McCain? Obama? What’s a small government conservative to do?

For those of you who aren’t interested in politics, let me give you three reasons why you should care enough to vote in the general election for president:

1. Human life is at stake. If you believe that the unborn are human being made in teh image of God, then you should care about who will be appoint new supreme court justices who may offer hope of overturning Roe v. Wade.

2. Morality and knowledge are at stake. The two candidates have very different views on education. One will give us the same old system, the other supports a major change in the system that could improve the education AND virtue of millions of kids.

3. Our country as a place of free and self-governing citizens is threatened. Will we go down the road of reliance and dependency on the government — living in an ongoin state of adolescent irresponsibility? Or will we fight against this trend?

Of course these issues will not be quite this extreme or solely decided by this election BUT these are issues in politics and they are very real divides and problems. I admit up front that this is a long note. I hope most of you will still read it because it has what I deem to be important things in it (otherwise I wouldn’t have taken the time to write it).

I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this (although I’m guess many of you have) but the idea of having to choose between McCain and Obama in the fall leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. McCain has passed policies that absolutely drive me up the wall. They are infuriating. But Obama’s promise of Progressivism is even worse. Where will the nanny state end, where will dependency upon the federal government in every arena stop, if Obama is elected and begins instituting huge spending increases? Not to mention his show-stopper support of abortion. So I come back to the title of this piece, “What is a small government conservative to do?”

I’ll be the first to admit I have had mixed feelings on this. For a long time I was sure (and told a number of people) that I would vote for a third party this fall to “discipline” the powers that be in the Republican party for putting forward a big government conservative like McCain. I thought it would be ok to let Obama win because myself and many others chose to support a real conservative candidate. If Obama won I think ti would galvanize the country and the Republican party four years down the road. But I have changed my mind and I will tell you why.

First, let me tell you some of the things I detest about McCain’s policies. We can start with the infamous McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Not only was this a direct violation of the first amendment and our ability as Americans to express our political opinions freely by putting our money where our mouth is, it’s just a bad policy. It has increased the incumbency rates by making it more difficult for new candidates to raise money to challenge the incumbent. If that’s not a bad policy, I don’t know what is. Furthermore, it has led to increasing complexity in how campaigns are financed. There are now back door mechanisms and roundabout ways for groups to contribute money and express their opinions. But this is only an imperfect substitute for a free arena of public and political discourse. You know what else bothers me about McCain? If you guessed environmentalism, you would be correct.

Now I don’t want to make this a debate about global warming but about the policy McCain advocates. He position is that the US should reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. Ok, is that a good idea? Will reducing our carbon emissions by that much effect the global carbon emissions? Let’s assume that China continues to grow (and pollute) over this time period. Not only that, let’s also assume that a number of other countries begin industrializing over this time period. I think it would be fair, in fact extremely generous, to say that if McCain’s 60% reduction goal was met, we would only decrease the world carbon emissions by 5-10%. Now, what effect will that have on the rate of global warming? Considering scientists can barely even measure the increase in temperatures now, I’m guessing not much at all.

So we’ve looked at the potential benefits (with regard to global warming) what about the costs? How will this reduction in carbon emissions come about? Well, best case scenario they come about gradually. We offer carbon tax credits that can be bought and sold by different companies in different industries. So the most valuable production will be allowed to continue (albeit at a higher cost) and the less valuable (though still valuable enough to exist) industries and companies will be driven out of business. Will there be innovation to reduce emissions? You bet. Will there be less emissions? You bet again. But economically we will be worse off. And not just us, but other countries that benefit from our production and consumption will be worse off. Because if we have less production, and thereby wealth, domestically, it follows we will buy fewer goods from foreign countries. Anyway, I think carbon tax credits are a bad idea because the costs far outweigh any benefits I have seen thus far. And carbon tax credits are the best idea they are considering. There are many many worse ones.

So, given these positions, why would I decide to support McCain? Well I’ll tell you. It’s the classic compromise position but I think it’s reasonable. THE STAKES ARE TOO HIGH! Sure, I would love to vote libertarian and stick it to the Republicans. I would like to see people see the consequences of their actions and ideas – though it affects us all, those people who are well off and/or intelligent will be ok, it’s the poorer people and the less educated and intelligent who will be taken advantage of. And the problem extends beyond that; most middle class and upper middle class will be hit hard by the policies proposed by Obama and company.

But back to my first statement, I think that libertarian vote would be irresponsible. Can I choose to, in a sense, tacitly support abortion and allow it to continue? A vote for someone other than McCain supports Obama. Indirect of course, but clearly acknowledged. Ask anyone whether their voting libertarian instead of republican helps Obama and they will admit that it does. What about the judges the next president will appoint to the Supreme Court? For you history buffs out there (Mark Perkins) just think about the influence the Supreme Court has had over the past century. Those are pretty high stakes. Think about how difficult it is to cut government spending once it is in place, and how hard it is to remove bureaucrats and new layers of regulation and red tape. Those are pretty high stakes.

And McCain isn’t all bad. In fact, my writing this piece was spurred by reading a full page section in the Wall Street Journal comparing the two candidates on Taxes, Education, Social Issues, Diplomacy, Iraq, Energy, Health Care, and Housing. There are some important differences between the candidates. Allow me to highlight just a few for you.

In Energy policy: while McCain supports a 60% decrease in carbon emissions by 2050, Obama supports an 80% reduction. While McCain favors incentives (which unfortunately probably means subsidies) for nuclear power (which, by the way, I think will be increasingly important in the future), Obama supports subsidies for solar and wind energy and is against nuclear energy. I don’t know how many of you know this, but right now solar and wind energy are terribly inefficient ways of creating energy. That’s not to say they won’t be better in the future, but right now they are just not feasible on a large scale and throwing taxpayer money at them won’t change that anytime soon. It’s better to let the market handle that because they will look for the most cost effective and profitable methods, rather than the purely “research” or “scientific” methods. Furthermore, and you environmentalists will love this (Mark), it has been observed that giant wind turbines actually disrupt the environment. Wind and weather patterns and the migration of different types of birds have been damaged through existing wind turbines.

In Healthcare, Obama supports socialized medicine (a.k.a. bad medicine you have to wait months to receive) while McCain supports somewhat socialized medicine (a.k.a. you can still get good medicine from time to time, but it’s going to cost you big bucks) Actually, his position isn’t quite that bad. The estimates for his program are $7-10 billion while for Obama’s they are about $110 billion. A sizable difference if you ask me.

In Education McCain favors greater school choice and allowing parents to put their education taxes towards private or charter school tuition (although you don’t pay tuition at charter schools as far as I know; I have a feeling the writer just wasn’t aware of that). Obama’s position is to throw more money at the problem. He wants to spend money for pre-school programs ($10 billion), K-12 ($8 billion), and college ($10 billion a year). I don’t think I have to tell you that throwing money at the problem will not fix it and won’t even alleviate it. If you have questions about that, please ask.

Of course in Social Issues McCain opposes abortion while Obama supports it. If you believe that the unborn are humans created in the image of God, this should be a HUGE issue for you. The policy of abortion amounts to little less than institutionalized and government sanctioned murder. McCain thinks civil unions and same-sex marriages should be left to the states to determine whether they should be legal or not. Obama agrees, except he wants some states to have to acknowledge and uphold the civil unions created in other states. And McCain supports abstinence only education while Obama favors a “comprehensive” sex education program.

In Iraq, everyone knows that McCain thinks we should stay while Obama wants to cut and run. This is another one of those high stakes issues. While the war is a thorny issue, I think the surge has been very successful in that it has reduced the amount of daily violence in Iraq dramatically and has established relative order and peace. And furthermore there are some encouraging signs that Iraqis are continuing to try and improve their own conditions. The war has not been a success yet and I’m not arguing whether it was a good idea to go in or not, but cutting and running would cause a lot of damage. What is going to happen to all the people there when the American soldiers leave in the next year? Mass death. There will probably be sectarian conflict if not outright civil war, Iran will try to get in there and destabilize things as much as possible, etc. I think it would be morally reprehensible to leave Iraq at the drop of a hat.

As far as taxes go, McCain is in favor of lowering corporate taxes while Obama favors increasing the capital gains tax. For those of you who aren’t very familiar with the corporate world and the tax structure, here’s a 101 crash course:

Right now we tax business three times in this country. We tax the amount they pay their employees. This is what we commonly refer to as the income tax (don’t think I’m patronizing here because I’m not. It’s easiest to speak and understand things in the simplest terms) So employers (business) have to pay part of the social security taxes for every employee. Furthermore, they have to pay their employees more because they know their employees won’t be able to keep everything in their salaries (because of the income tax). Now, the capital gains tax is the tax stockholders and investors have to pay whenever they make money from buying and selling stocks. And as you probably know, companies raise their capital through selling their stock. The capital gains tax makes it more expensive for investors and stockholders to invest in corporations because any returns they may make will be reduced by the tax. Finally we tax business again through the corporate income tax. This means we tax the profits a business makes at some percentage. Right now it’s at 35%. So we triple tax business through the income tax, the capital gains tax, and the corporate income tax. Let’s just say we could increase the dynamism of the market and the incentives to produce wealth dramatically by reducing these taxes. (For those of you that are anti-wealth, we can talk about that later)

Well I think that’s it. I’ve mixed a lot of my opinion in with the positions, but of course, that’s bound to happen since I’m telling you why I’ve changed my mind and decided to support McCain. So what should you do? Well, first of all vote this fall for McCain. But we all know that our individual votes don’t really make a whole lot of difference so…….. Tell all your friends to vote for McCain. If you run into someone who says they are going to vote libertarian, explain to them why they shouldn’t; and if you have friends who are voting for Obama…. Tell them why they shouldn’t. Remember, don’t underestimate the power of suggestion and conviction. As human beings we often look to our friends and peers to see what they think and that can have enormous impact into what we think and do. So don’t be afraid to talk people about these things (albeit in a humble and non-overbearing way). Oh, and by the way, this goes for talking about morality and Christianity too. Maybe I’ll write some notes later on those more controversial, yet more important subjects.

4 thoughts on “McCain? Obama? What’s a small government conservative to do?”

  1. So basically you break it down to: Social, Energy, Healthcare, Taxation and Education.

    I honestly have no argument, as you pointed out many reasons, that McCain is overall a better candidate compared to Obama. McCain has also been through the ringer a lot longer than Obama and although I consider a McCain a Rhino I actually think he’s more honest than Obama. We must also consider the fact that as soon as the candidate becomes a President the reality and hardship of being President, hits home. Bush is a pathetic second term President.

    As to your first three points: I realize where you are coming from and why you are concerned but to call upon the State to save conservative values is a fallacy. It wasn’t the government that first condoned abortion, homosexual marriage, etc. It was the American citizen and those who disagreed were nowhere to be heard from. It was also the American voter who elected the President and Congress. The State is NOT going to save us! If this is how you think then you’ve already lost to the modern liberal because they want us to believe the State is the answer. The answer is the Church and Christians need to make a radical change in their thinking and lifestyle. We must be the change!

    The change, which many of us are doing already, entails first a stable good marriage, greatly limiting debt, having more than two children (Lord willing), and homeschooling…. self government by being a CHRISTIAN. This is the greatest threat to modern liberalism. Let me ask you all something? When have socialists given up ground? When have they given us a moment to breathe? Are we not the ones who must now defend ourselves from such accusations as “bigot,” “racist,” “homophobe,” and so forth? This is because Christians have COMPROMISED!!! We are COMPROMISED! It just enrages me that we must bend over to these fools we call politicians; and they love it and take advantage of us. If we really have any hope of taking back America anytime soon we must make these changes; and God calls upon us to be faithful, reasonable and bold.

    This by no means we have no purpose in politics, in fact I argue for the complete opposite. Nor does this mean we are suppose to be idiots about politics but to turn the tables on the socialists and expose them for who they are! Stop making deals with these proverbial devils and put forth your own agenda and show why it is better. We have the evidence on our side from logical arguments to empirical studies; for example, ones that show abortions hurt mothers, homeschooling is superior, etc.

    Evil only reins because the good do nothing.

    Ideally I think it is very foolish to vote for a Democrat or Republican because they are solely compromised and if in fact they are conservative then let them call themselves something else. Although I know, practically speaking, this is hoping for too much because the entire nation is bought and sold into the two party system. So tell me then when and where will we draw the line? How much longer shall we, the slowly boiled frog, wait before we jump? When homeschooling is illegal (they’re trying for it here in CA); when you can marry anyone you want, including children; when it becomes a crime to be a Christian? Because there’s nothing to indicate the modern liberals are trying for anything less than this.

    I honestly don’t know if I’ll vote. I realize I’m a part of the people, but let us have what we deserve as a people! If we have this compromise in the next election then we prevented nothing; meaning in ten years we’ll be voting for Obama over another more crazy modern liberal. Don’t you see the pattern!? Historically speaking the ONLY thing that turns a nation around is a revolution (not necessarily violent), something that sparks the people to turn to the LORD; this is often an incredible time of hardship. Just because we’re not in shackles like Israel under Babylon doesn’t mean we aren’t slaves already; slavery first begins in the mind and heart and then the body.

    So you tell me whom I am supposed to vote for in good conscience.

  2. You bring up some good points, but some bad ones as well.

    First, you are absolutely correct that long term systemic change can only come from a shift in the hearts and minds of ordinary Americans to the Lord. I don’t deny that. But you underestimate the power of the state. As an economist, I’ve learned the power of incentives. Sure they don’t control anything by a long shot, but they are powerful. For example, a change in the law allowing no-fault divorce led to a huge spike in the number of divorces right after those types of laws were passed. The law was restraining them, making it more difficult for them to act immorally.

    So the state can do some, though I agree very limited, good. And I don’t think McCain is going to do a lot of good, I don’t know if he’s really going to do any good. But I know he will do far less harm than Obama. Government takes a LONG time to change and turn. The further it goes down the path to socialism, the harder and longer will be the road back.

    Something I think you are wrong about is your reasoning for not voting for McCain. You seem to think it’s a zero sum game out there. That somehow if you vote for McCain you can’t be spending time as a good Christian either. I think that’s a false dichotomy. We should be doing the former without neglecting the latter. What did Jesus say to the Pharisees? He told them they made a show of offering their allotted amounts of spices at the temple and made long showy prayers. But they had no compassion, on the inside they were unclean. He tells them they should have done the latter (had compassion and purified themselves in holy living) WITHOUT neglecting the former.

    I argue the same here, don’t neglect politics. You’re right, individually our votes are practically meaningless. But we must live our Christian witness first and foremost, apart from politics. But we should also talk politics with those who are unsure or disagree. We need change on every front, most direly in people coming to the Lord, but also in people’s understanding of the markets and government and society.

    I read your post about how government’s gain power in wartime. You made a pretty good case, but I don’t entirely agree. Much of the government bureaucracy has come during non-war years. The income tax came BEFORE WWI. Most of FDR’s new deal came BEFORE WWII. But I concede other major things have happened during wars. LBJ’s “Great Society” and of course the Civil War.

    A final note on who you are to vote for in good conscience. I hate to say McCain because I don’t like him, but here is why I still say it.

    The policies enacted by this coming president, and every president for that matter, have ramifications that echo long past their time in office. What will taxes be like? How much debt will we saddle our children and grandchildren with? And most importantly, will the highest court in the land allow school vouchers? Will they allow homeschooling? What will they say about gay marriage? What will they say about a Christian’s right to speak the truth in public? These are important questions the the Court has way too much control over. Are we going to get a measly middle of the road court appointee? Or are we going to get a bonified socialist Progressive through and through? A Socialist who is not afraid to try and re-engineer society, to dictate morality and virtue? That is my fear, not that we get that right away, but that we move in that direction.

  3. Thanks for reading my post. And helping me with the dates. The income tax came durning and after the Civil War, so I’ll edit my post; yet my point is still made and in addition to war-time I included hardships such as the Great Depression (New Deal time). The point being there are times when a certain level of socialism is important but when a people recover it is time for them to ask for their freedom back.

    I think what is really hard about these discussions is that so much needs to be said to properly contextualize our arguments; and it is because of this that I always give the benefit of the doubt to us agreeing.

    Not exactly sure where I implied that it is all or nothing in regard to being a Christian and voting; maybe the “compromise” part. Because I went on to say that Christians need to be in politics. Nevertheless, Christians have obviously compromised themselves over the past few generations. This by no means we aren’t doing a lot good in other areas such as charity, recovery, homeschooling, etc…

    Trust me Paul, what I’m looking for is a plan, a path… hope. I am looking at the bigger picture and to my childrens’ futures. These elections are very short term solutions and that is what enrages me about Christians is they can’t see more than four years ahead of their nose. I’m not making any ill judgments upon other Christians like yourself or Matt but in so many words I’m calling upon you to look ahead; and if you’ve already done this then say something!. : ) . I already know what the present and the next four years will bring. But what about the next forty years, how are we going to realize our plans? I basically already answered this with the bottom/up (individual, family, church, etc) solution. More specifically though what strategies are we going to use?

    I think our previous politicians have done a good job, already, of re-engineering society; its been happening for the past ~70 years. This mostly comes from the Church retreating to inside its doors because it was to scared to make a defense for itself. The beginning of this I date back to the 1830s when Mormonism and Evolutionism started. Then came Jehovah’s Witnesses, naturalism, modern humanism, and then in the 60s-70s the Eastern relativism. Beginning in 1910 premil-dispensationalism took a foothold from Scofield which further encouraged Christians to be impotent in their world; this mindset lasting even today with the baby boomer generation. Point being we have ALOT of work to do. I’m not trying to make this a history lesson, I just like pointing these things out.

    Like I said you make good points why McCain is better of which I can’t argue with. But guess what in another four years you’ll be making the same type of post and then in eight years another… Lets start today thinking further than this. You and Matt always makes these types of posts, but I’d like to know your underlying ideas about the future; make another post on that. If you notice that is the majority of my posts and I think our points of views compliment each other; I see that and I hope you do also.

  4. Obama is not only a Socialist, who wants Americans to hand over their hard earned cash, in a grandiose scheme to redistribute America’s wealth … he spent 20 years listening to the anti-American, racist sermons of black liberation pastor Jeremiah Wright, which were based upon Marxist ideology … along with his wife and two children … and they still attend the same church, listening to the same anti-American trash!

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