Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Vote: Why I will vote against Mitt Romney

I don't trust him.

It is as simple as those four words: I don't trust him.  The reason I don't trust him isn't something ethereal or fleeting.  It isn't a gut feeling or hunch.  It isn't because he looks dishonest or because he seems smarmy.  I don't trust him because I have seen him objectively be dishonest.

Now of course, everyone says politicians are dishonest, they change their position as it suits them.  That's true.  President Obama has shifted his stance before as well.  But there are certain things, certain principles, that go to the core of who were are.  And, ultimately with Governor Romney, I can only come to two possible conclusions:  One, is that he has no core principles; or two, he won't let anyone know them.  Either way, I can't vote for him.

Abortion.  Maybe the most personal and difficult social issue there is.  There are strong, intelligent and defensible positions on both sides of this issue.  But the problem is that it is really hard to be on both sides of this issue.  The Governor has been.  In 1994, running for Senator in liberal Massachusetts, he was unequivocally pro-choice as a candidate and argued for defending Roe v. Wade.  Yet, as a candidate for the Republican nomination, he was just the opposite: pro-life and advocating overturning Roe v. Wade.  And now he has come back toward the middle as the general election approaches. 

So it was with the auto industry rescue plan.  "Let Detroit go Bankrupt" was his plan. And while a version of bankruptcy is ultimately what happened, the plan proffered by the Governor was one that wasn't feasible.  Bankruptcy as advocated by him was impossible, because at the time no bank was willing/able to fund it in a way to keep the car companies together.  It would have certainly meant their liquidation.  He called the bailout tragic, but then when it was successful, he tried to take credit for it.  Now, he's plastered false ads all over Ohio claiming that he is the candidate that backs the auto industry and that the President is helping Chrysler ship jobs oversees.  The ad is so patently misleading, that Chrysler and GM responded directly, calling his ads lies.  Every major fact checker has panned the ads as misleading. He bet against American industry and lost, no hedging will change that.

He talks glowingly of women, but won't commit to equal pay for equal work legislation.  He talks of his support for Latinos, but he calls for them to self-deport and calls the racial-profiling immigration laws of Arizona a model for the nation. 

Then there is the 47% video.  Every candidate has gaffes.  Every candidate says things that get taken out of context.  The media scrutiny on every word said, every expression made and every watch-check is relentless.  But this was no gaffe.  This was a calculated, extensive and deliberate statement on his views on America and Americans. He said:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what . . . who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.  Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax . . . [my job] is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

FDR once said, It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach.”  No serious candidate for the office of President has more exemplified that failing than Mitt Romney.   

One could hope that the Governor would be the centrist he seems to be today,  But I think that this column is closer to the reality of a Romney presidency.

Cutting taxes for the richest among us to pay for cuts to essential services for the poor, the sick and the elderly is morally wrong.  It won't create jobs, it didn't in the '00s and it won't now.  What it will do is force a greater burden upon our most desperate citizens.  The ultra-conservatives love to harken back to the founding fathers as well as religion, so I find it appropriate to close with a thought from one that the Governor should pay a little more attention too.

Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor. - Thomas Jefferson

We shouldn't be a nation that demonizes our poor, simply because they are poor, and lionizes the rich simply because they are rich.  Poor and lazy are no more synonyms than rich and industrious.  We are all Americans, and the Mitt Romneys of the world will never accept that.  I won't accept that we should let his green devour them. And so, I can never vote for him.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Vote: Why I will vote for Barack Obama, Part Three - The Rest

The United States of America is not a corporation. 

She has been called a city upon on a hill by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan.  But what does that mean?
Lincoln once said that he was "for both the man and the dollar; but in case of conflict, the man before the dollar."   I think that sums it up for me as well, we need to be above the fray. We must be the example.  Yes, we are the land of economic opportunity, but we are also the land of equality and people must come before profits. 

This is the America that I believe in.  We are the richest nation in the world, even amidst these tough economic times.  We have an ethical, a moral and an American obligation to care for our sick, our poor and our elderly.  Why?  Because we are a civilization, not just an economy. We are more than an affiliation of sovereign states.  We are more than a vehicle for free-market capitalism. We are America and President Obama gets that and that is why he gets my vote.

In his time in office he passed the most comprehensive healthcare reform in a generation.  Is it perfect? No.  But its failure is not that it goes too far, not that it is a government take-over of health care, it isn't, but that it is just a first step and necessarily imperfect.  But a first step it is, none-the-less, and President Obama had the guts to take it. As a result, we are on the path to more affordable healthcare and access to it for every man, woman and child regardless of preexisting condition of the health or financial variety.

When President Obama took office we were fighting two wars and spending billions per week on them.  That's right, per week, look it up.  He ended the war in Iraq and is winding down the war in Afghanistan as well.  Oh by the the way, on his watch the organization that attacked us on our own soil, al Qaeda, has had its leadership decimated, and has seen Osama bin Laden killed.

America is the land of opportunity for all people, regardless of race, sex, religion and sexual orientation.  America is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic and Atheist.  The President realizes this and treats people with tolerance, in prose and policy.  He repealed a blemish on the greatest military on in the world-Don't ask, Don't tell.  He was the first sitting president to advocate for marriage equality.  The right to marry whomever you love is a fundamental right, guaranteed by the Constitution.  President Obama affirmed that.

He has improved our schools with his Race to the Top program, he's decreased student loan costs by eliminating the banks as cost-increasing middle-men, and fought to ensure equal pay for women in the workforce.  President Obama has fought to ensure that all Americans are equal, not just with his words, but with his actions.

From an energy perspective, our domestic oil production levels are at extremely high levels and has more rigs drilling for oil and gas than the rest of the world combined.  But more importantly, he is turning our country, despite big-oil and backward thinking people digging their heels in fiercely, towards cleaner, less expensive renewable fuels of the future.   

FDR noted The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.  Our skyscrapers are unparalleled, we are the womb of billionaires and visionaries, entrepreneurs and artists, but we are not America if we turn our back on the poor, the sick and the elderly.      



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Vote: Why I will vote for Barack Obama, Part Two - The Economy

The Economy is issue number one for the vast majority of voters the election.  While I don't necessarily accept the premise that the President-this one or any president-is directly responsible for the ebbs and flows of the economy, if we do accept that notion, President Obama has done a tremendous job. 

Yes, the recovery has been slower than people want.  When you are the one out of work, a slowly improving situation is of little comfort.  Yes, people are tired of hearing about how bad things were when he took office.  But being tired of hearing something doesn't make it less true. And, I sometimes wonder if people are aware of just how dire circumstances really were when President Obama took office. 

The year leading up to President Obama taking office was an economic crash of once-in-a-lifetime proportions.  The single greatest nose-dive in at least in three and a half decades, and probably the worst since the 1930's.  NPR has a smart, very brief article noting in straight-forward facts some similarities and differences between the "Great Recession" starting 2007 and the "Great Depression" of the 1930's.  The job losses caused by this pre-Obama recession were some 7.9 million. 

So what has happened since President Obama came into office?  Within two months, he comprised a stimulus plan to attempt to stop the crash.  Within a little more than a year, the private sector went from losing more than half a million jobs per month to gaining jobs.  There is a nice, simple bar graph demonstrating both private sector job growth and GDP growth here.  According to the bi-partisan economists in the Congressional Budget Office, the move likely saved or created 3.4 million jobs.

The President invested $62 billion in American automobile industries, despite fierce opposition.  While many people were calling for the legal bankruptcy and, thus, inevitable liquidation of GM and Chrysler, the President felt that those companies and their American workers were a good investment.  Yes, they did go through an assisted bankruptcy, but they were protected from liquidation by the government assistance.  If they had gone into bankruptcy unassisted, as proposed by many others at the time, there would have been no private financial backing willing/able to provide the massive "debtor-in-possession" capital needed to survive such proceedings-since the banks had no money and were in freefall themselves at the time.  Thus, two of American's manufacturing and cultural icons would have been liquidated. 

Since then, the American auto industry has bounced back and is at its most profitable in more than two decades.

Perhaps most importantly, the President has laid the ground work for reforming and preventing causes of the epic crash of 2007-2008.  There were certainly a number of contributing factors, a good brief rundown is here. But in a nutshell, it was the burst of the housing bubble whereby too many home owners had gotten into bad mortgages that were then packaged up and intermingled with the everyday assets of many major banks.  The result was people that could not pay their mortgages and banks that had no capital to finance everyday life in America.  This was caused by, depending on who you talk to, deregulation of the banking industry  and/or artificially low interest rates which discouraged saving and encouraged borrowing.

The President signed Dodd-Frank which was designed to regulate this risky behavior by mega-banks.  It has its problems for sure(the New York Times did a nice piece on it last week), but it was the most comprehensive set of reforms put forward in a very long time.

Due to these, and a lot of other reforms and choices made by President Obama, new home purchases are at a multi-year high, there has been some three years of consecutive private-sector job growth and the majority of economic indicators are putting upwards

For these and many other economic reasons, I will be voting for President Barack Obama.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Vote: Why I will vote for Barack Obama, Part One - Foreign Policy

The election is just a couple of weeks away.  The course of our remarkable country for the next four years, and in a lot of ways far beyond that, will be decided on that one day: Tuesday November 6.  I will be voting for Barack Obama.  Here is why I believe he is the better choice on foreign policy.

President Obama has been shrewd and wise with his use of the US military abroad.  Amongst the chief responsibilities of the President is to command the US Military, the responsibility and power has been expanded greatly in the past several decades to the extent that the President can exercise a great deal of military might without so much as a nod to Congress.  President Obama has demonstrated shrewd tact and wisdom in its use.

Osama bin Ladin is dead.  I think that the President probably gets too much credit for that from liberals and quite frankly not enough from conservatives.  But the fact remains, the face of Al Qaeda and the monster behind the deadliest attack on American soil in more than half a century is dead and it happened on President Obama's watch and at his command.  Without a doubt the extensive network of intelligence, the men and women of the greatest military on the planet and the heroes that rushed into that complex on May 2, 2011 did the majority of the work and deserve a lion's share of the credit.  But, there is no doubt that if this had gone differently and our SEALS had failed or died the President would have gotten the wrath of the country.  He was the Commander-in-Chief, the final order was his and he deserves the due credit.  Part of the President's promise to the country in 2008 was that he would hunt down Al Qaeda wherever they may be and he has done so, nearly every significant leader of the terrorist organization is now dead. 

The war in Iraq is over and the longest war in American history, Afghanistan, is winding down. 

I feel that the war in Iraq was ill-planned by President Bush and not necessary.  Yes, Saddam Hussein was a tyrant and the world is better for his discontinued existence, but it was a war that we didn't need and cost us much in treasure and more importantly in lives.

By the end of 2014 the war in Afghanistan will be over as well.  This war may have been necessary, given the mood of the country after 9/11/2001.  I think that, with the benefit of hindsight, the whole "war on terror" could have and maybe should have been fought with alternative means-special forces, intelligence, drone strikes, etc.  But now the path is clear, all that remains in Afghanistan is nation building.  Yes, we could stay there in perpetuity and always find terrorist cells to fight, as long as there are religious extremists there will be people that want to kill others to prove that their god is right, but we must, as the President has explained, leave Afghanistan's future and the responsibility for it to the Afghan people.  President Obama, with the counsel of his military advisors has set the plan to do so responsibly.

We have the strongest, best trained, most technologically advanced military on the planet.  We must always maintain that powerful position   But, We are a part of the world community, which I believe makes us stronger, not weaker.  We enjoy broad coalitions to support many of our positions internationally.  The world supports us in sanctioning Iran and our ties with Israel are stronger than ever.. 

Certainly, countries that choose democracy and peace should be helped through open trade and other diplomatic resources.  Undoubtedly those who choose dictatorship, theocracy and war should be punished, likewise with sanctions and diplomatic isolation.  Iran which now suffers under crippling sanctions is evidence that these policies are working..  Without question, those who challenge American safety and the safety of our allies must be dealt with swiftly and decisively, and, if necessary, with military force.  But we must not be the world police. Countries must, in most instances, make their own future. We cannot afford the cost in dollars or lives.

I believe that President Obama has furthered these goals in the past four years.    

Yes, there have been attacks that have slipped through the ample safeguards of the US military.  Most recently the terrorist attack that claimed the life of four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.  In a general sense, this like all casualties in the war on terror falls on the head of the President, just as the deaths of the 2,977 innocent victims of the 9/11 attacks fell upon the head of President Bush.  But in a specific sense, neither President is responsible.  Yes, there were intelligence reports that an attack was threatened against the Embassy in Libya, just as there threats against scores of American positions through out the world.  Likewise, there were threats that terrorist groups were targeting an attack on US soil using airplanes prior to 9/11.  We live in a big world with many different radical groups that invest their lives plotting to kill Americans.  It is the President's job to stop them, and despite all due diligence, occasionally an attack will be successful.  That outcome is inevitable and President Obama is no more specifically responsible for this failing, despite what ultra-conservatives want to think than President Bush was for 9/11, despite what ultra-liberals want to think.   

For all of these reasons, we are safer now than we were four years ago, that is part of the reason why I will be voting for Barack Obama.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thank you Smilin' Joe.

At the end of the day, the VP debate probably won't move the needle much, but make no mistake, Joe Biden won that debate.

In high school debate competitions, it's style over substance. But this wasn't a competition for a laser-engraved plaque, it's for our future.

There is a lot of criticism over the purported lack of respect the Vice President showed last night by smiling, laughing and generally bringing the fight to Congressman Ryan.  But that is exactly what needed to happen.  He was reacting exactly in the way that regular people react to the positions taken by the GOP this cycle.

When people do the work, read the facts and track the journey that the Romney train has traveled it is laughable.  He has gone from being a moderate governor in Massachusetts arguing to "sustain and support" Roe v. Wade, and advocating universal health care for the country to repudiating Roe v. Wade and attacking Obamacare and the individual mandateHere's a fun little compilation of the Mitt-Flops over the years.

So what does this have to do with the VP debate and Biden?  Everything.  The constantly fluctuating policies of Romney/Ryan should be laughed at, they should frustrate a common sense person and they should be called to task.

Now maybe when the students of Jefferson High School face off against Madison High, they should be judged not for their words but for their polish and delivery.  But when candidates for elected office are articulating their actual policy positions to the people that will choose who will run this country, their words matter.  The words that mattered were delivered by Joe Biden.  I think my favorite example may have been this:

"Instead of signing pledges by Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class, 'We're going to level the playing field. We're going to give you a fair shot again. We are going to not repeat the mistakes we made in the past by having a different set of rules for Wall Street and Main Street.'"