Politics & Policy

Patrick’s Progressive Paradigm

What will an Obama presidency mean for taxpayers? Look at Massachusetts.

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.

As the Boston Herald reported this week, Gov. Patrick has added nearly 2,000 new state employees to the payroll after 18 months in office. He’s also raised his own office’s budget by 80 percent in a year — not even gas prices jumped as fast.

And one of his pet projects is a $1 billion state “investment” in life sciences, a program using tax dollars to fund projects and facilities to benefit multi-billion dollar drug companies like Wyeth and Genzyme.

You’ll be stunned to learn that executives from these companies are Patrick supporters.

As a politician, Gov. Patrick comes across as a nice guy who gives a good speech. As a leader, he’s the liberal legislature’s best friend because he doesn’t have the political chops to lead them. There has yet to be one important and contentious issue where Gov. Patrick has gotten his way. Instead, the legislature treats Patrick like a hapless little brother who tags along and ocassionally gets in the way.

Even more disturbing than Gov. Patrick’s ineptness is his willingness to abandon the great progressive principles that identified him as a candidate. For example, his proposals for new revenue to pay for his liberal spending programs have been to bring casino gambling to the state, and to increase cigarette taxes. Both of these “revenue streams” (to use the Left’s euphemism) take a disproportionate amount of money from families with low incomes and little education.

Why not a straight-ahead tax increase on the “rich?” Why not an increase in gas taxes and punish those evil carbon users?

That’s too tough. Too much heavy lifting for a political novice like Gov. Patrick. Easier to shake down the blue-collar families and inner-city folks for a few more bucks.

If Patrick’s helplessness before the legislature is a harbinger of things to come, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are going to be very happy with a President Obama.

The American taxpayer, on the other hand, is unlikely to share those sentiments.

Michael Graham is an NRO contributor.

Michael GrahamMichael Graham was born in Los Angeles and raised in South Carolina. A graduate of Oral Roberts University, he worked as a stand-up comedian before beginning his political career as ...


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