How's It Playing?

By Marc Ambinder

Following the President's signing of the $787 billion stimulus package in Denver yesterday, editorial boards across the nation's "purple states" assessed the bill's long-term implications for their state economies.

The Rocky Mountain News takes stock of what it believes is good and bad in the bill. Though arguing the stimulus is necessary and praising its investments in infrastructure, the editors question the President's enthusiasm for large increases in federal spending on health care and education. They are eager to know how Obama will reconcile this non-infrastructure spending with another goal he stated in Denver - restoring fiscal discipline.

The Cincinnati Enquirer argues that the most important feature of the stimulus bill is that the country will perceive it as aggressive action against the country's economic woes. While the editors suggest that we may need further tax cuts down the line, as well as additional targeted spending programs, they praise the President for passing the bill so swiftly after taking office. They believe the stimulus package represents an appropriately aggressive start to the long-term process of revitalizing the American economy

The Concord Monitor's editorial board looks at which states will receive the most federal funds from the stimulus package and concludes that, on a per capita basis, New Hampshire fared poorly. Based on the state's estimated population of 1.3 million in 2007, if the federal pie were divided equally, New Hampshire should have been in line for something like $3.5 billion, not the $860 million reported by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's office. On account of an unemployment rate well below the national average and a relatively small percentage of residents living in poverty, the Granite State turned out to be "the kid whose joy in a new bike was dampened by learning that some of his friends got ponies."

Nevada, by contrast, is slated to receive one of the largest per capita shares of stimulus money and the Las Vegas Sun's editors are optimistic about the investment's chances for success. Declaring "recalcitrant Republicans" the stimulus bill's only dissapointment, the editors argue the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is the multidimensional plan required by state governors, schools, business owners and millions of people looking for work. While emphasizing that it does not promise overnight recovery, they argue that Obama's signing of the bill has given them their "most optimistic outlook since the recession began."

In Florida, a state slated to receive more than $12 billion over the next few years, The Orlando Sentinel calls for the president and Congress - and any state or local official who takes charge of spending a share of that money - to do everything they can to make sure this unprecedented investment from taxpayers isn't wasted. Though praising the stimulus package for its "promising array" of accountability and transparency measures, the editors argue that these provisions will only work if they are strictly enforced by Mr. Obama and lawmakers. Noting the oversight systems introduced by Massachussetts Governor Deval Patrick and New York Governor David Paterson, the editors also implore Governor Charlie Crist and state legislators to offer Florida taxpayers a serious effort to ensure that their stimulus funds aren't misspent.

For a further indication of the political jockeying the stimulus has sparked in state and local politics, look no further than today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial, "No Stimulus For You." The editors offer a vigorous response to recent comments by the Republican speaker of the Missouri state house in which he called for the state to simply refuse any stimulus money from Washington. Dismissing Ron Richard's claim that the federal funds will only "expand welfare," the editors offer a detailed survey of the programs and infrastructure in the speaker's home district that would benefit from the stimulus money.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/02/hows-it-playing/659/