Belding: Palin’s appearance Saturday teaches us two things


Photo: Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin waits backstage at the Tea Party of America’s Restoring America event on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011 in Indianola. Palin was the featured speaker at the rally Saturday. 

Michael Belding

Sarah Palin is still very much a tease. That’s one of the things I learned this weekend.

Or so you’d think, after her speech Saturday in Indianola. She spoke before a crowd of an estimated 2,000 people at a Tea Party of America rally for 40 minutes. In doing so, she laid out a “five-step plan to a better America.”

That plan consists of enforcing the 10th Amendment, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” How that enforcement is to be done is beyond me, unless she means that somehow she’ll compel people to give a damn and do things for themselves rather than rely on other people to do them.

The second point is to reduce regulations of private businesses, including repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. Don’t know what that is? If I’d called it “Obamacare,” you’d probably get the idea. We need to repeal that piece of legislation, since it’s apparently throttling all private sector economic growth. Because, you know, trying to do a humane thing and prevent giant insurance bureaucracies from taking advantage of elderly, sick people is less important than making more profits. So much for storing up your treasures in heaven.

Palin’s third point is to prioritize and cut spending, and cancel unused stimulus appropriations. Maybe they should be canceled, if we were supposed to spend them already. But part of the stimulus was to spend money over a span of years so we wouldn’t run out of money for those jobs within a year or two. Part of its aim was to create lasting growth in this country in industries we haven’t yet invested much. We certainly should re-evaluate the programs on which we spend our money, but we can’t just cut indiscriminately. Part of knowing what government shouldn’t do is knowing what it should do.

That includes honoring our commitments to the elderly, namely Social Security. But while I’d hate to think I’m robbing my grandparents, Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system that was never intended to replace private retirement accounts or give benefits to anywhere close to the number of elderly we support today.

Drilling for oil absolutely everywhere seems to be her fourth point. Granted, it wouldn’t hurt for us to produce more of our own energy. But there’s only so much crude oil within American territory, and only so much of it can be removed from the earth without damaging the environment in which we live.

Whether we invest in alternative fuels or renewable energy sooner rather than later, there is only a finite amount of fossil fuels on this planet. Should we risk our unique landscapes simply to delay the progress that will be inevitable on that front? I’ll let you open up a copy of “National Geographic” and let you decide after seeing its photographs yourself.

Last on her list is to eliminate corporate income taxes and “balance the loss of revenue by eliminating corporate welfare, bailouts and tax loopholes.” Does that mean she’s conceding that cutting taxes leads to a loss of revenue? If so, I want to remind her that we’re in the middle of a serious cash flow problem. Maybe we should leave taxes where they are and eliminate corporate welfare, bailouts and tax loopholes.

Either way, her keenness on this point demonstrates what is probably the worst misunderstanding of this country’s purpose. America — the Constitution — does not exist to people who can profit without regulation. They can do that in any Hobbesian Leviathan state. What they can’t do there, though, is participate in politics and have a hand in guiding the ship of state as it navigates a treacherous world.

But despite this plan of hers, and whatever faults it has that are fun to rail against, she isn’t running for president. Apparently she’s still trying to decide whether it’s right or not.

And there’s the second thing to learn from Palin’s visit to Indianola: The GOP field of candidates isn’t set yet. State Republican Party organizations should remember that as they set their caucus and primary dates for this winter and spring. Earlier isn’t always better. Granted, if a candidate wins early in Iowa and then becomes the nominee, we get to say, “I told you so,” to the other 49 states.

But are we really just interested in bragging rights? We had our straw poll not even four weeks ago. Since then, Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty has dropped out, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas entered and surged to the front of the field, and Sarah Palin has continued to capture the attention of the activist tea partyers.

Maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to make a decision regarding which candidate to support. Maybe we should take time to vet each candidate carefully, slowly, over a period of many seasons. We should at least take as much time as it takes our annual corn and soybean crops to go from seed bags to grain towers.

Our selection of candidates this year seems to be more about getting attention in a free-for-all than for looking, acting and speaking presidentially. Newt Gingrich is the ideas candidate, but when was the last time you heard his name on the news or saw it in a newspaper? Jon Huntsman looks more like a president than some of the others and is probably the most level-headed, but when was the last time anyone mentioned him?

Instead we all know about the accusations against President Barack Obama leveled by Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin. Mitt Romney’s accusations aren’t so severe and Rick Santorum’s haven’t received as much attention, but they’re still there. Apparently Obama is intent on destroying the country over which he presides.

Good luck finding a candidate who truly believes there is a time and place for everything, and that discretion is the better part of valor.