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Empty promises

Published 11:41am Saturday, August 18, 2012

So profound is fiscal conservatives’ disillusionment with government that even GOP vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan, perhaps the most serious advocate of smaller government to hit the Washington scene since Barry Goldwater, hasn’t seemed to light their fire.

Beginning with Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” in the mid-1990s, the conservative establishment has time and again promised — but failed — to put the country’s fiscal house in order. For those who want to blame the obstructionism of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, it should be noted that federal spending and debt soared during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush.

Fiscal conservatives’ disappointment doesn’t flow just from Washington.

Here at home, Southampton County conservatives thought they were imposing fiscal discipline in county government last fall when they elected a slate of four new, tough-talking county supervisors, an instant majority of the seven-member board.

Wishful thinking.

Within a few months of taking office, three members of the “Gang of Four” voted for what one of their colleagues called the largest tax increase in Southampton County history — a punitive $200-per-household “garbage fee” that had zero to do with the cost of garbage disposal, which is going down.

It was, pure and simple, a taxation scheme by supervisors who promised serious fiscal reform but, when the chips were down, lost their political courage.

Alan Edwards, Bruce Phillips and Barry Porter owe Anita Felts, Moses Wyche and Walter Young an apology. Had the challengers not promised an expense-cutting alternative to taxation as usual, the incumbents would have returned to office and raised the same revenue, except they would have done it the fair way: by raising the real estate tax rate, instead of imposing a regressive “garbage fee” that disproportionately punishes the working class.

As politicians are wont to do, the newcomers said the county’s fiscal condition was worse than they knew before taking office.

If that’s the case, they simply didn’t try very hard as candidates to understand the situation. County government’s debt-service schedule was established — and became a matter of public record — the moment the money was borrowed. The only real surprise during budgeting season was a positive one: more state dollars than had been originally forecast.

The teachers’ lobby and others who opposed the “Gang of Four” at the ballot box hailed the newcomers’ “statesmanship.”

Meantime, the disillusionment of the conservatives who put them in office deepens.

Maybe Paul Ryan, the latest, greatest champion of fiscal conservatism, will restore their faith.

STEVE STEWART is publisher of The Tidewater News. His email address is

  • handkusp45

    Mr. Stewart, While I agree that Bush grew government and spent money like crazy it in no way compares to Obama’s record. In fact the debt under Obama cannot be compared to any other President. Not only that but the destruction of the Constitution is well under way under Obama’s administration. When congress refuses to pass a bill that Obama wants he simply issues an executive order. (the Dream Act) He has taken a state to court because they tried to protect their border. (Arizona) And he has protected the most corrupt Attorney General there has been in modern history. (Fast and Furious) And speaking of Eric Holder why didn’t he prosecute the New Black Panther party for intimdating voters in Philly? To have thugs with billy clubs outside a voting place in the US…well it defies imagination. I know you were writing about fiscal responsibility. Obama’s record of handing out entitlements exceeds all previous Presdients as well. Now half of America works and pays taxes and the other half lives off the government. This is designed by those who would have us all rely on Washington for our existance. Wait until the Bush tax reductions expire in January. I’ll bet you right now that Obama, if he wins, will end up taking all our 401k and other investments. He is already robbing medicare of over $700 billion to fund Obamacare. I hope things change in January with a new resident of the White House and a new Senate. Wake up, America.

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    • NoComment

      I agree, time for a change, look into Gary Johnson for president.

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      • handkusp45

        NoComment, Romney was certainly not my first choice. However, we must face the facts that a vote for anyone other than Romney is a vote for Obama. Just look at the Ross Perot situation that handed the White House to Clinton. I would encourage all third party people to please keep working hard. But please vote for Romney this time for the future of America.

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      • NoComment

        That is one thing I am counting on, I know Johnson hasn’t a chance, he can’t even get a fair shake. I voted against McCain/Palin last time by voting to give Obama a chance. (I still think it turned out much better than it could have)I am not happy with many things that have happened over the last 4 years so this year I choose to vote against both parties. I will sleep better. It still works out well because in order I prefer Johnson, Obama, The Green Party, Write ins, The rent is too high guy, then Romney.

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  • blackwaterpete

    Steve you have got to be kidding me. We all knew that it was going to be tough. But there are several things you have left out on purpose or by accident. First is the problems with SoCo where NOT laid out on the table in it’s full glory. As one BOS member said to me and I quote. “We had no idea it was this bad until we did take office” It is going to be tough to get us back out of this mess and we have to come to grips with that. Do you want to go back and put in the old BOS and keep going as we where. Spiraling down in flames and throwing money that we did not have a projects that could have been streatched out over years. How about the “Who cares attitude of new business in our county” Do you want that? Granted there where business offers towards the end of the BOS terms but to me that was a smoke screen to save their butts. So why write an article like this when you know what the conditions are. It this baiting for a battle between us and them or is really concerns. To me it is baiting. “Let’s see if we can drum up some controversy” Give it time for come November you will have all that and even more.

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  • greyhound

    Does anyone remember 9/11? The cost of engaging the war on terror during the Bush administration was unavoidable and expensive. Either Mr. Stewart has forgotten, or he is trying to paint his own illusion for the rest of us to believe in, just like the political machines.

    I agree with Happycamper but there are many other additional needs. Tort reform, laws that punish all polititians that fail to pass balanced budgets, immagration control and free trade agreements come to mind.

    Let’s not forget that Virginia is in the top four on the list of States most suseptable to corruption and we all know it occures at our local level. Is it not fair to assume it is going on at all levels of our government? Mr. Stewart obviously doesn’t want to go there, it might damage his own political standing.

    I have a solution for term limits: IF YOUR IN – YOUR OUT! Until they get it right, the voters can set the term limits and it is one thing that WE can do, and WE must do. VOTE

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    • Sinoptik

      The greatest expense of the bush administration was the war in Iraq, avoidable, expensive and totally unnecessary.

      I say the same for Afghanistan, while it was necessary at one time, that time is gone and the current administration should pull out of there as well.

      There are many ways to successfully legislate the economy to improvement, but it will never happen with the two party monopoly on politics who will never see eye to eye, and never learn to compromise.

      The sad thing is that the majority of Americans are voting based on color, red or blue, and not paying attention to anything else. The American experiment of government has failed and I don’t see a recovery.

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  • happycamper

    I consider myself to be a “fiscal conservative”, and I think that if TRUE fiscal conservative ideas could be put into place unfettered by “add-ons”, they would work.

    I’m also a huge skeptic that any meaningful changes will be made!

    With both of those facts disclosed, I don’t think either party will be able to address the basic issues of our national disaster of a government until two things take place:

    1. True and radical tax reform. I don’t care if it’s a flat tax, the FairTax, or some other variation thereof. It must contain the teeth that allows no changes to the tax code unless approved by a national referendum.
    2. True and meaningful term limits. I propose that every single federal elected office be limited to ONE TERM of SIX YEARS. After six years, a member of the House of Representatives could run for the Senate or for President or VP. But after six years, no one could run for or fill the same office they held during that six years. A term of 6 years for president would allow much good to be done without being obstructed by efforts to gain a second term. House and Senate terms could be staggered so that there is never a totally new body.

    For these two ideas to work, those currently in power would have to look to the betterment of the country and give up their positions.

    As I said, I’m a skeptic!

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    • handkusp45

      happycamper, If I may I would like to add a #3. That would be a constitutional ammendment that all the congressmen or congresswomen have to have the same retirement and medical plans that they pass for US Citizens. They are totally out of touch with the rest of us. I do agree with your first two. I can only hope that the present administration is exiled to China. Ahh, can I change that destination? In China they would still own us.

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      • happycamper

        I see where you’re headed, handkusp45, but your suggestion won’t be needed. If we can get term limits to a single term of six years, then they won’t be in office long enough to earn lifetime retirement. Medical benefits while in office … same choices as for you and me.

        Now, full time government employees is another matter. They should have the same SS, Medicare, and other benefits available to any employee of any company. No more … no less.

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