It was a varied palette of items written about on my American Certified blog, The Sausage Grinder. Maybe it was a little more like scrapple. Regardless, I made several contributions to the discourse.
For most of the spring and summer, I’ve been following a sort of obscure Commerce Department case regarding allegations of Korean dumping of a processed steel piping product called Oil Country Tubular Goods – it’s strange that Korea is an OCTG producer when it has little oil. They made a decision favoring American steelworkers, which got positive reaction from a variety of interests.
One of those I quoted in the Commerce piece was the leader of the steelworkers’ union. His fellows at the United Auto Workers got an unexpected surprise from Volkswagen, which let the UAW in the back door despite workers at the Chattanooga plant voting against the UAW in February.
The concept of economic patriotism was brought out last week in a letter from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who pressed Congress to do something about the practice of tax inversion, where companies transfer assets overseas to take advantage of lower tax rates. While I didn’t bring up the argument in my piece, locally it’s just like the practice of stores selling big-ticket items locating just across the Delaware line so they can advertise their “no sales tax” prices and hope to increase volume accordingly.
Finally, I restated the obvious: Obamacare rates will go up in 2015. In a government takeover of the health insurance industry, did you really expect otherwise?
As always, I’m working on new stuff for next week, with other stories to follow.
Editor’s note: These were originally prepared for my American Certified Sausage Grinder blog as two different pieces but not used there. It’s a good opportunity to introduce readers who haven’t gone there to check it out (although I have to ask – why haven’t you already?) to the somewhat different style I employ there. Think of it as a sampler plate.
Last Thursday – a day early due to the Independence Day holiday – the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the June unemployment rate had decreased to 6.1%, which is the lowest rate in nearly six years. A total of 288,000 jobs were added in June; in addition, an extra 29,000 jobs were added in adjustments to April and May’s figures.
All this should be good news, but manufacturing jobs only increased by 16,000 over the period. This brought the ire of Alliance for American Manufacturing president Scott Paul, who complained that:
While the low-wage recovery progresses full bore, the June jobs report shows that high-wage job growth is at a standstill. Manufacturing accounted for only 5.6 percent of job growth in June, far below its weight in the wider economy. Construction job growth was even slower.
Looking for a reason why? It’s all about public policy. Our growing trade deficit with China, currency manipulation by overseas competitors, and a paucity of investment in infrastructure are leaving factory jobs at a virtual standstill. President Obama’s vision of creating 1 million new manufacturing job during his second term is way off track.
According to AAM, the total manufacturing job growth over Obama’s second term stands at 156,000 – far short of the pace necessary to achieve a million new jobs before 2017. That pessimism extends to the public at large, as a Rasmussen Poll indicated just 23% of Americans believed the unemployment rate will be lower next year.
On the other hand, writing at the Shopfloor blog, economist Chad Mowtray of the National Association of Manufacturers took a more optimistic view, calling the report “mostly positive news.” And while he stressed that wages were increasing at a solid clip, he also pointed out that labor force participation rates were still a source of worry.
Strangely enough, a report on exports for May also came out Thursday, as the Commerce Department announced U.S. exports of goods and services hit a record $195.5 billion high. Many in the steel industry – as well as dozens in Congress – are awaiting next week’s determination on possible dumping penalties against South Korea, while other exporters are lobbying for Congress to act on re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank before the September 30 deadline. Going forward, these determinations could affect future unemployment numbers as well as prospects for those who want to make things in America.
On a state level, though, the news was better.
In order to make things in America, workers are needed. And recently released employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows manufacturing employment was up year-over-year in May in 44 of the 50 states. (Page 17 here.)
With all the winners, though, it may be time to ask about the losers. The six laggards in the field were Alaska (down 1,800 jobs), California (down 1,400 jobs), Georgia (down 900 jobs), Kansas (down 1,700 jobs), Maryland (down 600 jobs), and North Carolina (down 300 jobs).
Alaska is an interesting case as it reflects in part the fortunes of its oil industry – just a few short years ago it was the only state gaining manufacturing jobs long-term over the decade from 2001-11. But a steady decline in oil production has hampered its local economy, and the state lost nearly 13% of its manufacturing jobs over the last year.
The other significant loser is Kansas, but a regional university’s study predicts an upswing in manufacturing employment over the next three months.
Out of the six where manufacturing employment declined, there is no clear political or labor pattern which can be discerned. Four of the six states have legislatures controlled by Republicans, but that’s fairly proportionate to the 28-17 advantage Republicans have overall. Three of the six are right-to-work states, which also reflects the close 24-26 split between our national composition of right-to-work vs. forced unionism states.
Conversely, the states which did quite well over the last year tended to be the ones bordering the Great Lakes. Minnesota (up 4,400 jobs), Wisconsin (up 1,400 jobs), Illinois (up 900 jobs), Indiana (up 2,900 jobs), Michigan (up 8,500 jobs), Ohio (up 5,800 jobs), Pennsylvania (up 3,100 jobs), and New York (up 600 jobs) all benefited, with Michigan’s first-in-the-nation increase by itself making up for the six states which lost workers. It appears a healthier auto industry is leading the charge.
I’m not on the Jim Ireton e-mail list, but a friend of mine forwarded this to me. The reference is to a Baltimore Sun editorial which ran on Monday.
From: Jim Ireton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: July 9, 2014 at 1:50:45 PM EDT
Subject: You might find this interesting about Andy Harris….
I saw this in today’s Baltimore Sun and thought you might find it interesting, too.
It concerns his actions against the residents of Washington, D.C.:
“There are several notable elements in this imbroglio. First, anyone who believes that Dr. Harris might change his mind because of a potential economic threat to his district doesn’t know Dr. Harris, a man not given to self-doubt or the concerns of others. This is someone who actively fights against efforts by the EPA to reduce pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay and to forestall the effects of climate change and rising sea levels, either of which would be far more ruinous to his waterfront district than a mere summer boycott.
More remarkable is that Dr. Harris, a reliable Club For Growth and tea party acolyte who so often preaches against an overbearing federal government, is so proud to have thwarted the will of District residents. The decriminalization measure has the support of 80 percent of the populace, according to a recent poll.”
It may have been just idle chatter, but at the bottom of the e-mail was the authority line: “Authority: Ireton for Maryland. William C. Duck, Jr., Treasurer.” Before Jim can worry about 2016, though, there is the matter of getting through another election in Salisbury; however, at this early stage no opponent for Ireton has stepped forward.
Despite only being the mayor of a relatively small city, Ireton has been attracting notice in progressive Maryland circles. There was the rumor last summer that Doug Gansler had Ireton on his short list for his running mate; he eventually selected Delegate Jolene Ivey. The “Ireton for Maryland” campaign account is still active, although he has filed what are known as ALCEs for the filing deadlines this year, affirming he has neither raised nor spent $1,000 over the preceding periods since his last full filing back in January. At that point Ireton had $1,384.68 in his account, much of that from the transfer of over $2,100 from his mayoral campaign. He supplemented this income with a fundraiser on his behalf last November, spending several hundred dollars on attending and supporting various Maryland political causes and events.
But to make a run against Harris, Ireton would have to open a federal account and no move in that direction has been made.
The entire incident surrounding the Sun editorial centers around an amendment Harris made to the District of Columbia’s budget preventing the funding of a measure decriminalizing marijuana. In response, outgoing District mayor Vincent Gray and local advocacy groups called on District residents to boycott the Eastern Shore as a vacation destination. (Judging by some of what I saw on July 4th, the call wasn’t heeded.)
To an extent, I actually disagree with Harris. Although it’s not a true state’s rights issue because the District of Columbia is not a state and depends on Congress to dictate its budget, I would tend to favor allowing them as much local control as possible. Decriminalizing marijuana is not the Constitutional issue that, say, an overly restrictive gun law would be. It doesn’t bother me that Maryland did it, and it wouldn’t bother me if the District of Columbia did, either. Decriminalization is a somewhat sensible middle ground between the outright ban some states still have and the larger steps taken by Colorado and Washington state. If those two states can find success in accommodating the legal and recreational use of marijuana with the prospect of ill effects from overuse, the idea may spread. If not, the window will close on advocates just like Prohibition did once it was discovered that criminal activity skyrocketed as people willingly ignored the ban.
Yet the Sun doesn’t hide its disdain for Andy, either:
House Republicans have long made kicking District government around a veritable sport and, as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has observed, often do so to raise their standing among conservatives. And that would be classic Andy Harris — to confidently impose his will on others with a breathtaking level of moral certitude. As a state senator, his one-man crusade against students screening X-rated movies at the University of Maryland College Park five years ago included an unsuccessful effort to tie state funding to the development of a college “porn policy.”
In Annapolis, however, Dr. Harris was mostly a preening pest who made sanctimonious speeches on the Senate floor that annoyed even his GOP colleagues. In Washington, he’s among enough like-minded right-wing zealots to cause real trouble. Those who make their living in the tourist trade on the Eastern Shore are just collateral damage, victims of a congressman’s runaway ego. The self-serving amendment is likely to be tossed out by the Democratically-controlled Senate; a cure for the district’s bigger problems can only be achieved by its voters in November.
Actually, the Sun is right in one respect – we can cure many of our district’s bigger problems by getting rid of the current Annapolis regime in November, replacing them with people who have respect for our way of life and our values. For that, though, we need cooperation from elsewhere in the state.
But I think the “runaway ego” is exhibited by a newspaper which becomes more shrill as its readership fades away, yet still deigning to exhibit the sheer condescension to posit that Congress can do a thing about climate change and the supposed rise in sea levels which would follow. (Given recent temperature trends, I’d say Harris has a point.) Even if I don’t agree with him on this particular issue (as well as a handful of others) I still believe having about 400 carbon copies of Andy Harris in Congress would help turn this country in the right direction.
Here’s the problem with being a conservative Republican. It’s a little bit like an adage we heard during the Long War against terrorism – we have to be successful 100% of the time or else there is no success.
This brings me to the situation in Mississippi, where Chris McDaniel had an apparent victory snatched from him because those who would nominally be Democrats decided to vote for the establishment Republican incumbent, 76-year-old Thad Cochran. Cochran has spent nearly half his life in the United States Senate, but lost the initial primary by 0.5% to McDaniel. In many states (including Maryland) that would have been the end, but Mississippi election rules demand a runoff when no candidate attains a majority and Cochran won the rematch with thousands of black voters switching allegiance to support Cochran. One member of the Congressional Black Caucus has already said “we have expectations” for Cochran – but promised to campaign for his Democratic opponent.
A friend and supporter of mine sent this e-mail, saying it made her “angry and confused,” and asked me for comment. First of all, it’s another reason why I’ve stopped giving to party organizations and simply give to individual candidates.
But it’s also another illustration of what Angelo Codevilla calls the “ruling class” spending thousands to maintain its grip on power – perhaps it’s the one bipartisan effort in our nation’s capital right now. He wrote a fine piece on this very situation, and thanks to the folks at Blue Ridge Forum for pointing it out.
Now I will cheerfully tell you I’m not the be-all and end-all of political experts – after all, if I were I think I may have been able to pull off the most recent election. But it seems to me that the overall lack of growth in the Republican Party on a national scale isn’t because they’re too conservative, but because they aren’t conservative enough. Most people who leave the party don’t switch to the Democratic column but to independent or unaffiliated status.
So there was an election in Mississippi where the chances were really good the Republicans would retain the seat. If you asked conservatives around the country who they thought would be the better Senator, I would guess the vast majority would say Chris McDaniel – if for no other reason than to oust a 36-year Washington incumbent. You would probably get the same response in Mississippi, which is why the Cochran side had to appeal to Democrats to maintain their hold on the seat, smearing the TEA Party along the way. (Never mind that the TEA Party is one key reason Senate Republicans are even sniffing the chance for a majority this year.)
More than ever, after this McDaniel debacle the clamor will rise for a third party. Obviously Democrats would love this because it would guarantee perpetual power for them, even if they’re not a majority of the voting public. As we see time and time again, Democrats stick together regardless of who wins their primaries. Here in Maryland, the Doug Gansler and Heather Mizeur supporters won’t take their ball and go home like disaffected Republicans do – they will pull the “D” lever right down the line beginning with Anthony Brown. He may not be their preferred candidate, but as long as the goodies keep flowing they really don’t care.
Having said all that, though, I think the rumors of the TEA Party’s demise are a little overblown; however, it is developing its own ruling class. That’s the problem, because when it was just about activism we were at our most effective.
One thing I’m not hearing much about in the Mississippi race – granted, I’m not on the ground there so take from it what you will – is any GOTV effort on McDaniel’s part. There was a lot of money spent on political ads, but perhaps the most effective spending was that done on the robocalls and flyers which whipped up the black vote. That spending gave the most benefit to Cochran – yet no one wants to take credit for it! Wonder why?
Some years ago, Republicans were pilloried for an ill-advised robocall here in Maryland to benefit one of their own, despite the fact it was the doing of a former Democratic chief of staff and rough-and-tumble operative. Hopefully the Mississippi media will be as curious about the origins of that Cochran robocall as Maryland’s was about the Ehrlich one, and justice will be served as it was with the Ehrlich robocall.
I suppose the lesson our side has to learn is that you can never take anything for granted except for one fact: those in power will stop at nothing to keep it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Update: And now we get the prospect of vote buying – by Republicans. We can joke all we want about Democrats securing votes from the graveyard, but thanks to the lust for power by the Beltway establishment, our hands are forever sullied as well.
Last night I went back through and redid an old post, an event for which there is a backstory.
For about two or three years I employed a service called Photoshop Express as a repository for photos I used on monoblogue. But about this time last year the Photoshop Express site went away and while I still could get to the photos every single link I had to it became a dead one. If I had lots of time and patience perhaps I could go back and rework the links but in the interim I found a different service and repaired a select few of these posts (usually ones I link to semi-frequently) so I could restore them to their original glory.
The one I fixed last night was this one, which I wanted to use as an example of where a group of motivated people descended on Washington because I was part of the group. It’s a definite blast from the past since we did this back in 2009, but it was a useful comparison to a manufacturer summit I wrote on for American Certified.
But looking through that album of pictures reminded me of the days when those of us who would be considered “TEA Party” seemed to be much more activist than we are now. Sure, some would chalk the change up to a more sophisticated approach, but when dismal failures like Operation American Spring become the norm one has to ask if people are resigned to their fate. Or maybe they’re just trying to scrape by and survive.
With the events in Mississippi revolving around the Chris McDaniel – Thad Cochran runoff, it’s obvious there are some people who are terrified of the huddled masses. Yet while McDaniel isn’t conceding the race, it’s worthy to note no one is out yet protesting the election like, say, union activists harassing Scott Walker and the Wisconsin legislature. (I have many more thoughts on the Mississippi situation I’ll share in a future post.)
At least there’s a political race that has a pulse, though. Look at the pathetic turnout for Tuesday’s primary, where I can give you a good example of this.
As it was in 2010, there were 13 Republican candidates for our Central Committee. In every case – except perhaps the 13th and last position where the difference is small at the moment – either those of us who chose to run again garnered fewer votes than we did four years ago or the person who finished in that position did worse than the last time (i.e. our first place finisher was a newcomer while 2010′s first place finisher chose not to run again. The difference there was a whopping 1,192 votes.) Those who ran both times lost anywhere from 291 to 653 votes, based on the unofficial 2014 results. Put another way, our winner this time would have finished seventh in 2010.
Obviously some will blame the change in primary date, but I think there’s that same resignation and malaise at work in this case, too. After all, compared to 2010 we had a much more competitive governor’s race and a significant portion of our county had two General Assembly races which were quite spirited.
I’m not quite sure what we can rally around anymore. As it turned out, the original “Emergency House Call” rally didn’t matter because we got Obamacare anyway. It’s a little like the philosophy which guided the Long War in that we almost have to be effective 100% of the time to elicit significant change – yes, we got our Dave Brat but it’s sort of countered by the Beltway insiders not losing Thad Cochran – in the meantime, more regulations are promulgated by unelected bureaucrats and a President left unchecked by an impotent Congress. As we slide closer and closer to a yet-to-be-defined abyss, the ideas of the Founders slip out of our grasp.
Sometimes I think ballots will be replaced by bullets, and that’s not something most of us want. But it’s happened before, and history has a nasty habit of eventually repeating itself.
Oh no, here comes that big bad TEA Party again. And the Democrats are using it as a fundraiser:
I’ve been working in Virginia politics for a long time, but I’ve never seen anything like what happened tonight.
Seriously: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just lost his primary to a Tea Party challenger. Eric Cantor — Eric. Freaking. Cantor. — is officially too moderate to win the nomination of the Republican Party. And the results are not even close!
The Tea Party isn’t just alive and well — it’s taken wholesale control of the GOP.
We’ve got to stop these guys, and here’s why: If they think that the House under Eric Cantor is too moderate, you can only imagine what Congress will look like if they win this November.
Those were the words of Mo Elleithee, DNC Communications Director. So I guess Matt Bevin and J.D. Winteregg won post-election recounts over Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, respectively, while Lindsey “Grahamnesty” Graham found a way to lose to one of a host of wannabe contenders last night. Oh wait, they didn’t?
I only wish the TEA Party had “wholesale control” of the GOP, but the facts aren’t there. Certainly we can move the needle a little to the right with Eric Cantor out, but this is hype. However, the Cantor defeat also should serve as a warning to Beltway insiders that there is a huge amount of frustration with GOP leadership right now.
The base does not – I repeat, DOES NOT – want any sort of amnesty, and they don’t want to tinker around the edges of Obamacare, they want it gone. It matters not that the House is only half the Congress because they hold the power of the purse, and there are a lot of conservatives out there who found the Republican leadership was too spineless to stand for principle on that front, as the insiders kept pushing off a confrontation until it was too late and they had zero leverage.
Unlike Mitch McConnell, whose opponent’s campaign imploded in the final weeks, or the split opposition to Boehner and Graham, there was only one challenger to Cantor and the TEA Party coalesced around Dave Brat enough to get him over the primary finish line. That seems to be the key in these races.
The real test, though, will be in November. Let’s hope the TEA Party rises to put an end to failed Washington leadership from both parties.
Occasionally I’ll see something in my e-mail which piques my interest, and this evening the winner was this video put out by former Senator (and presidential candidate) Rick Santorum’s group Patriot Voices.
The message of the video, called “Attention Deficit”: we don’t have a President who’s serious about the job. Or just let them describe it:
It highlights how despite the dramatic events and foreign policy challenges our country is facing, President Obama seems to care more about becoming a pop culture icon than a serious Commander-in-Chief.
As far as that goes, the accusations seem to be true. It’s well known, for example, that George W. Bush gave up golf in 2003 – some have reported that it was because “it just sent the wrong message” during the Long War. And while Bush wouldn’t criticize his successor for hitting the links, many Americans who wish they could afford to go out and hit a few at the local municipal course may beg to differ.
It’s become the norm, though, for presidents to burnish their celebrity status by appearing on various Hollywood productions, often doing so in a tongue-in-cheek manner. But wouldn’t it be better to have a person whose nose is firmly to the grindstone in these troubled times? Certainly the ersatz examples in the video won’t come true, but then again who predicted a president would mess up a popular song during a White House concert?
Whether Rick is in the 2016 race or not, his organization makes a pretty good point. Naturally the e-mail was looking for donations (as does the landing page I used for it) but at this time I’m not sure they would use this as a TV ad or not – for one thing, it’s about thirty seconds too long, but probably could be distilled to proper length.
I guess the way I see it is that we need to put the adults back in charge again. Call me a prude if you will, but I would like someone more serious and sober conducting our affairs, both at a state and national level.
I got an interesting e-mail the other day – not necessarily for the content, but who it was from and what it may represent.
After the 2012 Republican primary campaign wrapped up, a number of the also-rans decided to form political groups or super PACs to keep their names out there, continue compiling e-mail lists, and – most importantly – keep the money coming in. Two good examples are Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices group he formed shortly after withdrawing and the American Legacy PAC Newt Gingrich is wrapped up in.
But as we begin to inch toward the 2016 campaign, the Republican field is (hopefully) looking beyond the retreads from past elections, and the potential first-time candidates are numerous. Sure, you have your share of governors like, for example, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence, and Scott Walker, along with a number of those already in Washington like Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who has began the slog by winning a couple key straw polls.
Yet there’s always something about a campaign: the issues you may think will be the hot-button issues a couple years in advance rarely turn out to be; heck, even six months is a political lifetime. But Barack Obama’s foreign policy weaknesses, which were successfully swept under the rug for 2012, seem to be much more prominent of late. It’s interesting how the race to enroll people by the March 31 deadline for Obamacare and the entirety of the debacle itself still hasn’t quite been able to succeed in pushing the Russia/Crimea/Ukraine situation off the front pages, no matter how hard the Obama admnistration tries to mash that “reset” button.
So yesterday, thanks to the always-growing number of people who seem to have my e-mail address on file, I found out that former Ambassador John Bolton created a PAC last year. He was looking for donations, of course, but one has to ask whether the time has arrived for a foreign policy hawk to assume the Commander-in-Chief’s position? I can’t answer the question, of course, but it’s relevant to ask because Bolton drew 3% of the vote at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. Granted, that’s not in the league of the aforementioned Paul, Christie, et. al. but it’s three times better than Martin O’Malley is doing in Iowa and everyone knows MOM’s gunning for the White House sooner or later. Like O’Malley, Bolton is even a Maryland native.
Maybe what got me to thinking Bolton may make a run is the PAC website. Its look and feel gives me the impression that it’s a couple little tweaks from being the John Bolton for President website. Instead of featuring candidates the PAC may be helping, it’s focused completely on Bolton himself – not a bad thing, but why have the pretense?
At the risk of being called a neocon, I don’t think it would be a bad thing for Bolton to make a run and create a referendum on our foreign policy. Obviously John was there during the George W. Bush years when we were hip-deep in Iraq and Afghanistan, but unfortunately it’s beginning to appear all that blood and treasure was for naught because we left before the job was (or will be) done. In both cases, we stopped short of annihilating the enemy with overwhelming force as we did in World War II. (Arguably, this is true of all our conflicts in the post-atomic era – well, maybe Grenada turned out pretty good.)
Unfortunately, those who have opposed us since the Vietnam era have learned that our resolve is only as good as the news cycle allows it to be. One would think after 9/11 we would see the Long War through but it doesn’t appear our current Commander-in-Chief is interested in victory or even rules of engagement which would allow the possibility because someone here may be offended. In the interim, much damage has been done to both our military and our national psyche, and Hillary Clinton won’t be the right person to fix it – for one thing, she wouldn’t hire John Bolton, PAC or no PAC.
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.