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June 20, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Obama changes his tune

Contrary to his repeated, vehement pledges, Barack Obama has decided not to accept Federal financing for his presidential campaign. Because the Democratic Party of today represents the interests of the social elite in this country, this will accentuate the already-sizable financial advantage over John McCain that he currently enjoys. His excuse for opting out is that "the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system." (See Washington Post.)

By "broken," I assume Obama means that there aren't enough government controls over how money is spent. Just as with the health care system, the education system, and the home mortgage system, there are severe distortions brought on by heavy government intervention, which does indeed leave many loopholes that create opportunities for "wise guys" to milk the system for all it's worth. Whether you believe that there is "too much" money in politics or not (I side with George Will on the negative side), it is clear that the current system is a tangled mess that creates the illusion of a level playing field while turning campaigns over to independent "527" PACs which may or may not be collaborating with the candidate on their side.

That leaves us with two choices: Either go full speed ahead with more and more and more government control over political campaigns, health care, etc., in which case we would end up with a thoroughly statist political-economic system, leading toward stagnation, or else cut back on government regulations and live up to our professed values as a "free society." The solution to the problem of campaign finance lies not in making the government stronger but rather in making our political processes more transparent. As long as everyone can see who gave how much money to which candidates, the American voters themselves will be the best judges of who is worthy of being elected to public office and who is a mere pawn of special interests.

Should we be surprised by Obama's expedient reversal? Of course not! As David Brooks of the New York Times wrote,

But as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there's Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who'd throw you under the truck for votes.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 21 Jun 2008, 12: 28 AM

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