Government Reform

SC Gov. Mark Sanford to Feds: Drop Dead!

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Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) has a message to D.C. lawmakers, his fellow governors, and the American people that's worth listening to. The short version: The feds shouldn't bail out his state or anybody else's.

In 2008 bailouts became the first resort [in a strapped economy]. Over the past year the federal government has committed itself to $2.3 trillion (including the tax rebate "stimulus" checks of last February) to "improve" the economy. I don't see how another $150 billion now will make a difference in a global slowdown. We've already unloaded truckloads of sugar in a vain attempt to sweeten a lake. Tossing in a Twinkie will not make the difference.

However, there is something Congress can do: free states from federal mandates. South Carolina will spend about $425 million next year meeting federal unfunded mandates. The increase in the minimum wage alone will cost the state $2.6 million and meeting Homeland Security's REAL ID requirements will cost $8.9 million.

Read the whole thing in the Wall Street Journal (for free).

Watch the July 2008 CNN interview that might has cost the governor a VP slot on a McCain ticket (Sanford does such a piss-poor job articulating McCain's positives it is almost unbelievable):

When you make all the mandatory exemptions for real-life, actually elected politicians, Sanford is one of the most attractive pols around—a fiscal tightwad who is not unwilling to actually address and cut mega-spending issues.

Here's excerpts from a 2000 reason interview with then-Rep. Sanford, who was among those rare few who actually kept their self-imposed term-limit pledges.

Republican Mark Sanford ran for Congress in 1994 because he wanted to do something about the deficit, the debt, and Social Security. The GOP establishment wasn't happy—he was a developer, not a longtime pol who'd attended all the right dinners and functions—and they did their best to defeat him in the primary. They sent the likes of Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney, and Jack Kemp to South Carolina's 1st District to campaign against him. "I was like, 'Why are you people here? I don't know who you are,'" recalls Sanford.

Once in office, Sanford was among the early advocates of privatizing at least part of Social Security. He also wants to free Americans to trade with Cuba. And he's famously cheap -a valuable and rare character trait in a politician. Domestically, this led him to oppose pork barrel spending, even in his own district. Internationally, it led him to pay a Cuban family $35 a night to put him up during a 1999 visit rather than stay at a hotel. On a personal level, it leads him to sleep on a futon on his D.C. office floor, rather than rent an apartment. At least he won't have to break a lease when he leaves town….

Reason: You once said that being a congressman wasn't that hard, that it should take six months to grasp the basics. Do you still believe this?

Sanford: In the 9 a.m. Republican conference meeting today, a certain unnamed Californian stands up and says, "This is real simple. It's shirts versus skins. We're shirts, they're skins." It's all the very elementary stuff on trading marbles. Any kid who has a set of marbles in the back yard or Pokémon cards or baseball cards and learns how to trade them knows everything you need to know about Congress.

Reason: Why does the trading always seem to go one way then? People seem to trade more for more, which leads to the growth of government every year. Why don't you ever make a new program contingent on killing an old one?

Sanford: That is the structural problem of democracy: diffuse costs and concentrated benefits. I'll have 100 visits in a week in the office. Ninety-nine of those visits people will say, "Mark, we really appreciate what you are doing on the deficit and debt and trying to reduce government spending. Keep it up. But we are here to talk to you about this one program and why it is very important." Who's going to take a trip to Washington to save 2 cents on the price of sugar because of the sugar subsidy?…

Reason: What's the biggest surprise you've had in Congress?

Sanford: The local will always trump national. Tip O'Neill said that all politics are local. He was exactly right. Whatever is in the best interest of one's chances of getting reelected is what drives the institution. It's selfishness in that "I-have-got-to-stay-up-here-to-do-good, fight-other-fights" way.

These people become your friends and you don't want to disappoint them. Even though I've only been here six years, some of my best friends in life are other members of Congress and I am going to miss them when I go. And if I had been here on the 20-year program, I would be that much more hesitant about disappointing them. Because nobody likes to disappoint anybody.

More with Sanford and other "congressional quitters," bless their souls, here.