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I Voted for Barack Obama

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I voted for Barack Obama.

I walked into the polling location, sign in, voted, and walked out in what felt like five minutes. Then my wife and I headed over to Chik-fil-a where we thought they were giving away sandwiches (the one near us wasn’t!). We ate there anyway because Chick-fil-a is a good place and then snagged our free coffee’s from Starbucks across the street. Not a bad voting experience!

Now, I hope you all won’t mind if I share a few thoughts about my decision. I share some of the same feelings about him as Marc Andreessen, who is pretty well known in Silicon Valley and, among other things, helped create Mosaic. Here are some of my other thoughts about him, the Election, John McCain, etc. I don’t write much about politics, I know it’s a heated topic and I try not to play with fire too much, but this is pretty much a brain dump and feel free to share your own in the comments.

There are two things I feel the next President has to do:

  • Improve our standing in the world – The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, how the Bush administration justified it (great and scary Frontline doc about it), and everything else have really knocked the United States down a peg or two or ten. I believe Barack Obama has both the charisma and the humility to improve how the world sees us.
  • Reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, especially foreign oil, and reduce our impact on the environment – Obama has said that our approach to finding alternative sources of energy should mirror that of Kennedy’s approach to landing on the moon, I really think we do need a goal like that. It’s unfortunate that so much of politics is dominated by groups with a huge stake in maintaining our reliance on fossil fuels (coal industry is huge in the swing states of PA and OH, Detroit automakers are detrimentally tied to gas guzzlers, Big Oil needs no explanation).

I don’t think McCain or Obama will be able to cut taxes, the economic conditions are such that cutting taxes is near impossible. Taxes will go up and they will have to go up. I bet we’ll see the Social Security maximum raised, some brackets shifting upwards (less so for the lower brackets), and some tax cuts permitted to sunset. It’s like elder Bush and his famous “Read my lips, no new taxes” line that he had to renege on – the realities of the environment will dominate any promises.

As for the big focus on “wealth redistribution?” We’ve been doing it for years, it’s called the progressive tax system. While it seems like you’re punishing success and being a bit socialist, the alternative is far worse. Imagine a nation where there is an upper class and a very large lower class with few economic opportunities, filled with anger, desperation, and despair, and with very few options. Not pretty huh? America is still the land of opportunity, even if success is taxed a little more.

The funny part is how the Bush’s tax cuts, coupled with ridiculous spending, redistributed wealth from the poor to the rich. It was a little sleight of hand though The cuts lowered taxes on the rich (no one upset by that huh?)by lowering capital gains. Lowering capital gains is a huge coup for anyone who was rich because they were more likely invested in things that give capital gains (stock market, real estate). If you were in the top tax bracket of 35%, long term capital gains is a mere 15%… that’s a 20% discount! This also had the effect of making the stock market more appealing, which boosts share prices, which makes everyone feel richer.

I am a little concerned about how Democrats will control both the Legislative and Executive branches, but I’m OK with it for now. I do like the idea of checks and balances. The bail out bill was four pages long when it was first introduced, thankfully a Democrat legislature and a Republican executive existed to slow it down and put a little framing around it. While I often complain about the slowness of government, in this case I’m glad things weren’t rushed. While having a single party control both branches is a little disconcerting, I’ve come to terms with that.

As for Joe the Plumber? Comedy. Pure comedy. I don’t know how the nation was convinced that someone earning $250K was somehow considered a “regular Joe.” If you make $250,000 (if it’s a business, that’s $250,000 profit), I’d say you’re doing pretty good.

Finally, I have the utmost respect for John McCain. I liked him far more before he adopted his strategy to appear closer to Bush to appeal to the Republican base (something I learned in Choice 2008, another great Frontline doc) but that’s part of the political game. I don’t fault him for his involvement in the Keating Five scandal and I think he’d make a fine President if he were elected.

If you haven’t voted yet, please go and vote.

{ 34 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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34 Responses to “I Voted for Barack Obama”

  1. Rob says:

    Michael Barr-
    I fully agree that the US needs to lead the effort to serve the poor not only in the US, but abroad. Although I don’t necessarily agree that paying more taxes is the answer. I think removing trade restrictions would go far further toward making necessities more affordable for the poor in the US and around the world.

    Here’s an interesting statistic I read the other day. In 2005, total federal, state, and local government expenditures on 85 welfare programs were $620 billion and the poverty count was 37 million persons. That means welfare expenditures per poor person were $16,750, or $67,000 for a poor family of four.

    It makes me wonder who’s getting all the tax dollars you’re so willing to give to the poor. The poor evidently aren’t. You both might both be better off directly donating your earnings to a charity.

    Given that the top 1% now pay more in taxes than the bottom 95%, I’m not entirely sure the statement below isn’t already occurring.

    “Those who have benefited most from our ridiculous wealth need to help support the system that they benefited most from.”

  2. jim says:

    @Rob: My original comment was that trying to balance the budget wasn’t not one of the major contributors, I don’t know the effect taxes had though. Ultimately, the highest brackets are misleading anyway because they affected so few people. (When the top bracket was created in 1935 by the Revenue Act of 1935, it affected only one person – John D. Rockefeller)

  3. Four Pillars says:

    Mr. ToughMoneyLove – the idea is not to pander to be popular, but rather to strive to be something to be admired.

  4. David says:

    If the economic policies of the last 8 years isn’t enough to teach us that borrowing and spending out our ass doesn’t work, I don’t know what will.

    Congrats Obama – you made history tonight and I applaud you. Now let’s get to work to fix this nightmarish mess of the last 8.

    “the idea is not to pander to be popular, but rather to strive to be something to be admired.”

    Amen.

  5. Jason says:

    Do any of you actually check facts? Do you really believe the lies liberals spout about bush tax cuts only helping “the rich”.

    Fact: “The rich” pay a greater percentage of total income taxes collected _after_ the bush tax cuts than before. This applies to the top 50%, top 25%, top 10% or top 1% of wage earners, take your pick. The bush tax cuts made our tax system _more_ progressive, not less progressive.

    Fact: “The rich” pay much more then their “fair share” of taxes. Look up the numbers directly from the IRS on what the top 50%, top 25%, top 10% and top 1% pay vs the bottom 50%. The disparity only grew larger after the bush tax cuts. This is the reason “the rich” saw the greatest reduction in income taxes is because “the rich” pay the vast majority of income taxes. Unbelieveably, liberals aren’t satisfied that most of the bottom 50% of wage earners pay 0 dollars in income taxes every year, they want to give them tax rebates. How exactly can you call it a tax rebate when you didn’t pay any income taxes? Welfare is the correct term.

    Fact: After bush lowered the capital gains tax rate from 20% to 15%, the federal government collected more total revenue from capital gains taxes. The same thing happened when clinton lowered capital gains tax rates from 28% to 20%. If you don’t understand why this occurs, look up what the Laffer Curve is. Liberals and Obama want to increase the capital gains tax rate despite the fact it will decrease total tax collections from capital gains just so they can stick it to “the rich”. Who cares what happens to the economy, as long as we can hurt “the rich”. Wasn’t it JFK who said no American is ever made better by pulling down a fellow American? Wise words.

    Fact: When you tax something, you discourage it. Why do so many people think it is a good idea to tax “the rich”. “The rich” generally are the most productive members of society. Do we really want to discourage productivity?

    Fact: Taxes don’t redistribute money, they redistribute people. California has a top state income tax rate of 10%. If I earn 1 million dollars a year, the state wants 100k. If I move to Nevada or Texas, I get to keep the 100k and can use it to pay the mortgage on a vacation property back in California. So what would you rather have, a reasonable % of my million dollars, or 10% of nothing when I get fed up and move to another state? Unfortunately, liberals are bad at math and want to bump the 10% rate even higher to drive more of California’s biggest tax payers out of state.

    Fact: The welfare state has created essentially a greater than 100% tax rate on lower income people. Lets say an unemployed person receives the equivalent of $1500 dollars a month in benefits and he goes out and finds a job paying $1200 dollars a month. He now makes too much money to qualify for the benefits and loses the benefits that are worth more than he earns at his job. For every dollar he earns on the job he loses more than a dollar in benefits. Why on earth would this person choose to work to lose money? He isn’t stupid, and he doesn’t take the job. Through good intentions, we have created a system that creates an economic incentive to not work.

    Jim, taxes absolutely should be considered during any business/investment decision. If the government wants 50% of my gains, and I’m looking for a 10% return on my investment, I will only look at investments that will earn 20% or better before taxes. If the government weren’t taking such a large cut, I would have much more investment choices to reach my desired 10% return.

    I urge everyone reading this to not accept what I have said at face value and to fact check for themselves. I would hope they continue to do the same for all information they read elsewhere as well.

  6. Pete says:

    One thing I’ve noticed that pervades these comments here is that people think that if the wealthy are doing better – that necessarily means that someone else (the poor or middle class) is doing worse. If we tax the rich, then the poor will do better. If the poor aren’t doing well, its because the rich are taking advantage of them.

    That whole idea means there is an assumption that there is a limited amount of money/wealth to be had, and if the other guy has it, I don’t – and can’t.

    I tend to believe more in the idea that wealth is created, and just because some other guy has done well, doesn’t mean I can’t be successful as well.

    We live in the greatest nation on earth – and everyone and anyone CAN be successful regardless of where they start out. They just have to apply themselves and work hard.

    I think we need to set it up so that people are encouraged to lift themselves up by the bootstraps, make themselves successful and reward hard work. Let’s not penalize people for being successful!

    As far as the “improving our standing” in the world, I don’t think we can ever really expect to be loved and/or respected by everyone. All nations have their own self interests at heart, and sometimes doing the right thing isn’t popular. I’m not one of the people who tend to think that Iraq was a complete debacle, or that nothing good came out of it. This past weekend we heard an address from an Iraqi pastor who talked about how much more freedom they have in Iraq now, as opposed to under Saddam Hussein. Before 2003 there were 4 state controlled churches, and this pastor was tortuted for trying to practice his Christian faith. Now they are free to worship, plant churches, and speak their minds (even though there is still the danger of violence/etc). They have started 40+ churches there in the past 5 years. There are challenges, but millions of people are more free!

  7. Isn’t “illegal” to expose your vote with the public?

    Here in Romania it could be a problem…

  8. dong says:

    Pete, you make a great point that success does not have to come at the expense of others. The problem in the last 8 years is that the wealth has accrued the top while those in the middle to lower income brackets has seen real income decrease. Not all of this can be laid at the feet of the current administration, but the administration can be blamed for putting us in situation where we have mortgaged the future. The deficit will have to be paid, and taxes will have to go up. In view of that I rather pay more intaxes because I’ve had the opportunity for success instead of squeezing more out of family that’s barely getting by.

  9. bryan says:

    pete and dong,

    i disagree. Putting the Federal Reserve printing presses on hold, there IS only so much money to go around. There needs to be poor people and rich people. Business owners and employees. If there is equally money, equal wealth, and equal incentive, you have created a socialistic environment.

    If as a business owner, I have $100, and pay you $10 to work for me for an then I now have $90. I have less and you have more than before our engagement. I now must bill/TAKE money from our customer to make up for my expense of you working.

    I need you to work for me because I can only accomplish so much by myself. You need me to hire you so you can earn money to support your family. Its a vicious circle. Those on top win, those on the bottom dont necessarily lose but they dont and shouldnt make as much as those at the top taking all of the risk.

    I like what someone else mentioned above about charity/social programs. Democrats tend to implement social programs to distribute money where they see fit. Why not take a portion of the money you would pay towards income tax and give it to a charity of YOUR choice to offset your tax bill a bit.

    It is a shame that the welfare system is what it is. I feel a total revamp is needed. If you are physically able to work, you should be working. End of story. No more free money for people that grew up in the system. There needs to be weekly inspections of disability cases, etc. Many people on these programs should be publicly embarrassed (ie. list of names in newspaper, bright colored food stamps at the grocery store) and ashamed for putting a strain on society.

    ok im done


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