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Not Good and Pawlenty

February 13, 2010

Three months after the launch of his Freedom First PAC, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty with his interview in Esquire took another step towards a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. But while the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza lauded Pawlenty's "stinging critique of GOP," in words and deeds the man who calls himself "T-Paw" is just the latest in the growing ranks of interchangeable conservative demagogues. From his Tenther fantasies and stimulus grandstanding to his simultaneous calls for making the Bush tax cuts permanent and a balanced budget amendment, he's almost indistinguishable from the rest of George W. Bush's would-be heirs.
It starts, as they say, with the company you keep. This week, Governor Pawlenty told Esquire that Barack Obama was a "movement liberal." Rejecting the notion that the President "rises to the level of being a socialist," Pawlenty also insisted, "I don't think name-calling is helpful." Sadly, Pawlenty's November kick-off event for his Freedom First PAC featured the usual has-been actors-turned reactionaries Kelsey Grammer, John Ratzenberger and Jon Voight.

In sharp contrast, this is an angry room. Jon Voight, one of the evening's speakers, is comparing the Democrats with the Nazis: "At this hour," he says gravely, "it's very similar to the hour during the forties when we were facing the evil of Nazism..."

(Two months earlier, the conservative columnist Rod Dreher pleaded with Republicans to "call off the clowns" after Voight "accused the president of trying to depose God and deify himself -- as, according to the Book of Revelation, the Antichrist will do.")
It's no surprise Pawlenty's ersatz Tea Party populism appeals to the likes of Voight. Because when he- isn't bragging about "my smoking-hot wife," T-Paw is urging the GOP to emulate the fury of Eminem. And more and more, Pawlenty has the right-wing applause lines down pat.
For example, Pawlenty is just one in the long list of Republican stimulus critics who took credit for the jobs created by the program he opposed. While Pawlenty called belief in the Recovery Act's essential role in jump-starting the economy "ludicrous," his own point person on economic development boasted, "Communities and job-seekers throughout Minnesota are seeing tangible results from this funding."
On health care, Governor Pawlenty didn't merely offer to lead the charge to have his state of Minnesota "opt out" of the public option. He also flirted with the "Tenther" movement which laughably claims national health care reform itself is unconstitutional:

"Depending on what the federal government comes out with here, asserting the 10th Amendment might be viable option, but we don't know the details...You're starting to see more governors, including me, and specifically Gov. Perry from Texas, and most Republican governors express concern around these issues and get more aggressive about asserting and bringing up the 10th Amendment."

Later, after Pawlenty echoed Sarah Palin's fear-mongering about "death panels," even conservative Joe Scarborough called him out for it.
But it is his campaign against federal budget deficits that has become Tim Pawlenty's latest crusade. In a February 1, 2010 Politico op-ed ("Ponzi Scheme on the Potomac"), Pawlenty recycled a bad idea whose time has never come: a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
In 1992 and again in 1995, Republicans in the House and Senate narrowly failed in their effort to drown government in a bathtub through a balanced budget amendment. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin warned Congress that the GOP gambit would be ''a terrible mistake'' that would pose ''unacceptable economic risks to the nation.'' As the New York Times recalled in 1997:

In his testimony on Friday, Mr. Rubin said he would stress that if the amendment was in force, an economic downturn could quickly ''turn into a recession, and a recession into something worse.''
''The problem is that if the nation does in fact get into a recession,'' he said, ''we now have automatic stabilizers that go into effect that can increase demand in the government sector to offset declines in the private sector. What the balanced budget amendment would require is that during a recession we would have to raise taxes or cut spending to put ourselves back in balance. And that could exacerbate the recession.''

Nevertheless, without ever detailing how he would cut spending, in recent weeks Governor Pawlenty exhumed the stinking corpse of the balanced budget amendment to fight the deficit:

That's why we need an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget with limited exceptions for war, natural disasters and other emergencies. Every state but one has a balanced budget requirement, and while such requirements make for difficult decisions, they work.

Of course, during the deepening Bush recession, it was precisely federal deficit spending in the form of the $787 billion stimulus which helped replenish devastated state budgets across the country. Worse still, Pawlenty insists "Congress should reject federal legislation that places additional burdens on growth, such as the proposed health care overhaul" despite the CBO's conclusion that the House and Senate Democratic health care bills would trim the deficit by up to $130 billion over 10 years. Instead, Pawlenty argues:

"Lawmakers should support policies that promote economic growth. For example, the Bush tax cuts should be made permanent and tax burdens on individuals and businesses should be further reduced."

Sadly for Pawlenty, the dangerous giveaway to the rich that was the Bush tax cuts accounted for almost half of the budget deficits by 2007. And as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities detailed, over the next decade the massive Bush windfall for the wealthy will add more to the national debt than the total costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, TARP, the stimulus and the recession combined.
And as he made clear in his Esquire interview, Tim Pawlenty isn't merely a bad economist. He's a dishonest one as well.
Conveniently ignoring the history that Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt and George W Bush doubled it again, Tim Pawlenty also laid at Barack Obama's feet the entire $1.2 trillion annual deficit Bush bequeathed in January 2009. Pointing the finger at Obama, Pawlenty told Esquire:

"He has pushed the gas pedal to the metal and exploded it in ways that were previously unheard-of. I mean, he's taken the national deficit in one year and tripled it. So we now have a $1.4 trillion deficit just in the past year. That is three times as large almost as it's ever been. That is larger than the entire economy of India. That one-year debt is larger than the entire cumulative debt of the entire nation for the first two hundred years of our existence."

Throughout his Esquire interview, Tim Pawlenty pretends to take his Republican Party to task. He claimed the GOP "blew it" when it governed the country, arguing that "we got fired for a reason":

"The marketplace measurement in politics is something called an election. And in 2006 and 2008, the marketplace was telling the Republicans 'We prefer the products and services of your competitors.'"

As it turns out, Tim Pawlenty isn't just selling the same product as his Republican rivals. Pawlenty's is the same snake oil the GOP has been swindling Americans with for years.
UPDATE: Governor Pawlenty penned an op-ed on health care reform in Sunday's Washington Post. It briefly recycles Republican bromides on tort reform, interstate insurance and consumer-driven health care.

3 comments on “Not Good and Pawlenty”

  1. Hailing from Minnesota, T-Paw no doubt perceives himself the exemplar of the state motto, "L'Etoile du Nord" (Star of the North); more realistically, he presents himself expounding ideas worthy of the official state bird - the loon. Perhaps he's missing a stellar once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: he could try peddling his broken economic theories in the EU for enviously lavish consulting fees. You betcha, just slash those taxes on the wealthy, and avalanches of prosperity will inundate the land; government coffers will overflow - The Laffer Graph proves it. A new day would dawn in Portugal; Greece's loss would be America's gain. The shooting star would be better served by consulting Nancy Reagan's astrologer, than by following Rick "The Secessionist" Perry's lead in governmental matters.
    If, according to right wing zealots, deification is the mark of the Antichrist, what can one make of their apotheosis of Ronald Reagan, the "Placebo President"?

  2. Yeah, Newtie ol' fat boy, you guys may get your chance this coming Nov (at least the House could to the GOP - but I dont think the Senate). so the beast is starving now and lets see what you and your fellas will do then once you get the 'power' back. and thats all you want. but after you 'get' it, oh right, youll actually have to deliver and legislate and solve problems. instead of obstruct, whine, fingerpoint, stall, lie, etc. so get to it, oh corpulent one, and get a plan together because you may have to actually do some work. you king bloviator you


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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