Remember Tax Cuts? They’re Baaaaaaaack.

October 3, 2014

Everyone in politics knows about that guy (or gal), the one who keeps banging on about taxes: they should never be raised; they should be cut at the first opportunity; government spending cuts can always be found in the budget; tax cuts are political winners; tax increases drive away voters like the plague; tax increases never bring in the revenue their supposed to raise anyway; tax increases discourage spending cuts, etc.

Of course, I am that guy. So I couldn’t help but notice that while Republicans in Washington are increasingly skittish about proposing tax reductions (the state capitals are another story), center-right politicians in the rest of the Anglosphere are grabbing them with both hands – and reaping the rewards.

Just last month, in New Zealand, National Prime Minister John Key asked voters for a third term with “promised tax cuts” while his Labour opponents proposed a new capital gains tax (Bloomberg via Sun-Sentinel). The result: the highest popular vote level for the National Party in over 60 years, and (pending special ballots) the Holy Grail of politics – an absolute majority in a proportional-representation election (Economist).

Meanwhile, just this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron launched the (unusually long due to fixed election dates) 2015 campaign with a promise of two separate income tax cuts. Less than two days later, YouGov (one of many pollsters in the UK) reported that Cameron’s Tories took their first lead in its poll in over two and a half years (Telegraph).

Finally, even our neighbor to the north is getting in the act: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is moving up his planned tax reductions by about six months (National Post).

Granted, in each of these nations, the center-right is actually in power, and thus have been better able to keep spending in check (at least since 2010). Still, it is yet another reminder in this era of near-record mistrust of government effectiveness (and not just here in the US), letting the people spend their own money is a powerful way to rebuild trust and support.

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift

Bob McDonnell is a WHAT?!?!?!

September 5, 2014

Reactions to the Bob McDonnell verdict our pouring in, and there’s one in particular (from many of his defenders) that I find completely flabbergasting.

The ex-Governor’s defenders are calling him a “man of integrity.” My jaw hits the table each time I see that.

Folks, Bob McDonnell spent all of 2009 insisting he would not raise taxes. He blasted his opponent (Creigh Deeds) for even considering it, and rode the issue to a landslide win in November of that year.

In the last year of his term (as it happens, last year) he broke that promise in spectacular fashion, ramming through the largest tax increase in at least 40 years.

Even then, he skirted the truth. He insisted the tax hike was for relieving commuter congestion, but in fact his top priority was actually a parallel road to US 460 that wasn’t needed for traffic relief – and which the Army Corps of Engineers said he couldn’t build anyway (Bacon’s Rebellion).

So please, spare me the “man of integrity” nonsense. If you want to complain about the federal decision to prosecute McDonnell (as opposed to other Virginians) or the bizarre nature of the “honest service fraud” statute, that’s one thing.

But Bob McDonnell was no angel.

Dear Virginia Senate Republican Majority: Don’t mess it up again with another tax hike

August 20, 2014

With Ben Chafin’s election, it is now official. After seven months, the Republicans have a majority in the Virginia Senate once more. As one would expect, a number of my friends are crowing.

Unfortunately for me, recent political history is screaming in my ears. It makes my optimism about a fully Republican-controlled Virginia legislature extremely cautious.

For those unaware, the Republican Party first had a State Senate “majority” in 1998 (although the 21st vote was actually the Lieutenant Governor); they held it for ten years. This is the record of that decade…

  • Holding up budget amendments in an attempt to reverse the progress of the Gilmore car-tax cut (2001)
  • A referendum in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia for tax increases (2002 – thankfully rejected by the voters)
  • A proposed tax increase that was twice what Mark Warner wanted (2004)
  • A proposed gas tax increase (2006)
  • A proposed statewide tax increase in response to the HB3202 debacle (2007)
  • Enacting HB3202 anyway (2007)

Somehow, the party was shocked – shocked! - when voters showed them the door and returned the State Senate to the Democrats in November 2007 (on a night when those without a tax-stained record did quite well, thank you very much).

Four years later, after Governor Bob McDonnell won a landslide victory by promising not to raise taxes, the GOP managed another 20-20 split. Once again, the Lieutenant Governor give them control…and within a fifteen months, the Republican-controlled State Senate passed a McDonnell-proposed tax hike (known in this corner as Plan ’13 From Outer Space). The nominee to replace McDonnell – Ken Cuccinelli – tried to defend and oppose it at the same time.

Somehow, the party was shocked – shocked! - when voters showed the 2013 GOP ticket the door, which also put the State Senate back into the hands of the Democrats in January.

Now, Republicans have the 21st vote once more.

I sincerely hope that the party has learned its lesson…and not f*ck it up with yet another tax hike that reminds the voters why  they took power away from it, repeatedly.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

The Virginia Medicaid battle is suspended, but not over

June 10, 2014

Based on the Richmond Times-Dispatch report, a budget deal is in sight (via Bull Elephant):

The Senate will convene Thursday to enact a two-year state budget that will have about $700 million less in new spending than when the General Assembly adjourned its regular session March 8 without approving a budget because of a bitter political battle over expanding health insurance coverage.

To hear Medicaid expansion backers tell it, everybody was willing to pass a “clean” budget, and came to that conclusion just last week. Never mind the whole Puckett resignation fracas. Take that as you will.

However, the battle over Medicaid expansion is not over. It will likely continue to be fought in the General Assembly (either in this special session or a new special session), and lest anyone forget, Medicaid expansion still has the support of 22 senators.

In other words, we need to continue to make the argument that Medicaid expansion is bad for the state, bad for taxpayers, and terrible for its would-be beneficiaries.

House Speaker Bill Howell et al have done decent work keeping this nonsense at bay so far. They deserve our thanks, but we also deserve, and expect, that they keep up the fight.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

State Senator Phil Puckett resigns; deck chairs on Titanic to be re-arranged

June 9, 2014

Richmond is all agog over the resignation of State Senate Phil Puckett (Richmond Times-Dispatch), which grants the Republicans a temporary majority in the State Senate, pending a special election which the Republicans are favored to win. According to the RTD, Puckett’s resignation paves the way for his daughter to be elected to a judgeship, while he himself could land on the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

All eyes (in Richmond) went immediately to the budget, where according to the Constitution (emphasis added):

No bill which creates or establishes a new office, or which creates, continues, or revives a debt or charge, or which makes, continues, or revives any appropriation of public or trust money or property, or which releases, discharges, or commutes any claim or demand of the Commonwealth, or which imposes, continues, or revives a tax, shall be passed except by the affirmative vote of a majority of all the members elected to each house, the name of each member voting and how he voted to be recorded in the journal.

Normally, that means 21 out of 40. Given that we only have 39 at the moment, 20 should actually work…for the State Senate to pass the budget until the special election. In the grand scheme of things, though, there is a lot less than meets the eye. Here’s why.

First, not every Republican State Senator supported the Republican budget: Walter Stosch (Dave Brat’s patron), John Watkins, and Emmett Hanger all voted with the Democrats to add Medicaid expansion to the budget. In theory, party unity could convince them to change their minds, but there’s no guarantee of that.

Second, there is still the Governor: If one wanted to hand Terry McAuliffe the perfect excuse for a budget veto, coaxing a Senator’s resignation with the promise of appointments for himself and his daughter would be it. I’ll admit, a veto is unlikely, but this deal is excellent ammunition for Election Day 2014, 2015, and 2017.

Speaking of…

Third, even if the GOP wins the budget battle, the fight of Medicaid will go on, and this will make it harder to win: According to Christopher Newport University (poll), the Republicans were actually winning the debate on Medicaid expansion. That might, and probably will, change if T-Mac can now claim perfidy from the opposition. This allows Terry McAuliffe – Terry F–king McAuliffe - to run as Mr. Clean, and the Democrats to present themselves as the Clean Team in 2015 and 2017.

Odds are this will even damage our recent nominee for U.S. Senate – Ed Gillespie, the consummate Virginia Republican insider.

We may even see the Republicans cave on Medicaid expansion just to neutralize the issue in 2015.

Fourth, the State Senate is the poisoned chalice of recent times. Let’s say the GOP does win the special election and holds all 21 seats next year, which I’ll admit is still likely despite the above (or because of the previous sentence). Let’s take a look at the fate of the party controlling the state senate after the last six midterm elections (1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011). In all six cases, the party lost the ensuing gubernatorial election. In five of them, they lost House seats and a majority of the statewide races. In three, they lost all statewide races, and in two they lost the senate itself.

Now, one could say even that might be worth it if a Republican Senate would mean greater momentum for limited government, but that just isn’t so…

Every Republican-controlled State Senate in the 21st Century has enacted a tax increase: That’s right; there was the referendum of 2002 (defeated by the voters), the Warner tax hike of 2004 (which, at $1.5 billion, was only half what the State Senate originally wanted), HB3202 (largely overturned by the courts), and Plan ’13 From Outer Space. If anything, it has been minority status that forces Republicans to behave.

Given all of the above, I can’t help thinking that this victory is meager, if not pyrrhic.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

The Hollande endorsement, two years later

May 10, 2014

Two years and about two weeks ago, I made my first ever left-wing national endorsement: Francois Hollande for President of France. I did so in the hope that Hollande would stop the destructive Fiscal Union treaty that threatened to bury Europe in Faux-sterity.

I’ll be blunt: that didn’t happen. If anything, Hollande doubled-down on Faux-sterity. That Nicolas Sarkoxy (the incumbent whom Hollande opposed and defeated) would have done little better was small consolation.

That said, while I didn’t get an end to the FU treaty, Hollande’s victory brought something greater: an end to the Paris-Berlin axis that was so harmful to Europe. Even last year, it was clear that Berlin had woken up to reality and was reaching out to less-integrationist members of the EU (such as the UK). Today, that sea change continues to bring in dividends. The Netherlands and most of Europe’s North are following Germany’s lead and rethinking “ever closer union.” Euroskepticism is on the rise throughout the continent – although in some places, such as France itself, the vehicle is beyond odorous (in France it’s the National Front – shudder).

Prior to the spring of 2012, “Merkozy” was wreaking havoc with national economies (especially in the Mediterranean) and euroskepricism alike. The former will take a long time to recover, but the latter’s prospects have greatly improved, due in no small part to Hollande’s victory. In short, France’s loss has been Europe’s gain.

Comstock wins

April 26, 2014

Of course, I am pleased to see my endorsee win the nomination. Comstock’s opposition to Plan ’13 From Outer Space earned my support.

I was also pleased that the only other candidate who voted “No” on last year’s tax hike came in second (Bob Marshall, who can do far more good as a Delegate than he could have done as a Congressman). More than 80% of the vote went to on-the-record tax-hike opponents.

All in all, it was a good day in the 10th.


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