A long, cold winter

I’ve referred to this writer recently, but energy maven Marita Noon had a piece at NetRightDaily today talking about the difficulties customers in the Northeast may have this winter with electricity. It got me to thinking about the local situation, as we had a rough winter last year and indications are we’ll have more of the same this year.

While the Eastern Shore of Maryland is situated in a slightly better place for solar electricity than the Northeast, the reality is that very little of our electricity comes from renewable sources. Instead, the two closest power plants in the Delmarva Power region where we live are in Vienna, Maryland and Millsboro, Delaware. Both of those plants were once owned by Delmarva Power, but were sold in 2001 to NRG. According to NRG, the Vienna plant is a 167 MW oil-burning plant while Indian River in Millsboro uses coal to create 410 MW (and has a 16 MW oil-burning unit as well.) Another plant under construction in Dover, owned by Calpine, will add 309 MW of natural gas-fired capacity once it comes online beginning next year. Calpine also owns a number of small, locally-based “just in case” plants in the region as well – two of these oil-burning facilities are in Crisfield, Maryland and Tasley, Virginia.

The other regional power supplier, Choptank Electric Cooperative, produces about 2/5 of its supply from plants in Cecil County, Maryland and Virginia with the remaining electricity being purchased from various regional suppliers.

Infrastructure is also a concern. Several years ago there were plans to create the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway, a transmission line which would extend from Virginia to Delaware, connecting the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant and others in that region with the aforementioned Vienna and Indian River plants. But those plans were scrapped a few years ago due to slowing demand, which is unfortunate because our transmission otherwise comes exclusively from the north through Delaware.

In order to create good jobs, we need reliable sources of energy. Unfortunately, regulations aren’t on the side of plants like Vienna or Indian River so it may be time to think about encouraging investment in another natural gas-based power plant on Delmarva, with the requisite infrastructure to ensure supply. According to Calpine, the Dover site can expand to double its capacity but that would only partially replace the Indian River plant if it is forced offline. Realistically, though, the new power plant would probably be best sited in Delaware as it’s closer to the main body of pipeline infrastructure for natural gas.

But the new power plant is good news for the region, particularly in light of the issues Noon points out in her piece on the Northeast. With thousands of consumers using electricity to heat their homes in one way or another – either directly through baseboard heating or with a furnace and blower or pump – reliability is key. And when solar panels are buried in snow or wind turbines are frozen in place, they’re not much use.

Opening fodder

While Ben Carson made a splash on the GOP side by strongly hinting he was in the 2016 Presidential fray, he stopped short of actually launching an exploratory committee. The first major candidate – at least one who has a shot at being in the top couple tiers, anyway – to form an exploratory committee is Democrat Jim Webb, the former Reagan administration official who later became a Democratic senator from Virginia. Daniel Larison at The American Conservative has some thoughts on this challenge to presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, but Webb has his own explanation at his newly-christened website.

And while it’s probably the longest of shots to oppose the Clinton machine, Webb does have somewhat of an opening according to Harry Enten at fivethirtyeight.com. He points out that Hillary’s support is weakest in the political center, where Webb’s pro-military but populist message may resonate. As David Freedlander writes at the Daily Beast:

And Clinton, (Webb’s) aides insist, is a non-factor.

“It ain’t about Hillary,” said Mudcat Saunders, a longtime Virginia strategist who worked on Webb’s Senate campaign. “It’s about bring the American dream to the forefront once again for working people and small business. The working people and small business – they haven’t had any representation in years. And they know it.

Americans want to do something about this coin-operated government.”

In a lot of respects, Webb hearkens back to the old Democratic party, the one which was just as liberal as it is today but was pro-military and pro-American. Ronald Reagan led those voters to the Republican Party and many of them stayed. For those who hang on to their faith in the old-style Democratic party and the song and dance about their support for the working man – the sort of Democrat who still resides mainly in rural areas like this one – Webb may be an appealing option. Take this excerpt from his introductory video as an example, one where Webb points out that he’s no stranger to long-shot campaigns since he defeated George Allen in 2006 to win his one term as Senator.

With enough financial support to conduct a first-class campaign, I have no doubt that we can put these issues squarely before the American people and gain their support. The 2016 election is two years away, but serious campaigning will begin very soon. The first primaries are about a year away. Your early support will be crucial as I evaluate whether we might overcome what many commentators see as nearly impossible odds.

We are starting with very little funding and no full-time staff, but I’ve been here before. In February, 2006 I announced for the Senate only nine months before the election against an entrenched incumbent. We had no money and no staff. We were more than 30 points behind in the polls. I promised to work on the same themes I am putting before you now: reorient our national security policy, work toward true economic fairness and social justice, and demand good governance, including a proper balance between the Presidency and the Congress. We won. And despite the paralysis in our government, we delivered on these promises, in measurable, lasting ways.

In 2007, I gave the response to President Bush’s State of the Union address. I put economic fairness for our working people and small business owners at the front of my response, noting the immense and ever-growing disparities in income between corporate executives and those who do the hard work. When I graduated from college the average corporate CEO made twenty times what his workers made. Today that number is greater than 300 times. The inequalities between top and bottom in our country are greater than at any time in the last hundred years. And the disparities between those at the very top and the rest of our society have only grown larger since the economic crash of late 2008 and early 2009.

With over 30,000 views in the first few days, the video is indeed portraying a very populist message that would appeal to the vast number of voters who fall for the class envy trap. (Dirty little secret: CEO pay is much higher now because many are paid in large part with stock options, thanks to the push a couple decades ago to more directly tie CEO salaries to company profitability and financial performance. In terms of actual salary, the ratio is far lower.)

It’s doubtful that Jim Webb is the obstacle to an eventual Hillary coronation that Barack Obama was in 2008, and at this point he’s probably in the same low tier of probability that Martin O’Malley rests on, well behind Joe Biden and miles in arrears to Hillary. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jim in the mid-single digits in early polls as an outsider who has military experience, as opposed to most others in the Democratic field. He may be the catalyst for another Operation Chaos on the Democratic side.

A more colorful shopping day

This time next week bleary-eyed shoppers may already be ready to call it a day at a time when most normally arrive for work.

Playing on the theme of “black Friday,” the Patriot Voices advocacy group is seeking to make that shopping day a “red, white, and blue Friday” by encouraging shoppers to buy American. The “Made in the USA Christmas Challenge” is one that promotes both American-based manufacturing and small businesses by also promoting Small Business Saturday the following day. Patriot Voices founder and former Senator Rick Santorum noted:

This Christmas season, millions of hard-working families are struggling to make ends meet.  If we hope to lift up all Americans, we must first support those families and the jobs they hold.  This means supporting American companies and American-made products at the check-out line.  While our effort may be small in the grand scheme of the holidays, everyone must do their part to making sure we support our family, friends, and neighbors.

The folks at Patriot Voices also added:

The 2nd annual Patriot Voices “Made in the USA” Christmas Challenge will bring attention to the need to buy American-made goods and shop at local small businesses this holiday season.  Senator Santorum will encourage Patriot Voices members and Americans around the country to sign a pledge to shop locally and buy American made goods this Christmas.

Oddly enough, in doing a bit of research I found Santorum sought this pledge in 2012, which either makes this the third rendition or means they skipped 2013. Regardless, it’s a pretty good idea.

For several months I’ve placed an emphasis on manufacturing jobs, believing it’s a great way to grow the economy and also return our country to a position of prominence in the world such that we had during the Greatest Generation, a time when we produced our way to victory in a world war. This is a continuation of that effort and it’s a worthwhile one. (It also doesn’t hurt that I know a good source for finding American-made products, one which just happens to be based in Santorum’s home state.)

Realistically, it would be difficult to get everything on your Christmas list “made in America.” In particular, those loss leader electronics which will be fought over on Thanksgiving night and/or the wee hours of Friday morning when stores open are generally made overseas. Unfortunately, we don’t make Xbox or PS4 consoles here nor do we produce most tablets, iPhones, or other such gadgets. I don’t think this has to be a permanent problem, though – it just takes some sound reworking of tax and regulation policies along the lines of that which Rick has supported in the past. Those philosophies led a lot of people in the Midwest and South to vote for Santorum in 2012 – even I did after my top choice(s) dropped out of the running.

Honestly, I’m not much of a shopper. But those who power-shop are encouraged to join in this effort because the job you could create might be that of your neighbor or family member. A new opportunity for a struggling breadwinner can be the greatest gift of all.

Unhinged

Rather than talk about the executive amnesty that I fear the Republican leadership in Washington will find a way to accommodate, I want to show you how the other half lives.

Many months ago I somehow got on the mailing list of a liberal Democratic candidate named Rick Weiland, who ran and lost this month for the Senate seat in South Dakota. Senator-elect Mike Rounds crushed Weiland by 20 points in the election but for some reason Weiland still thinks he’s relevant and decided to take out his frustrations using the Keystone XL pipeline vote as the vehicle. While I took out the fundraising appeal links, this is still fun to observe:

The only crock bigger than the Keystone Pipeline is Senate Democrats dumping on our environment to try to save one of their own.

Talk about business as usual, talk about midterm lessons unlearned, talk about just plain stupid!

You’ve already lost the Senate. Polls show that Mary Landrieu, whose runoff election you hope to influence, has absolutely no chance of winning. So what do you do, backstab your president, our Native Nations and the entire environmental community on behalf of a pipeline that will not only not create jobs or any energy security, but will pour additional billions in profits into the hands of the big money special interests who just spent a fortune to crush your party at the polls.

That’s genius, DC Democrat style. And it is the reason my campaign is not over. In fact, it has just begun. As a political party, and as a country, we have one chance and one chance only. END THE HAMMERLOCK BIG MONEY HAS ON BOTH OUR POLITICAL PARTIES.

If you would be willing to help us, click here.

For 18 months we ran for Senate with little more than my videographer son Nick, myself, a lot of shoe leather, and the help of a handful of friends with more passion and skill than common sense.

I want to keep that team together, retire our small debt, and get back into the fight, right now. If the DC Democrats selling us out on Keystone XL doesn’t show why we can’t wait, what will?

Please, send just a few bucks and stay tuned. We may have gotten washed over by the same wave that drowned so many Democrats. But unlike them, we’re not rolling over, belly up and bloated, we’re fighting on.

We are going to make South Dakota a demonstration project, and a nationwide beacon for the fight against big money.

And if you don’t think that matters to you, think about this. Does Elizabeth Warren’s voice matter beyond the boundaries of Massachusetts, or Bernie Sanders beyond Vermont, or did Paul Wellstone make any difference outside of Minnesota?

If you can help, click here.

We have assembled a merry band of very low maintenance truth tellers out here on the prairie. Keep us going with a buck or two and you’ll get the most entertaining, noisy, truth to power megaphone in America. Maybe you’ll even get a new song or two!

So stay tuned. We are not done yet, and Keystone XL shows why.

The fight for a constitutional amendment and other reforms to drive big money out of politics and put the most constitutionally ignorant Supreme Court in American history back in the jack in the box from which it sprang has got to be won or it will be Keystone XLs and stolen Presidential elections as far as the eye can see.

Yes, this guy is apparently serious. Dude, you didn’t fall victim to a “wave” when you got less than 30 percent in a statewide election. Nor does Weiland admit that there were big-money donors on his side as well – then again, the guy is way out on the edge on some issues, like ethanol, so there will always be some who think he’s the best thing since sliced bread.

While Weiland has a point about the cynical political games being played in Washington, the problem isn’t the Keystone vote, the fate of Mary Landrieu, or any sort of political contribution. In fact, I would argue the Keystone XL pipeline would be the best bet for the environment because Canada is going to extract those tar sands whether environmentalists like it or not. We can pipe the oil underground in a vessel which would provide relatively trouble-free transport or we can ship it by rail car with the inherent safety risks. (Or Canada can pipe it to the Pacific coast and send it by tanker to China, which has its own set of perils.) To me, Keystone XL makes a whole lot more sense than growing corn to be fuel for the family SUV and not food for the dinner plate.

But I suspect Rick Weiland would have found something to complain about besides his dismal electoral record – he’s now lost statewide elections in 1996, 2002, and 2014. His “fight against big money,” though, is truly against the wrong source of that massive pile of cash – after all, we spend more on many other common items than all the 2014 federal campaign spending put together.

But the $3.7 billion spent on the 2014 election is a rounding error that’s a factor of about 1 to 1,000 what the federal government spends each year. THAT is the pile of money which we need to address by shrinking it to a more appropriate Constitutional size. As I see it, less money in Washington would lead to less incentive to spend a lot on campaigns.

The example of Weiland well illustrates how the other side feels. To them, it’s all about the feelgood issue du jour, whether its the Keystone XL pipeline, the Citizens United decision, or one of another hundred things where life is unfair and the only solution is bigger government. Yet we have tried it their way for over 80 years now and problems aren’t being solved. This is the question they need to honestly ask themselves: with their track record, is government the answer to problems or does it perpetuate those issues to maintain a reason for existence? To bring it closer to home, ask yourself what happens to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation if the waterway is ever cleaned up?

We have entered the era of the perpetual campaign, which in and of itself provides a reason for being. If government was truly practiced in the best interests of the people, the big news of the day wouldn’t come from Washington or the state capitals but from the achievements of the common man which still occur throughout our nation. Getting money out of politics isn’t the answer – the solution really lies in rightsizing our government.

Under the radar

After he lost the 2012 Senatorial primary to Dan Bongino, Richard Douglas has kept a somewhat low profile. Eschewing a possible run for Attorney General this year, Douglas has instead focused on particular issues such as the Bladensburg Peace Cross earlier this year and his latest, a criticism of Maryland’s two sitting Senators for a lack of action on freeing Marylander Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

In today’s Daily Record (11/19), I was astonished to read the Capital News Service whitewash of the Maryland U.S. congressional delegation’s record of failure on Alan Gross.

Marylander Gross remains in a Cuban jail because Maryland’s weak, irresolute U.S. Senators have done precisely nothing to force our weak, irresolute President to make Cuba howl. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski have used none of the tools available to majority-party senators, or in Mikulski’s case, to the chair of the Senate’s most powerful standing committee, to bludgeon the Obama White House into meaningful action to free their fellow Marylander.

To try to force presidential action, Cardin and Mikulski could easily have blocked Obama legislative priorities, Obama executive nominations, treaties, senior bureaucratic promotion lists, and spending bills. But they didn’t, and these are glaring omissions in the Capitol Hill playbook. They confirm that Cardin and Mikulski have pulled their punches with their ideological teammate in the White House.

Whitewash can’t conceal the truth. Maryland’s U.S. Senators and the White House have shown weakness and a lack of resolve on Mr. Gross. That same brand of weakness and lack of resolve helped put Russian troops in Ukraine, and allows Islamist terrorists to murder Americans almost at will.

In January, the new Republican majority in the Senate could finally force President Obama to break a sweat over Alan Gross, five long years into his imprisonment. We’ll see. But what a pity that Maryland’s U.S. Senators, clucking furiously on the sidelines, have utterly failed to use the tools which the Framers gave them to force Obama to do his job.

Douglas was quite critical of Cardin in his 2012 run, but hadn’t really had much need to be critical of Maryland’s senior Senator. It’s Mikulski’s seat which will be at stake in 2016, though, and Douglas’s statewide experience may lead some to ask whether he’s thinking of challenging Mikulski. With the Senate political landscape being almost exactly the opposite of 2014′s (where Republicans will have at least 24 seats to defend against just 10 for Democrats) the chance to pull an upset in Maryland is intriguing in the wake of Larry Hogan’s win.

Naturally, the prospect of a rematch of the two top GOP contenders from 2012 means Dan Bongino will be in the conversation as a possible contender. But will Bongino want to undergo yet another campaign, the third one in five years?

With the experience Douglas boasts as a former Chief Counsel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former General Counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an election where cleaning up Barack Obama’s foreign policy messes may be a key issue, the prospect of someone with Richard’s expertise going up against Mikulski – or a new Democrat should Barb decide to retire – is quite interesting. Surely we will see in the coming months if it’s a race Richard wants to run.

Common Core subject of TEA Party meeting

On Thursday night an interesting meeting is slated in Ocean Pines.

Jillian Patterson, VP of Policy for Education Freedom Committee will speak about fighting Common Core at the state and local levels and strategies for defeating it. Ms. Patterson will include some basic information about what Common Core is and why parents should be concerned with its current implementation, followed by Q&A.

County Commissioners and School Board members will be invited.

The Worcester County TEA Party is the sponsor of the event, which will be held at the Ocean Pines Community Center.

Most interesting to me is the last line, because some will judge the worthiness of the newly-elected (or re-elected) county commissioners and school board members on whether they show up and listen attentively to this speaker. Fortunately for Worcester County. any school board member who doesn’t wish to enlist in this (admittedly uphill) battle can be ousted in the next election. It’s something we here in Wicomico County cannot boast about yet, although I’m confident our new leadership team will begin the long-overdue process of addressing this inequity.

But Maryland is likely going to be one of the last states to reconsider the Common Core standards, which have gotten such a bad rap nationally that the state dubbed them the “College and Career-Ready” standards, eschewing the “Common Core” moniker. So it will be interesting to see what the report which is due from that bill will say, and whether any mention of the states which are dropping Common Core is made. This despite the fact that Governor-elect Larry Hogan has said we “need to hit the ‘pause’ button on Common Core and to give control back to teachers and parents.”

The chances are fairly good that a Common Core repeal could be introduced in the General Assembly this year, although likely not at the behest of Hogan. The question is how many Democrats will cross the MSEA teachers’ union and help pass the bill out of committee if it even gets a vote. That’s where we come in, with the “encouragement” to make sure such a bill escapes the committee chair’s drawer.

The local effects of amnesty

In 2012, Maryland voters foolishly rejected a bid to overturn in-state tuition for illegal aliens despite the fact thousands of voters signed a petition to bring it to referendum. Its passage further cemented Maryland’s reputation as a “sanctuary state,” where illegal aliens already had an easy time getting drivers’ licenses and (allegedly) illegally voting in elections.

So it’s not too comforting reading a report from the Center for Immigration Studies detailing a few abuses of birthright citizenship or finding from the same source that immigrant families account for 42% of Medicaid growth since 2011. Naturally, the CIS is biased against unfettered immigration, so one would expect these types of reports from them.

Yet if you look and listen around this area and see all the Spanish-language entities – whether storefronts, media, or just conversations on the street – there’s no question any change is simply locking the barn door after the horse got out. This was something of a culture shock to me moving down here, knowing I was a thousand miles from the southern border. But the local labor market, with its heavy emphasis on agriculture and poultry processing, provides the low-wage jobs immigrants flocked here to take. And as they came, their influence expanded outward into the construction industry and other areas where day labor is valued.

And while this area of Maryland and Delaware is actually below-average insofar as Hispanic population goes on a national scale, there are some enclaves like Georgetown where a high number of Hispanics have settled. Moreover, Census data is a little bit of a trailing indicator as local school districts have somewhat higher Hispanic kindergarten enrollment than the census population may indicate.

But the problem isn’t necessarily one of those who are here, but those who are promised to come if amnesty becomes the law (or lack thereof) for the land. There are only so many low-skill, low-wage jobs available in the region, jobs which can’t support a reasonable lifestyle. If the families of those who are already here get extended by the addition of other relatives, though, the support will have to come from somewhere. Someone has to pay for the additional schools, services, and assistance these newcomers will require. Unfortunately, most local and state budgets are already strained.

If the idea is to create a perpetual underclass that’s dependent on government, full amnesty is the way to go. But I’d rather reward those who do things the right way than the ones who game the system and catch a lucky break when we turn a blind eye. If we are to be a nation of laws, we need to do immigration reform in such a way that those who came illegally don’t use it to their advantage. Crime is not supposed to pay.

A bad deal all around

There are actually a couple things I want to tie together in this piece – they may seem disparate at first, but I think there’s a common thread in something I write about on a frequent basis.

For a guy whose party took a good old-fashioned ass-kicking in the midterms, Barack Obama sure is governing like he didn’t hear any of the voters, whether they showed up or not. We may like these gasoline prices which are the lowest they have been through his time in office, but he’s still determined to decimate our economy in the name of combating global warming. It was a point Peter Ingemi (aka DaTechGuy) made with some hashtag and messaging suggestions today.

In order for our economy to grow, we need to use energy. Like it or not, the vast majority of energy sources for our needs in the near-term future will be fossil fuels – thanks to advances in technology, oil and natural gas prices are reasonably cheap and supplies are plentiful.

And even if you say that cutting our greenhouse gas emissions is a worthy goal, we still are allowing China – you know, that country which seems to send us every product under the sun that’s not made here anymore because manufacturers bailed on America a couple decades back – to continue to increase its emissions. They say they would like their emissions to “peak” around 2030 – of course, that’s no iron-clad guarantee and since when have communists ever told the truth or lived up to an agreement? It’s a ‘get out of jail free’ card for the Chinese and it lasts for 15 years – meanwhile, we cripple what little industry hasn’t abandoned us yet due to shortsighted government policies and the obvious feeling that corporations are cash cows for exploitation to increase spending.

So, just like Obamacare has become the descriptive term for bad health care policy, “Obama China deal” and “Obama EPA regulations” should become part of the political lexicon. Admittedly, it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well as Obamacare but all three are detrimental to our economy.

EPA regulations restricting the use of fossil fuels would interrupt what’s been a promising rebirth of an American energy industry many thought was dying just a few short years ago. Instead, they are at a point where the need for workers is great as the industry continues to expand, and writer Marita Noon hit upon a great marriage of supply and demand just in time for Veterans Day. As she notes:

The U.S. oil-and-gas industry has added millions of jobs in the past few years and expects to add more and more—especially with the new energy-friendly Republican-controlled Congress. Just the Keystone pipeline — which is now likely to be built — will employ thousands. Increased access to reserves on federal lands will demand more personnel. But finding potential hires that fit the needs of the energy industry in the general labor pool is difficult, as they lack discipline, the ability to work in a team and, often, can’t pass a drug test.

Obviously our veterans have these qualities in spades thanks to their military experience, (Similarly, veterans have been integrated into a successful local construction firm led by one of their own.)

The question of climate change isn’t one of whether it occurs, as our planet has veered between ice age and warm periods ever since its creation untold eons ago. It’s always been one of responsibility and corrective action – my view is that the sun is the prime driver of the climate and we can’t do a whole lot about that fact. Just the fact that global temperature has held near-steady over the last 18 years and not constantly risen with the amount of carbon emissions punches a hole in a lot of the global warming theory, and is a prime reason they’ve gone to the term “climate disruption.” If we ceased using energy tomorrow it wouldn’t make a dime’s worth of difference to the climate but millions would starve.

Fortunately, what Obama has proposed with China isn’t binding until the Senate says so and a climate deal is probably dead on arrival in a GOP-controlled Senate. But the EPA and other regulators can provide a backhanded way of putting our end of the China deal in effect without lawmakers having a say.

The lack of trust

It’s already hard not to be cynical in this day and age, when politicians make used car salesmen look like Sunday School teachers by comparison, but the recent hullabaloo about remarks made by Obamacare (and Romneycare) architect Jonathan Gruber would be enough to shake even the most trusting of people. Maybe it’s not to the level of finding out your spouse of fifty years has had an affair for 49.8 of them, but this revelation does serve to erode the public’s trust in institutions even more.

There’s an old maxim that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and nowhere does it seem to be better displayed than in our all-encompassing federal government. No better proof exists than the Gruber example: here is an un-elected bureaucrat, appointed on behest of the state, who admits to writing a law that no one really read (remember, we had to pass it to know what was in it) in such a deceptive manner that it couldn’t be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, all the while considering those of us who pay the salaries of these governmental hangers-on and grifters as rubes worthy only of contempt.

Surely this is only the tip of the iceberg, though. In less than 250 years we have taken this republic – a republic, we were warned, would exist only as long as we could keep it – and turned it into some murky composite of the worst features of democracy and dictatorship. We are at a point where there are just about as many adults not working or working for the government as there are private-sector employees. While it’s a dramatic oversimplification to state that those who work in the private sector are the “makers” and the rest are the “takers,” the one-to-one ratio is very worrisome.

The problem is that perception is becoming reality before our eyes. Take, for example a proposed land deal which would have benefited a backer of Martin O’Malley – that is, until the public caught wind of it and made the state change its plans slightly. Just ask yourself: how many other crony capitalist deals come down before the public finds out, when it’s too late to back away? The road to wealth in 2014 America doesn’t seem to be that of hard work and inspiration anymore; instead, it seems to be finding the right sleazy politician to donate a few thousand dollars to and wait for the no-bid contract or grant to roll your way.

I guess the two things I consider missing from government today are honesty and a moral compass. Of course there are honest, decent people in government but too many seem to believe they are entitled to all the spoils they can get. And this is why I have always come down on the side of what I call “rightsizing” government, figuring if the pot of money becomes smaller it won’t be as worthwhile to use your greedy hands to scoop up ill-gotten cash.

We didn’t need to pass Obamacare because there was already an admittedly imperfect but reasonably successful system in place – the problem was that the “wrong” people benefited from it and that had to change as far as proponents like Jonathan Gruber were concerned. Now we’re at a point where there will be a small but extremely vocal minority which would speak out if Obamacare were eliminated. And as we’ve seen time and time again in recent America, there isn’t a group too small to be heard if they want more government or a breakdown of our moral fabric.

It’s the rest of us “too stupid to understand” people who have to work harder just to keep pace.

The first of many

Back in August, I noted that Ben Carson had formed his own political action committee and predicted that he was going to take the next step:

I believe this step is the prelude to setting up the exploratory committee, regardless of how the fall elections go. No one wants to get in the ring this soon because many of those who are considering a 2016 bid have to make it through this year’s election first. Once the election and holidays pass us by, I would expect Carson to make a go of it.

Looks like Ben’s only waited for the election, as he’s airing a paid documentary in a number of media markets (including Baltimore and Washington) this weekend. Here’s a teaser from producer Armstrong Williams.

I didn’t watch the documentary (since no local station carried it and it’s not up on Youtube yet) but odds are the show will be long on sizzle and short on substance. That’s typical of the early stages in any political campaign, and the election begins sooner than you might think: in 14 to 15 months we’ll be anxiously awaiting the results of the Iowa caucuses on both sides to start weeding out the contenders who have made it that far by raising sufficient campaign funds to compete.

Obviously the question is whether Carson can compete, both financially and in the arena of ideas. I look at the Ben Carson campaign similarly to the Herman Cain effort in 2010-11, but there’s a key difference in that Cain had what I thought was a viable economic proposal in his 9-9-9 plan while Dr. Carson seems to have his support based on the fact he’s a God-fearing outsider. I don’t find anything wrong with that, but the lack of political experience is quite the hurdle to overcome – particularly given the fact our current failure of a president never served in an executive post unlike four of his immediate five predecessors, with the other serving as vice-president for eight years.

There are a number of current and soon-to-be-former Republican governors thought to be 2016 candidates who have a track record to run on, and more importantly have most of their skeletons out of the closet. Rumors of an extramarital affair did Cain in, and the Democrats already have latched onto a number of statements Carson has made in an effort to doom his nascent campaign.

Perhaps, though, Carson’s very early apparent entrance into the race is necessary to maintain momentum, and he will need a big early push to make it through a field from both parties salivating for an open seat and the chance to either undo Barack Obama’s damage or finish off the nation a little bit more.

A doable goal?

Yesterday we received word that the unemployment rate dropped again, with another month of job growth in the 200,000 range. It’s not the Reagan recovery of the 1980s – when we had 15 straight months of job growth in 1983-84 that would put this latest number to shame, including a whopping 1,115,000 jobs created in September 1983 – but it is a reasonably decent run.

Yet just as manufacturing didn’t share in the Reagan-era gains as much as other sectors did (in fact, it lost some ground), the second Obama term has also fallen well short of manufacturing growth goals. I’ve discussed this group and its job tally before both here and on my former American Certified site, but the Alliance for American Manufacturing tracks progress toward the one million manufacturing jobs Barack Obama promised in his second term.

AAM’s president Scott Paul isn’t all that pleased about it, either.

The good news is that manufacturing jobs have grown over the past few months. The bad news is that they haven’t grown fast enough. I’m very concerned that a surge of imports from China and a paucity of public investment in infrastructure will continue to hamper the great potential of the productive sector of our economy.

Hopes of achieving the White House goal of 1 million new jobs in the Administration’s final term are fading fast. Without some progress on the trade deficit and a long-term infrastructure plan, I don’t see that changing. No doubt the economic anxiety that many Americans still feel is compounded by stagnant wage growth and diminished opportunities for middle class careers.

Two of the key issues AAM harps on are, indeed, currency manipulation and infrastructure investment, although they also took time recently to praise Obama’s manufacturing initiatives and chastise Walmart for their ‘buy American’ effort because much of it comes in the form of produce and groceries. Around these parts, we don’t really mind that emphasis because we produce a lot of American-grown poultry so if Walmart is willing to invest in us we’re happy to provide. (Then again, that promised distribution center would be nice too.) Of course, AAM is backed in part by the steelworkers’ union so one can reasonably assume their view is the center-left’s perspective.

Even so, the group is useful because it makes some valid points. And I think we should have some focus on creating manufacturing jobs in Maryland, as the defunct gubernatorial campaign of outgoing Delegate Ron George tried to do.

Thus, I think the incoming Hogan/Rutherford administration should make it a goal to create 50,000 new manufacturing jobs in Maryland over his first four-year term – if he succeeds, you better believe he deserves a second. According to BLS figures, as of September an estimated 103,000 people are employed in manufacturing in Maryland. But if you look at past data, it’s not unprecedented to have 150,000 (as late as November 2002) or even 200,000 (as late as June 1990) working in the field. And when you take the confluence of a state that is supposedly #1 in education and combine it with the proximity to both major markets and inexpensive energy sources, there’s no reason we should have lost 30,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector under Martin O’Malley – or 16,000 under Bob Ehrlich, for that matter.

But how do you turn things around in four years? Maryland has to make people notice they are open for business, and there are some radical proposals I have to help with that turnaround.

First of all, rather than tweak around the edges with lowering the corporate tax rate, why not just eliminate it altogether? The revenue to the state from that toll is $1.011 billion in FY2015, which is far less than the annual budgetary increase has been. Would that not send a message that we are serious about job growth and immediately improve our status as a business-friendly state?

The next proposals are somewhat more controversial. To the extent we are allowed by the federal government and its environmental regulations, those who choose to invest in the state and create jobs should have an easier path to getting environmental permits and zoning approvals. Even if a moratorium is temporary, making it easier to deal with MDE regulations would encourage job creation. Most of Maryland’s towns and cities already have industrial sites available, but we shouldn’t discourage construction in rural areas if a job creator needs more space.

We’ve also heard about the construction of the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the Red Line in Baltimore - combined, the two are expected to fetch a price tag of $5.33 billion. For that sum, it seems to me we could build a lot of interstate highway – even if this $4 million per mile figure is low (and it would be 1,267 miles of highway based on the combined cost of the Red Line and Purple Line) we could do a lot to assist in moving goods through and from Maryland, whether by finishing the originally envisioned I-97 through to the Potomac (and with Virginia’s assistance, to I-95 near Richmond) or enlisting Virginia and Delaware’s help in improving the U.S. 13/58 corridor to interstate standards to provide a secondary route around Richmond, Washington, and Baltimore.

Once we eliminate the onerous restrictions proposed for fracking and begin to open up the western end of the state for exploration, and (dare I say it?) work on making Maryland a right-to-work state like Virginia – or even creating right-to-work zones in certain rural counties like the Eastern Shore and Maryland’s western panhandle – the potential is there to indeed create those 50,000 manufacturing jobs – and a lot more! It just takes a leader with foresight and the cajones to appeal to the Democrats in the General Assembly as well as a Republican Party unafraid to take it to the streets in the districts of recalcitrant members of Maryland’s obstructionist majority party.

But even if we only create 40,000 or 25,000 manufacturing jobs through these policies, the state would be better-positioned to compete for a lot of other jobs as well, and the need is great. For too long this state has put its economic eggs in the federal government’s basket and there’s a changing mood about the need for an expansive presence inside the Beltway. Rightsizing the federal government means Maryland has to come up with another plan, and this one has proven to be a success time and time again across the nation.

A sea change in Maryland too?

In the midst of what’s good news about energy production in America – despite the headwinds created by an administration that believes global warming is a large problem while spending millions to prop up failing green energy companies – the question can be asked whether Maryland has achieved its share. I want to quote writer Mark Green from the Energy Tomorrow blog, who writes that based on Energy Information Administration data that:

This is a snapshot of America’s energy revolution – the fundamental shift from energy scarcity to abundance that would have been unthinkable less than a decade ago. The shift is the result of surging oil and natural gas production using advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, harnessing oil and gas reserves in shale and other tight-rock formations. Safe, responsible energy development has made the United States the world’s No. 1 natural gas producer, and the U.S. could become the world’s top producer of crude oil related liquids before the year is out.

Larry Hogan has acknowledged that western Maryland has an “enormous” amount of natural gas and that he favors an “all of the above” energy policy. On the other hand, Anthony Brown is studying the issue to death. At the other end of the state and scale, Brown backs his boss’s offshore wind boondoggle while Hogan mentions that “proponents (of wind power) rarely mention the actual costs which include billions in state and federal subsidies.” In a separate statement, he also decries the potential for offshore wind’s “crony capitalism” under a Brown administration.

You know, there’s no question that the key issue in this gubernatorial race is the economy. Maryland is a state lagging behind its peers, and more and more people speak about pulling up stakes and relocating somewhere else: Delaware, Florida, Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee – name a state south of the Mason-Dixon Line and it’s likely someone you knew in Maryland moved there.

But one piece of the puzzle is energy, and those who toil in the oil and gas industry understand what the potential is. In his piece, Green closes by quoting American Petroleum Institute president and CEO Jack Gerard:

We need leaders who reject the outdated political ideology of the professional environmental fringe and the political dilettantes who advance the irresponsible and unrealistic “off fossil fuel” agenda. Because if we get our energy policy right today, we can be the generation that erases what for decades has been our country’s most potent and intractable economic vulnerability: dependence on energy resources from less stable regions and countries hostile to our goals, ideals and way of life.

Writer Rob Port at the Say Anything Blog also asks the pertinent question, and the answer on a state level can be found in Maryland.

I look at it this way. There was a governor and a majority in the General Assembly who were willing to risk over a billion dollars in ratepayer money on something which studies suggested might work but hadn’t been tried in Maryland before, offshore wind. Conversely, given the success of the Marcellus Shale formation in several surrounding states (most notably Pennsylvania), why not encourage the exploration of several other regions in the state which share many of the same characteristics? The worst that can happen is that we find these areas aren’t worthwhile for natural gas with current technology, but the rapidly evolving science of energy extraction means studies done even as recently as a few years ago may be rendered worthless.

Given the correct conditions for marketable extraction of coal and natural gas and an aggressive expansion of power plant capacity which uses those resources, it should be a goal to make Maryland self-sufficient in electricity by 2030. I don’t think offshore wind will get us there, but extracting those resources we have gives us a shot, and provides good-paying jobs for Maryland families who need them.

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