Opening fodder

While Ben Carson made a splash on the GOP side by strongly hinting he was in the 2016 Presidential fray, he stopped short of actually launching an exploratory committee. The first major candidate – at least one who has a shot at being in the top couple tiers, anyway – to form an exploratory committee is Democrat Jim Webb, the former Reagan administration official who later became a Democratic senator from Virginia. Daniel Larison at The American Conservative has some thoughts on this challenge to presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, but Webb has his own explanation at his newly-christened website.

And while it’s probably the longest of shots to oppose the Clinton machine, Webb does have somewhat of an opening according to Harry Enten at fivethirtyeight.com. He points out that Hillary’s support is weakest in the political center, where Webb’s pro-military but populist message may resonate. As David Freedlander writes at the Daily Beast:

And Clinton, (Webb’s) aides insist, is a non-factor.

“It ain’t about Hillary,” said Mudcat Saunders, a longtime Virginia strategist who worked on Webb’s Senate campaign. “It’s about bring the American dream to the forefront once again for working people and small business. The working people and small business – they haven’t had any representation in years. And they know it.

Americans want to do something about this coin-operated government.”

In a lot of respects, Webb hearkens back to the old Democratic party, the one which was just as liberal as it is today but was pro-military and pro-American. Ronald Reagan led those voters to the Republican Party and many of them stayed. For those who hang on to their faith in the old-style Democratic party and the song and dance about their support for the working man – the sort of Democrat who still resides mainly in rural areas like this one – Webb may be an appealing option. Take this excerpt from his introductory video as an example, one where Webb points out that he’s no stranger to long-shot campaigns since he defeated George Allen in 2006 to win his one term as Senator.

With enough financial support to conduct a first-class campaign, I have no doubt that we can put these issues squarely before the American people and gain their support. The 2016 election is two years away, but serious campaigning will begin very soon. The first primaries are about a year away. Your early support will be crucial as I evaluate whether we might overcome what many commentators see as nearly impossible odds.

We are starting with very little funding and no full-time staff, but I’ve been here before. In February, 2006 I announced for the Senate only nine months before the election against an entrenched incumbent. We had no money and no staff. We were more than 30 points behind in the polls. I promised to work on the same themes I am putting before you now: reorient our national security policy, work toward true economic fairness and social justice, and demand good governance, including a proper balance between the Presidency and the Congress. We won. And despite the paralysis in our government, we delivered on these promises, in measurable, lasting ways.

In 2007, I gave the response to President Bush’s State of the Union address. I put economic fairness for our working people and small business owners at the front of my response, noting the immense and ever-growing disparities in income between corporate executives and those who do the hard work. When I graduated from college the average corporate CEO made twenty times what his workers made. Today that number is greater than 300 times. The inequalities between top and bottom in our country are greater than at any time in the last hundred years. And the disparities between those at the very top and the rest of our society have only grown larger since the economic crash of late 2008 and early 2009.

With over 30,000 views in the first few days, the video is indeed portraying a very populist message that would appeal to the vast number of voters who fall for the class envy trap. (Dirty little secret: CEO pay is much higher now because many are paid in large part with stock options, thanks to the push a couple decades ago to more directly tie CEO salaries to company profitability and financial performance. In terms of actual salary, the ratio is far lower.)

It’s doubtful that Jim Webb is the obstacle to an eventual Hillary coronation that Barack Obama was in 2008, and at this point he’s probably in the same low tier of probability that Martin O’Malley rests on, well behind Joe Biden and miles in arrears to Hillary. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jim in the mid-single digits in early polls as an outsider who has military experience, as opposed to most others in the Democratic field. He may be the catalyst for another Operation Chaos on the Democratic side.

The lack of trust

It’s already hard not to be cynical in this day and age, when politicians make used car salesmen look like Sunday School teachers by comparison, but the recent hullabaloo about remarks made by Obamacare (and Romneycare) architect Jonathan Gruber would be enough to shake even the most trusting of people. Maybe it’s not to the level of finding out your spouse of fifty years has had an affair for 49.8 of them, but this revelation does serve to erode the public’s trust in institutions even more.

There’s an old maxim that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and nowhere does it seem to be better displayed than in our all-encompassing federal government. No better proof exists than the Gruber example: here is an un-elected bureaucrat, appointed on behest of the state, who admits to writing a law that no one really read (remember, we had to pass it to know what was in it) in such a deceptive manner that it couldn’t be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, all the while considering those of us who pay the salaries of these governmental hangers-on and grifters as rubes worthy only of contempt.

Surely this is only the tip of the iceberg, though. In less than 250 years we have taken this republic – a republic, we were warned, would exist only as long as we could keep it – and turned it into some murky composite of the worst features of democracy and dictatorship. We are at a point where there are just about as many adults not working or working for the government as there are private-sector employees. While it’s a dramatic oversimplification to state that those who work in the private sector are the “makers” and the rest are the “takers,” the one-to-one ratio is very worrisome.

The problem is that perception is becoming reality before our eyes. Take, for example a proposed land deal which would have benefited a backer of Martin O’Malley – that is, until the public caught wind of it and made the state change its plans slightly. Just ask yourself: how many other crony capitalist deals come down before the public finds out, when it’s too late to back away? The road to wealth in 2014 America doesn’t seem to be that of hard work and inspiration anymore; instead, it seems to be finding the right sleazy politician to donate a few thousand dollars to and wait for the no-bid contract or grant to roll your way.

I guess the two things I consider missing from government today are honesty and a moral compass. Of course there are honest, decent people in government but too many seem to believe they are entitled to all the spoils they can get. And this is why I have always come down on the side of what I call “rightsizing” government, figuring if the pot of money becomes smaller it won’t be as worthwhile to use your greedy hands to scoop up ill-gotten cash.

We didn’t need to pass Obamacare because there was already an admittedly imperfect but reasonably successful system in place – the problem was that the “wrong” people benefited from it and that had to change as far as proponents like Jonathan Gruber were concerned. Now we’re at a point where there will be a small but extremely vocal minority which would speak out if Obamacare were eliminated. And as we’ve seen time and time again in recent America, there isn’t a group too small to be heard if they want more government or a breakdown of our moral fabric.

It’s the rest of us “too stupid to understand” people who have to work harder just to keep pace.

The rookie class

November 10, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comment 

I tell you, it’s the mundane things I do…

Last night I was setting up the 2015 monoblogue Accountability Project charts, to save me a little work come next spring. (One key change: I’m going to alphabetical order to make it so, so much easier to compile votes since the state legislative chart lists tallies alphabetically.) Something I note on the mAP is the “years of service” and there are a lot of people who will have “1″ next to their name.

In the House of Delegates, there will be a whopping 58 rookie legislators, while the Senate will boast three rookies. Out of those 61, which make up almost a third of the General Assembly as 29 are Republicans and 32 are Democrats, it’s worth noting that all three Senate rookies come from the GOP, which has changed over half its 12 members that were elected in 2010 in expanding back to the 14 they had from 2006-10.

While the GOP House caucus is at a modern high of 50 members, over half of them will be new to the General Assembly. Just on a local level, the District 38 delegation has two rookies while District 37 has three. Between the primary and general elections, the three local politicians who have 20 or more years in the General Assembly were whittled to one (newly-minted Senator Addie Eckardt.) Next in seniority is Senator Jim Mathias, who was first appointed to the House in 2006, then Delegate Charles Otto, who won re-election last week for a second term.

The learning curve for all these newbies will be steep, but it will be fascinating to see if they come up with new and better bills than the old veterans have done over the last eight years. Another interesting angle will be the bills sponsored by the Speaker and Senate President – since the governor cannot introduce a bill, it’s normally introduced by the Speaker or President “by request” of the administration – here’s one example. Imagine a tax cut bill being introduced by a Democrat – but that will be the case as Governor-elect Hogan outlines a legislative agenda.

(Another thing to watch is whether Martin O’Malley will leave some sponsored bills as parting gifts walking out the door, since the General Assembly reconvenes a couple weeks before the inauguration of Larry Hogan. Honestly, I doubt it.)

This will be an exciting time to watch the General Assembly.

A doable goal?

Yesterday we received word that the unemployment rate dropped again, with another month of job growth in the 200,000 range. It’s not the Reagan recovery of the 1980s – when we had 15 straight months of job growth in 1983-84 that would put this latest number to shame, including a whopping 1,115,000 jobs created in September 1983 – but it is a reasonably decent run.

Yet just as manufacturing didn’t share in the Reagan-era gains as much as other sectors did (in fact, it lost some ground), the second Obama term has also fallen well short of manufacturing growth goals. I’ve discussed this group and its job tally before both here and on my former American Certified site, but the Alliance for American Manufacturing tracks progress toward the one million manufacturing jobs Barack Obama promised in his second term.

AAM’s president Scott Paul isn’t all that pleased about it, either.

The good news is that manufacturing jobs have grown over the past few months. The bad news is that they haven’t grown fast enough. I’m very concerned that a surge of imports from China and a paucity of public investment in infrastructure will continue to hamper the great potential of the productive sector of our economy.

Hopes of achieving the White House goal of 1 million new jobs in the Administration’s final term are fading fast. Without some progress on the trade deficit and a long-term infrastructure plan, I don’t see that changing. No doubt the economic anxiety that many Americans still feel is compounded by stagnant wage growth and diminished opportunities for middle class careers.

Two of the key issues AAM harps on are, indeed, currency manipulation and infrastructure investment, although they also took time recently to praise Obama’s manufacturing initiatives and chastise Walmart for their ‘buy American’ effort because much of it comes in the form of produce and groceries. Around these parts, we don’t really mind that emphasis because we produce a lot of American-grown poultry so if Walmart is willing to invest in us we’re happy to provide. (Then again, that promised distribution center would be nice too.) Of course, AAM is backed in part by the steelworkers’ union so one can reasonably assume their view is the center-left’s perspective.

Even so, the group is useful because it makes some valid points. And I think we should have some focus on creating manufacturing jobs in Maryland, as the defunct gubernatorial campaign of outgoing Delegate Ron George tried to do.

Thus, I think the incoming Hogan/Rutherford administration should make it a goal to create 50,000 new manufacturing jobs in Maryland over his first four-year term – if he succeeds, you better believe he deserves a second. According to BLS figures, as of September an estimated 103,000 people are employed in manufacturing in Maryland. But if you look at past data, it’s not unprecedented to have 150,000 (as late as November 2002) or even 200,000 (as late as June 1990) working in the field. And when you take the confluence of a state that is supposedly #1 in education and combine it with the proximity to both major markets and inexpensive energy sources, there’s no reason we should have lost 30,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector under Martin O’Malley – or 16,000 under Bob Ehrlich, for that matter.

But how do you turn things around in four years? Maryland has to make people notice they are open for business, and there are some radical proposals I have to help with that turnaround.

First of all, rather than tweak around the edges with lowering the corporate tax rate, why not just eliminate it altogether? The revenue to the state from that toll is $1.011 billion in FY2015, which is far less than the annual budgetary increase has been. Would that not send a message that we are serious about job growth and immediately improve our status as a business-friendly state?

The next proposals are somewhat more controversial. To the extent we are allowed by the federal government and its environmental regulations, those who choose to invest in the state and create jobs should have an easier path to getting environmental permits and zoning approvals. Even if a moratorium is temporary, making it easier to deal with MDE regulations would encourage job creation. Most of Maryland’s towns and cities already have industrial sites available, but we shouldn’t discourage construction in rural areas if a job creator needs more space.

We’ve also heard about the construction of the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the Red Line in Baltimore - combined, the two are expected to fetch a price tag of $5.33 billion. For that sum, it seems to me we could build a lot of interstate highway – even if this $4 million per mile figure is low (and it would be 1,267 miles of highway based on the combined cost of the Red Line and Purple Line) we could do a lot to assist in moving goods through and from Maryland, whether by finishing the originally envisioned I-97 through to the Potomac (and with Virginia’s assistance, to I-95 near Richmond) or enlisting Virginia and Delaware’s help in improving the U.S. 13/58 corridor to interstate standards to provide a secondary route around Richmond, Washington, and Baltimore.

Once we eliminate the onerous restrictions proposed for fracking and begin to open up the western end of the state for exploration, and (dare I say it?) work on making Maryland a right-to-work state like Virginia – or even creating right-to-work zones in certain rural counties like the Eastern Shore and Maryland’s western panhandle – the potential is there to indeed create those 50,000 manufacturing jobs – and a lot more! It just takes a leader with foresight and the cajones to appeal to the Democrats in the General Assembly as well as a Republican Party unafraid to take it to the streets in the districts of recalcitrant members of Maryland’s obstructionist majority party.

But even if we only create 40,000 or 25,000 manufacturing jobs through these policies, the state would be better-positioned to compete for a lot of other jobs as well, and the need is great. For too long this state has put its economic eggs in the federal government’s basket and there’s a changing mood about the need for an expansive presence inside the Beltway. Rightsizing the federal government means Maryland has to come up with another plan, and this one has proven to be a success time and time again across the nation.

The straight-ticket election

Most newspapers will use their Sunday edition before the election to either make the most key endorsement, such as for governor or president, or summarize their endorsements into a ballot guide for voters.

I’m not a newspaper, but I have a news source. And I’m urging you (all of you, including the ten friends you drag to the polls) to march right into that ballot box, look for every Republican name on it, and check that box right next to it – making sure, of course, that the ballot summary agrees with your steady diet of Republicans and doesn’t show a “calibration error.”

Let’s begin from the top. Does this state really need a third term of Martin O’Malley? Thought not.

I will grant that Larry Hogan wasn’t my first – or second – choice for the GOP nomination, but I also have to admit as well he has run about as good of a campaign as a Republican can run statewide in Maryland and picked up national attention for it. Yes, I would like him to be stronger on the Second Amendment and I cringed when I heard him say no to addressing social issues, but the overall electorate in this state is still conditioned to believe that there’s a right to privacy and gay marriage is no big deal. They need a little work yet. Let’s at least get someone who won’t be completely hostile to those interests like Anthony Brown would be.

(And yes, I hear the Libertarians caterwauling in the corner. When you get to double-digits with a candidate, we’ll talk.)

Actually, though, I must say some bloggers have a point about the Libertarian candidate for AG, Leo Dymowski. But the election is about more than the failed “war on drugs” – although I agree with that particular assessment, I would also like the AG to fight on other issues. Unfortunately, the late start Republican Jeffrey Pritzker got means the chances are good that we’ll have to endure four years of gun-grabbing Brian Frosh; however, every vote counts and stranger things have happened.

For 2018, though, I think a county-level State’s Attorney needs to make that step up. It’s something Matt Maciarello should consider.

And we have a more than qualified Comptroller candidate in William Campbell. My main mission in two festivals was, every time I came across a Maryland voter from outside our county, to push the candidacy of one Bill Campbell. Everyone knew who Larry Hogan was but not enough knew of this fine gentleman. If Maryland voters have a clue they will choose Campbell.

And then we have local races. Frankly, I’m not too worried about Andy Harris although it would be helpful for Sixth District voters to add Dan Bongino to the GOP roster at the federal level. But there’s a lot at stake on the General Assembly front.

Try as we might, we had to concede the District 37A seat for this term to Sheree Sample-Hughes. If she gets more than single digits on the monoblogue Accountability Project I will be shocked. Otherwise in District 37, you know its a conservative district when even one of the Democrats is running on a platform of lower taxes and less government. But why have conservative-lite when the real thing is attainable?

Even if we sweep those three District 37 seats, though, we don’t really gain anything because three of the four representatives are already Republican. But in District 38 we can reclaim the Senate seat lost in 2010 to a liberal Democrat and take over a seat in the House of Delegates to bring us closer to that magic number of 47, where, as I understand it, we can work around Democrat-controlled committees. (A Hogan win may make that necessary more often.) Aside from that splotch of blue in our county we can work on for 2018, I’d like the Eastern Shore painted red, gaining the one Senate seat and one House seat we can contribute to the GOP effort statewide.

And then we have Wicomico County, which needs a strong leader in Bob Culver. We’ve done eight years with the affable bureaucrat Rick Pollitt, but those eight years have seen our county backslide economically. We can blame the national economy to some extent, but other surrounding counties seem to be succeeding – so why haven’t we?

Unfortunately, the problem Culver has is that two of the Republicans who will likely be on County Council are already stabbing him in the back. With one Democrat assured of victory in Council District 1, it makes the County Council races very important. We know District 5′s Joe Holloway is a conservative who will win and Marc Kilmer in District 2 has an excellent chance to join him, but the John Cannon vs. Laura Mitchell race is a key along with Larry Dodd vs. Josh Hastings in District 3. Both Democrats are trying to convince voters they’ll be fiscal hawks, but don’t be fooled. We need the 6-1 Republican majority to have a potential 4-3 conservative majority behind Bob as he tries to right the ship. Finding good local candidates is a priority for 2018 as well.

As for the issues on the ballot, I’ve already urged a vote AGAINST Question 1 because it’s a weak excuse for a lockbox and Maryland taxpayers deserve better: send it packing and insist on a 3/4 majority provision to be voted on in 2016. On Question 2, I think on balance it’s a good idea but it will also demand vigilance, as Election Integrity Maryland’s Cathy Kelleher points out in a Sun editorial opposing the question.

Lastly, I must say this is the time for conservative voters to shine. The fact that early voting had as many Republicans as Democrats by percentage statewide and by raw numbers on the Lower Shore (despite a registration disadvantage of about 10 percent) indicates the GOP is more keenly interested in this election. But I want to run a few numbers, with the photo below telling the tale.

For this exercise, I used the voter proportions illustrated in the recent Gonzales Research poll, which is probably a fairly realistic model. I assumed undecided voters would remain in proportion with their trend (as opposed to breaking for the challenger) and left 1% for other candidates, write-ins, etc. (I also didn’t figure in the 50,000 or so registered to minor parties – if they vote they’ll not influence the result significantly.)

The sheet on the left is my calculations using a Bob Ehrlich Republican turnout from 2002, 68% of Republicans.

The sheet on the right is the same calculations for Democrats and the unaffiliated, but assuming a turnout like we saw in the Presidential election two years ago, when 78% of Republicans came out – even though Maryland was considered a lost cause for Mitt Romney.

Indeed, we turn from crushing disappointment to “winner, winner, chicken dinner” simply by getting an extra 1 in 10 Republicans to turn out.

If Republicans turned out like that for an election which was an almost foregone conclusion in this state, hopefully this simple calculation will provide the incentive to Maryland Republicans to come out in a gubernatorial election where they have a shot to sneak away with a close victory!

Early voting numbers were encouraging, but Tuesday it will be time to finish the job.

Update: Hey, I missed a key set of races. It’s not a partisan race, but M.J. Caldwell is a far more qualified jurist than the guy Martin O’Malley picked based on his last name. And speaking of O’Malley picks, there are two others on our ballot who we can remove from office and perhaps allow for the first crop of Larry Hogan appointees. So vote “no” on continuance in office for Kevin Arthur and Andrea Leahy.

Too good to be true? Internal poll: Hogan up by 5

While it can be dismissed as an internal push poll, given its conclusion that Larry Hogan “is well positioned heading into the final week,” or the final add of, “Having the resources to go toe-to-toe with Brown on TV will be crucial in turning his current lead into a victory on Election Day,” a survey by pollster Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research has buoyed the Hogan camp and led to another upcoming visit from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie this coming Sunday evening at Patapsco Arena in Baltimore.

Yet other polls suggest a significant Brown lead, most particularly a YouGov poll which has stubbornly put Brown up by double-digits every month (and is computed in the RCP average.) Not added to the RCP total, though, is a survey by Gonzales Research which showed the race was far closer and as an added benefit gives the breakdown of expected turnout.

One could even argue that the “calibration error” problems with voting machines – which only seem to be turning Republican votes to Democratic ones, and not vice versa – is the sign of a party desperate to hold on to the governor’s chair. (A source tells me here in Wicomico County, at least one early voting machine was put out of service after the error was replicated on it. The personnel at the early voting center were reluctant to get involved, according to my insider.) Add to that the allegation of non-citizen voting and it’s no wonder Republicans are sweating out the prospect of the same fishiness which plagued the 1994 gubernatorial election some swear was stolen from Ellen Sauerbrey.

Yet as the old adage says, you just have to beat them by more than they can cheat.

There’s no question that Democrats are less enthused about this election than they have been in the past. But let’s go back and look at some key numbers from 2010, the second Ehrlich-O’Malley rumble.

As I said, I really like Gonzales polling because they give an honest breakdown and analysis. In October 2010 their poll had Martin O’Malley with a 47-42 advantage over Bob Ehrlich – a race that O’Malley eventually ran away with. In fact, out of the last several polls this was the one which gave the last fading hope of an Ehrlich upset.

But there were some warning signs – for example, Ehrlich’s 17% support among Democrats “won’t do it,” said Gonzales, nor would the 8-point advantage in the Baltimore suburbs. In the recent Gonzales survey, Hogan doesn’t do a whole lot better among Democrats than Ehrlich (19-73 for Hogan vs. 17-72 for Ehrlich) but is significantly stronger in the Baltimore suburbs (55-37 Hogan vs. 49-41 Ehrlich.) On the other hand, Brown does a little better in the Washington suburbs at 70-25 (vs. O’Malley’s 65-25) but Hogan counteracts this with a strong showing among the growing unaffiliated ranks (46-32 Hogan vs. 42-36 Ehrlich.)

To me, the truth is somewhere in between the five-point Hogan lead in the WPA poll and the 2 points Gonzales has him down, probably closer to the latter. All I know is I think it will be close and every vote will have to be carefully scrutinized by the person casting it. (My source also told me there may be a robocall put out to remind Republicans to check their ballot before leaving.)

Yet the idea isn’t just to be satisfied with a Republican governor – we need to give him plenty of help and local voters can oust a number of thorns in the conservative side next week. Let’s paint the Eastern Shore red from Cecil to Somerset, from the Bay Bridge to Ocean City.

Building ‘A Great Maryland’

On Saturday I was alerted to a story by John Fritze in the Baltimore Sun regarding Andy Harris and his attempt to level the playing field a little bit in Maryland politics by creating a superPAC called A Great Maryland PAC. According to the Sun, Harris donated $150,000 to the PAC, which turned right around and put out a commercial depicting Jim Mathias, Norm Conway, Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama as “liberal peas in a pod.”

I don’t have a copy of the spot to show you at the moment, but the theme seems similar to one Harris used in the 2008 primary against former State Senator E. J. Pipkin and onetime Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.

What’s funny to me, though, is the Democrats’ reaction, like from Jim Mathias:

“I don’t think it’s right,” said Mathias, who said he had no idea who was behind the television spot. “People’s freedom of speech — I support that with my every breath — but if you’re going to make these kinds of accusations, I think there should be accountability.”

Funny you should talk about that, Jim – I’ve been holding you accountable for your votes for years, and I’m glad to finally have a little help. So come clean about where you received your campaign funding (hint: it’s a lot of special interests.)

Harris has been a savior to Republicans around the state, with significant donations to several candidates as well as the state party – in total, including the seed money for the A Great Maryland PAC, Harris is over $300,000 in campaign contributions – and that’s good news for conservatives around the state.

Hopefully he’ll need to collect more to give to more incumbent recipients next time around.

The Hogan side of Franchot’s assessment

After yesterday’s lengthy post about Peter Franchot’s assessment of the state economy, I wondered how the Republican running for the state’s top job would react. Fortunately, I can distill his statement down to a couple short paragraphs:

(Wednesday’s) report is utterly devastating and confirms what we have been saying, that Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown have taxed and spent our economy into the ground. Overtaxed Marylanders are earning less, small business profits are disappearing and people have less to spend on goods and services.

As governor, I’ll put partisan politics aside and work across the aisle to undo the damage of the past eight years. We’ll work together to reign in reckless spending and waste so we can roll back as many of the O’Malley and Brown’s 40 straight tax hikes as possible. It’s time for Annapolis to live within its means so people can keep more of their hard earned money.

I was fine with that until the part about “work together,” particularly with regard to an event last week with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

The Democrats want to tell you that Governor Christie and I are far-right extremists. Our similarities stem from the fact that we are commonsense Republicans that are prepared to reach across the aisle in order for progress and prosperity. That is why Governor Christie was overwhelmingly reelected in the blue state of New Jersey to a second term. And that is why Marylanders are ready for a Republican governor in Annapolis.

Unfortunately in this partisan day and age, for a Republican reaching across the aisle means getting your arm bit off and used as a club to beat you with. Remember, the reason for Christie’s initial popularity was his get-tough stance with the state’s unions, and I honestly don’t see those sort of stones with Larry Hogan.

It’s obvious we have a problem in this state, as Franchot pointed out. But the problem isn’t just in the governor’s office, it’s in the bowels of the General Assembly as well.

Remember the “doomsday budget” session of a couple years ago, and the big deal many in the General Assembly made that spending “only” went up $700 million instead of the $1.2 billion they eventually received? Imagine that fight every year.

Depending on how many Democrats are returned to Annapolis, the budget that Governor Hogan would send out might only get 50 or 60 House votes, so the overriding question is what tradeoffs will we have to endure? Or will Hogan surprise me and take the bully pulpit, going over the heads of the General Assembly and the press to convince the people to demand action on a leaner budget? We know the unions wouldn’t take cuts lying down, so are those on the side of sanity going to go to Annapolis and tell Big Labor to pound sand when they mass in protest like they did a few years back? Fifty isn’t much against 5,000 and their box lunches.

(By the way, I should point out the link above was one of the posts where I lost all my pictures when Photoshop folded into Adobe Revel and rendered all my photo links obsolete. I spent a good half-hour fixing it for presentation last night because it was important to convey the sort of protest Larry Hogan can expect if he stands his ground.)

I certainly hope Larry wins and comes out with budgets which reflect sanity and not just a 4-6 percent increase each year. But be warned it won’t come without a fight. And we can live with Larry’s middle-of-the-road, reach-across-the-aisle tendencies if we can get some conservatives to Annapolis to keep him in line, with the rest of us having his back when he makes those promised cuts.

A dose of economic reality

Bear in mind the following words are written by a Democrat in Maryland. It’s an extremely long blockquote of an entire release but I thought readers deserved full context.

We convene today to write down our already cautious revenue projections for Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016 by more than $405 million. Far more important than what a $405 million shortfall means for the state budget is the painful reality that it indicates for the budgets of Maryland families and small businesses.

We’re writing down individual income tax receipts – the largest individual source of state revenue – by over $350 million, between the shortfall in individual income tax receipts carried over from Fiscal 2014 and our write down of expected revenues for Fiscal Year 2015.  Six years removed from the economic collapse, and far too many families and small businesses are still waiting for the recovery they keep hearing about.

We can classify a year or two outside the ordinary as simply abnormal. But more than a half decade later, we need to accept that sluggish growth and challenging economic conditions have become our new normal. It feels like we sit at these meetings every quarter, hopeful and determined that ‘next year will be the year’ when the recovery takes hold and is felt broadly throughout the economy. Yet, another year has passed, and ordinary families and small businesses haven’t even recovered to where they were before the financial collapse, much less made up for the wages they’ve lost over the past six years. We need to recognize that hope is not an economic strategy.

The same challenging conditions I’ve discussed in past meetings haven’t substantively improved. Wages and salaries are essentially stagnant. Local, independent businesses are struggling to meet payroll, cover their costs and turn a profit. Working families have cut back their spending because they just don’t have the money, they’re scared of losing their jobs, or, in many cases, both.

In a consumer-driven economy, it should come as no surprise that when consumers are struggling, businesses inevitably feel that pain, particularly in an environment where margins have often already been trimmed down to the bone. Add that to Maryland’s unemployment rate – traditionally a major strength – not keeping pace with improvements seen in the country as a whole.

Maryland’s 6.4 percent unemployment rate is higher than the national rate of 6.1 percent – something we’ve only experienced twice in the past three and a half decades – during the tech boom of the late 1990s and the 1980 recession. In terms of wages – the oxygen working families need to survive – Maryland’s average wage growth was just 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014, far below the rate of inflation for the same period.

Essentially, workers perceive that their take-home pay is headed in the wrong direction and the purchasing power for Maryland families is, in reality, diminishing. The housing market has failed to rebound in a sustained and meaningful way, particularly with Maryland second worst in the nation in home foreclosure rates.

Combined, these economic indicators led to a Maryland economy that didn’t grow at all last year – with a 0 percent GDP growth for 2013. As we know, an economy that isn’t growing is actually retracting. This all means uncertainty for families and businesses. They are unsure about their prospects and, as a result, unwilling to make the purchases and investments our consumer-driven economy needs to grow. As great a state as we are and as robust an economic system as we have, uncertainty serves as a serious deterrent to economic growth.

Whether it’s sequestration, unpredictability in the tax and regulatory environment or an inability to make long-term federal budgeting decisions, most of the uncertainty is based on political problems and decisions, as opposed to global economic conditions. While the federal government has always been and certainly remains a major economic advantage, our over reliance on the public sector carries significant risks. We can embrace our proximity to Washington as a strength without depending on it as our sole basis for economic stability.

We simply can’t assume that we’re around the corner from returning to the way it was, and back to the decisions we could afford to make in Maryland as a result. The fact remains that we’ll only see the economic growth we’re accustomed to when we get the private sector economy growing. We can only make that happen if we provide a sense of predictability for Maryland families and small businesses.

As state policymakers, we need to be smart in how we spend taxpayer dollars, recognizing that to invest in the things we need, we have to forego many of the things we simply want. We have to be more forward-looking about how we borrow money as a state.  We simply can’t sustain our current patterns of debt accumulation without provoking actions that could do further harm to an already fragile economy — amplifying the significant fiscal and economic challenges we already face.

As we all know, a sustained economic recovery is going to come down to jobs, both here in Maryland and throughout the nation. As long as we see continued weakness in wages and job growth, consumers will inevitably pull back, causing businesses to struggle and the economy to underperform.

We simply cannot create any unnecessary road blocks that would make employers reluctant to invest, grow and hire. But if we maintain a cautious mindset and provide a sense of predictability to Maryland families and small businesses, our economic bones are strong enough and our people are resilient enough to withstand this write down and the economic challenges it represents. (All emphasis mine.)

That’s the entirety of a press release put out by state Comptroller Peter Franchot as the Board of Revenue Estimates calculated our state would yet again be short on revenues to the tune of $405 million, or slightly over 1% of the current budget.

But let’s read between the lines, in the passages I highlighted.

(W)e need to accept that sluggish growth and challenging economic conditions have become our new normal.

No we don’t. What we need to do is realize our policy prescriptions over the last eight years or so have done little to help the local economy. States are succeeding in this country, whether it’s through ambitious exploitation of energy resources like North Dakota or smart, pro-business policy such as the sort Texas seems to use. (Heck, Rick Perry even encouraged Maryland businesses to relocate to his state.) To attain growth, it has to be encouraged and the only thing we’re encouraging the growth of in this state is government.

The same challenging conditions I’ve discussed in past meetings haven’t substantively improved. 

Peter Franchot became Comptroller in the same 2006 election we elected Martin O’Malley as governor. Perhaps that should give an indication as to why these conditions persist.

Essentially, workers perceive that their take-home pay is headed in the wrong direction and the purchasing power for Maryland families is, in reality, diminishing.

This is reflective of national conditions, since real household income has declined since reaching a peak anywhere from 7 to 15 years ago, depending on income quintile. And with wage-earners having to string together a series of part-time jobs to make ends meet thanks to the impact of Obamacare and a higher cost of living, the budgets of Maryland families are indeed stretched to the breaking point.

(M)ost of the (economic) uncertainty is based on political problems and decisions, as opposed to global economic conditions.

Families continue to wait for the other shoe to drop. Spend over $100 million on a botched website? Don’t worry, we’ll make up the shortfall by figuring out some new revenue stream. This is the state that experimented with the “tech” tax some years ago before the computer business threatened to bolt, so they decided to tax millionaires instead – and watched many move out of state. Even taxing rain to supposedly help clean up Chesapeake Bay has become a boondoggle as different counties decided on different approaches, while a select few counties (including Wicomico) figure they are next on the firing line to be stuck with the “rain tax” like 10 other Maryland counties.

While the federal government has always been and certainly remains a major economic advantage, our over reliance on the public sector carries significant risks. We can embrace our proximity to Washington as a strength without depending on it as our sole basis for economic stability.

This is a very prescient statement, but Franchot is only looking at it in terms of tax revenue from federal workers. Surely he’s less inclined to speak out about the fact that it’s actually Uncle Sam – not income tax receipts – that is the largest source of state revenue. I know the unsuccessful campaign of Charles Lollar made overtures about slaying that beast, but it’s just as bad to be dependent on the federal government for operating revenue as it is to make it as much as a significant economic driver as it tends to be for the Capital region. Meanwhile, jobs which create real value – whether it’s extracting natural gas in Garrett County, making steel in Baltimore, or growing chickens on a rural Somerset County farm – get short shrift from an administration which has tried to thwart that sort of growth at every turn.

Whether Peter Franchot wants to admit it or not, the damning economic statement made by a Comptroller who still endorsed the candidate who most represents this failed status quo in Anthony Brown makes the case that a new broom needs to sweep Maryland politics clean. If you haven’t heard about GOP candidate for Comptroller William Campbell, it’s time you did.

And Anthony Brown? I’m sure he knows that Franchot is pretty much correct in this assessment, which is why he’s trying to paint Larry Hogan as a Republican extremist (there is no such thing) and not talk about his own accomplishments or plans. “More of the same” just won’t sell for a large number of Maryland’s working families.

Is Hogan returning to earth?

There’s some concern in Larry Hogan’s campaign about a New York Times/CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker Poll showing Hogan again trails Anthony Brown by double digits, particularly after a Republican pollster showed Hogan trailing by just three points last month. This outfit’s July poll of over 1,400 registered voters showed Brown on top by 13 points in July, and is computed in the Real Clear Politics average.

The Republican’s campaign contends the poll is “so flawed and so misleading that Politico hammered the New York Times for lending their name to this internet survey.” YouGov’s methods are different than most pollsters, as they conduct their surveys among an audience which opts into the poll via the internet, then weighs the results among demographics. The overall survey even solicits new customers, requesting people to “Join YouGov today to take part in surveys like these and earn money…”

Maryland’s race is also interesting because of the relative lack of responses compared to other states. Out of 35 states surveyed, Maryland only beats 12 states in terms of participation. Most of the states Maryland beats are fairly rural and sparsely populated: Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming. It’s not a tremendously representative sample.

Nor is it necessarily reflective of the Maryland electorate. The unweighted sample actually has independents well over their voting strength at 29%, with Democrats comprising 45% and Republicans only 25%. (It’s actually close on the GOP.) But weighting the sample as YouGov does places the Democrats at 52%, independents at 26%, and Republicans at only 22%. In reality, according to the latest voter registration figures, Democrats have 55% share, Republicans 25.7%, and independents just 19.3%. So both major parties are undersampled by about 3% apiece.

Polling is all about turnout. While the YouGov survey claims these are “likely voters,” in reality those not affiliated with a party are the least likely to turn out for a gubernatorial election. Yet when I reset their polling numbers to a very likely turnout model (that of the 2010 election, which was a muted TEA Party wave election in the state) and distribute the “not sure” voters in the same proportion as those who have decided, I come out with this possible result:

  • Brown 57.5%, Hogan 40.2%, other 2.3%

I think the reason this turns out the way it does is that the YouGov sample has Brown winning Democrats at roughly the same rate Hogan wins GOP voters. In a lot of ways the YouGov poll is almost a worst-case scenario for Hogan, who needs to both boost turnout for his side to levels last seen in 2002, when almost 68% of Republicans and over 45% of independents came out to vote – in 2010 those numbers were about five points lower – and get far more than the 6% of Democrats the YouGov poll has voting for him. If Anthony Brown can convince Democrat voters to stay loyal to the nominee, the game is over, and that’s why Brown’s going negative.

In fact, Hogan’s campaign added that:

If the MD Democratic Party – with their two-to-one registration advantage over Republicans – honestly thought Brown was ahead, they wouldn’t need O’Malley’s Democratic Governors Association to spend $750,000 in special interest money on attack ads to bail out his campaign.

So I think the reality is somewhere between the 14 points this poll has Brown leading by and the 3 points Hogan claims he is behind. It just proves there’s a lot of work to do in explaining the real record of Anthony Brown and the damage his policies would do to Maryland if he’s elected.

Odds and ends number 74

Believe it or not, this feature which used to be a staple of my site has gone dormant for over 18 months. But I decided to resurrect it because all these financial reports I’ve been doing as well as other regular features have taken up my time and allowed my e-mail box to become dangerously full of items which were rapidly running out of shelf life. So here you go: the return of odds and ends for what promises to be a cameo appearance.

As evidence of that shelf life, I wanted to bring up a thoughtful piece by my friend Rick Manning – not to be confused with the former Cleveland Indians outfielder – regarding the prospect of a continuing resolution for federal spending which would expire in December, necessitating a lame duck session.

Manning is right in believing that the strategy is fraught with peril, and if the pre-election polling is correct and Republicans take over the Senate come January this only invites Democrats to lay a few traps as they back out the door. Of course, if Congress (read: the Senate) would actually do its job and get the budget work done before the federal fiscal year begins on October 1, this wouldn’t be a problem.

One Senator, Rand Paul, received some criticism from Timothy H. Lee of the Center for Individual Freedom, who noted Paul’s flip-flop on foreign policy neatly coincided with a shift in public opinion regarding the Islamic State.

Returning to the fold of NetRightDaily – which has been on a content roll lately – I found someone who agrees with me on the Seventeenth Amendment. Tom Toth lays out the case, although I think we should do a couple other amendments first. Obviously this would probably change the composition of the Senate rather quickly to an almost perpetually Republican body, but someone needs to look out for the states and that element is missing in modern politics.

Something else Congress should get to (but probably won’t) are curbs on civil forfeiture, the subject of a recent push by the Institute for Justice. The bills themselves were introduced back in July by Sen. Paul and Rep. Tim Walberg, but while IJ has been doggedly against what they call “policing for profit” for several years, this latest offensive stems from a petition drive and video the group has done detailing abuses of the process in Philadelphia.

It’s clear the libertarian-leaning group doesn’t like the idea, and with good reason. Think of it as the step beyond speed cameras.

Philadelphia also figures prominently into my next piece. I’ll explain this more on Sunday, but there were a number of pieces I was perhaps intending to use for my American Certified site but instead will be mentioned in brief here.

One group which has made it to those pages a lot is the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Certainly they complain a lot about the trade deficit with China but AAM President Scott Paul (no relation to Rand Paul) also made a great point about the continuing lack of manufacturing jobs.

This jobs report is a big disappointment for factory workers. While we can never read too much into just a month’s worth of data, a goose egg for manufacturing doesn’t look like progress to me. And it will be hard to consistently move the manufacturing jobs number up unless our goods trade deficit with China comes down.

Two years ago President Obama campaigned on a pledge to create one million new manufacturing jobs in his second term. Our #AAMeter shows progress toward that goal is stalling. A national manufacturing strategy could help get us back on track.

Yes, they track the progress toward that elusive one million jobs, and Obama stands at a puny 193,000. It’s surprising because as Rick Manning stated in an earlier piece, we have the energy resources to bring American manufacturing back. We’re now number 1 in natural gas production, and our energy dominance serves to stabilize world prices, says Mark Green of API.

Looking at it from the perspective of state government, a recent video by Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan explained his thoughts on creating opportunity.

The key phrase in this video comes early on, when Hogan talks about his appointments. This is an opportunity which is rarely discussed, but when Democrats have run this state for all but four years of the last forty, the pool of those who get to be department heads becomes ossified. The Glendening appointee to one office may have been O’Malley’s point guy somewhere else and would be on the short list for Anthony Brown.

But if Larry Hogan can resist the temptation to overly rely on his buddies from the Ehrlich administration, we have the potential for real reform and new ideas at the department level.

Another reform is being pushed by the Maryland Liberty PAC, and Republicans will be pleased to know they are firing in the right direction by attacking the “toxic track record” of District 34A Democratic nominee Mary Ann Lisanti. They didn’t catch this gem, though.

Finally, I wanted to promote something a fellow blogger is trying. Peter Ingemi (aka DaTechGuy) has a radio spot for you:

It’s near the end of the year when everyone’s ad budgets are pretty empty so as I’ve got some ad space left on my radio show I’ve got an offer to make exclusively to the bloggers, advocates & folk on my e-mail blast.

Produce a 15 second plug for your blog, podcast or web site and for only $30 I’ll include it on my radio show DaTechGuy on DaRadio for a FULL MONTH.

That’s not only 70% off the normal price but it also means your plug will be included on broadcast replays, my own podcast replay, the live replay on FTR Radio and all four weekly replays on the 405media Tuesday through Friday. And if you want an even better deal I’ll give you 30 seconds for just $50 a month (or I’ll replay your 15 second spot twice).

This is a great chance to get your blog some national exposure on multiple platforms that you might not currently be reaching. (His emphasis, not mine.)

He’s the consummate salesman, is he not? But I have him beat, at least in terms of price. I’m not doing a radio show anytime soon, though.

And I may not be doing another odds and ends soon either. But it was fun to go back and put one together for old times’ sake.

The pleasing poll

It was just about this time in 2010 that Bob Ehrlich had his last positive poll – a Rasmussen Poll had the Maryland race tied at 47-47. Granted, the former election calendar dictated a primary was still to come but it was presumed early on (particularly as the state party had its thumb on the scale) that Ehrlich would be the nominee.

But as time wore on and people began to pay attention, the thought of returning to the era of Ehrlich seemed to turn voters off, as the race which was single-digits until mid-October turned suddenly and forcefully Martin O’Malley’s way in the end, as he won going away by 14 points. This blowout for O’Malley had a few coattails as well, as the GOP lost two Maryland Senate seats (but gained six House of Delegates seats, solace in an otherwise contrarian election here in Maryland given the 2010 national TEA Party wave.)

We have no idea if the same will hold true with different players in 2014, but the Maryland GOP was pleased to release a poll which showed the race between Larry Hogan and Anthony Brown was within the margin of error. Granted, it was from a Republican pollster and perhaps slightly oversampled Republicans but the results still have some merit.

As the OnMessage, Inc. pollsters write:

The ballot currently stands at 45% for Brown, 42% for Hogan, 4% for Libertarian Shawn Quinn and 9% undecided. In deep blue Maryland, that signals real trouble for Governor O’Malley’s right hand man. More importantly, Independents favor Hogan by 8 points with a quarter still undecided. That’s remarkable considering that Hogan is still unknown to most Independents with an image of 27% favorable and 14% unfavorable. But Independents know Brown better and don’t particularly like what they see. Brown’s image among Independents currently stands at 32% favorable to 39% unfavorable.

I can easily gather two things about this race: one is that Shawn Quinn will get 1% if he’s lucky, and the other three percent will likely break toward Hogan by a 2:1 margin. It’s also an axiom that undecideds tend to break for the challenger; despite the fact the seat is an open seat Brown as LG has to be considered the incumbent. It’s a scenario which could be a repeat of the 1994 gubernatorial race.

Insofar as the numbers go, the sample used by OnMessage is a 51-32 D-R split, which oversamples registered Republicans by about five points. However, if Republicans are motivated to turn out and Democrats are dispirited, that turnout model may not be bad. And when just 51% of Democrats feel the state is on the right track (while 64% of independents and 88% of Republicans think things are going the wrong way) the motivation should be on the GOP side.

It’s also worth mentioning that Brown is already leaking 15% of Democratic votes to Hogan while just 3% of Republicans back Brown. The only reliable constituency Anthony Brown has is the black vote, which is at an 87-5 margin – hence the Michael Peroutka scare tactics being used as a dog whistle to minority voters.

Even though it’s a Republican poll, the trend has to be a little disturbing to Democrats. Earlier in the summer, Brown had a massive lead over Hogan – up 18 in a June Washington Post poll, and up 13 in separate July CBS News and Rasmussen polls – so to see that melt away to no worse than single digits has to shake up the Brown campaign. It explains why they’re throwing the kitchen sink at Hogan on social issues, trying to distract attention from Brown’s pitiful and puny record of political accomplishments.

Obviously the fight in this election will be how well Hogan can stick to his message of fiscal responsibility. Now that the primary is over, we don’t have to fight on degrees of difference so when the Democrats try and change the subject I’m not going to allow it. It’s time for fiscal responsibility and competence, and Maryland Democrats over the last eight years have shown little of either.

Next Page »

  • Advertise with monoblogue and you’ll reach a lot of people!

    Freedom fighters and TEA partiers in Maryland and beyond are discovering monoblogue!

    Click on the photo for details.

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.
  • November 2014
    S M T W T F S
    « Oct    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    30  
  • 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.

  • Archives