Topic: idiosyncratic egotism
Since my schedule and my computer are both somewhat erratic these days, this entry will probably be my last shot at the election.
I'm still not very thrilled with the choices. I haven't (and won't) tell my readers who I plan to vote for next week. But I will explain again my problems with the election.
1. First and foremost, I have a problem with both candidates because they are advertising (some would say "promising," but I know better) big plans they must KNOW they will not be able to afford to implement. I have read what both major candidates are saying, in the official words of their own websites. Sen. Obama has posted a summary of his whole domestic program in a single document at, Blueprint for Change. Sen. Mccain has posted a summary of his economic program on one web page, and a summary of his health care reform plan on a second web page, both with links to additional details. But both of them are aware, I'm sure, that with an economic depression looming and the government already committed to a $700 billion bailout this year in addition to its regular budget, it will be many years before there will be any resources available to fund their promises.
2. Both candidates have economic reform plans that don't really address the underlying problem of the way debt is marketed and used in this country--by lenders to consumers and, on a different level, by politicians writing Federal budgets. Sen. Obama at least has some reform aimed at predatory lending practices. But neither one really seems to understand the problem.
3. Neither canditate has proposed a health care reform package that will help me very much. Sen. McCain wants to open up individual policies so that individuals--as a matter of economic reality, young, healthy individuals--may leave group plans and purchase cheaper individual policies in the states where they are cheapest. This will leave older and sicker people in the group plans, or in partially-subsidized state risk pools. This will, naturally,make the group plans more expensive (since their best risks will have departed) and the residual state pools very expensive. He would help everyone pay for insurance by offering a $2500 per person or $5000 per family tax credit, tax credits for employers who pay a portion of their employees' insurance, and additional need-based subsidies for the "poor." For someone in my position, there are three problems with this plan. The first problem is that there is no way Congress is going to be able to fund the tax credits under the current circumstances, let alone fund the subsidy for the "poor" at reasonable levels. The second problem is that, since I am not a young and healthy person, my share of my health family insurance premium is already about $12,000 per year, already far above the $5,000 tax credit the McCain plan would offer, and driving the young and healthy into the individual market only promises to make it increase. I rather suspect that it will in a short time increase more than the $5,000 amount of the tax credit. The third problem I have with the plan is that the subsidy for the "poor" would be needs-tested, and government-authored "needs tests" are ALWAYS based on gross income alone (as if I can spend my taxes, or my mortgage and student loan payments, a second time, like the government does) and ALWAYS make unrealistic assumptions about how far that income will go.
Sen. Obama's health care plan is somewhat more comprehensive, but, like Sen. McCain's, it is needs-tested and will never get realistically funded. So while Obama's plan looks better on paper, I'm quite secure in my knowledge that neither plan will ever work well enough to help me--or most middle-income people--very much.
4. Both candidates have proposed more relief for homeowners and consumer debtors. But their hands are already tied. The money is already committed to go to banks and big investors. Serious relief for ordinary people won't get funded, no matter who is elected.
5. My conservative and liberal friends all tell me that I must vote for their candidate because of the effect the winner will have on the Supreme Court. Each is afraid the other side's candidate will appoint justices who are friendly to a dicatatorship--either Fascist or Communist, depending on which side I'm talking to. I consider this an unlikely result of electing either party. However, both parties like to use litmus tests for judges--one just prefers red litmus and the other blue--and I don't like the idea of litmus tests at all. Moreover, I don't like some of the components of either color of litmus paper. Standard Democratic litmus paper insists on judges who think that abortion and homosexuality are both morally positive qualities that should be encouraged--even to the point of suppressing the opposition to them to some degree. I disagree with this. Both are moral evils (though, unlike most who use the standard Republican litmus paper, I don't believe homosexuals should be discriminated against). On the other hand, the standard Republican litmus paper calls for a "strict construction," not only of the Constitution, but also of civil rights laws generally. I am aware that it was a standard Republican strict construction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (a piece of legislation that's very important to me) that made it almost a dead letter in many contexts until Congress amended it this year, to restore it to the broad interpretation that was originally intended. Moreover, standard Republican-litmus jurists are friendly toward the Patriot Act, a very dangerous law, whereas standard Democrat-litmus jurists are not. I want to get away from the litmus tests altogether. But both candidates plan to continue them.
6. In foreign policy, Sen. McCain wants to continue the war in Iraq--a war I opposed publicly as unwinnable months before it started--until a victory that can never happen. He has also joked about bombing Iran, a thought which scares me (as I explained in an earlier post). But Sen. Obama's inexperience in this area at such a fragile and dangerous time also scares me.