Saturday, November 22, 2008

 

The Lesson of the 2008 Election

I haven't seen any pundit talk about the main lesson of the 2008 election: run a candidate that the voters like. A simple lesson, isn't it? Think about what happened. The Republican favorites were Giuliani, Romney, and McCain. None of them were sound conservatives. Giuliani was an out-and-out liberal, and an adulterer. Romney was an out-and-out liberal who promised that he'd reformed and was really conservative, and he was a Mormon. Being a Mormon is not like being a Moslem or an Orthodox Jew--- Mormons have some truly weird beliefs and require rigid obedience to the hierarchy. McCain was an inconsistent conservative, and a repentant adulterer. Worst, though, was that he had never been loyal to the Republican Party, preferring the praise of the media and the support of independents, and he clearly disliked social conservatives. If some real Republican had run, he would have won the nomination, Republicans would have been at least mildly enthusiastic and turned out in November, and he would have won. If even Sarah Palin, unknown governor of Alaska, had done that she would be our President-Elect. Thompson didn't run, though and Brownback dropped out early. Huckabee, a smart man, did run, and did very well, but it turned out that he was not conservative on economics and perhaps on foreign issues, and he criticized our conservative President too freely. Indeed, Huckabee seems to have been an old 1920s Democrat on everything but race.

How about the Democrats? A similar story, but with a happier ending for them. Hillary Clinton was the overwhelming favorite, and she was trying to be moderate to get ready for the general election. The conventional wisdom was that she'd lose in November anyway. Thus, the Democratic leaders were unhappy. Also, she's unethical, like her husband, without having his likeability, and reminds people of the embarassing Clinton years. But almost everybody was too chicken to run against her. Barack Obama was not. Being Not-Clinton, he won, strongly helped by being a true leftwinger and being black. With the Party's left on his side, and the black and other party leaders secretly relieved he was running, he was able to replace Hillary.

Thus, in the general election the Democrats had acquired a candidate they liked and the Republicans had not. Democrats turned out to vote, and Republicans did not. Obama won.

It's too bad I was at Oxford last year. I could have run for President. If I'd had 2 million dollars I could have gotten the nomination maybe. More seriously, if I'd energetically worked to get some other unknown with brains, good inside connections, and no track record of professorial eccentricity to run, I could have gotten him nominated. David Mackintosh, Joshua Davidson, Mark Baker, David Snyder, David Frum, or Steve Calabresi would have done nicely. It's interesting that I have a harder time of thinking of anyone I didn't meet via college.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

 

Where McCain Did Better than Bush

 

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Friday, November 7, 2008

 

Voter Turnout Same in 2004 and 2008

Via Drudge, this CNN news account of a serious academic analysis says that voter turnout nationwide was about the same in 2008 as in 2004. More Democrats turned out, but fewer Republicans. That's interesting. It makes sense. Obama had lots of money for turning out voters, and lots of special enthusiasm perhaps from blacks who would not otherwise vote. McCain was not inspiring.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

 

Policy Predictions for After an Obama Victory

JD emailed me this good list of policy predictions for after an Obama victory.


I predict we will see activity along the following lines, although I
don't expect Obama to get all of it (and this is hardly a
comprehensive list):

1.      Reinstate the "fairness doctrine" to shut down conservative
talk radio.
2.      Enact pro-union legislation, like card check, forced
mediation, anti-right to work laws.
3.      Higher capital gains tax, no extension of Bush tax cuts,
increased social security taxes by lifting or removing limit on
taxable income, no decrease in corporate income tax, reinstatement of
the estate tax, higher marginal tax rates

4.      Huge (and ineffective) subsidies for users and consumers of
alternative energy; no meaningful relaxation of restrictions on
drilling for oil and gas; no meaningful promotion of nuclear power;
increasingly severe restrictions on coal-fired power plants; cap and
trade.

5.      Use of tax money from top 5% to make welfare payments (will be
labeled tax credits) to non-income tax payers.
6.      Appointment of very liberal judges.  The Democrats have been
much worse than Republicans in stalling nominations. The floodgates
will be opened.

7.      Reversal of tort reform measures enacted nationally and in
states over the past 10 years.  Expect class action lawsuits seeking
to bankrupt new industries -- guns, fast food.

8.      Reduced defense spending.  Halt to development of anti-
satellite weapons and defensive missile shield, no development of new
bunker buster, no movement to test old weapons, no increase in the
size of the navy.

9.      More race-based entitlements, including reparations (pushed by
his supporters more than by him - but won't pass); changing of
criminal laws deemed to disproportionately affect minorities; more
race-based hiring and contracting decisions at the government level
and more effort to impose affirmative action in the private sector.

10.     Witch-hunt investigations by Congress of the previous
administration to settle old scores and of businessmen as part of the
new hostile business climate.

11.     More campaign restrictions against fund-raising avenues deemed
most favorable to Republicans.  Shakedown of businesses for money to
fuel Democratic coffers.

12.     Continuation of policy of increased involvement in
Afghanistan, but will choose ineffective tactics and won't get allies
to help. "Chickenhawk" approach.

13.     Continuation of Bush appeasement policy of Iran and North
Korea.  Iran will get nuclear weapons under Obama.  North Korea will
continue to be a threat and may implode.

14.     Shift away from Israel to Arab nations.  Increased tolerance
for terrorist activity and for domestic organizations with a history
of supporting terrorists (e.g. CAIR).  No material improvement in
homeland security. Weakening of the Patriot Act (or reduced usage of
its provisions).  More rights granted to terrorists.

15.     Amnesty for illegal aliens.  Reduced enforcement of
immigration laws.  More benefits to illegal aliens.  Work stopped on
fence with Mexico.

16.     No new trade agreements.  Don't know if he will seek to reopen
Nafta -- huge step, may not be that bold.  Increased hostility to
Colombia and other allies.

17.     Socialized medicine -- less drug innovation, long waits for
medical care, weeding out of people too expensive to treat, limited
option to opt out in favor of private medicine, fewer improvements in
technology and slowing in the spread of technology, less incentive for
qualified people to become doctors

18.     No reform of medicare or social security (except for higher
taxes on "wealthy")
19.     Continued assaults on Wall Street, drug companies, oil
companies.  Do not expect any major new drugs for many years to come.

20      Continued bailouts of politically popular industries, such as
auto.
21.     Taxpayer bailout of homeowners who won't pay their mortgages.
Lenders forced to rewrite contracts.
22.     No strategy to deal with resurgent Russia and strengthening
China.
23.     National promotion of gay marriage.
24.     Reduction in limits on harvesting eggs and cloning for medical
research.
25.     Increased financial and regulatory burdens on setting up
charter schools.
26.     No rush to reduce government equity stakes in financial
companies.  Use of this control to make capital allocation decisions
based on politics, not economics.


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Saturday, November 1, 2008

 

Live Birth Abortion

Cranmer has a post on live-birth abortion, the kind Obama is notorious for supporting while an Illinois legislator.
It is a termination process which involves the birth of a live baby, the issuing of a birth certificate, the purposeful abandoning of the baby to a slow and tortuous death, and the callous issuing of a death certificate....

By law, if an aborted baby is born alive, both birth and death certificates must be issued. Ironically, the cause of death often listed for live aborted babies is ‘extreme prematurity’, which amount to a confession by doctors that they have caused this death. It is not uncommon for a live aborted baby to linger for an hour or two or even longer. One baby is reported to have lived for almost an entire eight-hour shift. Many of these babies are born completely healthy, for they are terminated at 40 weeks for the ‘health’ of the mother, and also in cases of rape or incest. Ever since Doe v Bolton (the companion case to Roe v Wade) the United States Supreme Court has adopted the definition of the World Health Organisation for ‘health’, defined as ‘any condition that might impact her physical, emotional, psychological or financial well being’.

So live birth abortion is permitted in many US states up to nine months for emotional (can’t cope), psychological (don’t want to cope) or financial (can’t afford it) reasons, effectively extending abortion to on demand.

Nov. 2. H.U. referred me to Robert George's Obama's Abortion Extremism. It's a good summary of Obama's positions, and also a good summary of various laws pertaining to abortion and embryonic research about which people disagree.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

 

Obama and McCain on Evil

Here's more from the Saddleback Church interviews of McCain and Obama, on the question of evil. The transcript of the Obama interview says:

WARREN: ... Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?

OBAMA: Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children. I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely, and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, now, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God's task, but we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil's been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.

WARREN: In the name of good.

OBAMA: In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that's very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn't always mean that we're going to be doing good.

The transcript of the McCain interview says:

WARREN: ... Does evil exist and, if so, should ignore it, negotiate it with it, contain it or defeat it?

MCCAIN: Defeat it. A couple of points. One, if I'm president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that. And I know how to do that. I will get that done. (APPLAUSE). No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of American -- innocent American lives.

Of course, evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcended challenge of the 21st century -- radical Islamic extremism.

Not long ago in Baghdad, al Qaeda took two young women who were mentally disabled, and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and, by remote control, detonated those suicide vests. If that isn't evil, you have to tell me what is. And we're going to defeat this evil. And the central battleground according to David Petraeus and Osama bin Laden is the battle, is Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Iraq and we are winning and succeeding and our troops will come home with honor and with victory and not in defeat. And that's what's happening.

And we have -- and we face this threat throughout the world. It's not just in Iraq. It's not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us al Qaeda continues to try to establish cells here in the United States of America. My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge. And we must totally defeat it, and we're in a long struggle. But when I'm around, the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform, I have no doubt, none.

Obama's position is correct. Evil exists, and we should confront it, we will not defeat it completely, and there is evil within us.

McCain, however, is right in saying that we should and will defeat evil. We will not defeat all evil, but we will defeat some of it. He does not address the problem of evil generally, only in one area of national policy.

McCain's answer is more impressive than Obama's because he is inspiring and specific. You can tell he really means it. He sees specific evil, and he has specific plans to defeat it. Obama is vague in his examples of evil, and he doesn't seem to have either much interest in defeating it or specific plans. Evil is seen "all the time": "in Darfur", "on the streets of our cities", and "in parents who viciously abuse their children". Obama sounds like a politician who makes excuses for defeat even before he starts, because he doesn't really want to address the problems. He is going to "confront" evil, not "fight evil" or "defeat evil". He is most concerned that in confronting these evils we will not perpetrate evil ourselves. "Let's not be too hasty in trying to end evil" is his message.

THe next day. I should add another excerpt. It is from just before McCain is asked about evil. They are talking about abortion and stem-cell research. What is interesting about it is that when the topic shifted to Evil, McCain did not mention abortion, even though the topic had just come up.

WARREN: OK. (APPLAUSE). All right.

Another issue, stem cells. We've had the scientific break-through of creating pluri-potent (ph) stem cells through adult stem cells.

MCCAIN: Yes.

WARREN: So would you favor or oppose the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research since we had this other break-through?

MCCAIN: For those of us in the pro-life community this has been a great struggle and a terrible dilemma because we're also taught other obligations that we have as well. I've come down on the side of stem cell research. But I am wily optimistic that skin cell research, which is coming more and more into focus and practicability, will make this debate an academic one.

WARREN: How about the issue of evil. I asked this of your rival, in the previous debate. Does evil exist and, if so, should ignore it, negotiate it with it, contain it or defeat it?

MCCAIN: Defeat it. A couple of points. One, if I'm president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that. And I know how to do that. I will get that done. (APPLAUSE). No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of American -- innocent American lives....

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Which Supreme Courts Justices Would You Not Have Nominated?

From the WSJ comes a good question asked by Pastor Warren:

Rev. Warren asked each candidate which Justices he would not have nominated. McCain, who interviewed after Obama, answered that, “with all due respect,” the four most liberal Justices.

For his part, Obama said, “that’s a good one,” and then explained: “I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don’t think that he, I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution.” Obama added that he wouldn’t have appointed Justice Scalia, and perhaps not John Roberts, either.

Here is the transcript. It says:
Which existing Supreme Court Justices would you not have nominated?

MCCAIN: With all due respect, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter, and Justice Stephens.

WARREN: Why? Tell me why.

MCCAIN: Well, I think that the president of the United States has incredible responsibility in nominating people to the United States Supreme Court. They are lifetime positions, as well as the federal bench. There will be two or maybe three vacancies. This nomination should be based on the criteria of proven record, of strictly adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America and not legislating from the bench. Some of the worst damage has been done by legislating from the bench. (APPLAUSE).

And by the way, Justices Alito and Roberts are two of my most recent favorites, by the way. They really are. They are very fine. (LAUGHTER). And I'm proud of President Bush for nominating them.
Obama's transcript is in a different file. [September 23: In light of the first comment below, I've deleted the excerpt from Obama's transcript, as it might be misleading.]

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

 

Barack Obama's Economic Policies

From Obama for President website, here are some of his economic policies, with my commentary.
* Provide Additional Tax Rebates to American Workers: The economy has continued to weaken significantly, despite congressional action to provide immediate tax rebates to American consumers. Stimulus: $20 billion.
Good. Taxes are tending to increase, so cutting them is good, even if the tax cut is called a rebate.
* Establish a $10 billion Foreclosure Prevention Fund: Given the downturn in the economy, Obama is calling for immediate creation of his Foreclosure Prevention Fund that will dramatically increase emergency pre-foreclosure counseling, and will help families facing foreclosure to responsibly refinance their mortgages or sell their homes. Obama’s plan will not help speculators, people buying vacation homes or people that falsely represented their incomes. It is meant to help responsible homeowners through this difficult period. Stimulus: $10 billion.
Bad. People who are overextended are given plenty of time by their banks, who lose money from foreclosures. The industry of reckless lending should not be subsidized this way.
* Provide $10 billion in Relief for State and Local Governments Hardest-Hit by the Housing Crisis to Prevent Cuts in Vital Services: Because of the housing crisis and the weakening economy, many state and local governments are facing significant revenue shortfalls. Barack Obama believes that in the areas hardest-hit by the housing crisis we should provide immediate, temporary funding to state and local governments so that the decline in property values does not cause them to slash critical public services and cut vital infrastructure spending. Stimulus: $10 billion.
Bad. Localities can raise their own taxes if they want to, rather than using national taxes.
* Extend and Expand Unemployment Insurance: Barack Obama believes we must extend and strengthen the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program to address the needs of the long-term unemployed, who currently make up nearly one-fifth of the unemployed and are often older workers who have lost their jobs in manufacturing or other industries and have a difficult time finding new employment. Expanding UI is one of the most effective ways to combat economic turmoil; every dollar invested in UI benefits results in $1.73 in economic output. Obama is calling for a temporary expansion of the UI program for those who have exhausted their current eligibility. Stimulus: $10 billion.
Bad. We shouldn't encourage people to stay unemployed.
* Provide a Tax Cut for Working Families: Obama will restore fairness to the tax code and provide 150 million workers the tax relief they need. Obama will create a new "Making Work Pay" tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. The "Making Work Pay" tax credit will completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million Americans.
Bad. We've already done too much of this. It's good for everyone to contribute at least a little in income tax. Also, this plan does exactly what the Earned Income Credit is supposed to be doing already.
* Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less than $50,000: Barack Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year. This proposal will eliminate income taxes for 7 million seniors and provide these seniors with an average savings of $1,400 each year. Under the Obama plan, 27 million American seniors will also not need to file an income tax return.
Bad. Why should old people get a special tax break?
* Simplify Tax Filings for Middle Class Americans: Obama will dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans will be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes. Obama will ensure that the IRS uses the information it already gets from banks and employers to give taxpayers the option of pre-filled tax forms to verify, sign and return. Experts estimate that the Obama proposal will save Americans up to 200 million total hours of work and aggravation and up to $2 billion in tax preparer fees.
Good idea.
* Fight for Fair Trade: Obama will fight for a trade policy that opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs. He will use trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement that fail to live up to those important benchmarks. Obama will also pressure the World Trade Organization to enforce trade agreements and stop countries from continuing unfair government subsidies to foreign exporters and nontariff barriers on U.S. exports.

* Amend the North American Free Trade Agreement: Obama believes that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people. Obama will work with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to fix NAFTA so that it works for American workers.

Bad. He's a protectionist.
* Improve Transition Assistance: To help all workers adapt to a rapidly changing economy, Obama would update the existing system of Trade Adjustment Assistance by extending it to service industries, creating flexible education accounts to help workers retrain, and providing retraining assistance for workers in sectors of the economy vulnerable to dislocation before they lose their jobs.
Bad. Boondoggle spending.
* Invest in our Next Generation Innovators and Job Creators: Obama will create an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to identify and invest in the most compelling advanced manufacturing strategies. The Fund will have a peer-review selection and award process based on the Michigan 21st Century Jobs Fund, a state-level initiative that has awarded over $125 million to Michigan businesses with the most innovative proposals to create new products and new jobs in the state.

* Double Funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership: The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) works with manufacturers across the country to improve efficiency, implement new technology and strengthen company growth. This highly-successful program has engaged in more than 350,000 projects across the country and in 2006 alone, helped create and protect over 50,000 jobs. But despite this success, funding for MEP has been slashed by the Bush administration. Barack Obama will double funding for the MEP so its training centers can continue to bolster the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers.

Bad. This is fascist industrial policy, the kind that was widely ridiculed in the 1980's. The government shouldn't be funding private investment.
* Invest In A Clean Energy Economy And Create 5 Million New Green Jobs: Obama will invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial scale renewable energy, invest in low emissions coal plants, and begin transition to a new digital electricity grid. The plan will also invest in America's highly-skilled manufacturing workforce and manufacturing centers to ensure that American workers have the skills and tools they need to pioneer the first wave of green technologies that will be in high demand throughout the world.
Okay.
* Create New Job Training Programs for Clean Technologies: The Obama plan will increase funding for federal workforce training programs and direct these programs to incorporate green technologies training, such as advanced manufacturing and weatherization training, into their efforts to help Americans find and retain stable, high- paying jobs. Obama will also create an energy-focused youth jobs program to invest in disconnected and disadvantaged youth.
Bad. Industrial policy again.

[To be continued]

* Boost the Renewable Energy Sector and Create New Jobs: The Obama plan will create new federal policies, and expand existing ones, that have been proven to create new American jobs. Obama will create a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that will require 25 percent of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2025, which has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs on its own. Obama will also extend the Production Tax Credit, a credit used successfully by American farmers and investors to increase renewable energy production and create new local jobs.
Terrible idea, and rotten economics.
Barack Obama believes that it is critically important for the United States to rebuild its national transportation infrastructure – its highways, bridges, roads, ports, air, and train systems – to strengthen user safety, bolster our long-term competitiveness and ensure our economy continues to grow.

* Create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank: Barack Obama will address the infrastructure challenge by creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to expand and enhance, not supplant, existing federal transportation investments. This independent entity will be directed to invest in our nation’s most challenging transportation infrastructure needs. The Bank will receive an infusion of federal money, $60 billion over 10 years, to provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation. These projects will create up to two million new direct and indirect jobs per year and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year in new economic activity.

Infrastructure is what a lot of our porkbarrel spending has been about. This Bank would have huge patronage power and would undoubtedly be corrupt, just like Democrat-led Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
* Invest in the Sciences: Barack Obama supports doubling federal funding for basic research ...

* Make the Research and Development Tax Credit Permanent: Barack Obama wants investments in a skilled research and development workforce and technology infrastructure to be supported here in America so that American workers and communities will benefit. Obama wants to make the Research and Development tax credit permanent so that firms can rely on it when making decisions to invest in domestic R&D over multi-year timeframes.

I do like that.
* Deploy Next-Generation Broadband: Barack Obama believes we can get broadband to every community in America through a combination of reform of the Universal Service Fund, better use of the nation's wireless spectrum, promotion of next-generation facilities, technologies and applications, and new tax and loan incentives.
I don't know much about that.
* Provide Tax Relief for Small Businesses and Start Up Companies: Barack Obama will eliminate all capital gains taxes on start-up and small businesses to encourage innovation and job creation. Obama will also support small business owners by providing a $500 “Making Work Pay” tax credit to almost every worker in America. Self-employed small business owners pay both the employee and the employer side of the payroll tax, and this measure will reduce the burdens of this double taxation.
This sounds like a good tax cut.
* Create a National Network of Public-Private Business Incubators: Barack Obama will support entrepreneurship and spur job growth by creating a national network of public-private business incubators. Business incubators facilitate the critical work of entrepreneurs in creating start-up companies. Obama will invest $250 million per year to increase the number and size of incubators in disadvantaged communities throughout the country.
Sounds like pork to me.
Obama will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions. He will fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Obama will ensure that his labor appointees support workers' rights and will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers. Obama will also increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation to ensure it rises every year.
All bad. He wants to support unionized workers at the expense of poor workers who might compete with them.
* Ensure Freedom to Unionize: Obama believes that workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers. Obama cosponsored and is strong advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan effort to assure that workers can exercise their right to organize. He will continue to fight for EFCA's passage and sign it into law.
I don't know this bill, but unionizing already has lots of protection, since the 1930s.
* Fight Attacks on Workers' Right to Organize: Obama has fought the Bush National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) efforts to strip workers of their right to organize. He is a cosponsor of legislation to overturn the NLRB's "Kentucky River" decisions classifying hundreds of thousands of nurses, construction, and professional workers as "supervisors" who are not protected by federal labor laws.
I don't know this decision, but my guess is that he wants to force all these people to join unions against their will.
* Protect Striking Workers: Obama supports the right of workers to bargain collectively and strike if necessary. He will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers, so workers can stand up for themselves without worrying about losing their livelihoods.
If a worker decides his employer is not paying him enough and goes on strike, why shouldn't the employer be allowed to hire someone else who would be happy to get that wage?
* Raise the Minimum Wage: Barack Obama will raise the minimum wage, index it to inflation and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to make sure that full-time workers earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs.
Bad economics.What he really wants is to get those workers fired so union workers who pay him big campaign contributions will be hired instead.
* Create a New FHA Housing Security Program: Barack Obama strongly supports the efforts of Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd (D–CT) to create a new Federal Housing Administration (FHA) program that will provide meaningful incentives for lenders to buy or refinance existing mortgages and convert them into stable 30-year fixed mortgages. This plan provides an important federal backstop – not a bailout – to this growing national problem. Neither lenders nor homeowners would receive a windfall from this plan.
I don't know that bill.
* Create a Universal Mortgage Credit: Obama will create a 10 percent universal mortgage credit to provide homeowners who do not itemize tax relief. This credit will provide an average of $500 to 10 million homeowners, the majority of whom earn less than $50,000 per year.
* Ensure More Accountability in the Subprime Mortgage Industry: Obama has been closely monitoring the subprime mortgage situation for years, and introduced comprehensive legislation over a year ago to fight mortgage fraud and protect consumers against abusive lending practices. Obama's STOP FRAUD Act provides the first federal definition of mortgage fraud, increases funding for federal and state law enforcement programs, creates new criminal penalties for mortgage professionals found guilty of fraud, and requires industry insiders to report suspicious activity.
* Mandate Accurate Loan Disclosure: Obama will create a Homeowner Obligation Made Explicit (HOME) score, which will provide potential borrowers with a simplified, standardized borrower metric (similar to APR) for home mortgages. The HOME score will allow individuals to easily compare various mortgage products and understand the full cost of the loan.
* Create Fund to Help Homeowners Avoid Foreclosures: Obama will create a fund to help people refinance their mortgages and provide comprehensive supports to innocent homeowners. The fund will be partially paid for by Obama's increased penalties on lenders who act irresponsibly and commit fraud.
* Close Bankruptcy Loophole for Mortgage Companies: Obama will work to eliminate the provision that prevents bankruptcy courts from modifying an individual's mortgage payments. Obama believes that the subprime mortgage industry, which has engaged in dangerous and sometimes unscrupulous business practices, should not be shielded by outdated federal law.
* Create a Credit Card Rating System to Improve Disclosure: Obama will create a credit card rating system, modeled on five-star systems used for other consumer products, to provide consumers an easily identifiable ranking of credit cards, based on the card's features. Credit card companies will be required to display the rating on all application and contract materials, enabling consumers to quickly understand all of the major provisions of a credit card without having to rely exclusively on fine print in lengthy documents.
* Establish a Credit Card Bill of Rights to Protect Consumers: Obama will create a Credit Card Bill of Rights to protect consumers. The Obama plan will: o Ban Unilateral Changes o Apply Interest Rate Increases Only to Future Debt o Prohibit Interest on Fees o Prohibit "Universal Defaults" o Require Prompt and Fair Crediting of Cardholder Payments
* Cap Outlandish Interest Rates on Payday Loans and Improve Disclosure: Obama supports extending a 36 percent interest cap to all Americans. Obama will require lenders to provide clear and simplified information about loan fees, payments and penalties, which is why he'll require lenders to provide this information during the application process.
* Encourage Responsible Lending Institutions to Make Small Consumer Loans: Obama will encourage banks, credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions to provide affordable short-term and small-dollar loans and to drive unscrupulous lenders out of business.
* Reform Bankruptcy Laws to Protect Families Facing a Medical Crisis: Obama will create an exemption in bankruptcy law for individuals who can prove they filed for bankruptcy because of medical expenses. This exemption will create a process that forgives the debt and lets the individuals get back on their feet.
* Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act: The FMLA covers only certain employees of employers with 50 or more employees. Obama will expand it to cover businesses with 25 or more employees. He will expand the FMLA to cover more purposes as well, including allowing workers to take leave for elder care needs; allowing parents up to 24 hours of leave each year to participate in their children's academic activities; and expanding FMLA to cover leave for employees to address domestic violence.
* Encourage States to Adopt Paid Leave: As president, Obama will initiate a strategy to encourage all 50 states to adopt paid-leave systems. Obama will provide a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs and to help states offset the costs for employees and employers.
* Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Obama will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve a million more children. Obama will include measures to maximize performance and effectiveness across grantees nationwide.
* Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit provides too little relief to families that struggle to afford child care expenses. Obama will reform the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it refundable and allowing low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for their child care expenses.
* Protect Against Caregiver Discrimination: Workers with family obligations often are discriminated against in the workplace. Obama will enforce the recently-enacted Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on caregiver discrimination.
* Expand Flexible Work Arrangements: Obama will create a program to inform businesses about the benefits of flexible work schedules; help businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increase federal incentives for telecommuting. Obama will also make the federal government a model employer in terms of adopting flexible work schedules and permitting employees to request flexible arrangements.
* Housing: In the U.S. Senate, Obama introduced the STOP FRAUD Act to increase penalties for mortgage fraud and provide more protections for low-income homebuyers, well before the current subprime crisis began.
* Predatory Lending: In the Illinois State Senate, Obama called attention to predatory lending issues. Obama sponsored legislation to combat predatory payday loans, and he also was credited with lobbying the state to more closely regulate some of the most egregious predatory lending practices.
* American Jobs: Barack Obama introduced the Patriot Employer Act of 2007 to provide a tax credit to companies that maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in America relative to those outside the US; maintain their corporate headquarters in America; pay decent wages; prepare workers for retirement; provide health insurance; and support employees who serve in the military.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

 

The Popular Vote: Obama or Hillary?

Back to that question of who has more of the popular vote, Obama or Hillary: Realclearpolitics, has the following table:

Popular Vote
The top heading "Popular Vote Total" is the popular vote excluding Michigan. The third and fourth lines include Michigan, unmodified. The fifth and sixth lines include Michigan, but with 100% of the Uncommitted vote going to Obama.

The second, fourth, and sixth lines include estimates of the popular votes in the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington.

But as Talkleft points out, there is still another wrinkle to the definition of "popular vote": states which have both caucuses and primaries, where the caucus determines who gets the delegates, but the primary has more voters expressing a preference for a candidate. Nebraska, Idaho, and Washington both had primaries as well as caucuses. It seems reasonable to include them if we are measuring popular votes cast either literally or to see which candidate has more support among voters.

Including them helps Hillary and hurts Obama. I use numbers from Talkleft.

Nebraska had a primary in May, as well as its earlier caucuses which actually chose the delegates (see here for a news story).

Nebraska had 38 thousand caucus votes and 95 thousand votes in its May primary. In the caucuses, Obama beat Hillary 68% to 32%, 26 to 12 thousand, a 14 thousand margin. In the primary, Obama beat Hillary 49.4% to 46.6%, 47 to 44, a 3 thousand margin. Replacing caucus with primary results adds 11 thousand to Hillary's total popular vote.

Washington had 238 thousand caucus votes and 691 thousand votes in its February primary (on which, see here). In the caucuses, Obama beat Hillary 67% to 31%, 159 to 74 thousand, an 85 thousand margin. In the primary, Obama beat Hillary 51% to 45%, 352 to 311 thousand, a 41 thousand margin. Replacing caucus with primary results adds 44 thousand to Hillary's total popular vote.

In Idaho, Obama had a 13 thousand vote lead in the caucuses, but only 8 thousand in the primary. Replacing the Washington and Nebraska and Idaho caucus results with primary results thus helps Hillary by 60 thousand votes. The spreads in RealClearPolitics's 6 categories change to Clinton +36 thousand
Obama +74
Clinton +363
Clinton +2538
Clinton +125
Clinton +16

Thus, the only definition of these, once Nebraska and Washington popular votes are included, by which Obama wins is if we exclude the Michigan primary and include estimates from the 4 caucus states.

Of course, all of these vote totals are very close, as are the delegate totals. Their main importance in my opinion is as a gauge of how much each candidate appeals to voters, and really we should weight the later primaries more heavily in measuring that. For someone who believes in "count every vote", though, the popular vote is crucial, more important perhaps than the vote allocated by the rules.

Speaking of the rules, the Democratic National Committee ruling today puzzles me. It seems blatantly illegal. The DNC has said that delegates from Michigan and Florida will only get 1/2 vote each. That's fine--- those states broke the rules. But it is also allocating the Uncommitted vote in Michigan to Obama, giving him the delegates based on that. Since the voters voted for Uncommitted, not Obama, how can those delegates possibly be committed to vote for Obama? The same result could have been achieved by picking allowing the Obama camp to pick the delegates but leaving them formally uncommitted, but why wasn't that done? Or *is* that how it was done?

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

 

Obama's Church

Obama's church is worse than even the negative publicity had led me to expect in its anti-Americanism and radical politics. See Stanley Kurtz's excerpts from the church magazine.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

 

Hilary Clinton Is Winning the Popular Vote

Michael Barone has good posts here and post-Penn about Clinton's popular vote chances. But I think he does it wrong.

Since the popular vote competition is informal, each side will pick its own rules. Mrs. Clinton has said that MIchigan and Florida should count. Florida gives her 288 thousand and Michigan gives her a 90 thousand margin over Uncommitted, though she will point out that it gives her 328 thousand more people than voted for Obama, who wasn't on the ballot. That's 616 thousand from those two states,using Clinton-supporter math.

RealClearPolitics gave Obama a lead of 827 thousand before Pennsylvania. Subtract the 106 thousand that's just attributed to Obama from caucus states but are not actual votes, to get 721 thousand. Subtract Florida and Michigan to get 105 thousand. Now subtract Clinton's 205 thousand margin from Pennsylvania, and she's ahead nationally by 100,000 votes. She doesn't need Porto Rico any more to claim victory.

Which rules to use is debatable. It being debatable is a good argument for judging winners by pre-set rules rather than ex post judgements. Many Democrats prefer ex post judgements, both as a matter of political style (that applies to judicial decisionmaking too) and because they argued for it in the Gore-Florida situation in 2000. Furthermore, in that election they argued for the most expansive rules possible, to count the most people who came to the polls and tried to vote (though as I recall-- I might be wrong-- nobody realized at the time that if the Democrat definition had been adopted, Bush would have won). Here, a primitive one-man one-vote theory would say that Clinton is ahead, because Obama really didn't get any votes in Michigan. To get round that, you'd have to resort to a theory that what should count is who people would have voted for if their candidate had been on the ballot, and that is perilously close to a theory of how people would have voted if Obama had been as much the favorite in January as he is now.

I think these popular-vote calculations shouldn't matter and it would be fine for the superdelegates to ignore them. But then I thought it was fine to follow the pre-set rules in Florida 2000 too. The Democrats think differently, so they have a big problem-- and it is a problem not unrelated to their political philosophy, so we shouldn't feel it's unfair that they have it.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

 

The Obama Tax Returns

Mr. Obama's tax returns are here. 2000-2004 he and his wife earned about 250,000 dollars per year and gave about 2,500 dollars to charity. In 2005 and 2006 they went up to 1.6M and 1M in income (his book came out and earned a lot), and raised their donations too. When Mr. Obama became senator, the U. of C. created a high-paying administrative job for Mrs. Obama, another reason for the increase in income.

The oddest thing about the returns is the lack of capital income before the big pay increase in 2005. Did their savings all go into tax-exempt vehicles such as life insurance, pension plans, etc.? Or did they not save anything?

In three of the years, even interest from a bank account isn't included. They probably had it, but were sloppy and didn't report it. That isn't a significant violation of tax law either legally or ethically, but it indicates remarkable sloppiness. They must have been filling out their own taxes (a sensible thing to do) rather than hiring someone, but a lawyer-administrator couple ought to notice details, especially when the lawyer is in politics.

2000. Interest 38. Dividends 0.
2001. Interest 0. Dividends 0.
2002. Interest 33. Dividends 0.
2003. Interest 0. Dividends 0.
2004. Interest 0. Dividends 0.
2005. Interest 13,385. Dividends 2,754. From two banks. I think one bank was investing in stocks for him.
2006. Interest 4,590. Dividends 1,188. Capital loss taken 3000 (10,136 total loss, Nuveen floating rate PDF SHS).

The TaxProfblog has a good post, links, and, especially, comments on the tax returns. One commentor suggests that they should have paid AMT, and thus underpaid about $14,000 in one year. That fits with the general naivete of the tax returns. Also, it seems they deducted a $13,000 contribution to the Congressional Black Caucus-- a political contribution! They later amended the return to fix that up. APril 22: He has released his 2007 returns now too. There is a big change: Lots of tax-exempt interest income, $200,000+ in charitable donations, AMT paid too.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

 

Telling Children to Behave

From WSJ, Taranto, is story that tell us about Obama, social norms and breakdown in the US, Black-Hispanic relations, freedom of speech, and the difference between America and England in social responsibility.

A Barack Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention was "ticketed for calling her neighbor's African-American children 'monkeys,' " reports the Chicago Sun-Times. (We didn't realize this was against the law, but the Chicago Tribune explains that the charge was disorderly conduct.) Here is what happened, according to the Sun-Times:

[Linda] Ramirez-Sliwinski "came outside and told the children to quit playing in the tree like monkeys. The tree was not on Ramirez-Sliwinski's property," Carpentersville Police Commander Michael Kilbourne said.

Ramirez-Sliwinski admitted she used the word "monkeys," but said she did not intend racism. She said she was only trying to protect them from falling out of the tree.

"Linda Ramirez-Sliwinski said she saw the kids playing in the tree and didn't want them falling out of the tree and getting hurt. She said she calls her own grandchildren 'monkeys,' " Kilbourne said. The mother of one of the children did not see it that way, noting she and Ramirez-Sliwinski have clashed before.

"She felt it was racist because of the fact the children were African-American," Kilbourne said.

Told of the incident Monday by the Sun-Times, Obama's campaign called Ramirez-Sliwinski and persuaded her to step aside as a delegate because the campaign felt her remarks were "divisive and unacceptable."

Finally, someone Barack Obama can disown! Let this be a lesson for other Obama delegates: If someone is bothering you, shout at the top of your lungs, "God damn America!" You know Obama will stand by you then.

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