June 5, 2005 [LINK]

Hardball in the Old Dominion

With only nine more days until the primary election, a sharp split seems to have emerged within Republican ranks in Virginia, as the candidates for lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling and Sean Connaughton, and for attorney general, Bob McDonnell and Steve Baril, have relased campaign literature and TV ads filled with mudslinging and even some distortions. Everyone claims to be a "real" conservative and everyone says they are against taxes, leaving the average voter quite confused.

From my perspective, the problem is that none of the leaders in either party wants to candidly address why it is that property taxes have soared in the past couple years. It's the result not of tax rate hikes, but of rapid increase in property assessments which reflect a classic speculative bubble in the real estate market. That surge is being fueled by purchases of second and third homes as investments by upper-middle class people who are taking advantage of the bogus Federal income tax deduction for mortgage interest rates. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: That deduction constitutes one of the most outrageous entitlements in our country today, and it is beginning to have severe distortionary effects on the rest of the economy. Too bad so few politicians are willing to face up to this simple fact.

Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore is the overwhelming favorite in the primary race for governor against Warrenton mayor George Fitch, an independent-minded guy who has a background in sports. If some Democrats have their way, however, the race might be a lot tighter than expected. Barnie Day, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, openly urges his party members to vote in the Republican primary in order to defeat Kilgore. That's not kosher, but these days such tactics are all too common. See Augusta Free Press.

Bipartisan fund sleaze

One of the recent lesser-known scandals in Washington involves a lobbyist named Jack Abramoff who was seeking favorable laws for casinos on Indian reservations. Most of the money went to Republicans, as one would expect since they have been the majority party for several years. Democrats have been trying to exploit the issue as part of their campaign against Tom DeLay, but Friday's Washington Post reports that a substantial portion of the money spread around by Abramofff went to Democrats. Most notable among them was Patrick Kennedy, who came in a close second to Montana Sen. Conrad Burns.