Palin's Iowa endorsement could hurt her in 2012

If Sarah Palin runs for president in 2012, she will regret endorsing former four-term Governor Terry Branstad yesterday in the Iowa Republican primary for governor.

First thoughts on how this will play out are after the jump.

There's more...

Republican presidential prospects in Iowa for 2012

The decision won't be final until the Republican National Committee's summer meeting in August, but it appears likely that the Iowa caucuses will remain the first presidential nominating contest in 2012. This week the RNC's Temporary Delegate Selection Committee recommended adopting a rule that would allow only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to hold primaries or caucuses before March 6, 2012. Click here to read the rule, which would also require all states that hold nominating contests before April 2010 to award their delegates proportionally, rather than through a winner-take-all system that is typical for the Republican Party.

So, Iowa will continue to be a frequent travel stop for Republicans considering a presidential bid. It's been six months since I last discussed the prospects of likely challengers to President Obama in Iowa. New speculation is after the jump.

There's more...

We don't need budget advice from Pawlenty

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was in Iowa this weekend to headline an event organized by Iowans for Tax Relief. The crowd cheered the future presidential candidate after Pawlenty blasted the Obama administration and proposed one bad idea after another.

Pawlenty's "economic bill of rights" includes requiring Congress to balance the budget every year. Freezing or reducing federal spending every time revenue drops is great if you like turning recessions into depressions, but basic economic facts won't stop Pawlenty from pandering to the "Party of Hoover" set. I wonder whether Pawlenty's proposed balanced budget amendment still includes "exceptions for war, natural disasters and other emergencies."

Pawlenty also wants line-item veto powers for the president. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that unconstitutional at the federal level, and it's unlikely Congress would ever approve a constitutional amendment on this matter.

In addition, Pawlenty favors extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Those tax cuts didn't prevent the most severe economic recession since World War II, but they did manage to massively increase our national debt and deficit while delivering most of the benefits to the top few percent of the population.

But wait, there's more to Pawlenty's wish list: "He also called for requiring a supermajority of Congress to raise taxes or the debt ceiling." Unfortunately, that would exacerbate our budget problems. When the Pew Center on the States examined state fiscal problems last year, a common feature of the states deemed "most like California" was a supermajority requirement for tax increases or budget decisions.

Speaking to the Iowans for Tax Relief crowd, Pawlenty bragged about getting Minnesota out of the top 10 states for taxes but glossed over other aspects of his record as governor. Iowa Republicans have hammered Democrats for supposedly "overspending," even though our state leaders have kept our budget balanced without depleting our state's reserve accounts. What would they say if they knew about Pawlenty's record?

During Pawlenty's first year as governor, the state drew down its reserves and relied too heavily on one-time revenue to address its budget problem. As a result, the state lost its Aaa bond rating from Moody's Investors Service; the state has yet to regain its Aaa rating from Moody's.

The 2009 report of the bi-partisan Minnesota Budget Trends Study Commission has recommended that the state build up its budget reserves and cash flow account in response to an increasingly unstable revenue outlook. All members of the Commission, including the five appointed by Governor Pawlenty, endorsed this recommendation.

Pawlenty and state legislators couldn't agree on an approach to balance the Minnesota budget. As a result, last year "Minnesota's [projected] budget gap was the largest in the nation on a per capita basis." Pawlenty can bash President Obama, but his state desperately needed the roughly $2.6 billion it received through the federal stimulus bill to help cover the shortfall. Even with the stimulus money, Minnesota was still billions of dollars short. So, in addition to some spending cuts, Pawlenty proposed "a bond issue that would be paid for by existing and forecast revenues from the tobacco settlement—a one-time fix disliked by some because it aimed to use long-term borrowing to pay for current state operations."

To be clear: Pawlenty wanted the state of Minnesota to borrow money to pay its bills. In contrast, Iowa's state borrowing program (I-JOBS) is funding capital investments in infrastructure. Last summer, Iowans for Tax Relief in effect ran the Republican campaign for a special election in Iowa House district 90. During that campaign, the Republican candidate made false and misleading claims about Iowa's state budget and borrowing. How ironic that the Iowans for Tax Relief crowd gave a standing ovation to a panderer with a much worse record of fiscal management.

Not only did Pawlenty want Minnesota to borrow money to pay its bills, he also decided that underfunding local governments and forcing them to draw down their own reserves was a good way to control spending for the 2010-2011 budget period. Yes, Pawlenty decided in 2009 that cutting aid to local governments by hundreds of millions of dollars was a good way to balance the state budget:

“Many [cities], if not all, have reserve funds, or rainy day funds, and they should use them,” Pawlenty said.

He also talked of the option cities have of raising property taxes to make up for any LGA [local government aid] cuts.

One of the Republican talking points against Iowa Governor Chet Culver is that his midyear budget cuts supposedly forced local governments to raise property taxes. Yet Pawlenty gets a free pass from his Iowa friends. Culver's across-the-board budget cut last October wasn't popular, but it did keep state government from overspending. In contrast, late last year Minnesota's cash flow was so poor that state officials considered short-term borrowing to meet budget obligations.

"It's a bad sign," said former state Finance Commissioner Peggy Ingison, now chief financial officer with Minneapolis public schools. "It signals you didn't have good fiscal discipline."

Minnesota has muddled through without borrowing money to pay bills so far, but prospects for later this year are dicey:

State budget officials updated lawmakers [April 12] on Minnesota's precarious cash-flow situation. They all but ruled out short-term borrowing for the 2010 budget year that ends June 30.

Budget director Jim Schowalter says "deep cash problems" loom for the 2011 fiscal year. Barring law changes, spending cuts and upticks in revenue, he says the state might have to take out short-term loans to meet its obligations.

The Minnesota Budget Bites blog takes a more detailed look at the state's "troublesome" picture for fiscal year 2011. BulliedPulpit posted a good rebuttal of "TPawnomics" at MN Progressive Project. The last thing our country needs is budget advice from Tim Pawlenty.

Pawlenty pushes balanced budget amendment

Not content to push for a balanced-budget constitutional amendment in his own state, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has endorsed the idea of a federal constitutional amendment to require Congress to pass balanced budgets every year. The Wall Street Journal's Amy Merrick observes,

Previous efforts to pass a national balanced-budget amendment have foundered in Congress. Many lawmakers believe deficit spending can help boost the U.S. economy during downturns, and calls to balance the budget sometimes fade as other priorities surface.

It would be insane to restrict the federal government's ability to run deficits during a recession. That's not just something many members of Congress "believe," it's a consensus view among economists. But don't worry, Pawlenty isn't entirely rigid on the subject of deficit spending:

Mr. Pawlenty's proposal for a federal amendment would include exceptions for war, natural disasters and other emergencies. The U.S. has been at war for most of the past decade.

No self-respecting Republican ever let spending worries stand in the way of a blank check for war.

Although it's tempting to laugh at Pawlenty's proposal, I think highlighting the budget amendment could boost his standing in the 2012 presidential race. His idea isn't outside the GOP mainstream; leading Republicans proposed a federal spending freeze instead of the stimulus bill Congress passed in February. Republican politicians in Iowa have also embraced Hoovernomics.

The idea could prove popular with the GOP rank and file too. Mike Huckabee gained a lot of traction in Iowa during the summer of 2007 by being the only Republican to endorse the so-called "fair tax." That idea is even wackier than a federal spending freeze during a recession, but many caucus-goers embraced it.

Any comments about Pawlenty's prospects or the Republican presidential field are welcome in this thread.

There's more...

Ensign could be in deep trouble

In June, Senator John Ensign of Nevada became the luckiest adulterer in American politics when South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford didn't hike the Appalachian Trail. Ensign had been involved with campaign staffer Cynthia Hampton, who was married to Senate staffer Doug Hampton, but Sanford's bizarre pronouncements about his "love story" and Argentinian "soulmate" wiped Ensign off the media's agenda. Even the news that Ensign's parents gave the Hampton family $96,000 wasn't enough to get the Nevada senator back in the spotlight. His approval rating took a big hit and continued to slide during the summer, but he had reason to hope this scandal would fade before he faced re-election in 2012.

Unfortunately for him, New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and Eric Lipton have been researching Ensign's efforts to help Doug Hampton find work upon leaving his Senate office. First, Ensign "contacted a small circle of political and corporate supporters back home in Nevada" to see whether anyone had work for Hampton.

In the coming months, the senator arranged for Mr. Hampton to join a political consulting firm and lined up several donors as his lobbying clients, according to interviews, e-mail messages and other records. Mr. Ensign and his staff then repeatedly intervened on the companies' behalf with federal agencies, often after urging from Mr. Hampton. [...]

The senator declined to be interviewed. But his office said that the inquiries he had made about work for Mr. Hampton were "only recommendation calls" and that the senator's actions in support of his former aide's clients were "not at the behest of Mr. Hampton."

Mr. Hampton and his wife, in a series of interviews, provided a detailed account of Mr. Ensign's efforts to mitigate the fallout from the affair, which ruptured two families that had been the closest of friends.

Mr. Hampton said he and Mr. Ensign were aware of the lobbying restriction but chose to ignore it. He recounted how the senator helped him find clients and ticked off several steps Mr. Ensign took to assist them with their agendas in Washington, activities confirmed by federal officials and executives with the businesses.

"The only way the clients could get what John was essentially promising them -- which was access -- was if I still had a way to work with his office," Mr. Hampton said. "And John knew that."

There's much more detail on the lobbying in the New York Times article. The Times also reported, "The Justice Department and the Senate Ethics Committee are expected to conduct preliminary inquiries into whether Senator John Ensign violated federal law or ethics rules" by letting or even encouraging Doug Hampton to lobby his office.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn't seem eager to defend Ensign, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:

Asked if Mr. Ensign could be an effective senator in light of ethical questions raised by the New York Times Friday, Mr. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said only: "Sen. Ensign continues to serve. He's a member of the Finance Committee, been active in the discussions there." [...]

At a news conference on health care, Mr. McConnell was asked several times about Mr. Ensign but declined to take a firm position. "I really don't have any observations to make about the Ensign matter," he said repeatedly.

The Senate Ethics Committee has been looking into the Ensign matter since a complaint was filed on June 24 by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group. Friday's revelations give the committee additional allegations to investigate.

Ensign's no longer just another Republican hypocrite on family values. I see lots of legal fees and in all likelihood no re-election campaign in his future.

There's more...

Diaries

Advertise Blogads