Sunday, October 29, 2006

Kevin Litten for Iowa Governor

Nestled safely in his mountaintop bunker in Montana, Bawb probably doesn't care who wins the Iowa governor's race. But for those of us stuck here in occupied Iowa, it is a matter of some importance. (Okay, Bawb doesn't have a mountaintop bunker, but I understand that he has stockpiled a box of Chiclets in his sock drawer.) I recently corresponded via email with the Libertarian candidate for the Iowa governorship, Mr. Kevin Litten. (Picture at left.)

Ben: You weren't on the televised gubernatorial debates. How does the establishment media justify not inviting you, even though you're on the ballot?

Kevin Litten: In America we have a “free” press. What this means is that unless the mere mention of your name sells papers or increases ratings (i.e. you have celebrity status) you can have all the press you can buy. I don’t know that I have seen an actual candidates’ debate in my lifetime. What we have now are actually sponsored forums. Candidates don’t debate each other but give timed sound bites on prearranged forums. This gives the impression of fairness. It is actually a media circus set up to increase market share for the sponsor or ingratiate the candidates towards them. It is not about ideas or issues. People who believe it is the role of the media to disseminate the truth are living in a fantasy world.

Ben: The two plans offered by the Republikrats on improving education appear to be: a) Dump more money into public schools. b) Test and evaluate public schools, then dump more money into them. Is there a third alternative?

Kevin Litten: To improve our schools there must be real choice and real competition. There should be as many choices between schools as there are for grocery stores. Students should be able to move from one school to another as they please. They should be able to get their education at home, from a private school, over the internet, or from a government run tax funded school. The government could give the student a voucher and they could us (sic) it at the school of their choice. We unfortunately can’t do this yet because of federal regulations but the movement is underway. Iowa’s charter school law essentially outlaws charter schools. It needs to be changed. Good teachers ought to be paid better than poor teachers and teachers should have the choice of moving between schools too.

Ben: As a working pharmacist, you have a unique perspective on healthcare that the two career politicians seeking the governorship don't have. Is there a problem with healthcare in Iowa? If so how do we improve it?

Kevin Litten: So many of Iowa’s health care problems come from our federal government’s interference, as Allan (sic) Greenspan used to say, “those strategies only make sense because of the perverse tax incentives we have today.” Until that cycle can be broken one way out would be medical savings accounts. You would buy a catastrophic health plan from an insurance company and then put another amount of money into a tax free savings account to cover minor medical problems, if needed. After the account reaches a certain size you wouldn’t need to pay into it anymore and could draw interest from it or use it as collateral for loans. This gives the holder an incentive to stay healthy, something few of our plans have today.

Ben: Bawb and I are avowed gun nuts. Would you like to see any changes in Iowa's gun law's?

Kevin Litten: Sorry to be lazy here, but I found a group that is close enough to my own feelings that I’ll let them do the talking for me: I notice that both Jim Nussle and Chet Culver are A rated by the NRA. So a vote for any one of us could be seen as a pro-gun vote.

Ben: As governor, would you push for any changes in Iowa's taxes?

Kevin Litten: Iowa is generally ranked as a tax hell, one of the bottom ten states for individuals or corporations. We can’t bring those rates down until we reduce the size of Iowa’s government, no other gubernatorial candidate is talking about doing that except me. By the time government gives you everything you want it will have taken from you everything you have. Most people would rather have a smaller government with fewer services than a large expensive one that tries to provide too many things. Smaller governments are also less prone to corruption although I would like to see more transparency in Iowa’s expenditures no matter what size it is.

Ben: Anything else you'd like to add?

Kevin Litten: Throughout my campaign I have met the nicest people. I have received the kindest words of encouragement and support. I have been treated courteously where ever I went. This is such a surprise when I consider how dysfunctional (can I say corrupt) our political system is.

Ben: If anyone would like to help out in these last days before the election, what can they do?

Kevin Litten: In the 10 days or so remaining please let your online friends know that it is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and receive it. Your vote for me will send a message to whoever wins that you want fewer taxes and less government. It is all about being heard. Send that message by voting against them. Please vote for me this November. Thank you –

Ben: Thank you very much for your time Mr. Litten.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Next Time They Ask for $$$$

I too have left the Republican Party. Perhaps I should say the Republican Party left me. This year I'm going with the Constitution party, which is showing some nice increases in Montana. One of the biggest issues that has turned me off on the Republikrats is immigration. For those of you who may still receive those "Beg-A-Thon" calls from the RNC, here is a little something you can send them as a "donation". Perhaps they will get the message.

My Declaration of Independence

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one person to dissolve the political bands which have connected him with a party, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation. Today I must regrettably leave the Republican Party.

This has not been an easy decision to make. You see, I came of age politically about the time that the Republican “revolution” of the mid 1990’s was in full swing. I liked the Republican’s ideas about smaller government, a strong military, and lower taxes. Besides, I liked that they were supposedly the underdog party, taking on the “establishment” party which had been in control of Congress for forty years.

So, with my dog-eared copy of the Contract With America (which was inspired largely by President Reagan‘s 1985 state of the union address), I volunteered my time and my money to the Party and her candidates. I wrote letters to the editor, voted in straw polls and primaries, and locked horns with anyone who impugned the Republicans.

Things went well for a while. My party eventually gained control of both houses in Congress, then in 2000, the Whitehouse. Now at last they could advance their conservative ideals relatively unopposed. Surely balanced budgets, massive governmental reform, Congressional term limits, and shrinking budgets would be the order of the day. But, as anyone who’s been awake for the past six years knows, that surely didn’t happen. To their credit, the Republicans did roll back a few infringements on the Second Amendment. And they did cut taxes, but coupled that with massive spending increases that even the Democrats wouldn’t have dreamt of.

Now the party of the Balanced Budget Amendment, fiscal conservatism, and spending restraint has increased federal spending by 33% since 2001. Lest you think this is due to unforeseen disasters like 9-11 or Hurricane Katrina, if you factor out defense, homeland security and Katrina relief, discretionary spending has increased 34% in that time. Federal spending has grown twice as fast under President Bush as under President Clinton. And that rate of growth is accelerating, from 4.1% growth in federal spending in 2001 to 7.9% in 2005.

Now the number of “pork projects,” special appropriations that are “earmarked” for specific recipients in a Congressman’s home district rather going through the usual competitive application process, has jumped from 4,326 in 2000 to 13,997 in 2005. A recent Republican highway bill contained 6,371such earmarks, costing $25 billion. Somewhere up above, President Reagan is clutching his old veto pen sadly.

Now the party of welfare reform has increased “anti-poverty” spending by 39% under President Bush to a record 16% of all federal spending. Medicaid rolls expanded by 10 million and Food Stamp rolls by 8 million between 2001 and 2005. The average benefit levels grew faster than the rate of inflation. The conservative party even created a brand new welfare entitlement program, the Medicare drug plan, with no plan on how to pay for it. A universal entitlement that will go to all seniors regardless of need, it will cost $2 trillion over the next two decades. The Republicans even backed away from their own timid attempts to reform the socialist Ponzi scheme of Social Security.

Now the party that respects the individual wants to know what books the individual reads and who the individual talks to on the phone.

Now the party of states’ rights and defined federalism has increased federal control of many traditionally local activities from fire-rescue services, to law enforcement, to education. Once wanting to eliminate the federal Department of Education, the Republicans have increased funding to it by 137% from 2001 to 2006.

Now that the Republican Party are merely hawkish Democrats, I turn to the Libertarian Party, which I hope will more adequately express my beliefs in smaller, less intrusive government, and more personal freedom. Like many people I’ve heard who switched parties (like former Democrats Ronald Reagan and Phil Gram) I feel that the party left me, not that I left the party. On a few issues I have changed my mind from when I was young, but mostly the party has changed, at least from what I understood it to stand for.

Perhaps someday the Republican Party will return to me. I’ll be here waiting. Until then, I will be voting Libertarian. Will I waste my vote? No more than I have for the past twelve years.