Gov. Parris Glendening’s final State of the State address Wednesday was a bizarre mix of revisionist Maryland history and feel-good utopianism that left members of the General Assembly feeling “weirded out,” as one indelicately put it. Mr. Glendening approvingly quoted unnamed Brazilian “leaders” criticizing America for “build[ing] our prosperity at the cost of our environment.” He also suggested that international “racism and bigotry” were somehow responsible for the fact that millions of Africans have died of AIDS, and demanded that a worldwide coalition be assembled to fight “poverty and hopelessness throughout the world.”
All of this left even some of the governor’s most reliable liberal supporters scratching their heads. “We wanted to hear about how his priorities are reflected in the budget, not rain forests in Brazil,” snapped Del. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat. “People are wondering what job he’s auditioning for from ambassador to the United Nations, to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state, to making his first speech for president.” Several months ago, in fact, Mr. Glendening did have his eye on the chancellorship of the University of Maryland college system, a job paying $345,000 a year. But Mr. Glendening took himself out of the running after critics noted that all of the members of the university system’s board of regents, who would have to select a new chancellor, were his appointees.
Talking about intractable world problems has one distinct advantage, however: It deflects attention away from the failures of Mr. Glendening’s brand of liberalism to improve the quality of life in Maryland and his dubious assertions of “success.” For example, Mr. Glendening bragged about expanding higher education scholarships. He understandably failed to mention a national study released earlier this month which found that Maryland’s colleges and universities are among the least affordable in the country. Mr. Glendening also took credit for bringing the Ravens to Maryland, without mentioning the millions in corporate welfare lavished on megabucks owner Art Modell, or the fact that study after study has shown that sports stadiums do little to create additional wealth.
Mr. Glendening claimed that, thanks to him, “100,000 have health insurance who didn’t have it before.” He didn’t cite a source for the figure. But at least one recent study suggests something very different. Greg Scandlen, a health policy analyst for the Cato Institute, found that Maryland may have one of the worst records in the country when it comes to providing access to health insurance. Using Census Bureau data, Mr. Scandlen found that from 1996 to 1998, twenty states were able to reduce their percentage of uninsured. But Maryland’s percentage jumped from 11.4 to 16.6 percent, a larger increase than in all but two states. Mr. Scandlen is in the process of updating the figures using more recent census data, something which may not bode well for Mr. Glendening’s p.r. campaign to build a legacy for himself. On the other hand, it sure beats talking about the miserable failure of Mr. Glendening and his designated successor, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, to reform a juvenile-justice system that has become a national disgrace, or the way Mr. Glendening’s “Smart Growth” rural preservation program was used in an effort to bludgeon Montgomery County into spending money on schools where the governor’s bureaucrats wanted them instead of where students needed them. The question now is whether Mrs. Townsend, who holds a commanding lead in the polls, will be forced to pay a price for any of this.