Archive for October, 2008
I’m taking a break from talking about actual issues today in order to address the importance of voting. Since the time to register has passed, it may be a bit late to talk about this now. However, the fact remains that if you did not register to vote, you definitely screwed up. The important aspect of voting isn’t so much the specific candidates you vote for, but rather for the actual act of voting. Simply put, people who do not vote generally do not get their interests fairly represented. The reason the Social Security system pays to the elderly while disregarding the interests of the young is because the elderly are much more likely to vote than young adults, who for some reason do not vote as often as they ought to. This election year, it is important to stand up and be counted.
Despite the widespread belief that the bailout plan is a terrible idea, the plan has already been passed.
The fundamental problem with this plan is that it rewards bad decisions and irresponsible behavior. The government, by assisting those people and institutions which are failing essentially punishes responsible behavior.
One of the most vital functions of a relatively free economic system is to discourage bad business practices by forcing those businesses to live with the consequences of their actions. However, with the government and Federal Reserve acting as a safety net, businesses would have no reason to make wise decisions.
President Bush has stated that he wants to focus on bailing out borrowers rather than lenders. However, the argument could be made that the bailout will focus largely on rescuing homeowners in debt is flawed in that money given to the borrowers is surely intended to wind up with the lenders anyway.
The bailout idea is also flawed in that it fails to address the reasons behind loan foreclosures. When property values decline to the point where the amount of money you owe is greater than the amount your property is worth, foreclosing seems like the sensible thing to do regardless of whether the borrower can pay off the debt. The government’s past actions have already helped raise property values to an unnaturally high level, and giving out money does not address the problem.
At this point, the best thing the government can do is back off and let the crisis run its course.
Preserving America’s agricultural business is a noble goal. Politicians frequently tout subsidies as being necessary to preserve small family farms, an undeniably important part of our cultural heritage.
However, wealthy farmers are better able to harvest subsidies than their small farm counterparts. By giving an advantage to wealthy farmers, farm subsidies actually serve to kill small farms and make farming increasingly corporate. It is not a coincidence that since the implementation of farm subsidies, a smaller percentage of the population farms, while farmers have an average income significantly above that of the average American.
Farm subsidies are also flawed in that they go primarily to crops that follow the large business model such as corn and rice while ignoring crops that genuinely are farmed by small businesses. Farm subsidies have additional negative effects in that they cause overproduction of the crops which they go to.
For example, corn is one of the most heavily subsidized crops in the country. As a result, corn can be found in many foods and drinks that would be superior without corn. An example is the use of corn syrup instead of actual sugar in a number of products. Although corn syrup is an inferior good, its artificially lower price makes it ubiquitous in soft drinks.
Farm subsidies also hurt the country when people get paid not to grow crops. These subsidies do not necessarily even go to farmers, since people who own land which could support crops can still collect them, even if those people would not have any intention of harvesting with or without the incentives. These incentives not to farm come as the result of gluts caused by subsidies in the first place.
Although farm subsidies hurt small farmers and the economy in general, it would be political suicide for politicians to tell that to wealthy farm owners. It is therefore likely that farm subsidies will continue long into the foreseeable future.
One issue which has gotten more attention this year than in previous elections is the two candidates’ views on foreign policy.
With the Iraq War currently in progress and the largely imagined threat of terrorism, foreign policy weighs heavily on voter’s opinions. In terms of his foreign policy views, McCain in many ways seems to epitomize the worst aspects of the Bush administration’s already defective foreign policy. McCain has stated that the Vietnam and Korean wars were both winnable with greater commitment, and that withdrawal or surrender is never an option. He also has assaulted Obama for considering negotiations with unfriendly powers. Overall, McCain has highly aggressive, warlike stances on foreign policy and seems to have unlimited faith in America’s ability to triumph in any circumstance. As for his opinions on the Iraq War, McCain only claims that the surge is working and that failure is not an option, both statements indicate his support of the continuation and expansion of the conflict. These opinions seem highly likely to lead to unnecessary loss of life and diminished national security, and are dangerous for American interests.
While McCain’s opinions on are certainly frightening, Obama’s foreign policy views are frightening in a more uncertain way. Obama’s lack of experience has been both a blessing and a curse for his campaign in that it has been used to attack but has also kept him from being held responsible for many of the recent developments in American history. However, Obama’s short record leaves his views on foreign policy ominously unclear. Obama’s early opposition to the war in Iraq certainly speaks well of his judgment, but his other positions are vague at best. Obama speaks highly of diplomacy yet at the same time attempts to appear to be tough on enemies. Meanwhile, Obama seems to hold the belief that terrorism springs from resentment which would best be solved with interventionism, which is the same kind of defense which could be used for all sorts of aggressive acts. Obama’s stance on foreign policy is nearly impossible to determine, making him somewhat frightening.
Although both candidates have deeply flawed beliefs on foreign policy, the uncertainty of Obama is likely preferable to the certain aggression demonstrated by McCain.
Although the search for alternative energy sources is a noble concept, the manner in which the government is conducting the funding of programs is deeply flawed. The majority of money which the government is giving to supposedly renewable resources goes to ethanol fuel. The creation of ethanol consumes corn, which drives up food prices.
Meanwhile, ethanol does not improve upon the efficiency of gasoline in a significant way, if at all. The corn industry has a long successful history of putting corn were it does not belong and getting undeserved subsidies from the government. However, the ability to disguise use of corn as a means of saving the world is more daring and outrageous than any of the offenses the corn industry has given the country to date.
Both presidential candidates have taken every available opportunity to endorse government-supported research in alternative fuel. The fact that the government will continue to direct research in alternative energy research indicates that special interests will continue to prevent innovation in order to benefit large industries.