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Travis Rowley: Religion First

Saturday, January 26, 2013


And, this week, we learn that two Statehouse Democrats, Rep. James McLaughlin and Sen. William Walaska, are introducing a bill that “aims to reduce [the] minimum corporate tax.”

That’s right. For the distinct privilege of setting up shop in the worst business climate in the country (a condition caused by government), Rhode Island business owners are forced to pay the state government $500 a year – whether they turn a profit or not. Similar to “tolls” and “fees” – often justified by liberals by pointing out the cost of bridges and bureaucracy – that are tacked on to an already-bloated tax structure, the minimum corporate tax is one of those government bills that makes productive citizens wonder what their other taxes pay for, if not basic government services.

Following a long line of members of the tax-and-spend party who have also turned to conservative measures, McLaughlin and Walaska are “sponsoring a bill that would reduce the state's minimum corporate tax from $500 to $250.”

“If this legislation is passed, it will give Rhode Island a strong competitive advantage over Massachusetts and other states…Our smaller businesses are getting slammed with this $500 minimum and it's placing a barrier in front of potential start-ups,” McLaughlin remarked. Walaska states, “Many of my constituents think the $500 minimum corporation tax is unfair, especially while the state is still in economic recovery … Looking at the big picture, it’s also just another area in which Rhode Island is at a disadvantage compared to our neighboring states. We keep hearing that we’re not business friendly. It’s time we take more measures to rectify that.”

One might wonder what ever caused Democrats to impose this tax in the first place.

True Leadership

But at least the imposition of a tax on business owners is consistent with liberal philosophy. After all, “you didn’t build that.” It’s actually more confusing whenever Democrats fight to reverse their own policies.

We’ve seen these flashes of fiscal conservatism before. In 2005 the Democratic General Assembly voted to cut the highest state income tax rate in half (incrementally, and with the removal of certain deductions, of course). Last year on Channel 12 Newsmakers House Speaker Gordon Fox actually rejected the concept of “stimulus” and an “artificial economy,” arguing, “Basically, I think government has to do its role of creating those conditions where businesses can thrive.” And last week we saw Rhode Island’s progressive governor call for a reduction of the state corporate tax, from nine percent to seven percent.

These are the very expressions of capitalism that Republicans are traditionally demeaned as “greedy” and “selfish” for recommending. Republicans are “only for the rich,” according to Democrats, as they mock their conservative rivals for believing in “trickle-down economics.”

While we often witness these virtual admissions of the superiority of Republican arguments, we never see Democrats embrace the ideology that spawns them. This is the true pity. Because, ultimately, this is what Rhode Island needs – a declaration of belief.

True leadership commands a clear exhibition of values. And Rhode Island needs someone to step forward, commit to a faith in limited government and individual freedom, and then set policies that reflect the new religion.

Set the core ideology in place. The policies will follow.

Rhode Islanders should prefer this type of leadership over those who speak of “fair shares” and “everyone being in this together,” only to sporadically decide to enact policies more consistent with individualism.

The Middle Way

In a state controlled by Democrats, we cannot even hope for ideological or moral clarity. With their party steered by a political base of unionists and progressive activists, we instead get corner-nibbling reforms that offer credence to conservative policies – but never go far enough, and only surface when communities come nose-to-nose with economic reality.

Exhibit One: Cutting the minimum corporate tax in half. If the purpose is to alleviate the pressure on Ocean State business owners, why not eliminate the tax entirely?

It’s because Democrats are not guided by religion or principles, but political expediency. While Democrats are caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between their radical base and fiscal sanity, State House Republicans are calling for the total elimination of the state sales tax.

Is this the action of dangerous right-wing ideologues? Or is this the principled stance of those who see the pointlessness of the Democrats’ middle way?

In addition to reductions in tax rates that merely make us more competitive with “our neighboring states,” even Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s “hybrid” pension reform that relies on a rate of return of 7.5 percent – while considered “landmark” – qualifies as a Democratic half-measure (the state pension fund “earned just 1.4 percent in fiscal 2012”).

While it’s true that some elected Democrats are of the progressive variety, many are mere hacks of political power, flying by the seat of their political pants – defying gay marriage for years, only to approve it once left-wing activists had managed to conquer public sympathy. The Left never stops marching. And the Democratic Party is always there to reward their efforts.

An Ethical Divide

It is a simple matter of observation: To a much higher degree than Democrats, Republicans – with conservatism as their core – exercise their religion, their ideology, and their principles. Democrats are much more guided by political considerations – “forgo[ing] the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends."'

The modern Democratic Party now lives out the radical instruction. As one member of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) once said: “The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.” Inspired by the likes of Nietzsche, Machiavelli, and Alinsky – and having mastered the politics of crisis – modern leftists have learned to politicize everything, right down to mass shootings, hot weather, and hurricanes. As Obama confidante Rahm Emanuel now puts it: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

Republicans – still dominated by a base of Christian conservatives accused of taking their religion way too seriously – have this pesky commandment from God that instructs them not to lie, and a Savior who challenges them to seek and revere the truth. Ultimately, yes, this is why conservatives find it so difficult to take the advice of political consultants who tell them to abandon the “social issues.” Forsaking the 2nd Amendment, the rule of law on the border, the value of life, and a belief in traditional marriage is not an option for people who value the truth over political victory, or even the survival of their country.

Yes, Republicans are religious – in the best possible sense of the word.

What do Democrats believe in?

Power. Power above all things. Once one understands the leftist ethic, Democratic behavior comes into focus.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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