Monday, October 27, 2008
1. Slots - Also known as Question 2. I will vote NO, damn it! Why? Not because I am worried about the crime and the addiction or the money that the Gaming industry will rake in. No. I am worried that this will only add to the laziness of our elected leaders.
Even IF slots passes and is a huge success and IF some of that success finds it's way into the school system and IF some of that school system funding makes it into the classroom and IF that funding has any effect whatsoever on the learning of our children, we will have just made our elected "leaders" that much less accountable. We will have removed, for however short a period, any reason to expect them to make the difficult choices in managing our state's public policy.
So NO I want them to be held accountable; to better balance revenue and services. In short, I want them to Earn Their Pay. And I want our business "leaders" to be held accountable as well. Frankly it makes me sick to my stomach to listen to those ridiculous ads about how we MUST approve slots or face certain death! Every time I see it I think of the scene in Star Wars were Darth Vader makes a bargain with Han Solo's friend to capture him alive in exchange for the Princess; a bargain he never meant to keep. "Pray I do not alter it further," Vader says simply.
It is laughable that the Maryland Chamber of Commerce President Kathleen Synder insists that without slot machines poor Marylanders will face historic tax increases. She should at least add the "again" qualifier or the "more historic tax increases" to show that she knows Marylanders have already been hit with tax increases that even the liberal local press admits are: 1. of historic proportions and, 2. have done little to increase revenues!!
Now it's hard to tell exactly whether the COC is going to bat for the gambling and horse racing industries (and is using the "more taxes and slots-for-the-kids" baloney as a cover so later they can defend their misguided positions later on), or whether they are going to bat for powerful Democrats (who are just in it for the campaign contributions and God-knows-what other forms of corruption the gambling and horse racing industries are capable of) who PROMISE not to raise taxes anyway, or whether the COC is simply stupid.
My money is on a combination of the first two. There is great speculation that Marylanders will swallow the taxes-and-schools bait and the personalities behind a successful campaign will be rewarded handsomely. If I may offer a little advice to the Maryland COC: hedge your bet. I know it's difficult to show an obscene amount of enthusiasm for the gambling industry's benefit and a decent amount of healthy skepticism at the same time.
If I were you Liam Farrell of the Annapolis Kapital, I'd start collecting string on who in the MD COC stands to gain the most on slots, politically speaking, of course. Who would be so crass as to accept envelopes stuffed with cash these days?
You know, part of me wants slots to pass just so that we can use the failures of budget deficit after budget deficit, tax increase after tax increase, and zero change in education quality, to ridicule them and hound them from whatever positions of leadership they hold. That would make it all worthwhile.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
You got it mostly correct with your last Potomac Watch column: Business Finally Fights Back. I have been taking Maryland's state and local chambers to task over the years for their various short-sighted, next-sale, agenda. However, I think you give the U.S. Chamber too much credit and free PR in your piece.
You column, however, highlights the lack of vision that is making the USCOC's recent efforts on behalf of the Republican ticket a colossal waste of money. I submit that that money could be better spent providing Bill Miller's "political shop" with a few history books, recent history. Or even a subscription to the Wall Street Journal. They could spend hours reading up on how little it got them by brown-nosing and palm-greasing the Democrats. And your description of the COC's leadership as "feisty" is snort-worthy to say the least.
According to your article, even this year's election and the liberal agenda that awaits the next president is not enough to stop the COC from supporting Democrats. Instead the USCOC is , "... going to bat for Louisiana's Mary Landrieu and Virginia's Mark Warner -- both of whom it believes will work with business." What are the odds that they'll both buy tickets to Henry Waxman's "witch hunt" lottery?
The funny thing about the "non-partisan" chambers of commerce is that they are the only ones who believe that they are non-partisan. No matter how many times they say they are and no matter how many Democrats they support, the Democrats will always use them as a punching bag and they will be lumped in with Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, racism and the Republican Party.
The COCs of America would do well to jettison the pretense. If they really want to make a difference in American society they need to realize that a sick society is bad for business. They need leadership with the spine to say to their members "We are not going to support liberal Democrats and their liberal constituencies because they will weaken American society and sovereignty and weaken our allies and trading partners and eventually weaken our membership."
THAT would be feisty.
Severna Park, MD
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I writing to inform you that you and the Chamber (especially you, though) have been featured prominently in the last two or three posts of my blog (http://mikenetherland.blogspot.com/). I am hurt, frankly, that you haven't bothered to read and respond in your defense and that of the Chamber to the charges that your and your group are nothing more than opportunists who, due to your nearsightedness, are constantly looking for the next taxpayer-funded hand out.
I was in the audience in Severna Park where you debated Doug Schmidt over the issue of slots and I decided then and there that I would contact you and allow you to explain yourself. Now I understand that, especially in Maryland, business interests must sometimes grease the palms of powerful politicians in order to keep at bay policies that are bad for business.
Of course I am assuming that an organization calling itself a "chamber of commerce" is looking out for the long term interests of its member businesses. Please correct me if I am wrong.
So a few questions are in order. Be advised that I will happily post on my blog, unedited and in full, your responses.
1. What long-term interests of your member business are served by forcing Marylanders to accept slot machines? Please spare me the revenue-for-schools malarkey. We both know this is a fantasy generated by slick PR paid for by the gaming business interests. Just give me the straight rationale.
2. What part of liberal-Democrats-are-bad-for-business do you not get? In other words is it in the best interests of your member businesses that taxes should increase leaving Marylanders with less disposable income to spend patronizing member businesses? (for the sake of this question, let's pretend there are no slot machines, pots o'gold at rainbow's end and magic wands, hmmm?)
3. Are you planning to seek elective office? If so, with which political party would you affiliate yourself?
4. In your world, is economic growth and prosperity tied to the growth of state government?
5. Do you consider yourself more intelligent and accomplished than Milton Friedman?
6. Am I unfairly associating you with the leadership of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, just because you are the president of that organization?
Again, thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
"Although last year's historic tax increases were meant to lead to the end of the state's deficit problems... ," begins last night's Kapital-paper's third paragraph (above the fold!) on $350 million in budget cuts being contemplated by the Board of Public Works.
Yes, the Kapital. Even they get it now. It gets better:
"Even if voters approve the slot machines referendum on Nov. 4 Maryland still will have an almost $1.5 billion deficit in fiscal 2011," and billion-plus deficits as far as the eye can see.
I kid you not. And all of this without attribution. No 'he said, she said,' statements of plain fact. Nope. It appears that Liam Farrell has done his homework, getting the cold, hard facts from the state Department of Legislative Services. Getting tired of transcribing press releases, he decided to go out on a limb and state the obvious without having to get a source.
So, in four, count 'em, four short paragraphs of liberal newsprint, the Kapital komes klean. If only we had seen this kind of reporting before "last year's historic tax increases," maybe we would be in better shape today.
It may not be too late, though, to save Maryland from the clutches of Kathy Snyder and her misbegotten band of bring-home-the-bacon buffoons at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce who are pushing for slots. Perhaps she will whisper in voters ears about how wonderful things will be if only we write 15,ooo slot machines into the state constitution. Maybe Ms Snyder can put a pretty face on the ugly lies that the slots lobbying machine has been peddling about concerned citizens like you and me; lies highlighted in a recent UMBC report on the financial and social impact of slots (see http://www.marylandersunited.com/).
But let's get back to tax increases and their net effect on revenue. I predict that Mr. Farrell will be shocked at a future date when Maryland or some other state where he may be reporting, fails to realize the promised land where the state treasuries are overflowing with treasure from recent historic tax increases. Perhaps he will ask a future Democratic candidate (Ms Snyder?) for high office whether, given the long dismal history of tax increases, the candidate's plan will actually lead to the end of the state's budget deficits.
"Well, Mister...what's your name? Farrell? You see when you raise taxes you take more money in. It's a simple concept. Instead of taking 5 dollars from you, we take 10. That's what we call an increase in revenue."
"But Senator Snyder, in 2007, my readers will recall, Gov. O'Malley and the General Assembly raised taxes exorbitantly. This lead to a net drop in revenue which lead to my paper, the Annapolis Kapital, to run a story that basically repudiates this simple concept. What makes you think it will work this time?"
"Because, Mr. Farnell, in a Snyder administration, I will be doubling the number slot machines and proposing a new amendment to the state constitution that would lift restrictions on where slots can be placed so that, if the people of Severna Park, for instance, don't want to see their gambling dollars being spent in other counties, they can have their very own slots parlor. Doubling the number of slots machines will double the amount of revenue. It's a simple concept."
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Doug Schmidt, CEO of Towson-based investment bank Chessiecap Securities, laid down the cold hard facts and political realities: The amount of money being dangled in from of Maryland voters is not real (it would be a miracle if the state realized even a third of it); to get that third, 10,000 Marylanders would have to lose $1,000 every year playing slots; the revenue can't be guaranteed and can't be dedicated solely "for education."
Ms. Snyder couldn't answer the question as to why slot machine gambling was previously outlawed in Maryland, but Mr. Schmidt quickly pointed out that it was due to the corrupting influence on local politicians. Ms Snyder, meanwhile argued against herself several times. On one hand, the control over the slots will be in the State Constitution, on the other she argued that it's OK to amend the State Constitution because, it is just that. "It isn't the Bill of Rights," she said, adding, that the state constitution controls the something related to the parking in Baltimore City. So, it is not taboo to further cheapen our state charter by throwing in slots.
Later, she tried to make a point about the strict control over the machines and the revenues generated thereby because it will be in the state constitution. The money is dedicated to education, in the proposed amendment to the constitution, but she admits that in the end we will have to trust our elected officials to do the right thing.
Oh and Maryland already has gambling, she began her defense, in the form of horse racing, KENO and lottery. Uh...it's just that, er, the language to direct the revenue from the State Lottery to education twas um...taken out at the last minute... by the politicians we are supposed to trust to do the right thing.
And if we don't do this, your taxes will go up to pay for education, she warned her little pretties, ha, ha, ha,ha!! Oh uh, or the sate will have to cut spending (gasp!). I got a flash for you Ms Snyder, our taxes will go up regardless. This is a one-party state, no thanks to the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, so taxing and spending is what the Democrats do.
Finally, in act of desperation she blurted out that the Maryland State Teachers Proletariat supports slots! So we fellow proletarians should be on board as well. If you need any more reason to oppose slots in Maryland, please visit Marylanders United to Stop Slots.
Monday, October 13, 2008
I gave it up when Mitt Romney dropped out and resigned myself to a third Clinton administration. When Clinton dropped out, I thought, all bets were off. Nowadays I console myself and some friends that the Founders thought it was an excellent idea to keep the damage one man wreak on the Republic to four years. Obama should be a one-term president.
So that's why it doesn't matter who wins, really. What really matters is taking back Congress with conservative leaders. A step in the right direction would be a donation to the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded in part by South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. This group would back, I am assuming, conservative challengers to incumbents backed by the National Republican (Incumbent) Senatorial Committee.
The House counterpart is, oddly enough, the House Conservatives Fund. And one would assume that it would back candidates like Andy Harris over "Republicans" like Wayne Gilchrest. Don't look for the National Republican Campaign Committee link on this blog. They are busy backing Don Young of Alaska to the hilt.
Of course your donations are well-spent by Pat Toomey's The Club for Growth, too. So we should fund these groups because:
- We can't normally watch all the campaigns all the time
- While all elections are local, the ones that send idiots to Congress affect us all
- We can't trust all Republicans to vote the right way, all the time, or even half the time.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Does my continued effort to highlight what should already be glaring contradictions in the stated goals of Pipkin and LeDoux and the likely effect their candidacies would have on the outcome of the contest, somehow call into question my long-held positions? Am I now the hypocrite who is not practicing what he has preached by attacking those who would throw their hats into the ring?
The answer is: I don't know. I would like to think I have been true to my principles throughout my commentary. I don't want to support an arbitrary restriction in participation in our Primary process. At the same time, I want Republican pols to admit that their candidacies will sometimes be at odds with their stated goals.
If your goal is to unseat an entrenched incumbent who wields support from national GOP personalities and organizations, even the President himself, then you must do whatever it takes, including reconsidering the effect your candidacy will have. This includes acknowledging what even neophytes to the political process (me) knew instinctively. The incumbent will be guaranteed 50 percent of the vote and challengers left to split the other half. I learned this in high school civics and again in college political science classes.
Much as I'd like to blame Bill Clinton for much of the misery we are now experiencing, I have to instead blame Ross Perot for siphoning conservative Republican votes away from Bush 41. Then again, I should blame Bush 41 for not being a strong enough President and inviting a strong Third Party candidate to split Republicans and giving the vote to the disastrous Slick Willie.
Now State Rep. Ledoux argues that Don Young's poor showing (and near defeat) could be directly attributable to her campaign. Hmmm this sounds familiar. This is more charitable than her first rationalization, that it was Parnell who drew votes away from her. Even to those unschooled in Alaskan politics, this is a dubious case.
1. She entered the race first (by a few months)
2. Parnell entered and was a wildly more popular alternative (at this point LeDoux should have dropped out and thrown her support behind Parnell)
In Pipkin's case, he entered extremely late, after even Alaskans, unschooled in the nuances of Maryland politics, could see that Harris was the wildly popular alternative. He acted as either a witting agent of the Gilchrest campaign or as one deluded into thinking he could possible win, that is as an unwitting agent of the Gilchrest campaign.
Would Harris have lost had Pipkin NOT thrown his hat into the ring? Under the LeDoux theory of unseating entrenched incumbents the answer would be yes. Was Pipkin's candidacy actually a ploy to draw ES-GOP votes away from Gilchrest? That would be nice to think so.
But even in the journalistic junk-yard of the Maryland free press, I have to believe that the Kapital-paper would have gone ga-ga over any such hint even if such a hint were written on Gilchrest-for-Congress letterhead. Such a hint dogged (in the blogosphere anyway) Delegate Banks' late-late, last-minute candidacy. I find it difficult to give Pipkin the benefit of this doubt.
This is why it is important for Pipkin to come clean on this issue. Not to settle the past, but for dealing with future Congressional campaigns. A winning strategy is built on accurate understanding of the past. And win we must. Not just party, but candidates with courage and conviction to principles that are needed to face down the pork-barreling, social experimenting and special-interest-pandering practices of the last generation of Congressional worms.