Monthly Archives: November 2008

Credit Crisis News — Pay Attention This Weekend

Over the last few months, I’ve been trying to devote time to the credit crisis and bailout. Unfortunately, the news cycle is often so short that it’s difficult to keep up. Today I was lucky to be able to catch the bailout modification. With the busy times ahead, though, there’s something that needs to be monitored very, very closely:

The Group of 20 nations is prepared to act “urgently” to bolster growth and called on governments to cut interest rates and raise spending as the world’s leading industrialized economies battle the threat of a recession.

“We stand ready to urgently take forward work and actions agreed by our leaders to restore and maintain financial stability and support global growth,” the group said in a statement released yesterday following a meeting in Sao Paulo. “Countries must use all their policy flexibility, consistent with their circumstances, to support sustainable growth.”

Those measures include “monetary and fiscal policy,” it said.

The G20 nations will be at a summit in Washington beginning this Saturday.

Something tells me that nothing good for us “plebes” will come of this. We’ll end up paying dearly for this.

Barack Obama’s Really Bad Plans For The Auto Industry

President-Elect Obama has already signaled his support for a Federal bailout for the automobile industry, but that only seems to be the beginning of what seems to be a plan to involve the Federal Government in the automobile industry to an unprecedented extent.

For example, he seems to like the idea of appointing a single individual with the authority to remake an entire industry:

The troubles of the ailing auto industry are quickly becoming a major focus for President-Elect Barack Obama’s young administration. As Congress and President Bush debate an industry bailout, sources indicate that Obama may favor creating a White House office, headed by an “auto industry czar,” to oversee reforming the troubled American auto industry.

The Detroit News reports that both “Bush and Obama are signaling they may favor appointment of an auto czar to oversee the government’s efforts to funnel emergency assistance to automakers.” Congressional leaders and members of both the outgoing and incoming administrations have all said that automakers might receive federal aid only on certain dictions, including efforts “to further improve fuel efficiency and show that they have a plan to return to profitability. Automakers could also be required to give the government preferred stock in the companies and accept government representatives as board members. As in the 1979-80 Chrysler bailout, workers may have to make wage concessions.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Obama’s transition team is apparently talking about implementing congestion charges on American highways:

The Manchester Evening News reports that President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team has contacted Jack Opiola, a transportation principal for the firm Booz, Allen and Hamilton. Opiola the brains behind a program to tax drivers £5 (US $8) when entering the city of Manchester during peak hours. “I was ‘noticed’ by key people in the Obama campaign and I have been providing input to his strategy team in Chicago, including information about Greater Manchester’s bid,” Opiola said. Previously, Senator Obama’s most specific transportation proposal was a proposal to create a $60b toll road bank. In March, Obama endorsed New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s scheme to charge a $9 toll on cars and a $22 toll for trucks that enter downtown Manhattan during working hours. Hoping to fill the gap with specifics, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) last month submitted a detailed $544 billion transportation re-authorization proposal designed to encourage the new administration to shore-up the domestic economy with heavy spending on infrastructure projects.

The new programs would be paid for with massive new tax hikes, including a per-mile driving tax that would begin with “proof of concept” trials as early as 2010. The tax would initially be one cent per mile to generate an estimated $32.4b a year. An extra one cent per gallon in the federal gasoline tax would generate another $1.8b, and a national sales tax on cars of one percent would generate $7.6b.

If that happens, then any idea that taxes would go down for most Americans, which Obama promised during the campaign, would be nothing but a lie.

Finally, Andrew Sullivan points to this old article that Obama wrote a few years back:

[W]e should then ensure that, within a decade, every new car sold in America can run on flexible fuel. We can advance this goal by offering manufacturers a $100 tax credit for every flexible-fuel tank they install before the decade is up.

As my friend Tom Daschle details in this report, millions of people driving flexible-fuel vehicles don’t even know it. The auto companies shouldn’t get CAFE credit for making these cars if they don’t let buyers know about them, so the entire auto industry should follow GM’s lead and put a yellow gas cap on all flexible fuel vehicles, and notify consumers in writing as well.

These may be admirable goals, but as Sullivan points out, accomplishing them, or trying to, via government fiat and state ownership of the auto companies isn’t the way to do it.

As Sully goes on to note, this is a test for Obama:

This is a real test for Obama: is he a market-friendly pragmatist or a knee-jerk socialist?

During the campaign and since the election, more than a few people told me that Obama was a indeed a market-friendly pragmatist. How he handles this will go a long way toward determining if they were right or not.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

They Don’t Know What They’re Doing

For anyone who thinks this “bailout” is any more than a haphazard guess about what the market needs to remain mobile, here’s your answer… They’ve changed their minds — again:

An already disheartened Wall Street turned sharply lower Wednesday after Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the government won’t buy banks’ soured mortgage assets after all, disappointing investors who hoped to see the bad debt wiped off companies’ books. The Dow Jones industrials fell more than 270 points, and all the major indexes dropped more than 2 percent as the market retreated for a third straight session.

Paulson said the government’s $700 billion financial rescue package will not purchase troubled assets from banks as originally planned. He said that plan would have taken too much time, and that the Treasury instead will rely on buying stakes in banks and encouraging them to resume more normal lending.

While the market had been pleased by the government’s decision weeks ago to buy banks’ stock, investors still hoped to see the financial industry relieved of the burden of the mortgage assets whose decline in value helped set off the nation’s financial crisis.

Paulson also announced a new goal for the program to support financial markets which supply consumer credit in such areas as credit card debt, auto loans and student loans. He said “with a stronger capital base, our banks will be more confident” to support economic activity.

Now I understand why his initial proposal desired a lack of oversight on his powers… He had no clue what was going on and wanted free reign to change his plans in mid-stream. Now he’s decided to throw money at the credit card and auto loan companies, because he’s worried that lagging consumer spending will be the next domino.

Perhaps to say that he has no clue what’s going on isn’t fair. He probably knows exactly what’s going on — he just can’t tell us, or we’ll realize that the whole system is in danger. As an unnamed banker reportedly said in Aug’07, “the deleveraging will not be denied.” I think our government is scared shitless. Right now Paulson, Bernanke, the ECB, and financial movers the world over are trying to keep a burst bubble inflated, and the only way they know how is to pump air in, because they can’t fix the hole.

Just when will the world realize that the emporer has no clothes?

If The Government Recognizes One Religion, Must It Recognize All Religions ?

An interesting religious liberty case is pending before the Supreme Court that opens an entirely new front in the war over the public display of religious symbols:

PLEASANT GROVE CITY, Utah — Across the street from City Hall here sits a small park with about a dozen donated buildings and objects — a wishing well, a millstone from the city’s first flour mill and an imposing red granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

Thirty miles to the north, in Salt Lake City, adherents of a religion called Summum gather in a wood and metal pyramid hard by Interstate 15 to meditate on their Seven Aphorisms, fortified by an alcoholic sacramental nectar they produce and surrounded by mummified animals.

In 2003, the president of the Summum church wrote to the mayor here with a proposal: the church wanted to erect a monument inscribed with the Seven Aphorisms in the city park, “similar in size and nature” to the one devoted to the Ten Commandments.

The city declined, a lawsuit followed and a federal appeals court ruled that the First Amendment required the city to display the Summum monument. The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear arguments in the case, which could produce the most important free speech decision of the term.

The justices will consider whether a public park open to some donations must accept others as well. In cases involving speeches and leaflets, the courts have generally said that public parks are public forums where the government cannot discriminate among speakers on the basis of what they propose to say. The question of how donated objects should be treated is, however, an open one.

The city has tried to justify the distinction between the two statutes by saying they are meant to represent history, not religion:

Only donations concerning the city’s history are eligible for display in the park as a matter of longstanding policy, he said, and only when donated by groups with a long association with the city. The Fraternal Order of Eagles, a national civic organization, donated the Ten Commandments monument in 1971.

The donations, Mr. Daniels went on, are transformed when the city accepts them. “Monuments on government property become government speech,” he said.

Under the First Amendment, the government can generally say what it likes without giving equal time to opposing views; it has much less latitude to choose among private speakers.

Asked what the government is saying when it displays the Ten Commandments, Mr. Daniels talked about law and history. He did not mention religion.

Pressed a little, he retreated.

“The fact that we own the monument doesn’t mean that what is on the monument is something we are espousing, promoting, establishing, embracing,” Mr. Daniels said. “We’re looking at, Does it fit with the heritage of the people of this area?”

Lawyers for the Summum’s, however, say that it is a clear example of government preferring one form of religious expression over another:

Brian M. Barnard, a lawyer for the Summum church, said the city’s distinctions were cooked up after the fact as a way to reject his client’s monument. The local chapter of the Eagles, Mr. Barnard added, had only been in town two years when it donated the Ten Commandments monument.

“We have a city that will allow one organization to put up its religious ideals and principles,” Mr. Barnard said. “When the next group comes along, they won’t allow it to put up its religious ideals and principles.”

And those differing views have continued before the Supreme Court:

The city, supported by more than 20 cities and states, along with the federal government, has told the Supreme Court that the upshot of affirming the appeals court decision would be to clutter public parks across the nation with offensive nonsense.

A town accepting a Sept. 11 memorial would also have to display a donated tribute to Al Qaeda, the briefs said. “Accepting a Statue of Liberty,” the city’s brief said, should not “compel a government to accept a Statue of Tyranny.”

The brief for the Summum church said the relevant dispute was much narrower. “The government,” it said, “may not take sides in a theological debate.”

That, it seems, is exactly what the city is going in this case and it seems to be exactly what the First Amendment prohibits.

Justice Department: Indicting Spitzer is Not in the “Public Interest”

Last March New York governor Eliot Spitzer resigned because of his involvement in a prostitution scandal. This is all well and good; I was among many others who called for Spitzer to resign. But should his resignation from office be enough? I think not.

Apparently federal prosecutors disagree.

Washington Post, November 7, 2008

Former New York governor Eliot L. Spitzer will not face criminal charges for his role in a prostitution scandal that drove him from office this year, prosecutors announced yesterday.

Investigators for the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service uncovered no evidence that Spitzer had misused public or campaign money to pay women employed by the Emperors Club VIP, a high-priced New York prostitution ring.

Justice Department guidelines disfavor indictments against clients of prostitution rings, even those who transport women across state lines to have sex in violation of the Mann Act. Spitzer acknowledged making payments to the service, which amounted to “acceptance of responsibility for his conduct,” said Michael J. Garcia, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

“We have concluded that the public interest would not be further advanced by filing criminal charges in this matter,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.

What “public interest” is ever served by prosecuting an individual who makes a peaceful business transaction with another consenting adult? But as long as there are vice squads throughout the country investigating and arresting individuals who happen not to be in positions of power who participate in activities such as prostitution, it seems to me that our public servants should be held to at least the same standard if not a higher standard.

And if the Justice Department “disfavors” indicting Johns who violate the Mann Act, this suggests to me that government officials can pick and choose the laws they wish to enforce and against whom they will enforce them (which does not surprise me).

So much for the rule of law!

I disagree with the Justice Department; there most certainly is a public interest being served when hypocrites in positions of power like Eliot Spitzer are treated like any other citizen of this country.

Obama’s Next Trick — Pulling Rabbit From Hat!

In a truly laughable article, Arjun Appadurai gives us an explanation for Obama’s election — magic!

So the election of Barack is a magical thing in two distinct ways. It is awesome, historical, redemptive, and yes, transcendent too. But it is also magical in a much more serious way. It has been performed and produced by voting citizens at a moment when America and the world face risks of an enormous order. We have named these risks frequently in the media and the public sphere in the last few weeks: risks of total financial meltdown, of global warm-up, of war without end and terror without faces and sources. And our existing tools for risk management have failed miserably. Should we be surprised that the American electorate has rediscovered magic without knowing it? And that we have elected someone special to help us manage these risks and reduce our uncertainties? Religion may well have divided this electorate in familiar demographic ways (fundamentalists versus liberals, Catholic and Jews, versus Protestants and Hindus, preachers versus laymen), but magic has united it.

Coming next, Obama will magically make money disappear from your wallet!

The whole article reads like a professorial tome, as one might expect from a professor of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU. It’s filled with references to notable philosophers and authors (read: I’m smarter than you, look at how many people I can name!), and discussions of the battle between the Judeo-Christian tradition and the more mystical “magical” world. He even throws out references to the $700B bailout as a “magical” event — a thought I can partially agree with considering that it was performed by shamans in Washington who neither understand the causes and effects of their actions, but believe if they throw money at a problem, it will solve itself.

The professorial tone of the article attempts to lend an air of weight and consequence, of research and history, to what is nothing more than a love-in over Obama. It’s an attempt to glorify Obama by someone who has not quite learned that messiah-worship and government are a bad combination. The allusions to Dostoevsky and Max Weber are meant to obfuscate the author’s goal, which is a self-congratulatory pat on the back for an America who has engaged in a “transcendent” election — one he calls “magical.”

But it doesn’t change the facts. At best, Obama is going to be a fully human but very skilled technocrat, who will at least calmly and effectively manage the federal government. At worst, he’s going to be another Washington shaman, throwing money at problems he doesn’t understand. He’ll congratulate himself as a wise leader when a money-drop works, and likely blame greedy robber-baron capitalists when one doesn’t. There’s nothing magical about it.

The Next Washington Bailout…

…Is going to Republicans in Washington:

Congressional Democrats announced today that they had agreed to a bailout plan for Republicans after last week’s devastating election results. While exact details are unavailable, sources tell us that the Republicans will be given 4 seats in the Senate and 15 in the House. Nancy Pelosi said in a statement today: “We’ve established pretty clearly over the last several months that failed strategies and management should not necessarily have to result in losses in market share, particularly for well-connected Washington insiders.”

Go click over for the rest of it… It only gets more funny.

A Conversation

LSE (larval stage engineer): Exactly what kind of job can you get with a degree in feminism?

Chris: Socialist Indoctrinator

LSE: You’d think the market demand for socialist indoctrinator would be rather small…

Chris: Sadly, no.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

California Voters Respond To Deficit

California’s in a major crunch right now, as property taxes — a windfall the last several years — have turned into a drought:

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said his state’s finances have deteriorated so rapidly that a budget he signed just six weeks ago has already fallen into a $11.2 billion deficit and taxes must be raised.

Schwarzenegger ordered lawmakers into a special session to consider ways to close the gap. He proposed increasing the sales tax by 1.5 percentage points for three years as well as raising oil severance and alcoholic beverage taxes and motor vehicle fees. In all, taxes and fees would increase $4.7 billion while spending is cut $4.5 billion.

“We have a dramatic situation here and it will take dramatic solutions to solve it,” Schwarzenegger, a 61-year-old Republican, told reporters in Sacramento. “We must stop the bleeding.”

California has been hard hit by the housing-market rout and the worst financial crisis on Wall Street since the Great Depression. The state leads the nation in foreclosures and its unemployment rate reached 7.7 percent last month, the fourth highest in the country. Double-digit declines in stock markets have sapped tax revenue from income and capital gains.

So how have the voters responded? By taxing and spending and borrowing and spending.

First, taxing and spending:

Measure R, the half-cent sales tax for transportation projects, was still being narrowly approved after counting and adding 159,849 ballots Friday to the results of Tuesday’s election.

Initial results of Tuesday’s election showed Measure R — which requires a two-thirds majority vote for approval — narrowly passing with 67.41 percent of the vote. The updated tally released Friday shows the measure passing with 67.22 percent of the vote.

Measure R would generate an estimated $40 billion over the next 30 years to fund transportation and transit projects across the county.

Always fun to see people vote 30 years of additional taxation on themselves. But at least by voting to tax themselves, they’re being honest about it…

…Not like statewide voters, who have decided instead to tax their children and grandkids:

Before the final ballots had even been tallied, high-speed rail advocates in California were getting down to work, laying the foundation for a bullet train that will link San Francisco and Los Angeles as early as 2020.

Voters on Tuesday approved the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act, more commonly known as Proposition 1A, by a margin of 52 percent to 47 percent. The law authorizes the Legislature to issue almost $10 billion in bonds to fund the first phase of an 800-mile high speed rail link between Northern and Southern California. Advocates of high-speed rail hailed the victory as a watershed for high-speed rail in America.

Ah yes, bonds… The financial instrument that allowed supporters of the high-speed rail project to boast that this $9B for the project will come “WITHOUT RAISING TAXES.” This, in a state with a bond rating of merely A+ (which, to those of you who think an A+ is good, is only the 5th-best bond rating available) — a far cry from the AAA rating enjoyed in the past.

Even worse, they only authorized enough bonds to start the project. After cost overruns, governmetn graft and corruption, environmental impact studies, and all the other losses in the process (legal fees due to eminent domain, I’m sure), $9B might get them from San Francisco to about Redwood City. By the end of the process, I think $100B will be a conservative cost for this project.

California is crumbling under the weight of decades of bad decisions. Our voters have just increased the burden.

Porker Steps Down

In some worlds, this would be seen as good news:

A passing of the baton happened Friday. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., announced he will step aside as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Byrd is 90. He has served in the Senate since 1959 – the most senior member of the Senate.

It is invalidated, though, by this:

He will be replaced by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.

One porker replaces another. I suppose this is the “change we can believe in”, huh? But hey, I guess politicians don’t feel any need to live up to promises of accountability, considering that a man convicted of 7 felonies is leading in his reelection bid

Monday Open Thread — Grounds For Secession?

What began decades ago as a joke is gaining steam here on the west coast. Rural counties on the Cal-Oregon border who believe they are completely unrepresented in Sacramento & Salem are considering a way out:

Some folks around here think the economic sky is falling and state lawmakers in Sacramento and Salem are ignoring their constituents in the hinterlands.

Guess the time is ripe to create a whole new state.

That’s the thinking up here along the border between California and Oregon, where 12 sparsely populated, thickly forested counties in both states want to break away and generate the 51st star on the nation’s flag – the state of Jefferson.

You can see the signs of discontent from Klamath Falls to Dunsmuir, where green double-X “Jefferson State” flags hang in scores of businesses. You can hear the talk of revolution at lunch counters and grocery lines, where people grumble that politicians to the north and south don’t care.

You can even hear the dissent on the radio, where 21 area FM stations broadcast from Oregon into California under the banner of “Jefferson Public Radio.”

“We have nothing in common with you people down south. Nothing,” said Randy Bashaw, manager of the Jefferson State Forest Products lumber mill in the Trinity County hamlet of Hayfork. “The sooner we’re done with all you people, the better.”

My view, as someone who is stuck so squarely in the Greater Los Angeles Megasprawl, stretching from Tijuana to Ventura, is one of envy towards anyone that may have a chance at escaping the grasp of Sacramento. If I lived up there, I’d by pushing hard for something like this. So I’m firmly in favor of letting them out.

But this brings up some interesting questions. As a nation that supposedly operates based upon “consent of the governed”, you have a clear case where the people of these counties do not consent to governance by their state Capitols. Granting them exception and statehood, though, causes some problems in that it affects national politics (via electoral college, the Senate, etc).

So what do you guys think? What are the grounds for the counties to dissolve the bonds of government and form new ones? Shall we allow them to break off and form the 51st state, the State of Jefferson? Or not? Why?

One Libertarian’s Advice for Republicans and Republican Leaders

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism […] The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

-Ronald Reagan (1975)

For the second election in a row, you find yourselves on the losing end. A significant majority of Americans have lost confidence in you and your lack of vision.

As you debate amongst yourselves the reasons why you lost the White House as well as numerous seats in both houses of Congress, perhaps this former Republican who has flirted with the Libertarian Party* over the last decade can offer you some helpful advice and constructive criticism. While I do not presume to speak on behalf of the many thousands of disillusioned former libertarian- leaning small government Republicans who were once a valued voting bloc in Ronald Reagan’s “conservative coalition,” I am quite certain that there are many others who would agree with my appraisal of why you find yourselves in the position you are in.

President-Elect Barack Obama is wrong about a great many things but one thing he (and his party) has which you do not is clearly defined principles and the ability to communicate these principles effectively. I know what the Democratic Party stands for, what does the Republican Party stand for?

I know what the modern meanings of the terms “liberal” and “progressive” mean, but I have no idea what the modern meaning of the term “conservative” means. I have recently seen polls which ask the following question:

The Republicans lost the election because

a. The Republican Party is too conservative

b. The Republican Party is not conservative enough

I find this question to be impossible to answer!

If by “conservative” one means a party which appeals almost exclusively to white Christian male culture warriors whose primary agenda is using the police power of government to accomplish desired political goals, then my answer would be “a.”

If by “conservative” one means promoting the rights of life, liberty, and property then clearly, my answer would be “b.”

I do not believe the ambiguity of the term “conservative” is by accident. “Conservative” is every bit the nebulous term as we have heard ad nauseam from the Obama campaign (i.e. “hope” and “change”). Because these terms are so under defined, each person who hears these buzzwords assigns his or her own meaning to them. I seem to recall every candidate in the Republican primary refer to himself as a “conservative” or even a “Reagan conservative” at one time or another. How is it possible that candidates with philosophical differences as stark as that of Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani both claim to be conservative?

Now that I have pointed out your apparent error of asking the wrong question (garbage in, garbage out right?) to try to regain the trust of a majority of voters, I believe it is time for you to explain what exactly a conservative is. My understanding of the term is more in line with what Barry Goldwater described in Conscience of a Conservative** as opposed to what the Republican Party has offered in the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 campaigns.

I realize that a political party cannot be all things to all people but all of your constituents deserve to have a clear understanding of where your party is going. Does this mean that moving forward that you will have to choose between two very large voting blocs – small government conservatives and social conservatives?

This depends completely on how you choose to frame the issues. Where the Republican Party seems to stand now is that government can and should be used to force individuals to behave a certain way***. This approach is completely at odds with the small government conservative approach that undesirable behavior can be changed with the power of persuasion**** rather than force.

Is it possible that the Libertarian Party has an approach that a majority of social conservatives could live with? Perhaps you could learn something from The 2008 Libertarian Party Platform:

(From the Preamble)

As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.

This approach to governance that the Libertarian Party offers is why I have left the Republican Party and voted accordingly. Thus far, I have not seen any evidence that your party will become the party of smaller government, lower taxes, and more freedom. Some of the names I have heard bandied about as the “new face” of the Republican Party such as Mitt “Romney Care” Romney, Sarah “I can see Russia from my house” Palin, and “Tax Hike Mike” Huckabee suggests that you are yet to learn why small government conservatives are leaving in droves.

This is not to say that you will continue to lose every election until you return Goldwater/Reagan conservatism. There is a good chance that you will regain one or both houses of Congress in 2010 and perhaps the presidency in 2012*****. But if you wish to win elections and stay elected, you will need to return to these philosophical roots.

Until that day comes, I will continue to support the Libertarian Party and only support Republicans who demonstrate in word and deed their wishes to shrink the size, scope, and power of government.

» Read more

Doublespeak of The Day

Yesterday from Obama (google cache here, screenshot here):

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year.

Obama today:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free.

He’s going to “set a goal”, and I’m sure before all is said and done, it will be dangerously close to a requirement.

It’s already scary, and it’s still more than 2 months before he actually becomes President.

Quote Of The Day

From my brother, who is astoundingly close to my political position, when asked by my wife (who likes Obama) about the election last night:

The bus has already sailed over the cliff… Who you put in the driver’s seat doesn’t much matter.

I have but one bit of disagreement… If it’s possible, Obama’s election might slightly increase the gravitational acceleration on said bus…

Could Ron Paul Have Won?

As we speak the heavyweights of the Republican Party are meeting to discuss how to recover from the debacle (for the Republicans that is) that was to 2008 election.  Their goal will be to figure out how they can win national elections again.  I wonder if they will even consider the advice of Ron Paul.  Certainly, they would do well to do so, because I think that absent the newsletter scandal and a couple of other skeletons in his closet Ron Paul could have won the election for the Republicans.

Obama did not win the election.  The Republicans lost it.  Their entire election strategy consisted of trying to scare people away from voting for Obama.  Why didn’t they present a plan or vision of their own that was more comprehensive than the fatuous “Country First” slogan?  Because they did have a plan and it was one that they knew voters did not want.

What voters wanted

There were three major things concerning voters: the economy, the war, and corruption.

1) The economy.  The corporatist or steroidal mercantilist policies of the Republican party is collapsing.  Most people don’t understand why, but recognize that they are being squeezed by rising prices and by falling income.  They want someone to fix it.

2) The war.  Most people think the war was mismanaged. Badly.  They are not pacifists, unfortunately.  Rather, they want someone who isn’t going to reclessly plunge into wars, to try to incite them unecessarily.

3) Corruption:  Everybody has heard of the “Bridge to Nowhere” and the “Abramof Scandal”.  They remember “Heckuva Job Brownie”‘s contribution to the Katrina devastation.  They rightly perceive the last 8 years to have been remarkably filled with cronyism and government giveaways to people with pull.  They want that to stop.

What the Republicans Offered:

1) The economy:  More cronyism!  But with lip service to free markets!  And McCain saying that one moment he didn’t know what he was doing, then grandstanding to get the bailout passed and failing, then complaining about the Democrats and ….

In the end, the Republican message was that the problems were caused by Democrats and that the Republicans would somehow do a good job.  Hardly reassuring, especially coming from a political party that had controlled both and arguably all three branches of the federal government for much of the past decade.

2) The war:  More war.  Against Russia! Iran! China even!  When a presidential candidate gets up and announces that the U.S. will send the sons of voters to places they never heard of to fight in a long-running war that they were unaware of, they are not reassured.

3) Corruption:  Nothing other than platitudes about opposition to earmarks.  Oh and desperate attempts to point to Democrats who are corrupt.  Look over there! No not at us, over there!

What Ron Paul Offered:

1)  The economy:  I recently read an editorial in a financial magazine that said something to the effect that only two schools of economics had come out of the crisis looking good, the Austrians and the Marxists. Whereas the Marxists have long been discredited economically (Lenin’s attempts to do away with trade in the early days of the Bolshevik revolution and the debacle that resulted stand in mute testimony of how wrong they are), the Austrians have not.  Many of their predictions – about how Bretton Woods would collapse, the coming of the Great Depression, the current financial crisis have come true, precisely as they predicted.  Ron Paul is closely identified with the Austrian school.  He understands the theories.  He can speak about them authoritatively.  Long before any other national Republican politician, Ron Paul had been warning of the current financial crisis. his policy prescriptions, emphasizing reducing spending and cutting taxes, reducing the financial burdens p;laced on people by government would probably have resonated with a substantial portion of the electorate.  His specific, concrete policy statements, far less unfeasible than those of his competitors would have given voters something positive to consider.

2) The war:  Ron Paul’s position of bringing troops home from overseas and cutting military spending would have made him many powerful enemies.  However, as the consistent anti-war Republican, he would have been in a very favorable position to Obama who is quite the interventionist when it comes to causes that are politically attractive.  Ron Paul could credibly promise to end the mismanagement of the war.

3) Corruption:  Ron Paul’s vision of the Federal Government would be a far less corrupt one.  How many parasites can be supported by a government that sticks to a few enumerated powers?  When the farmer stops pouring slop into the trough, the pigs stop lining up to eat.

A positive message rather than a negative one

Ron Paul had a positive message, a set of policy proposals that were a road map as to how he wanted to proceed forward.  McCain has no such thing.  All he could hope for was that enough people didn’t want Obama to propel him into victory.

Of course, people who found the status quo unacceptable held their noses and voted for Obama.  An outsider like Ron Paul who credibly promoted limited government and free markets, whose consistently stood his ground even when it placed him in opposition to his party, would have given many people who hated the status quo but didn’t like Obama’s proposals, a reason to vote Republican.

I don’t think Ron Paul himself could have won the election – the newsletter scandal would have sunk him – however, someone credibly advancing his agenda could have.  And, if they want to be anything more than a regional party limited to the band connecting Northern Louisiana to Kentucky, they would do well to consider that fact.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Bob Barr: “This Is Just The Beginning”

Bob Barr has issued the following press release on the election results:

ATLANTA, GA – “This is just the beginning of the new Libertarian Party,” says Bob Barr, the 2008 Libertarian Party nominee for president. “In these next four years, there will be an even greater need for a political party fully dedicated to lower taxes, smaller government and more individual freedom—a voice for liberty.”

“This year, we set a solid foundation for freedom, on which we will build a strong and united political organization that advances freedom and liberty in the United States,” says Barr. “I, and all Americans who support true liberty, owe a great debt of gratitude to our staff, donors, volunteers and voters who helped support this campaign.”

It sounds great, but it’s pretty much the same thing I’ve heard from the Libertarian Party every four years or so. 485,000 votes does not mean very much in a nation of 300,000,000 people and it’s hard to see where the LP goes from here that’s any different from what it’s done every election cycle since 1980.

I’m proud of my vote for Bob Barr. Except for a few missteps, I think he ran a better campaign for President than any recent Libertarian Party nominee. I’d love to see the LP become successful enough that it’s taken seriously as a force in American politics, I just don’t think that’s very likely at this point. This election was a chance to make a statement. Apparently, there weren’t enough people willing to vote for freedom to do that, and that is depressing.

Bob Barr Likely To Fall Short Of Hopes

Based on these preliminary vote total figures, it looks like Bob Barr’s best outcome would be to exceed Harry Browne’s vote total in 1996:

Vote Totaqls

Based on these numbers, Barr has exceeded Ron Paul’s vote total from 1988 and seems likely to match or exceed Harry Browne’s vote total from 1996, but will fall far short of Ed Clark’s 1980 high water mark for the Libertarian Party.

Disappointing ?

Yes, but it’s worth noting that there were two states where Barr’s votes may have cost John McCain the state:

Obama 49.9%
McCain 49%
Barr 1.1%

North Carolina
Obama 49.8%
McCain 49.6%
Barr 0.6%

Will Republicans notice ?

Demographics, Statistics, and Signs of Hope

Obviously, I disagree with the choice that 51% of Americans made last night, but in that choice, there are many aspects that I think are good things… perhaps great things.

The first point, is that although the democrats are already trying to spin this as a huge numeric victory, it is not. Though the electoral college totals are approximately 2 to 1 Obama, that is because of the math of the swing states in the electoral college. There are 8 states where Obamas margin of victory is 3% or under. A 1.5% swing one way or the other, and the results would be quite different.

I reported earlier this week that I believed the 10% support advantage polls showed for Obama was drastically inflated, and that any state within six percent would break for McCain.

It turns out I was half right. The real number was 3% not 10%. I thought that those six point states would swing all six points when it came down to actual voting. Instead they swung 3 or 4 points.

The polls however were very clearly wrong. The exit polls over indicated Obamas support by as much as 10% in some states. This is I think a long term problem that we need to address.

Now as to demographics, they interest me (of course they are also based on the flawed polling data, but the numbers are so large as to be at least indicitive).

McCain won about 60% of whites overall. This is a larger margin than expected. He won both white men, and white women, by a significant margin. It was expected that he would lose white women (and when race is taken out of the equation, McCain lost all women 45-55).

I don’t want to speculate as to why here; I’ll leave that to others. I’m sure they will do so, with great vitriol.

Obama won 95% of blacks, and this election featured the largest turnout of blacks in history. I think that’s a great thing. I hope that a non-black candidate would have the same result.

Obama won 60% of hispanics, a suprising achievement; and more hispanics voted in this election than any other election in american history. Again I think this is great.

Obama won 70% of people under 30 and 70% of first time voters. More people under 30 voted in this election than ever before in American history. First time voters made up a larger percentage of the electorate than any other election in American history.

Collectively the four groups I mentioned, usually make up less than 10% of actual voters. This election they made up about 30% of voters, and that is absolutely INCREDIBLE.

Although all the votes have not yet been counted, if the polls are even close to right, more Americans voted in our election than have ever voted before.

That is even more incredible. We have recently been a country where 40% participation has been considered “good”; and yesterday, we had perhaps 60% of the eligible voting populace do so. I won’t be happy until we get to over 80%, but I’m heartened.

In fact, I am heartened by all of this. I am given hope.

143 years ago, a black man in this country could not vote. 43 years ago, a black man in Mississippi may have even been killed for trying to. Next January, a black man is going to be president.

The cynic in me says that a fair portion of the reason his is president is because he IS black… but the idealist in me hopes this truly says that race is no longer relevant… or that at least we are walking down that road.

I hope these amazing changes continue, and grow. I hope that those people become fully engaged, and educate themselves, and perhaps commit themselves to liberty as they do.

I fear they will not, but I hope.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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