As a follow up and way to revise and extend remarks on Friday’s post about the Alliance for American Manufacturing, I decided to dig a little bit more into who they are and what they are proposing. The idea of “Made in America” is a sound one, for a number of reasons, but as I pointed out the AAM seems to have many of its eggs in the protectionist basket. To some extent, they have a case: even their attempt to furnish their Washington, D.C. office with exclusively American-made goods fell a little short:
Our tour began in one of the small offices, where (AAM executive director Scott) Paul showed off a desk from Washington state. But things took a turn downhill from there, when we got to the products on the desk.
“You can’t find phones, video display terminals,” says Paul. “I mean, none of that is American-made.” Paul couldn’t find American-made computers, either, though that may change following Apple’s announcement that it plans to make some Macs in the United States.
But then I found an entire AAM-backed legislative agenda, for which they linked to this subpage on the website of Delaware’s junior Senator Chris Coons. In it, we find a number of top-down legislative proposals in the areas of skills training, exports, access to capital, and “conditions necessary for growth.” At the time of its last update, about half of these proposals hadn’t been introduced as bills, with the last introduced bill being S.1400 in July of this year – either the website is not often updated or these proposals have languished on the back burner of a do-nothing, obstructionist Senate. This to me is quite telling as most of the sponsors are Democrats, who have the majority in the body.
It should be pointed out, too, that the Alliance for American Manufacturing is the brainchild of the United Steelworkers union and a “select group of America’s leading manufacturers.” The list of this select group isn’t widely disseminated, but the AAM describes that:
Leo Gerard, the International President of the United Steelworkers, and CEOs of Steelworker-represented manufacturers understood that. These leaders launched AAM in 2007 to build on the success of the “Stand Up For Steel” coalition.
The roots of that coalition date back to the 1990s, so this fight is an old one under a relatively new name since the AAM was founded in 2007. Essentially it’s a union partnership with the closed shops under its wing; a business-labor pact in name only.
Now that you understand its roots, it becomes more clear why they prescribe their menu of solutions. The steel industry is long known as a bastion of protectionism, given the charges of foreign steel dumping a decade or so back.
So are there any other solutions out there? The competing group to AAM is the National Association of Manufacturers, a group whose board is representative of over 200 industrial leaders. Their vision is somewhat different than that of the union-backed organization, although there are elements of protectionism and top-down dictates in their plan as well. Most worrisome to me is their advocacy for immigration reform, which is needed but must be done in such a manner that law-breaking is not rewarded at the expense of those who went about it in the correct manner.
Yet NAM makes one sound point:
Because of our tax, tort, energy and regulatory policies, it is 20 percent more expensive to do business in the United States than it is in the countries that are our nine largest trading partners — and that excludes the cost of labor.
And it’s not like the problem is new, particularly here in Maryland. I mentioned Friday that Ron George is perhaps the gubernatorial candidate most attuned to the problem (David Craig has his own plan as well), although all but one of the players involved at the time had their say at an October manufacturing summit. Moreover, outgoing Governor Martin O’Malley was even forced to pay lip service to the issue.
But we have had this discussion for several years, and the prescriptions which were suggested a half-decade ago languished on the bookshelf while Maryland developed a growing reputation as a state hostile to business. It’s sort of strange that what I wrote on Friday – as a person who had never seen this report – nailed their first point about “a competitive and stable business environment.” They also talked about the need for a “balanced approach” to energy rather than the heavy emphasis on renewables, which is another pet peeve of mine. (Little did they know at the time the report was compiled – just five short years ago – that America and a portion of Maryland were sitting on an energy gold mine.)
In short, the solutions to the problem seem to be there and many fall into the conservative, pro-liberty camp. If we tell the radical environmentalists and regulators to go pound sand because we have work to do, chances are more of us would indeed have more work to do and more prosperity to spread around.
It was our last formal meeting of the year, but it also featured a return to scheduled speakers after last month’s work session. District 37B candidates Christopher Adams and Johnny Mautz, Jr. did the honors. (Incumbent Delegate Addie Eckardt, who is seeking re-election, was also invited but could not attend.)
As always, we began with the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of an expanding roster of distinguished guests. There were probably 40 people in attendance, which has been becoming the norm as the 2014 election draws closer and closer.
One new wrinkle is that I no longer need to read the meeting minutes, which are now posted online at the WCRC website. (I updated the page last night with the 2013 minutes.) We still heard the Treasurer’s Report, though, which had the distinction of no comparison to last year’s totals. (You may recall our November, 2012 meeting was wiped out due to the aftermath of flooding from Hurricane Sandy. The Chamber of Commerce building sustained serious damage from the “superstorm.”)
Neither Adams nor Mautz spoke at any great length, and mainly stuck to the generalities of introducing themselves and explaining why they were running rather than issue advocacy.
For example, Christopher Adams was right up front about it: “I’m a business person, first and foremost.” He added that he was “not necessarily comfortable” in politics, but ran because he was “frustrated with what I see in Annapolis.”
Adams recounted his experience at the state party convention over the weekend, saying it was “very exciting” to be part of the Maryland Republican Party. For him, the highlight was Senator David Brinkley’s remarks where Brinkley relayed the story of Senate President Mike Miller paying a rare visit to the GOP caucus in an effort to provide opposition to his own party’s excesses.
Speaking as a businessman, Christopher noted the state “is starting to tighten down” on businesses like his. Christopher became involved as the leader of his industry organization, as his company (Value Carpet One) was cited by the state for employment law violations which could have severely (and unfairly) impacted his company. His was a “test case” on the law, which has since been changed.
His goal was to be a true “citizen legislator” and eventually return to the business. I asked Christopher if he would term-limit himself and he indeed gave himself a two-term limit, based on the ages of his children who would be completing college by then and may wish to follow in his footsteps with the business.
On the other hand, Johnny Mautz was a little apologetic, saying he hasn’t been in Wicomico County enough. But the Talbot County native – whose “entire life has been invested in the Eastern Shore” – also made the case that his business (Carpenter Street Saloon) is “facing a lot of challenges.” Johnny described himself as a legislative lawyer in Washington by day, and a business manager at night and on the weekends.
Johnny described Maryland as “the leading edge of the progressive movement,” using the proposed phosphorus regulations as an example of our “out of touch” government.
But he also made a very salient point: many of the issues we are discussing now may be resolved by the time he would take office in 2015.
Mautz drew an interesting question from an audience member, who asked if the party was afraid to scuffle and “get its nose bloodied.” But both candidates – as well as District 38C hopeful Mary Beth Carozza, who was in attendance as well – made the case that you “have to be tactical.”
“Annapolis is a dangerous place for a Republican,” Mautz concluded.
After Jackie Wellfonder noted the passing of a longtime member, Dave Parker injected a lot of humor into his Central Committee report. But he turned serious when he called the Iran deal our “Neville Chamberlain moment.”
He also let the group know about some of the outcomes of the state convention, particularly the demise of the open primary which was not going to get a favorable vote from the Executive Committee.
Turning to local events, he reminded us that the next Central Committee meeting will be December 2. He also bemoaned the local employment picture, stating that the number employed in the county has been declining for several months on end. And as always, Dave encouraged people to run, saying the Central Committee needed some “new blood” as some members would be seeking other offices. “It takes a lot of courage” to run for office, said Dave.
John Palmer asked Dave to relate the story of Annapolis mayor-elect Mike Pantelides, who was the beneficiary of a Super Saturday which found a lot of new voters. Mary Beth Carozza chimed in at that topic, pointing out that education was needed about the process – she was getting quite a few registration changes by reminding would-be voters they have to be Republicans to vote for her in the primary election (and having the requisite cards handy.)
We got a number of quick updates from other candidates as well, with Marc Kilmer, Muir Boda, and Carozza making the rounds of constituent meetings and planning fundraisers.
But Delegate Charles Otto is a candidate as well, seeking re-election. (Even though no one in the room will be able to vote for him in 2014 because Wicomico County has been excised from his new district.) Otto gave some of his thoughts about matters being discussed, predicting the phosphorus regulations “would be devastating to us.” And even though there was no real scientific basis for the changes, the state was “just going to do it” so Martin O’Malley could have an environmental feather in his cap. But Otto warned that the “voters of Iowa listen to corn growers” and the incoming president of a national corn growers’ group hails from southern Maryland.
Otto also said that Obamacare “was what we said it was going to be” and told us the state was again facing a structural deficit of about $500-600 million.
Jackie Wellfonder mentioned one other event, a local fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate David Craig on December 1.
We also got an update on what promises to be a great WCRC Christmas Party on December 15. The WCRC will also be represented at the Jaycees Christmas Parade on December 8th, so organizers were looking for volunteers and a vehicle.
One final significant topic of discussion was brought up the owner of a local sign company, who posited that “we took down more signs in this county than we put up.” Simply put, he didn’t feel the county was friendly enough to business and pointed to the recent pullout of a proposed Cracker Barrel restaurant (as well as a TGI Friday’s) as evidence. Another member added that the county was also “very unfriendly” to transportation.
Obviously this was a pretty good time to bring up the topic with three candidates for and one sitting Delegate in attendance as well as a member of County Council and two others openly seeking to join him.
But I thought the subject was one which needed to be publicized, since he owns a business which depends heavily on other businesses to survive. His story needs to be backed up with facts and told in a larger venue than our small meeting.
Said small meeting, however, was the last such one of 2013. The WCRC will next convene (after the Christmas Parade and Christmas Party, of course) on January 27, 2014 – less than a month before the filing deadline.
Generally the interregnum between Election Day and New Year’s Day is a dead zone for politics. Admittedly, there are exceptions – Obamacare passed the Senate in a series of late-December votes culminating on Christmas Eve, leading to the potential for coal in a lot of stockings four years on; about the only use allowed for it anymore. But for the most part, the political world is placed on the back burner in November and December.
But I’ve noticed the Maryland gubernatorial campaigns are pressing on at an increasing pace these days, and there’s probably no stopping anytime soon as they try to blunt the impact of the presumptive new entrant, Larry Hogan. While Hogan and Change Maryland have continually been critics of the off-tune Martin O’Malley/Anthony Brown second term, the pace of Hogan’s criticism has picked up in recent weeks in preparation for what appears to be a gala announcement at the state’s upcoming Republican convention. One can argue that the Hogan candidacy was already priced into the market – for example, I received two mailings yesterday from the David Craig campaign proclaiming that “governor is not an entry-level position” and that David has “The experience we need. The leadership you can trust.” But when you consider he was talking about making a January decision, the fact Hogan moved his timetable up may be an indication that he feels the race would be getting away from him if he waited.
Larry also seems to be using the toughest rhetoric, saying Anthony Brown “intentionally misled” voters on Obamacare and accusing Martin O’Malley of “cherry-picking data.” Hopefully he will remain on that path of making the race a referendum on disastrous Democratic policies.
One offshoot of this potential Hogan entry will be how it affects fundraising by the other candidates. We won’t have our first indication of how any of the candidates are progressing on that front until mid-January, but it bears mentioning that several gubernatorial candidates will have to put fundraising on hold during the General Assembly session: all three on the Democratic side (Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler, and Delegate Heather Mizeur) as well as GOP Delegate Ron George. This is true unless they are taking public financing, and I doubt any Democrat will live under those spending limits.
So this won’t matter as much to the Democrats who are already pretty flush with cash, but Ron George will be at a disadvantage during that crucial time just months before the primary so he’s passing the hat now. If money gets more scarce with Hogan jumping in he would be placed at the largest disadvantage.
I suspect the race will be trimmed to three once again before the primary begins, but it’s anyone’s guess who the odd person out will be.
Those who hold power in Annapolis continue to talk about bringing back manufacturing jobs, but the path toward making Maryland a major player again in that field begins with making a number of changes. So says gubernatorial candidate Ron George, who put out a stark criticism of the O’Malley record:
The O’Malley/Brown administration has abandoned the working man at the time when manufacturing companies are relocating back to the US and looking for a hard working, well-educated workforce. Our progressive tax system, from the sky high property tax rates in Baltimore City to the equipment tax that is four times the national average, has positioned Maryland as the worst state in the country for manufacturing.
Manufacturing accounts for a significant percentage of new jobs for workers with less education and experience in the workforce. I am working to reform education in our urban centers to direct and expose our young people towards careers requiring a trade or specialized certification.
George cites a Tax Foundation study which shows Maryland lagging behind its neighbors; indeed in several aspects of the study our state was dead last. (Oddly enough, though, Pennsylvania fared worse overall than Maryland – its recent good job fortune comes with its farsighted decision to exploit its underground resources.)
I found this interesting on the heels of a recent op-ed by Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which chastised the Obama administration for a slow growth in manufacturing jobs nationwide. Paul concludes that:
Too few of our policymakers have considered the consequences that came with losing a third of our manufacturing jobs in the last decade. This economic recovery has not worked for the middle class; but a real one will occur when we begin to revalue manufacturing’s place at the heart of it.
Ironically, this op-ed came out on the same day leading Democratic contender Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown skipped a Maryland manufacturing conference.
So why can’t Maryland be a leader in making things? It would certainly be good for diversifying our state’s economy, which seems far too dependent on the federal government. Rather than pushing the pencils inside the Beltway, we should be making them in Hagerstown, Elkton, or any of a number of small towns which could use the employment. Of all the GOP candidates, Ron has probably devoted the most thought to the process. I also applaud the implied endorsement of vocational programs which are sorely needed in this day and age, giving people the skills necessary to not only become useful workers but also potential entrepreneurs and teachers of skilled trades.
Yet there is one thing missing in George’s idea; admittedly, no one else has really considered it either. There are several modes of transportation available for goods produced in Maryland; for domestic consumption we have reasonably good (if somewhat traffic-choked) north-south highways in I-95 and I-81 with an alternate coastal route of U.S. 13 through Delaware and the Eastern Shore. Unfortunately, transportation to the west is somewhat more problematic, with the meandering I-70 being the best bet. There is also rail transportation available, along with a oceangoing seaport in Baltimore to export goods and more limited facilities in Salisbury for barges. (Obviously there are airports as well, but generally manufactured goods use other means of transport.)
Maryland needs to position itself as a state which has a relatively good location between the metropolis of the Boston-Washington axis and the growing region of the Sun Belt, a workforce which is better educated than most, and – most importantly – a mindset I’m going to borrow from a former Republican governor of my home state, James Rhodes: “Profit is not a dirty word.” Let businesses come and make some, rather than confiscate the fruits of their toil as Maryland seems most willing to do.
Let’s face it: with the government we have in place, both in Maryland and nationally, the middle class is being phased out. There are a few on the top with all the cronyism and connections, a small (but growing) cadre of government minions who get their wealth from writing the rules which allow the upper crust to stay where they are at, and a huge number who have become the serfs of this modern-day feudalism. When America made things, it had a middle class and everyone benefited. It’s time to bring it back through leadership with an eye toward that goal.
The burr underneath Martin O’Malley’s saddle must have stuck when the horses were changed because now Larry Hogan and Change Maryland is becoming an irritant to Anthony Brown. In the wake of Brown dodging and ducking the questions of interviewer Jayne Miller of WBAL-TV, Hogan added the following response under the Change Maryland banner:
The O’Malley-Brown Administration has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for the ACA and Lt. Governor Brown is responsible for implementing Maryland’s version of the law. Last night, Anthony Brown admitted that he knew many Marylanders could not keep their insurance despite promises to the contrary. By remaining silent, he intentionally misled thousands of mothers, fathers, and children who depend on health care insurance for the treatment they need.
As Lieutenant Governor, Anthony Brown has an obligation to serve the best interests of all Marylanders, which means being straightforward about the implementation of this new law. Despite all the promises from the O’Malley-Brown Administration that the state was ready for this roll out, the exchange has been plagued with one problem after another.
Marylanders deserve to know whether or not people are enrolling in the Health Benefit Exchange because ultimately, the success or failure of the program will have a direct impact on their own health insurance. Brown’s failures have given us zero confidence that the state even knows how many people have enrolled.
It’s time for Mr. Brown to come clean with Marylanders, take responsibility for the problems of the state exchange, and personally apologize for misleading the public. Regardless of how anyone feels about the new law, Anthony Brown obviously put partisan politics ahead of the people he was elected to represent. This falls 100% in his lap.
Change Maryland also pointed out a discrepancy in enrollment figures between state and federal reports, numbers which suggest the state may have exaggerated enrollment figures nearly fourfold; federal numbers show Maryland enrolled 1,284 in the first month Obamacare was active while the state claims 4,651. Meanwhile, 73,000 Marylanders were sent cancellation notices, including Sixth District Congressional candidate Dan Bongino, who posted his online. I went to public school, but even I can see that math makes the point that the Affordable Care Act is neither going to be affordable nor caring.
If you look at this through a political lens, however, two things jump out at you.
One is the presumption that Brown will be the Democratic nominee at this early stage, given his commanding poll edge. Granted, Anthony Brown is the one who is touting his healthcare record - particularly the more and more laughable claim that “independent studies show will reduce the number of uninsured in Maryland by 50%” – and running as a continuation of the “success” of the last seven long years. (Brown’s doublespeak extends to other areas of his healthcare record; according to him Maryland expanded Medicaid by “working with stakeholders and placing higher costs on tobacco products.” In English, this was the dollar-a-pack cigarette tax hike, which served as among the most regressive of O’Malley/Brown’s many tax hikes.)
Secondly, it’s a reiteration of a point which those on our side frequently make: have we seen this discrepancy covered in the Baltimore Sun or Washington Post? Looking at the Sun‘s main page today, we find instead the headline touting a 36% hike in enrollments – not a word about the Jayne Miller interview. The Post ignores the story altogether, but joyfully kicks the outgoing McDonnell administration in Virginia with a report on $575,000 in legal bills paid by the taxpayer, in a case where the billing is allowed by law. (Just wait until Terry McAuliffe takes office; he’ll make that $575,000 seem like pocket change.)
On the other hand, this allegation has received scant coverage beyond the original WBAL segment: a reprint of the press release here, a mention of the Jayne Miller interview as part of Maryland Reporter‘s state roundup yesterday, and now my piece. (Needless to say it was also linked on ChangeMaryland’s Facebook page with its 64,000 followers.) Even if this gets picked up by other local bloggers, talk radio, and such, it’s going to be an uphill fight to get the word out on anything like this.
Working twice as hard to accomplish half as much seems to be the norm for us when it comes to media. But I think we’re improving, and can do even better once we convince the campaigns to stay on message.
It was a Friday afternoon document dump on the state level, but today the Maryland Department of Agriculture dropped its phosphorus management tool regulations. A piece in the Daily Times by Jennifer Shutt reminded readers that area farmers had objected to these changes since the discussion began in 2012.
But before doing a victory lap, it should be noted the regulations aren’t going away:
As a result of concerns identified in the public meetings and public comment process, MDA is withdrawing the regulations. The department will consider all comments and critical issues raised by stakeholders, develop an approach that addresses concerns raised to date, and resubmit a new proposal to AELR in 2014 that includes a phased implementation schedule for the new tool.
Local reaction was pleased, but cautious. Delegate Mike McDermott, whose district covers much of the lower Shore, noted:
While this is great news for Marylanders and the lower shore specifically, we must remain vigilant in the coming year…they will not stop. Today, I pre-filed a bill that would require a thorough fiscal review and economic impact study on regulations brought before the AELR Committee by state departments. I will also be offering a bill that would remove the ability of the Executive Branch to implement a regulation if it is not approved by the AELR Committee. The General Assembly must stand up to the overreach by this or any future governor’s administration whey they attempt to bypass the legislative process. Today is akin to a ballgame being called on account of rain…rest assured, their will be a make up and we all need to be prepared!
Added local candidate Christopher Adams, who is seeking to represent another portion of the Lower Shore in Annapolis:
Governing to the brink of disaster is just bad public policy. While this is good short term news for the agricultural community, it is a shame that a reasoned approach was not contemplated from the beginning.
So what is a reasoned approach? Buddy Hance, the state’s Secretary of Agriculture, defended the idea behind the regulations:
The O’Malley-Brown Administration remains committed to adopting the PMT through rule making and developing an approach that further considers comments raised by policymakers and citizens alike. MDA is confident that the PMT science is sound, based on 20 years of evolving federal and state research to better understand soil phosphorus and managing risk of loss to our rivers and streams.
I guess the state was hoping to get this done before the election season heats up, but we on the Shore raised too much of a stink. (Pun intended.) Certainly the O’Malley minions in Annapolis are making the political calculation that the farmers on the Eastern Shore aren’t going to vote for them anyway, but such a proposal would please those who swoon at the thought of pristine wildlife corridors on the Eastern Shore and figure farmers are the sole source of pollution for the Bay because of that icky chicken manure.
Moreover, something tells me that research “evolved” in the direction of the wishes of those paying for the studies. Since both the federal and state governments are tightly clutched in Democratic hands, and that party is the home of those who tip the balance furthest away from coexistence between poultry production and acceptable water quality – forever chasing a goal of placing the Bay in the pristine condition it was in when just a few thousand native tribesmen lived here as opposed to the millions who now inhabit its watershed – it’s no surprise the research has suggested regulations local agricultural advocates reject.
But it’s like almost any other cherished liberal dream – like water eroding a large rock, cracks develop and eventually the obstacle is surmounted. Many of the initiatives our state is saddled with withered and died multiple times before the General Assembly finally relented. So it will be with this package of regulations: they didn’t get them this time, but in 2014 they’ll hope it flies under the radar with the looming election. If not, it might be an O’Malley parting gift at the dawn of 2015, daring a Republican successor to overturn it.
Or worse, it could be the stepping-off point for another Democratic governor to cite even more favorable and extreme “evolving research” and really clamp down on the Eastern Shore’s agricultural industry.
Poultry producers are getting it on all sides now: their feed costs continue to be well above average thanks to the ethanol mandates and their effect on corn prices, the value of their land is significantly and adversely affected by state-mandated tier maps which hinder opportunities for development on road frontage if desired, and now these new proposed regulations layered on top of hundreds of pages of existing state and federal mandates. Add to that competition from abroad, and one has to ponder how much more the major players will take.
If Perdue ever left our little corner of the world, the cherished Radical Green dream of wildlife corridors may follow. There won’t be a lot of point for many local farmers to stay in business.
Apparently it is all about turning out the base.
In their victory lap and appeal to flip the House, national Democrats cited the recent decision in Virginia to embrace cronyism in the persona of Terry McAuliffe as well as a number of big-city mayors such as Bill de Blasio in New York as evidence they have momentum. It’s the usual spin, considering they were whacked in New Jersey – a state with a Democratic voter registration advantage.
Yet look at the electorate which showed up in Virginia:
So McAuliffe, who won by less than two points, was elected by a D+9 turnout. Yet because Virginia is an open primary state and doesn’t make voters select a political party upon registration, this simply means self-declared Democrats were the largest of the three groups, with independents next and Republicans last. Those who declared themselves independent actually voted more for Ken Cuccinelli than for Terry McAuliffe, so where the GOP may have failed was getting their likely voters to the ballot. Many may be kicking themselves now because they believed the polls when they showed McAuliffe up by 10 points and didn’t turn out.
But the Democrats apparently believe that, because the 2013 model of turnout in Virginia turned out like the 2012 model, that the success will continue through 2014. They cling to this hope, as well as the polling data I wrote about a few weeks back where a generic Democrat leads in several Congressional races, in believing 2014 will be more of the same and they will get back the House to match the Senate.
The problem which their line of rainbow unicorn thinking is once you actually select a candidate the voters may not like his or her record or promises, particularly if they run on Obamacare. That, my friends, promises to be an albatross around the collective necks of the Democratic Party. Everyone who counters the lie we were told that “you can keep your insurance policy” is another potential Republican vote if done correctly in 2014 and 2016. Do you seriously think Hillary Clinton will change a thing about Obamacare when she had this bright idea two decades ago? She won’t. Yes, I realize the Democrats will try their best to change the subject and/or demonize Big Insurance, but they have a mess on their hands right now which goes far beyond a balky website.
Yet there is a lesson for us as well. I’ll grant this is a little bit of apples-to-oranges comparison because Virginia’s voters are self-declared, but if you had even a 35-34 Democratic turnout they would have never sent the e-mail because Ken Cuccinelli would be the incoming governor.
In one of our Republican Club meetings it was noted that Bob Ehrlich was elected with 68% Republican turnout. That simply won’t do. Martin O’Malley was re-elected with 1,044,961 votes in 2010, and even with 100% turnout and perfect GOP loyalty we are still almost 100,000 votes shy of that mark based on our current registration numbers. If we are going to win, we need to get that 20% of the Democrats who remain registered that way because their daddy was a Democrat to vote for us, and draw in independents, too.
Surely the opposition will paint us as extremists and try to play on voters’ emotions as they did in the Virginia race. But what’s so extreme about keeping more of your own money, presenting additional choices for the education of your children, and bringing the focus of government back to a local level? You tell me.
I refuse to believe the voters of Maryland will continue to vote against their own self-interest and will work accordingly to correct that. Education is a process which spans elections, but keep in mind we don’t have to convince everyone – if just one out of roughly former O’Malley voters switches to our side, we win. Given O’Malley’s tepid approval ratings it’s not such a daunting task, is it?
Time to get to work.
By the way, as an aside: it’s worth pointing out (as I was looking up the 2010 totals) that O’Malley won huge in two areas: early voting, where he received 62.9% of the vote, and absentee ballots, where he got 63.3%. But together they were only 18.1% of the total. Election Day is still important, but it won’t hurt to try and bank a lot of votes beforehand.
Thanks to my reading of the other side – namely the Maryland Juice website – I was alerted to a poll conducted recently. It’s a poll which shows that we as a movement and party have some work to do.
I’m going to reserve comment on the Goucher College survey insofar as the questions on minimum wage and pensions, the results of which gave me the sick sensation that people in this state really don’t understand economics, and focus on the key question of name recognition. Obviously I knew every name on this list but it turns out most of Maryland is familiar with few of the people running for governor. In order of name recognition, the percentages of people who have heard of these candidates are as follows:
- Anthony Brown – 62.3%
- Doug Gansler – 57.9%
- Dutch Ruppersberger – 49.1%
- David Craig – 30.6%
- Charles Lollar – 22.7%
- Ron George – 21.6%
- Heather Mizeur – 13.1%
Now this is a strict name recognition poll, and not a favorable/unfavorable one. But as you can see all of the GOP hopefuls trail all but one of the Democrats, which presents a problem but also an opportunity.
As we saw in the Virginia gubernatorial race, Ken Cuccinelli lost because he was defined by his opponent as hostile on social issues. Not only was the press generally favorable to Terry McAuliffe, he had a lot more money to spend in the latter days of the campaign to pour onto the thick layer of mud which had been slung for several months from both sides.
So an obvious goal of all candidates is to bring that name recognition number up, but also do it in such a way to present a positive image. With the rash of bad news Doug Gansler has endured, surely his recognition is up – but just as certainly his negatives are as well. The same can become true of Anthony Brown, since in the same Goucher Poll his boss Martin O’Malley only had a 41-40 favorable vs. unfavorable ratio, with strong unfavorables running 11.3 points ahead of strong favorables (e.g. a -11.3, which echoes the -15.1 O’Malley had in the recent Maryland Poll). Those two are as peas in a pod to me.
Besides, the factor Marylanders are most looking for in their next governor is trustworthiness. I don’t trust any of the Democrats any farther than I can throw them – the closest is Mizeur, who makes no bones about being liberal.
If we can alert as many Marylanders as possible to our candidates with good and truthful words – accentuate the positive – it makes their job easier. Time to get to work.
These from a guy who’s not even on the 2014 ballot, criticized by someone who’s not made the leap onto the ballot yet. Respectively, I’m referring to Martin O’Malley and his favorite burr under the saddle, Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan. The story goes like this:
Late last week the blog Politics Maryland reported that State Budget secretary Eloise Foster of the Department of Budget and Management indicated Governor O’Malley directed government agencies to prepare “cost containment plans” to cut spending instead of raising taxes. Change Maryland, the state’s leading voice of opposition to a one-party political monopoly in Annapolis, scoffed at the claim that O’Malley would not seek higher taxes or fees in the face of Maryland’s looming $510 million structural deficit.
“Every election year, Governor O’Malley promises not to raise taxes, but he has broken this promise every year he has been governor. Under this administration, Marylanders have been slammed with 40 consecutive tax, toll and fee hikes. Now, as he attempts to cement his legacy and further his presidential aspirations, he is back to singing the ‘no new tax’ tune once again,” said Larry Hogan, founder and Chairman of Change Maryland.
During his re-election campaign, O’Malley ran commercials railing against fee and tax increases; after he claimed he was looking for a “diet of cuts” until the state’s economy and revenue were stronger. Yet in his second term, he pushed for some of the most regressive taxes and fees we’ve seen in this administration: increases in the state’s gas tax and tolls, a rain tax, and more that disproportionately affect the families that can least afford them.
“In 2012, O’Malley infamously tweeted ‘You have to have the guts to make the cuts.’ But after seven years, where are the cuts, governor?” asked Hogan. “The facts show that Martin O’Malley has actually increased state spending by over $8 billion — with zero cuts. By the standards of his own rhetoric, Governor O’Malley is gutless,” Hogan said.
“The massive tax increases in 2007 were supposed to solve the structural deficit. Then it was the 2012 tax hikes. Here we are again with a shortfall, even after forty consecutive tax increases under this administration,” charged Hogan. “Even these outrageous tax increases have not kept up with spending addiction of the O’Malley-Brown administration. This is further proof that this administration simply lacks the courage to say, ‘no’ to spending.”
The proof to Hogan’s assertions is in the pudding: our budget is indeed up $8 billion from what it was in FY2007, as I’ll show below.
A solution Hogan didn’t point out was instead posited by one of his prospective opponents, Charles Lollar. He’s been advocating a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR law, similar to one Colorado adopted some years back.
Let’s take a look at where we’d be had Bob Ehrlich passed one in 2006. TABOR establishes that the budget cannot grow more than the rate of inflation plus the rate of population growth in a particular year.
Had a TABOR been in place, the budget from 2007 to 2013 would have only grown by the rate of inflation, which the CPI inflation calculator I used pegged at 12.93% over the period, plus Maryland’s population growth. I extrapolated the Census figures and used a population estimate I made of 5,650,000 as a “close enough” starting point and came up with this:
- Inflation: 12.93%, based on the CPI inflation calculator
- Population growth: 4.42% (based on extrapolating Census data to assume a population of roughly 5,900,000 today vs. around 5,650,000 in 2007)
- The FY2007 Maryland budget came in at $29.629 billion, including reversions.
- The FY2014 Maryland budget is $37.307 billion, including fund raids.
With the TABOR rule and using the last Ehrlich budget as a starting point, anything over $34.77 billion ($29.629 billion + 17.35%) is excessive spending. So Martin O’Malley overspent by $2.537 billion this year, not to mention smaller sums over his first six budgets. So much for having “guts for cuts.”
Put another way, the corporate tax that some candidates are tinkering around the edges with could easily be eliminated now if the TABOR was in effect. Meanwhile, those gasoline taxes could be spent strictly on roads. Or, we could have taken a sizable step toward eliminating our $9.8 billion dependence on Uncle Sam – another point brought up by Lollar.
Unfortunately for those looking to vote with their feet, O’Malley/Brown will be the beneficiary of a giant present dumped in their lap – a bare plurality of the voters of Virginia were foolish enough to elect Terry McAuliffe as governor over the vastly superior Ken Cuccinelli. Now Marylanders who were ready to bail to Virginia will have to wait four years for sanity to be re-established there. And do you think McAuliffe will govern like he got 60% of the vote, calling his 47% a mandate? You betcha.
Fortunately, the Virginia House of Delegates looks to be very safely in Republican hands (it should end up somewhere around 66-34 R) so hopefully McAuliffe can’t do too much damage IF Republicans stay strong.
One thing the Virginia race proves: you have to define yourself before your opponent does it for you. Anthony Brown is basically the blankest of slates, so let’s get to work.
I got to thinking the other day – yes, I know that can be a dangerous thing – about the 2014 electoral map for Maryland and an intriguing possibility.
Since State Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned a few months back, a sidebar to the story of his succession – as well as that of selecting a replacement for former Delegate Steve Hershey, who was elevated to replace Pipkin – is the fact that Caroline County is the lone county in the state without resident representation. However, with the gerrymandering done by the O’Malley administration to protect Democrats and punish opponents, it’s now possible the 2015 session could dawn with four – yes, four – counties unrepresented in that body based on the 2012 lines. Three of those four would be on the Eastern Shore, and would be a combination of two mid-Shore counties and Worcester County, with the fourth being Garrett County at the state’s far western end.
Granted, that scenario is highly unlikely and there is probably a better chance all 23 counties and Baltimore City will have at least one resident member of the General Assembly. But what if I had an idea which could eliminate that potential problem while bolstering the hands of the counties representing themselves in Annapolis?
The current composition of the Maryland Senate dates from 1972, a change which occurred in response to a 1964 Supreme Court decision holding that Maryland’s system of electing Senators from each county violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, Marylanders had directly elected their state Senators long before the Seventeenth Amendment was passed in 1913. Over time, with these changes, the Senate has become just another extension of the House of Delegates, just with only a third of the membership.
So my question is: why not go back to the future and restore our national founders’ intent at the same time?
What if Maryland adopted a system where each county and Baltimore City were allotted two Senators, but those Senators weren’t selected directly by the voters? Instead, these Senators would be picked by the legislative body of each county or Baltimore City, which would give the state 48 Senators instead of 47. Any tie would be broken by the lieutenant governor similar to the way our national vice-president does now for the United States Senate.
Naturally the Democrats would scream bloody murder because it would eliminate their advantage in the state Senate; based on current county government and assuming each selects two members of their own party the Senate would be Republican-controlled. But that would also encourage more voting on local elections and isn’t that what Democrats want? It’s probably a better way to boost turnout than the dismal failure of “early and often” voting, which was supposed to cure the so-called ailment of poor participation.
If someone would argue to me that my proposal violates “one man, one vote” then they should stand behind the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. How is it fair that I’m one of 2,942,241 people (poorly) represented by Ben Cardin or Barbara Mikulski while 283,206 people in Wyoming are far more capably represented by John Barasso or Mike Enzi? We have counties in Maryland more populous than Wyoming.
No one questions the function or Constitutionality of the U.S. Senate as a body, knowing it was part of a compromise between larger and smaller states in the era of our founding. It’s why we have a bicameral legislature which all states save one copied as a model. (Before you ask, Nebraska is the holdout.) What I’ve done is restored the intent of those who conceived the nation as a Constitutional republic with several balances of power.
But I’m not through yet. If the Senate idea doesn’t grab you, another thought I had was to rework the House of Delegates to assure each county has a representative by creating seats for a ratio of one per 20,000 residents. (This essentially equals the population of Maryland’s least-populated county, Kent County. Their county could be one single House district.) In future years, the divisor could reflect the population of the county with the least population.
The corollary to this proposal is setting up a system of districts which do not overlap county lines, meaning counties would subdivide themselves to attain one seat per every 20,000 of population, give or take. For my home county of Wicomico, this would translate into five districts and – very conveniently as it turns out – we already have five ready-drawn County Council districts which we could use for legislative districts. Obviously, other counties would have anywhere from 1 to 50 seats in the newly expanded House of Delegates. Even better, because the counties would have the self-contained districts, who better to draw them? They know best which communities have commonality.
Obviously in smaller counties, the task of drawing 2 or 3 districts would be relatively simple and straightforward. It may be a little more difficult in a municipality like Baltimore or a highly-populated area like Montgomery County, but certainly they could come up with tightly-drawn, contiguous districts.
And if you think a body of around 300 seats is unwieldy, consider the state of New Hampshire has 400 members in their lower house. Certainly there would be changes necessary in the physical plant because the number of Delegates and their attendant staff would be far larger, but on the whole this would restore more power to the people and restrict the edicts from on high in Annapolis.
Tonight I was listening to Jackie Wellfonder launch into a brief discussion of whether the Maryland Republican Party should adopt open primaries, an idea she’s leaning toward adopting – on the other hand, I think it’s nuts. In my estimation, though, these sorts of proposals are nothing more than tinkering around the edges – these ideas I’ve dropped onto the table like a load of bricks represent real change. I think they should be discussed as sincere proposals to truly make this a more Free State by restoring the balance of power between the people, their local government, and the state government in Annapolis.
The news hasn’t been kind to Democratic gubernatorial challenger Doug Gansler. Thought to be a frontrunner early on because of his massive financial war chest, buoyed in part from being unopposed in the 2010 election, he’s found his financial advantage diminished by the union of current Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who were the next two on the fiscal totem pole. The selection of Delegate Jolene Ivey as Gansler’s running mate won’t help much in that regard as she had only $32,754.59 in her coffers as of the last reporting period in January.
But a pair of scandals have done their part to cripple the Gansler effort. In the short span of a couple weeks we’ve learned that Doug Gansler fancies himself above the law insofar as driving regulations go and isn’t exactly practicing the anti-teenage drinking message he preaches, as evidenced by his involvement in a Delaware house party over the summer.
Now one can argue whether word of these imbroglios were planted by the rival campaign of Anthony Brown, which has the advantage of knowing where the bodies are buried thanks to the current officeholder and Brown supporter, Martin O’Malley. One can also question whether this will end up being a fatal blow to the Gansler campaign, and if so, when. Considering the polls have Gansler 20 points behind at this stage, the odds are against Doug being the nominee.
My purpose this evening, though, is to provide my thoughts on answers to these and other questions.
First of all, if there is weakness from Gansler being sensed by those in Democratic circles, I would interpret this as a signal that could bring Second District Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger into the race; indeed, he’s now talking about an announcement around Thanksgiving. Much has been made about the absence of a Baltimore-area politician from the race for the first time in decades, and the argument for his entry is bolstered by Gansler’s foibles.
My theory about a four-person race being too much for a Republican primary is also true for Democrats, but the current dynamic there for 2014 is much different because one candidate (Heather Mizeur) is polling far weaker than any of the would-be GOP contenders in their race, at least according to the unscientific polls which are publicly available for the Republican contest. I suspect Mizeur would soldier on just to make a statement, but should Dutch jump in he would likely become the strong #2 in the gubernatorial race with a Baltimore base which recalls his executive experience and push Gansler to third.
There’s another side to the story, though. Given the situation in Maryland – or any other state controlled by one party for a significant length of time – the road to the top is generally set in a manner of “wait your turn.” Yet in Maryland the lieutenant governor has never succeeded his boss (although our first modern LG, Blair Lee III, served as acting governor in the late 1970s when then-Governor Marvin Mandel was incapacitated by a stroke.) Lee, though, lost in the 1978 Democratic primary, as did Melvin Steinberg in 1994. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend made it one step further, winning the 2002 Democratic primary but losing in the general election to Bob Ehrlich. So Brown is running against history despite the fact the skids are seemingly being greased for his ascendancy.
Thus, when statewide positions open up in such a situation, there are normally a number of ambitious politicians who jump at the chance for the brass ring. Once the Martin O’Malley/Anthony Brown ticket won the 2010 election, with Gansler and Peter Franchot securing re-election as Attorney General and Comptroller, respectively, the state was set for a contentious 2014 as all were thought to be possibly running for the open seat as governor. Franchot diffused some of that energy by opting to remain as Comptroller, but one other statewide prize still remained.
At this point there are four main Democratic contenders for Attorney General, all of whom currently serve in the General Assembly from what would nominally be considered safe seats. So what would happen if Doug Gansler decided to drop his bid for governor and revert to the job he already holds? Chances are that he wouldn’t do this, but if Doug did there would be a lot of angry Democrats cascading back down the line to General Assembly seats they would rather vacate for a higher office. Gansler would probably find himself in a contested AG primary with his opponents using the same information gathered against him in the governor’s race.
The second reason this wouldn’t happen, though, is the chance that Gansler survives the AG primary but faces an actual Republican opponent this time around. There’s no way the Maryland Democratic Party wants those damaged goods on a statewide ballot because that photo of Doug Gansler standing in the middle of teenage revelers would be seen 2 or 3 times an hour. Someone would make sure of that.
The key to holding a one-party state is having the opportunity to move up the food chain, and those who would succeed would-be statewide officers are counting on those veterans taking their shot. Losing control of one or more statewide offices would certainly cramp the Democrats’ style, since they’re accustomed to being treated like political royalty. And while multi-candidate primaries are okay for seats which open up due to term limits, Democrats seem to prefer to unify behind one candidate when the rare necessity of taking a statewide Republican seat opens up – for instance, Martin O’Malley was the only main Democratic gubernatorial contender in 2006. The state party did all sorts of gymnastics to try and avoid a divisive primary there, including an unsuccessful bid to move that year’s primary up to June; fortunately for them then-Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan abruptly exited the race days before the filing deadline and ceded the nomination to O’Malley.
If you add up all the General Assembly members, county executives, and other muckety-mucks in the Democratic party – who feel, of course, that they are entitled to statewide positions in perpetuity – there are a whole lot of ambitious politicians and only six such posts available (governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general, and 2 Senators). So the thought of Doug Gansler being damaged goods may well terrify Maryland Democrats enough to convince him that a nice four- to eight-year sabbatical to rehabilitate his image may be in order.
If you were handicapping the chances of Larry Hogan jumping into the race for governor, the odds may have shortened a little more based on the roadtrip he’s making this week. Change Maryland provides the details:
The O’Malley-Brown administration has submitted, for legislative approval, regulations that will have a sweeping effect on how Maryland’s already struggling farmers can manage their land. The proposed Phosphorus Management Tool is an intrusive regulation that will significantly impact how and when farmers can apply poultry manure fertilizer to their fields. Farmers have used poultry manure as fertilizer for years.
“It appears the O’Malley-Brown administration is not content with just restricting farmers’ property rights, but also insists on mandating how they use their property,” stated Larry Hogan, successful businessman and Change Maryland Founder.
Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance told a meeting of farmers last week that his department has no idea what the economic impact of the new regulations would be for farmers until it is up and running. “It’s Obamacare for farmers,” Hogan said, “we have to pass it in order to see what’s in it.”
According to a University of Maryland survey conducted by the designers of the Phosphorus Management Tool, 61 percent of the farms surveyed would be impacted by the new regulation. Virgil Shockley, a Democratic member of the Worcester County Board of Commissioners and a farmer himself, estimated the new regulations would cost the Lower Shore $120 million.
The Phosphorus Management Tool is part of the O’Malley-Brown Watershed Implementation Plan, which also foisted the onerous ‘rain tax’ on Maryland home and business owners.
“We all want a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay, not only for us but for our children and grandchildren,” said Hogan. “However, instead of focusing on workable solutions for all Marylanders, Governor O’Malley has chosen to pad his presidential resume by pandering to environmental special interest groups, and has placed burdensome regulations on our hard working farmers.”
Today and tomorrow, Hogan will be touring the Eastern Shore speaking to local farmers and local community leaders. The Eastern Shore is where the majority of Maryland’s farmland is located and where the proposed regulations will have the most devastating financial impact.
Most people who are in the real estate business aren’t going to make a farm tour of the Eastern Shore. But if you’re seeking the Republican nomination for governor, it’s certain you will be talking to your base and that number includes a heaping helping of Eastern Shore hospitality.
I would have to speculate that, for Hogan, this listening tour will give him ideas for the agricultural and environmental planks of his platform. For those who deride Larry as a clone of Bob Ehrlich, though, the tour may serve as a reminder that it was Bob who originally enacted the “flush tax” that Martin O’Malley has doubled.
But since Larry didn’t schedule a meeting with me – which is fine because I’ll be out working – a few other suggestions I have on the land use front may be helpful, and they go hand-in-hand with each other.
First of all, I think we should begin to wind down (or at least level-fund) Program Open Space, with the intent of having private entities such as land trusts purchase the property and, if they wish, donate it to the state. I’m not a fan of taking land off the tax rolls unnecessarily, for I have the belief the government controls too much land as it is.
Because of that belief, I think an idea Bob Ehrlich had should be expanded, and the Baltimore Sun and environmentalists can go pound sand. Now I wouldn’t do this until land values began to rebound, and certainly the sale can be a slow process of a few hundred acres at a time scattered around the state. I wouldn’t put an entire state park on the market, but non-contiguous areas around the margins would be good places to begin.
Finally, the idea of transferable development rights should be re-examined, with the intent being changing the terms from permanent to generational, or about 20 to 25 years. This way succeeding generations of a family can decide whether they would prefer development rights revert back to them or whether to accept further compensation from the governmental entity providing them.
Over the last few decades, the balance on property rights has shifted far too much to the government’s side. Egged on by environmentalists who dream of wildlife corridors without human interaction, the state is not only a huge property owner but sticks its nose into matters more properly conducted at the county level as well. It’s time to reverse that trend, and one key question in the upcoming campaign is who will have the stones to do it.
And now for something completely different:
I didn’t want to write a lot about this – at least not a full post, because I’m no expert on it – but I felt my friend, author Bob McCarty, hit a home run with his thoughts about the plausibility of explanations surrounding last year’s Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan; a crash which snuffed out the lives of thirty American servicemen, including many who served with Seal Team 6 and engaged Osama bin Laden in his last stand. It’s worth considering.
Maybe Hogan or McCarty should consider a GO Friday feature on their respective areas of expertise. I can always use a break.