This is one of those comments which deserves its own post, although I’m the one who left it.
Every so often I like to see what the other side is doing, so I go and catch up on Maryland Juice. Yes, David Moon is probably my mirror-image on the left, but I have to hand it to him because he writes quite well. Anyway, yesterday he wrote a piece bouncing off a Maryland Reporter post about the distribution of poverty in Maryland, and I responded with the comment below, which I will separate rather than blockquote myself.
But how does one lift themselves out of poverty? The preferable method is a well-paying job, and I would argue that the state’s policies on development indeed constitute a “War on Rural Maryland.”
I live in Salisbury, and the problem we have is very simple: we have a good university which attracts students from across the region (including the western shore) but no well-paying jobs to keep them here. Incubators of jobs are discouraged from starting up in this part of Maryland because of the hostile business climate, manufacturing won’t come here because the infrastructure is sorely lacking, and all that seems to be left is a few state and institutional jobs here and there. I know the decline of the local building industry wiped my former job out, probably never to return.
On the other hand you live in Montgomery County, which benefits handsomely from its proximity to the federal seat of government. Businesses know they have to pay a premium to be near that population center so they grin and bear it, but guess what? What can work there doesn’t work out here.
Instead, the state seems to have a policy that rural land needs to be either purchased outright (taking it off local tax rolls) or have its usage restricted so much that it essentially becomes worthless. By doing that, farmers are put at a severe disadvantage because their chief asset is the value implicit in the possibility of development of their land. Selling an acre or two of frontage off a 80- or 160- acre parcel isn’t going to significantly affect an overall crop but it could make the difference between profit or loss for a farmer. But that soon won’t be allowed anymore in Martin O’Malley’s Maryland.
For all the talk about One Maryland from your side, the reality is there are at least three. The western panhandle could lift themselves up if the state government would get its head out of its rear end regarding fracking and our end of the state would do just fine if government realized the punitive policies which are fine for your end of Maryland aren’t helping when we have business-friendly Delaware just across the border. Let the counties figure out what’s best for them, and stop dictating what we do from Annapolis.
And I’m curious: if your contention that Republican are to blame for denser amounts of poverty in “their” areas of the state is correct, what does it say about Baltimore City – a Democratic stronghold for decades – being the absolute poorest?
I think that about covers it. But there’s another point I’ll make here, too.
As it is measured for the purposes of the map, poverty is a relative term. Let’s say Person A makes a poverty-level income and lives in Wicomico County while person B lives in Anne Arundel County and makes twice as much. Person A could find it easier to scratch out a living in a rural area because of the lower cost of living than Person B living in a high-priced suburb. Yet on that map Wicomico is painted orange, implying it’s a poor county, while Anne Arundel is a bright blue.
And notice a rising tide lifts all boats. The counties which are in the best shape tend to be those with pockets of wealth, either through being bedroom suburbs to large urban areas (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Howard) or hideaways for the vastly wealthy, which I would categorize Queen Anne’s and Talbot as. In fact, if you change the criteria to a concentration of population existing at less than 200% or 300% of poverty level, the two Eastern Shore counties regress slightly but the bedroom suburbs remain high on the list.
But the argument that Republican parts of the state are leeching off the other portions is a red herring anyway, because the state will keep on spending huge amounts of money to satisfy certain constituencies. If you doubt me, just remember the hue and cry put up when we were “only” going to spend $700 million more than we did in the last fiscal year. Until someone shows me a pattern of budgets with year-over-year declines and their effects of state residents I’m not going to believe that we can’t survive with less. Real, working Maryland families have had to.