Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Progressives and charity

I suspect there will be a lot made out of Obama's lack of charitable giving (his average from 2000 to 2004 was around 1% out of his 250k+ income). I'm (obviously) about to make something out of it, but I want first to state some things I don't care about. I don't think it makes any assertions about his character. A decade ago Bill Gates came under great scrutiny because he didn't give enough money away. I'm not going to stand in judgement about what somebody else chooses to do with the fruits of their labor. I also don't think it makes him a bad Christian. A fairly convincing case can be made that the Levitical tithe does not apply to Christians (though one does wonder where his heart is, given that his money certainly isn't going to the church).

What I do find interesting is that if you listen to his campaign promises he seems awfully generous with other peoples' money. The National Taxpayers Union estimates his promised new program cost at $307 billion. His statements even include promises of personal generosity such as "Obama will provide a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs (to a paid leave program)." What this really means is that Obama will take 1.5 billion from Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (both of whom give huge percentages to charity) so that he can be so generous with it.

I hammer this not to pick on Barack, but because I'm constantly tired of conservatives being portrayed as stingy people who care nothing for the poor and want them to starve. Virtually every study I've ever seen shows that conservatives give more. Arthur Brooks ("Who Really Cares?") stated that conservative families give on average 30% more than liberal families. Studies of per-state giving frequently come up with statistics like 24 of the top 25 voted Republican in the last election. But I still have to deal with the absurd claim that conservatives don't care.

I'm not even saying that progressives don't care. The difference is that they think it's the government's job. If a conservative is touched by a situation that needs action they step in and do it (or start their own NGO to step in and do it); if a progressive sees a situation that needs action they send a letter to their congressman (or start their own 527 to lobby congressmen).

Clinton and costs

I've long argued that Clinton will do anything to win this primary, even if it hurts her party's overall chances in the general. What I hadn't thought of, which I heard argued this morning, is that it's perhaps even true that if she's confident she's going to lose the primary it makes sense for her to swing even harder to ensure that the Republicans win the general.

If Barack wins the general then Clinton is finished. She won't get the chance to run in 2012 and she probably won't get the chance to run ever again. If he loses, though, then she can try again in 4 years. She can't come out and campaign for or endorse McCain because then she would be clearly going against her party, but she can do things like run campaign ads stating that she's stronger than Barack on an issue where McCain clearly trounces both of them (like, say, national security) in the hopes that the voters remember that when it comes time for the general.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Thomas Sowell in his column today makes a fascinating argument that having primaries instead of allowing party operatives to select Presidential candidates is bad for the country. I hadn't thought of this before, but it neatly parallels my argument that the 17th amendment removed responsibility from Senators to represent their state.

Yet another reason democracy isn't really all it's cut out to be.