Striking down Obama’s climate legacy has its day in court

Commentary by Marita Noon

President Obama’s flagship policy on climate change had its day in court on Tuesday, September 27. The international community is closely watching; most Americans, however, are unaware of the historic case known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) – which according to David Rivkin, one of the attorneys arguing against the plan: “is not just to reduce emissions, but to create a new electrical system.”

For those who haven’t followed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule, here’s a brief history that brings us to up to date:

  • EPA published the final CPP rule in the Federal Register on October 2015.
  • More than two dozen states and a variety of industry groups and businesses immediately filed challenges against it – with a final bipartisan coalition of more than 150 entities including 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 electric co-ops, 3 labor unions, and about a half dozen nonprofits.
  • On January 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied a request for a stay that would have prevented implementation of the rule until the court challenges were resolved.
  • On February 9, the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS), in an unprecedented action, before the case was heard by the lower court, overruled, and issued a stay that delays enforcement of CPP.
  • The Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear oral arguments before a three-judge panel on June 2, but pushed them to September 27 to be heard by the full court – something the court almost never does (though for issues involving “a question of exceptional importance” procedural rules allow for the case to proceed directly to a hearing before the full appeals court).

The court, which is already fully briefed on a case before hearing the oral arguments, typically allows a maximum 60-90 minutes to hear both sides and occasionally, with an extremely complex case, will allow two hours. The oral argument phase allows the judges to interact with lawyers from both sides and with each other. However, for the CPP, the court scheduled a morning session focusing on the EPA’s authority to promulgate the rule and an afternoon session on the constitutional claims against the rule – which ended up totaling nearly 7 hours. Jeff Holmstead, a partner with Bracewell Law, representing one of the lead challengers, told me this was the only time the full court has sat all day to hear a case.

One of the issues addressed was whether or not the EPA could “exercise major transformative power without a clear statement from Congress on the issue” – with the 2014 Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) v. EPA determining it could not. Republican appointee Judge Brett Kavanaugh noted that the UARG scenario “sounds exactly like this one.”

Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush appointee, questioned: “Why isn’t this debate going on in the floor of the Senate?” In a post-oral argument press conference, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) pointed out that the debate has been held on the Senate floor in the form of cap-and-trade legislation – which has failed repeatedly over a 15-year period. Therefore, he said, the Obama administration has tried to do through regulation what the Senate wouldn’t do through legislation.

“Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, one of Obama’s mentors,” writes the Dallas Morning News: “made a star appearance to argue that the Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional.”

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, a Bush appointee, concluded: “You have given us all we need and more, perhaps, to work on it.”

The day in court featured many of the nation’s best oral advocates and both sides feel good about how the case was presented.

For the challengers (who call CPP “an unlawful power grab”), West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who along with Texas AG Ken Paxton, co-lead the case, reported: “We said (then) that we were looking forward to having our day in court on the merits. Today was that day. I think that the collective coalition was able to put very strong legal arguments forward, as to why this regulation is unlawful, and why it should be set aside.”

But the case has its proponents, too, and they, also, left feeling optimistic. In a blog post for the Environmental Defense Fund, Martha Roberts wrote about what she observed in the courtroom: “The judges today were prepared and engaged. They asked sharply probing questions of all sides. But the big news is that a majority of judges appeared receptive to arguments in support of the Clean Power Plan.” She concluded that she’s confident “that climate protection can win the day.”

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) summarized the session saying that stakeholders on all sides were left “parsing questions and reactions, and searching for signs of which way the judges are leaning.” U.S. News reported: “The judges repeatedly interrupted the lawyers for both sides to ask pointed questions about the legal underpinnings of their positions.”

The decision, which is not expected for several months, may come down to the ideological make-up of the court: 6 of the judges were appointed by Democrat presidents and 4 by Republicans. Though, according to WSJ, Obama appointee Judge Patricia Millet “expressed concern that the administration was in effect requiring power plants to subsidize companies competing with them for electricity demand.” She offered hope to the challengers when she said: “That seems to be quite different from traditional regulation.” Additionally, in his opinion published in the Washington Post, Constitutional law professor Jonathan Adler, stated: “Some of the early reports indicate that several Democratic nominees posed tough questions to the attorney defending the EPA.”

Now, the judges will deliberate and discuss. Whatever decision they come to, experts agree that the losing side will appeal and that the case will end up in front of the Supreme Court – most likely in the 2017/2018 session with a decision possible as late as June 2018. There, the ultimate result really rests in the presidential election, as the current SCOTUS make up will be changed with the addition of the ninth Justice, who will be appointed by the November 8 winner – and that Justice will reflect the new president’s ideology.

Hillary Clinton has promised to continue Obama’s climate change policies while Donald Trump has announced he’ll rescind the CPP and cancel the Paris Climate Agreement.

The CPP is about more than the higher electricity costs and decreased grid reliability, which results from heavy reliance on wind and solar energy as CPP requires, and, as the South Australian experiment proves, doesn’t work. It has far-reaching impacts. WSJ states: “Even a partial rebuke of the Clean Power Plan could make it impossible for the U.S. to hit the goals Mr. Obama pledged in the Paris climate deal.” With Obama’s climate legacy at stake, the international community is paying close attention.

And Americans should be. Our energy stability hangs in the balance.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Stand up and legislate!

September 10, 2016 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

By Cathy Keim

Congress headed back to work right after the Labor Day weekend. This will be the last opportunity for the Republican controlled House and Senate to finally find their legs and stand up to President Obama’s out of control executive overreach. Sadly, I do not expect them to even try based on their previous performances.

With the presidential election looming in November, wouldn’t this be a great time for the House to remember that they control the purse strings? If they do not put the money in the budget that they will be approving in September, then they can bring programs to a screeching halt. Their fear of a government shutdown renders them incapable of using the only instrument left to stop a president run amok.

Our national debt is now over $19.5 trillion, but still our Congress cannot find it in themselves to defund anything that the president demands.

Obamacare is collapsing, as it was meant to do from the beginning, to force us into a single-payer national health scheme. Watching the United Kingdom struggle with their broken system should give our leaders the encouragement to stop this, but instead they have funded the demise of our health care.

The Iran deal has been shown to be a disaster with our government trading money for hostages and Iran increasingly ready to harass our Navy ships.

Or how about the president’s giveaway of our internet to China, Russia, and Iran!

Ann Corcoran has released a new video called “Changing America by Changing Its People.” In under five minutes, Ann explains the Refugee Resettlement Program and how it can be stopped. You guessed it! This program that was started by Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy could be halted by defunding it. All the Voluntary Agencies (VOLAGS) that are bringing in the refugees are funded with your tax dollars.

Many of the VOLAGS have religious names, but they are not allowed to speak the name of Christ to the refugees they import. They are on the government payroll as private contractors and thus are prohibited from proselytizing. Why would Christian and Jewish groups bring in thousands of Muslims who are bound by their religion to make every effort to institute sharia law instead of living under our Constitution? People whose religion teaches them to hate Jews and Christians and to subjugate or kill them? I have not been able to come up with a reasonable explanation for that.

Since the Democrats cannot get Americans to willingly agree to their progressive Utopian scheme, then they will overwhelm the current Americans with imported people that they hope to keep voting Democrat forever.

If our Congress would defund some programs, another one that could bear careful scrutiny would be the food stamp program. Once again, Ann Corcoran on her blog Refugee Resettlement Watch pulls together the information that is out there, but that our Congressional watchdogs don’t bother to notice. Baltimore, Maryland gets unflattering attention again for a huge food stamp fraud bust. Buffalo, New York, makes the news with this convenience store operator getting charged with fraud. The local convenience store operators buy the EBT cards from the food stamp recipients for 50% of the face value. Instead of food, the customer gets cash and the owner takes the other 50% to buy items to resell at his store. Sweet deal if you can get it, right?

I do not know if any of the convenience store owners are refugees, but Ann points out that their clientele most likely includes refugees: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama stated on his website last September that more than 90% of recent Middle Eastern refugees are on food stamps and almost 70% are on cash welfare.

Put these statistics together with this interesting statement:

[T]he Koran encourage Muslims to collect jizya – blood tax – from kafirs, the non-Muslims, and welfare is looked upon as jizya. Collecting money from non-Muslims is considered a legal entitlement since the kafir is not entitled to any land or laws of their own anywhere, meaning their presence on a land or country of their own is a “theft” of “occupation” of what should be Muslim land.

Defrauding the welfare system becomes a type of jihad against the welcoming host country.

The list could go on and on with all the missed opportunities to block an imperial presidency and to recalibrate the separation of powers equation. What better time to grandstand against the president’s failed policies than the last session while the GOP still has control of both houses of Congress? Use every platform available to broadcast the deficiencies of the current administration that would be continued by the next Democrat president. Give speeches, hold hearings, give interviews, and hold the failed policies up to the public view during the entire budget process instead of acquiescing to the agenda and rubber stamping another omnibus spending bill.

Unfortunately, Paul Ryan and the House leadership don’t see the situation like I do. According to The Hill:

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are pushing to extend government funding into early 2017, wary of a massive bipartisan spending deal in the lame-duck. But GOP leaders and House Democrats are already laying the groundwork for a short-term continuing resolution, or CR, that will set up a vote on a catch-all spending bill right before the holidays.

Once again, the GOP will cave, even if it means passing the omnibus bill with Democrat votes just like the last CRomnibus budget vote. And when they cave, they will not show the fortitude to fight to cut the funding for refugee resettlement, or any other item that President Obama desires.

The GOP leadership is already signaling defeat when “Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a senior appropriator and leadership ally, dismissed the Freedom group’s approach, saying it’s backed by Republicans who would rather create ‘some sort of massive showdown crisis.’”

We don’t even try to mount an offense. The House leadership has already begun attacking the conservatives in their own party before the session even opens. The leadership seems to think that the election is going to be a disaster, so they need to do the best deal now. It appears that they have already given up on maintaining control of the Senate and winning the presidency.
It is interesting that Paul Ryan would think that he can get a better deal with a lame duck President Obama rather than Trump or Clinton. Let’s see where Andy Harris goes on this budget vote.

What is particularly galling about this whole sham of not passing budget bills until the last minute so that they can all be rolled into one huge omnibus bill and rammed through is that the American people are being played by their elected representatives. This process of not functioning in order to push through a monstrosity has been perfected by our Congressional leaders as a means to keep the status quo. Since everything keeps being funded at previous levels, nothing ever changes. The American citizen is being played. This is why there is a revolt brewing. There is discontent on every side. The leaders will not be able to keep this scam going forever.

A position of power for Andy Harris?

In the middle of reading a story about a possible breakup between two conservative factions in the House, I found what should be a very, very fascinating tidbit to folks in these parts. According to Phillip Wegmann at the Daily Signal:

“I’ve heard of no mass exodus (from the Republican Study Committee),” a GOP aide said, “just a few members here and there who don’t feel they use the resources [RSC] provides often enough to justify paying the dues.”

The right candidate for RSC chairman could change that dynamic though, the aide speculated. “I’d imagine a Chairman Andy Harris would make (House Freedom Caucus) folks more likely to stick around.”

Harris, a Maryland Republican, is a potential candidate for RSC chairman, according to multiple Capitol Hill sources. He has remained tight-lipped about his plans, however. Harris’ office did not respond to multiple requests by email and phone from The Daily Signal.

The race for RSC chairman will officially be decided after the November election, but members have been talking about it at least since July when Flores announced this year’s process. When lawmakers return in September, interested candidates will meet with the study committee’s founders. Because the House is in recess all of October and most of November, that only leaves next month for campaigning.

No congressmen have declared their candidacy officially, but a senior GOP aide told The Daily Signal that both Harris and Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., are building support inside the caucus for a bid. (Emphasis mine.)

I realize we are going by the word of an unnamed “GOP aide” – for all we know, he or she may work for Andy – but assuming this is true, it is an intriguing prospect for Andy’s national profile. Because he is far more conservative than most Maryland voters are perceived to be (and certainly Democrats are happy to help that perception along) it’s quite likely that a statewide position isn’t in the cards for Andy. However, he does represent a conservative district that is quite pleased with his record based on the fact he’s received over 75% of the primary vote each time since his 2010 election against challengers who ranged from neophyte to crackpot to serious enough to have some name recognition in portions of the district.

While the RSC has maintained a reputation as the conservative hangout for the House, the fact that membership includes the vast majority of the Republican caucus seems to give a perception that the RSC is now the “establishment.” At the beginning of the current iteration of Congress, the more conservative members decided they needed their own group because they felt the large size of the RSC was watering down its conservative message – hence, the House Freedom Caucus was born. While Harris wasn’t a founding member of that group, he is one of 42 members of the Freedom Caucus as well as an RSC participant.

As leadership will likely be rearranged in the wake of November’s election, Andy Harris may be presented with a number of opportunities. Given that the state’s blatant gerrymandering has placed Harris in an exceptionally safe seat, he has used the opportunity to try and build up the GOP farm team in his district – but now could be a spokesperson on a larger stage. (However, I am holding him to something he promised when first elected – six terms and out.) Love him or hate him, we will see if the back half of Harris’s Congressional service becomes a springboard to a leading role in the national conservative movement.

The price to pay

It really wasn’t my intention to write about this election very much, as I would rather try to shape post-Trump conservatism, but there is an occasion here for a lesson to be taught.

Late last week we began hearing the rumbles about a letter to the RNC, signed by a number of concerned party members, urging them to stop financially supporting the flailing Trump campaign and concentrate their declining finances on saving the House and Senate from a Democratic takeover. The latter was already a strong possibility thanks to the sheer number of Republican seats in play – the TEA Party wave election of 2010 comes home to roost this year in the Senate. Among those signing are onetime Maryland YR chair Brian Griffiths and my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen, who resigned earlier this summer as county chair in Prince George’s County because she, too, could not support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee.

While I have had my differences with Griffiths over the years, it’s more rare that I disagree with my friend Heather. Yet I believe there are two good arguments for keeping Trump in the GOP financial loop, despite their (likely correct) contention that it’s “throwing good money after bad.”

First of all, those who climbed aboard the Trump Train early on were completely and utterly convinced that he would absolutely steamroller Hillary Clinton just as he has built up his business empire. But now that the polls being reported on a near-daily basis continue to find Trump not only losing nationally but putting several “safe” GOP states in play, these backers not only claim the polls are “fake” but also point to other (non-scientific) polls showing Trump has a “YUGE” lead and analysis saying he’ll win in a “landslide.” So apparently this money is going to a good cause, right? These militant Trumpkins are going to be covered regardless – either he wins and then the purge of the #NeverTrump group from the GOP begins, or he loses because he said early on “I’m afraid the election going to be rigged.”

So if you withhold the GOP money from Donald Trump, it’s just going to be another thing to blame his loss on. “We had these huge rallies and we knew we had this election in the bag,” they will wail, “but Reince Priebus and the GOP establishment wouldn’t give us any support – they must have been in cahoots with Hillary.” Don’t you dare give them that excuse.

As for the second reason, the Republican Party simply needs to be taught a lesson on its own and sometimes the only way to get the point across is letting them utterly fail. They had the chance, several times, to do something to avoid this situation – closed primaries, penalties for skipping debates and insistence on participation to the end, or allowing convention delegates to vote their conscience, as examples - but they did none of these things, allowing a candidate with far less than 50% of the Republican vote to skate off with the nomination. (This doesn’t count the policy failures of Republicans in Congress.) As I have said before: you break it, you bought it. Give Trump the money he’s due, and when the election is lost all of those involved will hopefully resign in disgrace for what they have done to a great party and a great country.

So when I get my appeals for donations to the national Republican party (and even the state version) I’m not giving them a dime. This is actually nothing new for me, since I would rather give to the individual candidate I believe in than a party organization that will be as likely to support a candidate edging left of center as it would a conservative (and perhaps more.) And too often they place their thumb on the scale in a primary even though it’s against their policy to do so. (Heather surely recalls Rule 11 being used for Maryland in 2010.)

It looks more and more likely that a bitterly divided Republican Party will endure electoral disaster unseen in a decade this November. (Maybe it’s years ending in 6, since the last several of those have been horrible for national Republicans – they lost all of Congress in 2006, Bob Dole lost in 1996, they lost the Senate in 1986, and Gerald Ford was defeated in 1976. 1966 was the last successful one.) But just as the Democrats are now split between the radical progressives that backed Bernie Sanders and the establishment which went for Clinton, the GOP is rent asunder by the schism between conservatism and the alt-right populism best expressed by Donald Trump (and, to a certain extent prior to that, Sarah Palin.)

Once we get to 2017, the question will be that of who blinks first. After the new Congress and administration is sworn in, it will be time for the GOP to get together and select new leadership. If things go as expected in November, the January RNC meeting will be must-see TV for political junkies as the fate of the resistance is determined.

But if the right people are placed in charge, the few million dollars wasted on Trump at the expense of Congress will be a memory because many may be willing to open their wallets again. In that respect, perhaps the Trump candidacy will be the catharsis the GOP needed to begin on a path to a post-Trump conservatism. We can only hope.

Seeking action on Medicare

The mailing had everything needed for the shock value: a worried-looking senior citizen juxtaposed over a stack of paper stamped “DENIED.” “Worried About Government Bureaucracy Restricting Your Medicare?” it asked. If the piece of paper could listen I would tell it that I’m not even counting on having Medicare when I get to that age, but I figured this may be a fun bit of research and exploration to do. “Okay, I’ll bite,” I thought.

The mailing came to both my wife Kim and I as two separate “families” and was paid for by the American Action Network (AAN). So my first question was obvious: who is the American Action Network? According to Wikipedia, the AAN is “a nonprofit issue advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. which promotes center-right public policy. It was established in 2010 by Fred Malek and Norm Coleman as a 501(c)(4) organization.” On their behalf, the AAN argues its “primary goal is to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into active participation in our democracy.” So the heart must be the center and the mind must be right?

In essence, it’s a group similar to one I pointed out last week, Americans for Limited Government. AAN may have fancier digs and a larger mailing list and donor base, but they are just another of the thousands of issue advocacy groups orbiting around the capital region – one that has $1.7 million to spend on sending a piece that specifically asked me to, “Tell Congressman Andy Harris to Continue His Fight to Protect Your Medicare.” Since both Kim and I are registered as Republicans, I’m thinking the list was culled to specifically target GOP voters and it wouldn’t shock me if they also narrowed this mailing to only reach those over 50 (as Kim and I both are.) According to AAN, 61 districts in 27 states were targeted for the advocacy campaign, for a total cost (with print and digital ads) of $4.8 million.

To be specific, the mailing advocated the passage of two bills: H.R. 1190, which is better known as the Protect Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2015, and H.R. 5122, which doesn’t have a fancy title but is intended “To prohibit further action on the proposed rule regarding testing of Medicare part B prescription drug models.” Harris (as well as every other Republican present, and 11 Democrats) voted for the former bill last year, but it’s been bottled up in the Senate.

H.R. 1190 has two purposes: one is the termination of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (or, in the words of Sarah Palin, the “death panels”) while the other cuts billions of dollars in spending on the Prevention and Public Health Fund over the next decade. But because Barack Obama isn’t going to agree with this anyway, it’s apparent that the bill will go nowhere in the Senate (they won’t even make it past the cloture vote.)

The second bill, H.R. 5122, would eliminate spending on a proposed rule, which is 33 pages to explain that the Department of Health and Human Services wants to try a new method of payment for certain drugs administered to Medicare patients as a trial program. The overall idea is to encourage the use of lower-priced drugs, since the authors of the rule contend the providers use more expensive medications to take advantage of a flat 6 percent reimbursement rate. As an experiment, the rate would go down to 2.5% plus a flat $16 additional reimbursement. After its introduction the bill has apparently sat in a desk drawer someplace because no vote has been taken on it.

Yet AAN objects to both bills, and ”calls on seniors to advocate for two key legislative priorities: (1) H.R. 5122, to prevent the Obama Administration from changing the Medicare Part B payment policy for treatments, and (2) H.R. 1190, to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Both bills will block bureaucrats from imposing harmful changes to Medicare that could threaten seniors’ access to care.”

So I investigated further, and found a missive Coleman wrote last month about this and other issues. Among the things Coleman said:

Despite assurances that ObamaCare would be the end all, be all, for health care reform in America, we now know that it is simply collapsing in on itself.  Insurers are fleeing the system - premiums are increasing - and recent court rulings have undermined the credibility of the financial assumptions used by liberals to justify the creation of ObamaCare.

All this is true. Yet Coleman goes on:

In the end, America doesn’t need only to reform government.

We need to reform the notion that government is the solution to our problems or the key to our future prosperity.

Again, truer words have never been spoken. But the premise of the AAN mailing is that of protecting a government program by appealing to the beneficiaries. (A subsidiary site operated by AAN and promoted on the mailing makes this clear: If government isn’t the solution to our problem, one would think AAN would be looking to repeal Medicare entirely (over a relatively lengthy sunset period, of course) to truly reform the notion that Americans should depend on our government for health care or feel entitled to it. At the very most, the idea of Medicare should be no more than a state-level initiative – if the people of Maryland want a lavish senior care program, let them adopt it as their own. However, those in Delaware may feel differently.

So the definition of “center-right” seems to be the same sore subject that millions of Donald Trump voters used as their excuse to vote against the “establishment.” While they have selected a deeply flawed vessel to amplify their message, it seems those frustrated voters are looking more for the “right” than the “center,” since all the center seems to be is the maintenance of a failed status quo.

On the other hand, one can argue that their objection is not about government involvement, but instead only a complaint about the originator of the idea. They don’t seem to have the same issues with the Medicare Part D program enacted under Republican President George W. Bush – which is, in some respects, similar to the pilot program H.R. 5122 seeks to defund because Part D tends to reward the usage of less expensive medication. It’s still the federal government subsidizing health care, but it was done in the name of a centrist ”compassionate conservatism” instead of the leftward ”fundamental change to America.”

To me, it’s very ironic that a group which wants to back away from the idea that our government is a solution sends out a directive to appeal to our very conservative representative to maintain a costly government entitlement program. Even more so, those who complain “don’t touch our Medicare” would be the first to object to expanding eligibility to cover those over 50 years of age, in part because it’s Hillary Clinton’s idea. (Trump seems to favor the Medicare status quo with a few tweaks, which may explain why much of the AAN target audience is his support base.)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is figuring out where they got $4.8 million for the campaign. We have a few clues, but the backers of this group aren’t being very public about it. So if they were looking for exposure, I suppose this piece is added value to them. But I must say: the “center” of their “center-right” really comes out with this one, particularly if you consider the center as our current situation – a President pulling to the left and Congress mildly countering to the right. Then again, to AAN we are only a “democracy” anyway, so at the moment the people want largesse from the public treasury, with AAN’s large donors perhaps trying to preserve their cut of the proceeds.

While those on the Left, such as writer Igor Volsky, celebrated Medicare as a success and believe the issue is settled, I happen to think those Volsky cites who argued against the concept when it was first proposed over 50 years ago were proven correct. Volsky also quotes an exchange between then-Congressman Mike Pence and journalist Andrea Mitchell:

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) explained his opposition to a new public health care option by arguing that Medicare spending has exceeded actuarial estimates from 1965. As Andrea Mitchell pointed out, somewhat jokingly, “I don’t know if you want to go back to Indiana and campaign against Medicare.”

Obviously those on the center-right don’t want to, so it’s going to take decades of re-education on the concepts of liberty and personal responsibility to counter the effects of the entitlement mentality society we live in today. Some may consider Medicare a success and wish it saved, but to achieve the rightsizing of government we need it’s clear Newt Gingrich was correct: Medicare does need to “wither on the vine.” Given the sheer number of insurance companies that now cater to the senior market, the problem Medicare was created to “solve” can easily be addressed by the private sector.

The first post-GOP teaching moment

It was about seven or eight years ago that I first came in contact with the group called Americans for Limited Government. One of their projects that I participated in for awhile was called Liberty Features Syndicate, which (as the name implied) was a syndication service that generally catered to small newspapers. For perhaps a year, I was one of their writers and every so often I would find out one of my 600-word columns was placed in some small-town newspaper. That was a neat experience, particularly the very first time when I found out my column was in a Kentucky newspaper fitting that description. For a moment I thought I was destined to be the next Ann Coulter. (Now I’m glad I’m not.) They also do the NetRightDaily site, which is where I first discovered Marita Noon as they also carry her weekly op-ed. Somewhere in their archives I’m sure most of my columns survive.

All that has gone by the wayside, but I remain Facebook friends with current ALG president Richard Manning. Over the last few months, though, I’ve been dismayed to see how a group which claims to be for limited government has climbed aboard the Trump train. A case in point was something they posted last week, which I want to use as an educational tool. It’s called “Trump’s the nominee, deal with it.” I’m going to go through it a little at a time and share my thoughts as we go.

Donald Trump is the nominee and the establishment is going to have to deal with it. These anonymous GOP sources speculating on what the process would be if Donald Trump chose to withdraw from the race for president should be identified and forever run out of the GOP.

I find this rhetoric to be disheartening and a little disingenuous. Manning should remember that 56% of the Republican voters did not support Trump, but when it came time for that group to be represented at the RNC Convention Trump was right there with the “establishment” to shut it down. It was a coordinated effort, so don’t tell me Trump is not part of the establishment when it serves his purpose, and vice versa. Personally, I believe the whole “Trump will withdraw” story is wishful thinking on the part of some, but given his meteoric personality it’s not outside the realm of possibility. If anyone deserves to be “forever run out of the GOP,” though, it’s the Trump/RNC “enforcers” who were at the convention intimidating the grassroots supporters of needed rule changes. That action was one of the reasons I left the party leadership.

Where were they when Mitt Romney was outed telling donors that 47 percent of the people were on government assistance, creating the exact class warfare narrative that the Democrats craved? These anonymous, cowardly whiners were more than likely busily making fortunes at the GOP trough.

Probably the same place they were when Trump alienated women voters with his remarks about Megyn Kelly – except those weren’t surreptitiously recorded like Romney’s remarks were. The Democrats are going to attempt their tactics of division regardless of what the Republican nominee says. The one thing to criticize Romney for? He was off by 2 points – it was actually 49 percent. One would think that a group advocating limited government would embrace that fact as a reason to begin work on the issue. The truth hurts sometimes.

The only reason that this circular firing squad story exists is because the D.C. establishment class cannot get over that Jeb lost and with his loss, their every four-year financial windfall went away. And that’s the ugly truth, Donald Trump’s real failure is his unwillingness to spend millions in consulting fees to keep the GOP consulting vultures at bay. If these consultants had not lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections, they might have some validity in their concerns, but they are proven losers, and Trump doesn’t like losers.

This is perhaps Manning’s best point, but by making it about Trump he makes a mistake. Trump may not be using the consultant class, but the problem is that he’s losing just like in the other five elections (and the current polls track similarly to theirs.) If Trump were running at 60% in the polls Manning would have a great point, but the only thing about Trump at 60% is his negatives. We should hope that the consultant class withers on the vine, but the way to do that is through limiting government so there’s less financial incentive to be a consultant.

So, now they are all-in in trying to stop Trump, and by fostering speculation that he might drop out, they give their cohorts in the mainstream media the excuse to replay some mistakes that Trump has made and the campaign is trying to move on from.

They don’t have to replay mistakes because Trump creates a fresh batch on an almost-daily basis.

It is time to root out these conspirators to elect Hillary Clinton president, and not allow them to hide under the cloak of invisibility that cockroaches and vermin depend upon.

Someone really needs to do an exhaustive study on how many Democrats crossed over in the open primaries to help make Trump the GOP nominee. Oh, wait, those aren’t the conspirators Manning is referring to? My contention all along is that the only candidate Hillary could beat was Donald Trump, so I suppose the real conspiracy was within the group that talked Trump into running when there were already several in the race – remember, Trump was among the last to announce.

For the rest of us, Donald Trump is the only chance to end the Obama expansion of federal government power, his disastrous EPA regulations, Obamacare and his use of the enforcement powers of the Executive Branch as weapons against his political enemies.

For Trump, any and all of these will eventually be negotiable except for the last one. Given the ferocity of his attacks against his former Republican foes, I don’t doubt that Trump has an “enemies list” of his own, and it won’t be all the groups who have tormented conservatives the last eight years. The conservatives will remain in the crosshairs because Trump didn’t need party unity anyway.

Moreover, The Donald yo-yos between wailing about “draconian rules” regarding federal land and advocating the federal government remain in control of it. His stated health care plan repeals Obamacare, but he also vowed to make a deal with hospitals to take care of the poor at government expense. EPA regulations are bad unless you’re pandering to Iowa corn farmers.

In short, I truly don’t see any real support for limited government from Trump, which makes me wonder why ALG is involved in this election. To be honest, I’m sure Americans for Limited Government is a relatively modest group, living on a comparative shoestring as one of many thousands of advocacy groups around Washington, D.C. (That in and of itself is rather ironic. If they don’t like the inside-the-Beltway culture perhaps their headquarters should be in flyover country.) They take Trump’s outsider image to heart, even though he has donated thousands of dollars to political candidates on both sides.

But simply being an outsider with little political experience does not necessarily equate to limited government. And while some argue that with Trump we at least have a slim chance of success, let me remind you that failure to constrain government will once again be a Republican trait if Trump wins and governs on a platform where Obamacare is replaced by other government involvement, regulations are addressed in a capricious manner, and entitlements like Social Security and Medicare are off limits to needed reform, let alone the true limitation of government that can be achieved by sunsetting the programs over a multi-decade period to provide an orderly transition.

I use this as a cautionary tale about consistency. If you believe the group’s mission statement, it’s a curiosity to me why they involved themselves in this race:

We are leaders in identifying, exposing and working with Congress and state legislatures to prevent the continued expansion of government. Never shying away from the big issues, ALG is perpetually ahead of the issue curve taking on issues like the $100 billion International Monetary Fund line of credit while others are still trying to spell IMF. This aggressive, non-partisan approach to the threats posed by an ever expanding government to our basic freedoms gives us the ability to honestly present the limited government perspective both inside the beltway and most importantly around the country.

It’s clear to me that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton will lift a finger to limit government; rather, they will rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. I can understand the fear of Hillary Clinton being a third term of Barack Obama, but who’s to say Donald Trump wouldn’t be a third term of George W. Bush, where government expanded at an alarming rate, too? There were several other candidates who were willing to begin the process of rightsizing the federal Leviathan, but Trump prevailed as the “Republican, not the conservative” nominee. It’s troubling to me that the folks at ALG let party override principle and fear take the place of common sense.

So despite the admonition of Manning and friends, the only nonsense we need to stop is continually claiming that not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary. One can be #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary at the same time. There are other candidates out there who hew closer to the principles of limited government, and one of those things which holds them back is the perception that no one other than a Republican or Democrat can win. In the end, the decision is up to the voters, so what ALG needs to do is return to stressing the value of limited government rather than shill for one flawed candidate against another.

The case against Trump (part 1)

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m one of those Republicans who occupies the #NeverTrump camp.

Before I go any further, let me explain some basic math to you: 0+0 = 0. My not voting for Trump does not add one to Hillary Clinton’s column because I’m not voting for her, either. By the theory some on the Trump bandwagon are using to criticize #NeverTrump, my not voting for Hillary should add one to his total. But it won’t. I will vote for someone who I feel is the most qualified on the ballot, rather than the lesser of two searing-hot evils.

This election was supposed to be the repudiation of the Obama big-government, strongly executive agenda. Unfortunately, unless the GOP comes to its senses next week, frees the delegates, and comes up with a good conservative candidate, they will sink like the Titanic in November.

But I don’t come by my distaste for Trump lightly. While he has some redeeming qualities that could conceivably come into play on the slim chance he’s elected, there is the sense in my mind that he takes the ideal of limited government and wrests it from the domain of the GOP, leaving both major parties as two sides of the same worthless coin.

It’s likely you recall that I based my original endorsement (of Bobby Jindal, who is backing Trump but has been quiet about it) on the field’s positions on ten items, with a sliding scale of importance assigned to each:

  • Education
  • Second Amendment
  • Energy
  • Social Issues
  • Trade and job creation
  • Taxation
  • Immigration
  • Foreign Policy
  • Entitlements
  • Role of Government

So I went back and reminded myself. To avoid this being overly long, I’m doing the first five in this part with part 2 hosting the second half.

On education, Trump claims to be for local control and against Common Core, which is an orthodox Republican view. But even though he would “cut it way, way, way down” he doesn’t support the complete elimination of the Department of Education. He does have a good point in reversing the trend toward the government being a student loan lender, pushing it back to the banks and other lending institutions where it traditionally rested.

The problem with his approach is that it doesn’t go far enough. Other candidates vowed to finish the job Ronald Reagan vowed to start by eliminating the Department of Education. To me, the federal government has no place on education – states and localities should set standards and run their school systems as they see fit. But any attempt to wean local school districts off the crack of federal funding will be met with howls of protest and Trump fails to impress me as someone who will follow through with these promises. After all, Trump did say education was one of the top three functions of government. “The government can lead it, but it should be privately done.” I’m confused, too.

Trump seems to be a Second Amendment guy as he did get the NRA endorsement. But the chairman of Gun Owners of America was not as quick to praise The Donald based on his past statements. And again, the idea is not just to enforce the laws on the books but get rid of some of the most egregious, let alone get to ”shall not be infringed.” But wouldn’t someone who is on the no-fly list in error be having their rights infringed? This observer asks the question.

And then we have the subject of energy. Now Trump went to North Dakota – a major oil producing state – and promoted his “America First” energy plan. In it, he promised “Any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped.” But when he was in Iowa campaigning a few months earlier he threw his support behind a wasteful ethanol subsidy and carveout. So which is it? And would he allow Sarah Palin to sunset the Department of Energy?

On to social issues: Trump says he is pro-life and would defund Planned Parenthood, but how will he restore a “culture of life”? We don’t have that specific. Nor will be stand against the troubling idea of leaving people free to use the bathroom they feel like using – this despite claiming gay marriage should be left to the states – or is it the “law of the land“? (By that same token, so is abortion as it was based on a SCOTUS decision, too.)

So do you get the idea so far that I trust him about as far as I can throw him based on mixed messages and inconsistent policies? Once again, the idea here in the upcoming term was to reverse the tide of bigger, more intrusive government – but I don’t detect the same sort of impetus from Trump that I received from the candidates I favored. And to me, what would make America great again is for us to return to being good – at least in terms of re-adopting the Judeo-Christian values we’ve gotten away from after ousting God from the public square. I don’t see “Two Corinthians” but three marriages Trump as being a spiritual leader in the manner of a Reagan or George W. Bush, even insofar as being decent human beings.

And lastly for this evening, I’d like to talk about Trump on trade and job creation. Since history isn’t taught well, we tend to believe the Great Depression was the end result of the 1929 stock market crash. But there’s a convincing argument made that rural America took the biggest hit thanks to the effects of the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930. Granted, the world is a lot different and more interconnected now, but American farmers produce a lot of exports (as do chicken growers locally, as the products in demand overseas complement nicely with what we consume here.) Certainly a renegotiation of our current and proposed trade pacts is in order, but would Trump walk away from the table or just angle for any deal? And would he be against Trade Promotion Authority like he was as a candidate when he’s the president negotiating the pact? I doubt it.

And given the amount of union rank-and-file backing he seems to have, it’s no wonder he hasn’t come out more strongly for right-to-work laws, barely mentioning it during the campaign.

To many, Trump’s views on these subjects are on the outside of the range that’s acceptable to the standard GOP. And are they to the right of Hillary Clinton? For the most part, yes – but that assumes that he’s a man of his word and his business dealings suggest otherwise.

So in part 2 I will discuss the more important five issues on my scaling system, and this is where Trump really begins to sound like Hillary.

Speaking up for the unborn

There is a group out there called Created Equal that has piqued my interest since they fight for those who truly have no choice because their right to life is denied to them by their mother’s decision to abort her pregnancy. Based out of Columbus, Ohio, they realize that ground zero for their fight will be later this month in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention, so they embarked on a short tour of Ohio to gather support.

The release Created Equal put out about it reminded me again why I’m here on Delmarva, which at least has a little common sense.

On June 16-17, #OperationRNC conducted a state-wide tour of Ohio. Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, and Mark Harrington of Created Equal were joined by other Ohio pro-life leaders in Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo and Cleveland.

Three of the four media coverage items they used were from Toledo: two from television and one by The Blade, which is Toledo’s primary newspaper. (Not to be confused with the Washington Blade, an LGBT-centric publication.) As it was described by The Blade, there were 20 on the pro-life side and 30 on the pro-abortion side. I suppose that’s only fair since Toledo has long since ceded itself to the whims of the Democrat Party and their Planned Parenthood outlet is downtown, not in the suburbs where more of the conservatives live.

But what did the Created Equal side want?

Activists are requesting that $540,000,000 currently given to Planned Parenthood be redirected to 13,000 federally licensed health clinics which provide true comprehensive women’s health care. These clinics provide a greater variety of services and choices to women than Planned Parenthood and are not under federal investigation.

The DNC is calling for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment and instead include the funding of abortion on demand in their party platform. Pro-lifers need to counter by demanding that the GOP defund Planned Parenthood.

So we are not advocating here for overturning Roe v. Wade nor telling Texas to advise the Supreme Court to butt out of their business as they tried to prevent the very coat-hanger, Gosnell-style abortions I thought the pro-choice crowd was also trying to prevent by enhancing standards for facilities where abortions are performed. (Wasn’t the pro-choicers’ mantra “safe, legal, and rare” abortions? They had their wish in Texas.)

All they are asking at this point is to defund an organization that has many (but not all) locations performing abortions, and instead distribute the money to those that provide more comprehensive women’s health services. Given the figures stated, each local organization would receive an average of about $41,000 – for a group like the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center, that would be a huge boost in enabling them to do more services. (Assuming, of course, they would wish to collect government money – many self-respecting providers make a point of refusing it.)

While Donald Trump has said he will defund Planned Parenthood, he’s in the camp of them not necessarily being the enemy. From February:

Yes, because as long as they do the abortion I am not for funding Planned Parenthood but they do cervical cancer work. They do a lot of good things for women but as long as they’re involved with the abortions, as you know they say it’s 3% of their work, some people say it’s 10%, some people say it’s 8%, I hear all different percentages but it doesn’t matter. As long as they’re involved with abortion, as far as I’m concerned forget it, I wouldn’t fund them regardless. But they do do other good work. You look at cervical cancer. I’ve had women tell me they do some excellent work so I think you also have to put that into account but I would defund Planned Parenthood because of their view and the fact of their work on abortion.

Sorry, I’m not convinced that defunding Planned Parenthood wouldn’t be a bargaining chip for Trump - I was much more comfortable with the pro-life stance of most of the remaining GOP field. Remember, in practically every community PP serves there are other entities providing similar, if not overlapping, services. So why should PP get so much from taxpayers?

Being pro-life is a stance that should unite libertarians and social conservatives: protecting the right to life is not only the Christian thing to do but is also the ultimate in liberty. Indeed, being a parent is also a responsibility but if one isn’t ready to take it on there are other options available which preserve the unborn baby’s life. At least one political party should do even more to relate these irrefutable facts.

A foolish idea gets a bill anyway

May 13, 2016 · Posted in Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

While I did not serve in the military, one rite of passage I did endure right around my 18th birthday (way back in 1982) was having to register for Selective Service. Obviously I was fortunate enough to not come of age at a time where we needed a military draft (those years were spent under the “peace through strength” of the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations), but even so we have been able to fulfill our military requirements with those who voluntarily enlist. Whether it was done out of love of country or as a means to secure benefits on the other side, people of both genders have served with pride and distinction as paid volunteers. It’s a system that works.

So I was surprised to see a Republican representative, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, introduce a bill called the “Draft our Daughters” Act. Females have always been exempt from Selective Service and being drafted into the military, for several good reasons. But Hunter wants to change this. (As clarification, this is the son of the onetime Presidential candidate I endorsed back in 2007. The elder Duncan Hunter retired from Congress once his son ended his military service and could get the Congressional seat.)

I understand the trend is now to try and get women into more combat roles, as some misguided attempt at equality. Setting aside the obvious differences in strength and physical ability, one has to consider the ramification of females being taken prisoner as well as the simple biological fact that they bear our children and it’s not going to be feasible to send pregnant women to the front lines.

And while dads are reluctant yet still willing to send their sons off to war, I suspect that drafting their daughters is going to cross the line. We haven’t employed the draft since Vietnam, and that conflict was less than popular – thousands of men ducked the draft by whatever means they could. Imagine the rate of refusal among women, who as far as I know haven’t exactly been clamoring to get involved in the issue.

It’s just another attempt at creating a social engineering laboratory out of the military, and quite disappointing to see a Republican as lead sponsor.


The end of the GOP campaign

Imagine, if you will, a gathering of one lady and 15 distinguished gentlemen. Nine of them had served as the governor of their state, most for multiple terms. Another five have served the nation in its highest legislative body, while one was a world-renowned neurosurgeon and the lady worked her up to CEO of a large hi-tech corporation.

Now, if you’ve ever watched the movie Caddyshack, imagine the character Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield’s character) – loud, bawdy, and obnoxious. Our version of Al, bullying his way into this genteel affair, was Donald Trump. Yet he emerged victorious, in part due to that brash personality but also thanks to a heaping helping of populist rhetoric that sounded so good 40 percent of the Republicans voted for him. (That’s assuming, of course, our side hasn’t been hoodwinked by a massive version of Operation Chaos – and given the number of people who switched their registration from Democrat to Republican or voted in open primaries, I wouldn’t put it past them.) I say “sounded good” because, by and large, his rhetoric had the depth of a cookie sheet.

One upshot of this in Maryland is that the state Republican Party was poised to exceed one million members for (I believe) the first time ever. (As of the end of March, the MDGOP had 997,211 voters, which was an increase of about 16,000 from February – so the trend may have put them over the top.) But that success will be short-lived with Trump, who has disgusted so many erstwhile Republicans that a decrease of 50,000 Maryland Republicans in the next couple months isn’t out of the question.

So now I am hearing the old complaint that not voting for Trump will be a vote for Hillary. No, for conservatives, not voting for Trump will be a repudiation of the direction the Republican Party has taken since Barack Obama took office, and arguably since Ronald Reagan left.

You see, if Congress had shown any stones whatsoever, rank-and-file Republicans would not have felt the need to shake things up by electing an outsider as President. Perhaps Ted Cruz would not have felt the need to run for President in the first place, and the Republican nomination may well be coming down to a contest between two or three of those governors, or perhaps another Senator or the CEO with business experience.

Instead we get Trump, who basically ignores one leg of the conservative stool by praising Planned Parenthood and giving short shrift to religious liberty. Limited government doesn’t seem to be his bag either, since he’s pledged to let Social Security and Medicare go without reforming them and pandered to Iowa farmers by promising to keep ethanol subsidies going. Where most GOP candidates run right in the primary and tack to the center for the general election, Trump is already in the middle so he will likely soften some of his more conservative positions as part of the flexibility in getting the deal done. It’s getting to the point where Trump and Clinton are not all that distinguishable from each other.

And about getting those deals done. Conservatives have wanted a border fence for more than a decade; in fact, the authorizing legislation was passed under President Bush. So why do I think that The Donald will get his fence once he promises to Democrats he will create a bigger, more beautiful door for it? Since he’s the de facto head of the Republican Party now, when is he going to negotiate with Congressional Republicans and work in a more conservative direction? Perhaps the twelfth of never? We will get the “touchback” amnesty, but then the Democrats will just say “forget the touchback part.”

Finally, to borrow a phrase from another movie, I find Donald Trump to be like a box of chocolates, because you never know which one you’ll get. He’s not exactly the poster child for consistency so a Trump administration would be a constant guessing game.

I suppose my advice to voters in those remaining primary states is to show up and vote your conscience if you’re not a Donald Trump supporter. Don’t change parties yet, and get out and vote for Ted Cruz, John Kasich, or anyone else but Trump. Keeping him under 50% of the overall national vote would be a good way to send a message that we’re not sold on Trump as the nominee.

You have to give Donald Trump credit for one thing: he was smart enough to run in a dysfunctional political year. In that case, he has been the perfect candidate – too bad voters like me were looking for order after the disarray of the last eight years. And I will say: had I written this last night, the word “campaign” would not have been in the title. But the Grand Old Party may want to prepare for some stormy days ahead.

For First District Congress

My final primary endorsement comes in a race that, for me, has come down to the wire: do I go for the known conservative quantity that’s part of one of the most unpopular institutions in the country or do I go for one of the upstarts in a hope to bring about change or a more libertarian direction?

Well, the answer became a little easier as I looked into two of the four GOP candidates. Both Jonathan Goff, who challenged Andy Harris in 2014 and got the 22% of the anti-Harris vote in that primary, and Sean Jackson have expressed their support for Donald Trump so that eliminates them automatically as not conservative.

Yet despite the entry of Goff and Jackson, the Congressional race has been figured all along as a two-man contest between Harris and former Delegate Mike Smigiel.

We pretty much know the backstory on Andy Harris: he served in the Maryland State Senate for a decade before challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in 2008. The problem with Wayne, as Harris and many others saw in the district, was that Gilchrest was too centrist for a conservative district. Harris ended up winning a contentious primary, alienating enough Gilchrest supporters in the process that Democrat Frank Kratovil (who Gilchrest eventually endorsed) won by a narrow plurality in the Obama wave election of 2008. (A Libertarian candidate took 2.5% of the vote, denying Kratovil a majority.)

Harris finished out his term in the State Senate as he plotted to challenge Kratovil, who served as a “blue dog” Democrat (case in point: he voted against Obamacare.) Winning a far less acrimonious GOP primary in 2010 over businessman Rob Fisher, Harris went on to defeat Kratovil by 12 points in the first TEA Party wave election of 2010. Since then Harris hasn’t been seriously challenged in either the primary or general elections, winning with 63.4% of the vote in 2012 and 70.4% in 2014 after Goff challenged him in the primary.

While Democrat Jim Ireton may think he has a shot against Harris, it’s very likely that Tuesday’s election is the deciding factor in who will be our representative to the 115th Congress. But Mike Smigiel is the first serious candidate with a pedigree to challenge for the First District seat since Harris and State Senator E.J. Pipkin, among others, both took on Wayne Gilchrest in 2008.

Like Harris, Smigiel served for 12 years in the Maryland General Assembly but he served in the House of Delegates, representing the upper Eastern Shore. This factor is an important one in determining who will be the better candidate, as their terms of service overlapped from 2003-2010. Smigiel ran for re-election in the 2014 primary, but finished fourth in a seven-person field. It’s worth noting that four of the District 36 contenders were from Smigiel’s Cecil County, which may have sapped his electoral strength – or reflected a dissatisfaction with Mike’s approach. Only one of them could have advanced, so in effect they cannibalized the primary vote.

Mike’s case for unseating Harris has evolved from an undertone of dissatisfaction from those who supported Harris for the seat. They say that Andy is not a fighter or a leader in the conservative movement, and long for a more libertarian Congressman perhaps in the mold of Justin Amash or Thomas Massie. To that end, Smigiel has advocated his case for a Constitutional, limited government, often waving his copy of the Constitution in a debate or forum session. His campaign has focused to a great extent on a number of Congressional votes that Harris has cast, particularly the 2014 CRomnibus bill.

In looking at this race, it should be pointed out that I saw Smigiel’s libertarian approach as an asset; however, I felt the strong emphasis on Harris’s voting record masked some of the real truth.

A key difference between the legislative process in Maryland and the federal sausage-grinding we find in Washington is that Congressional legislation is not limited to a single issue as Maryland’s is. You can take the CRomnibus bill as an example, as it was a compromise hammered out between the various factions of Congress. That’s not to say Harris made the correct vote, but Smigiel is counting on a bit of ignorance in how the system works. I could say the same thing about Smigiel since he voted for the first O’Malley budget while Harris voted no.

So let’s talk about voting records, shall we? Because voting in a federal legislature is not the same as voting on state matters, we have an apples-to-oranges comparison between Harris and Smigiel. But over the eight years both men served in the General Assembly, a more apples-to-apples approach is possible.

Since 2007, I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project, so it covers the last four years that Harris and Smigiel served together. As an aggregate, I found that Smigiel voted as I would have 77.7% of the time, or 101 times out of 130. On the other hand, Harris was “correct” 89.1% of the time, or 122 times out of 137.

I even went back and found three years’ worth of data on the old Maryland Accountability Project that mine continued. While the author perhaps had a different standard of what he considered “conservative,” in each of those three years (2003-2005) Harris had a higher score: 84%-60% in 2003, 80%-75% in 2004, and 84%-83% in 2005. (The 2006 results were not available for the House, but Harris only scored 65% in the Senate – so Smigiel may have prevailed that year.)

Yet these are not “clean” comparisons, either, because in my case I hadn’t streamlined the process of doing the mAP yet. (Since 2011, both House and Senate ratings are based on the same bills.) So I went back and tried to locate the cases in my work where Harris and Smigiel voted the opposite way. There were a handful that over time have mattered less, but I would like to point out a few items that Harris favored and Smigiel opposed, since Mike has attacked Andy’s record:

  • Smart, Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (2010) – replaced a task force with the MSGC, an O’Malley-sponsored bill.
  • Higher Education Investment Fund – Tuition Stabilization and Funding (2010) – a spending mandate O’Malley also sought.
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 – this was a horrible bill that established and codified carbon reductions into state law.

One can definitely argue that Harris was trying to soften his image with these votes, since they came after his unsuccessful 2008 run.

But there is another side: those bills that Smigiel favored and Harris opposed:

  • Other Tobacco Products Licenses (2010) – required separate licenses for those who sell cigars, snuff, or pipe tobacco. Harris was one of just 7 in the MGA to oppose this.
  • High Performance Buildings Act – Applicable to Community College Capital Projects (2010) – required LEED Silver or above ratings.
  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program (2008) – an O’Malley bill to spend RGGI money.
  • Environment – Water Management Administration – Wetlands and Waterways Program Fees (2008) – established a fee of up to $7,500 an acre for certain developments.
  • Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program – Administrative and Enforcement Provisions (2008) – additional mandates on local government.
  • High Performance Buildings Act (2008) – the precursor to the 2010 act above.
  • Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 – an O’Malley bill requiring California emissions for Maryland cars, which added cost to new cars.
  • Higher Education – Tuition Affordability Act of 2007 – another O’Malley bill that extended an artificial tuition freeze.
  • Electricity – Net Energy Metering – Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Solar Energy (2007) - a good old-fashioned carveout, picking a winner.

It seems to me there’s a major difference on environmental issues between Smigiel and Harris, and while that may not matter so much at a federal level my belief that “green is the new red” leads me to think that Smigiel’s pro-liberty case isn’t as airtight as we are led to believe.

I can go all night looking at voting records, but there is one other thing I’d like to point out.

Last week I criticized Smigiel for spending part of the weekend before the primary at a cannabis convention, a stance he took exception to in a private message to me. Without divulging the full conversation, which I assumed was just for my private use, the upshot was that he argued there were going to be fundraising benefits for him as well as possible job creation in the 1st District. I can buy that argument, but if it hinges on him winning the primary Job One has to be getting the votes.

So it was interesting that a friend of mine shared a card her daughter received, which looks like the one below.

420 USA PAC Smigiel postcard

My friend speculated the card was targeted to a certain age group of Millennials since her daughter was the only one in the house to receive it. Yet the card isn’t from Mike’s campaign but instead an organization called 420 USA PAC, which advocates for cannabis legalization.

Of course, my personal stance is not all that far from Mike’s, but we also have two laboratories of democracy in Colorado and Washington state to see how the legalization of marijuana plays out. Smigiel argues the District of Columbia cannabis initiative is a state’s rights issue but should know that in the Constitution Congress is responsible to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District per Article I, Section 8. So Harris performed some oversight.

On the other hand I can vouch for Andy being in the district over the weekend. Perhaps this is a classic conservative vs. libertarian matchup, although both men are well-accepted in the pro-life community.

This has been an endorsement I have had to think long and hard about; luckily it’s a case where I could easily work for the other gentleman if he will have me.

But I have decided that Andy Harris deserves another term in Congress. Saying that, though, it’s obvious people will be watching and if I were Mike Smigiel I wouldn’t dismiss trying again in 2018 because we could use his kind of voice in Congress as well. Think of the next two years as a probationary period for Harris.

So allow me to review my three endorsements for the major races.

For President, I urge you to vote for the remaining true conservative in the race, Ted Cruz. He has six people running for Delegate and Alternate Delegate who need your votes as well (although my friend Muir Boda is on the ballot, too.)

For U.S. Senate, I had a hard time deciding between Dave Wallace and Richard Douglas, but the backbone Richard Douglas has shown earned him my endorsement and vote.

And finally, retain Andy Harris as our Congressman.

Just don’t forget to vote Tuesday. It’s up to us to begin turning Maryland into a more conservative state – not just trying to teach the benefits of conservatism to an audience charitably described as skeptical but making sure we vote in the right manner as well.

Immigration: where are the Cinderella Men?

By Cathy Keim

Editor’s note: This piece began life as a comment to the Refugee Resettlement Watch blog which eventually became a post there. Cathy has taken this opportunity to revise and extend her remarks, adding it to her occasional series on immigration.

The (slightly reworked) title comes from Refugee Resettlement Watch‘s Ann Corcoran.

When I talk to people about the hit that American citizens are taking by companies hiring immigrants, both legal and illegal, they always come back with the statement that the American citizens do not want to work, have a poor work ethic, are not dependable, etc. My guess is that this might well be the case because we have paid people to not work, making it an option with no stigma attached.

In the past, it was terrible to be on welfare or unemployment. Remember the movie “Cinderella Man”? The lead character, heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock, returned to the government office and paid back the welfare money when he could finally earn enough money to feed his family. That was during the Great Depression less than one hundred years ago.

My fear is that the government has done such a good job of destroying the working class family by introducing welfare which required that the man not be in the household that we now have a deeply embedded culture of single parent families, drifting children, and no concept of a work ethic. The result is employers using the lack of work ethic as an excuse to not hire Americans, but to go for hard-working foreigners.

Remember that the employers have tax benefits involved in hiring foreigners. Also, the foreigners cannot argue with the employer because if they lose their job, then they must go home if they are here on the H-1B or H-2B visas. If they are illegal, they have no recourse. This makes for a diligent, compliant workforce.

The employer doesn’t have to pay higher wages, so the taxpayer picks up the additional social costs due to low-paying jobs. The schools have to educate in many languages, the hospital ER takes care of the sick, and subsidized housing is swamped. The costs of absorbing huge numbers of foreign workers are not small.

When a school system has to hire scores of ESL teachers to handle the influx of non-English speaking children, the taxpayer is paying for that. When the hospital has to hire translators to be able to understand their patients, then the citizen absorbs that cost. When the city zoning codes are overwhelmed with twenty or more unrelated people living in a house, then the neighborhood suffers. When remittances are sent back to the homeland to the tune of millions of dollars, then our economy suffers.

When Mexico and other countries send us their poorest, they remove the pressure to improve their own society by exporting their problems to us.

In addition to all of these problems, the local community suffers the double hit of paying unemployment/welfare to their own citizens and all the social costs associated with reducing people to a dependent class.

The employer pockets the extra earnings gained by paying lower wages and collecting tax benefits. In the case of hiring refugees, the employer gets to feel good about himself for helping people fleeing oppression. Perhaps some of our employers should try to feel good about helping fellow Americans have a job that will enable them to break out of the cycle of dependence.

We can thank our elites in DC for the many bad decisions that have led to this disaster that has taken several generations to reach its current epic proportions. A final blow is that the lack of worth that comes with being a non-working dependent class leads to additional social problems.

My hypothesis is that the current heroin epidemic that the government is trying to stem can be linked back to the broken family and jobless lifestyle of our formerly working-class citizens. I know that heroin is ravaging children from all classes, but it is particularly bad on the people that have no hope and see no way out.

Being hungry is a powerful motivator to work. Our Pilgrim forefathers tried to use the community approach when they first arrived in the New World. They almost starved. Once they switched to each family having their own land and raising their own crops, they were much more successful.

I realize that the switch to using our own citizens to work instead of being unemployed would be a painful transition for the employers and the employed. The government would have to remove itself from the process and let people in the local community work this out.

The minimum wage laws forced upon us by the government reduce the entry-level jobs that teenagers once used to learn how to work. In fact, we are going to lose more fast food entry-level jobs as the industry moves to automated ordering to bypass the minimum wage laws.

The H-2B visa workers have reduced the summer jobs for our teens. Something as simple as starting school after Labor Day weekend could enable more teens to fill the summer job needs of the tourist industry.

We have sedentary teens that could use some lawn work to build muscle and slim down. Instead, we import foreigners to cut grass.

The short-term benefits are obviously working as we increase our visa limits and bring in more refugees, despite not being able to vet them for safety issues. But what are the long term issues?

We should be preaching the joys of independence, not depending on the government to support us. We should be encouraging our youth to work hard rather than think that college is going to provide a cushy job. That expensive degree is more likely to be a weight around their neck due to the loans they took out than to help them have access to a good job.

The need for limited government intervention is never more obvious than in our current skewed employment numbers. Crony capitalism is not free enterprise. The UN choosing refugees for us and big business depending on cheap labor that is essentially a new form of indentured servitude is not what America needs.

The easy fix of importing cheap labor may seem like a good idea, but the price we are paying as a nation is not cheap and not easy. It is time for a moratorium on immigration across the board while we sort out these issues.

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