In New Hampshire, GOP is All About Same But Less

One of the two GOP Majority Leaders in the House, the one not recognized by the State Party because he was appointed by a Speaker who while nominally a Republican was elected Speaker by the Democrats in the face of overwhelming Republican opposition, is out with an editorial taking Governor Hassan to task for her budget veto.

His message: the Governor’s veto was bad policy because the budget passed by the GOP legislature spent nearly as much as the Governor’s proposed budget:

The responsible budget plan adopted by the House and Senate meets the needs of New Hampshire through an $11.3 billion spending plan focusing on several shared priorities including local and higher education, addiction treatment and recovery, transportation and infrastructure, and state aid to cities and towns. This a $600 million or 5% increase in funding over the next two years. The governor’s proposal would have spent $11.5 billion or 6 percent more than our last two-year budget. The spending formulas to get to those totals may differ slightly, but in the end, the Republican Legislature met the governor 99 percent of the way. However, 99 percent was not good enough.

Actually, if the GOP’s budget increased spending by $600 million (I’ve read elsewhere that the number was $635 million), then the increase in spending was 5.6% (you don’t round down when the decimal is over .5 (and if the increase was actually $635 million, then the increase was 5.9%)).  The Governor’s proposed budget would have increased spending 7.5%.

To put this in perspective, here is what monthly inflation has looked like based on the Consumer Price Index published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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So while the budget passed by the GOP legislature may be growing government more slowly than the Governor would like to grow government, it still grows government at a rate 2.8% (5.6%/2 because the budget is over a two-year period),  that is materially higher than inflation.

Voters First Forum Should be Used to Complement Fox Debate

To begin with, I think it was a great idea by the Republican National Committee to limit the number of Presidential debates.  There were twenty debates between the 2012 candidates and twenty-three between the 2008 candidates.  Some in the national media attempted to use these debates to criticize the GOP candidates and/or to attempt to get the candidates take positions that would hurt them in the general election:

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I am pretty sure this clip is what an RNC official writing in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week had in mind when he wrote: “There was also frustration about debate hosts and moderators, some of whom had concocted bizarre and irrelevant questions.

Some local media were just as bad.  For example, this moderator (start at :30), whom conservative media began referring to as Nurse Ratched, demanding the 2008 candidates do a “show of hands” on climate change:

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Clearly, the large number of debates in the prior two elections did not actually better inform the caucus and primary voters.  Nor were they helpful to winning the general election.

In response, the RNC limited the number of televised debates for the 2016 election to nine.  The schedule provides for one a month in 2015, beginning in August with the Fox News debate,  and then two a month beginning in 2016.

Additionally, conservative media will be better represented in the debates.  For example, National Review will be part of the NBC debate, while the Independent Journal Review will be part of the ABC debate.

To complaints that the Fox News debate will only include the top ten candidates, the RNC correctly points out that all sixteen candidates

can’t fit on one stage. The maximum of 10 candidates appearing on a debate stage for 2016 matches the highest for debates in either party. Fox News and CNN have taken it upon themselves to guarantee second debates for the declared Republican candidates not in the top 10. So to everyone who says “let them debate,” the top 16 candidates will debate. Is the arrangement perfect? No. It is, however, the most inclusive setup in history.

The RNC also notes that by the time of the Fox News debate on August 6, 2015, there will have been twenty-five voter forums.

One of these forums will take place on August 3rd, in New Hampshire, the “Voters First Forum.”  Unfortunately, the prime sponsor of the debate, the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper, views the forum’s primary purpose as, pardon the pun, trumping the Fox News debate.  From CSPAN, which is televising the Union Leader’s forum:

In a joint statement, publishers of the Union Leader, the Post and Courier, and the Gazette said it is important that voters in the three states that lead off the nomination process have an opportunity to see the candidates together on a level playing field at this early stage. They said they were prompted to provide the forum in part because of the narrow criteria that Fox News will use to limit Republican candidates in its Aug. 6 debate in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Fox says only the ‘top’ 10 candidates, as judged solely by national polling, will be allowed on its stage,” the publishers said. “That may be understandable later, but the first votes are half a year away and there are a lot more than 10 viable candidates. The early primary process gives all candidates a chance to be heard. If networks and national polls are to decide this now, the early state process is in jeopardy and only big money and big names will compete.”

As noted above, the Fox News debate will include the top ten candidates.  Not the top three or top five.  That’s hardly allowing only “big money and big names” to participate.  It strikes a balance between allowing as many candidates as possible to compete and having so many candidates on stage that the debate becomes a meaningless cacophony.

What the Union Leader and other local New Hampshire media are really concerned about is that the Fox News debate threatens their power and prestige.

For example, the clear frontrunner Donald Trump is not participating in the Union Leader’s forum because, as discussed here, the Union Leader is clearly out to derail his candidacy.   The questions at the Union Leader’s forum will be picked by the paper’s editorial board.  That’s hardly an “even playing field.”  As National Review said about the Union Leader in the 2008 primary:

The Union Leader’s advocacy of John McCain has become so fierce and lopsided that it has practically transformed itself into a pro-McCain 527 organization. It has not formalized the arrangement, which is lucky for it: If it had, McCain would, on his campaign-finance principles, have to try to shut it down.

Anyone reading the recent one-sided treatment of Congressman Frank Guinta by the Union Leader knows that the paper hasn’t changed one bit.  If you don’t kiss the ring of  publisher Joe W. McQuaid the right way, then you are showered with bile.

The Fox News debate allows Trump and any other candidate who doesn’t want to kiss McQuaid’s ring or who didn’t kiss it just the right way to bypass McQuaid.

That’s why McQuaid, who claims to be a conservative, has appeared on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show to “defend” the New Hampshire primary from Fox:

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Rather than attempting to one-up Fox News, the Union Leader’s forum provides a wonderful opportunity to complement it.

Clearly, the Union Leader does not have the breadth or depth of knowledge about issues like ISIS, the Iran nuclear deal, immigration that the Fox News debate moderators, Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace, do.  Vice versa, the local press in New Hampshire likely is more conversant in issues that have special significance to New Hampshire.  What the Union Leader’s forum could and should do is focus on issues that are of special importance to New Hampshire voters.

For example, the Union Leader forum could cover topics such as whether there is anything the federal government can and should do about the high cost of electricity in New Hampshire.  Another example, is whether the candidates would support allowing States to impose sales taxes on internet sales.  Yet another is what process the candidate would use to determine if military bases should be closed.  Another is whether production of the F35 should be slowed or even halted, given all the criticism that it has received.

By treating the forum as its opportunity to go “head to head” with the Fox News debate, the Union Leader is not putting the voters first.

A Roundup of Rand Paul Autopsies/Obituaries

The polling data suggests that Rand Paul is not a top tier candidate.  The Real Clear Politics average of national polls indicates that the top tier consist of Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, whose support ranges from roughly 18 percent to 12 percent.  The crowded second tier consists of Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Paul, who are polling roughly at the 6 percent to 8 percent range.  I anticipate John Kasich will move into the second tier shortly. Continue reading A Roundup of Rand Paul Autopsies/Obituaries

Corn versus Granite versus Palmetto

In December, 2011, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman said in defense of his decision to not compete in the Iowa caucuses, “They pick corn in Iowa. They pick presidents in New Hampshire .”  Actually, since 1992, as far as picking the GOP nominee is concerned, both Iowa and New Hampshire have picked the nominee 60 percent of the time (when the nomination has been contested).  South Carolina, at 80 percent, beats them both: Continue reading Corn versus Granite versus Palmetto

Governor Hassan in a Budget Box Canyon

Box Canyon – a canyon with steep walls on three sides, preventing entrance or exit except through the mouth of the canyon.

It is now one month since Governor Hassan, as she promised she would, vetoed the budget passed by the Republican controlled Legislature.  The State is operating under a six-month funding resolution, passed by the Legislature and signed by Hassan, under which State government is funded at the level in the prior budget (July, 2013 through June, 2015).  The budget vetoed by Hassan would have increased spending by $635 million, or 6.1 percent, over the biennium.  (Hassan proposed an $800 million increase.)

At the time, I did not think it was a smart political move for the Legislature to provide a funding resolution along with the budget.  My thinking was that the resolution would make the budget veto politically painless.  In hindsight, whether intentional or not, presenting the funding resolution along with the budget has turned out to be a brilliant political move. Continue reading Governor Hassan in a Budget Box Canyon

The Indefensible Claim That the Business Tax Cuts Have to be “Paid For”

Here is the headline on NH1 News website:

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State spending is something that needs to be “paid for.”  States like people must transact  in United States currency.  That means that to the extent the State’s budget calls for X dollars in spending, the State must raise through a combination of taxes, borrowing or federal funding X dollars in United States currency.  Otherwise at some point, the State will not be able to spend all the spending budgeted because it will run out of money.

Tax cuts, unlike spending, do not need to be “paid for” because the State is simply letting the taxpayer keep his or her own money. Continue reading The Indefensible Claim That the Business Tax Cuts Have to be “Paid For”