Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), one of the nation's most conservative governors and a possible presidential candidate, prides himself on his opposition to President Obama's agenda. But the consistency of the Republican governor's opposition is starting to look a little shaky.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, Pence announced
a plan to accept Medicaid expansion funds through the Affordable Care Act, despite his fierce disgust for "Obamacare."
Consider the governor's visit to Hammond on Thursday: Pence cheered the start of the Indiana Gateway rail improvements that will help speed freight and passenger rail travel through Northwest Indiana. "I say let's blow the horn, let's get the Gateway open and be on the way to a more prosperous Indiana," Pence proclaimed at the Hammond-Whiting Amtrak station. The $71.4 million project will cut delays at region rail crossings by 70 hours a year, shave an hour off Amtrak trips between Chicago and Detroit, and create an estimated 700 jobs, according to Pence's Indiana Department of Transportation.
The money that will fund the project -- you guessed it -- is stimulus money.
As the local report out of Northwest Indiana explained
, Pence, as a congressman, railed against the Recovery Act, insisting in 2009, "[This bill] won't work to put Americans back to work. It won't create jobs. The only thing it will stimulate is more government and more debt. It will probably do more harm than good."
We now know, of course, that Pence was completely wrong about the value of the Recovery Act -- indeed, at the crisis point, the congressman got it backwards -- but five years later, he's reluctant to admit that the stimulus is good for Indiana.
Asked Friday about his seeming change of heart toward the stimulus now that he is governor, Pence repeated his opposition to stimulus spending. "Back in early 2009, I just didn't think we could borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy, and I still believe that to be the case," he said. But he added that if the money is out there, a governor must make sure the state get its share -- especially if it will be spent on infrastructure projects like the Indiana Gateway, which Pence called "a sound, sound use of public dollars.
At a certain level, that's not a horrible argument. It's a little too easy to throw around the "hypocrisy" charge when it doesn't always apply -- if a law makes funding available, a policymaker isn't necessarily a hypocrite for seeking some of those resources for his or her constituents, even after opposing the law.
But the trouble here is with Pence's policy contradiction. The Indiana governor has effectively argued:
1. The Recovery Act can't help the economy and can't create jobs.
2. The Recovery Act can help the economy and can create jobs so long as the money is spent in my state.
There's just no way to take such a position seriously.
Making matters slightly worse, Indiana enjoys a "$2 billion state bank account that Pence regularly touts as evidence of his sound fiscal management." A big chunk of the money came by way of the Recovery Act
that Pence sees as evidence of fiscal mismanagement.
So much for "more harm than good."