Kuznicki Enters the Fray

Jason Kuznicki has jumped into the Sandefur/Brayton tete-a-tete with this post, at least in a manner of speaking. I agree with his assessment of Bush, obviously, but I still can't bring myself to vote for Kerry.

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Sandefur writes: Yes, I know Brayton claims not to be a Kerry supporter, but so did Andrew Sullivan. There is a real difference between the two. Sullivan was a Bush supporter who slowly swung over to being a Kerry supporter (rather reluctantly), and for many of the same reasons I've criticized the…
Ding, ding: Look, I don't know what happened to these explosives, and I'm pretty sure Ed Brayton doesn't either. But my point was not about what happened to them. My point was about whether it is fair to declare this as an example of alleged incompetence in the White House. Once again, without…
Timothy Sandefur has once again taken me to task, this time about my post concerning the Bush campaign's consistent distortions of things said by John Kerry. It hardly needs to be said that I have enormous respect for Sandefur. Not only do I think he's one of the best bloggers around, I also think…
Sandefur has updated his post on my alleged bias, but has continued to oversimplify my position. In fact, I think he is engaging in precisely the kind of false dichotomy that he would recognize immediately were it foisted upon him. In fact, in his follow up he has gone even further than in his…

Ed your vote is your own of course. And I understand the need for more than two parties. As long as you're not voting for Bush, I'm happy with your chioce.

But your distatse for Kerry appears to me predicted on a view that he's a spineless weasel or something along theose lines. I don't see him as a hero...But the guy has taken on Nixon (Veitnam), Reagan(Iran-Contra), and Bush 2(S & L and BCCI), and in each instance he was looking out for the little guy or doing what's 'right', and it took a lot of political courage imo. Politicians are pretty shiftless liars, it comes with the territory. But imo as liars and conmen go, Kerry's significantly more gutsy than most.

I completely agree with the assessment of Bush but not of Kerry. I think Kerry has done some great work in the Senate. Admittedly, his work has been more as a prosecuting attorney than as a grand legislator. Sure you aren't listening to the Bush/Fox spin machine alittle much?

I don't think refusal to vote for Kerry is reasonable. I'll comment here what I said at PL:

"i think Kerry will be a competent technocrat. His decision-making seems to be rational, not 'faith-based'.

The few Bush defenders i know seem to me like crewmen on the Pequod saying, well, maybe Ahab's a little unstable, but at least he's got a vision...

i don't expect a Kerry administration to deny global warming, sell creationism books at the Grand Canyon, create military quagmires, give irresponsible tax cuts, let Enron create energy policy, hinder the EPA, ignore the NAS, write bigotry into the constitution, ....the list is endless."

While analyses of campaign promises indicate that both Bush and Kerry would spend great amounts of money on government programs, there is a great practical difference. As president, Kerry would find it all but impossible to get his programs passed in a Republican controlled Congress, while Bush has shown that it can get his fellow Republicans to pass new spending such as the $400 B [sic] drug program for seniors.

As a fiscal conservative, I voted for Kerry to save us poor taxpayers money based on the idea that divided government will result in less overall spending with him as president than if Bush were re-elected. Others who dislike big government ought to consider this as well.

Paul wrote:
Sure you aren't listening to the Bush/Fox spin machine alittle much?
LOL. After hearing all the criticism that I'm drinking the Kerry koolaid, that just strikes me as funny. If I've got both sides telling me I'm biased toward the other side, I must be doing okay.

I suppose that it's nice to live in a state where one's vote really doesn't matter all that much. I live in Massachusetts, and it's fairly clear that the state will go for Kerry. It did go for Reagan in 1980 and '84, but at the national level it's been fairly consistently Democratic since I've been living here. It has elected some Republicans for governor--Weld in 1990 and 1994, Cellucci in 1998, and Romney in 2002. Romney had announced an effort to try to get more Republicans elected to the state legislature in 2004 (there aren't nearly enough Republicans in either house of the state legislature to come close to sustaining any of his vetoes) but he has pretty much given up on that pipe-dream.

That said, I used to vote Republican. I used to actually believe the Republican's rhetoric about being conservative--even fiscally conservative. And that ignored the fact that a Republican (Nixon) was one of the few presidents to institute wage and price controls (hardly a conservative move) in the belief that that would combat inflation. I don't recall, but I probably voted for Nixon in 1972 (the first time I could vote for president). I definitely voted for Reagan in 1980, in the belief that he was something of a fiscal conservative. In 1984, too, and for Bush I in 1988 (I was in MA by then, and, regardless of my vote, the state would have gone for Dukakis at the time, if for no other reason than to get rid of him as Governor). Of course, the Reagan administration ran up huge deficits. And he did so even though he had a Republican senate for the first six years of his term. This continued under Bush I, and it has continued with a vengence under Bush II.

The Republicans used to accuse the Democrats of being "tax and spend liberals." As far as I'm concerned, the Republicans are nothing more than "borrow and spend liberals," although their spending is directed to a corporate constituency--ignoring Halliburton, I would be amazed if Tom DeLay's mohair subsidy has gone down. Certainly farm subsidies haven't. So it strikes me that voting for Republicans in the belief that they will be more "fiscally conservative" is the proverbial triumph of hope over experience.

I stopped voting Republican--at the national level--in 1992, when I finally realized that they were not the fiscal conservatives that they portrayed themselves to be, but that they instead were going to pander to social conservatives in order to continue their corporate subsidization. I don't have any problem with corporations--far from it, I work for some--but it strikes me as somewhat hypocritical of Republicans to bash so-called individual "welfare queens" while throwing money and other perks to businesses. Including, btw, "faith-based" businesses.

Vote for (or against) whomever you want. Recognize that it will be your children and grandchildren who will be paying off the debts incurred under the Republican "borrow and spend liberals." We don't have any children.

I agree with you completely on the notion of Republicans being fiscal conservatives. There are so many myths that people have swallowed. For instance, the excuse that is always offered for why Reagan ran up huge deficits was that Congress kept increasing spending and he couldn't stop them because they were dominated by Democrats. But that is flat out false. 7 or 8 years he was in office, Reagan's proposed budget was actually larger than the budget that Congress sent back to him for his signature.
And frankly, I'm tired of people even talking about Bush's "tax cut". There was no tax cut, there was only a tax delay. If you cut taxes and don't cut spending, you are only delaying the taxes until later on, as we did for most of the 80s and early 90s. Our current taxes are around $400 billion higher than they would need to be because that is what we pay each year for debt service on the past deficits we've run. Now, I am a major advocate of tax cuts. I'd like to cut taxes in half, if not eliminate the income tax entirely. But that can't be done without cutting spending enormously. To give a tax cut and increase spending at the same time is lunacy, it's borrow and spend liberalism, not fiscal conservatism. At the very least, as numerous libertarians have noted, if Kerry is in office he'll be stopped in his plans by a Republican congress and that will help restrain spending increases. They've rolled over and given Bush, the borrow and spend liberal, whatever he wants merely because he's a Republican. There's no way in hell that Congress would have passed the Medicare bill if a Democrat was in the White House, but now we're stuck with a brand new $500 billion entitlement program because they cared more about partisan loyalty than principle.

Ed Brayton at October 28, 2004 11:45 AM

Our current taxes are around $400 billion higher than they would need to be because that is what we pay each year for debt service on the past deficits we've run.

Well, maybe. The problem I have with the federal budget is that, unlike all corporate budgets, and, as far as I can tell, all state and local budgets, the federal budget does not admit to a differentiation between capital expenditures (a capital budget) and current expenditures (a, well, current expenditure budget). If it is deemed desirable to, for example, build a road from Hither to Yon, or to build a courthouse, or a naval base, or a this, that or the other, in the federal budget all of the monies expended for that in a given year are deemed expensed in the year. For most other budgets, if a road from Hither to Yon is supposed to last for 50 years (assuming normal maintenance), the expenditure is capitalized in the year(s) required to build the road, and amortized over the expected lifetime of the road. It is a capital asset. Suppose it actually costs US$50M to build, and that it is built within a year, but will last 50 years. For budget purposes, it will actually be bonded, and the bonds amortized, for budget purposes, over the 50 years. At US$1M per year. Assuming that the moneys for the road were expended in year "x," in the absence of a capital budget, the entire cost of the road would be considered spent in year "x." Even thought the people in years "x+1"--when the road went into service--through "x+50"--when the road was reduced to rubble--would have the advantage of going from Hither to Yon over the road. But, it should be evident, the budgets during those years wouldn't reflect the advantage that they gained from the far-sighted people in year "x" who spent the money to build the road--their budgets wouldn't have included any aspect in the cost of building the road.

I'll give you another example--regarding building a building used for gov't purposes. I was going to use the example of a school building, but I know that a few libertarians are opposed to gov't expenditures for education. More on that later, but let's assume that it's a gov't school building. Assuming proper maintenance, the school building would be expected to service pupils for 50 years. As with the road, the school building costs US$50M to build in year "y," and is built using 50 year bonds. Should the residents of the school district who agreed to the building of the school building in year "y" really bear the entire budgetary brunt of the expenditure that year? Or should people who, in years "y+1" through "y+50" also share in the burden.

I have seen arguments from some self-described libertarians to the effect that it is unfair for people in one generation to obligate those in subsequent generations for expenditures that a particular generation deemed necessary. That strikes me as terribly naive. Let's see what might happen. The US would never have been able to fight WWII, for example. More than a few hundreds of billions of US dollars were bonded to fight that war. On a less belligerent note, roads wouldn't be built--certainly not by the government. Government buildings wouldn't be built at government expense. I suppose that private companies would be willing to lease office space to the government, but they usually require leases of more than a few years. So if a private company wants to lease office space to a government agency, the government agency would have to obligate itself to paying rents for--oh--a minimum of 10-20 years. From a practical standpoint, I'm not sure that there is much of a difference in regards the "one generation obligating those in subsequent generations" issue that I posited above.

From the comment: I'd like to cut taxes in half, if not eliminate the income tax entirely.

Oh, and what would you replace the income tax with? A number of years ago, I toyed with taxes that might substitute for the income tax. It struck me that taxation should be based on two points: consumption and property. Consumption, of course, would include all consumption, including consumption of services. A mere sales tax would not suffice. The tax on property would be assessed on the value of all property at the end of the tax year in question. Neither of the proposals seemed practical. Ignoring the difficulty of trying to estimate the value of property each year, it has proven amazingly difficult to get Americans to agree to taxation of services. Florida tried to assess a services tax about 15 years ago, and the voters repealed it. As far as I'm concerned, the income tax is a moderate compromise. Of course, the way that the Bushies have skewed it to basically ignore income from capital makes it less so, but perhaps that can be corrected.

There's no way in hell that Congress would have passed the Medicare bill if a Democrat was in the White House, but now we're stuck with a brand new $500 billion entitlement program because they cared more about partisan loyalty than principle.

I guess we can agree to disagree about the Bushies' supposed "entitlement program." It's clear that their only interest was in "entitling" the pharmaceutical companies. I have a bit of experience involving a private-pay patient who was treated in the German system and in buying pharmaceuticals in Germany, and I can clue you that the American system screws Americans.

Um, no response to my question "Oh, and what would you replace the income tax with?" I guess you weren't serious.