Palinomics and Other Conservative Fantasies

To even consider taking Sarah Palin seriously on, well anything, is laughable. When she was first picked to be John McCain’s running mate my guess was that she was inexperienced but an up and coming conservative who was at least well versed in conservative ideas and had some basic competence in government. It turned out I was wrong and that she is clearly a politician of the George Bush model who knows how to schmooze people to get ahead but is remarkably ignorant when it comes to policy matters. In a recent speech, which I didn’t bother with commenting on at the time because of more important matters to attend to that day (which included happy hour with $2 glasses of Sangria and crab cake sliders) Palin said, “Some in Washington would approach our economic woes in ways that absolutely defy Economics 101, and they fly in the face of principles, providing opportunity for industrious Americans to succeed or to fail on their own accord.” Palin hardly seems to have any understanding of Economics 101, or any other, topic.

Conor Clarke, blaming his RSS reader as opposed to Sangria during happy hour, also didn’t get around to commenting on Palin’s speech until recently. He saw the absurdity in taking Palin seriously as a fiscal conservative, writing “In particular, that line about “industrious Americans” succeeding and failing of their own accord made we want to take a look at the federal dollars Alaska receives per resident relative to its federal tax burden.”

Conor made a chart of the data which is worth glancing at and concluded:

Alaska gets $13,950 per resident from the federal government, more than any other state in the nation. It ranks number one in taxes per resident and number one in spending per resident. It’s also number one in pork-barrel spending. Each Alaska resident receives a check for $3,200 a year from state oil revenues — which Palin bumped up from $2,000 last year. Palin once justified this by saying that the state of Alaska was “set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” (Sounds socialist!) Industrious indeed.

Paliin sure sounds more like a socialist than those she attacks as socialists, as I noted last October. Rather than having a state where people “succeed or fail on their own” Palin brought in more earmarks per capita than any other state (with John McCain having opposed many of these earmarks).

Clarke only hit on one of the absurdities of Palin’s speech but there were more. She warned of big government that will “control the people,” failing to understand both that the current economic crisis is a partially the result of insufficient government regulation of the banking industry and that pragmatic government action rather than blind adherence to ideology is needed to reverse the slide. While Economics 101 is well beyond Sarah Palin, she might check out a book by an economic conservative (assuming she wouldn’t agree to touch a book by a liberal) who has realized the danger in treating conservative dogma as a religion. While it is probably well beyond her, she should read A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of ’08 And The Descent Into Depression by Richard Posner.

In worrying about whether government will “control the people” Palin makes a mistake common among many conservatives and libertarians of confusing the need to limit the power of government with limiting the size of government and taking a knee-jerk opposition to any government economic action. What is important is how much control government has over the lives of individuals. While conservatives dwell on the size of government, liberals are more concerned with limiting the power of government in areas where they do not belong. While the faux libertarian rhetoric of Sarah Palin concentrates on her Voodoo Economic beliefs, she backs increased an increased influence of government in private matters, ranging from her opposition to abortion rights to her support for banning books which offended her supporters who oppose toleration of homosexuals. While liberals have been concerned with restoring the limitations on the power of the executive branch as advocated by the Founding Fathers, Palin has been a supporter of increased government secrecy and wanted to grab even more power than Dick Cheney.

For someone who expresses such concern over whether the government will “control the people,” Palin also displays a rather Orwellian view of First Amendment rights. She believes that the First Amendment was intended to prevent the media from criticizing her, not to protect freedom of the press.

For someone who claims to oppose big government, she supports the two major threats to freedom in America today, the social agenda of the religious right and the “war on terror.” The “war on terror,” along with its associated restrictions on civil liberties, capitalizes on the threat of terrorism to promote a massive increase in the power of the state. Rather than supporting legitimate defense against terrorism (which conservatives have a poor record on), Palin repeated the conservative lines that the Iraq war was about fighting terrorism and their ridiculous mantra that we must fight them there or we will have to fight them at home. In her speech she even said, “It is war over there, so it will not be war over here.” Sarah Palin’s understanding of foreign policy is no better than her understanding of economics–and don’t even get me started on her ridiculous views on scientific research and creationism.

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  1. 1
    Fritz says:

    There might be more individual initiative in Alaska if people could own some of it.   The Feds own 70% of the land in that state.  Which is rather crazy.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    That’s what happens in a strong Republican state.  🙂 I don’t see Sarah Palin trying to change this.

  3. 3
    Fritz says:

    53% of OR and 45% of CA.

    Actually, there have been movements by Westerners to get the Feds to sell some of the insane amount of land the Federal government owns in western states.   Those movements have been fiercely derided by liberals.    I wonder what they would say if the Feds owned 50% of Connecticut instead of 0.4%.

  4. 4
    Mike says:

    ….confusing the need to limit the power of government with limiting the size of government …  I read the article about the difference between size and power. Yes, I see there is a difference.  I would argue that even though size and power are different, size can be a problem independant of the power, and indeed in the world we live in, the size is a problem.  I’ll even concede that I find it easy to confuse the two.  The more the size of government growth, the more it seems to drain me of power to oppose its over-reach.  But just like a government could kill a business with two years worth of paperwork even if it charged zero tax on that business, a government could also permit everything from prostitution and drug sales without even requiring licenses, yet tax them out of existance, (or atleast tax them to the point of pushing them back underground.)  And as if I didn’t hear it the first dozen times you wrote it, I know republicans grew government and were bad at spending and Bill Clinton had years that they were within budget.     As far as Sarah Palin being a ridiculous creationist, or what was it called “young earth” creationist.   I see a belief in creationism more of a question of the origin of life.  I’ll be quick to admit that regardless of belief, be it in Thor the thunder god, or as I believe, that there is one God who made life on earth in a week’s time is not a scientific belief.  But I would say the origins of life are outside the realm of science much like growing corn is outside the rules of hockey.  Just because something can’t be explained by science doesn’t make it false.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:


    The real problem with creationists comes not from the question of the origin of life but over evolution. My objection is with the creationists who oppose the teaching of evolution and who put out bogus objections to evolution while being ignorant of the science.

    Contrary to what many opponents of evolution believe, evolution says nothing about the initial creation of life. It is about how complex life forms developed from the earliest simple life forms, without saying how the initial life forms came into being.

    I have no problem at present with those who say that God created life initially and used evolution to form complex life forms from the original life. This would not contradict established science.

    The only problem with this is that at present we do not know how life was formed (although there are some ideas on the topic). Religion often attempts to explain things before science has given the answer. For example, primitive religion saw earth quakes as acts of the Gods. Now we have a scientific explanation.  Most likely one day we will also have a scientific explanation for the initial development of life which would eliminate the need for a religious explanation. Until that time comes, there is no contradiction between science and religion to say that the first life form was created by a God.

    An analogous  situation is with the creation of the universe. Science has explained what happened after the big bang but this could leave room for a God to explain how the big bang occurred until science is better able to answer the question.

  6. 6
    Mike says:

    It is about how complex life forms developed from the earliest simple life forms.   Here is where I guess I’m condemned to be a simplton forever.  I don’t see any life forms as simple. Why with just one cell having golgi bodies, mitochondria, lysosomes, ribosomes, and a bunch of other stuff all doing various jobs, much like a whole community, to see that as simple, well that just goes beyond my brain power. 

  7. 7
    Fritz says:

    Mike, some of the simpler bacteria are a lot simpler than that.  Yeah, when you get to eukaryotes, we are all complex.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    You are right–even the simplest organisms are quite complicated.

  9. 9
    Conor Clarke says:

    Wow, it’s like the internet can see into my life! I really was drinking sangria at a happy hour when Palin gave this speech..

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    So we were both drinking sangria at a  happy hour that day–any chance you were at Rose’s in Grand Rapids? That would really be a bizarre coincidence.

    In case anyone wants to know why I went to Grand Rapids for Sangria, the reason is simple. Spoodle’s at the Walt Disney World Boardwalk was too far away. That’s my favorite place to have Sangria short of going back to Malaga and Marbella on the Costa del Sol in Spain where I first drank Sangria.

  11. 11
    Conor Clarke says:

    Nope, I was at Cafe Citron (just south of Dupont Circle in Washington) … but your post would have been less surprising if we were in the same place!

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    I think this means we should start a new tradition for bloggers. Whenever Sarah Palin speaks we go out for Sangria. (It’s a far better use of our time than listening to her.)

  13. 13
    Christoher Skyi says:

    “Palin said, “Some in Washington would approach our economic woes in ways that absolutely defy Economics 101, and they fly in the face of principles, providing opportunity for industrious Americans to succeed or to fail on their own accord.” Palin hardly seems to have any understanding of Economics 101, or any other, topic.”

    Well, from the mouths of babes . . . at it’s heart, she’s correct:

    The “danger” isn’t socialism (though we can certainly slide into ‘accidental’ socialism, i.e., national debt as a significant percentage of the GDP — see James A. Dorn’s excellent article that appeared in the South China Morning Post,  Socialism, US-Style).

    The danger is:  incompetence/no clear direction or real understanding.

    Yves Smith of the Naked Capitalism blog pulls the curtain back from team Obama’s PR smoke and mirror show on how the economy is improving with this post:

    Team Obama Con Game Gets Official Notice

    The post is worth a read — it’s based on an article in yesterday’s Sunday edition NYTimes: “The Economy Is Still at the Brink” by SANDY B. LEWIS and WILLIAM D. COHAN.

    From the post:

    President Obama is conducting an all-out campaign to try to make us feel a whole lot better about the economy as quickly as possible…[Skyi here: because the 2010 midterm election is not far away].

    Mr. Obama thinks that the way to revive the economy is to restore confidence in it. If the mood is right, the capital will flow. But this belief is dangerously misguided. We are sympathetic to the extraordinary challenge the president faces, but if we’ve learned anything at all two years into the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, it is that a capital-markets system this dependent on public confidence is a shockingly inadequate foundation upon which to rest our economy.

    We [SANDY B. LEWIS and WILLIAM D. COHAN] have both spent large chunks of our lives working on Wall Street, absorbing its ethic and mores. We’re concerned that nothing has really been fixed. We’re doubly concerned that people appear to feel the worst of the storm is over — and in this, they are aided and abetted by a hugely popular and charismatic president and by the fact that the Dow has increased by 35 percent or so since Mr. Obama started to lay out his economic plans in March. But wishing for improvement and managing by the Dow’s swings are a fool’s game. (Disclosure: One of us, Mr. Lewis, was convicted on federal charges of stock manipulation in 1989, pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2001 and had his lifetime trading ban overturned by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2006; documents relating to the case can be found at

    The storm is not over, not by a long shot. Huge structural flaws remain in the architecture of our financial system, and many of the fixes that the Obama administration has proposed will do little to address them and may make them worse.

  14. 14
    Ron Chusid says:

    It is far too early to judge whether Obama’s measures are successful. or will make matters worse.

    Anyone making such predictions at this point is doing so based upon ideological bias, not facts, and lacks credibility.

  15. 15
    Fritz says:

    Is Obama not predicting that his measures will be successful?  Does that mean he lacks credibility?

  16. 16
    Ron Chusid says:

    It means he is a biased source on this issue and his predictions should be taken with a grain of salt.

    I would predict anyone involved in a policy to predict its success (and question such predictions). At least this type of optimistic prediction is to be expected. It is a different matter when people act like they are providing somewhat objective predictions and their predictions are also based upon non-objective factors.

  17. 17
    Fritz says:

    All predictions, especially in economics, should be taken with a large amount of skepticism.

  18. 19
    Christoher Skyi says:

    “Anyone making such predictions at this point is doing so based upon ideological bias, not facts, and lacks credibility.”

    I wouldn’t blow off Yves Smith of the Naked Capitalism blog, and I certainty would not call her some kind of ideologue, at least not a right wing one, e.g., she was one of the early voices calling for full nationalization of the big banks because she believed, as many other experts did (and still do), they they’re effective broke. They can’t be saved — TARP was just good $$ after bad.

    The NYTimes op-ed author, Sandy B. Lewis, is an organic farmer and  founded SB Lewis & Co., a brokerage house. William D. Cohan — a pardoned convicted felon (stock manipulation).  How ideological are these guys?  I don’t know, but I really doubt it:  both checkered history as both players and exposers of the culture of big time financial operators. They both know the odor of deep corruption, of how the  powerful game the system to keep the outsiders completely in the dark.

    Want to know how safe your bank is? Don’t ask your bank owner.  Ask the best the safe craker in town — you’ll get a better answer.

    Is Smith the only one to hammer away at this?  Hardly. Willem Buiter, Professor of European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science; former chief economist of the EBRD, former external member of the MPC; adviser to international organisations, governments, central banks and private financial institutions, has been pretty much writing extensively on the same theme.

    To blow off Smith, Buiter, is, I’m sorry, ideological. You’re not thinking critically at all here. These people have no political stake or axe to grind. They’re simply experts who have highly credible and informed opinions. 

    Barry Ritholtz, of the big picture blog and author of Bailout Nation, another ideologue?  Hardly.

    Check his this video about how team Obama seems hell bent on repeating the Japanese bank and economic failure plan:

    He had a interesting and telling post a while ago called The 14 Most Strident Critics of Obama. He says:

    “I find this terribly ironic. All I heard during W’s reign of error was what a partisan basher I was. Mind you, I was not an objective critic of bad policies, nor a skeptical observer of a cynical, media manipulating outright bullshitter — it was I who was partisan.”

    Now he’s an Obama basher.

    It’s interesting — when the team in Washington D.C. changes, a new group of ideologues step up to protect the leader from the same group of critics (Smith, Ritholtz, Buiter). True critics just get no respect, I guess, because they just don’t get that there’s a higher value than critical thinking, and that value is  “loyalty!”

  19. 20
    Christoher Skyi says:

    Wow! I’m glued to my blogs and news services! It’s turning out to be an interesting day, i.e., more evidence that team Obama isn’t quite thinking things though, not fully. They might be the smartest guys in the room, but they’re quite smart enough to see “it” coming, and that’s what most ardent team Obama cheerleaders don’t get.

    Chrylser Deal Hits Roadblock Called Ginsburg

    This is now getting interesting. Conventional wisdom among most bankruptcy commentors was that the objections to the Chrysler deal were not strong from a legal standpoint. Thus the fact that the Supreme Court has decided to stay the deal comes as a surprise, particularly to Team Obama, which has put its prestige and considerable muscle behind getting the deal done. And any complications or delay with Chrysler puts the much larger and more complex GM bankruptcy at risk.

    The deal with Fiat requires that the transaction close by June 15.

    From Bloomberg:

    “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ordered a delay in Chrysler LLC’s planned asset sale to a group led by Italy’s Fiat SpA while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a request for a longer postponement that might scuttle the deal…. Indiana pension funds and consumer groups asked for an order blocking the sale while the Supreme Court decides whether to take up the funds’ appeal.

    Ginsburg’s one-sentence order, which came only in the pension fund case, said the bankruptcy court orders allowing the sale “are stayed pending further order” of the Supreme Court.

    Chrysler said in court papers that the sale is necessary to stanch losses of $100 million a day.”

    This dovetails an interesting commentary from the Motley Fool web site:

    Chrysler’s Bankruptcy: Too Fast, Too Furious?

    “The Federal government sees itself as the protector of the American consumer, stabilizing the fragile economy by keeping automakers going. But what are the limits of that power in accomplishing those goals? The legal filing (which can be read here) addresses that topic on several fronts.

    Can the U.S. government, barring specific congressional approval, reorder private property rights through the bankruptcy system?
    Can TARP funds be used to fund the sale of an automaker, or are they allowed only for financial institutions?
    Is an alleged “unprecedented shift” in valuation methodologies, which essentially diverts value from first lien lenders to unsecured creditors, permissible?

    If a deal is not consummated by June 15 and Fiat walks away, the resulting liquidation of Chrysler would lay off almost 40,000 more American workers. The only potential winner here, besides foreign competitors like Toyota (NYSE: TM), Honda (NYSE: HMC), and Nissan (Nasdaq: NSANY), is Ford (NYSE: F). The longer Chrysler and GM remain in bankruptcy, the more time Ford has to capture market share. As my Foolish colleague Rich Duprey points out, since Ford isn’t shedding burdensome debt and less profitable dealers via Chapter 11, the only advantage it may have against “leaner, meaner” domestic competitors is left over goodwill from not taking taxpayer money.

    As a lifelong investor, I hate to see other investors get their rights steamrolled, and I am perpetually leery of government intervention. As a taxpayer, I would like to see an eventual sale of Chrysler to recoup some of the billions we have passively contributed. As an American, I don’t want to see a legendary brand fail or tens of thousands more people unemployed, including, ironically, many in the state of Indiana. This is truly a no-win situation.”
    Yup — something else now to keep team Obama up and tossing and turning about all night as they try to “manage” and “fix” things without making them worse. I wish them luck.

  20. 21
    Fritz says:

    I don’t see how the administration can pull this off without specific Congressional action.   The petitioners are right.

    Should be interesting.

  21. 22
    Christoher Skyi says:

    This could be a mess — the heart of the claim is that team Obama is cutting corners, changing the rules of the bankruptcy game in the middle of the bankruptcy game.

    Check out:
    Good interview with one of the plaintiff attorneys

    he makes some very good points, the most damaging is that as Bush et al. cut corners in response to 9/11, team Obama is similarly justifying making an end run around traditional bankruptcy law in the face of this economic crisis.

  22. 23
    Fritz says:

    If Team Obama succeeds (which they shouldn’t), then why would anyone lend secured money to a major company with an uncertain future at a lower interest rate than they would lend unsecured money?

  23. 24
    Fritz says:

    Wow — the SC decided to not take it.  Interesting.  I wonder what large corporations will not be able to get loans because of this.

  24. 25
    Christoher Skyi says:

    Yes, but it’s not over yet. Next up — GM:

    Is the GM section 363 bankruptcy plan really a stealth re-organization plan?

    “We have just learned that Fiat has successfully completed its deal with Chrysler.  This means that the bankrupt ‘Old Chrysler’ will now have far fewer cash and assets available for creditors and that it will be liquidated with large or total losses likely for creditors.  Dissident creditors tried to get their case heard by the Supreme Court.  But this was rejected, paving the way for the Fiat deal.

    Key to why things turned out as they did is the use of section 363 of the bankruptcy code, which allows a company to sell assets without creditor approval and before a re-organization plan can be submitted.  The sale produces cash available to creditors in the eventual liquidation of the company. The sold assets can continue to operate as before, but in a re-organized fashion.  This is exactly what the Obama Administration wanted for Chrysler. So, in the case of the government versus bondholders count round one to the government.
    Now, it’s time to turn to General Motors. This is a very important case because GM is such a big player in so many arenas. Think of Chrysler as a  test run of GM, the real US auto emergency.  A bankrupt GM that does not receive the same quick section 363 treatment that Chrysler received would be a very nasty  shock to the U.S. and global economy.
    The problem is that General Motors is a whole different case altogether.  And I am not so sure the government is going to be successful here. Here’s why . . . (read the rest of the article on Credit WriteDowns”

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