Friday, November 07, 2008

Fisking Obama

Obama has a webpage up at Basically a campaign website at a .gov address, before he is inaugurated. Lots of "spend more here", no information on how this gets paid for. Indented material is directly from the website.

Do No Harm: Barack Obama and Joe Biden do not support imposing unfunded mandates on states and localities. They strongly support providing necessary funding for programs such as No Child Left Behind.

No child left behind increases federal control of schools, and increases bureaucracy.. The feds should have a much smaller role in schools. The unfunded mandate was only part of the problem. Fairly typical that a change of party does not give up the power established by the previous administration.

Support Regional Innovation Clusters: Thriving innovation clusters across the country like the North Carolina Research Triangle Park and Nashville's thriving entertainment cluster prove that local stakeholders can successfully come together and help reshape their local economies. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will create a federal program to support "innovation clusters" - regional centers of innovation and next-generation industries. This innovation clusters program will provide $200 million in planning and matching grants for regional business, government and university leaders to collaborate on leveraging a region’s existing assets - from transportation infrastructure to universities - to enhance long-term regional growth

Why do some areas get special treatment? I don't believe tax breaks and grants to locate in particular places do overall good--they help the specific area at the expense of others. The jobs would have been created somewhere. Better to have an overall low-tax climate.

Enhance Workforce Training: Obama and Biden will make long-term investments in education, language training, and workforce development so that Americans can leverage our strengths – our ingenuity and entrepreneurialism – to create new high-wage jobs and prosper in a global economy. A critical part of this process is ensuring that we reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and ensure that it strengthens federal investments needed for success in the 21st Century.

Not sure what program this is, but similar programs are essentially boondoggles. A whole bunch of my Cisco training was paid for by a federal grant. One of the classes was relevant, (and would have been paid for by my employer) the other was expensive and useless--but my employer only had to pay travel expenses. The class was filled with people from my (major corporate) employer. The main beneficiary was the training facility.

Increase Access to Capital for Underserved Businesses: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will strengthen Small Business Administration programs that provide capital to women and minority-owned businesses, support outreach programs that help business owners apply for loans, and work to encourage the growth and capacity of these firms. They will also strengthen Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which are engaged in innovative methods to provide capital to urban businesses.

Define "woman and minority owned", especially with a publicly-traded corporation. This creates companies with the primary purpose of "being minority owned". In highway construction there is one particular aspect that is almost always handled by a minority company--If I remember right, it is guardrails. There may have been a time when racism was so bad that this sort of thing was necessary. We will never completely cure racism, but we are close enough that we no longer need to segregate minority businesses.

Lower People's Interest Payments by Creating a New Mortgage Interest Tax Credit: Many middle class Americans do not receive the existing mortgage interest tax deduction because they do not itemize their taxes. Obama and Biden will ensure that middle-class Americans get the financial assistance they need to purchase or keep their own home by creating a 10 percent universal mortgage credit that gives tax relief to 10 million Americans who have a home mortgage.

This will likely benefit me, but how does taking other people's money to help me with my mortgage benefit the US as a whole?

Increase the Supply of Affordable Housing throughout Metropolitan Regions: Communities prosper when all families have access to affordable housing. Barack Obama and Joe Biden supported efforts to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create thousands of new units of affordable housing every year. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will also restore cuts to public housing operating subsidies, and ensure that all Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs are restored to their original purpose.

Housing cannot be a right, else people will not respect it. Housing projects, Metropolitan, Section 8 housing attract a high proportion of criminals and "high maintenance" tennants. They know their "rights", but don't have any concept of responsibility.

Establish 'Promise Neighborhoods' for Areas of Concentrated Poverty: Successful strategies to address concentrated, intergenerational poverty are comprehensive in nature and address the full range of obstacles that stand in the way of poor children. One highly-acclaimed model is the Harlem Children's Zone in New York City, which provides a full network of services to an entire neighborhood from birth to college. Obama and Biden will create 20 Promise Neighborhoods in cities that have high levels of poverty and crime and low levels of student academic achievement.

Again, why isolated neighborhoods? Are these primarily neighborhoods with community organizers?

Increase the Minimum Wage: As president, Obama will raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011 and index it to inflation so full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing – things so many people take for granted.

What happens when someone is not worth $9.50 per hour, but would be if they had some job experience? They don't get a job, and don't get the experience. Employers will have to give raises to not only those people making less than the new minimum, they will also have to give raises to their more skilled employees. They will have to raise prices, or cut back on jobs. Wages rise which drives costs up, which drives prices up, which drives inflation, which triggers another raise of the minimum, starting the cycle anew. The other option is that even more entry-level jobs will go overseas.

Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Our communities will better serve all of their residents if we are able to leave our cars, to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives. As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account.

This assumes we should be funding transportation. Subsidized transport distorts job and housing locations-it gives places the ability to lobby to reduce "undesirables" by controlling the location of bus stops. What if all that was controlled through economics, rather than political?

Use Innovative Measures to Dramatically Improve Efficiency of Buildings: Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of carbon emissions in the United States today and carbon emissions from buildings are expected to grow faster than emissions from other major parts of our economy. It is expected that 15 million new buildings will be constructed between today and 2015. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work with cities so that we make our new and existing buildings more efficient consumers of electricity.

This will happen anyhow--nobody will deliberately build inefficient buildings. Government intervention will wind up like Ethanol power--Steering resources to where the lobbyists are, rather than where the savings are.

Address Gun Violence in Cities: As president, Barack Obama would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information,

No, it doesn't. It restricts non-government special interest groups from accessing trace information, for purposes other than law enforcement.

and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures

Here we go...How come none of the commonsense measures ever increase freedom where experience shows no reduction in crime?

that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals who shouldn't have them. They support closing the gun show loophole

Criminals don't buy at gunshows in significant numbers. The "loophole" is that the rules at a gunshow are identical to the rules everywhere else. "Closing the loophole" is banning private sales, and effectively requiring gun registration. Are criminals going to register?

and making guns in this country childproof

How can that be done, without making them adultproof as well, or vastly increasing the cost? I've said before, the overwhelming majority of child gun accidents have other risk factors.

They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets.

Battlefields almost universally use full-auto machine guns, not the semi-autos covered by the Assault Weapons ban. If these weapons don't belong on our streets, will police and secret service have the same restrictions? Will there be an effort to limit the restrictions to those features that are used disproportionately in criminal activity--For example, If we find that criminals don't stab people with bayonets, is there any reason to restrict them?

End Racial Profiling: Barack Obama cosponsored federal legislation to ban racial profiling and require federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to take steps to eliminate the practice. He introduced and passed a law in the Illinois State Senate requiring the Illinois Department of Transportation to record the race, age, and gender of all drivers stopped for traffic violations so that bias could be detected and addressed.

In theory, good. In practice it assumes that all races and genders drive equally, and treat police equally. Will this expand to prison and courts? "Sorry, you've reached your quota of black immates, he will have to go free".

Cap Outlandish Interest Rates on Payday Loans and Improve Disclosure: In the wake of reports that some service members were paying 800 percent interest on payday loans, the U.S. Congress took bipartisan action to limit interest rates charged to service members to 36 percent. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that we must extend this protection to all Americans, because predatory lending continues to be a major problem for low and middle income families alike.

Does this include banks, bounced check fees and the practice of handling overdrafts in the way that generates the most money to the bank? If someone has a $100 balance, makes a $100 deposit, and writes a $102 check and 5 $10 checks, and the bank has a $20 overdraft fee, the ending balance depends entirely on the order stuff is processed--Could be $48, could be a minus 72. That is essentially $120 in interest for a loan of an hour or so. What sort of APR does that calculate to?

Encourage Responsible Lending Institutions to Make Small Consumer Loans: Some mainstream, responsible lending institutions are beginning to enter the short-term lending market to provide many Americans with fair alternatives to predatory lending institutions. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work with his Secretary of Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to encourage banks, credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions to provide affordable short-term and small dollar loans – and to drive the sharks out of business

Some people are bad risks--A higher than normal probability of default, extra labor to collect, a low loan amount with corresponding low profits. Banks are unlikely to be interested in these people as customers. Should they have no choice? What would happen if there were less regulation on loans--Would there be more competition in the "payday loan" market, with better terms offered?


  1. Ending racial profiling sounds like a good idea, if it were actually to be done and done properly. I don't think much to the rest of the policy ideas.

    Over the past few days I've heard (BBC) radio news reports saying that Obama was gathering together his advisors to come up with a policy to deal with "the economy." I would have thought that a presidential candidate might have thought up policies like this before their election campaign.

  2. I don't mean that racial profiling is a good thing, just that I don't know how to legislate anything to stop it that would not result in stupid unnecessary restrictions.

    I bet he pulls a Bush I, and uses the economy to get out of his "won't raise taxes except for rich people" promise.

  3. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Like your comment about overdraft fees. You definitely need to pay attention to how these are handled because banks make a TON of money off of these and manipulate the payment system to make sure they happen as often as possible.

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  4. Anonymous8:46 AM

    ...the "victim" generation has come of (voting) age. If you have something, they have a right to it.

    Obama ran on a platform that recognized this, and he has another term to run for.