Monday, February 27, 2006

That heady sense of entitlement

Not that these shenanigans don't cross party lines, but this from our Light Gov, one of the avatars of the "We need to get government off our backs and out of our wallets" Maryland Republicans.

Steele Should Refund Taxpayers for Out of State Political Travel
Steele’s Spanish Holiday Cost Maryland Taxpayers $13,500;
Almost $50,000 in Taxpayer Funds Used for Political Functions

Annapolis, MD – The Maryland Democratic Party is calling on Lt. Governor Michael Steele to refund nearly $50,000 in state taxpayer funds spent on partisan political travel, including a six-day summertime holiday to Madrid in 2005. According to the Washington Post, the Lt. Governor has spent 128 days – over 4 months – in out of state travel, including numerous trips for purely political purposes. A front page report in the Baltimore Business Journal details how Maryland taxpayers paid at least $13,500 to cover the cost of a political getaway for Lt. Governor Michael Steele and at least one government staffer to gather with a Republican political club in Spain.

“George Bush’s handpicked candidate for the Senate race in Maryland has every right to travel abroad but he has no right to make the taxpayers fund his Spanish vacation or his forays on behalf of fellow Republicans,” says Derek Walker, Executive Director of the Maryland Democratic Party.

“The $13,500 price tag for the Spanish trip covers just his security detail,” adds Walker. “It’s obvious from pictures published on the internet by Republicans Abroad in Spain that Steele took members of his official government staff along with him. So, how much did Maryland taxpayers really pay for a six day excursion to Spain?”

The Baltimore Business Journal details nearly $50,000 worth of taxpayer funded expenses for Steele’s political efforts: “Lt. Gov. Michael Steele took more than 20 political trips in the past year, billing Maryland taxpayers each time for his security protection to places as far away as Spain. From July 2004 through December 2005, the lieutenant governor traveled to 21 cities in the name of the Republican Party and two additional destinations in the name of his campaign for U.S. Senate.”

“Robert Ehrlich and Michael Steele have increased the burden on taxpayers by over $3 billion since coming into office, and that doesn’t even include the egregious misuse of public funds for partisan political purposes,” said Walker. “The money Steele raised while arm-in-arm with George Bush and Karl Rove should more than cover the costs of these political junkets.”

The Washington Post article can be viewed here.

The Baltimore Business Journal article can be viewed here.

-- A tip o' the hat to Derek Walker

Friday, February 24, 2006

Frame up

"Republicans: You can’t trust them. You can’t trust them to run a country, you can’t trust them to live up to their claims of “smaller government,” you can’t trust them to fund their promises of a secure nation or to rebuild New York after Sept. 11 or New Orleans after Katrina. You can’t trust them to get you into a war or out of one. And you certainly can’t trust Dick Cheney with a gun."


Political Animal | Columns

Frame Up

By Brian Morton

If there is one thing Republicans are good at, even better at than creating deficits or cutting rich people’s taxes, it is defining their opponents. Many people in America who might be considered “liberal,” if you ask them a series of questions about their beliefs, will never own up to the word, preferring to call themselves “independents” or “moderates.” Because, for the last 25 years, the right has made “liberal” seem as welcome as “rapist.”
Read more here

The party of true fiscal responsibility

Democrats Fighting to Stem the Tide
of Ehrlich's Tuition Increases


Democrats in the Maryland legislature are fighting to keep college affordable for Maryland families in the face of Ehrlich administration policies that have forced a 40% rise in tuition at some colleges and universities during the Governor's tenure.

Tuition would not rise at Maryland's public universities in the fall, under legislation introduced yesterday by Democratic leaders of the Maryland Senate.

The Democrats said the bill is needed to ensure that the University System of Maryland remains affordable after a string of tuition increases that have raised the cost of higher education by more than 40 percent at some campuses since Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) took office.

The Board of Regents has approved a 4.5 percent increase at most campuses that would take effect in the next school year.

Read more here.

Thankfully, the Democrats are willing to fight the Ehrlich administration on these back-door tax increases on the middle class.

I am sure Ehrlich feels that students and parents should feel lucky with only a 40% increase in tuition. After all, early in Ehrlich's term, Richard Hug, Ehrlich's finance chair, and an Erhlich appointee to the Board of Regents, tried to set a course to double tuition. "Only a 40% increase? What a deal!"

--A tip o' the hat to Roy Temple

Friday, February 03, 2006

Real Corruption Part II

Not a bad spread: 29 bedrooms, 39 bathrooms, a 164-seat theater, two bowling alleys, a restaurant-size kitchen, a 2.5 million-B.T.U. furnace, and a parking garage that could hold 200 cars. That's for one person: Ira Rennert.

But, Rennert may have to give up his palace in the Hamptons, as Mary Williams Walsh reports in today's New York Times. You see, while Rennert has been padding around his "home," the government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp has been saddled with a mess Rennert left when he dumped the pensions for 2,000 steelworkers who worked for his now-bankrupt WCI Steel. Too often, the PBGC has to shell out money--taxpayers money--to cover dumped pensions because there are not enough assets to recover in a bankrupt enterprise. But, luckily for the PBGC, the value of Rennert's "home" just about equals the pensions of the 2,000 workers--startling as that may be.

Unfortunately, according to Walsh's piece, "Mr. Rennert is not likely to lose his estate in Sagaponack, the biggest, most expensive home in the Hamptons. But it is a particularly tempting target because of its personal value to Mr. Rennert. To prevent the government from placing a lien on it, he could be forced to hand over as much as $189 million — somewhat more than the value of his property — to cover the government's cost of paying the pensions that he promised to the steelworkers."

Well, why not take the house? Does one person need 29 bedrooms and 39 bathrooms--particularly when the thousands of people he left high and dry likely get by with a couple of bedrooms? It should be taken simply as a signal that such disgusting excess coming at the expense of hard-working people is not acceptable in our society. Make him an example.

If his home is accessible, it would be a wonderful thing to throw up a picket line and set up one of those big, inflatable rats that unions use to highlight strikes and non-union employers. Or, at the very least, make Rennert a poster-boy for what is wrong and corrupt with American business.
A tip o' the hat to Working Life

The Republicans have a dream . . . 1889-style

. . . The fourth fact to claim attention is the rapid centralization of wealth by the corporation combine or trust and the creation of a few score millionaires, whose wealth and influence are becoming a menace to the republic.

The New York statistician, Mr. Thomas G. Shearman, in an article contributed to the Forum for November, 1889, showed conclusively the dangerous extent to which this concentration has already progressed. The following statistics of great millionaires are gathered from his article:

  • $150,000,000 each -- Trinity Church, J. J. Astor;
  • $100,000,000 each -- C. Vanderbilt, W. K. Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, Leland Stanford, J. D. Rockefeller;
  • $70,000,000 -- estate of A. Packer;
  • $60,000,000 each estate of Charles Crocker, John I. Blair;
  • $50,000,000 each -- W. W. Astor, Russell Sage, William Astor, E. A. Stevens, estate of Moses Taylor, and estate of Brown & Ives;
  • $40,000,000 each -- P. D. Armour, F. L. Ames, William Rockefeller, II. M. Flagler, Powers & Weightman, estate of P. Goelet;
  • $35,000,000each -- C. P. Huntingdon, D. O. Mills, estates of T. A. Scott and J. W Garrett;
  • $30,000,000 each -- G. B. Roberts, Charles Pratt, Ross Winans, E. B. Coxe, Claus Spreckels, A. Belmont, R. J. Livingston, Fred. Weyerhaeuser, Mrs. Mark Hopkins, Mrs. Hettie Green, estates of S. V. Harkness, R. W Coleman, and I. M. Singer;
  • $25,000,000 each -- A. J. Drexel, J. S. Morgan, J. P. Morgan, Marshall Field, J. [54] G. Fair, E. T. Gerry, estates of Governor Fairbanks, A. T. Stewart, A. Schermerhorn;
  • $22,500,000 each -- O. H. Payne, estates of F. A. Drexel, I. V. Williamson, W. F. Weld;
  • $20,000,000 each -- F. W. Vanderbilt, H. O. Havemeyer, Theodore Havemeyer, W. G. Warden, W. P. Thompson, Mrs. Schenley, J. B. Haggin, H. A. Hutchins, estates of W. Sloane, E. S. Higgins, William Thaw, C. Tower, Dr. Hostetter, Peter Donahue, and William Sharon.

Mr. Shearman reaches the conclusion that 25,000 persons own one-half of the whole wealth of the United States, and that, under the present rapid concentration, 50,000 persons will practically own all the wealth in thirty years.