Economics

Obama and Big Government

Should libertarians fear the Democratic nominee?

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There are no disciples of small government in the Democratic Party, and Barack Obama fits right in. His economic program is based on the assumption that the economy is to the president what a marionette is to a puppeteer, requiring his direction and responding to his every wish.

Anyone partial to free markets, restrained government, fiscal discipline and light taxation approaches a Democratic nominee's economic platform with trepidation, expecting one fright after another. Obama does not disappoint.

He offers a long list of things the federal government should be doing to rearrange the nation's productive sector—paying U.S. automakers to build fuel-efficient vehicles, confiscating allegedly excessive oil profits, and spending hundreds of billions to create jobs in environmental and infrastructure industries. Democrats have not given up their basic faith that the market, while useful, is always in need of Washington's whip hand.

In his windfall profits tax plan, Obama puts aside the troublesome fact that the last time we tried it, at the behest of President Carter, the tax yielded far less revenue than projected while reducing domestic energy production. And if Detroit didn't bother to invest in fuel-efficient cars when Honda and Toyota did, why should it get a $4 billion reward for its failure?

But saying a Democrat believes in big government is like saying that Chicago winters are cold—true, but inadequate. Some winters are more bone-chilling than others, and some Democrats are worse than others. There are grounds for gloom with Obama, as there would be with anyone nominated by the party of FDR and LBJ. But there are some reasons to hope he will be less bad than most:

He's liberal, but not that liberal. Contrary to the famous National Journal ranking that put him most leftward in the entire Senate, another study found he is really the 11th-most liberal. In the primaries, when Democratic candidates are under the most pressure to veer left, he insisted on hewing closer to the economic center than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards—even when it exposed him to charges that he didn't support the holy grail of universal health care.

Obama did pander to the left's phobia about globalization by villainizing the North American Free Trade Agreement. But as soon as he had the nomination locked up, he confessed to Fortune magazine that his NAFTA rhetoric had been "overheated and amplified."

Organized labor howled about "corporate influence" when Obama hired Jason Furman as his chief economic adviser. Among Furman's sins is his longtime association with Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who pushed President Clinton to emphasize deficit reduction rather than big new spending programs.

He's open to evidence. The New York Times recently reported that Obama "likes experts, and his choice of advisers stems in part from his interest in empirical research." Nobel laureate economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago, who was asked for input on education policy by Obama's advisers, told the Times, "I've never worked with a campaign that was more interested in what the research shows."

That would be a change not only from more doctrinaire liberals but also from the Bush administration, which has never been exactly obsessed with real-world data. If Obama were a true believer, he wouldn't care so much about evidence.

Boston College political scientist Alan Wolfe says, "Ideologues don't need that information, or want it, because they know what they want to do." Ask yourself: Is there any conceivable evidence that would cause George W. Bush to question the wisdom of tax cuts?

He's not enchanted with the big-government model. On health care, Obama opposed Clinton's proposal to require every American to buy health insurance, preferring to offer subsidies and then let individuals decide. He balked when she said all adjustable mortgage rates should be frozen for five years—with Obama's campaign quoting an expert who said, accurately, that it would be "disastrous."

He's far less suspicious of the operations of markets than most people in his party. And when was the last time a Democratic nominee openly worried about corporate tax burdens? Furman has said that if some loopholes can be closed, Obama "would like to cut the corporate tax rate."

Those who favor a less expensive and less expansive federal government will find plenty to complain about should Obama become president. For consolation, they can try chanting this mantra: It could be worse.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. On the issue of taxes, Is my believe that everyone, rich or poor should pay taxes at same rates according to thier income. With this idea, everyone could pay a lower rate, yet the total flow then would decrease the dept of the country. Why should the rich not have to pay thier share, at the cost of those that do not have food on thier table paying thier way!

  2. Flat tax would be great, but since people view FICA as a “tax” with no benefit, you’d have to apply that as well. Eliminate exemptions and deductions and tax all income as income, and you have a formula for true fairness, which means it will never happen.

  3. For consolation, they can try chanting this mantra: It could be worse.

    Or, perhaps “It could be better”? Once again, someone comes up with “Gee, I’m for Obama, because it could be worse”. A-freaking-mazing.

  4. In the primaries, when Democratic candidates are under the most pressure to veer left, he insisted on hewing closer to the economic center […]

    I take that as evidence against future less-left policies, not evidence for them. That is to say: primaries don’t mean shit, jack.

    Obama opposed Clinton’s proposal to require every American to buy health insurance, preferring to offer subsidies and then let individuals decide.

    My fellow Earthicans, we enjoy so much freedom it’s almost sickening. We’re free to choose which hand our sex-monitoring chip is implanted in. And if we don’t want to pay our taxes, why, we’re free to spend a weekend with the Pain Monster. – Head of Richard M. Nixon, President

    For consolation, they can try chanting this mantra: It could be worse.

    From the point of view of libertarians and the GOP alike, sycophancy is not adequately contested with your suggested complacency. I get the feeling that if this piece went on for a few more paragraphs you’d argue for change for change’s sake. I would disagree with that.

    Also, wouldn’t libertarians favor government inaction in the form of gridlock? Given the state of Congress, one might naively suggest that a Democrat in the White House isn’t helpful there. I wish that were addressed in the article, because such possible conflicts are interesting but hard for me to predict.

  5. After “Why 18-year-olds shouldn’t be allowed to drink”
    I’ve stopped paying attention to Steve Chapman.

    My fellow libertarians should do the same.

  6. I believe, whichever nincompoop wins in November, that coming fiscal and economic problems are going to severely limit the next president’s ability to engage in harebrained schemes, foreign or domestic.

  7. I believe, whichever nincompoop wins in November, that coming fiscal and economic problems are going to severely limit the next president’s ability to engage in harebrained schemes, foreign or domestic.

    I disagree, though I wish I could agree. Obama winning would have a bunch of power drunk dems wanting to institute “change”, with no consensus as to what “change” constitutes (at least no public information, there may be a hidden/backroom agreement). They’ll want to show some kind of action, and will pass all kinds of stupid shit just for the sake of passing it. Financial constraints are easily dealt with by amending all kinds of limits and just printing more money. Hence, my comment on another thread about Obama being much more the potential for evil than McCain. I would agree that McC would be gridlocked, and much less potential would then exist to cause troubles.

  8. I’ve never gotten the supposed Libertarian affection for partisan gridlock. It’s only practical effect is to ensure that the only policies that get passed are *so stupid* both statist parties agree on them.

    Things like the Drug War. And military spending increases. And entitlements.

    The things on which both parties agree *positively suck*. Fuck partisan gridlock.

  9. Oh for the love of liberty. “He could be worse” is no reason to vote for someone, and it’s no reason to keep printing the musings of a retard. STOP IT! STOP IT!
    STOP IT!

    Just stop printing Steve Chapman in Reason.
    Oust Steve Chapman AlReady

    OSCAR
    OSCAR
    OSCAR

  10. Elemenope | August 28, 2008, 9:00am | #

    …partisan gridlock. It’s only practical effect is to ensure that the only policies that get passed are *so stupid* both statist parties agree on them.

    Yeah, put even if I grant that the agreed upon stuff is the worst possible stuff (which I’m skeptical of) then aren’t the possibility’s still

    a) Gridlock (only the worst stuff happens)

    or

    b) No Gridlock (the worst happens AND so does untold other gradations of suck on top of it)

  11. I’ve never gotten the supposed Libertarian affection for partisan gridlock. It’s only practical effect is to ensure that the only policies that get passed are *so stupid* both statist parties agree on them.

    Things like the Drug War. And military spending increases. And entitlements.

    The things on which both parties agree *positively suck*. Fuck partisan gridlock.

    That’s irrelevant. Since both parties agree on those things, they will continue whether or not gridlock exists.

    Creating federal gridlock, however, ensures that (a) fewer of either party’s singular bad ideas see the light of day, and (b) that the two parties spend a lot more time poking each other in the eye than in interfering in the daily lives of people who actually do useful stuff.

  12. Wow, Chapman proposing something irredeemably stupid. Color me astonished.

  13. “On the issue of taxes, Is my believe that everyone, rich or poor should pay taxes at same rates according to thier income.”

    What I beleive is that government services should be charged out on a user fee basis.

    Fairness in paying for government provided goods and services is no different than it is in the private sector.

    Income has nothing to do with it.

    No one’s income is a “service” provided to them by government.

  14. ChrisO —

    You misunderstand. If only the *worst* policies, those that are tried and true and fucking tired, are those that get passed, then we’ll never know what works and what doesn’t.

    Me, I’m an empiricist when it comes to policy analysis. (Most) Things need to be *tried* before a person can honestly conclude that it doesn’t work. Before that point, the best a person can say is that a policy proposal “isn’t ideologically pure”.

  15. Gilbert —

    That sounds like a fucking great plan when it comes to fire and police services.

    /Sarcasm

  16. When this is the other guy:

    John McCain

    You better fucking believe I’ll take “not as bad as the other guy”.

  17. Frankly, I liked the primary Obama better than I liked presumptive nominee Obama. I don’t know how that works, exactly, except that maybe Obama was running more to the center because he knew how to work the open primary and caucus states.

  18. I think this is the trifecta for Steve Chapman.

    For a piece that’s supposed to be about Obama’s effect on the economy, it completely missed the impact of higher taxes.

    Lowering the taxes on dividends was supposed to be one of the key ways to reform corporate governance, share option manipulation, etc. This point escapes Obama.

  19. (Most) Things need to be *tried* before a person can honestly conclude that it doesn’t work.

    Ele, please name me one federal entitlement program that was ended when people concluded that it didn’t work. Hell, name me one that didn’t broaden its scope after ten years.

    Nothing the federal government does ever actually goes away. Even the WPA still exists as job-training programs and adult education credits and grants. Since we are stuck with it forever, then it becomes rational to advocate that we never try anything. An honest actor in a field of dishonest actors is just a sucker. Don’t be a sucker, dude.

  20. Lowering the taxes on dividends was supposed to be one of the key ways to reform corporate governance, share option manipulation, etc. This point escapes Obama.

    Actually it doesn’t. He (and his advisors) have said a few times now that if the loopholes and shelters could be reliably closed, he’d be all about slashing the corporate rates.

  21. Ele, please name me one federal entitlement program that was ended when people concluded that it didn’t work. Hell, name me one that didn’t broaden its scope after ten years.

    Welfare. Reformed and reduced in scope significantly over the last twenty years.

    Da dah!

  22. An honest actor in a field of dishonest actors is just a sucker. Don’t be a sucker, dude.

    Heh. I don’t believe that there is something about politics that *requires* it to become a race to the bottom (of good sense, human nature, or whatever.) We maintain it that way.

    Personally, I think the entire system of legislating as it stands today is absurd; there is no accountability because everything is bundled up with other unrelated measures or packaged with poison-pills. Simple one-issue bills with simple up-or-down votes should be the rule, not the fucking exception. Fix that, and a great deal of the callowness in modern American federal legislatures goes with it.

    Beyond that, pay-go is an important principle (I like the notion of a balanced budget amendment, with a trap-door for catastrophic defensive war spending, perhaps). Couple that with a requirement that all programs meed to be coupled with a funding bill that also passes, or otherwise the bill is automatically nullified, and you’re good to go.

  23. I believe, whichever nincompoop wins in November, that coming fiscal and economic problems are going to severely limit the next president’s ability to engage in harebrained schemes,

    Au contraire – the coming fiscal and economic problems will be cited as the reason why we need to engage in harebrained schemes, by the truckload. See, also, FDR.

  24. I don’t believe that there is something about politics that *requires* it to become a race to the bottom (of good sense, human nature, or whatever.)

    Hey, that’s good sarcasm. Wait, you’re fucking serious?

  25. Epi —

    Try me. What’s that argument for the *necessary and sufficient* dominance of evil and/or stupidity in how we humans organize our affairs?

    My thing is, decent rule has been achieved (albeit sporadically), both autocratically and democratically, over the course of human history. What is it about those moments that makes them difficult to replicate?

  26. Welfare. Reformed and reduced in scope significantly over the last twenty years.

    And in the perverse “only Nixon could go to China” logic that dominates our political culture, only a Democrat could have proposed amending the welfare structure without being attacked as “cruel” and wanting “poor people to starve”, etc.

  27. What’s that argument for the *necessary and sufficient* dominance of evil and/or stupidity in how we humans organize our affairs?

    The fact that all political power ultimately relies on a gun.

  28. All the reductions in Aid to Families with Dependent Children have been offset by increases in the earned income credit, SSI payments, and HeadStart daycare programs. Shuffling money does not equal cuts or elimination.

    The total cost of the welfare state seems to be around 14%, up from 8.6% in 1995, but finding a defintion of welfare state to account for that number fails in the googling.

    As for your fixes to Congress, please refer back to my comment on honest actors. If you had people in place to pass those reforms, you wouldn’t need those reforms in the first place…

  29. “Gilbert —

    That sounds like a fucking great plan when it comes to fire and police services.

    Indeed it does.

    And for everything else too!

  30. What is it about those moments that makes them difficult to replicate?

    Our prosperity. Prosperity breeds corruption and violations of liberty. It fuels rampant government. Double edged swords, swords of Damocles, call prosperity what you want, but it is both great and problematic.

  31. You mean Obama hasn’t bought hook, line and sinker into a simplistic overarching political ideology that substitutes slogans for thought? I bet you libertarians wonder what that’s like.

  32. What is it about those moments that makes them difficult to replicate?

    Human nature. Which is easier? Change human nature or implement efficient work-arounds?

    Repugnant as it may be to some, libertarianism doesn’t try to change human nature, it only carves out rough channels for it to flow productively.

  33. You mean Obama hasn’t bought hook, line and sinker into a simplistic overarching political ideology that substitutes slogans for thought?

    You win the unintentional irony award, douchebag. HOPE and CHANGE!

  34. Epi —

    An interesting theory. (Certainly better than the standard “humans are fundamentally evil, Fall of Adam, rrgRAGH!” that I usually here as the answer to this question.)

    I think there’s something to it, though I’d pivot away from “prosperity” as such towards the decentralization of *physical* power. As each citizen’s literal ability to affect his neighbors is ratcheted up by advances in technology and improvements in social/physical infrastructure, the call for restrictions and regulations increase.

  35. And I just unintentionally insulted Sugarless with that response. Heh.

  36. I bet you libertarians wonder what that’s like.

    No, we have boring cunts like you to stand as shining examples. Go home, the adults are trying to have a conversation. When the conversational equivalent of used tampon is required, we’ll let you out of your cage.

  37. Ele,

    No. I don’t think people are fundamentally evil. I think that they are self-interested above all things. You either work with that or deny it.

  38. Sorry, my non-thinking answer above was almost deserving of Lefiti’s BS response.

    Seriously, though – when people have the chance to legally swipe money from the public till, how can the process be anything other than a race to the bottom?

  39. This was the part of Chapman’s piece I was referring to, you fucking morons. Your lips probably got sore and you stopped reading before you got to it.

    “He’s open to evidence. The New York Times recently reported that Obama “likes experts, and his choice of advisers stems in part from his interest in empirical research.” Nobel laureate economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago, who was asked for input on education policy by Obama’s advisers, told the Times, “I’ve never worked with a campaign that was more interested in what the research shows.”

  40. Though I disagree with Chapman on the drinking age issue, I completely agree with his take on Obama. What’s the problem here? His point is easy enough to digest, and even easier to agree with – all rhetoric aside, Obama is not the liberal bogeyman that many conservatives and libertarians make him out to be.

    That is not to say that he is preferable to the alternative – McCain is simply scary. However, unlike McCain, or Bush for that matter, he at least seems interested in evidence as a guide to policy.

  41. While I’m somewhat excited/relieved by the notion of an Empirical Presidency (heh!), I am not at all excited to hear from Lefiti ever again.

    I don’t think people are fundamentally evil. I think that they are self-interested above all things.

    I think people’s motivating interests are so pliable, and the psychological mechanisms of empathy and the pleasure-reward for giving so complicated, that it is difficult to say that people are primarily self-interested in any situation except an actual survival one.

  42. Sorry, I’m on board with the cult

    Taxation is theft.

    You’re either for liberty or you’re against it.

    No person should initiate the use of force against another person.

    No person should do anything bad to another person.

  43. If you don’t stop rattling your cage, we’ll never refill your water dish.

  44. Does “less worse” mean “better than McCain?”

  45. Ah, Neil- I mean, Lefiti- how we’ve missed you, Cesar.

    …I mean, Edward.

    Wait, what? Why can’t our trolls have the decency to stick to one handle?

  46. Funny. I thought I was reading Reason magazine. Should Libertarians be afraid of Obama? Yes!!!! Please. Yes. Be afraid.

    Let’s see:
    He has tried to use the state to silence his political opponents for making ads about his connections to communist terrorists.
    He has promised to go along w/ the Dem Cong on reinstating the ‘Fairness Doctrine.’
    Though quiet about it for fear of losing, he has made it clear that he plans to effectively ban the sale and/or manufacture all of the really useful (and fun!) firearms.
    He told his Rust Belt unioneers that he would get rid of Nafta, and then had his staffers tell Canada they were just kidding. (We should get rid of Nafta and replace it w/ NO trade restrictions of course, something tells me that is not what he meant).
    He has informed us that our children will be press ganged into what he and his activist friends consider ‘community service.’ (Which makes me laugh, the idea that I guess our kids are going to have to go load crates of sub-par food into the dingy warehouse at their local food co-op).
    He wants to DOUBLE the capital gains tax, despite admitting that this will not significantly increase revenue b/c it would be ‘fair’!
    I could go on. Please, please please people. Don’t use this election to make any points about Ron Paul or Bob Barr. This contest between a douche and a turd sandwich leaves us with only one choice: the turd sandwich, I mean McCain. He might suck donkey balls, which is definitely salty and gross, but it beats all those things I mentioned I think.

  47. “Less worse” is a hate crime against the English language.

  48. I don’t need any *evidence* to convince me that raising my taxes (for any reason, whether to fund research I oppose, for wealth restribution, or to fund a cause I whole-heartedly support) is immoral and unjust. But I guess I’m just one of those crazy true believers.

  49. Gregorscoff —

    Even if I agreed with your characterizations of all those things (and I don’t), how do any of those, or even all of those together, compare with:

    “I wanna get a ‘coalition of Democracies’ together to start wars all over the fucking place, probably to eventually sucker us into a shooting war with Russia and/or China, which will probably kill millions and possibly end civilization as we know it”?

    Sometimes, the best of the worst is still way fucking better.

  50. Ironically enough, I think Obama would be positively Clintonian – Rubinomics at home, with a distaste for big wars abroad. We’ll have to deal with the occasional distasteful humanitarian intervention – which is far preferable to McCain’s predilection for World War III. All things considered, Chapman is correct – there could be worse, and yes, McCain is worse.

  51. I don’t think taxation is immoral or unjust either, hotsauce. Paying taxes in a democratic society beats paying protection money in a plutocracy. The taxes pay for stuff we all use.

  52. I think people’s motivating interests are so pliable, and the psychological mechanisms of empathy and the pleasure-reward for giving so complicated, that it is difficult to say that people are primarily self-interested in any situation except an actual survival one.

    OK, how about that people’s motivations tend toward self-interest. Everything a person willingly does is for some reward, with the understanding that the avoidance of punishment is also a reward to the Manichean psyche. A reward is something rewarding and therefore is sought out of self-interest.

    This not to say I have a low opinion of human behavior, but putting it in a pretty dress and teaching it to ride a motorcycle doesn’t mean it’s become anything other than a mangy bear.

    You claim a love of pragmatism. Which is more pragmatic: to assume that vast majority of people act in a manner contrary to self-interest or that people are basically self-interested? There are very few saints in the this world, Ele, just various degrees of well-disguised asshole.

  53. The taxes pay for stuff we all use.

    Yes, like sunshine and love. Thank you, taxes.

  54. BakedPenguin,

    Don’t forget rainbows.

    If I only paid for what I use, liberals would scream bloody murder.

  55. OK, how about that people’s motivations tend toward self-interest. Everything a person willingly does is for some reward, with the understanding that the avoidance of punishment is also a reward to the Manichean psyche. A reward is something rewarding and therefore is sought out of self-interest.

    That’s fair enough, but my point is more along the lines of: if doing good things make us feel good, and doing bad things make us feel good, why do we insist that the former is always subordinate to the latter?

    You claim a love of pragmatism. Which is more pragmatic: to assume that vast majority of people act in a manner contrary to self-interest or that people are basically self-interested? There are very few saints in the this world, Ele, just various degrees of well-disguised asshole.

    Yeah, but if you fake it well enough, does it really matter that it’s fake? In a truly pragmatic worldview, there would be no practically difference between a saint and an asshole pretending to be a saint so long as they do the same things.

  56. Yes, like sunshine and love. Thank you, taxes.

    This episode brought to you by…SLAVES!

    SLAVES!…built the pyramids,
    SLAVES!…built the Parthenon,
    SLAVES!…built America…

    Thank you, SLAVES!

  57. Elemenope, while I completely agree humans have empathy and are not completely self interested, when they get power, it corrupts. If this was not the case, we wouldn’t need to bother with a system of limited government. I have no problem letting the politicians hash it out over what policies are good and what are bad, as long as they obey the necessary limits on government that ensure the rights of the citizens despite the policy changes the politicians make for better or worse. They have stopped playing by the necessary rules for the game, and until that is fixed, I don’t think we can just hope that they try the bad and change it to the good.

  58. Couple that with a requirement that all programs meed to be coupled with a funding bill that also passes, or otherwise the bill is automatically nullified, and you’re good to go.

    That’s a much, much better idea than most. But (in my admittedly limited experience reading bills closely), in the ones I’ve seen that do have a funding plan, it reads like an afterthought, and the funding is based off the usual scapegoating of “teh rich.”

    I’m specifically thinking of the dumbass HEART bill, which gives lots of prezzies to vets and imposes a badly written exit tax on certain ‘wealthy’ citizens & Green Card holders. I don’t see any reason why that trend wouldn’t continue.

    I guess that’s still better than what we have, but now that I work in tax, I can see firsthand just how bad these pols are at writing tax law. Don’t really have a viable alternative, though, unfortunately.

  59. He wants to DOUBLE the capital gains tax, despite admitting that this will not significantly increase revenue b/c it would be ‘fair’!

    I wish I could find a youtube link to this. Obama was somewhat flumoxed when the interviewer pointed out that lowering of the capital increased revenue. He said he didn’t care if raising the rate had no effect. It would be more ‘fair’.

  60. if doing good things make us feel good, and doing bad things make us feel good, why do we insist that the former is always subordinate to the latter?

    Because almost everyone prefers a club to a pat on the back. Everyone’s defintion of good and bad are extremely subjective. Some people’s defintion of good is stealing my money and spending it on making Iraq into a meatgrinder for American service personnel. Some people’s defintion of good is a world where an accusation of rape would mean to end to presumption of innocence. Some people define bad as me owning a gun, or a bag of weed, or a Playboy, or seeing Janet Jackson’s mutilated nipple on TV.

    Every few people’s self-interest exactly matches your own. The vast majority of people want to define the gap between the two as evil. The rest of the demonizing is just primate in-groups and out-groups.

    As for saints: The problem with believing in them is that few see the asshole underneath. I don’t have a problem with presenting a good public face, but that doesn’t get at human nature, which is what we were discussing.

  61. OK, how about that people’s motivations tend toward self-interest

    NutraSweet is a Randroid? Just kidding.

    In a truly pragmatic worldview, there would be no practically difference between a saint and an asshole pretending to be a saint so long as they do the same things.

    All saints are assholes. They do good things for themselves. There is no true altruism.

    Oh noes, now I’m the Randroid!

  62. Obama was somewhat flumoxed when the interviewer pointed out that lowering of the capital increased revenue.

    That’s because it’s utter bullshit. There’s a momentary (usually one quarter long) spike in revenue as people time their transactions to coincide with the lower tax rate, but historically it has *always* stabilized at a lower annual revenue return than before the cut.

  63. RE: Welfare Reform

    Ever wonder why Clinton or other democrats never takes credit for ‘Ending Welfare as we know it’?

  64. Creeping randriodism.

    The understanding that everybody is just in it for themselves is something I came to a long time before I’d ever even heard of Ayn Rand. I accept lies as social lubricants, but I refuse to let them infect having a clear view of the world.

    Whenever you meet someone who says they are interested only in helping other people, move your wallet to your front pocket the first chance you get.

  65. That’s because it’s utter bullshit. There’s a momentary (usually one quarter long) spike in revenue as people time their transactions to coincide with the lower tax rate, but historically it has *always* stabilized at a lower annual revenue return than before the cut.

    Is there any research out there that proves/disproves either side, say comparing the Capital Gains revenue during the Clinton years vs the Bush years?

  66. You mean Obama hasn’t bought hook, line and sinker into a simplistic overarching political ideology that substitutes slogans for thought?

    You win the unintentional irony award, douchebag. HOPE and CHANGE!

    Epi, I’d love to agree, but I think that Obama’s campaign has yet to transmit enough informational content to qualify as even the most simplistic ideology.

    I don’t think taxation is immoral or unjust either, hotsauce. Paying taxes in a democratic society beats paying protection money in a plutocracy.

    There might be some weight to this, if our democracy wasn’t rapidly transforming into a plutocracy.

    The taxes pay for stuff we all use.

    Actually, most of my taxes pay for stuff I don’t use. I cash no entitlement checks, send no children to government schools, etc. The only government services I “use” in even the broadest sense are night watchman services, which are a fraction of my total tax bill.

  67. Is there any research out there that proves/disproves either side, say comparing the Capital Gains revenue during the Clinton years vs the Bush years?

    A bit.

    But there’s quite a bit more if you poke around the Interwebs.

  68. There’s a huge bit of continuum between “absolutely selfless” and “primarily self-interested”. Agree about the advice with the wallet, though.

  69. I’m surprised how many people around here make over 600K a year.

  70. My take is that Obama doesn’t have much of an economic ideology, and ends up just a hair to the left of center by default. Basically, Bill Clinton when he left office.

  71. “Taxation is theft.”

    Well not all of it.

    Only the part that exceeds the value of government services received by the individual is theft.

    In many caes, however, that portion is the vast majority of the total tax payment.

  72. Contrary to the famous National Journal ranking that put him most leftward in the entire Senate, another study found he is really the 11th-most liberal.

    Um, what “another study” is that? Y’know, just in case I want to repeat this without sounding like an idiot.

  73. Is there a psychological benefit from constantly complaining about the inevitable growth of government and corresponding reduction in individual liberty? I’m just curious why people who seem to understand the process better than the masses would still waste energy wondering just how bad functionary A vs. functionary B will be. Pretend I’m an alien sociologist, how would you explain this behavior?

  74. All-encompassing cynicism and a fondness for knee-jerk reactions.

  75. You know what could be worse? It could be Barr!

    “Oh noes! A fake libertarian in the White House! He’ll only cut taxes 10% not 90%! He won’t abolish every department! He might give us small government instead of no government! Oh woes iz uz!”

  76. Is there any research out there that proves/disproves either side, say comparing the Capital Gains revenue during the Clinton years vs the Bush years?

    A bit.

    Is that a joke? Referencing a TIME article for a question on economics? Look at the graph again. Oh wow, the line starts to plummet right about the time of the tech bubble burst and the small ensuing recession. But then look, revenues start growing again after a new cut. This graph really doesn’t prove one side or another. The capital gains tax cut didn’t occur in a bubble; there are always other forces in effect in real world examples.

  77. On the question of Obama: Of course everyone should be scared. On numerous occasions he has said he wants an economic policy that’s “fair” – a term that is only well defined in baseball. This translates into more taxes, aimed at the rich but hitting everyone, to try to fund a bunch of worthless programs the government has no business funding. The government has no right to spend the peoples money on charity, to paraphrase James Madison, and the government should not be in the business of “taking care of” the people. Who was it that said a democracy fails when the people realize they can vote themselves all the money in the treasury? Obama’s new programs mean an increase in hundreds of billions of dollars in increased spending. At least McCain acts like he wants to be fiscally responsible. And oh how I wish I could believe it. Oh well, maybe not much harm will be done in four years and this horrible election will force great candidates next cycle.

  78. Mr. Simple has it right.

    Libertarians have the best choice for president since Ronald Reagan. John McCain is for free trade, light regulation, low taxes, school choice, and market oriented health insurance.

    Obama is equivocal on trade, wants a huge increase in taxes, opposes school choice and advocates a government takeover of medical insurance. On top of that Obama and the Democrats want to abolish the secret ballot in union elections.

    The Democrats seek to establish a European style welfare state. Ironically the Europeans are beginning to adopt more liberal economic policies (liberal in the classical sense of the word).

    Degrees matter. By being half libertarian the US has become the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth. Let’s not throw that away.

  79. Libertarians have the best choice for president since Ronald Reagan.

    Which is kind of sad, actually. But the Dude abides.

    (I don’t disagree with you, by the way, though I don’t hold it against anyone who does out of principle.)

  80. I used to be a lot more libertarian than I am now. I hated big government, loved tax cuts. But I made one fatal mis-calculation: most people are lazy, whiney idiots.

    30 years of tax cuts have resulted in thirty years’ worth of our nation’s wealth being “invested” in SUV’s, McMansions, and cheap Chinese crap. Even the most bone-headed “big government” would be hard pressed to have done worse. China is building damns, maglev trains and shining cities. We built sprawling suburbs that we can no longer afford to drive to or to heat, isolate us from each other, and turn is into lard-butts. Holy brilliant, Batman!

    I have now have become an elitist…smart people should rule, and idiots and ideologues should be largely ignored.

  81. our nation’s wealth being “invested” in SUV’s, McMansions, and cheap Chinese crap

    Sounds like your problem is with the government regulations that encourage manufacturing to go overseas and for people to invest their monies in luxuries rather than taxes (I think the highest corporate taxes in the world) and projects that grow the economy while earning a good return.

    More government effectively makes people dumber. Admit it, it makes sense.

  82. Argh. Barack Obama unfortunately made it difficult for me to oppose him by promising to cut taxes and support nuclear power in his speech tonight. Both brave things to say in front of a Democratic audience.

    The problem is that, of course, I can’t take him at his word. As soon as he gets in office he’s probably going to start acting like a socialist, abandon the nuclear power, increase regulation, nationalize health care, and increase taxes to pay for it.

    Yet, I also doubt that McCain would do much better. He’s hardly going to radically deregulate, or embrace nuclear power, and the tax cuts may well end up being abandoned to appease the Democratic party.

    Now if Obama had come out and made some idiotic claim that we can power the entire country with windmills, or talked a lot about unions, or the minimum wage, or echoed anything that sounded remotely like Jeremiah Wright… that would have given me a good excuse to oppose him.

    Not that I have been converted into an Obama supporter. I just havn’t heard anything, yet, that makes me think “this guy has to be fought.”

  83. I just havn’t heard anything, yet, that makes me think “this guy has to be fought.”

    If I grant you that, will you grant me that, similarly, there’s nothing to make anyone believe he should be supported?

    If so, the apparent support he commands requires extra attention.

  84. I think the reason for the support he commands is rather obvious. The cult of personality. Bandwagon effect. Whatever you want to call it.

    People don’t like being left out of the fun. They want to join the party. Feel the euphoria. Be part of the mass movement. The whole wanting to be caught up in the moment, instead of observing it for the fad it is.

  85. Sugarfree:

    As for saints: The problem with believing in them is that few see the asshole underneath

    As I recall a quote: 3% of people on this planet are saints, 3% are truly evil, 4% are people who actually get things done and walk the tak, the other 90% are simply inert.

    I agree totally with the wallet comment, BTW

  86. Having read through these comments, basically I come away with the sense of it that most of you would agree that:

    McCain sucks.
    Obama sucks.

    And so you guys argue which sucks least. Except for those of you, like myself, who really DON’T want to make a choice between a turd sandwich and bubonic plague (or whatever)…

    Each guy has a few positions/statements/votes that might give hope they are not total jerks. But each carries so much baggage antithetical to liberty and free markets that both are highly distasteful to people who understand the bigger picture of what’s gone wrong.

    I can’t flip a lever for either of those choices. Barr has baggage as well, but it’s not on the order of McCain or Obama. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. So he gets my vote.

  87. should we fear a new government sponsored civilian security force that is “larger and better funded than the military” while at the same time INCREASING military spending? that is what Obama says he wants….yes I’m scared.

  88. I can’t flip a lever for either of those choices. Barr has baggage as well, but it’s not on the order of McCain or Obama. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. So he gets my vote.

    QFT.

  89. Most of McCain’s economic proposals read like they were written by the Cato Institute. There’s a lot there for libertarians and conservatives to like. OK, he throws in some occasional liberal BS to show that he’s a nice guy. Some compromise is necessary in this sinful world.

    Obama’s economic proposals are so far as I can tell all bad. His mindset is that of an “activist” who has never worked in the private sector. His proposal for socialized health insurance is terrifying. Government is not good at providing goods and services. It never has been and never will be. Think of the dog’s breakfast government in this country has made of education.

    Obama’s latest claim is that he’s going to make us energy independent in ten years. Yeah, right. The whole idea of energy independence is nonsensical, and unfortunately both major parties are peddling some brand of that snake oil. McCain does have a couple of good of ideas. Allow nuclear power plants to be built. And drill offshore to at least see what we’ve got. Nothing wrong with reducing the energy bill, wherever the energy comes from.

    Question: who are our biggest foreign suppliers of oil? Answer: Canada and Mexico.

  90. Anyone who says substantially raising the taxes on the wealthiest 1% and smacking more into the capital gains tax will help turn our economy around is either lying or being an asshole. Which is it liberal douche? Pack of lies or are you just trying to destroy our economy?

    If libertarians are moving to this liberal shit, let’s hope that our change doesn’t fuck us horribly. Those are some Obama buzzwords for you.

    The liberals making the case for Obama here on reason remind me of the character Greenzo from the TV show 30 rock: “When I die, they’ll want to put my face on money. If there were money in the future, instead of just hugs.”

  91. Right Libertarian? Markets as final wisdom? H.G.’s version of a “World Government?” Corporate government?

    Whenever I need to laugh long and hard.

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