Monday, June 13, 2011

No Regrets from 2008

When I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, it was the first Democrat I'd voted for in the presidential elections since 1992, and one of the few I'd voted for at the national level. Since then, the economy has been stagnant, an all-out ideological battle has begun over the role and size of government, and the 2012 presidential race is a constant source of speculation. With that in mind, many Obama supporters are asked if they have buyer's remorse. It's a necessary question.

In terms of Obama's performance, I'd put him at about a C. The initial push for health care reform was a mistake, but only because it was an over-reach. The bill is a monstrosity, and it was not a priority for most voters in 2008. On top of that, voters supported and the parties agreed on many components - as much as 80% - of the Affordable Care Act. The first major piece of legislation should have been a much smaller bill that covered common ground. It would have been good for America.

In terms of the economy, the idea of a stimulus bill was a good idea, but it was not focused enough on immediate infrastructure spending and labor that immediately impacts the economy. It was also too heavily geared toward tax rebates that produce no visible or guaranteed effects. The money should not have been about bailing out state deficits, and the Obama Administration has been rather inept about explaining the loss of revenue that has caused debts and deficit levels to rise. Military contract spending has not been adequately restrained. Medicare should be able to negotiate prices. Oil, ethanol, and farm subsidies should be closed, and the tax code should be simplified to eliminate wasteful spending such as mortgage deductions on second homes and those valued over one million dollars. Obama's leadership on all this has been mediocre, and I don't like this "lack of leadership" style.

That said, I have no regrets on the vote, considering the alternative. While I strongly supported John McCain in the 2000 election, I could barely stomach the version of McCain-lite that ran in 2008. He had completely sacrificed his pragmatic understanding of finance and tax policy, and had given in to the mis-guided supply siders in the GOP. And, of course, I am proud to have not voted for any ticket that had Sarah Palin's name attached to it. The same goes for the current crop of candidates who are so naive on the history of tax cuts and their impact on the economy that they continue to ignore decades of history.

So, no regrets. But no firm plans to vote the same way in 2012.


Anonymous said...

I'm really disappointing in the President, but not for the same reasons.

They health care bill is what is was because that was what the President thought he could get through Congress. If you have kids graduating from college, a pre-existing condition, etc., you're already seeing the benefits. When the remainder kicks in, you may feel differently. What "common ground" did the bill miss (I must admit I'm no expert)?

Giving money to the states through the stimulus was probably the single best thing that it did - this saved jobs. States can only fund themselves through taxes or federal government funding. When jobs are scarce and tax revenue dries up, the federal government almost has an obligation to step in and assist. Teachers should be among the first to recognize that many more may have been without jobs were it not for the federal stimulus.

"Wasteful" spending is in the eye of the beholder. Every dollar the government spends benefits someone and some argue that ANY spending the government does benefits everyone as it make more money available when people are in the process of trying to pay down debt.

There's lots more to say and discuss, but this is your blog, not mine.

mmazenko said...

The points you mentioned are ones I, and most Americans, agree with. Along with that are rules that prevent insurers from dropping people when they get sick and elimination of lifetime maximums. Requirements for percentages of premiums going to providing health care are reasonable, as well as justifications for raising rates. The health care exchanges make sense. However, none of the exemptions given to states in exchange for votes makes sense. And, at this point, the requirement for buying insurance needs to be vetted more - and Obama did a poor job of pointing out that is was originally a Republican idea.

Saving the jobs of state employees in states that have mismanaged their money was not the White House's job. And giving them the money just meant the states could put off the discussion of raising revenue on the state level. So, not a good call.

Agreed on the subjective nature of spending - but there are more controversial and less controversial spending cuts. And Obama did a poor job of creating less controversy.

Anonymous said...

States haven't necessarily "mismanaged" their money. Some states were simply hit harder by the recession than others. The disparities between states are striking.

Would you like the state to collect taxes from you and just put the money under a mattress in case the economy goes south? My state does this. It is a waste and proved inadequate anyway.

Take a look at Spain and Ireland. By most measures, these countries were perfectly responsible from a fiscal standpoint until the housing bubble collapsed and unemployment went to 20+ %. Their sound budgets before the crash are irrelevant to today.

When people have no income and because they aren't working, they provide no tax revenue and still require services of the state. You suggest raising revenue as an alternative to a federal handout, but I can think of only one state (Illinois) that has raised taxes during this recession -- it's simply not politically feasible. People seem to be willing to lay off teachers, let roads go to !@#$ and not provide mental health services or housing to those in need rather than raise taxes on those that can afford it. Are we that uncaring? Apparently so.