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September 01, 2009


Derek Kirk

"Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" is a creative way to sell yourself as a candidate. Any random person on the street could ask that question and it doesn't mean you should vote for them. It's probably worthwhile to ask "Are you worse off now than you were four years ago? Or last year for that matter?"

Out of context, Reagan's question is a logical fallacy. It certainly shouldn't be construed as a call to make a decision about a candidate or issue. I won't argue whether it was appropriate at the time, but it's risky to pull that rhetorical question and apply it to any other situation. Didn't McCain try spinning that question to his own benefit?

If we want to get up in arms about 'big spending' and 'big government', then I think we should peg Obama for increased military spending. We're spending more this year (approaching $800 billion) than ever before. Reagan had the record (540 billion, adjusted for inflation) in 1987. The defense budget reached a near 20-year low under Clinton and then climbed rapidly under Bush. Obama promised to pare down our military presence but has continued increasing funding to the machine.

Blame the Cold War for Reagan's spending and then blame 9/11 for Bush's return to an enormous military budget. None of it justifies the massive expense. In 2007 the entire world spent almost US$1.4 trillion on military expenses. We were responsible for nearly 45% of that. Keep in mind that we constitute less than 5% of the total world population. Throw your Tea Parties, but don't lose sight of the fact that our freedom and self-preservation is apparently a lot more expensive than everyone else's.

I guess the question I have is: Are we that much more important than everyone else in the world? Regardless of how you answer that question, please know that a lot of people in the world perceive that we think that way. And why not? We've spent a ridiculous amount of money to assert this presumed fact.

Sorry, I apparently haven't mastered the art of the 'brief comment'. I'll leave you with a word from our old friend, James Madison: "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

And honestly, we haven't turned the war off since WWII.


So, the military expense for the Cold War and 9/11 were not justified?

What is the quote from James Madison from?

The current amount of spending is unsustainable. The shiny veneer of "pie in the sky" soon wears off. I don't know why people continue to fall for unattainable promises. Lack of maturity, I guess.

Obviously those in power to not think it worth the risk, but I wonder if people really think it worth the risk to do nothing or very little in defense. How we love the safety of the blog paid for by someone else.

Gina Lawton

Do the polls really mean anything, John? I think you'd agree that most people don't educate themselves about issues enough to much about them except what the mass media put out. And we both know how wack that can be! I'm still in the "wait and see" crowd because frankly, I don't think you can judge a presidency after seven months -- especially when the country was in such a mess when he started!


Gina, I do think the polls matter, because they shape perception (no matter if they're right or wrong). But to your point, they don't matter as much as people would suggest.

You're right, that we don't want to be too premature in judging the success or failure of any presidency. (President Bush is a case in point. At this point in his presidency, and certainly right after 9/11, his numbers were higher than Obama's. And going into the War in Iraq, we forget that there was substantial support for that decision at the time. But a lot can change in America's perception of a president over the course of presidential term.)

Though not every major crisis we now face can be attributed to the Bush administration, George W. Bush did make significant contributions to the state in which we find ourselves. When evaluating Obama then, we cannot make a direct cause and effect correlation. Certainly, huge challenges require patience and perseverance. They cannot be solved overnight.

The question (and the problem as I see it) is that it could be strongly argued that the strategies that Obama has aggressively promoted in trying to solve those major problems are not the best strategies for success. In fact, I would contend that they will eventually make it worse. Instead of advocating a philosophy of limited government and freeing people to pursue success and independence in life, his liberal philosophy of more and greater dependence on government--and the resulting exorbitant spending needed to support that philosophy--actually will shackle not only us, but also our children and grandchildren. I would argue that that is not the proper means to the end we all desire--namely, solving the major challenges facing all of us. Indeed, we'll "wait and see" how this plays out.

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