Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Devil in the Details

I listened to Obama's campaign speech State of the Union Address, and came away with an interesting perception: at a high level, I agree with a lot of what he's saying. There are plenty of reference to the speech/highlights on the web, but I'll focus on a few points, and point out where I agree with our socialist dictator socialist president, and where I differ.

[on the housing bubble/pop] Regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behaviour. It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hard-working Americans holding the bag.

I totally agree. There was no reason for the government to be cheer-leading the housing bubble, when they knew it was unsustainable. Regulators not only looked the other way, they led the charge in the other direction: recall Greenspan's praise of the "new and innovative" lending products which enabled the bubble. Regulators were not only complicit, they were driving forces, and the GSE's were allowed to assume massive amounts of bad debt which the taxpayers are still paying for. It was wrong, it was irresponsible, and I hope some of the people who left taxpaying American's holding the bag (ie: many people in government during the bubble, including Senator Obama) is made to pay.

Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion.

This is a bold initiative, Mr President, and if it's true then I salute you. The deficit, as you know, is the difference between money taken in and spending, and colloquially refers (implicitly) to the annual difference. The budget deficit for 2011 was approximately $1 trillion, and will probably be slightly more than that (or possibly significantly, given your history) in 2012. However, if you indeed have agreed to cut it by $2 trillion (thus giving us perhaps a $800 billion surplus in 2012), then you have done more than I could imagine in the name of spending reductions, and I might even be inclined to support you in 2012. After all, even Ron Paul proposed a relatively modest reduction of $1 trillion in the deficit, and presumably that was over four years.

Of course, you could also be full of misleading distortions and shit, but here's hoping your statement was accurate. :)

What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries.

I think we would do well to heed this warning. If the auto industry can get a massive taxpayer bailout/subsidy, and become a government-run zombie industry, beholden to the unions as a gift to Democrat supporters, it could happen to other industries as well. You are astute to issue this warning, Mr. President: let us not make the grave mistake of putting another socialist in office, while we still have some private-sector industries left.

My message is simple. It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.

I wholeheartedly agree. We should revise the tax code, and stop making it a tangled mess of deductions, special-case favoritism, and disincentive on top of one of the highest business tax rates in the world. By simplifying the tax code and reducing the marginal rate, we can make job creation in America more appealing than abroad to all our benefit. I glossed over your specific suggestions, but I'm sure if you were serious about this one, they would be pretty close to mine.

[for education] In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.

Once again, I totally agree. We need to break the powerful teacher's unions and lobby groups, and allow schools to get rid of bad teachers, and reward good ones. We need to ensure our students are educated enough to pass the tests, but rounded as well: fluent in many areas. We need to stop extorting states to fall in line with federal education mandates, get the government out of schools, and let them get better, so they are competitive with private offerings. Well said, Mr. President.

Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidising skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. [...] So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.

This sounds exactly like what I've been saying for a while: higher education costs have skyrocketed because of subsidies and government programs; they are chasing the tail of the problem they are creating. Cut the subsidies, and the costs will go down. It will be a painful transition (as coming off any other addiction), but it's what we need to do: get the government [largely] out of the education subsidization business. Once again, Obama surprisingly seems to be [somewhat] aware of the root of the problem, and [somewhat] proposing an actual viable solution.

And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history – with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.

I support this plan. As long as the DoD is operating within their budget, which is in-turn within a balanced and constrained federal budget, I support their purchasing of clean energy to generate demand. There are worse things we could spend military money on than domestic energy production and investment.

Let’s never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a Government and a financial system that do the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no cop-outs.

I couldn't agree more. It's time to hold those worthless politicians accountable: the ones who enacted the worthless stimulus package, bailed out the banks, bailed out the auto industry, propped up the housing market after the bubble popped, gave taxpayer money to the GSE's, authorized the FHA to keep giving risky loans after the bubble, gave massive handouts to their union supporters, and copped-out on their personal massive contribution to the national debt. Throw all those crooks out of office, starting at the top and working down, till all those scum are purged from our government.

But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes.

I agree: put a cap of 20% of income on taxes, for everyone, then get rid of all the deductions for everyone making over... whatever arbitrary amount you consider "rich". People paying less will then pay their "far share", and people paying more won't get dicked-over by heavy-handed class-warfare tax policies. It's a win-win, and I can get behind it.

I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.

I believe that too, Mr. President, as does Ron Paul, probably more than anyone else in government. You should seek him as your running mate in 2012, to show you are serious about this pledge. I look forward to your reductions in the scope of government to match this pledge; frankly, I want nothing more than this from the government. If you follow through on nothing else stated here, but actually hold true to this, I give you my promise: I will support you.

Of course, as I said, the devil is in the details.


  1. I had such high hopes for Obama, and have been so disappointed on several fronts. Makes me lean towards the cynical "misleading distortions and shit" position. :( Your support of Ron Paul is interesting, when coupled with my lefty friends support of him. No hope of an Obama/Paul ticket, but reading about his platform will at least be an interesting way to pass some time. Stupid politics, it makes me jaded and cranky. I'll probably end up voting Obama because the GOP candidates horrify me, but that's really unsatisfying.

  2. Personally, I'd rank the current candidates in the following order of good for the country (and worth as people, for that matter):
    - Ron Paul
    - Mitt Romney*
    - Barack Obama
    - Newt Gingrich**
    - Rick Santorum

    * Romney is basically Obama-light, but at least his campaign rhetoric promises to be less bad for the country. I don't think he'd actually be much of an improvement, but I think there's even less chance he would be worse than Obama, so he gets the edge.
    ** The only reason Gingrich ranks worse than Obama is his more up-front support for a totalitarian state, and better chance of getting something through a Republican Congress. I think Obama has the same horrible views, but less chance of actually enacting them.

    Santorum is absolute garbage, as a candidate and person. He's the only candidate where, if it were and choice between him and Obama, and if I voted (I'm in California, so no point there), I'd actually vote for Obama, rather than a third-party option. As atrociously abhorrently awful for the country as Obama is, Santorum is markedly and unequivocally worse, as much as that possibility boggles my mind.

  3. I'm still debating my candidate rankings. Some of them have, IMO, rather awful stances on certain human rights. I consider women's rights and gay rights to be human rights. While I find that much more appalling than, say, an economic position or foreign policy I disagree with, I also see that a bad economic policy could do harm to many more people than, say, an anti-gay policy. I hate, HATE doing such "ethics math". On top of that, I have to consider what the makeup of the Senate might be, and will the president be acceptable enough to them to get things done. I very much want to vote, consider informed voting a duty, but I can really see how some get so jaded they don't even bother. LOLcats, take me away!

  4. With you on Santorum. Dead last. It's Ron Paul and Obama I'm still considering. Seriously considered voting for Newt in the Republican primary, knowing he has no shot, because Santorum would be so very, very bad. Trying to split the other party's primary vote is ethically questionable at best. Conscience kicked in, can be such an annoyance at times.