TOLLS ON I-66 AND OBAMA VETOES NATIONAL DEFENSE BILL

The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs, illustrated by Milo Winter in a 1919 edition.
The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs, illustrated by Milo Winter in a 1919 edition. (from here)

What do the possibility of tolls on I-66 and President Barack Obama’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act have in common? How could these two seemingly unrelated stories have anything in common? Both are part of a greater, national story, a true story of frothing mad greed.

Think about that old children’s tale. Here is version from Aesop’s Fables.

The Goose With the Gold Egg

ONE day a countryman going to the nest of his Goose found there an egg all yellow and glittering. When he took it up it was as heavy as lead and he was going to throw it away, because he thought a trick had been played upon him. But he took it home on second thoughts, and soon found to his delight that it was an egg of pure gold. Every morning the same thing occurred, and he soon became rich by selling his eggs. As he grew rich he grew greedy; and thinking to get at once all the gold the Goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find,—nothing.

Tolls On I-66

Unfortunately, the idea of tolls on I-66 is something VDOT likes.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne today announced a plan to ease congestion on the traffic-clogged Interstate 66. Proposed improvements would move more people, enhance connectivity and provide new travel options on I-66, from I-495 (the Capital Beltway) to U.S. Route 29 in Rosslyn.

Tolling is proposed on this section of I-66 in both directions during rush hours to deliver free-flowing and more reliable travel, and support multimodal improvements that benefit I-66. Vehicles with three or more people would travel the lanes for free during peak periods, while other drivers would pay a toll to use the lanes. The lanes would remain free to all traffic during off-peak periods. (Continued here on VDOT’s website)

What would be done with the money? Our glorious leaders would collect the money from I-66 commuters and spend it on other, unnamed projects. Essentially, the toll is just a another way to milk the “rich” in Northern Virginia.

Here are some sample news stories.

  • I-66 inside Beltway toll plan unpopular at town hall (potomaclocal.com): Covers a Haymarket, VA townhall on the subject.  Delegate Bob Marshall (R) expressed this observation: “These tolls will affect the value of your home and the number of businesses that will locate here.” Don Shaw, his Democratic Party opponent said: “This is not a partisan issue.” Apparently, Shaw wishes Governor Terry McAuliffe, a DEMOCRAT, had waited until after the election to propose more taxes.
  • With big TV ad buy in Va. House races, Republicans zero in on I-66 toll plan (www.washingtonpost.com): With it’s usual air of neutrality, The Washington Post defends local Democrats. Of course, local Democrats don’t support taxing the local “rich.” It is those “rich” people somewhere else they want to tax.
  • The basics of Gov. McAuliffe’s I-66 toll plan (www.loudountimes.com): This article addresses the mechanics of collecting the tolls and gives some idea who would pay.
  • I-66 Toll Plan Faces Heavy Criticism (www.leesburgtoday.com): Here we get a synopsis of what some have been saying.
  • House Republicans Call on McAuliffe to Shelve I-66 Toll Plan (thebullelephant.com): This posts a release from Speaker Bill Howell’s office. He is against this proposed tax increase.
  • STOP I-66 tolls (www.delegatebob.com): Delegate Bob Marshall (R) has a history of being against tax increases. Of course, he is against this one too, and with good reason.
  • Sen. Dick Black Fighting I-66 $17.00 Tolls (www.facebook.com): Similarly, Senator Dick Black (R) is against the I-66 toll. His problem is that his opponent wants to paint him as against birth control, but think about it. Even if he was totally against birth control, what could he possibly do about it? It is a non-issue, a silly, lying distraction, by a candidate who is vehemently supported by that reliable bastion of truth, justice, and the American way, Planned Parenthood (Do you need parts from a dead baby? Give them a call.).

President Barack Obama Uses His Pen To Veto A Defense Bill

That, congressional Republicans said, is an unprecedented and irresponsible use of the veto power.

“The president has vowed to veto it. Why? Because he wants to stop and spend more money on his domestic agenda,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday. “It’s time to put our troops first, time to stop playing political games.”

Since Congress started passing annual defense policy bills in 1961, they’ve been vetoed four times by Presidents Carter, Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush. Each time, it was for a specific policy reason: a nuclear aircraft carrier for Carter, missile defense for Reagan and Clinton, and Iraq policy for Bush. (from Obama vetoes defense bill in high-stakes showdown over spending (www.usatoday.com))

Think about what Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. That defense bill is $612 billion. As big as that sounds, the defense budget is still only a small part of the Federal Budget. In 2016, the Federal Government is expected to spend about $0.9 trillion on defense out of a $4.0 trillion budget (from here). Yet consider how Sequestration works.

What is sequestration? 
Sequestration is a tool to implement strict spending cuts agreed to under the 2011 Budget Control Act, which required $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts split evenly between Defense and non-Defense agencies. (from here (www.afge.org))

What was Boehner thinking when he agreed to such nonsense? Isn’t NATIONAL DEFENSE the primary job of the Federal Government? Apparently not. Half the Federal Budget goes into Social Security and health care programs. So it is now “politically safer” to cut defense spending.

What is Obama up to?

“Obama says he opposes the bill because it uses creative budget maneuvers to boost defense spending by $38 billion without increasing domestic spending. Obama wants higher spending for both,” reports ABC News, which also mentions the President was upset that the bill would make it harder for him to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. (from Obama Vetoes $612B Defense Bill Over Gitmo, Increased Defense Spending (www.breitbart.com))

As usual, Obama wants to waste more money, and he apparently wants to turn terrorists loose on us too.

What will Republicans do? If history is any indication, they will make some noise. In fact, the clucking chickens have already started.

Republicans erupted in near-universal criticism. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, called the veto “misguided, cynical and downright dangerous.” And more than a dozen House and Senate Republicans, including Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, joined in accusing Obama of putting politics ahead of the troops. (Obama vetoes $612 billion defense policy bill over budget dispute with Republicans (www.usnews.com))

However, Republicans will probably fold.

Republicans have pledged to attempt to override Obama’s veto, but it’s unlikely they have the votes to do so.

The Senate voted 70-27 to pass the bill, and overriding the veto would require 67 votes. But Democratic leaders have said some members would switch their vote to avoid defying the president.

The House vote count, 270-156, would not be enough to override a veto, which would take 290 votes.

Asked how confident the White House is Obama’s veto will be sustained, White House spokesman Eric Schultz replied: “very.” (Obama vetoes defense bill (thehill.com))

Consider the temptation. Republicans now have a ready-made excuse to increase spending. They can blame Democrats.

Other reports

Concluding Observations

In Fiscal Year 2015 (ended on September 30th), the Federal Deficit was $438.9 billion (from here). Undoubtedly, that deficit was disappointingly small for some of our elected leaders.

Virginia’s Constitution requires a balanced budget. Hence, that explains Governor Terry McAuliffe’s eagerness to find another revenue stream.

Are you a taxpayer? To many of our political leaders, you are a goose that lays golden eggs. Watch out for politicians with sharp instruments.

19 thoughts on “TOLLS ON I-66 AND OBAMA VETOES NATIONAL DEFENSE BILL

  1. The CBO reports that individual tax returns in 2014 netted approximately 1.3 trillion dollars. Corporate tax returns netted just about 350 billion. I’m no Bernie Sanders, but the loopholes for federal corporate taxes are so glaring, it is actually unjust for them to continue since it is placing the majority of the tax burden on the people, especially ones who can’t afford an accounting firm/department to dance around the tax law. When the stock market can go up, as the recent trends have suggested, and the majority of Americans can’t feel the difference. then there is a problem. Perhaps the problem is not less verse more regulation but actually finding the best regulation. But then again, that would assume a definition of justice that is common to the people living in a given society. Since justice, as far as I can make out, is defined in America as giving each person what someone else thinks they should earn because such notions about justice are relative and can be defined by the individual with God-like infallibility, I see no reason to hope for positive change.

    Also, the mandatory spending–Social Security and Medicare–is a separate pot of money entirely. Notice on your pay stub that there are three taxes? Income, Medicare, and Social Security are three different parts. The latter two are separate because they have to be paid with the money gotten specifically for them i.e. Medicare money can only be collected and spent on Medicare. Sequestration doesn’t touch it and it is proper to include that spending in the budget at all since the money comes into the treasury already earmarked. So really, this is a war over about 34% of the budget.

    Sequestration hits all executive agencies. This includes the EPA, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, and so on. In order to actually have a compromise, they decided to cut ALL agencies, not just defense or education or energy or whatever. Understanding that budgets are full of special interest, this is really the only fair way of reducing our costs. I say this as someone who has livelihood attached to that defense budget. Frankly, there are places they could cut that they don’t think about like office furniture. But where would the economy in Northern Virginia, a large part of the commonwealth’s income, were to shrink because the budget doesn’t allow for as many contractors?

    Like

    1. Here is an old post on Social Security.
      https://citizentom.com/2011/06/20/when-will-we-admit-we-have-been-robbed/

      The Social Security tax and the Medicare taxes are just taxes. The trust funds don’t have any money in them.
      Here is how the government describes it.

      https://www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/factsheets/WhatAreTheTrust.htm

      https://www.medicare.gov/about-us/how-medicare-is-funded/medicare-funding.html

      The government borrows money from itself and pays interest to itself? You don’t see a problem with that?

      Like

      1. I don’t deny the system is not immensely complicated and doesn’t make much sense. All I am saying is that, as immensely complicated as it seems, it is even more so.

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        1. The government has no business operating such a system. We are the government. If we cannot understand it — I don’t claim to, and you sure don’t — we have no business trying to do so. We got by well enough without it, and it is going bankrupt.

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        2. It does leave much to be desired. I believe it is unjust, in a democratic–in the sense that the sovereign power rest with the demos–society like ours, to have the theoretical rulers ignorant of how they are governing. Two paths seem most logical. Either the processes of government must be simplified to meet the educational limits of the lowest common denominator or the whole populace needs to be more educated.

          Like

        3. Have you not noticed what a wreck our government is making out of our education system?

          Even without the ethical problems that arise what you are suggesting is just plain foolishness. Why? It is far less complicated to let people run their own businesses than it is to try to run their businesses for them. For example, I don’t know how to make a car or build a house, and I don’t have to know how to make a car or build a house. I just have to learn to buy a car or a house.

          Nevertheless, some people think they are very smart. They want to run car companies, build houses, run hospitals, phone companies,…. In other words, even though they could not possibly have either the expertise or the time required to do a good job, they are socialists (busybodies) who want to stick their noses into everyone elses business.

          Our real protection is competition. Instead letting government eliminate competition, we need to make certain government protects those businesses which compete honestly from predators. That includes socialist busybodies.

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        4. I simply propose that, if the workings of government are too complicated for the ultimate sovereign i.e. the people to fully grasp and understand it, then the workings of government must be simplified so that the most ignorant individual can understand them, or each individual needs to have the knowledge necessary to understand the complexities of government. The former, as far as I understand this position, is the political conservative’s position and the easier option. The harder, more dangerous, and more rewarding option is to have each person highly educated–in the Classical sense of the word Education meaning a leading towards truth and not simply the accumulation of facts–and be capable of making rational judgments on complex issues. Wasn’t it Jefferson who said that an educated populace is vital to the survival of the nation? It is a rare occurrence when I agree with Jefferson, but in this case, supplying better notions of education and nation for his fairly Jacobin radicalism, I would agree.

          In the end, I would posit that the majority of societal ills stem from two things: misapprehension of things through bad metaphysics and laziness. The former can describe both political conservatives and liberals, but describes the latter more. Since the misapprehend the nature of man and society, they charge forward with the vim and vigor of an bull into a matador. The political conservative misapprehends man in a different man in a different way and that is where the laziness comes in. Oftentimes they perceive man as this noble creature but ascribe to him no other responsibility than his own desires. Both sides, I think, apprehend man as a sort of creature that can either do everything or nothing. While it is safer to do nothing and you are less liable to err while lying inertly, that is not why man was made.

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        5. @mastersamwise

          Presumably, since you pose those two alternatives, either simplify government so everyone can understand it, or educate everyone so everyone can comprehend big government, you understand that government cannot run everything. Were that to happen, no amount of education would be sufficient. Hence, even in the society you envision citizens must still barter with each other for goods and services.

          So let’s first consider the alternative of simplifying government. The simplest form of government has only one objective, protect our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Since that encompasses a judicial system, police and and military forces, international and interstate relationships, the regulation of trade and business, and so forth; even when limited to what is absolutely necessary, government is highly complicated operation, and achieving a competent understanding of government is more than most can do. Frankly, I would be in despair if our Lord absolutely required each of us to know as much as we each should. Fortunately, our Lord knows we are only dust and ashes.

          What about educating everyone to fully understand the complexities of government? Well, doesn’t that present a chicken and the egg problem. If government is such a wonderful, absolutely desirable thing, then government should do the educating (like it supposedly already is). Yet if the citizenry is too ignorant (and it is), then the citizenry is incapable of making a public education system work (which is demonstrably true). Yet suppose we had a wonderfully educated populace. Then why would we need a big government? Would not such a government just get in our way? It is not smart, well educated people who need government charity. It is ignorant, poorly educated people who need charity.

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        6. I have stated before that a) I believe in the principles of subsidarity and b) I contend that the family is the most basic unit of society. Following from those two principles, I contend that the parents, being those who have care for the specific familial communities to which they belong, are the primary educators of their children and this role cannot be fully delegated to anyone, including the state.

          I confess I do not know the proper solution. Perhaps a mixure of the two, both increased education and simplified government. I say a mixture because such concepts as life, liberty, and happiness have so much more significance than their surface definitions, it requires a certain amount of education to understand the true meaning of each. Is happiness to be understood in society whatever makes you feel good or is it the practice of virtue? I contend the latter. But then what is virtue? Acting at the right times, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way. Suddenly, everything became super complicated because how do you relate that to the fact we will either be paying to drive on I-66 or spend hours in traffic on Rt. 50? Who can afford that living in NorVa, I’d like to know.

          Like

  2. Will your tollway be as profitable as the Illinois Tollway? Try to imagine in a State that is in debt for over 100 billion dollars, yet only has one profitable government entity in Illinois, the Illinois Toll Commission. That is because all tolls collected by law can only be used for tollway purposes and not channeled to any other State use.

    If you live in Chicago and have to drive in any direction t+hrough the city and do not use the tollway and pay, it will take you up to four extra hours. If you drive using local streets through various Chicago neighborhoods and have a flat tire, it may be the last flat tire you will ever have.

    People not only use tollways to save time in Chicago, they use them to save their lives.

    We live in two different states, cultures, and even worlds in one nation.

    You are right to complain about your representative finding another revenue source. You are also right about them having no qualms changing a free highway into a tolled highway. They are doing the same here.

    Someone has to pay for government salaries. Government thinks just like lawyers who decide to take a accident case for a commission instead of a fee . They will only represent a client as a plaintiff if they know the defendant has insurance or money. If not, they will let the matter lie. You guys in Virginia obviously have money or they would not bother changing the free highway to a toll. .

    Good luck.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    .

    Like

    1. @scatterwisdom, who wrote:

      That is because all tolls collected by law can only be used for tollway purposes and not channeled to any other State use.

      Do not ask for whom the toll bills.

      A complete conversion to privately provided roads is possible, though it would be a major change. I imagine your situation in Illinois is similar to southern California regarding billing: The toll usage is picked up by a transponder provided for your car. If you don’t have one, you can mail in the amount later.

      But in another way, our situations are quite different: Though I’m located within a mile of one of these toll roads, I’ve never used it, and travel in LA’s main freeway corridors is generally safe enough.

      One exception comes to mind: I was in downtown LA when the LA riots began (after the Rodney King police acquittals), and a massive swarm of people flooded into the freeway in front of me. I turned around, as other drivers did, and drove the wrong way back up the freeway to the next exit. Over the next few days, this crowd burned 3,600 buildings downtown, and shot at my aircraft as I left for the East Coast. Right afterward, they re-routed all arriving and departing aircraft over the ocean instead. We lost no planes, but we did lose a major part of Los Angeles to anarchy.

      And tonight, I am writing a proposal for a client to deal with some of the aftermath.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You are probably safer on the side streets in Los Angeles than driving trying to keep up with the nutjobs that have no qualms driving 80 miles an hour around sharp curves on your freeways, never knowing if the traffic is stopped around the bend.in the Los Angeles Area.

        Illinois at least is flat and straight tollways. Another driving skill in Chicago is always leave room in front of your car at a stoplight in case someone tries to open your door while you are stopped. You need room in front of your car for your getaway.

        Chicago , Chicago,my home town sang Frank Sinatra.

        Regards and goodwill blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Forget your idea about having private firms take over highways. In Chicago they sold the 15 minute Chicago Skyway tollway stretch to a private firm and the toll went up from one dollar to five dollars. Chicago then leased all Chicago parking meters for 75 years to a private firm and the parking rates went up from twenty five cents to five dollars.

          The three billion dollars paid up front to Chicago for the lease was spent within three years to cover Chicago budget deficits to pay city payrolls. Chicago is now raising city property taxes up to 50 percent.

          Why Chicago just did not raise the parking fees or toll rates is beyond my small brain capacity. Guess Government prefers to raise taxes instead of user fees, can get more of Citizen Tom’s goose eggs that way I guess..

          Regards and goodwill blogging..

          Like

        2. In Virginia we have some toll roads that are the result of “public-private partnerships.” “Public-private partnerships” are just a fancy way of saying corrupt. Frankly, that kind of crap is what Gov. Bob McDonnell should be going to jail for.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. @scatterwisdom
    @Keith DeHavelle
    I think toll roads are okay, but how the money spent is critical.

    Try to imagine in a State that is in debt for over 100 billion dollars, yet only has one profitable government entity in Illinois, the Illinois Toll Commission. That is because all tolls collected by law can only be used for tollway purposes and not channeled to any other State use.

    Governor Terry McAuliffe wants as much leeway in spending the money as he can get. Unfortunately, Virginia’s politicians have already gotten away with this nonsense on the Dulles Parkway (another major toll road in Northern Virginia).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tell your McAuliffe to emulate Chicago Tollway Commission and only use the tolls for tollway improvements. That is if you can mention Illinois government as something you would want to emulate and not regurgitate at the same time.

      Regards and goodwill blogging.

      Liked by 1 person

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