Listening to Frank’s side

Since I promised to do so, last night as I was working on a future monoblogue post/page I took a listen to the radio interview Frank Kratovil did with Delmarva Public Radio. In this hour-long interview Kratovil touched on a number of subjects; my impressions are lurking just below that fold.

To begin, Kratovil established a strategy of attempting to paint his opponent, State Senator Andy Harris, as an “extremist.” His was a two-pronged approach. One side of the argument focused on the endorsement and large campaign contributions from the Club For Growth and another endorsement from the Eagle Forum, Phyllis Schlafly’s group.

In case you’re wondering just how “extremist” these two groups are, I took a few moments to find out what they actually stand for. While I disagree with a few items on each, for the most part the Club For Growth and Eagle Forum stand for what we used to call traditional American values which both parties more or less embraced until the era of McGovern. Furthermore, just like the unions who are sure to bundle the member dues that they charge for the privilege of belonging to the organization, the Club For Growth bundled member contributions for the Harris cause. (At least the Club’s fundraising was voluntary, unlike the unions.)

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The second front of this war on Harris’s “extremism” was Kratovil’s generalization of Senator Harris’s voting record. He noted that on many occasions Harris has been in a small minority as far as Maryland Senate votes are concerned. However, given the fact that the General Assembly as a whole has been controlled by tax-and-spend Democrats for decades, even a strict party-line Senate vote of 33-14 can be construed as a tiny minority. Maybe Andy doesn’t work and play well with Democrats but given the far-left liberals who pass for Democrats in Maryland, to me that’s not such a bad thing.

Another charge made by Frank Kratovil against Andy Harris was that Andy stood for the “status quo.” Instead, Frank countered that America was on the “wrong path”, and, like the man at the top of his ticket, Kratovil stood for change – although Frank took it a step further and insisted on “substantial change.” The only problem with that approach is that, whereas Barack Obama is running to succeed a President who’s of the opposite party, Frank Kratovil is running to join a body which is already controlled by his party, one which the conventional wisdom states will be even further in the tank of Democrat control come January, 2009. It would be nice to change a Congress which has done nothing to address the issues the Democrats ran on in 2006; unfortunately that change won’t have a backer if Frank is elected.

One issue where pressure has been brought to bear on Congress to address is earmarks. Using an example of beach replenishment in Ocean City, Frank not only chided Andy’s support of that as contradictory given Andy’s “second-worst” environmental record in the General Assembly but counter to the idea of ending earmarks. To Frank, getting items for the local district wasn’t so bad as long as they benefitted more than a handful of people.

It might be worth explaining to Mr. Kratovil that the reason earmarks are so reviled by the taxpaying public is that they are tacked onto bills with little or no debate, and the practice has become endemic in recent years as politicians of both parties have jumped into the game with both feet. It’s one thing to draw up an actual bill to do beach replenishment and make it go through the Congressional process, quite another to slip it in as part of a much larger “must-pass” bill. There are a few in Congress who are attempting to stop this madness, and those few don’t reside in Frank’s party. Moreover, to get goodies for your district it’s understood the quid pro quo is to vote for everyone else’s too. OC gets its beach replenishment but some city in California gets a bike trail, North Dakotans get a new monument to a local hero, and so on – all out of our pockets.

Turning to economic issues, Frank told the radio audience that he was all for giving tax cuts to the middle class folks but ending the tax breaks he claimed were in effect for the oil companies and their executives. Yes, class envy at its finest on display. Obviously those who favor a fairer, flatter tax system aren’t going to have a friend in Frank Kratovil.

However, most people who actually paid taxes did so back in the spring. A much larger number of us have more recently felt the pain at the pump as tankfuls which used to cost $25 now run upwards of $40. Not surprisingly, the worst job to have at the auto dealership isn’t used cars anyomore, now it’s trying to sell those once-popular F-150’s, Suburbans, or Grand Cherokees.

Frank’s approach to this problem isn’t a gas tax holiday (which he dismissed as “not a long-term solution”), nor is it apparently securing more domestic oil supply. Instead, Frank believes in that Democrat mantra of conservation and alternative fuels. Another way of putting it is that Frank will end the so-called “subsidies” to oil companies which have been proven to be a reliable if expensive energy supplier and instead subsidize the unproven and even more expensive area of “alternative” energy with federal money and narrowly targeted tax incentives. (Again, instead of fairer and flatter taxes it’s the usual left-wing tactic of using the tax code to regulate behavior.)

The trick with conservation is that being miserly with resources inhibits growth to a large degree. Certainly if I use a little less electricity by keeping my air conditioning off it’ll save me a couple dollars a month on my electric bill, but on a corporate scale they’re already attempting to run as efficiently as possible. In their case, using the same amount of power wouldn’t allow them to increase production if the demand arose.

On a larger societal scale, conservation generally means cutting back. Instead of buying that aforementioned Grand Cherokee, a growing family may have to squeeze into a Chevy Malibu and sacrifice the extra space. More importantly, that family may find that rising energy costs are making them forgo their annual vacation to someplace like, say, Ocean City. If 100,000 families decide to skip the OC vacation, suddenly the businesses there suffer and either have to lay off employees or in more extreme cases shut their doors permanently. (I know the natives will enjoy the lack of traffic but it comes at a steep cost, don’t you think?)

The other problem with Frank’s approach is that what cannot be achieved by conservation alone invariably is an excuse for the government to jump in with more regulation. One example is Kratovil’s call for higher CAFE standards for fuel efficiency – in this case, the market may achieve what he wants without government interference as the high price for gasoline increases sales of smaller cars and dampens SUV and large truck sales to the extent that the Hummer is now on the endangered species list. (This blogger comes to the same conclusion from the opposite direction, considering his thought about a $4 floor on gas prices.) Nevertheless, Frank’s all for regulation and powering cars with switchgrass, not for increasing domestic oil production and refining. To him, it’s time to end our dependence on gas and oil. My question is with what? You can’t fill your tank with sunshine or wind.

Despite the obvious economic impact energy prices are having on our wallets, Frank still feels the most important issue in this election is the Long War. Once again, he advocated for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and pulling our troops mostly out in favor of a multinational force, meanwhile taking the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group as gospel. Never mind that what we’re now doing seems to be working and slowly troops are being pulled out anyway as the Iraqi Army takes over more and more of their own security duty. The only thing that seems to be giving al-Qaeda hope is the prospect of a Barack Obama victory, and Kratovil falls right along in that line.

There were a lot of other issues touched upon in the hour-long interview, particularly on some hot-button social issues like abortion and gay marriage. But I encourage you to listen for yourself and see just how moderate Frank really is. After hearing the interview, I’m more convinced that Frank’s going to be well left of where the district lies politically, and to me it’s better to err on the side of conservatism and small government than tax-and-spend socialism.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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