Rick Santorum: Oh So Clever and Classless and Free

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Rick Santorum: Oh So Clever and Classless and Free

The rise of Rick Santorum forces Republicans to confront some uncomfortable truths

Put aside Rick Santorum’s opposition to contraception, which he has described as “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Put aside the not-so-subtle racism of his declaration, “I don’t want to make black peoples’ lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

Put aside his assertion that the right to privacy “doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution,” blaming it for the evils of the sexual revolution, contraception, abortion, and now gay marriage.

Put aside his opposition to the Supreme Court decision that overturned state sodomy laws, claiming it meant “you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.”

Put aside his characterization of homosexuality as only one step above “man on child” and “man on dog” and of the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s approval of same sex marriage as “an issue just like 9/11.

Put aside the fact that, were Santorum victorious, the innocent schoolchildren of America would never be able to Google their President’s name.

Try your best to ignore these pronouncements of radical social theocracy, and try your best not to imagine his goblin eyes of inquisition, floating disembodied above an embroidered sweater-vest, peering into your bedroom as you exercise your fictitious right to privacy.

After all, this election is all about the economy, particularly that nasty four letter word: JOBS.

Maybe, just maybe, if Rick Santorum has a plan to turn the economy around, Americans will be willing to forgive his not infrequent lapses of tolerance.

As taxes are perhaps the largest influence the government exerts on the economy – and the primary focus of this blog – a candidate’s tax plan is a useful weather vane for how they would deal with the economy.

On the scale of GOP crazy, Santorum’s tax plan actually comes in on the sane end of the spectrum, though next to Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan (now complete with bus tour!), Rick Perry’s postcard flat tax, and Newt Gingrich’s kitchen sink kaleidoscope, that’s not exactly much of an accomplishment.

Santorum wants to reduce the number of income tax brackets from six to two, with rates set at 10% and 28%. He advocates lowering the capital gains rate to 12% and eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax and estate tax.

Though he professes a desire to simplify the tax code, he explicitly retains deductions for charitable giving, home mortgage interest, health care, retirement savings, and children.

On the business side, Santorum wants to cut the corporate tax rate in half, from 35% to 17.5% and eliminate all tax on manufacturers, which he claims will “spur middle class income job creation.”

What really distinguishes Santorum, however, is his emphasis on “pro-family” measures like tripling the deduction for children and eliminating what he calls the “marriage tax penalties” spread throughout the federal tax code.

Santorum’s proposals are more radical than those of main rival Mitt Romney, but what’s most striking is their brevity. The twelve measly bullet points on Santorum’s website pale in comparison to Romney’s polished tome, which takes 160 pages to elucidate exactly how his experience and proposals would benefit the economy.

Santorum is unconcerned with the finer points of economic policy. Not once does he bother to explain the benefit of his proposals with any specificity, reverting instead back to the right-wing social engineering that he insists will rescue America.

The introduction to his tax plan sounds this recurring theme:

Rick Santorum believes that to have a strong economy, we must have strong families – because the family is the first economy. Our government must recognize this and create an environment for our families, our small businesses, and our communities to thrive.

His characterization of the family as the “first economy,” absurd as it may seem, does not fall on deaf ears. It is with completely straight-faced conviction that many of his supporters believe the key to fixing the economy lies in strengthening the family.

Every one of Santorum’s policy positions – from economic affairs to national security – has as its focus the preservation of his narrow and anachronistic conception of the family, which he touts like a 19th century quack hawking a mysterious vial labeled ‘cure-all’.

Not only is this a dangerous worldview for a President, who has to deal with a vast array of issues, not all of them related to the family, but after a year when the most salient Republican critique of President Obama was his lack of focus on the economy, Santorum also threatens to undermine his own party’s most appealing message.

Still more, Santorum’s fundamentalist insistence on reducing every complex matter down to the most primitive social building blocks is precisely why the various offensive statements he’s made cannot be conveniently put aside.

The various Santorums cannot be compartmentalized; bigoted social nut Santorum cannot be separated out from compassionate conservative Santorum and worthy challenger Santorum and working class hero Santorum and conservative stalwart Santorum. Every conservative thinker who willfully chooses to ignore the bile consistently excreted from Senator Santorum’s mouth denigrates his own beliefs and does conservatism a disservice.

For the National Review to claim that “Rick Santorum’s instincts and intellectual choices consistently tend toward freedom” is simply absurd. A Santorum Presidency would return to a place of prominence the long list of qualifiers that have amended the declaration “all men are created equal” and bedevilled America for much of her existence.


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