The Spokesman-Review

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Smart Bombs: Four more beers! Four more beers!

Why are taxpayers financing private parties that most aren’t invited to attend? It’s because those with invitations authorized the spending. Canceling national convention subsidies would’ve saved $136 million this year. The Washington Legislature eliminated the presidential primary this year and saved $10 million. It’s not like the federal budget is in better shape. Each political party gets $18 million for their parties. Plus, Uncle Sam kicks in another $100 million for security to make sure the wrong people don’t get in. And what do taxpayers get? Coronations. Didn’t we expel the British for those?

The conventions have long ceased to be places where important business is conducted. It’s just three or four more days of campaigning. With that empty chair, Clint Eastwood inadvertently provided the perfect metaphor. These events are so bereft of substance that pundits are reduced to theatrical critiques. “Republicans should’ve flip-flopped the speeches of Chris Christie and Ann Romney. Michelle Obama’s dress was a knockout!”

The parties, of course, tell us there is value in these quadrennial infomercials. If so, they should have no qualms about picking up the entire tab.

The politics of proof. The Republican positions on global warming and voter fraud are curious. Every relevant scientific organization believes that humans are the chief cause of global warming. The GOP’s reaction? “We need more proof.”

Meanwhile, an analysis of 2,068 cases of suspected voter fraud by a Carnegie-Knight investigative project found 10 cases of alleged in-person fraud at the ballot box since 2000, according to a Washington Post article. That’s one alleged case for every 15 million registered voters nationwide. Furthermore, some of the alleged cases turned out to be the products of mistakes, not criminal activity. Nonetheless, Republicans have pushed through voter ID laws in 37 states, which will suppress in-person voting by making it a bigger hassle. It just so happens this will hurt Democratic candidates more.

The investigation shows there are more allegations of fraud in absentee voting, but no great effort has been made to limit that activity. In fact, laws have been increasingly liberalized to ensure absentee ballots are counted.

Voter ID laws are like penalizing the purchase of Priuses instead of Humvees to curb global warming.

Lift Up the Hood. Former President Bill Clinton said no president could’ve turned the economy around in four years. When comparing this latest recession to others, it’s easy to agree.

The Associated Press recently offered in-depth historical context by comparing nine economic recoveries since World War II that lasted at least three years. It left out 1945-’48 because of incomplete data. The current recovery is by far the weakest. It’s the slowest to add jobs and has harmed those who are employed. Usually pay rises during a recovery. Not this time.

With so many people out of work and paychecks shrinking, consumer demand has plummeted. Against this backdrop, all of the talk about job creation sounds bizarre. Why start or expand a business when the plight of potential customers is so grim? Many job creators have the money, but they don’t see the point of expansion. In the first three months of this year, corporate profits rose to a record high as a percentage of the total economy.

Oddly, the conservatives’ supply-side elixir suggests that it’s the wealthy job creators who are sick. But all of the tax cuts and deregulation schemes in the medicine cabinet won’t suddenly produce more customers. Similarly, the stock market’s major indexes have doubled in value since the depths of the recession. Many people aren’t better off than they were four years ago, but wealthy job creators are.

In addition, state and local governments are currently slashing spending and dumping workers. At this point in previous recoveries, such spending had risen by an average of 12 percent. After the 1981-’82 recession, this spending grew by 15 percent.

The old pistons of economic recovery just aren’t firing, so you have to wonder how the conservative combination of tax cuts for job creators and austerity for the rest is going to provide acceleration.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.


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