Sanford’s explanation

SANFORD’S EXPLANATION…. Twice South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) has asked the Obama administration to let him undermine the economic recovery efforts. And twice, OMB Director Peter Orszag has respectfully declined.

So, yesterday, Sanford announced that he will officially reject $700 million in federal stimulus money for his state, a decision that isn’t going over well among struggling families in South Carolina.

Today, the governor has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, explaining the rationale for his decision. It’s a reasonably detailed, 900-word piece, but this summary sentence gets at the root of Sanford’s thinking.

In the end, I just don’t believe a problem created by too much debt will be solved by piling on more debt. This doesn’t strike me as an unreasonable or extremist position.

That’s exactly the explanation I wanted to see, because it makes clear where Sanford is coming from. Why would he reject stimulus aid in the midst of a severe recession? Because the governor believes the current crisis was “created by too much debt.” And if the crisis were created by too much debt, Sanford’s response would be perfectly sensible.

The problem, of course, is that Sanford is completely wrong. His analysis is not even close to reality, and it’s unsupported by any evidence at all. But it at least offers us some insight into why a governor would deliberately choose to undermine the interests of his constituents — he starts with a lack of economic understanding, follows it up by misdiagnosing the problem, and then concludes by making a misguided decision based on foolish assumptions.

Good to know.