Physician, Kill Thyself

“Political suicide,” one of Governor Sanford’s friends texted me today. Considering the prognosis of South Carolina’s condition, perhaps political death by one’s own hand is preferable to governing.

Our economic infrastructure, too long dependent on manufacturing, has completely unraveled (and as John McCain famously said, “Those jobs are not coming back.”). There is no plan for rebuilding, just the same vision-less oligarchy spouting the same anti-tax , anti-USA rant. There is no plan to increase health care access, just the same tobacco company bribery of the same corrupt politicians. There is no real plan to improve the public schools, just the same attempt to steal public assets and give them to private businesses and religious organizations. We’re dying here, so maybe a little extra painkiller in the IV wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe we should all go hiking the Argentinian Trail.

South Carolina’s collapse is not solely the result of Governor Sanford’s policies—the world-wide economic slowdown would have arrived here sooner or later. (The world, as the Governor used to say, is flat.) But the raid on the state Treasury by the oligarchy (one of whose members is the Governor) tipped us over the edge fiscally. Instead of the prosperity that was supposed to result from “returning money to the taxpayers,” all we got was chaos—at every level of government: municipal, county and state. We started out fiscal year 2007 with a $1.5 billion surplus and ended it with a $200 million deficit. That was reckless and selfish and the people of South Carolina are going to suffer a long time for it. Governor Sanford joined with the leadership of the South Carolina GOP to celebrate the Libertarian investor’s paradise they had built on the beaches of Edisto, Isle of Palms and Hilton Head. It was the last political victory of any size that he would celebrate.

I met him a number of times over the past six years, and worked closely with his staff on a number of issues. I found that we agreed on way more things than I cared to admit. It was unsettling to my liberal sensitivities. But it was good to be able to see him in broader, deeper colors than the black he was painted by his enemies. No matter that I like him; Mark Sanford is afflicted with a reckless tendency to seek his own interest before that of others. Untethered, that tendency is murderous of all that is good and holy. I know. I’ve unleashed it too many times myself, always to ruinous results. Even as I like him, I am like him, we are all like him.

I like having a nice house that is assessed only $800 per year in taxes. I like it because I am reckless and selfish. I should hate the fact that I only pay $800 a year in real estate taxes and get thousands of dollars more in services, because somebody else is paying for them. Watching the unraveling of Governor Sanford’s life over the past few days reminds me of how much harder I have to work to overcome my own reckless selfishness.

For it always leads to death. Always.

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