Dead-blogging the GOP debate

Just some scattered thoughts as I listen to the GOP debate last night via the Web. Can’t call it “live-blogging,” but it’s kind of like that, so I’ll call it “dead-blogging,” which sort of reflects my level of enthusiasm about the candidates so far, a few minutes into it. Some random observations:

  • These people aren’t running for governor of South Carolina. They’re running for the GOP nomination for governor, which is entirely different. Every word they’ve uttered so far has dripped with Republican jargon and catch phrases, and none of them has communicated the slightest desire for MY vote. Anyone else feel that way? I mean, it’s like listening to old-line Marxists talk about “running-dog imperialists.” These phrases don’t communicate or inspire, they just help us pigeon-hole the speakers…
  • Did Larry Grooms just say that DHEC regulates too aggressively? In what state, in which universe?
  • Seems the panel should have some folks on it with more of a statewide perspective, such as, say, the editorial page editor of The State. Oh, wait; there isn’t one any more
  • Nikki’s sweet (oh, the women are going to come down on me for that one, but she is), but she really shows she’s out of her depth whenever she starts comparing government to a business. Inevitably, she betrays a lack of understanding of one, or both. For instance, she just decried the fact that the state lottery spends $7 million on advertising. She says that should go to education. Well, fine, so far. I don’t like the lottery spending to sucker more people into playing; I don’t think the lottery should exist. I would not, of course, try to make people think that the lottery is in ANY way an answer to our school funding needs. But that’s not the problem with what she said. The problem is, she says a business would not spend the money on advertising to keep the customers coming. Ummm… yes it would, Nikki. It would have to. I mean, duh, come on. It’s hard to imagine a type of business that would be MORE dependent on ad spending to keep its product front-of-mind for prospective players, to constantly whip up interest in its “product.” It has no substance, so it’s ALL about generating buzz…
  • Interesting how it is an accepted truth among these GOP candidates that the current administration has totally dropped the ball on economic development. There’s nothing new about it — Republicans have been griping about it for years — but it’s interesting because it sounds for all the world like these folks are running for the nomination of a party that has NOT held the governor’s office since 2002.
  • Which is dumber or more off-point — a TV watcher asking when we’ll eliminate property taxes, or Larry Grooms saying we shouldn’t tax either property or income? Which of course only leaves taxing economic activity as the last major category. And given our current economic situation, how stupid is that? And is he unaware that we’ve already tilted our tax system far too far in that direction already? Where’s he been the last few years?
  • Gresham Barrett tries to deflect a question about the Confederate flag by saying we need to concentrate on sending the signal that we are serious about moving forward on economic development in this state. Well, getting the flag off our state’s front lawn is the easiest, simplest, most obvious step we can take in that direction.
  • Here’s another odd question from the public — Would you oppose more stimulus funding for SC if South Carolinians didn’t have to repay it? What relationship does that have to reality? None. There has never been, and never will be, such a major expenditure that we as taxpayers won’t be on the hook for. Of course, Nikki’s reply acts as though that’s the very situation we had with the stimulus that she agreed with Sanford on, which is the opposite of the truth.
  • Henry at least gets a plug in for comprehensive tax reform…
  • Grooms is right to say across-the-board is not the right way to cut the state budget, but then he retreats into quasi-religious ideological gobbledegook about how the problem is too much spending to start with. (More specifically, he says we shouldn’t institute programs — as if we’ve instituted new programs lately — that we don’t know how we’ll pay for. And yet he’s the guy who wants to make sure we don’t have the revenues we need, by taxing nothing but economic activity.)
  • Just watched Bill Connor’s Gov Lite campaign ad, which reminds me: If I ever do run for office, and I start blathering about how you should vote for me because I’m not a “professional politician,” will one of y’all slap me? Not hard, mind you, just to sort of reboot my brain so I can come up with something other than cliches…
  • Nikki says she supports “all education reforms.” So basically, if you call it a “reform,” she’s for it. Talk about failing to be discriminating…
  • Henry doesn’t seem to be aware that we are a national leader in demanding accountability of public educators. Lack of accountability isn’t the problem. We’re et up with it. In fact, we just had an insurrection over the PACT test, because so many parent agreed with the teachers that they’d had enough of it. I’m with him on merit pay, though.
  • Andre just came out for consolidating school districts. Good for him. Of course, Mark Sanford has always said he was for it, but hasn’t lifted a finger to make it happen. He also said he doesn’t want to spend money on football stadia, which I certainly applaud.

OK, I’ve got to stop watching now… lunch appointment. More later, if I get time…

39 thoughts on “Dead-blogging the GOP debate

  1. KP

    What do you make of the fact that every single one of the announced candidates for the Republican nomination has pledged to support private school vouchers? Maybe they’d do like Reagan, and SAY they support some of these crazy right-wing notions without actually doing anything to advance them, but can we really take a chance on four (at least) more years of the Howard Rich agenda?

  2. Lee Muller

    Gee, next they’ll be supporting vouchers for private college education… ooops… we already have that – grants and loans for private schools. Does Obama know?

    Funny how the critics of parental choice in education were singing the praises of the Democrat vouchers to buy new cars.

  3. doug_ross

    > Which is dumber or more off-point
    >— a TV watcher asking when we’ll
    >eliminate property taxes, or Larry
    >Grooms saying we shouldn’t tax
    >either property or income?

    So are you saying states like New Hampshire (which has no income AND no sales tax) or Texas and Florida (which have no income tax) are somehow lagging behind South Carolina when it comes to being intelligent about taxes? Do you see a lot of states trying to emulate South Carolina’s economic model?

    The absolute dumbest taxes we have are property taxes. They assume that the government owns everything and we are all just renters. They are blatantly unfair (taxing based on a presumed value of an object where the government sets the value). They are also very expensive taxes to collect.

    If you decided to run for office, the first question I would ask you would be to explain why three homeowners in the same neighborhood should pay different property tax amounts when they receive EXACTLY the same services.

    Or why my father-in-law should pay $500 per year for his Buick which he drives fewer than 50 miles a week while another person who drives a beat up pickup truck 1000 miles a week pays less than $100 for property taxes.

    We need a flat income tax (5%) and a sales tax (8%) with no loopholes except a gas tax (??%) that goes directly and specifically to roads/bridges. Any increase in either tax should require a 2/3 majority vote.

    There’s nothing smart about taxes.

  4. doug_ross

    > Funny how the critics of parental
    > choice in education were singing >
    > the praises of the Democrat
    > vouchers to buy new cars.

    You got it, Lee. Now we’re seeing the after effects of Cash for Clunkers. It was a blip that will turn into a bubble that bursts in the next few months. Well, until Obama decides to give away more of other people’s money.

  5. KP

    Lee, why do you suppose you know my views (or the views of any other “critics of parental choice in education”) on cash for clunkers?

  6. Brad Warthen

    Yes, I realize it’s popular among anti-tax types to say that paying your taxes means you don’t own your property, but it’s nonsensical.

    Property taxes are the one tax that makes the MOST sense, which is why they’re often the oldest taxes. They reflect the fact that NO ONE benefits more from the services of government — police, fire, public schools, streets, laws that create and uphold the very notion of private property and courts to enforce them, and on and on — than a property owner. A property owner has the greatest material stake in all of those services, and plenty of others I didn’t name, are adequately funded and properly run.

    This is why you once had to own property to vote, or to hold office. Such people were seen as the main stakeholders. Now that we have universal suffrage, the fact still remains that property owners have to most to gain from well-run government, and the most to lose when it starts to get frayed and tattered.

    PROPERTY does not exist in a state of nature (unless of course you are bigger and badder and redder in tooth and claw that any of your neighbors, and ready, willing and able to kill anyone who tries to take it from you, all by yourself). It exists only in a civilization that embraces the concept, and has the infrastructure to support it. Property does not exist without government.

    If one fails to understand that, one fails to understand what property is.

  7. Brad Warthen

    Yeah, KP — I wasn’t aware I had a position on the car thing…

    This, of course, is the problem with this whole partisan paradigm we have. The game is played this way: Everyone on one side surrenders their ability to think as individuals to the mob and agrees to have the exact same opinion as everyone else in the mob, and is able to ASSUME, against all reason, that everyone on the OTHER side (“other” side because this world view, idiotically, assumes that there can only be two sides to anything, and that they be perfectly, diametrically opposed) has agreed to take the opposite position on every one of these completely unrelated issues.

    And the horrible thing is that everybody in Washington plays along with this, and all the media that cover Washington buy into this foolishness completely, and reinforces it 24 hours a day, so that the population is trained, even conditioned, to think in these black and white terms.

    It’s like all those thousands of repetitions of concepts that the characters of “Brave New World” have been subjected to during their sleep, until the concepts become “truths” that are self-evident to them.

    Lee has heard so many times that people who think THIS also think THAT completely unrelated thought — and there are enough people who have accommodated themselves to that mold to reinforce the impression — that he assumes if YOU think this, then you also think THAT…

    And those of us out here who actually THINK about each and every issue that comes down pike are rejected as exceptions that prove the rule — if we are acknowledged at all.

    So get used to it, KP.

    This blog is all about fighting that tidal wave of perception, but it’s a losing battle…

  8. KP

    “If you decided to run for office, the first question I would ask you would be to explain why three homeowners in the same neighborhood should pay different property tax amounts when they receive EXACTLY the same services.”

    Now, I think this is worth debate. As the sole representative of the UnParty, what’s the party’s answer?

  9. doug_ross

    Thanks, KP… that was the core of the question for Brad.

    Why should home property taxes be based on the value of the home? If I can be charged a flat fee on my tax bill for trash pickup, why can’t it be the same way for schools, libraries, etc.

    I’d gladly support a property tax system that divided the cost of services by the number of households. That would be a fair tax. Then we wouldn’t have to be bothered with assessors, millages, and other convoluted (read: idiotic) processes that only a government entity could come up with.

  10. doug_ross

    And to follow on – should I expect to get priority service from the fire department if my house and my neighbor’s house catch fire because I pay $200 more per year in property taxes?

    If not, then why am I paying more?

  11. KP

    Yeah, that number thing was bad. Don’t do it again.

    Actually, I think the assignment of THIS view to THAT view is a fine indicator of what’s wrong in politics today. We used to value people who thought about each and every issue that came down the pike and decided each on the basis of common sense. Like, say, Lindsey Graham. More and more, we value people who spout some philosophy we think we agree with (probably we wouldn’t if we thought it through, but hell yeah, it sounds good), and we elect them to office because it makes us feel good. Enter Mark Sanford.

  12. Birch Barlow

    Why should home property taxes be based on the value of the home?

    For thought:

    Doug, you proposed a flat income tax (5%). So if I make 1,000,000 and my neighbor makes 100,000, I pay much more for presumably the same services.

    How is the system you are proposing any different than property taxes where I pay more for the same services if I live in a 1,000,000 home and my neighbor lives in a 100,000 home?

  13. doug_ross


    I’m already paying more than my share for both taxes. I’ll start with making just one of them fair.
    The whole notion that those who have more should pay more is the problem. I’m still waiting for any rational explanation of how the system is fair. Or even why it needs to be as complex as it is.

    I’ll settle for a flat tax on income where every dollar is treated the same. Again, it’s about simplicity and fairness. If other states can do without income tax, why can’t we? Or why can’t we just have a system that says 5 cents of every dollar you earn goes to the government? No more tax forms to fill out, no more audits, no more tax evasion.

    The system is a hodgepodge of stupid rules, exceptions, loopholes, and significant overhead to enforce.

    Everyone who wants a better healthcare system should ask why we are spending millions of dollars to assess the value of homes when we could spend the same money on healthcare. Think about that… the whole process of tax collection adds ZERO to the productivity of an economy — in fact it is a negative impact.

  14. KP

    Doug: Because we’re not looking to create the next French Revolution, we’re looking to be a model for the future.

  15. Lee Muller

    Since KP and Brad don’t say that they opposed the Vouchers for Clunkers program, even after being asked straight out, it’s safe to assume they support it.

    Every time someone points out a voucher program these lefties love, they disappear, or respond with some diversion that fails to divert attention from their dishonesty.

  16. Lee Muller


    The state doesn’t NEED anything but a 5% sales tax to operate all the essential services.

    It went for years with a very small property tax, no income tax, and a 4% sales tax, building all new schools for every district, and the TEC system.

  17. Lee Muller

    The reason property taxes are the oldest tax, is because they are a relic of the slave economy, when slaves, horses, cattle and land were the means of producing wealth, and there was a direct relationship between the value of your productive assets and your ability to pay the taxes out of the income the assets produced.

    Today, the government taxes property because it is easy to track it and seize it without due process.

  18. Lee Muller

    Hey, Kitchen Patrol, did you come to the discussion unprepared, again?

    Just lurk and learn something the government schools failed to teach you.

  19. Lee Muller

    If you want to post something, KP, you or Brad could explain why liberals are so against free choice and liberal education. I assume it has to do with wanting the state to control and mold young minds, given what other socialists have written and said.

    Here’s your chance to separate yourself from communists like Obama and Bill Ayers.

  20. Brad Warthen

    The complicated answer, Doug, is that you don’t buy a service with your taxes. You are a citizen, not a consumer. I’ve written entire columns on the subject, but it’s either something people get or they don’t.

    If you want to think of it in economic rather than civic terms, the person with more property, or more valuable property, has a greater stake in the infrastructure of civilization. If you have a million-dollar property, you have a greater need for the police protection, for instance, than your neighbor with property worth 100k.

    But that’s not the way I think of it. Value of the property is the rational way to assess a property tax, and a property tax is an eminently rationale tax for the reasons I cited above…

  21. Brad Warthen

    Lee, I don’t know anything about how liberals think — except as an observer, same as the way I observe the behavior of “conservatives.”

    Of course, I am “liberal” in the sense that I believe in liberal democracy in the way we use it in a global sense, as opposed to oppressive dictatorships and other forms. And I’m “conservative” in the sense that I’m for traditional moral values and such. But I cannot identify with either “side” as they are popularly defined today.

  22. Lee Muller

    You’re right, Brad – you a not a liberal. A liberal is a person who seeks liberty for all men, and the responsibility which goes along with it. There is not such thing as a “liberal democracy” on anything but a very small scale.

    If you are not a taxpayer, you are not a citizen, but a mere consumer of the wealth produced by taxpayers. Democracy, or direct rule of the people, becomes mob rule and theft when non-taxpayers are allowed to vote.

  23. kbfenner

    On Nikki Haley and advertising.

    Exotica did advertise–it had a very cryptic billboard with Cindy Crawford, I believe, in an animal print outfit. It didn’t do much other advertising, which may be why it is now located in an office park…..

  24. doug_ross

    > If you have a million-dollar
    >property, you have a greater need
    >for the police protection, for
    >instance, than your neighbor with
    >property worth 100k.

    That is the most bizarre twist of logic I have heard in a long time. So I need to pay more for police protection apparently to protect me from the people who pay little or no taxes?

    Are you telling me that the Columbia police department spends more time protecting the residents living in the good neighborhoods than it does on policing the bad neighborhoods?

    By your logic, poor people should be taxed higher for libraries because they need access to books more than rich people do.

    And fat people should be taxed more for parks and recreation because they need the exercise more.

    It’s an interesting perspective you have on taxes. Totally wrong, but interesting.

  25. Elliott1

    I didn’t watch it. These candidates raise my blood pressure. Your summation is all I need to enrage me at their stupidity. These candidates are trying to attract WORMs who don’t get out of the house much. They are completely out of touch. The demographics of the US voting population make these political positions obsolete. These demographics are coming to SC too – maybe not for this election but surely in four years. The Republican party needs new ideas to attract voters who are not older white men.

  26. Santee

    Two thoughts — First, people who have prospered don’t do it by themselves; the community is always essential, and deserves some of the payback. If you don’t believe that, try creating the life you want in Somalia. Second, sometimes the important issues are about the community and not about the individual.

  27. Lee Muller

    Of course those who prosper don’t do so by themselves. But we can be sure that the lazy don’t prosper.

    And we can make a direct connection to those who “help” the achievers prosper – customers, suppliers, employees, and financiers – and they are all directly compensated by bargaining and agreement.

    The rest of society has no skin the game, and no claim to the profits of the entrepreneur, nor his suppliers, customers, and employees. The non-players have their own little communities.

    Santee, why don’t YOU try creating a business here in South Carolina, without any government subsidies or political connections tapping you into the public treasury? Then come talk to us entrepreneurs.

  28. Randy E

    Doug, I shake my head at those of you who make the “fairness” claim about tax rates. A progressive tax is perfectly fair. People who can afford it pay more.

    To illustrate my point let’s compare two households of 2 parents and 2 children. One has an income of 200k and the other 30k. 10% tax (your 5% is woefully small) results in 20k and 3000 in taxes and 180k and 27k in remaining income respectively. Give the former a 300k house with a 2k/month mortgage payment for 24k a year. The later has a 90k house for 650/month for almost 8k a year. Give each a monthly grocery budget and car payment of 1k each or 12k/year. Now the 200k family has 145k or 12k PER MONTH remaining while the 30k family has less than 12k remaining for the YEAR.

    Has this “fairness” tax affected both parties equally?

    There are children growing up in poverty and even full time workers struggling to survive yet people with ample income are complaining about the lack of fairness they must endure.

  29. Lee Muller

    A single income tax rate is fair – those who earn more, pay more.

    Of course, if you make the rate low enough to not be punitive to the most productive people in society, the least productive pay almost nothing. That is better than having a rate that is burdensome on the working poor, and confiscatory on those who earn the most.

    Income taxes are too complicated for the taxpayers to calculate adn the bureaucrats to administer. A consumption tax on retail sales is much more simple and fair, and it is not open to the political abuse which plagues all income taxes.

  30. Lee Muller

    In Randy’s example, the family making $200,000 EARNS 6.667 times as much money as the family earning $30,000.

    After a flat tax, the $200,000 earners still have 6.667 times as much money as the $30,000 earners.

    After paying basic expenses, the $200,000 earners have 11 times as much money as the $30,000 earners.
    What’s wrong with that?

    The $200,000 earners might be frugal and buy the same style house as the $30,000 earners, and have no mortgage payment, meaning they would have 12 times as much money per month. Does frugality make them even “badder” people?

    Of course not. Both families earned their money. One has skills which are valued more by society, which pays them more for their work. If they save it, the money is lent to other people who cannot pay cash for houses and vehicles. If they invest it, the money finances business expansion. If they spend it, the money provides profits and incentives for retailers and manufacturers to raise wages and hire more workers.

    If the government taxes it away, it is not saved, not invested, but only spent, and not on what people preferred in a free market.

  31. doug_ross


    If your employer told you you had to work an additional ten hours a week but would only pay you half as much, would you be okay with that?

    That’s the way a “progressive” tax works. It’s set up to take away the incentive to work harder, to improve one’s skills to improve your salary.

    The government continues to foster an environment where people either get rewarded for doing nothing or get penalized for working hard.

    By your rationale, what we really need is communism, right? That way everyone is equal and it’s “fair”. We’ll all just work for the government and have free healthcare and never have to work hard to achieve anything.

    A fair system is one where everyone contributes and participates equally by choice not by government edict. If a poor person has less disposable income, there is a remedy: get educated, work hard, make sacrifices. It’s what pretty much most of the people who are taxed at the higher rates have done.

  32. KP

    A consumption tax on retail sales is the unfairest tax of all. To generate enough revenue to cover the cost of government, you’d have to set the rate high and tax many things that aren’t taxed now, taking a bigger bite out of the budgets of the biggest consumers — people raising families — and protecting people who are able to spend less.

    South Carolina’s property tax on owner-occupied homes is not unfair — it’s the 45th lowest in the nation. The income tax burden here is higher, but still in the bottom third of states.

  33. Birch Barlow

    By your rationale, what we really need is communism, right? That way everyone is equal and it’s “fair”. We’ll all just work for the government and have free healthcare and never have to work hard to achieve anything.

    Now Doug, you’re unfairly taking the progressive-taxers’ position to the extreme. I don’t think their goal is to make everything fair or to make sure everyone gets an equal slice of the pie. I think they just want a tax system that both works while also not adding too much to the struggles of low income taxpayers.

    In my opinion, those out there who refuse to work harder because they would have to pay a higher rate of tax are few. I think our tax system works in this regard. I’ll agree that it’s not “fair”. Some people are going to end up paying a higher rate than others. It’s reasonable in my opinion to oppose progressive taxes for that reason. But it still works, so it doesn’t bother me.

    What bothers me is this: imposing new taxes only, only on the few to pay for a new government program that benefits the many. In this situation, you’re not deciding to give some a little larger share of the burden for the benefits we all enjoy; you’re giving one group new benefits and and another the bill. If there are new government costs, everyone’s bill should go up by some amount, even if only a little. We shouldn’t completely divorce the idea of receiving a service and having to pay for it. Otherwise, there’s little, if any reason for the many to ever oppose any new program and you will undoubtedly end up with excess and bad government programs.

    I guess you could say my views lie somewhere in the middle when it comes to progressive taxes.

  34. doug_ross


    Excellent thoughts on taxes.

    I’m not opposed to taxes. My issue is with fairness, simplicity, and efficiency. The system we have now is a complete mess with far too much overhead involved in collecting taxes, assessing taxes owed, enforcing compliance. We need a system that doesn’t require filing taxes and makes tax avoidance a non-issue.

    Here’s an example of the simplicity issue: which bureaucrat came up with the concept of “millage” to figure property taxes??? Why not just set the property tax at 1% per year of the price that the home was purchased for with a minimum payment of $X per dwelling and a maximum of three times $X. That covers Brad’s theory on rich people needing to spend more on police protection but eliminates the whole assessment overhead.

    We have multi-billion dollar industries dedicated to understanding, avoiding, and litigating taxes.

    Imagine if all that brainpower and capital was put toward improving healthcare, alternative energy, and other social issues.

    For example, if someone wants to put forth a proposal that we’ll add a nickel to every soft drink purchase and we’ll use that to pay for insurance for the poor, I’m fine with that. Or if we want to go to a national sales tax to provide some type of single payer system, I would consider that as well. Then EVERYONE participates.
    But as soon as you start monkeying with the details is where it bogs down and the loopholes open up.

  35. Lee Muller

    It is nonsense to claim that the state cannot be run off sales tax alone. Most states did just that, until the 1950s.

    8 states still do have no income tax, some have a flat rate of 1%, and others have no property tax. All of them are spending way more money than they should on water parks, aquariums, grants, etc.

    The speculation that “not many people would quit working to avoid taxes”, that actually occurs on a mass scale, especially as someone sees he is about to hit a tripwire for entering the a high bracket, penalty or Alternative Minimum Tax.

    Before the Reagan tax reforms, I knew lots of consultants who quit working in October, because to continue would put them into a higher bracket which would make them work for free the rest of the year.

    When this state started its policy of double taxation of incomes earned elsewhere under Dick Riley, over 100,000 engineering and construction specialists left the state. Entire firms moved operations to Texas and Tennessee.

  36. Lee Muller

    Doug, the number is 10% of all workers being occupied with calculating and collecting taxes. What a complete waste of manpower, which makes all out products at least 10% more expensive. No wonder we are losing our export markets.

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