Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Great Debate

As I mentioned recently, I have linked to a blog called "Truth, For A Change" which is brought to us by Marlipern. During some recent exchanges certain challenges were issued and as a result we have begun "The Great Debate". For my part, I am more interested in where we might find common ground, as I am fairly certain we can find topics to disagree on without much difficulty. I’d say we are getting off to a fair start since I believe we have found common ground on 70%. But let me steal/paraphrase a comment I read recently:The goals of liberals were "Peace, prosperity, and national security," whereas the goals of conservatives were "Peace, prosperity, and national security." What we disagree about is how to get there.

I have taken the liberty of reproducing Marlipern's ten topics/viewpoints with my comments interspersed so it is much more like the discussion it is intended to be.

1. Raise the minimum wage.Should a family of four be able to survive on one person earning minimum wage? No. But should a young person, just getting started? Absolutely.

Answer: I disagree. “Minimum wage workers tend to be young. About half of workers earning $5.15 or less were under age 25, and about one-fourth of workers earning at or below the minimum wage were age 16-19. Among employed teenagers, about 9 percent earned $5.15 or less. About 2 percent of workers age 25 and over earned the minimum wage or less. Among those age 65 and over, the proportion was about 3 percent.” This isn’t my opinion – this comes from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers 2005. Why should we pay young people well? Are we discriminating against them because they are young, have no experience and do not bring much in the way of ability to the table? Let the market determine wages.

2. Make education a top priority in our country.Our nation’s schools are in an abysmal state. We are short-changing our nation’s future. If you think, “no child left behind” is the solution, fine. Then fund it damnit!

Answer: I agree. Our nation’s schools are in an abysmal state – agreed. Then let’s implement standardized curriculum and testing across the county so that anyone who tests at or above a 3.5 GPA gets a free ride to college. And any school that is not performing to acceptable standards gets closed or preferably, burned to the ground. Can you say school vouchers? And let’s not forget Ted Kennedy’s involvement in “No Child Left Behind”. "Senator Kennedy has also been a leader in the fight to close the $17 billion gap between funding provided so far by the Administration and Congress and the resources necessary to get the job done."We strongly believe that in order to make the No Child Left Behind law work, more fundamental changes will have to be made. The law continues to evaluate student and school progress on just a 'snapshot'—two tests taken once a year—and it fails to measure growth in individual student achievement over time.”So says the NEA, the single largest roadblock to implementing this act. Two tests taken once a year – exactly how often do you think we would be “testing for growth in individual student achievement over time”? And could we really do it for a mere $17 billion? Not to mention, do you think it would eventually show what a sham the public school system in this country really is – and that the NEA bears a great deal of the blame? Please do not misunderstand me; I have a great deal of respect for some teachers. But what I have a problem with is a union that fights monitoring of results which shields their membership at the expense of our children.

3. Make our nation TRULY energy independent.This is more than just good policy; it is a matter of national security. We have some outstanding scientists and engineers in this country (I know, I’m one of them :-) ), we CAN do this.

Answer: I agree. It is definitely a matter of national security; we have the technology and the people. And I know because you’re one of them. Does this mean we can drill in ANWR now? I mean, since it’s a national security issue and we have the technology and the people and everything…..

4. Take global warming seriously, AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!!This is not theory, this is not an opinion, this does not require “further study” to verify. This is a fact. No, it’s not some commie-leftwing-treehugger-antiestablishment conspiracy to kill big oil. The science bears this out. It’s time we thought of the future of our planet, rather than just the future of one political party or their corporate contributors.

Answer: PPPLLLLLEEEEEEEAAAAAASSSSSEEEEEE. I disagree. OK – it’s a fact; based on 200 years of data on a subject that unfolds over a geologic time scale. Thirty years ago every scientist was convinced we were going into the next ice age. Now it’s global warming. Please make up my mind. “Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore warned hundreds of U.N. diplomats and staff on Thursday evening about the perils of climate change, claiming: Cigarette smoking is a "significant contributor to global warming!"Gore showed computer-generated projections of ocean water rushing in to submerge the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, parts of China, India and other nations, should ice shelves in Antarctica or Greenland melt and slip into the sea.”I’ll give the planet San Francisco and New York City if I can still drive my SUV. And as for cigarette smoking being a "significant contributor to global warming!" as Jocelyn Elders, the Clinton appointed US Surgeon General once said “You’ve gotta die of something.”

5. Require a balanced federal budget, period.A constitutional amendment perhaps? Yes, you heard me, a Democrat advocating for an amendment that the federal budget be balanced. It’s simple math. We’ve gone from the largest budget surplus in history to the largest deficit in history. We cannot continue down this road. Our children and our grandchildren are going to inherit enough of the problems we’ve created. They don’t need to be in perpetual debt as well.

Answer: I agree but with provisions. I am not convinced a constitutional amendment could/should correct this problem. And yes – it is rich, that you, a Democrat would suggest one. As for it being simple math – I’m not so convinced. Both parties have shown a complete lack of regard for our children and grandchildren when it comes to disciplined spending. The only difference here is one of emphasis; historically, Republicans spend more on the military at the expense of domestic programs and the Democrats offer the opposite. But pork remains king.

6. Implement serious campaign finance reforms.Public financing of elections? Maybe. A serious cap on soft money? Perhaps. But the point is, our democracy should not be for sale to the highest bidder. It’s “We the People”, not “We the Corporations”. Pay to play doesn’t seem consistent with “promote the general welfare”.

Answer: I disagree. Money is the mother’s milk of politics. Public financing of elections – surely you jest. I’ve got a great idea – let’s tax ourselves to let these idiots run for office!!!! What a wonderful trough that would be!!!!Anyway, I thought McCain-Feingold fixed all of this.By the way, interestingly enough, when the Founders, your radical buddies, wrote “We the people…” they were referring to adult, white, male, property holders.

7. Establish trade policies that protect American jobs.I’m not suggesting that we isolate ourselves. I’m not suggesting that corporations shouldn’t be able to turn a profit. But somehow, some way, we need to make it a priority to have decent, good-paying jobs for workers right here in the U.S. of A. If we keep outsourcing our jobs, we might as well start outsourcing the consumers as well. Because eventually, there won’t be anyone left here who can even afford the cheap Chinese products at Wal-Mart.

Answer: I agree with provisions. Our economy is changing from a manufacturing to a service economy. It concerns me a great deal since I work for a manufacturing oriented company. But the fact remains that we are increasingly moving to a service based economy - and as with the change from an agricultural to a manufacturing economy, some people inevitably get hurt in the process. We do need to keep certain industries (i.e. steel, auto) if for no other reason than national defense considerations. But our children need to be concentrating their efforts on the post industrial jobs of the future not following in their parents footsteps and going to work in the mill. If you have not already done so, read Thomas Friedman’s book “The World Is Flat”.

8. Take some serious steps address nuclear and WMD proliferation.The greatest threat to our civilization continues to be a man-made threat. This isn’t just some tree-huggin’ nonuke freak talking here. Even dubya is concerned with the spread of WMDs. (too bad he can’t find any – yes, that was a cheap shot, and well-deserved) Given today’s verification of a nuclear North Korea, this issue is all the more relevant.

Answer: I agree. But the real question is how. This could be a huge discuss all by itself. See my post on North Korea for starters.

9. Make the election system in our country above reproach.Forget about whether or not there were shenanigans in 2000 (which there were), or 2004 (ditto). The fact remains that the American people are questioning the integrity of the very system that insures that their voices are heard and their interests are represented. If we cannot insure the validity and transparency of the very foundation of our democracy, then the rest of our discussion is pointless.

Answer: I agree with provisions. And if you think that our election process is flawed, you should watch the rest of the world try to do what we have been doing for over 200 years – the peaceful transfer of power via the ballot box.These sour grapes have turned to vinegar. We have had close elections before. In 1960 the question was “How many times can a dead person vote in Chicago, Illinois?” The answer was “As many times as it takes to make Jack Kennedy president.” For the good of the country, did Richard Nixon contest the election – no. But in 2000 Al Gore did and so did his army of lawyers. Gore won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College. If you don’t like that election system then work to change it; but, like it or not, we have been using it to elect presidents in this country for a long time. Strangely enough, people tend to forget that the mid-term elections of 2002 were a pick up for the Republicans when, historically, they should not have won.In 2004 you just plain lost. Get over it. “The fact remains that the American people are questioning the integrity of the very system that insures that their voices are heard and their interests are represented.” Wrong. Less than half of the people are because the person they voted for was not elected. You can not contest every single national election just because your candidate does not win. However, if someone is actually caught circumventing the election laws then let’s make an example of them and put them in front of a firing squad. But if you are not bright enough to figure out where you are supposed to vote, what voter registration is all about, what kind of ID you might need and how a butterfly ballot or an electronic voting machine works – don’t complain – you probably aren’t doing the Republic a great service by casting a ballot either. And leave the lawyers at home.

10. Insure the solvency on the social security system, for generations to come.Some on the right have argued that there is nothing to worry about, that the liberals are twisting this way out of proportion. Given the Republicans’ recent proclivity to spend this nation into oblivion, I couldn’t disagree more. Some of us are fortunate enough to not have to worry about whether social security will be there for us when we retire. That doesn’t mean we should turn our back on those who are not so fortunate.

Answer: I agree. What exactly was the Democrats plan for Social Security reform when they decided they didn’t want President Bush to reform it? The President came out and said there was plenty to worry about in regards to Social Security and showed it would go bankrupt. What about privatization? Nope, can’t do that; we’re not smart enough. Give me the money the government is taking from me and let me invest it. I’ll be just fine.And as for retirement – I am glad to hear you have nothing to worry about. But turning our backs on the less fortunate? Come on. Social Security was never meant to be a retirement plan. When President Roosevelt put it together you had to be 65 years old to qualify – which happens to have been older than the average person lived to be at the time.

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