Trump-Ryan Tax Plan Screws Marylanders, Especially in Anne Arundel, HoCo & MoCo

We only know so much about the Republican tax cut plan. As now seems to be the Republican way from healthcare to widening I-495, I-270 and the BW Parkway, plans have only gauzy outlines. However, the little presented is enough to know that tax “reform” would screw many Marylanders. Big Time.

The central idea of tax reform is that the elimination of various special interest tax breaks allows for a reduction in rates without reducing revenue. This plan reduces income tax rates, primarily at the top end, along with corporate tax rates but does virtually nothing to attack special interest tax breaks, so it will result in a massive reduction in revenue. It’s a yuge tax cut for the wealthy being presented in the guise of tax reform.

Indeed, the only eliminated tax break is the state and local tax deduction for taxpayers that itemize. This change is transparently designed to screw blue states that provide high levels of services and thus have higher state and local taxes, as this chart from the Wall St. Journal reveals:

Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery Counties will be among the biggest losers. Upper-middle class households that earn more than $100,000 are more likely to itemize because the current tax code makes it worth the bother. In 2015, over one-half of households earned more than $110,000 in Howard, $98,000 in Montgomery, $90,000 in Anne Arundel, and $75,000 in Maryland as a whole. These figures are even higher now.

As a result, Maryland, especially Anne Arundel, Howard, and Montgomery Counties, will take a big hit. Indeed, many upper-middle class taxpayers may well end up paying more in taxes under the Trump-Ryan plan than they do now because the elimination of this deduction will wipe out any gains that they would otherwise make.

There are some “good” nuggets of news in Trump-Ryan tax plan. While the administration is employing its standard tactic of the big lie by saying that this plan will not help the wealthy, including Donald Trump. Since Donald Trump said “believe me” when making this case, we know from experience that it’s extra big lie.

And indeed, it is. If you’re among the most extremely wealthy, you’ll make out very well. Trump wants to eliminate the estate tax, so that he—oops Freudian slip—other very wealthy people can leave massive money to their heirs tax free. Annually, only around 5000 estates are subject to the estate tax in any year but Maryland probably has more than its fair share as the most affluent state in the country.

Other prominent features in the proposal will also aid the wealthy enormously, especially the reduction in the top income tax bracket and pass-through S-corporations. The graph presented at the top of this post, developed by the Tax Policy Center, shows just how much the top 1%, and especially the top 0.1%, will gain.


George Leventhal on Hogan’s Road Plan

I had the chance to speak with George Leventhal about Gov. Hogan’s road proposal. He explained that the proposal was a complete surprise to local officials because just days earlier Hogan’s Department of Transportation had presented their proposal to spend $100 million to improve mobility on I-270.

As for Hogan’s new proposal, created without any consultation with Montgomery officials, George said “It isn’t possible to be for it or against it because we don’t really know what it is.” In particular, he he emphasized the lack of any information on whether the proposal would include the American Legion Bridge.

The following is by Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large):

We need a lot more information about Governor Hogan’s announcement yesterday, but I am glad to see him paying attention to Montgomery County’s traffic congestion problems. I have been calling for expanded capacity on I-270 and the American Legion Bridge for a long time, and until yesterday, the governor had offered only a good, but insufficient, proposal for I-270, to improve technology and signalization, totaling $100 million. It will be interesting to learn how his new proposal is to be integrated with that earlier proposal.

The County Council has called for two additional reversible lanes on I-270, and it will be worth discussing with the state whether that would be sufficient, and obviate the need for four new lanes. Also, I would like to see a dedicated transitway as part of any plan for I-270 and the American Legion Bridge.

When it comes to I-495 east of the I-270 spur, I don’t understand how lanes could be added without significant adverse consequences to homes, businesses, watersheds, and Rock Creek, Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch Parks.

The governor’s attention to our transportation problems is welcome, but it would have been nice to see closer consultation with local officials before the announcement was made. Fortunately, it’s just a broad outline at this point and I hope that he and his team will now work with local government to figure out the details.


Bill Fricks Up the Executive Field, Part Two

By Adam Pagnucco.

Delegate Bill Frick’s candidacy for Montgomery County Executive raises a number of questions that will impact both him and his rivals.  Here’s our shot at asking them and teasing out some answers.

Question 1: The Path Not Taken

Four years ago, the higher office Frick really wanted was Attorney General.  His path at that time was blocked by his district’s Senator, Brian Frosh, but it could be much more viable in the near future.  Frosh will be 76 years old at the end of his second term.  If Frick were to remain in the House and raise money, expand his connections and build a statewide network, he would be a strong contender to succeed Frosh.  Frick would also have a great rationale for an AG candidacy: his legislative history on consumer issues demonstrates that he would be an aggressive crusader against predatory banks, rapacious credit card companies and sleazy Internet scammers.  That’s a politically powerful message.  But a losing race for Executive would let other candidates jump ahead of him for an AG run.  It’s a huge opportunity cost that should not be paid lightly.

Question 2: Geography

How much are Frick and Council Member Roger Berliner handicapped by the fact that they represent much of the same area?  Berliner’s District 1, which includes Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Potomac and Poolesville, contains 31% of all Super-Democrats (Dems who voted in all three of the 2006, 2010 and 2014 primaries).  Frick’s Bethesda-based District 16, which is inside District 1, contains 19% of all Super-Dems.  These areas are excellent bases from which to launch a countywide campaign.  But Frick and Berliner could split these votes, hurting both of them.  Also worth considering is that Council Member Marc Elrich will get votes in this region as well owing to his criticism of unpopular master plans passed by the County Council.

Question 3: Prior Races

Consider this.  In the last four years, Frick has run for four different offices: Attorney General, Delegate, Congress and now Executive.  No other MoCo politician can say that.  Accordingly, there is some skepticism in the political community that he will be in the Executive race to the end.  That is going to play itself out with large contributors, who are critical since Frick will be using traditional campaign financing and there are only nine months left until the primary.  The last thing a big donor who cares about county government wants is to go all in for a candidate who drops out and runs for something else.  This is huge considering that Frick reported a balance of $45,818 in his state account in January and he cannot transfer funds directly from his federal account.  Frick needs to have a convincing argument to address this with donors or he will be unable to fund a competitive campaign.

Question 4: Counter-Attacks

Frick’s early strategy is to attack the County Council, a message that should get some traction among the majority of county Democrats who voted for term limits.  Frick told the Washington Post, “Our demands exceed our capacity, on our roads and in our classrooms… Too often, local leaders have been complacent, content to raise taxes and resist vital reforms, and our small businesses and parents grow more and more frustrated.”  In Bethesda Magazine, he criticized the “Rockville bubble” and blasted the council for protecting the liquor monopoly.  (Berliner is the one Council Member who agrees with Frick on that issue.)

But Frick has a record too and his new rivals are sure to bring it up.  While Frick attacks the county’s giant property tax hike, he voted for numerous state tax increases during the O’Malley years, including a 2012 state income tax hike of which MoCo residents paid 41% of the increase.  The Council Members will grill Frick on the state’s anemic performance in financing school construction in MoCo, a major issue for voters.  And Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, both of whom have co-sponsored a bill establishing a $15 minimum wage in MoCo, will ask Frick why he was not a co-sponsor of the state’s $15 minimum wage bill in the last General Assembly session.  In politics, no one gets to throw a sharp elbow without taking one in return.

Question 5: Other Candidates

We suspect that Frick may not be the last non-Council Member to enter the race.  Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) is sure to look at a field that includes four men and think, “In a primary electorate that is roughly 60% female, maybe there’s room for a woman in this race!”  Former Council Member Valerie Ervin, who polled an Executive race in 2013, might think, “Yeah, I got that, plus I have a base that no one else has!”  Businessman David Blair, who can self-finance, is polling and would be a true outsider candidate – even more than Frick.  Elrich, who has an immovable base of true believers who could be a fifth of the electorate or more, would no doubt welcome a large field.

And there could be even more surprises in an election that is shaping up to be one of the wildest in MoCo history.


Roger Berliner on Hogan’s Road Plan

Today, I am pleased to start a series presenting the views of candidates for the Democratic nomination for county executive on Gov. Larry Hogan’s plans to widen I-270, I-495 and the BW Parkway. The following is by Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-1):

I am pleased that the Governor has come in off the sidelines and onto the playing field to address one of our county’s and our region’s greatest challenge:  congestion.  Congestion robs our residents of their time and diminishes our quality of life and our competitiveness.  We need to take strong action.

But we also need to take action that is focused, efficient, and smart, action that comes after consultation with the communities most affected.  I deeply regret that the Governor did not engage in any dialogue with our county on his plan.  It would have been a better plan if he had.  Bigger is not always better.  And that is particularly true when the costs are to be paid for by drivers and when you don’t want to create even more demand by promoting more sprawl.

I have four main issues with the Governor’s plan:

  1. Instead of 4 lanes on 270, our Council has advocated for years that the state should add two reversible lanes.  270 is almost entirely peak driven.  We need AM and PM rush hour capacity.  Reversible lanes provide precisely that.
  2. While the Governor has proposed adding capacity “to” the American Legion Bridge, he has not said if or how he would “fix” the American Legion Bridge.  Adding capacity to the bridge without fixing it would make one of the worst chokepoints in the region that much worse.  Fixing the American Legion Bridge has to be one of the highest priorities of any plan to address congestion, and any fix should accommodate rapid transit between Montgomery County & Fairfax, a long term goal of ours.
  3. The Governor’s plan calls for 4 new lanes on the Beltway. Most of us who use the Beltway every day scratch our heads and wonder where he thinks we can get 4 lanes without taking scores of homes, destroying neighborhoods, taking hospitals and park land.  Getting any additional capacity will be a challenge, let alone 4 lanes.
  4. The Governor’s plan does not recognize the value of transit. Our top transit priority along the 270 corridor is the CCT.  We had to beg to get just enough dollars in the state budget to keep it alive.  Transit proximity is what future looking companies like Amazon are looking for.  Not highways.  And on highways, our Council has urged High Occupancy Toll Lanes, lanes that give priority to car pools, vans, and buses.  Express lanes, as the Governor has proposed, does not do that.   Highways are a 20th century solution.  Transit is the 21st century choice.     The Governor needs to double down on his commitment to transit.

Bottom line:  the Governor has started a critically important conversation.  But it better be just the start, not the end of it.


Bill Fricks Up the Executive Field, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

Delegate Bill Frick (D-16) has dropped out of the Congressional District 6 race and is running for County Executive.  This is the biggest story so far in the Executive race.  Council Members Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal have been preparing to run for Executive for years but Frick has never before expressed interest in county office.  Additionally, Frick is the first person who is not a term-limited Council Member to declare for Executive and he may not be the last.

So  who is Bill Frick?  He’s a MoCo native who went to Northwestern and Harvard and is an attorney with Akin Gump downtown.  He was little known to the MoCo political community until he stunned the establishment by defeating a formidable field for a Delegate appointment in 2007.  He worked his way up in the House to become Parliamentarian and later House Majority Leader.  After first serving on Ways and Means, he joined the powerful House Economic Matters Committee, which decides all issues connected to alcohol, public utilities, insurance, banking, economic development and workers compensation.  He is the Chair of the Property & Casualty Insurance Subcommittee.  Frick is generally liked by his colleagues, often pranking them by stealing their phones and typing worshipful Facebook posts (“Bill Frick is my hero!”), but he is also respected as a substantive lawmaker.  His multiple, aborted runs for higher office (Attorney General in the prior term and CD6 until just recently) have raised questions among some of his colleagues about his political savvy but have not dented his popularity in Annapolis.

Frick has been a busy legislator over the years with a focus on consumer issues.  He has attracted news by introducing legislation to crack down on credit card companies and Internet scamming.  His bill to tighten renewable energy standards was vetoed by the Governor but passed after an override by the General Assembly.  Frick achieved countywide renown by introducing legislation in 2015 to allow MoCo voters to decide whether to end the county’s liquor monopoly.  It was a tremendous act of political courage that few MoCo politicians can match.  It provoked the county government employees union, which represents liquor monopoly workers, to target his wife and call for an investigation, none of which went anywhere.  The union may never endorse Frick in a future race, but for those who want to End the Monopoly, Frick is an eternal hero.

One more thing:  He is one of the most witty, charming and likable humans on Planet Earth. No one other than George Clooney, Bill Clinton or Bono is going to win a personality contest with Bill Frick.

Frick holds court in 2010.  Is this how MoCo voters will react to him?

For all of his undeniable assets as a candidate, Frick’s entry into the race provokes more questions than answers.  We will examine those questions in Part Two.


Candidates, Hug Your Treasurer

By Adam Pagnucco.

Political campaigns have all kinds of characters in them.  There are the campaign managers, the best of whom are data nerds, bartenders, therapists and trouble shooters all at once.  Then there are the hard core supporters, always ready to insist that their candidate is the reincarnation of Mandela and eager to pounce on dissenters online.  There are the cross-eyed pundits, tossing out great gobs of bloggy drivel onto an unsuspecting populace.  And of course there are the candidates, their toothy daytime smiles concealing roiling anxiety in the dead of night.

But no one pays attention to the true MVPs of political races: the Treasurers.  Money is the lifeblood of all campaigns and these are the people who control it.  Without a competent Treasurer, a campaign can’t collect its money, pay its bills, file its reports or do much of anything at all.  And the workload is often far greater than anyone, even the candidates themselves, can ever understand.

I was a Treasurer once.  Senator Rich Madaleno asked me to assume that role for the District 18 slate back in 2008.  It was not the first nor the last dumb thing I have done for a politician I like!  The account records (actually, the disorganized piles of random papers) were delivered to me in shoe boxes.  Shortly afterwards, I began receiving notices from the State Board of Elections that the previous report filings were deficient and needed to be corrected.  But the state didn’t say what the flaws were.  Phone calls to the state offices were laughably useless.  So I had to reconstruct every single transaction in the history of the account(!!!!!) and re-file every single report that had ever been sent in.  This required weeks of agony, but dammit, no account with my name on it was going to get fined.  Even bloggers have standards!

Dear future candidates: don’t ever ask me to be a Treasurer again.  I would rather gargle cockroaches.

This year, the normally substantial challenges of being a Treasurer are compounded for a uniquely unfortunate subset of them: the Treasurers responsible for MoCo’s public campaign financing accounts.  The reason is that the state requires evidence of a contributor’s in-county residency before approving public matching funds for that contribution.  That’s easy to do with online contributions: all a campaign has to do is add a couple fields illustrating residency and collecting a digital signature.  But what happens if a dinosaur (like, say, your author) pays with a written check?  Well folks, that’s when the fun begins!

All contributions eligible for matching funds must be accompanied by proof of residency that is provided to the state.  For physical checks or cash, that means the donor must complete and sign a written form indicating residency in Montgomery County.  Somebody (that might be you, Mr. or Ms. Treasurer!) has to make sure that form is filled out and collected.  If a check or cash shows up in the mail, that means tracking down contact information for the contributor and getting hold of them.  “Thank you for contributing to Politician X, ma’am.  Could you fill out and sign this form showing that you live in MoCo and send it back to us?”  “Well, I’m out of stamps and my scanner is busted.”  “I’m out of the country for two weeks.”  “I’ll think about it and get back to you.”  “I just donated to you.  Why are you bugging me?  I want my money back!”  And these are the G-rated responses.

Campaigns love this like they love tarantulas in the shower.  One campaign surrogate says his campaign “absolutely hates it” when they get paper checks because of the time required to chase down donors.  One candidate with prior electoral experience estimates that the time taken to deal with these administrative issues is 40% greater than it is under the old traditional system.  Another candidate simply says, “Oy.  Vey.”  And again, these are the G-rated responses.

Nothing can be done to remedy these issues in the short term.  And let’s remember: the state is within its rights to demand proof of residency to prevent mistaken distributions of public matching funds.  But candidates in public financing must absolutely do one thing.

Hug your Treasurer.  Do it today!  Tell them you love them.  Or it might be YOU who has to chase down those donors!


Montgomery Republicans Down the Rabbit Hole

No Republican has won election to any local or state legislative office in Montgomery County since 2002. Even 15 years ago, the County was not exactly awash in a sea of red, as the two sole elected Republicans were liberal Del. Jean Cryor (R-15) and Councilmember Howie Denis (R-1).

After three electoral cycles of coming up empty, the MoCo GOP’s chances of ending this electoral drought look bleak in 2018. Why is the only viable alternative to the long-governing Democrats in so much trouble?

Donald Trump

Trump was a disaster for Montgomery Republicans. Both John McCain in 2012 and Mitt Romney in 2008 won a paltry 27% of the vote in Montgomery—down from 33% won by Bush in 2004 and 34% in 200. Trump managed to drive the Republican share of the vote down another 8% and gained just 19% of the vote in Montgomery.

Tarnished National Brand

The Republican brand at the national level is now toxic in Montgomery. Many people who might be open to an alternative will not vote for anyone associated with a party that is as socially conservative on issues like gun control, abortion and LGBT rights as the Republicans. Trump has identified the party with racism that renders it even more anathema and helps explain its further slide in 2016. Even on economic issues, national Republicans are far more extreme than more moderate Montgomery voters.

Heightened Partisanship

In the not too distant past, people were reasonably willing to defect from their preferred party to vote for attractive candidates, especially incumbents, of the other party. No longer. Voters are now much more likely to cast a straight party ticket. In 2016, not a single state split their tickets for U.S. Senate and President. Republicans are on the wrong side of this equation in Montgomery.

Poor or No Candidates

Right now, the only declared Republican candidate for county executive is gadfly and perennial candidate Robin Ficker. When a major party in a county with over 1 million residents is reduced to running a guy who has lost 13 elections and is a frequent flyer at judicial ethics hearings, it has a problem.

Ficker’s antics attract a lot of attention—he makes Nancy Grace look press shy—but he doesn’t do more electable Republicans any favor. Beyond explaining whether they voted for Donald Trump in 2016, Republican candidates will also have to answer if they plan to vote for Robin Ficker for county executive in 2018.

Even though no candidate might benefit other Republicans more than Ficker in the county executive race, the inability of Republicans to find candidates in many races is the sign of a weak party. Democratic primaries, in contrast, tend to be extremely crowded for open seats—a signal of the value of the party’s nomination and a deeper candidate pool.

Extreme Base

One might think Montgomery Republicans would respond to their repeat rejection through moderation. However, its base is now much more extreme than in the past. This note I received in response from a locally active Republican to my post over the weekend calling for more attention to the plight of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands exemplifies how massively out of step local Republicans are with Montgomery voters:

[T[his post below I find extremely offensive and lacking in the usual factual rigor that you seem to usually try to bring to bear.

You are making hateful accusations ​against President Trump that have ZERO basis in fact and which only serve to undermine your credibility.

​I hope you will write an apology and a retraction and stick to facts instead of ad hominem attacks against President Trump moving forward.

Here is the “extremely offensive” attack with “ZERO basis in fact” on Donald Trump referenced in the email:

We know the President virtually does not care. Between his ravings on other topics, he barely had time to spare a tweet for Puerto Rico. He did have time to feed red meat to an all-white hard-right crowd in Alabama by attacking African-American NFL players.

In general, I try not to rush to “go there” because there enough hate in the world without suspecting it in ambiguous situations. But Donald Trump has enough of a record that it seems more than fair to ask if he might express more than an iota of interest if these were not overwhelmingly Latino and Black territories?

Donald Trump has now followed up his lack of interest with a new tweet criticizing of Puerto Rico for its debt crisis–amazingly oblivious from a man infamous for welshing on debts from massive loans for casinos to payments owed small businessmen.

As usual, the response from other Republicans is silence.


Hogan’s Political Coup

Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to add four new toll lanes to I-270, I-495, and the BW Parkway is a political coup. Here’s why:

Most Still Drive

it doesn’t take a poll to know that concrete proposals to expand capacity on the Washington suburban region’s major highways will be very popular. Though most of the discussion among Democrats has centered on public transit, the great majority of commuters in the Maryland suburbs of DC take a car to work.

According to the 2010 American Community Survey, among those who live and work in the same county, 71% drive alone or in a carpool. Just 11% ride public transit and the remainder get there some other way (e.g. walking, biking).

However, as evidenced by daily traffic snafus, many have to travel to another county or state to get to work—over 40% in Montgomery and Frederick, and over 60% in Prince George’s and Charles. Among those who travel to another county but stay within Maryland, 93% drove alone or as part of a carpool.

At 69%, the share is lower for those who work in another state with the bulk of public transit riders going to DC. Nevertheless, even commuters to DC still tend to drive as opposed to taking public transit—56%-43% in Montgomery, 64%-34% in Prince George’s, 68%-31% in Frederick, and 76%-24% in Charles.

Divides Democrats

Republican strategists must be enjoying immensely the bind that Hogan’s plan places Democrats. While it will be highly popular among most voters, key core Democratic constituencies will line up to oppose the plan.

Environmentalists will oppose Hogan’s plan for the same reason they intensely fought the Intercounty Connector. Road construction destroys natural habitats and contributes to global warming by feeding our addiction to the fossil fuels needed to power most cars. Montgomery County’s Sierra Club has already announced opposition.

This dovetails nicely will smart growthers’ philosophical opposition due to their firm convictions that roads do nothing to alleviate traffic and that transit-oriented development produces more livable communities. The Coalition for Smarter Growth is already making these arguments.

Democratic politicians will be spending a lot of time either placating voters or members of these core constituencies, who are disproportionately active in politics.

The Bill Comes Later

In the Purple Line public-private partnership, we are building the line with the federal money and Maryland will pay its share later. More specifically, late enough that Larry Hogan will be gone from public office before the major costs hit the state. Convenient.

The proposal for a PPP here that will cost the voters “nothing” sounds right out of the same playbook. By the time voters relearn that nothing in this life is free, Larry Hogan will have long moved out of the Governor’s Mansion.

Opposition Much Harder to Explain

Hogan can take a victory lap claiming that he is building roads that will reduce traffic while Democrats did nothing. In contrast, Democratic opponents will need to explain ideas like induced traffic and their concerns regarding hidden costs.

Good luck with that.

Nuance and complexity are harder to explain than simple solutions. Even thoughtful critiques understandable to non-traffic and non-budget experts–and I have seen several since Hogan made his proposal–take much longer than a soundbite.

Strengthens Claims on Washington Suburbs

Hogan’s support for the Purple Line pleased transit advocates. His new plan will do the same among the even greater number of voters who want new roads. Even though the roads remain a gauzy idea, it is now harder to label the Governor– the king of small, poll-tested ideas–as having done nothing for the region.


First Time Ever: Elrich Reaches Financial Parity with Leventhal

 By Adam Pagnucco.

Many things have happened over the last four election cycles, but one thing has remained constant: George Leventhal has smoked Marc Elrich in fundraising.

Not anymore.

Elrich, who is running against Leventhal, Roger Berliner and Bill Frick to be the next County Executive, just filed his first application for public financing matching funds with the state.  So far, Elrich has more in-county contributors than Leventhal (693 to 590) and has raised more money from in-county individuals ($59,717 vs $46,128).  But Leventhal has received more public funds, leaving him with a slight lead in total fundraising.  Summary data for all qualifying publicly financed candidates appears below.

This is a dramatic turn of events from the past.  Leventhal and Elrich first ran against each other in 2002 as members of slates headed by County Executive Doug Duncan and Council Member Blair Ewing respectively.  Leventhal outraised Elrich by more than 5-1 that year and was backed by hundreds of thousands of dollars more in slate money from the real estate industry.  Over the next three cycles, Leventhal raised about twice as much as Elrich.

But public financing has eroded Leventhal’s edge.  That was predictable considering that both Leventhal and Elrich have had around 600 in-county individual contributors each in both the 2010 and 2014 cycles.  The ability of a candidate to raise money in the public financing system depends solely on the number of in-county contributors he or she has.  So if two candidates have similarly sized individual donor bases, they will raise similar amounts of money.

That fact is not lost on the Leventhal campaign, which sent out the fundraising email below shortly after seeing Elrich’s report.

Leventhal is right to be concerned about Elrich’s financial success.  Leventhal finished fourth and Elrich finished first in the last two at-large council elections despite the fact that Leventhal outraised Elrich 2-1.  What happens now when the two are at financial parity?


Action on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

It’s no secret that Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have been devastated by Hurricane Maria. What is unknown is if anyone in federal leadership cares or is doing anything about it. If nothing else, being a territory should bring aid in time of crisis.

We know the President virtually does not care. Between his ravings on other topics, he barely had time to spare a tweet for Puerto Rico. He did have time to feed red meat to a all-white hard-right crowd in Alabama by attacking African-American NFL players.

In general, I try not to rush to “go there” because there enough hate in the world without suspecting it in ambiguous situations. But Donald Trump has enough of a record that it seems more than fair to ask if he might express more than an iota of interest if these were not overwhelmingly Latino and Black territories?

Fortunately, the federal bureaucracy is professional and carries on its key tasks despite the absence of leadership from the top. But FEMA is stretched very thin after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma wrecked terrible damage in Florida and Texas.

This is a humanitarian disaster unfolding on American soil and we need to demand more action. The federal government needs to devote more resources now. Congress needs to expand the disaster relief package so there is money to rebuild power and water systems now.

For that matter, our good friends among the small island nations of the Caribbean also deserve our help. In tiny Dominica, which has always stood with us in when needed, even the Prime Minister lost the roof on his home.

Helping is not just the neighborly thing to do by the far larger and wealthier country, it is also smart strategic policy to further bind the ties between us and these already friendly countries, including Antigua and Barbuda as well as Dominica.

We remain the richest and best resourced country in the world. We can do it and we should. Frankly, it all seems so obvious that I remain surprised that I feel the need to write it. Everyone from citizens to elected officials should be saying it.

If you want to aid relief efforts yourself, here are a few links to Go Fund me pages to make it a bit easier:

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
Antigua and Barbuda

Support the efforts of the American Red Cross throughout the country at this link.