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Governors Have Eyes Only for Obama II

Following up on Matt’s nice post about the states tapping Obama for help with enormous budget shortfalls…

Few are saying it out loud, but the issue has a ring of class distinction surrounding it. That is, the White House has been quick to secure hundreds of billions of dollars for white-collar workers on Wall Street, but so far it’s balked at much smaller sums for state infrastructure projects or Detroit’s automakers. The message is clear: Trickle down, in the eyes of the Bush administration, trumps trickle up.

State leaders, however, are beginning to wonder when that trickle-down strategy will benefit them. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, said Monday that the long string of Wall Street bailouts has done nothing to help the middle class.

“We’ve seen a lot of federal help go to a lot of different organizations in the past few months but not any of that help has produced one new job,” Rendell told reporters. “Not any of that help has produced one new order of business for an American company.”

Rendell said the governors plan to push Obama for federal help with job-creating infrastructure projects and state-funded health-care programs.

States, faced with the burden of actually balancing their annual budgets, seem to have a legitimate need for both. Unemployment is up; home values are plummeting; retail sales are down; and the strain on social services is rising with every new jobless claim. In that environment, programs like food stamps and Medicaid, which cater to low-income folks, will be hit particularly hard.

“These are the safety net for our people across the nation, and the states are responsible,” said Joe Hackney, speaker of North Carolina’s state house.

In this fiscal year, states have already made cuts totaling $53 billion, Hackney said, with $90 billion in additional cuts projected to follow this year and the next. Faced with numbers like that, governors must feel like Jan. 20 can’t come quickly enough.

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