Going by the Governor's tanking poll numbers, it appears not enough people got the message in Fraser Smith's January 20th column. In order to achieve its intended goal--to make benefit of glorious leader--Smith had to rework it for March 9.
Just over a year into his administration, Gov. Martin O'Malley finds himself pinned to a hard reality: cleaning up the financial mess left by his predecessors while trying to cope with a faltering economy.
Instead of credit for that dual rescue mission, he faces critics who say he's done too little cost-cutting and too much taxing. "One of the frustrating realities is that a penny tax increase in the sales tax makes a banner headline, and $100 million in cuts gets barely a whisper," he said during at interview in his State House office.
He's hoping to counter criticism by asking Marylanders to realize how much worse things could be. "I think we have to distinguish between the avalanche of red ink we were able to avoid by attacking the deficit we inherited and the cyclical downturn, which will always happen," Mr. O'Malley said.
Without last November's special legislation session - in which a $1.7 billion deficit was eased by raising the sales and income taxes - the economic slowdown would do much more damage. It's already threatened the state's effort to save the Chesapeake Bay, to invest in potentially lifesaving stem cell research and to hold the line on tuition increases at state colleges and universities.
To say that this is not exactly true would be an understatement.
Calling the sales tax increase "a penny increase" is putting the proverbial silk hat on a pig. In reality the sales tax increase is 20%. Also, Smith conveniently leaves out the extension of the sales tax to the computer services industry.
Sure O'Malley made some cuts, but he also added 898 more positions and increased spending $1.7-$1.8 billion. In fact, O'Malley's FY2009 budget was a little larger than the $1.4 billion in historic tax increases rammed through in last year's special session. The begs the question, where was the crisis that warranted a special session, and the fear mongering, doomsday "failure to act" budget?
Furthermore, contrary to the Baltimore Sun editorial board, O'Malley's special session did NOT solve the structural deficit. Even if the state was not expecting $333 million in revenue shortfalls, the spending problem would still exist. Taking the logic of Smith's narrative to its end, then O'Malley would bequeath the deficit problem to his successors as well.
Martin O'Malley and the truth are like two ships passing in the night; never the twain shall meet. However, the governor is not worried, he expects you to forget these inconvenient truths come November 2010.
Obviously Smith's columns are part of the official "comeback" narrative of a heroic governor willing to take political hits in order to do good by Maryland's working families, O'Malley wants to create. No matter the real record, practically it is smart politics.
However, O'Malley should stop connecting his superficial lament for his political trajectory to the very real travails of our soldiers in Iraq.
"The cause of my being down is not the poll numbers," he said. "It's the challenges we face. You go to 20 line-of-duty funerals for young people coming home from Iraq. You look at the dollar being weakened. ... It's difficult to be a thinking, caring, rational, moral human being and not be aware of the sadness contained in our shared reality."
The polls are a a reflection of O'Malley's dismal record in office. The cause of which, is his tax increases and energy policies making the plight of working families worse than when he "championed" their cause in the 2006 election. Contrary to Smith's attempts to show otherwise, O'Malley has only exacerbated "the challenges we face."
I have no doubt that O'Malley genuinely supports our troops in Iraq and feels compassion for the families for the fallen. However, it is extremely bad form for the governor to hide from very legitimate and warranted criticism behind his concern for our fighting men and women.