Defund Kentucky?

Overnight quite a few people sent me a link to Paul Begala’s stupid little blog post, “It’s Time to Defund Kentucky.” Begala, never one to break his back for subtlety (or substance, for that matter), argues that we, the government, should give the citizens of Kentucky what they want.  And what do they want? States rights and no government spending – and they’ve voted in the likes of Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to prove this point.

As Begala writes,

So here’s my two-word response: Defund Kentucky. Cut it off the federal dole. Kentucky is a welfare state to begin with. The conservative Tax Foundation says the Bluegrass State received $1.51 back from Washington for every dollar it paid in federal taxes in 2005 (the most recent data I could find on the Tax Foundation’s website.)  We need to listen to the people of Kentucky. They don’t want any more federal spending in their state—and they certainly must be appalled by the notion that they’re a bunch of welfare queens….Defund Kentucky. Kentuckians are addicted to federal spending—they’re the Lindsay Lohan of states, the Charlie Sheen of commonwealths.  Let’s put them in detox.  By trying this experiment in one state we can honor the conservatives’ belief in states’ rights, allowing Kentucky to truly be a laboratory of democracy.

Begala’s tongue is firmly in cheek, but this is still a dumb, point scoring non-argument pitched only to his choir. What’s the point? Hypocrite politicians? Impossible! State’s that don’t realize that their best interests – and that their current social services and infrastructure levels – rely on federal funds. Say it ain’t so! Red states living off the taxes of blue states? This is well documented and nothing new. One can pick almost any red state and they receive more tax funding that they pay.

The only reason Begala isolates Kentucky is the loathsome fact that Kentucky currently hosts the most interesting political scene in the country with McConnell and Rand Paul. But Begala doesn’t talk about this.  He goes out of his way to miss this point. Instead he trots out some nag of an argument cribbed from Thomas Frank’s trash can. The real issue that nobody really seems to be talking about is that the future of the GOP – and most likely the US – is going to be played out in a sort of sectarian battle in the commonwealth between McConnell and Paul. I mentioned this before when I copped to launching Mitch’s career. At that point McConnell had already already caved on earmarks, and he’s only realigned himself further with the Rand Paul/Tea Party insistence on the shrinking of the federal government. These are the two most powerful and visible representative of two visions of the GOP, and though I detest McConnell’s politics, the resources provided by his hypocrisy remain more beneficial to Kentucky, and to those other needy red states, than the starve them on the vine sincerity of Rand Paul. That’s the real story of KY and current GOP politics, and it’s something Begala didn’t acknowledge when he made his loose and dirty argument collapsing Kentucky, McConell, and Paul into one big, unified bloc. That’s sloppy, and that’s stupid, and that’s utterly pointless.

As an aside, rhetorically I feel like Begala’s argument is lifted from end of Jed Bartlett’s withering debate performance against that dumb-ass Bush proxy Gov. Ritchie (the first part of the response does quite a bit to dilute Begala’s argument). See the clip below, starting at 3.05. Sorkin’s a better writer than Begala, as the latter himself has admitted, but it’s a succinct, dramatic performance of the same argument. It’s made more palatable by the fact that, well, it’s Bartlett, but also the fact that the argument is made as a direct challenge to an “aww shucks” homespun arrogance, something that the citizens of Kentucky most decidedly do not exhibit.

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