While Black Friday has spilled over into Thanksgiving Day for some retailers, the bulk of merchants still open extremely early on the Friday after Thanksgiving, promising loss leaders which normally fall into the realm of electronics. Sadly, practically all of these items are made overseas which means Americans aren’t making them or generally raking in the profits from their sale. More than anything, this change in operations over the last half-century has been blamed for the decline of the middle class.
Last year Scott Paul, who heads the Alliance for American Manufacturing, penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post where he noted:
The day after Thanksgiving, “Black Friday,” is also an American tradition, albeit a more recent one. Shoppers sometimes maim and maul each other to find bargains at big box stores and shopping malls. It’s ugly. And in a way, it represents the very worst of America.
Black Friday is also the most visible symptom of what’s really dragging down our middle class: we consume too much from overseas, and we don’t produce enough here to make up the difference. That burdens us with debt, and leaves us fewer options for jobs.
There is a solution, and it may sound quaint, but it’s never been truer than it is today: this Black Friday: Buy American.
They’ve also put out a list of American-made gift ideas from each state, a unique collection which features everything from lip balm to motor homes. (Representing Delaware is local brewery Dogfish Head – not a bad choice for someone like me although I prefer 16 Mile. Dogfish Head was selected based on nationwide distribution.)
Obviously I’m of the opinion Americans need to make more things; the same can be said of Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ron George, who has spent the most time of his cohorts touting the idea of bringing manufacturing to Maryland. Recently he pointed out the state is dead last in the country in certain key metrics.
The way I see it, there are certain things state and local government can do to accomplish this: among them are a stable and predictable regulatory regime, a corporate tax rate that’s fair and doesn’t punish achievement or investment, and the transportation infrastructure required to whisk goods to market in the most rapid fashion possible. Hopefully all these work to a point where counterproductive incentives like tax abatement or abuse of eminent domain aren’t necessary.
Unfortunately, it seems the AAM has a different idea on how to achieve the goal. Most of their federal advocacy is barely-veiled protectionism, which in the long run discourages innovation and results in fewer opportunities for the consumer. Of course I think trading partners should deal with us in a fair way, but one also has to figure out that there has to be some reason an American company can manufacture goods overseas, load them on a ship and wait a week or two for them to arrive – paying for that service – and still make more money on the products than they would in an American factory with American workers. It can’t all be labor costs.
It would be nice to be able to go to a Walmart or Best Buy and find American-made electronics rather than support a regime with missiles pointed at us. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to want to change the system to make this happen and protectionism isn’t the answer.
It’s funny because automakers from around the world set up shop in America to build their cars, so it’s obvious some industries prefer our workers. Granted, putting together a television exhibits nothing close to the complexity of building an automobile, but if the complex assembly of a car or truck can be made here profitably we should be able to make anything cheaper and better. Now that we know we have enough inexpensive energy reserves to last us for generations, let’s make our future Black Fridays more prosperous by encouraging the return of manufacturing.
Considering the source, one may think the Center for Immigration Studies is worried about the electoral impact the Gang of Eight amnesty bill could provide, and you would be right. In their report author Steven A. Camarota writes:
There is no question that the effect of future immigration on the number of potential citizens will be very large if current policies remain unchanged. We cannot say what share of future arrivals will become citizens and vote. Even if only half do so, the impact could be significant and not just at the national level.
Obviously the thought process is that most of these immigrants will vote in such a manner to both loosen the restrictions on further immigration and open the spigots of the welfare state for new, poor immigrants. (In other words, for Democrats.) Moreover, since the bulk of recent population growth in the country comes from immigration this will also contribute to the traditional Caucasian majority becoming the minority as it has become in California.
Of course, there’s no guarantee any of these people will even become registered or bother to show up to vote, but this report points out the possibility is there. Yet there will still be a great deal of impact on our elections even if the immigration bill doesn’t pass based on the number of green cards we already give out.
Naturally this brings out the whole topic of immigration and border security, and right now we don’t have enough of either, at least in the legal sense. Obviously something needs to be done about the 11 to 12 million who are here sans documentation, but in fact the federal government has allocated and then pulled the money for building a secure fence on the Mexican border. It’s the least we could do, along with better tracking of those who overstay visas – another chief culprit of the illegal alien problem. This contributes in no small part to our crime problem as well.
Rumor has it that Barack Obama will pivot back to immigration once his government shutdown and debt ceiling imbroglios are resolved one way or the other, so the CIS report (one of a series put out this month) comes out at an opportune time.
I received an amusing pictorial e-mail today from the Democratic National Committee. I guess when you’re targeting low-information voters you need plenty of pictures.
But it shows just what’s at stake in 2014.
Never mind that the poll the Democrats cite (from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling) pits these Republicans against a “generic” Democrat – once an actual candidate is selected the numbers generally go down. It’s also a simple registered voter poll, and may not accurately reflect the electorate in the region. (No one’s ever oversampled Democrats to get a desired result before. </sarc>)
The PPP survey is sort of like the generic ballot polling an outfit like Rasmussen does, where they pit the broad base of Republicans vs. the broad base of Democrats. At this time the numbers are even, which suggests not much will change. (This is particularly surprising given the negative coverage House Republicans have endured throughout the Obama
temper tantrum shutdown slowdown.) Bear in mind as well the PPP survey was conducted in the first few days of the Obama/Reid shutdown, before many major developments in the story.
So it’s important to cede no ground to the Democrats. And history isn’t on their side – with the exception of 1998, where Democrats picked up 5 seats, the opposition party to the President has added seats in Congress in every second-term midterm election since 1952. The range was from 5 seats in 1986 (Reagan) to 49 seats in 1958 (Eisenhower) and 1974, the post-Watergate Ford election. 1966 was another watershed year, with incumbent Democrats under Lyndon Johnson losing 47 seats. So Barack Obama would have to buck a historical trend to gain seats, let alone recapture the majority.
Nor has it been considered that the Republicans might pick up some vulnerable Democrat seats as well. Certainly the opponents of Sixth District Congressman John Delaney aren’t taking this lying down. They’re either playing up the trustworthiness angle, like Dan Bongino does in this video:
(By the way, if you look closely you’ll see my cohort Jackie Wellfonder in the video in a couple spots.)
Or they’re hammering the incumbent for turning his back on veterans, like Marine David Vogt:
A conversation about the Affordable Care Act and the harmful effects it is having on the American people is one we need to have. But we can’t have that conversation while our leaders are engaged in a partisan, political playground feud. Each side is guilty, and neither side is leading. Leadership means getting in the conference room and hammering out a solution, not holding a press conference just to call the opposition a new name and to repeat the same talking points that have obviously gotten us nowhere.
Our leaders have forgotten who they are in Washington to represent. Last week, I watched in amazement and disgust as my opponent voted to block funding for veterans’ benefits because he decided politics and standing by his party’s leadership came before service to his constituents and the American people. This is inexcusable.
Washington is supposed to work for us, not against us. These days it often seems that our elected officials do more to work against the American people than they do to help us. We don’t have time for political bickering. We have more pressing issues than each side’s attempt to save face. We need leadership, but it doesn’t appear we are going to get it anytime soon.
Obviously we won’t get new leadership until after the 2014 elections. And while I wouldn’t mind replacing John Boehner as Speaker, I’m hoping we do so with a much more conservative bulldog with TEA Party roots, not the shrill uber-liberal shill Nancy Pelosi. She had her time and set the stage for Barack Obama ruining the country, so let’s send a message to the Democrats and seize the narrative.
Since I spoke about ethanol Sunday, I found it quite funny that a free-market coalition of groups put out a letter dated today regarding the repeal of the Renewable Fuel Standard. I’ll start by quoting their release under the moniker of the Competitive Enterprise Institute:
The RFS is frequently criticized for its adverse impacts on food prices, wildlife habitat, and hunger-stricken nations, and potentially devastating impact on fuel prices. “These criticisms are valid and important,” said CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis. “But even apart from those concerns, Congress should repeal the RFS because it conflicts with basic tenets of a free society. In a free society, no company should be forced to execute and assure the success of another company’s business plan.”
It’s an angle I considered in a roundabout way when I wrote about the benefits of scrapping the RFS on Sunday, obviously not knowing this letter was in the works. Interestingly enough, a similar broad coalition of groups objected a few weeks back when the Domestic Alternative Fuels Act of 2013 was proposed, a proposal I also wrote on.
Of course, we can complain all we want now because no proposal to scuttle the RFS will be going anywhere, particularly when Democrats generally favor more expensive “alternative” energy and farm-state Republicans won’t cross their key constituency, which is being made fat and happy by artificially high corn prices. Worth pointing out is that, had the economy grown as it was during the pre-Speaker Pelosi Bush years, we may be using enough gasoline that we could accommodate increased ethanol supplies without bumping into the “blend wall” as we threaten to do now. Even environmentalists have a problem with ethanol, although their solution is accelerating standards in other areas instead of properly dismissing them entirely.
So perhaps this is a situation where great minds think alike, but in the grand scheme of things we’re not going to see real solutions until the political climate in Washington changes and a cool front of common sense blows in.
Gasoline. It’s something all of us need, and if you’re reading this in Maryland last month you began paying roughly 3.5 cents more per gallon at each fillup thanks to the state expanding the sales tax to gasoline as part of a multi-year process for full adoption of our 6% sales tax to that product.
While that bad news applies to Maryland consumers, all of us may soon be seeing less bang for the buck if the EPA gets its way. They’re edging us closer and closer to widespread usage of E15 fuel, which may be a necessary method to comply with short-sighted federal law. The problem: a “blend wall” where the amount of ethanol mandated for use runs up to the limits created by actual consumption, which is down significantly from that which was predicted when the regulations were written several years ago when the economy was humming along.
Many longtime followers of my site know I use the American Petroleum Institute as a go-to resource when it comes to energy issues. Yes, they are an advocacy group but they advocate the tried-and-true solutions for our energy problems, advocating for the least-costly alternative of petroleum which, as a beneficial byproduct, is a great job creator to boot. So while the EPA believes it’s “flexible” on renewable fuel standards enacted as part of a 2005 law, API believes they’re quite inflexible. The only real change was in the category of cellulosic biofuels, which saw its mandate cut by more than half – quite handy when there’s only a negligible amount currently in production. (API has a handy guide to the pitfalls of the RFS here.)
Meanwhile ethanol apologists – like the group which lobbied for E15 in the first place – claim their product will create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil without making an impact on grocery prices, Yet their solution is more government mandates and subsidies. I find it quite telling that this group formed mere days after the election of Barack Obama, who was probably – and correctly – thought of as a person who would shower even more government largess onto the ethanol industry in his quest to wipe out the coal and oil industries.
Yet Congress can act, just as it did in making the mandates in the first place nearly a decade ago – a lifetime in the oil industry, given the boom in oil exploration and fracking over the last five years. So what would happen if the ethanol mandates were scrapped?
Obviously you would have a number of winners and losers. All those who invested in ethanol plants figuring that the government subsidies and mandates would have profit rolling their way – well, they would have the biggest “L” stamped on their forehead. Farmers may take a temporary hit as corn prices drop, but they would eventually stabilize; moreover, farmers who shunned soybeans or wheat for corn to be turned into fuel could go back to those other staple items.
Consumers would win in a number of ways. First of all, they’d get better quality gasoline that’s less expensive, which would both increase their mileage per gallon and amount of money remaining in their wallets. Secondly, the lowering of corn prices would benefit them at the grocery store, and not just in corn-based products because feed for poultry and livestock would be cheaper. And lastly, their small equipment would last longer because ethanol is poisonous to many small gasoline-powered motors.
And while the intention of these mandates was to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, new advances in exploration and extraction have placed the goal of North American energy self-sufficiency within reach. Nor is it necessarily in the form of gasoline, as companies with large automotive fleets are moving toward using natural gas as a motor fuel, building their own infrastructure along the way. (Yes, this can be done without a massive taxpayer subsidy or regulation.)
It just makes more sense to me to not grow our fuel, but our food. When you think of corn, you don’t think of a gas tank but instead think about that tasty ear cooked to perfection with some butter and pepper on it. Let’s get back to using corn for what the Good Lord meant it for, eating.
It’s beginning to look like a race out in the Sixth District, but the question is now becoming one of whether the establishment Republican is really Dan Bongino, who earned his stripes by garnering the Maryland GOP’s senatorial nomination last April. Consider that Dan’s closest opponent in that race, Richard Douglas, is now backing Vogt:
Service in the armed forces is not the only quality required of a conscientious member of Congress. But it is an enormous asset. For this reason, I believe that former Marine rifleman and Afghanistan veteran David Vogt is the best choice to represent Maryland District 6 in the U.S House of Representatives.
During the last twelve years, our nation’s most important national security enterprises have been combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. After September 11, 2001, Americans like Mr. Vogt enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and other branches of the armed forces to perform our nation’s dangerous and demanding work. They volunteered without fanfare, fully aware that they would be deployed to combat theaters, rifle in hand. Their willingness to go in harm’s way is the essence of service and sacrifice.
Even Americans who opposed U.S. operations in Iraq or Afghanistan can appreciate the worth of such badly-needed qualities, today, in every walk of our often-troubled national life. These qualities are important because the interests of Maryland and our nation often demand that elected representatives in Congress, regardless of party, cross swords with the people who govern us from the White House, the Pentagon and other Executive branch departments and independent agencies.
Staring down the President, the Pentagon, a massive bureaucracy, or your own party leadership to serve the people takes genuine courage. But that is a House member’s duty, regardless of the political consequences. Armed forces veterans — particularly those with combat experience in the ranks — understand and have lived the duties of self-sacrifice and courage. They are less likely to become the star-struck cheerleaders for bad military, foreign, and domestic policy which, sadly, populate Congress today.
Service, seasoning and wisdom matter. Marylanders have had a bellyful of tough-talking lightweights in public life. Mr. Vogt is a step forward. He is the Republican primary candidate who has demonstrated the courage, seasoning and experience required to represent Marylanders well.
Mr. Vogt’s Afghanistan service in the U.S. Marine Corps did not make him a better American than his electoral opponents. But it will make him a better member of the U.S. Congress.
I’ll leave aside the question of Douglas’s backing vis-a-vis the question of establishment vs. conservative for the moment, because it’s worth pointing out that Bongino and Douglas were rivals for the same job last year, and the backbone of Richard’s campaign was his foreign policy experience as well as his tenure as a Senate staffer. At the same time, the question of Afghanistan was still in the air and Dan made a compelling case for pulling out, which automatically and immediately puts him at loggerheads with the Afghan campaign veteran Vogt. For that reason alone, I’m not surprised at this endorsement, which could help Vogt most in the extreme western part of the district where Douglas prevailed in the 2012 primary.
But this is also shaping up to be yet another establishment vs. outsider proxy battle, with Bongino again playing the role of outsider against Douglas in an election with few established names. It’s true that Vogt has no elected political experience, but the same could be said for Douglas – yet he was embraced by a number of MDGOP insiders as well as those inside the Beltway.
I find it interesting, though, that Bongino hasn’t chosen to begin rolling out endorsements yet. Maybe he feels less need to since it’s implied that many of those who backed his Senate run will do the same for a Congressional bid, but if Vogt’s ball keeps rolling he could make it a race. While it’s very unscientific, the most recent Red Maryland poll gives Bongino a solid – but not convincing – 17-point edge. Considering his name recognition from being on the ballot last year, that’s got to be too close for comfort.
So how will Dan Bongino play this? I can only speculate, but I suspect the big push will begin after Labor Day and it will center on pocketbook issues.
Meanwhile, there are some in the online media who are questioning the way the Vogt campaign is being run, particularly staffing decisions. There’s no question that Dan Bongino has rubbed some in the Maryland GOP the wrong way, but one name in particular continues to pop up on the radar screen of Jeff Quinton and his Quinton Report, and apparently that person is now involved in Vogt’s campaign as well.
Leaving aside the personality aspect, Jeff makes a valid point – why would a story like this be buried on a weekend? (I received this word before this evening, but it was embargoed to today and I respected the campaign’s wishes.) One might posit that a release on Saturday assures more attention during a slow news period and perhaps placement in the Sunday paper, but having done this gig for awhile I know the ebb and flow of readership and when certain material works best and Saturday is an unusual day for political activity like this. And having noticed a similar line on a Facebook posting from Monday, arguably that would have been the time to lead with it if the endorsement were in the can.
So far we have proven that first-time campaigners make mistakes. The question is whether the unforced errors will doom the Vogt campaign.
There’s not a whole lot I can add to this except comment on the unique aspect of the presentation.
But the Club for Growth recently came up with a list of talking points advocating the defunding of Obamacare. In and of itself, that’s not unique, but the facts are presented as a cutout card suitable for inclusion in “your wallet, purse, pants pocket, etc.”
Yet in theory, this could be something passed out by like-minded groups at your typical county fair, festival, gathering, or the like. All someone has to do is make up enough copies to distribute.
Each and every one of these is pretty valid in and of itself, but taken as an octet they are quite compelling.
Meanwhile, the state of Maryland is trying to blow sunshine up the skirts of unsuspecting residents by claiming our insurance premiums under Obamacare will be lower than most states and most previously uninsured will qualify for tax credits to make up the difference. (Nice income redistribution if you can get it.)
Yet the study has some glaring weaknesses; for example, only a handful of states are included. Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia aren’t among them, so we don’t know if our closest peer states are getting a better deal. With the exception of Ohio and Virginia, the states involved are similar to Maryland in that their exchanges are state-based.
The Maryland Health Connection study – in essence, the state government studying itself – also crows about how the state’s Insurance Commissioner reduced the rate increases sought by insurers by up to 50 percent. In other words, they once again made it more difficult to do business in Maryland as insurers will soon find the state unprofitable.
Let’s face facts: the state is doing this for one reason and one reason only: to convince young and healthy individuals they need to buy insurance rather than pay the tax penalty. Good luck with that, especially at $1,368 a year.
It seems to me that rates would go down if the state would eliminate its mandates for basic coverage, but every advocacy group under the sun would bitch and complain that their pet disease is being slighted. So rates will either have to increase, or insurers will cede the field. Neither is a good choice, but that’s where we are going; meanwhile, those who qualify for the subsidies won’t see the end effects because the money won’t come from their pockets directly, or if it does they’ll just get a larger tax refund and believe they’re hosing the government when the joke is on them.
It’s a brave new world out there, and I get the feeling Obamacare will be every bit the predicted “trainwreck” and more unless it’s defunded.
It’s not often that I blockquote an entire piece, but a recent “Politics and Pets” editorial from former Maryland GOP Chair Jim Pelura is worth the space, as I see it. I did a slight amount of editing, adding the bullet points and the link.
I recently read an article by Thomas Edsall in the New York Times that attempts to psychoanalyze the Republican Party.
Much to my dismay, his general conclusion is that the Party will continue to lose credibility as long as there is a significant Conservative wing expressing ideas and attempting to thwart the far-left agenda of the Obama administration, the Democrat Party, Democrats in Congress and those Republicans that adhere to the notion that moderation is the way to victory.
To quote one of the Republican sources in this article describing Conservatives…”Their rigidity is killing them. It’s either holy purity, or you are anathema. Too many ideologues have come in. You don’t win by what they are doing.”
Excuse me, but, ideological candidates have won in the House and Senate and our moderate candidates continue to lose the White House.
Republicans who claim to stand for clearly stated Republican ideals like fiscal responsibility, faith in the private sector, small government and standing up for the individual and our Constitution, and then act and vote in a manner contrary to those ideals are, in my opinion, the main reason for the public’s lack of trust in and erosion of the Republican brand.
This problem is not unique to national Republicans as we see many examples of this problem involving Republican elected officials in Maryland.
A few examples:
- A Republican candidate for Lt. Governor who, as a Delegate in the Maryland General Assembly, sent a letter to the Speaker imploring him not to pass any bond (pork) bills while submitting several pork bills for her district.
- A Republican gubernatorial candidate that criticizes the current Democrat Governor for raising taxes while raising taxes in his own county as County Executive.
- A Republican member of a County Council that introduces legislation that significantly restricts our 2nd Amendment rights.
- A past Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party and the Republican Minority Leader in the Maryland General Assembly sending strong letters of support for the extremely liberal ideologue Tom Perez to be appointed to a position in the Obama administration.
- A Republican candidate for County Executive urging the sitting administration to block implementation of a “rain tax” that he voted for while in the Maryland General Assembly.
- A current Republican County Council raised taxes, grew government, implemented a fiscally irresponsible “rain tax” yet talks the Conservative message.
- A current Republican County Executive getting praise for vetoing a “rain tax” bill in her county but supports the concept and did not object to the new bill that the Council sent to her.
No need to burden you with more examples, you get my point.
The Democrat party is completely ideological and no one complains, but an ideological Republican Party, in their opinion, cannot win.
How wrong they are. In reality, for every liberal vote a moderate Republican may gain, they will lose many more Republican votes.
Voter apathy is at an all-time high and I suggest that it is because the leftist agenda of the Democrat Party is out of step with main-stream Americans and the loss of credibility of the Republican Party due to its confusing, non-principled and hypocritical message from its elected members.
Ideology, principle and acting on those ideals when elected is what is needed in our Republican Party.
God Bless America with God’s blessings on those who guard it.
By reading between the lines, I could figure out each of those Pelura was referring to.
But I also took the time to read the original editorial, and the problem I see is that most of those who were quoted or solicited for their opinions come from the very class which is threatened by a conservative resurgence in the Republican Party. Many of the “Establishment” Republicans were represented: Bob Dole, Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour, and other inside-the-Beltway types fretted about losing four of the last six Presidential elections and not following through on cherished “ruling class” priorities like amnesty, which they consider “immigration reform.” Some blame the rise of talk radio, others the “Southern Strategy” which made the “solid South” solidly GOP, and still others panned the TEA Party.
All this proves is that there is a serious disconnect between the Republicans who inhabit that mysterious land called Washington, D.C. and make their living through one or another of the thousands of Republican-leaning advocacy groups which thrive on their access and the folks like me who have been loyally casting their ballot for the GOP for most of their adult lives but are disheartened that Republicans seem to have turned their back on conservative principles in the interest of seeking bipartisan “solutions” like amnesty or, conversely, wishing to “improve” Obamacare rather than simply defunding it.
Unfortunately, Pelura points out many of these same problems plague the GOP in our state. And while he seems to be picking on a number of Anne Arundel County politicians, he’s saved some venom for the Craig/Haddaway ticket while sparing others like Ron George or Charles Lollar. They tend to be the more conservative in the field.
Now I will grant that in Maryland the center looks far to the right to most political observers, and I would have categorized Bob Ehrlich as a centrist Republican. Some obviously argue that’s the only type which can win statewide, and based on the Ehrlich victory they could be correct. I know Martin O’Malley tried to paint Ehrlich as uncaring in 2006, really trying to tie him to the then-unpopular George W. Bush. Hard to otherwise explain why Bob Ehrlich lost despite a positive approval rating.
Yet it will have been 12 years since a non-Ehrlich ran for the state’s top job; that is, unless Michael Steele jumps into the race and grabs the nomination. And I know the political game fairly well: run right (or left) for the nomination, then tack to the center for the general – at least that’s the conventional wisdom. Then again, conventional wisdom suggested Mitt Romney was a perfect nominee for 2012.
The job of whoever wins the Republican nomination next year will be a simple one: define your narrative before it gets defined for you by the opposition. Those of us in the alternative media can help – because we’ll be the only ones hoisting that flag – but it will also take quite a bit of money. I don’t think the party is quite on the scrap heap yet, but 2014 is looking to be more and more of a last stand for this once free state.
Success at the top will also take a full undercard. We can’t skip races this year, and we have to work as a team around a few common pocketbook issues. While I’m certainly pro-life and pro-Second Amendment, I realize issues like those play much better in Trappe than Takoma Park. Put it this way: we know the word “invest” is code for raising taxes and spending more but we also know the other side has equated abortion with a sacrament and having a gun with being a lunatic, out hunting down innocent black youths like Trayvon Martin. Democrats still get away with saying it.
Conversely, though, there is such a thing as a Goldwater effect. Early on it was obvious that he would lose in 1964, but the unabashed conservative message Barry Goldwater presented (with help from Ronald Reagan) sowed the seeds for future success. You may live in a 10:1 Democrat district, but the effort you put in against the incumbent means he or she has to work to keep the district and not be able to help others. That’s important, as is the education you can provide there.
Still, I appreciate Jim’s efforts to keep us on the straight and narrow. As Maryland Republicans, we have allowed ourselves to be defined by failure when we should be pointing out the myriad failures of the other side in the very act of governing. Change Maryland is a group working to reset that perception, but the overall theme needs to be that it’s time for the adults in the room to take charge of Maryland and get the state working for all of us.
Back in the early days of my website (and its predecessor) I devoted a lot of space to the foibles of Walmart in Maryland, simply because of the so-called Fair Share Health Care Act Maryland used to try and punish the nation’s largest retailer with. (This piece is an interesting look at how that bill came about. Notice it was Walmart’s largest – and unionized – competitor taking a lead role here.)
But in the last few days the chain’s been back in the regional news as the Council of the District of Columbia approved a bill specific to Walmart as it’s in the midst of building a half-dozen stores in the District. So when the United Food and Commercial Workers union chimed in on Facebook with their approval of this half-baked measure bragging that “The DC Council has just passed the Large Retailer Accountability Act! Here’s to a living wage in DC and and hopefully many more cities to come!”, I felt compelled to chime in:
Those who bash Walmart make the mistake of assuming ALL jobs at Walmart are minimum-wage jobs. So how is it their average wage is over $12 an hour? People are paid what they are worth to the company, and those who make minimum wage are worth that or less to the overall bottom line. Eventually those who stay and do well at their jobs get raises and additional benefits.
If those who propose enacting this law want to be fair, why not just legislate that ALL businesses in D.C. pay $12.50 or more an hour? What, you say that will hurt the mom-and-pop stores and cause them to furlough workers? Thanks for playing.
Businesses are not in the game to create jobs or sell products to the public. They are in it to make a profit. If Walmart can’t make a profit at a store the correct thing to do is pull the plug. If a chain can’t make a profit they go out of business – remember Montgomery Ward?
They tried this same law in Maryland, which was narrowly tailored to Walmart, and it was tossed out in court due to violating ERISA. In the meantime, plans to build a distribution center in one of Maryland’s poorest counties were scrapped.
You may not like Walmart but it looks like they may have called D.C’s bluff.
I have to admit: people indeed have a love-hate relationship with Walmart. I know I do when I do my outside job, since it involves me traveling from time to time to any one of nine local Walmart stores in three states. Sometimes the help is most helpful and sometimes it leaves a lot to be desired. A good friend of mine who works for Walmart would probably tell you the same.
But the fact is Sam Walton’s brainchild exists in the market as the largest player and now America’s largest private employer. (I didn’t know that until I worked on my pieces for Patriot Post last week and read this. Number two is temporary job-placement firm Kelly Services.) In many respects Walmart is also a temporary employer, as I’ve noticed the stores along the coast hire extra people for the summer as well as holiday help, and it wouldn’t shock me if they had five to ten applicants for each open position. So obviously people are willing to work for minimum wage – if that’s indeed what Walmart pays; it can be much more depending on the position – rather than continue to collect unemployment, or they may consider Walmart a step up from their current job.
Yet Washington D.C. is trying – by writing a law so narrowly that it affects Walmart and only Walmart – to accomplish the same goal, except they have a big problem: there are no Walmarts there yet. While it may be somewhat difficult to place new stores in the inner Maryland suburbs, there are already seven Walmart stores within 20 miles of our nation’s capital and room could probably be found for more as needed. In the meantime, residents of the affected areas will have to suffer from a lack of options and at least one major revitalization project is in doubt due to the Walmart law.
Whether the District cuts off its nose to spite its union-stuffed face is still up in the air because D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is hinting he’ll veto the bill and it passed without a veto-proof majority. This is even though Walmart warned the city it may pull out despite the fact construction on three stores had commenced and they’ve tried to promote their local image through stunts like this one in Maryland. But they can install all the solar panels they want and not get on the good side of a party which owes its allegiance to Big Labor and not the working-class people who can benefit from a career at Walmart.
Perhaps the store can invest some of the money saved by abandoning D.C. into renovating a couple of our older locations which could use a facelift. We’d appreciate the investment if those inside the Beltway don’t want it; in fact, we would find that a refreshing change.
If you do the math and factor in for various other elected officials along the way, on average any given member of Congress should deliver his or her party’s response to the weekly Presidential address about once a decade. And while I’d have much rather avoided this situation because it’s a member of the party opposing the President who gives this address in response to the President’s message, that opportunity fell yesterday to our own Congressman, Dr. Andy Harris.
Of course, this is something most of us already know but when you consider Harris is already a fairly tall guy (6′-3″ maybe?) the stack of papers dubbed as the “Red Tape Tower” looks pretty imposing. Of course, it’s also an appropriate week to discuss Obamacare as the House again voted for its outright repeal; a measure sure to die a quiet death in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
But as Richard Falknor writes at Blue Ridge Forum, there is a lot more which can be done. Perhaps this statement uttered by Andy Harris had to have the seal of approval from House leadership. continues Falknor, but the House also has the power of the purse if they’re willing to use it to achieve the desired end, that being the scrapping of Obamacare.
As a physician – his specialty is anethesiology – Dr. Harris is obviously familiar with the process of diagnosis, and certainly the sheer mass of regulations incumbent to Obamacare is but one symptom of why it would be detrimental to the American health care system, a patient for whom we are all interested in seeing survive.
But in truth, Obamacare isn’t really so much about the health care system as it is about providing the means to pay for the health care we receive. While it begins via the employer-provided health insurance we have become accustomed to over the past 70 years or so, as that becomes regulated out of existence due to the increasing difficult prospects of profitability for insurers we will begin to see an evolution in the industry where either favored private insurers become the only ones approved for providing coverage – with the reams of regulations in place to assure no smaller competitor can come along to steal market share among perhaps the ultimate in captive audiences – or a situation where the market becomes unbearable for any private provider and a program like Medicare is simply expanded to cover everyone. At that point you have the statist’s dream of complete dependence on the government, regardless of its budgetary impact.
The better solution, and one we should work toward, is to reduce the influence of government on health care. If people want simple and basic catastrophic incident health insurance and don’t mind paying out-of-pocket for routine events, that should be made more readily available – unfortunately, the trend line has run the other way for decades. You should even have the choice of not being insured at all.
Now, I haven’t even talked about the scary scenario of increased IRS influence which comes as an Obamacare feature. If they have asked questions about donors to TEA Party groups, for what else can they use all the information gleaned? That thought alone should cause heartburn among caring Americans.
This William Warren cartoon seems to sum it up, doesn’t it? Between Benghazi, the IRS TEA Party targeting, the AP phones being tapped, the FOIA preferences at the EPA, questions on campaign finance in both 2008 and 2012, the Enroll America protection racket – the list can go on and on and on if you revert back to earlier activities like Operation Fast and Furious, Solyndra, or the handling of the Deepwater Horizon accident. And I’m not counting what goes on in Maryland, like the inmates taking over the prisons or having a governor who’s more concerned about presidential prospects than running the state. I suppose if power is the ultimate aphrodisiac then that must be why Democrats are pro-abortion; otherwise they would have a dozen or so children running around, by nearly as many mothers.
Now I’m certain the minuscule number of progressives and leftists who dare to read here would beg to differ and can probably point out all the scandals, conflicts of interest, and foibles of the Bush years, but really, guys, come on – what happened to the most transparent administration ever? I suppose in a perverse sort of way finding out about all these scandals is a type of transparency – too bad we were stonewalled every step of the way in finding out.
But are the American people and their notoriously short attention spans in danger of scandal fatigue in May of 2013, 18 months before the midterm elections? Sometimes the pre-emptive strike is the best thing in the long run, and there’s little chance of the rabidly partisan Democrats in the Senate turning on their leader and convicting him in the unlikely event we ever get to an impeachment trial. Moreover, Barack Obama doesn’t exactly strike me as a fall-on-the-sword kind of guy, so don’t bet on him resigning to save the country the agony of an impeachment trial like Richard Nixon did. Democrats know well what sort of electoral fate may await – the Republicans who placed country over party were “rewarded” by losing 48 House seats and 3 Senate seats in the 1974 elections, which were held just three months after Nixon left in disgrace.
Meanwhile, focusing on the scandals of the past will blind us to the issues of the present. Even if the GOP gains control of the Senate in 2014 – a likely possibility even without scandals as the sixth year of a presidency is traditionally unkind to the president’s party – the nation will simply revert back to the inverse of the situation we had back in 2007-2008, where a Republican president was crippled by a Democratic Congressional majority in both houses. Much of the damage was done in the two years the Democrats held absolute control of government, as the massive entitlement program dubbed Obamacare came into being and Barack Obama’s re-election means at least some of it will be in place by 2014. Once established, we haven’t killed an entitlement program yet. And there’s still the aspect of governing by executive order: “Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda cool.”
Perhaps the one silver lining in all of this is the emergence of the new media as a force for uncovering these and other issues with the government in Washington. No longer do we have a small group of periodicals, newspapers, and television networks determining what is news and what remains on the cutting room floor. Certainly, there is a huge majority of the American public still in an celebrity gossip-induced slumber, but slowly people are beginning to see the light and it only takes an irate, tireless minority to effect real change.
In the meantime, though, there is plenty to write about for those obsessed with Obama scandals. That really is a shame because it makes it more difficult to argue with the other side on why their ideas are such a failure – I can hear it now: “Well, if you Republicans wouldn’t have made the Obama years such a partisan witch hunt he may have succeeded with his good ideas.”
But I suppose it comes back to the old saying about absolute power corrupting absolutely, doesn’t it? Do you see why the nation’s founders wanted a limited government yet?
If you are one of those who follows conservative grassroots activism, it’s likely you may have heard about the New Fair Deal rally being held in Washington tomorrow afternoon to coincide with tax day. While it will certainly be a modest event by the standards of other TEA Party rallies such as the 9/12 rally in 2009 or various Glenn Beck-led gatherings since, organizers believe a few thousand will attend with many staying around after the speeches to buttonhole various members of Congress about this new legislative program aimed at reining in government.
But the better question is: what is the legislative program? The four planks can be summarized as follows:
- No corporate handouts
- A fair tax code
- Stop overspending
- Empower individuals
The eight Congressmen who will be authoring the legislation in question, some of whom are among the most libertarian Republican conservatives in Congress, are Reps. Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Tom McClintock of California, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Dr. Tom Price of Georgia, and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin. Mulvaney, Pompeo, and Price are among the speakers tomorrow at the event, which will also feature Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, activists Rev. C.L. Bryant, Deneen Borelli, Julie Borowski, Ana Puig, and Maryland’s own Dan Bongino. Borelli is featured in this video decribing some of the features of the New Fair Deal.
“The New Fair Deal is a four-part legislative package that ends corporate handouts, closes loopholes in a simple tax code, balances the budget, and empowers Americans with the choice to opt-out of Medicare and Social Security,” explained FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe. “Individual freedom, economic empowerment and equal opportunity are the ultimate fair deal for Americans. No more pitting us against each other while politicians and big business pick winners and losers in the marketplace at the expense of everyday individuals,” he added.
It goes without saying, though, that the devil is in the details. For example, ending corporate subsidies is great for avoiding the next Solyndra or Ener1, but my friends at the American Petroleum Institute would argue that the tax package for oil exploration is vital to the industry’s success. They may have a point, so perhaps the best solution is to prioritize which subsidies would be axed first and which ones would have more of a transition. Being a fairly mature industry, it may take somewhat longer for the oil and natural gas companies to deal with these changes, as well as the sugar farmers who were targeted in the video. I could see a time window of three to five years for these industries, but green energy? Cut them off yesterday.
As far as a “fair tax code” I honestly don’t think there is such a thing, particularly with the proposal of a two-rate system as specified. I like the idea of a “skin in the game” tax where everyone has to pay at least 1 percent (for someone making $20,000 a year that’s $200 – not a back-breaker if you know it’s coming) but I disagree with the progressive rate change from 12% to 24% at $100,000. If we are to have a flat tax, it should be one rate regardless of income. Why would I take the overtime which would push me from a salary of $98,000 (and an $11,760 tax bill) to $101.000 only to have that and much more – since the tax bill would steeply jump to $24,240 – entirely eaten up by taxes? I understand the populist idea of the secretary paying less than the billionaire, but the solution proposed would be ripe for complication because of situations like the above. I’d rather work on repealing the Sixteenth Amendment and creating a consumption tax, which would be the most fair of all because one can control their level of consumption to the greatest extent.
Another area which suffers from being too broad is the concept of “overspending.” Even if you cut off all discretionary spending tomorrow we would still have a deficit. Yes, we do need to eliminate the concept of baseline budgeting posthaste but we also have to lose the mindset which makes people fear their budget will be cut if they don’t spend their full allocation. While thousands and thousands of federal workers are superfluous to the task of good government, we have to educate the public as to why they need to be let go – you know the media will be portraying them as victims just like they tried to make a huge case that sequestration would be devastating.
Of the four planks presented, though, I really like the idea of the last one as expressed – the power of determining your own retirement and health care needs. In just 14 years I will be eligible for Social Security, but to be quite honest I don’t expect a dime from it because the system will be bankrupt by then in my estimation. (My writing was intended to be my “retirement” but real life intruded a little more quickly than I imagined it would.) The same goes for Medicare. If I had the choice, I would tell the government to give me back the money I paid into Social Security and Medicare – let me decide how to invest it best. This legislation may well allow me that option, although I suspect it will be tailored more to those under 40 who still have plenty of time to weigh all their retirement choices.
(Remember, though, I am on record as saying “Social Security should be sunsetted.” Nothing they can propose would eliminate that stance.)
The key to any and all of these changes taking place, though, is to remember none of this happens overnight. As it stands right now, the earliest we can make lasting national change in the right direction is January of 2017. Moreover, these Congressional visionaries and any other allies we may pick up along the way will be standing for election twice before a new President is inaugurated – and if the Republicans nominate another milquetoast “go along to get along” Beltway moderate who doesn’t buy into this agenda, the timetable becomes even longer.
But there is an opportunity in the interim, though. What statement would it make if Maryland – one of the most liberal states in the country according to the conventional wisdom – suddenly elected a conservative governor and confounded the intent of the heretofore powerful liberals in charge by electing enough members of the General Assembly to foil their overt gerrymandering attempts? No doubt it’s the longest of long shots, but let the liberals think they have this state in the bag. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch them fume as a Governor Charles Lollar, Larry Hogan, Blaine Young, or Dan Bongino is inaugurated – this after the stunning ascension of Speaker of the House Neil Parrott and President of the Senate E.J. Pipkin? Those who survived the collective hara-kiri and cranial explosions throughout the liberal Annapolis community would probably be reduced to bickering among themselves and pointing fingers of blame.
Our side often points to Virginia as a well-run state, but I think there are even better examples to choose from. Certainly there would be a transition period, but why not adopt some of these ideas as well as other “best and brightest” practices to improve Maryland and create a destination state for the producers as opposed to the takers?
If this sort of transformation can occur in Maryland, I have no doubt Washington D.C. would be next in line.