Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oh Virginia

I swear, the Virginia GOP is like a bad rash. Not deadly, but really annoying, and really hard to get rid of. They just keep finding ways to pop up in embarrassing places.

This time, it's SB:1410, a transportation appropriations bill that really should've been an utterly boring and harmless bill.

But then Thomas Norment Jr (R-James City) added a teeny tiny provision: a clause that forces auto-makers to buy back unsold vehicles from car dealerships if the line is discontinued. This essentially lets auto-dealers cash in on the federal auto-maker bailout, by transferring 100% of the downside risk to the auto-makers instead of sharing it with the auto-dealers. In fact, the article plainly says this is at least part of the reason why the provision was inserted.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're wondering: 'Why would a knee-jerk-anti-government Virginia Republican like Senator Norment insert a provision that is the antithesis of free-market economics?' And you're right, it's a good question! Fortunately, it has a simple answer:

Good old fashioned corruption! You see, as the article also points out, Senator Norment owns a Dodge dealership. And his Dodge dealership, along with all other dealerships in the state, has been facing some tough times lately. So he decided to write a law making his business profitable again by stealing money from the feds. Charming.

Even more charming, he doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with this.
Norment, a lawyer and one of three owners of a struggling Yorktown dealership, said he does not have a conflict of interest in carrying the measure, because it applies to all vehicle franchises in Virginia. The state has 525 new-car dealers and has lost 25 in the past year during the recession.

"Clearly, I don't have a conflict of interest from a legal standpoint," Norment said. "Perceptually, someone might raise the question that, 'As a minority owner of a dealership, isn't there an incidental benefit to you?'"
Yes Norment, I'm sure that, perceptually, someone might raise that question. Thanks for clearing it up for us in advance.

Your Virginia GOP at work, folks. All you have to do to get a risk-free business is draw up some government-enforced arbitrage, call it 'incidental', and ensure that at least 524 other people benefit as well.


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