Government to citizenry: vote for us!
I hesitate to post this, because 1) it’s a local thing; b) it’s not directly relevant to Catholicism; and 4) John might get mad at me. But since he posted a critique of the Food Network a few weeks ago, I figure I’m okay.
What I want to preach about is (wait! don’t click away! this is relevant to you, even if you don’t live around here!) the Northern Virginia Transportation Referendum. In a nutshell, the NVTR would raise sales tax one-half of one percent in northern Virginia and spend the money on roads, buses, and subway lines. Like all taxes, this one is supposed to be a teeny-weeny tax that no one will feel, like the federal income tax in 1913, which was originally a one-percent tax on millionaires. (Don’t you feel like a millionaire on April 15? I know I do!)
Sales taxes are inherently regressive, because poor people consume almost all of their income, and therefore sales taxes are proportionately higher for them. That isn’t my primary problem, though. What’s vexing me are the ads covering Metro buses, trains, and stations, encouraging us to vote for the referendum. They’re not saying “vote,” of course, they’re just saying they “endorse” the measure, and tell us that it would bring $2 billion to Metro. (The ads never mention that it’s our money we’re voting to spend; perhaps public imagines that the Funds Fairy will descend from the heavens with bushel bags marked “$$$”.)
I love Metrorail. I’ve never been on a better subway system — it’s clean, safe, and relatively cheap. Furthermore, I think it would be a good idea to expand it. But don’t you think it’s dangerous to have a government entity ask us to vote a particular way? The American system is predicated on self-government, the idea that the public ought to decide how we are governed, and who will govern us. By all means, let’s argue about the proper means and ends of government. But should government itself try to get in on the act, especially when it’s asking for more government?
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this in Virginia. The public university I attended sent out a letter from the president’s office two years ago asking us to support another referendum. It was on JMU letterhead, and signed by the university president. Supposedly, the letter was paid for by the alumni association, but the clear implication was that the university wanted us to vote for the issue. Right now, JMU is trying to get people to vote on a bond referendum that will provide $100 million for the school, and they’ve held on-campus rallies complete with a band, cheerleaders, and the Duke Dog. The university president has sent another endorsement letter so he can get the extra cash. I don’t think any of this was paid for by the alumni association.
Isn’t that a little shady? What’s the next step? Will Metro endorse pro-Metro candidates? Does anyone else see anything wrong here?