Monday, September 15, 2008

John McCain Wants Money From Me?

Another in a series of (no doubt) poorly thought out political posts. If you'd rather not know what I think on divisive, political issues, please look at the sculptures instead.

A couple of weeks back - before anyone outside of Alaska had heard of Sarah Palin - I got a letter from John McCain asking for money.

Of course I am well aware that it wasn't really from him. Someone in his campaign or the RNC bought an address list and my name was on it. That is a fascinating thing in and of itself - I cannot imagine why I was on that list - but it isn't relevant to this post.

Rather than just throw the request for funds away I read it, just to see what sort of tripe it contained. I was well rewarded. Consider this gem:
If liberals like Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi control the White House, Congress and statehouses across this country...

... they will raise your taxes. Already, the Obama Democrats have laid out plans to pass record-setting tax increases.

But if Republicans win, we will make the present tax cuts permanent, work to cut additional taxes and simplify the tax code. Republicans know that raising taxes in tough economic times is a recipe for disaster, but tax cuts are proven medicine for getting the economy growing again.
If all of that is true, why does every Obama spokesperson I hear - and Obama himself - claim that he's going to be lowering taxes for the vast majority of Americans? Perhaps it's because he will, and the extraordinarily wealthy few - mostly Republicans - are afraid of the fact that they might have to pay their fair share of taxes again?

And why did McCain originally oppose the Bush tax cuts, but now wants to make them permanent? Perhaps he is pandering to the extreme right wing of his party? Not exactly the "maverick" thing to do, I know, but it seems possible.

Let's move on to the next ray of Republican sunshine in this letter:
If the Obama Democrats and liberal organizations like have their way, our troops will be recklessly pulled out of Iraq and our enemies will be handed a victory they have neither won nor deserve.

But Republicans will not give up. We will see the way through to victory and make sure the radical Islamic extremists have no sanctuary and no victory.
Where to start on that one? How about this: why are we in Iraq in the first place? It had nothing to do with 9/11 and as we are now certain, they didn't have WMD either. Sadam - for all that he was a terrible guy - was no threat to us. Getting him out of power was a good thing, but it wasn't our job.

"But," I hear someone say, "we're in there now and we need to finish the job. If we pull our troops out now, the place will collapse and become a haven for terrorists." Maybe so, but let's start with defining "victory", shall we. What would victory mean in this case? I honestly have no idea, and neither does George Bush or John McCain. There is no way to fight our way out of this, and the longer we stay there the more Americans and Iraqis will die. What, exactly, are we fighting for and how will we know when we're done? If you think about it, it's clear there is no way to know. What I am sure of is that no matter when we leave, the terrorists will move in. We need an entirely different - non military - approach to the problem.

"But the surge worked!" I hear. "Bull****!" I answer. Several things happened before or at the time of the surge. Maybe it played a part, maybe it didn't. A far as I can tell, the Sunni Awakening and the cease fire declared by Muqtada al-Sadr were a lot more important than the surge.

Let's also ask an interesting question about the surge: why did we do it? Because we had too few troops over there, right? And why was that? Because Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted to do this war on the cheap. (I suspect Bush himself was clueless about the results of this choice, making him a really great "decider".)

Invasion plans for Iraq drawn up before Bush was in office called for 300,000 to 450,000 troops, but we did it with less than half that number. In other words, we staffed to win the war, but not preserve the peace. Talk about stupid decisions. How many Americans would have been saved if we'd had armed troops on every street corner in Baghdad? Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are directly responsible for the deaths of all those Americans and Iraqis because they wanted to save money on their war.

We should never have gone into Iraq, but if we were going in anyway, we should have done it with enough force to be sure of finishing the job right from the start.

One last comment on this: McCain is way out of step with the American people on this one. The overwhelming majority want us out of Iraq. I'm not even sure he's pandering to the far Republican right with this stance.

And one last tidbit from the letter before I recycle it:
If the Obama Democrats have their way, government spending will skyrocket as they implement government-run health care and resurrect their entire portfolio of the failed welfare state programs of the 60s and 70s.

But not if we Republicans unite and work together. Or free-market solutions and conservative principles are better for America - and that has proven true time and again.
Wow. There is so much crap in those lines it almost doesn't pay to respond to them. But putting my hip waders on first, I'll try.

Spending worries? Not with Republicans, right? They're the party of "smaller government" aren't they? Well, not really. Regan presided over the largest peace time military buildup in American history. And our current president came into office with a surplus on the books (thanks to the Democrat Bill Clinton), but he's turned it into a deficit of enormous proportions, the largest dollar amount in history, in fact.

Bush is so bad about this that the White House keeps taking things out of the budget so they aren't counted as being in the deficit. Iraq war spending? Off the books. And so on. The deficit he's racked up is vast, and only getting bigger. Does anyone think McCain will do anything differently? I can't see how.

And as for the concerns about "failed welfare state programs", let's see:
  • Social Security: seems like people want that to stick around
  • Medicare & Medicaid: those look like a requirement
  • Head Start: seems good to me
What, exactly, are the failed programs McCain is claiming would be resurrected? I don't hear Obama talking about bringing anything odd back from the dead.

And about those "free-market solutions" McCain is so happy to support. They gave us the savings & loan crisis of some years back, and the housing and mortgage finance crisis we're living through now, among other things. I think a bit of regulation is needed to keep things in check. Our founding fathers thought so about each and every branch of government (despite what George Bush may think) and went on to create a mechanism for doing just that. A bit of a check on unrestrained free market capitalism seems like a fine idea to me. Nothing huge - I'm not promoting Socialism or Communism - but something to keep those in power from taking advantage of everyone else by virtue of their position.

Finally, let's talk about those "conservative principles" the Republicans are so proud of. Here are a few:
  • Torture. That must be one of them, since they support it, right?
  • Spying on Americans without any limit must be another, based on their actions. And in fact it looks to me like the Republicans favor the most intrusive government possible. Clearly they want to control your most private of actions and choices. I suspect - if they could find an effective way to do it - that they'd control your thoughts too.
  • Government support of oil companies via huge subsidies is clearly a good thing, but government support of clean energy research and development is not.
  • Equal rights for the lucky, affluent few must be the thing, since equal rights for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, and so on, clearly isn't supported.
  • The merging of church & state? Clearly they think that is a good idea.
  • Winner take all economics? That's way up at the top of their list.
Those don't look like simple, honest, American values to me. Instead they look like ways for a small group of people to have their way with everyone else.

When I was growing up I was taught that a good way to evaluate the actions and beliefs of others is to look at how they treat the least fortunate among us. If someone gives back to his or her community in meaningful ways, and tries to help those in need, that's good. If someone rakes in the money and can't recognize the pain and suffering going on around them, that's bad. Simple stuff, I know, but I was just a kid.

It looks to me like many Republicans never get beyond "what's good for me" these days. McCain falls into that realm now as well, given all his position changes since starting his campaign., In addition, McCain's trickle down economics don't work. We've tried them several times now and they fail, every single time.

I cannot claim the Democrats are perfect - I'm certain they have their flaws - but under Clinton they were the party that created the budget surplus, kept us out of war, and tried to help those in need to some degree. They didn't always succeed, and I don't completely trust any politician, but I trust them far more than I trust the Republicans. That's why McCain won' be getting any of my money.