- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2014

The tea party is very much enamored with Matt Bevin, the grass-roots challenger to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the Senate seat in Kentucky — a bout that will be decided in the state’s May 20 primary. Mr. McConnell does not appear worried, advising voters that incumbents would “crush” their tea party opponents. Did he know that a certain powerful endorsement was in the works? Oh, could be.

“Mitch McConnell is a true champion of our Second Amendment rights, leading the fight against President Obama, Harry Reid and Michael Bloomberg’s anti-freedom agenda,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund upon announcing the organization would back the incumbent on Saturday.

“Sen. McConnell’s steadfast support of our right to keep and bear arms and hunting heritage has earned him an A-plus rating from the NRA.”

The feeling must be mutual. Mr. McConnell will be a featured speaker at the NRA’s annual membership meeting which opens next week in Indianapolis, sharing the stage with, among many others, Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana and Marco Rubio of Florida, Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mike Pence of Indiana, plus former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Back in Kentucky, none of this has gone unnoticed by Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic challenger who invited Mr. McConnell for some target practice back in November. He rejected the offer. The candidate has not given up on the showdown, however.

“I invited @TeamMitch to join me at the gun range 155 days ago. The invitation still stands, Senator,” she tweeted following the NRA endorsement announcement.

AND THE LATEST FROM IRKED VOTERS

“More voters than ever would rather scrap the current Congress than to see it re-elected. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 9 percent of likely U.S. voters think it would be better for the country if most incumbents were re-elected this November. Seventy-two percent say it would be better if most of them were defeated instead, 19 percent are undecided,” reports pollster Scott Rasmussen.

A TAXING SITUATION

Yes, tax day dawns in 24 hours or so. But some are more concerned with Tax Freedom Day — the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for year. And here’s the startling math, courtesy of the independent researchers at the Tax Foundation. In 2014, Americans will pay $3.0 trillion in federal taxes and $1.5 trillion in state taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.5 trillion, or 30.2 percent of income.

And the moment of truth. Tax Freedom Day falls on April 21, or 111 days into the year. It is three days later than last year, mainly due “to the country’s continued slow economic recovery,” the foundation says. Some states are better off than others, though.

“The total tax burden borne by residents of different states varies considerably due to differing state tax policies and because of the progressivity of the federal tax system,” say analysts Kyle Pomerleau and Lyman Stone.

“This means a combination of higher-income and higher-tax states celebrate Tax Freedom Day later: Connecticut (May 9), New Jersey (May 9), and New York (May 4). Residents of Louisiana will bear the lowest average tax burden in 2014, with Tax Freedom Day arriving for them on March 30. Also early are Mississippi (April 2) and South Dakota (April 4),” the pair note.

UKRAINE: SUBJECT TO INTERPRETATION

Sen. John McCain is still calling Russia a “gas station masquerading as a country.” The Arizona Republican has employed this snappy metaphor for weeks, introducing it in mid-March during a speech when he visited the besieged nation himself. And right on schedule. Mr. McCain made the comment on Sunday to CBS News, adding on a message for President Obama about the unfolding Ukraine matter:

“We ought to at least, for God’s sake, give them some light weapons with which to defend themselves. So far, this administration’s not only not done that, but they won’t even share some intelligence with the Ukrainian government,” he said, adding, “Severe penalties of sanctions can have an effect on their economy. It’s a gas station masquerading as a country.”

Well, OK. That still works for the lawmaker. News organizations, meanwhile, have an unending appetite for speculation about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal. Among the hundreds of Putin-centric headlines in the last 24 hours:

“Economic weakness will force Putin to seek detente” (Financial Times); “Crimea helped Putin hijack the nationalists” (Moscow Times); “Putin can take Ukraine without an invasion and probably will” (The Daily Beast); “Nothing ‘grassroots’ about Ukraine uprisings” (CNN); “Putin’s power play” (Daily Telegraph); “Putin’s false flag bearers” (Times of London); “Putin could send Europeans scrambling for energy sources” (NPR); “Crimea won, Putin tries not to lose Ukraine” (Reuters); and “Putin wants chaos, not invasion” (The Nation).

BUMPER PATROL

“I think, therefore I vote Republican.”

— Bumper sticker spotted in Richmond, Va.

IN THE WEEDS

Not your grandfather’s drug culture: Is this entrepreneurial spirit or a dicey harbinger of things to come? The “ZaZazz,” a fully-automated, climate-controlled marijuana vending machine that uses “biometrics” to verify the age of the buyer, was unveiled Saturday in Colorado. Are we talking dispensing pot brownies here? No. Manufacturer American Green says it’s meant for medical marijuana buyers and will operate in stores licensed to sell weed, along with “CBD-infused” products. CBD stands for cannabidiol, the substance of interest here.

Three other companies — Medbox, Endexx and Transbyte — are also producing devices for the market, along with the software and electronics hardware needed to track and vend marijuana as the rigid legal concerns in many states fade. The money? Already MarketWatch deems it the “potentially thriving medical and legal marijuana industry,” with multiple migrations into pharmaceutical, nutritional and cosmetic industries.

Voters in many states have already indicated they support legalizing medical marijuana, while lowering the criminal penalties for its possession. But it gets tricky. In February, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 51 percent of registered Colorado voters feared that legalization would be bad for the state’s “wholesome” image; three-fourths of Republicans agreed with that. But 57 percent of Democrats say legalization is actually good for the state’s image.

But wait. A mere 17 percent of the voters overall say they would try marijuana brownies if they encountered them at a party, while 64 percent say they would be “very uncomfortable” riding in a car with a driver who has smoked or consumed moderate amounts of marijuana.

POLL DU JOUR

65 percent of Americans have not reviewed their credit report in the last 12 months.

61 percent of Americans “admit to not having a budget.”

60 percent have not reviewed their personal credit score in the last year.

41 percent give themselves a low grade for their knowledge of personal finance.

34 percent say their household carries credit card debt from month to month.

23 percent know their personal credit score.

16 percent worry about their “rainy day” savings, 16 percent worry they are not saving enough for retirement.

Source: A National Foundation for Credit Counseling/Harris poll of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted March 4-6 and released April 5.

Prim commentary, noise, press releases to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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