Thursday, October 14, 2004

Politics as Usual: That debate was dull, uneventful, uninspiring, and largely unimportant. Moderator Bob Schieffer kept asking questions about problems the President of the United States can do little to nothing to solve: cost of health care, job creation, flu shots, economic growth, etc. One of the few issues brought up that the president can make a difference is Social Security, and both candidates ducked that one.

The most important domestic issue that the president can control is federal spending. And at this point, we don't have any reason to trust either one of them to balance the budget. For voters, the debate will largely come down to which candidate made the best self-depreciating joke regarding his wife.

It was still strange how often foreign affairs came up in a debate that was supposed to focus solely on domestic issues. But the two are inextricably tied. Our success in foreign affairs determines our security at home.

And the Bush campaign wasn't too happy that Kerry kept emphasizing that Dick Cheney has a (cue Jon Stewart's voice) GAY DAUGHTER! I guess the Democrats hoping some Republican bigots will be so shocked that they'll stay home on Election Day.

As for the candidate's arguments, I'm still tired of Kerry comparing today's economic situation to that of the 1990s. That period of rapid economic growth was an anomaly caused by a hyperactive technology sector. When that cooled, before President Bush took office, we went into a recession. Yet Kerry says it's Bush's fault that we went from a deficit to a surplus that same year, even though Bush wasn't even president when the economy took a downturn.

Now Kerry says growing the economy again like in the 90s will save Social Security. Alan Murray, the "Raging Moderate" at The Wall Street Journal, says that's like planning your family budget by expecting to win the lottery.

However, Kerry was right to nail Bush on his plan to let today's workers take money out of Social Security for private investments. That would destroy the program and drive up the debt by trillions of dollars in order to pay for the current beneficiaries.

On the minimum wage issue, Kerry clearly won. The senator laid out a case arguing that the real value of the minimum wage is too low. Bush countered that he supported a minimum wage increase, but said nothing as to why it didn't pass while he was president. Then he started talking about No Child Left Behind.

While Bush seemed a little quick to change subjects to education, he's right to link job opportunity with education opportunity. The more educated and productive people here are, the more jobs will come here from overseas. Right now we're insourcing more jobs than we're outsourcing, and we can keep doing that if we make education more accessible to everybody.

It's strange that Bush ducked the affirmative action issue by talking about Pell Grants. Bush has a solid record of supporting affirmative action with his own policies (take a look at his Cabinet). But it's not popular among Republicans, so Bush changed the subject.

So that's the end of that. Kerry seems to be getting a lot of momentum in the polls from the debates. And time's running out.

Still, I have a feeling that something is still going to happen, perhaps a terrorist attack here at home, that could render all this moot. We'll just see how the voters react to it.


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