gimme-five | The blog of a busy guy.

TAG | mccain



Why Some People Shouldn’t Vote

I stumbled across this old article that Greg Mankiw wrote in 2000 (reposted on his blog).  He writes:

Voting is a civic responsibility, they tell us, because democracy works best when everyone participates . . .
. . . The problem is, this isn’t true. Sometimes the most responsible thing a person can do on election day is stay at home . . .
. . . By not voting, they are doing themselves and everyone else a favor. If the ill-informed were all induced to vote, they would merely add random noise to the outcome . . .

So, therefore, if you voted because of “change” or “experience,” but did not understand either of the candidates’ policies, perhaps it would have been nicer for the rest of us who made an informed decision if you had just stayed home.  For the record, Starbucks did not check to see if I had an “I Voted” sticker on when they gave me my free coffee.

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Presidential Debate #1

Here’s my question: What % of rhetoric of “change v. experience” will we hear as opposed to real cost-benefit issue debate?  I predict 95% change v. experience rhetoric, 5% issues.  Although that could be different, considering the bailout plan is on everyone’s minds.  Hopefully I can catch some of the debate… I have a big legal writing project due tomorrow.

I also predict that Obama has been itching to debate McCain for a while now.  Whether one or the other is a better candidate for president, there is no question that Obama is the better orator.  I would be surprised if anyone dubbed McCain the “winner” of a debate with Obama… he’s going to need to win through other means if he will win…

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Stephen Colbert on the Gas Tax Holiday

Sorry to harp on the gas tax holiday so much, lately, but this is hilarious:

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Obama Resists Anti-Gas Tax Idiocy

I have no idea who I am voting for in this upcoming Presidential election, but I’m certainly looking more favorably upon Barack Obama after reading his reactions to John McCain and Hillary Clinton’s populist attack against gas taxes. From the New York Times:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton lined up with Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, in endorsing a plan to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for the summer travel season. But Senator Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic rival, spoke out firmly against the proposal, saying it would save consumers little and do nothing to curtail oil consumption and imports.

I wholeheartedly agree. And so does one of today’s brightest economists, Greg Mankiw:

I don’t know any prominent economist who favors this McCain-Clinton proposal.

First, we have to realize that the increased gas prices are, although inconvenient in the short run, somewhat of a blessing. People are quickly starting shift away from driving larger cars, which will lower gasoline consumption in the long run. Additionally, if gas prices remain high for a long period of time, economic theory tells us that people will start taking larger actions to lower their gas prices, such as telecommuting or living closer to where they work. Additionally, this shifts more demand toward alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles, such as electric cars, that don’t pollute and are by nature more efficient per mile than gasoline cars.

But all in all, we shouldn’t be thinking about suspending gasoline taxes, we should be thinking about increasing them. Although gas prices are high, the consumption of gasoline creates large externalities, which is a market failure that should be corrected through taxation. Additionally, by taxing gasoline at a higher rate, we could offset the income tax and payroll taxes. So overall, we could stop taxing people from doing a positive activity (working) and start taxing an activity that creates a negative externality instead.

This is just a general gloss over the benefits of an increased gasoline tax. For more information, see The Pigou Club or my sustainable transportation paper from undergrad.

(hat tip on this post: Greg Mankiw’s Blog)

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Please note: This is not an endorsement of Barack Obama.

I’m tired of hearing the argument from Clinton and now McCain that you should not vote for Barack Obama because he lacks “experience.”  The argument is simply not persuasive.

This argument assumes that the more time you spend being a politician, the more fit you are to act as President.  I don’t buy it.  In fact, because of the nature of politics in this country, often politicians become less fit to act as President the longer they are involved in politics.

To be successful in American politics, one must be willing to do what it takes to make and keep powerful friends.  These friends can be interest groups, individual businesses, fellow politicians, political parties, or many other entities.  These friends can provide a politician with a needed vote, verbal support, or, often most importantly, money.  But there is no such thing as a free lunch.  If a politician wants to make and keep these powerful friends, he or she needs to give something in return.  Often it is a vote or a series of votes in return.

The problem is, the longer one wants to stay in office, the more loyalties he or she has to build to others to have the money and support necessary to be re-elected.  The word loyalty in this context does not have a positive connotation.  The only loyalty politicians should have is to their constituents as a whole and the country, not a particular constituent or entity or fellow politician.

So when someone gets elected President who has all of this “loyalty baggage,” he or she can face a difficult choice between proceeding in a manner which helps out the country as a whole or hurts the country in favor of one of his powerful friends.   I would rather see someone in office with less loyalty baggage, so I know there is less of a chance that his or her decisions are motivated by a particular someone or something rather than the national interest.

The “experience” argument also assumes that one can appropriately prepare to be President by serving as a national politician.  I disagree – at best it is marginal preparation.  The job of President of the United States of America carries exponentially more responsibility than any other job anyone in this country could ever have.  Serving as a national politician has far less individual responsibility and is under far less national scrutiny.

The best one can hope for with a President is that they are extremely smart and willing to work hard.  Obama, at least, was president of Harvard Law Review.  I can speak from experience that law school is extremely hard work, and the fact that Obama was president of Harvard’s law review is extremely impressive.  Sure, perhaps he does not have the experience scratching backs that Hillary and McCain do, but I find that irrelevant, if not a positive for Obama.

Aside & Rant: I have no idea who I am going to vote for in the national election.  Policy-wise, these candidates are all over the place for me, and I can’t pick one whom I fully support.  I cast my vote in the Virginia primary recently, and although at the time I felt a bit emotional at the power of voting, right now I’m not extremely enthusiastic about anyone.  I think I’m going to write in Greg Mankiw for president.

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