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McCain, Palin can join the club — An interview with Pat Toomey

McCain, Palin can join the club — An interview with Pat Toomey

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2008 9:54 pm
By: Bill Steigerwald

 By BILL STEIGERWALD Are John McCain’s economic values and policies sound? Does he really believe in free markets and cutting taxes and regulations? Is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin a real government reformer? If anyone knows the answers to these questions, it’s Pat Toomey, the former congressman and fiscal watchdog from Eastern Pennsylvania who almost unseated Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican primary. Toomey, 46, talked up as a possible Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate in 2010, is the president and CEO of The Club for Growth ( It’s a national grass-roots network that advocates public policies that promote economic growth and prosperity and provides financial support to congressional candidates who passionately believe in limited gov ernment and economic freedom. On Thursday, the day after Palin’s big speech at the Republican National Convention, I called Toomey at his office in Washington, D.C.: Q: What is the club’s No. 1 goal today — as it relates to the presidential campaign? A: The policy goal that I think is most important is to find a way to extend the current tax rates. In other words, to make permanent or at least extend the tax cuts that were put into effect in 2003 and which are set to expire. Q: What have you found out about Sarah Palin’s tax and economic policies in Alaska? A: We are still poring through some of the details but, on balance, I think it’s pretty clear she is a committed reformer. She has been willing to take on the establishment within her own party, including the old-boy network of Alaska. She has cut spending. She has cut taxes. I think the evidence is that she believes in free markets and has been willing to stand up to some pretty powerful forces to advocate what she believes in. We’re very bullish on Sarah Palin. Q: Is she better or just relatively better than her peers in other state capitals? A: In terms of standing up to corruption and RINOs (Republicans in name only) in her own party, she’s much better than almost anyone else. The only other person who I’d say is on the same level as Sarah Palin is Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina. I say that because you know how rare it is for an elected official to challenge an incumbent within her own party. Sarah Palin did that against the sitting governor of Alaska and defeated him. Then, when Sean Parnell challenged Don Young, the 35-year incumbent Republican House member from Alaska, Sarah Palin — as the sitting governor at the time — endorsed the challenger, which is just unheard of and just tremendous evidence that she is committed to her principles and not to the political establishment. Q: There has been criticism floating around that she was for “The Bridge to Nowhere” befo re she was against it, that she raised taxes on oil companies and that she was a happy recipient of certain earmarks as a mayor. What’s your comment on those charges? A: She may well have advocated for some earmarks that I would rather not have seen. I’m not suggesting that she’s the perfect candidate; I’m just saying that she’s a really good one. As far as “The Bridge to Nowhere” goes, and other matters for that matter, clearly she’s the one who made the decision to put the kibosh on the bridge, despite the fact that it was mostly federal funds that were going to build it. Maybe it took some thoughtful consideration on her part, maybe she didn’t come to that conclusion immediately at first blush. I don’t think that’s a criticism. She came to the right conclusion and she was definitive about it. She deserves a lot of credit for that. She did support a tax increase on oil companies in Alaska, and frankly that’s something I am concerned about. However, I think it’s very important to consider the context in which it occurred. Tax legislation affecting the oil companies had passed prior to her taking office and it was later discovered and confirmed that certain oil industry executives had bribed members of the Legislature to ensure that the legislation passed in a form that was acceptable to them. Part of what Sarah Palin did upon taking office was to make it very clear that people were not going to bribe their way around the will of the people and the Legislature. So I think part of the motivation for that tax increase was to undo the corrupting influence that had gotten them to that point. Q: What’s the club’s take on John McCain’s economic policies? A: It’s generally quite good. Sen. McCain has had some apostasies from our point of view over the years, and the glaring one was his opposition to the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. But Sen. McCain has long since advocated that those tax cuts be made permanent and in fact has now been consistently advocating that we lower the corporate ta x rate, which is about the second highest among all the industrial countries in the world; he’s exactly right about that. He has spent an entire career fighting wasteful spending and, in particular, earmarks. He’s not new to this battle. He’s been fighting this for ages. He’s always been an advocate for free trade and continues to be. He voted against the new entitlement program that the Bush administration pushed — the prescription drug bill. He votes against the farm bills, including the most recent one. On economic policies, generally speaking, I think Sen. McCain is very much on the right path. There’s one other worrisome area in which he departs from what we think is the right policy and that’s his advocacy for a cap-and-trade bill on CO2 emissions, which we think is very misguided policy and could be devastating to economic growth. We hope that he’ll come around on that, but on virtually every other area that’s important for maximizing growth and prosperity he has taken very solid, very strong positions. Q: How does Sen. Obama compare to Sen. McCain on economics? A: Well, it’s really breathtaking how stark the contrast is. Sen. Obama is without a doubt the most liberal Democratic nominee for the White House since George McGovern in 1972, but probably going back even before that. He’s promised us massive tax increases. He’s promised us a reversal of a pro-trade position that our government has taken for years, including under Bill Clinton. He’s promising massive new spending. He advocates all kinds of new government regulations and control over the economy. I’ll give him credit for being very clear about where he wants to go — it’s a collectivist, redistribution, government-control-of the-economy economic model, which of course has proven to be a spectacular failure everywhere it’s been implemented. So naturally we’re pretty frightened about what kind of economic policy we’d get if Barack Obama became president. Bill Steigerwald is a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune -Review. E-mail Bill at ©Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, All Rights Reserved. Published in The Messenger 9.11.08


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