The Lessons of the 2013 General Assembly

By Peter Galuszka

If there’s any good news from the 2013 General Assembly session, it is that the hard right’s strange hold on taxation has been broken. Republicans can start acting like responsible adults once again instead of dogmatic shills or spoiled children.

Gov. Robert F. Donnell and legislators found a way to raise badly needed money for transportation although it came via a very bad law that ties itself up like a contortionist doing this and that when all that needed to be done was to simply raise the gasoline tax for the first time in 26 years.

The Democrats were right to strong-arm McDonnell into going along with expanding Medicaid. It would have been absolutely ridiculous for Virginia to hold its stubborn head high and deny thousands of needy people medical assistance so they can feel good about some ludicrous oath from Grover Norquist they may have recited at one point to get votes. The feds will be paying for the expansion until 2016 and then for 90 percent of it. Imagine a well fed delegate saying, “No, you poor person can’t have health care because it is doctrinally impure!”

The upshot is is that we need to get of the Grover Norquists, the Tea Baggers and all their ilk to get on with the serious business of running the state and country. The sequestration debacle is more than embarrassing for its stupidity. So is Kenneth Cuccinelli with Bob Marshall cheering him to to find any bogus constitutional challenge to anything he finds political impure as far as taxation.

The bottom line is that if you want fixed roads, good schools and a decent place to live, you have to pay for them through taxes. Simple. You can’t depend on private industry to see you through, especially not when a good chunk of it in the Old Dominion is actually federal government money that’s about to be cut off in a big way. You can’t do it through little shell games with public private partnerships to build roads you often do not need. And you just can’t kick the can to younger generations so you can remain holy.

In other words, the days of the Tea Party, “Boomergeddon” and all the clarion calls to the need for budget cutting are over. They’ve been over for a while. We get it. We’ve been spending too much. But it is idiotic to go cold turkey without some thought given to it because you will crash the economy and die of the DTs. You don’t cure a crash victim by denying him blood. That’s not voodoo economics, that’s vampire economics. You need a balance and that’s exactly what the Boomergeddons and Baconauts want to deny us.

As for McDonnell, well, he’s finally got his legacy. It looks pretty messy. He did manage to get more money for roads, but he did through a Rube Goldberg contraption of taxation. He has a totally wrong-headed tax on alternative vehicles which shows,once again, just how Neanderthal much of the thinking in the General Assembly is.

McDonnell failed to get legacies through privatizing state alcohol stores or erecting offshore oil rigs. Last year, the legislature got so out of control with social conservative nonsense — another Tea Party legacy — that Virginia scored on national Snark TV for its inane war against women. That cost McDonnell a hell of a lot, namely the vice presidential nomination.

Now, he’s reportedly thinking about something bigger and I gather his platform for that will be his tax victory. Good Luck.

21 Responses to The Lessons of the 2013 General Assembly

  1. Said Peter: “We get it. We’ve been spending too much. But it is idiotic to go cold turkey without some thought given to it because you will crash the economy and die of the DTs. You don’t cure a crash victim by denying him blood.”

    Only in PeterWorld does opposing a tax increase amount to going cold turkey and/or “curing a crash victim by denying him blood.”

  2. Only among Baconauts and Boomergedons. You don’t starve your way through a recession or depression. You spent to get things going to generate revenue again. Read Keynes. Read Krugman. Read any reputable economist.

    PeterWorld

  3. Peter, you remind me of former Fairfax County school superintendent Daniel Domenech. He said effectively “We don’t cut people in good economic times and we cannot cut people in hard times.” When can we cut government spending?

  4. Guess the entitled classes love to fire people (“Unfortunately, it’s necessary.)’

  5. It would have been better to increase, adjust, and index the gas tax, but the alternate solution is not all that terrible. It is surprising that the Republicans backed thaemselves into a situaton where the only answer was one that leans more to wards a socialist answer and less towards a market based answer.

    It would have been better to keep even part of the gas tax. But now that it is gone, it is probably never coming back.

    But neither is the Tea Party, the extreme right, or those in the party who choose to alienate every group consisting of anyone who is not like themselves in purity of faith, ideology and color. Yu cannot govern that way and you cannot govern without money that comes from taxes.

    EOS.

  6. Peter, well written!

    The gas tax has been effectively cut every year it has remained frozen at 17.5 cents per gallon.

    Indexing the gas tax to inflation is not a tax hike. Just like it’s not a tax hike when the same sales tax rate generates more money every year that underlying prices rise.

    Transportation funding in Virginia has been a cluster since 1986. Bob McDonnell saw this. He acted. Assuming this program passes and passes legal muster, it is less of a cluster.

    Perfect? Ha ha!

    However, ending the total freeze of the gas tax in cents per gallon is a step in the right direction.

    • Transportation funding has not been a “cluster” since 1986, unless you are so tax hungry you want annual increases. The 1986 tax structure funded a boom that lasted into and probably through the 90s, and the real strains didn’t start showing up until say the 2001 election. And at that point, adjusting and indexing the fuel taxes at that point would have largely dealt with the problem.

  7. All honor is yours, Groveton!

    It is amazing you easily understand what Bacon, TMT and Mr. Falwell do not!

  8. I’m not the Reverend, Peter. But the crazily greedy capitalist without the L.

  9. Mr. Fawell,
    My apologies sir. You may not believe this but I make so many typos because a fish bit off the tip of my left index finger in a diving incident years ago.
    Peter

  10. Peter, I presume you would support indexing the personal income tax brackets to reflect inflation also.

  11. Peter – I’m with with you in Peter World. More and more I suspect this Boomergeddon obsession with the deficit seems to be primarily a ploy to maintain political power by the status quo “rent seekers” – those who are happy with current government policies (including our broken health system and our broken tax system) that perpetuate the way things are, rather than a real attempt to reduce the deficit. For those Boomergeddians who object to this characterization, tell me where you were when the budget was and is being blown by the the Bush tax cuts (inaptly named the “Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001″), the war in Iraq, the massive security buildup since 2001, Medicare prescription benefits, and attempts to destroy the only government attempt to streamline and rationalize the health system (aka Obamacare).

  12. Richard,
    I have asked the Big Boomergeddon all of these questions many times and he keeps insisting he mentioned them in his book. I’ll have to go look again.

  13. I believe this is an end point… it’s just yet another conniption of the right and there is more to come.

    the unwritten, unspoken of the right is “might makes right” until they don’t have the numbers.. then it’s block and obfuscate until they can get their guy(s) in office again.

    They have absolutely no intention to “govern” but rather to vandalize as much as they can until the adults show up.

    there is no virtue in being “right” about cutting taxes and justifying it by screwing up the basic things that people expect govt to do to show that if you don’t get your way – you will essentially vandalize.

    We got a butt ugly transportation “solution” but this is what happens when the right plays “prevent” defense instead of getting in the game with a better approach.

    this is what happens when you won’t “govern” and you make every issue about ideology.

    “Moderate” GOP aka RINOs have to decide if they are going to let the far right control the agenda.

    Bob McDonnell – no left winger or eve a RINO by prior behavior was forced into choosing and he choose and now the right instead of understanding what happened is threatening to “primary” every single Republican who voted for this.

    In their minds – both the Dems and the moderate GOP need to go.

    the tail is literally trying to wag the dog.

    I absolutely hate the idea that we’ve refilled the slush fund to the brim. I would have much rather seen some reforms as part of funding but this is what happens when the goal of the opposition is to basically lock the process.

    you want butt ugly -you got butt ugly. congrats!

  14. You guys ever hear of wages? It’s one of those nice to have things in order to pay taxes. What’s obvious is that McD never heard about those.

  15. Peter said above: “You don’t starve your way through a recession or depression. You spent to get things going to generate revenue again. Read Keynes. Read Krugman. Read any reputable economist.”

    In reply, Reed didn’t know where to begin (see above). So, taking Peters advice he flew up to Princeton, sat down with two close working associates of Professor Paul Krugman, and asked for their wisdom on the subject.

    Here’s what they said:
    COSTELLO: Well, for example, take America’s unemployment.
    ABBOTT: Good Subject… Terrible Times… It’s 7.8%
    COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?
    ABBOTT: No, that’s 14.7%.
    COSTELLO: You just said 7.8%.
    ABBOTT: 7.8% Unemployed.
    COSTELLO: Right 7.8% out of work.
    ABBOTT: No, that’s 14.7%.
    COSTELLO: Okay, so it’s 14.7% unemployed.
    ABBOTT: No, that’s 7.8%.
    COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE … Is it 7.8% or 14.7%
    ABBOTT: 7.8% are unemployed … 14.7% are out of work.
    COSTELLO: If you are out of work you are unemployed.
    ABBOTT: No, Congress said you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the unemployed.
    You have to look for work to be unemployed.
    COSTELLO: BUT THEY ARE OUT OF WORK !!
    ABBOTT: No, you miss his point.
    COSTELLO: What point?
    ABBOTT: Someone who doesn’t look for work can’t be counted with those who look for work.
    It wouldn’t be fair.
    COSTELLO: To whom?
    ABBOTT: The unemployed.
    COSTELLO: But ALL of them are out of work.
    ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work gave up looking and if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.
    COSTELLO: So if you’re off the unemployment roles that would count as less unemployment?
    ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down … Absolutely!
    COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don’t look for work?
    ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how they get it to 7.8%. Otherwise it would be 14.7%. Our govt. doesn’t want you to read about 14.7% unemployment.
    COSTELLO: That would be tough on those running for reelection.
    ABBOTT: Absolutely.
    COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?
    ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.
    COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?
    ABBOTT: Correct.
    COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?
    ABBOTT: Bingo.
    COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to have people stop looking for work.
    ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like an Economist.
    COSTELLO: I don’t even know what the heck I just said!
    FAWELL: Thank you Gentlemen for clearing that up for Peter.
    COSTELLO AND ABBOTT IN UNISON: Oh, delighted. Any time.

  16. Reed,
    I hate to have to break this to you. But you are never going to get in to Princeton.

  17. After the interview, I turned turned Princeton down. The guy guy was too damn snotty for my tastes.

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