I’m all in favor of more competition for the upcoming Democratic presidential nomination, but I’m afraid that at this point, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley just doesn’t pass the laugh test. It’s not because O’Malley’s name recognition hasn’t yet moved even the smallest needle, though that’s clearly a big obstacle. Nor is it because I’m a Maryland resident, and am unable to list any O’Malley accomplishments other than non-stop tax increases. It’s mainly because O’Malley seems clueless about his own state economy’s heavy dependence on federal largesse – which doesn’t justify much confidence that he can address the nation’s main economic problems effectively.
O’Malley’s apparent delusions were on full display this morning on CBS News’ Face the Nation. Asked by host Bob Schieffer why he “would be a better president than Hillary Clinton,” O’Malley responded that while in office in Annapolis, “I guided our state through this recession and I did so with results that actually mattered. The highest median income in the country, a middle class that is upwardly mobile….”
Here, however, is what O’Malley didn’t mention: Like Virginia, Maryland weathered the recessionary storm relatively well because its location right next to the District of Columbia means that it benefits disproportionately from federal spending and employment levels. These of course are entirely different from the free market forces that have always been the main determinants of the nation’s economic performance and prospects.
In 2007, the year the last recession started (officially at its very end), combined federal government civilian and military spending as a share of Maryland’s economy was 11.50 percent. For the nation as a whole, the figure was 3.63 percent. (All figures are in current dollars.) The downturn ended in mid-2009, and it’s well known that ramped up federal spending moderated the slump. Its share of national gross domestic product rose to four percent from full-year 2007 to full-year 2009 – a 10.19 percent increase, even as the economy shrank by 0.51 percent.
Maryland’s economy fared much better in these years – growing by 4.49 percent. But that’s largely because its government-heavy economy became even more government heavy, with the federal share rising to 12.18 percent.
Once the recession ended, however, Maryland’s reliance on Washington kept growing, as federal spending as a share of its economy hit 12.79 percent by 2013 (the latest available data). Its economy expanded by 12.47 percent. Interestingly, the national economy grew much faster – by 16.56 percent, even as the federal spending share declined to 3.77 percent.
Campaign 2016 is still young, and O’Malley may indeed have brilliant ideas to restore the national economy (and especially its private sector) to genuine health, as opposed to its current easy money-induced buzz. But if he’s going to get any deserved traction, that’s a case he still needs credibly to make.