Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mopping Up After Grover Norquist's Wet Dream

You may recall Grover Norquist. No, not the lovable fuzzy Muppet. The bare-teethed, knuckledragging caveman who once famously observed that he wanted to shrink government down to a size he could drown it in a bathtub.
He pretty much got his wish. And as with all wishes, one should be careful what one wishes for.
Right now, we are in the midst of an economic disaster, one that could go either way, but seems more likely to tilt towards the abyss. Job growth is non-existent, companies are hoarding cash after their well-documented tax cuts of the past thirty years, and average Americans are unable to even move to places where jobs actually are, mostly because they now have to triangulate two wager earners as opposed to one.
Again, all this is due in large part to Norquist's mantra of lower taxes and smaller government.

Half of Americans say they couldn't come up with $2,000 in 30 days without selling some of their possessions. Meanwhile, companies are flush: American firms generated $1.68 trillion in profit in the last quarter of 2010 alone. But many firms would think twice before putting their next factory or R&D center in the U.S. when they could put it in Brazil, China or India. These emerging-market nations are churning out 70 million new middle-class workers and consumers every year. That's one reason unemployment is high and wages are constrained here at home. This was true well before the recession and even before Obama arrived in office. From 2000 to 2007, the U.S. saw its weakest period of job creation since the Great Depression.

Nobel laureate Michael Spence, author of The Next Convergence, has looked at which American companies created jobs at home from 1990 to 2008, a period of extreme globalization. The results are startling. The companies that did business in global markets, including manufacturers, banks, exporters, energy firms and financial services, contributed almost nothing to overall American job growth. The firms that did contribute were those operating mostly in the U.S. market, immune to global competition — health care companies, government agencies, retailers and hotels. Sadly, jobs in these sectors are lower paid and lower skilled than those that were outsourced. "When I first looked at the data, I was kind of stunned," says Spence, who now advocates a German-style industrial policy to keep jobs in some high-value sectors at home. Clearly, it's a myth that businesses are simply waiting for more economic and regulatory "certainty" to invest back home.

So it's really no wonder to read that Norquist's influence in the very party that spawned this hell-creature is on the wane:

Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist’s influence over Senate Republicans slipped Tuesday, a development that could have implications for bipartisan budget talks as well as for the future of the party’s orthodoxy.

For decades, Norquist’s anti-tax pledge has dominated Republican politics, with most party members vowing — at Norquist’s behest — to never raise taxes or to offset any tax increases wtith tax cuts elsewhere.

But the No. 3 Senate GOP leader said Tuesday that eliminating tax breaks might be a legitimate way to solve the nation’s current fiscal crisis. “My view is a good way to reduce the debt is to get rid of unwarranted tax breaks,” GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said.

Now, not content with simply repudiating Norquist and the ludicrous (and soon to be firmly debunked) "lower taxes are good For Americans" mantra, the GOP manages to muck it up by taking away one of the few tax breaks that might actually be good for the nation: the corn ethanol subsidy.

Reasonable people can disagree about the subject: corn is already a heavily subsidized crop, for instance, and corn ethanol actually uses more energy and may therefore produce more carbon than sugar cane or switchgrass ethanol production. Corn is a pretty noxious crop, and it's probably better used in ethanol than in high fructose corn syrup additives. The debate can rage on ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

The focus I'd take in terms of the subsidy is, if it weans Americans off fossil fuels, it's a good thing. Ethanol, particularly corn ethanol, should be viewed as a way station on the road to energy independence, not just from foreign oil but from large size energy conglomerates.

Norquist's attempts to remain relevant smack of desperation. Yesterday, for example, when he saw the handwriting on the wall that even conservatives were going to back the rollback, he offered a compromise of voting for the elimination of the tax credit to be offset by a permanent elimination of the inheritance tax.

(The estate tax, but I'm trying to find a way to defuse the "death tax" imagery.)

The amendment submitted by Jim DeMint (R-StirCrazy) was attracting some attention until leadership quashed the notion, pointing out that the amendment would kill any chance of either proposal passing, and it would likely never make it to the committee, much less through it.

The original amendment, offered up by Tom Coburn (R-(not)OK), puts Coburn in direct conflict with Norquist, and could signal Coburn's first trial balloon for a potential bid for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination. By turning his back on the symbol of failed Republican policies of the past thirty years...and really, how hard is it to admit that you have a problem, GOP?...he sends the message that he's willing to forgo any support from the small and shrinking vocal minority of Teabaggers in order to come off as someone who can actually govern a country without throwing a temper tantrum.

He learned the lesson of the Obama candidacy, in other words: No Drama Obama.

So there's a slap fight coming in the Republican party. Get the popcorn!