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Thursday, November 11, 2010

GOP = No Jobs II

Depression era billboard - 'Jobless men keep going, we can't take care of our own'
It was a weird coincidence. I was planning on writing a follow-up to a post I wrote last week -- "GOP = No Jobs." And what do I wake up to? A very informative comment to that very post telling me that it's the same story in South Carolina. Things are tough all over, but nowhere are they so tough as in those states with new or incumbent Republican governors.

To bring you up to speed, the original post spelled out how the Republican word of the day -- "austerity" -- is actually synonymous with increased unemployment. When you cut spending, you're cutting people. And when you oppose new spending, you oppose new jobs. This is inarguably true. You can't fight math. We can argue over whether this is a good idea or not (I'll take "not"), but no one can truthfully argue that cutting spending doesn't cut jobs, thereby increasing unemployment.

I bring all this back up and revisit the post because all is not lost here. While Republican governors grandstand on the "no new jobs" platform, the White House plays hardball -- and reality is their leverage.

Associated Press:

The Obama administration has a message for Republican governors who campaigned against the president's high-speed rail program: Build the trains or give back the money.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Tuesday rejected a request from Gov.-elect John Kasich in Ohio to use the $400 million in federal funds pledged to that state's train project on other projects like road construction or freight lines.

"I would like high-speed rail to be part of Ohio's future," LaHood wrote. But if the state won't go forward, it's necessary "to wind down Ohio's involvement in the project so that we do not waste taxpayers' money," he said.

Wisconsin's governor-in-waiting Scott Walker got a similar letter. No train, no money and you owe us for what was spent. The federal government isn't handing out cash for you to blow on anything you want. That's train money and you either use it or lose it.

In a way, it's actually doing these guys a favor. Think about it: you take an idiotic and self-destructive stand to either get elected or re-elected and the White House comes along and bails you out by tying your hands. Consider yourself saved from yourself. Because, as employment rolls plummet in your state, you don't have an incumbent to blame anymore -- you're the incumbent and you're responsible now. You can't run against things anymore, you have to defend things. In politics, this is the weaker position. If Wisconsin's Scott Walker thinks he's not going to face a "he cost the state 5,500 new jobs before he was even sworn in" ad sometime in the future, then he's forgotten how political campaigns work -- within less than a month of winning one. Walker ran on a promise to create 250,000 new jobs (a number he pretty much pulled out of his butt) and losing a few thousand at the gitgo isn't exactly movement in the correct direction.

Keep in mind that I'm just using Walker as an example here, since it's the situation I know most about. As the AP story demonstrates, other governors and governors-elect are in the same boat. Walker's campaign against the rail line became extremely popular, but these things lose momentum fast. If it turns out that it's either lose $100 million or accept $810 million -- and that's the choice as it stands -- then people aren't going to give a hot damn about principles down the road. Especially if unemployment rises, which it will. If there's one thing you can say about those swing voters that put Walker in, it's that they're fickle. Look at Barack Obama; when he was elected, everyone was all, "Yay, we're getting healthcare reform and a big stimulus to help the economy!" After he was elected, they switched teams. All of a sudden, the message of the day was, "Oh no! Obama's jamming healthcare reform and a big stimulus down our throats! Help, Republicans! Help!" Movements in an electoral cycle are really "movements" -- momentary and in quotes. Few are really committed to anything other than good results and they'll jump ship in a heartbeat if things don't go their way. This reality must be settling in at Team Walker HQ about now, as an eight-hundred-ten-million dollar sword of Damocles dangles over their heads by a hundred-million dollar hair.

Dave Dayen, Firedoglake:

We've seen this game of chicken play out over the past two years, with governors who appear far more ideologically committed than Walker and Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich. Rick Perry, Mark Sanford and even Sarah Palin all made rumblings about not accepting stimulus funds, and they all buckled in the end. Walker and Kasich appear sincere about killing the rail projects, but now that LaHood has told them that the money is "use it or lose it," let's watch and enjoy.

Yes, let's.


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