Thursday, October 30, 2008

Campbell Carries Water

That pail Colleen Campbell is carrying must be getting heavy. Campbell spent her time in today's Post-Dispatch Op-Ed section carrying water for the McCain campaign.

Rather than construct some argument that Sen. Barack Obama's tax proposal-which proposes to cut taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year while slightly bumping up taxes on those who make more-was a plan that made no fiscal sense, she instead trotted out the McCain campaign's second front, that Obama-by modifying existing progressive taxes-is a socialist.

In that respect Campbell both flunks the test for recognition of well-defined political systems, as well as the pop-quiz to see if you are keeping up with your homework.

Even a critical reading of what Obama has proposed elicits nothing more than an increase in already-existing taxes for folks making more than $250,000 a year. At the same time it looks to lessen the tax burden on those who earn less.

The entire point of her column was to continue the line that Obama is somehow a socialist by readjusting the existing tax system.

Had she spent a little less time copy-and-pasting from the McCain campaign emails, she may have noticed that McCain supported the current economic bailout. The one that not only funnels billions of taxpayer dollars to the massive banking industry, but takes an ownership stake in many who accept the deal-the specific term is recapitalization. A less judicious explanation would be the state taking an ownership stake in the means of production: a.k.a. a potentially satisfactory condition for socialism.

The McCain campaign and its surrogates have spent incredible amounts of time trying to weave a narrative that has little to do with reality as you and I know it.

Retooling a tax structure so that is slightly more progressive-Obama's proposed increases in taxation would bring them up to the levels of the 1990's when we all suffered through the tech boom and the economic expansion it created-is a far cry from the government taking an ownership position in banks.

Campbell gleeful quoted the Orlando news anchor (whose Q & A should be recorded in history simply for the absolute dissonance exhibited in the interview, with one interlocutor demanding the interviewee essentially pull a rabbit from their nose, while said interviewee simply tries not to double over in laughter) who kicked off her batty performance with a Karl Marx quote. She went on to demand that Bided prove that Obama was not a socialist, or a Marxist; her evidence being that Obama wants to tweak the existing tax system.

Campbell also chucks in Obama's supposed plan to "spread the wealth", which pulls from a comment Obama made about helping reassert the economic power and potential of the middle class-thus increasing the wealth of the majority of the population.

It was once bragged-though I never saw the numbers, it was touted by enough serious folks that it was likely true-that there was more wealth in the collective bank accounts of the folks living in working-to-middle class South St. Louis that in the sections of the Western St. Louis County known for its big homes and expensive cars.

South City is an example of the source of ingenuity and wealth production Obama's tax plan is targeted at, not the folks whose names sit atop the buildings South City works in.

This country is rightfully renowned for its history of giving a nobody with ambition the chance to become captains of industry or occupy the highest seats in the land. That happens because we encourage and foster new entries and new ideas. Protecting existing business and business owner by giving them tax advantages is not only unfair, but undercuts a future we have promised to the hopeful.

- Murphy

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kander Trashes Nasty Fliers

Jason Kander, an attorney and veteran of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan who is running for State Rep in Kansas City, has sent an email asking voters to let him know if they receive some of the nasty fliers being spread around his area.

The fliers apparently target homes displaying Obama campaign signs. The flyer is a garden-variety theocratic-style rant promising damnation to those supporting Obama, a pro-choice candidate. For those who happen to skim the comments sections of blogs, it's about the equivalent of the lurker who blasts away with bible quotes and fire-and-brimstone rhetoric.

What concerned the person who alerted Kander to the flyer is that they witnessed a person walking the neighborhood jotting down the addresses of residents sporting the Obama signs. It's likely it was merely to target their fliers, but it still unsettled the homeowner, especially since it came soon after several Obama yard signs were defaced.

Certainly there is a flip side to displaying your opinion for all to see, the occasional push-back or criticism that you may receive. Many people who put up yard signs don't expect to receive criticism-barring the occasional neighbor.

Yet this criticism came anonymously. Someone who plants a yard sign is taking ownership of their opinion. Dropping in to Kinkos to run off a rant and sending them out anonymously is not. That said, pamphleteers have been printing pseudonymously or anonymously since the days of Washington.  

The free debate of ideas is enshrined in this country's founding. Firing off scurrilous missives anonymously is, unfortunately, something that has also been with us since the beginning. 

In recent years it has been popular to quote Samuel Johnson's most famous line, that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Perhaps an appropriate accompaniment is that said scoundrel may also fall back on freedom of speech. 

- Murphy

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gibbons Trades On Democrats' Split Over Koster

An astroturf effort sponsored by the campaign of State Senator Michael Gibbons touts tries to use Democrats own skepticism of State Senator Chris Koster's transition from Republican to Democrat; which occurred within a convenient period before his announcement that he was running for Attorney General, on the Democratic side.

Despite genuine questions over Koster's Democratic bona-fides, the "Democrats for Gibbons" website is paid for by the Gibbons campaign.

Certainly denying A. does not indicate you endorse B., but Koster has certainly left himself open to the justifiable assertion that Democrats may not be thrilled about his candidacy.

- Murphy

Friday, October 24, 2008

We're Number 10!

Well, technically, Ladue is number 10. The well-off burg of Ladue landed itself on the top ten list of donors to the McCain campaign. The magazine Human Events pulled out the most common zip codes of McCain donors. The Ladue zip code of 63124 came in 10th. However, that home to latte-sipping elites, New York City, came in 1st and 3rd.

1.10021 - New York, N.Y.

2. 85253 - Paradise Valley, Ariz.

3. 10022 - New York, N.Y.

4. 06830 - Greenwich, Conn.

5. 92660 - Newport Beach, Calif.

6. 22101 - McLean, Va.

7. 75205 - Dallas, Texas

8. 77024 - Houston, Texas

9. 78209 - San Antonio, Texas

10. 63124 - St. Louis, Mo.

- Murphy

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Powell Endorses Obama

Former Republican Secretary of State General Colin Powell announced his endorsement of Democratic Senator Barack Obama for President citing his agreement with Obama's foreign policy ideas and an aversion to the negative campaign of Republican Senator John McCain and his decision to choose Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Powell told Tom Brokaw on NBC's Meet the Press this morning:

....he had watched both Obama and his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, for many months and thought “either one of them would be a good president.”

But he said McCain’s choices in the last few weeks — especially his selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his vice presidential running mate — had raised questions in his mind about McCain’s judgment.
It's a fairly damning critique from a figure praised and respected by both parties for his skill, service and thoughtfulness. In recent years, Powell has been floated as a possible Presidential candidate. Burnishing his sterling image, many wondered which party's endorsement would he seek.

Powell's explanation of his support for Obama was essentially a rejection of nearly all aspects of the McCain campaign, most powerfully the national security and foreign policy aspects; fields in which Powell as viewed as no mere amateur.

Having served both Republican and Democratic administrations, Powell has been viewed as a professional whose judgment rises above the ideological melee, but is nevertheless respectful of the political implications of his work.

The good soldier version of his story is both reinforced and takes a hit by his tenure as President George W. Bush's Secretary of State. During that time he both counseled caution and care during the planning for Iraq. Yet he also carried some heavy water in his testimony before the United Nations Security Council which inflated the WMD justification enough to receive UN approval, heavily influenced by Powell's own reputation in his role as the U.S.' primary advocate.

Powell's Republican bona-fides are likely to hit the revisionist cycle quickly, however, as conservatives and McCain supporters play up aspects of Powell's foreign policy proscriptions they don't agree with and question his true fidelity to the Bush administration's goals.

That said, Powell provides some fairly tough armor for Obama's foreign policy flank. Perhaps finally putting McCain's foreign policy "advantage"-an advantage already questionable-back on the shelf. The additional criticism of McCain's negative personal attacks from someone widely viewed as a genial and decent person must be the icing for the Obama campaign. 
- Murphy

Friday, October 17, 2008

English Only, bitte...

Governor Matt Blunt is again touting this support for the "English Only" amendment passed by the legislature and that goes before the voters this November.

Although the Governor's statement on the subject refer to English as Missouri's "common language" the amendment would make it mandatory that all official government proceedings be held in english only.

I must admit to a mix of bafflement and suspicion in response to these efforts. It is fairly clear that there is no wave of government meetings being held in Spanish, Bosnian or Swahili, so why the need to amend the state constitution to address a non-existent problem?

In border states such as Texas, New Mexico or Alaska there may be legitimate debates over the desire of non-english speaking citizens to have state-level meetings held in their native tongue. Those are the likeliest places with the critical mass of non-english speakers that would need to address state issues.

However, here in Missouri that simply isn't the case. Even if it were, would it need to rise to the level of a constitutional amendment? The only advantage to the effort could be the ability to avoid any constitutional challenges at the state level. That or it would allow the state to begin refusing to provide resources in any language other than English, as in no translated government documents or even to refuse to cover the cost of translators in court.

Barring those goals it seems the only real benefit to such an effort is its potential as a get-out-the-vote tool for the more conservative factions of the Republican party. Even as far back as 2007, when the original bill was passed, the Republican "brand" was not really drumming up the troops.

It is a time-honored tradition to put controversial issues on the ballot in the hopes of bringing out a particular constituency. Yet as the worst recession in memory looms and individuals watch their savings vanish in the markets' spasms, do these cultural wedge issues gain any traction?

- Murphy

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama's Financial Edge in Missouri

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports on the huge advertising edge the Obama campaign's financial advantage has provided. The campaign has been able to bludgeon the McCain campagin with television ad after television ad.

Over the previous week (Oct 7-13), the Obama campaign spent $2 million on media in Missouri compared to McCain's $824k, a $1.2 million advantage.

The McCain campaign tried to use Obama's decision not to participate in the public financing system for the general election as a political issue. It seems Obama political decision to take the criticism and the funds has paid off handsomely in the final weeks.

- Murphy

Credit or Blame

There is a tendency to measure current economic health, but as the stock markets' recent lunatic pogo-stick ride demonstrates, there is little hope that any average observer-such as myself-will be able to discern except panic and over-reaction.

With any luck, the credit markets will free up as the government begins buying stake in a number of major banks. That is the crux of the recent problems, and one that is far more complex and thus harder for the majority of Americans to understand.

President George W. Bush said in a press conference that voters should not expect a quick resolution, that the solutions in the works will not cure the overall economic malaise, but will (hopefully) avert complete disaster.

Despite Secretary Paulson's "it is a far better thing I do" speech announcing the nationalization of a large chunk of the U.S. banking system (after, that is, having already nationalized several companies, including AGI the behemouth insurance company), the question is will Bush and his adminsitration receive any credit for finally doing the right thing, or will they find little love at all?

The liberal economic commenters who have been calling for just the type of full-scale intervention the administration is now implementing will still take them to task for a.) helping create the situation in the first place and b.) for not stepping in sooner and thus stemming the hemmorage, trillions up in smoke to date.

Conservatives are likely to criticize the decision as socialism. If, in the end, it works, they will likely tie it to the earlier infusions of capital into the markets.

Currently, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is reaping the credit of a grateful market. Once written off as ineffective and irrelevant, an appendage awaiting the voters final cut, Brown is now lauded as the savior of the international market. Indeed, his announcement of the British capitalization effort bolstered American markets more than the constantly re-shuffled "plan" proffered by the Bush administration.

So, in the end, will Bush's eventual embrace of nationalization be lauded as a smart move? Or will their protestations and foot-dragging expose it for the reluctant (and unwanted) fix that it is.

- Murphy