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The Wrong Candidate

October 29, 2009 - John Stack

The wrong candidate


I usually stay out of ‘local’ politics, but I am choosing to comment on the race for the vacant John McHugh seat in Congress.

            I don’t know Doug Hoffman personally, but the way his campaign has been run is a big reason I write my blog.  At first, all I knew was that he was a conservative running in the 21st district and that he was a local accountant. I figured he had no chance against Dede Scozzafava or the well backed Owens. The first thing that irked me was probably unexpected to others. His ads and appearances play up him having some insider-type knowledge of how to get things done financially for the US. But, he’s an accountant. Accountants are bean counters. Tax return preparers. They are trained to put debits in one column and credits in the other. A noble profession. But nothing to do with how things WORK. This is close to home because I have an Economics degree. Classes in my major are Local and State Economy, Changes in World Economy, Economic Development of Nations and Current Economic Policy. In Accounting , classes are ‘Income Tax Auditing and Financial Accounting Theory’. In my classes we discussed why ‘trickle-down’ tax theory would or would not work, the question of how currency trading is affected by global events and the effects of monopolies and the like. By definition, I would say someone with an Economics degree is significantly better able to understand the complexities of the financial markets and how it affects the US and the world than an accountant. To say an accountant, because of his accountant training knows how to fix the ‘financial mess’ in Washington is about the same as me saying I am best qualified to run GM because I drive a minivan.

            The second part is the oft used ‘outsider’ tag. How on Earth is an outsider better than an insider? Regardless what you think of Hillary Clinton, I sure would like a Senator who is the former first lady and has more contacts in Washington than most and is extremely powerful, and by extension a potent voice for New Yorkers. By the thought process for ‘outsiders’ ANYONE who hasn’t run for office is a great pick for Congress. Supposedly Hoffman is an independent Conservative. He somehow claims that the 2 major parties the GOP and the Democrats run Congress. Of course , it’s the Liberal wing that is the power on the left, and the Conservatives on the right that have all the power. To think he’s going to be a difference like ‘Mr Smith Goes to Washington’ is about as fictional as the movie. Eliot Spitzer was an excellent example of a non-politician type being governor. He was elected in a landslide because of his seeming desire to do what was right, and needed to be done. Even before his scandal, his managerial style was too much ‘my way or the highway’ in a split state where the governor, senate and assembly all need to work together. His poll numbers may be low, but to me Paterson had a much greater potential to be a great governor, as he had respect from both sides of the aisle and willingness to work with both sides even though he does have his own agenda. If Hoffman truly tries to be an ‘outsider’ in Washington and just dance to the beat of his own drum, he ends up completely politically impotent, especially being in the minority party. And for being an outside independent? His main political bacjer happens to be Dick Armey, the former majority leader of House! Also, unbelievably, George W Bush ran (successfully!) as an outsider, even as his own father was president 8 years before!

            As for dancing to his own beat. He also is in favor of the flat tax. Everyone should pay the same percent of their income. I could write a long blog about the merits (or lack thereof) of the flat tax, but that is immaterial. The chance of a flat tax ever being passed in my lifetime is slim to none, and slim is on vacation. It may seem righteous to run around espousing the benefits of a flat tax, but that does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to solve any problems. Its NEVER going to happen. How about working on fixing the current system? Lets get someone in who is actually going to have some difference or try to make an actual difference, one way or another rather than spending the next 2 years spitting in the wind.

 One of my biggest frustrations is the seeming benefits of a complete change of our taxation system. A flat tax. Increasing the sales tax to some absurd height to replace the income tax. These all come back to the same premise: Lots of people will be paying a lot less in taxes and therefore will invest more and energize the economy. Hoffman says the flat tax will mean a trillion less paid by a portion of the taxpayers, which will then reinvigorate the economy. Except that Government needs to run. If one group is paying a trillion less, in this zero sum game, another group has to pay a TRILLION more dollars. What happens to them? The single mother making 20K a year will have to pay between $3,000 and $5,000 more a year? No more earned income credit, no more child care credits. The money has to come from somewhere! Unless the flat tax somehow magically increased tens of millions of people’s income by 25% in the first year without increased costs, somehow I don’t see it working.

Understandably, people will vote for him because they are social conservatives. This is reasonable. Dede Scozzafava is not a social conservative, nor is Owens. But fiscally, I can’t see it. Even Hoffman’s fiscal conservativism is questioned by , what I’ve been told, his past desire to tax rentals. Currently, only hotels and the such are subject to sales tax or a ‘bed tax’. A rental is taxed by the government based upon the income received by the landlord who has to pay it on his personal income, or if it’s a commercial enterprise, on their commercial tax. Or, if it’s a short term rental (which our area has lots of) thw homeowner and the rental agent pays taxes on the transaction (the homeowner by the income, the rental agent by taxes on their commission). How would all the renters in the North Country like to start paying taxes on the rent they pay? If the renters don’t pay it, and the landlord does, it will of course just be passed through to the renter. Do we want someone in congress who wants to make even more people pay even more taxes? Doesn’t sound too Conservative to me.



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