Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The Dean campaign is passing out pamphlets entitled Common Sense (http://www.deanforamerica.com/site/cg/index.html?type=page&pagename=commonsense) here in Virginia. As it’s an official Dean publication, I figure it’s a good insight into how Dean views America and also what he has in mind. So following the pamphlet structure, let’s see what Dean thinks…

1. What Dean currently thinks about the state of America“…under the Bush administration, pharmaceutical companies draft our Medicare laws. Oil executives sit in the Vice President’s office and write energy bills.”

Besides the fact that bills and laws are passed in the Legislative branch and not the Executive branch, there’s many other things wrong with the fundamental assertions here. Dean seems to be asserting that you shouldn’t consult with leaders from a field that you’re about to regulate. Might it be a good idea to figure out what impact laws will have before passing them? Might the leaders from the field that the law is being passed on have some knowledge about the potential impacts of the law? Might it help to make better policy?

Seems like a good idea to me, and it seemed like a good idea to Dean when he did the same thing when considering energy legislation for Vermont. ( I’m not faulting Dean for consulting with energy execs before passing his energy policy - it’s just a good idea. I am, however, faulting Dean for his hypocrisy and willingness to play on the ignorance and fears of the public.

Also, there can be no real complaint about the energy legislation, as it has yet to pass Congress so there is no bill to pick apart.

“A majority of the reconstruction contracts in Iraq goes to corporations headed by campaign contributors to the President”

While possibly technically true, (I’m not certain that the majority part is indeed true) but on its face, umm if the Republican party is supposed to be the party of the fat cats, umm who would the CEOs give money to? Also the statement is misleading as it implies that campaign contributions bought influence in Iraq. The correlation between contributions and contract size was small indeed (http://slate.msn.com/default.aspx?id=2090636) and then look at this site which attempts to take down Bush for the same reasons.
After the first couple “Usual suspects,” it lists a largish number of companies that have given nothing to Bush, and all of their contributions to Democrats. As a side note, the last site seems incredulous that a request for bids went out before the war started. Really, if there had indeed been no planning for post-war Iraq (as was frequently asserted not that long ago), this could not have happened. It was the responsible thing to do to make plans for post-war Iraq before the war started and that’s what the request for bids did.

“In the last six years, despite massive corporate scandals and the crash of the NASDAQ, the financial services industry managed to find almost $168 million to influence the political process.”

Umm, it’s my understanding the financial services industry did pretty well.

“A pharmaceutical and health products industry that can’t afford to sell our seniors cheaper prescription drugs did manage to find $60 million to influence our elections.”

So I guess Dean isn’t a free-marketer. But I’m curious as to where that 60

“In the matter of war and peace, there was virtually no debate by either party before the invasion of Iraq.”

Umm, I remember a pretty active public debate replete with demonstrations and rallies by both sides. I also remember that the 2002 election was widely viewed as a war referendum. It was also brought up better than a year ahead of time. Unless we’re ents, that should be plenty of time for a debate, and I think we did indeed have a serious, heated debate before, during, and after the war.

“The Bush administration uses fear to rally people to its causes.”
That’s fair in the sense of fear led us to war with Iraq (Afghanistan was vengeance). But oh yeah, fear was a big seller on Mars, prescription drugs, and the NEA (that’s why its funding was doubled), tax cuts, stem cell research, CAFTA, ending world slavery, helping with AIDS in Africa, faith based initiatives, that horrible illegal immigration initiative… Oh wait, no they weren’t rallied by fear. That’s just a gross misrepresentation.

“Our nation, once looked to as a beacon of hope from around the globe, now is looked at with suspicion and distrust.”

Let’s see who suspects and distrusts us… Hmm… Arab dictators and potential purveyors of WMD. Hmmm… Isn’t that a good thing?

On the beacon of hope, if we’re not still a beacon of hope then, umm why did Liberia ask for US help in their civil war? Umm, why did the Ivory Coast ask us to invade and clear up their mess? (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2703433.stm) Why do millions of people every year immigrate both legally and illegally to the US?

“Most alarming, our political process is in crisis, as the majority of Americans turns away from the most fundamental duty of citizenship—voting”

This statement isn’t unique to Dean nor unique to Dems. Voter apathy has been there for quite some time now and decried by many. However, if you don’t care enough to follow the issues enough to want to vote, than I personally would rather that you didn’t.

“We are losing our role as a world leader. John Fitzgerald Kennedy said, “The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war.” But President Bush has made that truth a lie.”

1. The thesis here is just stupid. If there is a correlation between starting wars and world leadership, I would suspect that it’s positive.

2. While we’re throwing around war quotes from Kennedy, how about this one, “Now we have a problem in making our power credible, and Vietnam is the place.” Vietnam was a war of choice (all foreign wars are by definition). I still believe it was the right choice (gave the East Asian economies time to grow without Chinese and Russian meddling), but Kennedy started a war there. Nearly started one in Cuba too with the Bay of Pigs. In fact, the US has started lots of foreign wars throughout its history, all for reasons it believed were right at the time (right being very oddly constructed in 1898).

For fun, here’s some more foreign wars that we involved ourselves with:
Reagan – Granada, (plus we bombed the hell out of Libya and came within inches of getting into the Iraq-Iran war)
Bush 41 – Panama
Clinton - Kosovo

Bush could not have made this truth a lie, because Kennedy’s statement was never true to begin with.

“This president has implemented a foreign policy characterized by dominance, arrogance and intimidation. His brand of diplomacy has driven a deep wedge into the alliances and the security organizations we established to safeguard our freedoms and our safety.”

Dominance – umm we are the world super power, so umm aren’t we also the dominant power? Is this just a tautology here?
Arrogance – ok, maybe. But why again did we go to the UN at all before Iraq? And why
Intimidation - Nope
Yeah that’s right, we sure intimidated those Turks into seeing it our way.

Fundamental to this critique is Dean’s apparent belief that alliances are based on paper agreements instead of actions.
Let’s look at who opposed us in Iraq who we failed to pick up in our Coalition of the Willings.

France, our eternal ally, who pulled out of NATO during the Cold War, whose stated goal is to make Europe into a counterbalance to US “hyperpuissance” (http://www.nixoncenter.org/publications/monographs/drifting.pdf) (Also check out that publication date – 1999, two years before W took office).

Russia – yeah they’re an age old ally.

Germany – true, when they’re balls were to the wall (pun intended), they were strong allies. But since that wall fell, they’ve been pursuing a Franco-German counterbalance to the US.

The deep wedge in security organizations – umm 21 out of 34 participating countries in Iraq are in NATO, and while we’re at it, KFOR also had 34 countries involved.

2. Where Dean thinks we came from
Largely this is accurate though the presentation boggles my mind.

"our founding ideals - justice and equality."

Umm, are we French? I thought our founding ideals, if they were to be boiled down to just two (or in this case three) would be life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Justice we had under the Brits, and that 3/5 compromise sure doesn't look like equality (in the modern sense) was a founding ideal. Further, equality of outcome is what Dean appears to be advocating later in this same section (based on his dissing 19th century industrialists for being too damn rich while others were too damn poor). Equality as I conceive of it (as in everyone is equal before the eyes of the law) is instead presented as justice, and I'm pretty darn certain that's what ole Thomas meant in "all men are created equal."

3. Dean’s plan
“Justice In a just America, money should not determine the limits of any American’s future, or deny any American the medical advancements that can save and sustain life. Health insurance, prescription drugs and higher education can be accessible and affordable for everyone.”

Again I differ in the definition of justice from Dean, but I’ll leave that aside for the moment.

If "Money should not deny any American the medical advancements that can save and sustain life," well, why shouldn’t you get the best care that money can buy? Should the medical profession have no profit motivation? If so, medical advancements will stop cold. (You mean if there's no profit from innovation, very few will innovate? companies won't maintain large research budgets?)

As a side note, umm student loans make higher education affordable to everyone now. Just maybe not affordable in the field you want to study in and maybe not at the school you want to go to.

“Fairness. Our tax burden today falls most heavily on hard work, while wealth is taxed less. We subsidize corporations that are polluting our environment or sending jobs overseas. But we can restore fairness to our tax code—rewarding hard work, ensuring that wealth pays its fair share, and penalizing waste.”

Holy s*&t!! A wealth tax. How annoying is that car tax now? A wealth tax would be doubly annoying. Any profit you make off your wealth is generally taxable, but taxing assets themselves? That has the distinct potential to make it impossible for someone to plan for the future (why save? Spend now and don’t get taxed), limits the ability of senior citizens to provide for themselves later. If this sort of thing ever gets passed, it’s a sure nanny state for the US and would also severely damage our economy (if there’s no incentive to accumulate capital, just how does capitalism work?)

If I agreed with EVERYTHING else Dean was for, this one stance would be enough to make vote against him and move if he was elected (seriously, not some Hollywood promise. Though I would finish my degree first.).

Penalizing waste also sounds good, but how do you define waste? As the aphorism goes, “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.” I would be quite fearful of having someone be able to dictate to me my spending choices. I think it’s the sort of thing the government should try and stay out of.

“Progress. Today, technologies exist that can form the foundation of our economy for the next century. We should invest aggressively in them, just as when our nation invested in railroads, rural electrification, and in public highways.

We can create a new energy economy, relying on sources that will never run out, including solar power, wind power, ethanol and biomass. Doing so will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create new jobs for decades to come.”

Hey, that first part sounds good (except to my strict libertarian side). Then that second paragraph happens highlighting what Dean thinks are the key technologies.

Why do we need to build a new energy economy? Dean seems to think it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create new jobs for decades to come. On the first point, I thought it was Bush who rallied people through fear. And if he claims that he can make the US again a "beacon of hope" around the world (it's not now? those millions of people trying to immigrate here every year are doing it for no reason?) and make it so that generally everyone likes us, then hey, why not have foreign oil? If it was possible to have everyone like us, we needn't worry about the bad intentions of other governments, right?

On the job creation, will those balance out the jobs taken from the old energy economy? Maybe, but then again we shouldn’t fear creative destruction as it generally leads to system wide growth. Will it balance out the jobs lost from increased energy prices? Probably not. Why not just fund research in these fields (as we are currently doing) and let the market switch if and when it’s ready.

Side comments: ethanol? Ethanol has time and time again been shown to be a waste of energy (http://www.news.cornell.edu/Chronicles/8.23.01/Pimentel-ethanol.html) So why is ethanol here? It’s a sop to Midwest corn farmers, or more accurately ADM – a special interest (corporate too) that Dean has been railing against throughout this pamphlet. Nice.

“Community. We have an obligation to one another as Americans and as human beings. America will be stronger when we recognize that we are dependent on each other, responsible for each other, and connected to each other.”

On first reading, it’s nice tradition political pabulum. But read closely - responsible for each other – umm no. Only a big government mindset thinks that we’re responsible for each other. I’m responsible for myself and my family. I may and do choose to help out others, but I’m not responsible for them, nor will I ever willingly have responsibility for others in the community thrust upon me.

If someone in the nation commits murder who I have never met, am I responsible?
If someone in the nation wins the lottery, am I responsible?
If someone stubs his toe, am I responsible?

I’ve skipped over some points (like the implication that the US under Bush is not expanding freedoms around the world and, and the asinine use of Ashcroft as boogeyman), but I’ve got work to do.


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