Not ready for prime time

NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME…. After the 2008 presidential election, Politico ran an “ideas” piece from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), in which the governor shared some thoughts on what policymakers should do as the economy entered a tailspin.

Pawlenty’s prescription was as simplistic as it was stupid: he said the way to deal with a global financial crisis is to focus on balancing the budget. In fact, Pawlenty said passage of a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget should be a top Republican priority, and the issue would position the GOP to “again become the national majority party.”

It was absurd, even at the time. If being correct about public policy had any relationship to a political figure’s standing, the piece would have effectively ended Pawlenty’s presidential ambitions on the spot.

Alas, Pawlenty still pretends to be a credible figure and serious presidential aspirant. And once again, he returns to Politico today with yet another op-ed, this time characterizing the federal budget as “the largest Ponzi scheme our country has ever seen.” The Minnesota Republican insists the U.S. policymakers cut spending in order to get their fiscal house in order.

Putting aside the fact that Pawlenty seems a little confused about what a “Ponzi scheme” actually is, I was especially interested in learning where, exactly, the strange governor wants to cut federal spending. Wouldn’t you know it, Pawlenty doesn’t actually mention anything — he wants the government to cut spending, but doesn’t say where, or why, or when, or how, or what the economic consequences might be.

Indeed, the only real substantive idea in Pawlenty’s piece is rejection of policies that would reduce the budget deficit.

…Congress should reject federal legislation that places additional burdens on growth, such as the proposed health care overhaul, cap-and-trade bill, labor union card check and tax increases.

Health care reform would cut spending and lower the deficit — ostensibly, Pawlenty’s top two goals. Cap-and-trade and tax increases would also reduce the deficit and bring it closer to balance, which, again, Pawlenty says he wants.

Bruce Bartlett characterized the governor’s missive as “grossly ill-informed,” before concluding, “Pawlenty is not ready for prime time. He may think he has found a clever way of appealing to the right wing tea party/Fox News crowd without having to propose any actual cuts in spending, but it isn’t going to work. It’s too transparently phony even for them.”

I’m not sure it’s possible for anyone to be too transparently phony for unhinged right-wing activists, but a guy can dream.