A “Throw the Bums Out” Election? Not exactly.

2016election

Despite all the current cultural and political turmoil, a lot less has changed with the election than you might think.

Nationally, after Tuesday’s election, despite Trump’s surprising win, Congressional delegations in most states in January will look pretty much almost exactly like they do now.

Similarly, in Oregon, despite the crushing defeat of Measure 97, backed by unions and Democrats, and Republican Dennis Richardson’s success in the Secretary of State race, the make-up of the next state Legislature will hardly change.

At the national level, races were competitive on Tuesday in only 40 of the 435 seats in the House, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report. Many seats were so safe for one party or the other that there was only one candidate.

Some of that may be due to skillful gerrymandering of congressional districts, but it may also be due to the increasing tendency of people of a like mind congregating in the same geographies, the birds of a feather flock together trend.

Americans may say they prefer living in diverse communities, but the Pew Research Center says people don’t practice what they preach.

“Americans are increasingly sorted into think-alike communities that reflect not only their politics but their demographics,” Pew said in a January 2016 report.

That’s certainly true of Oregon.

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC), a state-oriented national organization that seeks to elect Republicans to state legislatures, identified the Oregon State Senate and House of Representatives as targets in the 2016 elections. You’d never know it.

Senate

A total of 16 seats out of the 30 in the State Senate were up for election in 2016. Of the 16 seats, Democrats fielded unopposed candidates in five and Republicans fielded unopposed candidates in two. In other words, voters really had no choice in almost half the seats.

Meanwhile, 4 incumbents—one Republican and three Democrats—didn’t run for re-election. Only one of those seats had competition between a Democrat and a Republican in the general election.

That meant there were only 9 Senate seats where there was competition between Republican and Democratic candidates. Incumbents won seven of those races. The other 2 seats were open races. In one case, Republican Senator Doug Whitsett decided unexpectedly to leave politics. In the other case, Democrat Senator Alan Bates died.

According to Ballotpedia, incumbents almost always win re-election in state legislative elections. Since 1972, except for one year, the win rate for incumbents hasn’t gone below 90 percent.

House

 All 60 seats in the Oregon House were up for election in 2016. Democrats fielded candidates unopposed by Republicans in one district and Republicans fielded candidates unopposed by Democrats in five districts. So voters really had no Republican vs. Democrat choice in 20 percent of the seats.

That meant only 24 House races involved competition between Republican and Democratic candidates. Incumbents who ran won every single one of their races. In the seven districts where no incumbent ran, the winner was from the same party in every case. No revolution there.

———

What does all this mean? In Oregon, there will be some new faces, but the ideological split will likely remain pretty much unchanged. Maybe that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Democrats will still control both chambers of the Oregon Legislature. However, they lost their chance to pick up an extra seat in the House to secure the three-fifths majority necessary to potentially pass bills to raise taxes without Republican support.

With the defeat of Measure 97, that hobbles the Democrats’ ability to go it alone on taxation alternatives.

As Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.

 

Vote, Even if You Can’t Vote for Clinton or Trump

gettyimages-513191730

 

With so much national attention focused on the presidential battle, the implications of votes in down-ballot races are too often being ignored.

Mirah Curzer, a lawyer, feminist, feminist, photographer, slurper of noodles and drinker of scotch, is urging progressives who can’t abide voting for Clinton to still vote for progressives in the House, Senate and all the way down to city council. In a Medium essay, Curzer points out that a lot of down-ballot races are in play and progressive votes could tip the scales.

Assuming that Hillary Clinton will win, despite the unwillingness of some progressives to vote for her, Curzer says, “Progressive voter turnout would make the difference in all those contested races, and the difference between a Democratic or Republican legislature. Imagine what we could do with a Democratic House and Senate and a new Supreme Court justice appointed by a Democratic President!.. A serious shift left in down-ballot races would shape the political landscape in a subtle but profound way for years to come.”

Indeed. Imagine what progressives could do with a Democratic House and Senate, a new Supreme Court justice appointed by a Democratic President, an onslaught of progressive judges, city councils, school boards, local prosecutors, and a slew of successful progressive-initiated ballot measures.

Good grief. It would be a disaster for conservative principles for years to come.

So I would offer the same advice as Curzer, but with a twist. If you’re a conservative and can’t vote for Trump, show up to vote for responsible conservative down-ballot candidates.

 A serious affirmation of conservative values in down-ballot races would shape the political landscape in a subtle but profound way for years to come.

Trump, Clinton and taxes: saving money the American way

U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees convention in Las Vegas

According to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump “abuses power and games the system” by declaring a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns that could be used to avoid future federal income taxes.

But let’s get real here. The Clintons have taken advantage of tax laws to minimize their taxes, too.

According to their 2015 federal tax return, Hillary Clinton reported earning $1,475,500 in speaking fees. To reduce the amount of those earnings, and the amount of taxes owed, she claimed:

  • $93,073 in expenses for commissions and fees
  • $25,000 for taxes and fees
  • $231,498 for travel
  • $1,281 for deductible meals and entertainment
  • $460 for utilities

By claiming these deductions, Hillary Clinton reduced her taxable income from speaking by a total of $352,257.

Bill Clinton took advantage of tax laws to reduce his taxable income, too.

He reported earning $5,250,000 in speaking fees in 2015. To reduce the amount of those earnings, and the amount of taxes owed, Bill Clinton claimed:

  • $359,703 in expenses for commissions and fees
  • $25,000 for taxes and licenses
  • $445,654 for travel
  • $4,155 for deductible meals and entertainment

By claiming these deductions, Bill Clinton reduced his taxable income from speaking by a total of $834,512.

Bill Clinton also reported consulting income of $1,660, 575 in 2015, from which he deducted $84,234 in expenses in order to reduce his taxable income.

The Clinton’s also claimed a long-term capital loss carryover of $699,540, generating a net long-term capital loss of that amount.

In addition, the Clintons took advantage of allowed deductions for charitable contributions. In 2015, they claimed a deduction of $1,042,000 donations for charitable to the Clinton Family Foundation, a non-profit that was formed in 2002 and serves as a philanthropic vehicle for the Clinton family.

The Clintons have also been aggressive in estate planning steps that will minimize taxes. According to Money magazine, they’ve established property and insurance trusts that ensure that, after they die, at least some of their millions of dollars in assets will be shielded from the estate tax.

Money has reported that one way the couple has chosen to limit the tax hit on their estate is via residence trusts, which prevent any growth in the property’s value from being counted in the couple’s estate — and, therefore, from being taxed when passed along to heirs.

The Clintons established two such trusts in 2010 and shifted ownership of their home in Chappaqua, N.Y., into them the following year. If the value of their home continues to grow, the move could save their estate hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.

So before media and Clinton denunciations of Trump for his tax practices get totally out of hand, let’s remember that tax avoidance is not only common, but respectable.

Even the New York Times, which broke the story on Trump’s tax returns and has editorialized against Trump’s actions, paid no income tax for 2014 and got a $3.5 million refund, despite a pre-tax profit of $29.9 million, Forbes has reported.

As Judge Learned Hand so famously said:

“Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes. Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.”

Hillary’s money grab (with help from a few Oregonians)

hillarycampaignmoney

Bill Clinton must have thought we all forgot his history when he began his 2016 Democratic Convention speech with the cringeworthy, “In the spring of 1971, I met a girl.” Oh my God, where’s he going, millions of viewers probably wondered.

But Bill didn’t continue about his sexual exploits. Instead, he went on to call his wife, a “change-maker”. Given the amount of money she’s raising for her presidential campaign, she’d be better named a “money-maker”.

This despite her proclamation, “Our democracy should work for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”

“There’s no question that we need to make Washington work much better than it does today,” Hillary said on June 22, 2016. “And that means, in particular, getting unaccountable money out of our politics. … That’s why I’m so passionate about this issue, and I will fight hard to end the stranglehold that the wealthy and special interests have on so much of our government.”

But Hillary Clinton and her supporters have been dogged in their pursuit of campaign money.

Clinton clearly likes the big givers the most and cultivates them assiduously. At an event at the Sag Harbor, N.Y. estate of hedge fund magnate Adam Sender a family photo with Clinton went for $10,000, according to attendees. For a $2,700 donation donors’ children under 16 could ask Clinton a question.

 More than 1,100 elite moneymen and women, called Hillblazers, have together raised better than $113 million for Clinton, operating as bundlers who collect checks from friends or associates, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

Hillblazers are individuals who have contributed and/or raised $100,000 or more for Hillary for America, the Hillary Victory Fund, and/or the Hillary Action Fund since the launch of Clinton’s campaign on April 12, 2015.

Among the list of high-profile Clinton bundlers, which includes actor Ben Affleck, filmmaker George Lucas, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and fashion designer Vera Wang, are a few (very few) people who list themselves as Oregonians:

  • Timothy Boyle, president and CEO of Columbia Sportswear, and his wife, Mary Boyle.
  • Peter Bragdon, Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, General Counsel and Secretary, Columbia Sportswear
  • Carol Butler, Principal, Carol Butler and Associates, Democratic campaign consultant
  • Dwight Holton, former U.S. Attorney for Oregon/ defeated by Ellen Rosenblum in 2012 Democratic primary for Oregon Attorney General, and his wife, Mary Ellen Glynn, chief of staff to Anne Holton, wife of Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine.
  • Jane Paulson, a Portland personal injury lawyer at the law firm of Paulson Coletti.

The money has flowed into Hillary Clinton’s campaign organization, Democratic Party committees and so-called independent outside groups.

According to OpenSecrets.org, Clinton and her acolytes had raised a total of $698,169,981 as of the end of last month, and pushing for $1 billion.

Presidential fundraising through Aug. 31, 2016

Category Clinton  
Candidate $373,281,866
National Party $181,378,218
Outside Spending $143,509,897
Total $698,169,981

Most of this money has come from large donors.

Clinton’s campaign, for example, has raised nearly $300 million in large contributions, or donations bigger than $200, the threshold for detailed disclosure of donor information, according to OpenSecrets.

Only about 19 percent of her contributions (roughly $70.7 million) have come in smaller amounts. Obama, in contrast, received about 37 percent of his contributions in amounts of $200 or less through August in his 2012 campaign.

So much for ending the stranglehold that the wealthy have on our government.

Should the two major parties make the rules? It’s debatable.

thirdpartychoiceAnother reason why so many Americans are frustrated, despondent, and bitter this election year.

Both parties have lost ground among the public. Independents now outnumber either Democrats or Republicans, with 40% of Americans choosing that label, according to the Pew Research Center.

But the private, Democrat and Republican-created and -controlled Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Friday, Sept. 16, that only Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be allowed on the stage for the first presidential debate.

This when:

  • In a recent Quinnipiac University poll that asked likely voters, “Do you think that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, should be included in the presidential debates this year, or not?”, 62% answered “yes.”
  • Johnson is going to be on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • A new Washington Post/Survey Monkey poll shows Johnson is in double digits in 42 states. In 15, he’s at 15 percent or higher, including 25 percent in New Mexico, 23 percent in Utah and 19 percent in Alaska, Idaho, and South Dakota.

So here we have a Commission that’s a creature of the two major parties setting the ground rules for who gets to be on the debate stage, securing free airtime for its choices on C-SPAN, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, as well as all cable news channels including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and others.

Not exactly a reason to celebrate our political system, is it?

Black student demands to erase history at the University of Oregon: just say no.

DeadyHall

The University of Oregon’s first building opened on Oct. 16, 1876. It was named Deady Hall for Judge Matthew Deady in 1893.

On November 17, 2015, the University of Oregon’s Black Student Task Force sent a list of twelve demands to four top university administrators.

The group asserted that “the historical structural violence and direct incidents of cultural insensitivity and racism” on campus create an environment that prevents black students from succeeding.

In order to create “a healthy and positive campus climate” for black students, the Black Student Task Force said:

“We…DEMAND that you work with us and implement the following list of programs:

  • Change the names of all of the KKK related buildings on campus. DEADY Hall will be the first building to be renamed.
  • We cannot and should not be subjugated to walk in any buildings that have been named after people that have vehemently worked against the Black plight, and plight of everyone working to achieve an equitable society.
  • Allowing buildings to be named after members who support these views is in direct conflict with the university’s goal to keep black students safe on campus.
  • We demand this change be implemented by Fall 2016”

University President Michael Schill appointed a committee of administrators, faculty, and students to develop criteria for evaluating whether to strip the names off Deady Hall and Dunn Hall, part of Hamilton residence hall, because of their association with racist actions in Oregon in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Once the criteria were established, Schill assembled a panel of three historians to research the history of Matthew P. Deady and Frederick S. Dunn to guide his decision-making.

The historians recently released an exhaustive, extensively footnoted 34-page report.

The report described the complex lives of both men, lives filled with negatives, positives, ambiguity and contradictions.

Deady, though a territorial legislator, constitutional convention delegate and presiding officer, and U.S. District Judge for thirty-four years, supported slavery.

Dunn, though he graduated from the University of Oregon, spent the vast majority of his career there and enjoyed a national reputation as a classics scholar, was also a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan and led the Eugene chapter.

Based on the historians’ report, there is no question that both men held views and engaged in activities that would be considered loathsome today.

But that does that mean their names should be summarily erased from history at the University of Oregon.

To surrender to the Black Students Task Force’s demands would be to embrace presentism in all its intellectual weakness, to endorse interpreting historical events without any reference to the context or complexity of the time.

If there’s one thing students should learn in college, it’s that It makes no sense to see the world entirely in the present tense.

In looking at history, it is critical to acknowledge the degree to which our position and experiences color how we look at bygone days, places and people.

Presentism “…encourages a kind of moral complacency and self-congratulation,” said Lynn Hunt, president of the American Historical Association. “Interpreting the past in terms of present concerns usually leads us to find ourselves morally superior…,”

Many of our forbears espoused racial views that are today considered abhorrent, including people we still consider exemplars of the American experience.

In addition, somebody’s historical goodness and worth should not be based on just one criteria.

“…making race the only basis of judgment…does violence to the spirit of historical investigation, because it reduces complex individuals to game show contestants who must simply pass or fail a single test,” says David Greenberg, a professor of history and journalism and media studies at Rutgers University.

In April 2016, Schill and Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh published a letter to the campus community saying, “…we recognize that we can and must do more as an institution to meet the needs of Black students”, but made no commitments on the building renaming issue.

When Schill does make a decision, I earnestly hope he will just say no.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meg Whitman: how to betray your principles in one easy step

Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO, is campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Denver, CO today.

clintonwhitman

“I will vote for Hillary, I will talk to my Republican friends about helping her, and I will donate to her campaign and ry to raise money for her.” Meg Whitman, August 2016.

This is a woman who, in her losing bid to become governor of California as a Republican in 2010, called for:

  • Eliminating burdensome business taxes
  • Eliminating a cap on charter schools
  • Barring illegal immigrants from state colleges and universities.
  • Ending “outrageous spending” on a growing state bureaucracy
  • Reducing overall state spending
  • No amnesty for people in the United States illegally, construction of a fence on the Mexican border,
  • Repealing Obamacare
  • Requiring minors to notify a guardian or parent prior to an abortion
  • Enforcing the Three Strikes law because it was “instrumental in keeping violent criminals out of our communities”
  • An end to the Dream Act because it wasn’t fair to legal residents.

I could go on and on, but it is abundantly clear that Whitman’s political views, based on her 2010 gubernatorial campaign, are diametrically opposed to those of Hillary Clinton.

Hillary, for example, wants to:

  • Increase federal spending by $1.8 trillion over the next decade.
  • Increase the national debt to 86% of GDP over the next decade.
  • Expand benefits under an already troubled Social Security program.
  • Expand Obamacare
  • Increase various business taxes
  • Impose new fees on financial institutions
  • Enact liberal immigration reforms

Whitman’s support for Clinton today, then, can only be seen as an abandonment of her principles and a cynical ploy to secure a position in a new Clinton administration.

So forget about all the kudos for Republicans like Whitman who say they’ll vote for Hillary.

As Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor said, “There is indeed something deeply wrong with a person who lacks principles, who has no moral core.”