Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ron George Anti-Tax Speech

Delegate Ron George

One year ago, we had a billion dollar surplus. The governor spent it. We have a requirement in this state to have a balance each current budget. The left wing majority of this legislature gets around responsible spending by mandating increases in spending for future budgets, leaving it to future legislative sessions to balance it and then they call it a “structural deficit”. If your spouse were to take the credit card and continually spend more money than the two of you earn, that is not a structural deficit. It is a spending problem. We do not have a structural deficit, we have a spending addiction. A left wing desire to expand the size of government until government runs everything.

This session is unnecessary. We balanced the budget last year so there is no emergency here. Anything we discuss these next few weeks could wait until the regular session. However, the governor wants you to pay his proposed tax increases beginning this January 1st. That is why we are here.

The governor’s budget increases spending 8.5 to 9%. Did your income grow that much? If it did, the government would get more money than it did. But very few people had an increase like that. The state budget doubled over a ten year period. Did your income? We have alternative budgets. They cure the projected self imposed deficit by curbing increases in spending. Note that I did not say they cut spending. They simply curb the increase. One proposal simply limits the increasing spending to 1.5% which is still a bit above the rate of inflation, and with the natural growth in income, the budget is balanced. Another plan limits the increase in spending to 3.5 percent and allows for very limited slots that are not owned by the state like the governor proposes. Whatever your position is on slots, the point is that there are alternative budgets that do not raise taxes and do not cut spending. They do limit the increase in spending to a more reasonable number.

They will argue that Maryland is the richest state in the nation. That it therefore can afford government run health care (there is an alternative that is market based and cuts the number of uninsured, it’s called a health insurance exchange, which is affordable and portable). Or they will say we are the richest state in the nation, therefore we should grow government and its programs. If we are the richest state, it is because, unlike other states, we get 67% of federal taxes injected into our economy from federal payroll checks, defense and space programs, and the like. This distorts the figures on who is the richer state. They also forget to work into those figures the cost of living here and the fact that state and local taxes are so much higher. Maryland taxes you on things that other states do not - your inheritance, your retirement income, your veterans pay and your pensions. The list goes on and on. Grandparents are forced to move.

No matter what tax the governor proposes, there are ramifications. We should learn from two of the last states to impose increases in their income tax: New Jersey and Connecticut. Both of their economies have plummeted with New Jersey having a huge deficit (a real deficit, unlike Maryland) and Connecticut losing a quarter million of its native state’s population that have left for southern states. You raise the taxes on the people that create jobs and the result is job creation goes down.
The gas tax also hurts us all, it hurts the lower income brackets more, and it hurts commerce therefore job growth. The sales tax is equally regressive. In Maryland you can live anywhere and only be 45 minutes or less from another state. Why buy here? Again, it hurts sales, hurts commerce, and therefore brings in less revenue. The governor’s figures are flawed. They do not consider the ramifications of each tax.

The governor is making his calls and striking deals for support for his package. He is doing so by striking fear into the hearts of anyone that dares to oppose him.

George Washington said “How soon we forget history. Government is not reason. Government is not eloquence. It is force. And, like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” You are seeing the force, you are seeing the fire. I thank you for your efforts to put it out.

God Bless you and may God Bless Maryland.

Go Talk To Alderman Arnett: It May Be Your Only Chance

I'll link right to the source on this one.

Former Aldermanic Candidate Called To Greatness

M. Scott Bowling, who ran a good race in the Democrat primary last time against the Honorable Alderwoman Hoyle in Ward 3, has courageously accepted his destiny and has switched to the Republican Party.

We are happy to have him.

If you would like to know his reasons, you can ask him, but here are the top 5 reasons--listed in reverse order for added drama--why a person would want to be a republican:

5. You can base your life around Ronald Reagan--who was a movie star!

4. Gross negligence of accepted English grammar will not limit your success in life.

3. Immediate membership into the Big Oil Company Fan Club, complete with a working replica of an oil drill placed over a wildlife preserve.

2. "Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart*; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains."-Winston Churchill.

(*I am 26.)

1. You will be right most of the time, except when you're not.

Republican Senators Set To Filibuster Tax Proceedings

My colleagues on Red Maryland will probably know more about this than me, but I wanted to offer this bit of info, or offer a reminder if someone else has mentioned it and I simply didn't see it.

The 14 Republican Senators WILL hold firm regarding a filibuster in the Senate. Nineteen (19) votes are needed in order to sustain a filibuster. IF WE can convince 5 Democrat Senators to join our 14 Republican Senators we can STOP this assault on our families. PLEASE MAKE THESE CALLS. With your help, we CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE.

The 10 Democrat Senators to call are:

Senator John Astle (D-30) – Anne Arundel County
Phone: (410) 841-3578

Senator Jim Brochin (D-42) – Baltimore County
Phone: (410) 841-3648

Senator James DeGrange (D-32) – Anne Arundel County
Phone: (410) 841-3593

Senator Roy Dyson (D-29) – Calvert, Charles, & St. Mary’s Counties
Phone: (410) 841-3673

Senator Edward Kasemeyer (D-12) – Baltimore & Howard Counties
Phone: (410) 841-3653

Senator Katherine Klausmeier (D-8) – Baltimore County
Phone: (410) 841-3620

Senator Rona Kramer (D-14) – Montgomery County
Phone: (410) 841-3625

Senator Thomas Middleton (D-28) – Charles County
Phone: (410) 841-3616

Senator James Robey (D-13) – Howard County
Phone: (410) 841-3572

Senator Norman Stone (D-6) – Baltimore County
Phone: (410) 841-3587

Little Is Learned By Triathlon Survey

In yesterday's Capital, Nicole Young wrote a story reporting favorably on the overall reception of the triathlon by the citizens. I am acquainted with Ms. Young, and might have to send her a thank you card accompanied by a $5 gift certificate to Caffe Pronto for providing me with such good material. The article mixes 2 of this blog's favorite topics: statistics and the triathlon.

A major obstacle that can frustrate effective analysis is the misinterpretation of statistics. I have said before and shall reiterate--for most people, it's not very important to know how to derive, say, the formula for standard deviation. What is important is the ability to see where data is coming from, who is presenting it, and what certain statistics really mean.

And when the people interpreting the data make claims like these:....
City officials were surprised by the positive results
But the results speak for themselves. We were expecting the results to be
extremely negative, but they were saying 'We like the event, we'd like to see it
come back, but we'd like to see it done better,' which is OK. is important to assess whether this is actually the case.

Two surveys were taken of stakeholders in the triathlon, one by a firm called the Minor Group and another by the event itself.

First things first: the survey done by the triathlon's organizers is meaningless. According to the article:

The other (survey) was completed by the triathlon itself, which
surveyed the athletes, volunteers and spectators who participated in the

Those participating in the triathlon responded favorably to the event,
with 83 percent calling the triathlon positive and 84 percent saying they would
participate again, the Annapolis Triathlon Club survey showed.

This is the definition of selection bias. Of course the people who participated in the triathlon are likely to think it was a success. I would bet that these numbers are way different than numbers that are collected from a randomized sample.

(Note to readers: in the interest of full disclosure, I had already seen the other numbers when I wrote the last sentence, so I knew I would be right! But it would have been fairly easy to predict.)

Now then:
According to the survey conducted by The Minor Group, businesses and
residents were split on the overall impact of the triathlon, with 34 percent of
businesses and 37 percent of residents saying it had a positive impact. The
number saying it was negative was slightly lower and undecided responses made up the remainder of the survey.

Luckily for us, based on these numbers we can group businesses and residents together, and don't have to analyze them separately. Otherwise this post would be unnecessarily long, and that's not good for anybody. Let's assume that the numbers go something like this:

-35% in favor
-30% against
-35% undecided

This is a lot of undecided's. It is probably accurate that 1/3 of people have no feeling either way. The issue here is the concept of sampling. Since it would be way to expensive and time consuming to survey all 40,000 city residents/people involved in the event, you have to take a sampling. Such a high portion of undecided responses means that were you actually able to survey everyone, it is more likely that the numbers would significantly change because you would be capturing everyone that has an opinion. And with the survey results so close, the majority faction could easily reverse.

The whole thing was rushed through and didn't take into account all of the
people affected," he (
W1RA President Doug Smith) said. "The residents were next
to the bottom of the list and the churches were exactly at the bottom of the

If accurate, this fact skews the data even more. Residents and churches are the most likely to oppose the event, and if they were not accurately represented, the true 'against' figure is higher.

So, in summary:

1. The survey done by the event itself should be used for kindling.

2. The 'random' survey quite possibly reflects data distortions resulting from sampling difficulties.

3. Since the only survey that matters is in fact too close to call--and not overwhelmignly positive--saying things like "but the results speak for themselves" and declaring resounding support for a future event is inappropriate when based solely on the surveys.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Almost Worthless Debate

I watched the Democrat debate today, for no discernible reason, and I just had to laugh. Made for tv debates with like 8 candidates and 2 moderators are doomed to uselessness. In the interest of fairness, the following is not exclusive to Democrats, but the I imagine the answers given by the candidates are the same answers that would be given by a 9th grade civics student under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.

The following question was asked: "Do you support either a longer school day or longer school year?"

The "answer" given by John Edwards was "We need to have a national teaching university to attract our talented young people."

Dennis Kucinich said that he saw a UFO and that he was moving his campaign headquarters to Roswell, New Mexico.

Tim Russert and Brian Williams informed us that 3 (all 3?) of the astronauts on Apollo 11 thought there was life beyond Earth, then asked Barack Obama if he thought there was as well. Who cares what he thinks about that?!

The best part of the night was when Barack Obama was asked what he was going to be for Halloween. He first "answered" the question by saying that his son was going as a Mad Professor--possibly the worst costume ever--and that he was going to wear a Mitt Romney mask that has 2 faces pointing in different directions.

I really don't know why they do these debates. They are too early and too broad to accomplish much. The problem is, the candidates can't say what the real answer is. The real answer to every question is "I don't know. Here is what I believe in general, and if I am elected President I will make sure that there are a lot of smart people to give me all of the information about this issue. I will use their information and my beliefs to determine my policy." They can't say that, so they just say whatever they want. Literally whatever they want--the questions don't even matter.

I would pay up to $1000 to know how much of what these candidates are saying is what they really believe, and how much is BS that they are told they should say.....does anyone have $999 I can borrow?

Public Bickering Continues

Mayor Moyer has been somewhat famously uncooperative when it comes to collaboration with other local jurisdictions. While we have have sister cities in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Estonia, Canada, and Brazil-- and a soon to be sister city in England--we have seen little cooperation with the county that surrounds us. Transportation, police, and fire are departments that could easily enjoy economies of scale savings, were they to be combined or partially merged.

Further complicating things, the Mayor is quite happy to nurture or destroy relationships by issuing press releases, although to be fair, she is not the only one that does this.

Most recently, the Mayor has been unsuccessful even to work with a quasi-governmental organization within the city limits: HACA. The Housing Authority's director, Eric Brown, perceived that he had no recourse but to debate the mayor publicly, and offered a rebuttal in a letter to The Capital:

In a recent radio address as well as a letter to the editor, the mayor
indicated that there is a disagreement between herself and the Housing Authority
and that I, as its executive director, declined to attend a meeting on public

I do not know the source of the disagreement she referred to. But on
1 p.m. on Sept. 11, at the mayor's request, I met with the city attorney and the
chief of the Annapolis Police Department.

The meeting ended when the attendees agreed that there was no clarity as to
what was to be accomplished. It was further agreed that the city
attorney would take responsibility for consulting with the mayor and getting
clarity on what she expected the three of us to accomplish.

I have repeatedly attempted to get the mayor to chair a meeting of myself,
the police chief and the city attorney. Since July, I have asked the mayor to put aside whatever animosities and disagreements she believes exist between the Housing Authority and the city and chart a new direction based on cooperation and dialogue.

To date, she has refused to convene such a meeting. The mayor is
missing a great opportunity to show true leadership and crate bold new
initiatives that we all can get behind and support.

It's not in my general nature to engage in communication with others
through the media. But recent statements by the mayor grossly
misrepresented facts about me and the Housing Authority and should no longer go

I will continue to reach out to the mayor and truly hope that we can find
common ground. It is in the best interest of all to do so.

As we see more examples of the Mayor's leadership style, there seems to be little cause for optimism. The mayor seems to be aloof or disinterested in tangible improvements to city life, yet shrewdly calculating in her image and perception of political performance. Hopefully we won't have to wait until 2009 to witness the reverse.

Ward 2 Special Election Dates

The special election dates are now known: read below. The deadline to file is November 5.


Mayor Ellen Moyer has ordered a special election be held to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Alderman Michael Christman. The City of Annapolis requires the special election to be ordered by proclamation of the Mayor (attached).

The special primary election will be held in Ward 2 on Tuesday, November 27, 2007.

The special general election will be held in Ward 2 on Wednesday, December 19, 2007.

This election is being held to fulfill the term which began on December 5, 2005.

The City of Annapolis requires that a special election be ordered under such vacancy and requires that the special primary election be held on any weekday other than a state or religious holiday which is at least 23 days but no longer than 30 days from the date of the vacancy; and the special general election be held on any weekday other than a state or religious holiday which is at least 21 days but not longer than 30 days from the date of the special primary election.

A copy of the proclamation has been mailed to the City of Annapolis Board of Supervisors of Elections.

Information and forms for the special election can be found on the City of Annapolis website at or from the City Clerk's office at 410 263 7942.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rational Behavior Of Aldermen

A fundamental assumption of economics is that all human beings act rationally. I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. Each person acts in a way that maximizes his utility (happiness) based on the information he has at the time.

(Similarly, a person never does anything that he doesn't want to do. For example, on Monday you may say to yourself "I don't want to go to work today", but you will still go. The reason: going to work is not an isolated event. Sure, you don't want to go to work, but you also don't want to face the consequences of not going. And since you don't want to get fired more than you don't want to go to work, there you will be. More generally, a person's actions at any given moment in time represent the best possible use of that person's time. That person could not possibly be doing anything better than what he is doing, because if he could, he would.)

Annapolis Aldermen, having made one of the final cuts for classification as human beings, behave rationally as described above. Yesterday's Capital editorialized about the decisions that our aldermen make regarding their employment.

Enough with the preamble. Let's do this.

Our Say:Aldermanic turnover is disrupting city government

Published October 26, 2007

Once again, the Annapolis City Council has an unexpected vacancy. Ward 2 Alderman Mike Christman has ended speculation by announcing his formal resignation because of job constraints involving himself and his wife.

The mayor will soon be scheduling special primary and general elections.

By Wednesday, she must do this. Take a look at the early favorites for the dates she will announce.

We credit Mr. Christman, a promising alderman, with recognizing that a resignation was better than giving his constituents and the city short shrift - he has been unable to return phone calls and has missed the last three council meetings. In the circumstances, he made the responsible decision.

I wonder what comprises The Capital's criteria for a 'promising' alderman. Here is my guess:

Criterion #1: won an election for the first time.
Criterion #2: see above.

But his departure adds to the turnover that already has disrupted city government.

Ward 4 Alderman Wayne Taylor left the City Council after serving only a year to take a well paid job with the new county executive - a position he kept for only a few months. Alderman Josh Cohen and Alderwoman Classie Hoyle were willing to give up their city positions to run for County Council - Mr. Cohen won and left his aldermanic seat.

Here is the problem. Aldermen get paid $12,600 per year. Most, if not all of them, want to move up the political ladder so they can be richer or more powerful, or if you prefer, so they can do more good. I think most people are fine with this. BUT, the city has elections in odd years (2005, 2009, etc.), so for these people to move up, they have to leave their aldermanic seat mid-term.

Solution #1: change the election cycle to be the same as the county, or at least in even years so we share election times with somebody.

Solution #2: pay the aldermen more money so they wouldn't be so concerned with moving on to something else.

Today, two aldermen - Ross Arnett and Sheila Finlayson - are on the council as a result of elections with very low voter turnouts.

Yeah, like 25% low. That's really low.

No wonder turnout for special elections is minimal - city voters are tired of trekking to the polls to replace fickle aldermen.

This is too important of a question to answer with such a declarative quip. Voter turnout is generally low in this country, even in Presidential years. Why this is the case is a fairly major political science issue.

I don't doubt that frustration with fickle aldermen plays a part, but there is certainly more to it. I think a lot of people don't realize how much they are affected by city codes. There are also people who are willing to break laws if they don't like them, so for those people it wouldn't make much sense to waste their time with elections.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I am willing to say that people who don't vote are a--holes. People certainly have the right to do what they want, but by not voting and to a lesser extent not educating themselves on the issues, non-voters allow things like Martin O'Malley to happen.

And each of these special elections costs taxpayers $50,000.

It would cost us a lot less if we did the elections in the same year that the county did them, because we rent the voting machines from the county. For the upcoming special election, I believe the council is fast-tracking a bill to use paper ballots, which would be cheaper.

On a related note, how excited are you that $50,000 of your tax money is going to be used for a special election where less than 1000 people are going to vote?

Beyond the financial burden, there is a loss of knowledge and experience. A new alderman, no matter how gifted, is on a learning curve. It takes him or her a while to be able to deal intelligently with critical issues. When the positions keep turning over, the city staff has to spend much more time familiarizing aldermen with the ins and outs of government. And constituents need a scorecard to find the person who can help them with a complaint.

True enough. Turnover cost is very high, no matter what business you are in.

The city cannot prevent aldermen from leaving office before their terms expire. It's up to the candidates themselves to end this disruptive trend.

Wrong. The city can prevent this from happening. The city can give aldermen more money, more power, an assigned legislative assitant, and for goodness' sake, maybe some letterhead so the aldermen can keep in contact with their constituents without having to spend out of pocket cash.

Special elections have been relatively scarce in the city's history because most candidates honored their commitment. Today candidates seem to be ready to serve - until a better opportunity comes along.

Can we blame them? (Answer: No). $12,600, even with the prestige of public office and the obligation so serve the public, is not enough of an incentive to pursuade people to disrupt their family lives or turn down professional opportunities.

There appears to be no shortage of candidates to fill these vacancies - several are already lining up to run for the Ward 2 opening. But who among them is prepared to promise voters he or she will fill out the term? Are the candidates ready to make sacrifices - including turning down better jobs and spending less time with their families?

This is just not true. Unless The Capital knows something that this blog does not know--which is possible but not likely--there are only 2 candidates "lining up" for the Ward 2 opening. The Democrat is Debbie Rosen McKerrow, who lost to Christman; Karen Jennings is running as a Green Party member; and we Republicans haven't even found a candidate.

I would guess that some candidates run because someone asks them to run, and because there is nobody else to do it! This would lead candidates to feel like they are doing their neighbors (or their political party) a favor, and would be a weak motivator to put up with the shenanigans of aldermanic duty, especially when better options arise.

At the end of the day, the candidates are still to blame--but they are not as guilty as The Capital would have us think.

Ward 2 residents need to ask these questions of would-be aldermen. And the same commitment should be sought in all future city elections.

Why would candidates for alderman give any more commitment than the city gives them? Again: $12,600 for a lot of work, no letterhead, no office, no assistant, no parking space (I think), and no way to serve out your term if you want to run for another office. Hey, sign me up!

It's sad that voters have to ask something so obvious, but it is important to the wards and to the city as a whole that elected officials take their commitment seriously.

Entitlement Mentality

I was listening to a talk radio show today, and heard the following conversation, which has been paraphrased for the purposes of this blog:

(Show host): Governor O'Malley proposes to spend $500 million to provide health insurance to Marylanders who don't currently have it. What do you think about that?

(Guest panelist): When I walked in today, it was tough to carry my head high as a liberal.

(Expert blogger) (me): Gee, why would you ever be ashamed of your party or your Governor? Please Continue.

(Panelist): But I think this is the greatest idea. We Marylanders are already paying for these uninsured citizens in the form of higher premiums for our health insurance. All the Governor wants to do is shift the entity paying for it so that it is handled by the government. I cannot think of a better way for the state to spend its money than to provide for the health of its citizens and prevent them from going to the emergency room.

Oh, brother. The thought that people should pay for their own health care never entered this person's mind. Nor did the point that many uninsured people are here illegally, and shouldn't be using any of our services. Nor the point that many uninsured people can actually afford health insurance but choose to roll the dice.

The current health care system could use much improvement, but having the government (the taxpayers) pay for health insurance for everybody is not the place to start.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Rain: Different Than Sun

Happily employing this blog's first Wizard of Oz reference, allow me to pull back the curtain. The way this blog gets written is as follows:

-First priority for posting goes to time-sensitive and/or breaking information, or ideas that I want to talk about and/or have recently thought about.

-Second priority goes to posts that are inspired by issues that surface while I am reading newspapers or other blogs. When I am really busy, I read through sever days' papers at the same time.

-Third priority goes to posts that have nothing to do with anything, like this one and this one, which are written if and when I cannot come up with any material using priorities #1 and #2.

The point that I am getting to is that my time is somewhat valuable. Consequently, when I am perusing the newspaper for the 'hot' issues, I needn't be burdened with articles that do not serve a purpose.

And here we finally are, arriving at the focus of this particular post--a remarkably useless bit of reporting about the weather.

Here is the headline:




It would be one thing if the headline was, perhaps, at the top or bottom of the front page, and left to be. But the whole article is basically common sense dribble. If I were being interviewed for this article, I would probably try to verbalize my responses while moving only my upper lip, just to make it interesting.

All of the following excerpts were deemed newsworthy enough to be printed in the article. Enjoy:
With rain forecasted through Saturday morning, drivers can
expect to be faced with challenges during their commutes and trips during much
of the week.

Weather has a 'significant impact' on the number of crashes.

Several factors contribute to the increase (in crashes), with
visibility, traction and speed being the most prevalent.

A driver's rate of speed has a direct impact on visibility and

Cpl. Shawkey
advises that drivers give themselves additional travel time when it

It is never advantageous to be in a hurry speeding while it is

What Stops Speeding Better Than Speed Bumps?

Yesterday's Capital neatly included an article about a 'phantom speed bump' in Ward 2, a ward that just happens to be the subject of a special election next month. Apparently, an unknown resident constructed a makeshift deterrent to speeding motorists in the 'parking ward', as this blog affectionately calls it.

City Spokesman Ray Weaver remained underwhelmed:
The city generally frowns on do-it-yourself road improvements. We
recognized it wasn't, shall we say, a professional job.

Wouldn't you know, Debbie Rosen McKerrow (DRM) is the Vice President of some organization that is qualified to talk about such things, and offered:
I was thrilled when (my neighbor) called to say it had arrived. We have a
serious speeding problem. It does give us a jumping off point to talk
about it.

Citing no evidence, and based entirely on a desire for a conspiracy that would serve to further popularize these highly-read pages, I am prepared to conclude that DRM installed the speed bump herself to create a publicity opportunity.

Anyway, I am concerned about the city's speed prevention strategy:
Mr. Weaver said the city prefers not to install speed bumps, calling them "the
means of last resort," instead the city favors other traffic-calming devices to
rein in speeders.

What other traffic-calming devices are there??!! The only other permanent non-speed-bump attempts to resist velocity that I know of exist on Bay Ridge Ave. (after Rockfish/BB&T heading away from downtown), where the road itself obnoxiously and inexplicably swerves to the right, twice, as if to avoid a herd of wandering buffalo.

What else is there? The radar/visual display that merely tells you how fast you are going? First of all, isn't the county council trying to make signs like this illegal? And second of all, you can't convince me that they are more effective or cheaper than a big hump of asphalt.

On my street, there are 4 speed bumps over a .3 mile stretch. If you speed, you will mess up your car. Why is this strategy a last resort?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More Tax Diligence

I am happy to endorse the cause of one of this blog's favorite activists:

Dear Friends:
Senate Republicans are working to STOP the LARGEST TAX INCREASE IN MARYLAND HISTORY FROM PASSING. Earlier Senate President Mike Miller changed the Senate rules so it takes 19 Senators to STOP this “tax them to death (and after death)” juggernaut. There are 14 Republicans in the Senate. IF only five (5) Democrat Senators will take a PRINCIPLED STAND to protect families, this unprecedented effort to railroad enormous tax increases through the General Assembly will screech to a halt! It’s up to us to convince them to do so.


Please make a call to the following Democrat Senator’s Offices, urging them to stand on principle and join with those Republicans who are working to protect our families. (Individual office phone numbers, the area they represent AND their reported occupation is listed. Send this message to everyone you know in Maryland.) When we work together, we CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE!

Senator John C. Astle (Anne Arundel County) Phone: 410-841-3578
Occupation: Former Aviator

Senator Jim Brochin (Baltimore County) Phone: 410-841-3648
Occupation: Insurance Broker

Senator James E. DeGrange, Sr. (Anne Arundel County) Phone: 410-841-3593
Occupation: President, DeGrange Enterprises

Senator George W. Della, Jr. (Baltimore City) Phone: 410-841-3600
Occupation: Legislator

Senator Roy P. Dyson (Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s Cos.) Phone: 301-858-3673
Occupation: Legislator

Senator Edward J. Kasemeyer (Baltimore & Howard Cos.) Phone: 410-841-3653
Occupation: Banking/Real Estate

Senator Nancy J. King (Montgomery County) Phone: 410-841-3686/301-858-3686
Occupation: Businessperson (Appointed in 2007)

Senator Katherine Klausmeier (Baltimore County) Phone: 410-841-3620
Occupation: Legislator

Senator Anthony C. Muse (Prince George’s Co.) Phone: 301-858-3092
Occupation: Clergyman

Senator Douglas J. J. Peters (Prince George’s Co.) Phone: 301-858-3631
Occupation: Businessman (First Elected in 2006)

Senator James N. Robey (Howard County) Phone: 410-841-3572/301-858-3572
Occupation: Public Safety

Senator Norman R. Stone, Jr. (Baltimore County) Phone: 410-841-3587
Occupation: Attorney

Want to call Senator Mike Miller and let him know what you think? Phone: 410-841-3700 or 301-848-3700
Occupation: Attorney

Toll free to reach General Assembly Offices: 1-800-492-7122 or 1-800-946-5000.

Governor Martin O’Malley, Senate President Mike Miller, Speaker Michael Busch and their fellow travelers in the Democrat Party have shown their true colors! If Governor O’Malley (and the Democrat leadership) are not given their way with retroactive tax increases and additional items to tax, they have already said they intend to cut funding for education, cut funding for police, cut funding for fire protection – etc., etc., etc. They INTEND to inflict pain on all of us – from the youngest to the oldest. I believe it is time for us to speak out – or at a later time we may be forced to FOREVER hold our tongues!

Earlier this year (February 13, 2007) Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr. said: “If the governor doesn’t want us to go forward with revenue increases, then surely we must go forward with cuts. The public is going to have to feel the pain before the General Assembly can make gains in terms of identifying new revenue sources.”

No New Taxes Rally, Oct. 29

See below.

Dear Friends:

It would be impossible to over-emphasize the importance of the NO NEW TAXES EVENTS on Monday, October 29th at Lawyer’s Mall. (Lawyer’s Mall is right behind the State Capitol building and next door to the Governor’s mansion!)

Because the Democrats in the Maryland Legislature and Governor O’Malley are playing us for SUCKERS, I am bringing some suckers with me that I intend to leave with the DEMOCRATS in the Maryland Legislature. I’m putting stickers on the suckers that will say on one side: NO NEW TAXES; on the other side: CUT SPENDING. (They are “Dum-Dum” suckers with the soft sticks.) As with Jessica’s Law and blocking amnesty and in-state tuition for ILLEGAL aliens -- NUMBERS WILL COUNT!

Parking will be difficult. My suggestion: Park at the USNA Stadium ($5.00) and take the shuttle bus to Lawyer’s Mall!

Bring home-made signs! NO STICKS are allowed on the signs. Bring your children, grandchildren, EVERYONE you know! These tax increases will fall most heavily on FAMILIES!

There are two rallies. The first one is being organized by SmartGov. Patt Parker, President of MFRW, tells you more about the SmartGov group in her message below. SmartGov’s rally begins at 2:00 p.m.

The second rally is being organized by the MDGOP and begins at 4:00-6:00 p.m. (The MDGOP will have signs available for pick-up at their nearby office: 15 West Street – just off Church Circle.)

Since the Legislative Session is scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m., you will have time to go to BOTH the Senate and House Office Buildings to see your Delegate or Senator face-to-face. You will need a PHOTO I.D. to get into the buildings, of course – so don’t forget to bring your photo I.D.


Governor Martin O’SLIMEY has most likely had his union friends flood the Legislature with demands FOR MORE NEW TAXES. Folks from Progressive Maryland may also be there to rally for MORE TAXES!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

2 am Suggestions

CP has a poll up asking whether or not you would support all bars being open until 2 am. Here is my guess as to how the results will turn up:

-54% absolutely not
-25% probably not
-18% absolutely yes
-3% probably yes

(I also predict that 16 votes will be disqualified, on account of the participant being too drunk to select only one answer.)

My answer is 'absolutely yes, with qualifications', and I have no idea where that falls on the poll's spectrum.

Anyway, I would submit that there are zero people that have a problem with 2 am licenses themselves. I would be prepared to wager my entire blogging salary on the belief that everybody who opposes 2 am licenses actually opposes things that are already illegal, thereby suggesting a police enforcement problem.

Off the top of my head, I would make the following suggestions to make the 2 am idea more palatable:

1. Hire 23 more police officers and put some of them on late night shifts to catch the people who are grievously offending property and quality of life.

2. Fix the police department building, so that when the above hooligans are arrested, there is someplace to put them.

3. Require a yearly review of all liquor licenses, whereby a bar that doesn't run a good/safe operation can be, perhaps, rolled back to a midnight closing, forced to close during Naval Academy graduation week, etc.

4. Use the threat of revoking a liquor license to incentivize bars to clean up their acts. The county did that to the Green Turtle in Edgewater, and they now have to close at midnight for a year!

5. Require all new liquor license holders to operate with a midnight license for a year before being allowed to have a 2 am.

6. Allow ward 1 residents to conscript into servitude the drunken idiots who ruin it for the rest of us.

7. Provide tougher enforcement (or any enforcement, really) of nuisance laws, for example by putting putting 1 newly hired police officer on 23 different blocks in ward 1, with the authority to write $500 citations for violations.

8. And lastly, the drum beats on for collaboration. Residents and businesses should figure out ways to work together. Bars should run operations that don't cause problems, and residents should realize that some things come with the territory when you live within walking distance of a downtown area.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ward 2 Candidate Announcement: Karen Jennings

A reader emailed me with this information....I'm not sure if it's in The Capital or not. Karen Jennings, an apparent Ward 2 Resident, will represent the Green Party in the Ward 2 Special Election.

I do not know who this person is, but have invited her (indirectly through the aforementioned reader) to make known her campaign points if she so desires.

Public Hearing, 10/22

I attended the public hearing last night, and these things I know:

1. No matter what time of year it is, or how many people are at a city council meeting, it is always 85 degrees in that place.

2. Ward 1 has the most organized residents organization in world history.

3. If all of the Ward 1 residents knew what the W1RA was saying on their behalf, there would be some angry people.

4. City Hall needs a new sound system.

There really was only 1 event to speak of last night, which is 2 am licenses. If I had to guess, I would say there were 65 speakers in total, which is more than I remember speaking on any issue since I have been paying attention.

The people who oppose the bill say one or more of the following things:

-We do not want any more 2 am licenses because they increase the chances that
our quality of life will be disrupted and/or our property will be damaged.

-The bar owners knew what they were getting into when they opened their

-Changes like this should go through the full zoning process, possibly to be
addressed in the new Comprehensive Plan or in a new Ward 1 Sector Study.

The people who favor the bill say one or more of these things:

-The city's zoning is arbitrarily unfair, as new West St. businesses open
with 2 am licenses while established bars only blocks away cannot even apply for
a 2 am.

-The reputable businesses should not be punished for the failures of some
bars (read: O'Briens) to serve in a responsible way, nor for the failures of some people (read: O'Briens' customers) to drink in a responsible way.

-This is a police enforcement issue--public intoxication, vandalism, and
drunk driving are already against the law. Let's hire more police officers and
really address the problem, not the not-problem.

-The city's burdensome zoning laws in the historic district are causing a
migration of businesses away from downtown and towards places like West St.,
Parole, and Severna Park.

-Downtown residents knew what they were getting when they decided to
buy a house so close to an urban, tourist area.

I continue to take the side of the 2 am supporters, and while I actually agree with the objections of the Ward 1 residents, I think the way they go about things is total balderdash. But, they would probably say the same about the reverse.

What Will Happen In Ward 2?

Ok, it took me a while to figure out how to upload Alderman Christman's resignation letter, but it's below if you want to see it.

So where does that leave us? The mayor has 5 days from October 26 to announce when the primary election will know what, I am just going to defer to a colleague of mine who served as vice-chair of the election code review committee:

If the resignation takes place Friday Oct 26, the Mayor has until Wednesday Oct 31st to issue a proclamation providing Primary and General Election dates for Ward 2. It is likely the proclamation will be made Tuesday, October 30th.

The Primary has to take place between 23 and 30 days of the proclamation, which likely puts it on Tuesday, November 27th, after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The General must take place between 21 and 30 days from the Primary, which likely puts the election on Tuesday, December 18th.

I suppose it could be worse, but this is not a lot of time to get organized. Debbie Rosen McKerrow will certainly be in the news as a candidate, and I will certainly let you know when I hear of anyone else.

Christman Resignation Letter

Monday, October 22, 2007

Breaking: Christman Resignation Effective 10/26

This puts the primary election for Ward 2 in early November, and the general election around Christmas.


Blogger Alliance Blog Carnival #18

So, I joined this Maryland Blogger Alliance (see all the links on the right), and once a week or so one of the member blogs hosts a carnival.

This is only my second time seeing it done, but what appears to happen is all (or some) of the member blogs submit a post, then a blogger who has been pre-selected to host that particular carnival organizes the posts in some logical fashion and offers comments on what might be interesting.

So here is the most recent carnival. There are posts about things other than politics, so check it out if you so desire.

Mayor Seeks More Ward 2 Candidates**

**Rumor Alert. See the AP rumor policy.

We have reported that Mike Christman has been asked by the mayor to hold off on his resignation, and I have heard that she actually wants Alderman Christman to serve the full length of his term.

The reported reason is that the mayor is not adequately convinced that Debbie Rosen McKerrow, the presumed Democrat front runner for the Ward 2 seat, is enough of a push-over or 'yes (wo)man' for the mayor's taste, implying that the mayor's desire for control of votes needs more indulging.

This would logically explain why the mayor wants to hold off, if such a thing is true. If the mayor wanted Mrs. McKerrow, she would be pushing for an election as soon as possible. Mrs. McKerrow has name recognition, something of an organization, and experience--she barely lost to Alderman Christman in the election. So, the sooner an election happens, the more that benefits her. The longer we wait, the better the chances someone else has at winning.

What we do know is that Ward 2 is still, at least nominally, served by Mike Christman.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Don't Blame The Crime Data Messenger

Tom Corboy, a fairly active Republican (good thing) and Ward 1 resident (uhh, I think there's a house for sale on my street), wrote a letter to the editor chastising the unprofessionalism associated with the police chief calling Dennis Conti's crime report "crap":

It can only be with the approval of his immediate supervisor, Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, that he continues to get away with shooting the messenger instead of dealing with the issues.

Yeah, the Moyer administration is not known for embracing citizen criticism.

But more importantly, why the need to include the mayor's middle initial? It happens all the time, and for what? There are only 2 people that have middle initials important enough to include when saying their name:

-Michael J. Fox
-George W. Bush

Why do they continue to demean those who put forth well-meaning and well-thought-out ideas.

Much like Mrs. Politics when I asked her if she would theoretically prefer a "big ol' engagement ring", I have no answer*.

*(Truth be told, when Mrs. Politics was asked the above question, her response was "certainly not old". Uh-oh.)

Could it be, as the chief suggests, "just politics"--rather than a credible discussion of crime statistics, and the very real impact they represent on the quality of life in Annapolis?

As the writer suggests (believe me: he suggests this--I read the whole letter), the report is not 'political trash'. The claims made are appropriate for a concerned citizen.

Only one modification to Mr. Corboy's letter, with regards to the following statement:

The residents of Annapolis are ready and willing to pay for public safety.


Resignation Timing

A recent post wondered aloud whether the timing of Mike Christman's resignation was politically motivated:

Rumor also has it that he is working closely with members of the City's Republican Central Committee to ensure that the timing of his resignation is the most efficient for getting another Republican elected. I have personally spoken with and directly asked a member of the City's RCC if this is true and they stated that it is not, and that the RCC has had almost no communication with Alderman Christman since his letter of intention to resign.

We have indeed not had much communication with Alderman Christman, but I can assure you that we would time the resignation strategically if we could.

I suppose the prevailing wisdom is that in most wards, democrats outnumber republicans, so as voter turnout increases there is a higher likelihood that the sheer voter demographics will prevail and we will lose, so a low turnout might benefit us.

But this is like a secondary concern at best. If Republicans for whatever reason go on more vacations then Democrats, then having an election near the holidays would really do us no good.

The real concern is the logistical planning. It takes a lot of effort to find a candidate, organize a campaign, and run a campaign--and once a formal resignation is given, we have less than a month for the primary election and less than a month after that for the general election. Frankly, it's just too hard when you add the stress of the holidays to that mix.

In an ideal world, we would work with a candidate who was thinking of resigning without making that resignation until the proper time as determined by our secret Ronald Reagan themed calender. In this case, the alderman has already announced his resignation, which makes any strategic delay rather inappropriate.

Josh Cohen went through these same decisions when he was elected to the county council, and I would consider it rather commonplace, although that observation is based on a small sample size. If Alderman Christman waits until August of 2008 to resign, the Republican Central Committe can simply appoint someone to replace him and we won't have to worry about any of this!

Don't hold your breath.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Christman Update

I have heard from 2 different places that Ward 2 Alderman Mike Christman is being asked by Mayor Moyer to wait on giving his official resignation.

One reason suggested was to avoid a special election around the holidays--another is that the mayor wants to give more time to Democrat candidate Debbie Rosen McKerrow to prepare.

Although it is not up yet, I think a more detailed and passionate testimonial will be available here.

Ward 2 is none too happy, as they have no representation.

Bulkhead Replacements

$9 million of work on the city dock started this week, and the mayor is optimistic about the project. As she also acknowledges that timing is important:

It really relates to the beginning of the spring season for the businesses down there," she said. "The contract clearly specifies what the time frame is, which means we are working double shifts and we may have to pick up a third shift."

Ms. Moyer also is concerned about getting the job done in time for the Maritime Heritage Festival, scheduled for City Dock in May as part of the city's Charter 300 celebration.

The construction is supposed to take 6 months.

The city has a lot to prove after the ongoing disasters that are the construction of the Market House and Police Station. I believe this will be the biggest project supervised by the relatively newly hired Director of Central Services, Robert O. Schuetz, who also was a chief developer of Acton's Landing.

So, the initial plan for city dock bulkhead replacement:
-6 months
-about $9 million

An Interesting Point....

...was made by a letter writer in today's paper. So says she:

I checked the state's online sex offender registry for our 21401 zip code. Eighty percent of the sex offenders listed there still live in public housing in Annapolis. Why is this allowed?

I wrote to the city officials and public housing director about this a year ago. The same people, with the same addresses, are still listed.

Many young children live in public housing. Why have sex offenders live there (sic)? And why should they have the benefit of public housing?

Do you want to pay for this?

Politics On Tap

Tonight, 7 pm, at the Weather Rail Bar in the Loews hotel.

We discuss a wide range of political and life issues.

Anyone can come but the corner tables with the plaza view are of course reserved for republicans.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Interesting Tax Chart

I came across this chart while patrolling my normal rotation of economics blogs today:

(I know it's hard to read--if you want to look at the clearer version, click here.)

It shows that since Harry Truman, every Republican has left office with a lower tax burden as a % of GDP than when he took office, and every Democrat just the opposite.

The most optimistic view: Republican policies keep taxes low and spur the economy. Another view: Republicans have enough understanding of economic cycles to make tax policies that do not outpace the growth of the economy. An unlikely view: total luck.

It's easy to imagine a coincidence explaining this phenomenon over a short amount of time, but after 60 years, I think we are establishing a pattern.

The Capital and A Crime Report

The Capital ran an editorial about the crime report released by Dennis Conti and Trudy McFall, and about crime in Annapolis in general.

The title of the editorial is "Numbers crunching won't resolve city crime issue". No, it wont, but it is the first step. Analyzing data, for those journalism majors who apparently don't take math courses, allows an interested observer to assess a situation based on facts. If those facts point to a problem, then the observer can figure out where the problem is coming from, and offer solutions to solve said problem.

The featured editorial sentence (or whatever you call the sentence that's not the title but it's in larger font and off to the side) says the following:

Whether city crime is up sharply depends on what span of time you are looking at.

This is correct in the most literal sense--especially if you cherry pick a statistically odd year. But let's be honest: this quote would make it seem that there's no concrete evidence and we shouldn't worry about crime.

Since 1990:
  1. robberies 80% higher
  2. murders 40% higher (small sample size alert)
  3. motor vehicle thefts 50% higher
2006-2007 trends in calls for service:
  1. 100% increase in alcohol violations
  2. 60% increase in shootings
  3. 16% increase in calls for drug activity

If you ask me, this is enough for concern. So if I were The Capital, I would have said: Whether city crime is up sharply depends on what span of time you are looking at, but no matter what time frame you look at, you should be concerned.

(Formatting note: normally I would write my semi-brilliant commentary in normal font, with quoted text in bold italics. However, in this post I will be quoting 2 different sources, so I am going to post text from The Capital's editorial in bold italics and text from the Conti crime report in underlined italics.)

Residents aren't worried about crime because of categories and percentages. They are worried about reports of pointless killings and vicious muggings, and about overheard gunfire and glimpses of drug activity.

Here's that whole data thing again. The danger of making crime policy based on what people perceive is that you might be misallocating resources. You need the data to verify what the problem actually is.

Even so, Mr. Conti accounts for the prima facie perception of crime:

There are some calls-for-service that may not show up as a statistic in either Part I or Part II crime data. Two common examples are “shots fired” and “drug activity.” When officers are dispatched for these two occurrences, more often than not no arrests are made and there is no other means for recording these incidents, yet they certainly are a big part of citizens’ perception of public safety.

Fortunately for us Mr. Conti took the next step--getting the data--and unfortunately for us, that data confirmed that we have more of a problem then comparable jurisdictions.

(Kudos to Mr. Conti for getting the data, because it's a pain in the ass to get data from the city. AP tried to get a list of every financial transaction paid, and was informed that such a list was encyclopedic and would cost $.25 per page to print. First of all, Kinkos makes copies for $.09 per page, and second of all, I'm sure such a file exists electronically and could simply be emailed. The hurdle deterred me, as I'm sure it does many people, but Mr. Conti took the time to get the info.)

The editorial usefully points out the hypocrisy of the mayor criticizing a report that she herself asked for last year, when she basically told us to figure it out for ourselves.

The Capital also addressed, albeit incompletely, the possible biases of the report's authors:

True, it isn't coming from a neutral source. How often to you encounter perfect neutrality when issues are being hashed out by city residents? Dr. Conti is the founder of the Clay Street Public Safety Team and a former head of the city Housing Authority. The document was written for Citizens for a Better Annapolis, an organization founded by Ms. McFall, a former Housing Authority chairman who is now a potential mayoral candidate.

Not surprisingly, the report de-emphasizes the link between public housing and city crime, pointing out that major crimes in 2006 were scattered all over the city. Ms. McFall notes that legal Housing Authority residents, who are 6.1 percent of the city population, account for only 5 percent of arrests.

Everyone is self-interested to one degree or another, and everyone is biased. It is crucial to understand how such biases might influence information that is being presented. That being said, to their credit, Mr. Conti and Ms. McFall are not drawing any false conclusions. They are saying that we have a problem, based on data, and we need to fix it.

If they were saying "You should vote for us because we are tough on crime. We both presided over HACA and our residents really didn't commit that much crime", then I would have an issue. But that's not what they are saying.

As far as policy is concerned, the data from the report surely underestimates the need to take action. Regarding the comparisons between public housing crime and rest of the city crime, the report's data recognizes only legal HACA residents. It does not include crime committed by residents of non-HACA subsidized housing, nor illegal HACA residents. I submit that the drug and violent crime correlations would be even stronger when these things are considered.

So what did the report find:

1. Annapolis has a significant problem in murders and robberies

2. There has been a sharp increase in the first half of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006 in the areas of Alcohol Violations, Stabbings, Homicides, Shots Fired, Suspicious Activity, and Drug Activity.

3. Officers are responding to a large number of calls related to non-violent crime. One such large category of calls – i.e., Intrusion Alarms – appears to be triggered accidentally when businesses open or close. It is presumed that better public awareness and/or fines for multiple false alarms would incentivize businesses to be more vigilant in handling their alarm systems, and therefore free up officers for other duties.

4. Although Part I crimes are occurring through much of the City, a correlation appears to exist between drug activity and the more violent Part I crimes, such as aggravated assaults.

And what does it suggest we do about it?

1. Annapolis should move from the current crime control approach (i.e., sitting in cars, responding to calls) to a crime/disorder prevention approach (i.e., community policing).

2. A crime/disorder prevention approach addresses both:
- violent crimes, robberies, drug dealing, etc. and
- disorder and “quality of life” crimes (drunkenness, noise disturbances, etc.).

3. Community policing is generally considered to have one or more of the following: foot patrols, consistent area assignments, problem solving with residents, training and organizing residents, police substations in strategic locations.

4. Community policing would appear to be particularly useful in areas of high crime and drug activity, the surrounding neighborhoods, and areas subject to “quality of life” problems such as downtown.

5. The Annapolis Police Department should immediately begin some pilot community policing initiatives in the above areas and evaluate the results.

6. The Annapolis Police Department should explore the use of interns, new recruits and/or police auxiliary to handle the more mundane calls-for-service.

7. Using the experience from these new approaches, Annapolis needs to determine the kind and level of policing that is appropriate for the City.

8. Based on the resulting policing plan, the City would determine appropriate manpower needs and should undertake a continuous, aggressive recruitment program.

The Capital reaches a similar conclusion....

Without a police department at full strength, we can't see how the city will generate better numbers on crime - or, more importantly, ease the concerns of its residents.

....but doesn't seem to understand why.

Find Your Presidential Candidate using the link here or the link on the side of the page.

My #1 match was Tom Tancredo, but if I'm honest, I didn't even know who that was. At this stage I am thinking that I like Fred Thompson, and he was my #3 match, so that's pretty good I guess.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Don't Take The Wrong Side On Taxes

From time to time, the need arises to debate true liberal thinking. This is exciting to me because battle lines are clearly drawn: there is no misinformation, there is no confusion—just two people on different sides of the same issue that both think they are right, but cannot both be right.

Such is the case with a letter writer to The Capital on Sunday, who defends the need for massively higher taxes. So says she:

Every time there is a legitimate need to raise money to support government services, we hear an outcry from Republicans that only more cuts in the spending will solve the problem. Their methods for achieving tax savings include privatization, deregulation, and gutting the social safety net.

That’s right. The private market works better than any government central control, no matter how smart the government people are, because they cannot possibly know the quality of life choices that individuals will make.

Does anybody think that the government spends our money efficiently? Heck no: often they waste it. For this reason, we should allow the government to spend money only when absolutely necessary and on things that the private market cannot provide. In other words, governments should provide public goods.

As for cuts in spending versus raising taxes, consider this: Gov. Ehrlich left a $1 billion surplus to Gov. O’Malley. The new Gov. spent that plus another $1.7 billion! And you deny that we have a spending problem??!! Now consider this: if the state passed a pill requiring state employees to be on the same prescription drug plan as the rest of us private citizens—rather than being subsidized by taxpayers—the state would save $250 million per year, or 15% of the deficit!! What else can we cut??!!

And for the social safety net—do you realize what you are saying!!!!!!!!!!! The social safety net is not some sort of magical cousin of the beanstalk (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame)—it does not grow out of the ground and exist to help any who may make a financial fall. All social safety nets are funded by taxes. To quote my American Economic History text:

Taxation in its crudest form is simply forcible seizure of property by a monarch for personal use. What the monarch does with the property is the monarch's business, not that of its former owners. This simple explanation is a most useful one for comprehending taxation. Unless the monarch's subjects have equal incomes and identical desires, unless they lose equal amounts of property, there is no way for taxation to be 'equal' or 'fair'.

Social safety nets are funded by YOU AND ME. So, when someone receives a government handout, they are receiving money that other people earned.

These extreme fiscal policy makeovers have increased the national debt and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on undelivered services, inferior weaponry and shoddy workmanship on no-bid contract awarded to Halliburton, Bechtel and Blackwater USA.

You are all over the place. The war in Iraq, just like every other war ever, has increased our debt. It is not the policies of deregulation, privatization, or gutting of social safety net that cause debt to increase—THOSE THINGS ACTUALLY SAVE MONEY.

Furthermore, which services are undelivered?? If you ask me, we provide too many services. And further furthermore, what convinces you that we have inferior weaponry? I’m quite sure that we have the biggest military budget in the world, and that we have the best weapons in the world, if not enough of them. Seriously.

President Bush refuses to enforce our laws and downsized the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, putting citizens at risk.

What laws has he refused to enforce? If anything, he oversteps his authority in enforcing laws, or so goes the criticism. And considering the woeful inadequacy and disorganization of FEMA in the Katrina aftermath, wouldn’t you think that downsizing such as wasteful agency would be a good thing? At least then people would have more of their own money to help themselves.

On a side note, the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans are set to ask the federal government—which means you and me—for BILLIONS of more dollars to fund their roads, because the billions they got weren’t enough.

This contagion reached state and local governments. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich defanged the Maryland Department of the Environment. The residents of Gambrills are still paying the price. Since 1999, hazardous waste from fly ash has been poisoning their wells and polluting the air.

What contagion—what are you talking about?

County Executive Janet Owens—who was not a Republican—gutted zoning enforcement and promoted sprawl. Remember Dobbins Island?

You have clearly consulted the citizen manual “Letter to the Editor Writing For Dummies”, which told you to mention as many issues as possible but provide no support or facts for any of them.

Gov. Martin O’Malley is obligated to serve the common needs of a growing population by sustaining adequate funding for education, police and fire services, water and sewer service, and roadway construction. These are all core government responsibilities, none of which should be privatized.

No, he freeking is not!!!!! Exclamation Point. Education: paid for by counties but subizided ineffectually by the sate. Police and fire: county and/or city funded. Water and sewer: also local jurisdictions. Roadway construction: only on state highways—cities maintain their roads and so does the federal government.

If taxes had to be raised to provide these services, you would have half an argument. The Governor is spending his money on—who knows what. The essential services will not be affected.

You are, remarkably, correct that these things should not be privatized, but we can do them quite well using the $30 billion in tax money that the state already gets.

Mr. O’Malley has made his cuts.

Oh please. He didn’t cut anything. Instead of creating 800 new state jobs, he created 1000 state jobs and said he was cutting 200 of them. Why did he do this? So people like you would be happy paying more taxes.

It’s now time to stop corporate welfare by closing tax loopholes, and to raise the sales tax to 6 percent on goods and services—not on food.

I have to admit, I have never heard anyone so much in favor of raising taxes. You do realize that your family will have less money if you have to pay a 6% sales tax on goods AND services, right?

I don’t know if food is exempted, but I do know that under the Governor’s plan, lawyers are exempted from the sales tax on services. Does this sound fair to you, or does it sound like special interest elitism? If we really needed the money, everyone would pay.

We should create a fair, graduated income tax but rethink slot machines. Gambling and gaming are addictive and destructive to families.

Fair and graduated are mutually exclusive! If you want a fair tax, charge everyone the same percentage! Why is this so hard to understand?!! On the other hand, if you want a graduated tax that penalizes people for working hard and making more money, then you are a liberal.

I never asked for a free ride, but I expect my taxpayer dollars to support a strong, effective, functioning government.

Our tax dollars will support all the government we need at the current, if not lower, level. You are out of your mind.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Income Tax: Foundations of a Meddling Government

A letter writer yesterday made a very astute observation about the nature of government. Referring to the "From Our Pages Years Ago" blurbs that run in The Capital from time to time:

Over time, I've noticed an interesting pattern. The further back in time the articles come from, the less likely they are to mention government. It's a real rarity for the articles from 100 and 200 years ago.

I conclude that government just wasn't that significant or newsworthy in the daily lives of Anne Arundel citizens over a century ago.

After all, they paid no U.S. income taxes, didnt' have to beg the county's permission to improve their property, and didn't' expect the government to solve their problems.

This man is exactly right, and I think it would be fair to trace the most major change in government attitude to the creation of the income tax in 1913. The Treasury Department elaborates:

Prior to the enactment of the income tax, most citizens were able to pursue their private economic affairs without the direct knowledge of the government. Individuals earned their wages, businesses earned their profits, and wealth was accumulated and dispensed with little or no interaction with government entities. The income tax fundamentally changed this relationship, giving the government the right and the need to know about all manner of an individual or business' economic life.

The first income tax was levied to finance the civil war, but was eventually ruled unconstitutional on the grounds that it was levied unfairly amongst the United States. The court ruled that such a tax would require a constitutional amendment allowing for unfair taxation, and such an amendment (the 16th) was ratified in 1913.

So now government had this great new tax vehicle...what are they going to spend it on? World War I. The newly formed Federal Reserve (also est. 1913) did a poor job handling the new tax structure and its relationship to the postwar economy, contributing to the Great Depression.
Enter John Maynard Keynes, who is either the #1 or #2 most influential economist of the 20th century depending on who you ask. (The other is Milton Friedman). Keynes had little faith or patience in the ability of the private market to reach an optimal outcome, famously declaring that 'in the long run, we are all dead'. He had the ears of policy makers, and told them that governments can better orchestrate an economy.

Since that time, the government has never looked back:

Government spending as a portion of total economic activity has risen from about 5.5% in 1900 to around 30% today. If the government increases their hand in economic affairs by 600% over the course of a century, you're darn right people are going to take notice!

If the income tax, Keynesian theory, and The New Deal didn't conceive the notion that a bigger government can solve your problems, they were certainly defining moments for the liberal philosophy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tax and Spin

Former District 30 Delegate and Ward 5 Alderman Herb McMillan published a guest column in The Capital recently, and at the request of the author I will now-republish the article and offer commentary--more like affirmation--of the points contained therein.

(You are probably thinking: "Hey, wait a minute, we are the sharpest, most intelligent, and now that you mention it, the most handsome blog readers and political activists that there are. We already know about this; heck, we read it last week." I can assure you, loyal readers, stories like this need to be told whenever possible.)


It’s a time-tested script. Liberals enact mandated spending increases and create a structural deficit, while claiming to be fiscally responsible. The structural deficit becomes a real deficit, and we have a budget crisis. The Governor makes minor budget reductions.

Let's talk about the current Governor's minor budget reductions. He created something like 1000 new jobs, eliminated 200 or so of those, and proclaimed to make 'painstaking cuts that took real political courage'--neglecting the fact that on net he was still plus 800 jobs! This is not a cut!

The drumbeat for higher taxes begins. The Governor calls a special session. Increased taxes and expanded gambling are rolled out as a “Progressive Revenue Reform Package.” Progressives (liberals) bicker over slots. Finally, they reunite to “compromise” and “courageously” pass a revenue (tax) package.

First of all, if you aren't frustrated by the partisan bullshit of slots in Maryland, then I have to believe that your blood runs cold. Here is what has happened in the last 5 years with slots:

4 years ago: ( Republican Governor Ehrlich) Can we have slots? (General Assembly) NO.
3 years ago: (Republican Governor Ehrlich) Can we have slots? (General Assembly) NO.
2 years ago: (Republican Governor Ehrlich) Can we have slots? (General Assembly) NO.
1 year ago: (Republican Governor Ehrlich) Can we have slots? (General Assembly) NO.
This year: (Democrat Governor MOM) Can we have slots? (General Assembly) Yes.

Secondly, Herb makes a very good point about the words used for political spin. Before, it was conservatives and liberals. But apparently it has been determined that liberal is too derogatory of a term, and now the term 'progressive' is popping up everywhere. And our subconscious tells us that progressive means 'cutting edge', and we are less likely to get mad when the government steals our money and redistributes it.

Which brings us to the second example of spin: 'revenue package'. Governments do not earn revenue. They do not have financial interests of their own. Governments are funded by taxes and taxes only, that they collect from us against our will to serve the interest of the public. If a private company raises prices as part of a 'revenue package', we can choose not to buy that company's product if we don't want to pay such a high price. If the government raises taxes, what can we do?

(Answer: we can write blogs.)

They slightly reduce two taxes, raise every other tax, pass slots, and tell you that only the rich will pay more.

This is a grave offense, and The Capital is a grave offender. Let me tell you something--if the government is collecting $1,700,000,000 more in taxes than it was before, we will be paying more taxes. I once thought that a parallelogram is what the Pony Express delivered, but even I know that if the government raises taxes, we pay more.

Democrats haven’t deviated from this script yet. Governor O’Malley’s “centrist” budget created 1000 new state jobs, increased spending by 7.6%, exceeded tax receipts by a billion dollars, and consumed Ehrlich’s billion dollar surplus. Yet Speaker Mike Busch called it a “fiscally responsible budget that limited growth.” Ignoring fiscal reality, the General Assembly cut O’Malley’s budget by less than 1% (200 million) and added millions in new mandated spending to next year’s 1.5 billion deficit.

Maryland's total budget is about $30 billion per year. $1.5 billion represents a deficit of about 5% of the total budget. I submit that every person reading this blog has had to cut 5% from their budget at one point or another. I have seen prices for certain foods--tomatoes, lettuce, and milk to give examples from the last couple of years--double in price within 6 months! I don't have the luxury of being able to raise prices that quickly--I have to cut my spending. The state should learn to do the same.

The legislature had barely adjourned when calls for a special session started. Governor O’Malley cut a few of the 1000 new vacant jobs created in his budget. He labeled additional reductions as “threats to our quality of life.” Then O’Malley hit the campaign trail, pitching Maryland as a lightly taxed, revenue starved state. Government needed to “create more revenue”. Taxpayers “got their money’s worth”, and higher taxes would “maintain our quality of life”.

The special session thing is total balderdash. The legislature celebrated like they had just cured cancer when the session ended...and what did they accomplish? Now we have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a special session that promises to make us spend even more? Fantastic.

The facts contradict O’Malley’s tax and spin roadshow. Maryland has the 9th highest total tax burden per person, and the 3rd highest income tax in America. Those who claim Maryland taxes are “low as a percentage of income” should remember people, not percentages of income, pay taxes.

I am actually fine with evaluating things based on percentages...

Maryland’s cost of living is high.

This is the point we really need to worry about. We could be the richest state in nominal (non-price level adjusted) terms, but in real terms, it's a different story.

BG&E, despite O’Malley’s campaign promises, increased power bills by 50% in June; gas prices are near $3 per gallon; and property tax assessments increase annually. Working families, small businesses, and retirees not only deserve to keep their hard earned dollars; they need them.

O’Malley’s wrong about revenue. Government doesn’t create revenue. It simply consumes the tax dollars you earn. Maryland doesn’t have a deficit because we fail to tax enough - Maryland has a deficit because we spend to much. State spending has increased 15.3 billion in 10 years – over 100%.

Amen. Herb is honest in his disdain for unrestrained spending growth--he voted against Governor Ehrlich's last budget for precisely that reason.

Do Anne Arundel County residents “get their money’s worth” from state taxes? Anne Arundel County gets 24 cents in state aid for each dollar of state taxes collected within our county. We received $4,356 in state education aid per pupil. Baltimore City received $11, 235 per pupil. We’re fourth from the bottom in state aid. The same formulas that mandate increased state spending, including Thornton funding, also distribute more of your tax dollars to other counties. We pay more state taxes, and we receive less. That’s “progressive?”

After reading this, do you have any confidence that governments spend your money fairly, or wisely? I have an idea, let's have government be in charge of our health care--I bet they could do a better job than the private market. (Even though you cannot hear the tone of my voice, I trust that the sarcasm was conveyed.)

Are your taxes well spent? Three years ago, Baltimore City couldn’t account for 40 million in state education money. It disappeared. The non-profit Advocates for Children and Youth discovered that $500 million of Thornton funding slated for summer school and tutoring had been used instead for general budget items, including health benefits, salary increases, and heating. They also noted that Maryland student scores on independent national tests had failed to improve, despite a 2.2 billion increase in education funding since 2002. Students have performed only marginally better on state tests.

At this point, I don't even have to say anything...Herb is on a roll.

O’Malley claims his revenue reforms put money in your pocket. But it doesn’t stay there long. His income tax restructuring reduces taxes for family’s making between $50,000 and $125,000 by $176. Property taxes on a $350,000 home are reduced $105 for a total savings of $281. However, O’Malley’s 1.3 billion in regressive taxes (sales, gas, car titling) born by 2.1 million Maryland households, costs an average of $585 per household. On average, each household is now out $304. That’s not even considering the adverse impact of O’Malley’s taxes on businesses and jobs.

Bottom line: nearly $2 billion in new taxes is not good for the economy.

The political success of O’Malley’s regressive-progressive tax increase hinges on convincing us that only the rich pay more. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough wealthy people in Maryland to cover a $1.5 billion tax increase. The next best thing is to make it appear there are, by “progressively” raising their taxes and slightly reducing middle class income taxes. But that only generates $163 million in revenue. The sales tax and other regressive taxes generate $1.3 billion in revenue. Sure the wealthy pay higher taxes; but so will everyone else. Just follow the money.

It would be nice if this show had a happy ending. But with this cast of characters, what did you expect?

Herb McMillan represented Annapolis in the House of Delegates from 2003-2007. Unless otherwise noted, data utilized comes from the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.