The state of worker freedom 2015

September 7, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The state of worker freedom 2015 

It’s been a tough year for Big Labor. From the worker freedom side, states are switching over to right-to-work status which gives the working man the ability to put hundreds of dollars more in their pockets annually by reducing or eliminating the forced payment of union dues. Meanwhile, the environmental lobby has grabbed the attention of the Obama administration from the left, meaning no Keystone XL pipeline the Teamsters support and a more rapid demise of the United Mine Workers union thanks to EPA regulations discouraging the use of coal. Ironically, Big Labor has allies on both those environmental issues in the Republican Party they rail against while shoveling millions to those who support the environmentalists.

But today I want to take a brief look at the former issue. In the next few months, there’s a good chance that Missouri could join the ranks of right-to-work states despite the fact it has a Democratic governor – the GOP has significant majorities in both houses of its legislature so it’s merely a matter of intestinal fortitude on their part.

After that, though, the pickings are far more slim. Most of the remaining closed-shop states have either a Democrat-controlled legislature – which means any right-to-work legislation is dead on arrival, as is annually the case in Maryland – or a Democratic governor who won’t sign it and knows the votes aren’t there to override. That eliminates most of the states which toil under closed shops.

A couple exceptions to this are Alaska and Ohio, but these states aren’t promising for different reasons. Alaska has a Republican-controlled legislature and a governor who is a Republican-turned-independent who ran on a unity ticket with the Democratic nominee to defeat former GOP Gov. Sean Parnell. But there’s no real push to adopt such legislation as it appears the energy industry, which is the state’s predominant private employer, is comfortable with the closed shops.

On the other hand, Ohio tried to pass right-to-work reforms in 2011 but they were overturned via referendum that same year. In an election year with solely local offices on the ballot, Big Labor was able to mobilize its army of volunteers and fool enough of the others to win a sizable victory. And while the dire predictions that the defeat of right-to-work would make Gov. John Kasich a one-term governor didn’t pan out, the current Presidential candidate has no appetite to go through that fight again. Moreover, GOP members of the Ohio legislature aren’t going to risk anything that could enhance Democratic turnout in a state Republicans need to carry in 2016.

So the fight in Missouri may be the last right-to-work battleground for awhile. It may be Labor Day of 2017 before we get significant movement one way or the other.

Passing on prosperity

December 23, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Passing on prosperity 

Since both have been mentioned in the news as potential Presidential candidates, governors Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Andrew Cuomo of New York have been natural rivals for the attention of the various interest groups that make up the constituency of the Democratic Party. It seems that they are always trying to one-up the other in enacting off-the-charts liberal legislation – when one allowed gay marriage, passed draconian gun laws, or pandered to illegal immigrants, the other tried to follow in rapid succession.

Martin O’Malley and Andrew Cuomo also both cast their lot with the radical environmentalists who claimed (falsely) that hydraulic fracturing for energy extraction would ruin their state’s environment. Yet while O’Malley relented ever-so-slightly in recent weeks, allowing the practice but with regulations one energy expert called “onerous and time-consuming,” Cuomo stopped the practice cold in his state by decreeing in an announcement last week that fracking would be banned, timed nicely after his re-election. Observers of both states are scratching their heads about these decisions, both in the media and in the energy industry. In New York, local media bemoaned the lost opportunity while landowners in the affected area called Cuomo’s ban a “worst-case scenario.”

Yet in the middle of all this sits the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a state which has embraced the economic benefits of the practice to such a degree that Tom Wolf, the incoming Democratic governor of the state won’t ban it. (However, he may stiffen regulations and increase taxes on energy producers, which will be something to watch in the coming months.)

Granted, their good fortune of geography means Pennsylvania has the largest share of the Marcellus Shale which yielded all that natural gas, while Maryland only has a small slice and New York has a small but significant portion.  For their part, Ohio and West Virginia also have sizable portions of the formation, while Virginia’s share is similar to Maryland’s. Ohio has been nearly as aggressive as Pennsylvania in taking advantage of the shale – although recently re-elected Republican Governor John Kasich is also trying to increase taxes on producers – while West Virginia is lagging behind their neighbors and just beginning the process of allowing extraction.

It’s a given that fracking isn’t without risk, but neither are installing large solar farms or erecting 400-foot high wind turbines. Yet the natural gas and oil provided from fracking make for a much more reliable energy source than the intermittent electricity provided by the latter pair, sources which ironically need a natural gas backup to be consistent.

As time goes on we will see just what economic effects a fracking ban will have on the affected areas of New York. But as we have seen in states which have already began the extraction, the Empire State is missing out on the potential for investment and return that having the Marcellus Shale provides for those lucky enough to live over it. Hopefully our neighbors in western Maryland will see some benefits in the next couple years as Governor-elect Hogan puts “sensible” regulations in place to benefit all concerned parties.

An overstatement by Sauerbrey?

Writing recently about the concept of “prevailing wage,” two-time gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey used the letter to the editor to praise her apparent choice for governor, David Craig. Here’s the letter in its entirety, as posted on Southern Maryland News Net. I received it as an e-mail under Craig’s campaign letterhead.

I want to point out a specific passage for comment, in particular the one where Sauerbrey speaks about Craig himself and attributes statements to him.

The 2014 General Assembly has passed legislation to apply the prevailing wage to additional local government projects that receive partial state funding. The prevailing wage which is essentially the union wage, artificially inflates labor costs by ab (sic) estimated 30% to 50%.

I commend Harford County Executive and Gubernatorial candidate David Craig for speaking out on the impact of the new law on his county, as well as the impact of prevailing wages on the state budget. Every local elected official concerned about getting the most value on public projects should want to let the market determine employee wages as is done in the private sector. County Executive Craig points out that the prevailing wage adds an additional $30 million cost to his county’s $300 million capital budget for school construction.

It may not surprise you that I have some familiarity with school construction. In the 1990s, thanks to a court decision, the state of Ohio went on a multi-billion dollar spending binge to construct new schools in practically every one of Ohio’s 600-plus school districts. (I spent seven years working for an architectural firm which specialized in schools, although I had left that company before the boom in school construction began.) In 1997 the state created an exemption to prevailing wage regulations for schools, and in that debate numbers similar to the 30 to 50 percent savings were bandied about by proponents of the measure eliminating prevailing wage.

Also mandated at the time, however, was a report to be delivered five years later, in 2002. In this report, the research indicated savings were more in the ten percent range. While that is a great savings to the taxpayer, it’s not the panacea proponents were anticipating when the bill was passed. Granted, with the vast volume of work going on at the time there was less incentive for low bids – perhaps an economic climate such as today’s would yield more significant savings.

While Sauerbrey uses the hyperbole of the 50 percent savings in her letter, it should be pointed out that David Craig’s statement within seems to ring true – out of $300 million, the $30 million addition seems to line up with the data from Ohio’s study.

But regardless of the actual savings, there is a philosophical argument to be made against the concept of an artificially-created “prevailing” wage, simply because it doesn’t necessarily reflect the true conditions of the actual labor market. I can completely understand the contention that projects completed under prevailing wage (more often than not by union shops) have a better quality to them, as one advantage of using union tradesmen borne out in my experience is that they are better trained, so the question is one of whether they are worth the premium. In some cases I would say yes, but I’m not sure schools are structures complex enough to justify the extra cost – certainly not to the extent of a health care facility or technology-heavy factory where fit and finish can be most important.

I also find it interesting that on the one hand Democrats tend to be for cherished union giveaways like prevailing wage, but do nothing on the other but encourage illegal aliens to come in and undercut the market for construction labor. I haven’t seen them yet this spring, but sooner or later somewhere on Delmarva there will be three or four union carpenters holding up the “shame on” banner because someone hired non-union labor most likely mainly made up of illegal aliens. And what else do those hapless guys have to do?

In a perfect world, many advocacy groups agree that the Davis-Bacon Act which spawned the concept of prevailing wage would be repealed. (At one time even the General Accounting Office argued for repeal.) There is even a bill in the House of Representatives to do the same, although no action has been taken on it since introduction. (And why not?) Eliminating the federal law may well trigger some states to do away with their own versions, although if you assume Maryland politics will remain as they’re currently composed for the next couple decades you won’t find us on that list. (As I pointed out yesterday, we threaten liberals’ existence on the government teat and they know it.)

But it should be a job for General Assembly Republicans to try and roll back this year’s changes in the next session. In the meantime, while 10 percent may not seem like a lot, imagine a ten percent cut in the state budget – it would roll our expenditures back to FY2013 levels and just about negate the need for our sales tax, which is 11% of revenue according to our most recent budget. That wouldn’t be a rollback to 5%, it would be eliminating the whole enchilada to match Delaware. Or we could cut our income taxes in half.

Ten percent is a lot, even in the limited realm of state construction, and to me it’s better that the people have it than the government. In the case of the capital budget, it’s less bonding we have to pass along to our children. So let’s hope a Governor Craig would have the stiff spine to fight for such a change to prevailing wage, even if Ellen Sauerbrey was a little overly optimistic on its effects.

Blocking access

October 16, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Ohio politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Blocking access 

This week marks nine years since I moved to Maryland from Ohio. While at the beginning this website delved regularly into Ohio politics as a base of comparison (since that was most of my experience at the time), over the years I have worked away from the goings-on in the Buckeye state. But an article regarding the state’s bid to decimate the third party movement piqued my interest, and shamefully it’s backed by the legislative Republicans – all but one GOP State Senator voted for it.

It’s definitely worth pointing out that, in my estimation and memory, the Ohio Republican Party is more Republican than conservative. John Boehner is a good example of an Ohio Republican in that principles come in a distant second to party. Instead of showing leadership in good government, Ohio Republicans cynically shamed the overall GOP by creating one of the most gerrymandered Congressional districts in the country in order to place two liberal incumbents in the same district. (This used to be my district and part of my family lives there, so I have a vested interest.) I guess it should be expected from a party which bent over backwards to avoid primaries for their chosen, “electable” (read: moderate) candidates.

Of course I understand that third party votes generally tend to be siphoned away from the Republican side as opposed to the Democrats. Libertarians have just enough philosophical differences from the Republicans that they tend to draw support from the GOP pool, whereas the Green Party and Democrats are basically two peas in a pod. It’s noticeable to me that the Green Party in Maryland runs relatively few candidates in our state when compared to the Libertarian Party, despite the fact there’s supposedly far more liberal voters than conservative ones.

Yet the Ohio proposal is very draconian for a group which accumulated less than 2 percent of the vote last year. Yes, much of it probably came out of Mitt Romney’s total and it could have cost him the election. But is that the right thing to do? I don’t think it is.

Aside from the insurgent campaign of Ross Perot and the Reform Party, which proved to be a one-year flash in the pan back in 1992, the last time the two-party structure was challenged was the mid-1800s, when the Republican Party was born. All that movement did, though, was supplant the Whigs, which faded from the scene. In the years since, both parties have found agreement on methods to insulate themselves from the prospect of a challenge from other political parties.

I look at it this way: if the Republicans can stand on their ideas they should not be afraid of any challenge. If they want to prevent the rise of a conservative third party, though, they might want to reaffirm themselves to conservative, limited-government principles.

Why add to the debt?

December 27, 2011 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Education, Maryland Politics, Ohio politics, Politics · Comments Off on Why add to the debt? 

Obviously this post I cite is an oversimplification of the educational approach needed for many children, but I thought it was appropriate to point this out given the fact a small group of parents – backed by an all-powerful school board and sympathetic County Executive and newspaper – are putting big-time pressure on our County Council to approve the debt necessary to build a new middle school.

But Richard F. Miniter, a writer posting on the American Thinker website, makes the case that education can be as simple as applying a little discipline and effort, given the vast library now available to anyone who has an e-reader and cares enough about their child to make sure they learn. And there is a time savings, as Miniter writes:

It also sums down to a little block of time because without having to get ready for the school bus; the bus ride; dispersing to classroom; disciplinary issues in classrooms; having to raise your hand to go to the bathroom; noisy, chaotic hallways scenes every fifty minutes; noisy, chaotic lunch periods; announcements; fire drills; lectures about bullying, respecting alternative lifestyles, or strangers; then preparing for the bus ride home, followed by homework, one can do a better job with a child in two hours than a traditional school classroom setting can in eight.

Now extrapolate that to the building itself. If one can learn in the small space of time allotted to learning at home, it can also be assumed that learning can be achieved in a regular school building, regardless of the age.

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A chance of improvement

November 5, 2011 · Posted in Business and industry, Ohio politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A chance of improvement 

Obviously the political landscape is much different here than it is in my native state of Ohio, but there are times I still get missives from the Buckeye State because I’m still on a number of mailing lists.

One such case was today, and although I deleted the actual message the gist of it was a local chief of police calling out the opponents of Issue 2 – a measure that would roll back gains made against the overly powerful unions in the state – for misleading the public into thinking they’d be less safe if it passed. On the contrary, passage of Issue 2 would allow him more funding for hiring police officers since his other overhead costs would be reduced.

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Is Ohio’s recovery on the line?

November 2, 2011 · Posted in Business and industry, Ohio politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Is Ohio’s recovery on the line? 

It’s been seven years since I left the state of my birth, and it doesn’t seem like politics has changed all that much.

Even the ray of hope provided when a solid conservative governor was elected may be snuffed out next week if voters in the Buckeye State are fooled into voting against Issue 2. A no vote would wipe out a series of common-sense measures designed to hold the power of the state’s labor unions in check along with making them contribute a little more to their benefit package (but still less than the average private-sector worker does.)

It’s telling that opponents of the measure, essentially Big Labor and its allies, are outspending those who want a yes vote by a significant margin. The unions didn’t want Governor John Kasich to be elected anyway, as one of his first priorities was to whip them into line. If they can’t beat him until 2014, they can do their level best to thwart his efforts. It’s nothing new from a state which is heavily unionized along the Ohio Turnpike corridor from Toledo through Lorain and Cleveland to Youngstown. The rest of the state is relatively conservative.

I’m hoping against hope that the smart voters aren’t fooled by the lies and obfuscation of Big Labor’s campaign and hand them a stinging rebuke. If they don’t, you can well see why I left the state – not that Maryland is a whole lot better, but the weather and vibe is what keeps me here. It would be nice to have a governor with the cajones to take on Big Labor, so let’s hope he’s rewarded next week.

‘More,’ Fedzilla screamed, ‘more!!’

August 3, 2011 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2012, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Ohio politics, Politics, Polling, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on ‘More,’ Fedzilla screamed, ‘more!!’ 

I thought I could let this go, but then this Washington Times story by Stephan Dinan begged to differ.

Now I realize that the situation over the last few months was akin to walking a tightrope, but to rack up a record $239 billion in debt in ONE DAY – almost 60% of the wiggle room gained by the Republican sellout – simply boggles the mind. Notice that the previous record deficit day came in 2009, after Barack Obama took office. So don’t blame it on Bush.

In fact, consider that in one day our deficit exceeded that of the entire final Bush budget submitted with a Republican Congress (fiscal year 2007) – $239 billion beats $161 billion in any sort of math, fuzzy or not.

And the public is skeptical too. Today a Rasmussen Poll was released and it showed just 22% of the public approved of the budget deal. Of course Republicans are dead-set against it (by about a 4-to-1 margin) but the poll also showed unaffiliated voters in with the same feelings toward the agreement. Only Democrats had a more favorable impression, with 34% favoring the package with 40% against.

The reason the public doesn’t like the agreement? They don’t trust Washington to cut spending.

Another interesting facet of Rasmussen’s summary is that, despite the frenetic coverage by the media, people had expected the outcome. Perhaps it’s a natural cynicism Americans have with their government. “You can’t fight City Hall,” they often say.

While the TEA Party has made great strides in fighting the excesses of government, its biggest problem is that we only control a small portion of government. Look at the strides certain states like Wisconsin and Ohio have made in curbing their governments – they managed to elect enough conservative legislators in both their legislative bodies to complement the reformist ideas of the governors elected – Scott Walker and John Kasich, respectively.

Both Walker and Kasich also have to overcome continued threats to their reform packages as several GOP state senators are subject to recall elections this month in Wisconsin and Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 – an act which severely curbed union influence in Ohio – goes before Buckeye State voters this fall. Don’t be surprised if unions aren’t looking to dump tens of millions into the campaign to overturn SB5.

So the TEA Party fight may be over for the time being in Washington, and those of us skeptical that Fedzilla could curb its spending appetite may be vindicated based on the one-day deficit record. But we have a lot of state capitals where the fight needs to be renewed.

Come this fall, the scene in Annapolis may rival the one back in March, but contenders will on the opposite sides. I’d love to see 10,000 TEA Party members outnumber 50 union thugs in demanding fiscal responsibility.

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  • 2018 Election

    Election Day is November 6 for all of us. With the Maryland primary by us and a shorter widget, I’ll add the Delaware statewide federal offices (Congress and U.S. Senate) to the mix once their July 10 filing deadline is passed. Their primary is September 6.

    Maryland

    Governor

    Larry Hogan (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Shawn Quinn (Libertarian) – Facebook

    Ben Jealous (D) – Facebook Twitter

    Ian Schlakman (Green) Facebook Twitter

     

    U.S. Senate

    Tony Campbell (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Ben Cardin (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Arvin Vohra (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    There are three independent candidates currently listed as seeking nomination via petition: Steve Gladstone, Michael Puskar, and Neal Simon. All have to have the requisite number of signatures in to the state BoE by August 6.

     

    U.S. Congress -1st District

    Andy Harris (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Jenica Martin (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    Jesse Colvin (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    State Senate – District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R – incumbent) – Facebook

    Holly Wright (D) – Facebook

     

    Delegate – District 37A

    Frank Cooke (R) – Facebook

    Sheree Sample-Hughes (D – incumbent) – Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 37B (elect 2)

    Chris Adams (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Johnny Mautz (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Dan O’Hare (D) – Facebook

     

    State Senate – District 38

    Mary Beth Carozza (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Jim Mathias (D – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38A

    Charles Otto (R – incumbent)

    Kirkland Hall, Sr. (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38C

    Wayne Hartman (R) – Facebook

     

    Delaware

     

    U.S. Senate

     

    Republican:

    Rob ArlettFacebook Twitter

    Roque de la FuenteFacebook Twitter

    Gene Truono, Jr. –  Facebook

     

    Libertarian (no primary, advances to General):

    Nadine Frost – Facebook

     

    Democrat:

    Tom Carper (incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Kerri Evelyn HarrisFacebook Twitter

     

    Green (no primary, advances to General):

    Demitri Theodoropoulos

     

     

    Congress (at-large):

     

    Republican:

    Lee MurphyFacebook Twitter

    Scott Walker

     

    Democrat (no primary, advances to General):

    Lisa Blunt Rochester (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

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