Thursday, March 5, 2009

Will Ideology Block Possible Economic Assistance?

Well, it’s the start of a new month, and hopefully, the start of warmer weather and political tidings in Washington…the kind of potential issue that Beyond The Political Spectrum was created to explore. However, my suspicions are that last night’s piece on CBS’ 60 Minutes about Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal—a rising star of the Republican Party—will portent the usual amount of acrimony in national political discourse that we’ve seen over the years.
Why do I say this? Because Jindal, along with the governors of South Carolina, Idaho, Alaska, Mississippi, and Texas all question whether or not the nearly $800 billion earmarked for the economic stimulus plan championed and signed almost 2 weeks ago by President Obama will work to stimulate the country’s ailing economy. For this reason, most of these same governors say (ostensibly) that they will not accept [some] portions of the stimulus fund money. Although this is a valid concern, avoiding anything short of full compliance with implementing the plan smacks more of politics than statesmanship by these governors, especially given the unprecedented nature of not only the country’s current economic situation, but those of the very same states where these governors serve the interests of the people.

Rising political star among conservatives, Republican Govenor Bobby Jindal of Lousiana, along with others opposes the stimulus plan

What can it hurt to support the stimulus plan? If it fails, opponents can justify their stance without the taint of trying to sabotage it by choosing not to accept all of the financial assistance the money is intended to provide; the president and his supporters would be forced to eat crow, and Republicans could then ride another 1994-like wave back into power and show us how the economy should be dealth with. If it succeeds, then the country is better off, and the people can get on with their lives of the living-by-credit and paycheck-to-paycheck status quo that was the reality prior to the now 15-month long economic downturn.
A cynical analysis would conclude that these governors—all Republicans—are putting their political party’s ideology, along with possible political aspirations of a 2012 White House run in ahead of the immediate needs of the people of their respective states. This cynicism could be supported, in a sense by Jindal’s revelation in the 60 Minutes interview, that he considers the late former President Ronald Reagan to have written the book on creating a healthy economy, ideologically speaking. And when pressed about his future aspirations as to a potential White House run, Jindal simply answered “I have the job I want (as governor).” In political parlance, that translates to “I’m leaving my options open…but I don’t want to telegraph my intentions just yet.” Sounds somewhat justified.
And aside from their beliefs that the stimulus plan may fail are their individual arguments. For example, Texas Governor Rick Perry’s concern “is there’s going to be commitments attached to it that are a mile long.” As my teenager nieces would say, “Well, duh…” What money from the federal government doesn’t have some strings attached? How much more different is this aspect of the stimulus package than other federal funds sent to the states? If any of these governors “sees” any difference between the attached “strings” of the economic stimulus package and other funds distributed by the feds to the states, then it is as surely as an ulterior motive in politics to be a perspective that is politically inspired. This is especially true considering that built-in provisions in the stimulus package allows for state legislatures to accept any money that their governors reject; these governors could reject the money and still look like staunch conservatives in front of their core ideological constituents.
It seems that upon simply examining possible options, any reservations that the governors of the various states in questions have do not stand up to the yardstick of impartial or justified concern. Consider Mississippi’s Haley Barbour’s contention that accepting unemployment dollars offered up by the stimulus package would “force his state to eventually raise taxes when the stimulus money runs out.” Is it too difficult for a state’s legislature to enact fiscal policies tied to spending any stimulus-related money that wouldn’t interfere with its mandated use and distribution? Come on…what happened to the thinking and problem solving acumen that conservatives were supposed to be so noted for?
So, as a public service to those of a particular ideological bent who do not want to appear to be (irresponsibly so) putting their personal aspirations or petty dogmas ahead of the needs of their constituents, I have a simple suggestion for those governors even thinking about not accepting any money from the president’s economic stimulus package…simply give your portion of it to the other states which are experiencing similar economic issues. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind taking it…just offer it up to states with economies on life support like Michigan and California. Just simply ignore the fact that your own state economies are pretty much in the same crapper as those of many other states who could benefit from your generosity and selfless philanthropy. Only then can I and others across the country accept that your reservations are devoid of selfishness.


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