I was as staunchly opposed to the Obama stimulus package as anybody, but I really don’t see the point in Republican governors refusing to accept money that the federal government will be handing out to states. Howard Kurtz’s column today tries to portray it as hypocritical for stimulus opponents to accept government cash, and there’s some disappointment among conservatives that Mark Sanford, a vocal critic of the stimulus bill, suggested he’s open to accepting money allocated to South Carolina.
Here’s the thing. Yes, in a folk hero sort of way, it would be great fun to see Republican governors refuse to accept the money. But on a practical level, I don’t see how it makes any sense. The battle is over. The forces who want to spend more taxpayer money won. If every Republican governor refused to accept the stimulus money, it’s not like Congress would go back and reduce the cost of the stimulus package by that amount. Taxpayers in South Carolina will be partially subsidizing all of the stimulus spending no matter whether they like it or not. So, they may as well get what they can out of the stimulus package, and try their best to spend the money as productively as possible.
The theory that those governors who opposed the stimulus package should reject the stimulus money is equivalent to taxpayers refusing to use government programs or services which they oppose. Followed to its logical conclusion, that would mean I can’t ever ride Amtrak, because I want it to be fully private, or that I can’t collect whatever is left of Social Security when I reach retirement, because I want the option to invest my payroll taxes in private accounts.
And the other idea — that Sanford should reject the stimulus funds and force the state legislature to overturn his decision — seems like needless theatrics to me. If a Sanford were to reject funds knowing that he’ll be forced to accept them anyway, he may as well just accept them in the first place.