Saturday, November 01, 2008

What's On My Mind Headed Into Tuesday - Part 1

Four days out from the election, and I admittedly have some very great concerns about the direction this country may take over the next four years as a result of the outcome of Tuesday's vote. Regular visitors to my blog know that I try extremely hard to examine issues from both sides and not jump based on my conservative gut, and I have tried to do that in thinking through how I feel about this election. Over the next few days (and perhaps even several times each day), I'm going to lay out some of what concerns me and what will be on my mind as I head into the voting booth next week.

In this installment:

1. Single-party control of the government. I'll be the first to admit -- even as a conservative -- that the eight years of the Bush Administration overlapped with the 12 years of Republican control (at varying times) of the House and Senate have been a disaster. The party which came in on the heels of the 1994 Republican Revolution, whose leaders proclaimed that they were heralding the beginning of an era of smaller government, completely lost its way. Any surpluses which existed (side bar: the surpluses of the Clinton years were the result of Congress and the Administration working together; trying to give credit solely to Clinton is incorrect, since it takes both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to get legislation enacted) are long gone, and yes, spending has increased dramatically. The past year alone has seen falling GDP, rising unemployment, and the revelation that our national economy is much more fragile than we were led to believe (or than the experts such as Alan Greenspan even expected). The tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 did work, and revenue flowing into D.C. actually increased; it just couldn't keep pace with the checks the government was having to send out of D.C.

But is swinging the pendulum completely to the other side going to make things any better? I don't believe it will. Just as the Republicans during the past several years threw bipartisanship out the window, the Democrats since 1996 have done no better (even with Speaker Pelosi's pledge to bring both sides of the aisle together to work for the common good). And putting control in the hands of a party who I fear will ignore the members of its more moderate segment and throw the situation even further left will do just as much harm as the ultra-conservatives who have tried to guide the agenda since 1994. Any hope of "Washington coming together for the common good" is close to being completely gone for many years, and unlike the previous eras of Democrat control of Washington (the years when the Sam Rayburns and Tip O'Neills actually worked with Republicans) I fear that the hands of bipartisanship extended across the aisle will be completely withdrawn.

2. New taxes and wealth "redistribution." Ever since Senator Obama made his now-famous comment to Joe Wurzelbacher about spreading around the wealth to ensure that those behind him have a fair opportunity, folks are quick to throw around the word socialism. I'm not worried about what word is used to describe it, be it socialism or anything else, but I am worried about why the government feels it necessary to determine who I help and to what extent I help them. I used to consider myself middle class, but with the moving-target definition we've gotten of that lately (Is it $250,000? Is it $200,000? Is it $100,000?) I'm not so sure anymore. Depending on what number folks finally decide on, I may find myself suddenly (and quite unexpectedly) in the upper class.

My family and I contribute quite a bit to charity each year, and would in fact like to be able to do more. The reality is there are other financial obligations and debts that we must eliminate first. With increased taxes, how are we going to do that? It will take longer to pay down the debt, and we'll have less coming into our household that we can in turn give to those churches and charities that we choose to help. So point one: higher taxes will restrict our ability to give. And I have always believed that it is not government's responsibility to be the sole source of public assistance; the American people should take that upon themselves to help their fellow man, while at the same time recognizing that we should strive to give a hand-up, not a hand-out. It seems to surprise a lot of folks, but poverty also existed in the time of the founding fathers; however, mandating that the government address these problems was not something they included in the Constitution. They relied on the inherent good nature and goodwill of man to address these problems; why has it shifted so much in the 221 years since the drafting of the Constitution that we now expect government to hand us everything? Instead of giving candidates nearly one billion dollars for attack ads and staff salaries, think about what good we could have done with that money on the streets of our inner cities, our shelters, our food banks, and our charities.

Point two: even if we do ultimately fall into the category of receiving a further promised tax cut, I'm certainly not fool enough to ignore the fact that the taxes passed on instead to small businesses will hit us just as much as if we had more money being taken directly out of our checks. Sure, we may (hypothetically as an example here) have an extra $100 a month coming in, but that money will in turn have to go to our childrens' daycare expenses (increased taxes on them will drive up their fees), food (increased taxes on farms and food producers will drive up their overhead, and those costs will be passed on to us), fuel (the small, independent gas station owners will have to pay more and increase their portion of the gasoline cost -- as will we), utilities (taxes applied to companies providing our electric, water and gas services will increase our rates) -- and on and on and on.

(Side-bar: It really aggravates me when politicians and the American public rail on oil companies for what they term "obscene profits." For me, God love them for their success!! Why should we penalize anyone for working hard and achieving great success, whether they be a small business or a multinational? And I certainly think it's ridiculous to focus on the oil and gas industry alone: in 2005, per dollar of sales, the oil industry made eight cents of profit, and yet you never seem to hear that the biotech industry made nearly 20 cents profit per dollar, or that banks and lending institutions made nearly 18 cents per dollar. Even technology firms during that time made about two cents more in profit per dollar. Why aren't they being targeted for increased taxes? Why aren't the Democrats hammering them about windfall profits? My answer: it's not sexy to increase taxes on Microsoft, but it sure looks good to stick it to Conoco Phillips or ExxonMobil.)

Next installment in my pre-election series: card check and the military.


Kansas Bob said...

Sadly Matt, the Republicans have no one to blame for the current situation but themselves. Over the past 8 years (6 of which they controlled congress and the White House) they have proved themselves to be liberal spendaholics and not conservatives.. at least the Democrats don't cut the income stream when they spend.

President Bush has showed himself to be a very stubborn and rigid leader on the war.. I think that is what, in part, turned so many folks against Republicans. Where is that compassionate conservative that I supported and voted for 8 years ago?

Many of us were very disappointed in the Republican primary process as the 3 conservatives were defeated because of splintered support and the moderate McCain emerged the winner.. though most conservatives did not support his candidacy.

Sigh, I am sad that we are where we are.. but that is where we are.. no new and inspirational compassionate conservative candidate running on the Republican ticket.

Sorry for the rant.. I have to remind myself that though civil leaders may change God does not change.. the important aspects of our lives will remain steady.. and in that I have hope.

Blessings, Bob

Ed G. said...

Am surprised that you are confused about Obama's tax plan, as it has been consistently expressed since the start of the campaign. People who earn over $250,000 will see a tax increase. People who earn between $250,000 - $200,000 will pay the same as today. People who earn under $200,000 will see a tax decrease. 98% of all small businesses fall into the "under $250K" category and will not see increased taxes.

The Bush tax cuts--which McCain called immoral--gave huge tax cuts to those individuals who are the wealthiest humans in the world. While our national debt sky rocketted. Now Senator McCain thinks that was a good idea. I just don't get it.

I took my family to a Yankee game in September--cost us $700 for the day (and that was face-value tickets). Believe me, when I get my higher tax bill, it won't be my charitable giving that suffers.

Net/net -- there's probably a lot of good reasons for a conservative to not like Obama (or McCain for that matter). But going back to the Clinton tax rates seems like a good idea to me.

NoVA Dad said...

Oh, I'm not confused about it at all -- I'm opposed to it, and I'm very wary about a plan that essentially promises that all that glitters (for the middle class) is gold. 98 percent of small businesses may be below the $250,000 mark (which still seems to be a moving target, since no one can agree among the Democrats on what defines the middle class; Obama may say $250,000, but oddly no one else can give a set number), but you also have to remember that large businesses also provide jobs. Tax them more, and you take away their incentive to succeed, expand, and bring more folks on board.

The Bush tax cuts benefitted my family a great deal, and we are by no means in the upper class. And based on your comment above ("when I get my higher tax bill") you seem worried (consciously or otherwise).

Dave said...


I also wonder what might transpire as a result of the likely one-party rule that we'll see in DC come next January. My best hopes are that we could have a period of well-planned and coordinated "progressivism" which could help break the roadblocks toward real and lasting reform that have plagued our government for the past couple of decades. I figure that it would move in a direction that doesn't please you but that may just be the course that history has to take to get things done. Bush had his slim and relatively short-lived "golden age" where he had single party rule. My hunch is that Obama will have it better than Bush did but if all unfolds as seems likely, he will also have won a larger victory and a stronger mandate, in electoral terms, so I would just say, to the victor goes the spoils. Even at this moment, I'm hearing him speak in pretty magnanimous terms about pulling our country together in all its diversity. I think he means it more than Bush did when GWB talked about being a "uniter not a divider." Time will tell though! My main reason for trusting Obama along those lines is that he's really had to make those accommodations in his own trajectory to get here, much more than Bush ever did as far as I can tell. Obama and I have similar temperaments (as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory) and as you know, I am kind of a "born reconciler." :o) That's the same impulse that I believe motivates Barack Obama. He may not push the policies that natural conservatives like yourself advocate, but I truly believe that he will be the kind of president who will represent our nation in a way that patriotic Americans can be proud of.

So let's go out and vote on Tuesday, watch the results - and see just how the world will change!

Ed G. said...

If I came across as snippy in my ealier comment, I apologize.

I just get angry when I see the pundits now refer to the Clinton tax rates as "socialism" in the context of Obama. Being called a socialist is an anti-American slur that I don't think helps the country in the long run. Glad that you are taking the issues so seriously -- you are a true patriot!

NoVA Dad said...

Ed, I didn't take your comment to be snippy at all. I appreciate your willingness to engage here on the blog and value the comments of everyone who stops by!

karen said...

Excellent post and answers, Matt. Thanks.