The problem with ‘real’ people

I saw this when it originally came out, but Michael Hausam at the IJReview website basically took Dan Bongino’s recent “us vs. them” Facebook post and shared it for the whole internet to see – and that was a good thing. Read it, then come back here for my thoughts.

What has truly gotten this nation into trouble is the political class. Think about how Washington works these days:

  • It is a culture which uses the force of law to extract your hard-earned money in such a way that you really don’t notice it anymore. You may grumble when you see all the deductions in your check due to backup withholding but just try getting them to stop.
  • That money is supposed to go toward addressing the various problems we have in society. Whether you agree with these purposes or not, funding goes to the military, dollars go to running the judicial system, money goes to providing all of the entitlements politicians have passed over the years, and so forth. But the Catch-22 is that solving the problem would make the agency, bureau, or whatever group superfluous and/or unnecessary and all those who work there would have to find honest work. Can’t have that.
  • Yet all that paper being pushed really doesn’t produce anything, Now one may argue that constructing infrastructure is something government does to produce worth, but most of the time it’s a private contractor doing the work – they’re just being paid with public funds. Government is generally in the service business as opposed to creating things of worth like automobiles, fields of corn, or extraction of minerals – and thank God for that.
  • In any case, there are a group of people within that culture whose aim in life, it seems, is to skate along as a “political consultant” and tell candidates who may or may not have been earnest people to begin with just how to fool people into believing they are one of them.

It’s been several months since I’ve spoken to Dan; since he’s running for office on the other end of the state I have been simply observing from afar for the most part. Having said what he did on Facebook and now beyond, it’s no wonder he’s filled in for Sean Hannity and Mark Levin on their radio shows – the question is always whether the glitz and glamour of the Beltway would affect him as it has so many other promising conservatives. Granted, he’s been inside that bubble (so to speak, as indeed he has) for several years so there is the unique perspective. To turn a phrase, we have to elect him to see what’s inside him and I have no problem with that. I think I can trust Dan to do what’s right, even with his taste of the life inside.

But perhaps I’m not a “real” person either, since I follow politics more closely than probably 99% of other people and write about it more than 99% of that select group. Take my county of 100,000 people and I’m one of maybe 1,000 who follow the political events closely and, yes, there are maybe 10 of us who write a lot about it. Yet in my position I have to interact with the non-political world on a daily basis and I intentionally write about other things to stay grounded in reality and keep what little sanity I have.

My biggest fear is that those who claim to be outsiders will reach the pinnacles of power and prove to be no better than those they replaced. (As The Who sang, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”) One argument within the TEA Party movement is whether it’s gotten too much like the rest of Washington, just with a different set of hucksters getting rich from it. Being on an e-mail list isn’t about discussions of policy, but appeals like this:

The clock is ticking… and there are now less than 100 days left before Election Day.

That means less than 100 days to door knock, make phone calls and attend community events to earn the vote of citizens in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Every day counts.

And that’s where you come in. I need to finalize our grassroots strategy for the next 95 days. We need to budget our campaign expenses for the final 3 months of this race.

Will you help us finalize our budget before the end of the month by sending $25, $50, $100 or more before MIDNIGHT tonight?

We must budget for media buys, purchasing lawn signs, bumper stickers, campaign materials — even small items like pizza for volunteers!

In case you’re wondering, that’s from Dan’s campaign. Now I don’t begrudge Bongino looking for money because he needs it – at least with him you’re donating to a candidate and not necessarily a consultant. I’m probably on a couple hundred different e-mail lists like Dan’s because I’m a blogger and follow politics. (The Democrat ones are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and good blog fodder.) And yes, I do mention it at times when a politician forms his own PAC and tries to get in on that game.

The biggest problem the TEA Party movement has is that they can’t elect everyone at the same time. 2010 was a good example – they picked up all those House seats but didn’t take over the Senate because only part of the body was up for election. Then it only takes one bad election (like 2012) to muck up the works for another half-decade. In 2014 they can take over the Senate but we’re still stuck with Barack Obama’s phone and pen.

And it’s the people they don’t elect who create an even bigger problem. A true rightsizing of the federal government would probably incite riots throughout the Capital region as thousands and thousands of government workers suddenly found themselves without a paycheck. Unemployment in Maryland would probably be double-digits overnight. But while some have the courage to tell the political class to hit the road, their numbers are few compared to the thousands who occupy official Washington and have created their own job security by doing just enough to stay fully funded.

They’ve long since bought the Democrat party lock, stock, and barrel and I’m not so sure the GOP’s not on the payroll, either. That’s the problem with people – too many can be bought.

Independence of thought

As is often the case at holidays, I spend a few minutes several days ahead figuring out a message to fill my space while I do other things – in this case spend time with my daughter and son-in-law without getting too wet given the pessimistic forecast.

Of late I’ve been writing a lot about a different kind of dependence – the dependence on a party structure to attain political goals. When I fell short in my bid to stay on the Wicomico GOP Central Committee, I noted that there were some liberating qualities which could come out because I was no longer as tied to the fate of the GOP.

Don’t get me wrong: as a vehicle for conservative, limited-government change, its principles are difficult to beat. The problem is how little effort Republicans at the highest levels expend in putting those ideals into practice. Oh, sure, they’ll give the excuse that they are only 1/2 of 1/3 of the government but they have the power of the purse. They just back down when they have the chance to use it because there are personal goals which are more important, like re-election – principles be damned.

No wonder no one trusts Congress.

About two years ago I finished a book which has a passage that describes my political aspirations perfectly.

I noted earlier that I was not born to be a politician because my skill set isn’t the same as, say, a Sarah Palin, a Bill Clinton, or even a Herman Cain. Sometimes it’s disheartening to realize this because I think I have a lot of good ideas.

But it can be liberating as well. Since I’m not a legislator or seeking an executive-type post, I don’t have to deliver a lot of hollow promises. In fact, my political philosophy may turn some people off because I’m the sort who doesn’t believe that government in and of itself should enrich people nor do I think it’s a proper vehicle for wealth transfer. Unfortunately, it’s been noted that “a democracy…can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury.” Since I’m opposed to that concept, there’s no way in hell I could be truthful about my beliefs and ever reach a high enough office to put these plans into action – at least not in the present-day political climate. And while that sort of double-talk and obfuscation is associated with those on the Left, I have no plans to switch parties and become a Democrat. I imagine that move would be the ultimate in reverse psychology.

The key phrase there is “present-day political climate.” There’s nothing that says we have to follow the same conventional wisdom.

At the highest levels of government, there is no Left or Right – only power. It would take a massive wave election unlike any we’ve seen to sweep all of that away; in essence, the entirety of the population which doesn’t believe the government or world owes them a living would have to be motivated enough to participate while the disinterested ones who are dependent stay home. And trust me, they would come out in force if they had to. So my goal is, as Walter E. Williams would say, “push back the frontiers of ignorance,” so that the rolls of the uninformed who don’t mind their dependence shrink.

It’s sad to think that many are chained to the government in ways we never thought about. But as long as we can think for ourselves, there is a chance things can turn around. That’s the message I want to impart on Independence Day 2014.

Delaying the inevitable solution

I’ve had a piece by Newt Gingrich in my inbox for a few days, but I knew sometime I would get to it. The piece is relatively evergreen as op-eds go so I just figured when the time came I would contribute some of my thoughts – well, the time is now since you’re reading this.

In Newt’s new book, called Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate, he describes those who would hold on to tradition for its own sake as the “prison guards of the past.” The two cases in point he described in the piece I kept around were Google’s driverless cars and “coding boot camps” where top programmers conduct intensive training programs designed to encourage employment at some of the best companies in the field – where they can perhaps work on the driverless car or other breakthroughs.

As always, there’s a fly in the ointment – whether it’s the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s fear bordering on paranoia about these Google autos zipping around without some sort of new regulation to cover them or the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education fretting that these would-be hackers aren’t getting the well-rounded politically correct education the state seems to demand, bureaucrats have to get their grubby little fingers into the pie. My question is: what exactly would they contribute?

I’ve often stated the case that government is a solution, but it rarely addresses the correct problem. It’s obviously in Google’s best interest to put out a usable and safe product such as the one which they are testing right now, just like it’s in the best interest of those who run “coding boot camps” to educate their students in the best way possible to assume the demanding task of writing millions of lines of code. (They probably could have written the Obamacare website in a couple weeks, made it work, and saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.) Snark aside, just think of the possibilities these present if left unfettered by government interference, in particular that of the driverless car.

As someone who sits behind the wheel for several hours every week doing his outside job, imagine how much more productive I could be with a good internet connection as, for example, I make my weekly drive around my various stops on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Suddenly I may more enjoy that trip I occasionally have to make to Cape Charles for calls there. And what if we could make it so cars could traverse the rural interstates safely at a higher speed, say 120 miles per hour? Then we wouldn’t need the high-speed rail boondoggle, and politically correct urban planners can’t have that. To me, a car equals freedom because you’re not a slave to another’s timetable, whether bus, train, or airplane. Sure, it will take a decade or two for a driverless car to become affordable for the average person but there may come a point – even in my lifetime – where the car with a driver may only be seen at the NASCAR track.

The problem with the idea of using government to solve a problem is their lack of incentive to find a lasting solution. If we ended poverty or, to use an issue hitting closer to home, cleaned up Chesapeake Bay to a state where you couldn’t dive in without running into the aquaculture that’s in abundance, would the government regulators say “our work is done here” and go away? Not on your life – then they would have to get honest jobs. Left to government’s own devices, we will never end the “war on poverty” or finish cleaning Chesapeake Bay because there’s too much taxpayer- or donor-supplied money at stake.

Yesterday I was thinking about freedom, and it dawned on me that we cannot have absolute freedom because that would be anarchy – everyone would live for their own self-interest and it would deteriorate into a simple game of “survival of the fittest.” But we also could not have absolute tyranny because at least the tyrant would have his or her own free will, even if he or she is the only individual so unconstrained. In all societies, we have some sort of rule of law, but the difference is in who calls the shots and whether things are set in stone or as capricious as the weather on a particular day. We are at war with Eastasia, and have always been at war with Eastasia; that is, until someone decides we’re at war with Eurasia.

It seems to me that the sweet spot in a society would be one where there are some fairly simple rules (the Ten Commandments and Constitution as written come to mind) but aside from that people have the freedom to live their lives as they see fit. Google wants to make a driverless car? On balance, it seems to me the benefits far outweigh the costs to certain other areas in the transportation industry. Software makers want good coders? All they seem to be hurting is the feelings of the government which can’t regulate them into their approved little box.

I’ve always admired Newt Gingrich – maybe not so much politically, but for the fact he seems to be thinking a generation or two ahead. I try to do the same here, as this blog and (especially) my book aren’t always for the here and now, but to look into the future and see possibilities. I may not always be right, but I try to learn as I go along.

The key going forward is to impress upon society at large that they have a purpose. We can advance under a system which has brought the world prosperity, or backslide into the tyranny mankind has known for most of its miserable existence. It’s still our choice, but the window is closing fast. Those “prison guards of the past” are aptly named, for this nation was born from tyranny and of late it’s devolving in that direction unless we can break the chains.

Dossier update number 1

Back in December, once I finished the original dossier series, I noted this would be an ongoing process. To that end, here are further statements made by the three contenders at the time, with the addition of items from Larry Hogan.

Each of these subcategories will be revisited, with changes in score noted.

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The 2014 monoblogue endorsement will be based on the following formula:

Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)

Larry Hogan: As a practical matter, seeking public financing made sense for Mr. Hogan, who entered the Republican primary race relatively late and was unlikely to raise as much privately as he may qualify for publicly. But he also noted that his decision ‘sends a great message’ about his grass-roots efforts. (Baltimore Sun, February 4, 2014)

Ron George has also talked about taking public financing, although he’s made no formal decision on the matter. He had no points anyway, nor will Hogan receive any.

Illegal immigration (5 points)

No candidates have made significant public pronouncements on the subject, so no changes and no points for Larry Hogan.

Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)

David Craig: Craig has previously called on O’Malley and Brown to stop wasting money and hindering access to health care and to promote direct enrollment options through insurance carriers and brokers. The Administration then took a modest step in that direction by working with insurance industry leaders to develop a telephone help line. (press release, February 10, 2014)

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Craig, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, said the O’Malley administration should instead be helping people get coverage directly through the insurers. He wants to reallocate $150 million, originally earmarked in part to market the problematic exchange, toward promoting alternative enrollment options.  (Fox News, January 7, 2014)

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Craig’s proposal would seek an HHS waiver to re-program funds to launch a public awareness campaign informing consumers of their right to obtain health insurance directly through carriers. A complimentary awareness campaign would inform people of their rights to utilize Maryland insurance brokers who are licensed and experienced in helping individuals with health insurance. Utilizing call centers for those needing assistance with the website would remain in place. Craig, however, would re-examine the navigator model in which people having problems with the website must set appointments with temporary workers disbursed among several organizations.

As for the vexing issue of low-income individuals seeking subsidies, Craig supports U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski’s proposal to HHS to enable a direct data hub allowing people to obtain financial assistance without going through an exchange. (citybizlist, January 7, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Lollar advocates making hospital costs “much more transparent” by posting the prices. “Until we control the costs we’re not going to get our arms around the health care issue.”

“I’m all for a moratorium on the Affordable Care Act.” (Fox 45 debate, January 16, 2014)

I had previously chided Craig for not offering up solutions (although he had done a nice job identifying the problems) but I’m not sure I like much of the approach he’s taking besides the idea about promoting alternative enrollment options. I’ll give him 1.5 points, up from none.

Lollar seems to have a better idea as far as approach, although it’s still very vague. The moratorium alone, though, is worth 2 points (he had none as well.)

Larry Hogan hasn’t addressed this, so no points.

Energy policy (8 points)

No candidates have made significant public pronouncements on the subject, so no changes and no points for Larry Hogan.

Education (9 points)

Ron George: He acknowledged that a repeal of Common Core “ain’t going to happen in the state” of Maryland. But he argues for putting the educational focus back on what he calls a “local locus of control” rather than a one size fits all federal mandate. George also believes it is important to teach entrepreneurship and financial literacy in schools in an effort to help minorities and low-income Marylanders understand how to be successful in a free enterprise system. (In The Capital, January 15, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Lollar wants to stress internships for high schoolers, with the help of corporations. (Fox 45 debate, January 16, 2014)

Let me talk about Ron George first. It’s interesting that he has gone from “I intend to fight it with all my energy” in September to “(repeal) ain’t going to happen” just four months later. I have a problem with that change of heart because if you’re elected as governor you have an automatic bully pulpit.

Look at how we were saddled with gay marriage. It didn’t happen until Martin O’Malley decided to burnish his 2016 credentials and made it an issue in 2012 (with an assist from Barack Obama, who needed the gay vote.) If you want to get rid of Common Core, you browbeat the legislators who oppose you until you get your way. So I took him down from 4 points to 3.

On the other hand, I think Lollar’s idea is pretty good so I bumped him from six points to seven.

Second Amendment (11 points)

David Craig on Rodricks show tells Dan Yes I SUPPORT concealed carry! (Facebook page, February 10, 2014)

Larry Hogan is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and is opposed to SB 281. He will work to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. Hogan supports tougher mandatory sentencing for criminals who commit crimes with a gun, but he is against taking away the rights of law abiding citizens. (Facebook page)

I added a half-point to David Craig (from 8 to 8.5) for the clarification. Conversely, I think Hogan’s canned response is somewhat wishy-washy and political. He may be opposed to SB281, but will he repeal it? The time for opposition is over – the word is “repeal.” So he gets 4 points of 11.

War on Rural Maryland (12 points)

Charles Lollar: Leadership in Annapolis needs to craft a regional solution to this problem that requires all states that pollute the Bay to “pay their fair share” to keep it clean. We must not allow legislators in Annapolis to “hurt Maryland first” by bankrupting hard-working farmers with a “Chicken Tax” and putting the future of Maryland’s number one economic industry at risk. (press release, February 5, 2014)

Lollar picks up a half-point for this, from 5 points to 5.5 points. It’s pretty easy to oppose the chicken tax but Lollar did it quite forcefully.

Role of government (13 points)

Larry Hogan: Job one will be to get the government off our backs and out of our pockets so we can grow the private sector, put people back to work and turn our economy around.

Every decision Larry Hogan makes as governor will be put to a simple test – Will this law or action make it easier for families and small businesses to stay in Maryland and will it make more families and businesses want to come to Maryland?

If something comes across Hogan’s desk as governor that doesn’t pass this test, he’ll veto it. (campaign website)

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We’ve got to be able to run the government, provide the services that are important and necessary to people as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, so it’s not like let’s lop off this department or stop providing these services – I think it’s just looking at zero-based budgeting and doing outside audits of every state agency and saying how do we use those tax dollars more effectively.

I think we need to focus on – these aren’t Republican problems or Democrat problems, these are serious problems that our state has. We’ve got to reach across the aisle and work together between the parties to come up with common-sense solutions to solve these things. (NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt, January 21, 2014)

Charles Lollar: A government should serve its citizens, not burden them. It must also provide for citizens truly in need without trapping them in an endless cycle of dependency on government programs that erode their self confidence, human dignity, and a chance to live the American dream.

The answer is not to grow bigger government.

The answer is to empower people with the skills and opportunity to grow a better future for themselves, and not allow government to stand in the way of these goals. (Facebook page, January 12, 2014)

Okay, as far as Larry Hogan is concerned, I get it. You want to work with Democrats. Good luck with that, because we will likely have four years of gridlock unless the voters of Maryland come to their collective senses and elect a Republican majority in the General Assembly. You will have a LOT of vetoes otherwise.

I have yet to be convinced there is such a thing as a broad centrist coalition, since to me all it means is we walk further away from truly being a Free State rather than sprint headlong as we are now. But I will allow 4 of 13 points for the smell test and the zero-based budgeting.

Lollar loses one point for that answer, from 6 to 5. Where is it government’s role to provide for those truly in need? Shouldn’t that be more of a function of the faith-based community? The very definition of government standing in the way is to have government programs one can become dependent on – to me the continuing spiral of unemployment benefit extensions is a perfect example.

Job creation and transportation (14 points)

David Craig: I think that each individual county should establish its own minimum wage. It just makes sense that local officials make laws and the State doesn’t simply dictate what should be done. (Facebook page, February 11, 2014)

Ron George: We must focus on expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs and technical training for our unemployed to protect and grow our middle class for generations to come. (Press release, January 23, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Of course we want better opportunities, better modes of transportation – a diverse collection of different ways to get back and forth to work. Liveable, workable, playable communities where you can actually live, work, and play in the same place and have a legitimate conversation with yourself in the morning whether to walk or drive your bike to work and get there on time.

I think (the Purple Line) is absolutely doable. The question is – is it affordable? If it is, let’s push forward. (2014 gubernatorial candidate transportation forum, February 18, 2014)

The idea David Craig has is a good one, and would have raised him a full point if he had allowed counties to do away with the minimum wage altogether. Yes, this would be a fight with the federal government but it’s a Tenth Amendment fight worth having. I’ll give him a half-point so he goes from 9 to 9.5 points.

Ron George already had a very solid approach, so there wasn’t a lot of room for imporovement there. The statement is a little bit generic.

Suddenly, though, I think Charles Lollar caught his populist, pandering disease at an inopportune time. I know Red Maryland nailed him for one statement (which brought this gem to my attention) but I remembered that Lollar was opposed to the Purple Line last September – now he says it’s “absolutely doable”? He wasn’t pushing the bus alternative in front of that crowd.

And the phrase he was looking for insofar as “livable…communities” is (so-called) Smart Growth. Don’t encourage the idiots, Charles. I took off three points, from 7 to 4.

Hogan misses out on this category so far.

Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)

David Craig: Under Craig’s plan, tax brackets would be lowered across the board to 4.25 percent as of 2016. Couples now pay a basic rate of 4.75 percent on most of their income. Wealthier Marylanders pay a higher percentage on a sliding scale that tops out at 5.5 percent on income above $300,000.

Craig said he would couple that with an increase in the personal exemption from $3,200 to $5,000. He said that will provide relief to middle-class that would help offset the face that the greatest benefits under his plan would go to the higher income brackets, which would see the highest percentage drop.

In the second phase, Craig said he will call for a further reduction to a maximum rate of 3 percent — with a bump in the exemption to $6,000.

Craig said a third phase in his plan, which would come sometime in what he hopes will be his second term, would eliminate the tax entirely. He said his proposal would not affect county piggyback income taxes, which the state would continue to collect.

According to Craig, elimination of the income tax would put Maryland in the company of nine states that have no income tax, including Texas, Florida and Tennessee. (Baltimore Sun, February 18, 2014)

Ron George: When asked what policies he will put in place to foster job creation, George said lowering the corporate tax rate is a necessary first step. “We have to lower the corporate tax rate,” he said. “I would like to get it down to 5.75 percent and I think that sends a strong message out there that we’re open for business.” This, he argues, will help bring businesses back to Maryland thereby expanding the tax base and creating more revenue for the state. (In The Capital, January 15, 2014)

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In addition to the expansion of jobs, George is planning on cutting income tax by 10 percent, building a tax base in Baltimore, and putting in place what he is calling the “Buy Maryland Program.”

In this program, if Maryland residents itemize purchases over $100 on their tax returns, then they will receive 20 percent back. That way, George said, people will have a lump sum in the spring that they can then use for a down payment on a house or car. (Easton Star-Democrat, January 9. 2014)

Larry Hogan: When Hogan is governor, we’ll repeal the rain tax. That’s one change you can count on.

Charles Lollar: Our plan is to take a look at every regulation out there – all 74 of them. We want to peel this thing back. People are tired, here in Maryland, with this bait-and-switch tax scheme. So we’re going to compose independent audits annually. We’ll determine how the monies are collected, how they’re being spent, and whether this spending demonstrates an efficiency of how we use taxpayer money. And this audit will be published online…In addition, I am not going to sign any tax bill that’s void of an enforceable lockbox provision. (Bill Bennett Show, January 23, 2014)

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In addition, Lollar pointed out on the Fox45 debate that this would be all taxes, not just the ones passed under Martin O’Malley.

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In a fundraiser with economist and advisor Arthur Laffer, he supported the Lollar idea for eliminating the state’s income tax but gave no details. (Press release, January 28, 2014)

David Craig followed the lead of another with his tax plan, but the timing is a little more specific. I think it’s a great idea, though, and he seems to have the understanding that, because he controls the budget, that the idea is doable. He gained three points from 11 to 14 with one (somewhat) bold move.

Ron George is restating previously noted material, so there’s no bold moves there.

Larry Hogan will repeal the rain tax. That’s a start, but really it’s only an entry-level gambit in this race so he gets just 5 points.

Charles Lollar was first to the post with the idea to eliminate the income tax, but hasn’t elaborated on the details. But because he was so close to the maximum point total already with 14, I could only bump him up to 14.5 because I think eliminating the income tax is a splendid idea.

Intangibles:

Larry Hogan: Phony political spin, questionable donations, cronyism, and backroom deals pervade the current culture in Annapolis. We need more transparency in our government, more truthfulness and tougher ethics and disclosure laws that will begin to clean up the mess in Annapolis and restore integrity to our state capital. (campaign website)

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It’s time to engage every citizen who wants to get involved in the policy process. Policymaking should not be left exclusively in the hands of an oligarchy of anointed Annapolis lobbyists and lawmakers. (Capital Gazette, January 17, 2014)

Charles Lollar: First and foremost, I would do all I can to get rid of comments like the one I just heard. It’s unfortunate, but I do take a bit of offense to that because the idea that all Republicans think the same way is probably about as similar as all blacks thinking the same way – it’s not true – or all whites thinking the same way, it’s not true. I want to be the best governor of Maryland I can be – not the best Republican governor I can be, and not the best Democrat governor I can be, I want to be the best Maryland governor I can be.

And I’m sick and tired – no matter where I go or who says it, I attack it the same – of people using partisan politics, skin color and gender, to separate us from real solutions that are at hand. (Purple Line Forum, February 18, 2014)

I’m not quoting him on anything here, but because he’s been the most open and responsive candidate to me I added one point to Ron George’s intangibles.

For Hogan’s part, I agree with the sentiments for the most part. But they are belied by the way his campaign is conducted – missing opportunities to discuss issues with fellow candidates and instead uttering many of the same campaign mantras in one-on-one interviews with generally friendly questioners. It’s not enough of a change from the current culture he decries, and until I start seeing and hearing answers on issues above and beyond the Change Maryland mantra, I have to deduct two points for intangibles.

Charles Lollar, though, has really cleaned up his campaign, and the statement I included is apt because he was responding to Democrat criticism. So he went from a -3 score to a wash – his campaign isn’t firing on all cylinders yet but it is improving.

If you’ve been keeping track, well, more power to you. But unlike other bloggers, I’m not ready to make a choice yet because there’s still a lot of information I’d like to have before making my choice.

What I can tell you is that David Craig and Ron George seem to have an edge over Charles Lollar, with Larry Hogan far behind simply because he’s not addressed many of my key issues yet. His is a one-note samba so far. It turns out that the Craig tax plan has now vaulted him slightly ahead of Ron George – very surprising because my initial perception was that David was the most moderate of the four candidates.

But above all, my main complaint is with the Larry Hogan campaign. Stop skipping debates where everyone else shows up! You may have 40,000 Democrats and unaffiliateds in Change Maryland, but there’s one problem with that: they get no Republican primary vote and you probably won’t win with 40,000 votes (assuming all Change Maryland ‘likes’ = Hogan supporters, a very dubious assumption.)

So my plan is to revisit this sometime in April, with perhaps a final decision in early June. I don’t think an early endorsement will do me a lot of good here because no candidate is standing out in this race.

More of the same

I let this go by in the midst of my series looking forward at 2014, but on Monday Change Maryland released yet another in a series of Chinese water torture-style droplets of allegations on Maryland’s “pay-to-play” political patronage system. $650,000 in contributions to a governor for a $4 million contract is a pretty good return on investment in anyone’s book.

There’s no doubt kudos are due to Change Maryland for finding and releasing this information, but my serious question is simple: how would they do things differently?

Listen, political corruption is not something restricted to Democrats in Maryland, although they seem to enjoy finding new methods to perfect the art. Give certain people the authority and lack of oversight to flout the rules and those certain people will be quick to slide their grimy fingers into the pie. I think that has less to do with the political party in power than it does a political philosophy, since there are likely a number of scoundrels inhabiting the Republican-controlled states of Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and so forth who are in the party just for the access to power it has.

I think people – for the most part – understand and agree these allegations are just the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem endemic in Maryland and across the country. But what I’m missing here is Change Maryland’s prescribed solution, for it may take many forms, with the most likely cure coming from the aspect of campaign finance reforms. Sure, these may be necessary – but are they the real solution?

The problem to me isn’t in the health care exchanges, the bidding process for state contracts, or within any of the several other contributions noted by Change Maryland over the last couple weeks. It’s not even the “healthy and competitive two-party system” Hogan was quoted as wishing for during a previous release. I think it’s the very existence of a huge pot of money in Annapolis called the state government, an entity which has become so vastly bloated and too powerful for our own good. Shrink the size and scope of government and there’s less incentive to “pay-to-play.” I’m surprised Change Maryland is overlooking this simple solution, unless the idea is just to change the list of cronies benefitting – I damn sure hope for better than that out of a Hogan administration.

I would feel somewhat more comfortable that ne’er-do-wells would be less tempted by a $27 billion budget than a $37 billion one. There’s no way the state of Maryland, doing its legitimate functions, can subsist on no money at all but trimming back to essential functions is a first step in the cleanup process, long before any restrictions on campaign finance take hold. That’s a good way to change Maryland.

2014 Maryland dossier: part 8 (role of government)

This portion of my dossier will focus on what I call the role of government: simply put, does the candidate seem to believe in the concept of limited government? More importantly, can I be confident they will show leadership in putting government in its place?

People may mistakenly believe the pro-liberty movement wants no government, but few would consider unfettered anarchy their true objective. Yet government should have limits, and those prescribed in our Constitution would serve as a good guide for restoration of its proper role. After all, Article 6 of the Maryland Constitution Declaration of Rights spells this concept out:

That all persons invested with the Legislative or Executive powers of Government are the Trustees of the Public, and, as such, accountable for their conduct: Wherefore, whenever the ends of Government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the People may, and of right ought, to reform the old, or establish a new Government; the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

In my opinion, we definitely need to “reform the old” and establish a new pattern of leadership which will rightsize the state’s government to an appropriate level.

So here are some of the things each of the current candidates had to say about this.

David Craig: As Governor, I will focus on fixing the systemic breakdown in Maryland’s criminal justice system. Department of Corrections management will be held accountable if any cell phones are allowed in prison.

At the very least, crimes committed with guns should be tried in federal court so offenders are not eligible for parole. (E)arly release schemes must be reviewed on the basis of the impact on crime, not what’s best for the criminal.

I will appoint judges who end the revolving door on crime.

Feel-good legislation will be replaced with vigorous enforcement and prosecution of gun crimes.

Speed camera contracts, enabled by state law, will be terminated.

I will work to re-align Maryland’s spending on welfare programs with other states in the region including unemployment compensation, food stamps, Medicaid, home energy assistance and other programs.

To increase transparency, state government will be required to use social media and other web-based platforms to disseminate information on their actions to the public.  (campaign website)

*

Craig said Maryland Governors need to engage the U.S. EPA on mandates like the one on which the state rain tax law is premised.

“There is no reason the Governor of Maryland should assume a subservient status when it comes to conforming with federal government wishes,” said Craig.  “Maryland is not leading, we’re following, which is a shame because we have more at stake in protecting the Bay than any other state.” (press release, July 1, 2013)

*

An interesting question was how he would deal with the federal government. Craig would lean on the Republican Governor’s Association which, as he noted, had grown from 13 states when he was first elected in 1979 to 30 now. (WCRC meeting, July 22, 2013)

*

Craig referred to his experience of reaching out to those on both sides of the aisle and that the way that he approaches people helps him have a better chance at a successful legislative agenda. (Raging Against the Rhetoric, June 2013)

Ron George: Requiring independent audits of all departments and agencies, including our Medicaid, Welfare, and state health insurance. Cutting any waste found within these audits.  Improve needed efficiency and effectiveness. Flow money more directly to its intended target, cutting out government “middlemen”. Eliminate duplicative services across state agencies. Level funding whenever the economy slows.

Implementing the state’s transparency software that the O’Malley/ Brown administration cut funding to.

Removing the pressure of one-size fits all state mandates on local governments because the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people.

Allowing and encouraging the enforcement all existing laws. Remove ineffective and over-reaching laws.

Better defining roles, for Sheriffs, state and local police in ways that allow each to better do their work.

Making sure (Constitutional rights) will not be infringed upon. Ron George believes the strength of our state lies with the individual and each person’s dignity, freedom, ability and responsibility must be honored. (campaign site)

*

Bringing in professional, independent auditors to review every department and agency will allow us to root out the waste and redirect funds to programs where they will do the most good. Independent audits work. (Baltimore Sun, August 8, 2013)

*

“My plan for governor is one that’s very regional. I believe that you have to have a different solution for what’s going to work in Baltimore, what’s going to work in Prince George’s County, you have to find ways to make things work. I believe in building an economic base, a tax base, a strong one, in Baltimore City.” (interview with Kenn Blanchard, September 9, 2013)

*
He said a state grant with a payback provision makes sense, because if it spurs a local economy, it increases the tax base. If private firms aren’t stepping up, “you need a grant to close that hole,” he said. The state “awards a lot of grants we never see a payback on. The money is gone.” (Kent County News, August 22, 2013)

*

Explaining that he suggested a state health care insurance exchange be created in 2007, George said problems with the Obama Administration’s health care fix are that, “It centralizes control and it’s one size fits all.” (Dorchester Star, August 25, 2013)

Charles Lollar: “If you think our rights are from men, don’t vote for me,” said Lollar. “Rights and liberties…come from the Creator of our universe.” (WCRC meeting, August 26, 2013)

*

Charles believes in the dignity of the individual.  We are a free people able and chartered by our Constitution to self-govern.  The role of government is to provide avenues, not to be the yoke. (campaign website, “Platform”)

*

Reform sloppy and incompetent government practices that dispense discrimination and pick winners.

Manage departments so they are more responsive, efficient, accountable and transparent. Require independent audits of government departments and agencies.

Reduce the cost of operating state government by streamlining the bureaucracy; managing the size of government, not by cutting government jobs, but through attrition and eliminating waste. (campaign website, “Accountability”)

*

“Our Founding Fathers never wanted this country to have full-time politicians. Ever…I’m proud of the fact I have very little political experience.” (blogger interview, June 24, 2013)

*

Responding to concerns that many foreclosures don’t meet long-standing legal criteria dictated by Federal or State law, the NAACP recently asked Governor O’Malley to sign an executive order to halt foreclosures until the claims of illegal practices can be investigated.

“I am supporting the NAACP in the fight for a moratorium on foreclosures and to stop the flood of people losing their homes illegally,” Lollar said. (press release, November 18, 2013)

**********

In looking at the body of work David Craig brings to the table, I can find a lot to like about his record as a tax reducer. He also hits the correct notes on fighting crime (which is a legitimate function of government) but I’d be curious to know where he stands on the failed War on Drugs, which needlessly drives up the prison population.

He gets points for being willing to dump the speed camera program (better known in these parts as “scameras”) as perhaps he understands that the idea of these isn’t really safety, but a feelgood way of passing yet another “sin tax.” But why stop at bringing entitlements down to the level of surrounding states? Why not provide leadership by putting into motion the idea of sunsetting them entirely? That would certainly show he’s not subservient to the federal government, even at the risk of losing federal money.

I also don’t get the idea of reaching across the aisle – aren’t they the ones who messed things up in the first place? I want conservative, pro-liberty proposals and a leader who can make the opposition vote the correct way by using the people as his lobbyists, sort of like this guy named Reagan did. Out of 13 points, I think I will give David 8.

In looking at what Ron George had to say, it’s obvious he wants a leaner, more efficient government. But the question is whether he wants a smaller government, since these concepts aren’t necessarily mutual. Having 10 people enforce an unnecessary mandate is not much better than having 20 people enforce it.

Moreover, the idea about “a grant with a payback provision” – isn’t that a loan? I’ve never liked the idea of a governmental entity being a pass-through for anything.

On the other hand, if he goes the step beyond eliminating waste and begins eliminating mandates and laws, then we may be getting somewhere. Unfortunately, as I pointed out in a previous section, George was partially responsible for allowing them to happen because he voted for the bills. Admittedly he may be moving farther to the right as his political career continues, bucking the common trend, but until I see specifics I can only guess he will be the type of governor who will streamline things but keep them in place for some future Democratic governor to abuse. This is why I added the last bullet point about the exchanges, because he’s backed away a little bit from them of late now that Obamacare has been shown to be a failure (note the quote is from August, before Obamacare took effect.) So I will give him 6 of 13 points.

Similarly, Charles Lollar borrows Ron George’s idea for independent audits, but only wants to make cuts through attrition. I have news for you, Charles: in order to rightsize government, some of those excess workers will have to be forced to join the private sector, otherwise we will be right back in the same boat once your term is up and some Democrat comes in again.

But there is one thing I’m beginning to notice in the statements Charles is making: a distinct strain of populism. Most conservatives would agree with the assertion that rights and liberties come from the Creator of our universe, but would those who prefer limited government want to have the state come in and stop foreclosures (by executive order, no less) because one advocacy group says so? By the same token, I used the example in an earlier piece about denying Pepco a rate increase, a stance which stemmed from a meeting where Pepco wasn’t represented to give its side.

It seems like Charles is trying to have his cake and eat it, too. Granted, this tends to be the time where policy specifics are in short supply but Charles has fewer than his competitors. I’m having a hard time reconciling the varied messages with the underlying principles he’s seemed to espouse over the last few years, particularly on the Second Amendment – a stance which endeared him to many and gave him the impetus to run for governor. So I can only give him the same 6 points that Ron George received.

I’m actually close to the end for these three candidates, with a look at Larry Hogan to follow once he establishes his platform in the coming months. The next part will focus on Joe Biden’s three-letter word: j-o-b-s.

By the way, I omitted the Democrats from this part entirely because their idea of the role of government seems to be that of overlord. I’m not into that.

Clearing the air and getting back to basics

Over the last couple days, a segment of the Maryland Republican Party is scratching its head over the absence of gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar from several high-profile events: last month’s Andy Harris First District Bull Roast, the Conservative Victory PAC Ken Cuccinelli fundraiser (which was sponsored by several Maryland politicians), the Prince George’s County Lincoln Day Dinner with Lt. Col. Allen West, and most recently the state party’s Oktoberfest gathering in Timonium Saturday night. The conventional wisdom argument is that these were lost opportunities to impress the party brass.

But this may also presuppose Lollar wasn’t out meeting with “regular Joe” voters, and some say a lot of these gatherings would be time better spent knocking on doors or making phone calls. So which is it? I don’t know, but my feeling is that we all need to get back to basics and begin to compare just where each of the three major declared candidates stand on important issues facing the state.

A year and a half before the 2012 Presidential election, I began a process of grading the candidates in the race at the time on a number of issues. I think it’s time to repeat the process, with some different parameters because the issues aren’t always congruent between state and national elections – for example, I don’t have to worry about trade or the Long War but I do have concerns about agricultural issues and necessary changes to the state political system, meanwhile, some issues grow or contract in importance because of recent state developments. But I like the 100-point system so I will adapt it to suit.

So the 2014 monoblogue endorsement will be based on the following formula:

  • Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)
  • Illegal immigration (5 points)
  • Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)
  • Energy policy (8 points)
  • Education (9 points)
  • Second Amendment (11 points)
  • War on Rural Maryland (12 points)
  • Role of government (13 points)
  • Job creation and transportation (14 points)
  • Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)

Once I add or subtract three points for various intangibles of my choosing, I’ll come up with the candidate who I think will best serve Maryland. Granted, my endorsement will only be worth the pixels they’re darkening but at least some thought will be put into why this candidate is the best one for Maryland. (Keep in mind that any of these three would be vastly superior to Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or anyone else Democrats put up.) Otherwise, I come in with no preconceived notions with the exception that the other declared GOP candidates in the race don’t have the campaign or the presence to achieve any more than a tiny percentage of the vote so they’re not included; also, this is subject to update if/when Larry Hogan enters the race.

So now that you have the basic concepts, how about some specifics of what I’m getting at for each point? These are questions I may be able to find answers for within the candidates’ own websites, but it’s more likely I need further guidance. I have had the chance to hear all three declared candidates speak on at least two occasions apiece so I might have a decent idea where they’ll go, but it never hurts to ask. With that, here goes:

  • Election/campaign finance reform: Will you aggressively pursue the redistricting revision case in court; if we succeed can we have 141 single-member districts? Where do you stand on current reporting requirements: too tight, too loose, or just right? What about getting after local boards of elections and telling them to clean up their voter rolls?
  • Illegal immigration: Will you take the 287 (g) program used in Frederick County statewide? How about rescinding recent changes to drivers’ license laws in Maryland? And what about in-state tuition – do you revisit this issue? What about withholding a portion of state funds from sanctuary cities? Cooperation with the federal E-Verify program? What about policies allowing status checks such as those in Arizona?
  • Dealing with Obamacare: Do we eliminate the state exchange? Would you pursue a waiver for the state if one becomes available? Are you in favor of defunding or letting the law go into effect and watching it collapse? What steps would you take to encourage more insurance competition in the state? What about returning Medicaid limits to minimum levels?
  • Energy policy: When can we expect fracking to begin in Western Maryland? And what will you do with the renewable portfolio standard? Will you move to re-regulate Maryland’s electrical utilities? Can Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind scheme work? What about offshore oil drilling – is that an option for you? Will you maintain Maryland’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative?
  • Education: Will Common Core be the law of the land in Maryland, or will you eschew Race to the Top funding? How about school choice, or money following the child regardless of school? How will you protect homeschooling? Instill more local control? What about promoting elected school boards in those counties still without them? Emphasis on vocational education? How do you message against the certain opposition of the teachers’ unions?
  • Second Amendment: Will you work to repeal the so-called Firearms Safety Act? What about concealed carry, and making licenses easier to get? If the federal government gets too onerous, will you fight them? What’s your interpretation of the Second Amendment?
  • War on Rural Maryland: Can we count on you to repeal the Septic Bill and tier mapping? Will nitrogen-removal systems still be required? Will the Hudson family be made whole by the state, since it was with the state’s assistance they were legally harassed? How will you assist the poultry industry in the state and keep them here? What about cleaning up behind the Conowingo Dam and fighting the mandated burden on rural counties, as well as the rain tax on urban ones?
  • Role of Government: Where do you stand on a regulation moratorium, and would you veto new mandates passed through the General Assembly? Are there any agencies you’d work to abolish? What about divestiture of surplus state land? Is a consolidation of primary state government functions in Annapolis on your agenda? Can we count on you to repeal as many laws as you create? Where do you stand on public-private partnerships? Do you support citizen-based petition to referendum for new laws (as opposed to those passed by the General Assembly)? What about the right to recall elected officials?
  • Job creation and transportation: We know you’ll lower the corporate tax rate – what about eliminating it entirely? What about reform of unemployment insurance? What other steps will you take to make it easier to do business in Maryland? As far as infrastructure goes, will you kill the Red Line and Purple Line in favor of more useful means for transporting goods, such as expanding the interstate network in Maryland and surrounding states? Will you hold the line on tolls? What about another Bay crossing – where would you put it? What non-tax code incentives would you offer for rural area job creation? What policies would you adopt from other states?
  • Fiscal conservatism/taxation: Can Marylanders expect a flatter income tax system? How about eliminating it entirely as some states have done? Or would you prefer a sales tax decrease or elimination? Would you agree to a TABOR, or at least a budget utilizing those principles? Can we get per-capita spending closer to the national norm? And how will you deal with the outcry of the press, such as the old “tax cuts for the rich” saw?
  • Intangibles: Positions on abortion, expansion of gambling and/or return to legislative control (as opposed to Constitutional amendment), protection for religious objections to gay marriage, your perception of the TEA Party and pro-liberty movement, and so forth. Mainly social issues.

Yes, that’s a hell of a lot. But somewhere, someone else is asking some of the same questions and if I’m going to make a decision I want it to be informed. And while I’d like to make these issue posts on about a weekly basis, that’s probably a quite aggressive timetable.

But I’m sure that a) people from the respective campaigns read my website, and b) they will bend over backwards for new media. (At least that’s what I’m counting on.) And it’s likely they haven’t even pondered some of these queries, so I don’t expect miracles – but I’ll take them anyhow.

Yet I’m sure that some high-dollar Beltway Republican consultant will tell their candidate that he’d be nuts to get into specifics this far out because all it would provide is fodder for the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself) to harp upon as the campaign heats up. News flash: they will do that anyway, even if they have to make stuff up (e.g. “a fee is a tax.”) So get it out now and I’ll take those clowns on myself, even as I point out that it’s not like I don’t have a few allies in this fight.

Just let me know you have the balls to stand for something, okay?

The right sort of action

I’ve been sitting on this for a few days, but it’s a Saturday evening and I think the time is right for visual aids.

Their philosophy is simple, but so, so ignored.

It’s a tenet of limited government that the government which is necessary is best enacted at a point closest to the people. The Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution seemed to intuitively know this, which is why Congress only had a limited number of functions (as intended), the Bill of Rights spelled out what Barack Obama considers “negative liberties” – in other words, the government cannot do actions like limit the press, expression of religion, petitioning of redress of grievances, and so forth – yet it wasn’t intended to be a catch-all, so the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were added.

(Indeed, there are those who argue the Articles of Confederation was even better at limiting the federal government, but it would have been nearly impossible to get 50 states to agree on anything – not that there would have been 50 states because many states claimed far more territory to their west.)

An example of how government overreaches can be found in our state’s infamous “rain tax.” Once the federal government decreed our state had to pay a share of Chesapeake Bay cleanup – although it’s not necessarily a share proportionate to our fouling of the Bay, as those who advocate the cleanup of sediment trapped behind the Conowingo Dam may attest because that sediment comes from states upstream – the state, in turn, decided the local governments had to collect a certain amount in what are called Watershed Implementation Plans, or WIPs. (Wicomico’s county cost is estimated to be over $900 million over 12 years, while neighboring Somerset County, which is the state’s poorest jurisdiction, has about the same bill but concedes there is no way they can handle this with existing resources on a county budget of under $40 million annually. In some respects, the “rain tax” may be a handout from richer to poorer jurisdictions.)

Perhaps it may have taken federal action to goad states into compliance, but there are many cases in government, from highway safety to education, where Uncle Sam looks over the local shoulder and threatens to withhold funds for non-compliance with certain dictates and standards. And as the short video notes, every dollar which goes to Washington is returned many pennies short because the federal bureaucracy has to be paid their thirty pieces of silver as well. Some states are donor states and some states are considered recipients, but there was no real need to send the money to Washington for functions the federal government need not be doing. That was the point of Federalism in Action as well as a toolkit they recently made available for download.

It’s my preference to deal with my local government here in Salisbury for most matters. But too often they tell me their hands are tied by the faceless bureaucrats in Annapolis whose only thought about Salisbury and the Eastern Shore in general is how quickly they can traverse it in order to reach the beach. Yet those at the state level will often tell us they’re at the mercy of Uncle Sam, and it’s true that federal handouts comprise a growing percentage of our bloated state budget.

Fortunately, we can reverse a lot of this process over the next three years – if we choose our representation wisely, and keep the pressure on and frequently question those who seem to be on our side now. Maybe one day our children will be blessed by a government which knows its place, and they’ll be able to breathe free.

Scandal fatigue?

This William Warren cartoon seems to sum it up, doesn’t it? Between Benghazi, the IRS TEA Party targeting, the AP phones being tapped, the FOIA preferences at the EPA, questions on campaign finance in both 2008 and 2012, the Enroll America protection racket – the list can go on and on and on if you revert back to earlier activities like Operation Fast and Furious, Solyndra, or the handling of the Deepwater Horizon accident. And I’m not counting what goes on in Maryland, like the inmates taking over the prisons or having a governor who’s more concerned about presidential prospects than running the state. I suppose if power is the ultimate aphrodisiac then that must be why Democrats are pro-abortion; otherwise they would have a dozen or so children running around, by nearly as many mothers.

Now I’m certain the minuscule number of progressives and leftists who dare to read here would beg to differ and can probably point out all the scandals, conflicts of interest, and foibles of the Bush years, but really, guys, come on – what happened to the most transparent administration ever? I suppose in a perverse sort of way finding out about all these scandals is a type of transparency – too bad we were stonewalled every step of the way in finding out.

But are the American people and their notoriously short attention spans in danger of scandal fatigue in May of 2013, 18 months before the midterm elections? Sometimes the pre-emptive strike is the best thing in the long run, and there’s little chance of the rabidly partisan Democrats in the Senate turning on their leader and convicting him in the unlikely event we ever get to an impeachment trial. Moreover, Barack Obama doesn’t exactly strike me as a fall-on-the-sword kind of guy, so don’t bet on him resigning to save the country the agony of an impeachment trial like Richard Nixon did. Democrats know well what sort of electoral fate may await – the Republicans who placed country over party were “rewarded” by losing 48 House seats and 3 Senate seats in the 1974 elections, which were held just three months after Nixon left in disgrace.

Meanwhile, focusing on the scandals of the past will blind us to the issues of the present. Even if the GOP gains control of the Senate in 2014 – a likely possibility even without scandals as the sixth year of a presidency is traditionally unkind to the president’s party – the nation will simply revert back to the inverse of the situation we had back in 2007-2008, where a Republican president was crippled by a Democratic Congressional majority in both houses. Much of the damage was done in the two years the Democrats held absolute control of government, as the massive entitlement program dubbed Obamacare came into being and Barack Obama’s re-election means at least some of it will be in place by 2014. Once established, we haven’t killed an entitlement program yet. And there’s still the aspect of governing by executive order: “Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda cool.”

Perhaps the one silver lining in all of this is the emergence of the new media as a force for uncovering these and other issues with the government in Washington. No longer do we have a small group of periodicals, newspapers, and television networks determining what is news and what remains on the cutting room floor. Certainly, there is a huge majority of the American public still in an celebrity gossip-induced slumber, but slowly people are beginning to see the light and it only takes an irate, tireless minority to effect real change.

In the meantime, though, there is plenty to write about for those obsessed with Obama scandals. That really is a shame because it makes it more difficult to argue with the other side on why their ideas are such a failure – I can hear it now: “Well, if you Republicans wouldn’t have made the Obama years such a partisan witch hunt he may have succeeded with his good ideas.”

But I suppose it comes back to the old saying about absolute power corrupting absolutely, doesn’t it? Do you see why the nation’s founders wanted a limited government yet?

It’s time for a change

One of the reasons I was a Herman Cain backer early on in the 2012 campaign was his wisdom on tax policy. On Monday he wrote a piece reminding us that a number of patchwork, temporary “fixes” to our income tax rates expire at the end of 2012, and could doom what little recovery we might be enjoying if nothing is done.

Of course, there is no foolproof solution, even with Cain’s 9-9-9 plan – soon enough it could be 12-12-12 or even 15-7-21. Pick three divergent numbers and you might be a winner in this Russian roulette-style lottery involving both personal and federal finances. But the same is true for a flat tax as well, and it’s still based on income rather than consumption.

But even when a consumption tax is enacted, the other key is spending the money wisely. Back in 2008 the state of Maryland raised its sales tax from 5% to 6%, ensuring the state another $500 million or so in revenue. The problem was that the money was spent even before it was collected, as a governor who’s never met a government program he didn’t like (or wish he’d dreamed of himself) blew every dime of that (and then some) on new programs.

Given our experience with sales taxes from around the country, I don’t see how the argument that we can’t predict revenue from a consumption tax can be posed. And even so, it’s not like we don’t make adjustments to a budget (that is, when we actually have one) based on the events which occur between the time of passage and the moment that last dime is spent at the stroke of midnight on September 30.

It’s relatively simple to figure out how to get out of these messes we find ourselves in. On a state level, each year the GOP works out a budget that addresses the structural deficit without raising taxes; meanwhile, it’s worthy of note that if we retreated our federal spending to the level of the last Bush budget (FY2009, excluding the stimulus added by President Obama) of $3.1 trillion, a large part of our deficit would be addressed. Yes a deficit $500 billion or so is still absurdly high but it’s better than the $1.4 trillion we’ll likely run in the hole when the fiscal year ends September 30.

Beyond the numbers, though, is the concept of why a consumption-based tax scares those in government: it returns control to the people. The amount of money sent to Washington isn’t necessarily as important as the behavior influence our current labyrinthine tax code provides these faceless, unelected bureaucrats. Examples of carrots include buying a home or certain types of consumer goods deemed better for the environment, while sticks are things like holding stocks for too short of a time or making income outside normal channels (to trigger the alternative minimum tax.) There’s no doubt that H&R Block and others in the tax preparation field are deathly afraid of what a consumption-based tax would do to their business as well.

Moreover, the government isn’t paid first with a consumption-based tax because backup withholding is eliminated. Backup withholding was supposed to be a temporary program, enacted in a time of national crisis. But just like any other “temporary” tax, we’ve been saddled with this enforced deduction ever since, even in peacetime. It’s a little more fair for the self-employed who pay in quarterly installments; still, these numbers are based on a previous tax year and not present income. Some have been led to pay far more than they owe because of income fluctuations, but under a consumption-based tax they can adjust accordingly.

Over my lifetime they have made a sport out of tinkering with the tax code – rates go up, rates come down, and cherished deductions are created and then rescinded. For example, credit card interest could once be deducted, but that was changed. Dare to tinker with the home mortgage interest deduction, though, and you’ll have a lobby full of realtors calling for your head. It’s hard to buck the system that too many have become cozy with inside the Beltway.

And it’s because of that system that we may face taxmageddon in 2013. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like much will change in the next four years, barring the unlikely event of FairTax proponent Gary Johnson becoming president. Any change will have to be led by Congress and demanded by a tireless, irate minority who are willing to give up some of those deductions they annually take advantage of to restore broader control to themselves. Only then can we begin to take the yoke off our necks and begin to enjoy more economic freedom.

The austerity plan

I’ve been rolling this one in my head for a couple days, and I’ve become convinced of something. Austerity is a dirty word in this country.

This is America, for gosh sakes, and we are entitled to the best of everything, aren’t we? What is this stuff about doing without? That seems to be the response on the lips of millions of Americans, with perhaps the better way of putting it being that we should cut the fat out of government – of course, anything benefiting these Americans isn’t considered fat.

So into the middle of this attitude the local Libertarian Congressional candidate drops a big, fat helping of talk about cutting back. Perhaps the money paragraph in his treatise is this one:

The culture of dependency has nearly destroyed the soul of our country. The welfare state is wrought with fraud and failure. It has deprived generations of their dignity and few ever break out of the cycle. They have become enslaved by dependency and are trapped under the giant footprint of government.

Of course you know Muir Boda is right, but you also know his hopes of being elected on a Libertarian ticket lie someplace between those of being struck by lightning and winning the Powerball lottery. So the idea for Libertarians isn’t necessarily winning elections, but rather to pull the political center in their direction. In that respect they’re acting like the TEA Party to the Republicans and the Occupy movement to the Democrats, borrowing something from both.

And this message is actually at home in the Republican Party; unfortunately too many GOP members of Congress have the same attitude I expressed above. (The incumbent Boda is running against is better than most at resisting this.) They talk in platitudes about reducing government but when it comes to some favored constituency that buck just keeps right on going. One case in point: the farm bill under consideration, which instills yet another program to privatize profits and socialize losses through the “shallow loss” portion of the bill which provides a guaranteed income floor to qualifying farmers. Simply put, it’s not the government’s job to do this and I defy anyone to tell me where this is authorized under the Constitution. It sounds more like something President Obama would write up in an Executive Order.

Boda also points out that there are successful examples of governments which tightened their belts, citing the former Soviet states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia as nations which slashed their spending. Would it hurt America to do the same? The Presidential candidate representing Muir’s party (Gary Johnson, a former governor and originally a 2012 Republican hopeful) is on record that we should immediately cut spending to match revenue. There’s no question that approach is some strong medicine, and across-the-board cuts aren’t always the most prudent.

But Johnson is approaching the situation in the same manner that many Democrats do – demand something extremely off the wall, knowing that a compromise still moves the ball in the right direction. Unfortunately, too many Republicans have mastered the art of ceding valuable ground because they believe that it’s what the public wants; a belief reinforced by Democratic talking points parroted by the mainstream media.

As I’ve said on occasion, why not try something different? We’ve done it the big government way for eighty years and the results seem to be dependence and, over the last four years, a moribund and recessionary economy. I prefer America getting back to its former glory days of kicking ass and taking names – not necessarily on a military basis, but in leading the industrialized world in economic innovation and creating a lifestyle the world hadn’t before seen. Getting government out of the way would help in that respect, and spending less gets government out of the way.

A potpourri of political events

In times past I used to do a weekly election calendar. This won’t rise to that level but there are some upcoming items I think the local peeps ought to know about, with many courtesy of the Worcester County TEA Party. I love the smell of activism in the morning…or any time of day for that matter.

That same TEA Party group meets this coming Friday, March 9 at 6:15 p.m. at the Ocean Pines Community Hall. Their speaker will be Worcester County Commissioner Virgil Shockley, who will talk about the possible impact this bill will have on our county and on school funding in general.

The Ocean Pines venue will be used for Election Integrity Maryland’s poll watcher training on Tuesday, March 20 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The same class will be held once again in Salisbury on Saturday, March 24 from 10 a.m. to noon. In both cases, the cost is $25 and you can register at the EIM website. Questions? Contact Cathy Keim at 443-880-5912 or e-mail her: cathy.keim (at) electionintegritymaryland.com – she’ll certainly steer you in the right direction.

Another interesting event held by the Worcester TEA Party will be on Friday, March 23 when they hold a mock GOP Presidential debate. Of course, we won’t have Mitt, Rick, Newt, or Ron there but their proxies will certainly give a good accounting for the candidates just in time for the April 3 Maryland primary (as well as Delaware’s on April 24.) This will be at the Ocean Pines Community Church beginning at 6 p.m.

And of course they’re going to have a bus departing for the Hands Off My Health Care Rally in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, March 27.

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