Congratulations President-Elect Barack Obama

The networks haven’t called it yet, but this deal is done. It’s too early to tell if it’s going to be the 100 electoral vote margin that I predicted, but it is looking like a landslide in the electoral college.

I hope that Obama runs the country the way he ran his campaign. His organization was superb, and he never seemed to get rattled. His decisions were well-thought out. As I heard a (conservative) commentator say earlier tonight, when it comes to politics he is a natural.

I do think a lot of his opponents have it exactly backwards regarding an Obama win. I know many people who fear that an Obama win will make the U.S. more susceptible to a terrorist attack, because other countries won’t fear the repercussions. To the contrary, in my travels I have spoken to people of many nationalities, including long conversations with an Iranian and a Saudi (and I told both that I thought Obama would win – as far back as May). People around the world are hopeful of an Obama win, because they feel that Obama will be more willing to sit down and listen to their concerns. I think an Obama win will buy so much goodwill in the world that it will make a terrorist attack much less likely, as the world will afford Obama a honeymoon period while they judge whether their impressions of him were correct.

I also think he will be an inspiration to minorities everywhere. Minorities will be able to see that even the highest office in the land is something they can aspire to. It is also hard to argue that the U.S. as a whole is a racist nation if we have just elected a man of Kenyan descent with a middle name of Hussein as president.

In summary, I think an Obama victory will do wonders for the image of the U.S. in the world, will go a long way toward improving race relations, and will inspire many minorities. On the other hand, I think the expectations for Obama will be impossibly high, and he is sure to disappoint many as he begins to make necessary compromises. I have also voiced my concerns about his energy policy proposals. I hope he picks someone like Bill Richardson as his energy secretary, as I believe he is one of the more knowledgeable Democrats on energy issues.

Coming soon I will start to dissect Obama’s energy proposals, and talk about the good and why I think some of his proposals are potentially problematic.

46 thoughts on “Congratulations President-Elect Barack Obama”

  1. When McCain lost OH it was all but over.

    A heartfelt congratulations to the President-elect. We live in a great country where anyone can become President.

    May God help and protect our new President-elect and may God bless the United States of America.

  2. Let’s hear it on energy policy……but as far as the OP sentiments about Obama’s election buying more security, my own Magic 8-Ball says “situation not clear.”

  3. Robert, I for one am excited to see what you have to say regarding Obama’s energy policy. Keep up the good work on this site. You are my #1 source for news on the energy situation in our country today.

  4. I hope that Obama will be able to repair some of the discord in this country. Bush’s presidency was a time when we needed to be brought together. But instead, through his policies, words, and actions, he divided America in order to accomplish his aims. We’ve had absolutely no leadership for the last eight years.

    I think you’re right on about the affect of an Obama presidency on potential terrorist attacks. I don’t understand why people think that Bush’s approach of bombing and bullying people makes us safer.

  5. Brad – perhaps you should read this in the WSJ: The Treatment of Bush has been a Disgrace . From the article:

    It seems that no matter what Mr. Bush does, he is blamed for everything. He remains despised by the left while continuously disappointing the right.

    Yet it should seem obvious that many of our country’s current problems either existed long before Mr. Bush ever came to office, or are beyond his control. Perhaps if Americans stopped being so divisive, and congressional leaders came together to work with the president on some of these problems, he would actually have had a fighting chance of solving them.

    I’ve never understood Bush Derangement Syndrome. I’ve tried to engage Bush haters to find out what specifically President Bush has done or not done that sets them off. Their arguments go incoherent after a few sentences.

    We talk about energy policy here, but when I challenge someone to read the 2001 Energy Task Force report and tell me what they disagree with in it, I get no takers.

    Now that we’ve elected Barack Obama I hope the BDS posts go away.

  6. There are two times that I can remember Bush getting it exactly right: his immigration policy was rational, and his call for a means test on farm subsidies was sane.

    But dozens of other moves were wrong, or beyond that, disturbing.

    As an example, are you still-Republicans really on board for his reversal of Posse Comitatus (see ‘recent legislative events’)?

    The amazing line was:

    “The President may employ the armed forces… to… restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition”

    “or other condition” was a pretty big door wasn’t it?

    Was that your idea of smaller Federal government? Conservatives at the nuttier end worry about the Democrats taking away their guns … the President can’t even deploy troops. It’s been that way since 1878 … until Bush reversed it.

    Then there is the whole bizarre signing statements saga. Again, not a precedent for less powerful Federal government. What did he think? That a more powerful President would always be Republican?

    Do you want Obama to make those same assertions about Executive power? I think not!

    – odograph

  7. Anonymous (with the Wright comment (out of context),

    You and people like you are the reason the world hates us. Obama nor anyone he’s surrounded himself with hates America. They hate many of the evils of American policy executed throughout our history. These facts are incontrovertible. Until you are on the other side of the equation, such realities will be distant to you.

    It’s a pity your mind cannot grasp the concept of being critical of something you love, and wanting it to be better, to reach its full potential.

    God bless you, and yes, God bless America.

  8. KingofKaty said:
    Yet it should seem obvious that many of our country’s current problems either existed long before Mr. Bush ever came to office…

    This is certainly true and I don’t blame him for things beyond his control. For example, I believe the seeds of our current financial crises were sown long before Bush was elected.

    I’ve tried to engage Bush haters to find out what specifically President Bush has done or not done that sets them off.

    Iraq,
    Budget Deficits,
    Doubling the national debt,
    Guantanamo,
    Torture,
    Spying on Americans, and
    Signing Statements.

    There’s probably a lot more I would disagree with, but those are the things that first come to mind.

    And then there’s just the arrogant, bullying attitude of his administration. When Informed during an interview that two-thirds of Americans think the Iraq war was not worth fighting, Cheney says: “So?”.

    Bush calls us consumers and exhorts us to go shopping in response to a crisis. That’s the sort of thing I mean when I say there’s a lack of leadership.

  9. Odo – The change to the PC law didn’t bother me. As you will recall the change was recommended because during Katrina the Democrat LA Governor did NOT act to mobilize guard units nor did she ask for Federal Assistance. The good people of LA thought to remedy the situation by electing someone much more competent.

    Or are you talking about this:

    Obama National Security Force

    Now that scares me. Or maybe you know what he is talking about? Other than Obama’s south side of Chicago, which resembles a war zone, what could he be talking about?

  10. “Odo – The change to the PC law didn’t bother me. As you will recall the change was recommended because during Katrina the Democrat LA Governor did NOT act to mobilize guard units nor did she ask for Federal Assistance.”

    Simple statement: One of the natural aspects of this balance of power, that Governors are the only ones that can mobilize the National Guard is that you won’t always get the outcome you, or the President want.

    Simple statement: It is that way for a purpose.

    A President who wants to call up troops on a broad scale has to convince many (50?) Governors to his cause.

    You blithely cast that check on Executive power aside?

    That absolutely boggles my mind, and to be honest I think it because you didn’t think it through. You thought, since it was “your” President, it was OK.

    (No idea what the quote means, though I think Bush took a strange turn when he abandoned the G-Men.

    For generations the FBI were tasked and capable of protecting us against domestic threats. If they were broken, they should have been fixed.

    The law, and the Constitution, allow for that. We DID NOT NEED a Homeland Security.)

    – odograph

  11. Brad –

    Iraq, I would remind you that regime change in Iraq was also Clinton’s policy, and that Clinton believed Iraq to have WMDs, and so did a lot of Senators who voted to give the authorization for war.

    Budget deficits – so you will be equally mad at Obama when he proposes big budget deficits? This may anger conservatives but it doesn’t seem to bother BDS sufferers.

    Debt – ditto

    Guantanamo – so what is YOUR solution to un-uniformed combatant terrorists on the battlefield? Maybe we make them pinky swear not to do it again and then let them go. Wait, we can use the traditional method, military tribunal and summary execution is that better?

    Torture – nasty business but sometimes necessary. My step-grandfather was in the OSS under FDR. Torture is a lot kinder and gentler now. In the old days you wouldn’t even have had the debate about it.

    Spying on Americans – didn’t happen – a media myth. FISA authorized listening in on conversations where one party was outside the US. This is something that congress also approved with heavy oversight. An American had zero chance of being listened to unless you picked up the phone and called some foreign terrorist. To my knowledge no American citizen has ever been arrested or detained as a result of FISA. Any information obtained on a US citizen would be completely inadmissable in court, making FISA and the warrantless wiretap pretty useless as a domestic spying tool.

    So I can assume if you don’t like spying on Americans than you would roundly condemn the Democrats in the state of Ohio using official computer systems to look into the background of “Joe the Plumber”.

    Signing statements – what is that about?

  12. Obama National Security Force
    Now that scares me. Or maybe you know what he is talking about?

    He’s talking about the Peace Corps. Scary stuff!

    I voted for Bush in 2000 and thought he started well, reaching across the aisle and so forth. I supported him after 9/11 and agreed 100% with the invasion of Afghanistan. But I was stunned by Iraq. At the time I believed 100% we’d find WMD and I still felt it was an incredible blunder.

    By 2005-06 I said Iraq alone qualified him as one of the worst presidents in US history. Then he topped things off by letting Wall Street run completely amok, triggering the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Bush did not personally cause the crisis, of course, but he was warned far in advance by smart people (e.g. Warren Buffett in 2003) of the precise cause. If his administration had done one single thing to counteract the problem I’d cut him some slack. But he did the exact opposite, giving Wall Street even more freedom to wreak economic havoc. As a result he has presided over the start of the largest US lurch into socialism in 75 years. We will pay this price for decades, perhaps forever.

    Bush also abandoned core Republican values by massively growing government and deficits and so forth, but that’s small potatoes compared to his Iraq and Wall Street blunders.

  13. Odo – it is a mute point because the revision to PC was reversed.

    So then when Kennedy ordered federal troops to Alabama to force integration of the U of A, that equally disturbed you?

    Segregation is a terrible thing that thank God has been relegated to the dust bin of history. You seem to be arguing that Gov. Wallace was rigth and Pres Kennedy was wrong to violate PC.

    And no I wouldn’t be concerned if a President Obama had the power to call up troops under the rules that Bush signed into law.

  14. King, you read like some apologist for fascism, which is the direction the neocons were taking this country. I may not agree with all of Obama’s platform, but more than anything this victory shows that many Americans are ready for us to return to our roots, without the baggage of the old policies. We need thoughtful and engaged thinkers, not wild cowboys with guns ablaze and hands grabbing crotches.

    We have been arrogant for far too long, and clearly lost our way. It’s time for the old ideas to die. Those not able to move past the status quo need to get over it. Change or die, this is a new day.

  15. Doggy – now YOU are being silly. Obama was not talking about the Peace Corps. He said a new DOMESTIC CIVILIAN SECURITY FORCE.

    But he did the exact opposite, giving Wall Street even more freedom to wreak economic havoc.

    Can you be more specific? What executive order or major change in policy did Bush sign that gave Wall Street more freedom or power?

  16. King said:

    “Odo – it is a mute point because the revision to PC was reversed.”

    Who reversed it King? Who do you need to thank?

    – odograph

  17. RR-I share nearly exactly your sentiments on Obama. Let’s hope for the best on energy policy. But without much higher federal gasoline taxes….
    King: Congrats to you for your initial post on Obama. I know you supported McCain, and it is nice to see your positive statements towards Obama. It takes a big person to accept defeat, and look forward.
    Let’s hope for the best in the years ahead. I am not sure Obama has the best energy policies in mind.
    RR’s blog is a beacon of light in the energy world. Maybe someone in the Obama camp will start reading it, and pay attention.

  18. Doggy wrote:

    “Bush also abandoned core Republican values by massively growing government and deficits and so forth, but that’s small potatoes compared to his Iraq and Wall Street blunders.”

    The sad tactic of late is that Republicans would start with a defense of Bush and then when obvious errors were noted, flip at the last minute and say “well, he wasn’t a real conservative.

    The problem with that of course is that it wasn’t just Bush. It was 6 years of Party rule, and 6 years of asserting their own dominance.

    To pretend later that it wasn’t them … it was some other Republican party? Sad.

    – odograph

  19. I meant moot not mute. I didn’t care one way or another. Odo – you conveniently dodged the question.

    So was Kennedy wrong to violate PC to order troops to enforce desegregation in Alabama?

    The Republicans lost their way and became the party of bigger government.

    McCain was like my 5th choice. Unlike the Bush haters, I do not wish ill will on Obama or anyone. I was taught that you could respect the office and the person holding it and still be opposed to their policies.

    Here are the things on my list that I fear Obama will do:

    Eliminate secret ballots for union votes – union thugs free to run wild on your workers and neighbors.

    Windfall profits tax on oil companies – after 2008 maybe not much windfall left to tax. Companies will spin off assets as much as they can to avoid paying.

    Raising FICA income limit – a tax increase for the middle to upper middle class, shattering the myth that social security is a pension and making it welfare for the aged.

    Re-impose drilling bans – drilling isn’t the only answer but should be at least part of it.

    Use the Clean Air Act and EPA to regulate CO2 – this is a bad idea on lots of levels. The EPA could collapse under the weight of the paper as millions of new applicaitons for air permits now would be required. Someone compared it to doing brain surgery with a power drill.

    There is a limit to what Obama can do. The election seemed to be a reaction to the financial crisis and a referendum on Bush, not a lurch leftward. I don’t sense that people want European socialism.

  20. “I meant moot not mute. I didn’t care one way or another. Odo – you conveniently dodged the question.

    So was Kennedy wrong to violate PC to order troops to enforce desegregation in Alabama?”

    I left it unanswered because the core is so much more interesting. But to say it straight out, he was right to violate it. He did the honorable thing which was to take his stand, and expect the subsequent judgment of the people. If his move had not been well accepted, if it had not have been the lesser evil, he would have been impeached. If it was a horrible decision, he might have expected prison.

    Sometimes the honorable thing is to act and then be judged.

    Now, to return to the core:

    When I was a young conservative and Republican it was a given that the party was for less government. It was also a given that when government must act, local was better than state, which in turn was better than Federal.

    THAT is what reduced government, and enhanced democracy.

    How the HECK did the Republican party become one of a strong national government? How the HECK did the Republicans become the ones that the President should be able to order out troops on unspecified “condition”?

    You don’t like a Governor’s choice about the National Guard, you elect a new one. THAT is democracy.

    Your alternative, your “conservative and small government” position is that Presidents should order out troops on any “other condition”?

    – odograph

  21. Doggy – now YOU are being silly. Obama was not talking about the Peace Corps. He said a new DOMESTIC CIVILIAN SECURITY FORCE.

    No. Here’s the speech. The quote starts at 16:32 –

    “We are going to grow our foreign service, open consulates that have been shuttered and double the Peace Corps by 2011 to renew our diplomacy. We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we have set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”

    He was in Colorado Springs, home of the US Air Force Academy. He was tying volunteer military service to his expansion of volunteer programs like Peace Corps and Americorps. He praised military volunteers but said they had been asked to do too much. His overall theme was to expand the definition of national security beyond guns and planes into energy security, foreign service, education and so forth. That led to the quote above.

    I didn’t vote for Obama and I don’t agree with his agenda, but I’m getting sick of those who lie and distort his words.

  22. I actually agree with you. I think the balance of power has shifted too much to the Federal Gov’t and away from the states. The States created the Federal Gov’t, not the other way around. The Republicans some how lost sight of that.

    I believe in limited Federal Gov’t and would stronly enforce the 9th and 10th amendments. But Obama doesn’t subscribe to that view. I wholeheartedly support John Shadegg’s “Enumerated Powers Act” which merely requires congress to describe where in the constitution it derives the authority for each and ever piece of legislation it enacts.

    I also support Charles Key’s of Oklahoma
    HR-1089
    This resolution establishes Oklahoma’s supremecy over the Federal government. Presumably this had something to do with Key’s immigration bill.

  23. Doggy – Is this an instance of Obama going off script or of a poorly written speech? He said national security force. What else does that mean? When he makes the comparison of the new force he says “just as powerful and well funded”. Is he saying that this new force should have guns, ships, planes, etc?

    Is he so stupid to be unaware that the US military budget is $500 billion and the Peace Core’s budget is just $300 million? Or is this just more of the mindless rhetoric we have come to expect from Obama?

  24. @King

    when I challenge someone to read the 2001 Energy Task Force report and tell me what they disagree with in it, I get no takers.

    I took a browse at the recommendations. I was quite surprised by how strong my disagreement was in some cases. I was also surprised in how many cases I leaned toward disagreement. I was sadly surprised at how few rec’s I fully agreed with.

    I won’t be commenting further on it specifically, both because of it’s age, and because of my personal time and focus.

    I have time for current events as the future immediately follows 🙂

    RBM

  25. @King

    Here are the things on my list

    Thanks for the list. I had just posted on another board for a list that could be referred to later for benchmarking purposes.

    Just read an article which went into details of how ambiguous ‘middle class’ is.

    How about putting numbers on that ??

    RBM

  26. I am wondering when the inevitable backlash will start, when it is realised that even Obama can’t wave a magic wand and solve all the problems. Is he willing or able to sign a new climate treaty, for example?

    Bush may have inherited a lot of problems that can’t be solved easily, but his contribution was to add a raft of new ones.

    Obama certainly brings a swell of good will, but also high expectations, which will not be met.

  27. KINGOFKATY–

    INTERESTING POINTS ON bUSH YEARS. THE CONTRIBUTION OF OUR PRESIDENTS IS BEST MADE IN RETROSPECTIVE HISTORY BY HISTORIANS/BIOGRAPHERS. I REMEMBER MANY WHO HATED FDR, HST,JFK, LBJ DURING THEIR OFFICE TENURES FOR THINGS OVER WHICH PREZ HAS NO CONTROL OR THE BASES WEE LAID BEFORE THEIR TIME IN OFFICE. PEOPLE EXPECT TO MUCH FROM GOV’T. THERE IS TOO LITTLE SELF RELIANCE IN FOLKS TODAY.

    THERE IS A NEW GROUP TO BE IN CHARGE FOR A BRIEF TIME. LET’S HOPE THOSE OF YOU ALIVE IN 40 YEARS CAN LOOK BACK AND FIND SOME GOOD FROM FROM THEM AND THEIR PREDECESSORS. MY VIEW OF THE LAST 70+YEARS IS NOT ALL THAT BAD.

    FRAN

  28. “I actually agree with you. I think the balance of power has shifted too much to the Federal Gov’t and away from the states. The States created the Federal Gov’t, not the other way around. The Republicans some how lost sight of that.”

    Well alrighty then.

    (I ignore the 2001 Energy Task Force report because I think it’s the hypothetical rather than the practical. Its easier to note actual disagreements I have with the laws passed (stinkers of Energy Bills) or the Administrative Branch decisions made (rollback on environmental enforcement))

    – odograph

  29. Fran – I think Bush will look better as history unfolds. In September 2001 many people thought another terrorist attack was inevitable, history may show that his actions helped save Western culture and democracy. Certainly he should get some credit for keeping us safe.

    We will see how Obama does when he is tested. I will probably still be working in 40 years since Obama is coming after my energy company stocks and my 401k.

    So far I am unimpressed. Picking Rahm Emmanuel is not a good start. (Partisan, vindictive, lousy people skills.)

    RBM – I looked over the Sunday Chronicle. Just 4 HVAC jobs and those were for large electrical contractors or a maintenance position. Was surprised there were not more.

    I disagreed with some of the 2001 ETF recs also, but it was a place to start. We never even got to the debating part.

    Anyone that tells you we can go from where we are today to substantially reducing our use of fossil fuels in 10 years or even 20 is either naive or not being truthfull. A balanced energy policy would have to include more drilling and greater access to conventional fossil fuels.

    The enviros are going nuts over Obama and the end of oil and coal. Good luck with that.

  30. “Fran – I think Bush will look better as history unfolds. In September 2001 many people thought another terrorist attack was inevitable, history may show that his actions helped save Western culture and democracy. Certainly he should get some credit for keeping us safe.”

    Would you say you are in dotage King? If so, I will give you a break on this.

    – odograph

  31. Brad: But instead, through his policies, words, and actions, [Bush] divided America in order to accomplish his aims.

    At least, that’s how the left views it. What I saw (here on the left coast) was outright anger at Bush right from the get-go. The “angry left” was never going to compromise. It just got worse when the Democrats nominated and then lost with Kerry, although I was still treated to the “stolen election” crap. Trust me, the left managed to “keep hate alive” during 8 years of winter.

    Odo:

    I agree 100% with you that the GOP lost it’s way somewhere in the last years of Clinton’s presidency (with the overblown impeachment stuff) and then totally lost it under Bush. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “I didn’t leave the Republican party, the Republican party left me.”

    King:

    My rap on Bush:

    1. Huge deficits, not all of which can be excused by the need for higher defense spending.

    2. Unnecessary invasion of Iraq – failed to finish the job in Afghanistan.

    3. Failed to regulate the mortgage industry, allowed investment banks to lever up to unreal levels. Admittedly, congress and Greenspan deserve most of the blame, but he signed on. Triggered the current financial crisis (though I agree he didn’t create the systemic problem of credit default swaps).

    4. Huge unfunded entitlement expansion (Medicare drug benefit), blocked efforts to impose necessary cost controls. IMO a shameless but effective way to nail down Florida for his 2004 run. We should have been willing to pay for this benefit with a small increase in the medicare tax and negotiate lower costs with drug companies.

    There’s a laundry list of lesser things I could hit him on, but they’re mostly a list of lost opportunities so I won’t belabor them.

    McCain had “Bob Dole” written all over him – he was a terrible choice, just like Kerry was in 2004 (and Dukakis in 88, Mondale in 84). I’m still amazed that the Democrats didn’t pick Clinton, who I thought was the best of a bad lot (in both parties, honestly). McCain spent too much time attacking Obama’s character and waffled on a lot of issues. I view the “out of touch” vibe on him as a fair rap. Palin was also a poor choice – while I like her a lot, she doesn’t strike me as qualified to be president.

    I’m worried about Obama – I perceive him as much farther to the left than most people who voted for him suspect. I also hear you about working ’till I’m 90 (probably at Wal-Mart!) as Obama’s economic plan will almost ensure that I’m not able to save enough for my own retirement, and that I’m dependent on the charity of the state (via Social Security) in my later years. I’ve no doubt that the legions of young voters who are so quick to take more of my income now will be just as quick to throw me out onto an ice flow later in life. On energy policy in particular I feel that Obama’s plan is untenable. I hope it’s amended, otherwise we’ll have to learn the hard way that it ain’t gonna work.

  32. Odo – hardly. It is a historical fact that we have not been attacked again while there were attacks in the UK, Spain, Indonesia, and elsewhere. I think that Bush has dispatched a lot of really bad guys on his watch and has kept us safe.

    For those of you who labor under the illusion that a black president somehow helps us with our enemies: Arab Media Reaction to Obama’s election

    Al-Qaradhawi added: “Whoever thinks that the Democrats are less hostile to [the Arabs] than the Republicans should know that the number of Iraqis killed during the siege [of Iraq] by the Democrat Bill Clinton is twice as high as the number of [Iraqis] killed by the Republican [George] Bush.

  33. “I also hear you about working ’till I’m 90 (probably at Wal-Mart!) as Obama’s economic plan will almost ensure that I’m not able to save enough for my own retirement, and that I’m dependent on the charity of the state (via Social Security) in my later years.”

    The Supreme Court recently affirmed the tax free status of Municipal Bonds … making bonds, or bond funds, perhaps safer than IRAs and 401Ks.

    This is a risky time for all financial instruments, certainly including state bonds, but I do wish I’d started building a muni bond fund position much earlier.

    – odograph

  34. “Odo – hardly. It is a historical fact that we have not been attacked again while there were attacks in the UK, Spain, Indonesia, and elsewhere. I think that Bush has dispatched a lot of really bad guys on his watch and has kept us safe. “

    That is a fundamental misunderstanding of probability and risk.

    No country has a high enough sample size to draw that kind of conclusion. A shoe bomb stopped, a shoe bomb blown … you’d need a century of data to get the fine lines on that one.

    You’d also need a few hundred parallel worlds, to experiment with what reductions, if any, Democrats would do in FBI and security funding.

    All in all, an appeal it minimal data and high bigotry, King.

    – odograph

  35. This is a risky time for all financial instruments, certainly including state bonds, but I do wish I’d started building a muni bond fund position much earlier.

    Well, heh, I have a fairly nice ladder of them, built long ago. The problem is, the yields are so low (even now) that it’s unclear if you can keep up with inflation in munis. And as you say, the risks have suddenly gone up – the bond insurers are all but out of business, and the state of municipal finances has never been worse. But the real threat to a bond portfolio is a resurgence in inflation.

    I also have some taxable fixed-income investments, and it is here that I have my biggest beef with Obama’s tax plans (not to mention being really irked at the “not paying your fair share” rhetoric when I’m in a small group paying the lion’s share fo taxes). The problem here is that the government’s low-interest-rate policy, coupled with it’s money-printing (inflation) policy and high marginal tax rates all add up to waging a war on savers. A dollar of consumption saved (in a bank CD at, say 5%) ends up being worth 1% less every year because I have to pay taxes on all of the interest even though most of it is just inflation.

    This long-term drain on my wealth makes it very hard to save anything to retire on outside of the IRA/401k system, which (thanks to another government policy) has a limit too low for me to save a sufficient amount with ($15.5k this year). Like most people of my generation, there’s no pension waiting for me at the end – there’s just social security (if it’s not broke by then) and whatever I can save.

    What does that leave me? Stocks? Negative real returns for 10 years (and counting). Real estate? Bursting bubble. Commodities? Ditto.

    Here’s an idea – remove (or greatly raise) the limit on retirement contributions. Here’s another idea: change the tax law so that you only owe tax on real income, not false inflation income. Then I would have a lot less of a problem with the higher marginal rates (approaching 50% for a Californian if everything Obama’s proposed goes through).

  36. Gasoline consumption in the US dropped 2.3% in October from the previous month. That’s despite a price drop of 30% or so. Maybe Americans are finally tapped out on their credit cards.

  37. Odo – you could make the same argument about man made global warming. We’d need parallel worlds to confirm that too.

    Anon brings up good points about saving for retirement. But there are lots of good solid companies out there that are paying good dividends. I’m worried about the Dems socializing my 401k. My wife and I have talked about how to hide or protect assets from confiscation. There has been a big run on guns and ammunition at the local gun shops.

  38. All the middle class folks that voted for Obama would be furious if the 401ks and IRAs were “socialized” in the way you suggest. I doubt it will happen. But, should the idea be floated, you can bet that millions of folks would (a) pull all the money out and pay the 10% penalty, or (b) borrow against the money and then not pay it back.

    What is more likely is that they’ll eliminate those programs for anyone making over $X. This has already been floated by some people in congress. And that would leave plenty of folks in high-cost “blue state” areas like my home here on the left coast hoppin’ mad, when they realize they’ve been had and now have no pension other than the dubious promise of social security.

    What I read suggested that even while they wiped out 401k’s for us “fat cats”, they won’t dare touch union pensions. If that were to happen, my plan is to organize white-collar workers here in the bay area and form a union with the main purpose of creating portable pension and health plans for the recently disposessed. I’ll bet the CWA would be happy to pick us up.

  39. What executive order or major change in policy did Bush sign that gave Wall Street more freedom or power?

    King, one sin of commission which leaps to mind was the 2004 decision to kill the 12:1 limit on leverage for large investment banks (basically the big five, now the big two since Bear, Lehman and Merrill blew up). The SEC replaced the 12:1 capital requirement with a mathematical risk model which allowed 30:1 or even higher leverage.

    More serious were sins of omission. In 2003 Warren Buffett wrote (PDF warning):

    Charlie and I are of one mind in how we feel about derivatives and the trading activities that go with
    them: We view them as time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system.

    He also called derivatives “weapons of financial mass destruction” and spent a couple pages describing his actual experience with them and the specific systemic risks they posed to the financial system. Unfortunately the precise chain reaction he described five years ago recently blew apart our economy. Buffett is no goldbug or anti-banking crank, he understands finance better than anyone in government. Buffett was not the only one who said the emporer had no clothes, but his remarks were the most widely reported. Did Bush investigate these alarming claims? No, he blindly accepted Greenspan’s view that derivatives were pure sweetness and light and forbade anyone in his administration from doing anything to regulate or even oversee derivative trading.

  40. At first I took the global warming thing to be a change of subject, but it isn’t … is it?

    Your end of the Republican Party makes a rejection of science one of its foundations.

    (We’ve gone far enough with GW that the evidence keeps rolling in, more every year, that it is happening here in our world. We have the theoretical foundation, and practical confirmation.)

    All in all King, you are NOT doing a good sales job to get this ex-Republican back in the party.

    – odograph

  41. BTW, I don’t think “Obama” specifically is going to hike taxes on 401K and IRA withdrawals, but I think future congresses will.

    Someday our now $10.5T debt will come home to roost.

    – odograph

  42. Odo, the problem isn’t the taxes levied on 401k withdrawals, the problem is taxes levied now on income that make it almost impossible to save for retirement unless you have a tax-deferred way to do so. The reason is simple math: the tax system treats all nominal increases as “income” even when they are just due to inflation. This means that savings in bank deposits lose about 1% a year to the combination of these forces if you’re in a middle or high tax bracket. For a very large number of people (I’d venture to say most people now), the 401k and/or IRA is the only tax-deferred vehicle available; traditional defined-benefit pensions are a thing of the past for us. The proposals being floated in congress are to disallow investment in these vehicles if you make more than $X, pulling the rug out from under all the upper-middle-class voters who send barrels of money to finance Mr. Obama’s campaign, and leaving us with pretty much no effective way to save for our retirements other than to take a giant crapshoot in stocks (where at least some of the gains are tax-deferred – assuming you can get any gains, that is). This proposal is so phenomenally bad that I can’t believe the Democrats will actually go forward with it, but it’s disturbing to hear such ideas coming on the heels of all the class-warfare rhetoric we were just treated to in the recent campaign (e.g. the 10% of taxpayers paying 70% of the income taxes aren’t paying their “fair share”).

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