Friday, March 8, 2013

An Angry Man Attempts to Define Conservatism

I present to you Lord, Sir, Hizzoner Paul Burka representing the Order of the Perpetually Angry.

So angry, in fact, that most times it's kind of hard to figure out what he's getting so worked up about.  Granted, these flare-ups are interspersed between spreading unverified (and questionably sourced) rumor and flip-flopping on the political future of Gov. Perry.  On occasion however Burka gets on a crusade, which is what we've seen over the past few days as he ham-fistedly works out a way to define fiscal conservatism in a manner consistent with his Statist leanings.

Therein lies the real problem with Paul Burka.  Not that he's left-leaning or that he seems to have no grasp of the current political reality in Texas (both true). Or that he's constantly surprised when the State outside of Austin doesn't resemble the friendly confines in which he's spent too much time.  Or that he's not especially that gifted of a scribe.  All of these things are true about Paul Burka, who's the epitome of the 'longevity equals expertise' fallacy that's common amongst the members of Texas LockStep Political Media today.

Burka's main problem is that he doesn't contain the mental alacrity to provide meaningful commentary on his political opposites, nor understand the need to frame arguments in context.  For Paul Burka, politics is something that happens every day, and with every newly released poll, in a vacuum.  Take his thoughts on Rick Perry.  Just a few weeks ago (link above) he declared Rick Perry's governorship over, finito, done.  One (dodgy) online poll later and he's ready to declare Perry "Governor for life".  That's not analysis, that's hackery.  Burka didn't even have the ability to ask basic questions about the poll's methodology which render it almost meaningless.  This is the man who's called the "Dean" of Texas political reporting?  Oh....wait, by "Dean" they mean "guy who's hung around the longest and knows the quickest path to the capital bathroom".

Now it seems that Mr. Burka wants to turn his attention to fiscal conservatism and cast it as doing what is good for the government, which must grow to gigantic proportions in order for the State to thrive.  Except this:  The politicians that Burka is choosing to view as "fiscally conservative" (Perry, Dewhurst, et. al.) are really social conservatives who happen to be fiscal corporatists at heart.  This idea that Perry, Dewhurst and Straus (and before him Craddick) have placed the State on firm financial, conservative footing, is just absurd.

A true fiscal conservative would understand that the Governor's Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund were nothing more than thinly veiled corporate welfare and should be eliminated, that CPRIT was a fiscal disaster waiting to happen passed under the guise of good public policy and that giving money to Bernie Ecclestone when the DOT is in debt is not a good idea under any circumstance.

And the list goes on and on.  The margins tax, the Trans-Texas Corridor (or, as Lord Dan keeps calling it "The Texas-Trans Corridor") proposing to pay Merck Millions for Gardasil.  It's all a list of non-fiscally conservative trinkets proffered up to friends and campaign donors which have given insulated reporters such as Paul Burka the idea that this is what true fiscal conservatism is all about.

This is why the Tea Party, for all it's faults and misspelled signs, was such a shock to the system to journalists.  They truly didn't understand true fiscal conservatism when they saw it.  It's also why Michael Quinn Sullivan is often on the receiving end of such angry reactions.  His idea that the way to shrink government is to starve the beast is truly offensive to those who are accustomed to being wined and dined on the public dime.

That's not to say that the Tea Parties and Sullivan are without fault.  In my mind they've swung the pendulum back too far.  They're view is closer to 'no government' rather than 'efficient government' but that perception could just because they're juxtaposed with the 'spend all we have, and then raise taxes and spend all of that and then some' Texas Democrats.  Still, the Department of Transportation, education and water are real problems that need to be addressed.  Healthcare is an issue as well, although I do believe Perry will be proven right on refusing to expand Medicare (especially in three years, when the Federal funds sunset) there appears to be little behind those refusals in way of a replacement.  The Tea Party is a lot about "no" but they don't seem to have thought too far beyond that point.

Because of the lack of ideas Paul Burka has found a definitional hole and is attempting to walk through it. In doing so however he's revealing more about his core idealistic deficiencies than he is about those who he's attempting to belittle.  What Paul Burka is, however, is a sounding board for the rest of TLSPM.  You can be sure that his ideas on what fiscal conservatism is will be reported on ad nauseum by the intellectually lazy trying desperately to meet a deadline.

Will it work?  By leaving open the playing field of ideas the fiscally conservative right is telling us that it already has.

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