A backwards approach

Today I came across a letter to the editor in the Daily Times. In it, the writer noted many of the struggles she’s gone through to get her site plan approved with the county and state, simply because she lives in an area adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

The point of her letter was to ask why a homeowner can be held to a stricter standard than a developer. And she’s right…not because the developer should be held to a stricter standard, but because she should be held to a less onerous one. What she describes in her letter is absolute overkill on the part of Dorchester County and the state of Maryland.

She notes that her father, a onetime state senator, would oppose the proposed development. Therein lies the rub with me.

Although I’m ambivalent about the golf course (there’s plenty to choose from here and participation in golf seems to be on a decline) the idea of Cambridge and Dorchester County getting a shot in the arm with an influx of 3200 new homes has its appeal. I want to live in an area that people want to come to and make it their home. And these people would likely help out the city of Cambridge by creating new jobs for non-development residents, everything from the initial construction to the service and professional needs of the additional people. That creates a spinoff effect.

The same goes for the Summerfield subdivision planned for Snow Hill, which would create more than a thousand new residences over a multiyear period. I honestly believe that the additional growth would be good for the Eastern Shore. We’re not going to turn into the I-95 corridor overnight, contrary to what many believe. There’s always going to be open spaces, simply because not all of the land can be developed as it’s situated in lowlying areas.

But back to the BNWR, which, according to its website, has 500,000 visitors a year. Since the admission to the refuge for all intents and purposes is $3 (some get in for less and people can get multivisit passes), that means the impact on the area from admissions alone is $1.5 million. I’ll estimate that once overnight stays and meals that are consumed by out of area tourists are factored in, the impact could reach $5 million a year.

We all know that, once a piece of land becomes Federal property, it’s pretty much going to stay that way, particularly if it’s a natural refuge. (But if it were a military base, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation would be all for the military leaving.) So the BNWR will remain regardless of this development, and most of its 27,000 acres (by my calculations that is 42 square miles) will exhibit little if any effect. I see little chance of a drop in tourism there.

So the $5 million impact will continue (maybe it’ll drop to $4.5 million the first couple years until people realize that the development did little harm.) As an aside, this development may even be somewhat better for the environment since who knows what runoff occurs from the farmland that’s there now. Many’s the time in the spring in these parts that you catch a whiff of “natural” fertilizer. Moreover, additional tax revenue will come in from improved property values, and newly created jobs to cater to the added population. Yes, some will be offset by additional expenditures incurred for more government services like police, fire, and schools; but on balance the area should benefit while losing little of what it has now.

This leads me to an extremely short-sighted comment by gubertorial candidate Martin O’Malley, who is the current mayor of Baltimore. In a recent campaign stop in Caroline County, O’Malley claimed that it was cuts in state aid that were spurring development (hat tip: Delmarva Dealings.)

For one thing, what does O’Malley know about growth, considering Baltimore is losing population? Secondly, putting local governments in a position to depend on handouts from the state rather than trying to prosper through growth results in the same thing that always happens when there’s too much dependence on government: stagnation. Someday the spigot stops and towns are left to their own devices. To me, Cambridge is trying to break that cycle and should be commended for seeking a private-sector solution.

If the state of Maryland is going to use Blackwater as a poster child for a push to restrict growth, it’s someday going to end up in the same boat as many of the other “blue states” (and even red ones) that are losing population because of a declining local economy. Investment in development should be encouraged, not shunned. Sadly, the Democrats in Maryland, with their fringe environmentalist allies in this case, are throwing up more roadblocks to progress than is good for the people of this area.

So you want to run for office?

This morning I (along with 15 or so others) had the pleasure of attending a seminar sponsored by the local GOP with pointers on running for elective office. It’s something I’ve thought about doing from time to time, although for two years I actually held an elected office (because I ran unopposed.) My name was on the ballot for the Republican Central Committee in Lucas County, Ohio in 1998 and 2000. I think I lost the second election because my opponent’s name came first on the ballot.

And that was one thing our speaker, Dr. John Bartkovich, noted about this year’s election. It’s a Maryland election law that the party controlling the governor’s office gets its candidates listed first on the ballot. Personally, I think that’s a bit odd, but hey, that’s the law (until the Democrats try to change it for this year.) So Republicans have an “excellent opportunity.”

It’s actually a pretty simple thing to put your name on the ballot here in Maryland, assuming of course you’re a Republican or Democrat. There’s not even a petition involved like there is in Ohio, unless you’re running as an independent. You make an appointment with the Board of Elections and fill out a form. If you’re planning on spending over $1,000 on your campaign then you need to set up a bank account and pick a campaign treasurer, otherwise you fill out an affadavit stating you’ll spend less. (Hmmmm… a place to use those accountant skills my school aptitude tests said I’d be good at?) Hand the board a filing fee ($10 to $290, depending on office) and away you go.

In Wicomico County, where I live, we have all of our elected county offices on the ballot this year. The really funny thing is that, aside from the State’s Attorney position requiring Maryland Bar membership, there’s few qualifications specifically listed. Theoretically I can be a Judge in the Orphan’s Court. (This position has evolved from Colonial days, it’s now basically the equivalent to what I’d refer to as Probate Court and deals with wills.) As Dr. Bartkovich said, you need “no experience, just a fire in the belly.”

Currently Wicomico County and the Eastern Shore is in transition. While Democrats outnumber Republicans as far as registration (it’s about a 55-45 ratio), no Democrat governor or presidential candidate has carried the county since 1986 (when the GOP candidate only had 18% of the vote statewide.) Basically, many Democrats here would be described as Zell Miller Democrats. They don’t really go for the ultra left-wing issues like the moveon.org crowd does. So they register Democrat and vote GOP, at least for state and national offices.

The key to winning most races is name recognition. For some races it takes money for media, but in many instances it can be as simple as standing along Route 50 and waving a sign. However, the key races of interest to Dr. Bartkovich will likely take plenty of money. One is the County Executive race, since this will be a firsttime position (it was created by an initiative voted on in the 2004 election.) The next priorities are unseating two of our Delegates, the infamous duo of Norman Conway and Bennett Bozman. We actually have candidates already for that, but John would like a person from Wicomico County on the ballot (both of the GOP candidates live in Worcester County.) That race will probably take $40,000 to have a prayer since both incumbents have plenty of money on hand.

There will be a lot of help come September once the primary is over. Both parties will know just who their officeseekers are, and can put the full weight of the party apparatus behind those folks. So I get the feeling some of my fall weekends might be spent pitching in here and there. But it should be fun! Almost as fun as harassing the union thugs working the polls back in Toledo.

So it was an hour and a half well-spent. It was a good way to stoke the political passion I have, and who knows, once I get settled in down here, I just may toss my hat in the ring.

Democrats – vote early and often!

A veto override that was buried under the furor of the Wal-Mart tax bill a couple weeks ago got new legs this week as another voting bill was prepared for introduction into the Maryland General Assembly. This bill would give a blanket restoration of voting rights to felons, most likely just in time for this fall’s election.

Under current Maryland law, passed in 2002, felons already can have their voting rights restored after a three-year waiting period from their prison release date, as long as all parole and probation requirements are fulfilled and any fines or restitution due paid up. But since that election-year measure didn’t kick enough votes into Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s column to make her governor (she lost to Gov. Ehrlich), in 2006 the Democrats (sponsor of the bill is black Democrat Delegate Salima Siler Marriott) want to toss away all the restrictions and make sure all those felons, mostly black, and mostly potential Democrat voters, get their chance to vote the survivor of the O’Malley-Duncan and Mfume-Cardin (among others) Democrat primaries into office.

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you may recognize the name of the bill’s sponsor. Salima Siler Marriott has been quoted before in my predecessor blog, ttown’s right wing conspiracy. This came from a Washington Times story I cited on ttrwc in November:

Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a black Baltimore Democrat, said Mr. Steele invites comparisons to a slave who loves his cruel master or a cookie that is black on the outside and white inside because his conservative political philosophy is, in her view, anti-black.

“Because he is a conservative, he is different than most public blacks, and he is different than most people in our community,” she said. “His politics are not in the best interest of the masses of black people.”

Of course, a group called Justice Maryland, which states itself as a “statewide organization comprised of individuals and organizations united to identify and reform those parts of Maryland’s justice systems that perpetuate the cycle of poverty and racial injustice” is pressing for passage of the bill. JM Executive Director Tara Andrews noted that Governor Ehrlich could attract the felon vote by not vetoing the bill. Yeah, right.

One thing I noticed on the Justice Maryland site is that it’s a project of another group called “Health Care for the Homeless.” Sounds innocent enough, but here’s a list of items they advocate for. Most of that fits right in with the Democrat socialist agenda. And that’s fine, but not everyone who hears of the bill and gets the lecture on the unfairness of denying those who have paid their debt to society the right to vote (even though they already have it) will get to see the agenda of all the groups pressing for it.

Speaking of the right to vote, there’s a lot of comment lately on the veto overrides of election law “reforms” that were pushed by the Democrats in 2005’s General Assembly session. Supporters of these measures said that it would make voting easier and increase turnout. Somehow I think all the extra turnout will vote Democrat this fall, just a hunch I have.

The reforms include early voting for the five days preceding Election Day, eliminating the requirements for a written request citing a specific reason that one cannot make it to the polls (in other words, absentee ballots become freely available to anyone for the asking), and voting via provisional ballot.

Two good commentaries I’ve found on this open invitation to electoral fraud are from Blair Lee in the Gazette (hat tip: Duvafiles) and on Soccer Dad’s blog.

In my opinion (and that’s why I have a blog, to express it!) I think if we’re going to have all these so-called reforms, it’s only fair to require a photo ID at the polling place. And it doesn’t have to be a Maryland driver’s license, we can take a few thousand dollars from our state’s surplus and post ads in the newspapers and send a letter to anyone with a suspended license that Maryland ID cards are available from the local DMV offices free of charge with the same valid identification as required for getting a driver’s license. (As I recall about changing my license over from Ohio, it was two forms of identification and some sort of proof of address like a utility bill.) So that takes care of the phony “poll tax” argument that’s sure to be raised.

When I first became registered to vote in Maryland, Wicomico County sent to me a wallet-size Voter Identification card, which has my relevant districts on it (everything from City Council to U.S. Congress), party affiliation, registration date, and date of issue, plus my address and a bar code/ID number that I assume is unique (and I had to sign it.)

The back of my driver’s license has some sort of hieroglyphics on it that I assume is a bar code of some sort as well, plus a unique number. Maryland ID cards could be set up the same way.

Here’s how I think we can take care of most of these problems.

The first thing that has to be done is that somehow the database for driver’s licenses has to be tied to the voter registration database, so that anyone who has an address on one that doesn’t match the other can be notified prior to the election, sending a notice to both addresses. It shouldn’t be THAT hard, after all, you can register to vote at any DMV office. Plus it may be possible for future voter ID cards to have the same photo as the driver’s license/photo ID does.

If you go to vote at the polling place, you would take your driver’s license/ID card and your voter ID, the official would check the photo ID’s, scan in the barcodes, and direct you to a waiting computer voting station that would also receive the information on who’s supposed to vote there, generating a unique ID number that has the voting station terminal number, the ID numbers on the cards, and the time/date of voting. If the person attempts to vote at more than one place, the two ID numbers should pop up in a check as being entered twice, and all attempted votes by the person could be invalidated.

If you vote by absentee ballot, there would be a section to enter your driver’s license and voter ID numbers, similar to that of a standardized test. Again, if a number came up more than once, it invalidates all attempted votes.

Provisional ballots could be handled in a similar way to absentee ballots, but printed on an as-needed basis. Also, I would have the computers shut down at the end of voting time, with two poll workers going out and ascertaining the last people in line at the closing time. These stragglers would get specially colored provisional ballots, basically to show that they were in line when the computer polls closed.

I know it’s not foolproof, as anyone could get a stack of phony ID’s or figure out a way to get past the requirements. One devious route I could see Democrats using would be for a planted BOE worker to get the voter ID numbers for registered Republicans and flood the system with phony absentee ballots with those ID numbers, tainting the likely GOP votes.

Oh, by the way, I know that Republicans are always the ones accused of electoral fraud (as in Bush stole the 2000 and 2004 elections) so I’m sure that Democrats would NEVER stoop to those tactics to hold on to power and get back the governor’s chair in Maryland, would they? I know I’m just talking in the abstract with my example, right?

Sure.

WCRC meeting – January 2006

Last night I finally made it to another Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. The last two (in October and November) were cases when I looked at my computer Favorites list at 11:00 at night, spied the club’s link, and said to myself, “ah dammit! I missed the meeting tonight!”

But not last night. I did show up a couple minutes after the scheduled 7 p.m. start time, but now knowing that the first half hour is kibbitzing before the meeting is gaveled to order. During that time, I found I have at least a couple semi-faithful readers, which is cool.

So the pledge was taken, the meeting minutes from November approved, the club has a lot more money in the bank then it did this time last year, and our dues will go up $5 to $25 a year. Sounds fair enough. Also, the meetings will stay on their current 4th Monday of the month in the same place for at least another year.

The bulk of the meeting was remarks by our guest speaker, Worcester County Commissioner Sonny Bloxom. (Worcester County is the county immediately to our east, which is home to tourist attraction Ocean City.) He has tossed his hat in the ring for a GOP nomination for Delegate from District 38B, which is my district.

(Just an aside to those non-locals. Maryland has 47 State Senate districts and 141 House of Delegates districts, three for each Senate district. Some of these House of Delegate districts share the exact same boundaries as the Senate districts, and elect 3 basically at-large Delegates from the entire area. A few, like my District 38, split into two areas, with the larger area having two Delegates and the smaller area one. And there’s a couple that are split in thirds – much like I’m used to from Ohio politics.

And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more hacked up and gerrymandered political map than the map of Districts 37 and 38, which split Wicomico County. I live on the extreme western edge of Senate District 38, which covers the eastern half of Wicomico County plus all of Worcester and Somerset Counties. House of Delegates District 38B is the pretty much the Wicomico/Worcester portion.)

But Commissioner Bloxum had quite a bit to say. Early on, he quoted Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (this from the Baltimore Sun, January 11):

GOP leaders are “going to be flying high, but we’re going to get together and we’re going to shoot them down. We’re going to put them in the ground, and it’ll be 10 years before they crawl out again,” the Prince George’s County Democrat said.

Key components of Sonny’s initial remarks were emphasizing a focus on growth issues. He noted that Worcester County had a comprehensive growth plan, and thought that it would be a good idea to take something of that nature to at least a regional, if not state, level. Bloxom emphasized his experiences with the task force seeking a location for another Chesapeake Bay crossing, with a particular trend that he spoke of being people who work on the Western Shore choosing to live on the middle part of the Eastern Shore because of the more rural lifestyle.

At that point, Bloxom opened the floor to question those present about what they thought the issues were.

First out of the box: social issues. Bloxum stated that, “he believes in what the Bible says.” In particular, he cited a court ruling that reopened the question of gay marriage. Further, he noted that even though any attorney can do the legalities for a same-sex couple to have advance directives, power of attorney, and wills similar to a married couple, the gay lobby is using these and other items to “nibbl(e) away” at the current Maryland laws. In Bloxom’s eyes, marriage is between a man and a woman. Since the court ruling threw the constitutionality of existing laws into question, one possible remedy would be to change the Maryland Constitution to state that marriage is between a man and woman only. Bloxom also wants to see a ban on partial-birth abortion in Maryland, a stance sure to appeal to many on the Eastern Shore.

He disagreed with Governor Ehrlich, though, on some issues, particularly the closing of the Eastern Shore DRILL Academy (for delinquent youth.) Bloxom thought that there was still a need for some smaller local juvenile facilities, rather than a large warehouse approach.

And, of course, the recent Wal-Mart issue came up. It’s a bad precedent, stated Bloxom, as it puts the state into the business of dictating to private employers how much they have to spend on health care.

(An irony that just occurred to me, since our company did this – what benefit would it be then for a company to look for a health insurance plan providing the same or even better coverage for less money, if the savings from that plan could be eaten away by this Wal-Mart tax?)

All in all, a very good start to the campaign to unseat our two Democrats. Here’s the press release for Sonny Bloxom, he was kind enough to send it to me.

Final meeting remarks were made by our club president, who announced that Wicomico County gets to host the tri-county Lincoln Day dinner this year, and they were working on getting a nationally-recognized speaker. Also, he whimsically noted that, under Maryland election laws, the party who has the governor’s chair is billed at the top of the ballot, so we needed a full slate of candidates for all the county offices.

Hopefully I’ll string together two months of attendance in a row and comment on February’s meeting. And if any of you don’t know who I am at the meeting, I’m the guy who was sporting the University of Michigan sweatshirt. Yes, despite the fact I’m from Ohio, I am a fan of the “team up north”, the maize and blue.

Does it ever change? A petition for redress of grievances.

Not so much a post as a rant.

I guess this is one of those days I get tired of the political scene. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the whole Abramoff scandal. The Democrats accuse the Republicans of being the culture of corruption, even though they got almost half the money themselves, not to mention the money they get that’s coerced from union workers who may not agree with their philosophies. The GOP says, all right, we’re going to introduce legislation to combat things like lobbying, then the Democrats pander and say that’s like the farmer closing the barn door after the horse has departed. And the Democrats were where on this issue 6 months ago?

Do you all understand what the REAL problem is? For every man, woman, and child in America, the federal government spends roughly $10,000. The budget is $2.6 trillion.

And there’s 535 people in control of all that money. And those 535 people have to face voters every 2 to 6 years. And the way they see in keeping people voting for them is to keep shoveling money at them.

I keep a pocket copy of the Constitution on my desk. Article 1, Section 8 lays out the duties of Congress. I’m not going to write them all out, I’ll try for a Cliffs Notes version:

Borrow money. They do this quite well.
Regulate commerce among the states and with foreign nations. This is for things like NAFTA.
Establish rules of naturalization. That evolved into the INS, which I think was folded into Homeland Security.
Establish bankruptcy laws. And they established a bankruptcy court too.
Coin money and regulate the value. Thus, a United States mint, and the Federal Reserve.
Establish Post Offices and post roads. Until 1971, the Post Office was a Cabinet-level office. I suppose establishing interstate highways could be construed for the post roads.
Patents and copyrights. Done, although they’ve talked about changing the periods of those.
Constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court. So they have a perfect right to break up the Ninth Circuit Court. Theoretically, they could scrap it all and start over, but I’m sure the next Democrat Congress would do the same.
Declare war, raise and support armies, and provide and maintain a navy. They do that, although I’m not sure the two year limit on appropriations for the Army is being followed.
Make rules for the government and regulation of the armed forces, also call forth and provide for the militia. Part of that is supressing insurrections. Is an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in this country an insurrection? But states appoint officers and train their own militias.

That’s pretty much it. But layer upon layer of law and government, fueled by the desire of bureaucrats to maintain their cushy positions, has added a whole lot of chaff to the wheat that was the Constitution as written.

It actually started fairly early. The only amendment to the Constitution that mentioned Congress until the Civil War was the First, which was a prohibition to Congress: they shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or abridging free speech or a free press, or of the right for people to assemble peacefully and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

But from the 13th Amendment on, Constitutional amendments basically allowed Congress to see fit how each Amendment would be codified. Rather than prohibit Congress from establishing laws, these were encouraged and left vague and open-ended.

Worst among them was the Sixteenth Amendment, which let Congress tax the living crap out of us. Talk about a mistake! It was at that moment that the Congress became a monument to pork.

If I were to ask for a Constitutional convention (allowed under Article V of the Constitution) I would ask that the 16th and 17th Amendments be repealed, and the 28th Amendment be thus:

Congress shall make no law that codifies discrimination for or against any person based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This Amendment shall also be construed to include a prohibition on Congress enacting additional criminal code or punishment solely based on these factors.

The 29th Amendment would go something like this:

Section 1. With the exception of the powers reserved for Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of this document, and items outlined below; funds received by the federal government shall be disbursed to the States in accordance with their population in the latest Census figures. No restriction shall be placed on how the several States use these funds.

Section 2. Outlays for the operation of the offices of the President and other officers who shall be warranted by same shall be submitted by the office of the President to Congress, who shall, without amendment, vote up or down on the expenditures within ten days (excluding Sundays) of receiving this submittal.

Section 3. Outlays for the operation of the Supreme Court and tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court shall be submitted by the Attorney General to Congress, who shall, without amendment except in the case of convening a new tribunal inferior to the Supreme Court, vote up or down on the expenditures within ten days (excluding Sundays) of receiving this submittal.

Section 4. If Congress does not approve the submitted amount, both the President and Attorney General will have ten days (excluding Sundays) to resubmit a budget to Congress. In the event that either a new budget is not submitted by either or both parties, or if the resubmitted budget is not approved by Congress, the budget shall be determined by using the prior year’s figure and adding a sum equal to 3% of that figure.

Section 5. Congress shall not withhold funds from states based on existing state laws.

It’s a start. The key to solving a lot of our problems with ethics, in my opinion, is to take away from Congress the power of the purse as much as possible. More attention should be paid to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, which places rights properly at the state level and among the people themselves.

 

Union toadies take the day

Bad news from Annapolis, as the chasing of business out of Maryland begins. The “Fair Share” veto properly applied by Governor Ehrlich was overriden.

According to the Baltimore Sun, there were 3 Senate Democrats from Anne Arundel County who properly voted to uphold the veto, but it did not say how the House of Delegates split out. Currently the delegates are split 98-43 in favor of the Democrats (isn’t that sickening?) but the final override vote was 88-50. So at least 10 Democrats didn’t get the memo from their union. Of course, knowing they had it in the bag once they got to 85 votes it’s possible the Democrat leadership may have allowed a few in swing districts to vote to uphold the veto. So it’s possible my two delegates may have followed my advice, but overall the story’s still bad for business.

More bad news for small business may follow tomorrow, as the House of Delegates voted 91-48 to override Governor Ehrlich’s veto of a minimum-wage increase. It still has to be taken up by the Senate.

Let me guess…in 30 days when the “Fair Share Health Care Act” takes effect, Wal-Mart’s going to announce that they’ve decided to place their distribution center in Delaware instead. Just hope it’s in southern Sussex County so some people in Salisbury may work there.

As for me, might be time to skip Giant (who helped push the Fair Share bill in the first place) for a couple weeks on my shopping rounds.

Late update, 2 p.m. Friday:

I found on the Sun’s website how the vote went.

On the side to override in the Senate were 30 of the 33 Democrats, which accounted for all 30 votes. Three Democrats joined the 14 Republicans in seeking to sustain the veto.

In the House of Delegates, 87 of the 98 Democrats voted for the override along with one of the 43 Republicans. That one was Jean Cryor of Montgomery County, a very heavily Democrat area. All but one of the other 42 Republicans voted to uphold the veto along with 9 Democrats. Two other Democrats did not vote.

As expected, Delegates Bozman and Conway sucked up to the unions and turned their back on Somerset County, voting to override.

Rush just got finished commenting on this – he noted that one object of this legislation is to raise Wal-Mart’s price point and ruin their business plan.

Hearing from the other side

I have a little help in the “Fair Share” battle.

In my recent post, “The battle is joined” I noted that one of the things on my “to do” list was to call both of my state delegates, Bennett Bozman and Norman Conway. Last Friday, I did so. While I still haven’t heard from Delegate Bozman or his office, I heard quickly from Delegate Conway. He was very polite and listened to the points and arguments I made to help convince him to vote in the right manner.

There were some points that Delegate Conway brought up that I found interesting. Chief among them is that he’s the head of the Appropriations Committee, so I suppose if anyone knows about the state’s budget he would be the guy to know. He told me that the state is facing what he termed a $160 million structural deficit. I looked this up on Maryland’s website and the Spending Affordability Committee report from 2005 does show structural deficits in “out” years (FY 2007 on.) (Note: this is a 105 page .pdf file.) That report shows FY 2007 as a $300 million deficit.

However, since the report came out there has been news of a $600 million surplus from this year’s budget. So I’m a little bit confused about whether these numbers the SAC came up with aren’t too pessimistic. Possibly the $160 million Conway spoke of includes an adjustment for this, but it’s hard to say.

Delegate Conway also cited Wal-Mart’s profitability from last year, noting that floor testimony stated the company made $10 billion and cost the state of Maryland $250 million in Medicare expenses because of gaps in Wal-Mart’s health insurance.

Let’s look at this in two different ways. Assume that both numbers Conway cited are correct. Maryland is almost a perfect “average” state in population, our roughly 5.5 million people is right around 1/50 of the nation’s total. So if every state decided to tax Wal-Mart in a similar way that Fair Share would, suddenly the $10 billion profit is a $2.5 billion loss. Then Wal-Mart would have to lay off workers and close stores, thus putting these people right back on the public dole.

Plus, I saw a report the other day that is cited on the “My feedback” page as I responded to a post on Duvafiles. That report showed that the typical low-wage employee is a $898 drain on the state’s Medicare system. That means it’s not just Wal-Mart – it’s K-Mart, Target, McDonald’s, Burger King, Best Buy – all those employers put a little drain on the system.

I will say one thing about Del. Conway – he did sound surprised about the union-sponsored radio commercials citing his stand on the issue, claiming he didn’t know about them until he heard one himself. And I’ll believe him. I did tell him that he is pursuing a solution in the correct arena, since Medicare truly should be a state issue rather than a federal one.

He does have a good, principled stand – I just happen to think it’s the wrong stand.

But the pro-Wal-Mart side has finally gotten some of their message out. I found this link right on the Sun’s website. Also, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce weighed in with an opinion that “Fair Share” violates portions of the federal ERISA Act.

So it’s going to be an interesting week to come.

Now, since I’m on the subject of health care, I have a bone to pick with the health care industry.

Why is it that I get a bill for $131 from my doctor, but when the health insurer pays the doctor, they give the doctor’s office $77? I understand that the doctor’s office has a good deal of overhead, but is it possible that having to deal with all the red tape creates the majority of it?

My doctor’s office has at least one person who handles solely billings and another person who handles referrals. They have nothing to do with patient care, but the doctor has to pay them and lease that little extra bit of space for them. There’s really something wrong with the health care industry.

And I can tell you right now, just based on experience and observation, that the WORST thing we can do is make it solely a government-run program like “HillaryCare” promised to be. I think something on the order of Medical Savings Accounts would be a good idea. I wouldn’t have to worry about having a chiropractor who is out-of-network. MSA’s also discourage needless trips to the emergency room, at least as I see it.

The more things in the health-care sphere that are directly controlled by the patient, the better the system works. And the less red tape there is (along with a serious tort reform measure to help curb the cost of liability insurance), the easier it is for a doctor to actually practice medicine rather than play defense.

Odds and year ends

It’s all about the Benjamins for the Democrats and their cronies in Maryland.

I’ll start with the lighter stuff as we pass Christmas and begin the last lap of “the holidays.” Of course, TV will still have all the Christmas-theme commercials through New Year’s Day.

News item: Leading this season’s greetings (Baltimore Sun, December 20, 2005)

The slug line says a lot: Without using public funds, Ehrlich sends the most holiday cards among U.S. governors. While I wasn’t on the card list myself, it is amazing that Governor Ehrlich sends out 40,000 cards. My simple math tells me that 8 of every 1,000 Maryland residents gets a card from the governor. May not seem like much but honestly, how many of you know the governor of your state that well?

Best thing is that unlike previous administrations (according to the Sun article), these cards are paid for through private donations and not out of the public till. What the Sun doesn’t tell you (but I will) is that the last four administrations in Maryland were all Democrats. But I’m sure the Democrats complain about somebody buying influence by paying for the Governor’s Christmas cards and placing a little bit lighter burden on the taxpayers.

News item: Spend surplus on new schools, advocates say (Baltimore Sun, December 23, 2005)

Speaking of a burden on the taxpayers, here is this story as I see it. Instead of lessening the property tax burden on those who have chosen to invest in the state, the Democrats want to spend even more money on building schools. Their lackeys at Progressive Maryland claim that 35% of the people surveyed want to build new schools, while only 20% or so want a tax cut. What I’d like to know (and I haven’t been able to locate the survey online to answer this) is whether this question was asked after they were asked if they agreed with the statement, “Maryland’s schools are overcrowded, many are dilapidated, and too many students are forced to learn in temporary trailer classrooms. We should use most of the surplus to build and repair schools.” Obviously that’s a leading question, so you get 75% of the people saying yes.

The order of questioning is important, particularly if they asked this one after the school one: “(Do you agree with the statement) Tax-and-spend liberal Democrats in Annapolis have been overspending for years. Now that there is finally a budget surplus, lawmakers should give taxpayers long overdue tax relief.” People aren’t going to want to appear greedy after saying they were in favor of building more schools (because it’s for the children, you know.) So that only had a 55% agreement. (56% if you count me.)

There is at least a $600 million surplus. If the Sun figures are correct, Ehrlich could completely erase this year’s state portion of the property tax burden on everyone (13.2 cents per $100 of assessed value) and still have some money left over. That would put $528 million back into the hands of property owners and still leave a small surplus. Obviously the Democrats would rail about “tax cuts for the rich.” But money would return to the state with additional sales tax revenue and just maybe a few thousand new jobs created.

I don’t want to come off as saying that new schools are unnecessary after a period of time. But, honestly, is a Taj Mahal-like school building really more conducive to learning than a good teacher? All a primary school for 300 kids in 6 grades really needs are 12-14 classrooms (which includes 2 for special ed), a gym, a media center, rooms for a science lab, art, and music, office space for a few staff, and a cafeteria. That and be well-designed for expansion. I honestly believe that no primary school should be larger than about 450 kids.

The other thing I’d like to know is whether any new school construction would have a provision to save taxpayers money by waiving the (so-called) “prevailing wage” requirements. Ohio did this with their school building program.

And of course, every other advocacy group wants a cut of this rapidly-shrinking surplus. A group called Advocates for Children and Youth wanted $400 million for schools PLUS $375 million for other social programs.

But you can’t pay big money for schools without getting the teachers’ union seeking a piece of the pie, to wit:

News item: Support builds for better pensions (an AP story in the Daily Times, December 26, 2005)

The teachers’ union wants another $480 million a year for their pensions, although they would generously share about 1/3 of that for other state employees. They whine about the measly pensions that Maryland teachers get, and in raw numbers they are right: it’s about half of Pennsylvania’s average and roughly 50% less than the averages in Delaware and Virginia. An average Free State teacher’s pension is only 36% of their salary, which is tied for the bottom with Hawaii’s average.

But, and this is a big but, Maryland teachers contribute just 2% of their pay toward their pensions. (Hawaii contributes none, but it’s a far smaller state.) While the teachers are willing to kick in another 3% of their pay, they also want to change the multiplier rate to a retroactive 2 percent – an increase of almost half over the current 1.4%.

I actually participated in Ohio’s system for a very short time, back in 1991 when I taught one section of AutoCAD for one semester at Owens College (about 12 hours a week.) It seems to me that I had a lot more than 2% taken out, even then. I recall my rebate being over $100 when I dropped out of the system shortly after leaving Owens, but my salary there was a low four figures.

I’d be curious to know what TB thinks about this one.

News item: Democrats target Ehrlich vetoes (Baltimore Sun, December 11, 2005)

In a nutshell, here is the Democrats’ idiocy Governor Ehrlich properly vetoed:

1. The “Fair Share Health Care” bill, aka the Wal-Mart bill. Bad legislation to target one successful (and non-union) business. The proponents speak of “fairness” but forget that it works both ways.

2. A bill allowing voters to cast their ballots up to a week before Election Day. Can you say electoral fraud? Sure you can. I don’t buy the higher turnout argument because now it’s fairly easy to get an absentee ballot. If I can make time to vote because it’s that important to me, others can sacrifice as well.

3. Increasing the state minimum wage $1 to $6.15 per hour. So, when the inevitable uptick in the unemployment rate comes of this, I’ll bet the Democrats blame Gov. Ehrlich for messing up the economy instead of their support of this artificial wage increase that squeezes business.

4. A juvenile justice bill that simply seems to create more red tape and regulation.

5. A bill that allows same-sex partners to make medical decisions for each other. Just another step toward legalizing gay marriage. But the Ehrlich administration claims they’re seeking a compromise, which means that he only gives away 3/4 of the store instead of 100%. Much like most other liberal programs, get the camel’s nose in the tent and pretty soon you have a humped roommate.

It’s going to be very interesting in Annapolis about two weeks hence. That’s going to really kick off the 2006 campaign. Ironically, Governor Ehrlich will be at a fundraising disadvantage for the 90 days of the legislative session as he cannot raise money during that period, while his Democrat opponents can. But he does have the advantage of a late primary (Maryland’s primary is in mid-September) so both Martin O’Malley and Doug Duncan can beat each other up all summer – unless the powers that be in the Democrat party convince one to drop out, or the Democrats game the election cycle and move the primary back to June.

But the Democrats would NEVER change the rules in the middle of the game, would they?

The Empire writes back

Been sitting on this letter for a week or so as other items I see in and out of the news took precedence. But a week ago Saturday I got my reply to my letter to Congressman Gilchrest. I was shocked that it wasn’t a form letter, to be honest. It did look like he took the time to read it and understand my arguments to some extent.

So, to place it in context, I’ll put my letter in first. I’m surprised I didn’t put in on ttrwc, but I would have wanted to reshow it anyway with the changeover.

November 10, 2005

To: Congressman Wayne T. Gilchrest

Re: HR 4241, Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 – provision for ANWR drilling

Congressman Gilchrest:

I was disappointed to read that you were one of 25 “moderate” Republicans who have threatened to hold up a bill that would begin a much-needed process of cutting federal spending because of its provision to begin drilling for oil in a small portion of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

It is only a short-sighted few who are opposed to beginning the process of oil exploration and recovery in this area. Meanwhile, a broad coalition of native Alaskans, energy experts, union workers, and a large swath of the general public frustrated with the rising cost of gasoline support taking advantage of a domestic oil supply. While the stocks of oil in ANWR certainly won’t be enough to fulfill all of our energy needs, it can serve as a bridge to a time when we will find alternative sources of energy. Your support of HR 6 earlier this year, while unpopular with a vocal minority of constituents, was a step in this direction.

However, the reality is, even with measures you’ve supported (such as raising the fuel economy standards for automakers) America finds itself in the dangerous position of having foreign oil producers supply a growing portion of the market. While Canada is a steady friend, the rest of our top 5 suppliers (Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia) contain anywhere from an unofficial to state-sponsored disdain of American policies and values.

Personally, I would like to see more done in the way of extracting oil from shale domestically and using more nuclear power to generate our electricity rather than a growing dependence on natural gas. For the foreseeable future, though, we are in a position where oil is the lifeblood of our economy. Thus, I urge that you rethink your opposition to ANWR drilling as part of a balanced and forward-looking total energy policy.

Additionally, I hope I can count on you to support the aim of the overall bill, which is to cut federal spending to reallocate those resources to victims of this year’s hurricanes. It is a prudent thing to cut the unnecessary to fund the priorities – hopefully it will also spur a look at where our priorities are set.

Sincerely,

Michael Swartz
Salisbury

And he wrote back:

December 6, 2005

Dear Mr. Swartz:

Thank you for your interest in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, HR 4241. This bill is commonly referred to as the “budget reconciliation” bill and was passed on the House floor on November 18, 2005.

I opposed the inclusion of language in HR 4241 authorizing oil and gas development in ANWR, in part, because ANWR is the largest area of unspoiled wilderness in the US. Among other wildlife species, it is home to the Porcupine caribou herd, and provides critical calving habitat for them. Exact oil reserves available on the refuge are unknown, but the median expectation projected by the US Geological Survey is about 10.3 billion barrels of oil. While this would imcrease US domestic production of oil, market analysts predict it could have only a minute impact on US energy prices.

This is because the US is the largest consumer of petroleum products in the world, using fully a quarter of annual globa supplies. Yet, we own only about 3 percent of total global oil reserves. In addition, many market analysts and geophysicists tell me the US either has or will soon peak in its available supply for oil production – meaning that supplies on the downside of that peak will never be able to meet emergency needs for oil in the future. The US currently imports 60% of its oil, and our demand for oil is projected to increase over 30% in 2025, especially in the transportation sector. Therefore, it seems unlikely that domestic oil production can meet even a small fraction of US oil demand in 7-12 years – when ANWR supplies may be available should development begin now. Our thirst for oil and the very small portion we own will continue to sustain significant oil imports and volatile prices until we can meaningfully replace it with renewable and alternative energy sources.

We will likely never again find a product so diverse and flexible – for energy and many other uses – than petroleum. The US must seriously invest in development and delivery of affordable, reliable energy from more diverse sources and must reserve its small supply of oil for the many other applications for which it is now or may be used – including roads, plastics, chemicals, and other products. I will continue to do all I can toward progressive energy policy that supports a wide range of alternative energy sources.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Sincerely,

Wayne T. Gilchrest
Member of Congress

Now, I did a little research on oil awhile back for a ttrwc post. By the time ANWR comes online, we’ll probably be consuming about 23 million barrels a day.

If you assume that ANWR does have the 10.3 billion barrels Rep. Gilchrest cited, that works out to 447 days’ worth of oil. I think this is the figure the anti-ANWR people cite. There are two problems with this assumption though. Number one is that it’s not a given that ANWR would be our sole source of oil. If I go under the assumption that the ANWR reserves per day would be depleted at the rate we import from our largest current foreign supplier (Canada’s 1.616 million barrels per day) then the figures grow to 6,374 days (or about 17 1/2 years.)

The second faulty assumption is that there’s only 10.3 billion barrels of oil in ANWR. We have no way of knowing this without further exploration. The current “best guess” ranges up to 16 billion barrels of oil that’s recoverable under current technology. There’s certainly nothing to indicate that the ANWR oil can’t be double or even triple this best guess – at best case it could last 40 years.

One other issue I have with Rep. Gilchrest’s logic regards the pristine environment, calving habitat, etc. When exploration is only going to take a small fraction of ANWR’s total area (the reserve occupies basically the entire northeast quadrant of Alaska) I think the caribou can find many a place to have little caribou. To hear environmentalists talk, oil drilling in ANWR would place derricks as far as the eye can see, and that’s simply untrue. For those of you familiar with Maryland, think of something that takes up the area of 2 of the 23 counties and imagine how small of an area that really is compared to the state as a whole. That’s at the high end of estimates for the oil industry impacted area.

As I stated in my letter to Rep. Gilchrest, we do need to explore other avenues of filling our energy needs. I’ve cited a couple that, while they’re not strictly renewable, they are certainly plentiful or very efficient given the amount of material used. There’s merit to continuing research into hydropower, wind, and solar energy, but I believe that research into those avenues are best conducted by private entities. The X Prize is one example – the incentive of $10 million to develop a renewable space vehicle was a very good one, and one that is evolving into other areas.

Once again, capitalism at work – it’s a beautiful thing! So let’s get to work in ANWR and continue to fuel the engine until we can use our ingenuity to figure out a better way.

Late edit: Here’s a photo of the ANWR area.

Isn’t that majestic scenery beautiful? Look at all the caribou!

The battle is joined

Looks like it’s time for the fight to begin. January 11th is just around the corner, and that’s the start date to our 90 days of lunacy known as the General Assembly session. At or near the top of the list is going to be the vote on overriding Governor Ehrlich’s veto of the so-called “Fair Share” bill.

I was reminded of this yesterday listening to the radio. I was working out and minding my own business when I heard a commercial. (Hopefully the link works, it’s the actual .mp3 file.) And it just so happens that Delegates Bozman and Conway are MY delegates.

So I laughed to myself and said, “well well well…looks like it’s time to take the fight to them.” Step number one is right here, I dashed off a letter to the Daily Times. As always, we’ll see if they have the balls to print it.

Yesterday I was listening to the radio and a commercial came on asking me to thank Delegates Bozman and Conway for their support for “fairness” – that concept being determined by their support of a particular piece of legislation.

After listening to that, I said to myself, “ok, the battle is joined now. It’s going to be the special interests and the money that they all but coerce out of their workers to put ads on the radio, against me and my words that I type on my computer and hope to have placed in the paper.” Luckily, I know that common sense and right are on my side.

Here’s why. When they speak of “fairness,” they forget to tell you that this bill is written against one particular multibillion dollar entity. Just one. It would be as if the rest of Maryland decided to levy a tax against the citizens of Salisbury for a real or perceived advantage they have over the remainder of the state.

In fact, their commercial never cites the entity by name, nor does it reveal the true source of the funds behind buying its time on the radio, simply billing itself as “Maryland for Health Care.”

Well, I live in Maryland and I’m for health care too (is there anyone who’s not?) But I’m not for using the power of the legislature for gaining an unfair advantage at the expense of a successful company. As a resident of their district, not some far-off national concern coming into Delmarva with slickly packaged radio ads, I strongly encourage Delegates Bozman and Conway to reconsider their previous stance and uphold Governor Ehrlich’s veto of “Fair Share.”

And I wonder what I’ll be doing this Friday afternoon when I get off work. Think I have a phone call or two to make. That’s step two.

Oh, as if it wouldn’t be patently obvious, “Maryland for Health Care” is a front organization for the Service Employees International Union. I suppose the SEIU decided that the United Food and Commercial Workers had put enough money into lobbyists and political contributions to the Democrats in Annapolis so it was their turn.

It’ll be a story to follow as the time gets closer. We’ll see if Maryland really wants to punish achievers, wipe out Somerset County’s bid for 800-1000 jobs, and show that special interests run the state. Considering which party has a stranglehold on the General Assembly, it’s pretty obvious what the answer will be. Even so, I’m not going to just sit idly by without making my feelings known. It’s time to fight.