Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Joe Schwarz Endorses Mark Schauer
Former Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz, who railed against an anti-tax group's role in his unsuccessful 2006 primary, endorsed Democrat Mark Schauer on Tuesday because the organization targeted the congressional challenger.and
Schwarz, a supporter of John McCain's presidential campaign, said he had hoped to stay neutral in the race but "once they made the decision, the die was cast."and, finally
Schwarz said his supporters and former constituents had repeatedly asked him who he planned to support. He had hoped to stay neutral in the race but said he would now let his supporters know that he backs Schauer.Though, instead of reading it here, the AP would much rather have you read it at the Chicago Tribune's website.
Here's the statement released by state Senator Mark Schauer:
"Joe Schwarz has been a colleague and a partner in helping move our state forward for many years, and it is an honor to have his support in this campaign," said Schauer. "Three years ago, I worked side-by-side with Joe to help save hundreds of jobs at the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, and unfortunately, that spirit of bipartisanship has been missing since Tim Walberg was elected. With Joe's support, I look forward to fighting for the change Michigan needs as a member of Congress."Nice.
It's important to note that former Congressman Schwarz still supports (and calls a friend) Senator John McCain, and he's got a lot of friends throughout the 7th Congressional District. If Schwarz supported Schauer but did it quietly, this wouldn't be a big deal for Tim Walberg. But make no mistake, an open endorsement-- especially if followed by joint Schwarz-Schauer campaigning-- is not good news for Tim Walberg.
If Congressman Walberg wants to blame anyone, he can blame his friends at the Club for Growth.
Mark Schauer just... gets it
January 16, 2004: Electrolux Group, one of the largest household appliance manufacturers in the world, announces it will idle its refrigerator assembly operations in Greenville, MI. Nearly three thousand jobs will be eliminated.
November 21, 2005: GM announces a massive restructuring plan which will result in nine plant closures and the loss of nearly 30,000 jobs, almost ten percent of its American workforce of 325,000.
April 11, 2006: Automotive supplier Federal Mogul announces it will idle its operations in St. Johns, Michigan. Four hundred and twenty jobs will be lost.
2007: Faced with years of declining Medicare reimbursements and the astronomical rise in the ranks of the uninsured, Hackley Hospital, once the largest healthcare provider in Muskegon County, completes two rounds of layoffs. Eventually Hackley agrees to be swallowed by its competitor, Mercy Hospital, resulting in Mercy Health Partners. Hackley Hospital, opened on November 17, 1904 as Muskegon's hometown healthcare provider, is no more. Hackley's Lakeshore Cancer Center closes.
You've heard the story a hundred times before. A manufacturer or other business hits hard times, finds a cheaper way to do things, finds a cheaper place to do things, and locks the door on the American worker.
Mark Schauer's heard the story a hundred times before, too*. He's heard it in his own family as his son-in-law, a journeyman electrician, struggles to find work in Washington state. He's heard it before with several nurses in his family (although their dilemma is rather reversed--forced to work overtime to compensate their brethren in the healthcare industry who have retired and not been replaced, been laid off, been or just plain been burned out by deplorable working conditions.)
He heard it again this morning. He heard from a representative from the Electrolux union in Greenville. He heard from a representative from the Federal-Mogul union in St. John's. He heard from a rep for the ironworkers' union, whose ranks are fleeing Michigan for greener pastures elsewhere. He heard from a maintenance worker at the Potterville school district, which has privatized its maintenance operations.
Mark Schauer was the guest of honor at a roundtable on economic issues hosted by the Michigan AFL-CIO this morning in Delta Township, moderated by Michigan AFL-CIO president Mark Gaffney. He heard these stories this morning, and among the stories, one fact emerged: Mark Schauer gets it.
He gets that these workers aren't statistics--they're real people. He understands the dilemma of the worker forced to leave his family behind in Michigan as he seeks work in Wyoming, or Massachusetts, or Washington. Most importantly, he understands that our entire economy is a giant, tangled web, and that if one strand in the web collapses, the whole web is in jeopardy.
He understands that we're spending $10 billion a month in Iraq, enough money to fund the vetoed SCHIP program for five years. He understands that his great-nephew Aidan goes without health insurance because his parents make just a little too much money for SCHIP.
He understands that we're about to spend $700 billion to bail out Wall Street, money that (to use our new favorite frame) could be used to bail out Main Street. He understands that when the government buys back a bad mortgage from a bank, it's still a bad mortgage: the family living in the house the mortgage purchased is now forced out on the street.
He understands that our economic hell (at least here in Michigan) was created by NAFTA, fueled by CAFTA, and blown to epic proportions by the pro-business, anti-worker policies of the Bush Administration and the Republican Party.
He understands that when NAFTA was passed, as he put it, "somebody got lied to."
Mark Schauer gets it.
McCain To Campaign With Walberg
... Joe McCain, that is... From Walberg for Congress:
Join Team Walberg
It's not quite as exciting as Barack Obama and Joe Biden in Battle Creek, but it might be interesting anyway. I'll be curious to find out what kind of turnout Joe McCain and Tim Walberg get in Adrian.
I wonder how disappointed the Walberg folks were when they found out that they had to settle for the younger brother. Still, it's interesting-- apparently, the younger McCain wasn't campaigning for his older brother, preferring to keep to himself.
I'd encourage all of you to go and check it out. It might be interesting, and you might get a chance to ask a few questions. Maybe Tim Walberg and Joe McCain would like to talk about the Club for Growth, a group that John McCain has had unkind words for in the past.
Club for Growth On-Air With $175,000
It's the moment we've all been waiting for... the Club for Growth is on the air:
Washington – Today, the Club for Growth PAC begins running a TV ad on Mark Schauer’s tax record in Michigan’s Seventh Congressional District. The $175,000 ad buy will run on broadcast television in the Lansing market and on cable stations throughout the Seventh District.Here's the ad:
... That's intellectually dishonest!
For instance, the poor lady who's worried about Mark Schauer raising her Social Security taxes doesn't tell you that Schauer only said he would support removing the $90,000 cap on payroll taxes. From the article they cite:
Schauer said in a conference call with reporters that he would be open to such proposals as raising the current cap on payroll taxes but would not be open to private accounts. He says private accounts would "weaken" the entire Social Security program. He said he'd be open to a "bi-partisan solution that makes adjustments to current Social Security."Currently, only the first $90,000 you make is taxed for Social Security. That is, if you make $60,000 each year, all $60,000 is subject to the payroll tax. If you make $160,000 each year, then $90,000 is subject to the payroll tax and the other $70,000 is not. Removing that cap is generally considered a part of the solution to Social Security's long-term solvency, and the public supports it:
"Currently, people pay Social Security taxes only on the first $90,000 of their annual income. If it were necessary to keep the Social Security program paying benefits as it does now, would you favor or oppose increasing the amount of income that is subject to Social Security taxes?"Admittedly, that's a poll from 2005-- it's the most recent one I could find. But I find it hard to believe there's been a dramatic shift since then.
I'm going to come back to some of the other tax claims some other time, I promise. My point here is just to highlight the way that the Club for Growth sometimes represents certain things differently than you or I would.
Let's remember, these are the people who trashed Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz as "a liberal" who would spend your money, kill your babies, and take away your guns. They're not very nice, and they've got a lot of money. And, of course, they've had a reliable vote in Tim Walberg.
The Schauer campaign has responded:
BATTLE CREEK—Today the extreme Washington D.C. special interest group Club for Growth began airing its first attack ad against congressional candidate Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek).So what does this move mean?
It means that the Club for Growth thinks Tim Walberg is in trouble. They don't do incumbent protection, they go after "bad" Republicans and open seats. Spending $175,000 is probably just the beginning. Tim Walberg, despite all of the advantages of incumbency, can't win reelection on his own.
Schauer Releases Another Ad
This one is titled, "Tables":
Except for the strange static in the background toward the end, I'd say that in my opinion, this is the most powerful ad of the race so far. It hits Walberg with his own words (albeit from 2004) and speaks to an issue pretty much everyone in Michigan can relate to in some way. And the personal promise from Mark Schauer at the end to "fight for your job" doesn't hurt either.
I don't have much more to say about this one. What do you think?
Democracy Corps Puts MI-07 Close, Possibly Democratic Advantage
Democracy Corps is a group founded by Bill Clinton adviser James Carville and pollser Stanley Greenberg which advises Democrats and analyzes elections. Every so often, they release a "battleground poll" surveying the most competitive congressional races in the country. Although they don't give any information broken down by district, they use this to analyze national trends.
In 2008, Michigan's 7th District is listed in "Tier 1" of Republican-held seats, along with 19 others. In total, 50 districts were included in the survey.
The whole report is worth reading if you're a political junkie. I thought I'd share a few interesting items. Remember, this isn't a poll of the 7th District, but it's a poll that includes the 7th District.
The financial crisis, which had not yet reached its peak when this survey was in the field, is driving a deepening anger across the country and in these Republican districts. Just 14 percent of likely voters believe the country is heading in the right direction, the lowest number we have seen in our Democracy Corps congressional polling, even in this Republican battleground. The intensely negative mood is more directed at Republicans, who are seeing their brand continue to erode. President Bush remains toxic and the Republican Party is now significantly less popular than the Democrats, even in this more conservative battleground.and
Democratic candidates are taking advantage of this favorable environment and now hold a 49 percent to 45 percent lead in the 40-seat Republican battleground.> This is a broad lead – with Democrats holding equal 4-point cushions in the top tier of races, the 20 most vulnerable seats, and in the second tier, the next 20 districts.� If the election were held today, Democrats would be poised to win, perhaps, well upwards of 20 Republican seats.and
... In fact, Republican incumbents are losing further ground, being dragged down by the toxic environment and unpopular GOP brand. As disdain for Washington has increased, the Republican incumbents have failed to establish their independence from Bush or their party. Since May, the percent saying Republican incumbents are not independent has risen from 45 to 53 percent while the percent saying these incumbents follow Bush’s direction too much has jumped from 40 to 49 percent.>and
Meanwhile, 48 percent now disagree that Republican incumbents are “on your side,” up from 40 percent four months ago. This key attribute is another important driver of the vote in our regressions. As a result of this poor performance on so many attributes, a near majority of 48 percent of voters in these 40 Republican districts now say they simply can’t vote to reelect their incumbent congressman and in a named matchup, the Democratic challengers lead these incumbents 49-45.(Emphasis added.)
By now, I've probably exceeded fair use guidlines, but there's a lot more in the full report that's worth reading. It doesn't mean that Tim Walberg will lose to Mark Schauer, but it does mean that we're part of a nationwide trend toward the Democrats this year. If you're a Democrat, you've got a lot of reasons to be optimistic.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Siena Heights Debate Announced - October 7
Earlier in September, state Senator Mark Schauer's campaign manager sent the Walberg campaign a letter (.pdf) challenging Walberg to four televised debates-- one in each of the media markets covering the 7th District. The argument is that four televised debates would ensure that everyone in the district would have an easy opportunity to see the candidates.
Walberg's campaign responded, essentially, that they were already committed to 12 candidate debates or forums, and more or less blew off Schauer's request. I think that's a missed opportunity for both candidates, but it's not anything I'm going to lose sleep over.
But when will they debate?
Adrian's Daily Telegram brings us the first one:
Major candidates for two offices are expected Oct. 7 for a broadcast debate
From 8:30 to 9:15 p.m., the U.S. House candidates will discuss issues. They are(Emphasis added.)
This is the first debate I've heard about so far, though it's possible that I missed others. This looks like the same debate I attended in 2006, though I won't be able to attend this year (unfortunately).
A notable change-- only Congressman Walberg and Senator Schauer will be present. The minor party candidates included last time will not be included. It'll make the debate a little less exciting, but it will also allow for a clearer contrast between Walberg and Schauer, and should have a quicker pace than the one in 2006.
Unfortunately, WLEN doesn't stream audio over their website, and I'm eager to get more than just the Telegram's article on it after the fact. If you think you can attend and would be able to provide either video or audio of the event, please contact me.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Fatherhood In The 7th District
Brad Flory at the Jackson Citizen Patriot writes about fatherhood amidst the Walberg and Schauer campaigns:
It's very silly, yes, but it does a good job of driving home the ridiculousness of Walberg's advertisement, which actually does accuse Mark Schauer of wanting to give children pornography.
Go read the whole thing, it's worth it. The ending is also powerful:
Another Internal: Walberg 50, Schauer 40
From the Battle Creek Enquirer:
Tim Walberg has his own poll, and according to that one, he's leading the 7th Congressional District race.In addition to the Enquirer, Chetly Zarko got the memo from the Walberg campaign.
It was conducted over September 15 and 16 by National Research, Inc., a Republican polling firm. It has a sample of 300 "likely voters" stratified geographically, and has a margin of error of 5.7 percent.
Here are the results (with 7/08-09 results in parentheses where available, also +/- 5.7):
Mark Schauer vs. Tim Walberg
Walberg Favorable - Unfavorable
Schauer Favorable - Unfavorable
Obama vs. McCain
Generic Congressional Ballot
So, what does all of this mean?
First, it means that either A.) the last Walberg internal was an outlier or B.) Mark Schauer has made an enormous nine-point gain since the beginning of August. The first one isn't a big deal-- it made Walberg's people feel good about themselves for a day. The second one should worry them a lot. Though, then again, here's what Walberg's pollster says:
Despite the barrage of negative ads directed against him, Congressman Tim Walberg leads Mark Schauer 50%-40% according to our most recent congressional survey in the district, conducted on September 15 and 16 among 300 likely voters in the district. This represents a significant gain for Congressman Walberg, who was garnering 47% in our July survey. With his poll numbers now at 50%, Walberg enters the month of October with momentum.(Emphasis added.)
That's quite a positive spin! Personally, I'd say that the significant gain goes to the one who, you know, actually gained more.
It's also important to note that, with a 10-point lead in a poll with a margin of error of 5.7 percent, Walberg is now within the margin of error (barely) in his own polling. That's not what will get the headline, though. The magical 50 percent mark is an important one to the media, and one that I don't think Walberg has reached in any previous polling. (He also didn't reach it in 2006-- he had 49.99 percent of the vote).
Last night, I wrote a partial defense of internal polling, saying that it's still useful and reliable. Now, I'm wondering if there might actually be a systematic difference between Schauer's polls and Walberg's polls-- namely, in the geographic breakdown and in the likely voter screen. Is Walberg oversampling Branch County and undersampling the youth vote? Or is Schauer oversampling Calhoun County and undersampling Hillsdale County? I don't know, and the campaigns don't release that kind of information.
The reason I wonder about that is the name recognition. Only 55 percent know who Mark Schauer is in this poll, where 67 percent did in Schauer's last poll. Similarly, 86 percent know who Tim Walberg is in this poll, where it was only 76 in Schauer's poll. That kind of difference surprises me, and makes me think someone weighted the counties differently.
Then again, both polls strike me as plausible, especially with the large margins of error. It really doesn't matter, though. There are 38 days until election day. That's more than enough time for everything to change.
Overall, it was a good poll for Walberg, but maybe a better poll for Schauer.
Sharon Renier To Run As Write-In
There have been people talking about this in the comments, and now I'm finally getting around to it. I assure you, I didn't delay for any particular reason.
Actually, that's not true. I delayed because I wanted to focus on stories that actually mattered.
From the Battle Creek Enquirer:
"If you look at the numbers, people were disenfranchised in the primary," she said. "The state legislature decides election laws, and things being what they are, a lot of voters couldn't really voice their preference because they had to vote either Republican or Democrat."and
First, let me say that I honestly, truly do like Sharon Renier. I supported her in 2006, because I absolutely do believe that she would have been a better representative than Tim Walberg. She ran as a Democrat, espoused some good, legitimately Democratic ideas, and would have done less harm for the district than Tim Walberg and his rigid ideology.
That said, Sharon Renier was definitely not a traditional Democrat-- she was her own person, and she brought some unique ideas to the table. But she was passionate, and I like that a lot.
But she wasn't my first choice in the 2006 primary, and, of course, she wasn't my choice in 2008. Some of her ideas do stray from the mainstream. There are some issues where I don't think she's particularly well-versed.
And some of what she says really bothers me. It's one thing to be a sore loser, but she and some of her supporters equate Tim Walberg with Mark Schauer. That's just silly. On any of the issues-- including issues that matter to her-- Mark Schauer will be lightyears ahead of Tim Walberg. Will Schauer and Renier always agree? No. Schauer and I don't always agree either. That's just not the way politics works. Some people call that picking the "lesser of two evils." I absolutely and wholeheartedly disagree.
And then, you have to consider why Sharon Renier didn't win in her first two attempts. It wasn't because of personality-- there are some very colorful characters in Congress. It was because of campaigning. The 2006 race was better than 2004, but neither was run as a viable campaign. She didn't pass a certain threshold for the party to support her in force, and she didn't pass a certain threshold for voters to take her seriously. Many of her votes really were just anti-Walberg votes.
So, where does this leave us? She's running as an independent and as a write-in. Joe Schwarz ran as a write-in, too, and got 1.07 percent of the vote. In an extremely close race, that could be all it takes to spoil it for Schauer. But there are some differences, too. Joe Schwarz went into the election as an incumbent (albeit a lame-duck), with high name recognition, and an energized base of angry supporters.
Sharon Renier, on the other hand, has very low name recognition-- even after two times on the ballot, 80 percent of the district didn't know who she was in July of 2007. And, where Schwarz filed as a write-in the day before the election, making his move a fresh memory for his supporters, Renier will have to work hard to remind her loyalists that she's trying to run. Since she didn't really have any money to speak of before the election, that'll be hard.
One plus for her is that she won't have to change her campaign website... She never actually acknowledged her loss in the primary, so it's looked as if she was still running all along!
I might be wrong, but I don't think this is a big factor in the race. She's grabbing attention one more time in September, and might get a couple of articles one more time in October, but that's it. Unless she can demonstrate a credible reason for why she should win under the least likely of circumstances, I don't see this mattering all that much.
More On The Schauer Poll
While you're all watching Senators McCain and Obama, I thought I'd finally get around to writing more about the poll the Schauer campaign released. Just for a reminder, here's what the poll found:
Mark Schauer vs. Tim Walberg
Mark Schauer vs. Tim Walberg (Plus Undecideds, allocated based on stated partisan leanings)
Walberg Job Performance
So, what does all of this mean? Schauer's pollster, Andrew Myers, picks out one important finding:
This survey demonstrates that Schauer’s communications are clearly taking root. Today Schauer is known by 67 percent of voters, a substantial 25 point jump in identification since MayThat's the big one, much more than the 42-36 headline. It shows that Schauer's breaking out of his Senate district and getting more attention elsewhere in the district. This is good-- it means the money they're spending on television ads and field organizing is working. It shows that the overall strategy of introducing Schauer to more voters is working. Remember, Schauer doesn't have to win Lenawee County or Hillsdale County to win the election, he just has to not lose too badly, and then perform well in his base. Man, I'd love to see a geographical breakdown of the results.
Of course, by running mostly attack ads, Walberg might be helping to increase Schauer's name recognition. Walberg's attacks might drive up some of Schauer's negatives, but it also makes sure people know that there's an alternative to Tim Walberg. Oh, the irony.
But let's get back to that headline. Schauer leads, 42 to 36. But it's also an internal poll, commissioned by Mark Schauer through a Democratic polling outfit. It must be rigged, right?
No. Just like Walberg's internal poll released a couple of months ago, I don't doubt that the poll was conducted with fair, legitimate polling practices. It's not in anyone's interest to pay for inaccurate polling-- the Schauer campaign probably cares a lot more about getting useful information than about sending out a good press release and having a favorable news cycle.
Does that mean that this poll is accurate? No, not necessarily. A 95 percent confidence level means that 95 percent of the time, the poll will be correct to within the stated margin of error (in this case, 4.38 percent). Schauer's lead is within the margin of error, though it's better to be leading and within the margin of error than losing. But it's also possible that this is one of those 5 percent polls (like I think Walberg's was), where it's not accurate by more than the margin.
Supposing Schauer's poll is absolutely correct, this is a big deal. There are still a lot of undecideds-- and a lot of people who are paying close attention to Obama-McCain, but haven't thought about Schauer-Walberg. But among those that are decided, Schauer is leading a sitting congressman by six points. That's a tough thing to do.
I don't know that I'm saying anything new or interesting tonight, I just wanted to share a few thoughts. It's a good poll for Schauer.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Walberg Snubs... Walberg Watch
Ouch. I get no love from the Walberg campaign, according to the Citizen Patriot's Chris Gautz:
In case you didn't notice, the "certain liberal bloggers" link above points to... Walberg Watch. I'm not sure if they singled me out or if Chris Gautz just assumed that they meant me. Either way, I was not invited.
But don't feel too sorry for me. I didn't even know I was not invited. Indeed, I had no idea that such a conference call was going to take place.
Come on, Congressman Walberg. If you're going to snub me, the least you could do is tell me that you're going to snub me! A phone call or an e-mail would have been more than enough!
Tonight's going to be another big catch-up night. I hope you all enjoy the presidential debate, and I hope you all hurry back to Walberg Watch to read all the new stuff.
UPDATE: For the record, while my mother says she loves me very much, I doubt that she would want me to be blogging from her basement. Speaking from first-hand knowledge, it's not all that comfortable, though they do have a ping-pong table, which would be the source of hours of entertainment. And, also, until reading this piece, I had no idea what a "funyun" was. I guess I'm not all that hip.
More seriously, while it was a funny read, those sorts of comments don't really help. A lot of people rely on blogs and other new media for information and analysis, and, strangely enough, there are even some people that take Walberg Watch pretty seriously. Belittling the medium makes more enemies than friends-- especially when you're using some new media techniques in your old media job.
I don't think there's anything wrong with more traditional media-- it fills its own role, and I fill mine. Can't we all just get along?
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Poll: Schauer 42, Walberg 36
UPDATE: Sorry for the delay. The poll was conducted by Myers Research & Strategic Services, who are the same ones that conducted the Schauer internal poll from May that was released a month or two ago. They're a Democratic firm, but that isn't necessarily a reason to doubt the numbers. More on that later.
The poll was conducted September 24 and 25, 2008 (CORRECTION: September 23 and 24), with a sample size of 500 "likely voters," and the respondents were "stratified geographically"-- in other words, this wasn't all Battle Creek. The margin of error is +/- 4.38 percent, with a 95 percent confidence level.
Here are the results released today (previous results in parentheses, MoE +/- 4.00):
Mark Schauer vs. Tim Walberg
Mark Schauer vs. Tim Walberg (Plus Undecideds, allocated based on stated partisan leanings)
Myers also asks respondents to rate candidates on a "personal feeling thermometer," where 100 is very warm and 0 is very cold, with 50 neutral.
Personal Feeling Thermometer
Walberg Job Performance
Myers also says that "seven in ten" respondents believe the country is on the wrong track, which is where it was in their May poll, as well.
I've got a lot of thoughts on this poll, which I'll be compiling this afternoon. I'll have more later today.
The Schauer campaign just released a poll-- Schauer 42, Walberg 36. More information and thoughts to come soon.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Schauer Releases Third TV Ad
I'm not anywhere near done catching up on the news from the last two-and-a-half weeks, but the campaign steams forward today with another new television ad. This time, it's Mark Schauer who's going negative, albeit in defense of his own record.
My initial reaction to this ad was "Ouch." It's harsh, and drives home the "Tim Walberg is lying" message rather well.
I think this is a decent ad-- it responds to Walberg's attacks without actually refuting them, but that would require more than just 30 seconds. At the same time, both sides going this negative in September might turn a lot of people off by November. You have to respond, but I hope that Schauer doesn't go all negative, the way Walberg has.
DCCC Releases Attack Ad On FairTax
Catching Up... -- Fitzy
On September 19, 2008, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released their first Walberg-specific television advertisement:
My initial reaction? "Finally, someone's talking about this stupid plan!" And I mean stupid. Astoundingly stupid.
I've had a quarrel with the "FairTax" for a while now, starting long before Walberg Watch. I want to talk a little bit about it, if you're interested. But first, here's the Walberg campaign response to the ad:
(Thanks to the friend who passed that along to me...)
I want to stop right there for a moment and remind Justin that it's actually the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, not the "Democrat" Congressional Campaign Committee. It just sounds dumb when you don't use the right word.
Yeah, that's a minor complaint, but it bugs me, and that's the reason that people like Tim Walberg do that. Just remember, every time you call it the "Democrat Party," an English major cries out in pain.
Jackson, MI- Today, Mark Schauer's Washington DC friends, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, kicked off their massive television ad blitz by attacking Congressman Walberg for supporting the Fair Tax proposal, H.R. 25. The ad claims Congressman Walberg supports a new 23 percent sales tax, but the ad fails to mention the Fair Tax proposal would repeal the federal income tax, payroll tax, capital gains tax, corporate income tax, and death tax, and junk the tax code, shutdown the IRS, and be a net tax cut.The press release then goes on to talk about Schauer as supposedly voting for the largest tax increase in the history of humanity. That's for a different post to debunk. Right now, let's talk about the "FairTax."
I'll concede a few points to Congressman Walberg-- the DCCC ad wasn't totally fair. If enacted, the "FairTax" would replace all other federal taxes you pay now. So, no more income tax, no more gas tax, no more business taxes, no more Social Security payroll tax. Instead, everything would be covered in a 23 percent sales tax on everything that you buy. Advocates say that prices wouldn't actually increase, because, no longer having to pay taxes while producing goods or services, businesses would lower their own prices and it would all balance out.
Sounds nice, right? Well, no. I'd like to give a few reasons for why this is a bad idea. This is by no means a comprehensive list.
For starters, it's not a 23 percent sales tax. That number is the result of mildly creative mathematics. Michigan's current sales tax, 6 percent on most items, takes the pre-tax price of the product, calculates 6 percent, and adds that on for the post-tax price. In other words, if a business sets a price at $1.00, tax is 6 percent, and the price you pay is $1.06. It's pretty straightforward.
That's not how the "FairTax" people calculate it. Instead, they get their 23 percent figure by deciding that 23 percent of the item's price will be tax.
As the Washington Post explains:
First, the 23 percent figure is disingenuous. If the current price of a widget is $1, a 30-cent sales tax would be added at the register under the FairTax. Because 30 cents is 23 percent of $1.30, backers of the tax claim that the tax rate is 23 percent.So, it's not a 23 percent sales tax, it's a 30 percent sales tax. The DCCC ad was wrong. It might seem like a minor point, but it matters.
The Post continues:
The Presidents' Advisory Panel on Tax Reform -- that's President Bush's tax panel -- calculated that the rate would have to be at least 34 percent, not 30 percent, "and likely higher over time if the base erodes, creating incentives for significant tax evasion." Brookings Institution economist William Gale puts the rate at 44 percent -- and his calculation doesn't take into account cheating, for which there would be ample incentive.(Emphasis added.)
So, now we're up to 34 to 44 percent federal sales tax. Add in Michigan's 6 percent sales tax, and we're looking at a 36 percent sales tax at the minimum and up to a 50 percent sales tax. That's a big increase in prices.
Except, that's not the whole story. Currently, Michigan's state sales tax is not levied on certain items, like food or prescription drugs. This would not be the case for the new Walberg tax, which would be applied to everything. Prices will go up.
And here's where a lot of "FairTax" advocates get angry. They say that prices won't go up, because of the savings businesses experience, not having to pay taxes earlier in the process. The idea is that certain taxes, like business and Social Security taxes, are embedded in the cost of your goods. Since these costs will be eliminated for the businesses, their prices will be lowered, so the new 34 to 44 percent sales tax won't have a real impact.
Setting aside for a moment the question of whether businesses would actually lower their prices to reflect changes in the tax code, FactCheck.org pretty decently refutes this argument:
A bit of critical analysis shows that this cannot be right. The FairTax is revenue-neutral. That means that for every tax dollar collected under the current system, the FairTax has to collect a dollar. If the FairTax exactly equaled embedded taxes, then it could not possibly be revenue-neutral, since embedded taxes do not take into account personal income or estate taxes. The FairTax rate would have to be high enough to replace embedded taxes plus income and estate taxes.So, the prices you pay will be higher.
Then comes the question of whether this makes any sense from the government's perspective. The only way the math works out is if the government pays itself the tax whenever it makes purchases... which gets a little messy. As the Boston Globe explains:
Governments must also pay. The FairTax would apply to all government purchases at every level. Only education spending is exempted.Hm. So, not only would this potentially be a 44 percent sales tax, and not only would prices rise, but local and state taxes will also increase in order for local and state government to afford paying new taxes to the federal government. And then the federal taxes-- now just the "FairTax"-- will have to be increased in order to afford paying... taxes... to... the federal government.
I don't know about you, but I'm starting to lose faith in Congressman Walberg's idea.
But then comes the "prebate." It's the magical addition to the "FairTax" that makes it okay for poor people. Basically, every month, every family in America would get a certain amount of money, calculated based on the size of your family. That check from the government would be enough so that families below the poverty line wouldn't be overburdened by the sales tax. How much would this cost? FactCheck.org:
Sometimes sales taxes are called regressive, meaning that the poorest pay higher rates than the wealthy. Strictly speaking, sales taxes are flat, since everyone pays the same rate. But because the poor tend to spend a high percentage of their income on basic consumer goods such as food and clothing, sales taxes do require the poor to pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes.So, let's say $485 billion is the right number. For comparison purposes, the Social Security Administration expects to pay out about $660 billion this year. So, the "prebate" proposal isn't quite as big as Social Security, but it's getting up there. And here I was, thinking that Republicans didn't want to add extra spending on entitlement programs.
The Boston Globe points out another problem:
Although FairTax supporters tout the generosity of the rebate, it is extremely modest because it is based on the poverty level income - a figure that bears no relationship to the actual cost of living. As a consequence of the way the poverty rate is calculated, childless couples would get a monthly rebate of $391 per month, but a single mother with two children would only get $329 per month.That doesn't seem very "fair" to me.
Supposing the "prebates" actually did make this a viable plan for those below the poverty line, how would the system effect the rest of us? Back once again to FactCheck.org:
With the prebate program in effect, those earning less than $15,000 per year would see their share of the federal tax burden drop from -0.7 percent to -6.3 percent. Of course, if the poorest Americans are paying less under the FairTax plan, then someone else pays more. As it turns out, according to the Treasury Department, “someone else” is everybody earning between $15,000 and $200,000 per year.In other words, the net result of the "FairTax" is a middle-class tax increase and an upper-class tax cut.
But let's set all of that aside for a moment. If it makes it simpler, is it worth it? One of the main arguments in favor of the "FairTax" is that it would simplify the tax code, it would be easy to understand, and we could eliminate the IRS. The next, logical question then becomes: Who runs the massive "prebate" system? Who collects the sales tax in the first place? I've got to think a new bureaucracy on the scale of the Social Security Administration (or bigger) would be needed to make all of this work.
And there are more questions. What about charitable giving? Will people give as much if there's no tax incentive? What about tax credits that are used to stimulate certain parts of the economy, like alternative energy?
For that matter, what happens in economic times like we're facing now? If the federal government's primary source of income is a national sales tax, what happens if, in a recession, people just buy less stuff? Government revenues go down, arguably at a time when the government most needs resources to act to stimulate the economy (or bail out failing banks).
So, yes, Congressman Walberg, the DCCC ad didn't tell the whole story. Unfortunately, the whole story is much, much worse.
This is a stupid idea, and I'm embarrassed that my congressman supports it.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Schauer Releases "Truth Squad" Videos
Catching Up... -- Fitzy
For quite a while now, I've written about how Mark Schauer's campaign has been using the internet in smart and innovative ways, as well as their strong outreach program with blogs and people like me. It's really very impressive, and they decided to use the medium yet again to respond to Tim Walberg's attack ads:
Truth Squad: Walberg Attacks Schauer Record of Helping Business - Released September 11, 2008 in response to Walberg's attack ad, "Jobs" (Coverage Here)
Truth Squad: Walberg Lies Again - Released September 17, 2008 in response to Walberg's attack ad, "Children's Future" (Coverage Here)
I like the format of these videos-- the true/false message is effective (and kind of funny), and, for the most part, they refute Walberg's attacks fairly well. (In some cases, it changes the subject, refocusing on Walberg's support for a 23 percent sales tax, but it does so smoothly and plausibly. It's certainly a better segue than Walberg's pornography to taxes transition.) It's a good use of video and it offers a point-by-point response.
Next time, I think some low, ominous piano chords might fit well when refuting Walberg's claims, to make the contrast with the hopeful music at the end more clear. But that's just me nitpicking. They're good videos.
The problem is, these things don't work as television commercials. They go out over the supporter e-mail list and are seen by YouTube wanderers, but that's about it. And as of writing this, each video has between 600 and 700 views on YouTube. That's still more than double the number of views Walberg's attack ads have on YouTube (Man, they're really bad at this!), but it's nothing compared to how many will see Walberg's ads on television.
That's where you come in. If you hear someone comment on Walberg's ads, send them these videos. Make sure the people you know see the other side of the story. These won't be viral YouTube sensations, no, but they have the potential to change a few minds.
I'm guessing that we're going to see a lot more of these videos between now and November. I'll be posting them to the Schauer media page on Walberg Watch as they're released.
Walberg Releases Another Attack Ad
Catching Up... -- Fitzy
Congressman Tim Walberg released his third campaign advertisement on September 17, 2008. The ad is harsh-- a mother appears on camera and tells us about the horrors of Mark Schauer. And yet, something seems odd to me about the ad:
Maybe it's just me, but it seems like this ad is trying to do to much. It ties together two attacks on Mark Schauer-- that he supposedly supports high taxes and that he supposedly supports sending pornography to children-- but those two attacks really don't fit together well. The narrative connecting them, which is that Schauer supposedly puts children's futures in jeopardy, strikes me as contrived and unnatural. The first time I watched the ad, my response was, "Huh?"
Then again, the last line sticks, and if you're not paying close attention to the whole thing, the two attacks seem effective. Unfortunately, as is often the case, Walberg's attacks have a casual relationship with reality.
The Schauer campaign released a press release in response to the part about child pornography:
"This latest attack from Tim Walberg is another boldfaced lie from a floundering candidate. Mark Schauer has repeatedly and consistently voted to protect Michigan children, including supporting bills that prevent children from being exposed to pornography. The truth is that while Walberg has done nothing to save Michigan jobs, he will say or do anything to save his own."In other words, Schauer did vote against one bill, because it was flagrantly violating our constitutional rights, and would be struck down by the courts... which it was. But Schauer has a long record of voting for laws that can actually do something to protect children.
Congressman Walberg, it takes a special kind of sleaze to accuse your opponent of wanting to send pornography to children. That's dishonest, disgusting, and just stupid.
Schauer Releases Second TV Ad
Catching Up... -- Fitzy
On September 14, state Senator Mark Schauer released his second television advertisement:
There are some striking similarities and even more striking differences between this ad and Congressman Walberg's second television ad. Like Walberg's ad, the important part is the personal testimonial-- one person in front of the camera, sharing his thoughts on the candidate. These tend to be effective. It's good politics to show other faces than your own.
But Walberg's second ad was an attack ad and very negative (with scary music and everything). It ended on a frightening note: "Our survival is in jeopardy if we let [Schauer raise taxes]." Schauer's ends with soft music, a message of hope, and a sense of accomplishment: "Our jobs are staying here, and we have Mark Schauer to thank for it."
I don't know which message will be more effective. Anyone who's been watching politics for the last eight years knows that fear works and motivates voters, but the last year has shown that hope works, too. I just think it's interesting.
Now that both candidates are on the air, I'd love to see some polling that asks about the effectiveness of the ads. But, sadly, pollsters don't come to me for ideas, nor do I have the money to commission polls myself.
Also interesting, though less important in terms of moving voters, was the fundraising e-mail sent out by the Schauer campaign after releasing the ad. One part of the e-mail reads:
We can't let Tim Walberg get away with another vicious smear campaign against me, like he did two years ago against Joe Schwarz.Obviously, this shows that Democrats know how to use fear, too, just in a different sort of way. But I think it's also telling that Schauer is starting to invoke Joe Schwarz in these e-mails. Schwarz is every Michigan Democrat's favorite Republican, and for many good reasons, and memories of the 2006 primary are a good motivator for Schauer's donor base. But Schwarz is still a powerful influence among independents and Republicans in the district, too. I'll be interested to see how much his name is used as we move closer to November.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Hi everyone. I'm guessing readership has dropped a bit for the week-and-a-half I've taken off from this. I assure you all, I definitely wasn't on vacation, and had a good, non-politics reason for taking a break from blogging.
Over the next day or so, I'm going to be posting a lot. So watch this space for plenty of excitement.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Schauer Releases First TV Ad
This morning, Schauer for Congress sent out a fundraising e-mail that included a link to their first television ad. The timing of the ad, Schauer admits, is in part because of the attack ad released by Tim Walberg's campaign:
Here's the new ad:
What do you think? Will this help get Schauer's name out in places like Lenawee, Hillsdale, and Branch Counties? Is it an effective ad? Is it an effective response to the Walberg ad?
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Walberg Releases Attack Ad
This is going to get pretty nasty... From YouTube user SeventhDem:
This is Walberg's second television ad and, perhaps because of its negative tone, is not yet included on the Walberg for Congress YouTube channel. Here's the Schauer campaign response:
WALBERG ATTACK MACHINE LIES ABOUT SCHAUER RECORD OF HELPING SMALL BUSINESSESThat's a fairly effective response to the ad and to Mike Shirkey, but at some point, the Schauer campaign will need a good response to the "deciding vote for the largest tax increase in Michigan's history" nonsense. It is nonsense, too (and hopefully I'll get a chance to write more about it), but a short, memorable response to the claim would be helpful.
I am, however, surprised by an attack ad from the Walberg campaign this early. Normally, I would think they'd save this for October, and let their buddies at Freedom's Watch do the dirty work. This makes me think that the ad is mainly a response to the EPIC-MRA poll that came out last week. Recall:
Overall, would you say that things in the United States are generally headed in the right direction, or have things pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?Walberg's campaign is reacting to what looks like momentum for Mark Schauer. It seems to me that they're worried, and with good reason.
And, of course, remember that Mark Schauer hasn't gone on the air yet with his television ads. Walberg has been on the air since August 6th.
UPDATE: Sometime between when I first posted this and now, the Walberg campaign put up their ad on YouTube.
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