It is almost laughably predictable these days: Open your State paper, turn to the opinion page, and read someone blasting away at our governor with yet another stimulus-related tirade. Just as predictably, a recent broadside started with an analogy that, in an attempt to discredit the governor’s desire to use a portion of South Carolina’s stimulus dollars to pay down debt, actually does the opposite, indirectly making the case for, well, his case.
The analogy: If one hears he will lose his job in two years, the prudent man would not quit immediately but instead would spend the next two years better preparing for that eventuality. He’d look for a new job, or further his education, or do any number of things to ensure if and when the unfortunate happens he’s in a position to weather the storm.
Can’t say I know of anyone who’d disagree with that. The problem is that the writer (Cindi Ross Scoppe, “The Sanford solution: ‘Just shoot me now,’” April 26) had the actors confused. In the real-world application, it’s actually Mark Sanford who’s looking down the road, fighting to use stimulus dollars to shore up our financial future and protect South Carolina two years out.
The media and a majority of the Legislature want to reap the immediate benefit of the dollars while ignoring the not-so-long-term consequences. That sounds a little like chasing the emotional high of quitting a job before someone might fire you without considering the hole it’ll put in your finances.
Before moving forward, let’s be absolutely clear on this singularly important point: Spending every single stimulus dollar coming to our state now will leave us with a considerable, dangerous budget gap when the federal gravy train runs out two years hence. Proponents of this spending simply do not have an answer for how we cover that $744 million hole, save hoping that the economy is roaring once again. And as we’ve heard more than once during this debate, hope alone is not a plan.
For someone who claims to have had “serious qualms” about the stimulus package, Ms. Scoppe sure buys into its central premise: the idea that massive government spending is needed to, to borrow the cryptic words of the Obama administration, create or save jobs.
That’s just not the case; the apocalyptic budget numbers we’ve seen tossed around and the purported layoffs of teachers and public safety officers that come with them are based on unrealistic budgets, the primary purpose of which is to gin up political pressure on the governor.
Seizing on this leadership vacuum, Sen. Tom Davis and Greg Ryberg put together a common-sense budget that did two things: responsibly fund core services of government, and pay down some government debt. Their budget managed to put $200 more per student into the state’s general fund and fund public safety at almost $63 million more than the Finance Committee budget, while simultaneously setting aside a significant amount of state dollars to pay down debt.
Governing is about making choices. Though it was defeated, the Ryberg-Davis budget showed that even in these tough economic times, our political leaders can make choices that are responsible in regard to both the short and long term. It’s a welcome departure from what we usually get out of the General Assembly, which has long proven to be either unwilling or unable to do just that.
Mr. Bryant represents Anderson County in the S.C. Senate.