May 12th, 2013 3:00 ET
In honor of Mother's Day, here are 25 things I learned from my Mother. Mum, here's your alternative resume. Enjoy!
1. If you need to get something done, ask really nicely. If that doesn't work, make yourself such a living hell to deal with that people will do whatever you're asking of them so they won't have to interact with you further.
2. Shooting guns is fun.
3. There is nothing wrong with ABBA.
4. George was the best Beatle.
5. If you let public sector unions get out of hand, you may wind up with dead bodies going unburied.
6. Animals are way more awesome than humans. Humans kind of suck, actually.
7. Sometimes, the appropriate thing to do is tell someone to "Fuck off!"
8. You don't have to spend a lot to look good. You can find amazing stuff at the thrift shop.
9. Stay fit and healthy like Grandma. But don't cook like her.
(These are courgettes. My grandmother put them in almost everything. To this day, I hate them).
10. You're not better than anyone else. You may be better at things than someone else, but you're not better than them, and they're not better than you.
11. Being popular is much less important than most things.
12. Les Miserables is the best musical.
13. Tap dancing is a great way to burn calories, work out tension, do something artistic and make a ton of noise, all at the same time.
14. Cooking for your husband is a nice thing to do, not something reserved for submissive weaklings married to misogynists. However, remember to prick potatoes before baking them.
15. Everyone is going through some private hell. Remember that when you ask yourself why so-and-so is being such a dick.
16. It's perfectly acceptable to talk to birds, squirrels and other wildlife.
17. Bet to show. Not to win, nor to place.
18. Sometimes, a packet of M&Ms really is the answer to all your problems.
19. Always say "thank you for having me" when leaving a party.
20. You have more control over a stick-shift/manual car than an automatic.
21. Question authority. All of it.
22. You can ask as many times as you want, but the answer will still be "no."
23. Mascara is the most indispensible item of make-up.
24. Don't try to pet otters at the zoo. They're cute, but they bite.
25. Basic French. How to tap dance. How to drive. How to make oatmeal cookies.
April 3rd, 2013 3:00 ET
I occasionally comment on Twitter that I'm concerned that rather than really addressing underlying problems in the American economy, leaders are sweeping them under the carpet and are inadvertently rebuilding the housing bubble because it's simply easier than the alternative.
I know this sounds tinfoil hat-ish to some folks. But I can't help but immediately feel again that there is some of this going on, intentionally or not, when I read things like this, from the Washington Post:
The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.
President Obama’s economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.
In response, administration officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs — including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration — that insure home loans against default.
Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.
Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to do more to make sure more Americans can enjoy the benefits of the housing recovery, but critics say encouraging banks to lend as broadly as the administration hopes will sow the seeds of another housing disaster and endanger taxpayer dollars.
“If that were to come to pass, that would open the floodgates to highly excessive risk and would send us right back on the same path we were just trying to recover from,” said Ed Pinto, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former top executive at mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
Administration officials say they are looking only to allay unnecessary hesitation among banks and encourage safe lending to borrowers who have the financial wherewithal to pay.
“If the only people who can get a loan have near-perfect credit and are putting down 25 percent, you’re leaving out of the market an entire population of creditworthy folks, which constrains demand and slows the recovery,” said Jim Parrott, who until January was the senior adviser on housing for the White House’s National Economic Council.
One reason, according to policymakers, is that as young people move out of their parents’ homes and start their own households, they will be forced to rent rather than buy, meaning less construction and housing activity. Given housing’s role in building up a family’s wealth, that could have long-lasting consequences.
Deciding which borrowers get loans might seem like something that should be left up to the private market. But since the financial crisis in 2008, the government has shaped most of the housing market, insuring between 80 percent and 90 percent of all new loans, according to the industry publication Inside Mortgage Finance. It has done so primarily through the Federal Housing Administration, which is part of the executive branch, and taxpayer-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, run by an independent regulator.
The FHA historically has been dedicated to making homeownership affordable for people of moderate means. Under FHA terms, a borrower can get a home loan with a credit score as low as 500 or a down payment as small as 3.5 percent. If borrowers with FHA loans default on their payments, taxpayers are on the line — a guarantee that should provide confidence to banks to lend.
But banks are largely rejecting the lower end of the scale, and the average credit score on FHA loans has stood at about 700. After years of intensifying investigations into wrongdoing in mortgage lending, banks are concerned that they will be held responsible if borrowers cannot pay. Under some circumstances, the FHA can retract its insurance or take other legal action to penalize banks when loans default.
“The financial risk of just one mistake has just become so high that lenders are playing it very, very safe, and many qualified borrowers are paying the price,” said David Stevens, Obama’s former FHA commissioner and now the chief executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The FHA, in coordination with the White House, is working to develop new policies to make clear to banks that they will not lose their guarantees or face other legal action if loans that conform to the program’s standards later default. Officials hope the FHA’s actions will then spur Fannie and Freddie to do the same.
The FHA is also urging lenders to take what officials call “compensating factors” into account and use more subjective judgment when deciding whether to make a loan — such as looking at a borrower’s overall savings.
“My view is that there are lots of creditworthy borrowers that are below 720 or 700 — all the way down the credit-score spectrum,” Galante said. “It’s important you look at the totality of that borrower’s ability to pay.”
Before delving more deeply into this, let me first get a little bit of light "I-told-you-so" out of the way regarding measures advocated by Obama and other Democrats, generally, that some of us said at the time were interventions in the private market and actions regarding the lending market that would indeed help guard against another financial crisis, but with the tradeoff cost that banks would become thoroughly unwilling to lend to borrowers with less than a perfect credit score and a boatload of cash to use as a downpayment.
Surprise! The intervention in the market and action vis a vis lenders worked: They're not lending to people who look at all iffy anymore because they don't want to get hammered if (or maybe even when) the iffy borrowers default and the taxpayer doesn't pick up the tab!
But now, to the real meat of the matter: What are we talking about doing here, why, and what are the potential effects of it going to be.
Clearly, the Obama administration has come to the view that, contrary to what they had perhaps thought previously, banks taking a very conservative approach to lending is a problem, and banks need to get riskier (although I'm sure they'd quibble about the degree of risk involved).
So, they are returning to some of the core "realizations" that drove the policy moves to make it easier for people to get mortgages to buy houses back before and during the bubble-- those policy moves (e.g., the Community Reinvestment Act) having helped ultimately to build that bubble. These realizations include:
- construction is a big chunk of our economy, and if we don't constantly make it super-easy to get credit, there won't be buyers around to buy new houses, and if that's the case, we'll have a crappy construction sector and a bunch of blue-collar, non-college-educated males unemployed, and the economy won't look so healthy, either;
- if you make it harder or riskier for banks to lend, they tend to try to find ways of reducing their risk and/or hassle. That means less lending to unestablished twenty-somethings (even if they have great credit ratings) and, predictably, less lending to a whole swath of middle and lower income people who, while nowhere near as risky as a no-income no-job no-assets borrower like the kind that was able to get a mortgage on a big, expensive house a few years ago, still aren't anywhere near as safe a bet as the guy who's already owned (and paid the mortgage on) two houses, makes $250k a year, and can front a 25% downpayment;
- that in turn tends to mean (gasp!) the borrowers most able to get credit are rich, white people who are probably already pretty financially secure and not dependent on getting on the housing ladder to achieve financial security (in part because in many cases, they're already on the housing ladder and have already achieved a fair degree of financial security);
- (and I'm conjecturing here) it's basically impossible for the vast majority of people to get ahead and build any wealth or savings in a country where wages have been pretty flat because all potential increases have been being plugged by employers into ever-pricier health insurance plans (with the health care cost inflation rate being higher than the overall inflation rate), and where a lot of people can't save because they have exorbitant amounts of student debt to pay off. So, hey, let's make people rich anyway, by making sure everyone "owns" a house and stimulating the hell out of the real estate market (a.k.a., growing the bubble), so that people can comfort themselves by looking at the surveyor's estimate of their house's value after a bout of crying induced by seeing only a couple of thousand dollars in savings (if that) after years of work. (Hey, also, let's solve the problem of parents not being able to afford $100k to send their kid to some crappy college to get a BA in "media studies" or somesuch by ensuring they can borrow more easily to fund the four years of study put into getting the "media studies" degree).
The reality, folks, is that America without risky lending is a bitch for a lot of people.
They don't start off ahead, and they have much more minimal chances of getting ahead than what most of us grow up believing.
The Obama administration has noticed. And they likely know that fixing that situation is hard; moving back towards where we came from, even with all the attendant risks of people losing their houses, going bankrupt, shareholders losing value, people watching their pensions and investments go up in smoke, banking institutions crumbling, and taxpayers footing a big, fat bill, to prevent worse, might-- just might-- be easier, at least in the short term.
That doesn't make it better, of course, or smarter, thinking long-term. But it is more immediately pain-free, and at least allows the illusion that is sadly as it stands just that for a fair chunk of people-- an illusion-- of being able to achieve the American Dream to continue.
Hence my suspicion, between stories like this and the Fed keeping interest rates crazily low, that we're going to pursue policy that moves us towards rebuilding the bubble at least a bit, like it or not. And personally, I remain skeptical of the wisdom of such moves, though I certainly understand the motivations. ...
March 13th, 2013 3:00 ET
“I’m an old-fashioned traditionalist. I believe in the historic and religious definition of marriage,” he says. “That being said, I’m not for eliminating contracts between adults. I think there are ways to make the tax code more neutral, so it doesn’t mention marriage. Then we don’t have to redefine what marriage is; we just don’t have marriage in the tax code.”
"Personally, when I hear the term 'married,' I think of a man and a woman. That's what the term has meant historically and as a matter of religious definition. However, states need to recognize contracts whether they're between gay couples or straight couples, which many states do not currently do on 'public policy' grounds. We also need to reform the federal tax code so that it doesn't treat married people differently from single people. If we do both of those things, then you achieve equal rights without having a discussion about what 'marriage' is or is not and who is entitled to what from government and who is not."
He's basically right here. The big problem, on my read, is that this isn't something that would be politically popular enough to get it done. (Additional side issue: This doesn't deal with immigration questions). But it is important insofar as it indicates his thinking.
Remember, many constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage also bar government recognition of anything between two dudes or two ladies that looks or acts like a marriage (i.e., civil unions, partnership agreements). (And remember, courts are part of government, too). We have states that have said "no" to the idea of partner visitation rights where one half of a couple of hospitalized. These policies amount to a non-recognition of contracts. And that is a huge problem for same-sex couples.
Paul's answer, unsurprisingly, is not the most practical one (I'm a libertarian and I think our ideas are awesome, but I certainly won't argue that they're easy or could be implemented in a straightforward, non-controversial manner). But it does give an important indication of how he thinks about this issue, which is very different from how a lot of Republican elected officials think about it. ...
March 8th, 2013 3:00 ET
I previously covered the effort by certain same-sex marriage opponents in Illinois to oust the pro-same sex marriage Chairman of the Illinois GOP, Pat Brady, here.
That effort will culminate tomorrow, with the meeting of the state central committee.
But on the eve of the vote, it appears that those behind the effort have attracted some fresh opposition, in the form of two former Republican governors of the Land of Lincoln:
Former Republican Govs. Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar urged the GOP State Central Committee to adopt a “big tent” approach as they head into a special meeting Saturday, when the panel could vote to oust Party Chairman Pat Brady.
“If they fire Pat Brady, it will further submerge the Republican Party in Illinois, which is at a pretty low point, anyway,” Thompson said Thursday in an interview with WBEZ.
Given the timing, Edgar said it would be unwise to fire Brady for his public support of same-sex marriage, as public sentiment is headed in the same direction.
“I think it’d be a mistake to use that as a reason to – to remove somebody who I think’s done a credible job,” Edgar said in an interview Thursday. “And it’s the wrong political decision as well as, I don’t think it’s the smartest thing to do.”
“If they vote Pat Brady out, they better have a damn fine candidate to replace him, rather than leave the party leaderless or rudderless or in the hands of somebody who can’t do the same good job that Pat does,” Thompson said. “That would be outrageous.”
Previously, it appeared that Brady's opponents were arguing for his ouster on grounds that extended beyond his support for same-sex marriage.
Illinois State Sen. Jim Oberweis, a state central committeeman behind the ouster move, has however conceded that Brady's stance on same-sex marriage is a, if not the, primary issue, telling WBEZ, “You cannot have the chair of an organization publicly going out and lobbying in opposition to the organization’s stated goals. Doesn’t matter what the goal is. It would have been exactly the same result if he had lobbied in favor of Obamacare."
Brady backers argue that opposition to same-sex marriage is not a majority position among Illinois Republicans, and further, that Brady has not pushed for same-sex marriage on behalf of the ILGOP, but rather in his personal capacity. Brady also notes that the principle of accepting a diversity of opinion is in the ILGOP's platform.
Brady views the attempt at his ouster as something that would "send a terrible signal to the people of the state of Illinois that we’re a close-minded party."
Meanwhile, state central committeeman Roger Claar told WBEZ that the move was reminiscent of a "kangaroo court."
In order to remove Brady, three-fifths of the state central committee will have to vote to do so.
As previously noted, my personal opinion is that Brady should remain in office, particularly given the importance of electing a Republican governor in 2014 and the significant challenge that installing a new Chairman now would present in achieving that.
This is of course setting aside that Brady's stance on same-sex marriage is in line with Illinois opinion on the issue, which is politically helpful. ...
February 27th, 2013 3:00 ET
Same-sex marriage opponents are reportedly seeking to oust the Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party at a meeting of the state central committee on March 9.
Pat Brady, who was elected Chairman in August 2009, became the target of same-sex marriage foes after publicly voicing support for same-sex marriage, which has been the focus of legislation in the Land of Lincoln this legislative session.
Committeemen Jim Oberweis (a state senator from Sugar Grove) and Jerry Clarke (of Urbana) are depicting the move as grounded in a broader set of concerns, ranging from fundraising to communication issues.
However, in an interview with radio station WBEZ earlier this month, Oberweis conceded that the move was “something to do with a CEO of an organization lobbying on behalf of something the organization opposes” (the “something” in question apparently being same-sex marriage).
The move to oust Brady is reportedly opposed by Sen. Mark Kirk, who won his Senate seat under Brady’s tenure. It is also opposed by Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross, and grassroots conservatives within the state.
Supporters of Brady point to the Kirk Senate seat win, the pick-up of four congressional seats, and the win of various state-level offices which had previously been held by Democrats as evidence of Brady’s effectiveness.
In addition, they cite his work in bringing the party’s finances and operations into order (one supporter points to both fundraising and cost-cutting, as well as upgrading its data operations). Chris Robling, an Illinois GOP analyst and blogger calls Brady “the best chairman we have seen in 20 years.”
In the wake of the news, Brady has canceled a major fundraiser that was reportedly expected to bring in $250,000 to the party, and at which Exelon CEO John Rowe, himself a same sex marriage supporter and big donor to the IL GOP, was to be honored.
In a statement to WBEZ, Rowe said, “The party needs to work its way through this because it’s pretty clear that you can’t be too conservative on the so-called social issues and win in Illinois.”
That’s true enough, but as many of us conservative and libertarian same-sex marriage supporters have opined previously, it is inaccurate to suggest there is anything philosophically inconsistent with support for the freedom of same-sex couples to marry and support for free markets, the pro-life perspective, and a robust national defense.
Brady has had the good sense to support same sex marriage rights as many others in the GOP, ranging from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to Ted Olson, have publicly declared their support for government recognition of same-sex marriages.
That may not be popular with same-sex marriage opponents, but it is it is also hardly on a par, as substance goes, with a party Chairman running the organization’s finances into the ground, engaging in gaffe-a-minute interviews that wreck the party’s image, or failing to develop and then execute an appropriate GOTV program come election time (these are just some of the failings that have been evident on the part of other state party chairmen from around the country over the years).
The 2014 Illinois gubernatorial race is one for which both Illinois and national Republicans have high hopes. One concern about ousting Brady that should exist—separate to that of the reputational damage to the party that would be sustained by purging a Chairman over views that are within the mainstream of American political opinion, in a bluer state like Illinois where the Rick Santorums of the world are unlikely to compete under even the best circumstances—is to do with the prospect of having hard work needed to win the governorship halted as another Chairman takes over, acclimates to the office, and attempts then restart work that Brady has already begun.
Illinois Republicans should resist the temptation to clear house over a philosophical disagreement on one issue, and keep Brady in place.
Not only will his brand likely prove more of a help than a hindrance, but the mess of changing horses in midstream (which was too risky even during Michael Steele’s objectively rather shambolic tenure as RNC Chairman for RNC members to seriously pursue) will be avoided. ...
February 4th, 2013 3:00 ET
In the aftermath of last November’s rather crushing GOP loss, there’s been the usual process of soul-searching, auditing, and roundtable discussing to ascertain what went wrong and how the Republican party can avoid screwing up on a similar par in 2014 and 2016.
I’ve largely kept out of this process for two reasons. First, travel during December prevented me from partaking in certain efforts forming part of this overall endeavor. Second, I’m a cynic, and remain skeptical that the efforts that have been undertaken and which are, in some cases, continuing will result in the party really understanding the true nature and depth of its problems, let alone cause the party to get its, er, shiitake mushrooms together. The incentives just aren’t quite aligned in that direction yet, in my honest opinion (I may write more on that later).
But, people keep asking me where the problems lie and what do I think needs fixing. So, I’m publishing this post, which—full disclosure—I really feel like comprises a number of “Master of the Obvious” elements, but which some people seem to be missing despite all the chatter.
Here are the big five problems the GOP has faced and will probably continue to face, having regard to where opportunities were missed in 2010 and 2012. ...
January 2nd, 2013 3:00 ET
From the Daily Herald:
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles is calling GOP lawmakers asking them to support a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage, he said today.
Brady said he was making the calls as a citizen, outside of his official role with the Illinois Republican Party.
"I think it's time for people to support this," Brady said.
Well done to Chairman Brady for stepping up and not merely taking this stance, but being prepared to reach out to Republican lawmakers to urge them to do the same. More prominent Republicans should do the same. ...
November 4th, 2012 2:00 ET
Thanks for the suggestion, Matt de Luca. Read my original endorsement here.
November 4th, 2012 2:00 ET
It’s finally here, or about to be.
Yes, Election Day is the day after tomorrow. And after four years of watching the effort to remove President Obama from office play out (and periodically contributing to it in direct, professional ways), the time has come for me to make some firm decisions, and share them publicly.
Readers of this blog and my followers on Twitter will know that this election has proved a somewhat painful one for me, going back to 2009.
Having served on the RNC team in 2008, and having been a longtime fan of John McCain for years before then, while I was proud that America proved wrong the pundits who claimed our country was too racist to elect an African-American President, I was saddened that America made what was, in my view, the wrong choice as between Obama and McCain four years ago.
Like many Republicans, within weeks of President Obama being sworn into office, I began thinking about who I would like to succeed him as President—because it was apparent that his approach was not one with which I agreed.
Jon Huntsman, one of my top choices, took himself out of the running by agreeing to serve as Obama’s ambassador to China. Mark Sanford, my other top choice, took himself out of the running by virtue of his personal behavior and the excruciating press conference he gave explaining it.
Being a long-term critic of Mitt Romney, I was unwilling to jump aboard the Romney ship, especially given my deep-seated disagreements with Romney on health care policy.
My concerns about health care policy did, however, provoke me to take a closer look at a guy who I instinctively thought would be a good choice for me—Tim Pawlenty (whose record on health care is, incidentally, really good and worth a look for people who believe Republicans have nothing to offer on that front beyond free-market rhetoric or watered-down liberal “solutions”). I boarded the good ship Pawlenty, but exited it when it became unfeasible for various reasons to remain on it; subsequently, Jon Huntsman resigned and entered the race—intriguing to me, but (I felt) unlikely to pan out.
And then Rick Perry decided to enter the race, after it became clear to me that Pawlenty would be exiting it early and at a point where the practicalities of me being involved in a presidential race looked far better.
While there are certainly areas of disagreement between myself and Perry (basically, they come down to “gay issues”), I felt that on the majority of issues that I vote on—free trade, the size and role of the federal government (which ties in with spending), tax policy, health care and immigration— he was the best fit, and a far better choice than Romney. I also felt he had some interesting and worthwhile ideas where things like education reform (also something where Pawlenty has shown leadership within the GOP) were concerned, and by far the best jobs record.
So I boarded the good ship Perry, knowing it was in shaky territory when I did, but being willing to have a go at something even if the odds were decent that it would capsize (as it ultimately did).
From the middle of 2009, I believed it was overwhelmingly likely that Romney would be the GOP nominee. And that was an unsettling thing to me, because I do have deep disagreements with him and haven’t exactly loved his philosophical flexibility and willingness to pander to different audiences.
I tried, on behalf of two different clients, to stop Romney from running away with the nomination, something that speaks to the fact that I have had issues with him as a presidential candidate.
But he did win the nomination, as I expected. And now, Virginia appears to be coming down to the wire. So I am publicly stating my commitment to vote for Mitt Romney for President this Tuesday, despite the lingering concerns I have about him.
Here’s why I think you might wish to consider doing the same if you share my perspectives and live in a swing state also.
First of all, let’s start with a discussion about Barack Obama.
Let me be clear (pun intended): I do not think Obama is a bad guy. Among other things, I think he’s a great father and husband.
But I have been convinced, ever since I started scrutinizing his record, statements, and personal and professional history at the RNC in 2008—where I was privy to the vast majority of opposition research on Obama including tidbits that to my knowledge have never been covered and make him look even worse than he already does, in my opinion—that Obama simply doesn’t have the kind of motivations I want in a President. It is a problem that no matter how nice of a guy I may think he is in his private life, I simply cannot get over in order to think well of him in a political context.
I have inflamed liberal and conservative opinion by saying this before, and I will inflame both by saying it again, but it is my firm belief that Obama’s sole purpose in politics and his only genuine interest is self-aggrandizement. I do not believe that he believes in anything, except for self-aggrandizement. His liberalism is incidental, not the product of an actual belief in progressive policies, and to the extent he cares about particular policies, it is because he believes they will enable him to get ahead and benefit himself and his friends, not because he believes they are good, productive, or beneficial.
What Obama displays is not even the usual, predictable, basic power-seeking you get with politicians, or the typical ego trip. It’s far more emblematic of what you find in machine politics than what you find in politics more broadly. It is no surprise, given that Obama comes out of Chicago, where machine politics is the norm, and accruing power and prestige is an end in itself. But it is deeply saddening, given Obama’s posturing four years ago as representing some “new,” cleaner, shinier variety of politics—posturing that even I wanted to believe. And it is not a characteristic I particularly want in a president. Self-aggrandizement as the sole objective—indeed, the raison d’être— is not something that I think deserves to be rewarded, especially as, in Obama’s case, it has led the president in question into both policy inconsistency and instituting and pursuing policies that I believe are downright bad. It is an added annoyance and perhaps even a danger that the rise of Obama has also helped to generate a weird, cultish following that excuses all manner of behavior I consider obviously bad, and certainly hypocritical or inconsistent on Obama’s part.
This conveniently leads us to a discussion of the fundamental policy problems with Obama—the thing that far more voters have seized upon.
Let me start by saying that in 2008, when Obama won the Democratic nomination, I was happy about it, for two reasons. First, I never believed McCain would attack Hillary Clinton as hard as he did Obama, let alone as hard as he would have needed to in order to beat her. But second, and more importantly, Obama was far better on policy from where I sat.
Obama’s campaign rhetoric suggested he thought civil liberties needed better protection than they had received under the Bush administration. Obama was for a version of health care reform that wasn’t a nationalized version of Romneycare, which I have opposed since its inception and continue to oppose (sorry, Romney). In fact, Obama strongly opposed the individual mandate as a candidate (a big plus in my book). Obama appeared to be less at ease with protectionism than Clinton. Obama had sponsored the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. Clinton sounded a far more confiscatory-taxation friendly note than Obama did. And my gut had always told me that Hillary was far more big government-friendly than a guy who, for all the mockery of his community organizing days, at least seemed to think by virtue of his initial job choice that community, as opposed to government, might play some kind of an important role in society.
There was plenty that I opposed Obama on: As a candidate, he was already proposing massive new spending that was obviously unaffordable and unwise. Obviously, he was comfortable with tax increases. I thought his comments about sitting down with Ahmadinejad early in an administration were daft. I didn’t like that he was sounding any kind of protectionist note. I loathed his votes for poison pill initiatives that brought down comprehensive immigration reform. I thought his purported post-partisanship was complete BS given his deeply partisan record in the Senate. But would he have been better than Clinton? Yes, I believed he would, and actually, I still think I’d prefer him as president to Hillary, on policy.
However, Obama has flip-flopped on some things he campaigned on that actually really matter to me. His record on civil liberties is terrible, just like Bush’s was terrible, and no amount of strawman-construction or detraction from it by his fans can change that fact. Given how much I carped about Bush on civil liberties, Obama is definitely not getting a pass from me on this. Furthermore, Obamacare contains the individual mandate, on which Obama has himself flipped a full 180 degrees, and shamelessly, and over which I have been sounding alarms since 2006 in the context of Romneycare.
Add to that that he has, as expected, spent boatloads of money and exploded the deficit (just like Bush!), not delivered well enough on jobs, not done enough to advance free trade, and not done enough to advance immigration reform, and we have a problem.
He engaged us in Libya without congressional approval, which I do believe he should have obtained (knock Bush for Iraq all you want, but Bush did at least ask Congress to approve our engagement there), and he made some major foreign policy missteps like signaling “more flexibility” in a second term to Russia, and generally weakening our relationships with key allies like Israel and the United Kingdom (sometimes through silly oversights, assumptions, or careless words or behavior).
And yes, his behavior with regard to the drug war (cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries in California) also irks me a great deal.
Ultimately, what has happened in Benghazi scares the crap out of me, as someone with friends in the diplomatic corps, and my sense is that while it’s impossible to fully protect your civil servants abroad, especially in dangerous countries, intelligence is never perfect, and hindsight is always 20/20, the Obama administration dropped the ball there.
He’s the boss, and I feel the buck should stop with him.
I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008, obviously, and I certainly won’t be voting for him in 2012. But in my estimation, no one else should be voting for him in 2012, either, given this track record, and given my interpretation of his rationale for wanting a second term (it really is all about him; it’s really not about you, or me, or anyone else).
But not voting for Obama doesn’t mean voting for Mitt Romney, of course. There are other options on the ballot; there is the option of writing in; there is the option of not voting at all. I have considered all of these options, apart from not voting. But there are reasons why, if you think like I do, you should consider voting for Romney—and not just failing to vote for Obama.
First of all, I believe this will be a close election, but one in which it has from the get-go been more likely than not that Obama will win. If that is a problem for you on any level, then you owe it to yourself to take a look at Romney, and do it seriously, before Tuesday.
Let’s be candid: If you’re like me, you’re going to find there’s a lot not to like. I won’t rehash it all here; for me, the sticking point with Romney really always has been, and always will be, Romneycare, which has now evolved into Obamacare.
But with that being said, and with me throwing Romneycare out there first, let’s just agree on one thing: While I think it is highly unlikely that as President, Romney would repeal Obamacare (because he won’t have a sufficiently conservative Congress to do it, because he can’t do it all through executive actions, but most of all, because I believe he actually does like and believe in some of the cornerstones of Romneycare and Obamacare), there is zero chance of Obamacare being repealed with Obama, and some (albeit small) chance of it being repealed or tweaked in some major way under Romney.
Moreover, there is a strong chance that Obamacare will be tweaked in small, but meaningful ways under a President Romney, and that that will happen quickly. Whether you loathe Obamacare as is, or think it just can’t function as currently constructed, Romney is the only person capable of winning this election who even has a rhetorical commitment to repealing and/or overhauling Obamacare.
But that’s not really why I am voting for Romney. The real reasons I am are the following:
- Paul Ryan: Unfortunately, Romney hasn’t run on the Ryan plan or spending cuts that Paul Ryan has voted for (including in the area of defense, where I believe not-insignificant spending reductions can and should be made). But at least if Ryan becomes Vice President, there’s a chance he’ll badger Romney enough on a daily or weekly basis to get him to take entitlement reform, tax reform, and spending cuts more seriously than he currently does. Also, I like Paul Ryan, and if we can give someone like him, as opposed to one of the Huckabee-like big government social conservatives (who remain surprisingly dominant in a “Tea Party-infused” GOP), a leg up on becoming President someday, I say that’s a good thing on balance.
- Dodd-Frank: It sucks. In addition to entrenching too big to fail, it also imposes a bunch of new regulations that are problematic especially for community banks, who weren’t the bad guys who led to the financial crisis, and it risks regulatory muddle by making various entities responsible for the same oversight, threatening to create a situation where the left hand does nothing because it thinks the right hand is, while the right hand is effectively taking a nap or spending hours a day watching porn from its Washington, DC headquarters. Romney gets this, and more. It’s probably the area of policy where he has the most to say that conforms to my views.
- Taxes: I have a lot of issues with Romney on taxes, but at least he’s committed to attempting tax simplification for some proportion of the population. He also understands that double-taxing US companies is a bad idea and that what Obama has proposed would effectively do that, whereas Obama, the former law professor, doesn’t actually appear to understand our tax code (I find that worrying).
- The deficit: I don’t think Romney is nearly as committed to slashing spending as I would like him to be, but I do believe he’ll be better on the deficit than Obama, who I think has zero commitment to spending restraint and will, in practice, be forced into extending the Bush tax cuts he wants to end.
- Rand Paul: I always keep in the back of my head that Rand Paul endorsed Romney, because his belief is that Romney is in the generally right terrain with regard to things like auditing the Fed, protecting Internet freedom, and wanting Congress to vote on foreign military engagements. Rand Paul may be naïve (he wouldn’t be the first libertarian to be proved to be). But I also think it is likely that he has extracted some private commitments from Romney on these things, and the Romney people know the Paul forces can cause trouble for them if they don’t vaguely adhere to some of what was (presumably) discussed. This is at least marginally helpful.
On a whole range of things that matter to me personally, neither of these guys will be better than the other. But Romney scores better than Obama on at least a few of my top concerns as a voter. And there is a chance, albeit not an overwhelming one from my standpoint, that he can pull out a win this week—so I am prepared to back him.
If you live in any of Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida or Virginia, and can’t decide between Romney and Johnson or writing in, I’d urge you to have a think about the above. My rationale may not be enough to get you to push the Romney button. But it is enough for me—just.
And Mitt, if you happen to read this and if you do prevail on Tuesday, please know that I’ll be enthusiastically in the bag for a second term if you really do slash spending, bring down the deficit, reform entitlements, reform the immigration system, ditch the worst aspects of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, govern like a free-trader, and hold to the general status quo on social issues. Oh, and have lunch with Paul Ryan weekly and take him seriously.
If you govern demonstrably more like a civil libertarian than Obama has, hell, I’ll even max out for a second term.
Onward to Tuesday. ...
October 18th, 2012 3:00 ET
I am giving serious thought to breaking up with you, and I want to put you on notice of that fact, clearly and explicitly, and in terms even you-- with your ADD and disconnect from other people's thoughts and emotions-- can understand.
You may have noticed me being grouchier than normal over the last couple of weeks, and rolling my eyes at things you do more frequently, and in a non-ironic kind of way.
I kind of thought you might have noticed why, all on your very own.
But you have been so tied up with stuff like dishwashing and binders, and so focused on supposed bias and skewed polls, and so willing to flit between these subjects and other trifles on a whim, that I guess paying attention to me and anything I care about has simply been beyond your capabilities.
I know you want to keep my interest, but you're getting very close to losing me for good.
When we first encountered each other, I was skeptical of you.
You told me you'd be the most important election of my lifetime thus far.
You told me that important debates would be had by the candidates and that they would outline their proposed solutions to the greatest challenges facing our nation and there would be stark differences.
You told me this would be so, even though I suspected I'd be asked to choose between President Obama and Mitt Romney, and I felt like that choice was not conducive to producing the situation you described.
But you said I should get involved with you, that you'd prove me wrong, and that our relationship would be worth me investing my attention and my emotions in.
So far, I've had little more to show for it than frustration, exasperation, and irritation.
I've lost sleep some nights thinking about whether this situation can be fixed.
No, it's not me. It really is you. No, really. You sold me a bad deal, and if you changed your ways, it might be worth it, but I'm close to concluding at this point that you don't give a shit and you're wasting my time.
You should know that I've found myself looking at other potential matches, too.
I've always had a very close, intimate even, friendship with the English Premiership (yeah, I know that's been a sore spot for you, and it's made you jealous, but I derive emotional satisfaction from spending time with him that I rarely derive from spending time with you).
I broke up with the world of big business and the financial industry long before we met, back in 2005, but I'll admit it here-- I've been watching CNBC a lot lately. I've even been finding Jim Cramer less annoying than most of the political cable news TV hosts.
I know sometimes I get really tired of running and working out, but lately, they're looking more like friends than my old frenemies, and I've been hanging out with them more as I've looked to get a break-- any break-- from you and the way you try to dominate my time and hoard my attention.
I know you're going to tell me that many more important things hinge on you and my relationship with you than, say, the outcome of any of this weekend's football matches. And to tell you the truth, that's the only reason I've hung around so far.
But it's increasingly clear that you're focused on trivialities, and yesterday's concerns, not about what's about to come across the horizon and doing things now not just to fix the current situation but also prevent problems that I can see coming, but which you dismiss every time I flag them with talk of who strapped a dog to a roof, or who ate a dog, or Olympic horses, or parties with Jay-Z and Beyonce.
You know what these are. We've discussed them before. They include things like:
- the bleak outlook that seems to exist not for women, but rather for non-college-educated, working-class, blue-collar males across the country;
- the rise of China and India and other future economic powerhouses, relative to our standing as a nation. (Yeah, sometimes you'll pay lip service on this one, by talking tax reform or education reform, but really, it's like a peck on the cheek when I want a good, solid 30-minute cuddle-- something else you suck at, by the way);
- the education bubble and what we do about it (I bitched about this one with my previous boyfriends, too, and he never did anything about it-- what is it with you guys?). No, I don't mean just "how do we make college more affordable." I also mean what do we do about the fact that as education has become pricier, students seem to act more and more like "I paid $100k for this education, so even if I'm an ignoramus, you'd better give me a good degree." It's a real problem, and no one seems to be doing or saying much of anything about it, let alone other problems in our educational system;
- what's happening in the Middle East. PLEASE don't give me that stuff about Israel and the Palestinians again. I've heard what you have to say about Iran, too, and yes, that's important, but what I'm talking about here, and you know it, is the increased political engagement of non-elites in the Middle East, whether we encourage that, tolerate and manage it, or supress it, and whatever the answer, how, and why;
- not just unemployment, but what appears to be a problem with wage stagnation that has persisted for many Americans for quite awhile now;
- relatedly, health care and insurance cost inflation-- this, inflation in the cost of college, plus the wage stagnation problem noted above seem to me likely to have contributed to the financial crisis as people took on a lot of debt to pay for things that were becoming more and more unaffordable, tapping out value in their (inflated) home values, and leaving them screwed when the bubble inevitably and eventually burst;
- whether we should allow more immigration and if so, what are we going to do to overhaul our system so it can be done with greater ease legally (you know I support this, but the most I ever seem to hear on the subject is a token mention of H1B visas, or DREAM, which isn't really much at all).
You don't want to talk about these things, but they're going to present real problems in the future. Maybe you can find the wherewithall to address at least a couple of them sometime in the next week?
Think about it over the weekend. England's Premiership and I will be hanging out then, so you'll have some time and space to think about how to get your act together, and see if you can keep my interest and any level of emotional engagement.
I don't even know how to end this note... but it's definitely not "love," as things stand.
Best (I guess?),