Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Recent Debates

I watched about 45 minutes of a replay of the Republican Presidential Debate a few nights ago, then followed that up with about an hour of the live Democratic Presidential Debate.  Some thoughts.

I know I am biased, but the GOP event was less presidential and more a street rumble.  Penis size talk?  Wow!  I tired hard to suspend my biases, and listened for actual substance and potential policy.  Build a wall, of course, was clearly stated by Trump, and while not agreed to by Rubio and Cruz, they did emphasize their desire to remove all illegals, and heaven forbid, admit to creating a path to citizenship for children brought to America illegally by their parents.  Children paying for the sins of their fathers and mother, what a disgrace, and certainly not very Christian.  And Mexico will pay for it, by the way.  Why, because Trump says so.

Of course, the entire immigration discussion reeks of hypocrisy when one considers that Cruz and Rubio are first generation Americans, both, along with Kasich, pulling at heartstrings with tales of their poor, barely English speaking ancestors who attained work as maids and dishwashers, all the while seeming to blot out the reality that the very immigrants they are so eager to dismiss and blame for America's problems, are mirror images of their own parents and grandparents.  But legal, you say.  True, except that we must remember that the quotas for immigration from Cuba were non-existent due to our hatred for Castro, so one might wonder if there had been real quotas would Cruz and Rubio even be Americans at this point.  And, of course, Cruz was not even born in America, yet is betting on a more progressive interpretation of the Constitution when it comes to eligibility to be president.  Odd, when one considers his no nonsense, literal interpretation of history when it comes to understanding our founders thoughts.

Both Cruz and Trump would eliminate the IRS due to their flat tax plans.  Certainly, streamlining the tax code is an admirable goal, but I have yet to see an economic analysis that doesn't suggest that flat tax plans generally reduce taxes for the rich, while shifting more burden on the middle class.  And, of course, if  less money is collected, then what benefits are they willing to eliminate.  I heard talk of eliminating the Dept of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, but no debate about how much those departments actually spend, where the money that is distributed by the Education Dept would now come from (higher state and local taxes?), and who precisely was going to protect our water and air once the EPA was no longer.  Trust business seemed to be the answer not stated.  After all, no business would possibly resort to cutting waste disposal corners, or air pollution standards in the name of profit!  Kasich, who is generally the adult on the stage, is no better on this account.  All the candidates willingness to sacrifice education and the environment for a balanced budget, when those 2 departments account for a relatively small percentage of the budget, smack of the worst rhetoric when knowledge of the huge sum of money spent on the military is known. 

Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act was also good fodder.  Policy changes that will increase the number of Americans who have health insurance is welcome.  And, perhaps now that the health insurance industry knows that Americans are on to their tricks of capping lifetime benefits, denying insurance for pre-existing conditions, and granting discounts for large "buyers", while hiking premiums for small businesses and people who work for companies who do not provide the benefit, the first steps provided for by the Affordable Care Act can be revisited.  But I find it more likely that any replacement program will rely on private insurers with no incentive to insure the sick, only to limit exposure to expense.  After all, the GOP has resisted the call to provide more Americans access to affordable health care for quite some time.  Even when programs like those that exist in Massachusetts were successful, the GOP backpedaled from taking credit.

In contrast, the debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was boring.  They actually discussed, in detail, some bills that they voted on while serving in the Senate.  At one point, Sanders was asked about comments that he made in conjunction with a bill passed in the mid 1990's.  I thought this fascinating, first because it showed how involved the two were in their jobs that they recalled the legislation, and 2nd that in discussing that particular bill (and a few others) they both made it clear that no bill is perfect, and that sometimes, even when speaking passionately about an aspect of a bill that you oppose as Sanders did that day, you might still vote for it because the good outweighed the bad.  True governing in action, sort of like a mini-civics lesson for those who think that compromise is a dirty word.  When Rubio was questioned about his participation in the Gang of 8, a committed that actually had created a framework for immigration reform, he was attacked for including an aspect that Cruz did not like.  Consequently, that reform framework was rejected by the ideologues in the House and Cruz in the Senate, resulting in no movement on the issue.  Whether it be because of our first black president or just because the GOP were sore losers, working across the aisle was the last thing on their agenda.

I assume that Trump will compromise in a manner as he describes; ask for more than you want and settle for what you want.  It is strange to think that the GOP base, people who point to Obama and derisively call him King, don't see the irony in supporting someone who is clearly running for King.  Or, for that matter, why they don't understand that Washington doesn't work, cannot work, unless both sides are willing to give and take when negotiating, and, since the tea party reps whom they have elected are neither interested in compromising or for that matter governing, they themselves are part of the reason why Washington is dysfunctional. 

What is sad is that the GOP which has a proud history of political accomplishments that have served America well, is looking down the barrel of a no win situation.  Either Trump is the candidate, which means the GOP establishment will have to reverse their recent attacks on him, or a brokered convention nominates a different candidate, most likely Cruz, which means they will have to face a pissed off bully.  Will Trump immediately sue to challenge Cruz's right to run for president (show us your birth certificate!), or just simply tell his followers to stay home.  If he is half the negotiator he claims to be, I imagine his support will come at great cost to the GOP.

Still, even should Clinton or Sanders win, Washington will continue in its present morass of inaction, if compromise continues to be considered a sign of weakness.  While it is true that sometimes no deal is better than a bad deal, no deals at all do not move the needle forward.  This is where we, the electorate, need to slip off our own mantle of noninvolvement, and become informed about the issues, and the big problems that need solutions.  Know how your reps vote in Washington through organizations like MegaVote.  Evaluate based on multiple issues, not just on a single viewpoint.  And, please, whatever you do, vote for the candidate, local, state or national, who expresses compassion for others, for all Americans.  Remember, those who support candidates who seek only to point fingers and isolate a segment of the population for blame, may someday point in your direction.


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