Santorum: Fiscal Conservative

July 11, 2011

Appearing in three Fourth of July parades in Iowa last week, Rick Santorum said, “What we need is an Independence Day candidate that believes in the independence of the American people, not its dependence on government and government programs.”

I think Rick Santorum may be that candidate.  Any number of the current contenders might make an excellent president, but as Santorum points out, he already has a record of doing the work that needed to be done, even when it was unpopular—even when it cost him his senate seat.  We could do with more principled politicians like him. 

Or, as a Washington Post reporter put it last December, “Santorum was a tea party kind of guy before there was a tea party.”  It’s an identity Santorum embraces.

His record includes fighting hard for—and almost achieving—a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution back in the 1990s.  In a television appearance yesterday, Santorum again made the case for such an amendment.  Santorum also made the case and discussed his record in a longer opinion piece that ran in Politico last month.  Among other things, he pointed out that “As we currently stand, the federal government’s annual spending is nearly one-fourth of GDP,” and advocated a “return . . . to the historical spending norm of 18% of GDP.”

In fact, last week Santorum released a five-part plan for shrinking government, expanding our liberty, and getting the economy healthy again.  The first part bears repeating:

We must reduce the size and scope of a government that is stifling job creation

Historically, the federal government has been 18% of America’s gross domestic product.  If we hope to not be served the fate of the western European countries now embattled with debt crisis after debt crisis, we must return to our historical norms.  This starts by first cutting government spending, capping future government spending, and finally enacting a Balanced Budget Amendment to our constitution.

Part two is to stop punishing job creation.  “Rick Santorum believes we need to reduce taxes on individuals across the board, making the system simpler, flatter, and fairer,” which already sounds great, but he goes further:

cut the corporate tax rate in half, . . . cut the tax rate to zero for all manufacturers irrespective of the tax paying entity[,] permanently extend the current Capital Gains and Dividend Tax rates, repeal the Death Tax, and repatriate taxable income outside the United States at a rate of 5% to induce job creation here in America rather than abroad.  And, we must not only encourage innovation, but celebrate it by no longer holding entrepreneurs hostage year-in and year-out through the tax code’s treatment of the research and development of new and promising discoveries — regardless of whether it is the next ground-breaking cancer treatment or a component for a fuel-efficient engine.

He’s willing to take the risk of publicly making specific proposals—much more specific and effective than our current president generally does.  Perhaps we should reward his courage and vision with the nomination?

The third part of Santorum’s plan is to cut some of the (ludicrously oversized) mess of federal regulations, and get the regulatory agencies themselves under control.  This is very important not only for liberty but also for the economy:  It appears that the federal regulatory burden costs the economy trillions of dollars annually; it and federal taxes combined may be sucking up more than a third of the total income in the whole country—and that’s not even counting state and local government.

Parts four and five are financial reform to make sure the 2008 collapse never happens again, and giving Americans more freedom to make use of America’s natural resources.  Santorum goes into detail on these last three just as he did on taxes; you can read all about this plan, “the Santorum vision”, on his Web site.

Does Santorum have a chance in this crowded primary field?  Santorum thinks so; he calls his campaign “the little engine that could”.  Meanwhile Tim Pawlenty suggests that “it’s a little early” to put much stock in polls; “these early polls are not a good indicator of anything. If they were, Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States. They almost never predict the outcome.”  After all, the primary elections don’t start until next February.

In other news, both Santorum and fellow primary candidate Michele Bachmann have signed a candidate pledge recommended by a Christian organization called the Family Leader.  The pledge includes a long list of good pro-marriage, pro-life, and pro-liberty commitments, from promising (again) to be faithful to one’s wife or husband to “downsizing government and the enormous burden upon American families of the USA’s $14.3 trillion public debt,” unfunded liabilities, etc.  You can read the full original document here.  Apparently some people tried to create a controversy (see article linked at the beginning of this paragraph) over an item in the preamble to the pledge, but I don’t think there was anything wrong with it; judge for yourself:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

As far as I can remember, it’s true that the American family really broke down over the course of the twentieth century, perhaps especially the black family.  It seems clear to me that the Family Leader wasn’t trying to suggest that there was anything good about slavery, as that news article implies (in fact, the first thing the Family Leader says is that “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families”).  Instead, the point is that the breakdown of the black family in modern America is so bad that “a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby” born today.  That’s really bad.

In any case, the Family Leader had no reason to pick a fight about this.  They removed the misconstrued language from the preamble entirely, apparently only two days after the pledge was first released.  You can read the new version here.

Minor edit (July 11th, 2011): I corrected a typo above (replaced “current generally president does” with “current president generally does”).

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19 Responses to “Santorum: Fiscal Conservative”

  1. snoodickle Says:

    “this also means ensuring that government agencies stay within their intended framework, most notably the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that has diverted from its purpose of protecting the rights of workers to doing the political work of President Obama’s staunches union allies.”

    Why would I vote for a candidate that can’t even proofread his own website?


    • Let me get this straight.

      If a president promises that unemployment won’t go above 8% if only Congress will pass his “stimulus” plan, which then on net actually destroys jobs, and unemployment ranges from 8.5% to 10.6% for his entire presidency so far, that’s merely “miscalculating unemployment numbers” and everything is fine.

      Meanwhile if a federal agency goes rogue and arrogates to itself sweeping new powers over the businesses that create jobs, and a candidate has the courage to take on that agency in specific, public statements during a primary campaign, I should not deign even to vote for him if he or his staff misspell a word on his Web site by leaving off a “t”?

      • snoodickle Says:

        Let’s put it this way, if the guy is incapable of running a website, how is he going to be capable of running a country?

        As far as policies that “destroy jobs,” the Bush tax cuts have resulted in net job losses, much more than the stimulus (which I dispute has resulted in losses, in fact, it has softened the blow of the recession [more to come on that]), and you and Santorum support extending those tax cuts permanently. Let me repeat what I just said, you and Santorum support a policy that “destroys jobs.” Am I missing something here?

      • snoodickle Says:

        P.S. 50 bucks says you didn’t actually read the paper claiming that the stimulus has “forestalled” 1 million private sector jobs. I wager based on my experience with you commenting on things you have not actually read. See Citizens United.


      • Yes, since you mention it, one thing you’re missing is any kind of support for what you say (that the Bush tax cuts, the extension of which President Obama signed, “destroy[] jobs”), either in sources cited or in (your favorite) abstract arguments. You can’t make it true simply by saying it.

        But even if you disagree about economics, I think I’ve made my point: You think the way President Obama got unemployment totally wrong is merely understandable “miscalculating”, while a minor spelling error on a campaign Web instantly disqualifies a candidate. I’m not going to waste any more time arguing about this or trying to help you understand economics—we know how that went last time it was tried.

    • Tevyeh Says:

      My long lecture, which Chillingworth links to above, adequately rebuts this farce of an analysis. I just wanted to draw attention to a quote from it that exemplifies how ridiculous it is:

      “The two worst years, on the other hand, were 2008 and 2009, when the top marginal tax rate was 35 percent.”

      Yeah, no unaccounted-for exogenous variables there…

      • snoodickle Says:

        You must have missed the other 58 years that were analyzed.

      • Tevyeh Says:

        The article’s author cites many statistics in “support” of his fallacious argument, but implying that the low rate of job creation in 2008-2009 was attributable to tax policy was truly his shining moment.

      • snoodickle Says:

        You must have missed the other 58 years that were analyzed..

      • A reader Says:

        No, come on. It’s not too hard. It isn’t to do with there being sixty years in the study, its how much is accounted for in studying each year. For example, if the only variables were number of jobs and inches of rainfall, you might want to know what else was going on in the world in each year before you decided that inches of rainfall really had that much to do with numbers of jobs.

        Tevyeh is saying that — especially for 2008 and 2009 — we can think of a lot of things other than tax rates that could account for fewer jobs. (Like, say, that recession or whatever it was. Probably you heard about it in the news?)

      • Tevyeh Says:

        “When this happened, this happened” is not an “analysis.” It’s only marginally better, if at all, than magical thinking. Again, my longwinded “lecture” does a satisfactory job of explaining the weaknesses of “studies” like the one referred to in the article.

        On a completely unrelated note, you know how those smartypants doctors say a diet low in saturated fat is good for one’s health? I can debunk this theory. If you look at the following list of countries by life expectancy,
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy

        You can see that the bottom twenty countries are all places where saturated fat consumption is extremely low.

      • snoodickle Says:

        You must have missed the other 58 years that were analyzed…

      • snoodickle Says:

        No matter how you selectively analyze the data – liberals will claim that the data is proof that tax cuts do not create jobs and conservatives will explain away the data by claiming that unidentified “exogenous variables” are to blame – the fact remains that the data exists. I have implored Tevyeh time and again to provide data which would tend to suggest that tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs and help the middle class. Tevyeh has refused to do so, and so we are left with a situation where I am the only providing any kind of concrete data, and everyone else is trying to pick apart that data without providing any of their own.

  2. Tevyeh Says:

    I have already thoroughly explained that establishing macroeconomic correlation–let alone causality–is usually an extremely difficult, if not impossible, task. In any case, it requires far greater rigor than the pathetic “this-happened-and-then-this-happened” approach the thinkprogress folks lean on.

    If I’m not willing to stake my argument on a totally flawed approach, please forgive my lack of ignorance.

    As for your “concrete data”: you forgot to add the cement (i.e. you’ve built your argument on a sandy foundation). I ran the annual unemployment figures for 1950-2010 against the top tax rates for those same years in SAS (a statistical program), and it revealed no statistically significant difference between the mean unemployment levels under any two rates. This was under the very generous (and probably unrealistic) assumptions of normally, independently distributed data with constant variance. There are probably other ways to test the hypothesis of a relationship between tax rates and economic well-being—if you want, go ahead and pick the parameters and I’ll run the data, if it’s available.

    “…and everyone else is trying to pick apart that data without providing any of their own.”

    Are you suggesting that a thoroughly debunked argument is better than no argument? That you’re still “ahead” because I have declined to play according to the rules of your magical worldview by producing data that superficially “supports” my position?

    I previously offered to explain my positions on tax policy, with the caveat that it would be “abstract.” You know, using reason and logic—as opposed to cobbling together an empirical argument from arbitrarily classified data in a way that creates the illusion of order and simplicity in a messy, complicated world. You replied “I want concrete data.” Rather than beat my head against a wall, I let it be. My offer still stands, though. Do you want to hear my argument for a flatter tax curve and lower corporate tax rates?

  3. Snoodickle Says:

    Ha ha. You are a very angry individual. I like it! Ok, Steve Moore, try this. Run the top two or three tax rates against the bottom two or three and see what the averages are. Do the lower tax rates produce lower unemployment rates? If they do, now you’re starting to make a real argument! If you can’t provide any data, not even a scintilla, that at the very least tends to suggest (not prove, no one would dare ask you to violate the impossible causation principle, I know that’s a touchy subject), a possible link between low tax rates and job growth, then you are more pathetic than the hacks at think tank. Just provide one piece of data, if you dont, you may as well concede this argument and stop wasting everyone’s time.

    • Tevyeh Says:

      Tell you what…this Friday, let’s both go to a noisy dance club with tables on both sides of the dance floor. You sit at a table on one side of the floor, I’ll sit at a table on the opposite side, and I’ll patiently explain the flaws in your argument.

      In the meantime, tomorrow I’ll try your approach when I have access to a terminal with SAS installed. The output will have as much predictive power as a wad of tea leaves, but I’ll do it anyway.

  4. Snoodickle Says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/opinion/19stephen.html?hp

    Santorum says climate change is a “hoax,” wants to drill as much as possible, and says we should stop being naive and forget about green jobs and the environment. If we don’t have a planet to live on, economics are irrelevant. Why again should I vote for this man?


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