The Electric Commentary

Friday, July 30, 2004

Everything to Everyone

I'm with Sullivan. What an arrogant jerk.

John Kerry's Democratic Party nomination acceptance speech was everything I didn't need to hear. I am well informed, and fairly set in my opinions. I already know exactly what I do not like about Bush, and exactly what I do not like about Kerry. All that matters to me is what they decide to focus on, and Kerry focused solely on things that make me nauseous (although to be fair, I missed probably the first 15 minutes of the speech, perhaps that portion was more palatable).

At least he wasn't boring, although I don't really care about such things (I would have voted for Joe Lieberman in a heartbeat, and he is frequently observed fleeing from mobs of termites and beavers). But part of why he was interesting was that he was scary. During several of his serious points he would take on a grave demeanor, finish his thought, and then suddenly, remember that he was supposed to be smiling, and crack a big grin that was less indicative of an optimistic, hopeful leader, but instead sparked thoughts of a certain Batman supervillain. He was also sweating profusely, which is fine. Stage lights are hot. But it made me think of Nixon, and that's a parallel that no one wants to draw.

But content is what it's all about. He could have said so many things to get me firmly off the fence, but instead he forcibly shoved me back on. I'm on board with stem cell research, the FMA (against), and all of that good stuff. What I needed to hear was concrete views on domestic spending, taxes, and on Iraq. All I'm left with are more questions:

You don't value families by kicking kids out of after-school programs and taking cops off our streets, so that Enron can get another tax break.

What do the Federal Government and the President have to do with after-school programs? And what does the Federal Government have to do with the number of police officers on the street? These are not concerns of the President. The President has as much ability to kick kids out of after school programs or take cops off of the street as I do. What's the point? I'm against corporate welfare and special tax breaks, but what does that have to do with social programs for kids or cops being laid off?

You don't value families by denying real prescription drug coverage to seniors, so big drug companies can get another windfall.
We believe in the family value expressed in one of the oldest Commandments: ``Honor thy father and thy mother.'' As President, I will not privatize Social Security. I will not cut benefits. And together, we will make sure that senior citizens never have to cut their pills in half because they can't afford lifesaving medicine.

On what planet do drug companies get a windfall by denying their products to customers? What should drug companies do, work for free? How should they fund R&D? Do you think we have enough drugs as is, and we should stop inventing? And how are we going to make sure that seniors can afford medicine? Price controls? Welfare? What is it going to be?

If you're not going to privatize social security, what will you do with it? Just because the government runs it doesn't mean it won't go bankrupt. It needs fixing somehow, privatization or not. What is your plan? Give me something.

What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steel worker I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas and the equipment in his factory literally unbolted, crated up, and shipped thousands of miles away along with that job? What does it mean when workers I've met had to train their foreign replacements?

It means that the costs of making steel in America are too high, in spite of the horrible price fixing instituted and then retracted by President Bush. And if it costs less elsewhere, more power to them. It means that Dave made too much money in an industry where almost all employees make too much money. And it means that someone else got a better job than Dave had because of the cost savings of outsourcing. Jobs and money are not just destroyed when a job is moved. New and better jobs are created elsewhere, in areas where America is growing.

For someone who claims to be a nuanced, deep thinker, Kerry's understanding of economics leaves a lot to be desired.

What does it mean when Mary Ann Knowles, a woman with breast cancer I met in New Hampshire, had to keep working day after day right through her chemotherapy, no matter how sick she felt, because she was terrified of losing her family's health insurance?

It means that sometimes bad things happen to good people. And Mary should be commended for working incredibly hard through a hellish ordeal. But she had health insurance to take care of her cancer. Maybe she was out of sick time and vacation time. Maybe she had a job that didn't give her very much. Maybe she had a jerk for a boss who would not cut any slack for an employee with cancer. Is the solution to this problem to have Mary get free healthcare instead? Is that the best solution?

What does it mean when Deborah Kromins from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, works and saves all her life only to find out that her pension has disappeared into thin air and the executive who looted it has bailed out on a golden parachute?

First of all, pensions are protected by the Federal Government already (through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)), so this is impossible. I assume what he means is that the stock, 401ks, etc. of companies that commit fraud are destroyed. So what is his solution? We have new, stricter accounting standards (options must now be accounted for when they are given, not when they are exercised). Most of the corporate thieves at Enron, Imclone, etc, are going to do time. Some won't and that's a travesty, but what will Kerry do about it that hasn't already happened? What? (And anecdotes are a stupid way to make a point, as Al Gore found out last election).

What does it mean when 25 percent of the children in Harlem have asthma because of air pollution?

This stat is accurate. And it's a big problem. But this is not the best environmental area to take on the president. Harlem has an unusual amount of diesel fuel traffic and airline pollution, which is one of the reasons it is so cheap. Check out this report. The good bits:

One explanation for the high asthma rates in these neighborhoods is the air pollutants brought about by the area's disproportionate number of the City's infrastructure facilities - waste transfer stations, bus depots and highways - choked with diesel-powered vehicles emitting particulate pollution, a major contributor to asthmatic conditions. Asthma is also prevalent among residents living near busy La Guardia and JFK airports in Queens, where airplane exhaust raises levels of air pollutants in their neighborhoods.

Now, read this, by Gregg Easterbrook. The good bits:

Bush has put into force three powerful new pollution-reduction rules, one written by Browner and the others composed under Bush. One new rule mandates that diesel engines of trucks and buses be much cleaner; a second new rule mandates that "off road" power plants such as outboard motors and construction-machine engines be much cleaner; a third requires refineries to reduce the inherent pollution content of diesel fuel, this last rule enacted over the howls of Bush's core constituency, the oil boys. Taken together, these three new rules are the most important anti-pollution initiative since the 1991 Clean Air Act amendments that cracked down on acid rain. And because studies show that diesel fumes are bad for public health, Bush's new rules should produce at least as much public-health gain as the strictest interpretation of the new-source standard.

With ANWR, poor logging practices, poor regulation of mercury emissions, and the increasing problem of greenhouse gases (a bipartisan effort), you pick this? Why?

What does it mean when people are huddled in blankets in the cold, sleeping in Lafayette Park on the doorstep of the White House itself and the number of families living in poverty has risen by three million in the last four years?

It means that the definition of poverty was revised downward (which just made it more accurate, but did not increase the number of people in actual poverty). It also means that the economy was in bad shape. It no longer is. And again, what are you going to do about it?

So here is our economic plan to build a stronger America:
First, new incentives to revitalize manufacturing.


Incentives for manufacturing? Call me crazy, but that sounds like either tax breaks or corporate welfare. I thought you were against that. That's also more economic protectionism. Great.

Second, investment in technology and innovation that will create the good-paying jobs of the future.

Umm, people already invest in this. What do you mean? Government subsidies to work on "technology and innovation?" Usually the words "government subsidies" and "innovation" don't really go together very well. More tax breaks to tech companies? What?

Third, close the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping our jobs overseas. Instead, we will reward companies that create and keep good paying jobs where they belong: in the good old U.S.A.

I thought you were for closing tax loopholes, yet here you are proposing more of them. Or more corporate welfare, either way. Do you really think that taxes drive outsourcing, and not labor costs? Are you that, what's the word, simplistic? And are all of your solutions to throw money at non-competitive businesses? At this rate you're going to make a prophet out of Ronald Reagan:

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Next, we will trade and compete in the world. But our plan calls for a fair playing field because if you give the American worker a fair playing field, there's nobody in the world the American worker can't compete against.

What is fair? Sure, if we artificially raise the price of foreign goods to the level required to make American goods competitive, we'll be competitive. But what's the point? Why not focus on something we actually are competitive in?

And we're going to return to fiscal responsibility, because it is the foundation of our economic strength. Our plan will cut the deficit in half in four years by ending tax giveaways that are nothing more than corporate welfare and will make government live by the rule that every family has to follow: pay as you go.

And let me tell you what we won't do: we won't raise taxes on the middle class. You've heard a lot of false charges about this in recent months. So let me say straight out what I will do as President: I will cut middle class taxes. I will reduce the tax burden on small business. And I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in job creation, health care and education.

How are you going to do this when you've just committed to a huge new health care entitlement, corporate welfare to manufacturing, no privatization of social security, and a middle class tax cut? Just repealing the tax cut on those who make over 200K isn't going to cut it. Where is the money going to come from? Where? Also, small businesses are often taxed as individuals, as they tend to be organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, s-corporations, or LLCs. It is difficult to lower taxes for small businesses at the same time you raise taxes on wealthy individuals, and at the same time not create a huge tax loophole.

Our education plan for a stronger America sets high standards and demands accountability from parents, teachers, and schools. It provides for smaller class sizes and treats teachers like the professionals they are. And it gives a tax credit to families for each and every year of college.

How does it demand accountability from parents? I don't think that you can do that. What measures will you take to make teachers and schools accountable? Is "treating teachers like the professionals they are" holding them accountable? Tax credits for college? Sure, why not.

When I was a prosecutor, I met young kids who were in trouble, abandoned by adults. And as President, I am determined that we stop being a nation content to spend $50,000 a year to keep a young person in prison for the rest of their life when we could invest $10,000 to give them Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, the best possible start in life.

I'll outsource this one to Stephen Green:

More smart stuff -- talking about spending on Head Start instead of prison.
Hell, I didn't even know we were sending any preschoolers to jail. Something must be done about that!


Since 2000, four million people have lost their health insurance. Millions more are struggling to afford it.
You know what's happening. Your premiums, your co-payments, your deductibles have all gone through the roof.
Our health care plan for a stronger America cracks down on the waste, greed, and abuse in our health care system and will save families up to $1,000 a year on their premiums. You'll get to pick your own doctor and patients and doctors, not insurance company bureaucrats, will make medical decisions. Under our plan, Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. And all Americans will be able to buy less expensive prescription drugs from countries like Canada.
The story of people struggling for health care is the story of so many Americans. But you know what, it's not the story of senators and members of Congress. Because we give ourselves great health care and you get the bill. Well, I'm here to say, your family's health care is just as important as any politician's in Washington, D.C.
And when I'm President, America will stop being the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the connected, and the elected - it is a right for all Americans.


First, read this. This is nothing short of a call for socialized medicine. At this point in the speech, he's advocated letting social security die, ruining health care, putting in protectionist rules of trade, and killing innovation in the drug industry. This election sucks.

We value an America that controls its own destiny because it's finally and forever independent of Mideast oil. What does it mean for our economy and our national security when we only have three percent of the world's oil reserves, yet we rely on foreign countries for fifty-three percent of what we consume?
I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi royal family.
And our energy plan for a stronger America will invest in new technologies and alternative fuels and the cars of the future - so that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East.


So you are against domestic oil drilling but want us to be free from Mideast oil dependency? How? How? How!? Are you going to invent cold fusion? What are these new technologies? Hydrogen? Not in your term, buddy. And are we still playing the "war for oil" card? Seriously, does anyone believe this anymore? It doesn't even make any sense. It pissed off all of the countries that sell us oil.

The rest is all fluff. As I said, I'm on board with stem cell research, against the FMA, and agree with a lot of democratic social policy. There was not enough of that for me tonight.

One constant refrain during the speech was the "Help is on the way."
I don't need your help, Senator. What I need is for you, and the President, to get out of my way.
I'm probably sitting this election out. Maybe I'll still give a grudging gridlock vote for Kerry, but I doubt it. I would feel dirty.

Plus I've got this song stuck in my head now.




3 Comments:

  • "What do the Federal Government and the President have to do with after-school programs? And what does the Federal Government have to do with the number of police officers on the street? These are not concerns of the President"

    But they are. Major cities in the US receive substantial funding from Washington for both school programs and law enforcement.

    From the NYT:
    The cities cutting their police forces are struggling with financial problems that have persisted even as some states are beginning to report an increase in tax revenue after a few very lean years. The financial strain has been compounded by a decline in supplemental money from the federal government and the states.

    Further, she said, the state trimmed its aid for Cleveland's police force by $4 million this year.
    The federal cutbacks are even more notable. Since 1995, Cleveland has received $34 million for new police officers, Mayor Campbell said.
    But this year it will receive only $498,000 from Washington for all police programs, and President Bush's proposed budget would cut that figure in half.

    "What should drug companies do, work for free? How should they fund R&D?"
    Maybe cut back on marketing to the public. This costs a substantial amount. What do we the untrained public know about medicine anyway? Also, cut back on under the table marketing like:
    The check for $10,000 arrived in the mail unsolicited. The doctor who received it from the drug maker Schering-Plough said it was made out to him personally in exchange for an attached ''consulting'' agreement that required nothing other than his commitment to prescribe the company's medicines.

    Some specifics would be nice, agreed.

    "It needs fixing somehow, privatization or not. What is your plan? Give me something."

    I know, could he have been more vague.

    "It means that the costs of making steel in America are too high, in spite of the horrible price fixing instituted and then retracted by President Bush. And if it costs less elsewhere, more power to them. It means that Dave made too much money in an industry where almost all employees make too much money"

    Also agreed.

    "It means that sometimes bad things happen to good people. And Mary should be commended for working incredibly hard through a hellish ordeal..."

    This whole anecdote should have been removed from the speech.

    "With ANWR, poor logging practices, poor regulation of mercury emissions, and the increasing problem of greenhouse gases (a bipartisan effort), you pick this? Why?"

    No joke. There's plenty to work with on that front.

    "Incentives for manufacturing? Call me crazy, but that sounds like either tax breaks or corporate welfare. I thought you were against that. That's also more economic protectionism. Great."

    I hate this. It makes me ashamed to support Kerry.

    "Umm, people already invest in this. What do you mean? Government subsidies to work on "technology and innovation?" Usually the words "government subsidies" and "innovation" don't really go together very well. More tax breaks to tech companies? What?"

    See last comment.

    "Do you really think that taxes drive outsourcing, and not labor costs? Are you that, what's the word, simplistic?"

    Well profits made overseas are not taxed unless the money is brought back to the US, even if it is a US-based company. If they reinvest in the same foreign country or any other country, no tax revenue goes to the US. That said, I beleive labor costs are a greater factor.

    "Also, small businesses are often taxed as individuals, as they tend to be organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, s-corporations, or LLCs. It is difficult to lower taxes for small businesses at the same time you raise taxes on wealthy individuals, and at the same time not create a huge tax loophole."

    Ding ding ding! Why does no one talk about this. I personally know people who have businesses just so they can use them for write-offs. That $200,000 car I bought isn't for me, it's for the business...which I run.

    "What measures will you take to make teachers and schools accountable? Is "treating teachers like the professionals they are" holding them accountable?"

    No. The teacher's union is currently shooting itself in the foot. The difficulty in firing a teacher because of union ties makes it difficult to "hold them accountable." Unless the union wants to see more privitization like the current situation in Chicago, it should allow unperforming teachers to be terminated. Then perhaps, it could negotiate for greater salaries for those teachers that perform year after year.

    "More smart stuff -- talking about spending on Head Start instead of prison.
    Hell, I didn't even know we were sending any preschoolers to jail. Something must be done about that"

    I think what Kerry is trying to say is that a small investment in a child's development can help to stop that child from heading down the wrong path.

    "This election sucks."

    I'll drink to that.

    "So you are against domestic oil drilling but want us to be free from Mideast oil dependency? How? How? How!?"

    Energy indenpendence would be nice. Why not start doing something about it?

    There were no specifics on the energy independence tip, but hell, there weren't many specifics in the entire speech. I wholeheartedly agree that there should have been more details, but you can't expect a candidate to lay the specifics for every program out there in an acceptance speech. Also, I beleive that Kerry is following the advice of political analysts. They tell him what to talk about, and how. Those analysts aren't targeting the message towards people like you or I; they're targeting to people that can be easily swayed with simple sound bites and imagery...that's sad but true.

    This speech was terrible...I'm still voting for Kerry.

    By Blogger RyanSimatic, at 7:33 PM  

  • I agree with almost all of your comments. As to the "money for after school programs and cops" portion, it's not that the government doesn't give these programs huge bloc grants right now, I know that they do. I just think that things like that should be local (I also think that it is unconsitutional for the Fed to spend money on such things, but that view is shared by all of 150 others, unless you count dead people, at which point my support is in the millions).

    I think that, especially for after school programs and education in general, local control is far superior to any federal control. It's usually cheaper and gets better results.
    Same thing with the police force.

    So it's more an idealistic objection for me than a realistic one.

    In general I think that when money is given from one level of government to another that it's an inefficient transaction.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 9:47 AM  

  • I'm all for local control as well. It's easier to get what you and your community want from government when you don't have to go through three layers of bureaucracy. It also gives you more choice when the fed doesn't have such a heavy financial hand: if the local community "values" don't meet your liking in Alabama, move to Minnesota where people actually value crazy things like education. Sorry Alabamans, but let's look at the stats.

    By Blogger RyanSimatic, at 9:10 PM  

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