Well, don’t I feel stupid. Last week I said that Governor Bobby Jindal’s claim that he was considering turning down stimulus cash because of his fiscally conservative principles was just so much political grandstanding. To lay the groundwork for a future national campaign, I argued, Jindal was using the press generated by his objections to position himself as the most conservative member of the GOP’s presidential wannabe crowd. But when push came to shove, he’d obviously take the money. Right?
Wrong. Bobby Jindal is smarter than me. He figured out a way to take the vast majority of the funding set out for Louisiana (about 98 percent, according to TPM) while still earning headlines like “Jindal rejects $98 million in stimulus spending.”
What’s more, the funding that Jindal is turning down is slated for unemployment benefits, a favorite punching bag of the conservative Right. Jindal has already issued quotes about how the stimulus funding would force Louisiana to raise business taxes in order to hand cash out to lazy slobs who can’t be bothered to get a job. (That’s not actually true; Jindal could sunset the increased unemployment benefits when the federal funding runs out.) If you read Stephanie Mencimer’s excellent piece on welfare from the last issue of MoJo, you know that the entitlement systems in the South are badly perverted, and that an extra $98 million could do a lot of good in a state like Louisiana. But who cares, right? This way, future candidate Jindal gets to push all the right buttons.