I put together a few things this week, and what’s apparent to me is that the political world doesn’t really take a break in August.
Take for example the late-session attempt to promote “Buy American.” Does it really have a chance in Congress before the session ends? Probably not, but it keeps Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown in the headlines and the favor of his friends in organized labor.
But labor should be more concerned about some of the points brought up by my AC cohort Ed Braxton in two articles this week, particularly if his assertion that manufacturing is moving beyond labor is correct. But he also contends that American-made is gaining credibility again in the global marketplace.
On the other hand, we seem to have an Environmental Protection Agency which is bound and determined to drive jobs back overseas. Coal miners and their allies came out in force to recent EPA hearings in Pittsburgh, driven by a proposed standard which they contend would all but wipe out their industry. As a buttress to their contention, it was also revealed that a separate EPA effort to reduce ozone standards to as low as 60 parts per billion (from a current level of 75 parts per billion, established in 2008) would cost the American economy dearly. Perhaps the worst thing is that the EPA doesn’t even know itself how compliance can be attained.
Having sat down and written a couple pieces for next week, I can tell you trade will be on my radar screen. As is often the case, politics will play a role there but you’ll have to wait and see how I interpreted it.
Thanks to a slow week a few days back I skipped an installment of my AC week in review – but I’ve come back with some new stuff.
On Friday I posted a piece about Andy Harris’s Salisbury town hall meeting. It was intended to be a followup of sorts to this piece I posted at the AC site regarding questions which should be asked at these gatherings – and as you hopefully read Friday, my question in that vein was indeed answered by the Congressman.
Oddly enough, the answer to my question at that town hall touched on a concern expressed by my AC blogmate Ed Braxton, who wrote about America’s high tax rates in a piece he did a week ago. But in a seeming contradiction, Ed penned a piece dealing with the decline in the necessity for manufacturing labor because workers today are much more productive than our forefathers were, while I noted that manufacturing employment was on the upswing last month.
One thing I didn’t ask Andy Harris about was his inclination to support the Ex-Im Bank, a saga which has played out over the last few months as some manufacturers would like to keep it going while conservatives consider it a piece of corporate cronyism. There aren’t too many session days left before the September 30 deadline, a fact I mentioned in this piece from last week.
There is one more item I wrote last week, and I’m hoping it gets on the site early next week because it looked at the recent EPA power plant emissions hearings in Pittsburgh. Regardless, it’s a topic which deserves comment and the opportunity is still there.
As I recall, there are a couple other stories I’ve been following which reach milestones as well. We may learn the fate of the OCTG complaint against South Korea this week, and there’s movement elsewhere on the trade front, too. I might see about writing a piece on something I learned Thursday night as well.
So hopefully my next installment will be chock full of good information. Generally I spend time on the weekends writing for AC so it’s ready early in the week. Looks like I may be busy.
It was a fairly packed house at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 194 in Salisbury as Congressman Andy Harris held the second of four proposed town hall meetings in the district. After speaking in Easton on Wednesday, many of those same topics came up last night.
But the first order of business was recognition. After pointing out that unemployment among veterans was higher than the average – “I can’t figure that out,” Harris said – Andy presented a Congressional Citation to Chris Eccleston, who operates Delmarva Veteran Builders, a local construction firm which specializes in giving veterans job opportunities upon return to civilian life.
Once that presentation was out of the way, Harris introduced his “three things of great concern.”
As opposed to past negativity about the situation, Andy considered the declining deficit as a piece of good news, noting that federal spending had been fairly level for the last three years. The annual deficit is down $550 billion from its peak, although the aim of the House is to eventually bring the budget back to balance. Andy, however, conceded that the “House’s goal is to balance the budget in ten years.” So while it was still important, Andy wasn’t as concerned about this as he was the following three.
He also said there was “good news on the energy side,” pointing out we now produce more oil than we import and should be the leading world producer of both oil and natural gas by year’s end. The oil production was helped by technology which allowed what he called secondary and tertiary production from existing wells, as opposed to the primary production from new drilling.
On the other hand, Harris believed that, “in terms of immigration, the system is broken.”
“The border is just not being enforced,” he added, noting that Texas Governor Rick Perry has called out his state’s National Guard to assist with border security. In legislation recently passed by the House, added Harris, funding was included for governors who, like Perry, decide to call up their National Guard to address the situation.
“We can’t afford to have a border that’s not secure,” explained Harris.
The news was equally troubling on the foreign policy front. “The world is more dangerous now than it was six years ago (before Obama took office),” said Harris. It wasn’t just the Middle East, either – Andy touched upon the Chinese carriers now patrolling the South China Sea, well outside their territorial waters.
And while we were reaping the effects of our decrease in defense spending, Andy continued, we were also suffering from a lack of trust. Our allies could now doubt our sincerity based on recent actions.
After expressing his main concerns, Andy took questions from the audience. As my editorial license, I’m going to cluster them into areas of concern – on top of the list was our most recent crisis.
Immigration. Many of the questions dealt with various aspects and concerns from those attending about the situation on our southern border and the resettlement of “unaccompanied children.”
Much of the problem could be traced to the passage of a 2008 bill intended to counter human trafficking. Andy noted that the law as written provided the assumption that children from certain Central American countries were being brought for the sex trade, which was a problem at the time. It was estimated that perhaps 2,000 children a year would be affected, with the idea being that these children would get a hearing to ascertain their status.
Unfortunately, the crush of those claiming status under this law and the DACA order signed by Barack Obama in 2012 means that the waiting period for these hearings is anywhere from 18-60 months – and only 46% of those called show up, Andy said. One third of them are “granted status,” he added.
“We should close the loophole,” said Harris. “I don’t see how you get out of the problem without changing the law.” We also needed more judges on a temporary basis to expedite the hearing schedule.
A solution the House could offer to rescind Obama’s order would be that of defunding the executive action, for which there was a bill. And while some were pessimistic about such action given the Senate, Harris stated that the Senate could agree to “a compromise deal over a much larger package.” My concern would be what we would have to trade away.
Andy also pointed out that the resettlement of these children was more or less being done without telling local officials, noting when the Westminster facility was being considered the word came down late on a Thursday afternoon in a week the House wasn’t in session on Friday. It eventually led to the question about those being placed in Maryland.
When asked how many were in the First District, Harris conceded he had “no idea…nobody’s telling us.” But he continued by saying, “your school system will be affected,” adding that many of these children can’t read or write in Spanish, let alone English.
And the fact that these children aren’t necessarily being screened, vaccinated, or quarantined if necessary was also troubling to Harris. “The CDC is cognizant of it,” said Harris, who had spoken himself with the CDC head. Of course, the children are but a small portion of those crossing – perhaps 10 percent, said Harris.
“The real solution is you have to secure the American border,” concluded Harris. Rapid hearing and swift repatriation would send the message to parents in the host countries that it’s not worth the expense and risk to send children northward to America.
The VA situation. Given that the town hall meeting was being held in a VFW hall, there were concerns aplenty about the state of the Veterans Administration and its health care.
As part of a VA reform bill which recently passed and the VA has 90 days to implement, veterans who live over 40 miles from a VA facility are supposed to have the option of a private physician to address their needs. But Harris pointed out there was some interpretation involved based on whether the VA would extend that standard to an appropriate facility for the type of care needed – for example, something only handled in Baltimore. Harris hoped the interpretation would allow veterans on the Lower Shore to use closer local facilities, for which our local regional medical center could be a substitute provider, rather than make them travel to Baltimore because there was a VA clinic inside the 40-mile range but it couldn’t address the need. “They regulate, and we have to watch them,” said Andy.
The ultimate goal was “to make the VA system compete,” said Harris.
Entitlements. On a related note, one questioner asked about protecting Social Security and Medicare.
Andy believed that “you can’t change the law retroactively,” meaning that the status quo should prevail for those 55 and older. On the other hand, those in the younger generation “don’t expect all of it,” so the time was now to begin the discussion on preserving what benefits we can. The question was no longer if we got to zero in Social Security and Medicare, but when – Social Security tax receipts peaked two years ago and were now slowly declining . “We know the figures,” added Andy.
The system is “not sustainable…shame on us” in Congress for not addressing it.
Foreign policy. There were a couple questions which dealt with this topic, one on Ukraine and one on defunding Hamas.
Regarding Ukraine, one piece of “bad news” which could affect us locally was Russia’s decision to halt chicken imports from America. Their preference for dark meat nicely complemented our love of white meat, so while it wasn’t a large market it was an important one.
But in the geopolitical sense, Harris was relatively blunt. “We let it all go too far (and) should have put a stop to this in Crimea.” Andy pointed out that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in the Budapest Memorandum, which we were a party to along with Great Britain, Russia, and Ukraine. As expected, Russia violated its end of the deal, but Harris noted “I don’t know where it ends.”
As for defunding Hamas, the House did so in its FY2015 budget. In it is a provision that states if Hamas is included in a Palestinian Authority government, we would withhold funding from them.
Andy added that he was “disappointed” in the administration’s lack of Israel support, and blasted Hamas for “purposefully aiming (their rockets) into civilian areas – that’s terrorism.” He added, “The war was started by Hamas…Israel has to end it.”
Impeachment/lawsuit vs. Obama. It actually started as a comment from the audience while Harris was explaining his answer to the immigration issue and Westminster situation.
“I think Obama is an enemy of the country,” it was said. And when Andy pointed out he was duly elected as President, stating, “nobody is claiming (Obama) wasn’t elected fair and square,” the audible murmur in the audience indicated otherwise.
But Andy believed suing Obama over his lack of adherence to the Constitution was the best choice. “Let the Supreme Court decide,” he said, as the proper procedure for changing law was supposed to lead through Congress. He would not vote for impeachment, but would rather the lawsuit run its course. I don’t think that was the popular sentiment of those assembled.
Term limits. This was actually the first question out of the chute, and Andy was clear about the questioner’s desire to see them enacted: “I couldn’t agree with you more,” said Harris. He bemoaned the lack of co-sponsors to a Joint Resolution he introduced last year holding both Senators and members of Congress to 12-year limits. “Part of the problem is that people view it as a lifetime job,” said Andy. Most agree term limits are necessary, so Andy held out hope that the 2014 campaign will bring out a new “Contract With America” promising a vote on the issue.
Common Core: It was actually asked as an awareness question regarding the new AP history framework, to which Harris could only promise to “look into this.” But there was language being considered for the appropriations bills which stated the federal government couldn’t provide incentives to adopt Common Core, as they did for Race to the Top federal funding.
Transportation/energy. Answering a question about bringing light rail to this area, Harris opined it was “some of the least efficient ways to transport people.” He preferred a surface transportation system, such as busses, because they’re more flexible – if the development doesn’t follow the rail system, there’s no chance of adjusting it to suit.
On the related subject of energy, Harris believed it was easier to produce fossil fuels while researching the next generation of energy harnessing, such as fusion or hydrogen cells. At this point, “fossil fuels are the coin of the realm,” Harris said.
Maximizing our resources also provides us an opportunity to counter Russia’s “ability to use energy for bad ends.” He also warned that Canada would either send its crude to us through the Keystone XL pipeline or ship it to China.
Manufacturing. Finally, we’ll get to the question I asked about making things in Maryland and America.
Andy began his answer by referring to the practice of tax inversion, which has made news lately. He blamed our “horrendous” corporate tax rates for being an incentive for companies to stray offshore, or even just across the border to Canada (which has a 15% corporate tax rate compared to our 35%.) “We live in a global environment,” said Andy, so the obvious solution was to cut our corporate tax rates.
Rather, Washington was thinking about trying to make the practice more difficult. Harris feared it would encourage more inversions.
Other steps to getting things made in America were to continue promoting cheap energy – as methane is the basis for many plastic products, having an abundant supply would be crucial in that area of production. We could also work on scrapping some of the over-regulation plaguing our job creators.
After the hourlong forum, Andy stayed around for more questions and answers. I thought the give-and-take was excellent, and it’s a shame more local media wasn’t there.
I didn’t realize it at the time – although I had an inkling it may happen – but stepping into the question of how people should have reacted at the Friday townhall meeting up in Bel Air sponsored by Andy Harris provoked yet another war of words between factions in what is arguably Maryland’s hotbed county of political intrigue despite its relatively small size. Yes, it’s a battle between the Cecil Campaign for Liberty and the Cecil County Patriots.
But there’s a political reality I want to share with a wider audience which may not follow every comment made on Facebook. I wrote this under the post I made promoting my piece from yesterday, after one respondent advised me to rethink my guiding philosophical principles:
And if (Andy Harris) repeats the behavior – even if he doesn’t – you find a primary opponent. See McConnell, Mitch. I don’t need to rethink guiding principles, you need the dose of reality. If you can find the primary opponent for Andy Harris in a month and he/she can get enough support to win, more power to you. If this person is in line with my values, I’ll vote that way. I’ve always said incumbents don’t deserve a free ride, which runs counter to most political thinking in the party because they tend to want to dictate how the offices are parceled out and whose “turn” it is.
But here is the situation on the ground: Harris has no primary opppnent. There will probably be a Libertarian in the race but he/she will be lucky to sniff 5% of the vote. We live in an R+13 district so Harris will probably win easily just based on rank-and-file Rs. Look how he did in 2012 with an Obama-infused turnout (admittedly, also with a scandal-crippled D opponent.)
I said in the piece I didn’t agree with the vote, and obviously there are a number who do not. But he picked a pretty good time to make a mistake – too late to get a very viable primary opponent and early enough that this one vote will likely be forgotten.
The original intent of the two pieces I cited was to promote attendance at a particular town hall meeting.
Now I don’t know if anyone asked about the vote at the townhall, nor did he allude to it on his Facebook page. Apparently he put out a statement, quoted by Gannett’s Nicole Gaudiano, that the deal “preserved many of the conservative fiscal policy goals of the last three years, while restoring full pension benefits to our disabled veterans and military family survivors.” But there are already a number of groups who put the black mark next to his name because he voted for it (such as Heritage Action or the Club for Growth) and it’s likely they will have it in their back pocket if needed. I’m sure it’s a little bit galling to the Club For Growth since they backed his initial 2008 campaign so heavily.
If people are going to get mad at Harris, they should also be mad at the bulk of the Republican caucus in the House because the bill passed with just 64 Republicans (and three Democrats) objecting. 166 Republicans, including Harris, said yes. Obviously that doesn’t excuse his vote, but in the true art of compromise there were things both sides absolutely hated about the bill.
Yet in a political sense, the Republicans probably feel like they scored a victory because the government is funded through the remainder of the fiscal year, which should all but eliminate the politically unpopular possibility of a government shutdown. Now the key will be working on the budget in regular order as opposed to dropping another omnibus bomb on an unsuspecting American public. Once the House does its job, the onus will be on the Senate to pass a budget rather than perpetuate this never-ending cycle of continuing resolutions. Believe it or not, that’s how our nation did things until 2009.
A confluence of factors gives certain residents of the Eastern Shore an additional opportunity to make their feelings known on issues near and dear to conservative hearts everywhere.
Let me preface this by mentioning something from an e-mail I received from Heritage Action:
On January 29th, the House Republican Conference will begin its annual retreat to discuss its legislative agenda: their plans for piecemeal (immigration) reform will undoubtedly be the subject of much debate. All Sentinels are encouraged to contact their Members of Congress in advance of this strategy session to remind them to oppose all piecemeal amnesty bills.
Well, consider this my contact. But I also had an idea, based loosely on those who have been decorating overpasses with various political messages.
My friends in Dorchester County probably already know this, but the annual retreat Heritage Action alludes to is being held at the Hyatt resort in Cambridge. The setting is no stranger to political gatherings; on a few occasions the Democrats have used the facility and it also was the location of the first GOP state convention I ever attended (as a guest) in 2006. It also bears retelling the story about the first time I ever came here, to interview for the job which brought me to the Eastern Shore in 2004. I knew I’d like the area because it was like home: flat, dotted with little towns, and conservative – at least based on all the Bush/Cheney signs I saw up and down U.S. 50.
But there are no overpasses to decorate once U.S. 50 and U.S. 301 part ways in Queen Anne’s County. So perhaps in the next few days those who have message boards, yard signs from old campaigns, or other ways to convey opinion may want to place a sign along U.S. 50 between the Bay Bridge and Cambridge. (An alternative can be along the roads between the Dorchester airport and the Hyatt in case they fly over, but I suspect most will drive the couple hours.) Imagine seeing mile after mile of a “No Amnesty” message – think they may get the hint?
Obviously the GOP wants to spend time in its own enclave: presumably the entire resort is rented for this purpose, thus for the most part closing it to the public. But they can’t control the entire 80 miles or so that they have to traverse, and the message can be broadcast to ignore us at your peril.
Well, the Republicans caved again. Afraid of what they thought would be dire consequences if they bumped against the debt ceiling, John Boehner violated the Hastert Rule and allowed the Senate deal on the Obama/Reid shutdown to be brought to the floor and passed. All the House Democrats who voted (198 of 200) favored the bill, while Republicans made up all 144 of those who voted no.
Among those voting no was our own Andy Harris, who put out a three-part Tweet explaining his reasoning.
I will be opposing the Senate fiscal plan because it continues the spending that led to $650 billion deficit this year 1/3
— Rep. Andy Harris, MD (@RepAndyHarrisMD) October 16, 2013
I will be opposing the Senate fiscal plan because it continues special treatment for Congress from Obamacare requirements 2/3
— Rep. Andy Harris, MD (@RepAndyHarrisMD) October 16, 2013
I will be opposing the Senate fiscal plan because it continues accounting gimmicks. 3/3
— Rep. Andy Harris, MD (@RepAndyHarrisMD) October 16, 2013
Fairly compelling reasons. Unfortunately, the 87 Republicans who voted in the affirmative were more than enough to pass the bill, once again hanging the TEA Party out to dry and probably assuring themselves primary opponents next year. But Mitch McConnell got his earmark.
But let’s not forget that we were placed in this situation back in 2009, when Congress began what seems like a never-ending series of continuing resolutions to keep the government going, racking up enough red ink that we would eventually run into our debt limit. (Didn’t we cave on that a couple times before?) Even in that year, at a time when Democrats held both houses of government and could pass anything they wanted, including Obamacare, Congress failed to do its Constitutionally-appointed job of holding the power of the purse.
Yet one has to wonder if this was the plan all along. Does anyone really have any idea what the government spends money on? Consider how many millions it took just to get the failing health exchange websites operational – it sure doesn’t seem like we got much bang for the buck, yet someone has pocketed a crapload of federal cash.
All along, the story with this regime is that its friends made out like bandits but future generations will be left holding the IOUs. Last night’s votes just enriched the bandits a little more.
I received an amusing pictorial e-mail today from the Democratic National Committee. I guess when you’re targeting low-information voters you need plenty of pictures.
But it shows just what’s at stake in 2014.
Never mind that the poll the Democrats cite (from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling) pits these Republicans against a “generic” Democrat – once an actual candidate is selected the numbers generally go down. It’s also a simple registered voter poll, and may not accurately reflect the electorate in the region. (No one’s ever oversampled Democrats to get a desired result before. </sarc>)
The PPP survey is sort of like the generic ballot polling an outfit like Rasmussen does, where they pit the broad base of Republicans vs. the broad base of Democrats. At this time the numbers are even, which suggests not much will change. (This is particularly surprising given the negative coverage House Republicans have endured throughout the Obama
temper tantrum shutdown slowdown.) Bear in mind as well the PPP survey was conducted in the first few days of the Obama/Reid shutdown, before many major developments in the story.
So it’s important to cede no ground to the Democrats. And history isn’t on their side – with the exception of 1998, where Democrats picked up 5 seats, the opposition party to the President has added seats in Congress in every second-term midterm election since 1952. The range was from 5 seats in 1986 (Reagan) to 49 seats in 1958 (Eisenhower) and 1974, the post-Watergate Ford election. 1966 was another watershed year, with incumbent Democrats under Lyndon Johnson losing 47 seats. So Barack Obama would have to buck a historical trend to gain seats, let alone recapture the majority.
Nor has it been considered that the Republicans might pick up some vulnerable Democrat seats as well. Certainly the opponents of Sixth District Congressman John Delaney aren’t taking this lying down. They’re either playing up the trustworthiness angle, like Dan Bongino does in this video:
(By the way, if you look closely you’ll see my cohort Jackie Wellfonder in the video in a couple spots.)
Or they’re hammering the incumbent for turning his back on veterans, like Marine David Vogt:
A conversation about the Affordable Care Act and the harmful effects it is having on the American people is one we need to have. But we can’t have that conversation while our leaders are engaged in a partisan, political playground feud. Each side is guilty, and neither side is leading. Leadership means getting in the conference room and hammering out a solution, not holding a press conference just to call the opposition a new name and to repeat the same talking points that have obviously gotten us nowhere.
Our leaders have forgotten who they are in Washington to represent. Last week, I watched in amazement and disgust as my opponent voted to block funding for veterans’ benefits because he decided politics and standing by his party’s leadership came before service to his constituents and the American people. This is inexcusable.
Washington is supposed to work for us, not against us. These days it often seems that our elected officials do more to work against the American people than they do to help us. We don’t have time for political bickering. We have more pressing issues than each side’s attempt to save face. We need leadership, but it doesn’t appear we are going to get it anytime soon.
Obviously we won’t get new leadership until after the 2014 elections. And while I wouldn’t mind replacing John Boehner as Speaker, I’m hoping we do so with a much more conservative bulldog with TEA Party roots, not the shrill uber-liberal shill Nancy Pelosi. She had her time and set the stage for Barack Obama ruining the country, so let’s send a message to the Democrats and seize the narrative.
A sideline of mine – besides the frequent discussions of Maryland politics I write – is discussing energy issues. I didn’t seek out that aspect of the universe to write on, but I find it fascinating and quite important at the same time.
Today was a monumental day in Congress for the wind industry – yes, wind blows every day but those who profit from collecting the energy created and converting it (albeit somewhat clumsily and inefficiently) to electricity had their day in Congress today. Their goal: maintaining their cherished production tax credit at a hearing of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Yet a large group of conservative and pro-liberty organizations are urging Congress to dump this credit, with the Competitive Enterprise Institute a leading voice. They co-wrote a letter last month calling on Congress to dump the subsidy, and followed up with further guidance today from CEI’s Myron Ebell:
Congress should not renew the Wind Production Tax Credit for another year and thereby upset the planned phase-out that was passed just last year.
The wind energy lobbyists spend more time seeking handouts than in trying to make their product competitive. The tax credit amounts to the worst kind of cronyism, costing taxpayers billions, foisting mandates on states and driving up electricity rates for consumers and manufacturers.
Over the course of the last several years, efforts in both Maryland and Delaware to harness the wind have fizzled out, most notably the lockdown of the much-ballyhooed Bluewater Wind project. And while Maryland is attempting to jumpstart that market with a public subsidy effective this fiscal year, it’s questionable whether anyone will attempt to build the turbines, even with the set-aside put in place.
Unfortunately, while the wind blows for free, the places where it blows the best tend to be difficult locations for infrastructure. Moreover, as we all know, those hot, humid days during the summer when we could use the cooling breeze rarely have enough wind to blow a scrap of paper around, let alone turn a turbine. It’s one of many good points made by Dr. Robert J. Michaels, a professor of economics at Cal State – Fullerton and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Energy Research.
Surely some will counter with the fact that fossil fuel industries have their own set of tax benefits and these subsidies for wind energy are simply a matter of leveling the playing field. But consider the number of jobs in these fossil fuel industries everywhere in the process – everything from working at the point of extraction to transport to conversion into electricity. In many cases, these jobs are among the most lucrative in their respective fields despite the fact the raw material is relatively cheap compared to the cost of wind energy.
It’s also worth pointing out that the “market” for wind energy is a relatively artificial one thanks to those states which have a carveout for a renewable energy portfolio, including Maryland. Generally, since neither the cost-effectiveness nor the necessary infrastructure is in place, the laws simply serve as another form of taxation of already-beleaguered utility companies because non-compliance carries a monetary cost. On the other hand, no one is saying that any proportion of our electricity has to come from coal or natural gas nor is it necessary because the market price dictates the direction utilities prefer to go.
With any luck, the production tax credits will become a thing of the past at the end of the year. Like zombies, they were resurrected from the dead at the end of last year thanks to a Congressional deal but maybe this year their time will run out.
Gasoline. It’s something all of us need, and if you’re reading this in Maryland last month you began paying roughly 3.5 cents more per gallon at each fillup thanks to the state expanding the sales tax to gasoline as part of a multi-year process for full adoption of our 6% sales tax to that product.
While that bad news applies to Maryland consumers, all of us may soon be seeing less bang for the buck if the EPA gets its way. They’re edging us closer and closer to widespread usage of E15 fuel, which may be a necessary method to comply with short-sighted federal law. The problem: a “blend wall” where the amount of ethanol mandated for use runs up to the limits created by actual consumption, which is down significantly from that which was predicted when the regulations were written several years ago when the economy was humming along.
Many longtime followers of my site know I use the American Petroleum Institute as a go-to resource when it comes to energy issues. Yes, they are an advocacy group but they advocate the tried-and-true solutions for our energy problems, advocating for the least-costly alternative of petroleum which, as a beneficial byproduct, is a great job creator to boot. So while the EPA believes it’s “flexible” on renewable fuel standards enacted as part of a 2005 law, API believes they’re quite inflexible. The only real change was in the category of cellulosic biofuels, which saw its mandate cut by more than half – quite handy when there’s only a negligible amount currently in production. (API has a handy guide to the pitfalls of the RFS here.)
Meanwhile ethanol apologists – like the group which lobbied for E15 in the first place – claim their product will create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil without making an impact on grocery prices, Yet their solution is more government mandates and subsidies. I find it quite telling that this group formed mere days after the election of Barack Obama, who was probably – and correctly – thought of as a person who would shower even more government largess onto the ethanol industry in his quest to wipe out the coal and oil industries.
Yet Congress can act, just as it did in making the mandates in the first place nearly a decade ago – a lifetime in the oil industry, given the boom in oil exploration and fracking over the last five years. So what would happen if the ethanol mandates were scrapped?
Obviously you would have a number of winners and losers. All those who invested in ethanol plants figuring that the government subsidies and mandates would have profit rolling their way – well, they would have the biggest “L” stamped on their forehead. Farmers may take a temporary hit as corn prices drop, but they would eventually stabilize; moreover, farmers who shunned soybeans or wheat for corn to be turned into fuel could go back to those other staple items.
Consumers would win in a number of ways. First of all, they’d get better quality gasoline that’s less expensive, which would both increase their mileage per gallon and amount of money remaining in their wallets. Secondly, the lowering of corn prices would benefit them at the grocery store, and not just in corn-based products because feed for poultry and livestock would be cheaper. And lastly, their small equipment would last longer because ethanol is poisonous to many small gasoline-powered motors.
And while the intention of these mandates was to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, new advances in exploration and extraction have placed the goal of North American energy self-sufficiency within reach. Nor is it necessarily in the form of gasoline, as companies with large automotive fleets are moving toward using natural gas as a motor fuel, building their own infrastructure along the way. (Yes, this can be done without a massive taxpayer subsidy or regulation.)
It just makes more sense to me to not grow our fuel, but our food. When you think of corn, you don’t think of a gas tank but instead think about that tasty ear cooked to perfection with some butter and pepper on it. Let’s get back to using corn for what the Good Lord meant it for, eating.
At the end of each summer, official Washington winds down and Congress beats it out of town for their annual August recess. (I think in the official parlance of Congress, I think this is known as a “District Work Period.”) This is the time when many members schedule town hall meetings, and I think Barack Obama is concerned about being outworked by the TEA Partiers who rightly oppose his big-government schemes.
That’s why I got this message in my mailbox the other day from Organizing
Against America For Action:
There is only so much I can do on my own.
The special interests know it, and they’re counting on you to be silent on gun violence and climate change. They hope you’re not paying attention to creating jobs or fixing our broken immigration system.
And they plan to make the loudest noise when your members of Congress come home for August recess.
I’m counting on you to be just as vocal — to make sure the agenda that Americans voted for last year is front and center.
Say you’ll do at least one thing as part of OFA’s Action August in your community, no matter where you live.
I know it’s easy to get frustrated by the pace of progress.
But it’s not a reason to sit back and do nothing — our system only works if you play your part.
If you don’t let your representatives know where you stand in August, we risk losing an important battle on your home turf.
So I’m asking you to speak up — commit to do at least one thing in your community during Action August:
Isn’t it nice to be on a first-name basis with the President?
So allow me to let my representative (and anyone else reading this) know just where I stand during “Action August”:
- Barack Obama has done plenty of harm on his own. It’s up to Congress to restore sanity; unfortunately only a small portion of those in Congress are willing to do so. So don’t give me this “only so much I can do on my own” crap.
- I’m not silent on gun violence and I certainly don’t support it. But allow all those who wish to be armed the opportunity to carry in a concealed manner and you’ll find there’s less gun violence. Taking away guns only benefits two groups: the government and the predator criminal class. (Actually, that may be one group.)
- Climate change: I wouldn’t mind warmer winters myself. But until we find an on-off switch for the sun, there’s really nothing we can do about the climate, except use it as an excuse for more overbearing, job-killing regulation.
- Here’s my question about “the agenda Americans voted for last year.” Do you think they’re having second thoughts about now? I do. Otherwise you wouldn’t need to contact me with your note.
But the most important line is this one:
…we risk losing an important battle on your home turf.
A loss in the Obama column is a win for America as far as I’m concerned. Richard Falknor has this figured out on Blue Ridge Forum, and it’s a call to action for the side of good:
For this month we will see how effective are Tea Partiers and the conservative base in bringing many GOP members to a much stronger mind when they return to their districts.
I’m not so much concerned about this First Congressional District – aside from those who grouse about Andy Harris’s votes on issues where Constitutional guarantees meet national security concerns, the district is pretty much set up to be reflective of his voting record. Once the man in the chicken suit failed in his task, we were pretty much assured of a decade or so of Andy Harris, because no liberal will beat him fair and square.
But there are seven other Congressional districts in Maryland (as well as the one comprising the entire state of Delaware, for my friends up that way) where the officeholders will only be under pressure for supporting the failed Obama agenda if people speak out against it. Don’t cede the field to those OAA/OFA special interest Astroturfers, make yourself heard!
It’s no surprise that Andy Harris is probably one of the more passionate guardians of the right to life for the unborn, so this would be something I’d expect from him.
The video shows him making a plea for passage of the The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which indeed passed the House yesterday by a 228-196 vote. The bill would make abortion past 20 weeks illegal, except in cases of rape or incest.
Now some may ask what the big deal is, and those who call themselves pro-choice (that is, pro-abortion) in particular will bleat about what a waste of time this is when there are so many other important items the House needs to consider. Indeed, there are a lot of items on the plate and it’s highly unlikely the Senate will take up this bill, let alone pass it. Moreover, I happen to believe the federal approach is wrong – unfortunately, the issue was federalized once the Supreme Court ruled incorrectly in Roe v. Wade.
But I look at this as a template for states to consider – needless to say, any such move would probably land the state in court as they defend themselves against Planned Parenthood and the remainder of the abortion lobby. Obviously the goal is that of overturning a bad precedent in the Supreme Court with a new decision that returns the power to decide to the states. If a state wishes to allow abortion right up to the moment of birth, that should be their decision – although I would encourage those unfortunate enough to live there to fight tooth and nail against such a declaration. On the other hand, banning all abortions would be somewhat too draconian, and the House seems to be looking for a middle ground of incrementalism.
So Andy Harris should be commended for making a stand, albeit in language that may be a little bit dry for the average person to understand. Moreover, it should be pointed out that his most likely opponent would probably rather see no restrictions whatsoever on the practice of slaughtering the unborn. Just food for thought.
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.