Book review: The 7% Solution: You Can Afford A Comfortable Retirement

June 30, 2012 · Posted in Book Reviews · Comments Off on Book review: The 7% Solution: You Can Afford A Comfortable Retirement 

For those who believe they might still be able to retire by choice in this economy, financial adviser John H. Graves has written a book detailing how you can take control of your future planning.

Obviously there’s quite a bit of work involved, and while Graves takes somewhat of a dim view of the financial planning industry – a group he considers “nothing more than salespeople for lucrative, prepackaged financial products” – he concedes there are people who would feel more comfortable with professional advice and gives pointers on what to look for in that field. A reader can quickly presume that Graves isn’t all that pleased with the work others in his chosen avocation have done for the millions of Americans who would like to enjoy their sunset years without financial worry.

But the book is so named because Graves believes one can get 7% income from your portfolio, year after year, by being diligent and attuned to opportunities from a variety of sources. Writing that “Mr. Market” shows up at your door every day with a broad spectrum of financial choices, Graves points out that it’s rare you won’t send him away without a sale, but there are times where you can take advantage of him.

A key component of Graves’ strategy lies in value stocks, for studies have shown a vast majority of total stock market returns comes from dividends. Obviously share prices move up and down, but companies which have paid relatively high dividends for long periods of time should be the basis on which a portfolio is built, says Graves. Whether a company’s price per share is $10 or $50, a dividend which continues to increase each year is income that can be counted on towards the 7% solution.

And while stocks are a key component of the strategy, Graves doesn’t discount the role that bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and other more esoteric investments like REITs, master limited partnerships, and business development companies, among others, can play in a well-rounded portfolio.

I have no doubt that someone with the time and a little bit of knowledge gained from this book and other sources Graves cites within can indeed build a reasonable portfolio which can provide income. Given that, The 7% Solution can be termed as a success, and Graves cites a few of his own clients as success stories at the end of the book. But I believe there are a number of flaws within his assumptions.

For one, Graves believes the Baby Boomer generation is a generation of savers. This may have been true at one time, but while many millions had something set aside for their retirement the sad reality is that too many counted heavily on the fallacy of home equity and on maintaining a full-time job for the remaining years until they decided to stop working, figuring those geese would lay the golden eggs while they spent what they earned to keep up an opulent lifestyle, one which outpaced they could truly afford. If a Boomer has seen his job and savings wiped out by the Great Recession and instead finds himself in debt up to his eyeballs, 7% of nothing is – nothing.

And while retirees of today can still rely on Social Security, there’s no guarantee that it will be here for future generations. Unfortunately, while many of Graves’ principles have stood the test of time over the last several decades, there is a wild card that no one can predict and that’s the impact of government policy on retirement. For example, Graves devotes the penultimate chapter in his book to tax policy for retirement planning, but that’s among the most susceptible to change at any time.

Certainly his book is fine for the time being, but there’s another question left unanswered: what happens if we reach a financial Armageddon where, say, the government decides to take over 401.k accounts? Those rumors have floated around occasionally since the 2008 financial crisis and with government holding trillions of dollars worth of unfunded liabilities, anything can happen. And aside from land and improvements thereon Graves only writes about paper assets, a fact which may prove a disservice in difficult times when hard assets like precious metals could be useful in saving for retirement.

Retirement is a phenomenon unique to the last few decades, since our ancestors worked until either they dropped dead or their bodies could no longer bear the strain. With the rise of capitalism, people were finally able to save money and insure themselves a relative life of leisure in their golden years. It’s also provided authors like John Graves a lucrative market for books like The 7% Solution.

The do-it-yourself approach to retirement planning Graves espouses is a sound one, even if it puts people in his chosen line of work out of business. As a primer, you could do much worse than invest in the book and put the ideas Graves suggests to work. But be aware that government interference has been keeping us from realizing the real 7% solution of annual GDP growth, so don’t count on Mr. Market to keep showing up at your door.

Conservative and Republican reaction to SCOTUS decision predictable

I have seen a lot of disappointment over the last 36 hours or so, as conservatives lash out at a decision they believe was ill-considered. I get a lot of e-mail from numerous sources, so I’ll have several links for you to follow. But I’m saving room for my reaction, too.

And if you’re wondering, I really don’t give a damn about what Democrats are crowing about, because they’re almost always wrong anyway. I don’t have to be fair and balanced here. So I’ll concentrate on some of the Republicans and Libertarians who we can vote for here in our locality.

For example, Mitt Romney promised to repeal Obamacare on his first day as President. While that may seem like a little bit of a stretch, it’s actually possible because Congress is in session a couple weeks before the new President is sworn in. If H.R. 1 in the 113th Congress is a full-blown repeal of Obamacare and the Senate can get past a Democratic filibuster (which some say isn’t possible anyway) they could present to bill to President Romney on January 21, 2013. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

Onetime Republican Gary Johnson agreed, with the Libertarian pointing out:

There is one thing we know about health care. Government cannot create a system that will reduce costs while increasing access.

Johnson also believed the “uncertainty” of the health care law was contributing to the unemployment problem in America.

Turning to our state of Maryland, U.S. Senate hopeful Dan Bongino called the decision “a serious blow to the freedoms of all Americans.” But he implored his supporters:

We can fix this, we will fix this. Get off the mat, there is one more round to fight…

From now until November 6th be a wolf not a sheep. Commit yourself to changing the country for the better and make today nothing but a bad memory.

Similarly, Congressman Andy Harris dismissed the ruling as

…determin(ing) the law’s constitutionality, not whether the law is good policy. Americans have already made up their mind on that issue. A majority favor repealing the law.

The sentiments were echoed by the Maryland Republican Party, where Chair Alex Mooney called yesterday “a very difficult day for all of us.”

I wanted to add one more from a group called the Job Creators Alliance. I don’t recall hearing from them before but it’s a group of CEOs who banded together to advocate business-friendly policy. And Staples founder Tom Stemberg spoke on behalf of the group when he said:

The Supreme Court of the United States has dealt a critical blow to free enterprise. By upholding the mandate as a tax, the Court and this Administration has ensured that taxes will go up for middle class working families and small businesses everywhere. Legal arguments aside, Obamacare is a disaster for small business owners and entrepreneurs. It will result in thousands of lost jobs, increased health care costs and an increased inability for small businesses to provide coverage to employees.

Today’s decision not only leaves the hurdles to job creation that Obamacare posed untouched, but adds additional uncertainty to the economy which will make it much more difficult for our economy to grow.

My reaction sort of falls along the same lines, but I thought I saw a silver lining when the individual mandate was struck down – Congress can’t necessarily compel us to buy a product. But they sure can set up a punishment for not doing so, and that’s the scary part.

However, this goes back to something which was said during the U.S. Senate campaign by Richard Douglas when he argued repeatedly that SCOTUS should uphold the law. Because this has been kicked back to Congress to resolve, it only takes a determined effort by voters to elect enough conservatives to Washington to overcome the kicking and screaming objections by Democrats to overturning Obama’s namesake program. If they can repeal a Constitutional amendment by enacting another one scant years later, Obamacare can be eliminated as well.

Of course, this all depends on electing the right legislators – unfortunately, if the American people are really the “sheeple” some would lead you to believe we are that may not happen. If the same actors remain in place, come 2014 we’ll be on the road to the government telling us just how and when to wipe our asses.

Shorebird of the Week – June 28, 2012

June 28, 2012 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – June 28, 2012 

This young Dominican dominated two levels, one in his homeland and one stateside. But Miguel Chalas hadn’t gone through the rigors of a full season, and it was determined this spring that Delmarva would be that test.

Chalas, who turned 20 yesterday, has managed to survive a rough patch in the early season and is now rounding into a starter Ryan Minor can count on for quality starts. Over his last three Miguel has pitched to an ERA of exactly 2, giving up 18 hits in as many innings and allowing seven runs (six earned) during that stretch. It’s a run that has placed his overall ERA on the right side of 5 runs per nine innings after a tough April which saw him pick up three of his team-leading six wins but pitch to a 7.63 ERA – included in that was a horrific outing at Greensboro where he allowed 11 runs (7 earned) in just 2 1/3 innings.

As I noted above, Miguel had been dominant in his first two pro seasons, going 5-1, 1.78 for the Orioles team in the Dominican Summer League and 5-3, 2.93 for the GCL Orioles last season. He ended up making one start for Aberdeen last year, allowing three earned runs and seven hits in four innings (but striking out six.)

This year has been tougher but with a 6-3 record and 4.95 ERA, things are heading back in the right direction. Since that fateful April start, Miguel has gone just 3-2 but pitched to a more respectable 3.95 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 14 walks in 41 innings. His innings were limited early on as he shadowed Dylan Bundy in Dylan’s first couple starts, coming on after Bundy threw his three innings. It was a cheap way to get a decision but Miguel received a couple wins that way despite not pitching all that well in those instances.

Chalas looks to be someone Ryan Minor can count on in the second half, since he’s on a pace to perhaps throw 60 more innings in 10 or 11 more starts. If he can keep on course there’s no reason Miguel can’t make another jump next season and continue moving up the Oriole ladder.

 

It’s time for a change

June 27, 2012 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on It’s time for a change 

One of the reasons I was a Herman Cain backer early on in the 2012 campaign was his wisdom on tax policy. On Monday he wrote a piece reminding us that a number of patchwork, temporary “fixes” to our income tax rates expire at the end of 2012, and could doom what little recovery we might be enjoying if nothing is done.

Of course, there is no foolproof solution, even with Cain’s 9-9-9 plan – soon enough it could be 12-12-12 or even 15-7-21. Pick three divergent numbers and you might be a winner in this Russian roulette-style lottery involving both personal and federal finances. But the same is true for a flat tax as well, and it’s still based on income rather than consumption.

But even when a consumption tax is enacted, the other key is spending the money wisely. Back in 2008 the state of Maryland raised its sales tax from 5% to 6%, ensuring the state another $500 million or so in revenue. The problem was that the money was spent even before it was collected, as a governor who’s never met a government program he didn’t like (or wish he’d dreamed of himself) blew every dime of that (and then some) on new programs.

Given our experience with sales taxes from around the country, I don’t see how the argument that we can’t predict revenue from a consumption tax can be posed. And even so, it’s not like we don’t make adjustments to a budget (that is, when we actually have one) based on the events which occur between the time of passage and the moment that last dime is spent at the stroke of midnight on September 30.

It’s relatively simple to figure out how to get out of these messes we find ourselves in. On a state level, each year the GOP works out a budget that addresses the structural deficit without raising taxes; meanwhile, it’s worthy of note that if we retreated our federal spending to the level of the last Bush budget (FY2009, excluding the stimulus added by President Obama) of $3.1 trillion, a large part of our deficit would be addressed. Yes a deficit $500 billion or so is still absurdly high but it’s better than the $1.4 trillion we’ll likely run in the hole when the fiscal year ends September 30.

Beyond the numbers, though, is the concept of why a consumption-based tax scares those in government: it returns control to the people. The amount of money sent to Washington isn’t necessarily as important as the behavior influence our current labyrinthine tax code provides these faceless, unelected bureaucrats. Examples of carrots include buying a home or certain types of consumer goods deemed better for the environment, while sticks are things like holding stocks for too short of a time or making income outside normal channels (to trigger the alternative minimum tax.) There’s no doubt that H&R Block and others in the tax preparation field are deathly afraid of what a consumption-based tax would do to their business as well.

Moreover, the government isn’t paid first with a consumption-based tax because backup withholding is eliminated. Backup withholding was supposed to be a temporary program, enacted in a time of national crisis. But just like any other “temporary” tax, we’ve been saddled with this enforced deduction ever since, even in peacetime. It’s a little more fair for the self-employed who pay in quarterly installments; still, these numbers are based on a previous tax year and not present income. Some have been led to pay far more than they owe because of income fluctuations, but under a consumption-based tax they can adjust accordingly.

Over my lifetime they have made a sport out of tinkering with the tax code – rates go up, rates come down, and cherished deductions are created and then rescinded. For example, credit card interest could once be deducted, but that was changed. Dare to tinker with the home mortgage interest deduction, though, and you’ll have a lobby full of realtors calling for your head. It’s hard to buck the system that too many have become cozy with inside the Beltway.

And it’s because of that system that we may face taxmageddon in 2013. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like much will change in the next four years, barring the unlikely event of FairTax proponent Gary Johnson becoming president. Any change will have to be led by Congress and demanded by a tireless, irate minority who are willing to give up some of those deductions they annually take advantage of to restore broader control to themselves. Only then can we begin to take the yoke off our necks and begin to enjoy more economic freedom.

“The days of political assumptions and bureaucratic neglect are over.”

Over the course of the past year we have been engaged in a door to door, hand to hand, grassroots campaign effort in Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, and throughout Maryland. We refuse to forfeit any votes due to historical voting patterns. Today is a new day, and ideas matter. The simple fact is the City and the County have been governed exclusively by bureaucrats enmeshed in a specific ideology for decades and have few results to show their tax-paying constituents. The bureaucratic neglect suffered by the citizens of these areas is staggering and unacceptable.

That’s a statement from U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, who will be the featured speaker at the “No More Neglect Rally” held just outside Washington D.C. tomorrow. Interestingly enough, one of the other speakers will be the last person who tried to defeat Senator Ben Cardin, that being onetime Lieutenant Governor and, more recently, RNC Chair Michael Steele.

That list of speakers got me to thinking about my recollections of the Steele-Cardin race. To be sure, since 2006 was a state election year (and the first Maryland campaign I was involved with) the U.S. Senate race was sort of an undercard to the effort of Governor Bob Ehrlich to be re-elected. But once Steele decided to step out of Ehrlich’s shadow, the way was paved for him to be the GOP nominee and it was believed that having a black candidate could be the ticket to winning a Republican U.S. Senate seat out of Maryland for the first time since 1980.

But I’m not sure that there wasn’t an assumption that race would trump ideology. Surely the Steele campaign wasn’t foolish enough to believe they would get every minority vote, but in both Baltimore City and Prince George’s County – two heavily minority areas – Steele received less than 1/4 of the vote, and he only outpaced Bob Ehrlich’s performance in those two areas by a few points. Looking at the numbers, one can deduce that, had Steele ran even with Ben Cardin in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, he would have been won a close election because Michael won the rest of the state outright.

However, it should be noted that Ehrlich and Steele did far better in those areas in 2006 than Ehrlich and Wargotz did in 2010, and roughly the same as the Ehrlich/Steele 2002 ticket did. So race apparently did help somewhat.

We know that Ben Cardin will tie his wagon to that of Barack Obama, particularly in minority areas. But Dan Bongino is asking the right question: what has blind loyalty to the Democrat Party done for their communities? Are they better off than they were four years ago? Even more to the point: are they better off than they were fifty years ago?

There’s no doubt that most would answer yes to the latter question, as the rising tide of American economic dominance lifted all the boats to a level where even someone considered poor today is living far better than the middle class of 30 to 40 years ago, insofar as material goods measure success. As far as other aspects of life, though, the jury is still out.

Yet I know Republicans who will swear up and down it’s a waste of time to campaign in minority areas because they’ll never vote for a Republican. No doubt it’s frustrating, but Dan Bongino is investing the time and effort by tailoring the message to hot-button issues which resonate regardless of race, particularly education. And he only needs to gain about 6% of the overall vote to succeed, so if he attracts 30 percent of the vote in Baltimore City and PG County it’s going to be a long night for Ben Cardin because that first loss is always the toughest. One would have to presume that Bongino is outpacing Steele in the rest of the state if he’s at that magic 30% threshold in minority areas.

To be perfectly frank, the fact that Dan Bongino has no record – just rhetoric – could be the reason the Republican establishment has seemed to shy away from his campaign. Several of the top party brass supported his primary opponent, Richard Douglas, in part because he at least had a Senatorial pedigree as a staffer to Senator Jesse Helms. To them, Bongino was a wild-card unknown, and another candidate those who believe they’re in the know dismiss as the “nice guy who doesn’t have a chance because he’s from dark blue Maryland and has no money.” Funny, but they said that about Scott Brown.

I understand the argument that Scott Brown was an outlier – the beneficiary of a special election held at a time when the national focus was on that one race, in a time period where his election meant the difference between a filibuster-proof Democrat majority or simply a 59-41 bulge. I get that. But Dan is doing his best to nationalize the election like Scott Brown did, based on his frequent national television and radio appearances. It’s a ton of free media which maximizes his efforts at getting the word out, and it’s making a difference.

I say all this, though, having no idea whether Dan would be a Scott Brown or a Jim DeMint. In six years I may be at the front of the line calling for a Republican primary opponent for Dan because he turned out to be what I consider a squishy moderate. I’d rather be in that position, though, than hoping we can find a quality opponent to take on the man National Journal has regularly tabbed as the most liberal Senator in a body which has more than its share of would-be patricians. I think the only true friends Ben Cardin has are the ones with checkbooks.

Yet in the meantime those on the wrong side of political assumptions and bureaucratic neglect continue to reliably vote against their best interests. For their trouble they have a president who stabbed them in the back by both denying them educational opportunities and allowing their closest economic competitors – illegal aliens – free rein in this country; meanwhile, their so-called leaders cry racism at the drop of a hat rather than suggest that the best way to prosper isn’t necessarily though athletics, rap music, or crime, but through a method employed by those success stories which are rewarded with the derision of being known as Oreos, Uncle Toms, or simply too white.

Obviously I think that’s completely crazy, but then again I’m just a white guy who grew up in a white-bread middle-class city neighborhood for several years before moving to a rural school district with ONE black student. If I may butcher the dialect and/or date myself, I’ve not been down much with the homeboys. But I am aware that history hasn’t always been kind to them.

On the other hand, it only takes a small percentage of those people who open their eyes and minds to realize that enslavement to one political party is contributing to the enslavement of their population to lives of poverty and fear. Other races don’t play that game, although Latinos are heading in that same direction towards marginalization, to their detriment.

So we should applaud Dan Bongino and the others who are taking the fight to the enemy in such a manner. I hope there’s a thousand at the rally and they each tell ten of their friends – there is an alternative to the same old pandering liberal Democratic politicians out there, so accept nothing less.

WCRC meeting – June 2012

This meeting was a little different from most others, as the guests of honor weren’t politicians but instead were two young people who would someday like to go into the medical field. Meet the winners of the inaugural Wicomico County Republican Club scholarship.

The 2012 WCRC Scholarship winners pose with club president Larry Dodd.

Jonathan Hurst (left) is a Parkside High School graduate who will be attending James Madison University in the fall with the eventual goal of being a physical therapist.

Next to Jonathan in the center is Kiersten Baker, a Salisbury Christian School graduate who will be attending St. Mary’s College in the fall to work on a biology/pre-med degree. On the right is WCRC president Larry Dodd.

It was nice to see the parents of both these teens in attendance to receive their awards. I’m sure I was in many of Mrs. Baker’s photos, which may not have necessarily been a good thing. I made sure to move out of the way before Sean Fahey took this one for the WCRC Facebook page, where I collected it from.

As for the actual club business, once we cleared out the usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, minutes, and treasurer’s report, Dave Parker commented in his Central Committee report that we sent up our nominees to replace Michelle Wright while the Democrats have apparently made no progress on their pending vacancies. He also stressed that we need to get out and vote this year because Democrats may be demoralized. We will also need volunteers to staff our headquarters and locations for 4 x 8 yard signs.

Bonnie Luna gave a report on the local Mitt Romney campaign, suggesting that “we can – and should – win Maryland for Romney.” Key initial items of business were to find out the interest in campaign materials so they can be ordered, but Bonnie also revealed that Andy Harris will be putting out Romney/Harris signs in the near future.

Jackie Wellfonder, representing the Dan Bongino campaign, noted that the coordinated campaigns have secured a table location on the boardwalk to attract would-be voters – as always, volunteers will be needed.

Woody Willing gave a Board of Elections report, telling us that the state is expecting a “huge, huge turnout” in November. He was less pleased with the fact the state is allowing candidates to be poll watchers, though.

We also received reviews on how things went with the Salisbury Festival and the Delmarva Chicken Festival, a report I gave.

But there were some important upcoming events where the club’s role was discussed, such as the Farm and Home Show, the WCRC Crab Feast on August 25, and, most importantly, the search for a headquarters location. All these are sure to be topics of discussion next month, particularly as we have more information on several of them.

As one observer put it, the meeting was nice and short because, unlike politicians, our scholarship winners weren’t given to a lot of talking. We adjourned while it was still light outside, which doesn’t happen often.

We’ll see if that occurs again July 23, when we next meet.

An addition to the family

June 24, 2012 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on An addition to the family 

The Breitbart legacy is hitting close to home, or so it is claimed.

Now I’m not going to promise to the subject of this post that she will enjoy great fame or fortune like Andrew Breitbart did, but based on the first night of her website’s existence I can tell she does a lot of reading to get her information.

If you are a Facebook friend of mine and you read the regular updates where I pimp my most recent posts, you will oftentimes see immediately under them the phrase “JackieLynn Wellfonder likes this.” Everybody has their supporters and Jackie has been one of mine for many months, but last night she decided to step into the fray on her own. Naturally I have given her a few tips on how to handle things on the back end of her site (like me, she runs a WordPress platform) and she’s already populated her site with a few posts, including a repost of what I wrote last night.

But if all she does is repost the words of others, frankly I’d be disappointed. Even though local writers I respect like G.A. Harrison and Julie Brewington generally mix in others’ content to a greater extent than I choose to, they back it up with their own takes on local, state, and national news and politics. Given the involvement Jackie has with the Dan Bongino U.S. Senate campaign I would expect her insider perspective would be an asset to local readers, as would the learning experience and transformation she is undergoing in her life as she becomes politically involved. Perhaps those at her places of work and worship may not know about these recent moves but her website would be a place for her to address these people and any others she may come across.

As I said earlier I’d given Jackie some tips and frank advice: be diligent in adding content and develop a thick skin, because you’ll need it on occasion. Not every blogger in this town likes all the others; straight away I can think of two who won’t be singing Kumbaya together anytime soon. So you’ll probably make some enemies among bloggers and perhaps elected officials and other local leaders. Don’t take it personally.

But returning to the content advice: you’ll notice on my sidebar that I have about 90 links to local and national websites, including Jackie’s. These sites get there when they draw my attention but they stay there by posting regularly. Every so often I cull links because nothing gets my goat more than a website which isn’t kept up – usually if there’s no post newer than three months ago on the site I broom it. With literally millions of blogs out there, the competition is difficult so I demand some effort be put in – after all, I update this one at least once a day. So I would expect her to be a regular contributor on the local scene.

And it’s up to Jackie to establish an identity of her own (and market the daylights out of it.) Those who read my site regularly know I have featured some items not normally found on a typical political blog, but this is my site and I get tired of doing wall-to-wall politics. So I throw a few curveballs and changeups, like any good pitcher would. You keep coming back, don’t you? The same should apply to hers. Notice I don’t exclusively link to political sites, but I link to what I think are good sites (for the most part, anyway. See the second paragraph above.)

But this will be an opportunity that we rarely get to watch something grow. Oftentimes I stumble across a site once it has matured and been around for weeks or months, but in Jackie’s case I may be the first to link to hers. I think she’ll justify my faith in her as expressed by that quick link. And who knows – I may learn a thing or two as well.

The austerity plan

I’ve been rolling this one in my head for a couple days, and I’ve become convinced of something. Austerity is a dirty word in this country.

This is America, for gosh sakes, and we are entitled to the best of everything, aren’t we? What is this stuff about doing without? That seems to be the response on the lips of millions of Americans, with perhaps the better way of putting it being that we should cut the fat out of government – of course, anything benefiting these Americans isn’t considered fat.

So into the middle of this attitude the local Libertarian Congressional candidate drops a big, fat helping of talk about cutting back. Perhaps the money paragraph in his treatise is this one:

The culture of dependency has nearly destroyed the soul of our country. The welfare state is wrought with fraud and failure. It has deprived generations of their dignity and few ever break out of the cycle. They have become enslaved by dependency and are trapped under the giant footprint of government.

Of course you know Muir Boda is right, but you also know his hopes of being elected on a Libertarian ticket lie someplace between those of being struck by lightning and winning the Powerball lottery. So the idea for Libertarians isn’t necessarily winning elections, but rather to pull the political center in their direction. In that respect they’re acting like the TEA Party to the Republicans and the Occupy movement to the Democrats, borrowing something from both.

And this message is actually at home in the Republican Party; unfortunately too many GOP members of Congress have the same attitude I expressed above. (The incumbent Boda is running against is better than most at resisting this.) They talk in platitudes about reducing government but when it comes to some favored constituency that buck just keeps right on going. One case in point: the farm bill under consideration, which instills yet another program to privatize profits and socialize losses through the “shallow loss” portion of the bill which provides a guaranteed income floor to qualifying farmers. Simply put, it’s not the government’s job to do this and I defy anyone to tell me where this is authorized under the Constitution. It sounds more like something President Obama would write up in an Executive Order.

Boda also points out that there are successful examples of governments which tightened their belts, citing the former Soviet states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia as nations which slashed their spending. Would it hurt America to do the same? The Presidential candidate representing Muir’s party (Gary Johnson, a former governor and originally a 2012 Republican hopeful) is on record that we should immediately cut spending to match revenue. There’s no question that approach is some strong medicine, and across-the-board cuts aren’t always the most prudent.

But Johnson is approaching the situation in the same manner that many Democrats do – demand something extremely off the wall, knowing that a compromise still moves the ball in the right direction. Unfortunately, too many Republicans have mastered the art of ceding valuable ground because they believe that it’s what the public wants; a belief reinforced by Democratic talking points parroted by the mainstream media.

As I’ve said on occasion, why not try something different? We’ve done it the big government way for eighty years and the results seem to be dependence and, over the last four years, a moribund and recessionary economy. I prefer America getting back to its former glory days of kicking ass and taking names – not necessarily on a military basis, but in leading the industrialized world in economic innovation and creating a lifestyle the world hadn’t before seen. Getting government out of the way would help in that respect, and spending less gets government out of the way.

Voter roll watchdog group shifts focus to Prince George’s County

June 22, 2012 · Posted in DC Examiner · Comments Off on Voter roll watchdog group shifts focus to Prince George’s County 

Updating a story I brought to you earlier this month, the good government advocacy group Election Integrity Maryland revealed yesterday they would challenge over 2,000 voter registrations in Prince George’s County on several counts which include duplicate registrations, invalid addresses, and deceased voters who remain on the rolls, among other reasons. The Prince George’s challenges bring the total number of registrations being questioned by the nonpartisan group to almost 8,000, with nearly all of the records under question coming from Montgomery, Baltimore, and Prince George’s counties. These are the three largest voter registration jurisdictions in the state of Maryland.

(continued at Examiner.com…)

Shorebird of the Week – June 21, 2012

June 21, 2012 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – June 21, 2012 

He’s been quietly successful for most of the season because he’s one of several multi-inning relievers on the Shorebird staff, but Devin Jones is one of the more promising prospects on the Orioles radar screen.

A 9th round selection by the Orioles last year, Jones has followed up a forgettable season in Aberdeen last year (2-4, 6.08 with a 1.77 WHIP) with a much better second stanza this season. Even though he has an 0-4 record, Devin has pitched much better than that record would indicate. In 41 1/3 innings Devin has allowed 37 hits but just 9 walks, and now sports a 2.40 ERA as we embark upon the second half of the season tonight.

The Mississippi State product won’t turn 22 until the fourth of July but he’s beginning to turn heads by providing a dependable 2 to 4 innings out of the bullpen when he’s placed into the game, often as the first reliever. And even with these long outings, Devin has only been scored upon in 6 of his 15 appearances, and never for more than 3 runs (April 21 at Greensboro.)

The Shorebirds have a situation which is now common among minor league teams as they seek to protect prized young arms, choosing 5 or 6 starting pitchers and perhaps as many again to handle 2 to 4 innings after the starting pitcher departs, along with an 8th inning pitcher and closer. Nine pitchers have gotten a start for the Shorebirds thus far, but of the remaining 12 who have dotted the roster five are averaging over two innings per outing. Among those non-starting pitchers, Devin leads the team with 15 appearances and is second overall.

If current trends hold, Jones should have around 80 to 85 innings to be judged by this season. And while it’s not clear just how the Orioles would like to use him in the future, Devin seems to be succeeding well enough in getting batters out to be given a future role in the organization.

 

Maryland gambling expansion may be nixed after all

June 20, 2012 · Posted in DC Examiner · 1 Comment 

Published reports are indicating that there may be no Special Session next month for the Maryland General Assembly to address casino gambling, as a lack of consensus among an eleven-member gaming workgroup has apparently thwarted progress. Without a Special Session being held, there is no way for the expansion of gambling to be placed on the 2012 ballot.

The standoff seems to center on the percentage of proceeds which would go to the state. Under current regulations, casino owners only get to keep 33 percent of the amount collected. William Rickman, owner of the Ocean Downs casino outside Ocean City, claimed that he needed a 45 percent take to “only limp by” as the casino lost $2.5 million in its first year of operation.

(continued at Examiner.com…)

Where the boom is allowed to happen

June 20, 2012 · Posted in Business and industry, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on Where the boom is allowed to happen 

This post starts out with a video. Watch it and then read what I say next.

Call it propaganda from oil company shills, but the fact remains: North Dakota leads the nation with the lowest unemployment rate – even better than Washington, D.C. They have 3% unemployment, which is 0.9% better than the next state on the list (Nebraska) and a full 3.8% better than Maryland’s number. The BLS also notes that “the largest over-the-year percentage increase in employment occurred in North Dakota (+6.8 percent).”

I will caution that fracking isn’t a panacea for all unemployment ills – Pennsylvania could eventually add over 200,000 jobs related to the energy industry by decade’s end but still has a higher overall unemployment rate than Maryland does.  Part of the reason for North Dakota’s success is that it really had few other job producers before energy companies invested heavily into the Bakken play; as one observer notes in the video it wasn’t all that long ago that young people left the area because no jobs were available.

And note that not all the jobs are directly related to energy extraction, with one entrepreneur featured in the video opening her own diner and others getting work from the surge in construction. Obviously that industry will mature as supply catches up to demand but there will be other needs which will eventually have to be addressed in a growing area.

Maryland has a small piece of the Marcellus Shale formation; unfortunately the state seems to be dragging its feet on allowing its exploitation. The two counties which would stand to most benefit, though – Allegany and Garrett – have unemployment rates just about the state average as of April, with both coming in just above 7 percent. Granted, we aren’t talking about a large population center – the two counties combined are just a shade larger than Wicomico County by itself and only a small fraction of Maryland’s overall population. But imagine the impact of 2,000 new jobs in that area – I’m not saying that would necessarily be the case with fracking but that’s certainly in the realm of possibility.

It can’t hurt, can it? Moreover, cheap and abundant energy can bring industry – unlike far-off North Dakota, the western edge of Maryland is within a day’s drive from a number of large markets because of its reasonable highway access. And their success would make life just a little easier on us in the rest of the state as Annapolis can have another source of income besides raising taxes. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Why should the barren, frigid wasteland of North Dakota have all the energy fun? Let’s open Maryland up for business.

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