During this presidential primary season, Granite Staters will hear a lot of talk about the supposed benefits of socialism vs. the alleged failures of capitalism. This excellent, brief video from Prager University offers a good primer on the subject. It explains well the philosophical mistakes made in the assumption that socialism is morally superior to capitalism.

“But, it is impossible for us to be blind to the facts which are daily transpiring before us. It is impossible for us not to perceive that party spirit and future elevation mix more or less in all our affairs, in all our deliberations. 

— Henry Clay, Feb. 5, 1850

 

The Executive Council’s 3-2 party-line rejection of Attorney General Gordon MacDonald’s nomination to become chief justice of the state Supreme Court marked a cultural turning point for New Hampshire. 

In 2017, MacDonald sailed through his Attorney General confirmation. “He’s someone I’ve met through (legal) practice, WMUR-TV reported a member of the Executive Council as saying. “I’ve generally thought him to be a sophisticated, thoughtful lawyer, which is what I want in an attorney general. He’s never been known to have any ethical issues.”

This week, a councilor condemned MacDonald as having been associated with politicians who have “shockingly extreme views.” 

Both comments were uttered by the same councilor, Concord Democrat Andru Volinsky.

Thus Volinsky, a convention delegate for Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist who would abolish all private health insurance, labeled as a radical extremist a convention delegate for… Marco Rubio. 

For context, the “ideology score” matrix run by the website govtrack.us puts Rubio slightly to the right of center among Republican senators. Bernie Sanders resides all alone on the extreme far left of not just the Democratic Party, but of the entire U.S. Senate. There the Sanders supporter stands, pointing back toward the middle and shouting, “extremist!” 

In his hearing, MacDonald said repeatedly that as chief justice he must not be guided by his personal views, which he never disclosed and which no one had been able to define. He would be guided only by the rule of law, he said. 

Volinsky dismissed that standard phrase as a “talisman” used by dishonest partisans to hide their true, radical agendas.

“But the talisman no longer works because we live in the age of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, and of the legislatures in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Utah — all of which are committed to overturning the rule of law,” Volinsky wrote in a column explaining his vote.

With that, MacDonald was marked as dishonest, unethical, and a threat to the rule of law itself by the very government official who had previously called him a “sophisticated, thoughtful lawyer.”

Incidentally, last week, Volinsky announced he had formed an exploratory committee to run for governor. 

As for shocking extremism, an analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh has voted with fellow Trump appointee Gorsuch 70.3 percent of the time. He’s voted with Barack Obama appointee Elena Kagan… 70.3 percent of the time. What a strange record for someone “committed to overturning the rule of law.”

“I’ve known Gordon for 22 years, and the idea that he’s ‘an extremist’ or ‘shocking’ is mind-numbingly crazy,” Scott O’Connell, a Democrat and attorney at Nixon-Peabody, told NHJournal after the vote. “It’s unfounded, and it’s bulls**t.

“Gordon has a 30-year track record of outstanding service and now they think he’s been, what, a closet right-winger the entire time? It’s ridiculous. He’s set a record of exemplary behavior, so they have to go back 30 years to find an excuse to vote against him,” O’Connell said. “It’s just guilt by association.”

The associations with alleged shocking extremists were made again and again. MacDonald once worked for U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey decades ago. He was a Rubio delegate in 2016. He formerly served on the board of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. Horrifying.

Gordon Humphrey, always a party outsider, left the GOP after Trump’s election and endorsed Democrat Chris Pappas for Congress last year. The Bartlett Center board has included such noted shocking extremists as moderate Republican attorney Brad Cook and income tax-supporting former Gov. Walter Peterson. Peterson chaired the Bartlett Center’s board.

Not a single personal or political view of MacDonald’s was discerned by the discussion of these associations. But discovering his views was never the point.  

In legal circles, it’s understood that political and legal views are not synonymous. That truth has guided past judicial nominations. No longer. 

This is why so many lawyers of both parties have expressed anger at the vote. New Hampshire’s state courts have been a refuge in the weed-like spread of politics into all areas of life. Once the courts become conquered territory, the merits of judicial nominees will be determined by party label rather than legal ability. That is a threat not just to the impartiality of the courts, but to the credibility of the entire legal system.

As former chief justice and head of UNH Law John Broderick said, “These appointments have never been viewed through a political prism and once we start doing that – assume that because once you were an active Democrat or once you were an active Republican and so you will automatically rule a certain way – we are going down an avenue we ought to not head down.”

Broderick was New Hampshire co-chair of Bill Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign before his elevation to the Supreme Court. 

Before the vote, dozens of lawyers of both parties emerged to push back against this. Democratic attorney and Beto O’Rourke supporter Jay Surdukowski helped lead the charge against politicizing the confirmation vote. Lending their support were 100 lawyers, including past Supreme Court justices, Democratic Gov. John Lynch’s legal counsel, and the director of the Rudman Center for Justice at UNH Law School. Others, including Broderick, traveled to testify in person on MacDonald’s behalf.

None of it mattered. The bipartisan effort to keep politics out of MacDonald’s confirmation was the last futile gesture of a crumbling culture, once held dear, in which honor and equity were cherished above party and power. 

That culture has been conquered. Every inch of public ground has been converted to a political battlefield. No neutral territory remains. 

Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would put approximately 1.3 million Americans out of work, the Congressional Budget Office concluded in a study released Monday. For perspective, that’s the equivalent of the entire population of New Hampshire. 

The CBO found that a $15 minimum wage likely would

  • “Boost workers’ earnings through higher wages, though some of those higher earnings would be offset by higher rates of joblessness;
  • “Reduce business income and raise prices as higher labor costs were absorbed by business owners and then passed on to consumers; and
  • “Reduce the nation’s output slightly through the reduction in employment and a corresponding decline in the nation’s stock of capital (such as buildings, machines, and technologies).
  • “On the basis of those effects and CBO’s estimate of the median effect on employment, the $15 option would reduce total real (inflation-adjusted) family income in 2025 by $9 billion, or 0.1 percent.”

Those are the mid-range effects in the CBO’s analysis. The $15 minimum wage could cost as many as 3.7 million jobs, the study concluded. That’s more than the population of Connecticut. 

New Hampshire legislators recently passed a bill to mandate a $12 minimum wage by 2022. The CBO study found similar but smaller effects for a $12 minimum wage. Job losses in the median range would reach around 300,000, or the equivalent of the entire population of Rockingham County. 

“Like the $15 option, this option would boost wages, but it would also increase joblessness, reduce business income, raise prices, and lower total output in the economy,” the CBO wrote of the $12 minimum wage. “On balance, real family income in 2025 would fall by $1 billion, or less than 0.05 percent.”

Advocates of a higher minimum wage have challenged Gov. Chris Sununu to live on the $7.25 minimum wage for a week. But people earning the minimum wage are not typically heads of household. They tend to be young, single, and working part-time. It is an entry-level wage meant to give unskilled employees opportunities to enter the labor market and gain skills.

Artificially inflating entry-level wages prices the lowest-skilled workers out of the labor market, as the CBO analysis shows. A high minimum wage is, in effect, a subsidy for skilled workers that comes at the expense of unskilled workers.

Given a the effects a high minimum wage would have on employment, the better challenge is for activists to live for a week on zero dollars. That’s how much someone earns when his or her job opportunities are eliminated by an arbitrary, government-decreed wage floor. 

Note: This column was first published in the New Hampshire Union Leader July 5, 2019.

By Andrew Cline

Reading through the state budget passed and vetoed last week, I was struck by how many provisions had gone either unreported or lightly reported. The people’s elected representatives had just passed a $13 billion budget, and the people, excepting a handful of insiders, had little idea what was in it.

For example, the budget:

  • raised the tobacco-purchase age from 18 to 21 and changed the tobacco tax to a nicotine tax so the state could legally tax e-cigarettes (which sometimes contain nicotine but never tobacco); 
  • repealed the state law prohibiting state funding for abortions; 
  • raised this year’s business tax rates and applied the higher rates to taxes already paid this year, effectively imposing a retroactive tax increase on New Hampshire businesses.

It isn’t just the budget. Whole portions of the legislative session passed in relative darkness. 

In the last year, the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy’s email newsletter has broken several political news stories. There was no media conspiracy to hide the news. Too often, there simply was no media. 

In some newsworthy committee meetings, the Bartlett Center had the only non-lobbyist with a pen and a publication there. Other times, we were the only ones questioning government officials about stories that weren’t the biggest topics of the week.

Our government watchdogs have been forced by collapsing profits to lay off the reporters who once kept the public informed. In their absence, the public knows not what transpires in its own state capital.

At the turn of this century, the press room at the State House was full, with several organizations sending multiple reporters. Even smaller papers like Foster’s Daily Democrat had a capital reporter. 

If you sent the press room a dozen doughnuts today, reporters would fight over who got to take home the leftovers. 

With so few journalists, legislators are doing their business with minimum scrutiny. The biggest issues get covered, but thinly compared to the past, and many issues go unreported. 

It’s worse in cities and towns. Reporters, once commonly seen sitting in the back rows of public meetings or roaming the halls of town offices, have gone the way of the shoe shine boy.  

The results are self-evident. Governing magazine reported in 2015 that dwindling media coverage of state government led to more pack reporting (reporters covering the same big stories the same way) and more click-driven reporting. 

Recent studies show that less media scrutiny leads to higher government spending. In a 2018 study, professors at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Chicago looked at 1,596 newspapers in 1,266 counties from 1996 to 2015. They found that municipal borrowing costs increased in communities that lost newspapers. 

“You can actually see the financial consequences that have to be borne by local citizens as a result of newspaper closures,” a co-author said. 

A similar study in Japan found that an increase in newspaper market share was associated with a drop in public works spending. 

Other studies have tied newspaper losses to reductions in voter participation and civic engagement. Wallet Hub just ranked New Hampshire the most patriotic state, with civic participation being a top factor. If we abandon local journalism, we should expect that ranking to fall. 

More journalists make government more accountable and citizens more engaged. Some conservative readers might counter, “But not if all the journalists are liberal!” 

Media bias is a problem, but ending bias by killing newspapers is like ending Pledge of Allegiance protests by abolishing the NFL. 

It’s better to have an active news media, even biased, than to have no one keeping an eye on government.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask our Founding Fathers. 

During the American Revolution, reliable information was scarce and enormously valuable. In New Hampshire, patriot leaders constantly encouraged each other to read the newspapers. Letters from New Hampshire’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence include the following: 

Josiah Bartlett to John Langdon, Sept. 30, 1776: “There is no news here, more than you will see in the publick prints.”

William Whipple to John Langdon, July 8, 1776: “I must refer you to the papers for news.…”

Matthew Thornton to Meshech Weare, Nov. 12, 1776: “For better and further information and news, I must refer you to the newspapers, and you won’ t find more falsehood in them than is passing through this city.”

William Whipple to John Langdon, June 10, 1776: “Colonel Bartlett sends you newspapers.”

Citizens cannot check government power if they abandon the organizations that expose what government is doing. This Independence Day weekend, commit a radical act of American patriotism. Subscribe to your local newspaper.

Andrew Cline is president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, New Hampshire’s free-market think tank.  

State budgets are like the Grinch’s Santa sack. They’re huge, unwieldy, and overstuffed with giveaways and surprises. Their contents are a mystery to anyone who doesn’t have hours to crawl inside and unwrap every little package, which is pretty much every normal person. 

We’re not normal (we like reading budgets), so we’ve done the unpacking for you.

Here are five interesting things we’ve found in the Legislature’s budget that have been overlooked or underreported in the news.

  1. The budget imposes immediate business tax increases. We’ve written about this before, but news reports continue to get it wrong. The budget does not merely repeal rate cuts scheduled to take place two years from now. It also raises this year’s Business Profits Tax and Business Enterprise Tax rates by 2.6% an 12.5% respectively. We have more on the budget’s tax increases here.
  1. Budget writers created a dangerous structural budget deficit. Legislators shifted much of the current budget surplus into the 2020-21 budget, then spent that one-time money on recurring line items. As a result, expenditures for fiscal years 20-21 exceed revenues by $134 million. That creates a hole in the ongoing budget that future legislators will have to fill. We have more on that here.
  1. From this fiscal year through the end of 2021, the budget spends almost $500 million more than Gov. Chris Sununu proposed spending. You can see our outline of the differences here.  
  1. The budget eliminates the existing prohibition on spending state taxpayer money on abortions. This repeal is located in House Bill 2 on Page 142, line 294, which states that the 2017 session law “prohibiting reproductive health facilities from using state funds to provide abortion services, is repealed.” 
  1. The budget moves occupational licensing revenue into the General Fund. When a barber, tattoo artist, nurse or other applicant for a state license pays the required fee, the money is kept in a segregated “office of professional licensure and certification fund.” That fund is to be used only to finance the state’s licensing regime. The budget changes the law to require that any licensing funds left in the account at the end of each fiscal year be moved to the General Fund. This would lend support to any licensed professional’s complaint that state fees are too high.

These are only a few of the newsworthy items we found that have received little or no media coverage. We’ve found more, which we will share in future posts.

If you want to do your own digging through the dark, cavernous goodie bag, knock yourself out. You can read HB 2, the budget “trailer bill” that contains the legal changes, here. 

Some supporters of the Legislature’s 2020-2021 budget are making inaccurate claims about its business tax provisions.

1. They claim that the budget’s tax increases apply only to rate reductions that are scheduled to take place in the future, and not to current-year tax rates.

2. They claim that the existing business tax rates and the lower rates scheduled to take effect in 2021 are tax cuts for “out-of-state corporations.” This brief shows how those claims are incorrect. 

Read our brief here: Bartlett Brief 20-21 Budget Biz Taxes.

The legislative budget finalized on Wednesday and Thursday exposes most New Hampshire businesses to a retroactive tax increase, Department of Revenue Administration data show. 

The Committee of Conference budget raises the rates at which employers in New Hampshire have been taxed since January 1. Because it applies to taxes already paid, it would force thousands of New Hampshire businesses to adjust their tax filings. Businesses pay their taxes quarterly, not annually. 

 

Current business tax rates for 2019 are:

Business Profits Tax: 7.7%;

Business Enterprise Tax: 0.6%.

 

The committee of conference budget tax rates for 2019 are:

Business Profits Tax: 7.9 p%;

Business Enterprise Tax: 0.675%.

 

That is a tax increase. Any legislator who says the Committee of Conference budget only repeals tax cuts that are scheduled to take place in the future is incorrect.

Who is paying the 7.7 and 0.6 percent rates now?

Ninety percent of New Hampshire businesses are “calendar year filers,” which means that their fiscal year is the calendar year, Shaun Thomas, counsel for the Department of Revenue Administration, confirmed in an interview Thursday. 

All of those filers are being taxed right now at the 2019 rates, as are businesses with fiscal years that started between January 2nd and today.

So far this year, 15,500 businesses have already filed quarterly tax payments, according to the DRA. Those businesses are being taxed at the 7.7 percent BPT and 0.6 percent BET rates. (About half of the state’s businesses don’t earn enough money to owe taxes.) 

The only businesses not currently paying quarterly taxes at the 2019 rates are firms whose fiscal years haven’t started yet. But as soon as those fiscal years start, they will be paying at the 2019 rates. 

If the Committee of Conference budget becomes law, the 15,500 employers who have already filed estimated taxes would be subject to a rate increase on taxes they have already paid. For them, the state will have imposed a retroactive tax increase. They would have to increase their upcoming 2019 quarterly filings to make up the difference. 

For years, legislators have been on a relentless quest to raise electricity rates for Granite Staters. Because unlike the rest of us, they are geniuses. 

None of us knows exactly what New Hampshire’s energy mix should be. None of us could say precisely how much of the state’s energy should come from solar or biomass. 

But they know.  

In the continental United States, only three states (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) have higher electricity rates than New Hampshire. There are lots of reasons why our rates are so high. One is that we don’t have enough pipelines to deliver natural gas to the state. Another is that we have multiple state mandates that raise rates by requiring utilities to pay higher prices for the type of power legislators prefer — instead of the type of power consumers prefer. 

Because they know. 

This week they issued their latest genius decree. Senate Bill 168 would amend the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) to require that at least 5.4 percent of New Hampshire’s electricity is generated from solar sources by 2025.

The Renewable Portfolio Standards, imposed in 2007, force utilities to buy certain percentages of power from renewable sources such as thermal, new solar, biomass and small-scale hydro. Utilities must buy 25.2 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025, with that 25.2 percent broken down into specific classes.

The current standards require that 0.6 percent of power comes from new (opened after 2005) solar generation. Bumping that to 5.4 percent in six years, as SB 168 does, is a huge increase. An ignoramus might ask: why 5.4 percent?

Why not 5 percent? Or between 5-10 percent? Why exactly 5.4 percent? 

That’s amazing precision. 

How do legislators know that 5.4 percent is precisely the right percentage of solar for New Hampshire to have? 

They must be super geniuses. Like Wile E. Coyote. 

That has to be it. 

We respect our legislators too much to believe that this whole RPS scheme is like kids dressing up for Career Day at school. “We get to play electric company executive today! Yay!”

Because legislators mandate specific rates for specific classes of renewable energy instead of, say, encouraging utilities to reach an overall target (with no penalties), they must know everything there is to know about energy. 

They must have knowledge that we little people cannot understand with our little minds and parochial concerns, like what will we spend less on this year so we can afford to pay the electric bill? 

Such knowledge is a gift.   

As we noted in April, University of Chicago researchers have found that RPS laws raise energy prices by 17 percent within 12 years after passage. 

We shared that study with legislators. They ignored it. The University of Chicago researchers must be imbeciles too. 

Business executives and ratepayer advocates have explained to legislators over the years that mandates such as these raise New Hampshire’s cost of living, discouraging business investment and making it harder for families and employers to make ends meet. 

But legislators keep passing more mandates. Their vision is beyond that of mere retirees and employers, with their petty concerns about grocery bills and survival in a competitive market.

As electric rates continue to rise, we common folk should resist the urge to get angry. 

Just consider the higher rates a genius tax. They’re the price we pay for living under the benevolent guidance of brilliant elites who know best how to spend the money we earn.   

The Senate this week joined the House passing tax increases on New Hampshire businesses. Some reports give the impression that the House and Senate budgets would not raise taxes, but would repeal future tax cuts. Here we explain why that is not correct and the budgets raise business taxes, including the rates that businesses will pay this year.

Under current law, the business profits tax rate is 7.7 percent and the business enterprise tax rate is 0.6 percent for “taxable periods” that end “on or after December 31, 2019.” 

Both the House and Senate budgets would repeal those rates and replace them with rates of 7.9 percent and 0.675 percent, respectively. 

The budgets also would repeal the existing state law that lowers those rates further, to 7.5 percent and 0.5 percent, for taxable periods that end on or after Dec. 31, 2021.

Understanding how businesses pay taxes

What does it mean when state law declares that a tax rate applies to a “taxable period ending on or after December 31, 2019?” 

It does not mean that the tax rate takes effect on January 1, 2020.

A “taxable period” is not a calendar year. State law (RSA 77-A:1, IV) defines “taxable period” as a business’ fiscal year for federal income tax purposes. 

So a taxable period “ending on or after December 31, 2019” is a business’ fiscal year that starts in 2019 and ends on or after Dec. 31, 2019. 

A business will start to pay those tax rates in 2020, then, right? 

No. 

Businesses’ fiscal years do not always correspond with the calendar year. They can begin or end on any day of the year. 

Plus, businesses are required to pay taxes quarterly, not annually. 

Under New Hampshire law, any business with an estimated tax liability of more than $200 is required to estimate what its next year’s tax bill will be, and then submit 25 percent of that payment each quarter. 

Here is how that works.

In 2019, employers begin paying quarterly taxes for fiscal years that end “on or after December 31, 2019.”

For example, a business with a fiscal year that ends April 30, 2019, will start a new fiscal year on May 1, 2019. That new fiscal year will end April. 30, 2020. 

So starting on May 1, 2019, that company will be taxed at the rate in effect for “taxable periods ending on or after December 31, 2019.” It will make payments at that rate every four months throughout its tax year.

Under current law, companies with fiscal years starting May 1, July 1, and Oct. 1, 2019, will be making business profits tax payments at the 7.7 percent rate and business enterprise tax payments at the 0.6 percent rate this year. 

That’s why the House and Senate budgets do not just affect future tax rates that employers are not yet paying. The budgets would raise those fiscal year 2019 tax rates to 7.9 percent and 0.675 percent. 

So the House and Senate budgets would not merely not repeal future tax cuts, as is being reported. They would raise taxes on businesses this year.   

A tax increase is a tax increase

Furthermore, it is worth noting that “repealing a future tax cut” also is a tax increase. Those tax cuts are set in existing law. They apply automatically. To replace them with a higher rate is to raise taxes.

 

Just as New Hampshire begins monitoring its Medicaid work requirements this month, legislators consider a bill to kill those requirements.

Often cited as a justification for eliminating the work requirements is Arkansas’ experience in 2018. That year, 18,164 Arkansas Medicaid enrollees lost coverage after the state enacted work requirements. But a closer look at the Arkansas experience suggests that poor program implementation and design were the most important factors in the enrollment drop. 

In this Barlett Brief, we look at the reasons for the Arkansas enrollment drop and show that they do not justify killing New Hampshire’s Medicaid Expansion work requirement before it has a chance to succeed.

Find the full brief in PDF format here: JBC-Medicaid-work-requirement-brief.