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Writer's ideology trumps pragmatism on Jindal tax views

It always humorous to observe liberals, intentionally or otherwise, try to frame political issues in a format where following their liberal prescriptions is “pragmatic” but to practice conservatism is “ideological.” A recent opinion piece about Gov. Bobby Jindal demonstrates this attempt which, when analyzed, reminds us how the author got it exactly backwards which leads to a total misinterpretation of Jindal the politician.

To see where liberals go wrong on this, it’s helpful to understand what is meant by being “pragmatic” and “ideological.” To be “pragmatic” involves (invoking some 19th century philosophical musings) an attempt to derive philosophy from empirical experience, to set aside “idealism” in action. To be “ideological” in its political sense is to espouse and act upon a program of interrelated assertions – which does not stray far from what pragmatism tries to avoid, “idealism” which postulates there is exists a preferable end-state that is believed, but not proven, to be achievable.

This writer, Stephanie Grace, claims that because Jindal does not want two particular tax increases – one a roll-back of deductions on income that began earlier this year and another on Internet service to fund district attorney investigations – that somehow this is “ideological” because the “pragmatic” thing to do would be, in this instance of the first case, to spend the additional revenue raised on higher education, and in the latter to be used to better police sexual predation on youth. She asserts this behavior stems from a desire of Jindal to gain political support for nomination to the presidency in the future.

Of course, she entirely misses the point because she does not understand that that act of raising taxes is itself “ideological” and not “pragmatic” regardless of the uses to which the extra revenue is put. As history and empirical fact have demonstrated, taxation both infringes upon individual liberty (because it unambiguously takes property legally and morally earned by its owner) and the economic well-being of society (because it removes resources from their most productive users, their owners operating in a free market). Therefore, the appropriate level of taxation is an “ideological” question because it involves a tradeoff between a tolerance of how much infringement of liberty and damage to the economy will be permitted in the quest for a policy preference deemed to be more valuable.

Here, Grace also does some sloppy assuming/misunderstanding – she doesn’t seem to get that the retraction is of an already-existing (for 159 days now) tax reduction and any increase on Internet bills takes money out of the hands of the most productive sector of the eocnomy, she calls the revenue cuts to higher education “severe” (they aren’t, at only 15 percent of general fund allocations at most and looking to be lower than that which may be better phrased as “significant;” “severe” would be of a much higher magnitude), and that Jindal wants to be viewed as more conservative because it helps win primary votes for president (the GOP’s 2008 nominee did precisely the opposite). But it is a big government mentality that ultimately destroys her argument.

Grace appears to assume that to oppose increases for these purposes (higher education, enforcement funds) has no rational policy basis; therefore, she writes, “ideology trumps pragmatism.” In reality, there are very rational reasons for not funneling more money to government, especially in a down economy. It’s a subject about which she apparently doesn’t know much as she wrote that a governor should “focus more on the practical demands of keeping state government functioning, particularly during an acute economic downturn” – ignorant obviously that the last thing government should be doing is taking more money out of a slumping economy as this removes resources from the most productive users of it when their services are most needed.

It also doesn’t seem to occur to her that perhaps Jindal is right about Louisiana having the capacity to increase its efficiency. Is higher education really crippled for the foreseeable future by this cut (which still puts it well above where it was a few years ago with no more students than before)? Does the attorney general really need more money to perform this task or can resources be realigned from less useful areas to increase activity in this area without more money? Grace appears to have given no thought to these possibilities and just simplistically swallowed a mantra about cuts should be reduced in higher education and funding increased for the district attorney, without any understanding of the larger situation now and in the future, and perhaps playing to a bias that the higher producers of wealth in society should pay more in taxes.

Those are the kinds of views that are “ideological.” If anything, Jindal’s views are the more “pragmatic” of the lot – a refusal to stay captive to the notion that government must do more and take more to do it, an openness to the idea that government can do a better job of making priorities especially when the people have to do with less, a recognition of reality that in times of distress leaving more money in the private sector provides a better long-term solution to government fiscal woes than a short-term infusion of cash. Thus, Jindal takes what history and fact have demonstrated, and acts accordingly – pragmatically.

This is why Grace makes a completely misguided assessment of Jindal’s actions. Jindal pursues the policy end of keeping money in the economy and reducing the size of government because it simply is the superior option. Maybe it comports to any future agenda that Jindal may have, and maybe it doesn’t, but it stands apart from that consideration and needs to be analyzed as such. Captive to ideology herself, following the usual liberal misnomer about their policy preferences being “pragmatic” but conservatives’ being “ideology,” Grace is unable to do so adequately. Thus, while Grace opined for Jindal it was “ideology trumping pragmatism,” that phrase more accurately describes her attempt to make this assertion, as thinking readers recognize.


James S said...

Liberal "journalists" (talk about an oxymoron)will always opt for the greater taxation argument. Calling them "contributions" does nothing to alter the fact that one is the repeal of a tax decrease and the other a flat out tax against consumers. I support higher education but God knows there's lots of fat that can be trimmed. The government needs to keep its grubby hands off any and all taxes involving the Internet. These buffoons can never get and spend enough of your money...

Anonymous said...

Grace is wrong to call Jindal an ideologue. Sadow is wrong to think JIndal's opposition has anything to do with a fiscally conservative pragmatism.

Jindal has proven on a number of occasions he has little aversion to expanding government. He after all gave $50 million to a chicken plant owner and well over a $100 million to a football team owner.

He is a careerist and he can't be seen as a tax hiker right now. It would be bad for his national fund raising among the fiscal conservatives he seeks to defraud of political support.

No ideology will hinder his political ambition.

Anonymous said...

Grace is just an idiot. I've tried to phrase it otherwise but I can't. She has written so many articles over the years thinking she is so witty and has spun the topic on its head - but in reality she is an idiot with little understanding of the conservative movement. Her liberal worldview will prevent her from being taken seriously among the non-New Orleans Louisiana crowd. I would rather her move to Seattle and bash the redneck south than stick around and spew this rubbish.