Taxing Time

 

shutterstock_216904363Today, the voters in Michigan are going to the polls. A few of them, that is – for no one is on the ballot, and in no one’s front yard will you find a sign. There was no one ahead of me this morning when I stopped by the Hillsdale County Library to cast my ballot, and the parking lot was close to empty. This is, you see, a stealth election – deliberately scheduled at a time when next to no one is paying any attention – and its aim is to raise the sales tax rate throughout the state.

If this were the work of the Democrats, I would not much mind. I do not expect better of them. They are the party of high taxation, of well-funded public-sector unions, and of poor service. Raising taxes and redistributing the fruits of our labors to free-loaders is their raison d’être.

What burns me is that this dirty trick is the work of our Republican Governor Rick Snyder and of the go-along-to-get-along Republicans we elected as state representatives and state senators in 2010 and 2014.

Michigan is not a high-tax state on the model of Taxachusetts, California, or Hawaii. But our state and local taxes are high nonetheless. When you put the sales tax together with the property tax and the state and local income taxes, we pay plenty – and what we get in return for our hard-earned money is a disgrace.

Let me explain.

When I was a child back in the 1950s and 1960s, my parents took a trip with me in tow every summer, and we nearly always drove. We went to Tulsa, where my mother’s family lived. We went to Madison, Indiana to visit my father’s brother or attend a landman’s convention. We drove to Westchester county in New York to see my brother, and we went elsewhere to see my parent’s friends. One year, when I was about 10, we took three or four glorious weeks and drove to California via South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana and then came back via Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. Another year, we drove to Calgary in Alberta and on to Banff for a convention. By the time that I was 18, I had been in every state in the union – apart from Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

These days, my wife and I travel with our four children in much the same fashion. We take a week in March to drive south in search of sunshine (which is in short supply in Michigan during the winter). We drive to Maine to see my wife’s parents at some point in the summer. And, yes, we have driven to California by the northern route and back through the southwest.

In the course of these wanderings, I came to judge state governments by the quality of their roads. When, for example, my parents drove from Denver to Tulsa in the late 1950s and early 1960s, crossing the border between Colorado and Oklahoma was an eye-opener. And the same could be said when my wife and I drove in the early years of this millennium with our eldest from Tulsa to Santa Fe via Amarillo and crossed from Oklahoma to Texas.

I mention this because, eight years ago, when we moved from Tulsa to Hillsdale, I took it for granted that Michigan was better-governed than Oklahoma. The latter had long been a one-party state run by Democrats with a populist bent. Politics in Oklahoma was about patronage; the state was not especially prosperous; and the state government seemed incapable of doing anything well. What I did not know was that Michigan was worse – far worse.

The state had once been prosperous. In 1950, Detroit was per capita the wealthiest city in the United States. In the interim, however, Michigan stagnated. For a long time, it lived off the automobile industry – as did the United Auto Workers – and in time the left-liberal state and the unions it fostered killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

The decline was gradual – visible, at first, mainly in Detroit, which became a nightmare. Then, it became precipitous and impossible to ignore. It quickly became obvious to me, however, when I arrived here in the summer of 2007 that something was terribly, terribly wrong. The first time I flew out of the Detroit airport I discovered that the roads were in disrepair on a scale I had never seen – outside West Virginia in the 1950s – in the course of my travels by road.

Rick Snyder became Governor after the crash. He and the Republicans were swept into office in November 2010 by the fury to which Obamacare gave rise, and he and they brought to the challenge all of the virtues and vices of the businessman. Those virtues are considerable. Businessmen can add and subtract. They are used to deal-making, and they are skilled in keeping enterprises going. The vices of the businessman are, however, considerable as well. When it comes to scruples, they tend to come up short. Pragmatism nearly always trumps principle.

If you find what I say annoying or even insulting, pause for a moment and ask yourself this. In 2009, when Barack Obama was pushing what his party named the Affordable Care Act, which side did the executives of the healthcare industry take? Did they warn us of the dangers involved? Did they take their stand with the patients they served? Or did they consult the bottom line – their bottom line – and sell us out? Put more bluntly, were they bought by Obama and the Democrats?

Do not tell me that they did not know what they were doing. This is a sphere in which they have far greater expertise than anyone else. They knew which way the wind was blowing, and they chose profit over principle. Individuals may sacrifice profit for principle. Soldiers often sacrifice their lives in such a manner. But businessmen in their guise as businessmen very rarely prefer the common good to the good of their enterprise; and, when businessmen go into politics, they tend to exhibit the habits they learned in private enterprise.

Think about it this way. When was the last time that you heard a Republican speak about justice? The Democrats do so all the time. They speak with great frequency about “social justice,” and Republicans rarely challenge them on the basic principles. Consider what is called “affirmative action.” The phrase is a euphemism for politically enforced racial and sexual discrimination. It is a sign in the window that says, “White men need not apply.” You know that, and I know that. When was the last time that you heard a Republican candidate say as much? When was the last time you heard a Republican denounce “affirmative action” as unjust. When it comes to principled argument, the Republicans – who are owned lock, stock, and barrel by the Chamber of Commerce – generally fall silent. In the face of evil, they temporize.

You see, they are afraid of conflict. It is bad for business. The thing to do is to make a compromise. The Democrats are not similarly timid. They thrive on conflict. They seek it. They stir things up. They know where they want to go, and they seize on every opportunity to press their agenda. And when they push, they are apt to push very, very hard.

And how do the Republicans respond? For the most part, they cower and head for the exits. Then, they seek a compromise. The Democrats are the party of motion; they Republicans, at best, drag their feet.

That is the story in Michigan. Rick Snyder and the Republicans took office early in 2011. The state was in dire straits. It had one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation (for a time, it was number one), and the automobile industry was not going to make a dramatic comeback – not in Michigan, at least. So Snyder, who is a capable businessman, moved to cut the exceptionally high corporation taxes here. They had been imposed on the presumption that the automobile industry had nowhere else to go; and, as Snyder understood, they had helped strangle it and to keep other businesses from relocating here.

The Republicans could have taken this as an opportunity to trim state government. But this Snyder did not want to do – for that would have required a fight. So, instead, to make up for the shortfall, he and his minions extended the state income tax to the pensions of those bringing in more than $60,000 a year. This was a truly stupid move. The winters in Michigan are cold and long. Everyone here who can afford it has an incentive to retire elsewhere, and the tax on pensions gave those Michiganders who had scrimped and saved for their old age an added incentive to head south – which means that this tax, as a source of income for the state, will gradually dry up. And it means that sales tax receipts will be less than they would otherwise be. This is the sort of measure that will work in the short term and do harm in the long term. But, of course, Rick Snyder and the Republicans in the legislature who backed him are not apt to be in office when the bill comes due.

Now these same Republicans want to raise the sales tax rate. They have an argument. The roads in Michigan are a disaster – and this arguably has something to do with state expenditures. As my colleague John J. Miller pointed out yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, Indiana spends $339 per capita on roads; Ohio spends $258; Wisconsin spends $295; and Michigan spends $126. But that is not because Michigan does not spend. Our taxes – when you add the state (and local) income taxes, the property taxes, and the sales taxes – are considerably higher than those in Indiana.

Our difficulties do not arise from a lack of funding. Nor do they stem from the fact that Rick Snyder and the Republicans are skinflints. Since 2011, when Rick Snyder and the Republicans took over, the state budget has increased by 14% from $26.3 billion to $30 billion.

Our problems arise not from a lack of funds, but from a misallocation of funds. Last year, Michael LaFaive of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy produced a report suggesting $2.1 billion in budget cuts that would free up more money for roads than the sales tax increase is apt to raise. As John points out in his article,

He recommend repealing a prevailing-wage law that pushes construction costs up by about $250 million a year; ending a $40 million Amtrak subsidy; and wiping out a program for moviemakers that recently lavished $35 million on the forthcoming film “Batman v. Superman.”

To make matters worse, only $1.2 billion of the $2 billion that the sales tax increase is supposed to raise is slated for improving transportation, and some of that $1.2 billion is supposed to be used for light rail, bike paths, and downtown improvements. The other $800 million is a bribe aimed at attracting the support of the Left.

Those  who are familiar with Michigan politics doubt that this tax increase will pass. If they are wrong and it does pass, I am confident that, in the next statewide elections, the Republicans will be voted out. I do not mean to say that the Republicans of Michigan are not preferable. They are certainly less bad than the Democrats. But they are not good. They are not good at all. The Democrats fight and the businessmen-turned-politicians who run the Republican Party give ground. We are on the road to perdition. The only question is whether we will be conducted to our destination gradually or quickly. It is hard to be enthusiastic about a political party that is always intent on selling us out.

But what is this to those of you from outside Michigan? It is, I would suggest, a straw in the wind. The national party is not much better than the Michigan party. When Harry Reid controlled the U. S. Senate, he pressed home the Democrats’ advantage. Now that Mitch McConnell is in charge, he seeks compromise.

Is there a candidate out there running for the Republican presidential nomination who is a person of principle, who would turn the Republican Party from a party of compromise into a party of motion, who would lead us away from the destination towards which the country is now tending? Is there someone who understands the manner in which our national security has been compromised and who has the courage to speak the truth? And is there someone who is also not afraid to raise the question of justice?

I would like to think so. But I harbor grave doubts.

 

 

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  1. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    So true. I had strong hopes for John Kasich as possibly a more media savvy Scott Walker, but what does he tout [in a Ricochet interview no less] as one of his finest achievements? A 20% reverse discrimination program for Ohio infrastructure spending. I hope I live to see the day when Republicans don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Paul A. Rahe: I do not mean to say that the Republicans of Michigan are not preferable. They are certainly less bad than the Democrats. But they are not good.

    Does Michigan’s electoral process allow for effective third parties, like in New York State where the Conservative Party of New York is able to exert influence by endorsing (or refusing to endorse) the Republican candidate?

    • #2
  3. 1967mustangman Inactive
    1967mustangman
    @1967mustangman

    Paul A. Rahe: There was no one ahead of me this morning when I stopped by the Hillsdale County Library to cast my ballot, and the parking lot was close to empty. This is, you see, a stealth election – deliberately scheduled at a time when next to no one is paying any attention – and its aim is to raise the sales tax rate throughout the state.

    This is what double majority laws were meant to fix.

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I’ve already had a lot to say about the Michigan road system in the comment section of the WSJ article you cited, and elsewhere. I agree with most of what you say.  But I would like to correct one point.  I have seen plenty of yard signs urging no or yes votes.  Not as many as in most elections, but there are yard signs. My barber, with whom I have discussed local road issues, has one in his front yard, urging a no vote.  (He runs his business out of his house.)

    I didn’t vote for Rick Snyder when he was first elected, largely because I don’t trust business types in government.  Business types don’t generally make good protectors of the free enterprise system under which they thrive.  I did vote for him for re-election.  I’ll be voting no on the proposal.

    • #4
  5. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    Growing up in Oklahoma in the 70’s, my family would travel to Texas several times a year to visit my grandparents. It was a family joke that we could always tell when we crossed the state line merely by the improvement in the roads.

    Having left Oklahoma as a young man for Illinois and Florida, and then returning, I have learned to appreciate the state. It is well-governed, by comparison. Taxes are low, public services are adequate, and lefties are scarce.

    Oklahoma. Like Texas, but with fewer liberals.

    • #5
  6. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    In Virginia, our largest tax increase in many years was engineered by our former Republican governor, Bob (Rolex) McDonnell.

    • #6
  7. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Misthiocracy:

    Paul A. Rahe: I do not mean to say that the Republicans of Michigan are not preferable. They are certainly less bad than the Democrats. But they are not good.

    Does Michigan’s electoral process allow for effective third parties, like in New York State where the Conservative Party of New York is able to exert influence by endorsing (or refusing to endorse) the Republican candidate?

    An excellent question. I do not know the answer. I do know that there is no such party here.

    • #7
  8. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    billy:Growing up in Oklahoma in the 70′s, my family would travel to Texas several times a year to visit my grandparents. It was a family joke that we could always tell when we crossed the state line merely by the improvement in the roads.

    Having left Oklahoma as a young man for Illinois and Florida, and then returning, I have learned to appreciate the state. It is well-governed, by comparison. Taxes are low, public services are adequate, and lefties are scarce.

    Oklahoma. Like Texas, but with fewer liberals.

    Yes

    • #8
  9. Ross C Member
    Ross C
    @RossC

    Correct about OK roads.  It does often seem frustrating that republican government seems to get so little done and so little of that done well.

    I doubt that Michigan Republicans can get elected more than 2 cycles regardless of what they do.  Once things start improving in Michigan, Democrats will run on more goodies, voters will forget why they voted Republican and there you go.

    • #9
  10. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Ross C:Correct about OK roads. It does often seem frustrating that republican government seems to get so little done and so little of that done well.

    I doubt that Michigan Republicans can get elected more than 2 cycles regardless of what they do. Once things start improving in Michigan, Democrats will run on more goodies, voters will forget why they voted Republican and there you go.

    You may be right, but the ground here is moving beneath our feet. Detroit has more or less been erased off the map — which wipes out a lot of reliable Democratic votes. The western part of the state is reasonably sound. Still, you may be right.

    • #10
  11. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    There is an objection to my argument that ought to be made — and since no one has made it, I will do so:

    Professor Rahe, you are unfair to Rick Snyder and the Republicans. They passed a right-to-work law, didn’t they?

    And, indeed, they did. To their credit, the Republicans elected to the state house and senate wanted to do this right off the bat in 2011. But Rick Snyder stood in their way. He wanted to do a deal with the unions.

    When the unions responded by kicking him in the face, Snyder — who is not lacking in spiritedness — decided to show them who is boss. And so, shortly after being re-elected, he gave the Republicans in the legislature a green light.

    In my judgment, he and they should have been more forthright. Perhaps, however, if the voters slap these folks in the face today, they will pick up that Mackinac report and implement — with the Democrats in Michigan howling, as they should be made to howl, from here to kingdom come.

    Then, by showing some guts, they would, I believe, get re-elected, and they would certainly deserve such a fate.

    • #11
  12. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    Ooooh, thanks for the reminder, Doc. I’ll make sure I vote No.

    • #12
  13. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    In general, Republicans and angry people are the only ones who turn out for these oddball elections. This will be an interesting test of that thesis.

    • #13
  14. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Paul A. Rahe:

    Is there a candidate out there running for the Republican presidential nomination who is a person of principle, who would turn the Republican Party from a party of compromise into a party of motion, who would lead us away from the destination towards which the country is now tending? Is there someone who understands the manner in which our national security has been compromised and who has the courage to speak the truth? And is there someone who is also not afraid to raise the question of justice?

    I couldn’t say, but if there is, he (or she) is likely unelectable, even in a Republican primary.  I don’t think we are desperate enough to do the right thing yet.

    • #14
  15. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    Paul A. Rahe:There is an objection to my argument that ought to be made — and since no one has made it, I will do so:

    Professor Rahe, you are unfair to Rick Snyder and the Republicans. They passed a right-to-work law, didn’t they?

    And, indeed, they did. To their credit, the Republicans elected to the state house and senate wanted to do this right off the bat in 2011. But Rick Snyder stood in their way. He wanted to do a deal with the unions.

    Rather than raising an objection, doesn’t the passage of Right to Work buttress your case?

    Snyder and Michigan Republicans, much like the national GOP, are ready and eager to promote the interests of the Chamber of Commerce and other such trade associations.

    The Tea Party and social conservatives?

    Not so much.

    Hence the division in the Republican party: Pro-business- immigration, ex-import bank, etc. versus those whose concerns are the long term consequences of being unmoored from Constitutional principles.

    • #15
  16. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    I’m not convinced that Republicans are merely seekers of compromise. I believe that many of them simply do not believe in the philosophy they assert at election time. I pull my hair out during political debates because Republican candidates so rarely confidently defend free markets, low taxes, on and on. Candidates must be able to pull the arguments together, explain succinctly why the totality will succeed, and do so simply and directly. That they can’t suggests that they really don’t believe what they are preaching. Then Reps get into office and prove their unbelief.

    I remember John McCain debating Obama about Iraq. Obama had a simply message–I’ll get us out. McCain droned on about the difference between strategy and tactics. He kind of looked like an idiot and, I think, destroyed his credibility. If he really had a plan, really believed his rhetoric, it would have been so easy: “You don’t win a war, or defeat terrorism, by telling your enemy when you are going to cut and run.” McCain, on the contrary, seemed to be saying he’d let the war drag on. It was disgraceful and a sure loser.

    It’s no wonder to me why Republicans just go along with the libs–they really have no idea what they are trying to do.

    • #16
  17. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Like the guy in Hemingway’s book says–bankruptcy comes gradually at first, & then suddenly. That might prove less than enlightening to the electorate. So long as the GOP wants to manage the decline, it’s not going to achieve anything lasting. But if it wanted to achieve anything serious–what would that be?

    • #17
  18. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Titus Techera:Like the guy in Hemingway’s book says–bankruptcy comes gradually at first, & then suddenly. That might prove less than enlightening to the electorate. So long as the GOP wants to manage the decline, it’s not going to achieve anything lasting. But if it wanted to achieve anything serious–what would that be?

    A good question. I think that one might start with (and perhaps end with) justice — which is to say that every man (and, of course, woman) has a right to the fruits of his own labor and that forced redistribution is morally and politically wrong. If our side had a standard of justice by which to judge what government should do, we could reverse the decline.

    • #18
  19. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    In re: roads:  In the state of Washington, which has been run by Democrats for 50 years, the reason the roads are in such bad shape, and increased taxes don’t help, is that the Transportation money (from gas taxes and car-tab fees) goes to TRANSIT, which the majority of citizens do not use.  I figured out that 35% of my car-tab fees go the the transit district to build light-rail that doesn’t even reach where I live!  These taxes will go on forever, and will be increased as the years go by.

    • #19
  20. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Paul A. Rahe:

    Titus Techera:Like the guy in Hemingway’s book says–bankruptcy comes gradually at first, & then suddenly. That might prove less than enlightening to the electorate. So long as the GOP wants to manage the decline, it’s not going to achieve anything lasting. But if it wanted to achieve anything serious–what would that be?

    A good question. I think that one might start with (and perhaps end with) justice — which is to say that every man (and, of course, woman) has a right to the fruits of his own labor and that forced redistribution is morally and politically wrong. If our side had a standard of justice by which to judge what government should do, we could reverse the decline.

    Professor, I hope there is some politician among your countrymen telling people this sort of thing. Americans are likelier to believe it than most peoples; they also have more to lose if they do not. I am not sure why justice has fallen out of favor even with your more verbose Senators, but there is no denying it–you’re right about nobody bringing it up anymore.

    • #20
  21. user_519396 Member
    user_519396
    @

    Basil Fawlty:In Virginia, our largest tax increase in many years was engineered by our former Republican governor, Bob (Rolex) McDonnell.

    And he did so on the way out the door. Beware of the politician on a legacy hunt. What we got in Northern Virginia was a sales tax rate of 6%, which is 0.25 cents higher than DC’s. (Don’t ask me how they arrived at 5.3% downstate) The gas tax at the retail level was replaced with a gas tax at the wholesale level, with little discernible effect on the pump price. Oh, and a special levy on hybrids and electric vehicles, which was designed to replace the lost revenue that they don’t pay in gas taxes. It was promptly repealed when well-heeled hybrid fanciers complained. “Transportation” and “education” poll well, so when the politicians want to raise taxes, they fly under those banners. And don’t get me started on Jim Gilmore’s famous 1997 “no car tax” pledge that was watered down to a partial rebate by the tax-and-spend crowd in the General Assembly.

    • #21
  22. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    The Reticulator:I’ve already had a lot to say about the Michigan road system in the comment section of the WSJ article you cited, and elsewhere. I agree with most of what you say. But I would like to correct one point. I have seen plenty of yard signs urging no or yes votes. Not as many as in most elections, but there are yard signs. My barber, with whom I have discussed local road issues, has one in his front yard, urging a no vote. (He runs his business out of his house.)

    I didn’t vote for Rick Snyder when he was first elected, largely because I don’t trust business types in government. Business types don’t generally make good protectors of the free enterprise system under which they thrive. I did vote for him for re-election. I’ll be voting no on the proposal.

    I am glad to learn that someone noticed that there was a ballot.

    • #22
  23. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Titus Techera:

    Paul A. Rahe:

    Titus Techera:Like the guy in Hemingway’s book says–bankruptcy comes gradually at first, & then suddenly. That might prove less than enlightening to the electorate. So long as the GOP wants to manage the decline, it’s not going to achieve anything lasting. But if it wanted to achieve anything serious–what would that be?

    A good question. I think that one might start with (and perhaps end with) justice — which is to say that every man (and, of course, woman) has a right to the fruits of his own labor and that forced redistribution is morally and politically wrong. If our side had a standard of justice by which to judge what government should do, we could reverse the decline.

    Professor, I hope there is some politician among your countrymen telling people this sort of thing. Americans are likelier to believe it than most peoples; they also have more to lose if they do not. I am not sure why justice has fallen out of favor even with your more verbose Senators, but there is no denying it–you’re right about nobody bringing it up anymore.

    Alas, I would rather be wrong.

    • #23
  24. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Paul Wilson:

    Basil Fawlty:In Virginia, our largest tax increase in many years was engineered by our former Republican governor, Bob (Rolex) McDonnell.

    And he did so on the way out the door. Beware of the politician on a legacy hunt. What we got in Northern Virginia was a sales tax rate of 6%, which is 0.25 cents higher than DC’s. (Don’t ask me how they arrived at 5.3% downstate) The gas tax at the retail level was replaced with a gas tax at the wholesale level, with little discernible effect on the pump price. Oh, and a special levy on hybrids and electric vehicles, which was designed to replace the lost revenue that they don’t pay in gas taxes. It was promptly repealed when well-heeled hybrid fanciers complained. “Transportation” and “education” poll well, so when the politicians want to raise taxes, they fly under those banners. And don’t get me started on Jim Gilmore’s famous 1997 “no car tax” pledge that was watered down to a partial rebate by the tax-and-spend crowd in the General Assembly.

    Our sales tax in Michigan will go to 7% if Rick Snyder and the Republicans get their way.

    • #24
  25. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Come on Paul. Do it for the children.

    • #25
  26. Scarlet Pimpernel Inactive
    Scarlet Pimpernel
    @ScarletPimpernel

    Paul. I didn’t realize that you were a closet Yankee.  Remember this bit from The Education of Henry Adams, on the trip he took to Mount Vernon as a boy:

    “To the New England mind, roads, schools, clothes, and a clean face were connected as part of the law of order or divine system. Bad roads meant bad morals. The moral of this Virginia road was clear, and the boy fully learned it. Slavery was wicked, and slavery was the cause of this road’s badness which amounted to social crime.”

    http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/HADAMS/eha03.html

    In my misspent youth, my family used to drive regularly from New York to Connecticut.   You could feel the difference as soon as we hit Connecticut. The road became smooth all of a sudden.

    • #26
  27. Scarlet Pimpernel Inactive
    Scarlet Pimpernel
    @ScarletPimpernel

    P.S. I am reminded of this bit from my book in progress on JA:

    Benjamin Rush noted that one of their friends dismissed prudence as a “rascally virtue.” Adams replied that “his meaning was good. He meant the spirit which evades danger when duty requires us to face it. This is cowardice, not prudence.” That, however, what not what Adams meant by prudence. “By prudence I mean that deliberation and caution which aims at no ends but good ones, and good ones by none but fair means, and then carefully adjusts and proportions its good means to its good ends. Without this virtue there can be no other. Justice itself cannot exist without it. A disposition to render to everyone his right is of no use without prudence to judge of what is his right and skill to perform it.”

    • #27
  28. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Paul Wilson:

    Basil Fawlty:In Virginia, our largest tax increase in many years was engineered by our former Republican governor, Bob (Rolex) McDonnell.

    And he did so on the way out the door. Beware of the politician on a legacy hunt. What we got in Northern Virginia was a sales tax rate of 6%, which is 0.25 cents higher than DC’s. (Don’t ask me how they arrived at 5.3% downstate) The gas tax at the retail level was replaced with a gas tax at the wholesale level, with little discernible effect on the pump price. Oh, and a special levy on hybrids and electric vehicles, which was designed to replace the lost revenue that they don’t pay in gas taxes. It was promptly repealed when well-heeled hybrid fanciers complained. “Transportation” and “education” poll well, so when the politicians want to raise taxes, they fly under those banners. And don’t get me started on Jim Gilmore’s famous 1997 “no car tax” pledge that was watered down to a partial rebate by the tax-and-spend crowd in the General Assembly.

    I don’t think it was a legacy Governor Bob was after.  At least not one of the historical kind.

    • #28
  29. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Scarlet Pimpernel:Paul. I didn’t realize that you were a closet Yankee. Remember this bit from The Education of Henry Adams, on the trip he took to Mount Vernon as a boy:

    “To the New England mind, roads, schools, clothes, and a clean face were connected as part of the law of order or divine system. Bad roads meant bad morals. The moral of this Virginia road was clear, and the boy fully learned it. Slavery was wicked, and slavery was the cause of this road’s badness which amounted to social crime.”

    http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/HADAMS/eha03.html

    In my misspent youth, my family used to drive regularly from New York to Connecticut. You could feel the difference as soon as we hit Connecticut. The road became smooth all of a sudden.

    Wonderful. Who knew that I have been channeling Henry Adams my whole life..

    • #29
  30. John Fitzgerald Inactive
    John Fitzgerald
    @JohnFitzgerald

    Paul A. Rahe:There is an objection to my argument that ought to be made — and since no one has made it, I will do so:

    Professor Rahe, you are unfair to Rick Snyder and the Republicans. They passed a right-to-work law, didn’t they?

    And, indeed, they did. To their credit, the Republicans elected to the state house and senate wanted to do this right off the bat in 2011. But Rick Snyder stood in their way. He wanted to do a deal with the unions.

    When the unions responded by kicking him in the face, Snyder — who is not lacking in spiritedness — decided to show them who is boss. And so, shortly after being re-elected, he gave the Republicans in the legislature a green light.

    In my judgment, he and they should have been more forthright. Perhaps, however, if the voters slap these folks in the face today, they will pick up that Mackinac report and implement — with the Democrats in Michigan howling, as they should be made to howl, from here to kingdom come.

    Then, by showing some guts, they would, I believe, get re-elected, and they would certainly deserve such a fate.

    Professor Rahe,

    I am so glad you are correcting the record-Snyder only implemented RTW when Bob King, President of the UAW, tried to lock union protections in the State Constitution in violation of their gentlemen’s agreement.

    • #30

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