Posts Tagged American Radio Journal

Tinkering with the System


Days before the November election I was listening to a radio talk show and the topic of discussion was a prominent Democrat who suggested that congressional terms should be made longer.  Specifically, he suggested having U.S. Senators serve for eight years rather than six and electing members of the U.S. House of Representatives to four year terms instead of two.

The reasoning behind suggesting such a change was to limit the number of opportunities voters have to impact the system to ensure more stability in the federal government.  Prompting the discussion was voter propensity to deal President Barack Obama mid-term electoral set-backs compromising his ability to enact his policy agenda.

Interestingly, when someone dislikes the verdict of the voters or an elected official misbehaves the search goes on for a systemic weakness to blame.  Inevitably, the “solution” to such non-existent problems is to remove from those rascally voters the ability to express their will through the electoral process.

Such is the case in Pennsylvania where recent episodes of elected officials behaving badly have prompted calls for systemic change that, in the end would erode the power of voters and diminish the ability of “We the People” to impact the composition of our own government.  Specifically, structural “reforms” that would enhance the power of elites to the detriment of grassroots voters include reducing the size of the state legislature and enacting the merit selection of judges.

The recent forced retirement of state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffrey for excessive use of the send button on his computer has re-energized the merit selection movement.  Presumably, a merit selection committee would have asked McCaffrey if he liked to forward along pornographic e-mails, he would have admitted such, and thus been eliminated from consideration.  Likewise the last justice to be impeached, Rolf Larson, would have admitted his addictions to the merit selection committee and informed them of his plan to use staff to acquire prescription drugs illegally.

It is folly to believe a merit selection committee would be error free in its choices.  The only sure outcome of merit selection is that the selectors and those who select the selectors would gain incredible influence over one-third of state government with no voter oversight or recourse.  True, voters are often ill informed when it comes to judicial candidates, but the same can be said for many other offices as well.

Reducing the size of the General Assembly is another “reform” that would diminish the impact of voters while giving leaders greater control.  A smaller legislature would mean larger districts.  Candidates must spend more to be elected in larger districts, thus the role of campaign cash would grow while the ability of less well financed candidates to compete through grassroots campaigning would be lessened.  Do we really want to make money in politics more important?

At the national level, lengthening the terms of congressmen and senators would severely curtail the ability of voters to express their will.  The framers of the U.S Constitution intended for the House to be volatile, representing the momentary views of the people.  Senators were granted six-years terms to be the “cooling saucer” of those who could take a longer term view.  It was and is a good compromise that has served our nation well.

The old saying that our system of government is the worst there is – except for all the others remains true.  Constitutions are written and systems are established so the framework of government is timeless and not whipsawed by the winds of current events.  Any system is only as good as the men and women who serve within it.  The key to better government lies not in changing the system, but in being more vigilant on whom we select to represent us.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

 

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

Advertisements

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Kyle Pomerleau Talks Tax Burden


Radio Program Schedule for the week of July 26, 2014 – August 1, 2014

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Kyle Pomerleau of the Tax Foundation about the tax burden of U.S. workers
  • Eric Montarti and Josh Eberlyexamine the impact of a recent court ruling on municipal employee residency requirement on the Allegheny Institute Report
  • Anna McCauslin of Americans for Prosperity-PA has a Lincoln Radio Journal commentary on how the state got into the current pension crisis

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Kyle Pomerleau of the Tax Foundation about the tax burden of U.S. workers
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story behind the growing controversy over “economic patriotism”
  • Eric Boehm and Chris Butler have a Watchdog Radio Report on a small peach farmer in Alabama being forced out of business by the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on how the current scandals could hasten the abolition of the IRS

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

A Taxing Tale


President Obama’s claim that “If you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan” was dubbed by pundits as the 2013 lie of the year. Fast forward to this year’s gubernatorial campaign and two lies are competing for top honors.  Take your choice between: Governor Tom Corbett has slashed spending on public education; and Marcellus Shale gas drillers, unlike other states, are not paying high enough taxes.

Pollsters for the four remaining Democratic candidates for governor seem to have all discovered that education funding has surpassed unemployment and the melting polar ice caps as the main issue concerning likely voters in the upcoming primary.  Thus a happy convergence of the two lies has occurred.  The candidates can promise voters their cake – more education spending – and they can eat it too because they will tax the robber baron gas drillers to pay for it.

Setting aside the fact more state dollars are being spent on public education than at any time in the history of the commonwealth, let’s focus on whether or not companies drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale reserve are paying their fair share.  One candidate claims on his website that we are giving “. . . away our state’s valuable resources without generating revenue for critical investments like schools . . . ”  His television ads point out that gas drillers in Penn’s Woods do not pay a severance tax as do companies operating in every other state in the union.

That is a true, but misleading statement.  Pennsylvania does not levy a severance tax, which is a tax applied on gas as it leaves the well, but the commonwealth does charge gas companies – as it does all other businesses – both a Corporate Net Income Tax and a Capital Stock & Franchise Tax.  We are the only state in the nation that levies both of those taxes.  That alone would place Marcellus shale drillers on an equal footing with the 49 other states.

But, it doesn’t stop there.  Act 13 of 2012 imposed an impact fee on natural gas wells in Penn’s Woods.  It is called a fee because Republicans supporting the measure did not want to be accused of raising taxes.  A rose by any other name, however, is still a rose.  The dictionary defines the word tax as “a sum of money demanded by a government for its support, or for specific facilities or services.” Thus, the Marcellus Shale impact fee is, by definition, a tax.

The impact tax is levied based upon the price of natural gas traded on the market and on the age of the wells.  Thus the amount of revenue generated each year fluctuates depending on market performance and number of wells drilled.  According to the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Pittsburgh, the impact tax generated $204.2 million in revenue in 2011 and $202.5 million in revenue in 2012.  Less was generated in 2012 because the market price of the gas had decreased.

So, to put this into perspective, an industry that supposedly is not paying its fair share over the past two years paid every tax every other business in the state paid plus an additional $406.2 million.  What sort of outrage would there be if, for example, we asked farmers to pay an impact tax? They use natural resources – soil and water – to produce their product.  Or, perhaps to make it fair we should enact a “success tax” – in addition to Corporate Net and Capital Stock & Franchise taxes – on any business in Pennsylvania that expands rapidly and reaps higher profits?

The current political debate focused on adding another layer of tax on Marcellus Shale drillers implies, and in some cases outright states, that the gas companies are taking a natural resources and we are left with no benefit.  But the Allegheny Institute’s analysis of where dollars from the impact tax have gone shows that a wide range of state agencies, county and local governments have received revenue from the tax.  These funds have gone to repair and replace local bridges, improve water and sewer projects, clean up acid mine drainage, pay for green space initiatives and watershed projects. Money has been set aside in the Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay for any future problems which may arise, and into community and economic development.  Counties – all 67 of them – have shared in over $21 million in revenue.

As in most political campaigns truth is the first casualty.  Candidates can certainly propose higher taxes, but they should at least not mislead voters. Instead they should tell the whole story and not just those parts of it that fit their campaign narrative.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Faux Reform


Reform is one of the most abused words in Pennsylvania’s legislative lexicon.  In the years since the infamous middle-of-the-night pay raise uprising many lawmakers have hopped on the reform bandwagon – including some that created and abused the very procedures they profess to want to reform.  With a seemingly endless parade of state officials populating the prisons, and policy gridlock under the capitol dome, it is clear reforms are needed.

Penn’s Woods lacks citizen ballot initiative rights, so the only way to reform the General Assembly is for it to reform itself.  That, of course, requires a majority of members to admit that there is a problem.  A number of legislators in both chambers have banded together to create a reform caucus.  Serious and necessary reform proposals have emerged from that group. Unfortunately, virtually all lack the widespread support needed to move anything through Pennsylvania’s moribund legislative machinery.

I will digress to credit legislative leaders in both chambers, in particular Senate Majority Leader Domenic Pileggi for their support of open records legislation.  While the open records law does not go far enough, it is the one reform that has resulted in improving government transparency.  Senator Pileggi continues to fight for needed enhancements to the law.

But, the one so-called reform that has drawn the most support from legislative leadership is reducing the size of the General Assembly.  Currently, Pennsylvanians elect 203 representatives in the state house and 50 state senators.  It is one of the largest state legislative bodies in the nation.  The tiny state of New Hampshire has the most house members – 424.  But, and this is an important distinction, they are paid only $100.00 per year serving without the perks of Pennsylvania’s full-time General Assembly.

On its face reducing the size of the Pennsylvania General Assembly would appear to be serious reform.  It is not.  Size is not the problem with Pennsylvania’s legislature, it is cost.  When you consider the entire 424-member New Hampshire state legislature is collectively paid less per year than even one Pennsylvania state representative, the problem becomes clear.  Size reduction will do nothing to address the cost drivers of maintaining the state legislature while concentrating power in the hands of fewer lawmakers.

And therein can be found the ulterior motive. Fewer members will require districts that will be larger both in terms of population and geography.  This will increase the cost of campaigns, minimizing grassroots activity and enhancing the importance of money.  Lobbyists and special interest groups – who already play an outsized role in policy debates – will become even more powerful as candidates will need more of their dollars to fund campaigns.  Larger districts also make lawmakers less accessible to the average voter.  Think about how much easier it is to personally talk to your state representative than it is to gain an audience with your congressman.

If members serve larger districts they will require additional staff.  Thus, any payroll costs cut by having fewer lawmakers will be erased by higher staff costs.  In the end look for the number of new staff hired to eclipse the number of legislators cut.  It is possible – in fact likely – that costs will go up, not down, if legislative seats are eliminated.

There is also the issue of concentrating more power in the hands of fewer officials.  Size reduction is drawing support from leadership in both chambers. This is because it is much easier to influence or control fewer members.  Ditto the lobbyists and special interests that will be able to focus their efforts on corralling fewer votes.  Pennsylvania’s legislature is already a leadership-driven institution.  Cutting the number of members would only make it more so.

Rather than dangling the shiny trinket of size reduction before the eyes of taxpayers hungry for real reform efforts should focus on the real cost drivers of the General Assembly.  For example: why does the institution meet year round? Currently the legislature is in the midst of a two and a half month recess.  Why not, like Maryland to our south, have a part-time legislature that meets only 90 days each year?  That would cut both salaries and operating costs.  It would be even easier to eliminate unvouchered per diems – a system regularly abused; switch from a defined benefits pension system of questionable constitutionality to a defined contribution system; and, with part-time lawmakers eliminate costly health care benefits.

When considering any reform it is important to look past the nice sounding words that accompany its introduction and fully consider all possible ramifications.  The road to reform is one Pennsylvania highway that has been well paved with good intentions gone awry.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Employee Freedom Week


Radio Program Schedule for the Week of July 13, 2013 – July 19, 2013

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Chris Jacobs of the Heritage Foundation about the mounting failures of Obamacare
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story behind the cyber recruitment of a congressional challenger
  • Eric Boehm has a Watchdog Radio look at fiscal mismanagement of federal housing dollars in Texas
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on President Obama’s narcissism

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Melissa Daniels have news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • Lowman Henry has a Newsmaker interview with Matthew Wagner of Pennsylvanians for Right to Work about Employee Freedom Week
  • Joe Geiger of the First Nonprofit Foundation has Tish Mogan from the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations in the Community Benefit Spotlight to talk about community EMS groups and financial accountability
  • Jennifer Stefano from the PA Chapter of Americans for Prosperity has a Stefano Speaks! commentary on food stamps and the entitlement mentality

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Warren Hudak Talks Capital Stock & Franchise Tax


Radio Program Schedule for the Week of June 22, 2013 – June 28, 2013

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Jim Harper of the CATO Institute about the balance between privacy and security
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on the defeat of the Farm Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives
  • Benjamin Yount has a Watchdog Radio look at changes to voter rules in the states with Eric Veram of the Lucy Burns Institute
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on the U.S. Senate’s immigration reform bill

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Melissa Daniels have news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • David Taylor of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association hosts a Capitol Watch roundtable discussion on improving the state’s tax climate to attract more business with Kevin Shivers from the PA Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business and with Warren Hudak of Hudak & Company
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on the biggest Washington scandal

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Matt Pitzarella Talks Clean Energy Technology


Radio Program Schedule for the Week of May 18, 2013 – May 24, 2013

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Bridget Johnson of PJ Media about the scandals enveloping the Obama Administration
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story behind congressional pressure on the IRS to target conservative groups
  • Benjamin Yount and Eric Boehm have a Watchdog Radio look at budget problems facing state governments
  • Dr. Paul Kengor from the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College has an American Radio Journal commentary on President Obama, Planned Parenthood and abortion

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Melissa Daniels have news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • Lowman Henry talks with Matt Pitzarella of Range Resources about the impact of advancements in clean energy technology
  • Joe Geiger from the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations has Matt Lane from the Central Penn College Education Foundation in the Nonprofit Spotlight
  • Jennifer Stefano has a Stefano Speaks! commentary on the IRS targeting of conservative organizations

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment