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Representative Bob Goodlatte

Today in the mail, I received a letter from the office of my member of the House of Representatives, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6).  At first, I must confess that I was a bit puzzled by it.  After all, I hadn’t contacted Representative Goodlatte in many months and thus wasn’t expecting any sort of correspondence.

Once opening it, I discovered the letter was in response to a query I sent him back in the first week of January, some two and a half months earlier.  It is a bit disappointing to see the response time of his office hasn’t really improved much.  Nevertheless, I appreciate the fact that his office does answer, sooner or later, unlike Senator Mark Warner’s who has never replied to any inquiries.

Anyway, today’s message was in reference to the vote for the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  If you may recall, I, like my 6th district Republican committee, had urged Representative Goodlatte to vote against re-electing John Boehner for that position.  However, much to the disappointment of my conservative friends and associates in and around the Shenandoah Valley, Mr. Goodlatte cast his vote for Boehner anyway.

In his letter, Goodlatte writes “…I voted for Speaker Boehner and not Nancy Pelosi.  Those were the two choices.”  Was the election for speaker a choice of damnations?  Can we all agree that Boehner may be bad, but if we didn’t support him, we would have gotten Pelosi and that outcome would have been even worse?  To further bolster his position, Representative Goodlatte goes on to list several conservative members of the house who also voted to re-elect Boehner.

However, as I wrote in January, this line of reasoning presents a false dichotomy; a few members of the House of Representatives cast their votes for individuals other than either Boehner or Pelosi.  Now, this kind of move was not without risk.  Voting against the person who would become speaker, especially when he is a member of your own political party, can bring all sorts of trouble, such as the loss of a prized chairmanship or a position on a key committee.  It was a tough spot, no doubt.  Unfortunately, when presented with the choice of damnations of upsetting the leadership in Washington versus upsetting the entire 6th district Republican committee and scores of grassroots activists back home, Representative Goodlatte preferred the second option.

Given the vast multitude of political opinions, it is not realistic for an activist to agree with his or her elected officials all of the time.  On occasion, we must expect our leaders to stand their ground, even when it runs counter to our own principles.  However, even if it ends up making you pariah in either Washington D.C. or Richmond, I prefer it when legislators are more worried about the concerns of their constituents than pleasing the lobbyists or the politically powerful.  Maybe that idea is an old fashioned relic from earlier days in our republic.

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Earlier today, the House of Representatives held a vote for speaker of that body.  Although there was and still remains conservative animosity toward John Boehner, he secured re-election as speaker with 220 votes out of 426 cast.  Nancy Pelosi finished in second place, garnering the support of the Democratic members of that body with 192 votes.

390px-Bob_Goodlatte_OfficialAs you may know, prior to this vote, Virginia’s 6th District Republican Committee, the district that Bob Goodlatte represents in the house, passed a strongly-worded resolution calling upon Representative Goodlatte to oppose Boehner’s re-election as speaker.  It should also be noted that this resolution passed unanimously, favored by Republican political activists throughout the greater Shenandoah, Page, and Roanoke Valleys.

For the record, the resolution reads as follows:

November 10, 2012

Dear Congressman Goodlatte,

The framers of the Constitution of the United States wisely instituted the division of powers, not merely to enable specialization of the respective commissions, but primarily to limit the powers of each community. Under the influence of both Christian thought and the abysmal historical precedents of foreign nations, they recognized the tendency even of the best of men to secure to themselves unlimited and unjust authority, and to employ it for the purpose of enslaving the masses. The authors judiciously embraced their moral obligation by including this mechanism (division of powers) for the simple frustration of such tyrannical efforts.

The imposition of Obamacare against the wishes of the people is an unequivocal expression of the anticipated tyrannical powers. Yet even though every member of the House of Representatives is aware of his ability to thwart this measure, no such effort of protection is forthcoming. Apparently few enough care more about the people they purport to represent than about their own political aspirations.

Speaker Boehner has called for “Repeal and Replace,” all the while he has been fully cognizant of the fact that the Senate and the President would not concur with him.  Such disingenuous acts are intended to defraud the people while leading them to believe he is fighting for their cause. His unwillingness to lead the effort to de-fund Obama’s healthcare, a truly feasible mechanism for restraining this tyranny, is a conscious dereliction of duty. His recent commitment to active pursuit of its funding, coupled with his capitulation on the issue of amnesty and his agreement to raise taxes are acts that are nothing short of treasonous to our interests and our security.

Therefore, we are writing to notify you of our unwillingness to accept such representation; to demand that you oppose the selection of Mr. Boehner as speaker for the next session; that you only select a representative who is willing to engage fully in battle against Obamacare and the many other imprudent and unconstitutional efforts of the Obama administration, and that our future support for you is contingent upon your efforts to lead the fight to deny President Obama every unconstitutional measure, and that this must be done without excuse.

Passed unanimously, this 10th day of November, 2012

The Sixth Congressional District Republican Committee of Virginia

Although some activists may appreciate the willingness of Goodlatte to stand his ground, this move to re-elect Boehner will almost certainly infuriate his base, the conservatives of the 6th district who believe that the federal government has grown well beyond its constitutional limitations and who also think our Republican leadership has been actively leading the country in the wrong direction.

A few moments ago, I called Bob Goodlatte’s D.C. office as well as all of his district offices to confirm his vote on this matter.  Although I have been unable to secure a direct confirmation from these sources, I was told if given a choice between John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, Goodlatte would choose Boehner.  However, this either/or choice is not entirely correct.  Although it is true that there was no single, unified Republican candidate to stand against Boehner, other options were available as illustrated by the fact that some Republican members of the house cast their votes for Rep. Eric Cantor, former Rep. Allen West, Rep. Justin Amash, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Raul Labrador, or David Walker.  Other also voted present or remained silent when his or her name was called.  According to Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Dave Nalle, Representative Goodlatte was not among the list of Republican representatives who opposed Boehner.

In this most recent election cycle, Bob Goodlatte faced a Republican challenger for the first time in his 20 years in office.  Karen Kwiatkowski, his GOP opponent, attacked Mr. Goodlatte from the right, claiming that he was not conservative or liberty-minded enough to represent the people of the 6th district.  Although she was unsuccessful in her first attempt, it should be noted that she did win the city of Harrisonburg and almost captured Page County as well.  Today’s vote makes another challenge from either Kwiatkowski or someone else all the more likely.

Conservatives across the country are rightly upset with Boehner’s leadership and many will be unhappy to discover that he retains the position of speaker.  The fact that our representative, Bob Goodlatte, chose today to ignore the wishes of some of his most important and influential constituents, the entire 6th District Republican Committee is quite surprising and could cause a particularly nasty fracture between Goodlatte and the committee.

So, the big question now is how will Virginia’s 6th district Republicans react to this news?

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A little over four years ago, I wrote an open letter to my fellow Ron Paul supporters.  I will not rehash it again, although you can read it here if you care to do so.  Today, I believe it is time to write you again, not to retrace old ground, but to forge ahead into the future.

Earlier this week, a fellow Ron Paul supporter criticized my efforts in supporting Dr. Paul’s 2012 movement.  Specifically, he made mention of the fact that only two Paul supporters signed up to be delegates to the 6th district convention from my hometown of Harrisonburg.  I suppose the thought is that as I am a Paul supporter living in Harrisonburg, I should have done more to get my fellow like-minded activists to the convention in Lexington.  Now, I have heard this complaint before.  According to one of my friends in the southern part of the 6th district, one Paul supporter has spread this point in the Shenandoah Valley presumably to try and discredit me within the movement.  I’m not quite sure why this person would do so, but I did try to find out.  However, I never got a reply when I sent the person an email about the matter.

Although I know that some of you are new, I would like to remind those who are involved in politics to treat all volunteers as a valuable resource.  After all, they are not merely subordinates to be ordered about at our whim.  They are our friends, neighbors, and activists in arms who freely give of their time, not in the hopes of financial restitution, but because they believe in the rightness of our cause.  Until and unless a volunteer engages in a behavior that is either destructive to the movement or completely counterproductive, (such as threatening another worker or masquerading as an official campaign representative) one should never tear down a volunteer’s efforts.  Now, that is not to say that we cannot steer a volunteer toward projects that are more valuable, but to demean a volunteer for not doing enough or not working fast enough is a great way to make certain that the volunteer will not help again in the future.  Having been a volunteer myself for a good many years, once I became a paid staffer, good volunteer relations became one of my top priorities.  After all, much like Christianity teaches us in relations with our neighbors, we should always treat volunteers how we ourselves would like to be treated.

But let’s return to the matter of the Ron Paul campaign.  Prior to Virginia’s March 6th Republican presidential primary, I spent considerable time and effort in volunteering for the campaign.  Regrettably, the Virginia effort was woefully understaffed and under-funded from the national campaign.  As I stated, I found both a location and the funding necessary for a regional campaign office in Harrisonburg but was rebuffed by the head honchos in Springfield.  Although Ron Paul had not won a single state prior to Virginia, given that only Mitt Romney and he would be on the ballot, my state would be an excellent chance for his first victory. Therefore, the volunteer effort had to continue.  Despite the fact that we had no literature, no yard signs, and no bumper stickers, save for the scant few that the state director was under-rationed, we did the best we could to spread the message.  I even had the opportunity to promote Dr. Paul on the local evening news.  On primary day itself, I’m pleased to say that many of the precincts in both in Harrisonburg and the surrounding Rockingham County had Ron Paul supporters handing out materials that the Shenandoah County Ron Paul group had graciously gifted to us.

Although the primary wasn’t all that close either in the state as a whole or in the 6th congressional district, due to the hard work of my fellow volunteers in the area, Ron Paul won a majority of the votes cast on primary day in the city of Harrisonburg.  We showed that a small band of dedicated volunteers could make a difference and I am quite grateful to my fellow activists for their work.

However, March 6th made me realize that there was absolutely no way that Ron Paul could win the Republican nomination.  His national campaign missed an important opportunity to score their first victory on Super Tuesday and the momentum now swung too far in the favor of Mitt Romney.  I’ve heard claims that Paul’s national campaign was nothing more than corrupt nepotism, was generally incompetent, or that they were simply too inflexible to modify their strategy.  I don’t know what their specific problem was, but, if Virginia is a typical example, clearly the national campaign did not accomplish what they needed to.  Nevertheless, if you must place blame, do not thrust it upon the volunteers.

I believe that a lot of other local Paul volunteers felt the same way about the campaign as I did and so they disappeared completely.  Morale was shattered; we thought the national campaign had abandoned us.  How could they ask us to fight on when it was painfully obvious that they were not putting in the needed effort to do so as well?  Another I rule I have when it comes to volunteer relations is that you should never ask a volunteer to do a task that you have not, at some point, done your yourself and would be willing to do again should the need arise.

Anyway, prior to the March 6th primary, I got in a debate with another volunteer over which was more important, winning the March 6th primary or securing Ron Paul delegates to the national convention in Tampa.  I argued that the primary was of far greater value, which is why I focused my efforts there.  It makes little difference the personal positions of our delegates if they are bound to vote how the congressional district voted on March 6th on the first national ballot.  After all, every single delegate in the state could be a Paul supporter, but if they are pledged to vote for Romney then who they are doesn’t make a hill of beans worth of difference.  Bear in mind, if Paul could not win a single state’s primary or caucus, even if he won a considerable number of delegates through clandestine means, then Mitt Romney would be the nominee.

Once the primary was over, I focused my volunteer time on other ways that I thought would benefit the liberty movement.  Specifically, I spent time helping Karen Kwiatkowski and Jamie Radtke, two women who were still viable candidates in their respective races and encouraged many of my fellow volunteers to do likewise.  Sure, volunteers could spend a Saturday in Lexington to pick national delegates, but quite a few of us realized that the Republican nomination for president was lost and over and it was time to find new and more productive avenues.

But, all of the supposed Paul candidates won at the district convention in Lexington.  Therefore, it seems to be particularly strange to quibble about this matter.  Didn’t the Paul slate win?  If so, why should there be any complaint?  It seems foolhardy to lay blame after a victory.  Is someone upset that they did not win by a larger margin?  One important fact to remember here is that Harrisonburg’s votes did not change the outcome nor could they have.  The margins of victory were larger than Harrisonburg’s entire voting strength, even if it had voted as a solid block, could have swayed. After all, we had a scant 39 votes split among the Harrisonburg delegates while some counties like Rockingham County had over a hundred more votes than we did.  Many of my fellow Ron Paul delegates signed up in Rockingham, but when taken as a numbers game, Harrisonburg’s delegation wasn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things.

Anyone who has spent any time dealing with Paul supporters knows that they are a freethinking lot.  Who is to say that Paul supporters would have voted the same way?  Although a sample “Paul friendly” ballot was provided, I’ll freely admit that I voted as I thought best and not merely regurgitated what some piece of paper had written on it.

So, for those who still condemn me for the fact that only two delegates were open Ron Paul supporters from Harrisonburg, should I similarly scorn Paul activists from Roanoke, Staunton, or Lexington?  After all, how did Ron Paul fair in your area on March 6th?  And given that Paul outright won both Covington and Lynchburg, does that result give activists from those cities cause to rebuke the rest of us?  If so, should we apply the same standard to results of the June 12th primaries?  Should we look down upon the efforts of volunteers in other parts of the 6th because Karen Kwiatkowski won Harrisonburg, but not other localities?  The answer is no.  Here in the Shenandoah Valley, we must not devolve into this kind of infighting.  It is detrimental.  How do pointing fingers and tearing each other apart advance the cause of liberty?  Should we be concerned with inflating our own egos and promoting individuals as opposed to the greater concept of liberty?  Heaven forbid!

Given the attacks against me, I assume some people must think that I am all talk and no action.  But this line of thinking is false.  For example, I proudly served the 2008 Ron Paul campaign as the director of grassroots organization for the state of South Carolina.  And although I don’t talk about it much, I was briefly hospitalized with internal bleeding as a result of an injury sustained on the campaign trail.  Unfortunately, it periodically flares up to the present day.  But I continued, for the battle was too important to give up before primary day.  I was a volunteer in 2012, I once again helped out Dr. Paul because he and I share a commitment to the Constitution and to liberty.  I write of these experiences not to make some boast of my greatness or to make the claim that my devotion is greater than anyone else, but merely to illustrate the point that I have been involved for many years and have a good bit of knowledge and experience in the matter.

The main idea of the letter is much more far-reaching than merely who did or did not attend Virginia’s 6th district convention.  Heck, it is more than about you, myself, or even Ron Paul.  It is a matter of respect for volunteers.  Whenever a person, whether he or she happens to be a staff member or a fellow volunteer, berates a volunteer, you should be appalled.  Remember that volunteers are the lifeblood of our movement.  I assure you that without dedicated volunteers, failure is all but a certainty.  An activist or politician working alone can accomplish very little.  If you have a complaint about how 2012 primaries turned out, is tearing down your fellow brothers and sisters in liberty who freely volunteered their time a productive way to vent your frustration?  Therefore, the next time you hear a person speak ill of a volunteer except in the very limited circumstances listed above, you should stop them from doing so immediately.  If they refuse to comply, then have nothing more to do with that person; there is no sense in dealing with people whose words and actions will lead to the destruction of the movement from within.

For liberty with responsibility!

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This most recent Saturday, delegates from throughout the 6th congressional district in Virginia gathered at the Rockbridge County High School in Lexington for a GOP convention.  The purpose of this regional convention was to elect delegates and alternate delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, select three new members of the State Central Committee (the governing board of the Republican Party of Virginia), pick regional vice chairmen for the district, elect a person to cast the region’s electoral vote in November should the GOP win, and install a chairman of the 6th district Republican Party.

The event kicked off shortly after 10 AM and ran until about 3 PM or so.  Needless to say, it was a long day.  A seemingly never-ending supply of speeches dominated a majority of the time.  Not only did each of the candidates that were to be voted upon at the convention have a chance to speak, but  so did the 2012 House and Senate primary candidates, the 2013 statewide candidates, and the national committeeman and national committeewoman.  Personally, I would have cut out the 2013 candidates and the national committee people, not because they aren’t important, but just for the simple fact that there were more pressing matters and the convention ran long enough without them.

Certainly the most interesting element to the whole affair had to be the outcome of the voting.  Surprisingly (or perhaps not), a lot of new, liberty-minded candidates emerged victorious over the old guard.  Hinting at this trend, prior to voting, some activists passed out cards with either the Ron Paul logo or the Gadsden Flag encouraging delegates to vote for a slate of candidates.  Can you guess what happened?  Every single one of these listed candidates won.  Some notable losses were: Wendell Walker, the 6th district chairman, who did not claim a spot as a national delegate.  Neither did Suzanne Curran, a long-time activist after whom the RPV names one of their annual events.  And Trixie Averill, a former chairwoman of the 6th district, lost her bid to return to the state central committee.

Although I haven’t seen any news outlets reporting it, the Ron Paul delegation did exceeding well.  Yes, each of the three 6th district national delegates are bound to vote for Mitt Romney on the first ballot at the national convention due to the fact that Romney won the district in the March 6th primary.  However, Ron Paul will sweep the district should the national convention go to a second ballot given the stated principles of the winning delegates.

If the audience reaction was any indication, Karen Kwiatkowski seemed to enjoy a greater level of support from the attendees than the incumbent, Representative Bob Goodlatte.  In an unexpected move, Mike McHugh, a candidate for the regional vice chair position in the northern part of the district, removed his outer clothing at the end of his time on stage revealing a bright red shirt proclaiming his desire to “fire Bob” Goodlatte.

Given the apparent inability of the establishment to succeed at the convention, I was a bit surprised that no one challenged Mr. Walker for the position of district chairman.  Yes, his name appeared on the card above, but was it listed there only because he faced no opposition?  After all, although listed for chairman, he was not listed as a delegate.  I do have to wonder that if he did face an opponent with the same principles of many of the other winning candidates at the convention, would he too have been replaced?

Nevertheless, Republicans who wish to push the party back toward the principles of a limited, constitutional government ought to be generally pleased with Saturday’s outcome.  Are Valley conservatives once again “Republican for a reason”?  However, a huge question that still needs to be answered is can they translate this success into nominating and electing conservatives candidates who share these values?  It is difficult to say for certain, but the Republican primary on June 12th will be the next great test.

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VC note: A Guest Post by Karen Kwiatkowski

In the 6th District of Virginia, we don’t much like government rules and regulations, especially when they don’t pass a common sense test.   The Constitution speaks of our God-given rights to be secure in our persons, property and papers – to live free.  This part of Virginia lives and breathes this valued sense of who we are – citizens always, and subjects to a distant capitol, never.

We tend not to trust politicians.  We tend to understand that the longer these politicians are in office collecting benefits, creating legislative networks, and accumulating personal power, the more we, as Virginians, will suffer.

My recent visit to Highland and Bath Counties dished out plenty of evidence about how Virginians – real Virginians – think and live.  They think independently, and they strive to live free.

While in Highland, I ate local trout and maple pecan pie.  In Bath, I spoke to trout fishermen and gave some of the best bait they were using a smell test.  I saw lots of sheep and lumber mills, and observed maple syrup being boiled down in antique boilers, in the old ways.

The world famous Maple Festival in Highland is about an older way that works.  And in many ways, this region is about old ideas that have stood the test of time.

The people I met in Bath and Highland Counties this past weekend are not the same people I met at Hot Springs at the Republican Advance in early December.  Those politicians visiting the high country, with few exceptions, constitute the political elite in Virginia.  Many of these Republicans were more interested in each other and the power to be gleaned from those relationships than they are in promoting the fundamental and limited role of government.

The Republican Party creed is a good one, especially for those of us living in the upper Shenandoah Valley and in the western mountains of the state.  The creed embraces “fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints” at “all levels of government.” It affirms that the “Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations.”

In other words, on paper, the Republican Party values the freedom to work, to produce, to think, and to speak.  The message is that we have the freedom to take care of our own, and we deserve freedom from government idiocy.

This message is exactly what I heard again and again from veterans and from businessmen, from public servants and retired people in this part of the district.    As a visitor, I was inspired by the geography, the natural beauty and natural resources of this lovely part of Virginia.  As a Republican challenger standing up to the career politician who currently represents the 6th District, I was honored to talk about government and politics with people in this far western part of our district.  As a constitutionalist, a veteran, as a farmer and a lover of liberty, I felt right at home in Highland and Bath Counties.

Karen Kwiatkowski, conservative Mount Jackson cattle farmer and veteran, is challenging Bob Goodlatte in the GOP Primary on June 12, 2012.

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VC note:  Several days ago, I shared a piece from Jamie Radtke regarding her opposition to Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA for short.  This evening, I’m pleased to offer another article on the topic from Karen Kwiatowkski. 

While we don’t believe ten-term congressman Goodlatte speaks Mandarin, he has a lot in common with the Communists in Beijing, at least when it comes to regulating and controlling the Internet.

Goodlatte is the author of the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, a costly regulatory attack on the Internet.  It is supposed to reduce copyright infringement – a problem already on the wane due to new software business models, encryption and other technological breakthroughs that America used to be known for.

In reality, SOPA will cause rapid and unnecessary government shutdowns of websites, and drive rights-holders and Internet service providers to do the same, all without due process.  If 6th District voters want a law that violates the 1st and 4th Amendments, crushes free speech and small businesses, we should support Bob’s SOPA.

SOPA is expensive and burdensome.  If 6th District voters want a $50 million tax-funded spending hike in the coming years, we should support Bob’s SOPA.

SOPA would interfere with the architecture of the Internet.  One of the creators of the Internet, Vinton Cerf is extremely upset.  He notes, “collateral damage of SOPA would be particularly regrettable because site blocking or redirection mechanisms are unlikely to make a significant dent in the availability of infringing material and counterfeits online, given that DNS manipulation can be defeated by simply choosing an offshore DNS resolution provider, maintaining one’s own local DNS cache or using direct IP address references.”

In simple terms, Vinton Cerf knows that if 6th District voters want to destroy the current workability the Internet domain name system AND drive American businesses and jobs overseas and underground – we couldn’t do better than to support Bob’s SOPA.

SOPA won’t prevent online copyright violations.  It is expensive, wrong-headed, harms both business and Internet architecture, and messes with the technological progress that has been made in the past 15 years.

What can 6th District voters do?  First, we should require that Bob Goodlatte cease and desist, and do no harm.  While Goodlatte’s SOPA might be appealing in Communist China, North Korea, and Hollywood – it makes no sense, and runs counter to the letter and the ideals of the Constitution.

Bob doesn’t learn from his legislative mistakes, and he’s in too deep with Hollywood and West Coast lobbyists.   These mistakes include SOPA, his steadfast support of the Patriot Act, and his destruction of online gaming businesses in Virginia and across the country – in all of this, Bob just doesn’t get it.

SOPA has been described as handing out “chainsaws in an operating room.”  I have a strong suspicion that, in addition to not being able to understand how the Internet actually works, Bob Goodlatte has never used a chainsaw.

There is good news, though.   I’ve got several chainsaws Bob can borrow, and I’d be glad to give him lessons.  Bob with a chainsaw, while certainly a frightening prospect, would be a lot safer for the nation than SOPA, and way more productive.

Karen Kwiatkowski, conservative Mt Jackson cattle farmer and veteran, is challenging Bob Goodlatte in the GOP Primary on June 12, 2012.

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Although Karen Kwiatkowski has been promoting her effort to unseat Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6th) for last month or two, tomorrow she is officially announcing the start of campaign.

The details are as follows:
Time: Thursday, August 18th at Noon.
Location: The Augusta County Courthouse located at 1 East Johnson Street in Staunton.

Although I planned to attend this event, I regret to say that I’ll be unavailable.  Nevertheless, if you are interested in the fate of this nation and our representation in the federal government, I encourage you to be there.

Once the nomination comes around next year, you may end up choosing to re-elect Goodlatte or you may select Kwiatkowski. But through the process, I want you to ask yourself, which of these two candidates best represents your principles, your values?  After all, how can we hope to make an educated vote without sufficient information?  My advice is to listen to the words and plans of both Kwiatkowski and Goodlatte.  Tomorrow will give you one such opportunity.

I do hope you get a chance to hear Kwiatkowski on Thursday.  Rest assured that I’ll post more details about other campaign events as they become available.

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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.

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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?”

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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.

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