Thursday, May 21, 2009

Crist's Defense Shows
Why the NRSC Made a Mistake

Charlie Crist took to the pages of the Tampa Tribune today to explain to conservatives why he's one of us. Let's take a look at what the NRSC's Golden Boy had to say.
Soon after his inauguration, the president signed legislation aimed at stimulating economic growth. Many good and decent people opposed this measure, and some even offered proposals to reduce the tax burden and the proposed spending that I would have preferred to see enacted. But the case for doing something to help the economy was overwhelming, and I was glad the president and Congress were able to pass a bill.
I'll note that Crist didn't use his considerable popularity and power as the Governor of Florida to push for one of those alternate proposals. Instead of actually fighting for a solution that involved tax cuts and a drastic cutback of unnecessary spending, the sort of thing that we know spurs economic activity, Crist actually went on the stump and campaigned for the trillion-dollar "crap sandwich" at a time when the alternatives could have used a real push. In other words, Crist opted for the expensive, job-killing, pork-laden, deficit-exploding option just to do "something".

Crist's biggest problem here is that "something" and "nothing" weren't the choices on the table at the time. Indeed, not only did his good friend John McCain have an alternate plan, but so Senator Jim DeMint. When he frames the argument that way, he's being dishonest.

But laying aside his dishonesty, who says that something is better than nothing? If you've been shot in the leg and can't get to a hospital immediately, do you choose to shoot yourself in the head or do you take another option that can stem the bleeding and keep you alive long enough for someone to get you some real help? Well, of course you'd do the latter. Only an idiot, or a politician, would say that causing even more damage is an honorable or intelligent choice.

Let's move on.
But let there be no doubt - I am a fiscal conservative.
Umm....really? Do fiscal conservatives say stuff like this?
"A lot of that $15 billion dollars you sent to Washington, D.C., and my view is we ought to get it back. Florida deserves her fair share."
I don't know. I think a fiscal conservative might think it foolish for the people of his state to send their money all the way to Washington, where the bureaucracy will take a humongous chunk out of it, before sending some portion of it back. A fiscal conservative might say that the needs of any state are best addressed by the state and that the nigh-insane amount of the Stimulus Bill precluded the states from raising revenue themselves. A fiscal conservative might say that a room full of politicians in Washington can never solve the financial problems of a state better than the state's own government can.

What he won't do is puff out his chest and talk about his state's "fair share" of the slop ladled out by the bureaucrats in Washington.

Crist should get credit for the innovative and mostly-conservative reforms he's brought to Florida's health care system and for cutting property taxes. Still, his state is looking down the barrel of a $2.3 billion deficit. The paltry amount of budget-cutting he's boasting about doesn't look all that hot in comparison.
History has demonstrated that deficit spending can be effective in times of economic crisis and war. In addressing the current crisis, the stimulus package would have increased the national debt by less than two percent in 2009.
Crist is correct here, assuming the crisis is brief. Over the long-term, though -- and make no mistake, the Stimulus Bill is not a one-year spending bill -- Keynsian spending does not work. The Democrats' out of control spending leaves us awash in a sea of red the likes of which no nation has ever seen and Crist was a fundamental part of making that happen when he campaigned for the Stimulus Bill that started it all. Coming out now against big deficits and big spending is like yelling for the fire department when the house is already fully ablaze. Crist's protests are far too little and far too late.

So what does he suggest the GOP do to stem the ten-year tsunami of debt? Prepare to be underwhelmed.
There is a better way. Rather than starting down the path of higher tax rates, I recommend the Congress and administration redouble its efforts to reduce government spending. Give the president line-item veto power. Create a bipartisan task force to restructure government for a new generation of challenges. Eliminate duplicative functions across government. Modernize entitlements. Get health markets right.
I'll go on record here as saying the line-item veto is something cowardly member of Congress like because it lets them avoid the hard budgetary decisions. The Constitution is very plain that it is Congress' job, not the President's, to make the country's budget. Shoving that job onto the President, which is exactly what the line-item veto does, is a craven dereliction of duty.

And why does it require a "bipartisan task force" to fix what's broken in the government? Again, this is Crist's way of trying to duck the hard work that might put his political power at risk while maximizing his chance to scoop up some cheap credit for "doing something". The problems with our Brobdingnagian government are not exactly difficult to see. What the GOP has lacked for well over a decade is a leader capable of being honest about the problems who also has the courage to push for a smaller government that's more accountable to the citizens it is supposed to serve.

This, folks, is the man the NRSC has decided to come out early to endorse. It couldn't be more clear to me that John Cornyn and his committee have made exactly the wrong decision. Until they make it right they don't deseserve our support.

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