Paul Morel: the Democratic challenger to Rep. Gwen Moore

Did you know Rep. Gwen Moore, a Democrat representing Wisconsin’s fourth Congressional district, has a Democratic challenger for the seat she holds? If you didn’t, you’re not alone; until very recently, I wasn’t aware Rep. Moore had a Democratic challenger either.

Pal MorelPaul Morel is that challenger, and I recently had a chance to sit down with Morel and chat with him to not only find out his background, but more importantly to find out why he’s chosen to run as a Democrat against a sitting Democratic incumbent in Rep. Gwen Moore. My conversation with Morel started with him noting that reaction to his campaign has been “pretty positive” so far, but he added a lot of people are asking him why he’s running as a Democrat against Rep. Moore.

When I asked Morel to explain his decision to challenge a sitting incumbent from his own party, Morel noted he decided to run because he doesn’t think Rep. Moore has taken the fourth district in the right direction. “People know something’s wrong,” he added, and he noted and that’s not exclusive to Democrats or Republicans, because both parties have failed to deliver on the issues that matter to citizens. Morel noted he thinks the Rep. Moore needs a change of priorities, because her priorities don’t seem to be aligned with the priorities of the citizens living in the fourth Congressional district. As an example, Morel cited Rep. Moore’s belief in simply throwing more money into education, instead of trying something different. Morel noted Rep. Moore is fond of saying, “no child left a dime” when referring to how to best address the issue of education, and he added that when it comes to education there are proven ideas on how to fix what ails under-performing school districts – such as Milwaukee Public Schools – there are ideas that have worked elsewhere, but instead of using those ideas, money is being thrown at new ideas in hopes of finding a silver bullet.

As our conversation continued, Morel noted that another reason he decided to run against Rep. Moore had to do with his belief that our elected officials need a serious fiscal plan – not just more talk without a lot of action – and in his opinion Rep. Moore has no take on fiscal issues. Morel was quick to note Rep. Moore has been a good advocate on social issues, but social issues simply aren’t a priority right now; people in the fourth Congressional district are asking about jobs and the economy, and Rep. Moore simply doesn’t have a good plan.

After discussing why he decided to run for office, my conversation with Morel turned to his positions on specific issues, with the first of those issues being taxes. Prior to meeting Morel, I had an opportunity to visit his campaign website, where I couldn’t help but notice he was proposing a rather untraditional tax reform plan that focused on taxing consumption rather than income. Asked about his tax plan, Morel was quick to note “our tax plan is too complex.” He added that we think we have a progressive tax plan, but because of all the loopholes in our current tax system, the richest among us don’t really pay their fair share of taxes. Instead what we end up with is a curve that results in the middle class paying more in taxes (as a percentage of their income) than those in the lower and upper classes. What Morel’s proposing as his tax plan is a flat tax on consumption, exempting only essential consumption such as housing, food, medical expenses, etc. Morel added his plan is based on the idea that the more you make, the more you spend, and therefore individuals in lower income brackets won’t pay a disproportionate share of taxes as a percentage of their income.

Our conversation next turned to earmarks, with Morel noting he objects to earmarks. Despite his objection to but given that’s the system Congress operates under, he’d be crazy not to use that system for the benefit of the taxpayers he’d be representing, noting that money that’s paid out by taxpayers in the district should be brought back to the district. However, Morel was quick to note he supported changing the current system of earmarks, adding he’d vote in favor of earmark reform.

In talking about the stimulus enacted by Congress and President Obama, Morel noted some are advocating for more money for another stimulus, but where’s the money going to go? Big businesses have been getting the bulk of stimulus money, but small businesses deserve their fair share as well, as small businesses are the engine that drives our economy. He also added that if elected, he’d want to see more money go directly to small businesses, and he’d also work to make it easier and cheaper for small businesses to hire new workers, both through lower taxes and through reduced regulation and red tape.

As our conversation turned to the issue of health care reform, Morel made it clear he would have done health care reform differently, taking more of a free market approach. He noted that health care reform as passed by Congress will create too much bureaucracy while failing to reduce the cost of health care, as legislators cobbled together a bunch of ideas that are unsustainable, so the bill that passed will require “tweaking” in the future to make it more sustainable. He added it will be the duty of the next Congress to make health care reform more sustainable and affordable so that it doesn’t disappear when the money runs out, and he added he’d like to be a part of that process.

If you’re interested in learning more about Paul Morel, you can visit his campaign website, and if you’d like to support him, consider donating to his campaign.


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22 thoughts on “Paul Morel: the Democratic challenger to Rep. Gwen Moore

  1. So, someone with a clearly conservative even libertarian leaning platform from the consumption or “Fair Tax” to a market based health care solution is completely fine for you coming from someone who’s policies are only differentiated from other candidates by a “D” after his name? Granted, I’d prefer almost anyone other than Gwen Moore represent the 4th District. But this guy’s platform is nearly identical to the Republican candidate Dan Sebring’s platform. Stating that Gwen Moore’s policies more closely reflect your own opinions, you have taken every opportunity to criticize his campaign. Along comes a candidate who’s platform closely parallels the Republican candidate’s platform, but because he calls himself a Democrat he is deserving of support and campaign contributions. Really?

    1. Bob, I don’t recall saying Paul Morel is a perfect Democratic candidate, but I will say his platform is not even remotely close to being “nearly identical” to Dan Sebring’s platform. The last time I checked, Sebring was still far to the right on social issues, and as I look at the platforms of Sebring and Morel, I count only three issues (taxes, economy, and health care) where where Sebring and Morel aren’t too far apart, but on most other issues, they’re miles apart.

      1. Zach, considering those are the three largest issues of the day, everything else is trivial.

    2. Bob,

      I hope we can agree that the current tax code is ridiculously complex for what it produces in terms of an effective tax rate at various income levels. My tax plan does consist of a consumption based tax on non-essentials as only one component. The other component is a flat tax with large 0% bracket. The combination of the two taxes creates a fairly traditional effective tax rate which progresses upward as income increases. The benefit is that it removes almost all of the complex tax code and condenses it down to a very simple approach. I used the IRS tax data to arrive at this approach so it is supported by data.

      In terms of the health care reform I believe we desperately needed reform but I think we need to be pragmatic about the sustainability of the current legislation. It creates a costly and byzantine administrative structure while delivering 34 million new customers to the very same insurance companies we demagogued for a year and does not address the cost side in any substantive way. It is now the task of the current congress and the next congress to put this on surer footing so it is sustainable and won’t fail due to lack of financial resources.

      When you look at my platform illustrated, I hope clearly, on my campaign site the thing I am trying to convey is that I am focused on the fiscal sustainability of our country along with strong focus on progressive issues. I don’t concede that the two are somehow opposed. In fact, I would argue that unless we have an equal focus on making programs sustainable that all of the hard fought battles to win on the progressive front will be for nothing when the programs crumble due to lack of funding. I hope after reading through my positions and those of Dan Sebring you will see the contrast.

      1. A large 0% tax bracket? I agree with you that the tax system is unnecessarily complex and at times ridiculous, but don’t you see a problem with a segment of the population with the ability to vote themselves benefits without being on the hook at all to be a part in paying for them? I’d like to know who is left out of the 0% bracket? Let me guess, “the richest 1%.”

        I would like to hear more about what you consider to be “progessive issues” that you favor and would advocate as a member of Congress.

        With that said, thanks for commenting here and best of luck in the primary against Rep. Moore!

        1. forgotmyscreenname,

          I completely agree that we need to be careful about moving the tax burden upward. In fact, I’ve tried to illustrate the impact of the new tax scheme using a few examples on the Morel Tax Plan page. As you will notice the zero bracket ends at $50k for single and $100k for couples. I hope the explanation illustrates the advantages of this approach so I won’t try to reproduce it all here.

          “Progressive issues”…LGBT rights, abortion, crime, war, environment, personal freedom… I hope you get a better sense of where I stand from my positions on the issues. I would encourage you and others to read my positions on the Morel for Congress site when you have a moment.

  2. Paul, when looking at taxes, there are 5 brackets, quintiles if you will. The top and bottom quintiles pay zero taxes already, everything else comes from the middle class. The problem is you are now moving into the middle brackets by moving the zero tax bracket up to earners of $50k per year. At what point do we just throw up our hands and say no one pays taxes any more?

    1. Tom,

      The national sales tax is designed to pick-up the taxes paid by those who are not part of the income tax. It’s not perfect but the tax plan attempts to distribute the taxes over the income brackets using a fairer and flatter approach. Let’s also not forget about the earned income tax credit people receive today that effectively wipes out much of the taxes they pay. What I’m trying to achieve is recognition that we have a tax system that is severely broken and we can achieve a close approximation to today’s taxes with almost no significant tax code to understand or enforce. I also want to avoid taxing the lower incomes and then turning right around and having to fund programs to help them because they don’t have enough money to live. With 10% of Americans on food stamps it seems prudent to figure out how to help people become self sufficient rather than the current alternative.

      Is this a perfect Is it better than what we have today in many ways..I think so.

      1. I also want to avoid taxing the lower incomes and then turning right around and having to fund programs to help them because they don’t have enough money to live.

        You sure you’re a Democrat? Not that I care either way, the letter following a candidate’s name could not matter less to me, but that sounds very much like a Republican line. Lower taxes so people can better take care of themselves.

        1. Locke,

          I hope we can agree regressive taxes are bad. It seems foolish to me to enact a regressive tax system and then have to fix the problem by giving back the very money we just took away. Democrat…yeah I’m sure.

  3. “I hope we can agree regressive taxes are bad.”

    Yes, regressive taxes are bad. Which is why a national sales tax would be a horribly raw deal for anyone making south of $50,000! Not sure “regressive tax” means what you think it means.

    Gwen’s certainly not perfect, but Mr. Morel scares me on the fiscal issues. Geez – as if the middle class weren’t disappearing (and income inequality skyrocketing) fast enough. Just look back to the days when our tax system was at it’s most progressive – not a coincidence that that’s also when the middle class was the strongest.

    Paul, if you think Gwen’s out of step with the district, your fiscal views in a $33,000 median income district quite frankly put you on another planet.

  4. JCG,

    As you will see in my tax plan the national sales tax applies only to non-essentials. We know that lower income earners and, unfortunately now, even more middle class spend a disproportionate amount of their income on essentials like food, housing, and medical care.

    We can’t continue to believe our byzantine tax system is anywhere close to effective or fair. I simply want to make it more transparent and as simple as possible. Effective tax rates under my plan are consistent with the current system and even increase in the higher earning brackets.


  5. JCG, you want the tax cuts to expire? Let’s take the death tax for example. If someone close to you dies and leaves you $100,000, is it fair that the gov’t would come in and take 48% (based on reverting back to the old inheritance tax)? Why should the gov’t be able to tax money that’s already taxed? That’s referred to as double-taxation – or simply put taxing the same money twice from two different sources.

    The easy thing to do is not spend money we don’t have, that avoids having to let the tax cuts expire.

    So Paul, what is your position on taxing the same money twice? Also, What’s your debt strategy? Simply saying balancing the budget is not going to cut it because you still have to account for the $13 trillion in debt accumulated, not just the payments on interest and interest accumulation.

  6. Tom,

    I’m fairly clear on the position of double and triple taxation. Triple taxation you ask? Yes, those dividend checks many people on fixed income or participants in pension plans receive are issued using post-tax money from the company and then taxed again when you receive them as income (therefore dividends are already double taxed). So a death tax on that money is triple taxation.

    I would encourage you to browse my website as I’ve tried to outline a lot of my ideas on addressing the financial disparity between revenues and outlays. While I am a vet and believe in having a strong defense, I think we can find at least a half trillion dollars by reducing our global presence of military bases and ceasing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan without effecting our ability to project power or defend our borders. We must also reevaluate our global welfare program that sends billions of dollars overseas.

    I wish there was an easy answer to fixing our massive debt problem but there isn’t. It requires a realistic and pragmatic approach by people who understand how to tackle these problems. There is no silver bullet. We are going to have to examine our tax system, entitlements, infrastructure, and industry subsidies to make some hard decisions. Anyone who tells you there is any easy solution or we can fix this through some minor adjustments is lying. We have a systemic funding and spending disconnect which must be brought into balance.

    One of the things I’ve seen recently is talk of monetizing the debt (this means hyper-inflating our way out). This seems very appealing to many in politics because they never have to make a hard choice about what NOT to spend money on. We can’t let this happen. We only need to look back less than 100 years to see the devastating effects that emerge from a cataclysmic monetary collapse.

  7. Paul,

    It isn’t only the politicians who can’t/won’t decide what to cut. If you ask a small govt/cut my taxes proponent what should be cut they just kinda glaze over.

  8. Ed,

    I agree. We, as a country, have consistently wanted lower taxes and more benefits. And for over three decades we have seen this trend materialize. It has been a “miracle” of modern finance that we can really cut taxes while spending more money. Is it any wonder we have a staggering budget deficit and a debt burden that will hamstring us for years to come. I’m neither a small government/cut my taxes guy nor a big government guy so I can look at the current problem with a truly dispassionate view and simply try to find a way to make our government SUSTAINABLE. We decide as a country what we want our government to do for us but we must make sure that when government picks up the baton that it has the legs to make it to the finish line (I wanted to use a sports analogy somewhere after hearing about Lebron going to the Heat…poor Cleveland).

    I hope you will find that I try to lay out some pragmatic areas we can save money without putting our country in a bad position. The waste, fraud, and abuse savings argument you get from many is a red herring. Sure there is abuse and some waste but that likely accounts for something like 0.01% of our spending. We need a serious plan of attack to address the imbalance between revenue and outlays or we will, with certainty, find ourselves in the same boat as Greece.

  9. JCG,

    I just wanted to follow-up on this quote:

    Paul, if you think Gwen’s out of step with the district, your fiscal views in a $33,000 median income district quite frankly put you on another planet.

    Take a look at Example A in The Morel Tax Plan. This uses a hypothetical $35,000 income and the result is $70 in taxes. So that is an effective tax rate of 0.2%. I’ve tried to be careful assessing the impact in real dollar terms at all income levels. While $70 can be a lot of money for a family living on $35,000 the important thing to keep in mind is that all essentials are not taxed. This ensures that families that are struggling don’t get hit with taxes at the checkout. I hope you feel that I am indeed on the same planet once again.


    Vote for Paul Morel. We can afford gwen anyMOORE

  11. I think challenging incumbents in primaries is healthy. We need more of it, in both parties, every election, no less. I am not dissatisfied with Gwen Moore, nor am I inspired by Morel’s platform – he has some thoughtful ideas, but his critique is awfully vague. I am dubious about the notion that in order to simplify our tax system, we need to shift toward a sales tax – especially a flat sales tax. Why not simplify the income tax?

    Try this: The first $20,000 is tax free, for individuals, $50,000 for families with any number of minor children. Income over one million dollars is taxed at 50%. Work out three tiers in between. Recently, I’ve become a convert to restoring 75% or more on income over ten million dollars. It would discourage obscene payouts to top executives, or at least give the public some benefit from having to put up with it.

    Where is the simple part? Stop using taxes as an instrument of policy. No more charitable deductions, mortgage deductions, eliminate everything except the earned income credit. Perhaps the rates can be lowered as a result, but basically, let people keep their money, except what is actually needed to run the government, and a bit of a safety net below which we don’t let people fall, particularly if they are working.

    Business taxes will remain complex, because we have to get from gross revenue to net profit, but I don’t know any way around that.

    As for social issues, I voted no on the “Defense of Marriage” amendment, and I hope Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision is overturned, because there simply is no constitutional right to change the definition of marriage. It is a legislative matter, not a constitutional one. See, I disagree with Gwen Moore sometimes. I may be to the right of Paul Morel on that one.

    We elect candidates to represent us and use their judgement. Candidates come in whole packages. We can’t slice and dice and produce the perfect multi-issue candidate. If we could, none of us could agree on exactly what that candidate would look like.

    As for health care, I don’t trust the private sector. Since the Clinton plan was shot down, the private sector has given us all the bureaucracy and lack of choice Harry and Louise warned us about, without any government plan in place. I want five public options, each administered independently, and a free choice to go with any one of them, or with any private option that can offer a more competitive package.

    1. Charlie,

      I know no tax system will ever be perfect because we are asking people to give up their hard earned money. I look at the tax system as a necessary evil to fund the programs and government we want. We need to keep it simple and fair while giving more control back to people when they pay taxes. Income taxes alone always create class warfare. My plan tries to find a middle ground where people who can afford to pay more do. It also addresses the simplification you suggested with regards to the plethora of deductions we now have.

      As for corporate income tax, I think the whole thing should be eliminated. Small and mid-size businesses are disproportionately impacted by the corporate income tax. It also makes it far more lucrative for big business to focus on finding tax loopholes rather than growing the business and making the best products or services in the world. Some say I must be a pro-business person and against labor then. But the way I see it, you can’t have strong labor unless there are jobs and businesses that are competitive globally that can afford to pay people good wages and provide good benefits.

      As for health care I believe we need to be very cautious on how we proceed forward. I struggle to find a good example of a program that our government, with the best intentions, has started or taken over that has not increased in cost, complexity, and bureaucracy. I do want more options and much cheaper insurance (I buy my own now) but wishing and getting are always two very different things. I would simply like to see a full cost buy-in option for Medicare offered. It is already running, well understood, widely supported throughout the country, and immediately available. And, agreeing with you, I should be able to choose private insurance or the full cost Medicare option by comparison shopping.

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