A problem with democracy

What if you have an election and nobody shows up?

That seems to be the case in Delmar, as the little town too big for one state had only 28 residents bother to show up for the town election held on Tuesday. And if you think this was because the elections were walkovers, it sounds like at least the mayor’s office was contested. (I would think at least one were contested, otherwise the election would be cancelled.) By the way, congratulations to Karen Wells for another successful election.

Nor is it a case of Delmar just being a speck on the map – according to one report there are 1,987 registered voters in the city so that means turnout weighed in at about 1.4 percent. Sorry to be so blunt, but that is pathetic. And it’s nothing new – the 2015 election only drew 41 voters.

Obviously I’m no expert on Delmar’s city code, but it seems to me that poor turnout like that would be a good reason to re-evaluate the whole election situation. It’s fine to have off-year elections, but perhaps they need to place their balloting on the same election day most other people are aware of, the first Tuesday in November. Granted, you run the risk of being overshadowed by Salisbury’s election when both run concurrently but perhaps that will bring the event to mind for more than 2 percent of the voting public.

Look, while this was a Delmar, Maryland election it’s worth noting in my case that here in Delaware it’s more like the system I grew up with in Ohio where there are elections for something each year: local offices and school boards in odd-numbered years, and state and federal offices in even-numbered years. Whichever state you’re in, it’s the responsibility of a good citizen to participate in this republic by voting at each opportunity – even if you don’t like the candidates (oftentimes I do not) and even if it’s not the most convenient thing to do. We just can’t abide as a nation when 1.4% voter turnout is met with a shrug of the shoulders.

How the region may shape up

In years past, the city of Salisbury held their elections in the spring, much as many other municipalities do – some by necessity because their counties or states have their own elections in November, and some as a local custom. Most bigger cities, though, tend to hold their elections in November and Salisbury joined those ranks a few years ago.

So, besides the idea that Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself – which I think I’ve now seen on a thousand memes, some much funnier than others – that’s kind of the regional phenomenon right now. Unfortunately, as I noted the other day, it’s pretty much as dull as dishwater – but since I like to make sure my crystal ball doesn’t get too cloudy from lack of use I’ll have some predictions to make.

At present, Salisbury has five City Council members: four of them were elected in 2015 (April Jackson, Muir Boda, Jack Heath, and Jim Ireton) and one was appointed earlier this year (Angela Blake.) While the elections are non-partisan, the probable makeup of Council right now is 4-1 Democrat: Ireton has run for office before as a Democrat, Heath was a Democrat-endorsed independent in his 2018 County Executive run, and both Blake and Jackson have received donations from the local Democrat Party for this run. Only Boda is a Libertarian-turned-Republican.

Of the five, only Ireton (who previously served as mayor from 2009-15) opted not to seek another term. That District 4 seat, however, will most likely remain in the hands of the loony left as 2018 Democrat County Council candidate Michele Gregory is a heavy favorite over former blogger Jonathan Taylor. That’s a real shame, but for whatever reason bloggers don’t make good candidates: out of the local Salisbury crew Julie Brewington and I are the only ones who have been elected to anything (you could also count Delmar mayor Karen Hughes Wells, who I recall had a great but short-lived blog a long time ago.) But Joe Albero, G.A. Harrison, Charles Jannace, and probably Taylor: all oh-fer.

Fortunately, the GOP will retain at least one seat as no one bothered to challenge Boda this time. That election was one where Boda had the majority of the District 2 vote yet scored less than 100 ballots, which tells you the turnout and interest in that district. In theory the GOP could take control of Council (Red Maryland compiled the data, although I already knew two of the three.) But since Mable Marshall didn’t raise any money and is in a three-way race against a well-known incumbent in Jackson, I think she’ll be the also-ran with no more than 10-15% of the District 1 vote.

Probably the most interesting Council race, though, will be the District 5 race between Blake and first-time candidate Shawn Jester, who you’ve surely read a little bit about over the years here as he was the president of the Wicomico County Republican Club for a couple years while I was there. He’s now a liaison for Congressman Andy Harris, which some are claiming skirts the intent of the Hatch Act. (Since Salisbury has nonpartisan elections, it does not.) Of course, that employment by Harris brings out the scare quotes from Blake’s liberal supporters who may not have figured out the advantages that sort of connection could bring to Salisbury.

Personally I think the district leans toward Blake, who I would give a 60-65% chance of winning, but I don’t think it’s more than a 10-point race and it will be the closest of the five.

That leaves the two races I call referendum races: because the opponent has little or no chance at victory, it’s the margin of victory that determines the story. One of those two is the District 3 Council race between Jack Heath and Riley Smith, who is another one that hasn’t raised enough money to reasonably contend against an incumbent with name recognition – unfortunate because, at first glance, Smith seems like the budget hawk type last exhibited on City Council by Debbie Campbell prior to her defeat by one Jacob Day in 2013.

Of course, Day is in the other referendum race, put up against a recently-arrived resident of Salisbury by the name of Wayne King – who, by the way, is a Republican but one who couldn’t even get an endorsement from his fellow GOP members. Apparently none of them wanted to challenge Day, so King took up the mantle and for that I commend him because Day deserves a challenger to question the wisdom of the long-term ramifications of some of his decisions, like who supports the Folk Festival after its three-year run as the National Folk Festival concludes, and how will giving shorter shrift to neighborhoods at the expense of a downtown-centric approach pan out once the millennials get married, begin to raise a family, and wish to have a nice house in a decent neighborhood only to find they don’t exist in Salisbury. (But it has such a nice downtown.)

Those are the two races where the margins need to be watched. If they are in the 80 percent range then the people of the district or city have bought Heath’s and Day’s mantra hook, line, and sinker – so I suppose more power to them, may their chains rest lightly, and so forth.

But if either of them come in under 60 percent, that’s a sign that there’s a backlash toward the regressive policies these two have orchestrated. (Heath serves as the City Council president.) Turnout is going to be light, so a high vote for these challengers means the residents aren’t that happy with the status quo and they were mad enough (like these guys) to show up for what otherwise would seem like a lost cause.

Wait, Salisbury is having an election?

As in many other things in life, four years makes a tremendous difference.

At this time in 2015, I was knee-deep in covering the Salisbury municipal election, which was interesting in being the first culmination of two different aspects: one being the complete overhaul of the city’s Council districts into five separate single-member districts rather than one four-member “at-large” district taking in most of the city and a second majority-minority single-member district, and, secondly, the end of staggered elections where the mayor and two Council members (one from the single-member district and another from the at-large) were elected in one odd-numbered year (the last being 2013) after the other three council members from the at-large district elected on the previous odd-year (that district was last elected in 2011.)

In 2015, the Council ended up with three new members (April Jackson in District 1, Muir Boda in District 2, and Jim Ireton in District 4) and a new mayor as Ireton and Jake Day flipped roles. It was the culmination of a rapid rise for Day, who had only been elected two years earlier when he defeated two-term incumbent and fiscal watchdog Debbie Campbell in the final at-large district race; Day was immediately promoted to a leadership position on City Council.

Thus, it was an election with a lot of intrigue and promise. On the other hand, 2019 has been pretty much dull as dishwater despite the fact all but Boda have contested races. Buoyed by a series of perceived successes such as the National Folk Festival and downtown development and construction, Mayor Day has received the endorsement of politicos up and down the line and is the prohibitive favorite against Wayne King, whose efforts have been pretty much met by silence – or relentless trolling from the pro-Day minions on social media. And while it’s indeed possible that there could be four new faces on City Council (with Boda the only holdover) it’s more likely that four incumbents (one appointed earlier this year) will remain. I haven’t seen the financials yet – it’s ridiculous that the first financial report isn’t due until a week before the election – but I suspect all of the incumbents have a healthy advantage over their challengers. The one exception could be Shawn Jester in District 5, where he faces the recent appointee Angela Blake.

The other race that may have been interesting on paper is the seat Jim Ireton is vacating in District 4, which more than likely isn’t going to move to the center. It’s there that Michele Gregory, who ran unsuccessfully last year for County Council, will likely prevail over now-former owner of the blog Lower Eastern Shore News Jonathan Taylor, who’s reportedly been AWOL on the campaign trail since selling his blog site. Gregory, who happens to be my old neighbor – she used to run a home-based day care center across the street (and district line) from us – never met a progressive wet dream she didn’t like, so I guess she will be trying to drive the city way over to the left.

What will be most interesting to me is the aftermath. Unless it’s been changed in the last four years – and I have no reason to believe it has – each candidate has to divest his or her remaining campaign funds at the end of the election. While most after the 2015 balloting did so to local charities, the one exception was Jake Day. And when I noted that fact, I was pithily told “I’m not giving away my donors’ (money) – they made an investment.”

Just for fun, I looked up Day’s two campaign finance entities, which remain active but have filed affidavits of limited contributions or expenses (or ALCEs) since shortly after their formation. Over the years there have been a few scattered contributions to Day’s campaign account, but its largest expense – at least as of January 2019, the last required reporting date – was a 2016 gathering called TEDxSBY, billing itself as an “independently organized TED event.” Given the fact Day has a campaign headquarters, I don’t think money is an issue with his run so I wonder whether there was a transfer involved. Guess we will find out.

So if you think Salisbury is becoming more successful and attractive, the status quo is there to elect. Just hope the neighborhoods can hold up for the next four years. Of course, the refugees are welcome to come up to Delaware and try to help this state like I am.

A subtle but important change

I don’t know how many of you have ever noticed my tagline that’s been up pretty much since this website came online back in 2005, but it’s the part that said some variant of “news and views from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.” Well, today’s post is one of the last from the Eastern Shore as my wife and I have finally bought a home in the First State. (So I’ve changed it.)

With the change comes a change in emphasis. I’ve always had kind of a state-based focus, but after a little bit of study and being in office it became apparent that the Eastern Shore is indeed the shithouse of Maryland politics. For the most part, our needs are ignored by the state of Maryland simply because there’s not enough voters on the Shore to make a big difference. We on the Shore lay some claim to 12 out of 141 members of the Maryland General Assembly and 4 of 47 Senators in the Maryland Senate, which means that our desires are pretty much subordinated by any one of a half-dozen or so individual counties on the other side of the Bay.

And even when we have a governor who belongs to the same political party as the plurality of the Eastern Shore – where five of the nine counties lean Republican and the other four have registration numbers within striking distance – the desires of this region rarely pass muster. At best, they are watered down; at worst, things we oppose become law without Larry Hogan’s signature or a veto – even when a veto assures current law remains in force for another eight to nine months before the next year’s session and the inevitable override. It’s shameful that longheld local GOP priorities often get short shrift in Annapolis, and it’s doubtful that any change back to the Democrats will help. (For example, don’t be fooled by the moderate facade Peter Franchot’s assuming for his nascent gubernatorial run; he told me all I needed to know with his statement about Alabama.)

On the other hand, while Sussex County is but about 1/4 of Delaware’s population, it’s the fastest-growing county of the three in Delaware. And if I really had the desire to get down in the weeds of local and state politics moreso than my monoblogue Accountability Project and the occasional foray into interesting issues such as the right-to-work battle that ended early last year, I have an election coming up where all 41 members of the Delaware General Assembly, half their 21-member Senate, and Governor John Carney are all on the ballot for election.

It’s also worth remembering why I began the Delaware edition of my Accountability Project – since I was working for a decent-sized homebuilder at the time and I noticed that well over half its clientele was coming from other nearby states (including Maryland) I realized that keeping Delaware attractive was good for business and affected my paycheck. Of course, now the situation is reversed somewhat since I work here in Maryland, but that business sinks or swims more on other factors where ineffective government doesn’t affect it quite as much. And, frankly, I need a new horizon anyway. (Even more frankly, from what I’ve seen about the Delaware Republican Party it makes Maryland’s look professional – and that’s a very low bar to set. I think I’ll register with the Constitution Party.)

So I’m departing the Maryland political scene for the most part, a move begun by my resignation from the Central Committee three years ago and hastened by our house search. It’s time for someone else to take the reins, or those reins can lay on the ground and be trampled into the mud. I guess that depends on just who cares.

Odds and ends number 95

Back with bloggy goodness in bite-sized chunks of a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Let’s see what the e-mail bag has in store.

A pro-life concern

Political e-mail is often chock full of hyperbole, but I found a recent e-mail from the folks at the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance PAC interesting – is there really a renewed pro-abortion push here? They call it a “political attack group,” a 501 (c)(4) which “will be able to take massive checks from outside Maryland starting from Day 1.” But I didn’t find any news story on the subject, which makes it sound like just so much hype.

To me, theirs is the kind of e-mail that sets back the cause. Don’t just tell me there’s an AP story, give me a link – for all I know this was three years ago. It’s bad enough that a group with less than $1,000 in the bank, and a group that didn’t spend a dime on candidates in the 2018 election, is asking for money to counter this phantom threat.

More bad news for Maryland business

The headline of a Maryland Public Policy Institute business climate study made it sound like businesses are becoming less optimistic about business conditions in the state overall, yet they remain relatively positive.

But buried in the remaining information was an interesting dichotomy between businesses along the I-95 corridor, where companies believing the state was business-friendly prevailed by a 49-16 average margin, and outstate companies which only deemed the state business-friendly by a 39-35 count. Given that the overall mark was 46-19, it’s apparent that the outstate entities were but a small portion of the survey – probably no more than 15%. However, that’s 100% of the issue here on Delmarva.

Add to this the war on plastic – which is in the process of having the good guys lose in Delaware – as well as the laughable job creation numbers proponents of the maglev boondoggle are touting, and we may have seen an economic peak on Delmarva until people with real sanity are placed back in government, at least in the view of the MPPI.

But their annual magnum opus is the Annapolis Report, which grades the Maryland General Assembly on its work for the session. If they were a college student, the MGA would be on academic probation.

The Democrats’ deplorable problem

For decades the prevailing belief was that Republicans were for the business man while Democrats were for the working man. In 2016, however, that philosophy was turned on its head as thousands and thousands of union workers ignored their Big Labor bosses who backed Hillary Clinton and pulled the lever for Donald Trump, enabling him to win in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

But, as David Catron recently argued in The American Spectator, the Democrats who think those voters are the key to 2020 victory are barking up the wrong tree. He contends:

(S)upporting Trump simply isn’t the done thing in polite society. To do so is to risk loss of social status – if not outright ostracism – and open conflict with friends or family. Trump supporters mislead pollsters or simply refuse to answer their questions pursuant to similar psychological and social incentives. All of which leads to a lot of confusion concerning who it is that supports President Trump and precisely why. This, in turn, renders it very difficult for round heel politicians like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren to pander to “working class” voters they badly need to “win back” to the Democratic fold in the 2020 election cycle.

David Catron, “Why the Dems Will Never Win Back Trump Voters,” The American Spectator, June 24, 2019.

I’ve talked about this a couple times on the radio, and Catron makes the argument as well: I sensed this back in 2016, which is why I did “Bradley effect” updates on the Presidential race. If you believed the actual polls on a state-by-state basis, Hillary Clinton should have had upward of 300 electoral votes. But if you assume the polls underestimated Trump by five points, your blue map becomes a shade of pink that carries The Donald to victory. My last couple “Bradley effect” maps suggested a narrow Trump win so I wasn’t as shocked as I thought I might be when it really happened.

On another deplorable front, the pull of Big Labor doesn’t seem to be as strong as it used to be. I remember writing on this situation for The Patriot Post back in 2014, but even after another half-decade of trying the UAW still can’t get its hooks into an auto plant south of the Mason-Dixon line, failing again to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This latest update comes from my friends at the Capital Research Center.

More on the Presidential sweepstakes

I have a number of different items here.

Let’s start with Erick Erickson, who points out in a brief but concise Resurgent article that Joe Biden’s not a racist – it’s just proof of how far the Democrats have moved the Overton window on that subject.

And if you want bat-crap crazy Democrats, look no further than the Indivisible crowd.

After the recent Democrat debates, the Astroturf group polled its followers and found that their preferred candidates didn’t line up with the ones on top of the mainstream polls:

We asked Indivisibles to identify which candidates they are considering voting for and which they are definitely not. The results revealed that the historic candidacies of women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates are faring well among the movement and have plenty of room to grow as the field narrows. It also revealed that some of the presumed frontrunners may hit a ceiling with activists, given how many Indivisibles say they aren’t considering them at all.

Indivisible news release, July 2, 2019.

In other words, identity politics is alive and well. “(I)f the election were held today, 35% of people said they would vote for (Elizabeth) Warren and 31% selected (Kamala) Harris,” they said. Compare this to the Morning Consult poll from yesterday (July 16) where Warren and Harris combined for just 27% of the vote, a number that still trailed frontrunner Joe Biden. In fact, those “women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates” only account for about 40% of the vote, trailing those white males in the top 2 slots and scattered among the rest.

I’m not going to sit and do the math, but I daresay that Indivisible isn’t much of a movement when the candidates 66% of their group support can’t even muster half that amount of support in a wider poll.

Who’s really gerrymandering?

This is a fascinating study from the CRC. While the Democrats contend that independent redistricting commissions will best address the issue of gerrymandering (which, of course, only became a problem after the TEA Party wave election of 2010, which got the break of getting to draw districts for this decade), this study suggests the hype from Democrats is overblown.

Two more states – but a bunch to go

If you’re a fan of the Constitution Party, the good news is that they kept ballot access in two states (Arkansas and North Carolina) and their goal is access in 35 states. Maryland will probably not be one of them because their 10,000 signature threshold is daunting for the two minor parties which generally qualify for the ballot, the Green Party and Libertarian Party, let alone a smaller entity such as the CP. In Delaware they need over double their number of registered voters by the end of 2019 to qualify, which seems unlikely unless a concerted effort to flip members of other minor parties occurs.

And last…

You may notice this is the day of Tawes, but there’s no pictorial.

After 13 or 14 years of going, I just lost interest in the event the last few years. And considering this is a pretty much dead year on the election calendar – no 2020 Senate election and not much going on in the Congressional realm – it was not worth taking a day off to go and overpay for food, a little bit of beer, and a crapton of diet Pepsi. Since I’m not an invited guest to the tents where the real action is, I’m happier being home.

To my friends who were there, I hope you had a good time. But it just isn’t that much fun for me anymore.

Hogan takes a pass…on 2020

It’s no surprise that Larry Hogan, the now term-limited governor of our fair state of Maryland, decided to disappoint the #NeverTrump whisperers in the moderate wing of the Republican Party and skip his chance at being cannon fodder for Donald Trump on The Donald’s way to the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. As CNN put it:

“I truly appreciate all of the encouragement I received from people around the nation urging me to consider making a run for President in 2020,” Hogan tweeted Saturday. “However, I will not be a candidate.”

Hogan said that he would instead focus on his second term as governor and his upcoming role chairing the National Governors Association.

“That work is important, and I believe both of those roles will give me the opportunity to make an impact on the direction of my party and our nation,” he added.

“Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says he won’t challenge Trump in 2020,” Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN, June 1, 2019.

I’m sure Larry won’t be voting for Trump next year given our governor’s track record, and truth be told he’ll have the advantage of a fairly dull campaign year in 2020. Barring a heretofore unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate, there are no statewide races on the 2020 docket, and aside from the possibility of a spirited race in a redrawn Sixth Congressional District, the House races will likely be decided in their respective primaries. So Larry won’t have to demean himself by campaigning for any of those icky conservatives – not that he has much in the way of practice.

However, Larry has established an eerie parallel to his abortive 2010 campaign for governor; a campaign that barely got out of the starting block before he pulled the plug, deferring to his old boss Bob Ehrlich. Out of that came Hogan’s Change Maryland organization, which served as a foil to the governorship of Martin O’Malley and paved the way to Hogan’s 2014 victory – a victory he gloats about.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is not a career politician. He spent nearly his entire career as a small businessman. Fed up with high taxes, politics as usual, and decades of a one-party monopoly, he started Change Maryland, the largest non-partisan grassroots citizen organization in state history. In 2014, out-numbered in party registration by more than 2-1, and outspent by more than 5-1, Governor Hogan pulled off the biggest upset in America to become only the second Republican Governor elected in Maryland in 50 years.

Governor Hogan quickly got to work and set an example for the nation, accomplishing what many believed was no longer possible: reaching across the aisle, and working together to achieve real bipartisan, common sense solutions.

As Hogan was taking the hard pass on a 2020 run, he traveled a familiar road in setting up an organization primarily dedicated to keeping his name in the limelight. Dubbed An America United, Hogan is obviously setting this group up to prepare for a centrist run for the GOP nod in 2024 – basically the same lane John Kasich had in 2016 and held prior to that by guys like John McCain and Jon Huntsman. When most of the news glowingly featured on the site comes from the Washington Post, New York Times, or CNN – the farthest right source of his front-page news is the now-defunct home of #NeverTrump establishment Republicans The Weekly Standard – it’s a pretty safe bet that the group is not going to venture too far right of center.

Naturally the group has its goals, expressed in the standard bromides about “bipartisan, common-sense solutions to create more and better jobs, cut taxes, protect the environment, build our infrastructure, and improve education.” Unfortunately, based on his record in Maryland, what he considers “common sense” is just slowing the long-standing drift away from the ideals that made the nation great. After all, he turned his back on creating jobs in the energy industry (private-sector jobs), squandered opportunities to cut taxes further by asking for ever-larger budgets, and contracted the Democrat disease of believing that to “improve education” is to spend much more money on it rather than allowing the billions that’s already there to follow the child.

In 2024 the nation will be in a quandary: either facing an uncertain political future after eight years of Donald Trump or dealing with the backsliding which will be occurring should one of those in the Democrat “clown limousine” be running for re-election. I honestly suspect that’s what Larry is hoping for, knowing that only once in the last 90 years has a Republican president been elected to succeed a fellow Republican (Bush 41 after Reagan.) John McCain in 2008, Gerald Ford – who served as President but was never elected in his own right – in 1976, and Richard Nixon in 1960 were the last three to try, but you have to go back to Herbert Hoover winning in 1928 after Calvin Coolidge chose not to run to find the previous example before the late George H.W. Bush.

(However, the string is even longer for Democrats: the last time a Democrat succeeded a Democrat, aside from death in office, was 1856 as James Buchanan served one term after fellow one-termer Franklin Pierce. To tell you how long ago that was, Pierce in 1852 succeeded the last Whig to be President, Millard Fillmore. Your Presidential tidbit.)

So don’t think Larry is uninterested in the 2020 race. He’s just choosing to bide his time, perhaps believing that America electing a far-left President will allow him to escape the crocodile that will call any Republican “extremist.” But I have news for Larry: even if he became a “blue dog” Democrat to run, he would still be on the menu regardless.

Destroying a national party, too

The moment Martin O’Malley ducked the TEA Party wave in 2010 and won re-election – in no small part thanks to a rematch of the 2006 race for Maryland governor against the moderate Bob Ehrlich – the conventional wisdom knew MOM was pointing toward a 2016 race for the White House. So in term number two O’Malley worked on burnishing his far-left credentials for a national run, getting gay marriage and in-state tuition for illegal aliens passed in the General Assembly and leading enough to see repeal efforts for both fail at the ballot box. The state was also on the receiving end of an offshore wind boondoggle O’Malley pushed through the Maryland General Assembly, making it certain he was checking all the progressive boxes for a 2016 Presidential bid. Even the prospect of an all but gift-wrapped U.S. Senate seat thanks to the impending retirement of longtime Senator Barb Mikulski couldn’t deter O’Malley from his goal.

But a funny thing happened to Martin in 2014: the conventional wisdom that he would be a witness to Maryland history by being the first governor to have his lieutenant governor succeed him – as a bonus, checking off another Democrat box by making Anthony Brown Maryland’s first black governor – was tossed out the window when Republican Larry Hogan took three years of constant criticism of MOM’s tax-and-spend record via the Change Maryland organization and parlayed it into his election as Maryland’s 62nd governor. Granted, Anthony Brown ran a campaign as uninspiring as his name, but the criticism of O’Malley’s record was so fierce – and the national Democrat skids so greased for Hillary Clinton – that O’Malley was barely a cipher in the 2016 race for the White House. And even with every Democrat and his or her brother or sister jumping into the 2020 race for the Oval Office, MOM has already taken a pass on it.

On the other hand, Larry Hogan came into office with a broad fiscally conservative agenda. To the extent he could lower tolls and redirect transportation money away from the black hole of Baltimore’s Red Line and toward actual fixing of highways, Hogan was a hero to Republicans. But over time he lost conservative support by compromising too much on items like the hated Phosphorus Management Tool, being squishy at best on the Second Amendment (a sore issue for 2A backers thanks to another MOM initiative, the so-called Firearm Safety Act), reneging on a pledge to overturn an O’Malley fracking ban, and flip-flopping on retaining the Roger Taney statue that once stood at the State House until being removed in the dead of night, among many other reasons.

Yet despite the loss of conservative support, Hogan was all but assured re-election when a plurality of Democrats chose onetime NAACP head Ben Jealous from a crowded primary field to oppose him in 2018. Hogan had already dodged his first bullet when Congressman John Delaney declined a bid for governor (or a surefire re-election to Congress) for a quixotic Presidential run – announcing his intentions in mid-2017 when absolutely no one save hardcore political junkies was paying attention – so the far-left loonies sticking together and selecting Jealous for 2018 was the break Hogan needed to secure perhaps even 1/3 of the Democrat vote to go with his 90-plus percent of Republicans and well over half of independents.

But you would think that, with a comfortable 11-point victory, the Hogan coattails would be quite long. Instead, his were tucked in because Republicans lost a net of seven seats in the General Assembly. While their ranks in the Senate swelled a slight bit from 14 to 15, it was far short of the ballyhooed “drive for five” the Maryland GOP sought to give Hogan veto protection. Meanwhile, the House elections were a disaster as the GOP ranks plunged from 50 to 42, with the carnage particularly severe in suburban areas around Annapolis and Baltimore. Several good Delegates were shown the door thanks to the additional Democrat turnout, as those voters only circled one GOP oval for Hogan. This trend also doomed the already uphill battles of good Republican candidates for U.S. Senate and Attorney General (Tony Campbell and Craig Wolf, respectively) who Hogan rarely failed to ignore on his campaign trail.

This was nothing new for Hogan, though. A vocal critic and opponent of the Trump administration, Larry famously admitted writing in his dad’s name for President in 2016 instead of voting for the GOP nominee. But even as Trump has proven to be something of a miracle worker on the economy and not been the disaster feared by many on other fronts, Hogan hasn’t been a cheerleader. While the signs of a 2020 Presidential run weren’t as blatantly obvious, certainly there are some out there who knew Hogan either already had a bigger position in mind or could be swayed into making a bid based on the theory that he’s a compromising, work-across-the-aisle-for-the-common-good governor in a blue state. After all, he already had the SuperPAC.

It’s been a couple weeks now, but as a headliner for a New Hampshire event considered a ritual for presidential wannabes, Hogan said the following.

“Here in New Hampshire, for example, they like to be independent, they like to look at the candidates and kick the tires and meet people one-on-one. I’m pretty good at retail politics. That’s how I won my state with no money,” Hogan said during a subsequent news conference with reporters, prior to heading to the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper for an editorial board interview and meeting with the publisher.

“There are, I think, 23 states that have open primaries of one sort or another, so independents and Democrats can cross over and vote,” he said.

“Larry Hogan edges toward 2020 challenge to Trump: ‘I’m taking it more seriously'”, David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, April 23, 2019.

To win the Republican nomination it appears Hogan is counting on non-Republican votes. Sound familiar? It should, since in early 2016 there was always the question of how many Democrats were trying for their own “Operation Chaos” by voting for Trump in open-primary states, knowing that they would vote in November for Hillary Clinton.

Hogan’s New Hampshire appearance drew scads of local interest in both Maryland and the Granite State, as one may expect. But did it bear fruit?

Last week we found out a little bit. A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll drew the most attention for placing Joe Biden atop the Democrat field in one of the first major polls since he declared (more on Biden in an upcoming post), but it also surveyed the GOP race as a somewhat hypothetical one between President Trump and three governors (two former, one current): Hogan, 2016 GOP also-ran John Kasich of Ohio, and 2016 Libertarian VP candidate William Weld, a long-ago governor of Massachusetts.

In the poll, which sampled nearly 400 New Hampshire Republicans, Hogan was dead last in the GOP field with exactly 1 vote, which translated to 0.2%. The good news is that he beat two Democrats: another current governor, Jay Inslee, and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel since both had zero. The bad news: two guys who aren’t even in the race yet (Montana governor Steve Bullock and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio) are either tied (de Blasio) or ahead of Hogan. Then again, Larry hasn’t formally declared either and may not until later this year when it’s time to get on primary ballots.

Speaking before that New Hampshire audience, Hogan “called for the Republican Party to appeal to a broader base, operate with civility and govern by consensus.” As the WaPo noted, “The audience included some activists who are thirsting for an intraparty fight.” In and of itself, I really don’t mind a primary fight that much – Trump can take care of himself. But if those were my four choices – well, that primary ballot would be left blank.

And if Hogan is, by some reverse miracle, the Republican nominee that becomes President, it may be the best thing ever for the third-party movement because the Republican Party would be no more. Conservatives would revolt, especially if the Democrats captured the Senate and kept the House, because Larry would be rolled on a national stage even worse than he is in Maryland. Of course, that would be huge for Democrats as their opposition is splintered and they would take the opportunity to consolidate power even further, using the fig leaf of bipartisanship at the times when they needed it.

Granted, the odds of an insurgent campaign defeating an incumbent from a party are quite small: it was last tried on the GOP side by Pat Buchanan in 1992 and Democrat Ted Kennedy made a bid in 1980. While neither came close to succeeding, it can be argued they weakened the incumbent enough to ensure his defeat later on in the general election.

If that’s Larry Hogan’s aim in running for President in 2020, he may as well go ahead and change his affiliation to unaffiliated. (He could still run as a Republican just like Bernie Sanders runs as a Democrat.) As I’m a principle over party guy, I think Larry’s lack of principles and unwillingness to stand up to the far-left opposition in Maryland place him squarely in the unaffiliated camp anyway.

Odds and ends number 93

There’s been a lot piling up in my e-mail box as I prepared The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, so now that I have that wrapped up I can move on to a few long-overdue things, like this one. As always, it’s things I can speak to in a couple sentences to a few paragraphs, wrapped up in a rhetorical bow.

On the Maryland front

I’ve received a number of items from my old friends at the Maryland Public Policy Institute but these few stuck out at me. First was Marta Mossburg’s assessment of our governor’s Presidential election chances:

If Gov. Larry Hogan decides to challenge Donald Trump for the presidency, he will lose before stepping into the ring.

A man who in the State of the State and at his second inauguration tried to out Roger Mr. Rogers with calls for bipartisanship has no chance outside the small neighborhood of Maryland. Anyone with an R beside their name is evil to those on the progressive left throughout the nation even if they never don a MAGA hat. And what in his record will speak to the national Republican base so loudly they would be willing to dump Mr. Trump for him?

“I lowered tolls!” isn’t a rallying cry to stir the masses. Neither is “I stopped Democrat overreach!” And “I supported the most expensive public transportation project in the world” won’t win him an invitation to break bread with wealthy Republican donors who want to shrink government.

“Maryland needs to win for Gov. Hogan to win higher office”, MPPI blog, February 5, 2019.

Not to mention we already have a socially-liberal #NeverTrump in the running for losing the GOP nomination. But the point remains: Donald Trump, for all his faults, is probably more conservative than Larry Hogan is. A conservative Larry Hogan would veto practically everything the Maryland General Assembly passes (instead of caving in to some of their worst proposals) because how often do they even consider his sponsored bills? Add to that the fact that Trump will actually campaign for conservatives (unlike what happened to a certain Maryland U.S. Senate candidate last time around) and the thought that Hogan would be wise to concentrate on Maryland makes more sense.

And if that wasn’t enough, MPPI scored big with their assessment of Maryland’s spending problem and long-standing alternatives to a job-killing $15 per hour minimum wage.

A fast-growing industry

Speaking of Governor Hogan and caving in: despite Maryland’s foolish refusal to get in on the game, extraction is the nation’s fastest-growing industry. But even Andy Harris has been reluctant to advocate for offshore drilling despite its potential benefits, as this op-ed suggests. As I often say, the reason environmentalists oppose seismic testing isn’t the harm to creatures but is truly that of what we may find is out there now that testing methods have improved over those of 30 years ago.

On the other hand, those trying to kill industry in the country are hard at work trying to fool people. Two cases in point come from the Capital Research Center, which posted a couple good pieces on union influence in politics these days in left-leaning states as well as the federal government. But if you really want to take the cake, just listen to what Slow Joe Biden said a few days ago:

It’s time we told the truth about what unions have really done for America.

With the dues they paid, the picket lines they walked, the negotiations they sweated through, those union workers weren’t just standing up for other union workers.

The rights they fought for benefited every American worker.

Minimum wage. Overtime pay. The 40-hour workweek. Safer working conditions. The elimination of child labor, for crying out loud. The list goes on and on.

This country wasn’t built by a few Wall Street bankers, CEOs, or hedge fund managers. It was built by the American middle class.

“It’s Time To Tell The Truth About Unions.” e-mail from American Possibilities.

Here’s a little more truth: I was often told by a relative – who was a union steward, for crying out loud – that “unions are for the lazy man.” When the incentives become perverse, like intentionally slow-walking a task so the productivity expectation remains artificially low, it’s apparent that unions provide a floor level of benefits but also create a ne plus ultra of accomplishment. The most productive and innovative have no place in a union.

Good news for the Constitution (party)

Did you know the Constitution Party has 110,000 registered voters around the country? It doesn’t seem like much but worth remembering is that not all states specifically allow registration to any party but the big two.

But I love the contributions being made by an unknown person who goes by the nom de plume “Digital Paul Revere.” In one statement, DPR said a lot about the type of person the Constitution Party should attract:

I am writing to you because I have witnessed firsthand the absolute horror of socialism. These essays are not newsletters. They aren’t meant to bring you recent Party news. They are long-form commentaries on current events happening in our country. They are viewpoints, seen through the lens of a Millennial American who has lived for a significant length of time under a true socialist dictatorship: China. These essays are meant as an olive branch to young Americans, frustrated by the perversion of the political process today, alienated by the major political parties, crushed under unimaginable debt with little hope of ever having the means to repay it, and “politically homeless”. They are also meant to give older generations of Americans a glimpse into the future that awaits your children and grandchildren, should you fail to act now.

In these essays, I hope to provide a point of view that will help fellow American patriots see the danger that our nation is in and call to action all who wish to see the situation improve. I can tell you with absolute conviction that many Americans do not know the extent to which socialism has corrupted our systems and institutions. I didn’t know either. It is only after having lived under true socialism that I can see the telltale signs of its growing influence on our country.

“Introduction to a Reformed Millennial,” DPR.

In a similar vein, DPR writes that it’s better to be an American. I like that.

The Constitution Party also gained a couple more officeholders thanks to partisan switches – one from Republican and another from a conservative Democrat who was elected based on their votes in a North Carolina race. In looking up the results, though, I found this gentleman was an incumbent county commissioner who turned out to be a primary election loser that took advantage of the CP’s newly-won ballot access to avenge his primary loss. In most cases, “sore loser” laws would prevent this, so his victory comes with an asterisk, too. It’s tough to compete with the duopoly, though.

The Kochs of the Left

The penultimate piece before I go is a groundbreaking report from the Capital Research Center on a left-wing dark money entity called Arabella Advisors. If you ever wonder how these left-leaning “grassroots” groups suddenly pop up out of nowhere, this piece may help you to understand that it’s some serious Astroturf. And they had the nerve to call the TEA Party “Astroturf?” Sorry, I know some of the TEA Party founders and believe me, they are legit. If you’re still not convinced, read this.

Flogging the scamPAC horse

That’s not to say that the TEA Party didn’t eventually sell out, though. Call it flogging a dead horse, but the TEA Party Express is coming off like a scam PAC with an appeal that claims:

The recent polls coming out are showing President Trump behind many of the Democratic candidates.  Now, as financial disclosures are due for the first quarter of the year, we see that these Democrats are raising unheard of millions of dollars – over $70 million and counting.  So Trump is behind in both the polls and in the critical fight for financial resources to communicate with the American people.

We launched the “Tea Party for Trump” to get conservatives off the sidelines and back in the field to preserve the tremendous gains we have made over the last two years and achieve even more victories ahead in a second term of Trump-Pence.

“Fight back for Trump” e-mail from Sal Russo of the Tea Party Express.

There are no less than seven different linked appeals for donations.

Now I’m not sure if the TPX (as I called it for shorthand in my book) ever ran a bus tour for the 2018 midterms – if they did it was nowhere near my radar and I think I have a decently attuned one. But if Lloyd Marcus is to be believed they may get the band back together for Trump 2020. We will see.

Still. it’s a shame how far the TPX has fallen. Luckily my friend Mark Williams isn’t dead or he may be rolling in his grave about this one.

Now that I have pretty much cleaned out my e-mail, I think we can put odds and ends to bed for a few weeks.

A welcome respite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why $15 is the wrong fight

I have seen reports all over social media and the “real” media that the Maryland House of Delegates has passed an increase in the minimum wage that will eventually lead it to $15 per hour by 2025. I’m not up on just who is who in the House these days but I presume a 96-44 vote is pretty much party line – there may have been a Democrat who voted against it, but I don’t know and it likely doesn’t matter in the scheme of things because it’s a vetoproof majority and the way Democrats are ramming this through it will be passed at a time when the veto can be overridden in session. (With Larry Hogan’s record, I can no longer say “inevitable veto.”)

It should be pointed out first of all that the “fight for $15” is sort of a misnomer because the raise from the current $10.10 per hour – a rate established last July – to $15 an hour would not be complete until January, 2025. This is a significant change from the original bill, which mandated the raise be in place by July, 2023. (The House bill has been amended while the cross-filed Senate bill remains as it was originally intended, so it works well for comparison.) But since the state began regularly raising its minimum wage in January, 2015, workers have already received a 26.3% bump in four years – well beyond the rate of inflation and a far cry from the normal 2-3% annual raises many workers receive if they are lucky. Whether it takes eight years or ten years, a salary increase of 87.5% for gaining absolutely no skills is far more than the market would naturally allow.

I’ll circle back to that point in a moment, but it’s also worth considering that union workers who have their wage rates tied to a point above the minimum wage will also get a raise. And when workers get a raise, guess who else does?

In today’s climate of dramatic minimum wage increases of 50% or more, unions — predominantly in the service sector — can also directly benefit from minimum wage increases because their members’ pay is less than the new minimum. Take California, for instance, which passed a $15 minimum wage last year. The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) usedCensus Bureau data to estimate that roughly 223,000 union members in the state will receive a direct pay increase by the time the law is fully implemented.

It’s bad news for taxpayers, but a solid investment for unions. A powerful California-based SEIU local spent about $1.6 million to collect the signatures needed to qualify the $15 ballot measure that forced Gov. Jerry Brown to back such a mandate. EPI estimated that California unions can expect a return on investment of roughly $9 million in additional dues per year.

“Why Do Unions Fund The Fight For $15 Minimum Wage? Because They Gain A Financial Windfall In Return,” Ed Rensi, Forbes, January 19, 2017.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Big Labor here in Maryland has similar deals with business owners held hostage to these union contracts.

Now circle back with me if you would and think about who earns minimum wage from a job. Generally they are people just entering the job market or those who don’t develop their skills beyond the point of being barely hireable. My first “real” W-2 job was working in the on-campus dining halls at college, and it was a minimum wage job – just as my roommate who snagged a cushy library job made. Since I was essentially a temporary worker, it didn’t matter to the school that I was making $3.35 an hour to run a dishwasher. And since most of my money went to the local sub shop or to buy the occasional 12-pack when I became legal, I didn’t much worry about it, either. In fact, my first job out of college at a department store was minimum wage – but this college graduate quickly parlayed his degree into a 49% raise when the architectural firm I interviewed with a few weeks earlier offered me a position less than a month after I started working at the store. More skills and a little bit of work experience = higher wages. I created more potential value from my labor.

This is the problem with minimum wage as I see it. Do you think Maryland workers are going to instantly create another 75 cents to a dollar’s worth of value to their employers each hour just because the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 or 2024 to 2025? Of course they won’t – but if a business owner had 20 minimum-wage employees who worked an average of 20 hours a week, it’s an extra $300 or $400 they need to clear.

I’ll grant there’s a bit of merit to the argument that raising the wage creates people with more money to spend, but what are the chances enough people will take their extra money and spend it at the business in question? When the percentage of workers who make minimum wage hovers in the low single-digits, there’s not enough of an impetus for that so-called “extra” money to make much of an impact on the economy at large but, at the same time, it can be devastating to a business that requires a lot of unskilled labor.

There’s also the impact on workers who make slightly to significantly more than minimum wage to consider. They won’t get an automatic raise, but their standard of living declines by the amount that businesses have to raise their prices to cover costs. It may only be an extra percent or two in scattered businesses, but eventually that adds up. Note that amendments to Maryland’s most recent minimum wage bill not only slowed down the increase by 18 months but also scrapped the automatic increase based on inflation – probably to make it an issue for the 2024 or 2026 elections.

I have often said, and will continue to say because it’s true, that the real minimum wage is zero – the amount you make when the job you may have secured when the minimum wage was $8 an hour and you weren’t a significant risk to the employer if you didn’t work out is the job that’s no longer available at $10.10 an hour.

Regardless, it’s all but certain that a minimum wage increase will pass in Maryland this year. The Left needs that victory and many others in order to try and tank the state and national economy for the 2020 election. (Notice the lack of enthusiasm over the 2.9% GDP increase despite the fact it’s our best since 2015 – losing by a fractional .0009% – and close to the first 3% annual calendar year growth rate since 2005. One could argue the Schumer-Pelosi-Trump shutdown may have cost us that 0.1 percent.) Apologists for the Obama economic record (“Analysts have called into question just how much a particular president actually impacts the economy during his tenure”) now expect a recession to hit by the next election (“While the fourth-quarter cooling isn’t quite as extreme as some economists feared, the metric does little to placate existing concerns about a global economic slowdown.”)

But someone believes in magic, as in that people will magically produce more value through an arbitrary wage increase. Cue the pixie dust and unicorns.

Odds and ends number 92

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

A private fight for $15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And speaking of Astroturf…

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

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

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

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

Nor should we forget this tangled web the Left weaved.

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

More wasteful spending

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

The state of American energy…is strong

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

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

So is the state of American manufacturing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting the last war

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In passing

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

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

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

Coming up…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends number 91

It’s amazing how much stuff one thinks is newsworthy at the time and thus collects in an e-mail account, but by the time they think about writing on it the moment is gone. In this case, it’s items I thought were important enough at the time to keep around and still hold enough interest to me to make the cut days or weeks later.

As usual, it’s a sentence to a few paragraphs. So here goes…

Obama goes all-in on redistricting

Back in December I (along with millions of others) received an e-mail from our most recent past President telling us he’s joining forces with Eric Holder:

Next year, OFA is fully combining forces with the redistricting effort of my former attorney general, Eric Holder. We’re going all-in on the fight against gerrymandering — because for all the hard-fought progress we’ve achieved together, the lack of truly representative government has too often stood in the way of change.

Now, that structural gridlock has been frustrating, no doubt. But if we capitalize on the opportunity to reverse these undemocratic and unrepresentative maps, the bounds of what is possible will fundamentally change.

With maps that deliver on the promise of equal representation, our political leaders will be forced to actually prioritize the will and well-being of the American people on the most pressing issues of our time.

“What’s Next,” e-mail from Organizing for Action, December 20, 2018.

Traditionally the federal government has pretty much left states alone in how they apportion their given number of representatives, which means you get diametrically differing results: some states have it done by a commission, others by their legislature, and Maryland has the governor do it. (Obviously it’s no issue in Delaware as they get just one at-large House member.)

Since attaining office in 2014, Larry Hogan has tried to reform redistricting to no avail. Perhaps this is because Democrats have controlled the process for every redistricting since 1960, a census that led the state to having an “at-large” representative until the shape and placement of an eighth district could be agreed on. (The state was allotted an eighth representative in the 1960 census.) The dirty work of reform could be carried out by the Supreme Court, too, which is the hope of Democrats (like Obama) who think the GOP should blink first because they control more states.

But it’s certain Maryland’s situation is closer to the Obama-Holder idea of “fairness” than other, Republican-drawn states are. I notice they haven’t made a big deal about our state’s blatant attempts at shifting districts from Republican to Democrat – a case that led to the district court ruling mandating a redraw of our Sixth District before the 2020 election.

An Indivisible shutdown

Not surprisingly, the left-wing Astroturf group is taking credit for egging on the Schumer-Pelosi shutdown and calling on the Senate to consider no legislation until a “clean” continuing resolution is sent up for approval.

Just (Tuesday), Senate Democrats, lead (sic) by Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), backed our strategy to refuse to proceed with business as usual until Mitch McConnell brings a bill to the floor to reopen the government. They played hardball, and they won – blocking the first bill that Mitch McConnell tried to bring up.

“When autocrats abuse the tools of democracy,” Indivisible e-mail, January 9, 2019

But listen to the rhetoric they are using: did you know concrete and steel are racist? This is from the “Republican Senator” call script (there’s one for Democrats, too.)

Will [Senator] commit to passing the House funding bills that would reopen our government instead holding our government hostage over Trump’s racist wall?

Indivisible action page

Look, I get the argument about how more of our illegal immigrants are those overstaying visas than those sneaking across the border. So I know a wall is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, since there also needs to be enforcement personnel put in place as well as measures to make being here illegally less attractive, such as an end to “birthright citizenship” and punishment for businesses that routinely hire illegal aliens. I would listen to an argument that allows those here illegally to become citizens, but it would involve them starting the process from within their home country.

First things first, though: pony up the $5 billion and build the wall. (Dude, in the grand scheme of our overly-bloated federal government budget that’s a rounding error.) The last time I checked the Constitution – you know, that document public officials swear to uphold – common defense was supposed to be provided for, and to me a wall would be part of common defense, even if it’s not in the actual defense budget. Every day the Democrats obstruct is a day they putting politics above safety.

Meanwhile, in news being ignored…

Americans keep getting hired to build things. Remember a few years ago when the Alliance for American Manufacturing had a monthly count comparing the actual number of manufacturing jobs created under Barack Obama to the million he promised? I think that ended about 700,000 short. But instead of giving Donald Trump credit for eclipsing the half-million mark in that category in less than two years, they want more trade enforcement. Stop and smell the roses, guys.

But can the good times last?

There’s going to be a two-front war on prosperity conducted by the Left. On the public front there’s the so-called “Green New Deal,” which has been ably dissected by Hayden Ludwig of the Capital Research Center. Corollary to that is the contrarian advice to Democrats given by Bobby Jindal in the Wall Street Journal. I won’t take you behind the paywall, but the upshot is that “(a) more effective strategy (than impeachment threats, abolishing ICE, or installing “Medicare for All”) would be for House Democrats to take Mr. Trump’s populist campaign rhetoric seriously and seek to divide him from his more conventional Republican colleagues on the Hill.”

I don’t know just how far Jindal’s tongue is in his cheek, but I have to question how serious he is when he says:

Populist Democrats can help the president make good on his promises – and make Republicans shriek – by proposing a financial-transaction tax and a revenue tax on tech companies. They’d be following Europe’s lead. Democrats can force the issue by ending the carried-interest tax break, another of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises.

That new revenue would reduce annual deficits and make a down payment on another Trump campaign promise: eliminating the nation’s debt in eight years. Contrasting themselves with supposed small-government congressional Republicans, who presided over a $779 billion budget deficit during the last fiscal year, Democrats can be the party of fiscal responsibility, expanding government while reducing the deficit. There is no law mandating they spend all the new revenue they raise.

“If Democrats Were Shrewd…”, Bobby Jindal, Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2018

Wanna bet they won’t spend the revenue? See “Green New Deal” above.

Behind the scenes, though, the die has been cast for a rerun of 2007-2008, when a Republican President saddled with an unpopular war let a Democrat Congress that promised to be reformers walk all over him. To that end, the first thing the Democrats did when they got the reins of power was change the rules. This link came courtesy of my old friend Melody Clarke – longtime fans of the site (like her) may remember her as Melody Scalley, who twice ran for Virginia’s House of Delegates and used to have a conservative talk radio program I guested on back in the day. (Geez, that was almost a decade ago. *sigh*)

But the House rules are important because previous incarnations made it more difficult to raise taxes or create new spending without offsetting it somewhere else. Now they favor bigger, more intrusive government for the well-connected special interests that attach to Democrats like ticks to hound dogs.

Creating more choices for Maryland

If you recall my postmortem coverage of the most recent past election, you will note I was corrected in one of my assertions by state Libertarian Party Chair Bob Johnston. I thought it was any statewide candidate who could get 1% to keep a party on the ballot, but he said it had to be governor (or President) and despite my last-minute support Shawn Quinn got well less than 1% of the vote.

But, thanks to a previous court case brought by an independent candidate for statewide office, the threshold for statewide ballot inclusion is now 10,000 signatures. (That helped Neal Simon run for U.S. Senate.) Using that logic, the Maryland Libertarian Party is suing the state to further relax ballot standing rules:

Maryland law requires smaller parties – all those other than the Democrats and Republicans – to renew their official status every four years either by attracting more than 1% of the gubernatorial or presidential vote or by filing a petition with the signatures of 10,000 registered voters.  In 2014 the Libertarians became the first smaller party in Maryland to reach the 1% goal, but in 2018 they fell short.  Now state law requires them to collect 10,000 signatures—even though the state’s own records already show that there are 22,338 registered Libertarians.

“The state’s interest in ensuring that there is a significant modicum of support within Maryland for the Libertarian Party is simply not advanced one iota by requiring Maryland’s 22,000 Libertarians to petition their non-Libertarian neighbors for permission to participate in the political process,” say the plaintiffs in their complaint.

Maryland Libertarian Party press release, December 27, 2018.

If the Libertarians are successful, they would qualify for the 2020 and 2022 ballots – although I’m not sure how they don’t qualify for 2020 when Gary Johnson received well over 1% of the Maryland vote in 2016. (Perhaps it’s only for the remainder of the state’s four-year electoral cycle?) This would certainly make the game easier for the Libertarian Party as they don’t have to spend money chasing petition signatures nor would they have to convince another 18,000 or so voters to join their ranks to get them to 1% of the registered voters. (Getting a percentage of registered voters is a criteria for both Maryland and Delaware, but the numbers are easier to achieve in Delaware, which only requires 1/10 of a percent – and subsequently has seven balloted parties.)

And with 9,287 registered voters and a “Green New Deal” to support, it’s certain that Maryland’s Green Party is watching this case (Johnston v. Lamone) as well.

Coming up…

As I mentioned in yesterday’s piece I have a special record review coming. I was actually listening to it as I did this post, so it was good background music I’ll take another spin at this week before posting.

I’ve also been putting together a short series of posts – ones that are long on number-crunching and research, which make them even more fun for me – on something I enjoy. My friends watching the Hot Stove League should really appreciate it, too.

It all beats the political, which has degenerated to me almost to mind-numbingly boring because it’s so, so predictable. When it strikes my fancy I’ll delve into it again, but in the meantime it’s the other stuff.