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Posted by on Apr 10, 2009 in Politics | 7 comments

The Unpopularity of Rejecting Money for Unemployed Americans

Ben Smith of Politico writes that Republican governors like Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, and Mark Sanford, who had publicly announced they would refuse federal stimulus money for their states, are backing down now:

The list of governors threatening to decline federal stimulus money last month read like a list of Republicans considering running for president in 2012: Govs. Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin led the anti-stimulus charge.

But what began with a bang is ending with something closer to a whimper. All three of those governors have been forced to scale back their expectations, to varying degrees, as the push of conservative philosophy gave way to the pull of political reality.

All three found that praise from the conservative movement in Washington meant nothing to furious state legislators of both parties. And in the end, along with other conservative Republican governors, the three submitted letters in recent days asking to be eligible for federal funds, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget confirmed.

“We’ve tried to compromise in a variety of different ways and now we’ve gotten to … a position well past the halfway mark,” Sanford told POLITICO in an interview, conceding that, “I got beaten up pretty bad on it.”

Sanford is still working to persuade his state Legislature to find cuts to cancel out the new federal spending. Still, he has been attacked on his state’s top editorial pages by activists occupying a tent city outside his mansion and by the Republican chairman of the state Senate finance committee, who released a “chaos budget” designed to show the downside of Sanford’s plans. He responded to critics with a television ad Thursday, arguing that he was sparing his state’s children from future debt.

You would never know from reading this article that there are actual ordinary people in Alaska, Louisiana, and South Carolina, who are out of work — many for a year or more — who desperately need the extended unemployment that the stimulus funds these governors turned down would give them. South Carolina, for example, has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, at 11%. Only Michigan (12%) is higher. These are real people who cannot put food on the table consistently or adequately without help. There are flesh-and-blood teachers in these states who will be laid off without the stimulus money that these governors turned down. The programs that will have to be cut are real, and their loss will affect real children in real families. And if these Republican governors do succeed in pressuring their legislatures to make offsetting cuts, these real people will suffer real harm even if the states involved do accept all of the stimulus funds.

Gov. Sanford’s ad message that he is “sparing his state’s children from future debt” is cynical and callous obfuscation, as are the various other justifications made by other Republican governors who have gone the reject-the-federal-money route — such as Sarah Palin, whose excuse for turning down millions of dollars for unemployment relief and public schools was that Alaska might not be able to maintain these funding streams forever and ever until the end of time. (Helloooo?!! These are economic emergency funds! Do you know what an emergency is?).

Steve Benen has the ad video, and here it is below:

Sanford apparently spent $250,000 on this ad to explain why he turned down millions of dollars in federal money that would actually have helped South Carolinians:

The ad, not surprisingly, invited the DNC to once again hit the ball that Sanford placed on the tee. “It’s not surprising that Governor Sanford feels he needs to spend a quarter of a million dollars defending himself in a television ad after rejecting millions in funding for his state,” said DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan. “Then again, if I had rejected $700 million for schools and public safety, I’d feel the need to go on TV and defend myself too, but that doesn’t excuse Governor Sanford for putting his political ambitions ahead of the needs of South Carolinians.”