Election 2008: Frustration and Fantasy

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I'm not real fond of Joe Klein, but he hit this nail on the head. The McCain campaign is at war with the media, and they need to be. The level of divergence between McCain-Palin and reality is breathtaking.

  • McCain is playing his "maverick" card for every ounce it is worth, but McCain voted with Bush 100% of the time in 2008, and 95% in 2007. That's not change we can believe in, it's change you spot on the sidewalk, and don't bother picking up, because yech, it's dirty.
  • Palin has to attack the media, because they are uncovering a torrent of horrible things McCain failed to. Personally, the deal-breaker for me is Sarah Palin is a book burner
    Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.
  • Palin supports abstinence only sex eduation. I have a daughter, and I understand the desire to keep kids away from sex. But when you run across a livejournal community where 16-yr-old girls are asking if having their arm exposed to semen can make them pregnant, you realize that maybe abstinence-only sex education is sort of like Africans who think you can cure HIV by raping a virgin.
  • From her questionnaire:
    11. Are you offended by the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?

    Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I'll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.

    So ignorant, it is almost physically painful. Shouldn't people a 72-yr old heartbeat from the Presidency have a bit more historical perspective? The Pledge of Allegience was written in 1892, long after the Founding Fathers were all dead. The words "under God" weren't added until 1954.

Finally, I read her last answer:

12. In relationship to families, what are your top three priorities if elected governor?

1. Creating an atmosphere where parents feel welcome to choose the venues of education for their children.
2. Preserving the definition of "marriage" as defined in our constitution.
3. Cracking down on the things that harm family life: gangs, drug use, and infringement of our liberties including attacks on our 2nd Amendment rights.

I'm all for protecting our 2nd Amendment rights. We can debate the definition of "well regulated militia", but ultimately, Americans have the right to bear arms. But while I think the NRA and Republicans in general actually hit on one of the main reasons we have the right to bear arms - because it's a lot harder to enforce a totalitarian tyranny against an armed populace - I think they are turning a blind eye to a lot of other Amendments. In particular, the Fourth Amendment has been, at best, on life support since the PATRIOT Act. No sooner is it raised, than the specter of terrorism is summoned to justify abuse. This is crystal clear:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

It's pretty simple: you have to have probable cause before you go searching, supported by Oath or Affirmation. You can't troll in general - by, say, requisitioning all the records of a library, or all purchases from Amazon. And you need legitimate evidence... that would be probably cause a crime has been committed, and that doesn't include raiding the homes of would-be protestors. "Conspiracy to commit a riot." Yarg. These leads us back to the first Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

People have a lot of grievances, and the RNC convention is a pretty reasonable place to express them. Peaceful protests are protected by the First Amendment.

This isn't to say McCain-Palin is all bad. McCain has taken almost no earmarks. Bravo, Senator McCain. Earmarks are part and parcel of the disgusting "scratch my back" politics that plague Washington and ruin government, making it wasteful. And I admire McCain for not playing the game. Others, like Obama, have played the game but also, tried to change the rules.

I'd have preferred to see Obama avoid earmarks altogether, although this is clearly a systemic problem, as the voters "back home" elect these national politicians, who partially get graded on bringing home the bacon. In other words, earmarks are bad - for all the other states. (So in that sense, I applaud the citizens of Arizona for putting up with McCain's "failure" in that regard.)

There are a lot of myths floating around right now, though. For example, the idea that liberals are the big spenders. But government spending grew under Reagan, fell under Clinton, and rebounded up under George W Bush. I'm in favor of smaller government; but I'm very skeptical of McCain's fiscal conservative bona fides when he is so in tune with GWB.

Ultimately, though, I also feel like the parties have to be held responsible for their performance. McCain on Katrina:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain took stock of still-hurricane-damaged areas of New Orleans on Thursday and declared that if the disaster had happened on his watch, he would have immediately landed at the nearest Air Force base, drawing a sharp contrast to President Bush's handling of the tragedy.

McCain called the response to Hurricane Katrina "a perfect storm" of mismanagement by federal, state and local governments.

Except that McCain was cutting his birthday cake with President Bush while New Orleans sank. The levees breached and New Orleans sank while McCain was enjoying his birthday cake with a President who should have been doing his job. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns... And the Katrina fiasco was part and parcel of the cronyism of the Bush administration. There were far too many people either grossly incompetent or teeming with partisan agendas in the Bush administration. I don't expect White House staff to roll over and play dead for the other party, but going after the jobs of people who oppose you politically even when they're competent is just... gross malfeasance.

Anyhow, all this leads up to what got me thinking tonight, which was this Gallup poll, which I find sort of surprising. Sure it has been reported here and there in the media, but the nonpartisan tax policy analysis is simple: the after tax income of at least the bottom 80% of income earners would be higher under Obama's tax proposal. You're not even in that top quintile unless you make at least $88,000 a year. However, this is averages; a lot of the policy giving larger refunds from McCain's proposal comes from Obama's policy absolutely brutalizing the top 1%, where they would actually see their after-tax income decline.

So, you're worried about higher taxes from Obama? You should be, if you're making over $250,000 a year. Or maybe you shouldn't be. After all, you're making $250,000 a year.

I'm not real fond of even chasing this, because unlike many "liberals", I know that many things have become more of a meritocracy over time. Consequently, I'd expect the rich to get richer, simply because the economy is growing more efficient at allocating wealth for performance. That said, I also think people in general - especially anyone at the median or above - needs to look at their lifestyle and ask why Americans stopped saving money? 7-10% very consistently, until 1992ish, and it has been downhill from there. (And I'm sorry - there's just no way you can blame Clinton for poor savings, when we say the biggest gains in real income in ages; unless the explanation is irrational exuberance over personal finances. Maybe we can ask Tyler Cowen.

Anyhow, how is it so many people think Obama will raise their taxes and McCain won't? It's just backwards. It's marketing. And I'm not fond of marketing. We can debate the merits of policy, and I hold economists like Cowen in great esteem, and it seems like they are rarely in the corner of policy markers like Obama. But let's at least get the policies straight. You have less money under Bush unless you're rich; you saw a tiny tax cut if you were middle class, which was promptly destroyed by his deficit spending putting the value of the dollar through a meat grinder. Because it turns out that oil you thought was so expensive hasn't gone up as much as you thought. It went up, yes, but it's an international commodity, and the dollar has gone down. If your wealth (or paycheck) was in constant ounces of gold, then oil is only up about +100% instead of +400%.

Long post. I hope the next 8 years and more finds us all better off than we are; working hard, and leaving a better world. I'd like to write another post soon about the way energy policy is the pre-eminent issue of our day. Our energy policy is the key issue for us over the next 10 years. It will be the lynchpin for our economy, our foreign policy, and our environment. A good decision on this could lead to a new era of prosperity, or the end of America as we know it and the rise of the Middle East, Russia, and others. (It has already begun, of course; just witness the stuff Dubai is building. With your oil dollars. Patriotism? When I see this, man, I am ready to volunteer to build windmills on the weekend. I am not kidding.)

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What an awesome post. (I didn't recognize your blog title, and I was thinking the whole time, "I really need to thank whoever shared this in Google Reader. Great writing.") I especially liked this: Consequently, I'd expect the rich to get richer, simply because the economy is growing more efficient at allocating wealth for performance.

You should take economics with me.

Thanks. A while ago, I read about the changing makeup of elite schools in American, and how places like Harvard, Stanford, etc, grew more academically elite over time. That is, the average grades/SAT scores/etc of students rose. Meritocracy.

The whole phrase "the rich get richer" is actually a bit of a misnomer. It might be more accurate to say "people who get rich get richer". That is, people entering the ranks of the super rich as first generation millionaires and billionaires are collecting larger sums of money. Because people like Larry and Sergey. 34 years old, and both among the top 10 richest Americans. Would their story have been possible 50 years ago?

I plucked a random billionaire off the Forbes 400.

Son of a barber earned childhood cash selling popcorn in Minnesota. Played hockey for UCLA, started out earning $14 a week working nights at an aircraft factory. Then earned Harvard M.B.A., Loyola law degree. Became a naval officer during World War II; studied for CPA exam in spare time. Founded Ace Beverage 1956 with exclusive rights to distribute Budweiser in parts of Los Angeles. Today distributes beer in L.A., Hawaii (5 islands) and the Caribbean. Added insurance, auto dealerships and real estate. Big supporter of YMCA, Boy Scouts of America. Emphasizes saving: "There are 7 wonders of the world, but the eighth wonder is compounded interest." Turned 90 in September, attributes longevity to 5-mile walks.

Hard to imagine a more quintessential American success story. But technology, communications, and the free flow of capital are "success multipliers". They take what aggressive, smart, hard-working people can do with money, and they multiply it.

This has very little to do with what level of taxation is good social or fiscal policy, of course. But the point is that richer rich is a function of a good environment for huge success, not necessarily a higher level of exploitation.

+1 informative, +1 insightful.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt published on September 4, 2008 12:22 AM.

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