Posts Tagged ‘5%’

On Gary Johnson, Third Parties, and 5%

October 31, 2012 1 comment

Today, I officially cast my 2012 ballot by participating in early voting. Upon completion of my ballot, I shared on facebook who I voted for which opened up conversation and allowed me to explain my views. One issue that was raised repeatedly (particularly by my friends in the Army) was the fact that I didn’t vote for Gary Johnson. It could be considered strange that my lack of a vote for a distantly-polling Libertarian candidate raised any eyebrows at all. However, one specific request made sense to me. I was asked to explain how a vote for Obama helps America more than empowering third parties. This is going to require some background information.

First of all, why would a vote for Gary Johnson “empower” third parties? The answer is a bit mixed. It would not at all empower third parties. It would empower one, single party: the Libertarian Party. This empowerment is addressed in Gary Johnson’s latest ad campaign, “Be the Five Percent,” which explains that by acquiring 5% of the popular vote this election cycle, the Libertarian party will receive federal funds and greater access to the presidential ballots in 2016. This fact was difficult to verify, but I finally found a source that seems to confirm it, to some extent. So it is true that if Gary Johnson receives 5% of the vote, the two-party system will be dealt a blow of sorts.

I am a frequent, open critic of the current state of the two-party system. I hate the partisanship. I hate the incentive structure that is created through this system–one which rewards more extreme candidates. I hate that the plurality of Americans are not represented by either party and thus have no role in the federal legislative process. I have taken some minimal steps toward a future of actively fighting against the two-party system, weakening its power grip. To many, this implies that I would be in favor a third party or third-party candidates. I am not.

Another party would not solve the problem of the unrepresented moderate. Here is a great article about what it means to be moderate by (moderate) conservative David Brooks. The gist of it is that moderates base their political vision on facts and data–observable from history–to make decisions. As the article explains:

For a certain sort of conservative, tax cuts and smaller government are always the answer, no matter what the situation. For a certain sort of liberal, tax increases for the rich and more government programs are always the answer.

The moderate does not believe that there are policies that are permanently right. Situations matter most. Tax cuts might be right one decade but wrong the next. Tighter regulations might be right one decade, but if sclerosis sets in then deregulation might be in order.

(emphasis added)

Meeting the threshold to put the Libertarian Party on the ballot, then, does nothing toward meeting my goal to see unaffiliated, non-partisans in decision-making roles. In fact, I am of the opinion that the libertarian ideology is among the least flexible, least situational of any I know. Libertarians, as a general rule will answer to cut, to legalize, and to privatize. Their expanded role in our political process would simply mean that there is yet another rigid ideology pushing platitudes and making compromise difficult. Rigidity is the enemy.

Rather than cast a “protest vote,” in the presidential election, I will vote for a candidate who can win within the current system. One I believe in, at that. If you want to end the vice grip of power that the two major political parties hold, I would recommend doing so far outside of the context of a presidential ballot. Take measures to actually reform the current electoral system. Start with your state, as state electoral policy determines primary election formats, procedures required to get on the ballot, and other important electoral issues.

You should also consider any qualified, intelligent non-partisan candidate for a congressional seat if (s)he does not have any views with which you vehemently oppose. I voted for an unaffiliated candidate for the Senate, although in heavily Democratic Maryland, he stands little chance.

But the key here is to start locally, where one vote counts more than it does nationally. Local officials are responsible for creating the state-by-state systems that are rigged toward the parties. Small congressional districts are more-easily moved than nationwide electorates. If there is less partisanship at the state level, and less partisanship in congress, things will move in the right direction. Government reform, cooperation, and non-partisanship need to be prioritized in voting blocs which can be realistically achieved before tackling the largest voting bloc there is. Focusing on a presidential ballot to enact change just isn’t going to get it done.

On Taxes. I’m So Sick of Writing About Mitt Romney’s Tax Plan

October 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I think I’ve finally made sense out of the rhetoric about Governor Romney’s tax plan; of the independent reports and of the “6 reports” that disputed the first report. I think I know what’s going on. It was hidden in Romney’s answers tonight, of all places. Listening to President Obama and Romney discuss Romney’s tax proposals reminded me of the old Highlights Magazines in doctors’ office waiting rooms. There are two pictures side by side, and you have to pick out the differences. They’re subtle, but they’re there. Did you hear it? Were you listening?

Here it is. Obama talks about the tax rates for the top 2% (generally couples above $250,000; individuals above $200,000). If you cut those tax rates by 20%, as Romney proposes, then there don’t appear to be enough deductions to eliminate to make up for the lost revenue just from that bracket.

However, Romney talked about the top 5%, and maintaining the same share of the tax burden as they currently pay (about 60% of income taxes). Now, first of all, maintaining the same share of the tax burden does not rule out a tax cut if everyone else is also getting a tax cut. But that aside, the 5% versus the 2% is how they make the numbers work. If the top 5% are getting deductions eliminated, then revenue neutrality can be achieved even if the top 2% are getting a cut, paid for by reduced deductions for the 95th-97th percentiles (the next 3%).

I don’t know the general income numbers for those percentiles, but I have a hunch that it lines up fairly well with Martin Feldstein’s defense of Romney’s plan which called for eliminating deductions for all those making over $100,000 a year. And thus, if you make between $100,000 and $200,000 as an individual or the equivalent tax bracket as a couple, Mitt Romney’s tax plan is likely to hurt you. And that’s what we learned in tonight’s debate. Obama’s plan hurts the top 2%. Romney’s plan will probably help the top 2% on the backs of the next 3%. And hopefully, I’ll never write about Mitt Romney’s tax plan again.