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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Gerson’

I’m not sure why it has become my job to defend Grover Norquist from attacks, but I’ve done it before and now it’s time to do it again.

But I’m not really defending Grover. Instead, I’m defending the wisdom and value of Grover’s no-tax-hike pledge.

Especially when it is being attacked by a columnist who worked for the failed Bush White House and was closely associated with the oxymoronic notion of “compassionate conservatism” or “big-government conservatism.”

I also can’t resist criticizing people who are so sloppy (or disingenuous) that they can’t even get their facts straight.

Let’s look, for example, at what Michael Gerson writes in today’s Washington Post. To attack Grover’s no-tax pledge, he cites the speech of a long-serving GOP Congressman.

Wolf’s economic case that merits more attention. He is one of the House’s old Republican bulls, having taken office the same year that Ronald Reagan became president.

In other words, Gerson think a professional politician who has been in office for more than three decades is automatically worthy of respect, while a taxpayer activist is wrong.

Gerson also conveniently forgets to mention that Rep. Wolf is a member of the Appropriations Committee. That’s a rather important piece of information to omit, since it is the “old bull” appropriators that are the biggest proponents of the corrupt system of earmarks and big government.

Anyhow, here’s more of Gerson’s column.

In Wolf’s view, one of the main obstacles to fiscal seriousness is Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, signed by nearly all Republican members of the House (though not by Wolf himself). The document forbids support not only for tax increases but also for the closing of tax loopholes that aren’t offset by spending cuts. …“According to Mr. Norquist’s pledge, anyone who opposes the myriad of tax subsidies that allowed General Electric to avoid . . . taxes last year would violate ‘the pledge.’ ”

This is a remarkable passage. It includes a glaring factual error by Gerson and it quotes Rep. Wolf uttering a blatant falsehood.

Contrary to what Gerson wrote, the anti-tax pledge does not prohibit the closing of loopholes. It prohibits the closing of loopholes if the money isn’t used to lower tax rates. In other words, the pledge reflects the spirit of the 1986 Tax Reform Act – fewer loopholes and lower tax rates.

Congressman Wolf also demonstrates his lack of accuracy (we’ll set aside the issue of whether his falsehood is deliberate) by saying that the pledge forbids going after loopholes for politically connected companies such as General Electric.

Once again, this is wrong. It is perfectly okay to get rid of GE’s loopholes so long as the money is used to lower tax rates and not to give more money to the big spenders on the Appropriations Committee.

Gerson then goes on to make other silly statements.

Republicans — despite taking the risk of voting for the budget put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan — don’t seem capable of making a coherent case for structural changes in Medicare that would stabilize the program and reduce future risks to seniors.

This is a noteworthy passage because GOPers (for the first time in a long time) actually did try to do something meaningful. The Ryan budget contained sweeping structural reforms to both Medicare and Medicaid.

One wonders whether Gerson has any idea of what’s actually happening in Washington.

But let’s close by acknowledging that Gerson wrote something that is 100 percent accurate. He points out that the no-tax pledge is designed to tie the hands of entrenched incumbent big spenders.

Wolf’s frustrated attack on Norquist’s pledge is really a defense of the political profession. Pledges are designed to constrain politicians, who are viewed by activists as eager for corrupt compromise.

I couldn’t have put it any better. But unlike Gerson, I recognize that the political elite is the cause of America’s problems, not the solution.

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Michael Gerson is upset that the GOP budget would trim some money from the foreign aid budget. In his Washington Post column, he regurgitates Obama Administration talking points, claiming that less foreign aid will kill tens of thousands of poor children in Africa.

USAID estimates that reductions proposed in the 2011 House Republican budget would prevent 3 million malaria treatments. …this means about 1.5 million people in need of treatment would not receive it. About 3 percent of untreated malaria infections progress to severe malaria — affecting 45,000 children. Of those children, 60 to 73 percent will not survive, yielding 27,000 to 30,000 deaths. …global health programs are not analogous to many other categories of federal spending, such as job training programs or support for public television. A child either receives malaria treatment or does not. The resulting risk of death is quantifiable. The outcome of returning to 2008 spending levels, as Republicans propose, is predictable. …One can be a budget cutter and still take exception to cuts at the expense of the most vulnerable people on earth. …Cuts for global health programs should be of special concern to those of us who consider ourselves pro-life. No pro-life member of Congress could support welfare savings by paying for abortions.

Gerson’s moral preening is a bit tedious. He’s a guy who presumably is part of top 2 percent of income earners in America. And I bet his family’s overall level of consumption must be in the top 1 percent worldwide. Yet he wants to take money from the rest of us, with our lower living standards, so he can feel morally superior.

Having met Gerson a couple of times, I don’t doubt his sincerity, and I’m guessing he probably gives a lot of money to charity. Moreover, I doubt he personally benefits from more spending in these areas (i.e., he’s not an overpaid bureaucrat, a consultant with a fat contract from USAID, or anything like that).

But I still have a hard time taking him seriously because he thinks the coercive power of government should be used to spend money in ways that he finds desirable – even if that means that people with much lower levels of income and wealth are picking up the tab for something that Gerson wants.

My Cato colleague, Roger Pilon, had a column in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal examining the broader issue of whether federal spending is an appropriate way of fulfilling charitable impulses. As Roger notes, it’s not charity when you make other people pay for things that you think are important.

‘What Would Jesus Cut?” So read the headline of a full-page ad published in Politico last month by Sojourners, the progressive evangelical Christian group. Urging readers to sign a petition asking Congress “to oppose any budget proposal that increases military spending while cutting domestic and international programs that benefit the poor, especially children,” it was the opening salvo of a campaign to recast the budget battle as a morality play. Not to be outdone, Catholics for Choice took to Politico on Tuesday to run “An Open Letter from Catholic State Legislators to Our Colleagues in the US Congress.” The letter condemned “policies that unfairly target the least among us,” echoing a blogger at the National Catholic Reporter who averred last month that the federal budget is, after all, “a moral document.” …The budget battle is thus replete with moral implications far more basic than Sojourners and Catholics for Choice seem to imagine. They ask, implicitly, how “we” should spend “our” money, as though we were one big family quarreling over our collective assets. We’re not. We’re a constitutional republic, populated by discrete individuals, each with our own interests. Their question socializes us and our wherewithal. The Framers’ Constitution freed us to make our own individual choices. The irony is that Jesus, properly understood, saw this clearly—both when he asked us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s, and when he spoke of the Good Samaritan. The ads’ signers imagine that the Good Samaritan parable instructs us to attend to the afflicted through the coercive government programs of the modern welfare state. It does not. The Good Samaritan is virtuous not because he helps the fallen through the force of law but because he does so voluntarily, which he can do only if he has the right to freely choose the good, or not. Americans are a generous people. They will help the less fortunate if left free to do so. What they resent is being forced to do good—and in ways that are not only inefficient but impose massive debts upon their children. That’s not the way free people help the young and less fortunate.

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