Other writers, on Rand Paul, Kansas

Other Writers

Rand Paul a tough sell

Steve Chapman in Reason : [Kentucky Sen. Rand] Paul sometimes sounds anything but libertarian. He rejects same-sex marriage, which he attributes to a "moral crisis." He denounced the DREAM Act, which offered citizenship to some young foreigners brought here without authorization as children, as "the Washington elitists' roundabout way of giving amnesty to illegal immigrant students." And sometimes he pushes his libertarian principles too far, as when he took issue with the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Paul rarely fails to balance his commendable pronouncements with lamentable ones. No sooner did he portray Jesus as peace-loving than he accused "liberal elites" of waging "war on Christianity."

In his Tuesday speech announcing his presidential candidacy, he pandered to anti-Muslim sentiment by insisting that "until we name the enemy, we can't win the war. The enemy is radical Islam." But the administration that allegedly declines to properly identify the enemy is the very one that killed Osama bin Laden and thousands of alleged terrorists.

On global warming, Paul resides in the "see no evil" camp, discounting the evidence and opposing EPA regulation of greenhouse gases. He depicted the federal debt as "tripling under President Barack Obama's watch." In reality, the gross debt has grown by about 70 percent since he took office, and the publicly held debt has doubled.

Paul's casual regard for facts is an admission that the truth does not adequately vindicate his views. It also reflects a tendency of ignoring evidence that undermines cherished beliefs.

Politics misses Daniel Moynihan

E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post : One name comes to mind when you try to think of someone who managed to live on both sides of the ideological divide and still keep his own thinking coherent. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan worked for both John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. He opposed the Vietnam War but was not wild about anti-war protesters. He was a Democratic senator from New York for 24 years and managed to get votes from just about everybody. In his last reelection race in 1994 — a bad year for Democrats — he won by 14 points.

How did he do this? The question is interesting enough that two volumes were published recently to try to explain the matter. In his gem of a book, "The Professor and the President," Stephen Hess, who worked for Moynihan (and is my Brookings Institution colleague), tells the story of the unlikely Nixon-Moynihan political courtship

Moynihan's nature no doubt made it easier for the lifelong Democrat to work for a Republican president. Hess shows how he was also a brilliant inside player who knew how to get around bureaucratic and human obstacles — and how he appealed to Nixon. Moynihan made him laugh, which wasn't a common thing in that White House, and also acted as a tutor, which flattered the sometimes-insecure Nixon by taking his intellectual curiosity seriously.

Hess details the still astonishing story of how Moynihan got Nixon to propose a truly radical innovation, a guaranteed annual income for all Americans. The Family Assistance Plan was killed in Congress because it was too liberal for Republicans and not generous enough for Democrats. Instead of creating intricate and expensive new services for the poor, Moynihan proposed to give them what they definitely needed more of, which was money.

Kansas' supply side experiment

Russell Berman in The Atlantic : Kansas's budget has for months resembled a wallet with a hole in it —every time the state's bookkeepers peek inside, they find less money than the government thought would be there. Just a few days after the November election, the Kansas budget office revealed that revenue projections were off by more than $200 million, bringing the budget gap facing Brownback to $600 million in all.

The yawning deficit is widely blamed on the deep income tax cuts that Brownback, along with a Republican legislature, enacted during his first two years in office. They not only slashed rates, but more importantly, they created a huge exemption for business owners who file their taxes as individuals. By Brownback's own description, the tax plan was a "real live experiment" in supply-side economics, with the idea being that lower taxes would spur investment, create jobs, and refill Kansas's coffers through faster growth. Yet revenue has plummeted much faster than the economy has expanded.

Now, Kansas's red ink has left the governor red-faced. Brownback is asking Republican state lawmakers to slow the income tax cuts over the next few years, raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, overhaul school funding, and divert money from the state's highway fund in order to balance the budget. It's not as if he's abandoning his conservative economic philosophy — he still wants to replace the state's income tax entirely with consumption taxes over time. And like any politician on the ropes, he is preaching patience.

The original tax plan went awry, tax analysts said, not merely because it slashed rates but because it wasn't paired with deeper structural changes to the budget. The exemption for businesses wasn't tailored narrowly enough to encourage job creation, and so people rushed to take advantage of it without actually boosting employment.