Stimulus Spending Becomes Republican Litmus for 2012

The next presidential candidate probably just turned down some stimulus money

Here is a shocker for you: It seems that some Republican governors are using the stimulus debate as an opportunity to establish their fiscally conservative bona fides in advance of a 2012 presidential run.

Those Republicans who have no hope of winning the presidency -- like poor Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's basically a Democrat anyway -- have volunteered to take some extra cash off the hands of grandstanding silly-sallies like Mississippi's Haley Barbour, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, and South Carolina's Mark Sanford.

Barbour and Jindal have both taken exception with the extension of unemployment benefits to a wider group of people because they say it will force them to raise taxes in the future. In essence, they are refusing to take tangible relief for their most vulnerable citizens, relief in the form of a massive and immediate infusion of federal cash, because at some point in the theoretical future taxes might go up somewhat. It's nice that they're concerned about the future and all, but shouldn't Governor Barbour be more concerned about his state's current 8 percent unemployment rate?

Meanwhile, Governor Sanford -- he of the state with 9.5 percent unemployment -- has apparently relented in his refusal to take more unemployment benefits, but still says he'll have to examine the stimulus package very carefully to see what bits of pork he might be able to turn down. This will allow him to proudly declare in a few years that he once made a slight symbolic gesture in the direction of fiscal austerity.

Of course, by 2012 the economy will either be in recovery (proving that massive government spending really can goose an economy more effectively than tax cuts ) or it will not, in which case nobody will give two figs about a party that promotes nothing but tax cuts for everybody's imaginary incomes. So good luck, governors, with your austerity! It will be sure to win you the Iowa Straw Poll, and nothing else.

Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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