It has been the recent meme among commentators, especially those in the bag for one side, to claim that the election is already “in the bag”. Besides the insidious capability of such statements to be self-fulfilling prophecy by demoralizing supporters from voting (certain members of the media with an agenda? Well I never!), coincidentally the rationale in Canada behind the ban on exit polls and election reporting until all polls close, such hasty conclusions are often anchored on a very questionable assumption.
Entries in Election 2012 (5)
While the Justice Department’s recent approval of New Hampshire’s new voter ID law has certainly led many at Dartmouth and throughout the state to cry foul, a judge’s recent ruling on another controversial piece of election-related legislation is actually cause for concern.
This past Monday, Stafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and four individuals represented by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union who argued that the state’s updated voter registration law prevented out-of-state students from voting in New Hampshire in the upcoming elections.
Seen by some as an attempt by Republicans to disenfranchise college students, one of President Obama’s most loyal support groups, this law, passed in June over Governor John Lynch’s veto, required prospective voters to declare New Hampshire as their domicile, forcing them to register their cars through the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles and obtain New Hampshire driver’s licenses.
With his decision, Judge Lewis reaffirmed that college students, regardless of their state of permanent residency, will be able vote in New Hampshire come November. This ruling was met with opposition from many Republicans, including House Speaker Bill O’Brien, who suggested that allowing out-of-state students to vote in New Hampshire invalidates that right of bona fide residents.
“Merely being in New Hampshire does not give a person a right to vote,” he said. “One must intend to stay for at least an indefinite period and when you do you can vote and will become a resident.”
O’Brien has a point. Why should I, a permanent resident of New York who will have been “living” in New Hampshire for a mere nine weeks come Election Day, be permitted to vote here? Granted, the thought of casting my ballot in such an influential swing-state is exciting, especially when considering that my home state will undoubtedly go to Obama. But is it my right? I don’t believe so. An honor and privilege? Absolutely.
The conventions are finally over. Mitt Romney reintroduced himself to the American people as a man with business smarts, principles, and experience turning around failing organizations. The Democratic party responded by attacking Mitt Romney and generally avoiding any discussion of the past four years. As a result, I’d like to provide a Brooks-esque reintroduction to our President, a man with an always shifting and mysterious background, so that the American people can make a fully informed decision on Nov. 6th. Fortunately, I have spent four years researching the inscrutable man in the White House and can now provide you with unique insight into the newly revised campaign biography.
Barack Obama was born on August 4th, 1961 in Hawaii, Indonesia and Kenya, depending on whether he was applying for President of the United States, a college scholarship for international students, or for a book deal about his struggle with his racial identity. He burst forth from his mother’s womb in a cloud of smoke, which may or may not have been related to the half-empty pack of cigarettes the future President clutched tightly in his left hand. After being named for his Russian-speaking Marxist anti-colonialist father, the nurses turned away for a second during which time the precocious young man had already rolled his birth certificate into a fat joint and lit it on fire. This daring act of rebellion would later result in some trouble for Barack – or Barry as he preferred to be known.
Barry was a brilliant and talented child. Or so his mother told him. He uttered his first words in English at the ripe age of 36 months, but it was clear that little O had been waiting for just the right moment. The momentous occasion was a play date with a young girl who had just managed to construct a knee-high tower out of Lego blocks. Barry, frightened that his comrade might develop a sense of self-worth, accomplishment or individualism, broke his non-denominational vow of silence to tell her, “You didn’t build that.” The play date ended rather abruptly thereafter and little Barry lost a friend and a comrade.
But that was just the first in a long list of the young Obama’s achievements. Of course, that depends on what the definition of ‘long’ is. Five years later, the eight-year-old Obama organized a community of action figures, dolls, and assorted toys to protest that they were not allowed by the ‘realist’ teacher to participate in snack time along with the other ‘real’ children. It failed, but Barry has often spoken tearfully of the struggle of Barbie, GI Joe and Tony Tonka to gain equality.
Four brief years later, Barry gained his first experience in foreign policy, negotiating a peaceful and multilateral response to the feared terrorist Jack. Jack had been extorting lunch money from Barry for about eight months and so, Obama’s infinite patience had finally been tested. After a few days, Obama managed to scrape together about fifteen signatures from other students who had been similarly terrorized by Jack. Upon presentation of the notice of sanctions, Jack responded with a rather simple question that stumped the young peacemaker: “What will you do if I don’t stop?” When Obama failed to answer to Jack’s satisfaction, he found himself the recipient of a knuckle sandwich. Barry learned two things that day: there is such a thing as a bad handout and that you better have more signatures than just the school Chess Club.
Soon thereafter, Barry began attending the most elite private school within 2500 miles while living with his banker grandparents. Of course, he was still struggling in those days. It was awfully difficult to determine which was a more selfless way to rebel against the fascist fashion-capitalist system: wearing fedoras, smoking joints while driving, or surfing. So, Barry decided to play it safe and spend every hour in every day doing all three.
It was at Occidental that Barry’s true talent first revealed itself. Soon thereafter, he transferred to Columbia before being accepted into Harvard Law School based on his stellar transcript and recommendations. These, however, shortly disappeared in another rendition of a tragic motif in Obama’s life. The diligent young man had been up late one night finishing his application to be Editor of the Harvard Law Review. In a stack on his desk lay the only copy of his college grades and the final and only draft of his one-and-only article to the Law Review. It succinctly and brilliantly laid out how the Constitution explicitly endorsed abortion all the way up to the sixth trimester. It would have changed the course of history – had Barry not confused the stack of academic papers for a similar stack of rolling papers torn from a non-discriminatory assortment of holy books. Up in smoke went the records and the brilliant article. Luckily for Barry, the Law Review was understanding and still selected him for Editor despite his never having written an article.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Obama’s life became simpler. He settled down in Chicago where he spent his entire career avoiding anything to do with the words “private,” “work,” or “real economy.” While there, poor Barry was the butt of many practical jokes at the hands of the well-known prankster Tony Rezko. Tony was a goodhearted although mischievous man and would often maneuver Obama into all sorts of tricky situations ranging from introducing the unwitting Obama to ex-terrorists to convincing Obama that the church he attended every Sunday for twenty years was actually a performance of avant-garde theater and that the man screaming “God damn Amerikkka” was actually just a very earnest actor. Tony’s piece-de-resistance had to be the time he managed to convince the newly elected Senator to run for President against the Clinton political machine. But this time Obama had the last laugh – as he ended up in the White House. Rumors persist that the last line in Obama’s inaugural speech was to have been “Take that, Tony!” but the teleprompters fortunately malfunctioned.
Obama soon discovered that President of the United States was far too small a job for his talents. Between fundamentally upsetting the field of economics to prove that “we had to spend more to keep from going bankrupt” and ensuring world peace by winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama trained himself in the ancient art of golf-fu which he would later use to singlehandedly invade Pakistan and bring back the body of Osama Bin Laden. It also doubled his bench press to fifty pounds in ten weeks! As a result of his amazing record, the President ran a resoundingly successful re-election campaign on the promise that in his second term he would singlehandedly destroy the deficit, discover the cure to old age, and develop Martian colonies populated by Obama-bots. As a result, he won every one of the 57 states.
Oh wait, none of that happened. Nor did anything else in this piece or “The Real Romney.” Well, may be a few things. But that's besides the point. These two are just men. One who has had a record of accomplishment for the past forty years. And the other? Well, just look at the last four years. Higher unemployment, less liberty, and a far more dangerous world. That’s not the change we were promised. If the guy you voted for last time isn’t doing his job, you have to let him go. Even if it’s a nice guy like Barry.
Talking on the campaign stump, Mitt Romney has often argued that President Obama, if reelected, plans on taking America towards a path leading to “European socialism” or a “European-style socialist state”. The simple problem with his oft-repeated assertion is that it is misleading and is completely unfair. More specifically, it is unfair to Europe and overly generous to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.
This becomes clear simply by looking at tax expenditures and demographics. Thanks to the nature of how Congressional committees work as well as the periodic flare-ups of anti-spending sentiment by the American public, it has been far easier to expand tax credits than direct government spending and subsidies. Although Reagan's 1986 tax reform cut these subsidies by a third, tax expenditures have grown almost unabated since then
Why do I call a tax credit a tax expenditure? A government tax credit is functionally equivalent to a government subsidy. Regardless of whether the government pays you a thousand dollars for buying a car or whether the government says you can take a thousand dollar tax credit, the end-result is that if you buy the car, you will have a thousand more dollars (and the government will have to borrow/print another thousand dollars). The only functional economic difference is that the labor cost of administering the subsidy is outsourced from bureaucrats to tax accountants or those who undergo the ordeal of filing their own taxes.
To illustrate the effects of tax expenditure growth, let's compare the United States with Norway, supposedly a “socialist Nordic model” nation that provides “cradle-to-grave welfare”. The OECD calculated that in 2010, total government outlays (direct federal, state, and local government spending) in the United States comprised 42.5% of gross domestic product ($6.134 trillion out of $14.447 trillion). In Norway, government spending (national, fylker, and kommuner) in 2010 comprised 45.5% of GDP.
However, according to the leftist Center for American Progress using data presumably extrapolated from the Congressional Joint Committee of Taxation's yearly report (they were not clear), total tax expenditures in the USA grew to $1.025 trillion in 2010, or 7.1% of GDP. Statistics Norway and civil servants from the Norwegian Ministry of Finance calculated that Norwegians tax expenditures totaled 5.4% of GDP. As a result, total government payments in the United States comprised 49.6% of GDP compared to 50.9% in Norway. However, Norway's slim lead in government expenditures can entirely be explained by its slightly older population, which means more retirees drawing on government pensions.
How can government in “free market, small government, liberty-loving, capitalistic” America essentially be the same size as government in “socialist, Nordic model, welfare nanny state, cradle-to-grave” Norway? For one, Europe is hardly a monolithic worker's paradise/socialist hellhole (adjective dependent on your political views). Norway, while being completely within the norm of European government size, is still below the average (and is also one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, being comparable to the USA). However, that also means that the United States, while slightly below-average the European average like Norway, also falls completely within the European norm of government. “European-style” government is not some newly-arrived danger from abroad. It is already here.
When conservative commentators mocked Obama's “Julia” web-ad for being both patently ridiculous and laying out a cradle-to-grave welfare system predicated on a slightly-creepy level of gratitude towards Obama. But what few commented on was that Obama's cradle-to-grave system proposed very few new things that he would do. Instead, it largely posited that Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan or whoever the caricatured boogeyman of the news cycle was today would reform preexisting social programs. We can sneer at Europe for having “bloated nanny-state welfare states”, but all things considered, we're not so different after all.
So the next time Romney repeats that Obama will try to turn America into a “European-style” state, don't buy it. Because why would Obama try to turn America into something that essentially already is? Obama and his absolute refusal to entertain entitlement reform (part of the long-term Democratic agenda) won't, in the words of Mitt Romney, “fundamentally transform” America from a “small government” country into a “European-style” state. Instead, they will eventually transform a European-style state slightly below the average European size into something far beyond even the European norm.
If you ask yourself whether you would prefer “American-style” government or “European-style” government, answer that you would prefer “European-style”government, and consequentially support the Democratic agenda, you're asking yourself the wrong question. After all, there are a wide range of European governments. Instead, you should be asking yourself whether you prefer German-style government or Greek-style government.
By the way, just for the benefit of the next generation of Élysée Palace aspirants, does anyone know how to accuse someone of trying to institute “American-style big government” in French? If no one has a clue, I suppose we could just ask Mitt Romney to translate.