The forgotten Palin

I really enjoyed reading Joshua Green’s profile of Sarah Palin’s political career in Alaska in the Atlantic recently.  After nearly three years of self-inflicted intellectual embarrassment and absurdity it has actually become quite easy to forget that when she was very first nominated, Sarah Palin had a genuine (and deserved) reputation as a reformer.  She really was a “maverick” that took on the Republican establishment in Alaska and did good things.  Most notably, she worked with Democrats to raise state revenue by increasing taxes on oil companies.  Shocking, isn’t it.  I actually vaguely remember learning all this back in 2008.  Yet, it now seems completely buried under the self-made caricature that is her current political persona.  It was just really interesting to realize that the person we know know for enlightening us with stuff like this:

“We saw where Paul Revere hung out as a teenager, which was something new to learn. He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.”

actually used to be an accomplished and sane politician back in the day (albeit one who was already showing plenty of warning signs). I might as well mention that this little Paul Revere incident quite aptly illustrates her incredibly flawed political character.  Instead of simply admitting she was wrong, she’s doubled down to insist that she was right, thereby adding insult to injury (nicely explained at the earlier link).  Anyway, for me at least, to be reminded of her actual accomplishments and skill as governor of Alaska, was just really interesting when you look at what’ s become of Sarah Palin now.

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Simply Awesome

If only there were more such goings on. More here.
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Kristof: Tea Party Nation

Really nice column by Nick Kristoff this week.  I love it when he gets into domestic politics.  Basic point: The Tea Party ought be careful what they wish for:

With Tea Party conservatives and many Republicans balking at raising the debt ceiling, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals.

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.

So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’sPakistan

The United States is, of course, in no danger of actually becoming Pakistan, any more than we’re going to become Sweden at the other extreme. But as America has become more unequal, as we cut off government lifelines to the neediest Americans, as half of states plan to cut spending on higher education this year, let’s be clear about our direction — and about the turnaround that a Republican budget victory would represent.

The long trajectory of history has been for governments to take on more responsibilities, and for citizens to pay more taxes. Now we’re at a turning point, with Republicans arguing that we need to reverse course.

I spend a fair amount of time reporting in developing countries, from Congo to Colombia. They’re typically characterized by minimal taxes, high levels of inequality, free-wheeling businesses and high military expenditures. Any of that ring a bell?

In Latin American, African or Asian countries, I sometimes see shiny tanks and fighter aircraft — but schools that have trouble paying teachers. Sound familiar? And the upshot is societies that are quasi-feudal, stratified by social class, held back by a limited sense of common purpose.

Yep.  Quite simply, the Tea party is on the wrong side of history.  Can you go too far with a powerful central government?  Of course, ask those of the former Soviet Union, etc., but it is also quite clear that as modern societies advance and evolve, they move towards a government that has more responsibilities with citizens who pay more taxes for it.  There’s a reason the Nordic countries are a lot better places to live for the average citizen than pretty much anywhere else.

GOP Tax theology

Nice story in the Post yesterday about the development of the contemporary GOP tax cut theology.  Basically, the party has turned over all economic “thought” to Grover Norquist who essentially adheres to the amazingly small-minded and inflexible doctrine that more government revenue is always bad.  Always!  There are truly few things in life that you can say are always bad (tornadoes?  serial killers?)  and to suggest that increasing government revenue belongs in this category is beyond absurd.  As I’ve mentioned before, its not just about marginal tax rates, Norquist is opposed to anything that increases government revenue:

The strategist who invented the pledge, Grover G. Norquist, compares it to a brand, like Coca-Cola, built on “quality control” so that Republican voters know they’ll get “the same thing every time.”

Loyalty to the brand is so strong that no Republican has voted for a major federal tax increase since 1991, Norquist says. It is so widespread that more than a dozen governors and hundreds of state legislators now count themselves as adherents. And it is so well defended that its followers are constantly patrolling at both the state and federal levels for new forms of trespass.

In California, the pledge is interpreted to prohibit state lawmakers from asking voters to decide whether certain existing taxes should be extended. In Pennsylvania, the pledge is cited as a barrier to imposing an ”impact” fee on the environmentally questionable business of extracting gas from underground shale.

Now, here’s the part that just kills me:

On Capitol Hill, Norquist has admonished Coburn (Okla.), Crapo (Idaho) and Chambliss (Ga.) for suggesting a tax option for tackling the debt: Reducing credits and deductions worth an estimated $1 trillion a year. Although most of the cash would be used to lower tax rates for everyone, a portion would be dedicated to restoring national solvency.

No good, says Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform. Under the pledge, raising revenue in any way requires an equal tax cut elsewhere to avoid expanding the size of government. And, yes, that sometimes means protecting tax breaks that Republicans view as bad public policy, Norquist and his supporters say.

I honestly wonder how any intellectually serious and honest person can support such incredibly rigid and shallow thinking.  Perhaps that’s part of the reason it seems so hard to find any intellectually serious and honest thinkers among Republican party politicians.

[Though, I really like that as the ending of the post, I do have to point out the Post’s incredibly facile “both sides do it” attempt at balance.  Thus, we get, “And the GOP’s hard line on the issue stands, alongside Democratic resistance to cutting federal retirement benefits, as the biggest obstacle to a bipartisan agreement to tackle that problem.”  Seriously?  To compare these two as even modestly equivalent is facially absurd.  Alas, the Post has to prove its not “biased.”]

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