Dan Morain disses Tom McClintock
By John Seiler
In my decades of reporting, I’ve met few public officials with the integrity of Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Eldorado Hills. In more than two decades in the Legislature, he was the only one who consistently sounded the alarm that the state was spending too much and would face endemic budget problems. He was proved right. And last November’s Proposition 30 tax increase, far from making things better as Gov. Jerry Brown maintained, will help sink the economy and produce more budget deficits.
Now in the U.S. Congress, McClintock has continued sounding the alarm about budget excesses, only now about the even more irrationally bloated federal budget. Unlike the state, the feds also can print their own money, sparking the inflation of recent years. I’m sure you’ve noticed food costs more. And although gas hasn’t risen in price in a couple of years, at $3.50 a gallon it’s still more than three times the cost back in 2000.
So McClintock didn’t deserve the broadside he got from Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Morain:
“Never one to build bridges, Rep. Tom McClintock has spent the better part of 30 years in office deriding the government that gives him his paycheck.”
What? Unlike ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer, Tom isn’t independently wealthy. So he has to take a government paycheck to support his family. His paycheck is one of the few cases of my tax money being well spent.
Morain believes that, if you get a government paycheck in Congress, then you must favor unlimited increases in taxes and spending on the selfsame government. I read Section I of the U.S. Constitution again, which concerns Congress. That function isn’t in there.
Fiscal cliff deal
Morain attacks McClintock for voting against the Jan. 1 “fiscal cliff” deal, which passed anyway:
“But as he showed last week, his political machine of one has gained compatriots among the shrunken but more conservative band of Republicans representing California in the House. That doesn’t bode well for California as it tries to get back some of the money it sends to Washington, and certainly not for the Sierra district McClintock represents.”
For Morain, the job of a U.S. congressman is to rob the rest of the country to funnel money to his home district and state. But surely he knows that California is a “donor state”: we feed more of our tax dollars into the maw of the D.C. velociraptor than we get back. As I wrote in a CalWatchDog.com article three years ago:
“The U.S. tax code is highly progressive: the more you make, the higher percentage you pay. In 2009 California was home to 80 billionaires, according to a list in Forbes magazine. By contrast, Texas, with two-thirds of our population, had just 38. And Florida, with half our population, had 22. So, our billionaires — and millionaires — pay a lot more into the federal IRS than they are going to get back.
“Other high-income states also fare poorly in the ratio of tax dollars they get back: Connecticut $0.69; Delaware $0.77; Massachusetts $0.82; Minnesota $0.72; and New Jersey $0.71.
“[Bill] Ahern [of the Tax Foundation] said the only way around this is to reduce the progressivity of the tax code. But the opposite is favored by California’s Democratic-dominated congressional delegation.”
The Jan. 1 fiscal cliff deal just let President Bush’s tax cuts expire next year for those making more than $400,000, pushing the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.
It’s worth pointing out that millionaires don’t just include Silicon Valley whiz kids and Hollywood stars. Millionaires also include your neighbors who run small businesses. The tax increases mean they will have less money to invest in new jobs and business creation; and they’ll be thinking of moving out of California, or even America, for a more hospital business climate.
But not just rich folks will pay more. The fiscal-cliff deal included a whopping 2 percentage-point increase in the payroll tax, paid for by almost everybody. Somebody making $60,000 a year will be paying $1,200 more in taxes.
Because California incomes are about 115 percent of the national average, we’ll be paying more in this tax than other states.
Morain wrote of the supposed Democratic mandate to raise taxes and spend more:
“No matter that Barack Obama had won re-election and Democrats gained Senate and House seats. Seeing no need to soften his rigid views, McClintock told reporters that Republicans hold the second-largest majority since World War II.“
Except that even the U.S. government can’t overrule the realities of accounting. Morain shows no concern that the $16.4 trillion federal debt will keep rising. It’s now the equivalent to the entire American GDP. It’s like a median-income American making $60,000 running up $60,000 on his credit cards.
And along with McClintock, I’m not just blaming Obama and Democrats here. President George W. Bush and the majority-Republican Congress of a decade ago began the spending binge after President Clinton and the Newt Gingrich-run Congress balanced the budget in the late 1990s.
But it’s even worse than that. As reported in Bloomberg, according to economist Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University — not a conservative agitator, but an establishment economist — the federal government’s unfunded liabilities are $212 trillion. That’s $212,000,000,000,000.00 owed by the federal government in our name. Kotlikoff counted not just the $16.4 trillion federal debt, but the money owed for future payments on Social Security, Medicare, federal pensions, military pensions, retired military medical care, etc.
That means every person in the country has been put in hock by the federal government for $673,000. A child born today owes $673,000. A family of four owes $2.7 million.
Of course, there’s no way that money will be paid. Even if you waterboarded every millionaire and billionaire in the country into coughing up not just all their income, but all their assets, you wouldn’t get anywhere near that kind of money.
In essence, McClintock didn’t. Both those “provisions” just encourage people not to find work and, by costing tax money, kill the jobs they otherwise might get. At 99 weeks, unemployment benefits are way too long. I know a guy who milked that for the full 99 weeks before getting a job he could have had on week one. “I’m taking a vacation,” he said, as he grabbed his surf board and headed out to the beach.
Does Morain think tax increases to pay for this stuff have no dire effects? Apparently.
Oh, and because unemployment benefits are so generous our state couldn’t afford them, California still owes the feds $10 billion to repay the loan for the funds.
“But his vote also was in character. First elected to the state Assembly in 1982, McClintock never rose to a leadership position, and routinely voted against annual budgets.
“His cramped style of politics serves his interests well, if not his constituents.”
He never rose to a leadership position because he never sold out. Every time I see Scott Baugh and Curt Pringle, the Republican Assembly leaders in the mid-1990s (Pringle briefly was Assembly speaker as well), they chide me over the numerous editorials I wrote for the Orange County Register about them selling out on the budgets of the day. Often I quoted McClintock against them. Both Pringle and Baugh now are well-paid consultants, while McClintock remains in office, plugging away at fiscal responsibility.
We all make choices. Although McClintock never rose to an official leadership position, during his time in the Legislature he always was its moral leader.
Actually, McClintock only opposes environmentalist extremism. He doesn’t favor bulldozing Yosemite to erect condos.
“In Congress, McClintock chairs the House Water and Power Subcommittee. But he has not used that post to help the region obtain funding needed to rebuild Sacramento River levees to avert a flood that would be disastrous for the people of Sacramento. Other members of the Sacramento region’s congressional delegation have said he is absent on the issue.”
Does the federal government have to fund and control everything in our lives? How about the locals funding it? It could be paid for by cutting, not raising, federal taxes, thus allowing the locals to have more of their hard-earned money to spend on local matters. Or how about finding a private solution?
“He is a one-man operation in a business that relies on compromise. The problem now is that other California Republicans in Congress appear to be coming around to his way of politicking.”
Logically, if others in Congress are “coming around to his way of politicking,” then by definition he isn’t “a one-man operation.”
And as the fiscal cliff tax increase on 77 percent of Americans showed, “compromise” means selling out the middle-class. If more Republicans, in California and elsewhere, are “coming around to his way of politicking,” then that’s one positive development in an otherwise depressing political scene.
May 18, 2013