Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hope is useless by itself. You need some means of getting to where you want to go

And hoping that a bus will come along will not make it arrive

In the week prior to opening his presidential bid, Senator Barack Obama was quoted in the New York Times:
Mr. Obama went so far as to tell Democrats in Washington last week that voters were looking for a message of hope, and disparaged the notion that a presidential campaign should be built on a foundation of position papers or details. "There are those who don't believe in talking about hope: they say, well, we want specifics, we want details, we want white papers, we want plans," he said then. "We've had a lot of plans, Democrats. What we've had is a shortage of hope."

Yet, what is Senator Obama selling? If hope is wanting something that can be had, events that will turn out for the best or a wish for something with an expectation of fulfillment, how does hope turn to reality?

Blogger extraordinaire Pat Santy writing in Dr. Sanity and regarding the many Democrats that have abandoned Hillary for Obama stated: ".the left, who willy-nilly have jumped the Clinton ship and climbed aboard the Obama `vessel of hope'." [emphasis added] And so have hundreds of thousands of non Hillary enthused Democrats, independents and not a few Republicans. all looking for "hope" and thinking they have found it.

And, maybe they have! From perhaps a psychoanalytic point of view, hope can be said to deliver someone from feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. Certainly there are hundreds of thousands citizens that feel hopeless and/or helpless given the pounding the MSM has made on the economy raising specters of recession, even to the point that congressmen and a certain president, who ought to know better, believe that pumping billions of dollars into the economy, borrowed from the future, and the reckless spending of congress (both Republican and Democrat led congresses) that created much of the problem in the first place.

Eric Erikson, a psychoanalyst famed for his disagreements with Freud and his psycho-social developmental model, defines hope as: ".the belief that even when things are not going well, they will work out in the end." Things will work out in the end! Well, one may legitimately ask how will they work out. Is hope shorn of work towards a goal, or is hope something that is only based on wish fulfillment? Can hope, in and of itself, create a new reality and change the current one?

I would guess not. In fact, I would state that given nothing but hope, than nothing will change. Obama is in fact counting on those that do not understand what he is saying will be in his corner come election time. There are those who might go further and state that his entire campaign is based on the "hope" that he can convince enough people that words, uttered in the most sincere and uplifting manner will overcome a dearth of experience.

So, what is a voter supposed to, who is the average voter supposed to back? I suggest that it is the candidate that tells you things you don't want to hear, the one that tells you that you are going to have to roll up your sleeves and make some effort to change things. We haven't elected a U.S. senator for president with no experience at the national (presidential or vice-presidential) level since John Kennedy, and now, regardless of who wins the Democratic race, the next president will be a U.S. senator baring some unforeseen candidate entering the race and capturing the imagination of the public.

Kennedy sold hope, but he also stated that work was necessary for the fulfillment of the promise of America. In his Inaugural Address he proclaimed: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." He also stated:
" Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

Kennedy had it right, we must be prepared to "bear any burden, meet any hardship" and roll up our sleeves if we are to overcome the problems that currently beset our nation. And this cannot be done on the basis of hope alone.


The Obamanuts can't even fake patriotism

Eli Sanders went to yesterday's second-round Democratic district caucus in Washington's 43rd. It's too early in the day for popcorn (no popcorn before Mass!), but this is just the sort of thing I hope to see at the convention: grouchy participants, "Hussein" oversensitivity, and boos for the Pledge of Allegiance. Sean Astin (yes, that Sean Astin) delivered Clinton's surrogate speech, trying to rally delegates to her camp. He stuck a foot in it when he referred to "Barack Hussein Obama," which the mostly pro-Obama crowd were not pleased about hearing.

I don't think anyone can be surprised--given that we are talking about a group of Obama supporters--that they were also less than enthusiastic about the Pledge of Allegiance:
There was some time to kill as multiple tallies of the delegates and alternates were done, and when the time-killer of taking audience questions had run its course and the idea of teling jokes had been nixed, someone suggested doing the Pledge of Allegiance to pass the time. (Are you listening, right-wing bloggers? This is going to get good.) [I'm a simple creature of simple pleasures -GM]

At the mere mention of doing the pledge there were groans and boos. Then, when the district chair put the idea of doing the Pledge of Allegiance up to a vote, it was overwhelmingly voted down. One might more accurately say the idea of pledging allegiance to the flag (of which there was only one in the room, by the way, on some delegate's hat) was shouted down.

Don't you think that they would have figured out that if they want their guy to win they're just going to have to fake it until November 4th?


Obama and capital gains: The economic ignoramus spouts again

Barack Obama recently released his tax records, and it was notable how little he and his wife appear to invest in the stock market. That may explain the Senator's odd belief that a significant hike in the capital gains tax rate won't matter to shareholders or harm the economy.

Or so Mr. Obama's replied to CNBC's Maria Bartiromo when she asked how much he'd increase the cap-gains tax, something he's said is necessary to restore "fairness" to the tax code. Thanks to the 2003 tax cuts, the top rate is currently 15%. "When I talk to people like Warren Buffett or others and I ask them, you know, what's - how much of a difference is it going to be if it's 20 or 25%, they say, look, if it's within that range then it's not going to distort, I think, economic decision making," he said. He concluded that a higher rate would boost federal receipts, which would allow the government to redistribute "relief to middle class and working class families."

With apologies to economists Buffett and Obama, the history of this tax isn't on their side. The capital gains rate is crucial to investment decisions; higher rates make capital more expensive, dampening incentives to invest and reducing economic growth. John F. Kennedy understood this, as he proposed a capital gains tax cut. Bill Clinton joined with Republicans in 1997 to sign legislation lowering the rate to 20% from 28%.

Critics howled this would reduce tax revenues, and they howled when Republicans cut the rate to 15% in 2003. What followed in both cases was an enormous "unlocking" effect, as investors sold more stock and assets to take advantage of the lower rate. Capital gains realizations soared to an estimated $729 billion in 2006 from $269 billion in 2002. This goosed Treasury receipts from capital gains, to an estimated $110 billion in 2006 from $49 billion in 2002.

Mr. Obama doesn't have to guess what sort of "distortion" would come from significantly raising the cap-gains rate. In 1986, the tax rate jumped to 28% from 20%, a 40% increase. Tax revenues spiked briefly in anticipation of the hike (as investors moved to cash in at the lower rate), then dropped precipitously. Four years later, in 1990, the federal government was still taking in 13% less revenue at the 28% rate than it did in 1985 at the 20% rate.

As for Mr. Obama's implication that capital gains remain the privilege of the wealthy well, that's yesterday. In recent decades, the U.S. has become a shareholder society, and average Americans increasingly rely on investment income to save for retirement or even to pay bills. In 2005, according to the most recent data from the Internal Revenue Service, 8.5 million households paid taxes on capital gains. A hefty 47% of those tax filers reported income of less than $50,000, while 79% had income under $100,000. Keep in mind that capital gains themselves count as income and often are a one-time windfall from the sale of a small business or long-held stock. These working families would suffer a double whammy, both with a higher tax rate and lower stock prices - because financial markets factor higher taxes on stock profits into lower stock valuations.

With the economy weak, this is an especially poor time to be talking up tax hikes. A higher rate, and its devaluing of U.S. assets, would hammer U.S. competitiveness, making it harder to attract global capital. America is increasingly isolated in taxing capital gains. Many industrialized competitors publicize a lower rate, and many (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand) have no levy at all.

If Mr. Obama really wants to lift the economy - and those middle-class American shareholders - he'd advocate cutting the rate, or indexing it to inflation so investors aren't taxed on phantom gains. That would violate the Democratic left's faith that tax rates don't matter to growth and that raising taxes on capital and "the rich" is good politics. We doubt members of America's politically astute investor class agree.


George Walker Obama

Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York catches her opponent in a lie. And she is right:
"We both voted against early deadlines. I actually starting criticizing the war in Iraq before he did. So I'm well aware that his entire campaign is premised on a speech he made in 2002 and I give him credit for making that speech, but that was not a decision. And I think it is fair to say as he said in 2004 he wasn't sure how he would have actually voted had he had to cast a vote. I think we ought to be as fair and accurate in comparing apples to apples about various records and decisions."

Indeed, Obama was for the war after he was against the war but before he was against the war again. Or something like that. From my March 22 column:
"As Ed Lasky of the American Thinker pointed out, while Obama opposed the war resolution in 2002, in 2004, he wrote: "I began to suspect that I might have been wrong [about the war]." And in July 2004, Obama told the Chicago Tribune: "There's not that much difference between my position [on the war] and George Bush's position at this stage."

It is pretty bad when a congenital liar calls you out like that. I guess just like it takes a thief to catch a thief, it takes a Clinton to catch an Obama.


Hot Air Blowing Smoke

The normally brilliant team at Hot Air seems inclined to give Obama a pass for indulging in the ocassional cigarette and then lying about it:
What right does a presidential candidate have to lie to a nosy reporter about something that's totally irrelevant to the election and therefore none of his business?

Well, if it were totally irrelevant to the campaign I probably couldn't find "Quit Smoking With Obama" at his campaign website. If it were totally irrelevant to his campaign I probably couldn't find him trying to score "family guy" points on the talk-show circuit (here with Ellen D on YouTube). And if it were totally irrelevant to his campaign I probably couldn't find a spate of stories from early 2007 in which Obama made a big deal out of this in a bit of pre-announcement publicity.

Look, Obama is performing delivering a valuable public health service by getting up in the face of Jeremiah Wright's message that cigarettes were invented by Virginia plantation owners in order to enslave black men. But if he is lying to us and to his wife, not to mention whiny reporters, well, that is modestly newsworthy.


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