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.
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.
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.
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.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?
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.
4. Forthrightness & Consistency
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.
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.
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.