Odds and ends number 65

Gee, this format seems familiar. I don’t know if it’s the time of year or just luck of the draw, but there have been a slew of items I’ve seen as interesting yet not necessarily worthy of a full post by themselves. So we’ll blend them all together and see how it turns out, sort of like homemade chocolate chip cookie dough.

I don’t know if this is the Maryland GOP shooting itself in the foot once again or just being inadvertently tone-deaf. But as part of an otherwise rather boilerplate formal announcement of its Pathfinders program, which “is a statewide effort to develop the party through local candidate assistance and cultivating grassroots organizations,” they selected a date for their initial seminar which happens to be the exact same day many of those conservative grassroots have a gathering in Annapolis called Turning the Tides 2013. Fortunately, Pathfinders sounds like a continuing effort by the MDGOP so those of us who were booked for Turning the Tides can catch up rather quickly.

But you would think the powers-that-be would sort of scan the political landscape before selecting a date.

The political landscape may be just a little harder to survey if the IRS doesn’t change its mind about discontinuing a “key economic metric” after compiling data for two decades. In my last odds and ends post, I talked about Jim Pettit’s opinion on this pet subject of his, but the political consultant stated his case on National Review Online this week. It made the job of Change Maryland so much easier because the proof was in the pudding and easily spotted to boot. Now we’ll have to use more anecdotal data.

Accessing our elected representative to the federal government isn’t always easy, but one gentleman did and his question is the subject of what is billed as the first “Ask Andy” segment, featuring our Congressman Andy Harris.

It’s not exactly earthshattering that Andy wants a far more fiscally conservative approach than what is being proposed – certainly I do as well. (Actually, I’d prefer an infinite amount of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increases since you can’t divide by zero.) But I can think of a lot of other interesting questions to ask Andy, one in particular being whether he’ll support John Boehner for Speaker after what Boehner did to Republicans who wouldn’t toe the mainstream party line. Somehow I don’t think that will be his next video.

And I think there’s a young conservative who agrees with me on this point about spending. Jonathan Bydlak has graced my website before, when the Coalition to Reduce Spending was formed last spring. But his op-ed (again, on National Review Online) states the biggest flaw in promises made by politicians over the last couple decades:

For years, Grover Norquist and Republicans have tried “starving the beast” of the federal government by capping taxes. While they’ve been highly successful at preventing tax increases, they have been less effective at addressing one problematic aspect of fiscal policy: the ability of the Federal Reserve and Treasury to borrow more and more to finance massive spending, as they have done under the Bush and Obama administrations. It’s simple: Borrowing today means a higher tax burden tomorrow when the debt comes due. True fiscal responsibility, then, requires us to curb spending in addition to limiting tax rates.

Imagine if instead of pledging not to raise taxes, all those politicians had pledged not to raise spending. It’s unlikely the United States would be facing massive tax increases as part of the so-called fiscal cliff. That’s why it’s important to do for spending what Norquist has done for taxes: create a means for voters to hold elected officials accountable when they break campaign promises of fiscal responsibility.

While Bydlak uses the op-ed as a means to promote his “Reject the Debt” pledge, the fact that he’s even starting this conversation is a good sign. Of course, it’s much more politically popular to refrain from raising taxes than it is to cut spending because, as with all things political, making cuts is a grand idea unless and until your particular pet program faces the budgetary meat cleaver. Even I’m realistic enough to know that certain items can’t just be axed abruptly; for example, in my book I proposed a lengthy sunset for Social Security because I knew too many people would have a rug pulled out from underneath them otherwise.

One thing the federal government should be paying more attention to, though, is the amount of time federal workers toil at furthering the agenda of their union at the expense of taxpayers like you and me. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group familiar to my readers, put out a note this week asking the Office of Personnel Management to release a study done regarding “official time”:

Federal employees spent about 3.4 million hours performing union duties while on the clock in 2011, according to an unreleased Office of Personnel Management (OPM) report made public in a November 26 Federal Times article. This amount of time, referred to as “official time,” cost the federal government $155 million. It represents an 11 percent increase in the amount of official time in 2010.

This information comes from leaks inside the administration.

Matt Patterson, a CEI Senior Fellow who covers the Big Labor beat for the free-market advocates, expounded on his findings in a post at the OpenMarket blog. It’s interesting timing considering the right-to-work controversy in Michigan. Look for a piece on that in tomorrow’s Patriot Post Digest; I wrote it yesterday.

I haven’t heard whether yet another effort to make Maryland a right-to-work state will be tried in next year’s General Assembly session, but I suspect that it will. Unfortunately, if I were to make a bet I would say Maryland would be about the last to pass such a common-sense law – then again, who would have thought Michigan would be the 24th?

Stranger things have happened.

The understanding of ‘trickle down’

Well, I guess this old Senate candidate won’t fade away; then again despite celebrating a birthday yesterday Dan Bongino really isn’t that old. He showed once again his economic chops in a statement yesterday:

Maryland is preparing to take the gold medal in a competition only a fool would want to win. If we go over the “Fiscal Cliff”, my home state of Maryland will see an incredible $7,000 tax hike for a family making just the median income, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation. This dramatic tax hike ranks as the highest amongst the 50 states and would do untold damage to the state’s already fragile economic environment.

Noticeably absent from the 2012 campaign conversation was the real economic impact of these dramatic tax hikes on families living in high cost-of-living states such as Maryland. Disposable income simply does not buy in Maryland what it purchases in lower cost-of-living states and when combined with our total tax burden, it is creating an unsustainable economic environment. Nearly 40,000 Marylanders have fled the state since 2007 and the exodus stands to worsen without a change in course.

This tax hike on the “Rich” political pitch is a red herring designed to further a political agenda, not an economic one. It is time for the President to lead, the campaign is over and the country needs a President, not a politician.

Good luck with that last sentence. But there are a couple points which Dan misses here.

It’s assumed that Maryland is a among the wealthiest of states, and as an average that’s probably true because so much of the population lives along the Beltway and, quite frankly, living off the federal government is most lucrative when you’re an employee or employed by someone who depends on the same sort of skilled labor and has to compete salary-wise. But come out here to the “shithouse,” as the late Governor William Donald Schaefer once referred to the Eastern Shore, and you’ll find that the tax increases may not exact the same amount per capita but will make it even harder to live a reasonable lifestyle. Those of us in the lowest of tax brackets will see rates increase 50 percent, and it has to be granted that the 13.1% rate hike endured by the top bracket will look paltry by comparison.

The other point Dan left incomplete was mentioning not just those who fled Maryland, but their economic status in comparison to those who arrive to take their place. Several months ago Change Maryland released figures showing these differing numbers and I parsed them to find out the net outflow of income is real despite a slowly growing population. Obviously there are some places where the difference is positive, but the lower performing areas tend to be the poorer ones.

All in all, though, this is another excellent analysis from a guy who’s not choosing to stay quiet after a crushing defeat. I’m not sure why we would have expected otherwise.

This also gives me the opportunity to bring up an event Dan will be a featured speaker at next month. The Turning the Tides 2013 conference will be held in Annapolis at the Doubletree Hotel (site of several past state GOP conventions) and details can be found here. Along with Dan we’ll hear from state and national luminaries like Jim Rutledge, Ken Timmerman, gubernatorial candidate Blaine Young, Pamela Geller, Stanley Kurtz, and many others.

Where the action was

I’d love to have said I was there, but family has to come first and my parents came from many miles away.

But I was cheered to see the lineup for the Turning the Tides Conference presented by the Maryland Conservative Action Network, as it included a number of luminaries as well as breakout discussions on a number of subjects near and dear to the hearts of conservatives in Maryland and everywhere else, for that matter. Not only that, the event drew over 200 activists from across Maryland and received coverage from both the old and new media outlets. They even had their very own counterprotest from a liberal former member of the House of Delegates.

So it sounds like we had a nice event. But now the question is ‘where do we go from here?’

Continue reading “Where the action was”