U.S. House of Representatives, Virginia’s 10th District, 2010

In the race to represent Virginia’s 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, incumbent Representative Frank Wolf (R) faces off against challengers Jeff Barnett (D) and William Redpath (L). The 10th District encompasses Clarke County, Frederick County, Loudoun County, Warren County, Manassas, Winchester, and parts of Frederick, Fairfax, and Prince William counties. Wolf has represented the district since 1980 and is seeking his sixteenth two-year term.

In 2008, I heartily endorsed the reelection of Representative Wolf when I posted the Off on a Tangent endorsements. Then, when President George W. Bush (R) embarked on a mad binge of socialist bailouts and bank takeovers, I was forced to rescind most of my endorsements—including Wolf’s—for reconsideration because most of my endorsees had voted in the face of vehement, consistent, and vocal public opposition for the ill-advised and ineffective TARP bailout. I ended up endorsing Wolf anyway, reluctantly, with some new caveats. Most importantly, I said that “Wolf must oppose any further moves toward socialist interventionism by our government and must defend the free market economy.”

This caveat has become even more important in the last two years, as President Barack Obama (D) and his strong Democratic majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate have expanded and accelerated the mad and misguided federal spending that started under Bush. In 2009, the first annual federal deficit under Obama was nearly four-times bigger than Bush’s record-setting 2008 deficit, and the Democratic Party—roaring into power on promises of fiscal responsibility—shows no sign of stopping the madness.

Barnett, running on the Democratic ticket for the 10th District seat, makes cogent arguments against this insane spending that has already begun to extend and deepen our recession and threatens to destabilize the entire American economy. He says that he is “absolutely committed” to a balanced federal budget and cutting discretionary spending. He supports redirecting any federal bailouts to small businesses, small banks, and individual homeowners instead of to large, multinational corporations. These are admirable goals.

But these, like Obama’s eerily-similar statements during his 2008 campaign, seem to be more mirage than fact. Barnett calls the massive Bush/Obama bailout deficits “necessary” (though, at least, admits they are “not sustainable”). He urges tax increases for wealthy Americans who already pay more than their fair share, even though lowering taxes—even for the ‘rich’—is a proven deficit buster and tax hikes always hurt economic recoveries. He urges massive cuts in federal spending, yes, but instead of cutting funding for countless spurious and unnecessary federal programs he believes we should target . . . defense spending. Seriously?

Barnett also advocates a misguided re-regulation of our banks—despite federal regulation of the mortgage industry having played a huge part in the banking collapse. You don’t solve a problem by adding more of what caused it. He supports the terribly malformed health care reform bill passed earlier this year, saying that he could only have been prouder if he had been in Congress to vote for it himself, and has no interest in repealing its most pernicious and unconstitutional requirements or replacing it with fair, effective reforms we could all agree on.

While he has some good ideas and priorities—a desire to improve our transportation infrastructure, a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to moving beyond our dependence on foreign oil, and programs that benefit individual Americans instead of corporate big-wigs on Wall St.—Barnett is strangely quiet on the details. These positives, however, do not outweigh the many negatives discussed above. Barnett’s plans for economic recovery, despite his ‘balanced budget’ platitudes, will hurt more than they help, and any argument for a reduction in defense spending is a complete non-starter when we are constantly threatened by radical Islam and, worse, potential political instability world-wide due to failing national economies.

Redpath, running under a Libertarian Party banner, presents much better ideas for improving our economic plight. He calls for a stop to the “cheesy, half-baked, short-sighted Federal responses to the current economic situation” and, instead, calls for a massive reduction in federal spending. He supports a plan presented by the Cato Institute for 348 billion dollars in spending cuts that would only effect the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Education, and HUD—departments that, in general, are largely unnecessary at the federal level anyway. He also supports reducing trade restrictions and tariffs that artificially and negatively impact international trade—trade which benefits our own standard of living, that in other countries, and reduces incentives for international violence and tension. He would press for replacing our overly-complex, redistributive tax code with a better, fairer, simpler flat-tax. He believes in a balanced federal budget and, unlike Barnett, actually seems to have a plausible path for getting there.

As a Libertarian and, apparently, a believer in the U.S. Constitution, Redpath also supports devolving authorities not granted to the federal government by the Constitution back to the states. This is consistent with a plain-text reading of the Tenth Amendment, which explicitly reserves all authorities not granted to the federal government by the Constitution to the states or to the people. As such, Redpath would press for a repeal of federal drug laws, gambling laws, health care laws (including the recently passed ‘reform’ act), and entitlement programs. He does not necessarily believe these laws should not exist, he just believes—rightly—that they are state, not federal issues. Each state should be permitted to establish (or not establish) these laws and programs for themselves consistent with their own needs.

Redpath would also seek to establish an “open, but regulated” immigration policy which would permit any person who isn’t a criminal, doesn’t have communicable diseases, and isn’t a security threat to enter the United States and have a path toward citizenship. Immigrants, however, would not receive any federal benefits. This is almost exactly the ideal immigration policy—welcoming and open, but with reasonable protections against the social ills that follow naturally from unregulated illegal immigration.

My one major objection to Redpath’s platform is his national security plan, which inexplicably calls for a withdrawal from Afghanistan and a “focus on [al-Qaeda] as the [U.S’s] greatest security threat”—as if a military presence in Afghanistan isn’t an important piece of fighting al-Qaeda. He also calls for a massive reduction in defense spending and a completely non-interventionist (read: isolationist) military policy. These are tempting positions to agree with, but the fact remains that a certain level of foreign interventionism is necessary in our modern, interconnected world. If we withdraw from the international political scene, there is no other power in existence that can present a realistic deterrent against foreign leaders who would, if they had the chance, embark on a policy of imperialist totalitarianism, ethnic cleansing, and worse.

Without an active U.S. foreign policy, it is only a matter of years before North Korea conquers South Korea and expands beyond, before an Iranian caliphate begins to conquer its neighbors, and before Israel’s mortal enemies invade it once more and try to repeat the holocaust. Then it is only a matter of one or more decades before those surging, radical regimes begin to threaten Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Who will stop them? The United Nations, NATO, and others would be incapable of mounting an effective response without our participation. I don’t think the United States should have to be the world’s policeman, but we are required—by moral necessity, if nothing else—to act in that role until any other free republic (or amalgamation thereof) is willing and able. I don’t like the state of affairs any more than Redpath does, but the fact is that his foreign policies would be catastrophic in the long term for us and the entire world.

Finally, we come to Representative Wolf. Unfortunately, Wolf does not seem to have updated his web site at all since 2008—at least not insofar as its real content—which tells me that he is very confident in his prospects for reelection. Indeed, Wolf has not even bothered to change his copyright dates—his ‘Wolf Works’ issues section is “Paid for and Authorized by Friends of Frank Wolf[,] Copyright © 2008.” Worse, he has added no content relating to the Bush/Obama Bailout Bonanza and instead focuses solely on the bygone issues from earlier in the 2008 campaign. This is disappointing; he should be embarrassed.

Having said that, Wolf, as an incumbent, has something the other candidates don’t have: a Congressional voting record. Following his fateful vote for the Bush-initiated TARP bailout in 2008 that almost lost him the Off on a Tangent endorsement, Wolf seems to have gotten the message his constituents sent him—loudly—about wasteful federal spending. He opposed the proposed auto-bailout that failed in Congress in December 2008 (though Bush ultimately repurposed TARP money for the car companies anyway, Constitution be damned). He voted against Obama’s so-called stimulus and recovery bills. He opposed the misguided health care reform plan. In general, Wolf has done exactly what I asked him to do: oppose socialist economic interventionism and work to defend the free market economy.

The reasons I endorsed him in the first place remain the strongest arguments in favor of sending Wolf back to Congress. He has tried to overcome Richmond’s inaction on improving our transportation infrastructure. He has been among the strongest cheerleaders for extending MetroRail to Dulles Airport. He has opposed misguided and ineffective HOV restrictions that simply inhibit traffic flow (slowing everybody down and likely increasing emissions). He has opposed toll increases on the Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Greenway (while his Republican brethren in the statehouse have done the opposite and tried to add new toll roads). He is tough on crime, supports the fundamental right to keep and bear arms, and is among the biggest Congressional advocates against human rights abuses in China, Darfur, and other hot-spots. Overall, Wolf has served us well.

But I am torn on whether his overall record is enough to send Wolf back for another term. I value principles, and if Wolf is really a free-market conservative who believes that the federal government should not overstep its Constitutional authorities then why did he vote for the TARP bailout? He seems to have corrected his ‘government will fix it’ views in the mean time, but this one vote is absolute proof that Wolf is not what he seems. He was presented with a choice: toe the party line and do what a Republican president told him to do, or vote for free market principles. He, like pretty much every other member of Congress, received hundreds of thousands of calls and emails from his constituents demanding that he vote against the TARP bailout. When it came time to vote on the floor of the House chamber, he chose to thumb his nose at his his constituents and at the ideals that make this country—and this state—what it is.

His change of course in the mean time smacks of political expediency, not of true principle. Republicans who voted for the TARP bailouts were sell-outs—nothing more, nothing less. That many TARP-supporting Republicans later turned against Obama’s continuation of the same basic policies (and many Democrats who opposed TARP later supported the Obama continuations) proves that they were simply toeing the party line, principles be damned. The Republican Party’s economic policy positions may have returned to their free-market roots, and rightfully so, but it is no thanks to Presidents like Bush—or representatives like Wolf—who so easily abandoned them in the first place. I am loathe to vote into office somebody who simply follows the whims of the party leadership on one of the most fundamental of issues, and so blithely ignores the will of his constituents to please a lame-duck same-party President.

Representative Wolf has been in Congress for thirty years and, in my judgement, he has become complacent. TARP was the first salvo in a concerted effort to ‘spend our way out of the recession’—a Keynesian economic concept that is guaranteed to fail—and Wolf, supposedly a free-market conservative, supported it. This tells me that he is not what he seems to be, and if the Republican Party flips back to a policy of economic interventionism it is reasonable to believe that Wolf will flip with them.

So what are voters of the 10th District to do? It is simple. The people of the 10th District cannot trust the shaky conservatism of Representative Wolf, nor should we embrace the counterproductive socialist policies of Barnett. Only one candidate presents a clear, principled, and correct position on our national economy and on matters of federal authority. I endorse the election of William Redpath to represent Virginia’s 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

While he is misguided on certain national security and foreign policy matters, these negatives are easily outweighed by Redpath’s principled and consistent positions on returning authority to state governments (in accordance with the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) and reducing unnecessary federal intervention in our free market economy. These are the principles that will balance our federal budget and—quite possibly—stave off a full-fledged economic free-fall at the hands of the Keynesian spenders. The people of the 10th District deserve an advocate in Congress who takes a principled stand on these fundamental issues.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.