When the Problem Isn’t Revenue but Out-Of-Control Spending

David Keene, Washington Times, July 22, 2015

Maryland, like Illinois, is famous as an integrity-free zone. Former governors, the heads of various school systems in the state, legislators, county executives and law enforcement officials have ended their careers in federal and state penal institutions for confusing serving the public with serving themselves at the public’s expense.

Prince George’s County just outside Washington and across the Wilson Bridge from Alexandria has probably had more former elected and appointed officials incarcerated than any other state jurisdiction, including Baltimore, in recent years. The county’s political culture is toxic to those who believe that elected officials should resist the temptation to steal from those who elect them, and it is a culture that seems eternally resistant to reform. It’s a shame, because the historic picturesque county should be a great place to live and raise a family.

Moreover, it is the wealthiest majority black county in the entire country and the 77th wealthiest of all counties regardless of where they are or who is in the majority. The median income in the county in 2008 was nearly $72,000 and yet, by any standard, it is also one of the most dysfunctional counties in the country. Its schools are among the worst in the D.C. metropolitan area, its police are among the least disciplined in the country, and its bureaucracy fails to deliver on almost all fronts to a public that seems used to being abused, overtaxed and taken for granted by arrogant “public servants.”

To say that Prince George’s is dominated by one party is an understatement. President Obama received 90 percent of the county vote in 2012, which was up from the mere 89 percent he got when he first ran in 2008. Republicans who live in the county tend to ignore politics altogether because no one is much interested in their views or their votes. The GOP doesn’t even bother to contest most county and local offices even though there are signs that Prince George’s voters are finally getting fed up with business as usual in their home county.

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Prince George’s is not a poor county by any measure, but audits of their school system have revealed that much of the money earmarked for education is wasted or stolen. Maybe that’s why at least one former head of the system went to prison for public corruption. Still, the county executive claims the county is broke and needs help either from the state or in the form of much higher taxes.

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