The cause and effect syndrome

Today I have two items which may not seem to be necessarily related, but in my mind make perfect sense as a cause and (future) effect. Let me start with that proverbial itch in Martin O’Malley’s back that he just can’t reach to scratch, Larry Hogan and Change Maryland:

Two outcomes of the Governor’s legislative agenda is (sic) to make gasoline and electricity more expensive. We have now seen 36 consecutive tax, fee and toll increases that will remove $3.1 billion out of the pockets of struggling Marylander’s per year, with these motor fuel taxes and the additional fees required of utility customers to support offshore wind.

Instead of developing a coherent transportation policy, our top elected officials took the easy way out by adding yet more of a tax burden to a state that has faced so many in recent years. They choreographed the proposal’s original announcement, committee hearings and final votes to take place on late Fridays and in the evenings to avoid news coverage in the waning days of this legislative session. This speaks volumes about just how unpopular more taxes are, and this may push Maryland to the tipping point. Taxpayers have finally had enough.

The second piece of the puzzle comes from interim state GOP head Diana Waterman:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland’s unemployment rate has almost doubled since Martin O’Malley became Governor. The Democrats in Annapolis have slowed economic growth by raising taxes over $1,500 per family with more on the way.

Maryland’s budgets have increased nearly 25% from $28.8 billion in 2007 to $36.8 billion in 2014. The Democrats say they are focused on “jobs” but they have not done a single thing to make Maryland more friendly to job creators. That’s why 6,500 small businesses have left our state and there are 8 fewer Fortune 500 Companies located within our borders. It is time for a change in Annapolis so we can get Maryland’s economy moving again!

I’ll set aside my thought that it was Change Maryland which trumpeted the 6,500 figure for lost businesses and concentrate more squarely on a more important theory: more than most other states, Maryland is held captive by a tyranny of the majority.

There are two classes of people who, in varying degrees, are either not affected by or prosper from a larger, more all-consuming government.

One is Maryland’s poor, which tend to congregate in the Democratic stronghold of Baltimore City but can be found in small enclaves all around the state. Billions of dollars’ worth of wealth has been transferred via the state coffers from the producers to the dependent, and although this gasoline tax will affect them adversely to some degree (as may the farebox increases for mass transit), on balance the tax hikes will be to their benefit once the money is transferred over to the General Fund. If you truly believe the majority party isn’t going to participate in this plunder – even with the laughably weak “lockbox” provision included in the gas tax legislation – you probably also believe that offshore wind is cheap and abundant energy.

The second group is all those people who actually work for the government, whether federal or state. Because of them, Maryland is one of the more prosperous states in the nation and by outward appearance she has weathered the recessionary storm better than practically anyone else. But that Potemkin village of prosperity only seems to extend to the outside of the Beltway and along portions of the I-95 corridor where enough voters live that they can combine with the group of poor voters I outlined above and run the remainder of the state into the dust. If you’re living fat and happy off the federal government, it’s really not going to matter all that much if you pay a buck or two more to fill up your Volvo; moreover, chances are that in your cocoon you won’t stop and think about how this will affect all the others who have to also pay this new freight.

But there’s the rest of us out here. And even if you’re one of those thinkers who is aware enough of what’s really going on but happen to live among the groups who prosper from the misery of the rest of us, you’re forced to take it in the shorts once again.

There is a day of reckoning that is coming. No, it’s not Election Day 2014, for even if we motivated all the Republicans and thoughtful independents in Maryland to come out to the polls, and even if we can get to what my latest interviewee Bill Campbell alluded – to “control the trajectory that Maryland is going to have economically” by electing a conservative governor and comptroller – we still would have to fight this battle on the federal level with a President who seems determined to ruin this country’s economy and perhaps with a Supreme Court willing to throw aside the words of the Founding Fathers as expressed in the plain language of the Constitution for their vision of a nation which is more “fair.”

Instead, that day comes when, proverbially, Atlas makes the decision to shrug. There’s a new study from the Mercatus Center detailing freedom in the 50 states, and one conclusion they drew was:

The more a state denies people their freedoms, increases their taxes or passes laws that make it hard for businesses to hire and fire, the more likely they are to leave.

Indeed, this is true. But what happens when there’s nowhere else to go?

As a state, Maryland may be the canary in the coal mine. But in the longer-term, we as a nation have a lot of work to do just to simply get pointed in the right direction – let alone reverse course. I know it’s a generational struggle and the other side isn’t going down without a fight.

There has to be an uprising of some sort. Note well that guns do not necessarily have to be involved, for the uprising could also be spiritual in nature, or it could even take form as a restoration of the honesty and work ethic for which Americans used to be known. At one time most of us were too proud to take “relief” but now the (so-called) “independence card” is viewed as an entitlement, if not a badge of honor which has been “earned.”

Whatever the case may be, the time between now and that day is getting shorter, and things are changing at an accelerated pace. Let us use the principles many of us share and the technology we have in this era to better things just as our forefathers did almost a quarter of a millennium ago. Remember, if a rising tide lifts all boats, a falling tide means some will run into the rocks they never saw.

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