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In Tampa, Newt Gingrich, Scott Walker Plug Supply-Side Economics
On Day One of the Republican Convention, Newt Gingrich hosted a special Newt University session in a Hyatt hotel near the convention center.
As the wind picked up outside, and delegates milled around waiting for the weather delay to end, inside the hotel ballroom, Newt and his guests preached a return to supply-side economics as the answer to the current recession.
Congressman Aaron Schock, the young Republican from Illinois, compared the Obama Administration's failure to cut Medicare to a government knowing about the attacks on 9/11 beforehand, and doing nothing to protect citizens.
"From a deficit standpoint, that's where we are as a country," he said.
Newt, in full professor mode, showed PowerPoint slides with charts and graphs of President Obama's ruinous economic policies.
Jack Kemp's son, James Kemp, declared that his organization, the Kemp Foundation and the whole Republican platform are dedicated to "the unfinished business of supply-side economics".
Part of that business, Kemp declared, is the platform plank on monetary policy, which calls for a return to the gold standard.
Larry Kudlow, host of CNBC's Kudlow Report, took it a step further, conducting a posthumous conversion of John Maynard Keynes to the supply-side religion. Keynes, he said, "if he were alive today, would probably completely disagree" with Obama's stimulus, he said.
It will be a "tragedy," if, on January 1, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, Kudlow added, predicting that the country would be pushed into an even deeper recession.
"Corporate tax cuts would be such a phenomenal thing to get this country going," Kudlow added.
Fittingly, Newt invoked his fondness for dinosaurs at the start of the session, praising the natural history museum in Kansas, where many of the delegates in the room came from.
Hailing Reagan, calling for more of the same Bush-era tax cuts that started the budget crisis, denouncing Jimmy Carter (?) and invoking the gold standard--the whole program had the aura of a time capsule.
But then the real star arrived. The last speaker on the program was Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, fresh from surviving the recall campaign organized by a million citizens of his state.
Walker, hoarse from his many speaking gigs at the convention, received a standing ovation. He launched into a rousing description of the economic miracle he pulled off in Wisconsin: lower unemployment, deregulation, And, best of all: "the reforms that helped us in our schools."
Ending teachers' and other public employees' collective bargaining rights turned the state around, according to Walker.
"I laughed when, in the last year and a half, the Left--particularly some of the big media bosses--said what we did was a 'shock,’ ” Walker said. It was all part of his plan.
His greatest reform, he declared, was taking on teachers.
"We don't have seniority and tenure anymore," Walker said to a big round of applause.
"We can hire and fire based on merit, and put the best and brightest in our classrooms."
That is, if the "best and brightest" want to work in a school system that is currently absorbing an $800 million cut--the biggest in state history, and with a workforce that, on top of pay cuts, has taken a body blow to morale.
What Walker claims to have demonstrated is that it is "a false choice that either your property taxes go up or your schools fall apart."
Budget cuts and better schools go hand in hand, he explained.
With program cuts, school closings, and the departure of Wisconsin's most educated and experienced teachers, it seems unlikely that this miraculous view will hold up.
There is something strange about those unemployment numbers, too.
Walker claimed that before he came into office unemployment was in the "double digits, and it went down on his watch below 7 percent.
Wisconsin, along with the rest of the country, has experienced bad unemployment followed by a modest recovery. But during Walker's time in office, the state has hemorhaged jobs, leading the nation in job losses month after month. The recovery experienced by the rest of the nation, reflected in overall employment data, is significantly better than Wisconsin’s, which is a state that has historically had higher employment than most.
That's a clear warning sign about the Republican economic vision for America.
Walker touted Wisconsin's better rating in Chief Executive Magazine as a place to do business, thanks to tort reform, deregulation, and lower taxes.
But that rating does not necessarily reflect what regular citizens regard as a good quality of life.
"There's 29 of us Republican governors," Walker pointed out. "We look at Utah, Virginia, and Texas as places to emulate and replicate their success."
As Wisconsin goes, so goes the nation.