Smoky Mountains Sunrise
Showing posts with label Governor Mark Sanford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Governor Mark Sanford. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Give Mark Sanford an "A" for Audacity, But We'll Take Larry Grooms, Thank You

Mark Sanford: Clever and Audacious
You have to give Mark Sanford an "A" -  for audacity.  It was a clever move to ask the wife he betrayed to run his Congressional campaign.  He must have remembered how philanderer Gary Hart's wife told America that "if it (adultery) doesn't bother me, it shouldn't bother you."  Fortunately, Jenny Sanford, who has more smarts and class than the Hart's and Mark Sanford combined, turned him down.
We're glad Sanford claims to be repentant and we forgive him and wish him well, but repentance doesn't qualify one for the people's trust and the high honor bestowed with a seat in the United States Congress.  We also think he was right when he used to rail against career politicians.

Let's give the honor to someone who has earned it - a faithful husband, dutiful father, solid conservative and dedicated public servant.  

Larry Grooms will make a superb Congressman for South Carolina's First Congressional District.

Why Mark Sanford Wanted His Ex-Wife To Run His Comeback Campaign

Jason Zengerle has a long profile of ex-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in the latest edition of New York magazine that's worth a read for anyone fascinated by the Republican's return to politics less than four years after he became a national punchline thanks to his time "hiking" the Appalachian trail. But the nugget that's making the most headlines this morning is that the Republican asked his ex-wife Jenny to be his campaign manager late last year when he was laying the groundwork for his bid to fill Rep. Tim Scott's old House seat:
When [Mark] first ran for Congress in 1994, he installed Jenny as his campaign manager. He did this for reasons of economy—"You’re free," he told her at the time—but she proved a natural at the job. She blossomed into a shrewd political strategist, running Mark’s subsequent campaigns and becoming his top adviser. Will Folks, a former Sanford press secretary, says, "There’s absolutely no way he would have ever won the congressional seat or been governor without her."  ...
So when Mark came to visit her, he arrived with a proposal. "Since you’re not running, I want to know if you’ll run my campaign," he said. "We could put the team back together." Jenny told him, in so many words, that wasn’t going to happen.

Read more at Slate >>

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mark Sanford on "How to Waste $10 Billion"

Obama leaves no place to dispose of spent nuclear fuel

From The Washington Times
By Mark Sanford

So often in politics, what makes the headlines is only half the story. For the other half, you've got to do a little digging.

Last week, President Obama announced that the federal government would guarantee $8 billion in loans for the construction of two nuclear power reactors. On the face of it, this represented good news: The nation faces serious energy challenges, and no new nuclear plants have been built in 30 years.

Read the rest of this entry >>

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Move South Carolina Forward with Governor Sanford

From The Greenville News
By Keith Munson

The day after Mark Sanford’s election in 2002, Chip Campsen, Ken Wingate and I accompanied him to the National Governors Association meeting, where we crammed into one hotel room and played rock/paper/scissors for the roll-a-way bed. From that first day, Gov. Sanford has earnestly pursued fiscal restoration for South Carolina — and the recent political whirlwind doesn’t change that fact.

Sen. David Thomas may paint fleeting headlines for his own elective ambition, but he will never paint out the truth of Sanford’s stewardship of tax dollars.

Headline: Sanford cashes in airline ticket he “won” for state reimbursement.

Truth: Sanford bought an airline ticket at a charity auction for $1,100 and used it for official travel in lieu of the state spending $2,000 more for the flight. (If only all state procurement could be this efficient).

Headline: Sanford “breaks law” flying business rather than coach on overseas flights.

Truth: The S.C. Commerce Department’s purchase of these tickets was established policy for over 20 years, approved by the comptroller general, immaterial to the Legislative Audit Council, and occurred more than 230 times since 1984, including by members of Sen. Thomas’s own committee.

Headline: Sanford derelict in failing to report trips in private planes.

Truth: Gifts from friends and families are not reportable. How does not reporting every time you bummed a ride from your pilot-brother make you unfit to be governor? It’s not like he was hiding it — they were noted on his calendar.

If you step back and look at the bigger picture, you will see a clear image of fiscal vigilance. Sanford sold the state’s interest in one jet, saving more than $1.5 million dollars. He flies the smaller state plane when he can, avoids helicopter flights and stopped the convenient, but expensive, pick-up at Owens Field. He has flown one-third less than the average of the preceding three governors (about 100 hours less, of which, only a few hours have been questioned). In total, Sanford’s office has cut its travel budget by 63 percent from the previous administration.

Looking beyond travel, when Gov. Sanford took office, Gov. Jim Hodges had already spent around 85 percent of the annual Governor’s Mansion budget, in just 50 percent of the fiscal year. Columbia politicos were outraged, but I recall the Sanford camp thinking 15 percent would be more than enough for their needs.

When the Governor’s Mansion was evacuated for mold remediation, the governor’s family stayed in the pool house, rather than incur the expense of a substitute residency (and by “house” I mean a large sun room with one bathroom). When BMW offered a vehicle for the governor’s use, he sent it to the Highway Patrol. These, and a hundred things like these (saving South Carolina tens of millions), are what define Mark Sanford.

When I see opponents and spectators try to redefine Gov. Sanford for their own advancement and amusement, I’m reminded of the “witch burning” scene in Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail.” In this scene, the mob knows the woman is a witch because she looks like a witch, and she looks like a witch because the mob dressed her up like a witch ( — search “She’s a Witch”). This circular reasoning resembles the logic employed to belittle Gov. Sanford and make it seem as if his resignation would be justifiable. It is not.

Asking for his resignation (“we’d prefer you not be governor”) is a far cry from impeachment (“we have soberly and solemnly determined that you have committed ‘serious crimes or serious misconduct in office.’”). And while legislators, with the best intentions, may believe that Gov. Sanford should resign, I’d submit that based on the current record, only the opportunistic or vengeful could support impeachment.

Now that everyone has staked out their position on resignation, maybe the scab-picking will stop and the healing will begin. There are several areas of agreement where legislative progress can be made next session: instituting spending caps with Sen. Glenn McConnell’s leadership, tort reform with Speaker Bobby Harrell’s and Sen. Larry Martin’s suggestions, restructuring our state’s health care agencies via Sen. Harvey Peeler’s task force, and improving unemployment services, something Rep. Kenny Bingham has been advocating for several months.

Gov. Sanford is committed to making progress. If the General Assembly will commit, then this could be their most productive legislative session. Now that’s a headline I look forward to reading.

Keith Munson of Greenville is an attorney and he served on Gov. Mark Sanford’s transition team. He can be reached at

Monday, August 31, 2009

South Carolina Political Skeletons Emerge

We expected that with the Governor fighting for his job, and his enemies in the legislature fighting to preserve the "good ol' boy" status quo with the place-holder they would like to install in that job, some dirt would begin to fly.

This story about Andre Bauer is probably only the beginning. Look for rumors about a certain Lexington Senator to be "fleshed out" in the days ahead, too.

In our view, the Governor has nothing left to lose, should finish his term, and while South Carolina will probably take a drubbing from late-night comedians, what is beginning to unfold may lead to a much needed house cleaning in the General Assembly.

Monday, June 29, 2009

We Need Governor Sanford to Finish His Term

We strongly concur with Governor Sanford's decision to remain in office and finish out his term. As much as we regret what has transpired in recent weeks, it would only compound the evil were our political process distorted by the Governor's resignation.

South Carolinians deserve the opportunity to get to know all the candidates vying to succeed Governor Sanford. The Governor's mistakes should not provide one of those candidates with an enormous leg up in free publicity and fund raising, particularly when that candidate and his supporters represent the very big government, big spending, catering to special interests that Governor Sanford was elected to oppose.

The Governor has not been as successful as we would like in defeating the over-fed agents of pork and special interest in the State House, but his resignation would hand them an enormous, undeserved victory.

There are plenty of pots calling the kettle black right now. The best thing that Governor Sanford can do for our state is to continue standing up for the taxpayers, and educating the electorate on the need for constitutional reform. By defying those who would like to see him gone, he blocks the way for those eager to move South Carolina in the wrong direction.

Office of the Governor

A message
from Mark

Dear Friends,

I write to apologize and ask for your forgiveness.

Well beyond the personal consequences within my own family, I know that at so many different levels my actions have upset, offended and disappointed friends and supporters and for this I am most sorry. As I mentioned in last week's press conference, I've always believed God's laws were there to protect us from ourselves, and what has transpired over this last week vividly illustrates the damage that comes personally, and to those you love and respect, in doing otherwise.

So in the aftermath of this failure I want to not only apologize, but to commit to growing personally and spiritually. Immediately after all this unfolded last week I had thought I would resign - as I believe in the military model of leadership and when trust of any form is broken one lays down the sword. A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise - that for God to really work in my life I shouldn't be getting off so lightly. While it would be personally easier to exit stage left, their point has been that my larger sin was the sin of pride. They contended that in many instances I may well have held the right position on limited government, spending or taxes - but that if my spirit wasn't right in the presentation of those ideas to people in the General Assembly, or elsewhere, I could elicit the response that I had at many times indeed gotten from other state leaders.

Their belief was that if I walked in with a real spirit of humility then this last legislative term could well be our most productive one - and that outside this term, I would ultimately be a better person and of more service in whatever doors God opened next in life if I stuck around to learn lessons rather than running and hiding down at the farm.

They have also made the point that a good part of life is about scripts - that the idea of redemption isn't something that Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake should just read about, it's something they should see. Accordingly, they suggested that there was a very different life script that would be lived and learned by our boys, and thousands like them, if this story simply ended with scandal and then the end of office - versus a fall from grace and then renewal and rebuilding and growth in its aftermath.

I won't belabor all these points, but I did want to write as expressed earlier to say that I'm sorry and that more than anything I personally ask for your prayers for me, Jenny, the boys and so many others who have been impacted by what I have done.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Take care.


Mark Sanford

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Infinitely Better Plan and Future Available to Governor Sanford

We have nothing to add to the many words of disappointment and regret expressed by so many South Carolinians who have admired the principled service of Governor Mark Sanford. We had high hopes for his future. Much is being heard from partisans who have forgotten the likes of Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Governor Eliot Spitzer. But people of faith are not surprised that good men succumb to their fallen nature. Indeed, those who strive most valiantly to live in accord with God's laws usually face the greatest challenges and temptations from the enemy. But we also believe that God's forgiveness is readily and abundantly available to those who seek it. God's ineffable mercy allows one to climb from the deepest pit to a new life, forgiven, cleansed, and whole.

The Governor's press conference was a striking contrast to the carefully staged press conferences that have been held by other public officials in similar circumstances. There was no spin, no justification, just a man who stood and bared something rare in public life -- a profound sorrow, regret and humiliation for hurting his family, friends and supporters. Most of all, he seemed profoundly sorrowful for falling short of his own core convictions.

The Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers illustrates that God often permits evil and adversity to enter our lives, that the evil we devise may become the good that God bestows. Were we sinless, we would have no need of a Savior. The future awaiting our good but flawed Governor may not be the future Mark Sanford dreamed of, but it can be infinitely greater if he yields to the plan that God has for his life and that of his family. For that far greater good and future, people of faith will stand by our Governor and pray for him and for his family.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Governor Sanford Applies for Stimulus Funds "Under Duress"

Governor Mark Sanford has submitted the following cover letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan after being ordered by the South Carolina Supreme Court to apply for stimulus dollars. It is little consolation to know that truth is the daughter of time; for in a short time Governor Sanford will be tragically vindicated when Obama's policies have destroyed America's economy and caused ruin and widespread suffering.

Dear Secretary Duncan,

By order of the South Carolina Supreme Court, I am submitting the attached application for South Carolina's portion of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. In doing so, however, I'd offer a few observations.

First, it's important to state one last time for the record what a monumentally terrible idea I believe the entire so-called stimulus act is, and why in particular utilizing this money as our General Assembly has done is ultimately going to cause more harm than good.

In simplest form, this stimulus represents forcing taxpayers of tomorrow to pay for government services of today. No matter how well-intentioned it may be, borrowing from future generations who have no say in the matter is to me wrong, and strikes me as being akin to the same "taxation without representation" that led to the formation of our Republic more than two centuries ago. We will never solve a problem created by too much debt with still more borrowing, and in fact will exacerbate our problems in the long run by devaluing the dollar, rendering any short-term stimulus moot.

Compounding the problems brought by this destructive federal policy was the way it was implemented by our own legislature in South Carolina. At a practical level, once the stimulus passed this is what my stand against spending the $700 million in question was all about - I believe there will be less employment and opportunity as a result of the restructuring forgone, and the spending incurred, due to spending this money. The leadership of our General Assembly - and in this case with the indirect blessing of the federal Administration - made base state spending reductions across education and law enforcement agencies and backfilled those reductions with federal stimulus dollars. As a consequence South Carolina will face up to a $1 billion budget hole when these stimulus dollars dry up in less than twenty-four months. That frightening budget reality is compounded by the fact that having federal money available has provided yet another excuse for our legislative leadership to forestall long needed changes to our government structure and operations - changes that would have yielded better results from the government we already pay for. An example of this is the TERI program which was put in place years ago to reward excellence in teaching. After its passage a court decision came down that said it couldn't apply to just teachers, but instead to every state worker. Rather than producing its intended result of keeping great teachers on the job longer it became a financial windfall to every long-serving state worker, by allowing them to retire twice and reap the financial rewards of doing so. It created more than a billion dollar financial hole in our retirement system, and were it not for the financial windfall the federal government sent this way this is the year that long overdue changes to things like the TERI system would had to have occurred.

We'd all like to have unlimited dollars to fill the very real needs that exist in our state, but we have to do so on both a state and federal level in the context of what is sustainable - because by spending unsustainably, we will only make our problems worse. In this regard the Obama administration’s financially reckless advocacy of borrowing nearly fifty percent of every dollar being spent in Washington is being exported to state like South Carolina. In the long run I believe it is a financial certainty that this will hurt schools, teachers - and more than anything students who will be paying these debts.

Second, I want to be clear that while I'm signing these documents under duress, I have no ability to promise that many of the mentioned conditions and guarantees will indeed be met. For example, this application requires the state to "take actions to improve teacher effectiveness and comply with federal law to address inequities in the distribution of highly qualified teachers between high- and low-poverty schools"; to "establish a longitudinal data system"; and to "comply with all of the accountability, transparency, and reporting requirements that apply to the Stabilization program."

Our General Assembly may or may not choose to meet those conditions at a later date - I have no way of knowing if they will, and no way of compelling them to do so. In reviewing this application, for me it again highlighted the absurdity of ramrodding federal dollars into the states when I suspect more governors than myself have little ability or wherewithal to say with certainty that these and other conditions under the law can, or will be, carried out. In this case it makes something of a mockery of the law itself given the conditions that were supposedly to be a part of receiving these monies.

Finally, I would appeal to you in your capacity as Secretary of Education to look beyond this idea of money being a cure for all that ails education in our country. I join many others in continuing to believe that we ought to have a diversity of educational choices that fit with the diversity of different young people in our country. We need to give children real options for exiting schools that have consistently failed despite more and more money. We need to work toward expanding the establishment of and access to charter schools. We need transferability options under federal laws that expand educational choices not only in the public sector, but in the private sector as well. My administration would certainly welcome a chance to work with you on these fronts, and I hope to do so in the near future.


Mark Sanford
Mark Sanford

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Just Say No To Big Government

From the Campaign for Liberty
By Jack Hunter

Frustrated with Gov. Mark Sanford's refusal to accept $700 million in federal stimulus dollars and his opposition to the state budget, S.C. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell addressed the governor in an open letter this month, writing, "Time and again, you have failed to address problems in a constructive manner and proactively work with the Legislature to find solutions."

Noting Sanford's constant opposition to the Republican-dominated state legislature, McConnell added, "While the attacks you have launched may have been intended to build your national image as a reformer, in the final analysis, the work of a true reformer is measured not by words or TV ads or by press releases, but by what he or she has been able to accomplish."

McConnell has a point. But it's also nearly impossible to accomplish anything when there's only one reformer.

There are two types of "conservative" Republicans. The first type believes that government is broken, but simply needs Republicans to better manage it, while the other believes we need to actually reduce government. The first type can enjoy long careers by peppering their continuing support for the status quo with conservative-sounding language. The second type tends to make fewer friends because their career-long language consists of telling Democrats, Republicans, and even their constituents one word: "No."

Texas Congressman Ron Paul earned the name "Dr. No" in the House of Representatives for opposing most legislation brought to the floor. During his tenure in Congress, Sanford joined Paul in saying "no" more than any other congressman. Would America have been better served if Paul and Sanford tried to work more with the rest of the legislature to help bring us to our current state? Or might we have been better off if there were more leaders willing to consistently say "no" to more laws, more spending, and more government in general?

Consider the example of New Mexico's own "Dr. No," former Republican Gov. Gary "Veto" Johnson, who earned his nickname for vetoing 750 bills from 1995 to 2003, more than all the vetoes of the other 49 governors combined. Johnson also cut the growth of his state's government in half, privatized half of the state's prisons, reduced state employees by 1,000, oversaw the longest period without a tax increase in the state's history, and left office with a budget surplus. No doubt, New Mexico leaders wanted to spend as much money as South Carolina's legislature or any other state government. But Johnson constantly said "no," and was able to do some good.

The bloated budget and massive debt that continues to plague the state of South Carolina is a microcosm of the bloated budget and massive debt that continues to plague the entire United States. Everyone from across the political spectrum will generally agree that such reckless behavior is a problem and we cannot go on forever conducting business as usual. Yet when any leader dares to reverse course by saying "no," such leaders will invariably find themselves being attacked for daring to obstruct business as usual. The same state legislature that created our current economic woes are the same leaders who are now saying Sanford is the problem, as if a more cooperative gubernatorial extension of themselves would be preferable and somehow produce different, better results.

When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the new president hung a portrait in the White House of his hero, President Calvin Coolidge. Author Ivan Eland described Coolidge as a president who believed the United States had too many laws. He once said, "We would be better off if we didn't have anymore ... The greatest duty and opportunity of government is not to embark on any new ventures." But as it was in his own time, Coolidge's conservative philosophy remains unpopular today, where "good" or "great" leaders are always defined as those who expand the power of government to accomplish certain goals. The opposite is also true, and it was for this reason that Time magazine once felt compelled to declare Sanford one of America's "worst governors" for his habit of constantly opposing government.

I'm often criticized for bashing Republicans, but I do so because it's hard to take most of them seriously. Any Republican who talks about "fiscal responsibility," yet spends as much as any Democrat, whether at the national or state level, is completely worthless. Unfortunately, this description fits the bulk of the Republican Party. Most Republicans aren't the least bit serious about their conservative rhetoric.

And as America continues to spiral downward the longer spending goes upward, the few, serious conservatives willing to say "no" to government will always get the loudest "yes" from me.

The "Southern Avenger" Jack Hunter is a conservative commentator (WTMA 1250 AM talk radio) and columnist (Charleston City Paper) living in Charleston, South Carolina. See his blog.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Governor Sanford Repudiates Graham Attack on Libertarianism

By now, thousands of people have seen Senator Lindsey Graham being jeered by the South Carolina Republican State Convention for denouncing libertarianism and its champion, Ron Paul. What is less known is that Governor Mark Sanford repudiated those comments and defended liberty within moments of Senator Graham's most recent hissy fit:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why South Carolina Doesn't Want 'Stimulus'

From The Wall Street Journal

Columbia, S.C.

America's states are laboratories of democracy. They are both affected by, and relevant to, the larger national debate. What we've found in our own corner of the country is that carrying a substantial debt load limits our options when it comes to running government.

A recent report by the American Legislative Exchange Council ranked us 47th worst in the nation for annual debt service as a percentage of tax revenue. Our state dedicates nearly 11% of its annual tax revenue to paying debt. On top of that, South Carolina has another $20 billion in unfunded, long-term political promises for pensions and other liabilities. The state budget has already been cut four times in recent months as the national economic downturn has impacted South Carolina and driven down tax revenue.

President Barack Obama recently signed a "stimulus" bill that will spend about $2 billion through "programmatic means" in South Carolina. In other words, the federal government will put this money directly into existing funding formulas and programs such as Medicaid. But there is an additional $700 million that I as governor have influence over, and it is the disposition of this money that has drawn the national spotlight to South Carolina.

Here's the background: Before the stimulus bill passed, I asked for states not to be bailed out. After it was signed into law, I said that a state bailout would create more problems than it solved, and that we shouldn't spend money we don't have. That debate was lost, so I looked for a reasonable middle ground. I asked the president for his support in using the $700 million to pay down state debt.

If we're going to spend money we don't have at the federal level, it becomes all the more important that our state balance sheet is in good order -- particularly if this is a protracted downturn. But many people do not realize that the stimulus money runs out in 24 months -- at which point South Carolina will be forced to find a new source of funding to sustain the new level of spending, or to make sharp cuts. Sure, I could kick the can down the road; in two years, I'll be safely out of office. But it would be irresponsible.

If South Carolina could use stimulus money to pay down debt, in two years we will be able to spend, cut taxes or invest even if the federal government can no longer provide more money -- not a remote possibility. In fact, paying debt related to education would free up over $162 million in debt service in the first two years and save roughly $125 million in interest payments over the next 13 years -- just as paying off a family's mortgage early frees up money for other uses.

When you're in a hole, the first order of business is stop digging. South Carolina is in a hole, and it's not a shallow one. Spending stimulus money on ongoing programs would mean 10% of our entire state budget would be paid for with one-time federal funds -- the largest recorded level in state history.

Also, spending stimulus money will delay needed state restructuring. General Motors recently found itself in a similar spot. It needs to be restructured if it is to prosper, but a federal bailout enabled it to put off hard decisions. Likewise, taking federal stimulus money will only postpone changes essential to South Carolina's prosperity. Though well-intended, it forestalls hard choices we must make.

One of Mr. Obama's central campaign themes was his pledge to do away with politics of the past. In his inaugural address, he proclaimed "an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

This idea connected with millions of voters, myself included. I've always believed ideas should rise and fall on their merits. In fact, I saw such historical significance in his candidacy and the change he spoke of that I published an op-ed on it before South Carolina's presidential primary last year. It was not an endorsement, but it did note the historic nature of his candidacy and the potential positive change in tone it represented. That potential may now be disappearing.

Last week I reached out to the president, asking for a federal waiver from restrictions on stimulus money. I got a most unusual response. Before I even received an acknowledgment of the request from the White House, I got word that the Democratic National Committee was launching campaign-style TV attack-ads against me for making it.

Is this the new brand of politics we were promised? Instead of engaging with me and other governors on the merits of our dissent, I am to be attacked in television ads? 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.

Nevertheless, the White House declined my request for a waiver yesterday afternoon. That's unfortunate. But in coming months we'll continue advancing the debate at the state level about the merits of debt repayment. The fact remains that while we'd all like to spend unlimited dollars on the very real needs that exist in our state, we must spend in the context of what is sustainable.

Mr. Sanford, a Republican, is the Governor of South Carolina.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Is GOP Heading Down the Wrong Path?

From OneNewsNow
By Jim Brown

The Family Research Council is expressing frustration that some of the new leaders of the Republican Party want social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage to take a back seat to an agenda of smaller government and lower taxes.

New National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas recently spoke at a fundraising dinner for the Dallas Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual group that supports same-sex marriage. Sessions reportedly said the GOP can no longer run on just "guns, God, gays [and] taxes." David Nammo, executive director of Family Research Council Action, believes Sessions is heading down the wrong path.

"People are trying to rebrand the GOP; they're trying to find a course for the future. They want to get back in power, and many of the voices that the GOP is listening to is [sic] right-wrong decision sign smalltelling them we need to be moderate, we need to jettison the social conservative issues, we need to not talk about life or marriage," he contends. "And if that is what the direction of the GOP is going to be, I think they're going to find themselves in the minority party for many years to come."

Nammo contends FRC is even more concerned about the strategy of rising Republican stars such as former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Steele, who may be in line to chair the Republican National Committee, recently told NPR that the GOP needs to be more inclusive of groups like the Log Cabin Republicans. Sanford, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, said recently at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Florida that the GOP has alienated younger voters with its intolerance on homosexual issues.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Bailout for All Our Bad Decisions?

By Governor Mark Sanford

I am worried for our country - not so much because of the tumult in the financial markets but because of the federal government's response and its implications.

After Hurricane Katrina, the federal government assumed roles traditionally handled by state and local governments. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the government federalized 25,000 workers through the Transportation Security Administration. The example of security-focused countries such as Israel, which elects to have that function handled by the private sector, did not matter. Now, our federal government is likely to commit three-quarters of a trillion dollars -- more than last year's Pentagon budget -- to a bailout based on what happened in the credit markets last week.

An ever-expanding scope of federal commitment and power is not what made this country great. Expanded power in one place comes at a cost in other places. American cornerstones such as individual initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit -- born in free and open societies with private property rights and the rule of law -- have never fit particularly well within the context of an ever-growing federal government.

For 200 years, the "business model" in our country has rested on a simple fact: that while one may reap rewards from taking risks, one should also be prepared to face the consequences of those risks. Some of the proposed actions with regard to the credit market turn that business model on its head -- absolving those who took too much risk, or bought too much house, from the weight of their own choices. If Congress passes the proposed bailout, we will be destined to have far greater problems in time, leaving those who are prudent in their finances to foot the bill for those who are not.

I am not writing to criticize Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. I respect his business judgment greatly, and his unenviable task is to find a short-term solution to problems grown by government over the long term. Whether his proposals are right or wrong is less the issue than the question of where we are, as a society, in terms of having government in the business of protecting people from their own financial decisions.

Last week's events were rooted in distressed mortgage securities whose optimistic values were facilitated by quasi-governmental entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The investment banking capital write-downs were turbocharged by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which did what too many laws do -- it fixed yesterday's problem. The amazing expansion of credit was fueled by a Federal Reserve offering an easy-money policy that led us right into a credit bubble. All this was made worse by the government enabling some people's tendency to want more house than they can afford.

With that bubble popped, we will now go through a major financial de-leveraging. It will be painful. Yet to preserve what has made this country great, we need to be on guard against Washington offering endless cures to our ills.

Many of the "cures" that are soon to be offered will have one thing in common -- telling us what others did wrong. Instead of listening to these, each of us as taxpayers must admonish those in Washington to get their own financial house in order. Washington is the master of creative and unsustainable finance, with $50 trillion in unfunded promises.

We will be told of bailouts that "won't cost anything." We should caution policymakers that this has never been the history of bailouts, and remind them of Milton Friedman's suggestion that the capitalist system never works without loss. Investment titans recently featured in Vanity Fair trading $60 million beach homes should never be sheltered from this old-fashioned concept.

We will be told of "temporary" funds and programs. We should remind our leaders of Ronald Reagan's words that the closest thing to eternal life is a government program.

We will be told "trust us" on pricing assets, and we should not -- because no matter how pure one's intentions, no one watches your money like you do. This makes transparency and open bidding incredibly important.

If we do these things right, we will weather the very rough patch ahead and be better for it as a country. If we do not, there will be more parallels between our nation and Edward Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" than we would like to imagine. The difference lies in each of our hands.

Mark Sanford, a Republican, is governor of South Carolina. He represented South Carolina for three terms in the U.S. House and was formerly employed by Goldman Sachs.