Sunday, October 31, 2010

Roy Barnes on abortion, guns, and spending

Over a month ago on September 23, as I was preparing candidate profiles for the gubernatorial candidates, I submitted several questions to the Roy Barnes campaign along with a request for the rights to use a photo of Mr. Barnes to accompany the article. Although I called and emailed the campaign several times, there was no response so I finally published the article.

Finally, two days ago, I received response from the Barnes campaign. In order to fully educate the electorate, I will pass along what new information I received. Additionally, I have also received permission to use the photo that accompanies this article. You can read the full candidate profile of Barnes here.

To read the rest of this article, please click the link below:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Is Roy Barnes' rape shield ad true?

Roy Barnes recently released one of the most scandalous television ads of this year's Georgia elections. The ad accuses Republican candidate Nathan Deal of attempting to weaken Georgia's rape shield law. The ad alleges that, under the law, rape victims would have had to "take the stand" to prove that they "didn't deserve to be raped."

To read the rest of this article, please click the link below:

Election myth: Does the GOP want to ship jobs overseas?

The third common myth being spread by Democrats this election season is that Republicans want to send American jobs to other countries. This is an obvious exaggeration. No politician of either party would want to send his or her constituents’ jobs out of their district and to another country. You don’t get re-elected that way and, above all else, most politicians want to get re-elected.

The question then becomes how best to preserve American jobs. President Obama and the Democrats believe that companies who move jobs to other countries should be punished through higher taxes or the elimination of tax breaks. A bill currently stalled in the senate purports to do just that.

However, it isn’t only Republicans that oppose this bill. At this point, Republicans don’t have the numbers to prevent passage of legislation by themselves. Some Democrats, including Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, have joined the Republicans and business groups in opposing the bill on the grounds that it will make US companies less competitive.

On the other hand, conservatives believe that American companies will create jobs in the US if the government makes it cost effective for them to do so. There are many reasons that companies outsource jobs, but one of the biggest is labor costs. American workers are highly compensated, especially when non-salary benefits such as health insurance are considered. Workers in less developed nations are willing to do the same work for much less money.

Regulation is also a factor. The US has a dizzying array of complex regulations governing everything from environmental concerns to zoning. Some of these regulations are needed and some are not. Good or not, the cost of complying with government regulations can be significant. Other countries may have a regulatory environment that is easier to navigate.

Obamacare provides a good example of both employment costs and regulation. First, the mandates for increased coverage in the health care law are increasing the cost of health insurance coverage for companies. There will also be penalties if employers do not provide coverage for their employees. Second, there are new regulatory requirements in the health care law as well. One of the most well known is a requirement that companies issue 1099s to any company or individual with which they do more than $600 of business. The massive new costs associated with hiring and providing insurance for American workers may prove to be a powerful incentive for companies to move operations to other countries.

Add to this that the United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, even before state and local taxes are considered. When all these factors are considered, the US appears to have a somewhat unfriendly business climate.

The news is not all bad though. The stability of the United States and its status as a large consumer nation do help to attract foreign businesses to our shores. The Kia factory in West Point, Georgia is one example of the “insourcing” of foreign businesses to our state.

There are answers to many of these problems. A true reform of health care with an eye toward lowering costs would be a major step forward. Easing the grip of unions so that wages can be determined by the market would also help. Lowering taxes would give companies much needed capital to grow their businesses. Finally, streamlining bureaucracy and eliminating the regulations that don’t make sense would also help.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Election myth: Does the GOP want to privatize Social Security?

A second myth being propagated by Democrats this election season is that Republicans want to privatize Social Security. The basis for this rumor is Rep. Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future, although it can probably be traced back to President Bush’s attempt to reform Social Security in 2005. Neither plan involves the privatization of Social Security.

The root of the problem is that Social Security is broke. The Social Security trust fund into which Social Security (FICA) taxes are paid into is filled with federal bonds, essentially promises to repay or IOUs. Social Security taxes are not invested on the worker’s behalf by the government. Instead, current FICA revenues are used to pay current benefits.

As Baby Boomers retire in large numbers while the numbers of working Americans dwindles, the Social Security program is headed for a meltdown. In fact, this year Social Security will begin paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes. The program is forecast to run out of money in about 2035. Clearly, doing nothing is not an option.

Under Rep. Ryan’s plan, Americans age 55 and older will not have any changes to their Social Security in any way. Younger workers (under 55) will be given the choice of remaining in the current plan or investing a portion of their FICA withholding into a private plan similar to the Thrift Savings Plans that federal employees already enjoy. The plan would also not affect people receiving survivor and disability benefits.

For those who choose to invest in the private plan, the government will guarantee their contributions in a manner similar to deposit insurance. The government will also approve investment choices. When fully phased in, contributions to the private plan will only average 5 points of the current 12.4 percent FICA tax. In other words, even if you choose the private plan, most of your money will still be going to the traditional plan. The government will also guarantee benefits at a minimum of 120% of the poverty level for the traditional plan and 150% of the poverty level for private plans. Finally, people in the private plans get ownership of their accounts. If they die prior to retiring, they can pass the money to their heirs. In the traditional plan, your Social Security “contributions” are lost except for a death benefit if you do not live to retirement age.

In summary, the Republican plan gives people choice, a right to keep their money, and most likely a better rate of return than traditional Social Security. Stock market investments almost always make money over the long run, even accounting for market crashes like the one in 2008. In contrast, Social Security pays a very low rate of return – often negative. This means that your “investment” in Social Security is probably not even keeping pace with inflation. Under Ryan’s plan, a person who chose a personal plan would likely earn a much higher rate of return and the government would guarantee his account in the event of a market crash.

The most important points to remember are:
1. No one over 55 would be affected by any changes.
2. Workers under 55 would get to choose their plan.
3. Private accounts would likely earn more, but would be guaranteed by the government at a higher level than traditional Social Security.
4. The only way to lose your Social Security money is to do nothing and let the plan go broke.

Budget cuts threaten Georgia parks

An often overlooked aspect of the national financial crisis and the subsequent political emergency is the impact on Georgia’s state parks. As tax revenues dropped in the wake of the financial collapse, Governor Sonny Perdue and the General Assembly slashed the Department of Natural Resources parks budget by almost forty percent, from $27.4 million to $16.8 million.

To read the rest of this article, please go to:

Election myth: Does the GOP favor a 23% sales tax?

In the absence of being able to brag about their own accomplishments since 2006 when they took over Congress, the Democrats have taken to attacking their Republican opponents. When possible, these attacks focus on personal issues in an attempt to distract voters from the failures of the Democratic economic policies. When personal issues are not in evidence, there are three common charges made by Democrats (and cited by Dick Morris in a blog a few weeks ago). In my next few articles, I plan to address these charges individually.

The first common Democratic charge is that Republican candidates favor creating a new national sales tax at a 23% rate. Many Georgians will recognize the basis of this charge immediately since it is rooted in the Fair Tax proposed by Georgia congressman John Linder and radio talk show host Neal Boortz.

What the Democrats don’t tell you is that while the Fair Tax would impose a national consumption tax, it would totally eliminate the federal income tax, the IRS, and repeal the current tax code. In other words, the Fair Tax would replace the current tax system with a system that lets workers keep their entire paychecks and decide how much to pay in taxes.

Because the Fair Tax taxes consumption rather than income, it encourages productivity, investment, and savings. These are positive things that the government should encourage in order to help heal the economy.

The Fair Tax would be a boon to the poor. Since only consumption is taxed, if you did not buy new goods and services you would pay no tax. There would be no tax on used items or on business-to-business sales. Additionally, each Social Security cardholder would receive a monthly “prebate” from the government that would be equivalent to the Fair Tax paid up to the poverty level. This means that earners up to the poverty level would pay no taxes. According to the schedule on the Fair Tax website, my family of two adults and two children would receive a monthly payment of $6,702 in addition to not having any federal taxes withheld from our paychecks.

The flip side to this payment is that that when we bought new (remember used items are not taxed), we would pay more at the cash register. The actual total cost of the item would likely be the same as what it is today since there would be no embedded taxes in its cost. Today’s prices include many built-in taxes from taxes on employee wages to business-to-business sales taxes. Furthermore, estimates show that the Fair Tax would be revenue neutral to government, that is, it would generate as much revenue as our current income tax system.

It is an open question whether the Fair Tax would actually work. It is a new concept that has never been tried. There are many complexities that I have not discussed here, but you can view the FAQs on or read one of the Fair Tax books.

The dishonesty of the Democratic charge is self-evident. It omits so much that it is not even enough to call it a half-truth. The charge is especially hypocritical in light of the fact that only a few short months ago, the Democrats were floating the idea of imposing a European-style Value Added Tax (VAT) to help pay for their deficit spending. The VAT would have been a multilayered consumption tax that would have been levied in addition to, not in place of, a federal income tax. In essence, the Democrats were accusing Republicans of advocating a Democratic position.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A streetcar undesired

Much to the chagrin of Atlanta area commuters like me, Atlanta will be getting a new streetcar line rather than improving the capacity of the metro area's roads. Officials from Atlanta and the US Department of Transportation this week announced the grant of $47 million in federal funds to build the streetcar line. The grant will be matched by $20 million in local money.

To read the rest of this article, please go to:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Three Georgia Dems face possible upsets

Georgia's delegation to the US House of Representatives currently holds thirteen seats. In the current Congress, the delegation is made up of seven Republicans and six Democrats. As the tide of the campaign turns against the Democrats, many observers are predicting unprecedented losses - up to 99 seats in the House - for the Democrats. It looks as though some Democrats of the Georgia delegation may also join the ranks of unemployed politicians.

In the second district, Sanford Bishop is defending against a challenge by Mike Keown, a state representative. Bishop, who voted for Obamacare as well as the stimulus and TARP, is virtually tied with Keown according to a recent poll. The poll shows Bishop leading Keown 47-46% with 7% undecided and a margin of error of 4.9%. The poll shows a trend in favor of Keown who has been gaining on Bishop over the last few months. The race is currently considered a tossup.

In the eighth district, Jim Marshall is being challenged by state Representative Austin Scott. Marshall is considered a conservative Democrat who has actually run ads distancing himself from Nancy Pelosi. His campaign website says that he favors extending all of the Bush tax cuts. He also voted against Obamacare, but for the stimulus and TARP. Nevertheless, the most recent projection shows Scott winning 49-47%.

In the twelfth district, John Barrow may be somewhat safer. After voting against Obamacare, but for the stimulus and TARP, Barrow is assumed to be fending off businessman Ray McKinney, who is endorsed by Sarah Palin. The absence of polls makes this race difficult to predict, but the difficulty of Marshall and Bishop in neighboring districts may mean that McKinney has a better chance at an upset than is generally believed.

The remaining Democratic districts in Georgia are the fourth (Hank Johnson), the fifth (John Lewis), and the thirteenth (David Scott). These districts are all located in Atlanta and draw strongly on Atlanta's liberals and minorities. They are all rated solidly Democratic in spite of the fact that all three men voted for Obamacare, the stimulus, and TARP (with the sole exception of Hank Johnson's vote against TARP). All Republican seats in Georgia are considered safe this year.

In spite of the close nature of these three races, it is likely that the Republicans will prevail in one or more of them. One of pollster Dick Morris' axioms is that undecided voters will likely go for the challenger. If the incumbent has not done well enough throughout his term to win over undecided voters prior to the last couple of weeks of the campaign, he has little hope of doing so. The taint of the recession, the stimulus, Obamacare, and looming tax increases make it all the more difficult for Georgia's Democrats to win conservative districts this year.

Photo: Rep. Sanford Bishop, public domain

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Meet the candidates: Georgia Lt. Governor

The office of Georgia Lieutenant Governor is roughly equivalent to that of Vice President. The Georgia Constitution of 1945 created the office. However, unlike the vice presidency, the Lt. Governor is determined through a separate election from the Governor. It is possible for the Lt. Governor and the Governor to be of different parties. The Lt. Governor serves a four-year term and is not term limited.

The Lt. Governor exercises executive power if the Governor is temporarily incapacitated. If the Governor dies or cannot serve out his term, the Lt. Governor assumes the office of Governor for the remainder of the term.

The normal duties of the Lt. Governor include acting as President of the Senate. Although he cannot vote or introduce legislation, he influences the lawmaking process by working with senators. He is also part of the committee that determines committee appointments and chooses the chairman for each committee.

This year there are three candidates for Lt. Governor.

Casey Cagle is the incumbent Lt. Governor and is a Republican. Cagle is a native of Gainesville and attended Gainesville State College and Georgia Southern University. He opened a tuxedo rental business in Gainesville in 1986 and founded Southern Heritage Bank in 1999. In 1994, he was elected senator at 28 years old, making him Georgia’s youngest senator. He was re-elected five times until he was elected Georgia’s first Republican Lt. Governor in 2006. Cagle initially planned to run for governor, but withdrew due to a spinal and nerve illness that required surgery.

Cagle cites the passage of budget without tax increases during the current recession as one of his top accomplishments, although critics note that some fees were increased and a state program that provided property tax credits was dropped. He was also involved in the passage of the JOBS (Jobs, Opportunity, and Business Success) Act which involved business tax credits. He has also acted to cut government spending and waste.

Carol Porter is from Wrightsville, Georgia. The Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, she is married to Dubose Porter, who lost to Roy Barnes in the gubernatorial primary. She attended the University of Georgia and worked as a copyrighter for the Dublin Courier-Herald. After marrying Dubose, the couple bought the newspaper. The business eventually grew to nine newspapers. Porter is currently general manager of the family newspaper business and active in civic organizations.

Porter wants to focus on improving Georgia’s education system and cutting the dropout rate. She would also push for a comprehensive state transportation plan. She also proposes tax incentives for business and public health reforms.

Dan Barber is a New England native who has been transplanted in Georgia for more than twenty years. He currently lives in Cumming, where he runs an auto repair business. He is a graduate of the College of the Desert, a community college in California.

As a Libertarian, Barber believes in both economic and social freedoms. He opposes cap-and-trade as well as federal intervention in the education system. He opposes government bailouts and favors low taxes. He believes in free markets for health care, favors immigration, and opposes the war on drugs.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Coping with Obamacare's price increases

If you have received your open 2011 enrollment package for your company’s health care benefits, like me you may have experienced some sticker shock this year. With the passage of the health care reform law, many Americans are finding that their health insurance premiums are going up and that their benefits are going down.

To make the most of your health insurance dollars, take a little extra time this year and examine all the alternatives that your company offers. One of the first things to consider is whether you and your family use your health insurance a lot or a little. If you rarely go to the doctor or get prescriptions filled, then you probably don’t need the most expensive plan with all the bells and whistles. For people who rarely use their insurance, a high deductible plan might save money.

Major medical plans typically have a deductible and many do not include copayments. This means that you will be responsible for paying your health insurance costs until you meet the deductible. For example, if your plan includes a $1,000 deductible, you will have to pay the first $1,000 of medical expenses for the year. After the deductible, these plans usually pay a set percentage, usually 80-90% of the medical bill. This leaves the employee to pay the remaining 10-20%. This is called coinsurance.

Aside from lower premiums, an added advantage to these plans is that they reward price shopping. Since the employee is always paying a percentage of the bill, rather than a set fee, it is in their interest to find a good deal. For example, an employee paying 10% coinsurance would save $5 per office visit by choosing a doctor who charges $100 rather than one who charges $150. (The employee’s share would be $10 of the $100 bill or $15 of the $150 bill.) Again, coinsurance only is a factor after you have met your deductible.

On the other hand, if you or someone in your family has several maintenance prescriptions or has to go to the doctor frequently, then you might want to pay a higher premium for a plan with better benefits. For example, an HMO plan might have a copayment for doctor visits that is $10 regardless of how much the doctor charges. As an added bonus, HMO plans do not generally include deductibles.

One way of determining which plan is best for your family is to look at your medical history for the past year. If this was a typical year, medically speaking, you can estimate how much your costs would have been with each plan and choose the one that is most cost effective.

Consider also whether you expect to have any surgeries or other health problems in the coming year. If you are expecting to use your health insurance a lot in the coming year, obviously you should choose the plan with better benefits. An alternative would be to schedule your surgery before the end of the current year.

Especially if you are considering a high deductible plan, consider a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) if your company offers one. FSAs allow an employee to put money into an account for health spending. This money is deducted from your paycheck before taxes, so it lowers your tax liability for the year while it increases your health care spending power. As your health care bills come due, the money is deducted from your account to pay them.

There are downsides to FSAs. One is that that the money must be used for health care items. This can include doctor visits, prescriptions, glasses, contacts, hearing aids, etc. Another major problem is that the money in an FSA must be used before the end of the year. Any money left in the FSA at year’s end is lost since it cannot be rolled over to the next year. Therefore you should carefully plan how much money to deposit into your FSA to avoid a last minute rush to spend or lose the funds in your account.

Additionally, if both spouses are eligible for health insurance through their employer, consider both plans. First, it is probably not cost effective to buy duplicate coverage through both employers. Consider which plan gives you the best “bang for the buck,” the best coverage for the dollars that you spend. You may also want to look at having each spouse get an individual plan through their own employer. Take all the possibilities into account and find what works best for you.

In this economic climate, you should also consider which spouse’s job is most stable. If you choose to purchase health insurance through only one employer and that spouse loses their job, you would have to rely on COBRA until the end of the year. You can only make changes to a group health plan during open enrollment unless certain events, such as having a child or getting married, occur. COBRA is currently subsidized by the government but is still more expensive than most health plans.

One additional consideration is that you might want to forgo your employer’s group health plan altogether. For many employees, the employer pays a percentage of their premiums and this makes the group plan much cheaper than an individual plan. To find out if an individual plan is most cost effective for you, contact an insurance agent and submit an application. Remember to apply for the individual plan well before you need to make a decision on your group health plan. This way you can determine the actual premium based on your medical history and make an informed decision. Make sure to let the agent know that you do not want the insurance effective until your group plan lapses. If the individual health plan turns out to be more expensive, you can cancel this coverage before it takes effect and elect for the group plan as long as you don’t miss the open enrollment deadline.

Finally, if you are unhappy with the changes that Obamacare has brought to your health insurance, remember to vote on November 2. The upcoming election will determine the future of health care in the United States. Find out how your representatives voted on Obamacare and find out which candidates will vote to repeal the current law and replace it with a free market solution.

Photo credit:
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Candidate profile: Mike Thurmond for US Senate

Michael Thurmond is Georgia native, born in Clarke County. He was the youngest of nine children and grew up attending segregated schools. He graduated from Clarke Senior High School in 1971, where he served as co-president of the student council and held the record for the one hundred yard dash.

Thurmond attended Paine College in Augusta where he majored in philosophy and religion. He also earned a juris doctorate from the University of South Carolina. In 1978, he published A Story Untold: Black Men and Women in Athens History. After graduating from USC, Thurmond returned to Athens to practice law and, in 1986, became the first black member of the General Assembly from Clarke County since Reconstruction. In 1994, Governor Zell Miller tapped Thurmond to head Georgia’s Work First program. Four years later, he became Georgia’s first state Labor Commissioner, where he is now serving his third term. His tenure as Labor Commissioner saw Georgia’s unemployment offices transition to state-of-the-art career centers.

As Labor Commissioner, Thurmond presided over a 2008 computer glitch in which a GDOL computer issued duplicate unemployment checks worth approximately $12 million. Most of the money has since been recovered and there is no evidence or suggestion that Thurmond was at fault. The AJC does note, however, that Thurmond has not responded to requests for an interview on the subject after initially promising cooperation.

He is a distinguished lecturer at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson School of Government. Thurmond is on the board of curators of the Georgia Historical Society and chairs the Martin Luther King, Jr. Georgia State Holiday Commission. He has also written two more books: Freedom: An African-American History of Georgia and Freedom: Georgia’s Antislavery Heritage, 1733-1865.


Spending: Thurmond believes that the stimulus was beneficial. He believes that sacrifice and compromise will be needed to attack deficit spending when the recession is over.

Taxes: Thurmond authored a tax cut as a state representative that was worth an estimated $300 million. The legislation, which sent refunds up to $26 to citizens with incomes under $20,000, was recently repealed on the grounds that many of the refunds went to citizens who actually paid no income taxes. Today, Thurmond says that he favors a fairer tax system that will reward achievement and entrepreneurship. He favors extending the Bush tax cuts for middle class.

Jobs: As Labor Commissioner, Thurmond unveiled Georgia Works, a program that puts unemployed workers into jobs for a six week trial period in which the state pays all costs. The employer pays nothing. According to Thurmond’s website and ABC News, 36% of participants are hired within the six weeks and 63% are hired within 90 days.

Health Care: On Obamacare, Thurmond said, “"Let's take a look at what is working and improve on it and change what is not working.” With respect to the constitutionality of the law, he said, “That is for the courts and our judicial system to decide. I do know that we require automobile insurance, and this has not been found unconstitutional."

National Security: A current position on national security and terrorism could not be determined.

Immigration: Thurmond opposes attempts to amend the Constitution to restrict birthright citizenship. “Congress has no authority to enact laws that restrict the effect of birth on the right to American citizenship.”

Energy: Thurmond opposes drilling for oil off the coast of Georgia.

Cap-and-Trade: Thurmond favors an emissions trading plan for greenhouse gases.

Guns: Thurmond supports the use of “smart” technology to prevent the use of guns by unauthorized people. He supports “sensible” gun control.

Education: Thurmond believes that parents should have the option to choose within the public school system and should be offered charter schools.

Life: Thurmond believes that a woman has a right to choose.

Gay Marriage: Thurmond believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, but supports civil unions.

Note: Thurmond’s website will not be very helpful to anyone seeking to learn about his platform. Most of the information on his positions on issues was obtained through an interview he conducted with Many of the positions come from and are ten years old. Due to lack of current information, I have used this site where necessary. The Thurmond campaign did not respond to requests for information or photos.


Candidate profile: Johnny Isakson for US Senate

Johnny Isakson is a native Georgian and a second generation Swedish-American. He is a native of Atlanta and currently lives in Marietta. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1966 and served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966 through 1972. He was discharged with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

In 1967, he opened the first Cobb County office of Northside Realty. He later became president of the company, a post he held for over twenty years, as the company grew from a small, family business to the largest independent, residential real estate brokerage in the southeast.

In 1974, Isakson lost a race for the Georgia House of Representatives. Two years later, he was elected to the General Assembly, where he served seven terms. He served as Minority Leader for two years. He ran for governor in 1990 and lost to Zell Miller. In 1996, on an abortion rights platform, he ran for the US Senate seat vacated by Sam Nunn. He lost to Guy Millner in the primary, who in turn lost to Max Cleland. In 1998, when Newt Gingrich retired, Isakson won a special election to take his place in the US House of Representatives.

In 2004, when Zell Miller declined to run for re-election to the senate seat he had been appointed to after Paul Coverdell’s death, Isakson was elected to take his place. He has shifted to the right on many social issues and now considers himself pro-life.

Isakson has been called a “libertarian leaning conservative.” He is rated A by the National Rifle Association, 100 by the American Conservative Union, 92 by the Christian Coalition, and has received the “Hero of the Taxpayer” award from Citizens Against Government Waste. You can view Senator Isakson’s voting record here:


Spending: Isakson would like to move the federal budget to a two-year cycle to promote accountability and discipline. He supports transparency in budgeting and appropriations and has voted for earmark reform. He is a co-sponsor of the SAFE Commission Act, which would create a bipartisan budget-cutting panel. He supports a line-item veto to allow the president to single out wasteful items.

Taxes: Isakson supports extending the Bush tax cuts as well as cuts to the capital gains tax. He has voted for temporary relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax and would like to find a permanent solution. Isakson has introduced the Tax Code Termination Act (S 3047) to repeal the tax code and seek an alternative such as a flat tax. He is a supporter and co-sponsor of the Fair Tax.

Health Care: Isakson supports the repeal of Obamacare in favor of market based solutions. He opposes embryonic stem cell research that would destroy life as well as cloning. He introduced the HOPE Act (S. 30), which would allow research that is nondestructive to embryos.

Economy: Isakson introduced the home buyer tax credit, which passed for first time home buyers. He would like to expand the programs for all home buyers. He would like to see President Obama’s mortgage refinance programs expanded to all homeowners. Isakson favors a reinstatement of the uptick rule with regard to short sales in financial markets. He would also like to replace mark-to-market accounting rules with an amortization system. Isakson introduced legislation to create a commission to investigate the origins of the financial crisis. Isakson voted against the stimulus, but for TARP, although he says he disagrees with the way that the money was spent.

National Security: Isakson supports the purchase of the Lockheed Martin F-22. He has also supported pay and benefit improvements for soldiers and guardsmen. He has made several trips to both Iraq and Afghanistan to view the situation there first hand.

Energy: Isakson supports the use of alternative energy sources including nuclear power.

Cap-and-Trade: Isakson opposes cap-and-trade.

Guns: Isakson has an A rating from the NRA and is a strong proponent of second amendment rights.

Education: Isakson was an original author of No Child Left Behind.

Life: Isakson believes that abortion is permissible only in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother. He is not endorsed by Georgia Right to Life.

Gay Marriage: Isakson cosponsored the Marriage Protection Amendment.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Candidate profile: Chuck Donovan for senator *updated*

Chuck Donovan is a political newcomer and a career pilot. He was born in Boston, but has lived in Georgia for 14 years. He served as a fighter pilot in the US Marine Corps from 1980 through 1986. After leaving the Marines, he was hired by a major airline based in Atlanta, where he has been an pilot for the past twenty-three years. He is currently a Captain flying international routes.

Donovan says that he is not and did not intend to become a professional politician. As a student of the Austrian school of economics ( which advocates laissez faire, or “hands off,” economic policy on the grounds that economics and human behavior are too complex to accurately model. Donovan says that he is a believer in both economic and social freedom.


Spending: Donovan believes that the federal debt is the greatest threat that the US faces. He believes that we must make tough, unpopular decisions to balance the budget.

Taxes: Donovan believes that the federal tax system must be fundamentally changed. He says that there should be a direct link between federal tax receipts and money spent by the federal government.

Health Care: Donovan believes that the rising cost of health care is the main problem with what is a “great health care system.” He believes that the answer is to increase competition and innovation and to stop the government from tampering with the health care markets. He believes that freedom of choice should apply in health care.

National Security: Donovan believes that we should take steps toward ending “entangling alliances.” He says that we should focus on achieving “set goals” in our current conflicts and then bring our troops home quickly and safely.

Immigration: Donovan supports a guest worker program and would use federal agents, not soldiers, to patrol the border. He also says that we should go to the source of the illegal immigrant problem by reconsidering our support for corrupt governments and attack drug cartels that prompt people to flee their homes. He opposes a national ID program.

Energy: Donovan believes that the federal government should “get out of the way of energy exploration, experimentation, and expansion.”

Cap-and-Trade: Donovan calls cap-and-trade a “tax program that will weaken industry and strengthen government.” He says that if the government is serious about the environment, it should fix the nation’s roads, which would reduce traffic and auto emissions and help to stimulate the economy. He believes that American industry can better help the world by innovating.

Guns: Donovan believes in the right to self-defense as a moral absolute. He opposes all gun control measures.

Life: Donovan states that he wants a world with no unwanted pregnancies or children. He opposes taxpayer funded abortions, but does not want to change abortion law. He wants to reduce abortions through other means.

Drug War: Donovan believes the drug war has been a failure. He would like to decriminalize drugs and focus on addiction treatment. He would incarcerate violent criminals and release nonviolent offenders.

Gay Marriage: Donovan believes that if government marriage is available for some, it should be available for all. He would prefer to remove the government from marriage entirely.

Personal correspondence with the Donovan campaign.

Photo courtesy of Chuck Donovan

Trickle down: how hurting the rich hurts the poor

I work for a company that caters to rich people. We provide VIP transportation on private jets to the rich and famous. These are the business tycoons and captains of industry who have been vilified and targeted by the Obama Administration and the Democrats.

After the financial crash of 2008, our business was hit hard. Many of our clients lost millions in real estate and the stock market. The problem was compounded when President Obama and congressional leaders began castigating business leaders for spending corporate money on private jets. (Never mind that government officials were jetting around at taxpayer expense.

In a classic example of trickle-down economics in action, as our clients canceled their contracts with us, the effects cascaded far beyond the aviation industry. An obvious example is that my company needed fewer pilots and office workers. The company downsized by approximately one third. Many of the pilots who lost their jobs were based in Atlanta. When they were laid off, the state and their local governments lost tax revenue and picked up additional expenses such as unemployment benefits, health costs, and other public assistance programs.

Even those of us who were not laid off were not immune to the economy. We took pay cuts and overtime, which was once readily available, became nonexistent. With less pay, we had to spend less money. As we (and thousands of others like us) spent less money, local stores and restaurants made less money and, in turn, had to lay off employees. Accordingly, factories took fewer orders and manufacturing jobs were lost.

The effect did not stop there. Many Georgia airports were common destinations for our airplanes. We flew business people to Atlanta’s DeKalb-Peachtree for meetings. We flew golf fans to Augusta’s Bush Field for the Masters. We flew vacationers to St. Simon’s Island to sit in the sun or play golf. With fewer airplanes bringing visitors, these cities all suffered lost revenue.

When the airplanes stopped coming, local businesses that sold jet fuel and serviced aircraft lost sales. Local restaurants didn’t feed the pilots and passengers. Local hotels didn’t rent rooms to flight crews, business travelers, and tourists. Local merchants didn’t sell their wares. Local businesses couldn’t find capital to expand. Local citizens couldn’t find jobs.

The perception was that private jets were a rich man’s toy. The reality was that when the economy, stringent regulation, rising taxes, and government rhetoric hurt the rich, the lower income classes were hurt worse. Whether they realized it or not, the poor enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the wealthy.

The good news is that trickle down works when things are good as well. When the wealthiest Americans start making money again, they will start spending it as well. There will be increased demand for new (and used) business jets. This will require factories to hire more workers. Laid off pilots will have to be rehired. Airports will see increased traffic and sell more fuel which will also require more workers. The effects will trickle down through the economy to restaurant workers, hotel workers, and the people and businesses that they interact with. All segments of the economy will benefit. Even government will reap tax revenues as people earn and spend more. Not least, I’ll be able to upgrade to captain, make more money, and better provide for my family and retirement.

As John F. Kennedy, a conservative Democrat said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” In other words, we are all in this together. We can’t help part of the country by punishing another part. The solution to the economic crisis will be one that benefits us all.

Where is Mike Thurmond?

My kids love the Where’s Waldo? books. In case you are unfamiliar with them, the books contain a series of pictures of a large scale scene. For instance, you might see hundreds of tiny figures in a bustling shopping mall or a busy museum. Somewhere in all the hubbub is Waldo, a bespectacled man wearing a red and white striped shirt. The job of the reader is to locate Waldo on each page.

It is a similar challenge to locate Georgia senatorial candidate Mike Thurmond. Thurmond, who is currently in his third term as Georgia’s State Labor Commissioner, cruised to an easy victory in the Democratic primary with 84% of the vote. Since then he has been virtually unseen.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

The mortgage mess lingers on

We bought our home four years ago in 2006. It is a modest, three bedroom house in a quiet neighborhood in Villa Rica, a small town to the west of Atlanta. The town was rapidly growing and had recently added a super Wal-Mart and a Home Depot. A Chick-fil-A opened shortly after we moved in.

Realtors and mortgage loan officers offered interest only loans to us. They said that we could use this type of loan to buy a bigger house, then refinance in a couple of years when the value of the home had gone up. Instead, we chose to take the responsible path and buy a smaller home financed with a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage. Our plan was to buy the house, live there a few years, then sell it at a profit to finance a larger, more permanent home.

Our plans were shattered by the mortgage meltdown of 2008. Overnight, the value of our home crashed. We had no idea by how much because no homes were selling to compare it to. Of the five houses, closest to ours (one on each side and three across the street), three went through foreclosure over the next two years. Two are still vacant.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Meet the candidates: Georgia judicial elections 2010

Have you ever gotten to the end of your ballot while voting and had no idea who any of the judicial candidates were? If so, you are not alone. For most people, voting for a judge is a shot in the dark since the judicial elections are nonpartisan, there are no debates, and little campaigning.

You can get an idea by looking at a sample ballot before going to the polls. You can get a sample ballot for your precinct by visiting the website of the Secretary of State: The sample ballot contains the names and websites, if any, of the candidates.

One of the most striking ways to differ between judicial candidates is through their judicial philosophy. Generally, judges either fall into one of two camps. Judicial activists, who bring their own opinions and experiences to the bench, or strict constructionists, who rule based on the law as it is written and focus on the intent of legislature.

In spite of the low key nature of the judicial campaigns, voting for a judge is important. As we have seen in recent months and years, judges can overturn popular laws and policies on dubious grounds and shape our nation and state with little accountability. Georgia’s voter ID law, gay marriage and the upcoming legal battle over Obamacare are just a few recent examples.

Supreme Court of Georgia:

David Nahmias is the incumbent. You can view his website at: You can also view his biography on the Supreme Court website: Nahmias is a former US Attorney nominated by George W. Bush who received numerous commendations for his service. He states that his judicial philosophy is that “if judges do not like a law, they can vote to change it at the ballot box, like their fellow citizens, but they should not try to change it with judicial decrees”.

Matt Wilson is a practicing attorney from Atlanta. His website is: He states that his judicial philosophy is “to uphold and defend the Constitutions of this State and of our United States, to listen courteously to all parties and all arguments, to fairly and impartially decide cases presented on the basis of the evidence and our laws, while always protecting our civil and Constitutional rights”. He criticizes Justice Nahmias for decisions that “elevate Corporate and Government Interests over Individual Rights”.

Tammy Lynn Adkins is an attorney with no address or website given.

Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia

The election is nonpartisan. There are twelve judges on the court. Three of these positions are up for election this year. Two incumbents, Harris Adams and Anne Elizabeth Barnes, are running unopposed. There are six candidates running to fill the seat of Edward Johnson, who is retiring.

James Babaloa ( is an attorney and Air Force veteran. Babaloa also serves as CEO and legal counsel for Quality Renters LLC, a management company for rental houses and apartments. He states, “I will not make policy decisions as a judge on issues that should be properly left by the text of the United States Constitution and the text of the Constitution of the State of Georgia to the executive and legislative branches of government.”

Antoinette “Toni” Davis ( is also an attorney. Davis has served in many legal capacities. She served as the UGA law school’s Director of Legal Research and Writing, an attorney for the Georgia Supreme Court, and as a private practice attorney. She says, “My decision to serve arises from my desire to join with those who believe that our judges should apply the laws passed by their representatives in a manner consistent with the values of the people of this state.”

Stan Gunter ( is currently in his third term as District Attorney for the judicial circuit that contains Union, Towns, White, and Lumpkin counties. Gunter says that his judicial philosophy is summed up by Deuteronomy 1:17: “Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike.” He adds “the role of a judge is to apply the law and not legislate from the bench.” Stan is the only candidate for the Court of Appeals that does not live in the Atlanta area.

Adrienne Hunter-Strothers ( is also an attorney from Atlanta. She is a graduate of Harvard Law and began her career as an attorney in New York City before returning to Georgia to work for one of the state’s largest law firms. She writes that she “not only will apply the law as written to the individual facts of a particular case, she will strive also to prepare written decisions that create predictability and fairness in the law for everyone.”

Chris McFadden ( is an appellate attorney who wrote a leading reference book on Georgia appeals. He was voted most qualified for the Court of Appeals by the Georgia State Bar Association. McFadden writes in his blog that “the duty of a judge faced with a question of statutory interpretation is to make an honest effort to figure out what the legislature was trying to accomplish.”

David Schaeffer ( is also an attorney. He has worked with the same private law firm in Atlanta where he has been a partner since 1987. He says, “I believe a judge should rigorously uphold a fair and independent approach to the law, applying the law to the facts to reach a well-reasoned result and not to begin with a preordained result and then try to justify it.”

For more information, please visit the candidate websites or contact them directly.


Democrats and light bulbs: a cautionary tale

You light up my life... but not with an incandescent bulb!

How many Democrats does it take to screw a light bulb company? Answer: 272, including 44 in the Senate and 228 in the House of Representatives. They were joined by 36 House and 19 Senate Republicans. (

In December 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which, among other things, banned most incandescent light bulbs beginning in 2012 ( The act also contained a renewable fuel standard (RFS) which mandated increased ethanol production and led to food shortages in 2008 (, as well as several other mandates.

A prime motivation behind the light bulb ban was fears of global warming. The law passed prior to the East Anglia email controversy in 2009, in which pilfered emails purported to show that climate scientists collaborated to cover up inconsistent climate data and stifle dissent (, so global warming skeptics were relatively powerless. It was also passed prior to the economic crash of 2008, when it seemed that the economy would remain strong regardless of government meddling.

As we now understand, though, government action is subject to the Law of Unintended Consequences. This is the political equivalent of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” For every government action to correct a perceived problem, a new problem is created elsewhere.

With incandescent bulbs disappearing from the market, the replacement would be compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. There are pros and cons to both types of light bulbs ( CFL bulbs produce the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs, but use a fraction of the electricity. CFLs also last up to eleven times longer than incandescent bulbs. These factors contribute to cost savings over the life of the bulb.

On the other hand, CFLs generate consumer complaints in several areas. First, CFLs do not power up immediately. A CFL in a fluorescent light fixture in our kitchen takes noticeably longer to illuminate than the old bulb. Many consumers also dislike the type of light that CFLs produce, although technology is increasing consumer choices in this area.

More noticeable to many consumers is the purchase price of CFL bulbs. Where incandescent bulbs often retail at approximately $1.60 for a four pack (forty cents per bulb) in my local stores, CFLs often cost more than $5 for a two-pack ($2.50 per bulb). Thus, CFLs cost approximately six times more than traditional light bulbs. They may save money in the long run, but that is cold comfort to an apartment tenant struggling to meet a budget or a homeowner facing foreclosure.

Finally, and most disturbing, CFLs contain mercury, a hazardous material that can cause impaired neurological development in children ( It is hard enough to clean up the broken glass from a traditional light bulb, but CFLs are even worse. The EPA recommends a lengthy procedure for cleaning up a broken CFL (, beginning with evacuating the room for at least fifteen minutes and shutting off the central heat or air condition. Additionally, you may not be able to throw away the CFL in your normal trash disposal manner, since some states mandate special disposal or recycling techniques even for unbroken CFL bulbs. Georgia does not have any specific regulation that I can find, but Home Depot does offer CFL recycling.

One consumer response is to hoard incandescent bulbs. At my house, we use a combination of incandescent and CFL bulbs. We use CFLs in fixtures that are difficult to reach or where the light is used frequently and for long periods of time. For other fixtures that are not frequently used or where breakage is an issue, such as lamps in children’s rooms, we use incandescent bulbs. By stockpiling incandescent bulbs, we have a supply that will last well beyond the 2014 official sunset of traditional bulbs.

One foreseeable consequence of the law was the loss of jobs. In September 2010, GE closed its last incandescent light bulb factory in the US ( The 200 workers there lost their jobs. Since CFLs require more labor to produce, the company is replacing the US factory, which was located in Virginia, with a new factory in China, where labor is cheaper. It is unlikely that the US workers, many of whom are in their 40s and 50s and have been with the company for decades, will find new “green” jobs soon.

Ironically, the energy savings that Congress hoped to gain by taking away consumer light bulb choice may prove illusory. In 1987, the city of Traer, Iowa handed out 18,000 CFL bulbs to its citizens in an attempt to reduce energy usage. Residential electricity use actually increased by 8% as people responded to cheaper light by using more of it ( An axiom of economics is that as price decreases, demand increases.

The example of the great light bulb ban is a story that is likely to be repeated as long the Democrats are in power. Obamacare, the finance reform, and other nanny state laws are likely to seem similar unintended consequences. Some goods and services that were previously taken for granted will likely become unavailable. Others might still be available at an increased cost. In any case, the poor are likely to be most adversely affected by changes meant to help them.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Candidate profile: John Monds, Libertarian for governor

John Monds is the name in the governor’s race that you probably haven’t heard of. His status as a black conservative, in this case a member of the Libertarian Party, also makes him a rarity.

Monds is a native Georgian, who lives in Cairo with his wife and four children. Monds graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a degree in Banking and Finance. He is a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity where he earned the Superior Service Award in 2002 and 2003, as well as the Omega Man of the Year award in 2003. In 2005, he was named Grady County NAACP’s Man of the Year.

He worked for a time at Lehman Brothers and later worked for a small airline. He is currently President of the Grady County chapter of the NAACP. In his leadership role at the NAACP, Monds has held financial literacy courses and implemented the Freedom Day Health Fair. He also serves on the Grady County Planning Commission, the Grady County Habitat for Humanity, the Libertarian Party of Georgia Executive Committee, and the Grady County Fine Arts Project.

In 2008, Monds became the first Libertarian candidate in US or Georgia history to receive more than one million votes. As a candidate for Public Service Commission in a statewide election, Monds received 1,076,726 votes ( In comparison, Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, also a Georgian, received only 523,686 votes from all fifty states ( Nevertheless, Monds impressive showing garnered only 33.4% of the vote in the two-way race with Republican Doug Everett.

When Monds qualified in the race to become governor of Georgia, he became the first African-American to ever appear on the ballot as a candidate for Georgia governor.


Taxes: Monds would like to phase out the state income tax and replace it with a statewide sales tax in the form of Florida and Texas. He believes that reducing the tax burden will make Georgia more competitive and strengthen our economy. He would also work to reduce the state’s portion of property and gas taxes. He would leave the local portion in the hands of the local government and not funnel it through the state treasury.

Economy: Monds would push for zero-based budgeting to weed out ineffective government programs and would keep government out of areas that could be better provided by private companies. He is for free trade and opposes protectionism. He believes that the state government spends too much and that budget increases should be limited to population growth plus inflation.

Education: Monds would focus on all forms of education. He would increase charter schools and provide a $4,000 tax credit to families who home school. He wants to return control to local school districts and fight against unfunded federal mandates.

Crime: Monds would focus on rehabilitation and treatment for nonviolent drug offenders. He would also push to eliminate mandatory sentencing laws for nonviolent drug offenders.

Energy: Monds opposes cap-and-trade energy taxes and new CAFE standards for autos. He believes that Georgia needs more nuclear power, but opposes the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act of 2009, which he says guarantees investors a profit by creating a state-protected monopoly. He would work to repeal the law.

Transportation: Monds opposes new taxes to fund transportation projects. He believes that a cost-benefit analysis should be done to make sure that transportation projects are cost effective and a wise use of resources. He wants to pursue alternatives such as public-private partnerships, HOV/HOT lanes, and toll roads. He opposes any increase to the gas tax or any attempt to use the gas tax for a purpose other than funding roads.

Sunday Alcohol Sales: Monds believes that allowing local governments to have referendums on whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales is a matter of free markets and personal liberty. He would allow communities to decide the issue for themselves.

Gun Rights: Monds believes that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right for personal protection. He would veto any bill that would impede Georgians from protecting themselves and work to expand the right to carry.

Life: The Monds campaign did not respond to a request for his position on life and abortion. His website does not address the issue.

Immigration:The Monds campaign did not respond to a request for his position on immigration. His website does not address the issue.

Water: Monds believes that Georgia’s possession of water gives us the advantage in dealing with neighboring states. He believes that the ultimate answer to the water question will come from Congress.

Marriage: Monds believes that the government should not be involved in the religious aspects of marriage, but should afford all citizens equal rights in the contractual aspects. He believes that this means that homosexuals should have the right to marry (each other, presumably).

My Two Cents: I think that John Monds is an honorable man and find myself agreeing with his platform far more often than I disagree. My chief disagreements with him are over social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, which I believe the government has a duty to oppose in order to preserve society. Nevertheless, his candidacy is doomed to failure by virtue of the fact that he is a Libertarian.

In this country, third parties almost never win. Even though Monds has proven a capable vote-getter, he has never won enough votes to win an election. Too often third parties simply fragment the vote and hurt the candidates that they are ideologically most similar too. For example, In 1992 Ross Perot won only enough votes to shift the election to Bill Clinton against George H. W. Bush. Similarly, in 2000, Al Gore probably would have beaten George W. Bush had it not been for the third party candidacy of Ralph Nader. In a worst case scenario, Monds’ candidacy might shift enough Republican votes (especially with a weak candidate like Deal) to the Libertarians to allow Roy Barnes to win a plurality and avoid a runoff.

Mr. Monds and his Libertarians would do better to form a libertarian (small “l”) faction within the Republican Party. This is the strategy that the Tea Parties have adopted to great success. It looks as if the Tea Parties will affect American politics more in one year than the Libertarians have in decades. Hopefully, Mr. Monds and the other Libertarians and join the Republicans in a common struggle against the Democrats.


This election affects everyone

It is hard to find anyone who has not been impacted by the recession. Because almost everyone has felt some sort of financial pinch, the upcoming elections are generating a high level of interest around the country.

One thing that has affected almost everyone is the high unemployment rate. Georgia has an unemployment rate of 10.0%, which is slightly higher than the national rate of 9.6%. While I have been fortunate enough to keep my job, I have several acquaintances that have been out of work for long periods of time. One man that I know has not worked full time since shortly after the economic crash in late 2008.

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Dueling Curmudgeons for Georgia Governor Candidates

Just over a month prior to the general election, most of the buzz in Georgia surrounds two dueling ads from gubernatorial candidates Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes. Both ads feature gray-haired grandfatherly men who fifty years ago would likely be seen sitting on a bench outside the local filling station. The modern versions have the men sitting it a café with red-checked tablecloths.

The first ad was released by the Republican Governors Association on behalf of Nathan Deal. The ad attacks Barnes record as governor on the issues of education and jobs. The ad makes the claims that Georgia was “dead last” on education and “led the nation in job losses.” analyzed the claims in the ad and found that while Georgia was near the bottom when comparing graduation rates and SAT scores for 2002, the end of Barnes’ term as governor, it probably wasn’t dead last. With respect to job losses, there is evidence that Georgia lost almost 80,000 jobs after 9/11, which was more than any other state.

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