I’ve had a piece by Newt Gingrich in my inbox for a few days, but I knew sometime I would get to it. The piece is relatively evergreen as op-eds go so I just figured when the time came I would contribute some of my thoughts – well, the time is now since you’re reading this.
In Newt’s new book, called Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate, he describes those who would hold on to tradition for its own sake as the “prison guards of the past.” The two cases in point he described in the piece I kept around were Google’s driverless cars and “coding boot camps” where top programmers conduct intensive training programs designed to encourage employment at some of the best companies in the field – where they can perhaps work on the driverless car or other breakthroughs.
As always, there’s a fly in the ointment – whether it’s the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s fear bordering on paranoia about these Google autos zipping around without some sort of new regulation to cover them or the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education fretting that these would-be hackers aren’t getting the well-rounded politically correct education the state seems to demand, bureaucrats have to get their grubby little fingers into the pie. My question is: what exactly would they contribute?
I’ve often stated the case that government is a solution, but it rarely addresses the correct problem. It’s obviously in Google’s best interest to put out a usable and safe product such as the one which they are testing right now, just like it’s in the best interest of those who run “coding boot camps” to educate their students in the best way possible to assume the demanding task of writing millions of lines of code. (They probably could have written the Obamacare website in a couple weeks, made it work, and saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.) Snark aside, just think of the possibilities these present if left unfettered by government interference, in particular that of the driverless car.
As someone who sits behind the wheel for several hours every week doing his outside job, imagine how much more productive I could be with a good internet connection as, for example, I make my weekly drive around my various stops on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Suddenly I may more enjoy that trip I occasionally have to make to Cape Charles for calls there. And what if we could make it so cars could traverse the rural interstates safely at a higher speed, say 120 miles per hour? Then we wouldn’t need the high-speed rail boondoggle, and politically correct urban planners can’t have that. To me, a car equals freedom because you’re not a slave to another’s timetable, whether bus, train, or airplane. Sure, it will take a decade or two for a driverless car to become affordable for the average person but there may come a point – even in my lifetime – where the car with a driver may only be seen at the NASCAR track.
The problem with the idea of using government to solve a problem is their lack of incentive to find a lasting solution. If we ended poverty or, to use an issue hitting closer to home, cleaned up Chesapeake Bay to a state where you couldn’t dive in without running into the aquaculture that’s in abundance, would the government regulators say “our work is done here” and go away? Not on your life – then they would have to get honest jobs. Left to government’s own devices, we will never end the “war on poverty” or finish cleaning Chesapeake Bay because there’s too much taxpayer- or donor-supplied money at stake.
Yesterday I was thinking about freedom, and it dawned on me that we cannot have absolute freedom because that would be anarchy – everyone would live for their own self-interest and it would deteriorate into a simple game of “survival of the fittest.” But we also could not have absolute tyranny because at least the tyrant would have his or her own free will, even if he or she is the only individual so unconstrained. In all societies, we have some sort of rule of law, but the difference is in who calls the shots and whether things are set in stone or as capricious as the weather on a particular day. We are at war with Eastasia, and have always been at war with Eastasia; that is, until someone decides we’re at war with Eurasia.
It seems to me that the sweet spot in a society would be one where there are some fairly simple rules (the Ten Commandments and Constitution as written come to mind) but aside from that people have the freedom to live their lives as they see fit. Google wants to make a driverless car? On balance, it seems to me the benefits far outweigh the costs to certain other areas in the transportation industry. Software makers want good coders? All they seem to be hurting is the feelings of the government which can’t regulate them into their approved little box.
I’ve always admired Newt Gingrich – maybe not so much politically, but for the fact he seems to be thinking a generation or two ahead. I try to do the same here, as this blog and (especially) my book aren’t always for the here and now, but to look into the future and see possibilities. I may not always be right, but I try to learn as I go along.
The key going forward is to impress upon society at large that they have a purpose. We can advance under a system which has brought the world prosperity, or backslide into the tyranny mankind has known for most of its miserable existence. It’s still our choice, but the window is closing fast. Those “prison guards of the past” are aptly named, for this nation was born from tyranny and of late it’s devolving in that direction unless we can break the chains.
David Craig is claiming to be the first to launch a series of radio ads touting his “glide path” tax plan, in which he exhorts Marylanders to “vote yourself a raise.” Give a listen to the one-minute version.
In the release which accompanies this video rendition of Craig’s ad, though, it notes that the spots are 30 seconds long. I’m not sure what portion of the long-form version they kept, but the ads are now supposedly running on two Baltimore radio stations, WBAL-AM and WCBM-AM. Obviously I don’t know what sort of buy they made, or how much they paid, but my guess is that they spent a little more than the $5 a spot Red Maryland Radio is charging – and presumably have a far larger audience, depending on placement. If they are on during Rush Limbaugh, yeah, that’s a big audience.
I like the touch of the female narrator, which will contrast with the mainly male hosts and attempt to soften Craig’s image. He already comes across as the grandfatherly type given his age and demeanor – that may compare favorably with the rock-star image our current governor has.
As Craig’s campaign points out:
This is the first, paid-media buy by any of the gubernatorial candidates and begins a month-long radio campaign that promotes a bold plan to lower taxes burden on hard-working families, and finally does something to keep Maryland citizens and businesses from moving out of state.
Ending the personal income tax is only one part of our plan to turn back the onslaught of insane new taxes and tax increases created over the past eight years by the O’Malley-Brown administration.
Obviously they also add:
And as always, to keep these radio ads running and ultimately change the ultra-liberal, one-party culture of Annapolis we will need your financial support.
All of the candidates are far short of the social media juggernaut which is Change Maryland – in comparison, David Craig is by far the piker with just 4,620 “likes.” But Craig used that Facebook platform today to talk finance:
It comes as no surprise that Maryland will see a decrease in projected revenues in FY15. The O’Malley/Brown administration through their failed economic policies have once again opted to kick the can down the road. Maryland’s working and middle-class have been asked to bear the burden of their mistakes for the last 7 years; as a result, many have fled the state because life in Maryland has become unaffordable.
Under our administration, Jeannie and I will provide real substantive tax relief for all Marylanders and balance our budget by ending uncontrolled spending. We will make Maryland affordable once again.
I suppose the key question which occurs to me is whether placing the state on a “glide path” will be enough relief for those beaten and battered Marylanders who are ready to throw in the towel and head for greener pastures. Craig’s idea isn’t quite as aggressive as the competing tax plan by Charles Lollar, who believes the additional sales tax and economic activity will make up the difference. So while they are waiting for a second term of David Craig, how many will go to those places which already feature all these tax advantages?
Whether it’s the competition or just getting more familiar with the levers of state government, it is encouraging to see David getting more bold with many of his ideas. Perhaps he can shake that moderate image enough to get through the GOP primary, and I’m sure that’s where the radio ads are aimed.
As the Maryland House of Delegates considered a bill to increase the minimum wage statewide a curious exemption was slipped in, a change in language seemingly placed in the bill to benefit amusement parks like Six Flags.
Seeing that, Delegate Mike McDermott tried to add an exemption for another tourist playground: Ocean City.
The amendment would have exempted Ocean City’s seasonal employees – defined as those who work a maximum of 120 days in a calendar year – from the new wage law, instead maintaining the current federal standard of $7.25 per hour. Said the Delegate:
“Prince George’s County wisely decided that locally this is what they needed to do. Everyone across the state is dealing with their own issues and everyone is dealing with their own different unemployment rates. (Counties) should be able to decide for themselves whether it’s higher or whether it’s lower.
We struggle right now keeping these jobs available for these kids… The lower shore is not recovering; the unemployment rate is still soaring… Our Ocean City businesses will lose out to competition in Delaware with Bethany and Rehoboth Beaches and to competition in Virginia and North Carolina. Ocean City is our world class resort and this state’s premier destination. The revenue from Ocean City paves a lot of roads in Baltimore City; the revenue from Ocean City does a lot for the state of Maryland.
If you can see it for a sector like Six Flags, or Jolly Rogers…if you can capture a vision for how [minimum wage] impacts that industry…Can you not see how that impacts an entire region like Ocean City?
This is about creating an atmosphere where people can still afford to come and the employers can still afford to keep people there.
Needless to say, McDermott’s argument fell on deaf ears, as the amendment failed on an 89-47 vote. The bipartisan support for the amendment included six Democrats (Bromwell, Conway, James, Kevin Kelly, Minnick, and Wood) and all 41 Republicans who voted (Cluster and Frank were absent.) The original amendments to exempt Six Flags and other like businesses were added at the committee level and not through a floor vote, including one by committee Chair Delegate Dereck Davis of Prince George’s County.
But as the process goes on, it appears low-wage Marylanders will get a raise come January whether they deserve one or not, which probably means more layoffs than normal after the holiday season.
Of course, McDermott’s amendment was nothing more than symbolic because there wasn’t much of a chance of it passing anyway. One thing it did, though, was give local Delegate Norm Conway a chance to vote against the minimum wage bill on that particular amendment. It wouldn’t surprise me if he voted against the entire bill since it’s an election year and he needs to look business-friendly to the good conservative folks on the Shore – surely his union supporters can give him a hall pass since the votes will likely be there. It’s just another example of the BOHICA form of government a state which finds itself in yet another budget shortfall will enact upon its citizens.
As I sit here on what seems like the umpteenth snow day of this winter of our discontent, I ponder what the world was supposed to be like just a decade or so ago. I’d have thought by now the polar ice caps would be melted because the earth would be so warm and I’d be enjoying my tropical beachfront property right here in Salisbury.
Snark aside, one has to wonder if the climate is really changing. For the past several winters, we have endured at least one significant snow event – something I don’t recall dealing with in the first few winters I’ve lived down here. The big blast of snow we had in 2010 was really the first major snowstorm since I’d moved here in 2004, but that was the first of several winters this decade one may consider harsher than normal. This year, though, takes the cake. (While this piece is about two decades old, the average snowfall of about 10-15″ is consistent with the Wikipedia-supplied average of 9.9″ for Salisbury.) Today’s storm threatened a foot of snow, but will likely fall into the 4-6″ range, adding to a winter where snowfall has far exceeded the norm.
If you believe as I do that the sun dictates our climate, we may be in for a long series of cold winters. It seems like as plausible an explanation as any other. But what does that mean for the average family?
First of all, I define how cold a year is by the number of heating degree days used. This is a very simple calculation: the average temperature for a calendar day subtracted from a constant temperature of 65 degrees. I was taught this concept in my architectural training, and it’s a handy way to determine how cold a period of time is. From this site, I found that over the last decade we’ve generally run an average of 4,315 heating degree days, with the years of 2003-2005 being a little colder than average; on the other hand, 2011-2013 were comparatively balmy because we finished under 4,000 heating degree days. So the fact we are running 19% ahead of 2013 on degree days through February really means we may be getting back to a longer-term average, polar vortex or not.
But degree days don’t equate to snow; I tend to believe colder winters aren’t generally as snowy. Usually the biggest snowstorms brew in from our south, which implies a warmer flow of air colliding with cold air from the west. A more westerly clipper system isn’t usually a big snow producer here.
Now snow, in and of itself, isn’t such a big deal aside from perhaps a one- or two-day disruption in routine. And all this snow is great for some people: those who have plowing businesses on the side (or get overtime from the state/local government for plowing) are making out like bandits this year, and ski resorts are cheering these storms on as well. Kids get to play in the snow. But on the other side of the ledger: tourism could be down a little at spring break because kids may have to make up all those wintry days missed, local governments have to dig into their contingency funds to secure more salt for the roads, and so forth. Overall, the effects are fairly minor.
Conversely, cold weather is difficult for most families on a budget; in particular, the need to find more money for electricity, natural gas, or heating oil. And while Eastern Shore summers can be torturous without air conditioning, they’re more manageable than dealing with a cold spell without heat. That can be deadly.
And on a long-term axis, a cooldown may make food more expensive as yields decline and certain staples become harder to find. For example, over the course of several decades, orange production in Florida has retreated southward due to too-frequent bouts of freezing weather. Obviously some of that migration comes from pressure from development, but orange groves aren’t a fixture in the state’s northern half anymore. By the same token, the area where wheat production is possible becomes smaller as a large percentage of the world’s land mass lies in northern subpolar regions where a few miles of retreat turns into a lot of lost acreage.
So the question is whether this unusually lionlike start to March is an anamoly or a sign of winters to come. Florida may seem like a better and better bet to many who get tired of shoveling year after year, but there are only so many people it can support and food has to be grown by someone someplace. Maybe those broken chunks of polar vortex which have swirled in our direction will go someplace else next winter, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find that all who warned us about global warming were the only ones creating the hot air – it sure wasn’t the bright sunshine.
I still like picking on Joe Biden. But over the last month or so I’ve collected a lot of divergent information on policy suggestions, each of which promses to be the magic elixir to get our economy moving in the right direction again.
I think the key to this lies in two areas: manufacturing and energy. In that respect, I keep a lot of information handy to discuss in this space, with a group called the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) generally representing the left-of-center, pro-union side. And while their main goal seems to be increasing the coffers of Big Labor, luckily most workers still have free will – ask the employees at the Tennessee Volkswagen plant about how much effort from the UAW can be rebuffed in a simple up-or-down vote.
Currency manipulation is one area in which the AAM has been focusing. A study they cite, by the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI), makes the case that:
Many of the new jobs (if the subject is addressed) would be in manufacturing, a sector devastated by rising trade deficits over the past 15 years. Rising trade deficits are to blame for most of the 5.7 million U.S. manufacturing jobs (nearly a third of manufacturing employment) lost since April 1998. Although half a million manufacturing jobs have been added since 2009, a full manufacturing recovery requires greatly increasing exports, which support domestic job creation, relative to imports, which eliminate domestic jobs.
Personally I disagree with the premise that rising trade deficits can be blamed for the job losses; instead, I think an absurdly high corporate tax rate and onerous regulations have contributed more to chasing away American manufacturing. (While many simply blame “outsourcing” for the problem, fewer understand the dynamics which led to the outsourcing.) Yet there is merit to the idea that all sides should be competing on as level of a playing field as possible when it comes to the means of exchange, and China is one of the worst offenders. (And why not? They are communists, after all, and you can’t trust communists any farther than you can throw them.)
Two of EPI’s findings are quite interesting: first, should the EPI model come to its fruition, the oil and gas industry would be the hardest hit, and second, Maryland would be among the states least impacted, with barely a 1% rise in employment.
Yet AAM president Scott Paul is quick to blame Barack Obama:
President Obama promised to hold China accountable. He hasn’t. The White House last month said President Obama would use his pen and his phone to make progress on economic issues. He could start today by signing an order to designate China as a currency manipulator. Then, he could call the Chinese leadership to demand an end to that practice, and secure an agreement on a plan to cut this deficit in half over the next three years.
I sort of wish Mr. Paul would also figure out the other problems, but he is correct to be concerned about our Chinese policy. Job creation has become more important than deficit reduction in the minds of Americans, both in the AAM poll I cited above and a Pew Research Poll cited by the American Petroleum Institute (API).
And the industry which benefits from API’s efforts represents another piece of the puzzle which we can take advantage of: our abundant energy supplies. While America uses 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, there is the possibility of as much as 10,000 trillion cubic feet within our land mass. That’s nearly 4 centuries worth, so I don’t think we will run out anytime soon. (Estimates have continued on an upward path as new technology makes previously unworkable plays economically viable.) As I keep saying, it’s too bad we don’t have a nice shale play under our little sandbar. Not only that, but the infrastructure we will need to take advantage of all that (and help curtail spot shortages like the ones we’re having this chilly winter) would be a guaranteed job creator – one which derives its basis from the private sector. New pipelines aren’t just for export facilities like Cove Point, but could benefit this area and perhaps bring more natural gas service to our region.
Unfortunately, Maryland isn’t poised to take advatange of either the manufacturing or energy booms at present, thanks to back-breaking economic policy and a foolhardy go-slow approach on fracking. It takes a strident opponent of the latter to suggest yet another approach which will do damage to the former, but gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur accomplishes this with the tired old combined reporting proposal. Hers comes with a twist, though, which she announced last Monday:
In the morning, Mizeur will host several Maryland business owners for a Small Business Roundtable. They will discuss her legislation to provide tax relief to small business owners, as well as other highlights from the campaign’s ten-point plan for jobs and the economy, which was released last fall. She will also hear from the business owners on a range of other concerns.
At 1:00 pm, several business owners will join Mizeur in front of Ways and Means to testify on behalf of legislation that would enact combined reporting and distribute the estimated $197 million to small businesses for personal property tax rebates.
It’s the liberal way of picking winners and losers. And according to a 2008 study by the Council on State Taxation – admittedly, an opponent of the practice:
Combined reporting has uncertain effects on a state’s revenues, making it very difficult to predict the revenue effect of adopting combined reporting.
Even proponents don’t address that aspect, instead emphasizing how it would “level the playing field between multistate corporations and locally based companies.” But since Mizeur’s idea is one which would subsidize some businesses under a certain employment plateau, the uncertainty would likely be just another reason to avoid Maryland.
On the other hand, a Republican like Larry Hogan at least gets businesses together to discuss what they really want. Granted, once he gets them together he speaks in broad concepts rather than a more specific plan, but at least he’s listening to the right people. None of the others in the GOP field have specific plans, either, although Ron George probably comes the closest.
One has to ask what states which are succeeding economically are doing to attract new business. The state with the lowest unemployment rate, North Dakota, is prospering – more like crushing the rest of the field – on account of abundant energy resources, and perhaps that success is pulling surrounding states up with it. Its three neighbors (Montana, South Dakota, and Minnesota) all rest within the top 13 when it comes to low unemployment rates and other regional states like second-place Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, and Kansas lie within the top 10. Although the top five are right-to-work states, half the bottom 10 are as well. Nor can tax climate be seen as a dominating factor since the top 10 in unemployment vary widely in that category: Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, and Montana are indeed excellent in that aspect, but North Dakota is decidedly more pedestrian and Iowa, Vermont, and Minnesota are among the worst.
But Maryland has the tendency to depend too much on the federal government as an economic driver. This presents a problem because bureaucrats don’t really produce anything – they skim off the top of others’ labor but don’t add value. Certainly it’s great for those who live around the Beltway, and it’s telling that all three of the Democratic candidates have a connection to the two Maryland counties which border the District of Columbia while none of the Republicans save Larry Hogan do.
In order to create jobs, I think the state needs to diversify its economy, weaning itself off the government teat and encouraging manufacturing and energy exploration. Meanwhile, there’s also a need to rightsize regulation and restore a balance between development and Chesapeake Bay cleanup – specifically by placing a five-year moratorium on new environmental restrictions while cleaning up the sediment behind the Conowingo Dam. Let’s give that which we’ve already done a chance to work and other states a chance to catch up.
The best route out of government dependence is a job. Unfortunately, when the aim of the dominant political party in the state is one of creating as many dependents as possible, a lot of good entrepreneurs will be shown the door. It’s time to welcome them in with open arms.
For the first time since he won a contested Republican primary in 2010 over Rob Fisher, Andy Harris will have a GOP challenger in the primary. Jonathan Goff, Jr. is a Fallston resident whose nascent campaign features the key issues of foreign policy and immigration, with the sentiment that:
I have never seen this Government so bad. I have been sending emails and calling Washington just about every week. There are lights on, but there is nobody home. They just don’t listen to “we the people” and there is no common sense.
All that is fine and to a great extent I agree. But there are some questions I have about the wisdom of his political philosophy, as well as proofreading skills. This is taken verbatim from his website’s home page:
80% of America’s energey comes from America, leaving 20% outsourced. The remaining 20% is manipulating out fuel prices. If our Government can allow private oil companies to extract oil on America’s lands and waterways, refine it and reach record profits, then why can’t we have our Government extract and refine American owned oil and sell it only to American owned businesses and citizens with no loop holes.
As I often say, proofreading is your friend. But more importantly, the question I have is: when the federal government can’t seem to handle the health care industry, why would we trust them with the energy industry? Goff doesn’t seem to understand that the oil company profits – large as they may be – pale in comparison to the tax burden government places on each and every gallon of gasoline. Interestingly, his header graphic depicts a gasoline nozzle sucking up dollar bills.
But it’s not like Andy Harris is on top of his game, either. It appears his campaign site hasn’t been updated since the 2012 election, although the issues page should still be relevant. Obviously the two Democratic challengers are keeping their sites more current, particularly first-time candidate Bill Tilghman.
In effect, the Republican primary will serve as a referendum on how Andy Harris is doing with Republicans. Despite a few unpopular votes, it’s likely he’ll have little trouble making it through the primary unless Goff vastly steps up his game.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I was sent this to provoke a comment or if I just happen to be on a list that gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur doesn’t use all that often. I think most observers know I have an interest in energy issues, and this definitely falls into one of them. You just have to ask yourself why Mizeur counts herself among the Democrats are so insistent on denying the opportunity for shovel-ready jobs and investment – I thought that was what they were all about.
First of all, this is what Mizeur had to say about the proposed Cove Point LNG export facility.
(Yesterday), Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), candidate for governor, called on Governor O’Malley to join her in opposition to the Dominion Resources liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility at Cove Point in Calvert County. She made the announcement during a speech at the Stop Cove Point Rally in downtown Baltimore City earlier today.
“I am calling on Gov. O’Malley to take a stand with us today to reject Cove Point,” Mizeur told the audience. “You cannot leave a legacy on addressing climate change and be silent on Cove Point. It’s time for Gov. O’Malley to break the silence and join us in saying no to Cove Point.”
The rally, which was attended by 500 people, was organized by climate, health and anti-fracking activists from across the state, and was one of the largest environmental rallies ever in Baltimore City. It came as the state Public Service Commission begins official hearings on the project.
Mizeur is currently the only gubernatorial candidate to state her opposition to the project. When she announced her opposition in December, both Lieutenant Governor Brown and Attorney General Gansler – the two other Democratic candidates in the race for governor – expressed a desire to build the project without environmental damage, but failed to explain how such a plan would be possible.
Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based energy company, is pursuing the construction of a $3.8 billion facility to serve as a collection point for fracked natural gas from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, where cargo tankers would then ship it throughout the world.
But the Cove Point facility would release 3.3 million tons of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into the air annually, making it a serious setback to achieving the state’s goals on fighting climate change, including a plan for a 25% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020.
Mizeur has also called on Dominion Resources to invest $3.8 billion – the construction cost of the proposed facility – in the state’s renewable energy sector. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, clean energy investments create more permanent jobs than exporting fracked gas.
Obviously Mizeur is an adherent to the religion of manmade climate change, a belief system which fails to address why none of the climate models have predicted the lack of warming this century. The fact that they managed to get just 500 people to a climate change rally shows how small the cadre of believers really is – a good Second Amendment or TEA Party rally can rustle up similar numbers without really trying. If this is “one of the largest environmental protests in state history” then we really are letting a tiny minority dictate policy.
But let’s say these guys are really serious – I suppose living in a state foolish enough to believe that artificially limiting its carbon emissions will have an effect on our overall global climate will do that to you. Even if the point source of 3.3 million tons is correct, it doesn’t take into account the reduction in emissions at destination points abroad. Natural gas is cleaner burning than coal, and until we figured out that fracking was a way to supercharge the moribund domestic natural gas market it was a fossil fuel environmentalists weren’t uncomfortable with. To show how the market has changed, the Cove Point facility was originally built in the 1970s as an import facility because the domestic natural gas market was thought to be in an irreversible decline.
On the other hand, the point source investment of $3.8 billion will have a positive effect on the regional and state economies. Last year, in announcing its filing, Dominion claimed the project will create up to 4,000 jobs during the construction phase and perhaps over 14,000 jobs overall, not to mention billions in royalty payments. Because most of the supply would come from regional producers, the entire mid-Atlantic area would benefit (except Maryland and New York, which currently have bans on fracking.) The facility would also provide a needed boost to our export tally to address a persistent American trade deficit, as the LNG is already contracted out to distributors in Japan and India.
Finally, Mizeur complains that the $3.8 billion Dominion is willing to invest in the project could be better spent in the renewable energy sector. Does the name “Solyndra” ring a bell? Despite its best efforts to create a market for offshore wind, companies aren’t willing to make the investment in that area – remember Bluewater Wind? In the area of solar energy, it took billions in taxpayer-guaranteed loans – and mandated renewable energy portfolios such as the one Maryland is saddled with – to get that market off the ground, yet it still produces but a tiny fraction of our electricity needs at a cost several times the going rate for electricity produced from coal or natural gas.
And it’s funny that Mizeur worries about the cost of natural gas going up due to exports, but had no problem with raising the gasoline tax on a perpetual basis. So much for supporting hard-working Marylanders.
So the choices are either zero or $3.8 billion; that’s reality. We can take advantage of proven resources we already have or listen to alarmists whose real goal is to foster dependence on government under the guise of saving the planet. It’s just too bad our little sandbar is energy-poor, unless you deign to call chicken manure an energy gold mine, and even the proponents concede its not as efficient as natural gas.
This actually came to my attention a couple weeks ago, but I thought they may get more response if I wanted until closer to the deadline to post this.
As background, the Maryland Citizen Action Network filed for 501(c)(4) status back in November of last year, and they’re still waiting. They then ask:
Will you let our voice be silenced by our now openly oppressive government?
The regulations that the IRS would like to impose upon MDCAN include prohibitions against sponsoring candidate debate, having to scrub candidate names from their online presence, and eliminating get-out-the-vote efforts within 60 days of a general election. On the other hand, as they point out:
Unions will be exempt.
The entire reason why MDCAN filed to become a 501(c)(4) – to create online petitions to fight bad bills, to teach our activists how to be better activists, to learn how to fight effectively - will be for nothing.
Will you let our voice be silenced?
IRS REG-134417-13 is the ticket to stifling opposition to the current regime. The IRS got caught being completely overboard when they tried to slow-walk applications and determine who to audit before, but this time they’re going to write the regulations before strangling potential opposition in the crib.
We are closing in on the deadline for public comment, which comes February 27. The group Protect c4 Free Speech has taken a lead on organizing opposition, and they’ve posted a copy of the proposed regulations. They remind me a little bit of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions which were properly thrown out with the Citizens United decision, except this seems a blatant violation of the First Amendment. What the IRS and Obama administration are probably counting on is time enough to chill opposition during the 2014 election cycle – they’ll worry about paving the way for Hillary Clinton in 2016 later.
In looking at the method of submitting comments, it’s worth noting that one can comment anonymously, which may not be a bad thing given the tendency of the IRS to find multiple excuses to audit those who express dissent. But comment we should, otherwise there will be a chilling effect on organizations trying to promote a pro-liberty viewpoint. Remember, unions are exempt.
Now I know some will argue that if an organization wants to preserve its rights, it simply can choose not to apply for 501(c)(4) status. But there are hundreds which have based on the interpretation of the rules in place, and the bulk of spending was by conservative groups. One advantage of 501(c)(4) status seems to be donor anonymity. And MDCAN is important to the Maryland pro-liberty movement based solely on their annual Turning the Tides Conference, a chance for right-of-center Maryland activists to gather and learn from each other. Obviously the group wants to adopt more of a role in Maryland politics and feels it needs the 501(c)(4) status for its growth.
Given the lawlessness of this regime I don’t really think the IRS will be a fair arbiter of status anyway, but these proposed rules really attempt to tilt the playing field. Let’s take them down.
The “rain tax” is probably coming to Salisbury.
Eager to jump on that bandwagon, the Daily Times reports that Salisbury City Council unanimously agreed to move a bill to create a stormwater utility forward for final approval at a future meeting, a date to be determined but likely in the next 60 days. All five of the Salisbury City Council members are Democrats, as is Mayor Jim Ireton, who backs the proposal. Jeremy Cox’s story quotes City Council president Jake Day as saying “There’s no good argument for not having this in place, to have a funding system to pay for things.”
There’s a great and very simple argument: we have no idea if what we would be doing will have any significant impact on Chesapeake Bay. As vague as the Phase II Watershed Implemetation Plan for Wicomico County is in terms of how many assumptions it makes, there are two things it doesn’t tell me: the overall impact of Wicomico County presently on the health of the Bay, and the economic impacts following the plan will have on business and our local economy. Does the $20 I would spend each year make a dent, or is it just another way for government to reach into my pocket for dubious benefit? Less than national average fee or not, it takes away from my less-than-national-average salary.
The argument by Brad Gillis also rings true. Because the state requires most new development to adhere to overly strict stormwater guidelines, those who have will still be paying the rate on top of the expense others didn’t put out. Stormwater retention isn’t cheap.
And, of course, there’s the very real possibility that the $20 of 2015 will be $35 after 2017 or $100 sometime after that. Once enacted, I’ve rarely met a fee or a tax that’s decreased and because the goal is so open-ended this just seems like another excuse to reach into our pockets in perpetuity.
This is a state where I pay bridge tolls to subsidize a superhighway I’ll probably never drive, pay a gasoline tax out here in the hinterland to prop up a boondoggle of a public transit system in the urban core (complete with pie-in-the-sky light rail lines many of those along the route don’t want), and get to watch a governor for whom I didn’t vote – twice – play whack-a-mole with expenses that pop up by “borrowing” from dedicated state funds and floating bonds to make up the difference. Why should I trust the city of Salisbury to be prudent with my money when the regulatory goalposts are sure to shift? Ask David Craig about the state and what happens when they change their mind.
Several years ago I proposed a moratorium on new Chesapeake Bay regulations so we could figure out whether all that we had put in place would work. Of course, for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Town Creek Foundation, and other denizens of Radical Green there’s too much money for their coffers at stake to ever agree to such an idea – and it’s such fun to figure out new offensives along our flanks in the War on Rural Maryland.
Needless to say, my reasoning probably won’t change any minds on Salisbury City Council, or that of the mayor. I know Jim Ireton, Jake Day and Laura Mitchell to a greater or lesser extent, and they’re decent enough people, but they seem to have this idea in their head that government central planning is the solution and for every need there has to be a new fee to pay for it. When the “need” is a mandate from on high, that’s where I object. Twenty bucks is twenty bucks for the tapped-out homeowner, but those who are job creators will likely pay a whole lot more and it’s just another incentive to locate elsewhere, in my estimation.
Do you remember a guy named Ron George? You know, he’s this guy who actually jumped into the gubernatorial race back in June and had steadily plodded through the campaign, in part because he’s serving in the House of Delegates as is Democratic hopeful Heather Mizeur. In the straw poll I wrote about yesterday, George was second to Charles Lollar with 24% of the vote, beating both Larry Hogan and David Craig, but in the internecine sniping over the last couple days between supporters of two of those aforementioned camps you’d have thought Ron had dropped out of the running.
But on the heels of his call for a special counsel to investigate the Maryland Health Exchange Board, George today revealed more information through his research. The statement (below) is accusatory, but George backs it up by putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
The Maryland Health Exchange Board should never have been granted special procurement powers which resulted in the rewarding of political allies. The administration continued to favor a vendor who has a flawed history with Maryland and deep fundraising relationships to both Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown. We need a special counsel with the authority to investigate the procurement practices of the Health Exchange Board.
It appears the administration was in favor of rewarding their political supporters despite serious legal concerns relating to this same vendor’s work with state foster children and a troubling history collecting child support payments in Baltimore. The problem with one-party control is the people in power get to make the rules even when they are inappropriate and can lead to waste, fraud and corruption. I demand a full and thorough investigation into the contracts approved by the Health Exchange Board and their adherence to transparent and impartial government.
This is the same vein that Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland mined with his own accusations of pay-to-play which came out last month. Seems like we have a pretty corrupt set of people running Annapolis.
One thing which needs to be addressed when the Republicans take over state government is the procurement procedure. It’s certainly the conservative ideal that as many government functions as possible be transferred to the private sector, and generally this is accomplished through a bidding process with the lowest and best bid which meets the specifications prevailing. Most people associate the process with construction projects, but much of government – including the contract for customer service call centers George refers to – is done this way. On the surface, it’s a good idea to allow a private company with some expertise in the field to replicate their service for government rather than hire a group of workers to duplicate efforts needlessly.
Yet there are flaws in this approach which make it exploitable, and I believe what George wants investigated is how the process of selecting Maximus came to be. For example, were the specifications written in such a way to make Maximus into the only company capable of doing the contracted work? Much as the 2005 Fair Share Health Care Act was written to punish just one company – Walmart – the rules and specifications for awarding a job can be tailored to make it so just one bidder can feasibly secure the work. (If you forgot about what Fair Share was, it was an early topic of conversation in my blogging career. Check out this blast from the past.)
Perhaps more sinister yet would be the idea of getting insider information as the process was going along. In my architectural days, we had to be scrupulously careful that any changes made – whether clarifications of questions asked by bidders, revisions by the client, or the occasional error or omission on our end – were transmitted to all bidders to make sure no one received an unfair advantage. But if someone has a thumb on the scale, they may get a little bit of advance notice on changes or otherwise gain a leg up on the competition.
As it stands, though, it appears that $325,000 investment by Maximus paid off with a $36.5 million return. Of course, there’s nothing illegal about donating money to a political candidate and many companies play the field by donating to both Republicans and Democrats. (There was an anecdote I heard about the Maryland GOP accidentally getting both checks from a corporate donor, noting the GOP amount was far smaller than the Democratic one.) Just a look at a website like Open Secrets or Follow the Money will show most corporations embrace the practice.
So Republicans will have to walk a fine line when they take over in Annapolis. It’s almost impossible not to benefit a business which made a political donation, particularly if they shower both sides with campaign cash, but there needs to be some transparency in the process and a way to write specifications to maximize participation rather than funnel business to one or two well-connected bidders. Reducing the size and scope of government should be the primary goal of conservatives, but levelling the playing field for those who wish to provide needed services from the private sector should be a close second priority.
Over the weekend Montgomery County Republicans held their annual convention and as part of the proceedings they held a straw poll of 2014 gubernatorial candidates. It fell to the winner to deliver the results.
Charles Lollar was declared the decisive winner of a straw poll taken of Montgomery County Republican activists and Central Committee members at the annual Republican county convention held (Saturday) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Lollar won with 40% of the vote, followed by Ron George (24%), Larry Hogan (23%), and David Craig (13%). Hogan was the only gubernatorial candidate not in attendance.
“Every time our critics count the Lollar campaign out, our supporters count us in. These results demonstrate the solid grassroots support we have, not only in Montgomery County, but all across the state.”
“The people who voted in the MCGOP convention straw poll have sent a clear message across Maryland: when given a choice, they want Charles Lollar to be the next governor of this state. I am extremely grateful for their confidence and support and look forward to continuing to surprise those who underestimate us.”
Granted, we went through a 2012 campaign where one of the contenders won straw poll after straw poll but generally failed to crack double-digits when actual voters spoke. Nor is there any escaping the fact Lollar started the year with less than $6,000 in the bank – an amount Anthony Brown probably gets in his sleep from a special interest donor. Even the idea of eliminating a revenue source worth $8.5 billion to the state raised eyebrows at “Maryland’s premier blog of conservative and Republican politics,” where they cited a disbelieving Washington Post.
But, out of all the states. at least Maryland’s governor has the whip hand in making this happen because he writes the budget. It’s also worth pointing out the lack of specifics; for example, if the tax is phased out over four years the state need only cut $2-3 billion in spending annually and increased economic activity would make up some of the difference. As I note below, there’s not a whole lot of specifics yet on what any of the candidates will do when they assess the state’s financial situation.
Yet there’s a guy out there who has made the runup to his campaign all about the number of tax increases enacted by the current governor. So where was he Saturday? Wait, we have that answer:
Hogan was the only gubernatorial candidate not in attendance.
Interesting – wasn’t there a lot of scuttlebutt a few months ago about another candidate missing a number of key events? Are those crickets I’m hearing now?
I can understand skipping the January 16 Republican debate (to which Hogan was invited) because he wasn’t officially a candidate, but Larry also passed on the Second Amendment rally in Annapolis (as did Lollar, but Charles spoke to the 2013 rendition.) It just seems to me a strange pattern of behavior for a guy trying to establish a GOP campaign. Yet Hogan’s biggest supporters even mocked Lollar’s straw poll victory as a highlight of a “thoroughly hapless” campaign. It is what it is: obviously they’re not charter members of the Charles Lollar fan club.
Now I’m not here to question Larry’s sincerity, but I would feel a little better if GOP voters could base our decision on more specifics on priorities than just the easy promise to repeal the rain tax and to take public financing. (In Hogan’s radio interview with Jackie Wellfonder last week his decision to accept public financing was the prime topic of discussion, which I found disappointing.) Maybe Larry won’t be into the social issues, but I still would love to know how he stands on the Second Amendment, budgetary priorities, dealing with illegal aliens, educational choice, and so forth. All of his cohorts have answered at least some of the tough questions, so I can’t give Larry a pass just because he has a social media network of 77,000 people.
Originally I was going to do an update to my dossiers around the first of February, but I think it’s prudent to hold off until after the filing deadline just to make sure Lollar and Ron George are still in the race, and hopefully to get a little more information out of Larry Hogan.
And now for something completely different: Today I’m filing for re-election to the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee, so last night (if you didn’t notice) I put my authority line back in place. I’ll be on the June 24 ballot.
As part of my ongoing coverage of the 2014 campaign, today I’m going to look at a number of candidates who are running for seats in District 37, which covers portions of Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, and Wicomico counties here on the Eastern Shore. Presently the district is served by three Republicans and one Democrat, with the district’s State Senator being Republican Richard Colburn. In the lower House of Delegates, Democratic Delegate Rudy Cane handles the smaller District 37A, which takes in portions of Dorchester and Wicomico counties and is drawn to be a majority-minority district, while GOP Delegates Addie Eckardt and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio currently hold down the larger District 37B. In Maryland, House districts can serve as subdivisions of Senate districts and combinations of House districts (such as the case here) will have the same overall border as the Senate district.
I’ll begin with the Senate race: while Colburn has come under fire in recent months for both campaign finance issues and a messy pending divorce, he’s filed to run for another term and currently has no GOP challenger. Democrat Cheryl Everman of Talbot County is the lone Democrat in the race.
In terms of cash on hand, it’s no contest: Colburn has $31,994.55 in the bank while Everman is sitting at just $1,885.88. Moreover, the incumbent added to his total by collecting $35,101.55 in 2013 through a near-equal proportion of individual contributions (46.16%) and ticket purchases (46.65%), with political clubs making up the other 7.19%. In looking at the report, however, those political club contributions seem to be misclassified as they appear to be from various state PACs. Regardless, 104 individual contributions and 128 ticket purchases made for an average contribution of $140.42 to Colburn’s coffers.
On the other hand, only 38.61% of Everman’s $1,890.56 take for 2013 came from individual contributions – she received the balance of the money from the candidate account of “Joe Reid for Maryland.” Her 6 individual donors chipped in an average of $121.67 apiece. Since she started her reporting on May 30, this covers a little over seven months’ worth of financial activity.
In my coverage of the governor’s race, I also apportioned contributions into various categories: those from LLCs and similar legal entities, the legal community, unions, business, and out-of-state. (Many fell into more than one category.) I’m doing essentially the same here with the exception of the last category being out-of-district, and in this case I’m considering District 37 as the region covered by 216xx and 218xx zip codes – in essence the lower 2/3 or so of the Eastern Shore.
Colburn did well with the business community, receiving 30.84% of his 2013 donations from business entities. Just 2.66% came from law firms and only 0.31% apiece from LLCs and unions. (That translates to $100 each.) Only 16.02% came from outside of the enhanced district.
With such a small take, Everman’s totals reflected just 4.11% from outside the district, or $30. None of it came from businesses, law firms, unions, or LLCs.
Turning to the Delegate races, the District 37A race is most interesting financially. Democrat Rudy Cane has no GOP opponent yet, but is being challenged by current Wicomico County Council member Sheree Sample-Hughes. That’s not too shocking in and of itself.
However, Cane reported no cash balance on his report – yet is carrying forward $47,742.40 to his next one. Evem more mysterious is the fact he recorded no contributions for calendar year 2013, and the only incoming entry to his ledger is a $250 contribution from the AFSCME union in Salisbury on January 7 of this year. Yet he spent $6,250 on some interesting items – there’s only three, so this is an easy read.
In August, Cane reimbursed himself $50 for his filing fee. Prior to that, his campaign made two expenditures: on January 25, he gave Salisbury City Council candidate April Jackson a $200 boost to her campaign. But stranger still, July 13 saw a $6,000 transfer to…wait for it…Sheree Sample-Hughes.
Now consider that Sheree has a balance of just $7,147.04 in the bank right now. She took in $8,260 in 2013 so obviously only 24.33% of her income came from individual contributions while 3.03% (or $250) came from ticket sales. The other 72.64% of her campaign funding for 2013 came from her ostensible opponent.
But some of those individual contributions came from those one would consider political opponents. For example, fellow Wicomico County Council members John Hall and Matt Holloway (both Republicans) chipped in $100 and $50, respectively, while Wicomico’s GOP Sheriff Mike Lewis gave $40. All these were done in December, well after she had announced for the District 37A seat.
So while Cane got 100% of his contributions from unions based on the one donation, Sample-Hughes received just 1.77% from businesses and 1.11% from outside the district. Her 37 individual contributions and 9 ticket sales worked out to an average of just $49.13 apiece.
My gut instinct tells me that Cane isn’t really going to run to keep his seat unless he has to. The reason he filed, I think, was to keep another person from filing and challenging Sample-Hughes, who may win the district in the primary as sort of the anointed successor to Cane, who will turn 80 in May – thus the large contribution to her coffers. If he indeed runs, it’s likely he’d win another term then resign at some point, making Sample-Hughes the logical successor.
Meanwhile, there’s a financial shootout going for the District 37B seats, one of which is opening up as Delegate Haddaway runs as the lieutenant governor on the David Craig ticket.
It’s no surprise that the other incumbent, Addie Eckardt, leads the cash-on-hand parade with a balance of $44,488.89. But right on her heels is Republican newcomer Johnny Mautz, Jr. of Talbot County, who boasts $44,200.95 on hand. A third Republican hopeful, Christopher Adams of Wicomico County, has $24,777.29 in his coffers.
There are two others in the race, but Rene Desmarais of Wicomico County, a Republican, and the race’s lone Democrat, Keasha Haythe of Talbot County, only filed what are known as ALCEs, which attest a candidate has not raised or spent over $1,000 in the cycle. This isn’t surprising since both filed in mid-December, less than a month before the reporting deadline and just before the holidays, when political activity takes a hiatus.
So in looking at the three who filed full reports, we find that Mautz raised by far the most in 2013.
- Johnny Mautz, Jr. – $56,186
- Addie Eckardt – $7,225
- Christopher Adams – $6,165
As it turned out, Mautz raised every dime from individual contributions, while Eckardt raised 84.26% that way and Adams just 23.56%. The remainder of Eckardt’s money came from Maryland PACs ($1,350 or 15.74%) while Adams loaned his campaign $20,000 to make up 76.44% of his receipts.
But there’s a world of difference in the contributions each received. Mautz’s 143 individual contributions resulted in a whopping average of $392.91 per donation. Conversely, Adams received 40 contributions for an average of $154.13 apiece, and Eckardt picked up 74 contributions at an average $97.64 per.
And while none had significant contibutions from LLCs (Adams had 4.06% and Eckardt 1.38%), law firms (none reported), or unions (Eckardt received the only union contribution of $250, or 3.46% of her total), there was quite a difference in business support:
- Addie Eckardt – 19.79%
- Christopher Adams – 8.52%
- Johnny Mautz, Jr. – 0%
Yet the one which made my jaw drop was out-of-district contributions:
- Johnny Mautz, Jr. – 68.65%
- Christopher Adams – 15.57%
- Addie Eckardt – 13.84%
There’s no other way to say it: Johnny Mautz, Jr. had a lot of large checks dropped into his campaign from a number of inside-the-Beltway friends and acquaintances he’s gathered in several years of working in Washington, D.C. Obviously this will bear watching in future reports to see how much local funding begins to come in, but it’s obvious his end-of-year push came from outside the district. The initial money for Mautz’s campaign came mostly from locals, but those tended to be smaller amounts.
It’s obvious the big money in District 37 is going to be put into the open seat race for District 37B, although the rumored emergence of a big-name Democratic contender for Colburn’s Senate seat may bring some more money to that contest, and may cause some dominoes to be knocked over on the GOP side.
Tomorrow I’ll look at the races on the District 38 side.
Update: In looking up items for the sidebar widgets I’m going to feature for easy campaign website access, I came across a note on Cheryl Everman’s campaign Facebook page from January 12 stating she would withdraw from the District 37 Senate race for health reasons; however, she has not finalized that paperwork.