Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Watch Owen Robinson Fold like Beach Chair in a Stiff Wind of Hypocrisy

Oh, how soon some folks forget...

A couple of years ago, shortly after a tough year for the state GOP, Owen Robinson decided that he would take a page from Grover Norquist's playbook and circulate a "no new taxes" pledge among state legislators. Numerous GOP elected officials took the bait. Here's the key passage:
I am asking each of you to pledge that you will not vote for a budget that includes any tax increases or any fee increases that aren’t directly related to the cost of delivering the service. If this leads to no budget being passed any time soon, then so be it. The Republican Party should be proud to be the party that obstructs tax and fee increases - especially on people who are already overburdened by the cost of their government.
Emphasis in the original. You can read the whole text of the pledge here.

But now that Scott Walker is about to inherit the Governor's mansion and the GOP control both houses of the legislatures, conservatives are quickly realizing that their rhetoric is not compatible with the fiscal reality. Here's Robinson yesterday:

I’m not philosophically opposed to ["hiking the sales tax from 5 percent to 7 or 7.5 percent"]. The nice part of the sales tax is that it is collected from more people thus broadening the tax base. It is also something that people have some control over paying. If I can’t afford the sales tax right now, I can reduce my spending. The down side is that people get used to it, so it’s usually less painful for politicians to raise it.

BUT, or shall I say BUT... the only way I could support this is if the other taxes are cut to offset the increase in the sales tax AND overall taxation and spending are decreased. Tax shifts virtually never work because the politicians always neglect the other side of the equation. Increasing the sales tax can only be done as part of an overhaul of our system of taxation.

The sales tax is in no way, shape or form "directly related to the cost of delivering a service" ... any service.

Almost four years ago Robinson thought so little of taxes he thought a government shut down was preferable to any increase and that GOP legislators should be proud of "obstructionism," but now that Republicans have to contend with the problem he's no longer "philosophically opposed" to the idea of some forms of tax increases now that Scott Walker & Co. have to deal with the problem.

Way to show some iron-spined resolve...

This is as craven a flip flop as they come. Robinson appends his blog post by declaring his sudden bout of tax flexibility as merely a "theoretical discussion," but this is nonsense. His pledge is clear in no uncertain terms, but these days Robinson's all about the ifs, buts, BUTs, maybes, possiblies, etc.

I hope the absurdity in calling this a tax "shift" rather than a "raise" is blatantly apparent to everyone watching this debacle. The GOP isn't even three weeks away from its electoral victory and they are already abandoning the uncompromising rhetoric that got them back in power in favor of equivocating blather they mocked democrats for just a few weeks ago. It should be a blast watching them actually try to govern.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ron Johnson and His Staff Have No Choice But to Reject their Federal Health Care Plans

During his campaign, Ron Johnson made clear -- and in no uncertain terms -- that he was against "government-run health care." In fact, he cited "Obamacare" as the reason he got into the race in the first place. Well, now it's time to put his money where his mouth has been.

If Ron Johnson expects to be taken seriously, he needs to decline the health care plan given to members of the United State Senate by the federal government. He's a millionaire, after all, and should have no problem finding his own private insurance plan.

But at the end of the day this is only one insurance plan. Symbolic -- yes, but hardly a sufficient sample size to make a difference in either the federal deficit. Johnson may be just one person, but he's also now in charge of an office that can be staffed with between 40-50 people. If Johnson is serious about the dangers of "government-run health care" he should require his employees to find their own private health insurance carriers.

There's really no way around this. It wasn't just "Obamacare" that Johnson railed against during the campaign -- it was "government-run health care" and as such Johnson owes it to the voters to deliver. Right now Johnson is a member of the minority party without any seniority, so it's not like he's got a lot of clout in the Senate. He's pretty much limited to symbolic gestures, and by declining the health care plans offered to all federal employees is really the only tool he has to make any dent in the deficit and/or statement about the virtues of "free market health care."

This isn't just a silly request coming from an opposition nutter. Two of Johnson's colleagues in the House are declining their health care plans, while another seems to not understand just what it was he campaigned against. The only way Johnson can credibly distinguish himself between the two is if he rejects the Senate's health care plan and mandates his staff find private insurers.

Let's be clear about this: even if Johnson himself declines the perk, it will essentially be meaningless unless his staff is required to do the same. Senators don't work alone and a lion's share of the actual day-to-day duties of any federal office are completed by the staff. They are just as much representatives of their employer as they are of the people they work for and they should be held to the same ideological standard.

Russ Feingold held his staffers to much stricter standards with regards to gifts from lobbyists than any other congressman during his 18 years in office because campaign finance reform was his pet issue. Since Johnson felt so passionately about the value of private health insurance, he should feel obligated to act in a similar manner. This isn't about policy: it's about holding one's self to a higher standard, and, frankly, given Johnson's apocalyptic rhetoric on the evils of "government-run health care," he has no choice but eliminate every last trace of it from his office.

Anything less will look hypocritical.

(The same goes for rest of the newly elected GOPers who won their elections from Scott Walker to the lowliest state Assembly person. It's not enough for just you to decline what you've been shrieking against, but you also have to deny the same perk to your staffers. This is, after all, the world you've wanted.)

MORE: And no sooner did I speak than did PPP [via M] field a poll yielding the same results:
Most Americans think incoming Congressmen who campaigned against the health care bill should put their money where their mouth is and decline government provided health care now that they're in office. Only 33% think they should accept the health care they get for being a member of Congress while 53% think they should decline it and 15% have no opinion.
Remember: we're asking incoming GOP congressmen to not only refuse the health care plan for themselves, but also for their staffers. Here are the crosstabs:

PPP Poll on Incoming GOP Congressmen Refusing Federal Health Care Plans