Sunday, November 2, 2008

Reason #7-16!


I assumed that nobody would notice if I stopped. I was getting busier, and my interest in the project was waning. But I got an actual complaint. Perhaps I should be flattered.

So, to catch me up, I need nine more reasons to vote for Obama. Here we go.

#7: Health care. Obama's plan is simply better. McCain's ideas appear to be nothing but warmed-over Bushonomics. The primary effect of his tax credits will be to push millions of people out of employer-based coverage and into the individual markets. Now, employer-based coverage is a weird artifact of World War II price controls, and is by definition not portable between employers. In the long term, that system has to go. But the individual market has much higher administrative costs (19% as opposed to 10% for employer-based coverage (or Medicare's 3%)).

#8: Tax policy. Yes, I know that the Right is talking about Obama and his "economy-killing tax increases." Poppycock and hornswaggle, I say. Clinton raised taxes, and the economy did fine under him. Bush cut taxes, and the economy tanked. Economists can bicker and argue over how taxes affect the broader economy, but the correlation is muddier than the screaming punditry dares to acknowledge. Obama's current plan does nothing more than reverse a narrow subset of the Bush tax cuts, returning them to a level that suited the economy justfinethankyouverymuch a decade ago.

As to the claim that increasing taxes on the wealthy is "redistributionist," so what? As Warren Buffet once said, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." The last eight years have seen stagnant or declining wages for most of us, and vast rewards reaped for the wealthiest. That picture is real, and it's an affront to any definition of fairness.

#9: McCain's campaign has gone 100% negative. It's true that Obama and McCain are spending about the same amount on negative campaigning. But Obama, thanks to vast sums of money from ordinary Americans, has about three times as much to spend on advertising. On a related note, because individual contributions under $200 aren't reported, McCain's campaign ominously refers to them as "undisclosed contributions", as though to insinuate that Obama is being financed entirely by bin Laden himself.

More startling are the things McCain has been *saying* in his negative ads. When a program to teach young children to protect themselves against pedophiles -- a program supported by the Illinois PTA -- gets twisted into "comprehensive sex ed for kindergarteners," a very disturbing line has been crossed.

I was horrified when I read about the "McCain fathered an illegitimate black child" rumor Karl Rove used against McCain in the 2000 primaries. It gave me a deep sympathy for McCain, and I thought such an experience would make him averse to those sorts of tactics. I was wrong, and that sympathy is now entirely used up.

#10: First Muslim president! Wooo!!!

#11: The environment. The environment is inextricably tied up with energy policy, and as I mentioned earlier, Obama wins hands down there as well.

#12: Foreign policy is supposed to be John McCain's strong suit, and the polls indicate that voters believe that. I think that will not be the case. Watching the debates, I didn't get the impression that Obama had any sort of foreign policy deficit against McCain. Also, McCain has made some pretty famous and repeated gaffes that make me wonder how well he actually understands the situation in Iraq.

The differences aren't a matter of competence so much as attitude. Obama has made it clear that he will rely more on skillful use of diplomacy. McCain derides Obama for this, trying to convince us that simply sitting down with other parties and listening to their positions should be a reward for good behavior, rather than just something we ought to do because it's in our own best interests.

Frankly, I've had enough of "tough foreign policy," and of its proponents. There is nothing more cowardly to me than someone who refuses to do the simplest, common-sense things for fear of looking weak

But there is another reason why I think Obama will have the better foreign policy. The world has been shocked and awed by our behavior on the world stage these last eight years. To the rest of the world, McCain appears to be a vote by the American public for a continuation of Bush's policies, an idea they find repulsive. Obama, by contrast, represents a sharp turn towards sanity, cooperation, and multilateralism. We can argue over whether this is in fact true, but when it comes to winning countries and influencing populations, Obama has a built-in advantage.

#13.0: Headsplosions!

#13.1: Rush Limbaugh's head will explode.

#13.2: Charles Krauthammer's head will explode.

#13.3: Ann Coulter's head will explode.

#13.4: Sean Hannity's head will explode.

#13.5: Headsplosions will stimulate the carpet cleaning business, and to a lesser extent the broader economy. We have to stimulate the economy.

#14: The return of regulation. The Bush administration has undermined the effectiveness of government at every turn, and for the most part they've done it without making even minor changes in the actual laws that the executive branch is supposed to, well, execute. Often, the administration has simply installed people as the heads of departments who don't believe in the missions of those departments. So we've ended up with (among others) an EPA that doesn't want to protect the environment, an ambassador to the U.N. who disagreed with the very premise of the institution, and a National Labor Relations Board that considers labor unions illegitimate organizations.

More often, the Bush administration has simply cut the budgets of the regulators to the point that they cannot effectively enforce the regulations. If McCain institutes his proposed "spending freeze," it will freeze the budgets of government programs like OSHA and the EPA at unacceptably low levels. But taking a broader view, I just don't see that McCain has enough faith in government, or its ability to act for the public good. The regulatory infrastructure that our country depends on has been degraded over the last several years, and is in desperate need of restoration. Barack Obama is the better candidate for that job.

#15: Obama is a rock star. He gives great speeches. He draws huge crowds. If you listen to the McCain campaign, these things are negatives. They're downright mockable, in fact -- though I don't see them criticizing Sarah Palin's ability to draw crowds in the tens of thousands. Governor Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan were actual actors before they turned their attention to politics. Having a president who can connect with people doesn't just make State of the Union speeches more engaging. Charisma can spur people to action, rally support, and lift hopes.

The first time I actually sat down and listened to Obama was when he was giving his speech on race, after the Jeremiah Wright thing. He blew me away, not just because he was eloquent, but because he used his eloquence not in the service of demagoguery, but to flesh out some very deep thoughts on race in a way that inspired and united, without ever losing sight of the complexities of the problems. He was so thoughtful, so averse to glittering generalities or simple solutions, that I thought there was no way in hell that he could win the nomination, much less the presidency. I assumed that people would go with the candidate who told them exactly what they wanted to hear.

I've never gotten the impression from Senator Obama that he has any intention of using words as a substitute for action, or that he's going to use his eloquence to pander to our conceits when we really need to hear hard truths. Obama has a knack for inspiring and moving people. Or, in a word, Leadership.

#16: Obama has a secret plan for getting us out of Vietnam. Or Iraq. Some country we shouldn't be in. There are several reasons for getting out of Iraq. First and foremost, we just cannot afford to stay. We've already spent $600 billion, and according to Nobel-prizewinning-yet-lefty-economist Joseph Stiglitz, the eventual total will be about $3 trillion. That would buy a heckuvalotta distressed mortgages. While that's mostly money already spent, the sooner we stop the hemorrhaging the better.

The other big reason for leaving: the Iraqi people want us to leave. Polls of Iraqi citizens indicate that Get Out beats Stay by about 4 to 1. Further, the Iraqi government has asked us to commit to timetables for withdrawl. McCain's claim that he'll stay "until the job is done" is not just misguided, but a slap at the sovereignty of Iraq.

Good enough, Jonathon? Well? WELL????

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I haven't diligently read your (far too lengthy) blog posts, but upon skimming through them my eye did catch reason #10 to vote for Obama. And I laughed. Out loud.