Two Reasons to Vote for Barack Obama

Someone recently accused me of having a hidden agenda.  Nope.  You’ve got me confused with someone else.  I’m an extrovert.  I have to say what I really think or I’ll explode.  That’s the predominant reason I started this blog.  The other reason was that if I ever decided to run for public office, my agenda would be out there for everyone to see and understand.  Disagree with me if you wish, but at least give me credit for being honest.  I’d rather die in obscurity than as someone who has no integrity.

My agenda and my values are on the table for all to see.  I’m a constitutional conservative.  When it comes to government, what I want to conserve is not any particular political party.  What I want to conserve–what I want to be faithful to–is the Constitution.  Not only that:  I want to interpret that Constitution as our Founders did.  In other words, I understand its purpose to be to limit the power of the federal government in order to guarantee the liberties of we the people.

Ours is not a nation-state.  It is a nation of states.  And this idea is not out of date.  It’s more important than ever.  The presidency of Barack Obama proves it.

I say all of this as a preamble to the rest of this post.  Now that the final presidential debate is done, I’m trying to understand exactly why someone would vote for another term for Mr. Obama.  I can only think of two reasons, but of course, I’m not objective.  I see and understand all politicians not as they present themselves, but as they compare to what I understand to be the vision of the Constitution.  I’m not afraid to be critical of any of them, no matter what their party.

As I search my poor brain I have to confess that I can find only two reasons why someone would vote for Obama.  Others that have crossed my mind seem either to be hyperbolic or related to these two.

If you’re an Obama supporter, I heartily welcome your criticism and your comments.  Please feel free to offer them by replying to this blog post (below).  Perhaps I’m blind.  Maybe I’m too limited in my understanding.  I may never agree with you, but I will at least try to consider your criticism.  And let me be clear, please:  it is my assumption, unless I have evidence to the contrary, that all of my debate partners are sincere.  I don’t know how anyone can approach political dialogue unless we grant such an assumption.

If you’re voting for Barack Obama, I assume you believe him to be the best candidate.  It also seems to me that you must agree with one or both of the following positions.

1.  Perhaps you are voting for Obama because you believe that the United States is more of a problem for the world than a solution.  Note the way I have phrased that.  No country is perfect.  Every patriot should be a critical patriot.  In other words, we simply must be honest enough to search out and to identify the mistakes our country has made in the arenas of politics, military, and society.  There are things about the US that I find objectionable, and my issues run the gamut.  The question at hand, however, is whether we have brought more to the world that is positive than negative.  I believe we have.  From our Constitution, to our pluralistic religious society that respects people of all faiths and none, to the fact that Europe might not be free today if not for our efforts–I believe that, in spite of our moral failings, we have done more for the world that is good than bad.

If you disagree, then perhaps you are happy that Mr. Obama has dropped us down a rung or two with regard to our defense and our international standing.  Perhaps you want to be more like Europe.  If so, I remind you that Europe has had more money to spend on socialist-type programs because we’ve had them underneath our nuclear umbrella.  As Mr. Obama scales back that umbrella of protection, Europe will either be more vulnerable or they’ll be forced to spend more on defense.  Even worse, more nations in Europe may feel the necessity of obtaining nuclear warheads.  Object if you wish, but  you should at least realize that there are consequences to the fact that America is taking a back seat or playing “second fiddle” on the world stage.  There are others who are happy to assume the position we seem to be vacating.

2.  Or, if international issues aren’t your interest, perhaps you’ll vote for Mr. Obama because you believe that the way to make our nation stronger and more fair is to take money from some for the purpose of giving it to others.  I’m not talking about reasonable federal taxation.  I’m talking about the forced redistribution of wealth.  Remember Joe “the plumber” and his encounter with candidate Obama in 2008?  Obama said that when we spread the wealth around “it’s good for everybody.”

Redistribution of wealth is a good thing–but not the way government does it.  The really important question is how wealth is distributed.  I strongly opposed the practice of politicians picking and choosing the distribution of wealth.  It should be distributed through the free exercise of economic liberty.  In other words, by the free market in which you and I get to decide how it’s distributed, or spent.

Joe the plumber wanted to buy a company that made just over $250,000 per year.  Sounds like alot, huh?  What you need to understand is that the dollar amount mentioned by Joe was the company’s income, not his profit.  What do you think would happen to most (or all) of that money?  It would not go to Joe.  It would go to his employees, his suppliers, his insurer, and multiple other providers and services he desperately needs in order to make his company viable.

Let’s imagine that, to bring in an income of $250,000 a year ($20,833) a month, Joe needs five plumbers on his staff (a typical small company).  Let’s also imagine that he wants really good plumbers because he hopes to build a company that is solid and made for the long haul.  He hires the best workers because he doesn’t want people to be disappointed in his employees and the work they perform.  He pays them $20 an hour.  In a forty-hour week that’s $800 per week, per employee.  So his salary costs are now $4,000 per week–$280,000 per year.  Plus, if he wants to take good care of his employees and to give them reasonable health insurance, his costs are even higher.  Let’s say he finds a bargain and pools his employees into an insurance fund for just $400 a month each (a remarkable bargain if he can actually find it).  With five employees, now he will spend another $24,000 a year.

As a business owner myself, I can tell you that the proposed numbers above are very reasonable (in fact, they are probably low–but that will help me make my argument even better).  If Joe bought a business that takes in $250,000 a year and has only five employees besides himself, and if he wants to pay them reasonably and give them reasonable benefits, look at the facts:  the company will spend more on salary and benefits than it takes in.  The math I’ve proposed, which is reasonable, gives Joe a salary and benefit cost of $304,000.  That means he’s losing $54,000 a year before he even starts … and before he pays himself any salary at all.  He would do this in the hope of building something that would give him an income later, and for the long term.  He would be taking a tremendous risk.  He’d be building a business.  He would be helping not only himself, but others as well.

See my point?  We can argue all sorts of numbers, but if businesses don’t find it possible to succeed, why bother?  Every dollar that government takes from someone else costs something beyond the actual dollar amount in question.  It’s nuts to imagine that the only way to assist the poor is by taking from Joe and his employees in order to give to someone else. 

So, if you’re voting for Barack Obama, which of these reasons is most attractive?  Which inspires you?  Are there others?  I’m all ears, as they say.

For the sake of argument I’ll recap here a few of the reasons I’ve been hearing that just don’t seem to make much sense to me.  When I say “they don’t make sense,” it’s not because they are bad aspirations.  It’s because Barack Obama has had four years to show us what drives him and his agenda, and the reasons below aren’t being addressed in a way that should cause voter confidence.

1.  Some say they are going to vote for Obama because he’s helping Americans of African descent.  I suppose if this is your reason for voting Democrat, you might have a point if by “helping” you mean giving African Americans a sense of pride because the president shares their ethnic heritage.  If you mean economic help, then you need to vote for Mitt Romney.  At least he has a record of creating jobs as an experienced businessman.  As for Obama’s employment record for blacks in America, unemployment is over 14%.  Clearly, Obama’s policies aren’t creating jobs for the black community.  You can chant the silly mantra that the fault lies with the previous administration, but four years is enough time to begin to make a difference.  There is no light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to unemployment for African Americans, at least not yet.  Changes in policy can make a difference under a new administration that wants to inspire growth rather than tax it at a higher rate.

2.  Perhaps you plan to vote for Obama because of his stance toward immigration and the way he seems to support the Latino community in America.  Think again.  Obama has put the breaks on sending some people back to Mexico who are here illegally, but he hasn’t done anything of substance to advance the nation toward responsible, comprehensive immigration reform.  All he has done is to enact a few executive orders to win Latino votes.  If you or a loved one has been affected by such an order, you may wish to reward Obama with your vote.  But don’t accuse Americans of being anti-immigrant.  We’re not.  We are a nation of immigrants … but we’re also a nation of laws.  We will support generous immigration levels, but we want immigration programs to be operated fairly and within the bounds of the law.

Obama has reached out to the Mexican government, so perhaps you’re impressed by that.  But he has been duped by Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president who came to the US to lecture us about our immigration policy.  Our policy is more humane than his own.  Fixing the immigration problem on our southern border will require putting pressure on the corrupt Mexican government for reform.  Rather than doing that, the inempt Obama allowed Calderon to put America’s problems in the spotlight rather than the problem of extreme Mexican corruption.  Our immigration problem on the southern border starts in Mexico.  That’s also where the cure will start if any of our politicians get serious about it.

In terms of Hispanic support of Obama, the real concern should be about how many Mexicans have been murdered by drug lords armed by the failed Obama Justice Department policy known as “Fast and Furious.”  Thousands of weapons were unloaded on the unsuspecting people of Mexico at the expense of the US taxpayer.  If I were of Hispanic or Latino heritage, I’d be among those who are angry as heck.   I certainly would not give my vote to a president whose justice officials have used innocent Mexicans as political pawns to advance an ideology.

And as far as unemployment is concerned, among Latinos living in the US, the unemployment rate is still over 10%.  There’s another proof that the Obama administration isn’t doing much to help that segment of our population.

3.  Lots of folks say that they want to support Obama because he’s helping the poor.  I’m not sure how, other than the increase in government handouts.  There is a place for safety nets in our society, but Obama isn’t solving the problem that’s sapping our economic strength.  His policies are making the middle class poor and sending the poor into destitutionAs I pointed out in a post last week, grocery costs are rapidly increasing.  Simple things like coffee, peanut butter, and potatoes are rising quicker than the average inflation rate.  It is becoming more and more difficult to feed our familes, and for now there is no end in sight.  The government is creating more money–meaning that the money in circulation is worth less.  The laws of economics will force the value of the dollars in circulation to go down even further.  In our society that means the poor are going to be hurt even worse by the long-term effects of Obama’s policies.  Even Romney will find it hard to turn this trend around, but for heaven’s sake, why support a president who has demonstrated that handouts are the only way he knows to help the poor?

Obama knows how to “feed a person for a day,” but he has no clue how to “feed a person for a lifetime.”  As his bureaucrats increase the temporary government help to record numbers of Americans, our debt is rising too quickly to be counted easily.  The debt clock isn’t just ticking.  It’s spinning.  As government aid is increased and abused through fraud we can ignore the debt, but it won’t ignore us for much longer.  At some point our debt will be so high that our credit rating will be dropped again.  US credit is now three notches below the high rating it once held (it was downgraded again by a major credit agency last month).  You didn’t hear much about it in the pro-Obama press, did you?

Just like a person’s credit card that reaches its limit, the world will eventually refuse our dollars because they are going to be worthless.  At that point the poor will be hit harder than anyone else.  The potential for disaster is alarming.  To understand this you only have to look at the elderly eating from garbage cans in the hard-hit, debt-ridden nations of the European Union.  Do we really think that it can’t happen here?

In terms of true improvement to their lives, Obama has done nothing for those who are poor except to increase the depth of their poverty and to make it harder for the economy to lift the poor out of misery.  Granted, he has met some of their immediate needs, but he has done nothing to establish a long-term solution.  In fact, for the long haul, he and the Democrats in Congress have so damaged our economy that recovery may take a decade.

4.  Some people say they’ll vote for Obama because the Democrats truly care for the middle class.  He speaks a good game, but the same factors putting the poor into absolute destitution are chipping away at middle-class economic stability.  There is no economic recovery because the Obama regime is pro-tax, not pro-recovery.  Business owners don’t trust that the government has their backs.  They trust only that any corporation or business owner might be next for criticism and increased taxation.  Investment seldom occurs in an environment of uncertainty.  Obama and his minions have done nothing to sponsor an attitude of trust among the businesses that make our economy hum. 

I can go on all day, especially in light of the false manner in which Obama presented himself last night.  I’m no longer angry … instead, I find myself laughing outloud at the television when Obama begins his laundry list of ways he has strengthened America and its international image.  But mine is nervous laughter.  There is nothing funny about what’s happening to our country.

Vote for Obama if you want America weaker, less influential, and supposedly “put in her place.”  Vote for Obama if you think America’s immigration policies are better than those of Mexico.  Return him to the Oval Office if you believe we can spend on the government credit card without disastrous consequences.

For many, Obama is their man because “he’ll make sure I get mine.”  When it comes to the very real possibility of economic collapse in the US, there is no “mine” and there is no “yours.”  There is only ours and we don’t have forever to begin making the necessary corrections to save what belongs to us all.

A Shanty Town Called “Obamaville”

Symbol of hard times: Nickelsville, a tent city located in Seattle WA

Symbol of hard times: Nickelsville, a tent city located in Seattle WA

“Shanty” is a word that has fallen into disuse these days.  You seldom hear it in the US.  According to Etymonline (a delightful etymological dictionary), it’s derived from the Canadian French word chantier, referring to a rough wooden cabin used by lumberjacks.  During the economic upheaval of the Great Depression, the shanty came to represent the plight of the average American who had lost home, work, and all but the most basic of sustenance.  Using whatever they could find, homeless families built their shanties while waiting for the economic turnaround that would make it possible to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.

During the depression years of the 1930s, shanty towns peppered the American landscape.  They were often known as Hoovervilles, a derisive way of referring to the man who sat in the Oval Office at the start of the depression:  Herbert Hoover.  Even the powerless in our society have their way of getting a small bit of revenge.  In this case, who can blame them?

What you may not know is that makeshift homeless communities are back.  Only this time they’re not composed of wood and metal shanties, but inexpensive camping materials.  Tent cities have emerged across the nation, inhabited by homeless families and even their pets as they endure the same economic waiting game faced by earlier Americans seventy-five years ago.  For two stories about this sad reality (one from the east coast and the other from the west), click HERE and HERE.  These stories stand as bookends of shame, marking just how low our financial and economic strength has deteriorated.

As a child, I read of the plight of depression-era Americans.  I heard the stories my father told of those difficult times.  A nickel or a fresh egg was something to be cherished.  To this day, Dad doesn’t feel he’s had a meal unless it includes at least a little bit of meat.  That sense of loss goes all the way back to his experience of the Great Depression.  It marked him forever, and I suspect in part that it turned him into the successful and compassionate businessman that he became.  Hearing those stories as a child, I never dreamed I would live in an America where it’s happening again on a large scale.

Is it any wonder so many of our nation’s citizens are turning to government for help?  Franklin Roosevelt promised help rather than pushing free-market reforms that could have ended the depression.  Barack Obama does likewise.

Our choice is not between the average American worker or the rich tycoon.  That’s a false choice that has been proposed to us by the politicians who get rich on the arguments that divide us.  Our true choice, the one we must make and that we must use to help us choose elected leaders, is between more government interference in the market or a genuinely free market where people decide for themselves how to use their economic power.

Government is a bed where two lovers sleep.  Their names are Power and Money.  They can always be found together.  This has always been true and it will always remain the truth.  Power needs Money to get into office and to remain in office.  Money needs Power in order to gain an unfair advantage.  There are only two ways to prevent their relationship from damaging the economy as a whole.  First, we must elect truthful representatives of the greatest integrity who tell us what we need to hear, not what we long to hear.  Second, we the people must take back the power that has been amassed at the top by self-serving politicians who feather their nests while throwing crumbs to the rest of us.  The federal government must be cut in size, scope, power, and spending.

Power belongs to the people only when it’s diffused.  And there is no greater way to exercise your personal power than to make your own choices about where you’ll live, where you will work, and how you’ll spend your earnings.  There will always be those among us who will sacrifice leisure time to work harder.  There will always be those who prefer to relax more, drink more wine, spend more days at the beach.  I say that with no moral judgment because I recognize both to be good options.  But the choice belongs to those who make it.  The choice for others is not mine to make, nor does it belong to the government.

In this world there are no perfect economic systems; the closest thing we have is the free market.  A truly free market is nothing more than personal liberty exercised in an economic way.  (Do yourself a great favor and read Liberalism by Ludwig von Mises.  It will change you forever.)  What made America the economic power house that it used to be?  Invention, new ideas, creativity, ingenuity. Where do we find these unleashed in such a way as to build strong nations?  Only in the free world.  Countries with centralized, socialized planning are weaker for it.

Our jealousy that someone else might have a bit more than we have has turned us into slaves who are willing to give our government masters more control.  They wield that control gladly, evidently convinced of their moral superiority, and they are well paid for it with salaries, perks, pensions, healthcare services, and speaker’s fees.  Occasionally, a liberty-minded candidate invites us to emerge from that slavery, to walk in the golden sunshine of economic and personal freedom, but the bright beams of liberty frighten us back into our shanties.  “No,” we cry, “it is better to take the certain crumbs of our government overlords than to face the uncertainties of our own decision making.”

We no longer have Hooverville shanty towns in America.  Today we have Obamaville tent cities.  A review of the economic times might demonstrate the accuracy of my point.  Barack Obama, a believer in centralized planning and former member of the socialist New Party, was elected in November 2008.  Where have his leadership and his policies brought us in four years?

Well, let’s start with the prices you’re paying at your grocery store.  In 2011 alone they increased dramatically.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, coffee went up 31% in price.  If you paid $3.00 for your pack of coffee, it went up to $3.62.  Here are some other increases for 2011:  peanut butter 22% increase, margarine 18%, flour 16%, potatoes 14%, orange juice 12% and bread and pasta 10%.

When it comes to the average price of a gallon of gasonline, the increase is more than 100%.  That affects not only your ability to get to work, but the cost of public transportation for those who use it, and the cost of every single item that is moved by gas-powered vehicles or farmed with gas-powered vehicles.  In response, President Obama has doubled down on the very policies that are causing gasoline prices to increase.  He is waging a war on the producers of our energy and that energy is costing more at every step of the production and delivery of the items we need every day.

At the Democrat National Convention this summer, Obama said that America is not in decline.  Oh, if only that were true.  To be fair, the decline began before he took office.  But the big-government, massive-bailout, vote-buying policies that started this mess have only increased under Obama.  We’re standing in an economic sinkhole.  Our government goes deeper while telling us that we’ll somehow see light of day if we just keep digging.  A disastrous third round of “quantitative easing” recently began (QE3).  An already deflated dollar will sink further.  Nations will increasingly avoid the dollar, even as they are already doing.

Are we really that stupid?  Or are we just blind and fearful?  The blinders must come off.  And when Mitt Romney takes the oath of office we must keep them off.

America isn’t a shanty town after all.  It’s a tent city.  Either way, it’s the middle class and the poor who are moving into those tents among the ruins of their former lives.  The buck stops there, Mr. President.

Welcome to Obamaville, everyone.

Sleepless Economics

A man doesn’t reach the age of 51 without experiencing some sleepless nights.  Over the years I’ve had my share of them, of course, and for any number of reasons.  The reason that keeps me awake in recent months is one that I never before imagined.  This is because I never found myself fearing that our nation could face economic and societal collapse.  There was a time when I would have laughed at any such suggestion, but I’m no longer laughing.  This post is an explanation of why this is so.

I won’t pretend to have expertise in areas that I don’t understand.  But I do understand people, and I understand history.  I know that in my wallet right now I have a total of $32.00.  All that really means is that I have four pieces of paper known as “Federal Reserve Notes.”  One is marked “20,” another “10,” and two are marked “1.”  Each is clearly marked as “LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE” as demonstrated in the photo above.

Most citizens don’t reflect on what this means in practical terms.  There was a time when paper money could be redeemed for gold or silver.  This offered two points of satisfaction.  First, government was limited in its ability to print money.  It could print no more money than the total value of its holdings in precious elements.  Second, it offered a bit of confidence to those who used paper money.  Since it could be redeemed for something truly valuable, trust in printed paper remained solid.

Today the only solidity that backs the US dollar is the credit of our government.  That credit is increasingly declining.  There is talk of another credit-rating agency downgrading our national credit.  Yet our elected representatives on the federal level tell us we have to keep spending and going deeper into debt.

Paper money is only valuable as long as people are willing to recognize it as such.  In the days of gold and silver coinage, even if people lost faith in the government that minted the coins, there remained the inherent value of the precious metal used in the coins.  They could be traded as silver or as gold rather than as government-approved money.  We don’t have that luxury when it comes to pieces of paper in our wallets.

Besides the word of our government, what else is propping up our dollars these days?  Well, the faith of the people still gives it value.  That faith, however, is gradually slipping.  People who can afford it are buying gold.  Other precious metals are starting to rise in value for the same reason.  Even those who think the precious-metals bubble is bound to collapse have to admit that there’s a reason for the record-breaking increase in the value of gold.  Trust in the dollar is declining.

One other factor keeps the dollar strong.  It serves as the international currency for the oil trade.  It’s called the “petrodollar.”  As long as nations are buying and selling oil based on the dollar, the dollar is propped up as a necessary international monetary tool.  But what if those nations decide not to use the dollar because they no longer trust our credit?  Russia and China have already decided this very thing. 

What if this is a sign of things to come?  What if OPEC decides that the dollar can no longer be trusted?  Add to this possibility the political realities of the Muslim world and the growing need of Russia and China for oil, and one simply can’t dismiss the possibility that this could happen.

Even if our close allies in Canada continue to sell to us, and even if we convince our numbheaded politicians to increase drilling in the US, this would not prevent immediate economic difficulties for every portion of the country as transportation slowed (or halted) and grocery shelves became increasingly bare.  Without the ability to move goods and get personnel to and from work, our economy would come to a standstill.  Saddest of all is the fact that dead economies usually result in dead people.  That’s the basis for societal collapse.

Obviously, this is a personal expression of fear on my part.  But it’s not irrational fear because it’s based upon a very real possibility.  The leaders of our government, primarily as an effort to influence their voting constituencies, are spending money that we simply don’t have.  Oh, they are printing plenty of money–but when I say that “it’s money we don’t have,” it’s because that money is increasingly losing its value and its attraction.   That’s true here and abroad.  The evidence is clear about that.

It’s my sincere prayer that these fears of mine never come to pass.  Still, they keep me awake.  I can’t bring myself to write about the possible consequences to what I’ve already described if an economic collapse does come.  One thing that concerns me most is just how many solid, serious, mature people I know already expect that it’s too late to prevent what I’ve described, though we may debate the actual details about the trigger that will bring it about.

My first college degree years ago was in history, so I’ve always known that nations come and go.  Professors showed me that the US would no doubt one day face its own decline as the ebb and flow of history continued its advance.  What I didn’t consider was the possibility that I might actually be alive to see that decline.  I mourn the fact … and I worry that the decline has already begun.

This is not the stuff upon which to begin a good night’s sleep.  I might sleep a bit better if I believed these fears were keeping the President and the Members of Congress awake as well.  Based upon their continued irresponsible spending, I find that difficult to believe.