Wednesday, April 27, 2011

And so the 2012 campaign begins…

While serious issues get pushed to the back burner, it is obvious that the presidential campaign is underway as Donald Trump makes a fool of himself and President Obama uses his office to start countering political campaigns. I know mudslinging and misinformation have been a part of campaigns since elections have been held, but the modern main-stream media really adds fuel to the fire. Anyone ever heard of research. I start to wonder if media has any journalists left, or if they all are simply reporters. Political blogs are even worse. One egregious example is from a progressive blogger who tweeted, "When will [Michele Bachmann] produce her birth certificate and prove she's from this planet?" Honestly? I don't agree with Representative Bachmann on many things, including the fact she questioned President Obama's birth certificate. Or there is this article asking Sarah Palin to produce her college papers. I think she is completely misguided and then tries to distract people by saying "Don't let the White House distract you from real issues." Then look at the "@" replies to her tweet. The political rhetoric is so childish it sickens me. This kind of childish rhetoric degrades the political conversation and provides no platform for compromise or discussion.

Let me get out a few facts about the "Birther" conspiracy. The people pushing need to understand the purpose of the "natural born Citizen" clause as stated in our Constitution. It was meant to prevent a dual loyalty, i.e. to prevent someone from making decisions that would benefit another country over our own. All presidents go through an extensive process within their respective parties, so any doubt as to a person's loyalty would be exposed long before any election. The electors in the Electoral College also provide a buffer (albeit weak) to preventing a rogue candidate from being elected. This was one of the reasons the Electoral College was set up in the first place, because the Founding Fathers knew a pure democracy would never survive. Instead the set up a democratic republic - so if someone ever tries to tell you we are a democracy, make sure to tell them they are wrong. By having a "filtered majority," we prevent mob rule and in a sense gain more control over our government.

Neither party seems to get it, because as the Republicans go after President Obama over his birth certificate, this Democratic blog seems to think the Constitution mandates the President to make us a moral beacon in the world. They are right that the job of the President is to "...preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution...," but even our first President warned us to stay out of foreign entanglements. There are people in the world who don't believe in the freedom we have in our country, and we can't force them to change their mind. The President's job is to make sure we always have our freedom here. It ends at our borders.

So, in the worst-case scenario someone were to be elected that was not a "natural born Citizen," we would still have options. It would be obvious rather quickly if an executive was granting favors to a particular country or set of countries. The President can't make law. Even the President's ability to make war is a bit more limited since the Korean and Vietnam conflicts brought up the whole issue of a declaration of war. If the President were to be caught showing dual loyalty, he could be impeached by the House and brought to trial in the Senate. There are even mechanisms in place for the Vice President to take over temporarily if the President is thought to have lost his capacity to lead. We have a pretty good system to prevent a rogue President.

With President Obama specifically, conservatives really just need to stop. Use some logic. First, President Obama has hardly deviated at all from President Bush's policies of spending and war-making. So, how is it that President Obama's policies could be construed as anti-American? Second, let's just say the "birther" campaign were to be successful, then we would get Joe Biden as President? Is his policy going to be that much different?

The bottom line on the "birther" issue is that it is pretty clear President Obama was born in Hawaii. Perhaps the information is not perfectly crystal clear, but I don't think his loyalty is in question. If anything, it should show us that we need to improve our documentation of all people in the United States to prevent terrorism, identity theft, medical record, etc. There is a whole host of things that cold be improved if we came up with better ways to document, identify, and protect individuals. It also should show us that the "natural born Citizen" clause, along with the 14th amendment, should be reexamined and clarified.

One other campaign issue that is in full swing is the economy. Here again, both sides need to get off their power trip. A hardcore, left-wing website claims that Greece's austerity measures have worsened their economy. There is a basic rule in any scientific study which is: Correlation does not equal causation. So Greece's economy got worse, and it just so happens that Greece cut government spending, so it must be that reduction in spending that caused the economy to worsen. It's not true. Think of it this way: If government spending could improve the economy ad infinitum, why doesn't the government simply spend more? Does anyone really think that if the United States government doubled its spending that the economy would rocket off into massive growth?

The Democrats started with the mistake of stating that the economy would instantly improve if the stimulus plan was passed. Joe Biden promised that the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8% (it currently sits at about 8.8%). The Republicans are saying if we don't cut spending and reform entitlements immediately that the U.S. will fall off a cliff. Is there anyone who can interject a dose of reality? They are even going so far as to say that spending cuts and lower taxes would immediately jump-start the economy. The Republicans also point to President Reagan's tax cuts as a key driver to the economic boom in the 1980s that doubled the federal revenue. Although there is some evidence that is true, further supported by cuts in the 1920s and 1960s, tax policy alone doesn't drive the economy.

The reality is there is a limit to how much revenue our government can collect and still be within the bounds of a free society. We have to understand there is a balance to taxation and freedom, and if taxes are too low or too high we put that freedom in jeopardy. In fact, the Reagan tax cuts actually made tax collections more progressive, i.e. the rich paid more as a percentage of tax revenues while the bottom 50% paid less. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon said of high taxes:
The history of taxation shows that taxes which are inherently excessive are not paid. The high rates inevitably put pressure upon the taxpayer to withdraw his capital from productive business and invest it in tax-exempt securities or to find other lawful methods of avoiding the realization of taxable income. The result is that the sources of taxation are drying up; wealth is failing to carry its share of the tax burden; and capital is being diverted into channels which yield neither revenue to the Government nor profit to the people.
Note: Link above is to another blog essay that has a nice mathematical example of balancing taxes with the freedom to invest.

We can't keep spending at current levels, but we can't just slash and burn without some thought into how to soften the landing. Tax policy, economic policy (i.e. the federal reserve and government borrowing), business regulation, personal freedom, and every other aspect of government affect the economy. We need reasonable taxes and regulation and a reasonable safety net combined with a large level of personal responsibility. The current major parties only want their own small part of that policy. It's time they expand their minds. Whoever does it first will be getting my vote in 2012.

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