Good ol’ election season/year/century/millenia. It’s been awhile since I’ve had any election-related material, because there really hasn’t been much to say. We are now starting to see a bit more on the policy end from McCain and Obama (and Barr?)
Most recently, both candidates managed to whip up some economic blog buzz — response has been mixed. Barry Obama has demonstrated he has no problem spending money, promising $15 billion a year for 10 years on energy technology, $60 billion for high-speed railways and improved energy grids, increased spending on basic research, subsidized high-speed internet infrastructure, and $4,000 a year in tuition for students who later enter public services.
A lot of that makes sense in the abstract (except the last part; why, praytell, am I subsidizing a future DMV employee over someone who will be working harder in a more productive job that is almost definitely more useful to society?)
Then again, so did the Big Dig. The question is never simply about the proposed end (better transit, SURE!), but also about the means. To Barry’s benefit, he does seem to understand that these programs need to work with Joe Market rather than slit his throat and steal his life.
He compares his energy investment program to venture capital, designed to support the “middle stage” between innovation and commercialization. “You have this point in time when things haven’t quite taken off yet and still entail huge risks.”
Megan McArdle isn’t quite as impressed with Obama’s “infrastructure plan which will undoubtedly do approximately nothing to increase the rate of economic growth (though it probably won’t much harm it, either).” She does add that his economic plan includes “a cause near and dear to my heart: simplifying and lowering the corporate income tax.”
So Dani Rodrik is in heaven, and McArdle thinks Obama “has the right sort of left-wing ideas; he wants to model America on Denmark, not Germany or Italy.”
McArdle’s probably not far off; Sweden’s Prime Minister himself said that Obama’s economic and tax policies were in step with his homeland.
Meanwhile, the Economist’s heart is a patter after Obama said: “There are some who believe that we must try to turn back the clock on this new world; that the only chance to maintain our living standards is to build a fortress around America; to stop trading with other countries, shut down immigration, and rely on old industries. I disagree. Not only is it impossible to turn back the tide of globalization, but efforts to do so can make us worse off.”
Why so much Obama and so little McCain in this economic discussion? Well, the Economist recalls McCain doing his best Hillary impression: “I trust the people and not the so-called economists to give the American people a little relief.”
All that said, let us not deify Barry yet. Obama’s decision to forgo public campaign funding makes sense given his war chest, but it also unequivocally violates the commitment he made to go the public funding path last year with McCain. Ain’t no real way to sell this as anything more than political opportunism. Obamaniacs will surely shrug this off (“Everyone does it”), but, of course, Barry has built his fervent following by making an obscene amount of people believe that he will never sell out his values like the “Washington establishment.”
In this case, Obama fought the Washington Establishment by making a pledge a year in advance to show to voters that he would defend the only hope for elections to stave off corruption and improper influence… and then got a glimpse of the promise land and grabbed the cash and ran.
Perhaps it’s an exception — certainly, not reason enough to not vote for him — but reason enough to put an end to these ridiculous conceptions of Barry. Seeing very smart people giggling and swooning like 12-year old girls at an NSYNC concert is a bit troubling.