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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A “Conservative Reformer’s” Priorities

As I’ve been arguing incessantly, one of the most basic strategic imperatives for Democrats everywhere is to force Republicans who are not currently in positions of authority to explain in detail what they would do if they were. When GOP candidates do move from a position of simply and vaguely deploring the status quo, interesting things are revealed about their priorities.
Consider the Republican nominee for governor of South Carolina, the self-styled “conservative reformer” Nikki Haley (mainly known out-of-state as the victim of nasty sexual rumors and ethnic slurs). According to The State newspaper (via Think Progress), Haley’s first big policy proposal is to eliminate income taxes on corporations. This would blow a significant hole in a South Carolina budget that’s already under considerable stress, but the more significant thing to understand is Haley’s rationale: “To be able to say we are a right-to-work state and a no-corporate-income-tax state is going to cause businesses to want to come, and it will create jobs in the process.”
In other words, Haley’s entire understanding of state economic development policy seems to boil down to the ancient race-to-the-bottom mentality of cutting business costs to raid companies from other states. But at the same time, according to the same article in The State, Haley favors eliminating a current exemption from the state sales tax for food purchases, because creating that exemption in 2007 “didn’t create one job.” Interesting way of thinking about taxes, eh? Low- and middle-income people may need to eat, but their eating doesn’t create jobs, it seems. So they need to pony up more tax dollars so that out-of-state corporations can get a tax break if they move in to exploit the state’s low non-union wage rates.
You can imagine the implications of this approach if elevated to the national level, where you can’t pretend that you’re going to be able to raid jobs from your neighbors, and you have to come right out and admit you believe that whatever’s good for corporations is good for America. So think about that next time you read about Haley being a future president of the United States, or when she throws her political prestige behind one of her recent benefactors like Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney.

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