Marginal Revolution: Why Libertarians Should Vote for Obama

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution argues why libertarians should vote for Obama:

First, war.  War is the antithesis of the libertarian philosophy of consent, voluntarism and trade.  With every war in American history Leviathan has grown larger and our liberties have withered.  War is the health of the state. And now, fulfilling the dreams of Big Brother, we are in a perpetual war.

A country cannot long combine unlimited government abroad and limited government at home. The Republican party has become the party of war and thus the party of unlimited government.

With war has come FEAR, magnified many times over by the governing party. Fear is pulling Americans into the arms of the state. If only we were better at resisting. Alas, we Americans say that we love liberty but we are fair-weather lovers.  Liberty will flourish only with peace.

He proceeds to argue against voting Republican:

The libertarian voice has not been listened to in Republican politics for a long time. The Republicans take the libertarian wing of the party for granted and with phony rhetoric and empty phrases have bought our support on the cheap.

Correct on all points. Barack Obama certainly is not a libertarian but the country would be far more free with a government headed by Obama than one headed by John McCain. I’ve been arguing that for quite a while, and it is even more true with the addition of Sarah Palin to the GOP ticket. The two biggest threats to liberty are the warfare state (and its accompanied restrictions on civil liberties at  home) and the agenda of the religious right. The McCain/Palin ticket gives the worst of Republican viewpoints regardless if they repeat empty Republican rhetoric about limited government and freedom.

John McCain Supports Child Molesters

Saying that John McCain supports child molesters is of course untrue, but it is less of a falsehood than McCain is saying about Obama on this topic. A new ad gives a distorted view of a bill Obama backed:

Obama’s one accomplishment? Legislation to teach “comprehensive sex education” to kindergartners. Learning about sex before learning to read?

That’s quite a distortion of the bill. Marc Ambinder explains:

Basically, the ad links Barack Obama with sex-ed for kindergartners.  It implies that Obama favors teaching these kids dirrrty, explicity, sexual things. The bill in question — never passed, by the way — was intended to sanction the teaching of basic boundary lessons to young children, as in: if someone touches you or makes you uncomfortable, tell an adult. Those who oppose this believe that parents ought to be the ones imparting those lessons, so it’s not entirely a non-issue.

But the gap between the implication (Obama has liberal, radical views about sexuality) and the reality in this ad is pretty big and fairly consequential.

The “gap” here between McCain’s implication and reality is really a lie. If we were to engage in McCain’s tactics, a claim that McCain’s opposition to this represents support for child molesters would be less untrue than the claims made in this ad. The bill even contained a provision for parents to opt out of such instruction, making it even less of a real issue.

Bill Burton has issued this response for Obama’s campaign:

“It is shameful and downright perverse for the McCain campaign to use a bill that was written to protect young children from sexual predators as a recycled and discredited  political attack against a father of two young girls – a position that his friend Mitt Romney also holds.  Last week, John McCain told Time magazine he couldn’t define what honor was.  Now we know why.”

This isn’t the only dishonest aspect of the ad. During the convention their line was that Obama had no legislative accomplishments. Now they point to this one bill, but still ignore Obama’s many legislative accomplishments. Among Obama’s many accomplishments was ethics reform. That is something which John McCain needs to learn about.

Sarah Palin, Tax & Spend Conservative

Sarah Palin is a strong social conservative, but as I have shown in numerous previous posts, she is no fiscal conservative. CBS News (via Marc Ambinder) has even obtained an email from Palin in which she justifies increasing taxes to fight social ills:

During Palin’s recent convention speech she sharply criticized Senator Barack Obama for wanting to end Bush’s tax cuts. She pointed to her sister and husband who are new small business owners in Alaska, “How are they going to be any better off if taxes go up?”

But in fact, the way the hockey rink was built was by raising taxes. Palin funded the project by pushing a special referendum that raised the sales tax by 25 percent. City hall records show the referendum was passed by twenty votes.

One Wasilla resident who voted for the complex is Mike Edwards. He says he spends about an hour a day at the facility watching his son play. He says he’s glad government stepped in to build the new ice because privately run rinks are much more expensive, costing teams as much as $300 an hour to practice compared to $185 at the public rink.

CBS News obtained 86 pages of city council documents that show Palin sought to justify the tax increase to fund the sports complex in part because the private sector had not stepped in to fill the gap. She noted the strong support in the community as a reason to move ahead.

But her most striking argument for raising taxes is one you might not expect from a fiscal conservative. She writes that the rink offers an opportunity for government to stop a social ill like drug abuse or juvenile delinquency before it starts.

Among the documents is this email written from Palin’s account to the “Dept Heads” of the council in January 2001. Although its left margin is sliced off, the message of the email is clear. Palin writes:

“…as I look at the money that government [spends] on projects, programs, personnel and facilities to ‘fix’ societies ills and I realize that it’s [be]come more politically correct and accepted for government to throw money towards ‘after-the-fact [services]’, instead of preventive measures that a community could take to support and promote…family oriented, positive, constructive activities and lifestyles. Even on the local level we [spend] hundreds of thousands of dollars on our Police Dept., Youth Court, DARE Program, etc… ‘after the fact’ fixes for juvenile problems. We are in a position to help prevent (Palin’s emphasis) the [problems] that we are now forced to pay to attempt to remedy.”

This approach sounds surprisingly similar to Senator Barack Obama’s philosophies about youth violence and health care spending. Obama’s “Blueprint for Change” bemoans the lack of money spent on preventive health measures, “The nation faces epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases as well as new threats of pandemic flu and bioterrorism. Yet despite all of this less than 4 cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health.”

Not only did Sarah Palin raise taxes for the sports complex, The Wall Street Journal recently described that poor planning by Palin in the development of the project led to years of litigation and over $1.3 million in extra costs for the people of Wasilla.

McCain Campaign Makes Palin Flight Comments Off the Record

How long can McCain get away with a bump in the polls due to a vice presidiential pick who is not ready for prime time? AP reports the latest:

an aide told the journalists on board that all Palin flights would be off the record unless the media were told otherwise. At least one reporter objected. Two people on the flight said the Palins greeted the media and they chatted about who had been to Alaska, but little else was said.

They compared Palin with Joe Biden:

By comparison, her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden, has been campaigning on his own for weeks, at times taking questions from audiences. He was interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.

His campaign appearances have touched on a range of issues – in Florida he talked about U.S. support for Israel, in Pennsylvania it was economics and tax policy.

How long will it take the voters to figure out that there is a reason for the differences in how the two vice presidential candidates are dealing with the press?

Questions For Palin

The Anchorage Daily News (which I had not previously expected to be added to the list of newspapers I regularly follow) writes that, “Sarah Palin has been hiding out from hard questions. It took 10 days from when John McCain announced his pick until the McCain campaign agreed to schedule Palin an unscripted interview with a serious journalist.”

In what is presumably a response to McCain’s earlier attacks on Obama as a celebrity, they also observe that, “McCain’s camp has handled their vice-presidential pick like some celebrity who will only deign to give an interview if conditions are favorable. McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told Fox News Sunday, Palin would take questions ‘when we think it’s time and when she feels comfortable doing it.'” If something were to happen to John McCain should he be elected, would Palin wait to assume the powers of the presidency until her handlers felt it was time and she felt comfortable doing it?

They have some suggestions for questions that Charlie Gibson might ask:

• You present yourself as a Republican maverick who took on your own party’s corrupt political establishment. In November’s election, your party is running an indicted U.S. Senator, Ted Stevens, who is awaiting trial on charges he accepted more than $250,000 of unreported gifts from the state’s most powerful lobbyist. Will you vote for his opponent? Will you urge Alaskans to help you change Washington and vote him out of office? If not, why not?

• Sen. Ted Stevens’ trial is still pending; he has declined to say whether he would accept a pardon from President Bush before he leaves office Jan. Do Alaska voters deserve an answer to that question before they cast their vote for or against Stevens in November? What is your position on a president pardoning a public official before a jury has ruled on guilt or innocence?

• Alaska Congressman Don Young appears to have won his Republican primary, even though you endorsed his opponent. Will you vote for your fellow Republican Don Young, who has spent over $1 million on legal fees without telling his constituents what sort of legal trouble he is in?

• Why have you reneged on your earlier pledge to cooperate with the Alaska Legislature’s investigation into Troopergate?

• In spring of 2004, the Daily News reported that you cited family considerations in deciding not to try for the U.S. Senate: “How could I be the team mom if I was a U.S. senator?” What was different this time as you decided to run for vice president?

• As governor of Alaska, you have not pushed for laws or regulations that put your personal views on abortion, same-sex marriage and creationism into public policy. As vice president, will you push to outlaw abortion, restrict same-sex marriage and require the teaching of creationism?

• If you were a fully qualified vice-presidential candidate from the get-go, why did you wait more than 10 days to face reporters?

• McCain spokesman Rick Davis told Fox News the media didn’t show you enough “deference.” How much deference do you expect to get from Vladimir Putin or Hugo Chavez?

• You have said victory is in sight in Iraq. In July 2007, when you visited Kuwait, you said, “I’m not going to judge the surge.” In the March 2007 issue of Alaska Business Monthly, you were asked about the surge and quoted saying:

“I’ve been so focused on state government, I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq. . . . While I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place.”

Define “victory” in Iraq? What is the exit plan?

BOTTOM LINE: The nation deserves to hear Palin’s unfiltered answers to serious questions.

This is a good set of questions, although I would leave out the personal one regarding family considerations. Changing her mind to run for vice president when she previously declined to run for the Senate is understandable and does not relate to her ability to be vice president.

Besides asking the above questions on social issues, I’d include her views on government financing of stem cell research as the president has more influence on this than many other social issues. The real question here is not simply whether she would push for these socially conservative policies but how they would influence her choice of Supreme Court justices. While the president and vice president might not directly be involved in some of these issues, the Supreme Court appointees would have a tremendous bearing on future government policy.

Sarah Palin’s Lack of Success At Cutting Government Spending

While Sarah Palin spends lots of money on items such as travel expenses for her family, some fiscal conservatives are willing to overlook this because of the belief that she has been cutting government spending. Michael Kinsley looks further at the myth of her being a fiscal conservative, finding that despite her claims of cutting spending she has managed to cut less than two percent from the Alaska budget:

Of the 50 states, Alaska ranks No. 1 in taxes per resident and No. 1 in spending per resident. Its tax burden per resident is 21/2 times the national average; its spending, more than double. The trick is that Alaska’s government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it. Although Palin, like McCain, talks about liberating ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, there is no evidence that being dependent on Alaskan oil would be any more pleasant to the pocketbook.

Alaska is, in essence, an adjunct member of OPEC. It has four different taxes on oil, which produce more than 89% of the state’s unrestricted revenue. On average, three-quarters of the value of a barrel of oil is taken by the state government before that oil is permitted to leave the state. Alaska residents each get a yearly check for about $2,000 from oil revenues, plus an additional $1,200 pushed through by Palin last year to take advantage of rising oil prices. Any sympathy the governor of Alaska expresses for folks in the lower 48 who are suffering from high gas prices or can’t afford to heat their homes is strictly crocodile tears.

As if it couldn’t support itself, Alaska also ranks No. 1, year after year, in money it sucks in from Washington. In 2005 (the most recent figures), according to the Tax Foundation, Alaska ranked 18th in federal taxes paid per resident ($5,434) but first in federal spending received per resident ($13,950). Its ratio of federal spending received to federal taxes paid ranks third among the 50 states, and in the absolute amount it receives from Washington over and above the amount it sends to Washington, Alaska ranks No. 1.

Under the state constitution, the governor of Alaska has unusually strong powers to shape the state budget. At the Republican Convention, Palin bragged that she had vetoed “nearly $500 million” in state spending during her two years as governor. This amounts to less than 2% of the proposed budget. That’s how much this warrior for you, the people, against it, the government, could find in wasteful spending under her control.

Sarah Palin, Big Spender

Republicans are masters of getting elected by pretending to be things far different from what they really are. Many are as skilled at deceiving the voters as they are incompetent at governing. In addition to the bogus claims of being a maverick, Sarah Palin is being billed as a fiscal conservative. The more we find out about Palin, the more we find that she is just another politician who freely spends government money. Today The Washington Post reports on some questionable use of taxpayers’ money:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a “per diem” allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official “duty station” is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor’s daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show…

In separate filings, the state was billed about $25,000 for Palin’s daughters’ expenses and $19,000 for her husband’s.

Flights topped the list for the most expensive items, and the daughter whose bill was the highest was Piper, 7, whose flights cost nearly $11,000, while Willow, 14, claimed about $6,000 and Bristol, 17, accounted for about $3,400.

One event was in New York City in October 2007, when Bristol accompanied the governor to Newsweek’s third annual Women and Leadership Conference, toured the New York Stock Exchange and met local officials and business executives. The state paid for three nights in a $707-a-day hotel room. Garnero said the governor’s office has the authority to approve hotel stays above $300.

Asked Monday about the official policy on charging for children’s travel expenses, Garnero said: “We cover the expenses of anyone who’s conducting state business. I can’t imagine kids could be doing that.”

There is certainly a fine line when family expenses are included. Later the article gives further examples of expenses:

The family also charged for flights around the state, including trips to Alaska events such as the start of the Iditarod dog-sled race and the Iron Dog snowmobile race, a contest that Todd Palin won.

Meanwhile, Todd Palin spent $725 to fly to Edmonton, Alberta, for “information gathering and planning meeting with Northern Alberta Institute of Technology,” according to an expense report. During the three-day trip, he charged the state $291 for his per diem. A notation said “costs paid by Dept. of Labor.” He also billed the state $1,371 for a flight to Washington to attend a National Governors Association meeting with his wife.

This story follows a recent report from McClatchy that Palin used tax money when speaking before her controversial church:

Gov. Sarah Palin used state funds in June when she traveled from Juneau to Wasilla to speak to graduating evangelical students and urge them to fan out through Alaska “to make sure God’s will be done here.”

State records show that Palin submitted a travel authorization for a quick round-trip visit to attend the June 8 graduation of the Master’s Commission program at the Wasilla Assembly of God, the church where she was baptized at age 12. The only other item on the agenda for that trip was a “One Lord Sunday” service involving a network of Mat-Su Christian churches earlier that morning at the Wasilla sports complex.

The records show Palin flew from Juneau to Anchorage on Saturday, June 7. She returned to Juneau that Monday afternoon. The plane tickets cost the state $519.50, and she claimed an additional $120 for meals and other expenses.

This report creates questions both about fiscal responsibility and her views on separation of church and state. The article also reports:

In her eight-minute remarks, delivered without notes except when she read a brief scripture passage, she melded the issues of governance with a call to bringing Alaskans to God.

“What I need to do is strike a deal with you guys as you go out throughout Alaska — I can do my part in doing things like working really, really hard to get a natural gas pipeline.” Palin said. “Pray about that also. I think God’s will has to be done, in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that. But I can do my job there, in developing our natural resources, and doing things like getting the roads paved, making sure our troopers have their cop cars and their uniforms and their guns, and making sure our public schools are funded.

“But really, all of that stuff doesn’t do any good if the people of Alaska’s hearts isn’t right with God. And that’s going to be your job,” she said. “As I’m doing my job, let’s strike this deal. Your job is going to be: to be out there, reaching the people, (the) hurting people throughout Alaska, and we can work together to make sure God’s will be done here.”

Most likely these travel expenses are not illegal, but they do cast doubt on the manner in which Republicans are trying to portray her as a fiscal conservative.

Update: Besides being a big spender on travel expenses, her record at cutting expenses has not been very impressive.

Update II: While such expenditures were ok for Palin’s family, it looks like she has objected to per diems for members of the legislature. This is from The Anchorage Daily News, July 29, 2007:

“Holding a special session in Anchorage last month cost the state at least $103,500, according to the head of the Legislative Affairs Agency.

Criticized for adjourning the regular session without renewing a program that gave cash payments to low-income seniors, legislators called the one-day meeting on June 26 […]

Legislators earned a per diem of $278 each. The money is meant to be used on meals and hotels, she said, and is a little more than legislators would get in Juneau.

Holding the session in Anchorage costs about $2,000 more per day for per diems, which are based on rates set by the federal government, she said.

The overall price tag struck Gov. Sarah Palin as too high.

“That makes absolutely no sense, that a seven-hour meeting costs our Legislature over $100,000,” Palin said. “What the heck were they charging the state for then?”