Here’s a bit of news that might make you feel that there is hope that our country could become solvent again: Not long ago Virginia was in the hole $4.2 billion. Today it is running a surplus of $400 million. This dramatic shift took only two years.

Guess what the commonwealth didn’t do:

The usual suspects-the big business lobbies, the Washington Post-thought a major tax increase was needed. So did the previous Governor, Democrat Tim Kaine, who proposed a $2 billion tax hike before he left town, on top of two major Virginia tax increases in the previous eight years.

Mr. McDonnell has proved otherwise. The newly elected Republican put a freeze on hiring and took the knife even to such politically sensitive programs as school aid, police and Medicaid to cut hundreds of millions of dollars. Total state spending has been reset more or less to 2007 levels. If Congress were to do that, the federal deficit could fall by more than $900 billion, or two-thirds. …

From his first day in office, Mr. McDonnell took a tax increase off the table because he says “it will injure our economy, slow the recovery, and cost us jobs.” His strategy to cut spending across most categories stands in contrast to Washington’s, where everything except defense gets branded as “stimulus” to get more money. The feds could do worse than employ the Virginia strategy to close its deficit chasm-and they almost certainly will.

Virginia may have used some accounting tricks to make the surplus appear larger than it is-but it’s a surplus, not a deficit. Instead of voting $26 billion to bail out spendthrift states, as Speaker Pelosi called the House back from vacation to do, why didn’t Congress simply say: Why can’t you be more like Virginia?