Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Think Tank Doubleheader with the Koch Brothers // MPPI vs. Maryland Juice & CATO vs. Marc Elrich

UPDATE: A GOP blogger at Red Maryland has responded to Maryland Juice's "think tank doubleheader." Mr. Newgent makes an observation about "rich Marylanders voting against their economic interests" by supporting Democrats. How's that for class warfare?

Yesterday, the innocently-named Maryland Public Policy Institute (MPPI) published an article responding to Maryland Juice's post about how Red States are the biggest welfare recipients. The piece was apparently developed after conversations with a Red Maryland blogger, so we decided to track down MPPI's mission statement:
The mission of the Maryland Public Policy Institute is to formulate and promote public policies at all levels of government based on principles of free enterprise, limited government, and civil society. 
Surprisingly, the Baltimore County Public Library website has an election resources section that describes MPPI as follows:

Dear librarians: were you aware you are linking to people who want to put you out of business?

For those who are unaware, MPPI is one of dozens of organizations that have quietly sprung up all over the nation. They all have the same mission -- to stoke mistrust of government. The effectiveness of these groups at tilting the tax debate in America cannot be overestimated, and we are now witnessing the culmination of their "starve the government" dreams. That's why Maryland Juice was not surprised to discover that MPPI is yet another Koch-family enterprise.

Charles and David Koch are the third richest people in America, and they bankroll "public interest" projects like global warming denial, the Tea Party, Michele Bachmann, the libertarian think tank CATO, the right wing Heritage Foundation -- you name it.

Indeed, Maryland Juice periodically namedrops the Koch family when discussing rightwing villains on this blog. But that's because they have an "evil puppetmaster" reputation within the progressive community. As U.S. News & World Report wrote about the Koch's earlier this year:
For many years, they have been involved in politics but not terribly open or transparent about it. It is true that David Koch ran as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian ticket, to the right of Ronald Reagan....

It was not, and is not, easy to get the details on the extent of their tentacles. They funnel money through 501c3 tax-exempt foundations, and they give money to other foundations, lobbying organizations, and right wing think tanks. They have PACs; they support candidates. Only a small portion of what they control do they divulge.

But it has now come out how involved they have been in funding Tea Party groups, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, and Citizens for a Sound Economy ($12 million)....

...$196 million dollars in total was distributed in the last 10 years to conservative causes and institutions.
As far as Maryland Juice is concerned, the Koch brothers seem to be earning their reputation for being linked to all things conservative. For example, in a previous article, Maryland Juice noted that a man suing Montgomery College was a leader in Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded group. The lawsuit was (predictably) about in-county tuition rates for undocumented residents. As further proof of the Koch's reach, below we excerpt pieces from two additional Koch-funded think tanks -- both released this week; both discussing Maryland politics.

Maryland Juice's Think Tank Doubleheader
Sponsored by Charles & David Koch

Round 1: Maryland Public Policy Institute takes on Maryland Juice
Are Republican voters hypocritical when they attack President Obama for being socialist because these voters live in states that get a lot of federal aid? That’s the charge that’s commonly leveled, most recently by a blogger at Maryland Juice (hat tip to Mark Newgent for pointing this out to me and for inspiring an e-mail discussion about this subject). Unfortunately for those who make these charges, their misuse of statistics don’t prove this charge....
Somewhat surprisingly, states that tend to vote Republican receive more in federal money than their residents pay in taxes and states that vote Democratic are the opposite.

Some liberals want to say this proves Republicans are hypocritical or that they are “the biggest welfare queens ever,” as Maryland Juice puts it. But does this simple exercise really prove that?

One main problem with this analysis is that it equates “voters” with “states.” Not every person in Idaho or Utah voted for McCain. Not everyone in Maryland voted for Obama....

Round 2: CATO Institute takes on Montgomery Councilmember Marc Elrich
Some politicians in Montgomery County, Md. want the county government to take over the provision of electric power from the private Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco)....

“Pepco pays out … $200 million in dividends,” said Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large.
...Pepco has been the target of consumer anger in recent years in considerable part because windstorms in its service area have resulted in prolonged and costly outages. And in the suburbanized Northeast, at least, one of the single most important predictors of severe windstorm outages is the extent to which utilities trim back trees near power lines...
So who’s led the opposition in the past when Pepco has tried to accelerate cutting? You guessed it: Councilman Marc Elrich (D-at large) says he is considering legislation to stop widespread tree-cutting by Pepco.

I won't speak for Mr. Elrich, but as regards MPPI, I think my point about Republicans and welfare stands. I demonstrated how Obama states pay their own way, but Red States rely on Blue State taxpayers to get by. MPPI's point is that the voters aren't to blame -- but Maryland Juice's point is that the politicians are to blame.

Yes, many of the Red State politicians who decry socialism or talk secession know very well that their constituents would lose a ton of services if the Tea Party had their way -- but they put on the show anyway. So I agree with MPPI that Red State voters are not to blame for their State's "welfare queen" status - but they can be faulted for electing disingenuous politicians, can't they?

Not all anti-government politicians are disingenuous, though. Some of them are just batshoe crazy. Remember when South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford forgot that the whole "starve the government" thing was just a stunt? (Read: you're not actually supposed to bankrupt your state!). During the stimulus hysteria, he literally tried to reject $700 million in federal aid for his state. Politicians on both sides of the aisle nearly had a heart attack, but I think that incident was just foreshadowing for the self-inflicted "debt ceiling" debate this year.

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