Editorial: Are we hypocrites?

With the budget battle raging in Big Washington, just about everyone I know in Rappahannock — Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative — agrees that it is irresponsible to keep running huge federal deficits, as we have for the last 10 years. To keep living on borrowed money, we’re essentially robbing our children and their children. And yet . . .

For every dollar that we Virginia taxpayers send to Washington, we get back $1.51 in federal money. Only nine other states get a better “return on investment,” according to Census Bureau statistics from Fiscal Year 2005 compiled by the nonprofit Tax Foundation.

Seen another way — using raw data from the Census Bureau’s Consolidated Federal Funds Report for Fiscal Year 2009 — this means we Virginians get $19,734 per capita in federal taxpayer money annually. By this “positive tax flow” measurement, we have the dubious distinction of ranking No. 2, just after Alaska. That’s roughly twice the national average of $10,548 for each person living in the United States.

What’s the explanation, and how does Rappahannock County fit into this perhaps perplexing picture?

Because of our proximity to Big Washington, the Commonwealth is home to lots of federal workers, whose paychecks and pensions come from taxpayers. Rappahannock itself may only be a second home to any federal workers, but those paychecks — not to mention lucrative consulting contracts awarded to so-called Beltway Bandits and other economic activity generated by Big Washington — helped fuel the phenomenal rise in real estate values and thus personal wealth that Rappahannock residents witnessed over recent decades.

Then there’re Social Security and Medicare payments: Rappahannock’s older population means we take a lot.

Finally, Rappahannock’s rural character is preserved, at least in part, through generous taxpayer-funded farm subsidies. Over the last 15 years, some Rappahannock farmers have received $4,051,000 in federal tax dollars, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C. And of that amount, more than half — a taxpayer-funded $2 million-plus — went to just 20 local farmers.

Walter Nicklin

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