DLGWGTW: October 1, 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.

My argument regarding federal workers from last week went on:

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

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

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

I’ll start the new stuff with some thoughts on infrastructure, in agreement with a trucker friend regarding the expansion of several highways across the bridge:

“You eliminate congestion by building more and separate roads. That is the only way.”

Very true. For example, imagine if the state had completed I-97 as envisioned to Richmond – then people may have used it as an alternate to I-95. The same would hold true if the feds, Maryland and Delaware would extend the current Delaware Route 1 corridor from I-95 to Dover as a badged spur of I-95 to Salisbury, providing a limited access, 70 mph link across Delaware,

Since many people consider U.S. 13 an alternate route to I-95 to avoid Baltmore and D.C. why not give them better options?

I’ve said this for years, and it still holds true: to succeed this area needs better infrastructure and access for goods to reach larger, more populated markets.

Yes, there was a big National Anthem controversy last Sunday. But my “boycott” of the NFL has been for the last several years because I agree the play has been awful (this coming from a coach.)

I’ve noticed that too. Obviously you can’t throw out the size and speed differences, but a team like the ’72 Dolphins or Lombardi-era Packers would mop up the floor with most of these teams because they played better fundamental football.

Another friend of mine contends that we shouldn’t boycott the NFL for the actions of a few. But if the economic juggernaut that is the NFL went away, there would still be college football, right? I’m not so sure:

Maybe this year, and the next. But as the issues with long-term brain damage percolate more and more, and the big money is no longer to be found at the end of the rainbow for the players, you may find in a decade or so that the college game will begin to wither, too. You’ll lose the FCS and small FBS schools first, but eventually we may be down to a small number of programs.

But the big rivalries like Michigan-Ohio State would go on, right?

Being from Toledo I know the importance of that rivalry. But if parents aren’t letting their kids play football for fear of long-term injury, the pool of talent necessarily will shrink. Unlike other sports, football doesn’t seem to have a foreign pipeline of talent to choose from.

Turning to a more local protest, who knew that chalk could be so controversial?

It’s chalk. People chalk up the sidewalks at 3rd Friday and no one bats an eye. Unfortunately, since there’s no real chance of rain in the forecast some county employee had to take a half-hour to hose it off.

I have some photos that may make for a good post later this week, so stay tuned.

Yet the protests ignore larger local issues, such as job creation, as a letter to the local newspaper pointed out in a backhanded way. But I don’t.

Unfortunately, right now (gas station and convenience store jobs are) where the market is. And while we have a governor who seems to be interested in bringing good-paying jobs – jobs that add value to commodities, not just the same semi-skilled positions we already have too many of – our legislature seems uninterested in assisting him because they cater to the REAL state industry – serving the federal government.

But the best way to stay out of poverty is following rules in this order: finish school, find a job, get married, then have children, Too many people do these things in the wrong order (particularly the last one) and end up working low-wage dead-end jobs.

Now someone did note that the best way to stay out of poverty is for all to work and not have kids, but if everyone did that we’d be extinct in a century or less. So that’s not realistic.

In a similar vein, I had to help a gubernatorial candidate understand things, too.

So look at the map of Maryland. The area around Washington, D.C. is light blue and green while the western panhandle and Eastern Shore are varying shades of orange. But this is deceptive in a way because median income around Washington is so high that it pulls the average way up and makes this area look worse by comparison.

Then consider the current and previous sources of wealth for various regions of the state: in the western panhandle it used to be coal and could have been natural gas had Governor Hogan not been shortsighted enough to ban fracking, which could have increased their score.

As you get closer to Washington, the source of wealth is the American taxpayer, either directly via working for the federal government or indirectly as many companies headquarter there to be closer to that taxpayer-provided manna.

The Baltimore area used to be industrial, but those jobs went away and now they are heavily into services, Some jobs are good and some menial, but too many have no jobs.

Finally, in a crescent around from Carroll County through the Eastern Shore, agriculture is heavy and in our area chicken is king. We have a share of the tourist dollar in season, but the backbone is agriculture.

People who talk about one Maryland are all wet, in my humble opinion.

But it also makes things deceptive in terms of “prosperity.” One can live on the median salary rather well here because housing is inexpensive but struggle mightily in the urban areas where rent is twice as high.

I agree there should be more of a focus on vocational education, though. Not everyone is college material – and I don’t say that in a bad way. Many youth have abilities that won’t reflect on the ACT but will reflect in the real world.

See, I’m bipartisan and can find common ground with people like Alec Ross. It’s hard with some others though. Take tax reform for example.

You know, when I read Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (or pretty much any Democrat, for that matter) talking about taxes it bring to mind the old Beatles song:

“Should five percent appear too small/Be thankful I don’t take it all.”

I remember old Bill Clinton telling us he worked so hard but couldn’t give us a middle class tax cut. But Bush did.

Here, read this and educate yourselves. This is one I can’t claim.

Yet when Andy Harris discusses it, I find a lot of misinformed people who love taxes come out of the woodwork. This one whined about the 10% bracket becoming 12% as a tax on the poor, but leaving out one key fact:

What Ben Frey forgot to mention is that the standard deduction will practically double. So if you had a taxable income of $18,650 as a married couple (the top of the 10% bracket) would you rather pay 10% of that or 12% of $7,350 with the much larger standard deduction ($24,000 vs. $12,700)?

Wanna try again?

Then I added:

Here’s the plan in a nutshell. Yes, it’s more vague than I would prefer but you need to have a starting point and you can make your own decision on it.

Admittedly, Cheryl Everman (a former candidate herself and longtime lefty in these parts) came up with the point that the individual exemption goes as well – and that the plan as presented doesn’t get specific about the child care credit. It’s true, but the plan could still result in savings.

The one weakness with this “family of 4” line of argument is that we don’t know what the child tax credit will be nor the changes to the EITC as they may apply. So your mileage may vary.

But to address the initial argument, the married couple would still benefit because the two individual exemptions only equal $8,100 while the additional standard deduction is $11,300. In other words, they could make more gross income. So instead of creeping into the low end of the 15% bracket, they would fall into the 12% bracket.

And when someone asked for taxpayer input on the new tax code, I gave her mine:

Okay, here’s my rewrite of the tax code:

Sixteenth Amendment: repealed.
Backup withholding: eliminated.
Consumption tax: enacted.
Federal government: rightsized.

Oh, did that lady whine! She got on this whole tangent about paying for stuff, so I had to play bad cop.

Spare me. You obviously have little understanding of the proper role of the various levels (federal, state, and local) of government.

Please avail yourself to two resources: the Constitution, which spells out the role and functions of the federal government, paying particular attention to Article 1, Section 8 and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and the FairTax book, which advocates for a consumption-based tax system as opposed to income-based.

If you get the concepts spelled out therein, you will understand perfectly my succinct answer to the “rewrite of the tax code” question.

The conversation also turned back to health care:

Employers pass the increases in premium along to their employees by increasing their share of the cost.

Those “subsidies” don’t come out of thin air either, because somewhere along the line our taxes will have to edge up to pay for them.

And that “sabotage” you pin on Republicans is thwarting a bailout to the insurance companies. The “risk corridor” concept was fatally flawed to begin with because it assumed the market would be a net equal when instead more and more people demand “free stuff.”

It sounds to me like you just want us to submit to having the government pay for everything, forgetting that the government gets its money from all of us. What was so wrong with fee-for-service anyway?

Give us single-payer and taxes will have to go so high that we will be in a real-life “Atlas Shrugged” although I fear we’re not far from there anyway. (You seem like the type that needs to broaden her horizons and read that book.)

Our Senator Chris Van Hollen joined in the “tax cuts for the rich” budget fun, too.

Let me hit you with this then: if we had a corporate tax rate of zero we would only have a roughly $420 billion budget hole to fill. Why not cut the tax rate and see if it increases revenue because businesses may be inclined to expand if they could keep more of what they make?

Personally I couldn’t care less if the Waltons get a $52 billion tax break because their ancestors took the risk in starting a department store. (If you don’t think it’s a risk, consider how many have failed in the last 30 years.) So whether we have the highest business tax in the world or not, ask yourself how much risk is the government taking by sticking their hand into corporate pockets?

And as for those who argue over whether debt is a Republican or Democrat problem: look in the mirror. The fact is we couldn’t tax our way out of debt given current spending levels without significantly increasing taxes on everyone, and I mean everyone.

If you really want low taxes and a balanced budget, you pretty much have one option: sunset Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Obamacare. Just ask the CBO (page 10 here):

“Today, spending on Social Security and the major health care programs constitutes 54 percent of all federal noninterest spending, more than the average of 37 percent over the past 50 years. If current laws generally stayed the same, that figure would increase to 67 percent by 2047.”

We already have a steeply progressive tax system, so the dirty little secret is that those like Chris Van Hollen are doing their best to make the middle class the lower class and certain elites even more prosperous.

Finally, I promised you last week I’d go into my interaction with a Congressional candidate. One of the Democrat opponents of Andy Harris, Allison Galbraith, was up in arms about the replacement of rules established by a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Now, I’m probably more in tune with the subject than 99% of the population because I’ve written about it several times in the Patriot Post, and the DeVos change was the most recent. So maybe she was sandbagged a bit, but someone has to set people straight.

There were a couple serious flaws in the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter. First of all was lowering the standard of proof to preponderance of evidence from clear and convincing evidence. Second was the restriction in practice for the accused to be able to cross-examine witnesses and in some cases not even know what he was accused of until the time of hearing. (It was also based on a faulty premise of 1 in 5 campus females being victims of sexual assault, which simply doesn’t jibe with crime statistics. But as Betsy DeVos said, one victim is too many. So is one person denied due process.) This is why groups like the American Association of University Professors and American College of Trial Lawyers were urging the rules be revoked.

The biggest problem with the approach in place now is that the maximum punishment for someone who actually raped a co-ed would be expulsion from school, but he could still be loose to commit more rapes.

And while the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter was rescinded, the order specifically states we revert to the previous guidance as a temporary measure while new rules are formulated with input from multiple stakeholders.

When she disputed my dismissal of the “1 in 5” claim I came back.

This is for the education of those reading this thread then. These are the actual numbers as reported by the Justice Department. Bear in mind that 1 in 5 of 1,000 would be 200.

I agree the numbers should be zero, but I also contend that those who are accused should have due process that was missing under the Obama rules. That aspect was important enough that they had to be rescinded – which also should cut down on the hundreds of lawsuits falsely accused people have filed against these schools because of their shoddy practices as prescribed in 2011.

She alerted me to an appendix in the work – which I was aware of – so I had to add a little more.

I did look at that…again, we are talking a variation of 7x here between the reported numbers and “1 in 5” statement.. Biggest flaw in the NISVS is the low response rate, which would be affected by the bias of a person that’s affected being more likely to respond – this may account for a significant part of the difference.

I think Secretary DeVos will come up with fair rules that take all sides into account. It’s also worth noting that some school administrators have announced will continue with the 2011 rules despite the new guidance.

It sounds to me like Allison’s had some experience on this, and I have not – so my response is not as emotional. But the contention, to me, is this: the Obama-era rules gave credence to victims but not the accused and oftentimes those who determined the fate of the accused did so on the barest preponderance of evidence at a “trial” which was more of a one-sided affair. New rules should account for both, or perhaps move the venue to one that’s more proper: a court of law, where there are advocates for victims who are sensitive to their plight and protections for the accused.

A charge of rape is a serious charge, not to be taken lightly. Often at stake is the very continuance of a young man’s education (and let’s face it, the accused is almost always a man.) But if the person is an actual rapist, wouldn’t it be better to get him off the street than just off some college campus, enabling him to victimize someone else?

I had a busy week on the commenting front, so maybe I’ll slow down – or maybe not. As Walter E. Williams would say, I’m pushing back the frontiers of ignorance on social media.

A more agreeable tone?

November 21, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Ohio politics, Politics · Comments Off on A more agreeable tone? 

The election of Donald Trump was a surprise to most pundits, who were expecting Hillary Clinton to win both the popular vote and the Electoral College. But her plans were spoiled when she lost three states she expected would be her “blue firewall” even if she lost in Florida: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Those 46 electoral votes assured her defeat when they accrued to Trump’s column (although Michigan may still switch as a recount is likely required.) Add in a surprisingly lopsided win in Ohio for Trump as well as the expected blowout in Indiana, and the Rust Belt was pretty solidly in Donald Trump’s corner.

Much has been made about the droves of working-class voters that seemingly came out of nowhere to propel Trump over the finish line, and a survey released by the Alliance for American Manufacturing bears this out:

The national survey, conducted by The Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research (firms that poll for Democratic and Republican candidates respectively) found that 85 percent of those surveyed support a national manufacturing strategy. Support for a manufacturing strategy is robust among both Trump voters (89 percent) and Clinton voters (83 percent).

Manufacturing may have been an election-determining issue, as Trump won manufacturing households by 18 points with Clinton winning non-manufacturing households by 4 points.

It comes as no surprise that by more than a two-to-one margin voters believe manufacturing is critical to our future and reject the notion that high-tech or services could take its place.

“The biggest surprise on election night came from the Industrial Heartland,” (AAM President Scott) Paul said. “Manufacturing is the engine that drives the heartland’s economy. The good news is that Trump and Clinton voters alike want to get it back on track.” (Link added.)

Unfortunately, the survey doesn’t cite the evidence ascertaining the voting patterns of manufacturing and non-manufacturing households, but my presumption would be that a “manufacturing” household is one where a family member either currently works in the sector, is retired from it, or was previously in the sector but lost his or her job. Thousands of voters fit in this category: using my native Ohio as an example, Trump did far better overall than Mitt Romney did in key manufacturing centers like Toledo (Lucas County), Lorain (Lorain County), Cleveland (Cuyahoga County), Akron (Summit County), Canton (Stark County), and Youngstown (Mahoning County).

  • Lucas County: Romney 68,100 (33.9%), Trump 74,102 (38.7%)
  • Lorain County: Romney 58,095 (41.9%), Trump 65,346 (47.8%)*
  • Cuyahoga County: Romney 184,475 (30.2%), Trump 179,894 (30.8%)
  • Summit County: Romney 111,001 (41.4%), Trump 109,531 (43.8%)
  • Stark County: Romney 86,958 (49.2%)*, Trump 96,345 (56.4%)*
  • Mahoning County: Romney 41,702 (35.5%), Trump 52,808 (46.8%)

*winner in county.

In total, Trump amassed 27,695 more votes in these industrial counties, and while he only won 2 of the 6, he averaged a 5.4% improvement overall. Having a little residual knowledge of how Ohio politics works, seeing how Trump was close in the initial count was a good sign for him – oftentimes in the urban counties the closer election districts report first (they are more heavily minority) so a Republican almost always starts out behind. It’s a matter of whether they get too far back to reel in the leader as the suburban and rural precincts begin to come in. And like the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the rural areas of Ohio are also an indicator for GOP candidates who need to rack up totals in the 65 to 75 percent range to make up for the losses in urban counties. Trump did this in spades, garnering an astounding 80.7% in Mercer County along the Indiana border – part of a group of adjacent western Ohio counties where over 3 out of 4 voters were Trump backers. (Of the few Ohio counties that went for Hillary Clinton, just one was a non-urban county and that comes with a caveat – Athens County is the home of Ohio University. Somehow, as a Miami graduate, I’m not surprised.)

It would be my guess that the AAM will be much more Trump-friendly than they may have appeared at first glance as a union-backed creation. The President-elect is promising heavy investment in infrastructure (a priority of theirs) and has a view on trade much more in line with the protectionist playbook the group has created.

And certainly I don’t want to say the manufacturing jobs are gone for good; however, those workers who are of a certain age (basically my age or older) may not share in the rebirth of manufacturing like they hope they might, if only because the ship of state which has sailed since the days of NAFTA and the rampant offshoring of the era will be difficult to turn around right away. Not only are trade and infrastructure key factors, but so is reducing the tax burden on American companies. On the other hand, the prospect of punishing American companies that move offshore may hasten their plans and create more headaches in the short run.

Donald Trump won his electoral votes in the Midwest by promising a return to the good times of a half-century ago, when it was possible for a guy to graduate high school and get a job through family or friends with a union shop that would keep him employed for the next forty years or until he decided to take his pension and retire. Those days are a memory. But we can still be a nation that makes stuff, and it would be to our advantage to become that nation as the world becomes a more competitive place.

Odds and ends number 83

November 13, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, Culture and Politics, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Odds and ends number 83 

Subtitled, the post-election edition.

I have a number of items I collected over the last few weeks that I figured I would end up getting to after the election. Well, the election is over so now I can clean out the e-mail box with this handy feature.

Despite Donald Trump’s stated defense of Planned Parenthood (coupled with his vow to defund it) and shaky position on abortion, the head of the pro-life group Created Equal was pleased with the election results and their efforts in securing them.

“Now, we must hold our new president-elect accountable for his promises to defund Planned Parenthood, pass a 20-week ban, and nominate a Constitutionalist to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Created Equal’s Mark Harrington.

Defunding Planned Parenthood will be a battle since Congress controls the purse strings and a Republican majority couldn’t get the job done in this edition of Congress. And as a reminder: they are funded through September 30, 2017 – the end of the federal fiscal year. Passing a 20-week ban and getting a pro-life SCOTUS justice will also be difficult with 48 Democrat Senators, although eight of them may want to keep in mind that Trump won their state and they are up for re-election two years hence. (In 2018 Democrats face the same minefield Republicans did this time: 23 of 33 Senate seats at stake are held by Democrats, along with two “independents” who caucus with the Democrats.) But I suspect the pro-life side will be disappointed with a President Trump; however, I never thought he would be President either so he may shock us all.

Another group angling for a payoff is my old friends at the American Alliance for Manufacturing, who are begging:

President-elect Trump and Congress must come together on much needed investment that will put Americans to work building and repairing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Stronger trade enforcement to address China’s massive overcapacity and a crackdown on countries trying to circumvent U.S. trade laws can boost manufacturing jobs.

Factory workers were more than a prop in this election. Now’s the time to deliver for them.

The signs are there that Trump may be their kind of President: we know he’s more hawkish on trade, and he’s planning on making it possible for up to $1 trillion in private-sector infrastructure investment over the next decade. But it takes two (or more) to tango on trade, so progress on that front may be slow. And the union-backed AAM may not be happy with the infrastructure plan if it doesn’t feature union-friendly rules and prevailing wage regulations. (Maybe this is a good time to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act? I doubt Congress has the guts to.)

But if you thought AAM wanted a tougher stance on trade, this diatribe came from Kevin Kearns, head of the U.S. Business & Industry Council:

Trump’s antagonists (on trade) are Wall Street institutions, multinational corporations, major business organizations, academic economists, editorial boards, business journalists, opinion writers, bloggers, and the generally knowledge-free mainstream media. All are opposed to Trump because they are wedded to a false, outdated “free trade” dogma, which has decimated the working and middle classes.

On Capitol Hill, a minority of Democrats and majority of Republicans are partial to the same free-trade theories. Speaker Paul Ryan admitted as much in his remarks on the election victory, noting that Trump alone had recognized the dire plight of average Americans.

I found it interesting that the LifeZette site has as its editor-in-chief Trump ally (and radio talk show host) Laura Ingraham. But this was the real payoff of the Kearns piece for me:

Trump must impose a Value-Added Tax of 18-20 percent applicable at the border to all imports. Over 150 of our trading partners use such taxes to make American exports pricier in their home markets. We should reciprocate.

So anything we import becomes 18 to 20 percent more expensive? Yeah, that will end well.

Another item in the election hopper was some attempted reform from another guy who I’ve oftentimes cited on my website, Rick Weiland. A “trifecta of reform” his group successfully put on the South Dakota ballot went 1-for-3 the other night. Measures for redistricting reform and non-partisan elections failed, but South Dakota voters narrowly passed a sweeping campaign finance reform package the state’s Attorney General said “may be challenged in court on constitutional grounds.”

Personally, I would have been fine with the two that failed in a broad sense – as a Maryland resident, I know all about partisan gerrymandering and would be interested to see how non-partisan elections pan out. (The duopoly would have a fit, I’m sure.) But this campaign finance reform was a bad idea from the get-go, and it tips the Democrats’ hand on how they would attack the Citizens United decision. One controversial facet of this new law would be a $9 per registered voter annual appropriation to pay for this public financing – such a law in Maryland would be a required annual $35 million appropriation from our General Fund. (The fund Larry Hogan used in his successful 2014 campaign was built with voluntary donations via a checkoff on income tax forms; a checkoff that was dormant for several years but was restored last year.)

And instead of “democracy credits” as this amendment proposed, a better idea would be one I believe Ohio still uses: a tax deduction of up to $50 for political donations. But I’m sure soon a South Dakota court (and maybe beyond) will be ruling on this one.

I also received some free post-election advice from the creators of iVoterGuide, which is an offshoot of a small Christian group called the Heritage Alliance (not to be confused with the Heritage Foundation.)

Pray specifically for the appointment of Godly people as our newly elected President selects his Cabinet and closest advisors.  Pray that the Administration, Senate and House will work together to honor life and liberty as set out in our constitution by our founding fathers.  Pray for ALL elected officials to humble themselves and seek God’s will for our nation.  We need to repent, individually and as a nation, and turn from policies contrary to God’s word.

Pray for unity and peace.  Our country is deeply divided. Christians must truly start loving our neighbors as ourselves so that there can be a spiritual awakening.  Now is not a time to gloat but to turn our hearts continually toward God so we can be examples of His love and work toward reconciliation and unity.  Pray for all nations, as a new stage is being set both nationally and internationally.

I think I can handle that. Oddly enough, this was also a subject of our Bible study prayer group Wednesday – maybe one or more of them is on this e-mail list, too. As for iVoterGuide, what they need is a larger state-level base as Maryland and Delaware aren’t among the handful of states they cover (it’s mostly federal.)

As iVoterGuide‘s executive director Debbie Wuthnow concludes, “we ask you pray about how God wants you to be involved in retaining the freedoms He has so graciously granted us.” I suspect I’m going in the right direction here but one never knows what doors open up.

I was originally going to add some energy-related items to this mix, but I think I will hold them until later this week for a reason which will become apparent. There’s one other subset of items I’m going to have fun with tomorrow – I would consider them odds but not ends. And so it goes.

Compare and contrast: government vs. the private sector

July 30, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Ohio politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Compare and contrast: government vs. the private sector 

A few days ago I mentioned the manufacturing advocates the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) in a post regarding their convention plans. I wasn’t surprised to see they were very pleased with Hillary Clinton’s remarks, including a plan to “pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.” Ah yes, the old “investment” in infrastructure, where taxpayer money will be shoveled to cronies and unions in an effort to build things we may not need or use (like facilities for public transit, bike paths, and so forth) at the artificial “prevailing” wage. Spend five dollars, waste two or three more – they don’t care because it’s all on the credit card anyway.

It sounds to me just like the promises regarding the “stimulus” package from Barack Obama, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Those “shovel-ready” jobs actually turned out to be, among other things, government backstopping certain public-sector jobs that may have been destined for the chopping block. Only a small portion of the over $800 billion spent actually went to infrastructure, but ARRA was sold as an investment in infrastructure. So pardon me if I expect little good to come from Hillary’s plan.

Anyway, last night I read a contention that was more interesting (and realistic) from American Enterprise Institute scholar (as well as professor of economics and finance) Mark J. Perry. Here is the money line:

The bottom line is that America’s abundant and low-cost natural gas and electricity have more than offset higher labor costs in the U.S. and have contributed to the strongest profitability in a generation or more for U.S. manufacturers. Within three years, and possibly even sooner, it will be cheaper for most U.S. companies to manufacture goods for the American market at home, compared to producing those same goods in Asia. (Emphasis mine.)

Of course, that prediction is fraught with peril. We could regulate our way out of the energy boom by continuing to mandate the use of expensive, inefficient renewable energy sources (or, in lieu of that, transfer payments from utility providers), we can maintain the oppressive tax climate that has been one of many reasons companies are choosing to go offshore – any bean counter will tell you it’s better to pay 15% tax than 35% – or actually enact the increasing minimum wage that unfortunately Donald Trump is now supporting. Any or all of these are possible regardless of who wins the Oval Office.

And that’s the shame of it all. Over the course of the nation’s history, we have seen America become a great industrial power only to lose its advantage to upstarts like Japan and China. (Then again, we wrested the title from the British in the 1800s so things are always fluid.) These Asian nations took advantage of newer technology and less expensive labor to attract American manufacturing jobs that were in older, less efficient unionized plants, despite the fact these items would have to shipped back thousands of miles to their primary market.

But here we have the chance to get some of this back, and my fear is that too many people want to keep the status quo in place as a political issue rather than solve the problem. We talk about being a free market insofar as trade is concerned, but I contend that we need to work on freeing our own market:

  • Toss out these federal and state regulations and carveouts that only benefit special interests or large, established competitors trying to corner their respective markets.
  • Encourage the adoption of right-to-work laws so unions are forced to compete and sell the benefits they provide for the cost to workers.
  • Instead of debating whether the minimum wage should be increased or not, we should be debating how quickly we phase it out. The true minimum wage is zero, which is what workers who are tossed out of a job when companies can’t afford the increased labor costs will earn.

In reading the GOP platform (and I’m just going to ignore the Democrats on this one, since they aren’t selling themselves as free-market, limited-government types) I saw some attention paid to these issues, although their approach seems to be more of just controlling growth and pruning around the edges than a wholesale reduction. Needless to say, that platform could be completely ignored by the elected members of the party from Donald Trump on down if the idea of enriching their friends, rather than the supporters of the other side that have engorged themselves over the last eight years, remains in place.

Sadly, over most of the last century it hasn’t really mattered which side was in power because government has grown regardless of who was in charge. (The one exception: the Harding-Coolidge era of the 1920s, when the federal budget was drastically reduced – and annually balanced – after World War I. In a time where we are stuck with Trump, Clinton, or maybe Gary Johnson, what we really needed was a Coolidge. Bobby Jindal was probably the closest we had in the GOP field.)

I began this whole process by talking about infrastructure, and there’s a legitimate need for prudent spending on upgrades where it is appropriate. Sometimes there is a need for a new federal or state facility. But I have also seen how the government uses infrastructure to maintain a cash cow, with my favorite example being the Ohio Turnpike I grew up close by.

You see, the original plan was to eliminate the tolls once the bonds to construct the road were paid off in the 1980s. (This was promised when the highway was built in the early 1950s – my dad remembers them staking it out a few miles from his house.) But then they decided that some new exits were necessary (which they were) so they decided to build those. Then it was adding a third lane in each direction between Youngstown and Toledo (a process still going insofar as I know, since I haven’t been that way in a couple years), then renovating all the rest areas (twice in thirty years, and ditto), and so on and so forth. Forget the promise to remove the tolls once the highway was paid off – they constantly spend money on projects that weren’t within the original scope, perpetuating the agency that runs the Turnpike.

In theory, we could spend money from now until doomsday on government-sponsored projects. Some contractors would benefit, but others would be left out in the cold because there’s a certain procedure required to bid on and win public works contracts. But it wouldn’t necessarily be the best use of our funds – and by that I don’t mean the money in the public till but the money that we earn for our collective pockets. If we really want to get manufacturing going and bring it back to America, we need to maximize their potential for meeting our marketplace. They may make mistakes, but that should be up to the market to pick winners and not the government.

Plans and schemes for jobs

April 23, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Plans and schemes for jobs 

One recurring theme of this site is my interest in the manufacturing sector, both nationally and regionally. I suppose the realization that much of what we buy is supplied by a nation which points missiles at us and holds trillions of our debt made me consider the need to think a little bit more about self-sufficiency.

In the generations of my 78-year-old father and my last living grandparent, who died at the ripe old age of 90, America built things. Many cite Detroit as an example of where we as a nation once were “makin’ Thunderbirds,” but we made a million other consumer products as well, all over the country. And while the Thunderbird hung on through 2005 – as did my late grandfather – many of those other manufacturers long since had abandoned us for greener pastures overseas where things could be made more cheaply and regulations weren’t nearly as strict. The latter had to be the reason that companies could spend huge amounts to ship products across the ocean in order to bring them back to our market – the market where, in many cases, these same products were once made in factories which sat shuttered and dormant.

That’s why I’m glad to see some of our gubernatorial candidates pay attention to this long-neglected sector. In doing some research for this piece, I found that just one on the Democrat side, Doug Gansler, is making an issue out of manufacturing and doing more than simply giving platitudes in addressing it. I must say some of these ideas are worth discussion and adaptation; unfortunately Doug takes the time to pander to a certain crowd in advocating for the self-defeating ideas of a higher minimum wage and additional mandated sick leave – these would only discourage manufacturers and businesses from locating in this state. Gansler doesn’t quite understand the concept of market forces with some of his proposals, but with some tweaking a few – particularly the apprentice program – could be workable as an expansion of vocational education.

On the other hand, the leader in this arena on the GOP side is Ron George. While he already had a good beginning as far as job creation goes, yesterday he expanded on his existing ideas of rebuilding manufacturing in Maryland – as he pointed out at our Lincoln Day Dinner, “I cannot cut welfare payments unless I have those entry-level, mid-level jobs.” This is what George proposes to do:

The technology and life sciences industries in Maryland have taken off in part because of significant tax credits and a Tech Services tax repeal. By trusting you to use your revenue to enhance your businesses and create jobs, Maryland has become one of the most successful regions in the country for IT, healthcare technology and biotechnology companies.

I’m proposing we make the same investment in attracting and rewarding new manufacturing firms for creating jobs in Maryland. As Governor:

I will lower the Total Effective Tax Rate of new capital-intensive manufacturing firms from today’s current rate of 31.9% to 20% by 2016.

In the short term, I will work with local and county governments to lower property tax rates and with the legislature to exempt equipment from the property tax of manufacturing firms.

By 2018, I will eliminate the business personal property tax, returning stability and certainty to the manufacturing industry.

This proposal is an investment in the perseverance and innovation of Maryland workers. We must bring manufacturing back to Maryland.

While there is an appeal to eliminating the income tax we have to bear in mind that, as currently constituted, revenues from the income tax make up 22 percent of the overall pie, while business taxes make up far less – eliminating them, one could argue, would create enough of a multiplier effect that the other taxes could eventually also be reduced (with prudent spending, of course.) Having to account for the loss of a 22 percent chunk of state revenue is the reason why all of the income tax proposals out there phase themselves in rather than eliminate the income tax in one bite. (Ever notice, though, that tax increases are rarely phased in?)

But there’s also a lot being left on the table through the short-sightedness of the current administration, and while Gansler and his cohorts on the Democratic side are (literally) tilting at windmills for job creation, we can conclusively show that one $3.8 billion project will help a portion of the state succeed long-term. Maryland was one of the first states studied in a new series of blog posts detailing the impact of the energy industry.

And while the API concedes the state isn’t a leader in the production of oil and natural gas, there’s nothing saying we can’t hold our own through a combination of Marcellus Shale exploration in the state’s panhandle, the prospect of more natural gas in the heretofore barely- or unexplored Taylorsville, Culpeper, Gettysburg, and Delmarva (!) Basins, and perhaps oil drilling offshore. Even the idea of testing the waters can have a positive economic impact on a particular area, and one major key in attracting industry is having inexpensive sources of energy. We hear a lot of complaints from industry about the cost of electricity in Maryland, but having more natural gas (and the power plants to use it) would be of assistance in drawing manufacturers.

Now if the candidates can put together a proposal of transportation structure improvements, one which includes an interstate-grade highway north from Salisbury to I-95 (with the cooperation of Delaware) and the completion of the originally envisioned I-97 across the Potomac to meet with I-95 near Richmond to save trucks from having to deal with congestion around Washington so goods could find their way to market much more easily, I’d really be a happy camper. But for now these will have to suffice.

Just as an aside, you just might be hearing a lot more from me on the subject. Stay tuned.

Two Marylanders discuss state economy

Two critics had differing takes on the state economy this week. One of them is running for governor while the other continues to expand its grassroots effort as some question whether its leader will throw his hat into that ring.

The latter critic, Larry Hogan of Change Maryland, noted with disbelief that Maryland lost 5,700 jobs in May:

Every month in Maryland is like Groundhog’s Day – over and over again we hear this administration talk about jobs, yet more times than not, Maryland families wake up to learn once again our state has lost jobs. Career politicians think that if they say something enough times, it will eventually become true. And while the O’Malley / Brown administration likes to talk about jobs, the cold harsh reality is that 5,700 hard working Marylanders lost their job last month.

The time for results is long overdue and the O’Malley / Brown administration has no more excuses left. They have been at the helm of our state’s economy for seven years, there is no one else to blame for these job losses. The need for real change in Maryland has never been more clear.

While O’Malley / Brown claimed 4,600 jobs were created in Maryland during May in the aftermath of the “Bush Recession” – never mind the six years of prosperity which occurred before O’Malley’s party became Congressional obstructionists – Change Maryland actually links to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data which shows the number of unemployed rose from 205,100 to 210,800 in May, a number which increased unemployment by 0.2 percent.

Perhaps that’s why Change Maryland has become a social media juggernaut, eclipsing by far the social media presence of Maryland’s current statewide candidates and their affiliated parties.

Meanwhile, announced gubernatorial hopeful Ron George blasted O’Malley / Brown for Maryland’s poor grade in a national report on manufacturing climate, a grade which has remained subpar throughout O’Malley’s tenure. Said Delegate George:

This is why manufacturing jobs are a big part of (my) “Economic Development And Maryland Jobs Plan”. I see Baltimore and small towns on the Eastern Shore, Western and Southern Maryland hurting because the democratic leadership does not understand how to create jobs and true economic growth. I will bring manufacturing jobs back to Maryland.

While his general outline is fairly sketchy, I believe we should strive to create more manufacturing jobs. Yet there is one aspect of a business climate generally overlooked.

On Monday travelers will be forced to shoulder a greater burden of the cost of transportation as increased tolls on Maryland bridges (including the Bay Bridge) and highways take effect on the very same day the gasoline tax is increased. Ostensibly these increases are to fund maintenance on what we already have as well as supposedly provide the seed money to build new commuter rail lines in Baltimore and in the Washington suburbs. Perhaps that would be fantastic for the 1 out of 12 Maryland workers which actually use mass transit and may jump that number all the way to 1 in 10 or maybe the stratospheric heights of 1 in 9. But that leaves the rest of us.

Building commuter rail probably won’t clear enough cars off the highways to appreciably improve the ability for trucks to traverse Maryland’s roadways. Aside from State Senator E.J. Pipkin – who has several times introduced legislation to this effect – no one is seriously thinking about the real infrastructure improvement of a midpoint crossing of Chesapeake Bay, one which would make Eastern Shore goods more accessible to Virginia and points west and encourage tourism from an area now mired with the prospect of hours of travel for going a comparatively short distance as the crow flies.

Nor are they considering upgrading the U.S. 13 corridor through Delmarva to provide an alternate north-south route from Wilmington and points north to Norfolk and regions south. Another options benefiting the state would be to finish the abandoned I-97 route to Richmond. Either of these would require regional cooperation, but neither seem to be a priority for a governor who would rather move a few people between menial jobs than move lots of goods and tourists around the region in a timely manner.

We have the willing and reasonably skilled labor force ready to work. Now we need a government which thinks long-term about real possibilities, not pie-in-the-sky schemes and imaginary boogeymen like global warming.

Harris sets me to thinking

September 17, 2011 · Posted in Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Harris sets me to thinking 

They’re a little longer than a radio commercial, yet not long enough to allow attention to wander.

The latest “update” from Andy Harris concerns President Obama’s Stimulus II. Clocking in at 1:38, it essentially goes over once again many of the points I’ve previously discussed, but in an audio format. So I don’t need to beat a dead horse on the specifics.

I would like to take a few moments and talk about the comparison Andy makes to Reagan-era policies, though.

Indeed, most of the country was awash in prosperity once the Reagan economic formula kicked in. It was a little slower to come to my native area because at the time the auto industry was trying to deal with the influx of Japanese imports; cars which were better designed with higher quality than the rustbuckets Detroit was putting out at that time.  So our auto-industry dependent city was not the economic dynamo other portions of the country were.

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Protesting Jim

Unfortunately I could not be there to see this with my own eyes, but both published and eyewitness reports indicate that Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton attended a small protest today at the local office for Congressman Andy Harris.

The reason for the protest was to show support for a document called “A Contract for the American Dream,” with the title obviously a play on the Republicans’ “Contract With America” from 1994 and 2010.

So let’s assume Jim Ireton is foursquare behind the document – what is he backing?

It begins with a call to rebuild America’s infrastructure. That’s commendable, but they go beyond roads, bridges, and utilities in calling for “national and state infrastructure banks.” To me, that’s code for more federally- and state-controlled land, whether through outright acquisition or regulating usage. Money should be allocated for these tasks, but preferably at the local and state levels and for meaningful, development-friendly projects like expanded highways or new utility lines – not wasted on items like public transit or bike paths few use.

The second point: creating “21st Century energy jobs” – in other words, continue to subsidize expensive and inefficient “renewable” sources at the expense of proven fossil fuel technology that we have in plentiful supply. When the market is ready, someone will tap into those renewable sources. Jim, it’s not time for that yet.

Thirdly, we’re asked to “invest” (read: throw money at) public education. So much for educational choice, right? And the idea of “universal preschool” fits right in with a plan for indoctrination. It makes me wonder what their definition of a “high-quality” teacher is. Mine would be one who teaches critical thinking instead of regurgitating the latest propaganda.

The fourth point is “Medicare for all,” which equates to a single-payer health care system. Lefties have been pining for this for years, always saying we’re not in step with the rest of the industrialized world. So where do those who can afford it come to get medical care again? (Hint: it’s not Cuba.)

Idea number five is to “make work pay;” in other words enact a so-called “living wage.” We have a “right to fair minimum and living wages,” they say. What part of the Constitution was that again? It’s not in my copy. We’d be better off abolishing the minimum wage, since those who own businesses know all about working long hours for little pay. If a worker is only producing a net three dollars an hour for the company, that’s what they should be paid.

Sixth, they want to “secure Social Security” by – guess what? – raising taxes on the rich. They would eliminate the tax cap on earnings so every penny of what one earns would be taxed. How about giving us all a break and beginning to sunset the program instead?

The “soak the rich” philosophy continues with item number seven, which would be to not just eliminate the 2001/2003 Bush tax cuts but enact a “millionaire’s tax.” We see how well that works for Maryland, don’t we?

Number 8 continues the class warfare by calling for a .05% tax on each Wall Street trade, which supposedly would raise $100 billion a year. Besides the fact that we’re talking chump change in this era of trillions, the effect of such a tax would be to destroy billions in wealth as the stock market plummets in reaction to the toll. Of course, when the desired amount is not raised they’ll simply increase the tax, continuing the vicious cycle.

Ninth in the order is bringing the troops home. I can agree with that in part – there are a lot of countries we don’t necessarily need to be in. But we also need to give those troops we leave in the field the tools and strategy for victory. If we want to rout the Taliban, well, let’s stop playing around and throw out the silly rules of engagement which bind our hands. The enemy has no rules of engagement, why should we?

And finally, they call for restricting free speech in the most “catch-all” of bullet points:

We need clean, fair elections – where no one’s right to vote can be taken away, and where money doesn’t buy you your own member of Congress. We must ban anonymous political influence, slam shut the lobbyists’ revolving door in D.C. and publicly finance elections. Immigrants who want to join in our democracy deserve a clear path to citizenship. And we must stop giving corporations the rights of people when it comes to our elections and ensure our Judiciary’s respect for the Constitution. Together, we will reclaim our democracy to get our country back on track.

So let’s follow this to a logical conclusion – everyone here gets a vote whether they’re here legally or not (and will be rewarded for breaking the law to get here), elections will be publicly funded (except when a candidate chooses not to follow those rules – *cough*Barack Obama*cough*), lobbyists won’t be allowed but “czars” will, and corporations will lose their right to free speech but unions won’t.

But the last sentence of the document provides the fatal flaw, and one needs to ask Jim Ireton whether he really believes this.

Our nation is NOT a democracy – it is a republic. If we were a democracy, we would soon be defunct under the tyranny of the majority. As the old parable goes, a democracy is where two wolves and a sheep vote on what’s for dinner.

While Jim Ireton had the majority of those who could be bothered to vote in the 2009 Salisbury city election, that was by no means a clear mandate. And having a so-called “contract” signed by 125,000 Americans is invalid in the face of millions of voters who desired the more conservative direction Harris and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have attempted to push government toward. I’ll see the backers of the “Contract for the American Dream” and their puny 125,000 total nationwide and raise them the 30,000 additional citizens here in the First Congressional District who gave Harris his mandate by voting for him. If Frank Kratovil had 125,000 votes he would have only lost by 30,000 instead of 35,000.

Shoot, the 9-12 rally back in 2009 did better than that.

But if this is what Jim Ireton truly stands for – a group of items which would effectively federalize much of government and make princes paupers by taxing the producers of society – then we really need to find a conservative challenger for him in 2013. He’s leading Salisbury in the wrong direction, and real help needs to be sent on the way.

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