August 28, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Mr. Deeds comes to Staunton
Creigh Deeds paid two visits to downtown Staunton over the past 24 hours. Last night, he held a rally at the Mill Street Grill (see the News Virginian), then he spent the night back home in Bath County, and this morning (Friday), he spoke to a small gathering at the Black Dog bicycle shop. Since I needed to buy a replacement tire anyway (27" x 1.25"), I attended the latter event. About twenty people were present, including local journalists; see the News Leader and augustafreepress.com.
In his remarks, Deeds almost sounded like a Republican, emphasizing his support for business and fiscal responsibility, and somehow the controversy over health care didn't even come up. Deeds made a big point about auditing state agencies to cut out wasteful spending, which is nice but state legislators have been pursuing that avenue for years (e.g., Del. Chris Saxman's Cost-Cutting Caucus), to little avail.
One curious aspect of this campaign is that both candidates are putting a strong emphasis on helping small businesses, widely regarded as the most efficient "engine" of job growth. In McDonnell's case that means streamlining permit procedures and minimizing paperwork burdens, while Deeds wants to give tax relief on a selective basis. It sounds good, but any time such breaks are targeted there is always a risk of favoritism, which is the first step toward cronyism and ultimately corruption.
Deeds is about ten percent behind Bob McDonnell in most polls, and recently began to run new TV ads that attack McDonnell on various fronts. Last week he tried to portray McDonnell as an extremist on the abortion issue, a gross distortion of his opponent's record, and this week he has played up Deed's connection to former Governor Warner, a moderate who emphasized balancing the budget. (It is interesting that he says very little about the current governor, Tim Kaine, who has turned into something of a partisan hard-baller during the latter portion of his term in office.) The one aspect of those ads that might resonate with independent voters is the Bush administration's poor record on economic policy. McDonnell is not known as a strong Bush loyalist or as a member of the zealous tax-cutting crowd, however, so that line of attack may not have much effect. See the Richmond Times Dispatch.
While Deeds came across as intelligent, sincere, and committed to his goals, his speaking style leaves a little to be desired. Most people expect their government leaders to be forceful and articulate, and I'm not sure that Deeds measures up in the "gravitas" department. With over eight weeks to go, Deeds still has time to polish his image and make stylistic adjustments, but he'll have to hurry if he is going to catch up to McDonnell.
Republican Bob McDonnell came to town a week and a half ago (Aug. 17), and since then has paid a visit to Weyer's Cave. Does all this attention from the gubernatorial candidates mean this area has become a pivotal "bellwether" region?
Honesty on health care
I got a warm and fuzzy feeling from reading the op-ed piece by John Mackey in the Wall Street Journal. He is the president of Whole Foods, the organic/health food grocery store chain that caters to upscale counterculture folks. He is well aware that entitlement spending is going to explode as Baby Boomers retire, raising the risk of inflation or even national bankruptcy. "Obamacare" would simply hasten our economic demise, so he offered an alternative based on common sense and market principles. He calls attention to the various pointless legal obstacles to reform that hardly anyone talks about, and all the Federal mandates that constrain choice and inflate costs. I had problems with this paragraph, however:
Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.
I strongly agree with the point he is trying to make, which every self-employed person in America ought to understand by now, but he is wrong to state that "employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible." In fact, such benefits are not even reported as income in the first place. That's why hardly anybody really knows the full amount of the health benefits they are receiving. Hat tip to Anne ("Bad Rose") for alerting me to this cause via Facebook, and to Dan, who came across the same item independently.
Closer to home, I recently learned (via augustafreepress.com) about a new enterprise that seems to be a brokerage services to help businesses and individuals get the most appropriate, cost-effective health insurance coverage: Infinite Insurance Solutions. They seem to specialize in advising people on the ramifications of various health care reform proposals.
Repealing the Federal Income Tax Amendment (#16, ratified in 1913) sounds like a nice idea, but I'm afraid it would pose too big of a financial risk at a time when the Federal budget deficit is mushrooming out of control. Anyway, take a look at the28thamendmentproposal.org; hat tip to Stacey Morris. I would go a step further and just eliminate (rather than cap) the corporate income tax, which amounts to double taxation and creates all sorts of market distortions.