Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.
But this weekend is also probably the last chance many of us will have to speak with any undecided voters, or possibly talk about the facts with people who just don't have a sense of perspective about Bush's administration
The truth is that the core elements of the Bush agenda are based on a fairly coherent worldview, a view that says:
- America's global interests are well-served by the expansion of democracy (something I think would be proven by the aftermath of Reagan breaking the back of the Soviet Union).
- People in the United States are better off when a broader mass of society has an ownership stake in our nation, in the forms of home ownership and public equity investment. (And home ownership is at an all-time high under George Bush.)
- Lower taxes drive economic growth. This is clearly demonstrated by the comparative performance of European economies both among themselves and versus the U.S. in aggregate (it's no coincidence that Ireland has the lowest tax rate and highest growth rate in Europe). I can't find the ideal PDF that demonstrates this graphically, so I'll post it soon, however MIT economist Olivier Blanchard discusses many of the points in "The Economic Future of Europe" [PDF]).
- Combined with an efficient tax and regulatory structure, education is the key to our global economic competitiveness.
Seriously, tell people to look at the facts. Then tell them to decide. What are some of those facts? Well, I've covered some of them in previous posts, but here are some highlights.
Iraq: Obviously, this has been one of the main things Kerry has used as an attack issue. I provided some perspective on my "Debate: Rhetoric versus Substance" post (called "stronger and more coherent than most" by one flattering reader. Thanks!). Some things I would call out for a sense of perspective:
Kerry harped on the fact that the U.S. is 90% of the costs and 90% of the casualties in Iraq. This number of course excludes Iraqi civilians and security forices, he is just including the U.S. and our allies. Since John Kerry cites Korea as one our global historical alliances in his "plan," it might be worth looking at the peak Korean troop strength by nation as well as the casualties. I loaded them into Excel to do the math: the U.S. provided 88.89% of the UN troops, and accounted for 88.72% of UN troops killed and 91.51% of UN troops wounded.Kerry has suggested that he would have a broader set of alliances, but the truth is we do have a large group of our traditional allies like Australia, the UK, the Netherlands and many others. I've already asked the question about "How Can You Build Alliances if Your Enemy Is Buying Them?" with respect to France and Russia.
Kerry also said he would strengthen the military. According to this Jim Lehrer NewsHour transcript from January of this year, the Army has one-third fewer troops now than it did when it fought the first Gulf War in 1991. Wasn't another Democrat running the country for most of that time? Keep in mind, Bush inherited Clinton's military.
Have you noticed that Kerry has kind of shut up about the whole alliances issue? Not surprising, as my satirical piece "Kerry's New Position: World Opinion Irrelevant" predicted. Although it is clear that those with an anti-semitic bias are definitely on Kerry's side.
Then there is the question as to whether or not we should have even gone to Iraq. I have outlined "A Pragmatic Reason for Invading Iraq" whether or not they had WMDs, and the truth is, it's not like they didn't have the technology still very much on hand, as I wrote in "Headlines on Iraq's CIA Report Don't Tell the Whole Story."
I get the print version of The National Interest, and Charles Krauthammer's got a great piece in the current issue "In Defense of Democractic Realism" that articulates why we need to fight for democracy in the crescent.
On the sub-issue of Halliburton, this has just been a huge smear, as I have mentioned in "Who Wants to Debate About Issues When you Can Smear?" "Maybe Heinz Could Buy It" and "Kerry's Halliburton Attacks: He Doesn't Get It."
Taxes: George Bush really did reduce income taxes for every American, and rather than actually giving a huge "break" to the wealthy, under Bush the wealthy pay a greater proportion of the federal income tax burden than they did before, as the Congressional Budget Office has shown, and I have written about in: "Real Numbers on Taxes." (Post includes links to CBO data.)
The Economy: George Bush was elected right after the dot-com bubble of the 1990's was starting to burst Clinton's last year in office saw a 0.3% (zero) rise in GDP. The employment bubble was popping during Clinton's last year as well, rising nearly 20% from 4.0 to 4.7%. [You can view this information graphically at the Washington Posts' "Economy in Perspective" tool.] But even though unemployment is still somewhat higher than people remember from the late-90's, at 5.4% it is well below the average rate for the past 30 years (and that's what it was in 1996 also). Not bad.
On a related subject, the Bush administration has taken a tough stand on corporate malfeasance, signing Sarbanes-Oxley and dedicating substantial federal prosecutorial resources for nailing firms for bad accounting. Enron didn't turn into an unfettered giant during Bush's term, it became that way under Clinton's watch.
Tort Reform: Many people like to say it's a controversial claim that tort reform would reduce aggregate health care spending. Certainly FactCheck.org has suggested this. But when I was "Fact-Checking FactCheck.org on Tort Reform" I found some interesting numbers. For example, California does have tort reform (passed by a Democratic governor and legislature back in 1975), and among other things, I found:
California has a high cost of living, so you might expect that per capita medical costs would be higher in California than the nation as a whole, but you would be wrong. According to the Kaiser Familiy Foundation, California's 1998 per capita healthcare spending was $3,429 versus $3,759 for the nation as a whole, or roughly 9% less than the national number. (Interestingly, this is the high range of the cost impact estimated by the Stanford study that FactCheck likes to discredit as being too narrow).I'll try to post later about some issues like No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink] | | Friday, October 29, 2004