October 16, 2008

When I was in Wasilla a couple of weeks ago I had dinner one night with the crew from The Wasilla Project, which has been busy producing first-rate videos about Sarah Palin's background in her Alaska hometown.

The most recent is especially damning:

After 8 years of a Republican White House, there still seems to be a reality distortion field around the concept of “Fiscal Conservative”. Governor Palin presents herself as a fiscal conservative who has a record of helping taxpayers in her state. The reality has often been quite different.

It’s surprising that someone who came into office as mayor to cut wasteful spending and lower property taxes, actually left office with Wasilla over $20 million in debt, when records show that she entered office with city debt at one million or less.

Some $14-15 million of that debt was due to a hockey rink she built while in office, land for which Wasilla negotiated the purchase for $145,000. They eventually paid out nearly $1.5 million for the land, not counting legal fees, due to Palin moving forward on the project before the city had clear title to the land. This echoes in significant ways Palin’s later negotiations as governor on the Alaskan pipeline, where she committed $500 million in taxpayer money, without assurances that a Canadian company would even build the pipeline.

As the economy worsens in the United States, markets around the world are crashing and people are losing their homes and pensions, it’s irresponsible not to question the economic positions and records of the candidates. In the case of Palin, her record has been extremely troubling and reflects part of the reason that she has lost credibility with so many Alaskans in recent weeks.

It's true that the current economic mess was a bipartisan affair -- Democrats participated almost as eagerly as Republicans in the whole deregulation of the financial sector that occurred in 1997-2006, which was the root of this disaster. But regardless of party, the entire philosophy behind deregulation was conservatism -- it's been one of its economic cornerstones.

So this economic disaster is best understood as a failure of conservatism generally. And no one better exemplifies the misbegotten nature of conservative governance -- particularly in the way it bankrupts the public while claiming to be "responsible" -- than Sarah Palin.

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