As with fruit tree blossoms, economic recovery is in the springtime air in the Old Dominion. Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent in January, a three-year low. The question now is who gets credit.
Leading the “credit me” pack is Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who insists that his job-creation policies are responsible for the uptick. “Now the good news that we’re beginning to come out of this economic downturn stronger and better than most other states,” he says.
Setting himself him as a “jobs” creator is especially important to McDonnell since his apparent ambition to be considered as a vice presidential candidate has taken major hits with his handling of divisive moves by hard-right state legislators pursuing their anti-abortion agenda. McDonnell’s positions has been mocked on televisions shows such as “Saturday Night Live.” “Doonesbury” is running cartoon strips this week lambasting conservative white males in Texas (read “Virginia,” too) for their ham-handedness in how they regard women considering their legal right to abortion.
To be sure, McDonnell has worked hard to get more jobs in Virginia. One notable example is Amazon.com, which will open distribution centers in Dinwiddie and Chesterfield Counties that will create hundreds of jobs. Problem is: McDonnell wanted to let Amazon get away without paying state sales tax until the General Assembly shot down that idea.
Another problem with McDonnell’s claims is that some of the jobs he may be creating are still in the pipeline. He did win a $3 billion transportation bond package, but the bulk of those jobs are a bit down the road.
What’s unsettling about McDonnell’s claims, however, is that he leaves out the role that federal jobs and government spending played in the recovery. As a former Army officer, he ought to know that Virginia is chock-a-block with defense jobs. President Obama gets no credit, either. Virginia benefited from Obama’s stimulus package in 2009 and 2010, while Republicans such as McDonnell whined away about “socialism” and runaway deficit spending. Yet those very policies have finally borne fruit.
James Koch, an economics professor at Old Dominion University, says that McDonnell’s job-creation program was helpful. “But the truth is, governors don’t have very many tools to influence what’s happening nationally, and what’s happening in Virginia reflects the national recovery in many respects,” he adds.
Predictably, the Democratic Party had stronger criticism of McDonnell for ignoring Obama’s contribution. The bottom line is that McDonnell does have the right idea on creating jobs. But really should give credit where it is due.
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