Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Take on the Election

If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the last couple of years it will come as no surprise to you that I’m voting for John McCain for President on Tuesday. I am a conservative, and while I don’t think McCain is the ideal candidate, in my view he is definitely preferable to Barack Obama. In the area of character and patriotism John McCain clearly shines. He has devoted his entire adult life to serving his country with honor and distinction. In contrast, Barack Obama’s past raises many more questions. I do believe that associations matter. You can explain away some things, but the cumulative pattern of Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Tony Rezko, Rashid Khalidi and Edward Said indicate a man who has circulated for years in the radical left fringes of American politics. Although Obama presents himself in this campaign as a left-center moderate, his voting record and his past associations strongly indicate otherwise.

Now let’s look at some specific policy issues.

Economic Recovery
Neither candidate inspires much confidence here. Both seem to have only a tenuous grasp of economic principles. McCain talks about cracking down on Wall Street greed and corruption. Obama talks about the problem being lax regulation. Both are somewhat wide of the mark. The mortgage crisis which spawned the recent market collapse is the result of banks making risky loans to people who shouldn’t have been borrowing. Both parties are culpable – it takes two to tango. So how do you convince people to be prudent in their personal financial decisions? Unfortunately, that’s not something the government can do. Wisdom is learned from parents and churches, not government agencies.

The more peculiar thing about the recent crisis is why anyone in their right mind would loan money to someone who probably can’t pay it back, or buy such a loan from the bank that made it. If normal economic incentives were operating no rational investor would do that. Here is where government intrusion into the market distorted the normal economic incentives that guide business policies. The very existence of quasi-governmental institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac implied some level of government guarantee for these loans. On top of that was misguided social engineering in the form of Congressional pressure to encourage minority home ownership by relaxing lending rules.

I’m not against government ever intervening in the economy. Some rules are clearly necessary, but they should generally focus on promoting honesty, transparency and accountability between the private parties doing business with each other. When government tries to engineer a particular outcome by heavy-handed pressure on the market, the Law of Unintended Consequences virtually guarantees an unpleasant outcome.

Health Care
Again, in my view neither candidate is being realistic about the health care situation in this country. However, I strongly prefer McCain on this topic because I believe Obama’s plan will be ruinously expensive in the long run. I fundamentally disagree with the notion that the government can or should guarantee universal access to health care in this country. Obama’s plan doesn’t go that far, but he envisions more tax credits, more coercive government regulations and generally greater government involvement in health care than today. McCain also proposes a tax credit, but his overall program is directed at greater individual control over health care choices and insurance.

Unfortunately, neither candidate seems to recognize and address the structural issues that are driving health care costs higher. Fundamentally, costs are rising because of the availability of ever more powerful and ever more expensive treatments. It is the advance of technology. If everything your doctor could do for you could still be carried to your house in a little black bag, I guarantee you there would be no crisis in health care costs. It’s the development of new drugs, new diagnostic tests, new medical devices, new surgical techniques and the like that makes health care cost more. An ideal health care policy would focus on harnessing market incentives to drive health care technology toward greater cost efficiency, while not shutting down the technological progress to ever more effective treatments. I don’t know exactly what that policy might look like, but I don’t see it in either candidate’s proposal. McCain comes closer by putting more emphasis on competition.

National Security
Hands down it’s McCain on this one. Obama is naïve about the value of negotiating with evil regimes and about the consequences of a rapid pullout from Iraq. He is far too concerned about what the Europeans think about us instead of what is best for America. McCain is much more knowledgeable about foreign affairs and military strategy. Furthermore, I don’t believe the accusations that McCain is trigger happy. I will rest far sounder at night with McCain as Commander-in-Chief than Obama.

On environment, both candidates take positions I’m not too happy about. I oppose a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, which both candidates support. The massive reductions in greenhouse gases necessary to have a significant impact on the climate will cost a significant percentage of the world GNP. We must be very, very sure that the benefits outweigh the costs before we undertake a program of the scale that would be necessary. To be effective, any such program will also have to include the rapidly growing economies of developing nations such as China and India. Half measures enacted individually by the developed nations will cost huge amounts of money and will be unlikely to affect the global climate significantly.

I like McCain on this issue. Of course, everyone’s for increasing domestic energy supplies. These days it’s like being for Mom and apple pie. The question is how you go about it. I believe that the government can and should fund research into a wide variety of alternate energy sources. But it is a mistake to enact subsidies for those energy sources. In the long run it is an unsustainable drag on the economy. McCain understands this and famously opposed ethanol subsidies even while campaigning in Iowa during the primaries. Obama wants to treat alternative energy like a jobs program. McCain is for offshore drilling, but alas not in ANWR. Obama supports some offshore drilling, but he wants to put a lot of restrictions on the oil companies that will not encourage utilization of these resources.

Again, advantage McCain. I really don’t think the Federal government should be directly involved in education at all. Education is fundamentally a parental responsibility. Government policies should encourage local control and parental choice in education.

Social Issues
The headliner here is abortion. Obama could not be more pro-abortion than he is. McCain has been consistently pro-life. As a Christian, I strongly believe in the sanctity of human life, including the life of unborn children, so I favor McCain on this issue.

There are so many other issues I don’t have time to cover, but to me the verdict is clear: John McCain should be the next President of the United States.


joe upstate NY said...

interesting to see.... via the history of bloggings... that people can be wrong...

Your "beliefs" blinded you to reality. Barack is a incredibly talented smart person and President. You worried about him and I worried about McCain. I love McCain.... and am glad he is a senator and am glad he will never hold the power of the Presidency. Wow... just imagine... he can tell a fast joke.. but I wouldn't want his age and time in a hole in Vietnam making any huge decisions for me ever. I do love him... and respect him. I do. But... get a grip... really... be honest with yourself... and forget that you are a christian/conservative for a good ten minutes before you rethink this.

Bill Hensley said...

Hmmm, well I'd say that Obama has been so far about the president I expected he'd be. The one pleasant surprise has been his support for more troops in Afghanistan. It's encouraging that it took him less than a year to understand that sometimes you have to stand and fight.

joe upstate NY said...

???? Obama has been a huge supporter of involvement in the Afganistan/Pakistan area due to Al Qaeda being in that area for his entire life in politics Bill! He added 15,000 troops ASAP after taking the job. he campaigned as such and said as such on every sound bite that was ever on the tube and at every campaign rally. Every one. You just don't "see" that you have decided to be C/C... and are just not open in your sensing of the world you are living in. I have a few C/C leanings myself and am not a left or right person. It would be nice if you stood up for your true life like I try to... ie.. science (you're an engineer) and the "the ideals" of a person who was not actually named Jesus.. (it's someone's translation) Future generations will Bill... I do now. You may never... but I would love to at least open you up to it someday.

Bill Hensley said...

You're right, he did. I guess I thought it was just a way to criticize Bush's Iraq strategy. I am glad he followed through. And thank you for your personal concern for me. I make lots of mistakes, but I hope most of the time I'm seeing reality pretty clearly. I believe a clear view of life can only come when you know the Author of Life. God bless you, Joe, and Merry Christmas!