Shorter Robert Samuelson: “Change? What change?”
By Obama’s own moral standards, Obama fails. Americans “are tired of hearing promises made and 10-point plans proposed in the heat of a campaign only to have nothing change,” he recently said. Shortly thereafter he outlined an economic plan of at least 12 points that, among other things, would:
• Provide a $1,000 tax cut for most two-earner families ($500 for singles).
• Create a $4,000 refundable tuition tax credit for every year of college.
• Expand the child-care tax credit for people earning less than $50,000 and “double spending on quality after-school programs.”
• Enact an “energy plan” that would invest $150 billion in 10 years to create a “green energy sector.”
Whatever one thinks of these ideas, they’re standard goody-bag politics: something for everyone. They’re so similar to many Clinton proposals that her campaign put out a news release accusing Obama of plagiarizing. With existing budget deficits and the costs of Obama’s “universal health plan,” the odds of enacting his full package are slim.
Not to mention — in the case of the “investment” (read: wild throwing of tax dollars) towards green energy — inherently counter-intuitive. The entire reason such plans even get proposed is because of a huge blind spot in perspective when it comes to economics: statist-progressives assume that the dominance of non-green energy is entirely market-driven, and thus think any shift from the status quo requires activist government. How anyone can believe that that called out the war in Iraq as a war over oil puzzles me.
This is what irks me about the use of “CHANGE!” as a campaign rallying cry. Now, I’m approaching this from an obvious outsider view — I’m an anarchist in the long run, Obama and his supporters are not, this has not changed and in all likelihood will not. However, in the immediate term there are obvious things that, as long as the current system exists, can be reworked to (depending on whether it’s my perspective or theirs being emphasized) introduce some semblance of rationality to it or grease the wheels on the track away from it. The difference between such and the nibbling at the edges commonly proposed is that in some way the structure itself is reinterpreted.
Take energy, for example: the status quo is that oil is massively subsidized, both directly and in terms of systemic privileges cleaner sources typically don’t have, and the standard response to this is to subsidize the alt-fuel with the most political access — ethanol. A true change would be to in one fell swoop yank the breaks from the oil companies & shut them out of foreign policy discussions. Over time, the true cost would reveal itself, and people would demand the producers adjust. Since encouragement of centralized production would be a thing of the past, various smaller scale solutions would be used, saving money — and for my purposes, killing off one more rationale for the State.
Another example would be tax reform: Obama is proposing a few targeted breaks meant to encourage certain results, adding to the complexity of a system that’s already waaaay too big. What would be true change here? Try scrapping it for something simpler, yet still progressive, there’s options out there: a flat tax* with a high floor (exempt a relatively large amount & index to inflation), a modern adaptation of the Georgist land-value tax (consider who tends to own huge amounts of land…), the Automated Transaction Tax (progressive because the amount of such transactions rises disproportionately with income). Hell, even if they don’t want to go that far, a huge dent would be to do a kill’n’switch of the payroll tax with a carbon tax; while that wouldn’t accomplish what I would personally prefer, in terms of ending as many taxes at once as possible, it would at least streamline things and remove a direct burden on low-income workers.
Obama’s rhetoric screams “CHANGE!” at every opportunity, yet still merely shifts a little bit in the same hole. Despite this easily observable fact, which he himself has alluded to (i.e.: the interview where he sideways portrayed himself as a liberal Reagan) he’s treated like a one-man revolution. Shit like this is why, as a matter of principle, the most I hope for in this election & any other is for life to imitate art in a humorous way.
(* – the reason that the mainstream Left screams bloody murder at the mention of this is because the way the right-wing proposes it stuff like capital-gains & dividends would just go free — meaning a stockbroker wouldn’t be taxed but the guys who wash their Porsche would. It’d make more sense to just say “income is income is income, period”, and with a high enough floor it’d effectively be a class tax — which is what the first income tax put in place after the 16th Amendment passed was. This is not to say I agree with income tax itself, or the 16th Amendment — I do not — only that the precedent is set, and if progressives wish to go that direction for now it’s available. My personal preference is that, as long as the State exists, taxation be applied based on use of resources, whether in terms of separation of the commons or of answering the question “so, who uses the force of government more?”. Either one would be progressive without even considering income.)
(cross-posted to FreedomDemocrats)