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July 19, 2008

Dr. Larry Hunter: Lifelong Conservative Republican Economist Supports Senator Obama

I’m a lifelong Republican – a supply-side conservative. I worked in the Reagan White House. I was the chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for five years. In 1994, I helped write the Republican Contract with America. I served on Bob Dole‘s presidential campaign team and was chief economist for Jack Kemp‘s Empower America.

This November, I’m voting for Barack Obama.

When I first made this decision, many colleagues were shocked. How could I support a candidate with a domestic policy platform that’s antithetical to almost everything I believe in?

The answer is simple: Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies – this is the difference between venial and mortal sins.

Taxes, economic policy and health care reform matter, of course. But how we extract ourselves from the bloody boondoggle in Iraq, how we avoid getting into a war with Iran and how we preserve our individual rights while dealing with real foreign threats – these are of greater importance.

John McCain would continue the Bush administration’s commitment to interventionism and constitutional overreach. Obama promises a humbler engagement with our allies, while promising retaliation against any enemy who dares attack us. That’s what conservatism used to mean – and it’s what George W. Bush promised as a candidate.

Plus, when it comes to domestic issues, I don’t take Obama at his word. That may sound cynical. But the fact that he says just about all the wrong things on domestic issues doesn’t bother me as much as it once would have. After all, the Republicans said all the right things – fiscal responsibility, spending restraint – and it didn’t mean a thing. It is a sad commentary on American politics today, but it’s taken as a given that politicians, all of them, must pander, obfuscate and prevaricate.

Besides, I suspect Obama is more free-market friendly than he lets on. He taught at the University of Chicago, a hotbed of right-of-center thought. His economic advisers, notably Austan Goolsbee, recognize that ordinary citizens stand to gain more from open markets than from government meddling. That’s got to rub off.

When it comes to health care, I am hoping Obama quietly recognizes that a crusade against pharmaceutical companies would result in the opposite of any intended effect. And in any event, McCain’s plans in this area are deeply problematic, too. Take drug re-importation. McCain (like Obama) says he’s perfectly comfortable with this ill-conceived scheme, which would drive research and development dollars away from the next generation of miracle cures.

But overall, based on his embrace of centrist advisers and policies, it seems likely that Obama will turn out to be in the mold of John Kennedy – who was fond of noting that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Over the last few decades, economic growth has made Americans at every income level better off. For all his borderline pessimistic rhetoric, Obama knows this. And I believe he is savvy enough to realize that the real threat to middle-class families and the poor – an economic undertow that drags everyone down – cannot be counteracted by an activist government.

Or maybe not. But here’s the thing: Even if my hopes on domestic policy are dashed and Obama reveals himself as an unreconstructed, dyed-in-the-wool, big-government liberal, I’m still voting for him.

These past eight years, we have spent over a trillion dollars on foreign soil – and lost countless lives – and done what I consider irreparable damage to our Constitution.

If economic damage from well-intentioned but misbegotten Obama economic schemes is the ransom we must pay him to clean up this foreign policy mess, then so be it. It’s not nearly as costly as enduring four more years of what we suffered the last eight years.

Hunter is the former staff director of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee and president of the Social Security Institute.




  1. Dr. Hunter,

    Your resume is impressive; however, your position, and the perverse logic used to get there is a classic approach to ‘bait and switch’.

    I read your piece and concluded you are a another member of the gutless coward crowd without a scintilla of American values and standards.

    Stay away from me! You’re a disease!

    Comment by Len Hobbs — July 21, 2008 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

  2. Guess you jumped the gun on the Iraq policy. Turns out Obama’s new position is to pull out in 16 months…”If goals on security and stability are met”. Sounds like Bush and McCain to me….”We will leave when security and stability requirements are met.” Obama has always left caveats in his policy. I.e. “When I get into office and assess all the pertinent information, I will formulate my policy”

    Impressive resume on your part but I have to question your “conservative” adjective. Many Republicans are not fiscally conservative. You claim to be. Most fiscal conservatives that have a resume like yours vote for the candidate that supports their position in their expertise. It is strange to me that you would throw out all your fiscal knowledge and experience to back a candidate because of a foreign policy that is so close to McCains. There is just not enough difference in foreign policy for you to bastardize your fiscal principles. Sounds insincere.

    Comment by Mike Jones — July 21, 2008 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

  3. Your idol JFK started Vietnam, instigated “Bay of Pigs” and encouraged through weakness and inexperience, reckless behavior from The USSR in Cuba, which came very close to Nuclear war. When he died ,his approval rating was similar to that Of president Bush Today. Your not a conservative Republican or anything, other than an unprincipled cynic.

    Comment by R Oster — July 21, 2008 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

  4. great choice for the right reasons. Why can’t the rest of the republicans accept the truth about the Bush/Cheney agenda?
    It’s bankrupeted our country and ruined our name world wide. Lets hope it’s not to late

    Comment by savoymt — July 21, 2008 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

  5. Looks like you flow with the job possiblties.

    Comment by William — July 21, 2008 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

  6. You cannot call yourself a conservative and support Obama-no matter what position he is taking today or tomorrow. You are either emotionally self-deluding with blinders on or you are in the employ or stand to gain from some facet of the supposed Obama economic “plan” which is classic liberal theology. I am distressed at your inability to separate the persona and real danger that Obama presents, in both national security and in economic freedom. How much are you being paid by Obama? Or perhaps you have lost your mind. With a stated “resume” as you have, there is no lifetime experiential rationale that can explain your view or choice. The only other thought I have is that, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, you have accepted the Muslim horde and the substitution of sharia law for our Constitution- not unlike our esteemed Justice Kennedy. Alas, the dismal science of economics cannot take into account the motivations of the masses, no matter how much you may believe government can correct all economic woes. I have it- you are an entrenched, big government RINO, an oligarch. That fits, and maybe shorting with George Soros.

    Comment by Drew — July 21, 2008 @ 5:38 pm | Reply

  7. Characterizing Obama & McCain’s foreign policy as “similar”, as some in commenters have, is absurd and smacks of wishful thinking. Obama wants us out of Iraq, McCain doesn’t. It’s that simple. If you feel that the huge costs, both financial and in human terms, are worth it after factoring in the likelihood of any real success there, then vote McCain. Then again, what is success? McCain doesn’t seem willing to define it and speaks in vague predictions only – not very Presidential.

    As for Obama’s intention to not stake out any specific tactical plans until he has all the information, this strikes me as nothing short of responsible and honest. Why would anyone commit to a specific plan until they have all the information? Unfortunately, over the past several years, we’ve seen what happens when decisions are forced based on false or incomplete information.

    As for the commenter who seems to not understand how Dr. Hunter can set aside his personal economic philosophy for this election, you should try reading the above essay again, perhaps watch the youtube videos where he explains just that. You don’t have to agree with him, but just resorting to name calling and angry incoherent rants just makes you look like the typical GOP wingnut.

    I and many people agree with Dr. Hunter – this election is pivotal and focusing on the small details of slight changes in tax policy and domestic programs misses the bigger picture of having our national treasury emptied in pursuit of a war that is unwinnable based on our initial intent. It misses the big picture of how our Constitution has been stepped on and our Fourth Amendment rights thrown out the window. We need accountability and a return to respect for the foundations that make this country great. Appealing to fear has always worked for Republicans … fear the terrorist, fear the gay man, fear the immigrant, fear the liberals… what about the current state of our nation is really appealing? Our economy is near shambles, we’re more indebted now than ever before, N Korea has the bomb, Iran treats us like no threat at all (which we aren’t, so long as we’re bogged down in Iraq), and China owns most of our debt. Heckuva job, Bushies!

    Comment by Adam — July 21, 2008 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

  8. You can be a conservative and vote for Obama — it’s called being a thinking person and knowing what’s better. It’s also being patrotic and doing what’s BEST FOR AMERICA. There are too many labels flying around how about just doing what’s best for the country?

    In 2016 if there a republican that’s good for America then we should vote for that republican but not McCain in 2008.

    Comment by Paulette — July 21, 2008 @ 5:51 pm | Reply

  9. Sir you can call yourself a conservative, just like Obama can claim to be credible presidential candidate.
    He’s an empty suit and so are you.

    Comment by Linda Vazquez — July 21, 2008 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  10. And I suppose when the Middle East has consolidated under an Iranian (Persian) hegemony, choking the flow of oil to demand tribute from the Western nations, pointing their nukes at Washington, Paris and London, and spreading the tyranny of sharia law with every international move they make, Dr. Hunter will admit that perhaps he was hasty in voting for The Kid (who knows diddly about RealPolitik).

    Comment by scr1bbler — July 21, 2008 @ 6:13 pm | Reply

  11. You, sir, are a blithering idiot. Conservatives across the country are laughing at your ridiculous rantings. Anyone who claims to be an economist would recognize Obama’s poor record, lack of record, and inability to lead this country anywhere except into absolute bankruptcy and a completely new depression.

    Comment by Kate nicholls — July 21, 2008 @ 6:26 pm | Reply

  12. Thank Goodness!. There really are some more of us out there. That is, without regard to partisan tribalism, understanding priorities for survival comes first. We’ll ‘argue’ programs, pandering & prognostification later; first things, first!

    Comment by Horace Edwards — July 21, 2008 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

  13. The philosophical/moral/economic/political and every other measure of sanity between being a true conservative and supporting the socialist Obamessiah is so great that you could never get from one to the other if you had any knowledge of conservatism at all. It’s the difference between being a free man and being a slave.
    were you were lying as a republican or are you lying now?????
    to quote judge roy bean…”ain’t nothing worse than a reformed whore”…

    Comment by hank reardon — July 21, 2008 @ 6:32 pm | Reply

  14. You obviously have lost your mind.
    First your assumptions are totally baseless. John Mcain has done the exact opposite of George Bush at every opportunity.
    Second At what point in the last 30 years has anyone been able to believe a liberal?
    Bill Clinton…Al Gore…George Soros. Who is paying you to say this… What have you been promised?
    These are not rational positions based on truth. You must have sold your soul….

    Comment by Nat — July 21, 2008 @ 7:27 pm | Reply

  15. Look at us…. we are arguing like these two media manufactured puppets are made of legitimate presidential fabric.
    these two are both tissue paper that will get wet and flushed as soon as the rains come. God help America..these two cant.

    Comment by Nat — July 21, 2008 @ 7:33 pm | Reply

  16. Good to hear some wisdom. Thank you for the service to the country.

    Comment by EJLima — July 21, 2008 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

  17. Hey Mr. Economist. Just because you do not like McCain does not mean the His Obama-ness is better.

    If you are an economist then you must know that Obama’s proposed tax hikes and his proposed take over of the healthcare industry will be devestating to our economy. Obama’s steadfast resistance to drilling for oil in our country is more dangerous and costly than staying in Iraq.

    I would say you need to stick to the economy but from the looks of your economic reasons for voting for Obama I cannot say you have much of a grasp on anything.

    If you are a taxpayer, voting for Obama is like a Chicken voting for Colonel Sanders!

    Comment by T. Lotz — July 21, 2008 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

  18. I could address this lunatic’s absurd reasoning graph by graph but he and his senile delusions simply aren’t worth the trouble.

    Suffice it to say that his own inventory of the potential evils of an Obama presidency, which he’s naively willing to marginalize vis-a-vis a justly fought war for a just cause that offered an entire nation a chance for freedom and the United States a stable base of influence in the Mideast, is evidence enough that Dr. Larry Hunter has clearly lost touch with reality.

    Dr. Hunter is simply another disgruntled, self-disillusioned whiner who’s joined the vicious cartel of socialist/communist, radical left-wing Bush haters who are destroying the Democratic Party.

    A Ph.D. after one’s name is no more a guarantee that a person is of sane and sound mind than is the lifetime appointment of a federal judge any lasting assurance that he won’t go totally nuts at some point in his tenure. And anyone who’s been paying attention knows the ranks of both are replete with mentally unbalanced individuals.

    Dr. Hunter’s civic accomplishments are nothing notably outstanding, nor is his having been a lifelong Republican now turned traitor to what one must assume were his core values particularly shocking.

    It’s a free country and he’s certainly entitled to his epiphanies, no matter how misguided they might be. But for every Dr. Hunter, there very likely are at least two rational Democrats left out there who are fed up with what their party’s become and knee-trembling terrified at the vision of an Obama presidency. Witness the millions of Hillary Clinton supporters, for example, many of them lifelong Democrats, who have vowed to vote for McCain.

    So this little change of heart by Dr. Hunter is really of no significance whatsoever, and if he thinks his making it public will influence someone else’s vote he’s pathetically disillusioned once again.

    Basically, all he’s done is marked himself a fool.

    This statement, however, is a genuine prize and worthy of comment: “…it seems likely that Obama will turn out to be in the mold of John Kennedy — who was fond of noting that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.'”

    Indeed. And when the rising tide of a tsunami reaches land it destroys everything in its path, just as an Obama presidency has almost certain potential for destroying what’s left of the fragile fabric of a sane America those of us old enough to remember it once knew.

    But there definitely exists a similarity of Kennedy and Obama: Jack Kennedy was a spineless coward who placed politics above honor when he abandoned the freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs — the little band of Cuban patriots Kennedy’s own CIA trained for the effort to take back their country from a dictator and promised air support, which Kennedy refused to deliver.

    Barack Obama’s gutless philosophy of appeasement would just as surely abandon America when push came to shove.

    John McCain is certainly no Republican’s dream candidate, but at least he wouldn’t tax Americans into the poorhouse, dilute the nation’s sovereignty into another minion of the corrupt United Nations and turn the country over to Islamic terrorists and sharia law.

    Comment by Henry Baker — July 22, 2008 @ 12:15 am | Reply

  19. Dr. Hunter, You caught my attention when you mentioned “venial and mortal sin”. Sen. Obama supports abortion. Over a million babies a year are aborted, most for reasons of convenience. Are you truly concerned about “losing countless lives”? You are worried about our Constitution? Are you worried that the right to life has been abrogated? Are you worried that the so-called “right to privacy” trumps the right to life? Ordinarily, I would not presume to ask these questions of a supporter of the Democratic Party. They tend to be very cavalier about abortion. You, on the other hand, may take a quiet moment and think about the difference between a mortal and venial sin.

    Comment by June Kollar — July 22, 2008 @ 1:05 am | Reply

  20. My post has not appeared. I’ll check tomorrow to find out what happened. However, I agreed with Dr. Hunter’s priorities in rank-ordering issues, and reserved for another discussion, the relatively second-order concerns, such as Free Markets, Government Programs, Individual Responsibility vs Human Community Intersts and the like.

    Comment by Horace Edwards — July 22, 2008 @ 1:35 am | Reply

  21. […] I read a post from Dr. Hunter and it is so rare that I read or hear a piece that is concise and rational that I thought it was worth reposting.  It’s hard to write a political piece that doesn’t oversimplify something and piss someone off because of it.  Truthfully though, to keep up on politics requires a lot of effort on the part of the reader and to write it is even more difficult.  The world is complicated and there is nothing that is black and white.  That is what makes the piece so interesting.  If you want to read the piece, check it out here. […]

    Pingback by jlegler.com » Blog Archive » Election stuff — July 22, 2008 @ 5:45 am | Reply

  22. Save Our Sovereignty
    Stop the North American Union
    Vote for Chuck Baldwin!

    Comment by Dave — July 22, 2008 @ 12:50 pm | Reply

  23. R Oster wrote:
    “Your idol JFK started Vietnam, instigated “Bay of Pigs” and encouraged through weakness and inexperience, reckless behavior from The USSR in Cuba, which came very close to Nuclear war. When he died ,his approval rating was similar to that Of president Bush Today. ”
    R Oster,
    “Only JFK spent an entire term in office without his approval rating dropping below 50%. At one point, his highest rating was 80%.”
    So, yeah, you’re right, if 50% is equal to the 27% approval rating from the Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll. Oh, wait, check the math there….hmm… hey, it isn’t! You are a knucklehead!

    Comment by Ferd Pilzwick — August 18, 2008 @ 11:21 am | Reply

  24. This is an astute and well presented argument. While I am not fully convinced, I am convinced of the great risk of predicting presidential performance–any president. Given the uncertainty, vigor and intelligence may justify voting for candidates whose views appear often shallow and illogical.

    Comment by Marvin McConoughey — September 5, 2008 @ 9:33 pm | Reply

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