I still like picking on Joe Biden. But over the last month or so I’ve collected a lot of divergent information on policy suggestions, each of which promses to be the magic elixir to get our economy moving in the right direction again.
I think the key to this lies in two areas: manufacturing and energy. In that respect, I keep a lot of information handy to discuss in this space, with a group called the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) generally representing the left-of-center, pro-union side. And while their main goal seems to be increasing the coffers of Big Labor, luckily most workers still have free will – ask the employees at the Tennessee Volkswagen plant about how much effort from the UAW can be rebuffed in a simple up-or-down vote.
Currency manipulation is one area in which the AAM has been focusing. A study they cite, by the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI), makes the case that:
Many of the new jobs (if the subject is addressed) would be in manufacturing, a sector devastated by rising trade deficits over the past 15 years. Rising trade deficits are to blame for most of the 5.7 million U.S. manufacturing jobs (nearly a third of manufacturing employment) lost since April 1998. Although half a million manufacturing jobs have been added since 2009, a full manufacturing recovery requires greatly increasing exports, which support domestic job creation, relative to imports, which eliminate domestic jobs.
Personally I disagree with the premise that rising trade deficits can be blamed for the job losses; instead, I think an absurdly high corporate tax rate and onerous regulations have contributed more to chasing away American manufacturing. (While many simply blame “outsourcing” for the problem, fewer understand the dynamics which led to the outsourcing.) Yet there is merit to the idea that all sides should be competing on as level of a playing field as possible when it comes to the means of exchange, and China is one of the worst offenders. (And why not? They are communists, after all, and you can’t trust communists any farther than you can throw them.)
Two of EPI’s findings are quite interesting: first, should the EPI model come to its fruition, the oil and gas industry would be the hardest hit, and second, Maryland would be among the states least impacted, with barely a 1% rise in employment.
Yet AAM president Scott Paul is quick to blame Barack Obama:
President Obama promised to hold China accountable. He hasn’t. The White House last month said President Obama would use his pen and his phone to make progress on economic issues. He could start today by signing an order to designate China as a currency manipulator. Then, he could call the Chinese leadership to demand an end to that practice, and secure an agreement on a plan to cut this deficit in half over the next three years.
I sort of wish Mr. Paul would also figure out the other problems, but he is correct to be concerned about our Chinese policy. Job creation has become more important than deficit reduction in the minds of Americans, both in the AAM poll I cited above and a Pew Research Poll cited by the American Petroleum Institute (API).
And the industry which benefits from API’s efforts represents another piece of the puzzle which we can take advantage of: our abundant energy supplies. While America uses 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, there is the possibility of as much as 10,000 trillion cubic feet within our land mass. That’s nearly 4 centuries worth, so I don’t think we will run out anytime soon. (Estimates have continued on an upward path as new technology makes previously unworkable plays economically viable.) As I keep saying, it’s too bad we don’t have a nice shale play under our little sandbar. Not only that, but the infrastructure we will need to take advantage of all that (and help curtail spot shortages like the ones we’re having this chilly winter) would be a guaranteed job creator – one which derives its basis from the private sector. New pipelines aren’t just for export facilities like Cove Point, but could benefit this area and perhaps bring more natural gas service to our region.
Unfortunately, Maryland isn’t poised to take advatange of either the manufacturing or energy booms at present, thanks to back-breaking economic policy and a foolhardy go-slow approach on fracking. It takes a strident opponent of the latter to suggest yet another approach which will do damage to the former, but gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur accomplishes this with the tired old combined reporting proposal. Hers comes with a twist, though, which she announced last Monday:
In the morning, Mizeur will host several Maryland business owners for a Small Business Roundtable. They will discuss her legislation to provide tax relief to small business owners, as well as other highlights from the campaign’s ten-point plan for jobs and the economy, which was released last fall. She will also hear from the business owners on a range of other concerns.
At 1:00 pm, several business owners will join Mizeur in front of Ways and Means to testify on behalf of legislation that would enact combined reporting and distribute the estimated $197 million to small businesses for personal property tax rebates.
It’s the liberal way of picking winners and losers. And according to a 2008 study by the Council on State Taxation – admittedly, an opponent of the practice:
Combined reporting has uncertain effects on a state’s revenues, making it very difficult to predict the revenue effect of adopting combined reporting.
Even proponents don’t address that aspect, instead emphasizing how it would “level the playing field between multistate corporations and locally based companies.” But since Mizeur’s idea is one which would subsidize some businesses under a certain employment plateau, the uncertainty would likely be just another reason to avoid Maryland.
On the other hand, a Republican like Larry Hogan at least gets businesses together to discuss what they really want. Granted, once he gets them together he speaks in broad concepts rather than a more specific plan, but at least he’s listening to the right people. None of the others in the GOP field have specific plans, either, although Ron George probably comes the closest.
One has to ask what states which are succeeding economically are doing to attract new business. The state with the lowest unemployment rate, North Dakota, is prospering – more like crushing the rest of the field – on account of abundant energy resources, and perhaps that success is pulling surrounding states up with it. Its three neighbors (Montana, South Dakota, and Minnesota) all rest within the top 13 when it comes to low unemployment rates and other regional states like second-place Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, and Kansas lie within the top 10. Although the top five are right-to-work states, half the bottom 10 are as well. Nor can tax climate be seen as a dominating factor since the top 10 in unemployment vary widely in that category: Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, and Montana are indeed excellent in that aspect, but North Dakota is decidedly more pedestrian and Iowa, Vermont, and Minnesota are among the worst.
But Maryland has the tendency to depend too much on the federal government as an economic driver. This presents a problem because bureaucrats don’t really produce anything – they skim off the top of others’ labor but don’t add value. Certainly it’s great for those who live around the Beltway, and it’s telling that all three of the Democratic candidates have a connection to the two Maryland counties which border the District of Columbia while none of the Republicans save Larry Hogan do.
In order to create jobs, I think the state needs to diversify its economy, weaning itself off the government teat and encouraging manufacturing and energy exploration. Meanwhile, there’s also a need to rightsize regulation and restore a balance between development and Chesapeake Bay cleanup – specifically by placing a five-year moratorium on new environmental restrictions while cleaning up the sediment behind the Conowingo Dam. Let’s give that which we’ve already done a chance to work and other states a chance to catch up.
The best route out of government dependence is a job. Unfortunately, when the aim of the dominant political party in the state is one of creating as many dependents as possible, a lot of good entrepreneurs will be shown the door. It’s time to welcome them in with open arms.
It’s become obvious that the junior Senator from Kentucky has become quite the item in Maryland, since he will be engaged in Free State-related causes supporting state political action committees twice in the space of slightly over a month. In this case, though, the support will be more indirect.
Instead of a relatively affordable event, though, it seems like Dan Bongino and the Conservative Victory PAC are going for more of the high-dollar donors. Perhaps that’s a function of holding the event in Washington, D.C. but the event doesn’t seem to be aiming for the attendance figures the Maryland Liberty PAC will be seeking a month later – of course, Bongino needs the money in a more immediate fashion as he prepares to presumably take on the deep pockets of incumbent Congressman John Delaney.
Rand Paul, by the way, is no stranger to the Conservative Victory PAC. He also was a featured speaker at a rally last October for Ken Cuccinelli, who narrowly lost the gubernatorial election there and was being mentioned as a candidate for U.S. Senator himself before quashing the rumors in December. For its part, the Maryland-based CVPAC took criticism from some quarters for supporting a candidate in Virginia. (I didn’t have as much of a problem with it.) The October event even featured Bongino as a “special speaker” so he knows the group too.
Once again, it’s worth pointing out the event is for Dan Bongino’s benefit because checks are made payable to Bongino’s Congressional campaign. But the CVPAC has plans for local Maryland campaigns as well:
We are launching this year in high gear with a fundraiser in February to support Dan Bongino as the next US Congressman from Maryland’s sixth district. In March, we will roll out a multi-tiered plan to conduct fundraisers as well as grassroots outreach as part of our victory campaign for high caliber Constitutional Conservatives seeking elected office.
That statement was the introduction to the CVPAC January newsletter, available on their website. Presumably they are working on a list of candidates to support in local and perhaps statewide races. (I can think of a couple local candidates who can use the help as they face off against entrenched Democrats and their high-dollar consultants from across the Bay.) So I look forward to seeing if our humble little side of the state is included in that victory campaign.
And if Rand Paul wants to help us out, he’s more than welcome to.
This actually came to my attention a couple weeks ago, but I thought they may get more response if I wanted until closer to the deadline to post this.
As background, the Maryland Citizen Action Network filed for 501(c)(4) status back in November of last year, and they’re still waiting. They then ask:
Will you let our voice be silenced by our now openly oppressive government?
The regulations that the IRS would like to impose upon MDCAN include prohibitions against sponsoring candidate debate, having to scrub candidate names from their online presence, and eliminating get-out-the-vote efforts within 60 days of a general election. On the other hand, as they point out:
Unions will be exempt.
The entire reason why MDCAN filed to become a 501(c)(4) – to create online petitions to fight bad bills, to teach our activists how to be better activists, to learn how to fight effectively - will be for nothing.
Will you let our voice be silenced?
IRS REG-134417-13 is the ticket to stifling opposition to the current regime. The IRS got caught being completely overboard when they tried to slow-walk applications and determine who to audit before, but this time they’re going to write the regulations before strangling potential opposition in the crib.
We are closing in on the deadline for public comment, which comes February 27. The group Protect c4 Free Speech has taken a lead on organizing opposition, and they’ve posted a copy of the proposed regulations. They remind me a little bit of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions which were properly thrown out with the Citizens United decision, except this seems a blatant violation of the First Amendment. What the IRS and Obama administration are probably counting on is time enough to chill opposition during the 2014 election cycle – they’ll worry about paving the way for Hillary Clinton in 2016 later.
In looking at the method of submitting comments, it’s worth noting that one can comment anonymously, which may not be a bad thing given the tendency of the IRS to find multiple excuses to audit those who express dissent. But comment we should, otherwise there will be a chilling effect on organizations trying to promote a pro-liberty viewpoint. Remember, unions are exempt.
Now I know some will argue that if an organization wants to preserve its rights, it simply can choose not to apply for 501(c)(4) status. But there are hundreds which have based on the interpretation of the rules in place, and the bulk of spending was by conservative groups. One advantage of 501(c)(4) status seems to be donor anonymity. And MDCAN is important to the Maryland pro-liberty movement based solely on their annual Turning the Tides Conference, a chance for right-of-center Maryland activists to gather and learn from each other. Obviously the group wants to adopt more of a role in Maryland politics and feels it needs the 501(c)(4) status for its growth.
Given the lawlessness of this regime I don’t really think the IRS will be a fair arbiter of status anyway, but these proposed rules really attempt to tilt the playing field. Let’s take them down.
To be a well-informed voter, sometimes you need context. Take this example I received from Bill Murphy of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was plugging a website called electionharmony.com on Valentine’s Day.
If you go to that URL, you’re redirected here, which is the NRSC’s blog.
All this is well and good, but I wanted more. So I wrote back and asked Murphy about context: did have have the data for all 100 Senators, for my thought was that – just based on the sheer number of near-unanimous votes the Senate takes – a lot of Republicans would fall into the 75% to 85% range themselves. Murphy’s pithy reply: “We’re running against the Democrats below. Our priority is to highlight their voting record to their constituents and defeat them in November.”
Okay, I get it. But you probably picked a bad week to do this after a number of Republican senators sold out and voted to pass a “clean” debt ceiling bill (a.k.a. blank check) without extracting any concessions whatsoever from the Democrats. It was even more gutless for some Republican senators to vote for cloture only to turn around and vote against the final bill when they knew the Democrats would have the votes to pass it. Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn were two of those who, as far as I’m concerned, voted with Obama 100% of the time last week and I find that unacceptable.
Here’s my problem with this approach. Sure, it would be nice to pick up the six seats in the Senate, maintain control of the House, and give Barack Obama a completely Republican Congress to deal with come next year. But will they have the cajones to keep him in check when he uses his pen and his phone to rewrite laws without their consent, as he has done time and time again with Obamacare?
The NRSC supports Republicans in the Senate and tries to find candidates to defeat Democrats. But there are degrees to being Republican. I understand that winning a Senate seat in Maine or Oregon may take a somewhat different candidate than one who can prevail in Texas or South Carolina, but they should all adhere to at least some conservative principles and must have the intestinal fortitude to stand up against overreach of the executive branch, up to and including impeachment. (Yes, I said the i-word.) So what if it’s the last two years of Barack Obama’s presidency and so what if we would have to survive Joe Biden. (Delaware can get a President before it gets a national park, since they are shut out of both at the moment.) We didn’t elect an emperor.
Yet the NRSC will likely try to protect its incumbents, regardless of their merits. Listen, I’m a registered Republican, but sometimes my party gets it wrong. A hokey URL and noting some Democrats vote with their president over 90 percent of the time is one thing, but we also need to present a principled conservative alternative along with a plan to keep the executive branch in check. I haven’t seen that come across my e-mail box yet.
I didn’t realize it at the time – although I had an inkling it may happen – but stepping into the question of how people should have reacted at the Friday townhall meeting up in Bel Air sponsored by Andy Harris provoked yet another war of words between factions in what is arguably Maryland’s hotbed county of political intrigue despite its relatively small size. Yes, it’s a battle between the Cecil Campaign for Liberty and the Cecil County Patriots.
But there’s a political reality I want to share with a wider audience which may not follow every comment made on Facebook. I wrote this under the post I made promoting my piece from yesterday, after one respondent advised me to rethink my guiding philosophical principles:
And if (Andy Harris) repeats the behavior – even if he doesn’t – you find a primary opponent. See McConnell, Mitch. I don’t need to rethink guiding principles, you need the dose of reality. If you can find the primary opponent for Andy Harris in a month and he/she can get enough support to win, more power to you. If this person is in line with my values, I’ll vote that way. I’ve always said incumbents don’t deserve a free ride, which runs counter to most political thinking in the party because they tend to want to dictate how the offices are parceled out and whose “turn” it is.
But here is the situation on the ground: Harris has no primary opppnent. There will probably be a Libertarian in the race but he/she will be lucky to sniff 5% of the vote. We live in an R+13 district so Harris will probably win easily just based on rank-and-file Rs. Look how he did in 2012 with an Obama-infused turnout (admittedly, also with a scandal-crippled D opponent.)
I said in the piece I didn’t agree with the vote, and obviously there are a number who do not. But he picked a pretty good time to make a mistake – too late to get a very viable primary opponent and early enough that this one vote will likely be forgotten.
The original intent of the two pieces I cited was to promote attendance at a particular town hall meeting.
Now I don’t know if anyone asked about the vote at the townhall, nor did he allude to it on his Facebook page. Apparently he put out a statement, quoted by Gannett’s Nicole Gaudiano, that the deal “preserved many of the conservative fiscal policy goals of the last three years, while restoring full pension benefits to our disabled veterans and military family survivors.” But there are already a number of groups who put the black mark next to his name because he voted for it (such as Heritage Action or the Club for Growth) and it’s likely they will have it in their back pocket if needed. I’m sure it’s a little bit galling to the Club For Growth since they backed his initial 2008 campaign so heavily.
If people are going to get mad at Harris, they should also be mad at the bulk of the Republican caucus in the House because the bill passed with just 64 Republicans (and three Democrats) objecting. 166 Republicans, including Harris, said yes. Obviously that doesn’t excuse his vote, but in the true art of compromise there were things both sides absolutely hated about the bill.
Yet in a political sense, the Republicans probably feel like they scored a victory because the government is funded through the remainder of the fiscal year, which should all but eliminate the politically unpopular possibility of a government shutdown. Now the key will be working on the budget in regular order as opposed to dropping another omnibus bomb on an unsuspecting American public. Once the House does its job, the onus will be on the Senate to pass a budget rather than perpetuate this never-ending cycle of continuing resolutions. Believe it or not, that’s how our nation did things until 2009.
Sometimes politics makes strange bedfellows. Take, for instance, the Cecil County Campaign for Liberty and the Cecil County Republican Party.
On Friday I received separate e-mail messages from Bob Willick of the C4L and the county’s Republican Chair Chris Zeauskas imploring me to attend a town hall meeting in Bel Air featuring our Congressman, Andy Harris. In no uncertain terms, though, the two political leaders were upset that Harris voted for the omnibus budget bill. (I’m not thrilled about it, either.)
But what I noticed about the dueling e-mails was their reliance on a single set of themes. Notice that both used the examples of Rep. Barbara Lee and Paul Riechoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to make their case, and they share a lot of similar bullet points.
Of course, I didn’t get to the townhall meeting last night to find out what was said – perhaps some of my readers from in and around Bel Air can clue me in because this coverage was rather tepid – but one point Harrishad previously made in his defense was a provision for the Eastern Shore’s seafood industry.
Even one of Andy’s Democratic opponents was skeptical. Bill Tilghman posted on his Facebook page:
Tonight the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan Omnibus appropriations bill that funds the government through September. This is a good thing, but it will be only temporary if partisanship reigns supreme in the future. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
Yet, while these e-mails use a lot of the same rhetoric, there is a point made in both which bears repeating. Willick lamented the changes Washington seems to make:
Andy Harris pledged to us that he would change Washington. Instead – it changed him.
Zeauskas, though, was far more lengthy in his criticism:
The last thing this Country and the State of Maryland needs is another politician that will place their political aspirations over principle.
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Republican or Democrat.
If our Republican Party stands for nothing, that’s bad.
But what’s worse?
A Republican Party that stands for exactly the same thing as the Democrats.
The greatest lie ever told in politics is that good people are obligated to support the lesser of two evils.
I joined our Republican Party because I was inspired by our principles and ideas.
Freedom is an inspirational idea.
When we don’t fight for our principles we drive people away from our Party.
Think about it.
After this vote for Obamacare, how many people are motivated to put everything on the line to help Andy Harris next election?
How many Tea Party activists will be motivated to donate and volunteer for Rep. Harris?
As an elected Republican official, how am I going to rally the troops to fight for a Big Government Republican?
Voting for Obamacare and spending hikes isn’t the way to grow the Republican Party.
I can’t look someone from Cecil County in the eyes and explain away Andy Harris’s vote.
How could any elected official, especially a Republican, vote to fund a bungled roll out of Obamacare, to continue the destruction of the American healthcare system?
I’m embarrassed today for our Party.
As an elected Republican Party official, it’s my job to promote our Republican Party, but I won’t promote Obamacare or give cover to a Republican who votes for this.
Too many families are being hurt by this radical government action.
We deserve better.
And we expect better from our only Republican Congressman here in Maryland.
Now this point I can completely see, since there are times our elected Republican officials in our county seem to lose their way. But unless and until they draw a primary opponent, we are pretty much stuck with them. In the case of Harris, do you honestly think Tilghman or fellow Democrat John LaFerla would vote no to this?
I think a big part of the problem with the Republicans in Washington is that they are scared of the wrong thing. I can almost guarantee you that, in the back of Andy’s mind, there’s that memory of how much Republicans were blamed for the government shutdown last October and all the supposed ill effects of the sequester before that. So when the deal was made, his calculation (with the inclusion of the seafood worker provision) was that it was the best deal we could get and the country would not have to go through this whole nightmare for a second time next month.
Now I’m sure the political junkies are yelling at their computer that I’m wrong, but I also realize that 90-plus percent of voters aren’t that much into politics and they get their news from sources who are quick to blame Republicans for all the nation’s ills. In that respect, I think Andy has gone Washington but he’s still a long way from Wayne Gilchrest territory – as the de facto leader of Maryland Republicans, I believe the thinking was he’s going to have to appeal to the center a little bit to help his fellows out come November.
I don’t think this justifies the poor vote, but since we have no other options our best course is to give him the courage to return to the form he had in the Maryland Senate, where he would occasionally stand alone on the side of right. Perhaps giving him some Republican company from Maryland next year will be of assistance.
And if Andy wants my space to explain himself, I can always use guest opinion.
A confluence of factors gives certain residents of the Eastern Shore an additional opportunity to make their feelings known on issues near and dear to conservative hearts everywhere.
Let me preface this by mentioning something from an e-mail I received from Heritage Action:
On January 29th, the House Republican Conference will begin its annual retreat to discuss its legislative agenda: their plans for piecemeal (immigration) reform will undoubtedly be the subject of much debate. All Sentinels are encouraged to contact their Members of Congress in advance of this strategy session to remind them to oppose all piecemeal amnesty bills.
Well, consider this my contact. But I also had an idea, based loosely on those who have been decorating overpasses with various political messages.
My friends in Dorchester County probably already know this, but the annual retreat Heritage Action alludes to is being held at the Hyatt resort in Cambridge. The setting is no stranger to political gatherings; on a few occasions the Democrats have used the facility and it also was the location of the first GOP state convention I ever attended (as a guest) in 2006. It also bears retelling the story about the first time I ever came here, to interview for the job which brought me to the Eastern Shore in 2004. I knew I’d like the area because it was like home: flat, dotted with little towns, and conservative – at least based on all the Bush/Cheney signs I saw up and down U.S. 50.
But there are no overpasses to decorate once U.S. 50 and U.S. 301 part ways in Queen Anne’s County. So perhaps in the next few days those who have message boards, yard signs from old campaigns, or other ways to convey opinion may want to place a sign along U.S. 50 between the Bay Bridge and Cambridge. (An alternative can be along the roads between the Dorchester airport and the Hyatt in case they fly over, but I suspect most will drive the couple hours.) Imagine seeing mile after mile of a “No Amnesty” message – think they may get the hint?
Obviously the GOP wants to spend time in its own enclave: presumably the entire resort is rented for this purpose, thus for the most part closing it to the public. But they can’t control the entire 80 miles or so that they have to traverse, and the message can be broadcast to ignore us at your peril.
Last year I wrote about School Choice Week at the tail end of one of my final “odds and ends” segments. Rather than make you read the whole thing (although I think it was pretty good, even a year later) here’s what I had to say:
But to get jobs, we need a better educational system and that means giving parents a choice in where to send their child for their education. National School Choice Week begins next Sunday, but no local organization on Delmarva has yet stepped up to participate in an event. (There are 22 in Maryland, but all of them are on the Western Shore. No events are planned in Delaware or on the eastern shore of Virginia.)
As it turns out, my fiance made the choice to send her child to a private, faith-based school. It’s good for her, but it would be even better if money from the state was made available to cover her tuition and fees. Years ago I volunteered for a political candidate whose key platform plank was “money follows the child” and I think it makes just as much sense today. (Note: second link added in 2014 reprint.)
Alas, the same is essentially true for Maryland thus far, but Delaware has stepped up its game with events in the Wilmington area and in Milford.
Since I don’t have a local event to report on at this time, a suggestion made by the folks at Watchdog Wire was to share this video of a family who took advantage of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship.
So what do you think the chances of having a college graduate, another attending school, and a third who’s intending to go to college would be if all three were saddled with attendance in the District’s failing public schools? My guess is that the older two of the three would be single moms like their mother, because the public schools aren’t necessarily environments conducive to learning. In the eyes of many “parents” pubic schools are instead glorified babysitters and day care.
Now I know neither charter schools nor parochial schools are perfect, and homeschooling isn’t for everyone, either. I know a few people who tried homeschooling but didn’t think they were doing the job and sent their children back to a traditional school. But let’s look at a theoretical here.
Between the new Bennett High School and proposed Bennett Middle School, the cost to Wicomico County and state taxpayers for building the facilities will be roughly $125 million. Naturally that’s not the life-cycle cost; since the current rendition of Bennett Middle is about a half-century old we can probably expect the newer versions to have the same lifespan. (One can argue over whether the cost was excessive due to state-imposed design choices and price of labor; regardless, the taxpayers will end up paying these bonds off for years to come.)
Enrollment varies, of course, but right now the two schools handle about 2,200 students – so each student’s “share” of the cost is $55,000. Needless to say, there are going to be students there for a half-century so that cost is spread out but may well be $1,000 per student per year – not counting interest on the bonds, necessary maintenance – if they don’t let the schools fall apart as they did the existing ones to guilt trip taxpayers into replacing otherwise structurally sound buildings – and of course the normal operations costs of heating, cooling, keeping the lights on, and technology. It wouldn’t surprise me that these additional costs double or triple the $1,000 per student per year number, and I haven’t spent a moment actually teaching.
[Pardon me for taking a dim view about the perceived uselessness of old facilities, but for my education (1969-82) I spent most of it in buildings dating from the 1950s or before - my (now demolished) middle school was first built in 1909 and added onto in the 1930s and 1950s as a former high school. I turned out okay without air conditioning in the school or fancy equipment, so spare me. And how many charter and private schools operate out of similar "obsolete" structures?]
If school choice can be the magic bullet to reduce costs by peeling away the myriad onion layers of bureaucracy, red tape, and questionable curriculum which seem to get in the way of children actually learning, shouldn’t we be making a mad dash toward that concept instead of propping up the failure of modern public education?
Maryland is not a state which is perceived as friendly to school choice. Between the scare tactics to homeschooling parents, the oversized influence of the teachers unions, and the willingness to subject children to the watered-down Common Core curriculum, there aren’t a lot of pathways to success. For a state which is supposedly tops in education, we don’t seem to be putting out a lot of educated students.
That’s why competition needs to be introduced and alternative paths to success, such as a renewed focus on skills-based vocational education, need to be provided. Let’s give parents the choice and put the money in their hands.
It should come as no surprise that a grassroots group which has over the years strongly backed our Congressman, Andy Harris, would give him high marks for his overall voting pattern. But Americans for Prosperity and their Federal Affairs Manager Chrissy Hanson wanted to make sure I got the word.
Now that the first year of the 113th Congress has come to an end, it seems like a good time to look back and take notice of how our Representatives and Senators voted. Americans for Prosperity ranks members of Congress based on their votes in favor of economic freedom, and thus, a better, brighter, more prosperous future.
Interestingly enough, though, while Andy’s 2013 score was solid, his rating for 2014 probably went down yesterday when he voted for the omibus spending bill which funds a large part of the government for the remainder of this fiscal year, through September 30. It did on the continuing Heritage Action scorecard, where Harris only rates an 83% score. In either case, though, Harris has tended to land on the edge of the top 50 rated members of Congress, both House and Senate.
In this day and age of instant gratification and accountability, it’s notable that many organizations take the time to track these Congressional votes and rate representatives. But these can be deceptive as well – for example, Harris actually has a worse rating than Sen. Marco Rubio (who’s best known for working with Democrats in trying to reform immigration into an amnesty program) and is only a few points ahead of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s been painted as an ineffective leader of the resistance and faces a strong primary challenge from Matt Bevin – so much so that McConnell has an attack website against his Republican opponent.
The point is that any scoring system can make for a flawed look at a politico, because sometimes actions are more important than votes and not every issue is of equal importance. To use Rubio as an example, he may be voting the correct way on economic issues but most have still not forgiven him for working with the pro-amnesty portion of the party on immigration.
In general I’m satisfied with how Andy Harris votes – when he served in the Maryland Senate he was one of only two legislators who have ever achieved a perfect monoblogue Accountability Project score of 100 in a particular session. I’m a very difficult taskmaster. So it goes without saying I was an early Harris Congressional supporter and remain so, given the lack of credible and better opposition in our district, at least until 2022. (This is because he set a 12-year term limit on himself.)
If I could wave a magic wand and get hundreds more members of Congress like Andy Harris, I’d take it in a second. We would be so much better off, regardless of the scores he’s assigned.
Forgive me if I don’t make sense today. I’m going to take a bucket of water and pour in a few drops at the top. Let’s call that job creation. What I’m going to gloss over is the gaping hole near the bottom where water is gushing out. Some skeptics might call that people leaving the labor force, but the shiny objects are those droplets of water and the trickle from last month we found was larger than we thought. So the bucket seems really full.
For the first time since 2008, the “topline” unemployment number is under 7 percent, as it was announced today that the rate dropped to 6.7 percent. But experts were “hard pressed” to explain why so few jobs were created.
The problem was summed up by someone who’s not an economist, but a frequent critic of the current regime. Nathan Mehrens of Americans for Limited Government noted:
Since Obama became president, the number of people who are considered to be in the civilian job eligible population has increased by just shy of eleven million people, but the number of people who have entered the work force has only increased by about 730 thousand people. Quite simply our nation cannot survive when fewer than sixty six out a thousand working aged people are entering the workforce. Of those sixty six who want a job, about five of them are unemployed.
I’ll grant that the Mehrens example is perhaps a little overblown, as more of those who would be considered job eligible also become eligible for Social Security and/or reached retirement age. There are also a growing number who claim disability, which is why the seasonably adjusted number for those not in the work force has peaked at 91.8 million while the labor participation rate slid back under 63 percent. They’ve talked for years about the fact that a shrinking number of workers contribute to Social Security while those who collect live longer; well, we’re now practically at a point where five workers support three who aren’t working. Nor do these raw numbers consider how many jobs are in the public sector vs. private sector work, so the ratio is just about to a point where one private-sector worker is supporting one of either the roughly 22 million public-sector workers or the nearly 92 million non-workers.
Bottom line: the system trend is unsustainable, So what is the solution being offered by the government? Barack Obama calls them “Promise Zones” and they are supposed to “cut through red tape.” But it looks to me like more of the same:
(Yesterday), in the East Room of the White House, the President will announce the first five “Promise Zones”, located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
These areas – urban, rural, and tribal – have all committed, in partnership with local business and community leaders, to use existing resources on proven strategies, and make new investments that reward hard work. They have developed strong plans to create jobs, provide quality, affordable housing and expand educational opportunity, which we’ll help them execute with access to on-the-ground federal partners, resources, and grant preferences.
“Make new investments” is codespeak for spending more money on the problem, and Democrats just love to utter that “investment” term. That makes sense when the vast majority of the proposed solution lies in more federal involvement. (There is a small component involving tax credits, but those are generally temporary and don’t cover all of the increased costs involved in locating in these areas.)
So the one-to-one ratio will probably continue, particularly since the first five mainly involve some sort of educational component. Of course, that won’t be done through private-sector means.
Has anyone thought to ask those who create jobs what gives them an incentive to do so? Certainly tax credits may help, but as I noted above those are of a fleeting nature. Unfortunately, it seems that government regulation is forever; well, at least until business learns to live with that which is in place – only then do the bureaucrats seem to change things for the worse. One study pegged the net cost of government regulation in 2013 at $112 billion; using that as a guide business spent that sum complying with regulations instead of creating 2.24 million jobs at $50,000 apiece. That would knock nearly one-fourth off the unemployment rate, putting it back to around the 5% “normal” the media regularly lambasted as a “jobless economy” during the George W. Bush years.
It seems like politicians pay lip service to the concept of business friendliness during election years because they know the voting public really, truly wants to work and advance their economic status. (I know I do.) Yet the results of the last half-dozen years or so have been those of government projecting more of its influence over the private sector when the reins should be slackened instead. In no way has the world reached a terminal point of satisfaction with its collective lot, so there’s much room for growth in the American private sector given the advantages our nation has in terms of natural resources and willing workforce.
So let my job-producing people go, and we can return to the full employment we enjoyed just a few short years ago.
This will be, by far, the trickiest of these columns I’ve taken the last three days to write. There are so many unknowns that even the “known unknowns” pale in comparison. But as the conservative, pro-liberty movement stands currently there are a number of items for which we can reasonably be certain 2014 will bring some kind of resolution.
First and foremost among them is that the goalposts will continue to be moved for Obamacare. As originally envisioned, we would all begin feeling its full effects tomorrow, but self-imposed – and I mean self-imposed, because few of these changes went through the legislative branch – changes have pushed back the deadline for many later into 2014 or even 2015. At this point, the strategy seems to be that everything bad about Obamacare gets blamed on Republicans who were really pretty powerless to stop its enactment in the first place – remember, Democrats had a clear majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate from January 2009 to February 2010 when Scott Brown was sworn in – and those few popular items are all due to the Affordable Care Act. That seems to be the preferred, focus group-tested name now because Obamacare has a bad connotation.
Meanwhile, we are supposed to be beyond the prospect of a government shutdown (really a slowdown) which Republicans were deathly afraid of for some reason. I don’t recall any hardships in October, do you? My life seemed to be unaffected. Nevertheless, the GOP seems to be afraid of its own shadow so when Democrats threaten to shut down the government the GOP snaps to. It’s sickening.
By that same token, the ball is supposedly being teed up for immigration reform (read: amnesty) over the summer, once GOP Senate incumbents know their filing deadline has passed. There’s no question a schism over immigration is developing in the Republican Party just as Obamacare is splintering off those Senate Democrats who face re-election in states Mitt Romney carried in 2012. I say primary ‘em all with conservatives so that maybe the incumbents will be scared straight.
Those are some of the key domestic issues we’ll be facing. I can guess two or three which won’t come up as well.
We will see absolutely zero effort to reform entitlements, whether Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. This will be another year they hurtle toward insolvency, probably going splat just in time for Generation X to reach retirement age in about 15 years. (That would be me – I’m on the cusp between Gen X and Boomer.)
Nor do I care how many articles of impeachment are drawn up: the House leadership doesn’t have the courage to pursue it, nor would they ever get the votes in the Senate to convict. They could find Barack Obama in bed with a dead girl, live boy, a bloody knife in his right hand and a signed confession in his left and the Democrats would swear the boy set him up and the girl stabbed herself thirteen times – in the back – and not convict him.
It doesn’t matter how poor the economy is, either. The government won’t dare stop priming the pump to the tune of a trillion dollars a year in debt, parceling out $80 billion or so of “quantitative easing” monthly. When the Dow and its record highs are the one factor of success apologists for Obama can point to, anything which maintains that facade will be continued despite the possibility of long-term inflationary catastrophe – again, probably in time for Generation X to retire.
Just as ineffective is our foreign policy, which has been a muddled mess as old friends are ignored and longtime enemies coddled. We may have an idea of what the hotspots may be, but events have a way of occurring at the most inopportune times and places for American interests.
All this points toward the midterm elections this coming November. While Democrats are talking up their chances of regaining the House, the odds are better that Republicans will instead take the Senate. The sixth year election in a President’s term is traditionally a bloodbath for his party, although the one exception over the last century was during the term of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton in 1998. At that time, though, the economy was in pretty good shape and the modest gains by the Democrats in the House weren’t enough to swing control back to them. (The Senate stayed in GOP hands, with no change in the 55-45 GOP majority.)
Looking briefly at the Maryland delegation, all indications are that all of our eight-person Congressional delegation will seek another term, although only Fifth District representative Steny Hoyer and Seventh District Congressman Elijah Cummings have filed so far. The most spirited race may be the Sixth District, where 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino is expected to take on freshman Democrat John Delaney.
But there’s still time left for the 113th Congress, which will have to deal with the mercurial Barack Obama for another year before we enter the home stretch of what seems like a couple decades of the Obama regime. There’s little doubt that conventional wisdom will be set on its head again and again over the next year, a real-life version of trying to predict the upsets we all know will occur during March Madness. It’s all about who comes out on top, but my bet is that it won’t be the American people.
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.