If it wasn’t the Republican ‘ground game’ … who screwed up?

The common wisdom seems to be that four-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Harry Reid snatched a fifth term from Republican challenger Sharron Angle last month thanks to a better “ground game” that turned out a higher percentage of Democratic voters than the comparatively amateur Angle operation in Clark County (Las Vegas.)

But did he?

The Reid staff bused a lot of voters to the polls and made sure Culinary workers cast ballots, no doubt. In the end, it was enough.

But the Clark County Elections Department last week confirmed numbers provided by Angle staffers: 211,360 Democrats voted in Clark County — early voting, mail-in and Election Day combined — versus 173,231 Republicans, meaning the Angle “ground game,” including hundreds of volunteers on the phones, turned out 71 percent of registered Republican voters, compared to 63 percent for Democrats.

That GOP performance compares to a mere 56 percent Republican turnout here in the 2006 midterm election — a 15 percent spike, while Democrats boosted their turnout by only 9 percent over the same period.

So why did Angle lose?

It’s a more than archaeological inquiry, for those who wonder whether smaller-government, grass-roots “Tea Party” activists — not much more popular with Mitch McConnell than with Harry Reid, truth be told — will remain a force if the economy continues to worsen as jockeying begins for John Ensign’s seat in 2012.

But even as the out-of-state “professionals” brought in to manage the Angle campaign — the geniuses who struggled to hide the candidate from press and public and run a cookie-cutter “TV-only” campaign — point fingers at the “local yokel” volunteers, some recommend looking at the precipitous drop in Angle support among independent voters in the final days, after the out-of-state “professionals” arranged for Sen. John McCain, Mr. “Business-As-Usual” Republican, to visit and appear cheek-to-cheek with Ms. Angle on stage at the Orleans Hotel and Casino Oct. 29 — an establishment endorsement of the anti-tax activist which Angle’s Southern Nevada volunteers say they protested (along with the “hide-from-the press” strategy) loudly, but in vain.

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That was quite a piece Jeannine Aversa of The Associated Press put together for last weekend’s newspapers on congressional tax-cut options (page 10A, Nov. 28 Review-Journal.)

The piece reports making the “tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush” permanent for everyone “would swell the debt over the next decade by nearly $4 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office says.”

That’s a bit like saying my failure to stick up a bank tomorrow and make off with $500 will “swell my Christmas shopping deficit by $500.”

That is to say, the statement may be technically true, but represents a pretty twisted sense of budgeting. What would be the primary cause of swelling my hypothetical Christmas shopping deficit by $500 would be my irresponsibly spending $500 I don’t have. Similarly, keeping tax levels right where they are can’t be shown to have any impact on the debt, unless we also place spending in the equation.

I strongly suspect what the Congressional Budget Office said, in synopsis, is that current and planned levels of federal SPENDING — which are much higher than previous — will “swell the debt over the next decade by nearly $4 trillion,” an effect which might be mitigated if taxes were raised.

That analysis itself is somewhat flawed, since higher taxes always lead “the rich” to move their money around in ways that stymie revenue expectations based on simplistic multipliers. But the point is this is not what Ms. Aversa — who assumes skyrocketing spending, world without end — actually said.

At any rate, the real knee-slapper in this partisan analysis masquerading as “hard news” comes in a statement attributed to unnamed “economists,” who “note that low- and middle-income people tend to spend more of their take-home pay than the highest earners do,” which is apparently taken to mean that grabbing money from higher earners and giving it to lower earners would be better for the economy, since the poor will tend to spend said loot immediately, and “people spending more” tends to “stimulate the economy.”

“Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, calculated that when higher earners get an extra dollar of after-tax income, they spend just 40 cents of it.”

(Note the far-from-subtle use of the world “get.” Doctors and business owners, in this view, aren’t merely “allowed to keep” an extra dollar. They “get” an extra dollar.)

On the other hand, “Middle-income Americans spend 66 cents. The poor spend almost all of it.”

So redistributing the wealth to the poor would be preferable, Ms. Aversa implies, since “Many economists say high-income Americans tend to squirrel away most of the tax money they save.”

And here’s the pathology of current Washington “economics” in a nutshell. Responsible saving and investment — the kind of micro economics we learned at our grandparents’ knees — is now ridiculed as “squirreling money away” where it does no good. No one mentions the wealthy may be wealthy precisely BECAUSE they developed the habit of “squirreling” money away. Whereas poor people (some of whom may be temporarily poor through no fault of their own, but others of whom, make no mistake, will be permanently “poor” BECAUSE they spend every dollar and are broke by the next time “the eagle flies”) HELP our economy every time they splurge on a shopping bag full of Night Train and Twinkies.

Gee, what are the rich doing with all that money Uncle Sam is foolishly allowing them to “get” by not taxing them enough? Burning it to light their cigars? Burying it in tin cans in the back yard?

For the most part, they’re INVESTING that money where they can get the best rate of return, often in the stocks and bonds of business enterprises that turn around and use that “saved” capital to create new jobs — not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because that’s the best and most reliable way to get a return.

If the objection is that they’re investing more and more of it overseas, perhaps Uncle Sam might want to consider lowering corporate income tax rates, and completely eliminating “capital gains” taxes (double-dip taxation of profits realized by investing AFTER-TAX earnings), death taxes, repatriation taxes, and all the rest of the labyrinth of government grabbing that increasingly drives away the wealthy and their money.

Instead, blaming them because they don’t squander every penny on vicarious thrills the moment they “get” whatever money Uncle Sam allows them to retain from their earnings, we now scorn them as “squirrels.”

We’ve seen this “punish the rich” mentality before. The rich and talented fled Russia in 1917 and Cuba in 1959, taking what they could carry. Everything end happily-ever-after for THOSE communist revolutions?

Hey, it’s not as though we got into our current economic barranca through a policy of “Spend, spend, spend, we can always take out a third mortgage” … is it?

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