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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Grandstanding Old Party

Now that the stimulus has passed, you might think the time for Republican grandstanding was over. Thing is, you'd be wrong for thinking that. It's out of Congress's hands and into the those of the states -- and it's there that some Republican governors are using it to make political hay. They're doing this by pretending to reject the stimulus funds for their states.

But this is only a sham rejection -- they're making a big deal about rejecting a tiny portion, as if these drops in the bucket amounted to some sort of real savings. Case in point, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Associated Press:

Gov. Bobby Jindal says he doesn't want Louisiana to tap into $98 million in stimulus money for expanding unemployment benefits for people who wouldn't normally be eligible to receive them.

The federal stimulus package would cover the benefits for a period of time, but the Jindal administration says it requires a permanent change in state law that would force businesses to pay higher taxes once the federal dollars run out.

Jindal said Friday that he doesn't support that change, which is tied to $32.8 million in stimulus cash. Without that change, the state also can't access a separate $65.6 million pool of unemployment money in the stimulus bill.

The problem here is that all that stuff about a "permanent change" isn't actually true. The stimulus would've funded the program for three years, at which point he could've phased it out. Last time I checked, "permanent" wasn't synonymous with "three years." In pretending to both misunderstand the bill and stand up for Louisiana's businesses, Jindal is throwing away benefits for 25,000 of his taxpayers. Keeping people broke is a hell of an economic recovery plan. Louisiana is allocated nearly $8 billion in the bill, Jindal's turning down $98 million. For every dollar of stimulus he accepts, he'll turn down roughly $0.01.

Yeah, that's a real profile in courage.

If Jindal and other governors theatrically and dishonestly "making a stand" won't take the money, other state execs will.

Raw Story:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a very simple message for any GOP governor who doesn't want federal stimulus package money earmarked for his or her state: "I'll take it."

"I feel very strongly that I think that President Obama right now needs team players," Schwarzenegger said Sunday morning on ABC's This Week George Stephanopolous. "It's a very difficult time now, where we have to play together, rather than using politics and always attacking everything," he said.

He's not alone in this sentiment. "You better believe I'm going to take every dollar that is coming to Michigan and if my colleagues here, Minnesota and South Carolina, don't use theirs, I'm going to be first in line to say for my people, for our citizens, to put people to work and to make sure they can survive through this," said Michigan Democrat Jennifer Granholm on FOX News.

As I said, Bobby Jindal's not the only Governor making a big deal of turning down a penny in stimulus money -- using the same pretense. Mississippi's Haley Barbour has said he'd also reject $50 million for the same program for the same reason.

"Once the federal money is gone we would have to replace it with state money, which means we would have to raise the unemployment insurance tax on employers," he said.

South Carolina's in the same boat. Despite having the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation, Republican Governor Mark Sanford goes farther than Jindal or Barbour -- threatening to turn down $2.8 billion.

Of the three, two -- Jindal and Sanford -- are openly considering presidential runs in 2012. The base hates the stimulus -- mostly because they'll believe anything some moron with an R after their name tells them. And turning down a portion of it -- no matter how inconsequential -- scores big with the chumps. So what if unemployment continues to rise in their states? They've got political points to score.

But it may not cost them in unemployment. "[T]here may be a 'beggar thy neighbor' strategy going on here," writes Matt Yglesias. "If Louisiana makes its unemployment benefits less generous than what’s available in other states, then maybe unemployed citizens will leave Louisiana for Texas and other neighboring states, thus creating an artificial appearance of an improved economic situation. It would be the equivalent of Mike Bloomberg fighting poverty by demolishing all the low-income housing in New York and hoping the poor people all move elsewhere."

I'm not sure I'd call this a "beggar thy neighbor" strategy, so much as a "Vlad the Impaler" strategy -- Vlad once wiped out poverty in Romania by killing all the poor. The easiest way to reduce unemployment isn't to get people jobs, it's to get rid of the unemployed. And all this costs these governors is the sacrifice of taking $0.99 instead of a buck. What a hardship. You wonder where these would-be future presidents would chase the unemployed to at the national level.

When all is said and done, Jindal, Barbour, and Sanford are just playing games. They're taking a high-profile bill and using it for a PR stunt. Since they're Republicans, they don't offer any real solutions, they just say "no."

The time for Republican grandstanding is never over.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is Phil Bredesen planning to challenge Barack Obama for the nomination in 2012?

- Tennessee may reject stimulus aid for jobless -

Tennessee could reject a portion of the $787 billion economic stimulus package out of concerns that it would force the state to raise taxes on businesses in the future.

At the National Governors Association meetings in Washington, D.C., (Democratic Gov.) Phil Bredesen said this week that he might turn down relief for unemployed workers worth an estimated $143 million because of conditions placed on the money by Congress.