by Chris Braunlich
From the ‘50s to the mid-‘70s, the Republican Party was known as “the stupid party” – locked in the past, making foolish decisions, promoting unwise and counterproductive policies.
Today, in Virginia, “the stupid party” has returned. But it is no longer Republican.
The current battle over Virginia’s budget and the prospects for tax reduction and reform affirms the Left’s governing philosophy: what the government has belongs to the government and what the taxpayer has is negotiable.
With a $5.1 billion surplus exceeding the last fiscal year’s projections, Governor Glenn Youngkin proposes to return $1 billion — less than 20 percent — to the taxpayers from whom it came, in the form of permanent rate reform. He would spend the remainder on education, behavioral health, law enforcement and other projects. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, want to spend all of it, offering, at best, a one-time rebate giving them “first dibs” on future excessive tax revenue.
It is a philosophy locked in the past. Nothing demonstrates it better – on taxes and other key issues — than the recent VCU Wilder Commonwealth University Poll.
My colleague, Steve Haner, has already documented the VCU poll’s biases. It asked, for example, if voters want Youngkin’s $1 billion tax cut or spending on school construction – without informing the respondent that Youngkin’s proposal includes spending $2.4 billion on such projects.
Nonetheless, the survey provides an important snapshot of the tide of public opinion, and on issue after issue, the Left swims against the tide.
Take the simple question “What is the most important issue facing Virginia?” By two-to-one over the next highest response, the number one issue is “Inflation or the rising cost of living.” A smart party would focus on reducing the components of rising costs it can control – starting with the tax hikes passed by Governor Ralph Northam raising nearly 28 percent more tax dollars than before those hikes were passed, a full ten percentage points higher than the inflation rate over the same period.
Support for tackling the cost-of-living issue cuts across every region, age group, education and income level. Importantly, support includes 47.3 percent of Independents – higher than even among Republicans.
The issue can be addressed with tax reforms adjusting the tax code to inflation, increasing the standard deduction to comport with changes made by the Feds four years ago, and adjusting the top tax rate that kicks in at $17,000. Some of those ideas are captured in Governor Glenn Youngkin’s tax plan but seem lost in the miasma of secret budget committee discussions.
Instead, House of Delegates Democratic Leader Don Scott says “No,” dismissing voter concerns by declaring a tax-cut “irresponsible.”
It is not just taxes.
Asked if they have personally “experienced impacts from climate change,” 59 percent of survey respondents said “No,” including more than 56 percent of Northern Virginians, where one would expect the climate change canon to be strongest.
Yet, that 59 percent is being instructed by the Left, in party-line votes, to sacrifice their less expensive vehicles through a legislatively imposed ban on the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and trucks. This forced consumer spending comes despite the known higher cost of electric vehicles, their higher repair costs, the fact that most drivers will change cars before an EV will pay off, and that some cars are cheaper to fuel with gas than electric.
Those party-line votes stopped efforts to prevent localities from requiring the replacement of natural gas heating and stoves with electric, as has taken place in New York and California. Those retrofits are calculated to cost consumers as much as $27,000.
These are government-imposed increases, piled onto the rising cost of living, where grocery prices are high, gas prices are high, and mortgage rates have hit the highest in 20 years, putting the American Dream of home ownership out of reach for many.
So determined is the Left to impose a California agenda on Virginians that they ignore traditional allies in Black Virginians. Pounded unconscionably by school shutdowns resulting in massive learning loss and drops in test scores, 28 percent of Black voters name education as their top issue. Not far behind were Hispanic voters, naming education their number two issue, at 33 percent. Yet, elected Democrats snub the pleas of parents seeking quality alternatives for their children, even voting against using COVID funds to help parents find tutoring for their children.
Thus, Virginia Democrats have become “the stupid party” … ardently devoted to its most extreme wing, willing to ignore a long-standing base of its own voters, stepping most on those seeking only to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Whether Republicans have become “the smart party” – willing and able to sell their solutions to the public beyond the give and take of darkened Capitol hallways – on that, the jury is still out.
Chris Braunlich is Senior Advisor and former President of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Republished with permission from the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.