Tim Kaine has been taking some heat from political rival George Allen over his support for the economic-stimulus package that President Barack Obama championed as a cornerstone to an economic recovery.
Funny thing, to the Democrat Kaine – the stimulus package that the Republican Allen has criticized played a key role in the decision of Amazon to invest in a new Chesterfield County facility by providing funds for an interstate-interchange project that Amazon said was a critical factor in its location decision.
The Amazon news is positive momentum for Virginia, and there are more and more positive economic signs out there – a good Christmas retail season, for example – even as there are some weaknesses that still need to be overcome – notably, the ongoing economic crisis in Europe.
“Small businesses still have a hard time getting loans,” said Kaine, parroting what he has heard from business leaders of late about continued issues with access to capital. And the housing market continues to be a challenge. But the economy is generally on the uptick, as recent employment data trends have been suggesting.
Virginia’s unemployment rate is less than the national average, and the unemployment rate in the Shenandoah Valley is less than the state average. Kaine thinks it is because Valley leaders are, one, doing a good job leveraging the higher-education institutions as partners with the business and corporate world, and two, because local-government leaders in the Valley continue to place a premium on being friendly to agriculture- and forestry-related business.
“A lot of people don’t know it, but ag and forestry is still the number one economic sector in terms of the size of GDP of any sector in Virginia,” Kaine said.
There is some wisdom, Kaine agreed, to the Republican mantra of “get government out of the way so that business can succeed.” But as Kaine pointed out, government getting out of the way of financial institutions “doing crazy stuff” was what precipitated the 2008-2010 recession.
“There have to be rules of the road. There have to be umpires who call, This is a fair practice, and this is an unfair practice. You can’t just have an environment where everybody just does whatever they want. You can’t play a football game that way, you can’t play a basketball game that way, and you can’t have a complicated national economy run that way. You’ve always got to make sure that there’s balance. There can be regulations that are too heavy-handed. But rules of the road are needed,” Kaine said.