South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford warned yesterday that the recently-signed stimulus bill could spur a Zimbabwe-style economic collapse. According to CNN:
"What you're doing is buying into the notion that if we just print some more money that we don't have and send it to different states, we'll create jobs," he said. "If that's the case, why isn't Zimbabwe a rich place?"
Zimbabwe has been in the throes of an economic meltdown ever since the southern African nation embarked on a chaotic land reform program. Its official inflation rate topped 11 million percent in 2008, with its treasury printing banknotes in the trillion-dollar range to keep up with the
Sanford has long sparred with the federal government over social spending outlays -- first over unemployment, but now on a much larger scale over the $2.8 billion in stimulus funds directed towards South Carolina. According to Sanford, whose state is second only to Michigan in unemployment, he will turn down a quarter of the stimulus funds unless he is permitted to direct it towards paying down South Carolina's debt, CNN reports.
However, other South Carolina officials are questioning the wisdom as well as the feasibility of Sanford's hard-nosed position. According to South Carolina's local UpstateToday.com:
While some local lawmakers may agree in theory with Gov. Mark Sanford's proposal to use stimulus money to pay down the state's debt, they're also questioning its practicality and the governor's priorities.
"First of all, he is operating on the premise that he can get a waiver from the president to allow those funds to be used that way," Rep. Bill Sandifer said. "I personally do not feel there is any possibility of getting such a waiver. The stimulus package was written in such a way that the funds are designated for very specific things, with very specific conditions on their use."
Sanford's statements this week have provoked umbrage from some federal lawmakers, namely House Majority Whip James Clyburn, spurring a heated exchange of words. As Politico reports:
"I don't know what he's talking about," said Clyburn. "Nobody else talked about any kind of debt retirement program."
In response to Clyburn's comments, Sanford Communications Director Joel Sawyer said, "Representative Clyburn has made clear during his time in Congress that he's never met a spending increase he didn't like. The governor's proposal to use these funds for debt repayment is the only responsible way to proceed in the face of a stimulus bill that even the Congressional Budget Office has said will prove to be a drag on the economy in the long run."
House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) told me he thinks S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford's quip comparing President Obama's stimulus package to Zimbabwe's economic policies are "beyond the pale" -- and suggested they might carry a racial subtext.
Asked if his "beyond the pale" comment implied a racial overtone to Sanford's remarks, Clyburn replied:
"I'm sure he would not say that, but how did he get to Zimbabwe? What took the man to Zimbabwe? Someone should ask him if that's really the best comparison. ... How can he compare this country's situation to Zimbabwe?"
Responding to Clyburn's insinuations, Governor Sanford's spokesman replied, "Rep. Clyburn always plays the race card."