Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Change that's hard to find

Last week in Denver there was a lot of talk about change.

Barry Obama tried to paint himself as some sort of new, post-partisan Democrat.

But how much "change" does he really have?

To find out, let's compare BO's platform to John Kerry's 2004 platform which was soundly rejected by voters.

The two are so similar that it is easier to note the changes than the similarities. Point by point, Obama wants to do the same things the voters said "no" to in 2004. There are some minor details altered, but it is surprisingly devoid of new ideas.

Both platforms extend Bush's tax cuts for the middle class, but repeal them for the "rich". The definition of "rich" has changed from $200,000 in yearly income to $250,000. That's change you can believe in, if you make between $200,000 and $249,999.

The 2004 platform proposed a major increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, a wealth transfer provision which gives refunds to the poorest working Americans. The centerpiece of the 2008 tax plan is a radical new idea to help the poorest Americans: an increase in the EITC!

In 2004 there was a plan to "pay for child care and elder care". This time it just says that government will "help pay for child care." No mention of elders, but that is probably just an oversight, unless jettisoning the elderly is the change we can believe in.

The platforms for 2004 and 2008 both promise to change the tax code to make it less rewarding for U.S. corporations to locate operations abroad. Kerry also promised also to reduce the corporate-tax rate a bit, an acknowledgment that the U.S.'s high taxes were undermining our competitiveness.

This convention's plan has ditched that carrot, and replaced it with the silliest passage in platform history: ``We will bring together government, private industry, workers, and academia to turn around the manufacturing sector.'' Obama's plan to help the manufacturing sector appears to be, ``Unleash the bureaucrats and professors.''

In 2004, when oil was trading for $40 a barrel, the platform called for some additional exploration. Now, with oil over $100 per barrel, BO doesn't call for any new exploration. Instead, just inflate your tires.
For Social Security, both platforms promise to protect it, and not to privatize it. The platform this time around also advocates automatic enrollment for 401(k)s.

In 2004, Kerry promised to use tough "pay as you go" rules to enforce fiscal discipline. Those rules were adopted in 2007, but they proved to be ineffective, as the budget deficit under the Democrat-controlled Congress rose from $248 billion in 2006 to $357 billion in 2008, mainly because Democrats voted to ignore the "pay as you go" rules when they got in the way of their big spending plans. The fact that "pay as you go" has been shown to be a failure doesn't seem to make any difference to the Party Platform. The same "pay as you go" language is in BO's 2008 platform. What makes anyone believe that it will work this time? After all, it was not President Bush who voted to ignore the rule, it was Democrats in Congress.

So when you line it all up, the promise of "change" is just a promise to do the same old things that Democrats always do. More taxes, more government intrusion, more wealth transfer, more entitlements. In the past it failed every time, but that is only because it wasn't done by the right people. BO is the right person because he can give a really good speech. This time it will work. Really. It will.

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