We need serious change in our leadership, and we face one of the most critical elections ever in the United States. With this piece I would like to present some of the key questions that should be considered in this race.
Which candidate is most likely to enact policy to turn around our ailing economy, and help your personal financial situation?
No one could miss the current economic crisis. We are now suffering under the disastrous effects of rampant deregulation, which opened the door to unchecked greed and led to bad investments, bad loans, and bad trade policies. Also, not to overlook W. Bush's reckless foreign policy where the price tag for Iraq alone is an incomprehensible 435 million dollars per DAY (12 billion per month)*1, funded via the modus operandi of borrow and spend, borrow and spend, then leave it to our children and grandchildren to pay it back, with interest. If you are a family of 4, your personal price tag for the Iraq war from 2003 to 2008 has been 16,500 dollars. So where have the candidates stood on deregulation, and on the Iraq war?
Up until now, although McCain is suddenly trying to appear as though he is a populist favoring oversight, he has in fact never been one to support supervision of the financial sector and has "-no history prior to the presidential campaign of advocating steps to tighten standards on investment firms'*2. One of McCain's more noteworthy votes was in 1999 when he joined with other republicans to pass the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act --lead by Phil Gramm, McCain's campaign co-chairman --which deregulated banking and insurance industries, removing rules and restrictions that had been established over decades going back to the 1930's.
And as recently as last March, McCain told the Wall Street Journal, "I am fundamentally a deregulator"-*3. At a time like this, who would want a president whose economic philosophy and voting record has been fully in line with what caused the problem? Furthermore, even McCain himself has avowed that his own knowledge is wanting on economic affairs. In December 2007, McCain told Chicago Tribune reporters, "The issue of economics is something that I've really never understood as well as I should. I understand the basics, the fundamentals, the vision, all that kind of stuff."*4 At a time like this, who would want a president whose knowledge on economic matters is admittedly shaky?
In contrast, Obama has warned for quite some time of losses in the billions as a result of insufficient government oversight of high-risk areas. In 2006, Obama introduced legislation to end home loans based on fraud, abuse or excessive risk. And in March of this year Obama delivered a major speech on the economy where he proposed several areas of increased regulation, oversight, transparency and disclosure requirements, and investigations into suspected market manipulations. As for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, although Obama was not in the senate at the time, his running mate Joe Biden voted no.
As for the Iraq fiasco, McCain has supported it wholeheartedly from the very start. With a quick review on the Project VoteSmart website, you can see that McCain has consistently been in lockstep with W. Bush's war*5. And McCain still doesn't believe in a timetable for withdrawal. In fact, there is a now-famous quote where he states he could envision the US staying in Iraq for as long as 100 years - a rash statement, even if he was exaggerating, which would be inappropriate given the gravity of the subject http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFknKVjuyNk
Here is a powerful video that reminds us of what could have been done in place of the war in Iraq which McCain has so consistently supported.
But Obama opposed the Iraq invasion from the very start. And to get us out of the mess, he plans to gradually redeploy U.S. troops with a target completion of summer 2010. That will free up a lot of dollars to begin getting our own house back in order, not to mention going a long way to improving foreign relations and our esteem around the world.
Are you concerned about the hemorrhaging of jobs from this country? I have searched hard and find no information to indicate that McCain has been anything but pro-outsourcing. But with Obama as president, you are far more likely to see jobs stay in the United States. He plans to give tax credit incentives to companies that favor hiring workers within the US instead of those outside the US.
What about your personal tax bite? McCain's plan would make the W. Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts--which favor the wealthy--permanent. But with Obama as president, if you are like almost everyone else and you make less than $250,000 a year (couple) or $200,000 a year (single), you will keep more of your money at tax time. Obama supports economic fairness--reducing the large unnecessary tax breaks currently going to the super-rich, and increasing tax breaks to working people. (However, considering the current economic climate, fiscal responsibility is screaming for the government to start paying its bills, and so it's hard to imagine huge tax breaks for anyone. Still, the important point is that the Obama administration would be on the side of we the people, not just on the side of the corporations and stockholders at the expense of we the people. "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." Thomas Jefferson)
If you have a minimum wage job, you will be better off with Obama. While McCain wants to leave the minimum wage where it is at $7.25 and is opposed to future raises tied to inflation (true to form since he has voted against minimum wage increases an incredible 19 times), Obama plans to increase the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011 and tie future increases to inflation.
If you are like almost everyone else and the unprecedented cost of gas has hit you hard, you will get some concrete relief with Obama as president. As part of his energy plan, Obama will tax the oil companies' windfall profits and use the money to help families pay their gas bills by issuing rebate checks.
How about the skyrocketing cost of health care? With McCain, health care coverage would not be mandatory. Obama, however, would provide income-based federal subsidies for those who are not otherwise insured, and would require employers to offer health plans to employees or otherwise help employees with health care costs.
What about Social Security? Recall that a key part of McCain's 2000 presidential bid platform was the diversion of part of Social Security to private accounts, and again in 2005, McCain supported social security privatization with his vote for Bush's Social Security Privatization Plan (which did not pass). He has recently made various contradictory public statements, but it's clear he still favors privatizing at least part of social security. Imagine how retirees would be feeling if they were under a privatized type of Social Security plan right now? Luckily we have a candidate who opposes gambling with Social Security funds--and that candidate is Obama.
Which candidate has the best judgment?
You don't have to go much further than the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq based on lies to see a huge difference between the two candidates in terms of judgment. As mentioned above, Obama opposed it from the start (although he voted for troop funding); whereas McCain supported it from the start, but more than that, McCain was a leading supporter and one of the most fervent voices. By now, the vast majority of Americans have come to understand the profound failure of W. Bush's Iraq policy, but McCain still clings to it, and again, seems to see no problem with the US remaining there for many years to come.
Then there is the VP choice. Obama has chosen as his running mate a long-time senator experienced in the workings of Washington, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and known to be familiar with foreign leaders and diplomats around the world stage. McCain, in contrast, has chosen as his running mate a sophomoric, trumped-up attention-grabber with nothing to say; a less-than-2-year-governor of a state with a population far less than many American cities whose previous job was mayor of a tiny town (where, despite portraying herself as a fiscal conservative, she racked up nearly $20 million in long-term debt), who is under investigation (and worse yet, has not been cooperating with that investigation), and who, when recently interviewed, could not even speak to a political topic of such enormity as the 'Bush Doctrine' of preventive war--a keystone of US foreign policy for the past 6 years.
The assessment by former Republican senator Chuck Hagel is worth noting: "I think it's a stretch to, in any way, to say that she's got the experience to be president of the United States. She doesn't have any foreign policy credentials. You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don't know what you can say. I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, "-I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia.' That kind of thing is insulting to the American people."- *6
And turning to voting records in general: Given the failed policies of the past 8 years both domestic and foreign, how could a candidate who has voted with W. Bush nearly every time he had the chance be considered viable? According to my calculation, averaging McCain's votes in support of W. Bush policy from 2001 through 2007. See: http://mediamatters.org/items/200808270008 I conclude that he was on board with W. Bush a striking 89.2% of the time. And McCain is now trying to claim that HE is the candidate of change, the candidate of reform? His voting record has shown us where he has stood for a long time; we need to believe his record, and we need to be very wary of his current lip service.
What about McCain's involvement in the "-Keating Five' in the late 80's? This is a chapter in McCain's past that demonstrates poor judgment and brings into question how principled and ethical McCain is. To summarize: Charles Keating, owner of a savings and loan (and longtime friend of McCain), was found to be using bank customers' money to make risky investments and illegal personal loans. With the threat of a federal investigation, Keating asked 5 senators (known as the "-Keating Five') to whom he had made huge campaign contributions and given other lavish gifts--including McCain--to intervene by meeting with the federal investigators and pressuring them to back off. The Keating Five, including McCain, obliged, although it only delayed Keating's eventual prosecution, and the FDIC ended up reimbursing Keating's customers 3.4 billion dollars. McCain was given a formal rebuke by the Senate Ethics Committee for "poor judgment."-
Which candidate is serious about transforming our energy policies in the face of looming climate change?
If you compare the 2 candidates' plans, Obama's includes more specifics for aggressively moving toward a greener and more sustainable future.
- Obama's plan calls for getting 10% of U.S. electricity from renewables by 2012 and 25% by 2025 (creating millions of green jobs), while McCain's offers no specific targets;
- Obama's plan calls for the production of 60 billion gallons of "advanced bio-fuels" in the U.S. each year by 2030, while McCain's offers no specific targets;
- Obama's plan supports raising fuel-economy standards 4% each year, while McCain's says he would enforce existing standards but offers no targets for raising standards;
- Obama's plan supports a cap-and-trade system to cut U.S. emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, and 100% of the emissions credits would be auctioned off (making polluters pay up front to pollute)--while McCain's plan supports a cap-and-trade system to cut U.S. emissions only 60% below 1990 levels by 2050,with emissions credits initially given away, and auctioning only phased in later.
Which candidate has the greater intellect for the job?
I want the president of the United States to be highly intelligent--preferably brilliant, especially at this time, given the extreme complexity and difficulties on almost every front.
Obama clearly distinguished himself academically, elected no less than president of the Harvard Law Review. Moreover, Obama's experience as a senior lecturer of constitutional law at the University of Chicago carries obvious weight. In contrast, McCain graduated fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. (Granted, McCain admits to a lack of seriousness at the time--but even taking that into account, 894th out of 899 is still a miserable showing.) However, you don't need to know these facts to perceive the difference in intellect between them when they speak. Not only does Obama consistently demonstrate a greater capacity for analytical thinking and clarity of communication, but unlike McCain, he spontaneously and thoughtfully answers the questions asked rather than frequently relying on memorized talking points. (Aren't we growing weary of those scripted responses?)
I don't think the downsides of the recent W. Bush anti-intellectualism should be minimized. The acceptance of mental mediocrity ("-dumbing down") has had a detrimental effect on American life. We impede progress if we don't value education highly enough and don't strive to elect educated leaders with the highest standards.
Which candidate is more in touch?
I want a president who is in touch with the current issues facing the country and understands their impacts.
Returning to the current economic crisis: The day the news hit of the failure of several major US financial institutions, Obama immediately recognized the situation as a crisis--and repeated the calls he has made in the past for the overhaul of the financial-regulatory system and tougher enforcement. And his knowledge was apparent. "-Detached observers who watched him [Obama] last week, especially in a Bloomberg Television interview, were taken by how conversant and comfortable he was on the subject, despite his thin record. Few detached observers came away with that impression watching the Arizona senator.'*7
But it was mind-boggling on that same day to hear McCain say, "The fundamentals of the US economy are strong"- while, by the way, more and more people continue to lose their jobs, the sub-prime mortgage debacle continues to wreak havoc, gas prices continue to squeeze consumers, and the national debt continues to spiral out of control--all following many years of gross fiscal irresponsibility. If this is not out of touch with reality, I don't know what is. (Later that day McCain made a feeble attempt to back-pedal, saying that the term "-fundamentals" actually meant "-American workers." This didn't fly. Then, a day or so later, once McCain realized he was standing alone with his view, he decided to do a 180, completely changing his rhetoric to reflect alarm and urgency--even trying to upstage Obama by going so far as to announce at one point that he was suspending his campaign.)
I also would prefer a president who, regardless of personal means, can demonstrate that s/he is at least somewhat in touch with average Americans and what it takes to get by.
Obama grew up in modest circumstances like most of us. And it is both significant and admirable that after graduating from Columbia University, he chose to work for low pay in the blue-collar neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago as a community organizer, when he could have opted for a well-paid job in the high-powered New York City business world. Currently Obama obviously does well and is comfortable, but he is not known to have an inordinately luxurious lifestyle; and he can certainly relate to such things as the difficulty in obtaining a college education since it was only a few years ago that he finished paying off his own student loans. The number of Obama's homes? One. The number of Obama's cars? One.
McCain likely grew up in a bit more privileged circumstances as the son of a Navy Admiral, but it's in the more recent decades with his wife Cindy, whose fortune tops 100 million dollars, where he truly enjoys an extraordinary lifestyle. The number of McCain's homes? Seven (although McCain was not sure at first when asked). The number of McCain's cars? Thirteen. And in a grandiose display of wealth at the Republican National Convention, Cindy McCain sported an outfit with a price tag of 300,000 dollars, 280,000 dollars of which were due to the earrings. That's a year's worth of health care for 750 people.*8 There's nothing wrong with good fortune per se, but the exceptionally lavish lifestyle is indicative of McCain's values, and could possibly be indicative of the constituents with which McCain would most identify.
Given the historical aspect of this election, which ticket would most honor the inclusion this represents?
With this election, we will have either a president who is part black, or a vice president who is a woman. An important step forward to be sure.
But if you have been attracted to the McCain/Palin ticket because Palin is a woman, you will be disappointed to find that though Palin has had success in her own career, lamentably, there is no evidence that she has advocated for other women. And her policy, while mayor of Wasilla, of forcing rape victims to pay for their own forensic evidence rape kits is extraordinarily bewildering and deplorable. What kind of a woman is this?
And McCain too has a bleak voting record when it comes to women's issues. Go to http://www.womenforbarackobama.com/McCain.html You will find a good source for reviewing his stands: no to a woman's right to sue for pay discrimination, no to insurance coverage of birth control, no to preventive health care services, and no to family planning services for the uninsured.
In contrast, Obama has a strong record on women's issues. In the Illinois State Senate and the U.S. Senate, Obama has sponsored dozens of initiatives benefiting women such as expanding access to contraception, strengthening domestic violence laws, fighting for equal pay, supporting research into women's health, and more. And he also co-sponsored re-introducing the Equal Rights Amendment. Biden has an equally strong record; particularly noteworthy is his having authored "The Violence Against Women Act" which provided 1.6 billion dollars to enhance investigation and prosecution of violent crimes perpetrated against women.
Several women's advocacy groups have publicly declared their support for Barack Obama and Joseph Biden, including the National Organization for Women, which has not endorsed a presidential candidate in the general election since 1984.
Obama also has an excellent record on civil rights in general and support of the various diverse groups that make up our population. This webpage offers a very good summary: click here A few of the key points include Obama's: commitment to strengthening and better enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), sponsoring of a bill to ensure the evacuation of individuals with special needs in times of emergency, support of the Congressional Black Caucus priorities for stopping racial profiling, score of a 100% by the NAACP on affirmative action, and co-sponsoring of a bill to reinforce anti-discrimination and equal-pay requirements.
Which candidate can you trust to speak the truth?
If you have trusted the "-straight talk express," you will be disappointed to learn of the numerous lies and hypocrisies coming out of the McCain campaign.
McCain is held in high esteem for his military service, and it goes without saying that he deserves respect and sympathy for his POW experience in Viet Nam. And he has stated time and time again that he supports the troops. However, incredibly, time and time again, McCain has voted against legislation that would benefit veterans. Below I will cite several examples because it's stunning given that McCain is himself a decorated veteran.
- August 2001: Voted No on increasing the amount available for medical care for veterans;
- April 2003: Urged the tabling of a vote to provide for more National Guard and Reserve equipment in Iraq;
- October 2003: Voted to table an amendment to provide more safety equipment for US forces in Iraq;
- March 2004: Voted No on creating a reserve fund for an increase in Veterans' medical care by eliminating abusive tax loopholes;
- March 2006: Voted No on increasing Veterans medical services funding (to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes);
- April 2006: Was one of only 13 Senators to vote No on additional funding for outpatient care and treatment for veterans;
- May 2006: Voted No on additional funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for health care facilities;
- September 2007: Voted No on the Webb amendment calling for adequate troop rest between deployments;
- May 2008: Opposed and was AWOL for the vote on Jim Webb's GI Bill (co-sponsored by Obama) which provides educational benefits for veterans. For McCain to turn his back on veterans like this is truly astounding.
In March 2008, McCain joined fellow Republicans in Congress to uphold W. Bush's veto of a bill that would "-ban the CIA from subjecting enemy detainees to interrogation methods denounced by critics as torture" *9. This too is simply impossible to understand, given McCain's POW experience.
One of Palin's mantras has been that she is the big earmark reform champion. But these words ring hollow when you find out that as governor she "-sought $197 million worth of earmarks for 2009, down about 25 percent from the $256 million she sought in the 2008 budget yea" '*10.
On the campaign trail, McCain likes to disparage the CEOs who "seem to escape the consequences" of failed businesses, but then you find out that one of his closest advisors is none other than Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, fired in 2005 with a 45 million dollar golden parachute.
Last January, McCain said, "I'm going to raise the level of political dialog in America, and I'm going to treat my opponents with respect and demand that they treat me with respect."- It's time we did away with a lot of this political rhetoric at the level we're at, including these negative ads. Nobody likes these negative ads. You want to know what we're for, not who we're against."- click here But now McCain is gaining a reputation of running one of the dirtiest campaigns, flinging out what Paul Krugman of the NY Times has aptly termed a "-blizzard of lies," and blatantly going well beyond the misspeaks we have seen from other candidates in the past. A few examples:
- McCain: "Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies."- The truth: The bill he was referring to actually raised taxes on oil companies, and provided subsidies for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and alternative fuels.
- McCain: "Obama would raise taxes on middle class." The truth: Obama's plan would lower taxes on the middle class, and would only raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year (couple) or $200,000 a year (single).
- McCain: "Obama favored comprehensive sex education for kindergarteners."- The truth: Obama favored a bill that warned kindergarteners about predators.
- McCain ad playing in key battleground states: Obama is "-born of the corrupt Chicago machine" and is linked to 4 dubious characters. The truth: Either the connections are not substantial, the implied corrupt associates are not in fact under any investigation, or, in the case of Rezco, the real-estate transactions were completely proper.
- McCain: Sarah Palin is "the most knowledgeable person in America on energy." The truth: Both Palin and McCain have even their basic energy facts wrong. They both claimed that Alaska produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy, when in fact, the correct figure is 3.5 percent. And even if they intended to say "-U.S. domestic supply of crude oil and petroleum products" instead of "-U.S. domestic supply of energy." the figure would still only be 4.8 percent. (Later, Palin modified her claim, but it was still grossly inflated.)*10.