Trouble in Government-Funded Paradise

There are more than 3,000 counties in the United States, and the nation’s capital is surrounded by five of the 10 wealthiest. Financial advisors call it “the proximity principle,” meaning people located near enormous amounts of money tend to benefit.

As proof, the non-stop flow of federal funds in the form of salaries, pensions, bonuses, grants, subsidies, overruns, waste, and fraud has created a Washington-area economy second to none. Other parts of the country have economic ups and downs. The DMV (for the District, Maryland, and Virginia) has only ups.

One result of so much incoming capital is a region that’s disproportionately well off. Tiny Maryland enjoys a median household income of $80,776, the highest in the nation. Another is a way of life that makes the large Democratic majority uniquely oblivious to the normal concerns of those living elsewhere.

This tendency is particularly noticeable in Maryland’s well-to-do Montgomery County, which borders northwest Washington. When people in flyover land complain about the high-end lifestyle of the power elite, Montgomery County is the sort of place they have in mind. But the good life isn’t the only thing going on here.

I’ve been living in the county for 20 years and have watched it slowly become what progressives want the rest of the country to be—a one-party, centrally planned state run by and for the dangerously woke.

Just when it seemed things couldn’t get much worse, news of the arrest of yet another “undocumented” child rapist went national. Suddenly the county’s left-wing leaders had to explain themselves on network television.

Knowing something about the county’s population would help explain what’s been happening. Montgomery is really two counties: one exclusive and one with open admission.

Hidden behind high hedges live Supreme Court justices, agency bosses, and retired members of Congress. In the mix, also mostly unseen, are billionaire businessmen, sports team owners, and a sprinkling of deposed royalty.

More visible are the authors, journalists, and talking heads in residence, roughly 99 percent of the NeverTrump persuasion, among them Chris Matthews, Wolf Blitzer, Candy Crowley, Thomas Friedman, and George Will.

A Sanctuary County

Recently, however, the county’s most newsworthy demographic has been illegal immigrants from Central America. Specifically, nine men (at last count) arrested since mid-August for rape and other sex offenses, some involving children. A disturbing, though predictable, crime wave in an area where gang-related violence has become common, much of it associated with MS-13, an import from El Salvador.

The men being held, part of a rapidly growing number of illegals in the county, may face trial or jail time—at least two are out on bail—but none will ever be turned over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement service for deportation.

That’s because Montgomery is a sanctuary county. Made that way by a Democratic-run council, stocked with newcomers from various nuclear-free neighborhoods and the Obama Administration, now busy virtue signaling to the local media in defense of their radical immigration policy.

There are more than 300 sanctuary states, counties and cities around the country, where officials regard assisting federal authorities in rounding up criminal illegals as the equivalent of giving aid and comfort to the hated President Donald Trump. So they do the exact opposite, no matter what harm it causes.

A good example is Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. In July, Elrich signed an executive order prohibiting county employees from cooperating with ICE. At a press conference, Elrich compared the agency under Trump to a terrorist organization. “It’s really the definition of terrorism, to take the civilian population and subject them to constant fear,” he said. “That’s terrorism in its basic form.”

With rape and assault victims in the latest cases all Hispanic women and girls, Elrich paid no attention to the community’s fear of more attacks, not to mention other crimes by released and emboldened thugs.

Frank Madrigal, deputy director of ICE’s Baltimore field office, described how that works to a Washington TV station: “Montgomery County is basically making itself into a safe haven for a criminal element. If I’m a foreign national and I want to commit crimes . . . Montgomery County is probably the place I want to go.”

That’s not the reason Wolf Blitzer and his family moved here.

A National Embarrassment

Like so many others—back in the days before former President Barack Obama introduced plans to remake America’s wealthy, white suburbs by requiring more subsidized housing—they must have liked the county because it was safe with good schools and increasing property values. Now it’s hard to tell who’s angrier about what local politicians are doing—the cops or real estate agents?

Then, just when it seemed things couldn’t get much worse, news of the arrest of yet another “undocumented” child rapist went national. Suddenly the county’s left-wing leaders had to explain themselves on network television. They got their chance last week at a protest rally in Rockville, the county seat, attended by hundreds of ordinary citizens, a rare public display of opposition outrage in this progressive stronghold.

Some in the crowd said officials would not be so dismissive of the threat posed by criminal illegals if the attacks happened to children where they live. For Marc Elrich, who showed up, that would be Takoma Park, Maryland’s original sanctuary city and maybe the most woke municipality east of Berkeley.

Speakers at the rally included conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, who once resided in the county, and Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, who insisted the Justice Department “initiate criminal prosecution against public officials who abet illegals.”

Elrich, matching that description, stayed on the other side of a police barricade with a small counterprotest organized by Casa de Maryland. Funded in part by the county, Casa de Maryland supports illegal immigrants, for whom the preferred term is “new Americans.” Tom Perez, head of the Democratic National Committee, used to be chairman of Casa’s board of directors. He lives in Takoma Park, too.

The counterprotesters cheered when Elrich called them—and not tax-paying, property-owning legal residents—“the real face of Montgomery County.”

At which point, right on cue for the cameras, they began to sing:  “This land is your land. This land is my land . . .”

Across at street at the protest rally, someone shouted back, “It is not your land . . . Not if you’re illegal!”

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About Bill Thomas

Bill Thomas is the author of Club Fed: Power, Money Sex and Violence on Capitol Hill as well as other books, and the co-author of Red Tape: Adventure Capitalism in the New Russia. He is also a former editor and writer with The Economist Group.

Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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