Earning my presidential vote: trade and job creation

I am finally approaching the halfway point in this quest, and pocketbook issues have considerable importance. This section is the first of two consecutive segments dealing with the economic end of government. Trade and job creation, to me, are the areas of government which most directly affect your income. (The next section, taxation, is the other end of the pocketbook equation.)

As I have noted throughout, you can work your way through the series by starting here and working forward as issues gain in weighting my decision.

In five bullet points or less, our next President should:

  • Revisit the Trans-Pacific Partnership (and other deals) to see if they can be salvaged as a good deal for the United States – which provides the majority of the GDP in each deal and should have the most favorable terms while maintaining our sovereignty. Otherwise, I believe in free trade that is fair, so we should work to isolate countries who don’t play by the rules.
  • Get government out of the way! According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, regulations cost business $1.885 trillion in 2015. That has to stop.
  • Rather than knuckle under to the knuckleheads who think we should have a “living wage,” the federal minimum wage should be abolished entirely. States are free to continue the lunacy and watch their businesses suffer the consequences when minimum wages get too high for the market.
  • Be an advocate and cheerleader for the right-to-work movement.
  • Invest in necessary federal infrastructure, particularly highways – the “post roads” of the modern era. Not only does this benefit job creation but it would assist in getting goods from place to place more quickly.

So where do my contenders stand? Let’s find out how many of the nine points they will receive.

Castle: Opposed to TPP as “the worst of our free-trade agreements.” Should freely trade with all nations but formal agreements cost us sovereignty. (Facebook)

Hedges: Opposes Republican policy of giving away our jobs through free trade.

Supports “appropriate employment at a living wage available to all citizens who are able to work.”

“The importing of goods from and the offshoring of services to other nations are the primary causes of lost jobs and impoverished communities in America. We favor free trade only on a reciprocal basis among equals. We will impose balancing tariffs on all goods imported from countries whose wage scales, labor benefits, and environmental protections are not similar to our own. No nation which fails to protect the civil rights of its citizens may be accorded ‘most favored nation.'” (party platform)

As a party they also support right-to-work states and would index Congressional pay to the minimum wage.

Hoefling: “Politicians constantly talk about ‘jobs, jobs, jobs,’ even though they don’t have any jobs to offer that aren’t government jobs, or jobs that are subsidized by the taxpayers, and by debt shoved off on our grandchildren. As if we don’t already have more than enough of those kinds of jobs, right?

Here’s another thing: while working for a paycheck is certainly an honorable thing, it is not the American ideal. The ideal is for YOU to OWN your own piece of this country.

My goal, should I become the governor, is not to offer jobs to my fellow Iowans, or to use your money to bribe some company to provide you with a job. My goal is to secure your rights, and to then create an economic environment of FREEDOM, low taxes, reasonable, minimal regulation, and OWNERSHIP, an environment that will quite naturally lead to productivity and prosperity for all.

And, of course, the bonus is, companies will line up to do business in a state like that. You know it’s true.

‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’?

NO!

OWN, OWN, OWN!” (as Iowa gubernatorial candidate, 2014)

Johnson: Reduce the administrative burden. Level the playing field. Incentivize job growth.

As governors, both Gary Johnson and Bill Weld supported policies that incentivized job growth. In 2012, Gov. Johnson was praised as having the best “job creation” record of all presidential candidates. And Weld transformed Massachusetts from having the highest to the lowest unemployment rate of any industrialized state in less than 8 years.

Yet, Johnson has said that, “As Governor, I didn’t create a single job.” His point, of course, being that government doesn’t “create” jobs. Entrepreneurs, businesses, and economic prosperity are the building blocks for job growth.

Governors Johnson and Weld believe that we must allow a regulatory and tax environment that incentivizes fairness. Not one that picks winners and losers. The purpose of government regulation is to protect citizens from bad actors and the harm they might do to health, safety, and property. But regulation should not be used to manipulate the economy, to manage private lives and businesses, or to place unnecessary burdens on those who make our economy work.

Today, the reason so much corruption and power thrive in Washington, D.C., is that powerful corporate interests actually benefit from over-regulation. After all, they have the resources to comply with onerous laws. But for the average American, entrepreneur, or small businessperson, they don’t have teams of high-priced attorneys to help them navigate the bureaucracy.

We simply need to apply common sense to regulatory policy. Let’s get rid of the unnecessary laws and taxes that siphon the resources businesses use to create the jobs we need.

Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld helped create the conditions for job growth in their states. In the White House, they will create the conditions for massive job growth across the entire country. (campaign website)

McMullin: American businesses export more than $2.2 trillion per year of goods and services. The demand for American exports supported 11.5 million jobs, an increase of more than 50 percent over the past 20 years. On average, these jobs pay 18 percent more than jobs that are unrelated to exports. For all these reasons, Evan believes that trade is an engine of prosperity and that well-designed trade agreements can help our economy grow even more.

At the same time, we can do more to help American workers adjust and thrive in the 21st century. Since 2000, the U.S. economy has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs, although more than 12 million Americans still work at factories. The main driver of this trend is advanced technology, especially advances in robotics and computing. Today, U.S. automakers produce just as many cars as they did 20 years ago, yet the auto industry employs 300,000 fewer workers, a reduction of almost 25 percent.

Therefore, Evan believes that one of the most important ways to help American workers is to make education more affordable while supporting the growth of technical schools, online education, and work-based training programs. It is essential to support these alternatives to the typical full-time four-year degree program, which may not be a good fit for older students who need to work and support their families while studying. While U.S. factories have cut millions of jobs for those with a high school education or less, hiring of college graduates remains stable, while hiring of those with graduate degrees continues to demonstrate strong growth.

Around the globe—even in China—manufacturing employment is shrinking rapidly as factories rely more and more on advanced technology. Thus, using tariffs to raise the cost of Chinese imports won’t bring those jobs back to the United States. In fact, it will kill American jobs, because China and others will block U.S. exports, which now support more than 11 million jobs.

In addition, raising the cost of imports will force hard-pressed American families to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more each year for basic necessities, from clothing to pots and pans and diapers.

Evan supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement recently signed by 12 countries, including Japan, Australia, and Vietnam. The TPP will eliminate tariffs for all the countries that sign, but it will not go into effect until ratified by Congress, which must vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without making any changes to the agreement.

One of the biggest advantages of the TPP is that reducing tariffs to zero favors American companies. Right now, America has low tariffs, not far above zero. In contrast, other countries’ tariffs will plunge when the TPP goes into effect, opening up their markets to U.S. exports. TPP is still a good deal for those countries, because it gives them better access to the biggest market in the world (ours) and the third biggest (Japan).

TPP also helps create a level playing field between U.S. workers and their counterparts overseas. If foreign companies lower their costs by mistreating workers and polluting the environment, then its puts American companies at an unfair disadvantage. However, TPP has the strongest protections for labor and the environment of any major trade deal.

Finally, TPP is important for national security reasons. Our allies in Asia are watching to see whether the U.S. still has the ability to set the rules of the road, or whether their security depends on submitting to China. That is why the secretary of defense has said, “TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier.” If the U.S. abandons TPP, China is likely to intensify its campaign of intimidation in the South China Sea. Thus, support for TPP is a win-win proposition; it enhances our security and reinforces the growth of job-creating American export industries.

Americans are ready to work hard to provide for their families, but fewer and fewer are capable of finding the good jobs necessary to support a middle-class standard of living and help them to pursue their dreams. If we accept the slow growth of the Obama years this won’t change. Only if the economy begins to grow faster—at a rate of more than 3 percent year instead of less than 2—will good jobs become more widely available.

Right now, there are three major roadblocks standing in the way of a stronger economy: a tax code that rewards special interests while hurting small businesses, excessive regulations that cost businesses almost $2 trillion per year, and runaway entitlement spending that multiplies the national debt.

Evan McMullin will dismantle these roadblocks. (Editor’s note: see my next part, taxation, for point 1).

Federal regulations play an essential role in making sure that Americans have clean air, clean water, and safe food. Yet the blizzard of intrusive regulations issued by the Obama administration have gone far beyond what is necessary to protect our health and the natural environment. Instead, these regulations serve as an invisible tax that raises the cost of doing business and prevents firms from creating jobs. As president, Evan McMullin would direct federal agencies to identify a clear problem that needs to be fixed before resorting to further regulation. If an agency believes regulation is necessary, it would still have to prove that the benefits of a proposed regulation are greater than its costs. The same test would also be applied to existing regulations, which would be lifted if they were not achieving their goals.

If the United States can’t get its national debt under control, the government will eventually have to impose harsh taxes or pursue other policies that would drive the economy into a deep recession, destroying millions of jobs. The number one cause of runaway debt—now more than $19 trillion—is the cost of entitlements. Our country needs Social Security and Medicare to ensure the health of senior citizens and prevent them from falling into poverty. We also need Medicaid to provide health care to the needy. Yet these programs are so inefficient, wasteful, and susceptible to fraud that their costs are out of control. The result is that the government must borrow vast sums to keep the programs going. The Obama administration has already added $9 trillion to the debt, almost as much as every previous administration combined.

With a smarter tax code, streamlined regulations, and entitlement reform, the U.S. economy can begin to grow again at the rates it did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Evan McMullin believes that America should be the best place in the world for innovation, entrepreneurship and opportunity. We must reform a system that too often benefits the politically connected and the corporate elite, while leaving too many Americans without good jobs. By running for president, Evan McMullin is giving voters the opportunity to get the economy moving again instead of doubling down on the status quo. (campaign website)

**********

I wish Darrell Castle had been more specific and forthcoming on his economic policy. I’m sort of stuck here – on the one hand, the fealty to the Constitution he advocates would mean he would properly address most of my issues, but there are always the provisos and conditions to watch out for. I consider this a wasted opportunity for him. 3 points.

Jim Hedges has somewhat of a right idea on free trade, but the rub comes in dictating what policies other nations may have – particularly when we are so overregulated. Moreover, his stance on jobs at a “living wage” is troubling, and suggests he may not be as strongly in favor of the right-to-work platform plank. I can only give him 1.5 points.

I suspect Tom Hoefling is speaking of entrepreneurship, which is indeed sorely lacking in this country. Even better, it is a philosophy that is scalable to a national level, although the details could really be fleshed out more. He has the same problem as Castle insofar as the specifics aren’t being put out there and easily available. I give him more credit since he addressed the more important aspect of job creation. 4 points.

Gary Johnson gets it insofar as the philosophy goes, and he makes an extremely salient point regarding how the regulatory climate stifles competition. Big corporations become big donors, and then they move into the realm of lobbying for regulations designed to keep small players from gaining market share. But the question is how much will he do to promote “fairness” vs. to promote “opportunity.” There is a subtle but important difference, because fairness implies equality of outcome and that isn’t the way a free market works. Maybe I’m being picky with the term, but generally these campaign issue statements are thought through to make a certain point. 5.5 points.

Evan McMullin is much more sold on TPP than I am, particularly because China is not a party to it. One has to ask what we are giving up if other nations are suddenly going to reduce their tariffs to our level. I don’t think not having access to economies in Chile, Brunei, and several other signatories will break us.

And there’s the idea of justifying regulations – well, any idiot will tell you that of course the government agency that writes and enforces regulations will say they are justified. This needs to be determined independently of the government because job one for a bureaucrat is preserving his job, not solving problems. It’s also telling to me that Evan really didn’t discuss these educational alternatives in workforce training in his general education segment. Here he seems to want more government involvement, not less.

Note that I moved the taxation part of job creation to the next installment, but left the part about entitlements in because he also makes those same points there. I’ll discuss that subject in due course. Anyhow, Evan doesn’t do that well in this category with his political-speak. 2.5 points.

As I noted above, it’s certain my next part is taxation.

Showing their colors

On several occasions, since my brief dalliance with a company and website called American Certified – which, alas, is no longer in business – I have cited a group I first ran across around that timeframe called the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM.) I have also pointed out that their perspective comes from their backing, as it is a conglomeration mainly composed of unionized steel manufacturers – so I always assumed they were more in line with the Democratic Party than the Republicans, which traditionally have been more in favor of free trade rather than protectionism.

So I had an e-mail in my back pocket that I was going to mention in a piece like this. Originally it laid out AAM’s plans for both conventions, but I received an updated version of their plans for the Democratic convention confirming that’s where the effort would be.

Here was their slate for the GOP in Cleveland:

AAM is hosting the Keep it Made in America tent, a space located just outside the Quicken Loans arena where we are chatting with convention-goers about ways to grow American manufacturing jobs. We also are speaking at a number of state delegation breakfasts, sharing with local, state and national lawmakers the issues that we think must be on their policy agendas.

AAM president Scott Paul added in a blog post last week:

(T)rade and the atrophy of middle-income factory jobs are dominating the national political discussion. Trump talks about it constantly. But he’s not alone, and this is the first time in the post-World War II era that we’ve seen both party candidates take the issue so seriously.

It’s better late than never. Before you write off Trump’s bellicose “45 percent tariff” rhetoric as low-brow protectionism – or find the change of heart on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Hillary Clinton experienced on the trail a little too politically convenient – keep in in mind that a lot of our fellow Americans agree with this sentiment. They certainly do here in Ohio.

The logic behind free trade, though, is that nations benefit when value is maximized and it may be possible to add more value to a product in another location than it is in America. Yet the AAM argues – correctly to an extent – that nations like China take advantage of the rules by not dealing fairly through a policy of subsidizing industries and currency manipulation.

On the other hand, though, AAM will certainly be pulling out all the stops for the Democrats in Philadelphia, including what they describe as a “scene-setting Town Hall meeting”:

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is hosting a conversation about why these issues matter for our economy, our children’s future and our politics today.

Recent focus group and polling data show these topics are driving voters’ decisions on which candidate to select. Both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump have been aggressive in defining their plans for trade and manufacturing.

Confirmed Speakers Include:

  • Gene Sperling, key economic adviser to Hillary Clinton
  • Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers
  • Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA 3rd District)
  • Mark Mellman, award-winning pollster for Democratic leaders
  • Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing
  • Mike Langford, president of the Utility Workers Union of America
  • Tom Conway, international vice president of the United Steelworkers

This to me represents less of an exchange of information as it would be an echo chamber.

Protectionism and punishing corporations that choose to offshore manufacturing is one possible answer, of course. But the thing I always think about when this conversation comes up is the East German Trabant automobile that was hopelessly stuck decades behind the times when Germany finally reunited in 1990. Because it had a protected market, what incentive did Trabant have for improvement?

Unfortunately, a short-sighted government-centered approach that saw manufacturers as cash cows for big government and favored the big guys over leaner, hungrier start-ups through regulation too burdensome for smaller competitors to withstand has done as much (or more) to curtail American manufacturing as our trade policies have. While I certainly don’t believe many of our larger trade agreements were tailored to suit our interests enough, for the most part it’s the complexity of the deals and how they worked out exceptions for certain industries and players that is the issue. If we simply said “we won’t tariff your stuff if you don’t tariff ours” and both sides stuck to it, eventually the market would find its own level. America should be able to use the advantages of a predictable legal system, well-educated workforce, abundant sources of energy, and outstanding transportation network, but they are negated by the policies in place that I describe above.

The generation of my grandparents won World War II by being able to produce within our borders much of the material and equipment needed to keep a two-front fighting force going. Can anyone honestly say we could do that today? I don’t wish us to be on a war footing, but I’m convinced America can be a place that makes things again. It’s a simple matter of policy over protectionism, and adopting a hands-off approach at the federal level (yes, there’s that limited government idea of mine again) would be the best course of action. I just don’t think AAM would be willing to listen to that argument.

WCRC meeting – March 2016

It was double-barreled action at last night’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting, perhaps appropriate because one of the speakers was Second Amendment advocate and Congressional hopeful Mike Smigiel. He was joined by a fellow challenger seeking the open United States Senate seat from Maryland, Dave Wallace.

Because we had out-of-town speakers, we quickly went through the usual business of reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introducing the elected officials and distinguished guests among us. I noted the February minutes were online, and treasurer-elect Muir Boda gave us a financial update.

Because Wallace was the first to arrive, he spoke first.

As an opening statement, Wallace vowed to represent all of Maryland “for the first time in 30 years.” He pointed out that “we’ve been going (in) the wrong direction,” so it was time to “alter our course until you get it just right.” Instead of the government’s favored cure of increasing taxes and regulations, Wallace advocated for what he termed a “maximum wage” that government can’t supply.

Wallace spoke at length about the Reagan years in his remarks, adding that he knew a number of his associates and opining in response to a question that we “needed a Jack Kemp model” for a Senator. He contrasted himself with prospective opponent Chris Van Hollen, who Wallace challenged for Congress in 2014, calling Van Hollen the “superfailure” of the supercommittee that, among other things, cut the defense budget. Echoing Reagan on the topic, Dave noted he believed in peace through strength.

Yet one topic Wallace expounded more at length on was a subject where I think Reagan erred, immigration. Dave stated his belief that the situation at the border now contributed to the drug problem; moreover, Wallace stated that up to 15% of the Syrian refugees were embedded by ISIS, and added that on his website was a petition calling on Congress to confront the refugee problem. If immigration wasn’t dealt with, said Wallace, we’ll end up with an America where we won’t want to raise our kids – this was a problem of culture and values.

On topics brought up by the audience, Wallace established his limited-government argument with a call to reduce the federal involvement in education, vowing to eliminate the Department of Education and saying “Common Core has got to go.” He thought that it’s not the role of the federal government to enforce the rules of education, but rightfully was that of the states. Additionally, rather than the “apple” that represents the preferred politicians of the teachers’ unions, Wallace believed candidates on the conservative side should use a school bus as their logo.

Shifting gears to the oversight responsibility of Congress, Wallace chided the body for not doing that job. He called for the heads of all 180 welfare programs to be brought before Congress to justify their programs’ existence.

Wallace concluded that Maryland needs someone in the Senate who will partner with Larry Hogan, and rather than the supply-side economics associated with Reagan conservatism Wallace envisioned a model based on production and ability to work that would lift our economy.

Later, when the conversation turned to a bill regarding forced unionization in Maryland, Dave added that he supported a federal right-to-work bill and would sponsor it in the next Congress. Dave believed that in right-to-work states, “unions were more concerned and responsive.”

The winner of an award for “upholding the Constitution,” Mike Smigiel spent 12 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, including the creation of the TEA Party Caucus. In his last four, Smigiel remarked, he shared office space and a desk in the chamber with local Delegate Mike McDermott, with whom he made “a pretty strong team.”

Yet the reason Smigiel sought the Congressional seat was his disgust with the voting record of the incumbent. Calling it a vote for funding Obamacare, executive amnesty, and abortion, Mike blasted the Republican leadership and Andy Harris for supporting the CRomnibus bill in 2014. He remarked that Democrats don’t settle or think they can’t accomplish their goals, but Republicans in Congress give up their principles far too easily.

Other bills that Smigiel hammered Harris about were an in-state tuition for illegal immigrants bill both voted on in the Maryland General Assembly as well as a bill regarding country of origin labeling – Harris backed a bill that allowed companies to not label for country of origin, about which Smigiel asked if you wouldn’t like to know if your chicken you thought was locally produced was instead imported from China.

(While the bill seems to be anti-consumer, it is worth noting that it is a response to a WTO complaint from Canada.)

Other Harris measures that angered Smigiel was a bill which he alleged became part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and Harris’s support of a bill opposed by state regulators who want Exelon Energy to meet certain conditions before their permit to operate the Conowingo Dam is renewed for over 40 years.

On the other hand, during the eight years of the O’Malley administration Mike sued them three times for actions he considered unconstitutional. In one case regarding a $1.5 billion budget item, the state court ruled against him quickly but took five years to render their formal opinion because the “question is too political.” When it comes to matters such as these, “you stand on principle and you fight,” said Smigiel.

Those principles are embodied in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, copies of which Smigiel passed out before he began speaking. But Congress was seeing its authority usurped by “a potentate President,” added Mike, who said he would be the guy to shout out “you lie!” His principle was that of “the Constitution first, always.” We needed to have the government run in accordance with the Constitution; to that end, Smigiel advocated for single-subject bills that would make legislating easier to understand.

I asked him a question which addressed a tactic the presumptive Democratic nominee for the seat, Jim Ireton, was using of painting Harris as a do-nothing Congressman. Smigiel reminded us that he had worked across the aisle with Heather Mizeur on a pre-natal care bill that got mothers care they needed while saving thousands of abortions, as well as decriminalization of marijuana legislation.

That ended the speaking portion of the program, although both Wallace and Smigiel stuck around to talk with the voters once we finished our business.

In his Central Committee report, Mark McIver announced we were still seeking applicants for the Board of Education seats opening up later this summer. He also distributed a proof copy of a mailing to be sent out to unaffiliated and certain Democrat voters reminding them that they can still change their voter registration until April 5th. The mailing is a joint effort between the Central Committee and Republican Club.

Updating us on the Ted Cruz campaign, Julie Brewington assessed that “things are going pretty well.” They are looking for volunteers to make phone calls as well as some local sign locations. Dave Wallace chimed in to say he was also looking for the same thing locally. He had brought a few yard signs and shirts as well.

(Unfortunately, the ones on the bottom left didn’t end up in the garbage. #NeverTrump.)

Shelli Neal, who was speaking for Jackie Wellfonder on behalf of Senate candidate Kathy Szeliga, announced they would be knocking on doors soon.

In club news, Woody Willing announced our scholarship winners had been selected and would be introduced next month. Jim Jester told us that he would be coordinating this year’s Crab Feast, for which we needed to nail down the date and location.

Finally. John Palmer from the Board of Education revealed that Dr. Donna Hanlon would be the new Wicomico County superintendent of schools. and one of her first challenges would be redistricting.

So the candidates said their piece, the audience got their questions in, and we will roll along up to next month’s meeting on April 25 with a speaker to be determined. Chances are this will be our legislative wrapup meeting.

Odds and ends number 82

It’s time once again to go through my e-mailbox and share some of the more interesting things I saved for just such a purpose.

There wasn’t much play from this in the national media, but recently the Americans for Limited Government group released a poll they commissioned from pollster Pat Caddell that showed wide opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement:

Republicans are even more likely to oppose bad trade deals than Independents or Democrats. Once they find out what’s in it, Republican voters overwhelmingly oppose TPP, 66 percent to 15 percent. Democrats only oppose it 44 percent to 30 percent, and Independents oppose it 52 percent to 19 percent.

TPP does sound like a bad deal, but the key words are “once they find out what’s in it.” To me, it’s a little bit of a push poll but in reading some of the other findings we can deduce that Americans are a little pissed off about the state of their affairs, blaming the politics of Washington for their plight. I’ll come back to that in a bit, but as for the TPP and its opposition the ALG group has put together a website with their thoughts on the deal.

While as I noted the national media didn’t make much of it, the question did make it into the Miami GOP debate.

I noted that the voters Caddell surveyed were upset with inside the Beltway politics, and in a recent column at Conservative Review Dan Bongino discusses why.

Whenever government tries to pick economic winners and losers, it usually picks the losers, while the political winners continue to get re-elected because their campaign coffers are filled with business lobbyists eager to get their snouts in the taxpayer-funded trough.

In so many ways this explains the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to the left of center and Ted Cruz (who Bongino has endorsed) to the right. For years I’ve known that the object of government is not to solve a problem but to perpetuate the solution to make the agency tasked to deal with it indispensable, yet those whose livelihood depends on big government continue to stay close to the seat of power. In Maryland it’s no surprise that the wealthiest areas are those right outside Washington, D.C. I’ve contended for about as many years that if not for the nation’s capital Maryland would be in the same boat as West Virginia.

Speaking of Trump, I suppose I’ll add my couple pennies to the nearly $2 billion of free media he’s received. But staying on the subject of Bongino, he discusses the protests Trump is enduring, most famously in Chicago but after Dan went to press with his column Trump had more strife in Arizona yesterday.

What these far-left mobs are seeking is known as the “heckler’s veto.” The heckler’s veto occurs when an organized group of far-left protestors actively cause unrest and violence at an event, and then use the threat of violence at the event to call for future events to be shut down and the speaker to be silenced. This scam has been going on for a long time. I’ve seen it again and again. As a supporter of Senator Cruz for the presidency, I’m asking all conservatives, libertarians, Republicans, and fed-up Democrats to do the right thing and stand against these tyrannical tactics, regardless of who you are supporting for the presidency.

Trump isn’t the only one who has endured the heckler’s veto. Just ask speakers like Ben Shapiro – who, by the way, is slated to be at Salisbury University Monday, March 28.

But Trump supporters and Ben Shapiro may not be on speaking terms considering Shapiro’s recent resignation from the Breitbart website. In fact, the #NeverTrump forces seem to be coalescing behind Erick Erickson and his Resurgent website. There we find the “Conservatives Against Trump” statement, which reads in part:

We are a group of grassroots conservative activists from all over the country and from various backgrounds, including supporters of many of the other campaigns. We are committed to ensuring a real conservative candidate is elected. We believe that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, a Hillary Clinton donor, is that person.

We believe that the issue of Donald Trump is greater than an issue of party. It is an issue of morals and character that all Americans, not just those of us in the conservative movement, must confront.

We call for a unity ticket that unites the Republican Party.  If that unity ticket is unable to get 1,237 delegates prior to the convention, we recognize that it took Abraham Lincoln three ballots at the Republican convention in 1860 to become the party’s nominee and if it is good enough for Lincoln, that process should be good enough for all the candidates without threats of riots.

We encourage all former Republican candidates not currently supporting Trump to unite against him and encourage all candidates to hold their delegates on the first ballot.

Lastly, we intend to keep our options open as to other avenues to oppose Donald Trump.  Our multiple decades of work in the conservative movement for free markets, limited government, national defense, religious liberty, life, and marriage are about ideas, not necessarily parties.

Right now the Republicans have a leader who hasn’t cracked the 50% barrier in any state (and only has done so among the few dozen voters in the territory of the Northern Mariana Islands.) In fact, Trump has received about 35% of the Republican primary and caucus vote, with some of his broadest support coming in open primary states. Is it not conceivable that there’s a reverse Operation Chaos going on from Democrats to elect the weakest possible GOP nominee, one that regularly gets thumped in head-to-head polling against Hillary Clinton and has negatives over 60%?

It’s obvious Erickson and his group realizes people are fed up, but they realize the answer is not Trumped-up populism but the bold colors of conservatism. Of the remaining candidates, Ted Cruz is the best example.

There’s also the question of whether people are ticked off enough to remove their Congressman. I haven’t heard about any major primary upsets so far this campaign (most states have only done Presidential preference) but Maryland First District voters will have their chance to hear from the most serious challenger to Congressman Andy Harris several times over the primary campaign’s last month. Former Delegate Mike Smigiel is in the midst of a series of townhall meetings around the district: he had his Salisbury meeting while I was on my honeymoon and was in Easton yesterday, but there are several remaining dates. Next Saturday Smigiel will be in Carroll County for a 1:30 meeting at the Taneytown Library, but more important to local readers are upcoming gatherings in Cambridge at the Dorchester Library on Friday, April 1 and two meetings on Saturday, April 9: 11 a.m. at the Somerset County Library in Princess Anne and 2 p.m. at the Kent County branch library in Chestertown. (That may involve some fast driving.)

Finally, the rancor even extends to the local level. Smigiel and Harris have had bad blood over the years in Cecil County (which Smigiel represented in the House of Delegates) but that county – which is almost the same size as Wicomico County, so it’s not a greatly populous county compared to others in Maryland – seems to have an outsized share of political infighting. The most recent instance came to my attention a few days ago when their Campaign for Liberty chapter attacked local County Council candidate Jackie Gregory in an e-mail I received. Her cardinal sin? Supporting what the C4L considers “establishment politicians.” On their Facebook page C4L sneers, “Gregory’s desire to become part of the Cecil County political establishment apparently outweighs the tea party principles she claims to adhere to.” (Gregory is a founding member of the Cecil County Patriots TEA Party group.)

Well, let me tell you about this “establishment” candidate: she is a supporter of mine and has been for some time. The time C4L should have acted was finding a candidate to oppose Gregory in the primary – at least one who has more than the 2.9% support he received when running for County Executive there in 2012. (Note that Paul Trapani may not be the Campaign for Liberty’s choice, either – but they are the only two on the ballot. Unless an independent bid crops up over the summer, the winner of the GOP primary will become the County Council member after the November election since no Democrat ran.) So I have made a modest donation to Jackie’s campaign and encourage more people do so.

Perhaps what is annoying to the C4L crew is Jackie’s stance on the County Executive race:

I am supportive of all of the candidates having a good, positive race which highlights the issues important to the county and their vision regarding how to deal with those issues. Each of them has a history, a record, and a voice. It is up to each of them to convince the voters that he is the best person to lead Cecil County for the next four years. I am confident that the voters will choose wisely.

Seems fair to me, since there are four running on the GOP side.

Here’s the thing about groups like the Campaign for Liberty: they’re great at bringing up issue advocacy but not so good at getting people elected. Sure, they will say that the establishment stacks the deck against them but at least Gregory has made the step of putting her beliefs into action by stepping forward to run for office rather than use her candidacy to create a hit piece to beg for money.

So ends this cauldron of trouble I have now stirred up. The other day I was called an “ass” by a Trump supporter, but as I told him I have been called far worse by much better people. Then again, I still sleep well at night so I must be doing something right. On that note, have a great week.

The manufacturing perspective on TPP

November 9, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The manufacturing perspective on TPP 

Political junkies know the first Friday of the month will generally bring the unemployment rate and job creation numbers from the previous month. As of Friday, the government told us we were at 5% unemployment for the first time since the Bush years, when economists talked us into a recession. (This was back when tepid job growth actually increased the unemployment rate. Of course, people blamed the president at the time.)

Be that as it may, though, there were no net manufacturing jobs created during the month, a fact which concerned pro-manufacturing organizations like my old friends at the Alliance for American Manufacturing. To quote their president, Scott Paul:

Underneath the euphoria over a good topline employment number is this fact: Manufacturing hasn’t gained a single net job since January. 

That’s terrible news for our economy. The effects of China’s industrial overcapacity can be seen in waves of layoffs in American steel, aluminum, and other manufacturing sectors. This weakness in factory hiring comes at a very inconvenient time for the proponents of the TPP, which analysts predicted will widen our record manufacturing trade deficit. (Emphasis in original.)

Regarding the TPP, the U.S Business & Industry Council (USBIC), an advocacy organization for small businesses, said in a statement that the TPP is full of “special deals” for multinational businesses. USBIC president Kevin Kearns:

The TPP is anything but the free trade agreement it purports to be.  The use of the term ‘free trade’ is simply a codeword designed to attract the support of Congressional Republicans who lurch zombie-like to support anything so labeled, without examining the fine print.

A real free-trade deal could be written on a single sheet of paper, with commitments to remove all tariffs and non-tariff barriers of any kind.

Over at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), writer Linda Dempsey demanded a thorough review of TPP’s provisions. All this makes it clear that manufacturers are wary about the effects of this trade deal. I also covered some of the other potential pitfalls on Friday for my weekly Patriot Post piece, which leads me to wonder: just who the heck is for the deal?

Well, actually, NAM is part of a broad coalition of business interests seeking the deal, which makes it less of a Main Street vs. Wall Street issue and mote of a tug-of-war between union interest in protectionism and businesses after free trade. But one question worth asking (as Kearns does) is why we need over 5,000 pages of agreement to clear the trade docket? One can also ponder what benefits we really get as the largest partner by far – it’s not a coalition of equals by any stretch of the imagination, although depending on the source the per capita GDP has been measured slightly higher than ours for partners Australia and Singapore.

If there was ever a case where the devil is in the details, this may be the one. I noted in Friday’s article that time is not of the essence – the 12 nations have up to two years to ratify the agreement, with only 6 (one being the United States) being enough to enable it under certain conditions. (It boils down to we have veto power, and Japan also might depending on the direction of its GDP compared to the dozen as a whole. The Japanese are close to the 15% of total TPP GDP needed to sink the deal if they don’t pass it. By the way, we have a roughly 65% share so we are by far the biggest frog in this little pond.)

The concept of free trade works best among equals. Unfortunately, there aren’t many peers at the level of the United States so you get the complexity of the TPP, which I won’t dare profess to understand. Just on gut instinct I think the acronym KISS is in order here but when it comes to modern government it seems we can only weave tangled webs.

Sleeping on the job?

August 14, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Sleeping on the job? 

Over the last few months Richard Douglas has quietly been exploring a run for the U.S Senate. In an e-mail he sent out to supporters, though, he took aim at those he may be working with as well as Barack Obama.

In two paragraphs he expertly dissected the problem:

The President wished to avoid congressional review altogether. But the Corker-Cardin concession of the Senate’s treaty prerogatives was seen in the White House as a palatable alternative. Why? Because Corker-Cardin puts the success or failure of congressional action into the hands of Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin, and other reliable Obama yes-men in the House and Senate. By passing Corker-Cardin instead of demanding Senate treaty review, the Republican-led Congress marginalized itself.

How could any of this happen? Because the Republican-led Congress – the Senate in particular – allowed it to happen by not using its powers, during the seven months it had the chance, to defend its equities and change the President’s behavior. Beginning in January, the Republican-led Congress should have brought action on the President’s legislative priorities to a screeching halt until he wised up. Instead, Congress enacted those priorities.

Running against Congress seems to be the norm today for both parties, as the current leaders seem to be the gang who can’t shoot straight. Unfortunately, we have one side who is afraid of a government shutdown they would be blamed for and the other side takes advantage of their fears. So you have the group of spineless jellyfish who pass for majority leadership in Congress.

Douglas doesn’t have the bluster of Donald Trump, but he has foreign policy expertise in spades based on years of working in that area. It’s no wonder John Bolton is willing to put his name and reputation on the line for Douglas.

At this time, foreign policy is not the key issue on the table for 2016. But it lies at the heart of a number of peripheral issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and accusations of currency manipulation by China, the continuing saga of illegal immigration at our southern border, and the Keystone XL pipeline, to name a few. We may not be in an overt war in Iraq, Ukraine, or Syria, but there is pressure to stand by our allies, including Israel, instead of making overtures to old enemies Iran or Cuba.

The tone of his entire e-mail makes it clear that he’s expecting Chris Van Hollen to be the Democratic Senate opponent, which is probably the conventional wisdom. Van Hollen has been a reliable party man and helped to raise a lot of money, but can you name any singular House achievements of his? With this message, Richard makes clear he can be a leading voice on the Senate’s traditional role in guiding foreign policy – and not a moment too soon.

2016 dossier: Trade and job creation

August 12, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 dossier: Trade and job creation 

The fifth portion of my look at the GOP field looks at trade and job creation. Those that have the best ideas will qualify for nine points. This category has the potential to be very hit or miss, however. So allow me to set some of the guidelines I am looking for.

When I speak about trade, my goal is that of having free trade that is fair for all parties. With the criticism that’s been leveled at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, I don’t necessarily consider it fair trade. I’m also leery of fast-track authority, although I may well feel better about it with a conservative in charge.

As for job creation, I’m looking for specific ideas which don’t involve lowering taxes because that will fall under taxation, which is a later segment in my dossier series. But taking a meat axe to regulation would be fine, as would creating the conditions under which a workforce can thrive. It will be somewhat tough to score this segment, so the more information made available the better it is for a candidate.

Bobby Jindal gets it, and is not afraid to let people know about it. The formula must work because he is a job-producing governor.

For Bobby, it begins with the power of energy, but it doesn’t stop there. Free trade is fine if we have a good negotiator on our side, but right now we don’t so there’s no need for a Trans-Pacific Partnership yet. And the minimum wage is a smokescreen when we should be looking for more. My only concern is that he is still open to an increase when the idea should be one of the market determining the wage. But that’s a minor blemish on an otherwise solid category for Jindal.

Total score for Jindal – 8.4 of 9.

There is also great promise with Ted Cruz. If he can do those things he ran for Senate on we would be in fine shape. Removing regulations on energy and spreading the truth on the minimum wage bolster a sound agenda. Yes, he flipped on Obamatrade but he came to his senses in time – and trade is one of his specialties. He seems to be an intelligent, passionate advocate for the working man.

Total score for Cruz – 8.1 of 9.

There’s a lot to like about Rick Perry on the subject of job creation – his state created a lot of them during Rick’s tenure. While he had the energy boom to thank for much of it, his principles of low taxes and predictable regulations would hold the nation in good stead.

But I hesitate a little bit from giving him a higher score because just as he quickly backpedaled from being a supporter of trade promotion authority to an opponent simply based on Barack Obama’s lack of negotiating skills and secrecy, he has walked back his complete (and correct) opposition to any federal minimum wage to just not wanting a hike.

He will be in the top tier of this category, though, as he sounds most of the right notes. Now if he could just stay in the race…

Total score for Perry – 7.2 of 9.

In Congress, Rand Paul has sponsored legislation to give Congress move oversight on regulations and worked against additional trade promotion authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And he would rather lift all the boats than increase the minimum wage.

Yet the most interesting piece in his job creation toolbox is the Economic Freedom Zone, an idea he claims to have borrowed from the late Jack Kemp. It sounds good in theory, but my beef with it is that it is targeted to specific areas. For a guy who seems like he would be against government picking winners and losers, this seems to be an unusual move. It’s sort of like having a big-ticket business right across the border from sales-tax free Delaware, where you watch the competition take advantage of government edict.

Total score for Paul – 6.5 of 9.

Rick Santorum has a leg up on some of the competition because he devotes a portion of his economic plan to restoring manufacturing to America. It’s a proposal that includes the idea that regulations are too severe but, more importantly, speaks about the aspect of fair trade by opening up new markets if they play fair. He came out against the TPP as well as fast-track, noting he voted against NAFTA.

But a good plan is muddled by Rick’s support of a higher minimum wage. I suppose that is the difference between populist and conservative, but what he may gain in pandering to a few he would lose when their jobs went away. He’s also been promising his economic plan was a few weeks away on his website, so I’m tired of waiting.

Total score for Santorum – 6.3 of 9.

I find the trade and job creation ideas of Lindsey Graham interesting: “a clenched fist and an open hand…you choose” when it comes to trade, and backing one minimum wage increase while opposing a more recent one.

The entire reason he jumped up to this level came out of one idea of his:

The most costly and far-reaching federal regulations should be subject to sunset provisions, so that there is a built-in process to ensure that they are subject to review, cost-effectiveness analysis, and accountability.  Those regulations that cannot stand up to scrutiny or are no longer essential should be eliminated.

I have called for sunset provisions for far more than simple regulations, but just bringing up this concept separated him from the middle of the pack.

Total score for Graham – 6.0 of 9.

As someone who has worked exclusively in the private sector, Carly Fiorina knows something about job creation – although her critics point to HP’s job losses. And they may dispute her claim that regulations don’t go away because there are some exceptions that prove the rule. But she is right on the trade front and minimum wage, which are plusses.

Total score for Fiorina – 5.6 of 9.

I give credit to Chris Christie for making my job easier by creating his economic plan, which is a mixed bag of good ideas and near-misses. (Chief among them is the idea of reducing payroll taxes only for those over 62 and below 25, which would likely hurt those at the cusp of those ages.) I also find the mistrust of Barack Obama on trade good to hear, especially when Christie wants to revisit NAFTA.

But he’s squishy on minimum wage, and that holds him back somewhat.

Total score for Christie – 5.2 of 9.

Scott Walker has the tag line of “Let’s get to work” on his website, but I had to go elsewhere to find his ideas on job creation. It was noted that his record may look subpar but his state started from a better position and doesn’t get the benefit of the energy boom with the exception of being home to some of the best fracking sand available. While he used several conventional ideas that can work on a state level, such as investment in job training, he doesn’t really have a broad national plan. Presumably he would be a leader in nationalizing right-to-work, but we don’t know that – but we know he correctly thinks the minimum wage is “lame.”

Walker supports the TPP and the trade promotion authority that goes with it. To me that is “lame” and deducts from his score in the category.

Total score for Walker – 5.0 of 9.

Ben Carson brings a unique approach to this question. I’ll get the bad part out of the way first – he supports a minimum wage increase. But he came out early against Obamatrade and is interested in curtailing the regulatory state in surprising ways.

I also think he has some moral authority for his message on work, which is one I agree with. He also has a healthy skepticism about the current economic state, which will play well with his conservative base. He can serve as an example so I placed him a tick above some peers who I grade about the same.

Total score for Carson – 4.6 of 9.

Jeb Bush falls in the middle thanks to support of Obamatrade coupled with the idea of state minimum wages. But was the audience of Wall Street banking executives the right one to advocate for financial reform? I don’t think Main Street trusts Wall Street just yet, which is why Jeb lands in the middle.

Total score for Bush – 4.5 of 9.

For Mike Huckabee I see a lot of obfuscation. His populist approach is fine, with the philosophy of working for a “maximum wage” admirable. But it’s vague, and he won’t commit to saying no to an increase in the minimum because he signed one as governor.

On the trade front, though, he opposes trade promotion authority. It’s not a bad platform, just not that great in a crowded field.

Total score for Huckabee – 4.5 of 9.

The ideas of Marco Rubio trend along the same lines as Scott Walker, but without the executive action. His job creation platform refers mainly to taxation and education, with just a nod toward regulatory reform.

Meanwhile, his opposition to increasing the minimum wage is tempered by his support for “Obamatrade.” My fear is that he will fold on the minimum wage to do his cherished college financial aid reforms, since the two can go hand-in-hand.

Total score for Rubio – 4.5 of 9.

For John Kasich, it’s an interesting mix: he runs a state that privatized its Department of Development, but wants to place a steep tax increase on a particular job creator. He supported NAFTA but doesn’t want to see workers get the shaft. And his state has a minimum wage which automatically increases even though he opposed this in Washington. (Our DNC “hacktivists” claim Kasich believes it should be a state matter, which is the correct stance. I don’t link to them.) On the whole, I would like him to do better.

Total score for Kasich – 4.0 of 9.

Many of the more conventional ideas above are also in George Pataki‘s playbook, and he has done them: rolled back regulations in New York, vetoed a minimum wage increase, and has the idea of increasing manufacturing jobs. But he’s uncertain on the TPP. And a lot has changed in a decade.

With so little to go by, it’s hard to give him a high score.

Total score for Pataki – 4.0 of 9.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God has ever created,” says Donald Trump. He continually cries that China, Mexico, and Japan are “killing us” economically. But would a 25% tariff on Chinese goods, as he’s proposed before, be the answer? Some say it would start a trade war we couldn’t win, but others think China is manipulating its currency by an even greater factor. To the good side, though, he’s not in favor of a minimum wage increase.

So far, though, Donald hasn’t fleshed out his overall jobs program. Being a businessman makes him an expert of sorts in the subject, but could he deal with a Congress that’s more obstinate than his employees?

Total score for Trump – 2.7 of 9.

Much as I’d like to know about Jim Gilmore, his recent entry in the race sort of limits his potential. Although it’s couched as job creation, his Growth Code will play more in the taxation category. So I can’t give him many points.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 9.

Next on tap is a fairly simple and straightforward subject – taxation. It will be worth ten points.

Fast track bill bounces back to Senate

June 23, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Fast track bill bounces back to Senate 

By Cathy Keim

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is alive and well due to political shenanigans to keep it going. When the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill was voted down by Democrats hoping to block TPA, the game was supposed to end. However, Speaker Boehner is determined to work with Majority Leader McConnell in the Senate to present fast track to the president.

Part of what makes this so confusing is that the Republican-controlled House and Senate are working overtime to present the Democratic president the gift that he has been longing for: more authority to pursue multiple trade bills with Congress only able to vote the deal up or down. Why would the Republicans be feverishly pursuing this goal?

The obvious answer is that free trade is so important that any way of achieving it is worth making any sacrifice. That may be what they are telling you, but it just isn’t true. There are plenty of ways that this deal could lock the US into untenable trade agreements. Currency manipulation, immigration, patent and copyright issues are just a few of the areas that could turn against American workers.

Even when you look at the Maryland delegation’s votes, you will see strange bedfellows. First, take our two senators who split on the issue. I cannot find a statement by Senator Mikulski about her vote, but she voted no. Since she is not running for office again, she does not have to worry about offending the president.

Senator Cardin voted yes after he introduced an AIPAC backed amendment. AIPAC states:

On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to include an amendment targeting harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices in the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. It also directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit U.S.-Israel commerce.

I can understand why Senator Cardin would want to defend Israel when the current administration has shown real hostility towards them, but one has to ask if this is shortsighted on the Senator’s part. Giving the same administration fast track authority when the president has shown little interest in adhering to any restraints put upon him, may in the long run turn out worse for Israel. Perhaps Senator Cardin would do better to vote no and stop the whole fast track process.

Only one other representative from Maryland voted yes on TPA and that was Congressman John Delaney of the 6th Congressional District. He stated in a press release that:

Right now, two things are happening: 1) Congress is considering a bipartisan agreement that instructs the President on trade negotiations and begins the deliberation process for a new accord and 2) China is working on their own regional trade agreement. I support giving President Obama Trade Promotion Authority because it will give the President the tools he needs to negotiate the best trade deal for America and our workers. For the first time, the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority package includes groundbreaking environmental and labor standards and provides unprecedented human rights protections. The Trade Promotion Authority Package gives President Obama new ways to enforce these standards to make sure we’re not having a race to the bottom that drags American workers down. So it’s either going to be our country setting the terms for trade or it’s going to be China. I want our country, our government and this President setting the terms of international trade, not China.

Congressman Harris of the 1st Congressional District voted no. His Facebook page states:

Thousands of citizens in Maryland’s First District contacted my office regarding bills on trade that were recently considered in the House. Today, I voted against the Trade Promotional Authority (TPA) bill for a second time. Representing your views are of the utmost importance to me and it is truly an honor to serve the people in the First District.

He did not listen to his constituents about CRomnibus or voting out Boehner as Speaker of the House, but this time he heard us loud and clear and responded as we asked. I wonder if that is because former Delegate Mike Smigiel has announced that he is opposing Andy in the primary next April?

Representatives Donna Edwards (4th District) and Chris Van Hollen Jr. (8th District) are both running for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski. Edwards is running to the left and Van Hollen is obliged to move left too. Van Hollen explains his reasons in a letter to Rep. Levin.

He lists multiple concerns such as currency manipulation, increased investor lawsuits, workers’ rights, environmental issues and more as his reasons for voting no.

Representatives Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Edwards, and Cummings all signed a letter to President Obama explaining why they were voting no on TPA.

For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.

(snip)

Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.

(snip)

Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.

Representative Steny Hoyer is the Minority Whip. He voted against TPA because:

Trade Promotion Authority legislation lays the foundation for how we approach trade policy as part of our overall economic strategy, and we cannot look at trade simply on its own. We must consider all the elements that affect American workers and jobs.

(snip)

Our workers deserve policies that boost our competitiveness and place us at an advantage in global markets, making it easier for them to get ahead.

He then lists a whole smorgasbord of expensive programs that he wants for the workers.

The reasons for the votes cast vary from constituent demands, to fear of China, to wanting more spending, to defending Israel and to pursuing a Senate seat. Some of the reasons I can agree with while others, like wanting the Export-Import Bank renewed, are not acceptable. However, on this important vote I am happy to have the Democrats join with as many Republicans as will stand against TPA.

Keep on calling and prodding your senators to vote against TPA. The cloture vote is expected today, with the final vote coming tomorrow. If the bill survives cloture, it will likely pass, so the ball is now in the Senate’s court.

Can we trust our leaders on trade agreements?

June 7, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Cathy Keim, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Can we trust our leaders on trade agreements? 

By Cathy Keim

It all comes down to trust.

I do not want to minimize the complexity of negotiating trade agreements, particularly ones that involve multiple nations spanning the globe. However, in its eagerness to complete this trade agreement, our government is currently ignoring its citizens across the political spectrum. Perhaps this is just the way it is going to be from now on.

The Constitutional limits have been frayed to the point that nobody expects anybody to have any restraint anymore. This President has overstepped the boundaries frequently and the legislative branch has not peeped. Oh, they may growl occasionally for the rubes back home, but once they are safely back in DC, they roll over and play dead.

The trade agreements that are currently on the table are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). All of these could be placed on fast track under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) if the House approves it as the Senate already has done.

Fast track would mean that no amendments could be added to the agreements. They would be voted up or down by a simple majority.

Trade agreements are difficult because they have so many partners all jockeying for the best deal. For this reason, the President has been given TPA routinely since the 70s. So what is different this time? Why are so many people concerned about fast tracking these agreements?

For many of us, the answer is that trust has been broken. We see the President overreaching his authority repeatedly, so why would we want to give him more authority?

What is so difficult to understand about this? And yet, our senators just gave him fast track and the leaders in the House are pushing to follow right behind.

The House Republicans could block TPA in a heartbeat, but they are so mesmerized by “free trade” that they cannot pull their eyes away and consider the big picture.

The Democrats loathe these bills because their party is owned by the unions, but they are disciplined and will follow their leader to the end. Harry Reid did not vote for TPA, but he knew it had the votes to pass in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi is walking a much tougher line. She must supply enough Democrat votes to get this over the finish line, but she is reluctant to vote for it herself or to push one more Democrat to vote for it than she has to. They are counting the votes to see how many safe Democrats must fall on their sword to make this happen for the President.

After much thought, it seems that the final points to consider are:

  1. The vote for TPA is essentially a vote for TPP. No trade agreement has ever been stopped once it came under fast track.
  2. Congress should not vote on bills it has not read. This bill is over 800 pages. Senators Cruz and Paul signed into the locked room to read this bill, but nobody has said how long they took to read it. Personally, if they were not in there for several hours, I cannot agree with the comment that they “read” the bill. A question for your congressman is: have you read the bill, and if so, how long did it take you?
  3. This President has overstepped his authority on so many issues that he should not be rewarded with additional authority.
  4. Congress should quit cowering and take responsibility for their Constitutional duties, rather than voting away responsibility to the executive branch.
  5. The trade agreements can still be worked on without fast tracking them.
  6. TPA or fast tracking can be considered again after the next President is in office if the new executive renews trust.

The lack of transparency of this administration, the outright lies, and the total disregard for their Constitutional limits demands that Congress respond with strength and firmness. So far, we have seen neither.

I cannot tell you which evils are going to be unleashed upon the American workers if TPA is passed, but only that they will be many. This will play out exactly like Obamacare: slowly but surely – and always to our detriment – one horror after another will be exposed.

On the flip side of Congress…

June 4, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on On the flip side of Congress… 

Yesterday Cathy wrote at some length about the pressure being placed on Congress to give trade promotion authority to the Obama administration in order to complete work on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But there are also those in Congress who want to strengthen our hand, and it was up to my old friends at the Alliance for American Manufacturing to point this out:

You wouldn’t wait until you needed life support to go to the doctor, right?

Well, that’s what it’s like for U.S. manufacturers and workers facing trade cheating from countries like China. They have to wait until factories close and thousands of people lose their jobs before they can even begin to fight back.

It makes no sense. But there’s something you can do right now to help.

A new, bipartisan bill would level the playing field for U.S. workers by strengthening our enforcement laws against unfair trade practices. Please tell your Member of Congress to cosponsor this legislation.

You and I have worked together in recent months to fight for U.S. jobs and against unfair trade. The introduction of the American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act shows we’re making progress.

Thousands of American workers have faced layoffs this year because there’s been a surge in trade cheating and imports from countries like China. The new bill seeks to make it easier for companies and workers to seek remedy against trade cheating like this — before the layoffs and plant closures begin.

With Congress currently debating fast-track trade legislation and new free trade agreements, now is the time for action. Join me in telling Congress to stand up for American workers and manufacturers.

Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois, a lead sponsor of the bill, points out that several entities within the steel industry, including AAM, support this bipartisan effort. As a whole, the steel industry has taken a beating from foreign competition. [Unfortunately my American Certified archives are no longer online – within that venue I detailed a long-standing dustup between American manufacturers and numerous other countries, particularly South Korea, over oil country tubular goods (OCTG) being dumped on the U.S. market during the fracking boom. That’s just one familiar example.]

Yet some of these same nations are now looking to get into our market via the TPP. And while the goal of any libertarian worth his salt is free and unfettered trade, there has to be an assurance that neither side is sticking a thumb on the scale. Dumping products on our market is one thing, but prospective TPP partners (particularly China, but also Japan) also have longstanding complaints against them for currency manipulation as well. While the idea is dismissed by some, we have other nations who want to make the rules as they go, too.

I suppose the operative question is just who wanted the TPP (or any trade agreement) in the first place? Generally it’s not the stronger entity who is looking for a break, and the United States economy is still among the world’s strongest and largest despite the best efforts of this administration to change that. There is a fine line between being too protectionist and stifling innovation (I love to use the Trabant automobile as the extreme example of this) and being taken advantage of by unscrupulous partners.

It seems to me that neither Cathy nor I believe we have a ruling class that is looking out for America’s best interests on either trade or immigration. I believe that there is such a thing as trickle-down economics, but using the power of government to assure yourself a slice of the pie means what trickles down isn’t something very clean.

Can we trust our administration on trade?

By Cathy Keim

The question is worth asking: Do you really want Congress to give this administration fast track on a secret trade deal?

I received a phone call earlier this week from Grover Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform, urging me to tell my congressman that I want him to vote for the trade promotion authority (TPA) because it will be good for America and bring jobs. I let them connect me to Congressman Harris’ office and then told the staffer that I was adamantly opposed to TPA.

I found it very interesting that Grover Norquist would be pushing this legislation. What does it have to do with tax reform? At his website he has an op-ed posted that paints a rosy picture of all the advantages of trade. While I agree that trade is important, I find myself wondering what is behind his support? He didn’t mention taxes at all.

Norquist has a record of pushing immigration reform, saying that people are an asset, not a liability.

I do not see people as a liability, but I can see that allowing millions of illegal immigrants into our work force would displace American workers.

Ask yourself why should a citizen support giving this president more authority to expedite an enormous piece of legislation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that is so secret that only people with security clearances are allowed to read it. It is kept under lock and key. The representatives can go in to read it, but they cannot take any notes out.

This sounds like something that we have to pass to find out what is in it! That has worked out well for us previously, hasn’t it?

Even more mind-boggling is that this is a “living” agreement. It can be changed in the future, but the changes would not come before Congress. You have to trust your president a lot to give away all Congressional oversight. Not only that, but the other countries in this enormous agreement could decide to admit another country to the agreement or to change the rules, but once again, Congress would have no opportunity to block any of these future changes once they pass TPA.

Congress would have a chance to review the deal, but their hands would be tied by not being able to amend it, they would have a very short time to discuss it, and it would only require 51 votes in the Senate to pass rather than the normal 60.

The lack of transparency and mistrust of our leaders is enough to make me skeptical of increased executive authority. But it gets better.

Senator Jeff Sessions, who chairs a senate immigration panel, issued an alert which begins:

Congress has the responsibility to ensure that any international trade agreement entered into by the United States must serve the national interest, not merely the interests of those crafting the proposal in secret. It must improve the quality of life, the earnings, and the per-capita wealth of everyday working Americans. The sustained long-term loss of middle class jobs and incomes should compel all lawmakers to apply added scrutiny to a “fast-track” procedure wherein Congress would yield its legislative powers and allow the White House to implement one of largest global financial agreements in our history—comprising at least 12 nations and nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP. The request for fast-track also comes at a time when the Administration has established a recurring pattern of sidestepping the law, the Congress, and the Constitution in order to repeal sovereign protections for U.S. workers in deference to favored financial and political allies.

Then he lists five problems with the current legislation, which subsequently did pass the Senate and is now before the House.

  1. Consolidation Of Power In The Executive Branch.
  2. Increased Trade Deficits.
  3. Ceding Sovereign Authority To International Powers.
  4. Currency Manipulation.
  5. Immigration Increases.

Please read his alert for all the details, but lets just look at the immigration issue since Michael touched on it Monday.

Immigration is bound to be a big topic in the upcoming presidential election. If TPA and TPP pass, some objectors have said that it would allow free movement of workers amongst the nations in the agreement just as workers are allowed to move around the EU. That would mean that the USA would not be able to refuse to let workers into our country.

Senator Sessions added in a later release that:

Fast-track includes negotiating objectives to remove barriers to services that could easily be used by the Administration to justify the expansion of foreign worker programs. There is also an entire chapter on “Temporary Entry” in TPP, which could be used to facilitate the admission of more temporary foreign workers into the United States. Even if immigration or temporary entry prohibitions were included in fast track, the negotiating objectives laid out by fast track are not binding on the Administration. If any future trade deal, TPP or otherwise, contains language that paves the way for more foreign workers, members will be powerless to strike the offending provision. Additionally, the “living agreement” provision allows for subsequent amendments to the trade agreement after its initial implementation, creating an altogether new avenue for changes to foreign worker programs. Finally, the President has refused to foreclose the possibility of using executive actions or side agreements to facilitate foreign worker expansions, as he did with South Korea as part of the recent South Korean trade deal. In short, fast-track creates broad new avenues for the White House to bring in more foreign workers – whether in the light of day, or behind closed doors no one can open – while giving up for six years the meaningful ability of Congress to do anything about it.

Immigration is bound to be a big topic in the upcoming presidential election. The lawsuit brought by 26 states against the executive overreach on immigration has slowed things down enough to buy some time to debate this issue during the presidential campaign season.

Immigration and Common Core need to be brought up at every chance so that we can see where the candidates really stand on these issues. We need to push hard to get the truth out of the candidates and to convince them that we will hold them accountable should we decide to put them in office.

Between illegal immigration, the refugee resettlement programs which bring in 70,000 people a year from some of the most vocal enemies of our country, and work visas that are hard to track to actually know how many are here, we need to take a breather on immigration. I would welcome the candidate that would say we need time to assimilate those immigrants that are legally here, to build a fence to stop the madness on our southern border, and to screen any potential refugees to see if they are jihadists posing as refugees to gain access to America.

Let’s do our best to find that candidate and then to get him or her elected! In the meantime, call your congressman and tell them to vote NO on TPA.

Physical labor may be good for your career

February 9, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics · Comments Off on Physical labor may be good for your career 

I grew up in a blue-collar family in a blue-collar, auto-making town, so I feel a certain kinship with those who believe that America should still be making things big and small. So I liked the news that America accelerated the pace of manufacturing job creation at the tail end of last year, adding 115,000 manufacturing jobs in the last two months of the year based on revised federal figures.

But Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul called January’s 22,000 figure “so-so,” blaming “a combination of a strong dollar and unchecked foreign currency manipulation” for the slowdown. His group has called on the Obama administration to include currency manipulation provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated.

Month-to-month fluctuations are one thing, but what about adopting a broad-based approach to encouraging manufacturing and learning a trade at the optimal time, during the formative years of schooling? I don’t often agree with NPR, but last week they ran a story extolling the Millennial Generation to learn a trade in order to avoid the pitfalls of college loans and perhaps get a jumpstart on a good-paying career. While there was spirited argument in the comment section which made the case that their economic ceiling would be lower than their college-educated brethren could achieve – and that is true – not all children are college material and they should have a path to success which doesn’t involve spinning their wheels and racking up thousands in debt from college loans without a degree to show for it or one that bounces them from menial job to menial job just to get by. Alas, that is the fate of millions of young people today.

One paragraph sums up the opportunity:

With so many boomers retiring from the trades, the U.S. is going to need a lot more pipe-fitters, nuclear power plant operators, carpenters, welders, utility workers — the list is long. But the problem is not enough young people are getting that kind of training.

Personally, I’m on the wrong end of the baby boom. But those in the Millennial Generation (which my daughter is on the lead of as she was born in 1983) are indeed coming in at a good time. Problem is that we as parents have been fooled into believing college is the only path to success; that is, until we have to call the plumber, the electrician, or the mechanic who is good with his or her hands and has the proper aptitude to fix things. Chances are there’s a little gray in his hair, and while the last few years have been tough on these tradesmen economically they still have the skills to succeed.

What I seek is a path to success for our kids which doesn’t necessarily involve college and the massive debt that goes with it. If America can get back to building things and working with its hands, we can succeed like my father did with our family. We may never have been rich, but we had a roof over our head, food on the table, and those things we needed to succeed. Once every couple years we would go on vacation, and until I was in high school my mom was a stay-at-home mom. In short, we were a fairly typical middle-class Midwestern family in a blue-collar town.

The blue-collar upbringing really wasn’t that bad, and it’s a model we went too far away from for too long. Hopefully we have a chance to bring it back with today’s youth.

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