John McCain and Deregulation of Health Insurance

They say timing is everything. For John McCain, this was the worst possible time to have this article (pdf) come out in which McCain writes:

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

Jonathan Cohn discuses the problems with McCain’s plan for deregulation while Obama took advantage of this problem for McCain in the above ad. As he notes, “States are the ones who must regulate the insurance policies that carriers sell directly to individuals (as opposed to the ones large employers provide for their employees).” While McCain is primarily talking about deregulation to allow cross-state sales, the effect of this would be to leave individuals with far less protection and insurance companies far freer to do what they please.

John McCain Invented The BlackBerry and Other Silly Stories

The silly stories continue. While we are not hearing as much about pigs or lipstick, one of the top stories today is the report that John McCain invented the BlackBerry. AP reports:

Move over, Al Gore. You may lay claim to the Internet, but John McCain helped create the BlackBerry.

At least that’s the contention of a top McCain policy adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Waving his BlackBerry personal digital assistant and citing McCain’s work as a senator, he told reporters Tuesday, “You’re looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create.”

A McCain aide later dismissed the remark as “a boneheaded joke by a staffer.”

McCain has acknowledged that he doesn’t know how to use a computer and can’t send e-mail, one of the BlackBerry’s prime functions.

Holtz-Eakin’s argument is similar to one advanced by Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000. Gore once boasted about “taking the initiative to create the Internet” through technological and educational policies. He later was mocked for claiming to have invented the Internet, although he never made such a claim.

Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said McCain’s service on and leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee put him at the intersection of a number of economic interests, including the telecommunications industry.

The Arizona senator’s handling of regulation and deregulation of that industry in particular left him with the skills to help revive the economy amid a mortgage crisis, an energy crisis and a Wall Street meltdown, the adviser said.

Wait a minute, now they are really getting silly. Skills to revive the economy? This from John McCain, who has admitted he doesn’t know much about the economy.

This story has understandably been compared to the old “Gore invented the internet” story, which was a distortion of what he had had actually said on the subject. Those interested in how the media mistreated Al Gore with such stories might be interested in reading more on this here.

While Al Gore never stated he invented the internet, this story was twisted by the media to portray Gore as a serial exaggerator or a liar. Considering that McCain is already having trouble with the media revealing that he truly has been dishonest, one might wonder why an aide would risk saying something like this. Most likely it is because they no longer care at all what the media says about them, thinking they can succeed in demonizing the media along with everyone else who doesn’t follow their line. Soon Sarah Palin will be echoing Spiro Agnew in attacking the impudent corps of effete snobs and nattering nabobs of negativism who oppose them.

Or perhaps they want something to distract from the silly story which made the rounds yesterday that Sarah Palin purchased her own tanning bed for the governor’s mansion. Yes, this does counter the working mom reputation they are trying to develop for her, but buying a tanning bed is hardly the real reason we don’t want her anywhere near the White House.

Libertarian Support for Barack Obama

(This post for The Carpetbagger Report reviews recent posts here on libertarian support for Obama and on left-libertarianism).

When I was guest blogging at The Carpetbagger Report in January I wrote a post on Ron Paul which demonstrated (especially from the comments many wrote in response to the post) that there is a lot of irrationality in the libertarian movement. Fortunately the Paul supporters represent only one segment of libertarianism. I also noted that many libertarians were outraged by the racism expressed in Paul’s writings, while others also disagreed with some of his other conservative views. In other words, not all libertarians are irrational, regardless of whether you disagree with them, despite the impression given by those backing Ron Paul.

There is also a wide amount of variation in views among libertarians, with some libertarians even supporting Barack Obama. I’ve recently pointed out that a Rasmussen poll showed that libertarians preferred Obama over McCain by a margin of 53% to 38%. Of course many libertarians, even regardless of whether they prefer Obama or McCain, will wind up voting for Bob Barr, who has acted to repudiate the racists who backed Ron Paul.

I’ve been tracking posts from both libertarians and conservatives which show support for Obama at Liberal Values. Earlier this month the San Francisco Chronicle looked at libertarian support for Obama which I noted here. Bruce Bartlett has also written on this topic in an article at The New Republic:

The largest group of Obamacons hail from the libertarian wing of the movement. And it’s not just Andrew Sullivan. Milton and Rose Friedman’s son, David, is signed up with the cause on the grounds that he sees Obama as the better vessel for his father’s cause. Friedman is convinced of Obama’s sympathy for school vouchers–a tendency that the Democratic primaries temporarily suppressed. Scott Flanders, the CEO of Freedom Communications–the company that owns The Orange County Register–told a company meeting that he believes Obama will accomplish the paramount libertarian goals of withdrawing from Iraq and scaling back the Patriot Act.

Libertarians (and other varieties of Obamacons, for that matter) frequently find themselves attracted to Obama on stylistic grounds. That is, they believe that he has surrounded himself with pragmatists, some of whom (significantly) come from the University of Chicago. As the blogger Megan McArdle has written, “His goal is not more government so that we can all be caught up in some giant, expressive exercise of collectively enforcing our collective will on all the other people standing around us in the collective; his goal is improving transparency and minimizing government intrusion while rectifying specific outcomes.”

I’ve previously quoted more from both Megan McArdle and David Friedman on their preference for Obama over McCain. In The Los Angeles Times, Megan wrote:

Obama is the right man for his party, and McCain is the wrong one. Obama is not only personally inspiring, but he also seems to have a deep understanding of the value of markets and transparency; he aims to fix outcomes, not tinker with the process. McCain, on the other hand, shows little respect for spontaneous free order or suspicion of expanded state power; he seems to think that the main problem with the government is that the wrong people are pulling the strings.

David Friedman answered questions about why he prefers Obama to McCain:


The Growth of Left-Leaning Libertarianism

There have been a number of recent posts on conservatives and libertarians supporting Obama due to the authoritarian shift of the American conservative movement and their abandonment of their previous small-government philosophy. Marcus Westbury, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald writes about the libertarian shift of progressives in the United States and Australia:

When did left-leaning libertarianism become the significant and perhaps even dominant ideology among progressives?

A generation or two ago the dominant left-wing ideology was decidedly authoritarian socialism. But only right-wing commentators and museum-piece communists seriously think anyone really believes in socialist-style central planning any more. So who, exactly, are these libertarian lefties? The best I can offer is anecdotal observations mixed with tenuous extrapolations about how they may differ from the socialist left and the libertarian right.

They value diversity. They recognise it both as an innate right and a precondition to innovation. They are committed to social justice but less inclined than their socialist forebears to achieve it by trying to make all things constrictively equal.

They’re sceptical of highly centralised, bureaucratic and inefficient structures. However, most of them see that up close in the corporate sector rather than as the exclusive problem of government.

They believe in freedom but do not see free markets and freedom as entirely the same. They tend to think governments must play an active role in ensuring freedom is protected from unscrupulous employers or predatory companies, reflected in the choices and opportunities we have in our personal lives, or reflected in the diversity of media available.

They tend to regard choice and competition as generally good and cannot imagine price controls or state-run industries. But they know that the market often fails, and they don’t trust it alone to tackle issues like climate change or health care. They see market power as just as likely an impediment to freedom as governments.

They are sceptical of over-regulation, believing regulation should be proportional to power and influence, and not the other way around. They question why the deregulation of economics has concentrated on the powerful, while nanny-state regulation, politicised micro-management and national security has made life more complex for the poor and the powerless.

Most of all they tend to be both idealistic and pragmatic and unable to accept that we should not try to achieve more.

In the United States this shift has primarily occurred as differences between left and right became primarily based upon social issues and views of the Iraq war (and associated restrictions on civil liberties). Economic views have become less meaningful to distinguish left from right as many on the left do not share the economic views of the old left, while many on the right now support both big government and the corporate welfare programs of the Republican Party. It is interesting to see that Australia is experiencing a similar change in meaning of left and right.

Thomas Franks Explains the K Street Project

Yesterday I had a post on how K Street is no longer shunning Democrats. Thomas Frank explains the signficance of the K Street Project in the New York Times:

K Street is not neutral. From all its complex machinations emerges a discernible political project best described by Joseph Goulden in “The Superlawers” back in 1972, when the lobbying business was so many acorns beside today’s forest of towering oaks. The “Washington lawyers,” Goulden wrote, had over the years “directed a counterrevolution unique in world economic history. Their mission was not to destroy the New Deal, and its successor reform acts, but to conquer them, and to leave their structures intact so they could be transformed into instruments for the amassing of monopolistic corporate power.” (Goulden, by the way, is no radical: he is a former director at the very conservative press watchdog Accuracy in Media.)

K Street’s bright young men fill the top posts at federal agencies; K Street’s money keeps wages low and prescription drug costs high; K Street’s “superlawyers” fight to make our retirement insecure; K Street’s deregulation gurus turn our electric utilities into the plaything of Wall Street. What K Street wants from government is often the opposite of what the public wants. And yet what K Street wants, far too frequently it gets — if not by the good offices of Bob Ney, then by the timely disappearance of the now useless Bob Ney.

Whether we are Republicans or Democrats, we are all aware of how much more power corporations hold over everyday life than they used to. “Those who own the country should govern the country,” John Jay used to say, and thanks in large part to K Street they do.