What could possibly go wrong?

By Cathy Keim

Last month I wrote about Governor Hogan expanding the You’ve Earned It! subsidized mortgage program for young adults with college loans. Politicians can never resist giving away other people’s money especially if it makes them seem caring and gets votes.

For a quick review, college student loan debt is now at 1.2 trillion dollars and growing. The average debt for a four-year degree is $29,000, but it can skyrocket to $100,000 or more for a graduate degree. This debt is having huge impacts on young people that are starting their careers severely burdened with loan repayments. These young voters are prime targets for politicians. Wouldn’t you vote for somebody that promised to get rid of your debt?

Unfortunately, the politicians are aiming at the wrong target to cure the problem.

A study released in July by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was only the latest piece of evidence of what conservatives have long knew: Increasing public support for college tuition, especially in the form of federal tuition subsidies, has inflated its total cost.

Every time the politicians make student loan money easier to obtain, the colleges just raise the tuition costs. Colleges and universities have increased their administrative personnel by 60% between 1990 and 2003. The university presidents and top administrators make CEO-type salaries in the 7-digit category. And let us not forget the building programs. Many schools have swimming pools with floating rivers for relaxation. The students certainly should be stressed just thinking about how they are going to repay all the loans they took out to attend the institution.

In 2006 the cap on loans for graduate school was raised and the borrowing levels skyrocketed. Many of these students will avail themselves of the debt forgiveness programs to handle the loans. For example, Georgetown University created a clever loophole: if a law grad works for the government or a non-profit for ten years with a salary under $75,000 per year, then they can qualify for a loan forgiveness program. Who wouldn’t borrow money, not only for tuition but also to live on, if they know it will be forgiven?

President Barack Obama came out with free community college. Governor Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders are topping that with four years of college for free.

Hillary Clinton has offered up a package that many voters with college loans will find attractive.

In a more blatant payoff, Clinton proposes not only offering new subsidies for those who are going off to college, but also new subsidies for those who already left. But “refinancing” student loans and offering more generous income-based repayment plans will do absolutely nothing to improve education attainment or economic competitiveness. It is simply a transfer from the federal fisc to Americans with above-average educations and incomes. Income-based repayment is not a bad idea per se, but Clinton’s plan includes forgiveness after 20 years, which is a huge payoff for those with the biggest loan balances.

Would you be more likely or less likely to borrow money if you knew that in twenty years the loan would be forgiven, no questions asked? For those of us that live in the real world, the answer is absolutely: not only will people borrow money, they will borrow more money. If you were guaranteed that you would not have to pay it all back, then why would you scrimp and do without when you can live in luxury?

Hillary’s plan is almost entirely silent on controlling total costs, and, by increasing the supply of low-cost loans, the level of funding from state governments, and increasing other subsidies, proposes to lower out-of-pocket costs in the way that we’ve already seen will backfire.

Every time Washington proposes to fix something, it usually gets worse. They are already micromanaging the public school system from DC with mandate after mandate. The more they get involved in the university system, the more of a quagmire it will become. The college marketplace needs to be subject to local and free market forces. Then it will be able to react to the demands of the students and parents, not to the mandates of the feds.

The increases in tuition are not going to hire and pay more professors. Professors’ pay has not increased; in fact, more college instructors are poorly paid adjunct professors that teach by the course for far lower salaries than tenured professors. Just like with our public schools, much of the money gets eaten up by administration costs to ensure that the mandates are met.

While these plans will not contain college costs, they will achieve their goal of bringing out self-interested voters for the presidential election.

Another Trump criticism

August 7, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Donald Trump took a lot of criticism from all sides last night, so this little bit of piling on won’t make much of a dent in his self-esteem. But Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing found another reason to diss on The Donald:

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is never shy in front of the camera, and his appearance at tonight’s first big GOP presidential debate will be must-see TV – especially because he takes a hard line on unfair trade with China.

Here’s one question I’d love to hear him answer: Why aren’t any of his Trump-branded goods made in America?


During his campaign announcement speech and plenty of times since on the stump, Donald Trump has blamed China and Mexico for the loss of American manufacturing jobs. But, again, his own Trump-branded stuff is made overseas.

Trump certainly talks tough on China, jobs, and trade, but he doesn’t back it up with his own actions – while many manufacturers fight to Make it in America in spite of the odds.

I don’t believe Scott Paul is related to Rand, by the way. But this Paul’s statement is actually a valid point to make, particularly when Trump makes a loser out of America by manufacturing his goods elsewhere.

The AAM has also vowed to check on the other candidates as well, although they seem to be a bit behind. One notable omission on the Democratic side is Martin O’Malley. I did a cursory check of his website, though, and found he has no merchandise store. (Now I feel like I need a shower, though.)

When there are millions of dollars flowing through a campaign, there shouldn’t be a question about making the goods in America where possible. Given the fact most campaign merchandise comes from the apparel and printing industry it should not be hard to find these items. (Surely my old friends at American Certified can help with that.) Naturally Democrats prefer to have all their items come from union shops, while Republicans have their own list of favored suppliers. On a local level, we know which businesses are owned by Republicans so we try and steer business their way.

Like it or not, political campaigns are a multi-billion dollar business – especially on the Presidential level. So why not keep that money flowing in American hands? Hopefully the Alliance for American Manufacturing will be pleased with the level of American products they find in the various campaigns.

It also reminds me to plug my dossier series, as trade and job creation is next on the schedule. I am shooting for early next week with that one.

Handicapping the GOP debate

August 5, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

And then there were ten.

To millions of Americans, the field for the Republican presidential nomination just got cut down to ten. Woe be to Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and the two Ricks – Perry and Santorum – because they may as well have dropped out. (In fact, it would not surprise me to see one or two of them throw in the towel by month’s end as their fundraising will likely dry up because the top ten will gain in the polls thanks to this exposure.)

If it were up to me, the format would have been different – a three-hour event featuring groups of five or six at a time. And if I were forced to pick a top ten based on my assessments of the candidates thus far, Carson, Christie, Kasich, and Trump would be out and Graham, Jindal, Perry, and Santorum would be in. I don’t like the idea of this event driving the polls, but it will.

Having said that, I think the debate can be useful if the right questions are asked. Let’s not have the “gotcha” questions – while I value the social issues, I figure that there will be sufficient time for five questions and (foreshadowing alert) my key issues are taxation, immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and the role of government. Let’s have some opportunities to allow candidates to differentiate themselves.

And I hope the bottom-feeders are savvy enough to answer these same questions in such a way to contrast themselves. For example, a guy like Rick Perry should have a good answer to a role of government question because he’s a firm believer in the Tenth Amendment. (Perry was the victim of John Kasich’s early momentum because he was 11th in the polling average, and Kasich was 10th.)

But I think I know how it will go, and the (literal) center stage will belong to The Donald. Frankly, I think a significant share of interest in this debate is of the same type that watches NASCAR racing waiting for the eighteen-car pileup. How will he handle the pressure of having to answer questions? If they put him in the middle and start at each end, he has a tremendous advantage because he can hear a few answers but not be the poor sap who has to sound like a broken record at the end.

Overshadowed in all this, though, is one key fact: we haven’t heard a peep about a Democratic debate, and Martin O’Malley is unhappy about it. Literally, they have not scheduled a date for one yet.

Naturally I don’t see the Democrats’ debate coming anywhere near Fox News, nor do I see anything but questions where the only real answer is how much they can pander to minorities, gays, union members, Radical Green, and whatever other splinter groups they cater to. E-mail, Benghazi, and foreign policy failures will be off-limits in those debates. But I do want to see how that clown car tries to play up the failure of the last six-plus years considering most of them (except Jim Webb) have been an active participant in some way.

So I may just have to watch tomorrow, if I can remember what channel Fox News is on.

Do we get to pick and choose?

July 19, 2015 · Posted in National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

There are a lot of my friends who are deriving a certain amount of schadenfreude over the fact Martin O’Malley was heckled off the stage at the Netroots Nation conference yesterday, as was fellow Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

But I want to concentrate on what O’Malley reportedly said in response at the start of the interruption: “I know, I know…Let me talk a little bit…Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.” For that, he was shouted down and unable to continue.

I’ll set aside the complete lack of tolerance once again shown by the “tolerant” far left and say that I agree with O’Malley on the last part: all lives do matter. But I’m sure that if you asked the vast majority of O’Malley backers – or even Martin O’Malley himself – about the lives of the unborn, he would immediately change his tune. This is the problem; not only with the Left but with a fair number in the center and a troubling and increasing number on the Right.

It turns out that, as editor of this website, I know exactly what my cohort Cathy Keim is going to write about and tomorrow she will be sharing her thoughts on abortion and the Planned Parenthood situation. (Trust me, you will like what she has to say. I almost ran it today but know that my audience is larger on weekdays and the piece deserves a wider reading.)  It’s no secret where we stand on the subject, though.

And it’s even more ironic that the same people who thundered and carried on about #blacklivesmatter are aborting themselves at a far higher rate than the population at large. Do the lives only matter when they are outside the womb?

Just the other day a young couple we know from being at their wedding in January of last year had their first child. I’m sure if you asked them when his life began to matter, they would have said that it became paramount the moment they discovered she was pregnant with him. Maybe they weren’t in the greatest financial situation and their lives will never be perfectly settled as long as the young father serves in the military, but they were understandably excited with the role they would be taking on.

A quote from the Guardian story shows the mentality of the Left. This is MoveOn executive director Anna Galland:

The presidential candidates’ responses today to the powerful protest led by black activists at Netroots Nation … make clear that all Democratic candidates have work to do in understanding and addressing the movement for black lives.

Saying that ‘all lives matter’ or ‘white lives matter’ immediately after saying ‘black lives matter’ minimizes and draws attention away from the specific, distinct ways in which black lives have been devalued by our society and in which black people have been subject to state and other violence.

Do you mean devalued as in receiving an oversize proportion of abortions? Sounds like the extension of your desire of having “choice” to me.

But even more so, it begs a question about how black lives specifically have been “devalued”: presuming this goes back to the days of slavery, what would be considered paying off the debt my great-great-great-great grandparents (and I think I’m recalling the family tree right; there may be another great- missing) supposedly incurred to black people for enslaving them? That is if my ancestors ever held black slaves and I think back in that era they were still in Germany and what is now Poland, so I doubt it.

Obviously that question is rhetorical because no amount would ever satisfy the minds of those who choose to make themselves victims.

In short, all lives matter but it’s the choices we make that determine how much they matter. Those at Netroots seem to want government to determine what constitutes mattering and allow them, through the power of coercing those who made correct choices, to receive atonement for their incorrect selections in life – many of which involved turning their back on God to one extent or another.

Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders may be church-going men, but that which they allow to happen in the name of compassion makes me wonder what they’re being told from the pulpit.

Larry Hogan’s maintaining an O’Malley legacy

July 17, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off 

By Cathy Keim

So who needs Martin O’Malley when Larry Hogan will carry on his work?

I was astonished to read that Governor Hogan is expanding the You’ve Earned It! mortgage assistance program from the original $20 million to an additional $70 million. (Hat tip: Gwen Cordner.)

The program is aimed at assisting potential buyers, particularly members of the so-called “Boomerang Generation,” who are employed and have good credit but are saddled with student debt that is proving a barrier to homeownership. These young people are more likely to live with their parents than were young people one or two decades ago and they are saddled with significantly more student loan debt than their predecessors.

The student loan debt in America is over $1 trillion dollars and growing. The federal government supports 95% of student loans and is making billions of dollars of profit on them. There is no incentive by the Feds or by the colleges and universities to cut the spigot. As tuition rises each year, the students borrow more money only to find out when they graduate that there are no jobs for them to earn enough to support themselves and pay their loans.

Another neat trick is that you cannot get out of paying back your student loans by going bankrupt. There is no escape. Is it any wonder that young people who are graduating with a national average of $29,000 in college loan debt must live in their parents’ basement because they cannot pay their loans and live independently on a barrista’s salary?

In a Wall Street Journal interview, Dr. Richard Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity links the tuition increases to “the 50-fold growth in federal student financial assistance programs since 1970. Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett was mostly right when he said federal aid programs enabled colleges to raise tuition fees, helping to fuel the academic arms race.”

Why do so many people need a college degree? Many of the jobs that require a college degree did not require it in the past. We can thank the government for that also. Businesses used to administer tests to see if the potential employee had the skills necessary to fill the position. The government struck down testing as unfair, so many businesses switched to a college degree requirement as a way to screen applicants without running foul of the government.

Over time the value of the bachelor’s degree was diminished and now many jobs require a master’s degree forcing more students into school longer and causing more debt.

This situation is a serious problem for all of us. We need our younger generation to be buying consumer goods, especially cars and homes, to keep the economy humming. They must do their part, even if the government has to step in to “help” them again. It helped them acquire student loan debt and now it can help them acquire mortgage debt.

But the story doesn’t end there. These mortgages must be for homes in a certified sustainable community. And who determines what is “sustainable?” This group:

Sustainable Maryland is a certification program for municipalities in Maryland that want to go green, save money and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. Sustainable Maryland Certified is a collaborative effort between the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the University of Maryland and the Maryland Municipal League to replicate the success of theSustainable Jersey initiative throughout the Mid-Atlantic States, beginning in Maryland.

To become a certified sustainable city, the city must have a green team comprised of municipal workers, city leaders/businessmen and diverse citizens. This is a standard tactic to get leaders onboard a project and others will follow because if “Joe” is on it, then it must be ok. The city can apply for tax credits and grants to bring improvements such as bike paths or renovating old buildings. The municipal workers on the green team get paid for their efforts (it is part of their job), but the citizens are volunteers because their hearts are in the right place.

(Note: Salisbury is registered, but not certified yet. Snow Hill and Berlin are certified sustainable cities.)

(Editor’s note: one of the Sustainable Maryland “primary partners” is the Town Creek Foundation, which never met a Radical Green program it didn’t like.)

Once these debt-laden former students are ensconced in their subsidized mortgage home, they will be ready to marry and produce the next generation of liberty-loving citizens. The next generation will be taught in the fully implemented Common Core method, which will ensure that they never hear of their heritage as Americans. They will be assessed and evaluated from pre-school to the workforce. The thousands of data points gathered will ensure that they are nudged gently into the correct attitudes so that they will fit into the new world order. Teamwork and cooperation will be their strong suit while individuality and thinking deeply on any subject will be discouraged.

The water in the pot is almost to a boil. If we don’t jump this presidential election, I fear it will be too late.

Regulatory reform comes to Maryland

I harbor no illusions that my post from the other day regarding the declining optimism of Maryland business owners goaded him into action, but today Governor Hogan announced the formation of a Regulatory Review Commission (RRC), charged over the next three years with “(f)ixing our burdensome antiquated, broken and out-of-control regulatory environment in Maryland.” The ten members of the RRC are volunteering their time to “focus like a laser beam on these issues”, said Hogan.

It’s interesting that the Democrats are claiming the Augustine Commission (which was created in the waning months of Martin O’Malley’s second term) was intended to address these issues and saying Hogan shouldn’t need three years to address the problem. How soon they forget that Larry’s Change Maryland organization was convening business summits over the last three years to gain the business perspective, not to mention the fact it was their administration which put out a number of these job-strangling regulations in the first place.

To me it’s just sour grapes. Ask yourself: had Anthony Brown won, would curtailing regulations be a priority? Thought not. The Augustine Commission report would have been filed and ignored.

But I hope the RRC has the latitude to go beyond just regulations and into other areas like taxation and, more importantly, looking into where other states succeed. Take a state like Texas, where hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created (as a net gain over jobs lost, not as a one-for-one swap) over the last decade. What attracts these entrepreneurs and leaders, and what assets can Maryland use to emulate their gains? Granted, a good portion of the Lone Star State’s gain came from abundant energy resources that Maryland can’t match, but there are other areas we may be able to do as well or better if we make that a goal. Unfortunately, over the last eight years our state took its cues from states like California and New York, places where capital and population have been fleeing.

Another question is just how cooperative these Democrats, who are already trying to take credit for the little bit done in 2015, will be to the RRC’s agenda as they submit their findings.

Take the “rain tax” as an example – a Democrat introduced the vastly watered-down bill that eventually passed, so they will surely henceforth try and take credit for ending the “rain tax.” But the mandate for affected counties to have a watershed protection and restoration fund did not go away (page 4 here) – it’s just up to the county to fill it, and most will likely retain some version of the “rain tax.” The actual repeal of the “rain tax” on this Hogan-sponsored bill was killed in committee by the Democrats therein on a straight party-line vote. (I used that vote as one of the committee votes on the monoblogue Accountability Project.) So it’s a fairly safe bet the Democrats are only paying lip service to the issue of regulations now because to them more is better – that’s how they’ve run Annapolis for most of the decade I’ve lived here and probably my whole life before that.

So the RRC can’t just exist in a vacuum. Now that Larry Hogan has experienced the way Democrats in the General Assembly basically gave the finger to his mandate, he will need in the coming months and years to take a page from the Reagan handbook and go straight to the people. Democrats may claim the last election was about “divided government” but the motivation was clearly behind a more conservative direction for the state.

While I would have preferred a more rapid formation for the RRC, this is a definite feather in the cap for Larry Hogan. Let’s hope that it’s not just for show but instead gives us an agenda even the Democrats can’t stop.

The easy way out

A couple weeks ago I pointed out that about two dozen bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly this year were still pending after Larry Hogan had his final bill signing session May 12. Here was the list of bills I urged him to veto:

If he wishes to let the decriminalization of marijuana become law without his signature, that’s quite all right.

So I’m very disappointed to report that the deadline came and went while Hogan was away in Asia, and only two of those bills were properly vetoed: HB980/SB340 and SB190.

Yet while he turned aside the travel tax, Governor Hogan increased a number of court fees and kept an additional O’Malley fee increase scheduled to sunset this year for another five years.

The governor who claims to be business-friendly and who wanted to create jobs went against the wishes of his party on flexible leave and thwarted the introduction of fracking to Maryland for another two years. This after announcing during the campaign:

States throughout the country have been developing their natural gas resources safely and efficiently for decades. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against any new energy production.

Now we have our own knee-jerk reaction.

He also added yet another unnecessary mandate to health insurance with in-vitro fertilization coverage for same-sex couples, and if Bruce, uh, “Caitlyn” Jenner were born in Maryland s/he could legally have his/her birth certificate changed to reflect the “fact” he bills himself as a female.

Perhaps you believe Hogan was making the political calculation about whether a veto could be sustained. With the Senate in Democratic hands by a hefty 33-14 count, it’s not likely a veto could be sustained there. However, a 50-seat group of Republicans in the House only need seven Democrats to keep a veto in play, and given enough political pressure there are still a handful of centrist Democrats who could go along with the governor.

These were the House votes on the eight measures I advocated a veto for. I’m also adding the votes on the handful of bills he vetoed for policy reasons.

  • House Bill 51 passed the House 97-40. It would have difficult to uphold this one.
  • House Bill 54 passed the House 82-58, after originally failing on third reading. This veto could have been sustained.
  • House Bill 345 passed the House 86-52. This one was right on the cusp of a maintaining the veto; definitely doable.
  • House Bill 449 passed the House 93-45, and its crossfiled SB409 passed 103-36. But if Governor Hogan had vetoed this and put the whip to his department heads to come up with regulations by next January they may have upheld this veto.
  • The margins on HB838/SB416 were 94-44 and 93-45, respectively. That’s iffy but the onus should have been placed on the General Assembly to vote on it again.
  • Similarly, HB862/SB743 only won the House by margins of 85-50 and 91-49. Still unlikely to hold, but should have made them vote again.
  • HB980/SB340 only had 82 votes apiece in the House, which makes these good candidates to be upheld.
  • SB190 only passed 84-56, which means it’s also a good possibility to be sustained.
  • SB517, which decriminalized marijuana possession but was vetoed, is right on the cusp of overturn as it passed 83-53.
  • Similarly, SB528, which dealt with seizure and forfeiture (also vetoed), passed the House 89-51 so it’s also a possible overturn.

I suppose I should be happy with the half a loaf I have received from Governor Hogan considering the absolute disaster we’ve had to endure under eight years of Martin O’Malley. But the leftists are crowing about the fracking ban, and see it as just an initial step to a permanent halt.

The only way to curb an ambitious, leftist agenda is to put up a conservative one of your own and stomp out any attempt to sneak things through. Instead, what we are receiving is a leftward drift in lieu of pedal-to-the-metal liberalism. However, to borrow the words of a former governor, we really need to turn this car around and not using the veto pen as much as it should be won’t get us going in the correct direction.

The wrong idea

THIS is what happens when Americans aren’t taught history.

Our former governor, who gave illegal aliens in-state tuition if they were lucky enough to have their parents make it across the border without being caught and properly tossed out of the country until they go through the proper processes to stay, now believes in “comprehensive immigration reform.” According to his “vision” page, this is what Martin O’Malley considers comprehensive immigration reform:

Bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows will grow our economy, expand our tax base, create jobs and lift wages – benefiting our country as a whole. We must boldly advance comprehensive immigration reform, while also using executive action to its full authority to end unnecessary detentions and expand deferred action. As Americans, when refugee children arrive on our doorstep, we shouldn’t turn them away—we should act like the generous, compassionate people we are.

Here are the series of questions I have regarding all these claims:

  • How exactly does legalizing illegal immigrants “grow our economy, expand our tax base, create jobs, and lift wages?” They are already priced into the job market because they are “doing the jobs Americans won’t do.” (Apparently this includes construction and food service now.) What’s to say they wouldn’t maintain these arrangements even if they become legal, as working on a cash basis enables them to avoid paying taxes and Social Security?
  • Moreover, this wave of illegal immigrants granted amnesty will only bring another wave of low-skilled (and probably illegal) immigrants into the country. That depresses wages, creates more of a strain on the welfare system (as the initial wave of immigrants is undercut on wages and goes on public assistance), and puts pressure on the government to do this all over again. We should have learned this after Simpson-Mazzoli in 1986.
  • What are “unnecessary detentions?” If they are here illegally, the detention should be long enough to assure they will be in court for a deportation hearing. Too often we catch and release illegal aliens who never show up for court and become those in the shadows.
  • Is the definition of “refugee” being stretched to a breaking point? Since Cuba is now apparently our friend, there really aren’t any nations close by which would have the sort of oppressive government that qualifies one for “refugee” status, nor is there an active war in our hemisphere. Just because the economic condition is bad in a place doesn’t make one a refugee from it.

And it’s interesting that O’Malley brings up the Statue of Liberty. At one time, Ellis Island was the main entry point for immigrants, who were checked for health and whether they had criminal records. Eventually there was a prohibition on children arriving without adults during this era, which ended when President Harding signed the Immigration Quota Act in 1921. So while the Statue of Liberty has been a beckoning symbol for well over a century, for much of our history we were very selective on those we would allow into the country.

Further, immigrants of that era were not given the benefit of a welfare state or catered to in their native language. Certainly we had enclaves of Germans, Poles, Italians, and so forth, but eventually these families were expected to assimilate to one degree or another.

To me, true immigration reform would return to that time of quotas and strident checking. Those who immigrate legally go through a lot of red tape to get their green cards, only to see those who bypass the process get preferential treatment. I understand life is less than fair, but that is patently unfair to those who are doing it the right way.

And to those who say we can’t round up and deport 11 million illegals? It’s been done, and if the political will is there we can do it again. Most of them would self-deport once the word got out we were serious.

Let’s face it. The real need for reform is on the other side of the border, where our economy and largess has been a crutch to many nations for far too long. When remittances make up over 1/6 of a nation’s economy, this is an issue. (Surprisingly, the share in Mexico is quite low, but they are still a larger share of GDP than tourism.)

For the true sake of our country’s security, well-being, and economic growth, we need to rethink our immigration policies, restoring them to the point where we can be selective in who we choose to admit. It doesn’t mean we won’t accept people who work hard, but it does mean we want them to become Americans first and dissolve into our vast melting pot – as my German and Polish forefathers did over a century ago.

Maryland enters the fray

Yesterday we had the spectacle of Martin O’Malley using the Baltimore skyline as a backdrop for the announcement we figured would eventually come the moment the 2010 Maryland gubernatorial election was called for him. Color me unsurprised that he’s running for president in 2016.

But Baltimore’s recent events created even more baggage for O’Malley, who led Maryland through a recession that is still lingering for those portions of the state not within commuting distance of Washington, D.C. That forgotten region includes the city of Baltimore, where the unemployment rate is usually among the highest in the state. In general, Maryland’s better-than-average jobless rate is a result of the federal workforce – take that away and you might have numbers more in tune with struggling states like West Virginia or Nevada.

Granted, if you look at politics through a liberal lens you may see a lot to like with O’Malley. With a friendly and compliant General Assembly backing practically every move, in his first term O’Malley won his prized environmental initiatives with bills like the Clean Cars Act and EmPOWER Maryland utility mandates, increased sales and income taxes while expanding Medicaid, and legalized casino gambling. In his second term he doubled down with the passage of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and same-sex marriage, beating back spirited efforts at the ballot box to rescind them in 2012. He also championed wind power and a scheme to help with EPA compliance in cleaning up Chesapeake Bay.

That last initiative, officially called the “Stormwater Management – Watershed Protection and Restoration Program,” eventually was boiled down to two words: “rain tax.” It, along with his mismanagement of the state’s Obamacare insurance exchange, proved the demise of Anthony Brown’s campaign to replace O’Malley from his lieutenant governor’s chair, and coupled with this spring’s Baltimore riots may perhaps have become the legacy of Martin O’Malley.

In comparison to his Democratic opponents for the Presidential nomination, though, he and Lincoln Chafee (who is planning to announce his entry next week) are the only two with executive experience, and O’Malley the only one to win re-election. On the GOP side you can cite a number of two-term governors (among them Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal as a partial list) but in terms of governing experience on the Democratic side O’Malley is above the rest.

Yet a record works both ways, and Maryland is arguably the most liberal state in the country. The advocacy group Change Maryland began pointing out the O’Malley economic record shortly after its founding in 2011, and state conservatives can quickly rattle off the key facts: 6,500 businesses lost, 31,000 residents leaving the state with $1.7 billion in net income out-migration, and – most importantly – 40 tax increases. That won’t play in Peoria.

For those of us who have been bruised and battered by a recession without a recovery, Martin O’Malley’ paean to populism rings hollow. He may talk about how crooked Wall Street is, but his prescriptions for the problems with Main Street will only enrich those who stroll along Pennsylvania Avenue.

As a meme making the rounds this weekend implies, those former residents of Maryland who fled the state’s punitive taxation and regulation during the O’Malley years won’t have anywhere to go if he becomes president. While Larry Hogan hasn’t necessarily been the answer here, job creation has bounced back since he took over and he has worked to address the state’s structural deficit without the usual O’Malley answer of a tax increase. Why should America dig itself a deeper hole with Martin O’Malley?

Meanwhile, last night on the other side of the Transpeninsular Line residents of Delaware were stunned to learn of the passing of Beau Biden.

From a political aspect, though, and despite his health issues, the younger Biden was the odds-on favorite to be the Democrats’ nominee for Delaware governor next year after an eight-year run as the state’s Attorney General. Now the race on the Democratic side has opened up and those who were quietly considering a run due to Biden’s condition may step out of the woodwork after an appropriate mourning period. The most likely candidates may be Congressman John Carney, who ran in 2008 only to lose to current term-limited Governor Jack Markell, and New Castle County Executive Thomas Gordon.

Whether this loss will affect Joe Biden’s 2016 plans is unknown; however, he hadn’t planned to announce anyway until late summer at the earliest.

A toast to our neighboring states

Summer has arrived – the kids are out of school (in some cases, like ours), the weather is warm enough to fire up the grill on the deck, and people are hitting the beach in droves. And it’s the weekend to boot. In many cases such as this, the setting is not complete without a cold one by your side.

So my interest was piqued by a piece in the Daily Signal asking how high the beer taxes are in our state. When it comes to high taxes, Maryland is generally right near the top and the data from the Tax Foundation found beer taxes in Maryland, expressed in their cost per gallon, are no exception – they rank among the highest in the nation.

But there were two surprises in the data. First is that states in the Deep South, which generally have the reputation as low-tax bastions, have the highest beer taxes int the country. I suspect this is a hangover (see what I did there?) from their days as the Bible Belt. While Maryland is 9th in the country, they are well outside the top 8 and the top four (Tennessee, Alaska, Alabama, and Georgia) have rates at least double Maryland’s 49 cent-per-gallon toll.

Second, though, is the large disparity between Maryland and its surrounding states, which rank no higher than 24th (Virginia.) A beer in Pennsylvania costs 41 cents per gallon less in taxes, as their 8-cent rate is tied for the sixth-lowest in the nation. (Wyoming drinkers only pay 2 cents per gallon in tax.)

Maryland may make a little more money soon, because recently two local breweries (and perhaps others yet to be created) were the beneficiaries of a bill signed into law by Governor Hogan at the behest of the Wicomico County delegation. Dubbed the “Evo Bill,” it allows Wicomico County brew pubs to create more product with their current licensing structure. This is good, but only slightly dampens the effect of a increased alcohol tax that took effect under Governor O’Malley.

So now that Larry Hogan has rolled back tolls, maybe it’s time for him to give more assistance to a fledgling industry by removing the additional 3% sales tax on alcohol. Remember, we exist next to a state which has no sales tax so we’re now at a 9% disadvantage to our neighbors to the north.

Shifting out of PARCC

As I noted yesterday, there was an item brought to my attention by the Worcester County TEA Party. Fortunately, their version is slightly inaccurate in a good way.

According to their communication, Governor Hogan only had until June 1 to act. That date is problematic because he will be in the opening stages of a 12-day trip to Asia to drum up business for Maryland. I’m definitely not crazy about this trip – considering many on our side chastised Martin O’Malley for doing the same thing – but it is what it is, and that’s really not the subject of the post.

Let me refer to the actual authors to set things straight. This is from the Stop PARCC in Maryland group:

In June 2010, Governor Martin O’Malley and former State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick signed a Memorandum of Understanding that committed Maryland to the various guidelines, by-laws, and responsibilities of membership in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium.  (The complete Memorandum of Understanding can be found by clicking here.)

Section VII, Subsection B of the Memorandum of Understanding states:

“In the event that the governor or chief state school officer is replaced in a Consortium state, the successor in that office shall affirm in writing to the Governing Board Chair the State’s continued commitment to participation in the Consortium and to the binding commitments made by that official’s predecessor within five (5) months of taking office.”

On January 21, 2015, Governor Larry Hogan was inaugurated and took office as Maryland’s 62nd Governor. According to the Memorandum of Understanding, Governor Hogan has until June 21, 2015 to recommit Maryland to the PARCC consortium.

We believe that the “shall affirm” provision, in this case, is directory (non-binding) and not mandatory due to the nature of the agreement as well as legal precedent.

We believe that the Governor has the authority to nullify Maryland’s agreement with the PARCC consortium simply by declining to reaffirm the state’s commitment within this five month window.

We believe that Governor Hogan is in a unique position to reclaim, remodel, and rediscover Maryland education.

In looking through the Stop PARCC website, I also found a letter from Delegate David Vogt in which he implores Hogan to withdraw, citing Florida as one example of a state which has done so. In fact, there are over a dozen states (including neighboring Virginia and Pennsylvania) which have already withdrawn from PARCC or a similar testing regimen called SBAC or joined neither in the first place – Virginia is one of four that never adopted either idea.

The objection to each of these is simple: they were adopted as a one-size-fits-all scheme in which hundreds of millions of federal dollars were shoveled to states to bribe them into compliance. The concept of local control is being usurped more and more by these standards; meanwhile, we are finding more and more that Johnny not only can’t read, but he has trouble with math and knows little about basic science, history, and geography – however, he is programmed to regurgitate whatever topical talking points are popular with the teachers’ unions.

Maryland is supposed to be one of the best states for education – so why are we lowering ourselves to “average” standards? We can be a leader by encouraging innovation and letting local districts work to educate students in the basics, with the emphasis on teaching in time-tested methods proven successful rather than catering to a testing regimen that takes up valuable classroom time.

Taking less of a toll

It wasn’t completely unexpected. but just in time for the height of tourist season travelers around the state will retain a little extra in their pockets when they cross one of Maryland’s toll roads or bridges, including the Bay Bridge. Yesterday Governor Hogan announced a toll reduction he claimed would save Marylanders $270 million over the next five years. For those coming to the Eastern Shore, it will save them $2 on the trip – not much, but the symbolism is strong.

Commuters, though, will get more of a break as their tolls drop from $2.10 to $1.40 per trip. Factor in the elimination of the EZPass service charge – which cost Maryland drivers $1.50 a month and probably drove some of that business to other states which don’t charge a service fee – and you’re closing in on a $30 per month break. That’s the same as getting a 15-cent an hour raise.

Of course the Maryland Democratic Party found fault with this:

Today, Larry Hogan announced that tolls at the Bay Bridge would go down.

Meanwhile, the cost of in-state tuition at State Universities went up 7%.

Despite his campaign promises, Marylanders are paying more under Larry Hogan.

Since I don’t go to an in-state university but occasionally use the Bay Bridge, this is yet another desperate attempt at spin by Democrats. It’s also worth pointing out that July 1 will also see a 2.5 cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax – an increase Democrats failed to stop when they had the chance this term. This will decrease the benefit for commuters who use the Bay Bridge and other toll facilities and take more from the pockets of the rest of us, to the tune of a dollar or two per month.

The complaint I’m waiting for from the mouths of Democrats is the one where they will begin to complain about the prospect of neglecting maintenance on these toll roads and spans. But Hogan’s Secretary of Transportation was confident the money will be there:

“I have thoroughly reviewed the toll-reduction plan, and I’m confident the MDTA will continue to maintain its sound financial footing and commitment to safety and quality services,” said MDTA Chairman and Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn. “A lot of hard work went into the development of this proposal, and I’d like to thank MDTA board members for their careful analysis and approval of this toll-reduction plan.”

Another gripe sure to come from our tax-and-spend friends on the left is that the O’Malley fare increases for mass transit weren’t cut as well – I can see the carping by representatives in areas dependent on mass transit. That, however, is a money pit as farebox revenue comes nowhere close to meeting the expenses of those services.

This all leaves one other transportation shoe to drop, and advocates for the Purple Line are pressing for Hogan to keep the rail line going. However, if Hogan pulls the plug on that and the Red Line in Baltimore most of the justification for the O’Malley gas tax and farebox increases is gone, or the funding could be used for more important projects like some I’ve detailed before, such as completing the intended route of I-97 with Virginia’s help or improving the U.S. 13 corridor through Delaware with their assistance.

So I consider this news to be a pleasant surprise in a situation where input from the General Assembly majority was not needed. When the chips are down, though, it seems the Republicans are the only ones we can count on to truly help the working family.

Next Page »

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.
  • October 2015
    S M T W T F S
    « Sep    
  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I provide this service to readers. But before you click on the picture below, just remember their message:

  • Categories

  • Locals flock to monoblogue

    More and more locals come here for 'News and views from Maryland's Eastern Shore.'

    Click on the photo for details on advertising opportunities.

  • For Policy Wonks

    TrackBill is a great way to follow both Congress and state legislatures in a customized manner.

  • The Road to 2016

    Maryland Primary Election will be April 26, 2016.



    Jeb Bush
    Ben Carson
    Chris Christie
    Ted Cruz
    Carly Fiorina
    Jim Gilmore
    Lindsey Graham
    Mike Huckabee
    Bobby Jindal
    John Kasich
    George Pataki
    Rand Paul
    Marco Rubio
    Rick Santorum
    Donald Trump


    Lincoln Chafee
    Hillary Clinton
    Martin O'Malley
    Bernie Sanders
    Jim Webb

    Other possibles:

    Joe Biden

    U.S. Senate - Maryland


    Rich Douglas
    Chrys Kefalas


    Donna Edwards
    Chris Van Hollen

    U.S. Congress - Maryland District 1


    Andy Harris (incumbent)
    Sean Jackson
    Mike Smigiel

    Delaware State Primary Election will be September 13, 2016. (Presidential is April 26.)



    Colin Bonini
    Lacey Lafferty


    No announcements yet.

    U.S. Congress - Delaware


    Hans Reigle


    John Carney (incumbent)

  • Archives