DeMint hindering stimulus plans for South Carolina

As the nation struggles with its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, some in Washington D.C., are fighting a rear-guard action to block President Obama's stimulus plan.

Among them, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint is jockeying to become leader of the heel-dragging pack.

This professional ad man knows the importance of burnishing his brand. He has become a stock fixture on the national media circuit. If you need someone to defend the failed economic policies of former President George Bush, schedule DeMint for your show.

DeMint's ideas sound good to a dwindling number of true-believers who think tax cuts can solve any problem and that magical forces will repair an economy in disarray without public intervention.

What's becoming increasingly apparent is that DeMint is not only out of step with Democrats and moderate Republicans, but that he is also out of touch with the real world - the one where South Carolinians live.

DeMint voted Feb. 10 against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which fortunately passed the Senate with a 61-37 vote. The stimulus package is designed to get money into the economy quickly through spending projects to save or create three million U.S. jobs over the next four years. The version passed by the House Jan. 28 included $3.2 billion for South Carolina's needs from road repairs to college tuitions.

On ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" for Feb. 1, DeMint joined a conversation that also included U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and two chief executives - FedEx's Fred Smith and Google's Eric Schmidt.

Google has particular interest for South Carolinians. The company recently opened a computer data center in Berkeley County and has bought land in Richland County, where it might open another - if demand is there.

But DeMint thought he should lecture the chief executive of one of the most successful American companies about economics, trotting out studies from the conservative Heritage Foundation that favors tax cuts over direct public spending.

Schmidt, a soft-spoken man who measures his words carefully, replied, "I'm worried that tax cuts alone - won't be sufficient because people are not paying any taxes because they're not making any money."

"There are plenty of cases where directed spending does help things to happen more quickly," Schmidt said. "Most of the (stimulus package) money actually goes to reasonably short-term things in education, state relief, various other things that help people in the very short term. Some combination of all that money has got to get out now to get people going again."

Schmidt and Smith, the FedEx chief executive, shared one message: Congress needs to act quickly to get the economy moving.

"I'm sure this stuff is going to get fixed by you guys, because you're working very hard on it," Schmidt said.
"I wouldn't count on it," DeMint replied.

This is not the first time DeMint has made such comments.

In a Jan. 22 column in The State he warned Republicans against helping President Obama pass a meaningful stimulus plan.

"Should the bill fail to revive the economy, its bipartisan character would inoculate the new president from sole responsibility for what Republicans could otherwise brand ‘The Obama Recession.'"

DeMint is using one of South Carolina's seats in the U.S. Senate to act like a hedge fund manager - trying to lure citizens and donors to bet that the economic failure his party created will worsen.

South Carolinians can't afford to be so cynical.

In the S.C. Senate, Hutto represents Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell and Orangeburg counties for District 40. His e-mail address is