About The GOP Tax Plan

After ruminating on it for the past day, this is my official post about the GOP Tax Plan, more formally known as the Tax Cut and Jobs Act.

I LIKE taxes, but I am by no means an expert despite my Master’s in Accounting, though I have prepared taxes for some folks over the past few years and like to remain informed. While this plan has not yet passed even one house of Congress, knowing about the plan and how it affects you and your family is good information to have and can be used when discussion your opposition/support of the plan with your elected officials.

Axios has provided a couple of great breakdowns about the tax plan. First, here’s a nice breakdown of what the tax plan actually is, and a subsequent piece that breaks down the winners and loser because of the plan. If you prefer to go straight to the source, the GOP Ways and Means Committee, and its chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) has provided a bulleted list as well. You can check that out at this link. Continue reading

On Honoring Our Fallen

Note: I often go on little rants on Twitter when the mood strikes instead of writing things here. As such, I’ve decided to go back and pull the threads and change them into blog posts, if only so this blog doesn’t sit completely fallow between times when I decide to post things. Plus, it will allow me to finish some thoughts that might not have been complete due to character limits on Twitter. Check out the tag “Twitter Rants” for all the posts like this. They will be posted on the date that I initially did the thread.

In the latest adventures of “Donald Trump is a Horrible President” this week, there was some controversy regarding the contacting of families of some fallen Soldiers that had died nearly two weeks ago during operations in Niger. Not only did he not acknowledge their deaths when they were announced – instead tweeting about the NFL or going golfing – but he also accused past presidents of never calling the families of Service Members that had died. This, as is most of what Trump says these days, was patently false, but it only snowballed from there. When reports surfaced of the phone call he had with one of the new Gold Star widows – basically stating to her in her moment of grief that her husband “knew what he had signed up for,” he reached a new low in his presidency.

I retweeted some threads about why his word usage probably wasn’t the best, but then I decided to write my own thread based on my experiences with dealing with funeral details from when I worked for the Army. The actual Twitter thread is below, but after that, I went back and expanded further on what I wrote now that I’ve had some time to think some more.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>THREAD (of my own): When I worked for the Army, I never had the honor of escorting a hero home, or even meeting them at the airport</p>&mdash; Robert 4 Clinton (@GuruEbby) <a href=”https://twitter.com/GuruEbby/status/920500061808746496?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 18, 2017</a></blockquote>

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When I worked for the Army, I personally never had the honor of escorting a hero home, or even meeting them at the airport. I was a junior rank, in the Reserves, and it just wasn’t in the mission of our organization to do so. However, for a brief time during the “surge” – 2005-2008 or so, maybe a little later – the AGRs (full-time Reservists) that I worked with had to be ready for “funeral detail.” Continue reading

Special Elections Fallout for Utah’s CD-3

Utah is a very conservative state, at least when it comes to election results. But the election of Trump last November has made “Turning Utah Blue!” the cause of choice for many liberal activist in the state, especially in light of our very own special election coming in November to replace everyone’s least favorite Congressman (who somehow received 70%+ of the vote in three straight elections) Jason Chaffetz.

Both parties had conventions on June 17th to determine who will be running on their side of the ticket, or, in the case of the Republicans, to determine who would run in a primary held in August. The Democrats nominated the prohibitive favorite, a “progressive” doctor that raised money based on a platform of “Chaffetz is bad” and “strong medicine,” even though her platform positions are often only headline deep and she just doesn’t like people that don’t constantly praise her campaign.

Meanwhile, the Republicans nominated a man in Chris Herrod that has attempted to scrub the internet of all his truly ghastly policy positions – like calling welfare recipients “pigs at the trough” – over much more “mainstream” Republicans like Deidre Henderson. Unfortunately for Herrod, Utah allows candidates that get a requisite number of signatures on petitions to bypass the convention and go straight to the primary ballot, much to the chagrin of a lot of people in the Utah Republican Party.* Because of this, Herrod gets the pleasure of going to a primary against John Curtis, a fairly popular mayor from the District’s largest city, and Tanner Ainge, who brings a famous name – and likely deep pockets – to the race.

*They are currently leading a lawsuit against the state over SB54, which was passed in the legislature a few years ago that allowed for this process, because god forbid that all the voters in the district be able to elect their candidates instead of “party elites” that attend the convention (which may or may not have collected money from delegates as they walked in the door).

Throw in the vanity United Utah Party, run by a bunch of Democrats that were tired of always losing to Republicans – who are also suing for a place on the ballot! – a Libertarian, an Independent American, and a couple of others and you get what will probably end up being much ado about nothing in November. As a reminder, let’s take a look at the last three Congressional elections since the current CD-3 came to be:

UT District 3 Candidate Votes Percentage
2016 Chaffetz (R) 209,589 73.46%
  Tryon (D) 75,716 26.54%
2014 Chaffetz (R) 102,952 72.35%
  Wonnacott (D) 32,059 22.53%
  Three others 7,289 5.12%
2012 Chaffetz (R) 198,828 76.61%
  Simonsen (D) 60,719 23.39%

Source: Utah Lieutenant Governor

I’m sorry to break it to you, but unless something dramatic happens by November that makes it personally toxic to vote for a Republican, the chances of any non-Republican winning this special election is probably less than 5%. However, as with the other special elections that have happened this year, closing the gap a bit from previous election should be viewed as a positive result. Look at the presidential results in CD-3 during the past two elections:

UT District 3 Candidate Votes Percentage
2016 Trump (R) 136,782 47.18%
  McMullin (IAP) 70,933 24.47%
  Clinton (D) 67,461 23.27%
2012 Romney (R) 208,121 78.28%
  Obama (D) 51,791 19.48%

Source: Daily Kos

Hillary Clinton came in third in the district in November! I get the McMullin made the 2016 race unique, at least in Utah (remember when people said he could get our Electoral College vote? That was a fun two weeks), and even Romney’s Mormonism probably pushed him up a few points in 2012, but DEMOCRATS DO NOT DO WELL IN THIS DISTRICT!

We can continue to try and apply the “shift” in the other four special elections to what we might end up seeing in CD-3 in November, but even the most optimistic of shifts would not lead a non-Republican to victory. In my opinion, Democrats should celebrate ending up with more than 30% of the vote in which will end up (potentially) seven person race. And like we just saw in the South Carolina Special Election, lower turnout* might actually help the Democrat.

*I’m all about getting out the vote, but this CD-3 already has 51% of voters registered as Republicans, with less than 15% of voters registered as Democrats. Even if you got every active Democrat to the polls, picked up a majority of unaffiliated voters, and even swiped some Republicans, the numbers might not be there. And that’s in a typical environment where turnout is closer to 70%. I’m giving the over under for a total vote in this special election as 75,000. Plus, SC-5 also had other things working for the Dem besides low turnout, like a high percent of African-American voters – who tend to vote Democrat – which Utah’s CD-3 just doesn’t have (it’s over 85% white).

Garnering 30% of a vote in a district you aren’t expected to be competitive in probably won’t be covered in the national news, regardless of the perceived swing. And if you hope that moving the needle will cause other Utah Representatives to worry about their own races next year, I wouldn’t bet on that either. The only “competitive” district in Utah is Mia Love’s CD-4, and if it even looks like a Democrat is getting close to her, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee will swoop in with millions of dollars, just like they did for Karen Handel in Georgia, and like they’ve done for Love in the past.

The bottom line in all this is simply my frustration with the immediate narrative following these elections. All the special elections thus far have been in districts where the Republican Representative and/or Donald Trump dominated, which is why Trump felt safe in nominating those people to positions in his administration. While the circumstances regarding Utah’s CD-3 special election are slightly different, Chaffetz would not be leaving early if he thought that his seat would go to Democrats. I’m sorry. That’s the truth, regardless what Kathie Allen and her “fans” might tell you.

If Democrats really want to flip the house in 2018, they should be investing their money in races that are actually winnable. While there may be anywhere from 60-80 seats that are truly competitive in the House races next year (depending on what the Democrat swing ends up being in 17 months), there are currently 23 GOP Representatives sitting in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Democrats only need 24 seats to take back the majority in the house next year, so those 23 seats would be a great place to start. Throw in some of the seats that had narrow margins, or places where incumbents might be retiring, or just a general distaste for GOP policies over the next year, and it is very doable.

Continuing to throw money at candidates like Kathie Allen is not going to help, but, hey, it’s your money. If you want to see another Democrat spend way more money than they should in a losing cause, feel free to keep giving her money. I just don’t see a path to victory for her even in the friendliest environment for Democrats. Just stop expecting a monumental shift for her in November, and don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t materialize. Then maybe Utah Democrats can find an actual progressive candidate for the ballot next year, and not someone that raised money because Chaffetz said something about iPhones.

My Dad’s Republican Party

A question from my wife prompted some reflection last week. It has been something that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time, the part of my mind I don’t often go to because it still has the power to make me sad. Even though we were on completely different sides of the political spectrum, my dad and I would often have lively discussions about the political theme of the day, mostly prompted by my parents near constant listening of Fox News Radio or my dad’s viewing of Fox News.

My father was a good, hardworking, card-carrying member of the Republican Party. He went caucused when appropriate. He met Orrin Hatch and got a fancy picture with him. He even briefly flirted with running for the statehouse prior to landing his job at the post office. Ronald Reagan was the man, the near saint that many Republicans of my father’s generation hold in high esteem. If their was a Republican policy point, my dad usually fell right in line, though during the George W. Bush years, he may have voted Libertarian on at least one occasion. Continue reading