Today's editorial notes that Gov. Sanford is no stranger to the "savior-based economics" he decried on national TV this week:
Gov. Mark Sanford gained national notoriety recently with his comment on CNN that America is headed toward a "savior-based economy." In reaction to the stimulus package under construction in Congress, the governor said a better approach to restoring long-term growth would be to overhaul the nation's economic fundamentals with a regime of low taxes and reduced federal spending.
"A problem that was created with building up too much debt will not be solved with yet more debt," Sanford told moderator John King.
The problem is that Sanford himself is no stranger to "savior-based" economics. The "savior" in question was former President George W. Bush.
In May 2003, just as the S.C. legislative session was ending, Bush signed a tax-cut bill that included - courtesy of the free-spending Republican Congress - a $20 billion appropriation to the states. South Carolina's share of the goodies was $265 million.
The S.C. Republican powers-that-be promptly devoted $220 million of that money to shoring up the fiscal 2004 S.C. Medicaid health care plan. Then, Sanford and the legislative leadership "found" another $44.6 million for state aid to schools, allowing them to beef up base state-aid-per-pupil spending for the following fiscal year from $1,701 to $1,777.
Both Sanford and then-House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, took credit for this last-minute boost to public school spending - though they didn't mention where the money had come from. The S.C. Education Association, with some shrewd forensic accounting, deduced that the money had come from the leftover debt-financed federal largesse. Several Horry County legislators subsequently confirmed this was the source of the school-aid money.
True, the federal red ink that made possible this timely boost to Medicaid and state school aid pales in comparison to the payment South Carolina would receive from the federal stimulus package. But it's a difference only of degree. If it was OK in 2003 for the state to glom onto a deficit-financed rescue for Medicaid and state school aid, why is it now not OK for the state to glom onto the S.C. portion of the federal-stimulus package?
The answer, we suspect, is that the Democrats now control the machinery of the federal government, with President Obama - whose messianic complex does tend to be annoying - at the top of the heap. This changeover, which began with the ousting of the Republican Congress in 2006, seems to have awakened the Republicans' ancient - and for eight years successfully repressed - instinct toward reduced spending and smaller government.
On Bush's watch, they cheerfully incurred huge deficits while expanding the domestic side of the federal budget more than any Congress since the days of President Lyndon Johnson. Now that Obama is in charge - facing an economic crisis far more severe than anything the Republicans faced - they conveniently remember that Republicans are supposed to be fiscally prudent, not fiscally profligate.
It's fine for Sanford - in full minority loyal-opposition mode - to object to deficit-financed stimulus payments as the Democrats' preferred method for economic rescue. But his complaint would be more credible if he'd declined the Bush administration's "help" back in 2003.