DLGWGTW: November 21, 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. 

One response to a take on elections in Virginia and Maryland:

I would say that unaffiliated voters are either staying home or splitting their tickets instead of being strongly GOP as they were 2009-15. Democrats will vote for Democrats for the most part, and Republicans for Republicans – but when it’s 2-to-1 or more that’s a tough row to hoe.

And another from the local news on Democrats. Someone got to talking about redistricting:

Political districts should be drawn by a independent body using strictly a “compact and contiguous” rule. One of the biggest problems we have is that parties draw the lines to suit their interests – in Maryland’s case, Democrats packing the largest number of Republicans by far into one Congressional district so they can more easily win the other seven or making their state legislative districts with a slightly smaller than average population while Republican area districts are larger than average to squeeze an extra three or four seats into their majority.

If Democrats win more state legislatures don’t hold your breath waiting on them to play fair with redistricting.

You saw my take on the Harris town hall meeting, but maybe not the social media response. And here’s my response to the response.

Actually, I knew they were two separate groups because both Talbot Rising and Mike Pullen hail from the Mid-Shore. However, there is an irony in that the groups here who were most vocal in blasting Sheriff Lewis for his remarks are in common cause with Pullen and TR – among them I’m sure I would find few friends of Andy Harris, so I felt pretty safe making the generalization.

If I were to ask: what questions did your friend submit? (You saw the three I submitted.) If they were about Roy Moore, they are not relevant to the First District and he already made a statement. Certainly Andy may rescind his endorsement in due course as things develop.

Now the one I asked that did not get answered was if there was any bill or policy he would sacrifice his seat for (as Democrats did in the wake of Obamacare). I would have liked to hear that one.

You may be surprised to find that in terms of population the Eastern Shore is the majority of Andy’s district. Unfortunately, the way redistricting was done made it a longer and less manageable district but I’m sure he’s aware of this and your turn is coming. Actually I’m glad someone drove 3 hours because I was expecting a line to get in. Turnout was disappointing.

But you have to admit as well that this situation is the inverse of standard state politics – normally the Eastern Shore is ignored and across the bridge gets all the attention. For example, I’d love to see one of our Senators do a town hall here.

And more on the tax cuts in response to Harris challenger Allison Galbraith:

I don’t recall having ever donated to Andy, but on balance the tax cut will be of assistance to me. Not perfect, but worth voting for and it’s a good first step, and we will see what the Senate comes up with. And for those who don’t like the plan, tell me: what would be your alternative?

So I saw a couple responses, one about the tax cuts eventually expiring and chipped in some more,

As we have found out over the years, very little in government is permanent. That’s part of the problem.

Besides, one man’s “giveaway” is another man’s “hey, now I can expand my business” or “maybe we can afford this larger house.” It’s all in the perspective you have.

Truly, the only part of the paycheck I can really control is the wage I receive. I think I work pretty hard for it since I have both a full-time job and clients I write for a few hours a week. So the part that’s taken out are the necessary evils: SS. Medicare, federal/state taxes. To me, the former two are a black hole and the third is spent rather inefficiently. But I can’t control what the arbitrary and capricious IRS, SSA, Medicare, and so forth will do on a given day. They won’t listen to me, they won’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to Allison.

But they will listen when you take their money away and say, “this is, at best, properly a state function. Begone!”

Simply put, I believe we can do better and the key to me is rightsizing government. So when I see a statement that says, “critical programs that the middle class rely on” I know I have some educating to do. The middle class needs most of all to be able to rely on themselves first (after God of course.) Things have a place but they need to be put in their proper order first.

And finally:

“When it comes to Medicaid, Medicare, SS, education funding, etc – I don’t trust the states to deal with it because a failure means leaving people behind. Look at Oklahoma – they’ve got schools that are only in session 4 days a week to save money.”

The beauty of having 50 states in what is supposed to be a federalist system is that people have the option to do as they wish. If people didn’t like Oklahoma’s budgetary priorities they could go someplace with ones they like better. On the other hand, if people don’t like states with high taxes they could go to ones with lower taxes (as they already do.) We have that to an extent now but in a true Constitutional system it would be that way on steroids.

“I don’t want a handout. I want the government to not be the one throwing roadblocks up in my way.”

Same here. But if you have a roadblock thrown up by a state government, it’s easier to lobby at your state capital and if it’s not dealt with to your satisfaction you can go to another state that’s closer to your desires. With Uncle Sam, you’re stuck.

We wrote a Constitution where power that wasn’t specifically delegated to the federal government nor prohibited to it by the states were reserved for the states and the people. I just think we’d be better off following it.

And there are people who will look a gift horse in the mouth insofar as job creation because it’s a company that’s not politically correct.

Not sure why the state and county needed to chip in the $1.4 million in loans if the company is putting up $12 million of their own, but regardless: if the headline said “Baltimore Sun” instead of “Sinclair Broadcast Group” the comments would be 180 degrees different and most of you know it.

If you don’t like the content Sinclair puts out, there’s a simple solution: don’t watch it. Fortunately we don’t have only state-run broadcasting in this republic of ours.

Oh, and by the way, there is no such thing as an “overly conservative” media company.

Similarly, there’s no such thing as an “overly Constitutional” government. That’s what I keep working toward.

Odds and ends number 84

After resurrecting one long-dormant series over the weekend, today we make it two. It hasn’t quite been a year since I did an ‘odds and ends” and there’s not a year’s worth of stuff, but the creative juices are flowing anyway.

Let’s begin with some good news from our national pastime. If you recall, back in July the Shorebirds made headlines for playing the longest game in their 21-season history, spreading out the drama against the Lexington Legends over two days thanks to a storm that broke over the stadium after 20 innings were in the books. It took just one inning the next evening to settle Delmarva’s 7-6 defeat, but the contest was the Fans’ Choice for a MiLBY Award. It had (ironically enough) 21% of the vote among 10 contenders. (Alas, the actual MiLBY went to some other game.)

The other sad part about that story, besides the folks at the Minor League Baseball site misidentifying us as Frederick: it turned out that one inning of baseball would be all that was played that evening as another heavy storm blew through just at scheduled game time. (I remember it well because I was at work.)

The Shorebirds were also a MiLBY bridesmaid in the blooper department with their September “goose delay.

And while Astros-Dodgers didn’t have the same cachet as the Cubs finally breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat last season, the 28 million viewers of Game 7 completed a World Series where it again kicked the NFL’s ass (as it should, since football season doesn’t start until the World Series is over anyway.) And with the erosion of the NFL’s appeal thanks to the anthem protests and – frankly – rather boring games where fundamentals are ignored, the window of NFL dominance may be closing.

Speaking of things that are dominant, a few weeks back I detailed the effort to bring the sanity of right-to-work to Sussex County, Delaware. An update from the Daily Signal detailed some of Big Labor’s reaction when it came up again. And again I respond – having the choice to join the union is better than not having the job at all.

Delaware was also the subject of one of a series of pieces that ran over the summer and fall from my friends at Energy Tomorrow. They cleverly chose a theme for each of the 50 states and the First State’s July piece was on “the beach life in Delaware.” Now what I found most interesting was just how little energy they produce compared to how much they consume, given they have no coal mines and little prospect of fracking or offshore drilling. And I was surprised how little tourism contributes to their state economy given the beach traffic in the summer.

Maryland’s, which came out last month, is quite different, as it has a companion piece about prosthetics. It obviously made sense with Johns Hopkins in the state, but what struck me was the quote included from Governor Larry Hogan. He’s the guy who betrayed the energy industry by needlessly banning fracking in the state. Unfortunately, Larry seems to suffer from the perception that energy companies are solely interested in profit when the industry knows they have to be good neighbors and environmentally responsible, too.

That’s quite all right: he doesn’t need those 22,729 votes in Allegany and Garrett counties when he can have a million liberals around the state say, “oh, Hogan banned fracking” and vote for Ben Jealous or Rushern Baker anyway.

Regularly I receive updates from the good folks at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, which tends to look at state politics in a conservative manner. But I can’t say this particular case is totally conservative or for limited government:

If Maryland lawmakers want to get serious about combating climate change and reducing pollution, they can simply tax the emission of carbon and other pollutants, thereby encouraging lower emissions and greater efficiency. No one likes a new tax, but it is a much cheaper and more effective way to cut pollution and fight climate change than a byzantine policy like the renewables mandate. Besides, revenue from a carbon tax could be used to reduce other taxes and fund other environmental initiatives. Problem is, though a carbon tax would be good for the environment and human health, it wouldn’t funnel money to politicians’ friends in corporate boardrooms and on Wall Street.

Maryland’s renewables standard isn’t about the environment and human health; it’s about money.

The last two sentences are the absolute truth, but the remainder of the excerpt is a case of “be careful what you wish for.” If the state indeed enacted a carbon tax, businesses and residents would waste no time fleeing the state for greener (pun intended) pastures. You can bet your bottom dollar that a carbon tax would be enacted on top of, not in place of, all the other taxes and fees we have.

Now it’s time for a pop quiz. Can you guess who said this?

Soon, our states will be redrawing their Congressional and state legislative district lines. It’s called redistricting, and it will take place in 2021, after the next Census takes place. That may seem far off, but the time to get started on this issue is now.

This is our best chance to eliminate the partisan gerrymandering that has blocked progress on so many of the issues we all care about. Simply put, redistricting has the potential to be a major turning point for our democracy. But we need to be prepared.

Maybe if I give you the next line you’ll have the answer.

That’s where the National Democratic Redistricting Committee comes in. Led by Eric Holder, my former Attorney General, they’re the strategic hub for Democratic activity leading up to redistricting. In partnership with groups like OFA, the NDRC is building the infrastructure Democrats need to ensure a fair outcome.

Our former President is now involved in this fight for a “fair” outcome – “fair” being defined as gerrymandered like Maryland is, I suppose.

To be honest, we won’t ever have truly fair districts until the concept of “majority-minority” districts is eliminated and districts are drawn by a computer program that strictly pays attention to population and boundaries such as county, city, or township lines or even major highways. With the GIS mapping we have now it’s possible to peg population exactly by address.

And if you figure that most people with common interests tend to gather together anyway – particularly in an economic sense – simply paying attention to geography and creating “compact and contiguous” districts should ensure fair representation. To me it’s just as wrong to have an Ohio Ninth Congressional District (where I used to live) that runs like a shoestring along the southern shore of Lake Erie and was created so as to put incumbent Democratic Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur in the same district – Kaptur won that primary – as it is to have a Maryland Third Congressional District that looks like a pterodactyl. When I was growing up, the Ninth basically covered the city of Toledo and its suburbs where we then lived but as the city lost population they had to take territory from the Fifth District that surrounded it at the time. After the 1980 census they decided to follow us and take the eastern half of Fulton County, west of Toledo – much to my chagrin, since my first election was the one Kaptur beat a one-term Republican. (She’s been there that long.) Since then, the Ninth has been pulled dramatically eastward along the lakeshore to the outskirts of Cleveland, connected at one point by a bridge.

Finally, I guess I can go to what one might call the “light-hearted stack of stuff.” Again from MPPI, when it came to the Washington Metro and how to pay for it, this was a tax proposal I could really get behind. I’m just shocked that it would make $200 million a year.

On that scary note we’ll see how long it takes before I get to the next rendition of odds and ends.

A look ahead: 2016 in Maryland

Now that I made my thoughts on the fate of Wicomico County next year known, it’s time to expand the focus to the state as a whole. After the runup to the 2014 campaign and the transition of last year occupied the state over the last two years, it seems that the political class has settled in as we enter the second year of Larry Hogan’s term. His honeymoon was extended to some degree by his cancer diagnosis, but with a clean bill of health I suspect the gloves will be coming off as far as statewide Democrats are concerned. They need to position themselves for both the 2018 state election and, in some cases, the 2016 election as well. The surprise retirement announcement from Senator Barb Mikulski placed several Congressional Democrats into the race to succeed her, with House members Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen leading the charge. Elijah Cummings is also considering the race as well.

Of course, having these vacancies means ambitious state politicians are eyeing a move from Annapolis to Washington. So far five Democrats are considering the move, which in turn could create some vacancies by year’s end as it’s likely some of them emerge victorious. But on a policy note, these Democrats aren’t going to run from the political center so look for a serious turn to the left from the General Assembly this year – particularly if they succeed at overturning some of Larry Hogan’s 2015 vetoes in the opening days of this year’s session.

One place where Hogan can make a difference, though, is on the regulatory front. He doesn’t always need the General Assembly to make progress toward his goal of a more business-competitive Maryland, so look for him to try and do some pruning through his department heads.

With the economy recovering ever-so-slightly and the state addressing the structural deficit to the degree that it ran a small surplus this fiscal year, another bone of contention will be how the state’s budget is set up when it comes out next month. Having reached $40 billion last year, even the $500 million reportedly in surplus only allows the state to increase spending by a little over 1 percent – of course, the Democrats have a wish list twice that large and then some. Being used to the 4 to 5 percent annual budget increases common during the O’Malley era, Democrats consider Hogan’s smaller increases as cuts and that attitude is already in effect as we get ready to see the FY2017 budget.

Conservatives, though, probably aren’t going to see a lot of progress toward cutting the O’Malley excess on other issues. Short of a rejection to Maryland’s 2013 gun law in federal court (not likely), Hogan isn’t going to push very hard to restore Second Amendment rights or bring more school choice to the state. In year one, Hogan hasn’t really used his bully pulpit very much – granted, he was ill and undergoing cancer treatment for a large portion of the year but if you’re expecting Hogan to be another Ronald Reagan you may be disappointed. Besides the toll and fee decreases we were given last year, there’s not been much of a push for overall tax relief either thanks to the continuing structural deficit that Hogan’s predecessors have granted to him.

To the extent that Maryland has a large majority of Democratic voters, perhaps the best a conservative can expect is to slow down the leftward slide into the abyss. Bringing real change to the state is perhaps a multiple-term effort – not just the two Hogan may be fortunate enough to receive, but also with the hope that he paves the way for a more conservative successor. With the exception of one Bob Ehrlich term, the state has shifted leftward more or less continuously for decades so it will take time to undo the damage.

With the national election and the real prospect of conservative change in mind, the Maryland Republican agenda should be one of working the state away from its reliability on Uncle Sam as both employer and provider of funding. Since the Democrats are going to make 2016 about laying some ticking time bombs to go off just in time for them to come save the day in 2018, the GOP needs a plan to defuse them.

Maryland probably won’t make the same kind of news in 2016 as it did in 2015 – given the Baltimore riots and tremendous murder rate, we sure hope not. But the year has a lot of potential for this state, in my opinion more so than we’ve had in a decade. Leadership will be the key: if Larry Hogan emerges as the leader, we should be all right. But Heaven help us if it’s one of those on the loony left.

The drive to be Delaware

August 12, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The drive to be Delaware 

As you can see, the state of Maryland is once again exhibiting its generosity by not charging sales tax this week on clothing and certain other goods. (I took the picture at my local Walmart, actually to send to Kim as a reminder.)

I’ve often advocated for the reduction or elimination of the sales tax – at least for those counties on the Eastern Shore – as a way to compete with nearby Delaware, which charges no sales tax. However, unlike my recent idea of ridding ourselves of the corporate income tax, which raises about $1 billion annually, I realize it would be a lot more difficult for the state to rescind the sales tax entirely. The state expects over $4.4 billion a year from the sales tax – about 11% of revenue – so getting rid of that would be a lot less likely. The sales tax is the third-largest revenue stream for Maryland, behind the individual income tax and the 27% of our revenue we receive from Uncle Sam.

But would it be a bad thing to make the Eastern Shore a tax-free zone? Obviously I can hear from here the wailing and gnashing of teeth from those of you on the other side of the bridge, but when you think about it the chances are pretty good those from the Western Shore have to pay a toll to get over here anyway. So why not give yourselves that break?

In rough terms, the Eastern Shore is 1/10 of the state’s population, so in theory it would cost the state $440 million a year to exempt the Eastern Shore from the sales tax. I’ll assume we do a little better than that given the tourism attraction of Ocean City and several close outlet malls, so call it $500 million. Certainly the state can figure out a way to excise 1% or so from its budget, with the additional income and jobs created for people on this side of the Bay making a significant dent into that perceived loss to the state. That’s borne out in part by what Comptroller Peter Franchot told the Daily Times – lost revenue from exempt items is partially made up by extra non-exempt items purchased. By that same token, the sales tax loss would come back in the form of extra gasoline tax collected, more income tax from increased employment, and other revenue from enhanced economic activity.

We’ve tried to exempt ourselves from the sales tax increases before, but all those General Assembly members from the other side of the Bay want us to pay our fair share – never mind we are already taxed, regulated, and dictated to death over here. We carved out certain parts of the state to pay a “rain tax” so why not go the other way and allow some counties the economic relief?

When Larry Hogan is trying to figure out some of the taxes he can cut to assist hard-working Marylanders, why can’t he do those of us who have to compete with Delaware a favor and make this part of the state a sales tax-free zone? You just might bring some business back from Delaware as a bonus.

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