Wednesday, September 10, 2008

As Promised

I missed Obama's keynote at the DNC this year. So I looked up the transcript. You know what? It's damned inspiring just to read it, let alone hear it.

Those Dems gots some gooooood speech writers.

I started reading it, and kept going, and was wondering to myself, "When the hell is he going to get to what HE'S going to do?" Half a speech of bashing McCain, Bush, and the GOP or pointing out what everybody already knows is wrong with the country.

Then he quickly builds to his goals after going on about "the promise" of the presidency. Reading through the "promise" section was actually frustrating, because I was already at the "where the fuck is your platform?" stage...

Then comes the meat to his "change".

- Tax breaks shift from corporations that shift jobs overseas to corps that keep jobs in America.

Really? How will you differentiate? Does GM not get tax breaks because they have plants in Canada as well as Detroit? Or how about a company that is BASED overseas and wants to set up shop in the US? Wouldn't this be a deterrant? Where is this line drawn? Because I could set up a company with 7 employees in Kansas, and 100,000 in India... does that meet the criteria? And aren't those corporations already getting the same tax breaks?

- 10 year end of dependence on Middle East oil. Via clean coal, nuclear power, natural gas reserves, auto efficiency, wind, solar, and biofuels.

A few things - one, I LOVE the wording "I will our tap natural gas reserves... and find ways to safely harness nuclear power." Did you know Barack had these skills? I had no idea he was a nuclear physicist. No Barack, what YOU will do is give nice speeches and urge congress members to form committees to investigate the possibilites. You will approve funding (if it makes it to you through congress and the senate) for these. Hey, guess what? Safe nuclear power is already possible! Clean coal is a reality! T. Boone Pickens is already pushing for wind and solar power!

Two - CANADA is the #1 single provider of oil to the United States. Followed by Saudi Arabia, then MEXICO, and VENEZUELA. So the majority of your imported oil actually comes from THIS SIDE OF THE WORLD. Sorry, but this has been a political talking point that's annoyed me for a long time. Oh, and the US provides itself with over 5 million barrels per day as it is.

Three - Coal, Natural Gas, and Uranium for nuclear power are all... NON RENEWABLE RESOURCES. So what happens when they start to run dry? Why, you look elsewhere and start the cycle again. The US is already looking to tap Russia for uranium. Yah, Russia... there's a stable bet. Point being - turning to other non-renewable resources to substitute for a shortage in another one is still a stop-gap measure, it's just a bigger one. At least offshore drilling isn't really coming up in the speech - that's just fucking useless.

Four - Fuck off with biofuels. They aren't viable on a large scale until you convert the entire growing and processing aspect of it to... cheap, renewable resources! When you burn more oil and gas to harvest the corn than the corn produces, and then subsidize the industry to keep it afloat, it's a net loss! Biofuels work on the small scale only, when you can use waste products as a power source.

Oh and while I'm at it... this whole tax breaks in Detroit for fuel-efficient and Hybrid cars? Fuck. That. Shit. Toyota's already kicking your ass. By the time US manufacturers figure it out, they'll be a generation behind and playing catchup. The oil jump jolted a lot of Americans out of their "bigger is better" and "horsepower is king" mentality, and are looking for ways to save gas costs. They'll be in the hybrids and compacts before the "big 3" get a chance to make a dent. And you know what that is called? MARKET FORCES. Tax breaks in this case are too late. The companies are going down the drains and already realize that they have to scramble and build smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. But I'm sure that if there's a turnaround, whoever's in power will take credit.

I'm all for the environment, but the solutions proposed have their pitfalls. I'm a supporter of new nuclear plants, with appropriately safe NEW technology (as in, meltdowns are impossible), and continued research in minimizing nuclear waste. It's come a long way in the last decade even, so keep any new plants upgradeable for future technology.

- Accesible education for all children

Okay, this is a sadly overlooked aspect in every election and every government. Providing access to QUALITY education is the corner stone for a successful country. It's short-sighted to ignore the public school system. Ask Hoy about private schools in NY and the competition for them. There is no reason that the public system should be so sub-par and viewed so terribly. Considering only a small minority of children get the "benefit" of private school, and the costs can easily bankrupt families, this only inflates class and wealth gaps, and hurts the country as a whole. Especially as manufacturing and low-level jobs are being outsourced, meaning education is even more important unless you have a goal of customer service.

But it comes at a cost. I think that throwing money at the problem is prohibitively expensive, and the problem is more complex than a lack of teachers and accountability. You can't lay educational standards across the board. Students in Mississippi are different than ones in New York. Students in East LA have different needs than those in Orange County. Hell, every student is unique if you break it down far enough. I don't have an easy solution, but I think a great deal of study and honesty is required before hiring an "army of teachers" and increasing their pay.

- Health care for all

What can I say, I'm biased. I can walk into any hospital in the country and get the help I need without paying a dime. Sure, it comes out of my taxes, but I don't have to worry if I can afford the trip. But it is insanely pricey, and highly inefficient. ERs become triage units, where people with nut allergies get in quickly while someone with a broken arm can sit for hours. An MRI can take weeks to get if you don't want to drive across the border and pay a few hundred bucks for one. Our health care system here might not be ideal, but it's there. But Americans are dead-set against socialized medicine... at the same time, the argument that private for-profit companies should dictate who gets what care is ridiculous to me. Sadly, Barack doesn't actually give details of his plan (I'll look at his platform more in-depth later) here, just that it will lower premiums for those who have health care, and provide it to those who don't.

- Equality of pay between men and women

Nice dream. There are too many variables that go into determining pay for this to be viable. If a woman complains she's being underpaid due to her sex, all it takes is a comparison of experience, education, or contribution to find the necessary discrepencies. I'm not saying she's not right, but that companies can always weasel their way around these things if they're already sexist.

- Paying for it all

Closing corporate loopholes and tax havens, elminating budget fat ("line by line")... all very nice-sounding, and completely rhetorical. I honestly don't believe tax havens and loopholes make THAT much a difference in corporate taxes. The ideal situation for a corporation is to make ZERO profits by passing them on to shareholders in the form of dividends, and reinvesting into R&D and the like. Or just look at the current environment, where companies are LOSING money. You know what? You don't pay taxes if you don't make anything.

As for the budget... good luck with that. You still have congressmen and senators who will protect their earmarks and pork with their lives. Lobbyists who will fight for lines. 300 million people crying out for different things. That $1000 toilet seat only saves you $1000 when you stop buying them.

No... taxes will be raised in some form or another to pay for education and health care. The numbers are just too large to made up by some fat-trimming.

Then the speech continues with hurried rhetoric about the rest of the "small" issues, touches briefly on Iraq, and then plays patty-cake with the GOP.

What I found most striking is the VERY clevery use of pronouns. The word "I" is used a whole bunch in there. Not "we", not "my administration", not "us", not "the democrats", but "I". Barack Obama is clearly being set up as the saviour, not the party that's behind him, but he, himself. Sometimes this is offensively obvious, other times it's subtle. The Dems have found their next leader. Bill Clinton and JFK both had charisma to spare. I saw Clinton speak in person a while back, and he is captivating and motivating in a way you wouldn't think possible. Obama is even moreso. The problem with a saviour is that as his reputation increases, so does his ego, and so much farther does the fall become. Give Bush this - for all his arrogance, posturing, and confidence, he's never been on a high pedestal. He's been the most disasterous President in history, but he's still there because nobody expected any more from him. If Obama slips up, he's done for.

And he will slip up, because he has so very little substance behind him. A full 75% of his DNC speech was empty. Promises by association - "McCain is against this!" which IMPLIES that Barack is for it, but that's never explicitily stated. Suggestions without backing, plans that seem poorly thought-out, promises that appeal to the masses but are utterly impractical, grand ideas that are already falling into place without his support, and dodging the truly contentious issues and the dirty fight. It's easy to say "every child deserves an education" or "I believe gays should be able to visit their partners in the hospital" but it doesn't tackle the underlying issues.

I think the analogy of Barack to the Emperor with no Clothes is, in fact, apt. He's set himself up brilliantly. Those promises he can't keep will be the Bush administration's fault (The debt they put this country in is staggering! We must raise taxes!), and much of what he's promised is already falling into place, so he'll look like a hero. Sure, he didn't fix health care, but Ford is making hybrids!

A little honesty, that's all I want. I also want people who can afford it to stop being afraid of an extra percentage point or two on their taxes. The country's in the shitter, and it needs more money and more efficient services - which means lean times, higher taxes, and less funding for a while. If you rebuild a sports team, they suck ass for 5 years and eventually win the championship... same deal.

I've said it before though - The US could use a charismatic, motivational speaker these days though. Someone who can create faith and belief in the government. That itself can spur recovery.


lightning36 said...

He sounds great and looks pretty, but then ...

I live in Illinois, and no one knew who the heck he was until he gave the big speech at the Democratic National Convention. Now he is a superstar. But what has he ever done? Uhh ...

Not my choice to lead the country. I'll take my chances with the old guy who has at least shown some balls -- and accomplishments -- in his lifetime.

RaisingCayne said...

Enjoyed your political musings Astin. Far too often any political "insights" are simply biased uneducated blatherings regarding why the "other side" is wrong... it was refreshing to see you communicate taking issue with both sides of the spectrum! (I suppose YOU can do this, being Canadian. We here have to pick a side and go with it, you have the privilege of being objective. ;-)

Given my hypocrisy though, I should provide some of my biased blatherings in a response here... Oh, I suppose I can save you my liberal propaganda, never mind.

BamBam said...


I think this was some of your best work Sir! Honest, un-biased and totally on the point.

The grass just may not be that much greener.
('less of course, you're looking North)