Terrorism (a.k.a. The War on Terror or World War IV)
Terrorists are real and so are the people who sponsor them. Fighting them will not be easy and President-Elect Obama has not really given a good indication that he will treat this threat seriously. In fact, I have not heard whether or not Obama has articulated a clear policy, or theory, on how he views the terrorists and our struggle against them. With this lack of vision, the pressure of Washington DC foreign policy realists, and the extremely unreliable public opinion polls, I fear that Obama will be guided by whichever wind is blowing the strongest. If it’s the realists in DC and on college campuses, then we will likely stand down in our current efforts to bring the battle to the terrorists in favor of diplomacy which could have a hugely negative impact in the form of more, and more serious, attacks on our soil. If it’s the public opinion polls that guide him, then the same outcome is likely in the form of an attack on our soil with the added caveat of an ill-planned (maybe even disproportionate) response. Who knows what other factions will have influence on how Obama meets this very real threat to our national security.
I hope that Obama is more in the mold of George W. Bush than Bill Clinton when it comes to foreign policy (specifically as it relates to terrorism). After an uneventful beginning to his presidency, Bush changed his approach to dealing with terrorism. Conversely, Clinton basically abdicated our national security matters to international police investigations while ignoring the broader implications of the terrorist’s objective of destroying America. For more in depth thoughts on the war against terrorists, I’d suggest reading Norman Podhoretz’s, Word War IV and Natan Sharansky’s, The Case for Democracy.
Taxes (or the Economy)
Obama says that he is going to give 95% of us a tax cut. I’m not an economist, but that sounds like we’re being sold a bridge in Brooklyn. He also says he wants to give people the same type of health insurance that Senators and Representatives have. Let’s see, what else? Pay teachers more. Fix the nation’s infrastructure. That’s all I can remember right now, but I’m sure there’s more. How is he going to pay for all of his hopes and dreams in addition to giving 95% of us a tax cut? (Oh and how is he going to fund our struggle against people who want to destroy us?)
Soak the rich. Redistribute wealth. Create a centrally planned economy. Take your pick, but his programs are going to cost the America taxpayer a lot of money and someone has to pay for it. By putting the burden of the exorbitant spending spree on the backs of the so-called rich (anyone making over $250,000 or is it $150,000?) the drive and energy behind most of our economic growth will be dried up. Thanks to the convoluted tax code many of those rich folks will find ways of sheltering their money in order to keep more of it themselves and give less of it to the government. Once they do that, no tax rate will be high enough to make up the lost tax revenue and guess which taxpayer will have to make up the difference because they make up the most significant portion of the population: the middle-class. Are we still going to get that tax cut?
Tyranny (or Big Brother, Big Government)
I know that tyranny seems like too strong a word to use in describing the United States when bona fide tyrants are roaming the earth (Kim Jong Il, Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro, Mugabe to name just a few). However, what else would you call a government that wants to control what you eat? Or what you wear? Or what you can drive? The list is long, albeit not all of the things that the government wants to tell you what to do are as exciting as being told what you can or can’t eat.
Shouldn’t I be allowed to determine whether or not I can eat trans fatty acids in my French fries? Shouldn’t I decide whether or not to wear a helmet when I ride a bicycle? Or how many miles per gallon I’m willing to tolerate in my vehicle? These may seem like small things when taken individually, but small steps toward a more intrusive government happen every day in the form of a minor regulation here and a minor regulation there. These steps on their own don’t amount to much, but added up they begin to add girth to a government that has already grown too big for its britches.
First, a regulation, no matter how small, costs money. Whether it’s in the form of enforcement or compliance, these regulations add up and can dramatically affect the bottom line of both private business and government alike. There may be some legitimate cost benefits from enacting some regulations, but it would be best to make regulating a difficult process in order to help ensure that laws are made that will not impede progress. Second, once a regulation becomes a part of the periphery of the culture then law makers are free to start squeezing money out of the regulations in the form of increased fines and worse, they can begin their grand proselytizing about the evils of whatever sin of pursuing happiness is the latest target of their ire. Third, because elected government officials make the laws and regulations, there is little or nothing that an individual or private business can do in defense. Worse, the bureaucrats who surround the politicians in the halls of government have a disproportionate level of influence on how these regulations are crafted (or which ones are even make it to a vote). These same bureaucrats are often the beneficiaries of the regulations that are enacted and they protect their jobs fiercely. And they aren’t accountable to anyone!
I am not a strict libertarian, but I do think it’s important to keep a close eye on the government so that they don’t get too slap happy in their effort to keep us all safe from ourselves. With Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House (and liberals far too prominent in the judicial branch) it is entirely possible that we will see an increase in the creeping regulatory tyranny. You could call it tyranny with a smile.