Obama’s Philosophy and Economics

I’ve previously posted portions of an article by Cass Sunstein on Obama’s views. He has posted a revised version at The New Republic. Here’s a portion which which explains Obama’s views, primarily on economic matters. This gives some clues as to how libertarian ideas have influenced his views:

He is strongly committed to helping the disadvantaged, but his University of Chicago background shows. He appreciates the virtues and power of free markets. In some of his most important disagreements with Senator Clinton, he suggested caution about mandates and bans, and stressed the value of freedom of choice.

Transparency and accountability matter greatly to him; they are a defining feature of his proposals. With respect to the mortgage crisis, credit cards, and the broader debate over credit markets, Obama rejects heavy-handed regulation and insists above all on disclosure, so that consumers will know exactly what they are getting.

Expect transparency to be a central theme in any Obama administration, as a check on government and the private sector alike. It is highly revealing that Obama worked with Republican Tom Coburn to produce legislation creating a publicly searchable database of all federal spending.

Obama’s healthcare plan places a premium on cutting costs and on making care affordable, without requiring adults to purchase health insurance. (He would require mandatory coverage only for children.) Republican legislators are unlikely to support a mandatory approach, and his plan can be understood, in part, as a recognition of political realities.

But it is also a reflection of his keen interest in allowing people to choose as they see fit. He seeks universal coverage not through unenforceable mandates but through giving people good options.

It should not be surprising that in terms of helping low-income workers, Obama has long been enthusiastic about the Earned Income Tax Credit–an approach, pioneered by Republicans, that supplements wages but does not threaten to throw people out of work. In the environmental domain, Obama is a strong supporter of incentive-based programs, not of command-and-control. Here too, he draws on ideas that have been pressed most prominently by Republicans (and he gives them credit for their initiative in this domain).

But Obama is no a compromiser; he does not try to steer between the poles (or the polls). “Triangulation” has no appeal for him. Both internationally and domestically, he is willing to think big and to be bold. As everyone knows, he publicly opposed the war in Iraq at a time when opposition was exceedingly unpopular. (In his speech opposing the war, by the way, he went out of his way to emphasize, before a largely pacifist audience, that he does not oppose all wars: “After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.”)

As everyone also knows, Obama favors high-level meetings with some of the world’s worst dictators. He would rethink the embargo against Cuba.

He proposes a $150 billion research budget for climate change. He wants to hold an unprecedented national auction for the right to emit greenhouse gases. (This is an idea, by the way, that has large support among economists and that can be traced to an essay by Ronald Coase on communications policy.) He has offered an ambitious plan for promoting technological innovation, calling for a national broadband policy, embracing network neutrality, and proposing a reform of the patent system.

His campaign has spoken of moving toward “iPod Government”–an effort to rethink public services and national regulations in ways that will make things far simpler and more user-friendly. These are points about policies and substance. As president, Obama would set a new tone in US politics. He refuses to demonize his political opponents; deep in his heart, I believe, he doesn’t even think of them as opponents. It would not be surprising to find Republicans and independents prominent in his administration. Obama wants to know what ideas are likely to work, not whether a Democrat or a Republican is responsible for them. Recall the most memorable passage from his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention: “We coach Little League [baseball] in the blue [Democratic-voting] states, and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.”

Obama’s Anti-Rumor Plan

Time has some more information on Obama’s effort to fight internet smears which I mentioned a couple of days ago. The plan includes a web site which debunks the smears, but other campaigns have also done this in the past. The campaign also plans to enlist supporters to help:

Obama is enlisting his millions of supporters to help him hunt down and quash these stories, just as those supporters helped him turn his insurgent campaign into a history-making juggernaut. Says Obama adviser Anita Dunn: “We will not allow Michelle — or, for that matter, Barack—to be defined by rumors.”

For more than a year, Obama relied on conventional means to confront the blogosphere’s superheated rumor mill—to little effect. The “fact-check” feature on his website, for instance, only seemed to spawn more, and wilder, rumors. A mention there of Obama’s birth certificate spurred National Review Online to demand that he produce it to dispel groundless reports that Obama was actually born in Kenya and therefore would be constitutionally ineligible to be President; that his middle name is not Hussein but Muhammad; and that his mother actually named him Barry. That National Review article in turn became fodder for cable television.

According to campaign officials, what finally launched Obama into a full rumor counteroffensive was a story that apparently first made a big splash on the Internet in late May in a post by pro-Hillary Clinton blogger Larry Johnson. Quoting “someone in touch with a senior Republican,” Johnson claimed that there was a video of Michelle Obama “blasting ‘whitey’ during a rant at Jeremiah Wright’s church.” (Later versions of the rumor had Michelle’s “rant” happening at a Rainbow/push Coalition conference.) No such videotape has surfaced.

Even enlisting supporters to help fight rumors is nothing new, but perhaps Obama’s campaign can do a more effective job. Unfortunately there probably is no totally new way to fight these smears.

Scare Tactics of the Wall Street Journal

In recent years the Republicans have been losing much of their traditional support among the upper middle class as their economic programs have benefited only the ultra-wealthy. The Wall Street Journal, along with other conservatives, have been trying to scare such voters into voting Republican with misleading claims about Obama’s tax policies, especially on Social Security. For example, today they write:

He has vowed, for example, to erase the Bush tax cuts not only for those who make more than $250,000, but to end the cap on Social Security taxes, which amounts to a tax hike on anyone who makes more than $100,000 in income. More recently, Austan Goolsbee, an Obama economic adviser, told me the new cap might be set at $200,000.

All of this has caused some heartburn among certain Democrats in high cost-of-living states. New York Rep. Joseph Crowley says a couple with earnings of $100,000 could be “a police officer and nurse.” “In New York City,” he adds, “they’d be struggling.”

There are several misleading statements here. First of all, Obama has not called for raising the cap on everyone earning over $100,000. He has spoken of using a donut hole so that this tax increase only affects those at a higher income level, such as those making over $250,000.

A second error in this is that Social Security taxes are based upon individual not joint income. Therefore the couple he describes would not be affected based upon their joint earnings of $100,000.

There is yet a third misleading aspect of this. John McCain has also supported increasing the cap (as has Hillary Clinton). It doesn’t appear to matter who is elected with regards to this issue.

There is one place where they are correct. Repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy will not pay for all the programs which the Democrats are proposing. However that is nothing new. The Republicans have been supporting programs which exceed our tax revenues for years. John McCain’s proposed military spending cannot be supported based upon current tax revenues, and he has been quite vague as to how he would cut spending to balance his proposed tax cuts.

I’m Voting Republican


Presenting the opposing viewpoint in favor of voting Republican, here’s a message from the web site I’m Voting Republican.

Kerry Criticizes McCain’s Views on Iraq

Keith Olbermann discussed John McCain’s views on the war after his controversial interview earlier in the day. John Kerry spoke out against McCain both earlier in the day as well as in an interview on Countdown (video above). Kerry was very critical of McCain’s views on the war (which are far more serious than any one sound bite).

Back in 2004 their were rumors that Kerry was considering McCain as his running mate. Others believe that the story originated with John McCain as a means of enhancing his own reputation. Regardless of the validity of those rumors, we can be certain that McCain is not going to return the (possible) offer and consider Kerry to be his running mate. There is talk of Obama choosing Kerry to add foreign policy experience and gravitas to the ticket. While this is unlikely to happen, Kerry is not ruling out accepting the position if offered:

Jacki Schechner: It was inevitable we were going to get this question so I’m just going to throw it out there. But somebody says…her name is Lola…she says, “Would you consider running with Obama, and if so, what would you do to decrease the crisis with the Middle East and use diplomacy in reducing the economy[sic] and dependence on oil?”

Senator Kerry: Well, Lola, I’ll answer the first part of your question by saying that having made the selection for Vice President, it’s a good idea not to consider running with the person who’s choosing. Let them decide who they want to have run with them. So the answer is no, I’m sitting here like everybody else and watching with amusement while this process goes on.

Jacki: Would you be interested?

Kerry: Only…the answer is probably not, but if the right definition were given to the job, then you’d be foolish not to say that you would think about it or consider it. And you’d be dishonest, likewise.