Tomorrow I will join millions of Americans in casting my vote for who I want to take positions of leadership in the United States of America. What a privilege! For 235 years, we have enjoyed the right to cast our opinion about who our leaders should be. We often overlook the fact that most of the world still does not enjoy this freedom. As the fray of this election season nears a close, I’ve stitched together some thoughts here about the freedom that we’ll enjoy tomorrow and the manner in which I’ll exercise it. I don’t have time to edit this carefully, so forgive the less refined and perhaps error prone writing.
The freedom to vote is flawed. Simply put, we have the power to elect idiots who will make poor choices that adversely affect the future of our country. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. This freedom is also flawed in that the preferences we express are often not enacted. This can happen for many reasons: voting fraud that alters the outcome of an election, failure of candidates to stay true to their stances once elected, the inability of elected officials to overcome the will of other elected officials. Despite these flaws, the freedom to vote does still make a difference and, with some rounding errors, impacts our government and our country.
The freedom to vote means we have to make a choice. That choice should (must?) be based on an assessment of all the information with which we’re presented. Now there’s a problem: how much can we trust the information we’re presented? In some cases, not much. Much of the information we receive about candidates is false, and this can be due to the candidates, their opponents, or media sources providing false information. Nevertheless, we still have a responsibility and solemn right to form a choice based on the information, and we must do so weighing each issue relative to its importance to each of us.
I’ve made a choice for president. I will be voting again for Barack Obama. I believe that when you assess all the information, there are some very key differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney that enable a CLEAR choice to be made either direction based on one’s value system:
1. Barack Obama believes that taxes should be progressively increased, and so do I. Mitt Romney does not. This is an indisputable difference with which either would agree. In my opinion now and at the time I received a check, the Bush tax cuts were a terrible idea. Never before has this country engaged in war without increasing revenue, much less decreasing revenue. The tax cuts were also enacted at the same time that we dramatically increased entitlement benefits (Medicare)–another revenue minus. Finally, the tax cuts were intended to stimulate economic growth and they clearly didn’t. Fact: tax rates were higher during the Clinton years, and the economy still grew. Fact: the stock market is booming with low tax rates right now, yet jobs are still not being created by the “job creators.” Fact: Ronald Reagan understood that taxes would have to be increased to account for increased spending and deficits, and he did increase taxes multiple times.
2. Health care. I support the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and Romney does not. The complexities of the health care economy should not be underestimated, and I certainly do not fully understand them. However, health care costs, particularly as they figure into entitlements, are clearly driving our economy and increasing our debt.Part of the reason is that millions of Americans are uninsured, yet receive health care anyway. This is right and it is good and it is just in a civilized society. This is not economically viable. Someone has to pay for the health care that uninsured people receive, and that someone is everyone who is uninsured. It’s simple math that health care premiums are adjusted in proportion to the costs incurred by the insurers, which is inexorably linked to how much they have to pay providers. When providers are not reimbursed for the costs of uninsured, they have to charge more from the insured. It’s just math. In a country where government provided health insurance is not yet acceptable, a mandate to have insurance is logical and emphasizes personal responsibility. As a corollary, this personal responsibility argument for protection of the insured majority was originally a conservative idea.
3. I mostly support Barack Obama’s foreign policy decisions…mostly. I believe his choice to end the war in Iraq was a correct decision, as there was nothing more to be gained. I believe his choice to focus on Afghanistan/Pakistan was correct in that it was directed at limiting terrorist threats to the US. I believe his use of drones is acceptable for the elimination of clear terroristic enemies of the state that are not US citizens. I strongly disagree with his choice to take out an American citizen without due process. I am strongly suspicious of his continuation of the National Defense Authorization Act, which threatens constitutional freedoms of US citizens. All of the above are decisions that a Romney Administration admittedly agrees with, so I’m fine with choosing Obama here. The stated posture of Romney toward Iran and China and the rest of the world is a posture of bullying and choosing not to be influenced by any other nation. I ask myself whether I would succeed in the workplace if I made and enacted all my decisions unilaterally with no regard for what others want. Of course I wouldn’t, and the USA shouldn’t assume it can do the same. It doesn’t make us weaker to work with other countries; it makes us stronger to develop leadership of other countries through carefully considered collaboration. Obama gets this, Romney does not.
4. Entitlement reform. We must reform entitlements before they become the overwhelming expenditure for the nation. This is not done by slashing benefits and privatizing the system. Romney has clearly advocated for privatization, whereas Obama has advocated for reforming the existing system. Last summer, Obama was clearly willing to negotiate lowering benefits in an income-based progressive manner, including gradually raising the age at which benefits could begin. This makes sense to me, and I’m fully aware that this means I won’t have as much for myself. If reform doesn’t occur, I won’t have anything! Again, I choose reforming the current system, even if it means losing some of my benefits rather than turning it over to the private sector. I’ll say this once: CAPITALISM IS NOT ALWAYS ALIGNED WITH PERSONAL WELL-BEING OF THE MAJORITY IN A CIVILIZED SOCIETY.
5. Women’s rights and gay rights. I don’t believe there is daylight between these candidates. Obama has shown from his actions that he is not as liberal as he’s been depicted on these issues, and Romney has in word and in deed made it clear that he is not as conservative as he would have us believe this month. He’ll go whichever way the political winds are blowing, and on these issues I believe Obama will do the same. No difference.
To me, these are the key issues on which the presidential decision can be made. This is not an election about which candidate is a socialist: both would be characterized as crappy socialists! This is not an election about evil vs good: neither candidates positions can be characterized as more “evil” than the other, despite the negative campaigning on both sides. Neither candidate is “lying” more than the other. Both have held executive offices and they have a record on which to base our decision.
Look at the facts when making your decision tomorrow. Block out all the smoke of demonizing candidates, characterizing one as having “sin nature” but not the other. Turn on your brain and look at the facts and compare them to your value system. Have a goal of coming out of the voting booth with an intellectual argument of why the candidates positions are aligned with your value system. Don’t cheat yourself by voting against a candidate because you think the devil sent him to scourge the world. And above all, value and cherish the sacred right you have to make and express a choice!