Obama is Boring


The newspapers, the last couple of days, are full of headlines about John McCain the “risk-taker” and the “maverick” due to McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. I’m not going to talk about Palin, except to note that taking an inexperienced, provinicial, secessionist-loving, creationism-promoting, polar bear-hating, global warming doubting, Federal earmarks addict and lining her up to become President of the United States is truly a breathtakingly risky thing to do.

Instead, I want to compare McCain’s left-field choice of Palin with Obama’s choice of Joe Biden. Biden is everything that Palin is not: a known quantity, with years if not decades of sold experience in national foreign policy and Federal operations in general. An old hand who is a known quantity and will give dependable, predictable service in whatever capacity he is called upon. The choice of Biden is boring as hell, and a great dissapointment to some on the left.

And that gets me to my real topic, my new epiphany about Obama. Despite all of the near-messianic excitement that Obama generates among some of his supporters, Obama’s approach to getting things done is very straightforward and cautious, even plodding. His media image is Joe Namath, but Obama’s actual strategy is almost pure Chuck Knox. Identify the problem, and then attack that problem head on, and don’t waste time trying to come up with trick plays or fancy maneuvers. Continue reading ‘Obama is Boring’


McCain wanted to announce his pick for Vice-President on Friday in order to steal media attention away from Obama’s capstone speech at the Democratic Convention. Well, that worked brilliantly. No one is talking about anything but McCain’s selection of Palin.

Here is an excellent discussion of Obama’s economic program from David Leonhardt at the New York Times; after reading it I certainly I feel like I have a better grasp of Obama’s overall vision of the economy. What is interesting is the way that Obama integrates a very real appreciation of the virtues of unfettered markets combined with an equal conviction that Republican, trickle-down, tax policies have lead to concentrations of wealth that, ultimately, undermine the virtues of markets. This is fairly close to how I look at the situation, so I know that Obama must be right about this. </joke>.

Obama’s windfall profits tax on oil companies, and the subsequent giveaway of the money to the taxpayers smacks of populist opportunism. But Leonhardt’s article makes it clear that the windfall tax on Big Oil is on the extreme edge of Obama’s economic thinking, conjured up by the crisis in gasoline prices. Obama’s main thrust is just that working people are paying too large a share of the national tax burden, and the wealthy, particularly the extremely wealthy, are paying too small a share, and that the economy as a whole suffers from this concentration of wealth at the top. In other words, the general strategy of giving tax breaks to the rich has failed because the trickledown that was supposed to reach everybody else never materialized. So, therefore, you stop giving tax breaks to the rich and even take some steps to slant things back the other way to a degree. Very straightforward.

This is funny. It almost makes me believe in the power of prayer.

Well, that helps explain Obama’s pick of Joe Biden for his Vice-President. MissLaura at DailyKos, and Atrios both report that Biden is a passionate supporter and user of Amtrak.

Support for the train system fits right in with Obama’s economic program. An important part of that program involves creating jobs by re-investing in the national infrastructure, and Biden will certainly be on board with that (so to speak) in regards to Amtrak.

For me, the economic benefits we would gain from upping our investment in the railroads, and infrastructure in general, is a no-brainer. What is more interesting is considering Biden’s case from the public choice perspective. In classic, public choice analysis a Senator like Biden would choose his positions from a calculus of trying to simultaneously maximize his income from corporate donors and his political support from voters. And I have no doubt whatsoever that Biden engages in such calculations. But then you have the intrusion of the personal into the calculation; Biden’s personal use of and commitment to public rail (see the story from Atrios, linked above). These personal commitments can shift the public choice economics of a proposal away from the equilibrium that pure, impartial, political calculation would have settled on. And I am therefore happy to have Biden on board for the Obama campaign and, hopefully, the Obama administration.

I think that Obama is making the right call about compromising on oil drilling in order to get renewable energy tax credits passed.

Here’s my thinking:

  1. In order to make any serious progress on reducing oil burning, we have to develop renewable energy sources in quantities sufficient to replace the energy we get from oil.
  2. An absolute, necessary requirement for that development is renewal of the renewable energy tax credits, and the sooner, the better. There are massive amounts of private capital poised to commit to developing renewables, but investors could get spooked if they think that the tax credits are uncertain or unreliable.
  3. Therefore, if we don’t get the renewable tax credits extended, and soon, then it won’t really matter whether or not the oil companies start drilling off of Florida. Florida will flood as global warming takes hold, and then we’ll have a whole, new, pristine coastline free of oil rigs. I mean, seriously, if we don’t stop global warming then no one is going to notice the environmental costs of increased coastal drilling. Continue reading ‘Obama and Oil Drilling’

Nice little article full of tips from someone who often gets his letters published. My favorite quote is:

A letter is not the place to ramble on. Choose your strongest point and make that point in clear language. You can support your point with a few different bits of evidence, but don’t make multiple arguments.

Sounds like good advice for writing blog posts as well.