Roz Helderman had a pedestrian B1 (Metro section) story on the Virginia governor’s race Sunday. It broke no new ground, and it can be argued that its greatest value was that it reinforced a Republican point of view that taxes are one of the most critical issues facing voters in November.
It can also be argued that an article this soon in the race, at the height of the summer doldrums, will not impact the contest to any great degree.
But more disturbing is that this presages the kind of coverage we’re going to get from The Post on the race.
Even Republican nominee Bob McDonnell recently tried to downplay the tax issue by saying that he wouldn’t take the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge.
But Helderman and her editors, basically being lazy by re-hashing old tax/no tax arguments, lets us know that The Post, at least, is going to follow this political line throughout the campaign. This was the first article since the Democratic primary that discussed an issue, instead of being a process article. And of all the issues The Post could have addressed, they picked taxes.
What we can expect, then, is that Helderman will be asking tax questions throughout the campaign. Why? Because it’s easier to do that than study the more complex issues facing the electorate, such as how are we going to fund necessary transportation improvements in this down economy?
As a favor to the GOP, Helderman details votes Democratic candidate state Sen. Creigh Deeds has taken and suggests Deeds speaks with forked tongue.
Deeds, too, has said he does not intend to propose a tax increase. But he has promised to try to fix the state’s roads and rails — an issue often assumed to carry a $1 billion-a-year price tag — in his first year in office.
Basically she’s saying he can’t do it without raising taxes.
Does she ask how McDonnell might address the transportation problem? No, but she assures us he won’t raise taxes.
[She quoted McDonnell] "I think in a down economy like this, it’s a very bad time to be levying more gas and sales tax on the hardworking citizens of Virginia."
And Helderman gives a prize piece of article real estate to those who argue taxes shouldn’t raised, as she concludes with,
But the economic downturn and a yawning budget gap may provide new resonance for the tax issue this year, said George Mason University professor Mark J. Rozell.
"The state of the economy is so dramatically different than it was in the last election cycle four or eight years ago," he said. "There is a different dynamic out there today."
My argument with this article is not so much what Helderman says or doesn’t say in it. It’s more of a disappointment that we can expect The Post to take the easy way out in its gubernatorial election coverage.
No one loves paying taxes. But real leadership doesn’t start with talking about taxes. How many of us start our day by saying, “Shall I spend something today, or should I try to make more money than I did yesterday?” No, we look at what we have, what we would lie, and make a decision whether it’s a good idea to pay for some things now that we know would be a good investment later. A house comes to mind. But any decision we make about money basically comes down to what we want and how much we’re willing to sacrifice for it.
The first step for politicians then should be, “This is the vision I have, and here’s how I propose paying for it.” Wasting valuable newsprint on whether we should raise taxes absent what we’d use them for means that much less discussion on what we want as an electorate.