Toward a More Prosperous Virginia

Thursday, October 8, 2015

by April Moore

This is running as an op/ed in the Northern Virginia Daily. It is one of a series of op/eds to convey my message to the voters in the 26th Senatorial District in my campaign to unseat the incumbent, Senator Mark Obenshain.
The other day I was asked what I thought our state government could do to increase our prosperity and bring jobs to our area.

My first response was stated simply: “Expand Medicaid.”

The failure of our General Assembly to take advantage of the federal offer to expand Medicaid coverage has a major economic cost as well as a human cost. Besides depriving some 400,000 Virginians of the kind of health care security that the citizens of every other advanced nation enjoy as a right, the refusal of the Republicans in our state legislature to seize this opportunity drains the Virginia economy of billions of dollars.

Expanding Medicaid would be funded by federal dollars that we Virginians are already sending to Washington. But because the expansion of Medicaid has been blocked in our state, the money we send to Washington is NOT coming back to Virginia but rather is going to other states.

The impact on our economy of this drain is greater than the sheer number of dollars. Every billion dollars that would be infused into our economy – whether through our health care system or anywhere else in the economy – would get multiplied by additional spending that it makes possible.

The person who is employed, rather than unemployed, will spend many of the extra dollars at the hardware store or the local diner or the beauty salon. The enterprise that gets more business will hire more people to meet the demand. More prosperity brings more prosperity, as the cash echoes through the system.

That’s how the economy works.

So the drag on Virginia’s economy of this refusal to take federal dollars to help our fellow citizens affects the economy as a whole. And if our General Assembly were to do the right thing and expand Medicaid, it would invigorate the whole economy, bringing greater prosperity to businesses and more job opportunities for Virginia’s breadwinners.

But to get this different decision, we also need a different kind of politics than what this sorry episode demonstrates.

There is no way that this refusal by our Republican legislators has been good for Virginia: it hurts our people, it hurts our hospitals and, again, it hurts our economy. The only reason for this policy is that it is a way to stick it to the President. Which means that it is a policy of putting partisanship ahead of the common good.

A certain amount of partisanship is bound to be a part of politics. But this level of partisanship is beyond normal, and it is not the American way.

Our founders had in mind that our elected representatives would be asking first not “How can we get the most political advantage?” but “How can we help create the best Virginia, or the best America?” Wouldn’t such politics be a welcome change?

Another part of my answer to how to invigorate Virginia’s economy is about higher education: as so many Virginia families know all too painfully, in recent years the costs of an education at our state’s fine colleges and universities has been shifted, in significant measure, from the state onto Virginia’s families.

As a result of these increases, many students have been forced to stop their education for financial reasons. When bright and talented young people are prevented from becoming all that they can be, that is not just the human tragedy of wasting their God-given gifts. It is also an economic waste, as our labor force is deprived of the level of economic value these young people would otherwise have been capable of creating.
Educating our young should not be seen as a mere expense. It is an investment. The resources we taxpayers invest now can develop an educated workforce that is the path to greater prosperity for all of us in the future.

A wise society invests in its youth.

Once again, the wrong choice of our legislature -- injuring our economic prospects -- points to a change we need in our politics.

The legislature’s decisions not to invest in our young, and to make education less affordable to average Virginians, seems a predictable consequence of a political system increasingly under the sway of Big Money.

America’s giant corporations have abundantly shown their willingness to outsource jobs to other nations to take advantage of the pool of educated workers those countries have trained. Corporate profits have depended less and less on the how well the American middle class is doing. 

For us to have a government that’s “for the people,” we need to restore government “by the people.”