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Union University Department of Political Science
Department of Political Science

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Obama is John Galt

Apr 6, 2011

In what many will call the ultimate irony, President Barack Obama is the John Galt of the Union University Department of Political Science NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket Challenge. Since last year’s winner, Kaleb Noblett, is a libertarian, we declared this year’s bracket our search for the John Galt of Bracketology.

                Now I know that most of you would never associate Obama with John Galt or Ayn Rand, but Obama reflects John Galt in some ways. Galt grew up as the son of a garage mechanic who rose from humble circumstances to develop a motor that would revolutionize the auto industry. You could even call him a community activist who recruited people, e.g., industrialists and other creative sorts, to “change” the nation. Moreover, many see Galt as the symbol of objective, rational decision making.
 
By the same token, the president rose from humble circumstances to attend Columbia and Harvard, worked for a major Chicago law firm before becoming a community organizer, served as an Adjunct Law Professor at the University of Chicago, and then became President of the United States promising to “transform” the country. Also as “No Drama Obama,” many view his cool, rational post-partisan thought as the ideal of someone using objective criteria to solve problems. Granted the comparison ends there as your political philosophies are diametrically opposed.
 
Regardless, we congratulate the president on a sterling performance. He clearly demonstrated rational objectivism through his picks taking a commanding lead after the first round and never giving up the lead.  In fact, he won the competition by the end of the third round as no one could mathematically surpass his score, a record for the earliest victory in our competition. Moreover, he set another record by winning by 33 points, the largest ever margin (previous largest margin was 12).
 
Obama’s performance this year is an improvement over last year. Last year, he led after the first week of the competition and then faded over the stretch. Coincidentally, he signed the Affordable Care Act into law after that first weekend. That was his high water mark, politically, as his support continued to fall, the Tea Parties dominated the conversation, and Republicans made tremendous gains at the ballot box in November. We even had a Tea Party type win our bracket challenge last year. Perhaps, his improvement in picking teams will spill over into his political fortunes as the year progresses. For example since Union is an evangelical university, it is largely conservative and Republican. Thus, he has already bested his political opponents in basketball which may run over into politics. However as a social scientist, I must warn you that I do not believe bracketology has any causal relation to political success.
 
Consequently, we are inviting President Obama to receive his award at Evanspalooza, the year end political science cookout, on Monday, May 2, at 6pm. If he is unable to attend, we must make an alternative arrangement. In keeping with the president’s philosophy and legislative program, we will apply his preferred economic program to the Bracket Challenge. This means that we will leave the bottom 95% alone and tax the top 5% and redistribute those points to the lower third of the Bracket Challenge. Due to the number participating, the president is the only person who is in the top 5%. We have not taxed bracket participants in the past but will apply his proposed 39% tax rate for the top 5%.
 
Out of his 245 points scored, we will take 39% of those points (96) and allocate them to the bottom third with the lower half of the bottom third getting 2/3 of your points and the top half of the bottom third getting 1/3 of your points (We’re trying to be progressive). This means that our second place person will be the new winner. Personally, I do not think many people will mind because this person is a humble, caring individual who epitomizes being “Christ centered, excellent driven, future directed” and most importantly being “student/people focused.” Kirby Lewis, a new major, will be second place and David Haney, a graduating senior an dimplacable Obama foe, will be third.
 
Out of curiosity, I am sure you want to know that Kaleb Noblett, our defending champion and resident libertarian, felt the vagaries of the market and crashed to the lower third this year. Laura Grossberndt, a UConn fan, is kicking herself for picking her Huskies to lose to San Diego State in the third round.  And Amber Halter is the only student to pick UConn to win it all.
 
You might also know that yours truly will receive the newly created Obama Chair of Bracketology for the year by out-picking his faculty colleagues. On the bright side, this means that Dr. Micah Watson is using his research leave at Princeton focusing on John Locke instead of college basketball. As a Columbia and Harvard grad, Obama might also appreciate defeating our Princeton grad (Dr. W) and our colleague with a MPA, JD, and PhD (Dr. Hunter Baker). Obviously all those degrees helped him write The End of Secularism and win the Novak Award from the Acton Institute for “advancing the understanding between theology and human dignity, the importance of limited government, religious liberty, and economic freedom” but did nothing for his bracket picking skills. Frankly, it is not surprising that Dr. Evans won as the two theorists have their heads in the clouds focusing more on what “ought” to be while Dr. Evans is more grounded in reality through his empirical research.
 
On the positive side, we did provide absolute gains for the bottom third and the distance between the top and bottom is smaller and more equitable. Instead of a distance of distance of 102 between the highest and lowest, the distance between the highest and lowest is now a more equitable 63. Second, the new first place person gives an annual lecture on environmentalism and the need for energy for the Environmental Town and Gown. This may advance the president’s desire for a more “green” economy and actually create a green job, for at least two hours. Third, one of biggest beneficiaries of the redistribution is one of our departmental Democrats, Will McClure who finished dead last, who worked hard for Roy Herron, Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 8, in 2010. 
 
However there are some negative consequences of these actions. First, we have created disincentives for hard work. After the tax, Obama has gone from first place to last place. I am confident that Obama spent time researching the teams and making the appropriate picks and deserve to be rewarded for your hard work and correct picks. (I mean what else would he spend his time on. Leadership on reducing the deficit, coming up with a policy to remove Gadhafi from power, etc.? Please!)  
 
However, the tax system creates perverse disincentives to work hard. Moreover, the bottom half of the middle third, aka the middle class, are now seeing those who performed poorly receiving points that equal and sometimes exceed their point production. Seeing this, they have less incentive to research picks next year because they will be rewarded for making poor choices. Moreover those at the top have fewer incentives to work because success will be punished by large taxes.
 
Second, we can see how this makes people unhappy about the system as they see those who failed through poor choices are rewarded while those who work hard and play by the rules are punished. Do we really want to bail out Kaleb Noblett, last year’s winner, and Danny Grimm, baseball star and thus someone with demonstrated athletic prowess? Granted Danny was planning something more important in his marriage proposal (she said “yes” in case you were wondering) but we still expect better from him. Is “Big Libertarian” and “Big Baseball” really too big to fail? I do not think Main Street PSC Bracket Challenge participants support bail outs for Kaleb, Danny, Will, Laura Grossberndt, Lauren Laster, Lowell Van Ness, and Cory Cronin. This may create “parasites,” “looters,” and “moochers,” (using John Galt’s terminology) that demand the benefits of the hard work of our winners.  
 
                Third, we raise the absolute level of the bottom third but there is not much of a relative gain. After implementing the redistributive policy, 71% of those who were originally in the bottom third remain in the bottom third (though admittedly better off). Moreover, I am concerned about the disincentives to work mentioned previously. These results indicate that those who just receive points (financial assistance) may not get out of poverty. We may need more robust policies that address the root causes of poverty like broken families by using faith based organizations more.
 
                So our congrats to President Obama. And if he fails to show up at Evanspalooza, congratulations to our new, deserving recipient.
 
[Please note this is satire and is for your enjoyment as we announce the results of the Bracket Challenge]