2008 August 21 Thursday
If You Do Not Know How Many Houses Obama Owns

you are out of touch with the struggles of most Americans.

CHESTER, Virginia (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama attacked Republican John McCain on Thursday for not knowing how many houses he owns and said it proves his presidential rival is out of touch with the economic struggles of most Americans.

Am I really supposed to follow this election and blog on what Barack Obama and John McCain say as it if they are making serious utterances on weighty matters? Should I read up on what the "house flap" is about that I see on the front of Google News? (and Google News needs a feature for excluding any stories that mention certain politicians) I read that first paragraph on that Reuters story and couldn't read the whole thing.

I do not know how many houses Barack owns. I also do not know how many houses Cindy McCain owns. But unless she likes to keep almost all her money in negotiable securities she probably owns more houses than Barack.

But since I do not know the answers to these weighty matters I am out of touch with the economic struggles of most Americans. Geez, I unfortunately do not feel out of touch.

My ambition: To become so rich and well insulated from what is going on around me that I can really be out of touch with the economic struggles of most Americans, Brazilians. Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Rumanians, Bolivians, absolutely all Nigerians, definitely almost all Georgians (though I hear they are very hospitable and friendly), and emphatically any Iraqis and Afghanis in Iraq or Afghanistan. If I'm leaving out anyone I do not mean to insult.

Update: Glancing at yet another article excerpt on the front of Google News now makes me think that the "that he owns" refers to McCain's houses, not Obama's. Reuters expects me to really be on top of this incredibly important story. McCain doesn't know how many houses he owns. This is an important crisis or turning point in the campaign. I see it now. Maybe it means that Cindy goes out and compulsively buys homes while John campaigns.

Update: So I went to Daniel Larison's blog hoping maybe he'd be writing about Georgian Orthodox Christianity as distinct from the Russian Orthodox flavor. But no. More McCain and Obama. I can't escape them. They are everywhere. But Daniel makes some good points. In a nutshell: McCain compensates for being rich by knowing less. Yup. We aren't an intellectually serious country. George W. Bush demonstrates the electoral value of a lack of curiosity in America.

Tagging Obama as aloof was not entirely new in February, but my commenters at the time thought I was off the mark.  Politico apparently made the same claim in a December ‘07 article.  However, I think the aloofness goes hand in hand with the wonkishness and expertise, so that while it is electorally a problem it is a signal of other desirable qualities.  It’s just not often the case that someone with this combination prevails in a popular election.  Most of McCain’s critics probably think that it deals him a serious blow to describe McCain as a visceral, emotionally-driven person, but I think those of us who are against McCain (regardless of whether we are for Obama) make a mistake if we treat this as an electoral weakness, just as we are missing something when we emphasize how little McCain knows about any policy questions.  They are the sources of his strength as a candidate, and I suspect that they are part of the explanation for why he continues to run far ahead of the generic GOP candidate.     

I'm trying to compare McCain and Obama the way Roissy might do it. On the one hand Obama is younger and supposedly therefore more virile. But he's too skinny to be all that virile and he has big ears. But McCain is old with a lopsided face. Who comes out ahead? At least McCain was a pilot which is a virile alpha male occupation. McCain has more money but he married it.

McCain's tax returns showed a total income of $405,409 in 2007. According to her 2006 tax returns, Cindy McCain had a total income of $6 million. Her wealth is estimated by some at $100 million, based on her late father's Arizona beer distributorship. She has not released her 2007 returns, which she files separately from her husband.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, reported making $4.2 million in 2007.

Obama made his money off of a book. Sorry, that's not an alpha male way to make a lot of money. Besides, he's got a feminist wife with a resentful attitude. I figure McCain wins points for not knowing how many houses he owns. You aren't supposed to spend all your time counting your stuff.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 August 21 08:01 PM  Human Nature Status


Comments
Stephen said at August 21, 2008 9:41 PM:

This is illustrative of the nonsense that passes for political debate. The mass media loves this stuff because they can fill the column inches with cheaper opinion pieces written by dime-a-dozen hacks instead of having to hire dull academic types to research and extract nuanced policy differences complete with cross references and footnotes.

The mass media are generalists, but people who want to be informed are learning to turn to the narrow expertise of wonkish bloggers for real information.

Nog said at August 22, 2008 6:51 AM:

I can tell you about one house Obama has and the one his buddy the negro preacher lives in. Both very nice places.

HellKaiserRyo said at August 22, 2008 12:15 PM:

"My ambition: To become so rich and well insulated from what is going on around me that I can really be out of touch with the economic struggles of most Americans, Brazilians. Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Rumanians, Bolivians, absolutely all Nigerians, definitely almost all Georgians (though I hear they are very hospitable and friendly), and emphatically any Iraqis and Afghanis in Iraq or Afghanistan. If I'm leaving out anyone I do not mean to insult."

I suppose you understand why the "elite" aren't worried about "third-world immigration." Why should they care if they are well insulated for the inimical effects of such policy.

The General said at August 22, 2008 4:32 PM:

The fact of the matter is that anyone can grow up to be President, but in America we have only one President at a time and we want that person to be ambitious, successful, and encompass the American dream. The number of houses that McCain owns is completely irrelevant considering that if he owned one house in the middle of the bronx, I damned sure wouldn't vote for him and neither would any other intelligent human being.
America employees several million people in a few thousand agencies. America has foreign policy that takes a well-studied attorney to understand even half of. Leading an entire country takes a bit more management experience than McDonalds. Anyone can grow up to be President of the United States, but the average bum off the streets is not the guy I am voting for in any election for any position. If someone were not well versed in the political and economic world, Congress would own them for 8 years. We have precious little protection from those psychopaths as it is.

-The General.

Randall Parker said at August 22, 2008 5:17 PM:

HKR,

Yes, the insulated don't have to worry about the temperature outside. But they still end up getting restricted on where they can go. At some level of deterioration much larger swathes of America become dangerous places.

Stephen said at August 22, 2008 7:34 PM:

Well said General.

dchamil said at August 23, 2008 6:34 AM:

The how-many-houses comments have not distinguished between houses used as residences and houses owned as investments and rented to others.

D Flinchum said at August 23, 2008 2:05 PM:

"Yes, the insulated don't have to worry about the temperature outside. But they still end up getting restricted on where they can go. At some level of deterioration much larger swathes of America become dangerous places."

Yes, this is true but many of the elites fully expect to be able to emigrate to other countries if their bad policies end up trashing the US. IMHO they may be surprised about their prospects, but the fact that they DO belive this somewhat explains their cavalier attitude about what open borders policies are doing to the US: Force the government to adopt policies that help ME ME ME ME now and if these policies trash the US, I can always move later.

averros said at August 23, 2008 4:07 PM:

An *intelligent* human being won't vote for Obama. Or for McCain.

One of them is an unabashed socialist, another is an undisguised fascist.

Both already indicated that they'll preserve or expand American militarism - in other word, both expressed their desire to slaughter millons of people.

It's indeed a very sad reflection on the degradation of American spirit that anyone bothers to compare their virility or wealth - rather than thinking about ways to hang them next to each other on a tree limb.

Randall Parker said at August 23, 2008 4:19 PM:

averros,

Oh the irony to hear an open borders advocate complain about the degradation of the American spirit.

The descendants of the original Americans are a declining percentage of the total population. The Republican party needs to appeal to a less conservative electorate and therefore has moved left. The Democratic Party has the growing ranks of the poor, ignorant, and dumb as their growing ranks. What the hell do you expect?

The problem with libertarianism is that it is not compatible with most humans.

averros said at August 27, 2008 4:48 AM:

> The problem with libertarianism is that it is not compatible with most humans.

The problem with most humans is that they're mighty stupid.

Well, the technological progress is giving more and more power to individuals - at some point everybody would be able to acquire an equivalent of nukes (in terms of energy density or destructive force), after which the era of collectivism will be over.

Actually, a Boeing 747 with full tanks has energy content of a small tactical nuke (its fuel capacity is about 60000 US gallons, or 164 tons of Jet A - containing about 2 times energy of W-48 tactical nuke, in fact). A small bunch of stupid Ayrabs used this fact to inflict trillion dollars worth of damage onto mighty US.

Henry Kuttner has a nice story (I can't recall the name) about future in which everyone has nukes - and how it caused every organization and settlement to be very inoffensive.

> Oh the irony to hear an open borders advocate complain about the degradation of the American spirit.

There was no INS and no DOCSIS and not much in a way of border guards when the American spirit was still alive. Erecting fences and guard towers to lock themselves in a self-imposed prison country is a sure sign of weakness and mental degradation of the majority. Which is, to say, not Mexican at all.

I find it quite ironic than an immigrant like me is a lot more self-sufficient and freedom-minded (which is what the American spirit is about, right?) than nearly everybody natively born in US.

Randall Parker said at August 27, 2008 10:19 PM:

averros,

Most immigrants are less freedom-minded than the average white American. The Mexicans are to the left of whites politically and want more welfare state services.

Most humans stupid: Stupid people can't grasp libertarian arguments.

Everyone having nukes: We'd see mushroom clouds around the world in that case.

A self-imposed prison country? If walls are designed to keep people out they are not imposing a prison on those who are already here. There's a huge difference between keeping people in and keeping people out.

Wolf-Dog said at August 31, 2008 8:48 AM:

HKR and Randall Parker: Being so rich that one can afford "insulation", also creates the following extra risk: when you acquire that quality of being ultra-rich, that much wealth will almost certainly become a high value target from the perspective of those who do not have it. The groups who will target that fabulous wealth will be both Americans and foreign nationals. One degree of complication is that these days, the store of value (or wealth storage) is very complex and comprehensive:

1) If the method of storage of value for your wealth that you choose is land and natural resources, then you cannot easily insulate yourself because in order to maintain the ownership of those large and very immobile land and natural resources that your status depends on, you must be in continuous communication and negotiation with the politicians and military officers (both in your country and also outside your country) who are constantly revising their loyalties to various groups,
2) If the method of storage for your wealth is abstract money, which is recorded by means of binary codes that can be inflated or taxed away (some countries even have direct taxes on net worth), once again you must still be in communication and negotiation with various politicians and military leaders (both in your country and in rival countries) to buy their loyalties to protect your money's value. With one mouse click the government can simply make your cash worthless, while you are hiding in your fortress, and then you will not be able to pay your guards and private armies to protect you.
3) Once you have attained the ultra-rich status, your entire life-stye will depend on making sure that the structure of the society does not change: WHAT IF the other humans cease to recognize the value of your natural resources or cash. If they start despising what you have and start valuing something else, then you will not be able to buy the protection for your survival when the world becomes chaotic.

In other words, in all three cases above, you must be in the process of continuously buying influence in high places in the world to protect yourself. For instance, even the educational system will have to be closely monitored and controlled by your agents, so that the psychology of the human race does not change because if people one day decide to despise and refuse to accept what you have, then your wealth will vanish.

In other words, as Robert Heinlein said, secrecy is the beginning of tyranny. While you are trying to protect yourself, you will have to reduce the freedom of others, you will even have to make it illegal for people to practice spirituality and meditation, so that they remain addicted to the accepting your wealth as immutable.


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