Election 2012: IV. Why We Should Vote Against Barack Obama

(This is the fourth of five posts I will put up over the weeks of and after the conventions, exploring my thoughts on the Presidential election. Parts one and two were reasons to vote for and against Mitt Romney; Parts three and four will be reasons to vote for and against Barack Obama. Part five will wrap up. Keep in mind, this is my thinking as we went through the conventions. It’s likely that things will change between now and Election Day.)

OK, now that’s all out of the way, here’s the fun part.

Obama’s first term has been littered with disappointments and broken promises, too many to really get into in one post. He has plenty of defenders and I’ll get into their arguments below. But again, this is not about the last four years; it’s about the next four. So why would we not want this guy to have four more years in the White House?

The Economy

You know what? Just for the sake of argument, I’m going to give Barack Obama as much credit as I possibly can for the last three and a half years. And I’m not entirely sure it’s undeserved. When December 2008 rolled around, I thought we were headed for Great Depression II. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month and the economy was declining at an annual rate of 8%. Think about that for a moment. It was the most catastrophic contraction since the Great Depression. I will give him (and Bush) all the credit in the world that we didn’t end up hitting rock bottom. I’ll even punt on the Stimulus and claim that the only reason we didn’t have a depression was because of Obama’s enlightened stewardship. I don’t believe this, mind you. But I’ll posit it for now. All hail Obama, Preventer of Depression II!

But here’s the thing: it’s one thing to prevent a depression, it’s another to get things moving again. The private sector has been recovering, but slowly and it’s not clear that its very sustainable.

Here’s a plot of job growth under this President and his predecessor. And just in case you think I’m being unfair, I got this from ThinkProgress.

You can now see what the Obamaites are on about. Public sector employment has fallen. Private sector employment, after plunging the first year, has slowly recovered basically back to where we were when he took over (although unemployment is still up because of population growth). This contrasts sharply against the Bush’s “recovery” which saw sharp growth in public sector employment and slower growth in the private sector. And that after a much milder bubble bursting.

But … as I keep saying … when you’re comparing yourself to Bush, you are setting the bar awfully low. The point of the Bush era, as the Left never tires of reminding us, was that it was not a great recovery. You compare this to recoveries under Reagan or Clinton and the picture is very different. Obama has had much much slower job growth. And the faster job growth under Clinton and Reagan happened without trillion dollar deficits.

Obama likes to say he’s created 4.5 million new jobs. That’s … not a lot for 42 months. Let’s be generous and only count things from January 2010, six months after the recovery began (a year after the stimulus). That’s still only 155,000 jobs per month. Let’s be even more generous and throw in 600,000 jobs that the public sector lost. Now we’re up to 175,000 a month.

The only way you get up to really robust growth is to toss in another million jobs to represent how the bloated public sector grew under Bush. Now we’re up over 200,000, into good territory. But we had to twist ourselves into a pretzel shape and assume unsustainable Bush-era spending increases to get there. Does that sound like a sound economy to you?

And let me point out: giving Obama every break — starting our counting in January 2010, accounting for public sector shrinkage — we’re still barely at recovery level. Take some time to play with the numbers here and contrast this recovery against those of Reagan and Clinton. With both of them, we were averaging 300,000 jobs per month at this stage. In 1984, we added 300,000 jobs or more in eight months. In 1994, we added 300,000 or more jobs in seven months. You know how many months we’ve added 300,000 jobs under Obama?

One. And that was Census hiring.

Let’s flash up the key figure of the stimulus, which shows how jobs were supposed to recover:

Now I have been as critical as anyone about the use of this figure. The projections Team Obama made were before they knew just how bad the economy was (although they haven’t produced a new figure with accurate economic figures … hmmmm).

But even with that caveat, this is still damning. For one, it tells me that they way underestimated the problem; hardly a vote of confidence in their supposed superstar economic team. For another, underestimating the economy’s freefall might be the reason unemployment peaked much higher than expect. But how do they explain the failure of the red line to drop down? Austerity? Without real spending cuts or tax hikes?

That’s leaving out the elephant in the room: the sharp decline in labor force participation. Labor force participation has been falling for a while as people retire. But that’s not what’s causing the current problem. In fact, young people are leaving the labor force in record numbers while seniors are staying in the labor force. The sharpest decline in labor force participation is among 16-19 year-olds. And less than half of college graduates are finding jobs.

So, OK, I’ll give you the decline in public sector payrolls. But you have to give me the sharp decline in labor force participation. We’ll call it even: unemployment is still over 8%.

Look, I appreciate that the 2008 crisis was unprecedented (although Reagan inherited a bad situation too). I agree that this is not like other recoveries. But I still don’t think the Democrats understand the nature of the problem: massive debt and over-investment in certain sectors. The fact is that the people who authored the crash — the bankers and their cronies in Washington — have never really been held accountable. The fact is that Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank have made our economy less dynamic without decreasing our vulnerability to bank runs. The fact is that we’ve been spending money on green boondoggles and specialized tax breaks and bailouts instead of cutting or eliminating corporate taxes for everyone. The fact is that despite the high hopes when Cass Sunstein was brought on board, Obama has done nothing to streamline regulation and make it easier to do business. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Hell, even when it came to the payroll tax cut, they messed it up. They could have made that cut on the employer side, which would have made it easier to hire people and made it easier for Congress to eventually curtail the cut. Instead, they made it on the employee side, which did precisely dick for hiring and made the cut easy to demagogue. Now we’re stuck with a multi-billion dollar hole in revenues that isn’t helping the economy.

Maybe you could argue that being clueless is a good thing. I certainly think it would help a lot if our government just stopped helping us. We’re in debt and, unless we accept some inflation, that debt is going to keep our economy down for a long time. I said four years ago we might have a lost decade and the only cure for our ills was time and hard work.

But Obama can’t sit around and do nothing. He always has to cock around and try to get things moving. All that’s doing is dragging things out. A Rich pointed out, the Global Competitiveness Index has seen us slip from the #1 economy in 2006-2008 to #7, due to regulation and fiscal uncertainty. Is none of that the President’s fault?

So … again … I appreciate that Obama inherited a gigantic clusterfuck. I appreciate that we have never had a situation like this before. But the policies he has pursued and is promising to continue to pursue are not the policies I think will eventually bring us out of the doldrums.

There is a certain amount of glee in some quarters when bad job numbers come out. It’s a glee I do not share. The continued slow pace of recovery is frustrating and maddening. Millions of good, hard-working people can not find work. That’s far more important than which team of dickheads occupies the Oval Office. If I thought re-electing Barack Obama would turn around the employment picture, I’d vote for him in a heartbeat, Bill Ayers and all. I don’t.

The Budget Deficit

I cited the deficit as a reason to vote for Obama, given that he and Congress have combined to keep spending growth at 1% over the last two years. But constraining the rate of growth is not nearly enough to fix things long term. A major overhaul of Medicare and Social Security are needed.

But I’m not convinced Obama is the guy who can achieve that. Bob Woodward is publishing excerpts from his new book detailing the budget debate of 2011. Now I take Woodward with a heap of salt, generally. But the image he portrays is of a man who simply can not work Congress the way Clinton or Reagan did; who can not be the driving force behind the Grand Bargain needed for long-term fiscal stability. Re-electing Obama is likely to just the kick the can down the road another four years. We’re rapidly running out of road.

Civil Liberties and the War on Drugs

Barack Obama’s record on civil liberties is simply terrible and he has reversed the progress made under Bush in reining in the War on Drugs. There is absolutely no reason to believe this will change in a second Obama term. If anything, it may get worse. Here is that famous Right-Wing rag Mother Jones on how the Democrats dumped almost all civil liberties references from their 2012 platform. MJ is mainly focused on the War on Terror and some of the policies — torture, detention, etc. — are supported by the Right. But … once again … that does not make it right or even neutral. The Democrats are supposed to be the party of civil liberties. Now they seem determined to show just how “tough” they are.

I’ve documented many times how Obama has ramped up the War on Drugs, raiding legal medical marijuana centers, threatening asset forfeiture and tax audits and jailing people for the hideous crime of selling medicine in compliance with state law. It may get even worse. He is now extending civil forfeiture authority to the ATF.

Foreign Policy

In general, I’ve been OK with our foreign policy under Obama. But there have been a number of annoying little mistakes: bumbling around with missile defense, attempting to refer to the “Malvinas”, failing to check the growth of South American socialism, surging in Afghanistan. Almost all of our foreign policy successes, in my opinion, are attributable to Hillary Clinton. She may not be Secretary of State for the entire eight years. And watch out for whoever she is replaced with.

(I never thought I’d praise Hillary in a blog post. Like ever. But I have to give the woman credit for a decent job done.)

Healthcare Reform

If Obama is re-elected, it’s going to be nigh impossible to overhaul or repeal-and-replace Obamacare before it starts really embedding itself in 2014. This is another can we are rapidly running out road to kick down.

Reasons not to not vote for Obama:

Bill Ayers, Obama’s Sr.’s socialism, his college years, his associations, Jeremiah Wright — the whole Obama is crypto-Marxist America-hating Megillah — is irrelevant. Maybe these things were relevant in 2008, when Obama had a scant public record. But we have had four years with him in the White House; we should judge him based on that.

It’s an old cliched joke, but it’s worth repeating: four years ago, they told us that if we voted for McCain, we’d have a sluggish economy, big debts, foreign policy gaffes, useless healthcare reform and even more curtailing of civil liberties. Well, I voted for Barr, actually. But we still have a sluggish economy, big debts, foreign policy gaffes, useless healthcare reform and even more curtailing of civil liberties.

Do we want four more years of this?

Comments are closed.

  1. West Virginia Rebel

    Reasons to vote against Obama:

    The EPA. An organization that was supposed to protect the environment has instead become the enforcer for a green agenda that is doing as much to kill business with overregulation as anything else.

    Same with Obamacare-higher taxes, more regulation, fewer doctors and medical care by bureaucrats.

    Joe Biden. Maybe he’s only playing the role of goofball, but I have a hard time imagining this guy as president should anything happen to Obama.

    A nearly complete lack of transparency that would make Nixon green with envy.

    A smug arrogance that has become even more apparent as he runs for another term.

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  2. Dave D

    Bush defecit spending 400+ billion dollars a year was stupid. These clowns tripling down on that supidity and not submitting budgets to CONTROL and be directly RESPONSIBLE for the insanity is the only reason I need to pull the lever for the other guy. If he doesn’t change the status quo, on to the next one……

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  3. InsipiD

    But we have had four years with him in the White House; we should judge him based on that.

    Indeed. And remember than a no-compromise ideologue like Obama without the fear of another election would be intolerable even beyond his current smugness and ruling by edict. He’d fear nothing from the right.

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  4. Poosh

    Could I just point out that a lot of Bush’s spending was bipartisan welfare spending, it seems odd for any Democrat to moan about his spending given they were upset that Bush wasn’t spending more.

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  5. repmom

    “Good foreign policy”

    Why does this not frighten – and offend – everyone?

    The way Obama pats him on the leg, and then sits back like nothing was said – makes me cringe.

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  6. Hal_10000 *

    Could I just point out that a lot of Bush’s spending was bipartisan welfare spending, it seems odd for any Democrat to moan about his spending given they were upset that Bush wasn’t spending more.

    This ^^^^

    Note also that the Keynesians who always say we need to spend our way out of recession never want to get ’round to that part of cutting spending during booms.

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  7. Poosh

    Why does this not frighten – and offend – everyone?

    Because its been wiped from the history books at best, and at worse never mentioned.

    And you should be angry, very angry. Putin is a tyrant who literally gets away with murder on foreign soil.

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  8. Hal_10000 *

    The recession of 1981-82 was similar.

    I disagree with this. The 81-82 recession was a sever hangover from two decade of Keynesian Phillip-curve-based inflation. Almost everyone knew it would happen the second Volker go control of the money supply but few had the political courage to do it.

    This one was based on much more massive debt and overinvestment. Trillions of dollars in net worth have simply evaporated over the past few years. The situations are superficially comparable but are the result of very different underlying causes.

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  9. Mississippi Yankee

    Hal

    The post title is “Why we should vote against Barack Obama”

    Yet you open with:

    You know what? Just for the sake of argument, I’m going to give Barack Obama as much credit as I possibly can for the last three and a half years. And I’m not entirely sure it’s undeserved.

    IMHO. you really can’t stop yourself can you? And in the end you’ll vote for Johnson anyway.

    West Virginia Rebel

    Excellent list of reasons. Many of them are the reason I called the pResident Barack Milhous Mugabe a few weeks ago.

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  10. CM

    Barack Obama’s record on civil liberties is simply terrible and he has reversed the progress made under Bush in reining in the War on Drugs. There is absolutely no reason to believe this will change in a second Obama term. If anything, it may get worse. Here is that famous Right-Wing rag Mother Jones on how the Democrats dumped almost all civil liberties references from their 2012 platform. MJ is mainly focused on the War on Terror and some of the policies — torture, detention, etc. — are supported by the Right. But … once again … that does not make it right or even neutral. The Democrats are supposed to be the party of civil liberties. Now they seem determined to show just how “tough” they are.

    John Cusack isn’t happy with Obama. At all.

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  11. CM

    Could I just point out that a lot of Bush’s spending was bipartisan welfare spending, it seems odd for any Democrat to moan about his spending given they were upset that Bush wasn’t spending more.

    I totally agree with this. The Dems also authorised the war in Iraq, so must share the blame. It’s also like Republicans complaining about the stimulus, when it couldn’t have happened without them (it was only 3 of them to make it 60-38, but that was enough).

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  12. Kimpost

    Election related.

    I saw Palin and O’Reilly talking yesterday. They both think that what the campaign needs is more polarization. Or more buzzwords as O’Reilly puts it. To paraphrase; “put the socialist label on Obama”.

    Yes, way to go. Replace stupid with more stupid.

    Idiots…

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  13. Hal_10000 *

    I think, for all my criticism, Romney is playing the general election as well as he can: trying to portray Obama as more of a disappointment than anything else. There are a lot of disillusioned Obama voters out there.

    I don’t know if it will work. The GOP brand is still somewhat toxic. But I think it is more likely to work than firebrand base-thumping rhetoric. He needs the independents if he’s going to pull this out.

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  14. Section8

    Hal, pretty good series of posts on this overall. Agreed with much of it including the risk that the GOP will somehow think adding to the debt with their spending is somehow different than the debt caused by spending from the Democrats.

    I did disagree on the Social Security comment. Those in the GOP who helped block it, you have defended many times, so I was a little thrown off by that. Even still, it doesn’t excuse the shitload of spending and expanding of social programs that the GOP as a whole had no problem with.

    I also somewhat agree with the Dem president and Repub congress idea. You might have felt as I did in the Clinton years. Hell, if we’re making this progress with him, just wait until it’s all GOP! Well we saw how that turned out, so I understand the skepticism. If Bill were running again for president, I might just be on board with this idea, but I don’t think we’ll get much out of an Obama/GOP legislature.

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  15. Poosh

    I DO think Romney needs to address healthcare, and he does need to bring that debate foward. Obamacare was the wrong way to go, but the US healthcare system is indeed broken. Many democrats know that Romney is a centrist. This is the doom of Obama. Romney needs to speak to both democrats-who-know-Obama-has-betrayed-them and Republicans who are uspet about Romeny-care and point out things NEED to change and one needs a serious national debate. The country is broke, your free-healthcare programs are bankrupt and reaching their endgame. But the link between work and healthcare is, surely, an immoral/and/or terrible way to go about things. The cost of healthcare is out of control and the market prices are totally distorted. And the moral argument/point that many people are rendered broke by healthcosts, or save their entire life only to be reduced to poverty by high healthcare costs. Yes the NHS has a lot of bad problems, and is impossible to sustain, and we’re going to pay for it later on, or our children will. And yes it’s poorer quality in places (and in places it’s just as good as teh best American can offer i.e care is random), but if you’re poor or hit by endless bad luck, the NHS WILL look after you at a very low cost in terms of personal tax (it SEEMS at least). MOST subjects will get very good care and be fixed, sure it won’t be rosy, but overall you will be fixed up and get good care (good compared to the rest of the world). You have to understand the despair some Americans feel, and the lack of despair Brits feel (overall).

    The NHS is a disaster overall due to its impossible cost which helped create the recession, and there is the moral question of man’s right to keep what he earns, but these are all important issues that cannot be taken lightly. Romney, I think, understands this, and Romenycare is an attempt – bad or good – to offer a test to see if things can get better. Obama took this way far and made it federal, which is very, very different.

    Radical changes – i would have thought – are needed for the US healthcare system which is very far from the free market. Is it time for Romney to have this debate?

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  16. Kimpost

    I don’t think that it would be wise of Romney to try to start a pre-election universal healthcare debate. If he wants to win he should try to be no-Obama, mainly by focusing on the economy. He should keep promising to end Obamacare, but leave the subject at that.

    He has very little to gain by getting himself into complicated social debates.

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  17. CM

    Yep I think Romney is doing about as well as he can (ongoing foreign policy blunders aside – why he thought it was a good idea to issue such an idiotic statement about the attacks is mind-bloggling). He’s got to stay away from specifics as much as possible, because none of them are going to help him.

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  18. Mississippi Yankee

    Almost all of our foreign policy successes, in my opinion, are attributable to Hillary Clinton. She may not be Secretary of State for the entire eight years. And watch out for whoever she is replaced with.

    (I never thought I’d praise Hillary in a blog post. Like ever. But I have to give the woman credit for a decent job done.)

    After all that transpired yesterday including the murder of a US ambassador, combined with her complete failure in the far east I would respectively suggest you spit Hillary’s dick out Hal. At least until 2016.

    Arab Spring = FAILURE (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt)
    Syria = FAILURE
    Iran = FAILURE
    China = FAILURE
    Russia = “wait until after November”
    Israel = BETRAYAL

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  19. Mississippi Yankee

    I think it’s far too early to say that US actions towards Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt have all been “failures”.

    Why, because the sharia government Tunisia hasn’t attacked us yet?

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  20. CM

    Um, no Governmenthas attacked you.

    Libya assembly elects Mustafa Abu Shagur as prime minister

    Mr Shagur is a respected optical engineer with a long history of opposition to Col Gaddafi.

    He has pledged to make security a priority during his 18-month tenure.

    Mr Shagur studied at the University of Tripoli before moving to the US, where he earned a PhD and worked as an academic and optical engineer.

    He returned in 2011 to become an adviser to the National Transitional Council, which was formed during the revolt that ousted Gaddafi.

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  21. CM

    Embassies and Consulate are sovereign US soil.
    but you knew that troll!

    Ok maybe I didn’t correctly untangle your shambles of a sentence.

    Why, because the sharia government Tunisia hasn’t attacked us yet?

    I added an “of” before Tunisia so it would make some sort of sense. But even then it doesn’t, because a government didn’t attack you (you being the U.S.)

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  22. CM

    Thank you for the grammar lesson O great and wordy troll.

    No grammar lesson there mate, just an indication that I was trying to untangle your shambles. Now, did or did you not attempt to suggest that a government had attacked the US? Or will you be again pivoting away from your comments in favour of hurling more insults?

    Now go read about the demonstrations at the embassy IN Tunisia

    Ok. And?
    What do you suggest? Removing the US embassy and all contact with Tunisia?

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