Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reader Asks Why I Support Obama and Biden

On Wednesday, a reader code-named “Alaskan” wrote this comment and posted it on my Tuesday piece, “Update on ‘The Spirit of Joe McCarthy”:
Ok so we know that you don't like McCain and Palin. But what exactly do you like about Obama and Biden? What do you think of his plan to require all insurance companies to insure all people? Doesn't this seem likely to do to insurance what this type of policy did to banks? Do you agree with his philosophy to "spread the wealth"? What about his requirement of putting a time limit on withdrawal from Iraq? Does this really seem like something we should be telling terrorists? Just hold out until this date and then you can come in and do whatever you want? Would you rather fight terrorists over here?
Thanks Alaskan for your comment. You and I may not agree on these issues but I am grateful for your taking time to read and respond. I think I owe you answers to your questions, so here they are.

First of all, you are right to suggest that I have been more forthright about my not liking McCain and Palin than I have been about what I like about Obama and Biden. Although it is always difficult to be clear about one’s motivations, I think I know why that has been the case with me. But before I talk about that, let me respond to your specific questions.

Question 1: What do you think of his plan to require all insurance companies to insure all people? Doesn't this seem likely to do to insurance what this type of policy did to banks?

I am ready to try Obama’s plan.
On health care reform, the American people are too often offered two extremes - government-run health care with higher taxes or letting the insurance companies operate without rules. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe both of these extremes are wrong, and that’s why they’ve proposed a plan that strengthens employer coverage, makes insurance companies accountable and ensures patient choice of doctor and care without government interference.
Our health care system is a disaster. We spend more on health care than any other nation in the world but we are far behind in quality and services provided by most all other industrialized nations. I grew up in a home where the AMA’s comic book attacks on “socialized medicine” were on the coffee table. If you can remember those comic books you will probably get some idea of how old I am. My pharmacist father thought that “socialized medicine” was as bad as communism and the worst thing he could imagine. Over the years, as our health care system has run amuck with insurance companies exerting larger and larger control, the “socialized medicine” bugaboo has lost its power with me. I hear in propaganda what a disaster socialized medicine is in other countries, but I never hear it from people I know from those countries who actually use it.

It was the failure to regulate the banking industry that has led to our economic crisis. I believe that the failure to regulate the health care and insurance industries will exacerbate our already existing health care crisis. John McCain, on the other hand, recently wrote that the model of deregulating the financial industry was his model for his health care system.

“Regulation” does not equal “socialization.” What was it James Madison said in the Federalist Papers, No. 51?
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
As far as one of the framers of our Constitution was concerned, the necessary regulatory function of government is as American as apple pie.
Question 2: Do you agree with his philosophy to "spread the wealth"?

Yes, I do. Careful now about what Obama means by “spread the wealth;” “his philosophy” is to get those who make over $250,000 a year paying at the same rate they paid under the Clinton Administration. I also think that the many loopholes the wealthy have—which the poor and middle class do not have—to avoid paying their fair share is unfair. Whether the wealthy admit it or not, there is a reason for the term “commonwealth” without which their wealth would not be possible. And, yes, I support the graduated income tax as a way for citizens to pay their fair share for the government we require because we are not angels.

Question 3: What about his requirement of putting a time limit on withdrawal from Iraq? Does this really seem like something we should be telling terrorists? Just hold out until this date and then you can come in and do whatever you want? Would you rather fight terrorists over here?

In my view, no successful surge nor anything else, can justify our continued presence in Iraq. Nothing can justify our illegal and immoral invasion of the country. I don’t know what will happen in Iraq when we leave, but our continued presence there cannot wash the blood of guilt from our hands. That our presence there continues to be the best recruiting poster Al-Qaeda could wish for, that our presence there may have already fatally compromised our effort to bring to justice the chief perpetrator of 9/11, that our continued presence there continues to alienate Muslims across the world, that our presence there continues to destroy and maim our brave soldiers, that our presence there is running up a financial bill that we cannot pay, that the war on terror generally and the war in Iraq specifically provided justification for a war on American ideals by our own government, are all realities. They are consequences of the morally and legally flawed rationale for the war in the first place. Staying there under whatever pretext cannot redeem those realities. Why do you think our government is having such a difficult time getting a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government that includes provision for our continued presence in the country?

Please understand, I do not pretend to speak for Obama/Biden on this. What I said above is my view. I support Obama/Biden because they have an orderly plan to get us out. If we could extricate ourselves from Iraq earlier and protect our troops doing it I would support it.

At the outset, I agreed that I have spent more time in my blog saying why I didn’t like McCain/Palin. It is not because I am not enthusiastic about Obama/Biden or doubt they offer the best hope for our nation. I am and do not doubt.

When the election season began what seems like a hundred years ago, I looked at the Democratic contenders and, as alternatives to the Republicans, believed I could support any of them. I did not believe they were equal in capability, but compared to having another Republican president, they all looked like better choices.

In this election, I believe political party matters. I believe that somewhere in the last fifty years an honorable Republican Party was hijacked and can no longer be trusted with rule in government. Thomas Frank’s careful history of how and by whom this has happened (The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule) makes sense; at least it does to me. This is how he puts it:
But put conservatism in charge of the state, and it behaves very differently. Now the "values" that rightist politicians eulogize on the stump disappear, and in their place we can discern an entirely different set of priorities—priorities that reveal more about the unchanging historical essence of American conservatism than do its fleeting campaigns against gay marriage or secular humanism. The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school. Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing topnotch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action.
Although I support Democratic objectives more than Republican ones, I know there is nothing inherently moral about Democrats and they are quite capable of self-deception and corruption. It’s for that very reason that our nation is especially threatened now by the absence of a credible opposition party. Maybe the Republican Party will reform itself and become that in the future, but right now it is still under the control of those who have brought ruination on the party and the nation. That’s why I have not spent as much time saying what I like about Obama and Biden.

I support Obama and Biden because I believe they are the best hope for getting us through the myriad of problems we face and that they will do it in a way that will begin the long process of restoring our shredded national integrity, which is essential for our true national security.
Alaskan, I welcome your response. And, if we are lucky, we may be able to get other voices in the conversation.
- Milo

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