Which Party Ruined the Economy?

Here’s a quick, hopefully thought-provoking post.

Under Pres. Reagan there was a large expansion in the size of the federal government. Who had control of Congress during those years? Democrats. Pres. Clinton gets credit for having a good economy and balancing the budget but who is responsible for making and passing budgets? Congress. Pres. Clinton did the politically expedient thing and worked with the Republicans in Congress to get the budget balanced (although, the budget would prove to be unsustainable because it was based on unrealistic expectations of future tax income; the balanced budget was in trouble starting in late 2000 and early 2001 when a recession hit).

We had a good economy in the 1990s with Republicans in charge of Congress and with a Democrat in the White House. Things went south with the Internet bubble burst in 2000 and 2001. That was the start of a recession made much worse by the events of 9/11. Thankfully, the “Bush” tax cuts (Republicans were still in control of Congress) were passed. They helped shorten the recession. What was not good was passing them and increasing our federal spending. The economy was going along quite well until the housing market crashed in 2006-2007. This was one of the main factors resulting in the biggest recession the U.S. has faced. I’m not going to blame any political party for the recession but I have to point out that Democrats (and many Republicans) helped put in place government housing policies in the 1990s that were factors in the housing bubble burst. Further, Democrats were the ones opposed to regulations Republicans were trying to put in place that might have reduced the housing market crisis. Both parties are culpable for their actions or inactions though.

In 2006 (2007) Democrats took control of the House and Senate. In 2007 the recession officially started. Things were bad with the Republican Pres. Bush and a Democrat majority in Congress. They passed some bailout policies that were weakly effective at best and harmful at worst. Then Pres. Obama took office in 2009 (2008 election). He nearly had a Democrat supermajority in Congress with which to work. It seemed the perfect time to get things done to help the economy but instead of focusing on the economy, or at least trying to stay out of its way (there were other bailouts, some that seemed effective – the auto bailouts – but most have no measurable effects other than a huge deficit), Pres. Obama and the Democrats passed an environmental bill (which no one had the opportunity to read before it was passed) and a gigantic health insurance bill (which also was not read before it was passed).

In 2010, after about 2 years in office, Pres. Obama said he was serious now about the economy. Things were still bad. In 2010 (starting tenures in 2011), Republicans took control of the House and gained seats in the Senate. In 2011 the economy finally started to improve after Democrats no longer had complete control of Congress. It’s still rough but getting better.

What I think is interesting is that the economy seems to flourish when Republicans are in charge of Congress and it seems to flounder when Democrats are in charge of Congress. It also seems that our economy is finally starting to recover in spite of the worst efforts of many Democrats (and many Republicans who either went along or didn’t fight bills enough). It seems like the best course of action would have been either to do nothing or pass smaller, more focused stimulus measures. Tax cuts always work to improve the economy and are usually the best way to stimulate the economy. They just have to be accompanied by a reduction in spending. Basically, the government should get out of the way of the economy and provide focused regulations when necessary.

This post is biased. I wrote it this way on purpose to provide a counter-point to many arguments I have heard or read that praise Pres. Clinton for the good economy of the late 1990s, blame Pres. Bush for the 2007 recession, and praise Pres. Obama for the current economic improvements. There are many people who blame all good things on actions of Democrats and all bad things on actions of Republicans. That’s such a gross oversimplification of who things actually work that it’s not an effective argument (well, it is often effective because many people do not think critically and just accept it as truth). I wrote this post to show that I can argue just the opposite – that poor economies are the result of the actions of Democrats; after all, Congress is in charge of spending and passing laws and our economy suffered the most with Democrats in charge.

What’s the truth? Probably something in the middle (Democrats and Republicans are both responsible). Our federal government is too big and certainly too inefficient. I’d argue that the inefficiency (bureaucracy) is worse than the size of government. We need a Congress and a president who are willing and able to increase the efficiency of the government in part by reducing its footprint.

Respecting the President

As I read various comments or blog posts online I see a number of conservatives who refer to our current president as “Barry.” This is used in the same vein as many liberals used “Dubya” or any of their other derogatory names for the previous president (many of which are not going to be posted here). I do not support such informal and derogatory nicknames for the President Obama and I did not support such terms for President Bush. What Pres. Obama gets called is far milder than what Pres. Bush was (and is) called.

Regardless of what you think of a particular president, the office deserves respect. Even if you do not respect the individual, you should respect the office. Pres. Obama should be referred to as Mr. President (when talking to him, should you ever have that honor) or President Obama (or Pres. Barack Obama); he can also be referred to as “The President”. On Twitter I can understand referring to Pres. Obama as BHO (which, while sometimes used to point out his middle name – Hussein – to try to link him with a certain former Iraqi dictator, is preferable to BO). However, that particular abbreviation should only be used on Twitter (or some similarly character-restricted medium) if your tweet is longer than the character limit and that is the best way to reduce the number of characters.

I know many people will disagree with me but I believe that people in important positions deserve respect and should be addressed respectfully regardless of your personal opinion of them. Besides, I find it difficult to take someone seriously when they refer to our president as “Barry.” Here is an example of what I am talking about from a comment on a news story on a major news site. [Not that comments to online news stories are a good representation of the public, at least I certainly hope they are not representative, but they can serve as an illustration of my point].

“[A person] will run against the Barrack Hussein WH — they will sign of the school system to the teacher unions for the future obligation of their pension and health benefits — what that BHO care .. his kids are in a private school!”

That quote is taken completely out of context so it does not make a lot of sense (it does not make a lot of sense in context either). First, the commenter referred to Pres. Obama as “Barrack [sic] Hussein,” which is an obvious appeal to anti-Muslim sentiment (or, at least the logical fallacy of guilt by association [in this case with Saddam Hussein]). Secondly, the commenter referred to Pres. Obama as “BHO”, which is not necessarily disrespectful but neither is it respectful. I know people will quibble with my point but I believe that the office of President of the United States of America is deserving of more respect, regardless of your feeling about a particular president.

We can criticize and make a caricaturization of a president but the office of president should still be respected. Much of this boils down to basic civility, a quality I fear too many in our country lack. A person only weakens an argument by reverting to name-calling or otherwise disrespectful attitudes towards others.

Obama Opposes Release of Detainee Abuse Photos – WSJ.com

Obama Opposes Release of Detainee Abuse Photos – WSJ.com.

This is the best news so far in Obama’s administration. I think the prisoner abuses are sick and immoral, however, no good would come from releasing the photos. They would only serve as fodder for terrorist organizations to use as anti-American propaganda and recruitment tools.

Further, there is no evidence that such abuses were mandated or condoned at all. In any case, the Stanford Prison Experiment shows what happens when normal people are placed in stressful prison situations. I’m not approving or excusing the abuse but just because the abuse occured does not mean that it was condoned or tolerated from anyone “higher up.” It’s important to try and safeguard against such abuses in the future but releasing more photos is not the solution.

White House Boosts Deficit Projections – WSJ.com

White House Boosts Deficit Projections – WSJ.com.

The budget deficit was predicted (by the administration) to be $1.752 trillion for the current fiscal year. How much money is that? It’s $1,752,000,000,000. That’s too large a number to really understand. If you took $1 bills and laid them end to end around the earth, you would wrap around the earth 6,477,130,690 times! That’s about 6.5 billion times. That’s still too large a number to really understand. Using the same end-to-end laying of $1 bills, you could travel to the sun and back 865,700.554 times! What that means is that using $1 bills, we could travel 1,731,401.11 AU (astronomical units). That’s 27.38 light years! These are astronomical amounts.

Of course, my use of the length of the U.S. $1 bill was arbitrary, I could have made any number of other comparisons but the point remains the same; that is a lot of money. And that’s just the projected 1 year budget deficit! Of course, that deficit includes additional bailout money Congress might not approve but even so, we’ll have at least a $1.5 trillion budget deficit with another large one next year (and so on for the forseeable future). I’m not even going to broach the subject of the actual national debt.

I appreciate that Pres. Obama and Congress are trying to address the weak economy and the budget shortfalls but right now Pres. Obama seems too much like Pres. Lyndon Johnson trying to escalate the Vietnam War while pushing for his Great Society; it was more than he could handle so he wasn’t particularly successful at either. I’m not saying all of the Great Society programs were bad – many were good – but he was not able to focus on both social and military programs at the same time. He should have done one or the other, not both. Pres. Obama, like LBJ, is trying to do everything. I think he’s more capable than LBJ was but Pres. Obama is not only trying to “fix” the economy, he is trying to create his own Great Society while fighting the War on Terrorism (including two ongoing campaigns – Iraq and Afghanistan). I recognize that Pres. Obama was thrown some flaming torches and asked to juggle them but instead of letting some fall and go out, he decided to keep juggling them all while asking for more.

I applaude that Pres. Obama did not implement his original plan to start taking troops out of Iraq immediately, at least he listened to his military leaders and implemented what is essentially Pres. Bush’s withdrawal plan (although Pres. Bush did not like that word). I think some bailouts were probably necessary, although they should have been much smaller than were approved, but much of Pres. Obama’s “stimulus” or other budgetary monies are going towards social programs at a time when we cannot afford them. Increaing Pell Grants is a nice idea (I know many other conservatives disagree) and as a researcher, I always appreciate having more money available for reserach grants, but this money is borrowed money. It’s not real; we are borrowing against the future for things we cannot afford now. Fix the budget first, then try to work on social programs. We need to cut spending, not increase it.

Why Anti-Hillary or Anti-Obama Votes Won’t be Enough for John McCain

John McCain has emerged as the front-runner of the GOP race for the presidency and by all accounts has gained the momentum to take the nomination. Conservatives are not happy and even pundits such as Hannity, who have vowed to not endorse a candidate, have come out in open opposition to McCain and endorsed Mitt Romney. Their opposition is not without valid concerns; most notably McCain’s willingness to compromise conservative positions and unwillingness to champion the conservative cause. The goal of conservatism is not to find a middle ground with liberals; No, it is to fight for our positions. McCain is not a conservative he is a compromiser. And, being a compromiser is worse than being a liberal, in the eyes of many conservatives. If McCain is elected he will be more able to compromise conservative principles than Hillary or Obama and better able to get liberal leaning republicans to vote liberally. While Hillary will have to overcome conservative and party opposition, McCain will be able to act as the conservative working with the liberals to get things done.

McCain’s supporters have taken the view that he has the best chance of winning in the general election. This assumption, however, relies entirely on the anti-democrat vote. McCain will find that this assumption is invalid because there are two types of conservative voter styles. First, there are the “vote for the most conservative candidate” types; and second, there are the “vote against the most liberal candidate” types. I wish I know how many conservative are the “vote against” vs. “vote for” types, but my guess is that there are far more like myself that are the ‘vote for’ types. I recently met a social conservative who switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat so he could vote against Hillary in the closed Florida Primary. This decision was driven by fear and not conviction. He will now change his affiliation back to Republican to vote against Hillary again in November even though his has missed the chance to add his voice with other conservatives to nominate the strongest conservative GOP candidate. In large numbers this strategy, what I believe is a strategy driven by fear, will be detrimental for the GOP because all conservative votes are needed in the party to ensure that the strongest conservative gains the nomination. Undeniably McCain can rely on the ‘vote against the most liberal candidate’ conservatives in November. McCain will rally their fears of what the world will look like given Hillary or Obama becoming president.

But what of the ‘vote for the most conservative candidate’ voters, such as myself? The ‘vote against’ voters are happy with even a candidate that is only slightly less liberal than another, while a ‘vote for’ voter is only satisfied with someone who represents their cause and will not compromise our positions as our so-called representative. We are not driven by fear but conviction in our principles which we do not want to see compromised by someone claiming to be one of our own. ‘Vote for’ types are no more happy with the less liberal candidate than the more liberal one. I say, the lesser of two evils is still evil and the lesser of two liberals is still liberal. I am not interested in voting against the more liberal if the alternative is also a liberal

At the end of the day those who vote for McCain have voted against conservatism by voting for a compromiser. I refuse to vote for a compromiser such as McCain, regardless what the liberal alternative is. Frankly, those who embrace the “vote for” mentality will not be motivated to support someone we do not support nor to vote for someone that does not represent our positions. I will be one of many conservatives that will stay at home and prays for the country on election day given the choice of “the lesser of two evil” because a prayer may help while a vote for either cannot.

Prejudice in the Primaries

Orson Scott Card, one of the best contemporary writers, frequently writes articles about his views on politics and other issues. On January 13, 2008 he published an article called Prejudice in the Primaries. He outlines how religious and racial prejudices are affecting the primaries. People vote against Romney because he is LDS (polls in early January showed 25% of people saying outright that they would not vote for a Mormon) and conversely some people vote for McCain because he’s not openly religious. People also vote against Obama because he’s black. I agree with him that racial and religious bigotry is likely affecting the primaries more than we care to think.

Amy Sullivan’s old but still very salient article Mitt Romney’s Evangelical Problem is a wonderful exposé on the problem that Mitt Romney faces. Just as there is no room for racism in our country there is no room for religism.

Reaction to Florida’s Primaries

Well, Giuliani’s big gamble did not work. He spent all his efforts in Florida and some of the Super Tuesday states only to have his early poll lead chiseled away by McCain and Romney. I’d be highly surprised if he did not drop out of the race by the end of the week. While I previously posted about how I didn’t feel that I could trust him, after researching his stances on issues, I learned to at least respect him more. I still disagree with him on issues but I think that he had good ideas for economic policies and would have done well in the international scene.

Huckabee did not do well in Florida. He got some of the evangelical vote but overall did poorly. I’m glad that members of the Republican Party see through him (well, a lot of us do). His one-liners and quips revealed that there is not a lot of substance to his platform. I heard him make a comment after the Florida results were in that his supporters should make sure they all go out and vote and that they should keep people who are not going to vote for him in their driveways. I know it was said tongue-in-cheek but that was not one of the more brilliant things that he’s said. He plans on staying in the race for some unknown reason. He’ll do fairly well in the South but nowhere else. He certainly would not compete well against any of the Democratic candidates in a general election. It’s time for him to drop out of the race. Maybe he thinks he’ll have a come-back but the cynical part of me also thinks that he might just stay in the race because he takes votes away from Mitt Romney. That is probably not true but I can’t deny the possibility that anti-Mormon bigotry is playing such a large role. Anyone who thinks that the LDS Church would suddenly control Washington should Romney win does not know LDS theology. Anyway, Huckabee also could be staying in to try and be in a position to be chosen as a running mate.

McCain had a big win in Florida. He jumped into 1st place in the delegate count; he’s ahead of Romney by about 20 delegates now, which is not a lot but he is polling ahead of Romney in California. Also, with Giuliani’s endorsement, he will take up a majority of Giuliani supporters. I have a lot of respect for McCain and for his even-mindedness and “gut.” I think he’ll do well against any of the Democratic candidates should he receive the Republican nomination. I do not like the personal attacks he made against Romney though. Romney started the negative campaigning but it was always negative about candidates’ actual past performance and their stances on issues. McCain started the personal attacks on Romney though (Huckabee was involved as well). McCain was the first to use language that questioned Romney’s character or his integrity (for example, “if you wrestle with a pig you only get dirty” referring to Romney as the pig. That statement was way below the belt. Romney is by far the most squeaky-clean of the candidates). He was also the main candidate who called Romney a “flip-flopper,” which is completely untrue. Romney has changed stances on issues (although they were mostly when he was still governor or even before then) but to “flip-flop” you have to repeatedly change back and forth. Romney has “flipped” on some issues but that’s it. McCain has done the same and should not be pointing fingers. Of course, many people involved in the mainstream media also can’t resist trying to paint Romney as a “flip-flopper.” It’s disingenuous at best and slander or libel at worst. Campaigns tend to be ugly, unfortunately, but there’s no room for outright lies. Granted, Romney shouldn’t be calling McCain’s policies “the liberal Democrat way” but that certainly is more accurate (McCain is moderate and thus has a lot of policies that are “liberal”) than calling Romney a flip-flopper.

Now to Mitt Romney. He’s still in the race. He had strong support in Florida – not as good as would have liked – but he came in a solid second. He also solidly won the conservative vote. McCain won the majority of liberal and moderate Republican votes but Romney won the conservative majority. Romney will do well in a number of states on Super Tuesday. He has Utah in the bag. I think he’ll do well in the other Rocky Mountain states, the Midwest, and in the Northeast. It looks like McCain will win California and Arizona, although this win in Florida will certainly give him momentum. McCain will be tough to beat. Whats hard to understand though is why the conservatives in the Republican Party (who are a majority) aren’t widely supporting the one candidate who espouses the range of conservative values – Mitt Romney. I also don’t get why so many more people think that McCain is more likable than Romney. McCain is likable but I don’t think he’s any where near as likable as Romney. Of course, I’m biased but I also try not to be swayed by media’s portrayal of candidates, which in Romney’s case is generally negative.

The Democratic contest was just for show. Clinton was the overwhelming winner but her win was symbolic. Hopefully Democrats see through her and stop voting for her. She has had too many scandals in the past and has been involved in too many underhanded maneuvers to be completely trusted. I think that people support her in part because they are nostalgic for her husband. I don’t think that that many people are really all that nostalgic for Bill Clinton as they are for the 90s. The 90s was relatively peaceful and prosperous. People associate that with Pres. Clinton and Hillary gets to bask in the reflected glory. Bill Clinton gets all this credit for the prosperity of the 90s when it really was not his doing. If people give him credit for the prosperity of the 90s they also have to give him credit for the recession that started in 2000 and continued for a couple years into Pres. Bush’s presidency. Economic forces are bigger than the Presidency. So, I think that people like Hillary because they think that she would be another Bill Clinton. It’s a misguided nostalgia. I think that Obama has so much more to offer than Clinton does. Democratic voters need to see that. Of course, part of me wants to see Clinton nominated because I think she’d be easy to beat. That’s not what I really feel though because I think the best candidate should be nominated and for me that’s Barack Obama.

Barack Obama’s Big Win in South Carolina

Sen. Obama had a major win today in the South Carolina Democratic Primary. His win there shows a number of things. First, that he overwhelmingly has the African-American vote in the country. Second, he overwhelmingly has the young vote in the Democratic Party. Third, there are many Americans who want someone who is not part of “the establishment” (even though he is a Senator). His wide support I believe is an important step in American politics. I don’t think that anyone should or should not be supported based on skin color but Obama represents minorities of all skin color in a lot of ways and shows how important they are becoming in politics.
Some people have started comparing Obama to the Kennedys – John F. and Bobby. He is in a lot of ways. He is young, energetic, and a rousing speaker. I have significant differences of opinion with a lot of his politics but he is a candidate that I feel that I can trust. I wrote a previous post stating that he is the Democratic candidate I would like to see receive the nomination largely because he is genuine and trustworthy. Again, I disagree with him on a lot of issues but he does represent change and he seems like an honest person (unlike another prominent Democratic candidate).

Nevada Caucus Results

Mitt Romney will win the Nevada caucuses today. With 19% of precincts reporting, he has over 50% of the vote. John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and Sen. Thompson are in a close contest for second with roughly 10% support each. The large LDS population in Nevada certainly helped Romney but his support goes far beyond that population. With these results I think that Thompson, Giuliani, Hunter, and Tancredo should drop out of the race. It’s true that Thompson and Giuliani will do better in other states; however, the Republican party needs to focus on the three to four front-runners. I would even like to see Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee drop out of the race. I think that they are both decent candidates – Paul is too extreme for most people though – but they will not win the candidacy. Neither could win the national election either. The Republican race is turning into a race between McCain and Romney, regardless of how the candidates do in South Carolina.

It’s too early to comment on the Democratic race. Even though Clinton is ahead in polls I think that Obama will certainly give her a run for her money. I think that John Edwards will be out of the race after Nevada’s caucuses. He’ll still campaign but he will drop out of the serious contender category.

What the campaigns have shown so far is that while Democrats tout themselves as upholders of diversity, the Republican contest shows that the Republican party has a much greater diversity of ideas than the Democratic party does. Clinton and Obama are essentially identical ideologically, although Obama is more liberal. Edwards is very similar to both. It is among the Republican candidates that you can see diversity – libertarianism, social conservatism, economic conservatism, social liberalism (relatively), economic liberalism, and so forth. It does not mean that the Republican party is splintering, it just means that there is a great diversity of ideas and beliefs within the Republican party.

Earlier I mentioned how the strong LDS population in Nevada helped Romney’s win. I don’t think that Mormons are block voting for Romney just because he is LDS – although there is certainly some of that going on. His political beliefs just coincide with a lot of other LDS church members’ beliefs. I’m not shy about criticizing Evangelicals for voting for Huckabee just because he is Evangelical. I’m also not shy about criticizing LDS members for voting for Romney just because he is LDS. I think you should vote based on political ideologies not religion. That is my biggest problem with so many Evangelical (and other people) voters; I don’t care as much about them voting for a certain person because of his or her religious beliefs. I care more about them voting against someone because of their religious beliefs. Women shouldn’t vote for Clinton just because she is a woman; African-Americans shouldn’t vote for Obama just because he is African-America. People shouldn’t vote against any of the candidates because of their skin color, gender, or any other characteristic like those. Vote based on political beliefs, not demographic characteristics.

Candidates of Change

It seems as if each candidate in both parties is touting him or herself as the candidate of change. Romney started saying something to that effect back in February 2007, other candidates have been saying it for months as well. Recently, however, it’s become the catch-phrase of the candidates. “I represent change” says one. “I’m not part of the establishment” says another. What’s humorous is yes, all candidates are technically candidates of change. They would be someone different than the current President and therefore a change. That’s not what they mean but in that sense their chants of change are redundant.

Who has the most ability to create noticeable change in the executive office? Any of the Democratic candidates certainly would (by raising taxes, starting a national socialized medicine plan, etc.); we’ve had a Republican president in office these past 7 years. All Republican candidates would bring real change as well, although I think that McCain, Romney, and Giuliani would try to change less than the other candidates. McCain would work with Democrats more than Pres. Bush has done (although No Child Left Behind is an example of working with Democrats – it is actually a liberal policy, as much as I hate to label things liberal or conservative). Other than that, McCain wouldn’t change very much except for immigration. Romney would try to fix the economy and budget. He would also try to fix immigration. He would also work with Democrats to try to effect change. Giuliani would, well, I’m not sure what he would do. Huckabee would try to expand the federal government; Paul would try to cut it down.

I don’t believe that any of the Democratic candidates would try to reduce the size of the federal government (other than reducing defense spending). Romney is the only viable Republican candidate who would – McCain might try to fix some things – and he might fix the budget – but there is nothing in his past experience that demonstrates that he actually could fix it. Huckabee is a “neo-conservative” (as much as I dislike that term, it applies) – he does not stand for small government.

All candidates trumpet their status as the delta candidate (i.e., change [over time]) – the candidate of change. All would be a change but few could effect positive, lasting change.