Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Countdown to the U.S.S.R.

Normally I don't blog on politics. I think they tend to draw away from technical content. But it's the day after the election, so I can't help myself. The countdown to the birth of the U.S.S.R. has begun. That's the United States Socialist Republic. For years now Bush has eroded our personal freedoms in the name of physical safety from terrorists. Now Obama will launch down the same path in pursuit of economic safety. In the end, America stands to lose all that has made it great, not from powers from without, but wasted away due to fears from within. Of course it's not too late. We stand to lose our greatest strengths, but they are not lost yet, and what is lost can be regained. We are still a democracy, by and large we are still free, and the voice of liberty will still be heard if we have the courage to raise it.

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Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should indeed stick to technology posts...

Anonymous said...

I, for one, am interested in what the techie bloggers are thinking. As long as the venting is short and (very) occasional, I'm glad to see it.

Unknown said...

You are wrong about the Bush part. IMO, Bush did an excellent job of preventing another terrorist attack without putting a burden on our freedom. This is one of the few things I will credit Bush with.

Think of what would happen to our freedom if we were to be attacked again.

Erik Engbrecht said...

I think you're right, and I don't think Bush had some sort of evil plot to obtain power. I think he acted to protect the U.S., and by-and-large he succeeded. He implemented short-term solutions to an immediate and very deadly problem. That is his job, he did it, and I am thankful for it.

But there comes a time where we have to figure out how to defend ourselves without giving up our liberties. I actually think Bush would agree with that.

Nick said...

So many illusions of mine have faded away recently. Somehow I grew up dreaming of the US and spent half of my life to get here from the Evil Empire. It turns out most of those aspirations were plain naive.

After what happened yesterday I won't ever again argue with the nearly universal belief that "Americans are stupid". They inherited the greatest country on this planet from their miraculous ancestors and they have totally wasted it.

I lived under Communism long enough to know how it all will end up. A new Dark Age is dawning upon us and there is little hope things will change for the better any time soon (as in years if not decades).

And let's be fair, the Republicans played their part both in the debacles of the last 8 years and this particular election where they chose the worst candidate.

In the meantime I'm looking for a solidly Republican state with plentiful high-tech jobs and normal RE prices (TX? NC?). To hell with CA.

Anonymous said...

"Now Obama will launch down the same path in pursuit of economic safety"

What on earth are you talking about? Please be specific. McCain was using the word "socialist" in a last-ditch attempt to scare voters against Obama, but as far as I can tell, it's not based in reality. Can you explain what you're thinking?


Erik Engbrecht said...

In "The Audacity of Hope," Obama said that it is the responsibility of the wealthy to take care of the poor. His proposed tax policies include massive tax increases for the wealthy and breaks for the poor to the point of welfare (meaning the government pays instead of the tax payer paying). His universal health care policy transfers significant cost to businesses and the perviously mentioned wealthy tax payers. It also takes away the freedom of businesses and workers to negotiate compensation as they see fit. That's actually more important than the wealth redistribution aspects. It's the control of the economic decisions made by businesses and individuals by the government.

A more compelling example is the bailout package. The government is taking an equity stake in businesses in order to prevent their failure or other purported negative consequences. While it doesn't represent full nationalization, it has a striking similarity. As a significant investor the government will impose its will in ways that it could not without regulatory changes.

McCain voted for the bailout, as did many Republicans, and Bush signed it, so I would say them calling Obama a socialist is somewhat hypocritical. But McCain lost my vote over it, so I feel like I can do it in good concience.

Ismael Juma said...

"His proposed tax policies include massive tax increases for the wealthy and breaks for the poor to the point of welfare (meaning the government pays instead of the tax payer paying)."

If you want to discuss politics, why not do it like you'd do for a technical discussion? Show us real figures instead of vague stuff like "massive tax increases for the wealthy".

Here's one source:

In your opinion, does that reflect your statement above?

Erik Engbrecht said...

Yes. See the part on refundable tax credits:

Anonymous said...

Wanting a national health service does not make you a socialist.

Also, look at the many places in the world that has a pretty good and sustaineable NHS, such as in Europe.

To be honest, I have never been able to fathom how a developed country such as the US can possibly not have a NHS, and still call itself a humane country.

Still, it's only the poor that have to suffer right?

Ismael Juma said...


The article you cite does not conclude in any way that Obama's policies constitute welfare (only the Republican sources say that, as expected). Also, it says that McCain's package would actually be a lot more expensive ($4.2 trillion instead of $2.9 trillion).

But anyway, if you consider a 8.7% tax increase for people who earn over $600k a year and 11.5% increase for people who earn over $2.8 million to be massive increases, then we just have different definitions on what massive is, I guess. And I fail to see how "America stands to lose all that has made it great" because of that.

Unknown said...

Ismael, McCain's package appears to be more expensive due to the way it was scored. They score all tax cuts as a loss in revenue, when in fact history has proven otherwise.

Erik Engbrecht said...

NHS represents the takeover of a significant private industry by the national government. That's a socialist policy. Is belief in a single socialist policy enough to make a person a socialist? I don't know.

I also think the comparison of a potential American nationalized health care with European nations is fundamentally flawed. The US is much, much larger than any individual European country. A better comparison would be to a state-level government run health care system.

To some degree I'm engaging in hyperbole. It wouldn't surprise me that if by European standards Obama is somewhat conservative on economic issues. I'm also taking the long view. Once entitlement programs are enacted, it's extremely difficult to get rid of them. Just look at farm and other industrial subsidies in the US. Almost everyone seems to think they are a bad idea, and have for a long time, yet they stay with us...

I think the US needs simpler systems. When I'm debugging a program, I try to get down to as simple of a case as possible. Why can't the same principle be applied to government? Adding more government programs, more complex tax codes, etc goes against that.

Ismael Juma said...

I am going on holiday soon, so this is where my involvement in this thread ends.


Spin is a beautiful thing. The same way you claim that, Obama claims that less tax for the people on lower incomes will allow them to spend more, which in turns benefits the wealthier. There are enough shades of grey that it's hard to know for sure until we see something more concrete than election plans.


Yes, you're engaging in hyperbole (bordering on FUD). And yes, for many Europeans his economic policies are somewhat conservative.

Regarding simplicity, I think everyone knows the quote "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." I find it funny that you use software as an example given how complex most useful software is. Not to mention buggy, slow, wasteful, etc. To continue with the software analogy, it's obviously a good idea to aim for simplicity, but not if that means that you don't fulfil the project requirements.

Having said that, I am sure that the Tax system in most countries could do with some simplification and I have no doubt that there is room for improvement in Obama's proposals. I just disagree with the "sky is falling" attitude.

Petr said...

Don't shoot the messenger.

Bush has pursued his own personal agenda while declaring that he fights terrorism and spent trillions of dollars borrowed from outside world. Do you remember that Iraq had NOTHING to do with attacks in New York? In fact Saddam despised terrorists. He was a bad guy but that is other story. But.
Do you remember that CIA fostered fostered whose terrorists (with your taxes, apparently) to fight USSR in Afganistan? Do not play with fire - it could be dangerous.

Do you remember that every person living in USA owe more $80000 to foreign countries? This is direct result of economic politics for last 30 years. Or you just going to pretend that you forget that you are in debt?

Whoever is at power in USA can do worse or better but one have to pay for own mistakes. Just face it and do not whine: you can do better in future.

Citizen of Russian Federation.

Anonymous said...

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