30 October 2008

My Case against Obama

I haven't been blogging lately, but it seems like every day I seem something that I'd like to blog about. This post is a very long one, and I will also publish it at In Rare Form. I hope you find it helpful:

1. The Courts
In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, law professor Steven Calabresi looks at how Obama's legal philosophy would impact the Federal Court system. What kind of judges would he choose? A speech to Planned Parenthood provides the answer:
"[W]e need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges."
Under Obama, if empathy becomes a key component in selecting judges, rather than an understanding of the law and a consistent legal philosophy, it is reason for concern. As Calabresi writes, the courts are not right-wing at this time, despite liberal rhetoric to the contrary. The ineffectiveness of the Bush administration and Republican congressional faction at confirming judicial nominees over the past 8 years makes the existing balance precarious.

2. Taxes
   Several good people I'm acquainted with have correctly pointed out that both McCain and Obama support progressive tax systems. I'm not a fan, but in the absence of a viable alternative I'll take the lesser of two evils.
   I think Obama's plan is more progressive (liberal for redistributionist) than is good for the country. We already put the highest burden of any developed nation IN THE WORLD on our high income earners. Obama's plan will make that worse.
Mr. Obama would roll back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for taxpayers in the top two brackets, raising the top two marginal rates of income tax to 36% and 39.6% from 33% and 35%. The 33% rate begins to hit this year at incomes of $164,550 for an individual and $200,300 for joint filers. Mr. Obama claims no "working families" earning less than $250,000 would pay more in taxes, but that's because he defines income more broadly than the taxable income line on the IRS form. If you're an individual with taxable income of $164,550, you will pay more taxes.
No me gusta. Here's more:
Mr. Obama's most dramatic departure from current tax policy is his promise to lift the cap on income on which the Social Security payroll tax is applied. Currently, the employer and employee each pay 6.2% up to $102,000, a level that is raised for inflation each year. The Obama campaign says he'd raise the payroll tax rate on incomes above $250,000 by as much as two to four percentage points -- though it's unclear if that higher rate would apply to the employee, the employer, or both.
In any case, lifting the cap would change the nature of Social Security from an insurance program -- which pays out based on how much you paid in -- into a wealth-transfer program that is far more progressive.
Taken together, these add up to about a 10-percentage-point hike in marginal tax rates for those making more than $250,000 a year, including millions of small businesses that pay taxes at individual rates. The "marginal" rate refers to the rate paid on the next dollar of income, and it has an especially strong influence on decisions to work and invest.
   His plan also is likely unsustainable, as has been addressed by numerous sources, including the Associated Press. To accomplish what he wants to do he will either have to scale back his plan or increase taxes. 
3. Trade
As I have mentioned on this blog several times (at least 6: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), Democrats have blocked several free trade agreements, with the Colombian agreement receiving particular attention. As this WSJ piece explains, Obama and McCain differ greatly on trade:
Mr. Obama opposes the Colombia and South Korea agreements, for the same reasons cited by other Congressional Democrats. In the last presidential debate, Mr. Obama pointed to violence in Colombia against labor unions. The politically independent Colombian attorney general says violence against union members has come down sharply under President Alvaro Uribe, but Mr. Obama says that's insufficient.
He also opposes the South Korea pact, which would remove auto tariffs in both directions and end South Korea's use of nontariff barriers to protect its domestic markets. Mr. Obama says the U.S. buys "hundreds of thousands of cars" from South Korea and "we can get only 4,000-5,000 into South Korea." The Democrat wants assurances that the imbalance in auto sales will end. The Obama campaign declined to tell us whether he supports the Panama FTA or trade negotiating authority.
I don't think he understands the "free" part of free trade. That means goods move freely, based on demand. If we make a car they like, they will buy. Is he suggesting a quota of some sort? That would defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?
   Our partners in other countries will have also noticed Obama's more protectionist bent, as illustrated by this writing from the Times of India. Obama would like to accede to bad trade legislation, which will likely come from a Democrat-controlled Congress riding the anti-trade sentiment boosting many democratic candidates.
   Related to trade is the Union issue, and Obama's support for removing secret-ballot requirements to Union organizing is highly objectionable to me, as well as some other initiatives that limits individual freedom in favor of organized labor.

4. Forthrightness & Consistency
   On Ayers, Wright, and others Obama has been at times cagey, defensive and indirect. I'm not comfortable with his unwillingness to more clearly address these relationships. It just makes me uncomfortable.

5. Change?
   Obama is not the transformational politician that he has been portrayed as. Pledging to run a different kind of campaign, one of his first acts as the parties official nominee was to break his promise to accept public financing. CNN's Campbell Brown opines:
Without question, Obama has set the bar at new height with a truly staggering sum of cash. And that is why as we approach this November, it is worth reminding ourselves what Barack Obama said last November.
One year ago, he made a promise. He pledged to accept public financing and to work with the Republican nominee to ensure that they both operated within those limits.
Then it became clear to Sen. Obama and his campaign that he was going to be able to raise on his own far more cash than he would get with public financing. So Obama went back on his word.
Mark Steyn looks at the Obama money phenomenon and has this to say.
This is an amazing race. The incumbent president has approval ratings somewhere between Robert Mugabe and the ebola virus. The economy is supposedly on the brink of global Armageddon. McCain has only $80 million to spend, while Obama's burning through $600 mil as fast as he can, and he doesn't really need to spend a dime given the wall-to-wall media adoration... And yet an old cranky broke loser is within two or three points of the King of the World. Strange.
Strange? Perhaps the most significant fact ignored in the face of an Obama win may be the impressive number of Americans that don't vote for him.
   There is also the illusion of Obama's positive campaign. Most people get the warm fuzzies from positive ads. Nonetheless, most political advisors would say that you get more mileage from negative ads. Given the money discrepancy, the McCain campaign has been unable to spend as much on ads, period, much less on positive ones like the one run by Obama last night.

6. Intangibles
 This is a fantastic article from today's Wall Street Journal by Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and an adjunct research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. It is worthy of your time, and I don't think excerpting really does it justice, but here's a little:
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late Democratic senator from New York, once set the difference between American capitalism and the older European version by observing that America was the party of liberty, whereas Europe was the party of equality. Just in the nick of time for the Obama candidacy, the American faith in liberty began to crack. The preachers of America's decline in the global pecking order had added to the panic. Our best days were behind us, the declinists prophesied. The sun was setting on our imperium, and rising in other lands.
A younger man, "cool" and collected, carrying within his own biography the strands of the world beyond America's shores, was put forth as a herald of the change upon us. The crowd would risk the experiment. There was grudge and a desire for retribution in the crowd to begin with. Akin to the passions that have shaped and driven highly polarized societies, this election has at its core a desire to settle the unfinished account of the presidential election eight years ago. George W. Bush's presidency remained, for his countless critics and detractors, a tale of usurpation. He had gotten what was not his due; more galling still, he had been bold and unabashed, and taken his time at the helm as an opportunity to assert an ambitious doctrine of American power abroad. He had waged a war of choice in Iraq.
It's strong writing, and I think it captures the Obamenon quite well.
   On a sillier note, you can watch Obama's theme song here.

This what has moved me this election.

18 October 2008

Awesome Video Saturday LXII

This may be a little disturbing to some, but seeing as my sister and sister-in-law will both be having babies within the next 2 months, I thought it appropriate.


14 October 2008

Perspective on the Hegemon

Today's column by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal provides perspective on the financial crisis' impact on American dominance:

Constantinople fell to the Ottomans after two centuries of retreat and decline. It took two world wars, a global depression and the onset of the Cold War to lay the British Empire low.
So it's a safe bet that the era of American dominance will not be brought to a close by credit default swaps, mark-to-market accounting or (even) Barney Frank.
Not that there's a shortage of invitations to believe otherwise. Almost in unison, Germany's finance minister, Russia's prime minister and Iran's president predict the end of U.S. "hegemony," financial and/or otherwise. The New York Times weighs in with meditations on "A Power That May Not Stay So Super." Der Spiegel gives us "The End of Hubris." Guardian columnist John Gray sees "A Shattering Moment in America's Fall From Power."
Much of this is said, or written, with ill-disguised glee. But when the tide laps at Gulliver's waistline, it usually means the Lilliputians are already 10 feet under. Before yesterday's surge, the Dow had dropped 25% in three months. But that only means it had outperformed nearly every single major foreign stock exchange, including Germany's XETRADAX (down 28%) China's Shanghai exchange (down 30%), Japan's NIKK225 (down 37%), Brazil's BOVESPA (down 41%) and Russia RTSI (down 61%). These contrasts are a useful demonstration that America's financial woes are nobody else's gain.
I am an unabashed believer in American exceptionalism. Americans take for granted the robustness of our political and economic system. Read more to see why we need not give up our place on top.

Why Krugman Matters

I am always happy when I find out that my assessment of a person has missed something positive about them. For years I've thought Paul Krugman was a tremendous windbag. Mostly he is, but I had ignored whatever he had done before becoming one of the most irritating voices on the New York Times editorial pages.

He just won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on trade. Read this article to understand the positive impact he's had on economic thought.

He's still annoying, but for this free-market guy I'm happy to see that his role has not been altogether negative (at least prior to the early '90's).

11 October 2008

Awesome Video Saturday LXI

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

01 October 2008

Do-Nothing Dems

The Do-Nothing Democrats continue an impressive streak by failing to act on a bilateral trade agreement with Colombia:

That's right. Colombia will still be able to export its goods here without tariffs through 2009, but American exporters will continue to face high barriers in Colombia that the free-trade deal would reduce. So the same "fair trade" crowd that bemoans the U.S. trade deficit wants to have only one-way free trade with Latin America -- free for them to sell to us, but not for us to sell to them. Has anyone told the UAW about all those Caterpillar machinery exports to Colombia that Democrats are blocking?
Colombia is also the only one of the Andean nations that really deserves these trade preferences. The Bush Administration is proposing to remove Bolivia from the list because it isn't cooperating on coca eradication. Ecuador is still on the list, though it is abusing property rights and is attempting a dubious legal raid on Chevron. Peru already has a trade deal with the U.S.
Colombia is our best ally in the region, as well as a democracy with a market economy in a region threatened by Venezuela strongman Hugo Chavez and his ideology. Colombia doesn't need preferential, one-way trade that treats that country like a mere low-wage exporter; it needs a permanent two-way trade agreement that will help transform its economy and let it join the ranks of the world's tiger economies. But that makes too much sense for Mrs. Pelosi's House.

It is shameful that this issue continues to confront us.

SPOTD #143

Most of the links here are old. Been far too long, but I've been superocupado. Just getting back on track. As always, the blog is more current.

Today's phrase:
I'm in Arizona, hence the phrase.

Hace calor en Arizona, aún en octubre.

Phonetic with emphasis on bold syllable:
Ah-say cah-lore enn Ah-ree-zone-ah, ah-oon enn oak-too-bray,

It's hot in Arizona, even in October.

The Mother of all Hot Dogs
It is something to behold. I would make sure you have life insurance coverage first.

Hell on Earth?
It's in California. WAIT. Don't get mad Cali friends. Read the story for more.

Usable JetPack
It's too bad my birthday has passed, because I could really use one of these.
This is one fantastic automobile.

I was at Wal-Mart a while ago and saw that Hasbro has re-released many of the GI Joe action figures that I grew up with. It was a serious nostalgia shot. That was my favorite show as a kid. It took some resistance to keep from picking something up.

Link of the Day

Scary appliances and home goods galore.