I’ve been way too busy to write as much as I’d have liked about politics over the last few months. This bothers me deeply, because I believe this is one of the most important elections we’ve seen since, well, we kicked out the elder Bush. If there’s any undecided voters among the dozen or so people who seem to actually read this thing, I hope I give you some guidance here.
The plan is simple: both of our candidates are controversial. There’s a lot to hate, and little to love, about both. Makes you reminisce about the days of Clinton and Reagan, who both had much to hate but also much to love, huh?
Because this election is so much about hating and demonizing the other side, I’m not going to try to talk you into loving my guy. You probably already hate him. Maybe I can make you hate the other guy more. So far I know, everything I say here is true — I realize that’s not trendy these days, but it’s all I’ve got.
I’m going to cover a few specific points here:
* How Bush is not a conservative
* That Bush is all about tax-and-spend
* That Bush is against taking responsibility for, and suffering the consequences of, one’s actions
* How Bush isn’t really serious about national security
* Why you shouldn’t care about cultural issues, like gay marriage
* Why things under Bush can’t get better
h3. How Bush Is Not A Conservative
Barry Goldwater. Ronald Reagan. Dwight D. Eisenhower. These men were conservatives. They did three things:
# Keep government out of business
# Keep government small
# Loves the free market
Bush’s record is clear. He:
# Believes government should decide what business’s business is
# Has massively expanded the Federal government’s size and reach
# Is against the free market and prefers selective government control of the economy
h4. Bush Believes Government Should Decide What Business’s Business Is
Bush gave business some great tax breaks, it’s true, but he gave these tax breaks to manufacturing, not to service, not to consultants, not to car washes or McDonalds’ franchisees or graphic designers. Sure, we’ve had targeted tax cuts for years, but isn’t that unconservative? Shouldn’t the market decide where businesses should do business? Should one business pay less in taxes than others just because we feel like it, or should all businesses start on the same level playing field and the market decide where to allocate capital? Remember, manufacturing businesses profit disproportionately from infrastructure like roads and water and power when compared with, say, a hair salon. Why should the manufacturer pay less for the construction and maintenance of this infractructure than another business who uses it less does?
This government interventionist focus goes beyond tax breaks. For years, the Bush administration has given subsidies to select industries (the steel industry, for instance). These subsidies protect these industries from foreign competition. While, in some cases, the foreign industries are supported by their own governments, in other cases (steel, again), many American companies are just less efficient. Why not let the market tell us what businesses America should be in? Why inefficiently allocate capital to industries in which America cannot compete? And if you’re going to, how about you at least have a guy in charge who’ll have a free and open discussion about it, rather than, say, a secret closed-door meeting with Big Energy?
h4. Bush Has Massively Expanded The Federal Government’s Size And Reach
The TSA is a massive Federalization of previously privately-run jobs. If the free market is more efficient, why not let free market companies handle airline security? Why make the government do it inefficiently?
States’ Rights are also threatened. Oregon voters, by an incredible margin, decided to legalize limited assisted suicide. Attorney General John Ashcroft said whoa, we don’t respect Oregon’s prerogative to make laws that conflict with Federal law. States’ Rights have long been a backbone of conservative thought; Barry Goldwater was but one of their most vocal supporters.
The No Child Left Behind Act is another gigantic Federal power-grab. Until this bill was passed, education was an issue for the states. No Child Left Behind puts the Feds substantially in charge of what your school has to do and where it has to spend its money, regardless of what the community wants. And there are no new Federal dollars to go with these new requirements — No Child Left Behind is what we used to call an “unfunded mandate.” If you’re stuck with a bigger government, how about you at least have the President admit it to you?
h4. Bush Is Against The Free Market And Prefers Selective Federal Control Over The Economy
Conservatives spend a lot of time bitching about regulation. Well, the alternative to having the government regulate business is having the market regulate business. The market does this in many ways. One way is through the courts. Throughout history, the courts have existed for two reasons:
# So that the Man can keep you down
# To resolve property disputes and thus guarantee the safety of private property.
Don’t believe me? Just look at a country without a functional court system, like Russia. Private property safe there? Didn’t think so.
But, under the name of “tort reform”, Bush wants to regulate the way in which the free market arbitrates business disputes. Is that small-c conservative? No, the small-c conservative wants to let the market decide business disputes. Sure, some of those awards in big court cases seem expensive, but remember they’re set by the free market — the free speech of lawyers, the free commercial impressions of jurors, the free financials of the companies involved. When you insert government regulation of awards, well, it’s not free, it’s regulated. How about you vote for someone who at least won’t regulate power away from you and towards the big multibillion-dollar companies?
h3. Bush Is All About Tax-And-Spend
Bush has run up a tremendous budget deficit with his tax cuts, his war, his TSA, his greatest increase in non-defense discretionary spending in decades. There’s only one way for the Federal government to pay off a deficit: by taking in more money. There’s only one way for the Federal government to take in more money: by collecting more in taxes (borrowing only defers the need to take in more money, although it may allow the debt to be paid off in cheaper future dollars those dollars will still be needed at some time in the future, and let’s hope that they’re not that cheap unless you like some Carteresque inflation down the line).
There are actually two ways to collect more in taxes:
# Have rollicking economic growth such that the increase in personal and corporate income is large enough to push up tax collections without forcing an increase in the marginal rate of taxation
# Raise taxes
Anybody willing to put money on 7-10 sustained years of late ’90s-style economic growth? I didn’t think so. So what’s left? Yep, we’ve got to raise taxes to pay off the debt we’re accumulating now. There’s just no other way. Taxes now, or taxes later, either way we pay. How about you vote for somebody who can be fiscally responsible this time?
h3. Bush Is Against Taking Responsibility For Your Actions And Suffering The Consequences
Well, he’s for taking responsibility if you’re a mentally retarded individual who held up a convenience store; then you get electrocuted.
If, however, you oversee a military prison that’s the site of photographed violations of the Geneva Conventions, if said violations embarass the US publicly, and if said violations decrease international support both for the course of action which the US is following and the general idea of American Democracy, well, you consider promoting the guy to be in charge of the US Armed Forces. Really. Oh and you don’t think about firing his boss. Nope, no consequences there.
And when intellegence errors mean that your biggest rationale for launching the biggest war of your administration is not borne out, do you fire anybody? Nope. Do you get behind reform of the intelligence agencies? Nope.
And when terrorists blow up big buildings in your biggest city? No, you don’t support an inquiry, and no, you don’t fire anybody who maybe was supposed to catch said terrorists before they blew anything up.
For as long as I can remember, the GOP has had a clear message: we can only be an adult society as long as people suffer clear consequences for their actions. Further, those consequences serve as a deterrent against future negative actions. Have we deterred behavior that let terrorists into the US, that inaccurately predicted the existence of WMD in Iraq, that resulted in the torture of POWs at Abu Ghraib? Clearly not. How is that conservative? How about you vote for the former DA, John Kerry, who enforced consequences for a living?
h3. Bush Isn’t Serious About National Security
National security is important. This means it must be pursued with:
# Sufficient funding
# Substantial planning
# A multiplicity of approaches
The Bush administration has done none of these. The Iraq war has been marked by a succession of large requests for funds. Not enough armored Humvees? Whose department was in charge of buying them… oh, that’s the Defense Department!
What about planning? There was quite obviously no planning as to what should be done after we won in Afghanistan and Iraq. Planning is basic. It’s a business skill, one that Bush should have learned in b-school. Success and luck are both strongly related to planning; you’ve just got to have it.
The Iraq war has also illustrated the one-dimensional approach favored by the Bush administration. When we failed to get UN Security Council buy-in, was there a backup plan? Was another avenue being followed? Multi-power talks are getting us nowhere with North Korea; are we pursuing any other avenues? Kissinger would have had plans A, B, C and D, and would have been implementing all of them at once. So would Dulles. How about we vote against the person who doesn’t plan and is proud of it? I mean, jeez, Trump would fire the guy.
If the Bush administration took national security seriously, we’d see a serious approach to it. The Clinton administration didn’t take it very seriously, and had a disordered approach; the Bush administration has the same disordered approach. After 9/11, this is criminal.
h3. You Shouldn’t Care About Cultural Issues
Google has let me down. Barack Obama said all this first, but I can’t find the transcript. But here goes:
How many people do you know who make ends meet by working overtime? Bush wants to cut overtime.
How many people do you know in the Reserves or National Guard? These people will be spending a year away from home and away from their jobs
How many people do you know who have lost their job in the last four years? Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover to end his term with a net loss of jobs.
How many people do you know who are afraid? When did Bush tell us that everything is ok, that America will overcome?
How many people do you know who are getting married to someone of the same sex?
So why are you voting based on gay marriage?
h3. Why Things Under Bush Can’t Get Better
Because he never admits he’s wrong. It’s trite, it’s cliche, but when was the last time you improved your behavior without first admitting you were wrong? How about never? Things will never change so long as being right is the most important thing. Kerry hasn’t flip-flopped; he’s admitted that he’s wrong and found a new way. We should all be so ready to learn. Vote for the guy who learns from his successes and mistakes, or vote for the current guy, the one who will never change.
h3. Vote For Kerry
Or vote for one of the other candidates, if that makes you feel better. But don’t vote for the false conservative, for the guy who’s soft on national security, for the guy who wants his government in your private property. Vote Kerry, then kick the bastard out in four years if he doesn’t do better. That’s how democracy works.