Monday, October 02, 2006

Gutknecht Negative Ad Illustrates Differences

Gil Gutknecht has started his television media campaign with a negative ad. The conventional wisdom is that negative ads work - especially if released close to the election when the opponent cannot respond. By going negative so early, Gutknecht is acknowledging that he cannot run based on his performance but must scare voters on the evils that his opponent will do. It’s a bad strategy -- and could actually benefit Walz, if Walz can get the facts out.

The “Meet Tim Walz” ad asserts that :
“…he’ll increase spending on virtually every federal government program”;
He’d repeal the tax cuts…costing the average Minnesota family an extra $2,396 per year.”;
Plus, he’d increase the estate tax, gas taxes, Social Security payroll taxes, and even tax the Internet.”

Let’s evaluate these assertions.

First, how does Gutknecht justify his own votes to increase federal spending? He has twice voted to raise the National Debt Limit in the past two years to accommodate the inability for Congress to pass a balanced budget while the National Debt has increased over $1.1 Trillion. Gutknecht is a FiscalFraud – not a FiscalHawk. He may argue that he has voted to approve omnibus spending bills as the good, and necessary, outweigh the wasteful. But what about when specific items are processed via amendments which actually require a roll call vote. Why did Gil Gutknecht support $500,000 in funding to be used for renovations to the Banning, California city-owned pool (although San Bernardino Sun reports that Banning city officials have been “stockpiling” this federal funding in order to build the new pool, which will serve a town of 26,000 and will cost approximately $4 million to build (H.R. 5576 See Roll Call 277- FY2007 TransPORKtation Bill)? And what about his salary increases that he has approved every year? Gutknecht is a classic TaxCut and Spend RoveRobot.

I will concede the second point that Walz would repeal the tax cuts. After all, Walz’s website says “Eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthest 1% for the ten year period from 2006-2015 will reinstate $725 Billion in tax revenues with another $180 Billion for the interest on the money to borrow to finance them. Additional revenues can be realized by taxing Anti Family practices like Internet pornography. The cost of the Middle Class Tax Cuts outlined below is less than $21 Billion -- less than 3% of the tax breaks eliminated.” But I disagree that each Minnesota family would incur an additional $2,396 tax bill … as I do not think that every Minnesota family is in the top 1%.

I will also concede Gutknecht’s point that Walz would “even tax the Internet”. Once again, Walz’s website provides some details : “The Internet Pornograpy Industry generates $12 Billion in annual revenues – roughly equal to the combined revenues of ABC, NBC, and CBS combined. Revenue estimates for child pornography range from $200 million to $1 Billion per year.
[snip to Walz’s Plan]
Require real child access prevention for pornographic websites and impose a 25% smut tax on adult Internet pornography.”
WOW. There you have it – Walz would tax the Internet to combat crimes against children.
Now let’s also consider how Gutknecht stands on the Internet. This summer, on HR 5252 Gutknecht effectively voted to change the rules of how the Internet operates and allow telephone companies to charge fees and determine what information is made available. Despite appeals by such groups as Christian Coalition of America and Gun Owners of America, Gutknecht listened to the telecommunications industry. And the reaction from the telecommunications industry was quick as Verizon immediately announced a change in policy to charge user fees. I always wondered why BEVCOMM was his top contributor and why the telephone industry was at the top of his donors list ( number 2 on the list while not being listed in the top 25 for 2004 election session.) I supposed being the Telecommunications Task Force Co-Chairman may encourage donations. This is not the first time that Congressional action while under the guise of helping the consumers has created opportunities for telephone companies to charge new fees that consumers may not want or need. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allows a monthly fee of 33 cents for each land based telephone account … a small fee paid by each consumer adds millions of profit to the telephone company for a service that was previously provided (if you want more details, just ask.)
I suppose since Gutknecht voted to allow a “fee”, this is not an example of a tax increase. Incidentially, I understand that Walz supports Net Neutrality while Gutknecht does not.

Finally, since Gutknecht brings up the Estate Tax, it is fair to ask who is affected. The tax, which has been law since 1916, if repealed as Gutknecht advocates, is estimated to cost $1 trillion from 2011-2021. Although usually advertised as affecting the family farm or small business owners, the tax affects few Americans and if repealed, would give some families extraordinary windfalls. The CEO’s of major oil companies would get enormous benefits – for example, Lee Raymond (the former ExxonMobil CEO), alone could receive a tax break worth over $160 million. Remember Gutknecht enthusiastically endorsed H.R. 4761 earlier this summer. The bill concerns itself with allowing drilling for oil on Outer Continental Shelf (oh, and what was the fiscal impact of that bill? on June 29th, the White House issued a statement on that bill. “The Administration strongly opposes the bill’s revenue-sharing provisions because of their adverse long-term consequences on the Federal deficit . The Administration’s preliminary estimate is that the revenue-sharing provisions of H.R. 4761 would reduce Federal Receipts by several hundred billion dollars over 60 years.”).

Judging from Gutknecht’s assertions and performance, Walz’s plans address the majority of voters. But if you’re affluent and make campaign contributions, Gutknecht is there to help you.

The other bonus that Walz gets out Gutknecht’s ad is name acknowledgement. As a challenger, name association is critical – ask someone in July to name their Congressman and many won’t have the correct answer, but by November, the incumbent will be easily identified. Unless the challenger is known outside of politics, he faces a considerable disadvantage, but Gutknecht has repeated Walz’s name and photo a number of times in the ad. Not smart political strategy .. but I’ve been watching Gutknecht implode since Walz announced his candidacy.

Voters, please take a moment and read Walz’s position paper on Middle Tax Cuts.

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