Patrick’s Progressive Paradigm
What will an Obama presidency mean for taxpayers? Look at Massachusetts.


Michael Graham

Is it time to elect an inspiring, Harvard-trained, black attorney from Chicago? A candidate with little experience, who rejects the idea of triangulation and instead celebrates his progressive politics?

In Massachusetts, we already did. And we’ve got the taxes and debt to prove it.

Tonight, Gov. Deval Patrick will address the DNC, and comparisons between him and Barack Obama are unavoidable. In fact, the joke from Massachusetts is that Gov. Patrick’s going to give a speech so good, you’ll enjoy it even more when Barack Obama gives it on Thursday.

But the similarities go far beyond a bit of friendly plagiarism.

When Gov. Patrick was elected in 2006, he had never held elected office of any kind. He had virtually no experience as an executive, and his political experience, such as it was, came during his years in the Clinton Justice Department.

Deval Patrick won his party’s nomination by running to the left of a well-known establishment candidate (sound familiar?) and handily defeated GOP Lt. Governor Kerry Healy in her bid to become Massachusetts’ first woman elected to the governor’s office.

So you can see why Seth Gitell in the New York Sun recently called Massachusetts under Gov. Patrick “Obama’s Petri Dish,” a possible preview of an Obama presidency. For the sake of America, let’s hope not.

In his autobiography, Joe Biden says that the Carter administration taught him that “on-the-job training for a president can be a dangerous thing.” In Massachusetts, we now know it’s not so great for a governor, either. The first months of the Patrick administration in 2007 were marred by goofy, rookie mistakes: He spent $23,000 on new drapes for the governor’s office; he wanted the state to get rid of the standard-issue Crown Vic and lease a Cadillac DTS (quickly dubbed the “Deval Transportation System”) for him; he put an assistant for his wife on the state payroll.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts budget was doing what it always does — veering wildly out of control. Soon after Patrick took office, the newly completely Big Dig tunnel collapsed and killed a woman. Subsequent investigations revealed the the price tag for the project — originally projected at around $3 billion — was going to be $22 billion. And state taxpayers are on the hook for nearly every penny now that federal funding is winding down.

At the same time, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the mass transit systems are both drowning under debt payments. The turnpike is such a mess that it was recently revealed they were using borrowed money to pay current payrolls. The Turnpike Authority raised tolls, Gov. Patrick raised taxes by $500 million, but still the shortfalls continue.

Gov. Patrick’s solution? Borrow more money, and create more government jobs.

This year’s state budget included a whopping $16 billion in new debt — that’s more than half the state’s entire annual budget. And that’s just the new debt. Massachusetts taxpayers were already carrying the highest debt burden per capita in the nation. But that hasn’t slowed down Gov. Patrick.