Sunday, October 05, 2008

Shark on Dead Tree

Here's my column in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Jay Bullock said...

folkbum on Shark on Dead Tree.

Jay Bullock said...

Shorter folkbum:

To the editors:

Rick Esenberg's op-ed ("How Palin reassures, challenges the right," Oct. 4) was riddled with inaccuracies and distortions of Sarah Palin's record.

Esenberg called Palin "a staunch social conservative who has reduced both spending and taxes." The first part of that description is true enough, but the second part is not. As mayor of Wasilla, Palin raised some taxes, including a sales tax, and increased spending even more. When she left that office, the newspaper Politico reported (Aug. 29), Wasilla had a long-term debt that amounted to $3000 per resident. Esenberg calls Palin's actions "fiscally responsible," but leaving that kind of debt hardly seems "fiscally responsible" to me.

In addition, as governor of Alaska, Palin pushed through a massive tax increase--a windfall profits tax on oil companies. When Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle proposed a similar tax, Rick Esenberg wrote on his blog (Feb. 15, 2007) that it "strikes me as political pandering." Is "political pandering" now "fiscally responsible," too?

Later in his op-ed, Esenberg writes, "Government cannot save you. It won’t pay your bills, and its job is not to take from Peter to pay Paul." And yet that is exactly the opposite of what Sarah Palin's record shows. The Palin administration, according to the Seattle Times (Aug. 10) took part of the $6 billion collected from that windfall profits tax on oil companies and sent "a special $1,200 payment to every Alaskan to help cope with gas prices."

Palin did in fact take from Peter, paid Paul, and then bragged that Paul gave her an 80% approval rating. That is hardly reassuring to anyone, let alone conservatives.

apexcutter said...

Nice column, Rick. Yes, the Palin candidacy has brought needed breadth and balance to accepted notions of what a woman must be if she is to lead politically in this nation.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Good catch Jay. I have yet to see a conservative address Palin's oil tax and special payment.

I've asked Owen Robinson several times on his blog what he'd call Gov. Doyle if he proposed the same thing as what Palin has actually done, and he's refused to comment.

Typical of the cognitive dissonance that partisanship requires.

Jay Bullock said...

ATV, Owen calls windfall taxes "a joke," actually:
Um. Yeah. So taxing the oil companies more will do what, exactly, to lower gas prices?

But Ste. Palin de Wasilla did it, so it must be okay, right?

Anonymous said...

Now Jay...there you go again. Looking backwards. Gosh dern yah.

Rick Esenberg said...


Maybe the column wasn't very good because you - and Tosa - completely
miss the point. She reassures the conservative base because she is a social conservative and, without claiming that she has never raised taxes or ever increased spending, she has a record that gives her some cred on fiscal responsibility.

But your criticisms of me are really just a recognition of my second point, i.e., she also challenges the conservative base. What I am after here is the notion of a Sam's Club conservatism that is a bit more populist. There are ways in which it makes me - and, I suspect,folks like Owen uncomfortable - because,at least in my case, it is unclear where its limits lie. How those limits get defined is something that I am very interested in, although I don't expect it to happen in the course of an election.

Having said that, I don't think you can claim that Palin makes the same kind of promises about what government can do for you that Obama does. I she did, you'd be favorably disposed towards her.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

and, without claiming that she has never raised taxes

She claimed in the debate that she lowered taxes as mayor, failing to note she raised the sales tax to replace the revenues lost due to the tax cuts.

she has a record that gives her some cred on fiscal responsibility

Not really. It's awfully easy to be fiscally responsible in a state that is dependent on one very lucrative source of revenue.

However, your larger point is taken. Probably due to being hungover from last night's game (the one game the Brewers actually played well), I didn't really get your column. Your clarification was well-worded.

However, it seems that if Wal Mart populism is going to be anti-elite, it's going to have to contain a measure of going after not just intellectual or cultural elites but business elites as well.

Jay Bullock said...

Rick, there may well be such a thing as "Sam's Club Populism" (though why that's allowed and "Whole Foods Populism" isn't is a new source of puzzlement for me). However, all the characteristics of this "Sam's Club Populism" that you describe can only be applied to Sarah Palin if you blur the line between truth and fiction, if you accept the Palin mythos instead of the Palin reality.

You say she's folksy, but it's an act.

You say she "has reduced both spending and taxes," though she has a record of increasing both, sometimes in dramatic ways.

And the climax: You say that the core of your "Sam's Club Populism" is this:
Concern for those who are less fortunate is essential, but it is not measured by support for the compelled redistribution of income. Government cannot save you. It won’t pay your bills, and its job is not to take from Peter to pay Paul. But it can contribute to a set of circumstances in which Paul can help himself.

Quite clearly, Palin has never believed this for a moment in her elected life. She pushed through a massive income-redistribution program. Alaska itself--even under Palin!--is a redistributionist's paradise, raking in federal benefits far outstripping what it pays in taxes and sending checks of than $3000 annually to residents of tax revenue redistributed from oil and gas companies.

Somewhere there is, perhaps, a politician who truly embodies your "Sam's Club Populism." Sarah Palin does not.