Sunday, September 30, 2007

Don't Believe the Hype

Free State Politics is firing up the hype machine and harping the MSTA talking points in favor of throwing more good money after bad to our public schools:

Read more below the fold

It's trite, I know, but I still love the bumper sticker that reads, "If education is expensive, try ignorance." The truth is, good education is expensive. It requires high salaries and good benefits packages that can attract and retain a well-trained and hard-working workforce of teachers, administrators, and support services personnel. It requires the construction of safe and stable learning environments for kids. It requires the provisioning of thousands of classrooms with the latest and best instructional technology, not to mention the basic supplies for learning. All of these things require money. And that money requires the long-term dedication of our state and our communities, and of the politicians who lead us.
Of course what Eric Luedtke and the rest of the urban liberals fail to realize is that you cannot continue to spend, spend, and spend in the same way that you have already spent, spent, and spent. If the "spend first, ask questions later" was accurate, our public schools would be the Cadillac of public schools systems, and the District of Columbia (who spends more than $15,000 per pupil) would have the best public school system in the Western Hempishphere.

We spend money hand over fist, and education officials still whine that there is never enough money and support. And liberals and union officials continue to want raise your taxes to spend, spend, spend on projects that they deem to be important.

Mainly, benefits. Just look again at what Luedtke wrote:
It requires high salaries and good benefits packages that can attract and retain a well-trained and hard-working workforce of teachers, administrators, and support services personnel.
To be blunt, how the hell much more can we pay on high salaries and benefits pacakges. We discussed a few months back the budget here for public schools in Anne Arundel County and remember what the breakdowns were? 80-percent of the school system budget is spent on personnel. Eighty Percent. And remember something else: there is one administrative staff member for every 4.35 teachers in the Anne Arundel County system.

I think that Luedtke's example of Loiederman Middle School in Silver Spring is a fantastic example of the positive changes that can be made. But a lot of what Loiederman is doing does a great job of proving Luedtke's point about the necessity of additional monies for education false. Read what he writes about Loiderman.
Partially funded with a $7 million, 3 year federal grant, it and its two sister schools adopted programs that have led to a decrease in economic segregation, an acceleration of curriculum for all students in the schools, and provided unique learning opportunities in the arts and technology that few, if any, public middle schools in the country provide.
Sure, the federal grant helped out. But look at what they did with it. They did not throw the money down the drain on what has already does not work. They tried innovative programs designed to change the culture of the school. They saw that Loiderman was failing, and took positive action in order to change the curriculum, change the focus, and put the focus back on educating students. They tried something different. And that's a great thing to see. They didn't wait around to spend more on failing ideas and just hope for the best. And you know something, you don't need $3 billion to make that kind of change.

We need to streamline education. Public schools systems need to trim their size, not expand further. Many administrative positions need to be eliminated. Costs savings need to be transferred to repair dilapidating structures, and modernize classroom spaces, technological upgrades and replace textbooks. State profits from the passage of casino gambling should be funneled as a dedicated funding mechanism for school construction and rehabilitation. Focus should be put solely on classroom instruction, and more taxpayer dollars should directly impact the classroom environment And yes, teachers should be paid for their performance, not their longevity.

Education is the touchstone issue. Conservatives agree with liberals that it is one of the most important issues facing our state. But the fact of the matter is that we have tried education for the last 100 years through the liberal, Democratic worldview. And more and more, we are seeing that the liberal view of education as some place to throw more and more money is not working.

Schools should not be viewed as a depository of taxpayer dollars designed to reward Democratic supporters. Nor should public schools be laboratories for whatever the latest leftist education theories should be. Schools should be merely for learning about the things that any basic educated individual needs to know. We need to make sure that kids learn match, learn science, learn history, and learn to properly read and write. We need to teach them skills they need to succeed in our modern world.

Frankly, I am afraid that Democrats, liberals, education leaders and union officials are not focused on educating our students anymore.


More below the fold.

Meet the new bosses; worse than the old boss

I spoke with our good friend Greg Kline this week and he told me that he has withdrawn from seeking the vacant post as Legal Counsel for the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee.

See the latest embarrassing chapter in Anne Arundel GOP leadership below the fold...

Rumblings of this started right after the embarrassing September 5th meeting when the position of legal counsel was on the docket after the Chairman's fiasco was dealt with. Greg sat there, waiting to speak to the Committee on the matter long after the rest of the crowd left disgusted with the earlier proceedings. As the Committee went about its business, the issue of legal counsel was tabled until the October meeting. Some of the members apparently were not aware of Greg's qualifications and background.

Remember, this is the same Greg Kline who had a two-year hitch as President of the Anne Arundel Young Republicans, is a former Legal Counsel to the Central Committee, ran for the House of Delegates and hosts a reasonably influential Conservative podcast. People who have been active in the party for a long time know who Greg. Only a Johnny-come-lately would say something like this.

And remember this: when the call first went out for candidates, Greg was the only candidate who came to step forward.

But Greg being the Company Man that he is (something he'll even admit), he just went on about his business.

Then, we heard about Tom Redmond's shenanigans. Redmond started calling other individuals seeking new candidates to serve as legal counsel. Again, Greg was the only candidate who responded to the call to serve when it first went forth. But Redmond decided that he was going to open it up anyway.

Greg had talked to a member of the Central Committee and asked for a number in order to get in contact with Redmond. The member said that he didn't want to give Redmond's number to Greg without permission. And I believe that was the end of that. Redmond never contacted Greg to discuss his concerns with Greg taking over the position. He just decided to go out on safari and look for other candidates for the position, despite the fact that only one candidate came forward in the first place.

Greg told me that he tried to get in contact with new Central Committee Chairman Jerry Walker. And after playing some phone tag, Walker never called back and spoke with Greg about his concerns.

Seeing that writing on the wall, Greg bowed out.

Now, when Redmond, Walker and the rest of their crew ousted Mike Collins, wasn't one of their concerns about people not getting calls returned? Weren't they concerned about what Collins was allegedly doing going around people to get things done?

Greg Kline is a great guy. He is a Company Guy, for better or for worse, in support of the party. He isn't going to rock the boat.

I am less than surprised that Walker and Redmond would go out of their way to stick it to a loyal Republican, even one as loyal as Greg has been to the party. These people continue to prove, time and again, that their problems with Mike Collins had less to do with Mike Collins and more to do with achieving power to push an agenda. I am sure that whomever the new counsel winds up being will be brought in to ensure that this agenda is pushed.

Meet the new boss; worse than the old boss. Under the guise of a tossing a Chairman overboard for leadership reasons, new leadership has been installed that can't even understand what it means to lead.


More below the fold.

The Screws Turn on O'Governor

We pointed out a while ago that every day that goes by makes it difficult for the O'Malley administration to close the gap in the $1.7 billion (and growing) "structural deficit."

Now there is an acknowledgment of this:

There is a good reason why Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) seems eager to see a special session of the General Assembly this fall: Without one, the budget proposals he spent the past two weeks rolling out would not close Maryland's $1.7 billion shortfall.

By his administration's own projections, O'Malley's initiatives would leave a $163 million hole in next year's budget -- and a nearly $500 million gap the following year -- unless a series of tax increases are passed in time for collections to start in January.
As even the Baltimore Sun has recognized, the special session that O'Malley wants can't address a comprehensive plan to fix the budget. It can only offer tax increases because the FY 2009 budget will not be submitted until the regular session.

It looks like that both Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch realize this and would prefer to not to hop on the governor's tax-'em-now-tax-'em-harder bandwagon without being able to offer some spending cuts at the same time. A special session devoted to increasing taxes doesn't poll well even with liberals intent on giving away someone else's hard earned money.
If the legislature does not meet until January, O'Malley aides said the governor would be forced to offer tax increases or spending cuts beyond those put forward in two weeks of carefully choreographed announcements.

"We think having a special session is the better option," O'Malley spokesman Steve Kearney said. "If we don't deal with this upfront, we've got to come up with another half-billion dollars somehow."
As he really hasn't proposed any spending cuts beyond eliminating a handful of unfilled state jobs, presumably for lack of cronies and sycophants to stuff into them, the subtext here is that more tax increases will be proposed.

As I've said before, the Republican caucus should tie what is shaping up to be a shameful spectacle to O'Malley's tail and require the tax increases to pass on Democrat votes alone.

More below the fold.

The Failure of Public Housing

The Abell Foundation has released a report claiming that the Baltimore Housing Authority has failed in its mission:

A scathing report from The Abell Foundation on public housing in Baltimore suggests that the city's housing authority has "abandoned its mission to house the poor" by focusing on the demolition of properties instead of providing new housing.

The report, to be published today on The Abell Foundation's Web site, says the number of occupied public housing units in the city has declined by 42 percent in the past 15 years - from 16,525 to 9,625. The report says the authority's plans for new housing are "unclear."
Predictably, the Baltimore Housing Authority is in high dudgeon.

There is probably some truth in the report, at least from the standpoint of those who think the government should be in the flop house business. Beyond that, it is hard to argue that demolishing much of Baltimore's public housing dystopia is a bad thing.

One thing that most can agree on is that there have been few activities at which government has shown itself as incompetent as it has in real estate management. It makes no difference whether it is leasing property for development of warehousing the indigent.

Public housing in Baltimore, and Washington, and Boston, and Atlanta, and Dallas and [fill in your city here] has been and remains a tragic monument to dogooderism run amok. Public housing, because of eligiblity requirements that discriminate against intact working families, tends to collect a critical mass of vulnerable tenants who, in turn, collect a critical mass of the shiftless and criminal.

When one looks at the way housing funds are bled white by the personnel overhead of management, maintenance, housing authority police, etc., it is small wonder that damned little is left to actually carry out a capital improvement program.

From all aspects, if the government is to be involved in housing the needs of all parties would be better served by dismantling housing authorities, shedding the staff associated with the program, selling the properties held by the government and creating a more robust program of housing vouchers.

More below the fold.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A free state half-debate

Last night we had a half-debate (plus one) up in Baltimore as just six of the leading ten GOP Presidential contenders bothered to show up for the event purporting to be about “minority” issues.

With the “presumption” that the GOP is for the “majority”, in opening remarks Michael Steele noted that the GOP and blacks had been traditionally at “arm’s length” to the benefit of neither.

Steele was also joined in the crowd by former GOP head Ken Mehlman and Newt Gingrich. It would’ve been much more intriguing had Newt been onstage, but we’ll see what he does in future days. As for the debate itself, here’s how I scored the contenders, in reverse alphabetical order. (I’m standing up for those of us at the tail end of the alphabet - and ballot.)

Tom Tancredo

I was afraid when he stated that he was the only GOP candidate to attend the NAACP convention that Tom would descend into an evening of pandering. But he recovered when he told the assembled he wanted his legacy to be one of helping “all” Americans and that the politics of race was “destructive.” He continued on with that vein, noting that he couldn’t agree with the “race-baiting” of the employment disparity question, saying it had “nothing to do with race”.

Overall, Tancredo made the case for fewer federal laws, particularly in the area of drugs. He also scored points with me on his answer to the DC statehood question, saying that if they want representation they could simply dissolve and become part of Maryland (he also incorrectly stated the same about Virginia, which long ago annexed the portion of the District south of the Potomac.) Another nice touch on the same answer was saying voter ID was “not too much to ask.” Tom also made a winning comment at the end, saying that it was “racist to assume you couldn’t teach” minorities and coming out for school choice.

The only faults I found with Tancredo were the slight pander in the opening statement and talking in favor of drug importation. Overall, I think he showed the best of any candidate including my personal choice, Duncan Hunter. He increased his standing in my view, but I’m still not totally sold on his Long War stance yet - that’s what cost him my endorsement.

Ron Paul

It was obvious by the audience reaction that the “Paulbots” were there in full force. Paul also did his best to advocate for his issues and show that they crossed racial lines. In his answer to the opening question about his absent colleagues, Ron said that he shows up wherever he’s invited to “talk about freedom.”

Much of what he said then was couched in the idea of “emphasizing rights” and building a “free society.” In particular, I enjoyed his citation of black (by popular demand) economist Walter Williams on the minimum wage. In most of his answers, his idea was getting government out of our lives, which I agree with. Unfortunately, Paul spent some of his time talking about a war we entered under “false pretenses”, a “non-declared” war. Like it or not, we are there so I think we need to finish the job with victory. He also struck a negative tone with me by his opposition to the federal death penalty.

Like Tancredo, I agree with Paul on a lot of issues but his opposition to the Long War is the millstone around his neck as far as endorsing him goes.

Alan Keyes

Keyes had a chance to introduce himself as a candidate both to the debate viewers and to me personally since I haven’t looked yet at how he compares with other aspirants on my pet issues. And to start out, if he was attempting to be humorous about him showing up at debates where the “top-tier” candidates skip but not invited to debates where they show, he came across as whining a bit. I doubt they’re really “afraid” of him.

Alan spent a lot of time speaking about a return to morals, referring to the minority community as being affected by “promiscuity” and “hedonism” and their morals being destroyed via government policy. I found his comment about restoring local justices of the peace intriguing, too.

Keyes did do a little bit of pandering though, referring to “corporate interests” and invoking the name of Katrina in his answer to illegals’ path to citizenship. He also talked about creating jobs in black areas - personally I’d like the government to get out of the way and allow job creation in all areas. On foreign policy, he was “appalled” by the “fortress America” attitude some of his cohorts exhibited on Darfur, but also chided President Bush for not choosing “security over democracy” in Iraq.

But looking at his performance overall, he didn’t do a lot to help himself in my standing. I’m thinking he’ll be a middle-of-the-pack candidate on my scale.

Duncan Hunter

Duncan did a good job of sticking to message, even getting a complaint from the moderator that he didn’t answer the question on equal justice for blacks and Latinos. He started out well by not talking about his absent opponents but instead talking about leaving Iraq “in victory” and the border being “on fire.” He refused to pander on the legacy question, correctly pointing out that the GOP led the civil rights effort in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He also made a point on the voter rights/DC voting question that it was Democrats who were allowing their votes to be diluted because illegals were also voting fraudulently. Also I found humorous that he’s in support of statehood for the District if they get the right to keep and bear arms - that was the sticking point in recent legislation to grant statehood.

Hunter also gave a good reply to the question on health care, refusing to make it a racial issue and talking about being able to buy insurance across state lines and tort reform - items that would help all races. I’m not as wild about the idea for tax credits for income derived from home visits, but on the whole Hunter represented himself well. Overall, I’d rank his performance second to Tancredo’s.

Mike Huckabee

Being a top-tier candidate in my ratings and moving up the scale nationally, I expected more from Huckabee. Unfortunately, like Tancredo, he slipped a bit on his opening statement and he never really got back on track as I saw it. First of all, why are you “embarassed” about the other candidates not showing up? It makes you look better. And saying we have a “long way to go” on racial issues only creates more excuses and makes the problem worse.

On too many issues, I was disappointed with Mike’s answers, which to me smacked of various levels of pandering. From talking about a legacy for blacks (as opposed to all of us), to saying there’s “not equal opportunity yet”, and supporting a “Veteran’s Bill of Rights”, Mike went on an opposite tack to those who look to government as needing to become smaller and more colorblind.

While Mike has his heart in the right place about prisons being too crowded with people who simply let their drug and/or alcohol problem get the best of them, I don’t think the three strikes and out policy is “nonsense” like he does. Huckabee’s answer on health care makes sense on the intervention vs. prevention front, but I’m not sure if he wouldn’t succumb to the allure of the single-payer system.

But Mike had company at the bottom of my rankings.

Sam Brownback

Similar to what I said about Huckabee, don’t apologize for those not there. He was correct about the GOP expanding by growing its base, but to do this we need to stick to our principles, not play to whichever specific group is in the crowd. Like Huckabee, Brownback did a lot of pandering. It gave me more questions than answers.

No, we do not to apologize for slavery. I can personally say I’ve never had a slave, since it was illegal for almost a century when I was born. So why apologize?

And if you say we don’t have a colorblind society, does that not become a self-fulfilling remark?

It’s admirable that you spent nights in jail and in a homeless shelter (by choice, not through illegal or immoral activity). Does that really qualify you to be President?

With the three-region solution for Iraq you advocate, do you honestly think that it won’t disintegrate into the civil war some claim is already going on? Wouldn’t that give al-Qaeda three bases of operation?

And finally, why is it so important that education be integrated through affirmative action? It correlates in reverse with what Tom Tancredo said about being racist to think that you can’t teach minorities unless they sit next to a white child.

The only thing Brownback said that I liked was bringing up HSA’s in his answer to the health care query. But overall, he and Mike Huckabee did the least to help themselves in selling their campaign to me.

That’s how I saw each candidate. What was actually said aside, here’s what I really thought of the event and the surrounding aura.

The Maryland GOP is already in somewhat dire straits financially, although because Maryland didn’t vote Republican in the last election we’re all going to be in more dire straits financially as the redistribution of wealth from the producers to the slackers continues apace.

*ahem* Back to my point. There was an effort to have a breakfast featuring the candidates as a fundraiser but that was cancelled when too few expressed an interest. And given the participation tonight, we can see that the so-called frontrunners a) are apparently afraid to debate issues in what’s likely a not-so-friendly setting, and b) value trying to raise money so they can do yet another 30 second commercial more than actually interacting with willing voters in the Maryland GOP. (Yes, we have a few, and we’re working on getting more.)

So here was a chance for Presidential candidates to help out the state party, and many chose to do something else. This should be remembered as you make your selection February 12, 2008.

By the way, I found (h/t to Caughtit and WorcesterRight) a website that matches you with the candidate who agrees with you most on the issues. It’s actually sort of similar to how I came up with my choice but they don’t weigh the particular issues to the extent I do nor do they cover all of them I did. So this is how I matched up with each on the site:

Tom Tancredo - 86.11%
Sam Brownback - 83.33%
Fred Thompson - 83.33%
Mitt Romney - 79.63%
Ron Paul - 77.78%
Duncan Hunter - 76.85%
John McCain - 66.67%
Rudy Giuliani - 64.81%
Mike Huckabee - 64.81%

As I said, Tancredo led my personal rankings for awhile until we got to the Long War. What I find odd is that this site almost comes out in reverse of how I ranked them, with the exception of McCain being near the bottom in both. The website qualifies in the “things that make you go hmmmmm….” category.

They also gave me the Democrats. My highest “match” was a tie between Joe Biden and Bill Richardson, both at 24.07 percent.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

The Benefits of Corporate Greed

Crossposted on Annapolis Politics

On more than one occasion I have professed my platonic love of Walter Williams, and I can still say that I have not disagreed with him at any point during our affair. Mr. Williams usually writes about national issues, but his most recent column applies to some of the points that have been made on this blog.

(I wish that The Capital would publish a Walter Williams column every day. If he needs a day off, they can just publish one of his old columns backwards, and I will gladly read it using a mirror, because I am certain that such an exercise would be the most enjoyable use of my time.)

I have made the argument that businesses are not stupid, nor are they evil. Labor theory dictates that a person is paid roughly what they are worth, and I can assure you that if a business thought that it didn’t have to pay its CEO $20 million per year, it wouldn’t.

Mr. Williams offers an elaboration:

(People display) the anti-market bias—the failure to believe that market forces determine prices. Many believe that prices are a function of conspiracies by the chief executive officers of corporations—that if a CEO wakes up feeling greedy, he’ll raise prices.

They also believe that profits are undeserved, failing to see that, at least in open markets, profits are incentives for firms to satisfy customers, cut production costs, and move resources to the most efficient uses.

I am an amateur economist, but this guy is a PhD economist. If you don’t believe me, listen to him.

More below the fold.

Morgan State GOP Debate

I attended the All American Presidential Forum for the GOP candidates at Morgan State last night. It is too long to post in here in full, read it at The Main Adversary.

More below the fold.

O'Malley Won't Spend as Much on Education

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D) faced with a $1.7 billion budget deficit next year (and probably more) has indicated that he will ignore the mandates of the Thorton plan (an education spending boodoggle passed in the final months of former Governor Parris Glendenning's final year in office) and only increase education spending by $119 million next year, rather than the full $288 million that is required by the Thorton plan.

As much as I don't like to see cuts in education spending, this is a smart move by the O'Malley Administration. while O'Malley has spent the past two weeks or so touting his tax plan (which is over onerous on the very people O'Malley seeks to "protect"), he is not going to close the deficit through taxes only. Thorton plan spending had to be slashed, but it cannot be the only aspect to take a budgetary hit. There are lots of other services and budget items that have to be cut as well.

Not surprisingly, there are people who are claiming that reducing the size of the Thorton funds will negatively impact student performance. Leading that charge is Alvin Thorton himself, the man who made the recommendations that led to the plan that bears his name.

Thornton said he is "very sensitive" to the fiscal challenges faced by the governor and legislative leaders. But he said less money will possibly lead to a drop in student performance.

"It was never just money pulled out of the sky," he said. "It was connected to performance that could be purchased with the money."
Of course, Thorton's comments are based on the assumption that money can buy better performance, an assertion that has not been proven.

While Maryland's education budget has ballooned over the past five years, student performance, while increasingly slightly over time, has not grown at anything approaching the same rate as education spending. Indeed, there is little correlation between the spending on education and student performance. In locales where education spending is highest in the state, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Baltimore City, performance can best be described as mixed. Baltimore City per pupil expenditures rank it near the top of all localities, but its school performance ranks at the bottom.

Education spending in Maryland, like most states is an ever growing part of the budget pie, but we have long passed the point of diminishing returns. Instead of focusing on more money, we should be looking for ways to spend that money better. Perhaps the fiscal crunch in Maryland will force schools to think more creatively about its spending habits.

More below the fold.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Refuge Podcast #44 - Taxes, Taxes, Taxes


More news, views and insight into conservative Republican happenings await in the latest installment of the Conservative Refuge Podcast. You can listen by visiting here:

In our opening segment, a special guest interview with Tom Hood, Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants. Tom breaks down the various tax increase proposals and what their impact will be on individual Marylanders and our state's economy.

Our blogger roundtable convenes, with Red Maryland contributors Brian Griffiths and Mark Newgent, to discuss the political ramifications of these proposals and the possibility of a special session. Is a special session in the offing? Can the Republican caucus be decisive in blocking any of these proposals? Will these tax increases damage the democrats in 2010? Our blogger contributors offer their insight and opinions.

In our closing segment, I revisit the "Nut Ball Box" and discuss a disturbing trend of the liberal blogosphere to parrot the talking points of America's enemies. You will want to hear the disturbing praise the Daily Kos gives to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Share your thoughts and feedback!

Spread the word!

Greg Kline
Host, Conservative Refuge Podcast

More below the fold.

The Beginning?

Comptroller Peter Franchot unleashed this criticism of the O'Malley tax plan this week:

State Comptroller Peter Franchot criticized government leaders this week by saying it would be "reckless" to add $2 billion of tax burdens in a special session before December revenue estimates can show whether the economy is tanking.

The volatility of the local, state and world economies - and the lack of analysis in the budget plans put forward so far by Gov. Martin O'Malley - have Mr. Franchot concerned the administration is not fully considering the effects of new taxes.

The governor's piecemeal rollout of the different tax options to address a projected $1.7 billion deficit next year has made it difficult to see how all the proposals fit together, he told The Capital's Editorial Board this week.

"We have an opportunity to reform the tax code and instead we have treated it a little bit like a take-out menu," he said. "It's just not comprehensive or inclusive (and) ultimately I don't think it ends up being fair."

Read the whole thing, but I ask you this: is this the start of Peter Franchot's primary challenge to Governor O'Malley in 2010?


More below the fold.

Great Minds Think Alike

Apparently, I'm not the only cat who digs the idea of table games:

As Gov. Martin O'Malley makes a pitch for slot machine gambling as part of his attempt to address a $1.7 billion budget shortfall, a powerful retail lobby is asking that he go one step further by pushing for table games.

The Maryland Retailers Association, miffed by O'Malley's inclusion of a state sales tax increase in his budget package, is suggesting instead that the state approve full casinos.

Without them, Maryland will lose customers to West Virginia, which has approved slots and table games in some jurisdictions, said Tom Saquella, president of the organization

"We would support legislation that would involve table games and full casinos," Saquella said. "We always felt that slots was good for the economy. We never bought this zero sum game."

Though an O'Malley spokesman and other lawmakers said this week that table games are unlikely to be part of any tax package approved by the General Assembly this fall or during the next legislative session, some argue that if the state legalizes slots in coming months, a debate over casinos would be imminent - and unavoidable.
And that is a debate that we should have. We should be debating the utility of slots, and debating the utility of table gaming. And the Retailers are even trying to play let's make a deal with the Administration on the gaming issue:
Representing about 700 businesses across Maryland, the retailers association is lobbying for O'Malley to include table games in any slots proposal. It is suggesting four locations: the Inner Harbor, National Harbor in Prince George's County, and still-undetermined sites on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland.

In exchange, the retailers want O'Malley to drop plans to increase the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent. O'Malley hopes to raise $730 million by increasing the sales tax and extending it to health club memberships, property management and other services.
This is something that on which we need to have a full and serious discussion in Annapolis.


More below the fold.

Needless Government Regulation

On Monday night, the Annapolis City Council voted to increase taxi cab rates, which got me to thinkin'........

Crossposted on Annapolis Politics

As you now know, we have higher taxi rates here in Annapolis. Alarmingly, in her letter supporting the rate increase, transportation director Danielle Matland had this to add:

As the City is supporting the taxi industry in its request for a rate enhancement, this would be a good time to implement additional requirements for the industry. This year, in cooperation with the AACVB, we are conducting voluntary Customer Service training for the taxi industry. Customer service training or similar training should be a requirement for all taxi drivers. It would be onerous and costly to for (sic) to provide a constant series of classes for incoming drivers. A practical method of implementing this beneficial training to enhance the industry would be to add a continuing education requirement as a condition of permit renewal. This Department would coordinate appropriate presentations or the taxi driver would have the option of selecting and documenting attendance in a course of their own choosing.

This is a perfect illustration of government mis-regulation of private industry, and the attitude of the regulators that stems from such abuse of market power.

Since the city of Annapolis regulates the rates cabs can charge, they are in entire control of the cab industry--they can make or break cab companies in a more efficient way than they can make or break the rest of us. The cab companies practically had to beg for a rate increase just so they could stay in business! And how does Ms. Matland respond.....she basically says "We've got them by the balls! Now is a great time to add more restrictions and requirements to the permit process."


The government has no right to mandate "customer service training" for private cab companies! They shouldn't even be wasting taxpayer money to offer voluntary classes! Every other private company is responsible for training their own employees--if they think a certain training will be profitable, they will do it. But since the city controls how much profit cab companies can make, they must assume the burden of the training! What if the city did this for every industry. Balderdash!!

Now, don't get me wrong--taxi cab regulation is useful (although perhaps not necessary). They have a unique ability to usurp people who are very vulnerable and susceptible to such abuse, as users of cabs often don't know how much a certain trip 'should' cost, and information that would compare a particular cab to its competitors is hard to come by.

Notice, the problem is informational--it it prohibitively hard for people to ascertain the rates being charged by their cabbie in relation to those of another. However, you do not have to regulate prices to fix this problem.

Allow me to offer an alternative solution. The city can require that every cab paint on its doors, in 36 inch letters, the drop charge, per mile rate, and per hour rate. This would allow the free-market principles that guarantee efficiency to be upheld. Taxi cabs could charge whatever they want, and people could make a decision based on price and any other factors as to which cab they want to take. Before long, a going rate for cabs would be established, as cabs charging a higher rate would not get any passengers.

Moreover, this would save this taxpayers money. Currently, city staff must monitor the price of gas and send out notices when gas prices reach certain benchmarks, as fuel surcharges kick in after that point. They also spend time administering the aforementioned driver sensitivity programs, or whatever. Here's an idea: let the private market take care of its own business, and cut some unnecessary jobs in the process!

The attitude of the Annapolis government is unacceptable. Instead of exerting more and more control over private industry, how about letting them decide what is right for themselves? It would work out better for all of us.

More below the fold.

Politics and The English Language

Washington Post Metro Columnist Marc Fisher takes O'Gov to task about the drastic difference between his rhetoric and his actions, specifically on his differing stances on slots and same-sex marriage before and after the 2006 election.

Okay, so a politician flip-flops on two sensitive issues. Wake me when you have some real news, right? Except that O'Malley, more than almost any other politician these days, rose to power on his soaring rhetoric about government's obligations to the poor and others who have been left out. In an age when pols speak mostly in pre-masticated, focus-grouped slogans, O'Malley delivers elegant paragraphs laced with poetry and Scripture. He is, almost uniquely in elective politics, a man of the word....

Bottom line: Words matter, especially for a politician who's built his career on his ability to inspire.

"Believe," said the billboards Mayor O'Malley erected in Baltimore to instill hope in a dying city.

It'd be a shame if voters watching Gov. O'Malley had to conclude that they just don't know what to believe.

Some of us already knew this to be true and saw it coming.

More below the fold.

A Dog's Breakfast

Yesterday we commented briefly about O'Malley taking some few minutes to attempt to bamboozle seniors about how they are going to be bent over the coffee table by O'Malley's tax plans.

Today we have more details.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced a pair of tax breaks yesterday designed to help senior citizens and low-income families at a time when his administration is seeking to raise several other taxes to help close a projected $1.7 billion budget shortfall.

Appearing at an assisted-living facility in Prince George's County, O'Malley (D) said he would ask the General Assembly to double a $1,000 income tax exemption available to taxpayers 65 and older.

O'Malley also proposed a $50-a-year sales-tax rebate that could be claimed by households with gross annual incomes up to $30,000. As part of his larger revenue package, O'Malley is advocating an increase in Maryland's sales tax from 5 to 6 percent and would apply the tax to several services that are currently exempt, including tanning salons and health clubs.
This kind of program proceeds from the conceit that the people listening to it are profoundly stupid. The tax increases that we know about increase existing sales taxes by 20% while imposing a new sales tax on a variety of goods and services that currently aren't taxed. We know the registration fees on cars will go up. We know the gas tax will go up. So a family earning less than $30K is going to pay more for gas, more for rent, more for virtually everything they buy and get a $50 rebate.

The elderly will get less than that. Most Marylanders over 65 earn too much money to get the rebate. They will be paying higher prices and, depending on what part of their retirement income comes from tax free investments (like savings bonds) or disability payments the $1,000 income tax exemption will not come close to offsetting the costs.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said he considers the proposed tax breaks "laudable" but noted that "the more exemptions you have, obviously the more you're going to have to raise to address the deficit."
Exactly. At some point Governor O'Malley needs to stop pandering and blowing smoke and get serious. The odds of that happening are pretty slim.

More below the fold.

The Eminent Wisdom of Blair Lee

crossposted on The Main Adversary

"In the last election the people were not consciously voting for a tax increase, the were voting against the war in Iraq, and got a tax increase as a result."

More below the fold.

GOP Minority, Slots, and Political Leverage

I attended Bob Ehrlich's lecture at Goucher College last night. During the Q&A session he and a Republican legislator (I can't remember who) mentioned that depending on the number of anti-slots Democrats that are turned by O'Malley, the Republican minority might hold the deciding votes on slots, especially in the House of Delegates, which in turn they could use as leverage on other issues like tax increases.

The Washington Times quoted Republican minority leader Tony O'Donnell on the slots issue saying, "I don't think anyone should assume broad support from the Republicans."

Assuming enough anti-slots Democrats stick to their guns, this might turn out to be the case.

More below the fold.

The New MARC Plan

Unlike a lot of my colleagues I'm generally in favor of subsidized mass transit. We subsidize highway construction and airline travel so I'm a little underwhelmed by the arguments against mass transit.

I also have a personal stake in this. I'm a MARC commuter veteran spending about 3 hrs each day on a train of some variety. In short, it enables me to comfortably live and work where I choose and being somewhat lazy I like that.

Now comes Maryland Transit Administration with a rather ambitious plan to pump nearly $400 million per year into MARC.

Short assessment: it ain't going to happen.

The bottom line is that MARC doesn't control its own destiny in this matter. Its future is in the hands of CSX, which owns the rail lines, switches, dispatching, and personnel on the Camden and Brunswick lines and ditto for AMTRAK on the Penn line.

On the CSX lines, MARC operates as a rather ugly, redhaired stepchild in relationship to CSX freights. For good reason. The freights are CSX's line of business and the passenger service simply adds to scheduling difficulties while doing nothing for the bottom line. CSX has no vested interest in upgrading either tracks or switching systems that are perfectly adequate for freight traffic and completely amortized in order to increase MARC's ontime rate of the comfort of the ride for passengers.

The other determinant is the ability to stage trains out of Washington's Union Station. This is a major facility for AMTRAK, who owns it, and MARC's daily schedule can't be increased without the ability to stage more trains there. There is no room to expand the rail yard. As a MARC bigwig has pointed out, the L'Enfant Plaza Metro is a much better starting point than Union Station, unfortunately the tracks aren't there.

I really wish MARC well in this endeavor. I'd like more trains. I'd like more timely service. I'd like conductors and ticket agents who don't look at you like you're a talking suitcase. Regardless of funding, MARC is is in the same position as Blache DuBois, relying on the kindness of strangers.

More below the fold.

A Good Point

From the Baltimore Sun:

As Gov. Martin O'Malley makes a pitch for slot machine gambling as part of his attempt to address a $1.7 billion budget shortfall, a powerful retail lobby is asking that he go one step further by pushing for table games.

The Maryland Retailers Association, miffed by O'Malley's inclusion of a state sales tax increase in his budget package, is suggesting instead that the state approve full casinos.

Without them, Maryland will lose customers to West Virginia, which has approved slots and table games in some jurisdictions, said Tom Saquella, president of the organization.
They are absolutely correct. There is no way slots can generate the income O'Malley is talking about. To do so slots in Maryland would have to generate a higher gross than the combination of slots in West Virginia and Delaware combined. It would be surprising if anyone actually believed that is possible.

While slots are by far and away the single most effective generator of cash for casinos, they don't generate the same economic effect as table games. People who head for the slots parlor don't tend to stay in a top quality hotel, go to good restaurants, or seek much in the way of entertainment. If you doubt my assessment visit Charles Town, West Virginia and look around.

In principle, I don't have a problem with subsidizing a niche sport like racing so long as it is part of a coherent, privately managed, program of gaming. Table games at Laurel, for instance, in conjunction with slots would not only boost Maryland racing but it would generate tourist dollars and create businesses in the area.

Right now the O'Malley slots strategy isn't much more than a Potemkin program designed to deflect attention from fairly massive tax increases on all Marylanders. I hope the General Assembly demands more from him in the upcoming legislative session.

More below the fold.

Bravo for Congressman Bartlett

My congressman, Roscoe Bartlett (MD-6), cast a courageous and righteous vote yesterday against the reauthorization of the SCHIP bill. He did it not because, like the rest of we Republicans and conservatives, he gets a peculiar joy out of watching poor kids die one the sidewalk as he speeds by in his limousine but because the bill is an exceedingly bad bill that damages a moderately successful program, a Republican written bill passed by a Republican Congress, I hasten to add.

The bill contains some rather perverse incentives. It allows SCHIP to be offered to higher income families before program targets are met for serving those children from the lowest income families. Oddly enough, the authors of the bill, through this provision, are tacitly encouraging companies to do what they routinely lambaste Wal-Mart for doing: laying off medical coverage onto government insurance programs rather than offering insurance coverage themselves.

The bill also virtually guarantees that illegal aliens will be allowed to enroll in the program.

If this bill is not substantially rewritten in conference it deserves to be vetoed by the president and sent back to the drawing board.

More below the fold.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A discussion with Presidential candidate, Congressman Duncan Hunter

Tonight I was invited to participate in a conference call for supporters in the Maryland and Virginia region, so I accepted the invitation and found out a few interesting things going on with the Hunter Presidential bid. I also got a question in as you’ll read below.

Duncan started out by talking about the “great momentum” his campaign was building, from winning the Texas Straw Poll earlier this month to a enthusiastic reception (he was “overwhelmed”) by Michigan Republicans last weekend at their conference on Mackinac Island. A key factor in his reception among Michiganders was his tough stance on trade, vowing to stop allowing China to “cheat” on our existing trade agreements and devaluing its currency. Further, China was using these ill-gotten gains to purchase military hardware that (in my personal opinion) will be used against us in the next couple decades.

While the Congressman is low-ranked on most polls, at this point Duncan saw the race as still one predominantly based on name recognition, where candidates like Fred Thompson have an advantage. Once the campaign got more into issue mode, Hunter thought he’d start moving up the ladder. To that end, beginning next week Duncan would start buying TV time in key states - one thing that surprised me was how inexpensive commercial time is in certain early primary states ($100 for a spot on Fox News, as one example.) Also Hunter pointed out that these commercials would be featured on his website.

This was in response to the first question that was asked. I asked the second one addressed in the twenty-minute call. It was one I’d ask any Republican candidate given the situation here on the Eastern Shore: what policy do you feel is your best for attracting the conservative Democrats to our side to vote for you?

The Congressman likened the situation to that which attracted the Reagan Democrats in 1980, and it was about the same key issue - jobs. There’s pressure on good jobs in this country coming from two fronts - China cheating on its trade agreements as discussed above and illegal immigrants undercutting wages. Hunter gave an example of a drywall contractor who he met in Iowa that employs all American workers getting underbid constantly by unscrupulous contractors employing illegals. Further, Duncan claimed that the established Hispanic community in our country is dead-set against amnesty. I think he qualifies as an expert since he represents San Diego in Congress.

So I thought he gave me a good answer to my question. Then he went further into talking about his efforts to secure the border - Rep. Hunter wrote the law authorizing the double border fence to continue along the entirety of our Mexican border. This is a fence style that has cut smuggling 90% in the San Diego area where it exists now.

Finally, Congressman Hunter urged us to tune into tomorrow night’s Baltimore debate. Locally, it’s on cable channel 22 - for the rest of you it’s the proverbial “check your local listings.”

I’m a bit concerned about that debate. First of all, most of the so-called “top tier” aspirants are skipping out. Participating are Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Hunter, Alan Keyes, and Ron Paul. Secondly, the focus will be on “minority” issues and the audience likely will be less-than-friendly to the GOP. According to the Sun:

Debate planners have been working behind the scenes to produce a program that won’t be overly hostile to the Republicans, including an effort to seat an audience that is as neutral as possible, according to a person with knowledge of the preparations.

Still, the candidates who show up will expect tough questioning on issues such as immigration, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and their party’s dismal standing with black and Hispanic voters.

Personally, I’d love to see Hunter or someone else turn the tables and ask why minority voters continue to vote for a party that has promised them so much yet delivered so little over the last 50 years. I don’t believe in “minority” issues, I believe in American issues.

We’ll see what Duncan and the others say tomorrow night. It’ll be a rare PBS viewing for me, that’s for sure.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

Republic of Fear?

This does not bear on Maryland politics rather it has to do with some of the twaddle that passes for thought at Free State Politics.

Commenting on Rick Pearlstein's post at Campaign for America's Future, Isaac Smith writes:

Needless to say, I found the reaction to Iran's president visiting the US this week, especially among conservatives, to be rather depressing. The idea that by talking to our enemies, we legitimate what they stand for, is one of the most idiotic ideas gripping certain parts of the country, and betrays nothing if not a lack of confidence in the beliefs that have governed this republic since
its founding -- a republic that neither needs to rule through fear, nor is ruled by it.
Either Smith did not actually read conservative commentary about A'Jad's visit to Columbia or he cannot understand it. Either way it is truly ridiculous and adds further proof that progressives are long on anger and short on thought.

More below the fold.

O'Malley Talks Taxes With Seniors

WJLA reports that O'Governor is taking his tax and spend roadshow to senior citizens.

Gov. Martin O'Malley will meet with seniors Wednesday to discuss his budget solution and its impact on them.

The governor will be at the Victory House in Palmer Park this afternoon. O'Malley has been traveling the state proposing various revenue-raising measures to address the state's big deficit and about $40 billion in unmet transportation needs.
We hope he explains to them how raising the gas tax, raising the sales tax, and imposing a 6% tax on real estate management services which will raise their rent benefits them.

Hell, they're old. A lot of them won't be around in 2010 to complain.

More below the fold.

Most Fort Monmouth Workers Won't Move to Aberdeen

Late last month The Examiner reported a that nearly half of the workers at Fort Monmouth New Jersey won't move to Maryland.

The US Army surveyed 4500 workers at Fort Monmouth. 47% of the workers said they would not move to Maryland, 23% said they would move. The other 30% are undecided.

J. Thomas Sadowski, executive vice president of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore said "We’ve known that more than 68 percent of the workforce there is retirement-eligible, so it has not gone unanticipated that a lot of people would retire rather than move."

Other press reports put the number that won't move at 51%. The survey also reported that 60% responded that they would accept a transfer if they could telecommute from New Jersey.

One would hope that our wise leaders in Annapolis are taking this into account while planning for the BRAC changes. However, since they are meeting in secret, we don't know. So much for all the vaunted campaign rhetoric for transparency.

We've heard about the"bridge to nowhere", lets hope we don't have to pay for roads or mass transit for "no one."

More below the fold.

Charles County Schools Set To Become Majority Black

One of Maryland's southern counties is set to become majority black school district this year. Five years ago, two our of every three students in the 20,000 student district were white. This year, school officials believe that at least half of the students in the now 27,000 student county will be black, reflecting a massive demographic change and challenge for the county's public schools.

As the student body has diversified rapidly, academic performance in Charles has remained steady and, by some measures, improved. This reflects in part the growth in Charles, which is being fueled by relatively affluent and well-educated African Americans moving in from neighboring Prince George's to find less expensive housing and better schools.

It also reflects efforts by Charles school officials to address factors that have pulled down black achievement in some other middle-class communities, such as lower expectations from educators and less involvement from parents.
While a majority of students are black, the overwhelming majority of the county's teacher and school administrators are white, although two members of the seven member elected school board, including the Board's President are black.

Only the Atlanta Suburbs have a faster growing black population than Charles County, according to a Post analysis of Census data. The historical parallels are hard to ignore. Some 35 years ago, Prince George's County underwent a similar transformation, from a majority white county to a majority black county. Today, Prince George's County schools routinely rank at or near the bottom of the state's education measurements. Charles County officials are worried that the same thing might happen in their school district as well.

Right now, Charles County is defying the research that says diversity in student populations generally leads to a degradation of school performance. But one has to wonder about Prince George's County 35 years ago. Did the influx of black families from the Washington DC automatically result in lower school performance, and if not, what is the lag time.
Anirban Basu, an economist who studies demographic trends, said that some research has shown that increased diversity has led to drops in academic performance but that Charles has had a different experience.

"It's a function of socioeconomic status. It's true that many of the newcomers are African Americans," said Basu, who worked with Baltimore's public schools. "But it's also true that many of the newcomers enjoy lofty, affluent incomes. These are young people that come from families of means. I think that is a greater predictor of test scores and academic achievement than is race."
Basu believes socio-economic status plays a bigger role as a predictor, and that could be right. However, I believe that as children get older, the parental expectations and the peer associations and pressure will play a larger role than the affluence or not of the parents.

Charles County offers an excellent opportunity for education theorists to have a real laboratory to watch--is it race, is it socio-economic status, is it school policies, or is it something else that drives success in school or failure in schools. As Charles County receives a larger percentage of black families, will the schools maintain or improve on their successes or will they follow a course like Prince George's County has experienced in teh past 35 years, one of steady decline in school performance county wide.

More below the fold.

More Hoodoo Economics

Just below I touched a bit on what I believe to be either rank dishonesty or the most outrageous case of wishful thinking to ever masquerade as public policy. On further reading this morning it occurs to me that a metaphor for the O'Malley budget scheme is slots.

From Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation Tom Perez's magnus opus Slot Machines and the Racing Industry: A Review of Existing Data in Maryland andNeighboring States

The money grafs:

With or without slots in Maryland, it is indisputable that many Marylanders enjoy gambling, whether it is spending $1.6 billion on the lottery in Maryland, playing slots in West Virginia and Delaware to the tune of roughly $350 million to $400 million in 2006, betting nearly $108 million on “tip jars” in Washington and Frederick Counties, or playing bingo at a local firehouse.

While officials in Maryland grapple with a $1.5 billion budget challenge, Marylanders
playing slots in West Virginia and Delaware are contributing roughly $150 million annually to the tax coffers of these states, subsidizing the horse racing industries,
education and other priorities. That’s not to mention the money that is traveling over our northern border into Pennsylvania’s slot machines and state bank account.
Keep those numbers in mind. $400 million gross revenues with $150 million eventually attaching itself to the grubby paws of state bureaucrats.

Now from today's Washington Post a story entitled O'Malley Plan Would Not Limit Slots to Racetracks:
Under O'Malley's plan, when fully phased in, the state-owned machines would generate $425 million a year for education and other state programs, O'Malley said. An additional $125 million a year in slots proceeds would go toward construction of education facilities, and $100 million a year would be used to supplement horse racing purses -- a practice in place in neighboring states.
Here the governor is promising a net revenue to the state of $550 million after payments are made for purses, machine payouts, etc.

So how does this compare with neighboring states? Again we rely on the estimable Mr. Perez.

Delaware: "48 percent to licensees, 36 percent to Delaware’s general fund, 11 percent to supplement racing purses, and 5 percent to servicing and monitoring the games."

West Virginia: "34 percent goes to government, two percent goes to the county or municipality hosting the track, and 46 percent is reserved for the licensee. The remaining money subsidizes the racing industry..."

Pennsylvania: "42 percent will go to government (34 percent to state property tax relief, four percent to local government and five percent to economic development) and 12 percent to subsidize racing’s economics."

In short, to get where the governor says slots will get us Maryland slots have to net between $1.14 billion (assuming the state take is like West Virginia's) and $1.54 billion (assuming the state take is like Pennsylvania's) while we know, again according to Mr. Perez, that Charles Town Races grosses $976 million, Delaware Downs grosses $652 million, and Pennsylvania grosses $5 billion. Is it reasonable to assume that with limited betting parlors like the proposal the governor is floating that Maryland will be able net the equivalent of gross revenues from Delaware and West Virginia?

Are our bureaucrats really financial savants of this degree or are our citizens so much more addicted to gambling that the average West Virginian?

Not at all. This is hokum.

More below the fold.

O'Malley's Potential Hat Trick

There is a pathetic quality to watching the O'Malley administration gouging about to find money to close a gaping hole in the state budget while simultaneously promising not to reduce aid to counties, to retain current programs and spending levels, to give the middle class a tax break, and to "invest" some $400 million in transportation.

These promises are made, like a lot of political promises, with full knowledge that they cannot be kept but the O'Malley administration seems to think that it can find the silver bullet that will allow it to accomplish some of these objectives.

More to the point, the administration views each of the revenue producing gimmicks as occurring in a vaccuum, totally unrelated to each other.

As my colleague Brian Griffiths points out below, we can make a safe bet that slots revenue will disappoint. For a lot of reasons. Right now Charlestown, Dover Downs, and Pennsylvania are available to Marylanders who wish to indulge in this form of gambling favored by the mathematically impaired and those with ADHD. The locating of slots in Maryland does nothing to expand the market but rather cannibalizes the existing market.

The same applies to other taxes. Maryland is realtively small state and raising tobacco, sales, and gas taxes in Maryland doesn't guarantee a linear increase in revenues. To the contrary. It is cheaper for me to drive across the Potomac and buy gas in Loudoun County, VA than it is to fill up near my house. Tobacco? Ditto.

The administration is at least publicly pushing the notion that the relatively small number of jobs moving to Maryland under BRAC will bring some kind of significant benefit. Maryland already has a reputation for a rapacious government and the idea that families will relocate to a high tax state which is getting higher taxes rather than chosing to live in Pennsylvania, Delaware, or Northern Virginia simply presumes that those people can't read.

O'Malley has promised virtually every demographic in the state something for nothing. These promises have been made one at a time without regards for their impact on the economy. If the General Assembly follows the governor's lead we will have succeeded in raising taxes, hurting most Marylanders, and retaining the $1.7 billion (or whatever it is today) "structural deficit." That is quite a hat trick, isn't it?

More below the fold.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Beyond Ridiculous

Reports from our Super Secret Annapolis Bureau indicate that Don Dwyer was wearing a Hawaiian shirt during hearings at the Judiciary Committee today. All other members of the Committee, and a supermajority of the audience dressing appropriately for the conducting of public business, at least wearing a normal shirt and a tie.

And Dwyer wonders why everybody thinks he's a joke....


More below the fold.

Why slots won't work

My esteemed RedMaryland colleague Streiff noted today that Governor O'Malley finally unleashed an expected piece of his budget-gap closing arsenal: slots. And yes, this proposal does come from the same governor who called slots a "gambling gimmick" so long ago. As much as I support the of legalizing slots, (even if O'Malley's idea of only having only state-owned machines is a little weird) this plan is too little too late.

You're gonna want to see what I suggest below the fold...

One of the best reasons that Maryland could have introduced slots years ago was the competitive environment in which legalized gambling was available at the time. Charles Town, Dover Downs, and Delaware Park were the only games in town for legalized slot action. Now, with the opening of slot parlors in Pennsylvania, and the expansion of gambling operations at the West Virginia and Delaware tax, there are even more opportunities for Maryland bettors to vote with their feet and take their expendable income to Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the expansion of slot gambling in those states (particularly Pennsylvania) makes Maryland slot machine opportunities less appealing really only to Maryland gamblers and those in D.C. or Northern Virginia.

The General Assembly's reticence to support slot machine gambling in the past means that we pretty much missed the boat as far as sustainable income from slots parlors. The law of diminishing returns tells us that the expansion of gambling to include legalized slot machines is likely to merely split an already existing market for slot machine gambling. Yes, Maryland machines will take revenue from Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia parlors, but it also means that Maryland machines won't generate nearly as much income as everybody thinks they will.

I strongly support the idea of raising additional revenue through the expansion of legalized gambling in Maryland. However, there is no earthly way that slot machines alone are going to cut it. Slot machines may be able to save horse racing, but they are not the be all and end all of the budget debate.

If Maryland is going to be serious about raising revenue through the expansion of legalized gambling, there is really only one way to make that work. An idea that I support, but one that would not be warmly received by a lot of people.

The only answer is through the legalization of full casino gambling. I'm talking about table games: blackjack, poker, roulette, etc. That is the only way that Maryland can stand above the surrounding crowd in order to raise revenue through gambling expansion. It is a surefire way to take long-distance business away from the Atlantic City tables, and a surefire way to draw certain gamblers past the Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia slots parlors and into Maryland casinos. And you can only imagine the potential revenue available through the location of a full casino near Washington to draw in the national and international travelers who came through year-round.

Is full table gaming the solution to our budget problems? Heavens no. But it beats a slots only solution if the objective is revenue enhancement.


More below the fold.

Asleep at the Switch

It's been three weeks since the Central Committee banded together to unceremoniously oust Chairman Mike Collins. One of their complaints was things weren't being done in a timely manner.

So why does their homepage still list Mike Collins as Chairman, with Mike's Chairman's Message still up?

It's the stupid little dumb stuff like this that makes me think the the new Central Committee leadership does not understand or does not care how to get the big important stuff done...


More below the fold.

Unconstitutionally Ours

This mysteriously was nowhere to be found in the Sun, but the O'Malley administration got cut off at the pass yesterday by the courts:

A Maryland judge yesterday issued a temporary restraining order against Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration, saying the governor acted unconstitutionally in signing an executive order to unionize child care workers.

The order by Judge Dexter M. Thompson Jr. of the Circuit Court for Cecil County bars Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, from enforcing the executive order he signed last month.

"Continuing to enforce the provisions of ... the executive order would result in immediate, substantial and irreparable harm to the plaintiffs," wrote Judge Thompson. The judge stated he made the ruling because the executive order breeches the separation of powers as detailed in the state constitution and because the independent child care workers should not have a union negotiator forced upon them as a result of the order.

Delegate Michael D. Smigiel Sr., Eastern Shore Republican and an attorney, argued the case.

Mr. Smigiel said he brought the case before the court because the executive branch has been "usurping" the powers of the General Assembly.

"It is a victory for the legislative process and following the [Maryland] Constitution," he also said.

Mr. O'Malley quietly signed two executive orders last month, allowing in-home health care workers and child care providers to form unions.

Mr. Smigiel and others then questioned the constitutionality of the move, saying the governor made an "end-run" around the Assembly by signing the orders.

I'm sure that the same liberals who assail the Bush Administration for allegedly violating the separation of powers between the branches will now chastise the court for not allowing O'Malley to do whatever he wants to do.

Of course, I have no idea what possessed the O'Malley Administration to go around the General Assembly in the first place. I mean, what gives the Executive Branch the unilateral authority to decide who does and does not get to be unionized? Why does he get to decide, and not the people's elected representatives?

Can you imagine if Governor Ehrlich had unilaterally declared Maryland to be a "right-to-work" state? Organized labor would have descended on Annapolis like you wouldn't believe, protesting and filing suit after suit after suit?

If child care workers should get the right to unionize (and I'm not saying they shouldn't) then it needs to be decided in the General Assembly. No matter how strong the Executive Branch is in Maryland, Governor O'Malley is not "The Decider" on issues like this. Perhaps his administration will now respect the separation of powers put forth in our state Constitution....


More below the fold.

It's Official

From the AP by way of the Frederick News Post:

Governor Martin O’Malley will introduce a proposal to legal slots in Maryland, saying the state needs to protect open space, agriculture and jobs.
The governor said Maryland’s 250-year-old horse-racing industry needs to be competitive with surrounding states — such as Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — that already have slots.

He said his proposal for state-owned slots would also invest in public education, school construction, higher education and community colleges.
It is interesting to note that "closing a honking $1.5+ billion budget deficit" is not one of the reasons. This gives the impression that slots revenue will be devoted to new spending while tax increases will close the deficit.

More below the fold.

More Common Sense from The Examiner

Crossposted on The Main Adversary

From today's Baltimore Examiner editorial

Unless the city wants to waste time patching more “loopholes,” it should stop the cycle that got it into this position in the first place. The only way to do that is to cut property taxes in half or more to levels of surrounding counties. As nonprofits have shown, take out the tax issue, and the city is an attractive place to locate. That would drive up demand for property — and prices — and bring more young professionals into the city to work and live, and eventually own homes. That could only benefit the city treasury and city life. It would also decrease demand for state aid. With a looming $1.7 billion “structural” deficit, that would be welcome news for all Maryland taxpayers.

If only the machine politicians that run this city understood the fact that lowering property taxes creates greater tax receipts from the increase in businesses and home owners. Alas that would be like convincing the medieval Church that the sun did not revolve around the earth.

More below the fold.

Tearing Down the Façade

Crossposted on The Main Adversary

Today's Baltimore Sun features an LA Times op/ed by Richard Schickel biographer of Elia Kazan. Kazan directed On the Waterfront, the film that launched Marlon Brando's career. Kazan was also the same director modern Hollywood's useful idiots booed at the Oscars in 1999 while receiving a life-time achievement award. Kazan was booed for having the temerity to tell Congress what he knew about communist subversion in the film colony. Kazan was lucky he only lost friends, others who told what they knew about Stalin's paradise got far worse just ask Juliet Stuart Poyntz Schickel strikes another blow to the anti-anti-communist façade that those blacklisted in Hollywood were not innocent liberal martyrs , rather they were full-throated supporters of Josef Stalin and his murderous Soviet regime. This was the lie that Kazan exposed in his HUAC testimony in 1947, and for which he was booed by clueless and callow celebrities in 1999.

As a lifelong liberal, I am quite naturally and obviously a lifelong anti-Stalinist; a liberal cannot support totalitarian ideologies no matter how persuasively they are presented. That's especially so when the true face of Soviet communism was so early and often visible. As early as 1931, there were public rallies protesting the Russian prison camps. The mass exterminations(through managed starvation) of Russian peasants were widely reported in the same era. Then there were, in 1937, Stalin's parodistic show trials of old Bolsheviks, followed by the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact and the invasion of Finland in 1939. Yes, the Soviet Union was our vital ally during World War II, but its essential nature did not change, and those who continued to support it cannot be excused...

Eventually, everyone - the remnants of the communist left included - took to ritualistically denouncing Soviet communism before joining whatever argument was going on later. But at the same time, those victimized by McCarthyism, in particular the Hollywood Ten and the rest of the show-business blacklistees, were elevated to heroic status. In the years that followed the 1947 House Un-American Activities Committee hearings that led to their dismissal from the movie industry (for a First Amendment absolutist like me, a very bad idea), they have been celebrated in an endless series of books and tributes. As if by magic, the unapologetic defenders of a deadly doctrine have been transformed into martyrs to liberal belief - which none of them embraced in their day.

This is a massive, apparently unresolvable disconnect, and communism's one lasting American triumph. Frankly, it makes the anti-communist left crazy. Mountains of new documents - notably the Venona transcripts, records of the cable traffic between Soviet spies and Moscow - prove beyond doubt the conspiratorial nature of American communism. But still its apologists stand beaming on the heroic heights, mere "dissidents" who paid an awful and unfair price for expressing their opinions.

One of these expressions of opinion was an obituary tribute to Stalin when he died in 1953, signed by 300 American communist intellectuals. It said, in part: "Glory to Stalin. Forever will his name be honored and beloved in all lands." I don't really want to defend to the death anyone's right to that kind of insanity. Maybe we can afford to leave poor old Pete Seeger in peace - but not, I think, his co-religionists.

Today's progressives MoveOn, Kos, FSP et al. are the heirs of the anti-anticommunists, in fact they called themselves progressives back then as well.

For some on the radical left, this is a literal inheritance. The next time you see Sean Penn foaming at the mouth about George Bush and the war, just remember it runs in the family. His father Leo Penn was one of those "innocent liberal" directors blacklisted by evil anti-communists. In reality, this "innocent liberal" was a card-carrying member of the CPUSA, unequivocally supported Stalin, and opposed American entry into World War II during the period of the Nazi-Soviet pact.

More below the fold.

Another Trial Balloon Floated

Governor O'Malley is lofting another trial balloon. An inflation indexed gas tax.

For politicians this has a big advantage. They can suck up the one-time pain of passing the tax and then reap the benefit as the tax escalates annually based on "future increases to the rising cost of road and bridge construction materials."

What is going unnoticed in this bacchanalia of pick pocketing by the O'Malley administration is that his tax increases are aimed squarely at those who are least able to afford the burden.

A renter, for instance, will not get the benefit of the decrease in the state property tax rate. Neither, in any real sense, will the landlord. On the other hand state sales tax will be applied to real estate services which means the costs associated with property management will increase and will be passed along to tenants as rate hikes. The increase in the titling cost for cars and increased size and scope of the sales tax increase will be borne disporportionately by low and middle income Marylanders. The increase in the corporate tax rate will be passed along as increased prices and will primarily effect small businesses organized as LLCs or S-Corps.

It is hard to take a man very seriously when the state is bleeding cash to the tune of $1.5 billion and who turns right around a floats the notion of a $400 million spending increase on transportation.

More below the fold.

O'Governor Uses A Jedi Mind Trick

Martin Watcher has a hilarious bit on the tax increases being proposed by Governor O'Malley.

He points to the Jedi Mind Trick being used by O'Malley to create the illusion that he actually knows his butt from a hot rock or has any real idea for addressing the budget deficit.

More below the fold.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wicomico GOP Straw Poll Results

I’ll have more on the actual event and what was said tomorrow. For tonight, here are the results of the “raw” ballots, filled out by each of the 46 people attending:


Fred Thompson, 22 votes - 47.8%
Rudy Giuliani, 6 votes - 13.0%
Mike Huckabee, 6 votes - 13.0%
Mitt Romney, 6 votes - 13.0%
Ron Paul, 4 votes - 8.7%
Duncan Hunter, 1 vote - 2.2%
Alan Keyes, 1 vote - 2.2%
Sam Brownback, no votes
John McCain, no votes
Tom Tancredo, no votes

For 1st District Congress:

Andy Harris, 22 votes - 47.8%
John Leo Walter, 11 votes - 23.9%
Wayne Gilchrest, 8 votes - 17.4%
Joe Arminio, 5 votes - 10.9%

Club members also had the opportunity to purchase votes for a separate ballot for $1 apiece. This raised over $300 for the club and made that set of results a little different. I added this feature to see the depth of support for each candidate, and it also allowed people to split tickets, as it were. I know I did.


Fred Thompson, 160 votes - 57.6%
Ron Paul, 54 votes - 19.8%
Duncan Hunter, 19 votes - 7.0%
Mitt Romney, 15 votes - 5.5%
Rudy Giuliani, 12 votes - 4.4%
Mike Huckabee, 4 votes - 1.5%
Alan Keyes, 3 votes - 1.1%
Sam Brownback, 1 vote - 0.0%
John McCain, no votes
Tom Tancredo, no votes

For 1st District Congress:

John Leo Walter, 125 votes - 46.1%
Andy Harris, 91 votes - 33.6%
Joe Arminio, 37 votes - 13.7%
Wayne Gilchrest, 18 votes - 6.6%

Tomorrow night after I attend the Wicomico Neighborhood Congress inaugural meeting I’ll post more on tonight’s Straw Poll - what the candidates said and other interesting items. I got pictures and text of tonight’s event so look forward to it.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

More below the fold.

Taking Issue

Crossposted on The Main Adversary

Some responses to folks who just got it plain wrong.

Isaac Smith
Last week Smith threw a tantrum because the Senate rightly voted to condemn's Betray Us ad but did not pass the The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007. He says:
"So let me get this straight: The Senate doesn't think the right of habeas corpus applies to everybody, nor does it think our soldiers deserve adequate time to rest between deployments, nor that the taxpayers of the District of Columbia are entitled to a vote in the U.S. Congress. It does, however, think that criticizing a general in a newspaper ad is beyond the pale. "

Sorry Isaac, I hate to break it to you, but habeas corpus does not apply to "everybody". That is, our government is not bound to respect habeas corpus for those who do not have rights under our constitution, as in alien enemy combatants, which the proposed act tried to return the cases of these people to district court. Isaac, before you get upset, try checking that pesky little document called the constitution.

The Baltimore Sun Editorial Page
Like Isaac Smith, The Sun did not bother to consult the constitution before setting off on a spittle-flecked tirade against Republicans. In an editorial misleadingly titled politics vs. principle the Sun laments the failure of the DC voting rights bill in the Senate. The Sun says "much of the opposition to the current bill is rooted in politics and not principle." Riiight, no Republican opposition could have been rooted in constitutional principle to a bill that was so blatantly unconstitutional. Nope, and the prospect of an additional safe Democratic seat in the House could not possibly be a political motive for Democrats.

So for the Sun's edification. Congress lacks any constitutional authority to grant DC voting rights via legislation. The constitution does grant Congress the power to apportion seats, however it states specifically that representatives shall be apportioned among the several states; According to the constitution, DC is not a state. There are only four options, constitutional amendment, statehood, retrocession to Maryland, or exempting DC residents from federal taxation.

The fourth option seems to be the best and easiest to achieve. Plus it would be a bonus for DC residents. Think about it, pay no federal taxes with an ineffective delegate, or pay federal taxes with three ineffective representatives.

The Sun also accuses Republicans of tactics that are a throwback to the "tactics used against major civil rights legislation more than 50 years ago," oh you mean the racist Democrats who used those tactics. Democrats like senator and former Klansman Robert Byrd who opposed this current bill.

More below the fold.

Planning Effects

Usually we wind up complaining the government isn't doing enough planning. So I suppose it would be hard to fault them for this kind of planning:

The Maryland Transit Administration is planning a sweeping expansion of its popular but crowded MARC commuter train service, including weekend runs and additional weekday trains by next year and a tripling of the system's capacity by 2035.

The detailed blueprint, outlined in a briefing by MTA Administrator Paul J. Wiedefeld, envisions a system that eventually would stretch from Virginia to Delaware and have the capacity to carry more than 100,000 riders a day.

The plan, the cost of which would amount to billions of dollars over the next 28 years, would add tracks in areas that are bottlenecks and would increase the frequency of train arrivals. It would bring new interconnections with existing and future transit lines and create a new transportation hub at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
A 28-year plan? Ambitious. How they pull it off is anyone's guess. The fact of the matter is that the state owns pretty much no rail lines. All of the lines are owned by CSX or Amtrak. Without ownership of any rail lines, the MARC system is automatically at the mercy of external forces. How in the world can you expand service when you don't own the mechanisms you need to provide the service?

On top of it, how could the state possibly find enough money to pay for this? Such an ambitious, multi-decade expansion plan will probably costs the state several billion dollars in the long-run? Is it an sexy idea to basically be able to go fromFredericksburg , VA to Trenton, NJ? Sure. Is there a demonstrable demand for such a service? Not that I can see. Is there a way to make such a service financially self-sufficient? Not a chance.

Regional rail is a great way to provide an alternative means of transportation when expansion plans are reasonable, have a funding source, and will alleviate traffic on the roads. If regional rail plans do not have all three of those components, then tax dollars are better spent addressing the noted shortcomings of our highway system. And I can think of ten highway projects that should be a higher priority than this kind of MARC uberexpansion.


More below the fold.

Montgomery County gets even more nannystatish

If you didn't think Montgomery County tried to control the lives of its citizens enough, here comes this:

It's for your own good, Montgomery County. Really.

The county has banned trans fats in restaurants and is considering mandatory nutrition labels on menus. And now an Obesity Task Force is trying to brainstorm ways to prod residents to make healthier food choices.

Its first targets are kids in child-care centers and county employees. Better informed child-care providers and less-fattening vending machine choices would be the means.
Read the whole thing, it's ridiculous. The county is aghast that people "aren't aware that there are better choices." When I have a cheeseburger, I know that there are healthier choices I could make. It's just that sometimes I just want a damn cheeseburger (usually a really good damn cheeseburger). Montgomery County has so many bigger problems to worry about than worry about what its residents are eating...


More below the fold.