In today's editorial about Governor Jack Markell's "realistic" plan to fix Delaware's infrastructure via $250 million in new taxes (highlighted by 10 cents per gallon gas tax increase) and $250 million in borrowing, the WNJ editorial board finds four reasons that such a plan is probably going nowhere.
And, guess what?
All four reasons boil down to the idea that YOU--the voter--are too stupid to support a plan that's good for you.
Lest you think I'm making this up, let's look:
Guess what? That realistic plan appears to be going nowhere.
There are four reasons the proposal is in trouble:
First, this is an election year and members of the Legislature are afraid of raising taxes in an election year.
Translation: Delaware legislators believe that Delaware voters are too stupid to ever vote for them again after they voted for a tax increase, no matter how necessary.
Unfortunately, this flies in the face of the facts. It would be difficult to find a Democratic lawmaker whose seat would be seriously jeopardized by voting for this tax, because it would be difficult to find too many Democratic lawmakers facing credible challenges from Republicans anywhere. Moreover, the track record of Delaware voters punishing politicians for their transgressions--real or perceived--is damn near non-existent. Delaware state employee unions continued to support the Democrats even after a pay cut and the repeated year-by-year refusal of Democratic politicians to vote them pay raises.
So the idea that Delaware voters--especially Democratic voters--are going to punish their politicians for a gas tax hike is so much pandering on the News Journal's part to the whining of the politicians.
How about this one?
Second, much of the public believes roads come with no cost. They don’t care about future projections of need. They want the service without the cost.
Aside from the fact that this is an assertion without evidence (you get to do that on an editorial page), it amounts to an assertion that the people of Delaware are TOO STUPID to believe that roads and bridges cost money, and that they--not a state government that has squandered an mismanaged their tax money for years--are responsible for the present state of our infrastructure.
After all, it was apparently (just ask the News Journal) the voters and not the politicians who "invested" in Fisker and Bloom; who routinely throw away tens of millions in corporate welfare; who fund pet projects at the expense of the general good . . . .
In fact, I routinely hear motorists (with their windows open and seat belts off) shouting into their cell phones as they drive through the toll booth: "Thank God I live in Delaware where the roads are free!"
Or this one:
Third, the public is suspicious of government in general and the Department of Transportation in particular. Not too many months ago Delawareans were fed up with election campaign “play-for-pay” schemes that involved special favors through DelDOT. They also remember the enormous and costly screw-ups with the Indian River Bridge. And, going back further, they remember the cozy deals some landlords cooked up with DelDOT to buy excess land. Current DelDOT officials deserve credit for working hard to clean up the problems and to reduce the department’s enormous debt.
In other words, we are all stupid because we don't think a decade's worth of corruption, malfeasance, and incompetence in DelDOT has disappeared overnight?
As to why we're suspicious of government in general, let's not forget the Veasey report, the Treasurer's office, secret AG opinions, government trying to "out" bloggers/social media writers via subpoena, a shredded Coastal Zone Act, Fisker, Bloom, the charter school slush fund . . .
I could go on, but it seems to me that if we are suspicious of government in Delaware it's not because we're stupid, but because the government in Delaware is corrupt, inept, and totally consumed with "Delaware Way" party politics instead of looking out for the interests of our citizens.
To the extent that we keep voting these people in--guilty as charged.
And the final WNJ argument that we're stupid?
Finally, the governor’s plan is weak because he actually did what politicians are supposed to do, but rarely do. He told the truth. He put a tag on the proposal.
It is at that point the public debate should begin. Do we really need these repairs? Does the governor have the projects in the right order? Should he have included all of them? Are some weaker than others? Is borrowing $250 million the right thing to do? Can we afford the tax? Are there alternatives? Is the governor right? Or is he wrong?
Uh, hello? Some of us out there have been trying to do exactly that--have a debate over the merits of the policy, over the priorities, and over the funding mechanisms.
But not the News Journal.
The News Journal has only been interested in sound-byte coverage of politicians weighing in on the gasoline tax. The News Journal has not run an article on the relative merits of the proposed infrastructure projects, has not consulted experts about their execution, has not stimulated a dialogue about possible funding strategies.
That's because the News Journal editorial staff apparently thinks you are too stupid to deal with all that.
Cue Jack Nicholson: "You can't handle the truth!"
That's what the News Journal--and most Delaware politicians--think of you.