As we approach the first of three presidential debates I don't think I have ever been as tired of an election as this one. It is also the most conflicted I have ever been going into an election. While I consider myself an independent and have no affiliation with political parties (I abhor them actually) I will admit to voting Republicanesque most of the time.
That said I have become somewhat more eclectic (smart????) in my advancing years. I now generally adopt a modified libertarian philosophy. Therefore let me lay out my views on the election and some of the bigger issues of the day.
I thought I would never see a president reviled as much as Republicans reviled Bill Clinton. I was wrong. The democratic (or a least more liberal leaning side) revulsion for W is the overarching issue these days and threatens to kill Kerry's chances. It started with the election in 2000 which Bush won by the rules and by the recount. I frankly don't have a lot of sympathy for voters that get confused by a ballot. If you are maybe you shouldn't be voting. I agree Bush did not win the popular vote. If you check the constitution it is not a popular vote system. It is a republic. It is the reason Wyoming has two senators just like California. Quit whining about it. It has worked for over two hundred years and several Presidents have been elected that way including Thomas Jefferson. But back to Bush v Kerry. I don't get the sense anyone really likes Kerry as much as they hate W. It has gotten myopic. Bush is responsible for every bad thing ever in the view of these folks. My view, Bush has made some big mistakes but lets be clear, the war in Iraq was not about oil or Haliburton or some other "corporate crony greed" thing. It may have been unwise (ok, stupid), arrogant, not well thought out, a bad move, crippling etc. but malfeasance it was not. Bush has been a great disappointment to me because he has basically not been a conservative at least economically. He never met a program or department he did not like and while taxes can be argued about (and are below) you can't cut taxes, enact half trillion dollar Medicare programs while at the same time you are fighting a war (more on that below as well).
Kerry has flip flopped more times than I can count. I have the sense the guy will say anything to get elected. I always discount politicians who have basically never had a job outside of politics. I think they have no sense of the real world or the cost government imposes on institutions, individuals and businesses. That said, even if he was a little generous on the purple heart reports and even if his service was done with a self serving view to a political future (I tend to think no one is that insane), I will give him points for being in the shooting gallery and performing admirably while Bush was in the National Guard stateside. I do find it ironic that in the elections of the 90s we were told that Clinton's draft dodging status had no bearing on his ability to be President and now we are told that Kerry's service (in the same war) is one of Kerry's biggest advantages. Which is it??? Basically all I can tell about his other policies is that we will spend as much money as Bush, just in other places. The whole campaign is centered around bringing back the "Clinton Economy". Lets put that fallacy to bed. The Clinton Economy were based on deficit reduction, job creation etc. The budget got balanced because Congress and Bush I passed the Pay Go rules, Bush I and Clinton passed some tax increases, a roaring stock market (the cause of many of today's economic problems) created huge capital gains taxes (see California's problems) and because of a real decline in the defense budget after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I will give the Clinton team points for being more realistic about things in general than the Bush II team but another key point in this fallacy is the gridlock produced by the election of a Republican controlled Congress in November 1994. As far as the economy and stock markets (and Hatch!) are concerned gridlock is good.
Lets also put to bed the idea that Presidents (I don't care who) produce jobs. Businesses (rich people or those trying to get rich) create jobs. Govts make it easier or harder (see Europe). Govt can help with schools, research funding for basic science, sensible tax policies etc. but in the end they create nothing and just redistribute wealth in society. That is not all bad. Here is where I leave the Libertarian Camp. I don't believe markets solve everything. Markets are very good at allocating resources but they by no means allocate them by anything other than price. In a democratic society that is not always the correct thing. As I like to quote Paul McCulley - Capitalism is one dollar, one vote -- Democracy is one person, one vote. That is an inherent conflict. We basically had a job bubble in the 90s just like we had a stock market bubble. It was not realistic on either front.
(TO BE CONTINUED....................)
Saturday, September 25, 2004
If you get a chance, amble over to Terry Tate Buffett's blog (The Investment Linebacker). He will blitz you until you become an unrepentent value investing disciple. None of this relative value crapola for TTB, he is an in your face, absolute value head hunter.