Different state, same you-know-what

A page-one story in Sunday’s edition of The Washington Post describes the dealings of several new-ish members of Virginia’s House of Delegates. (Trivia bonus: it’s the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World.) The piece highlights some of the assembly’s young participants, though the issues they face are far from new. Unfortunately their so-called solutions suffer from the same problem.

Delegate Will Morefield (“R”-Tazewell) and Delegate Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) are millennial legislators “divided by party but united by need,” as the Post proclaims. United by something is the way I’d describe it, by a phrase that might not be as nice. Morefield and Aird are both from disaffected areas of the state. They’re poor and cut off from the gold mine where I live and everyone else is trying to move to. I used to live in a place like this too. It’s called Binghamton, and for years I watched politicians of both parties try one “economic development” gimmick after another to attract business and investment. Actually, no, attracting business and investment needs no gimmick. It’s a result more of stability than of gamesmanship. But nobody grandstands on stability.

Enter Will Morefield, someone about whom I knew nothing before Sunday, but seems like both a sorry excuse for a Republican and a sorry excuse as a representative of my generation. His grand idea? Offer tax breaks to companies that locate in “disadvantaged places”—breaks that would exempt each employee from paying state income tax for 10 years.

The thing about gimmicks is, they fail because they’re gimmicks. This is neither new nor useful, and ignores laws of mathematics and economics.

“The state’s not losing any money,” claims Morefield, who obviously majored in fuzzy math. (This is me reaching for my wallet.) “These companies aren’t here anyway.” (True, though what about companies who already are here and have been paying taxes? If you owned a restaurant and then one opened across the street that didn’t have to pay taxes, how’dja feel about that?) “Wealthy areas roll out the red carpet all the time to lure Facebook data centers or pro sports stadiums. It’s about time Tazewell County got some of that love.”

(My opponents are cheating by doing this unholy thing. I’m going to start doing this unholy thing too. But it’s cool. Don’t worry.)

Delegate Aird has gotten the Petersburg City Council to adopt a resolution endorsing the plan. She and Morefield, members of the “millennial caucus” (let the record show I’ve never liked people of my own generation), are now pushing the bill statewide.

My diagnosis?

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

“I feel like the old members are pretty stuck in their ways,” Aird said, as though age and seniority are somehow blocking this bold new idea. No, it’s a bad idea, and hardly a new one. Taking one taxpayer’s money and giving it to another is as old as government itself. That it now has hip sponsors or a trendy new oversight committee (the “Virginia Economic Development Partnership”—cue wallet reach again) doesn’t change a thing.

Vanguard eye for the news.

I still got it.

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About moc

My name is Mike O'Connell. I am 35 years old and live in Northern Virginia. I am a teacher, a musician, and an enthusiast of all things American.

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