Drowning time for state government

Maybe y’all can explain this to me, since I have no morning editorial board meeting at which I would ask Cindi and Warren to answer this question: “In what sense is this alleged ‘deal’ Mark Sanford is offering on the stimulus a compromise?”

Let’s see — he doesn’t want the $700 million spent to “grow government,” which is the phrase used on his home planet for what English speakers call “restoring some of the cuts to essential services.” He wants to devote the money instead to “paying down debt,” which means many things in Sanfordese, including paying “debt” that won’t even be incurred for a generation — anything, absolutely anything, other than spending the money on immediate needs.

And the Obama administration said no, then when he absurdly asked the same question again (the governor is not bothered by repeating himself; he doesn’t get bored), it said hell no with added language to the effect of, “what part of ‘stimulus’ don’t you understand?”

So now he’s offering a “deal” whereby the Legislature spends that money, but sets aside an equal amount from other sources — which means money that we taxpayers paid for state services we expect — to “pay down debt.” So he gets, let’s see, everything that he wants, and the state doesn’t get anything it needs from that part of the stimulus.

Oh, and by they way, you have to go ahead and make every cut in spending that HE wants, and you can take your deliberative process and stuff it down the oubliette.

That’s my understanding, anyway.

By the way, for those of you who don’t understand the governor’s thinking on all this, let me explain it to you. You’ve no doubt heard that the governor’s ideological ally Grover Norquist wants to shrink government “to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” (Oh, and if you follow that link and think, “Mother Jones! What do expect from a left-wing rag?”, allow me to explain that when Grover came to visit with our editorial board a few years back, he brought at copy of that article with him to make sure we’d seen it. He’s proud of what they wrote about him.)

The recent drastic cuts to state agencies are just catnip to the governor and Grover and their ilk. Once you get government down to where services suffer, they can point to it and say, “See how ineffective government is! What did I tell you?” That gives support to their argument that we “waste” even less money on gummint, thereby making it even less effective… and pretty soon, it’s drowning time.

Our governor isn’t about to let some meddling Obama administration drain the tub right when state government is going down for the third time. This is the moment he’s been waiting for.

35 thoughts on “Drowning time for state government

  1. Tim

    I’ve never been angrier or more frustrated on any public issue than this. Mark Sanford is the worst thing that’s ever happened to South Carolina, including Ben Tillman, Pee Wee Gaskins and Hurricane Hugo. This guy can’t point to a single accomplishment as governor that has improved the lives of a single South Carolinian, yet he believes every problem we have is the fault of someone else. I went back and tried to read his “executive budget” this morning after the “compromise” story and became nauseous at the self-aggrandizing language.

  2. Greg Flowers

    Can somebody please tell me where I can find the text of the legislation which includes the $700m. for SC schools etc.? It is hard to know exactly what is going on without being able to see the actual language.

  3. Lee Muller

    The $20 billion budget proprosed by the legislature is only $80 million less than last year, even without the federal bailout loans.

    There obviously is no “budget crisis”.

  4. bud

    So now he’s offering a “deal” whereby the Legislature spends that money, but sets aside an equal amount from other sources — which means money that we taxpayers paid for state services we expect — to “pay down debt.”

    This is called supplanting. It’s strictly illegal. Let’s use the DOT as an example. Let’s say the feds provide 90% funding for a new bridge with the state paying the other 10%. The DOT cannot cut it’s operating budget to come up with the matching funds. If a bridge costs $10 million dollars the state cannot come up with the $million match from it’s operating budget. The governor should know this is unacceptable.

  5. Randy E

    Grover (appropriately calls to mind a puppet) is mindlessly advancing the idiotology started in the 50s by Buckley who railed against civil rights. Reagen, in the 60s, decried the “socialist” program called medicare and attempted to undo social safety nets in the 80s. The Republican Revolution of the 90s also attempted to undo these safety nets and ushered in deregulation of our banks by repealing Glass-Steagall (which was enacted to regulate banks after the Crash of 1929).

    Sanford is mindlessly following tradition. He is a millionare so what does he know of or care about the little man?! Gramm, who was at the vangaurd for deregulating the financial industry right into this economic crisis, is a millionare lobbyist for, surprise, Big Bank. Newt, when he wasn’t cheating on his wife, was cashing in while attempting to undermine the little man. W was a failed business man who got his big break when one of daddy’s friend’s propped him up. He was a talking head for the GOP in 2000 and never wanted for anything so his “compassionate conservatism” was parroting of an idea from someone else.

    My point is, the conservative movement is propelled by white rich men who are completely out of touch.

  6. Doug Ross


    Don’t bother trying to discuss facts.

    It’s all about emotion when it comes to Sanford’s clear-minded approach to reining in the fiscal insanity that has been propagated by the Legislature. “It’s for the children!” “People are living in cardboard boxes!” “Prisoners will run amok throughout the state!”

    Meanwhile, the Hundley will get its money. The Okra Strut will get its money. The many do-nothing bureaucrats who serve in patronage and nepotism positions will continue to hold their jobs.

    None of the Sanford bashers will address the fact that the Legislature could do many things besides cutting teachers and closing prisons. But they play the scare-tactic game because they know that is the easiest way to herd the sheep.


  7. bud

    The $20 billion budget proprosed by the legislature is only $80 million less than last year, even without the federal bailout loans.

    The fact that it is LESS is the problem. With the state’s unemployment rate soaring to 11%, thanks to the Bush recession, we should be spending way more to prop up the safety net for unemployed workers and their families. Considering the sorry state of the Palmetto State is it any wonder that we elect someone so out of touch with the needs of it’s citizens?

    Furthermore this whole conservative mantra of ‘free enterprise can solve it all’ gets really old after about the zillionth time it’s failed. The modern conservative movement is what should be drowned in the bathtub. Thanks to the weirdness of the Rush led GOP it should be about small enough in a couple more election cycles to make that happen.

  8. Lee Muller

    Medicare and Medicaid ARE socialistic programs.
    They are abysmal failures, with 31% of their budgets lost to fraud.
    They have driven up the costs of all medical care.

    Social Security is also socialist, because it is a welfare program.

    The Supreme Court has ruled that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are welfare programs, and no one has any right to any benefits. Congress can deny benefits to anyone for no reason, and abolish all the programs at any time it wants to.

    It is laughable to hear Democrats still calling President Bush “a failed businessman”, when Barack Obama never held a real job, and none of the top Democrats ever had a job outside government or maybe an unsuccessful law practice.

  9. Doug Ross


    Just tell us once and for all – how much money do you want the government to take from people who have earned it? Why don’t you boycott the Red Sox this year for paying 25 guys millions of dollars to hit a ball? Or stop going to movies. And stop watching TV. Because all those people are rich too and obviously don’t deserve it. And let’s close businesses like Chick-Fil-A, Wal-Mart, etc. because there are millionaires who run those businesses as well.

    Why are people so jealous of those who are successful in the financial aspects of life? I’m not rich but I don’t sit around moaning and groaning about people who have more than I do. I do moan and groan when other people want to take the money I have earned to give to someone else based on their interpretation of need.

  10. Lee Muller

    If we reduce the 2009 budget to 2007 levels for every agency except the Employment Security Commission, it would free up and extra $500,000,000 for benefits to the unemployed.

    2007 was a pretty fat year for state government, too – no chaos, no suffering, no layoffs, no cutbacks, no “budget cuts”.

  11. Doug Ross


    I believe you have told us before about the waste and inefficiency in the D.O.T. I have a friend who works for the D.O.T. also and he has told me that half of his co-workers do nothing but sit around playing solitaire on their computers.

    What this “crisis” should do is force government to look at the waste that exists now – but instead, they choose to scare people into thinking that teachers will be cut, prisons closed, etc. It keeps the money flowing to where THEY want it to go. Only by cutting government spending will we be able to address the waste.

  12. Doug Ross

    And let’s not forget that the $700 million is only 1/4 of the money allotted to the state from the stimulus bill. Why are we still talking about budget cuts if we’re getting a couple billion dollars more than we would have without the budget cuts?

    Oh, because budget cuts for the legislature = how much I want to spend versus how much I should spend

  13. Greg Flowers

    I think Sanford sincerely believes in what he is doing and that it goes far beyond political preening. Agree with him or not, it takes great courage to stand alone against overwhelming forces in the interest of something you fervently believe in.

    Now that you have expressed your shock and dismay what are you going to do about it? You have a duly elected official exercising his judgment in an area over which apparently only he has authority. Your beliefs are every bit as strong that he is doing wrong as are his that he is doing right. I firmly believe that he feels strongly that he is doing right by the people of this state. As I have said before, his acting in accordance with his conscience in an area in which he has been chosen by the people to exercise authority for a period of time is the very essence of representative democracy.

    As one who has pushed (rightly, I believe) for a unified executive branch, I know that you understand that not all of its decisions will please you. He is doing his job as he sees appropriate.

  14. bud

    Just a quick reaction to this message received this afternoon:

    Members of the Press – we just had a very important Senate Finance Committee meeting regarding the state budget and the federal stimulus money.

    I just caught this from another posting. Brad, are you still officially a member of the press?

  15. bud

    This is somewhat off topic but since we’re talking about the state economy this is indirectly relevant. This is an excerpt from Politico:

    A stark image of Paul Krugman, the bearded New York Times op-ed columnist and Princeton economist, appears on the cover of next week’s Newsweek, with the headline “OBAMA IS WRONG: The Loyal Opposition of Paul Krugman.”

    Brad, you’ve been very critical of Paul Krugman for being “partisan”. Yet here we have an example where he’s highly critical of a Democratic president. I would maintain this is proof positive that Krugman is a liberal thinker but hardly a partisan.

    The upshot of the Newsweek piece is that Krugman believes the stimulus package was far too small to be effective. The same could be said of the New Deal. Although it was the right medicine the dose just was not large enough. Conservatives not only want to take away all the medicine they want to introduce more of the disease!

  16. Lee Muller

    Paul Krugman earlier admitted that the subjects of recessions and fiscal and monetary policies regarding them is not his area of knowledge, and he has demonstrated that in his columns with a stream of false history and inaccurate facts.

    Krugman is a statist who always wants larger government and more spending. He has never worked in the private sector nor been a consultant to business.

    There are liberal Democrats out there who are becoming very uneasy with Obama and vocal in their criticisms of his authoritarian disregard for the Constitution. They should have paid closer attention to his communist writings and his having run for office on the Socialist Party ticket.

  17. Greg Flowers

    How about a new topic for discussion? We’ve beaten this about to death unless those who disagree with the Governor can find a way to change his mind or circumvent him. Gnashing of teeth and rending of flesh will get us nowhere.

  18. Travis Fields

    Why this idea that anything resembling “Socialism” is bad?

    Germany and Japan became 2 of the 7 wealthiest countries in the world with Socialist policies – investing in their people and capitalizing their core industries. In fact, most all of the Socialist countries in the world are wealthy countries. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.

    Socialism is like any other “ism” – it can be practiced well or poorly.

  19. Lee Muller

    Germany became a wealthy country because the libertarian exiles returned and took charge of the banking system and treasury. Students of Ludwig von Mises had the economy up and running before any Marshal Plan money was even appropriated. The wealth created by the hard work and technical advances of Germans provided the luxury of socialists to live idly in the universities and claim credit for it.

    Just compare the prosperity of West Germany to the degradation of socialist East Germany.

    A wealthy society can handle a little socialism, but it is not better for it.
    Socialism is a retrograde political theory, attempting to roll back the calendar to the autocracy of kings, but now of lesser breeding. The more dominant socialism is, the more impoverished the nation becomes as it stops the creation of new wealth and consumes existing wealth. Red China, the USSR, East Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Cuba… the list of failure, starvation and savage mass murders is monumental.

  20. Randy E

    Doug, “interpretation of need”? Didn’t you refer to your church feeding the homeless? Are you suggesting that this economic crisis has not resulted in greater hardships and more homeless? MILLIONS of people have lost their jobs. No need there, eh? A tax cut is going to do wonders for a guy who doesn’t have a job. Let’s cut his $0 in taxes in half. Yep, that’ll stimulate the economy.

    Your simplistic references to millionares in general is a big fat non sequitur. Josh Beckett is not controling public policy. The people running Chic-fil-a are not refusing stimulus money on behalf of tens of thousands who are unemployed. The Waltons are not pushing deregulation of Big Bank while being paid by Big Bank.

    Doug, you live in a society, a community. We collective contribute for the common good. Reagan peddled his 1 in 6 people work for the evil government propaganda conveniently ignoring the fact that most of these people are teachers, fire fighters, police, and in military. This whole every man for himself schtick has run its course.

  21. Doug Ross


    You twist words to fit your agenda but seem to always miss the point. My church does feed the needy. The difference? Every dollar donated goes directly to the recipients. There is no overhead. Those who donate their time and money do so of their on volition, not because some politician decided who gets it and how much.

    Sanford was a millionaire before he ran for office – unlike many politicians who become millionaires on the public dime.

  22. Spanky

    Seems like Mr. Ross has nothing much to do but prop up Sanford. His reasoning seems as flawed as the Gov.

    Brad has spoken the truth. I am tired of the suffering I see and a Gov. who simply does not care one lick about it. Maybe because some of them are not rich, white and right wing? Sanford needs to “retire” early and go live in one of his lush mansions. Leave us alone.

  23. Bart


    As a former newsperson, why not practice your former profession and ask Sanford for an interview for your blog and pose all of your questions to him in person, face to face? Go to the source, get the story direct, and then present it to your readers.

  24. Lee Muller

    Yes, and for a real change from the lack of honest coverage at The State, report the actual spending, not “budget cuts” and other deceptive jargon.

  25. Doug Ross


    Thanks for your insightful counterpoints to the factual information I have provided. I now understand that Sanford is responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened in the state. I can’t counter the information you provided.

    Oh, wait, you didn’t do anything but say, “Sanford is rich”.

  26. Lee Muller

    Spanky sounds like a spoiled child who pouts and says, “Mommy hates me!” when she refuses to let him gorge on candy.

    Without the federal pork money, the state has as much money as it had last year, and the year before. Why not downsize government to the 2007 level and have a surplus?

  27. Travis Fields

    US-supported West Germany was Socialist. USSR-dominated Bulgaria was Communist. Communist governments are not Socialist governments.

    But perhaps you’ll notice that Sarkozy and Merkel, the leaders of more-Socialist France Germany share your opinion that the Stimulus desired by the leaders of the less-Socialist US and the UK is excessive.

    France and Germany have much better unemployment benefits than the US and the UK, so their Main Street economies aren’t in such dire straits as ours.

  28. Lee Muller

    West Germany in the early 1950s was less socialist than America under Clinton or Obama. If you cannot find the history of the students of Ludwig von Mises who ran the Germany economy for 40 years, I will find one for you.

    It is not my opinion that the stimulus is socialist. That is a fact, accepted by everyone who knows what socialism is. Most of it is illegal.

    Germany has a much more privatized pension and benefits plans than the US, because they owned by the individual, not the employer, and totally portable.

    France has much higher unemployment rates than the US, even with their 35-hour work week.

  29. Steve Gordy

    As to the comparison between West Germany and East Germany: It wasn’t just “libertarian” economics that made the difference (Libertarianism as Americans understand it has never had much of a following in Germany). West Germany suffered much less than East Germany from postwar “reparations in kind” policies; its military defense was ensured by the Western powers, while East Germany had to pay not only for its own military forces but the Soviet occupiers as well; and a large part of the West German population was Social Democrats displaced from their traditional regions of Prussia, Saxony and Thuringia, anti-Communists but not libertarians. Source: Gordon Craig, GERMANY 1866-1945. These things are covered in my forthcoming book on Germany from 1916 to 1989.

  30. Lee Muller

    The mass of Germans need not understand that their central bank was run by the Austrian School of Economics, much less for all of Germany to be followers of Ludwig von Mises and Hayek.

    Historically, a lot of the American system of government comes from the libertarian and local democratic ideas of the German states and Switzerland. Thomas Jefferson made of point of studies of the towns and states of Bavaria and Prussia, and interviewed mayors and councilmen. Remember that America at the time of the Revolution was almost half Germanic. There would have been no Revolution if left only to the English colonists, without the Germans and Scots.

  31. Sean S.

    “Medicare and Medicaid ARE socialistic programs.
    They are abysmal failures, with 31% of their budgets lost to fraud.
    They have driven up the costs of all medical care.”

    Except that number wasn’t for the total of Medicare/Medicaid. In fact, if we link to
    the original article in the NYT
    , that number was amongst durable medical equipment claims, which HHS admits is the largest source of fraudulent claims due to the ease in which equipment suppliers can pass off legitimate claims. This is a troubling number, to be sure, but, as the article also points out, an attempt to reform the system by adding a competitive bidding component to the program was defeated by the private equipment manufacturers lobbying.

    The real fraud rate (called the improper payment rate) is significantly lower,
    at 3.6%
    And while that is a serious number, it is nowhere near the 31% you claim. Which makes you either unable to read or a liar.

    It’s useful to point out that a similar competitive bidding program has been proposed by Obama to lower the costs of the Medicare part D prescription plan, which in how Bush designed it, was a sop to Big Pharma and Big Insurance. If it passes as part of larger health-care reforms, it will more than likely decrease spending and decrease opportunities for fraud.

  32. Lee Muller

    A partial list of GAO fraud reports on Medicare and Medicaid, 1993 through 2009.


    Besides the fraud, these government programs are 200 times the size they were projected to be in 1968.

    The only part of healthcare with high cost increases are 54% of the industry under government control. The other areas have cost increases in line with the Consumer Price Index. Some specialities, such as dentistry, opthamology, and cosmetic surgery, have even seen their costs to patients decrease over the last 30 years.

    Socialism is a failure for the “customers”. Government which cannot manage what it does now needs to be cut back, not expanded.

  33. Sean S.

    “GAO says fraud boosts Medicare costs 44%”

    Obviously a product of South Carolina’s education system, again, you can’t distinguish between overall Medicare/Medicaid spending, and component programs. That 44% number is for IN-HOME SERVICES. The article in fact points this out; “Last year, Medicare spent about $16.5 billion on home care for the services reviewed by the GAO out of a total budget of $455 billion.” It’s of that 16.5 billion that they’re talking about.

    And yes, amazingly I can show you a list of any number of sites from government OIG’s and the GAO that show fraud and misuse of government funds across a number of agencies and programs. In fact, thats why we HAVE these auditing arms so that we can chase down and recoup the money that is lost. And we often do.

  34. Lee Muller

    You find 44% waste in any component of socialist healthcare to be acceptabe? I don’t.

    You find Medicare being 20,000% over its projected budget to be acceptable? I don’t.

    After Obama cleans up Medicare and reduces in in size to match its original scope, then he can talk about how he qualified to clean up Medicaid. Right now, no one in government deserves one iota of more control over our medical care.

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