Two important stories ran on the pages of The Post and Courier last week and that say more than their mere text would suggest about where this state is headed and why.

The first story was that Time magazine ranked our own Mark Sanford among the three worst governors in the nation. The other two included the governor of Ohio, who recently pled guilty to criminal charges involving gifts from lobbyists; and the Louisiana governor who managed her state’s response to Hurricane Katrina so badly.

Time cited the fact that Sanford’s penny-pinching ways had cost the state its AAA credit rating and had brought the state’s economy to a standstill. The magazine also mentioned his inability to get along with the legislature and his penchant for grandstanding, as when he carried two piglets into the Statehouse last year to protest the General Assembly’s “pork-barrel spending.”

“A growing chorus of critics, including leaders of his own GOP, fear that his thrift has brought the state’s economy to a standstill,” the two-paragraph story said. “Business leaders are losing patience with Sanford’s vetoes of budget items like trade centers and tourism marketing.”

Time also ranked the five best governors in the nation — three Democrats and two Republicans.

Of course, Sanford fired back, first accusing Time of being a “liberal” magazine, a charge denied by College of Charleston political scientist Bill Moore. Sanford also pointed out that he had been highly praised by such conservative periodicals as National Review and the Wall Street Journal and by the right-wing Cato Institute.

Then Sanford went after the five governors who had won Time’s highest marks, and in so doing he demonstrated a frightening ideological fixation. Three of the top five governors had raised taxes, and Sanford’s handlers didn’t let it go unnoticed.

“Obviously, the way to please Time magazine editors is to raise taxes and the way to upset them is to fight for limited government,” said one of his office flacks.

“Governor Sanford’s record is clearly one of cutting taxes and limiting the size of government. Even if that upsets the liberal editors of Time magazine, we’re confident that’s the type of government the people of South Carolina are looking for.”

Actually, Governor, raising taxes is not a program to piss off those pointy-headed, Northern, liberal editors. It’s a way of paying the bills and providing the things this state needs to maintain prosperity — things like jobs and our AAA rating. Only a man dangerously blinded by ideology would pursue this reckless course of cutting taxes at such a high cost to the people he is supposed to serve.

But maybe it’s not ideology, after all. Sanford has taken his National Review and Cato Institute endorsements much too seriously. He has actually started thinking of himself as presidential timber and the way to impress the leaders of the national Republican Party is to cut, cut, cut taxes at any cost.

I predict that the tax-cutting mania will play heavily into the downfall of the national Republican Party. Most Americans are sane enough to understand that at some point we have to start paying our bills and taking responsibility for the future. But if South Carolina history teaches anything, it is that South Carolinians are incapable of learning from experience. For generation after generation, we have elected demagogues, ideologues, and other fantasists; next year we will reelect Mark Sanford — not because he deserves a second term, but because he is a Republican, and white people vote Republican the way sheep are led to the abattoir.

The second bit of news — and it was a good piece of analysis by David Slade and John Frank of The Post and Courier — is that the so-called tax reform that the General Assembly has been working on for months is actually just another plan to enrich the rich at the expense of the rest of us.

Slade and Frank wrote: “The leading plans for property tax reform in South Carolina would give the lion’s share of the benefits to those with pricey real estate, while owners of the least expensive homes could wind up paying more tax instead of less…

“Previous state efforts to reduce the real estate tax burden have been directed toward the elderly and disabled, and to homeowners with lower-priced residences, but the plans under review would cut real estate taxes without regard to property value or the owner’s age or income.”

There are a number of reasons why the South is so backward and economically underdeveloped. One is that we continue to elect flamboyant populists, who are ineffective at the art of governance. The other is that we refuse to tax the people who can afford it — i.e., the rich — for the money it costs to be a modern, developed society.

We saw two good examples of these phenomena last week.