Earlier this week, I wrote a story for The Daily Beast titled "Nostalgia Act: The Great Sarah Palin Revival Tour of 2013." The story was reposted at Reason.com on June 20 as well. The thrust of the piece was that, despite recent comments by the former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate that were favorable toward libertarian ideas, Palin is not particularly libertarian. With particular reference to the speech she gave at last weekend's "Road to Majority" gathering of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, I argued that she is more of a populist than anything like a libertarian. On social issues, after all, she's against marriage equality and pot legalization, and in her recent remarks seemed dead-set against letting more immigrants legally enter the country. The politician she name-checked at the Faith and Freedom Coalition was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a Tea Party favorite who is also unambiguously against immigration reform and who just this week came out in favor of invading Syria (to grab that country's chemical weapons). Interestingly, Palin voiced support for NSA leaker Edward Snowden and reluctance to enter Syria, but did so in a way that seemed more partisan than principled (go here to check her various statements about Iraq, Afghanistan, and foreign policy more generally).
I noted as well that if the GOP is actually interested in capturing more independent and younger voters (as various official party spokesmen and members have said), they would do better to look toward libertarian-leaning House members such as Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). They, along with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) aren't down-the-line libertarians but they are not only smart, youthful, and self-evidently electable, they favor decentralizing power and cutting spending. When it comes to gay marriage, for instance, each believes in devolving the matter to the states or getting the government out of the certification business altogether. That's despite them all being believing Christians of various denominations (and all, like Palin, generally anti-abortion).
In my article, I questioned Palin's dedication to reducing government spending, citing a 2010 article for Reason in which I had written that
As a former governor of a state that receives about $14,000 in federal money per resident (only the District of Columbia gets more) and whose total spending increased 16 percent between 2007 and 2009, she is not very credible as a fiscal conservative.
That figure, along with the larger points of my Beast piece, elicited a response from Stacy Drake of Conservatives4Palin.com titled, "Nick Gillespie's Dishonest Daily Beast Article Discredits Him." Labeling me a "hater" whose "disdain" for Palin links me to "a long list of leftwingers and BIG government republican's [sic]," she particularly took issue with my characterization of Palin's spending as governor.
In fact, she argues, "Between 2007 and 2010, Governor Palin cut state spending in Alaska by 9.5%" (emphasis in original). Drake then links to a 2009 post at Conservatives4Palin that says the following:
Governor Murkowski's last budget FY2007: $11,697,400,000
Governor Palin's latest budget FY2010: $10,570,000,000
Total reduction in spending between 2007 and 2010: a whopping 9.5% or $1,127,400,000
Via Twitter, I sent Drake a link to this chart I generated at the site US Government Spending, which shows total spending by state and local governments in Alaska rising from $11.66 billion in 2007 to $14.52 billion in 2009 (in nominal dollars). Those figures are in turn based on Census data showing that state-only spending in Alaska rose from $9.2 billion in FY2007 to $10 billion in FY2008 to $11 billion in FY2009 to $11 billion again in FY2010. That comes to roughly a 20 percent increase in spending between 2007 and 2009 (my original benchmark in my 2010 story) and again in 2010 itself (for a chart of that, go here).
For an alternative accounting of spending in Alaska, I went to the state's OMB archives. There I found that in FY2007, total authorization to spend (including permanent fund) was $11.7 billion (line 47). In FY 2008, which would have been Palin's first budget, the figure came to $11.5 billion (line 54). In FY2009, total authorization to spend came to $12.9 billion (line 53). In FY2010, that figure dropped to $10.6 billion (line 57). That's about a 10 percent decrease in spending between 2007 and 2010.
I don't know what explains the difference between the Census data and the Alaska data, which show radically different results; I am adding a note about the disparity to the article. But Alaska's data shows a sharp decline in spending. Had Palin finished a full term instead of dropping out with 18 months to go, we'd have a better sense of whether the 2010 number was the beginning of an effort to consistently drive down spending over time.
Further notes on the reaction to my story:
Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit dings with me a charge (I think) of "oikophobia," which he says is common among Palin's critics. As someone who has written about Palin a fair amount over the years—and someone who panned Joe McGinniss's vile biography of Palin in the Washington Post—I've always been taken aback by hostility that Palin evokes and I don't consider myself a "hater" towards her. By the same token, I see no reason to soften criticisms of her because her enemies all-too-often trade in lower-than-low insults.
Note: I had originally misidentified Drake as male and have changed the text. Apologies on that score.