Allison Kilkenny: Unreported – Take Your Dirty Stimulus Money and Put It In My Pocket, Please

A study of contrasts.

March 2009

WASHINGTON — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is expected Wednesday to become the first governor to formally reject some of the federal stimulus money earmarked by Congress for his state.

The move will cement Sanford’s growing reputation as a political powerhouse among Republican party stalwarts nationwide — though how much of the estimated $8 billion in stimulus funds destined for South Carolina will be affected is unclear. The law allows state legislative leaders to accept funds the governor rejects.

“Our objections to the so-called stimulus bill have been well-chronicled for the way it spends money that we don’t have and for the way this printing of money could ultimately devalue the American dollar,” Sanford said on Tuesday, even as he acknowledged that he’ll accept some.

“Those of us opposed to this package lost the debate on these merits, and I now think it is important we look for creative ways to apply and use these monies in accordance with the long-term interests of our state,” he said.

August 2010

…Mr. Sanford quietly signed a bill passed by the Legislature that expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits. The move paved the way for the state to claim $97.5 million in stimulus money to bolster its financially ailing unemployment insurance trust fund.

Sanford’s reversal attracted little notice, and the move makes South Carolina the 33rd state to expand jobless benefits. It appears that when all the bellyaching over deficits and the grandstanding is over, what becomes important is alleviating constituents’ suffering.

According to the National Employment Law Project, 13 Republican Governors, including Sanford, have gone against their party’s mantra in order to help citizens by taking steps to modernize their state’s unemployment insurance systems.

In 2010, South Dakota, Maryland, Nebraska, Alaska, the District of Columbia, and now South Carolina have made legislative or regulatory changes to revise their jobless benefits system and collect their full incentive. Utah claimed one third of its incentive. Twenty-five other states made legislative changes to collect their full incentive in 2009. Taken together with New Mexico, whose benefit system qualified for full funding without making changes, this year’s action brings the total to 32 states that now qualify for full federal funding.

Of the 19 remaining states that have not claimed their full share of ARRA incentive funding, seven have claimed one third of their incentive(click here: http://www.nelp.org/page/- /UI/Incentive%20UI%20Status%202010.pdf ). Additionally, 11 of these states introduced unemployment insurance reform legislation this year and three states still have pending bills. (Two states – North Dakota and Texas – are not in session this year, but they have until August 2011 to change their laws to qualify for the federal stimulus funds.) States that are now debating modernization reforms include Michigan, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

I’m not one of these people who enjoys lambasting politicians when they change their minds. Actually, I think changing one’s mind in the presence of overwhelming contradictory evidence is a good, healthy thing that should be encouraged. However, political demagogues shouldn’t be allowed to rant and rave in defense of one kind of ideology in public, while simultaneously practicing the opposite in private. That’s blatant hypocrisy and the media should shout to the rafters whenever it happens.Don’t get me wrong, I understand why Sanford is freaking out. After all, his is a state that celebrated a dip in the jobless rate to “only” 10.7 percent. But that doesn’t mean he gets a pass on being a hypocritical douchebag. Either strict Conservatism (small, limited government) is the be all, end all as Sanford has been insisting all these months, or it’s not, and government spending really is the key to recovering from a recession. You can’t have it both ways.

Other hypocrites include Bobby Jindal, who first rejected stimulus, and then later attempted to take credit for it, and Rick Perry, who was totally, totally against government spending until he begrudgingly accepted $17 billion, adding he thought there were probably better ways to fix the economy. What those better ways are, he didn’t say.  Considering Perry compared stimulus money to drug addiction in the past, it’s safe to say he’s now a full-blown junky.

Like I said, it’s fine to change your mind, but the media should at least prominently point out when this flip happens. I know the NYT and Rachel Maddow occasionally feature this stuff, which is great – I hope they keep it up. However, the nature of these things tend to result in buried epilogues, while everyone goes on remembering Sanford as the stalwart Republican (a “powerhouse”,) who refused big gubment spending. That’s simply a false narrative.

Link to this article:

http://www.breakthruradio.com/index.php?b=article.php?id=1548

– Allison Kilkenny

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