Productive politicians ignore voters?
By Paul Jacob
Obama is in the White House and all is right with the world.
According to media far and wide, this is the upshot of the President’s post-Election Day shellacking turned lame-duck session triumph. Congress passed a deal to keep the Bush tax cuts in place, repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and ratified the START treaty with Russia.
Rs and Ds “worked together” and “got things done.”
In the glow of his new-found political success, before leaving our nation’s capital for Christmas, President Barack Obama expressed his “hope heading into the New Year . . . that we can continue to heed the message of the American people.”
This raises two important questions: (a) will the President and other politicians in Washington really listen to (and follow the desires of) the voters, and (b) what is the message from the American people?
More cynical observers might suspect that the “progress” in the lame-duck session, while indeed a reaction to the election results, was intended not to abide by those results, but to take action before those results could take office with the new Congress.
Certainly, the Obama Administration and congressional Democrats were not heeding the will of the public when it came to passing an unpopular stimulus spending bill or the even more unpopular “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Instead, they enacted their agenda with the whopping legislative majorities they enjoyed the public be damned . . . and before any swelling voter unrest could change the political soup.
It’s difficult to see the frenzy of lame-duck session activity as not simply more of that same dynamic: Act before the public prevents such action. Only this time with a more certain and fast approaching deadline.
In fact, in calculating the receptiveness of the President to the voters’ message, I note that the election was a clear repudiation of the very agenda that the President trumpeted anew at last week’s news conference. “So I think it’s fair to say,” said the always humble Mr. Obama, “that this has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years that we’ve had in generations.”
However “productive” the last two years may have been, the public will has been roundly ignored. Thus, championing that record of unpopular governance hardly bodes well for the future heeding of recent election results.
But amidst the ballots cast by voters and the garbled reception of their message by Mr. Obama and other politicians in Washington, last week saw the announcement of voting results that are much more difficult, if not impossible, to disregard.
Again last week, in response to a reporter’s question about the proverbial car that Obama has so often blamed Republicans (rightly) for driving into the proverbial ditch (stuck even deeper into the mire by Democrats), our President offered that now “the American people are driving the car.”
Yes, indeed, Americans are driving their cars — and moving vans — to states that have no income tax. It’s called voting with one’s feet. And the results from this balloting of sorts are a clear, unmistakable desire to live where the fruit of one’s labor is not taxed.
As Michael Barone wrote in the Washington Examiner, “Seven of the nine states that do not levy an income tax grew faster than the national average. The other two, South Dakota and New Hampshire, had the fastest growth in their regions, the Midwest and New England.”
This population change, just announced by the Census Bureau, isn’t merely a fun fact to know and tell. As congressional seats are reapportioned, twelve states are gaining seats and eight states are losing at least one of their representatives in Congress. The shift is moving political clout away from high-tax states and toward low-tax states.
A study by Americans for Tax Reform shows that the average income tax rate in state gaining congressional seats is 2.8 percent, while the average income tax rate in states losing seats is over 6 percent. The ATR analysis also found that, in addition to lower taxes, the twelve states gaining seats had less government spending and tended to have “right to work” laws in place.
It is the politician’s stock-in-trade to spin poll numbers and even election results. And give Mr. Obama his due: He is a master politician. But the migration of people seeking a better life by finding more common sense government is much harder to twist and distort and ignore.
There was a strong message sent in November’s election that Americans want an end to massive government growth and massive government spending. Over the last decade, in votes conducted with our feet, Americans have gone further, saying (in effect) that taxes on our productivity, on our income, is undesirable.
Don’t hold your breath for Obama and our Washington rulers to properly decode this message, though.