Letter to Editor: A Trust Has Been Broken

As U.S. citizens, we know that we are not alone in feeling a deep sense of betrayal.

We believe that a trust, treasured, and defended by generation after generation, is being steadily broken. This sense of betrayal has escalated during the current Trump administration.

We were always taught, and still passionately think, that citizens have a dual responsibility in life: first, to look out for ourselves, individually; and second, to look out for our fellow human beings, and the environment, as one United States — E Pluribus Unum.

We can still be free to act, as long as we don’t diminish someone else’s freedom. In turn, others can be free to act, provided they don’t dilute our freedom.

Among others, the Biblical writers, Socrates, modern philosophers, and democratic statesmen, have asserted the concept of the “social contract.” This bedrock idea has been the foundation upon which our people have joined together, and created an orderly society which, while honoring the individual, also preserves the collective.

Either by overt or tacit agreement, citizens hold certain expectations of one another, the larger community and its government. By the consent of the majority, rules, laws and social norms govern how individuals and groups treat each other. This shared contract is based on the trust that all will respect rights given equally to all..

For example, In the Pledge of Allegiance, we acknowledge that we are one nation, under God. A trust has been broken when a religious group of our citizens, Jews or Muslims, don’t receive the same deference or respect as Christians.

In the Pledge of Allegiance, we declare that liberty and justice are for all. A trust has been broken when black people, brown people, immigrant people, gay people, lesbian people, transgender people, and Indigenous people, do not enjoy justice and liberty, fairly and equally.

The United States Constitution proclaims that each citizen is entitled to speak freely about their beliefs. But a trust has been broken when a sports figure is called a, “son of a bitch,” by his president, and terrorized on social media for kneeling, as his way of exercising his freedom of speech.

A trust has been broken when both members of a couple have to work at not just one, but two or even three jobs each, yet still cannot earn enough to provide the basic American Dream of housing, health, and education for a family.

A fundamental trust has been broken when partisan politicians seek to maintain their power by gerrymandering districts and deliberately suppressing the votes of those not in power.

We could write a whole book of betrayals. Here is the point. Those who have broken trust with the social contract must be called to account. Citizens must speak out and act.

Contract-breakers, especially among the Republican Party do not deserve your vote on Election Day. Contract-breakers of any political persuasion do not deserve your business. Contract-breakers must not be allowed to silence us by relentless stoking of fear, and hate.

Citizens: wake up, stand up, and speak up, for what is right.

Rev. Thomas G. Sinnott
Kitty Maynard
Linda Cades
Erin Anderson
Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties, Maryland, Indivisible

 

 

 

 

Not Learning from Experience: The Dangerous Path for Tax Reform by Rob Ketcham

Are we going to witness the Republicans mounting another policy blitzkrieg, only to fall on their face as they ignore lessons that should have been learned?

As I write this, national attention is being directed by the President and Congressional leaders about a “tax overhaul”, a proposal for a sweeping rewrite of the tax code to reduce tax rates for corporations and individuals and eliminate some popular deductions.

The last major federal tax upgrade was enacted in 1986 and was years in the making. The process followed the path of what is referred to as “regular order”; legislative activities that involve the tax writing committees in the House and Senate, hearings, gathering information on impacts of the propositions being proposed, debating the propositions in the committees, ultimately reaching agreement on a legislative proposition to take to the floor where it may be debated further and amended, passage in both chambers and then, finally, a Conference Committee to settle the differences before the final agreement can be voted on in order to become law.

This process is almost never easy or speedy. A legislative history I am intimately familiar with, The Space Act, was signed into law on July 29, 1958, eight months after the Soviet launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. The Select Committee formed to write the bill was said to have “performed its tasks with both amazing speed and skill.” Players included the House Majority Leader John McCormack, Senate Majority leader Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, a future President, and Les Arends, the Republican Whip. The give and take between the Democratic Congress and the Republican Administration (which had its own strongly held ideas about what the Space Act should look like) became a healthy exchange involving Bryce Harlow, Deputy Assistant for Congressional Affairs, and Ed McCabe, Administrative Assistant to President Eisenhower. This arrangement evolved into a daily exchange under “…the stress of time requirements and pride of authorship”so that everyone was kept in the loop, White House, House, and Senate. In other words, everyone worked together.

I wonder if today’s elected Republican leaders truly understand the enormous legislative effort they have pledged to take on this September. It is, in a word, daunting. The simple facts are that this is: (1) a new Administration which came to power rather unexpectedly, and (2) a Congress with a Republican Majority that has not legislated in the tax area for more than twenty years, I’d guess that very few Republican members have ever served as an advocate for any such a massive legislative undertaking— their chosen role for most of their careers has been to be opposed to whatever proposition was being forwarded for their consideration. As a further complication: the key players, the President, and legislative neophytes Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chief Economic Adviser Cohn are not familiar with the give and take involved in the legislative process, and continue to behave as though the Congress is a forum to make demands and power through until the other side caves.

The Administration’s tax overhaul proposal contains very little detail about the impact of the legislation on anticipated revenues gained and lost and the impact on the deficit in the short and long term. But facts still matter, and when taxes are being discussed and changes being made that affect most everyone in the country, individuals and businesses alike, legislative changes must be made in a fiscally responsible way based on the best information and analysis available.

The current lack of information and specificity appears to be an attempt at obfuscation and is drawing much commentary in the media. It is true that looking at something such as the tax overhaul proposal which has such potential large economic consequences does offer the real possibility to come to different conclusions based on the assumptions being made. A debate in the tax committees, hearings and testimony would help the legislators. For example, today’s news about inflation and the interest rate and the Federal Reserve Governors differing views illustrates this.

If the Republican Congress and the White House try to come up with a rewrite of the tax code and then attempt to ram through their proposition without consensus it is doomed to failure. Probably even more than with health care, everyone is affected in their pocket or on their ledger, from the highly paid Washington lobbyist to the tax payer just barely making ends meet, and every business in the economy, from Goldman Sachs executives to the small businessmen and women who are aware of how every tax affects their bottom line.

So, to close a loophole for one person is to create an additional tax liability for someone else. If the mortgage deduction is reduced, as an example, then the individual deduction would, all things being equal, be raised proportionally. Lowering statutory tax rates on businesses requires closing “loopholes” which means that someone who presently has the loophole will lose. Since tax cuts must be offset by revenue-raising measures, it matters greatly how the tax cut is paid for. Merely holding the line on increasing a deficit could mean there would be cuts in basic programs such as those for low and middle-income wage earners.

Two sacred cows that bring in considerable revenue are marked for extinction: the A.M.T. (alternative minimum tax) and the Estate Tax. Both proposals give more than a hint of who the beneficiaries will be. It was reported by the NYT on Sept 28, 2017, that the alternative minimum tax forced Mr. Trump to pay $31 million in additional taxes in 2005. The Estate Tax affects only the wealthy these days— estates worth more than $5.49 million ($10.98 million for a couple). Proposals for these sacred cows, if agreed to be eliminated, loom large because of the lost revenue which must then be made up in some other way. In other words, to benefit a few of the wealthy, there is a real possibility that the middle class and the poor would lose as the balance is tilted against them.

The dearth of information at this beginning stage about the effect of the tax reduction proposal could be deliberate, or it could reflect a lack of appreciation of how to propose legislation. For example: tax policy in America has contained an unwritten principle as reflected in the present code; progressivity—which means that the lowest tax rate which is for lower-income workers ranges from 10 percent, to the highest bracket for the very wealthy which is presently 39.6 percent. Nothing I have read so far pays any lip service or provides helpful information on this important point.

At some point in the legislative process, in order for a bill is taken seriously, the Congressional Budget Office undertakes the task of scoring the proposal, which simply means it is charged to put numbers to the proposal so the legislators will know the financial impact of what is being proposed, such as revenue gains or revenue losses. Doing the scoring came up during the health care debate and seemed an anathema to the Senate Majority Leader at least during its consideration.

All persons who are following the proposed rewrite of the tax code will need to be quite vigilant that the estimates are made by those reliable to make them. Trying to skirt this requirement and projecting positive economics because of the old saw that reducing revenue to business expands economic output just should not be allowed to happen. A good example follows of some of the hype used by proponents in the recent past. In an article in the NYTimes of 9/27/17 entitled Will Tax Holiday Generate Jobs? It Didn’t take a Decade Ago, Eduardo Porter writes that the tax break approved by a bipartisan majority in Congress in order to repatriate billions of dollars stashed overseas at 5.25 percent (instead of the corporate rate of 35 percent) was supposed to create more than 500,000 jobs in the US over the next two years. In point of fact, the jobs did not come in. The corporations who took advantage of the tax break did flow $299 billion in corporate earnings back, “but it did not result in an increase in domestic investment, domestic employment or R&D” the article states. “Promises, promises… ”

And just a word on bipartisanship. President Trump had dinner recently with “Chuck and Nancy” (the Senate and House Minority Leaders) at a time when things were unraveling over the debt ceiling: surprise! The President and Chuck and Nancy reached a deal that got everyone past the immediate crisis. As I write this there is news that a bipartisan group of legislators in the Senate who serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee have held hearings on stabilizing Obamacare insurance marketplaces, and have gathered input from some of their colleagues and are bargaining over the outlines of a deal which could stabilize the insurance marketplaces. Some reforms are being discussed, states would be given more freedom design and experiment, and even a lower level “copper” health insurance plan is being talked about. These events give me some hope—since if I learned one thing on the Hill it is when the members finally decide to do something and work together they find a way to do it.

I can only hope that today the Joint Committee on Taxation is as professional and competent as it was when I served on the Hill. At that time the committee had a deep bench of very able non-partisan staff headed by a Staff Director of impeccable credentials. Such experience and institutional memory are invaluable when taking on a task like tax reform or overhaul.

It seems almost inconceivable to me that the Republican Congressional leaders and the Administration would try yet again to legislate on a partisan basis. While I am very much in favor of improving the tax code and think it is long overdue, I just hate to think that so much effort could just be squandered by a group of Congressmen and the White House who appear not to have learned anything from their past failures, and who have not yet assumed the mantle of true leadership which requires working with everyone in order to achieve a result worthy of everyone’s best efforts.


Bob Ketcham served as the chief of staff of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology and staff director of the Fossil and Nuclear Energy Subcommittee during the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to those positions, he was Special Counsel to the House Select Committee on Committees chaired by Richard Bolling (D-MO).  He holds a BA and JD from Washington and Lee University as well as a SG from Harvard University’s Senior Managers in Government Program. He has lived on the Eastern Shore since 1999 with his wife, Caroline.

From South of Left Field: Political Drugs by Jimmie Galbreath

History is the unsung foundation to understanding politics. Not the history of names, dates and short little paragraphs taught in our schools today but history as the story; richer, deeper and alive. The connections between what is and what was are direct and real. It is the things we know little about that make it easy for us to be frightened and manipulated. It is real knowledge that gives us the courage to choose our own opinions rather than accept the opinions of others. Only babies should be spoon fed.

Poking around my mental closet of ‘common knowledge’ learned from childhood, another gem that changed over the years relates to governments in general. America was the gold standard Democracy and Russia and China the failing evil dictatorships because that is what a Communist government is. The Democracy I was taught was childish in its simplicity, and it remained that way for quite a number of years. Vietnam, Watergate and time opened the door to new research. What had my teachers failed to tell me?

Today Democracy means any government structure made up of elected representatives. Ooooh, impressive sounding, isn’t it. Then it got a little complicated. The Russian (Soviet and today) and Chinese governments have elected officials. Do we amend Democracy and say it must have more than one political party?

From there I began to read books on Soviet and Chinese modern history and moved on to ‘The Communist Manifesto.’ Much to my surprise both communism and socialism were not models of government but economic systems. The thrust behind these systems was to remove the wealth inequality that exists in a capitalistic economy. The philosopher Karl Marx proposed that the evolution of economic systems from slavery to feudalism to capitalism would continue on to communism. Communism as the next evolutionary step would remove private ownership of factories, mines, farms, etc. and all the people would own everything in common. The adjustment here was mind-bending. I have chased my tail around and around trying to comprehend how that economic system would work to produce the complex items we have today which requires resources from around the globe. I guess I am not evolved enough yet.

Looking for a government structure in this system I kept running into either ‘direct Democracy’ or ‘representative Democracy.’ You read that right; the ideal new economy still requires people to work together to reach decisions which still needs votes which is still Democracy. Imagine that.

‘Direct Democracy’ would be citizens voting directly for a law rather than having elected representatives such as our Congress to do it. That would be cumbersome. ‘Representative Democracy’ is what we already have! There is no dictatorship in communism or socialism if it is implemented exactly as the founders laid it out. Russia and China aren’t really communist because both have a capitalist economic system. Now folks, from here it is time to circle back to where we are today. The system laid down by Marx, Engels, and Lenin, while ideally eliminating income inequality requires that we all become selfless and totally trusting and sharing with each other for this to work. A level of social evolution that is clearly absent in our current leadership and largely lacking in our current society.

This may sound bleak, and I don’t mean for it to be. The range of forms of Democracy are amazingly broad. Our flavor of Democracy has changed since first established by the Constitution. Originally the States decided who could vote, and they generally allowed only white adult property-owning males to do so. Only members of the House of Representatives were elected directly. Senators were selected by the State House of Representatives for each state. The President was selected by an Electoral College. It was a pretty narrow Democracy compared to what we have today.

The thing about a Democracy is you can have a wide variety of voting rights and freedom, or very limited voting rights and few freedoms while still meeting the definition. It is not enough to say a country is a Democracy; rather one should say WHAT KIND of Democracy a country has.

Iran has all the organizations of a Democracy with elections. There is a Supreme Leader (Executive), Legislative (Parliament), Judiciary and an Assembly of Experts (legal and religious). The last organization has to approve anyone wanting to run for office. This version of Democracy is a Theocracy, and the State religion exerts tremendous power over the people and government. Our religious fundamentalists seek to move us down this path with rule by their religion rather than a political party. Hearing repeatedly statements that America is a Christian nation sends shivers down my spine as the Founders clearly had no such criteria in mind.

China has the Executive branch (President and State Council), Legislative (National People’s Congress), Judicial (Supreme People’s Court) but only one political Party is allowed. Once again control by a single entity with a restricted set of voters while still having the trappings of Democracy. It is ironic that the Party claims to be a communist Party despite the fact that capitalism is rampant there. There are no real communist or socialist economies as there are no countries without capitalism. Don’t believe me? Find a country without a corporation or a businessman. Good luck.

Today we have a democracy in America that follows the desires of wealthy families and corporations more than the will of the people. I am amused and repulsed listening to Republican politicians trying to sound humane while touting a medical industry solution to healthcare. Insisting that all Americans can afford decent healthcare from a corporation is an epic smoke and mirror act. Universal corporate healthcare is only universal for those who can afford it. This stance, profit over a healthy life, supports the idea that American Democracy is moving toward being an Oligarchy: a Democracy driven by a wealthy few placing the well-being of corporate wallets over the well-being of the general population.

There is no danger of communism or socialism overtaking America with anything other than a large scale revolution. Casting a national effort to secure a healthy life for all citizens as socialism is a baseless effort to paint a humane policy as something to be afraid of. Universal healthcare ends capitalism in the hospital where it should never have been allowed in the first place. It does not end capitalism overall. If caring for human life and quality of life is socialism then what does that say about capitalism’s goals in the hospital? Hint, the only thing a capitalist wants is money.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family-owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way, he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served three years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Op-Ed: In Trying Times, We Can Rely on Us by Robbie Gill

One of the most enjoyable parts of working at the YMCA of the Chesapeake is the opportunity to interact with so many different members of our community every day. Regardless of where people grew up or what they are doing today, just about everyone has a “Y story.” Each one is a little different (including learning to swim; camps and youth sports; afterschool programs; serving as volunteers and mentors; finding ways to get healthy as a family, and much more), but at its core, all experiences are reminders of the Y’s place in our community. In short, the Y understands that our collective success is rooted in our communities and our mission is to bring us together, to make us better as individuals, communities and as a nation.

It often feels like we live in a time that defines us by our differences; but the ties that bind us together—while frayed—are not broken. Our community is more diverse than you might think—whether it be age, gender, race, religion, ability or something else—and many of us have different backgrounds and experiences that help form our worldview. What we don’t realize (or we sometimes forget) is that understanding different points and experiences helps make us all stronger.

Our Y plays a huge role in strengthening communities across the Eastern Shore, but also reinforces the positive, collective change we can make happen when we put aside our differences and work together for the greater good.

Regardless of where or how you’re involved, I challenge all members of our community to find something you care about and make it better. If you don’t know where to start, give me call and we’ll connect you to some incredible opportunities. We’re a charity driven to bring people together through a lens of love, compassion and acceptance all in the name of making a better you, a better me and a better us!

Robbie Gill is the Chief Executive Officer of the YMCA of the Chesapeake.

From South of Left Field: Re-Union by Jimmie Galbreath

Unions, now there is something we aren’t taught in school. Try this on for size, in 1619 Polish craftsmen brought to Jamestown were not allowed to partake in the Virginia colony elections. They went on strike and due to their economic importance won the right to vote. Was this action justified?

This small action reflects the meaning of collective bargaining; people who lack a right they desire to resort to collective action to get it. In this case, the government wasn’t providing the right to vote, so they took action to get rights equal to the others. Later in history women collectively marched for the right to vote. Acting collectively can mean voting or striking, depending on who and what is the issue.

Here in the United States, two major examples of politically driven inequality can be found in women gaining the right to vote and the myriad racial inequalities addressed by the Civil Rights movement. Both were collective actions to gain a right or remove an inequality. Ideally, by voting and keeping politicians focused on the welfare of the common citizen, actions such as these would not be necessary. The government should work to limit abuses such as murder, enslavement, and suppression of the right to live a reasonable and safe life.

Unions? Well now, back in the day workers in factories could be under age 7 and work 12-18 hours a day around machinery that operated without guards to prevent injury or death. The owners lived in luxury and wealth unlimited by tax law or regulation. Abject poverty was the worker’s problem, not theirs. Worker health and safety, just be careful. Dangerous fumes or chemicals? Too bad. Injured? Fired! Ah, the good ole glory days of a Greater unregulated America. This was trickle down as it worked, and ‘trickle’ is the operative word.

Snide perhaps, but actually a fair representation of the way things were before citizens, workers, and reformers began to change the status quo to provide a more favorable life for everyone. The struggle to remove children from mines and factories and provide them schooling was waged for over a century by many organizations including Unions. Their primary opposition was from businessmen and corporations working with elected officials and police.

The introduction of regulations to provide better working conditions to improve health and safety was also an effort by many groups, notably Unions. Again the opposition was businessmen, corporations, and elected officials.

To quote a great man born here in Maryland, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Frederick Douglass.

Our nation has a long history of struggle to achieve equal rights from an unequal society. Perhaps we aren’t taught real history in our schools, because if we were the long struggle from one strongpoint of resistance to another, driving toward a more equal society would be apparent. Slavery, Women’s votes, Civil Rights, LGBT rights, all are just flashpoints of conflict between the oppressed and the oppressor stretching throughout our national history but glossed over (if taught at all) in our schools. We aren’t taught an awareness of why organizations such as the NAACP or Unions came to be.

The point I seek to make here is that the life cycle of the very organizations that rose from the common worker to demand better pay and safer working conditions, that fought to send our children to school rather than a factory or mine is dying. Not because they are no longer needed, but because they have been demonized and broken by our politicians. An outstanding example of this was Ronald Reagan firing the Air Traffic Controllers in 1981 when they refused to return to work from their Union’s strike. Not content with firing, he barred them for life from working for Civil Service. Recently many states under Republican control have passed laws preventing citizens from collectively bargaining for better wages or working conditions. For example, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Texas and Virginia won’t even let teachers bargain for better pay or working conditions.

These are dangerous trends because there is little difference between collective bargaining, collectively protesting, or collectively voting. Please pause and consider that this effort is one to limit or outlaw us from acting collectively. Politicians (the tools of wealth) start by demonizing Unions, using ‘shoot from the hip’ claims of Unions being controlled by organized crime, is made up of communists or socialists (they are actually different things), or of hurting business.

Unions were born because the wealth generated by an industrializing America was retained by the owners and little or nothing was shared with the workers. Unions were formed to free children from dangerous jobs. Unions were formed to improve safety in the work place. Unions were formed because the elected politicians failed to do any of this until their backs were pushed against the wall.

The bottom line is this, the time to begin to swing the pendulum away from government favoring the wealthy and back to government improving the lot of the general working population has arrived. Unions can help. Corporations will not.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served 3 years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Letter to a Friend by Jamie Kirkpatrick

Dear Marty:

Sorry this is late. I wish I had sent it a week ago when you were still here. Better yet, I should have delivered it by hand—I would like to have been there to say goodbye in person. I’m glad Furry was able to visit and let you know how much we all love you.

I remember the first time I saw you: it was opening day in the Ponce de Leon league and you showed up ready to catch. You looked like a garden gnome in a Chicago Cubs uniform, but you sure could play. You knew how to call a game; you could block balls in the dirt. You could get a bunt down. Maybe you weren’t all that quick down the line, but you were always one step ahead of everyone else on the team. You were a strategist; you knew the game; you had baseball in your Scandinavian bones. You, Mike, and I had some good years on that team. We were in our forties but we felt like kids again.

A few years later, you showed up again in my life. At Landon. The boys were in the Upper School, both fine baseball players and worthy young men. I was Drew’s assistant on the varsity then so I got to watch them develop their skills. Carl was a crafty pitcher with a nasty curveball; Neil anchored the team at shortstop. Both could hit. Before a game, I would hit fungos to the outfielders and you would catch me up. You were always loose and we would make bets on whether so-and-so would catch the next one. Sometimes, you would go warm up the pitcher or just sit in the dugout sharpening your pencils and arranging your yellow highlighters. The scorebook you kept was beyond accurate; it was an encyclopedic work of art—every pitch, every out recorded and rendered with detail and precision. I loved sitting with you, Charlie, and Furry down at the end of the bench, watching the boys play, thinking up the next prank, caring deeply about what we were doing but not taking it all to seriously. After all, it was high school baseball.

(Hey: do you remember the time when Charlie got under Drew’s skin and Drew actually threw him off the bench? His own father! OMG! Every time I think about that, I start to laugh so hard the tears come again. Even now.)

After the boys graduated and went on to college, we remained buds. I had been sent down to the JV, but you still showed up for games, keeping the book, hitting fungos, bouncing balls at the catcher in blocking drills. Thank you for doing all that. It just felt good knowing you were still there. But I wondered how you did it: after all, you had a big time law practice to tend, students of your own to teach down at Duke. I mean, really: how did you do it? How did you juggle all the big-time stuff and still find time to be fully present in my little high school life?

You were never a laugh-out-loud guy. More of a smirk and a twinkle-in-your-eye boy, but God, you were funny. Road trips with you were hysterical. More than once, we kept Drew from driving the bus off the bridge, made him laugh when he was deep in his you-know-what. You were the perfect foil; he had too much respect for you to stay mad for long even after a close loss.

As the years rolled along, we didn’t see each other as much, but we remained close. When my son came to you for advice and legal mentoring, you gave it thoughtfully and generously. I was always invited over for one of Neil’s healthy and delicious meals, followed by a wee dram or two of your good single malt from the top shelf. We’d sit around the kitchen table and it was like we were back in the dugout. Andrea would roll her eyes, but we knew she was amused. She loved you so much; hell, we all did.

So now you’re gone, but don’t worry: Charlie and I will get together and raise a maudlin glass to you soon. By now, I imagine you’ve looked up Buddy and the two of you are bantering each other again or having another fungo competition up in heaven. Your family and friends and colleagues down here miss you dearly. So do your students at Duke Law School, as well as the countless kids you coached with Dave in summer league ball over at St. Albans. If legacy is memory, yours is legion. You are an All-Star, a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. I’d give a lot for one more extra-inning game on a warm spring day in May, sitting next to you on the bench with Furry and Charlie, teasing you while you bone your old fungo with a Coke bottle, laughing so hard that I cry.

With so much love from so many of us,

Jamie

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Op-Ed: Back to School, Back to the Problem of Rural Broadband Parity by Josh Hastings

As students return to school, we are all reminded of the challenges created by gaps in broadband access in Maryland’s rural areas and beyond. The issue is not only important as we try to educate our students and future workforce, but as we try to close the prosperity gap among our rural and urban communities.

According to the Education Superhighway, a nonprofit that supports proper online learning tools, 21 million students in America’s K-12 public schools are being left behind in the ability to receive digital learning content. Twenty-three percent of U.S. school districts do not have enough bandwidth to meet the current needs for digital learning and it’s much worse for rural or low income areas.

As we strive to close that “last mile”, connecting the end-user to nearby services, let’s not forget how important broadband truly is to a thriving community.

Today’s economy is based on information and services. If we want to encourage economic development, we will need to ensure the flow of commerce and services. It will be essential to continue to expand and maintain the utility infrastructure – including broadband.

Access to information is now dramatically making the difference between a growing economy and a retracting economy – a better quality of life and a poorer quality of life – an engaged society and a divided society.

Many of us take for granted the services and amenities that accompany living in the 21st century, in a developed country; services such as the distribution of power, fuel and water, but also increasingly, access to the internet. The internet has opened up opportunities for economic growth and will continue to do so in the future.

Internet access dramatically affects commerce. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, nearly 8 out of every 10 Americans has made at least one recent online purchase and online commerce is only continuing to increase. Across the U.S., broadband connectivity is a critical component to a number of services – most notably health care. Telemedicine, being able to connect rural patients to doctors, is particularly important in areas where few physicians or specialists exist and chronic disease prevalence is high.

Our cities and rural towns are still recovering from the loss of good-paying blue collar manufacturing jobs, but what should replace those lost jobs and how do we create new ones for the economy of tomorrow? Studies show the positive impact of broadband expansion on the economy. Workers can develop new skills, children can learn, and seniors can receive better medical care. Each of these will require an accessible and reliable internet.

In a recent presentation at the 2017 Regional Rural Broadband Forum, held in Annapolis, Robert Puckett, of the New York Telecommunications Association, spoke about expansion of their infrastructure, which also included very strong pricing structures. Increasingly, the higher cost of the higher speeds present a burden to startup businesses, to large producers, and to individual residences alike.

Unfortunately, many of our underserved communities are being left out of the 21st century. Internet providers are ready to build, but can’t service households without a return on investment. Whether through government incentives or regulations, the state’s policy must address this market failure. Public private partnerships, such those that have developed in Garrett and Kent Counties, are good examples of positive approaches to this challenge and a recently created state task force will be investigating this issue in the coming months.

As obviously important as connectivity is, it’s not easy to do without greater commitments, investments, or partnerships. Let’s not leave our students, healthcare workers, small businesses, seniors, and broader rural communities behind. Let’s work together to find solutions now and let’s close the prosperity gap.

The Rural Maryland Council looks forward to working together on collaborative solutions so that broadband access will be a part of all citizens being able to live in healthy, connected, and thriving communities.

Josh Hastings
Chair, Rural Maryland Council

 

Resisting the Democratic Agenda on Higher Education: A Hill Worth Dying On by Joseph Prudhomme

I just returned from a panel discussion in San Francisco on the Republican Party in the era of President Donald Trump. A seasoned colleague on the panel mentioned that the Democratic Party increasingly sees the New York governor Andrew Cuomo as the torchbearer of progressive reform, a political maestro in the spirit of Bernie Sanders—yet a salable Sanders, a nimble politico unburdened with hoary age, a socialist self-identity, and a checkered past (of honeymoons in Communist Russia and rape fantasy porn fiction). Cuomo, my colleague averred, is a younger and fresher champion of the policy perspectives espoused by the Warren-Sanders wing of the Democratic establishment.

A core of the appeal of Cuomo is the New York policy on higher education he shepherded through the state assembly: free college education for all, an agenda the national Democratic party hopes to adopt across the country. Sounds great, right? Not so fast. There may well be genuine downsides to this new policy: quality could soon be sacrificed as the system becomes bloated, regulations could prove excessive, and the taxes needed to support the program could prove detrimental in a myriad of ways. These are each worthwhile questions and deserve our serious and careful review.

However, I hold what I believe to be a sufficiently damning critique on its own, a criticism that becomes apparent once the fine print of the New York statute bubbles to the forefront: this government give-away is only for students attending not merely in-state colleges and universities (a sensible proviso since the tax burden is borne only by New Yorkers) but for those attending a state college or university: no in-state private college or university is supported by the Governor’s vaunted legislative victory.  

This will cause a wave of destruction of small denominational colleges who simply will no longer be able to compete in a crowded higher education marketplace.  It can only lead to a tremendous “crowding out” (a term economists use to refer to state funding displacing private capital). Indeed, crowding out is precisely what happened in the United Kingdom and on the European continent. There are no longer any small denominational colleges in these regions—they are impossible to run in light of state-funded secular education.

A string of corpses will litter the New York landscape in the wake of Cuomo’s legislation. For how can Hilbert College, Canisius College or Iona College (all Catholic), or Davis College (non-denominational Christian), or Concordia College (Lutheran) survive Cuomo’s tidal wave of undercutting competition, his brutal battery of what trade economists call unfair dumping?  Many simply can’t. All will struggle.

I do not know whether the end result on denominational colleges was intended —although I would not put it past the Democratic party which labored for the bill, given the stentorian secular voices in the party’s political base. But whether intentional or not, the net result is the same: a government war on religious higher education.

A simple solution to this egregious problem is voucherizing any subsidized higher education program.  Students could receive a grant (equal to the average cost of in-state tuition) and they could apply this amount to attend any accredited in-state college of their choice. This, in fact, was precisely what was good enough for the Greatest Generation through the much-celebrated GI Bill. I hazard to say, it should be good enough for us, too. Furthermore, such a policy would leave unscathed America’s rich ecosystem of denominationally grounded college education.  At least, common sense would seem to say so.   

But reality is a bitter mistress, and common sense her hapless victim far too often.  It is just very hard to stop the government from giving people “freebies.” And the Left is culturally and politically ascendant (sensing blood in the water from a weakened president, and seeing a rapidly diversifying and secularizing society erode core foundations of the Grand Old Party); a common sense voucher program might no longer carry the day—given the identification of vouchers with the now reviled Religious Right, and a lack of concern for religion skyrocketing among core components of the Democratic political establishment.

My common sense proposal, therefore, may well prove to be a last stand, indeed.

The Democratic party’s educational policy, however, is just so plainly wrong–and a voucherized alterative just so plainly right—that I am led merely to proclaim in the words of a great man who inspired the founding of so many now-beleaguered, regional liberal arts colleges:

“here I stand; I can do no other.”

Joseph Prud’homme is a professor at Washington College, and founder of the school’s Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture. He lives with his wife and family in Easton, Maryland. 

Op-Ed: If EPA is Prevented from Enforcing Clean Water Laws, States must Step Up

Why do we have laws? The simplest answer is to ensure order in society, where lines are drawn to govern things one cannot do, for the good of all.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “laws without enforcement are just good advice.”

Shoplifting would be rampant if there were no punishments for stealing. In the same way, we cannot expect to keep making progress in cutting pollution without implementing effective pollution control laws. Our environmental and public health safeguards are worth nothing if they are not enforced.

Even as the states face their own enforcement challenges, the Trump administration is waging an assault on the main federal agency tasked with implementing and enforcing the laws designed to protect the environment and public health. In his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, the president proposed a drastic 31 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including the complete elimination of funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup.

Many lawmakers have called the president’s budget “dead on arrival,” and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup enjoys broad public and bipartisan support. But we should not take too much comfort in that. The administration has made it abundantly clear that it intends to roll back environmental protections, and funding for programs — including millions for enforcement — is on the chopping block. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, these actions threaten to undo much of the progress that has been made working together to reduce pollution.

That’s why, now more than ever, states need to shore up environmental protections. Fortunately, Maryland continues to push aggressively to maintain the progress that has been made. As the General Assembly wrapped up last month, lawmakers designated $400,000 in the state budget to hire inspection and compliance staff at the departments of Agriculture (MDA) and Environment (MDE). This means more funding to enforce the laws we need to restore local waterways and the Bay.

This funding is sorely needed. The MDE’s own reports show that their Water Management Administration lost more than one-third of its overall inspection staff between 2000 and 2016. Personnel resources within the MDA’s Office of Resource Conservation have remained stagnant, despite its growing obligation to make sure its crucial Bay cleanup programs, like the new phosphorus management tool, are working and on track.

The MDA’s nutrient management program had just seven inspectors in 2015 tasked with inspecting more than 5,300 agricultural operations across the state’s 12,400 square miles. It is unreasonable to expect seven people to cover all of that ground while also properly providing all of the required inspection and technical assistance services.

Without sufficient staff, the MDA and the MDE simply do not have the capacity to ensure that programs are working, that sites are inspected and lawbreakers are held accountable. It’s not good policy and it’s not fair to the taxpayers who have invested so much in cleaning up the Bay. Enforcing the laws we already have on the books is the most cost-effective way to meet the Bay states’ collective goal to reduce pollution. Maryland officials like to point to Pennsylvania and the pollution it sends our way — but if Maryland isn’t enforcing its own laws, how can it complain?

The Chesapeake Legal Alliance has provided legal support to groups fighting for clean water since 2009. With so much at risk for the Bay and its lands and waterways, local action empowered with legal support has become more important than ever. And with the halftime for the Bay cleanup upon us, the Center for Progressive Reform is working to ensure that Maryland and the other Bay states maintain their commitments to each other and to the state’s waterways.

Both of our organizations, and others, are urging the Maryland General Assembly to recognize the importance of funding inspection and compliance staff. And we’ll continue to do so as we track what the MDA and the MDE do with additional funding and pressure these agencies to meet the mandates of the environmental laws that they are tasked with enforcing.

Thanks to efforts across the watershed, the Bay is starting to show signs of improvement. Now is the time to double down – not wring our hands. If the president will not allow the EPA and other federal agencies to do their jobs and play their essential role as partners in the Bay cleanup, then states must rise to the challenge. We applaud Maryland’s lawmakers for beginning to restore funding for clean water enforcement resources and we encourage other Bay states to do the same.

Jacqueline Guild is executive director of the Chesapeake Legal Alliance. Evan Isaacson is a policy analyst for the Center for Progressive Reform. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.

From South of Left Field: Weather or Not by Jimmie Galbreath

A lifelong love of science in all forms can cause problems. As a child, it fascinated me and sadly resulted in a great deal of bullying from the other students in the rural schools I attended through junior high school. What strikes me as ridiculous and a bit confusing is that while traveling along that path I also got the idea that America as a whole respected science.

At 14 I was given a job working at Uncle Eugene’s Texaco station in Port Gibson, MS. Between time spent pumping gas, washing windshields and checking oil I began trying to total up how much gas I pumped in a day. That was the price of boredom I guess. Little did I realize the trap I was walking into.

As time progressed, my totals weren’t enough. I wondered how much the station pumped in a day or week, followed by how much was pumped in all of Port Gibson, then how much in the state? As the years rolled by into college, those questions led me to wonder how much crude oil was being produced (I was studying Petroleum Engineering toward the end), how many cubic miles was removed and on and on. Why revisit this repeatedly over the years? The driving question was how much were we doing and how big the impact because of it. I was curious.

There were other things I noticed during this same span of years. It seemed the weather was changing. As a child winter had plenty of cold days and a dusting of snow was not too uncommon. The start of school required flannel shirts with long pants. Slowly as the years rolled by, it seemed that flannel wasn’t necessary for the start of school and I still recall the profound sense of shock as first Thanksgiving then later Christmas rolled by with short sleeve weather. The first frosts came later and later over the years and snow became less frequent. Being a contrary child who from birth loved cold weather, rain, snow and fog I noticed this. Everyone else seemed fine without it.

It was geology (part of the Petroleum Engineering curriculum) that began to connect these two threads for me. Much to my surprise many of the theories of changing climate were born long ago. The earliest theory of people changing local environment is attributed to Theophrastus, a pupil of Aristotle! Weather plays a big part in forming geology, and my personal side interest in weather went there too. Having bored the reader to tears, it is time to cut to the chase and declare two firmly held beliefs. The climate is changing and we humans are driving it. The more years of interest and reading the pros and cons, the more it scares the bejesus out of me.

It is no wonder so many folks want to turn away from accepting this. What sold me on all this was the combination of personal experience and hard science. The hard part to arriving at a place like this is the internal struggle that is created. An awareness that rears its head nearly every time I drive my car or take out the trash and pokes at me saying ‘look what you are causing.’ It is so much easier to say the science is wrong or I can’t change the whole world.

So how do I handle this? First off, ‘I’ am not all that. Neither are you. If I dropped dead today the science says the changes would not stop so ‘I’ alone cannot stop it nor am I causing this. What I am doing is contributing and that I can change to reduce my impact. Being aware and caring causes me to make small changes. Living with awareness is the same as sharing awareness through actions and occasional words. Like so many unpopular endeavors climate change may be best shown in this way to those with closed attitudes toward the science.

In my new home in Maryland when I get a chance to talk to those with life long experience here I often hear similar observations. The fall and spring is warmer and shorter than decades ago. These changes span the globe and can be seen in photographs, graphs, and satellite pictures.

Does it really matter if we believe in human driven climate change? Well, the science, the weather, and the earth itself don’t care what we think about it. Opinion does not change the inevitable march of nature and there will be a reckoning for the changes we are making. There are measurable changes on land, sea and in the air whose ultimate consequences we can only guess. Every time I listen to the remake of ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Disturbed this entire issue comes to mind.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way, he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served three years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.