Thursday, September 30, 2010

UPDATE: Patrick's rhetoric again collides with common sense - this time on immigration

UPDATE, Sept. 30:  Turns out the Boston pilot program Patrick adamantly claimed to be waiting on ended two years ago.  The Baker campaign is taking the governor to task today in a new web video:

Here's a remarkable and telling interview with Governor Patrick about his administration's foot-dragging on joining the federal Secure Communities Program.  Under the SCP, which is quite straightforward, state and local law enforcement officials send the fingerprints of anyone arrested for a level 1 offense (bad stuff: kidnapping, homicide, sexual assault, robbery, extortion, gun possession, and drug dealing) to federal immigration officials to determine if the offender is in the country illegally.  If they are, they are turned over to the feds and (hopefully) deported.

This is the kind of thing that 9 out of 10 Americans, even in Massachusetts, might call "common sense."  But not Governor Patrick.  As  you can see in the interview below, he's refused for a year to join Massachusetts with the majority of other states that are participating in the federal program, preferring, he says, to wait on the results of a "pilot program" running in Boston.  That "pilot" started in 2006 - before Patrick even took office.  Watch the vid then keep reading below.

If you're confused about what data Patrick hopes to get from the Boston "pilot," I'm with you.  One wonders what results could possibly come back to counter the baseline common sense of checking the immigration status of people picked up for the most heinous of crimes.  According to this post by Michael Graham, Patrick's people are concerned that the federal program might "ensnare" not only level 1 offenders, but also people arrested for lower grade offenses... to which one might reasonably ask, "so what??"  Nobody who is not (a) here illegally, AND (b) engaged in some variety of criminal activity would be "ensnared" under any circumstances.  And most people would agree that people who are both (a) and (b) ought to be "ensnared."

The most remarkable thing about all of this to me (beyond Patrick's lame attempts to affect agreement with the premise of the federal program while stonewalling its implementation) is that we even need a federal program in place in order to screen violent criminals for immigration status.

There's been a lot of heated rhetoric on the immigration issue this year, and I'm not at all comfortable with some of the stuff that flies around on the far end of my side of the spectrum.  Here, though, we have a clear illustration of the kind of policy nonsense that results from adherence to the left's most liberal immigration dogma.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More on Tim Cahill's public campaign financing outrage

An interesting story on this afternoon about the division of the Commonwealth's public campaign financing pie, now that Green Rainbow candidate Jill Stein just missed the independent fund raising threshold to qualify:
With her now ineligible for public funds, state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, who has qualified for the money and will not have to divide the pool of funds with her, will get an infusion of $750,000 for his independent campaign...

Stein's falling short of qualifying also will add produce some public funding for Attorney General Martha Coakley, and state auditor candidates Suzanne Bump, the Democrat, and Mary Connaughton, the Republican, all of whom have submitted enough qualifying donations. They will divide up the remaining $288,000 of the total $1,038,000 that was appropriated this year to provide public funding.
So Tim Cahill, who started the campaign with over $3 million (much of it raised by questionable means, but never mind that for now), and who is still citing his fund raising this week to counter the growing chorus of voices calling on him to pack it in, will gobble up $750,000 of the $1,038,000 in taxpayer funds available this election cycle - leaving a mere $288,000 to be split among the three down-ticket candidates who have qualified.  This from the guy who insists he's the one the public should trust to responsibly manage the state budget.

If Cahill's entire candidacy weren't already a mass of contradictions this might be shocking.  As it is, his latest crass move is just one more argument against Cahill's drain-circling effort.

If you still don't understand why I'd use the term "outrage" to describe Cahill's public cash grab, click here and read an earlier post for a better description of the public funding qualification standards.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Speaker DeLeo to Massachusetts voters: Go screw

Asked today about the possibility that Massachusetts voters will pass ballot initiative question 3, which would roll back the Commonwealth's sales tax from its current 6.25% to 3%, House Speaker Robert DeLeo told the State House News Service: 
Well, it's nice that the voters still think we on Beacon Hill give a whiff about the ballot initiative.  Cute, really... especially after we ignored them on the five percent thing and they reelected most of us anyhow.  So sure, the voters might have another little temper tantrum, and if they do we'll make a show of soberly considering their concerns.  In the end, though, we'll pretty much do what we want to do, just like always.  They'll calm down in time for the next election.  Two years is a lifetime in politics, ya know.
Okay, fine.  That's not what DeLeo actually said.  What he actually said is:
I think that's something, if that's the will of the voters, that we'd have to take a serious look. You know, I'd have to spend some time talking to the membership about it.
 I was really just quoting the subtext of his statement.

35 days until the next election. 

You give something to get something, September edition

So Governor Patrick this week received the endorsement of the Commonwealth's firefighters' union.  The union president standing at a podium to bestow his organization's blessing - and a promise of active political support of the kind that only organized labor can provide - was none other than Robert McCarthy.

This is the same Robert McCarthy who a few months back sat in the union seat on the arbitration panel that thought it reasonable to give the Boston firefighters' union a nineteen percent raise in the context of citywide budget cuts and layoffs, in exchange for...  drug and alcohol screening. 

This might be a good time for some intrepid reporter to ask Governor Patrick again how he feels about how that whole imbroglio panned out  The union got its nineteen percent raise, but some of it was deferred a year, and only 1.5 percent instead of 2.5 percent of that was considered a "bonus" for showing up to work sober. Who says compromise is dead?

Remember the union mantra: you give something to get something.  The firefighters union bosses have now given their blessing to Deval Patrick's reelection campaign.  One wonders what they got in exchange.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nice bunker, lousy view

There's a heroic archetype in literature and especially film (extra especially Bruckheimer films): the doomed hero who sacrifices himself for his fellows.  You know the one.  The ship's captain holding steadfastly to the wheel as the water crashes into the bridge; the airline pilot who hands the last parachute to a passenger and holds the plane steady while everyone else jumps; the grizzled soldier (usually the disciplinary problem) who lays down covering fire to let the rest of his platoon escape to safety.  There is another related but slightly different archetype: the character who meets an untimely end as a result of his inability to let go of an obsession.  This is the defeated general shouting orders in an empty bunker as the bombers approach.  The key difference between the two is motivation.  The former is motivated by sacrifice; the latter by ego and obsession.

Tim Cahill is not the former.

The bombshell Globe poll yesterday that shows Charlie Baker pulling into a dead heat with Governor Patrick, with Cahill relegated to an afterthought, was not even the worst news Cahill has gotten in the last week.  Not even close.  The aggregate effect of the poll in combination with the abrupt and pointed departure of Cahill's top strategist and his campaign manager, however, is that just about every reporter and pundit writing about the race is now characterizing it as a two-man contest between Baker and Patrick.  Everyone, that is, except Tim Cahill.

"I’ve still got a great message that’s resonating," Cahill told reporters on Friday in his campaign headquarters, which, the Herald noted, is "festooned with optimistic slogans and adorned with a photo of the underdog gold medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team."  Resonating?  Depending on the poll, Cahill currently sits at anywhere from five to fourteen percent, multiples behind Baker and Patrick.  That isn't resonance.  It's pretty much the opposite of resonance.

Elsewhere (sorry - can't find it now) I read a quote from Cahill saying, basically, that he's been out campaigning all weekend, and nobody is telling him to get out of the race.  Everyone is telling him to keep fighting.  While that may indeed be true, the problem for Cahill is that he's talking to a very particular, self-selected set of 'everyone.'  People who take time out of an Indian summer weekend to come to a Cahill event are supporters - part of that five to fourteen percent of the electorate who still tell pollsters they might vote for him on election day.  They aren't the voice of the public at large. They are in the bunker with him.

At least part of Cahill seems to know this.  Hence his choice of words on the radio with antagonist Howie Carr on Friday: No "man on the street," Cahill said, is telling him to drop out.  Again, though, the "men on the street" talking to Cahill aren't the ones he needs to be hearing from.  Perhaps it speaks well of the state of political discourse in the Commonwealth that the folks taking the time to chat with Cahill are those who want to give him a pat on the back, not a thump on the head.  But the result is he's still suffering the effects of the self-selected sample.

So here's an appeal to that 5 to 14 percent out there.  Not the subset who are counting on Governor Cahill for a job at DCR, mind you.  You ought to spend your time working on the ol' résumé. But if you have been supporting Tim Cahill because you think Deval Patrick is doing a lousy job and needs to be relieved of duty; if you buy Cahill's 'fiscal conservative' rhetoric, and believe the government needs to get out of the way of small business, or cut taxes, or get control of spending; then it's time for you to step up and give your guy a much-needed dose of hard reality. 

That's easy for me to type, I know.  I've been comfortably seated aboard the S.S. Charlie Baker since the beginning.  Here are two practical, non-political reasons, though, for Cahill supporters to think about urging him to drop out of the race that have nothing to do with Charlie Baker or the (stale) conventional wisdom that Cahill's presence hurts Charlie's prospects:

1. Public financing.  I vented about this about a month ago, when Cahill initially declared his intention to accept public funds - $750,000 worth - to supplement his vaunted multi-million dollar campaign war chest.  That decision - which directly serves to deprive down-ticket candidates who actually need the money to be heard of funding that could make a real difference in those races - was offensive when Cahill made it. Now it is downright obscene.  If Cahill gets out now, that $750,000 goes back to the state coffers.  If he stays in, then every taxpayer who checked the public financing box on his or her tax return with the intention of bringing some financial parity to competitive races will instead have subsidized Tim Cahill's egpo trip to the tune of three quarters of a million bucks.

2. The debates.  There are several of them remaining, and in a neck-and-neck race between Baker and Patrick, they will be crucial to determining the outcome.  The voters should be given the opportunity to hear as much as possible from the candidates who stand a chance of being elected governor.  But don't take my word for it on this one.  Here's Tim Cahill last week, talking about Green Rainbow candidate Jill Stein:
 “It takes time away and it gets you off on a tangent,” Cahill said when asked on WRKO about the impact Stein might have on the debate, which will also feature Gov. Deval Patrick and Republican Charles Baker.  “With three of us the thing flows pretty well.  We’ve all got our message, we’re hitting each other and sort of staking out our ground.  That flow gets interrupted with Dr. Stein in the field and I think that it takes away some of the excitement, some of the controversy, the contrast between the three of us.”
Cahill was correct as to Stein, but his argument applies equally well to himself now.  In a four person debate, Cahill and Stein take fully half of the air time.  In a three person debate, Cahill will not only monopolize a third of the time, but in his desperation to change the state of play he is likely to toss the kind of rhetorical grenades around that can only serve to distract the participants and the audience from the very important differences that would otherwise be aired between Baker and Patrick.  That won't help Cahill, but it will deprive the voters of the opportunity to learn more about Patrick and Baker.

Here's how nonpartisan pundit Jon Keller put it after a prolonged interview with Cahill:
Cahill insists he has hope in this race because "my message is getting out." It is? Quick, what is it? This week's AFL-CIO endorsement, however grudging, of Deval Patrick was a blow to Cahill's hopes of positioning himself as the choice of working-class Democrats. Charlie Baker has been sufficiently mad-as-hell and specific about attacking the status quo to thwart Cahill's raid on the right. That leaves the treasurer with an uncompetitive core of, according to every recent poll, somewhere around 15% of the vote, enough only to be...the spoiler.
Tim Cahill is  the defeated general still barking orders in a windowless bunker.  He needs someone to climb in from the outside world and tell him, gently, that the war is over and he lost.

Friday, September 24, 2010

There goes another wheel (UPDATED: and another!)

Treasurer Cahill can spin this all he wants, but the very public resignation of his top strategist is nothing but bad news for  his sinking candidacy.  John Weaver is not just a run of the mill strategist; he's the national Republican figure who Cahill brought on in early March with much fanfare, imported from the McCain camp to give the Treasurer both conservative and "maverick" cred.  The terms in which Weaver is describing his split from Cahill are important.  This is not the usual candidate/consultant split over money or tactics:
“We’re in this business because we care about governing,’’ Weaver said in a telephone interview with the Globe. “As much as I like Tim and believe he’d make a great governor, the choice does not now include him. This is a race between Governor Patrick and Mr. [Charles] Baker, and I, and maybe others, can’t be a party to helping reelect the most liberal candidate,’’ Weaver said, referring to Patrick.
"[A]nd maybe others..."  There are some Republicans and conservatives in this state who have, for whatever personal or political reasons, been supporting Tim Cahill in this race.  They've fought the good fight; but now it's time to follow Weaver's lead, get back on the team and work for the next five-plus weeks to help Charlie Baker beat Deval Patrick.

UPDATE: And now there goes Cahill's campaign manager.

Another excellent new TV ad from Charlie Baker

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

He's a smooth operator... but a failed Governor

Even as post debate instant polls show Charlie Baker trouncing Governor Patrick in last night's debate, a common theme is emerging among some of his fans in the media (and yes, I know online instant polls are completely unscientific.  But they are useful in measuring relative enthusiasm).  The theme goes something like this:

Patrick "won" last night's debate by not losing.  More specifically, he "won" by remaining his usual cool, calm, unflappable self - this in contrast, the thinking goes, to the heat emanating from Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill (who seems to have settled on the classic 'flail away' strategy of a candidate who knows he is doomed but has already sunk too much money and reputation into the campaign to call it quits).

Like so many things about the Patrick campaign v.2010, this reaction is reminiscent of Patrick v.2006.  Then too Patrick maintained a lead in the polls through most of the general election cycle.  Then too pundits routinely declared him the "winner" of debates based solely on his temperament and his considerable ability to dance around the traps set by his opponents.

Patrick's debating skills are formidable, no doubt.  Any politician with his record who can utter a howler like "I think we might all basically agree on taxes" without breaking stride or cracking even the slightest hint of an ironic grin must be acknowledged as a master of the craft.  There is, however, a big and obvious difference between 2010 and 2006.  Back in 2006, Patrick was viewed as a breath of fresh air.  In 2010, he is viewed by a majority of the voters as a failed Governor.

Stated simply: the voters of Massachusetts now know, without a doubt, that a smooth debate performance does not a competent chief executive make.  Quite the opposite in fact - a conclusion that has been reinforced by the parallel under-performance of Patrick's political doppelganger in Washington.

I could be wrong (I often am when it comes to Patrick).  But I suspect that the voters of 2010 are looking for strong, decisive leadership, not treacly rhetorical palliatives.  Scott Lehigh hit it on the head in his Globe column this morning when he wrote,
[I]n a year when voters are frustrated and angry, Baker combined a sense of determination with a command of specifics that made him seem the most fearless about tackling tough problems.
Last time the voters went with the smooth operator and got 4 years with a sub-par governor.  This time they will make a different choice.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cahill redefining gall

 I don't have anything to add to the following blurb from the State House News Service, except this: in his increasingly frantic quest to regain a relevance that he may never have truly had in the first place, Tim Cahill is repeatedly redefining gall.
Treasurer Tim Cahill, who has previously expressed support for including all four candidates for governor in debates, said Tuesday morning that Green Rainbow candidate Jill Stein, who is included in tonight’s televised debate, will put a drag on the flow of the debate.   “It takes time away and it gets you off on a tangent,” Cahill said when asked on WRKO about the impact Stein might have on the debate, which will also feature Gov. Deval Patrick and Republican Charles Baker.  “With three of us the thing flows pretty well.  We’ve all got our message, we’re hitting each other and sort of staking out our ground.  That flow gets interrupted with Dr. Stein in the field and I think that it takes away some of the excitement, some of the controversy, the contrast between the three of us.”   ...  In August, Cahill, running as an independent, said it was important that all four candidates participate in the debates.  "Everyone should be able to debate," he said during a press conference on the State House steps.  Cahill on Tuesday morning said he hoped for a “very feisty” debate.  “I’m just going to try to be myself.  I don’t know if that’s good enough but that’s the best I have.," he said. 
Pot/kettle?  For good measure, the Statehouse News ends the blurb with this stiletto of an observation:
Cahill’s poll numbers have tracked closer to Stein, who has placed last in each poll, than to Patrick and Baker, consistently the leading candidates in public opinion surveys.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Patrick talking nonsense on taxes

Two belated and related observations about Governor Patrick's performance in the WBZ and WTKK radio debates held last week (click on those links to listen if you missed them - there were some fireworks, and both were quite illuminating):

First, during the WBZ debate hosted by Dan Rea, Rea asked Charlie Baker, Tim Cahill and Deval Patrick a "Goldilocks" question (paraphrased): do you think the citizens of the Commonwealth are taxed too much, too little, or just right?

Baker and Cahill answered readily - "too much."  I may have imagined hearing Governor Patrick swallowing hard before he too added, "probably too much." 

I've typed plenty about Cahill's hypocrisy on the tax issue, and his whiplash-inducing contortions as he has tried to hide his record as a Beacon Hill machine Democrat.  With Cahill languishing at five percent in the most recent poll (tied with "other"), it seems a better use of time now to concentrate on Patrick...

Rea's format did not allow for the obvious follow-up to Patrick's unlikely response: if Patrick thinks that Massachusetts taxpayers are taxed "too much," then what taxes would Patrick reduce?  Better yet: why has every single budget he filed during his first term included at least one tax increase?  Or: why have taxes been increased eight times during his administration?  Or: why did he try to increase the gas tax, and why did he recently hint to a group of supporters in Cambridge that if he's reelected, he will try to raise it again? 

Pondering all of the potential follow-up questions Patrick could have been asked, one could be forgiven for doubting the sincerity of his answer...

Second, during the WTKK debate the candidates were asked whether they pledge not to raise taxes.  Again, Baker and Cahill stated they would.  Again, the pain Governor Patrick's answer caused him was palpable.  "I have no plans to raise taxes," said the Governor, adding that he would not take a pledge because he opposes "governing by gimmick."

"No plans to raise taxes."  If that sounds ominously familiar, that's because Patrick used that line before - repeatedly - during the 2006 election campaign.  Patrick's record over the past four years - 13 tax hikes supported, eight enacted - pretty firmly establishes what Patrick means when he says he has "no plans" to raise taxes.  He means in the short term.  The very short term.  Like, "this weekend."

So here's a question I have not seen asked yet of Patrick:

If he raised taxes eight times in his first term, knowing he would have to go again before the voters in November 2010, how many tax increases should we expect from him in a second term when he knows with utter certainty that he will not be up for reelection when it is over?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Charlie on CNBC

In case you missed it, check out Charlie Baker's appearance last night on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report":

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ugly primary day for Patrick and Cahill

Try and wrap your head around the implications of this: A friend notes that of 4,467 votes cast yesterday in the South Boston Democratic primary, Governor Patrick received 1,968, or 44 percent.  How's that, you ask, when the Governor had no primary opponent?  Well, out of those 4,467 Democratic primary voters, a majority - fifty-five percent! - either left the Gov line blank or wrote in a name other than Deval Patrick.  Apparently there are more than a few discontented Ds out there who haven't received the 'on the mend and on the move' memo from the Patrick campaign yet.  Defeated decisively by "blank."  Ouch.  How embarrassing.

Speaking of embarrassing, if you missed Tim Cahill's self-immolation yesterday morning on WRKO's Tom & Todd program, do take ten minutes to listen by clicking here.  Turns out Cahill's tantrum in the Boston Herald a little over a week ago didn't emanate from anywhere near his personal rock bottom.  He's still tumbling at full speed.  Cahill's WRKO hissy fit coupled with his bizarre and paranoid polling place drama a few hours later begs the question, doesn't anyone in the Treasurer's life care enough about him to stage an intervention?

UPDATE: Never mind.  Rasmussen polling apparently decided to stage a Cahill intervention itself.  If FIVE percent (tied with "other") doesn't say "time to get out," then nothing does.  For a little context, at this point in 2006 independent Christy Mihos was polling at nine percent.  He finished at 6.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Here's hoping Deval and Tim enjoy their retirement together.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Deval Patrick's credibility problem

In his obvious alarm at losing the first debate of his political career, Deval Patrick on Tuesday night made a major tactical error, launching an attack on Charlie Baker's record as the head of Harvard Pilgrim that immediately boomeranged back on the Governor.

Executing his patented 'you deserve credit for ______, but really you're a doo-doohead' maneuver, Patrick first complimented Baker for the turnaround he pulled off at Harvard Pilgrim, then offered the back of his hand: "with the help, by the way, of state aid."

Baker's response was immediate and incredulous.  "What state aid?"

The front page of today's Globe utterly demolishes Patrick's attempt to tie Baker to a taxpayer bailout of the sort that would - if it had occurred - undermine a central tenet of Baker's fiscal prudence-themed campaign.  Some highlights:
“There wasn’t any direct dollars going to Harvard Pilgrim,’’ said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed fiscal watchdog. “The state jumped in because it didn’t want Harvard Pilgrim to fail, and they worked on a turnaround. So, yes, there was a state role, but not state aid. And that is, I think, an important distinction.’’...
Thomas F. Reilly, a former state attorney general and a Democrat who helped oversee Harvard Pilgrim when it was in receivership, said he was “astounded’’ that the governor suggested that the company had received state aid.
“Charlie Baker never asked for a dime of state money, and there was no state aid as part of the turnaround,’’ Reilly, who lost to Patrick in the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary, said in an interview. He added: “Charlie Baker asked for the chance to turn it around and the time to turn it around, and . . . he got the job done, as far as I’m concerned.’’
Read the whole thing here.  

 Over at the Phoenix, David Bernstein (often an astute liberal political observer who finds himself of late slipping helplessly into Patrick apologist mode) suggests that the "state aid" imbroglio was more a matter of misunderstood semantics than deliberate fact-fudging by the Governor:
To my mind, as I watched it (and judging from their responses to post-debate questioning), what had happened was a semantic issue. Patrick meant "state aid" in the general sense of assistance from the state government; by that meaning, he was absolutely correct. Baker thought he meant "state aid" in the specific, government-speak sense of direct payment of state funds; by that meaning, he was absolutely correct.
That read would be fine, but for one salient fact: the Patrick campaign has been and IS STILL using the term "bailout" to describe what happened at Harvard Pilgrim. Again from today's Globe article:

The governor released a statement yesterday from his campaign manager, Sydney Asbury, that said: “Charlie Baker figured out how to get a government supported bailout before even the guys on Wall Street figured out how to get their bailout from the federal government.’’
Subtle those Patrick folk, aren't they?  At the Patrick campaign website they are using the term "bailout" in scare quotes, indicating even they know it isn't accurate. But especially in the wake of last year's events on Wall Street, "bailout" is a well-defined term in the public vernacular. It means a pile of taxpayer cash, delivered into the greedy, grubbing hands of some corporate big-wig.  That, surely, is the insinuation Patrick & co. are trying to plant (any doubt on that score is obliterated by the Patrick campaign's statement, above).

Contrary to Bernstein's overly forgiving read, this little dust-up is not a matter of semantics. The Governor and his campaign are being very deliberately disingenuous.  Add that to Patrick's long record of failed promises and his graceless recent 180 on the sales tax ballot initiative, and Deval Patrick has himself a serious credibility problem.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Different Values" (or "Subtraction by Addition," or "The Race in a Nutshell")

There was a fascinating exchange last night between Charlie Baker and Governor Patrick concerning state spending (beginning at approximately the 5:40 point of the second installment of the three-part debate, available here).  Baker points out that people in the real world have dealt with the bad economy by cutting back and making do with less, and are frustrated to see state spending continue to increase, along with their taxes.  Patrick jumps in with an emphatic rebuttal.  "It's simply not true," he tells Baker indignantly, "that we haven't cut spending."  Sounds like he's accusing Baker of being dishonest, right?  Here comes the fascinating part (still Patrick): "The budget has increased from 27.2 billion, the first budget I signed, to 27.6.  Spending has increased at half the rate that it increased when you were in charge of the budget, Charlie."

Now, I'm not very good with math.  Never have been.  But a quick napkin calculation tells me that $27.6 billion dollars is more than $27.2 billion dollars.  $400 million more, to be exact - not exactly chump change even in the context of the state budget.  So contrary to the Governor's indignant initial response to Baker's criticism, it simply IS true that the Patrick Administration hasn't cut spending.  Unless, of course, you view a reduced rate of spending increase as a "cut."  Subtraction by addition.

And while it is true that state spending also increased during the period in the 1990s when Charlie was the state's top budget official, state spending during that period never exceeded state revenues - never once did the state spend more than it took in - and Massachusetts taxpayers enjoyed multiple tax cuts.  In contrast, "emergency" mid-year budget cuts forced by spending in excess of revenues has been a signature feature of every single budget cycle under Governor Patrick, even as he has increased taxes eight times.  So Patrick loses both on the veracity of his initial response, and on the fact-check triggered by his followup attack.

One would be mistaken, however, to question the man's sincerity.  In Deval Patrick's earnestly held opinion, a reduction in the growth of spending constitutes a "cut."  That is not an uncommon view amongst his ideological brethren.  It is rampant in the current Congressional leadership and in the White House, for example, with predictable results.

In any event, in that brief exchange last night we were treated to a pretty good encapsulation of the difference between the two viable candidates for Governor this year.  We can have four more years of a guy who continues to increase spending less than he'd like to increase spending, hiking our taxes time after time, and then pats himself on the back for his "cuts."  Or we can elect Charlie Baker, whose definition of "cut" comports with the one you'll find in that dictionary gathering dust on the bookshelf.

Come to think of it (speaking of that dictionary)... maybe when Patrick kept saying last night that he and Charlie simply have "different values," he was not talking about the sociological definition of that word: "the ideals, customs, institutions, etc., of a society toward which the people of the group have an affective regard."  Maybe Patrick was referring to the monetary definition of "value": "monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade."

For Patrick, a net spending increase can be a "cut."  For Charlie, a cut is a cut.  "Different values," indeed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Debate quick reax

Quick reaction to tonight's televised gubernatorial debate: Charlie Baker killed.  He was on point and on offense all night, offering himself as a clear alternative to another four years tax hikes and out of control spending under Patrick/Cahill. Governor Patrick was defensive and peevish, and Cahill - bizarrely - was barely there.

Anyone familiar with how completely I am in the tank for Charlie could be forgiven for dismissing my reaction as the predictable conclusion of a partisan with a predetermined opinion.  Fair enough. But consider this. Right now Patrick supports are online claiming the Governor won tonight's debate.  Cahill's supporters are online saying that Cahill was... there.

But none of them are telling you to follow this link and watch the debate for yourself.  Because if you do, you'll see the same debate I saw tonight.  And that's not good for either Patrick or Cahill.

P.S. Jill Stein was there too.  She roughed up Governor Patrick's left flank pretty good.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wheels coming off at the Cahill Campaign

Rob Eno over at Red Mass Group beat me to the punch in posting an excellent take on the temper tantrum Tim Cahill let fly in the Herald today.  If you missed it, you really should click here.  This guy wants to be governor, remember.  And he apparently cannot handle some criticism from a notoriously inflammatory opinion columnist without blowing his top in a most unseemly way.  Not for the first time I find myself wondering, for what in God's name is Cahill paying all those tens of thousands of dollars that his finance reports show going out the door to consultants?

Not that anyone should be surprised to see symptoms of bunker fever manifesting in the Cahill campaign.  The most recent polling has him tumbling to single digits, and his August fund raising numbers were... bad.  Really, really bad.  It's no wonder the guy is more than a bit on edge.

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Baker ad, new poll

And there are some very interesting numbers behind the baseline results in the latest Rasmussen poll of the Massachusetts gubernatorial race:
The fluid nature of the race is highlighted by the fact that a large segment of the electorate is still open to changing their mind. Just 64% of Patrick’s supporters are certain that they will vote for him and won’t change their mind. Only 58% of Baker’s supporters are that certain. Not surprisingly, the level of certainty is lowest for the third party candidate—28% of Cahill’s supporters are sure they will end up voting for him.

As a result, when leaners are included, the race at the top becomes even closer—Patrick 44% Baker 42%, and Cahill 8%. Leaners are those who initially indicate no preference for either of the candidates but answer a follow-up question and say they are leaning towards a particular candidate. The approach anticipates the fact that support for third party candidates typically declines as Election Day draws near. This is the first Election 2010 survey in Massachusetts to include leaners.

Early in any campaign, the numbers without leaners are generally more significant. Later in a campaign, the numbers with leaners matter more. After Labor Day, Rasmussen Reports will report the numbers with leaners as the primary indicators of the campaign.

It is important to note that the percentage who say they’ll vote for someone other than the incumbent has held steady around the 50% mark all year. In the current survey, 52% say they’ll vote against Patrick when first asked while 50% say the same when leaners are included.
I agree with Michael Graham's take, here.

Herald report here, and Howie Carr's typically understated advice to Treasurer Zuul here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

The Globe reported yesterday that Treasurer Tim Cahill has failed to pay required taxes on money socked away in one of his campaign accounts for the better part of a decade.  Today the Herald reports that Cahill's campaign has cut a check to the state for a cool $24,000 to cover the unpaid taxes and penalties.

The irony of this particular 'accounting error' being committed by a guy who is running for Governor at least in part on his bona fides as a "fiscal watchdog" and responsible steward of the people's money is painfully obvious.  The Herald's editors do a good job with the topic:
It is simply inexcusable for the steward of the state’s treasury to have overlooked such a basic responsibility, one his constituents manage to fulfill, however grudgingly, every year.

Cahill says a campaign staff member mistakenly thought the campaign did not have to pay state taxes on investment income because of the “nonprofit” nature of the enterprise...

But the buck stops with the person whose name is on the campaign account - the one hoping to convince voters that his financial management skills are unparalleled.

The fact that Cahill’s campaign paid federal taxes on the income suggests this was an avoidable blunder, rather than an effort to evade a relatively small bill. For a candidate who bills his financial acumen above all else, that’s almost worse.

Don't feel too badly for Cahill, though.  In another little-noticed bulletin yesterday, the Associated Press reported that "Tim Cahill and Jill Stein agree to spending limits."  That is about the most generous - and false - ways this particular news could be reported.

In fact, by ostensibly agreeing to "spending limits" Tim Cahill has qualified his flailing campaign to receive up to $750,000 in public financing.  All a candidate needs to do to qualify for public funding is agree to a so-called spending cap.  In the case of the governor's race, the cap is $1.5 million.  But there's a crucial catch.   As soon as a candidate who does not agree to the limit (and therefore does not qualify for public funding) spends more than that cap, the cap automatically elevates to keep pace with the highest spender in the race.

The two party candidates - Charlie Baker and Deval Patrick - had to declare their intentions with regard to the spending cap months ago.  Unsurprisingly, neither agreed to limit his spending (and neither took public dollars to fund his campaign).  So in making his decision to belly up to the public trough, Cahill already knew that the supposed $1.5 million cap is a complete fiction.  He will be able to spend every penny of his $3 million campaign war chest, - now supplemented by a big pile of taxpayer money - so long as he does not spend a dollar more than the highest spender in the race.  Pretty good deal for Cahill.

Cahill's decision to take taxpayer money for his campaign is even more pernicious than it seems at first blush, however.  Remember, this is a guy who has argued all along that the size of his campaign account would keep him competitive.  His campaign is by no means under-funded in any sense of the term.  He does not need the taxpayers' money, but he is snatching it anyhow.

Lawyers often make a distinction between "the letter of the law," meaning the law's technical meaning, and the "spirit of the law," meaning the more amorphous objectives a law is intended to fulfill.  Here, it is unquestionably true that by cynically agreeing to a fictional 'spending cap,' Cahill gamed the system to entitle him to a huge chunk o' public change.  That's "letter of the law."

The "spirit," though, of the Commonwealth's public campaign financing law is much different.  That law allows taxpayers to voluntarily contribute a few bucks to the public financing account when we pay our taxes.  That money is supposed to fund candidates who otherwise, for whatever reason, would be unable to raise and spend enough money to run a credible campaign.  We're talking down-ticket candidates, for Treasurer, for Auditor, etc. Low-profile races that cannot hope to attract huge dollars in contributions, but that still need a certain amount of money to get a message to a statewide audience.

And here's the kicker: the available pool of money is limited to the amount collected through voluntary taxpayer contributions.  So when Tim Cahill greedily sucks up as much as three quarters of a million dollars into his already stuffed campaign maw, those dollars are in effect taken from down-ballot candidates who truly need them.

So don't feel too badly for the Cahill campaign and its unexpected $24,000 tax liability.  When it comes to public dollars, Cahill is still coming out of this week approximately $726,000 ahead.