What he said vs. how it was reported

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn is quoted in the Tulsa World as saying President Obama wants to “create dependency” because it “worked so well for him” as an “African American male.” Now he is getting lambasted as a racist.

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent went to the trouble of digging out the entire transcript.  Yes, he said those words, but here is the rest of what he said, in answer to a question about whether President Obama is trying to destroy the country:

“No, I don’t… He’s a very bright man. But think about his life. And think about what he was exposed to and what he saw in America. He’s only relating what his experience in life was…

“His intent isn’t to destroy. It’s to create dependency because it worked so well for him. I don’t say that critically. Look at people for what they are. Don’t assume ulterior motives. I don’t think he doesn’t love our country. I think he does.

“As an African American male, coming through the progress of everything he experienced, he got tremendous benefit through a lot of these programs. So he believes in them. I just don’t believe they work overall and in the long run they don’t help our country. But he doesn’t know that because his life experience is something different. So it’s very important not to get mad at the man. And I understand, his philosophy — there’s nothing wrong with his philosophy other than it’s goofy and wrong [laughter] — but that doesn’t make him a bad person.”

via What Coburn really said about Obama, race, and dependency – The Plum Line – The Washington Post.

So this was in the context of Sen. Coburn defending President Obama from a “worst construction” assessment.  One might still reject the points being made, but surely Sen. Coburn comes across differently in the entire transcript from the way he comes across in the truncated quotations in the World story.  I suspect that other scare quotes we read about from various sides may have be similar to this one.

Is ending a bad program a tax increase?

Senator Tom Coburn, who represents my natal state of Oklahoma, is probably the biggest deficit hawk in Congress.  He’s a deficit eagle, as fiscally responsible and economically conservative as they come.  But he’s taking flack from conservative activist Grover Norquist and others for violating the no new taxes pledge that most Republican lawmakers have taken.  Why?  Because Sen. Coburn is spearheading an effort to drop ethanol subsidies, which include a tax credit for that industry.

Most conservatives consider the ethanol subsidies to be a huge waste of money, an outdated concession to environmentalists, though farmers like that industry because it buys up so much of the corn crop, sending prices sky-high.  It sends the price for other commodities sky high too, since many farmers are cutting back the production of wheat and other crops in order to plant more corn, which cuts the supply of those other commodities.  But liberals also consider them a waste of money, a payoff to big corporations.  And there is a consensus that the subsidies cause actual harm to poor countries, since turning food into fuel and the consequent high food prices means more hunger for the poorest of the poor.  And even environmentalists now oppose the ethanol option, since it burns more fossil fuels to produce it–all of those tractors in cornfields–than it replaces.  And in this time of economic travail and crippling federal deficits, the subsidies are costing taxpayers $6 billion per year.

So why not kill the beast?  Because part of the subsidy is in the form of a tax credit, so repealing it would be a tax increase, and 95% of Republican lawmakers have promised not to vote for a tax increase.

See Coburn prompts Senate vote on ethanol subsidies – The Washington Post.

Once again, in politics as in religion,  we see the spirit of legalism, which violates the spirit of the law in order to keep the letter.

Can common sense be restored to our government?  Can this country even be governed in today’s political climate?


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