In an attempt to tip the scales a little bit, and arguably give itself a little relevance in this current campaign, National Review gathered nearly two dozen prominent conservatives to make their case why nominating (and worse, electing) Donald Trump would be a mistake and a setback for the conservative movement. For the most part their reasons echoed a lot of what I said when I did my “dossier” series a few months back. Simply put, Donald Trump is not a conservative.
Had National Review asked me, my case would be made from the idea that Trump is a populist rather than a conservative, with ideas that sound great in a broad sense but when implemented evoke the old saying “the devil is in the details.” On immigration I share Trump’s concerns, and for the most part I think he has a sound approach to the issue. (This is in contrast to some at NR that would embrace immigration reform.) But in other areas such as taxation Trump works in a more steeply progressive, populist direction. Low-income wage-earners may get to send in a tax form that says “I win” but eventually we will all lose because the precedents will be set in punishing certain businesses. Talking tough with China is one thing, but putting the policies into practice another.
I don’t want to go through a complete rehash of what I said the other day when Trump got the Sarah Palin endorsement, but so far in the 2016 campaign – one which had the promise of a good, conservative candidate who could win on a message of rolling back the excesses of the Obama administration – we have instead seen the candidate whose campaign has most resembled the brashness and bravado of a WWE event reach the top of the polls and stay there despite the best efforts of several candidates to knock him off the perch. The argument that he’s not conservative enough seems to fall on deaf ears because people believe Trump can make America great again for some reason. It makes me wonder if the TEA Party was more of a cry for limited-government solutions or just a reaction to a President who was going too far too fast in a direction they didn’t expect.
To that end, there are now TEA Party people who want to cash in on the Trump name. Case in point: Amy Kremer, formerly of the TEA Party Express. I apologize in advance for the long blockquote, but you have to get a load of this fundraising appeal:
Are you sick and tired of seeing America lose?
Are you fed up with Washington Elites and the liberal media screwing up, weakening our country and running us into the ground?
Do you think we need less mindless political correctness and more old-fashioned common sense?
And, do you think we need a bold, proven leader to win the Presidency and Make America Great Again?
Well I do too! And I am wholeheartedly supporting Donald Trump!
My name is Amy Kremer and I am one of the founders of the modern day tea party movement.
As Chairman of the Tea Party Express, I worked alongside millions of Americans just like you and we helped lead a revolution in American politics. I was just middle class mother who was fed up and spoke out, but together, we made a difference.
Now, America needs us again. We have to come together and elect Donald J. Trump President of the United States!
That is why I have founded TrumPAC, a brand new organization dedicated to supporting Donald Trump. And, I am going to need your help, BIG Time.
The Elites are going crazy! They cannot stand the idea of President Trump, they are running scared, and as they quiver in their Ivory Towers, they plan to throw every thing they can at Mr. Trump to try and stop him, including the kitchen sink! No smear will be left in the bag or underhanded dirty trick will go un-played.
Their desperation is disgusting, but we know it’s coming. And we need to stop them!
That’s why we need you today, right now, to help Donald Trump weather the course. Mr. Trump has strong shoulders, and if we get his back and show the World that there is a movement behind him, ready to propel him all the way the Oval Office, nothing will stop us!
Donate today and we’ll send $5 dollars directly to Mr. Trumps campaign so YOUR name will be on his FEC Report – we’ll handle the paperwork and even cover the credit card processing fees so every penny goes to the Trump campaign.
AND BEST OF ALL – when his January finance report comes out, Your name will be on it, telling the world where you stand. You see, normally only big donations show up on finance reports, but because it came through us, just $5 will get your name counted too.
Mr. Trump will get a shot in the arm to see all of our names going on the record for him. Plus, his campaign will know how to follow up with you and get you involved when it’s time to vote in your state.
I hope I can I count on you to chip in with a contribution and help reach our goal so we can get our winning message out to voters across the country.
Just $20 will help reach about 5,000 people through robocalls, social media, and Internet ads.
$35 will help reach about 13,000 individuals.
$100 will help reach nearly 36,910 folks. $150 reaches nearly 51,000 people.
Just $200 allows us to contact nearly 68,000 folks over social media and the Internet.
Whatever amount you can afford, your contribution will help us reach out and convince more voters that Donald Trump is what America needs!
So I send Amy Kremer $25 (which is the default amount on their fundraising appeal) and Trump gets five bucks? What a bargain! Not only that, the other $20 will “reach about 5,000 people through robocalls, social media, and Internet ads.” (Damn, I’d love to know where they are spending their $20 because I have a website I’d like to promote.) On that point, it looks like we have diminishing returns at some points so I’m wondering where this lady got her numbers. Math may not be her strong suit?
It’s interesting because when Kremer left the TEA Party Express in 2014 her plans were for “engaging in competitive Senate primaries and supporting fiscal conservatives in the coming weeks.” There must not have been enough money in that part of the political world so it was time to glom on to the most populist candidate we’ve seen since Barack Obama to be a moneymaker.
And people wonder why those of us in the heartland are so cynical about politics. It’s why we shouldn’t attach ourselves to a person but a philosophy, and mine is that of limited-government conservatism. Out of all the remaining candidates in the 2016 race, it’s a sad commentary to know that Donald Trump is the farthest from that ideal, yet many who call themselves conservative support him and apparently making money off his name is just peachy.
Update: Still need more evidence Trump isn’t a limited government conservative? Federally-controlled land is just fine with him.
You know, I used to like Sarah Palin.
Actually I still do, but I’m also trying to figure out how a political figure who has been an integral part of the TEA Party movement since the beginning could give her imprimatur to the Republican in the field who is arguably the least conservative in the overall scheme of things. In Trump’s world, aside from immigration and perhaps global trade, we won’t deal with the excesses of government in any meaningful way. He’s pledged to leave Social Security and Medicare alone, despite the fact that both entitlements are going bankrupt. As a complete suck-up to the ethanol industry in Iowa, Trump is calling for more ethanol to be blended into our gasoline as well. Neither of those positions scream “limited-government conservative” to me.
In reading the reaction over the last day or so, people either seem to be shooting the messenger by panning the speech or the various foibles of Palin family members, or they are assuming that Palin has sold out once again for the almighty buck trying to extend her fifteen minutes of fame, or they believe she’s got a deal to secure a Cabinet post in a Trump administration. Some even believe it will be a Trump/Palin ticket. We haven’t seen as much of the “mama grizzly” lately so maybe she needed to be back in the limelight again. Meanwhile, as Erick Erickson argues, Trump is trying to pick up the win in Iowa to shut out Ted Cruz in the first few states as Trump has huge leads in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida. Byron York saw it as a way to get Iowans torn between Trump and Cruz off the fence.
To me, it’s just another part of the ongoing struggle between limited-government conservatism and the big-government populism that Trump seems to be cornering with every vague promise to make things great again, played out in the Republican primary. Unfortunately, by espousing government-based solutions Trump is just serving to perpetuate the policies that have messed things up in the first place.
Yet if you ask a Trump supporter why they support him, the answer tends to be in the realm of being an outsider with a record of getting things done. We have a problem with illegal aliens? Build a wall and make Mexico pay for it! And we can’t trust those Muslims, so we just won’t let them in! Once The Donald says it will happen, by golly it’s going to occur.
Okay, fair enough. It may work very well in an autonomous corporation where whatever The Donald says is law, but may not translate nearly as well when you need a majority of the 535 members of Congress to assist you in getting things accomplished the proper way. Sure, Trump can go the executive order route on a lot of things but isn’t that our major complaint about the Obama regime? Just because it’s a guy on “our” side doesn’t make it any more Constitutional to govern by dictate, with the probable exception of rescinding previous orders. (I would rather Congress do that heavy work, though.)
So it comes back to what Palin saw in Trump. In the brief release from the Trump campaign, the reason stated for Palin to back Trump is his “leadership and unparalleled ability to speak the truth and produce real results.” I would categorize it as saying what people want to hear (for example, he stated his new-found position on ethanol in front of a lobbying group) with the results being oodles of press coverage. Admittedly, Trump has helped make immigration a key issue with his remarks, but I think that discussion was going to occur anyway.
The other “real result” seems to be that of finally erasing the line between politician and celebrity. Ronald Reagan was known to the public as an actor, so he had some amount of recognition from those who weren’t political junkies. (Unlike Trump, though, Reagan had a political resume as governor of California.) Bill Clinton tried to portray himself as hip by frequent appearances on mainstream entertainment shows, and that trend has continued with both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Having been a reality TV star, Trump takes this cultural recognition to a new level, which may expand the universe of possible voters but brings us much closer to the undesirable aspects of governance by popularity rather than ability.
If Sarah Palin was looking to improve her brand recognition, she did well by endorsing Trump. But if she’s looking to improve America…well, maybe not so much.
A recent poll by the Washington Post brought gasps of surprise from Republicans – even in a state where registered Republicans are outnumbered by better than 2-to-1 by their Democratic counterparts, the people of Maryland approve of Larry Hogan’s performance by a margin of 61% to 22% disapproval. Since a similar poll taken shortly after Hogan took office, he has gained 19 points in the approval department by pulling in a large percentage of those who previously had no opinion and even whittling the disapproves from 24% to 22%.
All those are encouraging signs, particularly as the Post points out Hogan is nine points up on Martin O’Malley at a similar juncture and back in the territory Bob Ehrlich enjoyed early on.
Of course, the Democrats retort that a portion of the goodwill is based on Hogan’s ongoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with his last round wrapping up. Hogan’s newly bald head is regularly featured on social media as a constant reminder of his treatment, something which he’s parlayed into a lot of good press coverage.
Insofar as policy goes, though, Hogan has gone pretty much down the center of the road. The incoming governor whose initial act of significance was to pull unpopular phosphorus regulations from being published in the Maryland Register ended up compromising on less stringent measures in order to avoid a veto fight over a legislative version of the O’Malley regulations. Days later, his first budget made some unpopular “cuts” (read: more modest increases in spending than the opposition was conditioned to expect) but still was larger than the previous year’s.
On the transportation front, Hogan pulled the Red Line in Baltimore but decided to keep the Purple Line in the suburbs of Washington provided the local governments paid more for it. He used the money saved from the Red Line to fund needed highway projects and also figured out a way to reduce the tolls in Maryland. Unfortunately, we still have the higher gas taxes passed by Martin O’Malley to pay for the Purple Line and planned Red Line.
In a number of ways, Hogan has achieved his level of popularity to working around the edges. The makeup of the General Assembly is such that Hogan had a number of bills that passed where he allowed them to become law without his signature. It was probably a political calculation of the likelihood of whether his veto would hold and if the hill was vital enough to die on politically. Both sides seemed to be feeling each other out in a cautious session – save the doomed effort to roll back the “rain tax,” Hogan’s legislative agenda had a focus on economic development that was to some extent left over from the O’Malley administration’s half-hearted attempts to address the state’s awful business climate.
The question for Maryland Republicans going forward is just how much conservatism they want to push. Those in the party who disapprove of Hogan generally fall into either or both of the two categories of wanting fewer gun restrictions or better leadership on social issues – naturally, the Democrats tried to use both as wedge issues against Hogan and failed.
Maybe a better way to frame this is to question whether the Republican caucus in the General Assembly will create its own legislative agenda for next year or just ride along with Hogan’s. One thing I have noticed over the years is that there are several legislators who introduce bills in the General Assembly but we don’t seem to have a platform we follow – it’s like every man for himself.
Perhaps next session the GOP should pick out eight to ten important, conservative bills and work like hell to get them passed, bypassing the committee if necessary. (For example, had they done that on the original “rain tax” bill, they could have forced a floor vote on sustaining it, putting Democrats on the record as favoring it.) They can even be repeal bills of O’Malley legislation – after all, if Hogan is rolling back O’Malley’s toll hikes and Red Line boondoggle, we should hope he will ditch items like the “septic bill” and PlanMaryland.
If you have 61% of the public behind you, it’s time to grab a bully pulpit and make needed change.
I know our Republican gubernatorial candidates have been talking at length about business climate in Maryland, but last night I saw a devastating chart which shows the result of bad national policy, compiled by the generally liberal Brookings Institution and found on the post at the Independent Journal Review.
When you open the chart up (because my links generally open in a new tab) you’ll notice that the firm entry line had been ahead of the firm exit line until they met in the latter part of 2008. And while the Brookings data only covers through the end of 2011, I’m pretty sure the situation is no better now given the situation with Obamacare.
In contrast, the chart seemed to have its widest positive gap in the mid-1980s, right in the sweet spot of the Reagan presidency and just after two tax cuts.
To be honest, there’s not a whole lot of incentive out there to create a business. It’s very hard to get capital because lenders are finding it more lucrative to play financial games among themselves to make a profit, and larger would-be competitors are busy trying to rewrite the rules to limit competition. For an example of this, study the story of ride-sharing service Uber and how it has to put up with the taxi cartels in large cities. The same might be said of e-cigarettes, which are being categorized (and banned) like regular cigarettes despite the fact the “smoke” is much less hazardous. Something tells me Big Tobacco is behind the scenes somewhere in this e-cig controversy and states will become much more amenable to the product once they receive a more hefty cut.
Finally, if you succeed all it gets you is a higher tax bracket. It’s like the old saying: no good deed goes unpunished. So the idea is to make being good less of a punishment, and perhaps a return to the successful policies of the Reagan era would be a beginning.
Hopefully this is not an indication of how the remainder of the campaign will go, but the best laid plans of Larry Hogan had to take a back seat to the weather tonight. Instead he made the announcement in a release where Hogan noted:
An overwhelming majority of Marylanders, regardless of party, feel that we are way off track, heading in the wrong direction, and that new leadership is needed in Annapolis. And one thing is clear: we can’t change Maryland without changing governors. So after serious reflection, I have decided to answer the call, and step up to this challenge.
The establishment in Annapolis has just been expecting another coronation in November. But today, regardless of the weather, we’re putting them on notice that we’re going to give them the toughest fight of their lives.
While our initial intention was to continue despite the weather, as we monitored the situation overnight, it became clear this was going to be a significant weather event. We’ve postponed today’s event, but no amount of snow is going to stop our grassroots army of 75,000 fed-up Republicans, Democrats, and Independents from bringing real change to Maryland.
We have already started our work to change Maryland for the better, but our primary concern today is the safety of Marylanders. Due to extreme winter storm warnings we are strongly advising our supporters to stay home and stay off the roads.
Sounds awfully gubernatorial already. But, just like the 1,100 or so who crammed into his Annapolis event at the state Republican convention expecting Larry to lay out his campaign, another 500 were claimed to be awaiting this gathering. At one point this morning, I had heard there would be a live stream of the festivities but eventually the whole thing was scrubbed. Honestly, while there was a serious concern for safety, there was also the prospect of zero television coverage as most stations go wall-to-wall on their news with tracking the storm and its effects.
So Hogan will try this again on Wednesday, January 29. While it’s a long way out, Hogan supporters will be relieved to know the current Annapolis forecast for next Wednesday is for a sunny but chilly day, with a high of 28.
But as I joked with my blogging friend Jackie Wellfonder – a confirmed and diehard Hogan backer – if Larry had made the announcement when I thought he should have, it could have been an outdoor affair. You don’t have to plow sunny and warm. It is what it is, though, and perhaps the late-entry approach will work.
The real question, though, is how long the race can go with four main contenders, only two of whom have six-figure account balances to back them. It won’t take as much money to win the Republican primary, as it will be the race no one hears about – because the two leading Democratic contenders will likely soak up most of the available Baltimore and Washington commercial time – but it will require some financial prowess to compete. Obviously the concern is also how much a GOP contender will have remaining to go against a well-funded Democrat in the general election.
2014 is definitely an “all hands on deck” sort of year for Maryland Republicans. We always refer to the current election as “the most important in our lifetime” but in this one we sort of mean it. Either we watch our liberties continue to melt away into a morass of taxation, regulation, and usurpation of our God-given rights, or we grab the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground in order to save our state. The time to stand on the sidelines is long past.
Don’t let a little snow stop us in that fight.
It should come as no surprise that a grassroots group which has over the years strongly backed our Congressman, Andy Harris, would give him high marks for his overall voting pattern. But Americans for Prosperity and their Federal Affairs Manager Chrissy Hanson wanted to make sure I got the word.
Now that the first year of the 113th Congress has come to an end, it seems like a good time to look back and take notice of how our Representatives and Senators voted. Americans for Prosperity ranks members of Congress based on their votes in favor of economic freedom, and thus, a better, brighter, more prosperous future.
Interestingly enough, though, while Andy’s 2013 score was solid, his rating for 2014 probably went down yesterday when he voted for the omibus spending bill which funds a large part of the government for the remainder of this fiscal year, through September 30. It did on the continuing Heritage Action scorecard, where Harris only rates an 83% score. In either case, though, Harris has tended to land on the edge of the top 50 rated members of Congress, both House and Senate.
In this day and age of instant gratification and accountability, it’s notable that many organizations take the time to track these Congressional votes and rate representatives. But these can be deceptive as well – for example, Harris actually has a worse rating than Sen. Marco Rubio (who’s best known for working with Democrats in trying to reform immigration into an amnesty program) and is only a few points ahead of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s been painted as an ineffective leader of the resistance and faces a strong primary challenge from Matt Bevin – so much so that McConnell has an attack website against his Republican opponent.
The point is that any scoring system can make for a flawed look at a politico, because sometimes actions are more important than votes and not every issue is of equal importance. To use Rubio as an example, he may be voting the correct way on economic issues but most have still not forgiven him for working with the pro-amnesty portion of the party on immigration.
In general I’m satisfied with how Andy Harris votes – when he served in the Maryland Senate he was one of only two legislators who have ever achieved a perfect monoblogue Accountability Project score of 100 in a particular session. I’m a very difficult taskmaster. So it goes without saying I was an early Harris Congressional supporter and remain so, given the lack of credible and better opposition in our district, at least until 2022. (This is because he set a 12-year term limit on himself.)
If I could wave a magic wand and get hundreds more members of Congress like Andy Harris, I’d take it in a second. We would be so much better off, regardless of the scores he’s assigned.
If I can wheedle the time off work, I would be inclined to attend myself as it would be a Friday afternoon well spent.
But on Friday, November 8th the Maryland Citizen Action Network is sponsoring what they call “Citizen Activist Training” in Annapolis. And while I already have a very good idea of how the state legislative website works thanks to my experience doing the monoblogue Accountability Project, I have never gone to Annapolis to deliver testimony in person (although I have submitted written versions on several occasions.) So it would be a good primer course in that respect.
My only suggestion to MDCAN would be, if possible, to have another similar session two weeks later – after all, the state Republican Fall Convention will be in Annapolis and that sort of information would be useful to activists within the party who are already making the trip for the convention.
But if that can’t come to pass, I would suggest you sign up quickly as I’m certain space is limited. There’s nothing that frightens the majority in this state than a minority which is no longer cowed into submission.
I didn’t do this intentionally, as I wanted to bring this event to the attention of my readers and today seemed like a good place to do so, but this happens to be the anniversary of one of the early seminal events of the TEA Party, the 9/12 gathering in Washington, D.C. I was there that day, and it was a powerful event which restored my faith that the pro-liberty movement wasn’t just limited to my little corner of the world.
We don’t need a million people to change this state – although I’m sure the Republican gubernatorial candidate would take that as a head start to the 2014 election, to build from there – but every one we can add to our cause brings us closer to our goal of restoring the “Free” to the Free State.
In what turns out to be the second of three consecutive club meetings featuring a gubernatorial candidate, a packed room enjoyed the presentation from Charles Lollar. While Lollar hasn’t formally announced – one item he mentioned was that this area will be part of his bus tour on September 5 – it’s clear he’s intending to run for the GOP nomination.
So, as is our usual custom with visiting dignitaries who travel from afar, once we got through the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduced our other distinguished guests we turned the meeting over to Charles, who brought his wife Rosha along.
Lollar started right out by telling those gathered it was “awesome” we began with the Lord’s Prayer. (It’s actually something I believe our late former president George Ossman started. We later paid tribute to George, who passed away last week and was remembered as “a great Republican and club member,” with a moment of silence.) Charles continued on that point, saying that religion was the fabric of our nation, He also contended that the political process of late was one of deciding between whether our rights derived from God or were passed along by mankind, “If you think our rights are from men, don’t vote for me,” said Lollar. “Rights and liberties…come from the Creator of our universe.”
Charles pondered what could happen next year given three items: the new majority of local elected officials statewide who belong to the Republican Party, the impact of fights over state Constitutional amendments such as the one permitting gay marriage, and the influence of conservative Democrats in rural areas upset about the current administration’s efforts to instill draconian gun control measures.
But Lollar urged those attending to gather as much information as they could before making a decision on the gubernatorial race. For his part, Charles claimed “we will represent you well…when you run your campaign from here,” pointing to his heart.
In going over some of his qualifications, LtCol Select Lollar pointed to his service in the Marines as a leader of men as well as the turnaround he worked at Cintas, taking a division lagging in the bottom 15% of the company and transforming it into a top five percent outfit. “I’m a completely boring person (in my personal life)…but I understand money (and) leadership,” Lollar said. He repeated the case later: “I have more leadership experience than all of them.” referring to all those running for the state’s top office.
Regarding social issues, Charles made the point that he would be “elected as governor, not priest.” That’s not to say he’s not a social conservative, but his focus would be on the fiscal side. “We’re in it until the budget is balanced,” promised Lollar.
Charles brought up a fantastic point, stating that a significant portion of the state’s budget came from the federal government and because of that Washington controls much of what our state government does. He gave the example of a western state which enacted an 80 MPH speed limit until they were threatened with the loss of federal highway funds, at which time they reverted back to the standard 65 MPH. (Pity.) The states lose their ability to govern themselves when federal funding becomes a significant part of their budget, he added.
One solution he advocated was a taxpayer’s bill of rights (or TABOR law) like Colorado adopted some years ago. Simply put, a TABOR law means annual spending can only be increased by the sum of percentage of population growth plus the rate of inflation. For example, in FY2012 Maryland’s population grew by 0.8% while inflation was measured in 2012 at 1.7 percent. Thus, the maximum budget increase allowed by law would be 2.5 percent. (In reality, Maryland’s budget grew just over 4 percent. Had the TABOR been in effect, Maryland taxpayers would have saved roughly $650 million this year.)
In answering questions, Charles explained how he could run despite the Hatch Act (he is now a reservist, not on active duty), deferred on a lieutenant governor choice by stating “we are strongly considering and praying” about who the person would be, but wishing to get the campaign off the ground first, and noted his “concern” about cancelling out loyal Republican votes in an open primary.
But one questioner seemed to catch Charles off guard a little bit, if only because he may not be familiar with Mark Levin’s recent book. Once explained briefly, Lollar opined it “sounds like something I would agree with.”
And there was the obvious ask: how do you win in minority areas? Charles noted he didn’t need to win outright, and victory was possible with just 35% in those areas (knowing he’ll roll up sizable majorities in places like Wicomico County.) But he’s been active there, and while there are some who he knows won’t be receptive to his message, he’s going at these communities with the statement that “the best entitlement program is a job.”
Finally, it was noted that with the recent endorsement from Blaine Young, the Frederick County Commission president would be an honorary chairman of Lollar’s campaign.
With that, we returned to the usual order of business, with the minutes being read, treasurer’s report given, and Jackie Wellfonder introducing another former WCRC leader who would promote her event later.
Giving his Central Committee report, county chair Dave Parker conceded, “it’s been a hard week.” Parker pointed out the “assault” on State Senator Rich Colburn by the Daily Times - an article which aroused one supporter to warn “we can’t let them get away with this” and call on the group to burn up the editor’s phone lines starting at 8:30 the next morning – and the circus surrounding the District 36 seat. He said he had personally spoken to Diana Waterman, who denied any allegations of impropriety, but still believed the “state level was doing its best to self-destruct.”
And after bringing up the upcoming events of the WCRC Crab Feast on September 7 (contact me for tickets, by the way – I still have a few left to sell) and our next Central Committee meeting on September 9th, he urged those in attendance to consider joining the Central Committee next year. There will likely be turnover, and “we need some troublemakers” on the Central Committee, said Dave.
The aforementioned WCRC president, E. Dee Monnen (who I referred to last week) was promoting the upcoming First District Bull Roast on September 21 in Queen Anne’s County. Unfortunately, she could not secure a local bus for the event but still urged us to attend and show support for our GOP candidates, including Andy Harris.
Also speaking on behalf of Harris, Shawn Jester added that he was pleased with the Fruitland town hall turnout of over 100 people.
We also heard from District 38C candidate Mary Beth Carozza, who gave kudos to those running the Wicomico Farm and Home Show. (I credited my volunteers; they did most of the hard work. All I did was badger them a few times and bring the big red bin of Central Committee stuff I now need to go through.) She was planning to attend a now-scrubbed legislative hearing on onerous state regulations on the poultry industry as well as visit with the Rural Maryland Council.
And while the Colburn supporter was stating her case against the Daily Times, one observer believed the Senator indeed exhibited “poor judgment” with these expenditures. Personally, I’m hoping they check into the campaign finances of some on the other side of the aisle just as closely.
Our next meeting will be September 23, and as I noted at the top we complete our gubernatorial trifecta with Delegate Ron George introducing himself to the club.
I would like to make one final comment. In many instances, we allow the visiting speakers to speak early figuring they have a long drive back home or to where they are staying. Few stay for the whole meeting, but Charles indeed stuck it out and spoke to several members afterward individually. That sort of gesture is not forgotten.
If you do the math and factor in for various other elected officials along the way, on average any given member of Congress should deliver his or her party’s response to the weekly Presidential address about once a decade. And while I’d have much rather avoided this situation because it’s a member of the party opposing the President who gives this address in response to the President’s message, that opportunity fell yesterday to our own Congressman, Dr. Andy Harris.
Of course, this is something most of us already know but when you consider Harris is already a fairly tall guy (6′-3″ maybe?) the stack of papers dubbed as the “Red Tape Tower” looks pretty imposing. Of course, it’s also an appropriate week to discuss Obamacare as the House again voted for its outright repeal; a measure sure to die a quiet death in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
But as Richard Falknor writes at Blue Ridge Forum, there is a lot more which can be done. Perhaps this statement uttered by Andy Harris had to have the seal of approval from House leadership. continues Falknor, but the House also has the power of the purse if they’re willing to use it to achieve the desired end, that being the scrapping of Obamacare.
As a physician – his specialty is anethesiology – Dr. Harris is obviously familiar with the process of diagnosis, and certainly the sheer mass of regulations incumbent to Obamacare is but one symptom of why it would be detrimental to the American health care system, a patient for whom we are all interested in seeing survive.
But in truth, Obamacare isn’t really so much about the health care system as it is about providing the means to pay for the health care we receive. While it begins via the employer-provided health insurance we have become accustomed to over the past 70 years or so, as that becomes regulated out of existence due to the increasing difficult prospects of profitability for insurers we will begin to see an evolution in the industry where either favored private insurers become the only ones approved for providing coverage – with the reams of regulations in place to assure no smaller competitor can come along to steal market share among perhaps the ultimate in captive audiences – or a situation where the market becomes unbearable for any private provider and a program like Medicare is simply expanded to cover everyone. At that point you have the statist’s dream of complete dependence on the government, regardless of its budgetary impact.
The better solution, and one we should work toward, is to reduce the influence of government on health care. If people want simple and basic catastrophic incident health insurance and don’t mind paying out-of-pocket for routine events, that should be made more readily available – unfortunately, the trend line has run the other way for decades. You should even have the choice of not being insured at all.
Now, I haven’t even talked about the scary scenario of increased IRS influence which comes as an Obamacare feature. If they have asked questions about donors to TEA Party groups, for what else can they use all the information gleaned? That thought alone should cause heartburn among caring Americans.
The other day I had the chance to chat with a fixture of the pro-liberty movement, Andrew Langer. He’s probably best known locally as an activist and internet radio personality, but he also serves as president of the Institute for Liberty. We touched on a lot of these subjects during a fairly lengthy, in-depth conversation.
monoblogue: Let me get my readers up to speed here. You’ve actually been on my blog a few times in various capacities, I’ve noticed that your name has come up quite a few times. But, really the first time I really got to talk to you a great deal was when the TEA Party all got started.
monoblogue: Now, the question I have – and I know you were there at the beginning - you’re actually the president of Institute for Liberty, which was actually around before the TEA Party…
monoblogue: …but was kind of carried along with the TEA Party, but where do you think, in the four years or so the TEA Party has been in existence, where do you think it’s gone and where do you think it’s going to go. Is it dead like some people say?
Langer: Well, no, I mean insofar as the – the movement existed before the TEA Party, and will continue to exist after the TEA Party. Movements are always changing fundamentally; that’s the nature of them. They go a certain distance, and then they stop, and they transform, that’s what happens. So, before the TEA Party movement was the Don’t Go movement, you had the property rights movement, you had the various taxpayers’ movements that have been out there…the TEA Party movement has just been an outpouring of discontent in which things got jelled together very, very easily and lots of different factors came together.
What killed the TEA Party brand was the media itself, which never really understood what the movement was. It never fit into any of their particular boxes, and what the media doesn’t understand the media will work to destroy – especially if that thing they don’t understand is actively working against the things they have advocated for in the past.
So it’s a brand that has been damaged, but the movement goes on – and the movement, as all movements change as I said – different parts of it will focus on different things. (Part of it) will continue to focus on health care and health care reform. You have folks who focus on electoral issues and will continue to focus on electoral issues; a lot of them will focus on state and local races, some focused on Congressional races, some focused on Presidential races.
A lot of – and probably the most positive thing to come out of the movement – was the proliferation of new media, and the raising of the blogosphere as a legitimate force to be reckoned with. That’s certainly going to continue to go on, and obviously there’s been a certain degree of institutionalization of that in things like the Franklin Center and the various Watchdog Wires, and that cannot help but be a good thing.
Between that and the re-connection of people with their government, there is no going back from that, and that’s why, while the movement itself may not be the same thing as it was before, the forces that were at work will continue to be forces that are at work.
monoblogue: Let me back up one second here. You’re President of the Institute for Liberty, and I guess – I guess it would be good to explain what their role is insofar as the entire movement.
Langer: Sure. Well, I mean, and keep in mind I inherited the Institute for Liberty from a friend of mine who has gone off and become a successful author. IFL had been focused on a lot of defense and tech issues – and we still do a little bit of each – we are a nonprofit advocacy organization, which means that we take issues and we advocate on behalf of a particular side from a free-market, limited government perspective.
As it happens, I’ve got a background in mass movement organization. That’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time studying, something that I’ve had some efforts in growing up, and so when the TEA Party movement itself began to form I found I had an expertise that I could lend to that movement, both in themes, organizational structures, and merely offering, as I saw, logistics – you know, how do you organize a rally? What are the elements of a rally? What goes into putting something together? And so, for me, the Institute for Liberty never had the resources of a FreedomWorks or Americans for Prosperity – we didn’t sort of jump on the moniker in a way that TEA Party Patriots or TEA Party Express were able to, but what we could offer was logistical advice and support to people.
In the very real sense in D.C. where we organized – we were part of the first TEA Party rally in February of ’09, to organizing the D.C. Taxpayer TEA Party, to offering our resources for the 9/12 D.C. march…
monoblogue: Which I was at.
Langer: Yeah, and I spoke, and it was great. And then at the state level offering up advice to various TEA Party events and also speaking at various TEA Party events in the state, so – it’s one of those things where for us, it’s never been about credit, it’s never been about glory, it’s never about making us center stage. When the Annapolis TEA Party was being put together, we were there at the start, sort of offering up our advice, but it was very clear that guys like Aaron Jones and his brother, they were wanting to head it up and they were wanting to put it together. We’re not interested in turf fights so we said whatever you need from the Institute for Liberty that we can give to you to help you put this together, we’ll do that. Whether it was financial support, or whether it was saying, hey, you need to get these permits or you need to get that, here’s how you want to do a press release, or here’s how you ought to put together the program…but beyond that, we were not folks who needed to be at the top of anyone’s list – that’s just not what we’re about. So we were happy to act in a supporting capacity.
monoblogue: That’s all right; the movement needs that, too. But another thing…
Langer: Michael, let me just say – and this is very, very key – I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that’s it not all about me, and it’s not all about IFL. And I think we need more folks to recognize that it’s not about their own personal glory, this is about getting stuff done and making change. And making change means making not about you.
monoblogue: I was going to ask about something else, but the way you answered that question, I’m going to slide into something else here…
monoblogue: …about the Maryland Republican Party. (laughs) And the game of personalities we seem to have in that party right now.
monoblogue: I know you had considered running for the (party Chair) post and you had to back out.
monoblogue: Because of…
Langer: Well, I mean, I make no secret about this, it’s one of those things where I almost ran in ’10, and had actually come very close to pulling the trigger. But at that point it was simply one of my donors said that they couldn’t fund IFL, and one of the great problems with the MDGOP Chairman’s position is that it’s an unpaid, full-time volunteer job – and it really would be the equivalent of a full-time job. And with two kids at home – my wife and I have a very equal partnership in child care – I couldn’t take on a full-time volunteer gig and sacrifice the Institute for Liberty at that point; it just couldn’t happen.
In ’12 the circumstances had changed somewhat. But the real problem is that my wife is an active-duty officer in the Air Force and either there’s a strong likelihood we will get transferred this year, and if we don’t get transferred this year there is 100% certainty that we will be transferred by July of 2014. I am not someone who takes on a job like chairman of the Maryland Republican Party without setting some clear goals and working toward those goals – I certainly couldn’t complete any of those goals in the next five months and there was great question in my mind whether I could complete my goals to my satisfaction in seventeen months and at that point we’d be back where we were before.
monoblogue: With an election to run.
Langer: Which is essentially the chaos of a party chairman’s race in which people confuse criticism with infighting, and all the things that go on with that. I’m not talking about the certain specifics of this race right now, but the reasons why I didn’t run are those very clearly. I’m someone who is incredibly optimistic about the Maryland Republican Party; I do not think that all hope is lost. With the amount of disarray and infighting that we have in our state party – I have seen disarray and infighting in other state parties as well, so Maryland is unfortunately not unique, but certainly there are challenges. And as if there are people who are – who want to work toward overcoming those challenges and there are people who are actively working against overcoming those challenges, and there are people who don’t know how to overcome those challenges. But those challenges can be overcome.
I think it starts with that proposition that the Chairman’s job is too big for one person to do, and anybody who thinks that it is a job that can be done by one person – they are either deluding themselves or they’re simply not capable of handling the job.
monoblogue: Well then that actually brings up a little bit of a different question – this will be more effective in a couple years when we select all new officers – should they run as a slate? Should we have a – instead of doing separate elections for each of the (Vice-) Chairs, would it be better to have a particular slate go up and vote for an entire slate rather…
Langer; No, I firmly believe in the freedom of choice, I believe in building coalitions, in the fact that people ought to try to work together. I think part and parcel of that is having individual elections for the different officers. I do, however, believe that more people ought to be involved in the running of the state party. I do believe that we ought to – we might ought to consider looking at – especially if the state party is going to continue to run with having the Chair being an unpaid volunteer position. I think we ought to consider dividing up that Chair’s responsibilities, maybe among co-chairs, I think there ought to be – and this is a conversation that I’ve had with Greg Kline – is that there ought to be more people involved in that operation. Certainly I think if more folks stepped up and were willing to take on more of the chairman’s responsibilities and work with the chairman to take on those responsibilities, I think that you would find more people willing to run for Chair.
A group of my friends and colleagues, we talked to a lot of folks about running for Chair, about who was going to run for Chair, who might run for chair? And by and large, the number one complaint that people has was it is too big of a job for one person to do as a volunteer gig only. In the near term the state party simply does not have the resources to pay someone to be Chairman, especially if they pay an Executive Director, and they shouldn’t. But the point is, so long as it is this haunting huge responsibility for one person, unpaid, the more discouraging it becomes for somebody to run for Chair. Good, qualified people to run for Chair.
And so I had pledged to Greg (Kline) that if he ran I would help him for as long as I could and as much as I could, as long as I’m in Maryland and probably after I leave Maryland I’ll still continue to help Greg because I have every intention of returning to Maryland down the road. Other folks around Greg have pledged to help him and to make sure that his chairmanship is a success. It’s not just voting for Greg, but voting for folks around Greg who are good people and who want to work – and there are a lot of folks who sort of stepped up there and said, yeah, I’ll help out.
It gets to another of my big themes of this Chairman’s race, which is inclusivity vs. exclusivity. And this idea that, in order to build a party, you need to be solicitous of outside opinion and outside help. One of my great criticisms of Diana Waterman – and this is a criticism, it’s not a knock on Diana Waterman’s personality, I think Diana Waterman is a lovely person, she’s a pleasant person. She is someone who avails herself of opportunities to get active. But I will not say that Diana Waterman is someone who’s incredibly solicitous of inclusivity. Case in point is the job that she’s handled, she has demonstrated a record of someone who has not been someone to bring people into the office to work, or bring people into an organization to work. Diana steps in, and she becomes chairman of something, and people are shut out of the process.
You can talk to folks about the Eastern Shore Republican Alliance, which Diana stepped in there and became Chair, and she had a few folks around her who were regional vice-chairs, and the operation went nowhere quickly because it became bureaucracy. It became another thing for Diana Waterman to become chairman of, and it was very clear that she didn’t want any outside help, and that doesn’t build the party.
monoblogue: But it built her resume.
Langer: Well, it built her resume. And that is something I’ve also talked about, which is an issue of confusing promotion with accomplishment. Which I think is something fundamental – confusing the resume with competence. This gets into the two things that happened last week, which calls into question, and I’ve said this before – anyway, I’m getting too far afield here.
It’s this issue of inclusivity, and I’ll give you a prime example: folks who believe this Chairman’s race is only of interest to Central Committee members, and I’ve heard this from a few people that only Central Committee members ought to be briefed as to what’s going on with the state party and why the Chairman’s race is important. That sends a message to your rank-and-file Republicans, who elect Central Committee members, that their opinions are not needed, that they have no place in advocating who should be Chairman because they’re not Central Committee members, they haven’t been involved to the degree that Central Committee members are. That’s fundamentally the wrong message.
Not only is the Chairman’s race of import to every Republican in Maryland who is trying to vote to bring a different vision of government to the state of Maryland, but it’s important on a national scale, too. Because the Chairman, and what the Chairman can do, has an impact on this rules fight that is going on and is going to happen in the next couple of weeks as the RNC Rules Committee meets. And as you can see by what happened (two weeks ago), the Chairman has an incredible amount of influence as to what happens at that Rules Committee, either by appointing someone who is dedicated to undoing the damage that happened in Tampa over the summer, or by someone who is by all accounts part and parcel of the damage that happened over the summer.
monoblogue: Well, let me – I will say this: in refuting the idea that the race is just of interest to Central Committee members, my readership has just surged as this whole thing has developed. A lot more people come to my website to read about the situation than the 300 Central Committee people.
I am curious about one other thing – this is where I’m going to wrap up. The Red Maryland network and the radio show that you did, how did that all come together? I’ve been kind of curious how that all started.
Langer: I had been wanting to do a podcast for awhile – I experimented with a podcast through a thing called HipCast because a buddy of mine, Phil Kerpen, had said something about doing a HipCast, you could do it by phone. But I didn’t like the audio quality there. And so at CPAC in 2011 I launched LibertyLine, which was an actual semi-slick podcast where I was upping the production values, I got a good microphone, I was doing interviews by phone – and remember, Mark Newgent was, at the time, a neighbor of mine. So Mark came in and sat in with me a couple of times.
(Meanwhile) Greg (Kline) and Brian (Griffiths) had done their Red Maryland show by BlogTalk, and they decided they were going to do – they wanted to create an actual network and they apparently talked to Mark and Mark said, hey neighbor, I know you’re doing this, would you like to instead do a weekly show with me instead of, you’re doing your thing one interview or two interviews three times a week why don’t you change schedules and come on and do this with me? And so that’s how it was born.
Greg and I started doing it, and then he and I started shopping it around – we both had contacts up at (W)BAL, so we’d done some fill-in work on BAL’s ’1090 At Night’, you know, made inroads to the Mike O’Meara Show, helping out, doing some stuff with those guys – so that’s how it is. Greg and Brian wanted to develop an actual sort of podcast political network, understanding how the whole industry is changing, and that’s what they did. They’ve got programming five out of seven nights now.
monoblogue: Yeah, I really think that’s interesting – now I am not a person that does a lot of radio per se, but I can tell you from just checking around that it’s almost like people are getting into multimedia moreso – I mean I started my blog in 2005 and nobody had ever heard of blogging, let alone internet radio. Now you have people that do video, radio – we’re our own little subculture of media here, and it’s kind of interesting to see where it’s going to go in the future.
Langer: Well, this is what I’m saying – this is one of the great things that’s come out of the TEA Party movement. It is that there’s this proliferation of new media – Mark and I, when we were together before Mark moved back to the Western Shore, when he and I would do our show weekly we would do a radio component and a video component. We would get set up over here because Mark’s house was chaos at night and mine was a little more subdued, and so all the folks that broadcast together on the Red Maryland network, they do a video component so they’re on both BlogTalkRadio and UStream, you could watch or listen. It’s a little bit harder now that Mark and I aren’t in the same place, although I’d like to do that – there’s something that’s lost when we’re not able to give each other visual cues about things, but that’s the nature – the nature of media in the future is going to be narrowcasting, which means you go to a subset of the population, so for us it’s Marylanders and conservative Marylanders that we’ve been wanting to branch out a little bit into a little more pop culture so we can bring in a wider audience, and it is all on demand.
So one of the big debates that we have at Red Maryland radio is BlogTalkRadio the platform to use, is live radio – see, for me, live broadcast is overrated because the bulk of our listenership comes from the downloads. I look at podcasts like the Mike O’Meara Show – I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but Mike was on the radio for almost 25 years. They moved to a podcast format – they get maybe 150-200 listeners who listen or watch live on their live feed, but they get 35,000 downloads a day, because folks like to be able to pick and choose when they will listen to their podcasts. That’s the nature of the future.
And so that is another area where I think Greg has a much superior track record is this embracing of the new media, is this embracing of the blogosphere, in a way that the party simply, for whatever reason, has not done so – not only because they just don’t get it, but also because they confuse criticism with disloyalty. I think Greg knows in the end that some of his biggest critics are going to be his “buddies” at Red Maryland. And we know that guys like Joe Steffen are going to ream him a new one. I don’t think he minds it so much, I think he recognizes – he’s adult enough to recognize that there comes a time when you have to be open to criticism. That maybe one of the other big barriers this party has faced. Dissent is inherently patriotic, and certainly in Maryland it’s a cherished right.
monoblogue: (laughs) Yeah…
Langer: Folks who lead the party have to be more adult about that criticism, and recognize it’s going to come with the territory. And if you’re not taking flak, you’re not over the target.
monoblogue: There you go. I mean, I… (laughs) I’m sitting here chuckling because I’m kind of the rabblerouser on that front for several years.
monoblogue: I know just how – my blog and my political career on the Central Committee started almost the same time, so (laughs) they’re well aware…
Langer: For me, it’s one of those things where I had to step down from my Central Committee for my mental health. I was in a situation in which I had four people on my Central Committee who, if I said the sky was blue, they would swear the sky was pink.
It’s one of those things where at some point you have to make that calculus “is my time going to be better spent doing other things?” For me, it’s my show, obviously, with Mark, and the stuff I do with IFL.
But this Chairman’s race is of import, which is why I’ve gotten involved, and why Greg has my support. I make no bones about that fact.
monoblogue: Well, we appreciate it. That’s going to be a lot to write about.
Indeed it was, as I spent part of my Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday evening transcribing this lengthy interview. Maybe I should look into a podcast.
But I thank Andrew for his time, and look forward to speaking with next week’s guest.
In a move that’s truly not surprising, an e-mail was sent by interim Maryland Republican Chair Diana Waterman to Central Committee members regarding her appointment to the RNC Rules Committee. With the understanding that this can be changed at any time, the RNC validated the Pope appointment yesterday:
I have now heard from all three of you indicating that there are two votes for Louis Pope and one vote for Nicolee Ambrose. Therefore, Louis Pope is the representative of Maryland on the Rules Committee.
In answer to Ms. Ambrose’ questions below:
1. Yes, we are ruling that a state may re-caucus.
2. Yes, that means Maryland could re-caucus at a later time.
This is the text of what Diana sent to Central Committee members:
I wanted to share an update on the situation I wrote to you about concerning the RNC Standing Rules Committee. While those who are issuing their criticisms may continue, the fact is, as confirmed by the RNC, that the committee membership was not considered set or seated until after the March 1st deadline and even beyond that deadline a state’s RNC representatives may caucus and nominate a new member. I am attaching an email issued today by the RNC that clearly states there was no procedural issue with Louis Pope’s re-appointment. We caucused Thursday by email to clarify the nomination of Louis Pope to remain on the Rules Committee.
You have an important decision to make on April 20th. Electing a chairman should be about choosing the person that you feel is best qualified in all aspects of leading the Party. If you believe that the decision on who goes to the rules committee is your number one priority, then you should vote accordingly. If you believe that we need to build our party from the ground up, recruit and train candidates for all offices in all districts, grow the farm team, and expand our donor base to raise much needed funds to provide the resources and tools for our candidates, I ask that you vote for me. I may not always agree with you, but I will always listen and let you know where I stand. Working together is the only way we will make our party a force to be reckoned with.
Of course, these goals aren’t as mutually exclusive as Waterman would make them out to be, and her decision means the same Republican party which has done its best to maintain its part in the Beltway political establishment will continue to get support from Maryland.
Yet those same Ambrose supporters who Waterman dismisses also will most likely be the ones who “build the party from the ground up, recruit and train candidates for all offices in all districts, grow the farm team, and expand our donor base.” Unfortunately, they are the ones turned off by the continual capitulation of national Republicans to the liberal agenda and who feel last summer’s rule changes were symptomatic of a party which no longer seems to care about its grassroots.
Nor would this have come up if the Rules Committee change hadn’t been the first major decision Waterman made as Chair – the ink hadn’t even dried on Alex Mooney’s letter of resignation and here she was changing the appointment. Yes, it was within her right to do so as the head of the party – even if that role is only for 60 days – but the speed in which this was done seems to indicate somebody who is a influential member of the state party got into Diana’s ear really quickly. My money is on Audrey Scott.
Needless to say, opponent Greg Kline wasted little time putting out his response:
As you have seen with the release today from Interim State Party Chairman Diana Waterman, Louis Pope has formally replaced Nicolee Ambrose as Maryland’s representative on the RNC Rules Committee. In Mrs. Waterman’s own words, she notes that she chose to replace Ms. Ambrose with Mr. Pope on February 28th after Ms. Ambrose’s letter of appointment had been received by the RNC on February 19th.
This decision and the subsequent explanation from Mrs. Waterman once again goes to show that the Interim Chair lacks the temperament to lead the party through the difficult challenges we face. It once again goes to show the extraordinary need for transformational leadership that works not to divide the party, but to bring the party together. And as my first act as Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, I will reappoint Nicolee Ambrose as Maryland’s Representative on the RNC Rules Committee.
As chairman, I would bring a style of leadership that is more inclusive and more transparent to our state party and advocate for such leadership on the national level. As chairman, I would also view criticism as an opportunity to improve and to dialogue and not react to it as a personal attack.
I ask for your support to lead all of our party.
Yet one can ask whether the shoe would simply be on the other foot if Kline wins. I seem to recall the establishment party got a little upset when Jim Pelura wouldn’t act as they wanted him to, and wallets were snapped shut all over the state. Of course, when fundraising dried up the Executive Committee had yet another excuse to hound a good man out of office, and I fear the same may happen with Kline unless a lot of new donors step up to the plate. The party has its share of rainmakers who have helped to carry it in the past, but new sources of income may need to be found.
If it were up to Baltimore County Central Committee member Eugene Craig III, though, Diana would be ousted from the Executive Committee entirely. In reaction to the Ambrose incident, he has circulated an e-mail threatening a removal vote at the party convention; one which accuses Waterman of “one of the most disgraceful actions you can take to limit the influence of true grass roots activist” by replacing Ambrose. Craig goes on to say that “your loyalty does not lie with the Heart and Soul (the grass roots activist) of the Maryland Republican Party, thus you are unfit to serve as chair. In this short time span as interim Chair you have done more damage to our party then the Democrats could do in an entire election cycle.”
I have also asked fellow Waterman opponent Collins Bailey for a reaction, but have not received his take on this yet. However, he is also on record as saying that, should he win, he would restore Ambrose to the Rules Committee.
I’m always leery of pieces of legislation which imply they’re about “fairness” and the Marketplace Fairness Act is no exception.
I was alerted to this by a group called Americans for Job Security, which called the MFA something where “our shared conservative principles matter”:
Limiting the reach of the federal government by returning power to the states. Leveling the playing field so government gets out of the business of picking winners and losers. Ending the federal subsidies that put one part of an industry over another.
There is currently a bill before the U.S. House and Senate that embraces each of these principles, the Marketplace Fairness Act. This legislation is an important step towards protecting taxpayers and enacting our shared principles.
Unfortunately, the Marketplace Fairness Act does none of these things.
For example, rather than return power to the states, the MFA “requires that states must simplify their sales tax laws.” To me, that sounds like yet another federal mandate.
The MFA, it is argued, doesn’t level the playing field, either. A coalition of conservative groups writing under the R Street Institute states the case that:
…(T)he bill would create a decidedly “unlevel” playing field between brick-and-mortar and online sales. Brick-and-mortar sales across the country are governed by a simple rule that allows the business to collect sales tax based on its physical location, not that of the item’s buyer. Under the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” that convenient collection standard would be denied for online sales, forcing remote retailers to interrogate their customers about their place of residence, look up the appropriate rules and regulations in thousands of taxing jurisdictions across the country, and then collect and remit sales tax for that distant authority.
Nor can I find the federal subsidies proponents refer to – presumably that’s a backhanded way of referencing previous Supreme Court decisions which said collecting tax for multiple jurisdictions was too much of a burden for small businesses. And whether there’s software out there which can do this is besides the point – unless it’s constantly updated with the changes made by any of the thousands of taxing jurisdictions on a regular basis, they run the risk of flouting the law. Proponents use the analogy of dealing with real-time shipping, but real-time shipping is only market-based and not a legal requirement.
The real reason for the Marketplace Fairness Act is admitted by proponents at the end of their spiel:
…(T)he Marketplace Fairness Act will help the many states now facing significant budget shortfalls. Although some suggest these States have a “spending problem” rather than a “revenue problem,” it is important to recognize that these States have already been reducing their spending levels year-over-year and increasing collection and enforcement efforts based upon their existing sales and use tax laws.
Maybe other states are reducing their spending levels, but I know Maryland isn’t reducing its spending anytime soon.
We know what advantage states with lower taxes have over the states with higher rates – all one has to do is see how many big-ticket businesses locate themselves just across the Delaware line from Salisbury. And although Maryland residents are supposed to declare their sales tax for items purchased in Delaware, the general attitude (one I share) can be summed up in one two-word phrase: Molon labe. Needless to say, cross-border businesses (particularly gas stations this year) are forever salivating at the prospect of higher taxes for Maryland residents.
A primarily sales-tax free Internet is a boon for consumers. The companies pushing for this marketplace “fairness” are a collection of large retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, which would be able to afford the overhead required to make these changes while small mom-and-pop outlets would be hindered. If the recovery is about jobs, I think on balance more would be lost than created if MFA becomes the law of the land.
Update: While I was writing this piece, I thought about Martin O’Malley’s bid to tax internet purchases last year and Robert Stacy McCain’s reaction to that fiasco came to mind. Just had to find it.
But instead of particular states trying to sniff their way into the honey pot of e-commerce money, in this case the federal government wants the whole enchilada. Once the mechanism is in place, what’s to stop the feds from using the precedent to add their own national sales tax on Internet purchases? While I am a proponent of the FairTax, I don’t see anyone repealing the Sixteenth Amendment anytime soon.