Question: When does a Republican lawmaker's definition of government stimulus transform from "a pork-barrel waste of taxpayers' money that will encourage socialism and add to an already bloated federal deficit" to "a necessary expenditure that will boost the economy and reverse unemployment"?
Answer: When said funds are earmarked for that lawmaker's state or district. All but the most messianic congressional skinflints are only too happy to receive government booty for buildings, highways and bridges - even those to nowhere - as long as they create jobs for his or her constituents.
Therefore it will be interesting to see how the Grand Old Party spins the $62 billion package being requested to rebuild shoreline communities damaged or destroyed in October by Hurricane Sandy.
Doubtless few GOP senators and representatives would lose much sleep - or many votes - if they left the royal blue states of Connecticut and New York to slowly twist in the wind, but New Jersey poses a political, if not moral, dilemma. Even though the state overwhelmingly supported Democratic President Barack Obama's re-election, New Jersey has a superstar Republican governor in Chris Christie.
True, Gov. Christie inflamed some party stalwarts when, only a few days before last month's election, he grudgingly conceded President Obama had responded quickly to the emergency in his state, which bore the brunt of the superstorm's fury. Mr. Christie must have had to swallow hard before he choked out those words, but he wasn't stupid enough to bite the hand he knew would be feeding disaster relief.
While this newspaper has not analyzed in detail how the $62 billion would be spent - the amount is considerably less than the monumental damage the three states said they sustained - we agree it would be an appropriate appropriation that perfectly fulfills the government's role and responsibility.
Sandy, to be sure, was a catastrophe. You also could argue that the state of the nation's infrastructure is a disaster-in-waiting, and we shouldn't have to wait for a hurricane, blizzard or earthquake to start fixing it.