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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. “Improve our standing in the world.” One of the most meaningless phrases ever uttered in U.S. politics. No offense to you Jim, since you are just repeating it. 1/3 of the world stays mad at us because of envy of our wealth and natural resources. The only way to make them happy is to expand the concept of “wealth redistribution” to include them. Another 1/3 of the world hates us because we are not Muslim. That’s not going to change unless we turn against Israel and start imposing Sharia law. We should work with our allies and be grateful for them but not waste time or money trying to do the impossible with the rest of them.

    I agree with you about Bush’s spending but with a new government controlled by Dems, the spending is going up and so are taxes. Sounds like you’re good with that so not surprised by the vote. I’m just hoping that Obama doesn’t get a super-majority in Congress. If he does, Charlie Rangel will be so deep in your wallet your voice will change.

  2. Moneymonk says:

    “We’ve been doing it for years, it’s called the progressive tax system”

    I’m glad someone noticed that.

    Joe the plumber need to pay his tax liens, be carefull when the camera is on your spotlight, fame has a price

  3. Dustin says:

    I don’t disagree with your choice, but the part on wealth distribution feels out of place.

    Because it’s in place already means it’s ok to increase it? I’m not sure how one follows the other. Perhaps we’re at exactly the right level of wealth redistribution, or perhaps not, but just because it already exists has nothing to do with whether increasing it is a good idea or not.

  4. Amy says:

    “Improve our standing in the world” isn’t just an idle wish, it’s a real desire. I have German friends and visit them every year. They were here in November of 2000 during the whole Florida castastrophe, were aghast at the Iraq invasion and then in total shock in 2004 when this country re-elected Bush. They love Americans and but they dislike the Republican world view. I hope that by Americans standing up and electing Obama, the world will know what we are not just a bunch of small-minded neocons who have never traveled out of the country and distrust anyone who doesn’t look like them. Anyway. That’s my hope.

  5. kitty says:

    You have a right to your choice, and you make some compelling arguments. I question your points about re-distribution though.

    Yes, we have a progressive tax system, but giving refundable tax credit to people who PAY NO TAXES is called welfare. Additionally, it’s easy to say that those with over 250K are rich – I earn much less too – but it’s businesses with over 250K in income that employ people. Same about large corporations – they pay salaries to the most of us.

    “I don’t think McCain or Obama will be able to cut taxes, the economic conditions are such that cutting taxes is near impossible.”
    Actually, now is the worst possible time to increase taxes on capital gains, stock dividends (this is double taxation as the company that pays dividends has already paid taxes on this money) or corporations. Taxing already lower-than-usual profits of large corporation will simply result in more layoffs. Taxing stock dividends and letting Bush cuts on capital gains expire – to less investment.

    I am also very worried about overwhelming democratic majority everywhere. Have you read some plans to tax 401K contribution and essentially destroy our 401K system by George Miller from California and Jim McDermott from Washington? Without any checks and balances such a disastrous plan may just have a chance hereby destroying our company match, our future savings; and also having a terrible effect on the stock market. Instead they propose that we be required to put 5% into government bonds (inflation as they determine it + 3%) and have Social Security administration to manage it. Do you trust Social Security administration to manage your money? I sure don’t.

    What about the union intimidation bill that may just pass with democratic majority everywhere? With democratic president and democratic majority everywhere it just may pass, again with disastrous effects on the economy and our jobs.

    I voted democratic in previous election, but in this election I voted republican across the way because I am seriously scared of what may happen if there are no checks and balances.

  6. jim says:

    @ToughMoneyLove: Glad to see you’re as tough as usual, keep that up. I find it difficult to predict as openly as you do about the future, that Democrats will invariably spend more money and raise taxes simply because they are Democrats. I believe Republicans have earned the “borrow and spend” reputation as easily as Democrats have earned the “tax and spend” reputation. As for the world hating us and me repeating a tired phrase, not everyone is so eager to be loathed or put on a pedestal.

    @Dustin: First, I believe either candidate would increase taxes because that’s how the environment is. Second, you are correct in that just because it exists doesn’t justify increasing it. I personally think that a consumption-based tax (like a Fair Tax) would be preferable but I haven’t researched the idea enough to be totally sold on it.

    @Kitty: We already have refundable tax credits – earned income credit and the child tax credit. While that isn’t reason for having more refundable tax credits, it’s not an entirely new thing. We also have welfare itself and food stamps. There are plenty of government assistance programs out there. I see a lot of people more upset that they aren’t getting help than the fact that others are.

    Capital gains taxes might decrease the amount of investment into the stock market, but I doubt it would decrease the amount of investment into actual companies. As a business owner, my decision on whether to invest money depends less on taxes than on the investment itself. If it can earn me money, I put it in. Also, business taxes like that only affect C Corporations. All other forms of small business ownership from Sole Prop to LLC to S Corp pass profits through to individuals.

    As for the two branches having the same, it’s not nearly as horrible as it sounds. The last time it happened was when Clinton was in office and that was a pretty good run.

  7. Trisha says:

    “1/3 of the world stays mad at us because of envy of our wealth and natural resources. The only way to make them happy is to expand the concept of “wealth redistribution” to include them.”

    That’s not true. I’m not mad at Americans, but I’m mad at how your garbage is thrown in my 3rd world backyard and how you interfere with our own internal political and military affairs. Being an ally is never enough for your government, submission is preferred. If we don’t allow you to take advantage of our resources and troops, there’s intimidation. The trade policies you have with our country are always unequal and your soldiers/military can come and go as they please without inspection. I don’t want your wealth and natural resources. I just want to be left alone.

  8. Dustin says:

    I’d like to point out that just because it exists also doesn’t justify decreasing it.

    Basically, it’s current existence has little bearing on whether the new administrations redistribution plans are better or worse than what we currently have.

  9. Hawkmoon Nine says:

    “Improve our standing in the world”

    Our standing in the world has improved under President Bush. Why do both Germany and France now have pro-American leaders? Africa LOVES W (Ask Bob Geldof) There are certainly some that don’t like us as much, but there are plenty of examples the other way too.

  10. David says:

    ““We’ve been doing it for years, it’s called the progressive tax system”

    I’m glad someone noticed that.”

    Ditto.

    However, Bush has somehow managed to redistribute the wealth upwards from the middle class and the poor, while Obama wants to redistribute a bit of those making over $603,000 a year to those who need the help. The myth of “I too am going to be rich” is a single reason why many people vote Republican – they truly believe that they will one day be wealthy beyond imagination and they don’t want to be taxed if that day comes. Guess what? Most of us won’t be. But since Republicans spend money we don’t have and put us into debt every time they are in office, and the Democrats are going to tax and then spend the money, saying one party is worth than the other in economics is a wash. Either way, we all have to pay for it – either up front or further down the line.

    Listen, I make a decent amount of money from my businesses, but I do know that taxes need to be paid by me and everyone else. I get it. When you are in a war and the American people are complacent about the $10 billion a month cost and human lives lost, you have to pay taxes to pay for it. You cannot cut taxes when at war and when you are running a deficit for the last 8 years.

    Right on Jim.

  11. David says:

    “I’m not mad at Americans, but I’m mad at how your garbage is thrown in my 3rd world backyard and how you interfere with our own internal political and military affairs.”

    Trisha, where are you from? I actually am curious and I agree 100% with you.

  12. David says:

    How about this cartoon? Pretty much spells out the last 30 years of economic policies, no?
    Fiscal Conservative vs Tax & Spend Liberal

  13. WB says:

    Taxes should not be raised on any one especially right now. If raising taxes is such a good idea:

    What country has ever taxed themselves to prosperity?

    Just a thought.

  14. David says:

    “Taxes should not be raised on any one especially right now”

    So how do you propose we pay for the war, our failing infrastructure, or the $1 trillion deficit?

  15. Rob says:

    David-
    The federal government decided it was prudent to pursue a balanced budget during the Great Depression also. Turned out to be a huge mistake and prolonged the downturn.

    Perhaps the best answer is for the government to stop spending like a bunch of drunken sailors.

  16. jim says:

    I recommend you read more about the Great Depression because there were a variety of factors that both caused and worsened the Great Depression, attempting to balance the budget was not one of the major contributors.

  17. WB says:

    To get our Government Financial house in order is going to take a multi-layered approach.
    Reign in spending
    Increase tax revenue by keeping taxes low. Tax revenue usually goes up when taxes are lower due to people consuming goods & services, starting businesses & investing. When taxes are high no one spends other than the government.
    Stop punishing the successful-when you punish success you kill the motivation for other to strive to succeed.

    I’m really for going without a President & both houses of congress for 4 years! Let the government get out of our way and there is no telling what we could do.

    Still no answer to “What country has ever taxed themselves to prosperity?”

  18. Rob says:

    Jim,
    I have researched the Great Depression in depth. And while I agree that a number of factors existed (e.g., Smoot-Hawley, the Fed’s contraction of the money supply, etc.), I disagree that taxes weren’t a major contributor.

    There is no doubt that Hoover’s tax policy (raising marginal tax rates across the board, the highest of which increased from 25% to 63%) had a severe negative impact on the economic investment, jobs, etc.

    You’d be hard pressed to find an economist that believes higher taxes would be beneficial to our economy at this time. Even champions of “fiscal responsibility” such as Congressman Barney Frank (D) have recently said taxes are not the answer with the economy in its current state.

  19. jim says:

    Since you insist on asking that question, here is your answer… the United States during the Great Depression. The top tax rate went from 25% in 1931 to 63% in 1932. It was then raised to 79% starting in 1936…. then 81.1% in 1940. By 1941 the rate was 81%… WW2 was in full swing, and we pulled out of the Great Depression (it was 94% from 1944 to 1945).

  20. Jackson says:

    @ Mr. ToughMoneyLove

    > 1/3 of the world stays mad at us because of
    > envy of our wealth and natural resources. The
    > only way to make them happy is to expand the
    > concept of “wealth redistribution” to include
    > them. Another 1/3 of the world hates us because
    > we are not Muslim.

    And don’t forget the rest that hate us for our FREEDOM!

    Or maybe they just hate us because we meddle in their business, humiliate them, and try to force changes upon them to benefit us (and not even us, but the rich folks up top).

  21. Michael Barr says:

    This is a great site. Lot’s of good ideas. I voted Obama because I think he gets it. He is a great American and understands that we have to pull together. We have become consumers and have wasted the wealth that our collective grandfathers earned. Those who have benefited most from our ridiculous wealth need to help support the system that they benefited most from. I have been dirt poor my whole life (mom raised 3 kids on $12,000 a year). For the first time in my life I will make a good income this year (over $200,000) and will likely be taxed at a much higher rate under Obama. I see that as a necessity, not really a choice, if I want this country to be great again. We need to take care of our own people. We need to be leading the effort TO END SEVERE POVERTY. You can never kill all the terrorists, you can only work to create a world were terrorism doesn’t make any sense. Where every person in the world has an opportunity to have water and food and better themselves. This is what we should have been doing the last eight years. We need to start at home and make ourselves strong again and than retake our position as leader of the free world with philanthropy and not hate and war.

  22. Jackson – I actually agree with you. In fact, I would like our government to leave me alone as well. But, alas, it won’t do that until it takes more of my personal resources (all earned, none given to me) and transfers them to someone else on Wall Street, Main Street, and whatever street. I am all in favor of a national government that apart from defending clear national security interests, just leaves everyone alone.

    Jim – Stop scaring everyone with facts about historical marginal tax rates. I might vomit straight into the monitor.

  23. Rob says:

    Jim,
    I enjoy reading your blog, but some of you comments make me rethink doing so in the future. Perhaps you should take your own advice and do some more research on the Great Depression.

    Arguing that higher taxes somehow pulled the US out of the Great Depression is intellectually dishonest at best. The US’s robust economic activity during that time period can be solely attributed to massive increases in the demand for US goods and services (both domestic and international) brought about by WWII. This demand began before the US even entered WWII in the form of military supplies, steel, etc and lasted well past its conclusion as the US helped Europe rebuild.

    You’re delusional if you think that a tax rate of 94% somehow benefited the US economy. In that case, why not have a 100% tax rate on all incomes. Then we’d all be rich!

  24. jim says:

    @Rob, you’re right, it is intellectually dishonest and it would be delusional if I thought that – but so is asking “What country has ever taxed themselves to prosperity?” as if that’s a serious question. I was just taking the ridiculous to an extreme. :)

  25. Rob says:

    Jim,
    I apologize if I misunderstood your sarcasm. It’s just a little confusing when you say that taxes had little affect on the Great Depression then start siting statistics about how the economy got better with higher marginal tax rates. Many Americans do believe that taxation somehow creates wealth. I, on the other hand, can find no such evidence for this claim.


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