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Governor candidates fit the mold: hackneyed

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  • | 6:00 p.m. July 20, 2006
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Governor candidates fit the mold: hackneyed

Matt Walsh

Editor and Publisher

Judging from the surge in daily e-mails from Florida's gubernatorial candidates, the calendar must be closing in on the September primary.

Please, someone call the Spam Patrol.

It's thick.

It's not nice to call people names, but all four of the major candidates - Republicans Tom Gallagher and Charlie Crist and Democrats Jim Davis and Rod Smith - have become caricatures of populist hacks. Just go down the list of their promises:

• They're going to protect senior citizens, widows, orphans and the poor.

• They're going protect and save the environment.

• They're going to make Florida's schools the best in the world.

• They're going to pay teachers a lot more money.

• They're going to make health care affordable for all.

• They're going to beat up the "so-called" price-gougers after hurricanes.

• They're going to make insurance companies lower their rates and cut their fat-cat profiteering.

Oh, and they all are in favor of families.

Blah, blah, blah.

New, bold ideas? Not a one in the bunch.

From a business-capitalist perspective, the candidate who comes closest to "getting it" is Crist. So far, he's the only one who has acknowledged what few politicians grasp: that the $73.9 billion in the state budget, as Crist puts it, "doesn't belong to government; it belongs to the Floridians who earned it."

To his credit, and in spite of how trite it may be, Crist has gone so far as to put in print the famous promise that George Bush Sr. broke. Says Crist:

• "The Crist administration will return as much money as possible to the Floridians who earned it;

• "The Crist administration will not support any new taxes or tax increases."

Crist talks the talk of a good "limited-government" Republican. But he doesn't always act the act.

Crist likes to point out in his TV ads how he went after the "price-gougers" after hurricanes and sponsored legislation to stop them.

But if Crist were a true believer, as opposed to a politician doing and saying what he must to get elected, he would have stood up to the bleeding-media's whining about "price gouging" by saying that is not an arena in which the government should meddle.

He should have said: "There is no such thing as price gouging by private business."

To say a hotel or gas station is price gouging is to imply it is forcing consumers to pay the price, however high it is. But no one is forced to pay anything to the hotel or gas station. He could choose not to. The high prices are merely a reflection of supply and demand and of businesses trying to do what they try to do every day: Get consumers to pay the highest prices possible. What's more, they're a voluntary agreement between two private parties.

But enough about Crist's anti-gouging populism. He can be cured of that.

More troubling is the large role he and the other three candidates want the state to play in Floridians' lives - from cradle to grave, in the schools, at the gas pumps, every place you turn.

Go to the candidates' Web sites and read their position papers and stands on the issues. They all read like manuals on how to build a bureaucracy.

Crist's position paper on education, for instance, overflows with government programs. In his policy paper on education, Crist says he "will require each student to have a Pathway to Success Progress Monitoring Plan to map academic progress. In addition, he will provide innovative software solutions so that students who are not performing at grade level or who are not making adequate year-to-year progress will have virtual tutors available to them." Is this what government should be doing? Sadly, Crist never mentions the "V" word - vouchers.

Gallagher, meanwhile, should be dismissed as a serious candidate, if not for his past behavioral indiscretions, a measure of his character, for his role over the past 15 years in Florida's insurance industry. Every problem Florida has today because of the shortage of insurance has a string that leads to Gallagher. In all of his years as the state's insurance commissioner and now chief financial officer, with insurance industry oversight, Gallagher has never championed the one idea that would do the most good - deregulate the industry and deregulate pricing in every insurance segment.

Predictably, the Democratic candidates want tougher price regulation in the insurance industry. He, Smith and Davis also want the federal government to create and manage an insurance catastrophe trust fund. The Democrats say it should be similar to the federal flood insurance program.

Now there's a winning idea. The federal flood insurance program throughout its history has paid out $7 in claims for every $1 in premiums it has taken in. Great idea.

Smith and Davis, meanwhile, are classic Big Brother, Big Government activists. Smith wants to reinstate the intangibles tax on Florida's wealthiest residents. He opposes privatizing public-sector work.

Davis touts that in 2005 he received a 93% rating from the national AFL-CIO for his votes in Congress. He voted to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. He opposes letting Americans manage their own Social Security accounts.

On and on ... What is most disturbing and disheartening is not one of these four guys anywhere, anytime utters a word about taking steps to make state government smaller.

On second thought, they're not caricatures of political hacks. Good guys though they are, they are standard-issue politicians. More of the same. Ugh for us.


The Fed's expansionary monetary policy over the past decade has caused artificially low interest rates, which have fueled the real estate boom (or bubble, as some would say). Along with extraordinary increases in property values has come equally extraordinary property tax increases all across America.

According to online reports of tax revenues in my own state of Maryland, local governments in the Baltimore area alone collect about 35% more in property tax revenues than they did in 2000. Are Baltimore's schools 35% better? Are the police 35% more efficient? Are citizens getting a third more services from City Hall? Of course not; they're simply paying that much more for the same crappy "services."

State and local politicians are reveling in "budget surpluses," which should be more appropriately named undeserved windfall "profits." These revenue increases are the result of an extreme form of price gouging by the state which is, after all, a monopoly in all that it does ...

The property tax bonanza that is being enjoyed by state and local governmental bureaucracies creates yet another evil. Whenever state and local governments experience windfall "profits" such as this they use the money to appease more and more special interest groups by starting up myriad new programs. Then when the real estate market cools, or the economy in general slows down, the programs all remain in place while revenues shrink, creating a "deficit crisis."

This in turn leads to calls for even more tax increases, which impose further harm on the local economy. There is never any mention of making government more efficient because government cannot be made more efficient any more than a cat can be taught to bark like a dog. Thus, property tax increases today inevitably lead to even more increases in the future, while impoverishing taxpayers more and more and damaging local economies.

During the early 1990s, after the last big real estate boom (of the 1980s), states that had experienced more modest revenue growth were in the best financial condition because they were limited in their ability to go on wild spending binges. State and local politicians are monopolistic price gougers. Every one of them should be thrown out of office this fall, just for the fun of it.

- Thomas DiLorenzo,

The Free Market, June 2006


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