To my neighbor, who fears that Obama win will raise his taxes if he wins:
Look, I don't like taxes. Nobody does. And I know that we live in the high rent district here, and that you might very well fall to the north of the $250.000 income line above which Obama's tax plan will indeed raise taxes. Even those raises, however, will only take your taxes as high as they were in the Reagan administration, but again, I understand that for you and lot of people, any tax is vexatious.
The thing of it is, though, that under Bush, your taxes have already gone up considerably. Oh, I know you think Bush gave you a tax cut, but think of all the things you pay more for after eight years of Republican misrule than you did in the Clinton administration. We may not call those increases "taxes" in the usual sense of the word, but in a way they are.
Gasoline cost $1.46 a gallon when Bush took office, and it's about $2.00 a gallon more than that now. That's a tax on the Bush administration's failure to have an intelligent energy policy designed to move the country away from its over-reliance on oil.
Your stock portfolio has probably taken a big hit in the last couple of months, due in part to the near-collapse of the investment finance sector. Your market losses are a tax on lax regulation of the securities and banking industries and on the Republican practice of putting people who are firmly philosophically opposed to the whole notion of market regulation. And so is the $700 billion bailout: a $3,000 tax on look-the-other-way regulation to be paid by every man, woman and child in the country.
Food costs more now, sometimes significantly. That's a tax on the administration's push for biofuels, which are consuming a significant portion of our feedstocks now, thereby increasing demand and price.
Every time you fly somewhere now, you pay a homeland security tax that's added to your ticket. More significantly, though, your travel time has been increased as you are forced to move slowly through security queues--and time is money. This is a tax on the Bush administration's failure to prevent 9/11 (despite explicit warnings from the outgoing Clinton administration) and on their cumbersome and questionably effective administration of airport security.
When you go to sell your house, chances are that you won't get what you paid for it a few years ago, and that it will remain on the market for a long time before it sells. This is a tax on government policies that encouraged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to underwrite riskier and riskier mortgages, which fueled a building boom, resulting in a glut of unsold homes.
Health care costs have increased for most people over the last eight years. Deductables and co-pays are higher, and restrictions on what doctors you can see and what medications your insurer will pay for are more onerous. This is a tax on the failure of the Bush administration to enact a comprehensive national health care plan. Maybe you fear having your "official" taxes raised if such a plan were to become law--but the fact is that your "unofficial" health care taxes are increasing anyway.
If you travel abroad or if, like most Americans, you buy a lot of imported goods, you have been affected by the decline of the value of the American dollar. Imports are more expensive now, and unfortunately in many product categories imports are the only good available. This is a tax on the record budget deficit policies of the Bush administration. Of course, a more substantial tax on the deficit will be born by all taxpayers in the coming years as the interest on the national debt eats up a larger and larger portion of the budget.
There are a lot of things that happen in the economy that are beyond the government's control. No President can fairly take all of the credit or the blame for the economy's performance. But policy does have consequences. Personnel has consequences. Philosophy has consequences. Right now, we have a governmental philosophy that holds that regulation of financial institutions is somehow illegitimate. We've seen the appointment of financial foxes to administer the regulatory chicken coop. We've been subjected to a policy of forwarding the bills for our current public expenditures on to the taxpayers of the future. The consequences of those choices have been taxing indeed.
The selection of Sarah "Mooseburgers" Palin as the vice-presidential candidate on a ticket headed by a 72 year old man who's had cancer four times absolutely boggles the mind. It's not without its amusing aspects, but ultimately its cynicism and dangerousness contribute more to my summer-long disgust with American politics.
This is America, where any boy or girl can grow up to be President, right? Well, yes--but I don't think that our celebration of that fact contemplates any old boy or girl becoming Presdent without having had some sort of relevant experience. I'm hard pressed to think of any major party Presidential or vice-presidential candidate having a thinner resume than Mooseburgers Palin.
But while she is barely qualified for the vice-presidency, she is by virtue of her gender and her ideology definitely qualified leadership in the Republican Party. If you liked Michael "Heckuva job!" Brown, the hapless Republican hack who was in charge of FEMA when Katrina hit, you'll love a woman who was elected as the part-time mayor of a city of 5,000 by virtue of her opposition to abortion.
Though unprecedented, Palin's selection is actually well within the American tradition of anti-intellectualism. This hardy strain of populism was on full display last night as Rudy Giuliani and Mooseburgers made the argument that being a non-pol from a tiny town in the third least-populous state was actually a qualification, not a disqualification, for the highest office in the land. Obama is just too smart; time we had some people just like you and me in Washington.
In any normal country, a candidate like Sarah Palin would not be taken seriously by most people. That's why she is so dangerous to Obama and the Democrats; ours is not a normal country. "Ignorant and Proud" is our real motto. The realization of this truth is killing my lifelong passion for politics.
The lawsuit filed by 9/11 conspiracy nutcase "Philip J. Berg, Esquire" against Barack Obama seeking to disqualify Obama from seeking the Presidency by challenging his citizenship is an hilarious example of how not to write a legal pleading. It appears to be little more than a compendium of rumors and unsubstantiated gossip floating around the internet, lashed together with eccentric Capitalization And haphazard spacing, written by a high school sophomore, and put into service of a ludicrous legal theory.
Having taught legal writing before, I may use Mr. Esquire's complaint in this case as an amusing example of what to avoid in drafting pleadings. Real pleadings
--do not cite either the English or Italian versions of Wikipedia;
--do not contain bizarre sentences like "The Democratic National Committee and 'We the People' who believe in the Democratic Vision."
--do not present allegations derived from "further references circulating on the internet."
--do not cite news accounts of the findings of a GOP "research team."
--do not take the findings of "Inside Edition" seriously.
--do not cite allegations "posted all over the internet."
--do not contain horribly written sentences like "All the efforts of supporters of legitimate citizens were for nothing because the Obama cheated his way into a fraudulent candidacy and cheated legitimately eligible natural born citizens from competing in a fair process and the supporters of their citizen choice for the nomination."
--contain requests for relief directed to the court, rather than the defendant.
Of course, this lawsuit is not intended for hearing by the court system, but by the media. When it is laughed out of court, the right wing will claim that it's all a conspiracy to cover up the truth, and thereby keep the smears alive.
Look: I always said that Barack Obama was not a liberal. It's sad, though, that the constituency for civil liberties in this country is so pathetically weak that Obama (and other people who should know better) can trash it so easily in the quest for the support of more powerful groups:
Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama
is announcing plans that would expand President Bush's program steering
federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure
to cause controversy — support their ability to hire and fire based on
This practice is nothing more than an unconstitutional boondoggle, a way to buy the support of evangelical voters by channeling tax money to churches for the operation of questionably effective social programs. If all that was involved was patronage, well, that's just politics. But this combines the stale odor of patronage with the acrid smoke from the torching of our civil liberties. As he demonstated with his sell-out on warrantless wiretapping and telecomm immunity, Obama seems to have no problem inhaling those fumes.
I got a call late this afternoon from a young, enthusiastic Obama volunteer who had just arrived here in Northwest Ohio by way of her home in Pennsylvania and her college in New Hampshire. She was looking for people to go do voter registration canvassing.
I told her I would--I still support Obama--but I told her that I was doing it despite being pretty disappointed with his stand on the FISA legislation. The volunteer was perplexed, and asked what that was. I explained. She had heard something about telecomm immunity, but not recently, and didn't really know what it was all about. She knew nothing about the warrantless wiretap provisions of the bill Obama says he supports.
It struck me as amazing--and a little disturbing--that a campaign volunteer, someone who presumably is more attuned to politics and government than the average Joe, was unaware that her candidate had just announced that he supported the suspension of the Fourth Amendment and the abrogation of the rule of law.
Could it be, I wondered, that the person on the other end of the phone with me was just as uncritically in love with Barack Obama as so many Republicanoid zombies were in love with George W. Bush just four years ago?
The excuse that Obama's support for this bill is politically shrewd is
-- even if accurate -- neither a defense of what he did nor a reason to
refrain from loudly criticizing him for it. Actually, it's the
opposite. It's precisely because Obama is calculating that he can --
without real consequence -- trample upon the political values of those
who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law that it's necessary
to do what one can to change that calculus. Telling Obama that you'll
cheer for him no matter what he does, that you'll vest in him Blind
Faith that anything he does is done with the purest of motives, ensures
that he will continue to ignore you and your political interests.
Beyond that, this attitude that we should uncritically support Obama in everything he does and refrain from criticizing him is unhealthy in the extreme.
No political leader merits uncritical devotion -- neither when they are
running for office nor when they occupy it -- and there are few things
more dangerous than announcing that you so deeply believe in the Core
Goodness of a political leader, or that we face such extreme political
crises that you trust and support whatever your Leader does, even when
you don't understand it or think that it's wrong. That's precisely the
warped authoritarian mindset that defined the Bush Movement and led to
the insanity of the post-9/11 Era, and that uncritical reverence is no
more attractive or healthy when it's shifted to a new Leader.
What Barack Obama did here was wrong and destructive. He's supporting a
bill that is a full-scale assault on our Constitution and an
endorsement of the premise that our laws can be broken by the political
and corporate elite whenever the scary specter of The Terrorists can be
invoked to justify it. What's more, as a Constitutional Law Professor,
he knows full well what a radical perversion of our Constitution this
bill is, and yet he's supporting it anyway. Anyone who sugarcoats or
justifies that is doing a real disservice to their claimed political
values and to the truth.
Obama himself frequently refers to himself as "imperfect," and I for one don't expect anything else from our human leaders. Still, for his imperfections to be made manifest on a question of fundamental American civil liberties is disheartening in the extreme.