What’s Wrong with Maryland?

In a November 5 editorial entitled The Two Left Coasts, the Wall Street Journal explains “Why the GOP wave didn’t wash over New York and California” on November 2. The electoral tsunami also completely missed my home state of Maryland. I will argue here that the causes for New York and California’s immunity identified in the Journal editorial apply equally well – if not better – to what I less than affectionately call the People’s Republic of Maryland.

The Journal identifies the culprit as

…the iron triangle of public employee unions, high taxes and social budgets that are larger than the economies in other states.

The fiscs in both Albany and Sacramento are perched atop a shrinking base of taxpayers, many so wealthy that they don’t care what tax rates are. The highest-earning 1% funds nearly half of the New York budget. The liberal political class then feeds these dollars to its union constituents – not least in the form of gold-plated benefits and pensions – who in turn spend mightily to protect their patrons, even as the state budgets lurch ever closer to Grecian territory.

As this agenda squeezes the middles class and drives jobs out of state, it leaves politics to a coalition of well-off knowledge professionals, public employees and lower-income workers who depend on the state for transfer payments. The well-paid elites in finance, fashion, media, tech or Hollywood tend to view environmental issues like cap and tax as enlightened social statements unrelated to economic growth.

With the exception of the comparison of the size of the social budget to the economies of other states and the reference to Hollywood, the WSJ analysis also describes the perfect storm that has made Maryland a one-party entity. The public sector unions, primarily AFSCME, are extremely powerful, well-funded and function as an arm of the Democratic Party. Together with the teachers’ unions (MSEA & AFT-Maryland, affiliates of the NEA and AFT, resp.), they are a potent force that drives much of the State’s agenda. Next, our far left Governor raised taxes substantially upon entering office and he has made no secret of his intention to repeat the process as soon as he is reelected (which, alas, he was easily last week). As for the third leg of the triad, the State has an ever expanding array of social programs, accompanied by a structural budget deficit in excess of a billion dollars – not in California’s league, but still impressive per capita.

As to the unholy alliance of knowledge professionals, public employees and lower-income workers, Maryland has no shortage. First, there are the blood-sucking lawyers and lobbyists that frequent the halls of Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis who, together with their academic accomplices at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, as well as the cadre of scientists and tech types who populate the so-called Interstate-270 technology corridor; these comprise Maryland’s “knowledge professionals.” Second, the Federal, State and local government employees who live in the suburban areas surrounding DC and in the Baltimore region have a density that is unparalleled in the nation. And finally, both of these groups have arranged for an invasion of immigrants into the State (both legal and illegal), who comprise a healthy portion of the requisite lower-income government leeches – thus completing the trifecta.

On election night we saw the return of the electoral map that described America’s political breakdown for much of the three decades before the 2006 and 2008 elections: vast swatches of red with intense blue patches along the coasts and around major inland cities. If land mass were the determining factor, the Democratic Party would be extinct. We have a similar situation in Maryland. In a typical election, 21 of the state’s 24 counties vote Republican, but the remaining three (Baltimore city and the two counties bordering DC, i.e., Montgomery and Prince Georges) vote overwhelmingly Democratic and easily have enough population to corral any statewide election.

So what is the matter with Maryland is exactly what ails New York and California – only on a somewhat smaller scale, but with the same deleterious effects. I sometimes think that the only way to rescue the Free State is to cede Montgomery and Prince Georges counties to DC, thereby allowing the remaining Marylanders the opportunity to restore sanity in the rest of the State.
This post also appeared in the blog of the Maryland Public Policy Inistitute