Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Some of my friends in this demographic think I’m crazy. My girlfriend fears I’m some right-wing fascist. People I'm close to don’t understand how I can have liberal views on social issues and still support a McCain-Palin ticket. They ask me why I'm not going to vote for the younger, more hip, articulate, better looking and socially acceptable Obama.
Rather than getting into a dinner party debate, this is an attempt to put forward my full thoughts on the topic and clearly explain my political views.
I’m not trying to convince my friends they’re wrong and I’m right. I don’t force my opinions on others or think Obama supporters are stupid. People I love, respect and admire will vote for Obama and I still don't question my feelings for them. I can understand the opposing point-of-view. With this blog, I’m simply trying to summarize my thoughts on the election and put to rest any questions of my sanity or judgment that have come up lately.
I don’t expect everyone around me to share my philosophies/ideologies. We all have our own stories and backgrounds that shape what we believe. My views are personal and they should be private, but I hope that my friends and family will read this with an open mind. I’m not looking to engage in debates or further discussion on the topic. You don’t have to agree with a word of what I’m saying, just let me have my thoughts, as I let you have yours.
I haven’t changed much since I came to Washington in 2002. I was then and still an Independent registered voter. I lean to the conservative side but I'm not a partisan or somebody who will move to Canada or quit my job if Obama wins. I'll just cross my fingers and hope for the best. In fact, I'd much rather vote for a viable third party option who embodies my Libertarian views and isn't some crazy Ron Paul/Ross Perot clone. In the absence of any alternative to the two-party system, I choose my candidate based on an empirical evaluation of their background, beliefs and character…party affiliation plays no role for me. I supported Bill Clinton in 1996, John McCain in the Republican Primary over Bush in 2000 and subsequently Bush in 2004.
I've been able to closely track of the rise of both McCain and Obama during my time in DC. I've thought about how the election will affect the current balance of power in Washington, U.S. foreign affairs, and the domestic economic climate.
What follows is my rationale for supporting John McCain, despite his shortcomings. I encourage you to follow the links provided. Enjoy reading.
We have failed to realize badly needed reforms to critical domestic programs, deficit spending has continued unchecked, while we have been unable to prevent the over-extension and collapse of major national financial institutions. Democrats and Republicans can't even come together to produce a comprehensive national energy strategy. Our country deserves a President who will put politics aside and govern in the best interests of the people, not his party or personal ambition.
Everyone I talk to, whether they're for Obama or McCain, wants a Commander-in-Chief who will work to build new coalitions between liberals and conservatives, focusing on what we agree upon, rather than what divides us. We deserve a leader who will cross party-lines to get the job done, accelerate reform and push an agenda of progress, not politics.
With a President McCain, I believe we will see a centrist government with real bipartisan cooperation built on compromise legislation a majority of Americans can support. It will be mandatory for a McCain Administration to find common ground with Congress if he wants to get anything done and pass any sort of meaningful legislation. Fortunately, and to the displeasure of some far-right conservatives, McCain has a long and reliable history of doing just that over his 25 years in government.
It's possible to go back through voting records and find that McCain has voted against his party on significant issues in far more instances than Obama. But a much more accurate barometer of cross-party cooperation is counting the number of times their colleagues from across the aisle signed on to legislation they wrote.
A study by the Washington Times shows since 2005, Mr. McCain has been the chief sponsor of 82 bills, on which he had 120 Democratic co-sponsors out of 220 total, for an average of 55 percent. He worked with Democrats on 50 of his bills, and of those, Democrats outnumber Republicans as co-sponsors in 37 instances. This is an amazing statistic considering the political climate from 2005 - Present.
Obama, meanwhile, sponsored 120 bills, of which Republicans co-sponsored just 26, and on only five bills did Republicans outnumber Democrats. Mr. Obama gained 522 total Democratic co-sponsors but only 75 Republicans, for an average of 13 percent of his co-sponsors.
The bill on which McCain attracted the most support in the past few years was his plan to combat greenhouse-gas emissions. That bill garnered 16 co-sponsors, 14 of whom were Democrats, including Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Obama signed onto another McCain global-warming bill and was one of five co-sponsors of McCain legislation to advance and strengthen democracy globally through peaceful means.
To round out this evaluation, one must also consider John McCain's long record of bipartisan cooperation extending long before Obama's 2004 entry into national politics. McCain has a proven ability to build consensus and compromise, lessons learned early in his career from his Congressional mentor and close friend, Arizona Democrat Mo Udall. (See articles about their relationship in Newsweek and Slate.)
Countless other across the aisle efforts mark McCain's tenure in Washington. He worked against the Bush White House to slash wasteful spending, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and restrict the use of torture techniques by the U.S. He teamed up with Democrats to support a patient's bill of rights, fund embryonic stem-cell research, develop a comprehensive immigration reform bill (that Obama co-sponsored), and has even shared the Chairman's gavel with his Democrat colleagues during Committee hearings.
But the most audacious example of McCain's willingness to compromise and collaborate with Democrats came in his legislative push for Campaign Finance Reform and his bill with Democrat Russ Feingold to ban soft money and shatter Washington's Republican-favored political economy. An excellent New York Times article from 1997 details the run-up to the eventual passage of the McCain-Feingold bill and clearly demonstrates just how contrary McCain's agenda was to his party leadership at the time.
It was in this same spirit McCain reached out to first-year Senator Barack Obama in 2006, inviting him into a bipartisan task force to assist in crafting an ethics reform bill. Obama attended a meeting with McCain and other senators committed to creating a bipartisan task force on ethics reform, and convinced his colleagues he was open to working closely together.
The very next day, Obama backtracked on his commitment to McCain's non-partisan approach. Instead of continuing to work with this bipartisan group, he wrote an open letter to McCain explaining a new-found preference for competing legislation supported by Senator Harry Reid. The Minority Leader's bill was without Republican cosponsors or any chance of passage. Despite the high political theatre of their correspondence, Obama missed an ideal opportunity to prove he was a true reformer, and a man with the courage to stand-up to his Democrat bosses and buck the status-quo. Yet little more than one year later, Obama announced he was running for President as a post-partisan reformer and the messenger for a "new" kind of politics.
The claim is laughable.
But nobody was laughing when Obama brought this story up again at the Saddleback Church Forum.
Warren: Can you give me a good example where you went against party loyalty, and maybe even went against your own best interest, for the good of America?
Obama: Well, you know, I'll give you an example that, in fact, I worked with John McCain on, and that was the issue of campaign ethics reform and finance reform. That wasn't probably in my interest or his, for that matter, because the truth was that both Democrats and Republicans sort of like the status quo.
How could this possibly be his best example of bipartisan sacrifice? How could a candidate boasting regularly of his ability to cross the aisle not have a legitimate story to back up his talk?
The reality is the Senate passed an ethics bill March 29, 2006 - the vote was 90 to 8 - and both Obama and McCain were among those voting against the measure on grounds it did not go far enough. The bill died in the House. When the Democrats took control of the Senate in 2007 they succeeded in passing the Honest Government and Leadership Act.
Obama supported this bill, and stated on the Senate floor, "Last year, I and Senator Feingold and Senator McCain voted against it because we thought we could do better...And I'm pleased to report that the bill before us today comes very close to what we proposed." Yet McCain opposed the bill, saying "Not only does this bill do far too little to reign in wasteful spending - it has completely gutted the earmark reform provisions we passed overwhelmingly in January."
Missing from his soaring rhetoric and empty promises of reconciliation and cooperation are any real examples of Obama's work to cross party lines and build alliances on the other side of the aisle. He can't even think of one legitimate instance himself when asked. Barack Obama is not the change I've been waiting for. He represents Washington politics-as-usual and a continuation of Democrat party line mantra of "Blame Bush" for another four years. Ironically, his core message and critique of McCain deepens the same divisions he claims to have the power to heal.
I'd like for a future President Obama to actually live up to the hype about all of change and reform he promises, but after watching him closely over the past 4 years, I think he's all talk and his words are hollow. He has done little to show me is willing or able to stand up to the Democrat machine and challenge the special interest money that poisons our politics. He promises the kind of supersized reform that I would love to see, but in practice, he's done the exact opposite throughout his career.
As thin as his resume may be, Obama's political past is full of broken promises that have confused his most fervent supporters. Mostly glossed over by the media and now long-forgotten by voters was Obama's refusal to abide by a pledge he made in September 2007 to stay within the public campaign-finance system if his opponent agreed to do the same. "Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." McCain was willing. Obama even asked for and received permission from the FEC to exploit a loophole in the law that would have still allowed him to rake in continuous cash contributions.
But on June 19, after securing the nomination and becoming a campaign cash cow, Obama changed his mind in a video email message to supporters.
My issue isn’t with Obama refusing to take public funds. Rather, I question his sincerity when he spent most of 2007 arguing in favor of the public financing system, made a pledge to support it, only to disregard his previous statements when he actually became the party’s nominee. The Obama campaign is largely based on the premise of "ending politics as usual," but Obama's unlikely rise to the top of the Democrat ticket was paved with political posturing and catering to Democrat special interests.
Disingenuously, he has tried to present himself as a post-partisan unity candidate, without so much as one example of his willingness to work with conservatives to achieve our mutual goals of a stronger, more prosperous, safer America.
Describing Obama’s tenure in the Senate, former Democrat Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman said, “He has not reached across party lines to get anything significant done, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party. Let me contrast Barack Obama's record to the record of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who stood up to some of those same Democratic interest groups, worked with Republicans, and got some important things done, like welfare reform, free trade agreements, and a balanced budget. ”
The Associated Press: "Even so, none of the examples cited by Obama's aides, beginning with a bill to secure nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, placed the Illinois lawmaker at odds with the leaders of his own party or gave significant offense to outside interest groups aligned with Democrats." ("Bipartisanship Marks McCain's Senate Tenure," Associated Press, 7/2/08)
NPR's Juan Williams: "You think about everything from campaign finance to immigration and on, and there's John McCain working across party lines. Senator Obama doesn't have a record. Now, he can make the claim and he can hold himself up as pure and trying to reach to a new generation of post partisan politics, but he has to do so largely based on rhetoric and wishful thinking because he doesn't have the record." (Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume," 5/7/08)
The Washington Post's Richard Cohen: "There Is Scant Evidence The Illinois Senator Takes Positions That Challenge His Base Or Otherwise Threaten Him Politically. That's why his reversal on campaign financing and his transparently false justification of it matter more than similar acts by McCain." ("McCain's Core Advantage," The Washington Post, 6/24/08)
The Washington Post's David Ignatius, "What I hear from politicians who have worked with Obama, both in Illinois state politics and here in Washington, gives me pause. They describe someone with an extraordinary ability to work across racial lines but not someone who has earned any profiles in courage for standing up to special interests or divisive party activists. Indeed, the trait people remember best about Obama, in addition to his intellect, is his ambition." (Obama: A thin record for a bridge builder, Washington Post, 3/2/08)
Obama's record is far more left than McCain's is far right. Obama the healer has proven to be the most partisan in the Senate, McCain one of the most bipartisan.
John McCain doesn’t need to make speeches about healing or reconciliation to prove his credentials. He's been reaching out to his Democrat colleagues since he was first elected in 1981 and will continue to do so when he is elected President. McCain knows he must work together with a Democrat controlled Congress and he has the experience, knowledge and fortitude to govern in today's highly charged political environment, and build new intra-party coalitions to move our nation's policies to the center and away from the far-right or far-left fringes.
With Obama, the Democrats in control of Congress get a rubber stamp in the White House. McCain will be forced to govern from the center, whereas Obama will have zero motivation to play things down the middle or find compromise with minority Republicans. Such policies will only further the partisan divide and maintain the status quo in Washington.
McCain has had his share of flips and flops, but his record still shows more more of a willingness to take on political special interests and act in the best interests of the American people instead of his political party. Obama has a far-left record of appeasement to his liberal base, pandering to the center and can't even name a valid instance of working across party lines when asked. When considering the current balance of power in Washington and the deep partisan divide across our nation...McCain has the advantage.
Raising taxes and growing government have been hallmarks of the Democratic party since its inception. Think New Deal, Great Society, etc...today their big government agendas come in less obvious packaging, but the party of FDR and LBJ is still in favor of government-subsidized social services and welfare programs, abandoning free market principles, and paying for these and other programs by redistributing wealth from productive and prosperous Americans to those who are less industrious.
Obama might talk about standing up to the entrenched special interests in his own party, he might give speeches about cutting spending and lowering taxes for middle income families, but he hasn't done anything in his entire political career that would lead me to believe he will actually be a small government, low taxes crusader.
Again, the only legitimate actions I can point to, because his record is so thin, are his votes in the Senate...Obama voted nine times against lowering the capital gains tax rate, seven times against implementing tax incentives for small businesses, six times against lowering the estate tax and three times against repealing a more than decade-old increase in taxes on Social Security benefits, among other votes.
Obama's economic agenda will have a detrimental effect on an already unstable economy. Bigger government and higher taxes equals less money for people to spend. His corporate tax increases will lead to more unemployment. Companies don't hire new American workers when they are forced to pay higher corporate, payroll, dividend and capital gains taxes. If they want to stay in business, they'll cut jobs or just ship their work overseas. Hitting individual investors with higher fees makes it less attractive to enter the market and less money in the markets lead to slowed economic growth and recession.
To strip this topic down to my core argument, McCain has a long history of cutting taxes, opposing earmarks, reducing wasteful spending and advocacy for smaller government. Obama does not.
Yet people are still talking about Obama's economic plan, how he's going to help the middle class, and be more fiscally responsible and so forth. According to the Obama website:
The Obama tax plan would cut taxes for 95% of workers and their families with a tax cut of $500 for workers or $1,000 for working couples. The top capital-gains rate for families making more than $250,000 would return to 20%, up 5% from the current 15% rate set by the Bush tax cuts. Middle class families will see their taxes cut – and no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase.
At worst, Obama's tax proposal is a naked attempt to help the middle class by penalizing the wealthy, at best, it displays a naive misunderstanding of the origins of middle-class comfort.
Consider that roughly 60 percent of Americans are even paying federal taxes (If you make less than $50K annually, you generally aren't paying any taxes). Enter those making over $250K, which include many middle income families in coastal areas and large cities, as well as a wide percentages of small business owners across the country.
At $250,000 in taxable annual income, a married couple filing taxes jointly would now pay about $62,000 in federal income taxes. By contrast, a couple earning $50,000 a year, which is about the median income in the U.S., would pay $6,750 in taxes. Although the $250,000 couple is in the 33 percent tax bracket (meaning every additional $1 in taxable income they would earn is taxed at 33 percent), the couple is actually paying about 25 percent of their total taxable income to the feds. At the same time, the median income couple pays about 13.5 percent of their income in taxes. In actual dollars, this translates into slightly less than 10 dollars in taxes from the higher income couple for every one collected from the median income family. The effective tax rate of a family with a taxable income in the range of $250,000 remains at slightly under double that of a couple earning $50,000.
Obama and people who think like him look at these numbers and argue that, after paying income taxes, the $250,000 family still has about $188,000 left to spend on other things (including paying other federal, state and local taxes, housing, food, etc.), while the $50,000 family has about $43,250 left. Obama believes that this is too much of an income disparity, so he'll raise taxes on the higher income family to finance his "middle class tax cut" and offer tax rebate programs to lower income families that pay no taxes at all.
Obama characterizes this as his attempt to create "a sense of balance fairness in our tax code."
But Obama never really explains what fairness actually means to him. Instead he personalizes it, and says things like, "It is time for folks like me who make more than $250,000 to pay our fair share."
Fairness is a cure-all for every national ill according to Obama, "We will save Social Security for future generations by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share." And on energy, "The first part of my plan is to tax the windfall profits of oil companies and use some of that money to help you pay the rising price of gas."
Obama would even "look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness." Despite the fact that raising them would affect 100 million Americans and decrease overall government revenues.
Supply-side economic theory holds that wages can only rise when the amount of available investment capital increases. Simply put, without capital there are no wages. In short, a 5% rate hike on income of $250,000 to pay for a proportionately sized tax cut on income of $50,000 is bad economic policy as it will lessen the overall amount of capital in the market.
Invariably, money that the government doesn’t confiscate (tax) from the rich, is saved and lent to businesses and invested in entrepreneurial ventures reliant on capital in order to grow. For the middle class this is a big deal because these savings either fund new forms of employment, or additional remuneration. In today's reality, the single best way to increase middle-class income is to reduce the success penalty on those in possession of the greatest amount of capital.
Obama's tax policies amount to an attempted purchase of votes by appealing to the short-term economic interest of a portion of the electorate at the expense of the long-term economic health and competitiveness of our country as a whole. The middle-class Americans he claims to help will get hosed in the end because Obama's "tax cuts" are not cuts at all, just wealth redistribution proposals that fool the economic illiterate (myself included) and appease the uneducated poor and economic leftists.
The same middle class workers who'll pay less in taxes under Obama stand to lose their jobs to pay for the tax relief they receive! Obama isn't offering tax cuts, he is specifically saying to those who pay little or no income taxes that the government will write you a check on behalf of your wealthier and more prosperous neighbors.
Look at it this way...Lets say you are a waitress at a local Diner. The Diner owner has done the analysis of the profits from 2008 where he made $275,000 dollars. That's good money for a restaurant.
Now in 2009, after the Obama tax plan becomes law, the owner looks back at those numbers and sees that if he makes $275,000 again this year that he will get a LARGE tax increase. If he can cap those earnings at $245,000 he will actually make more money.
So, he decides to close a few hours earlier. Or closes all day on Sundays now. Or whatever he decides to do to cap his profits. This will have effects on his employees and customers. If you're a waitress who expects 40-45 hours a week, you may only get 30-35 now. The customers she was relying on for tips aren't coming in as often as before. The waitress can't pay her bills with her new hours, but Obama will give her a $200 tax credit!
Obama told a tax-burdened plumber over the weekend that his economic philosophy is to "spread the wealth around." Obama made the remark, caught on camera, after fielding some tough questions from the plumber Ohio, where the Democratic candidate canvassed neighborhoods and encouraged residents to vote early. "Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" the plumber asked, complaining that he was being taxed "more and more for fulfilling the American dream."
"It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success too," Obama responded. "My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody...I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
According to the most recent (2006) data released by the IRS, the top 1 percent of filers paid nearly 40 percent of all income taxes; the top 5 percent paid 60 percent of all income taxes. The bottom 50 percent paid virtually no income taxes (3 percent of all income taxes paid).
Increasing the tax burden on productive citizens in the name of "neighborliness" as Obama puts it, and distributing the money to people having a "hard time" isn't neighborliness, it's class warfare, it's Socialism and it's dangerous. In short, I disagree with the idea of "helping" the poor and middle class by taxing the rich because doing so reduces the earnings of all those not yet rich.
Despite Obama's promises, the middle class will ultimately shoulder Obama's fiscal burden in terms of higher taxes and lower economic growth. This isn't free enterprise. It's big government and the only people who will benefit are the central planners in Washington. To pay for his plan, Obama says he will end the war in Iraq, permit the Bush tax cuts to expire for households earning more than $250,000 and "change our tax code," which "has been rigged by lobbyists with page after page of loopholes that benefit big corporations and the wealthiest few."
But these steps would not come close to paying for Obama's spending proposals that will cost approximately $1 billion-a-day. Assuming they offset $100 billion of new spending, paying for the other $265.6 billion would require an across-the-board income tax increase of 19 percent. This figure does not reflect the tax increase that would be necessary to pay for Mr. Obama's "tax cuts."
Regarding the lobbyists who have "rigged" the tax code with "loopholes that benefit big corporations and the wealthiest few," two facts are worth noting. First, as total tax receipts increased from 16.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in fiscal 2003 to 18.8 percent of GDP in fiscal 2007, corporate income taxes increased from 1.2 percent of GDP to 2.7 percent, the highest level in 30 years. Thus, the four-year proportionate increase in corporate income tax revenue (from 1.2 percent to 2.7 percent) accounted for 65 percent of the proportionate increase in total revenues (from 16.5 percent to 18.8 percent). This is a major windfall for the Treasury, reaped by LOWERING the tax rates on business and investment.
Obama says he wants U.S. corporations to stop "shipping jobs overseas" and bring their cash back home. But if he really wanted U.S. companies to keep more of their profits in the states, he'd be calling for a reduction in the corporate tax rate. We now have the second highest corporate tax rate in the civilized world, making America a less attractive place for companies to do business. Without capital, businesses can't expand their operations and hire more workers.
Low-rate flat-tax plans are proliferating around the world. Emerging nations in Eastern Europe and Asia are lowering the tax penalties on capital — and reaping the economic rewards. Obama completely ignores this. American global competitiveness would suffer enormously under Obama, as would job opportunities, productivity and real wages.
Furthermore, at a time when small businesses are struggling to make payroll, Obama also wants to raise the minimum wage and index it for inflation. This is yet another sure way to add to operating costs and slow the creation of new jobs.
As far as the disproportionate share of the tax burden already shouldered by the "wealthiest few," Obama's plan would increase the disparities between rich and poor. According to a December 2007 CBO study, in 2005 the top 1 percent of households earned 18.1 percent of income and paid 38.8 percent of individual federal income taxes and 27.6 percent of all federal taxes. The top 20 percent earned 55 percent of income and paid 86.3 percent of individual federal income taxes and 68.7 percent of all federal taxes.
The centerpiece of Obama's plan is to end the Bush tax cuts and allow the top two tax rates to return to 36 percent and 39.6 percent. He would also phase out personal exemptions and deductions for those with income in excess of $250,000. Again, with an eye toward punishing those who have achieved economic success, Obama plans to end the Social Security payroll-tax cap for those making more than $250,000. The cap is currently set at a more reasonable $102,000.
Under Obama's plan, these individuals will face a tax rate of 15.65 percent from payroll taxes combined with the top income-tax rate of 39.6 percent for a final tax of more than 56 percent on each additional dollar earned. As if those proposals were not enough to weigh the U.S. economy down, Obama plans to nearly double the top dividends and capital-gains rate from the current 15 percent rate to as high as 28 percent. Indeed, while most tax cuts may result in slight revenue declines even as they spur economic growth, as shown above, Bush's dividend and capital gains tax cuts actually have increased federal revenue.
If Mr. Obama insists upon having this tiny fraction of Americans shoulder the cost of his spending and tax proposals, the tax increase on those taxpayers would have to be huge - far larger than the 19 percent tax increase described above. This would slow investment, employment and economic growth - and, yes, total governmental receipts.
On the spending side of things, Obama pledges to follow President Bush in rapidly increasing the size and scope of the federal government. Not much for conservative fiscal priniciples, Bush allowed the federal budget to grow from 18.4 percent to 20 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. To contrast, former President Bill Clinton oversaw a reduction of federal spending from 22.1 percent to 18.7 percent of GDP (Clinton also wasn't fighting two wars at once). Obama touts a 10-year, $150 billion program to "establish a green energy sector," a 10-year, $60 billion "National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank," to rebuild highways, bridges and other public works, and a nearly universal health care plan with an annual price of $100 billion along with a host of other non-discretionary spending items. In addition, Obama ruled out any reductions in his major domestic spending proposals in the wake of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill.
The National Taxpayers Union Foundation added up all the spending promises made by the two candidates and found that McCain's would cost taxpayers an extra $68 billion a year. Obama's add up to around $344 billion a year. Obama's tax plan would cut federal receipts by $2.7 trillion over the next decade, compared with $3.6 trillion for McCain.
Obama claims he'll pay for all his new spending with higher taxes on the rich and spending cuts, yet while he talks about reducing government waste and abuse, Obama voted against paying down the federal debt by reducing spending on programs rated "ineffective" by the Program Assessment Rating Tool. McCain has said repeatedly that, if elected president, he would freeze discretionary spending and perform "top-to-bottom reviews of all federal programs to weed out failing ones."
Clearly, Obama cannot keep his fiscal promises because he cannot cut taxes, increase spending and balance the budget. To cut taxes, he will have to abandon either his plans to increase spending and/or balance the budget. To provide universal health care, he will need to break his promise to provide middle class tax cuts and/or balance the budget. To balance the budget, he will probably need to abandon his tax plan and/or his promise for universal health.
It will be far easier for Obama to get a Democrat Congress to approve new spending than to enact the measures needed to pay for it. Unless Obama is willing to take on his own party with the veto pen, something he hasn't shows a proclivity for in the past, we should expect four years of irresponsible budgeting and deficit spending from him and little hope to see a more balanced budget by 2012.
Let's take a look at the failures of government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As GSEs they had access to lower interest rates than other private lending institutions, had less regulation than public banks and lower capital requirements, in addition to an “implied” government guarantee on their huge debts. The intent of this special arrangement was supposed to translate into more money available to the public for mortgages, but was used instead to make record profits for shareholders, and not so incidentally, big bonuses for the politically connected executives in charge.
In 2003, Freddie revealed it had understated earnings by almost $5 billion, one of the largest corporate restatements in U.S. history. As a result, in November, it was fined $125 million--an amount called "peanuts" by Forbes. The next year, Fannie was under investigation and later audited by federal regulators who found widespread accounting errors and manipulations.
In order to gain congressional support in the wake of these scandals in 2003 and 2004, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac committed to increased financing of "affordable housing." From 2004 to 2007, they became the largest buyers of subprime and Alt-A mortgages (targeted to low income, low credit, first-time home buyers), with total GSE exposure eventually exceeding $1 trillion. Subprime and Alt-A originations in the U.S. rose from less than 8% of all mortgages in 2003 to over 20% in 2006, driven by the aggressive buying from Fannie and Freddie.
In exchange, Fannie and Freddie retained the support of many in Congress, particularly Democrats to whom they heavily contributed campaign cash, and they were allowed to continue unrestrained. The resulting lack of oversight and regulation allowed crooked executives to cook the books to increase their bonuses and in turn make their bundled subprime and Alt-A loan packages look like profitable risks to the Wall Street banks where they were traded on the open market.
These same officials got away with their crimes by lavishing money on mostly Democratic legislators, including Obama, who was the second highest recipient of Fannie/Freddie money in Congress. Democrats like him could then return home to their districts and tell their constituents what they were doing to help them become homeowners. A win-win situation for the politicians, who fill their campaign coffers with money skimmed off the top of earnings from crooked CEOs, while appealing to low-income voters. That is, until Fannie and Freddie's malfeasance came to light.
When it did, Obama looked the other way as these same executives opened their golden parachutes and took off with taxpayer money. The way he tells the story, it seems like it was everybody else’s responsibility, just not the Democrats in Congress. Now Obama and his friends are trying to cover their tracks and pointing fingers at the one politician who called to reign in the government sponsored entities – John McCain. This is shameful.
Senator McCain was an advocate for stricter oversight and regulation of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- dating back to 2006. As a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, McCain supported legislation that would have curbed the greed and corruption surrounding the subprime mortgage market. This bill was killed by Ranking Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee.
Is it any wonder why Obama would try to deflect attention from his own connections to this crisis? James Johnson, who headed Obama's VP selection Committee, was Fannie chairman from 1991 to 1998. He too, according to an official government report, cooked the books to increase his compensation and failed to publicly reveal how much he received. “Subprime Mortgage Queen” Penny Pritzer, Obama's campaign Finance Chair, was also involved in this debacle and directly responsible for creating the situations that began the sub prime lending schemes and caused the mortgage collapse.
The real problem, however, is more insidious. Since the Clinton Administration, Democrats have used home ownership as a wedge issue to gain a political advantage among minority groups and low-income voters, with whom they sought to curry favor across America. The Democrats, collaborating with community organizing groups like ACORN, demonized bankers, regulators, and whomever else failed to offer home loans to low-credit consumers, in order to drive their dangerous political agenda. The result was that million of loans were made to first time homeowners with no chance of repayment. Bankers across America suffered with excessive delinquency, which resulted in the secondary mortgage industry being wrecked by these politically connected executives selfishly intent on gaining voters for their Democrat candidates.
Meanwhile, the Democrats running Fannie and Freddie made untold millions. These are undisputed facts. There are still serious questions about Obama’s fiscal policy. Most importantly, can Americans trust the Democrat party to play fair in the future, on the Housing issue, or any other partisan issue, when for over a decade they only played in a way that benefited them personally and politically?
When his candidacy was still considered a long shot, Obama took note of the way the political winds were blowing and raised a sail. On November 20, 2006, he spoke to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and commented regarding the proposed "Surge" of combat troops, "While some have proposed escalating this war by adding thousands of more troops, there is little reason to believe that this will achieve [victory]."
That "some" who he was referring to was John McCain. In fact, John McCain didn't care that a vast majority of Americans opposed increasing troop levels in Iraq. He stood by President Bush's decision (He'd argue that it was his idea in the first place) in direct contrast to what Obama and the ENTIRE Democrat party was saying at the time. It was the least popular political stance to take, but McCain said, "I'd rather lose an election, than lose a war."
Today, all major indicators of violence in Iraq have dropped by between 40 and 80 percent since February 2007, when President Bush committed an additional 30,000 troops to the war. Civilian deaths have dropped from a peak of nearly 4,000 a month from December 2006 to January 2007 to about 500 a month as of May, and U.S. troop deaths have dropped from 126 in May 2007 to an all-time low of 19 in May 2008.
A "victory" may not yet have been reached by some standards, but the improvements realized are undeniable, and the Iraqis are talking about security self-sufficiency.
Is the positive turn of events all because of the Surge? Probably not. More of a combination of several factors to include the "Anbar Awakening" and the retreat of al-Sadr...however, make no mistake, the additional troops on the ground have stabilized what was once referred to by Joe Biden as "first and foremost a civil war," and allowed for the increased safety of the Iraqi people and the improvement of the basic situation.
Had we followed Obama and the Democrats' politically driven course of Iraq De-escalation in 2006, do you think that Iraq would have been better off? Regardless of your opinion on whether or not we should have invaded to begin with, I hold a firm belief that had we just up and left when it was red-hot-out-of-control as it was when Obama proposed doing so, the civil war referred to by Joe Biden would have escalated into a full-blown regional conflict. Sure, American lives would have been saved, but at what cost to our global reputation or overall international security? What would have happened to oil prices when the Saudis and Iranians opened up a proxy war between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq? I'm glad I only have to imagine these scenarios.
Of course, now that its politically convenient with the Democratic nomination wrapped up, and as Iraq fades from the daily headlines, Obama can try to publicly distance himself from the moveon.org and codepink crowd (watch this video) he cozied up to last year. If I was a die-hard anti-war voter, I would be outraged at how Obama played me for a fool. His Iraq De-escalation Act was nothing more than a ploy to get primary votes.
In a major policy shift, he went from a total withdrawal by May 08, to advocating a "gradual" 16-month withdrawal schedule that allows Obama more political freedom to attract Independent and moderate Republican voters.
None of this makes me (an Independent moderate) feel any more comfortable in selecting a political opportunist as the Commander in Chief, with my brother in the Army Reserve. It's also worth noting that military members favor McCain over Obama, 68 percent to 23 percent.
As some within the Democrat party contend, our military is not broken, our troops are not demoralized. The U.S. has the most experienced, battle-hardened force in the world. Lessons have been learned from our mistakes in Iraq, and that country is not trisected into feuding fiefdoms as argued by Joe Biden, but an emerging consensual state.
With that, I don't believe in "more war." Nor do I care to see the U.S. military extended into any new combat theaters. Personally, my gut feeling is to trust a man with his own two sons in the military to make the right decision when it comes to invading another country. McCain also showed tremendous resolve (or stubborness) in sticking with his convictions on the surge when many politicians, both Republican and Democrat, thought it would have been best to withdraw.
In contrast, Obama has not shown me that he has any real understanding or experience in global affairs beyond doing and saying what's necessary to win a Democratic Presidential nomination. Further, his political maneuvering on this critical issue makes me question his judgment and doubt his overall sincerity.
But the question Obama received during the CNN/Youtube Democrat Debate couldn't have been any clearer. "In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?"
Obama replied, "I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous."
He makes the case that he should sit down face to face with the sadistic leaders of these rogue states by suggesting that the Berlin Wall fell because we engaged Mikhail Gorbachev in negotiations and that "Kennedy talked to Khrushchev and he got those missiles out of Cuba."
This is an absurdity.
The Cuban Missle Crisis is an example of reactive negotiations to an emergency that had reached a near-fatal crescendo, rather than the type of pre-emptive meetings Obama calls for. Further, claiming that the U.S.-Soviet summits of the 1980s alone produced peace between the superpowers would be an incredibly naive supposition for anyone to make.
Contrary to Obama's statements on the issue, we met with the Soviets because they were a nuclear superpower. Our Iran policy should be built around preventing the mullahs from acquiring a single warhead. If we fail to prevent this, then we will indeed be forced to the negotiating table in a position of weakness to cut deals with a terrorist-sponoring, radical Islamist regime with an apocalyptic religious fanaticism.
Should the president ever meet with enemies? Sometimes, but only after minimal American objectives — i.e., preconditions — have been met. Obama has since come back from his claim that he would have insisted on preconditions all along, but even some Democrats detected an evolving position, including Joe Biden, who said, "This is a fellow who, I think, shorthanded an answer that, in fact, was the wrong answer, in my view, saying, 'I would, within the first year' -- it implied he'd personally sit down with anybody who wanted to sit down with him."
Does Obama think North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela are insufficiently informed about American requirements for improved relations? What's the point in negotiating with regimes who are in open violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions? When they meet face-to-face, what concessions does Obama think Ahmadinejad will offer him on Iran's nuclear program that haven't already been discussed during the five years of talks between Iran, our closest European allies and the International Atomic Energy Agency?
In my opinion, should a President seriously desire a conversation with these states, there are back-channel forms of diplomatic communication through intermediaries. Israel has for years held secret high-level meetings with her Arab neighbors, despite their refusal to even officially recognize the Jewish state, but they were secret and undisclosed to the public until years after.
To quote Krauthammer, "Having lashed himself to the ridiculous, unprecedented promise of unconditional presidential negotiations — and then having compounded the problem by elevating it to a principle — Obama keeps trying to explain." Meanwhile, our nation-state adversaries anxiously await an Obama victory.
At the 2008 AIPAC Policy Conference, Obama said "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." One day later, after being criticized by Arab leaders, Obama backtracked, saying, "Well, obviously, it's going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations." This is more than a simple slip-up. The status of Jerusalem is an incredibly sensitive topic on both sides.
Forget the fact that a Hamas spokesman first endorsed and then un-endorsed Obama's candidacy. I can quote Mohamed Habib, second in command over at the Muslim Brotherhood, aka, the Hamas of Egypt, on what he thinks of the choices in this Presidential election.
"We would naturally like to see the end of the current regime and that their practices are not to be repeated by the coming administration. We don't anticipate such change taking place if Senator John McCain wins, for he seems to be following the same line as the current American President George Bush. We are not so sure about Senator Obama either, because of his Israel visit, him saying that Israel is a democracy, and his visit to AIPAC, but we are withholding judgment because maybe he needs to do this to win. That being said, any change away from the criminal practices of the current administration is a good thing, and we would be happy with whatever candidate would put a stop to it."
Looks like Mohamed and I see eye to eye on one issue, thinking that "maybe he needs to do this to win."
One seemingly consistent theme running throughout Obama's career is his comfortable association with people who are anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic radicals. Early on in his career, some 20 years ago, he chose Trinity United as his place of worship and adopted Reverend Jeremiah Wright as his spiritual mentor. Aside from some of his other outlandish anti-American rants, Wright equates Zionism with racism, talks of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, floated an accusation that the South Africans and Israelis conspired to create an "ethnic bomb" to kill blacks and Arabs and calls for his church's divestment in companies doing business with Israel in the July 2005 issue of the Trinity United Trumpet.
It's wildly hypocritical for a guy who donated $22,000 to Trinity United in 2006, to say "One of the things that is frustrating about the recent conversations on Israel is the loss of what I think is the natural affinity between the African-American community and the Jewish community, one that was deeply understood by Jewish and black leaders in the early civil-rights movement but has been estranged for a whole host of reasons that you and I don’t need to elaborate."
Obama claims that he never sat in the pews during Wright's anti-Israel or anti-American sermons. He says that had he known about them, he would have hastened his departure from the church and ended his two decade friendship with the man who presided over his wedding and baptized his two children.
Even more confusing were his two conflicting speeches within weeks of each other where he first defended and excused Wright for his radical words, saying that he could not "disown" Wright any more than he could "disown his white grandmother." Obama did forcefully renounce Wright on April 30, but only after the Reverend called Obama's integrity into question, by saying, "We both know that if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected."
Such sordid associations and double-talk regarding Israel-U.S. relations make me unable to believe in his sincerity on this issue or his ability to be a competent broker in negotiations between the two parties. Neither do his statements during a Democratic primary debate, when Obama said "nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people."
Despite having a host of liberal Jewish personal friends and close advisers to his campaign, I continue to doubt Obama's sincerity and question his ties to the growing radical wing within the Democrat party that espouses a more critical and condescending American policy toward Israel.
Ali Abunimah, a Hyde Park Palestinian-American activist, said that until a few years ago, Obama was "quite frank that the U.S. needed to be more evenhanded, that it leaned too much toward Israel." It was vivid in his memory, said Abunimah, because "these were the kind of statements I'd never heard from a U.S. politician who seemed like he was going somewhere rather than at the end of his career. He convinced me he was very aware of the issues [and] critical of U.S. bias toward Israel and lack of sensitivity to Arabs. ... He was very supportive of U.S. pressure on Israel."
But leave it to Jesse Jackson to open his mouth on this topic, who said that with Obama in the White House, "Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades" will remain strong, but they'll lose a great deal of their clout, and "decades of putting Israel's interests first" would end.
There is little doubt in my mind why Israelis favor McCain over Obama by more than 20 percentage points, or why the Israel is the only nation in the world with a favorable opinion of President Bush. It's simply because both men abide by a common-sense U.S.-Israel policy that recognizes our close ties with the only liberal Democracy in the middle east and favors our strongest regional ally in the fight against radical Islamic extremism.
Every person in this country is affected by higher energy costs, except it seems for Barack Obama and the Democrat Leadership in Congress. How can they say we shouldn't even look for new energy resources in our backyard, when we're sending BILLIONS of dollars in gas money to dictatorial regimes and nations that support terror? NOTE: The average price for a gallon of gas was $2.33 when the Democrats took over leadership of Congress on January 4, 2007.
Democrats always talk about how Republicans are in the pocket of the oil industry, but why are the Democrats content with $4.00 a gallon gas prices, and Nancy Pelosi refuses to even hold an up or down vote on offshore drilling?
It scares me to the core to think that the Democrats have allowed the environmental lobby to hijack our national energy policy. This is both a threat to our economic security and our national security.
It doesn't matter how many billion barrels of oil are under the ground in Alaska or off our shorelines, scientific projections vary on the exact amounts under our feet and off our shores. The oil market is a complex animal, but again, I don't need an economics degree to know that just talking about opening up new sources of American energy will lead to reduced prices at the pump, even if it takes five years to get that oil to market.
For Obama to propose handing out a $7,000 tax credit to drivers who buy advanced-technology vehicles and $4 billion in subsidies to the companies that produce them...claiming that this is a great solution to our dependence foreign oil...I ask, how will he pay for that? Tax the rest of us who are still driving the couple hundred or so million gas powered vehicles? What good will this accomplish? Again, its another Democrat trying to screw with free market principles.
I believe in a combination of both increased oil exploration and alternative energy promotion. Not solely alternative energy promotion. It's ridiculous for us to sit on what could be decades worth of new energy sources right in our own backyard and instead send our money to places like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
While John McCain just recently came around on offshore drilling, he's at least finally come to realize that the rising price of gas and its ripple effects on our economy and national security are worth the minimal risks posed to our environment.
Never given to understatement and once again proving his willingness to go against fellow Republicans, McCain branded the 2005 Bush-administration backed energy plan as legislation with "no policy alternatives, just one pork-barrel project larded onto another" and the "leave no lobbyist behind bill." He was one of six Republicans to vote against the legislation.
Strangely, Obama voted for the 2005 Energy Bill, a bill he now says was written in secret by Vice President Cheney and oil companies. When pressed by a reporter to explain this vote and why he has gone on to criticize McCain on the topic, even though McCain voted against the Bush bill, Obama clouds the issue and accuses the reporter of bias. Again, another case of Obama trying to have it both ways on an issue of critical importance to Americans.
Don't forget McCain's bill to combat greenhouse-gas emissions that garnered 16 co-sponsors, 14 of whom were Democrats, including Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, or the other McCain written global-warming bill that Obama signed onto.
Furthermore, Obama does not support the construction of new nuclear reactors, despite that nuclear energy produces zero carbon emissions, has a long history of safety, and we've got plenty of uranium here in the U.S. Or that Obama is against new clean-coal technologies, yet another source of fuel we have in abundant supply domestically.
Obama's Energy Plan is going to cost the country more money than we're already spending on energy, along with the same emissions reduction and environmentally conscious alternative energy policies that McCain supports. I choose McCain's sensible strategy that both supports exploration for new sources of traditional energy while also promoting sustainable alternatives and conservation.
Consider that Congress is currently controlled by Democrats. They aren't going to lose their majority in the House or Senate in this election, or most likely the next two. Their control of Congress guarantees we will never see the Senate confirmation of a far-right Supreme Court nominee who has proclaimed a willingness to overturn Roe v Wade. On gay rights issues, it takes 2/3 of Congress and 3/4 of the states to ratify a Marriage amendment to the Constitution. In addition, the general concept of separation of powers and a built-in system of checks and balances render a President powerless to unilaterally alter the status quo on these matters.
Furthermore, consider that there were some of the most rabid right-wing, god-fearing, bible-thumping, jesus-quoting, proselytizing, christian-evangelical Republicans in control of Congress AND the White House for six full years (2000-2006) and they still couldn't muster the support necessary to pass any significant "game-changing" social issue legislation, get a single amendment to the constitution or even win minor federal bench appointments through the Senate Judiciary Committee!
The past decade of hyper-partisanship shows that its going to take AT LEAST a veto-proof majority of votes in Congress (on either side) before we ever see any socially relevant, precedent setting legislation or radical far-left or far-right appointments to the federal benches. Such a plurality at any time in the near term is a virtual impossibility due to gerry-mandered House legislative districts and the effectiveness of micro-targeting specific demographics in Congressional elections.
McCain and Obama both know we're not going to see any changes to standing law or the constitution in the next four years, if not forty. I think its shameful how both men continue to play the sides off one-another on the abortion issue, stirring up trouble between liberals and conservatives and stoking their respective political bases. It's a divisive and nonconstructive political strategy that should not be employed. Although neither candidate has the guts to say social issues are the least relevant items on their agenda because there are substantial voting blocs on both sides who consider the issue of paramount concern in elections.
Every four years, we get the pro-life folks on the conservative Christian right and the NOW crowd with the liberal left claiming that the next President has the power to drastically alter the makeup Supreme Court for the next twenty years. This is a far cry from the reality of the situation. Congress wields an enormous amount of power in the confirmation process and individual Senators have the ability to filibuster nominees or deny Judiciary Committee votes to Judges they deem unfavorable, i.e. Reagan nominee Robert Bork and Nixon nominees Clement Haynsworth, and G. Harrold Carswell.
It's also appropriate to note that the current swing vote on the court, Anthony Kennedy and the first woman Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor were both Reagan nominees. Justice David Souter was brought to the Court by George HW Bush and Paul Stevens was nominated by Gerald Ford. My only point being that it's not easy to predict a Justice's judicial philosophies over the long-term.
Personally, I blame the influence of the Catholic Church and the far-right evangelical group thinking at super-churches for their intractable stance on women's choice. I believe both sides should be working towards a legislative compromise that forever ensures Roe v Wade, a woman's right to privacy and the freedom to choose. Religious groups should heed their own gospel, and allow women the control of their own destinies, for "We shall all stand before God to be judged;" - Romans 14:10.
Furthermore, what happens if abortions are outlawed? Will social conservatives who preach about saving babies then become fiscally liberal and advocate for the billions in additional health care and welfare costs associated with caring for and raising millions of low-income children? Are we to create a national abortion rescue orphanage to feed and clothe the countless unwanted children born to mothers who cannot possibly support them? The thought of overturning Roe v Wade is preposterous to me and other conscientious conservatives who shudder at the prospect of restricting a woman's right to privacy and the untenable welfare crisis to follow.
Call it a flip-flop, a moment of clarity/honesty or a shrewd political calculation leading up to the 2000 Presidential election, but McCain has said, "I'd love to see a point where Roe vs. Wade is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade, which would then force women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."
While he did vote to confirm Justice Ginsburg, McCain has a lengthy record opposing women's reproductive rights.
I also take offense with McCain's position on abstinence-only education, he's further right of Palin on that issue, it's worth noting that McCain and Obama both oppose a federal marriage amendment, and they share similar positions on stem-cell research.
Regardless, the next President is largely powerless to unanimously dictate social policies or do anything more detrimental than what Bush has already done. There is no clear and present danger to a woman's right to choose in this election, gays aren't going to lose any of their existing rights and this issue is moot for me.
I will admit that Obama has more of an appeal to me on this topic, though I sincerely desire that a McCain presidency leads to the relaxation of the anti-choice rhetoric coming from the current White House. However, if this was an Obama vs. Huckabee or an Obama vs. Palin election, Obama would look much more attractive to me as a candidate based on these issues.
McCain supports school choice and private school vouchers. Obama thinks we should pour more federal money into state school systems, paid for by higher taxes on corporations.
McCain will continue the Cuban embargo and hold the Castro regime accountable for its actions. Obama wants to normalize relations with the dictator at our doorstep.
McCain thinks that free trade without undue restrictions or tarriffs is good for the economy and we should open free trade agreements with all nations that are not security risks. Obama voted against CAFTA, wants to amend NAFTA and thinks we should add further restrictions on trade to appease his Union bosses and supporters in the environmental lobby.
McCain supports the Patriot Act and believes it helps protect Americans. Obama wants to re-write the Patriot Act and believes it harms American's civil liberties.
McCain thinks that affirmative action should be limited in its application. Obama supports affirmative action in colleges and government.