Well. I’m not sure what to make of this, but I find myself almost agreeing with Sarah Palin. Mixed in with all the usual garbage about The Deficit That Will Kill Us All and teabaggers are all misunderstood courageous patriots and America: Fuck Yeah!, she actually said this in Iowa last week:
Yeah, the permanent political class – they’re doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it’s because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money – to taxpayer dollars. They use it to bail out their friends on Wall Street and their corporate cronies, and to reward campaign contributors, and to buy votes via earmarks. There is so much waste. And there is a name for this: It’s called corporate crony capitalism. This is not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts, of waste and influence peddling and corporate welfare. This is the crony capitalism that destroyed Europe’s economies. It’s the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest – to the little guys.
Considering the source, this is a surprisingly accurate assessment of the state of our political system, but there are some pretty serious problems with it.
1) Sarah Palin complaining about politicians who exploit their position to go from “modest means” to “very, very wealthy” kinda makes my head explode.
2) Palin uses verbal sleight-of-hand to make it sound as though elected officials are getting rich off of “taxpayer dollars” directly, while downplaying all the money and favors showered upon them by the corporations and billionaires who want to control those dollars. In her version it’s government money corrupting the system, not private money.
3) She goes on to identify this corruption as primarily a problem with Obama and the Democrats, and grudgingly admits that oh yeah, Republicans get a lot of corporate money too and we should probably ask them about that. I won’t pretend that Obama and the Democrats aren’t monstrously corrupt, but they’re certainly not worse than the GOP.
4) Most importantly of all, she doesn’t mean it, except as yet another rationale for cutting government spending (think of it as the teabagger version of campaign finance reform). The Tea Party loves to pose as just-folks anti-corporate populists, but other than TARP and the auto bailouts, when was the last time you saw them oppose corporate wealth and power in any way? In fact, in this very same speech, just two bullet points after talking about how we have to rein in our “runaway debt,” she proposes eliminating all federal corporate income tax (but don’t worry, she’d offset it by eliminating bailouts and corporate welfare, which would totally “break the back of crony capitalism”).
Also note that Palin does not actually call for any kind of campaign finance reform. In her five-point plan to save America, there is absolutely nothing about draining the swamp of corruption, unless you count the budget cuts and elimination of corporate welfare, which I sure don’t.
The NYT/IHT column that piqued my interest made Palin’s speech sound a lot better than it was. Giridharadas takes the populist vision of corporations and politicians allied against small businesses and ordinary citizens at face value, and misses the anti-government subtext underneath. Which, of course, is the whole point: To make it sound like destroying the government will somehow make our economy less corrupt. But hey, take that part out and I can agree with it completely. Too bad Palin can’t.