DLGWGTW: November 19, 2017

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments. I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this. 

Again, this looks like a two-part piece for tonight and Tuesday night.

You had to know there would be Democrat spin to counter with the GOP tax plan. It wasn’t just the Harris townhall. So I had a question for Steny Hoyer:

Maybe you can answer this question. The Bush tax cuts went into effect 2001 and 2003, and Reagan’s in 1983. Just how did tax cuts cause deficits when income tax revenue rose from $288.9 billion in 1983 to $445.7 billion in 1989 and $793.7 billion in 2003 to $1,163.4 billion in 2007 (before the Pelosi-Reid recession hit)?

There was plenty of money there, Too bad there were a lot of greedy hands that wanted to spend it.

A day later, Steny modified his propaganda offensive to point out the Republican opposition (based on the removal of state and local income tax deductions.) So some wag suggested we go back to the IRS code of 1956, marginal rates and all (when the top marginal rate was 90%.) So I said:

Okay, do I get the spending from 1956 too? You may have yourself a deal.

I reminded another it’s about the tax rates:

This is why you work to lower your state and local tax rates, too. Why should the rest of the country subsidize their spendthrift ways?

In that same vein, to another comment:

I would bet what Steny is leaving out is that (Rep. Peter) King’s constituents simply don’t want to lose the state/local tax deduction or have the mortgage interest limits reduced. It’s an issue somewhat unique to that area (high taxes + high home prices.)

As for the claim the GOP plan won’t help taxpayers like me:

Nope. Did the back of the envelope calculations – we stay in the 25% bracket and the increased standard deduction is just about a wash for losing the three individual exemptions. Where we will gain is the increased child tax credit, especially since they jump the phase out past our income level. It’s not a ton but it is more in OUR pockets since we don’t itemize. (And if we did the child tax credit would still help.)

My favorite, though, was the guy who blamed Steny for losing the Democrat majority.

“Why did you give (the House majority) to the Tea Party?”

Maybe because they earned it? “The people who stayed home and didn’t vote” didn’t exist anymore so than they did in the 2006 midterm since turnout was slightly higher as a percentage of voters (41.8 to 41.3, per the United States Election Project.)

It was the people motivated to come out that did the Democrats in.

A few days later, Steny came out with some pollaganda that needed to be addressed:

Well, if you ask the question that way you can expect that answer. How about asking them what they think of their own tax cut?

So when someone sniveled that they liked their taxes just fine but didn’t want tax cuts for millionaires because “the lost dollars will start a downward spiral of the economy,” well, you know I had to do some edumacashun.

I personally don’t care if millionaires get more tax cuts or not. Why should you? See, this is a teachable moment because your last statement tells me you have completely bought the notion that the government has first claim to our money, which is false – they do not perform the labor or create the value implicit in it, we do. There is no such thing as a “lost dollar” to them but there is to you and me.

He didn’t even like the fact the economy added a lot of jobs because wages went down a penny.

You say the same thing EVERY TIME. It’s like a broken record. And even the New York Times is admitting the wage loss is an anomaly. So what do you really have here besides a batch of hot air?

Once again, someone asserted that I’ll “have to learn the hard way.” Ma’am, I think I’ll do the educating here.

Okay, let’s go through this one point at a time.

“a giant giveaway to Corporations” – per the WSJ, about 2/3 of this package goes to corporations. Yes, $1 trillion may seem like a lot but it’s spread over 10 years – and in a $20 trillion economy $100 billion a year is a drop in the bucket. Of course, that’s a static analysis which doesn’t account for gains in GDP thanks to new investment, higher dividends, and so forth.

By the way, companies that “raise executive pay and buy back shares of stock to raise prices” find they lose market share over time to those that invest more wisely. And to be quite frank, the companies earned it in the first place – the government did nothing but put its hand out and maybe was even in cahoots with the company.

The naysayers also seem to assume that this package will “cost” the government the full $1.5 trillion over the decade, when it’s been properly referred to as “up to.” It could be 1.3, 1.0 or maybe even a wash. Do yourself a favor and look up income tax revenues in the periods after large tax cuts – you may be shocked to learn something new.

If a higher debt actually led to higher interest rates, we should have had Carteresque interest rates throughout both Bush 43 and (especially) Obama. But we did not.

This package will significantly limit deductions, but the question is: how many middle-class people itemize? If you don’t itemize deductions, which are often pegged to only apply if they add up to a significant percentage of income, then the changes which affect you most will be the expanded brackets at the lower end, the larger standard deduction, and the increased child tax credit.

“It likely cuts public services. It raises the specter of cutting Medicare and Medicaid.” Speculation at best. Besides, many of the functions the federal government has usurped for itself should properly be done by the states.

“The very rich will pay less taxes…” Well, wait a second – I thought we were eliminating all these deductions. The high-end rate is still the same, but they lose out with the mortgage interest and second home changes, among other things. Not that it truly matters anyway, since the so-called “1%” pay a share of the tax bill that is almost double their share of income. As I have often told Steny and now tell you, the class envy card is not accepted at my establishment. On principle alone the government should not be entitled to anyone’s estate just because they achieved their heavenly reward.

If the rich own 40% of the stock market, that means the rest of us own the other 60%. I don’t begrudge wise investors their success.

Now I will concede the point that the rich “don’t spend nearly as large a percentage of their income, as the middle class, and poor” to the extent that they don’t spend the same percentage on necessities: i.e. they eat, drive, heat their home, etc. But I argue they do spend a significant portion of their income as the drivers who bring prices on certain items down for the rest of us, which is a less tangible benefit. They also donate the large sums of money to charity that we can’t. (My wife’s employer is a beneficiary – a local philanthropist donated $1 million toward their renovation and expansion. I know I couldn’t do that.)

“It’s a dumb and backwards plan, written by people who either, don’t know what they are doing, or know it, but are prepared to lie about it.”

Or you could be swallowing the lies. I just know what I have seen, and the most prosperity I recall under a president is when Reagan was in office. Second was Bill Clinton when Newt Gingrich ran the House.

The one constant is that we were always told Republicans do tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s funny because I’m nowhere near wealthy but my taxes went down, too, and I put the money to good use.

Let this be a lesson to those who read here.

I quit picking on Steny for a bit, but I had an observation on someone else’s writing:

It’s been almost a year since Donald Trump was elected as President by enough voters in enough states to win the Electoral College. (This said to satisfy those on the Left who whine about Hillary winning the popular vote overall.)

But something I noticed right away upon his election was a change in economic outlook among the average Joes of the country, and it’s something I am sensitive to. I was laid off from a great job in December of 2008 basically because of pessimism over how Barack Obama would handle the economy, seeing that we were in the depths of the Great Recession (or as I call it, the Pelosi-Reid recession.)

Eight years and a few months later, the good Lord blessed me with a return to that same great job because of optimism over how Donald Trump would fix a stagnant economy.

So I submit this as evidence of my suspicions.

I have also found out that even Andy Harris isn’t immune to people who don’t know about the benefits of tax cuts or limited government. They comment on his site, too. For example, the people who think killing the estate tax is a bad idea got this:

Why? It’s a tiny percentage of federal revenues but can be devastating to family businesses and farms.

Yet people try to give me left-wing claptrap that it’s a “myth” the estate tax threatens family businesses and farms, So I find an example of one that would be only to be told it’s a biased source. Fun little game they play.

So I found a really unimpeachable source:

If you can’t refute the evidence, question the source?

But you’re missing the point: the government has NO right to the money just because the person died. If my neighbor had an estate of $5.48 million and got to pass all of his along yet mine was $5.5 million and my heirs had to fork over 40% to the government, how is that right in your eyes? I consider that arbitrary and capricious.

Nor do I stand for communist principles, to wit:

“Democracy would be wholly valueless to the proletariat if it were not immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed against private property and ensuring the livelihood of the proletariat. The main measures, emerging as the necessary result of existing relations, are the following:

(i) Limitation of private property through progressive taxation, heavy inheritance taxes, abolition of inheritance through collateral lines (brothers, nephews, etc.) forced loans, etc.”

That comes straight from the Marxists themselves. Deny that.

Then someone tried to say that trickle-down economics didn’t work and the tax cuts in Kansas were proof. I pointed out there were extenuating circumstances:

First of all, the issue in Kansas wasn’t the tax cuts – it was the state’s lack of willingness to curtail its spending to match, along with some issues with low prices in the commodity markets they depend on that eroded tax revenue even further. This is a good explanation.

Similarly, what increased the federal deficit during the aughts was a lack of willingness to cut spending to match tax income (as it has been for every year this century, including some real doozies of deficits under the last President, But back then deficits didn’t matter.)

But given the fact that this district voted handily for our Congressman and for President Trump, by extension it would be logical for Andy to vote for a tax plan the President supports.

And if you don’t agree that tax cuts create an economic boom, let me ask you: are you working for yourself or are you working for an allowance from the government? I don’t see Uncle Sam doing the work for which I show up at 7 and work until 5 most days. I earned the money and I want to keep more of it.

(A good question for Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. – is the reason we don’t adopt the FairTax a worry about lack of revenue or worry about lack of control of our behavior through the tax code?)

And again, I got the charge of biased source because Koch brothers or something like that. I can play that game too.

The contributor is actually a member of the Tax Policy Center, which is more left-leaning. And note that it was a court order demanding increased education spending that caused their budgetary problems for the year.

I think the truth is probably somewhere closer to the KPI version of events (since they are actually on the ground in Kansas) as opposed to a Beltway-based Forbes contributor. Actually, that’s a pretty good metaphor for the role of government, too.

This will be enough for tonight. Stay tuned on Tuesday for more.

Harris hears the hullabaloo, Salisbury edition

Back in March Congressman Andy Harris hosted what could be described as a contentious town hall meeting at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. It was believed that yesterday’s event would be more of the same, but a disappointing fraction of that traveling roadshow of malcontents came down to Salisbury in their attempt to jeer, interrupt, goad, and otherwise heckle Andy Harris for the entire hour-long event.

There were a couple other departures from the Wye Mills townhall, one being the choice of moderator. In this case, we had Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis acting as the questioner and doing a reasonable job of keeping things in order.

Interestingly enough, the people at these “progressive” group tables outside have our Sheriff – the same one they were castigating for his “divisive rhetoric” a few weeks ago – to thank for their continued presence there.

As one would expect, the Harris campaign wasn’t cool with the presence of these tables outside and had asked them to leave, but they were overruled by Lewis. This was an event open to the public and not a school function, Lewis told me, so as long as they did not create a disturbance or block access or egress they were free to be there. The table on the left was run by volunteers for Democratic challenger Michael Pullen and the one on the right by “nonpartisan progressive grassroots volunteer organization” Talbot Rising. The latter group was there two hours early when I arrived.

The other departure was the lack of a PowerPoint presentation to open the townhall meeting, slated for an hour but lasting a few minutes extra. Harris rolled right into the questions, which were divided into tax-related questions and everything else.

Outbursts were frequent, but Lewis only had to intercede a couple of times. There was also a staged incident where a man dressed as Rich Uncle Pennybags thanked Harris for his tax cut, with two helpers holding a fake check – all three were escorted from the premises.

Speaking of tax cuts, this was to be the main emphasis of the program. It was the part that drew the sea of red sheets from the crowd.

(By the way, there was a young man there who passed red and green sheets to everyone. I was too busy writing and trying to follow to use them much, though.)

Now I will warn you: the rapid-fire way of getting questions in, coupled with the frequent jeering interruptions from the crowd (which was closer to me than the loudspeaker was) made it tough to get a lot of quotes so my post is going to be more of a summary.

I can say that Harris said the “vast majority” of the middle class would get tax cuts, and that was President Trump’s aim – to have them “targeted to middle income.” This was one of the few slides he showed.

He added that there were now competing House and Senate versions of the bill, with key differences: for example, the Senate bill has the adoption tax credit the House bill lacks, but the House has the $10,000 real estate tax deduction where the Senate bill still has the full elimination of state and local tax deductions. “We know they are areas of concern,” said Harris. Another area he worried about was losing the deduction for medical expenses, which he believed “we should retain.” He noted, too, that “my office door has been knocked down by special interests” who want to keep a particular deduction or credit intact. Later, he warned us this was the “first part of a very long process,” predicting nothing will be final until next spring at the earliest. (Remember, Trump wanted it for Christmas.)

Andy also contended that passing business tax reform would help to increase wages, which would increase productivity. That assertion was ridiculed, of course, although it would be interesting to know just how many of those objecting actually ran businesses and signed the front of paychecks.

At one point Andy was asked about the $1.5 trillion deficit figure that’s been bandied about by the Left in reaction to the GOP tax package, to which Harris asked the folks who applauded the question whether they applauded the $1.3 trillion in deficits Barack Obama ran up in his first year in office. (I thought I heard someone behind me say something along the lines of “but that did more good,” and I had to stifle a laugh.) Essentially, that $1.5 trillion figure assumes no economic benefit from tax reform, said Harris. That echoed his one concern about passage: “We need the economy growing now.”

And, yes, trickle-down does work, Andy added, and no, George W. Bush did not do trickle-down with his tax cuts because they were only for individuals, not businesses. We have had a stagnant corporate tax rate since the 1980s while the rest of the world went down. “If we don’t give relief to American corporations they will go offshore,” said Harris. (In one respect, the “progressives” are right on this one: Harris left out the salient point that corporations are over-regulated, too.)

Over the years, Andy continued later, he’s found out that Washington cannot or will not control spending, so they have to grow the economy to achieve the balanced budget he’s working toward. (Tax cuts have worked before – ask Coolidge, Kennedy, and Reagan.)

Toward the end, someone else brought up the estate tax, which Andy naturally opposes and these “progressive” folks, like the good Marxists they are, reflexively favor. Andy pointed out the examples of family farms and small businesses that work to avoid the estate tax that the opposition claims won’t affect them, but then Andy cited the example of a car dealer who spends $150,000 a year to avoid estate taxes. Someone had the audacity to shout out, “see, he’s helping the economy!” I really wish I had the microphone because I would have asked her: how much value is really created with that $150,000? If there were no estate tax the dealer could have used that to improve his business, hire a couple employees, or whatever he wanted.

Now for some of the other topics. First was a question on net neutrality. The crowd seemed to favor government regulation but Harris preferred to “leave the internet to prosper on its own.” (A lot of mumbling about Comcast was heard after that one.)

This one should have been a slam dunk, but even it was mixed. Harris pledged to allow people to keep and bear arms for whatever reason they wanted, and when some in the crowd loudly objected Andy reminded them his parents grew up in a communist country where the people had no guns but the government did. That doesn’t usually end well.

And after the recent Sutherland Springs church massacre, there was a question about the federal gun purchase form (Form 4473, as I found), because the shooter had deliberately omitted information on a conviction. Harris pointed out that he had asked then-AG Eric Holder that very question about how many people he had charged with lying to the government on that form and he said 10, because he had higher priority items. Okay, then.

There was a question asked that I didn’t really catch about the student savings program being extended to the unborn, and before Andy got real far into his answer someone behind me got in a way about this being a trick to “establish personhood” for the unborn. I thought they already were. This actually relates to a question asked later about the Johnson Amendment, which is generally interpreted as a prohibition on political activity from the pulpit so churches maintain their tax-exempt status. Harris called the Johnson Amendment “ridiculous,” opining that a church should be able to tell its parishioners which candidates have similar political views without fear of the IRS – much to the chagrin of the traveling roadshow.

This one was maybe my favorite. A questioner asked about a lack of women in leadership positions under Trump, but when that questioner was asked about Betsy DeVos – a woman in a leadership position as Secretary of Education – well, that didn’t count. “This President is going to appoint people who do the job,” said Harris. (Speaking of women seeking leadership positions, among those attending was state Comptroller candidate Angie Phukan. She was the lucky monocle returner.)

There was another questioner who asked if anything was being done in a bipartisan manner, to which Harris pointed out the House cleared a number last week. “Watch the bipartisan bills being passed on Monday,” said Harris.

Since I had time to kill before the event, I wrote a total of four questions to ask and it turned out three made the cut. Here were the three and a summary of the answers.

What are the factors holding back true tax reform? Is it a fear of a lack of revenue or the temptation of government control of behavior that stops a real change to the system?

The biggest factor Andy cited was the K Street lobbyists, which I would feel answers the second part of the question better than the first, Note that he had said earlier special interests were beating down his office door. He also said he would really prefer a flat tax.

We have tried the stick of forcing people to buy health insurance through Obamacare and it didn’t do much to address the situation. What can we do on the incentive side to address issues of cost control and a lack of access to health care?

For this question, Andy gave the state-level example of the former Maryland state-run health insurance program, which acted as an insurer of last resort. And when someone yelled out, “it went bankrupt!” Andy reminded her that the program was profitable until Martin O’Malley raided it to balance a budget. Then there was some shouting fit over how bad the program was from someone who was a social worker, but then could you not have that same issue with the Medicare for All these people want (and Andy says “is not going to work”)? After all, both were/are government programs.

On that same subject, Andy said the American Health Care Act that died in the Senate “would have been good for Maryland” if it had passed.

The recent election results would tend to suggest President Trump is unpopular among a certain segment of voters. Yet the other side won simply because they ran against President Trump, not because they presented an agenda. What agenda should the GOP pursue to benefit our nation going forward?

This one had a short, simple answer I can borrow from a Democrat: it’s the economy, stupid. Get tax cuts passed so we can keep this accelerating economy going.

Lastly, I get the feeling I’m going to be semi-famous.

Given the fact that probably half the audience was rabid left-wing and/or open supporters of at least one of his Democrat opponents were there, I’m thinking the camera belongs to them. So if you stumble across any of the video, I’m the guy sporting the Faith Baptist colors up front.

Seriously, I was shocked at the lack of a media presence there. I gathered the Daily Times was there and they will spin it into more proof that Harris is unpopular. Maybe the Independent, the Sun, and the WaPo were too. But don’t let it be said that Harris was afraid to face his opposition. “This (townhall) is what America is all about,” said Andy near the end.

Personally, I get the frustration some on the Left feel about being in this district since we on the Right feel that way about the state. There was actually a question about gerrymandering asked, and while Andy properly pointed out it’s a state-level issue he also added that Governor Hogan has attempted to address this without success. They may also be frustrated because I know there were at least a couple cards in the hopper trying to bait Andy into answering on the Roy Moore situation, which Andy already addressed.

Overall, now that I’ve experienced the phenomenon for myself, it seems to me that our friends on the Left can complain all they want about their Congressman not listening. But every one of us there had the right to ask questions and common courtesy would dictate that we get to hear the answers whether you like them or not. So maybe you need to listen too.

Oh, and one other question for my local friends on the Left: are you going to clamor for Senators Cardin and Van Hollen to have a town hall here like you did for Harris? I know I would like one.

Post-election thoughts

So it seemed pretty brutal for the Republicans Tuesday night as they lost the two governor’s races that were available to them, including the one Chris Christie was vacating in New Jersey. There, incoming Governor-elect Philip Murphy gained a modest total of three seats in his 120-seat legislature, although it was already tilted heavily toward his party anyway. Going from 54-26 and 24-16 to 56-24 and 25-15 probably isn’t going to make a lot of difference in the scheme of things there as much as the change at the top.

On the other hand, the party at the top won’t change in Virginia as Democrat Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam will succeed his “boss” over the last four years, fellow Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe. The big sensation there was the Democrats’ pickup of 16 seats in their House of Delegates to suddenly turn an overwhelming 66-34 disadvantage to a 50-50 tie. The Virginia results have been trumpeted (pun intended) around the country as a repudiation of the President and the Republicans by a gleeful partisan media.

But if you take a look at the lay of the land, the results are less surprising than you may think. Consider, first of all, the geography of these 16 districts. Ten of these districts lie close to the Washington region, bordering the sea of blue on this map – so they read the WaPo, never liked Donald Trump to begin with, and for them it was open season on Republicans beginning November 9, 2016. Three of the other ones are in the suburbs of Richmond, two are within the Tidewater region, and one seeming outlier is along the West Virginia border. Yet that district along the border of one of Trump’s strongest states wasn’t the lone district of the sixteen that flipped which supported Trump in 2016 – that distinction went to the 85th District in Virginia Beach.

To become Republican districts in the first place, they obviously had to elect Republicans at the legislative level two years ago (when the GOP actually lost one seat to go from 67-33 to 66-34.) But a year before that 10 of the 16 supported Ed Gillespie in his run for the U.S. Senate against Mark Warner (the six that did not were all in northern Virginia.) Similarly, the districts split evenly between supporting Republican Ken Cuccinelli and McAuliffe in 2013, with the northern Virginia districts that threw out the Republicans this time around mostly favoring McAuliffe.

The election results of the last two years are beginning to prove that Virginia is becoming another, slightly larger Maryland – wide swaths of rural Republicans who get killed at the ballot box by government-addled junkies in cities which depend too much on it. Setting aside the vast number of Virginians that call the Potomac Valley home, it’s worth remembering that the Tidewater area is the largest concentration of cities but Richmond is also a significant urban area, too, and it’s the state capital.

So let’s shift our focus onto Maryland. There were two Republican mayors the state party was dearly hoping would win on Tuesday, but instead both were shellacked pretty handily. Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides couldn’t recreate his 59-vote escape act of 2013 nor could Randy McClement win a third term in Frederick – and neither could even sniff 40% of the vote. But then neither municipality is Republican-friendly territory as both their city councils are dominated by Democrats, so the success of both men was something of an outlier.

The knee-jerk reactions have been predictable. Establishment Republicans blame the unpopular Donald Trump for dragging down these candidates while the devout Trump backers say it’s the fault of a Congress that’s not enacting Trump’s agenda quickly enough. But you didn’t come here for knee-jerk reaction, do you?

Again, let’s look at where most of these voters in question reside. The Virginia voters who tossed out Republicans are by and large suburban voters. The Maryland voters who threw out these two mayors are in Annapolis and Frederick, which are suburban settings. (I would argue Annapolis has more in common with a suburb than a city, despite the fact it’s our state capital, because of its proximity to Baltimore and Washington.)

Above all, suburban people are conformist and they are the targets of the dominant media and the educational system – neither of which has been glowing in their praise for Donald Trump or any of his policies. Given that information and candidates who can make and break promises just like Republicans have done (except theirs for “free stuff” sound better) you get what we had Tuesday night.

So let me hit you with a platform from a suburban candidate and see how you like it. I slightly edited it to remove identifying information for the moment.

Simply put, these address issues that hold our city back. They all are also interconnected to the success not only of our city, but of our citizen. Why do I say that? Because we too often measure success by the health of the city’s checkbook. I believe we best measure the health of the city by the health of our fellow citizens checkbook. (Among other factors.)

LOWER TAXES: We are tied with only a few surrounding cities for the highest income tax rate. If the additional .25% rate passes, we will have the highest income tax rate in the area. This is among the highest concerns of people looking to move to a new area. It also is a strong factor in businesses looking for a new location. Simply put in order to grow at a rate needed to provide for the future, we CANNOT continue sabotaging our development efforts by being an expensive place to live or to work.

SAFE, AFFORDABLE WATER: Everyone I talked to on my campaign expressed great concern over water rates. Water is the life blood of a community. Same as above, how can we be a draw to new families and businesses when our water rates cripple the budgets of those we wish to welcome to (our city.) I will call for Performance Audits of (the local water suppliers) on my first council meeting if elected. We also must push for multiple sources of water, with a regional approach. We can not let one community hold others hostage for water.

PRIORITIZE SPENDING: Priority based budgeting is what every family and every business implements. Most government agencies do not. Lets bring in the experts at Priority Based Budgeting. Let’s stop playing the game of putting vital services such as police, fire and roads on the ballot. Those departments should be the first funded from the General Fund. This also applies to projects. Roundabouts are a luxury unless at a new intersection. Fix our roads FIRST! This also applies to developing proper maintenance plans and funding them first. It is always cheaper to care for equipment, buildings and roads than to let them fall into disrepair.

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: We cannot do this alone. If we try to succeed as (our city) alone, we will fail. The (regional) area is rich in so many key economic development factors: location, skilled labor, research, transportation resources and good, strong families. We hold ourselves back by other factors though. High taxes. Regulations. Expensive water. We also need to broaden our reach to different industries. We need to recognize we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket. (Our city) lived and died with (a defunct local business) many years ago. It took some effort to start to recover from the losses of our largest employer. Now we have a very heavy concentration on retail. While all growth is good, we are sliding back towards putting all our eggs in one basket again – except this time it is a retail basket which is far more subject to economic recessions. Our labor force is incredibly diverse. We need good paying jobs that provide a career to match.

I believe we can all work together on these four points. We can turn from trying to tax our way to prosperity and instead focus on growing our way to not only a prosperous (city), but prosperous families!

Now, let me ask you – is that a scary platform? Maybe to those who are invested in government as the solution, but the key here is the recognition of the role of government. And it was good enough to win. It’s the platform of an old friend of mine, Bob Densic, who this time won a seat on the Rossford (Ohio) City Council (his third try.) Bob and I are political soulmates, so it’s going to be interesting to see how he likes trying to put his ideas into practice.

Perhaps a key to Bob’s success is the fact that his city has non-partisan municipal elections. In a year like this one, I would submit to you that the issue was with the Republican brand and not the philosophy. Because the Democrats and media (but I repeat myself) have so successfully tied Donald Trump with the mainstream Republican Party (despite the fact Trump claimed to have identified more as a Democrat as recently as a decade ago) and have worked their hardest to drive his popularity down with negative coverage, the results from Tuesday are what you would expect. Democrats were motivated to come out, the people who believed the media hype about Trump being so bad were motivated to come out, and Republicans were discouraged.

So it may get worse for Republicans before it gets better. But my advice to the GOP, not that I expect them to take it: forget trying to work with Democrats and put up a conservative gameplan. No pale pastels for us.

Tax cuts and jobs?

Since I said this yesterday:

I guess I better use the space for something besides music reviews, analysis of baseball trades, and other non-political items.

As many of you who know my site probably also know, the House put forth its initial proposal for what is being called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. (President Trump would have preferred the Cuts Cuts Cuts Act himself, though.) So most of the argument and commentary seems to be on whether this does enough for individual taxpayers – naturally, Democrats revert to their age-old “tax cuts for the rich” saw while some Republicans fret about losing particular deductions.

But I want to address two things in this post. First, I want to try and step into the shoes of a small business owner because part of the bill title is “that three-letter word, J-O-B-S” (with apologies to Joe Biden) and they are the ones who create most of them – including the ones I have now.

I’m not going to get into actual dollars and cents here because this is more of a philosophical argument. Each year business owners hand a share of their revenues off to various branches of government for a host of reasons, but the one item that perhaps draws the most blood, sweat, and tears is that federal tax return they (or, more likely, their accountants) fill out each year. Thus, the idea of both lowering rates and making things simpler works positively in two ways: a little more money to invest in the business for new hires, capital improvements, or expansion (people in my line of work perk up their ears at the latter) and a little more time to enjoy life or improve the business plan. They may not need to give that accountant quite so much, but, alas, there are winners and losers in life. (However, the day we find out H&R Block is lobbying against a tax reform proposal is the day we’ll know we have the right formula.)

The common perception from the Left is that every business owner is a fat cat member of the 1% who pays his employees less than minimum wage, skimps on benefits, and hoards his profits to spend on his fancy car and yacht – Ebenezer Scrooge personified. I don’t know about you but I haven’t met one like that yet, although I will note my previous employer went out and got a BMW i8 complete with vanity plate (and installed the charger in our parking lot) thanks to a series of very successful businesses. But that came after years of long days and lots of hard work, so I wasn’t going to complain because he had aptitude, drive, and a range of talents I didn’t.

By the same token, it’s not unknown for my current employer to be at the office or meeting clients late into the evenings or on the weekends – I know because I used to work in there at those times myself (on top of my full-time job) in order to seize the opportunity I was presented to get back into his firm. Ambitious people laugh at a 40-hour work week, and the overriding question that is being answered to an extent by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is whether they should be rewarded for those efforts or forced to hand over the excess to government to redistribute to the less ambitious.

After all, hopefully there comes a point in the life of a business where the boss can’t do it all himself (or herself.) Adding people, though, brings a whole new world of complexity to the tasks so the rewards should be maximized and risks minimized in order to encourage even more hiring when business dictates. If the government takes a pinch less maybe the additional economic activity will make up for it in time.

This brings me to my second point: whose money is it anyway?

Consider the average dollar, which is representative of an intrinsic value. There’s an old joke where someone leaves a $100 bill on a hotel counter while he inspects a room and it quickly makes the rounds paying off various debts up and down the street before the customer decides the room isn’t satisfactory and takes back the Benjamin, which seconds before had paid off the last debt owed to the hotel clerk. Everyone had a value assigned to the cash although the overall transaction was a wash.

When a worker makes a dollar, it’s a tradeoff: even at minimum wage, it’s about eight minutes of his labor in return for a dollar’s wage. In a successful business, the employee performed more in the way of value to the company than the pay but the rate of pay was still acceptable to the employee. (On top of that you have benefits, but for the purpose of this argument I’ll concentrate on pay.) My full time employer bills me out at a rate that is supposed to cover the wage, benefits, and overhead so in return I have work to do. My writing employer gives me an assignment on Thursday night and expects a turnover for the following morning. As long as this is done profitably for both parties, everything is cool – the problems occur when labor costs begin to outweigh value added. (For an example, consider why you are faced with a kiosk instead of a live person in some fast food restaurants – human order takers didn’t add a lot of value if they were inaccurate, grouchy, not feeling well, or disorganized, especially at the $15 an hour for which they were pining.)

Now think about a dollar spent in taxes, where the tradeoff is completely different. There are a number of vital services these taxes pay for, especially at a local level where the business receives its public safety protection, maintenance for the roads, portions of the utility infrastructure, and various other items which vary based on the jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, the higher up the taxation food chain you go, the more likely you’ll find these tax dollars aren’t creating value. Oftentimes these entities will act as a pass-through, returning tax dollars to the state or local jurisdiction after keeping a cut for themselves and necessitating the employment of a grant writer on a local level. It’s making a pencil-pusher rich, but that’s not really adding to society like a guy out working on an oil rig, writing computer code, or burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how to please her engineering client. Even worse, that dollar may be paying the bureaucrat who’s writing the rule that will do the business in at the behest of a lobbyist bought and paid for by some special interest.

By keeping dollars in the more productive and efficient private sector, not only does lowering taxes help increase GDP but it also provides the incentive for people to work harder. I’ve often cited Atlas Shrugged as one of my favorite books, not because it’s a feelgood story but because I see it as an absolute indicator of where our nation could be headed under the government we’ve put in place. If working harder has no reward, then why do it?

We have a long way to go before we see tax reform, if it even comes about at all because Republicans in Congress aren’t completely sold on the package. (I thought the GOP was supposed to be the party that supported lower taxes – didn’t you?) But the argument shouldn’t be who wins and loses financially – it should be about whether we believe it’s our money we’re getting for our labor or if we feel we just get to use that which is benevolently granted to us by government.

2017 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

October 30, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2017 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text 

This time around it will be fewer pictures and more text. It’s not like I haven’t done this for many years at the same venue. But you may recall I took a hiatus from party politics for awhile, meaning this was the first such event I’d attended in two years.

So I was greeted with mainly open arms, although many people thought I had already moved to Delaware. (Not quite yet.) Regardless, the feel of the event was such that I felt right at home – the only difference was that we were supposed to begin an hour earlier to accommodate our speaker. As it turned out, we got underway about 45 minutes late (or 15 minutes early by our “normal” schedule), so I who was there at 5:00 for a 6:00 dinner had plenty of time to commiserate and hear the band play.

One of the new folks I got to meet was the lone statewide candidate to attend. She is definitely having fun on the campaign trail.

Angie Phukan (a.k.a. “MsComptroller”) is, as the tagline would suggest, running for the GOP nomination for Comptroller. To date she’s the only candidate to file against incumbent Democrat Peter Franchot, who likewise has filed. She hails from Ocean City, so she’s a statewide candidate in our backyard.

I had actually conversed online with her a few weeks back when she was trying to figure out her yard signs. I suggested simpler is better, and assured her last night she need not worry about separate signs for primary and general elections. “Your job right now is to build name recognition,” I told her.

Of course, most of our local contingent of folks were there as well. One I want to point out is Mary Beth Carozza, Delegate from District 38C. Here she’s between County Council member from District 5 Joe Holloway and his wife Faye. (Holloway is once again my Councilman since we moved.)

The reason Carozza is important to the story is she’s making a “special announcement” next month in Ocean City.

The speculation is rampant this will make formal what’s been rumored for awhile: notice how much Jim Mathias is on social media these days? If Mary Beth indeed decides to try for the promotion, she would join Democrat-turned-Republican Ed Tinus in the race, although Tinus could then decide to seek the open Delegate seat.

As always, we began with a visit from our 16th President and the event’s namesake.

I had some fun with the photo since it demanded an oldtime look. As he always does, Lincoln waxed eloquent with tales from his life, this time focusing on the time he was a young man who studied voraciously to tackle new opportunities that came his way, such as surveying or winning his first elective office at the age of 25. (Oddly enough, the Whigs of the day had to contend with voters who were ineligible because they didn’t live in the district or weren’t yet citizens.) Observing today’s political landscape, he noted that there seemed to be no survey plan to drain the swamp.

As I was driving around to find a parking spot before the event, I spied a well-dressed man who seemed like he was looking for the door to get in. I thought it was David Bossie and it turned out I was right. He may be our Republican National Committeeman and entrenched as a confidant for President Trump, but he was still baffled by the setup of Salisbury University’s Guerrieri Hall.

But when it was Bossie’s turn to speak, there was no confusion. First of all, he asked how many in the room thought a year ago that Donald Trump would win. When a fair number went up, he said “Liars,” adding “I didn’t raise my hand.”

“I’ll tell the President that he had a room full of people who knew he would win,” added Bossie. He only figured it out as he was feeding information to the soon-to-be President on Election Night.

David had met Trump several years earlier through a mutual friend who believed Trump would be willing to lend the use of his golf course for a charity event Bossie was organizing. The main reason for Bossie’s interest in that cause was his then-six month old son, who had several medical issues that piqued his interest in fighting against Obamacare in the belief it would damage our medical system that was aiding his son.

Bossie’s role in the campaign and eventual transition was “a humbling experience,” although for a time it greatly diminished when Paul Manafort was hired. Manafort “froze him out,” so when Trump “thankfully…(got) rid of Manafort” Bossie helped lead the comeback from a low point after the GOP convention.

So the day after Trump shocked the world, they realized there was no formal transition plan. In part, that was superstition from Trump, an avid sportsman who had the belief – like many athletes who compete regularly do – that considering the transition would be a departure from routine and would jinx his campaign. Shortly after the victory, though, David was selected as the Deputy Executive Director of the transition.

While this was going on, Bossie remained at the helm of Citizens United, which he described as “focused on the President’s agenda like a laser beam.” The problem with enacting it, continued David, was that our government was “dysfunctional and out of touch.” Since the House and Senate were elected on the same issues as Trump was, their reluctance to cooperate was an affront to President Trump. “He’s a pissed off dude, isn’t he?” said Bossie about the President. “Get something done and the temperature goes down,” he added, referring to the Senate and relations between them and Trump. If they do, there’s a “good opportunity to pick up Senate seats…really good math for us.” Bossie mentioned races in Ohio and Missouri as strong possibilities for pickups and welcomed the changes in Arizona and Tennessee with the retirements of Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, respectively.

(Interesting to note: the mentions of Flake, Corker, and John McCain drew boos and hisses from some in the crowd.)

We needed, though, to put aside the things of a year ago. Remember, “if Hillary Clinton wins, the nation as we know it is over,” said Bossie. But since Trump won, things have taken shape with our economy: the Dow is “out of its mind” and as far as regulations go, Trump promised to eliminate two for every new one. “Do you know how many he’s done?” Bossie asked, and someone in the crowd you may know well said, “Sixteen.”

“Who said sixteen?” he asked. “Showoff.” Indeed, the Trump administration is mowing down regulations at a frenetic pace.

But the economy is missing one thing: a “robust” tax reform package; one that Bossie described as “generational.”

“Shame on us if we don’t get it done,” Bossie said, and the sooner the better: if enacted by year’s end and made retroactive for 2017, the boost in the economy will kick in around next summer and make the 2018 election a pocketbook balloting. If done in the spring, the effects won’t be nearly as great, argued David.

While Bossie apologized in advance for not being able to stay too late, he did answer a few questions.

The first one required him to put on his National Committeeman hat, as he was asked “what can we do on the Eastern Shore?”

Our focus, said David, should be first on winning the needed five State Senate seats to sustain Governor Hogan’s vetoes. Of course, that also meant we had to turn out for Hogan as we did last time so he could defeat the “worst group of Democrats” in the country.

He was less optimistic when asked about what we could do about Ben Cardin. “There’s lost causes, then there’s lost causes,” said Bossie. That may be news to Sam Faddis, who is the only Republican with an FEC account in that race so far. (No one has formally filed, save three Democrats not named Cardin who are hoping the incumbent retires or keels over.)

Someone else asked whether GOP money was going to Donald Trump. Their investment is “behind the scenes” right now, assured Bossie, although Trump already has a 2020 re-election account as well. The RNC is “stockpiling” money with a large advantage in fundraising over the Democrats at the moment.

Turning to foreign affairs, a question was asked about our relationship with China.

Trump was focusing on the Chinese president, David said. “No one wants war,” and by dealing with China – which is the main trading partner of North Korea – Trump is dealing with an entity that could “suffocate” North Korea if they chose. It’s a combination of tough talk and diplomacy, he added.

Finally, it was asked about the governors not supporting Trump. Bossie argued that their agenda was better off with Republican governors whether they agreed with President Trump on everything or not. And even though our governor didn’t support the Trump bid, it was “vital” he be re-elected anyway, concluded Bossie.

With that, he was off to see his family before an early morning gig on Fox News, so the conclusion of the event was the introduction of a number of elected officials, club officers, and 2018 candidates, along with the drawing of raffles from both the Wicomico County Republican Club and the College Republicans. As it turned out both grand prizes were donated back to their respective organizations, so the WCRC can once again give away a $1,000 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card and the College Republicans netted $280. Wicomico County GOP Chair Mark McIver also announced that there were 130 people in attendance, making this a successful event that grossed better than $8,000.

Just like in the beginning, there are people who stay around and gab the night away. In this case, it’s Delegate Charles Otto (left) with Joe Schanno of the Department of Natural Resources (center) and Dwight Patel (right), who annually makes the trip from Montgomery County to show his support. We finally cleared out about 9:30, although there was an impromptu afterparty offsite some chose to enjoy.

It was nice to be remembered, and as I had pointed out to me by County Councilman Marc Kilmer, now that I’m a “free agent” I can pick and choose my events. Trust me, I’m still on the mailing lists.

But writing this was like riding a bicycle – you don’t forget how to do it even after awhile away. It was fun.

DLGWGTW: September 24, 2017

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments that I’m going to make a regular Sunday evening feature. (Maybe not every week but more often than not.)`I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this.

Health care was in the news a lot lately, and social media was no exception. Here’s what I responded to a typical liberal scare tactic from Senator Ben Cardin:

That would be more like the way it should be…states could tailor their programs to the desires of their citizens. I love how loaded and extreme the headline writer made this sound.

Remember, health care is NOT a right, but life is.

Then when some liberal tried to go all Article 1, Section 8 on me (hey, at least he’s read the Constitution) I had to make sure he understood something:

Nope, “general welfare” does not equal health care. Try again.

So when his pal Steny Hoyer jumped in I had to revise and expand my remarks:

Yes, because letting an incompetent federal bureaucracy run health care is working SO well. It’s funny – your post came up right after Senator Ben Cardin‘s caterwauling about the same subject on my page. I smell a Facebook conspiracy.

And again I had a few people tell me their mistaken belief that health care is a right. That’s all right, I have plenty of time to set them straight:

Again, the idea is to bring this down to a state level, although ideally we would work our way back to fee-for-service and insurance to cover catastrophic events. Who said a state could not step in for preventive care if they wished? Better them than Uncle Sam.

Now you can call me a troll but if you are familiar with the website Shareblue, it purports to the the “Breitbart of the Left.” Problem is, their hacks aren’t even readable sometimes and they distort stories five times worse than Breitbart ever dreamed of. Here’s a case in point and my response.

David Brock created a fake news site designed to confuse millions of voters so that the party could win elections in multiple states. Oh wait, that’s you guys.

Basically I have to ask: you’re surprised Republicans have a news outlet to control their narrative? I’m sure if these reporters wanted to dig a little more they’d find the Democrats have the same. Otherwise I wouldn’t get all these e-mails from the DNC telling me the sky is falling.

I’m not really a reporter, but let me tell you about the site whose Facebook page you are now gracing, or more specifically its sponsor Media Matters for America.

*****

“Because MMFA is a non-profit organization, it is not required to disclose its donors, and it does not do so. However, some donors have self-disclosed, while others, such as foundations and labor unions, must make certain filings that discloses their funding of Media Matters and other similar groups.

MMfA’s funders range from labor unions to progressive foundations to liberal billionaires. From fiscal year 2009 to 2012, the National Education Association (NEA) has contributed $400,000 ($100,000 per year) to Media Matters. MMfA has received an additional $185,000 from other labor organizations since 2005, making labor unions some of the largest known contributors to Media Matters. MMfA has directly quoted these labor groups and has defended them against “attacks” from reporters and media personalities. MMfA did not disclose these donations in its reporting on labor unions.

MMfA has received nearly $30 million from foundations since it started. The Tides Foundation is the largest contributors to MMfA and MMAN, giving nearly $4.4 million. There are undoubtedly close ties between the organizations besides financial support. MMfA frequently reports on the critics of Tides, but fails to mention that the foundation is MMfA’s largest donor. The line between Tides and MMfA is so blurry that even donors appear to be confused. In 2003, prior to the official launch of MMfA, the Stephen M. Silberstein Foundation even designated a $100,000 contribution to ‘Tides Foundation – Media Matters for America.’

Billionaire George Soros donated $1 million to Media Maters in October 2010. According to the New York Times, Soros donated the money to help MMfA respond to the ‘incendiary rhetoric’ of Fox News Channel commentators.”

(source)

And if this doesn’t describe Shareblue to a T then I don’t know what does:

“The news content analysis of Media Matters is a complete sham. Such examinations of political news traditionally focus on detecting journalistic bias, but MMfA’s approach is to try to stamp out views with which its left-wing content analysts disagree. That isn’t hard to do if you can think creatively and tolerate mind-numbing hairsplitting. Media Matters will typically isolate a small facet of a media story that can be twisted in such a way that suggests that the reporter or commentator is a liar or hypocrite. That tidbit is then used to suggest that everything the original source says must be false and deserving of censure.”

(source)

So there you have it: two named sources, verifiable if you copy and paste the link and remove the space I added.

I take news with a grain of salt until I consider the source and its motivation. My motivation? To get to what’s really true, and where you’re at isn’t it.

Via the local Republican Club I found out even Governor Larry Hogan jumped on that bandwagon. My free advice to the governor:

The electorate that voted him in was by and large also the one that wanted Obamacare repealed. But it’s up to Larry Hogan – if he wants to get 55-60% in the areas where he needs to come close to 70% (like the Eastern Shore) just keep moving left of center. The Democrats across the bridge will be happy to vote for the real thing this time.

The “progressive” (read: regressive) group Our Maryland also wanted to note Maryland could lose money under a GOP plan. So guess what I told them?

Think twice about taking “free” money from Uncle Sugar next time.

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”

They also want to blame Trump for Maryland having revenue short of expectations, so I gave then my side of the story:

Perhaps if Maryland becomes more than a one-industry state (that being the federal government) these people may have more confidence.

Since I got my old job back in the Trump era (one that I lost just after Obama was elected) I feel pretty good about the economy,

Obviously that didn’t sit well with them, so they asked for “details before (we) accept your Obama bashing – so I complied.

About my job? I was flat-out told by my employer that he was worried about keeping his doors open under Obama. But he managed to survive and business has picked up enough to bring me back part-time at first and now full-time. Maybe I’m an outlier but the change in administration did bring a more positive outlook for businesses.

Then I added:

And it’s funny – those people who pointed to the stock market as evidence of Obama’s success are quiet now under Trump despite the fact the indices are 20% or so higher since January.

And the poor lady who tried to tell me Baltimore is teeming with industry and my “Beltway bias” was showing. I took about two minutes to find the proof she was all wet.

The statistics beg to differ.

I know, it’s not as obvious. But Baltimore City had a total average employment of 69,141 in the government sector in the first quarter of this year compared to 21,137 that produced goods. I had to explain this to someone else.

The premise provided by (the lady who commented) was that Baltimore had “way more industry than government.” As you can see by the stats, the reverse is true if you consider non-service jobs as “industry” – which I do. (Also notice that education is lumped with healthcare as a service job when most education jobs are public-sector. I think they should count in the government category.)

Yet they were still arguing with me as late as today about my blaming my layoff on the incoming Obama administration and crediting my return to Trump.

Consumer confidence was already rising pre-election and surged in the runup to Trump taking office. Confident consumers lead to confident investors, which is where we come in (I work for an architectural firm, and that was an industry battered by the Great Recession.)

And then:

Seeing that I’ve had over two decades in the field and my industry isn’t one that’s “affected by automation and digitization” you may want to try again.

And I did not bring up Obamacare because no one really knew what it looked like at the time. It was just a sense that the economy was going to rebound very slowly, if at all. Having seen some of what O’Malley did over the previous two years and how it affected our local economy, people were bearish on prospects.

And you may want to ask our friend who was laid off in 2009 (above) why he blames his situation on Bush? He was out of office after January.

Also at Our Maryland, I had this reaction to a reaction to a WaPo story (behind a paywall, of course) about Rep. Jamie Raskin (who was a far-left loony of a state senator based on monoblogue Accountability results) and his fear that Cassidy-Graham would pass. This is how the respondent wrote it, verbatim: “The Koch Brothers want it so badly – and they aren’t going to give anymore money to the Republicans until they repeal Obamacare and cut corporate taxes BIG TIME. That’s what it’s always about – follow the money.”

So I had to correct the record, again:

That would work for me. And even if you assumed a 50% cut in corporate tax rates would bring in half that revenue – which, as we know, isn’t true because lowering tax rates generally acts as a spur for economic activity – the federal hit would be less than $250 billion (out of a $4 trillion budget.)

In this case, the Koch brothers support smart economic policy.

Naturally, that was met with the pithy, “Oh Michael Swartz, if you think you are going to benefit from the giant corporations getting tax cuts….. Sad.” (It’s funny how the Left has allocated a standard Trump response, isn’t it?) But the answer is yes.

I certainly will. Ask yourself: who pays corporate taxes, the business or the end user/consumer?

To expand on this concept, this is part of a fundamental argument about who does more good with money from corporate profits: the government which redistributes it willy-nilly to address their priorities after taking a hefty cut, or a corporation that rewards its stockholders with dividends, invests in expansion (thus needing more employees, which benefits the community), or – even if the CEO is a greedy SOB – spreading the wealth around via purchases. Even if he buys a yacht, someone has to build it.

Turning to local politics, I made a comment about candidate recruitment.

The hard part is finding candidates who want to go through the process. And don’t forget the school board, which will be “nonpartisan” but will almost certainly have a union-backed (read: Democrat) slate.

And finally, I had this reaction to fellow writer Jen Kuznicki‘s video. Like a lot of conservative writers, writing’s not her paying gig – her “real job” is being a seamstress.

You could sit in front of a computer and draw all day like I do in Salisbury, Maryland. Glad to see an American who makes things and adds value to raw material.

But if you thought yours was boring, there’s a reason I don’t do mine. To most watching paint dry would be preferable.

Look, all I do is put lines on a computer screen. It’s the end product that’s important – for the past few weeks it’s been for a proposed local hotel. The part that’s important is knowing where to put the lines.

Similarly, in good writing sometimes it’s best to know when to stop, so here you are. I already have a couple threads lined up for next time, one of which involves a candidate for Congress.

9/11 in the age of Trump

September 11, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on 9/11 in the age of Trump 

This morning – and I say “this morning” despite the fact I’m writing this about 12 hours in advance of publication – President Donald Trump, a native of New York City, will preside over what is described as a “mostly solemn and nonpartisan occasion” with ceremonies at both Ground Zero and the Pentagon. (Vice President Pence will handle duties in Shanksville, PA at the Flight 93 Memorial.)

Because he’s a native New Yorker, Donald Trump has a unique perspective on the event. Most of his critics point to a declaration The Donald made in the wake of the attack that his 40 Wall Street building became the tallest in the city thanks to the demise of the World Trade Center. On the other hand, President Trump made a very solemn Patriot Day declaration on Friday, bringing it up to date by citing our response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. One notable departure from the Obama years, though, is the dropping of the “National Day of Service and Remembrance” from the release (although Trump alludes to it in the body of his text, in keeping with the Obama-era law recognizing September 11 as such.)

Some of the conditions which led to the 9/11 attack (and its ongoing response on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq) have been addressed by President Trump, although his main initiative of a temporary pause on accepting refugees and visitors from nations deemed to be potential sponsors of terror was thwarted by a series of activist judges. However, on a broader foreign palette, we have had little change in Middle East policy over the last several months, particularly in dealing with a poorly-drafted nuclear agreement with Iran: well-respected former U.N. ambassador and foreign policy hawk John Bolton is on record as wishing Trump would back out of that bad deal.

Regardless of what policy initiatives come and go, though, the passage of time insures that those who recall the incident first-hand are a dwindling majority. The number of Americans under age 21 now rests at about 27%, and if you add in those who weren’t Americans when the attack occurred you’re probably talking a number north of 3 out of 10 Americans who have little to no memory of the day because they weren’t born yet, too young to understand it, living somewhere else at the time, or some combination of those factors. I know I won’t forget where I was that day but the 17-year-old in the house won’t recall because she was only a toddler. The day may be remembered at school, but even then only in passing.

And while we live in an era where being patriotic isn’t necessarily cause for suspicion by certain groups as it was not so long ago, we’re a long way from the fever pitch we had in the months after the attack. Then again, perhaps our nation has given us cause to be cynical after such a Long War with few tangible results. One could readily surmise that, with our superior military firepower, we could have made short work of any of these tinpot regimes if we put our mind to it and employed more of a scorched-earth policy. Lord knows we were willing to do so in 2001 but President George W. Bush preferred a coalition approach. Some may call that kicking the can down the road.

It’s frightening to think that we could be on the doorstep of another such attack, but the possibility is there and it’s not necessarily going to involve Islamic terrorism. So-called “suitcase nukes” or an EMP attack that North Korea could be capable of delivering would bring tragic results on a scale many times that of 9/11 – and we really can’t defend that well against them. Yet the response, some civil libertarians argue, would be tantamount to living in a police state.

Walking that fine line is now the job of a 71-year-old man who’s prone to fits of pique as expressed on Twitter but was supported and elected by a group of patriotic Americans who believed he would be the one to get tough on these threats. Since this is the first of what could be eight occasions where Trump commemorates 9/11, this is the one that sets the tempo.

More laborers to celebrate Labor Day

September 4, 2017 · Posted in Business and industry, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on More laborers to celebrate Labor Day 

I wasn’t necessarily going to write about this, but as it turns out Labor Day is a pretty good time to make this point.

When the unemployment numbers came out last Friday, it turned out that manufacturing jobs were one of the star performers as the sector gained 36,000 jobs in August – almost 1/4 of the total gain.

You may recall that for most of Barack Obama’s term I often referenced a union-backed organization called the Alliance for American Manufacturing, generally quoting their president, Scott Paul. He’s still there, and while he seemed to be pleased with the August results he’s still singing his protectionist song:

Did the robot revolution take the month off?

Adding 36,000 new factory jobs in August is good news for American workers. For the first time in a long time, manufacturing punched above its weight in the job market, accounting for 23 percent of total job growth. There’s great potential for continued manufacturing job growth – but only if we get the policy right.

How can we keep up the momentum? Pass an infrastructure bill with strong Buy America preferences to put more people back to work. The administration must also invest in training the workers of the future, move forward with rebalancing trade, and hold China accountable.

One facet of the AAM that interested me early on was their tracking of an Obama promise to create 1,000,000 manufacturing jobs – a pledge for which he fell far short by a factor of over 2/3. (Color me surprised </sarc>.) So it’s very intriguing to me that, through just eight months this year, the Trump score is already at 137,000. (Granted, there’s a slight bit of overlap from the Obama administration, but whatever bit of momentum began there may have come once it was assured Trump would be the victor in 2016.) On that pace, Trump would be in the 600 to 700 thousand range in his term.

I also think it’s fascinating that Paul talks about the “robot revolution” taking the month off but in the same statement beseeches the Trump administration to “invest in training the workers of the future.” As wage pressure is placed on the job market through misguided local and state government policies, such as the $15 minimum wage, tasks as mundane as attaching fenders on the assembly line or asking “do you want fries with that?” are going the way of the buggy whip, yielding to more skilled occupations such as working on those robots which make up the revolution. If you’ve seen pictures of modern assembly lines, automobiles and other large objects are put together more and more by mechanized means rather than a worker doing the same task of fastening rivets for eight long hours – a time when he could get tired, be less than at his best thanks to hard partying the night before, or just not trained up to the quality required for the task.

It’s true that unfair labor practices and currency manipulation have been factors in the decline of American manufacturing, but there were other processes that have affected all domestic businesses. Just ask yourself: how else would it be logical that an American manufacturer relocate to China when you consider the shipping time and costs and the learning curve needed to train hundreds of employees who may not be familiar with what the American market desires? Obviously those expenses were outweighed by the far lower wages they could pay Chinese workers, the removal of stringent regulations (not just environmental, but dealing with workers as well), and the lower tax costs. Over a 30-year period, “Made in America” became “Made in China,” and that’s often still the case today.

But I don’t think we have to be protectionist if we can create the conditions that cancel out several of the factors that drove manufacturing overseas. We already have a head start if we can keep our energy costs down by employing the resources we were blessed with instead of pie-in-the-sky schemes like dependence on unreliable wind or solar power. Add to this a corporate tax rate that is fair and not confiscatory – losing almost 4 out of every 10 dollars of corporate income seems to me a much larger piece of the pie than government needs or deserves – and a predictable regulatory regime based on common sense rather than being capricious and arbitrary, and much of the issue will be solved. At that point it’s up to the good old American worker to do the jobs Americans will do if given a shot. For example, someone has to know how to fix those machines that weld together automotive parts, and they probably won’t need a college degree to do it.

My father, who Lord willing will turn 82 in a month and has probably never turned on a computer, grew up in an era where he could finish high school and find a job at a concrete block plant doing maintenance. It was a union shop and gave him a good living, although he was unhappy at times with the union because it treated everyone equally whether they pulled their weight or not. Thousands of men around my hometown of Toledo who grew up in that era could tell a similar story as they got out of high school and went to work at a number of automotive (and other) manufacturing plants: Willys Jeep, GM Hydra-Matic transmission, Ford Stamping, Toledo Scale, Libbey Glass, and so forth – all union shops, and all providing a good middle-class income.

Kids graduating from high school now, though, are seemingly consigned to dead-end service jobs, as the days of your uncle getting you in at the Jeep plant are pretty much gone. But America needs to get back to making things, young men (and women) need jobs that can support a family, and the academic world needs a shakeout to a point where college is geared more toward the students who have the academic chops to succeed there. (Not everyone is college material in the traditional sense – some people just are geared toward and have the aptitude for working with their hands rather than sitting through a freshman English class.) A rebirth in American manufacturing can accomplish all of these goals.

So on this Labor Day and its implied salute to the American worker, consider what could be done to improve his or her lot. Lightening government’s load on industry seems to me a key step in making us the place that makes things again.

Announcing: the 2017 monoblogue Accountability Project

August 21, 2017 · Posted in Campaign 2018, Maryland Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Announcing: the 2017 monoblogue Accountability Project 

For the eleventh year in a row, I have graded all 188 legislators in the Maryland General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. Beginning with sine die back in April, I started looking into floor votes trying to find those which reflected conservative principles, with an eye on civil liberties as well. The final product, all 20 pages, can be found right here or in its usual sidebar location.

The major change I made for this year was reverting back to a system of all floor votes, as I had in the early years before committee votes were made readily available. It’s not that committee votes aren’t important, but in this year’s case I had so many possible relevant votes from the floor that I decided not to use three on committee votes that may not have had such impact. Two of the 25 votes are veto override votes, one from legislation carried over from 2016 and the other from a bill proposed this session.

If there’s one thing that Democrats like even less than not being in the governor’s chair to spend money, I think it’s the fact that Donald Trump is President and the GOP controls Congress. Several of the bills I used had to do with impacts they perceived would occur with the Trump administration. It’s strange how federal government effects become a big deal with Republicans in charge, particularly one like Donald Trump. Mandates placed by his predecessor were just peachy with the General Assembly majority, and they often adopted them with very little fuss to continue Maryland’s complete over-dependence on the federal government as an economic driver. Ironically, the type of president this nation needs would be bad news for Maryland in the short run as those well-paid federal workers wouldn’t be working and paying taxes.

So you’ll notice quite a few floor votes deal with these subjects, but this year was about as loony far-left as I ever recall. Thus, the number of correct votes is little changed from last year; however, one significant change I made was adopting what I call a “flip-flop” indicator. Votes shown in red are votes where the member changed sides between the House and Senate votes. I was truly shocked how much this happens.

As I did last year, I’m leaving the 2015 and 2016 reports available as part of a long-term process to show trends for the 2015-18 term.

Feel free to print yourself a copy for your use – just don’t forget where it came from.

At throats redux: Charlottesville edition

To be perfectly honest, I knew very little about the events in Charlottesville until well after they happened. I was in a vacuum of sorts because I was tuned out from the world, enjoying family and festivities surrounding my wife’s attaining her bachelor’s degree in this stage of her life as a University of Phoenix graduate. So while the family watched her and hundreds of her fellows walk onstage to accept their degrees at the newly-rechristened Capital One Center in Washington, D.C., a few dozen miles to the southwest a chaotic scene was unfolding. As I have since learned, Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old white woman who was a paralegal from the city, was killed when she was struck by a car reportedly driven by a 20-year-old white Ohio man, James Alex Fields, Jr. While Fields lives in my old stomping grounds (Maumee, Ohio is a suburb of Toledo) he grew up in Kentucky and is supposedly an “alt-right” Trump supporter.

You’ll notice I linked to the CNN story, but through the evening Saturday and into Sunday afternoon there were all sorts of different reports and rumors on what happened: different identities on the car driver and registration, people describing how the original protesters (dubbed “Unite the Right”) had their permit pulled, then restored, then pulled again while the counter-protesters never got a permit, a tale alleging the Unite the Right group was set up by the city for a beatdown by the “Antifa” and “Black Lives Matter” groups by ordering them to leave the park a certain way through their counter-protest, and so on and so forth. Obviously the Left blames the Right and the Right counters that the Left is really at fault.

But my question goes all the way back to the root of the problem. In the last several years, the city of Charlottesville – which is home of the University of Virginia – has become what is described as “progressive.” At one time it had parks named after Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, but no more. This latest controversy was about removing the statue of Robert E. Lee that graces what used to be called Lee Park; a statue put up decades after Lee’s death in 1870. (Unlike most other conflicts, in our War Between the States neither the leader of the opposition army nor government was executed for treason – Lee lived until a stroke and subsequent illness felled him five years later, while Confederate president Jefferson Davis was imprisoned for a few years but out of prison well before his death in 1889.) In his postwar days, Lee was best remembered for restoring what became known as Washington and Lee University while his former estate became Arlington National Cemetery. (In no small bit of irony, our family spent a good part of Saturday afternoon there after the graduation ceremony and our lunch.)

It’s also true that Lee turned down the opportunity to lead part of the Union forces as a colonel (his rank at the time the conflict began) because he felt more loyal to his home state of Virginia, which chose to join the Confederacy – this despite Lee’s personal opposition to secession.

So then we come to the reason people were in Charlottesville to protest. The “Unite the Right” had one very valid point in that there’s no good reason to remove this piece of history from its longtime place. If anything, more context should be added: why was Lee deemed important enough at the time to be so honored and what have we learned about him since? (To that end, three states still celebrate his January 19 birthday as a legal holiday; oddly enough, every few years it falls on the date we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. As another example, there is also federal law that equates Confederate veterans with Union veterans when it comes to grave markers.) In short, taking an honest look at Lee’s life and legacy would be more complex than simply boiling it down to the four years he spent leading a Confederate army, but most people don’t want to do that because it doesn’t suit their political purposes.

We then loop back to the events in Charlottesville. What we know is that there is a young man who’s being portrayed as one whose head is full of racist, neo-Nazi tripe and he stands accused of maiming innocent bystanders to the extent that one has died and several others were left in critical condition. We also know that this rally necessitated additional police coverage, and a police helicopter carrying two Virginia State Police officers crashed on Saturday, killing both men on board. All four of these lives were changed irrevocably and senselessly for no good reason, over an inanimate object.

And that same controversy roils locally on a smaller scale over another Civil War figure. Brigadier General John Henry Winder was a Union officer in the Mexican War but later served as the administrator of all the Confederate military prisons until his death just weeks before the Confederate States of America ceased to exist. Since he was born in what would become Wicomico County after his death, and the state needed something to commemorate the war with here after 100 years, we got a plaque that originally sat by where the Evolution brewery is now but moved to its present location around 1983. For 33 years this was no problem but then Donald Trump was elected and suddenly it became so. Oops, did I say that?

Why, yes I did. And despite the fact I didn’t vote for the guy and he’s generally the epitome of politically tone-deaf, in this case he’s getting a really raw deal. Trump puts out a statement on Saturday that may have seemed bland on the surface but was immediately panned for noting the “hatred, bigotry, and violence” came from “many sides.” So a couple days later he reiterated his disapproval and was regaled with a press reaction sort of like this: (courtesy of the Patriot Post)

So when the President went back to the more original tone today you had to know the media would crucify him once again, and again they miss the point. It took two sides to tango down in Charlottesville, and note that several previous events (such as the tiki torch rally the night before) had gone off without the violence. It was only when the BLM and Antifa side showed up that the clashes occurred. As for using a car as a deadly weapon, James Fields will have his day in court – if he survives that long. I’m sure the more conspiratorial among us are already trying to figure out just how their bogeyman du jour (George Soros, the Clintons, the Rothschilds, et. al.) will make his death look like a suicide. We know Fields will be in jail until then because he was denied bail.

For those of you who partake in such things, maybe the best answer to all this is to look to the Almighty in prayer. Pray for the families of Heather Heyer, and VSP troopers Berke Bates and Jay Cullen, who surely need comfort and strength through this difficult time of loss. Pray that this becomes a time of reflection and repentance for James Fields, to drive out the wickedness and hatred in his heart and turn his life in the right direction, and that others see this result and step back from the brink before it’s too late.

And pray for a nation that’s being torn asunder more each day by forces wishing to divide it. Pray that we once again remember that we are a nation that God blessed, and in return we should be grateful for our abundance. We are all part of His creation, so perhaps it’s time to remember Luke 6:31.

The first to step forward

We have barely made it six months into President Donald Trump’s term. And while Democrats were ready to oppose him from day one – Trump’s Presidential honeymoon lasted less than a nanosecond after he was sworn in – no one really expected the 2020 race to begin shaping up until we made it through the 2018 midterm elections.

But as further proof we now have a continuous campaign, the first somewhat serious candidate to enter the race on the Democrat side made his intention known Friday by foregoing another term in the House. Rep. John Delaney put an op-ed in the Washington Post on Friday that claimed he would be the candidate to “have an original approach to governing and an economic policy that can put us on a different course.”

Yet while the incumbent President is a businessman, Delaney thinks he’s not cut out to be a leader. “I think Trump, to some extent, is a punctuation of everything that has broken down with our politics,” said the Congressman in a separate WaPo interview.

So he’s going to do things a little differently.

As a progressive businessman, I’ve made it a priority to be solutions-oriented and have been consistently recognized as one of the most innovative and bipartisan members of Congress. I’ve done this by simultaneously celebrating the power of our free-market economy while insisting that there is a role for government to set goals and rules of the road and take care of those who are left behind.

And let me grab one more excerpt to illustrate his approach:

We need to be smarter, fueled by more investment in science, education and research. We need new ideas on the future of jobs and work, one where we build a stronger and more vibrant middle class. We need to encourage a more just and inclusive form of capitalism and reduce barriers to small-business formation, start-ups, job creation, investment and growth. We need to strengthen our safety-net programs and create a new social contract. We need to reform the systems of education, health care and immigration, and encourage more volunteerism, impact investing and public service. And we need to take affirmative steps to reduce our security, fiscal and climate risks. This is what my campaign will be about.

Let me begin at the top. Would it not be fair to say that, in order to have a truly free-market economy, there should be a minimum of government-set rules and goals and a maximum of market-set ones? I’m sure John didn’t wake up every day when he was building his businesses and say to himself, “Gee, how can I meet the specifications and expectations laid out for me by the federal government today?” I know I don’t say that when I consider what to write in my little space.

And the problem with the government taking care of those being left behind is that they become overly comfortable in that lifestyle and create generations that don’t aspire to anything more than living off the state.

As a Democrat, Delaney has to include the old canards about “investment” (read: more unnecessary spending) in science, education, and research. But what really reveals the game is the idea of a “more just and inclusive form of capitalism.” Capital is as just and as inclusive as the market participants, which I will agree goes in with reducing barriers. But those barriers should be reduced in such as way that no one gets an advantage for themselves – the problem is, as we all know, Democrats will rig the game for certain constituencies in order to buy their votes.

All in all, I’ve figured out just what Delaney’s campaign will be about: he will be the arbiter of everything. I mean, he already has a website for his campaign where he has the catchy “D” logo with a highway disappearing into the horizon, and in the video he has there he goes over just how wonderful and peachy everything will be if he’s in charge and in control of everything, because that’s what “progressive” policies entail – government calls the shots and you get what they grudgingly give you. One of the women on the video talks about what a great progressive businessman Delaney is to his employees, and that’s outstanding. But let that be his choice, not forced on every business whether they can afford it or not.

Yet there’s another point to be made here as well. Think back to this time on the calendar in 2009, when Barack Obama was perceived as popular – even if many of his policy ideas were not. On the other hand, there’s been little discussion about Trump’s policy ideas (aside from the GOP’s failed attempt to rid us of Obamacare, which Trump was more or less ambivalent about, in all honesty – after all, he was the one who introduced Republicans to the “repeal and replace” concept.) But if you transport yourself to the end of July 2009, the GOP presidential contest was thought to be Sarah Palin’s to lose – but she was months away from announcing her intentions, as were other 2008 and possible 2012 contenders. So Delaney’s entry into the race, well over 2 1/2 years before we deal with the snowy Iowa caucuses, either means Democrats are just chomping at the bit because they think they have 2020 in the bag or they are just trying to extend the perception of Donald Trump’s unpopularity. And who knows? The 2020 field for the Democrats may make the 2016 GOP field look small in comparison because EVERYONE who thinks they can be President will give it a shot. Maxine Waters, anyone?

There’s only been one President who was elected from being a sitting House member, and that’s James Garfield. (Technically, Delaney won’t be a sitting House member when elected since he’s dropping out of Congress after three terms.) Even so, I think that 140 year streak will be safe. But in any battle someone has to charge forward and take the arrows, and it looks like John Delaney is that guy. The only question is whether he will be first in, first out.

And somewhere Larry Hogan is breathing a sigh of relief. I’ve thought all along Hogan was most vulnerable to a Delaney challenge given their similar backgrounds, but it appears John has more ambition than to just be governor.

The betrayal

You know, since the events that led to the formation and rise of the TEA Party the Republican Party has promised to be our savior if only given the chance. After they successfully won the messaging battle over Obamacare in 2009-10 – aided by the ham-fisted, cynical fashion it was rammed through Congress and onto Barack Obama’s desk – the GOP won a smashing electoral victory that flipped the House just two years after the second of two successive wave elections convinced many political pundits we were on the verge of another decades-long run of Democratic dominance in Washington. While that success took a pause in 2012, perhaps because the Republicans nominated the originator of state-supported health insurance in Mitt Romney to face Barack Obama, the actual implementation of Obamacare beginning in 2014 resulted in yet another midterm electoral shellacking for the Democrats that November, costing them control of the Senate.

All along, Republicans told us these various steps along the way, once they won the House in 2010. First they whined that they only had one-half of one-third of the government, which sufficed as a campaign plank until 2014, when they won the Senate. Once they won the Senate, they actually passed a bill repealing Obamacare – of course, it was vetoed by Barack Obama and the votes weren’t there for an override. So now they needed the White House and then, once and for all, we could be rid of Obamacare.

July 26, 2017. The Senate has its chance to pass a nearly “clean” Obamacare repeal bill, with a majority of Republicans in the body. There’s no question such a bill would sail through the House and we have a nominally Republican president in Donald Trump who would be for repealing Obamacare – although he wanted to replace it, too. It just has to get through the Senate, and yet – it did not. Seven Republicans joined all 48 Democrats (as one would expect) in turning their back on the people who elected them.

So who’s in this Hall of Shame? Well, it’s mainly the usual suspects: Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nevada), John McCain (Arizona), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Rob Portman (Ohio). With the exception of Maine – where Trump won one of the state’s two Congressional districts (for one electoral vote) but lost overall – all these states went GOP in the last election, yet their Senators sided with the Democrats. And as President Trump noted, “Any senator who votes against repeal and replace is telling America that they are fine with the ObamaCare nightmare, and I predict they’ll have a lot of problems.” Yet only Heller faces the voters in 2018 – McCain, Murkowski, and Portman were just re-elected and the other three aren’t up until 2020.

The question now is how GOP loyalists are going to spin and explain this one away. To be quite honest, I think people have known for many moons that the Republicans were selling the voters a bill of goods but if you can’t keep your caucus together on something that’s been a fundamental promise for seven years then it’s clear even the fig leaf is gone. Despite their high-minded rhetoric, the GOP is now just as much the party of big government as the Democrats are. Now it’s just a question of which side gets the spoils.

And now where do those who believe in limited government go? They are now political orphans because the Republican Party just showed they aren’t willing to stand by those principles when push comes to shove.

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