Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why I Voted For Democrats Today (and Why You Should, Too)

First a disclaimer; my sole purpose in writing this post is not to let GipperClone go unchallenged. I harbor no illusions that anything I may say (or that he has said) will change anyone’s mind who is a regular reader. I know that my fellow co-bloggers are all very set in their political positions and from the comments I assume (know in some cases) that our readers are too. So call this effort merely good fun on Election Day. That said, however, I sincerely encourage all of you out there who are eligible to vote to get to the polls or be sure to mail your absentee ballots on time. GC and I agree on the fact that elections, all elections, are important and participation is a must for all eligible citizens. As usual, click the button to read the rest.

GC starts with the classic conservative but Republican distinction, which I’m not going challenge because I know he’s serious about maintaining this illusion. Besides, he has a valid claim, to a point. Many politically affiliated Republicans are Conservatives, and in fact I do believe that for many this is a meaningful distinction. The problem is that they don’t usually give the same curtsey to Democrats as reflected by the continued use of the terms “socialists,” “Stalinists,” “Communists,” “Marxists,” or what have you. Are their members of the Democratic Party that hold these views; yes, there are, I’m not going to deny it. While we may have our share of demons, there are “nationalists,” “constitutionalists,” “theocrats,” “libertarians,” and arguably other groups of "extremists" in the Republican Party as well. So what, I don’t think that any of the above mentioned groups are “in the mainstream” in any way, nor to they represent the leadership positions of either major political party. Like GC, I’m a Democrat not because they are perfect, they’re not, but rather because they are the political party that most closely represents the majority of my beliefs and interests. I don’t agree with them 100% of the time, nor to I adhere and hang on every word of Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton, or any other so-called leader of the party. Okay, so now that we’ve gotten the grouping and name-throwing out of the way…on to substance.

Taxes: Contrary to what GC would have you believe, I don’t think that Democrats have run on, or intend to raise taxes across the board. As with most things, taxation issues and tax policy is far more complicated than it seems, or than we hear at election time, but let me try to set a few things straight. As I’ve argued before, tax policy is NOT responsible for strong economic growth. President Clinton convinced Congress to raise taxes and the economy exploded with record growth. President George Bush convinced Congress to lower taxes and the economy has maintained steady growth (with some recent sparks of high growth). What does this tell you? Well it should confirm what most of us with functioning neurons (okay, so I wasn’t totally done with the name calling) know, which is that taxes don’t dictate economic outcomes, at least not alone; there are always other factors. Second, not all instances of taxes are borne by everyone equally. Or, phrased another way, not all taxes are created equal. Often the tax most usually recognized by the population, and the one frequently inferred by politicians and pundits when they use the phrase “raise taxes” is the income tax. Other taxes, like the so-called “death tax” and the “capital (cap) gains” tax have become popular as well, at least rhetorically. But it is important to note that the burdens of these taxes are not evenly distributed. In fact, very small percentages of the population pay either one of these taxes. Example, currently (if my memory serves) the “death tax” only impacts estates valued at over $1 million dollars, anything less and the recipient of the estate pays ZERO in taxes. So raising them or maintaining them at current levels affects whom exactly? Will tax rates go up if the Democrats gain control of Congress, doubtful as it looks like the GOP may retain the Senate and well the President always has the veto pen. Besides, if past is prologue, some taxes will go up while others may yet decrease. Democrats (and some Republicans) have long been proponents of so-called “targeted tax cuts,” which many people, myself included, actually think are more effective than major shifts in the overall tax burdens of Americans.

War on Terror Funding: First off, Charlie Rangel doesn’t speak for the Democratic Party or the potential House Leadership, so any reliance on statements he’s made about things is dubious at best. Yes, he’ll likely be the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee should the House shift parties, but that committee doesn’t control either Homeland Security or Department of Defense funding, so I’m pretty much willing to chalk this one up to a “red herring” and call it a day. That said, I think that you will see activity with respect to GWOT funding, but I doubt it will be a decrease of any appreciable measure. Rather, what I think you’ll see, and I actually hope to see, is better, more aggressive oversight and management of how the funds are actually being used. Some of the government’s largest unsung heroes are Inspector’s General and Auditors from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and if you read their work and reports over the last 6 years I think you’ll be astounded at the amount of waste, fraud, and abuse, which has taken place with respect to GWOT and Homeland Security funding. I don’t think that more oversight and questioning of government officials, contractors and other spending agents amounts to a reduced or diminished military and/or homeland security effort. Maybe people do, but I think that it’s a bit inflammatory to suggest that just because Democrats want to keep better track of the books means that they are somehow weak or not serious about fighting and winning the GWOT. We may disagree on methods and strategy, but I doubt funding will be effected much, if at all.

Immigration: Once again, I’m not sure that this deserves much of a response considering that the real blame for much of the immigration problem can be traced to President’s since Reagan (who granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in 1983). Besides, President Bush, the current leader of the Republican Party actively supports and has advocated for the very Senate Bill that GC blames on the Democrats. Yes, Democrats were involved in its drafting, but so were many Republicans, including the White House. A Democratic Congress is merely going to give the President what he’s always wanted. Besides, as many people have pointed out immigration is kind of like gun control, if we merely enforced the laws already in place everyone would be happier. Instead, however, we get distracted by the need to pass new laws that further muddle and confuse the issue. It is true that Democrats and House Republicans represent differing immigration policy views. But the House has proven ineffective in convincing either the Senate or the White House of the correctness of its positions. That should tell one something.

“Benchocracy:” A creative phrase, for that I commend GC. To be honest, however, I think that on this issue regardless of what happens we’re looking at more of the status quo. I’ve never supported, strongly or otherwise, the Democrats stall, delay, and filibuster tactics in the Senate, and I’m not going to start now. At the same time, the White House has been slow and ineffective in making nominations to fill vacancies because there are regional disputes and apparently a lack of candidates that they feel are worth expending the political capital on to get through the Senate. I don’t really have much of a problem with the status quo as the courts are, for the most part, pretty balanced, if not tilting ever so slightly to the right. Control of the House changes nothing about this issue as they play no role in the process. Since I don’t expect the GOP to lose the Senate, I’m not convinced this is an issue that should sway swing voters minds in any manner.

Impeachment: Four words: NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Period. End of Story. Impeachment talk is a nice rhetorical tool for election season, but simply not a political reality. Are there those that would like to see this happen, sure, but they don’t control the levers of power and don’t represent a significant portion of the leadership to matter. Are there going to be investigations and aggressive oversight, yes, I sure hope so. Do those things mean that there will be impeachment hearings; no, not in my opinion.

In sum, I think that we’ve seen what single party rule has done for the past six years. I don’t think that there are very many people out there who are happy with the results. Republicans and Conservatives may have many things they want to do better, or differently, but they’ve had 6 years to do so and have failed to make any changes. If anything they’ve done things to erode the institution of Congress and strengthen the Presidency to a point where they are going to have a hard time should they ever lose control of that institution. Precedents have been set, and once they are there and engrained they are difficult, if not impossible, to change. There is, however, still some limited time to counter these problems, but the solution is not more of the status quo, it’s change, political party change. Divided government often in our history has produced better, more effective results than single party rule, regardless of which party is the ruler. Neither party is perfect, but a little of both might just produce some favorable results. If you’re looking for ideological purity than by all means vote third party and send the message. If you’re looking for a government that might actually work to the benefit of all Americans, I think a divided one is the solution and that means vote for Democrats today.


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