Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Just about time for Sox-Yanks Game 7

Ok, I promised I would address Kerry's "liberalism" and I will in a second. First, a little story of annoyance. Today, I went to the mobile phone store to get a contract phone - a 12 month deal like in the states. The deal I was going to get was cheap, had lots of minutes and texts included, and came with a nice new phone for free. After about 40 minutes of entering information into the system (something that took longer because the clerk was incompetent), I was rejected by the company because I haven't been in the country long enough. Mind you, they were going to require me to pay a 150 pound deposit to deal with that fact. The whole "credit" thing in the UK is so Fing stupid. Anyone can get a Pay as you Go phone (which is what I have), but to get anything, anywhere, you have to have either a utility bill or a bank statement. Well, I haven't gotten a statement yet and I don't get utility bills. This is probably the single greatest thing that has annoyed me since I've been here.

At any rate, it's raining cats and dogs outside - the hardest it's rained since I've been here.

Now to the business:

1. "Kerry's the most liberal senator in Congress as ranked by the independent National Journal" - This is the most common argument made by the GOP. An "independent" magazine ranks Kerry as the most liberal in the Senate so it must be true. Not so fast.

Ranking "liberal" or "conservative" votes is highly subjective and the NJ's system was incredibly flawed. Eight (42%) of the votes the NJ ranked as "liberal" were votes by Kerry to repeal Bush's tax cut to those making $200k or more a year - hardly the bastion of liberalism. Four votes were against oil development in Alaska - something that the non-partisan GAO (government accounting office - but it has a new name now) agreed with in the most authoritative study on the issue. We're up to 63%. One vote opposed Bush's plan to scale back overtime pay. One vote extended unemployment benefits. The rest were votes for fiscal discipline - hardly a "liberal" issue (ahem Newt Gingrich).

The other big problem with the "study" is that Kerry missed a ton of votes because he was campaigning - so his ranking was skewed by the low number of votes considered.

2. "Kerry's a tax and spend Democrat" - This one is an outright lie.

Kerry has supported deficit reduction since the 1980s - something the GOP didn't warm up to until the 90s and something most Democrats opposed.

Kerry supported the centrist 100,000 cops bill (1994 Crime Bill) which most liberal democrats opposed and which received large support from the GOP.

Kerry has always supported the extension of free trade agreements (like NAFTA), which most Democrats have opposed.

Kerry was a leading proponent of the 1996 Welfare Reform Bill, something that SCALED BACK government funded welfare in favor of "welfare to work" - also something about half of Congressional Democrats (wrongly) opposed.

Kerry was in favor of the 1997 Balanced Budget Agreement, something many liberals opposed, but was largely supported by the GOP.

Kerry isn't liberal on any of these issues. He's a centrist.

3. "Kerry's liberal on social policy" - This one is a little trickier, so I'll deal with it by issue.

A. Health Care - Don't really need to say much - Bush's claim that it will ration health care is a joke. Kerry's plan is a supplement, much like medicare or medicaid that would only go to those who needed it (i.e. the 40 million uninsured). In fact, many organizations have criticized Kerry for not going far enough.

B. Gay Rights/Marraige - Kerry isn't in favor of authorizing Gay marraige because, rightly, he's stated that its not a federal issue (the GOP used to care about states rights). He is not, however, in favor of a constitutional amendment to define "marraige" as only a man and a woman. That's also a good idea. The Constitution should not set out to exclude things - it's defined to include things. The last time there was an amendment to exclude it ended terribly.

C. Guns - Another area the GOP tries to hit Kerry on, but is wide of the target. Yes, Kerry is in favor of the assault rifles ban, but no, this doesn't ban them. The fact that the NRA is against waiting times and background checks removes any credibility the organization has. Kerry is not in favor of banning guns or any such nonsense. He's been an avid hunter. But it's not good policy to let terrorists, criminals, or extremely angry people buy guns and ammo on the spot so they can turn around and use them against the public, their spouses, or just to knock over the local kwikie mart. There is no public harm to wait times and background checks for buying deadly weapons and there's a great public good to using that type of stuff. Anytime that a drunk ass redneck husband gets pissed off, goes down to the Kmart, buys a gun, goes home, and shoots their wife is one time too many. This does happen and this is something that Bush has allowed to recur with the expiration of the assault rifles ban.

D. Abortion/Women's Rights - This one is the toughest for those on the right, so I'll try to explain why I think the issue is bigger than just abortion and then deal with some specifics.

Roe v. Wade did more than just establish abortion as a fundamental right reserved to women. It established that the constitution included the idea that each individual has a right to a personal sphere that should not be messed with by the government - i.e. privacy. If Bush gets re-elected, nominates conservative Justices, and they overturn Roe, it's not just abortion that goes. It means what goes on in the bedroom, your personal residence, etc. are all open to government investigation. It may not seem like an Orwellian nightmare to you, but Animal Farm was built in steps, not all at once. American's privacy rights are already under fire from the Patriot Act, overturning Roe would just give the government a blank check to go wherever it wants, whenever it wants. Think about it - they can tap your phone now only if they have probably cause. Roe protects each and every one of us by forcing the government to pass through a series of tests before it can invade our constitutional right to private lives.

I'll go further. On the abortion issue in particular, I feel there are strong arguments on both sides of the aisle. But I feel very strongly that government should not have the right to intervene in the lives of individuals unless there is CERTAINTY that they are doing the right thing. For example, people shouldn't be allowed to kill themselves. Assisted suicide should be out also. But abortion has NO such certainty. Unless and until abortion has the same moral authority as suicide and near universal agreement with the population, the government shouldn't tell people what to do. (I feel the same way about some drug use, by the way.) If abortion is "murder", then the individuals are the ones that will pay the piper at the end of the day. But they should have the choice to make that decision.

Not only that, Bush's assault on abortion is part of a fundamentalist Christian assault on reason. There are some devestating results:

- He forced the CDC to stop providing information about preventing HIV/AIDs except for abstinence.
- He denies aid money to third world nations whose family planning programs include anything but abstinance.
- He made it legal for pharmacists to deny providing emergency contraception if it violates the pharmacists morals (in the process inserting the government into every pharmacy in the country).
- He signed the Laci and Connor bill that provides legal status to fetus' in the womb, which is really just a back door to overturning Roe.

Regardless of how you feel about abortion, the fundamentalist approach to family planning is wrong headed and represents policy at its worst. Instead of telling youngsters (that are going to have sex anyway!) to protect themselves, the message is to abstain or run the risk. Instead of telling 3rd world nations that are desperately overpopulated and have AIDs' epidemics on an unprecedented scale to use condoms, the US says don't have sex or run the risk.

Good policy making is about assessing a situation and making a decision based on reason and principle. In this case, the stark reality is that cultural attitudes guarantee that people all over the world are going to have sex. They need to be protected. The abstinence message is like trying to plug a damn with your thumb.

3 Comments:

Blogger steve said...

Did I read this right and am to surmise you feel Euthanasia should be illegal? Just asking...

9:23 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Ill throw another one out here, since the law has always baffled me on this. What is the basis for making suicide illegal, other than to state the State's moral view on it? It is not a credible deterrent (those who are going to kill themselves hardly fear going to jail afterwards) and it has no retributive value either, as the person would already be dead. So as a form of punishment it doesnt seem to fit into any major category...

9:28 PM  
Blogger SJH said...

Yep - I'm against both euthanasia and suicide.

Re: Suicide Law

Nope, it won't deter or punish. But that's not the point. There are times when laws are necessary statements in and of themself. In other words, I think it's important for the government to oppose suicide because that opposition is an expression of the populations value on life (pidgeon hole the abortion "life" v. fetus thing). It may not stop it, but it's still the right thing to say.

7:14 AM  

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