The Fair in Pictures

Last night, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Rockingham County Fair.  The fair, of course, is many things to many people: a social gathering, a plethora of rides, a sampling of good food, a chance to see a multitude of farm animals, a concert, a tractor pull, and a demolition derby.  For me, the fair is another opportunity to promote my political ideology (no great surprise there, huh?).  Therefore, like I’ve done on and off since 1995, I volunteered at the Republican booth.

Speaking of politics, I guess the highlight had to be a visit from Governor Bob McDonnell.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see him myself.  Nevertheless, I did manage to get a handful of pictures of other things.

Throughout the night, the Republican Party booth was a hotbed of activity.  Many folks were drawn to promise of free balloons and a raffle.  One could find materials on about a dozen candidates and there were a multitude of colorful bumper stickers and yard signs.  You could even sign a petition to get Rick Perry on the ballot for the 2012 GOP primary.

Elected officials and hopefuls who I saw at the booth include:  Bryan Hutcheson (candidate for Sheriff), Delegate Todd Gilbert (15-Woodstock), Delegate Dickie Bell (2o-Staunton), Senator Mark Obenshain (26-Harrisonburg), Todd Garber (Treasurer for Rockingham), Ted Byrd (Harrisonburg City Council), Lowell Barb (Commissioner of Revenue for Rockingham), Bill Kyger (Rockingham County Board of Supervisors), and Karen Kwiatkowski (candidate for the House of Representatives in the 6th district).

By comparison, things seemed a bit slow at the Democratic table.  Given that they have no candidates for the Virginia General Assembly, their main focus appeared to be promoting Tim Kaine for Senator in 2012.  Although I won’t claim to have stayed at their table long, I didn’t see any elected officials there.

Outside the exhibition hall one could find a tent for Independent Sheriff candidate C.M Hess.  They seemed to enjoy steady traffic.  I’m very much looking forward to the Sheriff forum being held by the local tea party.  You can find more details on that event here in the near future.

Overall, the fair seemed to be a well-attended event.  There were a multitude of vendors, both food and otherwise,  and there was quite a bit to see and do.  I hear that the Beach Boys are returning for another concert this coming Friday.

The Rockingham County Fair never fails to impress, so, whether you happen to be interested in politics or not, I recommend you head over to check it out before it disappears until next year.

Kicking the Can, Killing the Country

VC note: This article comes from Karen Kwiatkowski, Republican candidate for the 6th district House of Representatives seat of Virginia.  It is the second one she has submitted to me.  The first can be found here.  As always, I welcome pieces from elected officials and candidates and hope to showcase more in the future.

After the predictable drama of which political party or faction should be blamed for what spending, the debt limit was again raised for the 11th time this century, by $2.1 trillion, or nearly 15%.   This increase adds to the nearly $15 trillion the US already owes to international banks, foreign countries, and American investors.  This new total debt, potentially $17 trillion, does not count the $62 trillion in obligations for unfunded domestic entitlements, specifically Social Security and Medicare.

The outstanding debt burden of this nation will soon rise to a staggering $77 trillion.   Oh, and the Congress agreed to cut a $100 billion per year over the next ten years, starting after the next election, they promise! Whew!  Maybe Congress does need a vacation now, after all their hard work!

The latest debt ceiling deal will include new taxation, and it is interesting that the true fiscal hawks in Congress are being excluded from the “SuperCongress” being set up to “solve the problem.”  Too bad no one wants to read the Constitution, which clearly limits federal government functions, and presumably its need to tax, borrow and spend.

The Republican Party itself seem happy, and why not? This spending and taxing behavior has marked Republicans for decades, with massive increases in borrowing and spending experienced under Nixon, Reagan, and both of the Bush presidencies.  Ronald Reagan, a favorite source of modern conservative quotes and references, oversaw a rise in the annual spending deficit increase from $79 billion to $212 billion in his first term – and the Reagan years added $1.9 trillion to the federal debt. This trend line is symbolic “tea” for the Tea Party, and conservatives, liberals, libertarians, constitutionalists and independents all share a concern about overspending and what it means to our children and grandchildren.

The Democratic Party is just as guilty – they point to Reagan as an awful tax cutter – but in fact Reagan oversaw a drastic 65% increase in the annual tax load.  In order to push through a three-year tax cut, he cooperated in the largest tax increase in American history up to that time.   It is easy for a politician to just say, “Give me more!” but because our hard-earned and harder-to-keep money is already skimmed by government at or above 35%, most actively avoid paying taxes.  Big corporations hire lawyers, accountants and move their headquarters overseas.  The rest of us make sure we are at the lowest bracket possible, and we avoid hiring full time employees – all in order to avoid even small increases in taxation.  Our own behavior trumps the politicians demand for more, and more.

What about a balanced budget amendment?  Mr Goodlatte’s naiveté on this issue is either astounding or he is a really slick politician.  Congress doesn’t want balance – it’s way too painful, and they will easily override the low bar set in the language of the proposed toothless amendment.  Beyond that, states that strive and compete for ever larger federal handouts would never support a federal balanced budget.  They know it would be an end to the gravy train, and would create additional and even unbearable federal tax burdens on their citizens.

Because the Balanced Budget Amendment says nothing about lifting unfunded federal mandates, states themselves could actually go broke if they ratified such an amendment.  Incidentally, 32 states are already insolvent, and are currently borrowing money from the Federal Government to pay unemployment insurance.  Well, maybe the Congress didn’t know about this little structural problem.  In any case, three-quarters of the state legislatures and governors do know, and they will oppose any honest balanced budget amendment. The solvent states are already angry for being asked to help bail out their insolvent neighbors, and they too will rightfully oppose a federal balanced budget that will view well-managed state coffers, like Virginia’s, as cash cows.

So how do I really feel?  Like most Americans, I’m angry at Congress for its inability to manage our money.  Like most Americans, I hold Congressmen and most politicians in high contempt.

How about this solution:  Stop spending money you do not have.  Renegotiate any current debt you can, don’t borrow any more, and deal today with needed changes in the entitlement system such that our aged social security and Medicare dependents are seamless cared for, and young people are free of these classic Ponzi schemes, where money from millions of younger workers is immediately disbursed to thousands of past investors.  Let interest rates rise to a market-determined level, so Americans and others can actually save and invest in America, and to deter more irresponsible government borrowing.

When a country is on the road to financial collapse, it can get either stay on that road and face ruin, or it can turn onto a new road towards a more positive and accountable future.  Congress whined, fussed and argued, and last week, once again, they chose to accelerate towards the cliff.  Thelma and Louise couldn’t be prouder.

“Conservatives” in Congress – Are They For Real?

VC note: This article was written by Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, resident of Shenandoah County, Virginia, and Republican candidate for the 6th district Virginia House of Representatives seat.  It arrived in my inbox a few moments ago with a request to have it posted on this site.  Given that I believe voter education is extremely important, I will almost always feature articles from our elected officials and those seeking office.  Thanks to Mrs. Kwiatkowski for sending it to me.  I hope you all find it enlightening.

“Conservatives” in Congress – Are They For Real?

While we wait to find out if Mr. Obama’s “national credit card” will long endure, many conservatives in the House and elsewhere are hoping that they can come out of the debt ceiling debate looking like constitutionalists.

Unfortunately, the cuts they’ve proposed thus far don’t cut very deep.  We should all be wary of current Cut, Cap and Balance proposals – setting standards based on today’s unbelievable levels of government consumption and waste would be a major mistake for the country, our children and grandchildren.

What about reining in that “national credit card?”   And what about the real cuts conservatives should be proposing, and are not?   Think about:

  • Foreign aid!  Why isn’t foreign and security aid to already wealthy and/or well-armed countries on the table?  While all recipient governments seem to expect it, it’s not fair to talk about cutting social security benefits or next year’s COLA for retirees when we keep the foreign aid spigot wide open.
  • Military streamlining!   Apparently, nothing in the military budget can be cut, even though it seems to leak money from all corners, including millions in indirect payments to the Taliban.  It’s not about almost 11 years of war in Afghanistan, or hundreds of Americans who have died or been mentally and physically maimed in that conflict.  It is about ongoing fraud and waste and a lack of clear DoD strategy that should not be rewarded by unlimited cash flows from Washington.
  • USDA and EPA grants and subsidies! Where are these programs are being cut  – even the 6th District’s long desired elimination of the ethanol subsidy is just “talked about.” Who fights against unneeded and counterproductive subsidies?
  • Congressional salaries!  A lonely proposal last February by Representative Giffords to reduce Congressional pay by 5% for a short time has languished for lack of interest.   Why haven’t federal salary and bonus reductions, and a federal hiring freeze been put on the table?
  • Obamacare!  Healthcare reform funnels more private resources into deep government ruts.  Why isn’t the widely unpopular Obamacare part of the cut list?
  • Big business and big bank bailouts and subsidies!  The Government Accounting Office (GAO) just  reported that the Federal Reserve made available (on the backs of our children and grandchildren) $16 trillion during 2008!  The current administration has placed even more on the “credit card” than did his predecessor.  This insanity should stop!
  • How about defunding the TSA, and cutting the DHS budget!   My goodness, people might actually want to take chance on a commercial flight during a TSA “holiday.”

The list could go on and on, and small savings add up to conservatism.  Freedom, too.  Why don’t we do something really radical, like letting the U.S. Constitution serve as a guide to federal spending?   Instead, we have a 6th District representative who has voted for more out-of-balance and unconstitutional budgets in his nearly 20 years we can count, all while telling stories about how “conservative” he is.

The U.S. visa lottery legislation sponsored by Mr. Goodlatte is typical and instructive.   To most 6th district voters, it sounds like a reduction in immigration – but the proposal he backs doesn’t actually reduce anything.  Instead, it converts Green Card Lottery with the just as costly to manage Employment-Based Green Card, authorizing the same number of 55,000 new visas each year – only this time to those foreign-born graduate students who have an advanced degree and are sought by a U.S. employer.  I support the free market in labor, in goods and services.   But at a time where 1 in 5 American men, including many with advanced degrees, are currently unemployed and under-employed, it seems a bit misleading of the 6th District Representative to advocate ending the Visa lottery as a way to appeal to anti-immigration sentiments and job-seekers at home.

This bait and switch routine reminds me of Mr. Goodlatte’s recent sponsorship of a bill that will maintain a 100-mile Federal zone north of the Mexican border to “enforce” border security (H.R. 1505).  Sounds good, if you don’t care about the private property of ranchers that may be included for federal rough-riding under “USDA” control through rancher participation in CRP, CREP, EQUP and CSP programs.  Sounds good, unless you believe, as I do, that the constitution requires we defend our actual borders.

I wonder, along with many in the 6th District, “Are the conservatives in the House of Representatives for real?”

Unbeatable Bob?

Since I first took an interest in politics in 1994, my hometown of Harrisonburg has been represented by 2 different Delegates, 2 State Senators, 5 Governors, 4 U.S. Senators, 3 Presidents, and a vast multitude of city council members.  During this time, there has been only one consistent factor in the Harrisonburg political representation, Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke.  First elected in 1992, he has been our voice in the United States House of Representatives, uninterrupted for these last 19 years.

Given that the 6th district is arguably the most conservative and most Republican district in the state of Virginia, it comes as no surprise that Bob Goodlatte has won so many times.  But were you aware that the Democratic Party has fielded a candidate in only one of his last six elections?  Furthermore, each time that Goodlatte has faced a Democratic opponent, he has turned back these challengers handily, capturing between 60 to 69% of the vote.

So what about the elections when the Democrats don’t try?  Well, in those cases Goodlatte often has no opposition, as was the case in 1994, 2000, and 2004, or an assortment of third party and/or independent candidates.  These opponents outside the two-party system fare even worse that the Democrats.  For example, in the most recent contest back in 2010, he trounced both a Libertarian and Modern Whig, garnering a commanding 76.26%.

After taking the last election off, the Democratic Party seems poised to try to capture the seat once more.  Right now, their probable candidate appears to be Andy Schmookler, a radio personality and author from Shenandoah County.

However, unlike every previous contest, save for his first in 1992, we have an unusual challenge; Bob Goodlatte is facing an opponent from within the Republican Party.  Running as a liberty-minded Republican is Karen Kwiatkowski, a former Air Force Colonel, college instructor, and political author from Shenandoah County.

Now, if either the Republican nomination or the general election were held today, I would expect Bob Goodlatte to win both handily.  After all, he has a massive advantage in name ID, war chest contributions, and is generally liked in political circles, Republican or otherwise.

According to Roanoke’s WSLS, at an event in Verona earlier this month Mr. Schmookler “compared his 6th District campaign to the rebel…mission to destroy the Death Star”.  That assessment may not be too far from the mark.  As fans of the Star Wars trilogy will recall, Han Solo declared Luke’s lucky shot at the end of the first film to be “one in a million”.  With all due respect to Mr. Schmookler and the Democratic Party, given the conservative nature of the voters in the Shenandoah and Roanoke Valleys as well as the surrounding highlands, a Democratic victory in the 6th seems just about as improbable as the undermanned and under equipped rebels’ assault in that movie.

Although we don’t know if it will be decided by a primary, convention, or something else, which can certainly influence the outcome, I would expect the most exciting contest to be in the Republican nomination.  Are voters happy with Mr. Goodlatte and our current representation in Congress?  And what kind of alternative is Mrs. Kwiatkowsi offering?  These questions are the central issue that the two candidates and their campaigns will need to answer.

Mr. Goodlatte has a clear advantage over any challenger at this stage, but I’m looking forward to watching the contest to come.  As a fellow voter in the 6th, I encourage you to read about the candidates and visit their websites to learn more about our Representative, Bob Goodlatte, and his two contenders, Andy Schmookler, and Karen Kwiatkowski.

Is Bob Goodlatte unbeatable?  So far that answer seems to be yes.  But, there are other factors we must consider.  First, when we mix the contest with a high profile Senate and Presidential race, the story gets far more interesting. Second, given that he is opposed from both the left and the right, it seems certain that 2012 will be the most intriguing House race that Virginia’s 6th has seen in decades.