Sanford’s letter to Obama

So that you might be fully informed, I pass this on. Can you see me rolling my eyes from where you sit?

You saw the story about Obama's response to the original request, right? The administration told the gov that the stimulus is supposed to be used to save or create jobs. To which it might well have added, "Duh!" Marvelous restraint on the administration's part there.

Anyway, here's the latest letter:


March 17, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama
United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest
Washington, D.C.  20500

Dear Mr. President,

I'd first thank you and Director Orszag for your response of March 16 to my letter of the previous week.  Likewise, I have to express my disappointment that our substantive dialogue about the best way to adapt this stimulus to the unique situations of states across this country was interrupted by the Democratic National Committee's launching of a petty attack ad against us even before we had received your response.

I've made clear my opposition to using debt to solve a problem created in the first place by too much debt – and I don't believe this to be an unreasonable position.  What I find less reasonable is the way this DNC attack ad returns a nation indeed yearning for change back to the same old politics-as-usual.  Because I believe you and I share a common desire to escape this worn-out "attack first" mentality, I'd respectfully ask you to immediately condemn and put an end to this unnecessary politicization of a truly important policy discussion.

In the spirit of moving forward, I'd offer the following as a clarification to our using a portion of the stimulus funds to paying down our state's sizable debt.  With regard to the Education Stabilization Fund monies (ARRA § 14002(a)(1)) that must be used "for the support of * education," we think it would be consistent with statutory requirements to use this $577 million to pay down the roughly $579 million of principal for State School Facilities Bonds and Research University Infrastructure Bonds over two years.  This would immediately free up over $162 million in debt service in the first two years and save roughly $125 million in interest payments over the next 13 years, which could then be directed towards other educational purposes – just as paying off a mortgage early frees up the typical monthly payment for other uses.

Regarding the $125 million in the Fiscal Stabilization Fund (ARRA § 14002(b)(1)) headed to South Carolina, we'd lay out a few options for your consideration: first, paying down debt related to the state's Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund that currently exceeds $200 million and would directly impact those currently out of work in this struggling economy; second, paying down debt related to state retirees, since that would seem to satisfy the statutory requirement that these funds be used for "other government services"; or third, paying down other bonded indebtedness at the state level.

We trust these alternative proposals fit both the statutory requirements and spirit of the stimulus legislation.  Thank you again for your response, and we would again appreciate your opinion as soon as possible given that we believe this course of action will do more to ensure South Carolina's long-term economic strength than would other contemplated uses of the funds.

I also await your response on pulling down the attack ads.  A good part of your candidacy was fueled by the hope for change in the way political debate is conducted in our country.  On this, actions will speak louder than words – words you have been so gifted in delivering – in determining where you really stand, not as a candidate promising to deliver on change, but as a leader now capable of bringing this change.  I look forward to your response.


Mark Sanford

cc:    The Honorable Peter R. Orszag, Director
    Office of Management and Budget

28 thoughts on “Sanford’s letter to Obama

  1. beano

    Mr. Sanford’s horse just keeps getting higher and his box just that much soapier.
    You should write your last column in a letter format like this and address it to Governor Sh _ _head.

  2. Karen McLeod

    Would someone please tell Gov. Sanford that it’s not an attack ad. If it were, it would be much nastier, I’m sure, given the type of ‘ads’ seen before elections. I might believe Gov. Sanford about freeing up money down the road, if it were not for the fact that he keeps reducing taxes (government income). If he wants to reduce our debt, why does he keep reducing the amount of money we have to service that debt? Unfortunately, I don’t believe him, since he seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth about taking care of our debts. I don’t trust him either.

  3. bud

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe him, since he seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth about taking care of our debts. I don’t trust him either.
    Harry Truman once said of Richard Nixon, “He’s the only SOB who can talk out of both sides of his mouth and lie out of both sides at the same time.”
    Maybe Sanford is the second man who can do that.

  4. Lee Muller

    Sanford is offering to pay off the debts incurred due to mismanagement of school districts. They are wasting $81,000,000 a year on interest. They should have paid cash each year for construction, rather than letting the schools run down and then building new ones to keep taxes on the backs of property owners.
    Sanford knows that if the average mayor, county council or school board gets their hands on this money, it will all be blown on junk programs and two years of jobs for cronies.

  5. Birch Barlow

    Karen, which ones do you trust?
    bud, I think you are giving Sanford too much credit. He isn’t any different from the rest of them when it comes to politicking.

  6. KP

    Lee, just curious: do private businesses handle construction debt differently from public schools? Do they pay cash as they go, or mismanage money by carrying construction costs over a period of years?

  7. Lee Muller

    Private developers often borrow money for construction because they do not have enough cash to pay for the project in advance. Some do pay cash, like my main client does. I know others who have the cash to develop shopping malls, etc, but who borrowed on their first projects.
    Accounting practices and tax laws require private construction projects to be depreciated, typically over 27 years, so long-term financing (10 to 20 years) fits into the accounting models.
    Government is much larger. Its revenues are huge compared to the size of a typical project like a new school, so it can pay cash for several this year, and several more next year. That is what SC did in the 1960s when it used one cent of sales tax to construct all new schools for the black students, and pay cash for them. Then, it started upgrading the white schools, before integration came about.
    Financing schools today is just a waste of interest money which could build more schools.

  8. KP

    Are you saying that private businesses frequently finance construction even if they have the money to pay for it in order to avoid a one-time blow to stockholders and spread the impact of a purchase over the perid of its useful life?
    If that’s right, I still don’t understand why it’s not appropriate for schools to do the same thing. Paying for a new school would in one year would be a significant hardship for many communities. Over the life of the school, it’s more manageable.

  9. KP

    Not to be Johannes Silencio here, but how much sense does it make to argue that school construction debt is unnecessary because government “revenues are huge compared to the size of a typical project like a new school, so it can pay cash for several this year, and several more this year”? State revenues may be huge, but the state has never committed to pay all the costs of school construction — local communities do most of that. And in many communities (like mine), revenues are certainly not huge compared to the cost of a new school.

  10. Lee Muller

    Yes, the state has in the past paid most of the costs of school construction, using only 1 cent of sales tax.
    The way government works today is not just dumb, but proven to be inferior by other modes of operation.
    Paying cash doesn’t enrich bankers like tax-free bonds do.

  11. martin

    Hey, Brad, here’s something to do until you get that new job (in a couple of weeks. hopefully): the definitive profile of Mark Sanford. I read The State and Charlotte Observer stories on him from 2002 a couple of months ago. There’s lots that could be fleshed out: his time as a driver for Phil Lader; the move from Lader to the far right; his income while not in elective office (apparently he doesn’t volunteer info on his Skil heiress wife’s income when he’s not in govt. & reported less than $30,000 for the year after he finished up in Congress. If Cindy McCain has to spill about her family, Ms. Skil will have to at some point); his family’s acceptance of farm subsidies; does his family share his political inclinations; how about his grades from Furman and UVA – that’s fair game for a presidential candidate; info from coworkers from the brief periods in NY banking and SC real estate.
    Don’t you think it would be fascinating to find out if he’s for real or if he just figured out the path into the right fringe was the way to get and stay elected in SC? It seems he’s pretty much had one freebie after another from the press for most of his political career and I bet there’s a lot of interesting stuff there.

  12. KP

    And now, the Governor who offers up a prayer for the unemployed constituent for whom he doesn’t want to accept federal unemployment funds, is selling his $3.5 million Sullivan’s Island home so that he can build his dream home on his property in Beaufort County. Good to know the Sanfords will be comfortable when he leaves office, no matter what rags the rest of the state is in.
    And Lee, you are wrong. South Carolina appropriates limited amounts of funding for school construction (and it was even more limited before the Hodges/Tenenbaum school bond legislation), but communities still foot most of the bill.

  13. Bill C.

    martin – You’re scaring me. Nobody should be this obsessed with someone they’re not related to.
    T minus 3 days until this crap is done.

  14. Lee Muller

    KP, learn some history.
    Governor Hollings built new schools in every district with a one cent of sales tax, and paid cash for the schools. Today, we have 6 cents sales tax, on top of property taxes and one of the nation’s highest income taxes, yet the educrats borrow billions to build schools.
    This state has enough money to fund any schools, busses, and teachers it really needs, without borrowing.

  15. bud

    The evidence is now conclusive: Modern Conservatism, like Communism, Fasim and Nazism is a complete failue. The evidence from the Reagan years shows only a huge and unwarranted shift in wealth from working people to the mostly lazy and unproductive rich. Bush Jr. further demonstrated the failure of conservatism with his tawdry tax cuts for the wealthy scheme that created little growth and a huge gap in income levels and two devestating recessions. Our own Mark Sanford is merely putting his foolish spin on this capitalism gone wild philosophy that if left alone would only further plunge us into economic ruin.
    So now that its been established that modern conservatism is a complete and utter failure, what do we do now? Obama is off to a good start even if he doen’t get sufficient credit. His firm, guiding hand at the controls are already paying dividends as the sinking stock market has finally turned around. Housing starts are up also and it appears that confidence is slowly coming back. With the very modest tax cuts for working people about to go into effect the economy is likely to gradually rebound in earnest this summer. If the obstructionist GOP would only get out of the way the Democrats could forge a more robust recovery. But at the end of the day the fringe conservative elements within the GOP still hold just enough power to prevent a full blown recovery.
    We should applaud the American people who earned this recovery by rejecting once and for all the failures of conservatism in November. It wasn’t a total victory, but it was likely enough to move the country forward.

  16. Lee Muller

    Modern Conservatism defeated Nazi socialism, Soviet communist socialism, and Iraqi Baath socialism.
    Now we have to defeat liberal American socialism.
    The free market has been recovering from the socialist failure of junk mortgages for minorities, but Obama has been trying to sabotage the recovery with threats of new taxes and spending boondoggles.

  17. Tim

    “…Democratic National Committee’s launching of a petty attack ad against us even before we had received your response.”
    Why does the Ungov continually use the royal we? Talk about delusions of grandeur.

  18. Workin' Tommy C

    Someone on the left recently stated that the Federal government should go ahead and nationalize all businesses so that the government can own corporations rather than the corporations owning the government. Considering the incest between the corporations and government for the last one hundred years, I don’t think I can see much difference between the two options.
    Politicians in the US Congress have long ago figured out that throwing bread at the masses and keeping them entertained by the plethora of modern circuses can keep a politician in power for life. They have done everything they can to place themselves separate and above the common folks. They no longer represent us to the degree they should.
    Politicians in D.C. do what they wish and what they wish to do is to plow the corporations for as much campaign cash and favors as possible. They do this in order to consolidate their power and enshrine themselves in office until, nearly mummified and with brains dried up to the size of raisins, they either die in office or retire and die a few few weeks later from old age.
    As a result, we haven’t had true capitalism in this country for about a hundred years. It’s now just a good ol’ boys’ club that is similar to the heirarchies of the various corporations that are “too big to fail.”
    As we’ve seen, the big corporate players spend most of their time trading favors (and big $$) among each other instead of looking out for the interests of the stockholders. Now, fascism (corporate welfare and the like) is being practiced at an even more feverish pitch by this administration and Congress than any others since FDR’s time.
    The socialist portions of this (mostly economic) fascism are also along the lines of Hitler and Mussolini. They would be very proud of Obama (well, except maybe for the racial and nationalist aspects).
    Obama COULD HAVE come in a broken the back of this relationship. He would have been much more like the Messiah if he’d lost his temper and thrown the money changers out of the halls of Congress. Unfortunately, Obama has only blossomed in the hothouse of corruption in D.C. Obama can now brag about being a much bigger fascist than Bush ever dreamed about being. That’s a sad thing.
    It’s even sadder that the leftists pretend to be something different than the fascists. Fascism, socialism, communism and all the other forms of power OVER the people are at the dark end of the spectrum of freedom. At the other end is the U.S. Constitution but the worshipers of the various political religions have been in the dark so long that they’re blinded by its light.

  19. Lee Muller

    Liberals and other useful idiots supported Lenin, Trotsky, and even Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini – until they were rounded up and shot.
    Obama is stirring up class envy and racial division with his demonizing of businessmen, entrepreneurs and taxpayers. He and the Democrats want to create economic envy and anxiety in order to seize more power. They are dangerously close to crossing the line of violence.

  20. Johnny Ray

    I truly think that Gov.Sanford stance on President Obama stimulus package is a direct reflection of the majority of the state of S.C. true colors “redneck”. The people of S.C. need to stand up to this back wood politician and quit allowing defeated heritage ideas to get in the way of the greatest country in the world(U.S.A) attempt on “change”. People Are Suffering while Gov. Mark Sanford run for President. Somebody please let him know the America people have already decided. Get Over It!!!

  21. Lee Muller

    Obama’s popularity is falling like a rock.
    People are beginning to see that Team Obama is talking out of both sides of its mouth.
    Obama is going to destroy incomes of the lower classes, through job destruction, inflation, and huge taxes on essentials like electricity, which will be passed on in every food and other necessity.

  22. Bill C.

    Somebody named “Johnny Ray” is calling someone else a “redneck”? Now that’s funny. Is this coming from the Clyburn in 2012 campaign manager?

  23. Birch Barlow

    I truly think that Gov.Sanford stance on President Obama stimulus package is a direct reflection of the majority of the state of S.C. true colors “redneck”. The people of S.C. need to stand up to this back wood politician and quit allowing defeated heritage ideas to get in the way of the greatest country in the world(U.S.A) attempt on “change”. People Are Suffering while Gov. Mark Sanford run for President. Somebody please let him know the America people have already decided. Get Over It!!!
    1. How does being against the Bush-Obama policy of placing a huge burden of debt on future generations amount to being a redneck? I understand disagreeing with and disliking Mark Sanford — I am right there with you. But I don’t dislike him so much that I feel the need to make shit up. Am I the only one who thinks it’s enough to just disagree (no matter how strongly) with someone these days? Why does everyone always feel the need to tack on a reasonable-discourse-killing insult to every comment?
    2. “Change” — What change? How is this new administration different from the previous one? All I am seeing is virtually the same foreign policy as Bush and more huge deficits like Bush.
    3. The American people did decide already, you’re correct. But do you expect everyone to fall in line and there to be no dissent? What kind of democracy is that? If that was reality this would be a really horrible place to live. To simply say “the American people decided” is not an argument. Hell, the American people “decided” in 2000 and 2004 and that didn’t make the Iraq fiasco any less of a bad situation.

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