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

October 30, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 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

October 29, 2017 · Posted in Business and industry, Culture and Politics, Don't Let Good Writing Go To Waste, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch · Comments Off on 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.

DLGWGTW: October 1, 2017

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

My argument regarding federal workers from last week went on:

Seeing that I’ve had over two decades in the field and my industry isn’t one that’s “affected by automation and digitization” you may want to try again.

And I did not bring up Obamacare because no one really knew what it looked like at the time. It was just a sense that the economy was going to rebound very slowly, if at all. Having seen some of what O’Malley did over the previous two years and how it affected our local economy, people were bearish on prospects.

And you may want to ask our friend who was laid off in 2009 (above) why he blames his situation on Bush? He was out of office after January.

I’ll start the new stuff with some thoughts on infrastructure, in agreement with a trucker friend regarding the expansion of several highways across the bridge:

“You eliminate congestion by building more and separate roads. That is the only way.”

Very true. For example, imagine if the state had completed I-97 as envisioned to Richmond – then people may have used it as an alternate to I-95. The same would hold true if the feds, Maryland and Delaware would extend the current Delaware Route 1 corridor from I-95 to Dover as a badged spur of I-95 to Salisbury, providing a limited access, 70 mph link across Delaware,

Since many people consider U.S. 13 an alternate route to I-95 to avoid Baltmore and D.C. why not give them better options?

I’ve said this for years, and it still holds true: to succeed this area needs better infrastructure and access for goods to reach larger, more populated markets.

Yes, there was a big National Anthem controversy last Sunday. But my “boycott” of the NFL has been for the last several years because I agree the play has been awful (this coming from a coach.)

I’ve noticed that too. Obviously you can’t throw out the size and speed differences, but a team like the ’72 Dolphins or Lombardi-era Packers would mop up the floor with most of these teams because they played better fundamental football.

Another friend of mine contends that we shouldn’t boycott the NFL for the actions of a few. But if the economic juggernaut that is the NFL went away, there would still be college football, right? I’m not so sure:

Maybe this year, and the next. But as the issues with long-term brain damage percolate more and more, and the big money is no longer to be found at the end of the rainbow for the players, you may find in a decade or so that the college game will begin to wither, too. You’ll lose the FCS and small FBS schools first, but eventually we may be down to a small number of programs.

But the big rivalries like Michigan-Ohio State would go on, right?

Being from Toledo I know the importance of that rivalry. But if parents aren’t letting their kids play football for fear of long-term injury, the pool of talent necessarily will shrink. Unlike other sports, football doesn’t seem to have a foreign pipeline of talent to choose from.

Turning to a more local protest, who knew that chalk could be so controversial?

It’s chalk. People chalk up the sidewalks at 3rd Friday and no one bats an eye. Unfortunately, since there’s no real chance of rain in the forecast some county employee had to take a half-hour to hose it off.

I have some photos that may make for a good post later this week, so stay tuned.

Yet the protests ignore larger local issues, such as job creation, as a letter to the local newspaper pointed out in a backhanded way. But I don’t.

Unfortunately, right now (gas station and convenience store jobs are) where the market is. And while we have a governor who seems to be interested in bringing good-paying jobs – jobs that add value to commodities, not just the same semi-skilled positions we already have too many of – our legislature seems uninterested in assisting him because they cater to the REAL state industry – serving the federal government.

But the best way to stay out of poverty is following rules in this order: finish school, find a job, get married, then have children, Too many people do these things in the wrong order (particularly the last one) and end up working low-wage dead-end jobs.

Now someone did note that the best way to stay out of poverty is for all to work and not have kids, but if everyone did that we’d be extinct in a century or less. So that’s not realistic.

In a similar vein, I had to help a gubernatorial candidate understand things, too.

So look at the map of Maryland. The area around Washington, D.C. is light blue and green while the western panhandle and Eastern Shore are varying shades of orange. But this is deceptive in a way because median income around Washington is so high that it pulls the average way up and makes this area look worse by comparison.

Then consider the current and previous sources of wealth for various regions of the state: in the western panhandle it used to be coal and could have been natural gas had Governor Hogan not been shortsighted enough to ban fracking, which could have increased their score.

As you get closer to Washington, the source of wealth is the American taxpayer, either directly via working for the federal government or indirectly as many companies headquarter there to be closer to that taxpayer-provided manna.

The Baltimore area used to be industrial, but those jobs went away and now they are heavily into services, Some jobs are good and some menial, but too many have no jobs.

Finally, in a crescent around from Carroll County through the Eastern Shore, agriculture is heavy and in our area chicken is king. We have a share of the tourist dollar in season, but the backbone is agriculture.

People who talk about one Maryland are all wet, in my humble opinion.

But it also makes things deceptive in terms of “prosperity.” One can live on the median salary rather well here because housing is inexpensive but struggle mightily in the urban areas where rent is twice as high.

I agree there should be more of a focus on vocational education, though. Not everyone is college material – and I don’t say that in a bad way. Many youth have abilities that won’t reflect on the ACT but will reflect in the real world.

See, I’m bipartisan and can find common ground with people like Alec Ross. It’s hard with some others though. Take tax reform for example.

You know, when I read Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (or pretty much any Democrat, for that matter) talking about taxes it bring to mind the old Beatles song:

“Should five percent appear too small/Be thankful I don’t take it all.”

I remember old Bill Clinton telling us he worked so hard but couldn’t give us a middle class tax cut. But Bush did.

Here, read this and educate yourselves. This is one I can’t claim.

Yet when Andy Harris discusses it, I find a lot of misinformed people who love taxes come out of the woodwork. This one whined about the 10% bracket becoming 12% as a tax on the poor, but leaving out one key fact:

What Ben Frey forgot to mention is that the standard deduction will practically double. So if you had a taxable income of $18,650 as a married couple (the top of the 10% bracket) would you rather pay 10% of that or 12% of $7,350 with the much larger standard deduction ($24,000 vs. $12,700)?

Wanna try again?

Then I added:

Here’s the plan in a nutshell. Yes, it’s more vague than I would prefer but you need to have a starting point and you can make your own decision on it.

Admittedly, Cheryl Everman (a former candidate herself and longtime lefty in these parts) came up with the point that the individual exemption goes as well – and that the plan as presented doesn’t get specific about the child care credit. It’s true, but the plan could still result in savings.

The one weakness with this “family of 4” line of argument is that we don’t know what the child tax credit will be nor the changes to the EITC as they may apply. So your mileage may vary.

But to address the initial argument, the married couple would still benefit because the two individual exemptions only equal $8,100 while the additional standard deduction is $11,300. In other words, they could make more gross income. So instead of creeping into the low end of the 15% bracket, they would fall into the 12% bracket.

And when someone asked for taxpayer input on the new tax code, I gave her mine:

Okay, here’s my rewrite of the tax code:

Sixteenth Amendment: repealed.
Backup withholding: eliminated.
Consumption tax: enacted.
Federal government: rightsized.

Oh, did that lady whine! She got on this whole tangent about paying for stuff, so I had to play bad cop.

Spare me. You obviously have little understanding of the proper role of the various levels (federal, state, and local) of government.

Please avail yourself to two resources: the Constitution, which spells out the role and functions of the federal government, paying particular attention to Article 1, Section 8 and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and the FairTax book, which advocates for a consumption-based tax system as opposed to income-based.

If you get the concepts spelled out therein, you will understand perfectly my succinct answer to the “rewrite of the tax code” question.

The conversation also turned back to health care:

Employers pass the increases in premium along to their employees by increasing their share of the cost.

Those “subsidies” don’t come out of thin air either, because somewhere along the line our taxes will have to edge up to pay for them.

And that “sabotage” you pin on Republicans is thwarting a bailout to the insurance companies. The “risk corridor” concept was fatally flawed to begin with because it assumed the market would be a net equal when instead more and more people demand “free stuff.”

It sounds to me like you just want us to submit to having the government pay for everything, forgetting that the government gets its money from all of us. What was so wrong with fee-for-service anyway?

Give us single-payer and taxes will have to go so high that we will be in a real-life “Atlas Shrugged” although I fear we’re not far from there anyway. (You seem like the type that needs to broaden her horizons and read that book.)

Our Senator Chris Van Hollen joined in the “tax cuts for the rich” budget fun, too.

Let me hit you with this then: if we had a corporate tax rate of zero we would only have a roughly $420 billion budget hole to fill. Why not cut the tax rate and see if it increases revenue because businesses may be inclined to expand if they could keep more of what they make?

Personally I couldn’t care less if the Waltons get a $52 billion tax break because their ancestors took the risk in starting a department store. (If you don’t think it’s a risk, consider how many have failed in the last 30 years.) So whether we have the highest business tax in the world or not, ask yourself how much risk is the government taking by sticking their hand into corporate pockets?

And as for those who argue over whether debt is a Republican or Democrat problem: look in the mirror. The fact is we couldn’t tax our way out of debt given current spending levels without significantly increasing taxes on everyone, and I mean everyone.

If you really want low taxes and a balanced budget, you pretty much have one option: sunset Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Obamacare. Just ask the CBO (page 10 here):

“Today, spending on Social Security and the major health care programs constitutes 54 percent of all federal noninterest spending, more than the average of 37 percent over the past 50 years. If current laws generally stayed the same, that figure would increase to 67 percent by 2047.”

We already have a steeply progressive tax system, so the dirty little secret is that those like Chris Van Hollen are doing their best to make the middle class the lower class and certain elites even more prosperous.

Finally, I promised you last week I’d go into my interaction with a Congressional candidate. One of the Democrat opponents of Andy Harris, Allison Galbraith, was up in arms about the replacement of rules established by a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Now, I’m probably more in tune with the subject than 99% of the population because I’ve written about it several times in the Patriot Post, and the DeVos change was the most recent. So maybe she was sandbagged a bit, but someone has to set people straight.

There were a couple serious flaws in the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter. First of all was lowering the standard of proof to preponderance of evidence from clear and convincing evidence. Second was the restriction in practice for the accused to be able to cross-examine witnesses and in some cases not even know what he was accused of until the time of hearing. (It was also based on a faulty premise of 1 in 5 campus females being victims of sexual assault, which simply doesn’t jibe with crime statistics. But as Betsy DeVos said, one victim is too many. So is one person denied due process.) This is why groups like the American Association of University Professors and American College of Trial Lawyers were urging the rules be revoked.

The biggest problem with the approach in place now is that the maximum punishment for someone who actually raped a co-ed would be expulsion from school, but he could still be loose to commit more rapes.

And while the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter was rescinded, the order specifically states we revert to the previous guidance as a temporary measure while new rules are formulated with input from multiple stakeholders.

When she disputed my dismissal of the “1 in 5” claim I came back.

This is for the education of those reading this thread then. These are the actual numbers as reported by the Justice Department. Bear in mind that 1 in 5 of 1,000 would be 200.

I agree the numbers should be zero, but I also contend that those who are accused should have due process that was missing under the Obama rules. That aspect was important enough that they had to be rescinded – which also should cut down on the hundreds of lawsuits falsely accused people have filed against these schools because of their shoddy practices as prescribed in 2011.

She alerted me to an appendix in the work – which I was aware of – so I had to add a little more.

I did look at that…again, we are talking a variation of 7x here between the reported numbers and “1 in 5” statement.. Biggest flaw in the NISVS is the low response rate, which would be affected by the bias of a person that’s affected being more likely to respond – this may account for a significant part of the difference.

I think Secretary DeVos will come up with fair rules that take all sides into account. It’s also worth noting that some school administrators have announced will continue with the 2011 rules despite the new guidance.

It sounds to me like Allison’s had some experience on this, and I have not – so my response is not as emotional. But the contention, to me, is this: the Obama-era rules gave credence to victims but not the accused and oftentimes those who determined the fate of the accused did so on the barest preponderance of evidence at a “trial” which was more of a one-sided affair. New rules should account for both, or perhaps move the venue to one that’s more proper: a court of law, where there are advocates for victims who are sensitive to their plight and protections for the accused.

A charge of rape is a serious charge, not to be taken lightly. Often at stake is the very continuance of a young man’s education (and let’s face it, the accused is almost always a man.) But if the person is an actual rapist, wouldn’t it be better to get him off the street than just off some college campus, enabling him to victimize someone else?

I had a busy week on the commenting front, so maybe I’ll slow down – or maybe not. As Walter E. Williams would say, I’m pushing back the frontiers of ignorance on social media.

DLGWGTW: September 24, 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 that I’m going to make a regular Sunday evening feature. (Maybe not every week but more often than not.)`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.

Health care was in the news a lot lately, and social media was no exception. Here’s what I responded to a typical liberal scare tactic from Senator Ben Cardin:

That would be more like the way it should be…states could tailor their programs to the desires of their citizens. I love how loaded and extreme the headline writer made this sound.

Remember, health care is NOT a right, but life is.

Then when some liberal tried to go all Article 1, Section 8 on me (hey, at least he’s read the Constitution) I had to make sure he understood something:

Nope, “general welfare” does not equal health care. Try again.

So when his pal Steny Hoyer jumped in I had to revise and expand my remarks:

Yes, because letting an incompetent federal bureaucracy run health care is working SO well. It’s funny – your post came up right after Senator Ben Cardin‘s caterwauling about the same subject on my page. I smell a Facebook conspiracy.

And again I had a few people tell me their mistaken belief that health care is a right. That’s all right, I have plenty of time to set them straight:

Again, the idea is to bring this down to a state level, although ideally we would work our way back to fee-for-service and insurance to cover catastrophic events. Who said a state could not step in for preventive care if they wished? Better them than Uncle Sam.

Now you can call me a troll but if you are familiar with the website Shareblue, it purports to the the “Breitbart of the Left.” Problem is, their hacks aren’t even readable sometimes and they distort stories five times worse than Breitbart ever dreamed of. Here’s a case in point and my response.

David Brock created a fake news site designed to confuse millions of voters so that the party could win elections in multiple states. Oh wait, that’s you guys.

Basically I have to ask: you’re surprised Republicans have a news outlet to control their narrative? I’m sure if these reporters wanted to dig a little more they’d find the Democrats have the same. Otherwise I wouldn’t get all these e-mails from the DNC telling me the sky is falling.

I’m not really a reporter, but let me tell you about the site whose Facebook page you are now gracing, or more specifically its sponsor Media Matters for America.

*****

“Because MMFA is a non-profit organization, it is not required to disclose its donors, and it does not do so. However, some donors have self-disclosed, while others, such as foundations and labor unions, must make certain filings that discloses their funding of Media Matters and other similar groups.

MMfA’s funders range from labor unions to progressive foundations to liberal billionaires. From fiscal year 2009 to 2012, the National Education Association (NEA) has contributed $400,000 ($100,000 per year) to Media Matters. MMfA has received an additional $185,000 from other labor organizations since 2005, making labor unions some of the largest known contributors to Media Matters. MMfA has directly quoted these labor groups and has defended them against “attacks” from reporters and media personalities. MMfA did not disclose these donations in its reporting on labor unions.

MMfA has received nearly $30 million from foundations since it started. The Tides Foundation is the largest contributors to MMfA and MMAN, giving nearly $4.4 million. There are undoubtedly close ties between the organizations besides financial support. MMfA frequently reports on the critics of Tides, but fails to mention that the foundation is MMfA’s largest donor. The line between Tides and MMfA is so blurry that even donors appear to be confused. In 2003, prior to the official launch of MMfA, the Stephen M. Silberstein Foundation even designated a $100,000 contribution to ‘Tides Foundation – Media Matters for America.’

Billionaire George Soros donated $1 million to Media Maters in October 2010. According to the New York Times, Soros donated the money to help MMfA respond to the ‘incendiary rhetoric’ of Fox News Channel commentators.”

(source)

And if this doesn’t describe Shareblue to a T then I don’t know what does:

“The news content analysis of Media Matters is a complete sham. Such examinations of political news traditionally focus on detecting journalistic bias, but MMfA’s approach is to try to stamp out views with which its left-wing content analysts disagree. That isn’t hard to do if you can think creatively and tolerate mind-numbing hairsplitting. Media Matters will typically isolate a small facet of a media story that can be twisted in such a way that suggests that the reporter or commentator is a liar or hypocrite. That tidbit is then used to suggest that everything the original source says must be false and deserving of censure.”

(source)

So there you have it: two named sources, verifiable if you copy and paste the link and remove the space I added.

I take news with a grain of salt until I consider the source and its motivation. My motivation? To get to what’s really true, and where you’re at isn’t it.

Via the local Republican Club I found out even Governor Larry Hogan jumped on that bandwagon. My free advice to the governor:

The electorate that voted him in was by and large also the one that wanted Obamacare repealed. But it’s up to Larry Hogan – if he wants to get 55-60% in the areas where he needs to come close to 70% (like the Eastern Shore) just keep moving left of center. The Democrats across the bridge will be happy to vote for the real thing this time.

The “progressive” (read: regressive) group Our Maryland also wanted to note Maryland could lose money under a GOP plan. So guess what I told them?

Think twice about taking “free” money from Uncle Sugar next time.

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”

They also want to blame Trump for Maryland having revenue short of expectations, so I gave then my side of the story:

Perhaps if Maryland becomes more than a one-industry state (that being the federal government) these people may have more confidence.

Since I got my old job back in the Trump era (one that I lost just after Obama was elected) I feel pretty good about the economy,

Obviously that didn’t sit well with them, so they asked for “details before (we) accept your Obama bashing – so I complied.

About my job? I was flat-out told by my employer that he was worried about keeping his doors open under Obama. But he managed to survive and business has picked up enough to bring me back part-time at first and now full-time. Maybe I’m an outlier but the change in administration did bring a more positive outlook for businesses.

Then I added:

And it’s funny – those people who pointed to the stock market as evidence of Obama’s success are quiet now under Trump despite the fact the indices are 20% or so higher since January.

And the poor lady who tried to tell me Baltimore is teeming with industry and my “Beltway bias” was showing. I took about two minutes to find the proof she was all wet.

The statistics beg to differ.

I know, it’s not as obvious. But Baltimore City had a total average employment of 69,141 in the government sector in the first quarter of this year compared to 21,137 that produced goods. I had to explain this to someone else.

The premise provided by (the lady who commented) was that Baltimore had “way more industry than government.” As you can see by the stats, the reverse is true if you consider non-service jobs as “industry” – which I do. (Also notice that education is lumped with healthcare as a service job when most education jobs are public-sector. I think they should count in the government category.)

Yet they were still arguing with me as late as today about my blaming my layoff on the incoming Obama administration and crediting my return to Trump.

Consumer confidence was already rising pre-election and surged in the runup to Trump taking office. Confident consumers lead to confident investors, which is where we come in (I work for an architectural firm, and that was an industry battered by the Great Recession.)

And then:

Seeing that I’ve had over two decades in the field and my industry isn’t one that’s “affected by automation and digitization” you may want to try again.

And I did not bring up Obamacare because no one really knew what it looked like at the time. It was just a sense that the economy was going to rebound very slowly, if at all. Having seen some of what O’Malley did over the previous two years and how it affected our local economy, people were bearish on prospects.

And you may want to ask our friend who was laid off in 2009 (above) why he blames his situation on Bush? He was out of office after January.

Also at Our Maryland, I had this reaction to a reaction to a WaPo story (behind a paywall, of course) about Rep. Jamie Raskin (who was a far-left loony of a state senator based on monoblogue Accountability results) and his fear that Cassidy-Graham would pass. This is how the respondent wrote it, verbatim: “The Koch Brothers want it so badly – and they aren’t going to give anymore money to the Republicans until they repeal Obamacare and cut corporate taxes BIG TIME. That’s what it’s always about – follow the money.”

So I had to correct the record, again:

That would work for me. And even if you assumed a 50% cut in corporate tax rates would bring in half that revenue – which, as we know, isn’t true because lowering tax rates generally acts as a spur for economic activity – the federal hit would be less than $250 billion (out of a $4 trillion budget.)

In this case, the Koch brothers support smart economic policy.

Naturally, that was met with the pithy, “Oh Michael Swartz, if you think you are going to benefit from the giant corporations getting tax cuts….. Sad.” (It’s funny how the Left has allocated a standard Trump response, isn’t it?) But the answer is yes.

I certainly will. Ask yourself: who pays corporate taxes, the business or the end user/consumer?

To expand on this concept, this is part of a fundamental argument about who does more good with money from corporate profits: the government which redistributes it willy-nilly to address their priorities after taking a hefty cut, or a corporation that rewards its stockholders with dividends, invests in expansion (thus needing more employees, which benefits the community), or – even if the CEO is a greedy SOB – spreading the wealth around via purchases. Even if he buys a yacht, someone has to build it.

Turning to local politics, I made a comment about candidate recruitment.

The hard part is finding candidates who want to go through the process. And don’t forget the school board, which will be “nonpartisan” but will almost certainly have a union-backed (read: Democrat) slate.

And finally, I had this reaction to fellow writer Jen Kuznicki‘s video. Like a lot of conservative writers, writing’s not her paying gig – her “real job” is being a seamstress.

You could sit in front of a computer and draw all day like I do in Salisbury, Maryland. Glad to see an American who makes things and adds value to raw material.

But if you thought yours was boring, there’s a reason I don’t do mine. To most watching paint dry would be preferable.

Look, all I do is put lines on a computer screen. It’s the end product that’s important – for the past few weeks it’s been for a proposed local hotel. The part that’s important is knowing where to put the lines.

Similarly, in good writing sometimes it’s best to know when to stop, so here you are. I already have a couple threads lined up for next time, one of which involves a candidate for Congress.

The first to step forward

We have barely made it six months into President Donald Trump’s term. And while Democrats were ready to oppose him from day one – Trump’s Presidential honeymoon lasted less than a nanosecond after he was sworn in – no one really expected the 2020 race to begin shaping up until we made it through the 2018 midterm elections.

But as further proof we now have a continuous campaign, the first somewhat serious candidate to enter the race on the Democrat side made his intention known Friday by foregoing another term in the House. Rep. John Delaney put an op-ed in the Washington Post on Friday that claimed he would be the candidate to “have an original approach to governing and an economic policy that can put us on a different course.”

Yet while the incumbent President is a businessman, Delaney thinks he’s not cut out to be a leader. “I think Trump, to some extent, is a punctuation of everything that has broken down with our politics,” said the Congressman in a separate WaPo interview.

So he’s going to do things a little differently.

As a progressive businessman, I’ve made it a priority to be solutions-oriented and have been consistently recognized as one of the most innovative and bipartisan members of Congress. I’ve done this by simultaneously celebrating the power of our free-market economy while insisting that there is a role for government to set goals and rules of the road and take care of those who are left behind.

And let me grab one more excerpt to illustrate his approach:

We need to be smarter, fueled by more investment in science, education and research. We need new ideas on the future of jobs and work, one where we build a stronger and more vibrant middle class. We need to encourage a more just and inclusive form of capitalism and reduce barriers to small-business formation, start-ups, job creation, investment and growth. We need to strengthen our safety-net programs and create a new social contract. We need to reform the systems of education, health care and immigration, and encourage more volunteerism, impact investing and public service. And we need to take affirmative steps to reduce our security, fiscal and climate risks. This is what my campaign will be about.

Let me begin at the top. Would it not be fair to say that, in order to have a truly free-market economy, there should be a minimum of government-set rules and goals and a maximum of market-set ones? I’m sure John didn’t wake up every day when he was building his businesses and say to himself, “Gee, how can I meet the specifications and expectations laid out for me by the federal government today?” I know I don’t say that when I consider what to write in my little space.

And the problem with the government taking care of those being left behind is that they become overly comfortable in that lifestyle and create generations that don’t aspire to anything more than living off the state.

As a Democrat, Delaney has to include the old canards about “investment” (read: more unnecessary spending) in science, education, and research. But what really reveals the game is the idea of a “more just and inclusive form of capitalism.” Capital is as just and as inclusive as the market participants, which I will agree goes in with reducing barriers. But those barriers should be reduced in such as way that no one gets an advantage for themselves – the problem is, as we all know, Democrats will rig the game for certain constituencies in order to buy their votes.

All in all, I’ve figured out just what Delaney’s campaign will be about: he will be the arbiter of everything. I mean, he already has a website for his campaign where he has the catchy “D” logo with a highway disappearing into the horizon, and in the video he has there he goes over just how wonderful and peachy everything will be if he’s in charge and in control of everything, because that’s what “progressive” policies entail – government calls the shots and you get what they grudgingly give you. One of the women on the video talks about what a great progressive businessman Delaney is to his employees, and that’s outstanding. But let that be his choice, not forced on every business whether they can afford it or not.

Yet there’s another point to be made here as well. Think back to this time on the calendar in 2009, when Barack Obama was perceived as popular – even if many of his policy ideas were not. On the other hand, there’s been little discussion about Trump’s policy ideas (aside from the GOP’s failed attempt to rid us of Obamacare, which Trump was more or less ambivalent about, in all honesty – after all, he was the one who introduced Republicans to the “repeal and replace” concept.) But if you transport yourself to the end of July 2009, the GOP presidential contest was thought to be Sarah Palin’s to lose – but she was months away from announcing her intentions, as were other 2008 and possible 2012 contenders. So Delaney’s entry into the race, well over 2 1/2 years before we deal with the snowy Iowa caucuses, either means Democrats are just chomping at the bit because they think they have 2020 in the bag or they are just trying to extend the perception of Donald Trump’s unpopularity. And who knows? The 2020 field for the Democrats may make the 2016 GOP field look small in comparison because EVERYONE who thinks they can be President will give it a shot. Maxine Waters, anyone?

There’s only been one President who was elected from being a sitting House member, and that’s James Garfield. (Technically, Delaney won’t be a sitting House member when elected since he’s dropping out of Congress after three terms.) Even so, I think that 140 year streak will be safe. But in any battle someone has to charge forward and take the arrows, and it looks like John Delaney is that guy. The only question is whether he will be first in, first out.

And somewhere Larry Hogan is breathing a sigh of relief. I’ve thought all along Hogan was most vulnerable to a Delaney challenge given their similar backgrounds, but it appears John has more ambition than to just be governor.

The betrayal

You know, since the events that led to the formation and rise of the TEA Party the Republican Party has promised to be our savior if only given the chance. After they successfully won the messaging battle over Obamacare in 2009-10 – aided by the ham-fisted, cynical fashion it was rammed through Congress and onto Barack Obama’s desk – the GOP won a smashing electoral victory that flipped the House just two years after the second of two successive wave elections convinced many political pundits we were on the verge of another decades-long run of Democratic dominance in Washington. While that success took a pause in 2012, perhaps because the Republicans nominated the originator of state-supported health insurance in Mitt Romney to face Barack Obama, the actual implementation of Obamacare beginning in 2014 resulted in yet another midterm electoral shellacking for the Democrats that November, costing them control of the Senate.

All along, Republicans told us these various steps along the way, once they won the House in 2010. First they whined that they only had one-half of one-third of the government, which sufficed as a campaign plank until 2014, when they won the Senate. Once they won the Senate, they actually passed a bill repealing Obamacare – of course, it was vetoed by Barack Obama and the votes weren’t there for an override. So now they needed the White House and then, once and for all, we could be rid of Obamacare.

July 26, 2017. The Senate has its chance to pass a nearly “clean” Obamacare repeal bill, with a majority of Republicans in the body. There’s no question such a bill would sail through the House and we have a nominally Republican president in Donald Trump who would be for repealing Obamacare – although he wanted to replace it, too. It just has to get through the Senate, and yet – it did not. Seven Republicans joined all 48 Democrats (as one would expect) in turning their back on the people who elected them.

So who’s in this Hall of Shame? Well, it’s mainly the usual suspects: Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nevada), John McCain (Arizona), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Rob Portman (Ohio). With the exception of Maine – where Trump won one of the state’s two Congressional districts (for one electoral vote) but lost overall – all these states went GOP in the last election, yet their Senators sided with the Democrats. And as President Trump noted, “Any senator who votes against repeal and replace is telling America that they are fine with the ObamaCare nightmare, and I predict they’ll have a lot of problems.” Yet only Heller faces the voters in 2018 – McCain, Murkowski, and Portman were just re-elected and the other three aren’t up until 2020.

The question now is how GOP loyalists are going to spin and explain this one away. To be quite honest, I think people have known for many moons that the Republicans were selling the voters a bill of goods but if you can’t keep your caucus together on something that’s been a fundamental promise for seven years then it’s clear even the fig leaf is gone. Despite their high-minded rhetoric, the GOP is now just as much the party of big government as the Democrats are. Now it’s just a question of which side gets the spoils.

And now where do those who believe in limited government go? They are now political orphans because the Republican Party just showed they aren’t willing to stand by those principles when push comes to shove.

“It’s all about the f***in’ attitude…”

July 9, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on “It’s all about the f***in’ attitude…” 

It’s probably been a decade or so, but once upon a time I picked up a used CD at a store that sold such things called “Full Bluntal Nugity.” As you may be able to guess, I’m a fan of Ted Nugent’s music and this album was a recording of a “Whiplash Bash” New Year’s Eve live performance he did many years ago in Detroit. The phrase in my title was a joking reference Nugent made to how he did his songwriting as part of the expletive-filled banter between songs. (I like Ted, but let me tell you the dude could make a sailor blush. Maybe he’s mellowed out a little bit as he approaches the age of 70?)

But what triggered me to think of the phrase (and I realize in this day and age that’s a loaded word) was the Scalise shooting that’s almost a month gone by now. (I actually didn’t intend the puns at first, but stuck with them.) With the schedule I keep these days I have less time for writing but I still have time to read social media, and on that medium I often check out what the Left has to say more than what my peeps on the Right have to say. And as is predictable in these cases, their sentiments often broke down into two categories, and generally without the fig leaf of well wishes for the victims that the politicians had to put up.

On the one hand, you had the crowd who thought the Republicans deserved this as karma for trying to take away people’s health care by repealing Obamacare. Setting aside the obvious fallacy of that mindset of deserving anything bad to happen to them for any action that’s legal – and, I would argue, more in accordance with the intention of those who founded our nation – the reality of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is that it’s a work in progress and there’s still going to be way more government involvement in our healthcare than there should be. Remember, many of the provisions that characterized Obamacare were untouched by the AHCA. Moreover, there are several states rushing to fill the gaps they perceive in the AHCA so their laws will likely supplement the federal regulations.

The other side of the coin was the usual banshee-like cry for more gun control, and this is the part I want to spend most of this post addressing. Like many people around this area, we are gun owners. Members of our family went out of their way to be legal gun owners, as a matter of fact, because they strive to be law-abiding citizens.

Those weapons that we have, however, even if they were laying around loaded, would not hurt anyone because (and I realize this is a stunning revelation to some) guns are inanimate objects. I could pull a handgun out of its safe place in our house, lay it in front of me, and stare at it for hours – it’s going to just sit there. No one will be injured. The only risk of someone being injured from that gun would be the exceptionally unlikely events of one of our cats knocking it off our table and it falling just the right way to discharge; meanwhile the random line of fire would have to actually strike someone.

So as the events unfolded in Alexandria and we learned more about the mindset of shooter James Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old retired home inspector from Illinois who identified himself as a leftist and supporter of Bernie Sanders for president last year, we once again saw the Right blamed for actions a member of the Left was participating in. But let’s look at two basic facts regarding the shooter here: he was born in 1951 and came of age in the Illinois town in which he last permanently lived.

Thus, Hodgkinson grew up in an era when he could have been sent to Vietnam, could have gone to Woodstock (although it appears he did neither), lived through Watergate and the energy crisis as a young adult, and was approaching middle age during the Reagan Revolution. Whatever the case, his story ended as he was living out of a van several hundred miles from home and hanging around a local YMCA, according to this somewhat sympathetic Washington Post feature. While he was married, Hodgkinson had a violent past and perhaps became moreso as he aged, regardless, the question has to be asked: what made him believe he was justified in picking up a rifle to attempt to kill people who presented no physical threat to him?

Moreover, one also has to ponder what Hodgkinson would have accomplished had he mowed down the entire field of Congressmen: would that have scared the remainder into inaction or simply redoubled their resolve? Maybe it would have been a moment not unlike the days after 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing, when Americans turned introspective regarding their place in the world. The AHCA may have been shelved for a time, but likely would have returned after the wave of special elections made necessary by the slaughter of Congressional membership, with most of the seats likely remaining in GOP hands and Democrats perhaps paralyzed by having to run campaigns against a wave of sympathy.

I don’t believe for a second that access to guns is the problem in this nation. Instead, I think what we need to access a better sense of morality, beginning with a newfound respect for life. Hodgkinson lived most of his adult life under the rules of Roe v. Wade, and ironically enough spent many years as a foster parent – so he dealt with a number of children who were deemed expendable by their parents. Just days before I began writing this piece in the wake of the Alexandria shooting last month, our city of Salisbury was rocked by two shootings in one night that left two men dead in separate incidents less than an hour apart – then last night two other men were gunned down at a local Denny’s restaurant.

You keep hearing about these gatherings where we are told violence is not the answer, but that message is being drowned out in a cacophony of cultural and political references:

(Respectively, Barack Obama reputedly paraphrasing the 1987 movie “The Untouchables”, Obama adviser Jim Messina, and Donald Trump.)

So which side is winning here? Is it the side with the attitude that life is something that should be treasured and preserved, and that differences in philosophy aren’t so great or insurmountable that they can generally be worked out with patient discourse and a little bit of compromise if it achieves something that’s good for everyone?

Or is it the side that takes the first sign of disrespect as the cue for escalating violence because it’s what they were taught and encouraged to do?

Whichever is the case, there is only one person over whom you have full control, and that is yourself. You determine your own attitude, so perhaps this is a good time to discuss turning the other cheek. I give you not just the verse (which comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount) but some context as well.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48, KJV)

How you approach life and how you approach others is the one thing you have control over. A good attitude can go a long way in making things better, but that is also something which needs to be encouraged in the culture by turning away from those who would tell you otherwise. Heck, even Nugent himself pledged to tone things down in the wake of the Alexandria incident and if he can follow through so can the rest of us. It truly is about the attitude.

The Democrats’ summer of resistance (to common sense)

You know, there’s no shortage of irony that exactly 50 years ago many of the granola-crunching veterans of the leftist political movement were putting flowers in their hair and heading out to San Francisco to celebrate the “Summer of Love.” (Yes, that was 1967. I was two years old at the time.) Now their progeny are gathering around their computers later today to hear Rep. Keith Ellison of the Democratic National Committee and other “special guests” blather on about how they will have the “summer of resistance” this year. More than likely it will be just as successful as one of the several “recovery summers” the last administration tried to drum up support for, but no matter – we know how this will go. Instead of the summer of love, it’s the summer of hate for what’s made America great (and I’m not talking about Donald Trump.)

Just look at what the Left has been getting themselves all worked up over since President Trump came to office. They dressed up as large-scale versions of certain lady parts to promote funding Planned Parenthood, a code spoken with the true meaning of their “right” to murder babies in the womb under the guise of “choice” or “reproductive rights,” completely forgetting that, at the moment of conception, the tiny human inside them earned the most pre-eminent of all rights, the right to life. (For without life, how can you enjoy liberty or the pursuit of happiness?) Corollary to that was Trump’s vow to repeal and replace Obamacare, which was a replacement more than I would have preferred.

We have spent countless hours of news coverage and barrels of ink talking about a possible Russian influence on our elections, but the question that should really be asked is why their propaganda was so believable? If we thought the worst about Hillary Clinton, there had to be a reason why and I don’t think we have been working for the last 16 years, through two other presidents, just so the Russians could set up an election between Clinton and Trump because they utterly feared the former and had plenty of dirt on the latter. I would believe the reverse far more readily, but the Left keeps playing with the “Trump is a Russian puppet” narrative.

The latest hissy fit from the Left comes as Donald Trump has decided the Paris Climate Agreement as negotiated by the Obama administration isn’t for him, so he wants a do-over. Of course, the Left is having a collective cow on this one as well, but it’s also worth noting that some of the more foolish states and localities among us are vowing to continue working on their own toward the parameters of the Paris Climate Agreement.

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As I see it, what the Democrats are proposing isn’t the summer of resistance but the summer of submission: willfully being tied to an inept, impersonal, and immoral nation-state that dictates our actions to us rather than allowing us the freedom to chart our own course. A true Summer of Resistance would perhaps have a convention of states that proposes only a handful of new amendments to our founding documents to provide for the following:

  • The repeal of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments, with concurrent adoption of a consumption-based tax system and return to state legislatures electing Senators as terms expire
  • An amendment prohibiting discrimination against or for certain groups in various legal functions, including crime and punishment
  • A balanced budget, except in instances of Congressionally-declared war or state of emergency
  • Additional language to clarify and rein in abuse of the general welfare and commerce clauses

This convention would also come up with a list of names from around the nation that would constitute a new court system to replace the present appellate system that has gone too far out of balance. Along with sending the new Constitutional amendments to the states for ratification, this new court system would be on the Congressional Summer of Resistance docket as well as a budget that completely rightsizes the federal government by returning it to the duties they are supposed to do.

By summer’s end, Americans would be free of their federal burdens. Yes, for some it would be a struggle at first but it would be incumbent upon a nation that is the most charitable in the world to give the helping hand to those in need voluntarily, and not via the force of government edict.

Instead of a good Summer of Resistance like the one I described, though, we’ll just get more anger and angst from people who still haven’t accepted the fact that Donald Trump won more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton did. Try as they might, they can’t resist that simple fact. But they can (and will) continue to piss and moan a lot.

A few thoughts on the prospects to “repeal and replace” Andy Harris (and Obamacare, too)

The other day I noticed on social media that our Congressman, Andy Harris, had put up a post explaining his vote for Trumpcare 2.0, the “repeal and replace” bill for Obamacare. (Most people refer to it as the American Health Care Act, or AHCA.) At the time I saw this there were 1,043 comments on his post and probably 80 to 90 percent of them were negative. I can guarantee you that 80 to 90 percent of his district doesn’t oppose his vote, but thanks to this so-called “Indivisible” movement we are seeing some of the most seriously squeaky wheels get the grease that comes from taking 30 seconds to write the linguistic equivalent of “you suck!” on his wall. So I took about five to ten minutes to write my response, because there was a little research involved.

1,043 comments, mostly from people who probably didn’t vote for Andy in the first place, vowing he’s going to lose in 2018. Y’all need about 139,000 more folks.

In terms of repealing the disaster known as Obamacare, this was the correct vote, We have a long way to go in the process and it’s way too early to say what will happen in the Senate (except that regardless of what it is, Maryland’s Senators will vote no.)

Oh, and by the way, I just checked out that Allison whats-her-name and if she’s praising NARAL she’s not getting too far in this district. Most of us stand for life.

Also, since you are on the subject of town halls up and down the thread, could you get those aforementioned Senators down here to have one? Interesting how I never hear anyone clamoring for that.

I have to admit I was only being semi-flippant when it came to “Allison whats-her-name” because I had closed my window and honestly didn’t feel like looking it up. Her name is actually Allison Galbraith and she makes her living from, of all things, steering companies to government contracts. I kid you not.

But to begin this piece I want to address the two people who replied directly to my comment, whose names are Gail Jankowski and Bill Schwartz. I’m going to quote their opening sentences here, ladies first.

Gail: We will get MORE than enough votes to replace him because more and more constituents are learning just how negatively this AHCA will affect them!

Bill: Maryland is a Blue State and we need to ensure that the first district is fairly represented.

I’m sure Gail and Bill are nice enough people, and in her case she gets bonus points for (at least presumably, judging by the surname) marrying into a Polish family. (By the same token, I won’t take any points from Bill just because his ancestors insisted on unnecessary consonants.) But they seem to have a slim knowledge of political reality.

What the vast majority of people “know” about the AHCA comes from the talking points being fed to them from the media, which isn’t exactly a set of unbiased observers. But the 2018 campaign won’t begin in earnest for another 15 to 16 months, and what I’ve found out over the years, Gail, is that the issue you may think will drive the electorate this far out isn’t always the one that is front and center by the time people really begin to pay attention, let alone when votes are cast. The big difference between the era of the TEA Party eight years ago in the Obama administration and the Indivisible movement now is, while both are having a discussion about health care as a topic in the off-year before the election – although Obamacare was more dominant in the fall and winter of 2009 – the economy was much, much worse back then. If the economy is in good shape come the fall of 2018, the AHCA will be a minor issue by comparison. People generally vote with their pocketbooks, and the reason the 2010 election was such a wave was the pent-up outrage at an administration that addressed health care before job creation and the economy. (The sticker shock effects of Obamacare were the reason for the 2014 wave election, since it took effect in earnest that year.)

So if the economy remains in decent shape, the AHCA will be so minor of a concern by then that Andy Harris will once again get his 60-65% of the vote and cruise to victory. You see, Bill, Maryland is indeed (and unfortunately) such a blue state that our previous governor and the Democrats got greedy – or at least as greedy as their incumbent Democrat Congressmen would allow them to be. I’ve made this point before, but if the composition of the First Congressional District were the same in 2008 as it became in 2012, Andy Harris would be on his fifth term. By erasing the northern half of Carroll County from the previous configuration of the Sixth Congressional District and adding it to the First, it assured whoever the GOP puts up in the First District will win because the plurality of the state’s Republican voters now reside in the First, and it’s by a factor of almost 50% more than any other district. So based on the electorate of the district the First is fairly represented. (The rest of the state? Well, they are just poorly represented, but I’m working on that.)

So now let me turn to another aspect of social media. My friend Sarah Meyers, who describes herself as a proud moderate Democrat (and is a member of our county’s central committee) was distraught about the passage of the American Health Care Act, claiming, “The Republican House just voted to allow insurance companies to deny me healthcare.”

Now I’ll set aside the false conflation of actually having health care provided and paying for it, since there are other methods of doing so out there, but my response essentially noted that she is in the minority of people who are net beneficiaries of the ACA in terms of paying less. Those who get their insurance through their employer are paying far more, a fact that she chalked up to the “greed” of the insurance companies. But the “greed” is tempered by the fact that group insurers have to pay out 80 to 85 percent of their premium income on medical care, leaving the remainder for “administration, marketing, and profit.” Since neither administration nor marketing are free, one can presume these insurers are not rolling in profit. This “medical loss ratio” is part of the ACA and may be one reason why insurers are dropping out of the business.

One of the next arguments I got was that the ACA “saves lives,” presumably because those who could not afford insurance or were no longer being tossed off for the various reasons of pre-existing conditions, lifetime limits, and so forth were being covered. But the evidence of this is anecdotal at best, and rather dubious in the amount of inference that has to be made. It truly depends on the source, but the best scholarly guess is a net wash. Even some of the partisans concede it’s a bogus argument. And while there’s always the emotional appeal of someone who can come out and claim they are a survivor because they had health insurance through Obamacare, it’s pretty difficult to speak with someone who didn’t because Obamacare made their deductible too expensive.

The most radical solution offered up was the old single-payer bromide, from local leftist Chuck Cook:

Single payer is the only solution, and it has been proven to work in every single industrialized first world nation on the planet… except ours. We are the outlier due to conservative ideology that honors the wealth of billionaires over the health of children.

Uh…..no. Honestly, we’re very close to having a single-payer system in place here given the lack of competition in many places and tight regulations on the health insurance industry in terms of how much they can make, what they must cover, and how they conduct their business. Basically it would be a Medicare/Medicaid for All system and you can just ask a doctor (whose Medicare reimbursement increased a whopping 0.24% this year, with Medicaid reimbursement being a fraction thereof) how they like it or check out study outcomes, as the left-leaning Kaiser Family Foundation did recently, noting…

Multiple studies, though not all, have documented improvements in beneficiaries’ self-reported health, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved quality of life following Medicaid expansions. The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, which used a research design that is considered the gold standard, compared the experience of adults who gained and adults who did not gain Medicaid coverage through a lottery that allocated a limited number of new Medicaid “slots” for low-income uninsured adults in the state. The study found that Medicaid improved self-reported mental health and reduced clinically observed rates of depression by 30% relative to the uninsured group. The findings related to impacts on physical health were mixed. Medicaid increased the detection of diabetes and use of diabetes medication, but did not have a statistically significant effect on control of diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. The researchers note that the study did not have sufficient statistical power to detect changes in these measures, and also that factors including missed diagnosis and inappropriate or ineffective treatments, among others, could mitigate the impact of coverage on clinical outcomes.

…to see if this meets your definition of “proven to work.” For me it’s lacking.

I think both sides agree, though, that the problems with the system are defined simply: access and cost. The government’s solution was twofold: one side was to force everyone into the insurance market whether they wanted to be or not (hence, the “shared responsibility payment”) so that the healthy people would balance out the sick and the other side was to try and make preventative care cost nothing out of pocket, but the problem with that is doctors aren’t going to work for free because they have families to feed, too. And thanks to all of the billing and coding concerns we have with modern government medicine, a good percentage of the staff in any doctor’s office is the overhead required to deal with billing and not there for patient care. (It’s akin to the number of administrators in a school system who don’t educate children.) In other words, “free” is the extra $2,000 on your deductible or $40 a week out of your paycheck.

One analogy often used as a comparison to health insurance is auto insurance, which is also mandatory in most states (New Hampshire is the lone holdout.) However, when you buy auto insurance it does not cover oil changes, new tires, and other mechanical issues. Similarly, the original intent of health insurance was to cover the medical bills in case you were hospitalized, as opposed to supplemental insurance like AFLAC which covers other expenses.

The idea of insurance is that of calculating and sharing risk among as many participants as possible. Let’s say you have a group of 1,000 40-year-olds whose lives are all insured for $100,000 and you know four of them will die on the average in a given year. You then know your premium pool will have to be set to $400,000 plus an amount set aside for the off-chance of a year where more than 4 die, plus administrative expenses, plus a little for shareholders. If you assume those other expenses total $300,000, then each participant would pay $700 a year to be insured for $100,000 if they die, which they may find is a prudent and affordable hedge against that risk as they have families to support. It would be impossible for a group of 2 or 10 to be able to do this, but over a thousand people it’s very attainable.

However, what we now have with health insurance isn’t truly insurance because there is so much mandated coverage and the risks are highly unpredictable. Nor are they being shared among all the participants equally because some are paying themselves through their employer, some are being subsidized for their coverage by the government, and others are completely on the government dime. Because a large amount of the money comes from funds never seen by the buyers (deducted from their checks, or just plain subsidized) they don’t much care what treatment costs, just their premiums and deductibles.

So let me return to the car insurance analogy. You have to have car insurance, and it has to be minimum coverage, but after that the market is relatively free and there are a whole lot of competitors. If you get tired of Allstate because they raised your rates 50% for no good reason, there’s always Progressive. When Flo gets too annoying, Jake from State Farm will be happy to help. If you don’t like them, we have local independent agents. They compete on price, coverage, and service – so why can’t that be the case with true health insurance, too? And what I mean by “true health insurance” is that you select what you want to cover from the options provided by the companies, or you can skip it altogether. (Or, the option for employers to provide group coverage can be left in place as well, as I’ll get to in a moment.)

I can already hear the Sarah Meyerses of the world screaming “but pre-existing conditions!” Yes, there can be high-risk pools created for those at the state level, or even groups of states can create a compact to make the pool even larger and share the cost among more people. If states want to create incentives for employers to provide insurance, that’s fair game as well. I happen to think the Tenth Amendment is the part of the Constitution that’s supposed to be most flexible, allowing states to do a large number of things that should be off-limits to the federal government. I may or may not agree with them, but that is their right to do so. There’s very little need for federal involvement in health care at all – certainly nowhere near the amount we have now.

I’m sorry to break this to Chuck Cook, but the United States isn’t like the rest of the “industrialized first world.” We are a constitutional republic where the federal government is intended to be limited, not maximized and in control of everything. (It’s also worth mentioning that the wealth of our billionaires – and the talent of a lot of other, less well-to-do American people – is quite often freely given to assist in promoting the health of people both here in America and around the world. Here’s a great local example.) So the idea that we don’t have single-payer health care is one of those rare things that’s still a feature of ours and not a bug. That’s not to say it can’t stand some serious improvement, though.

Let’s just see if we can’t make it more in conformance with what our great American experiment in liberty is supposed to be all about, mmmmkay?

There’s something about Andy…

April 2, 2017 · Posted in Business and industry, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on There’s something about Andy… 

It has now made national news that the townhall meeting held by Andy Harris up at Chesapeake College turned into a loud protest brought on by the local, so-called “Indivisible” groups. (Even more amusing is their reaction when Harris called out one woman who continued to be disruptive. It’s from a page called “Shareblue” which is trying to be the Breitbart of the regressive Left.) Now I have attended Harris townhalls in the past (here are three examples; unfortunately two of them no longer have the photos) and they have often began with PowerPoint presentations – this is nothing new. But it seemed like the fringe Left wanted blood, so they reacted accordingly.

In some other forum I made the point that we never get to hear from the other side. Maybe I just don’t find out about it because I’m not on the radical left e-mail list, but it seems to me that our Senators rarely hold townhall meetings and when they do they are in politically safe (for them) areas like Silver Spring.

Yet the argument from the Left is that they are simply doing what members of the TEA Party did during the initial Obamacare debate in 2009. (The “Indivisible” crowd claims to be using the same tactics the TEA Party did.) I will grant the TEA Party stepped out of bounds on a few occasions – one case in point was this protest* in front of then-Congressman Frank Kratovil’s Salisbury office in July of 2009 that I covered (which remains one of the most commented-upon posts I’ve ever done here) – but when it came to a townhall setting, yes, we showed our passion. In comparison to the new alt-Left, though, we were well-behaved.

Then again, local conservatives have had to put up with disruptions from the Left for awhile so perhaps this isn’t a new phenomenon.

As evidence of the difference, I attended a meeting set up by Senator Cardin in August of 2009. It wasn’t initially intended as a true townhall meeting because its target audience was seniors, but a few of those in the local TEA Party (including me) managed to secure tickets – the 100 or so there could have easily been double or triple if the room were set to accommodate them. This explains how the meeting came to be:

Originally the meeting was set up back in March and wasn’t intended to be a town hall; however, once the health care controversy blew up this became a hot ticket. The intention was to get the perspective of residents who are over 50 and live on the Lower Shore, and the ground rules were pretty strict. There would be no questions during Senator Cardin’s presentation, the ratio would be one question for a GraySHORE member for each one from a non-member, and questions would have a 30-second limit.

In the welcoming remarks, it was noted that the state as a whole is getting younger but the Eastern Shore is aging. While the state is a “net exporter of seniors” at least 7 of the 9 Shore counties are net importers. We are also older and poorer than the state at-large. The idea behind GraySHORE was to brief elected officials with policy recommendations.

Something I found intriguing was the mention of Senator Cardin’s career. He has been our Senator since 2007, but served in Congress since 1987 and was a member of Maryland’s General Assembly for almost two decades before that – he was first elected in 1966. Basically, Senator Cardin fits the definition of a professional politician and I thought that was worth mentioning before I got too far.

When Senator Cardin came up, he noted that he was skipping the slide show to get to the questions. He also commented that this size group was a “manageable” group for dialogue.

As he had on prior occasions, the Senator couched the health care question as one of “what happens if we do nothing?” Health care costs were rising faster than income and would double in the next decade. As well, Cardin gave that mythical 46 million uninsured figure as part of his case and claimed that it cost each of us “an extra $11,000 per year to pay for (those not covered).”

The idea behind reform was to bring down costs through wellness and prevention and through better recordkeeping, while creating individual and employer mandates through the bill. It would provide a “level playing field” for private insurers and remove the caps on coverage, but above all reform “must reduce costs and be paid for.” Cardin compared the idea to Medicare, which has worked “extremely well” over its lifespan and was put into place because insurers wouldn’t cover the elderly or disabled. (Emphasis added for this post.)

It should also be pointed out that most of the TEA Party objections centered on policy and not necessarily personality. Bear in mind that the first TEA Party protests were over the stimulus proposal because the bill that eventually came to be known as Obamacare (which used as its shell a bill passed in the House but completely gutted by the Senate in order to satisfy the Constitutional requirement that bills dealing with revenue had to come from the House – a legislative sleight-of-hand if there ever was one) hadn’t been introduced yet. That came later on in the summer. So at the time this was done there were a number of competing bills for the Senate to consider.

And did the TEA Party raise a ruckus over that summer? Certainly, and they asked a lot of questions. But listen to how this went down. My guess is that the context of this video is one where it was taken after some townhall event or other public appearance by Kratovil. The questions are certainly pointed, but the key is that the audience is listening to Frank’s side of the story. They may not believe it, but they are being respectful. Now imagine if the lot at Chesapeake College were to be in that same situation with Harris – I doubt Andy would get a word in edgewise.

In truth, I think the “Indivisible” group would have began no matter which Republican secured the nomination and won the election – out of the field of contenders for the 2016 GOP nomination Donald Trump was probably the second-most philosophically close to the left (with onetime New York governor George Pataki, a pro-choice Republican, the only one being closer.) Remember, Trump is the one that added the “replace” to repeal of Obamacare.

I will grant that several of Trump’s Cabinet choices are relatively conservative, but for the most part they are also outsiders and I think he was looking more for that aspect of “draining the swamp” by intentionally selecting people outside the Beltway axis than selecting those who are for rightsizing government. But the leftists would likely be out in some force for John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, et. al. – just not to this extent. About the only two 2016 aspirants who would have attracted as much ire as Trump would have been Ted Cruz (because he would have governed from a truly conservative philosophy) and Scott Walker (based on what happened in Wisconsin.) Maybe Bobby Jindal would have been a third.

But here’s a message for those who believe Andy Harris can be toppled in 2018: Go ahead and nominate the most radical leftist you want to Congress, and you will watch Harris spank him or her by 20 to 25 points. Thanks to your favorite former governor, this district basically has the bulk of Republicans in Maryland and considering Andy had almost 80% of the primary vote (over a candidate with legislative experience, a previously unsuccessful candidate, and one other “regular” person) I don’t think you will get too far.

And I know you will point to Frank Kratovil’s 2008 victory over Harris as proof a Democrat can win here but bear in mind that the redrawn district took away the portion of Anne Arundel County Harris won by about 3,000 votes and added Carroll County, where Republican Roscoe Bartlett won by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, or 25,000 votes. Even though the First District doesn’t take in all of Carroll County, I think that with the post-2010 First District Harris would have won in 2008 with over 50% of the vote.

Your caterwauling doesn’t help your cause. And if you want to use the TEA Party as your measuring stick, it’s worth noting that their success was really fairly limited insofar as national electoral results go. The problem with those on the far Left is that they are trying to sell the same stuff that didn’t work for their other “answers” to the TEA Party like the Coffee Party, Occupy Wall Street, and so forth, and most Americans don’t buy it. They wanted repeal without replacement, immigration laws to be followed and the border secured, regulatory agencies reined in, and – most especially – they didn’t want a third Obama term via Hillary Clinton.

Of all the things that fuel the Indivisible movement, they can’t get over the fact that under the rules in place Hillary lost despite getting more votes. Well, to borrow a phrase from another liberal movement, it’s time for you all to move on.

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*As longtime readers know, many of my photo archives were lost with the demise of an Adobe website where I used to link to them rather than place them on my website server – at the time my storage there was limited. In a stroke of remarkable fortune, this Kratovil protest piece was on the front page of my site when the Wayback Machine did its occasional archive so I recovered these photos earlier today – the post is once again complete and coherent.

Some thoughts I have on Trumpcare

I don’t quite think I have to reintroduce myself to all of you, but it truly has been a long time since I sat down and wrote a piece for the consumption of my readers. (Editing Cathy’s last piece and writing two articles for the Patriot Post doesn’t really count for that purpose, nor does updating my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame page to add a couple player moves.) Unfortunately, things won’t improve on that front for some time, but the opportunity which presented itself to take my writing time was one I could not pass up.

But in this interregnum, we were given the bill to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, and since we are told President Trump has threatened to find primary opponents for any Republican who opposes it, I think I’m safe in calling this package Trumpcare. It’s still a government entitlement because there was a replace added with the repeal, and that already put a strike against it in my book.

The document I am going to base my initial impressions on will be the “talking point” document put out by the House GOP. To be honest, I really don’t have time at this point to read the original 123-page bill in depth, although I downloaded it for future reference and glanced through it to help with this piece. I look at this website as what the House Republicans are using as their chief selling points to the bill, so presumably this is their vision for federally-sponsored health care going forward. We have lived under Obamacare for about three years (as I recall, the major provisions did not all take effect before 2014, although some were in place shortly after the bill passed in 2010) so we know its effects: sizable increases in insurance premiums, a massive expansion of Medicaid (paid for in large part by Uncle Sam) to ratchet up the number of people with health insurance, subsidies for those who have less than a certain income yet are forced onto or choose to partake in the individual insurance market, the reduction in the number of competing insurance companies in many areas of the nation (some have just one insurer available to them), and the virtual elimination of catastrophic health insurance plans as insufficient for the needs of those insured. There were also a number of regulations and restrictions on insurers put in place, key among them the requirement of children being covered under a parent’s policy through the age of 26 and the elimination of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

With this massive incursion into private industry, for the first time the federal government required purchase of a product under penalty of law – those who chose not to buy health insurance were subject to a “shared responsibility payment” collected by the Internal Revenue Service. Imagine if you had to buy a car every four years whether you were happy with the one you had or not, and you may have the idea of how people felt about this. Obviously the economics of it were to make everyone pay a little something, but that’s not the way a free country is supposed to work for something that’s not essential to core functions of government.

Here are some of the provisions within the American Health Care Act (AHCA):

  • It “dismantles” the Obamacare taxes on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, health insurance premiums, and medical devices.

Okay, so far so good, although I suppose the definition of “dismantle” is in the eye of the beholder. I glanced through that section of the bill and it looks like this would not take effect immediately but at the end of this year. As a whole, individuals may see a little bit of savings but it won’t be something they will notice.

  • It eliminates the individual and employer mandate penalties.

This is perhaps the best news of all, but there is one huge catch to this: instead of paying this as a tax provision, you would have to pay a penalty to the insurance company in the form of a surcharge on premiums if you start up insurance again after not having it for a period of time. And that catch basically negates the whole benefit of removing the IRS from the equation, although I suppose an insurer could use the waiver of this surcharge as an incentive to bring people in.

  • It maintains the prohibition on charging more or denying insurance based on pre-existing conditions.

I have a big problem with this – not that it wouldn’t necessarily benefit me because I have asthma but because the idea for an insurance company is to make a profit by balancing the risks shared by the vast pool of policyholders with the expenses incurred by reimbursing those insured for loss. If someone is very likely to be a net loss to the insurer because they have a pre-existing condition, it should be the right of the insurer to refuse service. After all, banks don’t lend money at the prime interest rate to people who have poor credit records or no verifiable means of income because that would put their capital at too much risk for the return, so they either refuse the customer outright or charge an interest rate commensurate with the risk. That should be the right of a private insurer, too.

I was reading on social media that Maryland once had a high-risk pool for such patients, which was bankrolled by the state. While it’s not the use of taxpayer money that would be my most favorite, it is a state’s right to do so if they chose and there was nothing wrong with that system because it wasn’t directly competing with the private sector.

  • It keeps the provision of dependents being on their parents’ plan until they are 26.

This is another bad feature of Obamacare that should be buried with the rest of it. If you are 26 you should be able to stand on your own two feet and either be working for someone who offers insurance or be able to afford a plan on your own. (Or choose not to have insurance, which would be your right – although not necessarily recommended.)

  • AHCA also establishes what it calls a Patient and State Stability Fund.

Over the next nine years, the federal government will give out $100 billion to the states to assist them with their goals of insuring every citizen. I read quickly through this section and there are some provisions that give me heartburn: there are strings attached to the expenditure of the money and the states are required to come up with a larger and larger portion of matching funds for whatever they use the money for, up to 50 percent by the end of the program in 2026 – assuming, of course, this doesn’t become a more perpetual giveaway (which I’m convinced it will.) There is $15 billion allocated to this over the next two years and $10 billion per year after that, and I’m sure states will say this isn’t enough because they like that financial crack of Uncle Sugar’s money.

  • Modernize and strengthen Medicare by transitioning to a “per-capita allotment.”

The legalese on this one is beyond my scope of comprehension, but to me the idea of modernizing Medicare would be that of sunsetting it, not strengthening it.

  • Enhance and expand Health Savings Accounts.

One of the better features, although it would be even better with the free transfer of money between HSAs and other entities such as an IRA or 401 (k). If you needed more money in a particular year you should be able to move it without penalty.

  • A monthly tax credit for those who can’t afford insurance, up to $14,000 per year.

A subsidy under a different name. Basically they are replacing one tax scheme with another, still targeted to particular people.

All in all, I think the repeal should take place without the replace. It seems to me that we had a whole political movement and a bumper crop of angst spring up over the last eight years because people did not want any part of the government interference in their health care that Obamacare brought to us. Over that time, we lived with the disappointment of Republican excuses: “we’re only one half of one third of government,” “we have the House and Senate but the President won’t sign this,” “we can’t defund because there would be a government shutdown,” and so forth. After 2016, there was a Congress and President who campaigned on repeal, and yet you give us this?!?

A better alternative may be the plan presented by Senator Rand Paul, although it’s not perfect either. But it’s better than the GOP alternative, which is a great letdown for those of us who waited for the moment to eliminate the (not so) Affordable Care Act.

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