Condolences may be in order

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By John Barnhart

    Normal people like sports. I, on the other hand, like politics and that makes Virginia a great place to live. We have elections every year!

    This is because Virginia does not hold state and local elections in the same year that federal elections take place. Virginia’s elections follow a cycle that puts them in odd numbered years. This year, Virginia voters will elect a governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Virginia governors cannot succeed themselves, so we always get a new governor every four years.

    Republicans have nominated Bob McDonnell for governor, Bill Bolling, the current lieutenant governor, for another term and Ken Cuccinelli for attorney general. Democrats have nominated Creigh Deeds for governor, Jody Wagner, for lieutenant governor and Stephen Shannon for attorney general. The governor’s race represents a rematch of sorts as McDonnell beat Deeds by a whisker for attorney general four years ago. McDonnell’s margin of victory amounted to less than one vote per precinct, which made him the “Your Vote Counts” poster boy of 2005.

    The Bedford area is split between two House of Delegates districts. Kathy Byron represents the 22nd House of Delegates District and Delegate Lacey Putney, who chairs the powerful House Finance Committee, represents the 19th. Putney is the only one facing challengers. Lewis Medlin, the “Democrat” that Putney trounced two years ago is back again. Another fellow, Will Smith, representing the Constitution Party, has thrown his hat in the ring.

    Locally, six incumbents are seeking to return to the Bedford County Board of Supervisors and the Bedford County School Board. The supervisors  are Chuck Neudorfer, representing District 2, Roger Cheek, representing District 3 and John Sharp, representing District 4. David Vaden, David Black and Gary Hostutler, representing those same districts on the school board, want to come back. Apparently, nobody else wants these jobs as all six are running unopposed.

    Actually, I’m not sure why any of these candidates want elected as the next few years are not going to be pretty. Odds are the recession will hit bottom this quarter, but most economists are predicting a slow recovery and some say a double dip recession is possible. Many economists expect unemployment to actually continue rising for some time after the recovery begins. This all means that the declining tax revenue that the state is now wrestling with won’t turn around any time soon.

    Local government depends on the real estate tax for the bulk of its tax revenue, and this will become  a headache for the supervisors and school board. Next year’s real estate reassessment will reflect lowered property values which, in turn, will yield less tax revenue in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

    Not all the challenges they’ll face are going to be made in Virginia. Federal deficits, as a proportion of gross domestic product, have been higher than they are now, but that was during World War II. Back then, we financed our debt internally. Now, we are financing it by selling our government bonds to China’s government, and the Chinese government is getting nervous about our rate of borrowing. We are truly in uncharted financial waters on a national level.

    What’s worse is that nearly half of this deficit comes from a federal stimulus bill that is not stimulating anything other than the national debt. All that spending in World War II built Navy ships, aircraft, all sorts of vehicles and produced lots of ammunition. It also created jobs for the 16 million men who served in the armed forces. This indeed stimulated the economy.

    The Obama stimulus, on the other hand, is short on the type of spending, such as building transportation infrastructure, that could potentially generate jobs. Furthermore, most of the money that is destined for these sorts of projects has yet to be spent.

    The winners of the Nov. 3 election have an uncertain road ahead of them. Come Nov. 4, I’m not sure if I should congratulate the winners, or offer them my condolences.