I finished Josh Green's fascinating look at the other, temporarily bipartisan, Sarah Palin this morning:
At first, her team tried to win the Republicans over. But it became clear this wasn't going to happen. So Palin did something that would be hard to imagine from her today: she pivoted to the Democrats. "We sat down with her and said, 'If you want to get something passed, it'll have to be much stronger,'" Les Gara, a liberal House member, told me. "And to give her credit, she did what she needed to get a bill passed."In the end, Palin essentially grafted the Democrats' proposal onto her own. What she signed into law went well beyond her original proposal: ACES imposes a higher base tax rate than its predecessor on oil profits. But the really significant part has been that the tax rate rises much sooner and more steeply as oil prices climb--the part Democrats pushed for. The tax is assessed monthly, rather than annually, to better capture price spikes, of which there have been many. ACES also makes it harder for companies to claim tax credits for cleaning up spills caused by their own negligence, as some had done under the old regime.Four years later, Palin's gas line hasn't gotten going, but it's not really her fault. Plunging natural-gas prices have made the project uneconomical. Her oil tax is a different story: though designed to capture more revenue under most scenarios, ACES has raised a lot more money than almost anyone imagined. That's largely because of high oil prices. But it also shows that the law is working. ConocoPhillips, BP, and ExxonMobil have reported record profits--so it's fitting that, in a sense, Alaska has, too. It's no exaggeration to say that ACES has made the state one of the fiscally strongest in the union.Flush with cash, Alaska produced large capital budgets that blunted the effects of the recession. Moody's just upped the state's bond rating to AAA for the first time. While other states reel under staggering deficits, budget cuts, and protests, Alaska has built up a $12 billion surplus, most of it attributable to Palin's tax. Galvin estimates that it has raised $8 billion more than Murkowski's tax would have. But given the corruption that plagued the PPT, a better benchmark might be the tax it supplanted--the one put on the books after the Exxon Valdez spill. By that measure, Palin's major achievement has probably meant the difference between a $12 billion surplus and a deficit.
Josh's piece, while perfectly accurate and fair in describing her big tax increase on the oil companies, seems to me to make a massive amount of inferences about that achievement, and fails to grasp - because establishment Washington cannot really cop to its own recklessness - that Palin is not and never was driven by policy but by resentment.