A friend of mine opines in her blog that the behavior of South Carolina's congressmen during the recent budget standoff reminds her of an earlier generation of firebrand politicians from the Palmetto State who pushed a young nation into its bloodiest war.
South Carolina congressmen can't help themselves, she argues, comparing the contrariness of our state's GOP delegation to the rash rhetoric that led up to the firing on Fort Sumter.
My first reaction was that her analogy was a bit extreme. After all, I reasoned, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and his Republican colleagues would have switched their votes to the affirmative had they thought it a genuine possibility the United States was about to default. Surely, they weren't so reckless as to plunge their country into another recession - perhaps even a depression - just so they could tell tea party constituents they had kept faith.
I mean it was a coincidence, wasn't it, that ours was the only delegation whose Republican members voted in lockstep against the 11th hour compromise to raise the federal debt limit?
It's inconceivable, I told myself, that South Carolina elected five congressmen - four of them first-timers - who are so hell bent to preserve low taxes for rich folks that they would eviscerate programs benefiting the middle class and poor, the elderly and the infirm.
Now, I'm not so sure. I'm beginning to think South Carolina prides itself in electing politicians whose principal qualification is their stubborn insistence that government is an evil intrusion into American lives, no matter what benefits accrue to citizens nor what harm would befall them if services were curtailed or eliminated.
Recent actions by our governor and our state education superintendent add credence to that frightening notion.
South Carolina, we learned last week, will be the only state in the Union to reject a portion of $10 billion from the Education Jobs Fund, a federal program to help states preserve jobs for classroom teachers. South Carolina's share would have been $114 million.
Think about it: Neither Michele Bachmann's Minnesota, nor Rick Perry's Texas, nor Sarah Palin's Alaska turned down its share of federal largesse.
Ironically, thanks to the conviction of South Carolina's officials, those and other states may be able to retain additional teachers; the $114 million that should have been coming our way likely will be distributed among 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The notion that South Carolina would be alone in turning down a chance for badly needed education funds only seemed to spur on State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais and Gov. Nikki Haley.
Earlier this month Zais fired off a letter to the U.S. Department of Education, declaring: "South Carolina can meet our own educational challenges without micromanagement by the federal government."
Just to make sure that Uncle Sam understood the author was a man of principle, Zais concluded his epistle by requesting that South Carolina's portion of the money be used to reduce the federal debt.
Boy, didn't that kick sand in the bully's face!
Haley has made clear she supports Zais. In a video posted on the Internet, the governor said, "I trust what he is doing is right. He is trying to get our education house in order so that the dollars are going into the classroom and so we are not as dependent on federal dollars in a way that we don't need to be for our kids."
Haley didn't explain how turning down $114 million to help school districts retain teachers would benefit South Carolina's children. Then again, logic has never played an important role among the state's libertarian politicos.
In their puffed-up defiance of Washington, Zais and Haley are following a script written by Haley's predecessor and soul buddy, Mark Sanford, who tried, unsuccessfully, to reject federal stimulus money.
As with the Education Jobs Fund, the money Sanford sought not to accept would have gone to other states - not to paying down the federal debt.
South Carolina's state motto, "Dum Spiro Spero" means "While I breathe, I hope." With politicians like these, it ought to be: "South Carolina: Often wrong, never in doubt."