In today’s editorial pages of the Times-Displaced…
Richmond Times-Dispatch Jun 11, 2004
Virginia Democrats held their convention last weekend in Roanoke. A good time was had by all.
Lieutenant Governor – and all-but-certain 2005 gubernatorial nominee – Tim Kaine entertained the assembled philosophers. He applauded the recent budget-tax agreement, and vowed not to let the accursed Republicans undo all the good things in the package. The GOP, Kaine thundered, must not “roll back progress.”
According to news accounts, he praised the deal in part because it “brought more money for education, higher pay for public-safety officials, more care for the mentally ill, and more money to preserve open spaces.”
Kaine’s speech eloquently reflected one of the key arguments in the great debate – i.e., that Virginia simply did not spend enough on crucial services. The spending argument encompassed government generally. The Commonwealth has primary responsibility for certain essentials, but the burden of paying for them and other functions falls also on localities. Significant sums for education and law enforcement come from cities and counties. (All government money comes from the same source, the taxpayers, but that’s a different story.)
And how are localities reacting to the General Assembly’s generosity? Many are reducing local tax rates, which (1) is their right and (2) is popular with constituents. Yet if the purpose of the protracted exercise in this year’s session of the General Assembly was to boost public “investments,” then reductions in local taxes mock the spirit of a budget various propagandists describe as “historic.” If the more mundane purpose was to shift the tax onus from one level to another, then the results do not seem all that impressive. To cite, as backers of the spending plan do, such items as increased state funding for K-12 is to miss the point, or deliberately to obscure it.
Shifting the tax burden from localities to the state in fact may be a good thing. But when localities respond to the extra state swag by cutting their own rates – and when progressive pols fail to deplore the trend – seasoned observers smile.
Let’s just pick out one sentence at the above senseless meandering to comment upon. We put the whole thing into our scramble-o-oscillator and –bing-bang-snap-crackle-blip– the sentence that comes out is ‘Yet if the purpose of the protracted exercise in this year’s session of the General Assembly was to boost public “investments,” then reductions in local taxes mock the spirit of a budget various propagandists describe as “historic.”‘ Wow. Say that three times fast. First off, what spirit? Are we talking about ghosts now? Are we talking about alcoholic spirits? Apparently, there’s this vague ‘spirit of a budget’ out their. Also, what is a public ‘investment’ and why is it in quotes? Who are the propagandists and why are they various? Why is the latest budget debacle, in which Republicans basically had an internal meltdown, characterized as a ‘protracted excercise’ as if it’s something they had meant to do?
Questions. Questions. Is the writer trying to say he’s for cutting local taxes and allowing the state to bear the responsibility of collecting taxes? If so, doesn’t that go against the idea of conservative, local-focused government? Shouldn’t the burden of taxing citizens fall mainly to the localities? And if not, why not? I have an idea that it’d be a better idea to spread the wealth, so to speak, so that poorer areas get what they need and rich areas don’t get all the marbles, but what does this writer think? It’s hard to tell. The whole thing is so… vague and blustering.
Now, if the point this anonymous editorial writer is trying to make overall is that the budget recently passed is by no means ‘historic’, well, uh… he’s wrong. Everything can be described as ‘historic’ since everything can be studied as history. I remember an Egyptian exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts some years ago that had scraps of pottery and things from everyday Egyptian life. Those scraps were ‘historic’ but I don’t think of my chewing gum wrapper that I just threw out as ‘historic’ necessarily. But who knows what a future curator of our current history might think.
When politicians say something is ‘historic’ it’s all rhetorical bravado and self-important bluster. Another monument added for school children to be bored by. Another name for an airport. Another title for a street sign. So what? It’s meaningless. That’s what politicians do. They make boring and dull machinations of government and their little pet things that they find so lovable seem like some kind of Sci-Fi Kung Fu action drama to which we’re all supposed to be riveted as if it’s the final chapter in the Star Wars saga. It’s more like Kabuki actors on slow mo on an old Beta Max. In this strange drama, actors are so stone-faced the entire time that cracking a smile through the pancaked makeup seems ever so dramatic.
It’s not. ‘Pathetic’ doesn’t begin to cover it either.