50,000 strong – but where does it go?

Last week, in another story sort of buried in the runup to the Tawes event, the fine folks at Change Maryland hit the 50,000 “like” mark on Facebook. (Today it appears they have surpassed 51,000.) It bears recalling that in the spring of 2012 they were just at 12,000 – although I noted at the time their cake was much more optimistic. Perhaps by the spring convention of 2014 that extra zero will come in handy.

It seems the rule of thumb is that their membership grew in year two at a rate twice as fast as it did in Change Maryland’s first year – if this continues they would be in the 115,000 range by this time next year. But is that too optimistic of a goal?

The bread and butter of Change Maryland has been its strident opposition of Martin O’Malley’s numerous tax hikes and pointing out his incompetence at job creation, especially when compared to peer states. But having covered many of those revenue enhancements now – and knowing 2014 is an election year for his anointed successor, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown – the process of raising taxes may come to a halt. Bear in mind as well that most of O’Malley’s increases are now occurring automatically like clockwork; for example, the sales tax charged on gasoline increases in July during both 2014 and 2015.

A second item affecting Hogan’s organization is a change in personnel. Jim Pettit, who worked with Change Maryland during its run to 50,000, recently joined the campaign of gubernatorial candidate David Craig. Perhaps this is a good time for a transition, knowing that much of the issue advocacy occurs during and immediately after the General Assembly session, but I don’t discount the experience Pettit brought to the table. He’s been replaced by Matt Proud, who has plenty of political experience for a youngster and may bring some youthful enthusiasm to the effort, but will still need a little time to transition into the task.

But what does having 50,000 Facebook followers really mean? Change Maryland explains:

(Change Maryland) has built a dominating presence on social media with more people engaged online than the Maryland Democratic Party, the Maryland Republican Party and all of the potential statewide candidates of either party, added together. Change Maryland’s Facebook page has a total weekly reach of over 341,153 people. No other citizen group in the state has ever accomplished what Change Maryland has, in just over two years.

So they are influencing over 300,000 people of all political stripes with a fiscally conservative message. But will founder Larry Hogan upset the apple cart by making his own bid for Governor? Hogan was coy at Tawes, being quoted in an AP story as noting:

I just think it’s very, very early to be here in the hot, dog days of July the year before the election to be out campaigning. At some point, we might have to take a serious look at it. I don’t think we would do that for quite some time, though.

The way I interpret that is the question of whether Michael Steele jumps into the race later on. None of the others on the GOP side could reasonably be interpreted as Bob Ehrlich loyalists in the way Hogan or Steele would be.

In some respects Hogan is faced with a similar question Newt Gingrich faced in 2008: fresh off the formation of American Solutions, Newt had to decide whether to jump into the presidential race or continue to grow his group. He eventually decided to take a pass on the 2008 race, choosing to maintain his American Solutions leadership role. Conversely, once Newt decided to enter the 2012 presidential race his group withered on the vine.

If Change Maryland becomes interpreted as a campaign entity for Larry Hogan’s gubernatorial bid, its influence would wane. But if Hogan becomes a kingmaker of sorts, using his organization to promote candidates with a fiscally responsible track record in the same manner Sarah Palin lends her hand to certain conservative hopefuls on a national scale (such as Dan Bongino) he could retain his following and influence the 2014 election up and down the line.

There’s no question Maryland needs a change from the liberal philosophy dragging the state down, and Hogan’s group is succeeding in getting out the message. The next step is motivating these disciples to action, and we won’t know the success of that mission until November of 2014.

What makes me tick (politically)

As an officeholder, I was asked to fill out this survey by American Solutions regarding my stance on issues, and I thought it was worth sharing on this Saturday. They only asked for a yes or no answer so any additional comments are part of this descriptive post, while their questions are in bold.

Michael Swartz supports American Solutions which are backed by Democrats, Republicans and Independents. We urge you to make these Solutions part of your campaigns for office.

Do you believe there are values which unite a large majority of Americans? (86% to 10%)
Yes. Looks like I agree with the 86 percent.

Are you running for office to strengthen and revitalize America’s core values? (80% to 9%)
Yes. I’m already in office but I do intend to run for re-election.

Do you believe in long-term solutions instead of short-term fixes? (95% to 5%)
Yes. I’ve been preaching this for the five years I’ve been blogging, and then some. I think the five percent inhabit Congress and inside the Beltway in general.

Do you believe government has to change the way it operates and bring in ideas and systems currently employed in the private sector to increase productivity and effectiveness? (74% to 16%)
Yes. And it begins at the local level because good government tends to start there and work upward.

Do you believe the changes we need in government have to occur in all 513,000 elected offices throughout the country and cannot be achieved by focusing only on Washington. (86% to 10%)
Yes. See above.

A January 2010 Rasmussen Reports poll found voters nationwide believe by a margin of 59% to 15% that cutting taxes is better than increasing government spending as a job-creation tool. Do you believe leaving taxpayer money in the hands of the American people does more good creating jobs than it could ever do through a government bureaucracy?
Yes. It’s simple logic because job creators can then cut out the government middleman.

Sixty-one percent of voters believe tax cuts help the economy and 59% of voters believe tax cuts are a better job-creation tool than government spending. Would you support a two-year 50% reduction in the payroll tax for both employer and employee to boost take-home pay and to free up cash for every employer to hire and invest?
No. Simply because that’s not enough, personally I’d prefer a consumption-based tax at the retail level and the abolition of backup withholding. Why stop at two years?

Do you believe in allowing small businesses to expense 100% of new equipment purchases to help them invest in new and more productive technology?
Yes. At least until the above situation is corrected.

The number one thing Americans associate with China is the “loss of U.S. jobs or cheap labor.” Knowing this, would you support helping American companies compete with China by matching their capital gains rate of zero?
Yes. Works for me, since they don’t play fairly we have to get tough on them.

Three out of four Americans polled during the 2008 election agreed that a lower U.S. corporate tax rate would attract more businesses to open in the United States. Knowing America has the second highest business tax rate in the world, would you spur business investment in the U.S. by lowering the U.S. corporate tax rate to 12.5% to match Ireland’s low rate?
Yes. And watch the revenues shoot upward, helping us balance a leaner budget or even run a surplus.

Knowing taxes are a major inhibitor of passing small businesses from one generation to the next; do you support permanent elimination of the Death Tax?
Yes. I know proponents say it only affects the wealthiest two percent, but I say so what? It should affect no one.

Seven out of ten voters polled during the 2008 election thought a balanced budget is good for the economy. Do you support a Constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget or a law to ensure state budgets are balanced?
Yes. The only exception should be in time of war. We also should have a supermajority to approve tax increases but a simple majority to approve cutting them.

A majority of Americans have consistently supported opening the Outer Continental Shelf for offshore drilling. The Minerals Management Service estimates there are 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas not being utilized. Would you support opening the Outer Continental Shelf to energy exploration?
Yes. Drill, baby, drill. Obviously the poll was conducted before the Deepwater Horizon disaster but I’d still stack their safety record against that of oil transport overseas.

In their most recent poll on the topic, Gallup found 59% of Americans, a record high, support the United States using nuclear power. To maintain nuclear power’s current 20% share of electricity generation, 34 new plants will need to be built by 2030. Do you support eliminating bureaucratic red tape in the permitting of new facilities?
Yes. Let’s get that done. I lived within 50 miles of two plants for years with no ill effects.

Nearly one in three Americans thought that the United States would have made greater advances in technology by 2010. Would you support Congress developing a series of prizes to encourage entrepreneurs or a companies to develop a mass market car that gets 100 miles per gallon?
No. I believe this should be done by the private sector and not taxpayer money.

Oil shale is rock that contains oil that is released when heated. Would you support lifting the ban on developing the estimated 800 billion barrels of oil shale in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah?
Yes. Dig, baby, dig. Right now oil is over the $75 per barrel threshold which makes this practical – obviously the technology will advance through use and make the price point even more attractive.

CBS News found that less than half of all parents with children in grades K-12 believe their child will be prepared to enter the job market. Do you believe education everywhere should be improved to prepare students to become lifelong learners?
Yes. Please, please, please teach critical thinking! Schools bow too much to feelgood philosophy and political correctness instead of the basics of knowledge and thought.

Two-thirds of U.S. voters surveyed by Rasmussen Reports after the 2008 election say “the teachers’ unions — the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers — are more interested in protecting their members’ jobs than in the quality of education.” Do you support dismantling the power of government employee unions?
Yes. On a national and state level the union leaders don’t seem to have the interests of the children at heart – almost all teachers do. I wonder how the NEA and AFT heads would fare in an average third-grade classroom.

Rasmussen Reports found three in five Americans, Republicans, Democrats and Independents, support rewarding excellent teachers with extra pay. Do you support paying teachers for their performance?

Do you support expanding the number of charter schools in order to provide parents more options when choosing a school for their children?
Yes. This goes with the question above in that I’d even allow for-profit schools to compete for great teachers and give them more financial security. Imagine a gifted teacher signing a multi-year contract like an athlete does.

Do you believe that we should allow professionals and experts, like engineers, scientists and accountants, with advanced degrees in their field, to teach classes part-time on subjects in the area of their expertise without the need for teaching certificates or being put through additional red tape?
Yes. Obviously the teachers’ unions wouldn’t be down with this concept but I am.

Do you believe that we should empower parents with options to avoid failing schools by creating a voucher program, similar to the Pell Grant program for college, where grants can be applied to tuition to a private school?
Yes. With one reservation – the vouchers cannot come with strings attached. We have enough problems with the government coming in with money that has mandates in exchange.

CBS News found that 70% of Americans — 85% Republicans, 53% Democrats and 73% of Independents — are either dissatisfied or angry with Washington Politicians. Do you believe that the electorate should vote out politicians who use their power to entrench themselves in office and provide benefit to political supporters?
Yes. It’s too bad the recipients of all this largesse don’t agree since they’re the ones who vote ignorantly of their best interests – there’s your 15% of Republicans, 27% of independents (who are apparently quite dependent) and 47% of Democrats.

Congressional leaders are considering a ban on “earmarks” which is when a member of Congress specially directs federal funding back to its state or district. Do you support banning earmarks?
Yes. It’s a start.

The American people have expressed outrage with politicians cutting deals during the healthcare debate like the “Cornhusker Kickback” or the “Louisiana Purchase.” Do you support Congress making legislation online for three days prior to a vote, opening all government meetings and hearings to C-SPAN and making transcripts available online within 24 hours?
Yes. The only problem with that is the old adage: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. We’re not going to solve this problem with simple access because the public also has to be educated as to why this is more important than who got booted off ‘Dancing with the Stars.’

The State of California is considering a paycheck protection ballot measure. Paycheck protection requires a Union member to give their approval before their union dues can be used to support a political campaign. The Orange County Register notes the initiative has support from 63% of Californians. Would you support a national or state paycheck protection law?
Yes. It should be done on each state level, beginning with Maryland. For that we have to vote out the union enablers in the General Assembly and governor’s chair.

Damn, that was fun. Wonder if they’ll send me a survey next year?