Fiscal Conservatism, Pt. 2

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford plays chicken while the lives of 77,000 people hang in the balance:

Just hours before the unemployment benefits fund was to run out in South Carolina, the state with the nation’s third-highest jobless rate, Gov. Mark Sanford relented Wednesday and agreed to apply for a $146 million federal loan to shore it up, after weeks of refusing to do so.

The governor’s position had drawn rebukes even from fellow Republicans in the Legislature, one of whom denounced Mr. Sanford as “heartless,” and from newspaper editorial pages. On Wednesday, The State, the daily newspaper here in Columbia, accused the governor of playing “chicken with the lives of the 77,000” who are unemployed in South Carolina.

For weeks, Mr. Sanford, newly elected as head of the Republican Governors Association and known for being a fierce free-market foe of government spending, stuck to his stand, questioning the probity of the South Carolina Employment Security Commission and demanding a new audit of the agency.

Considering the state of the economy, the simplest explanation for SC’s jobless fund running out of money is that there are more unemployed people, yet no extra money was added to the fund. Pretty simple, right?

Well, to borrow a phrase, Governor Sanford took Occam’s Razor and cut himself with it,  alleging that the drying up of the jobless fund must be do to bureaucratic mismanagement, not just a worsening economy. Sanford quibbled with the Employment Security Commission’s method of calculating unemployment, even though:

[Sanford] has said in the past that he did not trust the commission’s calculation of the state’s unemployment rate, though a spokesman at the Bureau of Labor Statistics said it was calculated the same way as in every other state.

[Emphasis mine]

Regardless of why the jobless fund dried up, it doesn’t change the fact that there are tens of thousands of unemployed South Carolinians in need.  I’m glad Sanford eventually made the right decision, but what sense would it have made to let 77,000 people fall into poverty, making othe overall economy worse, than to spend some money and avert greater economic catastrophe?

There’s nothing wrong with having libertarian leanings or wanting to reduce government spending.  But it’s idiotic to put your personal political philosophy ahead of the good of the people you were elected to represent.  Sometimes, you have to bite the bullet and do what’s best for your people, even if it’s against what you personally believe.  I’m glad Sanford realized this–even if it was at the last minute–and I hope his fellow Republicans follow suit,