Tin Shop Tartan - Randolph County Alabama's Own Snarky and Surly Scot Gets All Native

Blogging from the suburbs of the Tin Shop community, Captain Plaid brings Progressivism, and a share of Quixotic angst, to the ridges and hollows of Randolph County, Alabama. Hardly a booster yet rooted here enough to fight, Plaidsters can perhaps find like cause in trying to build local solutions to global concerns. Education, environment, economy, entertainment, engagement ... Trust the Tartan!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Americans for Tax Reform - Earl's Glad to Buy!

Mr. Earl Manning dropped a Letter to the Editor in The Randolph Leader that the staff presumably labeled “Area legislators broke tax pledge”. The opinion piece references a B’ham News piece from July 24th entitled “Legislators hedge on anti-tax pledge”. The reporting by Nancy Wilstach is seemingly focusing on the B’ham delegation, including Senator Hank Erwin, a legend for his learned leadership, but Mister Earl, resumably relying on Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) information, suggests five of the nineteen are “pledge breakers”.

I’ve counted the Leader letter three times and I see six asterisks but we don’t need to worry. Kim Benefield sent Gerald “Dino” Dial home so he’s off the list. Representative Richard Laird, often rather the “Dino” himself, can hardly be labeled as an opponent to the Big Mules that run this state. I expect tax issues are a vital concern to, shall we say, “blessed” men like Mr. Manning. Or Mr. Laird for that matter. The Leader letter offers nothing but information and a reference to ATR yet I’m guessing the hope is that readers will be offended by these politicians breaking their pledge. I’ll note the B’ham News piece has one politician defending their actions as a cigarette tax with the idea that sin taxes don’t count and another saying all they’d done was vote so as to allow the local people to make that choice or not. Hardly a deal breaker for me on either count but I’m not a real fan of ATR in the first place.

In fact the reason for this post is that I wanted to focus on the organization that managed to get coverage of this issue into at least two papers in Alabama. As I suggested above, based on my understanding of the wealth accumulated by Mister Manning, that “Earl's glad to buy” what ATR is selling should not surprise anyone. For the balance of our community, I’d like to offer another perspective.

ATR’s homepage is impressive if not unwieldy. The Pledge is simple enough, even if it seems rather limiting to expect a person bound for as long as a person remains in office. I’ll not check the accuracy of pledge breaking claims as the material seems to be either in PDF format or still “under construction”. I admire Ms. Wilstach for being able to ferret out her information from this site if that is in fact how she got her information. If she was “fed” the story then, as Alabama’s Jim Nabors might offer, “Shame!”.

While I’m examining Ms. Wilstach’s reporting, I’ll also ponder how in the world anybody could write of Grover Norquist, perhaps especially so here in Alabama, and not mention his recent scandals. Then again, if this were more stenography than reporting then I guess ATR would have not offered that information. Grover, the boss hoss at ATR that is the image for this post, hasn’t been catching a break lately in national papers or well-established blogs for over a year or on CNN for the same period or … Grover’s friendship and political alliance with Jack Abramoff goes back to around 1980! The National Journal tells of how Grover would get 10K to 25K per lobbyist for just coming to monthly dinners at his house! Why not add some of this to the piece?

Would ATR do such dastardly acts as feed a reporter a puff piece? Surely not an organization headed by Grover Norquist, a man described on ATR’s own website by P.J. O’Rourke as “… Tom Paine crossed with Lee Atwater plus just a soupcon of Madame Defarge.”. (If you don’t know who Tom Paine was then perhaps you might be from Randolph County.) Is Grover connected with Bu$hCo? Hell yes! Rove and Grover have been tight for years and in fact could be considered as central to the rise of this dreadful excuse for an administration. Nicholas Confessore’s Washington Monthly “Welcome to the Machine: How the GOP disciplined K Street and made Bush supreme” is a great place to begin in understanding how the modern GOP develops and maintains power.

A good place to start in examining some of these organizations like ATR is SourceWatch. Note the funding, especially that revealed by this Boston Globe report, and the connections, the same information being found on People for the American Way’s “Right Wing Watch”. That ATR is a “stealth PAC”, namely able to work in part as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, seems to be an accurate label.

I’m hoping that after some exposure to ATR/Grover Norquist the value of this source is minimized greatly. But more optimistically the philosophy of this organization is revealed as a front for the Big Mules. Again, I figure ATR is looking out for individuals like Earl Manning. But these shills aren’t looking out for average Americans, something I’ve posted on over and over and over and over and over and .... Grover Norquist infamously said, “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” The consequence of putting folks thinking like this in charge is also something I’ve posted on before. Conservatism where nearly every policy problem can be solved by a tax cut that benefits the super wealthy is simply a failing policy. We saw this when the GOP tried to tie an increase in the minimum wage to repeal of the estate tax.

Finally, the B’ham News piece referenced above revealed that U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus was even a “hero of taxpayers” as designated by ATR. He’s certainly a friend of the banking industry and an enemy of the poor creditors that have fallen on hard times. I don’t think he and Bill Maher exchange Christmas/Hanukkah cards either. I’ve sure the Big Mules are hoping their investment isn’t squandered by the GOP failing to hold on to the House this fall. If not Chairman Bachus he’ll at least be ranking Minority Member so perhaps the Bachus Backers will still get their millions worth.

I’ve been silenced somewhat by my loving family in sending in my own “Letter to the Editor” in reply to Mr. Manning. Their opinions of me were once again made clear after my “Letter to First Baptist Church on …” post was amazingly read, by seemingly the majority of those that actually bothered to read, to be something I wanted the Leader to print. I’m “showing out” or telling the world “I am somebody!” by daring to engage on an issue in a relatively respectful and reasoned way is what one sibling told me. I figure the rest believe something like that. One told me she had no idea what I was saying in any of my letters. A Republican bible thumping aunt expressed some concerns as well I understand but not directly to me.

While being concise enough for submission is a challenge for me, I’d like the chance to educate some locals about ATR and the modern GOP. The bottom line, once more I’ll promise, is that the GOP’s policies are only helping the Big Mules. They are not looking out for average Americans! They are willing to lie and make you think they are but they simply are hurting our interests. If folks like Earl Manning, either by being fooled or by design, want to support ATR that fine. He and his can afford it. The rest of us can’t. Peace … or War!