Pearlstein meticulously makes his case for why Maryland and D.C. are just wasting their time. Here’s how he shows how particularly foolish it is for D.C. to be chasing after Northrop Grumman with a fistful of taxpayer dollars:

For the District, which is looking at a $200 million budget shortfall next year, getting into this bidding war is particularly loony. Virginia and Maryland officials can argue at least that the winner of the headquarters sweepstakes would collect income taxes on all those highly compensated executives, even if they commute home elsewhere. That’s the way the tax system works in most places, but not in the District, which is prevented by Congress from imposing an income tax on employees who commute in from Virginia, Maryland or any other state. Without that, it would take decades for the District to recoup the $24.5 million that the mayor and D.C. Council have offered Northrop over the next 10 years.

And Pearlstein lands more than a glancing blow on a politician while also tweaking the company for its larger government dependency:

But it’s more than ironic that, having spent the past year lambasting Democrats for taxing and spending, Republican Bob McDonnell now can’t wait to lavish millions of taxpayer dollars on a Fortune 500 company that makes all its money selling stuff to — who else? — the government.

It’s not too late, however, for McDonnell to renounce this kind of socialism, call up Gov. O’Malley and Mayor Fenty and, in the name of fiscal sanity and regional unity, propose a financial disarmament treaty.

I’ve long thought the states ought to go in on a kind of mutual nonagression pact regarding corporate welfare. Until that happens (which it won’t, of course) they’ll keep bidding themselves into a corporate corner.

Which is how Tom Friedman likes it.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.