Tyler Bass writes for RVA periodically. Here is his brilliant analysis of all things VA politics right now- what Deeds did wrong, who McDonnell really is, and, in their own (unknowing) words, Deeds supporters explain why he would eventually loose.
Tyler Bass writes for RVA periodically. Here is his brilliant analysis of all things VA politics right now- what Deeds did wrong, who McDonnell really is, and, in their own (unknowing) words, Deeds supporters explain why he would eventually loose.
Say what you will about either one of these candidates and the McDonnell Regent thesis, but if you’ve looked at this thing, you’ll have to admit that had it been widely circulated the first time that Creigh Deeds faced off against Bob McDonnell six years ago for state attorney general, you have to admit this paper would have made Deeds the surefire winner. Even a Regent graduate himself or herself would admit that had the document been released six years ago, it would have convinced enough McDonnell opponents to turn the tide for Deeds.
Over the election cycle’s 24 hours, all the major domestic political cable networks have been saying that Bob McDonnell won the race because Virginia is “contrarian” in its election vis-à-vis the national scene, e.g. – they intentionally will vote for Republican Governors if the presidency and/or Congress are Democratically controlled. All morning on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” anchors were suggesting the notion of contrarianism. Late in the day on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow would adopt a similar description. This whole contrarian argument can boast a streak as long as 1977, claimed Maddow.
Much ink has been spilled about the contents of the McDonnell Regent thesis’ decrying feminism, banning contraception and women in the workplace. A salient media interested in this sort of sociological fodder slammed him for it, and Deeds ran with it, attempting to widen the gender gap, all the while lining up McDonnell votes for limiting the sale of contraception (et feminist cetera). On the back of the thesis, he initiated a women’s mobilizing group and made ads featuring women majorly miffed about McDonnell’s academic work.
Take a look at Deeds’ campaign literature, the signs and the website if you have not already, and you can see that Gotham font used by the Obama campaign. This was an effort to ride coattails the same way that McDonnell did throughout his thesis, offering deference at all times to the architects of the Reagan Revolution, as well as the rise of Reagan himself.
With total exasperation, it seems, was the only way Deeds’ campaign went after McDonnell. McDonnell, on the other hand, defined the Deeds campaign, as by the end of the race the McDonnell campaign was smirking with catty, “myth-busting” press releases replying to accusations of having attended “Pat Robertson’s” university. His only real replies were simply restating the same institution with its newer name and without Robertson’s next to it. Deeds’ biggest cheerleader in the mainstream media overall was The Washington Post¸ and throughout the entire campaign season, they made a big deal out of the social policy issues in the McDonnell thesis, the whole while ignoring the fact that McDonnell’s current allegiance to the ideas was impossible to prove. As if the ideas were any less obnoxious if they were communicated in immaturity or haste or in thirst for a better grade.
What was truly strange about the way that The Washington Post examined Deeds’ thesis was with the credulity that editorial treated students actually engaging in serious intellectual criticism if they wish to get a good grade. It’s not surprising if McDonnell believes next to nothing from his old thesis. The question really is whether that’s a good thing at all.
The thesis really reads like something directly out of Adorno. High-levels of superstition, a view of the family as the center of society. Like most self-described conservative ideologues, McDonnell expresses aspirations toward smaller government, yet his thesis’ bent on removing pornography from society or apparent will to prosecute homosexual acts would require an enormous, substantially intervening bureaucracy trouncing any derided welfare office in potential waste, fraud and abuse.
From my initial reading, I was struck by the degree to which the document detailed his love of family and its positive role in his life. Indeed, his own wife’s work as he served in the National Guard no doubt helped foster a greater (financial) environment for his edification, if indeed such a thing could be said about a university or a law degree issued by the media tycoon himself. “Please, put your hands on the TV, and pray with me.” The whole document basically posits that people are becoming more selfish and individualistic. This struck me as weird because of the way that a lot of Republican leadership has latched onto that Randesque side of Reagan that barked “rugged individualism.” Although individualism is somewhat decried relative to the general tone of Ronald Reagan after his reelection, McDonnell chooses to excerpt the contemporary president’s remarks regarding the importance of family.
Then, it is as if McDonnell has entered a state of describing an ideal reality, absent so many facets key to understanding human nature. He becomes distinctly prescriptive, as opposed to the descriptive tone that had defined so much of the opening tone. His worldview reflects a view of the pre-1960’s as more in line with the Judeo-Christian ethic. The ugly truth is that the “choice” to work, for women, was something fantastic, something to celebrate. Unfortunately, its arrival might have come at the cost of its becoming a “necessity” as much as a “choice” work really is to any degree of ambition.
Like Mr. Wilson lashing out at Dennis The Menace, the fatal flaw of Bob McDonnell’s law thesis is its insistence that human are fewer, and, in addition, living shorter lives than in the 1960s.
By page six, the essay is crawling its way into exhaustion, discussing the youth as “victims” of pornography, e.g. – images. McDonnell seriously bucks some senses of personal autonomy throughout one’s life insofar as a strict set of obligations are observed by all parties in a family involved, the children and the parents. In this sense, he sees rampant youth drug abuse as being signs of greater trouble, almost implying that drugs are necessarily even an adequate root for serious escapism, as opposed to, say, like going into the Dark Forest where Yoda indicates you’re only going to battle yourself.
By page seven, McDonnell espouses the morality of corporal punishment, accurately; however, pointing to the influence that religious influence has had on these beliefs. The 30-something law student didn’t see secularism as the absence of religion or a vacuum, but an ideology unto itself. His cynicism about the very “secular” and “humanist” ideologies of the public school system somehow doesn’t stop him from placing credence in the SAT results’ falling 10 percent, the SAT necessarily being a product of the same ideologies that govern the public schools in critique.
McDonnell apparently advocates state action against “the perverted notion of liberty that each individual should be able to live out his sexual life in any way he chooses without interference from the state.” If this thesis were to be updated, among a great many things, it would require an expansion to take into the account of Lawrence v. Texas, that mid-‘90s cocaine sting turned sodomy bust that initiated the Defense of Marriage Act and the ensuing, ongoing gay marriage debate. This was a case where the state of Texas was trying to put two men in prison for anal-penile penetration. Preceding all of this expression at the beginning of this paragraph, the last on page 8, is a seeming non sequitor where certain court decisions represent embraces of “collectivist-statist ideology” being the view of the government toward the family; later, he remarks that the level of individualism has come to be selfish.
McDonnell goes on to attribute the mother’s taking on a role outside of the house as having caused economic collapse, for want that women should have been staying at home and teaching their children Judeo-Christian values while the man worked. In this thesis, growing education funding has not resulted in greater increases in grades. Deeds would often criticize the governor for not mandating average plus pay for Virginia public school teachers.
In one sense, the thesis definitely decides that the government should serve as a heavier arbitrator on certain aspects of sex life, but its judgments are limited in a different way. McDonnell frames these paragraphs pointing out the foreshadowed “inconsistencies,” but what they really represent is a different kind of intrusion. No doubt financially rewarding gender diversification in the workplace by tax credit would offend McDonnell today. But, to repeat the author’s admitting the limits of his knowledge on “cause and effect” the relationship between women entering the workplace by tooth and nail, and women who were more conservative and entered begrudgingly. Presumably, they would play less part in his proposed resurgence of Republican values that will simultaneously “eliminate the need for a comprehensive and expensive federal bureaucracy” in addition to court officials, attorneys and clerks to manage people desperately trying to struggle their way through legal proceedings to prosecute the frivolous social “crimes” frowned upon by the thesis.
Bob McDonnell’s concerned tone is that of a shepherd taking care of his flock, making sure that they don’t stray from each state-ordained partner. All the while, he insults the government’s intrusion at times when it is being bureaucratic. Ultimately, though, the regulation is the same, and the demand from the state is that people seek person affirmation from their partners as they do from their school, their nearest Social Security office. McDonnell’s philosophy regarding parenting reflected in this essay is one in which state power is totally diverted from the relationship of the parent. These are the grounds on which, particularly in matters relating to parental consent for abortion, he asserts the duties of a parent to include procurement of state power in the interest of deterring or moderating abortion. Interviews with The Washington Post reveal an attitude of conciliation and single-minded dedication to mourning with the receivers of the operations. Looking back on the thesis in light of his more recent statements lends McDonnell the mien of a polemicist in making his arguments.
McDonnell’s quotation of Thomas Jefferson’s reference to “nature’s God” in the Declaration of Independence is rather ironic, given how much stake the former attorney general places in the institution of the church to satisfy the needs of “of widows, orphans, and the poor and the disadvantaged.” Seeing as how “widower” is left out, the essay continues its overall very patriarchal tone. In advocating “voluntary school prayer,” the Reagan era necessarily allowed for the use of classroom time for things like “silent reflection” and similar things.
In his thesis, the new Virginia governor reflects on the party of individual liberty, but claims in the thesis (disastrously!) that the government must intervene, and that when the excise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish and deter.” At the beginning of the thesis, McDonnell decries the bureaucratized state initiatives in their anti-poverty manifestations. Presumably, police and court bureaucracies (effectively, the religious police) are to arbitrate on sensitive intellectual grounds like the supposed harms or even the very definition of what constitutes “indecency” or “community standards.” Moreover, the community – to wit, not even close blood relatives – is left in the place of deciding when any given individual has had enough morphine or heroin or cannabis. This is of course an assertion of the very statism that McDonnell decries. Arguably, it has a lot to do with why the U.S. military leadership claims a degree of success by stomping out or controlling the trade of opiates (eventually abused and otherwise) out of Afghanistan. The Reagan era’s ultimate expression of this was the raising of the drinking age disastrously to 21, except to military members on base (except, eventually, in places like Qatar and Saudi Arabia). The inference in these policies of course is directly that the state owns one’s body at least as much as it owns any Treasury bond or any parent’s children.
Eventually, upon reading the paper, I came upon the state attorney general’s reference in a serious way to the Garden of Eden, and immediately it evoked the cartoonish image of a talking snake begging me to eat fruit. Closing my eyes, nodding my head, I closed the laptop in front of me, and reveled in my certainty that either McDonnell was silly enough to genuinely believe that mythology substantiated public policy debate or that he was self-conscious to know that the tactic was exactly what his professors desired. Anyone who’s ever gone to college knows that the best humanities grade is most certainly had by simply appearing independently-minded but offering total accord with your professor’s ideology, whatever that may be.
Back in early August, I caught up with Deeds supporters at a rally in McLean, one of America’s wealthiest suburbs to try to help discover what created enthusiasm for the candidate earlier on when he was still relatively neck-in-neck with McDonnell.
Hugh Elwood, Reston, Va.
TB: What do you feel like is the biggest policy difference between the candidates?
MR. ELWOOD: Well, I think it’s more of a general policy stance. I think that Creigh represents the new movement, the – of the progressive Democratic Party.
MR. ELWOOD: And, McDonnell, he just represents the same tired, old policies, you know, whether it be at a statewide level or a national level that the Republican Party is espousing right now.
TB: Well, what policies are those?
MR. ELWOOD: Progressive programs for jobs and infrastructure, higher education.
TB: Yeah, I noticed on their websites when they talked about issues, they both made a general notion – they did have a general notion of creating jobs. And I was wondering, is there a way in which you see job creation with Creigh Deeds as being – why would it be more effective? I mean, I’m trying to – I’m trying to get you be as specific as possible. If there’s something he said or if there’s something the other candidate said that you just inherently disagree with, I mean.
MR. ELWOOD: Well, basically the Republican policies are saying that they will create new jobs by giving tax breaks to those who are more wealthy; and, therefore, the wealthy folks will create more jobs for us worker bees.
On the other hand, I think Creigh represents more of a policy where he would create jobs by giving people tax breaks, by supporting small-business men. And most of the jobs in the country now are being created by small-business men.
MR. ELWOOD: So I think Creigh probably supports those folks more than McDonnell does.
TB: Right. Right. Well, do you feel that – do you feel that his support for the health-care policies that are – you know, the health-care reform that’s now going through Congress could actually add more to the burden that’s placed in – on, you know Medicare costs and medical costs in the state of Virginia? Do you feel that there’s a risk of that?
MR. ELWOOD: I don’t think there’s much risk of that. I think there’s more risk that people will not be covered by health care. I mean that we have huge numbers of people in the Commonwealth and in the nation that aren’t covered by any kind of health care. And Deeds’ support of Obama’s policies in this regard are key for me.
I mean, this is one of – one my sticking points is health care. I mean, that’s my favorite cause. And I think Creigh is probably the guy that would represent that for Virginians better than anybody.
TB: Do you feel that it’s important to have a gun in a bar?
MR. ELWOOD: (Laughs.) No. Alcohol and guns, what could go wrong, right? No.
MR. ELWOOD: That’s ridiculous. Why would anybody want to carry a gun to a bar except for a bad reason?
TB: Right. Right. Okay. That’s interesting.
Yeah, I mean, you know the NRA has – you know that that is actually apparently Deeds’ policy, though?
MR. ELWOOD: That’s interesting.
MR. ELWOOD: That’s one thing I would disagree with him on.
TB: Yeah, I was – I’m waiting to see if McDonnell will go after him on the gun issue. I think it would be – it would be a lot of fun to see if –
MR. ELWOOD: Yeah, that would be a reversal –
TB: – he could actually alienate his own right-wing base.
MR. ELWOOD: – of roles, right?
TB: Do you feel that – you know, Bob McDonnell talks a lot about values and family. And, you know, I’ve heard him talk about this for years, you know, even back to when he was speaking when he won his first election for attorney general, and he was speaking at a Kilgore rally. Actually, that’s the first time I saw him speak. I was wondering if you felt like his policies were more oriented towards family values, or if that was an empty gesture? I mean –
MR. ELWOOD: You know, I think, you know, we all have families –
MR. ELWOOD: – or most of us, anyhow.
TB: Yeah. Yeah.
MR. ELWOOD: And for any one candidate to attack another on family values is – it’s just sort of – it’s just not valid because Creigh has a family, Bob McDonnell has a family, and we all value family. We all value American life, and I think it’s a non-issue.
Lori Alexander, Mount Vernon, Va.
TB: I was just checking out some emails from our good friend McDonnell. And I – just kidding – I mean, but I was looking at it, and he is apparently criticizing the candidate, Deeds, for having a different view regarding charter schools than President Obama.
And I noticed you were talking about education.
MS. ALEXANDER: Okay.
TB: And I was wondering what your own view on charter schools was and whether you would favor, you know, the positions taken more by teachers’ unions against, like, these – testing schools in order to give them funding, rather, I mean, what your ideas are about that?
MS. ALEXANDER: You’re asking the right person.
Well, for me, actually, I went to a charter school growing up. I grew up in a very poor area, and I am not known – sometimes, I think – I don’t want to say anything negative about the teacher’s union.
MS. ALEXANDER: But I do want to say that I do in my heart back in Massachusetts that sometimes the unions think too much about money and resources and forget about the children.
As you know, that – we have a large teachers’ union in Massachusetts, where I grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts.
MS. ALEXANDER: And the teachers were horrible, but they were not allowed to fire them because the union was behind them. So I had teachers that were abusive towards me as a child, that would say racist comments to the kids because I was –
MS. ALEXANDER: – whites were a minority in my school.
MS. ALEXANDER: And I do think that teachers should be held accountable. I do think Virginia – this Virginia is not Massachusetts, though. I think Virginia has some wonderful teachers. Fairfax County has one of the best school systems in the area. However, my thinking is, is that I do think teachers need – kids need to know how to take standardized exams. And I’ll give you a good example.
I went to public schools my whole life. I took the MCAT exam. And I scored – I have a graduate degree. I scored a 2 in verbal reasoning because my schools were so poor; they never taught me how to take tests.
MS. ALEXANDER: And I’m one of those kids that are from a low-income background so we don’t do well with test-taking because most of the people that I went to school with were – the teachers called ignorant. We were poor.
So I think it’s – I think it’s very important that teachers go back to basics, and – and – and I do think that teachers need to teach kids how to speak appropriately, how to write English appropriately and how to be able to not stay in that low-income façade. Does that make sense?
TB: Here’s a statement from Bob McDonnell today. He said, “I was disappointed to see the video yesterday of my opponent supporting the comments of the head of the Virginia Education Association when it comes to charter schools and performance pay. Just two weeks ago, she wrote in The Washington Post that” – she’s talking about the union head – “‘the charters do not make sense for Virginia.’
“While campaigning with Senator Deeds this week, she again made clear determination to work behind the scenes to apparently water down or impede the president’s efforts to expand the number of charter schools nationwide, and provide performance pay for teachers and principles. It is a baffling position considering that the president and the secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, recently announced their Race To The Top education reform plan to provide billions in federal education funding for the states that would aggressively expand charter schools and enact performance pay plans.”
I mean, do you think that – do you think that –
MS. ALEXANDER: I think Obama’s doing the right thing, and if Deeds agrees with charter schools and making teachers accountable, I am totally for that. I agree with that because there are many, many good teachers, but also what my experience is some that are not very good.
TB: Well, here’s the thing. He’s was standing with the head of the teacher’s union not two days ago, and when she said that – warned about charter schools and their role, he nodded his head. It was a visual cue, and that’s why the Republican Party of Virginia and Bob McDonnell have been attacking him for that.
MS. ALEXANDER: Well, it’s hard. I mean, the only thing I can say is I do – I support Deeds. And if I don’t support – I don’t support him –
TB: What’s the most important to you?
MS. ALEXANDER: To me, it’s actually the environment. So schools are important, but the environmental issues are important; also, health care.
TB: What makes you think Deeds is going to do better things for the environment?
MS. ALEXANDER: Well, because I’m a member of the League of Conservation Voters.
MS. ALEXANDER: And Deeds has had over 80 percent to 100 percent ratings.
MS. ALEXANDER: We – the League of Conservation Voters rate both Democrats and Republicans, and he is way off the chart. He’s against the coal plant, and I think all of those things are important.
TB: Which one?
MS. ALEXANDER: In Surry.
MS. ALEXANDER: The Surry coal plant.
So actually that’s – what I really like about Deeds is his environmental policies. But when it comes to schools, I probably am a little bit more moderate.
MS. ALEXANDER: I do believe that there’s some teachers that if they’re not cutting it, they need to go. They need to go.
And I do – I actually do agree with vouchers. I’m a voucher person. I’m sorry.
TB: The crowd swarms in for the kill!
MS. ALEXANDER: But you know what? Because – you know what, I should not have to have been put in the abusive school. I was beat up; I was threatened because these parents didn’t take care of their kids, and they were taking their anger out on me. And no kid should have to be put through that.
TB: Okay. And you feel the union impeded that –
MS. ALEXANDER: Oh, yeah! Of course they did.
Yvonne Surette, Herndon, Va.
TB: Well, then, I mean, you would disagree about the unions, though, right?
MS. SURETTE: I don’t think there’s enough data on charter schools.
MS. SURETTE: There’s conflicting data. There are studies that show they don’t do any better. There are some studies that show that they do better. And there’s so much conflicting information about SOLs about about No Child Left Behind. I think it’s almost impossible to tell. It’s too early to tell how charter schools are doing.
TB: Then why – then what is the issue that brings you the most here? As opposed to McDonnell, what issue do you see as being the biggest difference between them?
MS. SURETTE: Between the two of them?
TB: You’re not going to say guns. But what do you feel?
MS. SURETTE: I just cannot in good conscience vote for a Republican ever.
TB: But that’s not an issue.
MS. SURETTE: Nope. To me, it’s a broad range of issues. There’s not one particular issue. Virginia has got to remain a blue state. We’ve got to have both Democratic senators and a Democratic governor within a Democratic administration. It’s the only thing that’s going to save this country.
TB: But it’s not nominal. There must be some policy that makes you –
MS. SURETTE: You want me to say a policy?
TB: – when you think Republicans and you get frightened, what do you think?
MS. SURETTE: (Laughs.) Okay, let’s take health care.
MS. SURETTE: The Republican position on health care is ridiculous. It’s they want people to – if they’re poor, hell with you. It’s an unkind position.
It’s like not letting gay people marry. It’s just keeping people out of hospital room when they’re dying partner. They can’t go in because they’re not next of kin. It’s just the same kind of thing.
And I think we need to regard health care as the way we regard the police and the fire, you know? If you’re poor or rich, they’re going to come and rescue you. It’s doesn’t matter. Health care has to be exactly the same way. It has to be public. It has to be – you know, there has to be a single-payer system. Everybody. There’s 50 million people in this country without health care. And that would be issue today.
TB: Would you support single-payer health care –
MS. SURETTE: Absolutely.
TB: – if it made it so that Virginia had to take more of its own funds to pay for Medicare?
MS. SURETTE: Absolutely. And even if it means an increase in taxes. The good of the community is what matters.
I come also from Massachusetts where just like California years ago we had something called Proposition Two and a Half, I think it was, like Prop 13 in California. People vote against their own best interests. You know, they don’t see the future. They don’t see that. “Oh, I’ll get $100 chopped off of my tax bill!” But they’re going to close the schools. You’re not going to have a neurologist when you’re old. You’re an idiot if you don’t support education.
TB: And about single payer, is there a level – what level of income annually would you –
MS. SURETTE: Two hundred and fifty thousand (dollars). (Laughs.)
TB: Would – you would – okay. You got it. There you go.
MS. SURETTE: Yeah. (Laughs.) I think that’s the administrative position.
Delegate Charles Caputo
TB: I was wondering, one what issue do you see the biggest difference between Bob McDonnell and Deeds?
DEL. CAPUTO: You know, the biggest issue that defines Deeds is the ability to relate to the needs of the people and fulfill them.
Judy White, Springfield, Va.
TB: What do you see as the biggest – on what issue do you see the biggest difference between Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds?
MS. WHITE: Transportation.
TB: Transportation. On what sense? In what way?
MS. WHITE: Because Bob McDonnell has a plan, but they say it won’t work.
TB: Who’s “they?” The?
MS. WHITE: Other members of –
TB: The House of Delegates? General Assembly?
MS. WHITE: Yeah.
TB: All right. What is Deeds’ plan? And why do you think it would be more likely to work?
MS. WHITE: He doesn’t really have a set plan that I know of yet.
MS. WHITE: If he does, I haven’t read about it.
TB: Okay. But Bob McDonnell’s formulated but bad plan is what makes you say that’s the biggest difference, right?
MS. WHITE: Uhm, well, I think the biggest difference is one’s a Republican and one’s a Democrat.
TB: (Laughs.) Right. Right.
MS. WHITE: (Laughs.)
TB: But, I mean, it’s foggier than that. I mean, on the gun issue, I would say, you know, you wouldn’t say it’s so typical, you know?
MS. WHITE: Right.
TB: Right. I’m just throwing that out as an example. It’s not to really jog it.
Yeah, I mean, most of the people I hear from hear, you know, say just in general, “I’m a Democrat. I would vote for a Democrat.”
But, you know, I want to get the heart of the candidates. I mean, obviously, there’s some position he could take that would make you say, “I’m sitting out” or “I’m voting for a third party” or something like that.
MS. WHITE: Well, that’s why most of us are here because we don’t really know a whole lot about Deeds yet.
Frank Blechman, Fairfax
TB: What do you see as the biggest policy difference between the two candidates?
MR. BLECHMAN: Bob McDonell has built a career out of saying, “No.” And Deeds has built a career out of saying, “Yes.” I think it’s a character difference, not a policy difference.
TB: Okay. So you just see Bob McDonnell as being less moral?
MR. BLECHMAN: No, it’s not a question of moral. It’s a question of, do you really care about solving problems? Why are you running to be a leader of a government?
MR. BLECHMAN: A government is about doing the things together that we can’t do alone. So if you want to get things done, then you figure out how to get things done.
TB: What has he – he said, “No” to? What do you – like, what –
MR. BLECHMAN: He said no to fixing the roads. He said no to expanding higher education. You got a no about expanding health care for children. I mean, you want me to go on? I’ll give a long list.
TB: Yeah, please.
MR. BLECHMAN: He said as part of the Republican leadership of the House no to making the tax structure more fair. I mean, those are just four. And I think possibly the one that here in Northern Virginia cuts quite a bit is he said no on the environment; we’re not going to spend any more money actually trying to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Eventually, he got beaten into it. But it’s – his inclination is to say, “No, I don’t care about any of those things. I care about cutting taxes, making government smaller.”
That’s terrific. He should go run a corporation. He shouldn’t try to run government.
TB: Could you name an annual figure of income at which you would say, “We can’t raise taxes on people who make this much per year?”
MR. BLECHMAN: Let me tell you. In Virginia, you hit the top income-tax bracket –
MR. BLECHMAN: – at $17,500 of taxable income.
MR. BLECHMAN: That level was set when the new top bracket was added in 1964. The original top bracket, which you hit at $7,500, was set in 1927. Those numbers have not moved, have never been adjusted. I think $17,500 as the top tax bracket is too low. We have a virtually flat tax – income-tax system. And our total income-tax system is quite regressive because we depended on fees and on sales taxes.
So, for me, I would raise the top income. I would either add a new top income-tax bracket –
MR BLECHMAN: – or I would raise the level of tax on the top income-tax bracket, and raise the point at which it went into effect?
TB: Right. And to ask you a question that might seem obvious –
MR. BLECHMAN: I understand what you’re doing.
TB: – you’re talking. Yeah. You’re asking – you’re talking about 17,000 (dollars) per year?
MR. BLECHMAN: Taxable income, you hit the top income-tax bracket in Virginia.
TB: If you make $17,000 per year?
MR. BLECHMAN: Seventeen thousand five hundred, you hit the top income-tax bracket in Virginia.
TB: That’s not 70 (thousand dollars)? It’s –
MR. BLECHMAN: No, one seven comma five zero zero.
TB: Oh, wow.
MR BLECHMAN: So that’s a – that’s not a very progressive tax. I think you should raise the level at which that top tax applies, and increase the amount.
TB: Do you feel that you need a gun in a bar?
MR. BLECHMAN: I don’t. But I live in Northern Virginia.
TB: All right.
MR. BLECHMAN: I have to tell you, I was in a meeting a couple of years ago where neighborhood activists were sitting around.
MR. BLECHMAN: And folks from Alexandria were talking about trying to get the city to help them with – control rats.
MR. BLECHMAN: And folks from down in Abbingdon said, “What are you talking about? Take your gun and shoot ‘em!”
MR. BLECHMAN: Why do you need the city to control rats?
Well, the folks from Alexandria tried to explain why firing a gun in a crowded neighborhood to try to hit rats is a dangerous thing to do. Folks down say just, “I don’t get it. Who need government to deal with rats?”
MR. BLECHMAN: Well, living here in Northern Virginia, I don’t feel that I need a gun for my public safety.
MR. BLECHMAN: I don’t feel safer carrying a gun. I don’t feel safer when I’m in places where I see people swaggering around with weapons on their hips. I don’t go to bars that much, but I sure don’t need a gun there. And I think it’s bad public policy.
TB: It seems like in a lot of the language I see coming out of nationwide congressional Republican leadership, there is a more of a demonization of government roles and of social programs. They would say, for example, like, you know, that a government takeover of health care was a bad thing; whereas, a Democratic politician would say, oh, well, it’s rather an action of the many, and they would say that, “Oh, well, it’s the people doing this for each other.”
You know, I was wondering if you feel like government has become a swear word to Republicans?
MR. BLECHMAN: Well, since 1976. This is not a new development.
MR BLECHMAN: This is a generational development.
TB: Why ’76?
MR. BLECHMAN: Seventy-six is the year when Ronald Reagan begins his ascendency, and the whole group of pollsters and speechwriters that came with him that made liberal an evil word; made it not just an incidental part of their campaigns as Nixon had in ’68 and ’72, but a deliberate, central part of the campaign. And then that became the Reagan Revolution. “Government is the problem,” not the solution.
Now, in fairness, Democrats got so cowed and scared, very few Democrats would say government is the solution. And we’re not back to a point yet where we have usefully defined, what are the things that government can do better than private industry? And, until we do, we’re going to have a hard time winning votes on those issues.
. . .
MR. BLECHMAN: I believe that a single-payer system will save us in the first 10 years somewhere between 15 (percent) and 25 percent of what we’re now spending on health care. So I’m willing to take that gamble. But I understand it’s a gamble.
TB: I guess I was trying to focus on an issue. Is there any particular issue that’s most important to you about Deeds, that is the most serious reason for voting for him?
MR. BLECHMAN: Well, in Northern Virginia, on every poll, the number one issue is transportation. And as guy from Hampton Roads, which has huge transportation problems, McDonnell voted no to fund transportation. And as a guy from Bath Country that does not have huge transport needs, Deeds was willing to on the limb, and say we have to fund transportation; we have to do it statewide; we cannot do it with a Northern Virginia tax or a Hampton Road tax, and we have to do it on a statewide basis. That’s an issue of tremendous integrity. It’s an issue that won him the primary. And it’s going ot win him the general.