Saturday, November 8, 2008

Obama: More Clinton than Carter

There has been much ink spilled that Obama's upcoming presidency would be a repeat of Jimmy Carter's mediocre four years. The punditry notes several similarities. For instance, a presidency that starts with a crushing budget deficit and a stagnant economy. This would be accompanied by a weak foreign policy, and economic mismanagement that would prevent business from recovering. This comes from the assumption that Obama would stay true to his leftist roots, and his comments about wealth redistribution and fairness at any cost.

However, it starting to become clear that Obama is no Jimmy Carter, but more like his Democrat predecessor, Bill Clinton. This is because it appears that Obama associated with far left characters such as Bill Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright for political expediency. In order to rise up quickly in Chicago politics, one cannot play to the center. He needed to ally himself with both the liberal, white, elite as well as stay true to the black community. It seems that to become a credible presidential candidate, he not only had to play to the center, he must stay firmly planted there.

I do not think this will be an easy-going libertarian type of centrism. This will be an authoritarian father-knows-best status quo kind of centrism.

The ideological left will be disappointed that he does not represent a true change in Washington. A number of libertarians decided to punt for Obama instead of McCain because of his anti-war views and increased support for civil liberties. They will soon have buyer's remorse.

My proof of this is his choice of Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff. He is a former Clinton staffer and political insider. He was a Wall Street financier. Some of his policy views are chilling, such as a mandatory three month civil service program (this is a newspeak, politically correct version of a draft). Due to his ties to banking lobby, he won't recommend roll back the horrendously expensive bailout of big business. Other cabinet positions are unconfirmed, but they appear to be from across the political spectrum.

The far left will be sorely dissapointed in his promised redistributionist schemes, for two reasons. First, due to the fact that our economy is slowing, and we're stuck with 2 trillion for the bailout (which Obama supports), there will be no money available for social projects. Second, since Obama at least pays lip service to the free market, his economic advisors will likely warn him that any further deficit spending will result in massive inflation. Also, any increase in tax rates beyond Clinton levels would merely accelerate the flight of industry and business to other countries, which would cause ever decreasing returns in tax revenue.

Libertarians who sought to punish the Republican party for the failures of the past 8 years by pulling the lever for Obama will soon discover that Obama is no civil libertarian. Not only did he vote for the USA PATRIOT Act, but he also voted for the retroactive telecom immunity. I expect Obama to close Guantanamo eventually because of its symbolic value, but he will no doubt simply expand on Bush's presidential powers. In terms of freedom of speech, Reason Magazine summarized Obama's willingness to violate it:

...the folks at places such as the Parents Television Council will continue thundering on about indecency on the public airwaves (and why the Federal Communications Commission ought to be regulating content on satellite and cable too). In this sort of jeremiad, they will find an ally in Obama and his puritanical friends on the left, who similarly like to run down market-based culture, especially video games. "Turn off the television," Obama is fond of saying, "turn off the video games." Like Bill Clinton, who along with First Lady Hillary Clinton hosted a seemingly endless series of White House events decrying vulgar culture, Obama hasn't been shy about pulling a Janet Reno when it comes to threatening industry to undertake "self-regulation": "Broadcasters and video game producers should take it upon themselves to improve this [rating] system to include easier to find and easier to understand descriptions of exactly what kind of content is included," Obama said in 2007. "But if the industry fails to act, then my administration would."

What I find amusing that there were still many anti-war activists shilling for Obama as the "anti-war" candidate. Obama will phase out troops merely in accordance to the timetable already proposed to the Bush administration, which will probably be hammered out before Obama is even sworn in. These troops will probably be transferred to Afghanistan, and possibly to peacekeeping missions in Darfur. I could make other idle predictions, but it seems that most foreign policy will remain unchanged between Obama and Bush.

While Obama will initially see some mandate for leftist policies, I foresee Republicans regaining majorities in either the House or the Senate, similar to what happened with Bill Clinton. This will be mostly due to what happens in the economy. Government intervention in the economy in the past year has not solved anything, and it will solve nothing in the next two years. The market will eventually recover on its own. Once the Republicans regain a foothold, like Bill Clinton, Obama will have to play towards the center.

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