Guest Blogs

Wednesday
Nov012006

Maine fights back

By Craig Benson

The old saying goes "there are only two certainties in life -- death and taxes."

Sadly government is the only entity that can take as much of your money as it wants and spend it any way it wants. With that awesome power should come responsibilities. First among them is the duty to spend our money at a slower pace than our income grows. Otherwise, each year a taxpayer would have less and less real income. Our quality of life declines as taxes increase. The reality is taxes really do grow faster than paychecks meaning quality of life IS declining.

The problem has gotten so bad in Maine that voters are poised to weigh in on this issue and threaten New Hampshire's traditional economic advantage.

New Hampshire's economic success has been built on the competitive tax advantages we enjoy over neighboring states. Fifty years ago Maine and New Hampshire had similar tax postures and similar economic situations. Since that time Maine's taxes have grown at a more rapid pace than New Hampshire's. As a result New Hampshire's economy is more robust than Maine's.

Two facts demonstrate New Hampshire's economic success. Maine's unemployment rate is much higher than that of New Hampshire, and wages in Maine are much lower than in New Hampshire.

That difference also matters a lot to businesses making decisions. When we moved Cabletron to Rochester, the choice to move to New Hampshire not Maine was easy because of the significant tax differences. How your state contrasts with states thousands of miles away may not matter as much but there is significant tax competition between neighboring states. It's just as easy to be in Kittery as Portsmouth, in Rochester as Berwick.

In making site decisions, the tax impact on the company's bottom line is critical. Management's obligations to shareholders or investors can not ignore saving thousands or millions of dollars simply by moving a few miles across the state line. Moreover, employees benefit because they get to keep more of their paycheck.

This year, Maine is poised to compete more seriously for jobs in Northern New England. On election day, Maine voters will decide whether or not to support a Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) - a proposal to force the state to live within its means by holding spending growth and tax growth to the change in population and the rate of inflation.

Even in New Hampshire, spending has grown faster than people's ability to pay and creates pressure for higher taxes. Maine's adoption of TABOR has the potential to turn the tables on New Hampshire by keeping tax growth rates below that of New Hampshire creating an economic advantage for Maine which will grow over time.

Government spending acts like a ratchet. When tax collections are strong in good times, spending increases. The problem is that those bills become difficult to pay during economic slowdowns. Moreover within a state there is more than one government entity that may be raising taxes independent of one another.  State, county, and local taxes all must be added together to calculate the real tax burden.

Those higher taxes hurt people who can least afford to have more money taken out of their pocket and damage economic development.

The danger to New Hampshire's economy is that if Maine passes TABOR, they will begin to lure jobs to Maine which might otherwise go to New Hampshire. A spending and tax cap gives business the certainty it looks for in tax policy, especially over the long term. Furthermore, it sends the signal that taxes in Maine will not grow as fast as they do in other states in the region, making Maine more and more competitive each year.

In the short term, we should continue to look for areas where we can improve our competitive edge. In the long term, we should consider our own fiscal discipline to ensure we don't spend faster than New Hampshire's paychecks grow. New Hampshire should adopt its own taxpayer bill of rights.

Monday
Oct302006

This crime must be reported 10-27-06

by Peter Macdonald

Paul Revere (the man that road through the night to tell the people that the British are coming) is a terrorist. All the men that took up arms against their government are terrorist. Carle Drega is a terrorist because he dare defy judges, town officials and police that he believed were violating the Constitution. Our Constitution grants us the power to take up arms against our own government officials when all other means of redress fail. The Madbury NH selectmen used the power of their elected positions to seek personal revenge on a local family. The selectmen did not deny this criminal act under oath. I want you to listen to the facts.

People that I had never met called me to ask for help. I volunteer at least 1000 hours/year to help people. I have done this for over 30 years because I came back alive. I use names in these facts because the truth is a powerful weapon. The newspapers censor the truth to protect the powerful. Judge Peter Fauver violated the Constitution at least 29 times to protect the Madbury selectmen. Fauver appointed me as an attorney (knowing that I was not qualified) to represent this family. Fauver found me guilty of a crime with no charges, witnesses, evidence or trial. I got fined over $20 thousand. Judge James O’Neill ruled what Fauver did constitutional to protect a brother judge. The NH supreme court ruled the case moot to protect the NH bar. The NH government declares me a terrorist to scare me. The federal courts ruled judges have immunity to protect the legal monopoly. When I take this to federal court the NH state police arrest me as a terrorist under the Patriot Act. I lose my freedom for 6 months. Taken my freedom did not shut me up so the NH governor informs the Veterans Hospital that I am a Terrorist to get my VA medical stopped. This is a crime of the highest magnitude. I am put back in jail and fined because I dare write the governor to ask why? Next the state police go to my wife’s work place to scare her into stopping my free speech. Governor Lynch offers a 30 minute unrestricted coffee break to high bidder to raise money for the Portsmouth little league. I am high bidder so the governor takes back the deal. I run for public office and the newspapers censor my words. The NH governor interferes with a free election. Have all means of redress failed? Does Paul Revere ride again?

What is next. I am a 100% disabled Veteran from the Vietnam era. I did 31 months over seas. I receive two of my three injuries in combat support missions. I killed other human beings for your freedom. You the state of NH and the United States of America have allowed this Madbury NH family to be destroyed by corrupt officials. The VFW, American legion and Elk’s clubs allow this. You have allowed the State of NH to use a 100% disabled veteran’s health to stop his free speech. The facts are documented. The records exist. Every one is afraid to speak for fear what is happening to me, will happen to them next. The United States is the people. We the people should not be afraid of people that are there to serve. I have violated no laws. I volunteer my time to help other United States citizens. The people of the United States must speak up. If NH can do this to a 100% disabled veteran, what is next, WAR? What Paul Revere did was to start a process to make the world a better place for all the people. I ask any newspaper across the nation to print my story. We as United States citizens must help each other. E-mail governorlynch@nh.gov this letter.

Monday
Oct302006

McCain Attracts Liberals to PAC

By Stephen Abbott

John McCain’s "Straight Talk America" Political Action Committee announced a legislative advisory committee of House members Friday to counsel Sen. McCain on the issues.

A release by the PAC said McCain "is honored to appear with candidates who represent Republican ideals."

We need to ask what he means by "Republican ideals," when of the 50 members of this group, a full third of them (17) voted for Republican principles an average of only 38 percent of the time in the 2005-06 session, according to ratings put out by the House Republican Alliance.

Amazingly, liberals like Concord’s Liz Hager (30% rating), Manchester’s Irene Messier (35%) Jane Langley (and Rochester’s Patricia Dunlap (19%) are proud John McCain supporters, and he’s proud to have them.

In fact, of the 25 most liberal Republicans in the House, as rated by the HRA, 12 are on McCain’s new committee.

Just a handful of the committee, seven, voted with the GOP platform most of the time.

Let’s hope these few can advise John McCain to stop standing with Sen. Ted Kennedy and against Republican principles on issues like the Federal takeover of education, granting amnesty to illegal aliens, accusing American troops of "torturing" terrorists, or supporting the Kyoto Treaty, which would let China and India pollute with impunity for 50 years while America’s economy is gutted.

We all know these PACs will soon become presidential campaigns.

Now that these election-year money machines are winding down, let’s hope conservative state legislators take the time to closely examine the principles for which these political insiders have been standing in Washington, Boston and elsewhere.

Republicans deserve a social and fiscal conservative nominee who can unite the party and inspire the nation to tackle big ideas without sacrificing his Republican values, and that’s not John McCain.

Thursday
Oct262006

Unilateral or Multilateral, you can't have it both ways

If W told the CIA that they had to obey him, as head of the government, and give him some bad intel so he could go to war; and if the meek, subservient bureaucrats (??!) at the CIA said, “OK, boss, here’s some bad intel, we got a whole basket of it for you, have a good time at the war”; what did W do to make the KGB go along with that? The Russians have been trying to take over the middle east about as long as there have been Russians, so they don’t need to depend on our CIA for what is going on there. I think that the main reason why it is even necessary to mention that point after all this time is that we tend to speak in generalities about the FrenchGermansRussians, or the current leaders of those countries, who are not the well known household names that Stalin was, and most Americans don’t grasp the point that the other countries made their own independent determination about the WMD. As the late Lloyd Bentsen might say, I remember Joe Stalin; Stalin was an enemy of mine; this Putin is no Joe Stalin. When we think of the KGB, most Americans remember them from the cold war as something to be feared and respected. In 2003, those sovereign states did not claim that Iraq had no WMD; they only argued with us over what to do about them.

When W took strong action against Iraq without making sure that every country in the world was going in there with us, his political enemies complained that we were a rogue state acting unilaterally. Now that W is organizing several countries to participate in negotiating with North Korea, his political enemies complain that we won’t act unilaterally. Condie Rice on the news recently had an answer, that a bilateral agreement with North Korea wouldn’t amount to much, and with more countries on board, there is at least a better chance. Essentially the same situation exists with Iraq. And, although some say that our credibility has suffered with the failure to find large quantities of WMD in Iraq (never mind that nobody can find the thousands of tons of conventional munitions that disappeared during the war, we are supposed to be able to find a vial of microorganisms the size of a pencil, or a stack of notebooks and blueprints the size of a shoebox) it doesn’t take much credibility to convince people that there is a threat of such weapons in Iran - and especially in North Korea. Further to WMD, it seems strange to me that top level Iraqi generals say publicly that the WMD were moved across the border into Syria and other countries, but the conventional wisdom today is that they never existed. What do we suppose the Iraqis were planning to make in those mobile fermentation facilities in trailers - maybe beer, or wine, or yogurt? At least the yogurt isn’t prohibited for them.

Similarly, there is a lot of criticism of the USA for not going in and protecting the refugees in Darfur - some of it from the same people who criticize the USA for disturbing Saddam Hussein’s fun and games in Iraq. I asked my son, the one in the Marines, how many people it would take to go into Darfur and kill a lot of those murderers - if one platoon would do some good - and he said that they could do quite a bit in a conflict like that with less than a platoon. We didn’t take the time to go into a lot of detail about what kind of vehicles and air support he would want, but I definitely have the impression that cost is not the problem there, the problem is that the UN is supposed to be our means of dealing with that kind of trouble and it doesn’t work. As Maggie Thatcher said about the problems in Yugoslavia, there are times when no amount of diplomacy without firepower will get the job done.

When W talked about missile defense, his political enemies talked about suitcase bombs and said we shouldn’t bother with missile defense. When W talked about WMD in Iraq (see tagline) his political enemies said not to worry because Iraq didn’t have a big air force with intercontinental bombers, as if they had never heard of smuggling. From time to time we do hear about the great importance of inspecting every cargo container that arrives here, as if nobody knows that we inspect most of them in their country of origin; they also overlook the fact that if somebody had a nuke and wanted to nuke New York or any other port city, they really wouldn’t have to unload the container off the ship before pushing the button. The same applies to passenger airliners, air freight, and general aviation: just load the nuke and the suicide bomber (or the remote detonator) onto the plane, fly it to the target and fire it before the plane lands. Secure borders would be nice, but carrying the war to the enemy and keeping the pressure on them will do more to keep us safe than any amount of fortification of the borders.

Of course, in 2002 we weren’t really asking our supposed friends to go to war beside us, just to stand up and be counted on the side of making Iraq cooperate with the weapons inspectors instead of playing shell games and generally stonewalling. With just a little more Solidarity, we wouldn’t have needed a war. What W’s political enemies don’t seem to understand is that no amount of normal diplomacy could persuade our supposed friends to rock the boat and disturb their comfortable commercial relationship with Iraq - especially those who were on Saddam’s payroll through the Oil For Bribery billions. Isn’t it strange (Kafkaesque, perhaps?) that it was really those who opposed action, rather than those who tried to promote action, who allowed their commercial interests to dominate their foreign policy, and yet so many still criticize the USA and think we went to war for oil?

Having seen firsthand the high energy prices in Europe, I think that the danger of allowing a dictator like Saddam to obtain control of the rest of the middle east oil is not anything to do with a new embargo against the USA, but the ability to use the oil weapon against the Europeans and other countries, building a coalition against the USA in international organizations. We could survive an embargo against our own country much better than many other countries, but we might not survive the secondary effects of an embargo against them. It’s like the online problems with hackers, who can’t cause much trouble by themselves but can create a distributed denial of service incident and shut down a large organization.

BTW, according to my own survey, Japan is not going to go nuclear. I happened to run into a couple of Japanese friends of mine recently, and I commented that there is talk that Japan could go nuclear very quickly if they chose to do that, and one of them said that Japan would never do that, and the other did not dispute that conclusion. How’s that for analysis in depth? :-) OTOH, when I suggested that Japan is widely respected for technological expertise, so its enemies should understand that if Japan chooses not to have nuclear weapons it is not because they can’t make them, they did not disagree with that.

Finally, I listened to your interesting discussion of the environment for a little while before I had to disappear off to work. (Work is the curse of the drinking class, and it raises H with political activism, too:-) According to someone who was cited in a National Geographic article a couple of years ago, it would take 40 times what the Kyoto accords could accomplish to really do much good. If they had said 2X, that wouldn’t seem so bad, and it might be worthwhile to take the first step, in hopes of finding ways to do better as we go along. If the figure is really anywhere near 40X, then we should quit beating that dead horse and look outside the box for a real solution. I predict that if we fail to solve the global warming problem, it will be not because conservatives demanded the freedom to buy big cars (when I had a wife and children, we really enjoyed our full size van where we could all be comfortable) but because environmentalists insisted on punitive solutions and fought against anything else.

And, I have heard some of your co-workers in the environmental movement talk about converting the Carbon dioxide from burning coal to a liquid and hiding it in various places; I think Senator Clinton is one who was advocating that. I don’t know what the process was that she had in mind, but I ran through some back-of-the-envelope calculations and it appears that in order to condense the carbon dioxide directly from the flue gas to a liquid, the compressors would use more power than the plant produced. I am not denying that there could be a solution; indeed, I can think of ways that do not seem to have been tried; I am, however, saying that W (like your guest in the recorded interview you played last Wednesday morning) may not be all that much better at engineering than Hillary, but at least he knows he doesn’t have the answer.

Dick Hatzenbuhler
Deering, NH

Sunday
Oct152006

EDUCATION FUNDING AND 11/06 ELECTION

By Ed Mosca

USEFUL IDIOTS

Lenin is credited with coining the term “useful idiots,” which he supposedly used to refer to supporters of the Soviet Union living in Western democracies. They were idiots because they unwittingly were supporting a cause that would destroy the freedoms and prosperity they enjoyed under democratic governments. When it comes to education funding, the term fits those candidates running for State office who want to define an adequate education “so the Supreme Court doesn’t do it for us.”

Obviously, their line of thinking is predicated on the notion that, if only the Legislature and Governor “finally” were to define an adequate education, the Court would then defer to this definition and the corresponding determination of the cost. A brief history lesson is in order because, as the saying goes, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

The Court first asserted that the representative branches needed to define an adequate education in Claremont I, which was issued in 1993. It provided no guidelines for doing so, telling the representative branches that they were free to choose from a “wealth of historical data … spanning more than three hundred years.”

Despite over 200 years of history and precedent to the contrary, the representative branches took at face value this absolutely incredible proposition that the words a “duty to cherish public schools” were really code for a “duty to define an adequate education,” and through the State Board of Education defined an adequate education. And how did the Court respond? Only four years later, in Claremont II, it ruled the State Board’s definition was unconstitutional, claiming that it did not “sufficiently reflect the letter or spirit of the State Constitution’s mandate.”

What’s more, no longer were the representative branches free to define an adequate education based on a “wealth of historical data.” Now the constitution required the definition to be based upon seven “aspirational guidelines” articulated in a 1986 decision by the Supreme Court of Kentucky.

Rather than asking the obvious question what the aspirations of Kentuckian judges could possibly have to do with the New Hampshire constitution, the Legislature and Governor virtually bent over backwards to comply with Claremont II. Committees were formed, forums were convened and experts were consulted. Ultimately, a study prepared by Augenblick & Myers was used to set the cost of an adequate education.

And then what happened? The Claremont plaintiffs immediately returned to court, claiming that the Legislature had not correctly calculated the cost of an adequate education. Among other things, they claimed that the formula didn’t use the proper assessment tests to gauge student performance and didn’t contain enough money for transportation and capital costs.

While the Supreme Court declined to adjudicate these claims, it did not do so out of any deference to the representative branches. Rather, it wanted the plaintiffs to bring these claims in the trial court first for the development of a factual record.

If history is any guide then, defining an adequate education in a manner that “allows for an objective determination of costs,” which is the Court’s latest rendering of what the “duty to cherish public schools” supposedly requires, will lead to more litigation and more judicial micromanaging of education policy. As soon as the ink is dry on the next definition, you can be sure that those who don’t like the result will call upon the Court to answer such age-old jurisprudential questions as what is the true cost of the three years of high school English the definition requires, whether three years allows an adequate read of Shakespeare and, most importantly, whether Macbeth can be adequately taught by teachers whose salaries are not commensurate with those in Massachusetts.

And if history is any guide, you can be sure that the Court will be more than happy to answer such questions.

There is a bigger issue, however, than whether defining an adequate education will appease the Court. It is what type of government we will live under. Those now advocating that the Legislature and Governor define an adequate education should consider the views expressed by Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address: “the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, … the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”