Ever since Governor Palin emerged on the scene as a threat to their Messiah, The Left has concocted a number of phony narratives about Governor Palin. She is a religious fanatic who thinks dinosaurs roamed the earth a couple thousand years ago, believes in witchcraft, and resigned her position as governor because of an FBI investigation. None of this was true of course. This brings us to the latest meme. Get ready for it: now Governor Palin is fiscally irresponsible and left her state deeply in debt. If nothing else, you have to admire the Left’s creativity.
The basis for this ridiculous claim is an article in The Washington Independent by Megan Carpentier (yeah, I never heard of her either). Carpentier writes:
Less than a year after then-Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) quit the government to pursue other projects, Alaska leads the way in its debt-to-GDP ratio when its unfunded pension obligations are taken into account, followed by Rhode Island, New Mexico, Ohio and Mississippi. (Emphasis mine)
The goal of Carpentier’s article, “Palin Left Alaska With Debts Equal to 70% of its GDP” is clear. She references an article by Mary Williams Walsh in the New York Times, part of which is based on a chart produced by Andrew Biggs in a study for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Carpentier uses this study to draw the laughable conclusion that Governor Palin is really a profligate spender whose fiscal irresponsibility has put Alaska on the brink of insolvency. In other words, Palin is just like Obama. Really Megan? I guess the Palin-is-inciting-violence by using standard political rhetoric meme isn’t working as well as they had hoped so they had to manufacture another one.
Numbers don’t lie, but liars use numbers.
Where to begin… Let’s start with the chart Carpentier uses to make her absurd implication that Governor Palin spends like a…er…Democrat. Biggs’ chart is speculative and is not based on anything but a hypothesis he’s developing to calculate the present value of state pension liabilities. This is not to criticize Biggs’ research in any way. Having just read through his working paper, it’s very good and he makes many excellent points. However, at the moment it’s still a theory and not settled science by any means. Bigg’s also notes that his figures include each state’s share of the federal debt, something Obama and the Democrat Party have gone out of their way to expand to unprecedented levels. Presumably, that’s Governor Palin’s fault too.
To be sure, Biggs’ basic point that state governments grossly understate the extent to which taxpayers are on the hook for the lavish pensions given to members of public employee unions is unassailable. So for the sake of argument, let’s accept Bigg’s numbers as fact. What then? Does that mean that Governor Palin wastes money with the enthusiasm of your typical Democrat, as Ms. Carpentier implies? I suppose one could make that argument if she was the one who initiated these extravagant pensions for state employees. But that’s not true, as I suspect Ms. Carpentier well knows. In fact, Governor Palin actually tried to address the problem by enacting some much needed reforms to the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) and the Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS). She ratcheted down obligations by using a tiered system for current employees that allots their pensions according to seniority. She also enacted a totally new system for those who are newly employed while honoring past commitments which she was legally bound to do.
The problem for Ms. Carpentier, of course, is that the ticking time bomb of public employee pension liabilities is the direct result of the corrupt and symbiotic relationship between public employee unions like AFSCME and the SEIU and their patrons in the Democrat Party. This has been festering since 1962 when President Kennedy signed executive order 10988 which allowed for the unionization of public employees, as Daniel Henninger recently noted in the Wall Street Journal. In fact, I could write an entire post on the extent to which the Democrat Party is owned by the public employee unions. Oh wait, I did.
Another problem with Carpentier’s implication is that Governor Palin has a long history of tight-fisted fiscal conservatism. She has fought against reckless government spending her entire career and has consistently and repeatedly cut government outlays. As governor of Alaska, she was one of the few political leaders who actually reduced the amount of government spending year to year, as opposed to simply reducing the rate of growth in spending which, incidentally, is what Washington politicians consider a “spending cut”. Kathy Carpenter documented Governor Palin’s fiscal conservatism in a post last April.
Ms. Carpentier’s attempt to blame Governor Palin for the unaffordable pensions bestowed upon public employees is absurd and doesn’t pass the laugh test. It makes as much sense as Obama’s claim that ObamaCare is a deficit reduction plan. These ridiculously generous tax-payer funded pensions were in place long before Governor Palin’s tenure. I suppose we should give Ms. Carpentier some credit for helping to shine light, albeit unwittingly, on the fiscal disaster that is public employee pensions. However, I suspect Andy Stern would prefer she didn’t.
This latest meme, that Governor Palin is a big spender, will fade as fast as the others. I await with interest the next one. My money is on the following: Governor Palin has a secret weather machine that causes it to snow whenever Al Gore bloviates about global warming?