Heartland Institute Comments on the Post-2010 Midterms Policy Landscape

November 03, 2010
Jim Lakely

The Heartland Institute is a 26-year-old national nonprofit research and education organization based in Chicago. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.
 
Heartland scholars and fellows offer the following comments for attribution in reaction to the historic midterm election Tuesday night.
 
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In addition to re-electing Barbara Boxer to the Senate and returning Jerry Brown to the governor’s mansion, California voters resoundingly rejected Proposition 23, which would have delayed the state’s unrealistic greenhouse gas emissions law until its unemployment rate returned to a reasonable level. So expect the already-high rate of businesses and jobs leaving the state to escalate.
 
Elsewhere in the country, in places where environmental extremists ran their largely Democratic candidates against so-called ‘Big Oil’ and ‘Big Coal,’ they suffered resounding defeat. Mostly pro-traditional energy candidates produced huge swings in their favor in states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Voters realized that these important industries produce valuable jobs and feed their families, and to demonize them is wrong.
 
If during its lame-duck session Congress chooses to take up even a portion of their cap-and-trade agenda, such as a national Renewable Electricity Standard, they will severely misread — or worse, ignore —the message sent to them by the electorate.
 
Paul Chesser
Special Correspondent
pchesser@carolinajournal.com
919/275-4118
 
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I strongly believe that this new Congress will not sit idly by and allow EPA to institute a continuous string of anti-business, anti-human progress regulations which have no benefit to the citizens of the United States. This, of course, includes overbearing and unnecessary air quality regulations And the absurd concept of limiting carbon dioxide in our atmosphere -- which is the life breath of the very plant life that makes our planet habitable.
 
Jay Lehr
Science Director
jlehr@heartland.org
740/602-0481
 
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Both Darrell Issa and Jim Sensenbrenner will chair committees in the Republican-controlled House -- the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, respectively.
Both have already announced their intention to investigate Climategate and related matters. But can they do this without knowing the relevant climate science and the scientists? Seems to me they will need the cooperation of the Science Committee, likely to be chaired by Dana Rohrabacher.
 
S. Fred Singer, PhD
Chairman, Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
Policy Advisor
The Heartland Institute
singer@sepp.org
 
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No one issue animated the historic Republican takeover of the House like President Obama's health care law. On Tuesday the late-breaking votes for Obamacare were dealt an enormous blow, including Democratic Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper (PA), Steve Driehaus (OH), Debbie Halvorson (IL), Mary Jo Kilroy (OH), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Suzanne Kosmas (FL), Betsy Markey (CO), and Carol Shea-Porter (NH) -- all of whom joined the ranks of the unwillingly unemployed.
 
And Virginia proved that even a “No” vote wasn’t good enough. In casting out Democrats Tom Perriello, Glenn Nye, and Rick Boucher, voters in the Old Dominion rejected one representative who voted for the legislation and two who voted against it, but were unwilling to endorse its repeal. What's more, in the massive shift that took place within the ranks of governors and state legislatures, voters overwhelmingly supported candidates who made clear their intention to take on the health care law directly.
 
The will of the people is clearly evident. Now it remains to be seen whether anyone in the White House is willing to hear it.
 
Ben Domenech
Managing editor, Health Care News
bdomenech@heartland.org
703/509-1741
 
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Two big myths about politics and policy died yesterday, and they focus on issues of budgets, taxes, and regulation:
"All politics is local."
"The public wants more from government than it is willing to pay for."
By moving to concentrate so much power in the federal government so quickly, President Obama and the congressional Democrats nationalized the election.
 
When the central government takes so much tax money from the public and imposes as many regulations as it does today (while promising many more), the effects of local issues diminish accordingly. No amount of favors, aka "constituent services," can compensate for the enormous demands of Washington.
 
Big government thrives by promising enough people enough favors paid for by other people so that it can achieve voting majorities. Some people want, and get, a good deal more from government than they pay for, but multitudes more are required to support them through confiscated taxes. The latter are willing to put up with it as long as the amount of their coerced overinvestment in government is not too far above the benefits they perceive they're getting. They see it as their public duty and are perfectly willing to fulfill it.
 
However, when government takes a ruinous proportion of people's income and puts it to waste -- exemplifed by the bailouts, health care bill, protracted involvement in Mideast politics, and threat of cap-and-trade -- they see themselves as being exploited. Peter is no longer willing to be robbed to pay Paul. The public moves to vote the government out and replace it with people whom they think more likely to manage things such that the overall cost of government is less grossly out of line with the total perceived benefits.
 
That's precisely what happened yesterday, and it's a trend that will continue until the federal, state, and local governments are brought to heel.
 
Sam Karnick
Director of Research
The Heartland Institute
skarnick@heartland.org
317/331-9441
 
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I hope voters stay rebellious. The best politician is a scared politician because a scared politician cares what people think. The more comfortable a politician becomes, the more likely he is to push grandiose schemes and to disregard constituents. Throw the bums out is usually good policy.
 
I believe this was a throw-the-bums-out election. It was more a vote against Democrats than for Republicans. Both major political parties have shown themselves to be open to higher spending, more borrowing, bigger deficits, a more intrusive government, and political favoritism for their preferred constituencies. If Republicans return to their Bush-era ways, we can look forward to another throw-the-bums-out election in 2012.
 
Steve Stanek
Managing Editor, Budget & Tax News
The Heartland Institute
sstanek@heartland.org
815/385-5602
 
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The results in Washington state opposing ballot initiative 1098, and in support of initiatives 1053 and 1107, are all huge wins for taxpayers across the Evergreen State. The clear push back against higher taxes shows that Washingtonians realize better than their lawmakers that the state cannot afford to raise taxes on any segment of the population during these tough economic times. If there is anything to take out of last night’s initiative results it is that voters do not stay silent when their liberties and tax dollars are being so recklessly spent.

No on Initiative 1098: Voters opposed overwhelmingly the idea that Washington needs an income tax. Implementing one would have been dangerous, because as we have seen in other states, once a new spigot is turned on even a little bit it is hard for politicians to resist increasing the flow of tax money. Voter’s realized that turning on a new job killing revenue faucet would have further hurt the state’s economy.

Yes on Initiative 1107: After the Washington state legislature passed a series of discriminatory “sin” taxes on soft drinks, candy, and bottled water last year; voters decided that the real “sin” that needed to be addressed was too much taxation. It shows that people are sick of being nickel and dimed on everything that they consume and realize that these taxes have little to do with helping to lower obesity rates.

Yes on Initiative 1053: Voters in Washington once again renewed the two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes in the legislature. When the legislators overrode this requirement to raise taxes last session it was clear that they had no intention of committing to making the real reforms necessary to put Washington in a better long-term fiscal position. For the next two years voters have put up an effective safeguard for taxpayers by forcing legislators to exhaust other, less-harmful options instead of just raising taxes on a whim.
 
John Nothdurft
Legislative Specialist, Budget and Tax Policy
The Heartland Institute
jnothdurft@heartland.org
662/801-2707
 
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The election of some serious constitutional conservatives to the House and Senate might give education reformers reason to believe serious change is in the offing. Don't be so sure. The next chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee will be John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota.
 
Kline is a cautious conservative, not a firebrand. He's already said he has no plans to push legislation to abolish the Education Department, for example. And he says the federal No Child Left Behind law is just something Republicans will have to live with as Congress prepares once again to consider reauthorizing the law. But Kline is rightly skeptical of the Obama administration's Race to the Top program, which is as bound in red tape as any other federal education scheme. And he is rightly concerned that the federal government's role in developing standards and tests for the Common Core State Standards Initiative be strictly limited.
 
The question is whether the new members will buck their leaders. Fact is, the federal government already does too much in the realm of public education. The Obama administration's unprecedented expansion into America's classrooms was virtually unchecked by the last Congress. The new Congress has an opportunity to at least impose some accountability on this administration's expansive education agenda.
 
Ben Boychuk
Managing Editor, School Reform News
bboychuk@heartland.org
818/389-2931
 
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Republican control of the House of Representatives ought to put the brakes on President Obama's plan to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law in such a way as to force states to adhere to a federally prescribed curriculum. However, it is likely that Mr. Obama will continue to attempt to expand federal influence over education through executive orders and interpretation of existing laws, as his administration recently has done by threatening school districts with civil-rights violations if they fail to apply anti-bullying policies as broadly as the U.S. Department of Education deems desirable.
 
Bob Holland
Senior Fellow, Education Policy
The Heartland Institute
rholland@heartland.org
703/901-6745
540/977-2584
 
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  One of the most overlooked stories of Election Night took place in Wisconsin, where voters transformed the state from a blue one to a red one.

Control of the legislative and executive branches of state government will switch in January from entirely Democratic to entirely Republican. In addition, Republicans swept significant Congressional and Senate races, notably that held by three-term incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.
Feingold was defeated by Republican newcomer with Tea Party support, Ron Johnson, a successful entrepreneur who started a plastics company with his brother-in-law about 30 years ago. Republicans also prevailed in the race for the congressional seat held for 40 years by U.S. Rep. David Obey, a Democrat and chairman of the enormously powerful House Appropriations Committee. Obey decided earlier this year not to seek reelection, as it became apparent Democrats faced a GOP blizzard.

The GOP candidate also defeated two-term incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Steve Kagan. That gives Republicans control over the state's congressional delegation, 5-3.

Republicans also took control of the governor's office, where Republican Milwaukee County executive Scott Walker defeated Democrat and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Republicans also will now control both the State Assembly and State Senate.
 
Maureen Martin
Senior Fellow for Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
mmartin@heartland.org
920/229-6670
(Note: Ms. Martin is a resident of Wisconsin)
 
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Yesterday's election gives hope, yet pause, from a free-market public policy perspective. It's encouraging the big-government agenda pursued the past two years (and beyond) finally met some resistance from voters and candidates. But there's much work to be done to roll back the alarming encroachment into every aspect of the information technology and telecommunications sector.
 
While politicians on the national and state levels can steer public policy from the abyss, appointees and bureaucrats remain in place -- and they are eager to assert their will on network neutrality, broadcast retransmission rights, municipal wi-fi boondoggles, and a host of other issues. In short, I'm cautiously optimistic about the future.
 
Bruce Walker
Managing Editor, InfoTech & Telecom News
walker.editorial@gmail.com
989/430-5557
 
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With a pick up of at least 22 seats in the Texas House, the GOP’s first major order of business is to decide who will lead as Speaker. Several of the Democrats Speaker Joe Straus appointed last session have lost in the red tsunami. The House is decidedly more conservative, thus Rep. Warren Chisum's challenge should be taken seriously. With the failure of Patrick Rose, Abel Herrero, and Allen Vaught to retain their seats, a return to the prior approval system in regulating insurance rates has also lost steam.
Due to the redistricting and budget issues, it was predicted that many other issues, such as insurance reform, would be neglected. However, with the Republicans claiming such a strong majority and the lost of Democratic Caucus Chairman Jim Dunnam, the House may be able to dispense more easily with those issues and address other business. Additionally, the millions pumped into the Democratic races by incoming Texas Trail Lawyer President, Steve Mostyn did not help his cause of stricter regulation of the insurance industry, because many of them lost their jobs last night.
 
Julie Drenner
Texas Director
Center on Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate
jdrenner@heartland.org
517/799-5706
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