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.


VA – 7: No endorsement

April 15, 2014

I have previously posted my views on the political bloodletting within the Republican Party of Virginia. For those who chose not to click on the link, I lamented the vitriol, lack of strategic thinking, and personalizations that I have seen from both “sides” of this battle. It’s as if issues don’t matter anymore.

There is no better example of this debacle than the fracas over the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District – which is why I refuse to endorse either candidate who remains.

The incumbent – Eric Cantor – has been accused of much by the “insurgents” within the GOP. I have no idea if any of them are true. I do know that he was a leading supporter of TARP (a.k.a., the bank bailout), an economic and political mistake for which Americans are still paying (especially Republicans, from the political angle). I already slipped on this banana peel once in 2012, and I will not do so again – ever. Eric Cantor will never win my endorsement for a Republican nomination (supporting the Ryan-Murray budget didn’t help either, but that’s a minor matter, compared to TARP).

This does not mean, however, that I can support his opponent, Dave Brat. Brat, for all his strong rhetoric on spending today, spent years as an aide to State Senator Walter Stosch, one of the most prolific tax-hikers in the RPV (the Warner tax hike of 2004, HB3202 in 2007, and Plan ’13 From Outer Space). Brat even donated to Stosch as he faced the fight of his political life in 2007 – his nomination fight against Joe Blackburn.

That in itself would be troubling enough. When one adds Brat’s own statements on foreign affairs – such as his insistence (Breitbart) that Communist China “is feeding 1.2 billion people for the first time in human history” through “free market capitalism” (there are over half a billion desperately poor Chinese in the rural hinterland who would greatly dispute both points if they were free to speak) and his own campaign website where he rails against “two unfunded wars” – it becomes clear that he is not ready for Washington anymore than Cantor is deserving to stay there.

I am grateful that my home is in the 4th District, as thus I need not cast a vote in the 7th. To be fair, either man is sure to be superior to whomever the Democrats nominate.

That said, I do not know who would receive my vote if I were in the 7th. I do know that neither of them have deserved it. Therefore, I endorse neither. 


IMF Introduces Ukraine to Faux-sterity

March 28, 2014

No matter what the situation, no matter how bad the problem, no matter how catastrophic the state of affairs, a nation can always count on the International Monetary Fund to make things worse.

This week, Ukraine is about to learn that painful lesson.

The IMF is sending $18 billion to the new Ukraine government, but like everything else the IMF does, it’s merely a loan, and it comes with crushing conditions that will damage the already-flattened economy there even more.

Among the faux-sterity demands on the IMF….

An income tax hike from 17% to 25%: yet another reminder that “supply-side” is still foreign to the IMF (The Hindu)…

An increase in consumption taxes: showing that at least the IMF is consistent – they don’t understand Keynesian economics either (Wall Street Journal).

A reduction in gas subsidies (which is good), but not a privatization of the Naftogaz gas firm (which is bad): When you manage to make the governor of Yanukovic’s home province (Donetsk) sound like Mr. Clean, you’re doing it wrong (WSJ again).

Some (perhaps) reduction in the government bureaucracy: although it’s hard to tell just how many. CNN says 24,000. Russia Today says 80,000, but limited to the “law enforcement” sector only – leaving aside than anything out of RT should be taken with a lotswife of salt. Either way, at least the IMF learned not to try the government-pay-cuts that kept Greece’s government just as large in size and scope while pretending to cut its cost.

Still, overall, this is a painfully unnecessary set of “reforms,” which will badly miss revenue targets and likely put Ukraine in a far deeper economic contraction than the current projection of 3%.

Meanwhile, the Russian creditors get full return, despite propping up the Yanukovic regime that put Ukraine on its back in the first place (Telegraph).

So Ukraine will follow Greece and Spain over the economic cliff…

…while Putin and his cronies laugh all the way to the bank.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


Bob Marshall is now running in the 10th, but I still prefer Barbara Comstock

February 10, 2014

One week ago today, I endorsed Barbara Comstock for the Republican nomination for the 10th Congressional District. Since then, a new entrant, Bob Marshall, has caused me to rethink my decision – but not to change it. Barring the discovery of documentation showing that Delegate Comstock supported the bank bailout, she is still my preferred choice for the seat.

Don’t get me wrong, Bob Marshall has done yeoman’s work for all Virginia taxpayers in his 20-plus years as a Delegate. In fact, that’s half the problem: the House of Representatives is a far different body, one in which individual members have far less power than legislators do in Richmond. If Bob were running for the Senate, I would be thrilled; he’s not.

Moreover, Barbara Comstock is not your typical “Establishment” Republican in Virginia. Last year – as a Fairfax County Delegate with nearly every interest group screaming, begging, and cajoling her to support Plan ’13 From Outer Space – she said No.

In other words, assuming this comes down to Comstock and Marshall (and given the rest of the field, it almost certainly will), it is in fact a battle between two genuine supporters of limited government. The question is this: would Virginia be better served by Comstock in Washington and Marshall in Richmond? Or the other way around?

I think the answer is obvious. Virginia would lose far more than it could possibly gain if Marshall is sent to Congress. Better for him to stay where he is most valuable (Richmond), while Comstock can continue standing up for taxpayers in her own, quiet way in Washington.


The true cost of the Patently Deficient and Unaffordably Careless Act : $2 trillion in cost and 2 million in jobs lost over ten years

February 5, 2014

The Congressional Budget Office has released its analysis of what the Patently Deficient and Unaffordably Careless Act (PDUCA, a.k.a. “Obamacare” or Robertscare), and it is brutal.

For starters the actual cost of the PDUCA (now that a full 10 years of implementation is considered) is over $2 trillion. It will cause the deficit to increase – not decrease – every single year between now and 2024 (CBO). The total increase in debt is over $1.5 trillion.

Moreover, over 2 million jobs will be casualties – because workers would rather take health insurance subsidies than jobs. Frighteningly enough, the Administration actually thinks this is a good thing (John Podhoretz, New York Post).

If nothing else, this reveals just how damaging the PDUCA is, and why Republicans need to repeal it, then reform the health insurance market in a way that helps more people without greater government intervention (a focus on the shortage in providers and a breakup of the AMA-CMS collusion would be an excellent start).

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift


Barbara Comstock for Congress

February 3, 2014

This has been an endorsement delayed by various things, but now that I have a spare moment…

I freely acknowledge that I do not live in the 10th Congressional District; however, I know many who do, and for what it’s worth, I think they’d be well served by Delegate Comstock.

Those who read this blog know that I focus more on issues than personal relationships. In this case, the key issue is Plan ’13 From Outer Space (the McDonnell tax increase from last year)…and Ms. Comstock opposed it.

Given her district, that is one courageous vote, a vote that makes it clear she will stand for limited government even when the Republican leadership loses its way.

There are other candidates, but Ms. Comstock is the only one with experience in office – experience that she has used not to curry favor with party leadership, but to stand with her constituents.

Given her history in Richmond, I believe Barbara Comstock will make an excellent member of Congress.


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