First it was the Boston Globe. Then came the New York Times. Then Politico and Bloomberg – and now CNN.
The Jurassic media is on the march, and their goal is to help the Republicans nominate Jeb Bush in 2016. In order to achieve this goal, they have started to soften the battlefield of ideas with their stockpile of shallow psychological tactics.
This is just the same old psy-ops the left always tries. And why not? It almost always works on the Republican establishment in Washington. Inside the GOP-e in DC, reality does not matter -- only polls and media opinions do. It’s Orwellian, as we can tune in and watch polls and media opinion work it’s voodoo on elected officials like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, not to mention wizards like Karl Rove and other clueless Republican “strategists.”
You’ve probably seen this. It’s fairly obvious. We remember that the mainstream media helped John McCain get nominated in 2008 and then Mitt Romney in 2012 -- and immediately made sure both got crushed in the General Elections. Of course, McCain and Romney were favored by the media in the first place because neither could expose the inherent problems of liberal big government or espouse a clear vision.
And this media narrative -- which all too often this includes so-called conservatives like Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer, and George Will -- is always the same. It goes like this:
Republicans must appeal to moderates and independents… Republican brand in trouble so must not seem too Republican… fake right in the primary and then go middle for the general…. cannot criticize the black guy, or the girl, etc, because soccer moms in Ohio will hate you… blah blah blah.
It’s the conventional wisdom, but it’s not wise at all. It fails the test of history, and this should not be any secret. A glance back shows us that one undeniable truth explains almost every election result -- midterm and general -- for the last 35 years. The truth is this: when the perceived ideological gap between the parties is large, the Republicans triumph.
When that gap is perceived to be small, then the Democrats win. When it’s neither large nor small, elections can swing either way and are always close. The key word here may be perceived, as sometimes it is real and sometimes not.
Consider some history:
In 1980 and ‘84, Ronald Reagan’s campaign message created a massive ideological contrast with both Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. The result? Two colossal wins, the second one including a 49-state sweep. In 1988, under the perception that he was going to give us four more years of Reagan, and with far left Michael Dukakis on the other side, George H.W. Bush rolled to an easy win. The perceived gap was wide in all three cases.
In 1992, after Bush had been outed as a moderate – and with Bill Clinton’s Southern good ole boy accent and Ross Perot obfuscating the ideological climate, the Republican incumbent limped into the ash heap of history with but 38% of the popular vote. It was a crushing defeat. Things were muddy.
In 1994, however, with Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America recreating an enormous philosophical chasm versus the Democrats and HillaryCare, the Republicans won 54 seats in the House and took over control of both chambers of Congress. It was historic. In 1996, however, the disastrous ticket of Bob Dole and a neutered latter-day Jack Kemp was not able to draw any distinctions with Clinton and Perot -- and the result was another Democrat blowout.
Are we spotting a trend here yet? Well yes, we are, but it’s probably escaped Mr. Rove’s notice.
There was no coherent message from the GOP in the ‘98 midterms, and they lost pretty badly, considering it was the second-term midterm for Clinton. The only hard-core conservative message in the country was the successful third-party campaign of Jesse Ventura, who never realized it, and thus governed like a moderate and saw his administration end in disaster. The point is, when conservatism was shown as an alternative, it succeeded. Even from Ventura, who happened onto conservatism by accident and unknowingly.
In 2000 and 2004, the leftward bent of both the Gore/Lieberman and especially Kerry/Edwards tickets created just enough ideological space for Republican victories for the philosophically nondescript Bush/Cheney Campaigns. In the 2002 midterms, the Paul Wellstone memorial service uncovered the radical nature of the Democrats in Congress on national TV just days before the election -- and this led to another Republican success that defied pre-election polling -- by exposing the ideological gap.
What happened in 2006 was a GOP disaster -- caused by many things -- chief among them the weight of six years of squishy leadership from W and Congress, including during the campaign. (Yes, Foleygate was a factor too). Of course, we know that 2008 and 2012 produced two Republican disasters, as neither McCain nor Romney were willing and/or able to draw the sharp distinctions ideologically.
On the other hand, ideology was very distinct in 2010 and 2014 -- albeit without the RNC’s help in 2014 -- and both of those midterms were historic wins for the GOP again.
The math is clear: for over 34 years. When there is a big gap, Republicans win. Period. The opposite is true when the gap is very fuzzy and perceived as small. End of discussion.
And I submit that the Jurassic media and some in the Democrat establishment know this. This is why they were carrying out psychological operations in 2011 about how much the Democrats “feared” Jon Huntsman. Yeah, right. The same thing was going on to an extent in 2007 about John McCain.
So today, of course, it’s all about Jeb Bush, and how inevitable he is and how formidable and of course “reasonable” he is. They tell us to nominate him if we want a chance to beat Hillary.
Conversely, they warn us we are destroying our party when someone like Ted Cruz shuts down the government. Even the out-of-touch Wall Street Journal chimed in on that one, calling Cruz “the minority maker.” Perhaps they should check the scoreboard from November.
They also warn us not to pay attention to Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin or Sarah Palin or the Tea Party. They warn us not to oppose amnesty or ObamaCare. They do all this, of course, because luminaries like Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, not to mention the media establishment, care so deeply about our sustainability as a party, you know.
And yet, it continues to vex and scare the Republican establishment. (But that’s another column). In the meantime, keep an eye out for more Jurassic media love for Jeb Bush. This time, I don’t think it will work.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Monday, December 29, 2014
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Washington (CNN) -- Jeb Bush is the clear Republican presidential frontrunner, surging to the front of the potential GOP pack following his announcement that he's "actively exploring" a bid, a new CNN/ORC poll found.Hmmm, seems they forgot the last poll CNN/ORC took. That poll had Romney leading the pack... and now Romney's NOT part of this new poll.
He takes nearly one-quarter — 23% — of Republicans surveyed in the new nationwide poll, putting him 10 points ahead of his closest competitor, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who tallied 13%.
RELATED: Read the entire CNN/ORC poll here
Physician Ben Carson comes in third, with 7% support, and Sen. Rand Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are both tied for fourth with 6%.
That marks a drop in support for all but Christie and Bush from the last CNN/ORC survey of the field, conducted in November. That poll showed Bush in the lead, but only taking 14% of the vote, while Carson came in second with 11% and Christie tied Rep. Paul Ryan for fourth with 9% support.
Bush's 10-point lead is a milestone for the potential GOP field — it marks the first time any prospective candidate has reached a lead beyond a poll's margin of error in the past two years.
Talk about MANIPULATING the news/polls. Is it news to ANYONE that Republican diehards would support Bush in the absence of Romney as a candidate? And is it any wonder that this poll is being HYPED by every newspaper in the world this week? Romney polled 20% in the first poll, and Bush 9%. That Bush only went to 23% instead of up to 29% (Bush's original 9% + Romney's 20%) when Romney was removed from the poll is an indicator of Bush's real WEAKNESS as a GOP candidate, as 6% of Romney supporters (of the 20%) DEFECTED from Bush for other candidates.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Visiting train gardens for Christmas is a beloved Baltimore-area tradition, and people around Harford County once again have several public displays to choose from this holiday season.
This weekend, the last weekend before Christmas, will also be the last chance for people to see some of them; others will remain open for a few days after the holiday.
One relative newcomer to the Harford train garden scene is the Hickory Hill Train Garden, on Hickory Hill Farm in Street.
The display, at 3123 Copenhaver Road, was first erected last year by 15-year-old Zan Wills, who was looking for a place to display his love for model trains.
Last year, Zan, who lives up the road from Hickory Hill, used the train garden to raise about $700 for local food banks, his father, Glen Wills, explained.
"He wants to share his blessings and fortunes with others, which is pretty good for what would have been a 13-year-old kid at the time," Glen Wills said.
Zan Wills has been interested in trains since he was very young, starting with getting an electric train set and getting into the Thomas the Tank Engine series, his father said.
He was able to finally get an 8-foot-by-12-foot table at Hickory Hill Farm after talking about it on Christmas two years ago.
"We have been going there for years to get pretty big trees and it changed ownership about five years ago," Glen Wills said.
When the farm reopened, Zan Wills began setting up his layout, getting some carpentry help from his grandfather and parents.
This season, he completely demolished last year's set-up and made an even bigger display, with three tiers and three tracks instead of just two.
"It's still a really great winter hobby for me," Zan Wills said, noting he was especially inspired by the Wise Avenue train garden in Dundalk.
He explained the set-up would normally take six months to build, but between school and soccer practice, he only had six weeks.
"I am very happy with the way it turned out," he said. "I really just enjoy building it, I enjoy running it and seeing the looks on the little kids as they come in. It's really neat to see them with all the trains."
"I am definitely going to keep doing this as long as I can," he said, adding he hopes to get different buildings, different engines and maybe change the track layout next year.
Glen Wills said he is proud of what his son has accomplished.
"He has collected trains since he was 3 and it's just kind of grown into a neat thing," Glen Wills said. "He just delves into it and we have been very supportive of him."
"Most people are very impressed that he's done it," he added. "He is a very cordial young man and the feedback is always that he's done a great job and how neat it is."
The display is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Another train garden is once again honoring a local family in the Bel Air area.
The Cooper family is hosting Christopher's Train Garden at Broom's Bloom Dairy off of Route 543, in honor of their son, who died in 2007.
"They do the entire thing; I just let them use my space," Kate Dallam, of Broom's Bloom, explained.
The display runs from noon to 8 p.m. until the Sunday after Christmas, but is closed on Tuesday.
Dallam said the exhibit, which features colorful, miniature renderings of scenes throughout Maryland, including Bel Air's Main Street and Ocean City's Boardwalk, has received a big response.
"The community loves it," she said. "It is very geared toward young children, very young."
Dallam said she wants to build a permanent building for the train garden next year, possibly using the space for artistic displays when the garden is not up and running.
The Coopers add to it every year, she said, trying to reflect local businesses like Main Street Oyster House.
"It adds a tremendous amount to the store and the community just embraces it," she said. "I have little children who come every night before they go to bed."
"Young children come up to me in July and ask when the train garden will be back," Dallam added.
Primarily among boys under the age of nine or 10, "it is actually a phenomenon with them," Dallam said.
The Coopers have a donation box to collect money to help fund the display.
In Jarrettsville, a much older train garden is back once again.
The 33rd annual, free train garden is back at Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company.
The display continues Friday through Dec. 23, before returning after Christmas and running through Jan. 11.
Information on hours is available at http://www.jarrettsvillevfc.com.
The train garden originally began as a way to keep adults entertained during a "Santa's workshop" gift store at the fire hall, John Simpson, of the fire company, said.
The display now has five layouts – two in snow and three fall ones – and "we have everything from Z-scale all the way to G-scale" designs, Simpson said.
"It just began to grow more and more popular," Simpson said. "The popularity has changed. It's big kids, little kids."
The display also features a scavenger hunt, and the fire company sells raffle tickets for eight train sets. Four are given away before Christmas Eve and four more on the last night of the exhibit.
"Everybody comes and enjoys it," he said.
The exhibit is run completely by donations, not operating expenses from the fire company, Simpson noted.
"We constantly try to add and change stuff up," he said. "I have a committee that work with me on it."
The Mason Dixon Large Scale Railroad Society is again set up in store space at Bel Air Town Center, near Liberatore's, off Route 1.
The display will be running Friday through Sunday and from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30. More information, including operating times, is available at http://www.mdlsrs.com.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Sunday, December 21, 2014
“the middle class is a luxury that capitalism can no longer afford”- John Gray
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Constellation Energy has plans to build a solar farm in Perryman that could become the largest such installation in Maryland, Harford County and Constellation officials said.How much will electric rates have to rise? Notice there's no mention in the article. That's because they will be at least 2-4x higher, for the same BTUs.
The project, proposed for a 200-acre site next to Constellation's generation station between Perryman and Chelsea roads, could generate as much as 20 megawatts of energy, enough to power the equivalent of 2,000 homes, a Constellation spokesperson said.
The size of the solar array has yet to be been determined, as Constellation must figure out the return on its investment, warned Harford County Economic Development Director Jim Richardson.
A review of the site plan for the proposed solar farm by the county Development Advisory Committee, or DAC, is scheduled for Dec. 17 at 9 a.m. in Bel Air.
"We are not sure how large they are going to make it at this point in time, but we are hoping they will put in a pretty massive installation," Richardson said. "I just think it's a good footprint, because I think it will be the largest solar installation in the state of Maryland."
Richardson said Tuesday the project could mean energy savings for local government and even Aberdeen Proving Ground, which has been part of discussions for the proposal and is near the site.
The county could also reap significant additional tax benefits from what is already far and away its largest taxpayer.
The county has been encouraging Constellation to build the Perryman solar plant for several months, Richardson said, adding that the project was pushed up for the DAC review, as permitted under a fast-tracking process for projects with major economic impact.
Shane Grimm, who is handling the project for the county Department of Planning and Zoning, said Tuesday he had not reviewed it yet. He did not know of any other stand-alone solar farms in the county, however.
Constellation has already applied to the Maryland Public Service Commission for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to build the project, company spokesperson Kelly Biemer said.
Richardson said Constellation officials originally came to his office to talk about potential customers in the Perryman area.
"We are trying to encourage them to maximize the site as much as possible and to reduce our carbon footprint," he explained. "The county is certainly very much in favor of it."
Because of the proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground and transmission lines, "it's perfectly located," Richardson said. "Solar energy is much better if you can be closer to the end user."
The project would rival Constellation's most recent large-scale solar plant, which put a 16.1-megawatt, $50 million installation on land leased from Mount St. Mary's University, in Emmitsburg, in 2012.
The Perryman proposal is part of Exelon's merger commitments when it merged with Constellation in 2012, Biemer said. If built, Constellation would build and operate the solar arrays, she said.
"The proposed clean energy project is part of Exelon's commitment to investing in clean energy resources in Maryland," Biemer wrote in a follow-up email. "Exelon is by far the state's largest producer of carbon-free energy, and we support efforts to introduce additional renewable energy resources across the state and region."
"Constellation developed the state's first wind energy facility, and our 16.1 megawatt solar facility for the state of Maryland, which is currently one of Maryland's largest," she continued.
"Though no formal decision has been made yet about construction of new projects at the Perryman facility, we continue to evaluate additional renewable generation projects that will help Maryland meet its clean energy goals," Biemer said.
Richardson said the project will "unfortunately" not create many jobs, other than during construction; however, it would offer opportunities for local businesses that want to be green.
The solar farm would be the latest energy investment at the company's Perryman complex.
In July, Exelon broke ground on two 60-megawatt natural gas generating units at the station.
That $120 million project, expected to be completed in June 2015, will provide power to Harford and other areas in the region during peak demand times, according to Constellation.
Originally developed in the mid-1990s, Perryman Station has four existing oil-fired combustion turbines and a fifth fired by natural gas. Those are also used to supply power during peak demand periods.
Exelon, which includes Constellation and BGE, is in the process of acquiring Pepco Holdings, whose Delmarva Power subsidiary serves northeastern Harford County.
The county receives more than $13 million annually in business property taxes from those entities, according to its most recent comprehensive annual financial report.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Here's more evidence of just how successful President Obama has been at "spreading the wealth around" since he took office.
A Pew Research Center report released on Wednesday found that the gap in net worth between the country's wealthy and the middle class reached record highs in 2013 -- the last year for which it has data.
According to Pew, which used data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances, upper-income median net worth in 2013 was 6.6 times greater than the median net worth of middle-income families ($639,400 vs. $96,500).
That's up from 4.5 in 2007, the last year before the recession hit, and higher than it was in 2010, when the Obama recovery was just getting started. Pew also found that, prior to Obama, the biggest wealth gap in the past three decades was 5.0.
The study notes that the net worth of wealthy families is almost 70 times that of lower-income families, which is also the widest in three decades.
"The Great Recession destroyed a significant amount of middle-income and lower-income families' wealth," Pew researchers Richard Fry and Rakesh Kochhar note, "and the economic 'recovery' has yet to be felt for them." (Note that the scare quotes around the word "recovery" were theirs, not ours.)
An earlier Pew paper found that whites have fared far better under Obama in terms of net worth than either blacks or Hispanics.
Obama routinely bashes "trickle down" economics. But it seems pretty clear that his attempt at "trickle up" growth has pretty much utterly failed.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
With Marylanders throwing away far more trash per person than the average American, the O'Malley administration released a long-range plan Monday to virtually eliminate placing waste in state landfills in the next 25 years. The plan is drawing mixed reaction, however, as environmentalists criticize the blueprint's embrace of burning debris to generate energy.
State officials say that curtailing placing waste in landfills can save communities and taxpayers money, conserve energy and natural resources, and reduce pollution, including the release of climate-warming greenhouse gases.
Marylanders have more than doubled their recycling rates in the past two decades, the plan notes, now diverting about 45 percent of what once was thrown away. However, the state's residents still discard more than half their waste, with most of that going to landfills, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
In a statement accompanying the plan's release, Gov. Martin O'Malley called it "an ambitious policy framework to create green jobs and business opportunities while virtually doing away with the inefficient waste disposal practices that threaten our future."
The plan produced by the environment department lays out nearly 60 options for achieving "zero waste" by 2040, which in reality means diverting 85 percent of what gets buried in landfills now.
It sets as its top priority a series of reforms in the way products are designed and consumed so there's less waste generated in the first place. It also proposes measures to increase recycling, including vastly expanded composting of kitchen-table food scraps, reuse of treated wastewater, and volume-based, "pay-as-you-throw" trash collection fees designed to give residents a financial incentive to reduce their discards. Finally, the plan calls for burning waste that can't be prevented or recycled to generate energy.
A public forum on the zero-waste plan is to be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Baltimore headquarters of the state Department of the Environment, 1800 Washington Blvd. A draft plan released last spring drew more than 115 written comments and prompted state officials to hold three meetings to review it over the summer.
Execution of the proposals in the plan would come through legislation, regulations and voluntary incentives, among other methods.
The Maryland Public Interest Research Group released a statement calling the final plan "a big step in the right direction," including its proposals for expanded recycling. One of the options drawing particular praise would promote reuse of drink bottles and other beverage containers by levying a refundable deposit on them when they're sold. Similar "bottle bills" have been proposed and killed in Annapolis by opposition from retailers and beverage manufacturers.
Emily Scarr, the group's director, criticized the plan, though, for including the burning of trash to generate energy.
"Incinerators are expensive," she said, "and they discourage waste reduction and recycling because the business model requires a constant flow of waste, which works directly against efforts to reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost."
She argued that zero waste can be reached solely by reducing what's discarded, reusing as much as possible and recycling the rest.
"This is not a Zero Waste Plan by any stretch of the imagination," said Caroline Eader, a Frederick resident who's fought a proposed waste-to-energy incinerator in her county.
Monday, December 15, 2014
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Shelby, Richard AL
Flake, Jeff AZ
McCain, John AZ
Rubio, Marco FL
Grassley, Chuck IA
Crapo, Michael ID
Risch, James ID
Moran, Jerry KS
Paul, Rand KY
Vitter, David LA
Heller, Dean NV
Portman, Rob OH
Scott, Tim SC
Corker, Bob TN
Cruz, Ted TX
Lee, Mike UT
Johnson, Ron WI
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Retiring representative Jim Moran (D., Va.) says that Democrats got “virtually everything” they wanted in the cromnibus package that’s going to a vote in the House tonight, as he praised the bill in terms that could double as the conservative critique of the legislation.Why does the GOP need 80 pliant Democrats? To offset the Tea Party members, of course! I can hardly wait until they bring in their closer!
Moran says that “the Republicans are indicating they need 80 Democrats” and he’s frustrated that Democrats won’t provide the votes.
“In 20 years of being on the appropriations [committee], I haven’t seen a better compromise in terms of Democratic priorities. Implementing the Affordable Care Act, there’s a lot more money for early-childhood development — the only priority that got cut was the EPA but we gave them more money than the administration asked for,” Moran told reporters Thursday evening after exiting a Democratic caucus meeting in which White House chief of staff Denis McDonough tried to convince members to back the bill.
“There were 26 riders that were extreme and would have devastated the Environmental Protection Agency in terms of the Clean Water and Clean Air Act administration; all of those were dropped,” Moran continued. ”There were only two that were kept and they wouldn’t have been implemented this fiscal year. So, we got virtually everything that the Democrats tried to get.”
Moran warned Democrats that if the cromnibus failed, Republicans would be able to run over Democrats next year when they control the House and Senate.
“What’s going to happen next year is that we’re going to lose all of the money that was put into Democratic priorities. Some of it will be shifted over to defense, but they’re not going to put in the money to implement the Affordable Care Act, they’re not going to put in the early childhood money, they’re going to put in all the anti-environment riders back and we’re going to have the same provisions that we’re arguing about,” he says.
House Democrats especially opposed two riders that change campaign-finance law and repeal a provision of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law.
Friday, December 12, 2014
Here, listed in reverse alphabetical order, are the 67 Republicans who voted against the $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by the House of Representatives late Thursday night. Fifty-seven Democrats voted for the bill, allowing it to pass the House by a vote of 219-206. Not even one is from Maryland.The REST who weren't "just elected in 2014" should be thrown out of Congress in 2016! This afternoon when the bill is voted on in the Senate, we'll uncover which Senate Republicans deserve re-election in 2016+.
Wittman, R. (R-VA)
Williams, R. (R-TX)
Webster, D. (R-FL)
Weber, R. (R-TX)
Stutzman, M. (R-IN)
Smith, L. (R-TX)
Smith, C. (R-NJ)
Sensenbrenner, F. (R-WI)
Scott, A. (R-GA)
Schweikert, D. (R-AZ)
Sanford, M. (R-SC)
Salmon, M. (R-AZ)
Rohrabacher, D. (R-CA)
Rogers, M. (R-AL)
Posey, B. (R-FL)
Pompeo, M. (R-KS)
Poe, T. (R-TX)
Perry, S. (R-PA)
Olson, P. (R-TX)
Neugebauer, R. (R-TX)
Mulvaney, M. (R-SC)
Miller, J. (R-FL)
Meadows, M. (R-NC)
McKinley, D. (R-WV)
McClintock, T. (R-CA)
McAllister, V. (R-LA)
Massie, T. (R-KY)
Marchant, K. (R-TX)
Lummis, C. (R-WY)
Lankford, J. (R-OK)
Lamborn, D. (R-CO)
LaMalfa, D. (R-CA)
Labrador, R. (R-ID)
King, S. (R-IA)
Jordan, J. (R-OH)
Jones, W. (R-NC)
Johnson, S. (R-TX)
Hurt, R. (R-VA)
Huelskamp, T. (R-KS)
Griffith, H. (R-VA)
Gowdy, T. (R-SC)
Gosar, P. (R-AZ)
Gohmert, L. (R-TX)
Garrett, S. (R-NJ)
Franks, T. (R-AZ)
Flores, B. (R-TX)
Fleming, J. (R-LA)
Farenthold, B. (R-TX)
Duncan, J. (R-TN)
Duncan, J. (R-SC)
DesJarlais, S. (R-TN)
DeSantis, R. (R-FL)
Crawford, R. (R-AR)
Cotton, T. (R-AR)
Conaway, K. (R-TX)
Clawson, C. (R-FL)
Rice, T. (R-SC)
Burgess, M. (R-TX)
Broun, P. (R-GA)
Brooks, M. (R-AL)
Bridenstine, J. (R-OK)
Brat, D. (R-VA)
Blackburn, M. (R-TN)
Bentivolio, K. (R-MI)
Barton, J. (R-TX)
Bachmann, M. (R-MN)
Amash, J. (R-MI)
Thursday, December 11, 2014
CHAIRWOMAN MIKULSKI’S FLOOR STATEMENT ON THE PROGRESS OF THE FY15 OMNIBUS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke on the Senate floor about the status of the fiscal year 2015 omnibus.
The following are Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as delivered:
“Mr. President, I come to the floor today during the consideration of the National Defense Authorization to bring my colleagues up to date on the Appropriations Bill. As we know, the Continuing Resolution expires on Thursday at midnight. But I’m here to talk about some good news.
“The Appropriations Committees on both sides of the dome, the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee working as a conference committee, have completed their work. This legislation is now, as we speak, heading to the Rules Committee in the House. Hopefully, it will head to the House floor tomorrow and be on the Senate floor tomorrow night and into Friday.
“And this means no government shutdown, no government on autopilot. We fund the government through the rest of fiscal year 2015, except the Department of Homeland Security, which will be funded on a continuing resolution.
“Mr. President, what we’re talking about here is a monumental achievement. It is a monumental accomplishment, showing how we can work together, we can govern and we can get the job done. Working on a bipartisan basis in the Senate, we worked in our subcommittees, we held our hearings, nearly 60 hearings in 6 weeks, and completed many of our markups.
“We were able to work on our appropriations in the Senate. Over in the House, they did the same thing. But then alas, when we got to September, we had to go on a continuing resolution that lasted until December 11.
“I, as a rule, don’t like continuing resolutions. We have 12 subcommittees, and I had hoped under the time that I chaired the committee and held the gavel that we could consider one bill at time and then bring it to the Senate floor. Alas, partisan politics, gridlock, deadlock, gamesmanship and showmanship prevented all that.
“But, you know what? We on the Appropriations Committee, me working with my Vice Chair, Senator Shelby of Alabama, kept ourselves on track. Then we met in the conference committee – first our Subcommittee Chairs and Ranking Members, then Chairman Rogers, Shelby, Congresswoman Lowey and myself.
“We did work together on a $1 trillion spending bill. That number is breathtaking. But we need to remember over $562 billion is in national defense. The rest is in domestic discretionary. That means everything from veterans to foreign aid to school aid, and also funding innovation.
“I will talk more explicitly about the bill when it comes to the Senate floor. But for today, I wanted everyone to know we’re keeping the process going. We actually made the process work. We showed that we could govern. We worked across the aisle. We worked across the dome. We practiced civility. We argued, we debated, we fought.
“You know, sometimes you give a little, you take a little, but you stand up for them all. And I want you to know that we were able to compromise without what I call ‘capitulation on principle.’ So I wanted to say to my colleagues, stay steady, stay strong.
“We expect that the House will pass its rule sometime after 3:00 p.m. today. That’s the framework that enables them to go to the floor tomorrow. They will follow their own rule and hopefully that bill will pass. If it does pass, it will come to the Senate and we will immediately take it up under the rules that the two leaders will have established. So we look forward to completing the job on the Appropriations Committee within the next 72 hours. I hope this update is of value to my colleagues as they plan their schedule and wish to participate in the debate and the discussion.
“But it’s not whether it’s of value to us. It’s whether it’s a value to the nation. I think what the last election said was we’ve lost confidence in your ability to govern. We hope over the next 72 hours – by the way we will bring this bill to the floor – we will make a significant step to restoring that confidence. And get out of this whole game of government by crisis, government by artificially imposed deadlines that result in more drama than debate. And we would like to get back to this regular order. Hopefully, though, we can now move our bill forward.”
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Two months ago–prior to the election–they were eager to shake your hand and meet you, but now some members of the Harford County Council don’t want you calling them, don’t want you talking to them at the grocery store, and don’t want you approaching them to chat before or after the public council meetings.Perhaps Mr. Slutzsky would like an escort of lictors bearing rods and axes? The only question being "how many" he feels entitled to.
Citing, among other things, “lone wolf activists” and potential terrorist attacks, Harford County Council President Richard Slutzky detailed a new proposed security plan Tuesday night, aimed at limiting the interaction between members of the county council, their constituents, and the press in the area near the council’s seating dias.
The Dagger broke the news Monday of the proposed security policy and, at the county council legislative session on Tuesday night, Slutzky took the blame for a wave of negative fallout over the proposal, calling it a “blunder.” Slutzky said his mistake was failing to mention that county council members are free to leave the dais at any time to talk with the public–as they always have been–but he reiterated that he wanted to create a “safety zone” around the dais in which the public and press are prohibited.
Blunders aside, Slutzky defended the new security plan, which he said was created with input from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, adding he felt it was “a little unusual and inappropriate” for members of the public to approach council members on the dais before or after meetings. He continued by mentioning how Baltimore County uses a barrier and gate system to limit the access the public has to their representatives. Without citing specific incidents, Slutzky said there have been times when council members felt unsafe when approached by citizens during council meetings.
“A couple of times it got a little dangerous,” he said, and after the meeting cited a handful of incidents in which persons had to be physically removed from the building.
The crux of Slutzky’s policy is that “we live in a different environment” and that there are “lone wolf activists and many other things out there,” which could potentially seek to harm council members.
“We are still leery about certain citizens approaching the dais,” he added.
At the same time, Slutzky defended another unpopular council action – routing all citizen and media contact with the members of the council through new Harford County Council Director of Communications Sherrie Johnson.
Slutzky said council members are often contacted late at night, while at their full time job, while on vacation, and even stopped in the grocery store, which can become an issue. The intent of hiring a director of communications was to become more efficient in managing requests for information.
Slutzky said some members of the council supported the new policy, others did not, and others could see both sides of the issue. He said that, if directed to reevaluate the policy by members of the council, he would do so, but until that time the council would operate under a policy that neither press nor citizens may approach dais at a council meeting.
“Is the same Harford County that we all grew up in years ago?,” Slutzky asked.
Despite Slutzky’s claim of support among fellow council members for both the security and contact policies, the remaining six councilman wasted little time distancing themselves from them, and several said they were not aware of the “security zone” until The Dagger broke the news.
“None of us knew,” newly seated District E Councilman Patrick Vincenti said.
“In today’s day and age, we’re growing more obsessed with security,” said Councilman Mike Perrone, who added, “There are certain risks that are inherent with holding public office.”
“Council chambers are a public space and I think we need to do everything we can to keep council chambers a public space as much as we can,” he said.
The other members agreed.
Councilman Joe Woods: “It’s going to be business as usual for me.”
Councilman James McMahan: “I’m just as available today as I was yesterday.”
Councilman Chad Shrodes, who said he was unaware about the policy until Tuesday: “I’ll still continue to be available,” but will respect the safety zone.
Councilman Vincenti: “The bottom line is we’re an extension of our constituents, if you need us, you know how to get a hold of us.”
Councilman Curtis Beulah: “I have no boss here, I answer to the citizens. If you want to approach me, you should be able to approach me.”
After the council members spoke, several citizens took issue with the security and communications initiatives.
Vicki Seitzinger of the Harford Campaign for Liberty urged the council to collectively reject the policy. She said constituents would no longer be able to share their opinions and thoughts directly with a council member, but would instead have to deliver them third-hand through the communications director.
Morita Bruce, president of Friends of Harford, said “This meeting is really our time to talk to you and with you on various issues.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, a Dagger reporter gestured to Slutzky whether they could approach the dias to speak with him. Slutzky responded by motioning that he would come to the floor to speak. At the same time, a Harford County Sheriff’s Office corporal took up a position between the tables at the front of the room and the dias, offering an apologetic-seeming shrug to the reporter.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Monday released the final guidelines for low down payment mortgage loans, reviving a practice that critics say could eventually lead to defaults and another financial crisis.
Fannie and Freddie announced that eligible first-time homebuyers could now obtain mortgage loans with down payments as low as 3 percent. Both entities still purchase a majority of loans in the housing market and remain under government conservatorship after the 2008 crisis.
Fannie and Freddie, known as government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), said that borrowers would have to clear several hurdles before they could take out the loan. Those include obtaining private mortgage insurance, providing income documentation and verification, and seeking homebuyer education and counseling.
Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mel Watt said in a statement that the lower lending standards “will enable creditworthy borrowers who can afford a mortgage, but lack the resources to pay a substantial down payment plus closing costs, to get a mortgage with 3 percent down.”
“These underwriting guidelines provide a responsible approach to improving access to credit while ensuring safe and sound lending practices,” he said.
Peter Wallison, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and former general counsel to the U.S. Treasury Department under President Ronald Reagan, said in an interview that the new loans could eventually inject more risk into the housing market.
Required premiums for mortgage insurance will raise the cost of homes, he argued, making them unaffordable for many buyers. Pressure will then mount to make the mortgages more accessible, and risky.
“When those loans do not really result in any significant numbers in increased low-income loans, they will reduce the underwriting standards further,” he said.
“Eventually will be back in a situation a year from now in which many of these loans will look like the loans before the financial crisis,” he added.
The low down payment loans could also be a political move to placate Democrats who have long pushed for looser lending standards to aid low-income borrowers, Wallison said.
Fannie and Freddie had mostly ended the practice of low down payment mortgages in recent years, though Fannie accepted some 3 percent loans into late last year.
Wallison said the housing market has stabilized somewhat since 2008 with the issuance of fewer risky mortgages. Risk in the market has increased more slowly, AEI’s International Center on Housing Risk said last week, but there are still too many high and medium-risk loans to ensure a stable market in the long run.
The national homeownership rate was 64 percent in the third quarter, close to its level before the housing bubble of the early 2000s.
Wallison noted that taxpayers will again foot the bill if Fannie and Freddie’s mortgage loans default in large numbers. Treasury provided $188 billion to the GSEs in 2008 to keep them afloat.
“The only reason banks will make these loans is that they can sell them to Fannie and Freddie,” he said. “Taxpayers are going to take the risk.”
from the Dagger
The Harford County Council is expected to introduce a pair of bills Tuesday night that would repeal one unpopular local tax and create another for which some have long pined. Also, a new security policy, which would prevent constituents from approaching or talking to members of the county council after a meeting, is expected to be discussed.
The agenda for the Tuesday, Dec. 9 session, which begins at 7:30 p.m., includes the introduction of Bill 14-035, which would create a new Hotel Occupancy Tax, and Bill 14-036, which would repeal the Stormwater Remediation Fees – better known derisively as the “rain tax.”
A Harford County hotel tax has been discussed on and off for years. Harford is famously the only remaining county in Maryland that does not impose a lodging surcharge on visits to local hotels/motels. The purpose of such a tax would be to collect a fee from those just passing through the county, yet who use roads and other public utilities and facilities while here. At several points in the last decade, the Maryland General Assembly has come close to approving a hotel tax for Harford, but some stalwart members of the local delegation were always able to stave it off. Recent attempts at passing a lodging surcharge would have allocated a percentage of the fee to the local tourism industry.
Six years ago, then-State Sen. Barry Glassman himself was in a position to finally force movement on the hotel tax, but told The Dagger:“With the state and local economy going in the tank, I think we should not be increasing any more taxes or adding cost to small business.”Also Tuesday night, Harford County Council President Richard Slutzky is expected to discuss new security procedures and protocols, which could dramatically impact the way constituents interact with their representatives at the public meetings.
According to Sherrie Johnson, the former public information officer for Harford County government, who started a new position a week ago as Director of Communications for the Harford County Council, constituents and members of the media will no longer be permitted to directly address or contact council members after legislative sessions. Instead, Johnson has asked for inquiries and contact with the council members, including questions from journalists, to be made through her.
It has long been customary for council members to remain in the chambers after the public meeting adjourns to speak with constituents and media.
“No, constituents are not allowed to approach Council members after meetings. This is part of new security procedures that will be put in place for the County Council meetings,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail to The Dagger Monday night.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Outside groups are bracing for surprises in the massive government-funding bill the Congress is expected to consider next week.
The $1.014 trillion bill funding most of the government through September 2015 is one of the last trains out of the station, as the 113th Congress is set to close shop on Friday.
That means it could be a final chance for lobbyists and lawmakers alike to find a vehicle for their priorities.
“We’re ready to be surprised,” said Steve Ellis, vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, which regularly highlights hidden measures included in funding bills.
Appropriators preparing the bill are keeping a tight lid on its contents. They are expected to release the legislation on Monday.
The government will shutdown on Dec. 12 if Congress does not approve a new funding measure by then.
The House is expected to vote first on the “cromnibus,” which includes 11 appropriations bills funding agencies through the fiscal year, and a continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the Department of Homeland Security for only a few months.
Items that outside groups are watching for include a reversal of D.C.'s recent legalization of marijuana; an attack on President Obama’s environmental regulations; and possibly a provision that could blur the lines of campaign finance laws.
And there could be unforeseen surprises, Ellis and others predicted.
“In the end, nothing surprises me and I’m sure we’re going to be finding stuff out in January or February,” Ellis said. “You have to not just be a speed-reader, but really be a superman to get through all of it.”
Democrats are watching for a GOP rider to prohibit federal funds from being used to subsidize insurance plans that provide abortion services.
Some liberals are also worried about a rider to reverse D.C.’s new pot law, though others say that would be a long shot.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, has reportedly been pushing to attach a rider that would end limits imposed on coordinating spending between campaign committees and candidates.
“We would watch it with great concern because of the fact that it could open the door to special interests having more influence over all of federal policy and certainly the budget than they even do now,” said Lindsay Koshgarian, research director at National Priorities Project, which tracks federal spending.
Koshgarian said she’ll also be on the look-out for how much of the president’s emergency requests are appropriated for the effort to combat Ebola, $6.2 billion, and operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), $5.6 billion.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week said he expects Democrats will vote for the funding bill, and it’s expected that GOP leaders will need many Democratic votes given conservative opposition.
Many on the right have argued the GOP should only pass a short-term funding measure, and that it should cut funds for immigration services as a way to bite back at President Obama’s actions on immigration.
Those dynamics will make it tough to include any measures that could cost the bill more Democratic votes.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is attempting to buy some leverage and warned Republicans on Friday that Democrats wouldn’t accept any “destructive riders.”
And Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has been involved in the negotiations.
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have been lobbying appropriators to ensure the spending bill doesn’t contain provisions that would undermine Obama’s rule to reduce carbon emissions at power plants and a proposed rule that would revise the definition of national waters under the Clean Water Act.
Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s legislative director, said while her group has been on edge, the inclusion of such a controversial rider is unlikely.
“I’m getting a sense from our conversations on the Hill and the lobbying back in the district that the cromnibus is likely to be clean,” she said. “My sense is Republicans may be holding their fire until they have greater numbers, greater control, greater power.”
One rider that is expected to fly through is a prohibition on funding for the transfer of detainees at Guantanamo Bay detention center to the United States.
Despite the president’s push to close the prison, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) the House passed Thursday included language that would prohibit that funding.
Koshgarian cautioned not to jump to conclusions too soon about controversial riders getting tossed aside.
“As it comes down to the wire over the next week, we also remember sequestration,” she said, “No one thought that would go through, so never say never.”
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) - a treaty that would further liberalize trade and investment in services, and expand "regulatory disciplines" on all services sectors, including many public services. The "disciplines," or treaty rules, would provide all foreign providers access to domestic markets at "no less favorable" conditions as domestic suppliers and would restrict governments' ability to regulate, purchase and provide services. This would essentially change the regulation of many public and privatized or commercial services from serving the public interest to serving the profit interests of private, foreign corporations.
Amendments from the US are seeking to end publicly provided services like public pension funds, which are referred to as 'monopolies' and to limit public regulation of all financial services ... They want to freeze financial regulation at existing levels, which would mean that governments could not respond to new developments like another global financial crisis."
Baltimore's longtime Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway Sr. on Thursday announced he was switching parties to become the city's first Republican to hold office since the 1960s.
Conaway, 81, has been elected to his post five times as a Democrat. In 2011, he ran as a Democrat for mayor, finishing fifth of six candidates in an election won by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
In a news release Thursday, he accused the Democratic party of turning its back on him.
"All they have ever shown me and my family was a cold shoulder and the door," Conaway said in a statement. "So I have decided to switch political affiliations and work with the Republican Party of Maryland in pushing a progressive agenda in order to help uplift the communities of Baltimore."
The release also refers to Conaway, a former state delegate in the 1970s and 1980s, as the "godfather of black politics in Baltimore."
He said changing parties allows him to "begin to address the issues affecting our communities with the Governor-elect [Larry Hogan]; and tell him what he needs to hear, not whisper sweat [sic] nothings in his ear that end up not benefiting anyone but the elected officials themselves."
Conaway is the father of State Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr. and newly elected city Register of Wills Belinda Conaway, both of whom are Democrats. The news release says they did not embrace their father's decision to switch parties.
Maryland GOP chairwoman Diana Waterman welcomed Conaway to the party.
"For way too long, Baltimore City has not been represented by any Republicans," she said in a statement. "I am very happy to welcome Baltimore City Clerk of the Court Frank Conaway, Sr. to our Party and look forward to working with him in building the Party in Baltimore City."
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
When the new Congress takes the oath in January, Republicans could occupy as many as 247 seats, giving them their most dominant House majority in over 80 years. But it will also usher in an expanded group of Republicans from Democratic-friendly districts, a shift, GOP operatives say, that will reorder the politics of the chamber.
The new Republican Conference will include 26 members from districts that Obama won in 2012, and 47 lawmakers from districts that Mitt Romney won by less than 10 percentage points. In the previous Congress, just 17 Republican incumbents were in districts that Obama won and 44 in seats Romney won by less than 10 points.
The rise of swing-district Republicans could strengthen the hand of Speaker John Boehner against hard-line conservatives and create a new incentive for compromise with Democrats on issues with centrist appeal.
The GOP’s slimmer majority the past two years forced the speaker into repeated showdowns with tea party members whose overwhelmingly conservative districts insulated them from a political backlash. The incoming faction of moderate-minded lawmakers, enjoying no such cushion, will give Boehner more room to maneuver.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led House may vote this week to undo President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, House Speaker John Boehner told lawmakers Tuesday as he sought to give outraged conservatives an outlet to vent over Obama's move without shutting down the government.In Boehner's eyes, "a serious breech of the Constitution" only merits "symbolic" action by the Congress.
The move would be mostly symbolic, since Obama would certainly veto such legislation and the Democratic-led Senate likely wouldn't go along with it. But GOP leaders hope it will assuage Republicans furious about Obama's two-week-old actions to shield some 4 million immigrants in this country illegally from deportation, and grant them work permits.
"We're looking at a number of options in terms of how to address this. This is a serious breach of our Constitution," Boehner told reporters. "It's a serious threat to our system of government, and frankly we have limited options and limited ability to deal with it directly."
Publicly, the speaker told reporters that Republicans were considering several options and no decision had been made, but aides and lawmakers said that he indicated during a closed-door meeting with the rank and file earlier that the vote on legislation to block Obama was the leading option. It would be on a bill by Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., aimed at blocking Obama from unilaterally allowing categories of unlawful immigrants to live and work here.
Party leaders then hope to move on next week to voting on must-pass spending legislation to keep the government running. In the wake of their midterm election victories last month to win full control of Congress, Republican leaders are eager to show they can govern responsibly without risking government shutdowns. But Obama's administrative moves on immigration and the resulting GOP fury has created complications.
Boehner floated the two-step approach as Congress reconvened after a week-long Thanksgiving recess. But there were immediate signs of opposition from immigration hard-liners who have scuttled past efforts by Boehner to address the issue.
Several conservative lawmakers said Boehner's approach didn't go far enough. They said they would hold out for a spending bill to include language explicitly blocking Obama's actions from taking effect. GOP leaders fear that could scuttle the spending bill or even lead to a government shutdown.
"If we start out with a bill that does nothing to reverse the president's illegal conduct it will be difficult for me to support it," said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala. "I'll be surprised if they can muster the 218 votes needed to pass the House."
Some conservatives were not mollified by the prospect of voting on Yoho's bill aimed at overturning Obama.
"I'm going to vote for Yoho's bill but it's not going to go anywhere and everybody knows that," said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.
Meanwhile Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson defended Obama's new immigration plans before a House committee where Republicans took turns denouncing them as an unconstitutional power grab that would incite a new rush of illegal immigration at the border.
"The president's unilateral actions to bypass Congress undermine the Constitution and threaten our democracy," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "We will see a wave of illegal immigration because of the president's actions."
Johnson disputed that point and others, arguing the president acted within his executive authority to temporarily defer deportations for certain immigrants who are not priorities for removal anyway. The actions apply mostly to people who've been in the country five years or more and have kids who are citizens or green card holders.
"I'm fully comfortable that we have the legal authority to push forward these reforms," Johnson said. "Deferred action is an inherent executive branch authority that can and should be used from time to time, and we've done so here."
The spending measure the House will vote on next week will top $1 trillion and fund the day-to-day operations of Cabinet agencies through the Sept. 30 end of the 2015 fiscal year. The Department of Homeland Security — whose personnel implement Obama's orders to permit more immigrants here illegally to remain in the U.S. — may be kept on a shorter leash and be funded only into early 2015 under a plan floated by Boehner. The idea would be to try to reverse Obama's moves on immigration when revisiting its budget next year.
Boehner said no decision has been made. If GOP leaders go forward with the plan they would be rejecting demands by conservative activists to take a more confrontational approach now and try to attach legislation explicitly blocking Obama's immigration orders to the must-pass spending bill.
Johnson spoke out strongly against such a short-term spending measure for his department, saying it could prevent him from funding needed priorities including hiring protection for presidential candidates heading into the 2016 elections.
Conservative leaders who had a hand in key Republican victories including Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the Contract with America and the birth of the Tea Party, are ganging up to oppose a Jeb Bush presidential bid, declaring him easier to beat than Bob Dole or John McCain.Well, at least its' not Romney!
“I don’t know of any conservatives who are supporting him,” said Richard Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com.
“Jeb is a very good moderate Democrat,” added top-rated talk radio host Mark Levin. “He's very boring. He doesn't elicit excitement and energy outside a very small circle of wealthy corporatists and GOP Beltway operatives. Time to move on.”
The criticism of Bush, a media darling and leading centrist GOP potential presidential candidate, took off when Phyllis Schlafly updated her 50-year-old conservative manifesto, A Choice Not an Echo, with a slap at Bush.
In her latest revision, provided to the Washington Examiner, she wrote: “Do you get the message that the media buildup for Jeb Bush has begun and that the 2016 Republican National Convention may nominate another establishment loser, the next one in line? But it doesn’t have to be.”
Many conservatives are critical of Bush’s support for Common Core educational standards and immigration reform.
But his biggest hurdle may be his last name.
“The objection so many Reaganites have to another Bush is because he is another Bush,” said Reagan biographer Craig Shirley. “He, too, has an alarming belief in centralized authority. From the standpoint of history, the Bush family got their start in 1980 opposing Reagan and Reaganism, as they continue to do today.”
“We just don’t trust him,” said Viguerie, who favors Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. “Conservatives are going to be very, very critical of Jeb, not only for the sins of the father and brother, but also for his own views.”
I used to get mad at Republicans who "poisoned the wells" of other potential Republican candidates, like the establishment did to Ron Paul and many others before him. But hey, what's good for the goose, is gravy for the gander!
Monday, December 1, 2014
Republican Barry Glassman took office Monday as Harford County executive, promising to make the county “a leader in economic development and job creation.”
In a ceremony at Harford Community College, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan praised Glassman as both a political ally and “a genuinely nice man.”
“Together we’ll put Maryland on a new path and together we will change Maryland for the better,” Hogan said.
The governor-elect received a thunderous welcome in a jurisdiction he carried with more than three-quarters of the vote. He did not stay to witness Glassman’s swearing-in because he left for Annapolis to attend the inauguration of Steve Schuh as Anne Arundel County executive.
In his address, Glassman promised to take on what he called a “heroin epidemic” in the county. He also said he will introduce a number of measures before the County Council this week, including a repeal of the storm water remediation fee derided by Republicans as the “rain tax.”
“Rain will no longer be taxed in Harford County,” he said. Glassman said the county would keep up its federally required storm water efforts using existing resources.
Glassman, 52, was appointed to the Senate in 2008 to fill a vacancy. He had previously served nine years in the House of Delegates and eight on the Harford County Council.
On Election Day, Glassman gained 75 percent of votes in his victory over Democrat Joseph Werner. Glassman succeeds David R. Craig, who held the office for the past decade.
With Schuh and Howard County’s Allan Kittleman, Glassman gives Maryland Republicans added “bench strength” at the county executive level for future statewide races. All three men will lead large urban counties and are in their 50s.
The inauguration attracted many of Glassman’s former General Assembly colleagues, in addition to former county executives Eileen Rehrmann and James Harkins and U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican who represents the First District.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Monday, November 24, 2014
November 25, 2014
7 pm – 9 pm
Knights of Columbus Hall
23 Newport Drive
Forest Hill, MD. 21050
On November 4th voters openly rejected the trends of the last several years!
Friends, we have an opportunity for a new beginning.
Our statement “Reclaim the Republic. Restore the Constitution” is more than just a slogan.
Now the hard work begins in earnest.
Let’s start with the Rain Tax.
An uneven law Mandated by unelected government bureaucrats
Based on questionable science
Unlikely to have a meaningful impact
Financial burden on the taxpaying middle class
How did this happen?
Join us as Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild discusses tried and true techniques for David to use against Goliath. It worked in Carroll County and it can work for us in Harford too.
Commissioner Rothschild lead the Carroll County effort to de-fang SB 281 (The Gun Grab), The Rain Tax, and has been a stalwart defender of property rights. Let’s bring his style of public service to Harford County.
Plus – Dave Pridgeon will discuss the recent election and its impact on the liberty movement.
AND – OPEN MIC
Be Part of the Conversation!
Come and celebrate our victories and help us plan for the next round!
Children Welcome – Separate Room in Back
Visit our website http://www.harfordliberty.org
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
President Obama will announce Thursday that he will use his executive authority to expand temporary protections to millions of undocumented immigrants, according to several individuals who have been briefed on the decision. Obama will travel to Las Vegas on the heels of that announcement to rally support for his initiative on Friday.
Congress will receive official details on the move Thursday, according to a senior Democratic Party official.
Even before final confirmation of the president’s plans, outside advocates began readying events to promote the administration’s immigration policy.
“We hear there will be a prime time Thursday evening announcement (to preview) and full unveiling in Vegas on Friday,” immigration advocate Dawn Le wrote in an email to other activists, which was later inadvertently sent to a group of reporters Wednesday morning. “Can folks begin to work and plan watch parties for Thursday and/or Friday? Unclear whether Thursday night content will be what is "celebratory", but Friday will be where we need a lot of energy guaranteed.”
Obama launched his push for immigration reform in January 2013 in Las Vegas, outlining a plan that would allow many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship.
The president's decision to speak at the city's Del Sol High School highlights the administration's intensified push to convince Latinos that the Democratic Party is committed to addressing the dilemma of millions of undocumented immigrants. The president is preparing to use his executive authority to expand temporary protections to millions of these individuals, as well as to broaden visa programs for highly-skilled technology workers and perhaps also stiffen security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Federal policy often tilts the playing field, picks winners and losers, and rewards well-connected insiders, contributing to the public perception that the ‘game’ is rigged and harming economic growth. AEI scholars have identified a few policy changes that lawmakers can pursue if they want to combat cronyism and corporate welfare.Doesn't go nearly far enough, if you ask me. It's ALL cosmetics to protect the corporate interest.
Policymakers in both major US political parties have increasingly condemned “crony capitalism” and “corporate welfare.” Many House and Senate candidates in the 2010, 2012, and 2014 election cycles gained considerable support by promising to combat policies that favor narrow interests at the expense of the broader public interest.
There is plenty of debate as to what counts as corporate welfare and crony capitalism, and there is no consensus definition for either of these words. But they are real phenomena: much federal policy tilts the playing field, picks winners and losers, and rewards well-connected insiders. This contributes to the public perception that the “game” is rigged and harms economic growth and innovation.
Scholars at the American Enterprise Institute have identified a few policy changes lawmakers can pursue if they want to combat cronyism and corporate welfare. There are dozens of programs, policies, and tax provisions beyond those mentioned here that could count as crony capitalism or corporate welfare. The ones here are just a start.
AEI does not take institutional positions on these issues, and often AEI scholars disagree. Each of these items represents the views of individual scholars.
Repeal Obamacare’s Insurer Bailout (“Risk Corridors”), or Make It Budget Neutral. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) distorts the marketplace by promising open-ended subsidization of insurer losses from policies sold on the law’s federal and state exchanges. Insurers are taking more risk and cutting their premiums to gain market share because they know the federal government will pick up the tab if they experience large losses. The effect of this policy is to force taxpayers to provide a backdoor subsidy of insurance companies. Eliminating this subsidy would push insurers toward more realistic pricing of their products, AEI Visiting Scholar James Capretta argues.
AEI Resident Fellow Thomas Miller says Congress could leave the risk corridors in place but protect taxpayers by making them budget neutral.
End the Individual Mandate. The individual mandate forces people to buy a product from a private industry even if they do not want to buy it. This is the epitome of corporate welfare, Miller argues. Miller suggests Congress should repeal the individual mandate and provide other incentives for individuals to remain covered, such as protections against rate hikes or exclusions for changes in health status for anyone who maintains continuous insurance coverage.
Take Away States’ Exclusion Authority. Under the ACA, states can bar otherwise qualified and licensed insurers from offering policies on the exchanges. This authority allows states to protect incumbent providers and stifle competition. Capretta believes it should be eliminated.
End Guaranteed Payments, and Reform the Doctor Cartel. Various health laws provide unwarranted market protections for some suppliers of services. Among them are required payment rates by Medicaid programs for so-called Federally Qualified Health Centers and indirect and direct subsidization of a limited number of hospitals and medical schools through Medicare. Medicare and Medicaid law could be scrubbed for other unjustified distortions of the marketplace, Capretta argues.
Joseph Antos, AEI’s Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy, suggests that Congress could increase the supply of doctors by adopting a national compact recognizing doctors’ medical credentials wherever they were issued and allowing them to practice across state lines.
End the Ethanol Mandate and Ethanol Tax Breaks. The ethanol mandate (Renewable Fuel Standard) picks winners and losers in the fuel market. It is likely to drive up prices for drivers, ranchers, and grocery shoppers. It seems to add to contamination of water, too.
Congress could fix these problems by killing the mandate, argues AEI Resident Scholar Ben Zycher. Congress should also end the cellulosic biofuel producer tax credit, the alternative fuel mixture tax credit, the alternative fuel infrastructure tax credit, and the special depreciation allowance for cellulosic biofuel plant property.
End Renewable Energy Subsidies. Congress has created many programs to subsidize alternative sources of electricity, such as wind and solar. Although Congress should insure it does not block innovative technologies, “green energy” subsidies distort the market, waste taxpayer dollars, and benefit the companies selling a product at a price higher than market forces would support. Congress could alleviate these harms, Zycher argues, by refusing to resuscitate the production tax credit, ending all government loans and loan guarantees for renewable energy. To aid innovation in this regard, Congress could explore opportunities to support basic research on renewable-energy technologies that are not patentable.
End Oil Subsidies. Oil production suffers from federal restrictions, but that alone does not justify federal subsidies for oil. Congress could create a level playing field in energy by killing both the enhanced oil recovery tax credit and the marginal well production tax credit, Zycher suggests.
Also, foreign oil exploration may receive a tax benefit because foreign royalties are often treated as foreign corporate income tax, thus making them eligible for a tax credit instead of a deduction. Zycher suggests Congress could fix this loophole. (At the same time, oil producers face a risk that producers of ethanol and renewables do not: the possible imposition of price controls, whether explicit or implicit, during a future international supply disruption, increasing prices sharply. These subsidies might serve as a rough offset for this problem.)
Make Corporate Taxes Simpler, Lower, and More Neutral. The corporate tax system generates a small fraction of the total share of federal revenues yet disproportionately harms the US economy. The cause is twofold: the high 35 percent federal corporate statutory rate and the myriad of special preferences that litter the corporate tax code. AEI Resident Fellow Alex Brill argues that tax simplification, tax neutrality, fewer corporate tax preferences, and a lower corporate tax rate are sound strategies for encouraging growth.
Reform the Research and Development Tax Credit. The Section 41 Research and Experimentation Tax Credit (the R&D tax credit) was established in 1981 to incentivize private-sector research and development. That is arguably a laudable goal, and a feasible one. But the current R&D tax credit, argues AEI Resident Scholar Stan Veuger, is designed quite poorly — largely because it came into being as a temporary measure. Now, it effectively subsidizes some firms’ R&D at 25 percent while taxing other firms’ R&D at almost 25 percent. Congress could eliminate this unfairness by scrapping the current credit and, if it wants to encourage R&D, crafting a new one from scratch.
Abolish or Rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have forced a systemic industry-wide loosening of underwriting standards, which was the major cause of the US financial crisis, argues Edward Pinto, codirector of AEI’s International Center on Housing Risk. Pinto says Congress could protect the housing market from future instability by abolishing the bailed-out government-sponsored enterprises and pulling the government out of at least 80 percent of the housing finance market. If Congress decides to provide favorable financing terms for low-income borrowers, it can do so in a transparent and fiscally responsible manner, in contrast to doing it through Fannie and Freddie.
AEI Resident Fellow Alex Pollock agrees that Fannie and Freddie are prime examples of cronyism. Through these GSEs, a complex web of politicians and their constituents, investors, the housing industry, securities firms, and recipients of off-budget affordable housing subsidies all benefit from the economic rents created by organizations that run on the taxpayers’ credit with little or no capital and excessive leverage. Even after taxpayers bailed out Fannie and Freddie, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act did not address these problems.
Fannie and Freddie reform bills have grown long and complex, but Pollock’s recommendation is not complex: simply treat Fannie and Freddie exactly the same as all big banks. That means imposing the same capital requirements, the same requirement to pay the government for its support of their debt, the same designation as a systemically important financial institution (SIFI), the same tax treatment, and the same prudential and consumer protection regulation. This would take away Fannie and Freddie’s unique privileges and make them as private as every other big bank. Fannie and Freddie should thus become only two of many competitors, instead of the utterly dominant duopolists they have been.
Shrink the Moat of Regulations That Protects Big Banks from Competition. Excessive regulation is often the most effective crony capitalism. After Congress passed Dodd-Frank in 2010, JPMorgan Chase Chairman Jamie Dimon said that regulation was good for his bank because it builds a “bigger moat” against competition. He noted that the heavy regulation in the act was a negative for JPMorgan Chase, but not as much as it was for smaller banks that have to bear relatively higher regulatory costs to compete on a level playing field. Peter Wallison, codirector of AEI’s program on financial policy studies, suggests Congress open banking up to more competition by repealing regulations that give large incumbent banks advantages over smaller ones.
Kill Dodd-Frank’s Too-Big-to-Fail Designation. Dodd-Frank established the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), made up of all the federal financial regulators, and gave it the authority to designate nonbank financial firms such as insurance companies as SIFIs. There are no known standards for designation, but the law says that the FSOC should designate those firms whose “material distress” could cause “instability” in the US financial system.
That is simply another way of saying that these firm are “too big to fail.” Thus, Robert Benmosche, then-chairman of AIG, said his firm’s SIFI designation was great news, thinking of it as a “seal of approval” from the government. The SIFI designation undoubtedly imposes costs on the regulated, but it also may act as a moat, protecting the big guys from competition.
If large companies begin to take this attitude, there will be many more designations. That would be fine with the government, which wants more power, and with the large financial companies that want the government’s seal of approval, but this would create in every financial industry — including insurance, securities, and asset management — the same problems the government has created in banking.
Large companies regulated by the Fed because they are considered too big to fail will get favorable treatment from creditors because these firms will be seen as protected by the government, warns Wallison. Competition in all these industries will suffer. Before the FSOC does further harm to competition, Congress should repeal its authority to designate large financial firms as SIFIs.
Kill the Export-Import Bank. The Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) is the official export credit agency of the United States. It finances the exports of American companies through taxpayer-backed loan guarantees, among other means. It is the very definition of corporate welfare, argues AEI Resident Scholar Michael Strain. US taxpayers should not be on the hook so that large US companies have an easier time finding foreign customers for their products. The distortions Ex-Im creates raise costs for nonsubsidized businesses.
Congress could end these distortions and cronyism by winding down Ex-Im, Strain adds. Instead of a full reauthorization of the agency this year, Congress could pass a sunset bill for the agency, setting a date certain for the agency’s termination, prohibiting Ex-Im from offering new credits, and limiting the agency’s activity to management of deals already authorized. “If you oppose corporate welfare and crony capitalism,” Strain says, “you should welcome this outcome.”
Abolish the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is a federal agency that subsidizes US companies with taxpayer-backed financing when they set up business overseas. It places taxpayers at risk and creates inefficiencies by steering capital toward politically favored activities. It is private profit built on public risk. Congress could wind down OPIC by barring all new deals and giving the Department of Commerce authority to administer all outstanding deals previously approved.
Repeal the Jones Act. A century-old shipping law known as the Jones Act is an outdated and harmful protectionist policy, argues AEI Scholar Mark Perry. The 1920 Jones Act requires that any shipment of goods from one US port to another be transported only on US-flagged vessels built in the US, owned by US citizens, and operated by a crew of US citizens. In other words, this is pure protectionism for the domestic shipping industry, which has not had to face any lower-cost foreign competition for almost 100 years. This drastically increases costs for American businesses and consumers.
Especially in a new era of energy abundance in America, the Jones Act is an unnecessary relic of the past, Perry argues. A change in policy that would allow foreign-flagged tankers to transport light sweet crude oil from Gulf of Mexico ports in Texas and Louisiana to East Coast refineries for one-third the current cost of Jones Act vessels would save millions of dollars in transportation expenses for US oil companies and would lower energy costs for American consumers.
The next logical step, Perry says, would be to lift the outdated ban on US crude oil exports and allow market forces to allocate America’s abundant energy resources.
End the Sugar Program. The US sugar program ensures consumers pay, on average, an additional $3 billion a year for the sugar they use. The benefit goes to a relatively small number of sugar beet and sugar cane producers.
Although the cost of the US sugar program to the average American household is only about $25 a year, the benefits to sugar processors and sugar beet and cane farmers is substantial. Through price supports and import restrictions, the US sugar program increases the prices of those beets by several dollars per ton.
The biggest victims of the program are businesses that use sugar. The food processing industry, for instance, has been severely hampered with respect to its competitiveness with processed food imports and in key export markets, with employment losses estimated in the tens of thousands of jobs.
Congress could end these distortions, argues AEI Visiting Scholar Vincent Smith, and save consumers money by winding down the sugar program over the next two years.
Reform or Abolish the Federal Crop Insurance Program. Every year, as the US Government Accountability Office has reported, a substantial number of wealthy farmers and land owners receive individual crop insurance premium subsidies in excess — and, in many cases, well in excess — of $100,000. The owners of some very large farms are given taxpayer-funded annual premium subsidies of more than $1 million.
Although large farmers benefit along with the financial institutions that issue the subsidized insurance, the federal crop insurance program is a disaster from a broader social-welfare perspective, argues Smith. Not only does the program transfer taxpayer funds to wealthy farmers and landowners, but it also encourages economic waste: for example, farmers who purchase the heavily subsidized crop insurance products use fewer inputs that reduce their risk of crop loss.
Moreover, partly because of provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill, the federal crop insurance program is anything but transparent with respect to who receives the subsidies and in what amounts. At the very least, Congress should enhance transparency in the crop insurance program, Smith argues. Ideally, Congress should stop subsidizing crop insurance altogether.
Many more policies could qualify as corporate welfare or crony capitalism. These are just a few that AEI scholars identified as particularly distorting, unneeded, or easy to remedy.
Fighting crony capitalism and corporate welfare today mostly involves repealing old policies. Going forward, the best way to avoid such special-interest favors is to apply a test of neutrality to future policies: Is Congress choosing one company, industry, or technology instead of leaving the choice to market actors?