The Case for Senator Barack Obama for President

Through the primary season, I had a much difficulty deciding whether I would support Senator Clinton or Senator Obama.  On one hand, Senator Clinton impressed me with her policy knowledge, intelligence, and pedigree.  On the other hand, Senator Obama’s famous oratory skills, comparisons to Jack Kennedy, and the powerful endorsements had given me pause to consider him.  In the end, I put my support behind Hillary Clinton.  My instincts told me that policy credentials were more important than breathless speeches.  Part of the problem was that I didn’t pay close enough attention to the primaries, I knew that I’d support the Democratic candidate either way and felt there wasn’t much difference between them.

Once Hillary lost, I started to make myself familiar with Barack Obama. What I learned about him changed my opinion tremendously.  Not that I had anything negative to say about Obama, but the assets I thought Clinton brought to the table, in many ways were matched by Obama.  He is truly a gifted speaker and one that can transcend policy discussions and make America feel good about itself.  But he is also a extremely intelligent and has a firm grasp on policy matters.  Beyond that, he seems to inspire people.  I am sorry, regardless of your view on Barack Obama, you’ve got to recognize and accept his ability to inspire – just like Ronald Reagan.  Rallies of 100K plus (particularly when McCain on the same day can barely draw 1K), millions of donations averaging $86/ea blows away anything the Republicans have been able to do with their deep pocket donors, and he’s had the ability to nearly make race a non-factor in this election.  He’s even more inspiring, in many ways, than Bill Clinton.

At the end of the day, however, this is not the reason you support a candidate.  Platitudes are nice, but they will not affect the change to make this Country be the best in can be – it’s a catalyst, but not the reason.  His ability to lead will be his most important asset over the next four years.  The best example of this leadership is his campaign.  Sarah Palin can mock his community organization or dismiss the ability to run a campaign as leadership.  However, very few will deny this is one of the smoothest and best run campaigns in history.   It hasn’t made many mistakes, is extremely well organized and coordinated, anticipation and reaction to events have been accurately measured, and despite it’s size, the ability to talk with one coherent voice has been impressive.

Leadership is extremely important. I believe the role of the President begins with leadership.  He needs to have a set of core values that are appropriate and meet my philosophical leaning.  However, a President cannot be an expert on every subject.  And where he is an expert, he cannot spend the time to go into the details at such great length that it takes away from his ability to stay focused on all issues.  What he needs is the best set of advisers on every subject.  Ones that will provide an accurate picture of an issue with appropriate options.  The President must be able to be objective and critical when working with those advisers – it’s his ability to get the best out of his team.  Through the campaign Obama has surrounded himself with the right advisers – from Paul Volcker to Warren Buffett on the economy.  On Foreign Policy he has supporters and advisers such as Tony Lake and Colin Powell.  Those are the type of people you want to advise you on the important decisions.

Beyond that, leadership is understanding the appropriate way to react to issues. There are very few times in this campaign where his reaction what incorrect.  You want a President who doesn’t jump to conclusions, gets hot headed, or makes a decision without all the facts. Compare John Kennedy and Cuba to George Bush and Iraq.  Kennedy’s response was measured, patient, and made with facts.  He questioned to ensure he wasn’t being railroaded by any stakeholder.  Bush, reacting to information without proof, attacked Iraq in support of finding Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Can you imagine Bush and Kennedy swapping crisis?  We’d not be in Iraq right now, if Kennedy was President.  Oh, wait, we’d be non-existent because Bush would have ‘nuked’ Cuba.  When Obama was down in the polls – he didn’t over react.  He kept to his plan.  When the economic crisis hit- he didn’t react right away.  He collected his advisers and came up with a sensible solution.  A leader should also challenge the status quo.  It should challenge our policies – such as the infamous Bush Doctrine or sitting down with enemy leaders.  It’s not that we change the policy, but broach alternatives, vet, and engage in the right solution.  Obama does that.

Finally, a leader should encourage and not discourage.  A leader should be positive, not negative.  This is true to his constituency and his role as a leader around the World.  Obama’s campaign of change and tone of his campaign are positive.   To be inspirational when the morale of the country is down, is important.  To show and rally our greatness is imperative.

Beyond his leadership qualities, his policies are what this country needs.

Obama and McCain agree.  The middle-class has been ignored over the last eight years.  Wages have gone down, debt gone up, and unemployment and 16 year highs.  The difference is that Obama has real help for the middle class. His tax cuts are aimed and returning more money to the pockets of those with minimal or no disposable income.  McCain’s tax cuts are negligible until you meet the higher income brackets.  Beyond the discussion of whether supply-side economics work, is the basic belief I hold that this country cannot move forward without EVERYONE being a part of the success.  And yes,  that means redistributing wealth – so let it be. The rich will still be rich.  The middle-class will still be the middle-class, and the poor will still be poor.  But here’s the thing – the middle-class and poor will be helped greatly by Obama’s plans.  See, in a global economy that is extremely competitive – you need EVERYONE – all 300M Americans working to push our society forward.  You cannot go forward if the middle class, and particularly the poor, are disillusioned and feel hopeless.  A society that breeds exaggerated economic classes cannot survive. I am not a socialist.  I am not a communist.  I do not believe in leveling the playing field or income.  But giving folks the opportunity, the hope, and the desire to succeed is a powerful tool to make all of us live better lives than the previous generation.  It, quite frankly, has been the American way.

HealthCare is an imperative.  It is reprehensible that we live in the greatest society in the World and with the best medical care and technology, but 50M+ of our fellow Americans are without health care.  I’m sorry, but there is not excuse.  Whether it is expensive or not, we must have a program that covers every individual.  McCain’s plan basically creates a free-for-all. You have health care through your employer – great.  If not or want to change, here’s a credit.  Except, it still makes it unaffordable (leaving aside Obama’s concern with taxing the benefit).  I am currently going through open enrollment with my employer for health care next year.  I will pay a premium of 12K, my employer 9K = 21K for health care for a family of 5. How does a $5000 tax credit (offered by McCain) offset the $16000 I still have to pay?  Obama believes in work coverage and setting up a pool for those who can’t afford it.  McCain’s claim of an Obama ‘fine’ for employers who don’t offer health care?  Well, that simply McCain’s term for putting into the pool money to help those who are not offered work based health insurance.

The Supreme Court is a huge concern.  Right now the Court leans, by a 5-4 margin to a Conservative ideology.  Expectation is that three liberal Justices may retire – Stevens, Ginsburg, and Souter.  A McCain administration could potentially put the court at an 8-1 advantage to Conservative ideology.  It would be at least 20-30 years of policies far to the right of center.  Beyond abortion, every single social issue that the Christian right and deep conservatives have been railing for will occur.  These issues include a gay marriage ban, increased gun ownership, and reduction of social programs,among others.

On international policy McCain will absolutely follow Bush’s policy.  He will not talk to some foreign leaders, he believes in the Iraq policy, and has a hawkish outlook.  Where’s the difference? Beyond those views,our standing in the World is at an all-time low.  Electing McCain will not change that.  The World wants Obama.  November 5th, our view around the world will improve tremendously – in one day.  I agree we should talk to everyone.  Without diplomacy, you cannot affect change.  Iraq was a wrong decision and we need to get out and save our brave soldiers.  I want a leader who’s gut reaction isn’t to flex our muscle, but understand and work through the issue.  We don’t need unnecessary stand-offs with Balkan states.  We don’t want to encourage Korea and Iran to become more isolationist.  Despite the GOP rhetoric, I believe Obama fully supports Israel.  He recognizes the importance of the state as an ally and the counter-balance in the region.  I also want a leader who understands that to solve our energy problem and environmental problems – we must work internationally. Someone who doesn’t profess ‘drill baby drill’ – but recognizes that type of rhetoric only emboldens OPEC because our alliance on oil is not reduced. We cannot solve the climate problem without a wide ranging agreement from China to Canada to Russia and the United States.  If Palin plays a role in energy and environmental policy, she cannot be elected.  Her views on global warming and true lack of understanding of energy policy (beyond how it affects Alaska) would be wrong for this nation.

Obama’s plan for energy – to utilize many different sources – is the right approach.  It’s one I’ve believed in for the last fifteen years.  The lowest cost, best environmental solution would be one that takes advantages of the assets in each part of the country.  Less shipping of energy, less disruption on the environment, cheaper to produce.  Wind energy in the Plains. Clean coal in Appalachia, Natural Gas out west.  Hydro on the coast, and offset with nuclear where needed.  Obama doesn’t go all the way there, but it certainly better than McCain’s philosophy.

On social issues – Obama is correct. I believe everyone has the right to live their life as they see fit.  Do not encroach on my rights, and I will not encroach on yours.  Gay marriage, abortion, free speech, protection of our right to privacy, and even moderate gun control are issues that are important to the fabric of this nation.  Openness to social issues is an inclusive policy.  As our country becomes more diverse, we need to be open and accepting.  Closed minds or limiting choices will continue to separate parts of our society – particularly the minorities.  This country has always stood for freedom.  How dare the Republicans control our choices.  Obama may be to the left of other Democrats on social issues, however, to undo the damage done over the last eight years – that’s exactly what we need to be in order to center this country again.

On economic issues, Obama takes a centralist approach that is appropriate.  Regulation is important.  Free market, left to their own devices will work only for themselves.  We have seen that result.  I actually railed against this during the Clinton years in my college senior thesis.  McCain still doesn’t believe regulation is good. Obama does.  I do not believe he wants to over-regulate.  But he understands that checks and balances are important.  Obama’s support to an additional stimulus package and support of social programs are imperative for a well functioning society.  It was the New Deal that brought this country out of the last major crisis.  It were those social programs that continue to allow the ‘American Dream’ to be realized.  Without them, people would be starting at such a disadvantage, the divisions between the haves and have nots would get much deeper.

Obama is, overall, a centralist.  He is a thinker with left-leaning values but an understanding that this country is in the center. That is why the election is close, not because Obama is black.  He has shown significant and a diverse number of advisers – some Republicans and some Democrats. He truly loves this country – I believe that – and will do what’s right by the country, not him. He grew up from modest roots, unlike McCain.  McCain may have felt that way, but the way he has run this campaign shows, at the very least, his motives will always be suspect.

This is why I support Barrack Obama. Not simply for party loyalty, but for the ‘change he brings’.

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“Joe the Plumber” – His Income Math Doesn’t Work, oh – and is he Real?(updated)

**two updates: 1) Joe would buy the business for 250K and 2) Joe has ties to Charles Keating (aka Keating Five).  As I mentioned to my wife, Joe was going to regret being in the spotlight, all his ghosts are going to come out**

The Daily Kos has an interesting mini-expose on “Joe the Plumber”.  Research can be a little fuzzy right now as facts are checked, but what it looks like is the story being projected may not match reality.  First, through searching several Ohio databases, no Joe Wurzelbacher shows up as being licensed as a plumber.  Second, he does not show up as a registered Republican.  But, not so fast!  The Toledo Blade does turn up his name as Joe Worzelbacher with the matching address is a registered Republican.

But wait, it gets better. Actually, I’ll let the Daily Kos diarist say it in the most elequent way:

During last night’s presidential debate, we heard a lot about “Joe the Plumber,” also known as Joe Wurzelbacher, an average (ahem) Joe, who is really worried that a President Obama might raise his taxes. But does Joe really need to worry? Because if he’s the same Joe that ABC Newsidentified as Sam Joe Wurzelbacher, also of Toledo, Ohio, he doesn’t always bother to pay his taxes.

LUCAS COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
J. BERNIE QUILTER, CLERK
700 ADAMS STREET
TOLEDO, OHIO

MONETARY AMOUNT: $1,182.98

DEPT OF TAXATION STATE OF OHIO

Defendant 1:
WURZELBACHER SAMUEL J
30 DERBYSHIRE RD
TOLEDO, OH  43615

There is a lot of talk now that Joe was planted by the Republican campaign.  Supporters of this theory point to the examples above, as well as the fact he is using nearly the identical talking points of the McCain campaign.  I tend to believe this was simply a Republican who had a serendipitous turn of events that put him in the spotlight.  The McCain campaign missed doing their homework, if he was planted, by not figuring out he owed back taxes.

Now, some other thoughts on this ‘Joe’.  First, he doesn’t own the business yet, so he isn’t being taxed for it.  Second, it is very unclear whether revenue generated by his business would be $250K or his profit would be $250K.  This is a BIG difference.  If he had a profit of $250K, then he would be taxed under Obama’s plan at a higher rate.  However, if he earned $250K as revenue and then subtracted out expenses (employees, trucks, building, supplies), he would be below the $250K threshold.  Joe Biden makes a good point, but one I don’t know if is accurate – how many plumbers make 250K/annually.   It’s plausible, if he worked 2080 hours a year at $120 an hour.  But if he had any expenses at all, he’d drop below that number.  I used a Consumer Checkbook survey of rates for local plumbers in the high cost of living area of DC to determining an average plumber rate – it came out to be $84/hour (based on the top ten reviewed plumbers in DC).  To make $250K at $84/hour would mean he would work 2976 hours – that’s 43% overtime or 11 hour every day for a year (no vacation/holidays).  I haven’t even adjusted downward for the cost of living in Ohio.  So, if he made $250K, it would mean he probably has at least one other person working for him.  The median income for a plumber is 38K year (giving him the benefit of the doubt as a junior plumber).  So, if that is true, he could be over the $250K threshold (2080 hrsX$84/hourX2 people= $349K).  Before expenses and other deductions, it would be about $300K.  But, remember Joe isn’t licensed, so he would have to hire an additional full time person.  This one, I will not give him the benefit of the doubt for experience.  A licensed senior plumber averages $51K/annually, which would put him at $260K of profit before other expenses.

To summarize, if Joe owned a plumbing business and he hired two people to work for him – one junior and one senior AND they worked at least 2080 hours (which means they would not get any holidays or vacation) AND had no expenses AND no other business deductions – he might clear $260K as profit for the business.  But there are expenses: supplies, licenses, vehicles, computer, building, utilities, cell phones, etc.)

Regardless, even if Joe’s story was true, 98% of the businesses in the Country fall below this $250K threshhold.    That would also be in the top 3-4% of wage earners in this country.  Finally, even if he was right at the 250K threshhold, he’d STILL pay less taxes. Why? Because our tax system is progressive in respect to only income over each bracket is taxed at the higher rate.  So all of Joe’s income from $1-$200K would get Obama’s tax break.  From $200-$250K he’d give you no break.  ABOVE 250K you’d pay additional taxes.  But since you are paying less for your first $200K, you still will be paying less right at $250K.