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February 14, 2008

Obama — Ready To Use Your Money To Fight American Global Poverty

by Brad Warbiany

Barack Obama has proven to be an interesting character in this race. He’s offered comments, from time to time, that suggest that he’s a much bigger advocate of free-market policies than Hillary Clinton. What he’s hidden, to some extent, that he simply views the free market as a more effective way to get tax revenues for government largesse:

U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) today hailed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s passage of the Global Poverty Act (S.2433), which requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive policy to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015 through aid, trade, debt relief, and coordination with the international community, businesses and NGOs. This legislation was introduced in December. Smith and Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) sponsored the House version of the bill (H.R. 1302), which passed the House last September.

“With billions of people living on just dollars a day around the world, global poverty remains one of the greatest challenges and tragedies the international community faces,” said Senator Obama. “It must be a priority of American foreign policy to commit to eliminating extreme poverty and ensuring every child has food, shelter, and clean drinking water. As we strive to rebuild America’s standing in the world, this important bill will demonstrate our promise and commitment to those in the developing world. Our commitment to the global economy must extend beyond trade agreements that are more about increasing corporate profits than about helping workers and small farmers everywhere. I commend Chairman Biden and Ranking Member Lugar for supporting this bill and moving it forward quickly.”

The Global Poverty Act:
* Declares it official U.S. policy to promote the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme global poverty in half by 2015.
* Requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to carry out that policy.
* Includes guidelines for what the strategy should include – from aid, trade, and debt relief, to working with the international community, businesses and NGOs, to ensuring environmental sustainability.
* Requires that the President’s strategy include specific and measurable goals, efforts to be undertaken, benchmarks, and timetables.
* Requires the President to report back to Congress on progress made in the implementation of the global poverty strategy.

I personally believe that Obama is less dangerous than Hillary, and thus I hope he receives the Democratic nomination. But when some people suggest that a libertarian can support Obama, it is important to recognize exactly what Barack Obama is. Hillary Clinton believes that we should replace the free market with government control, used for “the common good”. Barack Obama, on the other hand, believes that we should try to use government policies to help business succeed, and then reap large amounts of taxes from those businesses to use for “the common good”. Hillary Clinton’s policies will result in many very bad things, while Obama’s will simply result in European-style low economic growth and (in the long term) a much slower increase in standard of living than a true free-market approach.

Obama does not believe your money belongs to you. He believes that you “owe” the world for what you’ve earned. And he’s more than willing to take from you in order to give to people in other countries, through aid, trade, and debt relief. What he doesn’t state, however, is that we need to be focusing on the fact that many of the people in extreme poverty are not there because the West isn’t generous enough, they’re there because their own rulers crush the incentives for them to improve their own situation. And while I doubt he’s put two and two together, I hardly think that we should believe a politician who is anti-outsourcing is really committed to improving the lives of people in the third-world. If he really wanted to help these people, he would suggest that more American businesses look to invest in production facilities in those places, where people living on less than $1 a day could be earning much more.

Neither Obama, Hillary, McCain, nor Huckabee are fit to be President of these United States. Obama appears to be the greatest “clean slate”, upon which voters of all stripes can ascribe their own beliefs. This, in many ways, causes libertarians to believe that he at least is willing to entertain non-government options to solve problems. Instead, I believe that Obama is more of a rational statist than a reflexive statist. I think Obama wants to find ways to use government smartly to solve problems. But let’s face it: his goal is for the government to solve your problems. That goal is fundamentally opposed to libertarianism, and we all need to realize that.

Hat Tip: Quincy

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  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    Here, Here. This support amid “Left-Libertarians” for Obama needs to be tempered with some common sense concerning that he is a statist. It’s a shame Obama seems stuck in that tyrannical good intentions box.

    I’m saddened that yet again it’s come down to the lesser of two, three, or four evils.

  • http://domestic-vocation.blogspot.com Christine the Soccer Mom

    Wouldn’t one of the best ways to help combat poverty in other countries be to offer them good-paying jobs? (Aside from the obvious “get rid of greedy tyrants” part.)

    And doesn’t Obama decry that jobs are being “sent overseas?”

    How can business help unless they can hire some of the poor people from overseas?

    You’re right, though. Obama (and Clinton and McCain, etc.) thinks it’s the government’s money, not ours. I’m guessing that no matter who wins in November, we’re winding up with a big tax increase, even if it’s merely the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

  • http://publiusendures.blogspot.com Mark

    While there are more than a few legitimate concerns about Obama on economic issues, this particular piece of legislation shouldn’t be one of them – if you read the actual text of the statute, it doesn’t do anything radical. The only thing it actually mandates is that the Secretary of State make several progress reports on the effectiveness of various programs already in existence, as well as trade policies. The bill is just an accountability measure, which I would think libertarians would generally support.

    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s110-2433

    To be sure, it does make poverty reduction in Africa explicit government policy, but it doesn’t require any new spending or programs, and poverty reduction in Africa is already pretty clearly government policy anyways. All it really does is state that poverty reduction ought to be a goal of foreign aid to, and trade policy with, Africa. If we’re going to have foreign aid to Africa no matter what, you could do worse than setting an actual goal of poverty reduction for that aid. Otherwise you’re just propping up dictators.

    In terms of foreign aid, all it says is that currently-existing foreign aid programs should continue, but it does not require any specific funding levels for those programs, just that the President continue US “participation” in those programs. It also contains a provision for debt relief “where appropriate,” but that doesn’t bother me at all – that debt is a sunk cost for us at this point anyways.

    More importantly, though, it places a particular emphasis on something that I would think libertarians would support: freer trade with Africa via tariff reduction programs.

    It also includes this statement, which ought to be encouraging in terms of Obama’s overall view of economic freedom:
    “Economic growth and poverty reduction are more successful in countries that invest in the people, rule justly, and promote economic freedom.”

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