If you do the math and factor in for various other elected officials along the way, on average any given member of Congress should deliver his or her party’s response to the weekly Presidential address about once a decade. And while I’d have much rather avoided this situation because it’s a member of the party opposing the President who gives this address in response to the President’s message, that opportunity fell yesterday to our own Congressman, Dr. Andy Harris.
Of course, this is something most of us already know but when you consider Harris is already a fairly tall guy (6′-3″ maybe?) the stack of papers dubbed as the “Red Tape Tower” looks pretty imposing. Of course, it’s also an appropriate week to discuss Obamacare as the House again voted for its outright repeal; a measure sure to die a quiet death in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
But as Richard Falknor writes at Blue Ridge Forum, there is a lot more which can be done. Perhaps this statement uttered by Andy Harris had to have the seal of approval from House leadership. continues Falknor, but the House also has the power of the purse if they’re willing to use it to achieve the desired end, that being the scrapping of Obamacare.
As a physician – his specialty is anethesiology – Dr. Harris is obviously familiar with the process of diagnosis, and certainly the sheer mass of regulations incumbent to Obamacare is but one symptom of why it would be detrimental to the American health care system, a patient for whom we are all interested in seeing survive.
But in truth, Obamacare isn’t really so much about the health care system as it is about providing the means to pay for the health care we receive. While it begins via the employer-provided health insurance we have become accustomed to over the past 70 years or so, as that becomes regulated out of existence due to the increasing difficult prospects of profitability for insurers we will begin to see an evolution in the industry where either favored private insurers become the only ones approved for providing coverage – with the reams of regulations in place to assure no smaller competitor can come along to steal market share among perhaps the ultimate in captive audiences – or a situation where the market becomes unbearable for any private provider and a program like Medicare is simply expanded to cover everyone. At that point you have the statist’s dream of complete dependence on the government, regardless of its budgetary impact.
The better solution, and one we should work toward, is to reduce the influence of government on health care. If people want simple and basic catastrophic incident health insurance and don’t mind paying out-of-pocket for routine events, that should be made more readily available – unfortunately, the trend line has run the other way for decades. You should even have the choice of not being insured at all.
Now, I haven’t even talked about the scary scenario of increased IRS influence which comes as an Obamacare feature. If they have asked questions about donors to TEA Party groups, for what else can they use all the information gleaned? That thought alone should cause heartburn among caring Americans.
This William Warren cartoon seems to sum it up, doesn’t it? Between Benghazi, the IRS TEA Party targeting, the AP phones being tapped, the FOIA preferences at the EPA, questions on campaign finance in both 2008 and 2012, the Enroll America protection racket – the list can go on and on and on if you revert back to earlier activities like Operation Fast and Furious, Solyndra, or the handling of the Deepwater Horizon accident. And I’m not counting what goes on in Maryland, like the inmates taking over the prisons or having a governor who’s more concerned about presidential prospects than running the state. I suppose if power is the ultimate aphrodisiac then that must be why Democrats are pro-abortion; otherwise they would have a dozen or so children running around, by nearly as many mothers.
Now I’m certain the minuscule number of progressives and leftists who dare to read here would beg to differ and can probably point out all the scandals, conflicts of interest, and foibles of the Bush years, but really, guys, come on – what happened to the most transparent administration ever? I suppose in a perverse sort of way finding out about all these scandals is a type of transparency – too bad we were stonewalled every step of the way in finding out.
But are the American people and their notoriously short attention spans in danger of scandal fatigue in May of 2013, 18 months before the midterm elections? Sometimes the pre-emptive strike is the best thing in the long run, and there’s little chance of the rabidly partisan Democrats in the Senate turning on their leader and convicting him in the unlikely event we ever get to an impeachment trial. Moreover, Barack Obama doesn’t exactly strike me as a fall-on-the-sword kind of guy, so don’t bet on him resigning to save the country the agony of an impeachment trial like Richard Nixon did. Democrats know well what sort of electoral fate may await – the Republicans who placed country over party were “rewarded” by losing 48 House seats and 3 Senate seats in the 1974 elections, which were held just three months after Nixon left in disgrace.
Meanwhile, focusing on the scandals of the past will blind us to the issues of the present. Even if the GOP gains control of the Senate in 2014 – a likely possibility even without scandals as the sixth year of a presidency is traditionally unkind to the president’s party – the nation will simply revert back to the inverse of the situation we had back in 2007-2008, where a Republican president was crippled by a Democratic Congressional majority in both houses. Much of the damage was done in the two years the Democrats held absolute control of government, as the massive entitlement program dubbed Obamacare came into being and Barack Obama’s re-election means at least some of it will be in place by 2014. Once established, we haven’t killed an entitlement program yet. And there’s still the aspect of governing by executive order: “Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda cool.”
Perhaps the one silver lining in all of this is the emergence of the new media as a force for uncovering these and other issues with the government in Washington. No longer do we have a small group of periodicals, newspapers, and television networks determining what is news and what remains on the cutting room floor. Certainly, there is a huge majority of the American public still in an celebrity gossip-induced slumber, but slowly people are beginning to see the light and it only takes an irate, tireless minority to effect real change.
In the meantime, though, there is plenty to write about for those obsessed with Obama scandals. That really is a shame because it makes it more difficult to argue with the other side on why their ideas are such a failure – I can hear it now: “Well, if you Republicans wouldn’t have made the Obama years such a partisan witch hunt he may have succeeded with his good ideas.”
But I suppose it comes back to the old saying about absolute power corrupting absolutely, doesn’t it? Do you see why the nation’s founders wanted a limited government yet?
If you are one of those who follows conservative grassroots activism, it’s likely you may have heard about the New Fair Deal rally being held in Washington tomorrow afternoon to coincide with tax day. While it will certainly be a modest event by the standards of other TEA Party rallies such as the 9/12 rally in 2009 or various Glenn Beck-led gatherings since, organizers believe a few thousand will attend with many staying around after the speeches to buttonhole various members of Congress about this new legislative program aimed at reining in government.
But the better question is: what is the legislative program? The four planks can be summarized as follows:
- No corporate handouts
- A fair tax code
- Stop overspending
- Empower individuals
The eight Congressmen who will be authoring the legislation in question, some of whom are among the most libertarian Republican conservatives in Congress, are Reps. Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Tom McClintock of California, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Dr. Tom Price of Georgia, and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin. Mulvaney, Pompeo, and Price are among the speakers tomorrow at the event, which will also feature Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, activists Rev. C.L. Bryant, Deneen Borelli, Julie Borowski, Ana Puig, and Maryland’s own Dan Bongino. Borelli is featured in this video decribing some of the features of the New Fair Deal.
“The New Fair Deal is a four-part legislative package that ends corporate handouts, closes loopholes in a simple tax code, balances the budget, and empowers Americans with the choice to opt-out of Medicare and Social Security,” explained FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe. “Individual freedom, economic empowerment and equal opportunity are the ultimate fair deal for Americans. No more pitting us against each other while politicians and big business pick winners and losers in the marketplace at the expense of everyday individuals,” he added.
It goes without saying, though, that the devil is in the details. For example, ending corporate subsidies is great for avoiding the next Solyndra or Ener1, but my friends at the American Petroleum Institute would argue that the tax package for oil exploration is vital to the industry’s success. They may have a point, so perhaps the best solution is to prioritize which subsidies would be axed first and which ones would have more of a transition. Being a fairly mature industry, it may take somewhat longer for the oil and natural gas companies to deal with these changes, as well as the sugar farmers who were targeted in the video. I could see a time window of three to five years for these industries, but green energy? Cut them off yesterday.
As far as a “fair tax code” I honestly don’t think there is such a thing, particularly with the proposal of a two-rate system as specified. I like the idea of a “skin in the game” tax where everyone has to pay at least 1 percent (for someone making $20,000 a year that’s $200 – not a back-breaker if you know it’s coming) but I disagree with the progressive rate change from 12% to 24% at $100,000. If we are to have a flat tax, it should be one rate regardless of income. Why would I take the overtime which would push me from a salary of $98,000 (and an $11,760 tax bill) to $101.000 only to have that and much more – since the tax bill would steeply jump to $24,240 – entirely eaten up by taxes? I understand the populist idea of the secretary paying less than the billionaire, but the solution proposed would be ripe for complication because of situations like the above. I’d rather work on repealing the Sixteenth Amendment and creating a consumption tax, which would be the most fair of all because one can control their level of consumption to the greatest extent.
Another area which suffers from being too broad is the concept of “overspending.” Even if you cut off all discretionary spending tomorrow we would still have a deficit. Yes, we do need to eliminate the concept of baseline budgeting posthaste but we also have to lose the mindset which makes people fear their budget will be cut if they don’t spend their full allocation. While thousands and thousands of federal workers are superfluous to the task of good government, we have to educate the public as to why they need to be let go – you know the media will be portraying them as victims just like they tried to make a huge case that sequestration would be devastating.
Of the four planks presented, though, I really like the idea of the last one as expressed – the power of determining your own retirement and health care needs. In just 14 years I will be eligible for Social Security, but to be quite honest I don’t expect a dime from it because the system will be bankrupt by then in my estimation. (My writing was intended to be my “retirement” but real life intruded a little more quickly than I imagined it would.) The same goes for Medicare. If I had the choice, I would tell the government to give me back the money I paid into Social Security and Medicare – let me decide how to invest it best. This legislation may well allow me that option, although I suspect it will be tailored more to those under 40 who still have plenty of time to weigh all their retirement choices.
(Remember, though, I am on record as saying “Social Security should be sunsetted.” Nothing they can propose would eliminate that stance.)
The key to any and all of these changes taking place, though, is to remember none of this happens overnight. As it stands right now, the earliest we can make lasting national change in the right direction is January of 2017. Moreover, these Congressional visionaries and any other allies we may pick up along the way will be standing for election twice before a new President is inaugurated – and if the Republicans nominate another milquetoast “go along to get along” Beltway moderate who doesn’t buy into this agenda, the timetable becomes even longer.
But there is an opportunity in the interim, though. What statement would it make if Maryland – one of the most liberal states in the country according to the conventional wisdom – suddenly elected a conservative governor and confounded the intent of the heretofore powerful liberals in charge by electing enough members of the General Assembly to foil their overt gerrymandering attempts? No doubt it’s the longest of long shots, but let the liberals think they have this state in the bag. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch them fume as a Governor Charles Lollar, Larry Hogan, Blaine Young, or Dan Bongino is inaugurated – this after the stunning ascension of Speaker of the House Neil Parrott and President of the Senate E.J. Pipkin? Those who survived the collective hara-kiri and cranial explosions throughout the liberal Annapolis community would probably be reduced to bickering among themselves and pointing fingers of blame.
Our side often points to Virginia as a well-run state, but I think there are even better examples to choose from. Certainly there would be a transition period, but why not adopt some of these ideas as well as other “best and brightest” practices to improve Maryland and create a destination state for the producers as opposed to the takers?
If this sort of transformation can occur in Maryland, I have no doubt Washington D.C. would be next in line.
In this continuing saga of he said-she said regarding the status of who represents us on the Rules Committee of the Republican National Committee, one person had remained silent – until now. Yesterday a copy of a letter from Louis Pope was acquired by the folks at Red Maryland and posted on their site. (Update: I finally received my copy today, April 8. My mail is apparently slow out in the hinterlands.)
While Brian Griffiths, who wrote the Red Maryland piece and is an avowed supporter of Chair candidate Greg Kline, makes the case that Pope’s objection stems in part from a supposed quid pro quo between Virginia RNC member Morton Blackwell and former Maryland chair Alex Mooney regarding a book Mooney is writing, I’m more appalled that Pope believes “a great deal of misinformation has been flying around the Maryland Republican Party through various blogs, e-mail chains, letters, etc.” about the affair. If this has been so, the (undated) letter to “set the record straight” should have come out some time ago in order to clear the air.
Also intriguing is the implication that Waterman indeed did not make the decision on her own, but spoke to “senior leadership at the RNC who encouraged her to have me remain on the Rules Committee.”
To me, that says the RNC is really not serious about revisiting the rules adopted in Tampa. Sure, they will pay lip service to the concept of listening to the grassroots but in the end they’re really going to listen to the cadre of inside-the-Beltway consultants who are already sizing up the 2016 field and trying to determine who is both most malleable and “electable.” My guess would be Marco Rubio, who remains popular among activists despite his pro-amnesty immigration stance.
As one would also expect, Louis states his support for Diana Waterman, saying “I feel terrible to have put Diana in such an awkward position…she deserves our thanks and admiration, not our criticism.”
While I agree that Diana has performed a number of valuable services to the MDGOP over the last two years as First Vice-Chair, I cannot place her above criticism for the way she has handled this particular duty. Central Committee members are assured over and over again that communication is paramount, only to be bowled over by incidents such as this Rules Committee dustup. Having seen this before with the Rule 11 controversy in 2010 I really don’t like how this movie ends.
Pope goes on to talk about the Tampa rules changes, which he conveniently did not vote on because of his leadership position. At the time, of course, our National Committeewoman was Joyce Terhes, who was not going to rock the boat on her way out the door to a well-deserved retirement from party affairs. Nor is it apparent that Alex Mooney strenuously objected.
The only person who has stood up for the grassroots and voiced her objection was our newly-elected National Committeewoman, Nicolee Ambrose. Since she was the squeaky wheel who got the grease, it’s no surprise that Diana Waterman was “encouraged” to keep Louis Pope in the Rules Committee position.
Lastly, it should be noted that not all Central Committee members have received this message from Pope yet; to be fair, it may have been mailed to all the 300-plus membership and perhaps my copy hasn’t hit my mailbox yet.
But once again it seems to me the party insiders are trying to play their games and, as the aforementioned Griffiths has pointed out, be “the tallest midget in the room.” I’d rather stand tall on my principles, thank you.
The other day I had the chance to chat with a fixture of the pro-liberty movement, Andrew Langer. He’s probably best known locally as an activist and internet radio personality, but he also serves as president of the Institute for Liberty. We touched on a lot of these subjects during a fairly lengthy, in-depth conversation.
monoblogue: Let me get my readers up to speed here. You’ve actually been on my blog a few times in various capacities, I’ve noticed that your name has come up quite a few times. But, really the first time I really got to talk to you a great deal was when the TEA Party all got started.
monoblogue: Now, the question I have – and I know you were there at the beginning - you’re actually the president of Institute for Liberty, which was actually around before the TEA Party…
monoblogue: …but was kind of carried along with the TEA Party, but where do you think, in the four years or so the TEA Party has been in existence, where do you think it’s gone and where do you think it’s going to go. Is it dead like some people say?
Langer: Well, no, I mean insofar as the – the movement existed before the TEA Party, and will continue to exist after the TEA Party. Movements are always changing fundamentally; that’s the nature of them. They go a certain distance, and then they stop, and they transform, that’s what happens. So, before the TEA Party movement was the Don’t Go movement, you had the property rights movement, you had the various taxpayers’ movements that have been out there…the TEA Party movement has just been an outpouring of discontent in which things got jelled together very, very easily and lots of different factors came together.
What killed the TEA Party brand was the media itself, which never really understood what the movement was. It never fit into any of their particular boxes, and what the media doesn’t understand the media will work to destroy – especially if that thing they don’t understand is actively working against the things they have advocated for in the past.
So it’s a brand that has been damaged, but the movement goes on – and the movement, as all movements change as I said – different parts of it will focus on different things. (Part of it) will continue to focus on health care and health care reform. You have folks who focus on electoral issues and will continue to focus on electoral issues; a lot of them will focus on state and local races, some focused on Congressional races, some focused on Presidential races.
A lot of – and probably the most positive thing to come out of the movement – was the proliferation of new media, and the raising of the blogosphere as a legitimate force to be reckoned with. That’s certainly going to continue to go on, and obviously there’s been a certain degree of institutionalization of that in things like the Franklin Center and the various Watchdog Wires, and that cannot help but be a good thing.
Between that and the re-connection of people with their government, there is no going back from that, and that’s why, while the movement itself may not be the same thing as it was before, the forces that were at work will continue to be forces that are at work.
monoblogue: Let me back up one second here. You’re President of the Institute for Liberty, and I guess – I guess it would be good to explain what their role is insofar as the entire movement.
Langer: Sure. Well, I mean, and keep in mind I inherited the Institute for Liberty from a friend of mine who has gone off and become a successful author. IFL had been focused on a lot of defense and tech issues – and we still do a little bit of each – we are a nonprofit advocacy organization, which means that we take issues and we advocate on behalf of a particular side from a free-market, limited government perspective.
As it happens, I’ve got a background in mass movement organization. That’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time studying, something that I’ve had some efforts in growing up, and so when the TEA Party movement itself began to form I found I had an expertise that I could lend to that movement, both in themes, organizational structures, and merely offering, as I saw, logistics – you know, how do you organize a rally? What are the elements of a rally? What goes into putting something together? And so, for me, the Institute for Liberty never had the resources of a FreedomWorks or Americans for Prosperity – we didn’t sort of jump on the moniker in a way that TEA Party Patriots or TEA Party Express were able to, but what we could offer was logistical advice and support to people.
In the very real sense in D.C. where we organized – we were part of the first TEA Party rally in February of ’09, to organizing the D.C. Taxpayer TEA Party, to offering our resources for the 9/12 D.C. march…
monoblogue: Which I was at.
Langer: Yeah, and I spoke, and it was great. And then at the state level offering up advice to various TEA Party events and also speaking at various TEA Party events in the state, so – it’s one of those things where for us, it’s never been about credit, it’s never been about glory, it’s never about making us center stage. When the Annapolis TEA Party was being put together, we were there at the start, sort of offering up our advice, but it was very clear that guys like Aaron Jones and his brother, they were wanting to head it up and they were wanting to put it together. We’re not interested in turf fights so we said whatever you need from the Institute for Liberty that we can give to you to help you put this together, we’ll do that. Whether it was financial support, or whether it was saying, hey, you need to get these permits or you need to get that, here’s how you want to do a press release, or here’s how you ought to put together the program…but beyond that, we were not folks who needed to be at the top of anyone’s list – that’s just not what we’re about. So we were happy to act in a supporting capacity.
monoblogue: That’s all right; the movement needs that, too. But another thing…
Langer: Michael, let me just say – and this is very, very key – I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that’s it not all about me, and it’s not all about IFL. And I think we need more folks to recognize that it’s not about their own personal glory, this is about getting stuff done and making change. And making change means making not about you.
monoblogue: I was going to ask about something else, but the way you answered that question, I’m going to slide into something else here…
monoblogue: …about the Maryland Republican Party. (laughs) And the game of personalities we seem to have in that party right now.
monoblogue: I know you had considered running for the (party Chair) post and you had to back out.
monoblogue: Because of…
Langer: Well, I mean, I make no secret about this, it’s one of those things where I almost ran in ’10, and had actually come very close to pulling the trigger. But at that point it was simply one of my donors said that they couldn’t fund IFL, and one of the great problems with the MDGOP Chairman’s position is that it’s an unpaid, full-time volunteer job – and it really would be the equivalent of a full-time job. And with two kids at home – my wife and I have a very equal partnership in child care – I couldn’t take on a full-time volunteer gig and sacrifice the Institute for Liberty at that point; it just couldn’t happen.
In ’12 the circumstances had changed somewhat. But the real problem is that my wife is an active-duty officer in the Air Force and either there’s a strong likelihood we will get transferred this year, and if we don’t get transferred this year there is 100% certainty that we will be transferred by July of 2014. I am not someone who takes on a job like chairman of the Maryland Republican Party without setting some clear goals and working toward those goals – I certainly couldn’t complete any of those goals in the next five months and there was great question in my mind whether I could complete my goals to my satisfaction in seventeen months and at that point we’d be back where we were before.
monoblogue: With an election to run.
Langer: Which is essentially the chaos of a party chairman’s race in which people confuse criticism with infighting, and all the things that go on with that. I’m not talking about the certain specifics of this race right now, but the reasons why I didn’t run are those very clearly. I’m someone who is incredibly optimistic about the Maryland Republican Party; I do not think that all hope is lost. With the amount of disarray and infighting that we have in our state party – I have seen disarray and infighting in other state parties as well, so Maryland is unfortunately not unique, but certainly there are challenges. And as if there are people who are – who want to work toward overcoming those challenges and there are people who are actively working against overcoming those challenges, and there are people who don’t know how to overcome those challenges. But those challenges can be overcome.
I think it starts with that proposition that the Chairman’s job is too big for one person to do, and anybody who thinks that it is a job that can be done by one person – they are either deluding themselves or they’re simply not capable of handling the job.
monoblogue: Well then that actually brings up a little bit of a different question – this will be more effective in a couple years when we select all new officers – should they run as a slate? Should we have a – instead of doing separate elections for each of the (Vice-) Chairs, would it be better to have a particular slate go up and vote for an entire slate rather…
Langer; No, I firmly believe in the freedom of choice, I believe in building coalitions, in the fact that people ought to try to work together. I think part and parcel of that is having individual elections for the different officers. I do, however, believe that more people ought to be involved in the running of the state party. I do believe that we ought to – we might ought to consider looking at – especially if the state party is going to continue to run with having the Chair being an unpaid volunteer position. I think we ought to consider dividing up that Chair’s responsibilities, maybe among co-chairs, I think there ought to be – and this is a conversation that I’ve had with Greg Kline – is that there ought to be more people involved in that operation. Certainly I think if more folks stepped up and were willing to take on more of the chairman’s responsibilities and work with the chairman to take on those responsibilities, I think that you would find more people willing to run for Chair.
A group of my friends and colleagues, we talked to a lot of folks about running for Chair, about who was going to run for Chair, who might run for chair? And by and large, the number one complaint that people has was it is too big of a job for one person to do as a volunteer gig only. In the near term the state party simply does not have the resources to pay someone to be Chairman, especially if they pay an Executive Director, and they shouldn’t. But the point is, so long as it is this haunting huge responsibility for one person, unpaid, the more discouraging it becomes for somebody to run for Chair. Good, qualified people to run for Chair.
And so I had pledged to Greg (Kline) that if he ran I would help him for as long as I could and as much as I could, as long as I’m in Maryland and probably after I leave Maryland I’ll still continue to help Greg because I have every intention of returning to Maryland down the road. Other folks around Greg have pledged to help him and to make sure that his chairmanship is a success. It’s not just voting for Greg, but voting for folks around Greg who are good people and who want to work – and there are a lot of folks who sort of stepped up there and said, yeah, I’ll help out.
It gets to another of my big themes of this Chairman’s race, which is inclusivity vs. exclusivity. And this idea that, in order to build a party, you need to be solicitous of outside opinion and outside help. One of my great criticisms of Diana Waterman – and this is a criticism, it’s not a knock on Diana Waterman’s personality, I think Diana Waterman is a lovely person, she’s a pleasant person. She is someone who avails herself of opportunities to get active. But I will not say that Diana Waterman is someone who’s incredibly solicitous of inclusivity. Case in point is the job that she’s handled, she has demonstrated a record of someone who has not been someone to bring people into the office to work, or bring people into an organization to work. Diana steps in, and she becomes chairman of something, and people are shut out of the process.
You can talk to folks about the Eastern Shore Republican Alliance, which Diana stepped in there and became Chair, and she had a few folks around her who were regional vice-chairs, and the operation went nowhere quickly because it became bureaucracy. It became another thing for Diana Waterman to become chairman of, and it was very clear that she didn’t want any outside help, and that doesn’t build the party.
monoblogue: But it built her resume.
Langer: Well, it built her resume. And that is something I’ve also talked about, which is an issue of confusing promotion with accomplishment. Which I think is something fundamental – confusing the resume with competence. This gets into the two things that happened last week, which calls into question, and I’ve said this before – anyway, I’m getting too far afield here.
It’s this issue of inclusivity, and I’ll give you a prime example: folks who believe this Chairman’s race is only of interest to Central Committee members, and I’ve heard this from a few people that only Central Committee members ought to be briefed as to what’s going on with the state party and why the Chairman’s race is important. That sends a message to your rank-and-file Republicans, who elect Central Committee members, that their opinions are not needed, that they have no place in advocating who should be Chairman because they’re not Central Committee members, they haven’t been involved to the degree that Central Committee members are. That’s fundamentally the wrong message.
Not only is the Chairman’s race of import to every Republican in Maryland who is trying to vote to bring a different vision of government to the state of Maryland, but it’s important on a national scale, too. Because the Chairman, and what the Chairman can do, has an impact on this rules fight that is going on and is going to happen in the next couple of weeks as the RNC Rules Committee meets. And as you can see by what happened (two weeks ago), the Chairman has an incredible amount of influence as to what happens at that Rules Committee, either by appointing someone who is dedicated to undoing the damage that happened in Tampa over the summer, or by someone who is by all accounts part and parcel of the damage that happened over the summer.
monoblogue: Well, let me – I will say this: in refuting the idea that the race is just of interest to Central Committee members, my readership has just surged as this whole thing has developed. A lot more people come to my website to read about the situation than the 300 Central Committee people.
I am curious about one other thing – this is where I’m going to wrap up. The Red Maryland network and the radio show that you did, how did that all come together? I’ve been kind of curious how that all started.
Langer: I had been wanting to do a podcast for awhile – I experimented with a podcast through a thing called HipCast because a buddy of mine, Phil Kerpen, had said something about doing a HipCast, you could do it by phone. But I didn’t like the audio quality there. And so at CPAC in 2011 I launched LibertyLine, which was an actual semi-slick podcast where I was upping the production values, I got a good microphone, I was doing interviews by phone – and remember, Mark Newgent was, at the time, a neighbor of mine. So Mark came in and sat in with me a couple of times.
(Meanwhile) Greg (Kline) and Brian (Griffiths) had done their Red Maryland show by BlogTalk, and they decided they were going to do – they wanted to create an actual network and they apparently talked to Mark and Mark said, hey neighbor, I know you’re doing this, would you like to instead do a weekly show with me instead of, you’re doing your thing one interview or two interviews three times a week why don’t you change schedules and come on and do this with me? And so that’s how it was born.
Greg and I started doing it, and then he and I started shopping it around – we both had contacts up at (W)BAL, so we’d done some fill-in work on BAL’s ’1090 At Night’, you know, made inroads to the Mike O’Meara Show, helping out, doing some stuff with those guys – so that’s how it is. Greg and Brian wanted to develop an actual sort of podcast political network, understanding how the whole industry is changing, and that’s what they did. They’ve got programming five out of seven nights now.
monoblogue: Yeah, I really think that’s interesting – now I am not a person that does a lot of radio per se, but I can tell you from just checking around that it’s almost like people are getting into multimedia moreso – I mean I started my blog in 2005 and nobody had ever heard of blogging, let alone internet radio. Now you have people that do video, radio – we’re our own little subculture of media here, and it’s kind of interesting to see where it’s going to go in the future.
Langer: Well, this is what I’m saying – this is one of the great things that’s come out of the TEA Party movement. It is that there’s this proliferation of new media – Mark and I, when we were together before Mark moved back to the Western Shore, when he and I would do our show weekly we would do a radio component and a video component. We would get set up over here because Mark’s house was chaos at night and mine was a little more subdued, and so all the folks that broadcast together on the Red Maryland network, they do a video component so they’re on both BlogTalkRadio and UStream, you could watch or listen. It’s a little bit harder now that Mark and I aren’t in the same place, although I’d like to do that – there’s something that’s lost when we’re not able to give each other visual cues about things, but that’s the nature – the nature of media in the future is going to be narrowcasting, which means you go to a subset of the population, so for us it’s Marylanders and conservative Marylanders that we’ve been wanting to branch out a little bit into a little more pop culture so we can bring in a wider audience, and it is all on demand.
So one of the big debates that we have at Red Maryland radio is BlogTalkRadio the platform to use, is live radio – see, for me, live broadcast is overrated because the bulk of our listenership comes from the downloads. I look at podcasts like the Mike O’Meara Show – I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but Mike was on the radio for almost 25 years. They moved to a podcast format – they get maybe 150-200 listeners who listen or watch live on their live feed, but they get 35,000 downloads a day, because folks like to be able to pick and choose when they will listen to their podcasts. That’s the nature of the future.
And so that is another area where I think Greg has a much superior track record is this embracing of the new media, is this embracing of the blogosphere, in a way that the party simply, for whatever reason, has not done so – not only because they just don’t get it, but also because they confuse criticism with disloyalty. I think Greg knows in the end that some of his biggest critics are going to be his “buddies” at Red Maryland. And we know that guys like Joe Steffen are going to ream him a new one. I don’t think he minds it so much, I think he recognizes – he’s adult enough to recognize that there comes a time when you have to be open to criticism. That maybe one of the other big barriers this party has faced. Dissent is inherently patriotic, and certainly in Maryland it’s a cherished right.
monoblogue: (laughs) Yeah…
Langer: Folks who lead the party have to be more adult about that criticism, and recognize it’s going to come with the territory. And if you’re not taking flak, you’re not over the target.
monoblogue: There you go. I mean, I… (laughs) I’m sitting here chuckling because I’m kind of the rabblerouser on that front for several years.
monoblogue: I know just how – my blog and my political career on the Central Committee started almost the same time, so (laughs) they’re well aware…
Langer: For me, it’s one of those things where I had to step down from my Central Committee for my mental health. I was in a situation in which I had four people on my Central Committee who, if I said the sky was blue, they would swear the sky was pink.
It’s one of those things where at some point you have to make that calculus “is my time going to be better spent doing other things?” For me, it’s my show, obviously, with Mark, and the stuff I do with IFL.
But this Chairman’s race is of import, which is why I’ve gotten involved, and why Greg has my support. I make no bones about that fact.
monoblogue: Well, we appreciate it. That’s going to be a lot to write about.
Indeed it was, as I spent part of my Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday evening transcribing this lengthy interview. Maybe I should look into a podcast.
But I thank Andrew for his time, and look forward to speaking with next week’s guest.
I’m always leery of pieces of legislation which imply they’re about “fairness” and the Marketplace Fairness Act is no exception.
I was alerted to this by a group called Americans for Job Security, which called the MFA something where “our shared conservative principles matter”:
Limiting the reach of the federal government by returning power to the states. Leveling the playing field so government gets out of the business of picking winners and losers. Ending the federal subsidies that put one part of an industry over another.
There is currently a bill before the U.S. House and Senate that embraces each of these principles, the Marketplace Fairness Act. This legislation is an important step towards protecting taxpayers and enacting our shared principles.
Unfortunately, the Marketplace Fairness Act does none of these things.
For example, rather than return power to the states, the MFA “requires that states must simplify their sales tax laws.” To me, that sounds like yet another federal mandate.
The MFA, it is argued, doesn’t level the playing field, either. A coalition of conservative groups writing under the R Street Institute states the case that:
…(T)he bill would create a decidedly “unlevel” playing field between brick-and-mortar and online sales. Brick-and-mortar sales across the country are governed by a simple rule that allows the business to collect sales tax based on its physical location, not that of the item’s buyer. Under the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” that convenient collection standard would be denied for online sales, forcing remote retailers to interrogate their customers about their place of residence, look up the appropriate rules and regulations in thousands of taxing jurisdictions across the country, and then collect and remit sales tax for that distant authority.
Nor can I find the federal subsidies proponents refer to – presumably that’s a backhanded way of referencing previous Supreme Court decisions which said collecting tax for multiple jurisdictions was too much of a burden for small businesses. And whether there’s software out there which can do this is besides the point – unless it’s constantly updated with the changes made by any of the thousands of taxing jurisdictions on a regular basis, they run the risk of flouting the law. Proponents use the analogy of dealing with real-time shipping, but real-time shipping is only market-based and not a legal requirement.
The real reason for the Marketplace Fairness Act is admitted by proponents at the end of their spiel:
…(T)he Marketplace Fairness Act will help the many states now facing significant budget shortfalls. Although some suggest these States have a “spending problem” rather than a “revenue problem,” it is important to recognize that these States have already been reducing their spending levels year-over-year and increasing collection and enforcement efforts based upon their existing sales and use tax laws.
Maybe other states are reducing their spending levels, but I know Maryland isn’t reducing its spending anytime soon.
We know what advantage states with lower taxes have over the states with higher rates – all one has to do is see how many big-ticket businesses locate themselves just across the Delaware line from Salisbury. And although Maryland residents are supposed to declare their sales tax for items purchased in Delaware, the general attitude (one I share) can be summed up in one two-word phrase: Molon labe. Needless to say, cross-border businesses (particularly gas stations this year) are forever salivating at the prospect of higher taxes for Maryland residents.
A primarily sales-tax free Internet is a boon for consumers. The companies pushing for this marketplace “fairness” are a collection of large retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, which would be able to afford the overhead required to make these changes while small mom-and-pop outlets would be hindered. If the recovery is about jobs, I think on balance more would be lost than created if MFA becomes the law of the land.
Update: While I was writing this piece, I thought about Martin O’Malley’s bid to tax internet purchases last year and Robert Stacy McCain’s reaction to that fiasco came to mind. Just had to find it.
But instead of particular states trying to sniff their way into the honey pot of e-commerce money, in this case the federal government wants the whole enchilada. Once the mechanism is in place, what’s to stop the feds from using the precedent to add their own national sales tax on Internet purchases? While I am a proponent of the FairTax, I don’t see anyone repealing the Sixteenth Amendment anytime soon.
When I last left you at CPAC, I was ready to return upstairs to see Sarah Palin (and ran into Dan Bongino in the process.)
But I wanted to digress beforehand and explain a little bit about my vantage point for the event.
When I walked in early on and finally found the media check-in, they gave me this.
Obviously that gave me floor access, but for most of my time there (except when I walked up to take pictures) I was back in this area.
By the way, the woman sitting in front of me in the multi-colored shirt was my friend Jackie Wellfonder, who was covering CPAC for Viral Read. Nice work for her!
We were segregated into the area – which had some perks, like free coffee and pop – with the one problem being the obstructed view. But we had a good place to work and power to plug in our laptops.
The only complaint I would have was the internet access. It was provided by the TEA Party News Network, which I appreciate. But it was overwhelmed, with the best analogy I could give being that of sending a Yugo to run a NASCAR race.
I would have liked to do more Tweeting from the event, but it simply wasn’t possible.
Since I knew Sarah Palin was slated to speak at noon, I was upstairs a little early. I came back just in time to see a former Democrat speak.
Artur Davis is a former Congressman (and onetime Obama supporter) who has come around to the conservative side. Davis pointed out that the 43 million conservative voters in America are the country’s largest voting bloc. “This is our America too and we are not going anywhere!,” he exclaimed.
At last, Sarah Palin was introduced.
No, that’s not Sarah nor is that a mistakenly-placed picture. “As all of you know, I’m not remotely cool enough to be Sarah Palin,” opened Senator Ted Cruz. “She drives the media batcrap crazy.”
But he stepped out to proclaim that Sarah Palin was among the biggest reasons he was in the Senate. “She picks winners,” said Cruz, citing as examples Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, Pat Toomey, and Nikki Haley in 2010, along with Deb Fischer, Jeff Flake, and Cruz last year.
“I would not be in the Senate today if it weren’t for Governor Sarah Palin,” concluded Cruz. “She is principled, she is courageous, and she is a mama grizzly.”
Palin’s speech has been reviewed as one chock full of one-limers and quips, and it was.
However, she made time for chastising the Senate for not passing a budget. She also pointed out that leaders take risks while campaigners make promises and made the case that “we’ll never win a contest of identity politics.” Sarah also warned us to not let the media intimidate us and had the prescience to quip “the last thing we need is Washington, D.C. vetting our candidates.” She advised the inside-the-Beltway crowd to “get over yourself.”
But Sarah Palin’s seminal moment was the Super Big Gulp. I think the Southland Corporation owes SarahPAC a pretty hefty contribution for the free advertising they received from this one gesture – somewhere around National Harbor a 7-11 should be advertising that they sold Sarah’s Big Gulp. I wondered why the lights were dimmed before Sarah’s performance – the three roadies were delivering her prop.
(The picture is actually a photo of the monitor in front of me at the time.) But my burning question: was it Coke or Pepsi?
After Sarah finished, I decided to do a little more exploring. Going upstairs I saw the screening room for a number of movies sponsored by Citizens United.
There were also breakout sessions going on, like this one wrapping up from TEA Party Patriots.
But the real reason I went there was that a flyer had advised me of a Breitbart News-sponsored event dubbed “The Uninvited.”
I got a picture of Steve King which turned out this time, as he introduced the event by speaking about Andrew Breitbart, a man whose “integrity was essential.” Breitbart’s CEO Larry Silov added that “we mjust be willing to discuss issues.”
This was an event was intended to address some items which weren’t featured prominently enough on the main CPAC stage: global jihad, persecution of Christians, gutting the military, and immigration were cited. Among the “uninvited” speakers was Pamela Geller, who was also featured at Turning the Tides. They had a packed house.
I didn’t stay for the event, which is the thing about CPAC: it’s way more than one person can see. (The same goes for several of the films screened there as well as the breakout sessions, which occur at the same time as speakers and panels downstairs.) The Uninvited event is covered well on Breitbart’s site, though.
Instead, I had a meeting of sorts to attend. Some of you who have seen my Facebook page have already seen this shot.
When I had stopped by the PJ Media booth earlier, I was told Lt. Col. West would be there at 1:30 and I arrived just in time to be behind Jackie Wellfonder in line. So I took advantage.
By this time, I decided to head back up so I could see Mia Love, a rising star in the conservative movement. But because they were running somewhat behind, I caught some of the stories of the “Conservatives Under 40″ featured as a panel.
Next up was a panel headed by former Senate candidate and Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who believed “this is the century of brain power and innovation.” She was joined by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, who cited the “U-Haul test” and quipped “California is Washington, D.C. is waiting,” and New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce, who asserted that our business is what separates us from South Sudan – they have no “kinetic energy.” The panel eventually suggested that perhaps a million small-business march on Washington may be needed to build awareness of their issues.
Brent Bozell spoke next, pleading his case that we need to stop listening to professional politicians and consultants who are most responsible for our “trainwreck.” He also ticked off a list of things which “aren’t conservative” like the new Ryan budget, House leadership, Jeb Bush, Bob McDonnell (who can “forget his national aspirations”, according to Bozell), and Karl Rove. The mention of Rove drew a chorus of boos from the audience.
We would work with these guys, said Brent, but it would have to be on our terms: “our days of playing second fiddle to moderates are over,” concluded Bozell.
We finally got to listen to Mia Love, who was introduced by comedian Stephen Crowder as a woman “liberals check under their bed for.” Somehow I had a lot of good pictures of her, this was the best.
“The pundits of doom and gloom would have you believe all is lost,” said Mia. But her upbeat message was of great cause of confidence: we can restore our confidence in this country and stand out as examples of what is good and right.
Next up was the final panel of the day. a confab called the CPAC All-Star panel.
I’ll admit that I spent the better part of my time this panel was speaking in writing the first portion of Part 1 of this series, but my ears perked up when Larry O’Connor of Breitbart News mentioned Andy Harris’s evisceration of CDC director Tom Frieden over the effects of the sequester.
After the All-Star Panel concluded its work, Dinesh d’Souza spoke on the upcoming film “America,” which as he stated, highlights the idea of the self-made man. This “couldn’t be more different than Obama’s idea,” which to d’Souza seemed to be one that the free market is a form of theft.
The film will ponder the question “what if America didn’t exist?”
RNC Chair Reince Priebus noted that the “House Republican budget is right for America” while the Democratic budget never balances. He also believed we need to introduce the government to the Tenth Amendment.
“Conservatives have to hold the government accountable,” Priebus concluded. “I applaud the new generation of liberty-minded Republicans.”
NRA head David Keene embraced Priebus after being introduced to speak, saying “he is a guy who gets it.” He also recounted a long history of conservative vs. establishment Republican battles dating back over a half-century and reminded us that 50% of voters under 30 voted for Ron Paul – but party leaders don’t really want voters in their clique, Keene said.
Political movements have two choices, said Keene: they can grow, or they can die. It was interesting to hear a member of the old guard speak to a crowd mainly comprised of those two generations younger, as we shall soon see.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers was another warmup act, one who cautioned us that “for too long we’ve been talking like bookkeepers rather than leaders.” She added, “we need to be the party of the 100 percent.”
After giving out the video of the year award to the University of Georgia College Republicans and the Blogger of the Year award to Katie Pavlich, who accepted the award and told us bloggers “we have the world in front of us to conquer, so let’s do it,” we finally got to one of the last featured speakers.
Ann Coulter was her usual snarky self, particularly snapping at onetime Coulter favorite Chris Christie: “Even CPAC had to cut back on its speakers this year, by about 300 pounds.” Later, when answering an audience question about whether Christie should have been invited to CPAC, Coulter said “I’m now a single-issue voter (on immigration), so Christie is off my list.”
She also made the point of tax hikes, rhetorically asking the question sure to come from the media: Are you saying that you wouldn’t even take $1 in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts? “See, the problem is, we’re the Indians and the Democrats are Andrew Jackson,” replied Coulter. “We’ve been through this before.”
But she got serious during her remarks, telling the audience “the reason we don’t have the Senate is because Republicans keep screwing up. I can think of about ten Senate seats in the last three election cycles that we’ve pissed away through narcissism, greed, or stupidity.”
“Passion is great, but scoring is all that counts,” said Coulter. “On the basis of this one boneheaded statement by Todd Akin out in Missouri, Democrats finally had their talking point: the Republican were waging a ‘war on women.’”
But, countered Ann, “your average Democrat actually believes things much crazier than Todd Akin – but the Democrats don’t let their candidates open their mouths and say stupid stuff.”
Philosophy is not the Republicans’ problem, though. “Conservatism is about the only thing Republicans have going for them.”
She was also harsh on the pro-amnesty wing of the Republican Party, saying “if amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will win another national election.” Instead, Republicans shouldn’t be desperate and adopt amnesty because Democrats want it. “People always announce their complete triumph a moment before their crushing defeat,” concluded Ann. “Our job, Republicans, is to insure Democrats have that crushing defeat.”
After Coulter finished, the CPAC straw poll results were announced. What blew me away was the percentage of under-25 people who participated, although it should have been apparent in the crowd. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio paced the field. Coming in a distant third was the top 2012 candidate on the ballot, Rick Santorum. (My vote was among the ‘other’ category, since I preferred Indiana governor Mike Pence.)
Finally, we reached the penultimate speaker, newly elected Senator from Texas Ted Cruz.
In his remarks, it’s noteworthy that Cruz spoke in front of the podium, which to me suggests either he memorized his remarks or spoke completely off the cuff, or both.
He opened up by commenting on being called a ‘wacko bird’ by John McCain: “If standing for liberty makes me a ‘wacko bird’ then count me as a proud ‘wacko bird.’”
Cruz revealed one of the biggest surprises he received upon entering the Senate was their defeatist attitude, as he countered that “for the last three weeks, conservatives have been winning.”
On the Rand Paul filibuster, Ted pointed out that the filibuster drew more support as the night went on. “Each of you engaged,” said Cruz. It was something not seen in a long time – “standing on principle.” Ted also revealed the filibuster was the very first time he had spoken on the Senate floor.
Cruz also believed we were winning on sequestration, based on the lack of reaction to Barack Obama’s “scare America tour.” The sequester was a “small step” in reining in the debt.
As part of that, another victory in Cruz’s book was the vote on an amendment her offered to repeal funding for Obamacare. “Now I’ll confess: a couple weeks ago when I said initially I was going to offer that amendment, more than a few of my colleagues were not thrilled. And yet we saw every single Republican in the Senate vote unanimously to defund Obamacare,” said Cruz. On the other hand, all the Democrats voted to keep Obamacare, “even if it pushes us into a recession,” as Cruz charged.
But the key to continue winning is twofold, to defend the Constitution and champion growth and opportunity. “Defend the Constitution: liberty is under assault from every direction,” stated Ted. He cited threats to several parts of the Bill of Rights, particularly the Second Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. “We need to repeal the NDAA ,” said Cruz to thunderous applause.
He also mentioned threats to our sovereignty. “We (the state of Texas) stood up to the President of the United States – who happened to be a Republican – and I went before the Supreme Court of the United States and said no President, Republican or Democrat, has the Constitutional authority to give away U.S. sovereignty.” Adding that Republicans stand up to Republican presidents, Cruz continued “where were the Democrats when Rand and the rest of us were standing on the floor on drones?”
On growth and opportunity, Cruz charged “we are in the midst of what I call ‘the Great Stagnation.’” Only twice in the postwar era have we seen less than 1 percent growth – from 1979-83 and over the last four years. “Obama didn’t learn the lesson from Reagan,” said Cruz. Instead, we need to embrace “opportunity conservatism,” a philosophy to ease the means of ascent up the economic ladder. To do this, we need to do a laundry list of things: repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, eliminate corporate welfare, build the Keystone pipeline, rein in the EPA, audit the Fed, stop QE infinity, abolish the Department of Education, champion school choice, stand with Israel, and stop sending foreign aid to nations that hate us.
Speaking to the audience, Cruz told us it was up to us to spread the message. “There are no longer gatekeepers that can decide what the American people hear and what they don’t get to hear.” He named his site as one means of doing so, but concluded by saying “we’re here because we’re not willing to give up on America.”
Okay, I’m out of pictures, but I’m not quite finished yet.
One goal of mine was to meet fellow bloggers and promote my site. I handed out a few dozen business cards, found a couple promising leads for freelance work, and did what networking I could. But perhaps the best part was getting to meet a few of the bloggers I’d read from afar as well as make a couple new acquaintances, such as Bill Hughes, who, like me, drove down to CPAC for the day from New Jersey and was my next-door neighbor for part of the day at the media table, or Deb from Kansas (bloggers would know her as Nice Deb.) That introduction was made as I was talking with Cynthia Yockey, who I met for the first time after being linked to her for quite awhile.
And I’ll be interested to see how I turned out on DaTechGuy‘s video, since I was among the last to be featured. Maybe next year I’ll get some cannoli. I also got to meet a woman whose link from my site, if I’m not mistaken, was her first: Becca Lower from my native state of Ohio. If I heard correctly, she was a CPAC volunteer, which is really cool and commendable.
Nor can I forget some of my biggest fans, who saw me as I walked in the door: Larry and Rosemarie Helminiak spotted me and said hello, which made me feel a little more at home.
So that’s how my day went. Last year I stated making it to CPAC was one of my goals for 2013, and I accomplished it despite the limitations placed on me by my other jobs and funding. Next year, though, I’d like to experience the whole event, an endeavor which could run into the four-figure range depending chiefly on accommodations. 2 1/2 hours each way is a bitch of a commute, as I found.
I don’t normally ask this, but if you liked my coverage of CPAC and want to see more, the best way to insure that is rattling the tip jar early and often. People want to know how the mainstream media can be countered, well, here’s an opportunity to get the straight story if you care to support it.
Since I took nearly 100 pictures and 36 made the final cut, I decided to make this a two-part post.
Recently having done a stint at the Turning the Tides Conference, I thought I had a little bit of an idea in what to expect from CPAC. But the entirety of the Gaylord Conference Center and the number of celebrities speaking and milling around tells me that I missed a lot when I missed the first two days of the gathering. Yet the one day I managed to be here was well worth my time in learning from and meeting those who move and shake the conservative world.
Walking into the Potomac ballroom I was blown away by the expanse of the venue. Sure, we have some decently-sized conference rooms for our 300-person gatherings for the Maryland Republican Party, but this room could hold a sporting event. If anything, the stage made the speaker look small.
The first speaker I heard upon my arrival and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and invocation was TEA Party pioneer Jenny Beth Martin, who repeated the case I’ve been pleading since the most recent incarnation of the pro-liberty movement was born: conservatives are for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a thriving free market. Instead, Martin said, they are “mocked, marginalized, and maligned.”
She also added that we’re headed to bankruptcy, with an Affordable Care Act which is “unaffordable, callous, and cruel.”
“The reality today is grim and heartbreaking,” Martin added.
She concluded by asserting, in a rising voice, that liberty will endure – if we fight for freedom. “Our Constitution is worth fighting for, because freedom is worth fighting for.”
Rep. Steve King of Iowa followed Jenny Beth to the podium and made the case that “Obamacare has got to go…we can’t let up.” It erodes our vitality and is an “unconstitutional taking,” according to King. He also criticized the immigration initiatives because, as King claimed, 2 out of 3 illegal aliens are Democrats “and the Democrats know this.”
King called on us to “restore the pillars of American exceptionalism…we’ve got a country to rebuild together.”
I should point out that I had pictures of these two speakers and they didn’t make the cut. But this guy made the cut.
Wisconsin is a state which has a leader, said emcee Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, and Governor Scott Walker detailed a number of ways he’s indeed led.
Harkening back to recent initiatives, Walker noted welfare reform and tax reform originated in the states. And just as the states created the federal government, the 30 states with GOP governors – most of which also have Republican-led legislatures – can improvise with good, conservative ideas. But Walker made the point that “to be successful, we have to be optimistic, relevant, and courageous.” It’s obviously working in Wisconsin, where 93 percent of the state said it was heading in the right direction. “We’re the ones who care about fixing things,” he added.
Walker was ready with a number of examples of poor policy, like the first-year Milwaukee teacher who was selected as their teacher of the year but furloughed because she was at the bottom of the seniority chain. His union reforms eliminated that problem. The overall idea, continued Walker, was to replace the narrative that a successful government was one which created dependents with one which made the case that government works when it assists people to wean themselves off dependence by making it easier to get a job.
“In America, we celebrate the Fourth of July, not April 15,” shouted Walker. “We believe in the people, not the government!”
And then came Newt – a guy who only needs one name to convey who I’m speaking about.
Gingrich addressed the concept of government needing to be pioneers of the future, and get out of being prisoners of the past. As a movement our contrast with President Obama “couldn’t be more vivid.”
But he saved withering criticism for the “Republican establishment class,” which “couldn’t be more wrong.” Holding up a candle and light bulb, Newt chided Washington as “being prisoners of the past…they’re all trapped in the age of candles.” Both parties in Washington are blind to the future, though.
Interestingly enough, Newt promoted a book by a liberal author, the former mayor of San Francisco and now lieutenant governor of California, Gavin Newsom. But Citizenville was a book “every conservative should read” because it promoted a more active citizenry. Gingrich used the analogy of the Facebook game Farmville, with the idea being earning rewards for public-spirited achievement rather than planting virtual crops.
Newt also took a swipe at the establishment wing of the party, saying that since 1976 “the dominant wing (of the GOP) has learned nothing.” Nor should we be strictly the anti-Obama movement, said Newt.
The powerful morning lineup of featured speakers concluded with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the 2012 Presidential hopeful whose campaign flamed out after a great summer of 2011.
She explained about the TEA Party movement “we love people in this country…we want everyone to succeed in this country.” As key parts of that success, Michele believed there were a lot of goals we could accomplish “if we put our minds to it” such as cutting the price of gasoline to $2 a gallon, preserving our Second Amendment rights “for your sister and your mother,” and most ambitiously finding a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease in the next decade. The key wasn’t big government, she argued, but “big innovation.”
Bachamnn also chided the inefficiencies of government, pointing out that for every $10 spent on food stamps only $3 goes to recipients while the other $7 goes to bureaucrats. She also dubbed the Obama presidency as “a life of excess.”
In the hardest-hitting portion of her remarks, Michele savaged Barack Obama for the “shameful incident” of Benghazi. “This is a story of not caring,” Bachmann said. Because (Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, the two ex-Navy SEALs killed at Benghazi) cared, they defied orders and they chose to go to the aid of their brothers…they fought for our country.”
As the attack raged on, “they continued to radio their government begging for help,” charged Bachmann, “and that help never came.” This despite the fact President Obama knew of the attack within its first hour, she continued.
“A war was raging in Benghazi for hours, and all we know is that our President went AWOL,” she continued to a chorus of boos and catcalls for Obama. “No one knows to this day where the President was.”
Of all the Saturday speeches I heard, Bachmann’s was perhaps the most critical of Barack Obama.
After she finished, I decided to skip the next panel and head out to explore a little. I hadn’t really had the chance to walk around as I arrived shortly before the proceedings began. It was a crowded lobby to be sure.
This space also featured the famous “Radio Row” I’d only heard about, although on a Saturday morning it wasn’t as busy.
The TEA Party Patriots were busy doing a
radio show, though. (Actually, it may have been just before or just after this video was done. The blond gentleman in the background of my picture is Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit.)
There were a few television broadcasts in various stages of production, such as those of Hot Air.
Also working on content was the TEA Party News Network, who thankfully sponsored the internet access (more on that in part 2.)
Further down Radio Row, another start-up operation was making itself known to the broadcasting world.
Later in the day, it was announced that One America News Network would make its debut July 4 of this year. “We will be the platform for the conservative message,” said OANN’s Graham Ledger. He cautioned, though, that cable systems “will resist putting on a conservative news network.”
Once I made my way down the hall and down a level, I was at the entrance of the exhibit hall. I didn’t count them, but there were probably over 100 groups exhibiting their wares. By the time I was through, the swag bag I received at the entrance was very full (I took the picture when I got home.)
The exhibit hall was fairly expansive as well.
Here was a group I think needs further investigation. Unfortunately, there was no one there to explain the concept to me. From what I gather, it’s a database of conservative companies to support.
Another group I’d love to have seen a representative of was this one. Maybe their volunteer (or intern) had an encounter with some union thugs.
I got to talk with this group, though. They represent an outfit I’ve referenced a lot over the years.
A newer but very nice organization has been referenced on this site since its formation. Unfortunately, in missing Friday I missed a chance to talk with its founder.
Someone else who might be on the 2016 ballot had some unofficial help. These were placed on a side table, but not many were wearing them that I saw.
There was also an area in the exhibit hall for book signings. When I was down there, Newt and Callista Gingrich were signing their tomes with Ellis the Elephant looking on.
Some people simply took the opportunity to relax and take a quick break in the CPAC Lounge. They could watch the action upstairs on the monitors.
Just like them, I’m going to rhetorically relax and take a break, since this seems like a nice dividing point. Part 2 will be up tomorrow morning.
There’s really not a whole lot I can add to what two conservative kingpins have had to say about the decisions our government has made regarding sequestration cuts, but it’s also my job to make readers aware of them.
I wanted to begin with a quote from Maryland pro-liberty standardbearer Dan Bongino, who said in a release regarding the closing of the White House to public tours:
The President is a guest in the White House, the people of the United States are the Homeowners. Closing the White House to public tours, despite the negligible impact on the budgets of the U.S. Secret Service and the EOP (Executive Office of the President) is clearly a petty, naked gesture of pure politics rather than sound budgeting.
The White House closure reflects a continuing pattern with this administration of placing petty politics over public good. Inviting a group of multi-millionaire celebrities, and Obama campaign donors, to the White House to celebrate a family birthday, while at the same time closing the doors to America’s schoolchildren is a disgrace. During my tenure as a Secret Service agent securing the White House grounds, it was an immeasurable honor to see the excited faces of schoolchildren from all across the country as they witnessed the majesty of our White House for the first time, an experience sidelined for the sake of ‘Downtown (sic) Abbey’ political insiders and multi-millionaire celebrities.
I’m sure spellcheck nailed him on that last sentence, but the point remains.
I thought this was a nice quote from Dan, but it didn’t seem like enough to carry a post well – that is until I read Byron York’s piece on Townhall.com and knew I had the required yang to the yin. The money passage is as follows:
All those Obama administration officials complaining about across-the-board cuts dictated by sequestration could come up with plans to make the same amount of cuts in ways that would create fewer problems for federal workers and services. Then they could ask Congress for permission to do so. Lawmakers would say yes, and things would be fine.
But it’s not happening. And the fault is not with Congress.
In recent weeks, House Republicans have been virtually begging administration officials to ask for permission to move money around. If one program could be more easily cut than others, those Republicans say, just ask us, and we’ll let you do it.
“We sent out on Feb. 28 a letter to every Cabinet officer asking them what changes they’d like to have — pluses, subtractions and so on — to give them an opportunity to show us at least one program they would like to have cut, which would then save on sequestration,” Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in an interview recently. “We did not receive a single answer.”
It all became clear with that revelation. If you really want to address the spending problem, you go to Congress and say, “look, we hate to do this, but we think we can do with less and here’s how.” But if you want to play ‘naked, petty politics’ you come in with the attitude that we are going to make the cuts as painful and public as possible. No White House tours for you!
This reminded me of my Ohio days. In the Buckeye state, school districts aren’t generally countywide but normally serve a municipality, township, or group of townships – the school district I graduated from was once five smaller township-based districts which merged in the mid-1960s into one of the geographically larger districts in the state. They also have taxing authority, and money not supplied by the state or federal government comes in the form of a property tax levy, which normally has to be renewed or replaced with one at a higher rate at regular intervals of three to five years. The same is true for income tax levies, which some districts (including my home district, which has both income and property tax levies) have resorted to.
If a levy failed, which it often did, the scare tactics would begin with the second or third attempt to pass. Never did they say that they would cut administrators; instead the ominously promised cuts began with non-required bus service – not that it affected many children in our far-flung school district – then progressed to teacher layoffs, and if those didn’t work athletics were placed on the chopping block. Usually that was enough blackmail to get a levy to pass.
I’ll grant this is an imperfect and somewhat anecdotal example, but the prevailing attitude of government is rarely one of learning to do with less. With the prospect of budget cuts, agencies and departments think more about preserving turf than being public servants and stewards of taxpayer money. In this case of the federal government, we are talking about a budgetary rounding error of less than 2 percent of spending; insofar as state government goes, our governor disingenuously brags about making “cuts” on every budget yet spending somehow increases each and every year.
With all the caterwauling about a 1.5% federal budget cut in the news lately, you would think that Warren Harding had returned from the grave! But if we cut the present federal budget proportionally to what Harding did over the two years he was President before his death (granted, we were coming out of World War I so the military absorbed a significant share of these cuts) we would balance the budget without raising taxes; in fact, we could return to the Bush tax rates and still be in surplus. I think we could even get the White House tours back.
Of course, I’m certainly aware that we now have an entitlement system which was still in the dreams of progressives when Harding and his successor, Calvin Coolidge, were in office during the Roaring Twenties. That’s not only created a huge obstacle to necessary budget cuts but also given birth to an entitlement mentality among many millions – you would think they were bureaucrats who are owed a living.
But the road to sanity has to begin someplace, and the sooner we embark onto it the less painful it will be in the end.
In a few days, after it’s all over and soft-headed Republicans who forget that sequestration was Barack Obama’s idea in the first place cave once again to the ginned-up outrage created by the subterfuge of groups like Organizing
Against America For Action, everything will go back to the way it was on the road to serfdom.
Don’t believe OFA isn’t heaping blame on Republicans? Check out the excerpts from these e-mails I’ve received over the last few days. The first is from OFA’s Jim Messina, who should know better but obviously remains either delusional or worried his story won’t stick:
If congressional Republicans don’t act by tomorrow, we’re going to be hit by a series of devastating, automatic budget cuts called the sequester.
It’s a sledgehammer to the budget, our economy, and millions of Americans across the country — and the most frustrating part? It doesn’t have to happen.
The majority of Americans support President Obama’s balanced approach to deficit reduction — add your name if you do, too.
So far, congressional Republicans are refusing to compromise — all because they don’t want to close tax loopholes for millionaires, billionaires, vacation homes, and corporate jets. Seriously.
This has very real consequences.
On the chopping block are 10,000 teaching jobs, more than 70,000 kids’ spots in Head Start, $35 million for local fire departments, $43 million to make sure seniors don’t go hungry, and access to nutrition assistance for 600,000 women and their families. That’s just a few of the things we’ll lose.
The second came from OFA’s Jon Carson yesterday:
Today, because congressional Republicans refused to act, devastating budget cuts known as the sequester are going into effect.
They’re self-inflicted wounds, and they didn’t have to happen.
Congress can stop all of this right away — and pursue a balanced approach to deficit reduction.
That’s what the vast majority of Americans want, and yesterday, more than 100,000 Americans called on Congress to be reasonable about the budget.
Finally, from Stephanie Cutter. Note the similarities in phrasing and dire predictions of gloom ahead:
Prepare yourself for job layoffs, reduced access to early education, slower emergency response, slashed health care, and more people living on the street.
This Friday is the final deadline for congressional Republicans to stop disastrous automatic spending cuts (known as the “sequester”) that will hurt everyday Americans — including you.
These budget cuts will take a sledgehammer to the budget, and indiscriminately cut critical programs vital to economic growth and middle class families.
If Congress fails to act, we’d see budget cuts pretty much across the board to critical services that teachers, first responders, seniors, children, and our men and women in uniform rely on every day.
It sounds bad because it is. And with all these cuts on the line, why are congressional Republicans refusing to budge?
Because to do so, they’d have to close tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires, oil companies, vacation homes, and private jet owners. I’m not kidding.
It’s on each of us to speak up. Share what these budget cuts could mean to you — or someone you know — today. Congress needs to hear it.
President Obama has offered a balanced plan to reduce our deficit, asking the wealthy to pay their fair share so that we can protect programs that are incredibly important for working and middle-class Americans.
But congressional Republicans so far are refusing to compromise.
Here are some of the consequences if Congress fails to act by Friday:
– 10,000 teachers would be laid off, $400 million would be cut from Head Start, the program that makes sure at-risk preschoolers are ready for kindergarten, and 70,000 kids would be kicked out of the early-education program completely.
– The budget for firemen and other first responders to react when natural disasters strike would be cut by $35 million.
– Nutrition programs that help make sure seniors don’t go hungry would be cut by $43 million.
– A program that helps provide housing for the formerly homeless, including many veterans, would be shuttered, putting them at risk of going back on the street.
– A number of programs that help the most vulnerable families and children would be slashed — including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children dropping 600,000 women alone.
Right now, each of us has a responsibility to step up and make sure Congress hears our voices.
Whether you’d be directly affected by these sequester cuts, or whether they’d affect a senior, veteran, or teacher you know, please share what they mean to you:
Let’s keep the pressure on congressional Republicans to do the right thing.
What they don’t tell you is that Republicans DID “the right thing”, but their cuts weren’t to Barack Obama’s liking because they insisted on no tax increases this time. (Remember, the last “fiscal cliff” deal at the end of last year increased taxes on the so-called “wealthy” back to the nearly 40 percent rate they paid under the Clinton Administration, piling on over $600 billion in revenue Washington will spend, spend, spend.)
As Stephen Dinan wrote in the Washington Times, this wheel was set in motion two years ago:
The sequesters were set into motion by the 2011 debt deal, and were meant to be too painful for anyone to accept. They were part of a package that gave Mr. Obama the power to raise the government’s debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion, in exchange for spending caps and the deeper sequester spending cuts.
That debt increase has been used up, but Congress and Mr. Obama are still fighting over whether to follow through on the spending cuts.
Mr. Obama said he was unwilling to shoulder responsibility for the cuts and threatened to veto the Republican plan, saying he would accept a bill only with tax increases included. The Republican plan fell 22 votes short of the 60 needed to move ahead. (Emphasis mine.)
So the unwillingness to compromise is exclusively from the White House, because Obama seems to believe that if he can make the cuts as painful as possible he’ll shame Republicans into accepting yet more tax increases (which he seems to have direction his minions to dub as “tax loopholes.”) The Republican Study Committee puts this into perspective:
The sequester was the brainchild of the Obama administration in the first place, and the House passed targeted spending cuts to replace the across-the-board sequester nearly 300 days ago. Washington clearly has a spending problem, and we need real spending cuts in order to get our country back on track.
Remember, this is all over $85 billion which, thanks to typical Washington accounting, isn’t really $85 billion in actual spending but mainly projected spending. In terms of a $3.7 trillion budget we’re almost talking about a rounding error – to me, real cuts would be more in the neighborhood of $370 billion in actual dollars not spent (or borrowed).
As noted on CNS News, one representative gets it:
“The fact is, when we accepted the president’s sequester 18 months ago, we made a deal, a dollar for cuts for a dollar of debt limit increase,” (Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas) said during a press conference with House Republican leaders. ”If he wants to do the bait-and-switch now, we will have lied to our constituents by replacing those with tax increases.”
“This leads you to the truth, and the truth is the president needs to come back from his campaign style tour, stop scaring people, and work with us to address the issue of the debt and deficits, get the economy moving and people back to work,” Jenkins said.
So, President Obama, you can keep trying to blame Republicans or you can get in there and address the problem by working on the cuts YOU agreed to. You can fool enough of the people to get elected twice, but you’re not fooling me.
So far I’ve survived sequestration just fine, and I plan to continue doing so.
I came across this nugget and it got me to pondering. One would think we don’t have this issue in Maryland with just one Republican Congressman who was supported by the group, but read on.
For a bit of context, let me refer you to another Congressional scorecard put out by the Club for Growth. In it, our Congressman Andy Harris received a respectable (but not outstanding) score of 86 percent. He easily outdistanced the other state Republican, now-former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, but finished outside the top 10 percent of Congress and didn’t crack the top 50. That’s a departure from his 2011 score of 95 percent and 22nd place ranking.
Yet there’s probably not a lot of danger that we’ll see Andy Harris’s face plastered on this site, called Primary My Congressman! This is another Club For Growth project, complete with the picture of the rhino (for RINO) in the heading. Their reasoning for the site:
Many of these RINOs represent districts that are heavily Republican where it would be difficult for the right Republican candidate to lose. In fact, the nonpartisan Cook Report, a political handicapper, found that in 2012, 190 Congressional districts were considered “Strongly Republican,” meaning that they were not even competitive in the general election. In 96 Congressional districts, 2012 Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney received more than 60% of the vote. Romney received more than 55% of the vote in 159 districts!
On the flip side, according to the 2012 pro-free market, limited government Club for Growth’s Congressional Scorecard, only 39 members of Congress have lifetime scores of 90% or above on their voting records relating to economic freedom and pro-growth policy.
This means that in districts that are heavily Republican, there are literally dozens of missed opportunities to elect real fiscal conservatives to Congress — not more “moderates” who will compromise with Democrats to just increase spending and grow government a little bit slower than usual.
While I see the Club for Growth’s point, it bears mentioning that the aforementioned Harris had to overcome a bloody and bitter primary in 2008, not to mention the stiff headwind presented by the combination of an uninspiring Republican Presidential candidate, a Democrat with a populist message, and a vanquished primary opponent who turned traitor and endorsed the Democrat – yet Harris only lost by less than 3,000 votes in an election where the Libertarian garnered over 8,000. The 2010 primary was much less eventful and the final tally much more reflective of the actual composition of the First District.
In defeating any or all of these targeted Republicans, the conservative has to be aware that, in many cases, the party establishment won’t be happy about the unwelcome guest. Being on a Central Committee, I can understand the notion of trying to avoid divisive primary fights due to the common misconception it would harm them in the general election. One can point to the Andy Harris example in 2008 as a case study in the effect of a contested primary, but bear in mind that had Republicans electorally stayed home and not followed the advice of the turncoat Wayne Gilchrest Harris may still have pulled it out. Having a fairly serious primary opponent in 2010 didn’t hurt Harris; meanwhile, Frank Kratovil had both the power of incumbency and no primary opponent, so in the eyes of conventional wisdom Kratovil should have had an advantage.
But if you want to help the conservative movement in a different way, why not turn the Club for Growth’s advice on its head?
If you are a conservative in what may be considered a hopelessly Democratic Congressional district, why not turn the tables on the establishment liberal and primary them as a Democrat? Obviously the chances of winning in this quest are quite remote, but there are several good things which can happen:
- As a conservative Democrat, you can spread that pro-liberty message to an audience which generally hears the word “Republican” and tunes out.
- If enough people begin to question the incumbent plantation liberal, he or she has to start paying attention to the district rather than being able to assist other Democrats in their election.
- And of course, if a conservative Democrat happens to win, they have two choices: either switch parties to their more natural home or be an absolute thorn in the side of the Democratic leadership in Washington. I don’t have nearly the problem with DINOs as I do with RINOs.
I’m sure there are some TEA Party types who are Democrats, but may not be active ones. Obviously we have made inroads in the local Republican Party but it may be time to do some more stealth movement into the Democratic side. (Arguably, there were at least three Democrats on the 2010 Wicomico County primary ballot who could pass for Republicans – none of them won, but unfortunately two ran for the same seat.)
The local test case for this may be Wicomico’s Council District 1. I’d love to see a good conservative Republican run for this post, but I would love it even more if a conservative minority Democrat ran for the office as well. I’m sure there are a lot of voters there who look solely at the party label at the ballot box, but if presented a choice would agree with pro-liberty principles – especially when it comes to education and the economy.
While it may be heresy to say this as a member of the Republican Central Committee, I will admit there are some conservatives who simply won’t join the Republican Party as a matter of principle. There have been possible matchups in the past where I would have voted for the Democrat over a more moderate Republican, but the conservative Democrats didn’t get out of the primary. I encourage them to keep trying, though, because I would rather have a choice between two conservatives in whom I have confidence to lead the pro-liberty movement than my usual option of either voting for a speed bump on the highway to tyranny or slamming down the hammer on the road to serfdom.
As I often do, here’s a collection of little items which grow to become one BIG item. And I have a LOT of them – so read fast.
For example, I learned the other day that Richard Rothschild, who spoke so passionately about private property rights (and the Constitution in general) will be back in our area Saturday, March 2nd as the speaker for Dorchester County’s Lincoln Day Dinner. That’s being held at the Elks Lodge outside Cambridge beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets, which are just $30, are available through the county party.
While Rothschild is the featured speaker, you shouldn’t miss some of the others scheduled to grace the podium, particularly gubernatorial candidates Charles Lollar and Blaine Young as well as Congressman Andy Harris. For a small county like Dorchester, that’s quite a lineup!
The controversy over the Septic Bill is far from the only item liberty-minded Marylanders have to worry about. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been bombarded with notices over a number of issues.
For example, after what State Senator E.J. Pipkin termed as a “structural failure” regarding hearing testimony on Senate Bill 281 (the gun-grabber bill) he offered an amendment to the Senate rules to handle these cases. However, I could not find a follow-up to that bill.
What I could find, though, was Pipkin’s statement that the state was making citizens into criminals, stating “The penalties embedded within the Governor’s Gun Control bill are extreme; they would criminalize paperwork errors in ways that destroy careers, lives, and families.” And he’s absolutely correct.
“This bill does not address the issue of gun violence in Maryland. The real issue is illegal firearms in Maryland, something the Governor’s bill does not target,” Pipkin concluded.
But guns aren’t the only problem. Unfortunately, we are one step closer to an offshore wind boondoggle in Maryland despite the best efforts of those who deal in the realm of reality to stop it. One bastion of sanity in Maryland is Change Maryland, whose Chair Larry Hogan expressed the following regarding offshore wind:
It seems Martin O’Malley’s priority is to make electricity and gas more expensive. He is pushing an increase in the gas tax and pushing a wind energy policy that is not cost effective and guarantees that electricity will be more expensive for rate payers.
At the close of the last session, the governor ignored the budgeting process which resulted in a train wreck. Instead he was out on the steps of the capital, leading wind energy activists in chant that said ‘all we re saying is give wind a chance.’
There are no assurances that this offshore wind proposal will not devolve into crony-capitalism that reward friends of the governor and political donors.
Actually, Hogan slightly misses the point because true capitalism would occur when the market continues to shun the expense and non-reliability of offshore wind. I guarantee that if this project goes through it will cost those of us who use electricity in Maryland a LOT more than $1.50 a month – subsidies can always change, just like tax rates on casinos.
The aforementioned Pipkin also weighed in on offshore wind:
This legislation may represent a shift in how private business is done in and regulated by the state.
This bill requires the Public Service Commission (PSC) to weigh new criteria in approving private development contracts to build off-shore wind turbines. The Commission will now consider prevailing wage and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) participation as criteria in its contract award.
This could set new precedent. In the future, we could see every business now regulated by a state agency subject to prevailing wage and MBE requirements.
You think? Our Big Labor-friendly governor stops at nothing – nothing – to grease the skids for his union cronies. And surely this will extend to whatever road work is performed once the gas tax is increased by O’Malley and General Assembly Democrats. Wait, did I say road work? Hogan and Change Maryland question that assumption, too:
Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan backed transportation reform which has emerged as a key issue this legislative session after several years of being relegated to the back burner. Specifically, key members of the Maryland House of Delegates are advocating guiding principles to ensure much-needed investments are made in infrastructure and fundamental reforms made to transportation policy.
“Previous attempts to improve our transportation network in Maryland have been an abject failure. Our top elected officials are saying roads and bridges are crumbling, but what they won’t tell you is they are the ones who caused the problem in the first place,” said Hogan. ”Another myth that is being foisted upon us is that there is an urgent need to raise the gasoline tax, and that is simply not true.”
Hogan joins Del. Susan Krebs and other House members in instilling common-sense policy solutions to making transportation policy. These include protecting the transportation trust fund with a constitutional amendment, realigning infrastructure investments to reflect how Marylanders actually travel and restoring funds for transportation. (Emphasis mine.)
I highlighted the above phrase as a way to say, “bingo!” That, folks, is the problem in a nutshell.
This is a state which jacked up the tolls on the Bay Bridge to create a cash cow for other projects which don’t pay their own way, like the Inter-County Connector outside Washington. O’Malley’s gas tax is really intended to build rail lines most of us will never ride rather than build projects we could use, like perhaps a limited-access Easton bypass for U.S. 50, widening Maryland Route 90 into Ocean City, or building an interchange at the dangerous U.S. 113 – Maryland Route 12 intersection in Worcester County.
The gas tax proposal has led to acrimony in Annapolis, as Delegate Kathy Szeliga points out:
(Senate President Mike) Miller called House Republicans who oppose his gas tax proposal, “Neanderthals,” and “obstructionists.” In response to his comments, Delegate Szeliga tweeted, “Yabba-dabba-do, Mr. Miller,” further commenting that she hopes to obstruct and stop this massive 70% increase in the gas tax and government expansion. In response to Senator Miller’s jabs at Republicans, Delegate Herb McMillan added, “Even a caveman can see that it’s stupid to raise gas taxes when there’s no guarantee they’ll be used for roads.”
Kidding aside, you can call me a “total obstructionist” as well, Senator Miller. On the road to serfdom someone has to stand in the way, and I’m one of those someones.
Notice that I haven’t even talked about the federal government yet. One sure sign of a new year, though, is the ubiquitous Congressional scorecard. Two organizations which have released theirs recently are Americans for Prosperity and Heritage Action for America.
Not surprisingly, Harris scored a 95% grade from AFP, leading the Maryland delegation – former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett had the second highest grade at 91%. As for the rest, well, their COMBINED score was 50 percent. Heritage Action, however, graded Andy more harshly with an 81% grade (Bartlett scored 67%.) Once again, the remainder of Maryland’s delegation scored anywhere from a lackluster 17% to a pathetic 4 percent.
We’re also talking about immigration reform more these days. I happen to lean somewhat on the hawkish side, so I believe these reports from the Center for Immigration Studies are worth discussing. In one, former Congressman Virgil Goode of Virginia looks at what happened the last time we went down this road insofar as collecting back taxes from illegal aliens – a key part of the compromise provision – was handled after the 1986 reform.
The second CIS report looks at recommendations the bipartisan Jordan Commission made in 1997, after the 1986 immigration amnesty program failed. This middle ground made five recommendations:
- Integrate the immigrants now in the United States more thoroughly;
- Reduce the total number of legal immigrants to about 550,000 a year;
- Rationalize the nonimmigrant visa programs and regulate them;
- Enforce the immigration law vigorously with no further amnesties; and
- Re-organize the management of the immigration processes within the government.
That seems like a pretty good starting point to work from, particularly the first recommendation.
Another study worth reading is this one from Competitive Enterprise Institute called “The Wages of Sin Taxes.” In it, author Chris Snowden takes an unflinching look at who really pays for these tolls. As CEI states in their summary:
Most remarkably, Snowdon, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, demonstrates that financial burden supposedly placed on society through the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, high-calorie foods, has little basis in reality. The myth that these “sinners” cost the rest of us money is perpetuated in large part because “government has no incentive to tell the public that these groups are being exploited, and the affected industries dare not advertise the savings that come from lives being cut short by excessive use of their products.” This type of tax is actually a regressive “stealth tax” that allows lawmakers to take money from their constituents with the lowest incomes without the pushback an upfront tax would provoke.
I would put that in the category of “duh.” Ask yourself: how much state-sanctioned money and effort do you see given by government to prevent drinking, smoking, and gambling? Yet they rake their cut off the top in each of these three vices, which are only legal because government and society have compromised on these issues.
On the other hand, those who grow or smoke marijuana or do other illegal drugs are considered criminals and tossed in jail or fined. The same is true with prostitutes in most locales. If there were tax money to be made, though, and societal mores shifted ever-so-slightly toward a more libertarian viewpoint with regards to these self-inflicted actions, they would be legal – but you’d certainly still see the public service announcements about “just say no” or the dangers of selling one’s body. (Oddly enough, I doubt we buy time around the world to warn about the dangers of illegally immigrating to the United States. Why do you think that is?)
And I don’t think items like this upcoming movie will help the libertarian cause – not because of the message per se, but the poor quality of the animation. It reminds me of those cheesy Xtranormal movies people make, sorry to say.
I also have a couple items – as I get closer to wrapping this up – that I think are worth reading. Paul Jacobs is on Townhall giving our state a little tough love regarding the drive to tighten petition rules (in a state where it’s already very difficult to succeed) while Mike Shedlock is there making a point I’ve made for several years – my daughter’s generation is being hosed.
While he’s a little bit older than the Millennial Generation, I think Dan Bongino can relate. This video is now going viral on Youtube, in part thanks to the Blaze.
Finally, I think it’s worth alerting my readers that this may be the last edition of odds and ends for awhile. No, I’m not going anywhere but in the interest of bringing more readership I’m in the process of exploring the concept of a quicker posting tempo which may or may not feature shorter posts.
I’ve always felt the ideal post was somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words, but these odds and ends posts can run 2,000 words or more. Maybe it’s better for both readers and this writer to space things out and perhaps devote 200-300 words to an item rather than wait and collect a bunch of items which could get stale after a week or two. I can’t always control the length of my Ten Question Tuesday posts or ones where I report on an event, but I can work with items like these and see what’s truly worth writing about.
As the political world and internet evolve, I think the time is right to change up the mix and tempo here just a little bit. Certainly I won’t get to a point where I’m simply rehashing press releases but I think it’s a better use of my time to shorten the average post I write.
So there you have it: another post which weighs in at 2,000 words, exactly.