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Obamacon Has Questions For The Senator

Larry Hunter helped put together the economics passages in the Contract with America and served as chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commere.

Since Bruce Bartlett has included me among the "Obamacons"--conservatives supporting Barack Obama for president--I think it is appropriate to explain to my friends, family, and colleagues (the only people in the world who might give a damn) how I can possibly support a candidate who proposes domestic policies (especially tax and economic policies) that are completely antithetical to everything I believe and represent everything I have devoted myself to opposing during my professional career in Washington politics.

The answer boils down to this: It is indicative of how much I value individual freedom and how profoundly important I believe foreign policy to be at this juncture of American history that I am enthusiastically supporting Barack Obama for president despite how profoundly wrong he is on economic and tax policy. (It also doesn't hurt that McCain himself is only slightly less wrong on economic and tax policy than Obama.) 

Moreover, as I have said in the past, Obama saying all the wrong things on taxes, economic policy, and health care doesn't bother me for the same reason that Republicans saying all the right things on taxes, economic policy, and health care doesn't excite me anymore--you can't believe a word any politician says. From Woodrow Wilson, to FDR, to George W. Bush, they all said one thing as candidates and did exactly the opposite once they got elected. Ronald Reagan was the exception to the rule. Today's candidates are know-nothings who will say anything to get elected, do anything to remain in office, and don't consider themselves constrained by the truth. Hell, they don't even know what the truth is in most cases.

My sentiments on Obama are best captured in the note a conservative friend of mine, Wendell Gunn, wrote Obama when he sent him a campaign contribution: "My contribution to your campaign is based on hope and change: my hope that you will change your mind on the tax and economic policies you are proposing."

Here are some questions I would pose to Senator Obama based upon his North Carolina speech last week (I'm sure the more he talks, the more questions I will have):  

1. Do you really, truly, deep in your heart believe that raising the tax on the returns people enjoy from saving, investing, and taking entrepreneurial risks will lead to more investing and entrepreneurial risk-taking and improve the economy?

2. Do you really believe that taxing investing and entrepreneurial risk-taking, the dynamo of the American economy, will help the poor, create more jobs for Middle America, and generate greater prosperity for our children and grandchildren?

3. Do you really think more government handouts will make it easier for working people to obtain healthcare or that government is capable of managing the healthcare market to make it operate better?

4. Do you really suppose higher taxes on oil producers will make gasoline cheaper, or is your strategy to make gasoline as expensive as possible in the hope that it will increase our dependence on some other fuel source?

5. Does it really make sense for government to subsidize the replacement of food crops with fuel crops?

6. Can you really in good conscience justify increasing Social Security taxes by raising the payroll cap to generate more Social Security surpluses for the government to raid and squander on other forms of government spending?

7. Is the codification of envy and resentment a sound and moral basis of government policy, and will your rhetoric, which stimulates class warfare, actually bring the country together to solve our common problems?

8. John F. Kennedy said he wanted to raise all boats with a rising tide. Have you given up on that strategy or do you now believe the only way to equalize the struggle between big and small boats is to poke holes in the larger vessels? Is it moral for government to harm one group of people who have done nothing wrong because it is incapable of helping another group of people who are less fortunate?

9. Do you really think capitalism is a zero-sum game that requires government to take from the most productive among us to help the less advantaged?

10. Do you have a clue how to restore the value of the dollar?  Do you really think the technocrats at the Fed do? If not, would you consider replacing the Fed's discretion to make up monetary policy as it goes along with a rule-based monetary policy that anchors the dollar to something real like gold?

But, sad as I am to say it, no matter how Senator Obama answers these questions--regardless of whether he remains deaf and blind to economic reality--I will still support him for president if he can change the direction of American foreign policy and begin to restore the freedoms the Bush and Clinton administrations and their cronies in Congress took away from us in the name of national security. The hard economic times that Obama's ill-conceived and harshly punitive economic policies will produce may simply be the high price of atonement the country must pay for the horrible foreign policy errors Republicans and Democrats alike have committed since the end of World War II. 

What grieves me is that, though the economic suffering to come is not required to right the wrongs the Washington establishment and their fellow travelers have inflicted on their political parties, our country, and the world, it may be the political ransom we must pay misguided ideologues on the left to clean up the current foreign policy mess. The next time around, we may simply have to reconcile ourselves to hiring someone else to clean up the economic waste products the leftist ideologues will leave lying around after they are chased out of town. For--make no mistake--if Obama persists in pursuing a radical leftist tax and economic agenda, he and his party will also pay a high political price.   

The sad fact remains that, where foreign policy and limiting individual rights are concerned, any Republican candidate with a chance to win the presidency today is captive to right-wing radicals, and where domestic policy is concerned, any Democratic candidate is captive to left-wing radicals. Therefore, it's a choice between a Republican candidate who would lead America on an immoral suicide mission around the world and a Democratic candidate who would maim all Americans in a misbegotten and deluded quest to bring "justice" to some Americans at the expense of others. 

Lamentable as that choice may be, it's not a difficult one. So take heart--it may be that a little economic suffering today is the political price we must pay to pave the way for a new force of moderation in American politics tomorrow, perhaps a force that--for a change--will be capable of getting both foreign and domestic policy right at the same time.

--Larry Hunter