May 21, 2009
Apparently that's what the Democrats think, from all their recent campaign ads attacking Bob McDonnell because the Republicans in the General Assembly refused federal stimulus money for extended unemployment benefits. Eager to sustain their recent momentum through this fall's election, they think they have seized upon an issue to propel them into a dominant position in the government of Virginia. But do most people in the Old Dominion really agree with the Democrats' left-liberal agenda, or do they uphold the traditional values of self-reliance? At this point, my guess is the latter.
The main bone of contention is over the "strings" that were attached to Obama's stimulus package. The funding is only for one year, but it gets the proverbial foot in the door on a new entitlement that will be hard to undo, and Virginia (as well as other states) would be left holding the bag. Behind that, however, is the more philosophical divide between those who believe in individual responsibility versus those who believe in collective compassion. You don't have to be a hard-core libertarian who exalts the dog-eat-dog nature of economic life to understand the importance of individual responsibility. Every time the government hands out money for free, it undermines the incentive to find a real job. Plus, it perpetuates the false notion held by many Americans that a middle-class lifestyle is a fundamental right. The consequences of economic globalization ("Made in China") are exposing that belief for the lie that it is, but many people cling to the illusion nonetheless. We'll learn sooner or later ... probably later.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not mocking or deriding those workers who had the misfortune to get laid off because of the recession. People who have a family to feed, like that guy on TV from Christiansburg, do deserve a break in times of economic emergency such as these. I'm merely pointing out that it is manifestly inefficient and unjust to pay people not to work, when there is so much important public service work that needs to be done. Temporary public works programs for people who genuinely need and deserve relief, YES, but expanded welfare, NO! The basic principle is, when the government subsidizes something, whether it is poverty or fatherless families, the net result is more of that same thing. So when the government increases subsidies to the unemployed, the invariable result is more people without jobs. Why is this so hard to understand?
The ads are sponsored by "Common Sense Virginia," an organizational fiction that was created specifically as a vehicle to attack Bob McDonnell. The closest thing they have to an official Web site or blog is therealbobmcdonnell.com, which makes much of Governor Tim Kaine's professed bewilderment at the Republicans' refusal to go along with the stimulus package conditions. The brief, uninformative "About Us" page is further evidence of the alleged group's bogus status.* No sooner did the group sponsoring those ads get started than it received a stiff fine from the Virginia State Board of Elections. See the News Leader.
This is a side issue, but it's worth asking anyway: Why does all this unaccountable campaign mischief take place? Because politicians will always find a way to get around the campaign finance "reform" laws that they pass, and as Barack Obama proved last year, those who make the loudest calls for "reform" are the most apt to abuse the new laws. The end result is political party organizations that are financially weakened and beholden to outside, unaccountable special interest groups. For example, labor unions have spent over $2 million on the Virginia Governor's race already, with more than five months to go before election day. That's an example of why the pernicious "Card Check" legislation has a very real chance of passing this year.
* Actually, I did find a Republican-created Web site, virginiacommonsense.com. As one might expect, its message is the exact opposite of "Common Sense Virginia," however.
Meanwhile, the three Democratic candidates for governor -- Terry McCauliffe, Brian Moran, and Mr. "nice-guy-finishes-last" Creigh Deeds -- apparently agree on all major issues, including the need to extend unemployment benefits, so it's basically a tossup between competing personalities. The story was in yesterday's News Leader, but searching their archives yielded nothing, so you can read it at the News Virginian Web site. The Washington Post had a similar story ten days ago. McCauliffe is a surrogate for the Clintonistas, and I dread having our fair state sullied with their ilk.