So, I’m cruising around the Internet again, and looking at news stories. I found two that dovetail nicely to one another.
First, a major revelation by Republicans that they’ve probably gone in the wrong direction.
Senate GOP leader: Party must explain core values
WASHINGTON – After crushing defeats in back-to-back elections, the top Senate Republican warned Thursday that the GOP risks remaining out of power in the White House and Congress unless it better explains its core principles to woo one-time faithful and new loyalists.
“The results of the two recent elections are real, and so are the obstacles we face as a party,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told the Republican National Committee on Thursday. “My concern is that unless we do something to adapt, our status as a minority party may become too pronounced for an easy recovery.”
“The situation is challenging, but it’s far from irreversible,” McConnell added, a dash of optimism in an otherwise stark assessment of where the Republican Party went wrong as he provided a road map for how it can right itself.
He spoke to Republicans gathered in Washington to choose the next national chairman; five candidates are trying to unseat former President George W. Bush’s hand-picked RNC chairman, Mike Duncan of Kentucky. The vote is Friday.
Implicit in McConnell’s message was the concern that the Republican Party under Bush strayed from its beliefs, resulting in drubbings in two straight elections.
While McConnell praised Bush as a man of principle, he said: “We can all agree, sad as it is, that he wasn’t winning any popularity contests. And history shows that unpopular presidents are usually a drag on everybody else who wears their political label.”
McConnell called for the GOP to embrace its conservative principles — and resist diluting its message — to bring people back and attract new rank-and-file. Still, he added: “It’s clear our message isn’t getting out to nearly as many people as it should … Too often we’ve let others define us. And the image they’ve painted isn’t very pretty.”
He acknowledged GOP fears that certain demographics from certain regions have shunned the party. And, he warned: “In politics, there’s a name for a regional party: it’s called a minority party.”
Just eight years after Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, the GOP finds itself out of power and trying to figure out how to rebound while its foe has grown much stronger. The Democratic Party is empowered by a broadened coalition of voters — including Hispanics and young voters — who swung behind President Barack Obama’s call for change.
Meanwhile, Bush left the White House with very low job approval ratings, Republicans saw their ranks in Congress grow even smaller and the party finds itself without a standard-bearer. Perhaps even more damaging to the GOP, the slice of the country that calls itself Republican has shrunk over the past few years as Obama and his Democrats attracted voters of all political stripes.
Among those challenging Duncan for party chairman are: former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson, Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis and former Tennessee GOP chairman Chip Saltsman. They have spent the past few months arguing that Duncan simply represents a continuation of Bush.
Republicans say it’s all but certain no one will get a majority on the first ballot when the 168-member RNC votes. Republicans say Duncan leads in endorsements for a second two-year term, with Steele, Dawson and Anuzis in competitive positions, while Blackwell trails. Saltsman is by far the longest shot, Republicans say.
Still, with at least two rounds of balloting expected, it’s possible anyone could end up with a majority.
Then, I see this:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to tax golf
SACRAMENTO, Cali. – Golf course owners and some of their customers are teed off at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. So are veterinarians, auto mechanics and amusement park operators.
Their anger is directed at the Republican governor’s proposal to extend the state sales tax to cover more services, an idea that has surfaced in other states as they race to plug crippling budget deficits. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research clearinghouse, predicts such deficits nationwide could reach $350 billion by 2011.
In California, Schwarzenegger wants to help close a nearly $42 billion budget deficit by taxing rounds of golf, auto repairs, veterinary care, amusement park and sporting event admissions and appliance and furniture repairs.
Service taxes in other states include levies on pet grooming, water well drilling, fur storage, massages, shoe repairs, swimming pool cleaning, taxidermy, and dating and diaper services. But that doesn’t make the groups affected by Schwarzenegger’s proposal feel any better.
“We’re old and retired. We don’t need any more taxes,” said Fred Mayers of Sacramento as he played golf recently at a public course in the state capital. “The only luxury we have is playing golf. They can’t charge us any more.”
Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, said more states could be looking at service taxes as they get deeper into legislative sessions.
“It’s one of those things that’s so politically difficult and controversial that it’s usually one of the last proposals that’s floated,” he said.
California already taxes some services, including gift wrapping, tuxedo rentals and video rentals for home use. But virtually every other state applies its sales tax to more services, said Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a Sacramento think tank.
The tax on services is part of $14.3 billion in hikes Schwarzenegger has proposed to help close a budget deficit that’s projected to total $41.6 billion over the next 17 months. He also is seeking $17.7 billion in spending cuts and $10 billion in additional borrowing.
In addition to the service tax, Schwarzenegger proposes hiking the sales tax by 1.5 percent through the end of 2011, boosting taxes on alcoholic drinks, increasing the vehicle registration fee by $12 and taxing companies that extract oil.
Local sales taxes in California range from 7.25 percent to 9.25 percent, varying from county to county and even from city to city. A 1.5 percentage point increase would boost the rate to nearly 10 percent in many areas of the state.
Republican lawmakers have refused for months to consider raising taxes but recently indicated a willingness to consider hikes if they’re tied to tough spending controls.
Schwarzenegger and lawmakers have little time left to strike a deal. The state controller has said he will have to delay tax refunds and some other payments for 30 days starting Feb. 1 because of a cash shortage. The governor also has ordered tens of thousands of state employees to take two days off a month without pay, starting Feb. 6.
“There’s no good time to raise taxes,” said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger’s Department of Finance. “This is not something that the governor is putting forward because he enjoys it.”
He said the six types of services Schwarzenegger is proposing to tax were picked because they involve businesses that commonly collect sales taxes on goods they sell and could quickly adjust.
The affected industry groups say they are being unfairly targeted and that similar businesses are exempt.
“You don’t see a tax on movies,” said Bob Bouchier, executive director of the California Alliance for Golf. “You don’t see a tax on bowling. You don’t see skiing. You don’t see a tax on any other sport.”
The administration estimates that the service taxes would raise $1.4 billion through the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2010. Schwarzenegger wants to implement the taxes on appliance and furniture repairs, golf, veterinary care and vehicle repairs by March 1. The taxes on amusement park and sporting event tickets would kick in on April 1.
Opponents question whether the taxes would raise that much, saying they would result in layoffs and fewer customers.
“You’re looking at a $50 increase on a $500 (repair) bill at a time when people are not buying new cars and instead are having their old cars repaired so they can keep them on the road to drive to work,” said Peter Welch, president of the California New Car Dealers Association.
“This is really going to hit people when they’re down.”
Opponents also suggest that other increases, such as a boost in income taxes or restoration of the annual vehicle license fee that Schwarzenegger cut when he took office, would be less damaging.
Not everyone that would be affected is upset.
Sean Grace, a home remodeling contractor from the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove, said die-hard golfers will find a way to pay the tax if lawmakers approve it.
“Ten percent is not too much,” he said before slamming a long drive down the fifth fairway at Sacramento’s Land Park golf course. “You’ve got guys paying $100 (for green fees). What’s another $10? They’re going to find it somewhere.”
Gosh. I can’t imagine why Republicans think they have an image problem…
Hey Arnold! Ever stopped to think that you should maybe CUT FRICKIN’ GOVERNMENT!?!
(By the way, I’ll pay $110.00 for a round of golf when frickin’ Hell freezes over.)