Tuesday, November 04, 2008

2 bonus points on the '08 election

I've been wondering now for several months: with all of the macro indicators pointing towards Obama and the Democrats, why does Obama support such liberal economic policies? I think the election was won by Obama (or whoever was to be the Democrats' candidate) before it even started. Running against Bush, a bad economy, and a war is a dream scenario, one where any candidate could have channeled Bill Clinton by making a balanced budget a priority.

Instead, Obama's seeks to expand spending by $4.3 TRILLION, and the rest of his economic policies are also an abrupt departure from centrist policies, such as raising the cap on social security taxes, which hasn't changed in decades. (Not to mention the redistributionist tax policies.)

Obama has good lines in his election ads - "most people will pay lower taxes," but every policy analysis that i've read says otherwise.

I disagree with the Obama policies, but my point here isn't whether his policies are good or bad - I'm asking why with such a favorable election setting did Obama adopt such radical (and bad) economic policies?

Along the same lines, I'm seeing that Obama is projected to win 52-46, which is a nice, solid, no-doubt win, and notable for the margin of victory when compared to the last two elections (and really the last 3 out of 4 have been very close.)

However, I'm stunned that the margin isn't much greater. (And maybe it will be tomorrow.) With the dismal opinion polls of Bush and the Republicans, an economic crisis, several thousand Americans killed in foreign wars, and terrible, unpopular policies in place anywhere you look (from No Child Left Behind to stem cell research), why isn't the margin of victory likely to be larger?

The answer, I believe, is that the Democrats still represent dismal, fringe policies driven by dismal, fringe people.

In my lifetime, the Democrats did best when governing from the center, as embodied by Bill Clinton's adoption of centrist policies such as NAFTA, a balanced budget, and welfare reform. (This agenda was really set by Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress, but credit Clinton for abandoning left-ish roots to jump on a good, centrist thing.)

Today, we've got Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid shelving centrist opportunities like the Columbia free trade pact, and pursuing a very liberal agenda.

Perhaps the Democrats will take the relatively small margin of victory for what it is and make the changes necessary to govern from the center, but I suspect they won't. Instead, I expect to hear later this week what a mandate for Democratic policies was delivered on Election day, and then I expect to see exactly what happened between 1992 and 1994 - the Democrats focused on very liberal policy priorities with little chance of success (like the Hilary Clinton-led heath care plan, and endorsing gays in the military). Between these new policies, and the efforts to overturn Reagan-era decisions and reward key constituents, the Democrats quickly fell out of touch, and were absolutely murdered in the 1994 mid-term elections.

All of the signs point to a repeat, with obviously liberal policies lined up that will naturally offend a good portion of the population. Just like Clinton's campaign promise that his first official act would be to permit gays to serve openly in the military, Obama is promising to enable partial birth abortions. (Or something like that - I really don't pay much attention to reproductive rights. Nevertheless, I understand that such a change would be a very liberal one.)

Following the abortion change, we'll be seeing the Employee Free Choice Act, a new law to overturn decades of Union/management practices to facilitate greater union representation.

Following this script, you'll see a big gain for the Republicans in the 2010 elections, unless Obama tunes out his fringe constituents and very liberal nature and rushes towards the center.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I endorse........

Well, nobody. Sort of (see below).

But first a bit of background: I'm a libertarian centrist living in Virginia. I voted for Obama in the Virginia primary, and thought enough about McCain to go to a campaign rally of his in 2000.

I generally believe that people and markets are capable of amazing things when left to flourish, and that most government initiatives - while well intentioned - typically impinge on liberty, are too expensive and poorly run, and fail to deliver desired results.

(For some examples relevant to these lessons, watch the series of quick vids starting here.)

I believe in flat taxes, school choice, and liberalizing rules, such as in allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines. I dislike farm subsidies, anything that expands the government's powers, and I can tell you from having seen socialized health care first hand that a future where government plays a bigger role in health care is not a future that I want to live in.

With rare exception, I tend to view politicians not as left or right, but as tenured political class, or not. I think many of America's problems are explained not by the policy of one of our two parties, but by entrenched interests. My bias is to "throw the bums out," and, unfortunately, I won't be surprised when Congressional financial regulators like Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd do NOT lose their seats on the relevant Oversight committees.

With that as a backdrop, I would describe our 2 choices for President at equally bad.

One candidate is a creature of his party, an old-school machine politician. The other sees an increasing role for the state in every aspect of our lives, from energy policy to national service.

(If you can't tell which candidate is which, you might begin to see another point).

One candidate is pushing a divisive policy to make the majority of America band together to take advantage of a disadvantaged class of people. The other candidate is in a disadvantaged class of people - old folks.

One candidate actively intends to redistribute wealth for no purpose but "fairness" (in his eyes at least). The other thinks we need only continue the Bush tax cuts.

One candidate is actively against free trade. The other candidate is against free election financing.

Both candidates agree on a cap and trade system to help fight global warming. I don't see any way that this turns out any better than Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac - another government program to push policy-driven spending off of the government's books.

I could go on, but frankly it is too depressing.

Current polls suggest that Obama will win this election, probably winning the national vote 52-46. If the race is more competitive, Virginia (where I live) will be a swing state, and it is possible then that I might cast a deciding vote, so though I am underwhelmed by both candidates, I need to hold my nose and choose one of these two. To do that, I've made the following list of pluses and minuses for each candidate:

-his election would start a new chapter in race relations, and inspire many
-an ability to give a good speech
-the courage to have spoken out against the war in Iraq
-a good brand image, and
-the respect of the world may enable him to set a better foreign policy course

-terrible economic policies, most have which have been stale for oh, 70 years.
-strong statist tendencies (have you seen a government program that he doesn't endorse expanding?)
-a definite lack of any non-political experience. In other words, he's a professional politician. He knows how to read an opinion poll, but doesn't know how to lead.
-Joe Biden as VP/potential Prez. All of the liberalism and party control, none of the dynamism of Obama.
-Congress is controlled by his party. (I like divided government - it forces centrist policies (ask Bill Clinton), and generally spends less.)
-this is not a dealbreaker, but I am deeply troubled by Obama's association with Jeremiah Wright - not just the association, but the "cover-up" so to speak. How does somebody attend approximately 500 services and become so inspired as to donate $500/month to Wright's church expect us to believe that there isn't a philosophical link between Obama and Wright?

-former military officer means he has had to lead people before.
-he's been a maverick over the years, indicating that he won't always make a decision based on party policy.
-Sarah Palin. I'm not completely sold on her, but I believer to be a charismatic, principled leader. Don't judge her on the pundit commentary - watch her in action.
-the result of his election would be divided government.
-His economic policies are less worse than Obama.

-he's 72 years old. As I've learned all too well from experience, at this age, you can't rely on clear decision making. There's too much going on in the world today which makes me wonder if a 72 year old can keep straight all of the facts needed to make a decision on a particular policy. (I am not saying that 72 year-olds aren't functional, just that they're not suited for the office of President.)
-he's right out of the Big Government Republican wing of his party - he likes to regulate, and likes "national greatness" policies.
-No bold ideas at all, except for the idea to push health care onto the individual instead of tying this to a job.

I really, really can't get excited about either of these candidates. I might have been enthusiastic about McCain if he were 10 years younger, and not following Bush. I could have stayed interested in Obama if his economic policies weren't on the socialist fringe. (Yes, they're way out there, and yes, they are socialist. Redistributing wealth and increased central planning (see the health care policy) does make one a socialist.)

In the end, I have decided the economy matters most and that John McCain stinks less, mostly because the Democrat-controlled Congress would keep him in check, while a Democratic Congress might hand Obama a blank one.

Also, having paid way too much attention to the election this year, Obama's charm has worn off on me, and I now see him for what he is - a classic Chicago politician with a strong liberal bias. I suspect that over time, less people will be excited by Obama, unless he very quickly governs to the center. (See also Clinton, Bill.)

So, consider this a very, very tepid endorsement of John McCain.

(I'm not voting until after work tomorrow, so there's still time to change my mind - leave me a message to set me straight.)

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
Click to go to my online photography

World sun clock

Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous