Sunday, September 28, 2008

Conflicting World Views

I was sick to death of politics going into Friday's debate, but I felt obligated to watch it. Turns out, it was a very good debate, and a much more refreshing way to learn about the candidates than through the eyes of biased reporters and pundits.

Not surprisingly, Democrats overwhelmingly thought their guy shined, and Republicans felt the same about McCain. This polarity highlights the difficulties of the two parties working together, since there are such fundamental differences between the two world views.

For example, I think the Democrats see the world as all gray. Republicans, who are more black and white, are intolerant, according to them. They don't believe in distinguishing good and evil. Iran's president is maybe a jerk for what he spews about Israel, but he's not evil, according to Democratic mindset. Why not sit down with him at the presidential level, without precondition?

Similarly, Saddam was maybe a jerk for the way he treated his people, but he was not evil. His people were not worth our time, or our sacrifice, since Bin Laden was not living there. Why invade his country, since this was none of our business to begin with? Who are we to decide how another country should live? Or how they should treat their people? If you truly believe there is no absolute truth, that there is only gray, I guess it doesn't make sense to get involved in other people's business. Also, if you think American lives are more important than the lives of other people, that is yet another reason to justify staying out of the moral business of others. The Bible happens to be full of battles influenced by God. God is not a pacifist.

Personally, I think we have run out of money to get involved, and we have to have a plan for financing any other help, but that doesn't mean I think it's okay to turn a blind eye towards the suffering of other nations, particularly those oppressed by Islamic radicals. Although, the people in Russia and China and North Korea are treated only marginally better. We don't have the resources to help everyone, but we can stand up to evil, by at the very least, calling it what it is. Acknowledging it is at least a huge first step in changing hearts and empowering oppressed citizens.

Support for abortion can also be explained by the Democratic mindset that there is no good or evil. Killing the unborn is reduced to a choice, not an immoral act. Deciding when life really begins is "above their paygrade", partly because the world is gray to them.

And despite their asserting that this is untrue, there really are a lot of elitists in the Democratic Party. This is a huge party difference that keeps surfacing in politics. I've lost count of the many articles I've read in which they've pounced on Republicans, particularly Bush and Palin, for being unintelligent, or at best, not intellectually curious. Grades and colleges attended matter to them. A lot. They fell in love with Bill Clinton and gave him big passes, partly because, as my mom put it, "He's the most intelligent politician I've seen in a long time." How articulate someone is means the world to them, even though intelligence, and more importantly, the ability to lead, is measured by much more than verbal ability. And what about the fact that all politicians are briefed by others, who do all the nitty gritty intellectual work, including speech writing? Politicians have little time to widely read about daily happenings in the world. They have people in place to do this for them.

They are so stuck in this love of the verbal, and of the intellectual, that they let Hillary Clinton go - an accomplished politician who would have led them well. Obama is no leader, and he offers few more specifics than Palin does. But he mentions the middle class, so he gets points for being caring. Can he really help the middle class? That's doubtful. Really, just mentioning the middle class, and talking about their pain, is manipulative, given that presidents don't have much effect on the economy.

Since the economy is so important to everyone right now, and precisely why Obama has a slim current lead, I did some research attempting to confirm my belief that presidents don't have much power over the economy.

Super Tuesday was quite possibly the most important day for Presidential hopefuls outside of the general election in November. As is often the case, the economy was the biggest concern for voters. Nearly 40% of potential voters listed the economy as their number one issue; this is more than double the amount of voters that claimed the Iraq war as their top issue. The obvious question is how much control does the Commander-in-Chief actually have over the economy?

The two most significant ways that a President can affect the economy is through taxes and government spending. Although, most of that power resides with Congress and the President merely lends a signature at the end of the process to make the proposal law. The President can and will state his opinion on such matters, but ultimate responsibility for fiscal policy is Congress’ alone. Thus, while the President has enormous influence over fiscal policy, Congress is the ultimate authority.

There is no shortage of instances where a President has attempted to adjust the economy to suit a particular political agenda. Most notably, FDR’s “New Deal” attempted to jump-start a broken financial system struggling through the Great Depression. He greatly expanded the size of government through public works projects, regulated the stock market, instituted bank deposit Insurance, and tried to stabilize prices. FDR did not create the problem of 25% unemployment but he did try to fix it; however, his legacy will not be that he lowered unemployment--which remained high until World War II, but rather that he greatly expanded the size and scope of government. Ultimately, the U.S. did not fully recover economically from the Great Depression until World War II, which dramatically boosted production and employment.

A President does have an important role to play in the macro economy, but much of what a President can affect requires a “trickle-down” effect which may take years to for its impact to be felt. Presidents are politicians and not economists, but so often a boom or a bust is credited to the sitting President when there was little they actually did to create the situation. Often when the President targets a particular goal, such as FDR did in attempting to reign in unemployment, they create a new set of issues. One of the wonderful things about being a politician is that when the day of reckoning comes, it is almost always someone else’s problem.

In conclusion, voters should certainly be aware of each candidate’s economic philosophy and goals, but they must recognize that Presidents are one cog in the political machine. And politics rarely has an answer for a slowdown in the business cycle, inflation, or other economic challenges that are best solved by market forces. If a candidate tells you differently, don’t believe it.


fern said...

Obviously you and I differ here. ;) But plenty of Republicans are elitist -- why else is that the party giving so many tax breaks to the extremely wealthy?

And about abortion, VERY few Republicans support a complete ban on abortion. That doesn't make any sense. A child conceived in terrible circumstances -- rape or incest, for example -- is still a person. As I see it abortion laws need to be all or nothing. Either the baby is a PERSON, and we have no right to end that PERSON's life, or abortion cannot be made illegal. What sense does it make to legalize abortion under only certain circumstances?

I do see a lot of grey, definitely. I think most Republicans do too, though. I mean, Bush has meet with plenty of leaders who do not uphold our values: But that's part of the job, isn't it? Keeping your friends close and your enemies closer?

momma's heart said...

Actually Fern, as a family living at 100% of the federal poverty level, we get a lot of tax breaks. Our tax burden, for the last three years, has been zero. We actually get $5300 - $5600 back from the government, partly due to an alternative child credit,and earned income credit.

The wealthy already pay most of the tax money our country collects, because they must pay a greater percentage of their earnings, than the middle class.

fern said...

I guess I am thinking more of the super-wealthy, and probably really I'm thinking about the large corporations. I have friends who are in a 50% tax bracket and that seems crazy, doesn't it? What is the incentive for working hard and making more if you are going to get to a point where you have to give up half of what you make!? I definitely don't feel that I am unfairly taxed. And maybe that's part of seeing things in shades of grey -- even though I'm not a Republican, I can definitely see most things from the Republican perspective.

Evenspor said...

Great post, Pam.