Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The smears and inaccuracies continue.

Today, I read an article on MSNBC (yes, I know, I shouldn’t have been there to begin with) that portrayed Palin’s gubernatorial expense account as over the top. Keep in mind, this is the same network that headlined the upcoming January Iraq troop drawdown as “Bush to maintain troop levels until 2009”. Not exactly fair and balanced.

So, MSNBC seems to take issue with Palin’s expenses, suggesting that her family traveled an exorbitant amount on the state’s tab. The fact is that Palin has charged the state of Alaska 75% less for expenses than her predecessor. She chooses to fly coach on all government business. As Mayor of Wasilla, she took a voluntary pay cut. This year alone, she has declined over $5,000 in expense reimbursements that she was entitled to claim. Her family – much larger than the prior Governor’s – charged the state 50% less for expenses. The facts are the facts.

Other rumors worth mentioning:

She wants schools to teach creationism: I addressed this one before. Palin never advocated for this as part of the curriculum. She did say that if the topic came up in the classroom then students should be allowed to discuss it.

She attempted to ban books from the Wasilla library: Categorically false. Snopes aired this one along with a list of the supposed books that were targeted. Some of them were published after 1996, when Palin allegedly approached the library with the idea. Palin denies the claim.

She supported the Bridge to Nowhere as Governor: While campaigning for Governor she acknowledged to the town’s chamber of commerce the need for airport access and told them she supported expanding Alaska’s infrastructure “sooner rather than later”. As Governor, a cost-benefit analysis showed the project to be impractical. Congress had already removed the earmark but a portion of the money was sent to Alaska for infrastructure improvements, similar to funds that all states receive. Proponents for the bridge continued to press the issue, asking for these funds to be spent on the bridge. Palin killed the project, informing the legislature that if it were priority then the state would have to find the money within its own treasury.

She opposes contraception: Palin is on the record supporting contraception as noted during a gubernatorial debate.

She cut funding for pregnant teens: Palin implemented a funding INCREASE for pregnant teens.

She did not support funding for mentally disabled children: Palin INCREASED funding by 175% compared to the prior governor.

She was a member of the AIP: She was not. Her husband was for 7 years but changed to independent in 2002. The New York Times has already issued a retraction for this.

And then there’s this business of earmarks that we’ve heard so much recently. I feel the need to clear things up a bit. Obama and Palin have been going back and forth over who requested more earmarks for their constituents. This is a losing argument for Obama for two reasons. One, his name is on many more earmarks. Two, it’s Palin’s job to secure money for her constituents.

A state politician represents his/her state. They are responsible to the people of that state and no one else. A Governor of Alaska doesn’t care a flip about Iowa and shouldn’t, that’s why we have a federal government. Part of the job includes recovering as much of their tax money as possible and ensuring that it works for them. The Governor, state legislature and local leaders should all be pursuing money from the feds. It’s their job. That’s what I expect from my local leaders. If the Governor of Alaska implements a policy, it doesn’t affect me. Likewise, if that same Governor procures more federal money then it simply means my Governor didn’t do enough to get that money instead.

A US Senator is elected by the people of his/her state, but serves the entire country. Now, you see the contrast. A senator from Illinois is in Washington as the voice of the Illinois people but is expected to act in the best interest of the nation as a whole, thus the title “United States Senator”. There is a vast difference between this and a state official. Granted, this is the US government in its most ideal form, but that’s the general idea. A decision by a US Senator from Illinois DOES affect me even though I had no say in his election. Therefore, he is expected to act in my best interest as well.

If my Governor goes before Congress to request money my state, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. I do expect Congress to debate the issue and decide collectively whether this request would be prudent for the American taxpayer. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

What’s not supposed to happen is earmarks from Congress, which are expenses allotted for a specific purpose and nothing else (ie, designating millions for a specific bridge instead of sending money to the state for generic roads/highways improvements, or designating money for oyster bed research as part of the Katrina relief package). The feds should give the states the money, and let local officials determine how best to spend it. Earmarking only invites corruption.

So the question is: Should a local official refuse earmarked money? What would you want YOUR local official to do? That’s easy. My mayor or Governor or state legislator had BETTER accept that money. That’s my tax dollars and if it isn’t spent in my backyard then it will be spent in someone else’s. Do we think Congress will take the refused sum and put it back in the general treasury? Let’s not forget, Congress is the one with the checkbook here. They’re the ones who need to be exercising restraint and acting in the best interest of the people as a whole. That’s why I don’t understand that it’s okay for Obama to earmark as a Senator but not okay for Palin to accept earmarks as a Governor. If your kids overspend their credit card do you blame them, or the stores who accepted their purchases? Seems pretty obvious to me.

What’s important about Palin is that she implemented fiscal responsibility at the state level. She cut taxes and balanced the budget, even to the point of a budget surplus. Pursuing federal money is part of her job and I don’t think she needs to apologize for it, nor do I think it contradicts her record as a reformer. Accepting federal earmarks hardly makes her one of the political establishment.

So this claim that Palin is phony because she accepted earmarks is pretty ridiculous. As Mayor, she acted in the best interest of the city. As Governor, she acted in the best interest of the state. So there’s no reason to believe that as VP she won’t act in the best interest of the nation as a whole, which is to stop earmarking. It may be nice for the local folks who get the money, but it’s not in the nation’s best interest. This is the basis for McCain/Palin reform and I don’t think for a second she will pursue earmarks for Alaska while she is in Washington. I may be proven wrong, but her record suggests otherwise.


Dan Trabue said...

She attempted to ban books from the Wasilla library: Categorically false.

Actually, only the LIST of books suggested as banned was mistaken. It appears to remain true that she attempted to get the library to remove some books. According to stories reported in the Alaskan news at the time.

Wouldn't want you to misrepresent the misrepresentation...

John Washburn said...

Again, Governor Palin denies this allegation. The news stories ran on the word of the librarian and no other evidence.

I guess people will believe what they choose.

Dan Trabue said...

Oh? I have not yet heard Palin address this. Well, that's at least something.

Up til now, all I have heard are the news reports of the town's mayor saying that this is what happened (the last I heard, the librarian in question had not made a comment).

You have a source for Palin's denial?

But yes, it does strike many of us as sounding "truthy." Many on the Religious Right HAVE, in fact, tried to have Harry Potter, Heather has Two Mommies, etc removed from their libraries for religious reasons. Palin comes from exactly that sort of tradition and it sounds plausible.

It would be nice to know that she's addressing it, but I would still want to know more and not merely blindly accept her word for it. That does not seem any more prudent than blindly accepting the Mayor's word for it that it happened.

John Washburn said...