Monthly Archives: August 2008

Is Palin a reformer and fiscal conservative?

One thing I am hearing right now is that Sarah Palin is a fiscal conservative. The Club for Growth released a statement on a potential Palin VP candidacy that praises her stance on earmarks and support for opening ANWR.

Fighting earmarks and opening ANWR are important, but they are only half the battle.

When the Alaska Creamery Board decided to close the state-owned Matanuska Maid Dairy, she objected. She couldn’t fire Creamery Board members, so she fired members of the Alaska Agriculture Board who in turn replaced Creamery Board members. The Matanuska Maid Dairy remained open, jacked up milk prices and eventually closed anyway after substantial losses. Only then did Palin believe that it should be sold to a private company. Unfortunately, the state received no bids for the diary and taxpayers were stuck with a loss.

John McCain has been critical of Barack Obama’s plan for a windfall profits tax on oil companies, correctly citing that it would hurt potential oil exploration in the United States and increase dependence on foreign oil. Criticism should be point toward Sarah Palin as well.

Palin signed a windfall profits tax into law last year that has taken $10 billion from oil companies. Part of the plan, as conservative blog Hot Air noted earlier this month, is very similar to a plan pushed by Barack Obama:

Palin’s plan looks similar in concept to Barack Obama’s plan. The state gave Alaskans $1200 checks from oil revenues as a one-time bonus to pay for increased fuel prices, a move Palin pushed. That echoes the Obama plan to send one-time rebates to taxpayers, funded by similar levies on oil companies.

However, the results in Alaska should warn the rest of the country about pursuing this policy. Already oil companies have stopped drilling on state lands, thanks to the tax burden Alaska imposes. It should be cheaper to drill and extract from these areas, but the oil companies have decided to focus their investment instead on the Gulf, where the costs and risks would normally be higher. In Alaska, the government takes 75% of the price on a barrel of oil at current prices, which gives them no incentive to work there.

Then there is ethics. She has made a name for herself as a reformer. Palin demanded answers from and openly criticized Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens when he was indicted. She was right to do so. As far as I’m concerned, Stevens is a crook for more things that what he was indicted for. It turns out that she may have ethics issues of her own.

Walt Monegan, former Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner, claims that he was pressured by Palin and individuals close to her pressured him to fire State Trooper Mike Wooten, who happens to be Palin’s former brother-in-law. Monegan was eventually fired by Palin:

Monegan said phone calls and questions from the Palin administration and the governor’s husband, Todd Palin, about trooper Mike Wooten started shortly after Monegan was hired and continued up to one or two months ago.

The governor herself also had a brief conversation with him about Wooten in February, Monegan said.

The new assertions from Monegan, who has been mostly silent on his abrupt firing July 11, conflict with what the Republican governor said earlier in the week. She said she never put pressure on the commissioner to fire her sister’s ex-husband and no one from her office had complained about Wooten. She has also said replacing Monegan with Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp had nothing to do with Wooten. She has offered little explanation for the dismissal.
Monegan said he still isn’t sure why he was fired but thought that Wooten could be part of it. “I don’t know that it’s all of it. … I worked at the pleasure of the governor,” he said.

I’m sure more will come out about Palin in the coming months. I don’t know why conservatives are jumping up and down about Palin. She doesn’t seem all that great. She may support transparent government, but that does not make someone a fiscal conservative.

Note: Jason Pye is on the staff of Libertarian Presidential nominee Bob Barr.

Bob Barr: The Lone Candidate in the Lone Star State

As with most third party campaigns, the Barr/Root campaign has had an uphill battle to make the ballot in certain states. In Texas, however, Bob Barr is the only presidential candidate on the ballot. The McCain and Obama campaigns have failed to meet the August 26th deadline to file the necessary paperwork and are not even listed as possible write-in candidates.

Bob Barr’s campaign manager, Russ Verney, doesn’t for a second believe that Texas will uphold its law to keep McCain and Obama off the ballot:

“We know all about deadlines,” says Verney. “We are up against them constantly in our fight to get on the ballot across the nation. When we miss deadlines, we get no second chances. This is a great example of how unreasonable deadlines chill democracy.”

“Republicans and Democrats make certain that third party candidates are held to ballot access laws, no matter how absurd or unreasonable,” says Verney. “Therefore, Republicans and Democrats should be held to the same standards.”

In another press release, Verney elaborated more on this Texas two-step around the state law:

“According to Texas Election Code § 192.031 , a political party is allowed to have their candidates on the ballot if “the names of the party’s nominees for president and vice-president” are submitted before “5 p.m. of the 70th day before” the presidential election.

Given that neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party nominated a candidate before Aug. 26, it would be impossible for either party to file under Texas law.

A spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s Office claims that both parties “filed something” on time, despite the fact that neither party had nominated a candidate by the deadline as required by Texas law.

“We agree that unreasonably early deadlines are absurd,” says Verney. “We’ve run into them in states like Oklahoma, West Virginia and Maine during our fight for ballot access across the nation. But if third parties are required to adhere to the law, then we expect the same for the candidates of any other party. Maybe this will show Republicans and Democrats what it is like to be on the wrong side of ballot access laws.”

It doesn’t take a Harvard law degree to know that the Barr/Root campaign has a legitimate case here. If we were truly governed by the rule of law as opposed to the rule of men then there is no question that Bob Barr should be the only choice on the Texas ballot (I sincerely hope that the Barr/Root campaign challenges the Texas Secretary of State Office and/or the McCain and Obama campaigns in court if only to make a point and perhaps grab some headlines).

Upon reading this, it occurred to me that perhaps a good solution to improve informed voting would be to require all candidates for all offices to be write-in candidates. This would mean that in order to vote, the voter would at least have to know the name of his/her preferred candidate. If the candidates have campaigned effectively, then their supporters should have no problem writing their names next to the office.* This would at least disenfranchise the most illiterate and most ignorant individuals from inflicting their illiteracy and ignorance on the rest of us.

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Obama And The Libertarians

Reason’s Steve Chapman lists some reasons why libertarians should not panic if Barack Obama becomes President:

He’s liberal, but not that liberal. Contrary to the famous National Journal ranking that put him most leftward in the entire Senate, another study found he is really the 11th-most liberal. In the primaries, when Democratic candidates are under the most pressure to veer left, he insisted on hewing closer to the economic center than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards—even when it exposed him to charges that he didn’t support the holy grail of universal health care.

Obama did pander to the left’s phobia about globalization by villainizing the North American Free Trade Agreement. But as soon as he had the nomination locked up, he confessed to Fortune magazine that his NAFTA rhetoric had been “overheated and amplified.”

Organized labor howled about “corporate influence” when Obama hired Jason Furman as his chief economic adviser. Among Furman’s sins is his longtime association with Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who pushed President Clinton to emphasize deficit reduction rather than big new spending programs.

He’s open to evidence. The New York Times recently reported that Obama “likes experts, and his choice of advisers stems in part from his interest in empirical research.” Nobel laureate economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago, who was asked for input on education policy by Obama’s advisers, told the Times, “I’ve never worked with a campaign that was more interested in what the research shows.”

That would be a change not only from more doctrinaire liberals but also from the Bush administration, which has never been exactly obsessed with real-world data. If Obama were a true believer, he wouldn’t care so much about evidence.

Boston College political scientist Alan Wolfe says, “Ideologues don’t need that information, or want it, because they know what they want to do.” Ask yourself: Is there any conceivable evidence that would cause George W. Bush to question the wisdom of tax cuts?

He’s not enchanted with the big-government model. On health care, Obama opposed Clinton’s proposal to require every American to buy health insurance, preferring to offer subsidies and then let individuals decide. He balked when she said all adjustable mortgage rates should be frozen for five years—with Obama’s campaign quoting an expert who said, accurately, that it would be “disastrous.”

He’s far less suspicious of the operations of markets than most people in his party. And when was the last time a Democratic nominee openly worried about corporate tax burdens? Furman has said that if some loopholes can be closed, Obama “would like to cut the corporate tax rate.”

Chapman does raise some good points, and some of the dire predictions coming from Republicans these days about Obama remind me of the things that were said about Bill Clinton when he was running for President in 1992. Yes, things looked bad at the beginning when he tried to ram Hillary-care down our throats, but once that failed he moderated significantly and actually became the Democratic Leadership Council-type President that some thought he would be. For the most part, the Clinton years weren’t any worse than the last eight years of George W. Bush, and there’s some reason to argue that, for liberty, the Bush years have actually been worse.

Will the same thing happen with Obama ?

My Thoughts On The Convention

On a Purdue football message board, one of the off-topic threads asked what we thought of the Democratic National Convention. My reply:

I hear Obama himself is speaking on Thursday, right?

I think NC State @ South Carolina will be far more compelling viewing…

As with most things when it comes to politics, the convention will be about as authentic to what will actually be done in Washington as the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics is to the life of an average peasant in a Shanghai slum.

As I’ve said before, I absolutely hate politics and want nothing whatsoever to do with it. The only reason I blog about politics is that– despite my wishes to be left alone– politicians seem to believe they have the right to tell me what to do and how to live.

They may have the power to do so, but the last thing I want to do is actually take part in it. So I’ll be tuned into ESPN on Thursday, rather than watching with glowing adoration as St. Obama tells us how he will solve all our problems.

Biden And Pay For Play

First, a disclaimer. I’m not singling out Joe Biden for the below piece for any reason other than that he’s now become a vice-presidential candidate. I firmly believe that situations like the below are quite common in our government, at all levels. That being said, this one is particularly conspicuous.

Joe Biden, breaking ranks with many Democratic senators (and his running mate, Obama) at the time, voted in favor of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, widely favored by the banks and credit-card companies.

A principled move by a maverick willing to buck the party line? Perhaps, but as we follow Occam’s razor, petty corruption seems more likely:

A son of presumed Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden was paid an undisclosed amount of money as a consultant by MBNA, the largest employer in Delaware, during the years the senator supported bankruptcy legislation promoted by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign said Biden helped forge a bipartisan compromise on the law, which makes it harder for consumers to obtain bankruptcy protection in the courts.

MBNA’s consulting payments to Hunter Biden, first reported by the New York Times, followed his departure in 2001 from the company, where he had been an executive.

MBNA employees have given more than $200,000 to Biden’s Senate campaigns over the last two decades, making donors working for the credit card company the senator’s largest source of campaign money.

Sounds like something I’d expect from the Chicago/Daley political machine. Perhaps that’s why Obama chose Biden? Nah, it’s just a matter of how the system works– i.e. the system’s goal is to perpetuate itself, not to enact the best policies for us.

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