The context for Jindal

We weren’t really paying a whole lot of attention in these parts, but today Bobby Jindal became what he hopes is the lucky 13th candidate to seek the Republican nomination for President. And it didn’t take long for our friends, the Democrat “hacktivists,” to take a few potshots in an e-mail titled “Bobby Jindal for president? Really?”:

Take a look at our Bobby Jindal primer:

  • He’s one of the least popular governors in the country: Under his failed leadership, nearly 1 in every 5 people in Louisiana lives in poverty.
  • He’s one of the architects of the scheme to turn Medicare into a voucher system.
  • He will say anything to please the Tea Party base, like denying climate science and championing extremists like the guy from Duck Dynasty.

Really, that’s all you’ve got? Granted, Jindal doesn’t have overwhelming approval numbers in Louisiana – earlier this year, he was polling in the 20s at home, but had significant positive ratings elsewhere. Jindal was popular enough to win 66% of the vote in his 2011 re-election campaign, though. It’s not unheard of for a governor to lose polling momentum in a second term as he had 50 percent approval two years ago. And if failed leadership involves cleaning up a corrupt state, I’ll take some in Maryland.

As for the poverty rate, it is roughly the same in Louisiana as it was in 2000. Under governors of both parties it has stayed around 20 percent, with the low point occurring under Jindal’s watch in 2010. In those terms it is not too distinct from its southern peers.

It’s worth noting that the same poll that had Jindal at 50 percent also polled on his decision not to expand Medicaid. And don’t let them fool you: nothing would happen to Medicare until 2024 at the earliest, and, as Paul Ryan explains, this is a program to allow more choice. We know the Democrat hacktivists think they know what’s best for us but I like having choices, thank you.

But I loved that last bullet point. I don’t believe the climate “science” either because there’s too much money at stake for those who parrot the government line to state otherwise; moreover, there are the inconvenient truths that the Earth has been warmer and cooler than it is today for extended periods before the industrial revolution. In short, we don’t have a damn thing to do with it but people want us to think so in order to tax and control us. Yet it’s working, so don’t tell anyone it’s a con.

And “that guy from Duck Dynasty” happens to be a pretty successful Louisiana-based businessman. You could be friends with worse people, like suspected child molesters. To the extent Phil Robertson is “extreme” is the extent he is God-fearing.

With all that, I’m starting to like Jindal a little more. Really. Let’s face it: the Democrats have nothing except the scandal-plagued Clinton family and the walking failure that is Barack Obama. They can’t even get Jim Webb on the same page.

So if you need a good laugh, just wait for the Democratic “hacktivists” to speak up. You’ll get one.

Building a three-headed monster

Yesterday I posted on Third Friday, a monthly event that’s become so successful that it spawned a similar spin-off called First Saturday and may have pushed downtown redevelopment over the hump. Similarly, there are some new businesses and apartments going up on the northern edge of the city along U.S. 13, and even the venerable Centre of Salisbury – venerable as a 27-year-old mall can be, I suppose – has the promise of something Salisbury has longed for, a Cracker Barrel restaurant. It’s slated to be built in the parking lot outside the abandoned J.C. Penney store. (Shoot, I was happy when Buffalo Wild Wings finally made it here from Ohio.)

But there is one prime area that has all the ingredients needed for success – plenty of traffic, good visibility, and reliable city utilities. Yet it sits vacant and unused because its plans for development came along at a bad time.

Several years ago, before my unplanned exile from the building industry, I helped draw up a proposed project which would have established a third attraction for Salisbury. Obviously we know the Centre of Salisbury was a retail destination point and at the time the downtown area was being discussed as something which, as it turns out, it is in the process of becoming – a place where visual and performing arts serves as the draw, along with a handful of local eateries.

But the plot of land just south of Perdue Stadium had its own node, with a guaranteed gathering of anywhere from 500 hardy, weather-tested souls to overflow crowds of over 8,000 people 60 to 65 times a year during the spring and summer. Add in the thousands of travelers driving by and there was the potential for a destination of its own; close enough to the beach to be a viable alternative for budget-concious travelers looking for something with a slower pace, yet with the attractions to enjoy a summer evening without the need for driving around.

As originally envisioned, the development had several key elements for success: office space for workday usage, restaurants for both travelers and those seeking a place to have a business or casual lunch, and lodging for those who wanted to have an anchor point to explore the area yet not have to deal with beach crowds. Its misfortune was beginning the development process at a time when we were entering the Great Recession of 2007-whenever. (Some may argue the area is still in one based on employment numbers.)

One other proposal envisioned for the site was the construction of a new Civic Center on the opposite side of the Perdue Stadium parking lot. Besides the obvious plentiful parking available, a new Civic Center would have the advantages of making beer sales at events possible (a deed restriction for the property of the current Wicomico Youth and Civic Center prohibits alcohol sales as a condition of having it donated to the county for its use) and could be configured for more seating than the current arena to attract larger acts.

Any action on that, however, is several years to a decade away. Yet the county is putting money into 20-year-old Perdue Stadium and the owners of the Delmarva Shorebirds are committing themselves to another two decades as the station’s prime tenant. In short, the main attractions aren’t going anywhere.

Yet this valuable land sits as a part of Salisbury time and economics seemingly forgot.

I understand the emphasis our city fathers have placed on revitalizing downtown and trying to make it a close-by gathering place for both young professionals and Salisbury University students. With a transit system already in place to ferry students from campus to downtown several nights a week and grand plans to spruce up the Business Route 13 corridor from SU to the east edge of downtown, city visionaries and elected officials have it covered. Meanwhile, the part of town encompassing the Centre of Salisbury up toward Delmar seems to be doing just fine although admittedly some of that retail may be getting long in the tooth and due for upgrades. The closing of J.C. Penney was just another pockmark on a facility which may need its own transformation in the next decade lest it suffer the fate of the old Salisbury Mall it replaced.

But that rebirth can be set on the back burner for now. Downtown development may be the place where the cool kids go, but there are other assets Salisbury can put in play with the proper foresight and investment. Imagine what could be there now if things had proceeded a decade ago, and work to make it a reality in the next few years. The infrastructure is already there thanks to the aborted previous plans, so let’s get this diamond in the rough to shine.

Increased popularity. Decreased sunshine.

That, in a nutshell, was the story of my Third Friday.

I got home from work, changed my clothes, and walked out to my car. Felt a sprinkle, pulled out my phone, looked at the radar picture and saw this tiny orange, yellow, and green blob arriving.

Man, did it pour when I got downtown. I walked through a river to get there as people were scrambling to get their treasures under cover. So by the time I arrived it was pretty much cleared out.

At that point I decided to find my Delegate’s new office. It’s a modest little room above Roadie Joe’s downtown, but he had some good folks in there for its grand opening: County Councilmen Larry Dodd and Marc Kilmer stopped by as did Salisbury City Council candidate Muir Boda, who made it official today as he filed. I didn’t get a very good picture of the Carl Anderton district office, but my friends Jackie Wellfonder and Julie Brewington did. Find them on social media.

A few of those aforementioned folks were downstairs grabbing dinner as Dark Gold Jazz was playing. So I sat in with them: the dinner eaters, not the band. (Although I own a guitar, I can’t play an instrument to save my life.)

They did about the longest version of “Hey Joe” I’ve ever heard. I don’t drink all that fast but I swear I drank half my beer during the song. Luckily, I like the tune so it worked.

But as people drifted off to other locales like Headquarters Live, I took a few minutes to stroll the Plaza.

The sky was still rather turbulent as I left.

It’s funny because Kim was in Ocean City this evening with the kids (daughter and friend) and it looked nice and sunny there from the video I saw. Welcome to Delmarva, huh? From what I heard, though, 3F was rather packed before the rains came.

So it wasn’t exactly the Third Friday I planned but it was nice to catch up with some old friends nonetheless.

Editor’s note: Read more

Making the intentions known

I don’t think I have ever heard of someone making their intentions known for a local office three years before the filing deadline, but today I received word from 2014 gubernatorial candidate Ron George that he’s running again…for Maryland Senate.

But in a way this move makes sense. Let’s hear what he had to say in a release today:

(George) was drawn out of the district during redistricting after receiving more votes than either Speaker Michael Busch or Senator John Astle. He was in the process of moving closer to his Main Street business when he was approached by former constituents and elected officials who urged him to run.

Mr. George says, “I intend to build on my record of strong constituent service, fiscal responsibility, and constructive solutions to the problems of the district and state. I look forward to bringing fiscal conservative-solution oriented government to the State Senate.”

As for the early start, George said, “I know the district and its citizens well, but I want to knock on every door and hear from each person. The early start will also help in meeting our fundraising goals.”

Fair enough. I’m sure some Republicans were disappointed that they did not oust Senator John Astle from his seat, as Don Quinn lost by fewer than 1,200 votes out of nearly 44,000 cast. It’s a winnable seat, and George correctly noted he outpolled both Astle and Speaker Busch in 2010 as the leading vote-getter in that former configuration of District 30.

This move may also tend to push people out of the Senate race; however, the current District 30 already has two Republican delegates (Herb McMillan in District 30A and Seth Howard in District 30B. It also has Speaker Busch, who actually had fewer votes than McMillan but still finished comfortably in second place.

It also gives George an opportunity to dust off some of his old campaign rhetoric that didn’t play as well with a conservative statewide electorate:

While serving in the General Assembly, Mr. George was nicknamed the Green Elephant for solutions for the environment that did not raise taxes or hurt farmers, watermen, local businesses, or residents along the bay. These solutions included energy net metering and wind energy that supplemented the grid and other energy sources while lowering energy bills.

That tends to play better in Anne Arundel County than on places like the lower Eastern Shore.

So our friends in the Anne Arundel County GOP have one less seat to worry about as far as finding a fairly strong candidate goes. While a lot can happen in three years, it should make for an interesting race should this come to pass.

Harris: no more Ex-Im Bank

June 9, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

It’s been a topic of discussion on this website for about a year, but those who believe the Export-Import Bank of the United States is simply a hotbed for crony capitalism and a classic example of government picking winners and losers restored a supporter in Andy Harris.

From our friends at Heritage Action:

Over the past month, momentum has grown for allowing the Export-Import Bank to expire.  It is now clear the bank will not be reauthorized by June 30th.  Additionally, conservatives leaders and caucuses will fight any efforts to revive the bank, which is a slush fund for the government to pick favorites and give taxpayer dollars to a handful of well-connected special interests. Last month, the 170-member Republican Study Committee joined the 40-member House Freedom Caucus in official opposition to the bank.  They are joined by the House Majority Leader, Majority Whip and eight prominent chairmen.  What’s more, Senator Mike Lee made clear conservatives will (use the) procedural tools available to ensure a reauthorization effort is not on autopilot and will entail a lot of floor time.

Indeed, Harris is on the Heritage Action list. But his opposition is nothing new as he voted against Ex-Im’s last reauthorization in 2012. That was a rather lonely position as Andy was one of only 93 members (all Republicans) to say no to Ex-Im.

But that’s not to say that Ex-Im is dead by any means. Giving it new life could be one of those items attached to a “must-pass” bill, as Kathleen Miller at Bloomberg notes:

In the House, Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he won’t let the bank’s reauthorization be attached to a measure that would speed consideration of trade agreements.

“Ex-Im Bank will not be included in any of these trade deals,” Ryan, who opposes the bank, said last week. “We are not doing that.”

That leaves supporters searching for must-pass legislation to carry the reauthorization, something that Ex-Im opponents would be reluctant to vote against even if it means extending the bank’s charter.

Or the reauthorization may be used as a wedge issue by factions in either party to extract concessions. Like any government program, Ex-Im has had its demise predicted before only to survive unscathed, like a cockroach after nuclear holocaust.

I’ll believe it’s dead when I see its lifeless corpse.

By the way, I reached out to Harris’s primary opponent, former Delegate Mike Smigiel, but he did not reply to my inquiry.

Playing with trains

June 8, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Perhaps you can add “centrist Republican governors” to that list.

There’s a very good reason that America doesn’t have a similar system to Japan’s – we prefer to do our travel in automobiles. If passenger rail was truly successful, we would not have a government-subsidized corporation (Amtrak) running it but a system more like air travel, with a number of carriers competing for business. (Granted, the amount of railway is much more finite than airspace but if demand were there more would be built.)

Yet this latest proposal is interesting in one respect: how the operation would be conducted.

Nazih Haddad, executive vice president of the Rapid Rail company, said his company would bear all of the operating costs once the line was running. He said the construction costs would be split between the Japanese government, the Central Japan Railway and the U.S. government, with no need for a state contribution.

One truly has to wonder why the Japanese government would want to be involved – if they have a TEA Party in their country I would think those taxpayers would be complaining about spending their tax money on a project in America. (Of course, Uncle Sam has to get its mitts into it as well.)

But pardon me if I’m a little skeptical about Rapid Rail “bear(ing) all the operating costs” when just the study will cost $28 million and supposedly it will be $10 billion to build. California got this high-speed rail idea a few years ago (using more conventional technology) and its price tag has tripled since voters approved the bonds. Based on that it wouldn’t surprise me if construction for a maglev ended up costing something like $30 billion. (In comparison, the Purple Line and Red Line were tabbed to combine for $$5-6 billion. That’s why our gas tax went up a couple years ago – and continues to increase every 6 to 12 months.)

While I understand it’s not the state money funding this study, it’s still taxpayer money. Naturally I suspect that the study will make the rosiest predictions on benefits and somehow overlook vast areas where costs could creep up. The results will fit the agenda, as they often do.

It may well be possible to get from Baltimore to Washington in 15 minutes via maglev – but are you willing to pay $200 a trip to do so? Something tells me this will be how the process would work. Call me a Luddite, but I think the tax money could be more productively spent.

Can we trust our leaders on trade agreements?

By Cathy Keim

It all comes down to trust.

I do not want to minimize the complexity of negotiating trade agreements, particularly ones that involve multiple nations spanning the globe. However, in its eagerness to complete this trade agreement, our government is currently ignoring its citizens across the political spectrum. Perhaps this is just the way it is going to be from now on.

The Constitutional limits have been frayed to the point that nobody expects anybody to have any restraint anymore. This President has overstepped the boundaries frequently and the legislative branch has not peeped. Oh, they may growl occasionally for the rubes back home, but once they are safely back in DC, they roll over and play dead.

The trade agreements that are currently on the table are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). All of these could be placed on fast track under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) if the House approves it as the Senate already has done.

Fast track would mean that no amendments could be added to the agreements. They would be voted up or down by a simple majority.

Trade agreements are difficult because they have so many partners all jockeying for the best deal. For this reason, the President has been given TPA routinely since the 70s. So what is different this time? Why are so many people concerned about fast tracking these agreements?

For many of us, the answer is that trust has been broken. We see the President overreaching his authority repeatedly, so why would we want to give him more authority?

What is so difficult to understand about this? And yet, our senators just gave him fast track and the leaders in the House are pushing to follow right behind.

The House Republicans could block TPA in a heartbeat, but they are so mesmerized by “free trade” that they cannot pull their eyes away and consider the big picture.

The Democrats loathe these bills because their party is owned by the unions, but they are disciplined and will follow their leader to the end. Harry Reid did not vote for TPA, but he knew it had the votes to pass in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi is walking a much tougher line. She must supply enough Democrat votes to get this over the finish line, but she is reluctant to vote for it herself or to push one more Democrat to vote for it than she has to. They are counting the votes to see how many safe Democrats must fall on their sword to make this happen for the President.

After much thought, it seems that the final points to consider are:

  1. The vote for TPA is essentially a vote for TPP. No trade agreement has ever been stopped once it came under fast track.
  2. Congress should not vote on bills it has not read. This bill is over 800 pages. Senators Cruz and Paul signed into the locked room to read this bill, but nobody has said how long they took to read it. Personally, if they were not in there for several hours, I cannot agree with the comment that they “read” the bill. A question for your congressman is: have you read the bill, and if so, how long did it take you?
  3. This President has overstepped his authority on so many issues that he should not be rewarded with additional authority.
  4. Congress should quit cowering and take responsibility for their Constitutional duties, rather than voting away responsibility to the executive branch.
  5. The trade agreements can still be worked on without fast tracking them.
  6. TPA or fast tracking can be considered again after the next President is in office if the new executive renews trust.

The lack of transparency of this administration, the outright lies, and the total disregard for their Constitutional limits demands that Congress respond with strength and firmness. So far, we have seen neither.

I cannot tell you which evils are going to be unleashed upon the American workers if TPA is passed, but only that they will be many. This will play out exactly like Obamacare: slowly but surely – and always to our detriment – one horror after another will be exposed.

On the flip side of Congress…

June 4, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Yesterday Cathy wrote at some length about the pressure being placed on Congress to give trade promotion authority to the Obama administration in order to complete work on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But there are also those in Congress who want to strengthen our hand, and it was up to my old friends at the Alliance for American Manufacturing to point this out:

You wouldn’t wait until you needed life support to go to the doctor, right?

Well, that’s what it’s like for U.S. manufacturers and workers facing trade cheating from countries like China. They have to wait until factories close and thousands of people lose their jobs before they can even begin to fight back.

It makes no sense. But there’s something you can do right now to help.

A new, bipartisan bill would level the playing field for U.S. workers by strengthening our enforcement laws against unfair trade practices. Please tell your Member of Congress to cosponsor this legislation.

You and I have worked together in recent months to fight for U.S. jobs and against unfair trade. The introduction of the American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act shows we’re making progress.

Thousands of American workers have faced layoffs this year because there’s been a surge in trade cheating and imports from countries like China. The new bill seeks to make it easier for companies and workers to seek remedy against trade cheating like this — before the layoffs and plant closures begin.

With Congress currently debating fast-track trade legislation and new free trade agreements, now is the time for action. Join me in telling Congress to stand up for American workers and manufacturers.

Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois, a lead sponsor of the bill, points out that several entities within the steel industry, including AAM, support this bipartisan effort. As a whole, the steel industry has taken a beating from foreign competition. [Unfortunately my American Certified archives are no longer online - within that venue I detailed a long-standing dustup between American manufacturers and numerous other countries, particularly South Korea, over oil country tubular goods (OCTG) being dumped on the U.S. market during the fracking boom. That's just one familiar example.]

Yet some of these same nations are now looking to get into our market via the TPP. And while the goal of any libertarian worth his salt is free and unfettered trade, there has to be an assurance that neither side is sticking a thumb on the scale. Dumping products on our market is one thing, but prospective TPP partners (particularly China, but also Japan) also have longstanding complaints against them for currency manipulation as well. While the idea is dismissed by some, we have other nations who want to make the rules as they go, too.

I suppose the operative question is just who wanted the TPP (or any trade agreement) in the first place? Generally it’s not the stronger entity who is looking for a break, and the United States economy is still among the world’s strongest and largest despite the best efforts of this administration to change that. There is a fine line between being too protectionist and stifling innovation (I love to use the Trabant automobile as the extreme example of this) and being taken advantage of by unscrupulous partners.

It seems to me that neither Cathy nor I believe we have a ruling class that is looking out for America’s best interests on either trade or immigration. I believe that there is such a thing as trickle-down economics, but using the power of government to assure yourself a slice of the pie means what trickles down isn’t something very clean.

The easy way out

A couple weeks ago I pointed out that about two dozen bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly this year were still pending after Larry Hogan had his final bill signing session May 12. Here was the list of bills I urged him to veto:

If he wishes to let the decriminalization of marijuana become law without his signature, that’s quite all right.

So I’m very disappointed to report that the deadline came and went while Hogan was away in Asia, and only two of those bills were properly vetoed: HB980/SB340 and SB190.

Yet while he turned aside the travel tax, Governor Hogan increased a number of court fees and kept an additional O’Malley fee increase scheduled to sunset this year for another five years.

The governor who claims to be business-friendly and who wanted to create jobs went against the wishes of his party on flexible leave and thwarted the introduction of fracking to Maryland for another two years. This after announcing during the campaign:

States throughout the country have been developing their natural gas resources safely and efficiently for decades. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against any new energy production.

Now we have our own knee-jerk reaction.

He also added yet another unnecessary mandate to health insurance with in-vitro fertilization coverage for same-sex couples, and if Bruce, uh, “Caitlyn” Jenner were born in Maryland s/he could legally have his/her birth certificate changed to reflect the “fact” he bills himself as a female.

Perhaps you believe Hogan was making the political calculation about whether a veto could be sustained. With the Senate in Democratic hands by a hefty 33-14 count, it’s not likely a veto could be sustained there. However, a 50-seat group of Republicans in the House only need seven Democrats to keep a veto in play, and given enough political pressure there are still a handful of centrist Democrats who could go along with the governor.

These were the House votes on the eight measures I advocated a veto for. I’m also adding the votes on the handful of bills he vetoed for policy reasons.

  • House Bill 51 passed the House 97-40. It would have difficult to uphold this one.
  • House Bill 54 passed the House 82-58, after originally failing on third reading. This veto could have been sustained.
  • House Bill 345 passed the House 86-52. This one was right on the cusp of a maintaining the veto; definitely doable.
  • House Bill 449 passed the House 93-45, and its crossfiled SB409 passed 103-36. But if Governor Hogan had vetoed this and put the whip to his department heads to come up with regulations by next January they may have upheld this veto.
  • The margins on HB838/SB416 were 94-44 and 93-45, respectively. That’s iffy but the onus should have been placed on the General Assembly to vote on it again.
  • Similarly, HB862/SB743 only won the House by margins of 85-50 and 91-49. Still unlikely to hold, but should have made them vote again.
  • HB980/SB340 only had 82 votes apiece in the House, which makes these good candidates to be upheld.
  • SB190 only passed 84-56, which means it’s also a good possibility to be sustained.
  • SB517, which decriminalized marijuana possession but was vetoed, is right on the cusp of overturn as it passed 83-53.
  • Similarly, SB528, which dealt with seizure and forfeiture (also vetoed), passed the House 89-51 so it’s also a possible overturn.

I suppose I should be happy with the half a loaf I have received from Governor Hogan considering the absolute disaster we’ve had to endure under eight years of Martin O’Malley. But the leftists are crowing about the fracking ban, and see it as just an initial step to a permanent halt.

The only way to curb an ambitious, leftist agenda is to put up a conservative one of your own and stomp out any attempt to sneak things through. Instead, what we are receiving is a leftward drift in lieu of pedal-to-the-metal liberalism. However, to borrow the words of a former governor, we really need to turn this car around and not using the veto pen as much as it should be won’t get us going in the correct direction.

The wrong idea

THIS is what happens when Americans aren’t taught history.

Our former governor, who gave illegal aliens in-state tuition if they were lucky enough to have their parents make it across the border without being caught and properly tossed out of the country until they go through the proper processes to stay, now believes in “comprehensive immigration reform.” According to his “vision” page, this is what Martin O’Malley considers comprehensive immigration reform:

Bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows will grow our economy, expand our tax base, create jobs and lift wages – benefiting our country as a whole. We must boldly advance comprehensive immigration reform, while also using executive action to its full authority to end unnecessary detentions and expand deferred action. As Americans, when refugee children arrive on our doorstep, we shouldn’t turn them away—we should act like the generous, compassionate people we are.

Here are the series of questions I have regarding all these claims:

  • How exactly does legalizing illegal immigrants “grow our economy, expand our tax base, create jobs, and lift wages?” They are already priced into the job market because they are “doing the jobs Americans won’t do.” (Apparently this includes construction and food service now.) What’s to say they wouldn’t maintain these arrangements even if they become legal, as working on a cash basis enables them to avoid paying taxes and Social Security?
  • Moreover, this wave of illegal immigrants granted amnesty will only bring another wave of low-skilled (and probably illegal) immigrants into the country. That depresses wages, creates more of a strain on the welfare system (as the initial wave of immigrants is undercut on wages and goes on public assistance), and puts pressure on the government to do this all over again. We should have learned this after Simpson-Mazzoli in 1986.
  • What are “unnecessary detentions?” If they are here illegally, the detention should be long enough to assure they will be in court for a deportation hearing. Too often we catch and release illegal aliens who never show up for court and become those in the shadows.
  • Is the definition of “refugee” being stretched to a breaking point? Since Cuba is now apparently our friend, there really aren’t any nations close by which would have the sort of oppressive government that qualifies one for “refugee” status, nor is there an active war in our hemisphere. Just because the economic condition is bad in a place doesn’t make one a refugee from it.

And it’s interesting that O’Malley brings up the Statue of Liberty. At one time, Ellis Island was the main entry point for immigrants, who were checked for health and whether they had criminal records. Eventually there was a prohibition on children arriving without adults during this era, which ended when President Harding signed the Immigration Quota Act in 1921. So while the Statue of Liberty has been a beckoning symbol for well over a century, for much of our history we were very selective on those we would allow into the country.

Further, immigrants of that era were not given the benefit of a welfare state or catered to in their native language. Certainly we had enclaves of Germans, Poles, Italians, and so forth, but eventually these families were expected to assimilate to one degree or another.

To me, true immigration reform would return to that time of quotas and strident checking. Those who immigrate legally go through a lot of red tape to get their green cards, only to see those who bypass the process get preferential treatment. I understand life is less than fair, but that is patently unfair to those who are doing it the right way.

And to those who say we can’t round up and deport 11 million illegals? It’s been done, and if the political will is there we can do it again. Most of them would self-deport once the word got out we were serious.

Let’s face it. The real need for reform is on the other side of the border, where our economy and largess has been a crutch to many nations for far too long. When remittances make up over 1/6 of a nation’s economy, this is an issue. (Surprisingly, the share in Mexico is quite low, but they are still a larger share of GDP than tourism.)

For the true sake of our country’s security, well-being, and economic growth, we need to rethink our immigration policies, restoring them to the point where we can be selective in who we choose to admit. It doesn’t mean we won’t accept people who work hard, but it does mean we want them to become Americans first and dissolve into our vast melting pot – as my German and Polish forefathers did over a century ago.

A toast to our neighboring states

Summer has arrived – the kids are out of school (in some cases, like ours), the weather is warm enough to fire up the grill on the deck, and people are hitting the beach in droves. And it’s the weekend to boot. In many cases such as this, the setting is not complete without a cold one by your side.

So my interest was piqued by a piece in the Daily Signal asking how high the beer taxes are in our state. When it comes to high taxes, Maryland is generally right near the top and the data from the Tax Foundation found beer taxes in Maryland, expressed in their cost per gallon, are no exception – they rank among the highest in the nation.

But there were two surprises in the data. First is that states in the Deep South, which generally have the reputation as low-tax bastions, have the highest beer taxes int the country. I suspect this is a hangover (see what I did there?) from their days as the Bible Belt. While Maryland is 9th in the country, they are well outside the top 8 and the top four (Tennessee, Alaska, Alabama, and Georgia) have rates at least double Maryland’s 49 cent-per-gallon toll.

Second, though, is the large disparity between Maryland and its surrounding states, which rank no higher than 24th (Virginia.) A beer in Pennsylvania costs 41 cents per gallon less in taxes, as their 8-cent rate is tied for the sixth-lowest in the nation. (Wyoming drinkers only pay 2 cents per gallon in tax.)

Maryland may make a little more money soon, because recently two local breweries (and perhaps others yet to be created) were the beneficiaries of a bill signed into law by Governor Hogan at the behest of the Wicomico County delegation. Dubbed the “Evo Bill,” it allows Wicomico County brew pubs to create more product with their current licensing structure. This is good, but only slightly dampens the effect of a increased alcohol tax that took effect under Governor O’Malley.

So now that Larry Hogan has rolled back tolls, maybe it’s time for him to give more assistance to a fledgling industry by removing the additional 3% sales tax on alcohol. Remember, we exist next to a state which has no sales tax so we’re now at a 9% disadvantage to our neighbors to the north.

A ‘loophole’ is only bad if the government thinks it’s being stiffed

For what is being described as “financial stakes (that) are small, (yielding) just $3 million to $4 million annually.” the Washington Post sure has its collective panties in a wad over the prospect Larry Hogan may veto the “travel tax.”

When I did my last look at the idea, I didn’t really know how much the difference was to the state. Now that I know it’s only a rounding error in a $40 billion budget. the prospect of Democrats (and, sadly, a handful of Republicans) trying to fill in this supposed budget hole looks to me like a “gotcha” moment set up by General Assembly Democrats who will turn around and bash Hogan for enacting the “travel tax” in four years – after all, if they can perpetrate the fiction that school funding was cut this year (never mind the increase of over $100 million) they can make up anything to tell unsuspecting voters that the sky is falling.

But it’s really funny to me that the Post considers this a “travel agent loophole” and “undeserved windfall” when it’s actually a legal transaction. Even the Post admits it:

Rather than collect sales taxes from the agencies based on the actual prices they charge customers for hotel rooms, most states have accepted a reduced payment based on bargain room prices the agencies manage to negotiate with hotels.

That’s as it should be, so it sounds to me like General Assembly Democrats have some sour grapes. The transaction in question is at a reduced rate – why should the state collect the sales tax on the full rack rate if the place of lodging offers the rooms first to a reseller at a lower price? There is no gun being placed at the proverbial head of the hotel or motel to sell the rooms to an online travel agency; they can go it alone and try to market themselves without a middleman. (Hence, loyalty programs and other perks provided by hotels who prefer to keep bookings in-house.)

But it’s obvious that many hotel chains prefer the assurance of knowing they would get something – a “something” that is about 60 to 70 percent of full rate – for a room which will be paid for many times over before the paint dries on the renovation or new construction based on future reservations already on the books. Chances are your room rate is really paying for the employees who check you in and take care of the rooms moreso than the bricks, mortar, and furnishings in the facility, and that factor can be adjusted easily by management. (To use a local and somewhat extreme example, just drive through Ocean City in January and note how many hotels and motels shut down completely for the winter. No one is there to pay for the bricks and mortar, so no employees save a caretaker and maintenance are needed.) So even getting a reduced rate from a travel agency which reserves the rooms just in case isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a cause for complaint by a state which hasn’t completely given up the attitude that “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine, too.”

Conversely, to use another traveler analogy, you won’t hear the Post (or any of their liberal allies) tut-tutting if gasoline prices go up and the state collects more sales tax as a result – no one there would consider that an “undeserved windfall” for the state. I’ll explain.

Should the per-gallon tab for gasoline go up another 50 cents (as it has over the course of the last few months, from about $2 locally to north of $2.50) the state will make up the $4 million “lost” by vetoing the “travel tax” in no time. A 50-cent per gallon increase, as we have already had, nets yet an extra half-penny to the state per gallon come July as an additional 1% gasoline sales tax increase takes effect then. Just based on that 50-cent gas price increase alone coupled with the 1% increase (to 3%) – hence, the half-penny – and assuming the state consumes 7 million gallons per day (probably still in the ballpark despite these old statistics), they will make an “extra” $4 million from what they could have anticipated receiving when 2015 dawned in less than two weeks.

Yet the Post will not throw a pity party for motorists – I guarantee it. Ignore their whining and leave the hotel room rate system be.

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