Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) has been playing up his budgetary bona-fides recently, crafting an image of fiscal responsibility at a time when many states are staring at large deficits for the next few years. But like other Republican governors, he’s having trouble squaring taking advantage of relief provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus) with his desire to appeal to the conservative base.
Yesterday, Daniels met with the editorial boards of Indiana’s Evening News and Tribune, where he blasted the stimulus as something only “a blind zealot” believes has been successful:
“I’ve always said I didn’t think the way they were doing it was any good,” he said. “Now a year-and-a-half has gone by. It hasn’t worked. You have to be a blind zealot to say that this thing has done any good. It’s trickle down government is the best way I can describe it.”
I guess Daniels considers himself one of the faithful, as he signed a letter in February requesting an extension of Medicaid funding provided by the stimulus. He also has an entire page on his state’s website extolling the investments made with stimulus money that is subtitled “jobs, speed, long-term value.” When the stimulus first passed, Daniels didn’t seem to mind the funds, saying “our goal is to be out of the gate as fast as any state to obligate the funds and get projects started.”
According to the latest report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus boosted gross domestic product by as much as 4.5 percent and created or saved up to 3.3 million jobs, which could reach 3.6 million by the end of September.
Also, Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi — who advised Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) during his presidential run — concluded in a study that the benefits of the stimulus are “substantial, raising the GDP by about 2%, holding the unemployment rate about 1 1/2 percentage points lower, and adding almost 2.7 million jobs to U.S. payrolls,” estimates which are “broadly consistent with those made by the CBO and the Obama Administration.”
There are plenty of projects in Indiana that are only occurring because of the stimulus, ranging from highway work and bridge construction to scientific research and home weatherization. “We will need to bring on 2,000 contractors statewide just to meet the demand [for home weatherizing],” said Paul Krievins of the Indiana Housing Authority. Then again, maybe all the people working on and organizing these projects are just blind zealots too.