Sarah Palin, Hypocrite
Why she shouldn't complain about big government wasting taxpayer money.
As I predicted last night, well before Sarah Palin gave her speech accepting the Republican nomination for vice president (click here for the video), commentators fell all over themselves praising it. I couldn't bring myself to watch the TV blather, but here's a handy roundup from U.S. News & World Report' s online "Political Bulletin":
On NBC, Tom Brokaw said a few moments after Palin concluded, "Tonight makes a very auspicious debut as the vice presidential candidate before this hall and a national television audience. She could not have been more winning or engaging." On CBS, Bob Schieffer said after the speech, "I think she passed the first test. The people in this hall absolutely loved this speech. ... Now we'll see how it plays with the rest of the country." On ABC, George Stephanopoulos said, "There were a lot [of] beautiful and effective lines in this speech." On ABC's Nightline, Stephanopoulos added, "She definitely gets an A. ... It was appealing and funny and warn [sic] at times. Very, very tough at times as well. And she really did have an ability to bring these things down to earth, bring it down to earth."
On CBS, Jeff Greenfield said she "made a very strong first impression, the kind Republicans want appealing to people beyond the base." On NBC, Brian Williams referred to a "tough and warmly received speech," while on MSNBC, David Gregory said, "I think this was a very strong presentation. ... If this was a first test for ... Palin on the national stage ... then she's gone a long way toward being very successful." On CNN, Wolf Blitzer said, "She really did hit it out of the park tonight not only here but for millions of Americans watching across the country. No doubt ... their first real impression of her had to be very, very positive given this speech that was obviously very carefully written but very well delivered." Anderson Cooper added, "If anyone is wondering why she is such a popular governor in the state of Alaska, you saw the answer tonight."
Told you so.
What interests me today about Palin's speech, however, isn't its predictable reception. Rather, it's the cognitive dissonance of the following passage:
[W]hen the cloud of rhetoric has passed; when the roar of the crowd fades away; when the stadium lights go out, and those styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot—what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger—take more of your money—give you more orders from Washington …
The woman who made this complaint about big government taking your money is the governor of Alaska. Please take a moment to look at this U.S. Census chart showing federal-government expenditures, per capita, in the 50 states. You will observe that Alaska receives about $14,000 per citizen from the federal government. That's more than any other state, and a good $4,000 more than every other state except Virginia, Maryland, New Mexico, and North Dakota. The chart is from the Census Bureau's Consolidated Federal Funds Report for Fiscal Year 2005. I skipped over the 2006 report, the most recent one available, because Hurricane Katrina put Louisiana and Mississippi ahead of Alaska that year. But that's an anomaly. Alaska held the per-capita record for sucking on the federal teat in 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, and 2000. According to the nonprofit Tax Foundation, Alaska gets back $1.84 for every dollar it pays into the U.S. Treasury—even though Alaska enjoys a higher per-capita income than 34 of the 50 states. This is a state that preaches right-wing libertarianism while it practices middle-class socialism.
Palin has not bucked this venerable tradition. It's been widely reported that even though Palin came out against the federally funded, $223 million "bridge to nowhere," a wasteful Alaska earmark (and one she'd supported before it created an uproar in Congress), Alaska ended up receiving the same amount of federal money as transportation funds to be spent at the state's own discretion. When Palin was mayor of Wasilla, she hired the former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Stevens, the recently indicted dean of the Alaska congressional delegation, to lobby for the town (pop. 6,700)—which, as a result, wound up receiving nearly $27 million in federal earmarks over four years. As governor, Palin just this past February sent Stevens a memo outlining $200 million in new funding requests. Granted, Palin enjoys inexplicably warm relations with the secessionist Alaska Independence Party, whose founder's anti-Americanism, Rosa Brooks points out in the Los Angeles Times, puts Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the shade. ("The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government," he told an interviewer in 1991—a year when Republicans controlled the White House and U.S. troops went into battle to free Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.) But there's little real danger that Alaska would ever choose to secede from the Lower 48. Independence would cost it too much in lost federal revenue.
A pit bull with lipstick? I'd describe Palin as a hog who recommends diet books while feeding at the trough.
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.
Photograph of Sarah Palin by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.