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Archive for February, 2012

When I started the Virginia Conservative, I wanted to create a place where I could express my political opinions and serve as a forum for civil dialogue.  Some three-and-a-half years later, I believe that I have achieved much more that I originally set out to do.

Maybe you’re visiting my site for the first time today.  Or maybe you’ve been a regular reader for years.  Either way, I hope you have found something that you’ve enjoyed, or something that made you think, even if you’ve stumbled upon a viewpoint that you believe is totally wrong.  But perhaps you’d like to give back; perhaps you’d like to support this site financially.

Therefore, after months of debating, I’ve decided to finally add a donation button to this blog.  So, if you feel like saying, “Joshua, I like this site and want to contribute,” I would certainly appreciate whatever donation you are willing to give.  I’d like to reach a larger audience, expand to my own website, and maybe even one day make a living writing political commentary.  That is my dream.  Your donations will help morph this dream into a reality.

Unlike those annoying telethons, I’ll not harp on this icon any further.  I’ll just leave it here (until I include it among the rest of the links) and you can do as you see fit.

As always, thanks for reading.  For liberty with responsibility!

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End this War!

In late 2011, the indie band Golden State released a single entitled “Bombs (The Ron Paul Song)”.  They sold this song on iTunes with the proceeds from the sale going to Ron Paul’s Super PAC.  Although I don’t know how much money they raised, I always welcome the opportunity to support fellow lovers of liberty and Ron Paul devotees.  True, I missed their big December promotion, but I did download a copy of “Bombs” earlier this month.  They have sort of a right-wing U2 vibe and sound to them.

As you listen to this song, I want you to focus on their oft-repeated lyric “end this war”.  To what war are they referring?  Even after watching the music video, it could mean a whole plethora of things: the war on terror, the war against our civil liberties, the war against the Constitution, the war for the GOP (the neo-cons/establishment vs. the paleo-cons/libertarians), the war on poverty, class warfare, race warfare, or even the war on drugs.  Unfortunately, however well intentioned, each of these so-called wars has led to many negative consequences: massive debt, an explosive expansion of the federal government, and the further erosions of our freedom.  So, isn’t it time that we finally “end this war”?

Well, without further commentary, here is Golden State’s “Bombs (The Ron Paul Song)”.  Enjoy and, if you like it, I encourage you to buy it on iTunes.

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This evening, I received a video from Jamie Radtke.  In it, she extols the importance of signature collection to her campaign.

Look, time is running short and if you would like to see Jamie Radtke on the June ballot, your opportunity is now.  True, 10,000 valid signatures are a lot.  But with your efforts combined with the efforts of grassroots activists from all across Virginia, it is a task that can be accomplished.

Don’t forget the three important steps:

1. Collect as many signatures as you can.

2. Get them notarized.  (Your local bank will usually notarize them for free!)

3. Mail them to the campaign as soon as you are finished.

Get to it!

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Guest post by Daniel Wilson

In the name of class warfare politics, President Obama released a budget with $1.7 trillion in tax hikes over the next decade targeting successful earners, including small businesses, corporations and entrepreneurs. These taxes may only apply to individuals and businesses earning more than $200,000 a year, but will adversely affect every American, including college students.

In a jobless recovery with over 13 million Americans out of work, the last thing you want to do is impose higher marginal tax rates on job creators. Around 75 percent of tax filers in the highest tax bracket report business income, according to the Tax Foundation. [1] Higher taxes on businesses will most certainly destroy jobs. Businesses will have less after-tax income to expand production and employment. In addition, the incentives to make new investments in potential breakthroughs are minimized since you’re asking investors to take risks for a diminished rate of return from inflated confiscatory tax rates.

Take a look at the capital gains tax which Obama wants to raise from 15 to 24 percent. Capital gains taxes are paid whenever you sell an asset, such as a bond or a stock, for a profit. Higher taxes on capital gains will miss allocate resources by encouraging consumption over investing. Since investments are now being taxed at a higher rate, consumption becomes more attractive. Currently, the U.S. economy desperately lacks capital investments and way over consumes, so this only worsens that imbalance. Also, a higher capital gains tax chases capital overseas to countries like Switzerland that have no capital gains tax at all, destroying American jobs in the process. Lastly, everybody who owns stocks, which is roughly half of all Americans, will have a devalued portfolio from a higher capital gains tax. The higher tax lowers the reward from owning a stock, which then reduces the demand for stocks, causing the entire stock market to be worth less. Since savings and investments are the key to long-term economic growth the capital gains tax should be abolished, not raised.

Even though most economists believe higher taxes retard economic prosperity, the Obama administration is sold on the belief that the rich in this country, such as Warren Buffett and  Mitt Romney, need to pay an elevated tax rate. Obama wrongfully claims that very wealthy  individuals earning their income through capital gains and dividends get off with a lower tax rate than a secretary. This common fallacy completely ignores the double taxation of corporate income. Capital gains and dividends are taxed at a preferential rate of 15 percent because that same income has already been taxed at a rate of 35 percent at the corporate level. In other words, when a corporation earns a profit it has to pay corporate taxes on its earnings and then when the retained earnings are distributed to shareholders through dividends the income is taxed again at a rate of 15 percent.  In actuality, as The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out on January 27, 2012, Romney and Buffett have a tax rate closer to 40 percent.

As far as the rich not paying their fair share, the top 1 percent pays nearly 40 percent of all the income taxes while the bottom 45 percent pays nothing, according to the IRS. Also, a study by the OECD in 2008 showed that the richest 10 percent of households in the United States have the highest ratio of income taxes paid to the share of income earned, giving the U.S. the most progressive income tax system in the industrialized world.

Higher taxes on productive behavior is detrimental for society as a whole, living standards and economic growth become compromised when innovations and hard work get penalized by draconian tax rates. The rich already pay more than their fair share, and asking them to pay additional taxes will only derail the economy.

 


[1]
[1] http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/sr185.pdf

Daniel Wilson is a senior who is majoring in economics at James Madison University.

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As I mentioned on a recent article on examiner.com, recently Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Ron Paul supporters have taken to the streets, waving pro-liberty, pro-Ron Paul signs on the outskirts of downtown Harrisonburg.  Although the weather has been chilly, I’ve spent time on the corner, publicly cheering on my candidate.  However, prior to these recent episodes, the last (and first) time I participated in a sign wave for Dr. Paul was shortly before South Carolina’s 2008 Republican presidential primary.

Back in October of 2007 when I joined the Ron Paul campaign in South Carolina, very early on fellow campaign staffers spoke against sign waving.  They informed me that Ron Paul supporters loved to do sign waves but that I should discourage these practices.  Now you might ask why they would think this way.  Well, although sign waving is certainly a visible way to let voters know that there are folks who ardently support Dr. Paul, it is a completely ineffective tool for identifying like-minded citizens.

Three of the most important functions of a political campaign are:  to educate voters about the candidate and his or her opponent, identify supporters, and then make sure that those supporters get out to vote for your candidate on election day.  Regrettably, sign waving does a rather poor job at accomplishing any of these tasks.  True, it does raise some visibility and name ID for a candidate, but you really can’t delve deeply into areas of specific policy disagreements on a simple piece of poster board.  Second, even when motorists honk in approval of a candidate, there is no feasible way to know who is driving that car and whether or not that person is even registered to vote.  Therefore, without any method to keep in contact with these supposed supporters, sign waving does not further the campaign aim of making sure that the Ron Paul people come out to vote.

Given that my position within the campaign was in grassroots organizing, the task of convincing volunteers to participate in more productive activities like phone calling and going door-to-door fell to me.  But, as you likely know, Ron Paul supporters are a very free-willed bunch of folks and quite a few bucked any kind of authority even when we supported the same cause.  Therefore, from time to time, South Carolina volunteers would spontaneously sign wave anyway.  Of course I never joined in.  After all, if an official member of the campaign staff spent his or her time sign waving, it would lend credence to the activity and prove that much more difficult to persuade them to engage in more beneficial endeavors in the future.

But, as I stated at the beginning of this article, I did participate in a sign wave several days before the January 19th primary.  But, Joshua, you might say, if sign waves aren’t very ineffective, why would you spend your time doing that sort of thing when you could have been more productive elsewhere?  The answer to that question is Iowa.

After the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, staffers who previously worked in Iowa came to South Carolina to bolster our efforts.  Once they arrived, both the new and the old Carolina team gathered together to discuss the campaign.  During this meeting, one of the leaders in Iowa candidly stated that Ron Paul would not win South Carolina.  Believe it or not, this news did not come as any sort of shock.  After all, we had seen the earlier results from Iowa and New Hampshire; we had spoken to thousands of South Carolinians and knew that a majority of them would not support Paul.  However, openly declaring this unspoken taboo had a devastating impact on office morale.  What was the point of our many months of hard work if the prospect of our loss was so apparent and could be discussed so seemingly flippantly?

Within a day or two of this announcement, the Greenville South Carolina Ron Paul supporters once again suggested doing a sign wave.  This time, I not only offered no objection, another staffer and I actually joined in.  We shook our signs vigorously and yelled “Ron Paul!” to passing motorists.  Each time one would honk in approval, we would shout “what’s your phone number?” vocally illustrating the fact that the sign wave did nothing to accomplish those three necessary campaign tasks.

Fast forward to 2012.  Although I’m back in my home state this time, I am very disheartened with the apparent lack of effort on the part of the official campaign in Virginia.  I’ll admit that this feeling likely partially stems from the fact that this time I’m on the outside; I’m looking in.  But I’ve begged for supplies and voter information in order to craft some semblance of a traditional campaign here in the Valley and have been rebuffed.  You’d think that with only Paul and Romney on the ballot here, the national campaign would do whatever they can to win here.  But so far, that idea does not seem to be widely shared.  So with the traditional avenues of campaigning unavailable, what can we do to help Ron Paul?  Hello sign wave, my old friend and enemy.

In case you are wondering, I still don’t believe that sign waving is the best method to promote a candidate.  Nevertheless, I’m proud and honored to stand beside my brothers and sisters in liberty who enthusiastically brave the elements and volunteer their time, doing what they can to show our support for the best candidate, Dr. Ron Paul.  So when they organize this kind of event, why not join in for an hour or two?  We may win in Virginia; we may not.  Either way, we’ll be doing what we can to help with the meager supplies we have.

Therefore, in the coming weeks, if you drive through the streets of Harrisonburg and see a group of people cheering and holding signs for Dr. Paul, chances are you’ll find me among them, waving at traffic.

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Is the Mail Dead?

While on my quest for my next job, I received some rather interesting advice from a trained professional.  Write a letter to prospective employers and send it to them in a hand-addressed envelope via the U.S. mail.  The idea makes sense, doesn’t it?  After all, who doesn’t like to get a personalized letter?

For quite a few years now, political campaigns have sent out mailers, which appear to be handwritten even though they are simply printed that way.  Sporting several colors of ink, using font that isn’t nice and smooth, both of these tactics serve to draw one’s eye and make you think that the letter is actually something important, something special written just for you.

Therefore, in late January/early February, I sent out about thirty of these letters hoping to find the next step in my career.  How do you think this project faired?  Well, I assume you’re guessing not that it was not very successful given the title of this article.  And you’d be right.

Of the thirty, one was returned to me for bearing an incorrect address.  One group politely declined via email and yet another responded with a return letter in the post.  That was it.  Of the supposedly successfully delivered twenty-nine, only two resulted in a reply.  This low level of success coupled with a handful of other factors is making me wonder, is the mail dead?  Has the U.S. Postal Service run its course and now serves little purpose in the electronic age?

After all, what kind of mail do we mostly get these days?  Junk mail, right?  Letters offering us credit cards, imploring us to donate to charities we’ve never heard of, catalogs from LL Bean and Lands End, and boring pages from politicians.  Okay, so maybe only political junkies like myself get too much of the last kind.  But if you go to your mailbox, certainly the bulk of it is just like I describe, right?

Sure, we do get an assortment of important mail too.  Every month we get our bills: credit card, electric, sewer and water, cable and Internet, car, and phone service.  But can’t we pay most, if not all, of these monthly expenses online?  And don’t these companies keep encouraging us to “go green” by ending our paper statements through the mail?  Heck, I haven’t paid either my cell phone or credit card bills via the post office in years.  Ever since one of my credit payments got lost in the mail and Capital One stuck me with a rather unpleasant late fee, I’ve sworn off this less than reliable method.

But what about packages?  Certainly the U.S. Post Office is still useful for sending packages?  Although it’s true that I’ve sent multiple items via the email over the years, I must confess that I’ve never sent anything too valuable.  For important stuff, I always use UPS or FedEx.  Sure, it costs more to do so, but unlike the USPS, with either of these two companies I’ve never had a package mysteriously disappear without a trace, never properly compensated for its loss.  Sure, the post office is much less expensive, but how large is the hidden cost of subsides courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer?

Getting back to my own personal saga of job hunting, I decided to send the very same letter to the very same people via email over the last several days and weeks.  Any guesses on the response rate this time?  About 75%, which is far higher than the post.  My only guess here is that most people these days don’t have either the time or the interest to going browsing through their stack of mostly worthless junk mail.

So is the mail dead?  Has email and the Internet now completely supplanted the old communications methods of our fathers?  And, if so, should we continue to subsidize a dying industry when its cheaper, faster, and more convenient replacement lies at our fingertips twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week?

As more and more Americans digitize their lives, maybe it’s time to set the mail free from the government and see if it can survive in the free market.  Will such a suggestion result in the death of the mail?  I’ll admit that it is quite likely.  But if it serves little purpose anymore, other than supporting philatelists and a legion of government workers, don’t you think the best course of action is to let it die with a quiet dignity and fully embrace the technology of the 21st century?

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On Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling invited bloggers from across the state to join him for his annual Bloggers’ Day.  Beginning at 10:15, the all day event gave us an in-depth opportunity to explore the recent activities of the state government as well discuss the upcoming 2012 and 2013 elections.  Carpooling with fellow blogger Rick Sincere, I enjoyed a lot of insightful commentary on the path to and from Richmond.

Lt. Gov. Bolling flanked by Randy Marcus and Tucker Martin

First on the docket, as had been in years past, was a roundtable meeting with Lt. Gov. Bolling as he outlined the state of the Virginia economy in terms of the increase in jobs, capital investment, and the like.  Although Virginia continues to pull out of this recession, it was disappointing to see that the Shenandoah Valley is progressing slower than the rest of the state.  Nevertheless, I do believe that our leaders are making important strides to encourage businesses to come to the commonwealth.

Afterward, I walked over to the capitol to see the Senate and House in session.  However, due to a massive influx of students, supporters of Americans for Prosperity, and other political groups, a policeman blocked the entrance until the crowds has dissipated.  I grabbed a sandwich and ate alongside fellow bloggers Charles Young of Newport News and Brian Bridgeforth of Waynesboro.

Virginia's House of Delegates

Once the way was clear, we headed to the House of Delegates chamber.  The issue under discussion was the so-called “Tebow bill” which would allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sporting events.  Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle County, the patron of the bill, and Delegate Brenda of James City County encouraged the members to allow the bill to come up for a final vote while Virginia Beach Republican Bob Tata moved to have the delegates “forget” the bill.  Nevertheless, by a voice vote, the members chose to engross the measure.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to the Senate doors, that body had already gone into recess.

Starting at 2:30, a panel of various folks in the know spoke more about Virginia politics.  First up was Bob Holsworth, followed by Boyd Marcus.  Both spoke on the state of the 2012 and 2013 elections.  Each seemed to think that Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee for president although they admit that he faces considerable hurdles to win the election in November.

Senator Obenshain and Randy Marcus

Next up was Senator Mark Obenshain.  His primary focus centered on his various legislative proposals including the imminent domain amendment.  Personally, I would have liked to hear him speak a little on his race for Attorney General in 2013, but I suppose that there is still a considerable amount of time before that issue comes to the forefront.

After waiting several minutes for Delegate Rob Bell to arrive and speak with the group, I ducked out to find a fellow Ron Paul supporter who worked in one of the legislative offices on the same floor.  Not surprisingly, we both were very disappointed that the Ron Paul campaign seems to be more or less ignoring the state.  It seems odd given that he has a very real opportunity to win Virginia as only he and Romney are on the ballot and coupled with the fact that many Gingrich and Santorum supporters here are encouraging their likeminded brethren to support Paul.  Given Paul’s fairly lackluster performance in the primaries and caucuses so far, one does have to start to wonder if his national campaign is going to pull out a first place finish anywhere.

When I returned to the conference room, I discovered that Del. Bell had already come and gone.  The next speakers were Mike Thomas and Dan Allen, campaign advisors for George Allen.  All day, I had been looking forward to asking them about the Allen campaign; specifically how George Allen would answer his critics on the right and prove that he will be the conservative senator that Virginia needs.  Unfortunately, this presentation did very little to answer my concerns.

First of all, as one blogger and I agreed, it was a particularly dull presentation.  Just about all of the points that the two speakers made, I already knew.  Second, and far worse in my mind, was the news that they plan to more or less ignore the Republican primary.  George Allen, they said, did not have either the money or time to waste with his lesser Republican challengers.

They spent a good portion of time highlighting Allen’s accomplishments as Governor.  Only when questioned by another of my fellow bloggers did they made the briefest of mentions of his potentially troubling votes while he was in the Senate.  Defeating Barack Obama and Tim Kaine is key, and, although they did not say this point specifically, despite any objections, reasonable or otherwise, Republicans and conservatives should just get in line and support George Allen.  This kind of thinking doesn’t sit well with me nor do I think it will do so with the majority of the Tea Party crowd.  Who likes having either themselves or their principles taken for granted?  And no, just in case you are wondering, I was not called upon to ask my question.

The Governor's Mansion

At the end of the day, we attended a reception at the Governor’s Mansion.  I first spoke with fellow blogger Jason Kenney who is advising the Allen campaign.  Unlike the two previous speakers, I was able to engage in a dialogue and thus addressed some of my specific issues.

Although I was unable to capture much of the Governor’s time, I did enjoy a good conservation with Lt. Governor Bolling regarding Virginia’s presidential primary.  While he is an ardent supporter of Romney, as I am with Paul, we both agreed that neither of our respective campaigns should overlook the Commonwealth.

Governor McDonnell and the First Lady

In closing, I want to shout out a big thanks to the Governor and especially the Lt. Governor and his staff for hosting this event.  I wish more leaders would take a cue from Bill Bolling and reach out to the blogosphere.  Whether a big site or small, every day citizens from Virginia and across the whole nation read our material and pass it on to others.  Therefore, if you either hold a position in government or planning to run for public office, don’t you think it is important to know what is being written and who is saying it?

If you wish to join the conversation, wait no longer.  Start your blog today!

I’m already looking forward to Bloggers’ Day 2013.

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Buried within my email inbox, I discovered a message that is important for many Virginians as we prepare to file our income taxes.  Governor Bob McDonnell wants Virginia residents to know “that the VA Free File program gives more than 2 million low- and moderate-income Virginia taxpayers the opportunity to prepare and electronically file their 2011 federal and state income tax returns for free this tax season.”

But who is eligible to file their taxes for free?  Well, as the Governor goes on to say, “This year I urge all Virginia taxpayers who earned $57,000 or less in adjusted gross income last year to go to the Tax Department’s website to see if they qualify to use VA Free File.”

If you are like me, you’ve been filing online for years now.  It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s relatively inexpensive.  But now, it can be free too!  Sign me up!

So can you file your taxes for free?  You should head on over to http://www.tax.virginia.gov/ and find out today.  Thanks to the Governor’s note, I saved about $50.  I know that I want to keep more of my money in my own pocket, especially in these tough economic times.  Can’t you say the same?

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Guest Post by Daniel Wilson

The true and classical definition of inflation is an expansion of the supply of money in an economy relative to the total amount of goods and services, resulting in an increase in the general level of prices. Milton Friedman, a Nobel prize-winning economist, described inflation as a monetary phenomenon, noting that a rise in the average price level only occurs when central banks print too much money. In the United States, the central bank is the Federal Reserve, created in 1913 under Woodrow Wilson.

Since the inception of the Federal Reserve System, the U.S. dollar has lost over 90 percent of its value. The legacy of the Federal Reserve is an ever declining currency and perpetual inflation. Under the classical gold standard, from 1870-1914, a period without a central bank and a strong tie between the dollar and gold, prices actually fell while the economy boomed, proving to be the greatest growth period in American history. One of the many great aspects of a free market is to lower prices in the long run as production and productivity increase the supply of goods and services. However, central banks can increase the supply of money faster than the growth of the economy, substituting inflation for deflation.

Today, inflation is commonly measured through the consumer price index reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since World War II, the CPI has averaged around 3.5% a year. This means the average price of goods and services doubles every 20 years. The most infamous spouts of inflation occurred during the 1970s after Richard Nixon closed the gold window in 1971. As a result of ending the last linkage between the dollar and gold, the money supply, measured by M2, grew at a much faster rate than in previous decades. The CPI averaged more than 7 percent in the 1970s, reaching a high of 14 percent in 1980. The complete removal of the gold standard eliminated the only constraint on the Federal Reserve’s ability to print money.

Unfortunately, inflation is still alive and well. Misguided policies by the Federal Reserve in response to the recent economic downturn have dramatically increased inflationary pressures. In the name of economic stimulus or quantitative easing, the Federal Reserve has basically printed money out of thin air to buy U.S. treasury debt. Stated differently, the U.S. government is printing money to monetize the deficit, which currently stands at a whopping $1.3 trillion.

Inflation is essentially a tax, lowering the rate of return on work, savings and investments. The inflation tax has a particularly disparate impact on the middle class, which has seen their incomes fall over recent years. In spite of economic stimulus, household incomes have actually fallen more during the recovery then the actual recession. Intuitively so, households’ net worth will diminish with a continuation of higher prices on consumer items and falling incomes.

Luckily, there are several ways households can protect themselves from higher inflation. If you have any savings, look to make some investments. A great investment strategy is in real assets, such as gold. At $1700 an ounce, gold still offers a great buying opportunity. There is no ceiling on the price of gold because there’s no floor on the value of the dollar. The combination of trillion dollar deficits and loose monetary policy as far as the eye can see, provides impetus for upward movements in its price. Goldman Sachs projects an ounce of gold to rise by 20% for 2012, while Morgan Stanley forecasts 30%.

Another investment households should consider is buying stock in mortgage real estate investment trusts. As long as the Federal Reserve continues its commitment to keep short-term interest rates artificially low, MREIT’s offer a great buying opportunity. Many MREIT’s provide a very high dividend yield; American Capital Agency Corp. (AGNC) is currently paying a 20% dividend.

In short, considering inflation, you’re losing money by keeping it in a bank account that pays 0%. Provided you have the means, look to protect yourself from inflation by investing in real assets like gold and high dividend yielding stocks. If you can, buy the dips, and sell the rips.

Daniel Wilson is a senior who is majoring in economics at James Madison University. 

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