Maryland Republicans, as you might expect, opposed Gov. O'Malley's tax increases last year. Though they failed to prevent those tax increases, they understandably want to paint them in the worst possible light, both out of political conviction and out of a desire to hurt O'Malley's chances at reelection. However, their efforts to do so have, to date, come off as... well, like partisan hackery, rather than an honest attempt to assess the economic situation in Maryland. Seemingly ignorant of the fact that this country, Maryland included, has been in an ongoing financial crisis for the past year (one that has gotten significantly worse in the last few days), Maryland Republicans have taken to arguing that anything bad that happens to the state's economy is a direct result of O'Malley's tax increases. Which, if taken literally, is demonstrably false (e.g. Brian Griffiths claiming that the tax hikes are causing the recession in Maryland and again that they are depressing sales tax revenue); and, if taken more loosely -- i.e. that the tax hikes are exacerbating the economic downturn's effects in Maryland -- is usually just asserted, with no attempt to disaggregate the effects of the tax hikes from the broader economic trends.
Case in point: Troy Stouffer's piece in the Sun yesterday decrying the effects of the special session tax hikes on the state's economy. He writes:
Another point I found interesting is that revenue from taxes on cigarettes is also declining. This is because the tax increase of $1 a pack has caused a big drop in the sales of cigarettes. I thought that the increase in cigarette taxes was intended to help smokers quit their "nasty" habit. Why is a drop in cigarette sales seen as a bad thing? Could it be that it was never about reducing smoking but was just another way for the Maryland government to take more money from the citizens of the state?
Now there is an argument to be had here about the wisdom of using tabacco taxes to fund expanded Medicaid services (which Stouffer neglects to mention), but what's glaringly obvious is that, in an economic slowdown (and one accompanied by a dramatic spike in oil prices that has only recently come down), disposable income shrinks, and sales of luxury items like cigarettes will go down. There is the question, of course, of how much and how necessary smokers view their habit, but Souffer blithely ignores that for a liberal conspiracy to gobble up tax dollars.
One other thing to note. Stouffer says toward the end:
The only factor keeping the state economy afloat is our geographical position next to Washington, D.C.
Similarly, the only thing keeping Los Angeles' economy afloat is all the movie stars who live and work there, and the only thing keeping Alaska's economy afloat is oil (well, that and federal earmarks). Not only is it a non-sequitur, it's false: The port of Baltimore is still an economic driver in the state, and thanks to the recent growth in exports, even more so. Maryland, of course, is facing economic problems, but the beginning of wisdom here is having a good grasp of what is actually going on economically in the first place.
It's nice to see that Brian, unlike the average Republican, is willing to say specifically what he would cut from the budget -- rarely do they speak beyond generalities or euphemism, probably because they know that if they did, they'd never get elected to any major office. So Brian can feel proud of himself for that.
Unfortunately, like the average Republican, Brian's budget strategy relies heavily on privatizing state assets, including the park service, public broadcasting, and the Washington Metro system (although since WMATA is part of an interstate compact with the District and Virginia, I don't think Maryland could unilaterally privatize it, but hey, that's conservatives in the era of Bush for you). Like his belief in the magical effects of tax cuts, he seems to think of privatization as a free lunch, which, as any economist can tell you, doesn't exist.
Brian -- If you're going to continue to taunt me and my fellow bloggers with so-called skeptical reports on climate change that getdebunked before they even hit the ground, it makes the Big Blogosphere Pissing Match™ you've been aching for not that appetizing.
But it's Christmas, so I'm in a sporting mood. Why don't we talk about something you wrote a few day ago, in which you criticized my fellow blogger Eric for not knowing basic economics, because he does not consider the possibility that instead of applying the sales tax just put on computer services in a more equitable manner, Maryland should "eliminate the entire sales tax hike, and cut state spending."
A fine idea, of course. But as you surely know, it's one thing to talk in generalities, and quite another to get down to specifics. So what, Brian, would you cut? Here's the FY2008 budget; have at it. And of course, it's not just enough to propose budget cuts, but you have to demonstrate that these cuts will not impair the ability of the state to carry out its duties in education, in health care, in public safety, etc. You may not think the state has such duties, and that perhaps is the difference between you and me.
I will say that, like most Republicans, you display a child-like faith in the ability of tax cuts to induce economic growth, even though the connection between the two is tenuous at best. Certainly the tax hikes at the beginning of the Clinton adminstration didn't hurt economic performance all that much; and while the Bush administration's tax cuts blew a huge hole in the budget and helped exacerbate economic inequality in the US, economic growth didn't, at least until recently, suffer as a result. What does matter is investment in such things as education, infrastructure, etc. that create a high-skilled workforce and a hospitable place to do business. This is why states like Maryland and New Jersey, in spite of (or maybe because of) their high tax levels, have among the highest median incomes in the country, and states like Alabama and Mississippi, in spite of (or maybe because of) their low tax levels, are towards the bottom. And education, infrastructure, etc. cost money; there are ways to spend the money more effectively (as I've discussed before), but if we as a people want a brighter economic future, then we need to invest the appropriate resources into getting there. Framing the issue as a simplistic equation (tax cuts = economic growth) betrays a poor understanding of economics, in my humble opinion.
Annapolis Politics is worried that a proposal being considered to improve building codes to reduce global warming impacts will cost money. Here is what Brian Gill says:
“There is certainly not consensus about climate warming….”
He also says:
“Folks, this stuff is expensive. First, home prices will go up, as will commercial rents, which we will pay for in the form of higher prices. Also, we will no doubt have to fund another inspector in city government to make sure all of the buildings are meeting the new green code.”
Brian is right to be wary of more and more government, especially as practiced by both our liberal, Democratic Mayor Moyer and that of our hyper-conservative, Republic President.
He is incorrect to be wary that global warming is occurring or that government should not take action. There IS consensus that global warming is happening and that it is human induced. The only people outside that consensus are politically motivated and unwilling to face facts, science and reality.
Come on senators, stand up for Maryland. You can save us from Gov. Martin O’Malley’s $1.5 billion sneak-a-tax plan today (unless he slipped it to us in the dark of night).
Why? Because we just found out Thursday that, guess what? Contrary to O’Malley’s smooth lie when he called the special session and said that 83 percent of us would pay less, almost all of us will end up paying more.
This is the standard fast-shuffle politicians of all parties at all levels of government play. We can’t let them get away with it. Now is the time to tell those who represent us that we are angry at being tricked and taxed.
Leave aside for a moment how completely ridiculous it is for the editorial board of a well funded major newspaper to complain about not having all of the facts when the Senate and House sessions are open to the public and simple citizen bloggers on this site are able to keep up with the tax plans, both the Governor's and the Senate's.
If the editors are referring to the businesses who were added to the sales tax expansion, they need not worry. As I sit here and listen to live Senate proceedings, there are numerous Republicans speaking in their interest. Do I believe that these interests deserve to testify? Sure. Is it grounds to support a reactionary filibuster that could lead to bankrupting the state? Of course not.
These are the same conservatives who decry public education at every turn, but now conveniently see private schooling in Baltimore as a luxury. The same conservatives who rally around small businesses are now crowing that Mr. Frost's cabinet making is simply a "hobby". Its really shows how disconnected from every day life these folks are, particularly from life in Baltimore City. It also shows how quickly Republicans will toss their target voters under the bus to make a point.
Here we have Republicans going on attack against a white male, who is both married and a small business owner with more than 2 children, who sends his kids to private school and drives an SUV. Good work, geniuses.
I am sure that America is salvating for the smear machine to nail this fancy pants $40 thousand-aire who used SCHIP to save his children's lives. He totally had it coming.
Update: A question for Red Marylanders, will you do your duty as citizens and dispell this horrible lie about the Frost's "choice" to send their children to private schools? I know you have blogged about this in the past, so I figure you understand the reasons that parents would choose private over public in Baltimore City. I am sure you understand that if a parent has even the slightest chance to send their kids private, they will do so. Will you at least right this egregious wrong? Or will your arguments for "school choice" forever ring hollow?
Drabczyk brought her four children to the rally, which was sponsored by Operation Democracy Frederick, a local affiliate of MoveOn.org.
"Our family is on the SCHIP program and we really need this program," she said.
Her husband works a full-time job for less than $40,000 a year, and it would cost between $700 and $1,000 to insure their family through his employer.
Her son, Mitchell Drabczyk, is 13 and has Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder. The program is the only way they can get him treated, she said.
"SCHIP is for working families. We just need a little bit of help and SCHIP is that help," she said. "We just need to get all children covered and if an expansion is needed to do that, then we should do it."
I wonder if Ms. Malkin will take a detour to Middletown to harass a 13 year old Tourette's patient and her family? It wouldn't suprise me at all.
Oh my God. Apparently, in the eyes of some on the right, no one is exempt from smear campaigns and intimidation -- not even children.
Last week, the Democratic radio address was delivered by Graeme Frost, a 12-year-old boy from our own city of Baltimore, who talked about how SCHIP paid for his medical bills after he was in a severe car accident when he was nine. He had this to say about President Bush's veto of the bill that would have reauthorized the program:
I don’t know why President Bush wants to stop kids who really need help from getting [S]CHIP. All I know is I have some really good doctors. They took great care of me when I was sick, and I’m glad I could see them because of the Children’s Health Program.
I just hope the President will listen to my story and help other kids to be as lucky as me.
The speech elicited some hypocritical outrage from House Minority Leader John Boehner, but things started to get really ugly when members of uber-right website Free Republic started attacking Graeme and his family, saying they were much more well-off than Graeme let on. That's completely false -- see the Think Progress link for the details) -- but as if that weren't enough, it now seems that right-wing bloggers, including Michelle Malkin, have started harassing the Frost family, even coming to their house.
I'm simply flabbergasted -- are these people so invested in keeping children from getting health care through the government that they'll gang up on a child who talks about how a public program benefited him? Before I start cursing and making this blog NSFW, let me quote this post about the so-called citizen journalism at work here:
The reason actual journalists didn't ask these "questions" is that there was never any reason to ask them except to engage in this innuendo. "Mr. & Ms. Frost, you appear to be spending $40,000 a year on your $45,000 income in order to send your kids to a swanky private school. Could you explain to our readers how you are perpetrating tax fraud and lying to the government to qualify for financial benefits?" A reporter who asked a "question" like that ought to expect a punch in the snout, frankly.
Nothing in this family's story is remotely implausible, and anyone who pretends otherwise is making up crap because they don't like a healthcare program that benefits the middle class. Period.
Damn. Even quoting someone, I can't refrain from cursing about this.
Not Maryland related, but really worth your time, is this Rick Perlstein piece describing the vast difference between the way the US confronted evil in past eras and the way it does now. When the leader of the Soviet Union visited the US in the late 1950s, he was, despite being our mortal enemy at the time, given the grand tour of the country, meeting with leaders in business, labor, the arts, and government, including President Eisenhower:
Had America suddenly succumbed to a fever of weak-kneed appeasement? Had the general running the country—the man who had faced down Hitler!—proven himself what the John Birch Society claimed he was: a conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy?
No. Nikita Khrushchev simply visited a nation that had character. That was mature, well-adjusted. A nation confident we were great. We had our neuroses, to be sure—plenty of them.
But look now what we have lost. Now when a bad guy crosses our threshhold, America becomes a pants-piddling mess.
But—they sputter—Ahmadinejad has has promised to wipe Israel off the map!
Well, Khrushchev had promised to wipe the U.S. off the map. ("We will bury you.") And, unlike Mr. A, who has but some possible stores of fissile material, Mr. K very much had the means, motive, and opportunity to do it—thousands of nuclear-tipped rockets aimed at every city in the land.
How cowardly our conservative Republic of Fear has made us.
Needless to say, I found the reaction to Iran's president visiting the US this week, especially among conservatives, to be rather depressing. The idea that by talking to our enemies, we legitimate what they stand for, is one of the most idiotic ideas gripping certain parts of the country, and betrays nothing if not a lack of confidence in the beliefs that have governed this republic since its founding -- a republic that neither needs to rule through fear, nor is ruled by it.
Al Wynn picks up the coveted RedState endorsement:
The more I read about Albert Wynn the more I support him. He's not a conservative or a Republican, I'm not terribly sure he even has an ideology, but when dealing with the obnoxious lefties who think they are calling the shots he does adhere to the old maxim "If you can't take their money, drink their liquor, **** their women, and then come in here the next day and vote against them, you don't belong here." The last thing we need is one more marxist [sic] in our Cogressional [sic] delegation.
OK, that's a pretty bad interpretation of what Sam Rayburn said -- you're supposed to vote against your financial backers, not the people you represent -- but it lends itself to a good slogan: "Al Wynn: He may not believe in anything, but he'll stick it to his constituents!"
I recommend clicking through the link in the blockquote: It's excerpts from the transcript of an online chat Rep. Wynn had on the Washington Post website, along with Donna Edwards' rebuttals. Wynn might think he can pass himself off as a progressive with his support for a never-gonna-happen impeachment of Dick Cheney, but his record, and his lack of leadership on any issue since 2006, speak otherwise.
First, let me begin with something I should have clarified at the start of my criticism of Julia Gouge. I love Carroll County. I was born there, and I grew up there. I went to my first punk rock show there, I met my girlfriend of 7 years there, my parents and many of my friends live there. My public education in Carroll County was top notch, and I would generally say that the people of the County are kind and intelligent.
That doesn't for one second change the fact that Julia Gouge's comments on, and general oppostion to public transit from Baltimore are ridiculous and offensive.
Either way, Brian Griffiths made me laugh when he called me an "Urban Liberal". I bet he has been waiting months to use that one. Yes, I live in Baltimore City now. I live in Baltimore City because I enjoy living 5 minutes from my job, my neighborhood is safe, and I have some good friends down here. I can't lie though, a sunset like the one we watched from a friend's deck in Westminster last night came close to convincing me to move back. Of course, then I would have that NASTY commute like the one this morning.
If only there was some sort of, I dunno, bus line or something. Yeah, that would be great. A bus from Westminster to Baltimore, or maybe just to the Metro. But then again, we all know that crime is only able to travel by bus.
I find rather amazing that there are a great many conservatives that actually believe the US could have won the war in Vietnam if it hadn't been for the proverbial dirty fucking hippies, or that anti-war activists have so much power. (I mean, really -- they're to blame for the rise of the Khmer Rouge? And here I always thought it had something to do with Dick Nixon and Lyndon Johnson escalating the war into Cambodia.) Resentment of the 1960s and all it represented seems to be a driving factor in modern conservatism, even though everyone else has moved on.
And for the record: No one who favors withdrawal thinks the violence will stop once we leave. We only think that there's no point in maintaining a military presence in the midst of a civil war where we're arming all sides -- a military presence, I might add, that's gone far beyond the point of being unsustainable. The best that we can do (which is not much) is to prevent the violence from spreading into neighboring countries, while working with them on a settlement for the future of Iraq. And while we're at it, the US should, upon withdrawal, offer asylum for all Iraqi refugees. It's the least we can do; we did, after all, wreck their country.
But really, shouldn't the burden of proof be on the war supporters, who, after having gotten everything else wrong about Iraq, are now so confident of what will happen when the US leaves? And when did they become so concerned about the fate of the Iraqi people, after ignoring and downplaying the increasingly nightmarish situation in Iraq from the beginning of the war? Hundreds of thousands are dead thanks to the policies they supported; until they take responsibility for that, they have no credibility.
According to our oh so serious conservatives over at Red Maryland our site and readers sit on the fringe left because we had the temerity to question our Governor's dedication to populist values. Do I really need to point out to Brian Griffiths that a majority of Americans want to bring troops home from Iraq, that a majority of Americans want Universal Health Care, and that partisan identification among Democrats is much higher right now than it is among Republicans.
Perhaps Griffiths and Streiff feel the same ire rise in them when John McCain attends some Main Street Partnership meeting and trashes the values conservative Republicans hold dear.
Folks in Maryland, particulary those in the counties, love to beat up on Baltimore City. "Bawl-mer?" they ask. "Be careful down'nere," they tell you.
They know. They read the paper that comes every day to their suburban McMansion. But how often do they actually come to Baltimore. How often do they spend a whole day in the city, whole years without feeling fear, without being victimized? My guess is not many. The last time they made it into the city was to catch an Opera, a sports game, or for the holiday debauchery that the City does so well.
Does that headline immediately strike me as biased? Well, sort of, but its not until the first paragraph that we get the good stuff.
To area anti-abortion-rights advocates, there is no more a glaring sign of pro-abortion-rights hypocrisy than its claim to be a guardian of women’s health while denying the induced abortion-breast cancer link.
Thats right, this is what passes for an unbiased lead these days. It gets even better because in an attempt to seem unbiased, they add one paragraph which states
...the National Cancer Institute and the sector’s research and advocacy establishment reject any link between induced abortion and breast cancer, and hold that research showing otherwise is faulty.
“The National Cancer Institute is a corrupt institution,” charged Dr. Joel Brind, an endocrinologist, City University of New York professor...
Hilarious. Even more so is the fact that the Examiner felt free to print this horseshit as news with no refutation or questioning of that statement. I am sure that the thousands of skilled doctors at the NCI who spend every hour of their day actually trying to help people (not spread a noxious, unpopular, conservative agenda) are thrilled at this CUNY scumbag making baseless claims about them and their work. Acutally, they probably wouldn't even be hearing about him if rags like the Examiner didn't go out of their way to expouse his debunked science.
Of course, the paper goes on to list the comments of sane doctors and experts, but are sure to leave the readers with some more sophistry from Brind.
“That’s just a lot of double-talk,” Brind said of Hinestrosa’s position, noting she isn’t a scientist. “Having a child is a protective factor; not having a child is a risk factor. The overriding ethics question here is one of informed consent.”
Ah yes, lets be sure to add more "non-facts" into the mix. Remember ladies, have babies, and Dr. Brind says you will not get breast cancer. Choose not to have a kid, and Dr. Brind is sure that god and baby jesus will strike you down with breast lumps. Or, so says his research.
Famed environmentalist (and Marylander) Rachel Carson is widely credited with pushing the U.S. to ban the pesticide DDT. She is also vilified among some on the right, and in particular is charged with causing the deaths of thousands, or even millions, of people in the developing world who needed DDT to protect them from malaria. The charge is bogus, of course, but via Kevin Drum, it turns out that the "Carson = Hitler" campaign was largely a creation of the tobacco industry, which wanted to discredit the World Health Organization's anti-smoking initiatives. (BTW: smoking actually kills more people each year than malaria.) It's somewhat mind-boggling, but in a way, it makes sense: Just as the global warming denialist camp can trace its lineage to the tobacco industry's attempts to obfuscate the links between smoking and lung cancer, the DDT myth -- in its misrepresentation of basic facts and faux concern for the world's poor -- bears a strong resemblance to the tobacco's industry's hiding behind scientific uncertainty and the image of hard-scrabble tobacco farmers.
A propos of this, Sen. Ben Cardin has introduced a resolution honoring Carson this year, 2007 being the 100th anniversary of her birth. It's being held up (h/t David Roberts), however, by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Why? Because Carson's book, Silent Spring, led to "the deadly worldwide stigmatization against insecticides, especially DDT." I fear we haven't heard the last of this nonsense.
Michael Swartz's riposte to my earlier comment proves to be unenlightening, as usual, but is representative of the Reaganite conservatism that now characterizes the Republican Party. Of course, Ronald Reagan himself was not above raising taxes, and notoriously "waved the white flag" when things got hot in Lebanon. But I digress...
I can certainly see a future in which Republicans become a more powerful force in Maryland, though it wouldn't come about through another taxpayers' revolt, as Swartz imagines. As the Chris Hayes article I linked to showed, it isn't paying taxes that's so distasteful to most people, it's seeing their tax money being spent wastefully -- e.g., on bridges to nowhere. Indeed, one need only look across the Potomac River to see a former Governor who raised taxes and not only got high approval ratings, but probably would have been reelected if he hadn't been term-limited.
While I'm picking on conservative bloggers from Maryland, let me highlight this chestnut from Michael Swartz:
A couple weeks ago I went to a website called carbonfootprint.com. Someone in the UK has figured out how to calculate one's so-called carbon footprint. Sadly to say, my carbon footprint is only 13,443 kG while the U.K. average is 10,963 kG. I guess I have a little more work to do don't I? These nutcases say that my carbon footprint "should" only be 2500 kG. Well, I have news for them - my house will stay at 70 degrees all winter and 76 degrees this summer, and I'm going to continue to drive MY car its 12,500 miles yearly. If that makes too big of a carbon footprint for you, well that's too damn bad. I'm just an average American who wants to enjoy life and it's not for you to say how I should live it.
Al Gore used over 220,000 kWh of electricity last year, while the American average is 10,656. (In 12 months between my apartment and here I used 8,486 kWh of electricity so I'm even below the norm for Americans - still my "carbon footprint" is too high for these U.K. clowns.)
How's this post for an inconvenient truth?
So let's recap the conservative record on global warming: First they denied it was happening; then they admitted it was happening, but denied it was being caused by human behavior; then they tried to drown out or suppress outright those who were proving it was being caused by human behavior; then they said we can't do anything about it, or we'll wreck the economy; and now that major corporations and financial institutions (not to mention evangelical Christians) are agreeing on the need to combat global warming, the hard core right wing is reduced to flimsy ad hominem salvos like this one -- though I thought Swartz's Eric Cartman impersonation was a nice touch.
BTW, I don't know if Swartz knows this, but electricity use and CO2 emissions aren't the same thing. Same with auto mileage. And you would think that someone who lives on the Eastern Shore would be more concerned about global warming.
Back in the real world, there are new concerns about the loss of native species due to global warming -- e.g., the Baltimore Orioles might have to change their name to the Baltimore Brown Pelicans.
I tend to take a dim view of the effectiveness of antiwar rallies, but I do know that the ones living up to what is best about America in D.C. Saturday were those calling for a change of course in Iraq, not the ones who screamed "traitor" at everyone who disagreed with them.
Judy Warner said she became a conservative in 1967 as opposition to the Vietnam War grew. Though she originally protested that war, Warner, who is married to a former prisoner of war, said she has learned from the mistakes of the past.
This time, she and a friend, Ann Corcoran, will converge on Washington, D.C., to show support for the country's military involvement.
"It's that we're there now, and whatever you think about how we got there, we're there now, and we have to finish it," said Warner, who is worried that leaving Iraq now would be "disastrous."
Do they support, then, sending soldiers unfit for battle back into Iraq? What these people think they're accomplishing, other than cheerleading for more needless death and destruction, is beyond me.
What is it about Southern Maryland? First that racist cartoon in a St. Mary's newspaper, and now this:
Five teenagers have been charged with writing racially offensive remarks and destroying mailboxes in several areas of Charles County last week, police said today.
On Saturday morning, a resident in the 4400 block of Clayton Court in Waldorf reported a hate crime when he discovered two damaged mailboxes, one of which had been defaced with swastikas, a reference to Hitler, and a racially offensive phrase. Sheriff's officers were able to link that incident with the Friday crimes because they found a book on the Third Reich and a black marker in the vehicle used that night, police said.