage of the Iowa E.I.T.C, largely as part of a legislative give and take they hoped would result in other tax proposals gaining passage, but the governor twice vetoed the section raising the credit.Â In explanation heÂ cited his desire to instead include it in a much larger tax reform bill, though the SenateÂ again last month passed it as a stand alone measure (SF 2161).Â The price tag of raising the credit to 20% would cost Iowa taxpayers $49.9 millionÂ every year after it fully phased-in in 2016.Â This is no doubt a number that seems tiny to Democrats, but is a big deal when you consider that Chief Justice Cady is likely to again be denied an additional $10 million in funding for our judicial system, which has been underfunded for decades.
Once again I stress that the root of my problem here is not so much the issue itself or the price tag of passing the increase.Â Above all else, this specific example exposes how we are losing the spirit of defiant self-sufficiency that we once hadâ€”and how quickly it is getting replaced with an attitude that instead asks â€˜what more can you do for me?â€™Â What is so galling about this is not that the government would offer assistance to people in serious need (they certainly should), but rather how that need is now defined.
While this entire production was likely staged with the sole purpose of raising the guilt level and putting public pressure on Governor Branstad to accept the increase, in reality what it raises is a much larger question:
Has the mentality throughout our state become so collectivist in nature that hard working Iowans are going to be viewed as â€œheartlessâ€ for not wanting to payÂ adults to go to college and be able to match their childrenâ€™s piggy bank contributions?
If the answer is yes than Conservatives and Libertarians have a lot more work to doâ€¦and Iowans will have a lot more taxes to pay in the future.
â€œAfter carefully considering the whole situation, I stand with my backÂ toÂ the wall. And walking is better, than running awayâ€¦and crawling ainâ€™t no good at allâ€
Willie Nelsonâ€”Lyrics to â€œWalkingâ€ (1974)
While not known for his astute political analysis, with these lyrics Willie Nelson has managed to perfectly describe the conundrum myself and millions of other voters face in selecting a candidate to support for president amongst the Republican field.
For months now GOPers have been carefully considering the whole situation, and have yet to settle on anyone. With the voting only two weeks away a majority of those undecided now officially are standing with their backsÂ againstÂ the wall.
In this regard I am no differentâ€”laid here are the reasons I am currently walking, and not running, toward Newt Gingrich. Like any well thought out decision there are three main factors at playâ€”the mind, the gut, and the legitimate reservations. The following is an honest, pull-no-punches account of my thought process for each.
The reason why the polls have been a roller coaster in this cycle is fairly simpleâ€”you have a massive pool of Conservative voters and not one single, unquestionably consistent Conservative, who couldÂ certainly beat President Obama. My sense is that the field does have strong Conservatives, namely Bachmann and Santorum, but neither have been able to garner the support necessary to win the White Houseâ€”and Ron Paul will have to be addressed in full at some other time. As the polls suggest, the two with the best chance at unseating Obama are Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
This being the case, the exercise has come down to a question of who I feel is more Conservative between the two and who has the better chance of successfully vocalizing Conservative philosophy to the general electorate. On both counts my answer is Newt Gingrich. As we have seen in the Republican primary, the debates between President Obama and the Republican nominee are going to be viewed by a record amount of people and will largely be the deciding factor for Independents.
Perhaps no figure in modern political history has more of a gift for the debate stage than Newt Gingrich. Making this an even larger advantage is the mythic narrative that President Obama is some legendary debater. While last cycle he may have gotten the better of Hillary Clinton and John McCain overall, he never blew either off the stage (and managed to lose to both on multiple occasions).
Along with his debate prowess, there are two other things that make me comfortable with the idea of Newt as the nominee and as President. First is his deep understanding and respect for history. Whether it be American or world history, his decision making process would be solidly grounded in the actions and outcomes of past situations. I happen to think that had the filter of history been applied to many of the decisions made by our last two presidents, many of the undesirable results we have seen could have been avoided.
Second is the structure and proven results of the concept of a â€œContract with Americaâ€. The 1994 contract saw roughly 70% of its content become lawâ€”and that was with a Democrat in the White House. Any Republican taking a serious look at his â€œ21st Century Contract with Americaâ€ would likely agree that achieving even 50% of its content would result in our Country standing on immensely more solid ground than it is currently. Clearly there is no time now to go through the platform item by item, however, you can review it in detail or read a brief highlight of it here. It is only fair that serious Republicans inspect this document before discounting Mr. Gingrich.
The biggest source of apprehension I have toward Mitt Romney is his striking similarity to our 43rd president. George W. Bushâ€™s eight year application of a watered down â€œcompassionate Conservatismâ€ did a great deal of damage to the viability of the philosophy. I canâ€™t help but shake the feeling that when inevitably faced with unpredicted situations, a President Romney would not be guided through these times of crisis by Constitutional Conservatism. Instead I see him falling back on the identical political pragmatism that Mr. Bush turned to when the pressure was on.
While certainly not without its own risks, I also prefer Gingrichâ€™s personality to Romneyâ€™s in the area of foreign policy. My view is that in general, and especially with the Iranian nuclear situation, many of Americaâ€™s national security interests can be forwarded through an aggressive posture. Though it is a fine line to walk, putting a reasonable fear into rogue nations couldâ€”as proven by Reaganâ€”actually help us avoid potential conflicts. A Romney-foreign-policy approach would likely be strictly by the book (i.e. painfully cautious and deferential), and result in a more-of-the-same outcome. Though I see positives in both approaches, I feel our enemies would have a greater fear of (and hence a greater respect for) a President Gingrich.
At a time when a dramatic move toward the Right is a legitimate possibility, on nearly every issue Mitt Romney is far too timid for my taste. One perfect example is in the area of Federal income tax policy. The enthusiasm throughout the country for major tax reform has never been greater, yet in this climate the proposal offered from Romney is to keep the top rate at 35% and largely leave the current structure intact. Though it could use some tweaking, the Gingrich proposal is for an optional 15% flat tax, where each taxpayer could choose to use the old system or opt for the flat rate. This is emblematic of the level of change the former Speaker is willing to push forâ€”and the type of transformation Mitt Romney will never champion.
The fact that a voter would have reservations about their candidate is only natural. Having said that, the lengthy nature of his list points to why I am walking, and not running, toward Mr. Gingrich.
According to my television and mailbox, and no doubt yours too, not only should Gingrich be checked off our short listâ€”he should be arrested and checked in to Guantanamo Bay. These attacks are largely overblown rubbish, but there are three main factors I view as legitimate reasons for apprehension. Like Romney, Newtâ€™s career includes multiple examples of unsettling â€œpolitical flexibilityâ€, his past personal life has often been a mess, and a rather large number of his former Republican colleagues have been outspoken against him (noteworthy on this list for me is Tom Coburn, whom I respect greatly).
Quite honestly these things have made the decision a far more anguished one than it has been in the pastâ€”or that it ought to be I might add. If I insisted on taking solace it would be found in the fact that while both candidates I view as being able to win the nomination and defeat President Obama have strong negativesâ€”both would be an upgrade for the Country.
I personally want the Republican Party, and the Country, to move significantly to the Right. I want the 10th Amendment to be respected, the enumerated powers to be followed, and for personal responsibility to once again be required and not optional. I do not see Mitt Romney doing this to the extent I want. In my eyes Newt Gingrich is, as George Will says, the most Conservative candidate who can win.
Like it will for many voters, my decision largely came down to a risk vs. reward ratioâ€”and there is no doubt in my mind that Mitt Romney would be the safer choice. Given the circumstances, what America needs right now is a real and powerful constraint on Federal power. Of the nationally viable candidates, Gingrichâ€”and the 21st Century Contractâ€”comes the closest to my vision of a positive American futureâ€¦For this reason I am willing to roll the dice.
Photo courtesy of Dave Davidson, whose outstanding work can be seen at Prezography.com