This time next week, I expect to be sleeping off a full night and early morning of watching election returns with my politically active friends and acquaintances at the Holiday Inn in Solomons. I may petition my editor for a week off from my column!
Since this is my last column before one of the most anticipated elections in recent memory, I want to cover some specific topics related to three southern Maryland races, and wrap up with my general thoughts about what I believe should inform your decisions next week.
Hands Off My Gift Card
One of the more unusual issues to be raised in recent weeks is House Bill 126, the bill co-sponsored by Delegate Sue Kullen back in 2009 that would have given the state government authority to claim most of the unused value of consumer gift cards, and deposit the proceeds in the general fund.
For me, it's not so much the mechanics of this bill that bother me. Moreover, I applaud Delegate Kullen's other initiatives to provide protection to consumers who purchase gift cards.
What bothers me, however, is the presumption that government has a role in what is essentially a transaction between a business and their customer, and that government has a right to the value generated by that transaction.
It's the same attitude that emboldens our elected officials to take more and more of our hard-earned money in increased taxes, under the presumption that they are more enlightened, more compassionate or in some way more qualified to make decisions on how it is spent.
Political columnist Blair Lee states, "The state's projected general fund spending is approximately $13 billion per year, while projected revenues are only $11.8 billion. In other words, the state is spending about 10 percent more than it's taking in. And this 10 percent deficit is forecast every year for the next five years!" To my mind, that disqualifies them as astute stewards of our resources.
You don't give your children more allowance if they are irresponsible with their money, and the same rule applies here. The money you use to buy gift cards is yours, not the government's, and if the gift card goes unused after a designated period of time, the proceeds should be returned to you. Is that a heretical idea?
If you're really concerned about the gory details, the links at the website www.handsoffmygiftcard.com will give you every tidbit of information you could possibly want. For me, it's simple - it's not their money, it's ours.
Roy Dyson and Taxes
I read an article from the County Times about an exchange between state senator Roy Dyson and his challenger, Republican candidate Steve Waugh, about whether or not Dyson voted for the largest tax increase in Maryland history back in 2007. Dyson says he voted against the increase and, if you look at the final vote, that is certainly true.
It is also true, however, that the votes that take place beforehand to position the bill for final consideration are not just "procedural" as Dyson dismissively claims. He's been a legislator for a long time, and he knows better than that.
If you are philosophically opposed to tax increases because it's not the government's money, it's the people's money - see my point above - then you wouldn't vote for such a bill at any time in the process. You would vote "no" to keep the bill from leaving committee, "no" to amendments to the bill, and "no" to the final bill. You would try to kill it every step of the way.
Dyson didn't do that, and his "procedural" votes in favor of the legislation are documented on the state legislative web site for your own verification. Given the byzantine nature of Maryland government web sites, which makes it a real headache to find information, Waugh has compiled links to the votes here so you can read them for yourself.
Dyson knows that his final vote wasn't needed to ensure the bill's passage, and since he had followed the will of the master, senate president Mike Miller, in helping to get the bill to the floor, Miller allowed him to vote "no" on the final bill so he could make disingenuous claims like the one he made last week.
We aren't as stupid or uninformed as Dyson thinks, and Waugh is right to illuminate his duplicity.
Southern Maryland Newspapers Endorse Hoyer?
Finally, I was disappointed in the endorsement of 29-year incumbent congressman and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer by Southern Maryland News, the owners of the Calvert Recorder, Maryland Independent and the Enterprise. The best argument they could come up with was Hoyer's talent for bringing home the bacon, and the possibility he could serve as a moderating influence on his overseers, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Obama:
"But we do know that for most of his time in the House of Representatives he has forged a record as a moderate consensus builder. If he is re-elected, we believe he can play a crucial role in bringing Congress back to the sensible center, where Hoyer has spent most of his career."First of all, Hoyer hasn't been a moderating influence on himself, much less anyone else, for a long time. The Americans for Democratic Action, whose ratings establish the liberal bona fides of members of Congress, gave Hoyer a 100% rating in 2009, winning him the designation of "ADA Hero."
His ratings from 2005 to 2008? The numbers per year are 95%, 90%, 90% and 90% respectively. In 2005, he and Nancy Pelosi had the same rating, and his rating was only 5% lower than hers every year thereafter until she became speaker - they don't rate the Speaker of the House.
The last year his rating fell below 90%? The year 2000 - ten years ago, when he rated at 80%. His lifetime average rating is 85.5%, and he hasn't had a rating below 90% since 1999, with the exception previously noted.
Whose moderate is he? Since when does "the sensible center" equate to 35.5 percentage points higher than 50% and only 14.5 percentage points below 100%?
If an individual citizen can do the research and expose Hoyer's moderation for what it is, a myth, then why couldn't a regional newspaper do the same?
Endorsing Hoyer in the hope he will moderate the damaging agenda of this administration and Congress, despite all evidence to the contrary, does the readers of Southern Maryland News a great disservice.
The endorsement also leads me to my general thoughts that voters should carry with them to their touch screen ballot today and tomorrow - the last days of early voting - and on November 2nd.
The endorsement acknowledges "the nation remains burdened with unsustainable federal spending, a mounting deficit and a health-care reform law that half the country wants to repeal." In the same breath, they laud Hoyer for helping federal dollars flow into southern Maryland.
There is no money in the federal budget. We have a deficit approaching $14 trillion and annual deficits of $1.4 trillion and $1.3 trillion respectively under the current administration. The administration's own projections show deficit spending during its first four-year term will exceed the Bush administration deficits three times over.
Let me say it another way - this administration, in ONE term, will have THREE TIMES MORE deficit spending than the previous administration in TWO terms.
These figures don't reflect the unfunded liability for Social Security and Medicare, the difference between the benefits that have been promised to current and future retirees and what will be collected in dedicated taxes and Medicare premiums. The figure as of 2009? I'll spell it out - one hundred and seven trillion dollars! $107 trillion!
Does southern Maryland getting a more generous share of the deficit than other jurisdictions constitute responsible stewardship, either by our elected officials or us as citizens?
Business as usual cannot continue - do we agree on that? If we want to balance the budget without changing the current level of spending, those of you paying 10 percent in income taxes would have to pay 26 percent, the 25 percent rate would have to be raised to 66 percent, and the top tax rate would rise to 92 percent. For those who scoff at these figures, please consult the Congressional Budget Office.
If more than half of private income, on average, is dedicated to federal income taxes, and that is before other federal taxes or state and local taxes are factored into the equation, where is the incentive to work and create wealth?
President John F. Kennedy famously uttered, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
Friends, we are out of money at the federal and the state level, and the American Dream is in danger of becoming a nightmare for everyone, no matter how many deficit dollars Hoyer or other elected officials send our way.
In fact, they are contributing to the problem, and they are only concerned about their own re-elections. A future of 92 percent income tax rates is of no concern to them; they won't be here when that happens.
I leave you with these words; ask not what your vote can do for you, ask what your vote can do for your country. If you are eligible, please vote, and vote responsibly.
Ron Miller is a conservative writer and commentator, author of the book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Toms Porch, and the president of Regular Folks United, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of individual liberty, free markets and our nation's founding principles. The nine-year plus veteran of the U.S. Air Force and married father of three writes columns for several online sites and print publications, and his own website, TeamRonMiller.com. Join him on Facebook and Twitter.