We’re just about through the last weekend of the 2012 campaign, and hopefully by late Tuesday night we will have a good idea of where the country will be heading over the next four years (or perhaps four decades, should the incumbent win.) Of course that’s assuming we have no protracted recounts such as we endured 12 years ago – the prospect of two such occurrences in a lifetime boggles the mind.
Yet regardless of what happens Tuesday life will go on, and the sun will come up Wednesday. I’ll still have my work to do as will most of the rest of us who don’t toil for candidates.
I’ve always been about thinking two to three steps ahead where possible, which is why I’m writing this postmortem of sorts on the Sunday before the election. (It’s also why I wrote my book and eschewed the normal publishing process to get it to market prior to the campaign season hitting high gear. Did it cost me some sales? Perhaps, but readers can remedy that situation easily enough as I link to the sales sites from monoblogue.)
Just in the next three months there are a lot of political stories still to be written, from the local to the national. Here in my adopted hometown of Salisbury, the mayoral race will take center stage. No one has formally declared for the office yet, but it’s highly likely we’ll have at least two (and possibly three) candidates: incumbent Mayor Jim Ireton will go for a second term, realtor Adam Roop made it known almost a year ago he was seeking some unspecified office – his two choices are a City Council district seat or mayor – and recent transplant and blogger Joe Albero has made his own overtures. At least he’s invested in the shirts:
That will probably begin to play out in the next couple weeks.
After that we begin the holiday season, which may be politicized to a certain extent as well. My thought is that if Barack Obama wins, the early predictions of a modest year-over-year growth will hold true or end up slightly lower than imagined. I seem to recall last year started out like gangbusters on Black Friday but tailed off once those big sales came to an end. On the other hand, a Mitt Romney win may open up the purse strings and result in an increase twice of what was predicted. I think seeing him win with a GOP Congress will boost consumer confidence overnight as they figure the long national nightmare is over.
Once the holidays are over, it’s then time for both the 113th Congress to get started and, more importantly for local matters, the “90 days of terror” better known as the Maryland General Assembly session to begin. In the next few weeks I will finally wrap up my annual monoblogue Accountability Project for 2012 in order to hold our General Assembly members accountable for all the good and bad votes they made in the three 2012 sessions. With so much written about in 2012 on my part, I had to put that project on the back burner for most of the fall.
At the same time, state races for 2014 will begin to take shape. Unlike the last three gubernatorial elections we do not have the prospect of a candidate named Ehrlich in the race, which leaves the field wide open. While the three who have made overtures toward running on the GOP side have already made their presence known, only one (Blaine Young) has formally announced and the conventional wisdom (such that there is for Maryland GOP politics) labels him as the longest shot of the three most-rumored candidates, the other two being early 2010 candidate Larry Hogan and outgoing Harford County Executive David Craig.
But there are also down-ticket statewide races to consider as well, and there’s a decent chance that both Attorney General and Comptroller may become open seats as Doug Gansler and Peter Franchot, respectively, consider a race for Governor. (While there are three hopefuls so far for governor on the GOP side, there may be at least five on the Democratic side: Gansler, Franchot, current Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, and Delegate Heather Mizeur.)
The GOP bench is a little shorter for the downticket positions at this time, but I believe William Campbell is willing to reprise his 2010 Comptroller run and wouldn’t be surprised if Jim Shalleck doesn’t make sure he’s on the ballot this time for Attorney General. Another intriguing name for the AG position would be 2010 U.S. Senate candidate (and attorney) Jim Rutledge, who obviously has the advantage of having already run statewide. On the other side, I’m hearing that State Senator Brian Frosh (who generally serves as a dictatorial Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee) is one name in the mix for AG, but another intriguing one is former First District Congressman Frank Kratovil, who is now a judge in Queen Anne’s County.
So the beat will go on after this year’s election is over. It’s not surprising to me that I’ve had some great readership numbers over the last few weeks, but the last couple weeks in particular have blown me away. The trick, though, will be maintaining the audience through a period where fewer discuss politics and more concentrate on friends and family during the holiday season. I won’t be so presumptuous to believe that my humble little site should be uppermost on everyone’s mind, but I hope to roll into year number 8 of monoblogue in grand style.
If President Obama wants to run against a “do-nothing Congress” this cycle, perhaps he should be reminded of what one of his leading liberal supporters said in a Bloomberg interview:
There were efforts made to really move in the wrong direction, and we were able to block a lot of very damaging bills to our environment, to health care.
That, friends, is none other than Ben Cardin. If I were to guess, the bills Cardin is referring to as “moving in the wrong direction” encouraged vital energy exploration and transport and returned health care to more of a market approach. The only damage which would have been done was to liberal pride as they find out once again conservative ideas work, every time they’re tried.
And while the House has approved hundreds of bills to help out working American families, the Senate has killed off all but 54 bills and threatens to plunge America off a “fiscal cliff” by repealing the Bush tax cuts on hard-working business owners, not to mention other tax increases slated to occur as part of Obamacare beginning in 2013. (Don’t try to play the class envy card here, because I won’t accept it. If anything, the tax system should be flatter.)
So it may behoove Dan Bongino and his supporters to tell Maryland voters that if a “do-nothing Congress” is considered part of the problem, it’s their Senator who’s up for re-election that’s embracing the obstructionist approach. Frankly, I’m tired of the conservative side being blamed when it’s Democrats who seem to be bottling up the process in the Senate – it seems to feed the bad habit of President Obama ruling by fiat via Executive Order.
While I know Barack Obama doesn’t like the Constitution because of its “negative liberties” he still took an oath to uphold it, and the idea is for him to lead by convincing the legislative branch to enact policies he wants. Obama had two years with a mandate and a Congress in his favor; obviously the backlash against his (so-called) accomplishments from the people was significant. Aside from convincing people our argument was the correct one, that’s not the fault of conservatives – liberals had every opportunity to state their case and to vote as well. To paraphrase the words of Barack Obama, “we won.”
And now it’s up to our side to win some more. If Ben Cardin wants to take credit for an obstinate Senate which won’t allow bills to help Americans who simply want to make themselves a better life, be my guest. It goes to show what 46 years in politics will do to someone.
About 35,000 votes were cast, and as of tonight’s results there were just 82 votes separating the two front-runners. But this evening John LaFerla conceded the Democratic nomination in the First District Congressional race to Wendy Rosen. In a statement on his Facebook site LaFerla wrote:
Now that most of the absentee and provisional ballots have been counted, it is clear that the result of the Democratic Primary in the 1st Congressional District will not change and I will not be nominee of our party.
I would like to congratulate Wendy Rosen for winning the nomination of our party and I wholeheartedly endorse her candidacy and urge all my supporters to get behind her so we can defeat Andy Harris this November.
I want to thank everyone who supported our campaign to bring common sense to Congress. While we came up short, the issues we talked about remain vital to the future of our District and our Nation. While I won’t be in Congress, I hope to continue working with all of you in other ways to build a brighter future for everyone in our community.
So for the first time in recent memory no one from the Eastern Shore will be among the two major-party contenders for the Congressional seat, after a streak of Eastern Shore representatives for the First District – which for the decade between 2000 and 2010 was roughly a 50-50 voter split between Eastern and Western shores – came to an end with the election of Andy Harris. Both Wayne Gilchrest and Frank Kratovil lived on the Eastern Shore; while Harris owns a condominium on the Eastern Shore his principal residence is in Baltimore County, as is opponent Wendy Rosen’s.
Yet while the First District was perhaps made even more Republican, there is peril in Andy’s re-election bid. There’s no doubt that the public perception of Harris as stiff and uncaring will be made even more apparent as he faces a female opponent for the first time as a Congressional candidate. Certainly the Sun and other media outlets will do their best to soften Rosen’s image over the summer. (Harris defeated female Democratic opponents in both his State Senate re-election runs in 2002 and 2006, however.)
In an interview on Forbes.com Rosen describes herself as a “recovering Republican” who left the party for because she perceived it as unfriendly to small business:
Her frustration has grown to disenchantment with the Republican Party, which she says only supports big business and eventually led to her decision to run for Congress as a Democrat.
“I always thought the Republican Party supported small business and included small business in that definition (of being pro-business),” she says. “I think the Democratic Party is more receptive to creative ideas needed to revitalize our smallest businesses. The Republican Party represents the defense industry and the insurance industry. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.”
I have to chuckle on that one because she’s about 180 degrees out of phase, at least when it comes to the current occupant of the Oval Office and titular head of the Democrat Party. If there’s anyone who is selling government to the highest bidder who can afford the largest group of lobbyists it’s those in Rosen’s current political home.
And if you look at Rosen’s key issues, it’s clear she’s trying to portray herself as a friend to small business. But what I see from her is more micromanagement and government picking winners and losers. I’m not seeing the big ideas which will level the playing field and allow all companies a fair shake like a reduction in regulations and a more sound tax policy which would put more money in their pockets, allowing them to hire more workers and create more jobs. That’s how you “fill those vacant shops and give small business owners the tools and support necessary for them to succeed” – you get out of their way.
Wendy rails about how too many items come from other countries and aren’t American made, but has she considered why the products are made overseas? Well, there is a cost of labor advantage, but by the time you add shipping costs that is practically negated. Yet taxing business at the industrialized world’s highest rate (as of April 1 Japan lowered its corporate tax rate below that of the United States) and writing reams of regulations (a study for the Small Business Administration in 2010 pegged the annual regulatory cost at $1.75 trillion – yes, that’s trillion with a “tr”) isn’t going to create American jobs. Nor will it win many friends in the business world – that is, unless you have the lobbyists and clout to write the rules in such a way to stifle competition. She’s suspiciously silent on those aspects of the issue. And what about the energy industry and gasoline prices?
I’m pleased Wendy seems to have found a way to succeed in her chosen field, although when she talks about walking the halls of Congress for over 10 years she begins to sound like the lobbyists she detests. But I think we have tried things her way for a number of years and those methods don’t work anymore. Back off the entrepreneurs of America, give them breathing room from excessive burdens, and watch them grow.
The locale was a familiar one, but there were still nearly 100 people in attendance this afternoon as Congressman Andy Harris took time to meet with his Lower Shore constituents. Originally slated as an hour-long event, Harris spoke for about 20 minutes on a couple topics and spent the last hour fielding questions.
Initially, Andy showed this chart, one which illustrates the upward climb of gasoline prices over the last few years. The “pain at the pump” we were feeling was a sign that America needed to change its energy policies.
Another point Andy made in his gasoline presentation was that 80 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas came from the crude oil, 10 percent from distribution and marketing, and 12 percent from taxes. Refining was being done at a 2 percent loss currently. Yet Martin O’Malley was advocating a 6 percent sales tax on gasoline, which would add perhaps 20 cents per gallon, phased in over three years. It compares to the state’s “Blue Ribbon Commission” recommendation of a straight 15 cent per gallon increase (also phased in over three years) along with the Simpson-Bowles federal recommendation of a 15 cent per gallon increase.
The next chart he showed illustrated where the federal gasoline taxes were now going.
Perhaps it would make more sense if I showed the slide Andy had beforehand, which was a full pie showing all the highway money went to roads. That’s how it was in 1980, but thirty years later only 47% goes to roads, while 17% goes to mass transit, and the rest is either in earmarks, beautification, or other flexible projects. Andy believed there should be no increase in the federal gasoline tax until we get back to the pre-1980 condition of spending it all on highways.
However, Andy also discussed the new highway bill, H.R. 7. It would replace a bill which had run its course three years ago; a bill which had been extended three times. Andy claimed that it would streamline the process of getting new highways completed and that potentially 100% of funds could go to highways, if the state opted to spend the funding that way. The gasoline tax wouldn’t be raised to cover the spending; instead a new fee would be applied to domestic oil and gas exploration. (The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, as this is known, is still pending in the House.)
If anything about the bill bothers me, it’s that we can’t cover all it wants to spend with the existing gasoline tax. Why should energy companies – an industry we’re desperately trying to keep in the country to pursue our own abundant natural resources – have to help pay for highways?
Meanwhile, Andy pointed out that the state of Maryland has also raided its Transportation Trust Fund a number of times since 2003, to the tune of nearly $1 billion. Almost $680 million has been taken since 2010.
In essence, that was the extent of Andy’s message. He then opened the floor to questions, and ended up taking about a dozen. One of the most interesting ones came in regard to the tax holiday which Andy voted against last week. It was the “wrong way to do business,” said Andy, who then asked “will we ever stop the payroll tax holiday?”
Instead, something Andy suggested was giving people a choice – take the 2% reduction now and retire a month or two later, or maintain retirement age and pay the 2 percent. That seems like a valid suggestion to me, but Andy “didn’t think Congress is ready to be honest with the people.”
Another tax question Andy took was regarding a House bill which mandated a 1% fee on financial transactions sponsored by several Democrats. Andy said that bill was “not going anywhere in this House.” He pointed out that whenever taxes were increased, each dollar of new revenue was spent, along with 30% more.
Yet Harris also noted that all that saves us from being Greece was the fact we have the world’s reserve currency. Because of the strength of our dollar, interest on $15 trillion in debt is only $221 billion. But if we paid the same interest rates Greece is forced to pay, we would spend more on debt interest than we do on Social Security.
Naturally as part of the fiscal questions, someone asked Andy about the bonuses he gave to his staff. Andy defended the bonuses, saying that he paid his staff less than the average amount and once it became clear they would return money to the Treasury, he helped to bring them closer to the average pay scale through the bonus. To him, though, it was a good incentive to work more efficiently.
A couple questioners mentioned the defense cuts proposed by President Obama, particularly in our nuclear arsenal. Andy believed in “peace through strength” because “I don’t really trust the Russians or Chinese” but also made it clear that “I wish there was world peace…but we have real enemies.” A large and bipartisan group in Congress believed the drastic proposed cuts by Obama were “unacceptable” so they likely won’t happen.
Several people took it upon themselves to ask Andy about his environmental stance, in particular cleaning up Chesapeake Bay.
They asked about the Bay Restoration Fund, which was supposed to be bankrolled by the 1-cent sales tax increase of 2008. But that funding was stripped away the next year to balance the budget. (Never mind that this sales tax increase netted the state around $600 million.)
Yet the questioners pressed Andy on what he would do, one whining that he’s heard the same rhetoric for thirty years. Harris couched it in the terms of improving the economy, because the money wasn’t there to clean up the Bay. “We have to restore prosperity,” he said. Yet we’ve done a lot to help the environment, Andy continued, giving the example of removing 90% of the airborne mercury. Yet to get it to 99% removal, we would have to endure a 28% increase in our electric bills. The EPA didn’t do a good job in studying the benefits of what’s already been done, added Andy.
As for cleaning up Chesapeake Bay, Harris reminded those who questioned him that other states need to be involved as well. Yet a state like Pennsylvania has no real incentive because they’re not bordering the Chesapeake. We also need to partner with affected industries.
Just in my humble opinion, these environmentalists are representative of a group which won’t be satisfied until we’ve returned to the conditions found in pre-Colonial days. After all, if the Chesapeake Bay Foundation ever gives the Bay an A+ grade, what reason do they have to exist anymore? There’s no sense of balance given, nor credit for what’s been done thus far at great expense to our farmers and industry. Instead, the EPA is “confrontational” with the states.
There was one thing about which I didn’t care for when Andy said it. The question was raised that, okay, let’s say the economy is better. Then what will you do about the Bay? (These people were insistent.)
As part of that response, Andy said, “if you don’t want the federal government to have a say, then don’t take federal money.” That’s a little disingenuous because there are a number of areas where the federal government is supposed to perform tasks within states. I’d be very happy if Maryland didn’t take federal education money, for example, but would the federal government get off our back with various requirements? I doubt it.
And then there was the budget deficit. A questioner asked where the controls were, and Andy basically said there are none – “both parties are absolutely to blame…they can’t control themselves in Washington.”
“It’s too easy to come up with an excuse in Washington to spend money.” But Andy was fully supportive of the Ryan budget proposal last year, and likely would be again this year. “Stop attacking those who want to start the conversation,” he pleaded. If politicians don’t have ideas on how to address this, they should be thrown out of office, Harris added. After all, this was a group which approved a budget item of $1 million to Chinese factories to help them improve their energy efficiency. (That’s going to create jobs here.)
Speaking of being thrown out of office, one of the final questions dealt with term limits. Andy is a co-sponsor of a term limits bill already in the hopper, but promised to serve no more than 12 years himself. We should have a citizen legislature, Harris said, and he believed that most of us in the room would be just as qualified to be a Congressman as the ones who are there as long as we have some common sense.
Well, I have no plans to run for Congress – perhaps that’s evidence of the common sense he speaks of – but the hour and 20 minute session was quite informative. I doubt everyone went away happy, but the dialogue was quite compelling.
Media coverage was pretty good. Insofar as I know I was the lone blogger there, but WMDT-TV (Channel 47) was there as was a print reporter and photographer, presumably from the Daily Times.
Nope, sorry, I’m not going to bust out any “Killing in the Name” or “Guerrilla Radio.” Instead, I’m going to focus on dueling releases from the two leading candidates to take on Ben Cardin this fall. Instead of taking swipes at one another, they instead focus on a broken system and a Senator whose lack of leadership is a disgrace to our state.
Dan Bongino isn’t going to be known as the earmark king:
Dan Bongino has called for an end to “legalized bribery” through targeted earmarks.
“Insider dealings amongst elected officials, and local special interests are evolving into a system of legalized bribery. Access to Washington DC elected insiders through a network of lobbyists, and special interest groups is suffocating our economy and drowning out the voices of middle-class Americans. The dangerous and growing feedback loop between campaign finance, access to elected officials and the distribution of hard earned taxpayer dollars to connected insiders, is destroying the integrity of our Constitutional system of government. I pledge to restore leadership and integrity back to the system and, when elected, refuse to take part in any allocation of taxpayer funds without full disclosure to the citizens of Maryland.”
A February 21st investigative report by the Heritage Foundation’s Lachlan Markay provides compelling evidence showing a disturbing correlation between the allocation of earmarks and the timing of sensitive votes in vulnerable electoral districts. America’s growing frustration with government is largely due to the tacit pacts and elicit agreements which are all too common in status quo politics. If President Obama and the Congress are genuinely interested in reform they would stop talking about “change” and start initiating reforms that implement it.
We’ve already seen a push to implement this sort of reform in the House – last year a Republican Study Committee budget proposal wiped out earmarks, vowing that it “prohibits earmarks and eliminates pork-barrel spending.”
Yet when earmarks are discussed, the conversation is over a fairly small problem in comparison to the overall budget. Where the real game needs to be stopped is in the writing of regulations favorable to special interests, and Congress can do a lot more to rein those regulators in. That’s where the tax dollars are being wasted! While the study Bongino cites showed over $500 million spent on various earmarks – including two locally – it’s still much less than we’ve thrown away on just one failed ‘green’ project (Solyndra), not to mention the cost of regulations overall.
On the other hand, even a boilerplate announcement of new staff gives Rich Douglas a chance to take a swipe at the Democrat:
“Having these professionals on board will supercharge my campaign to unseat incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin,” said Douglas. “These battle-tested individuals have the experience and skills that are absolutely essential to end one-party rule in Maryland. Even more essential is that Republicans field a substantive candidate who can go round-for-round with the ultimate political insider and career politician Ben Cardin.”
Formerly a senior lawyer in the U.S. Senate and Iraq war veteran, Douglas knows the fundamentals of complex Senate legislative procedures to help reverse the ineffectiveness of the U.S. Senate.
“I will make Maryland a leader in the Senate, not a blind follower of party orthodoxy, special interests and business-as-usual in Washington,” said Douglas.
By the way, the new staff are campaign manager Rachel Audi and press secretary Jim Pettit. And bear in mind that one of Douglas’s goals was to make Ben Cardin spend his money, so he needs a supercharged campaign.
But it’s great that Rich also reinforces the message: Ben Cardin was first elected to public office in 1966, right after this observer celebrated his second birthday. I have a brother who’s 3 1/2 years younger than I am, so the sad reality is that Cardin has been sucking off the public teat for the entire time he’s been alive, winning election after election based more on the name recognition originally created by his uncle – who retired so that Ben could win his House of Delegates seat – and not necessarily achievement. 46 years in politics? That’s 2/3 of your lifespan – time to retire, bud. (Of course, Democrats have an opportunity to do that before the rest of us.)
Now if I can be assured that the “party orthodoxy” Rich won’t blindly follow is the path of moderation and not that of being a DeMint-style conservative, Douglas may be on to something here.
Today is a bad day for those fighting the American decline, on two fronts. One is the prospect of gay marriage passing in the Maryland House of Delegates – if it gets past that hurdle, the Senate is likely to quickly follow suit.
But more germane to this post is the fact the House passed a payroll tax cut extension by a 293-132 vote, with Andy Harris voting in the minority. Why would he vote against a tax cut? Because there was no compromise by the other side:
I support the tax cut element of the proposal. However, the other parts of the bill increased spending in 2012 by $45 billion, while taking 10 years to pay it back. That’s the kind of bad fiscal policy which got us into the mess we’re in – Washington has to stop spending money we don’t have.
While I certainly support Andy in this stance – even though I know the Democrats will use this against him in the 2012 campaign – it also leads me to ask why couldn’t House leadership just have a “clean” bill? The payroll tax cut is one section out of 20. We have that little bit of power, why not use it?
On the other hand, Rep. Allen West of Florida has a more eloquent statement:
Americans are exhausted, out of work and many have simply lost hope in the political system. They have been struggling now with nearly five consecutive years of record job stagnation, increased foreclosure rates and an economy that continues to struggle.
All of these reasons are why I cannot in good faith vote for this payroll tax cut deal. It is not that I don’t believe Americans should have relief in their paychecks or be afforded a safety net of unemployment insurance, it is because, unlike some on Capitol Hill, I am looking beyond this election cycle.
I am looking at the ramifications of adding billions of American taxpayer’s dollars to a trillion dollar deficit with no answers as to how or when we will pay for this bill.
I am looking beyond immediate gratification and instead looking at an American political system willing to cave to political pressure to give Americans a temporary Band-Aid that in the long run only makes things worse for their future.
The facts are simple. This supposed payroll tax decrease is really a backdoor tax increase on homeowners and first time homebuyers. The deal is being paid for by added fees on FHA-backed loans. Homeowners with FHA-backed mortgages represent more than one-third of mortgages in the United States. Those Middle Class Americans will be footing the bill for this political gimmick.
Homebuyers with a $200,000 standard 30- year loan will have to pay an extra $10,000 over the course of their loan. It would take roughly 250 paychecks with $40 extra from the payroll tax holiday to pay for the added increase to the life of an FHA-backed mortgage loan. That represents ten years of consecutive employment.
In addition, some may argue the payroll tax deal will not affect Social Security. This could not be further from the truth. The federal government’s general operating account will be used to compensate for the lost revenue in the Social Security Trust Fund, which will increase the deficit and add to the nation’s debt.
My position on the Payroll Tax Extension has not changed. In December of 2011, I supported a responsible one- year extension that was fully paid for, and would have put money back in the pockets of American workers while protecting homeowners, Social Security, and not adding to the deficit and our ever-increasing national debt.
This current deal is not good policy – but it is political posturing.
The payroll tax cut deal is a result of politicians telling Americans what they want to hear, while seriously harming them and our nation in the long run. Americans sent a new wave of leaders to Capitol Hill in 2010 to stand up for conservative principles and turn this country around. I will continue to be a voice for those Americans. (Emphasis in original.)
And people wonder why West is a TEA Party favorite and mentioned as a dream pick for Vice-President? He seems to be one of the few who calls out Barack Obama for what he is. (Maybe it’s because the Left can’t use the race card on him, aside from calling him an “Uncle Tom”, “Oreo”, or any other similar derogatory name.)
But I believe he and Andy Harris made the right choice today. All we are doing is “giving” (read: taking less from) people on the one hand but punishing them with the other. Unfortunately, until Washington has more bold leadership like Harris and West, it’s not going to matter how much or little we’re taxed because the spending will far outpace whatever is taken in.
It’s not about money, it’s about control. Learn that lesson well.
Let’s begin with an item that only gets a couple paragraphs because of the circumstances. While I’m not at liberty to share the names of those who applied, I think I can safely say that we have no shortage of applicants to send four qualified prospects up to County Council in order to fill the District 4 seat made vacant by Bob Caldwell’s passing. Offoceseekers are both male and female, represent a broad spectrum of ages, and should be very interesting to screen. So that seat will be in good hands.
Now I could have had a great scoop in releasing the names but I respect the wishes of my Chair and the process too much to let any undue influence sway the decision, a circumstance which would certainly occur if the names were made public. Remember, this is not a typical political campaign because we as a Central Committee only make recommendations. The time for voting will be later and it will be done by County Council, not our committee.
All right, now for something a lot different.
For those of you unaware, today marks the end of the federal fiscal year. Supposedly at midnight tonight Fedzilla begains working from the FY2012 budget.
Except there is no such thing yet. Like this fiscal year, where Democrats in charge during 2010 failed to pass an actual budget and counted on continuing resolutions to keep the government going, those inside the Beltway will have to subsist on a continuing resolution or two or three until the budget is finally hammered out – don’t count on that anytime soon because fiscally conscious Republicans only control the House while the Senate and White House are controlled by spendthrift Democrats who never met an entitlement they didn’t like.
These were my remarks as prepared for today’s hearing of the Maryland Redistricting Advisory Committee hearing at Salisbury University.
My name is Michael Swartz and I am a citizen of Maryland by choice, having moved here in 2004.
Because of my tardy timing in realizing this can be a great place to live, I missed out on the last redistricting battle ten years ago. All I know is that the whole affair ended up in court because the original plan was far too egregious for even political partisans to be able to defend, so it was changed around the edges to the map we have now. It’s a map which, sadly, divides a number of counties like a vast jigsaw puzzle, placing neighbors who might have a lot in common into different political districts because some Annapolis or Washington politician looked at voter registration data and wanted a seat which was safe for their re-election prospects until he or she wished to retire.
And from many accounts, it seems to me that the goal of redistricting in Maryland is once again not to empower the people or bring about a truly representative small-r republican state, but to reward certain politicians and punish those who don’t toe a particular party line.
I’m here to speak about both Congressional and state legislative redistricting, so I’m asking for your indulgence here. My goal is to maintain my testimony to the five-minute limit prescribed by the rules; ideally I’ll come in a little bit shorter but no less forthright.
A few weeks ago, Maryland Republicans put out their version of a Congressional redistricting map. It appealed to me not because of the prospect of placing several Democrats currently serving in Congress together in a single district; in principle a few minor tweaks could eliminate that issue.
Instead, the beauty of this map is that it leaves most counties within one Congressional district. No longer is Anne Arundel County divided among four different Congressmen without a resident representative among them, nor is there the prospect of again having some of what are considered the most gerrymandered Congressional districts in the country to place Maryland into a sort of political hall of shame. No, on the Republican map neighbors are left with neighbors and districts were drawn in a manner which makes relative geographical sense.
Unfortunately, what we will likely get is a package which reflects the Democrats’ goal of electing a Congressional delegation where all members come from their party, achieved by splitting Republican strongholds up as much as possible. Liberal Democrats have dreamed up maps which place Eastern Shore watermen in the same district as the toughest minority neighborhoods in urban Baltimore city and coal miners living along the West Virginia border with District of Columbia suburbanites, all in the name of something called the 10-0 Project. Needless to say, if you place these combinations together I don’t see a cohesive set of interests there.
While I’m certain the Republican plan won’t get a lot of traction from a group selected by a governor trying to work his way up in prominence among national Democrats for a future political run, let’s at least strive to be a little more sensitive to the interests of not breaking up counties and neighborhoods into multiple Congressional districts.
Now I’ll speak on the state level.
It so happens that I serve locally on the Republican Central Committee, and as such I was elected based on a vote by every Republican in Wicomico County. However, I realize that the old method of having State Senators elected from each county regardless of population went away a few decades back, to be replaced with the population-based system we have now.
Yet when I moved here there was one piece of the political puzzle which made no sense whatsoever to me – I have two different representatives in the House of Delegates from one district. Upon further investigation, I was flabbergasted to find that others in my same region have just one Delegate they could call their own while still others across the state had three different Delegates – in most cases, these areas elected all three from one political party while those areas where the minority party tended to hold sway had their districts broken up into two or three subdistricts. I was used to the system in my native state of Ohio where each of their 33 State Senate districts are broken down into thirds to create 99 separate House districts.
While the numbers are different, that is the system Maryland should strive to emulate – each Senate district should be broken up into three different House districts. That way rural counties would have more of an opportunity to get a resident Delegate, something which several counties on the Eastern Shore have lacked from time to time because of the current system.
Moreover, those who create the district maps should begin at the county level and attempt to minimize division. Here in Wicomico County we are a poster child for that phenomenon – while we potentially could elect six Delegates and two State Senators from our county, it’s just as likely we could have none. Imagine a county of nearly 100,000 people without a voice in the state legislature! While I’m aware that parts of our large county would have to be shaved off to maintain an equal population balance among districts, this county could easily at least have one House of Delegates district formed entirely within its borders.
I want to thank the Redistricting Advisory Committee for holding this hearing. Unfortunately, there are many of us who sincerely feel that the die has already been cast and the state is just going through the motions of having hearings so they can say they heard the public when another partisan map that tears apart communities in the name of political power is revealed.
Hopefully you’ll all surprise me and put out something which makes sense geographically and enrages political insiders from both parties because they’ll have to work for re-election instead of believing they’ll be a Delegate or Senator for life.
Once again, I thank you and hope you’ll take my constructive criticism into account when the decisions are made.
Update: I’ll have a report on the proceedings for Monday, as tomorrow I have a 9/11 piece that will be up most of the day.
Sure, it’s kind of short notice and perhaps not the best time of day for us working folks but Congressman Andy Harris has scheduled a townhall meeting for tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday) from 4 to 5 p.m. at Adam’s Ribs in Fruitland.
Certainly there are a lot of topics which could be brought up – and it will be interesting to see if the moveon.org crowd or someone in a chicken suit shows up. But I’d like to hear what Harris has to say about getting the nanny state off our back. I understand that not a whole lot can be done while Democrats rule the roost in the White House and Senate, but there can be a number of opportunities for positive change in appropriations bills which have yet to be passed. We need to stay on the offensive.
But all in all I believe those of us who believe in the right things locally ought to come out and give our Congressman a show of support. Those few cranks protesting his office or donning a chicken suit aren’t the majority in this district or even this town – those who work hard to make a living despite the obstacles thrown up by government are. We just need not be silent or silenced.
Oh, and one more thing: it’s nice to see that our Congressman likes to show up in person for these townhall meetings. A phone call is so impersonal.
Yes, Washington has an addiction.
The sad thing is that we’ve been feeding the addiction by voting in a lot of the same people to Congress. But there’s also the bureaucracy which hasn’t met a problem they couldn’t milk into additional appropriations down the line – if they actually solved the problem there wouldn’t be a need for continuing the agency. Instead, it’s a rare day that we see any government agency go by the wayside.
But we need to place a LOT of government agencies into the dustbin of history to solve our overarching problem, which in a nutshell is we have too much of a centralized, federalized government. I didn’t allocate the term ‘Fedzilla’ from Ted Nugent for nothing.
It’s more likely that we’ll continue to feed the addiction, though. Conventional wisdom is that the usual Washington horsetrade will occur – give Obama and Democrats the higher debt limit they desire in return for promised spending cuts which never occur. I keep seeing Lucy pull that football away from Charlie Brown for some reason.
Believe it or not, regardless of what Washington does about the debt ceiling, the sun will come up on Wednesday and millions of Americans will do their daily work. Don’t let anyone tell you the sky is falling.
The Republicans in the House keep pitching them, and the Senate keeps letting them go by. So where is the Democrats’ plan?
It looks like either one of two things will happen: we will go past the so-called deadline of Tuesday or Republicans will cave. I’d prefer the former but it doesn’t take a lot of pressure to make the latter happen, based on previous results.
Personally I’d like the spending cuts now because there’s one big problem with a Balanced Budget Amendment: you would never get it through the Senate given its configuration at the moment. And then to count on 38 states? Not happening.
(I’m not even going to get into the drawbacks to having a budgetary system based on a percentage of GDP. Suffice to say that we lock in profligate spending for perpetuity.)
To balance the budget based on the money we take in presently, we only need to reduce spending to roughly 2003 levels. Scary to think we’ve grown our government over 40 percent in less than a decade, under Presidents and Congresses of both parties.
So why not get to work on that? Sure, it will take some rather draconian cuts but isn’t it all about shared sacrifice? Come to think of it, a consumption tax would do a dandy job of making all of us share, wouldn’t it?
Until we get to that point, though, it’s high time to share the sacrifice all over the non-essential areas of government – leave us overburdened taxpayers alone!