The Californication of Maryland
Maryland basketball fans of a certain vintage will remember former coach Lefty Driesell’s famous promise to “make Maryland the UCLA of the East.” That is, Driesell wanted to turn the Maryland’s basketball program into an east coast version of legendary coach John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins who dominated that era of college basketball.
Driesell never came close, but unfortunately, Maryland’s Democratic one-party rulers have spent the last few decades attempting to make Maryland the California of the east.
Reading Joel Kotkin’s latest article in City Journal, “The Golden State’s War on Itself” Marylanders should be afraid, very afraid of the direction Democrats have taken the Free State.
Like Maryland, California is a one-party state dominated by Democrats beholden to public sector unions and environmentalists. According to Kotkin this brand of progressivism has sacked the private sector like ravaging Huns, and created “…two separate California realities: a lucrative one for the wealthy and for government workers, who are largely insulated from economic decline; and a grim one for the private-sector middle and working classes, who are fleeing the state.”
The similarities don’t end there. Both California and Maryland have embraced what Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley calls the “innovation economy” and the so called “green economy.” However, as Kotkin points out the Golden State’s embrace of these ideas has created a bifurcated social structure and a huge gap between the rich and poor. That is, California’s economy pays off for “those at the peak of the employment pyramid—top researchers, CEOs, entertainment honchos, highly skilled engineers and programmers.” Under the “innovation economy” California has lost more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs over the last decade.
O’Malley’s pursuit of an “innovation economy” for Maryland is producing similar results. Setting state policy to favor high tech jobs requiring highly skilled workers has left Maryland’s middle class foundering. According to a Baltimore Sun analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Labor Maryland’s manufacturing sector shrank by more than a third over the past decade, and from 2008 to 2009 income inequality in Maryland increased.
While on it’s face, investing in Maryland’s high tech workforce seems like a laudable goal. However, it implicitly ignores the rest of Maryland’s workers who can’t list PhD, MD, or MBA on their résumés.
Like California’s businesses and productive class, Maryland firms and residents are feeling the squeeze of burdensome regulations and high taxes, and they are fleeing. Even though the latest Census shows Maryland gained population, migration data shows that people are leaving Maryland for lower tax, lower cost states. IRS data reveals that from 2000-2008, 10,000 more people moved to Delaware from Maryland than vice versa. For Pennsylvania that number is over 37,000, Virginia over 8,000, and even more stunning 17,000 more people moved to West Virginia than came from that state to Maryland.
It’s no secret that on issues of climate and energy California is O’Malley’s lodestar. Kotkin notes that California environmentalists are so powerful they can ignore the damage their policy prescriptions do to the state’s economy and citizens. Maryland environmental groups have fast become as powerful as their Golden State brethren. The environmental lobby, along with public sector unions who openly call the state house in Annapolis “our piece of property,” and rent seeking corporations, which pay protection money in the form of contributions to Maryland Democratic Party, form the iron triangle of one-party rule in Maryland.
Maryland environmentalists openly boast about being the lead lobbyists for the 2009 Green House Gas Reduction Act, which like California’s Global Warming Solutions Act calls for draconian reductions in carbon emissions. The law would cut California’s gross state product (GSP) by $182 billion and cost over one million jobs. Maryland’s global warming regulations are still being written, but O’Malley’s technocrats don’t want you know which special interest groups are writing them. Still, we do know what menu options are on the table, and they are a cornucopia of economy-killing taxes, fees, and regulations.
It should also be no surprise that O’Malley outsourced the work of Maryland’s climate commission to the same global warming alarmist advocacy group, the Center for Climate Strategies, which created California’s law.
In the past Maryland’s proximity to Washington, DC, government jobs, and the federal spending, which prop up it’s economy has shielded the state from larger economic disruptions, but that was in another era.
The days of Washington subsidizing Maryland’s immunity from economic reality are over, and O’Malley’s dreams of Californication will turn into a nightmare.