We get what we deserve

Here are some more on Obama’s remarks today from the New York Times:

“They [Republicans] will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy,” Mr. Obama vowed in the East Room, a week before his second inauguration. “The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.”

And from the Washington Post:

In the final news conference of his first term, Obama said Republicans were threatening to hold “a gun at the head of the American people” and that he would not trade spending cuts, as Republicans demand, for an agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling.

“To even entertain this happening — of the United States of America not paying its bills — is irresponsible. It’s absurd.” He vowed that congressional Republicans “will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.”

Now, I could address how ludicrous this is.

How, it reminds me of the type of fervent propaganda I learned about in places like the glorious\ Soviet Union.

Or, how these seem like mighty uncompromising words from a President who has bellyached a great deal about the other side’s inability to compromise.

Or, how dumb it is that the government has locked in a trillion dollar deficit, where they have turned a temporary stimulus spending level into the new government spending norm, where — after demonstrating abhorrent financial irresponsibility and avoiding making anything that appears to be a tough choice — they want an unlimited ability to write checks from ours’ and our children’s bank accounts.

But, I think we are well beyond all that. President Obama is becoming the classic example of we get what we deserve. 

And we’ll keeping getting it until we vote for adults who understand incentives that lead to prosperity, who can say no to special interests and balance a checkbook.


Good reporting from a store?

Despite my concern about a Costco founder publicly supporting tax increases, then making a special December Costco dividend to avoid these higher taxes, I’d like to commend Costco’s member magazine, the Costco Connection, for setting an example of good journalism.

Costco members receive this publication each month. It mostly has information on products available at Costco, but there is a smattering of other content. One recurring piece is the Yes/No page.

Each month, the Costco Connection asks an issue-related question to which they publish the response from two “experts,” one supporting the answer Yes and the other supporting No. The Connection also includes three short sound bites from customers on each side of the debate.

That’s a model other publications can learn from. I often stop reading news articles because of how poorly the facts and opposing arguments are presented. Often there is no attempt to present the opposing argument. Other times, when opposing arguments are included, they are token attempts that misrepresent the actual arguments.

Consider the recent reporting about the fiscal cliff. What arguments for Republican resistance to raising the top income tax rate did your news source present? I heard inaccurate and inept reporting on both sides.

Liberals seemed to think that Republicans wanted to protect their wealthy buddies, or just didn’t want to compromise with Democrats or were beholden to the power wielded by puppet-master Grover Norquist (who?).

Even when a fairer presentation of the Republican resistance was presented, it seemed to come with editorial gestures, like eye-rolls, that made it clear that such intentions should not be trusted and you’d be stupid to believe it.

Why didn’t we see more of the style of reporting that I can only seem to find in the Costco Connection?

Why not present the arguments in as fair and clear a light as possible and let people decide for themselves?

Maybe the Costco Connection will cover this issue before it all comes up again very soon.

Why I may ‘throw away my vote’

We’ve all heard why it’s a bad idea to vote for a third party candidate.  The smart guys on the radio tell me that it’s…

…like throwing away your vote because you vote for someone who doesn’t have a chance to win and take away a vote from the party that you agree with more, thereby increasing the chances of putting the other party in power.

But, I believe it was in Peter Robinson’s book It’s My Party: A Republican’s Messy Love Affair with the GOP, where I found a good counterpoint to this argument.

It’s been awhile since I read it, but if I recall correctly, Robinson pointed out that Perot’s fiscal responsibility message in the 1992 Presidential election earned him 19% of the vote.

That got the attention of the other two parties.  They adopted the fiscal responsibility platform to attract those votes.  Republicans adopted some of Perot’s platform as their own in 1994 to retake control of Congress and even Bill Clinton adopted a more conservative fiscal stance to get re-elected in 1996.

It worked.  Most of the 19% of the people who voted for Perot in 1992 threw back in with one of the major parties in the next Presidential election.

I think Robinson even suggested that’s why we have two dominant political parties in the U.S.  When a third-party or fringe party makes headway and attracts votes, the other two parties respond and try to adopt that stance in some form or fashion.

This makes sense.  This is normal feedbacks at work.  If a new soda pop took enough business away from Coke and Pepsi, Coke and Pepsi would respond with a similar product or buy that new soda company outright.

This is also a good explanation as to why political parties (and businesses) evolve over time.  Democrat Kennedy cut taxes?  Republican Nixon imposed wage and price controls?

So, despite what the guys on the radio say, all those people who threw their votes away on a third-party candidate really made a difference.  It just took a little longer to make that difference.

They sent a message to Democrats and Republicans that fiscal responsibility was important enough to get their votes.  The feedback loop worked because both parties responded.

Let’s say I agree with 20% of the policies of one major party candidate and 65% of the policies of the other.

If there’s a third party candidate that I’m in 85% agreement with, but he has zero chance of winning, the guys on the radio would tell me to vote for the 65% candidate in order to improve my chances of not winding up with the 20% candidate in power.

But, I think I’m done with that.

Voting for the the 85% candidate is my best chance of moving both parties closer to what I want. Over time, if we all do this, perhaps we start moving all the candidate positions closer to our goals.

Instead of choosing between 20% and 65% shoe-ins and the 85% odd-duck (the percentages representing how much I agree with them on), I might get to choose between 48% and 74% candidates, which are both better options for me than the 20% and 65% guys or gals.

Maybe the political calculation of the guys on the radio is why we seem to have politicians that are out of touch with the American people.

Instead of voting for what we really want and moving those agreement percentages closer to what we want, we vote for the lesser of two evils but end up moving those agreement percentages away from our ideal over successive elections.

Think about it.  If you’re going to vote for the lesser of two evils anyway, what incentive does your less evil candidate (or future less evil candidates) have to give serious consideration to what he disagrees with you about?

Maybe in one election you begrudgingly vote for the 70% candidate over the 45% candidate.  The next politician thinks you’ll vote for him if he only gives you 65% of what you want — as long as it’s higher than the other candidate.  He moved down to 65% because he can pick up a few votes in another group, without risking losing your vote.  After all, you wouldn’t want to take the chance of his opponent being in power, would you?

At the same time, the next candidate for the other major party moves from 45% agreement to 40% agreement.

Until someone can give me a convincing argument otherwise, I say vote for the candidate you agree with most whether that candidate has a chance or not. It might be painful, but enough people do it, it will send a clearer message of what’s important to you.

Clarifying questions…

…I love them.  Thomas Sowell asks one in his column this week, A Pyrrhic ‘Victory’.

Had the Republicans gone along with President Obama’s original request for a “clean” bill — one simply raising the debt ceiling without any provisions about controlling federal spending — would that have spared the country the embarrassment of having its government bonds downgraded by Standard & Poor’s credit-rating agency?

In case you are wondering, the answer is no.