Dem Lynch Mob Might Hang President’s Hopes - 07-16-09
A Varied Menu For You To Consider - 06-25-09
Notre Dame And Obama
Offer A Splendid Lesson - 05-21-09
Upsets Even Liberals - 03-26-09
‘Adults In Wonderland’
Need To Get Real - 01-15-09
This Time It’s Indians
Who Break The Treaty - 12-18-08
Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
One Reader Thinks So - 12-11-08
Top Athletes Should
Know When to Quit? - 7-24-08
Omaha Stars Again
On National TV Stage - 7-02-08
Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08
"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" - 2-27-08
"Nosy Congress Makes
Three Bad Calls" - 10-26-07
"Right Decision Could
Help Both Fair, UNL" - 10-12-07
"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.
First, a reminder:
Attractive, hardbound copies of “Life With Marian”—a book which a good many readers have said they would be interested in owning—are still available for purchase (for $22.50) at The Bookworm in Countryside Village. If more convenient, you can now also send a check payable to Harold W. Andersen for $26.66 (includes tax and postage) and mail to me at P.O. Box 27347, Omaha, NE, 68127. A copy will be sent by return mail.
August 13, 2009
So a Gallup six-month “tracking poll,” conducted in the six months ended June 30, has been interpreted as indicating that Nebraska is one of the eight states which Gallup considers to be politically “competitive.”
Good news not only for Nebraska Democrats—if a six-month polling process can accurately track a continuing political trend, especially in this particular six-month period, following the uplift which Democrats received from Barack Obama’s election and early months in office.
I say good news not only for Democrats but for Nebraskans in general because the American political system functions best when elections represent spirited, substantial competition between the two major political parties.
The polling of 1,035 adults over the six-month period showed 43% of Nebraskans identified themselves as Democrats or leaning Democratic, while 42% said they were Republican or leaning Republican.
One wonders what Gallup pollsters would have found if they had surveyed a representative sample of Nebraskans over, say, a three-day period last weekend.
Certainly Obama’s political fortunes have slipped since the early months covered by the January-June tracking poll. A nationwide Gallup poll over a July weekend showed his overall approval rating down to 54% and only 40% of those polled supporting his national health insurance plan.
And, as a news story indicated, political leanings don’t mean much unless translated into votes. At the time of the most recent general election last November, 48% of Nebraska registered voters were Republicans and 34% were Democrats.
But the Gallup designation of Nebraska as a state that is politically “in play” is helpful, of course, to Democratic candidates in terms of financial support from the national Democratic party and in terms of encouraging strong candidates, which has been a major Democratic problem in recent years. (Except in the case of Senator Ben Nelson who, incidentally but importantly, is in trouble with some liberal Democrats because he doesn’t automatically march to Obama’s tune, being more a moderate than a liberal Democrat.)
If the designation of Nebraska as a “competitive” state in political terms is accurate, subject to the qualifications that I have noted above, the “competitive” label appropriately provides encouragement for Democratic candidates and fair notice to Republicans
* * *
When it comes to taxes, are too many Nebraskans, including especially those in Omaha this time of the city budget year, what might be appropriately called crybabies?
As for Nebraskans in general, I have in mind the continuing efforts to impose legal limits on state spending and to cut nearly all major taxes in Nebraska, including sales, income, property and automobile registration taxes. (The most recent sweeping call for such tax reductions was included in a recent report from a newly-formed organization calling itself Nebraska Renaissance, made up of f business, farm and community representatives from across the state.)
When it comes to cutting taxes, advocates pretty consistently fail to say very specifically what governmental services they think should be reduced or eliminated as a result of the reduction in tax revenues.
In Omaha, the current “crybaby” attitude toward taxes manifests itself, for one significant example, in the attitude of a City Council majority.
If the city budget is to be balanced this year and next year, there will have to be either a modest increase in taxes or a reduction in spending. But a majority of City Council members have taken a stand against any increase in taxes, without offering newly-elected Mayor Jim Suttle any significant suggestions as to how to reduce expenditures.
Suttle’s reaction has included such unpopular moves as closing swimming pools a week early and such unwise decisions as grounding police helicopters and postponing a police recruiting class from November to January.
My vote would be for increasing the city property tax enough to met at least the most pressing city budgetary needs, with property tax revenues supplemented by something like a special levy on entertainment venues.
Some cutback in spending would obviously be helpful, but I wouldn’t include grounding police helicopters and delaying police recruiting classes. And levying a trash collection fee—if the Legislature could be persuaded to lift the ban—would be very difficult to apply fairly and could encourage illegal dumping.
I believe one proposal that should most definitely be avoided would be the calling of a state constitutional convention. This was suggested as a possibility by the newly-formed Nebraska Renaissance group, citing reduction in the number of counties in the state as a possible subject for a constitutional convention.
If the state were badly served by the present constitution—and there is no proof that this is so, in my opinion—a constitutional convention would be in order. But lacking evidence of pressing need, calling a convention would open the door to every special interest group in the state to seek some kind of special consideration through this or that constitutional amendment.
The case for a constitutional convention would need stronger evidence than a suggestion that it might address reducing the number of counties. I have never seen a credible study that makes a strong money-saving case for merging counties. And a fight over which counties lose their county seat towns in case of merger would be figuratively bloody and protracted.
* * *
My thinking as to whether a good many Nebraskans, currently including a good many Omahans, could fairly be called “tax crybabies” was stimulated, I confess, by a story in The News & Observer, published in Raleigh, North Carolina and carrying this headline: “The new plan: more taxes for all.”
The subheadline read: “Increased sales and sin taxes, and a new tax surcharge projected to raise nearly $1 billion.”
The story reported that after more than a month of strained negotiations about how to raise money to offset a gigantic state budget deficit, the Democratic majority in the Senate decided on a path: “Raise the tax burden on everybody.”
Even if North Carolina taxes are increased by as much as the North Carolina Senate is proposing, Democratic majority members say that painful cuts will be necessary. Proposals include cutting thousands of teacher jobs and raising the average class size, reducing health care benefits for the poor and closing prisons.
I’m not suggesting that there aren’t “tax crybabies” in North Carolina, too. But the news from North Carolina should help put Nebraska’s and Omaha’s tax problems in better perspective.
Better economic conditions and better governmental management, I believe, have put Nebraska in a much more favorable position than a good many other states when it comes to budget deficits and the need for tax increases. We should be thankful for that, of course, but still realize the need for continuing state tax rates (with the possible exception of some income tax rates) at least at the current level and the need for modest increases in Omaha’s municipal tax rates.
* * *
Some jottings from a journalist’s notebook:
--I’m reading these days with one eye, the other being temporarily out of action because of an infection, so I had to re-read the statement in The New York Times editorial two or three times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I saw.
The subject was the fact that Congress, under strong pressure from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, had placed a cap on production of the F-22 fighter plane. The Times endorsed the Congressional decision to end production of F-22s at 187 planes but “four more than we think are merited,” The Times editorial added.
Regular readers of The Times editorials know that the editors think they could manage all manner of things better than those responsible for the management—including the White House, the Pentagon, etc., etc.
But this was the first time I had seen The Times throw its editorial support behind such detailed, micromanagement as suggesting that the cap of F-22 production had been set four airplanes higher (that figures to be about 2%) than the total The Times would have approved.
--Those two young journalists who illegally ventured into North Korea and were rescued by former President Bill Clinton did a foolish thing but, inadvertently, may have contributed to a new initiative in the efforts of the United States to talk some sense into Korean dictator Kim Jong II. It gave the secretive, ailing, erratic, egotistical North Korean ruler an opportunity to sit beside a former United States president in a formal photograph carried around the world—a clear boost to Kim’s ego.
The result could be bad, in the judgment of some commentators. But I believe the Clinton visit could open a new avenue for hopefully successful negotiations to end the threat of North Korea developing nuclear weapons.
--I’ve commented in this space from time to time on the fact that national news media are pantingly eager to cover, live, nearly every public appearance by President Obama—and he has a lot of them.
But to their credit, NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox did not broadcast live Obama’s appearance at a town hall meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. CNN, something of a Obama lapdog, not surprisingly provided a live telecast.
* * *
One of the considerations which friends extend to you when you are celebrating a birthday as you advance further into the mature years is the fact that they reduce the number of candles, so you’re not embarrassed by the fact that you can’t blow them all out.
I’ve reached the stage where most of the cakes which came my way had only a single candle. I could handle that.
I had occasion to thank a number of people for remembering my birthday, and I decided this was the proper response.
I’ve been blessed with reasonably good health and mental capacity as the years have rolled by. Among the reasons I feel blessed is the fact that an occasion like my 86th birthday gave me the opportunity to say thank you to so many good friends and tell them that my continuing friendship with them has been the principal blessing of my longevity—except, of course, for the blessing of continuing a marriage(it’s been 57 years now) to an incomparable wife named Marian.
The incomparable Marian with her household support team.
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