Prime rib for California, a salad for South Carolina
By André Bauer
Lt. Governor of South Carolina
As a fiscal conservative I am not a fan of the current “economic stimulus” bill, however, it is hard to ignore the awful possibility that South Carolina taxpayers could wind up stuck in the salad bar after paying full price for a prime rib buffet.
For openers let me be clear: I support our Governor’s attempt to use additional stimulus money to repay debt. It’s a wise and good use of funds that positions us well for the future.
Clearly, Governor Sanford believes he is doing the right thing, and I don’t for a minute doubt his intentions. This is someone who time and time again has fought for the taxpayers.
But here is where I disagree. If the Administration turns down the Governor’s request, I cannot in good conscience allow South Carolina taxpayers to fund benefits for the other 49 states.
The issue is that my constituents in Seneca are as needy as residents of Sacramento. The same goes for the citizens of Aiken vs. the taxpayers of Austin, or the jobless in Chapin as opposed to the unemployed in Chicago. Whether you live in Beaufort or Biloxi, Spartanburg or Spokane, New Ellenton or New York, Dillon or Denver, the issue is that people are in need and if stimulus is purchased with your dollars, the stimulus ought to be available to you. Why send the money and jobs elsewhere? That is the key point. Citizens in South Carolina, their children and grandchildren, have already been stuck with the bill. Why then punish us now — when the need is the greatest?
The place we find ourselves is not a reflection of how Mark Sanford believes he is right to exclude more appealing options. The reality is that this developing spat is rooted in the fact that Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, and Chris Dodd sparked a housing crisis by pushing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make sub-prime loans — no matter how hard Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham opposed them.
The basic issue is that some people want something for nothing, and politicians respond to constituent demands for pork barrel projects — that’s the heartfelt view of Mark Sanford, who has and will continue to say no. And he is right. But the trouble is that for so many of us, it is easier to dress that up and say that elected officials should fight so that the people who elect them have jobs and are able to feed and educate their children.
So, which is the more principled choice: Say no, pay for prime rib and eat lettuce; or, address the fact that real people are hurting in a state where more than 10% are unemployed, 40% of the kids are on Medicaid, and everyone is watching as their life savings are slashed in half?
The truth is that we are in an economic war, and all resources should be focused on beating this new “enemy” which is killing our jobs and our savings and our futures. Like all wars, when you find yourself in one, fight for your life first and argue principles later. Like they say, there are no atheists in foxholes, and no time for academic political debate there either.
Is this war? Opinion leaders are beginning to conclude that America is indeed in the equivalent of a war footing when it comes to dealing with this economic crisis. Warren Buffett was the first to say it earlier this week. Then yesterday, the New York Times’ Tom Friedman declared, “Economically, this is the big one. This is August 1914. This is the morning after Pearl Harbor. This is 9/12.” And the Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein added, “What we are facing is the economic equivalent of a war.”
All three pundits posed the same question: If we’re at war, then why aren’t people acting like it? Why isn’t the Obama administration, instead of trying to score hits on Rush Limbaugh, doing everything it can to develop a clear and transparent plan to fix the banking crisis? Why are folks on Wall Street engaged in short-selling — i.e., betting against the economy?
And why is the press covering all of this like a political campaign or expecting that, on Day 52, Obama should have already been able to turn the economy around? Associate Editor David Ignatius of the Washington Post also makes this point: “The culture of immobilism starts on Capitol Hill. These people are still working a four-day week, taking Fridays off so they can run home and tell constituents how diligent they are. They may talk about a crisis, but they don’t act like it’s real.”
It’s real people. It’s very real to 227,986 South Carolinians without a job and having to learn the ins and outs and humiliations of the unemployment lines.
Let’s face it: Washington has failed miserably. As leaders, we must make the best of bad policy. We’ve never experienced anything like this in our lifetimes. It is time to make the tough decision. The principle of winning the war wins the argument.