Newsletter 90 - Summer 2018

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Recess is canceled
Half a loaf (Michael Harrington)
Old Nassau
Veteran outreach (Major William Farley)
Adam Smith's book (Suzie Dickson)
Great catch
SAFE Board
About SAFE

Recess is canceled - A year ago, SAFE suggested that Congress might get its work done faster if there weren’t so many breaks in the action – notably four weeks away from DC in August. Fix the fiscal problem: work on what matters, 6/26/17.

If the work of Congress was ahead of schedule, it might be OK to take August off, but that’s simply not the case. Not only are the detailed appropriation bills for fiscal year 2018 lagging, but bills need to be passed (or at least proposed and debated) on healthcare, tax reform, and half a dozen other subjects.

Our advice fell on deaf ears, but this year Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a different decision. Maybe it had something to do with the president’s vow to never sign another omnibus appropriation bill, published months after the start of the fiscal year, which most members of Congress hadn’t had an opportunity to read before voting on it. Or maybe he was reacting to a letter from 16 GOP senators urging cancellation of the August recess and a heavier work schedule (Mondays & Fridays, even nights & weekends) to boot.

In any case, Leader McConnell cancelled most of the August recess for the Senate (there will be a “state work period” for the first full week), and his
June 5 statement didn’t mince words about the reasons.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following statement Tuesday regarding the cancellation of August recess:

“Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled. Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.”

Nicely played, Mitch, better late than never! And to the members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, get to work!

Letters – SAFE periodically writes to legislators, etc. with policy suggestions as, for example, in recent letters to: (A) the 16 members of the federal Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform; (B) Mark Meckler of Convention of States Action; (C) members of the Delaware Senate re a proposed “assault weapons” ban; and (D) an Offshore Wind Working Group appointed by the DE governor. For details and links, please see Letters to decision-makers, 6/25/18.

Half a loaf – SAFE arranged talks to the Retired Men’s Luncheon Club in 2012 by the state leaders of the Democratic Party (John Daniello) and Republican Party (John Sigler). The talks were given in different months, but in combination they provided RMLC members with an authoritative perspective on the goals and strategies of these parties that might facilitate an informed comparison. Delaware politics, SAFE newsletter, Summer 2012.

This year, with new state leaders of both parties in place and a considerably changed political picture, we thought it might be timely to repeat the exercise. Our only concern was that so many civic groups would be making similar requests that the party leaders wouldn’t be able to fit the RMLC into their speaking schedules. As it turned out, this concern was misplaced.

Erik Raser-Schramm, the new chairman of the Delaware Democratic Party, declined our invitation – ostensibly because a number of state primary races were expected and he wouldn’t be making many public talks this year. And when Michael Harrington, the new chairman of the Republican Party of Delaware spoke to the RMLC on May 18, he advised that ours was the only speaking invitation he had received from a nonpartisan group. Hmm, could it be that the parties are talking mainly to themselves versus interacting with the general public?

Mr. Harrington began by discussing his background, including how he once ran for a seat in the DE House of Representatives and won in a heavily Democratic district by stressing his personal qualifications and doing a lot of “door-to-door” campaigning. Arriving at Legislative Hall as a newbie, Harrington asked to head the House Banking and Insurance Committee. The initial response was negative, but he wound up being appointed to this post with the support of Gov. Pete DuPont.

Some good things for the state were accomplished during the ensuing four years, often with Democratic assistance. Moral: state legislators must work together if they want to get things done.

In 1982, the Democrats nominated a business-background candidate (“Michael Harrington look alike”) who won back the House seat. Harrington happily returned to his business ventures (real estate sales, insurance & property management) until decades later, when he was asked to head the state party.
Delaware Republicans had lost their enthusiasm and acquired a defeatist attitude over the intervening years, and one-party rule didn’t seem to be serving the state well. Most of the voting was on a party-line basis versus the policy merits. Harrington didn’t need the job but felt a sense of obligation. He became the GOP chairman in April 2017.

Harrington has spent lots of time in recent months interacting with potential candidates. He is a big believer in recruiting the best candidates and avoiding primaries that divert attention from winning in November. Party hacks should be avoided; it’s better to nominate candidates who “know something.”

Republican candidates had been lined up for the statewide jobs that will be on the ballot (congressional seats, attorney general and auditor), plus all of the legislative seats in Kent and Sussex Counties (several slots were still open in New Castle County). Harrington lauded the GOP candidates, albeit expressing regret that he hadn’t been able to avoid a primary contest in the US Senate race.

Old Nassau - There was no shortage of candidates at a panel discussion last fall as to which living Princeton alumni should be considered “most influential.” The field included Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Eric Schmidt (Alphabet Inc.), and three Supreme Court justices (Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor & Elena Kagan). Yet Robert Mueller (class of 1966), a government prosecutor, was named second on the list after Bezos.

By January 2018 when the results of the discussion were to be published, history Professor Michael Gordin reasoned, Mr. Mueller might be in a position to determine “whether the presidency exists or doesn’t.” Hmm, let’s reserve judgment about this until the Mueller investigation runs its course.

Veteran outreach - William (Bill) Farley, a retired Marine Corps officer, spoke to the Retired Men’s Luncheon Club on April 20. The talk was arranged by SAFE director Jerry Martin.

After 24 years of service in the Marine Corps, Farley went back to school for a master’s degree and embarked on a second career in the educational field. He served as a teacher and then the principal of the Holy Cross School in Dover, Delaware. (Note: See Jim Thomen’s 4/2/18 letter to the editor re the potential contribution of retired military personnel in Delaware’s schools.)

Farley was appointed a member of the Delaware Commission of Veteran Affairs in 2013, and in that capacity he is now engaged in helping to ensure Delaware veterans are connecting with the Veteran’s Administration and other agencies responsible for providing the services to which they are entitled.

The definition of “veteran” is quite broad, encompassing former members of the military who served on active duty capacity (e.g., for six months or more) and members of the National Guard who have served on deployment tours. Currently, about 25% of the eligible individuals in Delaware are signed up.

Services provided to veterans run the gamut from employment assistance (training programs, job fairs, etc.) and healthcare (at the VA hospital in Elsmere, clinics in Kent and Sussex Counties, veterans home in Milford, and other facilities when applicable) to burial at one of the two VA cemeteries in Delaware.

Farley has been deeply involved with the program to help veterans in Delaware who, due to health & economic problems and/or lack of family support, have wound up living in shelters or on the street. Both older and younger veterans are involved, and it’s impossible to combat veteran homelessness without knowing who they are and what help is needed.

A number of federal and state agencies are involved in housing issues, and they weren’t routinely sharing information with each other. Therefore, an important first step was to invite representatives of the agencies to meet on the topic of veteran homelessness.

When such meetings took place, officials of the agencies started talking to each other and things began happening. Veteran homelessness still exists in Delaware, and probably always will, but the cases are now being addressed on a timely basis and the First State has one of the best records on this problem in the nation.

Farley’s passion about helping veterans was evident, and his talk was well received by the group. Semper fi!

Adam Smith’s book was better, Suzie Dickson – One wouldn’t expect to find an interesting literary work in the Dollar Store, but that’s where – mixed in with a bunch of poorly written romance novels - I found How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life by Russ Roberts, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Adam Smith is well known for his seminal book on economics, The Wealth of Nations (1776), but his other major work – The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759, revised in 1790) - has been largely forgotten. Too bad, because TTMS is a classic in its own right.

Robert’s book appeared to offer a summary of Smith’s insights plus extensive quotes from the original work, a Cliff Notes version if you will. For $1, I decided to give it a whirl.

Roberts focuses on Smith’s line: “Man desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely,” equating “lovely” with “respected” and “worthy of being loved.” OK, but respected by whom?

Smith wrote that “natural misrepresentations of self-love can be corrected only by the eye of the impartial spectator,” who is neither God nor one’s own conscience. Ergo, says Roberts, it must be “our fellow man who checks our behavior.”

So respected is simply a matter of group acceptance? Given how erratic the opinions of other people can be, that’s not a very satisfying conclusion.

Other academics equate Smith’s impartial spectator with universal morals versus social acceptance. Thus, Smith is quoted that “The all-wise Author of Nature *** has made man,…the immediate judge of mankind; and has *** created him after his own image, and appointed him his [deputies] upon earth, to superintend the behavior of his brethren.”

Smith understood human weakness. Self-delusion is the “source of half the disorders of human life,” he wrote, and we can certainly see many examples in today’s social-media-addicted society.

Consider how an Iranian YouTuber, Nasim Aghdam, shot three employees at YouTube headquarters before killing herself. Roberts would probably blame her faulty worldview, whereas Smith would have focused on her self-delusion. “[T]he weakest and most superficial of mankind…can be much delighted with that praise which they…know to be altogether unmerited.”

Smith understood self-interest as having both negative and positive aspects. In TTMS, Smith cautions against self-interest in harming one’s fellow man. Yet in The Wealth of Nations, Smith offers his “invisible hand” theory, whereby all the individual actors – each pursuing their own interests – can wind up contributing to the common good.

Robert’s book is an easy read. and it increased my appreciation for the works of Adam Smith. But while TTMS might change your life for the better, Mr. Roberts’ interpretation of TTMS fails as a guide to human nature or to happiness.

Great catch - Watch Cleveland Indian’s Bradley Zimmer “channel Superman” to rob the batter of an extra bases hit, video (0:47), 6/5/18.

SAFE Board of Directors
Andrew Betley, (302) 239-9679
Suzie Dickson
Dan Kerrick, treasurer, (302) 521-4272
Steve McClain, (302) 998-3910
Jerry Martin, (302) 478-5064
John Nichols, (302) 378-0683
rycK Stout, (302) 478-9495
Bill Whipple, president, (302) 464-2688
For e-mail addresses see:

About SAFE - SAFE is a non-partisan, all-volunteer organization that was founded in 1996. We advocate smaller, more focused, lower cost government, to be achieved by cutting spending, restructuring “entitlements,” simplifying taxes, and rationalizing regulations.

The SAFE agenda is promoted through: (1) Our website, including issue statements, a weekly blog, and a “Delaware Chatter” microblog; (2) Letters to the editor, public events, legislative contacts, etc., which are also posted and/or recapped on the website; (3) This quarterly newsletter, available in print (since 1996) and now electronic editions; and (4) Posts on Twitter and/or Facebook (click icons on the website to access). SAFE dues are $10 per year for subscribers to the print edition of the newsletter and zero for electronic subscribers. Contributions are also appreciated and may be tax deductible (SAFE is a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization). To join SAFE, renew your membership, or make a contribution, please print and complete this
form and mail it with your check to SAFE, 115 Dungarvan Drive, Wilmington, DE 19709. Thank you!