Back to a Tuesday…

September 11, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comment 

As this posts up, we once again pause to recall the events and immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The passage of 17 years, however, has not only seen the weekday cycle back to Tuesday for a third time (as it was in 2001) but has also seen a number of key players exit the stage – some who perished at the hands of the very nation attacked and others who passed from more natural causes. The recent news that the “cesspool of cancer” also known as Ground Zero is cutting thousands more lives short means the pain has returned for many families of survivors.

Of course, life on this earth is cyclical and doesn’t last forever. A child who would be celebrating his or her 17th birthday today is most likely a senior in high school. I mentioned last year that 27% of the U.S. population was under the age of 21, and while that percentage isn’t significantly different the group that remembers little to nothing about that day will naturally grow and the population of those of us who lived through it will dwindle. You’d have a hard time finding someone who clearly remembers Pearl Harbor now, but when I was 17 those folks were simply known as our grandparents because they were at least middle-aged and often somewhat older.

Yet while we often refer to the lives lost in 9/11 and its aftermath, we don’t often think about the aftereffects. During the Cold War, we called it Civil Defense, and I vaguely remember seeing the triangular CD logo and (moreso) the black-and-yellow “Fallout Shelter” signs in places like my school. In looking it up, I found out that Civil Defense was absorbed into FEMA in the late 1970s as their focus shifted away from nuclear holocaust and more toward other emergencies and disasters. But in the wake of the WTC attack we have an entire Department of Homeland Security, PATRIOT Act restrictions, and TSA molestation at the airports. In the seventeen years since 9/11, the federal government has placed us on a war footing for a battle which perhaps doesn’t exist anymore – not that the threat from radical Islam has completely vanished, but the rules of engagement seem to have changed from large-scale events like 9/11 and regime change among nations in the “Axis of Evil” to smaller-scale attacks such as the San Bernardino or Pulse nightclub shooting and dismantling the so-called Islamic State caliphate. (As an aside, those shootings also have the added benefit to the enemy of riling up gun control supporters.)

Instead, I think the happy medium would be to return to a more subtle vigilance without the overbearing hand of Uncle Sam. Certainly he should protect us – after all, it IS a Constitutional mandate – but I don’t think we need the nanny state anymore. The way I see it, each freedom we lose is a victory for the terrorists.

And one more thing: over 3,000 people woke up on September 11, 2001 expecting to get through their day and return to their home – but the Lord had plans to call them to His home. To me, it’s a good time to remind my readers to ask themselves: what if today were your final day? I know my debt is paid, so I invite you to enjoy that peace of mind, too.

District 38: a closer look at finances

Having looked at the races in District 37 yesterday, I know you’re waiting with bated breath for the really important one here in District 38 which will come at the end. (Always leave them wanting more.)

As opposed to the competition going on in its western neighbor, many District 38 denizens have their Delegates already all but selected. Barring a successful write-in campaign, both Delegate Carl Anderton, Jr. and Wayne Hartman will be representing their districts in January.

So let me review the parameters: I have pored over the campaign finance reports from each candidate submitted to the state Board of Elections beginning with the 2017 annual that covers from January of 2016. From there I subdivided contributions into five loose categories:

  • Donations from individuals within the area. For this exercise, the “area” is defined for both local districts as an address with a 216xx or 218xx zip code. Yes, the 216xx zip area is well outside the 38th District but it allows me apples-to-apples comparison with District 37 hopefuls – and there really aren’t a significant number of them, anyway.
  • Donations from individuals outside the 216xx and 218xx zip code area.
  • Donations from businesses within the area. Included in the definition of businesses are LLCs, LPs, and PAs.
  • Donations from businesses outside the area.
  • Donations from PACs. As a way of simplifying this, this also includes transfers from other campaign accounts, and (at my discretion) certain entities that were recognizable as similar to a political action committee, including larger businesses, unions, and governmental entities.

Having these all categorized and built into a spreadsheet, I can figure out several things: proportion of donations coming from each group, proportion of donations inside/outside the area, and an average donation. In many cases, I can compare and contrast candidates – but not always. Read on and you’ll find out why.

House District 38A:

Incumbent Republican (since 2010) Charles Otto vs. Democrat Kirkland Hall, Sr.

For Charles Otto:

  • 2 donations from individuals in area for $525
  • 1 donation from an individual outside of area for $250
  • 2 donations from businesses in area for $450
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • 6 donations from PACs and other committees for $4,600
  • Average donation: $529.55
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $15,361.57

Because of one huge PAC donation of $2,500 skewing the results, just 16.7% of Otto’s money came from inside the area, with only 4.3% coming from outside the area and a whopping 79% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 21% coming from individuals and businesses, 13.3% was out of individual pockets and 7.7% was from local businesses.

Since 2010 Charles has had an outstanding loan to his campaign for $22,500. But as you can see, Otto doesn’t make a great effort to supplement his campaign with fundraising – it’s almost like an accident when someone sends him a check given that he’s only had 11 in over 2 1/2 years. Being his treasurer is almost as easy as being mine was.

Having said that, though, Otto is far more circumspect than his opponent.

This is what I found for Kirkland Hall. The first link is a screenshot taken of his most current campaign finance entity, taken yesterday on the Maryland SBE site. The second link is a different screenshot of another open – but considered inactive – campaign finance account for Kirkland Hall. This would appear to be a successful run for the Somerset County Democrat Central Committee. Unlike what I did for my three runs, apparently the account was never officially closed.

Hall has sent in ALCEs for 2 of the reporting periods, so we don’t have financial details of his campaign. But here’s the important issue – Hall is now overdue on his campaign finance reports for two consecutive reporting periods, the latest expiring in August. Enough days have elapsed since the first one was due to incur the maximum $500 fine, and he’s $180 and counting for this most recent period.

This is a screenshot of Kirkland Hall’s present campaign committee. Note the fines for lack of reporting at the bottom.

Note he was also a scofflaw on the 2018 Annual Report before fimally filing, with another $500 fine that was paid. And it’s not like he wasn’t warned about the May report. Yet the Hall campaign has been actively seeking financing during the time they were delinquent:

And as I can attest, his opponent doesn’t have “big money” flowing into his campaign – unless you count one $2,500 donation that came from the Maryland Farm Bureau PAC. But we don’t know how much Kirkland has because they’re not being forthcoming with their information. Could this be an intentional oversight as this is his campaign’s third offense?

On the other hand, the situation is much calmer in the other two District 38 subdistricts.

House District 38B:

Incumbent Republican Carl Anderton, Jr (since 2014) is unopposed.

For Carl Anderton:

  • 98 donations from individuals inside the area for $9,318
  • 12 donations from individuals outside the area for $2,350
  • 13 donations from businesses in area for $3,750
  • 4 donations from businesses outside the area for $1,500
  • 15 donations from PACs and other committees for $5,250
  • Average donation: $156.11
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $21,048.02

58.9% of his money came from inside the area, with 17.4% coming from outside the area and 23.7% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 76.3% coming from individuals and businesses, 52.6% was out of individual pockets and 23.7% came from businesses.

However, once it became obvious that Carl would not have an opponent his fundraising has all but ceased – since the 2018 report came due in January he’s only picked up a total of $1,850.

House District 38C:

Incumbent Republican Mary Beth Carozza opted to run for Senate, leaving an open seat. Wayne Hartman won the June 26 primary and is only opposed in the General Election by write-in candidate Ed Tinus – one of those Hartman defeated in the primary.

For Wayne Hartman:

  • 83 donations from individuals inside the area for $31,255
  • 16 donations from individuals outside the area for $5,920
  • 45 donations from businesses in area for $29,208
  • 5 donations from businesses outside the area for $2,329
  • 1 donation from PACs and other committees for $1,000
  • Average donation: $464.75
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $3,477.58

86.7% of Wayne’s money came from inside the area, with 11.8% coming from outside the region and 1.4% coming from a different committee. Out of the non-PAC money, 53.3% of his funding came from individuals and 45.2% from businesses. (Those numbers again fall short of rounding correctly.)

Much like Carl Anderton, Wayne all but ceased active fundraising after the primary. Unlike Carl, though, he still got some big checks – only 7 donations netted Hartman $5,550 – which has kept him in the black for his future plans.

Write-in Ed Tinus has mainly filed ALCEs since he began his campaign account in 2014; however, Ed stepped up his game to file a formal Pre-Primary 2 report that showed he contributed $40 to himself but spent $2,605 to leave himself a negative balance of $2,565.

So the undercard is complete – now comes what you’ve all been waiting for:

Senate District 38:

Republican Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (since 2014) is challenging Democrat Senator (since 2010, Delegate from 2006-2010) Jim Mathias.

For Mary Beth Carozza:

  • 518 donations from individuals inside the area for $112,287
  • 122 donations from individuals outside the area for $23,366.06
  • 79 donations from businesses in area for $44,589.38
  • 18 donations from businesses outside the area for $11,305
  • 45 donations from PACs and other committees for $30,288
  • Average donation: $251.51
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $140,987.98

For Mary Beth, 70.7% of her money came from inside the area, with 15.6% coming from outside the area and 13.7% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 86.3% coming from individuals and businesses, 61.2% was out of individual pockets and 25.2% came from businesses. (It rounds off wrong again.)

This is a sea change from her initial campaign, which saw Mary Beth receive a great deal of money from outside the district from her erstwhile cohorts in Washington, D.C. In the 2014 campaign I wrote:

In her first report that covered the inception of her campaign to the initial days of 2014, over 70% of her funding came from out-of-state, mainly from the Washington, D.C. area and Ohio. Those Ohio connections, as well as work for Maine Sen. Susan Collins, proved valuable in the category of federal committees, as Mary Beth received money from the Buckeye Patriot PAC, Dirigo PAC, and Promoting Our Republican Team PAC, as well as the campaigns of Mike DeWine, Steve Stivers, and Pat Tiberi. DeWine is a former Senator from Ohio who is now the state’s Attorney General, while Stivers and Tiberi currently serve in Congress representing parts of the state.

It appears that Mary Beth has since established the local connections to compete in this race against perhaps the most well-funded incumbent in this portion of the state.

For Jim Mathias:

  • 469 donations from individuals inside the area for $91,115
  • 178 donations from individuals outside the area for $43,127
  • 157 donations from businesses in area for $82,339
  • 106 donations from businesses outside the area for $34,914
  • 301 donations from PACs and other committees for $124,610
  • Average donation: $310.57
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $273,873.43

Jim collected 46.1% of his money from inside the area and 20.7% of his funding from outside this region. More importantly, Mathias collected 33.1% of his donation total from PACs and other committees, including a number of his General Assembly cohorts. (Rounding is off again.) Out of the non-PAC money, Mathias picked up 35.7% from individuals and 31.2% from businesses. It’s perhaps the most well-rounded report of any I’ve done in terms of equality of sources between individuals, businesses, and PACs.

With the exception of the brief Pre-Primary 2 period, though, Carozza has outraised Mathias among local individuals in each reporting period. On the other hand, among individual donors from outside the district Mathias has outgunned Mary Beth almost 2-to-1 with a significant amount from connections from the area surrounding his hometown of Baltimore.

From a business standpoint, Carozza has ate into Jim’s longstanding advantage and outraised him among local businesses in the last reporting period. She’s also negated his advantage among out-of-district businesses over the last three periods.

The biggest fundraising advantage Mathias enjoys, then, is the many thousands of dollars he has received from PACs over the last 2 1/2 years. It’s not that Carozza hasn’t received PAC money, but dozens of PACs in and out of the state have been handing over checks to Jim for several years, building up an intimidating war chest. (One interesting donation: ask the progressives if they appreciate Jim getting a check from the NRA. He did – $500 on January 3, 2018. Or ask the NRA if they really want to give money to someone with Jim’s overall voting record.) But Carozza, unlike Jim’s previous opponent Mike McDermott, has the money to compete in what may be the most-watched race in this part of the state.

Considering that Mathias has more in his bank account than the total of all the other candidates in both District 37 and 38 outside the 38th Senate race, and Carozza isn’t far behind (you would have to exclude Johnny Mautz and his $96k war chest to make it about even) and you can see where the focus will be.

District 37: a closer look at finances

If money is the mother’s milk of politics – at least so it is said – then it’s probably good to know who has the biggest bottles and where the wet nurses are. So I’m beginning a two-part series on the local political races with some observations on the races in District 37.

This year there are three races in District 37 involving seven contenders. Unlike the situation in 2014, the first election involving the current districts, the Republicans found a challenger for District 37A (a majority-minority district) but the Democrats could only find one contender for the two seats available in District 37B. This also presents an interesting possibility: if the order for that two-seat district came in Republican Chris Adams in first, Democrat Dan O’Hare second, and Republican Johnny Mautz third, then Adams and Mautz would still win another term because the two winners in that district cannot represent the same county.

But I’m going to open this with the first race in District 37A. However, before I begin allow me to set the parameters here.

Over the last few days, I have pored over the campaign finance reports from each candidate submitted to the state Board of Elections beginning with the 2017 annual that covers from January of 2016. What I was most interested in, obviously, were the contributions, which I subdivided into five loose categories:

  • Donations from individuals within the area. For this exercise, the “area” is defined for both local districts as an address with a 216xx or 218xx zip code. I know in reality that expands the area into the 36th District, but it makes life much easier when you have hundreds and hundreds of line items to contend with.
  • Donations from individuals outside the 216xx and 218xx zip code area.
  • Donations from businesses within the area. Included in the definition of businesses are LLCs, LPs, and PAs.
  • Donations from businesses outside the area.
  • Donations from PACs. As a way of simplifying this, this also includes transfers from other campaign accounts, and (at my discretion) certain entities that were recognizable as similar to a political action committee, including larger businesses, unions, and governmental entities.

Having these all categorized and built into a spreadsheet, I can figure out several things: proportion of donations coming from each group, proportion of donations inside/outside the area, and an average donation. In many cases, I can compare and contrast candidates – but not always. Read on and you’ll find out why.

House District 37A:

Republican Frank Cooke vs. incumbent Democrat (since 2014) Sheree Sample-Hughes.

For Frank Cooke:

  • 1 donation from an individual in area for $100
  • No donations from individuals outside of area
  • No donations from businesses in area
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $100.00
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $2,504.69

100% of money comes from individuals, 100% comes from inside the area.

According to Frank’s last report, which supplants the ALCEs he previously filed (it covers from February to August), Cooke has a bank account balance over $2,000 yet there’s no indication how it got there. (Unless he raised it after the previous Pre-Primary 2 filing deadline, he should not have filed an ALCE for previous reports because he had raised more than $1,000.) He also has an outstanding obligation to his campaign of $574.54 that is noted as being from a predecessor campaign, presumably for the city of Cambridge.

It’s not a district where you need a ton of money to win but this raises a lot more questions than it answers about the Cooke campaign, especially this one: why such a late start to get serious about fundraising?

For Sheree Sample-Hughes:

  • 119 donations from individuals inside the area for $10,944
  • 17 donations from individuals outside the area for $1,345
  • 20 donations from businesses in area for $3,690
  • 35 donations from businesses outside the area for $8,825.36
  • 72 donations from PACs and other committees for $20,350
  • Average donation: $178.47
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $17,447.05

32.4% of her money came from inside the area, 22.5% from outside the area, and 45.1% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 54.9% from individuals and businesses, 27.2% was raised from individuals and 27.7% was from businesses.

Note that I did not pore over the reports with a fine-toothed comb to see if any money was collected during session (a no-no.) However, the amount of PAC money Sample-Hughes received seemed a little out of line with most of the others.

House District 37B:

Incumbent Republicans Christopher Adams and Johnny Mautz (both since 2014) vs. Democrat Dan O’Hare.

For Christopher Adams:

  • 82 donations from individuals inside the area for $26,474
  • 11 donations from individuals outside the area for $1,310
  • 28 donations from businesses in area for $15,585
  • 26 donations from businesses outside the area for $8,900
  • 27 donations from PACs and other committees for $10,200
  • Average donation: $359.02
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $1,470.52

67.3% of his money came from inside the area, with an almost dead even 16.3% coming from outside the area and 16.3% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 83.6% coming from individuals and businesses, 44.5% was out of individual pockets and 39.2% was businesses.  (The numbers don’t round up to 100%.)

Two interesting recent developments from the Adams camp: while the last report noted Adams had a $7,500 loan out to his campaign that dated from 2014, he had also recently repaid back $60,000 he had owed, which certainly would explain the low cash on hand despite taking in over $60,000. The campaign also has one outstanding bill for $183.70, which could be an oversight given the cash on hand.

For Johnny Mautz:

  • 293 donations from individuals inside the area for $100,550
  • 110 donations from individuals outside the area for $39,065
  • 81 donations from businesses in area for $23,660
  • 51 donations from businesses outside the area for $13,150
  • 96 donations from PACs and other committees for $31,800
  • Average donation: $329.99
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $96,408.31

59.7% of his money came from inside the area, with 25.1% coming from outside the region and 15.3% coming from PACs. Out of the non-PAC money, 67.1% of his funding came from individuals and 17.7% from businesses. (Again those numbers don’t round quite correctly.) The piece that stuck out at me regarding Mautz was just how well-heeled his donors were, but this reflects his St. Michaels base as well as his background as a Congressional staffer – a number of donations came from the capital region, presumably fellows from his days there. It’s a sharp contrast to the Adams base, which is more in the middle-class Salisbury area. (This is true despite the lower per-donation figure – Mautz has a far larger volume of contributions than Adams does.)

For Dan O’Hare:

  • 59 donations from individuals inside the area for $9,608
  • 54 donations from individuals outside the area for $5,387.42
  • 1 donation from a business in the area for $200
  • No donations from a business outside the area
  • 2 donations from PACs and other committees for $400
  • Average donation: $134.44
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $10,371.09

62.9% of his money came from inside the area, with 34.5% coming from outside the area and just 2.6% from other committees. Out of the 97.4% coming from individuals and businesses, 96.2% was out of individual pockets and 1.3% was businesses. (Yet another rounding error.)

The strangest thing about O’Hare’s pattern of receiving is that the donations outside the area are almost as numerous as the ones from inside. These come from 13 different states but seem to be clustered quite a bit around the New York City metro. (There is some member of the O’Hare family that lives there.) So it will be worth seeing in the next report whether he has more local support.

Senate District 37:

Incumbent Republican Addie Eckardt (since 2014, previously in House of Delegates 1994-2014) vs. Democrat Holly Wright.

For Addie Eckardt:

  • 264 donations from individuals inside the area for $37,935
  • 21 donations from individuals outside the area for $3,025
  • 35 donations from businesses in area for $8,570
  • 14 donations from businesses outside the area for $5,925
  • 54 donations from PACs and other committees for $20,350
  • Average donation: $193.38
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $69,126.05

61.3% of her money came from inside the area, with 11.8% coming from outside the area and 26.8% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 73.2% coming from individuals and businesses, 54% was out of individual pockets and 19.1% was businesses. (And again: the numbers don’t round up to 100%.) There’s nothing overly unusual about Addie’s report that I found – maybe a little PAC-heavy compared to the Republican Delegates but not as high as Sample-Hughes.

For Holly Wright:

  • 117 donations from individuals inside the area for $17,380
  • 10 donations from individuals outside the area for $1,050
  • No donations from businesses in area
  • No donations from businesses outside the area
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $145.12
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $5,106.52

While all of her money came from individual donations, Holly’s proportion of funding from inside to outside the area was a whopping 94.3% to 5.7%. In essence, hers is the prototypical homegrown campaign – but considering she’s already behind in votes based on primary results, that’s not a good situation for Wright to pull an upset. It could work in a single-seat Delegate race, but isn’t as likely to succeed in a large district like District 37, especially with a decent-sized media market. Even the possible upside for her of having two walkover races in the adjoining district sharing the Salisbury media market (thus, perhaps cheaper media buys due to less demand) is negated by a heavyweight fight I’ll discuss in my second installment covering those District 38 races.

How much will it cost? (Part four of a multi-part series)

Since I was talking about the minimum wage in part three and the focus on the Ben Jealous “Make It In Maryland” plan was getting long in the tooth, I decided to split the piece in two and focus on the remaining items as a series of bullet points in this portion. While I wasn’t truly intending to space it that far, it does make for a good Labor Day post.

So these are the remaining topics in his MIIM plan, listed as a series of points I’ll respond to one at a time.

  • Creating a Governor’s Office of Tech Transfer
  • Better Retaining and Supporting Maryland’s Entrepreneurs
  • Reclaiming Maryland’s Position in Biotech and Life Sciences
  • Ensuring Prosperity Reaches Everyone By Tackling Chronic Unemployment
  • A Job Boosting Program For Every Marylander Who Wants To Work
  • Ending Youth Unemployment And Underemployment
  • Boosting Employment For The Formerly Incarcerated
  • Reviving Maryland’s Rural Communities
  • Making Maryland A Center Of Global Commerce
  • Connecting Workers To Jobs With A 21st Century Transportation Plan

Office of Tech Transfer: Jealous begins this section by citing a number of vague, subjective statistics, including this howler straight from the Joe Biden School of Spelling:

The top five states for cybersecurity deals in quarter 1 of 2018 were California, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas.

These states are also bigger than Maryland, and have various industries and factors which may give them a natural advantage. Regardless, while it’s unknown just how large this OTT will be or where it’s placed on the pecking order, the biggest cost might be the freedom to elude red tape, to wit:

Help to coordinate infrastructure and development policy, including multimodal and active transportation infrastructure, smart growth land use planning, mixed-use development, and gigabit internet to create the urban fabric and connections that give rise to an innovation ecosystem.

I truly have issues with that sort of mission creep and interference with both local government and the private sector. As envisioned it seems to be more than just a clearinghouse that could be useful in coordinating a limited area of policy.

Maryland’s entrepreneurs:

While Jealous paints a picture of a state that’s not inclusive enough…

Ben Jealous will create the innovation environment that will enable more locally grown companies to grow and stay in Maryland. Ben Jealous will also consider whether rules related to bonding for contractors can be eased to enable more entrepreneurs to access contract work and remove  unnecessary barriers. He will also work to make entrepreneurship more inclusive in Maryland. For example, black women are the most likely of any population group to become entrepreneurs, but they are the least likely to receive funding.

Ben Jealous will create a more level playing field to ensure this changes. As governor, Ben Jealous has also committed to raising women and minority business targets in the state to levels that better reflect equal representation. 29% is just far too low when 50% of our population are women and nearly 50% identify as minority. In order to support creation of these businesses, Ben Jealous has pledged to work with lenders who have a history of inclusive lending to support their models, identify additional strategies to capitalize businesses, and review bonding requirements for contractors that may pose unnecessary barriers.

…if you ask actual entrepreneurs they may say the problem is a little different.

For several years I was the recipient of a steady diet of updates from a company called Thumbtack.com – it’s actually a listing of entrepreneurs who provide various services. Over that period they have done a survey of business friendliness, which – even though I haven’t noticed the updates – has continued to this day and shows Maryland has been on an upward trajectory. But while Maryland has rebounded from failing grades to a B+ in Thumbtack’s 2018 survey, the one category they still receive a big fat F in is the tax code. That’s not on the Jealous agenda.

I don’t look at who owns a business, I look at the job they do – and so do most others. All affirmative action does is plant a seed in the mind of people who ask: did they get the job on their merits or because they checked a box of government approval someplace?

Oh, and one more thing:

Another critical part of changing our business culture in Maryland also is support new and emerging types of business ownership, including employee-owned businesses, worker co-ops, and other democratically-owned and operated businesses. These organization types are critical for challenging the notion that ownership of a business must concentrate profits in the hands of a few, and these organization types can open up the benefits of business ownership to many more individuals.

Whether a business is employee-owned or not – one good reasonably local example of employee ownership is the Redner’s grocery chain, which has very nice stores based on my experiences working in them a few years back in a previous career – doesn’t matter to me. But the fact Jealous opposes the “notion that ownership of a business must concentrate profits in the hands of a few” when it’s truly none of the state’s damn business is troubling.

Biotech and Life Sciences: This is mostly a series of platitudes whining about how Maryland has fallen from the top position, particularly behind Massachusetts which “made large investments in biotechnology through tax breaks, grants, and funding infrastructure.” That’s their taxpayers on the hook, so whatever.

If I were to make a suggestion for state encouragement, why not promote the area of biotech that deals with the agriculture industry? People tend to think of this as an urban phenomenon, including those at the state Department of Commerce as agribusiness is last among its “key industries.”

But maybe Jealous should read the state’s website because there’s already a program in place.

Chronic Unemployment: Aside from a vague pledge to “engage stakeholders” and conduct yet another useless study, Ben wants to throw more money at EARN Maryland (reversed as “Maryland EARN” in the Jealous plan), Operation HIRE (aimed at veterans), and the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program. While none would be large expenses, one has to wonder if having these disparate programs is very efficient and effective.

Job Boosting Program: To make a long story short, it’s a hiring program to create more state and state-dependent workers. Jealous cites a study done by the Department of Legislative Services that cites a chronic shortage of workers necessitated by budgetary reality. But the source material for the study makes me question its sincerity:

Research for the study consisted of data gathered from various documents; workload trend data; agency site visits; and meetings with the representatives of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and AFSCME employees. (My emphasis.)

It’s also worth noting that the number of employees the executive branch has been “shorted” is nearly matched by the number of additional positions at higher education, where staffing has increased 23% from 2002-18 (Executive Branch staffing is down 9.6% in that period.) Honestly, I don’t think we have a neutral referee doing this study. Needless to say, many of these new workers will be quickly absorbed into the public-sector union, which is, I’m sure, their quid pro quo for AFSCME support.

Youth Unemployment: Jealous would expand the YouthWorks program in Baltimore City to a statewide program and make internships or part-time jobs part of the public school curriculum. It seems to me the YouthWorks would be better tailored to a county or city level (one reason being: the city of Salisbury has a similar program in conjunction with the local Junior Achievement branch.) So the opportunities are already there.

As for the school curriculum, this is a matter where public schools could compete when it comes to school choice.

Formerly incarcerated: I believe Jealous is going to work along these lines by “banning the box” in private-sector employment (meaning applications cannot inquire about criminal record) and adding incentives to hire formerly incarcerated – however, there are private-sector employers already doing so. I believe this should be on a case-by-case basis and not a mandate.

Rural communities: The message from Ben Jealous: you can grow, but only a little bit and only on our terms. Developed areas can retain their advantage because we won’t let you compete.

Smart growth and conservation policies that Ben Jealous will promote will help Maryland to restore its reputation as a one that protects its most valuable natural resources, from farmland, to the Chesapeake Bay, to mountains, forests, and beaches. When our natural resources in land, water, and air are cared for, rural places are able to thrive as producers of agricultural products, thriving tourism centers, and choice places to live. In a 21st century economy, rural economies are also transitioning into being producers of clean energy, like solar and wind farms. Land in rural areas near existing development and infrastructure can be repurposed or ethically developed to host clean tech manufacturing, data centers, and other 21st century economic engines. Finally, rural economies are powered by small businesses, and, with proper support for early stage businesses throughout rural Maryland, these small businesses will continue to multiply and grow.

Basically, this is an extension of the MOM era where most agricultural land would be placed off-limits to development (except for solar panels and wind turbines, which are neither reliable nor desirable sources of energy). And say what you will about “low-impact tourism” – I will show you the difference between the economic base that is Ocean City in the summer season against whatever is drawn by Blackwater being a wildlife refuge. That’s not to say that I’m not glad we have the industry we do here, but we shouldn’t say no to more traditional development even if it’s placed in a more rural area.

This also ignores the transportation needs of this region, such as a second (southern) Chesapeake Bay crossing and, in cooperation with Delaware, an interstate-grade highway connection north to I-95.

As governor, Ben Jealous would provide additional funding to the state’s cooperative extension programs to develop technical assistance programs providing support to farmers transitioning into the 21st century marketplace. This would include linking urban agriculture and food production businesses with rural agricultural businesses, so Maryland families, restaurants, and commercial producers can conveniently access an abundance fresh agricultural products grown right here in Maryland.

If you were a savvy farmer, wouldn’t you already be doing this? Why is it a state concern?

We also have the talk of expanding broadband, the means of which is already in place here in Maryland as a non-profit cooperative. It will be interesting to compare their process and progress with Delaware, which is using more of a PPP approach for rural portions of Kent and Sussex counties.

Global commerce: Mainly deals with expanding Foreign Trade Zones around the Port of Baltimore. As the center of the local poultry industry that sends chicken products around the globe, I wonder why Salisbury couldn’t have one? Perhaps because it’s a federal designation. Jealous exhibits his Baltimore-centric view (and a little bit of ignorance) with this one.

A 21st Century transportation plan: The first page of this is devoted to Jealous whining about the cancellation of Baltimore’s Red Line boondoggle and Larry Hogan’s changes to Baltimore’s bus service. I think it’s hilarious how a 21st century transport plan uses the strategy and limitations of 19th century technology by advocating for more usage of the light rail service money pit.

And then we get to this:

Complete streets policies build thriving and prosperous communities by ensuring that the design of roads and other facilities is safe and convenient for pedestrians, business patrons, cyclists, and all other road users. As governor, Ben Jealous will make Maryland a complete streets leader by ensuring that ample funding is directed to local communities through the complete streets and other programs like Maryland Bikeways, and by ensuring that the Maryland adopts the most progressive complete streets policy possible.

So we cater to the 2% of travelers who use alternate means of transportation – ones that aren’t nearly as convenient and useful at a time such as this moment with a thunderstorm overhead – at the expense of the 98% who would like to get where they wish to go as quickly and conveniently as possible. This also works hand-in-hand with the effort to pack people into the urban areas, leaving vast wildlife corridors for critters to traverse.

Aside from a means of taxation in some states, those who crave control hate cars because they equate to freedom of movement and less restriction on behavior. If it’s 6:30 and I want to be at a 7:05 ballgame, I’m not going to ride my bike or walk – and sure as heck ain’t going to consult the Shore Transit routes to see if any run and stop close by. I have a car and I’m going to drive it.

Most of us do not want to be at the mercy of someone else’s schedule, which is why driving is the predominant means of personal transport in the nation. People like Jealous don’t like that, so rather than make driving easier they would rather discourage it.

If you really want a 21st century transportation plan, make it easier to use that freedom of movement by improving the roads. Promote entrepreneurship by giving less of a hassle to services like Lyft, Uber, or whatever competes with them rather than try and regulate them like taxicabs, making an artificial market the locality can use to create revenue. And rather than create the incentives for employers to encourage their employees to commute, perhaps they should instead encourage the use of remote work where possible. Given the proper broadband connection to my work server and to my boss, I could reasonably do much of my job at home.

So for this segment I can’t tell you just what the Jealous agenda will cost in monetary terms, but it’s going to cost the taxpayer a lot to wander down some pathways better trod by private initiative.

I think I’m going to put this series on hiatus for a little while, since I have a couple other projects I’d like to concentrate on. Thus, I may not get to everything on the Jealous agenda but I think you probably get the picture anyway. So I’ll see if I’m ready to resume by month’s end or not.

How much will it cost? (Part three of a multi-part series)

August 25, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on How much will it cost? (Part three of a multi-part series) 

Despite the fact he’s trailing by sixteen points in the latest poll, I still think it’s worth the time to dissect the policy proposals of Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Ben Jealous. In recent days, he’s reshuffled his priority list, displacing his previous #1 priority of education and replacing it with a jobs agenda he calls “Make It In Maryland.” As always, though, the devil is in the details.

Jealous begins by complaining that we have fallen behind Virginia in something called the New Economy Index. It turns out, interestingly enough, that Maryland is the bottom of the three states comprising the Delmarva region – although being on the bottom is still sixth-ranked in the nation. Here’s what the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said about our three states:

Virginia comes in fourth with some of the fastest-growing companies in the country, and its proximity to the nation’s capital attracts high-skilled workers for the numerous R&D-focused firms in the region. Fifth-place Delaware is perhaps the most globalized of states, with business-friendly corporate law that attracts both domestic and foreign companies and supports a high-wage traded service sector…Sixth-ranked Maryland holds its place among the leaders primarily because it has a high concentration of knowledge workers, many employed with the federal government or with federal contractors in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

In theory, then, a downturn in federal government employment would hit both Maryland and Virginia hard, displacing them from the top tier of the rankings. But the bulk of his “Make It In Maryland” outline speaks to something federal workers seldom have to endure: working for minimum wage. Over the next five years, Jealous would increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 an hour for regular workers, with tipped employees reaching the plateau three years afterward.

While Jealous claims that a $15 per hour minimum wage would increase the pay for 573,000 Maryland workers, such a raise would place those just over that threshold at risk for a significant decrease in their standard of living. After all, the extra expense businesses would have to shoulder would have to come from someplace, and that someplace generally lies in two regions: increasing prices or decreasing labor costs by lopping off the least productive or lowest-skilled employees. As I often say, the true minimum wage is zero, from being jobless.

In a properly functioning marketplace, the wage one makes is just a shade less than the amount of value that employee creates – the small difference keeps the business profitable and viable. Obviously this is a relatively subjective category, best expressed by those who work on a straight commission and/or own their own business. And it doesn’t always take a lot of skill: for example, not to pick on landscapers but doing yard work isn’t the most highly skilled job – however, it is time-consuming so there’s a market of people who don’t want to take the time and effort to maintain their lawns that’s being met by entrepreneurs of all sizes who make it their job to take care of yards.

In fact, my first job was helping my brother take care of an older lady’s lawn – for 2 to 3 hours of work after school once a week I was paid the princely sum of $5. Luckily we could ride our bikes there – about 2 miles – and we used her lawnmowers and gas can filled with $1 a gallon gas. So it was not a high-skill job but it was one she was too old and frail to do, so she found two teenage boys willing to do it. That was the value to her, since she wasn’t able to perform it herself. And as it turned out, if we were efficient I would come close to making the minimum wage, which at the time hovered around $3 an hour. (Since my brother got $10 for riding the tractor to do a maybe 3/4 acre yard while I did the trimming with the push mower, he was already making minimum and then some.)

My second job was somewhat similar, but there was a catch. For most of three academic years I made minimum wage working in the dining halls at college. If we were busy, I was creating value by ensuring the cafeteria maintained a stock of clean dishes. On the other hand, if it was early in the shift all of us standing around were a money pit. The same was true at my first job out of college, working in a department store – again, for minimum wage. If there was a customer I could assist in some way and that customer made a purchase, well, I was creating value for Hudson’s. If not, I was a money pit. Luckily, I had acquired a good education so my time there was short – just weeks later I had my first architectural job, one that I spent four years at college learning the ropes to secure. In turn, I got quite the education learning in the workplace. In the next half-decade through on-the-job training I went from being a ink-on-mylar draftsman to a CAD operator (way back with AutoCAD version 11) which made me more valuable to them. Increasing skills and knowledge to maximize production: that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Conversely, if you artificially raise the wage without getting a corresponding increase in value, do you know what you get? Kiosks at McDonalds or self-service checkouts at Walmart. Unfortunately, those were among the jobs that people in my generation got to grasp as the first rung on the ladder, but increasing the minimum wage is going to leave those people behind – particularly in areas where the wage support isn’t already present. (There are places in the state where $15 an hour is pretty much a de facto minimum, particularly in the DC area.) In any case, increasing the minimum wage isn’t going to help very much in areas with persistent unemployment because there’s little there with which to create value.

But one place increasing the minimum wage will help? State coffers. While some will lose their jobs, I’m sure the Jealous campaign is banking on enough income being created out of whole cloth to help grease the wheels on some of their other pipe dreams. So I honestly don’t know what it will cost, but I’m sure we will all pay the price nonetheless.

Now, there’s actually more to this section than just the minimum wage. But I liked this here piece so much that I decided to split “Make It In Maryland” in two and cover the rest next time.

Wicomico County Fair 2018 in pictures and text (part 2)

August 21, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Wicomico County Fair 2018 in pictures and text (part 2) 

So when I last left you, I promised to tell you about Blue Ribbon Drive. For those who don’t know the area too well, it’s the street that bisects Winterplace Park (where the WCF is held) from north to south. But over the weekend it was a pedestrian mall of sorts.

Looking north along Blue Ribbon Drive. It was a clever usage of the street so the path these vendors were on wouldn’t be muddy.

Now I’m looking south. One of my favorite vendors (insofar as tweaking the Left is concerned) is second one in – the Atlantic Tactical Firearms Trainers tent.

The only people who may have been disappointed with the setup were the people who ran the rides, but they were actually closer to the action this year even being across the street.

I don’t do rides, but I’m sure the kids wore them out.

Nestled toward the south end of this road were my erstwhile colleagues at the Wicomico County Republican Party.

Ellen Bethel was one of many GOP volunteers – I saw Mary Beth Carozza there for the second time this weekend, after catching her coming in as we were heading out Friday evening too. That woman is everywhere. My old friend Bill Reddish, meanwhile, was manning Andy Harris’s space.

I heard there was a lot of angst on the Mathias side about this sign. Notice how he’s trying to get closer to Larry Hogan these days?
Sorry, Jim, but your voting record is very Jealous-like. Birds of a feather and all that.

I noticed on social media that the Governor made his rounds Saturday before we arrived. This actually did us a little bit of a favor as it turned out. While I have another point to make in the meantime, don’t worry – I won’t forget to close that loop.

Moving the vendors and the rides left a nice space. I guess you could call it a beer garden but it served as food court and musical entertainment center.

I’m looking from the west end of the shady main lane toward the stage in this shot that was taken Friday evening.

Perdue was all over this event, as you may expect. Unfortunately, a Korean BBQ chicken sandwich or Old Bay Alfredo wings didn’t sound too good to me. Hope that wasn’t their Wing War entry.

So it was an unusual place for this tent.

The Wicomico County tourism tent. I guess it was too big to just put along the road – or they wanted the captive audience?

Speaking of unusual, look closely at this equestrian photo.

I’m probably glad I didn’t catch this guy’s act. It’s called The Jump of Death with Sir Barchan of Renaissance Stables.

We spent a lot of time this weekend, though, watching my wife’s favorite equestrian event: the Mason Dixon Deputies mounted shooting.

The perfect photo. I finally figured out how to get good motion shots using the “Burst” function on my cell phone camera. It made for some great action photos since old, slow me can’t outwit a 1/10 second snap if I hold halfway still.

Consider that the next two pairs of photos are 1/10 second apart and you’ll see the quick reactions this sport requires. (And how good it makes a schmuck photographer like me look. But I selected the shots and cropped them a wee bit.)

Now you see ’em, now you don’t. But you never hear the balloon pop over the sound of the revolver firing.

The red one on the left? My wife loved the late (yes, it was extra, she already got stuff) birthday present.

Now my wife and stepdaughter can coordinate – one has the red version and the other black.

It’s been a really good fit for the Wicomico County Fair since they brought the Mason Dixon Deputies in three years ago – the four-stage event takes up three to four hours. In this case they went Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon – the former, in particular, packed the bleachers so I’d say 300 to 400 were watching.

In between runs, the riders made sure their horses got plenty of water and (especially) shade.

The daytime hours were fit for neither man nor beast at times thanks to the humidity.

Oddly enough, their Saturday stages were supposed to begin at 2 p.m., but because Governor Hogan was here and loud gunfire would (understandably) put his security on edge, they didn’t start until after 3, just as we arrived. So Kim got to see pretty much everything before we left to see the Scrapple. (Normally they’re the Delmarva Shorebirds. Considering they won Saturday night as the Scrapple and are 0-2 since, maybe they should have kept the unis.)

Besides the Mason Dixon Deputies and checking our photo entries, there is one other thing at the fair which is a must-do for us.

My wife has known Pastor Oren Perdue for years, ever since her daughter began going to the Salisbury Baptist Temple summer camp (the one with the weekly rodeo) as a six-year-old. (This summer she finally aged out after thirteen summers.) So over the last three years we’ve played hooky from our church to listen to Perdue’s much more impromptu service.

Pastor Oren Perdue, founder and pastor emeritus of Salisbury Baptist Temple. For the last three years, he’s been delivering a church service at the WCF. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.

Definitely not the most formal church setting, and probably not a tent revival either. But we still had music. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.

If I had a bone to pick with this year’s fair – which was otherwise the best in the three years under the current format – it would be that either the church service needs to allowed to begin at 10 a.m. or the rest of the events go off at noon. I understand the desire for something like the Mason Dixon Deputies to want to get an earlier start and avoid the heat of the day for the sake of the horses, but that and a church service really don’t work and play well together.

But I think I have the 2018 Wicomico County Fair pretty well covered – Lord knows I spent enough time there to get the flavor of it.

They even had a reminder of the next item on the docket.

Next up in less than eight weeks…

Just hope the weather cooperates for that one. The GBF is my favorite local event, but the Fair gained a lot of ground this time around.

A valid complaint?

August 15, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on A valid complaint? 

As of Monday the on-ballot field for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat was set. While three candidates set out to be placed on the ballot by petition, only one succeeded and that’s centrist independent Neal Simon.

One point that has been made about Simon’s run is that it’s eerily reminiscent of a similar effort the last time Ben Cardin was on the ballot. In 2012, as a Senator seeking re-election for the first time, Cardin was placed against a young, dynamic candidate in Dan Bongino who was a TEA Party favorite. Nearly three months after the primary, two-time GOP primary loser Rob Sobhani jumped into the race as an independent candidate. While polling data suggests Cardin would have won the race in either case (he received 56% of the final vote) there can be an argument made that having the third candidate, who was also running in a populist, change-oriented lane – Sobhani’s big idea was government investing in a series of public-private partnerships, perhaps because he saw an opportunity to help his investment firm – may have chopped Bongino’s already underfunded campaign off at the knees. FEC records show that Sobhani loaned himself nearly $8 million to run the race. That was 98% of his campaign income.

Fast forward six years and in comes another financial guru in Neal Simon. However, there are some differences – not the least of which is that Simon has “only” contributed about $550,000 to his own campaign so far.

Unlike the Sobhani effort, which was basically self-funded, Simon is getting a lot of outside help. But I found it interesting that many of the high-dollar, maximum donations come from out of state and from couples who are maxing out as husband and wife (or in one case, father and college-age daughter) where the woman’s occupation is listed as “homemaker” or (in the case of the daughter) “student” – yet they apparently have $5,400 lying around to donate to the primary and general campaigns. (That’s interesting as well, since Simon had no primary as an unaffiliated candidate. Yet it is perfectly legal.)

The theory floating around is, of course, that Simon is a Democrat plant whose purpose is to split the GOP vote. But after spending a few evenings poring over the contribution data from this subset of “max donors” – those who have added $2,700 or more to the Simon kitty – I tend to doubt this idea. Out of 91 donors who I checked via the OpenSecrets website, which categorizes donations to federal candidates, there were 17 who had no record of donating before. This only seems unusual because most people start out small and work their way up, not drop up to $10,800 as a couple into a political campaign as their first contribution.

But the political leanings of these more regular donors spanned the gamut, from huge donors to Democrats and their causes to a handful that could be described as staunch Republicans. (One of those is the wife of a social media friend I often see promoting the Hogan re-election campaign.) Overall I would describe the donor list as skewing Democrat, but there are a few who are big believers in the centrist advocacy group Unite America (whose logo and color scheme is very much like Simon’s) and a PAC called People Over Politics (not to be confused with a hardcore leftist advocacy website.) The People Over Politics PAC has several Simon donors as its main base of support and guess what they are spending on?

Now that pushes up a few red flags – as well as the question about working around individual donation limits given the amount this PAC has raised from just six donors. Out of the six, only one has been heavily into politics prior to this, and he’s been a relatively faithful GOP donor. So why the change? Let’s look at what Simon says. (Yes, I intended the pun.)

His top issue is – of course – one of unity, and bringing us together. Now I can’t argue with the idea but that doesn’t give me much in the way of principles.

Next up is the idea of changing how Washington works. I’m cool with the ideas of independent commissions to create legislative districts and term limits, but I have to know more about the concepts of the new Senate rules Neal favors. On the other hand, I don’t favor open primaries.

But the funny part to me is where he states:

The corrupting influence of money in politics is at the heart of congressional dysfunction. We can use this election to spur on campaign finance reform and make meaningful changes to the system. We can start by bringing transparency to election spending, making politicians reveal the sources of “dark money” campaign donations – donations that currently have no limit. I support the DISCLOSE Act, which requires all organizations spending money in elections to file reports that include donors of $10,000 or more.

Did I not just say the guy has a SuperPAC with six donors of $25,000 or more working on his behalf? Shouldn’t he take the leap and say this? I suppose that would be considered coordination (and that’s a no-no) but there’s more than a wink going on here.

Neal’s next priority is jobs, which is fine. But this line is priceless, too, given my context:

As a CEO who has led five companies, I have extensive experience connecting and persuading other business leaders,

He’s persuaded a lot of them to pony up $2,700 or more, that’s for sure. And Neal is a little behind the curve: why eliminate just one existing regulation for every new one when we have a President axing twenty or more per new one? That’s more my speed.

And then we come to health care, where Simon says:

First, we have a moral obligation to provide adequate, affordable health care coverage to its citizens.

Actually, no we don’t – at least not at the behest of government, because government is not the solution to the problem. I would argue that government is causing many of the problems, particularly when it comes to costs. To make health care affordable we have to create the conditions where it can become more affordable – unfortunately, government does a poor job of that on a national level.

Simon then addresses an 800-pound gorilla in our room:

If we don’t get our debt and spending problems under control, inflation will have a disastrous effect on jobs and the economy. Currently, our interest payments alone amount to $310 billion—the fourth largest budget item after Social Security, defense, Medicare and Medicaid.

The last I checked, only one of those items is mandated in the Constitution, and it’s not the entitlements. Yet, starting at the top, no one wants to do anything about any of those EXCEPT cut defense spending. I can agree to that to a point in that we don’t need bases in practically every nation, but the sad truth is we don’t know where the next hotspot will be and we’ve taken it upon ourselves to be the world’s cop. So there we stand.

Where Simon truly loses me though is where he’s part of the “path to citizenship” crowd and gets into the realm of what he calls “common sense gun safety laws.” Basically if you were mad at Larry Hogan for flouting the Second Amendment you won’t be much for Simon either.

So to me it’s rank hypocrisy for Simon to say on his website, “Government should represent ‘We, the people’ – not the party bosses or those who can buy access to power,” (my emphasis) yet have the donor list he has and a PAC working for his cause. It’s just more politics as usual. Neal is a guy I wouldn’t mind sitting down with for a political discussion (at least he seems down-to-earth judging from a brief chat we had at the Tawes event) but I don’t think he has much in common with anyone politically right of center. This is especially true when you look at his own donation record, which is very left-leaning: out of $11,000 Neal has donated over the years, $8,000 has gone to Democrats and left-leaning PACs, with $2,500 going to fellow independent Craig O’Dear and an almost random $500 donation to Mitt Romney in 2011.

Having said that, though, I still wish Neal all the success in the world – in taking votes away from Ben Cardin. Wouldn’t it be funny (and great for Maryland and the nation) if his campaign splits the Democrat vote enough to send a Maryland conservative – who would all but kill to have the bankroll the People Over Politics PAC has, let alone nearly 100 max donors – to the United States Senate?

Considering the alternative is Tweedledum with a D or Tweedledee with an I (who, based on political philosophy, will probably caucus with the Democrats anyway), you may as well elect someone who has principles.

Announcing: the 2017-18 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware Edition

August 6, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Announcing: the 2017-18 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware Edition 

For the second time, I have graded all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. The final product can be found in its usual sidebar location, or right here.

One new feature because Delaware has staggered elections is an indicator of whether the legislator is running for another term, and if so what sort of opposition he or she faces. Some have a free ride through the primary, while a select few have no general election opponent.

Without getting too much into it – after all, I want my friends in the First State to read and share the information – it was another discouraging session for the Delaware General Assembly. But even the darkest sky has a few stars in it, and one shone very brightly as a beacon of conservatism.

The 25 votes I used were split with nine being dealt with in 2017 and 16 having final action this year. At least one of these bills took nearly the full two sessions to be finalized, but most of them came along earlier this year. In truth, I had the tallying completed several weeks ago but, like in Maryland, I had to wait for the prescribed post-session signing deadline to come and go. It’s my understanding that bills not signed within thirty days of the end of the second-year Delaware legislative session are pocket vetoed, and two of the mAP – DE bills were in that category. By my count, thirty days (excluding Sundays) from the end of session fell on this past Saturday: hopefully I won’t have quick editing to do.

And if you were sharp-eyed last night, you would have noticed I did the usual “soft opening” by updating the widget before this post was finished and set to be placed up at this early hour.

So, Delaware, here is the voting guide you need this fall – use it wisely.

How much will it cost? (Part two of a multi-part series)

July 30, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on How much will it cost? (Part two of a multi-part series) 

I really didn’t mean to take so long between part one of this series and part two, but because the second item on the Ben Jealous for Governor issue list is health care – and there’s a claim out there that his plan will cost Maryland a staggering $24 billion a year, according to analysts at the state’s Department of Legislative Services – I was hoping to see the actual evidence before I wrote the next part. But my trips to the DLS website have been fruitless, leading me to believe that there were a couple cowboys at the DLS who chose to leak this to the Sun.

So before I say this will cost $24 billion a year, I suppose the best thing to know is how we would pay for this program called “Medicare-for-All.” Here’s how Jealous explains the key benefit for the majority of us who are under employer-sponsored plans:

This system will end premiums for participants, reducing costs to most employees and employers. It will be important to create a system that ensures covered employees also see the benefit of this change. MD-Care will explore creating safeguards to ensure that employer savings are passed down to the workers in increased wages, and guarantee that workers see real savings instead of having all of the gains captured by employers no longer paying premiums. (Emphasis mine.)

It’s worth pointing out that health insurance as a employer fringe benefit is a relatively new phenomenon, one that began when wages were frozen during World War II. Since workers (generally those belonging to unions) could not receive wage increases, the measure to circumvent this prohibition was the inclusion of health insurance – with the added bonus of employer-paid premiums being non-taxable income.

Basically what Jealous wants to do is enforce a raise to workers who currently receive these benefits, whether deserved or not. That seems to me a good way to kill jobs in the state.

And stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

Those who want to keep their existing Medicare program will be able to.

Bear in mind, of course, that Medicare is not free. Those of us who work for a living see that little category on our pay stubs – mine actually calls this “Medicare Employee” – and every couple weeks a few dozen dollars added to that total. I guess that’s the down payment on what we have to pay when we get to the age where we can presumably sign up and collect on Medicare, which isn’t really free but has a bewildering array of premiums, deductibles, and co-insurance payments. So to say Medicare-for-All is “free health care” or “single-payer” is clearly a misnomer because there are three payment sources: your pocket, the generosity of those who pay the taxes but don’t use the service, and (in the case of the federal government) a massive amount of IOUs.

Jealous then cites a Kaiser Family Foundation estimate that health care in Maryland costs $51 billion a year (at least it did in 2014) and proclaims:

This is simply unsustainable, and MD-Care offers an opportunity to finally get costs under control. Administrative savings could quickly add up to billions of dollars in Maryland and fully expanding the All-Payer model would finally allow us to bend the “cost curve” in medical spending. In addition, by ensuring the plan is designed properly to reduce costs and maximize federal dollars, we can further reduce the healthcare burden on Maryland taxpayers.

So wait a second: this is Maryland’s plan, but we’re expecting everyone else to pony up and pay more for it? Yeah, that will fly like a lead balloon.

And I’m not sure where “administrative savings” (if administration is 8% of health care cost, that’s $4 billion for Maryland) comes from when people who work for those eeeeeevil insurance companies (mainly paid for with private-sector dollars) are repurposed as government employees who are paid from the public till, to wit:

This plan and the Maryland All-Payer Model Progression Plan call for widespread use of emerging new titles in healthcare such as coordinators and community health workers to ensure that high risk populations are being treated properly (and at lower cost). This offers an opportunity to minimize the net disruption to employment by ensuring job retraining and preferences for those who previously worked at private insurance companies. Instead of thousands of workers in Maryland being paid to deny access to care, they can now be paid to provide healthcare.

In addition, there is going to be a need for administrative employees to ensure that Maryland is complying with all federal law so we can continue to draw down dollars for Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and the ACA.

So much for saving on administration; in fact, given the lavish government payroll that seems to be a cost increase.

Speaking of cost increases, here’s where it gets important:

There is no question that any plan will have significant cost savings compared to current healthcare spending, while also moving most healthcare dollars away from the insurance companies and into the plan. These variables will determine the final cost of the plan and the revenue requirements. Among other revenue options the advisory panel will consider:

  • Income Based Premium Paid by Employers

This premium would be a deductible business expense, meaning this plan will have the same tax advantage status as employer provided healthcare. However, it is unknown how businesses will react to this, and significant input from the Maryland business community will be needed. Businesses would have predictable health insurance costs instead of double-digit increases with no end in sight.

  • Sales Tax

Having some portion of the plan paid for by a sales tax would have several advantages, including capturing revenue from non-Marylanders. It would also reduce the amount of revenue needed on the payroll side, thus reducing the taxation burden on new employment. At the same time, a sales tax is regressive by nature, so any tax increase on working Marylanders would have to be measured against the net benefits received from this plan.

  • Non-Payroll Income Premium

A non-payroll income premium would ensure that the most financially successful in Maryland pay their fair share of taxes. The advisory panel will need to study the tax sensitivity of these higher earners to ensure that any increase doesn’t result in significant population shifts in the region to avoid any changes to the Maryland income tax system.

I can tell you exactly how business will react to the first one, Ben: they will close their doors and/or leave. Those that have to stay will be hiring fewer people, and they have the perfect incentive:

We will also look at ways to ensure that small businesses and new companies succeed under this plan. This could mean exempting small businesses and start-ups from additional taxes associated with MDCare depending on revenue or firm age. The advisory panel will work with the small business community to design an exemption that makes the most sense.

One surefire way to cut revenue to fit under the limit: close a few locations, let go a few workers, and fold the business into a newly-formed holding company.

Because of that possibility, my thinking on this is that Jealous would go with a blending of options two and three: perhaps an increase in the sales tax from 6% to 8% and a reprisal of the infamous “millionaire’s tax” that will cause capital to flow out of the state.

Assuming that the roughly $4.6 billion collected by the state in sales taxes in FY2017 is a valid figure, a sales tax increase to 8% would cost taxpayers roughly $1.1 billion a year, and $5.5 billion over five years. A millionaire’s tax would be perhaps a $500 million cost to taxpayers over 5 years.

But that won’t begin to cover this program – not when spending is $51 billion a year now, and probably $70 billion when it’s “free.” (That is if you can find a provider – only 7 of 10 providers accept new Medicare patients.)

The most truthful statement made from Ben on the subject is this one, a throwaway line on his “Path to Medicare for All“:

When the ACA was written, Democrats were overly concerned with the optics and not enough with the actual mechanics of the bill.

Yes, we had to pass it to know what was in it. Likewise, we have no idea if that $24 billion cost is anywhere close to reality but it is likely that state revenues will take a significant hit as private-sector businesses throw in the towel.

Next up in this series will be Criminal Justice, a platform that likely has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.

A night at the fair

July 25, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, Politics · Comments Off on A night at the fair 

The other night my wife and I had an evening to ourselves – the kid stayed at a friend’s house and we really had nothing on the social calendar. With a less pessimistic forecast than the rest of the week, we decided it was a good time to make our annual pilgrimage up to Harrington for the Delaware State Fair.

This year is the 99th annual Delaware State Fair – we’ll see what they do for the centennial edition next year.

I will give you a pro tip: if you’re parked where we were, wait on the tram. I think we spent the first 15-20 minutes there walking to the main gate! So once we got inside, we were visually assaulted by the midway.

The Delaware State Fair has some of the cheesiest attractions on its midway, just to part people with their dollars.

One thing that interested me and was the first stop was a house, but not just any house: this house that claims to be net zero energy.

Built by Beracah Homes in Greenwood, Delaware, the second ZeMod model is a charming 1,204 sf, 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom cottage style home. It features a super insulated building envelope, an all-electric heat-pump HVAC system, ENERGY STAR® rated appliances and lighting, and a rooftop solar system. Its design makes it not only affordable, but also a healthy and comfortable living environment.

In essence, the home is built to be exceptionally insulated and weathertight, with the idea being that of the solar panels providing enough energy to offset the usage by the home’s residents. If it were a real world home, it would be a two- or three-person house with just two bedrooms. (I didn’t take the grand tour to see how big they were.) But it is scalable, according to the nice person I spoke to there – and with $40,000 in incentives it ought to be.

But the biggest objection came from my better half, who couldn’t live without a gas stove. It was explained that it could be done but there’s a tradeoff in the penetrations required to run the gas line from the outside (and the venting required since it is a gas appliance.) More telling to me was the premium of about $20-30 a square foot, as it came in about $147 a square foot (the price has increased since the original flyer was created.)

But you really don’t go to a fair to see a house, do you? It’s a reminder of a rural lifestyle, so you see these critters.

Moo-ers and shakers.

My wife is much more partial to these kids.

Up close and personal with a black goat, which luckily wasn’t interested in making a snack of my phone.

Delmar represented.

It’s nice to see the FFA is still alive and thriving, too.

The FFA has lost the blue jackets – or it was just way too warm for them – but the group is still around.

And don’t forget how much of Delaware’s economy runs on agriculture.

Toys for the big kids. Actually there’s several hundred thousand dollars tied up there.

Those who didn’t have animals had other opportunities to shine.

This came from the kids’ side of the exhibit hall. We like to see the winning photographs on the other side of the room.

Something interesting about the Fair this year: even though there was a main act playing in the grandstand, they had another band playing just outside, by the casino. Basically this band, Red Head Express, is on a weeklong gig at the fair as a free feature, 2 shows a night. They’re sort of a cross between bluegrass and country, which makes them popular around here.

Red Head Express filled up the area in front of the main grandstand.

If chicks dig bass, what can you say about this band?

Since it was well after 8:00, the exhibit hall was sort of dead. However, I did find out a piece of good news about a plot of land we’re considering: it’s in the Delaware Electric Co-Op service area. But the guy was really showing off his Chevy Bolt I decided not to take a photo of.

Instead, I saw our President and First Lady.

You know, I thought our President and First Lady would really have more depth to them.

That got me to thinking: I wonder whatever happened to the Sarah Palin cutout our former county chair had?

Anyway, speaking of TEA Party figures, I couldn’t resist this one. Too bad Gene wasn’t around to discuss his allegiance to the TEA Party.

In reading his platform, I wouldn’t necessarily have associated Gene Truono with the TEA Party – moreso his in-state opponent. It’s an interesting strategy.

We opted not to go into the merchant’s building because we really didn’t want to be talked into buying sheets or buttonholed for some other useless trinket – besides, we had checked the forecast and knew that if we stayed too long we would be poured upon. Just as we got to our car after the tram ride out, it indeed began to rain.

The midway is pretty by night. Still cheesy, though.

I guess as fairs go this is the biggest one I regularly attend – the Ohio State Fair was (and is) in far-off Columbus, and the Maryland State Fair is across the bridge. Perhaps to start a new century of service the Delaware version will do a little freshening up, and maybe get really lucky and draw a nice day on a weekend when we have more time to explore.

If you want to go, they are there through Saturday.

42nd annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

And away we go…

Thanks to the much better interface of photo captioning I’ve adopted since my WordPress update awhile back, this one can literally be handled with photos, captions, and text. You get all three in one gooey, chewy, oh-so-sweet and ooo-ey mishmash of photos that will basically take you through my day – except for the tired feet.

This was the scene when I arrived about 10:45.

Local supporters of Jom Mathias were coordinating their efforts at the gate, Quite a few of those shirts found their way onto people at the event.

I Tweeted this next photo the day of, as I recall.

I wonder who pulled the strings to get Jim Mathias the plum spot up front. If you were coming this way to a corporate tent or the Crab Trap, you had to walk by.

Inside, people were getting set for the show to begin.

This is almost like a class photo. I’m sure 20 years from now, these runners will be looking at this, laughing, and wondering whatever happened to some of these nice folks.

Runners assigned here had a LONG way to travel.

The Crab Trap is a relatively new idea. It’s sort of a cross between a corporate tent and an after-party, and for a $20 premium you could enjoy the day from there.

Before I get too much farther, I could kick myself for not getting a photo of those doing the cooking. They are the heroes of the day and don’t get thanked enough for a hot, nearly thankless task for which they still willingly volunteer.

Speaking of thankless, volunteer roles…

You know, it’s a good thing this truly isn’t up for election. Could you imagine a split ticket winning that one?

I didn’t see Yumi at Tawes (not that I would necessarily be able to pick her out in the crowd) but I saw her husband make the rounds. More on that in a bit.

Luckily it was still before 11 when I took this – whoever was in charge of slapping up signs had a lot to do!

As the 11:00 hour rolled in, people were still busy getting ready for the crowds.

The Somerset County GOP was getting their tent space set up with plenty of signs and stickers.

It was at that point I realized that even 13-year veterans can make rookie mistakes: I left my box bottom in the car. A box bottom is a key component for Tawes because it serves as your food tray and (for some) a place to festoon with campaign stickers.

So on my way out I got a shirt. First time ever.

They had a good selection of shirts this year. I picked out a nice blue one.

By the time I trudged my way back in after a good half-mile round trip, I saw that food was already being served.

These seem like long lines, but most of them went fast and I have seen longer. I think having the runners has cut down on wait time.

So I found my way to the Somerset GOP tent and crashed their party. While I was there, Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford was already making the rounds. I took a few photos but with a bright background from a tent in the shadows they didn’t work well.

After I finished eating, I spied these two guys – part of a modest contingent backing unaffiliated U.S. Senate hopeful Neal Simon. They were circulating petitions at Tawes to get Simon on the ballot.

Backers of U.S. Senate hopeful Neal Simon fish for petition signatures.

Now this photo is nowhere near as important as a photo Neal put out Wednesday with the aforementioned Governor Hogan. And I’ll get to that in a little bit, too.

But first I ran into a guy who’s in the catbird seat – my Delegate, Carl Anderton.

With no election opposition, Delegate Carl Anderton can afford to give the thumbs-up.

He was just the first of a whole host of political and semi-political folks I got to chat with over the next 3 hours or so as I wandered around. There are some people who take “all you can eat crabs” as a challenge, but I’m to a point where I can barely make it through what I’m given in one trip to four lines, none of which are crabs.

Yes, it is campaign season. And since Wicomico County (and its media) are prominent there, you see a lot from our candidates.

In an indication of what was to come, Boyd Rutherford was rather popular.

The crowd of supporters surrounds Boyd Rutherford. I wonder if he will be here in 2021 as a candidate, and whether it will be to succeed his boss or upend the socialist?

Smaller groups chatted with the more local and regional politicians.

While Delegate Chris Adams (on the left in white) has one general election opponent for the two seats of District 37B, even that guy admits Adams and Johnny Mautz (who was also there) are prohibitive favorites to return to Annapolis.

Because State Senator Jim Mathias had his own tent, the group at the main Democrat tent was smaller. It wasn’t exactly a blue wave.

Regarding the Democrat tent: I did get to meet and say hello to Jesse Colvin, who is the Democrat opposing Andy Harris. He had his wife and baby boy with him (he was the holder) so I opted to skip the photo of Colvin. I will say he doesn’t seem to have the spunk and gift of gab that Allison Galbraith – who I met at Tawes 2017 – does, but perhaps that’s a military trait. Still, I would be interested to see debates between Harris, Colvin, and Libertarian candidate Jenica Martin. (I’m not sure if she was there – I know Andy was a little busy, as were federal counterparts Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.)

There were a number of business tents as usual, but they didn’t seem to draw a lot of interest. It seems anymore that the Tawes event is used as a company picnic of sorts.

I’m going to return to the subject of business tents later as I wrap up, but in taking the photo I saw a person I wanted to meet. In fact, in speaking to him I found out he’s visited this site a time or two.

This is one of the few times you’ll see someone to the right of me, if only in a visual sense. Actually, Neal Simon and I had a nice conversation.

In speaking to Neil I found out he had gotten the Hogan signature I alluded to above at the event and that he was going to make the announcement about having the sufficient number of petition signatures the next day, which was yesterday. He just told me to keep it under my hat until the time came, which wasn’t a problem since I had other things to write on and it was pretty much a fait accompli anyway.

Next up, though, is my favorite picture.

You just gotta like Carol Frazier. That’s all there is to it.

It gives me a chance to say thanks to one of my biggest fans and supporters. And speaking of such, I had the opportunity to see someone I hadn’t seen since Turning the Tides five years ago. It’s just a shame I neglected to get a picture of Cecil County Council member Jackie Gregory, a longtime friend and supporter of monoblogue. Even Delegate Kathy Szeliga saw me and gave me a greeting hug.

But when it comes to big fans and supporters of Tawes, I’m not sure anyone beats Bruce Bereano.

If this guy ever stops coming, I suspect they could have Tawes in the Food Lion parking lot.

For those politicians whose district doesn’t include the region, this is the place to hang out and eat. I think the Crab Trap idea was inspired by Bruce’s tent since people could see the political in-crowd live it up and wanted a version for their own.

That guy in the center with his hands up – he’s the governor. Larry Hogan always draws a crowd.

He may have pissed off various swaths of the Maryland electorate for various reasons, but the people don’t seem too upset at Governor Hogan here. Maybe a little bit of a smaller group circling him, but still significant.

Even the host city welcomed him.

The City of Crisfield tent. Since everyone in town who could afford a ticket was down here anyway.

I shouldn’t pick on Crisfield, since our former County Executive Rick Pollitt is their city manager. He stopped and said hello with a warm handshake.

This is one of the strangest sights, although I’m sure it’s the way of the news business these days: talking to a camera on a tripod.

It didn’t seem like the media was all over like before, but I saw all three local stations: WBOC channel 16 (and their associated FM radio station) and WMDT channel 47 out of Salisbury as well as WRDE channel 31 from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – now that was a trip from one side of the peninsula to the other. I also saw channel 7, which I think is out of Washington, D.C. I know there were print and radio reporters as well, but they did their jobs in places I wasn’t, aside from WRDE who wanted to speak with Simon as I was talking to him.

I took this photo a little after 2:00.

The tall guy in black in the center, that’s Ben Jealous. He’s trying to take Hogan’s job.

In the last three Democrat campaigns for governor (2006, 2010, 2014) I witnessed their favored or chosen gubernatorial candidate walk into Tawes surrounded by a posse of supporters clad in campaign shirts to help rouse support. However, Anthony Brown skipped Tawes in 2014 since it was by then post-primary – his blue shirts came the year before.

Regardless, the lack of campaign savvy on the Jealous team was very apparent – few supporters and not much engagement. It was almost like Ben used the event as a photo-op but the optics weren’t nearly as good as they should be in an area that’s heavily minority and majority Democrat. Even I quickly worked my way up to say hello and express a concern I had, as I did later to Governor Hogan.

Finally, I’m glad I helped convince this guy into coming – or maybe he already made up his mind and likes to humor his supporters.

Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford on the left, U.S. Senate candidate Tony Campbell on the right. Wait a minute, I thought the GOP was exclusively for white people.

Hopefully Tony followed a little bit of my advice: I told him to not just concentrate on the circle of tents in the back but go and speak to the people in the pavilions up front. And this is where my commentary on Tawes begins.

Earlier I alluded to the business tents, and in the last few years I’ve noticed it’s been pretty much the same businesses and entities are present at Tawes, and they bring a particular group of people to the event. Needless to say, the political entities also bring their own supporters and hangers-on as well. All of them stay pretty much within an area that’s bounded by the tents and the food lines up front. Of course, with the Crab Trap and addition of food runners over the last few years, Tawes has gotten to a point where one doesn’t have to come out from under the tent to partake in the event.

On the other side, behind the AFSCME local that always camps out by the restroom building and the City of Crisfield tent, is the portion of the main pavilion where those who are there simply to eat and socialize with their friends go and sit. They have their own DJ, they’re not far from the bathrooms, and in my travels I notice it’s more of a minority gathering – it’s almost like that’s where the locals stay and they let the out-of-towners have the other side. That’s where I advised Tony to go, and it’s not a bad idea for any candidate. (Toward the end I found Mary Beth Carozza over there doing a radio spot so I presume she had been through there, too.)

In my years doing the Tawes event, one of the benefits I enjoyed about it was the opportunity to speak with people from the other side. For the ten years I sat on the Central Committee and was active in the local Republican club, I obviously saw the local Republicans once or twice a month and my GOP friends from around the state twice a year at the convention. On the other hand, if you were a Democrat and a friend of mine (or a candidate with whom I wanted to place a face with the name, such as Jesse Colvin or Ben Jealous), just about the only time I got to see you was at Tawes. And even though I haven’t been nearly as active on the GOP side of late, the same still holds true on the Democrats’ side. For the most part I have no animus with them aside from their short-sighted political views.

Unfortunately, there isn’t the mixing of people on a political level like there used to be and a similar phenomenon is beginning to take place at Tawes as groups become more insular. Surely there are people who never set foot outside the Crab Trap or Bereano tent from the time they arrived to the time they went home, and that’s sort of a shame. I have no idea on the attendance figure, but I think it may have been lower than in past years – on the other hand, there may have been people I never saw hiding in their safe spaces.

Unfortunately for a person like me, 2019 looks to be a year dull as dishwater politically. Sure, we may have some Presidential campaigns underway on the Democrat side but you don’t see a lot of them represented at Tawes and it would be a shock to see a Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, et. al. walk through those gates. It’s not a statewide office election year, and in 2020 Maryland will have no Senate race. All that leaves is Congress, and whatever Democrat opts to step up. It’s pretty thin gruel.

I don’t want to say the event is past its prime, but I suspect there are diminishing returns for a politician who isn’t statewide or represents an area outside the 37th or 38th District. To make things a little better there, we need to recall what we have in common, not what divides us.

How much will it cost? (Part one of a multi-part series)

July 18, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on How much will it cost? (Part one of a multi-part series) 

I know, I know, you want Tawes coverage. Look for it tomorrow or Friday.

Since Ben Jealous won the Democrat Party nomination for Maryland’s top job, the progressives who have already seen his campaign as a chance to put their dreams into action on the state level are beside themselves with giddiness about the prospect of a state that borders Washington, D.C. being set up as a contrast to the relative austerity of one President Donald J. Trump.

But skittish voters may have been turned off by a Department of Legislative Services report (as reported by the Baltimore Sun) that claimed Ben’s single-payer health scheme could cost the state as much as $24 billion a year – astounding when you consider Maryland’s annual state operating budget runs about $44 billion. It would become the single largest line-item on the budget overnight and (of course) necessitate significant tax increases.

The story, however, neatly coincides with the question I’m sure I’m not alone in asking: how much is the Jealous agenda going to cost?

Well, I can’t give you an exact answer. But what I can do is study his platform, point by point, and give as good of an estimate as possible. And when you say, “Michael, all politicians promise to spend taxpayer money when they pledge to ‘invest’ in whatever item they think will get them the most votes,” I would say yes, you are correct – but Ben Jealous pledges to do it in spades.

If you go to his issues page, you will find Jealous has laid out a wide-ranging agenda of several issues:

  • Education
  • Medicare-For-All
  • Criminal Justice
  • Ending The Student Debt Crisis
  • Police Reform
  • Great Cities: A Vision For Maryland’s Future
  • Opioid Crisis
  • Make It In Maryland: Building A More Inclusive, Thriving Economy
  • Civil Rights
  • Immigration
  • Environment
  • Seniors

On many of these, Ben goes beyond the standard one-paragraph blurb and lays out fairly detailed plans – although they are often lacking in financial estimates. So today I’m going to start laying out my thoughts on what this agenda may cost taxpayers, and I’m going to begin with Education and the related subject Ending the Student Debt Crisis.

As a baseline figure, bear in mind that the most recent budget adopted by the state (for FY2019, which began at the start of this month) has the state of Maryland spending $14.72 billion between education and higher education, for a total of 33% of the budget. K-12 gets $8.099 billion and $6.621 billion goes to higher education. (The total budget, by the way, is $44.416 billion, compared to $42.142 billion just two years ago.)

Here’s the first concrete proposal in the Jealous education plan, increasing teacher salaries:

In the Kirwan Commission’s preliminary report, there’s a recommendation to bring Maryland’s average teacher salary to the average of Massachusetts and New Jersey’s – two of the country’s top performing states – by the 2024-2025 school year. Ben Jealous is committed to raising teacher pay by 29% between now and the 2024-2025 school year – the exact same percent increase as was accomplished in the seven years following the Thornton Commission.

To determine the cost of this salary increase plan, we need to find the difference between the natural cost of increasing salaries under the current Thornton funding formula and a new salary plan.

In an attached chart, Jealous details the cost over the five year period from FY2020 – FY2024. Total cost to taxpayers: $1.8953 billion over five years, with FY2024 alone contributing a $658.5 million increase. This is above and beyond raises already baked into the budget totaling $2.1845 billion.

Jealous, however, says he has a way to pay for this – but it depends on Maryland voters.

Late in this year’s session, a Senate bill was passed that placed an amendment to the Maryland Constitution on this year’s ballot. The “Fix The Fund” Act mandates that gambling revenue become a supplement to educational spending rather than a component of it. The Fiscal Note for the bill notes that revenues for education are expected to increase by $1.2678 billion from FY2020 – FY 2023. Unfortunately, that money doesn’t replace what would have gone into the General Fund: as the Fiscal Note continues, “Designating the use of a portion of (Education Trust Fund) monies for supplemental funding requires general fund expenditures to increase by an equal amount.” However, this money is folded into the expenditure from above, yet Jealous admits to being short in year 5. His solution? Enacting a combined reporting tax on Maryland businesses.

On this particular point of combined reporting, Jealous references an unsuccessful bill from 2017 that would have enacted this, with the carrot to business of eliminating filing fees for a business or entity with 10 or fewer employees. That may not necessarily be in Ben’s plan, so I am going to make two assumptions here: one. that the revenue for a five year period of FY2020-24 is similar to that which would have occurred FY2018-22 as covered by that particular Fiscal Note and that the filing fee waiver would be eliminated. Given those two items (and the fact business taxes aren’t paid by businesses but by consumers) I will say this adds $150.8 million over five years – but that still leaves Jealous short, and WAY short if “Fix The Fund” doesn’t pass – however, you can bet your bottom dollar the teacher’s unions will be out in full force to pass that one come November. (The odds of the Fix The Fund Act passing are very good, though, as Maryland voters seldom turn down a referendum. But it won’t be a fix, just more tax on the poor.)

And the fun is just beginning…next up is this gem:

In the 2018 legislative session, two former educators in the General Assembly proposed legislation to guarantee all education support professionals a living wage: at least $31,500 a year in lower cost of living counties and at least $36,000 a year in higher cost of living counties. It would be phased in starting in FY2020 and fully funded from FY2024 onward.

Based on the Fiscal Note for this bill, over three years (FY2022-24) the total cost to taxpayers will be $527 million.

Another biggie comes up a page or so later:

As governor, Ben Jealous will provide the funding necessary for full-day, universal pre-kindergarten and he will pay for it through the tax revenue generated by legalizing and taxing marijuana for adult use.

In a report entitled A Comprehensive Analysis of Prekindergarten in Maryland, the authors noted that at the time (early 2016) the state spent $132.9 million to educate the 35.58% of 4-year-olds who are already enrolled. Doing the math for 100% of 4-year-olds means an annual expenditure for pre-K on a state level would be a total annual cost to taxpayers of $375.3 million, and over a five-year period the cost would edge close to $2 billion.

Yet again, it’s likely that revenues will not keep pace. Obviously laws vary from state to state, but a good fit for projecting Maryland’s success might be Colorado because of its similar population. In 2017 Colorado generated $223 million in revenue from the sale of marijuana, while Washington state (which is somewhat larger) added $314 million. It’s not likely that Maryland would be able to sustain its revenue stream to the extent needed, meaning money would need to come from the general fund.

Next up is an unknown amount of money to address this seeming disparity:

We need to reimagine what schools provide in our low-income neighborhoods by making the school building the central hub for community services – counseling, job training, meals, mentoring programs, and health clinics. As part of the new funding formula, the state should add a concentrated wealth factor that drives more funding to schools with 40% or more of their student population coming from low-income families.

To me, this is akin to the current Geographic Cost of Education Index that cost taxpayers $141.6 million this fiscal year (page 47 here). But that money is a starting point because, in order for schools to take on all these functions, there is an unknown capital improvement cost involved. I suspect when all is said and done this could easily exceed $2 billion in additional spending after five years.

Lastly on the K-12 education front, there is this idea:

Providing children with a critical mass of mental health services requires an investment in personnel like inschool social workers and psychologists, but it also requires fully incorporating these service providers into the broader academic ecosystem, and providing other key members of that ecosystem with the training they need to help our mental health service providers.

So let’s begin with this:

By providing the child with case-management, the social worker can ensure a student is connected with an in-school counselor (and) has up-to-date treatment from an inschool psychologist.

(…)

… it is important that enough counselors be hired to maintain a low student-to-counselor ratio…

(…)

Every school should have at least one on-site psychologist, who is focused fully on addressing the mental health needs of the student body.

(…)

As governor, Ben Jealous will work with key stakeholders like the MSEA to increase staffing levels for service providers like social workers and school psychologists…

Yes, because we know the MSEA teacher’s union is oh-so-careful with taxpayer dollars.

The information is a little out-of-date, so I’m extrapolating the 1.449 schools that Maryland was claimed to have a half-decade ago to 1,500 for ease of math. So let’s make some more assumptions: three new social workers, one new psychologist, and three counselors (to maintain the low ratio) are added per school – that is a total of 10,500 staff statewide. And they’re not going to come cheap: on average a school psychologist makes almost $60,000 per year, a school counselor checks in at almost $49,000 a year, and school social workers earn just over $48,000 a year. Therefore, the additional per-school staffing expenditure (just for salary, mind you, and not including benefits) would be $351,000 a year. Multiply that by 1,500 public schools in the state and the total annual cost to taxpayers is $216.2 million.

Once you’ve paid for K-12, you still have the aspect of “free” college.

As governor, Jealous will make community college free for every Marylander… The guarantee of free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate. This program will be paid for by increasing the state income tax for the top 1% of earners ($500,000+ annually) by 1%, and savings from significantly reducing Maryland’s levels of incarceration.

Now this is a little bit confusing because I thought we already had that, based on a bill passed last year. And the question is whether Ben means every dollar of the average $4,324 (see here) for tuition and fees or whether it’s an expansion of the “last-dollar” program where prospective students have to exhaust other avenues of aid first (although, in all honesty, the taxpayer pays most of it anyway.) Now multiply that by a projected 46,592 full-time students and just a high-end estimate of Ben’s scheme comes out to be $201.5 million every year. And since it’s “free” we should probably assume a total annual cost to taxpayers of $300 million because more will take advantage and (naturally) colleges will increase their tuition and fees to get in on this largess.

Yet as they say on the home shopping networks…but wait, there’s more.

As governor, Jealous will create a MD Careers program that partners with industry experts to determine growing job sectors, and incentivize education and training in these sectors by covering any education costs associated with entering the fields. Special priority will be given to service professionals like first responders, organized labor sectors like educators, and healthcare workers who can help drive down the cost of quality treatment for our population in the years ahead. The guarantee of free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate who commits to staying in Maryland for five years after they receive their degree.

This program will be paid for with a percentage of the savings generated by significant reductions to Maryland’s incarceration levels. This funding stream will stretch even further when one considers that training for in-demand sectors like construction rely on apprenticeships and technical training that are less cost intensive than traditional 4-year degrees.

As governor, Jealous will extend this guarantee to students pursuing graduate degrees at Maryland’s public institutions. This will be paid for by increasing Maryland’s cigarette tax, which is currently less than the cigarette tax charged by regional competitors such as D.C., Pennsylvania, and New York.

I love how he pointed out “organized labor sectors.” Like we need more of that.

So we come to the “savings” part. Jealous proposes to save our dollars by emptying out the jails.

Ben Jealous will reduce Maryland’s prison population by 30%. He will do so by ending returns to prison for technical violations, downgrading drug possession, expanding opportunities to earn parole, and investing in reentry programs. Doing so will create savings of up to $660 million.

Obviously the amount spent on free tuition is going to depend on the shape of the program, but more predictable is the increase in the cigarette tax. Maryland currently has a $2 per pack cigarette tax, which indeed is less than D.C. ($2.50), Pennsylvania ($2.60) and New York (tops in the nation at $4.35.) It’s even a dime less than Delaware’s and New Jersey comes in at $2.70 as well. (And then you have Virginia, second lowest in the country at 30 cents a pack.) Nor should we forget about the millionaire’s tax I cited above.

So let’s speculate that the cigarette tax of $2 a pack increases to $3, which would peg us just above the surrounding jurisdictions aside from Virginia and West Virginia. For FY2017 (the latest figures available) the cigarette tax raised $348.8 million. So a 50% increase in the tax brings a 50% increase in revenue, right?

Well, not quite. For taxes, there is almost always a lag between the rate of increase and the revenue increase. I’m thinking the difference in this case will be about 30%, although your mileage may vary. Total cost to taxpayers (particularly the poor and working class): $244.2 million a year.

On the other side of the scale is the tax on the “top 1%.” It’s harder to judge the impact based on a lack of parameters, but the “millionaire’s tax” of a decade ago reportedly brought in $120 million. I think with inflation, and the fact income taxes bring in $9 billion a year, that a 2% increase in revenue is a realistic estimate because there aren’t that many who would qualify. Total cost to taxpayers: roughly $180 million a year.

After that, there is another highly variable promise:

The guarantee of debt-free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate.

Jealous will offer this debt free path to graduation in the form of a state-financed work study program that pays students the cost of their tuition each year, including for public graduate schools. A significant part of this restructuring will also come from driving down the overhead costs associated with higher education: expensive book purchases, inflated rents, and non-essentials like luxurious gyms.

The obvious question is how many students would be eligible and how much of the tuition they will pay. Pennsylvania has a similar program where students are allowed to make $10,000 a year toward their college funding. If this is the case, for every 100 students that are accepted there’s a million dollars that has to come from somewhere, oftentimes from the college itself.

Jealous also desires the state get into the student loan refinancing business:

10 states currently offer refinancing programs for student loans. It is long past time that Maryland embrace its role as a national leader, and join these states in easing the often onerous financial burden that student loans pose for Marylanders.

Assuming the state can find the cash reserves, this is actually very inexpensive in comparison. A state study found other states run these programs for less than one million dollars a year, Total cost to taxpayers over five years: $5 million.

Lastly, Jealous wants to correct the supposed shortchanging of HBCUs in the state:

As governor, Jealous will reallocate future state-based funding streams for higher education to provide restorative funding that equals the historic underfunding of HBCUs in Maryland. Moreover, ongoing funding will be fixed to prevent this disparity in the years ahead. Jealous will also end the practice of allowing other public institutions to offer duplicative programs to those traditionally offered by HBCUs.

(…)

Under Jealous’ leadership, the state will begin to fund immediate infrastructure improvements at HBCUs using a percentage of the over $1 billion in general obligation bonds that it issues each year. Beyond improving the physical infrastructure of HBCU facilities, it will allow HBCUs to reallocate existing infrastructure spending to other programmatic investments.

It’s been claimed (by a minority member of the Maryland Senate) that HBCUs have been shortchanged by $2 billion over the years. I don’t think Jealous would try to eradicate that in four years, but over eight it would be a doable thing, simply increasing the $1 billion the state annually puts on its capital funding credit card by 25%. Over four years, this would be $1 billion in additional debt which needs to be paid eventually.

So, to total all this up: just for education at all levels, Ben is looking to ladle on at least $6.743 billion to the budget. In order to fill this gap, we will have to endure the adoption of an ill-considered amendment to the Maryland Constitution, the legalization and taxation of marijuana, increases in business taxes, cigarette taxes and income taxes for certain brackets, the emptying of our jails (with no telling how that will affect the crime rate), and squeezing people out of a legitimate business, refinancing student loans.

And that, my friends, is just for starters.

Now allow me to say that Ben seems like a nice, personable guy. I spoke to him a little bit at Tawes about a concern I had unrelated to this series, and he seemed receptive to help out. But in order to be informed, it should be known that his “free stuff” is going to come at a cost people may not be willing to pay.

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