By Michael R. Shannon
My local delegate to the Virginia state house, Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) is not particularly popular in Richmond because he's conservative even when it's inconvenient.
This is why he's urging Gov. Bob McDonnell to refuse to accept a penny of Obama's latest $26 billion government "stimulus" bill. Marshall knows it's easy to oppose government spending when you aren't getting any of the money. It's more difficult to be frugal when Virginia is confronted with 249 million reasons to swallow conservative principles and take the cash.
The judgment of the GOP establishment is that old Bob is just saddling up to tilt at yet another of his many windmills. But before you join their jump to conclusions, consider Marshall's reasoning in the context of the larger issue of Democrat-induced runaway government spending.
Marshall's justification for bouncing the check back to Obama is simple: pocketing this money is a slap in the face to a Virginia Republican Congressional delegation that unanimously opposed this payoff to public employee unions that supported Obama. Accepting the check undermines their work and implies they failed to vote in the best interest of their state.
While in comparison, Congressmen Gerry Connolly (D-Deficits) and Tom Perriello (D-Bigger Deficits), who supported this and innumerable other handouts, become exemplars of public service.
Which is a sobering thought.
Naturally, a McDonnell spokesman dismissed the pesky Marshall, explaining the Obama money is targeted to local government (as if that makes a check drawn on insufficient funds the gold standard of appropriations) and besides the governor closed a $4.2 billion dollar hole in the Commonwealth's budget without raising taxes and "Washington should follow that example."
So why is the governor being an enabler? You can't claim to be the bane of budget busters in Virginia and at the same time cash deficit-expanding federal checks that your own constituents are ultimately on the hook to cover. National deficits are just as dangerous as state deficits.
Unfortunately, there's something about Uncle Sam flashing the cash that brings out the inner prostitute in elected officials. The usual justification is some eyewash to the effect that it's "free money;" the other 49 states are taking it; and if we don't spend it, somebody else will.
An excuse that gains no traction with even the most "modern" parent ("gee, mom, all the other kids are doing it") is considered a serious exploration of national budgetary issues when it comes from a politician.
Instead of viewing Marshall's proposal as another Tea Party-inspired annoyance, the governor should be thanking him for this great opportunity. Virginia could be the first state to take a principled stand and refuse the money.
McDonnell could then invite the other 22 Republican state governors to join him and do likewise. Should enough follow suit, the entire political calculation changes.
If the only states taking the deficit-fueled money are states "governed" by Democrats, then it becomes obvious this entire "stimulus" exercise is another example of the party of big government paying off the public employee unions that supply the votes for bigger government.
And where exactly is the downside in taking Marshall's advice? The teacher's union won't support McDonnell in the next election? Teacher unions view Republicans the same way the Taliban views missionaries.
What if no other state turns down the money? Sometimes having principles is lonely. As long as he doesn't take up with a South American hootchie mamma, McDonnell will be fine.
I'm afraid the governor has reflexively thrown away a chance to become a substantive national leader and break out of the pack of bland potential presidential candidates.
Chances like this don't come along every day. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal booted his when he didn't tell the Corps of Engineers to pound sand and build his own anti-oil berms in defiance of the feds.
Instead of acting, Jindal complained about red tape and bureaucrats, which makes him look whiny and puts him on equal footing with the operators of hotdog stands in DC.
McDonnell has been able to travel the country and raise money for other GOP candidates simply on the strength of his own victory in the governor's race. Think of what it would have done to his profile if he had used this issue to win a victory for taxpayers everywhere.
Democrat deficits are an economic black hole that threaten to pull the country's future into oblivion. The Tea Party has organized citizens at the local level to demonstrate to politicians that we are not all socialists now.
It's time elected officials with the ability to turn protest into power accept the baton and actually do something to prove conservatives are not content to tolerate business as usual in Washington.
Stamping this "stimulus" check NSF and bouncing it back to DC is an excellent place to start. The question is: do we have a volunteer?
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