The bad news for good performance

If you go to the gas pump, you’ve probably noticed the little sign that says the blend is “10% ethanol.” For several years, the EPA has mandated a certain amount of ethanol be used to slake America’s thirst for gasoline, with a 10% blend of ethanol being just enough to cover the mandate. Unfortunately, with less gasoline being necessary to meet demand thanks to both a stagnant economy and more fuel-efficient cars, the mandated amount of ethanol isn’t being used anymore. I noted the other day that the oil companies were calling on the EPA to scrap the proposed mandate increase this year.

When I wrote that I wasn’t aware that a movement is out there to not just stop at E-15 but go all the way to E-30. Oddly enough, I saw a piece from Rick Weiland, who I referred to in my dark money post, which brought it to my attention. (Damn, that dude has made it on here twice in one week. After he loses that race, he’ll probably move to Maryland and run with his newfound name recognition here.) So I did a quick bit of research and found there is a movement out there which believes E-30 is actually the optimum amount of ethanol to take best advantage of its attributes. Weiland is obviously driving a vehicle tuned to that specification and there are actual service stations which have the blend in his region – in both cases, the average motorist isn’t usually going to have that condition. A check of this site revealed no such stations around Delmarva, so it wouldn’t do us much good.

Needless to say, what the market won’t do government will force. So Senate Democrats are pushing the EPA to increase the mandate, meaning that they’ll artificially create a market for higher ethanol blends. (Flex-fuel cars are supposed to be able to handle E-15, but they’ve never been a popular option because they’re not as fuel-efficient running an E-15 blend. It’s telling that you see a lot of government cars with that option, but not a lot of private cars.)

But let’s say the mandated number of gallons increases. The scarcity will be in the E-10 or straight gasoline which smaller motors need to run properly; in addition, the cost of anything which consumes or has corn as an ingredient will rise. It’s why so many different groups advocated for a smaller ethanol mandate.

If we really wanted to do something to use less gasoline, it makes more sense to me to impose part of the Pickens Plan. Now I don’t think wind power is the way to go because it’s not as reliable as fossil fuels, but I think running fleets on natural gas is a fairly good idea for the reasons they state. To me, using food as fuel for automobiles doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – and yes, I know Brazil uses sugar cane for their ethanol. Brazil can use all the sugar cane it wants.

But I look closer to home, and our chicken farmers want their feed to be as inexpensive as possible. Corn growers already have plenty of mouths to feed, so they really don’t need to fill our gas tanks, too.

Bye bye Beretta

We were warned about this all along, but everyone seems shocked that gun maker Beretta has followed through and decided to relocate its production to a new plant in Tennessee next year. The loss of 160 manufacturing jobs from its Accokeek plant will be the gain, once production ramps up, of Gallatin, a town which is a few miles outside Nashville and is about the same size as Salisbury. Here’s what Maryland is losing, from Beretta’s release:

Beretta U.S.A. anticipates that the Gallatin, Tennessee facility will involve $45 million of investment in building and equipment and the employment of around 300 employees during the next five years.

It’s worth noting that Beretta is not the only gun manufacturer potentially leaving Maryland. LWRC of Cambridge said last year “we simply couldn’t do business here” if the gun law passed, with 300 jobs at stake. Rumors of a purchase of LWRC by Colt were rampant earlier this year,  yet while no formal announcement has been made the Bob Owens piece I’m citing is useful as a reminder of what such a company means to a rural area.

Needless to say, Larry Hogan had the expected reaction on Beretta’s plight. Yet the question isn’t one of “high taxes and punitive regulations” so much as it’s a question of repealing a knee-jerk law passed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting – not that any law was going to stop Adam Lanza anyway, nor does this law stop a single homicide in Maryland. It was all feelgood legislation from the start; unfortunately, the powers that be chose not to back the referendum route which would have placed the law on the ballot at the same time as many who voted for it.

To change Maryland’s fate in this respect, not only does the state have to improve on its business friendliness but it also has to find the political will to overturn its onerous gun laws like 2013′s Senate Bill 281. Elections mean things, and not only do we need a governor willing to backtrack on this mistake but also enough of a General Assembly coalition to get a bill through the legislature. That part may be the most difficult, because getting to just 50 Republicans in the House and 19 in the Senate would be a minor miracle – yet Republicans need 71 and 24, respectively, to actually control the chambers. It’s mathematically doable but the odds of hitting the Powerball are probably much better.

So say goodbye to Beretta’s production, and know that it won’t be missed at all by the Democrats in Annapolis.

The peril of ‘dark money’

Of all the states in the union, South Dakota is not one where I have a ton of readership – maybe one or two a month wander by here from the Mount Rushmore State. But I have somehow found my way to the mailing list of their Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland, and if his e-mails are any indication, the dreaded Koch brothers aren’t just the obsession of Harry Reid. Get a load of this:

“Americans for Prosperity,” a dark money front group for the Koch Brothers, have quietly set up shop in South Dakota in an effort to exert big money control of South Dakota’s United States Senate seat.

The Washington Post reported over the weekend, “Americans for Prosperity, the on-the-ground wing of the network of conservative organizations spearheaded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, will open new state chapters in South Dakota and Alaska in coming weeks, the group’s president said.”

“Big Money is becoming increasingly concerned that our town-to-town grassroots campaign to take our country back from groups like the Koch Brothers and other billionaires and big corporations is working. And, as a result, South Dakotans will be “subjected to a never-ending stream of negative television advertisements,” said Sioux Falls small businessman and US Senate candidate Rick Weiland.

Weiland challenged Republican nominee to work with him to keep so-called “Dark Money” groups out of South Dakota. “Mike, this is an opportunity for both of us to show we can be leaders. Let’s sign a pledge and agree to keep billionaires from buying these elections,” Weiland said. (Link added.)

I’m less than impressed, particularly since the South Dakota version of AFP really doesn’t have a full site and their Facebook page has 11 likes. Then again, they have a state chapter and Maryland doesn’t anymore. That’s a very, very quiet setting up of shop, though.

But it sounds to me like AFP is trying to do something the Republican Party doesn’t seem to be doing otherwise – trying to mobilize action on a local level. Something Weiland didn’t quote from the Post story:

Building AFP’s presence in new states, (AFP president Tim) Phillips said, is one of the lessons the group took away from the 2012 elections, when Democratic efforts to organize voters proved far better than the GOP’s turnout operations.

Sounds like the old “50 state strategy” to me, although for now AFP hasn’t returned to Maryland. Guess we have to do it ourselves.

My point is that Democrats seem to be desperate to attack anyone who has money and wishes to donate to conservative causes because they sure can’t run on their record. The seat Weiland is aiming for is one held by a retiring Democrat, Sen. Tim Johnson. Polling is still rather scarce, but Weiland – who’s threatening to move into the “perennial candidate” category with another loss – trails in the state’s polls by about 15 points, with former Gov. Mike Rounds, the Republican, leading, and a third candidate, former Sen. Larry Pressler, in the race as a centrist independent and behind Weiland by about 10 points. No wonder Weiland is blaming AFP, since he’s lost any prospect of running to the center. Moreover, there’s no question Democrats are fighting elsewhere to save seats.

But this tale also provides a good transition to something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile. How much “dark money” is in our local politics? And by that I mean how much do our candidates here on the Lower Shore get from elsewhere? Now that we have just two entrants in most races, it should be easier to see where the money came from pre-primary and can serve as a lead-in to the next report due August 26. Look for these updates in coming weeks.

If we would only be so lucky to get some conservative counterweight around these parts to all the special interests which seem to be funneling money toward the Democrats. But we will have to make do with what we have, which is the right position on most issues. Many of our folks have been out knocking on doors and engaging in the retail politics which will have to beat the 30-second commercials and expensive full-color mailers the other side will surely try to fool us with. Let’s keep those tricks from working this time.

Update: As if on cue, Michelle Malkin has this piece on a major-league lefty contributor. But you won’t hear anything from the rest of the media on the eeeeevil Democracy Alliance, nor will John Boehner begin screeching about them.

The quest for energy security – and sanity

It’s been awhile since I wrote about the energy industry but things are always happening there and I decided to take a peek because of some items I’ve spied in daily updates I receive from the American Petroleum Institute. I like to know what’s going on in important growth industries which profoundly affect our daily lives.

As one might expect, API CEO Jack Gerard is a leading spokesperson against what he calls Barack Obama’s “irrational” energy policy. It makes sense when you consider that the United States is now the world’s leading producer of both natural gas and oil, thanks in large part to recent advancements in fracking technology which have revitalized the once-moribund American energy industry. Speaking before an audience in New Orleans, Gerard noted:

The choice before us is whether we pursue an American future of energy abundance, self-sufficiency and global leadership or take a step back to the era of American energy scarcity, dependence and economic uncertainty.

It is that simple.

There’s a clear benefit to having the abundant resources we do. I was only nine years old when the first oil crisis hit in 1973, but I remember the long gas lines and jump in prices. If you consider the long-term effects in policy and marketing, such as the adoption of fuel economy standards and the push toward smaller cars, ask yourself what may have happened if we hadn’t become so dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Would we have had the resulting mid-1970s recession?

Obviously we have recessionary conditions now in spite of the current oil boom, but there’s a valid argument that opening up the spigots (so to speak) and allowing more extraction would push the economy into more consistent growth.

Another example of an irrational energy policy is our continued ethanol mandate, about which API is asking for another cutout of a mandated increase. The EPA decided not to change the allotment for this year, but needs to finalize the rule.

To me, there are two telling facts about this story: one is that API has given up on legislative relief from Congress and appealed directly to the EPA, which speaks volumes about the transition of our supposedly limited government into a fiefdom unto itself.

The second is the sheer volume of interests on the side of eliminating the mandates entirely – everyone from motorcyclists who complain about ethanol’s deleterious effects on their engines (as is the case for other small engines from boating to lawn equipment) to the poultry producers who have seen corn prices artificially propped up due to the amount of corn necessary for creating ethanol and even environmental groups who fret that the corn-based product is actually worse for the environment. Obviously the corn growers love the price support, though, and farmers have their own determined lobbyists who would love to see an even higher ethanol blend called E-15 allowed.

API and other ethanol opponents are hinging their future hopes on a more business-friendly Congress in the next term, though.

Irrational energy policy on the state level may occur after this fall in Colorado, a state which has taken advantage of the energy boom but may fall prey to the scare tactics environmentalists use to portray fracking in a negative light. There Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, sees his state’s energy success being threatened by a petition drive to place further restrictions on fracking on their November ballot. Hickenlooper is quoted in Bloomberg as pointing out, “(t)hese measures risk thousands and thousands of jobs and billions in investment and hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax revenue.”

I found this interesting because the proposed restrictions would prohibit drilling within 2,000 feet of structures, a change which energy companies complain would “effectively ban” fracking in the state. Their current restriction is 500 feet.

Now something which came out the other day to little fanfare was a draft report outlining some of Maryland’s proposed fracking regulations. The original recommendation, based on other states’ best practices by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Appalachian Laboratory, was for a 500-foot setback from wells. That guidance was expanded by the Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Department of the Environment to – you guessed it – 2,000 feet. (Page 18-20 here shows the recommended DNR/MDE changes.) In short, these regulations are intended to “effectively ban” fracking in Maryland to the detriment of not just our far western counties, but any of the regions of the state (including the Eastern Shore) that have shale deposits underneath. Talk about an “irrational” energy policy!

So here’s the deal: Maryland wants to depend more and more on methods of generating electricity which lack reliability and increase cost to consumers. Yes, that’s sounds like “smart, green, and growing” to me – not too bright, costing more green, and growing the desire of businesses to leave the state to find a place where energy exploration and extraction is encouraged and rates therefore are cheaper.

I know the Hogan administration would want a “balanced approach” to energy in the state, but I would have to hope part of that balance is returning to the best practices suggested by UMCES and not the onerous restrictions which would effectively ban fracking in the state.

AC Week in review – July 20, 2014

It was a varied palette of items written about on my American Certified blog, The Sausage Grinder. Maybe it was a little more like scrapple. Regardless, I made several contributions to the discourse.

For most of the spring and summer, I’ve been following a sort of obscure Commerce Department case regarding allegations of Korean dumping of a processed steel piping product called Oil Country Tubular Goods – it’s strange that Korea is an OCTG producer when it has little oil. They made a decision favoring American steelworkers, which got positive reaction from a variety of interests.

One of those I quoted in the Commerce piece was the leader of the steelworkers’ union. His fellows at the United Auto Workers got an unexpected surprise from Volkswagen, which let the UAW in the back door despite workers at the Chattanooga plant voting against the UAW in February.

The concept of economic patriotism was brought out last week in a letter from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who pressed Congress to do something about the practice of tax inversion, where companies transfer assets overseas to take advantage of lower tax rates. While I didn’t bring up the argument in my piece, locally it’s just like the practice of stores selling big-ticket items locating just across the Delaware line so they can advertise their “no sales tax” prices and hope to increase volume accordingly.

Finally, I restated the obvious: Obamacare rates will go up in 2015. In a government takeover of the health insurance industry, did you really expect otherwise?

As always, I’m working on new stuff for next week, with other stories to follow.

38th annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

Once again, thousands came to Crisfield and heeded this advice.

Somers Cove Marina was set up a little differently this year, but the real difference was that the attendees didn’t soak through their clothes this year – instead, the day was cloudy but relatively comfortable, with only a small touch of humidity. Most years this setup – by a local engineering firm, naturally – would be oh so handy. But not so much this year.

One key difference in the arrangement this year was the prominence of this tent.

Annapolis lobbyist Bruce Bereano always has a crowded party, and it’s a bipartisan affair.

The GOP tent this time was set up behind Bruce’s, and it was a hub of activity for the Republican side. A lot of local and state hopefuls were there at some point.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan decided to have his own space, which ended up by the side entrance.

On the other side of the Republican tent and just around the corner, the Democrats were set up close to their usual rear location along the waterfront. Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton was holding court there. (He’s in the white at the center, in shades.)

By and large, though, most of those in attendance were interested in one thing. See the light blue lean-to to the left of the Sysco trailers in the photo below? That’s where the crabs were being served, and the line indeed stretched that far back 15 minutes before the announced noon opening – they really start serving about 11:30 or so.

I think the longest wait I had was about 10 minutes for the Boardwalk fries. As it turns out, I’m not a crab eater – but I like the fried clams and the fish sandwiches. Oh, and there’s a few politicians there too, but I’ll get to that in due course because I can find the political in a lot of things – except perhaps this.

The hosts of a locally-produced show called “Outdoors Delmarva” always seem to find time to tape a segment here.

Another local business I always find at Tawes made a very classy, and apolitical, gesture this year.

But I do find the irony in some things. For example, those of you familiar with the Hudson case may appreciate some here.

It seems to me the UM law school was on the other side of the fence before, as opposed to this group, part of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, which tends to take agriculture’s side as well as that of local government.

One other thing worth pointing out is the media frenzy this event creates. Here’s Delegate (and Senate candidate) Mike McDermott being interviewed. Wonder how much they actually used?

Most of the excitement occurs when the top members of the respective tickets arrive. Hogan had the tent but didn’t come until the event was well underway. His entrance was rather modest.

Oh, did I tell you pretty much everyone in the tent was waiting for him?

Naturally, everyone wanted to get their quote from him – perhaps even the tracker from the Brown campaign. I’m told Hogan has one.

While I’ve been critical of the Hogan campaign throughout, the way their team handled today was outstanding. This was the first stop I noticed him making after all the interviews were through.

In case you can’t read the sign above, it’s the tent of the Somerset County Economic Development Commission. To me, that was the perfect place to be seen.

They took a little time to meet and greet; they being both Hogan and running mate Boyd Rutherford. But the point was that I didn’t see them walking around much – instead they were engaging voters.

As I noted earlier, there were a number of other politicos there, but the statewide Democrats were not well-represented. I did see their AG nominee Brian Frosh. He’s the small guy in the center, violating the Don Murphy rule about not wearing white.

Notably absent, though, was the top of their ticket, Anthony Brown. It’s odd because he’s been here a few times.

One guy who wouldn’t dare miss this is local Delegate Charles Otto (center.) His Democratic opponent is the just-replaced former mayor of Crisfield, which certainly made for interesting retail politics for them.

A guy who lost his primary, Muir Boda (left) was out supporting those who won – and yes, Johnny Mautz was in the house. Muir’s with Democratic Wicomico County Council candidate Josh Hastings (right.)

All told, there were a lot of people there. I took this panoramic shot about quarter to three, which is just before those who had their fill begin to trickle out.

One other difference was not seeing all the Red Maryland crew there, although I did speak to Duane Keenan, who does a radio show on their network. Another media guy trying to drum up business was Phil Tran, who you couldn’t help but notice.

The other new media people I saw there were Jackie Wellfonder – although she hasn’t blogged about her experiences yet, she did burn up Twitter – and Jonathan Taylor of Lower Eastern Shore News, who has his own photo spread.

But as the event came to an end, we know that by week’s end Somers Cove will be back to normal.

In 2015 the Tawes event should be good for sizing up the lone statewide race in 2016. While Barbara Mikulski has given no indication on whether she will retire, the soon-to-be 78-year-old senior Maryland Senator may not like being in the minority come next year and could decide to call it a career. We should know by next July.

Head south, everyone!

Crisfield is the southernmost town in Maryland, but one day per summer it becomes the state’s political capital. Anyone familiar with Maryland politics knows that a summer tradition is standing around on the blacktop at Somers Cove Marina waiting for crabs and watching politicians try to create a show of support. But this year’s affair promises to be somewhat different than ones in years past, perhaps getting the feel of one held the year after the previous gubernatorial election.

This is because, for the first time, we already know for sure who the nominees will be. In years past we had a primary just weeks away but that’s no more. So Anthony Brown will be there, presumably with a cadre of blue-shirted volunteers who will head straight to the AFSCME tent. Larry Hogan’s posse will arrive at some point and the question will be how much smaller will his be, as it always seems Republican groups are smaller.

If things hold as they have over the past few years, there will be a steady stream of traffic going by the GOP tent, if only because Bruce Bereano’s bipartisan party is generally right across the walkway; meanwhile, the Democrats will hole up in the opposite corner by the cove, near a place I generally go to get some shade as I walk around. The only difference is that shade may not be such a requirement – the forecast for Crisfield tomorrow is for temperatures only in the upper 70s but a chance of rain throughout the afternoon after a stormy early morning. It could affect the business portion of the event, as a number of local businesses use this as a party for their employees and clients. (It’s not just politicians having a good time – I have some beer pong photos from a few years back. I was not a participant.)

I have no insight as to how ticket sales are doing, aside from knowing we sold most of our allotment. I do know this will be the ninth straight one I’ve gone to (beginning in 2006) and a lot of things have stayed pretty constant. Something worth noting from 2006 is that then-Governor Ehrlich skipped the event – and lost. Martin O’Malley didn’t skip the event in 2006 and 2010, and won.

But instead of blast-furnace hot as is usual, we may be drowned rat wet. Fortunately, there are tents but those cardboard box halves may come in handy as makeshift umbrellas. (Pro tip: don’t forget the box half, although occasionally campaigns will be one step ahead and bring a bunch. It’s a good place to use old bumper stickers.)

In any event, be looking for me. I got my ticket last week and will be there with my little camera taking pictures as I have for most of the last several years. I have a lot of good memories of Tawes and met some fine people, so there’s no reason to stop going now.

Team players

I’ve heard a lot of talk about nominees who are RINOs and sitting out the election because so-and-so won the primary and they don’t want to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” and it always amazes me because this doesn’t happen on the other side. Here’s a case in point from a fawning AP story by Steve LeBlanc about Senator (and potential Presidential candidate) Elizabeth Warren.

Now, Warren is continuing her fundraising efforts, with a planned Monday event with West Virginia Democratic Senate hopeful Natalie Tennant. Tennant, West Virginia’s secretary of state, is vying with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller. Capito is favored and holds a hefty cash advantage.

Capito’s campaign has also been quick to target Warren, calling her “one of the staunchest opponents of coal and West Virginia’s way of life.”

Warren has conceded that she and Tennant — who, like (Kentucky Democrat Senate nominee Alison Lundergan) Grimes, has criticized Obama’s plans to limit carbon emissions from the coal industry — don’t agree on everything, but can come together on economic issues facing struggling families.

So it’s obvious that the Democrats have their own 80/20 rule, but unlike some on our side they don’t take their ball and go home based on the non-conformance of the 20.

We had our primary, and at the top of the ticket there were 57% who voted for someone else besides our nominee – many of those live here on the Eastern Shore, where David Craig received 49.6% of the vote and carried seven of the nine counties. There can be a case made that Craig’s running mate, Eastern Shore native and resident Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, was a huge factor in his success here, but the fact remains that this area I live in was one of the two areas Hogan was weakest (the other being southern Maryland, where Charles Lollar resides.) These are votes Hogan will need, and surely many will migrate his way because he’s the Republican nominee.

On the other hand, Anthony Brown got a majority of the Democratic vote and carried all but a few counties. Those three on the Eastern Shore, plus Carroll County, aren’t places Brown would expect to win in November anyway – except perhaps Kent County, which was the lone county Heather Mizeur won and which only backed Mitt Romney by a scant 28 votes in 2012.

The path to victory for any statewide Republican candidate is simple, because Bob Ehrlich did this in 2002 – roll up huge margins in the rural areas and hold your own in the I-95 corridor. Ehrlich won several rural counties with over 70% of the vote in 2002, and got 24%, 38%, and 23% in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County, respectively. When that formula didn’t happen in 2006, he lost.

Granted, demographic changes and other factors may not allow Larry Hogan to pick up 65% of the vote in Anne Arundel County, 61% in Baltimore County, or 56% in Charles County, but it’s possible he does slightly better in Prince George’s and may hold some of those other areas. Turnout is key, and we know the media will do its utmost to paint Anthony Brown as anything other than an incompetent administrator and uninspiring candidate – as the natural successor to Martin O’Malley, who has done a wonderful job further transforming this state into a liberal’s Utopian dream at the expense of working Maryland families, one would have expected Brown to have picked up at least 60% of the Democratic primary vote.

Yet you can bet your bottom dollar that even the most diehard Mizeur and Gansler supporters may hold their nose but will still push that spot on the screen next to Anthony Brown’s name. They may have several points of contention with Brown on key issues, but the other side will push those aside to maintain power.

Perhaps Natalie Tennant over in West Virginia had misgivings for a moment about inviting Elizabeth Warren for a fundraiser, but she realized that there is a segment of her would-be supporters who would gladly contribute more to her campaign to meet Senator Warren, despite the fact they are on opposite sides of a particular issue. To Warren, the end goal of holding that seat in her party’s hands and maintaining a Democrat-controlled Senate was more important than conformity with the one place where Tennant may go against leftist orthodoxy.

If we’re to upset the apple cart here in Maryland, we have to deal with the obvious flaws in Larry Hogan’s philosophy and platform at the most opportune time – when he takes office.

June unemployment figure drops, but manufacturing jobs lag

Editor’s note: These were originally prepared for my American Certified Sausage Grinder blog as two different pieces but not used there. It’s a good opportunity to introduce readers who haven’t gone there to check it out (although I have to ask – why haven’t you already?) to the somewhat different style I employ there. Think of it as a sampler plate.

Last Thursday – a day early due to the Independence Day holiday – the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the June unemployment rate had decreased to 6.1%, which is the lowest rate in nearly six years. A total of 288,000 jobs were added in June; in addition, an extra 29,000 jobs were added in adjustments to April and May’s figures.

All this should be good news, but manufacturing jobs only increased by 16,000 over the period. This brought the ire of Alliance for American Manufacturing president Scott Paul, who complained that:

While the low-wage recovery progresses full bore, the June jobs report shows that high-wage job growth is at a standstill. Manufacturing accounted for only 5.6 percent of job growth in June, far below its weight in the wider economy. Construction job growth was even slower.

Looking for a reason why? It’s all about public policy. Our growing trade deficit with China, currency manipulation by overseas competitors, and a paucity of investment in infrastructure are leaving factory jobs at a virtual standstill. President Obama’s vision of creating 1 million new manufacturing job during his second term is way off track.

According to AAM, the total manufacturing job growth over Obama’s second term stands at 156,000 – far short of the pace necessary to achieve a million new jobs before 2017. That pessimism extends to the public at large, as a Rasmussen Poll indicated just 23% of Americans believed the unemployment rate will be lower next year.

On the other hand, writing at the Shopfloor blog, economist Chad Mowtray of the National Association of Manufacturers took a more optimistic view, calling the report “mostly positive news.” And while he stressed that wages were increasing at a solid clip, he also pointed out that labor force participation rates were still a source of worry.

Strangely enough, a report on exports for May also came out Thursday, as the Commerce Department announced U.S. exports of goods and services hit a record $195.5 billion high. Many in the steel industry – as well as dozens in Congress – are awaiting next week’s determination on possible dumping penalties against South Korea, while other exporters are lobbying for Congress to act on re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank before the September 30 deadline. Going forward, these determinations could affect future unemployment numbers as well as prospects for those who want to make things in America.

On a state level, though, the news was better.

In order to make things in America, workers are needed. And recently released employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows manufacturing employment was up year-over-year in May in 44 of the 50 states. (Page 17 here.)

With all the winners, though, it may be time to ask about the losers. The six laggards in the field were Alaska (down 1,800 jobs), California (down 1,400 jobs), Georgia (down 900 jobs), Kansas (down 1,700 jobs), Maryland (down 600 jobs), and North Carolina (down 300 jobs).

Alaska is an interesting case as it reflects in part the fortunes of its oil industry – just a few short years ago it was the only state gaining manufacturing jobs long-term over the decade from 2001-11. But a steady decline in oil production has hampered its local economy, and the state lost nearly 13% of its manufacturing jobs over the last year.

The other significant loser is Kansas, but a regional university’s study predicts an upswing in manufacturing employment over the next three months.

Out of the six where manufacturing employment declined, there is no clear political or labor pattern which can be discerned. Four of the six states have legislatures controlled by Republicans, but that’s fairly proportionate to the 28-17 advantage Republicans have overall. Three of the six are right-to-work states, which also reflects the close 24-26 split between our national composition of right-to-work vs. forced unionism states.

Conversely, the states which did quite well over the last year tended to be the ones bordering the Great Lakes. Minnesota (up 4,400 jobs), Wisconsin (up 1,400 jobs), Illinois (up 900 jobs), Indiana (up 2,900 jobs), Michigan (up 8,500 jobs), Ohio (up 5,800 jobs), Pennsylvania (up 3,100 jobs), and New York (up 600 jobs) all benefited, with Michigan’s first-in-the-nation increase by itself making up for the six states which lost workers. It appears a healthier auto industry is leading the charge.

Rasmussen: Hogan trails by 13

I’m breaking into my normal Sunday to bring you the latest polling on this race.

While it’s not precisely what Maryland Republicans are hoping for, there is a little crack as the Hogan electoral door is slightly ajar. Bear in mind that a projected matchup polled by the Washington Post last month had Brown leading 51-33, so his support is retreating while Hogan’s has grown. Perhaps people are realizing what I wrote last month on Brown’s lead:

It’s a counter-intuitive result when you look deeper into the poll’s questions to find that Democrats want the next governor to lead the state in a different direction from Martin O’Malley by a 58-34 margin. Yet they have given Anthony Brown a significant primary lead and would presumably back him in the general election.

Then again, it’s very rare that Maryland votes in its own best interests anyway – they would rather genuflect to an all-encompassing government which distributes crumbs in an arbitrary and capricious manner, depending on the favored status of prospective recipients, than breathe the air of freedom and opportunity for all. But there’s always a first time, and as for the rest some areas of the state still have common sense.

So Hogan has picked up a little bit, but more importantly Brown has been driven under the 50% mark. Conventional wisdom holds that an incumbent under 50 percent is in trouble, so this should be added motivation for conservatives to work for an upset.

AC Week in review – July 13, 2014

July 13, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics, Politics · Comment 

I had a varied palette of posts last week at my Sausage Grinder blog, touching on such diverse subjects as immigration, business climate, and entitlements. Segregated from each other, they may not make as much sense to the whole but the idea behind the site is to look at regulatory aspects and how they affect the practice of “made in America.”

Let me begin by noting that my AC cohort Ed Braxton may have stepped on my toes a little bit, but his contribution was a nice look at the sheer volume of regulations businesses in our nation have to deal with on a federal level. One Congressman is trying to SCRUB all that away. (The bill text is here.)

Those regulations, at all levels of government whether federal, state, or local, are chipping away at the perception business owners have about the local business atmosphere. For the third consecutive year, the website thumbtack.com partnered with the Kaufmann Foundation to gauge business friendliness – and the results were an overall disappointment. With states like Maryland and Delaware already shut down legislatively for the year, relief is nowhere in sight.

Meanwhile, with the number of Congressional calendar days for the 113th Congress dwindling to a precious few, there’s really not much action we could expect on the federal level; moreover, that time limit will also stop us from addressing entitlements like Social Security. I thought the “big, smelly elephant in the room” characterization was apt, particularly as we’ve let it linger for nearly a decade without a serious crack at reform.

There is an added bonus this week. I noticed two pieces I sent in over the Independence Day holiday weren’t picked up – not sure if my editor missed them because he was out or just what happened. (I do a lot of AC work on the weekends, so it should have been nothing unusual.) Since they actually relate with each other, and I don’t believe in letting good writing go to waste, I will post them – slightly modified for flow, of course – here this evening.

And don’t worry – my editor has three new pieces I wrote yesterday, on hot-button issues, to help fill the AC site. They should be up this coming week.

Leaving the resistance: a case study

This article was actually going to be about one piece of information I received, but then I got another which I can tie in. I do that every now and then.

The TEA Party movement, depending on how you determine its beginning, is somewhere between five and seven years old now. Thousands upon thousands of activists have participated in it, but in reality conditions have generally become worse in terms of its main fiscal goals.

It’s a well-documented lack of success, and perhaps that lack of reward is frustrating those who want real positive change. Take this piece I received an e-mail the other day from an area TEA Party group lamenting the writer’s Independence Day plans.

This year for the July 4th Holiday I spent it doing laundry or something mundane like that. No family gathering, no special commemoration or meditation on my part to mark this critically important day. I cannot let this happen again.

When I think of the miracle of the founding of this nation and the sacrifice made by millions to preserve it I am ashamed that it passed like another day, a long weekend. I’m sure most of you reading this didn’t abuse this important day to the extent that I did – hopefully. I serve in a position of leadership in this organization; I know better. God forgive me but God help me to do better not just next year but every day from this point on.

This organization didn’t participate in (a local) event due to lack of interest from the membership. We didn’t walk in the July 4th Parade, also due to lack of interest. The Summer BBQ will most likely be pushed out again due to lack of interest. These are perhaps less important than what we do daily to mark the miracle that is this precious nation BUT they are outward expressions of our commitment to each other, to this nation, to our God in front of others. If we don’t stand up in front of an unschooled community every chance we have, how can we hope to shift this paradigm?

I know we are all tired, exhausted, hardly able to pay our bills and take care of our families. Perhaps we are in our senior years and feel that we have paid a hefty price already. Many of us are weary from trying to inform a willingly uninformed public, legislature, clergy, education system, healthcare system, etc. I get it; I’m part of that tired and huddled mass.

If you go back on my website you’ll find numerous references to TEA Party gatherings, local meetings of an Americans for Prosperity chapter, or the Wicomico Society of Patriots – these are all groups which flourished for a brief time but then died due to lack of interest, leadership issues, or both. Some of those organizers have moved into the mainstream of politics, but many others found that activism too difficult to keep up when their family’s financial survival was at stake.

But then we have the diehards, among them the purists who will accept no compromise. That’s one lament of Sara Marie Brenner, a conservative activist who announced on her Brenner Brief website yesterday that she was taking a hiatus from her news aggregation website and radio show.

I bring this up as I’ve interviewed her for my now-dormant TQT feature as well as talked about a venture she launched late last year. While I definitely haven’t agreed with her on everything and incurred her wrath by pointing out the lack of viability of her many past and present enterprises in the new media world, I think she makes some very good points in her lengthy piece.

For one, I nearly laughed out loud when she wrote about the Ohio PAC where $7,000 or the $7,400 raised went to the leader’s own company knowing that the Maryland Liberty PAC has a similar history – the majority ($14,826.03) of the nearly $26,000 MDLPAC spent last year went to Stable Revolution Consulting. It’s one thing to collect money for a cause, but the same people who question the Larry Hogan connection with Change Maryland may want to ask about that arrangement as well.

As a whole it seems that some in the TEA Party movement can’t be happy unless they either amass power and wealth for themselves – making them little better than the big-government flunkies they decry – or refuse to compromise on one particular issue, forgetting that they may need their conservative opponent for some other pressing issue tomorrow. Brenner brings up two hot-button items of interest – Common Core and Glenn Beck’s charity effort to assist the unaccompanied minors streaming over our southern border from Central America. On these I only agree with her 50% but as I said she makes other good points.

I don’t blame Sara Marie for backing away from the fray; that’s her decision just as it was to get involved in the first place – and I wish her nothing but the best in her ventures as she follows her other passions. But we have to remember that the other side wins when we stop fighting.

It was a more hopeful tone from the other side of the TEA Party:

I hope that we will always remember that no matter what the political ideology, we must find commonalities if we are going to make any progress. I hope that we make a concerted effort to reach out in peace to at least one person over the summer that we have heretofore had disagreements. We know that the truth is on our side as long as we deliver it in peace and love.

Now if anyone would have sour grapes and wish to take their ball and go home, it might be me given recent election results. Believe it or not, though, after nearly two decades in the political game I am still learning and listening, so losing an election won’t crush or define me – it just means I retire with a .500 record. But I’m still going to participate because it’s important, if not necessarily lucrative.

The trick is getting new people into the fray to replace those who can’t go on for whatever reason. Because I have a talent for writing – or so I’ve been told – I have soldiered on with this website for going on nine years. It may not be the most useful or unique contribution, but it’s what I have.

So those who have departed will be missed. However, they are always invited back once they recharge and reload because we can always use the help.

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