Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Huckabee's Fiscal Restraint?

One long-standing 2008 controversy is over the nature of Huckabee's tax hikes and cuts, the context, and impact they may have had on Arkansan voters. He has managed to make enemies with two influential organizations: the libertarian CATO Institute and the venerable conservative economic lobbying group the Club for Growth (the latter of which I'm a member).

I've long had criticisms on some Huckabee positions. The remarkably articulate Governor has gone Dan Quayle a couple of times on fiscal issues ("I support Free Trade, but it must be Fair Trade"), and his baseless income inequality rhetoric is disturbing.

However, as I learned when dealing with the customer relations desk at Wal-Mart, rhetoric is secondary to the bottom line. That line is policy action. Extraordinarily admirable policy stances such as the FairTax have earned a good deal of respect for the Governor from me. Nothing in the Club's report, when conisdered in context, would keep me from voting in for him in a general election.

Dick Morris, for whom I have limited respect--but occasionally he's insightful, had some interesting refutation in this week's column:

A recent column by Bob Novak excoriated Huckabee for a “47 percent increase in state tax burden.” But during Huckabee’s years in office, total state tax burden — all 50 states combined — rose by twice as much: 98 percent, increasing from $743 billion in 1993 to $1.47 trillion in 2005.

In Arkansas, the income tax when he took office was 1 percent for the poorest taxpayers and 7 percent for the richest, exactly where it stood when he left the statehouse 11 years later. But, in the interim, he doubled the standard deduction and the child care credit, repealed capital gains taxes for home sales, lowered the capital gains rate, expanded the homestead exemption and set up tax-free savings accounts for medical care and college tuition.

Most impressively, when he had to pass an income tax surcharge amid the drop in revenues after Sept. 11, 2001, he repealed it three years later when he didn’t need it any longer.

He raised the sales tax one cent in 11 years and did that only after the courts ordered him to do so. (He also got voter approval for a one-eighth-of-one-cent hike for parks and recreation.)

He wants to repeal the income tax, abolish the IRS and institute a “fair tax” based on consumption, and opposes any tax increase for Social Security.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Willy Wanta and the Packed Wally World: My Personal Marketing Experience

Wal-Mart, the glorious place it is, wasn't made to hold thousands of people at five in the morning. Nonetheless, I have experienced on the of the greatest marketing successes of the modern era: Black Friday. No sane person would buy as much as they do, but if ingenious markets account for variables and provide incentive, it will happen.

Black Friday shopping is a fetish rivaled only by the Saturday morning yard sale shoppers. It's an American tradition that, prior to this Thanksgiving, I had never experienced. But all that changed with a simple desire for $19.99 a pop seasons of 24 and $12 flash drives and SD cards.

You need to know Mountain View is a town of 3,000 people. Two stop lights and a Wal-Mart. And said Wal-Mart was our destination at a quarter to five yesterday morning. Dad kept telling me stuff like, "So, most people are going to be standing in line waiting for them to open the doors at five, but we're just going to sit here in the heat. It's not worth it." Yeah right, I thought, there's going to be three people there, and at five o'clock a worker's going to walk up, say "you're weird," and open the doors. We'll buy something and leave. I just knew it. Knew it.

Okay, so I was wrong.

Being the geeky soul I am, I was reminded of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. When Dickens talks about Paris he describes a wine casket that breaks, and countless peasants flock the streets to lick up the wine and wine-soaked mud off the cobblestone streets.

This was the same scene, only instead of peasants and wine it was middle class Americans and HDTVs.

Speaking of which, half of Mountain View has one now. 42', 55', 32'... Stacks of them ten feet tall went all the way down the middle of the center aisle.

Upon arrival, as Dad said, the line stretched from the front door of Wal-Mart to the Gas Station at the back of the parking lot. As soon as the doors were opened, these people flooded in grabbing carts and heading inside. As soon as aforementioned people with carts were inside, however, they realized that that many carts wouldn't fit in Wal-Mart, thus they couldn't move around. Thus they abandond them. Thus hundreds of abandoned carts littered the aisles, thus they were still not able to move around.

When I finally reached electronics and the 24 display, I noticed that our Wal-Mart had turned into a Sams Club--complete with crates and forklifts. The flash drives weren't on a rack, they were cardboard boxes filled with said drives and stacked on top of each other.

People have no apparent need for one or two blenders, let alone six of them. Heck, for ten bucks a blender, why should that stop you. Three 50' plasmas? eBay is the only thing I can think of.

I love capitalism.

I love excess.

I love America.

(And my new seasons 3 and 4 of 24, along with 2GB SD cards and flash drives.)

Maybe next year I should try Target...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Unusual Video and Apologetic Philosophy

As I went to an apologetics conference featuring Josh McDowell and Dinesh D'Souza last weekend, I began pondering some interesting ideas. As a paradigm of cause and effect in life, is this illustration I created yesterday accurate? I'm leaning towards relationships being contingent on actions and philosophy on ethics, but I'm not sure. In traditional Western philosophical thought, our ethics are dictated by our predetermined philosophy, but I'm beginning to think our fundamental ethics (e.g. truth) result in philosophy.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

2008 Looking Differenet... and random sidenotes

Thompson is still unimpressive, Huckabee's fund raising is surging, and Giuliani and Romney are about the same. That said, how will we stand going into Iowa where Giuliani is in surprisingly bad shape and Romney's on top? Dick Morris says Huckabee could end up second in Iowa, while Romney's lead is still comfortable, and Giuliani looking rather shabby? We might actually have a shot at beating Giuliani, if a distant chance of a flank.

Now, a couple of random things. First, Miracles is now my third favorite CS Lewis book. Fantastic. If you want a "welcome to the supernatural" book, it's a great shot.

Second, House MD is the greatest show of all time. But you already knew that. Tuesday's episode was as hilarious as any (House to Cuddy: "By the way, I can tell when my Vicadin isn't really Vicadin. The question is, can you tell when your birth control pills aren't really birth control pills?"). But, more interestingly, the HDTV that has resided gracefully in the garage since we got it half off the morning after thanksgiving a couple of years ago finally got dragged into the house. Since I did the dragging, it ended up in my room. The whole "get something better, want something even better" saying is perfectly true. Analog cable looks quite screwed up on a digital TV. DirectTV HD perhaps?

"Surprisingly" Strong October Economy Numbers

Employers boosted payrolls by a surprisingly strong 166,000 in October, the most in five months, an encouraging sign that the nation's employment climate is holding up relatively well against the strains of a housing collapse and credit crunch.

The Labor Department's report, released Friday, also showed that the unemployment rate held steady at 4.7 percent for the second month in a row. It's a figure that is considered low by historical standards.