Odds and ends number 65

Gee, this format seems familiar. I don’t know if it’s the time of year or just luck of the draw, but there have been a slew of items I’ve seen as interesting yet not necessarily worthy of a full post by themselves. So we’ll blend them all together and see how it turns out, sort of like homemade chocolate chip cookie dough.

I don’t know if this is the Maryland GOP shooting itself in the foot once again or just being inadvertently tone-deaf. But as part of an otherwise rather boilerplate formal announcement of its Pathfinders program, which “is a statewide effort to develop the party through local candidate assistance and cultivating grassroots organizations,” they selected a date for their initial seminar which happens to be the exact same day many of those conservative grassroots have a gathering in Annapolis called Turning the Tides 2013. Fortunately, Pathfinders sounds like a continuing effort by the MDGOP so those of us who were booked for Turning the Tides can catch up rather quickly.

But you would think the powers-that-be would sort of scan the political landscape before selecting a date.

The political landscape may be just a little harder to survey if the IRS doesn’t change its mind about discontinuing a “key economic metric” after compiling data for two decades. In my last odds and ends post, I talked about Jim Pettit’s opinion on this pet subject of his, but the political consultant stated his case on National Review Online this week. It made the job of Change Maryland so much easier because the proof was in the pudding and easily spotted to boot. Now we’ll have to use more anecdotal data.

Accessing our elected representative to the federal government isn’t always easy, but one gentleman did and his question is the subject of what is billed as the first “Ask Andy” segment, featuring our Congressman Andy Harris.

It’s not exactly earthshattering that Andy wants a far more fiscally conservative approach than what is being proposed – certainly I do as well. (Actually, I’d prefer an infinite amount of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increases since you can’t divide by zero.) But I can think of a lot of other interesting questions to ask Andy, one in particular being whether he’ll support John Boehner for Speaker after what Boehner did to Republicans who wouldn’t toe the mainstream party line. Somehow I don’t think that will be his next video.

And I think there’s a young conservative who agrees with me on this point about spending. Jonathan Bydlak has graced my website before, when the Coalition to Reduce Spending was formed last spring. But his op-ed (again, on National Review Online) states the biggest flaw in promises made by politicians over the last couple decades:

For years, Grover Norquist and Republicans have tried “starving the beast” of the federal government by capping taxes. While they’ve been highly successful at preventing tax increases, they have been less effective at addressing one problematic aspect of fiscal policy: the ability of the Federal Reserve and Treasury to borrow more and more to finance massive spending, as they have done under the Bush and Obama administrations. It’s simple: Borrowing today means a higher tax burden tomorrow when the debt comes due. True fiscal responsibility, then, requires us to curb spending in addition to limiting tax rates.

Imagine if instead of pledging not to raise taxes, all those politicians had pledged not to raise spending. It’s unlikely the United States would be facing massive tax increases as part of the so-called fiscal cliff. That’s why it’s important to do for spending what Norquist has done for taxes: create a means for voters to hold elected officials accountable when they break campaign promises of fiscal responsibility.

While Bydlak uses the op-ed as a means to promote his “Reject the Debt” pledge, the fact that he’s even starting this conversation is a good sign. Of course, it’s much more politically popular to refrain from raising taxes than it is to cut spending because, as with all things political, making cuts is a grand idea unless and until your particular pet program faces the budgetary meat cleaver. Even I’m realistic enough to know that certain items can’t just be axed abruptly; for example, in my book I proposed a lengthy sunset for Social Security because I knew too many people would have a rug pulled out from underneath them otherwise.

One thing the federal government should be paying more attention to, though, is the amount of time federal workers toil at furthering the agenda of their union at the expense of taxpayers like you and me. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group familiar to my readers, put out a note this week asking the Office of Personnel Management to release a study done regarding “official time”:

Federal employees spent about 3.4 million hours performing union duties while on the clock in 2011, according to an unreleased Office of Personnel Management (OPM) report made public in a November 26 Federal Times article. This amount of time, referred to as “official time,” cost the federal government $155 million. It represents an 11 percent increase in the amount of official time in 2010.

This information comes from leaks inside the administration.

Matt Patterson, a CEI Senior Fellow who covers the Big Labor beat for the free-market advocates, expounded on his findings in a post at the OpenMarket blog. It’s interesting timing considering the right-to-work controversy in Michigan. Look for a piece on that in tomorrow’s Patriot Post Digest; I wrote it yesterday.

I haven’t heard whether yet another effort to make Maryland a right-to-work state will be tried in next year’s General Assembly session, but I suspect that it will. Unfortunately, if I were to make a bet I would say Maryland would be about the last to pass such a common-sense law – then again, who would have thought Michigan would be the 24th?

Stranger things have happened.