Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 7, 2013

Richard Hudson brings grassroots to DC
by John Gizzi
February 7, 2013

On the day he was sworn into office for his first term, Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) recalled Human Events coverage of his campaign—from the primary to his big win in the run-off to his eventual defeat of Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell.

“I thought everything was fair and accurate—except when you compared me to Lyndon Johnson,” he said, while winking at wife Renee. He cited our analogy between conservative Republican Hudson and the Democratic president Johnson, both of whom went from congressional staffers to representatives from North Carolina and Texas, respectively.

While understanding the comparison, the 41-year-old Hudson, who has all four volumes of Robert Caro’s epic biography of LBJ, explained he was a bit uncomfortable with it because of Johnson’s ethics problems.

“I always felt that Lyndon Johnson was ethically challenged—very much so,” he said. “Integrity is critical to elective office, I feel. Maybe a better analogy might be to another former congressional staffer who went on to serve himself: my personal hero and role model, Jesse Helms.”

At that point, the new congressman pointed to a photograph in his new office in the Cannon House Office Building. In the photo stood Hudson between Helms—conservative icon, Republican senator from North Carolina for 30 years, and former top aide to two senators—and Lady Margaret Thatcher, who came to the Tarheel State a few years ago for an event at the Jesse Helms Center.

“For a conservative, it doesn’t get better than that,” Hudson said.

Grassroots way key

Whomever Richard Hudson is compared to, one thing is sure: as much as his opponents attacked him as an insider for his years in Washington, the new congressman from North Carolina was a lot more than that. In fact, his background in the political grassroots of his state was probably as key to his success at the polls as the acumen he acquired as top aide to three different House members.

A graduate of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and the school’s first alumnus to serve in Congress, Richard Hudson began his political career working on Charlotte’s Mayor Richard Vinroot losing gubernatorial campaign in 1996. Following a stint as communications director for the state Republican Party, Hudson was hired as top district aide to the new congressman from his state’s 8th District, Robin Hayes.

“I felt as though I was the mayor of the 8th District,” said Hudson. “Driving around the district and hearing the problems and needs of all constituents. It’s quite an experience—you get a whole different perspective from working in an office.”

He went on to serve as top aide to three conservatives in Congress: Republican Reps. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), John Carter (Texas) and Mike Conaway (Texas). In 2012, he was ready to take on Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell, who had won both of his terms by narrow margins.

But Hudson had to first overcome four other Republicans. He topped the initial primary field and then squared off against second-place finisher Scott Keadle in the resulting run-off.

Keadle hit hard at his opponent, characterizing himself as a conservative “insurgent” and Hudson as a “Washington insider.” Hudson did have some powerful backers in Washington, notably the Young Guns Action Fund run by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). He also had the endorsements of Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

Hudson had developed a loyal cadre of volunteers from his years of working in Republican campaigns and as an aide to Hayes. With their help in walking precincts, holding coffees and manning phone banks, he maintained his lead in the run-off.

Along with the American Action Network, headed by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Young Guns ran a barrage of hard-hitting TV spots slamming Keadle for accepting President Obama’s federal stimulus funds as a Rowan County Commissioner in 2009.

This well-oiled effort helped Hudson move to the right of Keadle and win the run-off 63 percent to 36 percent. The November election was anti-climatic, with Hudson unseating incumbent Democrat Kissell with 53 percent of the vote.

With the win, he was part of the Republican tidal wave in his state that stood out in an otherwise disappointing year for the party. Not only did Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carry North Carolina’s electoral votes, but also, Pat McCrory became the state’s first Republican governor in 24 years. In addition, Republicans maintained control of both houses of the state Legislature and gained three new House members.

“I felt that the good people of our state would turn on the Democrats once they saw their convention in Charlotte last summer and especially the way they removed mention of God on three votes of the platform committee and the full convention—denying God three times, just like Peter,” Hudson said.

Death tax, debt and immigration

When Human Events spoke to Hudson, he had returned our call while in the middle of his tour of the district’s farms.

“I will have visited all 11 counties by the end of the week,” he said. “And what I found is that the two biggest issues to our farmers are the death tax and immigration.” The freshman congressman supports outright repeal of the death tax and voiced some hope for the bipartisan framework recently unveiled by eight senators on immigration.

“From what I have seen, it’s a good start,” Hudson said. “It calls for border control and the building of an infrastructure for the processing of people already here in the U.S. I sometimes think of what Newt Gingrich said when he was speaker—that every time someone comes from across the border on a work permit, we should issue them an American Express card. When you have an American Express card, they can always find you.”

But, he quickly added, “I won’t support an amnesty that gives an advantage to those who are here illegally over those who did it the legal way.”

Like most of the 33 other freshman Republicans elected last fall, Hudson would have voted against the debt ceiling extension passed by the last Congress in its waning days. Earlier this year, the congressman voted against the three-month extension of the debt ceiling because he had given his word to constituents never to support a debt ceiling increase without dollar-for-dollar spending cuts.

Hudson further explained his debt-ceiling vote, saying: “we are finally getting some responses from the White House and Democrats in the Senate about reform the biggest causes of debt—namely, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And now, we just may get the Democratic Senate to finally come up with a budget and engage in the process.”

Rep. Richard Hudson is inarguably a person with a deep connection and knowledge of how Washington works, but he’s also a lawmaker who knows the grassroots well and listens. It’s a much needed combination.

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A Mission for the New Congress
Congress needs to mind its own business, and let the states mind theirs.
by Mario Loyola
February 7, 2013

As the March 1 sequester deadline looms, congressional conservatives should wake up to the fact that an agenda focused solely on spending cuts is a losing agenda, one that wouldn’t help matters much even if it prevailed. Our very system of government is badly malfunctioning. What’s needed at the heart of the conservative agenda in Congress is a program of structural reform that goes far beyond entitlements.

The first priority for such reform is something hardly anybody is talking about: disentangling the functions of state government from those of the federal government. The intermingling of state and federal functions through “cooperative federalism” has created the conditions for perpetual fiscal crisis and overregulation at every level of government.

Federal funds now account for about 30 percent of the typical state budget. This “assistance” doesn’t come from Mars, of course. The federal government is taxing and borrowing from all of us in order to return that money to our state governments, under onerous conditions.

According to the White House, the average federal deficit over the past 30 years amounted to 3.4 percent of GDP. The average amount of federal transfers to state and local governments during the same period was 3.0 percent of GDP.

States and localities are severely limited in their ability to borrow. And yet virtually all the expansion of the American public sector since 1950 has come at the state and local level. Almost all of the federal deficit can be accounted for by the federal government’s support of state and local governments, inflating their budgets well beyond what they could sustain on their own.

In effect, the federal government is running up huge deficits in order to purchase control of state governments. The problems that arise from this disastrous intermingling of federal and state finances are almost endless. By seizing substantial control over state governments, Congress invades areas of regulation that the Constitution recognizes as belonging exclusively to the states. Worse, Congress escapes accountability by leaving the states’ elected officials on the hook for what common voters can only assume are state programs but what really are federal programs in disguise. And so local self-government, which is at the heart of our Constitution, is shrinking.

With respect to state budgets, this “assistance” is not just unnecessary; it’s harmful. States are left at the mercy of congressional appropriations and dependent on federal bailouts every time there’s a downturn in the economy. If the federal government weren’t sucking so much money out of the private economy to pay for these programs, the states could run them more efficiently and sustainably on their own. And the whole American public sector would be leaner. These programs, which are meant to equalize income disparities among the states, actually exacerbate them, especially through the tactic of matching funds. For example, under Medicaid, rich states can afford bloated Medicaid programs and are rewarded with federal matching funds.  Poor states are penalized.

Under more than 600 federal spending programs, mainly for health, education, and transportation, Washington sends money to the states on condition that the states do what Washington wants. The conditions on this “assistance” are increasingly complex, intrusive, and suffocating, making state governments little more than instruments of Congress. If your state wants approval for federal Medicaid matching funds, for example, it has to meet about 100 different conditions on matters that in principle should be the state’s prerogative.

Every time a state legislature meets, its most difficult task is to find wiggle room inside the straitjacket of conditions on federal funds. That wiggle room is shrinking.

One reason these programs exist is that regulation-heavy states want to eliminate the competitive advantage of regulation-light states, and they form coalitions in Congress to do just that. In 1926, faced with rampant inheritance-tax competition among the states, Congress adopted a federal inheritance tax with offsets for inheritance-tax payments at the state level. The immediate effect of this law was to eliminate state competition for rich retirees and to incentivize all states to raise their inheritance-tax rates.

What conservative scholars call “competitive federalism” is a basic feature of our Constitution, as Michael Greve argues in The Upside-Down Constitution (2012). Competitive federalism exerts strong downward pressure on government power at every level. But through the disastrous fusion of state and federal finances, that pressure is not only defeated but reversed, leading to the unsustainable expansion of government spending at every level.

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The Tipping Point
by Erick Erickson
February 7, 2013

There is no permanence in politics. Democrats patting themselves on the back at a job well done will at some point be drowning their sorrows in beer as Republicans again talk about their ridiculous fantasy of a permanent Republican majority (this time without steel tariffs).

People shift over time. Pendulums swing. And in the age of instantly lame ducked Presidents upon their swearing in for a second term, discord has ways of getting the best of any political party.

Conservatives who rallied to George W. Bush through No Child Left Behind, steel tariffs, Medicare Part D, Harriet Miers, etc. stood with him until the end. Many held on through TARP and the auto bailout and immigration, unable to see the fractures or trying to will them away. Now the GOP is dealing with the fall out of that legacy.

Consider the suspicion conservative groups have of Bush’s architect, Karl Rove, starting a new group supposedly to support “the most electable conservative”. Conservatives are still trying to work their way back out of the Republican Party and stand up on their own again.

With the 22nd amendment, a President’s second term is about securing his legacy. His party has no chance to throw him out in a third term primary. So the party rallies to make the best of it and help him secure his legacy. It happened with Reagan and Clinton and the second Bush. It is happening now with Barack Obama.

We should not ignore, though, that there is a disturbance in the Democratic force.

Progressives want to stick with Barack Obama because they perceive him as one of them and expect he will push their progressive agenda as best he can. But some progressives are deeply worried about his drone war. They are worried about civil liberties. They are worried that he is, and in fact he really is, to the right of George W. Bush on this issue. The progressive agenda conflicts with his civil liberties stance.

This is but one example. If the President pushes forward with any entitlement reforms or anything else that looks to be in the direction of the GOP, the fractures will exacerbate. If he does not, he risks the public who supposedly wants compromise looking at him as too uncompromising in the same way they’ve looked at the GOP. He cannot afford the public getting tired of him, but he also cannot afford his party growing weary of his positions.

This all puts him in a precarious position. Made worse, as he adds new faces to his cabinet, he is not adding men of particular policy depth, but more men of the same persuasion. That will lessen debate. That will lessen the ability to think outside narrow parameters.

In second terms, people grow weary who have been there a while. The A team gets replaced by the B team, which in turn gets replaced by the C team. Then you get Iran Contra, blue dresses in the Oval Office, U.S. Attorneys being fired in suspicious looking ways, etc. The President has tried to make an academic study of how not to have a bad second term. The problem is his policies will not be up for debate within his own party. His legacy will be preserved. Then, in 2016, it will be Democratic Party voters who will be forced into a great sorting as they decide whether to stay the course or fight over a new one.

Permanent majorities are fleeting. The coalition that swept him into office and kept him there is not yet the Democrats’ coalition. They do not consider themselves Democrats, but progressives. They are not of one mind on all issues. And all those issues will be at stake in 2016.

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