Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I'm not going to be posting much for the next few weeks because I'm in the process of moving from D.C. to northern Virginia. My move, of course, has nothing to do with the election. But it is a nice bonus that I'll be able to vote in a swing state, instead of a place where Obama will no doubt win by a landslide.

Obama's Health Plan vs. McCain's Wars

Some libertarians like to criticize Barack Obama's health care plan because of its cost. Now, I certainly would prefer a more market-based approach. But Obama's plan isn't quite the government bogyman that it might at first appear to be. For one thing, it's not mandatory, so anyone can opt out. Obama's plan also relies on private insurance companies, not the government, to provide coverage. But what about the cost? Obama says his plan will cost between $50 billion and $65 billion. Respected M.I.T. health care economist Jonathan Gruber is more pessimistic, estimating a cost of $102 billion per year. That's not chump change, but it's also less than two-thirds of the cost of George Bush's War on Terror.

That $102 billion is also far less of your tax money than John McCain plans on spending. The Iraq war so far has cost over $100 billion a year. And that's only the direct costs. Economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated in 2006 that for every $1 of direct costs, the United States is incurring roughly an additional $6 in indirect costs, including long-term medical benefits and pensions for soldiers, and the costs of rebuilding the military to pre-war strength. That's a total bill of over $2 trillion over the first three years, or about $700 billion per year. A congressional report released in November put the cost of the war at a more modest $1.6 trillion through 2009, or about $270 billion per year. Using either of these measures, McCain's plan to keep fighting this disastrous war beats Obama's health plan on the big government front. Obama might even be able to use some of the savings from ending the war to pay for the tax cuts he has promised.

But Obama's health plan is a permanent entitlement, you might argue, while the war is temporary. Well let's just assume for the sake of argument that combat miraculously ends next year and McCain's 100-year peaceful occupation begins (despite all the evidence that the fighting isn't nearly over). The cost of the war would go down then, right? The United States has about 132,000 troops in Iraq right now. Let's assume President McCain is able to reduce that to a South Korea-like 40,000. So even if we take the more modest congressional estimate, the occupation would be only slightly cheaper than Obama's universal health care. And that's assuming that McCain doesn't start any other wars.

So the next time you hear people accusing Obama of being a big spender, consider the alternative.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More Contrast on the War Issue

Barack Obama doubles down on ending the Iraq war. John McCain wants to stay the course. Yet there are still libertarians, like Jacob Hornberger, claiming that there's no difference between these men on foreign policy. I just don't get it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Your Tax Dollars at Work: The Prime Minister of Iraq Hands Out Cash on the Street

That's right, he's literally handing out cash on the street to anyone who says he needs it. This is money from the Iraqi treasury, but the Iraqi treasury is in large part funded by the American treasury. I'm not saying that America doesn't have some obligation to spend money to fix some of the damage we've done in Iraq. But handing out cash on the street? Is this really what it's come to? Not rebuilding, not issuing grants, just walking around with a wad of cash passing it out.

The Associated Press story about the handouts (linked above) noted that: "Top U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus has repeatedly called money a crucial weapon to lure neighborhoods from extremists and stabilize Iraq. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, urged the government to pass out money even faster this week on a trip to devastated Mosul in the north."

Chalk this up as just one more cost of a war we never should have started.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Second LP Elector Refuses to Support Barr

Last month, Arthur Torrey, a Libertarian Party elector from Massachusetts, announced that he would not vote for LP presidential candidate Bob Barr, and would not cast his electoral vote for Barr if he won Massachusetts. This week, Torrey got some company. In this long blog post at Last Free Voice, Wes Benedict, a Libertarian elector from Michigan, also announced that he can not support Barr.

What set Benedict off was this press release from the Barr campaign, in which Barr praises the late Sen. Jesse Helms, an unapologetic racist, as "one of the finest, most courageous and deeply principled men to ever serve in the United States Congress."

Now, I wouldn't come down too hard on Barr just for saying nice things about a man who just died. But this is hardly an isolated incident. Barr has shown time and again that he is more conservative than libertarian. And I'm not talking about his Defense of Marriage Act, war on drugs, war on Wicca days in Congress. No, I'm talking about the anti-immigration press release he sent out last month, his pro-public school prayer campaigning last year, his support last year for a 10-year jail sentence for a 17-year-old who got oral sex from a 15-year-old.

And for good measure, here's an article Barr wrote last year - again, after his self proclaimed conversion to libertarianism - in which he calls for an expansion of the drug war in Columbia.

This guy isn't a libertarian by a long shot, just because he says he wouldn't stop states from legalizing pot (just don't try to import it from Columbia if you don't want to get shot with American weapons).

So for you libertarians planning on voting for Barr: Tell me again what the point is of voting for someone who doesn't believe what you believe, and also has absolutely no chance of winning. Arthur Torrey and Wes Benedict have an answer for you.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ron Paul Soda

No commentary necessary. All the details here. Via Disinter.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Libertarians Prefer Obama

That's according to polling firm Rasmussen Reports: "Libertarian voters make up 4% of the nation’s likely voters and they favor Barack Obama over John McCain by a 53% to 38% margin."

Full poll numbers here. HotAir's Allahpundit on the poll: "The silver lining: Maybe this means Bob Barr does more damage to Obama than to McCain."

I don't quite follow Allahpundit's reasoning. Because libertarians (loosely defined in this poll as people who are socially liberal and economically conservative) like Obama, they might be more likely to leave his camp and vote for someone else? That seems like a stretch. More likely, Barr will get 1 or 2 percent of the vote, almost all from libertarians (broadly defined), and Obama and McCain will split the rest 60/40 (not counting those who choose not to vote, of course). I don't think Chuck Baldwin, Ralph Nader, the Boston Tea Party or anyone else to get a significant number of libertarian votes.

The big question: how many libertarians are there? Rasmussen says 4%. The Cato Institute's David Boaz says 12%. The Libertarian Party trumpeted a survey in 1996 that claimed that 20% of Americans are generally libertarians. That seems a bit steep. But even if it's only 4%, Obama's libertarian vote total should be enough to put him over the top this year.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Is Barack Obama a Marxist?

Marx·ism (märk-ˌsi-zəm) noun: the political, economic, and social principles and policies advocated by Marx; especially : a theory and practice of socialism including the labor theory of value, dialectical materialism, the class struggle, and dictatorship of the proletariat until the establishment of a classless society.
- Merriam Webster

It has become fashionable for some conservatives and libertarians who don't like Barack Obama to call him a "communist" or a "Marxist." Alan Keyes got the ball rolling during his pathetic 2004 run for the U.S. Senate when he called Obama a "hard core academic Marxist." Last month, disgraced former congressman Tom DeLay declared that "unless he proves me wrong, he is a Marxist." There's even a web site, CommieObama.com (I'm not going to link), that sells Soviet-style fur hats with Obama's name and a hammer and sickle.

So what has Obama done to deserve the Marxist label? Keyes, DeLay and CommieObama don't go into any detail. Nor do the occasional comments on this blog that make the same accusation. The Canada Free Press newspaper actually does try to make the case for Obama being a communist in a lengthy article - titled "Is Barack Obama a Marxist Mole?" - that's a popular link for conservative and libertarian bloggers. So what did the Free Press come up with in the way of evidence? Obama is friends with some socialists, including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. He has admitted attending "socialist conferences" in his youth. One of his good friends was a member of the Communist Party in the 1940s. A few communists have said nice things about Obama.

That's it? That's all you've got? Over 4,000 words and no evidence, just some innuendo and tenuous connections? This is pathetic.

Obama has proposed cutting taxes for the middle class. He's the favorite candidate of Wall Street, destroying John McCain in donations from this group. Capitalists from Warren Buffett to Paul Volcker are supporting him. This isn't exactly a candidacy that I can see Karl Marx getting behind.

Does Obama want more government involvement in health care and more regulation to protect the environment? He does (as do George W. Bush and John McCain, respectively). Obama is a center-left politician thoroughly within the American mainstream, who also has some libertarian tendencies. If this makes someone a communist, than the word has no meaning any more. Anyone who calls Obama a communist is either misinformed, dishonest or delusional. Or maybe they just have no respect for the English language.

"A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts."
- George Orwell, Politics and the English Language