Does Tim Pawlenty Pass His Own "Google Test?"


Tim Pawlenty wants the federal government to get Googling. Here's a passage from the speech the Republican presidential contender delivered yesterday:

We can start by applying what I call "The Google Test."

If you can find a good or service on the Internet, then the federal government probably doesn't need to be doing it.

The post office — the government printing office — Amtrak — Fannie and Freddie were all built for a different time in our country. When the private sector did not adequately provide those services. That's no longer the case.

By this standard, the government could conceivably skip out on just about every service it currently offers. That may sound swell around these parts, but does Tim Pawlenty really buy it?

It's not at all clear how many government services he'd really like to cut: Later in the speech, he estimates that, properly applied to all federal agencies, the Google test could save "up to 20 percent in many programs"—a carefully hedged figure ("many programs" could refer to the majority of the federal government's operations or just a few dozen departments and projects in a handful of agencies) that reveals very little about how much Pawlenty really wants to scale back federal operations.

Pawlenty's own record suggests he may have trouble applying the Google test. He's previously failed to follow it on at least one of the examples he explicitly mentioned in the speech—government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie. As NRO's Katrina Trinko reported, Pawlenty supported a government bailout of Fannie and Freddie in 2008, saying that "if you allow those entities to fail, the consequences are so severe for innocent bystanders, namely average Americans who rely on the markets, rely on those mortgages, you know, the consequences are too severe." 

What's more, Pawlenty is expected to release a Medicare plan that leaves traditional Medicare partially intact. It's true that he's said that, as president, he would sign Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to wholly shift Medicare from a government-run, single payer system to a premium support model in which seniors purchase health insurance from regulated private insurers. But he said he would only do so if there was no other choice. And he's also indicated that his own plan will propose to keep the existing single-payer Medicare system in place and merely offer Ryan-style premium support as an option.

Perhaps Pawlenty's previous support for bailing out Fannie and Freddie can be explained by the fact that he hadn't developed his "Google test" yet, or by a simple shift in views over time. But it's harder to square the test with his position on Medicare: Not only could private insurers easily replace our fully government-run Medicare system, but his own party has already put forth a plan to do so. Yet he says he'd only support that plan if there was no other choice available, and his preferred policy would only augment Medicare with an additional private insurance option while leaving the government-run, single-payer system alive and operational.