06 July 2012

My fellow Americans

A kid knocked on our door the other day. Name of Evan Clifthorne. Turns out he’s running for state congress, the 36th district.

“What advice would you give someone standing for office, for the first time?”

Here’s what I said:


Thanks for stopping by the house the other day. You were pleasant and reasonable while I was in old pajamas. Keeping a straight face counts for a lot.

I’d like to offer some random and unsolicited advice.

To a hammer, all problems look like nails. And to a legislator, legislation is the solution to everything. Don’t be a hammer. Use office as a bully pulpit and help organize private remedies to public problems.

Avoid light rail, high speed rail, trolleys and other such glamorous boondoggles. Technology is about to do an end run around these expensive concrete lines politicians draw on maps. Rail freight, on the other hand, is not glamorous but it is effective, efficient and needs attention.

Climate change will hit the poor much harder than the rich, so be rich. Help us all be rich by not hampering business and investment. Wealthy people also demand a cleaner environment so this is a win-win strategy.

Climate change may also increase immigration into our state. Land may be in demand so subsidizing homes is foolish, especially where it might flood or burn.

Five or ten more nuclear power plants would let us unplug all the hydroelectric dams which sounds pretty green to me. However, I’d hate to see old style, high pressure reactors. Maybe we could get some federal money to build a pilot thorium plant or a pebble bed reactor. Let’s lead the nation with safe, high tech power.

You want to reform taxes? Me, too. Everyone except favor selling politicians want simple and predictable taxes. Property taxes promotes “highest, best use” which translated means “highest, best tax revenue” and effectively prohibits the poor from owning property.

We fear an income tax because we know whatever reasonable tax rate is proposed is just the camel’s nose under the tent flap. If you want to sell us on one, keep the rate constitutionally limited to a small and certain percentage. Three percent sounds good to me. It must also be tied to a slashing and staking of property, sales and B & O taxes. In fact, eliminate B & O and make any property tax flat and bindinglylow. Put a ceiling on sales tax, say five percent, with the state getting some and the locals getting the lion’s share. In a healthy and growing economy, tax revenue will rise.

“Let the blessings and burdens of government fall upon all without favor.” I first heard this from James M. Buchanan but it’s old wisdom. In other words, don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. We are all equal under the law. Don’t pass out sweetheart deals.

Trust incentives. Trust the people.

Good Luck