Better or Worse?

- wadE

Super Tuesday is right around the corner, and believe it or not there is a fair percentage of people who haven't made up their mind on who they are going to vote for.

Some people made up their mind after the first debate, others when Kerry was nominated. Some even made up their mind in December of 2000 when George W. Bush was awarded the presidency by the Supreme Court. And some made up their minds years ago when they decided that they were a Democrat or Republican and would tow the party line regardless of the issue.

But for a moment, let's say I'm one of the undecided folks out there. How can I figure out who to vote for?

The local paper (from which I'm borrowing heavily from in this article, but they'll forgive me) has a good seven part series which targets Minnesota's top seven issues. Outside of "Agriculture", the issues highlighted are at the top of most everyone's list. So ask yourself, after 4 years, are you better or worse off?

Foreign Policy:

"Bush's plan to do that is to stay on the offensive against terrorism. To Kerry, the key is to strike a smarter balance between military action and diplomacy. Each also has pressed a negative case against the other.

"Citing Kerry's 20-year Senate record, Bush calls him weak on defense issues. Bush also calls Kerry indecisive, as demonstrated by Kerry's alleged flip-flops on Iraq.

"Kerry portrays Bush as reckless, saying he misjudged the threat in Iraq and rushed the country into war with too few allies. Now, Kerry says, Bush is too stubborn to recognize his mistakes or correct his course."

That sums it up pretty well actually. So depending how important this issue is, it should be somewhat clear on which side you align with. Unless you are a pacifist, then you should think about voting for Nader.

As for me, my disagreements with Bush on this issue are as numerous as they are complicated. I think we needed the U.N. to provide legitimacy to the war, although the U.N. really let us down and didn't leave us many options. No one disagreed that Iraq and Saddam were serious issues, but "clear and present dangers" to the U.S.? That's a stretch. Whether Bush lied, or the intelligence was wrong doesn't matter now. We're there and whoever is elected next Tuesday can't just pull our troops out. We'd leave the place in worse shape than we found it.

Another concern is when Bush and his disciples say, "The terrorists hate the freedom and democracy for which America stands." Do you really think that's what they hate? Honestly? You don't think that maybe it's our support of Israel? You don't think it's our military bases in Saudi Arabia? You don't think it's the ridiculous amount of wealth we have, and our greedy use of the world's resources? You don't think it's their mistrust of the Western world that dates back to the Crusades? You really think it's our freedom they hate? Ok, fine. Believe what you want.

And don't even get me started on the Neocon idea that a democracy in the Middle East would transform the region. I might actually consider voting for these guys is they were actual Republicans instead of Neocon/Religious-Right ideologues.

So, are you better or worse off?

Regardless of who was elected in 2000, we would be worse off. The question becomes are we even more worse off than we could have been? All I know is that there are 4000 people who can't answer that question for themselves. Maybe 3,000 of them couldn't be saved, but I know over 1,000 of them could have been.

Economy & Taxes

The short stories of the two families in the Strib are interesting, and very telling. It does seem that people who live in the "city" plan to vote for Kerry, while those in the suburbs lean toward Bush.

I also think it's a fair statement that Bush isn't responsible for the recession. It was beginning to swell in the waning days of Clinton's presidency. The question is how well did Bush respond. "Kerry backers, including 10 Nobel Prize-winning economists, say that Bush's policies are partly or mostly responsible for stagnant wages, skyrocketing health costs, higher gas prices, increased poverty rates and projected multitrillion-dollar federal budget deficits over the next 10 years, which replaced projected surpluses when President Bill Clinton left office.

"But J. Edward Carter, chairman of the group Economists for Bush, which includes six Nobel Prize winners, contends that Bush was handed an economic mess and has cleaned it up, keeping inflation to record lows and preventing a bigger collapse with his record-setting tax cuts. Kerry, on the other hand, has an "unwavering 20-year record of support for high-calorie federal-spending binges," and his promises to reduce the deficit are not to be believed, Carter wrote recently."

So who do you believe? 10 Nobel Prize winners vs. 6?

I agree with this, "Timothy Taylor, managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives at Macalester College, said he's 'not sure Bush has affected Minnesota a lot specifically one way or the other.'"

So, are you better or worse off?

Neither candidate is impressive on their thoughts for the economy. Lucky for me, while I've gone through two layoffs in the past four years, I've come out of it better off than I was going in. Is that because of Bush? I don't think so. While I'd love to be short sighted and say that the few hundred bucks I got back from the tax break was great to have, I'm not too excited that we've gone from a balanced budget to deficits that would even make Reagan blush. Even with that, this area is a push.


This is a short section for me because I think the lines are clear:

"Driving the administration's decisions, say its policy advisers, is a philosophy that the nation can achieve environmental improvements only if it has strong economic growth and prosperity.

"In contrast, Kerry's plans grow from the view that environmental improvements will fuel economic growth, not retard it, according to campaign officials."

So, are you better or worse off?

I think the answer depends on your point of view. Do you value the environment higher than business? If the answer is yes, we are worse off. Bush has lowered the standards on pollution across the board. If you the answer is no, we are better off. Business has spent less on containing the pollutants they produce, and that money goes to higher wages and lower product costs....hahahahahahahaha... sorry, I couldn't keep a straight face on that one. Face it, those savings goes to stockholders, not you, not me.


Not the biggest issue nationally. Even here in the Midwest it's not the same as it used to be. The story about the Milk subsidy Bush was going to cut, then said he wouldn't, and then the Republicans in Congress cut it anyway is a fun little story. The Democratic party here in MN is called the Democratic Farm Labor (DFL) for a reason.

So, are you better or worse off?

If this is important to you, you know who you should vote for.

Family & Social Issues:

The Strib baffles me here by only talking about Social Security, Jobs, and Housing. Maybe they don't want to tackle the tough questions like Gay Marriage, Abortion, and what most people hadn't thought about up until this week, Supreme Court Justices.

So, let's talk about Social Security. Bush says, "You know how to spend your money better than the federal government does." No we don't. People are idiots. Social Security hasn't been perfect, but it's been there. It's given people something. If politicians from both sides (but most recently the Republicans) would keep their hands off it, it might actually be there in 20 years. You let people invest their Social Security money, and then the Stock Market tanks. What do you do then? Sure, long term it'll bounce back, but what about the person who is 65, and just about to retire. Do you tell them they should work 5 more years until the economy bounces back?

Jobs...Housing. To me these would fall more into the Economic section, especially Jobs. Either way, the numbers aren't outstanding, but you can't blame/reward Bush for all of it.

So, are you better of worse off?

Probably a push... if you make less than $100K, you probably think you're worse off, if more, better off.

Health Care:

I started a whole diatribe about this section since I work in the Healthcare Insurance industry. But I'll spare you from most of my babbling... especially when this quote from the Strib really sums it up:

"Efforts to overhaul the health care system -- to rein in costs, create accountability, extend coverage -- have been at an impasse since the early 1990s. Reform has occurred largely at the margins, and the Bush/Kerry plans are no different."

No matter who you want to blame, both candidates aren't addressing the root causes. I will say that Kerry's plan will help more people than Bush's token band-aid solution. HSA he kidding? Yeah, that will solve soooo much. How about the 45 million Americans without coverage. Fat load of good it'll do for them.

Anyway, if you read the whole article on this topic you'll see fun facts that I deleted from my own rhetoric like, "'It's yesterday's plan design at tomorrow's prices. People would not benefit from the discounted rates now negotiated by HMOs and other provider networks', he (Emory University health care expert) said. 'Instead, you'd be out there at the mercy of the open market.'" That's the one (and maybe only) good thing that companies like mine do, we bring economies of scale that force down the amount doctors bill for services.

With my old employer, each time I went to the doctor I got a letter in the mail a few weeks later from the healthcare insurer stating what the doctor charged for the service, a stock message "The amount billed for this service was greater than allowed. You will not be charged this amount", and then the amount that they would pay. I think the lowest discount was 20%, the highest around 50%. That would probably make you think twice about going to the doctor. That's when people get into serious trouble, when they feel like something is wrong, but they don't go get it checked out. Great plan!!!

So, are you better or worse off?

Well, if you are a healthy person who doesn't go to the doctor much, then Bush's plan sounds pretty swell... of course this HSA thing isn't a new idea... in fact many companies are already doing it or have plans to, so if that's your basis for voting, you might want to think again.


I'll be honest, I don't care about this topic as much as I should. I don't have children. When I was in school I wanted to learn, I was a teacher's pet. I took advantage of the system and did well. To me, it worked. But even I have to realize that our schools are producing the job force that I will be managing and the people who will be supporting me when I'm on Social Security... *snicker*... hahahaha... sorry, I couldn't say that with a straight face.

But seriously... the No Child Left Behind Act wasn't a bad idea, but it was under-funded, and to get enough time to prep kids for the tests, things like Phy Ed have been pushed aside. In some schools dropped all together, in others kids have it once a week.

I don't think John Kerry's plan is anything to crow about. If he does do something it will cost a lot. So it'll really be interesting to see if the Congress remains Republican, because if it does, he's going to have a hard time getting anything done in this area.

So, are you better or worse off?

Unless you have kids or are married to a teacher, you probably aren't too concerned on this topic, even though you should be. With being said, neither guy wows anyone on this. Teachers generally back the Democrat, which makes sense, since taxes pay their salary.

But wadE, what about abortion, gay marriage, civil rights, gun control, crime, drugs, immigration, welfare, and Federal/Supreme Court Justices?

Well, if you haven't been paying attention, or just need more, there is tons of info on the web, much of it is non-partisan. Try, as a start.

As for me, I value those issues above how much I pay in taxes, so that's where my voting decisions come from. So, if after all of that you still can't make up your mind, just ask yourself. Are we better or worse off than we were 4 years ago, and vote accordingly.

Regardless of who you are going to vote for (and I mean that), get out and vote. It really is worth taking time out of one day to take part in what de Tocqueville referred to as a "great experiment", that we call Democracy.

- 10/28/2004


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