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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

T-Paw’s Silly Substance

It’s always noteworthy when a 2012 Republican presidential candidate decides to deliver a substantive speech instead of simply shoveling out red meat and expressing the radical sentiment that America is great and God is good. Tim Pawlenty, who despite his position as a smart-money favorite for the nomination remains mired in single digits in most polls, gave a Big Economic Speech in Chicago today, and it’s interesting how much sheer silliness was packed into it.
As many progressives are derisively noting, T-Paw tossed out what he called “the Google Test” for determining what government should and shouldn’t do: “If you can find a good or service on the Internet, then the federal government probably doesn’t need to be doing it.”
Taegan Goddard spotted the genesis of this ludicrous “idea” right away:

It’s hardly a new idea, however. Former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith (R) called the same principle a “yellow pages test” more than 15 years ago in the pre-Google era.

T-Paw’s speechwriters might have observed that there is vastly more information on Google than in the Yellow Pages, to the point that there are few government functions other than, say, the firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles, that wouldn’t flunk the test. Updating Goldsmith’s “test” in this manner is really bone-headed.

But let’s give Pawlenty a break and write off the “Google Test” as a comic-book illustration of his devotion to privatization that he didn’t mean literally. Elsewhere in the heart of the speech, there stands a contradiction so blatantly obvious that it’s hard to believe he’s not aware of it. He goes on at some length promising to return the economy to the growth levels of the early 1980s and late 1990s. He then proposes the usual GOP-favored tax cut program (sharply lower rates on corporations and wealthy individuals and abolition of the capital gains and estate taxes, offset in theory by the elimination of “loopholes”), and then begins assaulting President Obama for wanting to eliminate the Bush tax cuts on high earners:

Regrettably — President Obama is a champion practitioner of class warfare. Elected with a call for unity and hope. He’s spent three years dividing our nation. And fanning the flames of class envy and resentment. To deflect attention from his own failures. And the economic hardship they have visited on America.
But class warfare is not who we are.
I come from a working class background. I didn’t grow up with wealth. But I’ve never resented those who have it.
The top ten percent of income earners already pay more than 70% of income taxes. We could jack that up to 80 or 90% — as President Obama would have us do. But that’s not the point.While it might make the class warfare crusaders feel better. It wouldn’t create a single job in America. And it would destroy many.

Er, say, Tim, weren’t those horribly confiscatory high-end tax rates in place during both of those go-go periods you say you want to bring back? And actually, weren’t top rates a lot higher during the early 80s, even after Reagan’s tax cuts?
As often as Democrats make this simple point, and Republicans just ignore it, it appears the latter have decided to just brazen it out on sheer assertion that the 80s and 90s were some sort of low-tax paradise that Obama is determined to destroy.
I wish I could say this, or the Google Test, is the silliest thing in Pawlenty’s deep, deep speech, but it’s not: he also announces he will demand the Fed take a hard-money policy aimed at coping with that great contemporary economic emergency, runaway inflation. To the extent that rising prices are a problem, it’s associated mostly with energy prices, which operate independently of general price levels. If the Fed is going to try to combat that, it would have to be through deliberately deflationary policies, which is the dumbest thing imaginable given the current state of the economy.
It says a lot about today’s GOP that the purveyor of this economic nonsense is usually regarded as a safe, semi-moderate, and above all tediously conventional pol. Just wait until Michele Bachmann delivers her Big Economic Speech!

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