Candidates Tackle Trade in Final Debate

October 16, 2008

Following the 2nd debate, my expectations for last night were pretty low.  In spite of declaring before the 2nd debate that he would tackle the subjects of trade and immigration, Tom Brokaw did neither and his moderation may have been the worst for any presidential debate in history. 

So last night was a pleasant surprise.  Bob Schieffer did an outstanding job and finally drew the candidates into a discussion of trade, the most critical sub-issue of the over-arching issue of the economy.  The difference in the candidates’ positions on trade was stark.  True to form, McCain favors free trade, regardless of the consequences.  He supports free trade with Colombia, despite Colombia’s record of targeting labor leaders for assassination.  He favors eliminating tariffs on imported ethanol.  He favors eliminating subsidies for American agricultural products.  He has never expressed any concern about the loss of five million manufacturing jobs.  He believes all nations should have unfettered free access to the American market.  Only when talking about oil imports does he express concern about the “$700 billion we give to people who don’t like us very much,” a piece of data he extracted out of context from the T. Boone Pickens ad about energy policy, which drives me nuts every time I hear him repeat it, which is often.  McCain:  please, please, please get your facts straight on this!  $700 billion is the amount of our total trade deficit.  (Watch the T. Boone Pickens ad again.  He never says this is the amount we spend on foreign oil.)  Of that $700 billion, only about $300 billion is for foreign oil, and only a fraction of that goes to Middle Eastern countries and Venezuela – the countries who “don’t like us very much.” 

Obama, on the other hand, is opposed to trade with Colombia until they improve their labor rights record.  He is opposed to NAFTA being so skewed in Mexico’s favor.  He raised the fact that Korea exports hundreds of thousands of cars to us annually while importing almost nothing from the United States.  He mentioned China unfairly manipulating the exchange rate to sustain their $300 billion per year trade surplus.  And he has spoken often of tax breaks for companies who create jobs in America as well as helping our domestic industries.

I still have questions about whether or not Obama will really follow through and take the actions necessary to reduce (or hopefully eliminate) our trade deficit, but at least he sees the deficit as a problem and makes the connection between it and the loss of jobs and damage done to our economy.  Since the trade deficit is by far and away the biggest contributor to our economic mess, Obama’s approach to the economy is the right one.  I am an independent and will vote for anyone who comes down on the right side of the issues and, on the issue of trade, Obama is the clear choice.


Obama Getting It Right on Trade Policy

September 15, 2008

http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSPEK31622020080915?sp=true

This Reuters article reports more detail on the candidates’ economic policies – specifically their policies on trade with China – than I’ve seen so far.  There is no more crucial issue in this election than trade policy, especially our policy toward trade with China, where our trade deficit continues to grow and is approaching $300 billion per year, nearly half of our total trade deficit.

The following excerpts summarize the candidates’ positions.  First, Obama:

“Central to any rebalancing of our economic relationship must be change in currency practices,” Obama said in his policy paper.

“I will use all the diplomatic avenues available to seek a change in China’s currency practices,” he said.

Obama said China pegs its yuan currency at an “artificially low rate,” making its exports unfairly cheap.

He has backed legislation that would define currency manipulation as an illegal subsidy so that the United States could slap duties on more Chinese goods.

It’s the last paragraph above that sets Obama apart.  Consider McCain’s policy:

“(China’s) commitment to open markets must include enforcement of international trade rules, protecting intellectual property, lowering manufacturing tariffs and fulfillment of its commitment to move to a market-determined currency,” McCain said.

First of all, both candidates rely far too much on currency valuation.  It won’t work.  A good example is contained right within this same article:

The yuan has appreciated a further 18.47 percent since it was revalued by 2.1 percent to 8.11 per dollar in July 2005, and freed from a dollar peg to float within managed bands. Now one U.S. dollar buys about 6.85 yuan.

During this time frame in which China’s currency strengthened by almost 20%, the trade deficit has continued to soar, rising nearly 50%.  While China’s currency rises, they simply cut prices (in terms of the yuan) to maintain their dollar pricing in the U.S. market.  Decades of experience has also proven that other approaches which rely upon the trading partner (regardless of the country) to take action are equally ineffective.  “Enforcing trade rules.”  “Protecting intellectual property.”  “Enforcing labor standards and environmental standards.”  All of these approaches have been abysmal failures.  Only actions which place control in America’s hands have any chance whatsoever of succeeding.  Folks, this means tariffs. 

And, judging by that standard, only Obama has expressed a willingness to do it.  I’m concerned that he will waste time waiting to see the effects of currency valuation, but at least he’s got the tariffs in his tool bag. 

Our enormous trade deficit, approximately three quarters of a trillion dollars per year, is by far the most critical issue of our time.  It lies at the very heart of our escalating economic melt-down.  We should be supporting candidates who express a willingness to take positive action to restore a balance of trade.  Regardless of which candidate you support, it’s imperative that you challenge him or her to clearly state what proactive steps they will take to eliminate our trade deficit and put America back on a solid financial footing.


Not Ready to Lead?

September 8, 2008

Qualifications:

  1. Lawyer.
  2. Served in the Illinois state legislature.
  3. One term on Capitol Hill.

It has recently been said by many that someone with the above resume’ is clearly not ready to take over the reins of the presidency and the leadership of the free world.  History seems to prove otherwise, for the above resume’ belongs to Abraham Lincoln, the greatest president in American history, the Commander-in-Chief during the fiercest, bloodiest war in American history. 

It is not experience on Capitol Hill nor executive experience behind the desk in a governor’s office that determine greatness in a potential president.  Rather, it is intelligence, leadership, vision and core values that really matter.  These are the measures by which we need to judge our candidates.


The Populationist Case for Obama

September 7, 2008

With the conventions now behind us, the choice between the presidential candidates is clear. For those concerned about the effects of overpopulation, both home-grown and imported through free trade with overpopulated nations, the winner is Obama. I base this on the following analysis of the candidates’ positions:

  1. On the issue of reducing the birth rate to stabilize our population, neither candidate has a position. However, McCain has unwittingly come down on the wrong side of this issue by advocating a doubling of the tax deduction for dependent children. It’s a feature of the tax reduction part of his economic plan, but the effect would surely be to provide an incentive to boost the birth rate. This seems like a very odd approach to reducing taxes. Why not simply reduce the base rate, so that everyone at that income level benefits? Is it possible that a pro-population growth economist had a hand in crafting this policy? It seems quite possible. This policy is exactly the opposite of what I have recommended in Five Short Blasts, and is clearly a step backwards for those fighting overpopulation. Advantage: Obama
  2. See my previous post regarding the size of the candidates’ families. If something precipitates a catapulting of the overpopulation issue to national attention (as if it shouldn’t be a key focus already), which candidate is more likely to be receptive to the concept, and which will be a more credible leader on the issue – the candidate with seven children, or the one with two? Advantage: Obama
  3. Both candidates are on the wrong side of the immigration issue. Both favor what amounts to amnesty and guest worker programs, but supposedly only after the border has been secured. The Democrats have an especially bad record when it comes to favoring immigration to the detriment of American citizens. So Obama makes me nervous on this, but so too does McCain. Advantage: Neither
  4. This leaves the subject of trade. If you haven’t read Five Short Blasts, it may be difficult for you to understand the connection to overpopulation. I strongly encourage you to read it. Otherwise, you’ll just have to believe me when I say that our trade deficit is a direct result of attempting to trade freely with overpopulated nations. On this issue there is a very sharp contrast between the candidates. McCain has been very open and adamant about his belief in free trade and his plans to “open more markets,” as have other Republicans who have spoken on his behalf. Obama, on the other hand, blames our trade deficit for the loss of manufacturing jobs and has even vowed to scrap and renegotiate NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement). Advantage: Obama
  5. On the subject of breaking our dependence on foreign oil, both candidates recognize the need. McCain more strongly advocates drilling offshore and in ANWR (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) as a stop-gap measure while renewable energy is developed. Obama has expressed a willingness to consider more drilling, but not in ANWR. Neither candidate has acknowledge the necessity to even stabilize our population, much less reduce it, as a critical element of achieving energy independence. Advantage: Neither
  6. Both candidates acknowledge the problem of global warming and have promised action. But, for whatever reason, McCain has chosen a running mate who does not share this same belief. Given McCain’s age, it’s not a stretch to think that Palin may have to take over at some point. It would be an environmental disaster to have another administration that doesn’t “get it” on global warming. Biden, on the other hand, if he had to take over from Obama, shares his concern with global warming. Advantage: Obama

In summary, from a policy perspective, Obama has unwittingly made himself the clear choice of those concerned with overpopulation and its effects, both home-grown and imported.

     

McCain’s Acceptance Speech: A Recipe for Disaster

September 6, 2008

I watched much of the coverage of the RNC with great interest, anxious to hear more details about McCain’s plan for the economy. What I heard Thursday night I found very disturbing. I hoped to hear details of a plan that would take us in a new direction. Instead, he served up a recipe for disaster – an intensification of the policies of the past three decades – policies that have driven our nation to the very brink of bankruptcy and complete economic collapse. His plan is the very antithesis of the policies I’ve called for in Five Short Blasts.

The worst element of his plan is his call to “open new markets.” I suppose that has an appeal to the uninformed. It sounds like a plan to increase exports. That would be fine if that’s how it worked. What was unsaid is that the only way to open new markets is open our market further as well. This is exactly the blind trade approach that has resulted in a cumulative trade deficit of $9 trillion since 1975, growing at an annual rate of three quarters of a trillion dollars. It’s an expansion of the policy of trading away our healthy market while getting access to stunted markets in return, if we get access at all. It has often been said that doing more of the same while expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.

And, as if to underscore his lack of even a basic understanding of our trade picture, while promising to “drill, drill, drill,” he repeated once again the erroneous claim that arose from the T. Boone Pickens TV ad. “$700 billion per year is sent overseas to people who don’t like us very much,” implying that that’s how much we spend on foreign oil in the Middle East and other places like Venezuela. I thought my head would explode when I heard that lie proclaimed once again, but this time so forcefully in front of a national audience. Perhaps if Joe Lieberman were standing next to him, he could have whispered in his ear and corrected him. “Psssst. John! That’s not right. $700 billion is our total trade deficit. Only about a third of that is spent on foreign oil, and only a fraction of that goes to the Middle East.” (For the benefit of those unaware, the T. Boone Pickens ad never claimed that we spend $700 billion per year on foreign oil. Pickens said that “We send $700 billion per year to foreign countries.” By plopping our trade deficit figure into an ad for breaking our dependence on foreign oil, he bolstered his case without technically making an exaggeration. Watch the ad again. You’ll see that I’m right.)

As I’ve said before, this calls into question whether McCain lacks the intellectual curiosity that one needs to make informed decisions. The man has admitted to being computer-illiterate. He doesn’t even use E-mail. Shouldn’t anyone being considered for president show at least enough curiosity about what has become a critical element of our economy to be able to handle the basics, like E-mail? If he had, in about five minutes he could have Googled “trade deficit,” gone straight to the U.S. Census Bureau site (the agency that tracks trade data), and learned the basics about our trade deficit. He would then have known that we only spend about $250-300 billion on foreign oil, and that Canada is our biggest foreign supplier.

But I’ve digressed. So what is McCain’s plan for dealing with job losses? Retraining. I wanted to scream loud enough for him to hear all the way in Minneapolis, “retrain to do what? Where are these mythical jobs that are going unfilled because we’re all too uneducated to perform them?” He never answers that. It seems that the plan is to successively move our excess labor supply from the segment of the economy where it’s the worst to other segments, one after the other, destroying the wage structure in each as we go. By creating the illusion of progress in one area, maybe we won’t notice the deterioration in another. That seems to be the plan. Also, by proposing that the federal government make up a person’s shortfall in wages in their new job vs. the job they just lost, at least during the “retraining” process, he seemed to making a tacit admission that wages will, in general, continue to decline under his plan.

But no, there will be new jobs, he says, in the mythical new “green economy,” not to be confused with the “new economy” of the ’90s, based on the internet, that was going to be our job salvation. This one will be based on building new, renewable energy sources. Somehow politicians have been sold the idea that the equipment used to generate renewable energy can only be made domestically. Wasn’t that the same promise of “high tech?” Weren’t we promised that computers and cell phones would be made in America, while the rest of the world would make the simple, boring things like cars and appliances? And, even if true, wouldn’t the gain in jobs in making renewable energy sources be offset by a loss of jobs in the old energy technology? How does this gain us anything?

At this point, McCain took a swipe at Obama’s plan. “While I’m creating these new jobs, my opponent’s plan is to bring back those old jobs.” “Those old jobs.” He rolled out the words with a Bush-esque smirk on his face. Anyone who works in manufacturing should have been insulted by this statement. This demonstrates how little regard he has for the people who have surrendered their jobs to the Global Trade Welfare State (globalization) that was established by our goofball trade policies.

Finally, I was horrified at his proposal to double the tax deduction for children. If you want to lower taxes, why not reduce the base rate so that everyone can benefit? It’s clear that pro-population growth economists, interested in stimulating another baby boom, had a hand in crafting this proposal.

I like John McCain.  He’s a true American hero.  There’s no doubt about the depth of his love for his country.  There’s no doubt that he believes fervently in his plan.  But, unfortunately, his plan represents more of the same – more population growth, bigger trade deficits and more deficit spending to offset the negative effects. This isn’t change. It’s an intensification of the policies that have ravaged our economy for decades. It’s the old “if it isn’t working, do it harder” approach.  McCain’s plan is a recipe for disaster.


McCain’s Choice of Sarah Palin

August 30, 2008

http://mudflats.wordpress.com/2008/08/29/what-is-mccain-thinking-one-alaskans-perspective/

I’d like to weigh in with some preliminary thoughts about McCain’s VP pick, governor Sarah Palin of Alaska.  But, first of all, I’ve included a link above to a blog written by an Alaskan that contains some good information about Mrs. Palin.  The blogger seems to be biased toward the Democrats but it’s still interesting to hear his/her perspective.  It details an ongoing “scandal” that she’s embroiled in.  When I read the details of the “scandal” I had to laugh.  It pales in comparison to what’s happening here in southeast Michigan.  If that’s the worst someone can come up with on Palin, don’t bother me with it.

With that said, here’s how I see it.  I evaluate McCain’s choice on three issues:

  1. If she had to take over from McCain, what would her position be on population management, especially immigration?  It’s impossible to know at this point.  I doubt that the subject comes up much in Alaska politics.  But, being the governor of the least densely populated state in the nation, she’s probably clueless about the challenges presented by overpopulation and legal and illegal immigration.  A good indication is the fact that she doesn’t believe in global warming, a huge strike against her.  Even McCain has accepted that we need to act on this issue.  Why would he pick someone so out-of-touch on one of the most critical issues of our time, one that is exacerbated every day by further rampant population growth? 
  2. If she had to take over from McCain, what would be her position on trade and the trade deficit?  Again, it seems impossible to know.  I imagine that, for an Alaskan, the subject of the economy boils down to three things:  oil, oil and oil.  In that regard, I give her high marks for raising taxes on the oil companies to generate revenue for her state and to balance her budget, much to their chagrin.  Score one for fiscal responsibility and toughness.  But her husband is an oil company employee.  That will raise serious conflict of interest questions in any energy policy matters.  Also, I don’t like the fact that she favors drilling in ANWR.  I’ve come out in support of offshore drilling, but drilling in ANWR is where I draw the line.  The environmental risks are too great.  But, back to the original question, there’s no evidence yet to suggest what her attitudes are toward our trade deficit. 
  3. In general, is she ready to take over the presidency?  Some are saying that, even though she’s only been a governor for two years, she already has more “executive” experience that either Obama or Biden.  While technically true, I suppose, it’s ludicrous to suggest that such experience would prove more valuable than experience gained in the Senate.  Looking back at recent previous presidents, most had gubernatorial experiences.  Some were highly successful:  Reagan and Clinton (though I think Clinton was simply in the right place at the right time, at the dawn of the explosion in PC, internet and cell phone technology).  Some were abysmal failures:  Carter and George W. Bush.  So what makes a successful president vs. a failure?  I think it comes down primarily to intelligence, judgment, leadership and core values. 

So what does McCain’s choice say about him in this regard?  First of all, Palin was chosen for political reasons first, giving lower priority to what would be the best interest of the nation if something were to happen to McCain.  I don’t see her as ready to take the reins of the presidency and the free world.  This choice was obviously made in a play for disaffected Hillary voters and to shore up McCain’s shaky standing with the right wing of the party, especially pro-lifers and guns rights advocates.  But if McCain really wanted to attract the female vote, especially disaffected Hillary voters, why not choose another woman who’s more qualified, like Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the senator from Texas?  I think this play will backfire, insulting Hillary supporters with the thinking that they’ll vote for anything wearing a skirt (or a pantsuit).  If it’s pro-lifers and gun rights advocates he’s after, there are plenty of choices much more qualified to lead the nation.  And what will happen when Palin is stood up next to Biden in a debate? 

This just seems like a really weird pick and calls into question McCain’s judgment, one of the key character traits that should be factored into our choice for president.  I am reminded of Ross Perot’s choice of admiral what’s-his-name (the name escapes me) as his running mate.  It completely destroyed whatever credibility Perot had.  The admiral’s performance in the VP debate was one of the most embarrassing moments in modern political history.  Perhaps Palin will prove me wrong.  Perhaps she has the makings of an incredible leader.  But that’s not a risk I’d be willing to take.


Obama’s Acceptance Speech

August 29, 2008

Just a few quick observations about Obama’s speech last night:

  1. Great speech.  Forceful delivery.  Very steely appearance.
  2. Very centrist, at points almost right-leaning, especially when he made a strong point about cutting taxes and spending.
  3. Only one direct mention of the trade deficit, but lots of discussion about the damage done by shipping jobs overseas.  I suppose the words “trade deficit” don’t resonate with a lot of people, but talk about the loss of jobs does, and rightfully so.  So I give him high marks for this.
  4. Very little mention of immigration.  He briefly voiced support for it in one phrase, but then just as quickly and forcefully expressed anger at those employers who give American jobs to illegals.  I found this encouraging, offering hope that he’ll continue to be tough on enforcement and perhaps even signaling a turn toward tougher enforcement – toward coming down hard on employers, something the Bush administration never did.
  5. Although he spoke at some length about moving toward renewable energy, there was no mention whatsoever of addressing carbon emissions and global warming.  I found this kind of curious, since it’s going to be one of the toughest issues he’ll face.  Maybe that was the problem.  It’s a tough issue, a “downer” that was just as well left out of the speech.

I’m looking forward to hearing McCain’s VP pick, and hearing the Republican speeches, to see how they contrast.  Could McCain swing me away from Obama?  Sure.  But here’s what he’d have to say:  “I will eliminate the trade deficit.  I will bring our manufacturing jobs back home.”  If he said those words, I’d be behind him 100%.  But I don’t think that’s going to happen.  We’ll see.

More later.


Presidential Campaign

August 28, 2008

 A lot has happened in the presidential campaign this week and I’d like to take a moment to comment.

First of all, I was pleasantly surprised by Obama’s selection of Biden as his running mate.  Biden would have been my pick, too.  I just like the guy.  Some criticize him for some of his gaffs, but I find his openness and honesty to be refreshing.  He’s extremely knowledgeable and tough.  He’s much closer to the average working stiff than to corporate executives.  Some criticize him for being involved in the revamp of bankruptcy laws to the benefit of credit card companies.  Frankly, I think that law was a good thing.  Anything that imposes more discipline and responsibility on the handling of debt is a good thing.  Ben Bernanke could use some lessons in that.  In my opinion, Obama has passed his first real test of judgment – the selection of a VP – with flying colors.  I knew all along that he would never pick Hillary – primarily because of her husband.  If he had, Bill would have been constantly upstaging him.  Following every Obama decision, reporters would have run to Bill and asked if that’s what he’d have done.  Sure, they’ll still do that, but without being linked to the White House, no one will care what he thinks.  By the way, Biden hit one out of the park with that speech last night.  And, if I was the Republican VP candidate, I wouldn’t look forward to debating Biden.  He’s really a pro in the point-counterpoint formats.  I look for a really incredible speech by Obama tonight. 

And I must say that I’m impressed with the McCain campaign’s tenacity in going after Obama with their ads.  He clearly has a well-run campaign and is ceding nothing to Obama.  But I think his economic message is out-of-step with the times and I think that he’ll wilt in the debates.  One thing I’ve noticed is that McCain is constantly reading from notes during his stump speeches while Obama never does, seemingly speaking from the heart instead.  To me, this displays a better grasp of the issues and an intellectual lightness of the feet that will serve him well in the debates. 

Hey, regardless of who wins, we’ll clearly have a much better president that we’ve had for the past eight years.  At least we’ll have someone who can construct complete sentences and deliver a speech without an arrogant smirk on his face. 


Obama & McCain on Jobs: Same Old Approaches

August 2, 2008

http://money.cnn.com/2008/08/01/news/economy/wages_candidates/index.htm

McCain and Obama are falling back on the same old, tired, worn-out approaches to improving wages and increasing jobs.  McCain adheres to the ineffective “trickle-down” approach.  What was once an effective strategy under Reagan, when lower taxes on the wealthy actually boosted spending in the American economy, has evolved into “trickle-out,” where lower taxes on the wealthy and on corporations now boost spending for foreign goods and investment in “emerging economies.”  It simply doesn’t work any more.

Obama’s no better.  His primary campaign promises to attack the trade deficit have already been abandoned in favor of worn out Democratic approaches – boosting the minimum wage and boosting government spending.  Obama does propose boosting spending on alternative energy, but that will do little for jobs or wages.  It’ll create a few research jobs but, when it comes to implementing solutions, the manufacturing will all be done overseas.

These guys just don’t get it.  We’re not in just another business down-turn cycle.  America has been stripped of its wealth by the trade deficit and there’s little left to give.  Our foreign benefactors now see us as a poor place to invest and are cutting off the easy credit.  Yet, we continue to pump away $2 billion per day to fund the global trade welfare state.  These problems are immune to the solutions of these advocates of failed 18th century economic theories. 

Lacking a president with the vision, wisdom and guts to turn us away from blind trade, the U.S. is doomed to continue its headlong plunge toward becoming the world’s first “undeveloping country.”


We DO NOT Import $700+ Billion Worth of Oil!!!

July 30, 2008

This is starting to drive me nuts.  T. Boone Pickens, in his ad about our dependence on foreign oil, included a statement that we are sending over $700 billion to foreign countries every year.  That’s true, but IT’S NOT ALL FOR OIL!!!  Less than half is for oil.  The rest represents our trade deficit in manufactured goods. 

Now I’m hearing this repeated everywhere.  During a campaign stop today, even McCain repeated this misunderstanding – that we’re sending $700 billion to foreign oil producers, “much of which can end up in the hands of terrorists,” he said.  Unbelievable!  Even one of our presidential candidates doesn’t understand even the basics about our trade deficit.  He gets his economic information from ads on TV, and it’s not even accurate. 

Everyone, please, watch the Pickens ad carefully!  You’ll see that he doesn’t say that this money is spent on oil.  Is that any reason to be less concerned?  Actually, we should be much more concerned!  At least the deficit in oil doesn’t also include a loss of eight million manufacturing jobs! 

Our trade deficit is, by far, the single greatest factor behind the destruction of America’s economy.  It merits enough attention for people to at least understand the very basics of the problem.