Obama's America vs. McCain's America: Ten Reasons To Choose Obama
by Jerold Block
This essay is adapted from a recent episode of my Blast The Right podcast. It was originally addressed to undecided moderate voters. It could just as well apply to progressives flirting with Nader or McKinney because they don't see enough of a difference between Obama and McCain.
The ten reasons encompass:
1. Proper Role of Government
2. Supreme Court
3. Right To Choose
5. Minimum Wage
7. Health Care
8. Safeguarding Our Food, Water & Air
9. Presidential Vetoes
10. War and Peace
I'm going to start off with the broadest issues, and then work my way down to more specific areas of voter concern.
1. Proper Role of Government
A fundamental political question is, what's the proper role of government?
Ronald Reagan famously declared:
I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'
Government is the enemy.
Grover Norquist is a long-time Republican strategy guru, a Reaganite. He said the right-wing goal is to shrink government down to the size where you can drown it in the bathtub.
One way to do that is, in his terminology, to "starve the beast."
Drastically cutting taxes and running up huge deficits are two ways the right-wing works to starve the government. This denies government the revenue it needs to function, except for conservative-approved functions like the Defense Department.
Government as a leveler of the playing field? As a positive force for good? As a provider of a safety net for our fellow citizens who have fallen?
Forget about it.
Present day head cheerleader for the Reagan Revolution, Rush Limbaugh, has no shame in boasting:
Roosevelt is dead. His policies may live on, but we're in the process of doing something about that as well.
Roosevelt's entire New Deal and its later offspring -- Social Security, Medicare, student loans, the Environmental Protection Agency -- all that kind of government activity -- the Reagan Revolution wants to destroy.
What's this got to do with McCain?
McCain is no moderate, as many people mistakenly think.
John McCain often proudly says that he began his political career as "a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution."
And there he remains, as you'll see.
If you're undecided, or not sure you're who you're going to vote for, please ask yourself: do you want to continue the process of destroying the New Deal? Destroying social security and all the other important programs that help the average citizen like yourself?
If so, McCain would be your choice, because that's the direction he'd take the country.
If not, if you believe in a positive government role to assist the average citizen, level the playing field, vote for Obama.
Now let's get into some details.
As you'll see, much of what follows flows from this anti-government, government is not capable of being, shouldn't be a force for good, philosophy. It permeates McCain's positions.
2. Supreme Court
Reason number two to support Obama is the all-important Supreme Court. Among other things, it decides which laws are constitutional, which aren't.
The Supreme Court, to quote one legal scholar, currently "sits on a knife's edge."
There's a 4-4 liberal-conservative split, with Justice Anthony Kennedy a swing vote.
The next president will replace two, possibly three Supreme Court justices.
John McCain states right on his website that he would appoint more justices like Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Ultra-conservatives. Reagan Revolution types.
A President McCain could produce a 6-3, or even 7-2, solidly right-wing court.
Why is that dangerous?
A McCain right-wing Supreme Court would use its power to further the anti-government agenda of the Reagan Revolution.
It'll do so by interpreting the Constitution in a way that severely curtails the power of the federal government.
Mr. McCain’s justices are likely to join the conservative crusade against the power of Congress. They could be expected to strike down, or sharply limit, federal power to protect clean air and water; ensure food and drug safety; safeguard workers; and prohibit discrimination against women and minorities. They would also likely further erode the separation between church and state. [source]
And of course there's a woman's right to choose. That's a whole separate reason, up next.
Hillary Clinton in her speech to the Democratic Convention, said the Supreme Court was already in a right-wing headlock.
A President McCain would make things even worse.
A President Obama, on the other hand, would appoint justices who would allow the federal government to play a positive role in our national life.
3. Right to Choose
Reason number three, as I just indicated, is the very fate of a woman's right to choose, reproductive choice.
Literally written on his website, John McCain states that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.
Some people think McCain is pro-choice. He doesn't go around trumpeting his anti-choice position. But that's where he firmly stands.
And McCain will appoint justices who will "lead the charge to eliminate the right to abortion."
To safeguard a woman's right to choose, it's President Obama you want to see elected.
The fourth reason to support Obama is taxes.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans think the rich pay too little in taxes.
McCain should definitely not be their candidate.
McCain wants to make the system even more unfair. He would continue Bush's tax cuts, which disproportionately favor the wealthy.
Obama stands in direct contrast. He's for a more fair tax system.
We're all in this together, one country, and the rich should pay their fair share.
Obama's tax plan would increase taxes on the richest 3% of Americans who make more than $200,000 filing singly, $250,000 married.
The vast majority of working Americans would enjoy a tax reduction in the form of a credit against their payroll taxes.
Also, very important: Obama, unlike McCain, would retain the estate tax. Right-wingers call the estate tax the death tax. That's a deliberately misleading name. Everyone dies, but less than 1% of Americans wind up paying an estate tax. That's because it only applies if you leave millions behind. That's why it's called an estate tax.
Choosing Obama means tax fairness, McCain fairness only for the wealthy.
5. Minimum Wage Law
Continuing on with the theme of economic fairness, there is the federal minimum wage law, reason number five.
The minimum wage law has proven to be one of the most effective means to enable the working poor to lift themselves out of poverty and into the working class.
The effect of the minimum wage also ripples upwards a few steps of the economic ladder, increasing wages there as well.
Most Americans recognize the bedrock morality of establishing a floor on how low wages can go. Strong majorities consistently support raising the minimum wage when it falls behind inflation.
But McCain and the Republicans have been no friends to the minimum wage. To say the least.
Right-wing ideology would prefer to have no minimum wage laws at all. Such laws are, in the conservative view, an unwarranted intrusion on the market place.
Republicans vehemently opposed the first minimum wage law passed during the New Deal.
Like all of Roosevelt's policies that Limbaugh wants to kill, the minimum wage is constantly under attack by Republicans in Congress.
For 10 years, while in control of Congress, Republicans refused to raise the minimum wage.
According to the AFL-CIO, in 2007 McCain voted for a measure that would have repealed minimum wage laws in at least 45 states.
Other times McCain has only agreed to support an increase in the minimum wage when provisions were included to weaken enforcement of the law.
On the other hand, raising the minimum wage was one of the first goals that Democrats accomplished in their first 100 days in control of the Congress in 2007.
Obama continues in that tradition of supporting this crucial piece of New Deal legislation.
Obama's plan would increase the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011. Critically, he would index it to inflation, so that in the future increases would be automatic, and couldn't easily be blocked by hostile Republicans. Like John McCain.
If minimum wage laws lift workers out of poverty and into the working class, then unions are one of the main vehicles that allow Americans to leap out of the working class and enjoy a middle class level of comfort.
Unions fight for, and have achieved, higher wages, increased benefits and improved working conditions for Americans across the nation.
Unfortunately, these days you may intuitively feel that the rich are getting richer, and everyone else is getting poorer.
One reason for this growing inequality is the successful 27 year campaign against labor unions by the Reagan Revolution, which John McCain brags he's a foot soldier in.
There's now a $4 billion union-busting industry.
John McCain is no moderate here either, but a good Reagan Revolution foot soldier.
Labor's main goal in recent years has been to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It would prevent employers from intimidating workers when they're deciding whether to form a union or not.
John McCain voted against the Employee Free Choice Act.
In fact, you should know that McCain has a 17 per cent lifetime AFL-CIO rating.
If you want fairness in the labor market, and a strong middle class, you'll want to support Obama.
He's a sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Obama has a 98% favorable voting record with the AFL-CIO.
That's why harshly anti-union Wal-Mart warned all its managers recently against a Democratic victory.
McCain 17%. Obama 98%.
Who's on the side of the working man and woman? On the side of fairness in our society?
7. Health Care
Reason number seven to support Obama is health care.
Tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance. Tens of millions more have insurance but it's inadequate.
The government estimates that lack of health insurance kills 18,000 Americans every year because of late diagnosis or inadequate treatment.
You may be one of the vast majority of Americans who believes the government should guarantee health care for all citizens.
Barack Obama agrees, but John McCain doesn't.
That's expected to lead many employers to drop health care benefits.
A recent study estimates 20 million Americans would lose employer coverage under McCain's plan.
McCain would then offer individuals a tax credit of $2500, families $5000, to secure insurance in the private market.
Insurance costs far more than that, over twice as much.
Even worse: if you're already sick, insurers can deny coverage. McCain proposes a high-risk pool to cover those denied, but doesn't provide adequate funding for it.
McCain's plan is a disaster. The study says it will “almost certainly… increase family costs for medical care.”
Bob Herbert wrote in the New York Times:
This entire McCain health insurance transformation is right out of the right-wing Republicans’ ideological playbook: fewer regulations; let the market decide; and send unsophisticated consumers into the crucible alone. [source]
On the other hand, Obama's plan just builds on the current system. It essentially sets up a Medicare-type plan, publicly run, that anyone, employer or individual, can buy into. But if you're happy with your current insurance, you can keep that.
Subsidies would be available to make sure low and moderate income families can afford insurance. The plan details how the subsidies would be funded.
Remember, when it came time last year to vote on providing millions of children health care, Obama voted yes, but McCain voted no.
That's a good indication of what the effect would be of their respective overall health care plans.
8. Safeguarding Our Food, Water & Air
Your eighth reason to prefer Obama over McCain, involves another New Deal legacy that right-wingers and McCain are hostile to. I'm talking about the federal regulatory agencies.
Such problems result when the starve the beast strategy is used. The federal agencies designed to protect Americans, like the Food and Drug Administration, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission, are systematically under-funded and shrunk down by right-wingers in Congress.
Remember, these agencies have to be drowned in the bathtub, as part of the Reagan Revolution that McCain's a proud member of.
And all this anti-regulatory fervor includes the financial system.
Lack of adequate regulations or enforcement of existing regulations, is a major cause of the present-day financial crisis.
consistently characterized himself as fundamentally a deregulator and he has no history prior to the presidential campaign of advocating steps to tighten standards on investment firms.
McCain: Our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital and financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting, and tax impediments to raising capital.
McCain: I am less government, less regulation, lower taxes.
McCain: We need less government. We need less regulation.
Even after the present day crisis developed, McCain has no regrets, as he told the program 60 Minutes:
Questioner: In 1999, you were one of the senators who helped pass deregulation of Wall Street. Do you regret that now?
McCain: Well, I think the deregulation was probably helpful to the growth of our economy.
[W]e're also going to have to look at, how is it that we shredded so many regulations? We did not set up a 21st-century regulatory framework to deal with these problems. And that in part has to do with an economic philosophy that says that regulation is always bad.
9. Presidential Vetoes
The next to last reason to support Obama, builds on all the prior reasons. As you've seen, the better policies in the areas I spoke about, are Democratic policies. Regardless of who's elected, the Democrats will control Congress. And can pass good legislation to help the average American.
But if McCain is president, he can veto these bills. It then will take a two-thirds majority in each house to override McCain's veto. And that's very difficult to achieve.
So having a President Obama will ensure that good legislation actually gets signed into law.
10. War and Peace
The final reason I'll suggest that Obama is a far better choice than McCain, involves the ultimate issue: war and peace.
After the Iraq disaster, one would expect prudence and caution from a leader.
But listen to McCain in January at a town hall meeting:
This is a tough war we're in. It's not going to be over right away. There's going to be other wars. I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars.
McCain didn't say we may have another war, singular. Or even that we may have more wars, plural.
No, he's certain that there will be other wars, plural.
I wonder which countries he already has in mind?
Does McCain even take war seriously?
That old Beach Boys song, "Bomb Iran"? Bomb, bomb, bomb…
The psychology of McCain here is scary: can you in your wildest nightmares imagine Obama having such a cavalier attitude?
If you're concerned about McCain's cavalier attitude towards war, his almost war-mongering persona, you're not alone. A recent poll found that 63% of the American public was worried that when problems arise with other countries, McCain will be too quick to take military action.
War and peace -- Obama's the best bet here as well.
Obama's America vs. McCain's America
Let me quickly paint you a summary picture, McCain's America vs. Obama's America.
In McCain's America, from the President on down, it's assumed government should be diminished in size and influence at all costs. The Supreme Court will be all too happy to go along with that view, striking down laws enacted by Congress to help the average American.
Abortion will be made illegal.
Taxes on the wealthy will continue to be reduced, leaving the rest of us to increasingly shoulder the burden. The minimum wage will stagnate, sending more and more workers into poverty. Anti-union efforts will proceed apace, further weakening the American middle class.
Tens of millions of Americans will remain without adequate health care, and that problem will get worse.
Federal regulatory agencies will fail to protect our food, drugs, consumer products, air and water. Not to mention our financial system.
And, in President McCain's own words, there will be other wars.
Now envision this reality:
In Obama's America, from the President on down, there will be an understanding that the government has a positive role to play, that duly elected representatives can and should enact measures to help and protect the public. The Supreme Court will decide cases with such an understanding of the Constitution as well.
A woman's right to choose will be protected.
The tax system will be changed so that the wealthy pay their fair share, lessening the burden on everyone else. The minimum wage will be raised and millions escape poverty. Unions will be supported by the government, not attacked, and the middle class will grow.
A national health care plan will ensure that every American has adequate medical care.
Federal regulatory agencies will do a better job in protecting our food, drugs, consumer products, air and water. The financial system will be more closely monitored, our economy safeguarded.
And President Obama will protect our nation by relegating war to an absolute last resort.
Which America do you want?
Jerold Block is a retired attorney, now working full-time to advance progressive causes. He hosts, under the pen name Jack Clark, the Blast The Right podcast. Blast The Right is the most listened-to grass roots progressive podcast in the country. Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org