Thinking Magazine #10 06-28-92

Court House Sales Tax Part II

Well good news, the county court house sales tax goes down to defeat and goes down hard. Greene county voters defeated the 1/4 cent sales tax by a 2 to 1 margin. Last issue, as you remember, I published a letter I sent to the county commissioners and said I had a plan to defeat this tax issue. In this issue of Thinking Magazine I reveal the secrets of how you, a single individual, can defeat a regressive tax. And it's easier than becoming a real estate millionaire with no money!

To quickly recap the situation. On June 2, our county had a single issue election to raise the sales tax by 1/4 cent to build a new court house. I decided to oppose it on the basis that it was a lawyer pork barrel project and would be detrimental to the local community.

As I said last time, there was one sentence in my letter that was the hook line that would lead to the defeat of this issue. The sentence was cleverly disguised as the first sentence.

Since this was a single issue election during an election year, it was clear that the county commissioners felt that a low voter turnout was in their favor, and it was worth wasting an additional $80,000 of the taxpayers money to accomplish this. (They could have put the issue on the August primary ballot for free.) Thus, assuming that they knew what they were doing, it was logical to conclude that a high voter turnout would be an effective tool to defeating the tax.

By sending the letter I positioned myself as a tax opponent. It allowed me to collect my thoughts as to how to deal with all the issues involved and could be quickly edited down into several press releases. By stating that I had bought advertising, I got them thinking early about the idea that they would have to purchase advertising to oppose my ads.

My basic theory was to take advantage of a strong anti-government mood in this area and the fact that this was one of the stupidest tax proposals I've come up against. If I could just get the issue out in front of the voters attention it would go down easily.

Soon after faxing the letter I faxed copies to the 3 local TV stations, the newspaper, and a few radio stations that had news. I then bought $600 worth of radio spots containing the following message:

By purchasing these ads I became the "official" opposition because I was spending money and therefore qualified as news. And news is the same as free advertising. All three TV stations came to interview me. Working them into my schedule was somewhat tricky because the week before the sales tax vote I was out of town exhibiting at a computer show in Austin Texas. So I had to get them out early to get the message in the can before I left.

The thing to realize about local news is that they have an hour to fill up every day and they pay reporters to find an hours worth of news to fill it up. When you call them up with a news item, you are helping them do their job. It makes their work easier and they get to fill up two 3 minute news segments. (5pm and 10pm news) So it creates a mutually beneficial relationship.

When doing the actual interview there are several tricks to make the interview better. What I do is prepare a short press release that outlines the points you want to make. It is important that it be short or the reporter won't read it. You hand it to the reporter as soon as they arrive. This allows them to understand where you are coming from and allows them to better prepare their questions. Often they will discuss it with you before going on camera. It is also good to question them about the issue to see if they have a particular slant in mind. You want to figure out what aspect of the story they are most interested in.

When the interview starts the idea is to relax and be conversational. If you blow it a few times it doesn't matter. They will shoot 15 minutes of raw footage but they won't air it all. Typically they will put less than one minute of you, or about 2 sentences, on the air and you have no idea which two sentences it will be. Often they will edit up several stories out of the same footage to cover different aspects on different news casts. They might not put you on the air at all depending on what other news occurs that evening. If Jimmy Swaggart gets caught with another hooker, you could get bumped.

Radio stations will usually interview you by phone. Like the TV interview, you will be edited down to a few lines. So if you blow any line it doesn't matter. You can just repeat the answer and they will edit it in if they like it. Rarely ever do they put you on live on the air. And they will usually tell you if they are recording you or if you are live.

Moving on with the story, the next thing that happens is that you attract other people who want to join your group or donate to your cause. In this case I had a lot of phone calls but I had got a lot of news coverage at that point and told them that I appreciated the offer but had more than enough coverage to defeat the tax. I said that if they really wanted to get in on it they could by a few more of my spots at the radio stations I was using. Other people added about 300 more dollars worth of ads.

Now after getting on the news the opposition gets worried and a group of lawyers put up $15,000 to counter my ads. This was what I was hoping for because it added news value to the issue and their ads, more than mine, informed the public that a sneak election was occurring on June 2nd and that it was controversial. This was the hook, getting them to spend their money to promote my cause. By adding $15,000 they raised the attention the issue got significantly.

The evening of the election I went down to the county clerks office and got the results. Mentally I had prepared both victory and defeat statements depending on how it went. Realistically, I couldn't imagine how the tax could possibly pass, but I have learned not to trust reality so I was prepared.

The county commissioners are now very pissed off at me but in time they will get over it. I have offered them several alternative ways to solve the courthouse problem. Eventually they will have to choose one of them.

This is the second time I've used this method and it works. The first time was in 1987 to defeat a 1/2 cent sales tax the city wanted to pass. Between the two tax issues, I have saved the voters of this county 124 million dollars. This is equal to the lifetime incomes of over 100 well paid people. I feel like I have made a significant contribution to society. You can do this too! It's really not very hard to do.

Presidential Politics

Well the presidential race continues to stay interesting. Bill Clinton appeared on Arsenio Hall and played very good saxophone. He also gave one of the best interviews he's ever done. I'm sure that all 30 registered voters who watch Arsenio will vote for him.

He also did a very good interview and Q&A session on MTV. The thing I found interesting was that both Arsenio and MTV were more successful in allowing the candidate to express his views and answer tough questions than the news media is. Where the news media concentrated on fluff, the MTV audience cut to the core issues and asked much tougher questions about relevant issues.

Arsenio asked Clinton about him not inhaling. He asked if he were asked that question all over again would he answer it differently. Clinton said that if he were asked that question again that he would have said "Yes, I smoked Pot!" Clinton explained that he had never smoked anything before, not even a cigarette. He didn't know how to smoke. It was something he tried to do and failed.

A joint is not like a cigarette where you have this nice wide filter tip to suck on. A joint, especially if it isn't rolled right it's a little tricky to smoke. It takes a little effort to get it to work. So I can see the possibility that Clinton tried to smoke pot once and failed.

So, do I believe Clinton's story? No. But I'll give him credit for coming up with a plausible excuse. And I may be wrong and he may be telling the truth, but it doesn't matter. There are a lot more important issues we are facing and whether or not Clinton inhaled, or lied about inhaling, is just not significant.

Dan Quayle got the opportunity to show off his spelling ability (look who's talking) this last week.

Hey, I could have made that mistake!

Bush threw a press conference and nobody came. The three networks decided he didn't have anything to say, and they were right.

Perot on the other hand continues to be interesting. I like his feisty attitude. Even though I favor Clinton, I'm still attracted by Perot. I still have the whole summer ahead of me to see how he turns out.

One thing I like about Perot is his willingness to stand up to the press. He was asked who he voted for President for the last 20 years and does he have any regrets. Perot responded that how he votes is a private matter. The reporter got huffy with him about it and Perot said that he wasn't offended by the question, but that the his answer should be sufficient. Although we are interested in the question as news consumers, we must respect the right of Perot to choose not to talk about a matter that is a private issue.

On the subject of Perot, I've been thinking a lot lately about what might happen if the election goes to the House of Representatives. In order to win in the House, a candidate must win 26 states who each get one vote. Now here's where it gets fuzzy for me so someone correct me if I'm wrong. In order for a candidate to win a state the candidate has to get over 50% of the votes of the representatives of that state or that state abstains. For example, Missouri has 9 representatives. If the vote came in 4 - Bush, 3 - Clinton, 2 - Perot, then Bush does not win Missouri because it takes 5 to win. Thus Missouri would abstain and it will be even harder to get 26 states.

The Constitution doesn't have a lot of specific rules about how these votes are to take place. The Bush controlled Supreme Court will be the one who interprets the rules. Even though there may me a Democratic majority in the House, there may be circumstances where the Republicans could prevent Clinton from winning. If this should occur then it is conceivable that the Democrats and Republicans might compromise on Perot. Or, the secession of powers might kick in and who knows who will end up being President.

I'm a Democrat and a Republican

People keep asking me what party I belong to. I consider myself to be independent and I vote for individuals. Just because I was a delegate to the Missouri state Democratic convention doesn't make me a Democrat exclusively. In the spirit of truly being an independent I decided to attend the Republican State Convention as well. This was rather convenient to attend because it was being held 2 blocks from my office.

The way I see it, in order to be truly effective about social progress one has to realize that people from both parties are going to get elected and it is best to know and work with all the players. I believe that there are good people in both parties and one has to support the best from both and learn how to work with the worst from both.

At the Republican convention I bought tickets to 3 events. Like the Democratic convention I came dressed in a T-shirt. I wore a variety of pins including my "Clinton for President" and "Choice Voter" pin. I also accumulated several buttons for Republican candidates that impressed me. I particularly liked one of the Republican candidates for Governor and a candidate for Secretary of State who wanted to cut waste through computerization. (Man after my own heart.)

I've developed an interesting ability to fit in anywhere even though I'm different and it's an ability that anyone can learn. I look at everyone as people and treat them as if we are equals or fellow people. I don't give significance to difference like male vs. female, Republican, vs. Democrat, suit vs. T-shirt, Senator vs. citizen, or Christian vs. heathen. In my mind I'm just relating to another individual and I believe that this attitude I have causes others to relate to me the same way. My differences become invisible to them and they forget that I'm wearing a T-shirt with a "Clinton for President" button.

Besides, I have a reputation for being a local anti-tax activist which is an issue that Republicans, in particular, identify with. I therefore not only considered myself as a fellow Republican, but as a prominent fellow Republican and I enjoyed myself there. All in all there are more similarities between Republicans and Democrats than differences. The Republicans had a lot less minorities than Democrats. They also had a lot less cigarette smokers.

Republicans tend to stick together more than Democrats in that they believe in the 11th commandment. Thou shall not bad mouth your party even when your wrong. The most divisive issue in the party is the Pro-Choice issue. There were many Republicans wearing buttons on both sides of the issue and it was more than any other issue a source of distress for them. The choice issue was more of a distress for Republicans than it was for the Democrats who are more tolerant of the expression of opposing views.

Another issue that is troubling Republicans is how close to be to the President. If a Republican candidate positions himself close to Bush and Bush doesn't do well the it could drag the candidate down with him. In the less public forums the Republicans were concerned with "anything can happen this year" which is the same thing the Democrats are concerned about, but the Democrats stand to gain the White House where the Republicans stand to loose the White House.

After getting my picture taken with Bob Dole I said to him, "You remember when you ran against Bush in '88. Well, everything you said about him was right." He replied, "It would seem so." Five minutes later he gave a moving "Get behind the President" speech.

During the course of the event I met a lot of people who were in office and running for office. As you know from reading Thinking Magazine, I have a lot of radical ideas. I found that the Republicans were just as receptive to my radical ideas as the Democrats were. I was fairly amazed at how many of them found the idea of decriminalizing drugs to be a very interesting idea once they understood that decriminalization was an anti-drug position.

Everyone, both Democrats and Republicans, agrees that we need radical change to put the country back on track. I remember on conversation on the subject of radical change where I pointed out that radical change begins with radical ideas; and I have radical ideas. "Here's one for ya!", I said. "The Republicans and Democrats need work together for real change. You need to strike a deal with the Democrats so that you can fight over who gets credit for doing the right thing rather than fighting over who gets the blame for doing the wrong thing." They thought this was an amazing idea.

One of the things I find most interesting is that there is a high probability that I was the only person in Missouri that attended both the Democrat and Republican state conventions. Why is this? Is there a law that you can't be a member of both the Democratic and Republican parties? I feel that I am a legitimate member of both parties because I have donated money to both parties and work for candidates for both parties.

But why am I the only one? Is there something wrong with me or is there something wrong with everyone else in Missouri? After giving this careful thought I've come to the conclusion that I'm right. Being a member of both parties is both strategic and effective. The only other group that comes to mind that is an active member of both parties is the tobacco lobby, and it is working very well for them.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to getting my picture of Bob Dole and I and setting it on the shelf next to my picture of Hillary, my wife, and I.

Talking About Radical Ideas

It occurred to me while writing this issue that I, as a member of both political parties should be allowed to vote both a Democratic and a Republican ballot. The rule is, in the primary, that you either ask for one ballot or the other. But this rule is based on the assumption that a person can't be a member of both the Republican and Democratic parties. An assumption that, in my case, isn't true.

It would seem to me that I could file a lawsuit asking the court to allow me to vote both ballots. I will point out that I attended both conventions and contributed to both parties candidates. I will bring in politicians from both parties to testify that I am indeed a legitimate member of both parties.

It would seem to me that the court would have to rule in my favor based on this evidence unless there are rules or laws preventing membership in more than one party. If that were the case it will be interesting to see which party ends up with me.

It isn't as important whether or not I win this case as it is to bring the case up. I like the idea of people being members of both parties as a tool to end the division in America. This lawsuit could get national attention and the attention is more important than winning or losing.

One side effect I hope to gain is some personal fame. I've decided that it will help my effectiveness to be well known. If I'm perceived as someone who is famous or important then people will tend to listen to me more. I've been giving this some thought lately because I'm not naturally comfortable with attention. I get along with a wide variety of people, but I would rather spend my time with a computer solving some programming logic problem. But I'm trying to get invited to speak to the Missouri legislator about a variety of subjects and I want to position myself in a way that change will actually occur. In a time where radical change is necessary, I want to have a reputation for radical ideas.

Anyhow, I'm thinking seriously about doing this. Look for me in the news papers.

Bush on Gays

George Bush stated that he is sticking by his decision to ban gays from the military, but says he wouldn't ban then from the cabinet like Perot said he would. Is this a contradiction? Is Bush saying that a cabinet job is less important than a private in the Marines? What I want to know is, would he appoint a gay for secretaty of defense?

Perot tipped his hand on the gay issue so now he's pissed off all the gays. That's one of the problems Perot is going to have to face as he comes out with more positions on issues. There are a lot of people who aren't going to like them. It will be just as easy for a person to ditch Perot as it was to join Perot.

Clinton says it doesn't matter as long at they do a good job. This makes sense to me since gays are on the average, normal productive members of society. Unless someone presents me with hard evidence to the contrary, I'd say Clinton is right.

Seven Frozen Embryos

Last month there was a story in the news about a couple who had seven eggs fertilized in a test tube and frozen for later implantation for when the couple wanted to have children. The couple divorced and had a custody battle as to who gets these fertilized eggs. The wife wanted to keep them and use them, but the husband didn't want to become a father by her. The judge ruled in favor of the father stating that the father shouldn't be forced to become a parent if he doesn't want to.

It could be argued that this was the first case of a "male abortion" in that these eggs were fertilized and met the "life begins at conception" criteria. The only difference between this and an abortion is the location of the eggs. If the eggs were inside a woman then it would have been an abortion. Or perhaps is life defined by location?

Assuming that the rights of men and women are theoretically equal, and assuming that life isn't dependent on location, then the judge ruling that the father shouldn't be forced to become a parent if he doesn't want to should be the same as ruling that a woman shouldn't be forced to become a mother if she doesn't want to.

I see it as even a stronger pro-choice argument than it seems on the surface. Many pregnancies that end in abortions are unintended pregnancies where the mother wishes to terminate the pregnancy because she and her partner never intended for the sexual act to lead to reproduction. In this case the eggs were fertilized by the husbands sperm specifically to create children. In a court of law it could be argued that since conception was not only deliberate, but that the couple had invested serious time and money in the reproductive process specifically to have children, that terminating these embryos was more of an abortion than an ordinary abortion would be.

The pro-choice leaders have said the if men got pregnant that abortion would be a sacrament. I think that they could use this case to back up that position.

Reducing Divorce

There's been a lot of talk lately about "traditional family values" and how to reduce divorce. More and more families are splitting up. It seems like nobody has a solution, until now. I have a way to take a big bite out of the divorce rate and don't you want to know what it is?

"OK, Marc!" you might ask, "How do we take a bite out of the divorce rate?" Well, the way I see it is that one of the biggest reasons why marriages end in divorce is that it is too easy to get married.

How many times do you hear people say, "If I had known what he was really like I would never have married him on the first date!" All too often the problem is that people get married before they get to know each other. If we could keep people from getting married so quickly, then perhaps they wouldn't end up getting divorced.

Suppose we passed a law that you had to wait one year between the time you applied for a marriage license and when it was actually issued. That way if you still want to get married after a year then you are more likely to be serious about staying together. It is my theory that a significant number of relationships would fall apart during this one year waiting period. Relationships that would likely have ended in divorce had it not been for waiting.

Now I know that one year is a long time and I'm flexible on that issue. If there were a one month waiting period there would be a serious reduction in divorce. And if there were training classes available in "how to be a spouse" and the couple went to the class they could get say six months shaved off the waiting period.

The "how to be a spouse" class would include basic relationship training in how to get along. It would include lectures for people who have been married 50+ years telling how they survived. Other subjects like child rearing and budgeting. As more and more people are raised in broken homes, many don't have a role model as to how a marriage should work. This kind of training would help nullify this disadvantage and give people a model to go by.

I really don't think this would be an infringement of a persons right to marry. I consider getting married to be a serious affair and the decision should be made at least as carefully as making a decision about buying a car or buying a computer. There are laws that protect people in business to help prevent people from making mistakes. Marriage is an important legal contract and should have the same protections as any other important contract.

During the waiting period the couple will have the time to get to know one another. I'm not saying that they will get to know one another, but they will at least have the time. In some ways it's like buying a car. You want to test drive it to see how it rides. Or before you buy a dress you want to see if it fits. I think that deciding to get married should be at least as important as that.

The Church Tax Deduction

I don't think that churches should be taxed, but I don't think they should be a tax deduction either. In other words, I don't think it should be allowed that a donation to a church should be tax deductible that same way that donations to charities are tax deductible. In effect, tax deductible donations to churches amount to state subsidized religion.

If we eliminated this tax deduction it would have many positive effects on society. The first and most obvious effect is that it would raise money for the government and help balance the budget. I don't know how much more money would be raised but it would be significant.

Another effect is that it would improve the quality of religion. There would be less, but better churches. You would have less Jimmy Swaggart's and Robert Tilton's bilking the public out of their money. Churches would have to adapt to providing real spiritual services to their congregation to get donations that come our of their own pocket rather than from the taxpayer.

It would also eliminate competition between charities and the church. Once the TV preachers are eliminated as tax deductions, charities that do real work, perhaps God's work, will get more money from those who need to give to something for tax purposes. Churches could (and should) get into the charity business which would restore their tax deductibility status for the part of church activities that are directly involved with the charity.

Now some people might accuse me of being anti-religion but this idea is pro-religion. The current tax deductibility laws allow money to be brought into the church in a way that poisons the spirit. The greedy are attracted by the money and infiltrate the core of the church like a disease to the point where God is forgotten and money is King. If you don't believe me then go to church and listen to what is being said and see for yourself if The Almighty isn't really the almighty dollar.

What's interesting about this idea is how similar it is to my idea in issue #2 of Thinking Magazine about how to solve the drug problem. In issue #2 I suggest that the big problem with curing drug addiction is that too many people are making too much money off of drug addicts to allow society to cure them and the solution is to take the money out of drugs so that we can get to the addicts. It would seem that the same can be said for the church. Take the money out of the system and the greedy will go away.

POWs and MIAs

There is a renewed interest in Vietnam era prisoners of war (POW) and American servicemen missing in action (MIA). But don't get your hopes up of seeing any show up before the election.

At the end of the war we left people behind in Southeast Asia and the government has been covering it up ever since. But like the Kennedy assassination, it's one of those issues that just won't go away. But the reason you won't see any found before the election is that it will prove that Ross Perot was right and be politically damaging to George Bush.

"But Marc! Are you saying that Bush would prevent our boys from coming home just to win an election?" Yes I am! Bush and Reagan delayed the release of our hostages in Iran so that they could win the 1980 election and I believe they would do the same thing in 1992. Personally, for the sake of the MIAs, I hope they aren't found before Bush is replaced because they wouldn't be safe if discovered now.

Thinking Magazine Issue Schedule

Actually there is no schedule. I do it whenever I find time. It's summer time and it's harder to get in the mood to sit around and write. I try to come up with an issue at least once a month. It's been slipping lately but I'll probably write more this winter once it gets cold. As you can see I've been a busy boy.


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