Monday, October 27, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Obama?: Preliminaries

I've found that as people get to know Obama, they feel comfortable with him. But not everyone gets to know him. The obstacles include the intense prejudice produced by right-wing talk show hosts and the feeling, shared especially by some of my neighbors, that the Republican party is the only true party.

My response to each of these obstacles: (1) Anti-Obama propaganda (especially as conveyed by certain talk show hosts, Internet sites, and e-mail rumor mills) is poisonous and worse than misleading--it is at core based on falsehood, distortion, and a cynical disregard for truth and civility. (2) The prejudice against anything "Democratic" is likewise based on deep misunderstandings. Especially for my Latter-day Saint neighbors and friends, I've provided a link that indicates what Church leaders have said on this topic, along with some of my interpretation of what they've said. (Click HERE.)

Further down on my blog, you'll find my reasons for choosing to support Barack Obama (see "Why Obama?: Reasons" and "Who I support and why" as well as other postings on specific issues). Meanwhile, feel free to leave your thoughts or to inquire about mine.

Why Obama?: Reasons

Like Colin Powell, I’ve decided who I’m going to support—though I made my choice several months ago. Unlike some of the more extreme folks at either end of the spectrum I don’t think the nation is headed for a disaster if either of the candidates is elected. Reasonable people can disagree on many of the candidates’ proposals. I see merit in some of McCain’s proposals, and I can see how some people would prefer his approach on some issues. Whoever is elected, the debate over issues will continue, and neither of the men’s programs will be put into place without some compromise and tinkering.

My choice? Barack Obama. Here is a brief version of my reasons. You can find longer versions of some items via links or in other entries I’ve posted.

Quick summary:
Leadership: Obama has shown great effectiveness (greater than McCain, I believe) in leading, inspiring, and uniting. (And his campaign has been remarkably disciplined and well organized.)
Temperament: Obama's steadiness and calm have contrasted with McCain's crotchety tone and somewhat impulsive and erratic behavior.
Judgment and intelligence: Obama has shown good judgment; he is smart and well-informed; and he works very hard to educate himself on the issues. McCain, despite his time in office, has shown questionable judgment and appears oddly ill-informed on some issues, not only on the economy but even on matters of foreign policy. (Note this video for instance.)
Character: Both candidates are good men, but for reasons I detail below, I am particularly impressed by Obama. Like all of us, he's a flawed human being, but he has shown great strength and grace under pressure.
The issues: Though I don't agree with Obama on everything, I'm impressed with many of his positions on the issues (some of which I detail below and elsewhere on the blog). I would estimate that, roughly, I agree with Obama 75-80 percent of the time and with McCain 50-55 percent of the time.
Other factors: As noted below, other things that have influenced me are McCain's choice of Palin, the kind of negative campaigning he has used or allowed recently, and the contrast between Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama as first ladies and between the McCains and the Obamas as "first families."


Longer summary:

Why Obama

1. Obama’s character: his integrity, intelligence, judgment, and grasp of the issues; he is gracious, civil, fair, and respectful; he is calm and steady under pressure.

2. Obama’s positive and inspirational style: his inclusiveness, his ability to unite, his ability to inspire idealism and public service and to bring out the best rather than the worst in people.

3. The ability Obama and Biden will have to work effectively with Congress.

4. Obama’s approach to foreign policy: his view that diplomacy should be vigorously pursued and that military force should be a last resort; his plan for a measured, careful withdrawal from Iraq that could encourage Iraqis take full responsibility for their country; and an approach to foreign policy in general that I believe will increase international cooperation and respect for the United States.

5. Obama’s positions on other issues: Though I don’t agree with him on everything, I’ve looked at his proposals and find most of them sensible and practical and many of them much needed. I believe he has a much better grasp of economic issues than McCain does. (For more on Obama’s positions, see http://www.barackobama.com/issues/ as well as some of the items below.)

6. His family: Michelle Obama would be a much better first lady than Cindi McCain. And Obama’s family would be a model family, an inspiring example for the country. (I know this is a personal reaction, but I think the sort of family life a president has—and has had—makes a difference. And honestly, without going into details, I’d say this is bit of a weak spot for McCain.)


Why not McCain?

1. Sarah Palin: Though there’s much good that could be said about her, I don’t believe she’s qualified to be president (and she apparently has about a one in five chance, maybe more, of becoming president if McCain is elected). She is not well informed and not exceptionally intelligent; she lacks depth and wisdom and sensitivity in her approach to many important issues.

2. McCain’s judgment: His choice of Palin, his uncertain response to the economic crisis, and some of his statements on other issues have led me to question McCain’s judgment.

3. McCain’s temperament: He has a reputation for temper outbursts. Though we haven’t seen those much during the campaign, he has shown a lack of civility and generosity, even a lack of basic respect at times, and a tendency to anger and mean-spiritedness.

4. Divisiveness: I believe a McCain-Palin White House would be more divisive and negative than an Obama-Biden one.

5. Relative lack of effectiveness as a leader: Partly because of his judgment and temperament, I believe McCain would be relatively ineffective as a leader. McCain would not be particularly effective in inspiring or uniting the country. And I don’t think Sarah Palin would be of much help in making him effective in working with Congress.

6. A potentially dangerous approach to foreign policy: Though I believe he would try to be pragmatic, McCain’s tendency to make impulsive decisions, his sometimes bellicose rhetoric, his skepticism about diplomacy, and his history of favoring regime change through military action all concern me. (Also--as this video suggests, he may not have a terribly clear grasp of some of the details of international matters.)

7. Other positions: I have mixed views on McCain’s other positions. There’s probably a lot to be said for many of them. I believe, though, that McCain’s understanding of economics is limited, and I don’t like his health care plan. (For more on that, see http://whyobama2008.blogspot.com/2008/07/obamas-and-mccains-health-care.html.)

8. Negative campaigning: The past few weeks we have seen some of the ugliest and most divisive negative campaigning in recent American history. McCain’s approach has gone far beyond just disagreeing or attacking his opponent’s positions. It amounts to demonizing Obama himself and trying to make him seem “un-American” or even “anti-American.” I keep hoping McCain will express discomfort with the direction his campaign has gone or even firmly denounce the racist and bloodthirsty comments that have been made at some McCain and Palin rallies. Instead, a couple of days ago he said he was “proud” of the robocalls being made, robocalls that claim Obama has had a “close association” with a terrorist who has “killed Americans.” (See more on this below.) Such rhetoric is inflammatory: it could provoke some susceptible folks into supposedly “patriotic” acts of “revenge” against Obama himself, despite the fact that he has denounced the violent activities that took place when he was 8 years old. I don’t think my concern is exaggerated: when people yell out “Kill him!” “Treason” and “Off with his head!” at rallies (and don’t get immediately rebuked), they are putting themselves in a mood to take out the supposed traitor.

(By the way, the worst of this is even worse than the kind of negative politics Elder Robert Wood spoke against in LDS General Conference a couple of years ago; see “Instruments of the Lord’s Peace,” Ensign May 2006: 93-95; also found online at http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=182ae2270ed6c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1 )

For a longer and earlier explanation of my views, see "Who I support and why."

For my responses to reservations some people have about Obama, click HERE.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Some reassurance on the economy

In e-mail exchanges with one of my daughters, I've done my best to understand the tax proposals of the two candidates and their potential consequences. I've discussed some of what I've learned below, under "Responses to reservations." But I confess to not being an expert on the subject. I hope that whoever is elected, there will be serious discussion of whatever proposals are made, along with some tinkering and compromise. What follows is a short list of my reasons for supporting Obama's proposals, followed by indications from experts that these proposals are positive ones.

(1) Obama's main tax proposal is that taxes will not increase for those making less than $250,000 a year--in fact, for most, tax rates will be slightly lower--while tax rates will be slightly higher (raised from 36 to 39%) for those making over $250,000. These are not drastic changes. They certainly do not consitute
"socialism" (see below on that pseudo-issue). They aim at helping a struggling middle class. Helping the middle class may well do more to jump start and expand the economy than drastically lowering the rates for the wealthiest Americans, which is what McCain proposes.
(2) Obama's proposals also aim at helping small businesses, especially those just starting out. Capital gains taxes will be eliminated or reduced for small businesses. (By the way, 98% of small businesses make less than $250,000.)
(3) Obama also proposes tax credits for business making new hires, as long as the jobs remain in the United States. The aim, of course, is job creation. At the same time, he proposes reducing tax credits for business that ship jobs overseas.
(4) One reason for the Wall Street melt down was apparently lack of adequate oversight and regulation. McCain has argued for years for more deregulation; Obama was quicker to see the problems that were resulting from that approach.
(5) Though economists and CEOs differ on which candidate has the best plan, among those who prefer Obama are Warren Buffett and the CEO of Google. Note also the following:

Former Republican Senator Larry Pressler has endorsed Obama, saying: "I just got the feeling that Obama will be able to handle this financial crisis better, and I like his financial team of [former Treasury Secretary Robert] Rubin and [former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul] Volcker better." (See http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1008/14963.html.)

Charles Fried, Solicitor General under Reagan and until recently an advisor to the McCain campaign, has also endorsed Obama. Fried is a conservative Harvard economist. (See http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2008/10/24/reagan-appointee-and-recent-mccain-adviser-charles-fried-supports-obama.)

A general comparison of approaches to the economy may be found here: http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/1021/p09s01-coop.html.

Also, The Financial Times (a UK publication) has endorsed Obama (I note them here because it would seem they would know something about economics). Their endorsement (click here or here) is quite striking because, as non-Americans, the writers are able to be dispassionate and reasonably objective. (Late breaking news: Another UK publication, the highly respected journal The Economist, has also endorsed Obama: click here.)

The Financial Times does find one serious flaw with Obama's proposals--his statements against free trade. I've heard Obama say several times that he favors free trade but believes that free trade agreements need to include provisions that guarantee fairness. Assuming that his support of free trade is genuine and that the conditions he would set on agreements would not be unreasonable, then I'm OK with Obama on that issue as well.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Guide to "Election 2008"

You can either browse through the posts below or use the links I'm providing here to find particular items. Below you'll find:

(1) "The Purpose of This Site."

(2) "Who I support and why"; "Why Obama?: Reasons"; "Why Obama?: Preliminaries"; "Responses to reservations"

(3) "Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama"; plus other Republicans for Obama (see "Republicans for Obama"; another site at http://www.republicansforobama.org/?q=node/3341; and "The Moderate Voice")

(4) "Some reassurance on the economy"

(5) "Get to know the candidates." (Plus more here.)

(6) Information on Barack Obama: "Take a few minutes to listen to him" (includes links to a number of important speeches); "Obama in 30 seconds" (quick campaign ads). (See also #2 and 5 above.)

(7) Information on John McCain: "John McCain." (See also #5 above.)

(8) Posts on McCain's vice presidential choice: "What if McCain chooses Romney?" (which of course he didn't); "Sarah Palin"; "Sarah Palin, part 2"; "Sarah Palin, part 3".

(9) The candidates' health care plans: "Obama's and McCain's Health Care Plans"

(10) "My views on the issues."

(11) Personal feelings about religion, politics, and party affiliation: "Religion and politics: Especially for Latter-day Saints"; "Why I'm a Democrat (sort of)."

The Purpose of This Site

This site is intended for three main audiences:

(1) Anyone in the world interested in the 2008 American political season, especially the campaign for the presidency of the United States.

(2) My family, friends, and acquaintances, some of who will be pleased to know of my opinions, some of whom will be troubled or even shocked. (One of my purposes will be to explain and even persuade--or at least to leave those who read in a diminished and somewhat calmer state of puzzlement.)

(3) Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("Mormons"). The Church is officially neutral in politics and has in fact affirmed that both major parties espouse principles in harmony with Church beliefs. Yet many Latter-day Saints, especially in Utah, are convinced that only one party (Republican) and only one political philosophy (conservative) harmonize with their religion. As a Latter-day Saint, I intend to challenge that view and argue that Latter-day Saint beliefs are compatible with candidates and positions that some of my co-religionists would refuse to even consider.

Some readers may not find this site useful or appealing. This site is not intended for those who believe in vast conspiracies that render even the best candidates suspect or who think that the whole election process is futile since evil forces are actually running to whole show. If you really believe everything FOX News tells you, you may not find what I have to say persuasive. I am not interested in vilifying or demonizing any of the candidates--and so if that's your thing, you may not have much fun hanging out here. And if you like to bash particular religious, political, or ethnic groups, I'd rather not have you indulge in that here.

My views on the issues

I still have a lot to learn. But here is a stab at expressing my current views on some of the important issues. Click on the topic to go to an explanation of my views.

FOREIGN POLICY (including Iraq)

HEALTH CARE

EDUCATION

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

CIVIL RIGHTS (human rights, civil liberties)

IMMIGRATION

FAMILY/SOCIAL ISSUES

Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama

It's 7-minutes long--you can watch Colin Powell's strongly and intelligently argued endorsement of Barack Obama by clicking here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/27265490#27265490

Who I support and why

[For a brief (and updated) list of reasons, see "Why Obama?: Reasons."]

On our anniversary (last May 17) my wife and I saw the new Narnia film Prince Caspian. I overheard a couple behind us talking about Obama. The wife said, "He's a good guy, isn't he?" The husband responded, "Well, he sounds good."

My experience over the past few months is that Obama not only sounds good--he's actually even better than he sounds. Time after time, when he's had to deal with difficult challenges, he's shown integrity, intelligence, and courage. I feel I've gotten to know him, not only by observing him during the primary season and beyond,but by learning about his life and reading what he has written.

I respect John McCain as well. We could certainly do much worse. But I enthusiastically support Obama.

My reasons include:

(1) Obama's remarkable character and capacity for leadership. I've heard a number of people say, "He inspires me to be my best self." He has motivated millions of people to participate in the political process and for many has revived hope that we can work together to solve problems rather than wallow in partisan bickering. I've been impressed by his honesty and genuineness; his desire to unite rather than divide; his ability to transcend ideology; his ability to lift and energize; his intelligence and good judgment; his calmness and dignity under stress; his efforts to be civil and respectful; his refusal to pander; his moral and spiritual grounding; his beautiful family; and his inspiring personal story.

(2) His intelligence and ability to see the various sides of an issue. Obama doesn't tend to jump to impulsive decisions or take simplistic views on difficult issues. He truly thinks things through and tries to come to a well-informed and balanced view of subjects. Rather than going to one extreme or the other on divisive issues, he looks for common ground where we can work together to resolve problems.

(3) His positions on the issues. I don't agree with him on everything, but I like his views on many issues that are important to me, including the Iraq War, foreign policy, immigration, and the environment. Those who accuse him of a lack of substance clearly haven't done their homework. He has detailed positions on many important issues, and you can easily find those positions. Try this link, for instance: "The Blueprint for Change: Barack Obama's Plan for America" (a PDF file with details of Obama's positions). Or this one: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/ (to link to Obama's positions on specific issues). To compare his views with mine, look at this summary of my views: "My views on the issues."

(4) My hope that he'll be able to help bring about needed change--in part because of his ability to get people involved at the grassroots level. Though it's hard to predict, I believe that Obama as president may well be able to provide leadership that will help us make progress in solving some of the problems we're faced with--in part because of Obama's ability to explain and persuade and his resistance to partisan pandering. I hope that Congress, and even more, the American people, give him a chance and come to appreciate his intelligence, good judgment, and genuine good will. He believes that real change comes from the bottom up, not from the top down. But I believe he may be able to inspire people from the grassroots level to the highest levels of government to work together in solving problems.

By the way, his campaign has done a great job of involving people at the grassroots level: anybody can volunteer to host an event (and hundreds have been held--including one we hosted and a couple we attended); there have been voter registration drives getting thousands of people involved in the political process for the first time; and the campaign even encouraged holding neighborhood meetings to give input into the party platform. It has been exciting to see participatory democracy in action. (For some personal stories, see http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/tag/hq-voices-for-change.)

Two further reasons I think electing Obama president would be a good thing:

(5) I think it's time for a major change in the White House--and though McCain would be at least somewhat different from Bush, I don't think having him as president would be enough of a change. I think it's time for the Democrats to have a turn.

(6) I believe Joe Biden would be a much better vice president than Sarah Palin.

To all of these reasons I would add some personal background. One reason I'm supporting Obama as enthusiastically as I am is that I've really enjoyed the excitement of being part of something so big, so positive, so historic. Here's a brief history of how my family and I have gotten involved.

Last year a friend gave my wife Dreams from My Father, Obama's memoir; she became an Obama supporter while I was still surveying the field. Ultimately, her enthusiasm was contagious--and three of our children (two of them voting age) became Obama supporters too. Since then we've contributed money and phonecalling time; I've commented on political blogs; I've talked to family, neighbors, and friends and even communicated with a superdelegate; and I've been involved in local political activities as an Obama supporter (I'm a precinct chair and county convention delegate in the local Democratic Party).

There have been ups and downs along the way, but I've almost been grateful for the challenging times because I've been so impressed by how Obama has handled things. I keep feeling, "He's even better than I thought he was." His speeches are among the best I've heard during over 40 years of being aware of such things. My wife and I were both deeply moved--and enlightened and inspired--by his speech on race and felt that it was a historic event, that we would not be surprised if our grandchildren were to study that speech in school some day. And a relative--no fan of Obama, I'm afraid--listened to his speech after the North Carolina primary and declared it one of the great political speeches he had heard.

Though I've been disappointed by the mean-spiritedness, even viciousness, of which people in both political camps are capable of, I trust the ability of the American people in general to respond to goodness and truth. With the belief that my trust is well placed, I'm hopeful that Obama's positive approach and his capacity to unite can help inspire Americans to join to healing our divisions and solving problems. I believe Obama has the potential to be a truly great president.

Responses to reservations about Obama

I've defended Obama against the extreme prejudice and unfair attacks he's been subjected to--and I really believe that anyone with an open mind and a feeling heart who gets to know him will at least acknowledge that he's a "good guy."

But of course, he has his flaws. He’s a quick learner, but he still has a lot to learn. (I would say the same of McCain, except that I don’t see him as being as receptive to learning.) I don’t know how well some of Obama’s proposals would work, assuming they are put into practice in exactly the way he has proposed them. But he is intelligent and pragmatic enough, I believe, that he’ll make adjustments when needed. Here are my responses to some specific reservations some have:

1. Lack of experience: Especially considering his relative youth (though he’s not as young as John F. Kennedy was), Obama has lots of experience relevant to serving as president. He has rich, direct experience with the world and with life and with much of the variety that makes up America. His work as a community organizer put him in touch with people struggling with unemployment and community problems. It involved hands on, practical experience. He has not had experience as an elected executive (neither has McCain), but he’s been actively involved in local, state, and national politics for more than two decades.

2. Lack of accomplishments: Again, his accomplishments have been impressive given his age. Contrary to Sarah Palin’s claim that he hasn’t had a single legislative accomplishment, he proposed or sponsored many pieces of legislation at the state and national level. Among the bills he helped turn into law as a senator (sometimes working closely with Republicans) are these: the 2007 Ethics Reform Law (described as the "most sweeping since Watergate"), legislation requiring lobbyists to disclose their bundling activity, legislation (co-sponsored with Republican Dick Lugar) to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons and keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists, legislation to help protect medical benefits for veterans and improve services for homeless veterans, and various items dealing with energy and health care. (For more, see http://factcheck.barackobama.com/factcheck/2008/01/14/obamas_strong_record_of_accomp.php.)

3. Socialism: The latest McCain campaign line has been that Obama’s proposals amount to socialism. That’s rubbish. Consider these points: (a) When the Bush tax cuts for those with higher incomes were proposed, McCain opposed them, on the grounds that they would make it impossible to give the middle class as much tax relief as he believed might be needed. That's essentially Obama's position. Does that make McCain a socialist? Obviously not. (b) McCain makes his claim about Obama in part because the tax cuts Obama proposes for those making less than $250,000 a year may lead to refunds to some people who have not paid taxes. But that happens now (e.g., Earned Income Credit--established under Reagan) and would also happen under McCain’s own health care plan, which gives a credit to everyone, including those who pay no taxes. (c) Another reason for McCain’s claim is that Obama’s tax cuts are made possible by increasing taxes (modestly) for those making over $250,000 a year. But McCain’s credits for health care are funded by taxing people for the health care benefits provided by employers, and so he also provides credits through taxes levied on some taxpayers. (d) The United States has had a progressive tax system for a long time, and McCain doesn’t propose to scrap that. (In fact, see the note at the end.) All Obama is proposing are some minor adjustments to the current tax code. It is absolute nonsense to call that “socialism.” It may be fair to say that Obama’s proposals do not assume a state of pure, unregulated capitalism, but neither do McCain’s. In fact, the United States has had a “mixed” economy for a long time. It has not been purely capitalist since the late 1800s when “robber barons” ruled, leading to reforms that virtually everyone believes were necessary to temper or eliminate the abuses that come with pure, completely unregulated capitalism. (e) Some call Obama’s health care plan “socialized medicine.” It is not. (See the next item.) (f) Clearly, America’s closest encounter with socialism has been the bailout recently proposed by President Bush and supported by both parties (and both candidates). In particular, the government’s buying of equity in banks has amounted to partial nationalization. But Obama (like virtually everyone else) views such measures as temporary responses to an extreme crisis. They do not represent his general approach to the economy. (But he does favor some measure of regulation of Wall Street. See more on this below.) (NOTE: See the note at the end of the post for statements McCain and Palin have made favoring the "sharing" or shifting of wealth.)

4. Obama’s health care plan: Obama’s plan is not “socialized medicine.” Contrary to McCain’s assertions in one of the debates, Obama will not be deciding who you can have as a doctor or what procedures you can have. (Have you noticed that insurance companies tend to decide those things for us currently?) Here’s a summary of Obama’s plan:

Under Obama’s proposal, those who now have an employer provided plan would simply keep it, but possibly with reduced premiums. Those without an employer-provided plan would have affordable choices through a “national health-care exchange” that includes private options and the option of choosing a national health-care plan. Businesses (with the exception of some small businesses) would be required to provide health insurance to employees. Insurers would be prohibited from denying coverage or setting prices based on health status or pre-existing conditions. Preventive care would be emphasized, and coverage of children would be mandated. Government would pay for a portion of catastrophic care coverage. A tax credit would be provided to help small businesses provide health care coverage. There are also provisions (which would have no tax consequences) to reduce drug costs and the cost of malpractice insurance for physicians. (For more, see "Obama's and McCain's Health Care Proposals".)

5. Obama’s tax proposals: Obama has proposed reducing taxes for those making less than $250,000 a year and increasing taxes (modestly) for those making over that amount. I’ve heard estimates that that means tax cuts for somewhere in the neighborhood of 85 to 95 per cent of Americans, including most small businesses. His plan also includes tax credits for every job a company creates as long as the job remains in the United States. I have no problem with his plan in general—it seems fair to me, especially considering that some of the wealthiest businesses and individuals have figured out ways to pay a disproportionately small amount of taxes and also considering that middle class Americans work just as hard as those who are wealthier.

But I have pondered the concerns some have that these increased taxes might slow economic growth by making less money available for investment. I don’t know how valid those concerns are. But I believe there’s some evidence that economic growth would not be stunted. The tax rate for those making over $250,000 would still be smaller than it was under Clinton, and the country’s economy did exceptionally well under Clinton. In fact, someone pointed out (I believe it was Mario Cuomo) that the times in recent history when this kind of adjustment was made to the tax code, the economy was not hurt but benefitted. (See also this article in the Christian Science Monitor for a similar assessment.) Given the fact that Obama intends to emphasize health care and education, including reducing health care costs through a much stronger emphasis on prevention, it can be argued that he intends to help put in place a foundation for economic stability and growth that could have a very beneficial long-term effect on the economy.

For an objective comparison of the two candidates' tax plans, see http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/obama/1031268,CST-NWS-tax30.article or http://money.cnn.com/2008/06/11/news/economy/candidates_taxproposals_tpc/index.htm. For a favorable assessment of Obama's approach to the economy, consider the comments of former Republican Senator Larry Pressler, who now backs Obama: "I just got the feeling that Obama will be able to handle this financial crisis better, and I like his financial team of [former Treasury Secretary Robert] Rubin and [former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul] Volcker better. . . . [McCain's] handling of the financial crisis made me feel nervous" (see http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1008/14963.html). Note also that conservative Harvad economist Charles Fried, Solicitor General under Reagan and until recently associated with the McCain campaign, now backs Obama (see http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2008/10/24/reagan-appointee-and-recent-mccain-adviser-charles-fried-supports-obama.aspx). These endorsements suggest to me that Obama's economic proposals are reasonable.

6. Economic responsibility: Some have expressed concern that Obama, with all his ideas for health care, education, etc., plus a Democratic congress, would spend us into the ground. That’s not going to happen. For one thing, Democratic leaders have already started talking about having a “pay as you go” plan (such as was practiced under Clinton, when the U.S. debt stopped its growth). There is strong sentiment among Democratic leaders that we need to reserve the immense deficit spending that has taken place under Bush—by far the worst deficit spending in American history. I am confident that Obama will be realistic and careful, taking into consideration the economic realities. (By the way, I’m sure McCain has the same intentions. The one thing I hold against him economically is that he favored deregulation through much of his Senate career—the very kind of deregulation that helped lead to our current economic crisis. The fact is that, when some people are using lots of other people’s money—as has happened in the mortgage and investment worlds, lack of rules and supervision does not lead to good results.)

7. The Supreme Court: The next president may well make two Supreme Court nominations. These would replace two of the more liberal current judges. Nominations by Obama would not do much to change the current complexion of the Court; nominations by McCain might (though he says he would not use a litmus test), but they could have rough resistance in the Senate. Some people look forward to shifting the Supreme Court further to the right. I don’t. As it is, it is a relatively conservative court, and I would hate to have it go even further in allowing for suspension of civil liberties and in preferring the powers of government and corporations over the rights of individuals. (On this last point, see one example of the evidence: http://newnewsnet.byu.edu/story.cfm/62901.)

8. Hot button social issues: Both candidates favor defining marriage legally as a relationship between one man and one woman. Both also favor extending reasonable rights to homosexual couples but without defining their relationship as marriage. On abortion, McCain favors giving the individual states the right to determine policy. Obama believes that "ultimately . . . women in consultation with their families, their doctors, their religious advisers, are in the best position to make this decision." He opposes late-term abortions as long as exceptions are made for threats to the woman's life or health. And he favors measures to discourage abortion by encouraging sexual responsibility and adoption and making the choice of giving birth (rather than abortion) more economically feasible. I believe more progress in reducing abortions will be made with Obama's approach than with McCain's. (For more on this issue, including the official LDS Church, see http://bruceyoung-whyobama.blogspot.com/2008/10/abortion-my-views-candidates-views.html.)

9. “Palling around with terrorists”: This one drives me kind of crazy (1) because it is so unfair and misleading and (2) because it has helped provoke threats of violence. Here’s the truth.

Contrary to Sarah Palin, Obama does not “pal around with terrorists” (or even former terrorists). Contrary to the robocalls now being made, he has not had a “close association” with a terrorist who has “killed Americans.”

I’ve heard reports that no one was killed by the bombings Bill Ayers participated in during the 1960s. But even if someone was killed—which of course would be appalling—I consider phone calls that try to link Obama to the “killing of Americans” by “terrorists” both inflammatory and incredibly misleading. Obama was 8 years old when Ayers was involved in these radical activities, and he has strongly condemned what Ayers did 40 years ago. His association with Ayers was very limited; it mainly consisted of a “meet the candidate” lunch 13 years ago and common membership on a board that also included two university presidents (University of Illinois and Northwestern) and Republicans as well as Democrats. The board was funded by the Republican-leaning Annenberg Foundation, whose president (Leonore Annenberg) is a McCain supporter. I just talked yesterday to a friend of mine (a former roommate at BYU) who lives in Chicago, and he told me he knows Ayers too—everybody in the educational community does. He’s a major advocate for helping high school students at risk. He’s very mainstream these days, and nobody would have felt they had to refuse to associate with him if this year’s presidential campaign hadn’t turned him into a symbol.

Those are the facts. They are not difficult to find out. There’s no mysterious missing information. This issue (or non-issue) is obviously being brought up now, with automated phone calls and frequent mentions at campaign rallies, for political purposes. It’s a distraction. It’s misleading. It’s wrong.

[NOTE ON MCCAIN AND PALIN STATEMENTS ON "SHARING" OR SHIFTING WEALTH: Both McCain and Palin are on record as favoring the kind of "redistribution" of wealth that is inherent in a progressive tax system or, in the case of Alaska, in taking money from large corporations and simply giving it to all the citizens of the state. In 2000, McCain appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” and was asked by a young woman why her father, a doctor, should be “penalized” by being “in a huge tax bracket.” McCain answered that “wealthy people can afford more” and that “the very wealthy, because they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don’t pay nearly as much as you think they do.” Then:

YOUNG WOMAN: Are we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism and stuff?. . .
MCCAIN: Here’s what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.

In Alaska, where there is no income tax or sales tax, government is funded by "huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, . . . that 'we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.'” The "collective" sharing of resources by the people as a whole is much closer to "socialism" than anything Obama has proposed. (information and quotations from a New Yorker article by Hendrick Hertzberg: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2008/11/03/081103taco_talk_hertzberg)]

Get to know the candidates

Get to know the Obamas and Bidens by clicking here:

Barack Obama: http://www.barackobama.com/learn/meet_barack.php
Michelle Obama: http://www.barackobama.com/learn/meet_michelle.php
Joe Biden: http://www.barackobama.com/learn/meet_joe.php
Jill Biden: http://www.barackobama.com/learn/meet_jill.php

Get to know the McCains and Sarah Palin:
John McCain: http://www.johnmccain.com/About/
Cindy McCain: http://www.johnmccain.com/About/Cindy.htm
Sarah Palin: http://www.johnmccain.com/about/governorpalin.htm

Of course, there are lots of interesting details these sites don't reveal. For those, you can look elsewhere on this blog, or you can do your own searching.

Get to know the candidates: additional sites

Here are links to various sites that give more background.

Some thoughtful comments by Colin Powell:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auco5TU8Y9g&feature=related

[the above preceded by many months his October 2008 endorsement found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/27265490#27265490]

Bios of Obama:
A video shown before his speech at the convention: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XL0KxjeKlrM
An earlier video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWl7EGjiGSE

Michelle's bio (a video introduction to her):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Utt-6HumUU
(or http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/laurinmanning/gG5d49 )

Introduction of Michelle Obama by her brother:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmHapnwwvXE

On the Obamas' family and faith:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eUkc9GCMEQ&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FxySmugusg&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3hHZeMWh48&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZdi1JnMxFU&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3CpBR9YcZw
(from a minister who is close to the Bush family:)
    http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/08/jenna-bush-wedd.html

Claralyn Hill

Claralyn Hill is a local candidate--running for Utah State House of Representatives, as moderate, fiscally conservative, pro-life Democrat. She actually switched parties to run--partly because the Republican party has become so dominant it doesn't really allow the democratic process to work. Many races are uncontested, and in this case, her opponent was appointed (basically chosen by the Republican party) to fill a slot when the incumbent Republican resigned.

She's remarkably well informed, experienced, capable, energetic, and intelligent. She's worked for over 20 years on various community issues. She has sensible and well informed positions and is especially strong on ethics reform, education, and health care. She's an attorney by profession, specializing in family law. She's been on the board of United Way, the Utah Community Credit Union, and the Provo School Foundation. In my opinion, she is clearly 3 to 4--maybe 5 to 6 or more--times as qualified as her opponent.

But he's a Republican, which means he's guaranteed the election unless people really pay attention and vote for the person and not the party.

Here's a link to her campaign site: http://www.voteforhill.org

And here's a fine letter she wrote to the local paper (the Provo Herald): http://english2.byu.edu/faculty/youngb/being-a-democrat.htm

Sarah Palin, part 3: More experienced than Obama?

As Republican spokespeople have tried to defend the choice of Sarah Palin, one thing they've said is that she has more experience than Barack Obama, at least more executive experience.

Let's consider for a moment. Yes, she's had more experience than either McCain or Obama as an elected official with an executive position (mayor and governor). As noted previously, her experience as governor has been very brief: just over a year and a half.

But if executive experience is broadened to include administrative experience in general, then both McCain and Obama can claim some. Both have administered their senate staffs. Both have headed national campaigns. Obama's in particular has been wonderfully effective, bringing in and making use of a great amount of funds, overseeing the work of something like 2500 employees, and also drawing on tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of volunteers.

Also, though some have made light of Obama's work as a community organizer, they really shouldn't--their remarks betray either ignorance or deliberate distortion. Doing significant community work in the South Side of Chicago, dealing with unemployment and housing issues, working with government officials--and more than all of that, getting things done: these are no small thing.

The reality is that Obama has had lots more experience in the public sector and at various levels of government than Palin. He's also had a good deal more international experience, not only having deep connections with Indonesia and Kenya, but having met with leaders of nations around the world and dealt with important international issues (nuclear proliferation and others) for a good number of years now.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin, part 2

As I've tried to learn more about Sarah Palin, I've learned that she does have some expertise on issues relevant to Alaska. I think she can contribute helpfully to the dialogue on some of these issues. But I'm still not persuaded she has the qualifications to be vice president--or president--of the United States. It seems a bit unfair that she's been thrown at us with only two months to get to know her. But let's do our best.

I guess it's possible McCain's choice wasn't just a political one--though it must have been at least partly that. He may sincerely believe that Palin will help shake things up in Washington. But I think we need something more than just the ability to shake things up.

The reports are that McCain really wanted to choose Joe Liebermann as running mate--but if he'd done that, he'd have lost a good part of the Republican party. Since Palin and Liebermann differ strongly on many issues--and since there's almost no common ground in the reasoning for putting one or the other on the ticket except that choosing either shakes things up--I'm wondering where McCain's heart really lies on those issues where Palin and Liebermann differ or where their expertise is vastly different.

Here are links to a couple of articles in which some Alaskans and some nationally important conservatives express their reservations:

"Two Top Alaska Newspapers Question Palin's Fitness"
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-mitchell/2-top-alaska-newspapers-q_b_122625.html

"Some Conservatives Air Concerns over Palin"
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/08/31/some-conservatives-air-co_n_122822.html

On the other hand, in defense of Palin's foreign policy credentials, Cindy McCain has said that Palin understands our situation in the world because she is governor, after all, of the state located closest to Russia. Hmmm. I wonder if she's met with any of Russia's leaders.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin

These are further thoughts I've had on the day McCain announced his running mate and the following morning. For my initial reaction, see "What if McCain picks Romney?" below.

As I've pondered through the day McCain's choice of Palin, it's occurred to me--at least this is how it looks to me--that this was a political decision rather than a practical one. Here's what I mean. It seems to me Palin is clearly not the most qualified person McCain could have chosen. But she has three things going for her: she's a woman, she appeals to the Republican base, and she's a governor. But he could have found a more qualified and experienced woman. He could have found someone more qualified and experienced who appeals to the base. And he could have found several more qualified and experienced governors. She is all three in one. The only problem is that McCain has had to sacrifice the experience and superior qualifications others have. Romney, for instance, has a good deal more experience as a governor and in general is more experienced and qualified than Palin. But he has two things against him--he's not a woman, and he's super-rich, which would have meant two very rich men running together. (Less relevant to the point I'm making here are Romney's other problems--bad blood between him and McCain and being Mormon, which would lose McCain votes in the Bible Belt and among evangelicals generally.)

I've also learned that Palin's position on some issues is more extreme than I had realize: her anti-abortion position allows no exceptions (including rape and incest), she favors teaching creationism in public schools, and she is sceptical about global warming. (I could give you lots of reasons why these last two positions are real problems.)

Palin seems likable and capable. She has an appealing personal story--she's the mother of five, including a Down's Syndrome baby born just a few months ago. Apparently, she's independent and reform-minded. McCain must feel comfortable with her and must feel they can work well together.

But for me, the positives are outweighed by many negatives. I'm anti-abortion, but I would definitely make exceptions for rape and incest as well as for a mother's health. (I'm talking about legal standards--individuals, of course, must make their personal decisions within the legal parameters, and those decisions will vary according to circumstances and, I hope, personal soul-searching and inspiration.) I'm entirely persuaded that global warming is a serious problem that requires our urgent attention. "Creationism" is not science and should not be taught as such in the public schools. It also (in most of its forms) happens to be inconsistent with Latter-day Saint doctrine: we do not believe in creation out of nothing; the idea of the creation of the universe within a period of seven twenty-four-hour days has not been held by most serious LDS leaders or thinkers; and the Church has clearly indicated that it does not have an official position on evolution. (I can provide links to exactly what the Church has said on that matter.)

I'm afraid the choice of Palin may revive the culture wars in the U.S. in some damaging ways. I don't agree with Obama completely on some social issues: specifically, I have a stronger position against abortion; but my position on gay marriage is basically the same as his--I don't favor the legalization of gay marriage, but I favor civil unions or other means that will allow some rights (visitation, etc.) to non-married couples. My main reason for preferring Obama on these issues, though, is that he genuinely respects those who disagree with him. He is willing and able to talk to people on both sides of the social issues and wants to find common ground where we can work together rather than draw the battle lines that will stall progress, as has been happening over the past generation. (Listen to his acceptance speech from last Thursday night for the approach I'm referring to.)

I've heard Republican spokespeople saying that Palin has more executive experience than anyone else on the tickets (that would have to include McCain, I guess). But whatever she has achieved, she's been governor for less than two years. Before that she was mayor of a city with about 9,000 inhabitants. Earlier this year, Karl Rove criticized Governor Kaine of Virginia as a possible vice president for having been governor for only three years and having been mayor before that of a city of only 200,000 or so. Hmmm.

The more I've thought about it, the more I've wondered about McCain's judgment and decision-making style. He met Palin only once before this past week. (Apparently he met her at a governors' conference in January.) He had a nice telephone conversation with her. And then they met in Arizona last week. That was it. In my opinion, that is nowhere near enough for making a decision of this magnitude. If McCain went with his gut (as apparently he did), it makes me nervous to think that as president he would "go with his gut" on foreign policy or even domestic issues with as little information as he had in this case.

Palin is currently under investigation for abuse of influence. She may very well be innocent. A staffer in her office apparently made many calls pressuring someone to fire a state trooper who was having a messy divorce with Palin's sister, and Palin's husband may also have been involved. Palin herself may have known nothing about the activities--though that shows some possible weaknesses in her administrative abilities. (By the way, if I've gotten any of these details wrong, I'll correct them as I learn more.) Again, it seems strange that McCain wouldn't have taken a further look into these problems--or if he looked adequately and felt fine about nominating someone who is being investigated, I see that as a problem of judgment as well.

So the current state of my thinking is this: I do not feel comfortable with the thought of someone so underqualified and unknown to the American public being so close to being president. (She asked a few weeks ago what exactly a vice president does, and she clearly has a very inadequate understanding of foreign policy and of how Washington works.) I'm not comfortable with her positions on a number of issues and am afraid her presence will be divisive. I also truly wonder about McCain's judgment.

There are some positives: It's great to have a woman running. She's a nice person, a mom, has a good family. But, boy, she is not qualified. And I'm not comfortable with the many other negatives I see.

Friday, August 29, 2008

What if McCain picks Romney?

I've been meaning to comment on this issue for some time. Crucial tasks related to a book I've written have been among the many reasons for delay (see http://faceofother.blogspot.com for details). Now that McCain is about to pick his running mate, I thought I'd better comment before my comments are totally out of date.

What if McCain picks Romney? Like Romney, I'm a Latter-day Saint ("Mormon"). Would that lead me to reconsider my support for Obama? Not in the slightest.

I know Mitt Romney. Though he served a mission well before I did, we both served in the France Paris Mission. Like me, he was an English major at BYU. When I went to graduate school in Massachusetts (late 1970s, early 1980s), he and I were both members of the Boston Massachusetts Stake--that's a church unit that includes several congregations. He was in the Stake Presidency, and I chatted with him at least twice during temple recommend interviews. I remember vividly some of what we talked about. Since I left Massachusetts, I talked to him at least once, when he visited BYU to give an "honored alumnus" talk. Later, in 1997, while I was doing research in Massachusetts, I got to know a couple of his sons. So whether he remembers me or not (and I think he probably does, at least vaguely), I feel like I know him.

I was impressed by his moderate political stance before, during, and after his time as governor of Massachusetts and by his skill in rescuing and running the 2002 Winter Olympics. But over the past year or so, I've gotten a lot less impressed. He has shifted far to the right, and I'm convinced he's done so not just because he was converted to different opinions on social issues (I think that conversion was probably genuine) but because he wanted to get the Republican nomination. In debates he seemed to try to position himself as far to the right as he could, claiming he would double the size of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, trying to sound as grim and mean-spirited as he could in talking about foreign policy, and having no problem with treating imprisoned suspects in ways resembling torture. (By the way, if we apply the standards the Bush administration favors for such treatment, most of what the North Vietnamese did to John McCain would not count as torture. I think it should.)

In general, I have had a hard time feeling Mitt Romney is really speaking from the heart. Rather, he sounds like a politician who says and does what he thinks will work to advance his career. I'm afraid he strikes me these days as opportunistic and even shallow.

But I still like him personally. He has a wonderful family. He's a good man, with flaws, of course. And he's very bright--and an extraordinarily capable businessman. But if he were to run as a vice presidential candidate, that would emphatically not make me more likely to vote for McCain. If anything, it would make that prospect even less attractive.

On the other hand, he'd be better than some of the other people being considered: Giuliani (I'm not impressed by his character, his personal life, his positions on some issues, and his tough guy stance, something I find silly in some ways and certainly not the best way to deal with the world's problems); Tim Pawlenty (a bit thin); Sarah Palin (super thin--meaning inexperienced); Joe Lieberman (mean-spirited as well as too liberal on social issues).

At least Romney is a capable manager with a good deal of experience in both business and government. He's well spoken, though sometimes it's hard to tell how deeply he believes what he's saying.

In any case, none of those being considered by McCain seems to me a match for Joe Biden. So in short, the vice presidential dimension of this race makes me feel even more comfortable with Obama.

P.S.: While writing this, I've learned that Sarah Palin will be McCain's running mate. It's great that we'll have a woman on one of the tickets. But she's awfully inexperienced, especially on the national or international stage. Obama has lots more experience than she does, especially at those non-local levels. Especially given McCain's age, his running mate needs to be ready to be president. Palin is definitely not. But I'm sure she's a likable, good person.

P.P.S.: [Added much later, after the Republican convention:] I know Margaret wanted Romney to be the vice presidential candidate, but I'm glad he's not--for several reasons. I've been very disappointed by his continued attempt to demonize and dehumanize "our enemies." A recent example: At the Republican convention he called the current Supreme Court too liberal, because they decided that constitutional protections should be accorded to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It occurred to me that instead of reading L. Ron Hubbard (he called one of his books his favorite) he might try the classic play A Man for All Seasons, with its reminder that denying legal protection to our enemies not only is wrong but endangers us as well. (I'll provide the quotation in a comment.) The worst horrors of human history have happened when people have convinced themselves that their enemies don't deserve to be treated as fully human. And free societies have lost their freedom when fear has led them to sacrifice legal protections for the sake of safety. Ben Franklin had a good one about that: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Obama's and McCain's health care proposals

Here's some reasonably balanced information about the two proposals.

A comparison of McCain’s and Obama’s healthcare plans (by Catherine Lucey of the Philadelphia Daily News), preceded by my summary (Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20081013_Candidates__health_plans_compared.html )

[My summary: Independent estimates indicate both plans would be expensive, McCain’s $1.3 trillion over 10 years, Obama’s $1.6 trillion over 10 years. McCain’s would be paid for by reducing Medicare and Medicaid plus taxing employers’ contributions to health plans—i.e., those contributions would be taxed as part of the employees' income. The article says it’s unclear how Obama’s plan would be paid for; Obama’s web site says it would be paid for by eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and returning their rates to something closer to, but still less than, where they were under Clinton. Also, the emphasis on preventive care would save money in the long run.

McCain would give a tax credit of $5000 to everyone to be used for buying insurance coverage. He estimates that half of those now not covered could obtain coverage. Some experts believe the number covered would be about the same since the McCain plan might lead many employers to drop or reduce health care benefits, requiring many workers to use their tax credit to obtain a plan much inferior to their current one or upgrade a reduced plan to meet their needs. The McCain plan would deregulate insurance purchasing so that a plan could be obtained from any state, thus increasing portability and available options. The plan also includes various initiatives to lower drug costs, reduce frivolous lawsuits against physicians, explore ways to enable those with pre-existing conditions to get coverage, and provide information to help people in making health care choices.

Obama would provide affordable options for those currently uninsured through a “national health-care exchange” that includes private options and the option of choosing a national health-care plan. Those who now have an employer provided plan would simply keep it, but possibly with reduced premiums. Businesses (with the exception of some small businesses) would be required to provide health insurance to employees. Insurers would be prohibited from denying coverage or setting prices based on health status or pre-existing conditions. Preventive care would be emphasized, and coverage of children would be mandated. Government would pay for a portion of catastrophic care coverage. A tax credit would be provided to help small businesses provide health care coverage. There are also provisions (which would have no tax consequences) to reduce drug costs and the cost of malpractice insurance for physicians.

For the campaigns’ own explanations see http://www.barackobama.com/issues/healthcare/ and http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/19ba2f1c-c03f-4ac2-8cd5-5cf2edb527cf.htm.]


The McCain plan

McCain's plan would dramatically change how many Americans get health insurance. He proposes ending tax breaks on employer-provided benefits and instead giving a tax credit - $5,000 per family or $2,500 per individual - to people to buy their own coverage.

Obama has slammed the plan, saying during the debate that the new tax credit counted for little since employer benefits would be taxed.

"So what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away," Obama said.

Experts said that the $5,000 may not cover the cost of a comprehensive plan. And they argue that the proposal would reduce the incentive for employers to offer health insurance, pushing many people into the private sector for benefits.

"If you take the tax subsidy off, a lot of employers are going to decide it's not in their best interest to provide benefits," said Thomas Buchmueller, a health economist at the University of Michigan, who co-authored an analysis of McCain's plan for the journal Health Affairs.

McCain argues that his free market approach will create more competition among insurers and give people more options. But experts said that older people and those with pre-existing conditions could have difficulty getting coverage.

"We estimate that it will be more or less a wash in how many people end up being uninsured," said Buchmueller.

Asked about the criticism that McCain would not have much impact on the number of people with insurance, McCain spokesman Peter Feldman pointed to a recent study by the Minnesota-based HSI Network LLC, which said that McCain's plan would cover half of the currently uninsured.

But that study has raised eyebrows because it differs wildly from other academic analysis - and because one of the HSI researchers helped write the McCain health plan.

McCain's plan would cost about $1.3 trillion over 10 years, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.

McCain's campaign said last week that he would pay for the plan with reductions to Medicare and Medicaid, the government health plans that cover seniors, the poor and the physically challenged.

Here are the details of his plan:

* Offers a tax credit of $2,500 per person and $5,000 per family for insurance.

* Taxes benefits that people get through their employer. So if an employer provides $12,000 in benefits per worker, each worker would pay taxes on that money as income.

* Cuts Medicare and Medicaid to pay for the plan.

* Encourages the promotion of private insurance plans.

* Deregulates insurance markets so that people could buy insurance from any state.

* Would cost $1.3 trillion over 10 years, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.

The Obama plan

Obama's plan takes a different approach, basically building on to the current system where most people get insurance through their employers and enhancing the options for those who lack coverage.

Buchmueller said that the Democrat approach is:

"Let's take what works and keep it and replicate it for people who don't have it."

Obama proposes creating a new National Health Insurance Exchange where the uninsured would buy coverage, as well as boosting subsidies for low-income people who lack health insurance.

In addition, Obama would prohibit insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

He also would require employers to provide health insurance, although there would be an opt-out for small business.

Blumberg said that 96 percent of Americans would likely have coverage under Obama's plan, compared with about 83 percent today. She did question how Obama would pay for his proposals, noting that many details on how to cover the estimated $1.6 trillion cost aren't fleshed out.

McCain has attacked Obama's proposals, saying he would create government-run health care.

"If you're a small business person and you don't insure your employees, Sen. Obama will fine you," McCain said. "Will fine you. That's remarkable."

Details of Obama's plan:

* Sets up a national health-insurance exchange that offers private insurance options.

* Offers a national health-care plan for uninsured.

* Mandates that employers must offer insurance or pay a fine, with the exception of small businesses.

* Prevents insurance companies from setting prices or denying coverage due to health status.

* Mandates that all children must have coverage.

* Would cost $1.6 trillion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Barack Obama: Take a few minutes to listen to him

How do you get to know someone? Lots of ways, of course. But, among other things, it's absolutely essential to listen--to listen to the person you're trying to get a feel for.

Barack Obama has written two powerful books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Dreams from My Father is an honest, eloquent, intimate memoir. After reading it, you may still not decide to vote for him; but you'll feel you know him. The Audacity of Hope presents his political views and aspirations, including his belief that we can find common ground and that, working together, we can solve challenging problems.

He's also given lots and lots and lots of speeches. And though I'm sure he gets help from speech writers, he's far less dependent on them than most politicians. Here are a couple of links that can help you start to get to know Barack Obama. I'll start with his victory speech after the primary in North Carolina. It is gracious and stirring. It is worth listening to the whole thing. The last two or three minutes are especially moving. But if you are one of those who thinks Obama sounds good but is short on specifics, LISTEN TO THE WHOLE THING--he gets very specific. And I think you'll find that he makes sense.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki-oMjmwiUA (the whole thing)

If you're in a hurry, here are a few excerpts: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=c9-1JmTQFoc

UPDATE: Here's another speech--again combining specifics and inspiration--Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention on August 28: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ato7BtisXzE (or try http://my.barackobama.com/barackspeech

Note also Pat Buchanan's comments on the speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0Fru4dZLGA

****************

MORE OBAMA SPEECHES (in written form):

Virtually everyone acknowledges that Barack Obama is an effective speaker. Some question whether words matter (the cases of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln suggest that they do), and others wonder whether Obama's speeches have substance. Take a look--you'll find that they do. They show his intelligence and his awareness of the issues. Looking at the speeches gives a good sense of how his mind works. Here are links to a few of the more important speeches he's given over the past few years:


Against Going to War with Iraq | October 02, 2002

Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention | July 27, 2004

Statement of Senator Barack Obama on the Nuclear Option [actually refers to efforts to shut down debate in Congress] | April 13, 2005

Energy Independence and the Safety of Our Planet | April 03, 2006

Call to Renewal Keynote Address [on religion and public life] | June 28, 2006

Full Text of Senator Barack Obama's Announcement for President
Springfield, IL | February 10, 2007

Cutting Costs and Covering America: A 21st Century Health Care System
University of Iowa | May 29, 2007

A Politics of Conscience, Hartford, CT | June 23, 2007

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Dinner
Des Moines, IA | November 10, 2007

A Call to Serve, Mt. Vernon, IA | December 05, 2007

The Great Need of the Hour, Atlanta, GA | January 20, 2008

'A More Perfect Union', Philadelphia, PA | March 18, 2008

Primary Night, Raleigh, NC | May 06, 2008

[Father's Day message on family] Apostolic Church of God
Chicago, IL | June 15, 2008

A Serious Energy Policy for Our Future, Las Vegas, NV | June 24, 2008

The America We Love, Independence, MO | June 30, 2008

Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Zanesville, OH | July 01, 2008

A World that Stands as One, Berlin, Germany | July 24, 2008

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: The American Promise (Democratic Convention)
Denver, CO | August 28, 2008

John McCain

As I'll explain later, what I like least about politics is the tendency to antagonism, enmity, contention--pride, anger, even hatred--and the deception and self-deception that often result when winning (and especially damaging and defeating the opposition) become more important than working to make the nation and the world better.

So, even though I'd prefer that John McCain not be elected president, I'm not so interested in defeating him as in working to help positive things happen. I don't want to treat McCain unfairly; I don't want to think of him as "the enemy." One of my aims is to keep myself from entertaining unfair and antagonistic thoughts and feelings about him.

Nevertheless, I'm going to provide a link to a video that I think demonstrates something important: John McCain is NOT as capable and smart as some people claim he is. If he's had a lot of experience, that experience doesn't seem to have helped him be as informed and wise as he ought to be. Yes, the clips are selective; and no, I don't think they show him to be deliberately deceptive. With the scrutiny now given politicians, you can catch almost anyone stumbling over their words. What I think the video shows is that McCain doesn't meet the high standard of judgment and intelligence I look for in a president. Look at this video and see if you agree.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=GEtZlR3zp4c

On another matter--McCain's economic policies--here are a couple of campaign ads that (though of course biased) make valid points:
(1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZdi1JnMxFU&NR=1
(2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X9LypdiQFo

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Obama in 30 seconds

To see these 30-second videos, go to http://www.obamain30seconds.org/pc/finalists.html. These are the finalists among the hundreds that were submitted.

Margaret (my wife) and I took part in the process, voting when there were hundreds and voting again when it was down to these finalists.

My favorites include:

Obama 2012

They Said He was Unprepared...

It Could Happen To You

Playground Politics

Purple

Obamacan

What We Can Draw From Obama

Imagine...

Little Girl & One Nation United

Join Me

Check them out!