Happy Friday the 13th. Guess it struck overnight as several homes in the area were victims of mailbox vandalism. Watch out for black cats in the barnyard. Don't walk under ladders. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Where does all the Friday the 13th hysteria originate? Snopes.com has some answers.
Pork barrel spending. Bringing home the bacon. Congressionally-directed spending. Earmarks. Whatever you call it, U.S. lawmakers are masters at getting spending for pet projects in their states and districts. Then they hold press conferences and claim credit - usually in the run-up to their election. Ah, the "wonderful" advantages of incumbency.
The Roanoke Times has a database of the Virginia congressional delegations' 2007-08 earmarks. They total over $1 Billion (lotta cracked corn). Many are bipartisan. Some have truly national goals like homeland security and food safety. But others, such as Bob Goodlatte's $294,000 for the Wayne Theater renovations, $245,000 for awnings in the historic district of Roanoke, and another $245,000 for the Lynchburg Academy of Music renovations have no relevance to the national government goals and priorities. Especially when the deficit is growing. Would the world end if these projects were not funded? How about local government and/or charitable funding for these projects?
This year Democrats are running candidates in each of Virginia's congressional districts. When was the last time that happened? Anybody know? Give up? It was 1990. Before that it was 1974 when a very unpopular failed Republican president energized Virginia Democrats. What's the old saying - deja vu all over again?
Following the 2000 census, the Republican controlled General Assembly and governor skillfully gerrymandered the districts (they also hyper-gerrymandered the 100 House of Delegates and 40 Virginia Senate districts) to make life tough on Democrats. The evidence is in the numbers - in 1998 Democrats held a 6-5 advantage in the House of Representatives delegation. By 2002 the Republicans held a 8-3 advantage (includes Virgil Goode's shift from Democrat to Republican).
Gerrymandering is done for partisan power purposes. It is detrimental to "government by the people" because it diminishes competition to the point where it is difficult to recruit candidates to challenge entrenched incumbents (who also have many other advantages like earmarks). It effectively disenfranchises the voices of many voters. It is morally wrong and undemocratic.
Senator Creigh Deeds has pushed legislation to minimize gerrymandering in the redistricting that is required every 10 years. This past session, he was able to win passage in the Senate, but Republicans in the House blocked it.