Roughly Speaking Dan Rodricks: Commentary and conversation on life in Baltimore, Maryland and the USA

Maryland millionaires must like it here, after all

Nobody asked me, but reports of a decline in Maryland millionaires and other taxpayers appear to have been exaggerated by the man who issued the warnings on his way to the governor’s mansion.

Kiplinger, the financial and business publisher, calculates that Maryland has the highest concentration of millionaires in the country — that is, people with “investable assets of $1 million or more, excluding the value of real estate, employer-sponsored retirement plans and business partnerships” — and the Census Bureau shows population growth of about 300,000 since 2010.

Eight years ago, when Democrat Martin O’Malley was running for his second term as governor, the anti-tax group that provided a political base for Republican Larry Hogan claimed that millionaires were leaving the state, and that our tax base was in a “downward spiral.”

Here’s what Hogan, then chairman of Change Maryland, said in 2010: “Maryland has reached the point of diminishing returns. We're taxing people too much, and people are voting with their feet. Until we change our focus from tax increases to increasing the tax base, more people are simply going to leave ...”

There’s an echo of that sentiment in Hogan’s current re-election campaign commercial, which attaches dark references to O’Malley-era (make that, recession-era) taxes and residents expressing a desire to leave the state.

But Maryland’s population grew from about 5.7 million in 2010 to a bit over 6 million today. And Kiplinger, surveying the national landscape of millionaires, found 178,000 of them living here; they occupy 7.87 percent of Maryland’s households.

Hey now. That puts us just ahead of New Jersey as the state with the highest concentration of millionaires. Maryland also had the highest median household income in the Kiplinger survey, at $76,067.

So this oddly-shaped state’s status does not appear to have been diminished by all those dire warnings that the taxes — which Hogan has not cut in any meaningful way, incidentally — are too high. And it supports the more informed argument of demographers and economists that people move for jobs, family changes or retirement, not because of taxation.

And it should empower the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education to do as its chairman says — think big in its recommendations for restoring public schools to premier status. This is a progressive and wealthy state. Expanding pre-K programs, increasing teacher pay — we’ve got 178,000 ways to pay for it.

Call me a socialist, I don’t care.

Nobody asked me, but the guy — I’m assuming it was a guy — who left two large pieces of cracked Plexiglas leaning against the fire hydrant on the north side of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, just up from Pennsylvania Avenue, ought to be ashamed of himself.

Nobody asked me, but somebody with a clipboard, a positive nature and a list of job openings ought to approach some of the squeegee boys — check that, the 20-something squeegee guys — working Baltimore corners and see if they might be interested in better, steady work elsewhere.

Nobody asked me, but I can’t imagine a remake of “Papillon” being better than the 1973 film with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. I’d watch the original on my cell phone before I’d pay to see the new one on a big screen.

As for new movies in theaters, “Three Identical Strangers,” the documentary about triplets separated at birth, looks the most enticing. It’s playing in Baltimore at The Senator.

Nobody asked me, but plans to tear down Lexington Market and start over again, with some big glassy boxy thing as a replacement, ought to be scrapped. There’s nothing wrong with the market that some maintenance and upgrades can’t fix. (Paint the ceiling white, for one thing, to brighten the place up.) The public market serves a regular clientele and will serve more customers with a spruce-up and some advertising. Remember: The rat must not win.

And something else to remember: Urban tourists don’t go to old cities to see all new stuff, or anything that looks like a suburban mall. They want the real deal, grit and all. And that’s what The Lex offers. Its character is an amenity.

One of the best reasons to go to Lexington Market is because Trinacria’s Italian grocery is right up the street. You go to the market, get what you need, then stop at Trinacria’s for wine, cheese, bread and what might be the best Italian sausage in town; they make it in the shop every day.

Just a reminder: The official sandwich of Labor Day is the peppers-and-eggs sandwich, so declared in this space four years ago as a way to associate our annual recognition of the American worker with a special meal. Where I grew up, the peppers-and-eggs sandwich was a wholesome end-of-summer, blue-collar lunch. I didn’t see anyone else rushing to assign food to Labor Day, so there it is. If you want to know how to make it, listen to the bonus episode of my podcast, recorded in my kitchen Friday morning.

drodricks@baltsun.com

twitter.com/DanRodricks

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