Seeing its neighborhoods today, where swarms of rats fatten on piles of garbage, it’s surprising to learn that Baltimore was once the second most popular destination of early American immigrants. Baltimore was the Silicon Valley of the early 1800s – a vibrant and prosperous center of wonder and invention, home of our nation’s first great railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio, and of the amazing new electronic communications technology beside its tracks, the telegraph.
But, as Craig R. Smith and I explain in our book We Have Seen the Future and It Looks Like Baltimore, the magic soon faded.
Baltimore is only 40 miles from Washington, D.C., and during the Civil War it got rich on federal government contracts. But after the war, as Americans moved westward seeking opportunity, a poorer Baltimore’s businesses became more and more dependent on government money. Its American Dream was overtaken by a Progressive Dream in which business meant government business, with political strings attached.
While many newer cities shook off corrupt partisan politics, Baltimore sank deeper into one-party Democrat machine politics. More than six decades ago, one boss mayor, Big Tommy D’Alesandro had fun by putting his eight-year-old daughter on the telephone to talk with those begging favors. Smith and I recount the kind of thing she would say: “You want that building permit for your project? Here’s what you need to do for us.”
The little girl who learned thug politics at her father’s knee went on to become Nancy Pelosi, now Speaker of the House of Representatives, who continues to act as if politics is war. She strives to remake America into a new Progressive Baltimore full of spoils devoured by rats – Democ-rats.
As entrepreneurs fled from Baltimore, what remained were the poor. Italian-American bosses have been replaced by African-American boss-politicians who take Washington money to keep a sinking welfare state afloat. Baltimore is now among the murder and heroin capitals of the United States, a perfect picture of where the Progressive Dream takes a society.
Riots erupted in 2015 after the death of a drug pusher in police custody and charges were filed against four officers. Stores were looted – especially liquor stores and pharmacies for their drugs. More than 200 police were injured by thrown stones and bottles after being ordered by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake not to resist or arrest the rioters, arsonists, and looters. In effect, she gave the order to let Baltimore be robbed and burned.
“We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well, and we work very hard to keep that balance,” the oh-so-Progressive Democratic Mayor Rawlings-Blake later explained to reporters. Since 2015, many other Progressive cities have in varying degrees likewise given in to the mob.
This is what the recent clash between President Donald Trump and powerful Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings is all about. Cummings during the riots stood quietly amid the looters smashing the windows of a liquor store, yet he did nothing to stop them.
They were, after all, Cummings’ voters. The mob was simply taking the next logical step – not waiting for Democrat politicians to rob businesses with confiscatory taxes, but just stealing private property themselves without the usual political middle man. The mob was accustomed to getting what it wanted for free.
A vestige of the greatness of Baltimore remains, especially in Johns Hopkins University, where President Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson earned world fame as a surgeon. In 2015 the world thrilled to images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft – designed and flown by scientists not at Cal Tech or Houston’s Johnson Space Center, but at Johns Hopkins University’s Advanced Physics Laboratory in Baltimore.
If its addiction to government were cured, Baltimore could again become a great global center of technology, healing, innovation, and the American Dream. But first, Baltimore needs to be “woke” from its long Progressive nightmare.
Lowell Ponte is a former think tank futurist and Roving Science Editor at Reader’s Digest magazine. He writes a weekly column at WND.com.