03 October 2008

nuclear vs nucular

I am watching the VP debate from last night on my DVR right now. I had people asking me about the first presidential debate as well as last nights debate and since I missed the first presidential debate, I figured I better catch this one right away.

I think for my part this was a more important one to watch because I know who Obama and McCain are, but I really don't know enough about either of the VP picks. So who are these people? Well, I understand Biden drives a midlife-crisis convertible old-school roadster and Palin drives an Expedition (or was it Excursion?). I guess in their own ways, they're both a little folksy compared to their ticket partners, carefully chosen to appeal to the elements of their respective parties that cannot relate to the polished looks and polished speech of Obama or the financial and political success of the McCain family.

Interestingly both candidates agreed in their words to support the civil rights of same-sex couples in virtually every way but that neither would support redefining marraige from the perspective of the state, but leaving it to faith-groups to define it for themselves. I think that is the only thing they admitted to agreeing on though.

Still I am troubled that in a few key moments Palin seemed to deliberately pass on the opportunity to answer a challenge by Biden and explain her position on something important and chose to change the subject instead. Twelve minutes in, Biden made some comments about McCain's insistence on deregulating healthcare the way republicans have ignored or weakened regulations in the banking industry and the Ifill asked if Palin would like to respond to that comment and she balked and shifted focus back onto taxes.

Then Ifill asked both candidates to discuss their different tax philosophies and whether it amounted to class warfare. Biden stated that increasing taxes on the wealthy while holding them steady on the middle class and even reducing them for the working poor is just fairness in his eyes. Palin then charged that this philosophy did amount to an attack on the middle class because it would impact small business owners.

Now this part I don't get, how does a business owner who manages to keep a family salary over 250K each year qualify as small? I know a lot small business owners who are doing quite well but who don't manage to take home more than 100K from their businesses to use in supporting their families. I think she is either ignorant to the nuanced difference between a businesses revenues and its profits, or she is deliberately playing a partisan game to deceive people into believing that a focused tax increase on the wealthy will impact those small business owners that Republicans historically claim to support but who seem to be left disadvantaged by their parties history of favoring large corporations through tax loopholes and refusing to regulate business and trade.

If Republicans had a track record of favoring small business and leveling the playing field in rural and suburban America between independent main street retail and the big box retail industry for example, then I would be the proudest Republican! The fact of the matter is that they don't make policies that keep our homegrown small-town businesses viable in today's global corporate economic system. What upsets me the most about what has been happening these past few weeks with the bank failures is that these already monolithic regional and national banks are being bought out for pennies on the dollar by even larger ones and what we will see when the dust settles is even fewer multinationals with even more power to exercise not only a choke-hold on our economy but far more influence over our political process than they should be allowed to have.

Instead of letting these banks be seized by bigger ones, the government should exercise its power to regulate and in some cases break these banks up into smaller pieces to be sold off to smaller regional banks with strong track records for fiscal integrity. Instead of letting CitiGroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase expand their empires, why not do the harder work of auditing these seized banks, clean up their books, renegotiate mortgages to strengthen the assets that are left and perhaps not even have to sell them of at auction in the first place. Couldn't the government assign a team of federal auditors to temporarily control a bank, clean house, meet with stockholders and reassure them that they will find the cancer and treat it and they will be free to bring in a new executive team within six months when the bank is once again thriving?

All this talk of bailing out wall street is upsetting to a lot of people who feel like it won't fix the real problem, which is a capitalistic environment that rewards greed and protects individuals who engage in unethical practices at nearly every level within the system from being held accountable for their actions.

Anyway, back to the debate... 29 minutes in Biden was talking about the subprime mortgage crisis and saying that he and Obama favor the Fed being able to go in and renegotiate these mortgages not just for the rate of interest but the principle as well. He said he did not believe McCain or Palin supported that plan. Ifill asked Palin if that was so and all she said was "that is not so" and quickly changed the subject. What I want to know is which part of that plan do they support or do they agree completely? She did not clarify but dramatically changed the subject to energy policy and her and McCain's plan to drill for more oil and natural gas in places like Alaska and offshore.

Again and again it seemed that she was not interested in debating topics and answering charges, but using her time to talk about topics she had likely been coached on and only as deep as her knowledge of the subject would allow. She didn't seem to be able to really dig in and explain her positions when challenged about the details. That really bothers me. Given the trouble she has had in interviews in recent weeks answering specific questions that do not seem to be overly difficult questions to answer, I have serious doubts about her ability to wrestle with real problems. Sure the executive is a figurehead that needs to be surrounded by a lot of advisers, but ultimately this person needs to be able to really study a problem and make a decision and own it, not pass the buck so they can claim plausible deniability. Ignorance is not an excuse!

Well, I would write more but I need to get ready for work. I'd love to know what you thought about the debate.




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