The Maryland Public Policy Institute
A generation ago, communism crashed to insolvency. Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw's 1998 best-seller, "The Commanding Heights," chronicled the privatization of railways, utilities and other mega corporations that governments could not run. In 1996 President Bill Clinton declared that "the era of big government is over."
That wasn't quite true, however. Governments may have downsized in some areas, but their girth kept growing, driven in large part by lofty promises to state employees and citizens alike that were not sustainable, even in good times.
Here in the land of the free, government hands out so many goodies the country should be called the Entitled States of America. As one example, nearly one in seven people are on food stamps, and as reported in "The Daily Caller," the government recently gave a "Gold Award" to social workers in North Carolina who overcame "mountain pride" to increase those on the local food stamp dole by 10 percent.
Ironically, however, as last week's "derecho" proved, government can't do the most basic of things: Keep your air conditioning running. At one point more than 2 million people lost power from storms that hit Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey; tens of thousands remained without it in the state for days after the storm.
Gov. Martin O'Malley promised that "Nobody will have their boot further up Pepco's backside than I will to make sure we get there," when the utility said it could take a week to restore power to some of the hundreds of thousands of customers who lost it due to severe thunderstorms.
But as Gregg Easterbrook wrote recently in The Atlantic, O'Malley's administration did little to hold the company accountable before the storm.
The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) is a notorious lap dog, in part because although Maryland local government is traditionally clean, the Maryland State House is traditionally corrupt. As the good-government website OurDC notes, "From 2008 to 2010, Pepco CEO Joe Rigby earned $8.8 million and Pepco top officers earned more than $22 million. During that same period, Pepco reported $882 million in profits, paid no federal and state income taxes and received $817 million in tax refunds." Yet as the money rolled in, the PSC allowed Pepco to cut back on maintenance, in order to divert funds to dividends and management bonuses.
So, days after the Supreme Court puts America on the path to government controlling every aspect of a person's health care, Mother Nature disabused us of faith in Big Brother.
So have job numbers, which despite a massive stimulus, show the economy limping along, with unemployment stuck at 8.2 percent nationally.
O'Malley does not control the weather. But he does control who is appointed to the PSC, which oversees utilities in Maryland. And soon government will be involved with the most intimate aspects of everyone's health care, if it isn't already. As last week's storms proved, however, we will always be on our own no matter how much we pay for cradle-to-grave government care.