Sunday, February 03, 2008

Climb Aboard!

I endorse Obama I just joined my first Facebook group. Hard to think of a better cause. If you'd like to join, too, click here.

This is an effort put together by, who recently held a straw poll among its registered members. They said that they would endorse a candidate if one received at least two-thirds of the vote. Barack Obama got 70% of the vote.

Yes We Can!

Here's an email I sent to some of my friends. In case you weren't on the list, or your spam filter ate it because it had too many people on the TO list, here it is again:

Hi, everybody,

In case you missed my recent blog posting to this effect, I'm writing to ask you to support Barack Obama for President.

This is the first time in a long time that I've ever wanted to vote *for* somebody, as opposed to voting for the lesser of two weevils.

Maybe I'm caught up in the hype and the hope. If so, so be it, but I really don't think that's the whole story. I've been following this race closely for a long time now, even though I swore "never again" after 2004. I don't agree with him on every last detail of every last issue, but overall, he's far and away the best choice.

I believe Obama when I hear him speak, and I believe he'll be good for the country.

Many of you live in a state that will hold its primary this Tuesday. Please vote for Obama.




Aidan said...

Three reasons not to support Obama:

1) "Broad sweeping bipartisan change" is an oxymoron. It is logically impossible given the state of the Republican party. All sweeping, major change over the last 50+ years was driven by one party alone. Bipartisan change has always consisted of watered down compromise (email me if you want me to dig up all the examples from Clinton welfare reform to even the recent stimulus bill). Furthermore, the current Republicans are the problem -- they're corrupt and in the hands of competition-opposed oligopoly industry. Why would these Republicans work with a Democrat president to implement change that rolls back the subsidies and institutional structures that benefits their favored industries? It'll never happen. The only realistic strategy is to battle them tooth-and-nail. Therefore Obama's platform of "broad sweeping bipartisan change" is either a pipe dream or disingenuous.

2) Hyping Social Security as a major budgetary shortfall issue. There is a lot written on how SS is not a major issue for the next administration (maybe #5 at best after medical care costs, impact of Bush tax cuts, Iraq war costs, & perhaps pension underfunding bailout costs). It's only an issue if you combine it with medicare and medicaid then look at the future cost. But that cost is not a product of demographics but growing health care costs. SS is simply not a major issue. Slightly higher than estimated growth of GDP (vs. conservative CBO estimate) eliminates the problem. And even if that happens then the shortfall can come out of the general fund -- the shortfall will cost less than the Iraq war or Bush's recent tax cuts. Obama is hyping up an issue that isn't really an issue.

3) No mandate on his health care plan. Econ 101 -- no mandate leads to an Adverse Selection and free rider problem. Obama's plan is bad policy and bad economics (vs. Clinton or Edwards, still better than Theokleptican plans). How much more will it cost? 63% more...! Neatly summarized

Conclusion: Obama is echoing right-wing talking points with the above two (#2, #3). He has the most conservative policy platform of the Democrats. If he really tries what he says then he will either enact half-hearted watered-down change or end up with gridlock and no change. The Republicans are on pace this year to double the one year record for filibusters in the senate. What makes you think that Obama can change that and get them to suddenly start acting nice...?!?

So what prompted Obama to act like this? He was sagging in the polls a little bit back so he boosted his position by borrowing a page from the conservatives (hype up and distort non-issues, take an anti-change stance -- he claims change but his policies have the least). He advocates a "change" to the Washington atmosphere (to make everyone feel good) and he proposes policies that enact the least change (to make everyone feel good). He's selling a pipe dream: "I'll fix everything without radical policy change and turn Washington into a nice place by power of my personality!" Kinda like, "Real median wages are stagnant but spend spend spend your house equity can pay for it!" "You can look like a model by using the Bowflex 3 days/week for 20 minutes!" "You can lower taxes and simultaneously raise revenue!" Typical American marketing. We need to wake up and smell the coffee.

So, Obama is either completely naive to good policy and how things really work in Washington, or he's blatantly lying just to differentiate himself and get into power. Neither potential explanation make him an appealing candidate to me. And we Democrats are not holding him accountable for this behavior.

bjkeefe said...


A fair response. My answers:

1. There's a difference between being partisan on one's policy goals and being stuck in a stance of us-vs-them to the point of idiocy. I think both sides are guilty of the latter, and I don't think it has done much good for the country. I also don't think the Democrats can point to many successes because of this stance. The one exception that comes to mind is stopping Bush on his effort to give away the store on Social Security, and I suppose one could argue that some craziness has been stopped just by painting Bush as the embodiment of evil, but really, we don't have a lot else to show.

I agree some compromise in the Clinton Administration led to watering down, or even downright objectionable outcomes. On the other hand, politics is the art of the possible -- some compromise is inevitable. We're going to have to figure out some serious problems in the coming years that will require a willingness on the part of both sides to come to the table.

Finally, I believe that when it comes down to it, a President Obama will stand his ground when he needs to. He took a big political risk by being unambiguously against the Iraq invasion when he did, don't forget. I think we have a better chance of killing them with kindness in this regard. Hillary Clinton could ask for the exact same things, and more Republicans would say no, just on principle, and a lot of people who don't really think for themselves will go along with that attitude.

2. I pretty much agree with you here. I've long been of the mind that Social Security needs attention, but is in no way in crisis. As I said in my original post, I don't agree with Obama on every last detail, and this is one of them.

3. I confess to suffering serious eye-glazing when the discussion turns to the nuts and bolts of a national health care program. Sorry, but there it is. I've heard this argument about the problem with the lack of mandate, and to the degree that I understand it, I accept the complaint.

On the other hand, I have little expectation that national health care is going to get implemented any time soon, and I have zero expectation that any of the candidates' plans could get through Congress as presented. Realistically, the best I can see is a good start to what will have to be an ongoing process that will last decades. Therefore, I don't care about the details of any candidate's plan. If you're generally in favor of trying to get something done, good for you, you've got my support. But that's not why I'm voting for you. There are quite a few issues that I care about more, and that I think the next president can do more about, starting 1.20.2009.

To your point about Obama echoing right-wing talking points: I agree somewhat. However, I don't care. You can't govern if you don't win. If he has to toss a few bones to win some of the fence-sitters and mouth-breathers over, fine. That's life in American politics.

In the end, to repeat, I don't agree with him on every last detail. But I agree with him way more than I do any Republican, and I believe that he'll be a much more positive presence in the White House than Hillary Clinton could ever dream of being.

It's not a perfect world, so the only thing you can do is make the best choice. He is that.

Anonymous said...

Aidan, I'd like to hear more about your assertion that Barack has the most conservative policy platform of the Democrats. We know that Hillary supported the war, supports limited torture of prisoners by the CIA, voted to extend the Patriot Act and for it the first time, is wishy washy on Roe v. Wade (Thinks we should make adoption easier and opposes third trimester abortions.) I'm not that up on official party platforms, but those seem on the face of them to be more conservative than Barack's positions. She strikes me as a Joe Lieberman democrat. What are the major issues where she is more liberal than Barack? In California she has the most "negatives" of any candidate.

Aidan said...

Hey Brendan, I hear you. I hope that you're right. Still, it sounds like you're supporting him because he's not Hillary...? I don't hear anything specific about how he's better, except that he's less objectionable than Hillary. Well, I hope that that works better with the Republicans. Personally, I don't think anybody could work well with the Republicans. They're evil and will do everything possible to stop any positive reform by anyone. But since he has a good chance of wining the nomination, I guess we'll find out. Take a bet for a beer in two years? If Obama gets a lot of truly progressive work done then I'll buy; else you buy. Fair?

bjkeefe said...

Granted, my response was more anti-Hillary than pro-Barack, but that was, in part, because I was responding to your specific points.

As I said in the original post, I am ecstatic to be for a candidate this time around. I'll admit it's not so much because of a list of policy positions, and it's a lot because of emotions. So be it. The man can give a speech, he presents as thoughtful and interested and willing to hear all sides of a debate, and the face he'd present to the rest of the world is far from something to sneeze at.

I accept your bet, although I suspect it'll take nine or ten additional beers to resolve what we mean by "progressive" and what we mean by "accomplished."

bjkeefe said...

P.S. You ducked TC's question.

Aidan said...

Hey TC,

Painting SS as a crisis is a right wing talking point. Not having a mandate on health care is conservative (in the literal sense of the word). Hyping not having a mandate as a strength is a right wing talking point right from Fox News & Bob Novak. Advocating bipartisan change is essentially advocating a right wing platform (only a relatively conservative platform can get bipartisan support).

His opposition to the war is not comparable -- he wasn't in the senate at the time and had little to lose. Contrast that with the position of the Democrats in the congress (whom I'm not usually trying to defend -- I find them mostly spineless for still attempting bipartisanship). If there are WMDs then the Democrats lose. If the Democrats shut down the invasion then the Democrats lose (many idiot Americans supported the war and it would have been Fox News fodder). If there were no WMDs and the Democrats didn't shut down the war but the invasion went smoothly then the Democrats lose. It's only if there are no WMDs, the Democrats don't shut down the war, AND the invasion goes poorly that the Democrats win. So they were in a tough position. The problem lies with the American public: they don't reward their politicians for making hard decisions. I would have opposed the war myself, but I'm no senator. Would they be any more effective if the public throws them out of office? So I think that it's a poor comparison as Obama didn't have to make the tough decision.

Anyway, I'll outsource some of the Obama-echoing-conservative-talking-points to those more informed than me.


Aidan said...

Brendan, all the better if 9-10 ;-)

Impatient, aren't we? I'm trying to drink beer, watch a pretty unexciting superbowl, and look up good blog references to answer TC. It's hard to multitask at my age!

TC, it's a little hard to compare platforms, so maybe I'm offbase. What I understand (to an extent) is public policy, and here there is no question: Edwards was the most progressive of the mainstreams, followed by Clinton, followed by Obama.

I'm no huge Clinton fan myself but I like her policies better and Edwards dropped out.

btw, you reference Lieberman but Obama was actually a Lieberman protege. I HATE Lieberman.


Anonymous said...

I liked Kucinich, then I liked Edwards, but we're down to a choice between Obama and Clinton. I don't see Clinton as a progressive at all. Bill gave us the "new democrat" who was a republican - lite democrat and gave us NAFTA which was a continuation of a George the first policy. (i.e. republican.)

I'm still not clear how you think Hillary is more progressive than Obama. My comment about party platforms was in response to your post where you said: "He has the most conservative policy platform of the Democrats." As far as I can see Hillary has the most conservative position on all the issues I mentioned.

BTW I read somewhere that Edwards talked a populist game, but if you looked at his voting record when he was in the Congress his voting record was at odds with his rhetoric.

Personally, I won't vote for Hillary under any condition. I won't vote for McCain either. Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum. If it comes down to McCain v Clinton I'll vote Green or something else.

I think you're right about Obama being disingenuous about bipartisan change, but people love to hear that. Remember that George W was a uniter and not a divider. I put that down to political engineering for the general election and don't expect to see it, but I don't feel bad about Obama for electioneering. When Bush said in the state of the union talk that he would veto earmarked bills both sides stood up and cheered and they are the very ones who put all those earmarks on the bills. Disingenuous? Sure, but people love to hear that stuff.

Don't hold your breath for universal health care either, but surely you don't take that as a serious possibility or promise. We get that promise every four years at election time because people love to hear it. Are you saying that if Hillary gets elected we will get universal health insurance, but if Obama gets elected we won't? Who's being naive now?

I haven't had time to look at any of the links you included yet, but if the thrust of them is that politicians say disingenuous things and contradict themselves that's hardly a revelation.

I think your bet with Brendan should go the other way too. If Hillary gets elected and gets any progressive things done the bet should cover that too.

Aidan said...

I don't know, I'm suspect of voting for a politician just because "you like him". I heard that a lot back in 2000 in support of this other guy who ended becoming a not-very-good president. I had Republican acquaintances (can you have a Republican friend?) who supported Bush in the face of all kinds of objective evidence about how his policy platform wasn't so good. I never got anywhere in those arguments and I doubt that I'll get very far here. I think that it ties in with some sort of primitive, hairless ape my team vs. your team psychology, or religious faith. Not much to say in the face of that. I certainly have my impervious beliefs so who am I to criticize?

There is a lot of empirical work that shows a high correlation between stated policy in a campaign and actual implemented policy (Google scholar it to find the many papers). There is little correlation between "changing Washington" rhetoric and actually changing Washington success. The rational approach therefore is to analyze the policy proposals. Edwards and Clinton both proposed universal health care -- Obama proposes a plan that is not universal. That about sums it up for me. You have a much higher probability of UHC implementation success under Clinton than you do under Obama.

Anyway, it was interesting with Bush. I had Republican acquaintances that even in 2003 admitted that Bush was screwing everything up, but they rationalized their support by saying, "Gore would have been worse". What can you say to someone who says that?

If the links in my prior post can't raise even a shadow of a doubt then there really isn't a conversation going on -- just two sides talking to each other without listening. We might as well discuss switching favorite football teams.

btw, NAFTA is absolutely not Republican policy. It's just pretty good economics and it has helped Mexico, though not nearly as much as it should have (of course, Mexico's problems are so deep that a trade agreement certainly can't fix them). NAFTA certainly didn't hurt Mexico. Many progressive, Democrat economists supported it with good reason.

For more info on it's failure to increase median income in Mexico, see here, note page 20:

Anonymous said...

Adrian, Clinton is seen as very divisive and more progressive than Obama. With universal healthcare, he may be able to make more progress by starting closer to the Republicans and using the groundswell of goodwill and postive momentum from the electorate to at least begin change. What's the worst that could happen during four years of Clinton vs. four years with Obama?

Aidan said...

I hope that Obama makes positive change, but the probabilities are lined up against it. Candidates move from their states positions to the center, and Obama is way, way to the center. He isn't even offering UHC. This seems like a chance to implement real progressive reform while the Republicans are on the ropes, but we're letting it slip away. Well, time will tell how it goes. He's still better than any Republican but short of what we could do. Every other industrialized country has figured it out. If we don't it's just one more thing that holds the country back.

Many people over the last few years have said that the current acct deficit didn't matter, erosion of manufacturing jobs didn't matter, banking regulation didn't matter, income inequality doesn't matter, a housing bubble (what bubble?) didn't matter, etc.. But they did and they do. All of the imbalances, borne out of bad policy, eventually catch up. Get enough of those together and eventually your country falls from a position of high growth and strength. That's why I want as much progressive change as possible.

It also bugs me that people choose a candidate based on likability and not policy. That's what they said when they chose Bush over Gore.

bjkeefe said...


You make a good point by noting that Clinton is more divisive than Obama, but then ask what would be the worst thing that could happen with Clinton in office instead of Obama. It seems to me that the divisiveness is a non-trivial concern -- Clinton in the White House reinvigorates the right wing from Day 1. I'm not saying Obama won't also be subjected to endless attacks from the usual suspects, but I think Clinton provokes a much stronger reaction, since so many people who listen to this nonsense are already predisposed to agree with it.


I know what you mean about disliking voting based on likability. In my own defense, I never like Bush. I saw him as a phony and a frat boy from 1999 on. Also, there is not nothing to liking your candidate: I was violently apathetic about John Kerry, and I can never completely rid myself of the idea that had I liked him better, I could have relocated to Ohio for a few key months in the summer of 2004, to work on his campaign.

As for the UHC issue: I think there's a good chance we could get Obama to change his mind on this, once he gets elected, if enough people feel that it's a deal-breaker. At the risk of repeating myself, I think the idea of voting for a candidate based on the details of a health care proposal is a crock -- there is no chance that what you see on the candidate's web site is going to get through Congress without extensive metamorphosis.

Regarding your earlier remark about multitasking: I am constantly amazed that society views this simultaneously as a desirable skill in adults and a condition called ADHD when it presents in children.

Anonymous said...

From the internet about NAFTA:

In three separate ceremonies in the three capitals on Dec. 17, 1992, President Bush, Mexican President Salinas, and Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney signed the historic North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The framework agreement proposed to eliminate restrictions on the flow of goods, services, and investment in North America. The House of Representatives approved NAFTA, by a vote of 234 to 200 on November 17, 1993, and the Senate voted 60 to 38 for approval on November 20. It was signed into law by President Clinton on December 8, 1993, and took effect on January 1, 1994.

Anonymous said...

Aidan sez:

>>NAFTA is absolutely not Republican policy. It's just pretty good economics and it has helped Mexico, though not nearly as much as it should have (of course, Mexico's problems are so deep that a trade agreement certainly can't fix them). NAFTA certainly didn't hurt Mexico. Many progressive, Democrat economists supported it with good reason.<<

North American "Free Trade" agreement is a free trade document. Free Trade is a libertarian position which is certainly more republican than democrat. Greenspan was/is a free trader and a disciple of Ayn Rand. Thom Hartman on Air America ( who has sritten several books on the economy) makes the case almost every day on his show that NAFTA screwed the middle class in this country. It may have helped the Mexicans a little, but it's a pretty complex issue and whole books have been written about that.

I read a handful of the links you posted. In general they don't seem to have much to do with the discussion we're having here. The best one I thought was on the Canadian health care system by Sara R. My Canadians friends have given me a slightly different take on it. Her piece didn't seem to say anything about Obama's or Hillary's plans though.