Sunday, January 22, 2012

Contra 1/2

I don’t want to presume to know what goes through the Republican candidates’ minds. I really don’t. But I would like to dissect their speeches a bit. Because I can’t really get a grasp on their positions right now.

Let me explain. Obama has been portrayed lately as a crony capitalist and as a socialist. He’s into food stamps, can’t create jobs for union workers via Keystone XL, is beholden to special interests like unions that hate the free market, and is a Wall Street insider that helps out only the most luxuriant fat cat Americans.

I want to emphasize that this isn’t about what I think of the president or his electability; this is about what his critics have been saying and the relative obscurity of the attacks levied. Let me be clearer about some of the arguments tossed out by the Republican candidates so far and their inherent contradictions.

Obama is apparently an anti-union environmentalist that doesn’t see the upside to creating nearly 120,000 union jobs for the Keystone XL pipeline that would bolster America’s energy independence. Yet he’s made the largest investment into domestic alternative energy of any president. No matter on that though, Solyndra was a $200 million debacle; the product of his crony capitalism—it was a rushed decision that put the American people at risk in a bid to create jobs and tout domestic energy policies.

But wait; isn’t that exactly what the Republicans demanded less than a month ago so that the president could extend a tax cut? The answer is yes. The Republican leadership tried to force the president to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline before all of the required environmental and economic studies had been completed on the assumption that the pipeline would create jobs. So I guess that makes him a flip-flopper?

One final word on this; the unemployment rate is on track to steadily decrease throughout the entirety of this year to levels not seen since before the Great Recession.

And speaking of taxes, I really don’t understand the argument that is being made by the GOP right now. The GOP refused to extend a tax cut that would benefit small businesses and the middle class—saving people thousands of dollars on their tax returns for 2011. The party of no new taxes almost deadlocked Congress into failing to pass a valuable extension to the payroll tax.

But guess what the candidates have been saying about Mr. Obama? He has been raising taxes and all he’s a tax and spend liberal. The budget speaks for itself; despite our massive debt, which I will talk about later, Obama has steadily shrunken the government by reducing the number of government jobs and lowering the tax revenue coming into the United States’ coffers by (surprise) lowering taxes for low and middle income workers.

Even for all of his rhetoric about raising taxes on high earners, Obama has failed to even successfully pass one bill to raise taxes on corporations or high-income earners. In fact, in his bid to close tax loopholes—something quite agreeable to the majority of the public, businesses, and most non-Tea Party politicians—he has failed to even get that done. So our government has continued to shrink steadily while non-governmental jobs have been added to the marketplace.

What about Obama’s draconian regulations? Well, that question may be trickier but again lies with our Capitol Hill politicians and much less with the president. Much has been said about the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; an executive regulatory commission that has the job of overseeing the financial industry and making sure it does not exploit consumers. Congress voted to approve this agency in the wake of the housing bubble’s collapse. This was an extraordinary event that exposed some very negative practices that had allowed the financial industry to take advantage of consumers. When the candidates talk about so-and-so who lost their job and their home and the American Dream; they are talking about people who were victims of lenders with extraordinarily high interest rates (some could be and are currently as high as 365%) on loans. At the time of the housing collapse, the average American savings was -11%. Then the banks started repossessing and foreclosing.

If you keep up with the news at all you are quite aware of the many predatory, semi-legal, and definitely illegal things that banks and credit companies have been doing to their clients. I will not go over them here. So Congress created the CFPB as a way of making sure that a repeat didn’t happen. Like any executive agency the president was required to appoint the members of the commission subject to congressional confirmation. The trouble was that the Senate refused to even vote on Obama’s appointments.

Obama, in fulfilling what he was legally required to do, has incurred the wrath of the GOP for ‘overstepping his bounds.’ Yet he has also been depicted as weak for not doing enough to stop predatory practices and as a Wall Street ‘crony capitalist’ who isn’t doing enough to curb corruption in Manhattan. Except at every turn the GOP has stymied his efforts to do such things because that’s against the Free Market.

So this brings us to the deficit. Aside from the fact that government debt is drastically different from household debt—short story, debt doesn’t matter as long as the country grows fast enough and America is growing fast enough—the Obama administration has added $1.4 trillion to the national debt. Large spending measures such as the bank bailouts and the take-over of GM (which saved thousands of jobs I might add) which were already in motion as Obama took office were passed with overwhelming support in both houses. Obama has also added several modest pieces of spending to his legislative agenda during his term as well.

But let’s contrast spending with spending. His predecessor George W. Bush added over $5 trillion dollars to the national debt through his two terms and short-circuited a surplus with tax-cuts that have yet to be repealed. Bush’s ‘tax cuts’ actually ended up raising taxes after ten years for the wealthiest 95-99.9% but curiously cut the taxes of the .1%--or people earning $2.6 million or more per year. Talk about class warfare and a problem of spending. Even if one is to accept the argument that Obama—and by proxy liberal tax and spenders—are outrageous class warfaring government expansioneers the argument must also be extended to his predecessor extending to at least W and probably as far back as Hoover--and let me emphasize that this includes Reagan.

Ok, but what about Obamacare; the reckless piece of government intervention that kills American jobs and tears Liberty from the bowels of this country’s heartland? Well let’s start with the first bit that has been pretty unanimously agreed to by experts in the medical field. Most of the provisions were sorely needed to fix a damaged system. So the majority of the law is fairly uncontroversial. That has to be pulled off the table--not up for debate.

Secondly Americans pay a ton for healthcare. But we suck at getting a bang for our buck. Healthcare costs in the US are some of the highest in the world but our quality of care hovers in the upper teens. The stuck-up Europeans, the Moose-headed mounties, and the Godzilla fearing Japanese all pay less with their socialized systems and tend to get better care. Basically, they don’t use a socialized system to deliver a better end result. And of course there are problems with their systems--long wait times--but there is no denying that our life expectancy is far from the highest in the country and our costs are higher. We just aren’t getting what we paid for.

A big portion of this problem is that hospitals and doctors are legally required to give medical care to anyone who needs it regardless of whether they can pay. Naturally those that can’t pay tend to skip out on bills, neglect to get adequate preventative or early treatment, and often use far more expensive emergency services. So the entire system is swamped and the costs get passed on to the responsible guy. Obamacare’s solution was the individual mandate. It requires that all individuals purchase some form of medical insurance. This guarantees people access to health services and defrays the cost put on the public enormously. How much?

Well $500 billion. That number might seem familiar. It’s what the candidates in the GOP have said the president has taken away from Medicare. In reality that is the projected savings of Obamacare’s individual mandate in the first decade or so. It’s technically a cut to Medicare, but it’s more like the extra dough in your pocket when you quit smoking--you just don’t spend it on that stuff anymore. Look it up the non-partisan Congressional Budgeting Office said so--more or less. With Obamacare the government actually got smaller, by half a trillion dollars.

And the health insurance industry is expected to pick up 40 million customers by 2014. A major boon to the industry. And because insurance companies are now allowed to trade across state borders, costs for the consumer are expected to decrease as well. So Obama used principles of the Free Market to regulate and improve an industry that asked for certain provisions all while shrinking the government and providing superior services to everyone.