There are times for ideological fights, this the Dog believes with his entire heart. The issue is when to pick these fights. There is an argument that it is the best time when things are in crisis. The thinking on this, such as it is, is that when things are bad you need to be most correct in your actions. Of course this is what we are seeing from the Republican Party in general right now, and from anti-stimulus Governors in particular. It is also a complete fallacy. In times of crisis you need to have already decided the plan of action and act on it. If you are wise you will have planed and thought and argued prior to the crisis, but that is a rare trait in the America of the early 21st Century.
We see in the Republican Congressional leadership a fierce denial that their policies which were enabled by 6 years of complete Republican control of Government and two more years of control by veto and filibuster are to blame for the current problems. They still have the single idea, cut taxes spend less. That this is exactly what the Hoover Administration proscribed in similarly troubled economic times and to disastrous effect is completely ignored. For these men and women the ideology is all. This is the extension of the conservative meme that Conservatism never fails; only people fail Conservatism, taken to its logical and tragic extreme.
It is from this attenuated logical peninsula that we get people like Sen. McCain wanting to hold up the Federal Budget for this fiscal year (which is half over) because 2% of the money appropriated is being earmarked. What the traditional press often fails to point out is that if we did not have those earmarks, that would not reduce the money spent by a single dime, it would only change how and where it is spent. Once money is appropriated, it is going to be spent by the Government in some form.
But it is not only in the Senate and House that this glare blindness of ideology is making a bad national crisis worse. Most of the country had a “WTF?” moment when some of the Republican Governors started making noise about not taking some or all of the Renew America Act money. The general consensus was that these were the people that were eyeing the Republican nomination in 2012 and that while they were making noises like a Rush Limbaugh Ditto-Head; it was all noise to establish their credibility with the base of the Party of Denial. Basically it was the kind of silly season things that Republican Pols have to say, but given that the State Legislatures could pass a resolution that would circumvent any Governor that actually turned down stimulus funds, it was a tempest in a tea cup.
Sadly this does not seem to be the case with South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Governor Sanford has written to the President to use the stimulus funds for his State not to fix roads and bridges, not to the employ many of his citizens, not to extend employment benefits to those that have already lost their jobs, no, Governor Sanford wants permission to use this money to pay down the debt of South Carolina. You can find his letter here.
His basic argument is that he opposed the stimulus bill in the first place, but since it was approved, as a Federalist he wants the right to say how the money is spent in his State. To the Dog is one more example of how Republican ideology trumps every reasonable action in a time of crisis. Yes, high debt for any State is a problem, but it is not a problem that is has to be dealt with in the immediate terms. It is the same thing as trying to fix an accident victims weight problem while he lies on the side of the road bleeding to death.
This does not mean that it is going to happen, right? There is that clause that State Legislature can go around a Governor by a simple resolution stating that they are going to take the Federal money as it was detailed. In fact this has already been done by the South Carolina Legislature. Unfortunately Jack Balkin of the Balkinization blog, points out that this provision of the Renew America Act might not in fact be constitutional.
While he is not supportive of the ideas of Governor Sanford he does have this to say:
That, however, is not the reason I write this post. It is this constitutional question: Governor Sanford says he doesn’t want the money except to pay down debt; the state legislature has passed a concurrent resolution (which the Governor cannot veto) saying that it wants the money with all the federal strings attached. The federal stimulus bill says that a concurrent resolution is all that is necessary; this provision was inserted in the bill in order to do an end run around GOP governors like Sanford who might refuse federal funds either because of political grandstanding or because of their lack of a basic understanding of economics.
I think this provision may not be constitutional. Unless you can demonstrate that under South Carolina law, the South Carolina Legislature, acting alone, speaks for the State, it would seem to me that the governor’s consent is necessary.
So, even though it is likely to cripple his State, and perhaps drag down an entire region of the country in terms of recovery (whenever that actually starts), it seems likely the Gov. Sanford actually does have a say in how this money will be spent. If it were not so potentially tragic for the people of South Carolina, it would be great news for Democrats there and elsewhere. This reckless ideological blindness has its cost, we are paying it now as a nation, and it seems the people of South Carolina and perhaps other States will have to pay it as well.
If nothing else this should be a lesson for any Democrat that falls prey to the siren song of the big idea over the practical needs of the people. It is great to have big goals but if we forget that the people elect us to make sure that they have the chance at the lives they deserve, the services they require and the support of a powerful and rich nation, then we may very well find ourselves in this kind of position.
There is a quote from Machiavelli hangs in the Dog’s office:
The man that ignores the Real in favor of the Ideal learns to achieve his ruin, not his salvation.
We should keep that admonishment in mind at all times, lest we become the Party that would destroy the nation for the sake of being “right” about the ideology.
The floor is yours.