President Obama recently said that he couldn't do a Jedi mind-meld on Congress. Despite the fact that it is a Vulcan mind-meld and not a Jedi mind-meld I thought the comment was pretty good. Somehow knowing that a Star Trek fan is in the white house gives me the hope that Obama was supposed to give back in 2008. Why did he wait so long to bring out the Trekkie in him? Maybe he has the same vision for humanity as Gene Roddenberry.
The more I thought about it, Obama has actually been more logical than I expected. How do I explain my new found fond feelings for Obama? One is surely a better performance record than I imagined, the other is that I might be transitioning to a liberal leaning libertarian from a conservative leaning libertarian. But here is what I am thinking about Obama's recent agenda:
Gun control: I totally agree. No one is talking about taking away the right to own a gun, Obama is just proposing background checks before people buy a gun, and a limit to what type of guns people buy. People don't need AK-47s. What will they be asking for next RPGs? shoulder launched anti-aircraft missile launchers?
Immigration reform: Here I also totally agree. We have 11 million illegal immigrants in our country, we should just make them legal AND try to do a better job with the legal process so people wouldn't want to come in illegally in the future (guest worker program perhaps). Being an immigrant in Estonia gives me a chance to see things from the other side of the picture. And the biggest kicker is that we are all immigrants in America (except the Native Americans). Mitt Romney's self-deportation policy was a bit harsh. I'm sure many Native Americans at times have wished that we would all self-deport ourselves too. The good thing is that almost everyone agrees on comprehensive immigration reform and it will happen within the next year or two. This also gives us an opportunity to bring in more educated people from around the world.
Free trade: One of my biggest concerns about Obama in 2008 was his policy towards free trade. He was way too slow in approving free trade deals with South Korea, Panama, and Columbia. Recently, he has proposed a free trade deal with the European Union. This would be great news. It will be hard to do because the Europeans don't like our genetically altered hormone treated beef (they like expensive, skinny, natural cows). While Obama's record on free trade is not to my liking, there is hope for the future.
Foreign policy: This is why I'm glad Mitt Romney is not president. Obama has been very pragmatic about not getting too involved in conflict (learning from Bush's Iraq mistake, and his own Afghanistan surge mistake). I have concerns about his secret drone assassination program, but it is certainly better than occupying countries with ground troops. If we look at France in Mali we can see that others can take a turn trying to save the world too.
Debt: This is my biggest problem with Obama. I think the debt is too big. The current budget deficit is twice what it should be (6% vs. 3%) and there are major long term structural problems that will start to be a problem after 2020. I think I am OK with the concept of stimulus, but I think we have to be careful with stimulus. Deficit spending has to create a greater return in the future, otherwise it isn't worth it. A good example would be renovating government buildings to make them more energy efficient. This would actually save us money in the long term, more than the interest that would be paid. Unfortunately, Obama has been a little too liberal with the deficit spending. Also, we should get others to provide the stimulus, rather than printing the money ourselves. The US has done almost nothing to increase tourism, foreign direct investment, and in bringing back US company profits into the US again.
The thing is, I have no confidence in the Republicans about the debt and economy either. They refuse to raise taxes (except the last minor deal which was a drop in the bucket). They also are hesitant to cut defense spending. This tells me that they really don't give a hoot about the deficit, no matter what they say. If they were real conservatives they would be raising taxes (especially consumption taxes), and they would be cutting defense spending along with everything else. Right now the Republican Party is in total disarray, they have no vision for the country, no macro-economic policy and Obama is just picking them apart. He doesn't even need a mind meld. Hopefully 2016 will provide a good pragmatic leader (Jon Huntsman, Rand Paul, Chris Christie) who supports individual liberty, fiscal frugality, and foreign policy restraint. (Rand Paul isn't pragmatic, but he might have an OK vision for America, he is a big question mark for me right now). Unfortunately, the GOP likes to champion the same failed policies of George W. Bush. So until the Republicans can convince me that they can lead the country I say to President Obama, live long, and prosper.