Friday, October 19, 2012

A Pre-Election examination of President Obama

At this very moment, I am an undecided voter. This is the first of three posts in which I go through the major candidates for president. By the end, I expect I will have made up my mind.

I will begin with the easy choice: I absolutely cannot vote for Barack Obama for President. I doubt this surprises anyone, but for the sake of completeness, allow me to list the reasons why, as well as why not.

I will avoid references to Mr. Obama's competitors in this post. Perhaps they are better and perhaps they are not, but the problems I have with the President are things that he has done or not done. This is because, as the Libertarian Party is so fond of saying, the only wasted vote is a vote for a candidate you do not truly support.

A digression on the duty of voting: Voting is not a civic duty, and is not intrinsically good. Not voting does not somehow disqualify a person from complaint. When I conclude at the end of this post (spoilers!) that I do not consider Obama an acceptable recipient of my vote, I mean that as a reflection on him, not as a reflection of my options. To Godwinize myself, if the election were between Obama and Hitler, I would not vote for either. If Obama won, I would spend the next four years complaining. If Hitler won I would engage in armed rebellion. But I will not vote for a candidate I do not support.

Postscript: this got really long and I am sick of it. I think I hit a bunch of major points, and certainly enough to keep me from voting for him, but this is certainly not comprehensive.

If you, dear reader, notice something I have missed and feel so inclined, do post any additional things Obama has done. Include links if you can.

The Economy

The president is not, and has never been, a key driving force in the economy. This, I realize, goes against the media narrative of the last many decades, but is absolutely true. I can tell you that back when I took Mathematical Macroeconomics (with the esteemed Bob Elder) we covered a great number of things that can impact an economy, from changes in government spending to imports and exports to technological shifts. Even the imperial presidency we currently live under only has the power to affect these things at the margins through regulatory changes and executive branch employment policies (an example of the latter would be when Truman unilaterally desegregated the military). He also has a role in affirming or vetoing acts of the national legislature, though Mr. Obama has only vetoed legislation twice in the last four years. Not to say that he would not have used the veto pen more often if faced with a strong GOP opposition, but the counter-factual is moot.

The place where this president has exercised the most influence over the economy is by upsetting what Keynes called the "animal spirits" of the economy. Many on Wall Street seem to believe that Mr. Obam is the singular impediment to the growth of the economy, as do many businessmen. I can personally attest that my entrepreneur father believes this, as do all his entrepreneur friends. Yes, he lives in a conservative bubble where he can hardly imagine a thinking person voting for Obama, but so do many business owners, going all the way up to Jack Welch who, despite being a 2008 Obama supporter, is sufficiently ensconced in his bubble that he believed it appropriate to tweet that the President was falsifying the unemployment rate for political gain.

Yes, you can come up with a scenario in which the president starts murdering business owners, but there is no realistic scenario in which even an activist president can shave more than a quarter of a percentage point off GDP growth-- that can be dramatic over time, but the recession has hardly reached the "over time" phase.

As an aside, Obama came into office promising to fix the economy. That promise was stupid. He also promised to "halt the rise of the oceans", and a more Canutian metaphor I could hardly draw. This speaks to a tremendous arrogance about his character, but while arrogance may be a character flaw, and may well underlay many of the complaints I have of his performance, it of itself can hardly be termed a policy position.

Corporatism

There are many issues peripherally related to the economy, however, that we can touch on. The Solyndra scandal (and the related green subsidy bankruptcies) exist on the fairly standard end of things where the government explicitly picks winners as has been done throughout the post-war era (and even before then, as well). Still, the hallowed tradition of robbing hardworking Americans to hand out money to politically favored buddies was unacceptable when Bush did it and remains unacceptable when Obama does it.

Also in this category are the GM bailout and Chevy Volt, covered in Rule of Law, and the stimulus, covered in Spending.

The Rule of Law

The GM bankruptcy is a fairly complicated subject, but what is unambiguous is that the GM bondholders-- people who had a contract with the company-- were pushed to the back of the line not on the basis of longstanding law and tradition, but on the basis of Mr. Obama's say-so to support the more politically influential unions. Note that Mr. Obama was on the record in his campaign claiming that he would fight for a pair of laws to prohibit executive bonuses in bankruptcy and to formally prioritize wages in bankruptcy proceedings. While I would not have supported either of those measures, the fact that he has abandoned both of them in favor of extra-legal means of supporting only the most politically connected of workers strikes me as exceedingly callous.

The GM bailout, however, is not complicated. Communism is government ownership of "the means of production". In 2009, the government, under Mr. Obama, purchased 61%, a controlling share, of a formerly private company. Mr. Obama also used government money to purchase large voting interests in another car company and two banks. These actions would have been appropriate actions for a private group like Bain Capital. These actions were most emphatically not appropriate for the government of a free nation, founded on the idea of equal protection under the law.

Mr. Obama violated the constitution by appointing members of the NLRB without the consent of the Senate while the chamber was still in session.

Mr. Obama unilaterally decided to simply stop enforcing chunks of our immigration law for people who look good on re-election ads. He hasn't even tried to pass a law reforming our broken immigration system (which would be a good thing) and he certainly hasn't slowed down the overall pace of deportation (see below). This policy, standing as it does all by itself, is our President punching holes in the law for the sake of election-time optics.

Mr. Obama illegally initiated a shooting war in Libya that led to the deaths of four Americans.

The President offered to pay the fines of Lockheed Martin for violating labor laws at his request.

Mr. Obama ordered the extrajudicial killing of two American citizens.

Foreign Policy

Obama's foreign policy failures are particularly disappointing because this is the area where a President, as head of state and commander in chief, has the most legitimate power.

It isn't as though Mr. Obama came into office without ideas. Indeed, he made a number of fairly excellent promises in 2008, including building an international group to help resettle Iraqi refugees, Ending the Cold War nuclear "hair-trigger" policies, ending trade restrictions on medication, recognizing the Armenian genocide, as well as more grandiose ambitions like promoting Mexican economic development and giving an annual "state of the world" address (thus demonstrating that he considers the phrase "imperial presidency" to be a recommendation, not a criticism). If you clicked on any of these links, you will note that none of them happened.

I do not blame Mr. Obama for the fact that North Korea, Cuba, Russia, Palestine, Syria, Iran, and possibly Egypt are filled with human misery, since he is only the President of our country and it is silly to judge a president by the internal actions of foreign nations. We are not, after all, the policemen of the world.

I do not blame him for the Euro crisis, since Europe is, at least nominally, not a bunch of whiny children incapable of managing their own affairs. See below, however, for completely inappropriate electioneering.

I do blame him for the illegal war in Libya that cost the lives of four Americans.

I commend Mr. Obama for mostly sticking to the Iraq pullout timetable agreed to by his predecessor.

I will condemn the president for horrific inconsistency abroad. We invaded Libya, but ignored Syria, Sudan, and Honduras. He supported the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia but ignored it in Bahrain and Syria, as well as the Iranian protesters the year before.

Libya

We went to war with Libya on bullshit pretenses. The President conducted the war so illegally that even the New York Times complained (once, and then they shut up and got back with the program). Mr. Obama did not even have, as Bush did, a solid reason that happened to be incorrect (Iraqi WMDs). Then, four Americans died. Mr. Obama's response to these deaths was to lie repeatedly about the circumstances surrounding them.

Unacceptable.

Mexicans

Under President Obama, America has become such an undesirable place to live that even illegal Mexicans aren't coming any more. Seriously, though, the heart of American Exceptionalism and the American economic miracle of the last three hundred years has been immigration, and Barack Obama has been so effective at kicking out people who want to become contributors to the American dream that Mexicans are simply giving up.

This will impoverish our culture and make our economy more brittle.

Inappropriate electioneering

If you recall, in 2008 Mr. Obama went around the world as part of his campaign for a bunch of speeches, including a fairly over the top one in front of the Brandenburg Gates.

It seems that this year he has done something similar. He went to Russia and asked President Medvedev to wait until after the election-- when he would no longer be accountable to the will of America-- to sign a missile defense agreement. Obama has pressured European leaders to keep Greece in the Eurozone until after his election. He has reportedly offered Israel military hardware (not exceptional) in exchange for holding off an Iranian attack until after his election (exceptional). The president requested that a large government contractor not hand out legally required layoff notices until after the election, and even offered to pay any fines incurred (above, in Rule of Law). The president, while it is often claimed that he killed the Keystone pipeline, really just deferred approval until after the election so that he did not have to make a public choice between union jobs and the environment.

Every single one of these is completely inappropriate behavior in a person who holds a position of public trust and demonstrates that Obama considers his own political power to be more important than the stability of the EU, popular approval of major defense agreements, fairly substantial worker protections, multi-million dollar energy deals and/or their environmental impact, and Israel's national defense policy.

Spending

The President has not had a single year in which the deficit was not greater than any year prior to his administration. The President has not had a single year in which the deficit was less than one trillion dollars. Mr. Obama personally presided over 37% of the current sixteen trillion dollar US deficit, a figure which has grown almost continuously since the Roosevelt Administration.

Mr. Obama has no plan to end the deficits, and does not project that the annual deficit will fall under half a trillion dollars per year for any time in the next ten years.

Mr. Obama promised a net spending cut. He did not deliver.

Mr. Obama created a respected and bipartisan commission to reduce the deficit that was headed by two reasonable and widely supported men who produced a moderate, sensible proposal supported by congress. Mr. Obama ignored the report.

When he tried his own hand at crafting a budget, the plans were so unreasonable that they were unanimously rejected two years in a row.

At best Mr. Obama's performance in this area could be rated as clownish. However, I, personally, as an American taxpayer, am on the hook for $141,000, of which $45,000 was added in the last four years. 

I make less than $45,000 per year.

Stimulus

I have forgotten most of this, except that it was damned expensive. Also I am getting tired. Here are some links

Space

In the long run, the most important thing for our species is to expand into other planets. That way, when the earth experiences the next major extinction level event (it would be the sixth such in the billion year history of life), humanity can survive. 

The most important thing an American president can to to foster space travel is to open space up to private commercial ventures. 

With the retirement of the shuttle program, the world has seen the first birth a private space industry. Mr. Obama has not regulated this industry into oblivion.

Kudos to you, Mr. President.

Homosexuals

Our president spent three of his first four years in office openly denying that he believed homosexuals deserved to be treated equally under the law. He changed his mind right after a key vote to prohibit gay marriage in North Carolina, exactly one day after it could have helped anyone. He has still made no substantive progress towards even those minor anti-discrimination measures he promised in the election. He refused to prohibit employment discrimination against homosexuals. He refused to encourage states to treat homosexual families on equal ground as heterosexual families. He refused to try repealing DOMA. He permitted gays to serve in the military, which was hailed as great and wonderful, but the truth is that military service is a duty, not a benefit of citizenship. Obama has required homosexuals to make all the sacrifices of every other citizen, but done not one single thing to bring them the equal benefit to raise a family. 

I am forced to conclude on this issue that his words are empty. Any promises he makes respecting the rights of Americans to love and marry are subordinate to his lust for political power. What a two-faced scumbag.

Transparency

Obama promised he would:

Terror at home and abroad

Bin Laden is dead. Yay! I am sure that no other American could possibly have made the gutsy call to have a crack team of special forces fly across the planet to shoot him in the face while sitting in an air conditioned room in a comfy chair watching the action on a television. Credit where credit is due and all.

Obama has neither removed nor reformed the DHS, the PATRIOT act, or the clownish TSA, which are perhaps the three most visible instances of "the terrorists winning" by blowing up our civil liberties.

Obama has not closed down the Guantanamo bay facility, he has not ended the practice of secret arrests, nor has he shut down any secret prisons. He has not ended indefinite detention without trial.

Gunwalking

On the face of it, it looks like a typical case of government incompetence with the unfortunate addition of a body count. Then you realize that the administration is so intent on hiding what happened that the Attorney General drew a contempt vote, and the administration still has not addressed the issue.

A CNN primer on how the ATF handed out weapons to Mexican cartels that were used to kill hundreds of people.

At least when Reagan pulled Iran-Contra, he saved the lives of some US citizens. All Eric Holder managed to do was get a bunch of Mexicans and Americans killed.

Drugs

Barack Obama, who has publicly confessed to smoking marijuana, actively pursues incarceration for people who smoke marijuana. When he cannot get states to enforce the prohibition that he, himself, has violated, he sends federal agents to imprison people.

America imprisons more people than any other nation in the world. Half of all federal prisoners are there on drug-related charges.

President Obama, despite the enthusiastic endorsements from Cheech and Chong, and his own admitted drug use, believes that A) it is right and appropriate to send armed paramilitaries to destroy people's lives and B) (I presume) it would be a bad thing if armed paramilitaries broke down his door and locked him in a cage for five years. 

Everyone who supports the American War on Drugs is a bad person who enjoys causing suffering. However, those people, like the President, who actively cause said suffering while admitting to have done the very same things are monsters.

The murder of two American citizens

I can't really say much about this without becoming completely unhinged, so:

Conclusion

Taken in whole, I cannot in good conscience vote for Barack Obama for President. Considering the last part alone, I cannot respect any person who does vote for Barack Obama.

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