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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Reality Versus Rhetoric

Come January 20th, as the Democrats enjoy solid majorities in Congress and hold the White House for the first time in sixteen years, reality will set in for them. And they'll learn, once again, as the GOP earlier that reality is much tougher to deal with that rhetoric is to spout off.

The Wall St. Journal had a great piece yesterday about one of those realities, Guantanamo Bay, following up on a New York Times story that said closing Gitmo is going to be tougher than anyone wants to admit. The problems there are many, including the fact that about a quarter of the detainees have been cleared for release, but no country wants them.

Another issue there is going to be what to do with those who really do need to be detained, and as the Times pointed out, really are dangerous people. Deciding to try them here in civilian courts, and if found not guilty, releasing them, will bring more problems. My guess is that the Hyde Park crowd won't be begging for a halfway house for terrorist detainees awaiting repatriation.

Another issue, where rhetoric is going to get overrun by reality is the budget. With Congress already on a bailout spending spree, and talking of another economic stimulus check for everyone, money will run short. As much as the rhetoric over the last 8 years has said that entitlements need to expand, there isn't anyway to pay for it without huge new deficits.

While you can talk a lot about raising taxes on the upper 5% (which is 150,000/yr); or folks making over $250,000 a year; there isn't enough money there to pay for everything Democrats have been talking about. So either they get to scale back their plans, or go back on the tax promise.

Keep in mind that much of their new tax income is from "voluntary taxes" like capital gains. Raising that rate has always resulted in less income from it, not more, because those who pay it just hold onto more assets instead of selling them and paying the higher rate.

Iraq will be another place where reality will meet rhetoric in probably the harshest way. President Elect Obama has already slid back from his 16 months and out pledge, and may have to slide back even further.

Reality on the ground, not just in Iraq but the rest of the region is going to be a slap in his face that he probably doesn't want. While there is a lot of talk of wanting a less arrogant America in the region, the leaders in most every country mean that in a "you stay here, but don't shoot anyone new" sort of way.

All one has to do is look back to 1984 to realize this. When the US pulled out of Lebannon Iran felt empowered to exercise more control over the Persian Gulf. The US ended up escorting tankers in and out of the region to provide stability for world oil prices and supplies. Anyone who believes that something similar won't happen after a full pull out from Iraq is fooling themselves. Anyone who believes that the other Arab states would welcome a big US withdraw from the region is delusional.

There is a reason we are still in Iraq two years after Democrats took control of Congress, there is still a reason Gitmo hasn't closed. While they've had George Bush as the scapegoat for those things those two years, suddenly he's going to be gone, and reality will meet rhetoric for Obama, Reid and Pelosi. If you want to know where my money is, we'll still be in Iraq at the next mid-term election, and Gitmo will still have some sort of purpose.

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