GOP governors love/hate the stimulus, too

GOP GOVERNORS LOVE/HATE THE STIMULUS, TOO…. Congressional Republicans’ cash-and-trash strategy — trashing the economic stimulus, while embracing stimulus cash at the same time — has become an interesting spectacle. But as Christina Bellantoni reminds us, the GOP’s hypocrisy extends to governors, too.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell offered effusive praise for $24 million in federal funds that allowed him to establish an office of Health Information Technology and to fund a program helping Virginia doctors transition to electronic medical records.

Just one problem — he thinks the government shouldn’t have spent that money to begin with.

Yes, the new Virginia governor spent much of 2009 insisting that the stimulus investments were a wasteful idea, which wouldn’t help the economy. As of yesterday, McDonnell thinks at least $24 million of those investments are a great idea that will help the economy.

Of course, McDonnell isn’t alone. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who’s relentlessly attacked the stimulus as part of his presidential campaign, has described recovery efforts as “wasted” and “misdirected.” As of this week, however, the governor released his plan to fill the shortfall in his state budget, and wouldn’t you know it, “nearly one-third of the governor’s budget fix would rely on $387 million in federal stimulus money.”

Neither is quite as shameless as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) — who’s a Hypocrisy Hall of Famer — but the list of Republican governors who love and hate the stimulus at the same time is certainly getting longer.

At face value, the Republican response may seem reasonable enough. The money has already been allocated, and is going to be spent, they say. It only makes sense, then, to help their constituents as much as possible.

But this misses the point. To hear GOP officials tell it, government spending isn’t just inherently wrong, it’s inherently useless. Investing tax dollars can’t create jobs, can’t generate growth, and can’t be relied on to improve economic conditions. By asking for stimulus money, accepting stimulus money, and occasionally even handing out stimulus money, these same GOP officials are conceding that their argument is wrong.

And frankly, we knew they were wrong anyway. The recovery effort created jobs, generated growth, and rescued the economy from a depression. Seeing Republicans scramble to secure funds for their states and districts only makes clearer what’s been obvious to economists for months.

The decent thing to do would be for Republicans to simply apologize for getting us into this mess, acknowledge how wrong they were to oppose President Obama’s effective solution, and then thank Democrats for rescuing the economy.

I’m sure the White House would be gracious in response.