Category Archives: Republicans

Republican Delegates Protect Internet Scammers

By Adam Pagnucco.

After Republicans in Congress voted to allow Internet service providers to sell their customers’ browsing histories and other personal data without their consent, Delegate Bill Frick (D-16) took action to block such practices in Maryland.  But one group was able to prevent the General Assembly from even voting on whether to allow such conduct in the Free State.

You guessed it: Republican state lawmakers.

Bills in Annapolis face deadlines for introduction so that each chamber has adequate time to send them to committees, hold hearings and votes, and reconcile them if different versions pass.  But Congress’s action to legalize Internet providers’ scamming of their customers took place only days ago and Sine Die, the last day of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2017 regular session, is approaching on April 10.  Delegate Frick, who is known for introducing consumer protection bills, had to act fast.  The Maryland Constitution requires two thirds of state legislators to agree to let a bill be introduced in the last 35 days of session.  So Frick quickly drafted a bill to outlaw the scamming that Congress allowed and asked his colleagues in the House of Delegates to allow its introduction.  He needed 94 votes.  He got 90.

Frick posted a partial screenshot of the vote page on Facebook (below).  Delegate Kumar Barve (D-17) posted the full tally.  Every single Delegate who voted against the bill’s introduction was a Republican.  So were all the Members of Congress who voted to roll back federal Internet privacy rules in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

What did the Republican Delegates block from being voted on?  Frick’s bill was a simple one.  It would have made it an unfair or deceptive trade practice in Maryland for Internet service providers to sell or transfer their customers’ names, social security numbers, addresses, IP addresses and browsing histories without their affirmative permission.  It also would have banned them from showing ads derived from browsing histories and denying service to customers who refused to allow their personal information to be shared.  The bill made an exception for information subject to a subpoena, summons, warrant or court order.

One Republican Delegate who voted against introducing Frick’s bill, Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County, told the Associated Press that Internet privacy is “a national issue, and a Maryland bill would just drag Washington politics into the state.”  Great!  So when millions of Marylanders get scammed by Internet predators, the state legislators who represent them should do nothing.  Nigerian princes, British lottery officials and offshore bank investors rejoice!

GOP politicians have been known for their squabbling in recent years, but on this one thing, they agree: your personal Internet data should be bought and sold without your knowledge or consent.  Remember that in November 2018.

Hogan and Senate Republicans Throw Tantrum in Support of Trump

Maryland Democrats have been trying to link Gov. Larry Hogan to Donald Trump. Now, Hogan has done it for them.

Following his pattern of avoiding all politically touchy issues when at all possible, Larry Hogan refused to comment on Trump’s travel ban because it is “the sole purview of the federal government.” An interesting view expressed by the same guy who proudly declared that Maryland would refuse to accept Syrian refugees. Among other issues, the ban resulted in a 5-year old Maryland boy being separated from his mother and held for hours.

Hogan continued his pattern of avoidance by not responding to Attorney General Brian Frosh’s request to sue the federal government on this issue. No doubt Hogan thought this was a clever way to say no while saying nothing, but Frosh upped the ante by taking Hogan’s silence as permission.

Hogan’s silent freeze out ended in a tantrum when the General Assembly voted to give Attorney General Brian Frosh the authority to sue the federal government on this and other issues. Article V of the Maryland Constitution permits either the Governor or the General Assembly to give the AG license to sue.

After he abdicated his responsibility on a difficult issue, Hogan immediately lashed out at the General Assembly for taking action to defend the State on this and other issues:

At a news conference later Friday, Hogan called the Senate vote “unfortunate, rank partisanship.”

“I don’t know why you have to change the rules now that we have a Republican governor, but they’ve been doing quite a bit of that lately,” he said. “I would rather not see that kind of political operation going on and just focus on the problems in the state.”

No change in rules. Just take a moment to read the Maryland Constitution. Don’t get mad when the Assembly exercises its rights just because you chose duck and cover.

Again, remember that for Hogan, Syrian refugees are a Maryland problem but detained child is “federal issue.” Quite a change from when Obama was president. Republicans in the Maryland Senate joined the tantrum by walking out during the discussion of the bill.

The Governor and Maryland Republicans have now taken a firm stand in favor Trump and his policies. While the Governor tried to dodge, he ultimately strongly fought the Assembly’s decision to allow AG Frosh to oppose them, breaking his much vaunted amity in order to vocally support the Trump ban along with plans to dismantle environmental protections and take away health care from thousands of Marylanders.

More Banana Republicans

Two more Republican delegates continue to hug Trump tightly. Let’s start with Neil Parrott:

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Del. Parrott is best known for his hysterical advocacy of the “bathroom bill” because he really thought that men dressing up as women to enter the women’s bathroom would become a thing once we passed transgender equality legislation.

These concerns do not extend to candidates that Parrott supports. He remains enthusiastically behind Donald Trump–the candidate who the Washington Post reported today has entered rooms with naked underage girls in it during the Miss Teen USA Pageant who were then forced to fawn all over him while nude:

To have the owner come waltzing in, when we’re naked, or half naked, in a very physically vulnerable position and then to have the pressure of the people that worked for him telling us to go fawn all over him, go walk up to him, talk to him, get his attention.

So the same man who wanted to use fear of a small vulnerable minority to criminalize their use of bathrooms over a nonexistent problem has no issue when the presidential candidate of his own party preys on underage girls.

Moving on to Del. Warren Miller. He rationalized his support for Trump by claiming that “her campaign hates Christians” in a tweeted reply to Dylan Goldberg, who formerly worked for Sen. Guy Guzzone:

dylan1Miller clearly lives in the right-wing delusional alternative universe in which American Christians are persecuted and there is a “War on Christmas.” It would seem that the only Christian being persecuted here is Hillary Clinton.

One might add the weirdness of sending this particular tweet to Dylan Goldberg during Yom Kippur. While Miller’s belief about Clinton supporting Christian persecution is a work of fiction, Trump’s invocation of anti-Semitic tropes is on tape and he admitted to similar statements over the past 25 years.

As is well known, Trump retweets material, including the infamous anti-Semitic “sheriff’s star” attack, from right-wing white nationalist websites. His supporters have no problem attacking Trump critics, such as Anne Applebaum, for being Jewish.

In short, no one has done more to reawaken anti-Semitism in the U.S. in decades than Donald Trump. And this hardly compares to his routine demonization of Latinos, Muslims, and Blacks. Apparently, Miller is also fine with Trump’s anti-democratic threat to jail his opponent, undermining of NATO, and cozying up to Putin.

Folks, this is the norm in today’s Maryland Republican Party.

Maryland Republican Trump Tape Reax Summary: Standing by Trump

head_in_sandGovernor Larry Hogan’s Reaction to Trump Tape

This past weekend, 7S spent much time chronicling the reactions of Maryland Republicans to Tapegate. I summarize here in case you sensibly had better things to do this weekend. They run the gamut to everything except a willingness to repudiate Trump:

Full Ostrich: Gov. Larry Hogan continued his perfect record of never criticizing his party’s nominee and disclaiming interest in presidential politics after racing around the country to support Trump lickspittle Chris Christie.

The Szeliga: Kathy Szeliga was “appalled” but Trump still gets her vote. A common approach.

Szeliga Plus: Amie Hoeber upped the weird by utilizing her personal experience of being subjected to sexism to justify her continued support for the sexist candidate. And Hillary bad.

No Apology Necessary: A model for all wingnuts, Sen. Gail Bates excused Trump as she linked to conspiracy theory rants. She holds Allan Kittleman’s former seat in the General Assembly, which shows just how deep the rot has got in the GOP.

Full Trump: Rep. Andy Harris previewed Trump’s tawdry pre-debate presser and invoked Benghazi like the Expelliarmus charm in Harry Potter.

Remember that all of these people opposed marriage equality but there is seemingly no behavior by Trump that cannot be ignored or excused. This is now the Maryland Republican Party.

The Silence of Maryland Republicans

It’s getting on 24 hours since the unveiling of the Trump tape, which has apparently allowed some Republicans to connect the dots and abandon their horrible nominee. But the overwhelming reaction among Maryland Republicans is to go full ostrich and pretend that this event and Trump are going away.

Kathy Szeliga

Based on a quick examination of her web page, twitter feed, and Facebook page, Kathy Szeliga has neither condemned the latest evidence of Trump’s horrible behavior nor withdrawn her endorsement of the Republican nominee.

As the Baltimore Sun has pointed out, this is part of a long pattern for Szeliga:

With a record like that, it’s no surprise Ms. Szeliga supports Mr. Trump. When he attacked a Gold Star family, she was silent. When he suggested that “Second Amendment people” could take action against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, again, deafening silence. When Mr. Trump claimed that President Barack Obama is the founder of ISIS, she didn’t condemn his words.

So there is nothing Trump can do that would cause Gov. Larry Hogan’s chosen Senate candidate to dump Trump.  Nothing from Larry Hogan about Szeliga’s judgment either even though Szeliga advertises Hogan’s support of her candidacy at every turn. Szeliga’s inevitable hard defeat will be a major blow for Hogan, as evidence that his personal support counts little.

Andy Harris

Nothing on the web page, twitter or Facebook of the sole elected Maryland Republican at the federal level, Rep. Andy Harris, either. Like Szeliga, Harris has endorsed Trump:

I’m going to work for him. I’m going to help him try to win the electoral votes in the state of Maryland because in the presidential election, it’s always a selection between two individuals. No one is going to be perfect, any individual. But Mr. Trump will be a far better choice for this country than Mrs. (Hillary) Clinton.

Larry Hogan

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has been basking in the plaudits and polls for not supporting Trump. However, Hogan has not criticized Trump at all. He just said that he won’t vote for the guy and made this incredible statement:

“I’ve always been a blunt, straightforward guy, and whether you agree with me or not, you always know where I stand,” he said. “I’m not trying to convince anybody how to vote, anyway.”

But that’s simply untrue. Hogan had time to trot around the country to say nice things about Chris Christie, a bully who has now cozied up to Trump, and is a vociferous backer of Trump supporter Kathy Szeliga. In contrast, this self-proclaimed “blunt, straightforward guy” has nothing to say about any of his party’s standard bearer’s bad behavior. Not exactly #HoganStrong.

Self-Deported Dan Bongino Melts Down

After losing a close race for the Sixth Congressional District, Dan Bongino self-deported to Florida, where this self-proclaimed non-politician has decided to run for Congress again.

It’s not going well.

Showing the cool calm when under fire for which former members of Secret Service are known, Bongino lashed out when a reporter accused him of being a carpetbagger. Apparently, he asked the reporter repeatedly “to carry out a sexual act that is not physically possible” as well as using much other ungentlemanly vocabulary that doesn’t exactly read grace under pressure.

Montgomery Republicans Now Muslim Baiting

If you’re hoping that Donald Trump falls into the category of “this too shall pass,” you need look no further than the Montgomery County Republican Party to see that Trumpism isn’t an aberration but is the Republican Party.

The Montgomery County Republican Party and 7S have been having a lively debate on Twitter (140 characters being so amenable to thoughtful discussion) about the relative importance of Clinton’s emails versus Trump’s willingness to give Crimea to Putin and his hiring of a campaign manager illegally.

In its desperation to change the subject, the Montgomery GOP resorted to Muslim baiting about longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin:

Huma1

They doubled down on this line of attack later:

huma2

In case you’re wondering if these recycled accusations have any merit, here is what Sen. John McCain has to say in response to Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s efforts to scaremonger:

These sinister accusations rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma’s family, none of which have been shown to harm or threaten the United States in any way. These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now.

Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person. This is about who we are as a nation, and who we still aspire to be. What makes America exceptional among the countries of the world is that we are bound together as citizens not by blood or class, not by sect or ethnicity, but by a set of enduring, universal, and equal rights that are the foundation of our constitution, our laws, our citizenry, and our identity. When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.

Our reputations, our character, are the only things we leave behind when we depart this earth, and unjust attacks that malign the good name of a decent and honorable person is not only wrong; it is contrary to everything we hold dear as Americans.

Yet the Montgomery County Republicans continue to promote this scurrilous agitprop.

My twitter response to the Montgomery Republicans:huma3

Help Save Maryland, GOP Push Term Limits

By Adam Pagnucco.

Brad Botwin, Director of the anti-immigration group Help Save Maryland, has sent out the following email promoting term limits.

*****

UPDATE ON THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY TERM LIMIT PETITION – CITIZENS WORKING TOGETHER CAN SUCCEED!

Recent e-mail I received on the status of the Term Limit Petition which will revitalize the MoCo County Council and County Executive if passed this November 2016 by the voters.  The professional politicians are getting nervous!

Dear Concerned Voter:

Thank you for signing the non-partisan term limits petition for Montgomery County.

We did it!  You and nearly 18,000 registered voters in Montgomery County signed the term limits petition (only 10,000 signatures were required).  The signatures were submitted on August 8, which means you’ll be able to vote on the term limits question on the November 2018 general election ballot.   When passed — and we need your vote to pass the measure — it will limit County Council members and the County Executive to serving no more than three consecutive terms, or 12 years.

One week from today, on Wednesday, August 24, you will have an opportunity to support term limits at a Montgomery County Charter Commission hearing.

Here is information about the hearing: http://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgportalapps/Press_Detail.aspx?Item_ID=16281

In order to testify, you must notify the commission in advance by e-mailing them at: charterreview.commission@montgomerycountymd.gov

If you can’t attend, but still want to convey your support for the term limits petition; email the commission at the same e-mail address in the previous sentence.

If you don’t want to speak out publicly on the 24th, please come to the hearing and stand with your neighbors in support of term limits for the County Council and County Executive.

If you want to know how you can help or need more information, let us know.

Thank you,

Montgomery County Citizens group in support of Term Limits   sohenc@gmail.com

*****

The gmail account above belongs to Sharon Cohen, a member of the Montgomery County Republican Party’s Central Committee.  This reinforces the central role played by both Help Save Maryland and the Republicans in pushing Robin Ficker’s terms limits charter amendment.

The state’s election law requires groups advocating on ballot questions to register with the State Board of Elections and file campaign finance reports.  According to the state’s summary guide on campaign finance laws, “Once the petition process to place a question on the ballot is completed, a ballot issue committee must be formed before money is collected or spent to promote the success or defeat of the ballot issue.”

So far, no committee on Montgomery County term limits has registered with the state.  Hopefully, any group advocating on the issue will obey the law, file reports and show their funding.  Voters may find that information useful as they consider whether to support term limits.

Maryland Republican Party Ashamed of Trump

The relationship between Donald Trump and the Maryland Republican Party is the love that dare not speak its name. Donald Trump is all but an unperson on the Maryland Republican Party twitter account, @mdreps.

The Maryland GOP would rather pretend their presidential nominee doesn’t exist. @mdreps hasn’t mentioned Donald Trump since the Republican Convention. Indeed, “Trump” has appeared a mere five times @mdreps since the Maryland Republican Primary, including the following tweet on primary night:

MDGOP3

Next up, from the Republican salad days:

MDGOP5

Video received from a Trump voter in honor of this tweet:

The following is the only tweet in which the Maryland Republican Party expresses direct approval of Trump:

MDGOP4

Though Trump gets mentioned in the next tweet only in the cited article description, it’s worth a mention if only because the Maryland Republican Party’s own words, “It’s about ideas, not race,” are as Orwellian as they come.

MDGOP2

The next day they retweeted an innocuous shout out to the Republican delegation in Cleveland that copied Trump.

In short, you’d never guess that the a thumping majority of Maryland Republicans support Donald Trump.  There is not one picture. No tweets proudly touting his latest utterance.

I imagine some Republicans will claim they’re just too focused on state issues to mention Trump. Except that you may’ve noticed that their logo is a “Stop Hillary” sign. Maryland Republicans also have no problem using @mdreps to attack Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.

The lack of Trump mentions is really a good sign. Shame is the right emotion if Donald Trump is your party’s nominee. Let’s hope the second stage of grief for the party entails repudiation.

 

MoCo’s Giant Tax Hike, Part Six

By Adam Pagnucco.

Montgomery County’s giant tax hike will have consequences.  Here are a few of them.

1.  Term limits are more likely to pass.

There are several reasons why Robin Ficker’s newest term limits amendment will probably pass if he gathers enough signatures to place it on the ballot, but the tax hike is one of the biggest.  The last time the council broke the charter limit in 2008, voters responded by passing Ficker’s charter amendment to make tax hikes harder.  With a new tax hike in place, voters may be tempted to respond with term limits.

Ficker has taken notice.  He regularly runs Facebook ads linking term limits, the tax hike and the council’s 2013 salary increase like the one below.  Commenters respond predictably.

Ficker vs Elrich

Ficker may have a new ally in his quest to evict the council: MCGEO President Gino Renne.  After the council voted to abrogate his union’s collective bargaining agreement, Renne told the Post, “I’m tired of these clowns,” and said his union might support term limits.  An alliance between Gino Renne and Robin Ficker would be one of the strangest events in the history of MoCo politics.  Whoever can produce a picture of these two smiling and shaking hands will be awarded a gift certificate from Gino’s beloved Department of Liquor Control.

2. Outsider candidates could be encouraged to run for county office.

If term limits pass, two things will happen.  First, the County Executive’s seat and five seats on the County Council will be open in 2018.  Second, the tax increase will be blamed for the success of term limits.  Both factors could lead to the entry of outsider candidates with a message like this: “We need new leadership.  We need to do things differently.”  Translation: we need to run the government without giant tax hikes.

Some of these outsiders may use the county’s new public financing system to run.  But the strong performance of David Trone, who started with zero name recognition and won many parts of CD8, will encourage self-funders.  This being Montgomery County, there are a LOT of potential self-funders, including those who have previously run for office.  Candidates in public financing can raise as many individual contributions of up to $150 each as they are able to collect, but the system caps public match amounts at $750,000 for Executive candidates, $250,000 for at-large council candidates and $125,000 for district council candidates.  A wealthy self-funder could easily overwhelm candidates who are subject to these caps and make a mockery of public financing.

3.  More charter amendments on taxes are possible.

Ficker’s 2008 property tax charter amendment, which instituted the requirement that all nine Council Members must vote to override the charter limit on property taxes, was a mild version of his previous ballot questions on the subject.  His 2004 Question A, which would have abolished the override provision entirely, failed by a 59-41 percent margin.  Now that the 2008 amendment has been proven ineffective, Ficker could be encouraged to bring back his more draconian version soon.  In the wake of this new tax hike, would voters support it?

Passage of a hard tax cap would have very grave consequences for the ability of county government to deal with downturns.  In 2010, the County Council responded to the Great Recession by passing a tough budget combining cuts, furloughs, an energy tax increase and layoffs of 90 employees.  When the next recession comes, if the county has no taxation flexibility, it might have to pass a budget laying off hundreds of people and gutting entire departments.  If the levying of giant tax hikes in non-emergencies causes the voters to abolish the possibility of levying them in true emergencies in the future, it would be a serious calamity.

4.  Governor Larry Hogan is a big winner.

One of Governor Hogan’s favorite political tactics is to play the Big Three Democratic jurisdictions against the rest of the state, with the City of Baltimore being his prime target.  But he can also point to Prince George’s County, where the County Executive (and a potential election opponent) proposed a 15% property tax hike, and also to Montgomery County, where the council passed a 9% increase.  His message to the voters will be a simple one.

“Look, folks.  This is what you get when you allow liberal Democrats to have one-party rule: giant tax hikes.  That’s why you need people like me in office to stop them.”

How many MoCo Democrats will ask themselves this question: “What is easier for me to live with? Larry Hogan or nine percent tax hikes?” What do you think their answer will be?

Hogan received 37% of the vote in Montgomery County in 2014.  He had a 55% approval rating in MoCo according to a Washington Post poll last October.  A Gonzales poll taken in March found that registered voters in the Washington suburbs (defined as MoCo, Prince George’s and Charles) gave Hogan a 62.6% job approval rating, with 35% strongly approving.  If Hogan can use the tax issue to run in the low 40s, or even as high as 45% in MoCo, he will be very difficult to beat for reelection.

Reelecting himself is not Hogan’s only priority.  He would also like to elect enough Republicans to the General Assembly to uphold his vetoes.  That task is easier in the House of Delegates, where Democrats hold 91 seats, six more than the 85 votes required to override vetoes.  If the GOP can pick up seven seats, as they did in 2014, they can uphold the Governor’s vetoes on party line votes.  That would cause serious change in how Annapolis operates.  Could big tax hikes in Democratic jurisdictions like Montgomery help the GOP get there?

5.  It will be harder to get more aid from Annapolis.

In 2007, former Baltimore State Senator Barbara Hoffman commented to the Gazette on Montgomery County’s ultra-wealthy reputation in Annapolis.  “They have to overcome the view that they’re rich and trouble-free. … That’s not true anymore.”  She was right then, and she is even more right now.  The county has massive needs for transportation projects and both operating and construction funds for the public schools.  But when the county levies giant tax hikes on itself to pay for these needs, is it letting the state off the hook?  State legislators from other cash-strapped jurisdictions that lack wealthy tax bases like Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac are perfectly happy to let MoCo tax itself while they ask the state to tax MoCo even more to pay for their needs.  (Remember the 2012 state income tax hike, of which MoCo residents paid 41% of the new revenue?)  As a result, the next time the Lords of Annapolis are asked to help Montgomery County, they could very well reply, “Tax yourselves to pay for it. You always do.”

6.  A major argument in favor of the liquor monopoly has been proven hollow.

County officials predicted that if the liquor monopoly was lost, annual property taxes would have to rise by an average $100 per household.  Instead, the monopoly was preserved and the council passed a property tax hike that will cost an average $326 per household.  The tax hike was in the works since at least January 2015, long before small businesses and consumers launched their campaign to End the Monopoly.  And the $25 million in new spending added by the council to this year’s budget actually exceeds the $20.7 million that the liquor monopoly is projected to return to the general fund.  This proves once and for all that liquor monopoly revenues do not prevent tax hikes!

7.  There will be pressure in the future for another tax hike.

As we discussed in Part Three of this series, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wynne decision, which requires counties to refund taxes paid on out-of-state income, was one reason for the current property tax hike.  Senator Rich Madaleno’s state legislation extended the time that counties had to pay for refunds from Fiscal Year 2019 to 2024.  Below is a table showing the fiscal impact on all Maryland counties combined, of which Montgomery accounts for roughly half.  While the legislation enables counties to spend less in FY 2017-2018, it requires them to spend more in FY 2020-2024.  MoCo will have to spend around $20 million a year in most of the out years.

Madaleno Wynne Bill Fiscal Impact

Given its $5 billion-plus annual budget, Montgomery could easily afford the out-year payments by slightly slowing the growth rate in its annual spending.  But instead, the council added $25 million in new spending on top of the Executive’s FY 2017 budget, and unless it is cut, that spending will continue in future budgets.  The cumulative impact of that new spending plus future Wynne refund payments will start to be felt in three years.  At that point, the council could very well face a choice between trimming back their added spending or raising taxes.  What do you think they will do?

8.  Economic development will now be harder.

Despite the wealth in some of its communities, Montgomery County struggles with the perception that it is not business-friendly.  While its unemployment rate is low by national standards, its real per capita income fell steeply during the recession, much of its office space is obsolete and it lacks Northern Virginia’s two major airports and its new Metro line.  The chart below shows the county’s private sector employment from 2001 through 2014.  Despite recent sluggish growth, the county had fewer private sector jobs in 2014 than it did in 2001.

MoCo Private Employment 2001-2014

And while the county lost private sector jobs, the Washington region as a whole grew by 9.5% over this period.

Washington Private Employment 2001-2014

There may be a variety of factors explaining MoCo’s weak economic performance, but consider this: in the last 15 fiscal years, the county has seen six major tax increases.  The county broke its charter limit on property taxes in FY 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009 and 2017 and it doubled the energy tax in FY 2011.  (Most of the latter increase is still on the books.)

Good government is an exercise in balancing needs.  Education, transportation, public safety and public services are valuable and require resources, at times necessitating tax increases.  But all of that is impossible without a vigorous private sector that creates jobs and incomes and pays the government’s bills.  Those priorities must be balanced, and when they are, progressive policies can be afforded.  But if they are not, economic growth will fail, government services will be harder to sustain, taxes will fall increasingly on a shrinking base and a downward spiral could begin.

In the wake of its long-term stagnant economy and its Giant Tax Hike, how close is Montgomery County to that tipping point?