Karen Heller: Book reveals the real Toomey

The Amazon.com page for Patrick Toomey's book shows it is available for $1.52. In it, the GOP Senate candidate expresses the view that government is largely an oppressive force.
The Amazon.com page for Patrick Toomey's book shows it is available for $1.52. In it, the GOP Senate candidate expresses the view that government is largely an oppressive force.

From FDR as villain to backing a flat tax, conservative shows stripes.

Posted: September 26, 2010

Before Patrick Toomey made a second run for the U.S. Senate, the Pennsylvania Republican published The Road to Prosperity: How to Grow Our Economy and Revive the American Dream.

I'm all for prosperity, despite exhibiting little talent for amassing wealth. (Chapter One: Avoid Journalism.) So, if there's a direct thoroughfare, lead the way.

I went online to buy his book, which had an original list price of $22.95 when it was published last summer.

There, I found The Road to Prosperity selling for $1.52.

Not a highlighted, dog-eared copy through some resale operation, but a new volume directly from Amazon.

Since I pay for free shipping - an economic oxymoron - Road cost me less than the turnpike toll from Willow Grove to Bensalem.

A former three-term congressman from the Lehigh Valley, Toomey was most recently the president of the Club for Growth, earning $680,094 in compensation in 2008, when he was also, presumably, writing Road.

The Club for Growth sounds like a school investing group but is actually a national outfit advocating limited government and negligible taxes.

"Income taxes and capital gains taxes discourage work and investment, respectively," Toomey writes in Road. "The higher the tax one has to pay on the last dollar earned, the less it pays to work - literally."

That's screwy. By this argument, Bill Gates is disinclined to work, when there's no evidence of the sort, and Toomey as U.S. senator would be, too. Gee, Lindsay Lohan could use this thinking to justify her lack of employment.

Every story, even an economic treatise, requires a villain. For Toomey, that's Franklin Roosevelt and his "role in prolonging the Depression." Toomey believes Roosevelt hated the rich. He was rich!

"While people saw the new jobs created by the government," he writes of FDR's efforts to end the Depression, "they did not see the corresponding jobs whose creation was prevented by the allocation of funds away from the private sector."

Right, because companies had so much excess capital for employment when everyone was on a buying spree.

I don't know about your family, but mine believed FDR helped save America, making it a better and more compassionate nation for all. Much of what Roosevelt and his administration launched still helps people daily, while every week I pass some handsome building or bridge erected by the Works Progress Administration, which warms my heart.

Toomey views government as largely an oppressive force, yet campaigns robustly to rejoin its ranks. "Governments do not create wealth, they redistribute it. In the process of confiscating the wealth they choose to transfer, governments discourage the creation of new sources of growth and wealth," he writes. But last year there was a 17 percent growth of citizens with a net worth of $5 million. "This is the fundamental reason why government spending should always be kept to the minimum necessary to fund the vital, legitimate functions of government - including in recessionary times."

Basically, Toomey wants to get government out of our business by giving it far less money to spend. He subscribes to the Grover Norquist maxim: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

Toomey's hero is our 40th president, described in near-hagiographic terms, "Reagan to the Rescue" with "the supply-side revolution."

In a statement worthy of a spit-take, Toomey writes "most of us intuitively know how to prudently manage our money." Indeed, greater government regulation of the credit and mortgage industries, not less, as he advocates, might have steered us clear of the current mess.

The candidate believes that "incomes and living standards have risen for people in all income categories. The mean income of the bottom fifth of earners has grown from $10,326 in 1980 to $11,674 in 2006 (in constant 2007 dollars)."

Things must be swell in his hometown of Zionsville. The income he cites seems flatlined and destitute, while the ranks of the poor rose to 14.3 percent last year, a 15-year high.

Toomey endorses Steve Forbes' 17 percent flat tax on personal income and corporations. Fine. We better exit Afghanistan tomorrow. Slash the military budget until we can drown it in the bathtub. Kill NIH, the CDC, the Park Service, and regulatory agencies, though Toomey praises the last century's advances in "life spans, child survival, health care, scientific knowledge, sanitation" as well as "the state of our environment," all beneficiaries of government funding and oversight.

It's easy to say you hate taxes. Honestly, who's arguing the other side? And it's easy to say you hate big government until you ride the interstate or go to war or breathe cleaner air or . . . the list goes on.

Toomey's wise to avoid the moral superiority and angry theatrics of other staunch conservatives. Compared with Christine O'Donnell - and the fulminations of the tea party in general - Toomey, with his more polished and measured mien, appears tame.

Don't be fooled. Reading Road to Prosperity, even at the distressed price of $1.52, there's nothing moderate about him.

Contact columnist Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or kheller@phillynews.com.

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