Now that the Republican National Convention is in full swing, it’s a time to shine for Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who is constantly compared with Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, his chief rival on the talk show circuit.
It’s a perfect duality. One state professes pro-business policies while the other prides itself on enlightened regulation. Both rely mightily on federal jobs, have many highly educated workers and offer excellent higher education. McDonnell and O’Malley, both Irish Catholics, try to best the other on job creation claims, thus making their competing parties seem the better choice come November.
One recent exploration of the subject came from Stephen Moore, an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal, who commented on the “border war” right under Washington’s nose. In his Aug. 25 piece, Moore sides firmly with McDonnell, who he claims has helped make Virginia the clear winner in the jobs battle with Maryland.
In Moore’s predictable analysis, O’Malley raised taxes but has little extra revenue to show for it. Moore connects such policies toVirginia’s coup in snagging Northrop Grumman when the firm was considering a headquarters move from Los Angeles. He writes that other firms have likewise snubbed Maryland for the Old Dominion. Maryland’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 7 percent in July while Virginia’s is up a little to 5.9 percent — both well under the national average.
Although the overall differences are actually unremarkable, Moore still says that “if these two states are supposed to be showcases for their party’s respective strategies, Maryland’s record is anything but a ringing endorsement for progressive government.”
I’d be surprised if a Journal editorial writer professed anything different. I have a few quibbles with this column and then a big problem. Sure, McDonnell has a balanced budget, but in his first year he did so by delaying payments to the state workers’ retirement fund — not exactly an entirely honest approach. Virginia has among the lowest tobacco taxes in the country because Big Tobacco is so big there, but tobacco still kills 400,000 Americans a year and add more than a billion dollars to Virginia’s health bills annually. Virginia hasn’t raised its gasoline tax, even for inflation, in two decades. The roads show it. As for Northrop Grumman, at the time of the move, the firm owned a huge shipyard in Newport News.
The bigger point is that this analysis leaves out sequestration: the forced federal jobs cuts looming after the election. According to Stephen Fuller, director of regional analysis at George Mason University, Maryland faces a whopping cut of 115,000 jobs.
As for Virginia, yipes! A week or so ago I got a flyer in my mailbox from my Rep. Randy Forbes, a Republican whose district includes military-saturated South Hampton Roads and Petersburg. Forbes draws from the same report to note that sequestration would mean Virginia loses 207,571 jobs.
Numbers like those truly change the equation.