A Visit from the Senator

Lots of red meat for the nutty base in this Pat Toomey speech to the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. A few points:

1. Mr. Toomey has joined the furthest right Senators in calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Scott Galupo, one of John Boehner’s former staffers, has called this idea “quite simply, insane.” Conservative columnist Bruce Barlett, a former Senior Policy Analyst for Ronald Reagan, explains why it such a stupid idea, and why it would make recessions needlessly brutal. Mr. Toomey himself is responsible for an enormous portion of the short term debt, and comes to this issue with no credibility whatsoever. If he wants to cut spending. let him propose the spending cuts he thinks are needed.

2. Mr. Toomey also incorrectly compared the United States to Greece. It is not possible for the United States to have a Greek debt crisis.

3. He also seemed not to understand that “printing money, creating money out of the clear blue sky” is what the Fed always does in times good and bad. Is Mr. Toomey really joining up with the hard-money End The Fed cranks?

4. The overarching message was that the United States needs the cold enema of immediate fiscal austerity to start growing again. There is not any good reason to believe this is true. As we learned over the weekend, the cut-and-grow Republican plan for jobs works by liquidating labor and driving down private sector wages.

If you want less money and more real debt, that’s what Mr. Toomey is offering.

Dent for Senate

It’s Friday afternoon and nobody’s reading blogs, so it seems like a great time for some throwaway speculatin’.

The possibility of a Charlie Dent Senate run presents an interesting test case of the problem we saw play out in a number of races in 2010, where the more electable general election candidate is unable to get past the Republican primary. So far Dent and Jim Gerlach are probably the highest quality Republican nominees currently being chattered about – surely stronger than state Senator Kate Ward of Westmoreland or unknown Santorum staffer Marc Scaringi. Jeremy Jacobs at National Journal also mentions state Senator Jake Corman (a former Santorum aide) and radio talker Glen Meakem (who looks exactly like Rick Santorum) as possible contenders.

The problems for Dent are twofold. The same “moderate” public image he has invented to hold a Democratic district, however inaccurate, will be a major liability heading into a Republican primary, where the electorate is increasingly immoderate. Even if Dent continues to fortify the very rightwing record he has built over the past two years, it will not be possible for him to shed the moderate label that has been central to his political brand. Further, if the narrative persists that he is near the top of the Republican insider wish-list, that will only create further suspicion of his candidacy among the base. That’s all just to say the Tea Party mantle is up for grabs, but Dent will be unable to seize it with any authenticity. And it seems clear the primary will turn on who will be the best vessel to transport the Tea Party’s inchoate resentments to Washington.

Should Dent make it past the primary, he will no doubt be a bigger threat to Bob Casey than some winger, but the problem for Dent is that Casey also has a very boring, reasonable personal demeanor that will easily repel the predictable charges of Socialism and radicalism that are the hallmark of contemporary Republican campaigns. For the same reasons that Pat Toomey’s dry personal manner prevented accurate accusations of extremism from sticking to him, so too will Bob Casey’s low-key persona.

Colby at the Morning Call seems to think Casey needs to shake things up, but it seems more likely to me that if you’re an incumbent and you keep your head down, don’t make waves and avoid attracting controversy, that’s a pretty surefire path to reelection. Indeed, that essentially describes Dent’s own undistinguished political career. It’s going to be mighty hard to make anyone who has not already taken sides hate a guy like that. Add in the considerable advantages of incumbency, the coattails of a billion dollar Obama reelection campaign, and it seems pretty unlikely that Casey loses the seat.

Pat Toomey’s Greatest Hits

Jeffrey Billman at City Paper composed an amazing list of 66 Reasons Not to Vote for Pat Toomey. It is truly a marvel of one of the most detestable voting records ever assembled by a public official. Here are some of my favorites. And by favorites, I mean the ones that make me want to cry in the toilet at the thought of his election to the US Senate:

12 In 2007 and 2008, Toomey and Club for Growth vehemently argued against the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which guarantees health coverage for low-income children not eligible for Medicaid. In 2008, the Club ran $200,000 in advertising targeting Republican New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson, who supported SCHIP legislation, because the proposal would “increase government spending by $35 billion, and massively expand government-run health care.” After President George W. Bush twice vetoed the SCHIP expansion, President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2009. The program’s costs are offset by $32 billion in tobacco taxes; the program insures nearly 8 million children. (Club for Growth press release, May 9, 2008; The New York Times, Feb. 4, 2009; CHIP Statistical Enrollment Data System, Feb. 1, 2010.)

13 Toomey opposed a bill that would ban housing insurance companies from “redlining,” or denying policies in certain (usually minority) neighborhoods. (Americans for Democratic Action 1999 Scorecard.)

14 Toomey opposed legislation that would block credit card companies from raising rates arbitrarily, because, he said, it “is a fundamental infringement on the free market reality.” (House Financial Services Committee Hearing, July 24, 2003.)

17 Toomey opposed a bill that would extend overtime protections to certain low-income workers, and forbid any government regulations that would strip workers of their overtime rights. (Americans for Democratic Action 2004 Scorecard.)

19 On MSNBC in April, Toomey agreed with the statement, “It was right for the steel industry in Pennsylvania to go away,” primarily due to outsourcing. “There was a rationalization that had to occur,” he explained. (Morning Joe, MSNBC, April 1, 2010.)

25 Toomey supports the Citizens United decision, which, according to polling, 80 percent of the American public opposes: “I’ve advocated for a long time that the best way to approach campaign finance is to allow unlimited contributions and require immediate disclosure.” (Philly.com, Oct. 14, 2010; blogs.abcnews.com, Feb. 17, 2009.)

26 As recently as 2007, however, Toomey wasn’t such an advocate of “immediate disclosure”: After the FEC fined the Club for Growth for violating its prohibitions against organizations known as 527s — which the Club was — endorsing candidates, Toomey reorganized it as a 501(c)4. One advantage of this move, he told members, is that “your donations to the Club will not be disclosed to the public.” (The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 19, 2007.)

If Dems Turn Out, They Win

Check out the likely voter vs. registered voter gap. The more registered voters turn out, the more likely Democrats are to win the Governor race and Senate seat:

                               LV   RV
Dan Onorato (D)     45    48
Tom Corbett (R)     52    46

Joe Sestak (D)        45    47
Pat Toomey (R)      49    43

What An Insider Does

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsement of Joe Sestak is well worth your time. Here’s a taste:

Is there a lesson for Democrats in Mr. Sestak’s impressive if still incomplete comeback? Yes, though not one easily followed by others at this late date.

It’s taken some time, but it seems Pennsylvania voters are grasping that insider and outsider are more complicated labels than Democrat and Republican.

Mr. Toomey, the out-of-office Republican, can be counted on to fight for the haves over the have-nots — what an insider does. Mr. Sestak, the Democrat with a seat currently in the House, had the guts to challenge his party by taking on Mr. Specter. That made him an outsider, with all the attendant inconveniences.

Mr. Sestak’s campaign has reminded voters time and again that Mr. Toomey is too conservative for Pennsylvania, even taking into account the description of the state as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between. Pennsylvania elects moderate Republicans, such as Mr. Specter and former governors Tom Ridge and Richard Thornburgh. (Consider former Sen. Rick Santorum the exception that proves the rule.)

A former derivatives trader on Wall Street before he entered politics, Mr. Toomey was more conservative during his three terms in the House, from 1999 to 2005, than 98 percent of U.S. legislators since 1995, according to an analysis by the website pollster.com, which relied on a computer analysis of roll-call votes called DW-Nominate. That score makes Mr. Toomey more conservative than Sen. Jim DeMint, the tea party favorite; more conservative than Mr. Santorum in his day; and about equal to the late Sen. Jesse Helms.

Recession-scarred Pennsylvanians are more scared than analytical. After all, their state capital, Harrisburg, has hired attorneys for advice on seeking bankruptcy protection. And there’s nothing appealing about Mr. Toomey to those who work hard and play by the rules.

PA-Sen: Express Times FAIL

The Express Times endorsement of deficit fraud Pat Toomey is the worst sort of intellectual diarrhea. Toomey gets the endorsement on the grounds that the editorial board thinks he is a deficit hawk, but there is not a shred of evidence that the policies Toomey is campaigning on would in fact reduce the deficit. On virtually every issue, Toomey is selling deficit-exploding policies as deficit-reducing ones, and the editorial board buys it hook, line and sinker. Even worse, the endorsement makes note of the deficit-exploding policies that Toomey supports, but then endorses him anyway. Let’s clean up some of this rotting filth and garbage.

First, the editorial board admits that Sestak is the moderate in the race:

Toomey’s Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, is running a credible campaign and offers a voice of moderation where Toomey often runs to the right.

But then they go in for some irritating false equivalence dismissing Toomey’s enthusiastic support for outsourcing.

Likewise, an ad suggesting Toomey run for the Senate in China degrades the whole discussion, reducing candidates to cartoon characters.

Toomey supports outsourcing. The Club for Growth and the Chamber of Commerce, which both spending heavily for Toomey, support outsourcing, and the Chamber teaches their member businesses how to outsource to China. These are very important issues, but the editorial board flippantly waves them off like there’s nothing to see here. There is.

Then on Afghanistan:

Unfortunately, neither candidate impressed us with ideas for an exit strategy in Afghanistan. Toomey, who should be harping about escalating costs, instead sounds more like a neocon, saying we must carry on to counter the Taliban threat. Sestak says he lacks the “metrics,” or benchmarks, to judge how the effort is going.

The two wars are major drivers of the medium-term deficit, and national security policy questions aside, there’s no doubt that an open-ended commitment is going to be brutally expensive from a budget standpoint. The Democrats are the party that is more likely to wrap this up sooner than the Republicans. So on the deficit question, that’s Sestak 1, Toomey 0.

Moving on to health care:

On health care, Sestak would work with the new law and try to improve it. Toomey is for repeal, and calls for medical savings accounts, malpractice reform and better competition among insurance companies. Those components make sense, but going back to the old status quo — with partisan gridlock under what might well be a divided federal government — would be the worst outcome. Sestak notes that loss of productivity from inferior health care is a threat to business and competitiveness, and wants to work to help small businesses deal with this challenge.

So following the logic here, repeal would be a bad outcome, and gridlock under divided government would be the worst outcome, but elect Pat Toomey anyway. Not only would Toomey’s plans do nothing to reduce costs or improve insurance coverage, but repealing the Affordable Care Act would explode the deficit. This is the most important question here if you care about the deficit. The deficit is fundamentally a health care problem. The ACA is the single largest deficit reduction package Congress has passed in over a decade, and the Medicare actuaries report that the program’s finances, and thus the nation’s finances, will be in much better shape for its having passed. Unrealistic as it may be, if Congress were to let the Bush tax cuts expire in full and stick to PAYGO and let the Affordable Care Act be enacted as written, we would not have a long-term deficit. Unsurprisingly Toomey opposes both. Sestak 2, Toomey 0.

On the Bush tax cuts:

Toomey wants to extend the Bush tax cuts for all and abolish the estate tax. Sestak supports continuing the tax cuts for those making less than $250,000, and says the first $7 million of wealth should be free from the estate tax, which he says would exempt all but 200 families in Pennsylvania.

This is well-worn territory here on the blog, but it’s always worth saying again that extending the Bush tax cuts and abolishing the estate tax would each add trillions to the deficit over the next several decades. Counting each separately, that’s Sestak 4, Toomey 0.

More deficit-exploding policies:

Toomey wants to roll back corporate taxes; he hammers Sestak for voting for the bank bailout and stimulus package. He admits some banks would have failed without the bailout, but says that pain would have allowed for a better recovery. He says Sestak’s plan to raise taxes on overseas operations will encourage the hoarding of capital outside the U.S. and be an incentive to move corporate headquarters overseas.

Toomey thinks corporations should pay zero taxes. That’s lost revenue, so higher deficit. We also know that allowing the whole financial sector to go the way of Lehman Brothers would have certainly resulted in a full-blown Depression, and thus a higher deficit from slower growth. The last argument fundamentally doesn’t make sense. Taxing corporate tax havens that are already overseas will be an incentive to move headquarters overseas? They’re already overseas! With the loophole, less revenue and higher deficit. Without the loophole, more revenue and lower deficit. Sestak 8, Toomey 0.

The editorial board then points to Toomey’s support for abolishing earmarks, which account for less than 1% of federal spending. Great, I guess, but that doesn’t do a damn thing about the deficit. Final deficit credibility score: Sestak 8, Toomey .01.

In closing, they point to some dumb political stunts Toomey pulled in the House, including a “filibuster” -even though there’s no such thing as a filibuster in the House– as evidence of Toomey’s tenacity “tenanciousness” on spending. This is actually a great example of Toomey’s utter lack of credibility on the deficit. If you’re looking for a lot of preening, a lot of posturing, and a lot of dumb theatre, even if there’s no substance behind it at all, Pat Toomey is your candidate.

What’s ultimately most disappointing here is that while the editorial board is easily snowed by deficit-exploding policies masquerading as deficit-reducing ones, they ignore the most important issue: growth. The denominator in the debt-to-GDP ratio is much more important than the numerator. If GDP is growing faster than spending, then the debt is not a problem. And Pat Toomey has even less of a plan to speed up growth than he does to cut spending.

Deficit Fraud Toomey Repeats Myth That Tax Cuts Increase Revenue

This must be some of that brave hucksterism hawkery on the deficit that so impressed the Express Times editorial board:

Some Republican Senate candidates have suggested that extending the Bush tax cuts — which are scheduled to expire at the end of the year — will actually be good for the country’s bottom line, as the economic growth that results will more than offset the trillions of dollars in lost revenue. “By extending tax cuts you pay down the deficit, you grow the economy by giving people more money,” said Colorado Republican Ken Buck.

Today, on Fox News Sunday, Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate nominee Pat Toomey joined this club, telling Fox’s Chris Wallace that “it’s not clear” that extending the Bush tax cuts — while also lowering the corporate tax rate — would increase the deficit:

WALLACE: If you extend all the Bush tax cuts, if you were to cut, not eliminate, but cut the corporate tax rate — although that would produce some economic growth and therefore some increased revenues — there no question that would add trillions of dollars to the deficit. The question becomes, what are you going to cut? What are you going to cut in spending, what are you going to cut in entitlements, and I’d ask you to be specific sir.

TOOMEY: Sure. But first of all, it’s not clear that that would add trillions to the deficit, because I really believe that if we expand the base of the economy, which we could do by selectively lowering some taxes, you have a broader base on which to apply the tax.

Watch it:

As American Action Forum president Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was formerly the Congressional Budget Office director and an adviser to the McCain 2008 presidential campaign, said, “there is no serious research evidence to suggest” that tax cuts pay for themselves. Extending the Bush tax cuts costs more than $3 trillion over ten years, while extending the cuts just for the wealthiest two percent of Americans costs $830 billion over that period.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Bush-era tax cuts are one of the largest drivers of the country’s long-term structural deficit. And, contrary to Toomey’s assertion, simply lowering taxes doesn’t broaden the tax base (which is accomplished by removing subsidies, loopholes, and giveaways in the tax code).

Toomey was also wrong to suggest that the Bush tax cuts increased revenue: in 2000, the government collected 10 percent of GDP in personal income taxes, a percentage that has never been collected since the Bush tax cuts. Plus, the historical record of the Bush tax cuts suggests that they won’t create the sort of economic growth that Toomey is counting on. In fact, following the Bush tax cuts, the country “registered the weakest jobs and income growth in the post-war period”:

Overall monthly job growth was the worst of any cycle since at least February 1945, and household income growth was negative for the first cycle since tracking began in 1967. Women reversed employment gains of previous cycles. And for African Americans, the worst job growth on record was matched by an unprecedented increase in poverty.

On a final note, Toomey never did identify anything he would cut from the budget to offset the cost of his budget-busting tax cuts.