August 2008

August 31, 2008 10:09AM

Sarah Palin vs. Mark Sanford

Why did McCain pick the governor of Alaska instead of the governor of South Carolina? Sarah Palin may well be generating more instant buzz than Mark Sanford would have. But much of it is negative, as people discuss whether someone who has been governor of a very small state for less than two years is ready to be a heartbeat away from making national security decisions. Even the devout conservative Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review can’t avert his eyes from the problem: “Palin has been governor for about two minutes. Thanks to McCain’s decision, Palin could be commander‐​in‐​chief next year. That may strike people as a reckless choice; it strikes me that way. And McCain’s age raised the stakes on this issue.”

Mark Sanford was a congressman for six years, where he served on the International Relations Committee as well as the Joint Economic Committee. Palin has been governor of 670,000 people for about 18 months, while Sanford has served for five and a half years as governor of a state with 4.3 million people. Like Palin, Sanford is a social and economic conservative. He has taken on the Republican establishment in his state government and has a strong record on both school choice and pork‐​barrel spending. He has four children and a modern political wife who worked on Wall Street for six years and has managed his campaigns.

So what advantage does Palin bring to the McCain campaign that Sanford wouldn’t? Well, she’s a woman. Pure identity politics, the sort of thing Republicans deplore but often practice.

Bill Kristol says that the difference between Palin and Obama is that the Democrats are running an inexperienced guy for president, while the inexperienced Republican would only be vice president. A fair point. But as McCain himself has said, his age guarantees greater scrutiny of whether his vice presidential candidate is, as the saying goes, “ready on day one to lead.” (When I Googled that phrase, Google asked me if I meant “ready one day one to lead.” Maybe she will be, one day.)

McCain likes to talk about his 95‐​year‐​old mother. But his father died at 70 and his grandfather at 61, so his age is a real concern.

Mark Sanford would have been an experienced executive who has already dealt with national and international issues and a great next leader of the Republican party. Sarah Palin? We’ll see.

August 29, 2008 3:42PM

Palin: Uninspiring Tax Policy Record

On tax policy, Alaska governor Sarah Palin has a rather uninspiring, albeit brief, record. The following is some information gleaned from State Tax Notes.

Palin supported and signed into law a $1.5 billion tax increase on oil companies in the form of higher severance taxes. One rule of thumb is that higher taxes cause less investment. Sure enough, State Tax Notes reported (January 7): “After ACES was passed, ConocoPhillips, Alaska’s most active oil exploration company and one of the top three producers, announced it was canceling plans to build a diesel fuel refinery at the Kuparuk oil field. ConocoPhillips blamed the cancellation on passage of ACES [the new tax]. The refinery would have allowed the company to produce low‐​sulfur diesel fuel onsite for its vehicles and other uses on the North Slope, rather than haul the fuel there from existing refineries.”

There are good reasons for an oil‐​rich state to tax oil production, but a fiscal conservative would usually use any tax increase to reduce taxes elsewhere. Perhaps I’m missing something, but I see no evidence that Palin offered any major tax cuts. She did propose sending $1.2 billion of state oil revenues to individuals and utility companies in the form of monthly payments to reduce energy bills, but that sounds like welfare to me, not tax cuts.

Palin has offered a few narrow or minor tax breaks, including:

  • A tax credit for film production in the state, offering about $20 million per year in breaks.
  • A cut in an annual business license fee from $100 to $25 (the legislature went half way to $50).
  • A one‐​year suspension of the state fuel tax to save taxpayers about $40 million.
  • A repeal of tire taxes to save taxpayers $2 million.
  • A tax credit for commercial salmon harvesting to save taxpayers about $2 million.

That’s about it.

August 29, 2008 2:32PM

Two More Companies Escape UK Tax Net

Very few nations make the mistake of taxing business income earned in other jurisdictions. This policy, known as worldwide taxation, makes it difficult for a nation’s companies to compete in global markets — particularly if the government also has a high corporate tax rate.

The United States unfortunately is guilty of both a high tax rate and worldwide taxation, as is the United Kingdom. The difference between the U.S. and UK, however, is that British companies at least have the freedom to redomicile in places with better tax law.

And that is exactly what is happening, as reported by Tax​-news​.com:

The trickle of firms renouncing their residency in the UK for tax purposes has now increased to a steady stream after two more companies revealed plans to relocate their corporate HQs offshore. On Thursday, Charter, the London‐​based engineering group, announced proposals to change its corporate structure involving the creation of a new holding company in Jersey, to be called Charter International PLC, but with its head office and tax residence in the Republic of Ireland. While the company will remain listed on the London Stock Exchange, its new corporate HQ will move to Dublin. …The move is seen as further evidence of … increasing dissatisfaction with the international tax regime compared with jurisdictions such as Ireland, and especially the Treasury’s plans to impose tax on foreign profits to discourage multinationals to send profits to low‐​tax jurisdictions to avoid UK corporate tax.

…Meanwhile, Regus, the world’s largest provider of services office space, has revealed plans to shift its corporate headquarters from the UK to Luxembourg in what appears to be another tax‐​related relocation. Like Charter, it has also decided to form a holding company in Jersey.

…These announcements have come hot on the heels of news that fund firm Henderson is to defect for tax reasons, capping another bad week for the under‐​fire government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown which has copped much flak recently over its dithering over tax policy and its desperation to raise new revenues amid a weak economy. Lloyd’s of London insurer Brit Insurance has also confirmed that “it is actively considering the issue of tax domicile.” …Earlier in the year, Shire, the pharmaceutical firm, and United Business Media, both announced plans to redomicile in Ireland.

August 29, 2008 1:44PM

First Woman

Sarah Palin may be the first woman to serve as vice president, and she would now have to be considered the most likely candidate to be America’s first woman president. But she won’t be the first woman to receive an electoral vote. That title goes to — anyone, anyone? That’s right — everyone knows that the first woman to receive an electoral vote was Geraldine Ferraro, running mate of Walter Mondale in 1984.

But no. Everyone is wrong. The actual first woman to receive an electoral vote was Tonie Nathan, the Libertarian vice presidential nominee in 1976. Nathan was a radio/​television producer in Eugene, Oregon, when she attended the first presidential nominating convention of the Libertarian Party in 1972. She was selected to run for vice president with presidential candidate John Hospers, chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Southern California. Although the ticket received only 3,671 official votes, Virginia elector Roger L. MacBride chose to vote for Hospers and Nathan rather than Nixon and Agnew.

Find out more about Tonie Nathan — and the man she ran with and the man who cast his electoral vote for her — in the comprehensive new Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, which will be unveiled at Cato​.org next week.

August 29, 2008 10:56AM

My Hope Was for Change

I really dislike political speeches, and the “bigger” the speech, the worse. More faux earnestness. More lofty rhetoric about “pulling together to realize the American dream.” More heartstring‐​pullers about “a man I met in [insert heartland state here] who has played by the rules, but who is on the brink of losing his house because this year’s crop was destroyed by a plague of locusts and his job at the vacuum‐​tube factory was off‐​shored to Bangladesh.” You know what I mean.

Despite this, last night I was torn. I really didn’t want to listen to Barack Obama’s speech — Logical Neal had read lots of Obama’s issue positions and didn’t see anything that struck him as the least bit new — but Optimist Neal said surely there must be something to all this talk of “change.” So I tuned in.

Stupid Optimist Neal!

There wasn’t a thing in last night’s spectacle that didn’t come right out of the shopworn (but, of course, not open‐​shop!) Democratic tool bag and Big Book of Clichéd Political Speeches. Demonizing corporations and “the rich”; assuming that “caring” is synonymous with “more government”; pronouncing that all of this is what it really means to be American — it was all there!

Now, I know that no one reads what I have to say to get my take on pure politics. I’m an education guy! Fortunately, I can make my point by sticking with what I know. Obama’s rhetorical exploitation of education and “the children” was his tired speech in microcosm:

  • Demonize opponent because he hasn’t proposed new programs — you know, because Washington spends nothing on student aid — to send kids to college?


“I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know…How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college…”

  • Talk like kids aren’t getting a decent education because government hasn’t done enough?


“Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves, protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education…”


Oh, and promise to pay teachers—your most important foot soldiers and powerful lobby—more?

Check on that, too!

“I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I’ll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American — if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

I won’t go on. I’m sure you get the point. There’s nothing new — there’s no “change” — with Obama. There’s just the same old promise that whatever your problem, government will solve it, and there’s just another reminder that I should never, ever, listen to Optimist Neal.

August 29, 2008 9:37AM

Fun with Spellcheck

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that delegates listening to Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention “waived American flags.” No doubt many of them did, but on my television a lot of them were waving American flags.

August 28, 2008 6:54PM

Leftism in the Schools

Buried in his profile of Barack Obama’s background, David Maraniss discusses one of his mother’s favorite classes at Mercer Island High School near Seattle in the late 1950s:

Their curiosity was encouraged by the teachers at Mercer Island High, especially Jim Wichterman and Val Foubert, who taught advanced humanities courses open to the top 25 students. The assigned reading included not only Plato and Aristotle, Kierkegaard and Sartre, but also late‐​1950s critiques of societal conventions, such as “The Organization Man” by William H. Whyte, “The Lonely Crowd” by David Riesman and “The Hidden Persuaders” by Vance Packard, as well as the political theories of Hegel and Mill and Marx. “The Communist Manifesto” was also on the reading list, and it drew protests from some parents.

Seriously? This was the reading list? Hegel and Marx, but no Locke and Smith, the thinkers who actually revolutionized the world we live in? “Late‐​1950s critiques of societal conventions” like The Lonely Crowd and The Hidden Persuaders, but not Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, Chambers’s Witness, or Buckley’s God and Man at Yale? Weren’t those critiques of societal convention? (True, Plato and Aristotle weren’t leftists, and Mill was a classical liberal. But there are no conservatives, free‐​market advocates, or contemporary libertarians.)

It’s hard to imagine that parents objected to such a reading list.…

But Maraniss assures us that there was nothing leftist about it:

In tracking the Obama story this year, some conservative Web sites have seized on the high school curriculum of his mother as evidence of an early leftist indoctrination. [Her high school classmate Chip] Wall, who has spent his life challenging dogma from any ideology, and whose take on the world often veers from the politically correct, answered this interpretation with a two‐​word dismissal: “Oh, crap.”

Well, I wouldn’t hold Obama responsible for what his mother was taught in the Seattle suburbs before he was born. But it’s pretty clear that this high school course tilts far to the left. And of course such reading lists are even more common in college. Today the lists include more racial and gender diversity, though no more ideological diversity. And this list demonstrates that you can put together a plenty left‐​wing reading list composed entirely of Dead White European Men (some of whom weren’t even dead at the time).