Thursday, October 14, 2004


Politics, politics, politics

So, I visited Political Compass, which Jason Silver referred me to. After taking the quiz, I appear to be ever so slightly LEFT of centre. I am a bit more to the right of the Pope. Take it as you will.

During Thanksgiving dinner Monday, my brother-in-law Duane (a much wiser and thoughtful man than I am) and I got into a discussion of U.S. politics, much to the disappointment of my mother and wife. I have been really struggling of late to clarify my thinking around George Bush's platform and relished the opportunity to discuss these things with Duane, who puts a great deal of thought into these issues. You see, I don't normally pay a whole lot of attention to the U.S. elections, but since I finished school and have changed my weekly reading from Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly to Business Week and Fortune, I am much more attuned to things political. I also now think that, based on the issues and how polarizing they have proven to be, this may be the most important Presidential election in many, many years.

After a great deal of thinking, I have come to the conclusion that George W. Bush may be one of the most proactive Presidents in recent history. Despite the fact that this is an election year, Bush has continued to lay the groundwork for his second term of office. The Bush administration is laying out the plans for the Ownership society, the next phase of the war on Terror and their social agenda and, I think I finally understand where he wants to go.

1. Complete the transition of Iraq to a freer-thinking, Democratic society. This may actually be the goal for Iran and North Korea as well. If Iraq can be transitioned to a society supporting free elections, freedom of religion, women's rights, etc. then the U.S. will be able to prove to the international community that they were right about effecting regime change. This will give them some very strong diplomacy cards to use in attempting to bring Iran and North Korea to heel, particularly in regards to their nuclear programs. I also think that an Iraq who is more a part of the larger global community will help the U.S. reduce its dependency on Saudi Arabia for oil. This tends to get me thinking that the U.S., which is concerned about the fact that Saudi Arabia is a primo terrorist breeding ground, will also try to lever the Saudis into reducing their support of terror groups. The Saudi royal family will have significantly less power at the table, since there will be less U.S. dependence on their main export, their vast oil supplies. A second Bush term will allow for the activities in Iraq to be brought to a controlled end, with a properly planned extraction of U.S. troops and a smoother transition to U.N. peacekeepers and non-U.S. contractors.

2. Introduce fully the concept of the Ownership Society. In order to reduce the presence of Government in areas such as health care, education and retirement pensions, Bush wants to introduce tax-sheltered savings and investment programs. The average worker will be able to shunt pre-tax earnings into these accounts and use them for the accounts' specific purposes. For the younger generation (I still include myself in that group), this is a great idea. They will have the opportunity to create their own "stores of wealth" to be used for specific purposes while reducing their reliance on the government to provide certain basic societal needs. This will allow the government to focus their funding on more under-privileged parts of society, for whom the Ownership concept is less feasible. Also, the accounts can be used as collateral for mortgages, allowing more and more people to buy homes.

3. Push forward Bush's social agenda. This is one of the least-talked about aspects of this election but, in my mind, could be the most important long-term. According to an article from Business Week:

The acrimony will only intensify when the next Supreme Court justice retires. Although the issue has received little attention so far in this year's Presidential campaign, the winner could be in a position to fill as many as four seats. That puts some of the most explosive policy issues in contemporary America up for grabs in this year's election. If the conservative wing of the court, led by Justices William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas, gains one vote, it's entirely plausible that affirmative action could be outlawed, states could further limit the availability of abortion, and the new McCain-Feingold campaign-finance restrictions could be overturned. On the other hand, if a new liberal justice joins Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, it would probably become harder to impose the death penalty, and some environmental regulation could be strengthened.

(Apologies for not providing a direct link to the whole article. It's only available in the Subscriber's section of the website.)

This, to my thinking, is a HUGE issue. Especially considering the highly charged social issues (gay marriage, partial-birth abortion, stem-cell research, etc.) that the next Administration will have to deal with. While Bush is seeking a Constitutional amendment on gay marriage, he may also be able to (with the selection of a few new conservative judges), reopen Roe v. Wade and put tighter controls on abortion. He would also be able to seek greater control over the courts, who he feels are drifting much too far into areas of social legislation that Bush feels would be better left to the federal and state governments.

Now, there are a number of things that will impact his plans, including (but not limited to):

Baby boomers who were encouraged to consume, not save, believing that their companies and their government would be there to cover for them in retirement. Medicare/Medicaid and pensions will have to be funded/fixed in the next 4 years so that everything is ready for when the largest share of the boomers hit retirement between 2006-2010. This will NOT be cheap.

Not only introducing a freer Iraq, but one that raises the standard of living for ALL. One of the deepest recruitment pools for terrorists is poor, uneducated young men who swallow the terrorist credo that, with this gun, you can glorify Allah and gain all that the great Satan (U.S./Israel) is keeping you from having. It is crucial that infrastructure development happen that will lead to jobs for all who wish them. And the companies seeking to put a shingle out in Iraq MUST be carefully vetted to ensure they are not simply fronts diverting resources to terror groups. This will likely extend the Iraq timeline and require greater statesmanship from Bush, since he will need assistance from other countries and the U.N. to accomplish this. He has already started this.

Other areas, such as homeland security, offshoring, maintaining economic stability at home and who knows what all else, will also have an impact on the next 4 years. But at least Bush has a plan in place. He seems to have a clear idea of where the U.S. needs to go in the immediate and longer-term future. All I've heard from Kerry is a desire to unwind all of this and increase the presence of government in all areas from trade to medical services to education and beyond. All this while giving the people the "freedom to be who they are born to be and to do what they want".

In summary, this is an important election. It's not a time for voters to opt for "change for change's sake". It may sound like hyperbole, but I think that this election will set U.S. policy for the next decade and the social agenda for possibly longer. I will be riveted to the TV on November 2.

As is the case lately, long rant. If you stayed to the end, thanks.