June 8, 2007
Here we go again: fourteen months ago I had a blog post with the very same title, but this time conservative Republicans in the Senate are the ones holding things up; see Washington Post. Frankly, I can't blame them. I wish a compromise were possible, but in the current political climate, I am very skeptical of any "comprehensive" approaches to immigration reform. To me, it sounds like they just want to say, "Well, at least we tried." Until more political leaders candidly acknowledge the function that illegal immigration serves to paper over the deep contradictions in the modern-day American economy (i.e., free market ideals versus entitlements in practice), no reform proposal will accomplish very much.
I will have much more to say on this subject tomorrow. In the mean time, I have compiled a special Immigration blog archive page. Future topical blog archive pages may include the Hanger-Sayre primary race, Republican party problems, entitlements, etc.
The Staunton News Leader printed my letter to the editor endorsing Senator Hanger today. They have strict guidelines on length, so several sentences were stripped down to the bare bones of subject and predicate. For the record, here is the unedited letter I submitted:
As someone who has been active with the local Republican Party for nearly five years, I have a lot to say about the upcoming primary election between state Senator Emmett Hanger and Scott Sayre. I have nothing against the challenging candidate, Mr. Sayre, and if he wins, I plan to support him in the November general election. The problem is that many of the people working on his behalf have been spreading misleading information, and the voters deserve to know the truth. Contrary to much of what has been written and said about him, Senator Emmett Hanger is a solid, responsible conservative leader who stands by his principles and refuses to buckle under pressure. Unlike his opponent, Senator Hanger is not beholden to any special interest group, and he is not by any stretch of the imagination a "professional politician," as some people say. Indeed, because of his modest nature, he is often slow to respond to unfair accusations about his record.
When Senator Hanger agreed to the compromise tax package in 2004, he did so to defend the state's solid financial record. Wrongly described by his opponent as "the largest tax increase in Virginia history," it included several provisions to ease the burden on people in rural parts of the state such as ours. Furthermore, Senator Hanger has worked long and hard on behalf of tax reform, successfully pushing for the abolition of the state "death tax," and reducing other taxes. With his seniority, he has the clout to get things done in Richmond. As for Mr. Sayre's no-tax-hike pledge, do you remember what that "read my lips" boast did to George Bush the Elder? Big mistake. The use of such pledges as a way to "starve the government" is fiscally irresponsible.
His critics often charge that Senator Hanger is "out of touch" with his constituents, perhaps because he does not consult public opinion polls every time he makes a decision. I do know this: whenever I have contacted Senator Hanger in the past to voice my opinion on policy questions, he has always responded promptly and courteously. I don't always agree with him, but I can't think of anyone with better judgment and in-depth knowledge of policy issues. Losing a dedicated public servant like him would be a tragic blow to all of Virginia, not just our area.
As Senator Hanger stated in his conversation with your editorial staff, this primary election "will determine the direction of the Republican Party in Virginia." I stand with him and all those who want the Republican Party to expand its base of support by adopting a friendlier, more welcoming attitude. I call on all voters in the 24th senate district who believe in the old-fashioned virtues of fiscal responsibility and good, thrifty government to vote for the man I am proud to support: Emmett Hanger.
Andrew G. Clem
Staunton Republican Committee
I thought it might help to provide an example of Senator Hanger's responsiveness that my letter mentioned. With his permission, I am reproducing below the contents of an e-mail message that he sent to me in March 2005. This was before I became disillusioned with the ability of conservatives to enact a genuine comprehensive market-based reform agenda. I was asking Sen. Hanger to explain why (I thought) the state budget estimates were being manipulated to justify higher taxes than were necessary, and his response set me straight on a few things:
I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Actually the fiscal situation last year was not misrepresented. State law allows us to appropriate money based only on reliable forecasts of what will be coming in and Virginia historically has used conservative estimates.
As you may be aware, additional money was used to allow the state to meet it's obligations back to the localities. This was a great help in taking the pressure off of local real estate taxes and other fees.
The additional money coming in is a good thing but most of it can be attributed to the red hot economy in Northern Virginia fueled by federal spending on Defense and Homeland Security and paid for with federal red ink.
The average family in our area saw their taxes decrease as a result of the changes. Obviously if they are a heavy smoker there was a direct new cost, but everybody's income tax went down except for those with high incomes over 62 in age.
It is common in good times for there to be a growth in revenue above the projected numbers by at least a $billion. With that we can make sure that the state continues to meet it's obligations back to the localities and that we grant additional tax relief as well as handle a few unmet needs. I introduced legislation this year to repeal the estate tax and further reduce the sales tax on food. We put money aside for the rainy day fund (saved).
We also put $360 million in transportation funding form the general fund. We shouldn't do this in the long run or we will back in trouble again.