Two Govs Say ‘Thanks, But No Thanks’ To Stimulus Money

Sanford and Perry take a bold stand against much-needed federal aid

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We can probably hazard a guess that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Texas Governor Rick Perry are considering a run for President in 2012, since there's really no other explanation for their turning down hundreds of millions of dollars in federally allocated stimulus funds to their state.

Now that they've made the decision to turn down free money because they don't believe in extending unemployment benefits to a diverse and ever-growing group of jobless state residents, they can say they stood up for true fiscal conservatism. Never mind that Perry's empty grandstanding can still be overruled by the Texas state legislature, or that Sanford's qualified rejection of funds doesn't exclude using some of the remaining federal money for the completely baffling purpose of paying down the state debt. To the untrained eye, these might look like cynical publicity stunts.

But to a seasoned observer, we can see that these two brave Republican governors risk bringing untold numbers of their constituents to the brink of poverty, bankruptcy, homelessness and beyond so that in some Republican primary debate in 2012 they can say they put their money where their mouths were. This courage stands in stark contrast to states like California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he'll happily accept stimulus funds with absolutely no regard for how much this practical attitude damages the rhetoric of fiscal conservatism.

Governors Sanford and Perry recognize that sometimes, you have to make some real-world sacrifices in the service of important symbolic gestures. Hopefully, the many jobless people in Texas and South Carolina who may now fail to qualify for unemployment benefits will appreciate their governors' very noble choices.

Sara K. Smith admires Rick Perry for his hair, and Mark Sanford for everything else. She writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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