In a coordinated response to comments made by an Arizona Republican senator calling for a the stimulus bill to be halted, the Obama administration this week coordinated a series of letters to the governor of Arizona, with the implicit message: put up or shut up.
Arizona Republicans responded that the White House was bullying their state.
On This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said of the $787 billion stimulus package, "the reality is it hasn't helped yet. Only about 6.8 percent of the money has actually been spent. What I proposed is, after you complete the contracts that are already committed, the things that are in the pipeline, stop it."
A day later, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer received letters from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar all pointing out the billions headed to Arizona.
Kyl "publicly questioned whether the stimulus is working and stated that he wants to cancel projects that aren't presently underway," LaHood wrote to Brewer, a Republican. "I believe the stimulus has been very effective in creating job opportunities throughout the country. However, if you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to your state, as Senator Kyl suggests, please let me know."
The assorted Cabinet members that sent out letters put the figures in writing for Governor Brewer, and as Captain Ed points out, based on some quick math, Arizona's cut is less than 1/50th of the total stimulus money being spent. What's even more brazen about this is that the Obama administration is pushing the idea that they're giving the state some sort of "reward" when in fact they're simply giving money back to the states they've already paid to the federal government. Think of it this way. Remember those initial refund checks we got back after the Bush tax cuts? That was money we overpaid the federal government. President Bush even told the American people it was our money.
The Obama administration is acting like the US just got a windfall profit from something like a lottery, and they're benevolently sharing it with the nation. That's completely disingenuous.
Worse, these threats basically amount to extortion. That's why the headline and byline at Hot Air is so spot-on. "Nice state you got there, Kyl; shame if something happened to it." Call it cliche, but coming from the Chicago Machine presidency, it's vaguely like Al Capone just threatened our state. Well, Arizona may not be as bold or audacious as Texas, but we're not the sort of people to respond to threats by rolling over for anyone.
States taking the stimulus money are trying to spin it as necessary. No it's not. It's not helping anyone right now at all. We know Barry has bragged about the "jobs" he's helped to "create" in this recession, but his numbers are fuzzy, at best, and misleading at worst. Let's recall that when the stimulus passed, the president said he didn't expect unemployment numbers to go above 8%. We're now sitting at 9.5%, which marks the second consecutive set of numbers that show the unemployment problems are getting worse as this money supposedly is accepted by the states, not better. And just last week the president said he expected to see the unemployment numbers rise in coming months -- the very time that he said the stimulus should be kicking into high gear.
If the second half of 2009 is supposedly when the stimulus is supposed to really kick in, and start helping ease the recession, why would we see unemployment numbers go up? The numbers should stabilize and begin dropping, shouldn't they? This is evidence the stimulus isn't working, and that the president has no idea what he's doing when it comes to the economy. The damage he is doing is one of two things. It's either intentional or uninformed and ill-educated.
The states that are suffering the most could help alleviate their problems by doing two things. Cut taxes across the board -- income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate taxes, yadda, yadda, yadda. Put the money back in the people's pockets and into the pockets of businesses. This would greatly help each state in the Union. The second thing that should be done is suspend all non-essential spending by state legislatures. Most of the states hardest hit, like California and Michigan, helped cause the bulk of their problems with rampant spending and heavy-handed taxation.
The states should follow my two pieces of advice, and tell the White House where they can stick that stimulus money. If this is how the White House is going to run the show -- engaging in extortion -- then the states should react the way you would to a bully. Stand up to them, and tell them "Thanks, but no thanks, and quit trying to do us any favors. You suck at it."