A welcome respite

The sign said Andy Harris was welcome. But how would the crowd feel?

The last time I went to an Andy Harris town hall meeting, it was a time when “Indivisible” passions ran high and the “traveling roadshow” was out in force. One successful re-election for Harris later, the group on Monday was more subdued.

My spot of activity this week didn’t allow me to get to this right away, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I was sort of curious to see if any of his other stops would be controversial and it doesn’t appear they made a splash in the news cycle. And speaking of news cycle, this was a familiar sight.

WBOC wasn’t the only TV station at the event, but they were set up in the lobby when I walked in.

As a matter of fact, had I chose to I could have been on TV myself (on local rival WMDT) but I just didn’t feel like I could answer their questions. My thoughts and recollections are better suited for this space.

After doing it for almost a decade, perhaps Andy has figured this town hall thing out. First of all, you couldn’t help but admire his work in getting a local veteran named George Hornsby the medals and commendations he’d been owed for over fifty years.

Something else that was different (and better) was how the questions were selected. Rather than soliciting index cards for written questions for a moderator (and leaving himself open for the charge of not answering difficult questions) each person had a number given to them and when their number was drawn, they were given the opportunity to stand up and ask their question. In a little over an hour, we got to about 15 people that I wrote down.

And I thought the questions were nicely varied, which made them a little bit difficult to categorize. As a summary and not a blow-by-blow, I think I can take a bit of editorial license and group questions into more broad categories.

The first is a sort of “role of government” track. People had concerns about the direction of the House, and were asking what he could do to assist President Trump. There was a person concerned about robocalls, another who asked about sanctuary cities, and someone else who asked about the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Regarding the direction of the House, Harris just reminded us, “everybody has a vote” each two years. It’s the worst system – except for all the rest, he continued, conceding that the voters wanted divided government. “I try to represent the district,” he added, noting his belief he’s conveying the wishes of the majority of the First District.

Unfortunately, being in the House minority means there’s “not a whole lot” he can do to help Donald Trump, a President he agrees with “90 percent of the time.” One of those cases will be his vote to sustain President Trump’s veto of the rescission of his state of emergency. “My vote will sustain his veto,” said Harris.

One reason he cited was funding for border security. “As a nation you have to control your borders,” he said. Andy also alerted us to the 90% of our heroin that comes across the southern border, not to mention the amount of fentanyl – enough to kill 9 times the population of Maryland from one particular recent seizure – that we stop.

Eventually the conversation on the border led to a question on sanctuary cities, and whether we could cut their funding. Andy told the questioner there was no statutory authority to do so, but having sanctuary cities also “creates a lack of rule of law,” which was something we needed to get back to. I also learned how Andy would handle the DREAMer situation: a “legal pathway” with permanent residency status but no citizenship unless they returned to their home country to start the process there.

All that made the concern about robocalls, which was a concern he agreed with – and even spoke to the committee chair regarding it – rather mundane. It also has an international aspect to it since most originate in foreign countries but spoof domestic numbers.

Harris also agreed the Kavanaugh confirmation was “a spectacle,” although as a member of the House he was but an observer like the rest of us. “In the end, I think the American system worked,” he added.

In a sort of peripheral way, those couple people who were concerned about environmental issues were looking at the government for help, too. One was concerned about garbage, which is a problem in, of all places, the middle of the Pacific. In that case, one of the issues was that China no longer takes our garbage. The reason? We are dirty recyclers: oftentimes the leftover products originally encased within the plastic containers are still present in enough quantity to make recycling less cost-effective. Perhaps a solution is in “waste-to-energy” or chemical recycling.

Their other concern was Bay funding, which President Trump’s budget cut from $73 million to $7 million. The Maryland delegation is working to at worst level-fund it, although if there is a continuing resolution the spending would continue as before, too.

Here Andy brought up one area where he and I part ways: stating that offshore drilling needs the permission of the state, Harris stated his opposition to not only offshore drilling, but offshore testing as well. That is a short-sighted approach, but I think opponents like him are afraid that there’s a vast supply of black gold or natural gas out there. I’m not sure why that’s something to fear, but why not do the testing anyway to verify one way or the other?

A lot of people had guns on their minds. There are “too many guns in this country,” said one questioner. But we have the Second Amendment, which makes us unique among nations.

And guns aren’t necessarily the problem, said Andy. We’re not dealing adequately with the issue in several respects:

  • The celebration of violence in video games, which was even something President Obama spoke about.
  • The lack of control of gangs and drugs. Are laws as enforced as they should be?
  • A decrease in religious observance, which you could also consider a lack of morals if you prefer. (My words, not his.)

And while Baltimore “went after their police force,” they are “allowing young lives to be destroyed” there. And as an homage to Captain Obvious, Harris said “we will never disarm non-law-abiding citizens.”

He had some unkind words about Maryland, too, noting that while the state has universal background checks, they are one of the worst states at reporting mental health issues to the federal government for those checks. Don’t do more gun laws if you’re not enforcing the ones you have, he said: for example, out of the thousands who knowingly stated falsely they didn’t commit a crime – thereby committing perjury on a federal form – only ten of those cases were prosecuted because former AG Eric Holder didn’t make it a priority.

Andy’s opposition certainly had its say, although to their credit they were reasonably non-disruptive. The only exception was a case where two people objected to Andy’s reticence to commit to an hour-long face-to-face meeting with that constituent who disagreed with Andy’s stance against Obamacare. The tension got thick when Andy was accused of anti-Semitism for meeting with a “Holocaust denier” as well as chastised for a visit to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Victor Orban, leader of a “center-right” government. (Harris, a first-generation American whose parents fled Hungary amidst a Communist takeover, leads the Hungarian-American Caucus in Congress.) It’s “pretty repulsive to me” to be called anti-Semitic, Harris countered. But the disruptive pair were not escorted out as cooler heads prevailed.

While Harris objects to Obamacare, it should be pointed out that he’s for several reforms to Medicare Part B – specifically, the area of prescription drugs administered in a physician’s office or hospital where Andy remarked “Medicare has no leverage” to deal with increasing costs. As it stands now, these providers are allowed a 6% surcharge on top of list price reimbursement, as I understand it. (I’ll plead ignorance since I am not on Medicare.) Apparently HHS Secretary Alex Azar has a plan to revise this scheme to account for the reduced price other nations pay to allow these drugs into their market – a gatekeeping system Medicare doesn’t have. Using a weighted average of the prices charged to 12 other leading industrialized nations plus a 30 percent premium is “a pretty good compromise” according to Harris.

I suppose if the drug cost us $10, the weighted average of the 12 was $5, and the 30% premium added $1.50, yeah, there could be some savings. Of course, I have no idea about the actual numbers.

(It should also be mentioned that opioid addiction was brought up in the meeting. His opinion: “It will take a long time to fix,” because the problem isn’t just drug companies or overly aggressive doctors. But no one ever did any studies on how addictive these painkillers could be until much more recently.)

A more significant part of the time was spent by Andy explaining his opposition to H.R. 1, the (so-called) For The People Act. “What part did you object to?” he was asked, answering “why not (send up the provisions) one at a time?” rather than a 400-page bill that’s been amended several times. “We have to stop doing bills like this,” he continued, holding up a copy of the bill that takes up half or more of a ream of paper.

“Really, it’s an incumbent protection plan,” Harris added, and while in that respect he theoretically should favor it, his primary complaint on it was that “it tells states how to conduct their elections.” He wasn’t in favor of public financing of elections and had a problem with its oversight provisions, such as voting in other states (as a former opponent of his was caught doing.)

Yet a GOP amendment making “ballot harvesting” illegal was defeated – its main flaw is allowing anyone to bring in ballots, rather than specifically a family member or guardian. I personally see it as a chain of custody issue, and ironically the same technique that turned the tide in several California House races was the reason North Carolina voters in their Ninth District have an upcoming “do-over” in their race, won on election night in 2018 by a Republican. Ballot harvesting is illegal in North Carolina, precisely because of those chain of custody issues.

One last thing I’ll bring up is the charge Andy often receives about not having empathy or sympathy. “I take care of patients!” he replied. His job is to pay attention and read the bills, and when it comes to health care it’s to maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions and keep insurance affordable. Personally, I just think there are too many people who equate big government with empathy or sympathy but would object to a faith-based solution because it’s “pushing their religion on people.” To those whose god is government, perhaps I’m tired of you pushing your religion on the rest of us. I’d just like to render unto Caesar only what is supposed to be his and not all of my freedom, too.

But a nice lady had her number called shortly after this and told the audience she had dealt with Congressman Harris’s office regarding her mesh implants and thanking him for helping her with the issue. It’s one where the public and physician databases need to be better integrated so that doctors can be better informed with real-time reporting and analysis. “Sunlight solves a lot of problems,” said Andy.

We also talked about suicide, which was a byproduct of the same culture that’s led to so much gun violence. In a nation founded on religious principles, it’s no surprise to me that being religious cuts the risk of suicide in half – at least that’s what Harris claimed. “If we abandon religion, we abandon some of those (founding) principles,” Harris remarked.

I’m certain there were those agnostics in the room who scoffed at that assertion. “There’s a separation of church and state!” they thunder, and if there could be a border wall built between the two that’s a wall they would support 200 percent and have that sucker built a mile high and twice as deep, halfway to God or Gaia or who/whatever they believe in.

In a letter from John Adams to officers in the Massachusetts militia (October 11, 1798) our second President remarked as a close to a longer point, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If you presume that “any other” is the irreligious lot we have now, Adams was probably right and, as a group, they tend to be the ones who want to revamp our founding document.

But I get the idea that our Constitution was Divinely inspired, and as such I like to see us hew to it as best we can. While it does need some modern-day tweaking, including a pruning of the amendments ratified in 1913, the Constitution can continue to serve us well if lawmakers just remember their oath to defend it. I think Andy Harris does a reasonable job of that and I’m glad he stopped by.

Odds and ends number 92

The more regular than it used to be look at the pile that’s my e-mail box and dredging out items worth a few sentences to a few paragraphs starts now:

A private fight for $15

My friends at the Maryland Public Policy Institute recently pointed out that there are a number of Maryland companies who are already paying starting employees $15 an hour (or soon will be.) MPPI’s Carol Park notes that, “The main goal for Maryland government should be to incentivize businesses in Maryland to grow larger and more profitable, so that they can become the new Amazon and Target and not only pay their employees $15 an hour but employ hundreds and thousands of Marylanders who are looking for a job.”

While Park is right, she also misses a point. Using that argument, larger businesses may be comfortable latching onto the so-called “Fight for $15” because it allows them to throttle back prospective competition. Small companies running on tighter margins won’t be able to pay the higher wages, so they won’t be able to compete.

Listen, if the SEIU and big business are on the same side (and, according to Leonard Robinson III of the Capital Research Center the SEIU is greasing a lot of Democrats’ palms to get this enacted at the federal level) it just can’t be good for the rest of us.

Returning to the subject of MPPI, they have also recently asked the state to “resist” raising taxes in the wake of the Kirwan Commission report advocating an additional $3.8 billion in school spending – none of which is slated to follow the child as it should. They cite prospective income tax increases on the middle class as well as possible expansion of the sales tax to include more services and business tax hikes as possible outcomes.

Knowing how the Kirwan Commission came together, is it any wonder higher taxes are on the docket? Resist we must.

Did Trump really cave? Or is it “fake news” from the dividers of Indivisible?

This probably deserves its own post, but we all know Indivisible will take credit for anything that’s a loss to America or makes President Trump look bad – naturally, that extends to the end of the recent Schumer-Pelosi shutdown. So this was their “state of play” after the furlough ended.

Pay attention to the “ask” – Republican Senators are asked for “No new wall money. Keep the government open.” It sounds to me like the Democrats have already determined they will shut it down again and try to blame Trump again. Nope, that one would be on you – particularly since Democrats have the majority in the conference committee.

In another Indivisible-related item I found interesting, they laid out a fundraising wish list in an e-mail I received in the wake of the shutdown:

  • $1,475,000 for “doubling our organizing team,” adding 14 state-level organizers, 3 digital organizers, and 3 training organizers.
  • $80,000 for Hubdialer, which, as the name implies, assists volunteers in making phone calls.
  • $114,000 for Mobile Commons, which is a text messaging system.
  • $1,315,820 for digital ads. More money for Mark Zuckerberg.
  • And $140,000 for ActionKit, a “mass e-mailing tool.”

All told, that “ask” is a little over $3 million, which I’m sure they’re going to invest in pushing more propaganda for 2020. Yep, that’s some grassroots for you.

And speaking of Astroturf…

If you wondered why Obamacare has hung tough despite its unpopularity, maybe this is why. From CRC’s Hayden Ludwig:

At least thirteen pro-Obamacare organizations aren’t independent organizations at all, but websites hosted by a handful of mega-funder nonprofits: the Sixteen Thirty FundNew Venture Fund, and Hopewell Fund.

Those three funds are in turn managed by Arabella Advisors, a mysterious consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. Arabella Advisors advises wealthy clients on what it calls “strategic philanthropy.” In practice though, Arabella’s strategic giving involves philanthropic investments to left-leaning causes and organizations.

“Who is Behind the Groups Pushing Obamacare?”, Hayden Ludwig, Capital Research Center, January 10, 2019.

Nor should we forget this tangled web the Left weaved.

And people thought the TEA Party was Astroturf because Americans for Prosperity printed up a batch of signs? Okay then, feel free to be wrong.

More wasteful spending

Another winner from the CRC comes in this investigation by Robert Stilson – employment programs that make work for connected non-profits. It’s yet another case of low-hanging fruit to be plucked and another score for the Capital Research Center, which is beginning to become a (sorely needed) bulldog of the Right. Don’t miss their look at the Census controversy either.

The state of American energy…is strong

At least according to the lengthy (over 120 pages) and colorful annual report from the American Petroleum Institute. It should be required reading for environmentalist wackos, including one Larry Hogan. Maybe he’d learn something and get back to what he promised.

If you want something a little more “official” the far less colorful Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Outlook 2019 is out as well. Both documents are chock full of good news for the energy industry as long as government stays out of the way.

So is the state of American manufacturing

Fresh off “another strong month of job growth,” the folks at the Alliance for American Manufacturing believe, “This strength in factory and overall hiring gives the administration considerable leverage headed into the final leg of trade talks with China,” according to AAM President Scott Paul.

But they’re never quite happy, always wanting something more. On the heels of a Trump “buy American” executive order, the group wants it expanded already. Here’s what it covers, in a nutshell:

Within 90 days of the date of this order, the head of each executive department and agency… administering a covered program shall, as appropriate and to the extent consistent with law, encourage recipients of new Federal financial assistance awards pursuant to a covered program to use, to the greatest extent practicable, iron and aluminum as well as steel, cement, and other manufactured products produced in the United States in every contract, subcontract, purchase order, or sub‑award that is chargeable against such Federal financial assistance award.

“Executive Order on Strengthening Buy-American Preferences for Infrastructure Projects,” issued by President Trump January 31, 2019.

While the additional jobs are good news, I’ve always been a little leery of “Buy American” orders such as these just because it’s gaming the market and making American products just that much less competitive on a global scale. Why invest in new technology and better facilities when you have a captive customer?

Having said that, I do believe President Trump is trying to level the playing field a bit as other nations subsidize their industries to varying degrees, too. For several years I received missives from AAM and others decrying the “dumping” of steel on the American market by Asian competitors, and that’s a case where a “Buy American” law can be of assistance. But I would rather see fair trade as a part of free trade, and there can be instances where “Buy American” may not be the best option.

Fighting the last war

In terms of total votes, the most popular politician in Maryland isn’t Larry Hogan. Instead, the top vote-getter in 2018 was Comptroller Peter Franchot, who drew 1,620,264 votes in winning a fourth term in office. Peter carried all but three counties (Cecil, Garrett, and Washington) in defeating the vastly underfunded Republican challenger Anjali Phukan. (Her campaign, beginning in May, 2017 and ending last December, raised a grand total of $2,051.25. The remaining $460 was donated to charity.)

But Phukan remains convinced that Franchot’s victory was achieved through underhanded means. Recently she attempted to convince the Maryland Board of Elections that an investigation into Franchot’s campaign finance was necessary, but to no avail. So she took the next step:

With no administrative options left, at the suggestion of some fellow Republicans, I filed a “Writ of Mandamus” with the Circuit Court in Anne Arundel County, to make the Board of Elections investigate my concerns, and act accordingly, as required by Maryland law. In this writ I also requested an injunction and declaratory judgement. I had presented my concerns before the election board as I discovered things in the process of reviewing his campaign’s financial records, and yet the account was still deemed compliant enough for Franchot to be certified!

Anjali Phukan, newsletter to supporters, January 27, 2019.

She’s also began plugging an obscure electoral watchdog website that’s had barely 700 visits in the last 2-plus years (as there is still 2016 information on it.) A GoFundMe campaign for it has raised a grand total of $5. But while it seems Phukan is tilting at windmills, she brings up some very troubling concerns about the Maryland campaign finance system.

Having written and read a few campaign finance reports in my time, I’m sure I’ve pointed out the weaknesses in the system. But a glaring one is how one very minor change in information submitted could conceivably allow an entity to donate far more than the prescribed limit, and seldom does the Board of Elections act on these irregularities. Since I haven’t heard of them overturning any elections due to unlawful campaign finance, I presume the punishment is generally making the campaign return the donation and perhaps a modest fine to the candidate and/or treasurer.

I glanced through Phukan’s summary of Franchot’s issues and, while it wasn’t a vast percentage of his campaign funding, you would think a person who is charged with being an accurate collector of revenue wouldn’t have such large accounting errors. It seems to me that the Board of Elections is just putting these self-reported records out to present a fig leaf of accountability but not really checking into them. (And let’s face it: most campaigns in this state don’t involve enough money to pay the mortgage for a year.)

And, by extension, the lack of interest in checking Franchot’s campaign finance seems to be echoed in their lack of interest in (or utter contempt regarding) cleaning out voter rolls. The erstwhile watchdog group Election Integrity Maryland found thousands of duplicate registrations in a May, 2014 survey. (Third release here, from an archived web page.) It’s now February, 2019, and something tells me that number is twice as high. Just wait until they get the automatic voter registration!

In passing

I couldn’t let this post go by without mentioning the recent passing of my former colleague on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee, Dave Goslee, Sr. Sadly, the 78-year-old Goslee had just in November won a seat on an institution he’d been fighting to reform for the first ten years of his twelve-plus year tenure on the Central Committee, the Wicomico County Board of Education.

Dave showed the value of getting out the vote as he won that Board of Education seat by one vote after a December recount showed that vote was incorrectly credited to his opponent. But the fourth-term WCRCC member couldn’t beat leukemia, and it’s likely his opponent will get the seat back anyway as a 14-member panel mainly comprised from the local schools will select Goslee’s successor – that committee selected William Turner, who Goslee defeated for the seat, in 2017.

Dave and I were not the closest of friends on the committee when we first started, but over the years we developed a respectful relationship as we each came to understand what the other brought to the table. He was also a devoted season ticket holder for the Shorebirds, so I saw him often even after I left the WCRCC. He will be missed, both at the games and certainly in local politics.

Coming up…

I almost put this into the odds and ends, but decided I would devote a stand-alone post to those who would tell me how to do my job. I may use that as the light-hearted stack of stuff to start the weekend.

I also have the third in a quick batch of record reviews to do for Saturday, but that may be the last for a short while. Or it may not.

Longer term, a suggestion I’ve had placed in my hopper once again was to bring back something I tried for a couple seasons in 2014 and 2015: predicting the 25-man Delmarva Shorebird opening day roster. (My 2014 guesses had 10 correct for Opening Day and 5 coming along later in the season. In 2015 I had 11 on Opening Day and 6 later on. That year I did it a week before the season, but it didn’t help.)

This year’s roster may be even more tricky because of the new management for the Orioles – players who may have been favorites under the Duquette regime may not catch the eye of Mike Elias, who will presumably prefer a player more like those in the Astros organization from which he came. (And who am I to argue with their success? Not only was the major league team a division winner in 2018, so were four of their top five farm clubs – the other was a close second. On the other hand, the Shorebirds were barely a .500 team but that was still best among Baltimore’s full-season affiliates last season.)

But since my situation is a little better than it was back in mid-decade I think I’ll give it a shot. Still not going back to Shorebird of the Week but at least I’ll enhance my coverage this way.

So the mailbox is emptier and you’re up to date.

Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (third of four parts)

In this third part of a four-part series, I’m reviewing votes in the 2017 monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP) where Mary Beth Carozza and Jim Mathias landed on different sides. (If you need to catch up, here are parts one and two, covering 2015 and 2016 respectively.) In 2017 Mary Beth Carozza dropped slightly to a score of 74 on the mAP despite 19 correct votes and just 6 incorrect ones because she changed her vote to be correct on one bill – a bill which happened to be one Jim Mathias got right the first time. Unfortunately, those instances were few and far between for Jim Mathias as his score of 12 on the mAP was unchanged from 2016. He had just 3 correct votes out of 25 cast.

Besides the bill Mathias got correct the first time and Carozza didn’t (SB355, which had to do with gas companies being able to recoup certain environmental remediation costs), the only instance where he was correct and Mary Beth was not was a measure to require licensing to sell vaping products (HB523.)

On the other hand, Mary Beth fought at times against a broadly liberal agenda that was a reaction to the era of Trump. Meaningless resolutions such as protecting Obamacare (HJ9) and repealing votes for common-sense Constitutional amendments such as a balanced budget or gerrymandering prohibition (HJ2/SJ2) were coupled with real far-left agenda items that were even too radical for the centrist Governor Hogan like paid sick leave (HB1) and a “ban the box” bill (HB694). These drew vetoes that were voted on in 2018, but in the initial case they weren’t too far left for Mathias to support while Carozza held the line closer to the center and opposed them.

Another vetoed bill that was sustained was the cynical Democrat attempt to hold off a gerrymandering ban until other states did one (SB1023), as that was too hot for even the Democrats to handle in an election year. But Jim Mathias was fine with it in the first place, while Carozza was correct in seeing through its hypocrisy. Vetoes of two other bills, the 2016 version of HB1106 that revised the renewable energy portfolio and the attempt to make failing schools less accountable for their problems (HB978) by taking the prospect of school choice off the table – a teacher’s union wet dream if there ever was one – were sustained by Carozza and overridden by Mathias. The MSEA got its money’s worth on their $6,000 in campaign contributions to Mathias (in just the last four years) there.

Unfortunately, our governor didn’t have the stones to veto some other far-left pipe dreams that Mary Beth Carozza opposed but Jim Mathias was perfectly willing to support. Worst of all was a bill in reaction to the proposed cutting off of federal funds to Planned Parenthood embodied in HB1083/SB1081.

Another example: the “Maryland Defense Act” (HB913) that has allowed AG Brian Frosh to run wild, filing frivolous lawsuit after frivolous lawsuit against the Trump administration. In 2017 we also got commissions to counter the potential dismantling of onerous Dodd-Frank financial regulations (HB1134/SB884) and the effects of repealing Obamacare (SB571). Yet no one suggested a commission on how to deal with the effects of illegal immigration, did they?

Further reaction to the twin elections of Hogan and Trump were broadly written screeds on coordinated election expenses (HB898) and PAC compliance (HB1498), coupled with the aspect of allowing a change in voter address to be updated during early voting without verification (HB1626). All these were supported by Jim Mathias and opposed by Mary Beth Carozza, almost as if Jim saw he would have significant opposition this time around.

For all the controversy about Mathias supporting facilities “where drug users can consume preobtained drugs” (as written in the bill he co-sponsored) it should have been foreshadowed by his support of repealing drug testing requirements as a condition of receiving SNAP benefits for those previously convicted of drug distribution (HB860/SB853). This was an “opt-out” to federal law Carozza opposed.

On the mundane side was a bill to allow mass transit to gain more subsidies by requiring less of a farebox recovery to avoid a large fare increase (HB271/SB484). As I noted then, no one seems to worry about that happening to the gas tax.

Last but not least was perhaps the most galling betrayal from the first term of the Hogan administration: reversing course on fracking in Western Maryland. The fracking ban (HB1325) was properly opposed by Mary Beth Carozza – who obviously believes in an “all of the above” energy solution where prudent – and opposed by Jim Mathias, who I guess must like high electric rates and Maryland being a net importer of reliable energy because that’s what we have now.

While the last two sessions featured a lot of differences between Mary Beth Carozza and Jim Mathias, the final installment covering this most recent session is a bit shorter insofar as voting is concerned. But it’s still worth pointing out in my final part tomorrow.

Debunking another myth

It’s the fourth of what promises to be a continuing series of diatribes to my snail mail box, but instead of extolling the (so-called) virtues of my incumbent State Senator Jim Mathias, it makes a series of claims about his challenger, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza.

So you want to talk about whose money Mary Beth Carozza is taking? I suspect you are REALLY afraid of looking in the mirror then.

This was a very easy (if somewhat time-consuming) one to address, given that Jim Mathias has taken oh-so-much PAC money over the years. So much so, as a matter of fact, that the majority of PAC donation money that goes to Mary Beth – the same groups also give to Mathias.

And the funny thing about the bill that is cited on this particular mailing (a bill that supposedly stabilizes the health care market by continuing a fee put in place under Obamacare for the federal level as a state-supporting fund) is that Jim Mathias was one of those who voted for a bill that CareFirst essentially admitted to writing, (See the testimony for SB387, which starts at about the 1:30:00 mark here.) And wouldn’t you know it – over the last four years Mathias has had four donations (8/13/15, 12/30/15, 12/15/16, and 4/30/18) totaling $2,000 from a CareFirst PAC. That same PAC did not donate to Carozza.

In fact, there are a total of 18 PACs which have donated to both candidates over the last four years that the pair were in office:

  1. ABC Metro Washington PAC (construction) – $2,850 to Mathias (6 occasions), $1,250 to Carozza (4 occasions)
  2. ABC of Chesapeake Shores PAC (construction) – $3,750 to Mathias (6 occasions), $2,500 to Carozza (6 occasions)
  3. Association of Maryland Pilots PAC – $1,750 to Mathias (7 occasions), $700 to Carozza (3 occasions)
  4. Bankers PAC – $3,250 to Mathias (8 occasions), $350 to Carozza (2 occasions)
  5. Banking Services Corporation – $2,000 to Mathias (2 occasions), $100 to Carozza (1 occasion)
  6. Comcast Corporation – $1,750 to Mathias (5 occasions), $250 to Carozza (1 occasion)
  7. EpicPharm PAC – $4,000 to Mathias (9 occasions), $750 to Carozza (3 occasions)
  8. Farm Bureau PAC – $2,500 to Mathias (1 occasion), $900 to Carozza (1 occasion)
  9. Health Policy Leadership Alliance – $500 to Mathias, $150 to Carozza (1 occasion apiece)
  10. HFAM Maryland Nursing Home PAC – $4,750 to Mathias (9 occasions), $350 to Carozza (2 occasions)
  11. Hospital Association PAC Maryland – $4,200 to Mathias (8 occasions), $150 to Carozza (2 occasions)
  12. Medical PAC Maryland – $900 to Mathias, $550 to Carozza (4 occasions apiece)
  13. Motor Truck Association PAC (MMTA PAC) – $1,250 to Mathias (5 occasions), $250 to Carozza (1 occasion)
  14. Poultry PAC – $7,000 to Mathias (10 occasions), $1,650 to Carozza (4 occasions)
  15. Realtors PAC – $3,340 to Mathias (13 occasions), $1,428 to Carozza (6 occasions)
  16. Retail Merchants Association PAC – $500 to Mathias (3 occasions), $500 to Carozza (2 occasions)
  17. Southern Maryland Electric/Choptank Electric PAC (and direct donations) – $1,625 to Mathias (8 occasions), $300 to Carozza (4 occasions)
  18. Wicomico County FOP Lodge 111 PAC (police) – $500 apiece in one donation

As you can see, in a head-to-head comparison Mathias is the king of special interest PAC money. Also, if you are keeping score, since Mary Beth’s November 2017 announcement that she would be seeking Jim’s seat, only the ABC of Chesapeake Shores, EpicPharm PAC (to both), Medical PAC (to both), Poultry PAC (to both, but mainly to Mathias), and Retail Merchants Association PAC have contributed to Mary Beth’s coffers. They know who sides with their interests over those of the people being represented.

In fact, there are only a small handful of PACs and large corporations which have donated only to Carozza, and all of these were prior to the announcement of her Senate run:

  • AmerisourceBergen (drug distributor) – $250 in May 2014 (Note: I didn’t check Mathias back that far.)
  • Anheuser Busch (Big Beer) – $1000 in two donations, July 2014 and July 2015
  • IFAPAC – Maryland (insurance and financial advisers) – $500 in two donations, January 2016 and May 2017
  • Marathon Petroleum Corporation – $250 in May 2014
  • Maryland Standardbred PAC (horse industry) – $250 in January 2017

Perhaps the most interesting donation to Carozza is The Presidential Coalition, LLC – a $6,000 contribution from the group behind Citizens United that’s relatively recent.

On the other hand, I don’t have space to list all the 150-plus special interest groups who have given Mathias money over the last four years – it’s a smorgasbord of unions, Baltimore-centered interests (don’t they have enough representation on the General Assembly already?), firefighters (think the lobby that supports costly residential sprinklers on new construction), those connected to the renewable energy boondoggle, and… Big Insurance.

So let me quote from the photo below:

Drug and insurance companies have all given lavish campaign contributions to back Carozza’s campaigns.

After benefiting from all that money, she voted their way again and again – against Governor Hogan’s efforts to stabilize health care costs for premiums, co-pays, and prescription drugs.

Between PACs and companies, Big Insurance has put well over $10,000 into the Mathias coffers over the last four years – and that doesn’t count local insurance companies. And if you consider AH Pharma, Amgen. Astellas Pharma, Caremark Rx, Eli Lilly, Genentech, LifeSpan, Pfizer, and Walgreens as part of Big Pharma, you’ll be interested to know their “lavish” campaign contributions are nearly tenfold ($9,850) the $1,000 total Mary Beth received from those interests in that timespan.

So whose vote seems to be up for sale in this case? And who is really contributing to keeping health care in Maryland a mess?

Admitting the health care system is a mess is a start, but the efforts of Mary Beth Carozza aren’t making it any more of a mess. Hopefully the next term will begin to really fix up the system.

So let’s talk about “voting their way.” In terms of the bill that Mary Beth (as well as most other Republicans) voted against – but was signed by Governor Hogan anyway – I would contend that she didn’t vote the way of the insurance companies (who, as I noted above, basically wrote the bill for other reasons.)

Not only did it maintain a tax of sorts on insurers and other entities, the bill went against an effort to open up the market for “association health plans” and expanded the role of an existing commission to consider the following:

(i) the components of one or more waivers under § 9-1332 of the Affordable Care Act to ensure market stability that may be submitted by the state; (This was a waiver they indeed received, until 2023.)

(ii) whether to pursue a standard plan design that limits cost sharing;

(iii) whether to merge the individual and small group health insurance markets in the state for rating purposes;

(iv) whether to pursue a basic health program;

(v) whether to pursue a Medicaid buy–in program for the individual market;

(vi) whether to provide subsidies that supplement premium tax credits or cost–sharing reductions described in § 1402(c) of the Affordable Care Act; and;

(vii) whether to adopt a state–based individual health insurance mandate and how to use payments collected from individuals who do not maintain minimum essential coverage, including use of the payments to assist individuals in purchasing health insurance.

This was a monoblogue Accountability Project vote, and Mary Beth voted the correct way, Unlike the assertion on the flyer, this bill is bad for families and senior citizens. But we’re stuck with both this “temporary” fee (which became superfluous when the Section 1332 waiver was granted by the federal government in August) and the mandate of the committee that will certainly recommend expanded government influence rather than common-sense solutions to open up the insurance market and allow those who need insurance to tailor it more closely to their needs. And who doesn’t think that this fee will become more than “temporary?”

The only one making a mess of health care is the member of the party best known for doing just that with Obamacare. Sp what untruths and distortions are coming up next?

And as I’ve often said: if you want to start getting into the weeds on floor votes, I have plenty of them – trust me.

Odds and ends number 87

Returning after a nearly five-month hiatus, it’s another edition of my occasional series of items that require anything from a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Some of it is leftover campaign stuff from this time around, but I’m going to reach back to my 2016 GOP choice to start this off.

Too often, I get an e-mail from Bobby Jindal that links to a piece behind the Wall Street Journal paywall. I like Bobby but I really don’t need to read the WSJ daily, so I miss out on being able to share. In this case, though, I was pleased to see him at National Review, which doesn’t have a paywall. And that’s good because when he points out:

Democrats point to the supposedly existential threat of climate change and the nation’s allegedly inhumane immigration system as reasons to give them control of Congress this November. Yet their failure to prioritize these issues and pass legislation when they controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House during Obama’s first two years in office belie their seriousness. Republicans are currently demonstrating a similar hypocrisy by failing to act on their supposed political priorities, including repealing Obamacare and reducing federal spending and borrowing. Even more dangerously, Republican failure to advance significant conservative solutions to the problems voters care about is setting the stage for Democratic overreach.

(…)

A majority of voters still prefer effective conservative market-based solutions to their real-world problems, but they will settle for government subsidies and dictates as a second-best solution if Republicans fail to offer an alternative. Republicans’ failure to address rising health-care costs when they were last in the majority led directly to Obamacare, and their failure to act today will result in a single-payer system. It all seems fine now, but remember this moment if and when we get single-payer.

As we are seeing in Maryland, single-payer isn’t a great selling political point – yet. But we’re also seeing the Democrats chip away at this by re-branding it as Medicare for All. One irony of entitlement reform as often proposed on both sides is that fixing Medicare will be the impetus for expanding it to a younger and younger age cohort, meaning people my age may soon get it – and entitlement-addled Millennials will soon be following suit because they’ll whine that they don’t have what their parents do, even though the parents have actually paid the Medicare tax for much of their working lives.

But if a market-based solution gains traction – perhaps making personal health insurance premium payments fully tax-deductible (as employer-based insurance payments already are paid pre-tax) would be a good interim step – the advantages of the private market would remain.

Another good step toward private enterprise might be addressing this disparity, as detailed by Hayden Ludwig at the Capital Research Center:

For a republic founded on states’ rights, the federal government owns a lot of American land. In 2017, the Department of the Interior reported federal ownership of 640 million acres—about 28 percent of the United States. Of that, only 2 percent is composed of military bases and training ranges managed by the Department of Defense. Much of the rest – a staggering 246 million acres – is concentrated under a single agency: the Bureau of Land Management, an agency of the Interior Department.

Even if you consider that there are a number of long-standing national parks in the West, the overuse of the 1906 Antiquities Act, especially by Democrat presidents, to create “no-go zones” for development, free use by agricultural interests, or energy exploration means that land isn’t being placed at its highest and best use. But they don’t seem to be resistant to using the land for the boondoggle of solar energy.

Did you know that for each megawatt of solar power created, the subsidy is over $40? That’s not me talking, but a University of Texas study cited by my old friends at Americans for Limited Government. Speaking on solar energy, author Richard McCarty writes:

After years of generous, taxpayer-funded subsidies, solar energy is still unable to compete on a level playing field with coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. Regrettably, solar energy’s higher costs have a human impact making it tougher for less affluent people to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. With so many affordable, reliable energy resources in this country, there is just no excuse for the government to be mandating and subsidizing green energy production.

Of course, if you’ve read my work regularly over the last 12-plus years, you have likely figured out I’m dubious about solar energy being a viable option in many areas of the nation. Obviously it could work off-grid and there’s no doubt the sun is an effective source of warmth in arid areas that enjoy abundant sunshine, such as the deserts in our Southwest, but in most other areas we’re hit-or-miss when it comes to solar power. (Case in point, today’s rainy day with a declining amount of daily sunshine not helping matters.) So while we still have the abundant fossil fuel resources, why not use them?

We don’t know whether Election Day will turn out sunny or cloudy weather-wise, but one thing I do know is that statist advocates like Joe Biden are backing candidates who they think will make their task easier. This is a snippet from a recent e-mail from the Biden-created American Possibilities:

(In June), in the latest threat to our right to vote, the Supreme Court gave the state of Ohio permission to kick thousands of voters off their rolls this fall based on how frequently they’d voted in the past. And now, you better believe that other states around the country are going to be emboldened to try the same thing.

Michael, if there’s anything we’ve learned this past year, it’s that we can’t always predict the future – but we can shape it.

And right now one of the very best ways we can help save voting rights in the United States is by electing strong Secretaries of State, the folks responsible for overseeing elections, all across the country.

So today, I’m endorsing four of these folks – each of them someone who understands that democracy is about making it easier, not harder, for every single one of us to have our say.

What Ohio was doing wasn’t terribly strict – I’ll let CNN explain:

Ohio law allows the state to send address confirmation notices to voters who have not engaged in voter activity for two years. If a voter returns the notice through prepaid mail, or responds online, the information is updated. If the notice is ignored and the voter fails to update a registration over the next four years, the registration is canceled. (Emphasis mine.)

So this purge of the rolls is after SIX years of inactivity to me isn’t all that hardline – particularly in a state like Ohio, which not only has balloting every year (primary and general for federal, state, and county offices in even-numbered years, primary and general for municipal and township offices and school boards in odd-numbered years, plus special elections for tax levies as needed) but also makes it fairly easy to get an absentee ballot and has a generous early voting schedule that actually makes Maryland look like pikers. If you’re not interested in participating after at least 12 (and probably closer to 15 to 20) opportunities to vote, it’s pretty likely you won’t.

And I think that law is good protection – I didn’t want someone claiming to be me to vote in my stead when I left the state. I seem to remember contacting my old Board of Elections once I registered here after the 2004 election to make sure they took me off the rolls. (Despite being here, that year I voted absentee in Ohio because I arrived after Maryland’s registration deadline in mid-October. If it weren’t a Presidential election, I probably would have skipped it.) Biden wants Secretaries of State that will not take the time to prune lists of ineligible voters and allow for same-day registration.

That’s straight out of the Democrat playbook, as expressed by DNC Chair Tom Perez:

Democrats are doing all we can to make sure that every eligible voter can exercise their constitutional right at the ballot box. That’s why we’re encouraging all states to offer same-day voter registration and the ability to register as a Democrat to vote in Democratic primaries. (Emphasis in original.)

Can you say Operation Chaos 2020?

Remember, it’s not the votes that count but who counts the votes. Ask Norm Coleman.

Since I brought up Ohio, it’s also the base for a pro-life advocacy group called Created Equal. Something they’re doing as their ministry is taking the pro-life message to the streets, as they detail in a video series they’re promoting called Preborn Defenders 101. It may be a good reference for others who share the pro-life philosophy – as they note, “our training is not theoretical. It is tested and tried in the fires of the public forum.”

(Public service announcement in that vein: the annual fundraising dinner of the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center comes up next month.)

Hopefully that dinner won’t conflict with the second scheduled Senatorial debate, which I found out about by accident: the Neal Simon campaign was announcing their second television spot – obviously they can afford it. As they describe the commercial:

The ad presents Simon as a strong, independent voice who will work for all Marylanders in Washington, and criticizes the two political parties and its leaders for playing partisan games that are dividing Americans and blocking progress.

I don’t know about either strong or independent, given the composition of those who donated to him, but they sure had to spin the recent Goucher Poll (slightly edited for spacing purposes):

———-

If you are writing something about the Goucher poll today or this week, the Neal Simon, unaffiliated candidate for the US Senate, campaign can provide a comment/quote, if you like.

Key components here are the following in our mind:

  • Momentum is a powerful force and it is beginning to swing our way:
    • In campaigns, nothing is more powerful than momentum and we feel like it is on our side and we are just getting going.
    • In 2 weeks, we expect to see another statewide poll, and we believe our numbers will prove that we are gaining momentum
  • During a campaign, support for candidates either rises or falls: we are rising, our opponents are falling:
    • Our message resonates with voters, and as a result of our campaign, the Republican and Democratic candidates have seen their support decline.
    • We have gone from 0% to 8% – Neal had no name ID when this started – the media is not covering our news, we have to buy exposure (that is an entire other topic).
    • If you look at other state-wide races like AG, the Republican is polling at the rate of registered R voters. Campbell is polling way lower than that.
    • Neither Cardin nor Campbell has enthusiasm – we went up 8 points, they went down. Neal is the only candidate with any kind of momentum.
    • Cardin has 56%, but 60% of people polled are registered democrats
    • Campbell polled at 17%, with 26% registered republican voters in the state.
    • As more voters see our ads, hear our message, and meet Neal on the campaign trail, support for major party candidates will continue to decline. Neal looks forward to the debate on October 7 to speak directly to the people of Maryland.

———-

What this shows to me is that Republicans (most of whom did not vote in the primary) may be operating under the belief that Neal is the endorsed Republican candidate. Normally the two dominant parties are on television, but in this case Campbell’s fundraising has been anemic (in all likelihood because donors believe he has no chance; alas, a self-fulfilling prophecy) while Simon lent his campaign more money than all the Maryland Republicans in federal races – except Andy Harris – have on hand combined.

So the bite out of the GOP total is coming from having a candidate that voters may well believe is the GOP nominee, running as a populist outsider in the vein of Larry Hogan. If anything, though, Simon should be taking from the Democrat’s total because his political philosophy is more aligned with them. That’s the only way he’s going to win, anyway. But Neal does need some percentage of independents and unaware Republicans to win.

By the same token, Tony Campbell’s extremely narrow path to victory comes down to this: Simon draws enough Democrat and independent support from Ben Cardin to split their vote, with common-sense independents and a strong GOP turnout backing Campbell. Maybe it’s time for Larry Hogan to work for the Republican team that consists of himself, Craig Wolf for Attorney General, Tony Campbell for Senate, and whatever local candidates are there for his stops – the only reason Larry and crew needs to be on the Eastern Shore is to back Mary Beth Carozza over the guy who voted to overturn Hogan’s veto 5 times in 7 key votes over the last three years.

It may make conservatives sick to their stomach to run the kind of campaign that gloms onto the moderate Hogan’s popularity, but the time for conservative principles comes when they actually govern, not on the campaign trail in a state that doesn’t know better (yet. I can only push back the frontiers of ignorance just so quickly.)

Now that my mailbox is empty, I suppose I can put this post to bed. It’s been fun putting this one together.

How much will it cost? (Part two of a multi-part series)

I really didn’t mean to take so long between part one of this series and part two, but because the second item on the Ben Jealous for Governor issue list is health care – and there’s a claim out there that his plan will cost Maryland a staggering $24 billion a year, according to analysts at the state’s Department of Legislative Services – I was hoping to see the actual evidence before I wrote the next part. But my trips to the DLS website have been fruitless, leading me to believe that there were a couple cowboys at the DLS who chose to leak this to the Sun.

So before I say this will cost $24 billion a year, I suppose the best thing to know is how we would pay for this program called “Medicare-for-All.” Here’s how Jealous explains the key benefit for the majority of us who are under employer-sponsored plans:

This system will end premiums for participants, reducing costs to most employees and employers. It will be important to create a system that ensures covered employees also see the benefit of this change. MD-Care will explore creating safeguards to ensure that employer savings are passed down to the workers in increased wages, and guarantee that workers see real savings instead of having all of the gains captured by employers no longer paying premiums. (Emphasis mine.)

It’s worth pointing out that health insurance as a employer fringe benefit is a relatively new phenomenon, one that began when wages were frozen during World War II. Since workers (generally those belonging to unions) could not receive wage increases, the measure to circumvent this prohibition was the inclusion of health insurance – with the added bonus of employer-paid premiums being non-taxable income.

Basically what Jealous wants to do is enforce a raise to workers who currently receive these benefits, whether deserved or not. That seems to me a good way to kill jobs in the state.

And stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

Those who want to keep their existing Medicare program will be able to.

Bear in mind, of course, that Medicare is not free. Those of us who work for a living see that little category on our pay stubs – mine actually calls this “Medicare Employee” – and every couple weeks a few dozen dollars added to that total. I guess that’s the down payment on what we have to pay when we get to the age where we can presumably sign up and collect on Medicare, which isn’t really free but has a bewildering array of premiums, deductibles, and co-insurance payments. So to say Medicare-for-All is “free health care” or “single-payer” is clearly a misnomer because there are three payment sources: your pocket, the generosity of those who pay the taxes but don’t use the service, and (in the case of the federal government) a massive amount of IOUs.

Jealous then cites a Kaiser Family Foundation estimate that health care in Maryland costs $51 billion a year (at least it did in 2014) and proclaims:

This is simply unsustainable, and MD-Care offers an opportunity to finally get costs under control. Administrative savings could quickly add up to billions of dollars in Maryland and fully expanding the All-Payer model would finally allow us to bend the “cost curve” in medical spending. In addition, by ensuring the plan is designed properly to reduce costs and maximize federal dollars, we can further reduce the healthcare burden on Maryland taxpayers.

So wait a second: this is Maryland’s plan, but we’re expecting everyone else to pony up and pay more for it? Yeah, that will fly like a lead balloon.

And I’m not sure where “administrative savings” (if administration is 8% of health care cost, that’s $4 billion for Maryland) comes from when people who work for those eeeeeevil insurance companies (mainly paid for with private-sector dollars) are repurposed as government employees who are paid from the public till, to wit:

This plan and the Maryland All-Payer Model Progression Plan call for widespread use of emerging new titles in healthcare such as coordinators and community health workers to ensure that high risk populations are being treated properly (and at lower cost). This offers an opportunity to minimize the net disruption to employment by ensuring job retraining and preferences for those who previously worked at private insurance companies. Instead of thousands of workers in Maryland being paid to deny access to care, they can now be paid to provide healthcare.

In addition, there is going to be a need for administrative employees to ensure that Maryland is complying with all federal law so we can continue to draw down dollars for Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and the ACA.

So much for saving on administration; in fact, given the lavish government payroll that seems to be a cost increase.

Speaking of cost increases, here’s where it gets important:

There is no question that any plan will have significant cost savings compared to current healthcare spending, while also moving most healthcare dollars away from the insurance companies and into the plan. These variables will determine the final cost of the plan and the revenue requirements. Among other revenue options the advisory panel will consider:

  • Income Based Premium Paid by Employers

This premium would be a deductible business expense, meaning this plan will have the same tax advantage status as employer provided healthcare. However, it is unknown how businesses will react to this, and significant input from the Maryland business community will be needed. Businesses would have predictable health insurance costs instead of double-digit increases with no end in sight.

  • Sales Tax

Having some portion of the plan paid for by a sales tax would have several advantages, including capturing revenue from non-Marylanders. It would also reduce the amount of revenue needed on the payroll side, thus reducing the taxation burden on new employment. At the same time, a sales tax is regressive by nature, so any tax increase on working Marylanders would have to be measured against the net benefits received from this plan.

  • Non-Payroll Income Premium

A non-payroll income premium would ensure that the most financially successful in Maryland pay their fair share of taxes. The advisory panel will need to study the tax sensitivity of these higher earners to ensure that any increase doesn’t result in significant population shifts in the region to avoid any changes to the Maryland income tax system.

I can tell you exactly how business will react to the first one, Ben: they will close their doors and/or leave. Those that have to stay will be hiring fewer people, and they have the perfect incentive:

We will also look at ways to ensure that small businesses and new companies succeed under this plan. This could mean exempting small businesses and start-ups from additional taxes associated with MDCare depending on revenue or firm age. The advisory panel will work with the small business community to design an exemption that makes the most sense.

One surefire way to cut revenue to fit under the limit: close a few locations, let go a few workers, and fold the business into a newly-formed holding company.

Because of that possibility, my thinking on this is that Jealous would go with a blending of options two and three: perhaps an increase in the sales tax from 6% to 8% and a reprisal of the infamous “millionaire’s tax” that will cause capital to flow out of the state.

Assuming that the roughly $4.6 billion collected by the state in sales taxes in FY2017 is a valid figure, a sales tax increase to 8% would cost taxpayers roughly $1.1 billion a year, and $5.5 billion over five years. A millionaire’s tax would be perhaps a $500 million cost to taxpayers over 5 years.

But that won’t begin to cover this program – not when spending is $51 billion a year now, and probably $70 billion when it’s “free.” (That is if you can find a provider – only 7 of 10 providers accept new Medicare patients.)

The most truthful statement made from Ben on the subject is this one, a throwaway line on his “Path to Medicare for All“:

When the ACA was written, Democrats were overly concerned with the optics and not enough with the actual mechanics of the bill.

Yes, we had to pass it to know what was in it. Likewise, we have no idea if that $24 billion cost is anywhere close to reality but it is likely that state revenues will take a significant hit as private-sector businesses throw in the towel.

Next up in this series will be Criminal Justice, a platform that likely has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.

The GOP after 2020

It’s doubtful many people saw this with everything from a blue blood moon eclipse to the State of the Union address to the runup to the Super Bowl going on, but my first choice for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination weighed in at the Wall Street Journal (alas, behind a paywall) with his thoughts on the post-Trump GOP.

The reason I put 2020 in the title, despite the fact the Trump presidency could last until January of 2025, is that the moment the 2020 election is over Donald Trump is a lame duck. At that time we will either see the jockeying for position in case Vice-President Mike Pence doesn’t want the top job, like the last GOP veep Dick Cheney who didn’t run in 2008 (nor has he since.) So the new direction of the Republican Party will be determined after 2020. (This is in contrast to the Democratic Party, which is now having the fight they should have had in 2013-14 after Barack Obama was re-elected. Even had Joe Biden decided to run, there was going to be a battle between generations and philosophies on the Democratic side.

But Bobby Jindal sees the upcoming fight and wants to avoid it. His contention, though, is that the Trump philosophy is no bigger and has no more lasting effect than his direct participation in the presidency. In Jindal’s view, the new GOP should remember:

The Trump movement should and can be bigger than him. Now that elite Democrats have renounced the blue-collar working-class voters who supported them as recently as 2012, Republicans must learn to consolidate and build on that base. The next Republican presidential nominee after Mr. Trump will have a fighting shot at bringing home the people who like lower taxes and dead terrorists but bristle at his crude behavior.

(snip)

The moment immediately after Trump is the one that counts. It is possible that it took him to broaden us and that our subsequent existence will depend on his disappearance.

Where does all this leave us? We need to take over and reinvent the GOP. Mr. Trump won’t be the man to do it. We should create a more populist – Trumpian – bottom-up GOP that loves freedom and flies the biggest American flag in history, shouting that American values and institutions are better than everybody else’s and essential to the future.

It sounds to me like Jindal is looking for a Republican Party that takes a page from the Constitution Party. The problem is that too many people equate populist policy (hardline immigration but a willingness to compromise, and big government done more efficiently) with Republicans now. Despite the fact that President Trump is governing in many respects as conservatively (if not moreso) than Ronald Reagan, he shares the commonality with Reagan that his predecessor put in an unpopular big government program that he promised to kill – but in time wasn’t done. Reagan vowed to abolish the Department of Education but never had the Congress to do so, Trump evolved from “repeal” Obamacare to “repeal and replace” to “okay, we got rid of the penalty for not carrying insurance.” Trump, though, has Congress in his favor.

Unfortunately, we had a party like Jindal advocates once upon a time. Back when politics stopped at the water’s edge, the Great Society Democrats were fine with waving the flag but were also happy as clams promoting a bigger (and they thought a better) government. Absent the evidence Republicans (aside from Paul Ryan) want to significantly cut spending, I’m beginning to think we have a two-headed monster on our hands.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2017

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:1-14, KJV)

You may recall that I began my Christmas Eve post last year with the exact same reference to Scripture. But things are a little different this year.

It’s interesting to ponder how, every so often, the week before Christmas embroils us in a political fight. The two examples I’m thinking of are the 2009 fight about Obamacare, which had its Senate vote on Christmas Eve before Congress could beat it out of town, and this year with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will likely be known as the Trump tax cuts. Before I get to all of my “best of” and retrospective pieces to close out a tumultuous 2017, I will write up something on that piece of legislation.

Yet there’s something different about this Christmas once again. Maybe it’s because, for the first time I remember, I have a real tree in my house? Doubtful. Instead, it’s almost like people think they are allowed to enjoy the season for the first time in awhile. Notice we’ve heard nothing about the “War on Christmas” and people seem to be in a better mood this year. Now obviously that’s one man’s perception, but I also suspect having Christmas Eve fall on a Sunday will be good for churches across the nation. (I’m timing this so I can share the fact my church, Faith Baptist Church in Salisbury, will be having its usual morning service today at 10:45 after a potluck breakfast.)

Thanks to the job I secured over the last year, I was able to spend a little more on gifts this year. I will probably drop a little extra in the collection plate this morning too. (Bear in mind that, while salvation costs nothing, the actual church building and ministry does come at a price.)

Tomorrow will be the day I spend Christmas with Kim’s family, which is a far sight easier than spending it with my parents in Florida (although their weather is way better.) As the children of the family get older, with one now in junior high and the other a high school senior, we’ve found the number of presents gets smaller but the price tag of each goes up more than enough to make the difference. I must say, though, that ours is being thoughtful enough to buy gifts for her best friends and mom. It’s a welcome sign of maturity.

Now if only our political discourse will take the hint, right? Anyway, on this eve of Christmas Eve as I sit here in my chair in Salisbury, Maryland with laptop in lap and write this lengthy treatise on the holiday for publication on Christmas Eve I think I have finally arrived at the point where I can honestly say it’s Christmas time. From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas and I will see you all on Tuesday.

Odds and ends number 85

Here’s another in my long-running series of things from my e-mail box and elsewhere that deserve a mention but not a full post. Generally I shoot for three sentences to two paragraphs for each, but that’s simply inclusive and not a strict guide.

In the fall of 2015, there was one candidate out of the rugby scrum of GOP presidential hopefuls who stood above the rest when it came to experience in governing combined with serious thought about the issues. Unfortunately for us, Bobby Jindal folded up his campaign tents rather quickly, but at least he can still dispense truth like this statement:

The Democratic Party has come out of the closet this year in full-throated support of single payer in health care. Those of us who are health care policy wonks have known this was their intent all along, but they were previously smart enough not to admit it.

It’s been a few weeks now, but I knew I would get to write about this in due course and Jindal’s statement is still worth the read. So I kept it around.

Actually, since the Republican Party doesn’t seem to want to favor limited government anymore, choosing instead the goal to be the ones running the circus and supposedly doing it more efficiently, maybe Bobby – who actually cut government spending during his two terms as governor of Louisiana – should join a group devoted to rightsizing government.

Yet there was a controversial decision made by one such group, the Constitution Party (and as disclosure, it’s their candidate I voted for last time – so I follow them more than most people do.) Gary Welch, the Communications Director of the national Constitution Party, explained their decision to back Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. This also included a fundraising drive.

To be honest, I’m not sure what the upside of backing Moore would have been had he won. I doubt he would have changed parties again – Moore was a Democrat up until the Clinton era, so you could conceivably add the decades-old accusations against him to the blue side of the ledger – and the amount raised by the CP would have been less than a drop in the bucket in the race. I’m figuring they were assuming Moore would still prevail based on the voting patterns in the state, and admired his stances reflecting the fact we are endowed with rights from our Creator, not from government.

But on the other hand, money raised in support of Moore could have been better used on ballot access and working against a system that somewhat unfairly burdens smaller political groups by making their ballot access more difficult. They may have had common cause but to me that wasn’t a smart use of limited funds.

One last thing about the Moore race that bothers me, though: no one pointed out that, on the same day that the Washington Post broke the Moore story, they also put up a more glowing portrait of Doug Jones prosecuting the last remaining 16th Street Baptist Church bombers from 1963. (The story was since updated to reflect election results but the link still shows November 9, the day the Moore accusations went online.) What a coincidence, eh?

Then again, they’re not the only group who hitched their wagon to Moore hoping for some sort of gain.

(Photo via Women for Trump.)

You may not know the woman at the podium, but I do. Not that I’ve ever met Amy Kremer, of course, but when you’re writing a book on the TEA Party you see the name a lot. In this case, though, it’s a group she co-chairs called Women Vote Trump, and the photo was part of a fundraising appeal from that group on Moore’s behalf. Now I won’t pick on Kremer aside from the fact she seems to be quite the opportunist – she left the Tea Party Patriots shortly after their formation because she wanted to work with their rival Tea Party Express group, and left them for Women for Trump once the Tea Party fizzled out – but this is what aggravates people about politics: the number of hangers-on who make their living from fundraising.

But it’s not just Republicans. This is a snippet of something I received from our erstwhile Vice President:

This Republican plan isn’t anything more than the latest, worst edition of the same-old trickle-down economics that has failed time and time again.

Even more than that, let’s be clear about what’s happening here. The goal the Republicans have today is the same goal they had when trickle-down economics first came on the American scene: Their long-term goal is to starve government. To say we don’t have the money to pay for Medicare, for Medicaid, for Social Security. We heard it last week when one of the leading Republicans in the Senate actually said after passing this new tax cut that we don’t have the money to pay for children’s health care.

Simply put, the values reflected in the Republican budget are shameful. They aren’t my values. And I don’t believe they’re America’s values either.

And so it’s time for a change. Right now, you can show that these actions have very real consequences. From now until 2018 and beyond, I’ll be doing everything I can to help elect a new kind of leadership in our politics. Folks who actually understand the issues an average American faces. Folks who aren’t scared to stand up to big corporations. And more importantly, folks who are absolutely committed to standing up for working people.

Yes, Joe Biden has his own political group called American Possibilities – literally a web portal that solicits contact information and donations. Certainly he will seek out the most liberal people to donate to. But is that really what we need?

Apparently this is Joe’s version of that three-letter word, J-O-B-S. Regarding that subject, I haven’t done a struggling blogger “bleg” story for awhile, but as a guy who’s been laid off before the holidays a time or two I could sympathize with Peter Ingemi’s story of losing his. Fortunately, it may now have a happier ending.

Now I have a question: have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Over the last several years I have reported on a couple organizations that promote “made in America” presents, so if you’re looking for stocking stuffers or that perfect gift, you may find it from the Alliance for American Manufacturing 2017 Made in America Holiday Gift Guide. Those who are ambitious enough to make it a challenge can also sign up for the Made in America Christmas Challenge that’s sponsored by Patriot Voices. But they concede:

We understand that there are things that are simply not made in this country – like iPhones. It may not be possible to buy everything made in the USA, just try your best.

Maybe that’s why so few have taken the challenge – just 90 at the time I linked. Either that or no one really cares about former Senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum anymore.

I may as well finish with a programming note: as opposed to this series that’s been around for over a decade, I think I’m dropping the Don’t Let Good Writing Go To Waste feature. It’s just a pain to compile, and besides it behooves you to track your political opponents anyway. (In my case, it’s to set them straight.)

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the concept got old fast and if I’m not excited about it then I won’t do them. So I decided to go no further with it, just like this post.

Harris hears the hullabaloo, Salisbury edition

Back in March Congressman Andy Harris hosted what could be described as a contentious town hall meeting at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. It was believed that yesterday’s event would be more of the same, but a disappointing fraction of that traveling roadshow of malcontents came down to Salisbury in their attempt to jeer, interrupt, goad, and otherwise heckle Andy Harris for the entire hour-long event.

There were a couple other departures from the Wye Mills townhall, one being the choice of moderator. In this case, we had Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis acting as the questioner and doing a reasonable job of keeping things in order.

Interestingly enough, the people at these “progressive” group tables outside have our Sheriff – the same one they were castigating for his “divisive rhetoric” a few weeks ago – to thank for their continued presence there.

As one would expect, the Harris campaign wasn’t cool with the presence of these tables outside and had asked them to leave, but they were overruled by Lewis. This was an event open to the public and not a school function, Lewis told me, so as long as they did not create a disturbance or block access or egress they were free to be there. The table on the left was run by volunteers for Democratic challenger Michael Pullen and the one on the right by “nonpartisan progressive grassroots volunteer organization” Talbot Rising. The latter group was there two hours early when I arrived.

The other departure was the lack of a PowerPoint presentation to open the townhall meeting, slated for an hour but lasting a few minutes extra. Harris rolled right into the questions, which were divided into tax-related questions and everything else.

Outbursts were frequent, but Lewis only had to intercede a couple of times. There was also a staged incident where a man dressed as Rich Uncle Pennybags thanked Harris for his tax cut, with two helpers holding a fake check – all three were escorted from the premises.

Speaking of tax cuts, this was to be the main emphasis of the program. It was the part that drew the sea of red sheets from the crowd.

(By the way, there was a young man there who passed red and green sheets to everyone. I was too busy writing and trying to follow to use them much, though.)

Now I will warn you: the rapid-fire way of getting questions in, coupled with the frequent jeering interruptions from the crowd (which was closer to me than the loudspeaker was) made it tough to get a lot of quotes so my post is going to be more of a summary.

I can say that Harris said the “vast majority” of the middle class would get tax cuts, and that was President Trump’s aim – to have them “targeted to middle income.” This was one of the few slides he showed.

He added that there were now competing House and Senate versions of the bill, with key differences: for example, the Senate bill has the adoption tax credit the House bill lacks, but the House has the $10,000 real estate tax deduction where the Senate bill still has the full elimination of state and local tax deductions. “We know they are areas of concern,” said Harris. Another area he worried about was losing the deduction for medical expenses, which he believed “we should retain.” He noted, too, that “my office door has been knocked down by special interests” who want to keep a particular deduction or credit intact. Later, he warned us this was the “first part of a very long process,” predicting nothing will be final until next spring at the earliest. (Remember, Trump wanted it for Christmas.)

Andy also contended that passing business tax reform would help to increase wages, which would increase productivity. That assertion was ridiculed, of course, although it would be interesting to know just how many of those objecting actually ran businesses and signed the front of paychecks.

At one point Andy was asked about the $1.5 trillion deficit figure that’s been bandied about by the Left in reaction to the GOP tax package, to which Harris asked the folks who applauded the question whether they applauded the $1.3 trillion in deficits Barack Obama ran up in his first year in office. (I thought I heard someone behind me say something along the lines of “but that did more good,” and I had to stifle a laugh.) Essentially, that $1.5 trillion figure assumes no economic benefit from tax reform, said Harris. That echoed his one concern about passage: “We need the economy growing now.”

And, yes, trickle-down does work, Andy added, and no, George W. Bush did not do trickle-down with his tax cuts because they were only for individuals, not businesses. We have had a stagnant corporate tax rate since the 1980s while the rest of the world went down. “If we don’t give relief to American corporations they will go offshore,” said Harris. (In one respect, the “progressives” are right on this one: Harris left out the salient point that corporations are over-regulated, too.)

Over the years, Andy continued later, he’s found out that Washington cannot or will not control spending, so they have to grow the economy to achieve the balanced budget he’s working toward. (Tax cuts have worked before – ask Coolidge, Kennedy, and Reagan.)

Toward the end, someone else brought up the estate tax, which Andy naturally opposes and these “progressive” folks, like the good Marxists they are, reflexively favor. Andy pointed out the examples of family farms and small businesses that work to avoid the estate tax that the opposition claims won’t affect them, but then Andy cited the example of a car dealer who spends $150,000 a year to avoid estate taxes. Someone had the audacity to shout out, “see, he’s helping the economy!” I really wish I had the microphone because I would have asked her: how much value is really created with that $150,000? If there were no estate tax the dealer could have used that to improve his business, hire a couple employees, or whatever he wanted.

Now for some of the other topics. First was a question on net neutrality. The crowd seemed to favor government regulation but Harris preferred to “leave the internet to prosper on its own.” (A lot of mumbling about Comcast was heard after that one.)

This one should have been a slam dunk, but even it was mixed. Harris pledged to allow people to keep and bear arms for whatever reason they wanted, and when some in the crowd loudly objected Andy reminded them his parents grew up in a communist country where the people had no guns but the government did. That doesn’t usually end well.

And after the recent Sutherland Springs church massacre, there was a question about the federal gun purchase form (Form 4473, as I found), because the shooter had deliberately omitted information on a conviction. Harris pointed out that he had asked then-AG Eric Holder that very question about how many people he had charged with lying to the government on that form and he said 10, because he had higher priority items. Okay, then.

There was a question asked that I didn’t really catch about the student savings program being extended to the unborn, and before Andy got real far into his answer someone behind me got in a way about this being a trick to “establish personhood” for the unborn. I thought they already were. This actually relates to a question asked later about the Johnson Amendment, which is generally interpreted as a prohibition on political activity from the pulpit so churches maintain their tax-exempt status. Harris called the Johnson Amendment “ridiculous,” opining that a church should be able to tell its parishioners which candidates have similar political views without fear of the IRS – much to the chagrin of the traveling roadshow.

This one was maybe my favorite. A questioner asked about a lack of women in leadership positions under Trump, but when that questioner was asked about Betsy DeVos – a woman in a leadership position as Secretary of Education – well, that didn’t count. “This President is going to appoint people who do the job,” said Harris. (Speaking of women seeking leadership positions, among those attending was state Comptroller candidate Angie Phukan. She was the lucky monocle returner.)

There was another questioner who asked if anything was being done in a bipartisan manner, to which Harris pointed out the House cleared a number last week. “Watch the bipartisan bills being passed on Monday,” said Harris.

Since I had time to kill before the event, I wrote a total of four questions to ask and it turned out three made the cut. Here were the three and a summary of the answers.

What are the factors holding back true tax reform? Is it a fear of a lack of revenue or the temptation of government control of behavior that stops a real change to the system?

The biggest factor Andy cited was the K Street lobbyists, which I would feel answers the second part of the question better than the first, Note that he had said earlier special interests were beating down his office door. He also said he would really prefer a flat tax.

We have tried the stick of forcing people to buy health insurance through Obamacare and it didn’t do much to address the situation. What can we do on the incentive side to address issues of cost control and a lack of access to health care?

For this question, Andy gave the state-level example of the former Maryland state-run health insurance program, which acted as an insurer of last resort. And when someone yelled out, “it went bankrupt!” Andy reminded her that the program was profitable until Martin O’Malley raided it to balance a budget. Then there was some shouting fit over how bad the program was from someone who was a social worker, but then could you not have that same issue with the Medicare for All these people want (and Andy says “is not going to work”)? After all, both were/are government programs.

On that same subject, Andy said the American Health Care Act that died in the Senate “would have been good for Maryland” if it had passed.

The recent election results would tend to suggest President Trump is unpopular among a certain segment of voters. Yet the other side won simply because they ran against President Trump, not because they presented an agenda. What agenda should the GOP pursue to benefit our nation going forward?

This one had a short, simple answer I can borrow from a Democrat: it’s the economy, stupid. Get tax cuts passed so we can keep this accelerating economy going.

Lastly, I get the feeling I’m going to be semi-famous.

Given the fact that probably half the audience was rabid left-wing and/or open supporters of at least one of his Democrat opponents were there, I’m thinking the camera belongs to them. So if you stumble across any of the video, I’m the guy sporting the Faith Baptist colors up front.

Seriously, I was shocked at the lack of a media presence there. I gathered the Daily Times was there and they will spin it into more proof that Harris is unpopular. Maybe the Independent, the Sun, and the WaPo were too. But don’t let it be said that Harris was afraid to face his opposition. “This (townhall) is what America is all about,” said Andy near the end.

Personally, I get the frustration some on the Left feel about being in this district since we on the Right feel that way about the state. There was actually a question about gerrymandering asked, and while Andy properly pointed out it’s a state-level issue he also added that Governor Hogan has attempted to address this without success. They may also be frustrated because I know there were at least a couple cards in the hopper trying to bait Andy into answering on the Roy Moore situation, which Andy already addressed.

Overall, now that I’ve experienced the phenomenon for myself, it seems to me that our friends on the Left can complain all they want about their Congressman not listening. But every one of us there had the right to ask questions and common courtesy would dictate that we get to hear the answers whether you like them or not. So maybe you need to listen too.

Oh, and one other question for my local friends on the Left: are you going to clamor for Senators Cardin and Van Hollen to have a town hall here like you did for Harris? I know I would like one.

2017 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

This time around it will be fewer pictures and more text. It’s not like I haven’t done this for many years at the same venue. But you may recall I took a hiatus from party politics for awhile, meaning this was the first such event I’d attended in two years.

So I was greeted with mainly open arms, although many people thought I had already moved to Delaware. (Not quite yet.) Regardless, the feel of the event was such that I felt right at home – the only difference was that we were supposed to begin an hour earlier to accommodate our speaker. As it turned out, we got underway about 45 minutes late (or 15 minutes early by our “normal” schedule), so I who was there at 5:00 for a 6:00 dinner had plenty of time to commiserate and hear the band play.

One of the new folks I got to meet was the lone statewide candidate to attend. She is definitely having fun on the campaign trail.

Angie Phukan (a.k.a. “MsComptroller”) is, as the tagline would suggest, running for the GOP nomination for Comptroller. To date she’s the only candidate to file against incumbent Democrat Peter Franchot, who likewise has filed. She hails from Ocean City, so she’s a statewide candidate in our backyard.

I had actually conversed online with her a few weeks back when she was trying to figure out her yard signs. I suggested simpler is better, and assured her last night she need not worry about separate signs for primary and general elections. “Your job right now is to build name recognition,” I told her.

Of course, most of our local contingent of folks were there as well. One I want to point out is Mary Beth Carozza, Delegate from District 38C. Here she’s between County Council member from District 5 Joe Holloway and his wife Faye. (Holloway is once again my Councilman since we moved.)

The reason Carozza is important to the story is she’s making a “special announcement” next month in Ocean City.

The speculation is rampant this will make formal what’s been rumored for awhile: notice how much Jim Mathias is on social media these days? If Mary Beth indeed decides to try for the promotion, she would join Democrat-turned-Republican Ed Tinus in the race, although Tinus could then decide to seek the open Delegate seat.

As always, we began with a visit from our 16th President and the event’s namesake.

I had some fun with the photo since it demanded an oldtime look. As he always does, Lincoln waxed eloquent with tales from his life, this time focusing on the time he was a young man who studied voraciously to tackle new opportunities that came his way, such as surveying or winning his first elective office at the age of 25. (Oddly enough, the Whigs of the day had to contend with voters who were ineligible because they didn’t live in the district or weren’t yet citizens.) Observing today’s political landscape, he noted that there seemed to be no survey plan to drain the swamp.

As I was driving around to find a parking spot before the event, I spied a well-dressed man who seemed like he was looking for the door to get in. I thought it was David Bossie and it turned out I was right. He may be our Republican National Committeeman and entrenched as a confidant for President Trump, but he was still baffled by the setup of Salisbury University’s Guerrieri Hall.

But when it was Bossie’s turn to speak, there was no confusion. First of all, he asked how many in the room thought a year ago that Donald Trump would win. When a fair number went up, he said “Liars,” adding “I didn’t raise my hand.”

“I’ll tell the President that he had a room full of people who knew he would win,” added Bossie. He only figured it out as he was feeding information to the soon-to-be President on Election Night.

David had met Trump several years earlier through a mutual friend who believed Trump would be willing to lend the use of his golf course for a charity event Bossie was organizing. The main reason for Bossie’s interest in that cause was his then-six month old son, who had several medical issues that piqued his interest in fighting against Obamacare in the belief it would damage our medical system that was aiding his son.

Bossie’s role in the campaign and eventual transition was “a humbling experience,” although for a time it greatly diminished when Paul Manafort was hired. Manafort “froze him out,” so when Trump “thankfully…(got) rid of Manafort” Bossie helped lead the comeback from a low point after the GOP convention.

So the day after Trump shocked the world, they realized there was no formal transition plan. In part, that was superstition from Trump, an avid sportsman who had the belief – like many athletes who compete regularly do – that considering the transition would be a departure from routine and would jinx his campaign. Shortly after the victory, though, David was selected as the Deputy Executive Director of the transition.

While this was going on, Bossie remained at the helm of Citizens United, which he described as “focused on the President’s agenda like a laser beam.” The problem with enacting it, continued David, was that our government was “dysfunctional and out of touch.” Since the House and Senate were elected on the same issues as Trump was, their reluctance to cooperate was an affront to President Trump. “He’s a pissed off dude, isn’t he?” said Bossie about the President. “Get something done and the temperature goes down,” he added, referring to the Senate and relations between them and Trump. If they do, there’s a “good opportunity to pick up Senate seats…really good math for us.” Bossie mentioned races in Ohio and Missouri as strong possibilities for pickups and welcomed the changes in Arizona and Tennessee with the retirements of Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, respectively.

(Interesting to note: the mentions of Flake, Corker, and John McCain drew boos and hisses from some in the crowd.)

We needed, though, to put aside the things of a year ago. Remember, “if Hillary Clinton wins, the nation as we know it is over,” said Bossie. But since Trump won, things have taken shape with our economy: the Dow is “out of its mind” and as far as regulations go, Trump promised to eliminate two for every new one. “Do you know how many he’s done?” Bossie asked, and someone in the crowd you may know well said, “Sixteen.”

“Who said sixteen?” he asked. “Showoff.” Indeed, the Trump administration is mowing down regulations at a frenetic pace.

But the economy is missing one thing: a “robust” tax reform package; one that Bossie described as “generational.”

“Shame on us if we don’t get it done,” Bossie said, and the sooner the better: if enacted by year’s end and made retroactive for 2017, the boost in the economy will kick in around next summer and make the 2018 election a pocketbook balloting. If done in the spring, the effects won’t be nearly as great, argued David.

While Bossie apologized in advance for not being able to stay too late, he did answer a few questions.

The first one required him to put on his National Committeeman hat, as he was asked “what can we do on the Eastern Shore?”

Our focus, said David, should be first on winning the needed five State Senate seats to sustain Governor Hogan’s vetoes. Of course, that also meant we had to turn out for Hogan as we did last time so he could defeat the “worst group of Democrats” in the country.

He was less optimistic when asked about what we could do about Ben Cardin. “There’s lost causes, then there’s lost causes,” said Bossie. That may be news to Sam Faddis, who is the only Republican with an FEC account in that race so far. (No one has formally filed, save three Democrats not named Cardin who are hoping the incumbent retires or keels over.)

Someone else asked whether GOP money was going to Donald Trump. Their investment is “behind the scenes” right now, assured Bossie, although Trump already has a 2020 re-election account as well. The RNC is “stockpiling” money with a large advantage in fundraising over the Democrats at the moment.

Turning to foreign affairs, a question was asked about our relationship with China.

Trump was focusing on the Chinese president, David said. “No one wants war,” and by dealing with China – which is the main trading partner of North Korea – Trump is dealing with an entity that could “suffocate” North Korea if they chose. It’s a combination of tough talk and diplomacy, he added.

Finally, it was asked about the governors not supporting Trump. Bossie argued that their agenda was better off with Republican governors whether they agreed with President Trump on everything or not. And even though our governor didn’t support the Trump bid, it was “vital” he be re-elected anyway, concluded Bossie.

With that, he was off to see his family before an early morning gig on Fox News, so the conclusion of the event was the introduction of a number of elected officials, club officers, and 2018 candidates, along with the drawing of raffles from both the Wicomico County Republican Club and the College Republicans. As it turned out both grand prizes were donated back to their respective organizations, so the WCRC can once again give away a $1,000 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card and the College Republicans netted $280. Wicomico County GOP Chair Mark McIver also announced that there were 130 people in attendance, making this a successful event that grossed better than $8,000.

Just like in the beginning, there are people who stay around and gab the night away. In this case, it’s Delegate Charles Otto (left) with Joe Schanno of the Department of Natural Resources (center) and Dwight Patel (right), who annually makes the trip from Montgomery County to show his support. We finally cleared out about 9:30, although there was an impromptu afterparty offsite some chose to enjoy.

It was nice to be remembered, and as I had pointed out to me by County Councilman Marc Kilmer, now that I’m a “free agent” I can pick and choose my events. Trust me, I’m still on the mailing lists.

But writing this was like riding a bicycle – you don’t forget how to do it even after awhile away. It was fun.

DLGWGTW: October 29, 2017

In the spirit of “don’t let good writing go to waste,” this is a roundup of some of my recent social media comments. I’m one of those people who likes to take my free education to a number of left-leaning social media sites, so my readers may not see this.

This week I’m splitting this feature in half, with one half tonight and the other half on Tuesday night after I stamp my thoughts on the Wicomico Lincoln Day Dinner tomorrow.

Regarding a letter to the Daily Times chastising Andy Harris’s health care votes:

If the writer is a member of “Regressive Maryland” (as I like to call them) it’s doubtful she has ever voted for Harris anyway. So she’ll be disappointed again when Andy gets his 60% or more of the vote in our nicely gerrymandered Republican district.

In a nutshell, instead of encouraging people to be insured by perhaps making the premiums fully deductible or allowing standard, basic policies to be sold nationwide, the government decided to make it mandatory to have insurance. And guess what? If you are forced to be in a market, what do you think the prices will do?

The federal government needs to be out of health insurance – stat.

I have a lot of fun writing responses to the House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer when he gets his inane commentaries up – like this one in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting.

I’ll out myself as a so-called “right winger” (I prefer the term Constitutional, liberty-minded conservative myself) but here’s a pro tip: arguing in ALL CAPS isn’t getting the job done.

The reason Steny’s stayed in office so long is the way his district is gerrymandered to include a large chunk of PG County. That saved his bacon early on and subsequent redistricting (as well as the growth of Charles County as a bedroom suburb of PG County) keep him there. There was once a proposal to split the Eastern Shore up and put the lower half in his district, but I’m sure he wanted no part of that. We don’t think he makes a whole lot of sense.

Now, as for a time to debate gun control: the left-wing malcontents couldn’t even wait for the full accounting of dead and wounded (or all the facts surrounding this incident) until they were screaming about gun control. But what if he had driven a truck into the crowd, or planted a shrapnel bomb? Would you be caterwauling for truck control or nail control?

Simply put, a gun is a tool and its usual job is protecting the bearer. Sometimes it’s used for the wrong purpose, as it was this time. So in my view the discussion shouldn’t be about guns, but about God. What drives a man to violate the basic commandment of “thou shalt not kill” because he has a hatred for a group? Well over 90% of people who own guns have at least the basic understanding of their power and also have the sense to know right from wrong – you know, that whole “thou shalt not kill” thing?

One rumor has it that this assailant was a member of several anti-Trump online groups. I see more vitriol about our current President (a guy I didn’t vote for) than I have about the last two combined. Last time I checked, no one from that evil right wing pulled out an arsenal and tried to mow down Obama supporters in numbers like this guy did – and I’m sure it could have been done 100 or more times.

So how about we debate self-control and leave guns out of it? I can sit and stare at the whole arsenal this guy had all day, but since I would have no intention under any normal circumstance to pick it up there’s no harm done.

Or how about the Avoidable Care Act? I responded to one commenter who threw shade on the idea of selling insurance across state lines as a Republican “panacea”:

You make a fair assessment, but there is one area you’re discounting. At the time the study was done, the federal mandates of Obamacare were already being put into place, so states weren’t going to be terribly innovative about what they did. In order for something like this to work there has to be a minimum of federal regulation as well – the less, the better.

Remember, the concept of Obamacare came about at a state level and I think that is where the solutions lie. Here in Maryland we will likely always be a nanny state, so a company that wants to sell here would have to enact policies that match up to our laws. On the other hand, a state like Texas could be more lenient. Yet if someone could create the most bare-bones policy possible with a robust physician network and a la carte features (like I wouldn’t need maternity coverage but may want more enhanced mental health coverage because this government drives me crazy) they may pick up enough of a risk pool around the country to make insurance affordable. Then it would be up to consumers to demand their states give them more choice by relaxing their regulations.

Yet there could be advantages to even allowing policies to be sold across state lines – people are price-conscious. I live maybe two miles from the Delaware border so if there was a policy available there which had a network that extended here into Salisbury (very possible because we have the largest regional hospital) it would be to my advantage to do so – it’s the same reason you see all the stores that sell furniture and other portable big ticket items clustered just across the line in tax-free Delaware, and the largest Royal Farms chainwide cigarette seller being the store out in the middle of nowhere but literally 50 yards into Virginia and its 30 cent per pack tax (compared to $2 in Maryland) right on a main highway.

I agree selling across state lines isn’t a complete panacea, but it would be a useful tool in the toolbox.

Then after another comment complained about Trump opening the door for the insurance industry, Big Pharma, and doctors to raise rates I set her straight, too.

If the first word of (the writer)’s initial statement had been “Obama” that would have been solid gold truth. When people are forced to buy a product and lobbyists write the regulations, what incentive is there to “bend the cost curve”? Think of how much you pay a month for auto insurance because the state forces you to have it – the only saving grace is that they set comparatively few regulations on policies so there is competition to help give people a bit of a break.

I don’t spare our junior Senator when he plays the class envy card, either:

It seems to me cutting the brackets from 7 to 3 and eliminating a batch of deductions few people take IS simplifying the tax code. But of course any GOP plan is “tax cuts for the wealthy” to you. News flash: they pay the largest share of taxes.

Personally I think the FairTax is the best way to go but that doesn’t allow for nearly as much government modification of behavior.

After someone whined that cuts should be spread in a “more equitable manner” I added:

When you pay the most, you get the most benefit. Let’s get more numbers and throw away the class envy card, as I have.

Later on I added as a status:

Three facts for future reference when responding to Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin, Steny Hoyer, Allison Galbraith, etc. Per the Tax Foundation:

The share of income earned by the top 1 percent of taxpayers rose to 20.6 percent in 2014. Their share of federal individual income taxes also rose, to 39.5 percent.

In 2014, the top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97.3 percent of all individual income taxes while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 2.7 percent.

The top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (39.5 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (29.1 percent).

So when they talk about “tax cuts for the wealthy” and “not paying their fair share,” well, here are the actual numbers. If you want “Atlas Shrugged” just keep raising tax rates on productive people.

You know, I can see why some of our representatives run out of patience with people. One example at a Michigan townhall meeting was made into a story by the real Faux News, the Shareblue website. So I said my piece:

Gee, were the eight people in the back who were clapping and cheering the question offended? Out of a crowd of what looked like 75 to 80 people you all could muster 10? Pretty sad.

Now instead of picking up the video halfway through like your share did, I watched the whole thing. Walberg answered the question respectfully only to be shouted down near the end because a select few didn’t like the answer.

Did he handle it well? Could have been better, but I’m not as worried about him as I am the mental state of some of those commenting here. And you may want to ask yourself regarding North Korea: who enabled them to get nukes in the first place?

For that I was accused of being an idiot who voted for him. Try again.

Sorry, I don’t live in Michigan (although I grew up close by his district – Tecumseh is maybe a half-hour from Toledo.) But yes, I have my own Congressman nowadays who’s pretty good – it’s the two lame Senators I’m stuck with that are the problems.

But again to my point: who enabled North Korea to get nukes in the first place?

You know, they never answered my question.

Okay, let me wrap up this one with something lighter. We all have opinions on baseball uniforms, so this was mine in response to a poorly written piece that I’d be ashamed to put my name on.

I don’t know which was worse…the writing, editing, or fact she could have picked another dozen as good and definitely some straight-up bad ones…Padres in brown and gold first come to mind on the bad side. On the other hand I actually liked the Seattle Pilots jersey given the style at the time. Better than what the Mariners first wore.

And maybe it’s a product of growing up in the 1970s but I was more impressed when teams actually went to the colored jerseys than when they simply swapped out the road gray for light blue. It didn’t work well for the Cardinals, Twins, Rangers, or Phillies, but a little better for the Brewers, Cubs, Blue Jays (I liked the split-letter font too) and Royals. It was so-so for the Expos and Mariners.

I will say that the Astros rainbow jerseys spawned a couple imitators from local high schools in my area, so someone liked them.

And yes, as a Tigers fan there is no beating the Olde English D as a classic.

True dat. Look for the next installment on Tuesday and I’ll pretty much be caught up.