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Take the money and stay

POSTED: March 2, 2009 10:37 a.m.
If I were advising the national Republican Party on how to regain its footing, I would begin with a simple statement: “Take the money.”
Several GOP governors, including our own, have indicated they’ll say no to accepting part of the federal stimulus package to get the economy rolling again.
To Gov. Sonny Perdue’s credit, his threatened refusal sounds as if he’s trying to please his buddies in the Republican Governors Association.  When the time comes to scoop up billions in federal funds, my guess is Perdue will grab every penny. Good for him. It’s our tax money. Why shouldn’t we take some of it back?
However, some GOP governors  —  mostly those thinking of running for president in three years  —  have said  flatly they will refuse the stimulus money “as a matter of principle.”
Which principle is that? The principle that says a political idiot is born every 30 seconds in the United States, and some of them will go on to become Republican governors  —  if there’s a Republican Party left when they grow up?     
For a so-called donor state like Georgia, telling the feds to take their stimulus package and shove it is nuts. Here’s an opportunity to get some of our tax money back to spend on things we need.
Back in the bad old days of The Depression, Georgia received many more federal tax dollars than it paid to Uncle Sam. Most of the Empire State of the South was in desperate straits and needed all the federal cash it could get.
When the post-World War II boom started, Georgia’s economic position changed dramatically. Georgia lost its status as a tax-receiving state. Now, for every $1 we send to Washington in taxes, we get back only 96 cents in federal spending.
But I digress. Outside our region, Democrats swamped Republicans in the last election. The GOP figured it could win the presidency again and take some additional congressional seats if the elephants renewed their standard strategy of accusing Democrats of being the tax-and-spend party.
The trouble is, a Republican president and a Republican Congress in six of the last eight years led us into a near depression. A federal surplus of hundreds of billions of dollars turned into a trillion-dollar federal deficit. Our old adversary, the Chinese Communists, became the biggest holder of our debt.
Unemployment in America shot up. Retail businesses collapsed all over the place.
Whether President Barack Obama and his advisers can get the American economic train back on track remains to be seen.
Meantime, the elephants are looking for a new trademark and a different strategy. They obviously plan to hold Obama responsible for every slippage in the economy and hope voters develop amnesia about W.’s disastrous turn at the national helm.
Back at the stimulus pot, Georgia has been awarded $339 million in federal funds to help stop the hemorrhaging of Medicaid. Perdue gladly accepted that nourishment, just as I suspect he will take the additional monies headed our way.
The next time you hear someone say that Georgia needs to just say no to the federal bailout, suggest they may be running a fever. They are obviously sick.
Outside Atlanta, Georgia is spotted with pockets of deep poverty that we hardly ever hear about in the metro region.
For example, just a short time ago the Dalton area was the pride and joy of economic developers. The tufted carpet mills were never busier. New housing sprung up everywhere. Dalton became a shining example for everything from model schools to its cutting-edge waterworks.
Then pop! The bubble burst. As of December, the Dalton area had the second highest unemployment rate in the nation at 11.2 percent.
A Dalton business leader complains that the area has been virtually ignored since the shine of prosperity wore off.
“We have had no meaningful visits or conversations from any member of Congress and not one visit from the current pro-business governor,” the businessman told us, adding that Dalton and environs went 74 percent for John McCain in November.
One can find the Dalton story repeated in every part of the state. Departing businesses and closing military installations have left bleak emptiness in our landscape.
Dalton and cities like it need all the help they can get to return to their days of glory and hustle. If anybody brings up the great principle of turning down Obama’s bundle, tell him or her to call the Dalton chamber of commerce and see if they can use some financial assistance.
And to those hoping for Obama’s failure, remind them that, in the end, we are not Democrats or Republicans as far as this mess is concerned. We are Americans and Georgians, and we need a helping hand to get rolling again.

You can reach Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net, or Web address: billshipponline.com.
 

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