Archive for October, 2008

So the Fed, in its eternal wisdom, is dutifully following Monetarist orthodoxy by cutting interest rates by half a percentage point. So what is the rate at now? 1%!!!!! Has nobody in the government realised that this is not working???!!!! Do they seriously believe that they are not, as Keynes put it, pushing on a piece of string???!!! Confidence is in the toilet, there’s nowhere else to go with interest rate cuts, it’s becoming an exercise in futile grandstanding for the business media. Nobody is spending. And John McCain wants to freeze government spending, the only way the government can guarantee that money gets spent to stimulate the economy!!!

Now the stock market went up yesterday in anticipation of this cut, but then the stock market went up in anticipation of the bailout that was demanded from the banks and when it was confirmed, the market proceeded to plummet. So how long will this bounce last, before stocks drop again? Seriously, I’m beginning to wonder whether all the decisions on Wall Street, the City of London and other financial centres are being fuelled by traders’ well-documented consumption of cocaine! Because there seems to be absolutely no reason at all involved. Should we start testing all market traders for drugs on a weekly basis and banning those who fail it?

In the light of all this, it is economically irresponsible for John McCain, Sarah Palin and the rest of the Republican Party to equate the modest taxation and spending plans of Barack Obama with socialism in an effort to scare people into giving them four more years of cronyism. In fact, it’s so irresponsible it’s practically Anti-American.

Again, I know I’m a little late into the discussion. I was just wondering what Joe the (unlicensed) Plumber would prefer: to pay 39% tax on his marginal income over $250,000 (note:NOT his total income) instead of 36% (assuming he does actually in the end earn that much profit after wages and other expenses), or to pay a pittance in tax under John McCain because he makes no profit as the economy is in the tank?

Look folks, all Western countries (even the US) made the collective decision throughout the twentieth century that there were certain services that were too vital to be left at the mercy of the vagaries of the marketplace. For both Europe and the US these included Fire, Police, Education, Infrastructure. Europe and Canada added Universal Healthcare to that while the US has thus far shied away from it. The US has decided to have a larger and more expensive military than European countries. Decisions were made to provide varying levels of welfare to those who weren’t gainfully employed for whatever reason. Thus taxes had to be collected to pay for these services to be available for the good of all citizens, rich and poor.

Decisions then had to be made as to how to share the cost burden of these services and again all Western countries made the decision that those with more money to spare should pay proportionally more than those earning less, mainly because they could afford it but also because to do otherwise would compromise the ability of those in lower paid jobs to earn a living wage for a fair day’s work.

Over the years, different countries have tweaked these variables to various extents and with varying levels of success. However the general principles of a progressive taxation system to pay for essential services has remained in place for decades, that is until it came under attack from neocons seeking a redistribution of wealth to the haves with the promise that it would trickle down. And with the election of George W Bush, they got to implement these policies leading to the economic crisis of today. So a modest rollback of the taxcuts received by the richest 5% to pay for tax cuts to the middle-class is not a Marxist wealth redistribution programme. (especially as the wealthy didn’t get this extra income through extra work, but rather through political manoeuvring) – it is a sensible return to the principles of a mixed market economy that served the Western World so well in creating and distributing prosperity reasonably well through the 20th century.

So please do not get scared by tags like “socialism” into making decisions that are not in your financial interest and that are to the detriment of the global economy.

Sorry to be merchant of doom again but there is a plausible election result which could put John McCain and (sharp intake of breath) Sarah Palin in the White House. McCain is focusing a lot on Pennsylvania and there’s a good reason why. Even if Obama wins all other Kerry states and adds Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Virginia, McCain would still win by somehow flipping Pennsylvania (probably through a combination of gaining some traction with one of his attacks on Obama, a strong get-out-the-vote effort and low voter turnout) and clinging onto all other Bush states that are currently considered toss-ups. There could even be the nightmare scenario where McCain scrapes the Electoral College vote while losing the popular vote by 2-4%

However the good news for Obama is that his support in Pennsylvania seems to have hardened, with outright and hilarious hostility having been demonstrated by Flyers hockey fans towards the “Queen of the Hockey Moms”. Also in the northern mountain area, Montana North Dakota and, to a lesser extent, South Dakota have come into play and, should the scenario I described earlier happen, they could shockingly end up being the deciding states. Or if things go well they could be the icing on the cake of an Obama landslide.

So McCain and Palin have decided on a new line attack on Barack Obama – that his policies are Socialist – and like their other attacks just a cursory look at the facts should debunk this. So let’s see what they’ve tried before:

1. His middle name is Hussein and his last name is nearly Osama, thus he must be dodgy – turns out, this is what is widely known (although maybe only in liberal Anti-American circles) as a COINCIDENCE!!

2. He’s a Muslim, although obviously a pretty rubbish one, as he kept making a wrong turn into a Christian church for decades.

3. He attended to a radical, jihadist madrassa in Indonesia. However when one of the British news networks went there, the staff and students were all nice and friendly, we learned that they were respectful of his Non-Muslim status, although during Islamic religious studies he and other non-Muslims went to another room to catch up on their studies, and that they all wished him well (there goes number 2).

4. He’s dangerously inexperienced on foreign policy, yet in his debates with McCain he more than held his own on this area…and now Colin Powell has backed him.

5. He’s in league with America-hating terrorists…well, one actually, and his terrorism acts occurred when Obama was eight…and he’s been lecturing at a major university for twenty years…and they weren’t really in league with each other, they served on the board of the same charity…and that charity was set up by a member of the Reagan Administration…and Palin has much stronger ties with the America-hating secessionists of the Alaska Independence Party.

So how about the Socialism claims…well I don’t know, you go ask a middle-aged Eastern European whether an increase in tax on people earning over $250,000 from 36% to 39% equates to their experience of Totalitarian Socialism and watch them roll on the floor laughing. Oh My God, tax rates for the rich will go back to the levels they were at under Comrade Ronald Reagan!

Seriously, there is no country in the western world which is either purely capitalist or purely socialist. The US has socialized police, fire services, education and many other important (and perhaps some not so important government programs) while other countries like Germany, France, Britain and Canada manage to combine a Universal Health Care system and strong social safety net with a functioning market economy. And seeing that the eight-year experiment with extreme deregulation and deep (and unaffordable) tax cuts hasn’t exactly worked out as planned, perhaps it’s understandable if the good citizens of the USA aren’t completely freaked about a modest shuffle to the Left.

Quite simply, aim for a better result than what the polls say is most likely because each step up indicates something important

If Obama looks like winning narrowly, aim for a clear win to avoid any challenges or repeats of 2000

If Obama looks like winning clearly, aim for a comfortable win so that Obama has a definite mandate for change

If Obama looks like winning comfortably, aim for a landslide so as to punish the Republicans so that they purge themselves of the neocon ideologues who have hurt America so much over the past couple of decades and return to being the Republican party of Eisenhower and Lincoln.

Who won? Who lost? Was a knockout blow landed? How should the debates be analysed? Is there an objective measure to determine who succeeded? Sporting metaphors abound (well actually boxing metaphors, mainly). But me, I’m going to use another sport for my analysis metaphor, one which unites me with suburban American Heartland homemakers: soccer.

Firstly, the clubs: It’s Obama-Biden FC v McCain-Palin United

Secondly: Tournament format: Four games with the first, third and fourth being contested by the clubs’ first teams, the second set aside for each club’s reserves. Winner determined by aggregate scores over the four matches.

Game 1: Team Obama v Team McCain. Played on what was supposed to be Team McCain’s hope patch, a late change in weather conditions combined with knocks picked up by Team McCain through over-exertion in an external mini-tournament plays into Team Obama’s hands somewhat and the tie becomes the proverbial “game of two halves”. In the first half Team Obama go on the attack forcing Team McCain onto the backfoot. Pressure pays off as Team Obama score a tidy goal by taking advantage of weaknesses shown by Team McCain that are similar to those displayed often by the unpopular, dirty and ultimately inept Team Bush. In the second half conditions improve for Team McCain and they score an early equaliser. However Team Obama show themselves more adept at the conditions than anticipated and soon retake the lead. Team McCain continue to attack, only to find that Team Obama are happy to soak up the pressure and create chances on the counter-attack and the game finishes with no additions to the scoreline. Final Score: Team Obama 2, Team McCain 1.

Game 2: Team Biden v Team Palin. In spite of being a reserve team game, this matchup is eagerly anticipated as the experienced but unpredictable Team Biden take on the inexperienced and unfancied Team Palin. There are concerns about whether Team Palin has any ability whatsoever and whether Team Biden will be too aggressive, losing support among neutral spectators or underestimating Team Palin and lose the match. The game starts at a high tempo, with Team Palin playing at a frantic pace and managing to string some passes together, leading to a scrambled goal for them. However, Team Biden soon take control of the game, smartly absorbing pressure from Team Palin and putting together a number of fluid passing movements, creating numerous chances and scoring two goals before half-time. In the second half the pattern continues and Team Biden score two more as Team Palin seem to run out of ideas and are reduced to chasing the game frantically and putting in a couple of wild tackles. Team Palin score before the end but it’s only a consolation. The most entertaining tie of the tournament ends: Team Biden 4, Team Palin 2.

Game 3: Team Obama v Team McCain: Played at a smaller, older, small-town venue, ostensibly to test the teams ability to play at grassroots level. This turns out to be a bad decision as the pitch turns out to be small and waterlogged and not conducive to expansive soccer and leads to a dull encounter. Team McCain doesn’t seem to want to attack to strongly, possibly due to fear of Team Obama’s counterattacking ability. Team Obama, meanwhile, seem happy to absorb whatever attacks are made by Team McCain comfortably, and this makes them appear like the superior team. However the only vaguely exciting moment of the evening occurs when Team McCain pick up a yellow card for a petulant kick out at “That One”. Final Score: 0-0

Game 4: Team Obama v Team McCain: Team McCain come out fighting aggressively, knowing that they need a big performance to have a chance of catching Team Obama. However, due to inferior ability, they resort to tough and sometimes dirty challenges on Team Obama. Team Obama manage to ride most challenges but Team McCain receive a yellow card for persistent fouling. Team McCain’s tactics lead to a scrappy goal, however Team Obama’s calm passing ability lead to two goals. Final score: Team Obama 2, Team McCain 1.

So final aggregate score in the tournament: Obama-Biden FC 8 McCain-Palin Utd 4. So I hope that clears it all up.

Do you agree with this analysis? If the debates are viewed as a soccer tournament, what was the aggregate result? Vote below.

In recent days Barack Obama’s lead in polls has tightened somewhat-for example the Gallup Daily has seen margin reduced from eleven points to seven. It’s still a winning lead but with two and a half weeks left to Election Day, with more attacks to come from the Republicans and considering he’s held a lead on two or three occasions before only to see it fritter away within days, it’s time to ask: