Washington to the Citizens: Don’t Confuse Me With The Facts!

Washington To The Citizens: Don’t Confuse Me With The Facts!

by Ralph Benko

“Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind.” These words were famously uttered by Rep. Earl Landgrebe (R-IN), a Nixon partisan to the bitter end, at the Watergate hearings. They are all that remain of that legislator’s political legacy. And yet, they reveal a truth. Michael Kinsley defines a gaffe as when a politician tells the truth — some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.  A statue should be raised in Rep. Landgrebe’s memory for daring to state explicitly one of the governing principles of modern American government: “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”

Obama has taken the position that tax increases — apparently including a whopping half trillion dollar tax increase scheduled to hit on January 1, 2013, called “Taxmageddon” — are the way to go. He seems convinced that not only is this the responsible thing to do but it is the popular thing to propose. It brings to mind the story recorded in Jeff Birnbaum and Alan Murray’s “Showdown at Gucci Gulch” (Random House, 1987, p. 35), of Walter Mondale at the Democratic convention. Upon nomination he delivered the line “Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.” He then privately turned to Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski and said, “Look at’em, we’re going to tax their ass off.” Mondale, famously, went on to lose 49 out of 50 states in a landslide of historic proportions.

Either high tax rates are bad for people — economically or socially (or both) — or they are not. One of the hallmarks of Washington is the degree to which it is guided by dogma rather than evidence, including the left’s dogma that high taxes are good. But “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” (John Adams, 1770.)

Therefore, it is extraordinarily refreshing when a group of public intellectuals issue a high profile analysis of what’s going on in the real world rather than relying on the doctrinaire polemics that have become the staple of American politics. Each year, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a network of almost 2,000 (about one-third of all) state legislators, issues a rigorous analysis of the impact of 15 different economic policies on the 50 States: Rich States, Poor States. This important report can be downloaded for free, or purchased, here. It is co-authored by iconic economist Arthur B. Laffer, by Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore, and by ALEC’s director of the Center for State Fiscal Reform, and Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force, Jonathan Williams.

ALEC is one of the most influential and respected civic institutes in the United States and one with which this columnist is professionally associated in working, with American Principles in Action, toward equitable public employee pension plan reform. ALEC stands for “limited government, free markets, and federalism.” By virtue of these principles, it recently has become the target of a hard left vilification campaign led, at least in part, by Van Jones. Jones was Obama’s “Green Jobs” White House Czar. Jones issued a midnight resignation from his White House post when the media began to investigate whether he had, perhaps merely carelessly, lent his personal prestige to a 9/11 Denier group as well allegations of ties to a Marxist militant group, STORM, some years before.

Rich State Poor State’s essence is an empirical assessment of the economic policies of all 50 states, both currently and prospectively. It explores the correlation between high taxes (and other economic policies that are defiant of free markets) and the actual social and economic vibrancy of each of these states.

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