I am honored to question the GOP candidates for you and Heritage

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This is pretty cool and a little unnerving.

Heritage Action has extended the honor to be one of three Heritage Action Sentinels to question Republican Presidential candidates on Friday, September 17 in Greenville, South Carolina. So far, 12 candidates have confirmed, including Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio. (Maybe Trump will make fun of my tie.)

I have no idea why Heritage would pick me for this privilege. I just hope I don’t screw it up. To that end, your prayers will be appreciated. (I’m sure many people have already muttered under their breaths, “Please, God, don’t let him screw this up.” I thank you.) I promise not to ramble about national service, okay?

Please check this blog or www.heritageaction.com for details on C-SPAN’s schedule for the event’s airing. (As of this writing, it is not scheduled for live broadcast.)

And, now, please find out why pursuit of happiness is essential to liberty.

Whatever Happened to the Party of Ideas?

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From about 1978 until the Monica Lewinsky fiasco, the GOP was called “the party of ideas.” I miss the ideas.

William F. Buckley helped. Buckley liked big ideas and smart people. He liked politicians who gave legs to great ideas and governors with the guts to experiment. Governor Ronald Reagan appeared on Buckley’s Firing Line shortly after the Gipper became California’s governor. Reagan talked about many ideas he was trying or hoping to try. My favorite: allowing states to keep a portion of the federal taxes and fees generated within a state instead of cycling everything through Washington’s bureaucracy.

That idea now exists in the form of Transportation Empowerment Act.

The Idea People

Jack Kemp, the former congressman, HUD secretary, and football quarterback, championed all sorts of ideas. Some of Kemp’s ideas offend a few modern Tea Partiers, but he at least promoted ideas and tests. He gave the Republican Party (and conservatism) an idealistic, enthusiastic, and optimistic face. Buckley called Kemp “America’s leading enthusiast.”

How many of those exciting ideas from the 80s and 90s began with a Heritage Foundation paper? All of them? Most? Well, Heritage is still there, still pumping out ideas. And Heritage has add Heritage Action to help activists push ideas upon their members of Congress.

What Are Ann Wagner’s Big Ideas

I wonder, though, why so many modern Republican politicians avoid ideas like the plague? Take Rep. Ann Wagner. She’s interested in issues, or so she says. I believe her. She’s very interested in issues involving potential donors. Or issues that Republican pollsters discover a demographic for.

Ideas, though, are another matter for politicians like Wagner. Ideas don’t come with checks. Ideas can get you into trouble. Ideas demand hard thinking to plan and explain, and hard work to promote and execute. Why do all that work when you could be raising funds from wealthy donors, instead?

Sometimes, big ideas become the topic of discussion at candidate forums. Jack Kemp loved promoting his ideas with people unlikely to jump aboard, including Democrats. Or communists. Or anyone willing to discuss big ideas. I can’t imagine Kemp ducking a candidate forum or a debate.

Rep. Ann Wagner, on the other hand, avoids idea sharing, future planning, or philosophical discussion. Wagner won’t show up at a candidate forum with her opponents, Libertarian Bill Slantz and Democrat Arthur Lieber. Mrs. Wagner, apparently, will be busy knocking on doors during the candidate forum next Wednesday, October 22. Those doors, according to her official schedule, are in northern Virginia, where Wagner will be raising money for a candidate there.

When I was young and Republican in the 1980s, the ideas attracted me. Jack Kemp’s enthusiasm and William F. Buckley’s brilliance and Ronald Reagan’s lovable charm made my job of attracting other young voters easy. I remember the 1987 Low Country Stump Days in Charleston, SC. I was surrounded by people in their twenties. We were guided by retirees, but we knew we were the stars because we were young and conservative and full of ideas–ideas we borrowed from Heritage and Buckley and Kemp.

Conservative Names | Liberal Names

I’m not so sure the left has any monopoly on ideas today. Democrats mostly just want to keep blacks poor and Hispanics isolated so that government programs look like a good deal. What bothers me is that so many Republicans treat Fortune 500 companies the same way Democrats treat the poor. It’s all about creating dependency. It’s all about addicting people to government largess. It’s all about becoming the arbiter of happiness so people have to grovel.

The left, though, does a good job of pretending to have ideas. They use photoshop, videos, comedians, and actors to make cynicism feel like philosophy. Cynicism sounds original and smart to a kid.

It’s no surprise, then, that lists of the most conservative and most liberal names  present such starkly different images. As Katherine Miller writes on Buzzfeed:

The liberal names generally sound like a group of women in their late 20s; the conservative names sound like the members of a large bluegrass band from the 1930s.

In the 1980s, I was still playing the banjo, so Ms. Miller’s characterization is only 50 years off.

Young people have a life to look forward to. They’re not so interested in holding onto what they’ve got, because don’t have anything except a ton of debt. They want ideas. They expect those of us who’ve lived to provide some of those ideas.

The reason I can’t vote for Ann Wagner isn’t because she doesn’t go to candidate forums; it’s because she wouldn’t have anything to talk about if she did.

The candidate forum will be held at 7 pm, October 22 in the Meramec Community College Student Center, 11333 Big Bend Road. This is a great chance to meet a candidate with ideas, Bill Slantz.

Why Ann Wagner Is Wrong to Attack Heritage Action

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Accountability? We don’t need no stinking accountability.

No, Ann Wagner didn’t actually say that. But her comments to a 2nd District Republican committee meeting on Tuesday gave at least one attendee the impression that Mrs. Wagner opposes the idea of conservatives holding Congress accountable.

Ann Wagner Attacks the Conservative Heritage Action

Rep. Ann Wagner accused the conservative Heritage Action for America of “pitting Republican against Republican” and “never attacking Dems” at the Republican meeting.

I’d like to remind Mrs. Wagner that Heritage Action keeps score on all members of Congress, not just Republicans. Also, the reason Heritage Action and its Sentinels focus their activism on Republicans is because we know the Democrats are a lost cause. Yelling at Democrats doesn’t do a damn thing. (I have direct experience on this. I co-founded an organization that did nothing but yell at Democrats from 2009 to 2012.)

We don’t pit Republicans against Republicans, Mrs. Wagner; we pit members of Congress against their own principles. We hold people accountable, not to our standards, but to the principles people like you campaigned on.

Heritage Action Advances the Policies of Reagan’s Favorite Think-Tank

While no single institution is the sole judge of what is conservative, the Heritage Foundation comes close. Heritage’s white papers were the foundation of the Reagan Revolution. Here are some examples:

With the arrival of the Reagan administration, the Heritage Foundation and other conservative foreign policy think tanks saw a political opportunity to significantly expand Carter’s Afghanistan policy into a more global “doctrine”, including U.S. support to anti-communist resistance movements in Soviet-allied nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. According to political analysts Thomas Bodenheimer and Robert Gould, “it was the Heritage Foundation that translated theory into concrete policy. Heritage targeted nine nations for rollback: Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, Libya, Nicaragua, and Vietnam“.[5]

— Source: Wikipedia

And from Christian Science Monitor in 1984 writing about Heritage’s 1,100 page “Mandate for Leadership,” which was something like Reagan’s first administration blueprint:

Like a shadow government – but one with considerable clout – the conservative Heritage Foundation is at work throughout the Reagan administration. Its fingerprints can clearly be seen on the administration’s 1986 budget, now emerging from White House deliberations. And its access in recent days to top government officials, including Cabinet secretaries, has been unprecedented for a private organization.

Even the hardest of the hard left found Reagan’s policies looked like legislative or executive execution of Heritage policy papers:

Since the beginning of the Reagan Administration, the Heritage Foundation has had an incredible impact on Republican policies in America. The right-wing think tank founded by Paul Weyrich, Edwin Feulner and Joseph Coors is largely to blame for the conservative state we find the country in today.

And, as Richard Amen wrote on We the People blog:

According to conservative writer William F.Buckley, Jr, Reagan acted upon approximately sixty percent of the three volumes of “Mandates” awaiting him when he took office which is why his Presidency was about sixty percent successful.

It’s safe to say that no other institution or think-tank exercised as much influence over the Reagan Administration as did Heritage. Now why wouldn’t Mrs. Wagner want to touch base with Reagan’s favorite think-tank? That’s exactly the service Heritage Action provides her.

Heritage Action launched in 2010 to help conservative legislators stay true to those first principles. Heritage realized that papers don’t change the world–actions do. But without a leader like Reagan to drive Heritage’s idea into law, its research and policy papers were just Saturday afternoon reading for conservative policy wonks.

Heritage Action’s purpose was to remind self-described conservatives in Washington that we don’t win when we don’t differentiate. And that call to differentiate seems precisely what disturbs Mrs. Wagner about Heritage Action.

Export-Import Bank Is a Silly Hill to Die On

Tell me how Mrs. Wagner differentiates herself from Democrats on Export-Import Bank? Wagner and Democrat Claire McCaskill read from identical talking point memos when they spoke to a St. Louis Public Radio reporter. They both threw out the same laughably false “facts” about Ex-Im and jobs, Ex-Im and “level playing fields.” Ann Wagner asking Heritage to attack Dems on Ex-Im is like a soldier calling for mortar fire on his own position.

Mrs. Wagner continued with some “facts,” like saying Ex-Im “is about 13,000 jobs in district. Jobs in this district. It’s not about Boeing.”

Oh really? Perhaps Mrs. Wagner would show us the research supporting her claim that Ex-Im created 13,000 jobs in her district. Because those would be the only 13,000 jobs Ex-Im created according to a Congressional Research Service report:

A Congressional Research Service report has confirmed that Ex-Im shifts jobs; it does not create them: “Economists generally maintain… that subsidizing export financing does not add to the overall level of economic activity, and subsidizes foreign consumption at the expense of the domestic economy. [Therefore], promoting exports through subsidized financing…will not permanently raise the level of employment in the economy, but alters the composition of employment among various sectors… and performs poorly as a jobs creation mechanism.”

Wagner is also wrong when she tells people, “This is about leveling the playing field in the International arena, and I will always fight for jobs in the district.” Less and 1/3 of Ex-Im’s loans involve competing subsidies from foreign governments. And the largest recipient of Ex-Im loans, Boeing, has stated it doesn’t need Ex-Im.

As I pointed out in an earlier post on the matter, Ex-Im is not a huge program. It is not the worst example of corporate welfare and government interference in free markets. Instead, Ex-Im is an easy win for principled conservatives. A no-brainer that requires no action. It will just go away.

By defending Ex-Im, Mrs. Wagner has telegraphed how she will handle tougher corporate welfare issues. She will always back corporate welfare queens because they will always cry “jobs.” No facts, just slogans. And this is why I am voting for Bill Slantz for Congress on November 4.

I just don’t understand why Mrs. Wagner would choose the Ex-Im hill to die on?

Hey, Kettle: The Pot Is Calling

What’s more disheartening than the made-up facts was Mrs. Wagner’s silly attack on Heritage Action’s motives. Mrs. Wagner told the audience, which included some Heritage donors and Sentinels, “Heritage is just trying to raise money for itself.”


PSYCHOLOGICAL PROJECTION: A psychoanalytical theory, projection is the process whereby one subject believes they see attributes (both good and bad) in another. The theory views this tendency as a defense mechanism whereby unenviable or unpleasant traits, impulses or ideas are attributed to another. In this way, the projector is able to avoid the unpleasantness in themselves.

— Source: PROJECTION from Psychological Dictionary


Psychologists call it projection. In South St. Louis it was simply  “the pot calling the kettle black”.

Mrs. Wagner is one of the best-funded people in the House. She’s raised nearly $2 million in the current cycle despite running unopposed in her primary.

Here’s Ann Wagner’s fundraising vs. the House average:

Ann Wagner raises well more than the House average, yet she accuses a grassroots activist of taking positions for money. Source: OpenSecrets.org

Money doesn’t fall into a politician’s lap. She has to work for that money. And she does. Ann Wagner is known as one of the hardest working fundraisers in town. This one and Washington.

While Heritage Action does accept donations, fundraising is not high on its activity list. Accountability is. On that point, Mrs. Wagner seems as ill-informed as she is on the proper role of government and on the “conservative-ness” of the Export-Import Bank.

I realize that Mrs. Wagner has to defend her positions against critics like me. I wish she should do it without the use of fabricated “facts” and psychological projection.

And that, my friend, is why I am not voting for Ann Wagner this time around.


Note: This post has been updated. Poor writing in the earlier version seemed to diminish Ronald Reagan’s presidency. My apologies. It was totally just crappy writing and did not reflect my views. —wth

Why I Will Not Vote for Ann Wagner in 2014

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There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224


The problem the Republican Party has, too many people are sitting around, waiting for a wave to take them across the election. If you want a wave, you have to paddle.

— Michael Needham, CEO, Heritage Action for America


Catch a wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world.

— The Beach Boys


If most people are not willing to see the difficulty, this is mainly because, consciously or unconsciously, they assume that it will be they who will settle these questions for the others, and because they are convinced of their own capacity to do this.

— Friedrich August von Hayek

Ann Wagner Yanked Missouri’s 2nd District to the Left

The numbers are stunning.

Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District is one of the most conservative in the state. The seat held by Jim Talent and Todd Akin has long aligned with Heritage Foundation’s principled conservatism.

By replacing Todd Akin with Ann Wagner, 2nd District voters lurched the state hard to the left. How far left? Twenty-three percentage points left.

Source: Heritage Action for America

When the 112th Congress ended, Todd Akin sat at 82 percent on Heritage Action’s Scorecard. Right now, Ann Wagner’s score is 58. That’s below the Republican House average, and it’s miles beneath her district’s philosophical center.

Mrs. Wagner’s HA score would be respectable in certain districts in Maine, Michigan, or California. In Missouri’s 2nd, they’re disgraceful. I realize that Todd Akin was a liability for many reasons. But his consistent principled conservative voting wasn’t one of them. We might not want Akin back, but I would sure like a US Representative who will catch the wave instead of going with the elitist flow.

Export-Import Bank Was a Defining Issue

While Mrs. Wagner is reliably pro-life and an ardent defender of the 2nd Amendment, her philosophy of government is anything but Hayekian. Mrs. Wagner announced loud and clear her loud support for Export-Import Bank. I trust Mrs. Wagner to represent my views on several issues, most especially the paradoxical combination mentioned above: life and guns. I suppose she will agree with me on the First Amendment, as well. Beyond those three admittedly crucial issues, I suspect Mrs. Wagner represents the ruling class against the rest of us.

Export-Import Bank is particularly telling. First, because it is so small an issue, it would seem the easiest and least consequential for even a play-acting conservative to adopt the conservative line. The two companies that receive the lion’s share of Ex-Im largesse–Boeing and GE–would survive just as well without it. Boeing has stated such. Second, because Ex-Im is such an unmistakable symbol of anti-freedom, supporting the bank defines the person.

Ex-Im Bank Is Anti-Freedom

Hayek defined freedom as “the state in which man is not subject to coercion by the arbitrary will of another or others.” The Export-Import Bank exemplifies the condition opposite freedom: the state of currying favor of a bureaucrat. The bank chooses among competing companies those that will succeed and those that will fail. Companies wishing the advantage of this bureaucratic coercion grovel at the feet of government functionaries. Or give money to Congressmen. Companies that choose not to grovel put themselves in an economic disadvantage, sometimes ruining their business.

Grovelling before one’s master is hardly an act of freedom. It’s an act of slavery, and Ann Wagner wants to perpetuate that slavery.

While Mrs. Wagner and the US Chamber of Commerce like to point to specific companies that have thrived thanks to corporate welfare, they forget to mention those “successful” companies’ competitors who “failed” because government made the playing field uneven.

Because Export-Import Bank represents an opportunity for politicians to clearly state their political philosophy, we must accept Mrs. Wagner’s position as indicative of her philosophy. I now accept that Mrs. Wagner and I fundamentally disagree on what constitutes a just government. Fundamentally, not superficially. In other words, the kind of government Mrs. Wagner supports is the kind of government I want to erase.

Philosophy of Government Is an Organizing Principle of the Tea Party Movement

The two establishment parties have no central, organizing principle regarding a philosophy of government. Parties exist solely to maximize their own power through elections. We discern their philosophy by their actions, not their platforms. The GOP’s actions on Ex-Im and many other issues prove the party believes in government by a ruling elite.

It’s one thing to vote for Ex-Im out of fear. It’s another thing to publicly advance the idea that government should replace free markets. Mrs. Wagner is on the side of government and government-sanctioned corporations.

Because free markets is an organizing principle of a movement I had a hand in launching, I cannot vote for Ann Wagner until she demonstrates a free market bias.

Ann Wagner and the GOP Elite Missed a Huge Opportunity with Ex-Im

On a practical level, I’m a little shocked that Mrs. Wagner and the House Republican leadership passed this golden opportunity. That missed opportunity was best described by Dan Holler of Heritage Action in an LA Times article:

“They had a chance to have a federal agency expire right before an election and go back home and campaign that they ended corporate welfare,” he said.

I thought Mrs. Wagner and the GOP elite were, at least, opportunistic. The Ex-Im sell-out tells me they’re not. Instead, their winging it. With neither a philosophical core or a practical plan, Washington Republicans are simply selling out to the highest bidder. And that’s usually the US Chamber of Commerce.

On the other hand, that gives me some hope. Ann Wagner would be very difficult to defeat in either a primary or a general election. But we might be able to change her behavior on issues like Ex-Im. To do that, we need leverage.

We don’t have Boeing’s government-funded billions to throw around. We have our votes. If movement conservatives in the 2nd District vote Libertarian in November, or skip the US House vote altogether, we might be able to hold Wagner in the 50s. That would be a big step backwards from 2012 margin of 60-37.

A step back will put Wagner in a tough position for 2016. Democrats will be encouraged to take the race more seriously. Libertarians could also target the district. Wagner’s only choice would be to move to the right to solidify her base.

In other words, the only way to save Ann Wagner might be to vote against her this November.

My First non-Republican Vote for Congress. Ever.

In my post last week, I offered Mrs. Wagner the opportunity to reply. She has not. Therefore, we have to assume Mrs. Wagner agrees with my assertions, accepts my facts, and feels so strongly in her (non-)philosophy of government that she simply has moved on. Fine. That’s her prerogative.

I have a prerogative, too. And I choose to exercise my prerogative by stating that I will not vote for Mrs. Wagner’s re-election in 2014. I cannot vote for a person whose philosophy of government I find morally reprehensible and unjust.

I won’t vote for the Democrat in the race for precisely the same reason.

That leaves me two choices: skip that race on my ballot, or vote for Bill Slantz, the Libertarian Party candidate. I’ll work on that decision and let you know how it comes out, but, one way or the other, I’m swimming out to catch the wave.

In the meantime, I hope you will consider whether you can vote for a member of Congress who advances a philosophy of government that, in 1776, we utterly and formally rejected.

Video: Ronald Reagan Wants the Transportation Empowerment Act

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Want to fix Missouri’s roads and cut taxes at the same time? Well, two American conservative icons showed us the way almost 50 years ago.

The Establishment likes to attack grassroots conservatives by claiming Reagan would have opposed the Tea Party. They’re wrong, of course, and the Transportation Empowerment Act tells us why.

In 1967, shortly after Ronald Reagan became governor of California, William F. Buckley Jr. asked Governor Reagan if was even possible to be an effective governor.

“What’s meant by that,” Buckley went on:

Are we now so dependent on the federal government that the individual state is left without the scope to make its own crucial decisions? Isn’t the individual state in the matter of taxation required to make do with what amounts to the leftovers?

Reagan’s reply told the whole story:

The TEA would keep gasoline taxes in the state where they’re generated. So all the taxes you pay at the pump here in Missouri would stay in Missouri for the Missouri governor and legislature to allocate.

The Transportation Empowerment Act

Here’s how it works according to the bill’s architect, Congressman Tom Graves:

How it Works

  • Transfers almost all authority over federal highway and transit programs to the states over a five-year period.
  • Lowers the federal gas tax to 3.7 cents from 18.4 cents over the same time period.
  • During the five-year phase out, states will receive block grants that come with vastly fewer federal strings attached.

What It Does

  • Immediately reduces the bureaucratic burden involved in the construction of critical transportation projects.
  • Results in a faster administrative response to the transportation problems Americans face, such as traffic, commuting, and access.
  • Gives states greater flexibility in their tax structure.
  • Connects where people want to work with where they want to live.
  • Opens opportunities to develop new mass-transit solutions, innovate environmental protections, and improve the financing of projects.
  • Creates jobs and grows the economy.

Where Do Missouri’s Republicans Stand on TEA?

So far, the only Missouri member of Congress to sign onto the TEA Bill is Rep. Billy Long (HA-78%). That means we need to work on Ann Wagner (HA-63%), Jason Smith (HA-74%), Vicky Hartzler (HA-64%), and Sam Graves (HA-65%). (Leutkemeyer[HA-57%] is a lost cause, so I won’t ask anyone to waste their time.)

Heritage Action has key voted the Transportation Empowerment Act, meaning that all members of Congress will be judged by their performance on the bill. Because Establishment Republicans love Washington power, how our delegation handles the TEA Bill will tell us a lot about their commitment to Reagan-Buckley conservatism.

Call or visit Rep. Ann Wagner’s Ballwin office and ask her to co-sponsor HR-3486, the Transportation Empowerment Act.

Ballwin District Office

301 Sovereign Court
Suite 201
BallwinMO 63011

hours: M-F 9-5:00pm

Phone: (636) 779-5449

“People want to spend less time in traffic and more time enjoying life. Our bill does away with the Washington middleman and streamlines the highway program, allowing more projects to be completed at a lower cost. This approach paves the way for commuters to move more easily between home and work, freeing up important family time and cutting out hours of frustration behind the wheel.” – Congressman Tom Graves

Sound a lot like Reagan, doesn’t it?

Mark Your Calendar for June 19

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Thanks to Ben Evans of Heritage Action for America and Michelle Moore of St. Louis Tea Party Coalition, you have a treat coming on June 19.

Heritage Action/St. Louis Tea Party Social: June 19

On Thursday, June 19 at 6:30pm, we will gather informally at Scarecrow in Chesterfield, 1095 Chesterfield Parkway.  All are welcome.  Appetizers will be provided.  Come down and enjoy the company of fellow grassroots activists.

If you have friends who think Tea Partiers are “too extreme” or “racist” or whatever, bring them along. There won’t be a bunch of political speeches to scare them away. Just conversation about restoring their power so they can keep the republic.  RSVP on Facebook

Set a reminder on