By Aaron Klein
While his state’s economy was crashing and businesses were fleeing in droves, Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland from 2007 until earlier this year, introduced a highly subjective new system to measure economic growth.
O’Malley aimed for the new system, termed the Genuine Progress Indicator, or GPI, eventually to replace the gross domestic product, or GDP, used as a national indicator of economic health. The GPI touts itself as measuring “well-being” instead of only wealth.
O’Malley, a Democrat, is widely expected to announce a 2016 presidential bid.
While Maryland’s economy was largely in a tailspin under O’Malley and polls signaled high resident dissatisfaction, his new GPI repeatedly found the overall quality of life for Marylanders was on the rise.
Between 2007 and 2010, the state population lost major businesses while more than 31,000 departed for other states, resulting in $1.7 billion in lost tax revenue.
Maryland boasted the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation during O’Malley’s final year in office.
And yet, year after year, O’Malley’s GPI indicator found Maryland was on the rise.
In January, just prior to his leaving office, O’Malley released the latest GPI results, which found, according to a press release from his office, that “new data shows well-being in Maryland on the rise.”
The release explained the data was collected in 2013 and “shows that the overall quality of life for Marylanders increased in 2013, despite a relatively flat economy.”
Unmentioned was that in April 2014, a Gallup poll found that 47 percent of Maryland’s residents would choose to move if they could, representing the third highest dissatisfaction rate nationwide.
So how did Maryland conclude its state’s “well-being” was escalating?
Instead of measuring hard numbers, such as the GDP, O’Malley’s GPI factors in 26 “indicators” to calculate Maryland’s economic and “well-being” status.
Many of the indicators seem subjective and difficult to measure, including the “value of housework,” “cost of family changes,” “cost of crime,” “cost of personal pollution abatement,” “value of volunteer work,” Cost of lost leisure time,” “cost of ozone depletion” and “cost of noise pollution.”
Another major indicator is “income inequality.”
“Separation of the wealthy and poor is a strong indicator of the overall prosperity and levels of opportunity of any community,” reads Maryland’s GPI indicator page on the state’s website.
Maryland’s GPI state website does not reveal how it obtained its numbers, including how it collected data and analyzed such arbitrary factors as “value of housework.”
Regarding the “value of housework” equation, the website simply states, “In order to more accurately measure the social value of economic activity, the contribution of household to the value of production must be taken into account.”
“The subjective nature of the quantification of these indicators is stunning,” wrote local activist and columnist Jim Pettit, who has been monitoring O’Malley’s GPI initiative since at least 2010.
Referring to the state’s measure of “income inequality,” Pitt, writing at the Maryland Reporter, criticized that “unknown is what too unequal means much less how the government is supposed to reduce personal tensions arising from income disparities.”
In a 2013 National Review Online piece, Pitt likened the GPI initiative to historic attempts by dictatorships to whitewash poor economic performance.
“When V. I. Lenin wanted to change the economic course of the fledgling Soviet Union in the 1920s, he instituted the New Economic Policy. In the 1950s, Mao Tse-tung sought to transform China with the Great Leap Forward,” he noted.
O’Malley did not found the GPI plan. It was formed over decades by progressive economists and is pushed by major progressive think tanks, most notably the Center for Sustainable Economy and the far-left Institute for Policy Studies. Also, the far-left Demos think tank has been a major proponent of the plan.
O’Malley, however, has been a driving force behind bringing the plan to the states. He enacted it on a state level in 2010 and has since hosted annual GPI summits with the goal of signing up all 50 states.
“This is movement is growing … and to achieve Genuine Progress, we need to expand this awareness to more states. I’d love to host all 50 here someday,” he stated at last year’s GPI summit, hosted by the state of Maryland.
The plan is also heavily pushed by a group calling itself Redefining Progress.
That group is funded by the Joyce Foundation, an anti-gun and progressive advocacy organization where Obama served on the board from 1994 to 2002.
Redefining Progress is partnered with the SEIU, Sierra Club and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
Another Redefining Progress partner is the BlueGreen Alliance, which changed its name from the Apollo Alliance following negative publicity.
Jeff Jones, who heads the BlueGreen Alliance’s New York branch, is a former top leader of the Weathermen terrorist organization, while Alliance associate Joel Rogers is a founder of the socialist-oriented New Party.
A BlueGreen board member is Obama’s controversial former “green” jobs czar, Van Jones, who resigned from the White House in 2009 after it was exposed that he founded a communist revolutionary group.
Jones also served on the boards of Demos and the Institute for Policy Studies, both major advocates of the GPI.
In an attempt to balance the state’s budget when he first came to office in 2007, O’Malley increased numerous taxes and imposed dozens of new fees.
A closer look at O’Malley’s tenure as governor finds he imposed a total of 40 new and increased taxes and fees.
In 2013, the Washington Examiner published a list of some of the taxes, fees and rate increases imposed under O’Malley’s leadership.
Aside from the “rain tax,” they were:
Handgun licensing fees and other firearm registration fees
Electricity-rate increase due to higher expense of power produced by offshore wind farms
Vehicle registration surcharge
Maryland Transit Authority fare increase
Indexing gas tax to increase with the consumer price index
Applying wholesale tax to gasoline sales
Income tax increase on Marylanders earning more than $100,000
Reduction of personal income exemption for Marylanders earning more than $100,000
Recordation tax applied to indemnity mortgages
Increased tobacco tax rate from 15 to 70 percent for certain products
Doubled death certificate fee
Repeal of the sales tax exemption on penalty charges assessed on the late return of gas cylinders
Double Bay Restoration fee
Increase Weights and Measures Registration fee
Double Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund Fee
New fee for major modifications under the Wetland Water Way Program
Alcoholic beverage sales tax increase from 6 to 9 percent
Vehicle dealer processing charge
Double vanity plate fee
Double vehicle certificate of title fee
Out of state attorney admission fee
Increase in contractor licensing and renewal fees
Double birth certificate fee
Eliminate exemption of premium tax on worker’s compensation
Bridge and tunnel toll increases
Fishing license and registration fees
Speed cameras in school and work zones
Increase the top marginal tax rate from 5.5 to 6.25 percent (“millionaire’s tax”), since expired
Computer services tax
New income tax marginal rates from 4.75 to 5.5 percent
Increase sales tax from 5 to 6 percent
Increase state corporate income tax from 7 to 8.25 percent
Increase cigarette tax from $1 to $2 per pack
Increase vehicle titling tax from $23 to $25
Vehicle excise tax increase
Electronic gambling tip jar tax
Real property transfer tax
Elimination of Captive Real Estate Investment Trusts
With research by Brenda J. Elliott