News that state legislatures are about to hacksaw their budgets may be the most unsettling thing in the paper today. After last week's elections, Republicans now control the legislature in more than 20 states. Because in times like these, the government must stop spending money, right?
Republicans who have taken over state capitols across the country are promising to respond to crippling budget deficits with an array of cuts, among them proposals to reduce public workers' benefits in Wisconsin, scale back social services in Maine and sell off state liquor stores in Pennsylvania, endangering the jobs of thousands of state workers.
Except that the federal stimulus spending worked, for one thing. And it would have worked even better had states not cut back on spending. Now the feds are turning off the spigot. If the states cut yet more, they could strangle the economy, for real. The idea behind deficit spending is that the government spends borrowed money to keep the economy going today, and then later, when the economy has recovered, revenue grows enough that paying it back is not so painful.
Republicans like to say the stimulus failed, but they've also shown they'll take all of the stimulating they can get. The politician at left up there, next to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), is Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell. A proud leader of the Republican renaissance, McDonnell has lately been dishing stimulus checks out of the state's tobacco fund by the millions of dollars, including a $300,000 to the $17 billion credit card company Capital One. "Stimulus Bob" knows the votes are in growing the economy.
"We are doing everything we can to recruit high quality jobs and investment to the Commonwealth," he said. On that point, he's really very smart.