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 push for new jobs

January 3, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on A push for new jobs 

Two weeks ago, in the waning days before the Christmas holiday, perhaps 40 to 50 brave souls dealt with the cold weather to state their case for job creation in western Maryland and beyond. I don’t think the Maryland Energy Citizens and Energy Nation Rally drew a lot of interest outside the energy field beforehand (except perhaps from me) and in doing a news search for the event I found exactly zero coverage. (The photos I’ll use here were Tweeted by Energy Citizens.)

It was a modest gathering to be sure, but those who showed were interested in regulations that would allow for job creation – directly in Allegany and Garrett counties, and eventually spilling over into other parts of the state as the infrastructure needed to move the natural gas to market is placed. And there was one group who understood this well.

The folks in the orange shirts were members of the Laborers Union, which would stand to benefit from the infrastructure being built. In the universe of the left wing, oftentimes Big Labor and environmentalists stand on opposite sides because the union side understands better the economics of utilizing our energy resources to provide the clean and reliable power we need to keep the economic engine going, while environmentalists seem to think that the wind will always blow and the sun shines every day so we can rely on those sources. With their entrenched opposition to energy progress through additional exploration and infrastructure construction, Radical Green would shortly have us in the same boat as the New England states when it comes to energy costs, especially at this time of year.

Yet in the days since I’ve learned of a study from the University of Chicago that has attempted to quantify benefits and costs of fracking, with the study being summarized thus:

The benefits include a six percent increase in average income, driven by rises in wages and royalty payments, a 10 percent increase in employment, and a six percent increase in housing prices. On the costs side, fracking reduces the typical household’s quality of life by about $1,000 to $1,600 annually – excluding the increase in household income.

As a point of reference, the average household income across the two counties is about $42,000 so a 6% increase would be a net gain in household income equating to approximately $2,500. And considering energy jobs tend to pay more than average, the 10% increase in employment would be a boost to the median so the benefits could work out to $3,000 or more while the somewhat dubious “quality of life” costs would not be so affected.

I noted above that there was no coverage of the rally by the local media, but that very day the Baltimore Sun chose to run a laughable screed by Senator Cardin about the prospect of the incoming Trump administration abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement; a diatribe that included this howler:

In 2015, investment in renewable energy was nearly $350 billion worldwide, more than fossil fuel energy. Even though gas and oil have hit record low prices, current and projected prices for renewables are low too, making clean energy solutions remarkably competitive.

The huge piece of information unspoken here is how much of that renewable energy “investment” was picked from the pocket of unsuspecting taxpayers, nor does it account for the amount of the market carved out for renewables artificially by state mandate. Nor should it be our intention to follow Europe and take the blue pill, thinking mankind has one iota of effect on the global climate in the long run.

Sadly, it may be almost as much of a folly to believe that a small group of common-sense protestors will have an effect on a group of legislators who mistakenly believe that restrictive regulations will encourage job creation or that a fracking ban will benefit the state. But I encourage them to keep trying anyway because people who can see the long-range picture will realize you are on the right side of this.

The Buffalo Billion fraud and bribery scheme: corruption and pay-to-play, a symbol of everything they’re doing

Commentary by Marita Noon

When New York’s Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo gushed over SolarCity’s new solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, the audience likely didn’t grasp the recently-revealed meaning of his words: “It is such a metaphor – a symbol of everything we’re doing.”

The 1.2 million square foot building, being built by the state of New York on the site of a former steel plant, is looking more and more like another political promise of help for one of the poorest cities in the state that ends up enriching cronies without ever achieving any potential for the people.

Yes, it is a symbol of everything they’re doing.

Previously, during her first senatorial bid, Hillary Clinton also promised jobs to the economically depressed region of the state of New York – 200,000 to be exact. Citing a report from the Washington Post, CBSNews states: “Jobs data show that job growth stagnated in Upstate New York during her eight years in office, the report said, and manufacturing jobs dropped by nearly a quarter.” The Post’s extensive story reveals that jobs never materialized – despite “initial glowing headlines.” It claims: “Clinton’s self-styled role as economic promoter” actually “involved loyal campaign contributors who also supported the Clinton Foundation.” Through federal grants and legislation, she helped steer money to programs, companies, and initiatives that benefitted the donors but failed to reverse the economic decline of the region.

Now, new corruption charges reveal the same pay-to-play model linked to Cuomo’s upstate “Buffalo Billion” economic revitalization plan – and the promised jobs also look they will never materialize.

Back on January 5, 2012, Cuomo announced a $1 billion five-year economic development pledge for Buffalo.  It was to be the governor’s banner economic initiative with the SolarCity factory as the cornerstone and a pledge of 1,460 direct factory jobs. Other companies, including IBM and a Japanese clean-energy company were also lined up.

With the state-of-the-art solar panel factory ready for equipment to be installed, the wisdom of the entire program is being scrutinized – and is coming up short.

First, on September 22, two of Cuomo’s closest aides – along with several others – were charged in corruption and fraud cases involving state contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Addressing the press at his Manhattan office, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara asserted: “that ‘pervasive corruption and fraud’ infested one of the governor’s signature economic development programs. Companies got rich, and the public got bamboozled,” reports The Observer. Bharara described the bid-rigging and bribery arrangement: “Behind the scenes they were cynically rigging the whole process so that the contracts would go to handpicked ‘friends of the administration’ – ‘friends’ being a euphemism for large donors. Through rigged bids, state contracts worth billions of dollars in public development monies, meant to revitalize and renew upstate New York, were instead just another way to corruptly award cronies who were willing to pay to play.”

The 79-page criminal complaint notes that campaign contributions to Cuomo poured in from people connected to the bribe-paying companies as soon as those businesses began pursuing state projects.

One of the companies that received the lucrative contracts was LPCiminelli – run by “Cuomo mega-donor” Louis Ciminelli. He allegedly offered bribes to Cuomo confidante Todd Howe – who has admitted to pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars from developers to rig bids on multimillion-dollar state contracts linked to Buffalo Billion projects.

Ciminelli received the $750 million contract to build the SolarCity plant. The Buffalo News cites Bharara as saying: “the state’s bidding process for the factory being built for SolarCity at RiverBend in South Buffalo turned into a ‘criminal’ enterprise that favored LPCiminelli, where company executives were given inside information about how the deal was to be awarded.”

Part of Cuomo’s deal with SolarCity – in which the state owns the building and equipment with SolarCity leasing it under a 10-year deal – requires the company to meet a timetable of job-creation quotas or pay hefty penalties. Even before the building was complete, however, the company slashed its job commitment from 1460 to 500. According to the Investigative Post, SolarCity claims it will still employ the original number, but due to automation, the majority of them will not be at the Buffalo plant. With the state’s $750 million investment, that works out to $1.5 million per manufacturing job. In a press release, Cuomo promised 1460 “direct manufacturing jobs at the new facility.”

Even the 500 jobs will only materialize if the plant actually starts production – currently slated for June 2017. SolarCity’s future is, as Crain’s New York Business puts it: “uncertain.”

Amid the company’s myriad problems are the facts that it has never been profitable, nor does it have manufacturing experience.

In February 2014, SolarCity’s stock price peaked at about $85 a share. Today, a share is less than $20. Microaxis gives it a probability of bankruptcy score of 48 percent. Crains reports that it posted a $251 million loss in Q1 2016 and a loss of $230 million in Q2. To “stop the bleeding,” Elon Musk (a donor to both the Obama and Clinton campaigns and the Clinton Foundation), who owns more than 20 percent of the company, announced that Tesla (of which he also owns more than 20 percent) would purchase SolarCity – this after as many as 15 other potential buyers and investors looked at the company and decided to pass. SolarCity even considered selling the solar panel manufacturing business.

Both SolarCity and Tesla are, according to the Buffalo News, facing a “cash bind” – this despite receiving billions in federal and state grants and tax credits as I’ve previously addressed. Tesla is described as “cash-eating electric vehicle and battery making businesses.” For SolarCity, its model – which finances its solar panel installations in order to make a profit on a lease that can be as long as 30 years, while it collects the lucrative government incentives worth billions (a practice for which Solar City is currently under Congressional investigation) – requires constantly raising new money from investors. Once the Tesla deal was announced, SolarCity’s lenders started to pull back.

The Buffalo News reports: “Stock in SolarCity…now trades for $4 a share less, or 19 percent less, than what Tesla is offering – a gap indicating that investors are uncertain the deal will be completed.” Additionally, the deal is being challenged by four separate lawsuits – which could delay the deal. Addressing the merger, one analyst said: “We see a lot more that can go wrong than can go right.”

Then there is the manufacturing angle. Originally, the Buffalo plant was going to manufacture high-efficacy solar panel modules developed by Silevo – a company SolarCity bought in 2014. Crain’s reports that it will instead produce complete solar roofs: something it says “Dow Chemical recently abandoned after five years because it could not find a way to make a profit on the technology.” But then, the Buffalo News says: “The initial production in Buffalo is expected to include photovoltaic cells that SolarCity purchases from suppliers and are used in the products that will be assembled in the South Park Avenue factory.”

Whatever the plant builds or manufactures, getting it operating will be expensive – even with the New York taxpayers owning the building and equipment – and will drain scarce cash from SolarCity at a time when its financing costs have increased.

Buffalo residents wonder if they’ll be stuck with the world’s largest empty warehouse and without the promised jobs.

No wonder the entire project is in doubt. Because of the Cuomo administration corruption allegations, other proposed job-creators, including IBM, have pulled out until the probe is completed.

For now, Cuomo is not a part of the criminal complaint – though his name is mentioned many times – and he claims he knew nothing about it, nor does he think he’s a target of the ongoing federal probe. “It is almost inconceivable the governor didn’t know what was going on,” Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College, said. “And if he didn’t know what was going on, you can argue he should have known.”

Bharara has suggested that the better name for the program would be: “The Buffalo Billion Fraud and Bribery Scheme.”

Yep, the Buffalo Billion project is a “symbol” of the political promises and crony corruption – “everything we’re doing” – that takes taxpayers dollars to reward political donors and then walks away when the jobs don’t materialize.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy – which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

The “poor Kathy” campaign

September 21, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The “poor Kathy” campaign 

As a Republican in Maryland, there are two things you have to account for in a statewide race: you have a smaller pool of party regulars in the voting bank when compared to the Democrat in the race and you will have less money and free media than the Democrat has at his or her disposal. These have been givens throughout the modern political era, and it’s a rare Republican who can overcome them.

But I think the idea of playing up just how low-budget a campaign is (against a well-funded Washington insider) doesn’t work well as a serious campaign ad. I’m going to share Kathy Szeliga’s ad so you can judge whether she plays this shtick (as well as the motorcycle riding angle) too much.

In truth, when I looked up the latest FEC reports (as of June 30), Van Hollen only had about a 2-to-1 cash on hand advantage on Szeliga, with $566,795 on hand. Admittedly, Van Hollen had definitely churned through a lot more money than Szeliga over the previous 15 months covered in his report, but he was also trying to fend off a well-known challenger for the Democratic nomination in Fourth District Congressman Donna Edwards.

And Kathy was determined to squeeze her nickels:

Our fundraising has been going well, but we didn’t want to waste a dime, so we shot the ad on an iPhone – saving the campaign thousands of dollars. And TV ads are expensive, so we decided to buy cable and focus on a strong social media push.

She would need more than a strong social media push, though: her 17,126 Facebook likes trail Van Hollen’s 21,333, while the margin is even worse on Twitter: Szeliga has just 2,349 followers compared to 28,780 Twitter followers for Van Hollen. (Of course, Chris has more of a national profile as a Congressman so that should be expected. As evidence, current Senator Barb Mikulski has 48,683 followers while Andy Harris has 6,281.)

But since the Democrat is afraid to debate in the hinterlands of the state (or include the third candidate in the race, Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers), perhaps the ante needs to be increased. This is what you really need to know about Chris Van Hollen: a description from his campaign website but edited for more truthfulness by this writer. Normally this would be a blockquote but I have it in normal text to make the edits (deletions struck through, additions in italics) more clear.

**********

Chris Van Hollen has been described as “one of those rare leaders who runs for office because he wants to DO something, not because he wants to BE something.” Yet it’s what he has done that should trouble the hardworking Marylanders he’s trying to win over.

This sentiment captures Chris’s approach to public service, an approach that he will bring to the U.S. Senate to fight – and win – for Marylanders who depend on the ever-expanding federal government to deal with on the challenges we face today.

Government-dependent Maryland families can count on Chris to be their champion – because that’s what he has been doing for over two decades. As for the rest of you, well, you are correctly described by our Presidential nominee as the “basket of deplorables” because you don’t share my ‘progressive’ vision.

Chris was first elected to public office in 1990, when he campaigned for the Maryland House of Delegates as part of the ‘Choice Team,’ which unseated an a pro-life incumbent opposed to women’s reproductive rights. So I have spent 26 of my 57 years on this planet in public office, and as you will see later on I was groomed for this practically from birth.

In Annapolis, Chris quickly earned a reputation as a champion for progressive causes and a talented legislator who was not afraid to take on blame powerful special interests for problems we in government created – like the NRA, Big Oil, and Big Tobacco – on behalf of hardworking families. I just didn’t let on that the NRA never pulled the trigger on a murder victim in Baltimore, Big Oil makes a fraction of the profit for putting in all the work compared to the ever-increasing bonanza we take in with every gallon, and we don’t have the guts to actually ban tobacco because we need their tax (and settlement) money.

He led successful fights to make Maryland the first state to require infringe with built-in safety trigger locks on handguns, ban the prospective job creation of oil drilling around the Chesapeake Bay, and prevent tobacco companies from peddling cigarettes to our kids, taking credit even though sales to minors have been illegal for decades. Chris also negotiated an historic tax increase in funding for all Maryland schools. Just don’t ask me to increase the choices you have to educate your children by allowing that money to follow your child.

Time Magazine said Chris was “a hero to environmentalists, education groups and gun control advocates.” The Baltimore Sun called him “effective” and “tenacious” and the Washington Post dubbed him “one of the most accomplished members of the General Assembly.” If you were a special interest that depended on a continual government gravy train, I was definitely your “fair-haired boy.”

In 2002 Chris was elected to Congress on a wave of grassroots special interest support, ousting a 16-year Republican incumbent thanks in large part to some creative redistricting. There he brought the same brand of can-do activism socialist failure with him. He led the successful effort to stop big banks from reaping outrageous profits from having student loans as part of their loan portfolio – instead, we made sure Uncle Sam got that piece of the action and rigged the game so that even bankruptcy cannot save most graduates who can’t find a job to pay their loans from – and was also credited with helping Democrats win back control of the House in 2006, just in time to steer the national economy into the rocks.  He became a Democratic leader and played a key role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act perpetual annual increase in health insurance rates and deductibles, the Wall Street Reform protection law, and the Economic Recovery Act that helped rebuild our shattered economy has helped saddle us with the worst recovery from recession in the last century.

When the Republicans took over the House in 2010, Chris’s colleagues elected him to lead the battle against the Tea Party budget sanity. In that role he has been leading the fight to protect Medicare and Social Security from GOP budget attacks necessary reforms and protect vital investments in education, transportation, medical research and programs for the most needy. We have to buy those votes somehow and grease the right palms – debt is only a number anyway, right?

Chris has also unveiled a comprehensive plan to address one of the greatest challenges of our time – growing inequality in America.  His ‘Action Plan to Grow the Paychecks of All, Not Just the Wealth of a Few’  Redistribute Even More Wealth and Create More Government Dependency’ has been called a forward-looking blueprint for building an economy a government behemoth that works for everyone the ruling class inside the Beltway.

In the Senate Chris will continue to fight for against bold measures to revive the promise that every individual has the chance to climb the ladder of opportunity and lead a successful and fulfilling life. We Democrats can’t let an individual be successful on his or her own, particularly if he or she is a minority.

The son of a Baltimore native, Chris’s involvement in social justice and political action began at an early age. Chris’s mom and dad were both dedicated public servants, and growing up he saw their strong commitment to making the world a better place.  As a student, he joined efforts to end Apartheid in South Africa and stop the nuclear arms race. And while Chris put himself through law school at night, he worked as a Congressional aide and then as an advisor to Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer. So in my adult life I have never held a private-sector job or signed a paycheck. But I’m fighting for you because I am down with your struggle to balance a household budget when both parents are working multiple jobs!

Chris and his wife, Katherine, live in Kensington where they have raised their three children.

**********

The above is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but along the line in this campaign I am very tempted to look at some of the local races on a more issue-by-issue basis, a “compare and contrast” if you will. I have no doubt that Chris Van Hollen is well to the left of most hardworking Maryland families.

But if Kathy Szeliga is as conservative as she says, perhaps we should downplay the “Washington insider” angle a bit because that’s not going to play inside the Beltway. The latest voter registration numbers tell the tale: just between the two counties directly bordering Washington, D.C. we find 31% of all state voters. Add in the close-by counties of Charles and Howard and the number edges close to 40%. Put another way, 2 in 5 Maryland voters have some degree of connection to the seat of federal government – even if they don’t work directly for Uncle Sam, their area was built on the economic impact of the government bureaucrat.

So the real question has to be about real solutions. Van Hollen cites a lot of things he has worked on, but one has to ask if the work he has done has actually solved the problem. Intentions might be grand for putting together a political webpage, but they don’t fly in the real world.

Even if you go back to his earliest days, consider these checklist items: as a youth, Van Hollen worked to stop apartheid in South Africa and against nuclear arms proliferation. Unfortunately, the transition away from apartheid also led to the decline of South Africa as a nation – just like a number of American inner cities in the 1950s and 1960s the nation was a victim of white flight because among those who were liberated were too many who used the occasion to settle scores instead of living peacefully as may have occurred with a slower transition. And that youthful resistance against nuclear proliferation yielded to political partisanship when Van Hollen supported the Iranian nuclear agreement. Perhaps the proliferation he sought to end was only our own.

Or ponder the effects of the policies Van Hollen backed in the General Assembly. Trigger locks became required for all guns sold in Maryland, so there’s already an extra expense. And I seriously doubt the bad guys have one on their guns, so if some citizen is shot and killed because they couldn’t disengage a trigger lock in order to defend themselves, will Van Hollen apologize or believe more legislation is needed?

And like many liberal policies, Chris took the first step and his cohorts have walked them a mile. We went from banning oil drilling in the Chesapeake (which may not be economically viable anyway, but we have no way of finding out) to thwarting the state’s efforts to drill for its proven natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale region (as well as other prospective areas including Annapolis and parts of the Eastern Shore.) That cost the state hundreds of possible jobs. Meanwhile, the state of Maryland perpetuates the hypocrisy of encouraging people to stop smoking with a small portion of the taxes they rake in with every pack – a sum that “progressives” annually want to increase as one of the state’s most regressive taxes.

Nor should we forget the policies Van Hollen has supported over the last eight years. Just ask around whether your friend in conversation feels they are better off with their health coverage, or if the economy is really doing well for them. If they have student loans, ask them what they think of the price of college. In all these areas, government that considers meddling as its task has made things worse for the rest of us in Maryland.

These are the questions Kathy Szeliga should be asking, rather than joking about her low-budget campaign. The aggressor sets the rules, and to win over the voters the candidate has to define the opponent for them. My definition of Chris Van Hollen is that he’s part of the problem, so the task is to make sure voters know that before explaining the solution.

2016 dossier: Trade and job creation

August 12, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 dossier: Trade and job creation 

The fifth portion of my look at the GOP field looks at trade and job creation. Those that have the best ideas will qualify for nine points. This category has the potential to be very hit or miss, however. So allow me to set some of the guidelines I am looking for.

When I speak about trade, my goal is that of having free trade that is fair for all parties. With the criticism that’s been leveled at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, I don’t necessarily consider it fair trade. I’m also leery of fast-track authority, although I may well feel better about it with a conservative in charge.

As for job creation, I’m looking for specific ideas which don’t involve lowering taxes because that will fall under taxation, which is a later segment in my dossier series. But taking a meat axe to regulation would be fine, as would creating the conditions under which a workforce can thrive. It will be somewhat tough to score this segment, so the more information made available the better it is for a candidate.

Bobby Jindal gets it, and is not afraid to let people know about it. The formula must work because he is a job-producing governor.

For Bobby, it begins with the power of energy, but it doesn’t stop there. Free trade is fine if we have a good negotiator on our side, but right now we don’t so there’s no need for a Trans-Pacific Partnership yet. And the minimum wage is a smokescreen when we should be looking for more. My only concern is that he is still open to an increase when the idea should be one of the market determining the wage. But that’s a minor blemish on an otherwise solid category for Jindal.

Total score for Jindal – 8.4 of 9.

There is also great promise with Ted Cruz. If he can do those things he ran for Senate on we would be in fine shape. Removing regulations on energy and spreading the truth on the minimum wage bolster a sound agenda. Yes, he flipped on Obamatrade but he came to his senses in time – and trade is one of his specialties. He seems to be an intelligent, passionate advocate for the working man.

Total score for Cruz – 8.1 of 9.

There’s a lot to like about Rick Perry on the subject of job creation – his state created a lot of them during Rick’s tenure. While he had the energy boom to thank for much of it, his principles of low taxes and predictable regulations would hold the nation in good stead.

But I hesitate a little bit from giving him a higher score because just as he quickly backpedaled from being a supporter of trade promotion authority to an opponent simply based on Barack Obama’s lack of negotiating skills and secrecy, he has walked back his complete (and correct) opposition to any federal minimum wage to just not wanting a hike.

He will be in the top tier of this category, though, as he sounds most of the right notes. Now if he could just stay in the race…

Total score for Perry – 7.2 of 9.

In Congress, Rand Paul has sponsored legislation to give Congress move oversight on regulations and worked against additional trade promotion authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And he would rather lift all the boats than increase the minimum wage.

Yet the most interesting piece in his job creation toolbox is the Economic Freedom Zone, an idea he claims to have borrowed from the late Jack Kemp. It sounds good in theory, but my beef with it is that it is targeted to specific areas. For a guy who seems like he would be against government picking winners and losers, this seems to be an unusual move. It’s sort of like having a big-ticket business right across the border from sales-tax free Delaware, where you watch the competition take advantage of government edict.

Total score for Paul – 6.5 of 9.

Rick Santorum has a leg up on some of the competition because he devotes a portion of his economic plan to restoring manufacturing to America. It’s a proposal that includes the idea that regulations are too severe but, more importantly, speaks about the aspect of fair trade by opening up new markets if they play fair. He came out against the TPP as well as fast-track, noting he voted against NAFTA.

But a good plan is muddled by Rick’s support of a higher minimum wage. I suppose that is the difference between populist and conservative, but what he may gain in pandering to a few he would lose when their jobs went away. He’s also been promising his economic plan was a few weeks away on his website, so I’m tired of waiting.

Total score for Santorum – 6.3 of 9.

I find the trade and job creation ideas of Lindsey Graham interesting: “a clenched fist and an open hand…you choose” when it comes to trade, and backing one minimum wage increase while opposing a more recent one.

The entire reason he jumped up to this level came out of one idea of his:

The most costly and far-reaching federal regulations should be subject to sunset provisions, so that there is a built-in process to ensure that they are subject to review, cost-effectiveness analysis, and accountability.  Those regulations that cannot stand up to scrutiny or are no longer essential should be eliminated.

I have called for sunset provisions for far more than simple regulations, but just bringing up this concept separated him from the middle of the pack.

Total score for Graham – 6.0 of 9.

As someone who has worked exclusively in the private sector, Carly Fiorina knows something about job creation – although her critics point to HP’s job losses. And they may dispute her claim that regulations don’t go away because there are some exceptions that prove the rule. But she is right on the trade front and minimum wage, which are plusses.

Total score for Fiorina – 5.6 of 9.

I give credit to Chris Christie for making my job easier by creating his economic plan, which is a mixed bag of good ideas and near-misses. (Chief among them is the idea of reducing payroll taxes only for those over 62 and below 25, which would likely hurt those at the cusp of those ages.) I also find the mistrust of Barack Obama on trade good to hear, especially when Christie wants to revisit NAFTA.

But he’s squishy on minimum wage, and that holds him back somewhat.

Total score for Christie – 5.2 of 9.

Scott Walker has the tag line of “Let’s get to work” on his website, but I had to go elsewhere to find his ideas on job creation. It was noted that his record may look subpar but his state started from a better position and doesn’t get the benefit of the energy boom with the exception of being home to some of the best fracking sand available. While he used several conventional ideas that can work on a state level, such as investment in job training, he doesn’t really have a broad national plan. Presumably he would be a leader in nationalizing right-to-work, but we don’t know that – but we know he correctly thinks the minimum wage is “lame.”

Walker supports the TPP and the trade promotion authority that goes with it. To me that is “lame” and deducts from his score in the category.

Total score for Walker – 5.0 of 9.

Ben Carson brings a unique approach to this question. I’ll get the bad part out of the way first – he supports a minimum wage increase. But he came out early against Obamatrade and is interested in curtailing the regulatory state in surprising ways.

I also think he has some moral authority for his message on work, which is one I agree with. He also has a healthy skepticism about the current economic state, which will play well with his conservative base. He can serve as an example so I placed him a tick above some peers who I grade about the same.

Total score for Carson – 4.6 of 9.

Jeb Bush falls in the middle thanks to support of Obamatrade coupled with the idea of state minimum wages. But was the audience of Wall Street banking executives the right one to advocate for financial reform? I don’t think Main Street trusts Wall Street just yet, which is why Jeb lands in the middle.

Total score for Bush – 4.5 of 9.

For Mike Huckabee I see a lot of obfuscation. His populist approach is fine, with the philosophy of working for a “maximum wage” admirable. But it’s vague, and he won’t commit to saying no to an increase in the minimum because he signed one as governor.

On the trade front, though, he opposes trade promotion authority. It’s not a bad platform, just not that great in a crowded field.

Total score for Huckabee – 4.5 of 9.

The ideas of Marco Rubio trend along the same lines as Scott Walker, but without the executive action. His job creation platform refers mainly to taxation and education, with just a nod toward regulatory reform.

Meanwhile, his opposition to increasing the minimum wage is tempered by his support for “Obamatrade.” My fear is that he will fold on the minimum wage to do his cherished college financial aid reforms, since the two can go hand-in-hand.

Total score for Rubio – 4.5 of 9.

For John Kasich, it’s an interesting mix: he runs a state that privatized its Department of Development, but wants to place a steep tax increase on a particular job creator. He supported NAFTA but doesn’t want to see workers get the shaft. And his state has a minimum wage which automatically increases even though he opposed this in Washington. (Our DNC “hacktivists” claim Kasich believes it should be a state matter, which is the correct stance. I don’t link to them.) On the whole, I would like him to do better.

Total score for Kasich – 4.0 of 9.

Many of the more conventional ideas above are also in George Pataki‘s playbook, and he has done them: rolled back regulations in New York, vetoed a minimum wage increase, and has the idea of increasing manufacturing jobs. But he’s uncertain on the TPP. And a lot has changed in a decade.

With so little to go by, it’s hard to give him a high score.

Total score for Pataki – 4.0 of 9.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God has ever created,” says Donald Trump. He continually cries that China, Mexico, and Japan are “killing us” economically. But would a 25% tariff on Chinese goods, as he’s proposed before, be the answer? Some say it would start a trade war we couldn’t win, but others think China is manipulating its currency by an even greater factor. To the good side, though, he’s not in favor of a minimum wage increase.

So far, though, Donald hasn’t fleshed out his overall jobs program. Being a businessman makes him an expert of sorts in the subject, but could he deal with a Congress that’s more obstinate than his employees?

Total score for Trump – 2.7 of 9.

Much as I’d like to know about Jim Gilmore, his recent entry in the race sort of limits his potential. Although it’s couched as job creation, his Growth Code will play more in the taxation category. So I can’t give him many points.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 9.

Next on tap is a fairly simple and straightforward subject – taxation. It will be worth ten points.

Physical labor may be good for your career

February 9, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics · Comments Off on Physical labor may be good for your career 

I grew up in a blue-collar family in a blue-collar, auto-making town, so I feel a certain kinship with those who believe that America should still be making things big and small. So I liked the news that America accelerated the pace of manufacturing job creation at the tail end of last year, adding 115,000 manufacturing jobs in the last two months of the year based on revised federal figures.

But Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul called January’s 22,000 figure “so-so,” blaming “a combination of a strong dollar and unchecked foreign currency manipulation” for the slowdown. His group has called on the Obama administration to include currency manipulation provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated.

Month-to-month fluctuations are one thing, but what about adopting a broad-based approach to encouraging manufacturing and learning a trade at the optimal time, during the formative years of schooling? I don’t often agree with NPR, but last week they ran a story extolling the Millennial Generation to learn a trade in order to avoid the pitfalls of college loans and perhaps get a jumpstart on a good-paying career. While there was spirited argument in the comment section which made the case that their economic ceiling would be lower than their college-educated brethren could achieve – and that is true – not all children are college material and they should have a path to success which doesn’t involve spinning their wheels and racking up thousands in debt from college loans without a degree to show for it or one that bounces them from menial job to menial job just to get by. Alas, that is the fate of millions of young people today.

One paragraph sums up the opportunity:

With so many boomers retiring from the trades, the U.S. is going to need a lot more pipe-fitters, nuclear power plant operators, carpenters, welders, utility workers — the list is long. But the problem is not enough young people are getting that kind of training.

Personally, I’m on the wrong end of the baby boom. But those in the Millennial Generation (which my daughter is on the lead of as she was born in 1983) are indeed coming in at a good time. Problem is that we as parents have been fooled into believing college is the only path to success; that is, until we have to call the plumber, the electrician, or the mechanic who is good with his or her hands and has the proper aptitude to fix things. Chances are there’s a little gray in his hair, and while the last few years have been tough on these tradesmen economically they still have the skills to succeed.

What I seek is a path to success for our kids which doesn’t necessarily involve college and the massive debt that goes with it. If America can get back to building things and working with its hands, we can succeed like my father did with our family. We may never have been rich, but we had a roof over our head, food on the table, and those things we needed to succeed. Once every couple years we would go on vacation, and until I was in high school my mom was a stay-at-home mom. In short, we were a fairly typical middle-class Midwestern family in a blue-collar town.

The blue-collar upbringing really wasn’t that bad, and it’s a model we went too far away from for too long. Hopefully we have a chance to bring it back with today’s youth.

The exodus – will it increase?

It’s funny – I was at a bit of a loss to find something to write about today when Kim and I received a letter in the mail from a friend of hers. In it was the note which said “Miss you but I love Florida!” The friend in question moved down there a year ago to take a job in her industry.

Admittedly, there is a lot to love about Florida in terms of weather. The one year I spent Christmas down there I was sitting on my parents’ porch in shorts because it was 80 degrees out. That was somewhat of an anomaly for the season, but the fact is the Sunshine State doesn’t see a whole lot of snow and cold. Florida in 2014 is sort of like southern California in 1964, as millions moved there for the perpetually sunny and nice weather as well as the chance to create opportunity for themselves.

That got me to thinking about how many people I know have left this area, many for Florida or the Carolinas. Sometimes to me it’s a wonder that people stay around here given the broad litany of complaints people make about the region. On the surface I think it has many of the same qualities which attracted me in the first place – although last winter’s snow and cold made me think I was back in Ohio again.

But there is an economic side, and that factor has influenced the decision of many who have left the state to go to areas where taxes are lower and business opportunities more plentiful. Job creation hasn’t seemed to be job one for those in charge of the state because we’ve lost jobs while other states have picked up the pace.

Over the last few days I’ve talked quite a bit about the state’s budget shortfall, particularly in terms of what it means for the governor’s race. Sadly, I would estimate there are probably 20,000 Hogan votes that have left the state during this last cycle because they couldn’t hang on any longer or found better opportunities. On the other hand, ask yourself: if you lived in another state, what would you move to Maryland to do? About the only answer I could come up with was be in government, whether for Uncle Sam or a local branch office thereof. Even those who like the region seem to be moving to Sussex County, Delaware – it grew at a faster pace than the state of Delaware as a whole over the last three years while all nine Eastern Shore counties were short of Maryland’s (slower) overall growth rate, with three counties of the nine declining in population. A lack of local good-paying jobs is a complaint we’ve heard here for years.

I think the fear among many in my circle of friends – many of whom were raised here and care deeply about the state – is that another four to eight years under the same sort of governance will seal the state’s doom, much like the economic basket case that is California. That was a state which had all sorts of advantages in terms of attracting families but has squandered many of them away through their treatment of job creators. Like Maryland, it’s a state that seems attractive on the surface but living there is another thing, from what I’m told. (I’ve never visited the state, so it’s all second-hand knowledge on this one.)

Electing Larry Hogan could be the start of a comeback, but the problem isn’t just something which can be solved by a single chief executive. Rooting out the entirety of the issue would take a generation of conservative leadership with a General Assembly re-purposed to solving problems rather than protecting turf or enacting worthless feelgood legislation. But if nothing, not even the first step, is done this time, the exodus is sure to continue and increase.

2014 Wicomico County NAACP forum draws county candidates (part 1)

Last night the Wicomico County chapter of the NAACP held a candidate forum in the historical Chipman Cultural Center near downtown Salisbury. I snapped this photo last night for Facebook and as you can see it was in close quarters.

Attendance was good at the NAACP forum.

The event featured most of those running for County Executive and the seven County Council seats, with a handful of exceptions I’ll note in my second part. What I’ve decided to do in part 1 is summarize what each of the County Executive candidates said, with a little bit of opinion as needed.

As has normally been the case, Orville Penn was last night’s moderator and he asked questions with an eye toward the minority perspective – in one case, asking the County Executive candidates for a specific commitment to placing minorities in paid policy positions.

The evening began, though, with remarks and an invocation from local NAACP leader Mary Ashanti, who reminded us that the questions we submitted from the audience “won’t offend or insult the candidates.” This was an issue during last year’s municipal primary forum.

We heard from the County Executive candidates first, with both Bob Culver and incumbent Rick Pollitt there to answer questions. Since Culver spoke first, I’ll begin with him.

Culver, who currently serves on County Council in an at-large position and ran unsuccessfully for County Executive in 2006, make his case quite simply: “I feel like the county is (going in) the wrong direction.” While we didn’t need to replicate the successes of other counties, we did have two necessary items on the to-do list: maintain our status as the #1 agricultural county in the state and create jobs. “Teach young people how to work,” said Culver.

So when he was pressed about hiring minorities, Culver noted there had to be some effort on their part as well. Getting an education and showing a “desire to get ahead” were key. “Everybody should be valued on their knowledge and education,” Culver added.

Crime was an issue as well. Bob seemed to assign more blame to the victim of a recent shooting involving a Maryland State Police officer in Delmar, calling it “truly a shame,” but noting “you don’t go to a state police barracks with marijuana in your car.” He also conceded there will be bad people and “we can’t cure all the ills in the world,” even though we have an outstanding sheriff and State’s Attorney.

Turning to the subject of a recent audit of our Board of Education, Bob took Pollitt’s decription of it as “troubling” and added “troubling is not the right word for it.” Culver stated those who read the audit “will be appalled.” He advocated giving the Board no more than required for maintenance of effort until they managed their finances properly, but also wanted the children to be as technologically advanced as possible.

“We’ve got to get out and get jobs.” That was Bob’s initial answer to the question on the County Executive’s role in job creation. That gave Culver the opening to discuss his small business experience. He also stressed teaching kids how to work – perhaps in a WPA-style program – but he added the county is not here to create jobs, only to be an enabler in job creation.

Incumbent Rick Pollitt is running for a third term as the county’s first (and thus far only) County Executive. He pointed out the difference between him and Culver would be in their respective approaches. His was one of stressing relationships.

But since the office was created in 2006, the county has seen a severe recession which has “redefined the rules” and created “a new normal.” We needed to get out of the “silo mentality” and leverage other areas of government to succeed.

As far as minority recruitment, Pollitt stated his goal all along has been to have government “reflect the face of the county.” But it wasn’t just diversity in racial or gender terms, but also in geography as well. “We didn’t want to have everything in Wicomico County run by old white men who live in Salisbury,” said Rick. Pollitt added that he tries to recruit diversely, including in outlets tailored to minority readership, But in the most recent major opening for the Department of Public Works, no minorities applied. And when the question was continued to elicit a specific commitment, Pollitt pointed out “experience shows the pool can be shallow.”

On the whole, though, Rick was willing to create a context where diversity is encouraged.

When it came to crime, the current executive made the case that we have to deal with the root causes. We are not among Maryland’s wealthy counties, he added. One thing he was working on, though, was the rate of recidivism, trying to find “those people that could be saved.” There he was consulting with activist Ron Pagano, who you will hear from in Part 2 as a candidate for County Council in District 5.

As I stated before, Pollitt found the Board of Education audit “troubling,” but also believed many of the expenses were legitimate. “Clearly there needs to be a tightening up of the accounting,” conceded Rick. Pollitt added that an upcoming efficiency study report from the Sage Policy Group would be of great assistance in creating the FY2015 budget.

On job creation, though, Rick believed “it’s something we’ve got a pretty good record on.” He also thought that an “upside” of going through the recession is that “it’s given us time to step back and take a good hard look at who we are and who we want to be.” But the way out of the doldrums is through economic development.

Some of his successes in creating a positive business environment, though, have been to decouple the personal property tax rate from the real property tax rate so that businesses have saved money on their tax bills, eliminating the inventory tax over a five-year period, and making a manufaturer’s tax exemption automatic. “We are putting together the climate” for businesses to succeed, opined Rick.

In their closing statements, the two candidates played off each other, since they have known one another since the seventh grade.

Culver noted that while he disagreed with the means, he also thought he and Pollitt had several points of agreement, too. He pledged to help Wicomico County grow and expand it to the next generation.

Pollitt thanked Culver for generating more interest in the office, and noted he was approaching this like a job application. Philosophically, Pollitt said “my basic pattern is gettting people engaged.” He reminded those in attendance that his job was the result of people losing confidence in their leadership and seeking a new alternative. It wasn’t just “rights” as citizens, though, but there were duties and obligations incumbent upon us as well to be involved. Finally, Rick saw the seeking of “collaborative dialogue” as the key difference between himself and Culver.

Since I have a post already set for tomorrow, I will look at the County Council hopefuls on Sunday.

Back to that three letter word: J-O-B-S

I still like picking on Joe Biden. But over the last month or so I’ve collected a lot of divergent information on policy suggestions, each of which promses to be the magic elixir to get our economy moving in the right direction again.

I think the key to this lies in two areas: manufacturing and energy. In that respect, I keep a lot of information handy to discuss in this space, with a group called the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) generally representing the left-of-center, pro-union side. And while their main goal seems to be increasing the coffers of Big Labor, luckily most workers still have free will – ask the employees at the Tennessee Volkswagen plant about how much effort from the UAW can be rebuffed in a simple up-or-down vote.

Currency manipulation is one area in which the AAM has been focusing. A study they cite, by the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI), makes the case that:

Many of the new jobs (if the subject is addressed) would be in manufacturing, a sector devastated by rising trade deficits over the past 15 years. Rising trade deficits are to blame for most of the 5.7 million U.S. manufacturing jobs (nearly a third of manufacturing employment) lost since April 1998. Although half a million manufacturing jobs have been added since 2009, a full manufacturing recovery requires greatly increasing exports, which support domestic job creation, relative to imports, which eliminate domestic jobs.

Personally I disagree with the premise that rising trade deficits can be blamed for the job losses; instead, I think an absurdly high corporate tax rate and onerous regulations have contributed more to chasing away American manufacturing. (While many simply blame “outsourcing” for the problem, fewer understand the dynamics which led to the outsourcing.) Yet there is merit to the idea that all sides should be competing on as level of a playing field as possible when it comes to the means of exchange, and China is one of the worst offenders. (And why not? They are communists, after all, and you can’t trust communists any farther than you can throw them.)

Two of EPI’s findings are quite interesting: first, should the EPI model come to its fruition, the oil and gas industry would be the hardest hit, and second, Maryland would be among the states least impacted, with barely a 1% rise in employment.

Yet AAM president Scott Paul is quick to blame Barack Obama:

President Obama promised to hold China accountable. He hasn’t. The White House last month said President Obama would use his pen and his phone to make progress on economic issues. He could start today by signing an order to designate China as a currency manipulator.  Then, he could call the Chinese leadership to demand an end to that practice, and secure an agreement on a plan to cut this deficit in half over the next three years.

I sort of wish Mr. Paul would also figure out the other problems, but he is correct to be concerned about our Chinese policy. Job creation has become more important than deficit reduction in the minds of Americans, both in the AAM poll I cited above and a Pew Research Poll cited by the American Petroleum Institute (API).

And the industry which benefits from API’s efforts represents another piece of the puzzle which we can take advantage of: our abundant energy supplies. While America uses 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, there is the possibility of as much as 10,000 trillion cubic feet within our land mass. That’s nearly 4 centuries worth, so I don’t think we will run out anytime soon. (Estimates have continued on an upward path as new technology makes previously unworkable plays economically viable.) As I keep saying, it’s too bad we don’t have a nice shale play under our little sandbar. Not only that, but the infrastructure we will need to take advantage of all that (and help curtail spot shortages like the ones we’re having this chilly winter) would be a guaranteed job creator – one which derives its basis from the private sector. New pipelines aren’t just for export facilities like Cove Point, but could benefit this area and perhaps bring more natural gas service to our region.

Unfortunately, Maryland isn’t poised to take advatange of either the manufacturing or energy booms at present, thanks to back-breaking economic policy and a foolhardy go-slow approach on fracking. It takes a strident opponent of the latter to suggest yet another approach which will do damage to the former, but gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur accomplishes this with the tired old combined reporting proposal. Hers comes with a twist, though, which she announced last Monday:

In the morning, Mizeur will host several Maryland business owners for a Small Business Roundtable. They will discuss her legislation to provide tax relief to small business owners, as well as other highlights from the campaign’s ten-point plan for jobs and the economy, which was released last fall. She will also hear from the business owners on a range of other concerns.

(snip)

At 1:00 pm, several business owners will join Mizeur in front of Ways and Means to testify on behalf of legislation that would enact combined reporting and distribute the estimated $197 million to small businesses for personal property tax rebates.

It’s the liberal way of picking winners and losers. And according to a 2008 study by the Council on State Taxation – admittedly, an opponent of the practice:

Combined reporting has uncertain effects on a state’s revenues, making it very difficult to predict the revenue effect of adopting combined reporting.

Even proponents don’t address that aspect, instead emphasizing how it would “level the playing field between multistate corporations and locally based companies.” But since Mizeur’s idea is one which would subsidize some businesses under a certain employment plateau, the uncertainty would likely be just another reason to avoid Maryland.

On the other hand, a Republican like Larry Hogan at least gets businesses together to discuss what they really want. Granted, once he gets them together he speaks in broad concepts rather than a more specific plan, but at least he’s listening to the right people. None of the others in the GOP field have specific plans, either, although Ron George probably comes the closest.

One has to ask what states which are succeeding economically are doing to attract new business. The state with the lowest unemployment rate, North Dakota, is prospering – more like crushing the rest of the field – on account of abundant energy resources, and perhaps that success is pulling surrounding states up with it. Its three neighbors (Montana, South Dakota, and Minnesota) all rest within the top 13 when it comes to low unemployment rates and other regional states like second-place Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, and Kansas lie within the top 10. Although the top five are right-to-work states, half the bottom 10 are as well. Nor can tax climate be seen as a dominating factor since the top 10 in unemployment vary widely in that category: Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, and Montana are indeed excellent in that aspect, but North Dakota is decidedly more pedestrian and Iowa, Vermont, and Minnesota are among the worst.

But Maryland has the tendency to depend too much on the federal government as an economic driver. This presents a problem because bureaucrats don’t really produce anything – they skim off the top of others’ labor but don’t add value. Certainly it’s great for those who live around the Beltway, and it’s telling that all three of the Democratic candidates have a connection to the two Maryland counties which border the District of Columbia while none of the Republicans save Larry Hogan do.

In order to create jobs, I think the state needs to diversify its economy, weaning itself off the government teat and encouraging manufacturing and energy exploration. Meanwhile, there’s also a need to rightsize regulation and restore a balance between development and Chesapeake Bay cleanup – specifically by placing a five-year moratorium on new environmental restrictions while cleaning up the sediment behind the Conowingo Dam. Let’s give that which we’ve already done a chance to work and other states a chance to catch up.

The best route out of government dependence is a job. Unfortunately, when the aim of the dominant political party in the state is one of creating as many dependents as possible, a lot of good entrepreneurs will be shown the door. It’s time to welcome them in with open arms.

Dossier update number 1

Back in December, once I finished the original dossier series, I noted this would be an ongoing process. To that end, here are further statements made by the three contenders at the time, with the addition of items from Larry Hogan.

Each of these subcategories will be revisited, with changes in score noted.

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The 2014 monoblogue endorsement will be based on the following formula:

Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)

Larry Hogan: As a practical matter, seeking public financing made sense for Mr. Hogan, who entered the Republican primary race relatively late and was unlikely to raise as much privately as he may qualify for publicly. But he also noted that his decision ‘sends a great message’ about his grass-roots efforts. (Baltimore Sun, February 4, 2014)

Ron George has also talked about taking public financing, although he’s made no formal decision on the matter. He had no points anyway, nor will Hogan receive any.

Illegal immigration (5 points)

No candidates have made significant public pronouncements on the subject, so no changes and no points for Larry Hogan.

Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)

David Craig: Craig has previously called on O’Malley and Brown to stop wasting money and hindering access to health care and to promote direct enrollment options through insurance carriers and brokers. The Administration then took a modest step in that direction by working with insurance industry leaders to develop a telephone help line. (press release, February 10, 2014)

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Craig, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, said the O’Malley administration should instead be helping people get coverage directly through the insurers. He wants to reallocate $150 million, originally earmarked in part to market the problematic exchange, toward promoting alternative enrollment options.  (Fox News, January 7, 2014)

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Craig’s proposal would seek an HHS waiver to re-program funds to launch a public awareness campaign informing consumers of their right to obtain health insurance directly through carriers. A complimentary awareness campaign would inform people of their rights to utilize Maryland insurance brokers who are licensed and experienced in helping individuals with health insurance. Utilizing call centers for those needing assistance with the website would remain in place. Craig, however, would re-examine the navigator model in which people having problems with the website must set appointments with temporary workers disbursed among several organizations.

As for the vexing issue of low-income individuals seeking subsidies, Craig supports U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski’s proposal to HHS to enable a direct data hub allowing people to obtain financial assistance without going through an exchange. (citybizlist, January 7, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Lollar advocates making hospital costs “much more transparent” by posting the prices. “Until we control the costs we’re not going to get our arms around the health care issue.”

“I’m all for a moratorium on the Affordable Care Act.” (Fox 45 debate, January 16, 2014)

I had previously chided Craig for not offering up solutions (although he had done a nice job identifying the problems) but I’m not sure I like much of the approach he’s taking besides the idea about promoting alternative enrollment options. I’ll give him 1.5 points, up from none.

Lollar seems to have a better idea as far as approach, although it’s still very vague. The moratorium alone, though, is worth 2 points (he had none as well.)

Larry Hogan hasn’t addressed this, so no points.

Energy policy (8 points)

No candidates have made significant public pronouncements on the subject, so no changes and no points for Larry Hogan.

Education (9 points)

Ron George: He acknowledged that a repeal of Common Core “ain’t going to happen in the state” of Maryland. But he argues for putting the educational focus back on what he calls a “local locus of control” rather than a one size fits all federal mandate. George also believes it is important to teach entrepreneurship and financial literacy in schools in an effort to help minorities and low-income Marylanders understand how to be successful in a free enterprise system. (In The Capital, January 15, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Lollar wants to stress internships for high schoolers, with the help of corporations. (Fox 45 debate, January 16, 2014)

Let me talk about Ron George first. It’s interesting that he has gone from “I intend to fight it with all my energy” in September to “(repeal) ain’t going to happen” just four months later. I have a problem with that change of heart because if you’re elected as governor you have an automatic bully pulpit.

Look at how we were saddled with gay marriage. It didn’t happen until Martin O’Malley decided to burnish his 2016 credentials and made it an issue in 2012 (with an assist from Barack Obama, who needed the gay vote.) If you want to get rid of Common Core, you browbeat the legislators who oppose you until you get your way. So I took him down from 4 points to 3.

On the other hand, I think Lollar’s idea is pretty good so I bumped him from six points to seven.

Second Amendment (11 points)

David Craig on Rodricks show tells Dan Yes I SUPPORT concealed carry! (Facebook page, February 10, 2014)

Larry Hogan is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and is opposed to SB 281. He will work to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. Hogan supports tougher mandatory sentencing for criminals who commit crimes with a gun, but he is against taking away the rights of law abiding citizens. (Facebook page)

I added a half-point to David Craig (from 8 to 8.5) for the clarification. Conversely, I think Hogan’s canned response is somewhat wishy-washy and political. He may be opposed to SB281, but will he repeal it? The time for opposition is over – the word is “repeal.” So he gets 4 points of 11.

War on Rural Maryland (12 points)

Charles Lollar: Leadership in Annapolis needs to craft a regional solution to this problem that requires all states that pollute the Bay to “pay their fair share” to keep it clean. We must not allow legislators in Annapolis to “hurt Maryland first” by bankrupting hard-working farmers with a “Chicken Tax” and putting the future of Maryland’s number one economic industry at risk. (press release, February 5, 2014)

Lollar picks up a half-point for this, from 5 points to 5.5 points. It’s pretty easy to oppose the chicken tax but Lollar did it quite forcefully.

Role of government (13 points)

Larry Hogan: Job one will be to get the government off our backs and out of our pockets so we can grow the private sector, put people back to work and turn our economy around.

Every decision Larry Hogan makes as governor will be put to a simple test – Will this law or action make it easier for families and small businesses to stay in Maryland and will it make more families and businesses want to come to Maryland?

If something comes across Hogan’s desk as governor that doesn’t pass this test, he’ll veto it. (campaign website)

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We’ve got to be able to run the government, provide the services that are important and necessary to people as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, so it’s not like let’s lop off this department or stop providing these services – I think it’s just looking at zero-based budgeting and doing outside audits of every state agency and saying how do we use those tax dollars more effectively.

I think we need to focus on – these aren’t Republican problems or Democrat problems, these are serious problems that our state has. We’ve got to reach across the aisle and work together between the parties to come up with common-sense solutions to solve these things. (NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt, January 21, 2014)

Charles Lollar: A government should serve its citizens, not burden them. It must also provide for citizens truly in need without trapping them in an endless cycle of dependency on government programs that erode their self confidence, human dignity, and a chance to live the American dream.

The answer is not to grow bigger government.

The answer is to empower people with the skills and opportunity to grow a better future for themselves, and not allow government to stand in the way of these goals. (Facebook page, January 12, 2014)

Okay, as far as Larry Hogan is concerned, I get it. You want to work with Democrats. Good luck with that, because we will likely have four years of gridlock unless the voters of Maryland come to their collective senses and elect a Republican majority in the General Assembly. You will have a LOT of vetoes otherwise.

I have yet to be convinced there is such a thing as a broad centrist coalition, since to me all it means is we walk further away from truly being a Free State rather than sprint headlong as we are now. But I will allow 4 of 13 points for the smell test and the zero-based budgeting.

Lollar loses one point for that answer, from 6 to 5. Where is it government’s role to provide for those truly in need? Shouldn’t that be more of a function of the faith-based community? The very definition of government standing in the way is to have government programs one can become dependent on – to me the continuing spiral of unemployment benefit extensions is a perfect example.

Job creation and transportation (14 points)

David Craig: I think that each individual county should establish its own minimum wage. It just makes sense that local officials make laws and the State doesn’t simply dictate what should be done. (Facebook page, February 11, 2014)

Ron George: We must focus on expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs and technical training for our unemployed to protect and grow our middle class for generations to come. (Press release, January 23, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Of course we want better opportunities, better modes of transportation – a diverse collection of different ways to get back and forth to work. Liveable, workable, playable communities where you can actually live, work, and play in the same place and have a legitimate conversation with yourself in the morning whether to walk or drive your bike to work and get there on time.

I think (the Purple Line) is absolutely doable. The question is – is it affordable? If it is, let’s push forward. (2014 gubernatorial candidate transportation forum, February 18, 2014)

The idea David Craig has is a good one, and would have raised him a full point if he had allowed counties to do away with the minimum wage altogether. Yes, this would be a fight with the federal government but it’s a Tenth Amendment fight worth having. I’ll give him a half-point so he goes from 9 to 9.5 points.

Ron George already had a very solid approach, so there wasn’t a lot of room for imporovement there. The statement is a little bit generic.

Suddenly, though, I think Charles Lollar caught his populist, pandering disease at an inopportune time. I know Red Maryland nailed him for one statement (which brought this gem to my attention) but I remembered that Lollar was opposed to the Purple Line last September – now he says it’s “absolutely doable”? He wasn’t pushing the bus alternative in front of that crowd.

And the phrase he was looking for insofar as “livable…communities” is (so-called) Smart Growth. Don’t encourage the idiots, Charles. I took off three points, from 7 to 4.

Hogan misses out on this category so far.

Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)

David Craig: Under Craig’s plan, tax brackets would be lowered across the board to 4.25 percent as of 2016. Couples now pay a basic rate of 4.75 percent on most of their income. Wealthier Marylanders pay a higher percentage on a sliding scale that tops out at 5.5 percent on income above $300,000.

Craig said he would couple that with an increase in the personal exemption from $3,200 to $5,000. He said that will provide relief to middle-class that would help offset the face that the greatest benefits under his plan would go to the higher income brackets, which would see the highest percentage drop.

In the second phase, Craig said he will call for a further reduction to a maximum rate of 3 percent — with a bump in the exemption to $6,000.

Craig said a third phase in his plan, which would come sometime in what he hopes will be his second term, would eliminate the tax entirely. He said his proposal would not affect county piggyback income taxes, which the state would continue to collect.

According to Craig, elimination of the income tax would put Maryland in the company of nine states that have no income tax, including Texas, Florida and Tennessee. (Baltimore Sun, February 18, 2014)

Ron George: When asked what policies he will put in place to foster job creation, George said lowering the corporate tax rate is a necessary first step. “We have to lower the corporate tax rate,” he said. “I would like to get it down to 5.75 percent and I think that sends a strong message out there that we’re open for business.” This, he argues, will help bring businesses back to Maryland thereby expanding the tax base and creating more revenue for the state. (In The Capital, January 15, 2014)

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In addition to the expansion of jobs, George is planning on cutting income tax by 10 percent, building a tax base in Baltimore, and putting in place what he is calling the “Buy Maryland Program.”

In this program, if Maryland residents itemize purchases over $100 on their tax returns, then they will receive 20 percent back. That way, George said, people will have a lump sum in the spring that they can then use for a down payment on a house or car. (Easton Star-Democrat, January 9. 2014)

Larry Hogan: When Hogan is governor, we’ll repeal the rain tax. That’s one change you can count on.

Charles Lollar: Our plan is to take a look at every regulation out there – all 74 of them. We want to peel this thing back. People are tired, here in Maryland, with this bait-and-switch tax scheme. So we’re going to compose independent audits annually. We’ll determine how the monies are collected, how they’re being spent, and whether this spending demonstrates an efficiency of how we use taxpayer money. And this audit will be published online…In addition, I am not going to sign any tax bill that’s void of an enforceable lockbox provision. (Bill Bennett Show, January 23, 2014)

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In addition, Lollar pointed out on the Fox45 debate that this would be all taxes, not just the ones passed under Martin O’Malley.

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In a fundraiser with economist and advisor Arthur Laffer, he supported the Lollar idea for eliminating the state’s income tax but gave no details. (Press release, January 28, 2014)

David Craig followed the lead of another with his tax plan, but the timing is a little more specific. I think it’s a great idea, though, and he seems to have the understanding that, because he controls the budget, that the idea is doable. He gained three points from 11 to 14 with one (somewhat) bold move.

Ron George is restating previously noted material, so there’s no bold moves there.

Larry Hogan will repeal the rain tax. That’s a start, but really it’s only an entry-level gambit in this race so he gets just 5 points.

Charles Lollar was first to the post with the idea to eliminate the income tax, but hasn’t elaborated on the details. But because he was so close to the maximum point total already with 14, I could only bump him up to 14.5 because I think eliminating the income tax is a splendid idea.

Intangibles:

Larry Hogan: Phony political spin, questionable donations, cronyism, and backroom deals pervade the current culture in Annapolis. We need more transparency in our government, more truthfulness and tougher ethics and disclosure laws that will begin to clean up the mess in Annapolis and restore integrity to our state capital. (campaign website)

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It’s time to engage every citizen who wants to get involved in the policy process. Policymaking should not be left exclusively in the hands of an oligarchy of anointed Annapolis lobbyists and lawmakers. (Capital Gazette, January 17, 2014)

Charles Lollar: First and foremost, I would do all I can to get rid of comments like the one I just heard. It’s unfortunate, but I do take a bit of offense to that because the idea that all Republicans think the same way is probably about as similar as all blacks thinking the same way – it’s not true – or all whites thinking the same way, it’s not true. I want to be the best governor of Maryland I can be – not the best Republican governor I can be, and not the best Democrat governor I can be, I want to be the best Maryland governor I can be.

And I’m sick and tired – no matter where I go or who says it, I attack it the same – of people using partisan politics, skin color and gender, to separate us from real solutions that are at hand. (Purple Line Forum, February 18, 2014)

I’m not quoting him on anything here, but because he’s been the most open and responsive candidate to me I added one point to Ron George’s intangibles.

For Hogan’s part, I agree with the sentiments for the most part. But they are belied by the way his campaign is conducted – missing opportunities to discuss issues with fellow candidates and instead uttering many of the same campaign mantras in one-on-one interviews with generally friendly questioners. It’s not enough of a change from the current culture he decries, and until I start seeing and hearing answers on issues above and beyond the Change Maryland mantra, I have to deduct two points for intangibles.

Charles Lollar, though, has really cleaned up his campaign, and the statement I included is apt because he was responding to Democrat criticism. So he went from a -3 score to a wash – his campaign isn’t firing on all cylinders yet but it is improving.

If you’ve been keeping track, well, more power to you. But unlike other bloggers, I’m not ready to make a choice yet because there’s still a lot of information I’d like to have before making my choice.

What I can tell you is that David Craig and Ron George seem to have an edge over Charles Lollar, with Larry Hogan far behind simply because he’s not addressed many of my key issues yet. His is a one-note samba so far. It turns out that the Craig tax plan has now vaulted him slightly ahead of Ron George – very surprising because my initial perception was that David was the most moderate of the four candidates.

But above all, my main complaint is with the Larry Hogan campaign. Stop skipping debates where everyone else shows up! You may have 40,000 Democrats and unaffiliateds in Change Maryland, but there’s one problem with that: they get no Republican primary vote and you probably won’t win with 40,000 votes (assuming all Change Maryland ‘likes’ = Hogan supporters, a very dubious assumption.)

So my plan is to revisit this sometime in April, with perhaps a final decision in early June. I don’t think an early endorsement will do me a lot of good here because no candidate is standing out in this race.

2014 Maryland dossier: part 9 (job creation and transportation)

December 13, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2014 Maryland dossier: part 9 (job creation and transportation) 

Yes, I’m going to talk jobs. Some may ask why it’s only the second-most important factor and that’s because we all work to build our own wealth and maximizing control of that wealth is key. But the best way to amass wealth is through your own toil, so why not have a governor who creates the conditions to create employment?

I add the aspect of transportation into this category becaise I believe having a comprehensive and effective system of moving goods to market while allowing people the maximum freedom of movement is also important in creating employment.

And while some who dismissed this cause have already made their endorsement decision, I’m still working it out. Fourteen points are at stake here in my 100-point competition, so away we go…

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David Craig: Economic development will be a central focus of my Administration.  As Lt. Governor, Jeannie Haddaway, and my cabinet secretaries will review every regulation harming job growth.

After we fix our tax code, our state’s economic development office will refocus on its mission of bringing jobs to Maryland – recruiting everything from warehouses, to corporate headquarters, to science labs.  Our focus will be to maintain, build, and attract businesses new and old. (campaign website)

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Reducing the individual income tax is a priority because of the importance of start-up and early stage companies that are often organized as pass-through entities.  Regulations are often conflicting and duplicative among federal, state and local governments and will be the initial focus of a broader effort to overhaul the process. (Press release, October 4, 2013)

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Asked about business, Craig intended to hold quarterly business roundtables. Because it affected local businesses in advance of consumers, we knew about the recession back in 2008, said Craig, and Harford County made budgetary decisions in a proactive fashion based on that knowledge. (WCRC meeting, July 22, 2013)

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And Craig raised questions about whether the Red Line, a light-rail project in Baltimore, should be built. (Washington Post, May 31, 2013)

Ron George: Grow the tax base in Baltimore, allowing other jurisdictions to keep their money home for infrastructure and education needs. Remove burdensome regulations.

Bring back large corporate manufacturing companies to Baltimore to create entry level and mid-level jobs. Attract the import and export industry to make use of our newly expanded Port and BWI.

Bring back mid size and small manufacturing firms to the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland, and Southern Maryland small cities, towns and rural cross-roads where property taxes are lower and homes for workers more affordable.

Assist small cities such as Chestertown that have revenue saved toward broadband and other incentives, by giving them the rest of the cost they need on a pay-back basis, thus allowing these municipalities to attract small retail, IT and other businesses to areas that are more affordable to live in.

Create a true lock-box for the Transportation Trust Fund that no legislative body can draw from for other needs so all interested parties can have predictability.

Put all gas taxes toward state road and bridge creation and improvements. (note the aforementioned repeal of the 2013 gas increases and its required forced automatic increases.) (campaign website)

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“Maryland needs regional plans, for business, for economic development and for education,” said George.

He said a state grant with a payback provision makes sense, because if it spurs a local economy, it increases the tax base. If private firms aren’t stepping up, “you need a grant to close that hole,” he said. The state “awards a lot of grants we never see a payback on. The money is gone.”

At the Port of Baltimore, the city has a chance to attract import-export businesses because of improvements there. A new generation of larger cargo ships will be able to call. “They could attract import-export businesses, but they’re not doing that now,” he said.

At the same time, there must be “a different approach for the Eastern Shore, for Kent County.” (Kent County News, August 22, 2013)

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To conclude the initial portion of his remarks, Ron noted he was the Maryland Business for Responsive Government’s legislator of the year, in part for his work in capping the state’s boat excise tax, and promised that, if elected, “I will make sure (rural areas of Maryland) get their fair share.” (WCRC meeting, September 23, 2013)

Charles Lollar: Charles will promote the rebirth of construction and industry jobs through private-public investment that Maryland desperately needs – now. Charles will inspire companies to grow by creating the necessary economic and regulatory climate for companies to do so, but without hurting the state’s natural environment.

He wants to reduce the need for prisons by lowering the crime rate by creating avenues to rewarding jobs as industry and construction firms thrive and by increasing the influences of community based non-profits. (campaign website, “Platform”)

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Fix a broken system that is blocking access to opportunities with over-regulation and excessive taxes. Review all unnecessary taxes and regulations and eliminate the Rain Tax. (campaign website, “Jobs and Economy”)

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Lollar is opposed to the Purple Line, a $2.2 billion 16-mile rail project that even the richest Maryland residents are not prepared to pay for. It can only be built with substantial federal and state subsidies, as yet unappropriated: $900 million from Uncle Sam, $400 million from Maryland, and the rest from who knows where. The Purple Line is disliked by some residents because it would displace a popular walking and bike trail, but supported by developers because they think it would enhance the value of commercial property. Instead, Lollar favors small buses, which have high per-person pick-up rates. (Real Clear Markets, September 3, 2013)

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“We have something to prove. From the day I get sworn in as your governor here in Maryland, that sign that says ‘Governor Martin O’Malley’ will come down. It won’t be replaced with ‘Governor Charles Lollar,’ it will be replaced with a tagline that says ‘Maryland is open for business.’” (SUTV interview, November 13, 2013)

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So let’s look at the other side. Anthony Brown has a business plan, but it leans heavily on “forg(ing) a stronger partnership between the public and private sectors.” Under “Tax Liability” it’s worth noting a priority is that it “enables state and local government to adequately fund our shared priorities.” So taxes aren’t going down anytime soon under a Brown administration. There’s a lot of “ensuring” in his plans, which is a weasel word meaning “mandating.”

Doug Gansler is marginally better, but the problem with his approach is that it has to be the right business in the right location, with a heavy reliance on tax incentives, creating a dependence on government and their gaming of the market. Why not provide the incentives of a great location and encouraging regulatory regime instead of picking winners?

Meanwhile, Heather Mizeur would absolutely devastate job creation in the state by raising the minimum wage, instituting mandatory paid sick leave, and putting combined reporting into effect. In terms of transportation, it’s also telling that she places “investments” in public transportation – a manner of getting from place to place with the least amount of freedom – on a higher priority than fixing roads and bridges. This is exactly backwards.

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So how do the Republicans rate?

In looking at what David Craig is saying, I can’t find fault with his approach. Economic development on a state level shouldn’t be about only bringing certain, politically correct businesses. And certainly a pruning of regulations is long overdue.

While there’s been some question about Harford County’sjob creation methods, they are all within the toolbox of incentives allowed by the state.

But I’m a little leery about whether David would be swayed by politics and keep the Red Line. I really wish I knew a little more about his transportation plans, but his manufacturing plan seemed to indicate he had a pretty decent idea about how Maryland could grow. I’ll grant him 9 of 14 points.

There are two broad pieces I really like about Ron George‘s plan: it scraps the whole “One Maryland” concept put in place by the current administration, and it emphasizes manufacturing in smaller towns and cities in rural areas. My hope is that Ron takes the money he locks away for the TTF and follows through on road and bridge improvements to improve truck access.

The only quibble I might have is the grant process because if there’s a payback provision, isn’t it a loan? The other problem I have is a seeming overemphasis on Baltimore City, which is vital but not all-important. Regardless, based on the confidence business has in his voting record, I give Ron 12 of 14 points.

Once again, though, I have an issue with some items Charles Lollar supports.

First of all, the aspect of public-private partnerships that Charles is expressing his interest in usually means tolls or fees collected by the private entity, which sort of blunts the appeal of the “desperately needed” investment. Ironically, the Purple Line Lollar opposes is one such PPP. The state will pay the winning private entity back over time, so where is their risk? Chances are the performance standards won’t be too difficult to attain, depending on the political payoff to the governor at the time.

The next is my wonderment at how one can cut regulations down to size, “but without hurting the state’s natural environment.” Does that mean the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has first right of refusal? Why even put in those weasel words?

Obviously I’m for eliminating the rain tax (as are all the GOP contenders) but I’m disappointed at how vague Charles is about what he would do – for example, what defines an “unnecessary” tax? I think the corporate tax is unnecessary because it makes up a small percentage of the state budget, but would you have the courage to eliminate it?

You may replace the signs at the borders to say Maryland is “open for business” – by the way, I drove into Virginia yesterday and their signs already make that proclamation – but for someone who was charged at one time with running a “Commission for Citizens Tax Relief” this seems like only lip service. Maybe my menory is faulty, but I thought Charles had gone through the budget line by line to suggest cuts once upon a time. I would expect more in-depth issue analysis.

For these and other reasons, I can only give Charles half the points – 7 of 14.

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The final main component is taxation, which is worth 15 points. I also have a post’s worth of intangibles, which can add or subtract up to 3 points.

At that point I can assess which candidate is my favorite – at least until Larry Hogan starts spelling out his issue positions so I can compare them.

Clearing the air and getting back to basics

Over the last couple days, a segment of the Maryland Republican Party is scratching its head over the absence of gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar from several high-profile events: last month’s Andy Harris First District Bull Roast, the Conservative Victory PAC Ken Cuccinelli fundraiser (which was sponsored by several Maryland politicians), the Prince George’s County Lincoln Day Dinner with Lt. Col. Allen West, and most recently the state party’s Oktoberfest gathering in Timonium Saturday night. The conventional wisdom argument is that these were lost opportunities to impress the party brass.

But this may also presuppose Lollar wasn’t out meeting with “regular Joe” voters, and some say a lot of these gatherings would be time better spent knocking on doors or making phone calls. So which is it? I don’t know, but my feeling is that we all need to get back to basics and begin to compare just where each of the three major declared candidates stand on important issues facing the state.

A year and a half before the 2012 Presidential election, I began a process of grading the candidates in the race at the time on a number of issues. I think it’s time to repeat the process, with some different parameters because the issues aren’t always congruent between state and national elections – for example, I don’t have to worry about trade or the Long War but I do have concerns about agricultural issues and necessary changes to the state political system, meanwhile, some issues grow or contract in importance because of recent state developments. But I like the 100-point system so I will adapt it to suit.

So the 2014 monoblogue endorsement will be based on the following formula:

  • Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)
  • Illegal immigration (5 points)
  • Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)
  • Energy policy (8 points)
  • Education (9 points)
  • Second Amendment (11 points)
  • War on Rural Maryland (12 points)
  • Role of government (13 points)
  • Job creation and transportation (14 points)
  • Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)

Once I add or subtract three points for various intangibles of my choosing, I’ll come up with the candidate who I think will best serve Maryland. Granted, my endorsement will only be worth the pixels they’re darkening but at least some thought will be put into why this candidate is the best one for Maryland. (Keep in mind that any of these three would be vastly superior to Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or anyone else Democrats put up.) Otherwise, I come in with no preconceived notions with the exception that the other declared GOP candidates in the race don’t have the campaign or the presence to achieve any more than a tiny percentage of the vote so they’re not included; also, this is subject to update if/when Larry Hogan enters the race.

So now that you have the basic concepts, how about some specifics of what I’m getting at for each point? These are questions I may be able to find answers for within the candidates’ own websites, but it’s more likely I need further guidance. I have had the chance to hear all three declared candidates speak on at least two occasions apiece so I might have a decent idea where they’ll go, but it never hurts to ask. With that, here goes:

  • Election/campaign finance reform: Will you aggressively pursue the redistricting revision case in court; if we succeed can we have 141 single-member districts? Where do you stand on current reporting requirements: too tight, too loose, or just right? What about getting after local boards of elections and telling them to clean up their voter rolls?
  • Illegal immigration: Will you take the 287 (g) program used in Frederick County statewide? How about rescinding recent changes to drivers’ license laws in Maryland? And what about in-state tuition – do you revisit this issue? What about withholding a portion of state funds from sanctuary cities? Cooperation with the federal E-Verify program? What about policies allowing status checks such as those in Arizona?
  • Dealing with Obamacare: Do we eliminate the state exchange? Would you pursue a waiver for the state if one becomes available? Are you in favor of defunding or letting the law go into effect and watching it collapse? What steps would you take to encourage more insurance competition in the state? What about returning Medicaid limits to minimum levels?
  • Energy policy: When can we expect fracking to begin in Western Maryland? And what will you do with the renewable portfolio standard? Will you move to re-regulate Maryland’s electrical utilities? Can Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind scheme work? What about offshore oil drilling – is that an option for you? Will you maintain Maryland’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative?
  • Education: Will Common Core be the law of the land in Maryland, or will you eschew Race to the Top funding? How about school choice, or money following the child regardless of school? How will you protect homeschooling? Instill more local control? What about promoting elected school boards in those counties still without them? Emphasis on vocational education? How do you message against the certain opposition of the teachers’ unions?
  • Second Amendment: Will you work to repeal the so-called Firearms Safety Act? What about concealed carry, and making licenses easier to get? If the federal government gets too onerous, will you fight them? What’s your interpretation of the Second Amendment?
  • War on Rural Maryland: Can we count on you to repeal the Septic Bill and tier mapping? Will nitrogen-removal systems still be required? Will the Hudson family be made whole by the state, since it was with the state’s assistance they were legally harassed? How will you assist the poultry industry in the state and keep them here? What about cleaning up behind the Conowingo Dam and fighting the mandated burden on rural counties, as well as the rain tax on urban ones?
  • Role of Government: Where do you stand on a regulation moratorium, and would you veto new mandates passed through the General Assembly? Are there any agencies you’d work to abolish? What about divestiture of surplus state land? Is a consolidation of primary state government functions in Annapolis on your agenda? Can we count on you to repeal as many laws as you create? Where do you stand on public-private partnerships? Do you support citizen-based petition to referendum for new laws (as opposed to those passed by the General Assembly)? What about the right to recall elected officials?
  • Job creation and transportation: We know you’ll lower the corporate tax rate – what about eliminating it entirely? What about reform of unemployment insurance? What other steps will you take to make it easier to do business in Maryland? As far as infrastructure goes, will you kill the Red Line and Purple Line in favor of more useful means for transporting goods, such as expanding the interstate network in Maryland and surrounding states? Will you hold the line on tolls? What about another Bay crossing – where would you put it? What non-tax code incentives would you offer for rural area job creation? What policies would you adopt from other states?
  • Fiscal conservatism/taxation: Can Marylanders expect a flatter income tax system? How about eliminating it entirely as some states have done? Or would you prefer a sales tax decrease or elimination? Would you agree to a TABOR, or at least a budget utilizing those principles? Can we get per-capita spending closer to the national norm? And how will you deal with the outcry of the press, such as the old “tax cuts for the rich” saw?
  • Intangibles: Positions on abortion, expansion of gambling and/or return to legislative control (as opposed to Constitutional amendment), protection for religious objections to gay marriage, your perception of the TEA Party and pro-liberty movement, and so forth. Mainly social issues.

Yes, that’s a hell of a lot. But somewhere, someone else is asking some of the same questions and if I’m going to make a decision I want it to be informed. And while I’d like to make these issue posts on about a weekly basis, that’s probably a quite aggressive timetable.

But I’m sure that a) people from the respective campaigns read my website, and b) they will bend over backwards for new media. (At least that’s what I’m counting on.) And it’s likely they haven’t even pondered some of these queries, so I don’t expect miracles – but I’ll take them anyhow.

Yet I’m sure that some high-dollar Beltway Republican consultant will tell their candidate that he’d be nuts to get into specifics this far out because all it would provide is fodder for the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself) to harp upon as the campaign heats up. News flash: they will do that anyway, even if they have to make stuff up (e.g. “a fee is a tax.”) So get it out now and I’ll take those clowns on myself, even as I point out that it’s not like I don’t have a few allies in this fight.

Just let me know you have the balls to stand for something, okay?

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