Archive for the ‘General’ Category
It now appears that, barring any major scandals, Obama will be the next president of the United States. Although he is in many ways superior to John McCain, this also means that we will once again have one party in control of both the executive and legislative branches. This fact is cause for some distress, as when no party has clear control, some of the most offensive ideas suggested by each party are more likely to get shot down. However, when one party stands more or less unopposed, this often creates an atmosphere where extreme ideas can get more respect than they deserve. If you are sympathetic to the Democratic Party’s ends, you may think that having one party in control of multiple branches is a good thing. However, consider that the last time there was this kind of unified belief; we wound up with the Iraq War and the Patriot Act.
Even to those who support Republican ideals, many of the acts Bush performed at the height of his popularity have left an unpleasant aftertaste. It is reasonable to assume that Obama could make the same kinds of extreme mistakes as Bush did. In this sort of situation, it often times falls to the Supreme Court to make sure that the law doesn’t become too wildly unconstitutional. However, there is only so much the Supreme Court is willing and able to do to curb the other two branches. Furthermore, with the power of judicial appointment, we could very well see a more liberal Supreme Court in the next eight years.
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.
In many ways, Sarah Palin seems like she was chosen specifically for her list of personal traits.
Her steadfast disapproval of abortion should gain respect from the sort of Republican faithful who may have felt left behind by McCain. Additionally, her child with Down syndrome and pregnant daughter shows that she stands behind her pro-life policies in her personal life. Also, she is clearly pro-Second Amendment, which further buys her points with Republicans, as does her son in Iraq.
Sarah Palin also helps bridge the attractiveness gap between McCain and Obama, and possibly wins more of the coveted mother votes.
However, none of these things really relate to important issues, but instead appeal to people’s personal experiences and biases. Sarah Palin’s actual political stances are largely obscured by her lack of national level impact and past attention, as well as her lack of communication to the press and public in general. This lack of information demonstrates a general tendency in politics to ignore important issues in favor of trivialities.
There is a commonly held belief that our trade with China is somehow damaging to American interests, and that the government should take steps to make this country less dependent on the Chinese.
One reason for this is the fear of a trade deficit. Clearly, our imports from China far exceed our exports to China. However, nobody is being forced to buy Chinese. The trade with China is being done according to how the two countries can get maximum benefit. Besides that, the U.S. is getting something valuable, while all the Chinese get in return is money, which functionally isn’t worth its weight in toilet paper.
Another complaint about trade with China is the morality of trading with a country that oppresses its citizenry. Although this point might seem valid, the reality is that trading with the Chinese is a way to improve the country. When businesses trade with a country with limited economic freedoms on free-market terms, that doesn’t corrupt the United States any, but it does corrupt China’s government controls on economy. This is the reason for China’s rapidly expanding economy and reduction in poverty. International trade is one of the only types of foreign aid that actually works.
Possibly the most personal complaint that people have against foreign trade is that outsourcing of jobs takes those jobs away from Americans who need them. Seeing people we know lose their jobs certainly has more immediacy than any of the positive benefits of foreign trade. However, the loss of a job here creates benefits elsewhere. Furthermore, part of remaining competitive in the global economy means holding American workers to high standards. If the government needs to shield American workers from overseas competition, then the lower standards imposed on Americans will ultimately hurt the country more than it helps us.
Overall, foreign trade benefits the country and talk about the need to close the trade deficit is misguided.
A perennial issue raised by Democrats is the idea that America’s health care system is ineffective, and that universal health coverage should be provided by the federal government.
In support of this idea, supporters of universal health care cite studies which state that the United States spends more on health care per capita than any other country, yet the healthcare system is less effective in terms of longevity of life of Americans. Although the claim about spending is true, criticisms of healthcare in the U.S. are largely unfounded.
One major flaw in the argument is that it fails to address outside factors in determining life expectancy aside from health care. Life as an American is simply more dangerous and exciting than other developed countries in terms of murder rate, fatal car accidents, and many other factors which cut average life expectancy short. Furthermore, the United States has high obesity and other health problems. Change in health care policy would be completely ineffective in solving these issues.
Another argument in favor of free universal health care is that every other developed nation has it, and it must therefore be desirable. However, even ignoring the logical fallacies of that argument, the argument fails to address the ways in which U.S. healthcare is superior to those developed nations. The most significant of these ways is that the healthcare in the United States is far more innovative than government provided care. As a result of competition in the market, most recent leaps and bounds in medical treatment have come from here. Much of the higher per capita cost of health care goes into research and development.
However, other countries with public care are able to profit off of our research. The ability to leech off of the successes of the United States camouflages many of the problems with the health care systems of other developed nations. If the U.S. were to adopt universal health care, the motivation to innovate and improve would no longer exist, and the entire world’s health care would suffer as a result.
The current health care system in this country is in many ways superior to any other in the world, and increased government control would only serve to stifle invention and create shortages of treatment.
Lyndon B. Johnson’s greatest ambition as U.S. president was his “Great Society” program, a massive expansion in federal welfare centered on the idea that the government has an obligation to correct society’s ills. As part of his welfare plans, Johnson pushed congress into creating the Economic Opportunity Act, part of a major attack on the nation’s poverty. Since Lyndon B. Johnson signed the “War on Poverty” legislation into existence, the government has spent trillions of dollars on the elimination of poverty, and through their efforts poverty in the United States has been statistically eliminated.
A quick internet search will reveal that the government spends enough on eliminating poverty to give all the poor people in the U.S. enough money that they will no longer be under the poverty level. Therefore, the United States does not have any poverty. This does not even account for the private charity that goes into ending the problem of poverty. However, it is clear that despite all this spending, poverty has not been eliminated from this country. The baffling, unpleasant truth that social welfare tends to avoid is that poverty cannot be eliminated by spending money on it.
As the types of people who support social charity enjoy pointing out, the U.S. has more than enough wealth for every citizen (and quite a few non-citizens) to live comfortably. In a society such as this, the most obvious reason for people to not be well off is an improper distribution of wealth.
Blaming the rich is an obvious thing to do in this case, as they clearly have a larger share of money than they deserve. However, the reason those people became rich is because of people like us buying things from them, and it’s difficult to criticize people for having too much money while we give them more.
It is also possible to blame the poor themselves for being lazy and unproductive. However, blaming someone for his own predicament is a very heartless thing to do, and anyone could produce a picture of some helpless impoverished child and make you look like a complete jerk.
That’s why the easy way out of this whole situation is to blame the government. The government creates an atmosphere of entitlement that makes it easy to stay poor, while supporting those who already have money in order to make it difficult to stop being poor. Laws such as minimum wage make it illegal for people to accept low-paying jobs, while government housing projects tear down perfectly good low-income housing in order to create nearly inhospitable living areas. The result of government aid is to bolster a perpetual American underclass, able to survive in poverty but unable to escape it.