Opinion Columns & Blogs

Cal Thomas: O’Malley positioning himself as the ‘spare’


Martin O’Malley, former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor, announced his presidential candidacy Saturday, and said some things that could be taken as criticism of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Today, the American dream seems for so many of us to be hanging by a thread,” said O’Malley, adding that “we must save our country now.… Tell me how it is that you can get pulled over for a broken taillight in our country, but if you wreck the nation’s economy, you are untouchable.”

Who is he blaming for “wrecking” the economy? Big banks and Wall Street, not the Obama administration, which has presided over slow economic growth, an increase in the number of Americans who want to work but can’t find jobs and more than 46 million people on food stamps. Last month, the Commerce Department reported the economy contracted 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

Wasn’t the president elected to fix all this? I doubt that when he promised to “fundamentally change” the country, most Obama worshippers had this kind of country in mind.

Unlike Clinton, O’Malley’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination, he has a record of sweeping, identifiable initiatives, which did little to improve conditions for the poor in Baltimore.

As Baltimore’s mayor, O’Malley promised to reclaim the city’s abandoned and uninhabitable buildings. Yet between 2002 and 2007, the number of vacant and abandoned residential properties in the city actually increased by 2,570, to more than 15,700, according to the New York Times, which cited statistics from the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance.

Poverty and unemployment remain high in Baltimore. A survey released in April by two Harvard economists ranked the city as the least likely among the country’s 100 largest cities to allow children to escape poverty. One contributing factor could have been O’Malley’s refusal to allow school choice so poor parents could exercise an option available to wealthier and more influential people.

As governor of Maryland, O’Malley was a serial tax hiker. As summarized by the Daily Caller, O’Malley raised the top personal income tax rate from 4.75 to 5.75 percent. Adding local taxes gave Maryland a top tax rate of 8.95 percent. O’Malley also presided over a corporate tax hike from 7 to 8.25 percent. He raised the sales tax from 5 to 6 percent; increased taxes on beer, wine and spirits by 50 percent; raised the gas tax by 20 cents over four years, almost doubling the rate from 23.5 cents; doubled the cigarette tax from $1 to $2 a pack; imposed higher taxes on vehicle registration; and created a “stormwater mitigation fee” on property owners, derided as a “rain tax.” And what did the people most in need get from all this extra tax money? Not much, it appears.

At least O’Malley can say he was consistent on some issues, unlike Clinton. O’Malley consistently favored same-sex marriage and opposed the Iraq War. Clinton was against same-sex marriage and for the Iraq War before reversing herself.

One of O’Malley’s problems is that if he tracks too far left, he runs into the socialist gadfly Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt. Instead, O’Malley seems to be positioning himself like the British monarchy, which has an “heir and a spare.” For now Clinton is the “heir” to the nomination, and O’Malley is the “spare.” That could change if questions about the Clintons’ finances persist.

Cal Thomas, a columnist with Tribune Content Agency, appears in Opinion on Wednesdays.