Organ Mountains

Organ Mountains

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

For Those Undecided

The series of debates between those contesting for the top leadership roles in the executive branch of our government have concluded.  Unfortunately, we only got the Republican and Democratic nominees so it wasn't truly a representative debate.  If I were an undecided voter, awaiting the outcome of the debates to influence my choice, I'd still be undecided.  The banality of the system, or is it the coverage, is probably best summed up in this picture:



After a poor performance in the first debate, the incumbent tried to portray the challenger as attempting to balance the budget by firing Sesame Street icon Big Bird.  Groups, especially women's organizations, seized upon the challengers comment about getting "binders full of [women]" while searching for qualified female applicants for government jobs.  The third debate on foreign policy had the incumbent trying to paint the challenger as naive and behind the times in military matters.  I learned nothing new from watching any of the debates.  Basically, I'd call all of them draws.

The one salient difference between these candidates is what they imagine as the role of government.  The incumbent believes we are improving in the economy and cuts in the defense area can best be spent improving education and infrastructure to enable America to regain its place among the leading nations in the world.  The challenger would achieve the same goals but using the private sector, not government to do so.

Of course, I am not an undecided voter.  I am retired-- old enough to draw on the money I've paid into Social Security; not yet of the age where I can reap what my employers and I have paid into Medicare.  I live in the Southwestern United States where distances are huge compared to the East Coast and maintenance of the Interstate highways is a major concern.  On the PBS Newshour Morning Line this morning was a story about a study carried out by a non-partisan group that said, in essence, that the cost to update the Interstate system would exceed the cost when it was built--$688billion.  (Story is about 2/3 way down the page, after the segment on McGovern.)  Please note that is about 2/3 of the challenger's proposed increase to defense spending, where the USA already significantly outspends the entire rest of the world.

This morning I was in a conversation about what the effect on day-to-day living would be if either candidate won.  The answer, I believe, is that the effect would be negligible over the short term.  Neither candidate is going to have an immediate effect on the benefits I paid into and now, and in a year or so, will receive.  But the long term effects will be devastating if the challenger wins.  Spending on defense instead of infrastructure will have such long term deleterious effects on the economy and on competitiveness that the USA will be removed from the top tier of the rich world, likely surpassed by China, a country making infrastructure gains.  Under the challenger's budget plan and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I see my medical costs increasing, especially on the predictive tests that in the long run help reduce the overall medical bill.  This could make my financial position untenable since I've already retired and my income is fixed.  It would have been nice to have $20million or so in assets to see me out and handle unforeseeable tribulations, but I'm afraid I never made it into that top 1% of earners.

So for me the choice was easy when I participated in my state's early voting.  For those readers who might still be undecided or under the age of 55, the age when most Republican changes will affect you, the question of for whom to vote may boil down to whether you want the Social Security benefits you have paid into coming in a check or electronic transfer from the U S Treasury, the same entity that sends you your income tax refunds, or whether you prefer the funds to come from some private firm like Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan Chase who brought you the economic meltdown of 2007 from which we still haven't recovered.  And for those who believe the present administration is responsible for the slow recovery, turn off FOX and Rush and Glen and read this.

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