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