Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Let's Put It This Way - We Better Take The Senate

Tomorrow is Florida's GOP Presidential Primary. Believe it or not, this is my first presidential primary as a Republican (last time around I was a Democrat!). Needless to say, I have put a lot of thought into who will be getting my vote. Unfortunately, the choices are... suboptimal.

I'll start with the frontrunner Mitt Romney. Let me put this as clearly as I can:

Mitt Romney is not qualified to be President of the United States.

I will not vote for Mitt Romney tomorrow, nor will I do so in November. I would rather add another 0.00001% to the Libertarian total than lend my support to a Romney presidency.

The single biggest threat to this country is our entitlement programs - Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Combined, they make up over 40% of federal expenditures, and that figure will continue to rise. Social Security is a deeply immoral enterprise that transfers money from the young and working to the old and non-working, regardless of the abilities of the former or needs of the latter, all fueled by a fictitious "trust fund" that would make Bernie Madoff blush.

Medicare and Medicaid have trillions of dollars of unfunded long-term obligations. Their problems and disastrous impacts on healthcare economy-wide result from a simple flaw - that public provision of private goods gives the electorate an insatiable appetite for Other People's Money.

Therefore, I will make my choices at the polls based most importantly on a candidate's handling of entitlement reform. What makes Barack Obama such a terrible president is not his proclivity for bankrupt "green energy" companies or his flagrant disregard for bankruptcy laws when screwing secured creditors of Chrysler. It is his overpowering need to push the American public into dependency via Obamacare.

Willard Romney cannot effectively combat Obamacare and the entitlement status quo when he helped to propagate it in his state. Obomneycare has failed in Massachusetts for the same reasons that any iteration of the mandate-subsidy scheme will. There is nothing in Romney's record that suggests he can take on the political minefield that is entitlement reform, from his term as governor to his balking at Rick Perry's correct assertion that Social Security is a ponzi scheme.

We are Republicans. We are supposed to be the party of grownups, whether it be in the realm of personal responsibility or math. Romney's embrace of government healthcare is completely incompatible with our party's place as the voice of fiscal reason.

That being said, if a Republican congress managed to somehow put an Obamacare repeal on President Romney's desk, he might sign it. He might not. But as we have seen, Republicans can make the entitlement mess worse all on their own. Romney's record, along with his promise to raise taxes on Americans who wish to purchase goods made in China, make him an enemy of freedom, not an ally.

Big government policies will have the same predictably disastrous consequences whether enacted under a guy with an R after his name or a D. The only difference is that when the day of reckoning comes and the bond vigilantes cut us off - when our borrowing has left room in our budget only for interest on the debt and some of our promises, the results will be very tough. It may not happen in the next four or eight years. Maybe sooner, maybe later, depending on how long investors prefer our dollar and treasuries over alternatives.

The main difference between a President Romney or another four years of Obama would be which system gets the blame. Under Obama, hopefully the electorate and the financial markets will rightly associate the costs of reckless spending and endless promises to statism and the welfare state. Under Romney, I fear it will be associated with his free market rhetoric rather than his big government actions. Don't believe me? How many people today blame the mortgage crisis on "deregulation" that never even fucking happened?

In the short run, America may be better under a Romney presidency. In the long run, I'm unconvinced.

I also cannot vote for Rick Santorum. I am fundamentally a libertarian at heart, and vote for Republicans because they are the only major party that even pretends to understand individual liberty. I cannot vote for someone who would say (emphasis mine):
One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. You know, the left has gone so far left and the right in some respects has gone so far right that they touch each other. They come around in the circle. This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.
That leaves for me Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

If I had a dollar for every person who said "I like a lot of what Ron Paul says, but", I'd be a very wealthy man. But I have to count myself in that category. Ron Paul is the only candidate who I truly think believes in individual liberty and the proper role of government in a free society. Republicans and the country at large ignore Ron Paul's ideas and supporters at their own peril. I see Paul as a Barry Goldwater-like figure; someone who will not win the presidency, but whose movement will carry on with younger people to affect the GOP in significant ways.

However, Ron Paul will not win the nomination. And however alluring some of Paul's ideas may be, he is not without his flaws. I fundamentally disagree with his thinking on the causes of Islamic terrorism. One can criticize the cost and scope of our military machine without drawing a linear path from it to 9/11. To think that Al Qaeda will simply stop trying to kill Americans if we pull our military from the Middle East is not logical in my opinion. We have military bases in Cuba and Japan - where are those terrorists? Ultimately, Al Qaeda wants to kill Americans because we are free, somewhat secular, and frankly because they are batshit crazy.

That doesn't mean I think our wars should continue forever, or that we should have bases in Cuba and Japan and Germany, but it shouldn't be the basis for our defense policy. I would just like to see something between Dick Cheney and Ron Paul. Foreign and defense policy aren't my main issues, but I also don't think that someone who can't even run a God damned newsletter would make a good president.

What I'm getting at is that Ron Paul, at least this go around, is not my guy, regardless of the respect I have for his principles and the enthusiasm and courage of his supporters.

That leaves the candidate I will vote for today - Newt Gingrich. I will not be happily skipping to the polls to cast my vote for the former Speaker of the House. He has a dangerous fetish with fancying himself a "man of ideas" and an "historian", the latter definition of himself used to justify him taking millions from Freddie Mac when it was using the strength of the taxpayer to help fuel the financial crisis. His disgraceful attacks on Mitt Romney's former employer, Bain Capital, almost disqualified him in my eyes. His ability to keep promises to voters are in doubt when he can't keep the most sacred promises a man can make. And he wants to go the the moon.

But there are things that Newt can be proud of. He knows how to run a nationwide race, as he guided the GOP to a House Majority for the first time in 40 years in 1994 with the Contract With America. As Speaker, he helped pave the path to a balanced budget and pass welfare reform, two things I'm confident Clinton never would have done on his own. Most importantly, he has in the past been willing to speak the truth about entitlements, and in particular Social Security.

So between a socialist, a flip-flopper, a theocrat, a conspiracy theorist, and a serial adulterer, I'm reluctantly endorsing, like the Tampa Tribune, former Speaker Newt Gingrich for president.

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