Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama and Community Organizing

Having said some positive things about Obama in the past, I thought it worth noting one negative point--not so much about Obama as about an argument offered for Obama. His supporters interpret his decision to go into community organizing instead of joining a law firm as evidence of his good moral character. In fact, it is nothing of the sort. For a young man aiming at a career in politics, especially a black man in an urban setting, community organizing is an investment, a way of building up contacts and other resources that will be useful at the next stage of that career.

To be fair, I should also say that considering Obama's behavior as that of an aspiring politician weakens the argument being made by some on the right about his past association with people on the left, in particular William Ayers, an unrepentant ex-Weatherman. The Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, which is where I grew up, is the sort of place where an ex-Weatherman can easily enough be a prominent figure. You don't start a career in politics by going out of your way to refuse to shake the hands of people who lots of your constituents respect, or even refusing to sit with them on a board of directors or share a platform with them--not, at least, unless you are aiming at a deliberate political gesture. And making a point of how hostile you are to left wing radicals, while it might be useful for a Democrat running for President, would not be prudent for a Democrat seeking political support in Hyde Park.

And while on the subject of the election, I should probably say that, while I have no idea how good a President Sarah Palin would make, she sounds, from a brief look at old interviews, like a nice lady.


Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin does seem like a nice lady. If I was in a self-mposed news blockout and in Minnesota, and I spotted her in the Twin Cities , I would have suspected she was starring in a remake of the Mary Tyler Moore show, not at the Republican convention as the VP candidate.

Doesn't sound like she has done a lot of reading in economics.

Palin proposed giving Alaskans $100-a-month energy debit cards. She also proposed providing grants to electrical utilities so that they would reduce customers' rates. She subsequently dropped the debit card proposal, and in its place she proposed to send Alaskans $1,200 directly.

In 2007, Palin signed into law a $6.6 billion operating budget—the largest in Alaska's history.

Anonymous said...

Is there a prominent politician anywhere who has actually shrunk government (cut spending)? Surely there must be a governor somewhere, sometime who decreased expenditures, but I've not heard of such a case and would be happy to learn of one. Anybody know?

Anonymous said...

Is there a prominent politician anywhere who has actually shrunk government (cut spending)?

As it turns out, presidents sometimes do this (cut spending).

Checking wikipedia:

One sees that Clinton did it one year, and that Carter did it all four years.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2 above misundertands what I asked. The National Debt reflects both spending and revenues, where I'm just interested in spending.

Has someone, somewhere actually cut SPENDING? Carter did not, not even once (let alone 4 times as asserted), nor did Clinton as can be seen at Federal spending has increased every year that I can see back to WW II, where spending came down when the war died down.

Anonymous said...

I misunderstand yes, but not you. I just read the wrong column of the chart. The correct answer to the question is Reagan '87 and Bush '93.

Sorry about the gaffe.

Anonymous said...

It's also worth noting that that budget increase is less than GDP increase fairly regularly.

Anonymous said...

I know wikipedia and its charts are great sources of information (some of it even true), but the publications of the U.S. Government say the following:

Federal outlays in 1986 were 990 billion and in 1987 were 1,004 billion and went up to 1,064 in 1988. Under GHW Bush federal outlays went from 1,391 billion in 1992 to 1,409 in 1993.

The table of information I'm using can be found at It does show that Eisenhower was able to cut spending modestly in his first two years in office after Truman had doubled spending in the previous 4 years.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to adjust for inflation.

Anonymous said...

About cutting the budget, there is a Premier (Canadian Governor) who actually cut spending. Ralph Klein of Alberta in the early 90's. At the time his party had been in power for about 30 years, with no competition in sight to this day. With all the oil here, the surplus this year is close to 10 billion : P

Canada learned a hard lesson in the late 70's and 80's about stupid debt loads and has been running a budget surplus federally since the early 90's, as well as paying the debt down especially in the last few years with a Conservative economics major as Prime Minister. It sounds like he may be pushing deficit territory this year and might be calling an election before the news gets out.

I suspect that the States will be learning the same lesson some time in the first half of this century : (

Anonymous said...

Obama has consistently sought out left-wing radicals his entire life.

I doubt he just threw a dart and landed in Hyde Park. At least one of his more libertarian colleagues at the U of Chicago states that he avoided people who didn't share his left-wing political views (sorry, I don't remember the name, but I heard him on a radio program and I've read similar sentiment from other sources).

Was it just an accident that Obama taught a class on Saul Alinsky? I guess the professor for the von Mises class was already booked.

So the best case is that the man Friedman is implicitly supporting may merely be one of the biggest left-wing authoritarians in the Senate with no broader leftist agenda.

The worst case is that he actually has an even more radical agenda in mind that in line with prior associations and is facing no serious obstacles to his plans in the House and Senate.

Obama could end up enacting socialist change that makes FDR and Johnson look like libertarians.


Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware of that wikipedia article/chart, but I developed something similar at .

My charts look only at changes in national debt, rather than breaking it down into changes in spending, changes in revenue, changes in interest paid, etc. so I can't answer the question about cutting spending -- only the related question about cutting deficits.