The outcome of the election, as reported by the media, was one of a historic victory by Barack Obama and the Democrat Party. However, I want to put a look on this going forward as opposed to going backwards. My take on it is that Obama and the Democrats have swallowed the poison pill of a bad economy and John McCain and the Republicans were spared from a Pyrrhic victory.
Defined, a poison pill is that of a strategic move in politics or business designed to increase the likelihood of negative results as opposed to positive ones during a takeover. By winning the 2008 Presidential and Congressional elections, President-elect Barack Obama and the Democrats have willfully swallowed a big poison pill left behind by George W. Bush.
Meanwhile, a Pyrrhic victory comes from King Pyrrhus, the ruler of Eprius, who won a series of battles that his army won in 280 and 279 BC against the Romans but the casualties they took on were devastating. Had John McCain been elected President, it would have been one such victory that would have been enough to strengthen Democrat majorities in the House and Senate while setting up the Democrats for a landslide win in 2012. For that, McCain and the Republicans spared themselves what would have been a costly victory.
The good news for the Republicans is that there are a number of ways that Obama can consume poison pills and do so happily while fooling himself by proclaiming it as an “engine of change”. Believe me, that the Republicans will be more than happy to keep supplying the poison pills. All of this with the GOP’s rise back to the top by 2012.
Had the roles been reversed with McCain winning and a Democrat-led Congress to work with, the Democrats would have blocked many of McCain’s economic policies and would force him to cross the aisle for the policies they wanted, which would have made McCain the second-comings of Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.
In the end, it would have made John McCain’s Presidential win that very Pyrrhic victory that would have lengthened the minority of the Republicans in government and turned John McCain’s legacy from that of “Maverick” John McCain the war hero to John S. McCain the failed President. Instead, Obama and the Democrats took a tighter grip on power that could ultimately give the public one reason to vote Republican.
What Obama and the Democrats are proposing could be a prescription for an unmitigated economic disaster that could lead to GOP victories in 2010 and 2012. Those victories also assume that the Republican leadership in Congress and party back in working order.
If nothing else, it would be highly unlikely that Obama governs from the political center. Back in 1992, then-President-elect Bill Clinton was told by House Democrats that they would pull support for centrist positions of his if he tried to get Republicans to vote for his proposals. They told Clinton that if he stayed within the confines of the Democrat Congressional and Senatorial Caucuses, they would deliver other policy proposals. That ended in 1994 with a Republican landslide in the House and Senate elections.
Before that, Jimmy Carter decided that he was not going to govern from the left in the early stages of his presidency. The end result was a clear alienation of his own party that led to Carter vetoing in four years more than double the bills that George W. Bush did in eight years. By the time Carter tried to woo the liberal base of his party, it was too late. Thanks to not governing from the left and his ineptitude, Ronald Reagan defeated him in a 44-state landslide in 1980 in an election that was over one hour before the polls closed on the west coast.
President-elect Obama is now in a bad spot electorally. If the economy goes from bad to worse post-2009, Obama and the Democrats will not have Bush to blame. Instead, they will have to answer the question “What have you done for me lately?” If they’re not careful, the Republicans will start by making significant electoral gains in 2010 and could regain power back from the Democrats in 2012. That would be the final, fatal poison pill.
There was no secret by the Obama campaign about their desires to raise the capital gains tax from 15 percent to anywhere between 20 to 28 percent. The last time an increase in the capital gains tax was implemented was back in 1986 when the tax code was reformed under Ronald Reagan to make the capital gains rate the same as the top rate of 28 percent. When implemented, capital gains tax revenues dropped 44 percent because selling stock became less desirable.
What could make matters worse is the desire of Obama and the Democrats to raise the top marginal income tax rate from the current 35 percent rate to that of the 39.6 percent it was back in 2000. There are a number of serious consequences that would arise from a tax increase in an economic slowdown or an economic recovery. According to Obama’s proposals to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the top five percent of wage earners ($153,542 in adjusted gross income or more) and Obama’s proposed removal the income cap on FICA taxes could impose a federal tax rate of 54.9 percent.
As for the rest of the Bush tax cuts, they will be set to expire on January 1, 2011. If there is now tax cut extension put in to place, an economy that could be poised for a recovery would instead suffer a contraction. George W. Bush will not anywhere close to the scene of the crime (he’ll probably be getting ready to go fishing in Texas by this time) to be blamed and Obama would take the hit. In other words, Obama will be the first President to run for reelection on the heels of a recession since George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992.
Spending can also get out of hand with the Democrats wanting more money for more spending programs. John Kerry has called for a new New Deal and Barney Frank has called for more spending, deficit be damned. This, combined with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s push for funding for embryonic stem cell research (which is more throwing good money after bad since embryonic stem cell research has produced no cures while over 80 cures have been found via adult stem cell research) and Ted Kennedy’s push for socialized health care will be enough to generate our first-ever trillion-dollar deficit.
Once the recession is over, the next monster the economy will become hyperinflation that has gone unseen since the 1970’s. The contributors will be record deficit spending, energy prices run amok, and artificially increasing wages.
Obama has proposed raising it from the $5.15 it was back in 2006 when the economy was actually good to the $7.25 per hour wage that it will be next summer to $9.50 by 2011. The dirty little secret about labor pricing in economics is that if you inflate wages against the will of employers, you actually create more unemployment—like what is happening right now.
If you look at the inflation-adjusted number of the original minimum wage when it was implemented in late 1938, today’s minimum wage would only be $3.64 an hour. The $9.50 an hour that Obama would attempt to implement would be the 1938 equivalent of 68 cents. In other words, when adjusted for inflation, non-skilled workers—mostly high school teenagers, people working for the first time, and those looking to start a business by learning a trade—are making more than 2.61 times more than what they were making 70 years ago.
In some ways, inflation was made worse by the Carter administration in the 1970’s by increasing the minimum wage every year he was in office. When Carter took office, the federal minimum wage was $2.30 an hour. That figure went up to $2.65 an hour in 1978, $2.90 an hour in 1979, $3.10 an hour in 1980 and to $3.35 an hour when he left office in January 1981. By comparison, the Reagan administration never passed a minimum wage increase and one would not take effect for more than nine years.
Why does the minimum wage matter? It is the only real way to create a trickle-up economic effect. It will increase wages across the board by an even bigger percentage than that of a minimum wage increase. Employers will respond to higher taxes and higher wages with higher job cuts. We will be longing for the days of a 6.5 percent unemployment rate.
Then there is the credit crisis as we are facing as banks are more reluctant to give loans for any reason. Obama wants to give selected homeowners the ability to refinance during a 90-day foreclosure freeze. That will lead to a freeze on lending for either the same length of time to one that’s even longer. That is, unless of course, Congress decides to force banks to lend (which is what got many of the banks in this mess in the first place).
With the shrinking equity from Wall Street and the reduced lending of the banks (barring mandatory lending against the better interests of the banks), businesses will be harder-pressed for cash which will lead to more layoffs and less production of goods. When inflation by contraction (stagflation) on this scale happens, more Congressional bailouts won’t be enough to save corporate and small-business America.
Speaking of bailouts, there will be a push to bailout the automotive industry to the tune of $250 billion. For once, I agree with Congressmen like Dennis Kucinich. It is only on the issue of equating this to corporate welfare. However, he and his fellow far-leftists in the Democrat Party will likely acquiesce thanks to all of the additional goodies thrown in the form of pork-barrel spending projects to win votes just like what Nancy Pelosi did with her first Iraq spending bill that George W. Bush promptly vetoed.
The end result is a Democrat Party and an Obama administration overwhelmed with political poison pills gladly accepted on their part from the Republicans. By 2012, Obama will likely go down as one of America’s worst presidents and could make Americans long for the days of—dare I say—George W. Bush. At that point, the American public will vote probably for Republicans…any Republican.