Turning to Sarah Palin to explain the international economy and the role of government is like asking a dog why it likes to lick its rear end. But as an audience of investors and fund managers learned today in Hong Kong, Palin's cartoon-quality conservative platitudes don't merely fly in the face of the consensus of economic analysts. As a flashback to her catastrophic interview with Katie Couric reveals, Sarah Palin doesn't even agree with herself.
Palin's rewriting of history begins with the causes of the global economic meltdown. While the villains behind the calamity are many (see, for example, Time and the New York Times' excellent series, "The Reckoning"), for Sarah Palin there is only one. As the Wall Street Journal summed up her closed-door remarks:
"We got into this mess because of government interference in the first place," the former Republican U.S. vice presidential candidate said Wednesday at a conference sponsored by investment firm CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. "We're not interested in government fixes, we're interested in freedom," she added.
Of course, those "government fixes" were not only badly need to stem the financial crisis, they've already paid huge dividends in reversing the slide of American gross domestic product (GDP), refilling empty state coffers and preserving up to a million jobs. As the reliably Republican Wall Street Journal put it three weeks ago:
"Many forecasters say stimulus spending is adding two to three percentage points to economic growth in the second and third quarters, when measured at an annual rate. The impact in the second quarter, calculated by analyzing how the extra funds flowing into the economy boost consumption, investment and spending, helped slow the rate of decline and will lay the groundwork for positive growth in the third quarter -- something that seemed almost implausible just a few months ago. Some economists say the 1% contraction in the second quarter would have been far worse, possibly as much as 3.2%, if not for the stimulus."
And during the 2008 campaign, then Governor Palin agreed about the need for government intervention. In her own confused and incoherent way, Palin defended to Katie Couric one year ago this week the kind of government bailouts she now decries. The benefits from $700 billion plan she and running John McCain endorsed, she insisted, all fall "under the umbrella of job creation."
"Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up the economy- Helping the -- Oh, it's got to be about job creation too. Shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans."
But Palin's primetime disaster didn't end there. Far from criticizing government regulation as she did today, Palin insisted, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." But when pressed by Couric to "give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight," Palin famously looked for a lifeline:
COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time - not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.
PALIN: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.
Sadly, Palin's own record in Alaska contradicts her claim in Hogn Kong that "There is no justice in taking from one person and giving to another." Despite her condemnation of the redistribution of wealth that "History shows it simply does not work," years of federal largesse for her home state show just the opposite.
As it turns out, Palin's Alaska is one of the greatest beneficiaries of "red state socialism," the massive one-way flow of federal tax dollars from Washington to Republican states.
Alaska ranked third in feeding at the federal trough, taking in $1.84 from Washington for each dollar sent there. That performance put Sarah Palin between fellow stimulus refuseniks Haley Barbour of Mississippi ($2.02 payback on each dollar) and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana ($1.78) atop the charts.
But when it comes to earmarks, the woman who mythically said "thanks, but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere almost always said, "yes." In the $410 billion omnibus spending bill passed this spring by Congress, Palin's Alaska led the nation in per capita earmark spending. Alaskans hauled in almost $210 per person in earmarks, while Californians got $16 and New Yorkers $13 in comparison.
And then there's the windfall from the stimulus bill itself. As a recent analysis in the Wall Street Journal ("After Voting No, Republicans Tout Funds") showed, Alaska was near the top of the list in several areas of ARRA spending. Alaska ranked #1 among the states in the per capita allocation of $72 billion in education funds contained in the stimulus bill. The state came in second as a per capita recipient of housing (HUD) funds, anti-crime spending and money for job training. For per person spending on water projects and health care, Alaska is third and 10th, respectively.
Pontificating about deficits today, Palin predictably offered a paean to Reaganomics. But neglecting the inconvenient truths that U.S. national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan and that the Gipper was forced to raise taxes twice to help stem the flow of red ink, Sarah Palin told her she "can't wait until we get that Reaganomics sense supplied again":
"Common sense tells you that when you're in a hole, you have to stop digging! A common sense conservative looks to history to find solutions to the problems confronting us, and the good news is that history has shown us a way out of this, a way forward from recession. Ronald Reagan, he was faced with an even worse recession, and he showed us how to get out of here.
If you want real job growth, you cut taxes! And you reduce marginal tax rates on all Americans. Cut payroll taxes, eliminate capital gain taxes and slay the death tax, once and for all. Get federal spending under control, and then you step back and you watch the U.S. economy roar back to life. But it takes more courage for a politician to step back and let the free market correct itself than it does to push through panicky solutions or quick fixes..."
As Sarah Palin comically asked Katie Couric's former competitor, ABC's Charles Gibson:
"In what respect, Charlie?"
UPDATE: Apparently, several U.S. attendees walked out of Palin's address in disgust. "It was awful," one said, "we couldn't stand it any longer."
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)