Switzerland in America
George Liebmann: Switzerland in America
The ballot referendums are important since two cure-alls of the 1970s, campaign finance “reform” and strict reapportionment, have delivered the legislature to reliable partisans and ‘bundlers” of campaign contributions. Referendums have served the Swiss well.
The casino bill and congressional redistricting reflect the culture of corruption in Annapolis. “Gay marriage” and the “Dream Act” are “culture warfare” and pandering, trivial, but of undiscussed larger import.
The casino amendment shreds the constitutional prohibitions of monopolies and of lottery grants, which grew out of 19th-century experience with gambling. The Cordish Cos.’ tax cut compensates for curbs on a state-granted monopoly. Lest gambling habitués be sober, there is to be 24-hour alcohol service, despite Maryland’s tradition of local legislation on liquor. All-night hours will not long be confined to slots emporia.
The redistricting bill ensures that Republicans will never elect more than one of eight congressmen. It creates what professor Royce Hanson called “neighborhoods of strangers and jurisdictions without traditions,” ideal political terrain for self-financed millionaires. Its target is Roscoe Bartlett, who, along with the similarly purged Wayne Gilchrest, was one of four House Republicans to oppose attempted impairment of the writ of habeas corpus.
He was excluded during the Gingrich Congress from environment committees because he follows science. There will be no more of his kind.
Gov. O’Malley and several easily influenced legislators (one since suspended from the legislature) underwent a Damascene conversion on gay marriage, lubricated by campaign contributions. This bill is not about love, adequately expressed by civil unions. It is about money: Justifiable demands for health insurance and privacy have swiftly morphed into a treasury raid.
Joint filing and its lower rates are important in the federal tax code. If the Defense of Marriage Act falls to attacks, couples that usually do not raise children will have the same tax privileges as those who usually do.
Legislation can never be perfect, but it provides guides to what is expected of people in life, whose erosion is apt to be resented by those who have complied with them. Marriage for all will be marriage for none.
Joint tax filings will be ended, followed at some distance by the tax-motivated “death of marriage” on the Scandinavian pattern, large consequences from a small change, particularly since marriage has as its foundation concern with children. The French, not illiberal, have concluded that gay marriage is a bridge too far.
The “Dream Act” benefits an exotic class who are undocumented, have attended high schools for three years, have parents who have paid income taxes, lack criminal records nd who, notwithstanding all this, are willing to spend two years in purgatory at a community college even if accepted at a four-year college.
The proponents claim, doubtless with exaggeration, that there may actually be 435 such persons in each year’s age cohort. This is a gift to immigration lawyers, not a serious approach to the perversities of immigration.
For that, we must look to the Utah Compact, between a Republican governor and the Catholic and Mormon churches, where the state forswears enforcement of federal immigration laws save against criminals and issues guest-worker permits to migrants who try to learn English, and who have major-medical health insurance policies.
Predictably, this serious effort embodied in four state laws has been assailed by nativists, tea partiers, immigrant rights groups and the Obama administration. The governor’s empty gesture advertises the state as a haven for benefit migrants. This Maryland does not need, since its tax policies and decoupling from federal exclusions render the state uniquely repulsive to self-sufficient migrants, immigrant and native.
These measures are fueled by overweening ambition and worse. Marylanders should reject them.
George Liebmann is executive director of the Calvert Institute for Policy Research in Baltimore. He can be reached at email@example.com.