Friday, April 02, 2004

in response to the Bush vs. Kerry debate

now we all know that my preferences lie strongly with Kerry, in the -anyone but Bush- sense of preference. i've been known to say that i would vote for a hamster or goldfish over Bush. (of course, i am also not an American citizen, so really, my preferences have no real impact whatsoever.) i've just read, over at Dan Drezner's blog that he thinks (as does Megan McArdle, whom he references) that there is little to no differences between the two men, and any preference ultimately will be fairly weak. (perhaps whoever yells the loudest? or has more commercials on tv?)

here's my two cents worth. perhaps in terms of issues there is little to be chosen between the two -or at the very least it would take some skilled attention to detail to discern the real difference between the two sets of fiscal policy, or foreign policy (i mean, come on, the Bush Adminstration got the US into Iraq; even if Kerry is elected President he's still going to have to deal with the fact that US troops are already committed in Iraq, what great difference can he make to the spilled (spoiled?) milk, right?). however, there are some things i dislike immensely about Bush that have nothing -or rather, little- to do with the actual details of his policy. most significantly is the attitude the Bush Adminstration has of going it alone -de facto unilateralism, no matter how many gestures they make in the direction of multilateralism, so that they can claim that they've made a good faith attempt at engaging others. i believe that some honest good faith efforts at engaging international institutions and the international community is important - not the least because it assuages worry and resentment against US power. there seems to be some disconnect in understanding between the causes of threats to the US, and the flexing of (unreasonable) American military might. i'll probably have more to say as the quarter progresses and i read more in Seminar on Realism.

another big BugBear of mine: taxation. of course, i have been reading Krugman, who is by no means unbiased. however, he makes -repeatedly- a valid point: the bait-and-switch not just in taxation but in foreign policy. the Bush Adminstration lies to the American public -if not directly, by false information, then indirectly, by omission of information, by using the fine print, by obfuscation and by shouting louder than its critics. while the Bush Adminstration trumpets the savings that tax cuts they are desperately trying to push through will bring, they fail to mention who the greatest beneficiaries are. not the poor people, as you would expect. not even the lower-middle income range. but the rich. now it all comes back to what you believe about marginal prospensities to spend, and relative utlities. is a marginal dollar worth the same to a poor person as it is to a rich person in terms of utility? is it worth the same to society when it's returned to a poor person as when it's returned to a rich person? i happen to believe not.

also, let's not forget that the Bush Adminstration is riding the wave of fear, using it to push through changes in society that would otherwise be impossible. fingerprinting and photographing all foreign visitors to the United States, the Patriot Act, the insistence on treating everyone who is not 'with them' as 'the enemy' who is against them...there no longer exists a middle ground, where an observer is allowed to object without malicious intent. (sounds eerily familiar. the US should take care it doesn't turn into another...Singapore -grin-) that loss of middle ground i think is something that in itself is worthy of regret.

beyond all that, in this case, if it comes to picking between the devil i know and the devil i don't, i'm going to pick the devil i don't. i have proof that the devil i know is fully capable of lying, making a dishonest case for going to war, cutting taxes on the rich and increasing the burden on the poor, spending the country into deficit from a surplus (though perhaps any adminstration would have done the same, faced with the aftermath of 9/11), to name a few objections. even if there are no real policy implications for the choice ahead for the United States (i disagree, most of all with 'moderately multilateralist', but what do i know), there are moral and ethical implications stemming from the choice voters make in November. i don't know that Kerry isn't going to do the same if he is in the White House for four years, but at this point i would be willing to risk it if the alternative was another four years for sure of a Bush Adminstration.


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