Monday, August 25, 2008

I mean, what happened?

So, it’s another leap year, which means it’s another election season. I’ve lived long enough to really remember a couple such seasons. Of the seasons I can really remember, one feature always stands out that defines an election process: the slander. It seems that elections have become increasingly focused on which candidate/party can throw the most mud on the opposing candidate/party.

I guess the reason I decided to write this is due to a commercial I just saw while watching the Democratic National Convention. It was an ad put out in support of John McCain stating that despite increasing food prices and shaky social security, Obama wants to increase our taxes. It ended with the now-common question, “Is he ready to lead?”

My thoughts below the fold.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t increased taxes actually help us? People gripe and complain about having to pay taxes, but do they think about where that money goes? Do they think it is any coincidence that countries with higher tax rates (such as pretty much all of Europe) have better health care and often better standards of living?

People are complaining about the cost of gas, and often cite an overbearing tax on fuel. Well, since that tax goes towards paying for roads and highways – building better roads, keeping them in good condition, paying for law enforcement, etc. – I’ll happily pay it. Then the people look at Exxon’s profits and don’t really get angry at that link between those profits and gas prices. I find that odd.

With the economy as far down the toilet as it is, I personally would be in full support of increased taxes to try and remedy these problems. Hell, take half my paycheck if it means I’ll have full healthcare when I need it. I can pass on the beach house and new car. Just don’t raise our already unsolvable national deficit by borrowing more money from foreign powers that may not be that friendly towards us. That tactic may just have something to do with our current problems. (The war in Iraq is the first war in United States history that has been fought without raising taxes, and instead riding on foreign loans. The economy has done well because of it, huh?)

With the tax rant out of the way, let me address the smear ads. First of all, I put my fullest respect behind Obama for his resistance to engage in such acts despite the relentless attacks made by McCain’s campaign. With Biden as the VP nominee, we will start seeing the Democrats lobbing some bombs towards the Republicans, which does sadden me, but I can see the need in the current situation.

Where did we go wrong with our politics? Was it when we allowed corporations and religions to weed their way into our government? Was it when he with the biggest moneyclip was best fit to lead? I really don’t know, but it is despairing. And I know there is a lot to politics such as this, and far too much to get into for a short post like this...maybe some other time.

Now, here I may slip a bit towards a political leaning, turning this blog from an attempted neutral to a more Democratic tone. But, on the question of “Is he ready to lead?” I present to you a counter question: is a 72-year-old hawk who believes a gas tax holiday will relieve the people and who can’t remember how many houses he owns fit to lead?


Ragoth said...

My quick comment - smear ads have been a constant in politics, sadly. I was reading recently about the attack ads during the Jefferson-Adams election (yes...Thomas Jefferson). Let's just say the words "slut" and "whore" were thrown around about these respective guys' wives and mothers. I'd almost prefer to see that least it'd be laughable.

The other point, about the "experience" issue...Experience clearly does not equal ability to lead effectively. The current administration has about the highest level of experience, judged in years and positions held, of any administration, and look where that got us. This does not mean that less experience is good, just that it's not a reliable guide to ability.

And don't worry about politics, if you want to talk 'em, we'll debate 'em. I think we all have fairly similar leanings (myself an independent - toeing a party line is, to me, almost always the lazy and, if I can say so, idiotic choice.

Anyways, good to hear from you again, Gaijin.

DirtyGaijin said...

A good point about smearing being as old as politics. Hadn't thought of that. Although, I'd like to see us grow beyond such childish tactics and address each other like reasonable adults. Is that so much to ask for?

Ragoth said...

Oh, I'd certainly love to see it, and I hope that it isn't too much to ask for.

Okada said...

As for the raising taxes, the problem with that is people who can afford beach houses and extra cars will just be a little upset. Who it really hurts is people trying to live on min wage, obviously college students trying to pay tuition that is also increasing as well as the cost of living and anyone else that is trying to scrape by. If they can barely reach and sometimes they are not meeting the minimum standard of living in this country what are they going to do if more of their money is routed to government funded programs?

Ragoth said...


Yes, this is indeed a problem, and the solution will indeed be a complex one, probably requiring at least the raising of minimum wages, and a better tax system that better represents income (and closing of some major loopholes that allow those with a good enough tax agent to not pay what they should), all without falling into a completely socialist or communist system.

Complicated? Hell yes. Another possible solution is to completely restructure the budget. The Defense Department could probably stand to lose a little bit of funding (I'm sure many in the military and other like-minded organizations would be horrified by that, but let's actually look at the budget situation).

Anyways, yeah...

Jason said...

First: the issue of raising taxes in a recession.

The basic macroeconomic prescription is for the government to spend, spend, spend in a recession to counteract the slowing GDP and stimulate more economic activity. Ideally, this means leaving as much money in the consumer's hand to spend while taking out more gov't debt to lift the economy. Inflation during a recession or "stagflation" is scary because government spending then drives up already increasing prices stretching the economy like a Chinese finger trap. McCain is right according to basic macroeconomics when he claims that more taxes hurts the economy in a recession.

Of course, economists have a hydra of hands. First, government reallocation through taxes could properly invest money into sectors that lift the economy. Second, spending can exceed tax increases and produce an overall increase in money in the economy (though time becomes a factor). Third, how taxes are collected can play a very important role in the effect of government money-holding and spending that affects GDP. This is where McCain loses in my mind.

I beat my head again and again against the wall when I think that the American people are about to elect another spend-into-the-ground, float-the-rich, attack-our-international-detractors, defense-at-all-costs-even-your-basic-rights Republican. Haven't the past eight years (and Reaganomics) taught us, number one, that a tax code favoring the rich tends to inflate economic inequality without producing nearly enough "trickle down" effect to maintain job-creation and wage-benefit increases?

As to experience, David Lightman of McClatchey wrote a great piece (focusing on ACADEMIC RESEARCH) into the role of experience in the quality of presidents. You can find it at The title, if you want to search it yourself is "Presidents don't always live up to resume, scholars say." It's well worth reading.

As to the fear of communism/socialism. The terrors these systems have wreaked on peoples were largely factors of characteristics tangential to the core ideas of both (complete government control and modernization/systemization for example). See James C. Scott's "Seeing like a state" for a good analysis of failed government projects (communist, socialist, and democratic republic alike).

Ragoth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ragoth said...


Thanks for your commentary on the economic issues. You have a much better background in this than I do, so I appreciate a more expert opinion on it (Note, this is also why I try to stick to the sciences and occasionally philosophy/religion).

As to the socialism/communism comment, I admit, it was written probably in too much haste. I'm in favor of some socialist policies, and I understand that much-more-socialist countries than our own are successful. And agreed, much of the problem can be identified with individual issues - our current administration, for example.

So, if you've got anything else on this one, I'd certainly like to hear it.