Hypocrites bearing gifts
Voting no on the stimulus money, but taking it anyway
Hypocrites bearing gifts
Dick Polman, Inquirer National Political Columnist
Eight days ago, a Georgia newspaper broke the happy news about big doings in a small town. Some new federal largesse was on the way; thanks to this money, which totals $625,000, the citizens of Cedartown will soon have new sidewalks, new landscaping, and other improvements in their business district. As one town commissioner exulted in The Cedartown Standard, "This will be a big boost for the historic downtown area and for the whole city."
This new money comes from the $780-billion federal stimulus package, enacted last February on Capitol Hill and signed by the guy who sought it most, President Obama. Everybody in Cedartown was so excited that they all posed for a newspaper photo op, holding a giant facsmile of the check. Front and center, and smiling proudly, is the U.S. congressman who flexed muscle to make it happen. His name is Phil Gingrey. The folks in Cedartown have nothing but praise for Gingrey; as the aforementioned town commissioner puts it, "Rep. Gingrey is our point man when we need action from the federal government."
But hang on, something's wrong with this picture.
Here's Phil Gingrey, a House Republican, flashing his chops and triumphantly brandishing the stimulus bucks that he won for his local town...but isn't this the same Phil Gingrey who voted against the stimulus package - along with every single other House Republican?
Indeed it is. Yet now he turns around and milks it for the folks back home, and garners political kudos in the bargain. The dictionary definition of hypocrisy need not be consulted here, because we're seeing it in action.
In these early days of federal stumulus outlays - the vast bulk of the stimulus money will be spent in the new fiscal year that began Oct. 1 - a Republican pattern has already begun to emerge. As long as these avowed foes of the stimulus can bring home the stimulus bacon, they've really got no problem with "socialism."
One of Gingrey's Georgia colleagues, Jack Kingston, got on the scoreboard back in July when he triumphantly announced new federal money for two police departments in his district, money that would allow each department to hire new police officers. What he neglected to mention, in his official press release (but which soon came to light anyway), was that this money came from the federal stimulus package. Which Kingston had voted against. Which Kingston had condemned, last February, as "fundamentally flawed and doesn't represent the change we deserve or the stimulus we need."
There are all kinds of examples lately. Both Georgia Republican senators, who voted No on the stimulus package, are currently trying to get $50 million in stimulus money for a local bio-energy project. Both Texas Republican senators and 19 Texas Republican congressmen, all of whom voted No on the stimulus package, are currently asking that the White House pump stimulus money into saving NASA. Louisiana Republican congressman Joseph Cao, who voted thumbs-down on the stimulus money, is now seeking some of that money for road repairs and streetcars back home.
The scarlet-red state of South Dakota is also very happy to take stimulus bucks, according to the stats released by Republican Gov. Mike Rounds' budget office. Thanks to the new money spent thus far on highway construction and water projects, the state's GOP regime says the stimulus has already saved or created the equivalent of 1400 full-time South Dakota jobs. Interestingly, one hears no rants about socialism; in the budget director's words, "We're trying to do our part to ensure South Dakota's economy recovers faster by getting these dollars out and to work."
And now we have another classic. A North Carolina newspaper, the Hickory Record, last Friday hailed the arrival of federal stimulus money for a new fire station in the town of Bethlehem. The fire chief was happy: "This will serve a huge need for us. This is a very fast-growing community. We're building for the next 50 years." And reaping the credit was the guy who showed up to present the money, Republican Senator Richard Burr. He too was happy; in his words, "This is a great thing for this county. We're not accustomed to federal dollars in that magnitude finding their way to North Carolina."
This is the same Richard Burr who voted No last winter, complaining that "this isn't a stimulus package, this is a spending package."
It's interesting that none of these people feel compelled to follow the logic of their ideological convictions, and thus tell their local fire chiefs and police chiefs and councilmen that, sorry folks, you'll have to fend for yourselves because we refuse on principle to bring you any of this socialist money.
On the contrary, if I may be permitted a few tweaks of cinema dialogue, these Republicans are more like Captain Renault in Casablanca.
Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that stimulus spending is going on in here!
Croupier: Your winnings for the folks back home, sir.
Renault: Oh, thank you very much.