18 June 2008

Say Again, part II


Then there is this piece from yesterday's Wall Street Journal (I will reprint the entire article below in case those rat bastards pull the article from free public viewing).

In the article, which is a condensed interview with Obama on the economy, the would-be president had this to say:

"Globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers," he said, and a strong government hand is needed to assure that wealth is distributed more equitably.

Now I know that I'm neither a lawyer† nor a constitutional scholar and that Mr. Obama was the editor of the Harvard Law Review and taught Constituional Law, so when I read statements like the one above I run, not walk, to my nearest copy of the constitution and puruse and puzzle until I find where the man derives such awesome authority, especially in the executive office.

Sure enough, as you could've guessed, I found none.

I find it morally repugnant and more than a little frightening that Barack Obama sees it as a legitimate function of goverment to redistribute wealth "equitably." He also says it nonchalantly. Left unsaid is who gets to define "equitably."

Further, there's this:

Sen. Obama also proposes eliminating capital-gains taxes on start-up companies, though he backs higher capital-gains rates overall. He hasn't defined precisely what he means by a "start-up." Wasn't he concerned that tax lawyers would simply form "start-ups" for existing companies looking for a new tax break?
"There are always folks who are interested in gaming the system, and obviously one of the things you have to do with tax policy generally is to pin down definitions so they're not twisted beyond recognition," he said. But he argued, "Companies that are starting off...should be allowed to accumulate capital, reinvest profits, if there are any, to the point that they
."(emphasis added)
I also didn't know that keeping my money, as a businessman, was a privilege allowed to me by the goverment. And that the goverment has the authority then to stabilize my profits, all in the name of equanimity, of course.

His view of the role of goverment and from whence authority flows is anathema to me. Corporate profits are the property of the stakeholders to do what they deem best for themselves corporately. Taxes on corporations are silly and counterproductive. They serve merely as an indirect tax on the people. Any tax burden is simply passed through to the cost of the goods or services provided. Even Robert Reich agrees with this. The only people who benefit from corporate taxes are CPAs and tax attorneys.

Obama's views skew far beyond mere Keynesian economics and tiptoes towards authoritarianism.

The government should take only what it needs to perform its defined functions*, and those restrictions should be read very narrowly. Anything more is an unjust dimunition of liberty or taking of property.

We've just had eight years of staggering incompetence from a man who said that when people hurt, government has got to move. We've also seen what happens when people depend upon the federal government to provide that which is beyond its purview or competence.

For the reasons stated above and below, I cannot vote for Barack Obama. I will address the thorny war issue specifically and foreign relations generally in due time.

†I've been advised that if one is to go on about such things, one must put forth whether or not he is a lawyer. This is a custom I will follow here and probably never again. One must be a lawyer to practice law. One needn't be a lawyer to read current events and know what the constitution or legislature says about this or that. To read the law takes no expertise. And if any of my arguments are deemed insufficient, I will gladly accept any legitmate criticism. The fact that I am not a lawyer is not legitimate criticism or refutation of any point, it is a straw man.

*"...to plan expenditure programs entirely in terms of what the community wants to do through government rather than privately...to plan tax rates so as to provide sufficient revenues to cover planned expenditures...to avoid erratic changes in either governmental expenditures or taxes."--Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, p. 79.

WSJ article:

Obama Plans Spending Boost, Possible Cut in Business Tax
By BOB DAVIS and AMY CHOZICKJune 17, 2008; Page A1
FLINT, Mich. -- Sen. Barack Obama shed new light on his economic plans for the country, saying he would rely on a heavy dose of government spending to spur growth, use the tax code to narrow the widening gap between winners and losers in the U.S. economy, and possibly back a reduction in corporate tax rates.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the Illinois Democrat said that he was trying to put together tax and spending policies that dealt with two challenges. One is the competition from rapidly growing developing countries, like India and China. The other: the U.S. becoming what he called a "winner-take-all" economy, where the gains from economic growth skew heavily toward the wealthy.
Sen. Obama cited new economic forces to explain what appears like a return to an older-style big-government Democratic platform skeptical of market forces. "Globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers," he said, and a strong government hand is needed to assure that wealth is distributed more equitably. He spoke aboard his campaign bus, where a big-screen TV was tuned to the final holes of the U.S. Open golf tournament.
Sen. Obama's nod to lowering corporate taxes comes as Republicans have been attacking him for proposals that would raise the cost of doing business, such as his pledge to raise the tax rate on capital gains, and his vow to increase the top income-tax rates, which are often used by small, unincorporated enterprises.
He didn't say how deeply he would cut the rate, but said it could be trimmed in return for reducing corporate tax breaks, simplifying the tax system. With existing loopholes, he said, "How much you pay in taxes as a corporation a lot of times is going to depend on how good your lobbyist is." With "a level playing field," he said, the rates could be reduced.
He stressed the idea was not a move toward Sen. McCain's broader tax-cutting philosophy. While Sen. McCain has argued that tax cuts -- particularly on business -- spur growth, Sen. Obama rejected that as flawed economics. "I've seen no evidence that...would actually boost the economic growth and productivity," he said.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief economic aide to Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, dismissed the Obama strategy as "classic industrial policy which shows a lack of faith in private markets." He was skeptical of any potential Obama corporate-tax cut, noting a lack of details. "It's like being for kittens, puppies and sunshine," he said.
Clinton Deficit Hawks
The overall Obama economic approach echoes the 1992 presidential platform of Bill Clinton, who also launched his bid for the White House seeking a big expansion in infrastructure spending. But those plans were quickly shelved once he reached the White House. Congress rejected a proposal to steeply increase energy taxes, which could have been used to pay for the spending.
Clinton deficit hawks, especially then-White House economic adviser Robert Rubin, successfully argued that slashing the deficit would have a bigger impact on growth than boosting spending because markets would react favorably to a shrinking deficit. "Rubinomics" became the reigning Clinton economic strategy, and many labor leaders backing Sen. Obama worry that the 46-year-old senator ultimately will turn to Mr. Rubin, as Mr. Clinton did.
Sen. Obama waved off that concern. "I've got Bob Rubin on one hand [as an adviser] and [former Labor Secretary] Bob Reich on the other....I tend to be eclectic." Mr. Reich, has long championed infrastructure spending to boost jobs and the economy, and is a favorite of labor. He frequently and famously feuded with Mr. Rubin early in Mr. Clinton's term over the administration's ideological direction.
The chances of pushing through an infrastructure spending program are greater now than they were in 1992, Sen. Obama said, because of new concern about energy prices. Many alternative-energy projects -- clean-coal technology, wind-power generators and the like -- could be packaged as infrastructure. "The difference I would suggest is that there is a strong recognition in the public mind that we can't continue on our current energy path," he said. That means "there's a bigger opening to bring about change."
Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain disagree sharply on economic issues, with the Arizona Republican promising to cut the corporate tax to 25% from 35%, retain all of President Bush's cuts in personal income taxes, and push for a host of free-trade agreements.
Sen. Obama has proposed a variety of measures that would raise taxes on individuals at the top end and provide tax relief to middle- and lower-income households. Under his plans, those in the middle would see their after-tax income increase by 2.4%, or $1,042, according to a nonpartisan analysis by the Washington-based Tax Policy Center. Americans with incomes above $2.8 million would see their after-tax income decrease by 11.5%.
The Democrats' 2008 standard-bearer laid out a series of large-scale spending plans during a speech earlier on Monday in Flint, which has been a symbol of economic decline since the anticorporate movie "Roger and Me" was released in 1989. While Sen. Obama has made the proposals before, he wrapped them together for the first time in what he called a "competitiveness agenda."
Spending Program
The heart of Sen. Obama's spending program is his plan to spend $15 billion a year for 10 years on energy technology. It would be funded by revenue collected from a separate Obama proposal to cap greenhouse emissions through a system of trading pollution permits. Sen. Obama would auction those permits to producers of carbon dioxide, such as electric utilities, and figures the sales would yield about $100 billion a year. Most of that would go to consumers as rebates on utility bills, he said.
He also would fund an "infrastructure reinvestment bank" that would finance $60 billion in high-speed railways, improved energy grids and other projects over a decade. He would double spending on basic research, subsidize investment in high-speed Internet hook-ups, and offer $4,000 a year in tuition credits for students who later perform public services.
To "capture some of the nation's economic growth," he said in the interview, "and reinvest it in things we know have to be done like science, technology, research and fixing our energy policy, then that is actually going to spur productivity."
Sen. McCain argues for as little government spending as possible and paints his opponent as a liberal who would tax more, spend more and drive the country into deficit. He backs a cap-and-trade system that would be used to fund energy technology, but Mr. Holtz-Eakin said the scale would be far smaller than the Obama plan. And, Mr. Holtz-Eakin said, a "green technology fund is plain silly. Silicon Valley has piles of money devoted to clean technology."
Energy Market
Sen. Obama made the case in the interview for large-scale government intervention in the energy market, saying that although venture funds are investing heavily in energy technology, there was a gap in funding that should be filled by Washington. He called it supporting the "middle stage" between innovation and commercialization. "You have this point in time when things haven't quite taken off yet and still entail huge risks," he said.
Under President Clinton, the Commerce Department put together a broader-based commercial technology program aimed to fund projects at a similar stage. But it never grew beyond fairly small-scale projects, because of fights with a Republican Congress over whether the government was wasting money on projects that ought to be funded by the private sector.
Sen. Obama likened his proposal to a venture-capital fund, with the government seeking private investors to contribute. He lauded a Central Intelligence Agency project which helps fund technologies the CIA finds important, but which lack long-term capital.
Sen. Obama regularly compares the energy effort to President Kennedy's project to rocket a man to the moon in the 1960s. But the record of using government funds to produce big breakthroughs in commercial technology is spotty at best. The few projects that have succeeded were often small and aimed at limited research goals.
'Carter's Second Term'
Under President Carter, the U.S. tried and failed to build a synthetic-fuel industry in the 1970s. (Sen. McCain has taken to saying Sen. Obama would represent "Jimmy Carter's second term.") Plans to build commercial nuclear reactors that would produce more nuclear material than they consumed also failed, and a half-century of government investment in commercial hydrogen reactors haven't produced the necessary breakthroughs.
More recently the Clinton administration, at the urging of then-Vice President Al Gore, spent heavily on a project with the Big Three auto makers to build a higher-tech family car that produced three times the gas mileage of a conventional car. The car was never built and the Bush administration killed the project. At a rally in Detroit Monday night, Mr. Gore announced his endorsement of Sen. Obama.
Start-Up Companies
Sen. Obama also proposes eliminating capital-gains taxes on start-up companies, though he backs higher capital-gains rates overall. He hasn't defined precisely what he means by a "start-up." Wasn't he concerned that tax lawyers would simply form "start-ups" for existing companies looking for a new tax break?
"There are always folks who are interested in gaming the system, and obviously one of the things you have to do with tax policy generally is to pin down definitions so they're not twisted beyond recognition," he said. But he argued, "Companies that are starting off...should be allowed to accumulate capital, reinvest profits, if there are any, to the point that they stabilize."


Claudio said...

I would agree with most of what you wrote. I suspect (though not having the time to investigate further won't know for sure) that O's comments may be a little out of context. I can't believe he was seeking to have the court populated with person's solely interested in their own idea's of rite and wrong without regard to the constitution. I don't have an issue with judges caring for people. There is no absolute meaning to the words of the law or constitution. They will always need to be interpreted. Those doing this at the supreme court level should first of all be way smarter than I am or anyone I know. Secondly they should have caring and be respectful of the rule and role of law. I don't have a problem with Obama saying that a Supreme Court Justice should not be a misanthrope. I would be very surprised if that was his sole criteria however.
As far as corporations not being taxed ... that's crazy stuff. Corporations on the whole benefit and use the same infrastructure and protections provided by the government the rest of us actual people use. They receive at least their share of services akin to welfare, research, regulation etc. The corporations need to contribute to the provisioning of them. An argument along the lines of the corporations create wealth for us all doesn't fly. They don't. They create wealth for their owners. Those who work for them create their own wealth, if you can call it that.
McCain is on the wrong side of the Habeas Corpus argument as is Scalia. The constitution is most needed when the nation is under stress. This country is not made of the bricks and mortar but the ideals of the constitution. When we forgo the protections and ideals of the constitution because we feel threatened we are protecting something which no longer exists. As the cabal in charge now has shown, given the opportunity those in power will endeavor to accumulate more and more power regardless of the laws they break until stopped. Unfortunately, with a lack of an actual independent legislature in this country, it takes an election to stop them...or at least the appearance of an election.

SeanEBoy said...

Some quick thoughts on habeas...
The central question, to me, is whether an action proscribed by the constitution in relation to the citizens is also proscribed to non-citizens or beyond the borders. In other words, the governemnt does not have the authority to detain an American citizen without cause ("unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it*), but does the US government have the authority to detain non-citizens without cause? There is a lot of case law out there on this and I don't have time to go through all of it, but it seems that so long as there is congressional blessing, the government may detain whomever they want, wherever they want but not for as long as they want. And that's where we hit a snag on this issue.
I will do more reaserch on this (and read the Boumediene decision) but my main objection is that people seem to think that the government is free to do what ever it wants (with legislative approval or not) so long as it doesn't affect US citizens. My stance is that the founders established a limited government period, not just limited as to its citizens. Detaining a foreigner off-shore without recourse through a habeas petition would, to me, seem as alien to the founders as the US trying to pass a law having effect on British citizens in Britain.
There are many and obvious excetions to all of this: namely that we are in armed conflict. The trouble is that we are not in a declared war with state actors. There is no other body with whom to negotiate a peace and disposition of the prisoners, and there hasn't been a formal declaration of waw, merely an authorization to use force. Again, the authorization is worded very broadly and we have currently a president who has made no bones about the fact that he and his administration take a very broad view of executive authority--very much taking a foot when given an inch.
I've got some books to go through and I want to read the relevant statutes and the decision. But as Scalia points out in his interview, just because an outcome is foolish or unwelcome, it does not mean that it is unconstitutional. I don't like the idea that the U.S. government can go out and "disappear" someone without recourse. That doesn't mean it can't do it.
Remember, it took constitutional amendments to abolish slavery and give women the right to vote. As antithetical as it is to modern ears, based on the the constituion and the first twelve amendments, slavery (while morally repugnant) is OK and women have no right to vote. And while I don't like it, it would have been improper for any judge to say, before the respective amendment was passed, that slavery or denial of the female vote is unconstitutional.
Many conservatives and liberal seem to view that the government has any and all authority unless specifically proscribed by the constitution. I hew towards libertarianism and feel that unless specifically granted, the government does not have the authority to act in a certian situation. That means a whole lot less gets done by the government which is so much the better to me. I agree with Reagan that one of the scariest things a person can hear is "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." I would also add, "I'm from the government, trust me," which seems to be the MO of the Bush administration.
I'll address the corporate tax issue separately later, but I take your point about corporations benefitting from the infrastructure provided by tax revenue. My main beef with Obama's comments are with his stated desire to determine which companies are making too much and then actively seek to use the government as a wealth redistribution mechanism. I know that that is the result of a "progressive" tax code (something I'm not a big fan of, but can understand), but it's still anathema to me.

Claudio said...

My understanding is that habeas has been applied to those being deported and foreigners being held for any number of crimes in the United States for a very long time. Beyond that, the idea of habeas and its importance speaks to my original final point. Habeas is one of the most fundamental rites we have. It is an example of what we stand for. It asks a fundamental question. Does this entity have the authority restrict this individuals freedom? We can't forget who we are in trying to protect ourselves.

Claudio said...

I don't even understand the English in this ...

"Praecipimus tibi quod corpus A.B. in prisona nostra sub custodia tua detentum, ut dicitur, una cum die et causa captionis et detentionis suae, quocumque nomine praedictus A.B. censeatur in eadem, habeas coram nobis ... ad subjiciendum et recipiendum ea quae curia nostra de eo adtunc et ibidem ordinare contigerit in hac parte. Et hoc nullatenus omittatis periculo incumbente. Et habeas ibi hoc breve.'

We command you, that the body of A.B. in Our prison under your custody detained, as it is said, together with the day and cause of his taking and detention, by whatsoever name the said A.B. may be known therein, you have at our Court ... to undergo and to receive that which our Court shall then and there consider and order in that behalf. Hereof in no way fail, at your peril. And have you then there this writ."*


** I don't have law books ... give me a break.

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