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Politico continues to spin the O’Malley Fairy Tale

Martin O’Malley’s One Maryland is a fairy tale, and Politico’s Alexander Burns and Burgess Everett are the Brothers Grimm.

In another Politico puff piece Burns, aided by this time “transportation reporter” Everett, uncritically report O’Malley spin as fact.

Burns and Everett overly indulge and perpetuate O’Malley’s pragmatism fetish.  O’Malley paints himself as a results oriented politician, and the reporters uncritically accept it.

In his book, The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg writes.

There is a presumption however, that liberals are not ideological. No, it’s more than a presumption, it is a flat-out assertion. You would be hard pressed to find a prominent liberal intellectual, politician, or journalist who hasn’t baldly stated at one point or another that liberals care only about “what works.”  They contrast this with their political opponents, always on the right, who are ideologues—“extremists,” “dogmatists,” and the like.

O’Malley personifies this myth.  He casts himself as the reasonable governor, who merely seeks to do “what works” versus his political opponents i.e., Republicans whom he paints as rigid heartless ideologues.  It’s a classic straw man argument, one O’Malley invokes when asked uncomfortable questions about his record.

 

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Even though Goldberg uses Barack Obama as his example in the book, O’Malley is just as an enthusiastic practitioner of the myth.  It’s a clever fiction Goldberg argues.  “It’s part lie he tells us and part lie he tells himself.”

To wit, here’s the unfiltered quote from O’Malley that ends the Politico piece.

“We’re not arguing for bigger government. We’re arguing for more effective government, and also smarter investments,” O’Malley insists, reiterating: “I think people want their government to be effective. I think they want their leaders to do the things that work.”

In truth, O’Malley is as much an ideologue as he accuses his opponents.  Look at O’Malley’s record of increased spending (by $8 billion), taxes (37 tax and fee increases totaling $3.1 billion annually), liberal energy policies (RPS, cap and trade, subsidies for offshore wind), and an ever growing and more intrusive government (usurpation of property rights, infringement of second amendment rights).

By any objective measure O’Malley record of governance reflects a left liberal progressive ideological agenda.  O’Malley’s core philosophy, epitomized by the “One Maryland” buzzword, is nothing more than a repackaged soft totalitarianism where the idea of citizenship is married to the will of the state.

O’Malley’s too-clever-by-half spin is merely a lazy equating of progressive policy prescriptions with “what works.”

But let’s take O’Malley at his word and ask the question Burns and Everett don’t bother to ask.  Has O’Malley’s governing worked for Maryland?

O’Malley paints himself as a “data driven” leader using statistics to “enact change” as the Politico reporters write.  O’Malley constantly touts his StateStat program whereby he uses data and statistics to deliver better government.

However, as this report from the Free State Foundation shows the program “does not yet come close to delivering on its promise to provide Marylanders ‘with open, transparent, and timely information and data on state government agencies’ because the information is indecipherable detail without analysis.”  Much of what State Stat offers the public is data dumps that provide no analysis as to what that data means.  The report found that transparency in O’Malley’s government is also sorely lacking.

Furthermore, the report states:

O’Malley came into office promising to “get government working again,” a slap at his predecessor. StateStat is how he wants to prove to the public it really is. It needs to do a better job of making that case, and it should open up the larger questions of what results government should be focusing on and measuring.

Perhaps there needs to be a separate and more public process that might be called PriorityStat to determine if we are spending on the right things. Washington State has a program called “Priorities of Government,” a process that sits on top of a performance management system. It sets 10 broad, simply-stated priorities, and then supplies five to 10 indicators and measures to gauge the success of achieving the intended results.

Whatever the format for gauging the effective performance of programs, Maryland needs broad agreement on the priorities for government spending, and a way to measure whether those priorities are being achieved. Ideally, this is what the governor and the legislature engage in every year, but that larger discussion never takes place as the lawmakers wade through thousands of pages of budget documents. Taking such a priority-setting process seriously would also force a re- examination of all the spending mandates and funding formulas that once put in place are seldom repealed and continue to drive the structural deficit…

Furthermore, the siren’s song of StateStat is belied by the string of legislative audits, which have revealed: a lack of accountability for the state’s speed camera vendors, chronic cronyism and violations of state procurement laws at the State Highway Administration, failure of the state education department to conduct background checks for child care workers, lack of monitoring of state tax credits by the Department of Business and Economic Development, failure of the state labor department to inspect elevators, and millions in lost and overpaid funds at the Developmental Disabilities Administration.

Speaking of transparency, under Governor O’Malley, state agencies have continually used loopholes in Maryland’s Public Information Act to undermine transparency for the citizens it governs.

Burns and Everett cite O’Malley’s transportation funding law as another success for O’Malley. But fail to ask the question does it “work” for Marylanders?  Soft-pedaling a massive 87 percent gas tax hike ($685 million annually) as “a $1.40 a week” tax hike to motorists, Burns and Everett–Politico’s transportation reporter—fail to mention that it was O’Malley who raided $868 million in un-repaid funds from the Transportation Trust Fund.  In a separate Politico story Everett paints O’Malley’s gas tax hike as similar to one championed by Virginia’s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell.  However, Everett omits that unlike O’Malley’s plan that indexes the per-gallon gas tax to inflation and adds a wholesale tax to gas, McDonnell’s plan eliminates Virginia’s per gallon tax.

While featuring an O’Malley quote that his plan will lower congestion, Everett fails to report that the majority of gas tax dollars go not to building new roads or infrastructure maintenance but rather to mass transit which less than 10 percent of Maryland’s traveling public uses.

Everett also fails to note that the brunt of O’Malley’s gas tax will be born by consumers as businesses pass on the added fuel costs.  A spokesman for the Washington, Maryland, Delaware Service Station and Automotive Repair Association, told Watchdog Wire that O’Malley’s gas tax would be the “doomsday scenario” for his members along the Virginia border.

O’Malley consistently preaches the progressive article of faith that government can best spur economic and job growth.  However, O’Malleys economic and regulatory policies have not brought about the economic prosperity his sermons espouse.

Since O’Malley took office Maryland’s unemployment rate has nearly doubled according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state lost 6,500 small businesses.

O’Malley’s policies have also put Maryland at a serious competitive disadvantage with its neighbors.

Maryland ranks 41st on the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, 40th on ChiefExecutive.net’s Best-Worst State’s to Do Business, The Fiscal Times ranked Maryland in its Top 10 Worst States to Do Business, and the state ranks and 42nd and 39th for business cost and regulatory environment respectively on Forbes List of Best States for Business.

Moody’s put Maryland on its watch list due to the state’s overreliance on federal spending and sluggish economy.

Perhaps this is the reason O’Malley has embraced vapid non-economic indicators as a barometer for success.

Education is another area in which O’Malley boasts that his progressive policies are “what works.”  He cites Maryland’s streak of earning the number one ranking in Education Week’s survey of state public school systems, as proof his “record investments” in education “works.”  State spending for education has increased by more than $7 billion since 2002.

However the Education Week report emphasizes inputs i.e., spending, not the system’s output—student achievement.

When you dig into the actual data in Education Week’s report you’ll find that Maryland ranks 50th in 8th grade math poverty gap 44th in 8th grade math poverty gap change, and 38th in 4th grade reading poverty gap.

A review of Maryland test score data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests shows that for all O’Malley’s spending, achievement gaps between white and poor minority students have remained persistent and are increasing.

This comes a decade after Maryland passed the landmark Thornton education funding law mandating billions in new education spending to close achievement gaps between poor minority students and their peers.

Also, a recent report from the Maryland Higher Education Commission found that high percentages of Maryland high school graduates needed remedial math and English instruction when they entered college.

The Student’s First State Policy Report Card offers a clearer look at Maryland’s the end product public schools.  Maryland ranked 17th overall and received a grade of D.  Within Student First’s three policy pillars, Maryland ranks as follows: Elevate Teaching: 20th, Empower Parents: 15th, Spend Wisely Governs Well: 20th.

Despite O’Malley’s pragmatic bluster of doing “what works,” the state’s education system is failing its most vulnerable students and denies their parents the power of choice to send their children to better schools.

Martin O’Malley is as much an ideologue as Babe Ruth was a home run hitter.

Given that O’Malley’s data driven approach hasn’t solved the rash of agency failings, his economic policies haven’t resurrected Maryland’s faltering economy, and the states public schools consistently fail its most vulnerable students, his record of doing “what works” is at best up for debate and at worst a failure.  No wonder he wants to mask his ideological approach in a pragmatic disguise.

However, readers of Politico wouldn’t know that from Alexander Burns and Burgess Everett’s reporting.

 

 

Mark Newgent

Mark Newgent is a contributing editor to Red Maryland, the premiere blog of conservative politics in the Free State, voted one of the best state political blogs by the Washington Post two years in a row. His writing has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Examiner, National Review Online, and more. Twitter: @MarkNewgent

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