How much will it cost? (Part one of a multi-part series)

July 18, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on How much will it cost? (Part one of a multi-part series) 

I know, I know, you want Tawes coverage. Look for it tomorrow or Friday.

Since Ben Jealous won the Democrat Party nomination for Maryland’s top job, the progressives who have already seen his campaign as a chance to put their dreams into action on the state level are beside themselves with giddiness about the prospect of a state that borders Washington, D.C. being set up as a contrast to the relative austerity of one President Donald J. Trump.

But skittish voters may have been turned off by a Department of Legislative Services report (as reported by the Baltimore Sun) that claimed Ben’s single-payer health scheme could cost the state as much as $24 billion a year – astounding when you consider Maryland’s annual state operating budget runs about $44 billion. It would become the single largest line-item on the budget overnight and (of course) necessitate significant tax increases.

The story, however, neatly coincides with the question I’m sure I’m not alone in asking: how much is the Jealous agenda going to cost?

Well, I can’t give you an exact answer. But what I can do is study his platform, point by point, and give as good of an estimate as possible. And when you say, “Michael, all politicians promise to spend taxpayer money when they pledge to ‘invest’ in whatever item they think will get them the most votes,” I would say yes, you are correct – but Ben Jealous pledges to do it in spades.

If you go to his issues page, you will find Jealous has laid out a wide-ranging agenda of several issues:

  • Education
  • Medicare-For-All
  • Criminal Justice
  • Ending The Student Debt Crisis
  • Police Reform
  • Great Cities: A Vision For Maryland’s Future
  • Opioid Crisis
  • Make It In Maryland: Building A More Inclusive, Thriving Economy
  • Civil Rights
  • Immigration
  • Environment
  • Seniors

On many of these, Ben goes beyond the standard one-paragraph blurb and lays out fairly detailed plans – although they are often lacking in financial estimates. So today I’m going to start laying out my thoughts on what this agenda may cost taxpayers, and I’m going to begin with Education and the related subject Ending the Student Debt Crisis.

As a baseline figure, bear in mind that the most recent budget adopted by the state (for FY2019, which began at the start of this month) has the state of Maryland spending $14.72 billion between education and higher education, for a total of 33% of the budget. K-12 gets $8.099 billion and $6.621 billion goes to higher education. (The total budget, by the way, is $44.416 billion, compared to $42.142 billion just two years ago.)

Here’s the first concrete proposal in the Jealous education plan, increasing teacher salaries:

In the Kirwan Commission’s preliminary report, there’s a recommendation to bring Maryland’s average teacher salary to the average of Massachusetts and New Jersey’s – two of the country’s top performing states – by the 2024-2025 school year. Ben Jealous is committed to raising teacher pay by 29% between now and the 2024-2025 school year – the exact same percent increase as was accomplished in the seven years following the Thornton Commission.

To determine the cost of this salary increase plan, we need to find the difference between the natural cost of increasing salaries under the current Thornton funding formula and a new salary plan.

In an attached chart, Jealous details the cost over the five year period from FY2020 – FY2024. Total cost to taxpayers: $1.8953 billion over five years, with FY2024 alone contributing a $658.5 million increase. This is above and beyond raises already baked into the budget totaling $2.1845 billion.

Jealous, however, says he has a way to pay for this – but it depends on Maryland voters.

Late in this year’s session, a Senate bill was passed that placed an amendment to the Maryland Constitution on this year’s ballot. The “Fix The Fund” Act mandates that gambling revenue become a supplement to educational spending rather than a component of it. The Fiscal Note for the bill notes that revenues for education are expected to increase by $1.2678 billion from FY2020 – FY 2023. Unfortunately, that money doesn’t replace what would have gone into the General Fund: as the Fiscal Note continues, “Designating the use of a portion of (Education Trust Fund) monies for supplemental funding requires general fund expenditures to increase by an equal amount.” However, this money is folded into the expenditure from above, yet Jealous admits to being short in year 5. His solution? Enacting a combined reporting tax on Maryland businesses.

On this particular point of combined reporting, Jealous references an unsuccessful bill from 2017 that would have enacted this, with the carrot to business of eliminating filing fees for a business or entity with 10 or fewer employees. That may not necessarily be in Ben’s plan, so I am going to make two assumptions here: one. that the revenue for a five year period of FY2020-24 is similar to that which would have occurred FY2018-22 as covered by that particular Fiscal Note and that the filing fee waiver would be eliminated. Given those two items (and the fact business taxes aren’t paid by businesses but by consumers) I will say this adds $150.8 million over five years – but that still leaves Jealous short, and WAY short if “Fix The Fund” doesn’t pass – however, you can bet your bottom dollar the teacher’s unions will be out in full force to pass that one come November. (The odds of the Fix The Fund Act passing are very good, though, as Maryland voters seldom turn down a referendum. But it won’t be a fix, just more tax on the poor.)

And the fun is just beginning…next up is this gem:

In the 2018 legislative session, two former educators in the General Assembly proposed legislation to guarantee all education support professionals a living wage: at least $31,500 a year in lower cost of living counties and at least $36,000 a year in higher cost of living counties. It would be phased in starting in FY2020 and fully funded from FY2024 onward.

Based on the Fiscal Note for this bill, over three years (FY2022-24) the total cost to taxpayers will be $527 million.

Another biggie comes up a page or so later:

As governor, Ben Jealous will provide the funding necessary for full-day, universal pre-kindergarten and he will pay for it through the tax revenue generated by legalizing and taxing marijuana for adult use.

In a report entitled A Comprehensive Analysis of Prekindergarten in Maryland, the authors noted that at the time (early 2016) the state spent $132.9 million to educate the 35.58% of 4-year-olds who are already enrolled. Doing the math for 100% of 4-year-olds means an annual expenditure for pre-K on a state level would be a total annual cost to taxpayers of $375.3 million, and over a five-year period the cost would edge close to $2 billion.

Yet again, it’s likely that revenues will not keep pace. Obviously laws vary from state to state, but a good fit for projecting Maryland’s success might be Colorado because of its similar population. In 2017 Colorado generated $223 million in revenue from the sale of marijuana, while Washington state (which is somewhat larger) added $314 million. It’s not likely that Maryland would be able to sustain its revenue stream to the extent needed, meaning money would need to come from the general fund.

Next up is an unknown amount of money to address this seeming disparity:

We need to reimagine what schools provide in our low-income neighborhoods by making the school building the central hub for community services – counseling, job training, meals, mentoring programs, and health clinics. As part of the new funding formula, the state should add a concentrated wealth factor that drives more funding to schools with 40% or more of their student population coming from low-income families.

To me, this is akin to the current Geographic Cost of Education Index that cost taxpayers $141.6 million this fiscal year (page 47 here). But that money is a starting point because, in order for schools to take on all these functions, there is an unknown capital improvement cost involved. I suspect when all is said and done this could easily exceed $2 billion in additional spending after five years.

Lastly on the K-12 education front, there is this idea:

Providing children with a critical mass of mental health services requires an investment in personnel like inschool social workers and psychologists, but it also requires fully incorporating these service providers into the broader academic ecosystem, and providing other key members of that ecosystem with the training they need to help our mental health service providers.

So let’s begin with this:

By providing the child with case-management, the social worker can ensure a student is connected with an in-school counselor (and) has up-to-date treatment from an inschool psychologist.

(…)

… it is important that enough counselors be hired to maintain a low student-to-counselor ratio…

(…)

Every school should have at least one on-site psychologist, who is focused fully on addressing the mental health needs of the student body.

(…)

As governor, Ben Jealous will work with key stakeholders like the MSEA to increase staffing levels for service providers like social workers and school psychologists…

Yes, because we know the MSEA teacher’s union is oh-so-careful with taxpayer dollars.

The information is a little out-of-date, so I’m extrapolating the 1.449 schools that Maryland was claimed to have a half-decade ago to 1,500 for ease of math. So let’s make some more assumptions: three new social workers, one new psychologist, and three counselors (to maintain the low ratio) are added per school – that is a total of 10,500 staff statewide. And they’re not going to come cheap: on average a school psychologist makes almost $60,000 per year, a school counselor checks in at almost $49,000 a year, and school social workers earn just over $48,000 a year. Therefore, the additional per-school staffing expenditure (just for salary, mind you, and not including benefits) would be $351,000 a year. Multiply that by 1,500 public schools in the state and the total annual cost to taxpayers is $216.2 million.

Once you’ve paid for K-12, you still have the aspect of “free” college.

As governor, Jealous will make community college free for every Marylander… The guarantee of free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate. This program will be paid for by increasing the state income tax for the top 1% of earners ($500,000+ annually) by 1%, and savings from significantly reducing Maryland’s levels of incarceration.

Now this is a little bit confusing because I thought we already had that, based on a bill passed last year. And the question is whether Ben means every dollar of the average $4,324 (see here) for tuition and fees or whether it’s an expansion of the “last-dollar” program where prospective students have to exhaust other avenues of aid first (although, in all honesty, the taxpayer pays most of it anyway.) Now multiply that by a projected 46,592 full-time students and just a high-end estimate of Ben’s scheme comes out to be $201.5 million every year. And since it’s “free” we should probably assume a total annual cost to taxpayers of $300 million because more will take advantage and (naturally) colleges will increase their tuition and fees to get in on this largess.

Yet as they say on the home shopping networks…but wait, there’s more.

As governor, Jealous will create a MD Careers program that partners with industry experts to determine growing job sectors, and incentivize education and training in these sectors by covering any education costs associated with entering the fields. Special priority will be given to service professionals like first responders, organized labor sectors like educators, and healthcare workers who can help drive down the cost of quality treatment for our population in the years ahead. The guarantee of free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate who commits to staying in Maryland for five years after they receive their degree.

This program will be paid for with a percentage of the savings generated by significant reductions to Maryland’s incarceration levels. This funding stream will stretch even further when one considers that training for in-demand sectors like construction rely on apprenticeships and technical training that are less cost intensive than traditional 4-year degrees.

As governor, Jealous will extend this guarantee to students pursuing graduate degrees at Maryland’s public institutions. This will be paid for by increasing Maryland’s cigarette tax, which is currently less than the cigarette tax charged by regional competitors such as D.C., Pennsylvania, and New York.

I love how he pointed out “organized labor sectors.” Like we need more of that.

So we come to the “savings” part. Jealous proposes to save our dollars by emptying out the jails.

Ben Jealous will reduce Maryland’s prison population by 30%. He will do so by ending returns to prison for technical violations, downgrading drug possession, expanding opportunities to earn parole, and investing in reentry programs. Doing so will create savings of up to $660 million.

Obviously the amount spent on free tuition is going to depend on the shape of the program, but more predictable is the increase in the cigarette tax. Maryland currently has a $2 per pack cigarette tax, which indeed is less than D.C. ($2.50), Pennsylvania ($2.60) and New York (tops in the nation at $4.35.) It’s even a dime less than Delaware’s and New Jersey comes in at $2.70 as well. (And then you have Virginia, second lowest in the country at 30 cents a pack.) Nor should we forget about the millionaire’s tax I cited above.

So let’s speculate that the cigarette tax of $2 a pack increases to $3, which would peg us just above the surrounding jurisdictions aside from Virginia and West Virginia. For FY2017 (the latest figures available) the cigarette tax raised $348.8 million. So a 50% increase in the tax brings a 50% increase in revenue, right?

Well, not quite. For taxes, there is almost always a lag between the rate of increase and the revenue increase. I’m thinking the difference in this case will be about 30%, although your mileage may vary. Total cost to taxpayers (particularly the poor and working class): $244.2 million a year.

On the other side of the scale is the tax on the “top 1%.” It’s harder to judge the impact based on a lack of parameters, but the “millionaire’s tax” of a decade ago reportedly brought in $120 million. I think with inflation, and the fact income taxes bring in $9 billion a year, that a 2% increase in revenue is a realistic estimate because there aren’t that many who would qualify. Total cost to taxpayers: roughly $180 million a year.

After that, there is another highly variable promise:

The guarantee of debt-free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate.

Jealous will offer this debt free path to graduation in the form of a state-financed work study program that pays students the cost of their tuition each year, including for public graduate schools. A significant part of this restructuring will also come from driving down the overhead costs associated with higher education: expensive book purchases, inflated rents, and non-essentials like luxurious gyms.

The obvious question is how many students would be eligible and how much of the tuition they will pay. Pennsylvania has a similar program where students are allowed to make $10,000 a year toward their college funding. If this is the case, for every 100 students that are accepted there’s a million dollars that has to come from somewhere, oftentimes from the college itself.

Jealous also desires the state get into the student loan refinancing business:

10 states currently offer refinancing programs for student loans. It is long past time that Maryland embrace its role as a national leader, and join these states in easing the often onerous financial burden that student loans pose for Marylanders.

Assuming the state can find the cash reserves, this is actually very inexpensive in comparison. A state study found other states run these programs for less than one million dollars a year, Total cost to taxpayers over five years: $5 million.

Lastly, Jealous wants to correct the supposed shortchanging of HBCUs in the state:

As governor, Jealous will reallocate future state-based funding streams for higher education to provide restorative funding that equals the historic underfunding of HBCUs in Maryland. Moreover, ongoing funding will be fixed to prevent this disparity in the years ahead. Jealous will also end the practice of allowing other public institutions to offer duplicative programs to those traditionally offered by HBCUs.

(…)

Under Jealous’ leadership, the state will begin to fund immediate infrastructure improvements at HBCUs using a percentage of the over $1 billion in general obligation bonds that it issues each year. Beyond improving the physical infrastructure of HBCU facilities, it will allow HBCUs to reallocate existing infrastructure spending to other programmatic investments.

It’s been claimed (by a minority member of the Maryland Senate) that HBCUs have been shortchanged by $2 billion over the years. I don’t think Jealous would try to eradicate that in four years, but over eight it would be a doable thing, simply increasing the $1 billion the state annually puts on its capital funding credit card by 25%. Over four years, this would be $1 billion in additional debt which needs to be paid eventually.

So, to total all this up: just for education at all levels, Ben is looking to ladle on at least $6.743 billion to the budget. In order to fill this gap, we will have to endure the adoption of an ill-considered amendment to the Maryland Constitution, the legalization and taxation of marijuana, increases in business taxes, cigarette taxes and income taxes for certain brackets, the emptying of our jails (with no telling how that will affect the crime rate), and squeezing people out of a legitimate business, refinancing student loans.

And that, my friends, is just for starters.

Now allow me to say that Ben seems like a nice, personable guy. I spoke to him a little bit at Tawes about a concern I had unrelated to this series, and he seemed receptive to help out. But in order to be informed, it should be known that his “free stuff” is going to come at a cost people may not be willing to pay.

Odds and ends number 86

As I culled the vast number of possible items I had in my e-mail box down to a manageable few for this latest excursion into stuff I can handle in anything from a couple sentences to a couple paragraphs, I took a break – then promptly forgot I’d started this and let it go for several weeks. Sheesh. So, anyway…

The election season is here, and it’s blatantly obvious that the Maryland Republican Party feels local Senator Jim Mathias has a vulnerable hold on his position. One recent objection was the vote to both pass and overturn Governor Hogan’s veto on House Bill 1783.

If you want a cure for insomnia you could do worse than reading all 53 pages of the House bill. But what I found interesting is the vast difference between the amended House version and the Senate version that never made it past the hearing stage. The bills were intended to codify the recommendations of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, but the House bill added two new wrinkles: eliminating the input of the Board of Public Works by upgrading the current Interagency Committee on School Construction to a commission and adding to it four new members (two appointed by the governor and two by the leaders of the General Assembly) and – more importantly for the fate of the bill – adding an appropriation to prevent it being taken to referendum. All those amendments came from the Democrat majority in the House Appropriations Committee, which meant that bill was put on greased skids and the other locked in a desk drawer.

Yet there wasn’t a Democrat who objected to this, and that’s why we have government as we do. It also proved once again that Senator Mathias is good at doing what the other side of the Bay wants – obviously since I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project since the term Mathias was first elected to serve in I know this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

But the fair question to ask is whether anyone else is listening? Results of a recent poll tended to be a little disheartening to me. According to the Maryland Public Policy Institute:

Marylanders support spending more money on school safety and career and technical education, according to a new statewide poll. But they are less enthusiastic about expanding pre-kindergarten or paying teachers more if those initiatives mean higher taxes or reductions in other services.

(…)

Broad majorities oppose paying more in income or property taxes to expand pre-K. Voters are against making cuts to roads and transportation (70% total less likely), public safety (70% total less likely), or children’s health insurance (77% total less likely) to afford expansion of pre-k education.

They should be opposing universal pre-K in general. Far from the days when kindergarten was optional and getting through high school provided a complete enough education to prosper in life, we are now working on taking children as young as 4 or even late 3 years old and providing schooling at state expense for 16 to 17 years – pre-K, K through 12, and two years of community college. This would be more palatable if public schools weren’t simply Common Core-based indoctrination centers, but as the quality of education declines quantity doesn’t make up for it.

For example, a real public school education would teach critical thinking, exhibited in these facts about offshore drilling and steps the industry is taking to make it safer. After all, logic would dictate they would want to recover as much product they invested in extracting as possible – spills benefit no one.

Interestingly enough, my friends at the Capital Research Center have also embedded a dollop of common sense into the energy argument.

This goes with the four-part series that explains the pitfalls of so-called “renewable” energy – you know, the types that are such a smashing success that the state has to mandate their use in order to maintain a climate that, frankly, we have no idea is the optimal, normal one anyway. (For example, in the last millennium or so we’ve had instances where vineyards extended north into Greenland – hence, its name – and times when New England had measurable snow into June due to the natural cause of a volcano eruption.)

Solar and wind may work on a dwelling level, but they’re not reliable enough for long-term use until storage capacity catches up. The series also does a good job of explaining the issues with the erratic production of solar and wind energy and the effect on the power grid.

On another front, the summer driving season is here and we were cautioned that prices would increase by the American Petroleum Institute back in April. Oddly enough, a passage in that API piece echoed something I wrote a few weeks later for The Patriot Post:

But while it isn’t as much of a factor on the supply side, OPEC can still be a price driver. In this case, both Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia have put aside their foreign policy differences and enforced an 18-month-long production cut between themselves – a slowdown that has eliminated the supply glut (and low prices) we enjoyed over the last few years. And since those two nations are the second- and third-largest producers of crude oil (trailing only the U.S.), their coalition significantly influences the market.

Finally, I wanted to go north of the border and talk about 2020. (No, not THAT far north – I meant Delaware.)

Since Joe Biden has nothing better to do these days and needs to keep his name in the pipeline for contributions, he’s organized his own PAC called American Possibilities. (He’s also doing a book tour that comes to Wilmington June 10, but that’s not important for this story.)

A few weeks ago his American Possibilities PAC announced its first set of candidates, and so far they’re uninspiring garden-variety Democrats. Supposedly they were suggested by AP members, but we have two incumbent Senators in vulnerable seats (Tammy Baldwin and Jon Tester both represent states that went to Donald Trump), current freshman Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida (another Trump state), and challengers Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania and Andy Kim and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey.

As of this writing, all are still in contention; however, this comes with caveats. Baldwin and Tester are unopposed in their upcoming primaries for Senate seats, Houlahan and Kim are unopposed for nomination as well, and Murphy has token opposition. The one race that will test Biden’s “pull” is the NJ-11 race, where Sherrill is part of a five-person race on the Democratic side to replace retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a GOP moderate. All three House challengers Biden is backing are trying for GOP seats, as a matter of fact – no insurgents here. We’ll see in November if he fails.

Shifting sides on the political pendulum, here’s some good political news from our friends at the Constitution Party:

We received great news this week! The Constitution Party effort to gain ballot access in North Carolina exceeded the required number of registered voter signatures to qualify for ballot access in 2018 and 2020.

To do this they needed 11,925 valid signatures in a timeframe that stretched about five months – so far they have over 16,000 total signatures and 12,537 have been declared valid (at least until the NCGOP sues to deny them access because it will be deemed to hurt their chances – see the Ohio Libertarian Party cases for examples of this.) If that development is avoided, it will be the first time the Constitution Party has had ballot access in the state.

Honestly, I believe the two “major” parties should be made to live with the same petitioning for access standards the minor parties do. If they are that popular then it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Once the 2018-22 cycle gets underway, perhaps the same thing should be tried in Maryland.

Lastly is a housekeeping note: in updating my Election 2018 widget, I’ve decided to eliminate for the time being races that are unopposed and focus on the primary races only. So you’ll notice it’s a bit shorter.

After seven weeks of interim, now you know the truth: writing delayed is not writing denied.

41st annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

July 19, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on 41st annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text 

For some reason the vibe seemed a little different to me this time around – maybe it’s because this is the first one I’ve attended as an erstwhile political participant. But at 10:00 I rolled into town and got my ticket (this was a first, too – more on that in a bit) so I started looking around while I was there. Immediately I found there was still one constant.

Bruce Bereano probably brings half the people down there, and I’m not kidding. If you consider that the political people are a significant draw to this festival, and his massive tent is annually chock-full of Annapolis movers and shakers, one has to wonder just what would be left if he ever pulled up stakes. Would they have a crowd like this?

But the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce (as event sponsor) has its own ideas on VIP treatment.

For an additional $15 fee on top of the ticket price, you could get access to this tent with its amenities. It was an answer to some of the corporate tents that were doing this anyway. Many of those were still doing their thing.

Most of the people were already in line at 11:30 waiting on lunch. While the ticket says 12, if you wait until then you’re waiting for food.

But let’s face it: the media doesn’t really come here to see food lines, although that’s where I found this crew from Channel 47, WMDT-TV.

No, the real draw for this edition was the potential 2018 candidates. Until the last couple cycles, odd-numbered years were somewhat sleepy because the campaigns weren’t really underway yet, while the even-numbered years saw Tawes fall on a date less than two months before the primary. That’s now flipped on its head because the primary was moved up to June, so this is the last Tawes before the 2018 primary. So several contenders were out scouring for votes – none, I would say, moreso than this guy.

State Senator Jim Mathias (standing, in the gray shirt) has a huge target on his back that’s far larger than the logo on the front. He is the one Democrat Senator on the Eastern Shore, and the GOP sees his seat as a prime candidate for taking over next year as they need to flip five Senate seats to assure themselves the numbers to sustain Larry Hogan’s vetoes.

To that end, Mathias was the one candidate who had his own supporter tent. To me, that was interesting because most of the local Democrats that I know spent their time milling around the Mathias tent (wearing their own gray shirts) and didn’t hang out at the “regular” Democrat party tent.

Just a couple spots over from Mathias was the Somerset GOP tent.

Now you’ll notice I said Somerset. For whatever reason, Wicomico’s Republicans chose not to participate this year and there were few of my former cohorts to be found. Since that’s how I used to get my tickets, I had to make alternate arrangements this time. That’s not to say there weren’t Wicomico County Republicans there such as County Executive Bob Culver, Judge Matt Maciarello, Salisbury City Councilman Muir Boda, and many others – just not the Central Committee.

Closer to their usual back corner spot were the Democrats.

Their focus seemed to be more on the larger races, as even their state chair Kathleen Matthews was there. Here she’s speaking with Crisfield mayor Kim Lawson.

(Lawson has a smart-aleck sense of humor I can appreciate. When a photographer introduced herself as being from the Sun, he thanked her for making it a little cooler here than back home. I got it right away, she looked befuddled.)

The small posse you may have noticed in the original photo of the Democrats’ tent belonged to gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross, who eventually caught up to them at the tent.

I asked Ross what he would do differently than the current governor, and he said he would focus more on education. One thing I agreed with him on was something he called a Democratic “failure” – focusing too much on preparing kids for college when some aren’t college material and would be better suited for vocational training. But he limits himself in the palette of school improvement and choice to public and charter schools, whereas I believe money should follow the child regardless. Ross also has this pie-in-the-sky scheme about government credit to working moms for child care which I may not quite be grasping, but one assumes that all moms want to work. I think some may feel they have to work but would rather be stay-at-home moms.

The thing that stuck out at me was his saying that when two people disagree, at least one of them is thinking. You be the judge of who ponders more.

But the Democrats’ field for the top spot is getting so crowded that I got about five steps from talking to Ross and saw State Senator Richard Madaleno, another candidate.

Having done the monoblogue Accountability Project for a decade now, I pretty much know where Madaleno stands on issues – but I was handed a palm card anyway. Indeed, he’s running as a “progressive.”

And then there’s this guy. I didn’t realize he was talking to the state chair Matthews at the time, but I wonder if she was begging him to get in the governor’s race or stay out of it. I suspect state Comptroller Peter Franchot is probably happy where he is.

Franchot is probably happy because he works so well with this guy, the undisputed star of the show.

This turned out to be a pretty cool photo because I was standing in just the right spot to see his car swoop around the corner, come to a halt, and watch the trooper open the door for Governor Hogan to emerge.

If you follow me on social media you already saw this one.

Say what you will, and Lord knows I don’t agree with him on everything: but Governor Larry Hogan was treated like a rock star at this gathering, to a point where he could barely make it 50 yards in a half-hour.

This would have been of no use.

I said my quick hello to Larry moments before WBOC grabbed him for an interview, and that’s fine with me.

Here are two ladies who were probably glad he was there, too.

In her usual pink was State Senator Addie Eckardt, while Delegate Mary Beth Carozza was in her campaign blue. And since Carozza told me she treasures my observations, here are a couple.

First of all, it’s obvious that Jim Mathias is running scared because why else would he spend the big money on a tent and dozens of shirts for the volunteers that showed up (plus others who may have asked)? Not that he doesn’t have a lot of money – the special interests across the bridge make sure of that – but Mathias has to realize there is some disconnect between his rhetoric and his voting record. And he’s not prepping for a major challenge from Ed Tinus.

A second observation is that most of the Mathias signs I saw driving down there were flanked by signs for Sheree Sample-Hughes, and you don’t do that for a Delegate seat you were unopposed for the first time you ran. Something tells me Sheree has a higher goal in mind, but it may not one worth pursuing unless the circumstances were right.

One thing I found out from the Democrat chair Matthews is that at least two people are in the running against Andy Harris and were there. I didn’t get to speak with Michael Pullen, but I did get to chat for a bit with Allison Galbraith.

So when I asked her what she would do differently than Andy Harris, the basic response was what wouldn’t she do differently? We talked a little bit about defense, entitlements, and health care. Now she is against government waste (as am I) but I think my idea of waste is somewhat different. She also claimed to have saved some sum of money based on her previous work, but I reminded her she would be one of 435 and there seems to be a “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” mentality in Congress. (I should have asked her who she would pattern herself after as a Congresswoman.)

But in the end, I was hot, sweaty, sunburned, and dog tired. I will say, though, that despite the rancor that seems to be pervasive in our world these days when it comes to politics most of the people in Crisfield got along just fine. I think I was very bipartisan in speaking since I talked to many GOP friends and met some of these Democrat candidates I didn’t know so I had an idea who they were. And who knows? I haven’t checked yet, but I may be on the Sun‘s website – that same photographer Lawson joked with took my photo later while I was asking Ross questions and got my info.

By the time we do this next year, we will know who’s running for office and the campaigning will be more serious. So will the eating for the 50% that don’t care about politics and never wander by Bereano’s massive setup. As long as the Tawes event can cater to both they should be okay.

Earning my presidential vote: education


This is the first of what will be about a weeklong series on the five candidates I am considering for President.

Regarding education (and the other subjects henceforth) these are the actions and philosophies I am looking for, in five bullet points or less:

  • The sunsetting of the Department of Education by the end of the first term. Education is not a federal concern, but properly decided at the state and local levels.
  • Returning the college student loan program to individual banks, allowing the student a broader array of choices for paying for education.
  • Taking the bully pulpit on vocational education, homeschooling, and other non-traditional paths to success. College is not for everyone.
  • Encouraging states to drop the Common Core program in favor of tried and true methods of teaching, with fewer days of testing.
  • Being an advocate for school choice and “money follows the child.”

Here are what the candidates think on the subject. Most often the information is gleaned from their website, but I tried to cite when it came from another source. As a reminder, education is worth a maximum of five points on my 100-point scale.

Castle: “Education is a big problem. If I were president, the Federal Government would not be using the education system to corrupt our children. I want education to be local.

Every year we spend more money, and every year our kids seem to get dumber. Third World countries are beating us in math and science education, and it just gets worse and worse. We aren’t going to be able to change much if we don’t change how we educate our children.”

Constitution is silent on education, so it should be a state and local issue per Tenth Amendment. Would disband the Department of Education.

Would be in favor of Constitutional education in state and local schools.

Hedges: Free college for all, supported by taxpayers. “The Hedges/Bayes administration would assist each state in providing free higher education to all of its qualified citizens.”

10th Amendment makes states responsible for education. Schools should emphasize science, math, citizenship, history, and English. (party platform)

Would fund retraining for displaced workers, paid for via tariff. (party platform)

Hoefling: “The government schools have become God-free and gun-free. So, they are now, quite predictably, spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical free-fire zones. If you have children there, find a way, make any sacrifice necessary, to get them out of there before they are led to the slaughter. What could possibly be more important?”

“What do children need? Before anything else, they need love. They need truth. They need protection from the evil that is in this world. Can government bureaucrats give them any of those things? Not really. As George Washington rightfully said, ‘government is FORCE.’ It’s not love. It’s not caring. Only parents, the ones who were entrusted by God with the duty to raise up their children to be good, decent human beings and honest, patriotic citizens, can provide that, with the help of a responsible, caring community, in cooperation with good teachers. That’s the primary reason I continue to advocate for T.L.C., which is True Local Control, of our schools. The financial, governmental reasons for these reforms are very real as well, but the primary motivator for me is the restoration of the love, the nurture, and the protection of our posterity.” (from Iowa governor campaign, 2014)

Johnson: Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld believe nothing is more important to our future as a country than educating our next generations.

Governor Gary Johnson worked tirelessly as governor to have a more substantive discussion about the best way to provide a good education for our children.

He did so while working with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and despite fierce opposition from powerful special interests. Knowing full well that the establishment would resist calls for change, he nevertheless advocated a universally available program for school choice. Competition, he believes, will make our public and private educational institutions better.

Most importantly, Governor Johnson believes that state and local governments should have more control over education policy. Decisions that affect our children should be made closer to home, not by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C. That is why he believes we should eliminate the federal Department of Education. Common Core and other attempts to impose national standards and requirements on local schools are costly, overly bureaucratic, and actually compromise our ability to provide our children with a good education.

Johnson and Weld believe that the key to restoring education excellence in the U.S. lies in innovation, freedom, and flexibility that Washington, D.C. cannot provide. (campaign website)

McMullin: The strength of the economy tomorrow depends on the strength of education today. In our high-tech economy, finding a good job depends more and more on having a good education. While our country has some of the world’s greatest universities, millions of students finish school with weak reading and math skills. Going to college keeps getting more and more expensive, while drop out rates are rising.

Evan McMullin believes that by empowering families and communities we can make sure that every child in America has access to a high-quality education. Mandates from Washington are not the way to reform education. The Obama administration’s heavy-handed effort to impose Common Core standards has demonstrated the need for a different approach. Meanwhile, federal loan programs are driving up the cost of a college education while poorly designed regulations prevent the emergence of new options for students.

American students have benefited greatly from a tradition of local control and decentralization for schools. However, there continue to be many poorly performing schools even in cities with very high levels of per-student funding. For example, New York City spends more than $20,000 per student, while Boston and Baltimore spend $15,000.

In struggling school systems, charter schools have become a powerful engine of innovation because they are not weighed down by the intrusive regulations that burden so many traditional public schools. Not every charter school succeeds, but charters as a whole are finally giving meaningful choices to parents whose children were once condemned to failing institutions. Still, access to charter schools is insufficient; right now, there are more than one million children on charter school waiting lists.

Students who do not have access to charters should have the option of vouchers that enable them to attend schools further away. By showing that schools cannot afford to take their students for granted, these alternatives should foster a healthy competition between schools to provide the best education.

Without great teachers, there can be no great schools. The teaching profession continues to attract hundreds of thousands of the most committed, caring, and talented college graduates. Schools should not hesitate to reward teachers on the basis of merit, in order to ensure that they stay in public schools. There also needs to be greater accountability for the small number of teachers who fail in the classroom or even abuse their students. Regrettably, teachers unions continue to protect these few failures instead of focusing on what is best for students.

Schools also need high standards to ensure that every student gets a first-class education. Common Core began as a state-driven effort raise the bar for K-12 education, yet the Obama administration used to federal funds to compel implementation. Rather than accept criticism, the administration sought to brand Common Core opponents as ignorant or worse. A believer in empowering both local and state government, Evan opposes Common Core and the heavy-handed effort to force it on hesitant communities.

Finally, Evan is a strong supporter of the right to educate one’s children at home. He would encourage states to make sure that home-schooled students are able to participate in school sports and electives so that all students are able to benefit from these activities.

Going to college or getting advanced training after high school is the surest path to a good job and a middle-class lifestyle. However, misguided federal policies are only increasing the number of students who leave college without a degree while being saddled with heavy debts.

By handing out more loans, grants, and credits in response to rising tuition, the federal government signals to universities that Washington will pick up the tab for runaway cost growth. Even worse, the government doesn’t hold universities accountable for students’ graduation rates or ability to repay their loans. To make sure that universities have skin in the game, they should have to repay a portion of the debt incurred by students who fail to graduate or default on their loans. To ensure that interests rates remain reasonable, the government has tied them to the yield of 10-year Treasury notes while capping the maximum possible rate at 8.25 percent, a policy that Evan supports.

Prospective students also deserve to know more about the institutions to which they apply; however, a 2008 law prohibits the federal government from collecting the information these students need. For example, students should be able to compare the graduation rates, post-college earnings, and loan default rates for different programs at a wide range of universities.

Prospective students also deserve more and better choices in the field of post-secondary education. In addition to two- and four-year colleges, students should have access to high-quality technical schools, online programs, and work-based learning in the private sector. However, the current model of accreditation makes it extremely difficult for students at non-traditional programs to qualify for federal aid. This prevents competition, which means that traditional colleges and universities don’t face any consequences for cost growth or poor student outcomes.

The principles of education reform are the same for K-12 and higher education. Students and families should have more choices. Schools should have high standards and be accountable for students’ performance. State and local governments should lead the way, while intrusive and misguided federal interventions should be rolled back. That is Evan McMullin’s vision for an education system that prepares American students to succeed in the economy of the future. (campaign website)

**********

Darrell Castle seems to have the right idea; however, I don’t have as many specifics as I would like to get from him. I think I can trust him to do much of what I would like to see being done, but until it’s in writing I think I can only give him partial credit. 3 points.

There is a direct contradiction with Jim Hedges, who advocates free college while his overall party platform dictates a return to the states. For that reason, I cannot give him any points. 0 points.

As time goes on and I hear more from Tom Hoefling, I think I would have more to go on than I have to date. One problem is that most of the educational philosophy I’ve found is from his run for Iowa governor, which is a completely different scope. I think he would be similar to Castle, but for now I can only give him partial credit compared to Darrell. 2 points.

Gary Johnson has a very good philosophy on education insofar as eliminating federal involvement, and adds the school choice element. I will give him 3.5 points.

While he brings up a lot of good points, the problem I have with Evan McMullin is that he still advocates for federal-based solutions. Regardless of how you reform things at the federal level, the fact that a federal level remains means we will be combating the same issues in 20 years once bureaucracy grows back. 1 point.

Next topic will be the Second Amendment.

The right idea but with the wrong approach

September 4, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The right idea but with the wrong approach 

I find the controversy over Governor Hogan’s executive order mandating that Maryland public schools begin classes after Labor Day and wrap up by the following June 15 to be a good opportunity for commentary, so I decided to add my couple pennies.

First of all, this isn’t a new idea. In 2015 and 2016 legislation was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to create a similar mandate. As proof of how Annapolis works, the 2015 versions only got House and Senate hearings but the 2016 versions picked up the remaining local House delegation as sponsors (only Delegates Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto were local co-sponsors in 2015) and got a Senate committee vote. (It failed on a 5-5 tie, with one of the Republicans on the committee being excused. The other two voted in favor.) There was a chance this legislation may have made it through in 2017, but apparently Hogan was unwilling to take the risk. He took the opportunity to make a news event at a perfect time – when most local districts were already a week or two into school, Larry announced this from the Ocean City boardwalk on a pleasant beach day – and showed he was willing to stand up for one of his principles, that being improving opportunities for small business. (At a minimum, with Hogan’s edict kids are off for 11 weeks for summer vacation.)

In reality, what Hogan has done is shift the calendar backward by about a week: for example, Wicomico County public school kids had their last day of school June 9 and returned August 29 and 30. But the thought process is that families are more likely to take a vacation in July and August than they are in June, so because Ocean City is a great tourist attraction the state should follow Worcester County’s lead and begin school after Labor Day. (They simply went an extra week into June, concluding on June 17 this year.)

Granted, our family has enjoyed a post-Labor Day start for a number of years since parochial schools have more calendar flexibility: our child began her summer vacation after classes ended June 3 and returns on Tuesday the 6th. Growing up, I seem to recall the city schools I attended began after Labor Day and went into June but the rural school I graduated from began classes in late August and was done by Memorial Day. (We had a longer Labor Day weekend, though, because our county fair runs that weekend and the Tuesday after Labor Day was Junior Fair Day. Thirty-odd years later, it still is.) The point is that each of these localities knows what works best, so I can understand the objection from those who advocate local control of school schedules. And talk about strange bedfellows: I’m sure many of those praising Hogan’s statewide mandate locally are also those who have fought for local control of our Board of Education – after at least ten years of trying, we finally have a chance for local control (as opposed to appointments by the Governor) over our Board of Education through a referendum this November. (I recommend a vote for the fully-elected Option 2 on Question A.)

So I agree with the objections on those grounds, even though I personally think a post-Labor Day start is a good idea based on the school calendar typically used. (If I truly had my way, though, we would adopt a 45-15 style plan so that summer break is somewhat shorter and kids spend less time relearning what they forgot over the break.) What I don’t see as productive are those who whine about how this would affect preparation for particular tests – that shouldn’t be the overall goal of education. Obviously they would be the first to blame the calendar (and by extension, Larry Hogan) if test scores went down. But Hogan’s not alienating a group that was squarely in his corner anyway, as the teachers’ unions almost reflexively endorse Democrats, including his 2014 opponent, and mislead Marylanders about education spending. It’s increased with each Hogan budget – just not enough to fund every desire the teachers have.

Come January, it will be interesting to see if the Democrats attempt to rescind this executive order through legislative means, daring Hogan to veto it so they can override the veto and hand him a political loss a year out from the election. While most Marylanders are fine with the change, the Democrats are beholden to the one political group that seems to object and those special interests tend to call the tune for the General Assembly majority.

Yet the idea that the state feels the need to dictate an opening and closing date to local school districts is just another way they are exerting control over the counties. We object when they tell us how to do our local planning, so perhaps as a makeup for this change our governor needs to rescind the PlanMaryland regime in Annapolis.

The case against Trump (part 1)

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m one of those Republicans who occupies the #NeverTrump camp.

Before I go any further, let me explain some basic math to you: 0+0 = 0. My not voting for Trump does not add one to Hillary Clinton’s column because I’m not voting for her, either. By the theory some on the Trump bandwagon are using to criticize #NeverTrump, my not voting for Hillary should add one to his total. But it won’t. I will vote for someone who I feel is the most qualified on the ballot, rather than the lesser of two searing-hot evils.

This election was supposed to be the repudiation of the Obama big-government, strongly executive agenda. Unfortunately, unless the GOP comes to its senses next week, frees the delegates, and comes up with a good conservative candidate, they will sink like the Titanic in November.

But I don’t come by my distaste for Trump lightly. While he has some redeeming qualities that could conceivably come into play on the slim chance he’s elected, there is the sense in my mind that he takes the ideal of limited government and wrests it from the domain of the GOP, leaving both major parties as two sides of the same worthless coin.

It’s likely you recall that I based my original endorsement (of Bobby Jindal, who is backing Trump but has been quiet about it) on the field’s positions on ten items, with a sliding scale of importance assigned to each:

  • Education
  • Second Amendment
  • Energy
  • Social Issues
  • Trade and job creation
  • Taxation
  • Immigration
  • Foreign Policy
  • Entitlements
  • Role of Government

So I went back and reminded myself. To avoid this being overly long, I’m doing the first five in this part with part 2 hosting the second half.

On education, Trump claims to be for local control and against Common Core, which is an orthodox Republican view. But even though he would “cut it way, way, way down” he doesn’t support the complete elimination of the Department of Education. He does have a good point in reversing the trend toward the government being a student loan lender, pushing it back to the banks and other lending institutions where it traditionally rested.

The problem with his approach is that it doesn’t go far enough. Other candidates vowed to finish the job Ronald Reagan vowed to start by eliminating the Department of Education. To me, the federal government has no place on education – states and localities should set standards and run their school systems as they see fit. But any attempt to wean local school districts off the crack of federal funding will be met with howls of protest and Trump fails to impress me as someone who will follow through with these promises. After all, Trump did say education was one of the top three functions of government. “The government can lead it, but it should be privately done.” I’m confused, too.

Trump seems to be a Second Amendment guy as he did get the NRA endorsement. But the chairman of Gun Owners of America was not as quick to praise The Donald based on his past statements. And again, the idea is not just to enforce the laws on the books but get rid of some of the most egregious, let alone get to “shall not be infringed.” But wouldn’t someone who is on the no-fly list in error be having their rights infringed? This observer asks the question.

And then we have the subject of energy. Now Trump went to North Dakota – a major oil producing state – and promoted his “America First” energy plan. In it, he promised “Any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped.” But when he was in Iowa campaigning a few months earlier he threw his support behind a wasteful ethanol subsidy and carveout. So which is it? And would he allow Sarah Palin to sunset the Department of Energy?

On to social issues: Trump says he is pro-life and would defund Planned Parenthood, but how will he restore a “culture of life”? We don’t have that specific. Nor will be stand against the troubling idea of leaving people free to use the bathroom they feel like using – this despite claiming gay marriage should be left to the states – or is it the “law of the land“? (By that same token, so is abortion as it was based on a SCOTUS decision, too.)

So do you get the idea so far that I trust him about as far as I can throw him based on mixed messages and inconsistent policies? Once again, the idea here in the upcoming term was to reverse the tide of bigger, more intrusive government – but I don’t detect the same sort of impetus from Trump that I received from the candidates I favored. And to me, what would make America great again is for us to return to being good – at least in terms of re-adopting the Judeo-Christian values we’ve gotten away from after ousting God from the public square. I don’t see “Two Corinthians” but three marriages Trump as being a spiritual leader in the manner of a Reagan or George W. Bush, even insofar as being decent human beings.

And lastly for this evening, I’d like to talk about Trump on trade and job creation. Since history isn’t taught well, we tend to believe the Great Depression was the end result of the 1929 stock market crash. But there’s a convincing argument made that rural America took the biggest hit thanks to the effects of the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930. Granted, the world is a lot different and more interconnected now, but American farmers produce a lot of exports (as do chicken growers locally, as the products in demand overseas complement nicely with what we consume here.) Certainly a renegotiation of our current and proposed trade pacts is in order, but would Trump walk away from the table or just angle for any deal? And would he be against Trade Promotion Authority like he was as a candidate when he’s the president negotiating the pact? I doubt it.

And given the amount of union rank-and-file backing he seems to have, it’s no wonder he hasn’t come out more strongly for right-to-work laws, barely mentioning it during the campaign.

To many, Trump’s views on these subjects are on the outside of the range that’s acceptable to the standard GOP. And are they to the right of Hillary Clinton? For the most part, yes – but that assumes that he’s a man of his word and his business dealings suggest otherwise.

So in part 2 I will discuss the more important five issues on my scaling system, and this is where Trump really begins to sound like Hillary.

The case for homeschooling

May 18, 2016 · Posted in Book Reviews, Cathy Keim · Comments Off on The case for homeschooling 

By Cathy Keim

In the long ago year of 1988, my husband and I made the decision to homeschool our children. I had previously made up my mind that I would teach my children to read figuring that if they could read, then they would be able to handle whatever came at them in school. Even in those faraway times, we had serious concerns about what and how things were being taught in the government schools. Our plan progressed to the point that we enrolled our first child into a small church school where the parents all participated in the school in various professional or volunteer positions. Since I had a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, I was given the sixth grade science class four days a week. This meant that my younger children had to go into the nursery manned by other volunteer parents.

I had taught our oldest child to read at age four, which I told the teachers when they were testing him for grade placement. They scoffed at me and said that he had just memorized the books from me reading them to him. They whisked him away to test him and came back to inform me with great wonder that he could read.

That should have tipped me off that trouble lay ahead as I was openly discounted from having any knowledge of my own child since I was just a parent. They wanted to push him ahead to the first grade class, but I didn’t want him to be with older children. They allowed him to enter kindergarten and I began teaching sixth grade science.

Within days, my sweet little son came home from school swaggering and bossing around his younger sisters. They were beneath him now that he was a big guy that went to school! I was astonished at the change. Next I found out that the kindergarten teacher was having my son read to the other children while she took care of other matters.

I was diligently preparing science lessons and science experiments to wow my sixth graders. Instead, I found that they had a pecking order firmly in place as to who was the smartest student and who was the dumbest student and they were not interested in learning for the joy of learning.

I was blown away that as early as sixth grade this very small class of students being taught by loving Christian teachers and parents was jaded and uninterested in learning for the sake of learning. I began to question why I was depositing my little ones in a nursery while I taught uninterested students and my own son was getting an inflated ego, but not learning much.

That was the end of our schooling experience. We became homeschoolers and never looked back. For many years, I did not encourage parents to homeschool. I figured it was a personal choice and I knew how much time and effort it took, so I didn’t push it on people. If anyone asked, I would wax lyrical on the many benefits of homeschooling. The benefits were many and well worth the hard work that I put into the homeschooling, but I didn’t push people to join me.

Times have changed though. If my husband and I thought the schools were bad in 1988, we had no idea what was coming down the pike. Now, whenever anybody asks, I am quick to tell them that homeschooling is the best choice. If they cannot homeschool, then their next option is a private Christian school. I would not send my child to a government school, not for the magnet program, the sports team, or the IB program. The indoctrination, the mediocrity, and the violence make it impossible for me to advise anybody to go to a government school.

My husband and I wanted our children to love to learn and to know how to find the information they needed to learn whatever they needed to learn. In the lower grades I taught to completion (that was how I described it). It meant that they didn’t move ahead until they were rock solid on the foundational knowledge. It is hard to do algebra if you don’t know your basic math facts. You can’t write well if you don’t know grammar.

I could write on and on about this, but I don’t have to since my friend, Sam Sorbo, just wrote They’re Your Kids: My Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate. With her usual incisive wit and to the point plain speaking she makes the case for homeschooling. I have written a few pieces on the ills of Common Core, but Sam puts the information at your fingertips in a quick-to-read, but devastating review of our government schools. Then she picks you up and puts your feet on the path to success as she encourages you to join her and her family on the daily adventure that is homeschooling.

I laughed out loud when she told about her son becoming the swaggering big man after a short time at school. I had witnessed the same unhappy transformation in my own son back in 1988. Happily, I can join Sam in telling you that your children can come home and shed these unwanted changes.

Sam explains how you can pick up your homeschool and travel for work or vacations without missing a beat. We found this particularly helpful since my husband would have conferences in wonderful locations like Boston, San Francisco, or Sanibel Island. We would study up on what museums, zoos, aquariums, historical sites, or geological wonders were going to be available at the conference location.

Each family will have their own unique homeschool style based on their interests and their needs. Parents, you will know your children and the bonds will be deeper between your children since they will not be separated from you and from each other for most of their waking hours. When you identify a problem area for your children, you will deal with it because they are with you and it must be done. Too many parents send their children off to let the teacher fix the problem.

This book is like hearing myself talk as Sam hits one point after another that I dealt with as a homeschooling mom. She addresses the insecurity that I believe all homeschooling moms feel from time to time (or let’s be honest: daily!). When you ship your children out each day, you can blame the school or the teacher or their peers when things go wrong. When you are the teacher, you feel that it all is on your head. The truth of the matter is that as parents we are responsible for our children’s education, so whether you homeschool or get somebody else to educate your child, you as the parent are still where the buck stops.

As Sam puts it: “Let’s not fool ourselves: homework is home school, just with more pressure, later in the day, when everyone’s tired, hungry, and grouchy.” So why not skip outsourcing the most important job you can ever have and bring it home. Read Sam’s book and if you have questions, just drop me a comment. You can start your own family’s adventure.

Here is a clip of Sam’s interview on Fox and Friends about her book.

The academy run amok (part 2)

November 19, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Education, Politics · Comments Off on The academy run amok (part 2) 

By Cathy Keim

It seems ridiculous to even be addressing oversensitive students at expensive, overrated colleges when Paris has just endured brutal terrorist attacks. One would think that the reality shock treatment of these events would stop the complaining, but that is not going to happen.

President Obama has led the way with his racially divisive, politically motivated statements since he was elected. Rather than leading a united America, he has taken every opportunity to drive wedges deeper between our different ethnic groups.

I return to the words of Victor Davis Hanson, who explores the president’s actions:

Race largely determines whether Obama comments on pending criminal cases such as those of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown or keeps silent about such cases as the murder of Kate Steinle. If Professor Henry Louis Gates had been white and the arresting officer black, there would have been no beer summit. Obama would have kept mum if Trayvon Martin had been white or had successfully killed George Zimmerman and survived their fight — or had been shot in a fight by another African-American. A typical weekend bloodbath in Chicago, Baltimore, or Detroit earns no presidential editorialization.

Of course, President Obama is a product of our Ivy League university system, so he is just regurgitating what he learned there. Here is where the real danger lies. The students that seem so ridiculous to those of us that function in the real world, graduate and go on to get jobs at leftist think tanks, in the government, or remain in academia. They do not enter the real world and grow up. Rather they stay in “safe spaces” and spew out their warped views on all of us by the megaphone they obtain by the media coverage of the think tanks, by the regulations they produce in the government, or the young students they infect as they teach.

David French points out that:

…perhaps the most pernicious aspect of the entire morally bankrupt system is its balkanizing effect on our fragile, multiethnic democracy. Universities are creating an entire class of people who are race/gender/sex-obsessed, viewing themselves less as Americans than as advocates for their particular ethnic or cultural tribe. The result is endless racial conflict, constant rage over sex and gender, and numerous innocent, resentful casualties of the never-ending quest for utopia. Is it any wonder that college students now face a “mental-health crisis?

This fixation on sex and gender issues has led to the additional danger of being accused of date rape. Every student must be aware that they may be accused of a sex crime and their life ruined in the ensuing melee. It seems that at most colleges it is guilty until proven innocent when it comes to date rape.

I think that David French hits the nail on the head when he states:

Conservative parents have often reduced themselves to expecting that their kids will waste their college years — either wildly drunk, wildly liberal, or both — and then hope and pray that they muddle through, earn their degree, and get a job so that “real life” will “straighten them out.” Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t, but parents rarely seem to question the decision to feed their own children to the lawless, malicious beast. We do what we’re expected. We do what we must. And we deliver our kids to the very institutions that seek to destroy us.

Conservatives possess the power of the federal purse. Conservatives possess the power of the state purse in most states. Millions of conservative parents help guide (and pay for) their kids’ college choices. Given this reality, helplessness and impotence are a choice. It’s time for a cultural and political war against the intellectual and legal corruption of the university Left.

Although I am addressing the university system here, I would add that the same holds true for the government schools K-12. Parents need to stop feeding their children to the beast. Pull your children out of the government schools. We have lost control of the system and it is not working for the good of our children. Parents need to exit the system completely and let it collapse.

The university system needs to be examined closely and you need to know your child before you let them go to university. If your child has no clear purpose, then do not send them to be indoctrinated or to party at huge expense. They can drink themselves silly for much less while working at an entry-level position. When they realize that is not how they want to spend their life, at least they won’t be buried in school loans.

The current craze for everybody needing a college degree is due to the government forcing companies to stop giving aptitude tests. Businesses used to have tests that they gave to job-seekers that would help them find who had the skills to fill the position. When the federal government decided that was unfair, businesses used a college diploma as a way to weed out their applicants, thus spawning the expensive race for a diploma which has resulted in many students attending college that neither have the interest nor the desire to really be there.

If one major corporation would eliminate the degree requirement for employment, the floodgates would open and others would follow. The diplomas in certain areas have become so worthless in predicting whether a person can write or read at a college level that it is time to remove this obstacle to employment.

For many jobs some on-the-job technical training or a few courses at the community college would better prepare the applicant with the skills needed. If your child wants to go into a field that needs extensive training such as engineering or the sciences, then you can still avoid the expense and drama of the party school college environment by taking courses online, or utilizing a community college for the first two years. Then when the student is older and has proven that he is ready, you can send them off to a carefully selected institution of higher learning. There are still a few out there that have not succumbed to the insanity, but do due diligence to find them and don’t depend on out-of-date information since the inexorable push is to the left.

This is a long war on our country and our children’s education is the battlefield. You must wake up and realize that the government school system is not what it was when you were a child. You cannot undo over the supper table in an hour what is being force-fed into your child for hours each day and when they leave for university, the phone call once a week is no match for the powerful persuasion of professors and peers.

Your duty as a parent is to train and equip them to face the onslaught once they are ready. Do not send them out to do battle until they are prepared.

The academy run amok (part 1)

November 18, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Education, Politics · 1 Comment 

By Cathy Keim

“What did it profit that I read the greatest human ideas of the so-called ‘liberal arts’ in the books I got hold of. My thinking was enslaved to corrupt desires, so what difference did it make that I could read and understand these books? I delighted in learning, but I had no divine context for what my mind picked up. I had no foundation to discern what is true or certain. I was standing with my back to the light, so that the things that should be illuminated were in shadow, even though they were in front of my face.” ― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

Last week I attended a talk on marriage by Msg. Charles Pope. His message was excellent, but one thought that he tossed out at the very end in response to a worried parent’s question about their child keeping the faith in college really hit me. He opined that going to college might not be the best choice anymore because the college campus has become a cesspool. (In the context of marriage, the hook up culture certainly qualifies as a cesspool that is damaging many young peoples’ futures emotionally.) But he further clarified his comment by pointing out that St. Augustine observed that one cannot learn truth when one’s mind is consumed with lust. Thus, Msg. Pope concluded that the current depraved moral state of universities might render them unsuitable places for a young person to study with any hope of actually learning what is good and true.

Victor Davis Hanson writes that:

The truth is that the university is a dysfunctional institution. Free speech no longer exists. Trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and safe zones have created a climate of fear and bullying on campus. Affirmative action criteria emulate the abhorrent “one-drop” rule of the Old Confederacy. Campus identity is defined by race and gender, but never class. Annual hikes in tuition exceed the rate of inflation. Faculty are paid widely asymmetrical compensation for instruction of the identical class, depending on archaic institutions like tenure and seniority. Non-teaching personnel have soared. Graduate PhD programs have proliferated, even as jobs for their graduates have shrunk. Undergraduate university graduation rates have declined. College graduates are assumed to earn high-paying jobs; but the dismal rate of bachelor’s degrees translating into employment commensurate with staggering college costs and student-loan debt would prompt federal investigations of fraud and false advertising in any other institution.”

The next day I received an email from a friend with the link to James O’Keefe’s undercover videos of college officials destroying copies of the Constitution because a “student” felt offended by it.

I was rather perplexed as to why James O’Keefe would have chosen that stunt for his newest expose, but next we have the outrageous behavior at Mizzou.

Then I received the following piece from a young acquaintance about PC behavior run amok on modern liberal arts college campuses.

Liberal arts schools all over the country have apparently gone insane. At Claremont McKenna College, a young woman has been publicly shamed, plastered all over the internet, and had to resign her position as junior class president not for verbally or physically attacking or belittling someone, not for bandying about racial slurs, and not even for personally wearing a Halloween costume deemed “offensive,” “racist,” or “culturally appropriative” by the People Who Decide Such Things. No, no – she committed the thought crime of (horror of horrors!) posing for a picture with two people whose costumes could be considered crass and stereotypical. And so, for the insubstantial, subjective “crime” of hurting people’s feelings, even though she herself was not wearing a costume that could be offensive to anyone aside from those who enjoy decent music, this girl gets her photo posted and re-posted, gets to be the subject of mockery and derision around the world, and is forced to resign her position because the Student Body President believes she can no longer “effectively represent students in her class.” Remember, though, that while CMC has become a decidedly “unsafe space” for her, she is the “aggressor” and villain here.

Meanwhile, at Yale, that shining paragon of intellectualism, two professors are on the mob-rule chopping block for an even more intellectual and intangible thought crime: the opinion – conveyed in a measured, respectful email – that maybe, just maybe, the annual PC clamor over Halloween costumes is overblown. This “hateful” email triggered an immediate call for these professors to resign their positions, and even resulted in some students claiming that they could not bear to live on Yale’s campus anymore because they felt “unsafe.” Just watch this video and remember: the meek, bespectacled professor standing calmly in a crowd of students is the villain; the “brave” young woman hurling abuse and profanity in his face, while gesturing wildly in a way that seems to indicate she is a hair-trigger away from physically attacking him, is a social justice warrior, and, therefore, our hero.

I’d like to ask a question: let’s theoretically postulate that these individuals, this CMC student and these Yale professors, have, as their detractors seem to be assuming, the worst of intentions. Let’s accept, for the sake of argument, that all three are inveterate racists, but change none of the other facts in these scenarios. What is an appropriate “punishment” for their behavior? Should they be fired from their jobs? Lose their scholarships? Be kicked out of school? Should their insensitive photos and meekly worded (er, I mean, “hateful”) emails follow them for the rest of their lives, affecting their employment prospects, their dating lives, and everything else they do for the rest of forever? Does relatively inoffensive or even meek, non-confrontational “racism” justify the permanently life-altering consequences this kind of public shaming entails? I’d honestly like to know, because the more I see internet lynch mobs tear apart their prey, the more it astounds me that, although the Modern Illiberal Left has disavowed things like the death penalty and demanded second, third, and fourth chances for all manner of criminality, thought crime is seemingly the one offense for which the punishment must be absolute and for which there is no mercy.

Finally, I’d like to end with a reminder that most of the “social justice warriors” who jump into these things seem to forget: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. PC is not an ideology that remains static, and while you might be comfortably ensconced in the “enlightened” crowd right now, how long before the wheel turns and you find that an opinion or two of your own is no longer popular or PC? From my recollection, many of my old college friends who posted the CMC Halloween costume story with positive and socially conscious affirmation, likely have Facebook photos lurking from seven years ago of themselves in costumes and/or situations that, stripped of any context, could make them appear racist, insensitive, or culturally appropriative. I wonder how many of them think on the fact that their own lives could have been irrevocably altered and their reputations destroyed – all for nothing more than a Halloween costume.

The universities have a stranglehold on our young people due to the diploma being required for many jobs and professions. One wonders though if the insanity has reached the tipping point where parents and students will refuse to enslave themselves to outrageous school loan debt in order to attend these cesspools?

Update: Turmoil at CMC continued last Thursday “with the resignation of Dean of Students Mary Spellman, who had angered students with her email to a Latina student saying she would work to serve those who “don’t fit our CMC mold.” Spellman later apologized.” (Emphasis mine.) Dean Spellman’s mistake was to upset the sensitive student that she sought to help by sending an email that was deemed insufficiently politically correct thus outraging the student more.

(Editor’s note: watch for Part 2 tomorrow evening.)

The ticket for job creation

October 4, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Ohio politics, Politics · Comments Off on The ticket for job creation 

When I wrote my brief little synopsis on Friday regarding manufacturing, I noted in my promotion that it made me think of former gubernatorial (and future State Senate) candidate Ron George, for whom the most appealing part of his campaign was the emphasis on bringing industry back to Maryland.  In response Ron wrote:

Your article is spot on. Note also the companies that are taking their manufacturing jobs out of China and bringing them home to many southern and midwest pro business states. Our Maryland midsize cities need it back.

Governor Larry Hogan needs help by voters in these areas pushing representatives and candidates for low taxes for manufacturing at the state and local level. The increase of the number of new workers paying the payroll tax will itself greatly increase state and local revenues. Keep it up Michael Swartz.

So I decided to revise and extend my remarks. Those of you who have read here awhile probably have a good idea about what I’m going to say, but I do have new readers all the time so a refresher is in order.

I have no doubt that Maryland can compete for businesses large and small once they eliminate the mindset that employers are cash cows to be milked dry for revenue and embrace the thought that their main goal is to be profitable. I definitely show my age and home state bias, but the mantra I grew up with under Ohio Gov. James Rhodes was that “profit is not a dirty word in Ohio” and to get there we wanted people to make things, just as this 1966 advertisement in my hometown newspaper states. Those things Rhodes touted a half-century ago are still valid today for attracting industry – low taxes, financial incentives, a well-trained workforce, and easy transportation. Plus aren’t we the land of pleasant living?

In the first case, Maryland can make a splash at the cost of three cents per dollar of state spending by completely eliminating the corporate tax. Even if it were phased out over a two- or three-year period, the fact that progress is being made should vault Maryland higher on those business-friendliness lists those whose business is to attract business refer to.

As for financial incentives, I’m leery about having the state in the investment business because I don’t believe they should pick winners or losers. At this time, though, they already have the Maryland Venture Fund although it’s geared more toward startups.

Supposedly Maryland has the best educational system in the country, although I’m a little skeptical of that claim based on some of the recent graduates I’ve seen. One thing we need to focus more on, though, is the idea that vocational education can be valued as much as college prep. Maybe Johnny and Susie’s parents think otherwise, but even “A” students sometimes show not all high school students are college material.

But people with the aptitude to run machinery, know how to tinker and fix things, and are good with their hands don’t need a degree from State U to succeed – and oftentimes have the advantage of not being thousands in debt. To be perfectly frank, to succeed in my chosen profession of architecture one should not need a college degree if they are willing to spend several years learning the craft from the bottom up as one of my former employers did. Somehow they have picked up the idea that five to six years of college schooling plus a couple years in an intern development program is the only way to create good architects, and that’s simply not so. This is why money should follow the child, so they can explore the maximum number of educational options out there.

Finally, there’s the aspect of transportation. Maryland is a state in a great location, but in our case on the Eastern Shore we have the lousy luck of a large body of water limiting our ground-based options. We can either go north through a tangle of traffic lights and small towns along U.S. 13 north or go south through a different gauntlet of traffic lights and small towns. Of course, any improvement to that situation requires the assistance of Delaware or Virginia.

Yet the alternative of going west remains with a third Bay Bridge span. Environmentalists can stop reading after this sentence because I will give them a stroke over the next paragraph – just pick it back up two grafs down.

To me, the best place for a third span runs between Dorchester and Calvert counties, southwest of Cambridge along Maryland Route 16. Obviously roadway improvements would need to be made, but imagine the ease it would bring for traveling between Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. No longer would it be an arduous three-hour journey to travel perhaps 50 to 60 miles west as the crow flies. Would it go through some environmentally fragile areas? Yes. But I believe the benefits would outweigh the costs.

I know people will complain that bringing industrial development to Maryland in general and the Eastern Shore in particular would ruin the rural lifestyle, but lifestyle is what you make of it. The carrying capacity of the Delmarva Penninsula is probably at least double its population; a number that will increase with advancements in technology. Regardless, we are nowhere near the density of the I-95 corridor and that should remain the case for the foreseeable future.

I’ve often said that if an area doesn’t grow, it dies. I used to use North Dakota as my poster child for this until they got an energy boom and began attracting people seeking work in a lucrative field. While Maryland can get some benefits from doing the same and allowing fracking, perhaps the best way to make their mark is to adopt the old Ohio mantra that profit is indeed not a dirty word and take the bold steps needed to shake its anti-business reputation.

To enjoy the land of pleasant living, you have to be able to make one.

Catching up the stragglers

August 3, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Catching up the stragglers 

As you likely know, we have added two more to the GOP presidential field in the last two weeks: Ohio governor John Kasich and onetime Virginia governor Jim Gilmore. Since I did dossiers on some issues without them, now is the time to get them caught up. I’ll also add these to the original articles.

Let’s begin with education, which was worth 5 points.

Unlike most of his opponents, John Kasich supports Common Core. But he almost makes up for it by being one of the better school choice governors in the country despite some hiccups. The problem is he not only backs Common Core, but doesn’t even accept arguments against it, calling opposition “a runaway internet campaign.” He also is a “very big believer in public education,” and that worries me a bit as well.

Total score for Kasich – 1.6 of 5.

I don’t have a lot yet to go on for Jim Gilmore, but he is against Common Core, for local control of education, and once called for a voucher program for Virginia schools when he was running for governor. So it’s a decent start.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 5.

Now on to the Second Amendment, worth 6:

Once John Kasich supported an assault weapons ban, but he’s been contrite on that front since and the NRA forgave him. He’s been good on concealed carry and expanding gun rights in the state, too. I would place him at about the level Bobby Jindal is at, if only because of the 1994 misstep.

Total score for Kasich – 5.2 of 6.

All I could find for Jim Gilmore so far on the Second Amendment is that he’s a life member of the NRA, was on their Board of Directors, and Virginia gun owners backed him. I suspect he would be fine but has been out of the game awhile.

Total score for Gilmore – 4.0 of 6.

Looking at energy for seven points:

Jim Gilmore seems to be in favor of an “all-of-the-above” energy scheme. While he was more for conservation in his previous runs, I think he understands the impact fracking can make. If the left isn’t too far down on him, though, he must be doing something wrong.

Total score for Gilmore – 3.5 of 7.

Catching up with Walker

July 14, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Catching up with Walker 

Since Scott Walker is joining my presidential sweepstakes already in progress, I need to catch him up with the areas of education and the Second Amendment. So you’ll read them here, but I will also add them in their proper rank in the category at large, since I will come back and refer to it later.

Early on, I really liked Scott Walker and figured he would rank near the top of my choices. That may indeed happen, but how does he fare on these two issues?

I’ll begin with education:

Scott Walker has a mixed record on the important subject of Common Core. He will say he’s against it, but hasn’t gone out of his way to eliminate it in Wisconsin. And while his state has gone farther than most to install a measure of school choice, there are a number of restrictions and only certain families qualify, so it’s not always a case of money following the child.

Like Huckabee and Graham above him, Walker is a strong backer of homeschooling. He also has shown the teachers’ unions he’s the boss, but has been silent on what he would do with the Department of Education and doesn’t speak a great deal about local control. This puts him more squarely in the middle of the pack.

Total score for Walker – 2.5 of 5.

On the Second Amendment:

Like Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush, Scott Walker has loosened the gun restrictions in his state over his time in office. But while he has claimed on separate occasions that he is “a firm defender of the Second Amendment” and is “proud to stand up” for it, I don’t see the forceful advocacy and bully pulpit ability that we need, so he ranks a little below the upper tier.

Total score for Walker – 4.8 of 6.

I’m working on the next segment for later this week, although I’m finding the information is coming in a slightly different format than in the first two parts. Regardless, the hard part is looking for similar information on 15 (soon to be 16 or maybe even 17) candidates. But that’s what you pay me for. (Oh wait, I’m working for free? Call it a labor of love, I guess – although there is a tip jar to rattle.)

Tomorrow, though, I take a break for state politics. See you in Crisfield.

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