To save myself from all that future writing, I’ve decided to develop a kind of preëmptive post simply listing themes relevant (or maybe relevant) to the presidential campaign. Each of these themes could be expanded into a standalone essay, but I leave that, at least for now, to the imagination of the reader. Other bloggers are free to write their own essays on these themes. Who knows, I might even do that myself if I get really fired up. More likely, though, I will save my efforts for campaign issues we haven’t even heard about yet.
Actually, since my “themes” are generally assertions, I should perhaps call them truths. They will seem that more readily to Democrats than to Republicans, although I gore a donkey or two in addition to the elephants.
Here is my list:
- Endorsement of a candidate by a spouse, no matter how effusive, is meaningless.
- If President Obama has failed to accomplish everything he promised, it
is because he assumed, mistakenly, that Republicans in Congress would
behave like adults, putting the welfare of the country ahead of their
own sense of ideological purity. Obama is wiser now, and, if the American people are wiser as well, they will vote every Republican out of office.
- We will continue to pass bad laws as long as much of our legislation is written by lobbyists and we do not insist that legislators certify that they have actually read the legislation they vote on.
- Much of the federal deficit is due to George W. Bush, who cut taxes and conducted two unfunded wars, one of which was pretty much unnecessary.
- People do not create jobs in the private sector as a public service. Even if the wealthy paid no taxes, they would create jobs only if there was demand for goods or services generated by those jobs.
- In fact, consumers are the real “job creators.” Unless there is demand, supply will dry up. Even when innovators create demand for a product or service consumers had not known they wanted, it is still consumers who ultimately make the innovator successful. (Think Apple.)
- The government need not encourage private investment. People with money will invest it as best they can, rather than hiding it under their mattresses.
- Tax breaks for particular activities distort economic decisions and are justified only to encourage investment in desirable activities that would not happen otherwise. Needless to say, the oil industry needs no subsidy from the federal government.
- If we were really serious about using tax policy to encourage the wealthy to create jobs, we would give tax breaks for creating new jobs and apply tax penalties for eliminating old ones. Probably neither measure is a good one, however.
- Federal “insurance” programs (crop, flood) should not lose money. To the extent that they do, they are badly run or subsidize bad economic behavior.
- The U.S. Postal Service, even if it loses money, is critical to binding the nation together. It should not be required to be a profit center.
- Insisting on reducing the federal deficit when the economy is performing poorly is, in theory, a bad idea. Historical evidence supports the theory. The government may indeed need to rein in spending, but not now, given our high level of unemployment. This is a good time to invest heavily in infrastructure.
- The inadequacy of government regulation (aided and abetted by greed and a paucity of ethics) was a major cause of the recent economic crisis. Future crises can only be avoided by increased regulation. Suggestions to the contrary are either moronic or self-serving.
- “Obamacare” represents an improvement to our system for delivering medical care. It could have been better had Obama not compromised to obtain Republican votes, a strategy that was unsuccessful.
- Junk science has no place in policy debates. Whatever some people say, climate change is a pressing concern, the earth is not 6,000 years old, vaccinations do not cause autism, a fertilized egg is not a human being, and rape victims get pregnant with dismaying frequency.
- Our failure to place reasonable restrictions on gun ownership is a national disgrace. (Don’t expect this to be an issue in the campaign.)
- One should trust no candidate who continues to run ads that multiple fact-checkers have declared to be false.
- The vice-presidential candidate matters. Vice presidents eventually become president with alarming frequency. Therefore, a vice-presidential candidate should be someone clearly qualified to be president at the time of election. (Sarah Palin, for example, was not a credible candidate for vice president—or much of anything else, for that matter.)
- Mitt Romney has acknowledged that Bain Capital had its successes and failures; business, he says, involves risk. Naturally, he emphasizes the successes. Republicans have ignored successful government investments and complained about Solyndra, whose failure seems to have been caused by circumstances beyond its control.
- Our greatest presidents have not been businessmen, and businessmen presidents have not distinguished themselves as managers of the economy.
- Managing a business and guiding economic policy for the nation have little to do with one another; the goals, tools, constraints, and necessary skills for the two tasks are markedly different.
- Romney’s term as governor of Massachusetts is a more relevant entry on the Republican candidate’s résumé than his tenure at Bain Capital. The campaign emphasizes the latter, rather than the former, because the health plan he implemented is fundamentally the same as the hated “Obamacare” and because Romney stepped down with an approval rating in the low 30s. Under Governor Romney, Massachusetts was 47th among the 50 states in job growth.
- Freedom of conscience does not imply freedom from the obligations of citizenship.
- It is inconsistent to allow Catholic bishops to make moral choices while denying that privilege to pregnant women.
- Presidential campaigns were once about how we treat the poor. Now they are ostensibly about the middle class, though the main beneficiaries of government policy are large corporations and the wealthy.
- If our policy toward Cuba hasn’t worked in half a century, it is unlikely to work in the next half century.
- Israel is a diplomatic liability, though unwavering support for Israel is considered a prerequisite for gaining the Jewish vote. (Ironically, it may now be more critical to winning the Evangelical vote than to winning the Jewish vote.)
- If Israel attempts an air strike on Iran—some have suggested that Netanyahu might want to do this before the U.S. election—we should shoot down the Israeli planes.
- The U.S. needs to get out of Afghanistan. We can’t fix our own country, much less this basket case of a medieval kleptocracy. If the country begins to again harbor terrorists, we can send in air strikes. Pakistan is more worrisome than Afghanistan; it is governed only marginally better (maybe) and has nuclear weapons.
- Unless the U.S. can gain the coöperation of Russia and China, it has no good options regarding Syria. Under the circumstances, we are doing the best we can.
- It is not at all clear what the solution to the “immigration problem” should look like. Some bipartisan brainstorming is required. In any case, we cannot deport our way out of the situation we’re in.
- If the filibuster is to be retained in the U.S. Senate, senators should actually have to talk on the floor to use the tactic, not merely declare that they want to filibuster. The intention of the filibuster rule was not to make a 60% majority of senators required to pass any bill.
Update, 9/6/2012, AM. More themes prompted by recent events:
- Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.
- Aid for Israel should be contingent on halting the building of settlements on the West Bank and dismantling existing settlements.
- The way we finance political campaigns is broken. It needs to be fixed in a way that does not allow big corporations or the wealthy to buy elections.
- Equally broken and in need of revision are our intellectual property laws. Penalties for copyright infringement are unreasonable—just rent a movie to be scared to death—protection lasts too long—how can protection of written works after the death of the author encourage the author to be productive?—and one can hardly get out of bed these days without infringing someone’s patent.
- Production, possession, and use of marijuana should be legalized, regulated, and taxed. Prohibition is not working and is filling our jails to the benefit only of the prison industry.