Sorry, But This Is Not How "Democrats" Talk

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I'm not at all happy to have to write this, but I'm also not at all happy when we have Democrats running for office who don't seem to know what Democrats are supposed to stand for. Case in point: Grover Norquist, right-wing framing coming from someone who's running as a "Democrat."
...I brought that experience to Richmond, where I voted to cut more than $2 billion in state spending. But while cutting budgets is a good start, we need to be vigilant about rooting out waste and safeguarding taxpayer dollars. That's why as your state senator, I will fight to institute ongoing performance audits of all state agencies to monitor spending and eliminate additional waste.

In this tough economy, Richmond simply must do more to help the middle class. The best way to do that is not through more big government, but through cutting taxes. I voted to eliminate the death tax and cut taxes on small businesses, and I wrote legislation to provide immediate tax cuts for middle class families and eliminate taxes for many small businesses.
Excuse me, but bashing "big government?" (side question: what "big government?" Virginia's government has been slashed repeatedly in recent years and is now at bare bones) Bragging about cutting $2 billion from the budget?!? Last I checked, Democrats were not for slashing programs that fund public safety, health care, education, and environmental protection. And if they are forced to make draconian cuts like Virginia's had to do the past few years, they don't go around touting this as some kind of great accomplishment. Right-wing/flat-earth Republicans do that; real Democrats do NOT do that.

As far as the "death tax" Grover Norquist framing is concerned, it's completely unacceptable for a "Democrat" to propagate this garbage. To the contrary, the estate tax is one of the most (if not the most) progressive taxes around, affecting only a tiny percentage of Americans - the wealthiest - and using it to fund programs and/or keep taxes lower than they would be for everyone else. I'd also point out that the estate tax is quintessentially American, in that it promotes a meritocracy as opposed to generations of inherited wealth. Not surprisingly, the U.S. estate tax has now been around for nearly 100 years, through Democratic and Republican administrations (including Ronald Reagan's) alike.

Here in Virginia, the estate tax used to provide $100-$150 million a year in revenues, with Gov. Warner wisely opting to veto its repeal. Unfortunately, Gov. Kaine made a huge mistake early in his tenure and signed estate tax repeal legislation into law. Since then, Virginia has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues that fund important programs for 99% of us, all so that a few hundred super-rich Virginia families could reap the unneeded/unwanted benefits. That's about as anti-progressive and un-democratic (upper and lower case) as you can get. Here's what Chap Petersen has to say on this subject:
The Ugly: Here we go again with the estate tax sham. The 2006 bill takes $124M and distributes it to our wealthiest families through a repeal of the tax on multi-million dollar inheritances. Which means that Paris Hilton can inherit $100 million in Virginia and pay no taxes, while suckers like you will pay tax on your earned income. Repealing the Paris Hilton Tax: So Not Hot. Ethically, this is a joke. Is it politically popular? Three years ago I denounced the estate tax repeal as a lobbyist-driven fraud and was re-elected easily in a "race to watch." Mark Warner vetoed the same bill and rose to 75% popularity. Yet dozens of Delegates and Senators continue to pander after a "pro business" rating -- given by the lamentably named Virginia FREE -- by approving a bill so anti-democratic that it's embarrassing to even discuss the details in public. And that's just the Democrats! A firm veto of this boondoggle will help Governor Kaine end his first session on a populist note.
Chap's right. It is beyond me why any "Democrat" would support this "anti-democratic" nonsense, let alone brag about voting to repeal it, let alone calling it by the absurd, offensive, deliberately inflammatory phrase ("death tax") concocted by the right-wing "Club for Growth" crowd. [Note: I asked two respected Democratic political consultants whether they would ever advise one of their clients to bash the "death tax," and they both said no. One of them said that doing this is "just stupid and self-defeating" and that "once you use the death tax formulation you lose."] Finally, I fail to understand why any "Democrat" would brag about slashing billions of dollars in spending and rail against "big government." I mean, seriously, do we really need two anti-government parties in this country? Not in my humble opinion.

P.S. None of this should be taken to imply that this guy isn't a homophobic bigoted freak who should never be elected to anything. I just wish we had a Democrat running who actually believed in government as a force for the common good and not as an adversary to be gratuitously (and wrongly) bashed.