Ted Cruz: evil genius?

Had an interesting discussion the other day about Ted Cruz and a person with many mutual acquaintances assured me that he, is in, fact brilliant.  If that’s the case, I think the only conclusion is that he is an evil genius.  In short, he knows he is duping millions by peddling crap (people like Jim Demint are dumb enough to believe the crap they are peddling).  Anyway, made me think of this John Dickerson article that points out the unusual circumstances of Cruz being a populist intellectual (simply by dint of his degrees, certainly not by his public pronouncements).

Sen. Ted Cruz may be the conservative movement’s first populist egghead—a grassroots leader who is attacked for being too smart to have common sense. In political theater, you’re usually allowed to wear only one of these costumes.

The populist claims to possess the horse sense of the electorate and has no need for fancy schools, with their eating clubs, trays of sherry, and debating societies. That was Sarah Palin’s posture. It was also true of the men to whom Cruz has recently been unfavorably compared—Huey Long, Joe McCarthy, and George Wallace—and those conservative luminaries he aspires to join—Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan…

The establishment usually scorns the populist as a dummy, full of overheated rhetoric for the masses but not much more. When the smarty-pants set attacked Cruz for his Obamacare grandstanding, it looked like a familiar script…

But Cruz wasn’t being mocked for low wattage the way Palin and Reagan had been. Cruz was being singled out for a lack of common sense born of his rarefied résumé. He graduated cum laude from Princeton and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School…

When Republican Sen. Bob Corker sought to discredit Cruz’s strategy to defund Obamacare by pushing a budget showdown, he tweaked him about his education. “I didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count—the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position,” said Corker. After the gambit failed, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid sounded the same theme: “[Sen. Cruz] might be able to work a calculus problem better than I can. But he can’t legislate better than I can.” The junior Texas senator’s strategy, wrote conservative columnist John Podhoretz, gave “flesh to George Orwell’s warning that some ideas are so stupid, only an intellectual could believe in them.” ..

For now, Cruz appeals to both the truck drivers and the Federalist Society. He heads to Iowa on Friday, where he will no doubt be greeted with a roar by activists who will travel hours just to see the populist egghead, a rare bird in the Republican menagerie.

So, I guess we’ll make that populist evil genius.

Time for a pot tax!

Not long ago I wrote, inspired by Ezra, that perhaps Democrats should give up on attempting to increase government revenue while tax cut theology rules supreme over the Republican Party and try and accomplish some other goals.  Great news, though– looks like Grover Norquist has just delivered a giant loophole.  Apparently, Grover is so favorably disposed towards getting high that he does not actually consider taxing marijuana to be a violation of his no tax increases pledge (which is actually a no increased government revenue pledge).

Amazing.  Via Drum:

Grover Norquist must be really, really eager for marijuana to be legalized. So eager that he’s willing to throw his anti-tax pledge under the bus in order to help the cause:

Norquist tells National Journal that lawmakers who signed the pledge and want to legalize and tax cannabis are in the clear. “That’s not a tax increase. It’s legalizing an activity and having the traditional tax applied to it,” he says.

He compares legalization to changes in alcohol regulation, as when a state legalizes the sale of liquor on Sundays or allows grocery stores to sell beer and wine where they previously couldn’t. “When you legalize something and more people do more of it, and the government gets more revenue because there’s more of it … that’s not a tax increase,” he explains. “The tax goes from 100 percent, meaning it’s illegal, to whatever the tax is.”

This is sophistry, of course. If the only tax on legalized marijuana was the traditional sales tax that most states already have, Norquist would be right. But that’s not the plan in most places. Instead, there are special excise taxes just for pot, and those taxes are pretty high.

Of course, marijuana taxes have a few characteristics Norquist doesn’t mention that might explain the real reason he’s OK with them. First, they don’t hit rich people very heavily. Second, they target an activity that social conservatives disapprove of. Third, the taxes primarily hit the young, not the oldsters who hold the whip hand in the conservative coalition.

The fact that we can never get any new revenue without the vast majority of Republicans violating this pledge is absolutely a problem.  The fact that the guardian of all things anti-tax has somehow claimed this particular tax is both absurd and potentially great news.  We’re not quite there yet as a society (but clearly getting close), and when we do, it’s great to think that the marijuana tax could provide a much-needed addition to government revenue.

Photo of the day

From a Telegraph gallery of readers’ Autumn photos:

Readers' autumn photos

Above, Abdelrahman Elwassimy’s photo of the River Thames taken near Richmond Park, Surrey.

Picture: Abdelrahman Elwassimy

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