When I got home from work last weekend, I turned on C-Span with some degree of fascination as Sarah Palin addressed the Tea Party convention in Nashville. It's taken me a few days to try to put the pieces together, although I'm not sure how successful I've been.
Palin sure was successful in stirring up the crowd, even if she's become more famous for writing crib notes on her hand like a 10th grader would write down key formulas on her arm in order to cheat on an exam. When she was asked after the speech about directions for the country, she listed three points.
The first centered on lower taxes. OK, no one likes playing more in taxes. On the other hand, no one likes a federal deficit that is already at $1 trillion a year. A tax cut may spur some economic activity in some cases, but it's a lot to ask for them to make up that sized gap.
The answer to that apparent contradiction is in point two, the wish for smaller government. But where exactly will the budget ax fall? Should social security benefits be cut? That's kind of a nonstarter. Medicare benefits? That's a great way to insure your defeat in the next election if you are in politics. Interest payments on the national debt? The bankers kind of like it when people pay those bills, even ones with printing presses at their disposal. Cut the defense department? How long would it take for some to say "our soldiers deserve the best" with some justification?
It's fair to say that those areas are pretty much off the table in budget discussions, even to most Tea Partiers. Care to guess how much of the federal budget that consumes? Try 80 percent.
In other words, you could eliminate everything else the government does, everything from national parks to the State Department to food testing to vaccines to NASA, and you probably still would have trouble getting back to even. We're all for having a lean, efficient government, but it's going to be painful to get there -- and no one seems to have a realistic plan to get there.
Point three from Palin centered on how our political leaders have to become inspired by God once again. Which raises the simple and relevant question, "Who's God?"
It's difficult to give less-than-simplistic answers to questions raised by people who aren't in the mood to hear them. And I'm not sure Palin is the right person to answer them anyway. She rarely has much interesting to say, if she can deliver a good one-liner every now and again.
Still, she's a better choice to speak than Tom Tancredo, who spoke earlier in the convention. Tancredo caused a bit of a stir when he said Obama was aided in his election by the votes of people who couldn't speak English. The former Republican candidate for President said we should go back to having literacy tests for voters in order to ensure an informed electorate.
Literacy tests? You mean like the ones used in the South 50 years ago to make sure African-Americans couldn't vote? This piece of the puzzle I've figured out -- some of these people scare me to death.