Don’t Hate The Playa Hate the Game

It’s easy to see why many people rooted for Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon to be convicted. After all it’s hard not to dislike an arrogant politician with such an outsized sense of entitlement. Dixon once responded to a question regarding her lavish Chicago shopping spree with her developer beaux Ronald Lipscomb, “I don’ buy that often, but when I do I buy quality.”

However, the Sheila Dixon’s of the world come and go, and she is but a temporary cast member in a sordid production, which has run for decades. Dixon merely got caught dipping too deep into the well.

What state prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh exposed for all to see was not merely inappropriate use of gift cards, but the development-political complex. A system whereby politicians demand tribute—campaign contributions—from developers in return for granting generous tax breaks or for bargain prices on city land taken through eminent domain. The tax burden falls heavier on the city’s ever shrinking middle class and small businesses, squeezing them out. Politically preferred businessmen are allowed to thrive while politicians arrogate more power unto themselves.

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Progressive radio host Marc Steiner rightly decries this.

The real story here is the power that developers and financial institutions wield in local politics. They are to local and state government what the health insurance industry and defense contractors are to the federal government.

But what Steiner and progressives don’t understand is that the situation is a monster of their own making. Whether it is developers or insurance companies, the more government involves itself in business the more business sees a need to jump into bed (in Lipscomb’s case literally) with government.

We’re talking about corporatism and it’s a hallmark of progressive—and fascist—economics. A classic example is the meatpacking industry. They myth goes that progressive reformers in an example of good government tamed the rapacious meat packers. However, it was the packers themselves who welcomed government regulation. It allowed them to weed out their smaller competitors who could not afford the added regulatory costs.

In Baltimore’s case well heeled developers can afford the added costs (campaign cash) that small businesses cannot. We see corporatism on the state level as well. What is the last thing you hear in a BGE or PEPCO commercial these days? “This program supports EmPower Maryland.” What is EmPower Maryland but a corporatist scheme whereby utilities get government guaranteed profits in return for supporting Governor O’Malley’s political agenda.

Obamacare and cap and trade are forms of corporatism as well. The government mandates profits for favored rent-seekers, and in return Democrats get politically reliable corporations like Big Pharma and GE, and the mainstream media cheers it on.

As Omar Little taught us “It’s all in the game though, right.”

Don’t hate the playa hate the game.

Photo credit Scott Wykoff’s Blog, WBAL

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