Is Pawlenty a hypocrite on the stimulus?

Gov. Tim Pawlenty today deflected suggestions that he’s hypocritical on the issue of the federal stimulus — objecting to it on the one hand, while using the money in his budget on the other.

He said he favored a stimulus, but one with more money for roads and bridges and tax cuts; not the one that became law.

Is he on shifting ground? Not really.

A look at the record shows that Pawlenty has been fairly consistent in the nature of his opposition to the stimulus. Just a week after it was signed into law, he told PRI’s The Takeaway:

“That’s a concern, but I wouldn’t say the overriding concern. But of the total infrastructure in the bill, including roads and bridges, it’s only $150 billion. We’ve got fish hatchery money in there, there’s art endowment money in there, there’s spending on every kind of government program. We’re going to get more money for programs in our state than we would’ve spent on the programs even in good times. The bill clearly has meandered and that was the tipping point for many Republicans to say, this is not a good enough stimulus bill. But only four Republican governors supported it, the rest were either concerned or opposed. Most are going to end up taking the money. In Minnesota’s case, we’re going to take the money, because we’re a major subsidizer of the federal government. For every dollar we send in, we only get 72 cents back, so we’re going to accept the money, because we’re paying the bill.

“Again, I support a stimulus bill, I just think this one should have done better. So I’m not arguing the general premise of can we benefit from a stimulus bill and should we have had a stimulus bill. I say to those questions, yes, I just am disappointed in this one.

A few days later, he against said he supported a stimulus bill, just not this one:

(More below the fold)

In that interview, however, he said nothing about the private sector or tax cuts.

Last May, Pawlenty was applauding the stimulus for the aid it wold provide to the unemployed:

“Minnesota continues to experience concerns about unemployment these additional funds will help bring relief to Minnesotans who are unemployed, have entered the unemployment ranks we want to do all that we can to help them and this money will be a great step in that direction.”

Throughout, Pawlenty seemed to be arguing for more spending directed to roads and bridges. But a few weeks ago, on MPR’s Meet the Press, he strayed from his original position and straddled it — repeating that the stimulus was unfocused, but now complaining that it was going to government and not private business. But the private sector doesn’t build roads and bridges:

Today, after his state economist said the stimulus had boosted the Minnesota economy, Pawlenty returned to his position of last February.

  • John

    “We’ve got fish hatchery money in there, there’s art endowment money in there, …”

    I don’t get why infrastructure is somehow more worthy. Granted, we desparately need infrastructure spending, but isn’t all deficit spending stimulative? Why does it matter whether we build a brodge or a fish hatchery? Why does it matter if a construction worker gets paid, or an artist? All mean people get paid, and spend the money, thereby stimulating the economy.

  • Bob Collins

    //I don’t get why infrastructure is somehow more worthy

    I think it gets down to how far a buck travels. I know I work for a company that got some of that arts stimulus, but I think there’s a question of whether a buck spent in arts endowment travels as far as a buck in an industry that depends on suppliers, quite often local.

    I am not, offhand, aware of any particular study that has the answer, but I do recall during the stimulus debate, that it was ALL around construction and I recall turning to someone and wondering whether everyone but me somehow works in the construction industry.

  • bsimon

    The governor’s argument is somewhat reasonable – whether you’re for the stimulus or not, you’re going to end up paying for it, so you may as well collect some benefits. Where he is a bit more hypocritical, in my view, is in his own inabiltity to assenble to restructure government in a fiscally stable way. He’s not taking the Fed stimulus money & using it for one-time projects, he’s balancing the budget with it. What happens this year & subsequent years when there’s not stimulus money? Budget shortfalls. That is where Pawlenty has utterly failed as an executive – the budget problems we faced when he was first elected not only haven’t been solved, they’ve been exacerbated. It is for that legacy of failure that he deserves the hypocrite label.

  • Aaron Pratt

    “I don’t get why infrastructure is somehow more worthy..”

    Well, because infrastructure building is both productive (involves a supply chain and a finished good) and because it makes economies more efficient (especially transportation investments). Every civilization has had to deal with this, and the most successful ones always have the best roads, etc.

    Conversely (and I do love the arts) public subsidy of art is often associated with civilization decline.