We Elected the Wrong President

We elected the wrong president. What is almost as bad is that Republicans nominated the wrong person to run against Pres. Obama. What led to our electing the wrong president?

After eight years of Pres. Bush, the country was fed up with Republicans, the economy (although we had some really good years during Pres. Bush’s presidency), and the wars. Not all of us were fed up with Pres. Bush but most people were. Of course, many people never gave him a chance or the benefit of the doubt because of the controversies Democrats created over the 2000 election. I was not a fan of Pres. Bush’s fiscal policies in general but the treatment of him by much of the media and many liberals was inexcusable. The media should be able to and should criticize presidents but the relentless barrage on Pres. Bush and his administration was almost without precedent and bordered on unethical. Pres. Bush also had the misfortune to have his tenure come during the maturation of the internet and rise of social media. The vitriol exploded and the administration did not know how to deal with it (or did not want to waste time dealing with it, unlike the present administration). Part of it was the fact that Pres. Bush was not a “good politician” (that’s not a criticism); he was successful in politics but was not a politician like Pres. Clinton or Pres. Obama. After eight years, our country wanted change.

This is where Pres. Obama came in. In 2006 Congress changed from a Republican majority to a Democrat majority. This was the beginning of the overall governmental change. For a time Sen. Clinton had the lead in the Democrat race for nomination. She had years of experience in Washington and had many connections. However, she was a “Clinton” and had her own history of scandals as well as those of her husband. She did not stand a chance once the media got behind and helped create the juggernaut that was Obama. He was young, cool, polished, intelligent, and media-savvy. As a community organizer he knew how to set up grassroots campaigns and raise funds in small amounts from many people. He was also African-American, which rather than hurting him, helped him tremendously. He had the African-American vote locked up and sealed. Overall, African-Americans compose about 13% of the U.S. population. Obama had virtually all of the African-American vote. Pres. Obama, smartly, ran his campaign on the promise of “Change you can believe in!” He was the person ostensibly from outside Washington who would re-create Washington, giving it an extreme makeover and more metrosexual appeal. Obama was to be a new JFK with the beautiful wife, cute kids, and polished rhetoric. Maybe he could build Camelot anew within the marbled pillars of the White House. He, to some of his followers, is a savior who not only cures cancer with a sympathetic look but also plays a decent game of basketball and looks good without a shirt on. Obama received the Democrat nomination also in part because the economy became of larger concern than the War Against Terror and the war in Iraq at a pivotal moment last year. Sen. Clinton suffered because of this and Sen. Obama benefited.

A similar thing happened in the Republican primary, although for different reasons. Mitt Romney was running 2nd to John McCain but in reality the race was close. However, Mike Huckabee proved to be more than a stinging gnat for Mitt Romney. Mike Huckabee pulled many of Christian conservatives away from Romney because they, in part, were already reticent about supporting a Mormon. Mormons, according to many Evangelicals, are the worst kind of cult; the worst thing to happen to Christianity since the feeding of early Christians to lions by the Romans. Mormons had the audacity to believe in and practice plural marriages in the 1800s, a practice many Westerners just cannot seem to stomach. Of course, Evangelicals do not seem to remember that many of their Biblical prophets practiced polygamy as has most of the world throughout most of history. In any case, Mormons are not well-liked among many fundamental Christian groups (or most other religions for that matter). Romney, in addition to losing supporters to Huckabee, also had the misfortune of the war in Iraq becoming the major issue within the Republican Party for a short while. The main focus on the economy did not come until after Romney withdrew and really not until after McCain was nominated. The war was McCain’s strong point while the economy was (and is) Romney’s.

More than a year ago I stated that Mitt Romney is “the man for the economic crisis in America.” We did not realize at the time how bad the economy really was becoming. That was unfortunate. Had the economy remained the major issue, Mitt Romney would have received the Republican nomination. He has proven business acumen, rescuing troubled businesses over and over (including the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics). While experience can sometimes be over-rated, Mitt Romney’s economic experience is not over-rated and cannot be over-stated. He would have been a president who would not have to rely completely on advisers to understand and establish economic policies. He could have worked even with a Democrat-controlled Congress, just as he did as governor of Massachusetts, to get sound fiscal policies passed (although the Legislature in Massachusetts did not like many of Romney’s fiscal policies, which were too conservative for them).

Instead of Romney we are left with a spend-happy Pres. Obama and a Congress that is even more spend-happy. The stimulus and bailout packages might help in the short-term, should the money actually ever be released, but they set a precedent for future spending and debt. We purchase short-term and ephemeral gains at the expense of the livelihood of our children and their children. Even with the so-called stimulus package, we face unemployment rates that rival Europe’s (at least Europe’s in a good economic climate). As many European nations move away from socialist economic policy, America moves towards it. Even China has largely moved away from a socialist economy. We should let the market run itself without too much government intervention. I’m not idealistic enough to believe that a purely capitalist nation without government intervention is the best way but less governmental intervention and meddling is usually better.

While I think Pres. Obama is a good person trying the best he knows how to do, I do not believe he is the right person for the job. We elected the wrong person. Instead of Obama, we should have elected Mitt Romney. Fortunately we might have that opportunity in 2012. My only worry is that the economy will have recovered by then and many of us will believe that just because the symptoms are gone, the illness is gone. However, just like antibiotics, we need to extend the treatment long after the symptoms are gone in order to get rid of the disease. I believe that Obama’s fiscal policies contribute to the disease instead of curing it. Maybe Obama can cure cancer but he cannot fix the economy; Congress cannot fix it either. Only the economy can fix the economy. Governments can help the economy but they cannot repair it; they can, however, make it worse by meddling. Again, this does not mean governments should leave economies completely untouched but our government should worry first about plugging the gaping holes in its bank accounts before it tries to do anything with the broader economy. We need fiscal responsibility, not this wanton spending our government is doing.

Mitt Romney was ready to answer the call to service but we rejected him. Hopefully we will not make the same mistake again in 2012 when we will need him more than ever to help clean up the mess the current administration and Congress are making.

All politics, all the time – Romney, Cantor say market turmoil mostly to blame for 2008 loss « – from CNN.com

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive – Romney, Cantor say market turmoil mostly to blame for 2008 loss « – Blogs from CNN.com.

Whenever I feel like punishing myself I read comments on CNN.com political stories. They are seriously that bad. I don’t mind intelligent commentary from liberals or conservatives or whomever but there are so few logical, balanced, and intelligent comments that it is painful for me to read, which is why I rarely do. On this particular story, not more than 10% of the comments are from conservative posters. That is the norm for CNN.com stories. Why are only about 10% of comments from conservatives?

I posted a comment a number of hours ago, well before some of the most recent comments. Is my comment on the site? Nope. Hmm, maybe I didn’t submit it correctly. Maybe my 15 year experience with the world wide web does not give me enough skills to successfully interact with websites and successfully submit my comments. That’s probably why my comment went missing.

Or, maybe my comment was too inflammatory. I guess when I set up a straw man and ad hominem attack like the following it is to be expected that my comment would not be posted: “Isn’t it funny that so many liberals comment so frequently on CNN.com stories. Maybe it’s because they are all living off welfare and aren’t doing anything more useful than comment on online news stories while conservatives are out working or at church (since it is Sunday) or otherwise being productive.” Okay, I really did not post that. I didn’t even think of it until just now as I was trying to come up with some completely off-the-wall, ridiculous, and stupid comment for my somewhat sarcastic post.

So what terrible comment did I really post? I replied to the many people who said things like, “This just goes to show that this Dying Old Party has not got a clue” or ” It was because of the Bush Economics [sic] that the economy fell apart”. Mainly I replied to the people who posted scathing, hateful comments that insulted Mitt Romney (and Republicans in general) as well as who said that he was just trying to deny any Republican responsibility (e.g., “The arrogance of this party [Republicans] is revolting. Still not willing to own up to any thing, truly pathetic [sic]”).

This is roughly what I said (I’m expanding on my comment here on my blog). Romney was not denying Republican responsibility. He said, “Republicans and Democrats have been playing this game, passing the hot the [sic] potato, spending money like there was no tomorrow.” All he did was include Democrats in his criticism yet so many people think he’s trying to push the blame onto anybody but Republicans or Pres. Bush (“speaking” of Pres. Bush, here’s a wonderful, hateful ad hominem comment on the story: “The Republicans still don’t get it…They picked a drunk sot, hooker chasing, coke sniffing, moron, loud mouth, scum bag, out of Texas in 2000…”; I guess it could have been worse!).

Romney was simply criticizing the constant fiscal irresponsibility of Washington. Democrats are to blame as well as Republicans. Democrats have had control of Congress since 2006. Congress have the authority to actually pass budgets; they have to work with the executive branch but Congress “pays the bills” (technically, we pay the bills, or actually the Chinese and the rest of the world who loan us the money, but that’s beside the point).

Further, the causes of the economic crisis started in the 1990s (actually, they started a long time ago when we as a people started individually being more fiscally irresponsible, which I believe started en masse some time after WWII). Some people decry the Republicans for not providing enough oversight of Wall Street (hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Not that more regulations are the best idea.) while forgetting that many Republicans (including Pres. Bush) pushed for oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2004 and Democrats refused to vote for that oversight (to be fair – so did some Republicans). Further, in general, Democrats weren’t exactly clamoring for any sort of financial markets oversight. In fact, it was mainly Democrats (including Clinton) in the 90s who pushed (successfully) to force lenders to carry more risky debt by offering mortgages to historically unqualified borrowers (again, Republicans are partially to blame for this too). If you want a cause of the financial crisis, that’s certainly a big part of it.

Romney did criticize Republicans but he also criticized Democrats. He criticized all wasteful spending, regardless of who authorized it. Pres. Bush was a big spender (actually, Congress was the big spender, Pres. Bush just asked them to spend a lot of money; however, Pres. Bush’s spending is “small potatoes” to Pres. Obama’s spending). Unlike what many people believe, Pres. Obama is not spending money (again, it’s really Congress spending the money) to clean up Pres. Bush’s mess – that’s a naive and ludicrous argument; it’s like saying Pres. Bush physically caused Hurricane Katrina (there are people who believe that!) and Pres. Obama has to clean up New Orleans because of Pres. Bush’s hurricane. Republicans in general did not even cause the financial crisis. We (citizens of the United States) all did – all of us who were irresponsible with our money, from the top down and the bottom up! We speculated on speculations of real estate or oil or whatever else we could. We let the government’s size grow out of control and few even tried to stop it; certainly most Democrats didn’t.

That’s basically what I posted (it was much briefer on CNN.com). Yet, my comment did not make it through moderation; however, hateful anti-Mormon comments (e.g., “Romney still does not get it! No one will vote for him a cult member aka MORMON.” [note: that is a direct quote]) and otherwise inane or bigoted comments did. Like I said, I only read CNN.com political comments when I want to punish myself.

LDS Church Further Clarifies Its Role in Prop 8

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following article today on their newsroom site:

Media Reports on Proposition 8 Filing Uninformed

The article is fairly brief but very comprehensive. If anyone still doubts the Church’s financial role in Prop 8, they are just willfully rebelling against the truth. The Church was always very open about its role, they never tried to hide any part of their involvement in Prop 8. LDS Church members were encouraged to vote in the election and to vote in defense of traditional marriage but no one was ever forced to vote a particular way. The LDS Church became involved in the issue because it is an important and fundamental moral issue. Marriage and family are the foundation of society. Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples is a radical shift that could have unintended negative consequences on society for generations. It is an attack on the sacred bond of marriage and family.

Prop 8 Spending Update (and Lies)

The final numbers are in. “The final tallies show that opponents of Proposition 8 raised $43.3 million in 2008 and had a little more than $730,000 left on hand at year’s end. The measure’s sponsors raised $39.9 million and had $983,000 left over.” (Source). Many opponents of Prop 8 are bitter about the measure passing. Some say that the LDS Church bought Prop 8 (see below), yet opponents raised and spent more money on the measure than proponents did. The hatred toward the LDS Church is mind-boggling. I don’t mind the hatred though but I do mind the lies.

Here are a few inaccurate headlines/articles describing the LDS Church’s role in Prop 8.

How the Mormon Church Bought Prop 8 (this site is full of hatred; I just skimmed some of the comments to the article. They were appalling). If the LDS Church bought Prop 8 with their $190,000 of in-kind (non-monetary) donations, that’s quite a good return on their money considering that is less than 0.44% of the total money spent by opponents of Prop 8. In other words, if the LDS Church bought the proposition then their $190,000 of non-monetary donations was more effective than the $43.3 million spent by opponents of Prop 8. That’s quite a good return on money. So who bought the election (it of course begs the question that the election results were purchased)? Even if you factor in contributions by individual LDS Church members (and of course, church members do not equal the LDS Church in any political or legal sense), they still raised and spent less than half of the money opponents raised and spent.

Separation of Church and State…except in Utah and, Uh, California. I will not provide much commentary on this article (because their dishonest portrayal of the issue has already been addressed by the LDS Church). The author completely misunderstands the 1st Amendment (and separation of church and state, for that matter). I love this drossy gem: “There’s no point in asking if what LDS did is ethical; clearly, it is not. But that didn’t stop the church from intensifying its disregard for the rule of law and the political system in this country.”

Mormons Caught in $188,000 Lie. I’m sorry but the only lies being told are by the opponents of the LDS Church on this matter. The LDS Church acted in accordance to law. The reported every expenditure within the time frame that they were legally required to. If you argue that the Church was trying to hide their involvement, then you have to argue just as strongly that all other groups on both sides of the issue who just reported their financial contributions were hiding their involvement as well.

There are more inaccuracies along the same lines. The LDS Church already responded to the issue. They hid nothing. They did not lie. They acted well within all legal, moral, and ethical bounds. The only lies being told are those who spread this misinformation about the LDS Church.

LDS Church Prop 8 Spending Update

From the LDS Church Newsroom site: “SALT LAKE CITY. 2 February 2009. Today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints clarified erroneous news reports following the filing of its final report on donations to the ProtectMarriage.com coalition.

On Friday, 30 January, the Church filed the final report of its contributions (all of which were non-monetary) to the ProtectMarriage.com coalition. The report, submitted in advance of the 31 January deadline, details in-kind donations totaling $189,903.58.

The value of the Church’s in-kind (non-monetary) contribution is less than one half of one percent of the total funds (approximately $40 million) raised for the “Yes on 8” campaign. The Church did not make any cash contribution.

Because media coverage about this filing ran without a comment from the Church, the following statements of fact from the Church add context to this story and should help correct the record:

Fox13 (Utah): “The documents show the amount spent by the Mormon Church is greater than what was initially stated.”

Fact: The Church, like other organizations on both sides of the ballot issue, was required to publicly file these donations by the 31 January deadline. The Church has been filing required contribution reports throughout the campaign. Those earlier donations “initially stated” were filed for specific time periods prior to this last reporting period, as required by law. Other groups are also filing their final contribution reports to meet the same deadline.

San Francisco Chronicle : “Mormon church officials, facing an ongoing investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Friday reported nearly $190,000 in previously unlisted assistance to the successful campaign for Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.”

Sacramento Bee : “The disclosure comes amid an investigation by the state’s campaign watchdog agency into whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints violated state laws by not fully disclosing its involvement during the campaign.”

Fact: This filing is in no way prompted by an investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Many organizations are filing this week to meet the deadline required by law. We believe we have complied with California law.

KFMB 760 AM (San Diego) :

“Mormon Church Misstated How Much It Spent in Prop 8 Fight.”
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints previously claimed only about $2,000 was spent in support of the measure.”

365Ga y : “Mormon Church admits it spent 100 times more for Prop 8 than reported”

Fact: Again, the previous disclosure of an in-kind donation was to meet an earlier deadline. In fact, previous filings detailed over $50,000 out of the total non-monetary contribution of $189,903.58. This week’s filing reported donations that fell within a different time period and required reporting by the 31 January deadline. Other groups also made their final contributions reports this week.

Understanding the extent of donations from other organizations may help the media and the public better understand the context in which the Church’s donations were made.”

The LDS Church clearly acted in accordance to the law. The only reason this is an issue is because some people are so hateful of the Church that they try to do anything to discredit them.

The LDS Church Contributed $190,000 in “In-kind” Donations to Prop 8

UPDATE: I corrected the figures in this post now that we have the actual amounts. I will post a reprint of the LDS Church’s clarification of news stories about the issue.

On Friday the LDS Church filed a report outlining their contributions to the Prop 8 campaign in California. They spent $190,000 (a GLBT site reports the amount was “more than $190 thousand.” Notice how the amount creeps upward as sites become more pro-homosexual. Note: I don’t know what the actual amount is; news sites have just been rounding the number – some up and some down). $96,000 of that was spent paying some church employees for their time (e.g., designing a website or things like that). The rest came from flying church officials to California (and putting them in hotels and renting cars and similar expenses). The Church did not donate any money directly. When a complaint was filed against the Church in November 2008, the LDS Church stated they would be making all required declarations by the time they were legally required to. They were not required by law to declare their contributions until February 2, 2009.

The articles I linked to generally do not give the LDS Church the benefit of the doubt (searching the related headlines in Google News reveals such biased gems as “Mormon Church Misstated How Much It Spent in Prop 8 Fight”). The news bias is not surprising given that all 10 major California newspapers editorialized against Prop 8. Only the SF Chronicle even bothers to mention the Feb. 2 deadline for reporting contributions. However, those who filed the complaint against the Church believe that the Church was required to report their contributions earlier.

The Yes on 8 campaign spent $39.2 million out of a total of about $41 million spent (Source). Older estimates had supporters of Prop 8 spending $35.8 million with opponents spending $37.6 million (Source). We’ll see what the revised number is once opponents of Prop 8 declare all their contributions (it is likely higher than the $41 million spent to support Prop 8). While LDS Church members donated a sizable portion of the money spent to support Prop 8 (possibly as high as $20 million – but those are estimates are by anti-Prop 8 groups and so may be on the high end of the actual amount), the LDS Church as an entity donated a whopping 0.45% of the total money spent to support Prop 8!

True, individual LDS Church members might have donated 50% of the money spent in support of Prop 8 (again, this is based on unofficial estimates) but church members who donated are citizens and are allowed to donate however they want to. Hollywood celebrities contributed large of amounts of money to fight Prop 8 (for example, Brad Pitt donated $100,000). At least churches are Constitutionally-protected entities unlike Hollywood. The LDS Church encouraged time and money donations but never forced anyone to donate. It’s ironic how some who “fight against hate” hate the LDS Church so much. Where are all the complaints against entities who made anti-Prop 8 contributions?

Showing their intense hatred of hate, Californians Against Hate has a “Dishonor Roll” that includes people who donated more than $5000 to support Prop 8. Way to fight hate! It’s the kind of list I’d like to be on.

Fare Thee Well – Updated

Tomorrow is the end of an era. Pres. George W. Bush – like him or despise him – has left a mark in U.S. history. Some of the most memorable events that occurred during his presidency, such as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, were not things that he did but were things that simply happened. Other things, such as invading Afghanistan and Iraq were things that he authorized and pushed for. Most people thought he would be another Bill Clinton-type president, focused mainly on social and domestic issues and quickly forgettable. Bill Clinton was a fair president – he turned out to be quite centrist – but he was immoral and dishonest. Pres. Bush is also quite centrist, even if many people do not want to believe that, but he is far more honest and moral than Bill Clinton.

I’m not calling Pres. George W. Bush a saint, but he stood for something and always tried to do what was right. He is the type of person who cares very little for polls, in a day when most other politicians live for polls as if there is nothing more important than bending to every whim of their constituents.

Pres. Bush’s presidency was attacked by the media and by liberals from the beginning. When the Florida Supreme Court stopped the mayhem of the 2000 election vote recounts, where Al Gore and many Democrats tried to steal the election from Pres. Bush, many people instead accused Pres. Bush of stealing the election. I’m all for fair elections but the endless political maneuvering for more votes had to stop. Al Gore received more popular votes than George W. Bush but he did not win the electoral votes. Many people were so bitter over a small thing called the Constitution that they never gave Pres. Bush a chance. Sure, most forgave him in the days following Sep. 11, 2001 but their praise quickly turned to scorn. The rose blooms wilted leaving only thorns.

Meanwhile, the country was in economic turmoil. This turmoil started in 2000 and didn’t stop until 2002; even then, most of the problems were just postponed until 2007. These economic problems were not caused by any one entity. The root cause of them started many years ago as we became more and more greedy as a people. There is little the President could have done to stop the coming economic storms. Maybe the government should have kept out of the economy even less than they did (especially back in 1999 when the government basically forced lenders to approve mortgages to risky clients).

While I disagree with Pres. Bush on some issues (starting the war in Iraq and all the deficit spending, for example), I agree with his stances on abortion (no abortions except in cases of rape, incest, when the life of the mother is in serious danger, and when the fetus has no chance of viability outside the womb – even in those cases, abortion is not something that should be taken lightly or done without serious consideration of all other options. Abortion is only to be used as last resort). Pres. Bush signed an executive order that disallowed taxpayer’s money to be spent on international programs promoting abortion. He also did other positive things such as promoting abstinence education. He supports traditional marriage and constitutional amendments supporting traditional marriage. During his presidency, public libraries also had to install filters to protect children (and adults) from pornography. If that’s censorship, then sign me up for more of that type of censorship. Pres. Bush did increase science research funding as well, even if where funds were allocated changed.

Pres. Bush also signed in a sweeping educational reform bill. I’m not a fan of No Child Left Behind (it was poorly designed and poorly implemented) but it was an example of bipartisan reform (take whatever meaning you want from that). Pres. Bush also dramatically increased funding to fight HIV and AIDS around the world, saving many people’s lives. He pushed for more space exploration – including manned space exploration – as well.

During his presidency the farce of the “assault weapons” ban was repealed. It was a law that did nothing to reduce crime. Handguns are involved in more crimes than assault weapons and not just because there are more of them. I’m not in favor of banning handguns but the ban of assault weapons was nothing more than pure politics based on pathos instead of fact and reality.

Pres. Bush also appointed good strict constitutionalists to the Supreme Court. The Constitution is not a “Living Document.” It should not be reinterpreted based upon the whims and winds of social change. Pres. Bush’s appointees will likely serve very well as Justices.

Pres. Bush also is a conservationist. The problem is that he does not attend the Church of Environmentalism so extreme leftists painted him as someone who does not care for the environment. On the contrary, he has set aside large portions of the world for conservation. His ranch in Texas is also more “green” than most of the homes of other politicians who push “green” policies – including the Church of Environmentalism’s spokesman Al Gore. Pres. Bush also signed in fuel economy standards increases for cars; he additionally pushed for more research into alternative fuels.

While I don’t agree with Pres. Bush’s deficit spending, he did push for tax cuts. He also fought for removing the marriage tax penalty as well as increasing tax credits for children. Reducing taxes is almost always the best policy to help the economy.

Now we come back to the wars. Few disagree with Pres. Bush’s decision to topple the Taliban regime. Many people dislike the war in Iraq though. Contrary to popular opinion, Pres. Bush never lied to us to start the war in Iraq. He acted on what was the best intelligence we had on Hussein. That intelligence turned out to be wrong (or Hussein was able to destroy or hide any remaining WMDs) but Pres. Bush did not lie. In any case, if Pres. Elect Obama does not prematurely pull U.S. troops out, there will be a fairly stable democracy in Iraq, something radical Islamic terrorists dislike more than just about anything else. Terrorists have little power in democracies. Pres. Bush stood up to terrorism and never gave in. He spoke back in a language they understand – violence – and they trembled and were afraid. Bin Laden is little more than a figurehead now. He hasn’t been captured but he has very little direct power any more. Pres. Bush demonstrated a fairly mature understanding of geopolitics.

One additional thing that tells you something about Pres. Bush is the fact that he is happily married to Laura Bush. She is a genuinely nice and good person and must have seen and must still see something good in Pres. Bush. Who people marry can tell you a lot about them.

Pres. Bush has been painted by his political opponents and the media as both imbecile and fiendishly brilliant (he is quite intelligent by the way). They don’t, of course, call him brilliant outright but they imply it as they talk about conspiracies (e.g., that the war in Iraq was started to increase his oil profits; or, he drove up oil prices in order to make more money). Pres. Bush has been given both deity-like powers (e.g., he caused Katrina) and been called nothing but a puppet. Many view him as morally bankrupt and a liar, which simply demonstrates their lack of understanding about morals and honesty.

I for one, will miss Pres. Bush. It hasn’t been an easy 8 years but he stood up to the challenge and performed admirably. I believe history will vindicate many of his actions.

The Economics of SimCity

I spent many hours playing SimCity when I was younger. In the game, when you plan and build your city it is easy to rapidly expand and quickly build up a massive city. Almost every time I did this, my cities would go into financial crisis and go bankrupt. Rapid expansion was a sure-fire way to ruin my city. The cities seemed to function well at first but the growth was not sustainable. To grow so quickly I had to borrow money and the interest added up too quickly. I ran out of money, my roads would crumble, my citizens would move, and I was left bankrupt. On the other hand, when I was more patient and took my time to slowly grow my cities, they would usually be very successful and could grow very large.SimCity 2000 Screenshot

This situation is often reflected in our economy. Companies expand rapidly then get into financial crises. The government grows rapidly and gets into a financial crisis. Congress recently raised the national debt cap to over $11 trillion! That’s an obscene amount of money, even for a nation as well-to-do and large as the United States. The surge in oil prices and subsequent decline showed that speculation about oil prices, which basically meant people purchased oil futures in the hopes that oil prices would rise; of course, oil prices rose as people continued to speculate higher and higher prices in their greed for better returns on their investments. Demand for oil did play a minor role in driving up oil prices but it was only a very small part. We’ve had increases in oil demand for years without a concomitant surge in oil prices. Adjusting for inflation, oil prices have been quite stable since the 1950s. It was speculation more than anything else.

The housing market followed a similar SimCity growth trend. Housing prices were increasing exponentially. People who owned homes were quite excited to see their equity increase. People started buying homes on the speculation that prices would continue to rise – that they could receive huge returns on their investments. Many people purchased homes they couldn’t afford. It was speculation about housing prices that increased their prices beyond sustainability. People had access to too much money at too low interest rates. Lenders gave money to risky borrowers because they could turn a large profit. All of these forces collided, causing a huge housing meltdown. It was like John Henry working himself to death trying to beat the new technology. In this case, the housing market worked itself to death not to prove that they were relevant in the face of new technology but to make more money.

Just like in SimCity, this rapid growth was not sustainable. People were too greedy, too speculative. They turned the housing market and the oil market into nothing more than gambling. People were speculating on the specualtions then using those second-level speculation “funds” to fund more projects or investments. The citizens of the U.S. cannot really blame anyone but themselves. We became greedy. We did not follow sound conservative financial advice; instead we went after what seemed like the easiest and largest profit. It turned out to be too good to be true. In the end, the surest way to build wealth and to grow the economy is not by gambling – by speculation – about the future. The surest way to grow net worth is to live within our incomes as individuals, families, and a nation.

Change in Illinois

The recent scandal involving the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, who tried to sell or trade the Senate seat vacated by Pres. Elect Obama, just goes to show that someone other than Obama wanted “change.” In the governor’s case, the change that he sought was illegal, unlike the change that Obama wanted.

On a serious note, this scandal shows a few things about politics in America. First, this corruption is far from the norm. There are quite a few corrupt politicians in America but the U.S. has some of the lowest rates of corruption in the world. Second, this shows there are corrupt politicians here in America. Such corruption should never be accepted nor tolerated. Such behavior is in opposition to all that democracies (or democratic republics) stand for.

The governor was trying to sell Obama’s old Senate seat. It’s not that different from politicians spending as much money as they can to get elected. One is legal and the other isn’t, but the ethical line between the two acts is quite tenuous. This is one reason I’m in favor of adding drastic restrictions on campaign spending. Obama probably raised upwards of $600 million during his campaign, maybe close to $1 billion! That is an obscene amount of money. I know a lot of it came from fairly small donations from a lot of people but that much money, regardless of the source, is still a lot of money. With how the money is spent on advertising and a lot of other things, candidates effectually buy themselves their seats. Now, a lot of other things factor in, such as their message, their charisma, their political party, their religion, and their age, but money has a huge impact on outcome. Further, if we expect our government to be more frugal in its spending, we should greatly reduce the amount of money candidates are able to spend on their campaigns.

Transcript of Obama’s Statement on Judge Selection

This quote comes from Laura Echevarria’s transcription of Obama’s 2007 speech at a Planned Parenthood convention. I included this whole quote because of criticism that my use of the quote previously took the quote out of context. Here is the full context.

Dessa Cosma: Um, as you were talking about earlier, the recent Bush Supreme Court’s decision really took away critically important decisions from women and put them in the hands of politicians. And as a result of this, we’re expecting, and have already seen, so much anti-choice legislation at the state level. Um, what would you do at the federal level not only to ensure access to abortion but to make sure that the judicial nominees that you will inevitably be able to pick are true to the core tenets of Roe v. Wade?

Barack Obama: Well, the first thing I’d do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. [Applause.] That’s the first thing that I’d do. Um, but the, okay, but, but your question about the federal courts is absolutely on target. I taught Constitutional Law for ten years and I have to say after reading this latest decision and the series of decisions that the Supreme Court has been putting forward that I find it baffling.

Because sometimes they are striking down acts of Congress like the Violence Against Women’s Act showing very little deference to Congressional decision making and that somehow when it comes to a piece of legislation that is not taking into account clear doctrine that the Supreme Court has laid out, they say, “Oh, that’s fine. Congress can make those decisions.” There is an inconsistency and I believe a hypocrisy in terms of how we see many of these decisions issued.

That’s why I think it’s important for us obviously to get not only a Democratic White House as well as a stronger Congress to protect these rights. But I also think it’s important to understand that there’s nothing wrong in voting against nominees who don’t appear to share a broader vision of what the Constitution is about.

I think the Constitution can be interpreted in so many ways. And one way is a cramped and narrow way in which the Constitution and the courts essentially become the rubber stamps of the powerful in society. And then there’s another vision of the court [sic] that says that the courts are the refuge of the powerless. Because oftentimes they can lose in the democratic back and forth. They may be locked out and prevented from fully participating in the democratic process. That’s one of the reasons I opposed Alito, you know, as well as Justice Roberts. When Roberts came up and everybody was saying, “You know, he’s very smart and he’s seems a very decent man and he loves his wife. [Laughter] You know, he’s good to his dog. [laughter] He’s so well qualified.”

I said, well look, that’s absolutely true and in most Supreme Court decis–, in the overwhelming number of Supreme Court decisions, that’s enough. Good intellect, you read the statute, you look at the case law and most of the time, the law’s pretty clear. Ninety-five percent of the time. Justice Ginsberg, Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia they’re all gonna agree on the outcome.

But it’s those five percent of the cases that really count. And in those five percent of the cases, what you’ve got to look at is—what is in the justice’s heart. What’s their broader vision of what America should be. Justice Roberts said he saw himself just as an umpire but the issues that come before the Court are not sport, they’re life and death. And we need somebody who’s got the heart—the empathy—to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old—and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges. Alright? (emphasis added).

What is Obama saying? First, he wants to remove all restrictions on abortions, in all states. Second, he says that it is vital for justices to support the Roe v. Wade decision. This decision was based on a loose interpretation of the Constitution [read this insightful article that discusses the history of the phrase separation of church and state. What does this have to do with the current topic? The author also addresses the history of strict vs. loose interpretations of the Constitution, which is the heart of this matter]. It’s still controversial today. There is no consensus among constitutional scholars and lawyers or judges about the constitutionality of the decision.

Obama stated that Supreme Court justices will essentially agree on 95% of cases – that their “broader vision of what America should be” won’t really matter. It’s the other 5% of cases that matter to Obama. Those are the cases that can change the direction of America – cases like Roe v. Wade. In this added context his statement does not appear extreme at first glance. However, Obama also opposed the nominations of Justices Roberts and Alito, who are both “conservative” in that they strictly interpret the Constitution (even in those “5% of cases”). The Constitution is not a living document, unless an amendment is passed by 75% of states’ legislatures. Justices shouldn’t treat it as a living document because their interpretations are based on what’s written in the Constitution – they don’t have the power to change it or to legislate laws. In the end, in the broader context, Obama’s criterion for selecting judges is still disturbing. Obama apparently has a broader vision of what the Constitution is about but doesn’t say. It is apparent though, in the context of his speech, that some of that vision includes expanding Roe v. Wade (see the Freedom of Choice Act, for example, which would overrule all laws against abortion, including bans on partial-birth abortions).

Even with the broader context of Obama’s words, my previous post still stands.