Jewish World Review March 9, 2004 / 16 Adar, 5764

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Choice between Bush and Kerry isn't much of a choice | It's Sen. John Kerry versus President George W. Bush, and now our democracy is ready to engage in a great debate on the issues. Here we go: partisanship, polemics and, of course, a sharp difference between the candidates on the issues that will shape the country's future.

Or maybe not.

There's no question that we're polarized as a society and that there's a deep partisan divide, and there are times when I wonder why it is so. I'm a firm believer that we spend too much time and energy dwelling on our differences rather than on the similarities and commonalities that unite us. A Bush/Kerry contest for the presidency could actually result in a bridging of our American divide.

Think about it. This is probably the most important presidential election since 1980. We'll be voting for either a Texas compassionate conservative or a Massachusetts liberal. Most Democrats will vote for a millionaire who is a member of Yale's secret society, Skull and Bones. And Republicans, following party lines, will also be voting for a millionaire Yale graduate who's a member of Skull and Bones. How's that for differentiation?

And the sharp contrast on the issues? Bush advocates a guest worker program for illegal aliens, while Kerry just wants to provide amnesty to many of them. Bush signs costly free-trade agreements, while Kerry votes for and supports them. The federal budget deficit has soared to half a trillion dollars under Bush, while Kerry proposes an additional quarter trillion in new federal spending.

The basic issue in this campaign, barring the unforeseen, is summed up with the question that has been the subtext in every presidential election of the last 24 years: "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" The answer to that question, with the arguable exception of 2000, has given us the winner in each presidential election.

The measurable answer to whether we are better off will come from the GDP report on economic growth, the unemployment rate, the creation of jobs and the direction of the stock market. Most economists expect growth to be about 4.5 percent this year, and they expect the stock market to trend higher - as it has in almost every presidential election year for the past half-century.

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Many of the jobs lost to overseas labor markets are the result of costly "free" trade agreements. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 900,000 American jobs have been lost due to the North American Free Trade Agreement alone. Yet Bush continues the pursuit of similar pacts with a seemingly endless list of nations, including Singapore and Chile.

Kerry, who now promises a review of all trade agreements, voted in favor of many of the agreements that he wants examined. The laissez-faire doctrine of free trade has liberated successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, from responsibility for their trade decisions. And fast-track authority, which Sen. Kerry voted in favor of, has granted presidents greater authority to negotiate trade pacts and has freed Congress from responsibility for the failure of those policies.

The difficult-to-quantify issues in this economy, however, may have an immeasurable impact on the election. With 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens living in this country, the taxpayer is subsidizing cheap labor for business. And so are low-income American workers, who are losing $190 billion a year because excessive immigration is depressing their wages. Bush wants an "immigration policy that helps match any willing employer with any willing employee."

Unfortunately, Kerry's proposals so far on illegal immigration aren't any better. Kerry is the co-sponsor of legislation, pending in the Senate, that would grant amnesty to about half a million illegal aliens who have worked a specific number of hours within seven years.

We have an important choice to make in November, and I hope all voters, regardless of party, focus on how the candidates' policies either help or hurt the working men and women of this country. In my opinion, neither candidate has yet to come to terms that will shape the future of the country.

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Lou Dobbs is the anchor and managing editor of CNN's "Lou Dobbs Moneyline." Comment by clicking here.

03/02/04: Election stakes are getting higher
02/24/04: Help wanted: Free trade policies hurt working Americans
02/17/04: All the news that's fit
02/04/04: American jobs must be protected
01/03/04: Dangerously dependent
01/27/04: Who's working for working Americans?
01/20/04: U.S. selling itself short with "free" trade
01/12/04: Bush on the wrong track with immigration idea
01/05/04: Business leaders should resolve to lead by example in 2004
12/29/03: Immigration needs stricter, not looser, controls
12/11/03: Trade deficit with China a big problem
12/09/03: Let our children be children
12/01/03: Broken borders pose a serious health risk
11/25/03: Free trade costs plenty
11/18/03: European Union is playing a dangerous game
11/10/03: This time, it's not the economy
11/04/03: Overseas outsourcing is an alarming trend
10/28/03: Spending so much time 'making a living', we don't live
10/21/03: As population soars, U.S. faces tough choices
10/14/03: Schools need to re-emphasize math and science
10/07/03: It's lonely at the top
09/30/03: Is America over-medicating?
09/23/03: Corporate execs need to stop selling out U.S. workers
09/16/03: The scandals just keep on coming
09/09/03: Let's get real on energy
09/02/03: Is free enterprise the answer to education woes?
08/26/03: Building the road to recovery
08/12/03: War on drugs is still a war worth fighting
08/06/03: An attack on progressive thought
07/29/03: Prosperity begins at home
07/22/03: Real earnings, or really creative earnings?
07/15/03: Flirting with disaster
07/08/03: It's good to be the king
07/01/03: Border disorder
06/24/03: Prairie dogs and mosquito bogs
06/17/03: Bullish on America
06/10/03: Retirement realities: we need new solutions — soon
06/03/03: Curing what ails us
05/27/03: America's export problem
05/21/03: Wall Street's new imperative: Integrity
/13/03: Losing sight of the dangers in creating further fiscal stimulus
05/06/03: Optimism is unfashionable, but here's some anyway
04/29/03: Nuclear nightmare
04/22/03: Naysayers ignore signs of economic recovery
04/15/03: Game over--but for whom?
04/08/03: No more fool's games
03/31/03: United States must seriously review foreign economic and political relationships
03/24/03: Delusional Chirac may be a thorn in coalition's side, but new alliances are forming in response to 21st-Century threats without him and UN
03/18/03: Bush critics offer little more than hyperbole
03/11/03: Geopolitical visibility
03/04/03: Freedom: Our best export
02/27/03: Guns, butter and greasing the way
02/18/03: Looking for a silver lining
02/10/03: Space program remains a valuable investment
02/04/03: Hi pal, come back
01/28/03: Bush address a chance to bolster confidence
01/22/03: Here we go again!
01/14/03: Bush's bold bid
01/07/03: The only thing certain is uncertainty
12/30/02: No need to be so negative as new year approaches
12/23/02: NY's AG deserves credit for settlement
12/18/02: Critics of Bush nominees should tone down rhetoric
12/09/02: A lot rides on prez's Treasury pick
12/04/02: A fast fix for corporate credibility?
11/26/02: Urge to merge is hard to resist
11/19/02: Are we really so bad off?
11/12/02: Bush's lucky week bodes well for recovery
11/05/02: Wall Street firms treat investors as fools
10/29/02: Earnings estimates offer some hope
10/22/02: Economy's strength tied to national security
10/17/02: Harvey Pitt, get real!
10/08/02:Are we experiencing the fall before the rise?
10/01/02: Concerns about earnings are justified
09/24/02: Business leaders must abandon stall tactics
09/17/02: Wall Street's reality check
09/12/02: There's no better time for leaders to show resolve


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