The Richmond Times-Dispatch's lead editorial takes a shot a Style this morning, pointing out just how “painfully stupid” it is for us to criticize the tea partiers for holding their anti-government, anti-tax spending rally at the Greater Richmond Convention Center this weekend.
They didn't reference Style by name, which is a bit cowardly, but it was directed at our back page written by Don Harrison, “Bitter Tea,” and two blog posts by contributing editor Peter Galuszka, both of which point out the hypocrisy of the tea party raging against high taxes and big government at the convention center, a $350 million taxpayer sinkhole. It's worth reading the T-D's editorial, “Tea and Straw,” and then this essay by Garland Pollard, former reporter and editor for Style, Inside Business and Virginia Living, before delving into the issue. Now, back to the T-D:
“If the Tea Partiers are supposed to shun the convention center because public money went into it, then they're hypocrites for driving on government-funded streets, too. (Why don't they use jetpacks to get from place to place? Hunh? Hunh?!)”
Per the T-D's suggestion, let's strap on our dunce caps. Roads, presumably, are public necessities the same way that schools are public necessities. We pay taxes to build and maintain them. We need roads to get to work, for example, and to transport goods from manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer. Roads, one might then conclude, are important, perhaps even critical, main arteries in our market-based economy.
And despite this very clear need for public roads, the Republican-controlled, anti-tax General Assembly has fought vigorously against raising taxes to build new roads in Virginia over the past few years. As a result, the Virginia Department of Transportation has no money to build new roads and streets; its budget primarily goes toward maintaining the roads we already have. Maybe the T-D should run an editorial campaign for those jetpacks after all, much like the T-D editorial page supported wasting hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars on the convention center, the performing arts center and a new baseball stadium (we forgot about that one) despite the fact that none of these projects will generate any economic benefit to the Richmond region. Roads, highways, streets even, are in fact pretty important to our local economy. Just ask long-time limited government proponent John Watkins, the Republican state senator from Powhatan. Ask him about Route 288, and how your tax dollars helped build a road that made his family rich a few years back.
So, even if you wanted to compare the two -- giant, $350 million taxpayer sinkholes that produce no new economic spinoff and burdens only a select group of taxpayers to, say, taxpayer-funded roads that everybody pays for and benefits our entire political and economic structure -- our current conservative leadership still wouldn't support spending new tax dollars on roads. And, interestingly, no one seemed to care when their conservative buddies in the business community cooked up a plan to blow $600 million of your tax dollars to build a convention center and the amenities around it.
It should also be noted that, thanks in part to all of this taxpayer largesse, City Hall had to send a delegation of nine administrators and politicians to New York last week, at taxpayer expense, to plead with the bond-rating agencies to cut them a break. You see, the city is skirting dangerously close to its debt capacity limit and needs to float $196 million in new bonds for schools and other infrastructure, and to take over the flailing $66.7 million Broad Street Community Development Authority, another taxpayer-bleeding scheme cooked up by the same people who brought us the convention center. If it goes belly up, as it would if the city doesn't intervene, then Richmond's bond ratings will take a hit. If that happens our interest rates will go up the next time we need to float bonds to build, say, schools or improve roads, thus costing taxpayers even more.
Perhaps it was “painfully stupid” to suggest that the anti-tax, limited government movement that will decide the November elections might want to know that they are holding their anti-tax, limited government convention in a $350 million tax burden. I'd suggest, at least, it's worth noting. It's too bad our state capital's daily newspaper, our supposed government watchdog, doesn't think so.