The Thought Refuse

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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama

Live Blogging Election Night

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1:26 EST: That lost steam.  Obama wins.

8:13 EST: NBC News is projecting Pennsylvania to be won by Obama.  PA was a huge battleground state where McCain spent a good portion of his campaign time and money into during the latter stages of the race, essentially putting his hopes in PA.  NBC has also called NH, IL, MA, CT, NJ, DC, and MD for Obama, while giving McCain OK, TN, and SC.  That puts the electoral votes at Obama: 103 McCain: 34.

7:43 EST: Fox News calls West Virginia for McCain.  Electoral votes: McCain 13.  Obama 3.  West Virginia went Republican in the last two elections, so no surprise there.

Read the rest of this entry »


Written by huxbux

November 4, 2008 at 6:36 pm

Redskins Lose; Obama Wins?

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Since 1936 when the Washington Redskins were known as the Boston Braves, this franchise was been the predictor for the winner of the Presidential election.  Every time the Redskins won their last home game before a Presidential election, the incumbent party retained the White House, while a home lose was a predictor that the incumbent party would lose.

This streak kept up from 1936 till 2004 where the Redskins lost 28-14 to the Packers, but George W. Bush and the Republican party won a second term.  But for that one exception, the Washington Redskins seem to know something we don’t.  Last night, on Monday Night Football, the Redskins were routed by the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-6, and given the overwhelming historical evidence, can we say that Barack Obama will triumph at the polls today and unseat the incumbent Republican party and John McCain?  Sporting a 94.4% accuracy rate in 17 Presidential elections, the Redskins are hard to argue with.

(Note: Correlation is often mistaken for causation due to our tendency to “connect the dots” across history.  We need a narrative to understand the random, non-linear nature of our world, and one of the side effects is mistaking correlation for causation – in this case, more specifically, confusing coincidence for prognostication.)

Written by huxbux

November 4, 2008 at 12:06 pm

“Judah Benjamin” Concedes Barack Obama Is A US Citizen

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The infamous “Judah Benjamin” admits in a post at the TD blog that:

I have always claimed that he was a citizen of the USA by birth. I have always said that I believe he was born in Hawaii. I have stated that I do not believe he has ever lost US Nationality and indeed I cannot account for his present name, the contents of the COLB, or a number of other points, if he has.

I do believe that he should have lost US Nationality, under the Law of Indonesia and International Law, but I cannot, myself, see any way he could have under US Law as it stands today. I do not believe that either the Sarah Onyango tape or the API tape are to be believed in, or relied upon, though I am prepared to be persuaded.

He goes on to specify that his reasoning for Barack Obama being POTUS ineligibe is based upon his interpretation of Article II of the United States Constitution:

Article II is absolute. It does not allow for wiggle room, to qualify an individual MUST be a Natural Born Citizen. Unfortunately there is, currently, no Statute definition of what that term means and so, since the issue has now arisen it now needs to be adjudicated and then legislated. I may be convinced that Article II is clear and utterly straightforward but most people don’t seem to get it. Likewise the position of dual, or in Obama’s case quadruple, nationality needs to be addressed because in strict Statute Law it simply doesn’t exist and it seems to clash with all US Law on Naturalization and with the Constitution. It does, you know, read the Oath of Allegiance. However you cut it the Supreme Court ought to make, and has a duty to make a determination, not simply weasel out of it on grounds of Standing.

While admitting that Barack Obama is a “natural born citizen” under all applicable US law, he goes to state what a POTUS ineligible Obama elected as the President of the United States would mean(referencing Edwin Vieira, Jr and the post he made):

Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to consider the words of Dr Vieira very carefully. If Barack Hussein Obama II, or Barry Soetoro if you prefer his other Legal Name, is Ineligible to hold the Office of President of the United States he can never preside over any Administration. In Legal terms therefore, should he gain Election by the Electoral College and then proceed to Inauguration there would be no Legitimate Federal Government, of any Branch, that is if I follow Dr Vieira’s argument correctly. At that point the United States of America would, in effect, cease to exist among the Community of Nations. Unlike 1861 the Union would not be broken, it would be utterly dissolved upon the Winds of Time, as if it had never been.

I have said this is a Crisis as grave as that which smote the Union with the Election of 1860 and the disaster of the Confederate Secessions. If Dr Vieira is correct, and I bow willingly before his great knowledge of the Law and Constitution, this Crisis is far worse. The Civil War never actually threatened the utter Legal extinction of the Union. Even had the Confederacy triumphed, as with God’s good Grace it did not, there would still have been a Union, albeit reduced in size and influence.

At the end of his post, his closes with:

But what do I know? I’m not a Lawyer, my Doctorate is not a JD, I’m just a Historian.

Here we have one of the major players in sparking the entire Barack Obama internet controversy openly admitting that Barack Obama is indeed POTUS eligible given all standing legalities.  And his own basis for reasoning is based on the intrepretations of the Constitution by a anonoymously proclaimed historian.  Yet, he persists to speculate that under his unprofessional opinion of what Article II means, that the United States of America would cease to exist comparing it as more grave then the Civil War.

“Judah Benjamin” openly misled the readers of the TD blog into believing Obama was not POTUS eligbile on standing US law, and is now inciting anarchy under the amatuer, imaginery interpretation of Article II.  The readers of the TD blog are rabid, foaming at the mouth anti-Obama proponents who have shown a history of lapping up every word coming from Judah, TD, NoQuarter, Techdude, Polarik, and Atlas Shrugged as the gospel truth.  In spite of the discrediting of Techdude and Polarik by known, verified forensic experts(along with the refutation of attempted legal standing that Obama lost his US citizenship previously), and Judah’s own admission that Obama is a “natural born citizen”, they continue to offer up wild speculation centered around Obama.

Judah, the amateur lawyer, and anyone who pontificates the destruction of the United States should be subject to Title 18, Section 2385 of United States Code:

Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government…

If anti-Obama proponents want to take the ethical high road and say that Obama should just release his documentation as a public service, they should also consider the ethical implications of incitement and libel defamation.  In the future, I would suggest to “Judah” to not chose a forum to express his views whose owner consistently made accusations he now claims run contrary to his own.

For a purported historian, Judah certainly loves to wander in the realm of “What-Ifs”.  I’ll leave you with this gem of a quote in which Judah previously imagined civil disorder in the event Obama was elected:

I don’t say it will happen but it could and it has. In 1861 they didn’t have gunship helicopters, or 6,000 rpm rotary cannon, etc, etc. What can a gunship do to an urban neighborhood? I know the answer, if you don’t, you don’t want to. Remember, if it happens, either way around, it was Barack Hussein Obama II and the DNC who caused it.

Written by huxbux

October 31, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Palin’s Wardrobe and The Problem of Campaign Money

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Much has been made about the RNC spending on Sarah Palin’s wardrobe which has totaled $150,000.  The story has elicited the predictable angry reaction from the Democrats and Obama supporters.  It’s become another piece of partisan fodder that marks all presidential campaigns.

The number is meaningless without any form of context.  Amid all the reporting of Palin’s wardrobe spending, no research has gone into past campaign spending in this area.  Without knowing how much Obama’s campaign has spent on similar items or without historical spending figures for previous presidential candidate’s, the number has little value because it has no frame of reference.  It’s quite likely that all campaign’s budget an amount for their candidate’s wardrobe and other related expenses.  The question really becomes was Palin’s expenses exponentially greater then others.  Personally, I’ll reserve judgement on the money spent on Palin’s wardrobe.

What can be said about this story is that voter responses are reactionary and misplaced.  Consider the amount of money campaign’s spend on advertising and the overall net effect that advertising has on the outcome of an election.

The typical presidential campaign largest expense is advertising.  For instance, Obama has raised an estimated $600 million this year and is set to break the record set on campaign advertising set by George W. Bush in 2004.  That number Obama is going to exceed is $188 million.  Obama is spending $10 million dollars alone on a 30 minute infomercial set to air just before election day.  McCain is spending an equal proportion of his campaign budget on advertising albeit not nearly approaching the total dollar amount.  There is nothing outrageous or noteworthy in the quantitative value of Obama’s spending on advertising as it’s equally proportional to all recent presidential election campaigns.

However, consider the qualitative effect on the outcome of an election based on the quantitative spending of a candidate.  In a paper by Steven Levitt, he shows that campaign spending has very little effect on the outcome of an election.  Previously, research had shown that incumbent spending had minimal qualitative effect on an election outcome, the amount a challenger spent had tangible implications.  The major flaw in all previous research, as Levitt points out, is that they never accounted for the quality of the candidate.

The crux of Levitt’s argument is that the level of appeal a candidate possess’ directly influences his ability to raise campaign funds.  Hence, campaign spending is the product of a candidate’s quality with voters, and not vice versa.  In order to account for the appeal variable, Levitt examined thousands of Congressional elections in which the same two candidates faced each other multiple times.

Levitt discovered that when able to control the candidate quality variable, in almost all cases increasing campaign spending did not effect the outcome of an election.  A losing candidate who spent twice as much money in his second contest between the same opponent could expect a similar percentage of the vote within 1%.  Likewise, an incumbent who spent half as much money in his second contest against the same challenger could count on the same outcome within 1% point.

This is not to say that campaign spending and political advertisements do not have an effect on the outcome of an election.  Psychological research has shown that while a voter with a predisposed affective state towards a candidate will filter his cognition and subsequent behavior when exposed to political ads(a pro-Obama supporter is likely to react to a pro-Obama ad positively while negatively to a pro-McCain ad), the effect is far more pronounced when the candidate is a known quantity.  When a candidate is unknown to a voter, he is more likely to evaluate the contents of an advertisement divested of his party affiliation, ideology, partisanship, and affected state.

The benefit of political advertising lies primarily with introducing the public to a candidate in order to establish an affected state.  But once the candidate becomes a known quantity and the affected state is established, political advertising begins to exceed a redundant saturation level where in the size of the effectual target audience reduces.  The more that people are informed and have formed an opinion on a candidate, the less efficient advertising becomes.  Research has shown that the more familiar a voter is with a candidate the less effectual advertising becomes.  Advertising yields the highest return with voters who are unfamiliar with a candidate.

Under this presumption, it can be said that political advertising is an offensive tool for a campaign but progressively becomes a diffusive element towards success.  The implication here is that as a candidate gains wider appeal across the linear chronology of a campaign, the efficacious value of his campaign money increases.

Considering in conjunction that a candidate’s financial resources increase synchronously with his appeal and a candidate’s appeal accumulates alongside the campaign ad hoc, a candidate is more likely to expend a greater amount in advertising in the latter stages of his campaign.  So, a candidate is spending his greater percentage of funds on advertising at a time when they are least effective.

Yet, the wardrobe of Sarah Palin, which is an image advertisement, draws noticeable media coverage and voter outrage while candidates allocate the largest proportional of campaign funds at a time when of the least consequence evokes relative silence.  Even doubly perplexing is that Palin, being an unknown and unfamiliar to the voter base, benefits the most from image and issue advertising when compared to Obama, McCain, and Biden.

Of course, Palin’s created her own self-attack advertising campaign through her repeated issue gaffes.  Respectively, she is becomes a known candidate carrying a negative affected state among voters.  That affected state has established the groundwork for voter behavior in response to her wardrobe expenditures.  Examining political advertising critically, $150,000 expended at a time when it’s most effective as compared to $10 million(Obama informercial) outlayed at a time of least effectiveness, I have to call into question the informational cognition voters exhibit towards politics.

Written by huxbux

October 26, 2008 at 12:27 am

How To Be President of the United States of America

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So, you want to be President of the United States of America?  Well, I’ve got your sure fire ticket to the Oval Office.  Run for President against an incumbent party that presided over either an unpopular war and/or an economic recession.  Getting on the ticket is your problem.

I alluded to this previously in a post and the issue resurfaced in the comments section for a post at The Blog At The End of the Universe.  I thought it would be appropriate to track every major war and economic recession the United States has had post industrial revolution and how the subsequent Presidential Election evolved.

Pre-Industrial Revolution elections don’t qualify for one reason – exposure.  The US economy prior to the Industrial Revolution was a localized economy centered around agriculture.  It was not dependent upon trade or capitol investments.  When one area of the country would enter into a recession, it did not predicate other areas to suffer likewise.  In addition, the populace was not readily connected to ongoing wars and economic downturns occurring in other parts of the country and world.  Simply, our economy and the population was not exposed to the ill effects of the economy and war.

The Industrial Revolution is widely considered to have fully transformed the US economy into a capitalist based one by the 1830-40s.  It is here we will look at every major US war and recession, and what occurred during each Presidential Election during these events.

Recession 1837: Widespread bank failures due to speculation as to the strength in US paper currency sends the country into a 6 year recession.  Democratic President Martin Van Buren presides over the beginning of the recession and loses in 1940 to Whig candidate William Harrison.  Incumbent loses.

Mexican-American War: In 1845 President James Polk orders US troops into Mexico and begins a war that lasts until 1948.  Democrat Polk loses his reelection bid to Whig Zachary Taylor.  Incumbent loses.

Recession 1857: Democrat President James Buchanan is in office when the a railroad bubble in the United States bursts causing massive bank failures.  The Republicans win the Presidential election in 1860.  Incumbent loses.

American Civil War: Democrat Abraham Lincoln uses military force to prevent the South from seceding.  War last until 1864 with Lincoln unifying the country and Lincoln is reelected.  Incumbent wins.

Recession 1873: When the largest bank in the nation failed, the country was sent into a 6 year recession.  Republican Ulysses S. Grant was the President at the time.  In 1876, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes won the Presidential race in what is widely considered the most contested race in American history.  Losing the popular vote and electoral vote to Democrat Samuel Tilden, the Republicans disputed the award of 20 electoral votes for Tilden.  Eventually the Electoral Commission was formed to resolve the dispute as inauguration day was quickly approaching.  With one more Republican on the commission then Democrat, Hayes was deemed the winner.  Incumbent wins or did he?.

Recession 1893: The railroad industry takes a downturn causing investment to plummet sending the US into a recession until 1896.  Democrat Grover Cleveland was in office during the recession and in the 1896 election Republican William McKinley wins.  Incumbent loses.

Recession 1907: Late in 1907, the economy begins a long contraction.  It persists until 1908 seeing production, imports, employment, and immigration all decrease.  Bankruptcies increased to the second highest level of all time.  Republican William Taft has the unfortunate luck to take office as soon as the recession hit.  By 1912, Democrat Woodrow Wilson was residing in the Oval Office.  Incumbent loses.

World War I and Recession 1918: Democrat Woodrow Wilson promised not to send America into the war raging in Europe.  In 1917, he sent troops overseas and officially declared war on Germany.  Following the end of the war, inflation in Europe drastically effected the US economy causing a recession that lasted for several years.  Wilson lost his bid for a third term in 1920 to Republican Warren Harding.  Incumbent loses.

The Great Depression: 1929 sees the stock market crash and the worst economic recession in American history grips the country.  Democrat Franklin Roosevelt unseats the Republican party in 1932.  Incumbent loses.

World War II: Democrat Franklin Roosevelt enters the US into war against Germany and Japan after being provoked with the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Franklin dies in office and in 1948 his successor Harry Truman wins the election.  Incumbent wins.

Korean War and Recession 1951: Mired in a stalemate in Korea and high inflation, Democrat Harry Truman loses to Republican Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. Incumbent loses.

Recession 1957: The US sees it’s first budget deficit in history and it continues to grow threw the next several years due in part to the downturn in American exports.  The Republicans lose control of the White House in the 1960 Presidential election to Democrat John F. Kennedy. Incumbent loses.

Vietnam War: While the US had some presence in Vietnam since 1959, Democrat President Lyndon Johnson escalates the war with large troop deployments and an official resolution to conduct combat operations in 1964.  The war becomes a polarizing issue in the country.  So unpopular, Johnson decides not to run for reelection in 1968, and the Democrats lose control to Republican Richard Nixon.  Incumbent loses.

Recession 1973: Rising oil prices caused the country to spend the latter part of the decade suffering from high inflation and interest rates along with low economic growth.  Democrat Jimmy Carter was in office for the majority of the economic downturn, and in 1980 lost his reelection bid to Republican Ronald Reagan.  Incumbent loses.

Gulf War and Recession 1990: While President George H. Bush’s approval ratings were at an all-time high following the resounding success of the Gulf War, he could not escape the recession the country found itself in 1990.  Bush lead early polls against Democrat Bill Clinton, but as the economy worsened Clinton closed the gap.  He eventually defeated Bush in the election.  Incumbent loses.

Iraq War and Recession 2001: Following the attacks of 9/11, Republican George W. Bush sent American troops into Afghanistan and Iraq.  The military scored quick tactical victories overthrowing both governments.  Victory was declared.  The economy also entered a minor recession due to the attacks and the dot-com bubble burst.  Republican Bush won reelection in 2004.  Incumbent wins.

Iraq War and Recession 2007: The Iraq war under President George W. Bush drags on for years and becomes widely unpopular.  The housing market crash ripples to Wall Street sparking a major crash.  Prior, the economy was slowly contracting and experts predict a recession to last at least into 2009.  Republican John McCain is trailing Democrat Barrak Obama in polls by as much as 10% with only two weeks until election time.  Undetermined.

Based on the historical link between war and recessions to past Presidential elections, two things become evident.  One, a wars perception has a direct effect on the incumbents party reelection chances.  A war which is perceived as necessary and victorious does not have the detrimental effect as a war that is perceived as unnecessary and a stalemate.  Two, an economic recession is assurance that the incumbent party will be unsuccessful in retaining the White House.

And so we enter the 2008 election with an incumbent party having presided over an prolonged and unpopular war in Iraqi alongside a potentially severe recession.  Judging from history, the Democrats are, in all probability, going to win this Presidential election.  It is common thought to dissect each and every election for their various unique circumstances, and to attribute these characteristics as to why one party or another won the race.  I contend that Presidential elections are an elementary exercise in war and economics with greater weight given to the economy.  For all the nuances we might find within this race, there are these two undeniable and basic elements that will shape the future of our country.  The debates, the vice presidential selections, the speeches, the policies, and the television advertising are all secondary parts that have a minimal effect compared to war and recessions.

Written by huxbux

October 23, 2008 at 11:33 am

The Presidential Race Not Immune To Randomness

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I have sobering news for all of the political fanatics out there feverishly consuming every tidbit of news around the presidential race as confirmation or refutation for the support they’ve thrown beyond their respective candidate.  The presidential race will not be decided on the laundry list of pros and cons for each candidate that you’ve taken painstaking effort to lay out.  No, the presidential race will be decided by a randomness.

The presidential race of 2008 will be decided based on the crash of the housing market and the subsequent drop it caused in the nation’s economy.  For as much as the media and average citizens strive to transform the economic crisis into a politically derived problem, it is not.  I have previously made numerous posts concerning the reasons behind the economic crisis, and specifically attributed the error in management on the risk management models used by financial institutions.  The post illustrated how randomness poses a severe threat to these models.  The qualification for a random event is an event which cannot be predicted which precipitously qualifies the economic crisis as the consequence of a random event.

Just as the financial institutions risk management models did not predict a fall in home prices greater then 10%, political pundits could not predict the massive shift in the presidential race that the economic crisis would cause.  Prior to the first day the stock market plummeted nearly 800 points and the final realization that the economy was teetering, McCain was neck and neck with Obama.  Some polls showing McCain with a slight lead and others having McCain trailing by only a couple points.  Immediately after, McCain’s poll numbers began slipping, and as the nation became inundated with daily news that the economy was on life support, McCain’s numbers began to suffer from the war of attrition.

The economy became the center issue in the presidential race.  It thrusted itself to the forefront to become the deciding factor.  For political purposes, the affair was tailored by each candidate to suit their campaign in what amounted to an advertising campaign.  Voter perception leaned heavily towards Obama as being the one best suited to guiding the country back to economic health.  This voter acumen, as it turns out, resides without substance.

Considering risk management models bore the fertile blame for the financial catastrophe, how then can the politicization of the problem be justified?  It simply cannot.  However, it certainly has played a critical role in the shape of this presidential race.  Partisan advertising, voter ignorance, and media saturation loaned it the power necessary to become the deciding factor.

Barack Obama constructed an unwittingly genius advertising campaign while battling Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primary that was designed to link the presumptive Republican nominee to Bush’s economic policy.  Coupled with Obama echoing sentiments of economists, he painted a bleak economic picture.  In a speech earlier in the year, Obama said:

We are not standing on the brink of recession because of forces beyond our control.  This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle. It was a failure of leadership in Washington — a Washington where George Bush hands out billions of tax cuts to the wealthiest few for eight long years, and John McCain promises to make those same tax cuts permanent, embracing the central principle of the Bush economic program.

The Obama campaign as continued to connect the economic polices of George Bush as “failed” and inexorably tying McCain to those “failed” policies.  From a strategic standpoint, it stands as the center point for his presumed presidential victory.  Yet, it’s quite simply inaccurate in the sense that the term “failed” predicates that the economic policies of Bush/McCain caused the economic crisis.

The center of this recession and possible depression does not even remotely revolve around tax cuts.  Tax cuts putting money in the pockets of the poor, middle class, and rich has no bearing on sub prime lending practices or the flaws in statistical risk management models.  The concept is absurd.  In fact, it’s counter intuitive.  A middle class family receiving a tax cut would be more likely to take that money and use as a   on a home mortgage and would be less likely to enter into a sub prime, no down payment home loan.  Additionally, it’s clear that the wealthy, for whatever tax cut they might receive, are not consumers who are or were entering into sub prime mortgages.

The only credible accusation that can be made against Bush and his administration is government regulation.  But it’s difficult to conceive that the government, using the same risk management models and statistical information as the lending industry, would have been able to see what the financial sector could not.

Despite Obama’s inaccuracy, it was a strategic success due to voter ignorance.  Voters are not apt to critical thinking when examining the issues.  They display a preference for short and concise soundbites that can regurgitated on command.  We gravitate to linear paths and there is not a more straight path to making the connection between an administration that’s been entrenched for the last eight years, “failed” economic policies, and an economy entering a recession.  We are susceptible to the narrative fallacy and Obama beautifully catered to our ignorance for his own political gain.

The media onslaught that followed the stock market crash solidified Obama’s strategy.  There has not been a day in the last month that we have not heard more bad economic news.  Every time a voter read or watched a news piece on the economic crisis they made the connection in their mind between the state of the economy, those “failed” policies, and the message Obama has been preaching for months and months.

The fact of the matter is that no Republican or Democrat administration would have prevented the current economic crisis.  Short of the government heavily reducing the capitol requirements for lending and shifting the economy away from the debt based economy we have been operating on for nearly half a century, politicians were equal bystanders in the unfolding events that lead us to where we are.

So, it should be quite sobering to realize that if your voting for Obama or McCain primarily because you believe either candidate can bring the economy out by it’s bootstraps to know that you are casting your vote based on a random event.  It might even seem incomprehensible.

Randomness has the peculiar nature of being incomprehensible.  How can we understand that which we cannot predict, otherwise we would have already known it’s impending occurrence and been able to take steps to avoid said event.  Just as the statistical risk management models failed to predict the drop in housing prices, no one predicted that the decisive event in the presidential election would be, at it’s root, born from randomness.

How are we to feel knowing that the next leader of our country rode the wave of a random event into office?  I know I’ll be punching Obama’s name come November 4th for reasons divested of that random event, but it’s given me serious pause to come to terms with the fact that many other have been influenced by randomness knowing Obama’s poll numbers have reached double digits since the stock market crash.

Written by huxbux

October 17, 2008 at 6:33 pm

Breaking Down The First Presidential Debate: Lead Question #2 – Economic Policy

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Rather then discussing how Barack Obama and John McCain presented themselves to the American public in their first presidential debate, an examination of the content of the debate is far more productive, in terms of mapping policy issues then impulse, surface impressions.  With that in mind, I will explore each leading question and give an analysis of what was said by each candidate.

Economic Policy

The initial lead question to differentiate each candidate on their economic policy, specifically how each would lead the country out of the current crisis and back to economic health.  Both candidates focused on their long term economic policies, and oddly did not mention the short term measures for immediate stability.

McCain opened with stressing a reduction in earmark spending citing that Obama had asked for $932M in pork barrel spending during his service in the Senate.  He compared earmarking to “a gateway drug” that eventually leads to Congressional corruption.  Citing his record in fighting excessive spending and corruption, McCain pounded home his mission to reduce the size of government and stop “the largest increase in the size of government since the Great Society.”  He also spoke to his intent to reduce the business tax which he has previously stated would be shrunk from 35% to 25%, as well as his desire to give every American a $5,000 health care tax credit along with increasing the child dividend to $7,500 per dependent.

Obama concurred with McCain on the need for fiscal responsibility, but outlined his contention that more needed to be done including a tax cut for 95% of families while raising taxes on those with an income over $250,000.  Closing corporate loopholes, stopping tax breaks for businesses, and provided health care to Americans was also laid out by Obama as part of his economic plan.

Both were short on the details of their plans, and instead spent a majority of the time attacking proposed policies of their opponent.  Unfortunately, most of the attacks by each candidate fell woefully short in both accuracy and effectiveness although some managed to stick, particularly on the ones coming from Obama.

McCain, attempting to cite an example in pork barrel spending, mocked federally funded research into the study of bears in Montana at a cost of $3M.  In fact, the research was an exploratory look to see if Montana grizzly bears had reached a population level to remove them from the endangered species list which would then open new business opportunities in the logging and energy sectors.  It’s a repeated and hollow attack by McCain on a small research project that would spur job creation and state revenue far in excess of it’s price tag.  He’d be better served to find another example to prove his point.

The pork barrel issue was a reoccurring point for McCain who stated that earmark spending had increased by three fold in the last five years.  While it has increased over that time span, it actually dropped from $29B in 200 to $13B in 2008(Notice the increase from 2007 to 2008.  I’d attribute this to increased spending during an election year to court state voters).  His policy that corruption in Washington was out of control and needs to be stamped out falls flat on it face here.  It’s clear work is already being done to reduce political excesses by both candidates, and Obama correctly attacked McCain’s ancillary focus on pork barrel by putting into perspective the minuscule amount $18B is in relation to total government spending.  In addition, McCain’s contention that earmarking leads to corruption is fundamentally flawed.  It’s in versed logic.  Excessive spending does not corrupt, but rather corruption causes excessive spending.

Obama’s rebuttal to the $18B figure was to criticize McCains proposed $300M tax cut.  Obama portrayed the tax cut as giving “CEOs of Fortune 500 companies getting an average of $700,000 in reduced taxes, while leaving 100 million Americans out.”  I can’t help but point out that a $700,000 for 500 CEOs equals out to $350B – $50B more then McCain’s tax cut.  Stretching the numbers aside, Obama attacked a weak point in McCain’s tax cut policy.  When McCain rebutted Obama’s tax plan, he stated that Obama “voted in the United States Senate to increase taxes on people who make as low as $42,000 a year.”  This is technically untrue.  McCain is refers to a non-committal recommedation to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire in 2011 which in turn would raise tax levels for those with incomes almost across the board.

In terms of voter appeal and in light of the the countries economic woes, McCain’s tax cut plan fails horribly compared next to Obama’s.  The average American is already rattling their sabers at the income inequalities highlighted by the market crash.  Coupled with a bail out package that’s going to take tax payer money to rescue the jobs of those at the top of the income ladder, McCain’s tax cuts for those earning more then $600K only adds fuel to the fire.  Conversely, Obama proposed tax increase on the top 5% of earners could be perceived as a vengeful, spiteful attack back at the rich.  With Mccain’s tax plan practiculy ignoring the bottom 60% of the tax bracket, Obama’s tax plan is a sure win in the eyes of voters.

The entire earmark point McCain decided to make a hallmark of his economic policy during the debate only gets more shakey when you look at earmark spending by state.  Alaska, the homestate of McCain’s VP pick Sarah Pailin, has lead in ear mark and pork barrel spending per capita since 2000 when the CAGW began tracking data.  Pailin has been roundly criticized for her hypocritical stance on the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere”.  There’s a clear contradiction here towards excessive spending on the Republican ticket.  When McCain gives visibility to ear marks he rightly deserves the scrutiny.  McCain certainly has rightfully earned his reputation as a champion against pork spending, so he deserves credit where credit is due.  Obama’s $932M far outstrips the few loan ear marks McCain has put forth in his much longer tenure in the Senate.  So, despite having misnomer in Pailin on his ticket, McCain has the advantage on teliminating pork.

The debate over economic policy turned to tax cuts for businesses in concluding the second lead question.  This was McCain’s only area where he had any real monocrom of success.  McCain noted that the US had one of the highest business taxes in the world at 35%(and curiously cited the hot bed of overseas US job migration of Ireland at 11%), and indicated his desire to reduce the business tax.  While not particularly articulate, McCain has previously proposed cutting the business tax to 25%.  In order to pay for those tax cuts, McCain returned back to the elimination of pork barrel spending citing the tax revenue lost due to the cut would be offset by less ear marks.  Additionally, although not specifically mentioned, McCain wants a tax credit for reseach and development, as well as a tax break on equipment and technological investments.  As a long term economic policy, it’s a traditional winner.  When business tax breaks are applied ethically(read small to medium sized businesses), they spur investment and job creation.  Additionally, there is no greater engine to driving the economy then innovation.  McCain’s desire to encourage research and technology will open up new business sectors.  There’s no better example then the design and evolution of the Internet at how technology can change our economy.

Obama attempted to chide McCain on his business tax cut accusing him of giving oil companies $4B in tax breaks.  This is true, but all companies would be getting some amount in tax breaks.  The oil companies will be getting $4B based on what they are currently taxed just as every other business in America would under McCain’s plan.  While being factually true, it’s not an additional tax break for oil companies as Obama portrayed it.  The attack was an oversimplified one that missed it’s mark.

Health care was a topic of debate that I felt, restricted to teh debate, McCain met Obama head on.  McCain propsed a $5k tax credit for all American families.  Obama never once mentioned any details concerning his health care plan aside from the need to provide it.  That might be because according to Obama’s campaign site, it states that his health care plan would “save a typical American family up to $2,500.”  Both want to make health care affordable except through different means – McCain through tax credits and Obama through regulation.

Purely on the numbers, McCain’s health plan keeps pace and surpassed Obama’s.  However, Obama’s provides better access and greater coverage then McCain’s.  Obama did attempt to point on the accessibility difference saying that under McCain’s plan ” if you end up losing your health care from your employer, you’ve got to go out on the open market and try to buy it.”  Attacking McCain’s taxing the employer for provided health care benefits fell a bit short as it’s a way to remain fiscally responsible paying for his tax credit by passing the cost of to employers rather then taxpayers.  However, it runs somewhat contrary to the intent of McCain’s business tax cuts to provide businesses with greater capitol investment fund.

This leads the attack leveraged by McCain that Obama has $800B in proposed new government spending. While true(although I’m not certain where the figure arose from), it runs contrary to Obama’s previous statement where he acknowledged due to the bail out package, new spending will have to be postponed.  In light of the bail out package, both candidates economic plans have to have an astrerik beside them and suddenly become circumstantial.  The sizable bail out package makes any new spending or tax cuts a fiscal risk until the budget is back on stable ground.

Overall, McCain’s decision to make ear mark spending and Washington greed his central theme of his economic policy and his predominately baseless counterattacks on Obama came off as bad policy and bad debating.  Instead of concentrating on a fiscal blip in the federal budget, McCain would have been better served to address issues American voters were concerned about rather then trying to play the all encompassing greed card.  That’s better left to an advertisement.

Obama, on the other hand, left out many details, but provided enough sensible arguements and rebuffs to McCain’s policies to present a cohesive and tangible economic plan.  His points where concise and direct in contrast to McCain’s economic tangents.  Once again, Obama outperformed and laid out a more workable economic plan then McCain.  Advantage Obama for lead question #2.

Written by huxbux

September 29, 2008 at 1:38 pm