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Monday, August 11, 2008

On Outlining The Republican Future, Or, You Are The Company You Keep

Across my desk recently came the news that the Republicans have chosen the members of their Party’s Platform Committee.

The Party Platform being an aspirational document that represents the hopes and dreams of a Party; we should be able to look to the framers of that Platform for an idea of who the Republicans think are the hopers, the dreamers...the aspire-ers, if you will, of a Bright and Shiny Republican future.

So who are these leaders that RNC Chairman “Mike” Duncan says “will be integral to ensuring that our Party creates a forward-looking platform that is rooted in our core values and principles”?

Follow along and we’ll find out.

In what might best be described as an effort to provide some sort of ongoing subsidy to comedians, the Party is proud to announce that the “Expanding Opportunity to Promote Prosperity” Subcommittee, responsible for “...economic policy, including technology and innovation, taxes, trade, economic development, labor, and related issues...” (in the words of the RNC press release) will be headed by Haley Barbour, the former RNC Chairman and current Governor of Mississippi.

What would possess the RNC to make such a choice? We can only assume it’s because Mississippi presents the sort of economic success story that they hope to see replicated across America. Is the State that sort of dynamic, exciting, success story? Well, let’s have a look.

If you measure the amount of goods and services produced per citizen for each state, it turns out Mississippi is actually 51st among the 50 States (by excluding the District of Columbia, however, they jump right back up to 50th). The State is also 51st in median family income, 51st in the value of real estate owned per person, and 45th in the value of retail trade per person.

A few words from Entrepreneur Magazine on the Mississippi economic outlook:

“A total of 56,200 manufacturing jobs were lost between January 1997 and November 2007, almost 25.0 percent of total manufacturing employment. It now appears that the rate of job losses in this sector has moderated, although further consolidation in the nondurables sector is likely.”

Mississippi is an economic leader in one area—when it comes to the percentage of their population living below the poverty line, Mississippi is number one...and (no surprise here) they’re also 48th in the value of social services provided per person.

That’s some economic vision for the future...and when you need someone to lead the way in promoting this version of the Republican Party’s “core values and principles”, apparently Hayley Barbour is the one best qualified.

So that’s one for them, I guess.

There’s a “Defending the Nation, Securing the Peace” Subcommittee as well; responsible for “national security, including foreign policy, military personnel, defense policy, homeland security, border security/immigration, and related issues”, chaired by Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico, she of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Rush Limbaugh quotes the transcript of “Hardball” in describing how Wilson got it right when describing our relationship with NATO during the Bush Administration:

“RUSH: Matthews said, "Are you saying the United States has a good relationship with Europe in the last seven years?"

WILSON: Absolutely, yes. The U.S. relationship with NATO, with the U.K., our relationship with the United Kingdom has never been closer and that's been spurred by common mutual interests. I used to serve at NATO when there were 16 NATO countries and we were facing the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. We have very close relationships with our Western European allies and I think that continues, with Angela Merkel or with President Sarkozy or with the Brits, I think very close relationships.”

Judging by her votes, her vision of national security includes total support for the Iraq War, not adopting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission (she voted against increased funding for first responders, as just one example), and building a border fence despite the opposition to the idea from within her own State.

And a strange obsession with United States Attorneys.

Judging by her donors, it’s a vision Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Northup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Donald Rumsfeld share.

Having dealt with the economy and national security, we now turn to the “Advancing a Healthier and More Competitive America” Subcommittee, co-chaired by that noted health care expert, Steve King of Wisconsin and the Republican National Committee (and not the obviously demented Representative Steve King of Iowa).

According to his Republican biography, his health care expertise may have come from his time helping Richard Nixon with his Watergate problems (he’s an ex-FBI agent)—but probably not from his time at the Industrial Development Committee of Milton, Wisconsin, or his time at the rather mysterious King Capital, LLC (you try to find it on the Web...), or his more than 30-year association with the Boy Scouts.

How competitive is Milton, Wisconsin? The Census Bureau tells us the city’s largest employment category is retail trade, with 145 employees, 22 establishments, and a stunning $22 million in annual retail activity (and yes, there’s a Wal-Mart). The next largest business category? Health care and social assistance, with 93 employees and $5 million a year in business. United Ethanol is present at the Industrial Park as well—but only with millions in local subsidies...and without telling the residents what the city government was up to until after the deal was done.

The expertise of his co-chair, Mary Mertz of Ohio? She’s an attorney “who has served as a senior policy adviser to Gov. George Voinovich and Lt. Gov. Mike DeWine”, according to the GOP press release announcing the appointment.

So what “core values” can we expect from the “forward looking” Republican Platform in ’08?

Economic development that will catapult us to the lofty levels of economic success today enjoyed only by Mississippi...a national security policy that tells first responders to fend for themselves...and a health care and competitiveness policy that’s apparently based on secret ethanol deals, access to generic prescriptions at Wal-Mart for $4, and lots of connections through the FBI.

All that sounds pretty Bright and Shiny...if you live in Haiti.
America? Maybe not so much.

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